Tuesday, September 25, 2012

At Our Best Bravely (Encouragement for Tired Moms)

"We are not at our best when we are most exuberant, most impetuous, most abounding in strength, most enthusiastic and most eager. But we are at our best when we are pulling most gravely, steadily, courageously in our appointed duties; when we are almost swamped by difficulties, weariness, seeming impossibilities; but all the time our face bravely turned towards eternity, our hearts lovingly turned toward God, and our wills determined to fight and fight to the death." Janet Erskine Stuart 

I am certainly not always exuberant as a mom. Many days it is just plain plodding, day by day, step by step, not knowing what will happen next. Maybe that's a good thing.

Here a little, there a little. Our children are watching (even taking pictures!) as we go through our daily duties, dish by dish...

Anna Robertson Brown, one of the first women PhD's, wrote over a hundred years ago, "We are spending time well when we are paying it out to God, to buy the things he means our lives to own, whether he is putting before us a duty to be done, a friend to be won, a small service to be rendered, a child to be consoled, or a house to be set in order. There is time enough given us to do all that God means us to do each day and to do it gloriously! How do we know but that the  interruption we snarl at is the most blessed thing that has come to us in long days?... Let us not try to escape our work, nor to shirk it. Above all, let us not fail to see it. As long as we live we have a work to do... That we are alive to-day is proof positive that God has something for us to do to-day. Let us ask ourselves as we arise each morning, What is my work today?  We do not know where the influence of to-day will end. Our lives may outgrow all our present thoughts, and outdazzle all our dreams. Every day is a test-day; every hour is an examination-hour. God puts each fresh morning, each new chance of life, into our hands as a gift, to see what we will do with it."  (More here: What is Worth While?)

I found the quote at the top of this post while looking for a short story about St. Augustine for my English students, who are learning about him in their history class.  It was shared by by Elisabeth Elliot in her story of the prayers of Augustine's mother Monica of Tagaste, who prayed long for her profligate son.  Her prayers were answered!  Praying for our children is part of "gravely, steadily, courageously... all the time our face bravely turned towards eternity, our hearts lovingly turned toward God." Yesterday in class, we were talking about the faithful service of Amy Carmichael, a missionary who rescued nearly a thousand children in India from temple slavery or moral degradation.  You can read her "A Parent's Prayer" here: Praying for Your Children.  Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, had wandered from the faith as a teenager but his parents' prayers prevailed, as you can read here: What Are You Looking For?

Keep going, Moms.  With God's help, you can do it, even if you don't feel like it, even if you can't see the results right now.

"Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 
1 Corinthians 15:58b

More to read for "Mom encouragement":

"My Glorious Dishtowel" Redux and More

Tender Compassion for Mothers 
A Mother’s Seeds
The Thessalonians Prescription
The 12 P's of Stress Busting for Moms

Quotes and Poems to Keep You Going

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Jolly Chef and His Friends at the Curiosity Shoppe

    Dear friends,

    Abbondanza!  This jolly chef makes me wish he had some yummy pizza left on his tray!  He seems to have such a zest for cooking up great food!  I'll try to use him as inspiration to be more enthusiastic about my own kitchen creations.  He's actually not alone.   He's got a bunch of foodie buddies.

    I photographed them in a weird store that I have passed for years and smiled at but never actually visited.  Until yesterday.  I had an extra 20 minutes before picking up my daughter from work, so I decided to do it! The Liquidation Station, also known as World of Decor, is an odd store. 

    You can't help seeing it with items like this outside!
    The dragon is probably 15-20 feet tall,
    not exactly a living room conversation piece.
    I didn't notice the huge snake until I edited the picture.

    My little girl could be the heroine Merida
    in the movie Brave.

    I've already seen it and loved it, and
    I can't wait until it comes out in the dollar theater
    so I can take the rest of the family 
    I will charitably call the store a Curiosity Shoppe.
    Fine furniture and decor, but very much a cluttered warehouse setting,
    as you can see in the picture below.
    Not exactly the luxury ambience, despite the price tags - 
    with most pieces in the hundreds and thousands range.
    They are, however, having an auction this weekend,
    with prices reduced by 40%.

    A closer look at this enigmatic face.

    I used this piece to teach two of my kids
    what a fleur de lis is.

    Funky, but not my style at all

    One of the pieces I did like,
    a long skinny upholstered bench.

    Lion fountain
    Detail from an Oriental vase
    which is taller than I am

    Leonardo da Vinci
    Barack Obama
    (No thanks, I'm a Republican.)

    Ending with a little inspiration!

    I think it's important sometimes to be a little spontaneous, have a little fun looking around and feasting the eyes.  The two kids who were with me probably think I'm a little crazy, but they already knew that anyway.

    Now, back to thinking about how to have a little fun in the kitchen...

    What do you do to spark your inspiration?  Leave a comment!

    Virginia Knowles

     P52 Photo Project  this week's theme "Collections"
    P52 with Kent Weakley

    Food on Fridays

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    On Clouds, Hands, Oysters and Messy Humanity

    Dear friends,

    On the way home from an appointment: clouds.

    I lucked out with the sun rays on these, hastily taken at a stop light...

    One of my hobbies is watching clouds and photographing them...

    They are a symbol of hope and God's providence for me.

    I pulled over into a parking lot for some of these 
    so I could could get the maximum view of clouds 
    while avoiding the visual interference of power lines.

    I usually crop out any remaining signs of messy human existence (power lines, buildings, light poles), and I sometimes use saturation to brighten things up, as you can see from these two versions of the same shot:

    Another cloud of sorts,
    another sign of messy human existence:
    My appointment today was with my hand specialist.

    Now that I'm out of my brace,
    I have to buddy tape my fingers 
    with a wad of gauze in between
    in hopes that the pinky
    will stop twisting against the ring finger.

    Tape and gauze, for two more months
    is not exactly what I wanted to hear.
    It's necessary for recovery, a good thing,
    but an inconvenience nonetheless.
    But I will count my blessings
    that I could see on the new x-ray
    that the fracture is healing neatly,
    even if there is a loose end
    that will take two more years 
    for new bone to completely fill in.

    As I waited for the doctor to enter the exam room, I read from the chapter "Oyster Bed" in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
    "Each is fitted and formed by its own life and struggle to survive. It is an oyster, with small shells clinging to its humped back. Sprawling and uneven, it has the irregularity of something growing. It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life... It amuses me because it seems so much like my life at the moment, like most women's lives in the middle years of marriage. It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with accumulations and... firmly embedded on its rock."
    My life, too.  The needs of my family, my friends, my students, my community, my own interests.  Commitments.  Opportunities.  Interruptions.  All piled on, seeming unseemly at the first glance, even the second glance.  Messy, messy human existence at times that I can't (completely) crop out of my real life.  Like the oyster, I hope I am firmly embedded to the rock, and maybe even growing a pearl inside.  And despite the demands, my beloved peeps do give back, too. Joy. Compassion. Understanding. Chocolate.  Relationships, even complicated ones, are a blessing.

    Sweet gift from my sister-in-law Dana, who also sent dark chocolate toffee!
    Grace and peace,
    Virginia Knowles

    P.S. More to read:

    A lovely, candid blog post by Tsh which I found in my Google Reader this afternoon.  Life's answers aren't always perfect, but there are still "Partial Solutions" in our complicated lives: Making Friends with Imperfect People

    My own series on Advocating for the Vulnerable, dealing with the human messiness of elder abuse, homelessness, child trafficking, and more to come.

    Clouds, more clouds, and the realities of life: 
    From I Dreamed a Dream
    This post will be linked at:

     P52 Photo Project  this week's theme "Hobbies"
    P52 with Kent Weakley

    (Yes, I confess that I submitted two photos to P52 this week!  You can find the other on my www.ContinueWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com here: Ripstick or Rat?)

    Domestically Divine Tuesday 
    Raising Homemakers 

    Funki Planet 

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Or Do Without

    Dear friends,

    Many years ago, I wrote a section in my book The Real Life Home School Mom about saving money.  Here is a tiny excerpt:

    Whatever your expenses are, you can put your stewardship, diligence, wisdom, and creativity to work! Grandma always said, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!”
    • Avoid eating out or using expensive convenience foods very often.
    • When running errands, bring food and drinks with you in an insulated bag.
    • Cancel subscriptions which encourage a materialistic lifestyle.
    • Make your own gifts, greeting cards, decorations, and entertainment.
    • Cut your children's hair and learn how to repair clothing and household items.
    • To save on labor costs, ask friends to help with big projects or barter your skills.
    • Use garage sales and consignment stores to buy and sell.
    • Organize your home to avoid replacing lost items.
    • Borrow seldom used items.
    • Shop around! If you take your time, you can usually find the best deal.
    • Alert friends to your upcoming purchases so they can keep an eye out.
    • Choose items which are versatile enough for many purposes and seasons.

    I'm thinking of a few ways I've been able to do this recently around the house.

    Lamp, straightened
    Lamp, crooked
    Today I bought a vintage lamp at a neighbor's yard sale for only $5.  The only problem is that it seemed to sit crooked on my desk (see right) due to a defect in the glass part of the base.  Fortunately, I was able to level it by propping up two of the feet with packets made from a matching color of scrapbooking paper. Can you tell the difference? I had been looking for a pretty desk lamp at Goodwill, and I'm glad I found this one even closer to home.

    Brown paper squares
    Folded up to make levelers

    I use a rolling ice chest as my book cart to tote my English class materials to our home school co-op on Mondays. Unfortunately, the padded nylon cover ripped and was falling off.  I also had a shirt that was stained near the neckline, so I cut the shirt just below the arms and slipped the tube of fabric over the book cart as a new cover.  I tucked the top edge over a piece of elastic cord tied around the cart. The bottom of the shirt was already hemmed.  Then I made a front sign by printing my name on yellow card stock, attaching a post card, slipping it into a plastic page protector, and attaching it to the fabric with safety pins.  It's still not all that pretty, but better than it was!  It's a way to use something for a different purpose than its original design, as well as repair something that can still be used.

    Tucking fabric into elastic

    What Do You Stand For?
    Some of the character qualities:
     empathy, honesty, purpose,
    wisdom, courage, cooperation...
    I bought this card at the
    U.S. Holocaust Museum.
    It communicates what
    I want to teach.

    So I don't have to bring my whole purse with me on Mondays, I bought a small velvet satchel at Goodwill for $2.99 -- just big enough for the essentials. I can drop it right into my book cart or take it out when I need to leave the room for lunch.  I've been using it a lot lately on errands, too.

    Against the Tide by Miroslav Volf
    and Embracing the Love of God
    by James Bryan Smith
    I love to read, but I don't have the space or money to be buying new books all the time.  I brought in a whole bunch of books we weren't using anymore and traded them for store credit at Brightlight, my favorite used bookstore.  Then I bought two books and a movie -- with no cash needed -- and I still have credit left over.  Double win!  We also bought a lot of used curriculum on-line this year, such as at eBay, Amazon, and www.HomeSchoolClassifieds.com.  This was definitely a case of shopping around for the best deals.

    Add to the Beauty
    by Sara Groves

    My beloved iPod Touch fell on the floor at the pet store a couple of weeks ago and the screen shattered.  It would have cost almost $100 to replace.  Fortunately, I remembered that the person who gave it to me had bought an extended warranty with accident coverage.  I took it in to Best Buy and they gave me a brand new (and improved) iPod.  I also had a problem with my laptop recently, but it's under warranty too, so I was able to get the help I needed to completely reset it with another trip to the Geek Squad folks at Best Buy.  Now, as I'm typing this blog post, I'm also reloading all of my music onto my laptop and iPod from my CD collection, much of it bought at Brightlight.  Two of my daughters also gave me iTunes gift cards for my birthday -- an excellent choice since digital music and apps don't take space on my shelves and I can choose what I want!  I save more by only buying individual songs if I don't want a whole album.  Among other things, my husband gave me a CD called All That I Am by Annie Herring, who was one of my favorite artists in the 1980's. (Do you remember the Second Chapter of Acts band?  That was Annie and her brother and sister!)  I'm listening to it right now!  

    Another of my daughters, after reading my blog post in which I mentioned a quote I had seen about books, hired my friend Taraleigh Davis of Inspired. Simply. Etsy (see also on FB at Inspired. Simply) to design this print with it.   My photo doesn't do it justice at all.  I'm sure you could order the same one from her if you like it, or tell her what you want on yours.  She does custom orders!

    This daughter also gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a mason jar.  She used these jars as lemonade and tea glasses at her country style wedding reception last year.  Very stylish!

    Boneless beef ribs
    My husband grilled a delicious (belated) birthday dinner for me tonight. He found boneless beef ribs half price at Aldi today, and I bought a tray of baklava half price there the other day.  Yummy food!  Both of our married daughters, a son-in-law, and two grandsons came over so we had a very nice time. 

    As a little bonus to this blog post, a song from the CD I just got:

    Virginia Knowles

    This post will be linked on: 

    Raising Homemakers 


    Domestically Divine Tuesday