Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"God's more-than-enough"

Why is everyone hungry for more
“More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.

Psalm 4:6-7 (The Message)

  (Jonathan waits for the garbage truck - photo Jeannie Prinsen Nov. 2013)

I took this picture last Wednesday, when Jonathan rushed to the window to watch for the garbage and recycling trucks:  the high point of his week, as I mentioned here.

As I looked at the photo of a captured instant in time -- Jonathan's face illuminated by the morning sun and reflected in the window pane -- it struck me that life is really not all that complicated.  It is made up of a whole series of moments where we can choose either to accept the joy of "more-than-enough" or to grasp for more stuff, more pleasure, more achievement.  And the ability to go to sleep with a sense of contentment is something that can't be bought with money or willed into existence; it comes from knowing we're safe in God's hands no matter what today or tomorrow may bring.  As a boy who still, at age eleven, goes promptly and eagerly to bed at 7 p.m., Jonathan seems to have discovered that secret.  So when garbage day rolls around -- kind of like Christmas morning except it happens 52 times a year -- that same joy in the "ordinary day" will be his to experience all over again.

And I'll try to take a moment to recognize and experience my own joy, in whatever form it may take today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday morsel: "If you say go"

Today I'm sharing some words from a song* that our worship team led yesterday in church and that I found very meaningful. 

If You say go, we will go
If You say wait, we will wait
If You say step out on the water
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come.


photo by

* "If You Say Go" by Rita Springer

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"I have something to say to you"

Yesterday while clearing out some old papers, I found this note.  I'm just guessing, but it looks like Allison must have been around six or seven when she wrote this.  Probably I was out at an evening meeting and came home to find this message preparing me for an important conversation.

I wish I could remember now what the conversation was about, but I can't.  Still, I like the note.  It was obviously written with great care -- lots of erasures to make it just right.  And it was serious and confident:  something needed talking about, and she was going to make sure that significant conversation happened.

I admire that.  Sometimes I don't say what needs saying -- maybe because I'm afraid of what the response will be, or because I'm preoccupied with other seemingly more urgent things, or because I don't want to give in, or because I don't want to seem (depending on the situation) "too serious" or "too weak" or "too whatever."  This note reminds me to be more intentional about speaking the right word at the right moment, and to trust both myself and the person I want to speak to.  

I hope Allison also retains that confidence that she had eight or nine years ago -- the confidence to speak up when she has something to say, whether to me or anyone else.  Because we all need to be heard.  To quote Winston Churchill:  

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; 
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday morsel: "dead leaves"

I've found that Jane Austen's novels are great bedtime reading material.  They're entertaining, but slow-moving enough to make me feel pleasantly drowsyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..............

Sense and Sensibility is the one I'm re-reading right now.  In this scene, sisters Marianne and Elinor are reminiscing about the family estate that they had to leave after the death of their father.

(It suddenly occurs to me that Anne of Green Gables and Marianne Dashwood would be kindred spirits!)

“How does dear, dear Norland look?” cried Marianne.

“Dear, dear Norland,” said Elinor, “probably looks much as it always does at this time of the year. The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves.”

“Oh,” cried Marianne, “with what transporting sensation have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight.”

“It is not every one,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.”

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Today I'm very excited to have one of my poems featured as a guest post on Classical Quest, the blog of my friend Adriana Kassner Cunningham.  Adriana recently wrote a guest post for me about the quilts she'd inherited from her great-grandmother, and earlier this year we did another poem-and-photo collaboration on her blog.  So we make a good team!

I hope you'll head over to Classical Quest now to read my poem and see the lovely photographs Adriana selected to accompany it, and also to look at some of her other writing about "the classics and life."  Click HERE; it's that easy.....


photo credit:  Classical Quest


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My bookshelves

Today Modern Mrs. Darcy is doing a link-up where we post pictures of our bookshelves to show everyone else.  I planned to do that earlier today but my camera battery needed recharging!  So here it is, better late than never.

Here is just one half-shelf from one of Allison's three bookcases.  She has a lot of great series including Wimpy Kid and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I love the Unfortunate Events series and was hooked from the moment I read book one, page one:  "If you are interested in reading stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book ... Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky ..."  This series is weird but wonderful.  And despite some reviews I've seen on the internet, I absolutely do not believe that the Unfortunate Events series lets evil win -- not by a long shot.  Yes, there is sadness, but ultimately (as somebody or other once put it):  "Love wins."

This pile is from the rickety blue bookshelf we found by the side of the road.  It's now in our dining room and holds our newest books:  Christian nonfiction, popular fiction, etc.  Here are books by some of my favourite bloggers (or writers I heard about through those bloggers):  Amy Julia Becker's A Good and Perfect Gift, Ellen Painter Dollar's No Easy Choice [oops, wait a minute, that one must be further down the shelf, sorry], Karen Swallow Prior's Booked, and Heather Kopp's Sober Mercies, among others.  It also contains the excellent novel The Chaperone, written by one of my favourite authors, Laura Moriarty.

This is from the bookshelf upstairs in our spare room.  It contains mostly old books:  classics, books I had as an English major at university, etc.  Lots of C.S. Lewis here, a Jane Austen, a Charlotte Bronte, Augustine's Confessions (still unread, at least by me...)...

What I've shown here is only a fraction of the books we own.  Actually, we have too many books:  we take books into the house but rarely get rid of any.  But it makes me happy to have so many.  For every book that I buy, read once, and forget about, there are ten that I read and re-read and treasure like old friends.

Check my shelves and let me know if any of the books you see here are favourites of yours!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday morsel: "In Flanders Fields" {Remembrance Day, 2013}

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

"A Story of a Life in Three Quilts": guest post by Adriana Kassner Cunningham

Today I'm thrilled to feature a guest post from my blogger friend Adriana Kassner Cunningham.  (We first met as fellow commenters on Tim Fall's blog, which happens to be quite a great place to meet kindred spirits!)

Adriana's own blog "Classical Quest" features thoughtful reflections about her reading of classic literature, as well as about faith, family, friendship, and the beauty of God's world -- something her many lovely photographs certainly capture.

I hope you'll take the time to check out "Classical Quest."  But in the meantime, I know you'll enjoy the story (and pictures) that she's presenting here today. 


"A Story of a Life in Three Quilts"

Before my great-grandmother died, she left me three quilts.

Quilt no. 1: "Rising Star" 

No. 1:"Rising Star" 

Mamaw was my grandmother’s mother. She lived in a small house tucked inside a fortress of tobacco fields at the end of a long dirt road in Kentucky. The house had a tin roof and a cool dark root cellar. In the summer the windows were kept open; box fans hummed in every room.

When I was young my grandmother would take me to visit her. It was a three hour drive from Grandma’s home in the city to Mamaw’s world.

One night as I sat on the edge of her front porch, Mamaw brought me a treat.

“What is this?” I asked. 

"Ain't ya ever eat a pickle?" she grinned. Her dark, deep-set eyes sparkled beneath a fringe of white curls.

I think this was when I first realized that pickles were made from cucumbers.

As she reentered the house, the wood screen door slapped behind her. I bit into the enormous salty pickle and savored the moment: hundreds of flickering fireflies waltzed in the thick night air which smelled of earth and tobacco.

Her electric sewing machine began to purr as she fed it stacks of polyester pieces. 

Mamaw is poor, but she's happy. I thought. She makes life good. I hope I live to be old, because I want to be like her.

Mamaw's coffee stains.

 "Rising Star" was made in the 1980s out of scraps of polyester castoffs from the 1960s and 1970s. She stitched it by machine. It's sturdy and heavy, puckered in places and splattered with her coffee stains. I love its bright colors -- especially the red.

My little one inspects the patterns on "The Patchwork."

No. 2: "The Patchwork"

In the 1950s, when Mamaw was in her forties, she stitched her quilts by hand. On "The Patchwork," her expert running stitches mark each square with an "X." Here she pieced together the colors of a family: a husband, three daughters, and a son. You can see the dark solemn squares of a man's shirt as well as the soft cheerful gingham of young girls' dresses.

Quilt no. 2: "The Patchwork"

During this period she suffered from poverty, abuse, and isolation. There were nights when she sent her children into the dark fields for refuge as her husband staggered up the lane toward home in a drunken rage. She developed a bit of a stutter then, which surfaced for the rest of her life whenever she was excited or nervous. 

From a canvas on which women . . . displaced their anger, dividing themselves from themselves, the textile artifact had become woman's own self-habitation, dark with both suffering and her hidden potentials, the skein her very skin. ~ Elaine Hedges

I once slept under this quilt when I was very young. As rain pounded the tin roof, I snuggled deep beneath it and felt safe.

Twelve years ago I received "The Patchwork" as a wedding gift. I am now nearing the age that Mamaw was when she made this quilt. As I study the stitches and run my hands across the fabric, I feel connected to her. Here she converted her stresses and sorrows into something useful and good.

The colors of a family.
The mother-quilter goes far beyond physically arranging and selecting the pieces of her quilt. She strategically constructs a defense against the elements that threaten her family. As adamantly, she fortresses against the loss of individual culture, as she captures her family's history, designs and shapes an artform, and ultimately, orders lives. As militant protector, maternal nurturer, inspired artist, and family historian, the mother-quilter transforms chaos and preserves culture for her family. ~ Angeline Godwin Dvorak, "Piecing It: The Mother-Quilter as Artist and Historian" 
Mamaw must have favored blue and white polka dots. 
They show up on two of her quilts spaced 20 years apart.  

No. 3:  "Grandma's Flower Garden"

This is the quilt Mamaw made during the Great Depression when she was sixteen and pregnant with my grandmother.  The pattern is called Grandma's Flower Garden.  Before she passed away several years ago, I asked her about the quilt's history.

"A woman in town was a dressmaker," she told me.  "I walked to her house every day.  I had no money, but she was real kind.  She gave me whatever scraps she had that were too small for anything else."

"Grandma's Flower Garden" was intricate and labor intensive.  Finishing it was considered a feat among avid quilters.

When I look at this quilt I see a hopeful young woman with a long life ahead of her. I see a heart full of love that she is eager to give. She is poor and dependent upon others, but she desperately wants life to be good. She is determined to do all she can to make it good.

Marriage made life much more difficult for Mamaw.  "Grandma's Flower Garden" was placed in a cedar chest.  No one slept under it for many years.  When Grandma married, Mamaw gave her the quilt.  Grandma stored it in her attic, taking it out only once when Mamaw came to visit.  As her mother slept, Grandma spread the quilt over her.

After that visit, the quilt went back into the cedar chest in Grandma's attic.  There it remained until I was sixteen.  The first time I ever saw it was when Grandma opened the cedar chest and handed it to me.

I can see Mamaw's best qualities in each of her quilts. She was comforting, optimistic, and forgiving. From the worn out remnants of ordinary days, she created resplendence. With scraps of fabric, some thread, a steel needle, and a thimble, she stitched me a legacy of love and hope.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Monday morsel: "summer and winter and springtime and harvest"

Today for my "Monday morsel" I thought I would post one of my favourite hymns.  I don't think it needs much commentary.

Great is Thy Faithfulness 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
 Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
 Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(photo by Richard Prinsen August 2013)