Thursday, February 26, 2015

Update on my time spent resting in green pastures

Dear Friend,

There are seasons of life when we have to batten down the hatches, tuck ourselves away, hibernate and heal.

Last September I had surgery on my foot. And now, five months later, it feels as though life is finally starting to return to a normal rhythm.

Except that I'm not yet able to take the long country walks I love so much . . .

I'll need to have my other foot repaired in the future -- for now, it's a slow steady pace with a slight limp.

And it's enough.

"All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."
 -- Julian of Norwich

This time of physical healing has also been a season of spiritual healing. There have been moments of reconciliation. As gentle hands served, old misunderstandings were cleared away and love grew in places where it had once failed to thrive.

Last fall at the silent retreat, dear women -- some of them strangers -- made me comfortable by propping up my fragile foot and bringing me food and drink.

My friend Ana broke the silence to whisper,"Just receive." 

Such compassionate words! Words of communion: Just receive.

"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."
Psalm 23:2-3 

"I knowed you wasn't well. Why you try to hide it?"
"I didn't want to be trouble to anyone," I said.
"Everybody has to be trouble to somebody. And you just come from the hospital too." 
I looked up. She sat in the rocking chair bent forward, her arms folded at ease across her aproned lap. Had she searched my pockets?
"How did you know that?" I said.
"There you go getting suspicious," she said sternly. "That's whats wrong with the world today, don't nobody trust nobody. I can smell that hospital smell on you, son. You got enough ether on those clothes to put to sleep a dog!"
~Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man  
I've been missing my blog. I've tried to fire things back up a few times, but the return to normal after a few months off my foot has been a bit of a challenge. I've had a lot of catching up to do! Thank you for reading. And thank you so much to those of you who have noticed my absence and checked in from time to time. I'm as excited as ever about moving forward with my quest. It's wonderful to have faithful readers to come back to.

I'm currently halfway through Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Then I'll have just five more titles to go and I'll be finished with the WEM novel list. After that I hope to carve out more time to write about what I've read so far. I'm also looking forward to receiving my copy of Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In June I'll revisit To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in anticipation for the release of Go Set a Watchman in July. These titles are pretty much set in stone for me in the coming months. 

Are you making time for deep reading? Don't forget to prop up your feet from time to time. Sip and nibble on delicious, nourishing things.

And if it is your season to receive, don't fight it. 

Just receive.

With love,


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Dear Friend,

Today is my blogiversary!

And it's also Chocolate Cake Day . . .

And Mozart's birthday.

Such a special day.

To celebrate these wonderful events I'm firing up the ole blog, making my mother's chocolate cake buying a chocolate cake, and taking some time to practice Mozart's Sonata in C Major.

I've made a bit of progress on my quest in the last couple months.

Here's what my WEM novel list looks like now:

  1. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
  2. The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
  3. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
  4. Pride and Predjudice - Jane Austen
  5. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  6. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  7. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  8. Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
  9. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  10. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  11. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy  Leo Tolstoy
  13. The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
  14. The Portrait of a Lady -- Henry James
  15. Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  16. Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
  17. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  18. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
  19. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  21. The Trial – Franz Kafka
  22. Native Son – Richard Wright
  23. The Stranger – Albert Camus
  24. 1984 – George Orwell
  25. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  26. Seize the Day – Saul Bellow
  27. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
  28. If on a winter’s night a traveler – Italo Calvino
  29. Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
  30. White Noise – Don Delillo
  31. Possession – A.S. Byatt

Just seven more titles to go!

Hope you're having a lovely winter.



Don't forget to listen to Mozart and eat a piece of chocolate cake today. :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Classics and the Bible Sunday

Dear Friend,

I have a new post up at my Classics & the Bible blog.  Still working my way through the many biblical references in Anna Karenina.Today I'm exploring some illustrations by French artist Gustave Dore.

Gustave Dore

Hope you are having a great weekend!



P.S. My cast is off but I still can't put weight on my foot for several more days. Physical therapy is going well.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Classics and the Bible Sunday

Dear Friend,

It feels like a good time to revive my "Classics & the Bible" blog with a new post. I've written about a biblical reference which is tossed out with sarcasm by Stephan Arkadyevich to Konstantin Levin as they ride in a carriage through Moscow on their way to visit Anna Karenina. Unpacking three short words was quite an interesting experience! You can read the post here.

Also, I recently wrote another guest piece for my friend Tim Fall's blog -- "Racial Reconcilation: One Ordination Day at a Time."

Out of all the preachers I greeted that day, there was one face which stood out above the rest. I remember him as taller than everyone else, but maybe he only appeared to be. He was gray and distinguished, certainly the oldest man in attendance. I placed my young white hand in his ancient brown one, a small dove in a large nest. His eyes were tender like the eyes of Christ. I felt as if he saw into me. Under the weight of his gaze my eyes moistened.

Hope your Sunday is worshipful and restful.



Friday, October 3, 2014

Vlog Post: Feeling Thirteen & Reading Huck Finn

Dear Friend,

In 2001 I entered a decade of childbearing with flat feet. Ever since baby number five was born nearly three years ago, my feet have given me trouble. Fallen arches led to plantar fasciitis and the protrusion of bunions. I began to experience pain and inflammation a great deal of the time.

Also, since my last little one was born, I've been physically weak overall. I've tried and tried to snap back but progress has been slow.

Out of necessity, I began to forgo my long nature walks to conserve my feet for my domestic duties.

Yet still, every night I'd drop into bed sore and exhausted.

Last spring at the silent retreat I attended, my feet were too sore to walk down the stone staircase to the river.

So I finally went to the doctor!

After the podiatrist took a look at my x-rays she entered the room to greet me and said, "Oh my! I expected a much older woman to go with these feet!"

About two weeks ago I had a bunion removal and arch lift on my left foot. I'm hoping to have the other foot done after Christmas. We'll see how things go. In the mean time I can't put any weight on my left foot for five more weeks.

Between the feet problems and the fact that my hair is graying at an alarming rate, it has occurred to me that middle age is swiftly approaching.

Where did my twenties go?

Where did my thirties go? 

Yet, as Madeline L' Engle once wrote, "I am still every age I have been."

As a matter of fact, the way I've felt lately, as I'm recovering from surgery, is about age thirteen! There have been mood swings -- from tears to laughter. I'm capable one minute, then as needy as a child the next; pining for independence, yet unable to drive a car.

So one afternoon last week -- while recovering at my aunt's beautiful home -- I propped up my foot on one of her dining room chairs and did a reading as the voice of one of my favorite thirteen year old adventurers: Huckleberry Finn.

If you've never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, I hope this reading will inspire you to pick it up. It's one of my favorite classics!

The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out.  I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.  But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable.  So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up.  Well, then, the old thing commenced again.  The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them,—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself.  In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.
Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me.  But she wouldn't.  She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more.  That is just the way with some people.  They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it.  Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it.  And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.

Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up.  I couldn't stood it much longer.  Then for an hour it was deadly dull, and I was fidgety.  Miss Watson would say, "Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry;" and "Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight;" and pretty soon she would say, "Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry—why don't you try to behave?"  Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn't mean no harm. 
All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular.  She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place.  Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it.  But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn't do no good.
Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place.  She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever.  So I didn't think much of it. But I never said so.  I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight.  I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.

Youthfully yours,


Friday, September 19, 2014

Vlog: Reading from The Pilgrim's Progress

Dear Friend,

I have another reading for you today. This time it's from The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

This is not a flawless performance. Some of  Bunyan's sentences feel like tongue twisters! Such a mouthful! But when I got home from the grocery a couple days ago, I had about 15 minutes of silence before my kids were due in from school. I thought I'd give you the best I had to offer in that time.

Since reading The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan's allegories for Grace have frequently come to my mind. The first passage is about housekeeping, a subject I know well. The second passage is about a fire on a wall; I think about it when lighting my candle inside my lantern. 

Maybe my great-great grandchildren will stumble upon Classical Quest someday and listen raptly to my vlog readings . . .

Or maybe this will just help a few of you briefly ponder the marvelous mystery of the Grace of God. 

Click play then scroll down to read along.

"The Parlour"
Then [Interpreter] took [Christian] by the hand, and led him into a very large Parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep: Now when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choaked: Then said the Interpreter to a Damsel that stood by, Bring hither Water, and sprinkle the Room; which when she had done, was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
Then said Christian, What means this?
The Interpreter answered; This Parlour, is the heart of a Man that was never sanctified by the sweet Grace of the Gospel: The dust, is his Original Sin, and inward Corruptions that have defiled the whole Man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but She that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel: Now, whereas thous sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about, the the Room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choaked therewith, this is to shew thee, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.
Again, as thou sawest the Damsel sprinkle the Room with Water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure: This is to shew thee, that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then I say, even as thou sawest the Damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the Floor with Water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the Faith of it; and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.

"The Fire Against the Wall" 
Then I saw in my Dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place, where was a Fire burning against a Wall, and one standing by it always, casting much Water upon it to quench it: Yet did the Fire burn higher and hotter.
Then said Christian, What means this?
The Interpreter answered, ‘This fire is the work of Grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts Water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: but in that thou seest the fire, notwithstanding, burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that: So he had him about to the back side of the Wall, where he saw a Man with a Vessel of Oyl in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire. Then said Christian, What means this? The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually with the Oyl of his Grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the Man stood behind the Wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of Grace is maintained in the soul.

I'd love to know your thoughts on these rich passages. I sincerely hope the Grace of God is something you know about from first hand experience.

I depend upon it every moment.

With Love,


Monday, September 15, 2014

Things to Put on the Fridge Door of Life

Dear Friend,

How are you today?

I'm feeling grateful. My husband has been out of town working on a project for the last two weeks. Yesterday he returned home to five jumping kids, a beaming wife, a tail-wagging dog, a clean house, his favorite dinner, and an apple pie.

Life is good.

The kids and I watched a balloon launch at the park on Saturday.

Lately I've been thinking about a few special links I'd like to share with you. This isn't just random good stuff that I've stumbled upon around the web. These are links to content I'm proud of, content which belongs to friends who have come alongside me in my life journey and blessed me with kindness. These are things to place on life's fridge door, so to speak.

A few weeks ago I met a precious kindred spirit, Emma Teller, for coffee. We talked for four hours. I never do that! But it was amazing. The time went by in a blink, We haven't seen each other in a very long time.Thirteen years ago Emma was my piano student. Now she is an exquisite artist. (I smiled over the smudge of red paint under her forearm.) We talked about faith, the creative life, and the mercy of God. I was blown away by her humility and wisdom.
No matter what you do or who you are there are so many ways we can do this - leave the world more beautiful than we found it - and that is what I hope and try to do with my paintings and with my art.  

Emma has a blog. Though she's not there often, it's a good place to view some of her work. Go here for still lifes and here for portraits. You can also follow Emma on Facebook.

Tim Fall has been called the "Barnabas of the Blogosphere" because he's relentless with encouragement. My whole family has been blessed by his friendship. While fishing in the Rockies recently, my husband used Tim's method for making pan fried trout. My kids have enjoyed listening to some of his cowboy stories that I've read aloud during our evening bonfires. Over the past few years, Tim has taught me to be liberal with encouragement and to pray for opportunities to build others up.

We have a God who is the Comforter -- who comes alongside us with the comfort, so that we can then be the ones to come alongside others with the comfort God has given us.

Tim blogs at Just One Train Wreck After Another. Two of my recent favorite posts are Problems with Unbalanced Grace and I've Never Been on a Road I Haven't Taken. And while you're there I'd be delighted if you'd read my recent guest post, People's Looks and Covers of Books.

Tim was recently interviewed by talk radio host Doug Bursch on "Live From Seattle." You can listen to that interview here. (Tim's segment starts at the 12 minute mark.)

Next, I must give a shout out to my faithful friend Christine. Last week she and I had a rare opportunity to have a day out together without kids. She knew I had been wanting to visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe house with her forever. There are nine kids and two husbands between us, so the stars have to be aligned just so in order for the two of us to be able to take a day trip alone. We realized our special day was set to happen only one day previous. The problem was, our free day (a Thursday) was a day the museum was closed. Christine got on the phone and coordinated a private tour. (They typically only do tours for groups and rarely on short notice!) I can't wait to finish my research so I can tell you all about our experience. Christine no longer blogs, so I don't have a link to give you for her, but I can't talk about things to put on the fridge door of life without mentioning the remarkable gift Christine pursued for me.

And last but certainly not least, I would love to introduce you to my virtual fairy blog mother, Jeannie Prinsen. Jeannie is a deep well of wisdom and intellect, yet she is delightfully approachable. Each Monday she shares a "Monday Morsel" -- a quote which she has come upon in her reading. I always try to square away some quiet time to sip my coffee when I visit Jeannie's Little House on the Circle. It would be wonderful to live near her and savor morsels with her in person.

 Life is not about being fast.  It's about doing what we're called to do and not stressing about the outcome.
I nominated Jeannie for a "Liebster Award" on my birthday this past year. She joined in the fun with this post in response.

Love her tributes to her son: You've Got a Friend in Me and Never Mean.

And this one: Slow: Tortoise Crossing

Recently Jeannie participated Anne Bogel's "literary matchmaking" blog event at the Modern Mrs. Darcy. Jeannie told Anne the types of books she likes/dislikes and Anne made selections for her based on this profile. Readers are invited to join in with the matchmaking and the result is lots of TBR list enrichment!

What are some things you'd like to put on the fridge door of your life today?

Peace & Joy,