Sunday, February 16, 2014

a book I think you should read

by Mary Reed Newland

This book arrived two days ago.  I can't believe how…well…just wonderful it is.  It is all at once affirming and exhorting.  Anglican and Episcopalian friends, do not be deterred!  Indeed, anyone in a liturgical tradition, or even any Christian willing to deal with the term 'Catholic,' will enjoy this.

I admit that there is a bit of the feeling of 'If only I had had this when baby number one was still nursing.' But there is no turning back, right?  When my dear friend had a look at it while our kids were at choir yesterday, her response was 'It makes you want to start over.'

This is why I need to tell you about it now!  So all of our very next babies will benefit.  And it is NOT too late for the others, or for us, I'm sure.  It's never too late to grow and change.  These pages contain some beautiful thoughts that I can tell will have a profound influence on the day to day around here.

Have you read any Newland before?  My friend Jess (probably without knowing the treasure she had!) sent me this vintage copy of The Year and Our Children, published in 1956.  It's cover is not so awesome now, and you may remember it from a recommendation on Like Mother Like Daughter back in May of 2013 in a "Bits and Pieces" post.  This book is sort of a rambling commentary on the faith, while it focuses on instructing families about how to let the Liturgical Year really seep into everyday life.    There are many many tremendously helpful little ideas about how to do this, even if the style and organization requires a lot of sifting.  It's definitely a book to just have around on your coffee table, because you can always open up to whatever season we're in, or about to be in, to see what little things you might do to celebrate.  Isn't this old copy adorable?  Can you believe it originally cost 95 cents?!

This book, on the other hand, feels much more organized and instructive in a "read from cover to cover" sort of way.  Just head on over to amazon and peek at the Table of Contents.  Having only read the beginning, the main thing I want to tell you about today has to do with her approach to prayer.  The piece of this that feels particularly Catholic has to do with offering up our sorrows and sufferings, and uniting those with our Lord's in the hope that it will ease His suffering, or be merited to our suffering world in some way.  I NEVER heard of this concept outside of the Catholic Church, and I did my fair share of running around.  It's so very powerful for me as an adult (and one who is still just learning to practice this!), but I am amazed at how Newland makes this powerfully accessible for the youngest children.  Or rather, shows us how to make it accessible to our children in the most intimate and lovely ways.

As a little example, she discusses how important it can be to help children see their work as prayer.  She says, "In the beginning, learning to make our bed, dry the dishes, and polish shoes is fun and a kind of play at being grown up, but soon the novelty wears off, and the chores that started out being fun can lose their glamour and become unpleasant drudgery.  If they are prayer, however, it can be different.  Not that tasks we hate doing are suddenly transformed into occasions of great spiritual joy; but there's a great difference between doing them because you're told you must, and doing them because they can be applied to the sufferings of some other child somewhere, who has no bed to make, who must spend his nights curled up in a hole, shivering, starved, unhappy, and with no one to care for him" (Newland 31).

Newland is confident that a child can see work as something Christ can use "as balm for one of His suffering members," and goes on to say that "one of the loveliest things about teaching children that work is prayer is that mothers can't help having it rub off on them.  These diapers that are changed daily, these meals that are cooked again and again, these floors that are scrubbed today only to get dirty tomorrow––these are truly prayer in a mother's vocation as the watches and prayers of the religious are in theirs" (31).  I love thinking that my time at the kitchen sink, if offered up, could be valuable prayer in the life of the Church, in the way that a dear Brother or Sister might drag him or herself out of bed for Matins or Lauds to pray for the rest of us.  And I believe that Newland is right about children.  We don't need to dumb down the faith for them.  We do need to share it, though.

In the first section, "Introduce Your Child to God" she articulates this vocation so beautifully.  She ends the section with this: "Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it's one of the things our children already possess.  We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering up.  We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that "impractical" spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God.  If this is the undercurrent of our existence, we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.  Without it, what they learn of God as children will be easily shoved aside when the world begins to make its noise in their ears.  We inherited Heaven at the Cross, and a way of life that should lead us all to sublime heights.  Our obligation as parents is heavy: we must raise children who are in love with God" (20).  Luckily she goes on to flesh out exactly what we can do!

I need books like this to remind me of just that: my primary focus is to aim to raise saints.  Primary focus!  It is so easy to lose sight of that in the mess or the chaos or the homeschool to-do list.  This book is grounding, encouraging, and its tone is loving.  I hope you'll take a look and let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

sunny day not-quite-done kitchen reveal

It seemed, on a recent sunny day, that showing you the kitchen, even though it's not entirely done, wouldn't be the worst idea.  Who knows, after all, when it may be finished?  This may also be a good way to collect a few opinions before we proceed.

As you can see, we need to close in the area above the oven, so that it will have cabinets above.  The same goes for the fridge, which isn't pictured.  I think this will really finish off the space, and the area of countertop there will feel more "cut out" of the big space, like a cozy nook, when those cabinets above oven and fridge go right up to the ceiling.  Since we can't exactly match the maple cabinets, I think we'll just go for a white farmhouse look.  Maybe with doors that are sort of "barn door" looking (think that Z shape on a barn door), but with hardware to match the maple cabinets.  Thoughts on that?

And can we talk about the ceiling?  We went with that whitewash look, which as it turns out we really really really love.  So much so that we're going to repeat it in the living room.  I love how the wood showing through gives it a warm look, and yet still puts it in the white family.  And somehow it really ties in the cabinets, as the hue of both is remarkably similar.  I wasn't sure if the cabinets would work once we did all of the painting, but I think they do.

There is also the issue of trim.  Nothing here is trimmed out.  As of now, the plan is to go with simple, Shaker-looking trim (on the chunky side), in the bright white that you see around the windows, and on all of the posts and beams.  Bringing that green from the built in couch over to the kitchen door was a last minute decision that we're really excited about.  It ties both ends of the room together.  I'm half tempted to do more with that green, but I think we need to resist this temptation to avoid overkill.  This spring I may swap out the red fabric on the couch for green and white, with a little bit of red.  We'll see.

That brings us to the hoosier, in desperate need of restyling.  It looks so much prettier in it's new bright white suit, but I do wonder if this is my chance to do more green.  I'm thinking green glass knobs, and maybe vintage paper for the back walls of the shelves, which you'd see through the glass.  I've been pinning various things I find, which you can peek at if you care to share an opinion.  hoosier pins

So what do you think?  The light in here now is amazing.  The overall feeling of clean warms my pine-smothered heart.  The only problem is now the rest of the house feels so unfinished!  Sometime I'll share our thoughts on what to do next.  The living room is on the docket for next room to work on.

Today is snowy and gorgeous.  I hope you East-coasters are enjoying this brilliant winter white.