Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loved Back to Life: How I Found the Courage to Live Free by Sheila Walsh, a review

There has rarely been a book that as I read it, I thought the entire Church should read the same book.  But this is such a story for it will, I am certain, reach many people who are suffering and hide it from those around them... especially Christian friends.

I knew a lot of Sheila Walsh's story since she left her job as co-host of The 700 Club and entered a psychiatric hospital, suffering from clinical depression.  But this book provides the hows and whys and what afters of that time in her life.  It also shares how Christians react when people are not healed, when there is no big miracle, and when God messes with their theology.

I had a hard time putting Sheila's book down.  It captivated me.  It spoke to me where I live.  For as many readers know, my husband is bipolar and I have lived as the spouse of one who suffers mental illness.  Been there.  Definitely done that. 

Sheila immediately takes us back to the time in which she made the decision to leave behind being a well known personality in Christian media to get the help she desperately needed.  She understood the consequences and at the time thought she would no longer be used in ministry.

She shares the story of childhood trauma, which most likely was behind her clinical depression.  I had read about that part of her life before but this time she goes into more detail and I love the way her mother's love and faith provided a solid ground for her.  It has to inspire mothers everywhere of the importance their roll is of standing with their children as they suffer, even if they cannot change the situation itself.

The remainder of the book is about Sheila's experiences in the hospital, the long road to recovery afterwards, how God blessed her with a husband and son, and how God uses the dark places for her to help others today.  I am certain younger readers will know Sheila Walsh more from her ministry with Women of Faith conferences than The 700 Club.

Throughout reading this book, I wanted so much to sit down and have a cup of tea and chat with Sheila.  She would make a good friend.  It is that kind of book. 

If you or a loved one have walked with any kind of mental illness, no matter how severe or how slight, read this book.

If you have ever been told you are suffering because you lack enough faith for healing, read this book.

If you find yourself afraid of being yourself at Church and around other Christians, read this book.

If you just need to know another has suffered as you are, even if it is for a different reason than you suffer, you will find yourself also wishing Sheila was across the table from you so you could say... "thank you".

This is truly a book that reminds us, "We read to know we're not alone".  I for one am thankful for Sheila's honesty in sharing her story for it provides hope to so many in this fallen of worlds.

More information can be found at Amazon.com... here.*

This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Creating a refuge

I have no problem believing mankind was created in a garden.  For God gave us five senses in which to enjoy this world and when one is in a beautiful garden, we do tend to feel more at peace.  After all, there are no PBS shows about recreating the back alleys of the cities.

I am more a veggie gardener (if I can call myself a gardener at all) although I do enjoy planting flowers in containers each spring.  Especially on the deck where I can view them from the family room and kitchen... and on the front porch where people enter my home.

It seems to me that the darker the world is portrayed on the news, the more my five senses absolutely need a refuge that encompasses my house and acre of land.  For only in my little part of the universe can I tweak the stuff of life to bring peace.

I need a sanctuary.
I need a place of refuge.  
I need a home. 

Now, I am not saying you can completely rid yourself of the troubles of life by purchasing a couple of green plants to bring life to your rooms. I know what it is like to walk through trials so difficult you must remind yourself to breathe... years upon years of painful memories.

I wrote about it more in the beginning years of Coffee Tea Books & Me.  I still struggle every day, making the choice to trust God and remembering "this isn't Heaven, yet".  And I must say, part of the way I do find peace in the midst of the storms of life is because I have created a refuge.

These days with no children living at home, it is easier to tweak the entire house.  However, I remember a very long season of time when the only place I could make mine was the end of the sofa.  There I would often place a small bookshelf within sight that held my most beloved books, a side table for my Bible and beverages, and quite often a favorite throw.  That is the place where I would retreat at the end of a long day.  My space.   My refuge.

I have been a miracle away from being homeless not once... but twice.   Purchasing the house we now live in was a real gift from God, a combination of the USDA granting loans to people on Disability (my husband was at the time) and living in a part of the country where housing is still very reasonable, especially in rural areas.

The kitchen wherever we lived was often a place I took refuge.  For even when I worked full time, we needed dinner on the table.  When we were looking at this home for the first time, my Realtor was remarking how dated the kitchen was and what I could do to upgrade it all.  But I loved it just as it was, flaws and all.  For it was real... Velveteen Rabbit real.

The previous owner had painted the cabinets a shade that resembles butter yellow (she told me they liked color) and had put up wall paper here and there.  I loved it immediately and added my own furniture and accessories to make it more of a vintage style 1940s or 1950s era kitchen.  I added some artwork (for I always need wall art in case you haven't noticed), my cookbook collection, my red mixer... and it was a refuge.

The room that was once Christopher's bedroom is now my Study.  The first room in all of these years that is truly all mine.  A gift of God in exchange for the Empty Nest.  And while I love the Cath Kidson colors on accessories, I find my actual surroundings that bring peace are the earth tones. 

Sometimes on a cloudy day, I keep the corner lamp on even if I am not in the room.  Which for an energy saver like me is usually something I do not do.  But I love walking by that room and knowing it is there, waiting for me when I have finished the household chores of the day.  A room full of favorite books and teacups and the stuff I use to create with and that feel of an old fashioned parlor. 

It is my refuge.  It is my sanctuary.  Although plants, wall art, and aromas (and a cat) are at the top of my list of items which relax me, music is a close third.  I borrowed the CD player from our bedroom to listen to my favorite Christmas music.  It is taking awhile to return to its' original home.  ;)

I find it important in creating a refuge to embrace what colors bring me peace.  I adore my daughter's home, she not only has a four year degree in Interior Design but she has always had a good instinct for all visual arts.

Although her house is lovely, it is also a real home for a family of seven people and it becomes Velveteen Rabbit real.  And while we share a love for accessories of deep red and such, her home makes one feel of a light and bright cottage by the sea while I prefer that look of an autumn forest.

Before this blog post becomes a book... what is my point?  It is that a house needs someone thinking of ways to make it a home.  Not with a credit card and a trip to the mall.  Neither going out and buying a house full of furniture.  For it is in the little by little adding to rooms that we create a home and not a show house.  That is not our intent.

I remember telling people when I purchased a sofa at one time, I chose a color and pattern the same as a little boys shoe print.  Stephanie's sofas are a sturdy leather and a very dark color, after trying to keep a white slipcover bleached clean.  One does learn through the years what works and what doesn't but that is part of the fun of home making.

My prayer for you is this... that you pray and hear from God what you can next do to make your home a place of refuge, a sanctuary for you alone or with those you live with.  It doesn't matter if it is one room, a corner of a room, or a very big house.  It is yours.  God blessed you with that space.  It is where He wants you at this moment in time so make it comfy and cozy and peaceful.

You can ask him for He is the ultimate Designer... and He knows where to find the good bargains.  Trust me.  He cares.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Living the Pantry Life - Why gaining experience is essential to pantry living!

I used to tell people I have the spiritual gift of... cookies.  I do make a good cookie.  Soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, crisp and buttery shortbread, thumbprint cookies with a tiny spoonful of jam in the middle, all kinds of cookies. 

Over the Holidays, I realized a new talent.  That of... cookie whisperer.  You have heard of the horse whisperer (or at least admired an aging Robert Redford in the movie based on the book?).  Some of us are cookie whisperers.  We know how to bring out the best in flour, sugar, and butter.

But reaching such an esteemed status took baking hundreds upon hundreds... perhaps thousands of cookies.  Experienced cooks develop a way of knowing when something is done by the aroma, or the color, or the touch.  Those skills are sometimes learned by reading but most often by doing... and sometimes by accident.

For instance, when I was young I thought I couldn't bake a good layer cake.  They just never turned out correctly.  Then by chance I bought two new heavy duty 9" round cake pans and they changed my life.  At least they changed my desserts.  It was after using them for the first time I realized my problem with layer cake baking had been the 8" pans I was using.  Who knew?

Which is why experience can be even more important in a pantry lifestyle than stocking up.  For if one knows their way around a kitchen, they spend less and are more knowledgeable than if they just bought stuff and put them on shelves.  They also learn (as I have through the years) what kind of kitchen equipment is essential, what is good to have, and what one can easily live without.

Twice in the last week I was able to put together a good dinner with odds and ends I had on hand.  For instance, last night I wanted to use two butternut squash that have been sitting behind the Lazy Boy since around November.  (Ummm... one creates pantry space where they can.)

I vaguely remembered a recipe that threw together roasted butternut squash (so I did, roast them that is), chicken broth (I had a box in the pantry), onions, spices, and a dollop of cream just before serving (optional).  It turned out to be delicious and just exactly what we needed for a healthy meal on a cold-ish winter day.  Not to mention almost free since the butternut squash had been given to us last autumn.

[As an aside... I think it quite amazing how God provides certain veggies and such we need at the time we need them.  Such as squashes and potatoes and carrots and other root veggies which are easy to store through the winter.]

In a perfect world, we would grow up with someone teaching us to cook.  It may have been mom, or grandmother, or an aunt.  I believe it was Rachel Ray's grandfather who taught her a lot about their Italian recipes.  I didn't spend time cooking with my mother-in-law but she sent me recipes for years and years.  I still use a lot of those recipes she sent.

I taught my daughter to cook and she has taught her daughter.  I believe each generation is better (in one area or another) than the previous.  Probably as they each have a foundation to build upon.

I learned from cookbooks, cooking shows, and a few very good classes that taught the foundational kitchen skills.  As with any art form (and I believe cooking can be such), once you learn the basics you can become very creative.  Like thinking of ways to use the butternut squash behind the Lazy Boy.

So my point is???  You never stop learning when it comes to cooking and using what is in your pantry.  That is the difference between storing food and living a pantry lifestyle!  If you are a new cook, as the budget allows, invest in cooking classes.  All of us need really good cookbooks.  The kind that actually teach you something as well as provide recipes.

My son is now cooking their dinners when he can, before his teacher-wife arrives home.  He has Allrecipes.com bookmarked.  But I have also shared old fashioned hold-in-your-hands cookbooks with him.  I gave him my copy of Jerusalem to inspire the cooking of his favorite dishes.  And his Christmas gift this year was a good cutting board.  It is good to see the male branch of the family continue culinary traditions.   ;)

I'll be back next week with some cookbook ideas.  :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

My New "Mrs. Beaver" Tea Cozy!

Around Christmas time this winter, I wrote my precious friend (and "blog daughter") that I really really wanted desperately needed a knitted tea cozy.

She knows how I loved the tea cozy Mrs. Beaver used in the film version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Heather had a tea cozy in her Etsy shop but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.  So she did some research and we talked color scheme and all... and this is what she came up with.

Isn't it adorable?  Mrs. Beaver would indeed love it, too.  It will keep my tea nice and hot for that second cup (and third).

I have a few pieces of Heather's beautiful felt creations in my Study, gifted on important days like my birthday or events such as attending a historical reenactment at the same time. 

But I must admit, the "Mrs. Beaver" tea cozy is my favorite of all.  Heather made it to fit my 6 Cup teapots but it also fits my 4 cup yellow teapot nicely.

*Heather's blog with a link to her Etsy shop is... here.  One glance and you will see why we are friends.  ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My World this Week

The January thaw has lasted long enough that the gravel road is almost free of ice.  That, my friends, is a very good thing.  There was still a thick layer of ice about a couple yards long (where the gravel meets the County road) yesterday when I walked out to get the mail.  Hopefully it will melt before another big snowfall arrives.

The photo above is a close up of my neighbor's barn, taken from the location of my rural mailbox with just a bit of the zoom lens in place.  Stunning.  I love the way Winter looks on a sunny day after heavy snowfall.  When I don't have to drive anywhere.

By the way, in that photo above... we had just had a fresh six inches of snow the night before and the windchill was -25.  Yes, the things some of us endure to get a photo!

Here is what has been going on in my world about the last two weeks or so through the lens of my snap and shoot camera.


I've chatted about W. Phillip Keller's book as well as A Plague of Unicorns (info... here*)The Christmas Train was talked about when listening to one of my favorite radio pastors.  He had read it on vacation and used it as part of his sermon.

I found a "One Cent plus Shipping" copy on Amazon, it sounded quite intriguing.  I love trains and Christmas.  More information can be found... here*.  I am only a few chapters into it at the moment.

Morning Light

I get excited about the morning sunlight for I really can only see it in Winter.  Living at the corner of a forest and all.  Autumn has a glow all its' own.

Glimpses of Red

My sister sold antiques and gave me that very old container.  We weren't sure what it was but it looks lovely filled with greenery and the color red.  Especially if you love primitive American stuff like she and I do.

Showing some of my little accessories I purchased with Christmas money.  All very inexpensive but I think touches of color add a great deal to a room.

The  last photo shows my jar of vintage cookie cutters showing off a new ribbon, from a roll purchased at the thrift store owned by the homeless mission... for a dollar.

My neighbor, who lives in that house I can see from my East facing windows (the house in the photo), feeds the birds in Winter.  Which is why cardinals gather for tea and seeds and chat about the cold weather.   I took this photo with the camera set to zoom lens and through the French door windows that look out upon the deck.

Corner of my Living Room

Showing my Winter scene artwork as well as little touches of red.  ;)

Her Fluffiness
I snapped about six photos before she looked toward me!  Pretty kitty.

*Amazon Associate Link

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Plague of Unicorns, a review

I'm always on the lookout for good novels I think boys will enjoy.  They can be (in my experience), harder to find than those girls love.

So I was very interested in reading A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen.  Especially as we are a family who enjoys a good tale of knights and heroes and animals such as ummm... unicorns.

Well, I was not at all disappointed in this book.  In the first part of the book, the reader is introduced to the Abbey and their situation with unicorns eating the special apples they need to make a delicious apple cider.  The sales of which would enable them to make necessary repairs on the Abbey.

Everything the monks try to get rid of the unicorns results in failure and not a little bit of drama! 

Next we meet James, who is a very curious boy.  His constant questions drives everyone around him a little crazy, except perhaps his older sister.  James is the son of a Duke who is off at war in Jerusalem and has not been heard of for so long, the family imagines he may have been killed in battle.  So James, although only a child now, may be taking on the role of Duke when he turns a certain age (fifteen if I remember).

For these various reasons, James is sent to the Abbey to study with the monks and the last third of the book covers these adventures.  Up until this time, I wasn't certain if I loved this book or not.  For the writing is a little different than I am used to (usually reading much longer novels and those written for an older age group).

But once James went to the Abbey, I fell in love with that little boy and with the book.  I absolutely loved the ending!  The language within the book is lyrical and quite fun to read, which is why I think it would make a perfect read aloud book.

I highly recommend this book as a read aloud for those not quite old enough to read themselves and most definitely as a book to read for kids who are good readers themselves.  Most boys would love it and quite a few girls I know, too.

You can find out more about A Plague of Unicorns at Amazon... here.

This book was given to me for the purpose of review by the publisher but the opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - How focusing is bringing peace, beauty, and room to create.

I started keeping an "off the cuff ponderings journal" this year.  One where I write down snippets of what I have been thinking of that day. 

I haven't done a whole lot of writing in it (it is, after all, a new habit to form) but one day recently I wrote this:
Focusing on God always should bring with it a focus toward Beauty.  Think John Piper!  Think Jonathan Edwards!
As you can tell, I was pondering the concept of Beauty within my ponderings about being more focused this year.

And I have continued to reap the benefits of that focus as getting rid of the past (projects and the guilt that came with them) has brought with it the ability to declutter elsewhere.  

For so much space was now open in the Study dresser, I was able to transfer items from the overstuffed drawers in the Living Room hutch.  Which then created space for a home to some tea time related items.

Living life in the present will be so very much easier now that I am focusing on the here and now and have sent the "Past" to charity.  My entire home looks more open and peaceful.

In addition, that focus made its' way to my desk where I spent most of last week going through piles of paperwork and "must do's" and "should have done's" to put an end to both procrastination and simply choosing to kick the paper can down the proverbial road. 

Do you know what happened?  Every. Single. Item. I had procrastinated on (some for months on end) was completed in a fraction of the time I thought it would!  All that remains in the wire basket now is some paperwork which needs filed (since the actual work has been completed) and reminders of a few letters I want to write.

There is peace in my Study and in my Surroundings and in my Soul.

I am a visual person who now spends a lot of time at home.  This has been the modus operandi for about twenty years and even more so now.  It was always important that my home looked warm and cozy before then but it really didn't become the canvas of my creativity until that time. 

And something I have noticed is that when we listen closely, we realize God is giving us a passion for where He wants us at any given time... and what He wants us to do.  It is where we spend our time planning and pondering and where we spend limited funds.

When I spend any extra money... that which is given for items above daily necessities... I have a few priorities.  First I will purchase some food and necessary items for the pantry.  For as I have written, mine is no longer very deep but for it to work properly, I must shop for the pantry and then shop the pantry when something is needed.

If there is no other absolutely urgent need, I shop for the house.  I shop to make it a haven of peace and beauty within a storm filled world.  If I only have around $5.00, I head for a thrift store.  If I have at least $20.00, I often go to my favorite Antique Mall where many items are reasonable.  Or, I will peruse a favorite shop that sells Primitive American furniture and accessories.

Now, most of the time I am only looking for accessories for I realized long ago, they are the bright paint of the canvas.  When I am at Goodwill, I do check their furniture for I have found very good buys (like the tea table for $6.00).  When I am at the Primitive American shop or the Antique Mall, I do not look at the furniture.  ;)

Through the years I have perused enough decorating magazines to know what kind of items I am looking for.  This year with some Christmas money in my pocket, I went to the Antique Mall and found bread & butter dishes in the primary Friendly Village pattern, just the size I needed to add to my collection.  They were only a couple dollars each.

Then I went to the Primitive American shop and purchased a couple of their rustic candles and some small additions to add to various containers.  Both types of items were very inexpensive compared to what is mostly sold there but which... after perusing some magazines and online photos of houses... I knew would add depth to what I already had in my home.  (Yes, I will show photos on the next My World this Week post.)

Now, here I must add that other priorities in my life include creativity, tea, and books.  However, these items (tea, a couple of books, and washi tape) were purchased this year with Amazon credit. 

Which is why I jump through all the Associate's hoops and why I thank you who enter your Amazon.com shopping through my widget or those of another blogging friend.  Oh, and I did receive tea and books as very welcome gifts.  Friends and family do know what I like. ;)

To wrap up, there have been times in my life when priorities for time, attention, and money went to feed and clothe kids, lessons or sports equipment, homeschooling items, or kitchen stuff, or clothes when I worked amongst the "English" (you will get that if you read Amish novels), or when we were first setting up a household and we needed basic furniture.

Every stage in life will bring with it a focus, an area where God has you in the moment.  At this stage of life, creating a warm and cozy home environment and then writing about it is where He has me.  Oh, and at times waxing poetic on such culinary joys as making soup or lemon cream scones or the wonders of pumpkin spice lattes. 

But they kind of all go together if you think about it... and instead of stomping one's feet and complaining about what they cannot do or where they cannot go and all other limitations... God instead has us look for the Lovely where we are and be the gardener of our present life.

Now excuse me, I must have a second cup of coffee and work on my scrapbook journal this afternoon.  All of this pondering has given me some ideas...

Image:  Time For Reading by Judy Gibson

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Reading (online) to know you are not alone

I wrote last week that I was writing about preparing for emergencies in the 1990s.  At that time I started researching how other people prepared and how they kept a pantry.  But almost all the information available was either on survivalist websites (and not the more gentle preparedness oriented website I was a part of) or Mormon websites that mostly depended on storing wheat and two or three other items in case of emergencies.

There was some information available from homesteading magazine sites.  Among the best was (and still is) Backwoods Home Magazine, which is written by people who live the lifestyle.

But something began to happen as more and more people began to get a nudge from God that they should keep a deep pantry... at the same time more households were owning personal computers and the Internet was becoming more popular.  Websites and forums began to pop up written by everyday people sharing their experiences.  Then about ten years ago people started writing something called blogs.

Since you are reading these words, you are one of those of whom I write (and consider myself among you) who enjoys learning more and something else... knowing you are not alone in your desire to deepen your pantry.

For what began in the 1990s and flourishes today is a community of people and resources around the world that provides not only information... but also a knowledge that God is speaking to everyday people that very need to set aside some today for tomorrow.

You may be the only person in your family and neighborhood who has heard that call to a pantry lifestyle.  Others may scoff and what happens so often (unlike what Reality TV indicates), most people who live such a lifestyle do it quietly.  So being able to read online that there are thousands just like you was... and is... quite amazing.

I don't know about you but it was proof to me that I really was receiving a nudge from Him.  I am certain my nudge began long ago so I could learn a lot to write a lot and share as much as possible.  And to assure you that you are not alone.

I will continue to share websites and online articles as I find them.  You will have noticed I haven't been sharing many links lately but that is due to lack of computer access to research them as I once did.  But I do have a few today!

One of my newer favorites is The Bluebirds are Nesting and if you do not have it bookmarked or on an rss feed, do it now!  I also have it on my list of Favorite blogs on the sidebar and I signed up to receive updates through e-mails. 

You will not only find great pantry and preparedness information there but also the latest on Laine's Letters.  I think that is how we met, through correspondence about Laine.

The Bluebirds are Nesting can be found in Australia (where it is currently Summer) and here.  There is a link on the sidebar to follow if you only want to read about preparedness and one for the pantry... and one for Laine.

To read the article archives of Backwood Homes Magazine, click here.  If you are not Libertarian, just ignore the more political links.  But I have to tell you there is some darn good stuff there (and some humorous writing... one has to laugh or cry).

Stan and Holly Deyo have been longtime friends.  Although we are not in contact much these days, they are still an e-mail away when I have a question.  While they have entire books on the subject of preparedness (with Dare to Prepare one of my favorite such books, mine has a sweet note written in it so it is especially wonderful), they also have plenty of free information... here.  The links are on the left sidebar, you can bring them full page by moving the bar (that allows you to scroll up and down) further to the right.  Try it and you will see what I mean. 

Someone had asked me about water purification, you will find information on their website!

If you click on "Home", it takes you to their website Home Page.  I love to read what they think about what is going on in the world but it is not for the faint of heart.  ;)

I have a lot of links on the sidebar here, too.  Just scroll down... a lot. I need to go through them again as the last time I did, some were now unavailable.  Especially the very old articles from the Internet.  But most are still available with a plethora of good information.

I will continue to keep an eye out online for good, recent information.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My World this Week

My world at the edge of the forest is very snowy.
As I have not written such a post since taking my annual Holiday break, this could very well be titled My World the Past Few Weeks.  But then it would confuse the Labels and one does not want to ever do that.

My world has included subzero temperatures, snow, ice, and a whole lot of soups simmering on the stove.  Hot beverages are needed to stay warm all day (coffee in the morning, tea or hot apple cider at other times of the day).  I have chatted with Victoria about how lovely is her fur coat which God provided Maine Coon kitties... and been just a tad bit envious.

Otherwise, this is what has been going on in the Frozen Tundra as seen from the lens of my camera.


Thoroughly enjoyed Sally's new book.  It made it to the #1 Best Sellers List on Amazon.  I've written a lot about it here but I have told Sally I believe it is her best book for all ages and situations in life.  Info... here.*

Loved the new Jan Karon novel, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, once I got into it.  I feel as if the people in Mitford are family and Father Tim is one of my all time favorite literary people.  If you enjoyed the original Mitford series, you will love this one, too.  Info... here.*

What Makes Life Worth Living is the last book written by a very favorite author, W. Phillip Keller, before he passed away in the 1990s.  I am just a few chapters into it because I savor each one and go back to read various sections.  Further info on this book is... here.*

Some may have read his more famous books such as A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm.  Definitely another sojourner in this world I long to sit with and chat in Eternity.  His Words are a Balm of Gilead to an aching soul.

Starbucks coffee while shopping (A Gift!).

A Holiday Breakfast at Cracker Barrel (A gift!).

Morning Light

Scene From the Front Porch

Decorating by Tweaking
I put a favorite candle in the middle there and switched to the new needlework.

Here is a closeup of the new Christmas gift needlework.

Christmas on the Porch

Her Fluffiness
She is staying warm!

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate Links

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Slow food, slow reading, slow down...

Sometimes I wish there was... somewhere in my immediate surroundings... a Narnia like wardrobe or painting in which I could enter another world.  One with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver serving tea as well as majestic lions bringing about the end of a winter with no Christmas.

Of course, knowing my own failings as one does over the years, I would avoid the wardrobe like the proverbial plague because adventure is the last thing I need with a chronic illness.  Give me my sofa.  And my pillow.

Instead, God would have to pull me into His Adventure through something like... a painting.  One in which I was deeply intrigued and while closely looking at brush strokes and the use of color... suddenly awash in an ocean of another world.

That would certainly get (and keep) my attention!  But in this world, God does not work that way.  Instead most often He nudges at us gently, more like Mrs. Beaver than Aslan.  There have been times in my life in which I am certain I heard the roar of the Lion of Judah at work in circumstances.  But mostly He speaks through His Word.  And circumstances. And little nudges.

That is what He is doing with this whole focusing thing going on.  I have walked with Him long enough to know if something keeps floating to the surface of my thinking, it is usually Heaven inspired.  Especially if it brings with it a Holy apprehension and not an earthly fear.

I started reading a rather big novel last week and had a bit of an effort getting past the first quarter of the book.  Once I really got into the reading, I loved it but before that time... everything distracted me.  From the sound of the winter winds beating against the window to the gentle breathing of the Maine Coon kitty curled up on the back of the sofa between the window and me.

I read somewhere... a magazine or online or in a blog or perhaps while Googling something else entirely... that technology is much to blame for our distractedness in this the 21st Century.

I would agree in some instances, for if I'm reading a book on the iPad using the Amazon app, the instrument in hand seems to think I need to know when Jill has pinned something on Pinterest or Jane has sent an e-mail.  Albeit I may be waiting for an e-mail but usually not.

Technology is a wonderful thing that we so often take for granted.  Recently I missed part of a Joel Rosenberg interview about his new book on a program that I very much wanted to hear.  All I needed to do was click on the app for that network (which is downloaded already on the iPad) and choose the previous day's program for which to click and listen to the interview.  On my sofa.  Anytime I so choose.  Amazing.

My mother was a child when most people continued to use the horse and buggy for transportation.  She remembered when her father purchased one of the first automobiles in her County in Kentucky.  That was not all that long ago you know.

The main thesis of the article said our brain was meant for slow days and slow work and the slow passage of time.  It gets confused in this speed of light world in which we live these days.  A world where one can have hundreds and hundreds of books on a small electronic device (most of which were absolutely free).  A world with too many options.

It gets... distracted... until it reaches a stage where we find it difficult to focus on anything for long.  Definitely.

I don't want a complete return to the 18th or 19th century.  It is good to drive down the road to Kroger when I have forgotten to put milk or eggs on the grocery list.  I very much enjoy listening to a Christmas concert live on PBS from the other side of the world and indoor plumbing is a miracle of the ages.  As a preschool child, I lived in a rural home that had indoor running water but one had to use the facilities... out back.  Not fun out in the country for a child with a vivid imagination.

But there is something to be said for bringing back some of the old ways.  Slow food simmering on the stove, developing flavors over time.  Homemade bread allowed to rise on the kitchen counter next to the stove in winter.  Conversations with no hurry.  The reading of a long novel as one's head lays on a fluffy pillow and whose legs are covered by an equally fluffy cat.

I do enjoy a proper tea where the teapot is swished out and allowed to steep with very hot water from the faucet to prepare it for the job to come.  This happens as one keeps an eye on the steam in the tea kettle to make certain it does not begin to sing if using for green tea and letting it come to a full chorus of song for black and herbal blends.

So much nicer than nuking water in a mug and throwing in a tea bag as my husband is prone to do.  Although I do use tea bags most of the time for the good tea bags are quite convenient and keeps one from having to dig wet tea leaves from the spout of the teapot... but I digress.

I was watching the final season of Larkrise to Candleford again recently.  The entire series but especially the last two seasons centered around the theme of change as the 19th century was ending and the 20th century was about to blossom.  It is quite fun to watch how the different people in the village and town react to the inevitable change.

My favorite is Queenie who has pretty much lived long enough to come to peace with her surroundings.  She holds on to the old ways, making lace by hand and using herbs to cure the sick.  But her advice is often to consider the new ways and learn how to live within them... for "progress" will not be stopped.  While cherishing that which is good from the past.

So this year, as I relocate my ability to focus, I am paying attention to the still small Voice and to the wisdom of Queenie by finding a balance in all of it.  To live each day with an intent to focus instead of letting the World define who I am and what I do and how I go about doing it all.

Hallelujah.  And Amen.  So be it.  And we will chat about it more in coming Sundays.

Image:  Women at Tea by Albert Lynch