forgotten history // our new muse.

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Recently, I claimed a concentration. I’ve entered back into the world of academia (wait, I never really left – homeschooling/teaching/always learning!) I’m doing my darnedest to gradate with my MA in American History. It was a back-and-forth debate on whether I should focus on my native country, or Military History, but eventually I came to peace with my choice – when I first started discovering my passion for history, it centered on my homeland and that has always remained of the most interest to me. This is not to say I am not thoroughly intrigued with European, Public or Ancient history – I most certainly am! However, the American experiment has my heart.

Within my first three terms, I’ve had the opportunity to research/write about The Great Depression, FDR and the game-changing photojournalism featuring Dust-Bowl migrants, destitute farmers, and urban squalor. It’s been enlightening and all-together wonderful.

I absolutely love history.

I’ve also found a renewed interest in forgotten history. I’ve long had a thing for historical “leftovers”. The subjects and materials that no one writes books about (well, except this one.) The articles of the past that are left at estate sales (that I capture and give new life to) and the stories that are rarely recounted or heard. I could pour over historical trivia, ephemera, and little-known accounts for my entire life, and never tire.

We recently renovated our home and it offered us a clean slate. Our walls have never been more bare, and with this golden opportunity, I decided to begin a new collection that I’ve always desired to start. Vintage portraits of unknown people. I took down our “flower wall” (any of you remember it?) and Sean and I have taken a new direction. Slow and steady is the key – finding the portraits that peak our curiosity the most.

I recently stumbled upon an ETSY seller that I was instantly captured by. She had a portrait that spoke to me (the fabulously dressed muse at seen at the top of this post), and after some time and deliberation, we purchased it. Come to find out, the portrait has a little American history of its own, which made it more than just a striking piece! It turns out that the artist is C.L. MacNelly. MacNelly was the publisher of the Saturday Evening Post from 1961-1964. This was after he served in the Navy in WW2. Later in life he turned toward portrait painting, and painted many politicians and famous figures, including Barry Goldwater, Hugh Downs, and Billy Graham (you can learn more about him here). Our lovely lady is said to have been the wife of a Portuguese Ambassador, visiting the United States, in the late 60s. I do wish I knew more of her story. I’ll settle for this beautiful rendering, however. It’s colorful and soothing and has vibrant life. This is the first piece of art we’ve had in our home which came with appraisal papers & a back story, which makes it somewhat traceable. Most of our past wall-hangings have been cast-offs, found in dusty attics and back-alleys. It’s an exciting change and one that has me searching for my next portrait.

Until I find another of the same stature, I must find a name for this lovely woman. Have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

***

If you’re anything like I am, you can easily be distracted by a post/article/book that reveals lost history. Here are a few online suggestions for your viewing pleasure, that I’ve recently enjoyed. There’s more where these came from – I could fill post after post with intriguing historical curiosities. For now, have fun discovering!

I’ve been searching, buying and recovering vintage/antique photos for years and have seen my fair share of forsaken photo collections, but never like this: Rescued Film Project

Personal tales of Civil War families.

What a lovely Restoration story, full of rich American history.

Abandoned America is a fun website that will turn into a rabbit hole adventure. It’s eerie and somewhat sad.

I almost fell over learning about this failed 1930s town. You can also grab a book on it here!

The changing landscape of heirlooms and passed-down family treasures.

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”

Winston Churchill

abandoning lukewarm // living as Laodicea

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“For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life.” 

-John Calvin

Nothing reminds you of your lukewarm tendencies as does a barrage of chaotic or unexpected life events. At least, this has been the case for me. I, much like everyone else I know, has felt the unparalleled strain of the world lately. Whether it be within the walls of our own homes, or the stains and streaks of unwarranted suffering, slashing loved ones. It’s all around. The death, the hurt, the words, the poison targets people are aiming. The strain and indifference and valleys in-between what used to be and what suddenly is. It’s like the decay of human relationships and health and belief and love are hanging on the air – so thick that I know I’m not the only one suffocating.

Or, maybe I am and it’s my turn to stumble through a bit of the pain which other people have gracefully marched through their entire life.

And… I’m presented, once again, with my lukewarm default. Because, you see, lukewarm works when things are bright and vivid. Stale and familiar prayers and chants and positive vibes are so taupe and vague and perfect and normal, when all is well. They satisfy.

But oh, when you hurt. The hurt that reduces you to your very lowest and most raw shadow. When you have no where to go, so you sit in it. That dark moment is when lukewarm is the very most disgusting thing that has ever resided within me. If we are in a place of aching and all we have are lukewarm sentiments to soothe us, we have no solace or hope, whatsoever. Nothing.

I’ve been a shell. I’m a walking Laodicea.

I am tired of lukewarm. Lukewarm has moved me through hard conversations and short inscriptions, proclamations of faith, and hope and believing. Lukewarm has resembled fiery passion for short moments, when I was introduced to uncomfortable situations but nothing has made me confront my own comfortable coma like real mental torment.

For this grinding ache,  I shout hallelujah! I rejoice in hurt and falling tears that will come and go as quickly as the wind blows and dies away.

Pain and swift-changing reality has given me the greatest gift.  It’s cracked me wide open and let everything pour out.

It has turned over a mirror and forced me to stare at my deplorable lukewarm nature and finally let it float away on the ever-changing winds of time, life, pain, joy.

I hate lukewarm. I don’t care if lukewarm comforts people and releases them to be acquainted with me. I abhor lukewarm because Christ is revolted by it. With lukewarm, I am so much farther from the Father then if I had never known of Him. To think of so much of my life being squandered with lukewarm platitudes and my imagining that I was, all along, white hot.

Lukewarm is my worst nightmare and it has been a constant companion for many years, sparked with genuine moments of intense strength where I saw glimmers of real faith. It’s gotten me by. It’s given me just enough to maintain. Be enough for others, but never for me or Him. I knew it, too. That’s the most horrible admonition.

And so, once again….

I say thank you Heavenly Fatherfor pain.

Without heartache, I would be living without a victory march, but simply a half-forced smile.

Beige. Tepid.

But with pain, I feel. I will live loudly, vibrantly, boiling and burning hot.

Laodicea, no longer.

 

 

 

 

Literary Comfort // Life-giving Bookshelf

I’ve always found comfort in books. It isn’t necessarily an escapist effort, but more of a magical understanding. No matter the stage or season of life, there has been a book that reminds me that nothing is really new. It’s all happened before. My heartache, my elation, my experience. It’s not new.  Books have a way of understanding.


There’s comfort in books. Hardcover stories and tales, sitting on my shelf, day in and day out. They stare at me and wait until that perfect day, month, year where my heart may be aching or may be resting and in need of a familiar friend. When my emotions will be raw enough to understand whatever new piece I recognize on the page. Life brings unpredictable tidal waves of good, frightening, surreal. It’s inevitably coming and when it does,

I shuffle over to my bursting bookshelves and I pick up….

A book that reminds me to live..

A book that reminds me that I can find family anywhere and to never lose hope.

A book that allows me to see that evil will never outshine light.

A book that forms my faith.

Books that are simple and charming and sweet, for those dark, complicated moments.

Books that will never leave my memory, and might draw me closer to Christ than any Sunday sermon.

Books heavy with symbolism.

Books that will challenge my mind.

Books that I come back to again and again and again.

It’s never ending and the bookshelf is always revolving. There’s always one waiting and what a treasure hunt that is! Except in books, one will almost always find treasure of the indispensable sort.


Right now, this is what I’m reading, what I want to read, and what I want to revisit.

Currently with the kids. And starting next week.

Currently on my nightstand. This too.

Currently in my Amazon cart.

Currently in my morning devotion basket.

Currently pondering which to revisit….This or this? Suggestions welcome.

 

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

Paideia // The Liturgy of Culture

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I’ve heard much about “Hygge” lately, haven’t you? It’s a daily tradition, embedded in Scandinavian culture, and it’s found popularity within the United States, this past year. Bloggers write about it, books are being sold and Pinterest is filled with perfectly curated photos of people enjoying “it”. A friend sent me an article, quite some time ago, detailing the essence of “Hygge” and once I learned about it, I realized why I enjoyed the concept so much – it’s what I’ve been doing, working toward and searching for…… for years. After over a decade of truly desiring (and working towards) peaceful, quiet and intentional living, learning, education and loving….I have finally began reaping the benefits of discovering it. I am immersed in it and the abundance is overflowing. Hygge doesn’t have to be reserved for one hour a day of sheer enjoyment. No, it can become a culture.

It had to become a culture before I could completely enjoy and surrender to it, which took work. A culture, as defined in the dictionary is, “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” In order to have the culture our family is drawn to – methodical, slow, restful, intentional, Godly, virtuous and lovely….we had to work for almost a decade, dismantling the culture we had bought into. The only culture we had really known – the Southern California culture we (my husband and I) were brought up in – very thick and layered and not all together bad, but not precisely the culture I wanted to leave to raise my children. This played a large role in why we chose to educate our children at home.  What began with my love for classical literature has blossomed, in the last four years, into a deep searching for virtuous, high-minded and principled thinking.  Not “intellectual” studies simply to become intellectual, but an honest searching out of the most beautiful and lovely lessons that one can learn – so they may take those thoughts, arguments and logic and set the world a blaze with their love of the Lord and the depth of what He has created.

In order to welcome this culture into our home, we had to change things. We had to stop things. We reorganized how we prioritized, what we allowed, what we chose to ponder and be entertained by.

Culture is a liturgy.

How we live and what we do is how and what we worship – it’s our liturgy. If I dismantle that true statement, the culture we construct for our family is our worship to the Lord and the precious few years I have with my three daughters is my opportunity to give them culture.

I have a choice and I choose Paideia of the highest and most God-pleasing manner as I am able. Sean and I both desire to transmit a culture which is free (as much as possible) from bland entertainment, meaningless logic and sinful components. If it all sounds so pious, I suppose that’s because it is and should be. After all, “piety” is simply the love and fear of God and man. It’s a commandment in the Bible.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

When taken seriously, our task as parent is immense. If I stop and think about it long enough, my heart feels heavy, as if someone is sitting on my chest. It’s all too much! I am a sinner with inherent evil, written into my DNA. Often selfish, who am I to raise these children? Who am I to direct them? I make foolish choices all the time – I choose the low road. As does my husband. We are sinners, saved by grace (because trust me, on my own merit, I’m not worth it.)

But.

The crux of the issue is this: Either my husband and I cultivate a culture for my children or they will adopt the nearest one to them, created by others.

They will cling to one. One will permeate them.

As parents, we know that nothing is fool-proof, and children are humans who will seek on their own. Perhaps they will drift from what we have instructed them. We can’t be certain. But we can be intentional. Slow. Peaceful. Loving. God-fearing. Seeking righteousness and beauty and virtue. In all we do. And doesn’t that sound like something we all desire?! I have found the most restfulness in slowing my world and focusing on what matters.

When I think of the “liturgy of culture” we are offering our girls, I do sometimes think about how exhausted I am at the end of the day. Educating them, mind, body and soul, is a daily task. Unrelenting. Yet, even in my physical exhaustion, I have clear eyes and a restful spirit for what may come next in our home. I take solace in how education, culture and virtue can and are married. While our school tasks may daily focus on the seven pillars of the Liberal Arts, it is wise (and essential) to remember that it is much more than mere academic work we are striving for:

“The seven liberal arts were never meant to stand on their own as the entire curriculum, for they are designed particularly for cultivating intellectual virtue. Since human beings are more than just intellects, however, the curriculum must develop more than just intellectual virtue. Creatures formed in God’s image must be cultivated in body and soul – mind, will, and affections.” –Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain “The Liberal Arts Tradition

Our children (and ourselves) will adopt a culture, which will become one of the largest parts of who they/we are. It will encompass what is believed, and what will be transmitted to future generations (Paideia). We have been handed the supreme opportunity to continually select the most pure and good and dwell on those things. Think on those things (Phil 4:8). In our waking and in our sleeping. Entertainment, consumption, discussion and education.

All choices are contributing to culture. And we must measure each according to what pleases the Lord most of all.

Certainly not easy. But what a noble task!

 

Overcome // Overcomer

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We live in extraordinary times, don’t we?

As an armchair historian, I’m aware that every period of time is extraordinary in its own right. Nothing is new under the sun, but right now it feels like each day dawns with a new catastrophe. Everything feels unique to this age and insurmountably heavy. Burdensome. Several days ago, a friend was killed in a car accident. That same day I found out a new friend has cancer. One was diagnosed with another terminal disease. I have friends losing their foster children. Friends losing their parents to health problems. Sick children. Financial troubles.  In my own life, I’ve relinquished many hopes and notions of how things should be. There is hurt and severed relationships and memories. I see pain, confusion and sin.

I feel it, you feel it. Our culture is wilting and churning and I’m not up to the task. I like to think I am – with all my answers and social diagnosis’ and explanations and all my solutions.

At the end of the day, I am helpless. You are helpless.

But am I really? No.

To be helpless it to admit defeat and I know better than that. So do you.

As a believer, I know that this world is going to offer destruction, emptiness and suffering….in the form of:

adultry

gossip

racism

bitterness

lonliness

depression

addiction

hatefulness

gluttony

vengefulness

pride…….

But there is that still small voice that meets me, when my head hits the pillow (sometimes in tears):

“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.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

You have overcome everything. That is why I have joy and I wake and can rejoice in all things – in pain and suffering and circumstances that make me cry out because of their injustice. You have your hand on these things and You have overcome. I can not make them work in my mind and I try and try but You overcome and you win and you are the champion of this war-torn, rotting world.

You are the only reason that we wade through the murky water. You are the answer and the deliverance.

You are the overcomer, Lord.

 

day to day // ritual

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Phillipians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

***

Being a stay-at-home mother and a homeschooling educator, I spend most of my time in our home. I also spend most of my time awake. Running up and down stairs, preparing food (SO MUCH FOOD ALL THE TIME), checking homework, diagramming sentences and breaking up quarrels. Reading books out loud, buying books on Audible (the best app in all the world), ordering them from Amazon, reviewing them and reading some more. Reminding children to use manners, say their prayers and stop sassin’.

It’s a good life. A really good life.

In fact, I can’t imagine living any other way. Well, actually I dream daily about owning a huge lot of land with hills and trees and twirling around all over it, similar to Maria in Sound of Music. But where I am right now is where God has me, and I do love it for many reasons, even without a wrap-around porch. I’ve been growing and learning much about contentment lately. It’s a choice and I’m choosing it. My friend and I have been mulling over the concept together and it’s been beneficial for me.

I find that each day is even more enjoyable with a few small daily traditions. Perhaps rituals is a better choice to describe what I mean. These are things that I can do to put a small spark in each day, even though each day has plenty of its own. I’m growing in contentment while also observing lovely things and allowing each day to move slowly and organically, as the Lord leads.

When my days include the following, everything is a bit more lovely.

***

I’m a vintage-collector, so I frequent estate sales. At one particularly large home, I found a treasure trove of books. I’m not sure I can explain just how elated I was. Underneath the stacks and stacks, I found this small devotional. It has become a cornerstone of my days and brings me such simple assurance. If you’re anything like Susanna Wesley, and only have a few moments to spare each day, throw that apron over your head and give those minutes to the Lord. Now go and try to find this book online. It’s worth the price and was certainly worth climbing around in a dusty attic.

***

Candles have been and will be my downfall. I have them lit, each and every day, and they warm my soul. This is a current favorite and while costly, absolutely ushers in the feeling of Fall. I’m able to be reminded of the beautiful seasons the Lord provides. There was a time I questioned our budget line-item for candles. But smell is and always has been so important to me. It’s a nostalgic trigger and almost always a pleasant one. It’s equally important my children have the chance at that too. Perhaps that’s weird but I’m sticking with it. I feel justified when we are out and smell something and my daughters share memories tied to their childhood, based on a scent. Both good and bad. Just think about your favorite smells and allow your mind to venture down memory lane (and take a gander at this interesting article, too.)

***

Music is a non-negotiable part of our homeschool day. It’s always on (music was my way of releasing the need for the news to constantly serve as background noise). If you have an Amazon Prime account (you simply must), head over to the music section and enjoy the abundant selection of free music, at your fingertips! Our favorite “Prime albums” are: “100 Must Have BACH Masterpieces”, “Classical For Learning”, Tiersen: Pour Amelie Piano Music” and “Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris”. There are loads more, but these are our favorites. Along with this, this and this soundtrack.

***

I listen to The World And Everything In It and The Briefing daily. They are my source for daily news, from a Biblical perspective. I also receive this monthly magazine. These are both invaluable, inspirational and continually resources which bring me back to the foundation – God is in control. I am not. This is a good thing. I check no other news sources in the morning until I have checked these.

***

I hope several of my “rituals” might bring you renewed joy and bring gladness.

 

ugly // magnificent

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For every evil and ugly moment in this lifetime, there is a flash of magnificence. I believe these sparks to be much more potent, simply because they are in front of us, almost waiting to come alive. Waiting for when we desire goodness and mercy the most. We wish to be separated completely from the graveyard of heinous forces that surrounds us. Oh, the goodness and simplicity of each day, right in front of us, and so easily ignored. But in the midst of tragedy, chaos, everything sharpens into crystal-clear snapshots of beauty. Flash! We are asleep to the artistry at our fingertips and there it is, glowing and warm and it saves us, at times.

While mourning continues and tears are flowing. While our country bleeds and experiences the fracturing and breaking that has been happening for so so long. While fathers and mothers go home to quiet houses and find no voice on the other side of the phone call. While communities are wrecked with emptiness and loss and hunger. While children wait for parents and adults lay in streets, full of poison and pain and loneliness. While a young girl goes home, emptied from the inside, once again alone. While a small child runs to his room, scared. While a couple says goodbye.

While a nation loses its footing. Loses its sight.

While everything is being stripped away, day by day….

I see

A group of six grey-haired woman, sitting in a living room laughing.

Eight girls kicking a soccer ball, while the sun fades to pink.

A little toddler watching ants crawl into cracks and out of sandy holes.

An elderly couple take their morning walk, hand in hand.

The same gardener seen each morning, giving a wave to a child.

The waitress bringing an unmerited cookie to a young child, knowing the mother just needs a second of quiet.

Two kids sharing a lunch sack at the local park, laughing at what shapes the crackers make.

Local business owners come outside to fly their flag at half-staff.

Lights on at every church on the corner, bodies walking in for weekly communing.

 

The world around us is dying and at the same time so many moments are bursting to life.

 

days // recalling good

When things seem cloudy and my brain is far off, I look at photos.

I recall all of the small, wondrous moments that I often overlook as mundane. I see them happening in real life but for some strange reason, looking at them through a lens makes me realize just how blessed they are. Perhaps because I pause to see the details, colors and subjects. Real life has me scurrying table to sink to dishwasher to minivan. No time for blinking, let alone pondering. I’m working to change that, diligently.

These photos are like tiny, captured bouquets of flowers. Instantly making me grateful and full of joy.

 

dwelling // comfort

“God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” – C.S. Lewis

I’m finding that I can fill our home with all of the comfort and light, warmth and softness that this world may offer, but if I am not dwelling on the Lord, our family dwelling will be quite dim.

May each square inch of our home be a balm from the outside world and a respite from its darkness.

May we rest here.

short thought // long marathon

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Hebrews 12:1

“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

***

I’ve heard it said that the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. The older I become, the more I accept this as a very accurate analogy. You begin excited and ready to implement your training. It’s new and (of course) difficult but your ambitious. Halfway in (mile 12 or so), you feel fatigue but find encouragement from small truth-tellers (those handing out water and oranges). Enough to sustain you. You catch second-winds occasionally and are motivated by others at the same pace.

However, you inevitably approach the dreaded “wall” around mile 20. Your legs cramp; you can’t do it. You’re weary and exhaustion has taken over, and while the end is somewhat in site, you have much farther to go – over six miles to be exact.

I’ve begun to realize that while I’m not at the end of my life (Lord willing) I’m no longer at the beginning of my Christian journey, either – wearing rose-colored glasses and being able to find strength through self-help evangelical jargon or sermon podcasts has come to an end.

I’m nearer to mile 20. I’m tired and exhausted and also more experienced and wise than when I began. I have miles to go before I’m complete but I can also see the finish line – where I end, desiring to devote my life to thoughtfulness, faithfulness and courage in the service of the Lord and His Kingdom. Mile 20 can be gruesome – marked with pain and suffering and truth that you had willingly set aside during the earlier miles.

But! Mile 20 is also a sanctifying marker in the race. You are ready for what is coming. You possess abounding faith. You laugh at the days to come because you have been there and you know who owns the clock.

A marathon is a good analogy for the journey which all Christ-believers find themselves on. May we run with diligence, perseverance and undaunted joy.