What Jane Austen, mint M&Ms and skating parties have in common

You know what's better than a Jane Austen book? A Jane Austen book dripping with sarcasm. I found her satire Northanger Abbey in the freebies section of Good Reads and thought, "Hey, I can add this to that collection of classics on my iPad that I intend to read during the kids' piano lessons but never do because I'm mindlessly trolling Facebook instead."
(See also: that one summer I resolved to finally read Middlemarch in its entirety and made it a whopping five pages before I found myself clicking through a virtual shoe rack to confirm my suspicion that all of my dressy shoes were so dated that the hipster types are probably already wearing them ironically.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey. This quote:
"To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can."
I know, right? I don't care if you weren't a big Jane fan before. You pretty much have to love her now.

I'm going to share a quick little list of things I'm thankful for, because unique and original and totally not cliche are the top three ways to describe me. I know because they were the first three words I found in that whimsical word search activity going around on Facebook.

(Does anyone else have the urge to create and distribute a much meaner version of this little game? Like, throwing in a few insults and expletives just to keep it fair? Stuff like lazyarss or narcissist or puppyhater or whyaren'tyoureadingMiddlemarchyoushallowlittleloser? No? Yeah me neither. I don't even have to time to think up such silly ideas. I'm too busy reading Middlemarch.)

But back to the thankful list. (Please for the LOVE, back to the thankful list). No particular order and by no means exhaustive:
  • for free classics, clean water, warm coats, and that mint M&Ms are back in season
  • that the roller skating party is over, that my five year old had the time of her life at the aforementioned party, for her fierce independence that had her waving me off within minutes of standing up on skates
  • for my sensitive little eight year old, for books that sweep us into story and sway even a tired old mom into reading just one more chapter long after lights should be out, for his self awareness and sense of humor, for our 20 minute chats while we circle eight times around the track
  • for friends who bring me back to who I said I wanted to be, to what I said I believed, for those who walk (and sometimes run) with me through the mess, who make me laugh so hard I can barely remember why I wanted to cry
I've opened the floodgates. I start typing and I could go on forever. Gratitude is crazy that way--you can start by saying you're glad about Boston cremes and Christmas Ale and then with each thing you list, the spiral stake twists deeper and deeper until you are grounded in gratitude, unshakeable, discovering that the grace and goodness of God spans from the most trivial to the most trying places.

So what are you thankful for today? Open the floodgates, my friends.


The doubting season

Every day the darkness creeps in earlier and earlier. And no matter how fervently I believe in a sun still out there shining--somewhere and surely bright--because I see so much less of it, well, it makes me wonder. I want to see that beautiful brilliant sun with my own eyes, but I'm not in the right place to see it. After all, this is Ohio we're talking about. So I trust it's still out there. But 95% of the time, I don't feel as if it really is.

From Sara Miles in Take this Bread:

"In large ways and small, I wrestled with Christianity: its grand promises and its petty demands, its temptations and hypocrisies and promises, its ugly history and often insufferable adherents. Faith for me didn't provide a set of easy answers or certainties: It raised more questions than I was ever comfortable with......
But this is my belief: that at the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty. It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new.....
Faith, for me, isn't an argument, a catechism, a philosophical "proof". It is instead a lens, a way of experiencing life, and a willingness to act."
I think about God the way I think about the winter sun. There, always. And shining brilliant. It's just that sometimes I'm in the perfectly wrong place to see even a speck of it. So I trust, and wait for summer.



When I think about this space, I see wet leaves sticking to a tractor, more rusty than red. I left it out in the rain, uncovered, unvarnished. If I'm not going to put it to use, I should at least cover it. But when I see it outside my window on my way to doing something else, I only sigh. I'll take care of it tomorrow, I think. And now it seems only an eyesore, something I should clear from the yard.

I began telling stories here before she was a year old, before he was potty trained, before big girl beds and little boy bikes, before I felt like something other than an overtired mother, before I remembered who I was.

I used to write my way to calm and connection. I found both here, tilling stubborn soil until it became ground from which I could grow. This weekend I spent the better part of the day with a local friend I first met through blogging. Our whole families were together for nearly six hours, and it felt like fifteen minutes. If this was the only fruit that grew from this space, it would've been enough.

But there was so much more.
I found mythic moments in the mundane.
I found ways to laugh and smile when I wanted to cry and hide.
I found my voice.
I found I wasn't alone.

My children are eight and nearly six now. Unfathomable to me, but true. I started telling their stories five years ago, and out of their stories, found the courage to tell my own. But now....now it's not that I've run out of stories. It's just that so very few of them feel like they are mine to tell anymore. I feel an increasing urge to shield my children from overexposure.

As for my own stories, I'm struggling to find time to tell them, so engrossed I've become in living them. Maybe that's a sorry excuse on my part. Maybe I'm just not brave or diligent or dogged enough to keep tilling the soil. Maybe. But whether my reason is one of wisdom or cowardice, this seems like it might be the season to let the earth lie fallow.

I won't shut this place down, not yet anyway. I'll continue to write as I feel the urge, when I find the time. I just came here today because, well, because I felt like I ought to explain why there's a rusty old tractor in the yard.

Just writing today, with Heather.

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