appendix vo.3

Another week has gone by? How is that possible? I’ve heard so many people say that they feel this past year has dragged, but I feel like it’s gone by in a flash. The kids are taller, the animals are bigger, my joints are achy-er, and I feel like summer just ended. At any rate, the weekend is upon us again and here are a few things I wanted to share.

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  • For anyone who has posed for a photo in a red phone booth in the UK…..this one of for you. Nostalgia and relics of the past make my heart the warmest. They also make me the most melancholy due to their inevitable vanishing.
  • If you’re like me, you want your children to be aware of the news of the world without tuning into the rancor and extremely biased journalism found on most networks. We’ve been apologists for WORLD News Group for years and have thoroughly enjoyed their most recent creation: WORLD Watch. Daily news from a Biblical worldview. We watch their 10-minute daily video with breakfast each morning (targeted towards kids) and our girls absolutely love it – great information presented by kind journalists. Well worth the yearly subscription.
  • I simply can not explain to you how badly I want one of these. I am not a crafty gal by nature, but I might make time to work on this. Now to pick a book theme to create. The wardrobe peering into Narnia? Or maybe a window gaze into Kathleen Kelly’s bookshop?
  • If I knew you wouldn’t think me too macabre, I’d confide in you that I have a slight interest in real-life CSI and the people who work within its scope. Couple that with an adoration for all things miniature and you have the story of the formidable Frances Glessner Lee. If you don’t know about her, start here. I’d also recommend this podcast episode. Lee was a woman who took murder investigations to a new level by creating miniature crime scenes in order for officers to hone their skills. She completely revolutionized the field of forensics. You can take it a step further and order this book which details her life story alongside beautiful photos of her work. I had long wanted it and my mother surprised me on my 40th birthday. Like I said, don’t judge me too harshly.
  • This short documentary on the life of Thomas Sowell is a great watch. If you love him, you’ll love him more. If you don’t already know about him, you’ll quickly become a fan.
  • I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the weather situation happening all over our country. We’ve had temperatures as low as -6 since we have moved to Virginia (and it was only that bad one day) and the thought of being without heat, water, propane, food during those times is hard to conceptualize. If you have ability to do so, please head here and give. Let’s keep all of these people in our prayers each and every day.

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It’s gloomy here and the fire is lit. We have no plans tomorrow and even if we did, we likely couldn’t make it, seeing as today’s sun didn’t shine long enough to defrost the ice layer on our property. I’m hoping to get my weekly homeschool plans finished in the morning and spend a few hours working on a family project which I’m hoping to share with you next week. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Rachel

sleet + Bunyan

There are books that change your life all at one time and there are books that change it incrementally and consistently. Each time you pick it up, something new is revealed. Better still is when the revelation sickens you because it displays your own inadequacies, mistakes, depravity, weakness, and ultimately your need for salvation.

I have found many books to be life-changing, both in small and large ways. I’ve only found a handful of books that, when opened every couple years, make a refreshed but just-as-powerful impact. These books are treasures which I am deeply grateful for.

This morning our farm welcomed freezing temperatures and a disappointing forecast. We were told we would find ourselves under 6 – 10 inches of snow, and yet we watched ice and sleet pour down heavily – making our porches (and driveway) veritable ice skating rinks. We had sledding planned but inside we stayed. And what a perfect day to light a fire (I tend to think *any* day is a perfect day for a fire, come to think of it,) and read. Truth be told, most of our days are spent reading, but within the last year, reading has become an even more cherished and regular activity. We already had reading as a central tenant of our educational philosophy, but somehow it became even more (to borrow a word from the current cultural lexicon) “essential.”

The world is rotting. I’m not a pessimist, I promise. It is. As Christians, we know that Earth is wasting away, but there are times and seasons when it seems to be in a more acute state of decline. We are in one of these times. We have been for quite awhile. I remember having similar feelings in 2010 but I ushered them to their own mental compartment – I had a toddler and a newborn and we had just bought a new home. It was easy to ignore my sinking feelings. But, here I am again…..and the feelings has been rushing back in the last two years or so. There is a level of decay in our culture, our families, our government, our schools, our communities, that is unlike anything in our history and that stays with me. Most importantly, because my husband and I have the task of raising and guiding three precious daughters. We desire them to choose truth over evil, and the Lord over worldly desires. I’m not sure I can explain the burden on my heart when I think of how immense that task and responsibility is. And so, it makes it all the more important to surround them with the good, the true, and the beautiful – always guiding them back to Him and His promises. Even if the world stayed in its current state when my little birds are leaving the nest, they’d have the cards stacked against them. We all know that things will have darkened even further in the next decade…..and so, I pray. I pray, use just about every moment to build up their character through the words of the Savior, and…..read.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the wonder of books that will walk alongside you time after time after time. Recently I began one of these books with the girls. If I’m honest, I wondered if it might disappoint me by not “making sense” to my girls as much as I’d like it to. I was nervous some of the rich symbolism might fly straight over their heads. Perhaps they wouldn’t see how powerful the allegorical prose truly is. I would have finally found a season when this book didn’t work its magic.

I was, of course, wrong.

It’s hard to put into words how books make us feel, but if I could commend a book to you, at this present moment, it would be, without equivocation, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. The story of “Christian” and his journey toward the “Celestial City” is all of us. I dare you to read it and not see yourself on almost every single page.

It is a most worthy book and one that I know will grab you by the throat and heart – it will make you feel, and lament, and recognize yourself. Although written in 1678, all still holds true. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising as nothing is new under the sun. And yet, I’m amazed at the accuracy Bunyan managed. He pinpoints the sinful vices and roadblocks that ensnare the believer so perfectly. It makes sense that it has never gone out of print.

This is likely the shortest/least professional book recommendation you’ll ever read, because that wasn’t really my intent with this post. I was just staring out the window, watching sleet pouring off our roof, and thought….”There’s got to be other Christians out there that haven’t read this book. I want them to read it.”

And so here I am.

In a dark time like the one we are living in…..Christ first. Always.

And then books.

Books to inform, books to challenge, books to laugh, books to comfort, books to find beauty when the world feels ugly.

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Edited to add: If you have younger children, or you just want a softer/shorter introduction to this wonderful story, I would start here. It’s illustrations are lovely and it is as close to perfect as a re-telling can be.

the beginning

Today begins the season of Lent. While this isn’t a Lenten prayer but rather one of general thanksgiving, it’s beauty struck me while reciting it last Sunday.

For anyone who partakes in the next 40 days as a time of repentance and remembrance, I wish you peace, clarity, and overwhelming gratitude. God is indeed gracious to us all.

The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer: A General Thanksgiving.

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

appendix vo.2 (already?)

As it pertains to blogging, clearly I’m still acquiring my sea legs. Wasn’t I just typing out last week’s appendix? I believe I’m supposed to write things in between? My only defense is that this week flew by and we had two small snow storms – leaving my house covered in gloves and boots. Plans shifted, things were cancelled, and schooling had to get done.

So, here we are. I hope to write in the following weeks at a more consistent quip. I have so many things on my mind (My adventures documenting my ancestral line! Politics! A highly recommended television show! A must-read book! Thoughts on motherhood and my first-born turning 13!,) but the older I get, the slower the processor in my brain moves and by the time I sit down with laptop shining…the ideas can often seem overwhelming and the words evaporate. I’m told this is a bi-product of aging. I choose to ignore that idea altogether.

At any rate, here are a few things that I’ve enjoyed this week that I thought you might as well.

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  • Norman Rockwell is one of my favorite modern artists. This look into his creative process was fascinating.

  • One of Kensington’s vocabulary words this week was, “laconic” which worked perfectly when our friend (and her professor of Ancient Western Civ in our homeschool co-op) was teaching about a famous correspondence sent from Philip of Macedon to Sparta. King Philip had overtaken southern Greece and had his eye on other key city-states, so he warned Sparta of his intentions: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.

    To which the Spartan ephors simply responded: “If.” If that’s not a reminder of how, often times, less words can actually be “more”….I don’t know what is.

  • Another intriguing story of once-lost and now-found film. These types of stories will never grow old to me. Make sure you visit the original website as well – I continue to hope for resolution for this mystery.
  • 45 hours of Jane Austen. This is on constant rotation in our home – Kensington loves listening while she bakes. It’s such a great recording.
  • A few of you have messaged and asked how “Barn Cat” is doing and I’m happy to report that he’s still living the high-life. Here he is in all his lazy glory:

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I’m off to start school and order take out for dinner – it’s Chinese New Year and we are celebrating! I promise to pop in more routinely in the upcoming days! Happy Weekend, everyone!

Rachel

the appendix vo.1

I have a feeling that as much as I enjoy typing out daily thoughts or considerations, it will be the weekly “appendix” that will end up being the most fun to curate for you. The purpose of “The Appendix” is to share a list, every Friday, providing you interesting internet destinations to consider traveling to. My hope is that they will enlighten you about fascinating books, articles, film, opinions, artwork, and much more.

A reward for a week completed and a prologue for the week to come. I hope you discover something intriguing.

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  • I was sad to hear of the passing of Christopher Plummer. He was one of the greats and this scene will always be a favorite. It might be a good weekend to watch, “The Sound of Music,” don’t you agree?
  • As a self-proclaimed, “cheese-enthusiast”, I’m always on the lookout for good recipes to use on evenings we prepare a charcuterie for dinner (best dinner ever, if I’m honest.) This recipe caught my eye and is on our menu for the upcoming week.
  • If you’re anything like Sean and I, you desire to find television and film that can be enjoyed by the entire family but isn’t completely saturated with an agenda. In the last few weeks we found a television show that all five of our family members fell in love with – yes, all five. I love it so much that I think I’ll devote an entire post to it next week. It’s that good. In the meantime, if we want to settle in for a few moments of good ol’ fashioned down-time in front of the big screen, we have been joyfully devouring episodes of this. Julia Child is a sheer delight. She jauntily bangs pot and pans, tosses trash off her counter with wild abandon, makes filleting a fish look like a breeze, and honestly makes you believe that you can boil a 20 pound lobster. It’s way more informative and enjoyable than anything on the FoodNetwork, I promise.
  • The kids (and you!) will love this. The size of a sunflower seed!
  • Doing the daily crossword puzzle in the WSJ sent me down a rabbit hole of research about how and when they started being regularly published in America. No surprise, they started growing in popularity during WW2. Head here to learn more.
  • When I saw the headline and read the article, I could feel my heart pounding. I’ve been collecting vintage and antique photography and ephemera for over a decade and finding something like this is a complete dream come true. Can you even imagine?!
  • This conversation was on my mind all yesterday.
  • Currently reading this. My all-time favorite time period to study is WW2, so it fits the bill and is an easy book to get through, providing plenty of perspective for those of us feeling rather melancholy over the current state of affairs. (you can head here for other book lists)

Quote of the week:

“If he who desires to have before his eyes a true picture of the events which have happened and of the like events which may be expected to happen hereafter in the order of human things shall pronounce what I have written to be useful then I shall be satisfied. My history is an everlasting possession, not a prize composition which is heard and forgotten.” –Thucydides

And on the heels of that quote, I submit this video. Sasse gets it.

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And with that, I’m off to get gussied up – Sean and I are meeting friends in town for dinner and I need to change out of the COVID uniform (read: leggings and an oversized sweatshirt.)

I hope you all enjoyed this first volume of “The Appendix” and have a fantastic and peaceful weekend.

Rachel

…”and that’s the way it is…”

My love of history has always pushed me towards a mild obsession with the daily news. In times of unrest and confusion, this fascination has turned into more of a compulsory craving. When the world is spinning out of control, I find that reading and understanding current events provide context….and in turn, I find comfort. This comfort is fake, of course, and you and I both know that. We all have something that bandaids the bleed. Even when it’s a gaping hole. 

This sounds more dramatic than it is. I’m not dealing with an overwhelming personal addiction which I’m trying to mask by enabling my somewhat-unhealthy desire for the news. No, I’m just a recovering media-overconsumer who happens to be in love with sound-bytes, information, and whip-smart commentary. I’m recovering from the information spiral that we are all conditioned to live in. It takes some time to recognize it, but when we do, it’s a heck of a knot to untangle.

What do I mean?

I mean that our brains are quite literally conditioned to “need” the influx of data we are being offered on platforms like Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, and cable-news. This fact is well-substantiated in books, medical journals, and documentaries – not to mention personal stories we have all heard (or lived.) I won’t even bother to link studies for you because you already know it’s true. We are trained to be information-consuming beasts. We lap it up and the loop is extremely colorful, consistent, and engrossing. There is something for all of us. Whether your interests skew toward video makeup tutorials (this woman has literally been sent death threats because she smashes expensive lipstick for her vast amount of followers) or a comprehensive piece about Myanmar…..there is something available to keep absolutely everyone captivated at all times. 

It wasn’t always like this. Ask your parents. There was once a time when news media was consumed in 15-30 minute segments – once in the morning and once in the evening. Generally, from one of the three big news networks. Before and also during that same time, people read the paper. Local or national (or both), you could find newsprint on the kitchen table. Each night, Walter Cronkite put his stamp of approval on the pertinent information you needed to know and sent you on your way. 

At the present, we can (and many of us do) get our news all day, every day, and from much less reputable sources. If it’s not political news you’re pining for, it’s some other rabbit hole you’ve tumbled down – interior design, homesteading inspiration, tech innovations, educational resources, book reviews, glossy fashion influencers. The problem will be at your kids’ doorstep also – if you hand them an iPhone, they’ll discover and cultivate what they have an appetite for and it’s off to the races! 24-7 data for whatever catches their eye. Be careful. It’s a nasty habit that’s hard to kick.

And so here I find myself. In a bit of a knowledge-gathering renaissance

In my inaugural blog post, I shared how I am endeavoring to kick my long-standing social media habits. The same evaluations must be done with my news intake. So begins what I hope will be a new challenge for myself and perhaps for any other soul who is bruised and beaten from the constant onslaught of tweets, thoughts, think-pieces, filtered photos, and opinion sections. I’d like to think that the news (whatever that may be to you) shouldn’t constantly make us exhausted….it should inform and provide something to critically think about. We simply can’t fulfill this when we are always searching for the newest controversy or engaging in the latest blue-check dust-up.

So, what shall be done?

About 13 years ago (ironically about the time I started to engage heavily online) my husband said something to me which I’ve never forgotten. I asked him why he wouldn’t set up a Twitter account to get breaking headlines. He said, “I prefer reading the news in the paper.” All these years later and I still think about that. While I think we would both agree that I may be aware of more headlines in general, when something is of interest or importance Sean will read an entire article and likely consume more – in which “more” means more fully. He may not always know the issue du jour that The New York Times deems high priority, but give him an article to read and he routinely blows me away with an astute evaluation of the brass tacks. He reads it for himself and grants himself time to let the information sink in. He does what we are meant to do with data – think about it. Seek truth and apply the truthful principles we already know. He doesn’t click quickly to the next sensation after the first paragraph or stay in his thought silo. He reads and ponders and in that way, he more fully consumes. Bonus: He doesn’t find himself in the constant, frenzied state of, “the world is on fire!” which can be produced with the overuse of many online/news platforms. This can lead to a paralyzed state of being, knowing all the problems which exist but not knowing how to engage them. 

About two weeks ago I decided I would read the news only once a day.

I knew that kicking myself off social media was only part of the problem for me. I knew that I had to confront my habits when it comes to the hamster wheel of information. Yes, I may always be informed about what is happening in the world, but at what expense? 

So, I’ve chosen to subscribe to several publications that I trust to deliver great analysis. My money is going hereherehere, and here. They will become my “Cronkite.” Once a day I’ll read the paper(s) and that will have to be enough for now. It won’t be constant. Likely there will be times when I surprise my friends when they text asking what I think about something news-worthy that just occurred. I’ll reply with a questioning-face GIF and maybe even feel a twinge of FOMO.

I won’t know things the second they happen. I’ll miss some stories completely. I might feel stupid when something is brought up and I haven’t had time to properly educate myself about it.

But I won’t live in a constant cycle of alarm, misunderstanding, or frustration. I will limit my screen-time even more. I’ll be forced to build my narrative and opinions, untethered from “the experts.” I’ll consume in quiet and likely understand the content on a greater level. I’ll be a better example of balanced consumption for my girls. I’ll have more time. I’ll likely have more peace. 

I’ll take that trade. Care to join me?

gratitude.

With the Christmas holidays squarely in the rearview mirror and the season of Lent fast approaching, it seems the perfect time to ready our hearts for both gratitude and reflection. This is the first year that our family will be properly observing the entire liturgical Lenten season (more on that in a future post.) As such, the upcoming weeks will not only be a learning curve (which I am thankful for) but a more quieted time to do some inner-contemplation.

Lent is a time of sacrifice – a time to wrestle with self-denial and quickly identify sinful predilections, all the while working out the mortification of one’s own sin. We dedicate time to prayer. We repent. In all honestly, I’m not certain I’m entirely looking forward to an intentional forty days where I’m forced to confront myself – lain bare, and vulnerable. It’s easy in the rush of our days to let a year or two slip by without becoming silent in the face of who we are. Of course we “know” ourselves, but can we truly without dedicated times of silence? I’m finding it’s near impossible to hear the Lord, let alone fully observe my sinfulness, without consistent blocks of stillness. To cultivate this practice takes practice – and it’s difficult.

Regardless of the impediment that our busy culture creates, silence and reflection are possible. In the upcoming Lenten season hopefully, you and I will be fortunate enough to cultivate a season of quieted and purposeful rest. Not laziness, but rest in the presence of our Lord.

However, before this next season descends, I want to spend my time in a robust and rich season of gratitude. I want to center my thoughts on the simplest joys that God has seen fit to grant me – even though I deserve absolutely nothing. His grace towards me is breathtaking.

Today it’s snowing. I’m in a warm house with my husband and children. We watched a recording of our church service, even though we wished to be there. We walked in the woods. We built a snowman and felt snow on our faces. We ate. We laughed. We pet the dog and folded laundry.

These are things that happen every day but things that each deserve a moment of gratitude. The simple moments, built up, create an extraordinary monument to the lavish goodness of the Lord.

This morning Sean read a prayer and it prompted this entire post. St. Augustine’s words prompt me to remember past things I have not adequately observed and push me to celebrate the smallest things in the coming days.

Lent is coming. A time for quiet is almost here.

But today I will live in gratitude.

Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all His benefits.

Open our eyes, Lord, that we may see all that you give so abundantly, and teach us to be grateful; for the things we hold closest to our heart, for the things that all share in common, for the smallest of pleasures, and for the great hope of heaven. In all that you have given us, let us see your hand, and let our delights in your gift become an unending prayer of thanksgiving and an ever-growing habit of generosity toward others. For the sake of Him who loves us and gave Himself for us, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. “

-St. Augustine of Hippo

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all that glitters.

This small online space has sat dormant for several years as I (and many others) abandoned the antiquated idea of blogging for greener social media pastures. Had I only paused for a moment, I could have predicted that the aphorism, “all that glitters is not gold” would hold true in the face of yet another internet evolvement. Inevitably, I would become dissatisfied.

I began blogging (which I still maintain is the most insufficient and silly term for the whole idea of writing down one’s thoughts) several years before my first daughter was born in 2008. It was an easy and creative way to share any number of topics that piqued my interest and for the most part it was incredibly satisfying. I made friends around the world with which I exchanged recipes, traded book recommendations, and vetted homeschool curriculum. I ran a successful small business peddling antique photos (of which I still collect and hoard to this day.) I was a part of two podcasts and was interviewed a handful of times on topics ranging from homesteading, politics, education, and motherhood. Heck, I was a feature in the NY Times. I made some really special memories and meaningful friendships that only could have come about from my presence in those spaces.

However, like many new developments which promise quicker outcomes and shiny new interfaces, I eventually wrote less and less on my blog, but posted more and more on apps like Instagram and Facebook. I rationalized this change by telling myself that the photos (and words that accompanied them) wouldn’t stifle the constructive writing process I went through when writing long form. Reading one-paragraph captions would certainly not decline my ability to concentrate when reading for pleasure. I talked myself into thinking I could turn my IG photos into photo albums and my writing wouldn’t be altered – it would just be “micro-blogging” and would eventually push me to strengthen my ability to say more with less words (plus I wouldn’t have to manually print out photos myself – win win!)

We can really talk ourselves into anything, can’t we?

My experience on these platforms hasn’t been entirely negative. As mentioned, I’ve made some truly lovely friends, taken many photos I’m certain wouldn’t have been taken otherwise, and I have been exposed to wonderful book recommendations, illuminating authors, and a burgeoning educational community. Many parts of my years on social media have been invaluable and I’m certainly grateful for aspects of my time spent there.

But.

I’m 40 now.  My oldest child is turning 13 next month and how that exactly happened, I do not know. Time has moved faster than even the wisest veteran parent warned me and I am well aware that my day-to-day, face-to-face, never-ending time with my children is now more in the past than it is in the future. Time is limited and I’ve witnessed firsthand how one can fritter away an hour, a day, a week, staring at their device. Scrolling, posting, editing, clicking, sharing, commenting, DMing, tweeting, arguing, forwarding, filtering, hashtagging. I’ve wasted plenty of time doing these things – far more time than I care to admit. Or maybe I am ready to admit it and start over.

Social media isn’t “bad.”  It’s just bad for me and to infuse another phrase from the Bard: “to thine own self be true.” If 2020 has done anything, it’s laid things very bare. Very true.

I’m most true when mindful of my time, both for myself but mainly for my soon-to-be-grown children and my husband. I’m most true when I’m conscience of the hold that the social media “influencer” culture has on me. I’m most true when I’m writing down authentic thoughts because they flow out of a desire to shed light, not be written in the hopes of being re-posted.

Quite bluntly put, I’m better when I’m not throwing away hours of my day staring at the kitchen remodel of a complete stranger, angrily ruminating in my own head about something I read, or trying to emulate someone else’s reality. Which isn’t even reality, as we all know.

I’m best when the phone is tucked in a drawer and I’m staring at the life right in front of me. Many people can live quite fruitful and balanced lives on social media. I honestly don’t know how people do that, but I, without an ounce of snark, applaud them. This year I finally admitted, after 15 years online, that I am not one of those people.

So, here I am. In this minuscule place. Where I hope to share thoughts I’ve gathered throughout a day that is fully lived. And once I sit down, type it out, find the ty-pos (hopefully), I hope to shut the laptop and throw myself back into the living – it will be odd, but it will be good. At least for me.