a weekend with Flannery {not so much an appendix}

Between readying our garden, church, and reading I haven’t found time for much else this weekend – although I *did* make it to a community yard sale.

There’s no appendix this week, but I did finish four of her short stories so I’ll call it good.

Do you love O’Connor? I know people find fault with some of her writing, but I find it {and her story} rather beautiful. Read her if you have time.

on the porch and in the commonplace

It’s Spring in Virginia which means this is my view for the foreseeable future. I camp out on a rocking chair and in about a month or so, my view will not just be that which you see above, but also added will be a blow up pool and toys strewn all over the lawn. It eventually gets humid, yes, but it’s a peaceful place to sit a spell.

With much sitting comes much reading and with much reading come much quote-writing in my commonplace journal. It’s a habit I’ve had for a long time and I’m almost able to better recall my days by reading old quotes than when I read old journals. The quotes mean something different to me each time I read them, but they never lose their power.

I’m currently rocking on the porch and since my CP journal is in hand, I thought (rather than write something original which I don’t have completely sorted) I would share some quotes from years past.

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“So, in every Christian there is a war, the flesh seeking to rule and dominate the spirit, and the spirit seeking to subdue the flesh.”

-John Owen, Spiritual Mindedness

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“True liberation does not come from acquiring one’s rights but from becoming a servant.”

– Elise Crapuchettes, Popes and Feminists

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“Upon common theaters, indeed, the applause is of more importance to the actors than their own approbation. But upon the stage of life, while conscience claps, let the world hiss! On the contrary, if conscience disapproves, the loudest applauses of the world are of little value.”

-John Adams, John Adams

***

“It is a solemn thing, however one regards it, to have to do with the moulding of a child – that wax which so quickly becomes marble, as someone has said. Nothing is unimportant in the trifles of nursery life, and nothing is so rewarding as the nurture of little children.”

-Amy Carmichael, Kohila

mothering

” A woman by her very nature is maternal – for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological, or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.” – Alice von Hildebrand

appendix vo. 13 (revisiting victory gardens)

Sean and I were talking this morning about how quickly and yet slowly the past year has gone by. Christmas 2020 seems like ages ago, but our last planting season feels like it was just yesterday. Just like that, we find ourselves weeding/laying mulch/planting seedlings/repairing raised beds. This time of year is very, very full and I know it will be over in a wink.

I remember the weeks after we entered lockdown here in Virginia. I can vividly recall walking out to our plot of land where we house our garden and listening to a homesteading podcast. The host was excitedly proclaiming, “This is our time! We homestead for this very reason!” and I felt a surge of productivity and resolve. The entire world was upside down, no-one knew what the heck was happening, and people were going absolutely nuts over toilet paper. As much as the entire COVID19 ordeal has left people bruised and battered, I think I will look back on those first weeks and months with a special fondness.

Our family lives in a more remote area than we once did. We live off a dirt road and can only see two other houses from our porch. We have to drive 25 minutes into town and seeing a car driving on our road is an exciting event. It’s quiet and not quite in the “sticks” but far enough away from the hustle and bustle. This made the beginning of the pandemic easier on us. We weren’t having to deal with awkward situations with neighbors – who is going to mask, or should we talk to one another over the fence – it was just us. The five of us on 6 acres of land. Able to roam free and not fear walking outside to the mailbox while someone looks at us as if we had the plague. I’m grateful for the way we were saved from that.

In that beginning period where everything was unknown, our family really threw ourselves into our very own “Victory Garden.” People in America had a potent resolve to band together and do what one could. Obviously, that joint togetherness dissolved rather quickly, but it was nice while it lasted. I remember people in our village hanging “We Are In This Together” signs and having vegetable drop-offs. We would wave when our mailman drove by and leave eggs on our neighbors porch. It was lovely, actually.

We spent endless hours in the garden – we planted so much. We had an abundance of almost everything, although our tomatoes did miserably. Our chickens were laying over a dozen eggs a day, which I was told was insane since several of my Californian friends were driving to more than one store to even acquire a half dozen. We planted and trimmed and walked through the paths and laughed. We gleefully exterminated pests that tried to destroy our broccoli and lettuce plants. We checked on the garden every morning and evening. Those days were actually quite peaceful and beautiful, even though we were still unsure what was happening and so many things were turned upside down.

And now we sit on the other side of the entire ordeal. It’s been over a year since those first days and we are back to dirt in our fingernails and planting potatoes. We lament how our backs ache from arching over the beds. It’s a new year and yet we are doing so many things the same. The peacefulness is still here and the resolve to have our own mini-Victory Garden is still ever present.

In March 2020 I hung a vintage reproduction WW2 Victory Garden advertisement on the fridge. I was feeling undaunted in the face of empty market shelves and falsely predicted economic collapse. I knew that we would do whatever we needed to do in order to be able to provide for our kids and our neighbors – we were going to be o.k. if this pandemic ended up destroying what they projected early on.

As time went on and the months moved quickly by, the fridge door filled with paintings and sketches and the ad was shoved to the background. In an effort to straighten the kitchen this weekend, I took down some of the papers and glanced at the slightly faded advertisement. I hung it front and center once again.

No matter the year and the circumstances, each and every garden is a victory. Our family is a victory story. God’s gift of nature doesn’t stop for anything….it just keeps changing and blooming and ending and birthing and moving forward. It is the same story even when the world is dying and the same when the world is alive. It is the same when I am fearful and when I am fully content. Our family was together then and it is together now. It moves and grows and blooms and things end and they begin again.

There’s something comforting in that. I try to remember that when I walk through our garden plot. When I’m out with the chives and rosemary – growth is always happening and the same God that watches over my small plot of spinach and dill is the God that watches over our world and He is in charge of it all. He is in charge of our small home. He is in charge of the blooming and the wilting. Down to the last sprout.

Reformed. Evangelical. Anglican.

With extreme joy, Sean and I were confirmed into the Reformed Episcopal (Anglican) church on Sunday. On this side of the timeline, I can see the Lord’s hand in so many specific moments that led us both to this point. Had you asked me five years ago if I could ever imagine we would become Anglican apologist my answer would have likely been “no.” For no other reason than that the ethos of Anglican tradition seemed far off, oozing with “high church” flare, much too Catholic for my comfort, might possibly be consorting with a more progressive view of church doctrine, and not “evangelistic” enough.

What I have come to learn is that I was completely wrong on all of those accounts. Dead wrong. The exposing of my misconceptions and the unearthing of the actual reality of Anglicanism has been an eye-opening experience. It has shown me how I, someone who would have previously assumed she was rather knowledgable about church history, has much to learn. I discovered that I suffered from a common ailment of the modern Christian West:

Historical amnesia (I’ll explain further below….)

When we began attending last October, it was on the recommendation of some of our dearest friends. Seeing as they lived in the UK for several years, and he is a historian that specializes in church/world history, it made sense. We knew they were reformed (as we ourselves have been trending in the last few years) so we trusted their recommendation whole-heartedly. But still….kneeling pillows? Recitation of creeds coupled with robes on the rector? And….gasp…..crossing oneself occasionally? These might be bridges too far for us. It’s a far cry from the California-casual, non-denominational services that we were most well-acquainted with. Even still, we decided to try something foreign to us (but as we came to learn, Anglicanism is not at all foreign to the long history of Christendom.)

Covid upended just about everything in 2020, and while we were perfectly willing to give up services at our large mega-church for the beginning months of the pandemic, after 6 months of watching church at the kitchen table, we concluded this wasn’t workable for our family anymore. It wasn’t just “not workable”, it was completely undesirable. We had no connection with people at our church at that time, being rather new and also being a family of five in a sea of thousands. Aside from that, while we understood the risks involved with attending in-person functions, we also keenly understood the risks involved in not fellowshipping with a church family on a regular basis, being held accountable by fellow believers, or receiving the Word of God and communion regularly. About six months into the pandemic, I started seeing the toll that a lack of church attendance was having on people – whether they acknowledged it or not. We couldn’t watch church on a small computer screen any longer. We weren’t made to do that. We had to go. When we heard that this tiny church was holding in-person services, we put on actual clothing and made the trek through the winding roads, flanked with “canopy trees” (as my six year old refers to them.) We pulled up to a small church building that sat on the same property as an even smaller cottage, and the rectory. It looked like something directly out of a Jan Karon “Mitford” novel. I was sold on the aesthetics alone.

I’ll save you the many pages that I could easily write about our first experiences there, but suffice it to say, after the 3rd week of visiting, we knew we would be staying. The Lord met both Sean and I there. After almost 19 years of married life and countless experiences (both good and bad) at a variety of different churches, we can be a bit hesitant with some aspects of church life. We aren’t skeptical necessarily and we know full well that problems in the church are due to sinners just like us….but we are always in an “eyes wide open” posture. Both of us have essentially been life-long Evangelicals, or at least since we became man and wife. We have been through church splits, I’ve served on a church staff, we’ve had family who were pastors and served on elder boards. We’ve watched schisms, betrayal, resentment that lasts decades, and pain unresolved. We’ve also experienced joy, recovery, untold amounts of kindness, pure evangelism, and true gospel relationships.

That is the way it is with the church. That is the way it is with life. We can hope for the best from church life and a church family, but to expect an experience free from heartache would be foolishness, seeing as we are all depraved and sinful. It would also be selfish. We do not merely exist to experience a salad-bar approach to worship.

Seven months in, I can honestly state that finding our new church home has been one of the most momentous life changes our family has ever experienced. It has both shown me the gracious parts of growing up (as I did) in an Evangelical church and it has also shown me the parts of the kingdom experience that I was yearning greatly for. Things I could never pinpoint exactly, but that I felt uneasy about in so many chuches nationwide: Essential doctrines that were slowly (or quickly) diminishing or changing. A lack-luster foundational understanding of church history that I knew would fill in the blanks about the big questions of Christianity. A seeping in of unbiblical and modern day progressive interpretations of scripture. A co-opting of faith to pursue other purposes.

This isn’t a condemnation of the evangelical church on a whole, nor is it exclusive to it. If someone is selling you that narrative, run. The Evangelical church isn’t unique in the ways it has faltered recently – it’s simply the latest victim in a long line of groups that have allowed in feelings over doctrine. Ideals over scripture. Interpretation over inerrancy.

Once we began our journey, we were thrown into the deep end as it pertains to our study of church history – from the prophets before Jesus’ birth to those who came after his ascension. We had to study simply to keep up with Sunday school lessons and homilies. This was a very good thing. I came to realize that historical amnesia has dug its claws into much of the American Church, with people believing that they really need only be familiar with the current century’s information, if at all. Of course, Reformed friends will go back as far as Luther, but I would say you are hard-pressed to hear many Sunday school lessons on St. Athanasius, Theophilus, Augustine, Tatian, Arius, Origen, or Aquinas. Why is that? I’m not entirely sure, but I assume that many people have adopted the mindset that I previously had which is, “There’s so much to learn and it feels rather intangible and outdated – how might their words and admonishing be relevant to me today?”

Of course, this is an extremely limited and self-serving viewpoint. Especially coming from someone who spends a great deal of time reading about the history of Western Civilization and telling my children, “If you want to understand today, you really must understand the past!” How much more essential is this when it comes to the most important part of us – our belief in the Lord? How can we shy away from learning all that we can about the Holy Scriptures, the life and death of Jesus, the idea of the Godhead, and how His church is to be established and maintained here on earth?! I’m convinced (at least for me personally) that since it didn’t become a habit to learn about and study the church fathers, church history, and the birth of Christianity in my youth, it wasn’t built into my natural inclination. I could tell you almost anything you needed to know about American church history since our country was born (and the basics about the Reformation and Christian life in the Middle Ages) but aside from that…..I was a blank slate.

What I have come to understand is that the basis of my Christian life is built on one important thing – my unwavering belief in the triune God who offers free salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus and that true belief assures my salvation. What I have also come to understand is that my belief is so much more brightly illuminated, explained, examined, and dear when I can look back and watch how the Lord has uniquely and perfectly formed our world, His church, and Christianity. The story, when closely regarded, makes the wondrous grace of God that much more rich, layered, and deep. It’s a perfect tapestry that He has woven, and there are answers to all the questions that have plagued me – simply by looking backward.

The Anglican church, through its firmly held historic traditions, and binding commitment to Biblical orthodoxy, provides such an atmosphere for flourishing and deep conviction. Our particular parish has introduced us to some of the most lovely people we have had the pleasure to know. The liturgy has drawn us closer into our understanding of the tenants of our Christian faith. The creeds have gifted us foundational stepping stones that clarify lingering questions. A foundation built first by the promises found in the Holy words of our God – truths that will stand firm in this age of confusion.

I still have much to learn. I still know that other denominations can offer the same peace, truthful doctrines, and community that the Anglican church has offered us. I still am grateful that I grew up Evangelical (and still identify as such, because Anglicanism and evangelism are not mutually exclusive.) I still have 35 year old questions about my faith. I still get frustrated at what sinners have made of the church.

But, I am finally home.

appendix vo. 12: late

It’s late and I’m headed to bed. If you know me, you know that “late” means something to me that is quite different than what it means to most other people. I’m “early to bed” almost always, and at 8:22pm, I’m already ready to tuck in. It’s only then that I realized I haven’t posted my Friday appendix.

This week flew by. Home renovations, and cooking those meals that always sneak up on us, and suddenly realizing it’s almost May.

So, no links this week but here’s a few random things.

Today we visited our favorite used bookshop. It’s an hour from our house but always worth the drive. We came home with a bag full of new (to us) books and here are mine. I was extremely excited that most of the books were only fifty cents. It just doesn’t get better than that.

We had some high winds in Northern Virginia today. I made the mistake of leaving our fresh eggs on the front porch (along with other assorted items that I hadn’t picked up) and came home to this scene.

The trays of seedlings are taking over our basement. We have rows and rows that are growing nicely, with the exception of several stubborn tomato plants that are taking their sweet time. It’s advised that it’s not smart to put anything in the ground until after Mother’s Day (in our area of Virginia) so we have one more week left and then we begin our Spring/Summer/Fall routine of visiting the garden multiple times a day. I’m looking forward to seeing what this harvest season will yield.

That’s all for now, folks. It’s now 8:32pm which is officially bedtime for this 40 year old grandma. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, whatever you may be doing.

Rachel

safe harbor

You know when you read, hear, or watch something that sticks with you for years to come and yet, you aren’t sure *why*? After I read the books to our girls (years ago) we watched, “The Series of Unfortunate Events” film (I love the books, movie, and tv series – please don’t judge me harshly) and one scene never really left me. The Baudelaire children were embarking on a life alone, without their parents. They found themselves alone in the world, their parents recently dying. This particular moment resonated for me. I’ve never forgot it and think of it often – the idea of “sanctuary.” In all honesty, that’s all I’ve ever wanted from a home. Sure, I enjoy moving around furniture and finding unique estate sale finds (and filling our space with books, let’s be honest.) However, the end goal has always been to make a place of refuge – for our family and those who are welcomed in – from this very, very troubling world.

One day my children will move on. But it is my sincere hope that this place, this specific address, our home, will always be a sanctuary. A destination for them and many others, where they can return to and be comforted.

When we moved into our house we knew we would stay here (save something unforeseen) for the rest of our lives. And so we embarked on making it a home, little by little. Our largest project thus far has been to renovate the large back room that sits just over the garage. They used it as an office and storage for her large, embroidery equipment, hence the elevator you see on the left of this photo. It’s a huge room, had three closets, an industrial lift, and linoleum flooring. It sat largely untouched since we moved in, almost three years ago. It was time.

And so, we did it. We painted, took out two of the three closets, and got rid of the lift (which was QUITE an ordeal.) We couldn’t be happier and feel so grateful.

Do you see Sean working? We found that desk sitting on the side of the road for trash pickup. He now calls it, “The Headmaster Desk” because he can correct the children while they do schoolwork.
Finding low bookshelves (that weren’t made of particle board) was surprisingly difficult. Now I think I need to get a few more….
We found this piece at a Goodwill shop for such a good price.
This drafting table is for the girls to work on their art projects, but we all have a feeling Frankie will use it the most.

Anyhow, thanks for indulging this personal share. I’m just so darn happy about this space.

staring out the carriage window

‘From a Railway Carriage’

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Although Stevenson’s poem was likely intended to be a glimpse at what one traveler might observe out the window of a railway carriage, I read it differently. The traveler he wrote about is on a journey, just as I. He sits on a velvet, corded seat, nose pressed to the glass. I rush to straighten the dining room table and satay the fried rice. Still, we are both traveling.

The days of change and growth are as constant as the changing landscape while a train zips you through a countryside – one that seems very normal while happening but illicit such surprise when you look back on all you have traversed.

“When did this all happen? How did I get here?”

Of course, it happened much like the quickly passing river vanishes before you even find time to fully appreciate it. Beautiful to watch zip by and then gone forever, only to be held in the minds eye.

Such is childhood and the first season of being a guardian and lover of your children. The days feel like years until the years are gone and you strain your neck to see if you can catch one last glimpse of the setting sun in the rearview.

I’m not sure Stevenson meant for this poem to hit a parent in the way it hit me, but if he did he certainly succeeded. Many snapshots are hidden in the vault of my mind; many moments that I will not see again but will always relish.

And many more are still to come. I’ll be sitting and staring out the window at the quickly disappearing panorama and reveling in all it’s majesty.

appendix vo. 11 (bookish)

We are smack in the middle of some home renovations, almost finished with one space and now moving on to two others. I’m using this excuse to explain my absence this past week, but really, the older I get the more I realize my capabilities of doing only several things well. I pushed against this from year 25-38, but no longer. I am no Wonder Woman and this is something I’ve learned to accept and not bemoan (much.)

At any rate, we are knee deep in dust, MDF, paint cans, and not-yet-placed furniture. Not to mention the piles and piles of books that have been displaced all over the rest of our home. It’s a mess, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel (and the enthusiasm about some newly acquired antique pieces.)

For my appendix post this week, I wanted to share only a few things about books. Trust me when I say that I could author a blog exclusively about my love of books, literature, and all things “bookish”, so it always pains me to share simply bits and bobs, here and there. There’s so much for the literature-loving soul to feast on. I hope to pen many more posts about the topic in the future, but for today, this will have to do.

My friend Noelle and I talk often about one day owning a used bookshop. We are both avid book collectors (amateur) and if I had to chronicle the amount of texts we have exchanged about literature, I could write…well….a book. Many would agree with me when I say that the death of the independent book store is imminent (see here from 2011), but for some strange reason I still romanticize the idea of one day shuffling around a small brick and mortar cottage-style dwelling, adding and removing books from the shelves and helping the wanderer find “just the right thing” that will satisfy their bibliophilic itch. Maybe one day……

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  • I stumbled on this documentary and immediately clicked to view, without even asking my husband if he wanted to watch (sorry Sean.) It was delightful. While it narrowly focused on the lives of antiquarian booksellers, it still conveyed the uniqueness of the people who absolutely adore and respect books, their value, and their purpose. It can be found on Amazon Prime – if you do watch, please share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear what you thought.
  • Have you ever heard of “hidden Fore-edge paintings”? I can’t tell you how delighted this bit of book magic made me. It’s essentially a painting that is drawn on the leaves of a book. Back when we were all wandering through museums, it wasn’t uncommon to see paintings and drawings on the page edges, but hidden ones? I had no idea! Visit here and here to learn more. I might be scouring some of my more antique books to see if any of them hold this secret.
  • As someone who rescues any/all discarded Bibles at estate sales, this site made me heart-warmed.
  • “Must-read” book lists are a dime a dozen and who’s to say which is the best? I did find this one rather good (although I would add a few and dismiss a few others….) What do you think of it? What would you add or subtract? I got a little irritated that Little Woman and Les Miserables were left off. Perhaps they could swap out The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for one of those?

And what would a “bookish” post be without a few book recommendations? These selections are straight from our coffee table and books that we are either currently reading as a family or have just completed. We love them all: Redwall, Land of Hope, A Year With Miss Agnes, and Up From Slavery.

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I hope you all have a peaceful weekend – we are having dinner with friends tonight and tomorrow Sean and I will be assembling some new bookshelves. One day we will get those floor-to-ceiling bookcases – complete with a ladder!

not today.

I won’t be sharing an appendix this week.

I woke up with such a heavy heart for the world, which isn’t necessarily unlike other days this past month, year, decade. It was just another morning where the feeling was unsettled, coupled with many, many moments of reprieve where I looked around at the beauty within in my own home and place on the earth. It’s a dichotomy that I haven’t learned to relax with completely, but I’m getting there.

The world is dark right now and, as I’ve mentioned before, I started feeling the weight of this fact about a decade ago. It’s not like it wasn’t decaying prior to my noticing it, obviously. It’s been in free-fall since the apple was bit but wee all have eyes opened at different times. Simply said, the last ten years has been my turn to wake up and learn to gracefully live on these parallel tracks. A space where I’m genuinely grieved for what I see and also tremendously grateful for the joy that still exists.

So, no frivolous links today. Just a photo of how Frankie sees the world (she hangs these paintings in a local restaurant) and a Bible verse that constantly brings me back to a place of unwavering calm.

“…Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32b-33