Friday, October 31, 2014

Autumn Grace #31: Thirty-One Days and One Very Busy Day

Dear friends,

So here we are at the end of October, and the end of my 31 Days of Autumn Grace series. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have! It's been fun thinking of something to post each day. I may try a series at a much slower pace - say once a week? - called Grateful Grace in preparation for Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if I'll do it on this blog, or on one of my others. I'll keep you posted. (Oh, here we go! Grateful Grace 2014 on Virginia's Life.)

It's a good thing my fever broke last night and I was almost back up to full speed (whatever that is) by this morning.

It's been a busy day between chauffeuring kids to bus stops or school, catching up on grocery shopping after several days sick, home schooling my youngest daughter, running to the store for more face paint, helping my kids with last minute costume preparations, carving a pumpkin, making spaghetti for dinner, taking two girls to a church's Trunk and Treat party, decorating our front doorway for the trick-or-treaters, handing out candy, editing my photos for a post on my other blog, etc. Oh, and hemming a pair of ROTC uniform pants for my oldest son for an early morning event, as well as cleaning up all the pumpkin mess and extra dishes in the dining room and kitchen. And so forth.  (You can see the photos here.) Yes, that's pretty much what I expected to be doing today. No problem there. I'm not complaining. Some days are like that, and moms all over the place just step up to the plate. This is how we do life. It did feel good to be back in the swing of things after being in bed big chunks of this week.

It's now after midnight, and technically November 1, but I'm backdating this post to keep it in October. Shhh! Don't tell!

One other thing I hope you'll look at? October wasn't just the month for an Autumn Grace series. It was also Domestic Violence Awareness month. People I love have been deeply affected by this issue, so it matters to me very much. I am simply asking you to check out the post, click on some of the links, and maybe share some of the graphics on social media. You can find it here: Let's End Domestic Violence - Not Just the Awareness Month.

I'd love to hear some feedback on this Autumn Grace series, as well as the domestic violence posts.

What was your favorite post and why?

Have you done anything interesting or fun or profound in response to what I've written here?

Thank you, friends!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. The photo at the top of this post is this evening's sunset here in central Florida. My daughter Naomi took it on the way back from Trunk and Treat. Always take time to notice the beauty.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn Grace #30: To Feed Your Soul


Nothing long from me today - just two more links to feed your souls. I've been in bed still sick, and my daughter just brought me some dinner she'd made. I decided to use a few minutes of quiet lucidness for my daily Autumn Grace. (My computer is in my nice dark bedroom.) 

The Pilgrim Life by Tonia Peckover at Study in Brown. (I subscribe through Bloglovin - and I'm always lovin' what she writes. She speaks to the poet in me.)

Are You Who You Want to Be? by Catherine Claire Larson at Live Expectantly (This one was shared on Facebook. Thank you to whomever did that. I am too foggy to remember.)

There you go. The flowers at the top are from aunexpected visit to Kewanee Park wedged in between errands last week. Like Tonia and Catherine, I like to take full advantage of my solitary moments and fill them with beauty and meaning. You can find other photos from that trip to Kewanee in my hymn post Kyrie Eleison, which also has some amazing music by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autumn Grace #29: Success or Sabotage?

"Will this choice help me to move forward into the life I want to live, or will it keep me stuck where I have been?"

My daughter Joanna posted this on her Facebook, and I liked it so much that I downloaded it as the wallpaper on both my laptop and my iPod. She always posts such thought-provoking gems. 

I realize that I tend to self-sabotage mostly through procrastination and distraction. 

Of course, the first priority is deciding what life you actually want - what is in harmony with your core life values. You may already be on that path and reaping the fruits. 

This quote doesn't automatically mean you abandon where you've been, because it might be good and healthy. But we do need to identify where  we are stuck - what is holding us back. We've all got baggage of some sort or another. 

So take time to think:

Where do I want to be in the future? Ask this about various time intervals, like a month, a year, five years, a decade.

What attitudes and behaviors and choices are hindering you? 

What practical things can you do to not only remove (or hurdle) the obstacles, but make positive progress? 

I was typing this on my iPod in a very dark room since I have a light-sensitive headache. I got bored lying in bed with my eyes closed. Unfortunately, I had to get up and break up a sibling spat. One child certainly needed to be reminded that, "Your choices are your responsibility." Sigh.  Oh wait! What's this? It appears that they apologized to each other! Wow!

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be writing more on this "choices" concept in the future. Stay tuned.

But for now, as with yesterday, my best choice is to go back to bed. Good night, friends!

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn Grace #28: Hard Stories and Resilience

I'm sick and tired today. I think it must be the flu or a cold. I've spent a lot of time in bed. 

My daughter has been very good at staying quiet and even continuing with her home schooling. She did her grammar sitting on my bed. She read two books about George Washington to me this morning while I was lying down (I read a little, too) and watched Liberty Kids shows on YouTube while wearing her Spider Man mask. Why yes, we are studying the American Revolution right now! She loved the story of Molly Pitcher from a book yesterday - how she carried water to the parched soldiers in the midst of battle, and then took over the cannon when her husband collapsed. I can't even imagine living back then with all of the hardships, but two of my ancestors, Captain Samuel Ransom and Captain Alexander Quarrier, fought in that war. I reckon Spider Man might have come in handy.

All that to say that I'm not up to writing much of anything terribly complicated today. But that's all right with me! Here, instead, are links to two great articles by friends of mine on facing challenges in life. I especially appreciated these since I am not stranger to heartache, frustration, and even failure. It seems my mantra is, "Just pick yourself up and keep moving along." Of course, on days like today, it's more like, "Just lay yourself down and get some rest." I'll be back to that in a little bit.

Anyway, the posts!

Ruth and I taught the same bunch of middle school kids last year in a private school. She taught math and science in the mornings, and I taught English and American history in the afternoons. She has since moved back up north, but I still love reading the wise words on her blog. Here is her latest post: 

(Note: The "God is Good All the Time" picture at the top of this post is of a sign hanging in the school where Ruth and I taught last year. I thought she might like that "blast from the past" and it fits so well with her post.)

Courtney and I go to the same church. I got to know her a little better at a ladies' night at a friends house, and it was so good to hear part of her story. You will be blessed to read her latest blog entry: 

So there you go! 

Now I'm going back to bed!

Growing up, too!Virginia Knowles

Monday, October 27, 2014

Autumn Grace #27: A Harvest of Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things 
there is no law. 
Galatians 5:22-23


Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love, 
and break up your 
unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes and showers
righteousness on you.
Hosea 10:12-13

The fruit of righteousness 
will be peace;
the effect of righteousness 
will be quietness and 
confidence forever.
Isaiah 32:17

I am the vine; 
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me 
and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me 
you can do nothing.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish,
and it will be given you.
This is to my Father's glory,
that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves 
to be my disciples.
John 15:5, 7-8

More fruit-filled posts...

I know you are wondering
about some of these photos.
The fruits and post links...

This is post #27 in my 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn Grace #26: Authentic Transformation and Loving Those in Low Places

My friend Sandy serving with joy!

Dear friends,

I love this life-giving passage from Romans 12!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will… Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Romans 12: 1-2, 9-16

I have been thinking lately about how people change. Authentic change doesn't come from just behavior modification. There has to be an inner transformation and a new identity to make it happen. Our strongest passions will always rule in the end. If you don't change the desire, the actions will always revert. 

For example, you can attempt to take on a desirable behavior for a while to look good.  Maybe your core desire is for approval or to convince someone else to go along with your plans, rather than doing it "for goodness sake." As soon as your actions fail to get you what you want, or someone gets in the way of your goals, selfishness shows its ugly side again. If manipulation is your motivation, sparks will fly if you are hindered in your pursuit. Your hypocrisy will end up shredding your relationships. However, if you are motivated by genuine transformation and sincere service to God and others, then you will learn to work through the difficulties with patience. You will keep pressing on toward integrity and compassion, and realize that these frustrations are actually stepping stones toward strengthening your character.

I found this passage from Romans 12 to be an encouragement for me this afternoon as I prepared for a monthly outreach dinner for disadvantaged folks in our community. We set this up in the parking lot of a local motel where people live in transition, often for months at a time, usually with government or charitable assistance. At our dinner, they can get a full meal, clothing, toiletries, and laundry detergent for free. 

I usually can't stay the whole time since my kids have youth group on Sunday evenings, but I do at least buy the last minute supplies, set out a few seasonal table decorations, write and distribute name tags for the volunteers, restock the hand wipes, and pass out information sheets on where to find food, health care, housing, and other assistance in our area. 

I love to greet people and hear even just a little of their stories. One lady said she hadn't eaten in four days, is disabled, and is having trouble getting financial assistance. She was so grateful for whatever we could share with her, and we were glad we could do it. 

I always hate to rush off. I wish I could linger longer to listen. Yes, I think these are the "people of low position" Paul talks about in verse 16. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be with them, and to show them a little friendly hospitality in a hostile world. 

Sure, there are things they can try to change in their lives to get back on their feet. Some have made poor choices that got them where they are, and they need to learn a new way. Some need substance abuse treatment. Some need more education or job skills or help with budgeting. Those are valid concerns. But most of all, as we try to address these practical needs, we also share the love of Jesus and his dynamic power to change their lives from the inside out. That's where the real transformation comes.

It's not just them, of course. When I look at my own life, there are so many things I want to change, so many areas where I repeatedly fall short, or just don't know what to do. I remind myself that it starts on the inside, with my core identity and desires, the renewing of my mind, and the strength and wisdom God gives. I know I'll be looking at this passage in Romans 12 again and again in days to come.

God bless you!
Virginia Knowles

You may also like to read these related posts:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn Grace #25: The Pumpkin Patch


I've taken two trips to the pumpkin patch at the local Methodist Church, one with my youngest on Friday and the other with my three youngest today.

My little one thinks this looks like
a peeled tangerine!

Call it a bumpkin.

Goose neck gourds

Elf house gourd in front

We bought several mini pumpkins and gourds. The big pumpkins were a bit more expensive so we bought one later at Walmart for less than $4. Even though this doesn't show all of them, I like this photo with natural light through my window. My favorite is the star shaped mini pumpkin.

The last time I visited a pumpkin stand was about two years ago on a visit to Maryland. You can see those photos here: Apple Picking, Fritters, and Goofy Gourds at Larriland Farm

If you would like to see indexes of previous Autumn Grace posts, you can find them on my main blog here: #1-10 and #11-23.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn Grace #24: "Children Learn What They Live" + Gentle Parenting Links

Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism,
they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,
they learn to fight.

If children live with fear,
they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity,
they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule,
they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy,
they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame,
they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,
they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,
they learn patience.

If children live with praise,
they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance,
they learn to love.

If children live with approval,
they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition,
they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing,
they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty,
they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness,
they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration,
they learn respect.

If children live with security,
they learn to have faith in themselves 
and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness,
they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

A Christian therapist recently reminded me of "Children Learn What They Live." We used to have a framed copy of this hanging in our hallway.

I am constantly working at becoming a more gentle and understanding mother. I feel like I have to retrain myself out of years of bad habits. It is still too easy to be grumpy, but that doesn't serve anyone well. I remind myself that I am my children's advocate, not their adversary. I am for them, not against them. A hug, a smile, and an affirmation will do wonders - far more effective than sharp words or harsh punishment in the long run. 

I am also remembering to take the time to make memories with my children. Today, that meant taking my little girl to the pumpkin patch when we were already out running errands, even though we are going again tomorrow with her brother and sister. I wanted her to know that she is special and that I care about her. She's got a tender little girl heart, and small things mean so much to her. That was our home school field trip for the week. :-)

Gentle parenting posts on my own blogs:

Gentle parenting articles on other sites: