Category Archives: Book Review

A new book by Bonnie Gray

Whispers of Rest

While we’ve not yet met in real life, I call Bonnie Gray – Friend. Since reading her first book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, several years ago, I’ve been waiting. Waiting for this book that I didn’t even know she was writing! But here it is: Whispers of Rest. It is a wonderful encouragement to care for the most important part of ourselves – our souls. Taking time to learn to rest, finding peace.

In a world that churns with need and duty and is in desperate need of peace, we can learn through these “40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul” how to receive from God in new ways so that we can give, we can encourage, we can love – a little better – through rest and soul care.

Bonnie calls this a guidebook. In its pages, you will find:

  • Soul Care Tips & Trail Notes — Reduce stress and nurture your body and spirit.
  • Daily Beloved Challenges
  • Simple Prayer Practice

At www.whispersofrest.com, you will find information on ordering and downloading the free gifts Bonnie has prepared for us. These will include videos to share and an opportunity to join the online book club to begin on June 5, 2017. I hope you’ll check it out. Summer is a great time for refreshment of soul. I’m looking forward to it.

 

Where the Wind Blows

The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.    John 3:8 HCSB

sunrise   sunrise   sunrise   sunrise

Months of wind. Cleaning the trees, knocking things over, waking me in the dark hours of night and morning and offering me opportunities to see rare beauty. The Spirit of God is like that.

The photos above are from this morning. A few recorded beauties follow.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

These. of course, are from our anticipated visits from Amaryllis. [click on any photo to enlarge]

 One welcome visitor, one not… One must look closely where the blossom starts to see the Brown marmorated stink bug. While nowhere near as invasive a nuisance as a few years ago, some still find their way through cracks, open doors and down the chimneys to overwinter. Any warm day finds them zinging about the house looking for a landing place – or a meal. I know it was probably cozy on the blossom, but, he was removed and perished. These are an invasive, non-native bug with no known predators. They do not bite, but suck. They have been particularly destructive to fruit crops here in the Mid-Atlantic region and, according to the linked article, have continued to spread throughout the country.

That’s the way, too, of life sucking troubles: they can hide away, just waiting for the right day to get out and about reproducing their destructive kind and sucking out the joy of life. It takes vigilance to catch and dispatch them.

Jonquils   When we first bought this property, we found a country trash pile in a back corner. We spent years hauling it away, bit by bit. It was covered in leaves and brush and every layer we removed gave opportunity for the wind and rain to remove more of the covering, revealing old metal parts of who-knows-what, foil baking pans from TV dinners and lots of glass – mostly broken. I did find two lovely pieces of blue glass, one a Noxzema jar (my Mom’s favorite) and the other, this 4 inch tall Bromo-Seltzer  bottle (always in Dad’s cupboard). The Jonquils were picked before the snow came. I love them in this blue, don’t you? These minis grow near the kitchen door where the sun warms the protected area and spring comes early.

Dawn   snow   deer   deer

The last snow of the season? Beautiful day with lots of bird visitors and and this brazen thief. Totally unimpressed with me. Her kind have totally stripped the hydrangeas of buds and the warm days that inspired growth of the daylilies provided unintended salad for them too.

What do you do on cold snowy or rainy days? I find them good soul nourishing days. Sometimes I make soups and bake bread and treats and get in a bit of stitching. craft  booksAnd, there are always stacks of reading materials at hand. The top three are in my own library, the rest borrowed from the county. Patsy Clairmont’s book of short stories – Stardust On My Pillow –  is a sweet favorite to re-read from time to time.

This time, I wanted to re-read “Chattanooga Choo Choo” Miss Pearl teaches Jamie about way-markers as she tells him to remember the signs his daddy left him when he died… “the signs your daddy left you will guide you into manhood”, for “A way-marker is like a signpost telling you which way to go.”  Way-markers. “Never let a good dead go unattended.” was one that inspired Jamie to take action. We might know it under different expressions: Saying thank you, writing a thank you note, taking a hostess gift, sending a teacher’s gift… So many things can be way-markers. Things remembered by the winds of the Spirit that remind us of the best way, not only to deal with the affairs of life, but to find the perfect way to our eternal home.

                         Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,  for in You I do trust;                                           Cause me to know the way in which I should walk. for I lift up my soul to You.

from Psalm 143

20170321_132941  This last photo was taken yesterday when the whispering breeze through the tree tops could barely be heard over the honking geese, screaming gulls , occasional car traffic. Each day is different in life. I must learn to listen.

Happy Spring!

hellebores

Love token

IMG_8722

IMG_8711 As a child, I was an avid reader, tagging along with an older sibling whenever they needed to go to the library. Later finding my own way, and still later, delighted that a new library was built only two blocks from my home.

Jonica’s Island was the first love story I read – and reread. It is historical fiction set in Nieuw Amsterdam (New York) in the mid 1600s.  It is sweetly illustrated with line drawings. This particular book was withdrawn from a school library and ended up at a new-to-me sale at a local hospital, quite a few years ago.  It was a wonderful find! I read it then, of course. And put it on a shelf with a few other books that remind me of childhood.

Sorting through the shelves the other week, I took it down and ruffled through the pages. Stopping at the illustrations, I realized for the first time, how much the drawings of Jonica reminded me of the sweet face of my loved and long gone, baby doll! All grown up, of course.

That old plant holder, I found in my Mother-in-law’s basement storage years ago. I cleaned it up and tucked in these flowers. In the last illustration I realized how much it must have reminded me of Jonica’s beloved Gerrit, in his broad brimmed hat.

And as any good love story and fairy tale, should end, the young man gives the girl a love token and one will assume they lived happily ever after!

Collages3

There is a welcome glossary of Dutch terms and food descriptions. Customs, and the daily lives of these Dutch pioneers is well presented and the book is well written, drawing me into the story once again. A very satisfying read!

30 days hath November

porch There were glorious days, warm ones and cold ones that had me scurrying about freshening bed linens and garden beds, planting bulbs and dealing with leaves and leaves and still more leaves! Oak leaves 12 inches long!

collages2

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore was only available as an audio book from my library. I debated and then reserved my space. When I saw it was 10 CDs, I wasn’t sure I would persist. But I did. her masterful storytelling kept me company as I dug and pulled and trimmed and planted a garden bed and then kept me company as I restored the edging of our old quilt with fresh binding. Then I listened to it all over again!

I began the quilt long years ago. When I started the class with Lois Smith, I was excited by the possibility of making – start to finish  a quilt for our bed. Under her kind, clear, tutelage, I learned so much about color, pattern drafting and machine quilting. But life, or a kind of death in the specter of fire, happened and rearranged our lives for a season. When it was over, nothing was quite the same and I chose not to work on this autumn themed quilt. I moved on and took several more classes with Lois and finished two more quilts. Sometime, I finished it off and hung it  in our family room in winter. Then I started using it, the weight and comfort just right. It was a shock to realize it is now a shabby beauty, warm and cozy.

quilt

Autumn color can be a long, slow, unfolding here. Tender plants first, some trees seeming to forget to change, high winds swirling leaves around steps and doors. Holly berries ripped from their stems. One has to look for the beauty in all the pain and dying of this month.

golden tree   ruby trees   trees   oak   yellow   lighting

And, of course, we went chasing the super moon. It doesn’t look all that exciting, but the chase was fun. One more to come on December 14.  November moon

squirrel Of course there are always squirrels running to and fro and sometimes hanging from their toes to eat the suet cakes.  Woodpeckers, Flickers, Titmice and Nuthatches are the usual diners. But one day, I happened to catch this Bluebird too!bluebird   Things are always a bit fuzzy through the screen and glass, but there is no mistaking the color of these beautiful birds.

One of the surprises of the garden cleanup were stalks of Hosta seeds hiding deep within a large plant. Hosta seed pods  I’ve done a little reading and I’m not sure I will try to grow plants from the seed, but the pods are quite interesting. Hosta seed pods

This season of apparent dying and seed planting has been brought home to me these past days in the sudden and untimely death of my niece-in-love. At the several services we attended, even her pastor, who knew her well, marveled at the packed church as people came to show their love and respect for this lovely, quiet woman. She sowed seeds of love and acceptance in everyone she met. I pray that those seeds will bear much fruit in the coming days and years as her family struggles with her death and the changes in the home and for her children who were being home schooled.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

tree

The April Buzz

Like a bee let loose from hibernation — zigzagging from bloom to bloom — me.

And April seemed to go by in a blink!

We began the month in North Texas although we spent some of our hours deep in the German countryside — my brother is the engineer behind the multiple trains and detailed scenery.

trains

We enjoyed the warm days and our all-too-short visit.  These blooms are in his yard. I had never seen Passion Flowers before. They are amazing!  Tx garden flowers

On our way to the airport and home, we spent some lovely, quiet hours in the Israel Prayer Garden in Corinth, TX. I hope to post more about that stop.

Iris

Spring is a time to keep an eye on the weather. Frost. Storms. We knew that had been some storm violence but we didn’t see much evidence on the drive from the airport. It was a shock to round the bend on the driveway and come to a stop. A tree had fallen and the crown covered the driveway.

fallen treeThe next day, I realized that much of my outdoor spring cleaning would have to be done, again.  Our county has a brush recycling contractor — a blessing at the end of each truck load of pick-up and pruning. We were also blessed that your new lawn keeper came with a chain saw, took away firewood and left the driveway clean. I’m grateful for the stamina to do the work, however,  it has has been tiring leaving no energy for digging and refreshing the garden beds – my winter dreaming. And, if only I could record or keep my thoughts together, there would have been blog posts along the way, not just wishful thinking and coffee drinking!

writing

Late frost again nipped the new leaves on the hydrangeas and the bloom stalks of the Bleeding Heart. Time will tell if there will be bloom this year.

Indoors, the last stalk of Amaryllis bloom awaited our return from Texas. I had found an interesting article on caring for these amazing plants so I added to my normal regimen the advice to leave the spent stalk till it withered and faded. Another week or two and the plants can go outside for the summer.

Amaryllis collage

I had reserved Annie F. Downs’ new book, Looking for Lovely, at our library. She writes, ” I want us to learn to look for the lovely all around us and collect it, hold it close, and see how God drops beautiful things into our lives at just the right time to help us step forward on our own paths.”

Looking for Lovely This is such a timely read for me, I bought my own copy.  I had more experiences of loveliness in April, so – To be continued!

Visits with an old friend

My writing here has been to try to share bits of life where comfort and joy touch me deeply. It’s a brief recording of my journey through life aware of beauty and the possibilities of peace.

In some ways I think my earliest readings fostered this search. The beautiful language and illustration of the Childcraft: Poems of Early Childhood, was precious to me. Then came the library with wonderful series describing more of life than my small world held. Eventually, I found Mrs. Tabor’s “Butternut Wisdom” in the Family Circle Magazine.

In a way, I suppose she became an example of wonderfully adapting to country living – if perhaps a bit romanticized.

book

I poured over my 1984 reissue of The Book of Stillmeadow, wishing for her connections and knowledge in my own country living. Perhaps it was she who encouraged my bread making efforts, the gardening, and the canning, preserving, and freezing seasons of life even without all the “amenities” of her old country farmhouse. And certainly without the bevy of Cocker Spaniels who so enriched her life!

My copy is worn from use, the edges stained grey by fire soot. Many years it was only dusted but for the last several, I have walked with Gladys through the months. It is a bit like revisiting old family letters. In February, I again came upon the “Comfort Powders”:

“My great-great-grandfather was a minister in Boston, and among the relics in his little haircloth, brass studded trunk I found this week something which pleases me very, much. I had forgotten about it during the terrible war years, and now it seems a new discovery. It is a small, yellowed box labelled “Comfort Powders.” The fading, flowing script says, “Take one every morning with a generous draught of cheerfulness and thanksgiving. Good for the mind and heart, will promote love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” Inside are thirty folded papers such as were used for powders by the old family doctors, folded at each end to keep the medicine from spilling. On each folded paper is a message, to be read for the day.

This is a lovely idea, I think, and bears repeating. For starting a new day with a beautiful thought might help us all. Grandfather’s comfort powders were Biblical, naturally.”

Gladys Tabor, The Book of Stillmeadow ©1948, reissued 1984

Gladys goes on to quote “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” From the Gospel of John 14:27

While she penned this book in 1948 reflecting back to WWII, her thoughts so apply today:

“In a world still uneasy, these are good words to hear. And as we hear the daily news, we might feel a world of peace was a most vain illusion. But under the snow, violets sleep, and in the world there is still love, gentleness and goodness.”

violetd

In our world, there is still great war going on and peace seems very far away. Today, I take a few verses to savor and to calm my heart and soul. May I offer you a few good and soothing words?

  • Psalm 94:19: In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.

  • Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. RS

  • Lamentations 3:22-23:  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. NKJV

  • Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

And David’s words, so full of hope and promise:

  • Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Peace be with you, friend.

If not noted, passages of Scripture are  from the King James Version of the Bible.

Country gold

Heavy weighted fog pressed down, but along the roads and parking lots, there were golden bells proclaiming spring! I captured these if full ring outside the library. forsythia

Inside, I captured Melissa Michael’s new book and Karen Kingsbury’s too. At home Jeff Goins new book had arrived!

book stack A bounty of riches waits on my table, urging me on through my work sessions, teasing me with promise of inspiration, fresh insights and ponderings.

I have followed Melissa and Jeff on their blogs for a number of years. And while I don’t read much fiction, I do enjoy Karen Kingsbury. Her new series, Angels Walking, is compelling. This is book two. Now for some long quiet evenings!

jonquil

During the longest, coldest winter, I sorted through my sewing and crafting things like a squirrel in semi-hibernation turning over her cache of nuts and acorns looking for choice specimens to savor.  While at first it was almost a sad endeavor, I now feel the freshness in it. Encouraged by the writing of Bonnie Grey, Cheri Gregory and Kathy Lipp, I came to see that my stash had actually become a hindrance to creativity and productivity.

Cheri had a great post that helped me. Projects get interrupted in my life and when I go back to them, sometimes I couldn’t figure out where I has stopped and what I should do next. My notes, if any, where like a code I couldn’t crack. And so I would set them aside, again. Procrastination. Frustration.

After reading her post, I went through my supplies and created a small collection of future projects and wrote out my plan for each in as much detail as I could. If I didn’t have a plan, I chose not to keep it. I freed myself of leftovers from past quilting projects and other crafts this way too. And the good news? I have actually been sewing again! I’m finishing things, and fluffing the guest room. Projects seem fresh and exciting. And more good news – I’ve found a place to gift the overflow, investing in the creative lives of young women. This makes me smile, big!

The plans?  Itemized and amplified to included any other needed items; typed, saved, printed! No little scraps of paper written in mysterious code!

goldfinch

Blue singing

The ocean sang from the cover of a book on the library table; I listened to it call my name and I hurried it away.

book

They usually file it in the children’s section where I might never look. Ocean Poems. Perfect for a summer day. So beautifully illustrated that I’m drawn into the words like listening to a shell held tight against my ear and I dream … kite surfer … ocean roars

quiet swimming … jelly … cool water and sand  beach

Listen now from Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs and hear the “Song of the Boat” …

Push away — heave-ho –from the heavy brown pier, from its pilings huddled and dull.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too, and the sea lets you fly like a gull.

Now go and find a copy and sink into the illustrations of Meilo So and feel the ocean.

sea foam

 

Journey to rest

hail

Some journeys are hard and it is easy to lose the way when winds blow fierce and rain and hail drive you to shelter. I’m still engaged with Bonnie’s book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.  I expect to be on this journey for a while.

I actually put it aside – a kind of running away from the storm – to read Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening only to find connection in Carol Wall’s memoir too. Then I was back walking with Bonnie. During this month, I had some hard personal interactions that stole my words but reading on and being connected with others on the blog tour has been a great help.calla lilyBonnie asks in one prompt, “What feels comforting to you? List the things you like that bring your soul comfort. Uncover some whitespace by savoring one of these things this week, no matter how insignificant it feels.”

So I took myself to the library today; books have brought me comfort my whole life. I seemed always to be able to read :) I remember my brother letting me walk along to the library and then, no doubt, he carried some of my books home. What joy when they built the new library just two blocks from our home!

Now my library is about 10 miles from home. As I walked back through the parking lot, I stopped mid-stride puzzled as it seemed a red heart was waving at me from under a tree. By the time the books were stowed and the camera set, the light had changed a bit but here is my love note from Jesus to the little girl in me – “I see you, Elaine!”

Love Note

Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray at http://www.faithbarista.com

Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Bonnie's book

I’ve been reading Bonnie Gray’s blog, Faith Barista, for a few years now. It was in her writings that I learned about “whitespace”; not an empty, mindless place but rather a set apart, intentional space to let my soul breathe and to nurture it in ways that are unique to me.

I could relate to Bonnie as she wrote of taking time in coffee shops or walking or even just sitting out of doors. Time to rest, to wait, to be inspired, to write. I knew this was a need in my life and with the encouragement of her words I began to be more intentional to experience this rest. I began to take my camera with me and make space in my life to see, sometimes being wonderfully surprised by what the lens would capture.

As time went on, Bonnie began to write this book and to deal with the additional trauma of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disease.  Some of us have very broken places in our lives. We cover them well, for a time. As Bonnie is healing, she finished writing this book that not only shares her story but encourages me to took into living my own better story now by learning to care for my soul, to let it heal and to grow.

I could have just quickly read through the book and put it up on a shelf, but I’m committed to this journey with Bonnie. A journey to find healing and more rest for my soul.  Each chapter ends with three things: first, a thoughtful place to “Pull up a Chair” and uncover pieces of my story and to journal, for as for Bonnie says, “words are more than ink on paper. They are the soul prints of God’s voice – carrying the unique timber of heaven-on-earth that only you can speak.” Then there are Whitespace prompts – think-about-its that challenge me, make me squirm about or get up restlessly and go dig in the garden or pull weeds or sleep and dream till the answers come, and a pause for rest comes in this journey to awaken my heart to be fully alive to God – where I can – just. be. me. Then the last thing that Bonnie suggests are conversation starters. Needful, ’cause Jesus and I haven’t talked much about many of these things.

One of the things that still holds my attention was the answer I realized to a question posed in chapter 2 – “What realities have I accepted living with for decades that have become immovable parts of my identity?” No, I’m not going to tell here. But perhaps it is a question you might like to consider for your own life?

Thanks for reading about this journey I am taking; if your soul might need breathing space, some rest or healing, come along! Here are links for more encouragement:

Again, Bonnie writes at http://www.faithbarista.com/  Her book is available here. A blog tour to read how others are experiencing  “Awakening your soul to rest” can be found though the blog tour button on the right.