and what we wish they were

Kristen Lavransdatter: The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset

Note:  I try to to give too much away in this review.  In fact, since I am currently reading the second novel in the trilogy, The Mistress of Husaby, I wasn’t even able to finish some of the links posted below.  If you don’t want to have any clue what will happen in the first novel, The Bridal Wreath, you better skip this post.  But again, I tried to keep my spoilers to a minimum.

KRISTEN LAVRANSDATTER

Recently I added the phrase “and what we wish they were reading” to my blog because I can no longer tolerate a full-time diet of YA literature. Yes, there is a great deal to entertain within this genre and even some literary gems.  But a steady diet of YA books is much like a steady diet of junk food – pretty tasty, but not much substance. Lately, I have been starving for some nutritionally dense reading – mentally and spiritually.  So when I read 10 Books You Must Read With Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Turning Out Like That horrid Girl FromTwilight), I decided to dig out and dust off out my never-before-read copy of Kristen Lavransdatter and give it another try.

This novel and the two subsequent novels in the series are considered master works of historical fiction. That is why I am embarrassed to say that this was my second run at reading Kristen Lavransdatter, despite its stellar reputation and regardless of the fact that it was recommended by both my sister-in-law and one of my dearest and smartest friends, both of whom have impeccable taste.  For some reason, the first time I tried to read this novel, I gave up quickly.  Perhaps it was because I initially approached it as a beach read.  This novel, set in medieval Norway, definitely lends itself more to a cozy fireside than a lawn chair. Maybe I lost interest because the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy came out about the time I first started reading Kristen Lavransdatter.  (Oh, how embarrassing!) Maybe it was because I was intimidated by the book’s reputation. I don’t really know, but I always intended to get back to it one day.  Well, recently that day came!  Within a few pages, I was hooked.   I began to feel that every free moment that I wasn’t reading Kristen Lavransdatter was being wasted.  I began to understand what all the hubbub is about.

The first book in the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy, The Bridal Wreath, begins when Kristen is a young girl.  She is the only child of pious Norwegian nobility.  Her parents adore her – especially her father.  Her mother who has suffered the loss of several other children is at times distant and sad.  Her father, on the other hand delights in her.  Both of her parents try to bring her up to be devout and virtuous and little Kristen is given nearly every spiritual advantage – example, education, and love.

While traveling with her father, Kristen meets Brother Edvin, a wise and kindly monk who is one of the novel’s most notable and lovable characters.  He makes a great impression on Kristen (and on the reader) with his insights.

There is no man nor woman, Kristen who does not love and fear God, but tis because our hearts are divided twixt love of God and fear of the devil and fondness for the world and the flesh, that we are unhappy in this life and in death.  For if man had no yearning after God and God’s being, then he should thrive in Hell…For there the fire would not burn him if he did not long for coolness, nor would he feel the torment of the serpents bite if he knew not the yearning for peace… T’was God’s loving-kindness toward us that seeing how our hearts are drawn asunder, He came down and dwelt among us that He might taste in the flesh the lures of the devil when he decoys us with power and splendor, as well as the menace of the world when if offers us blows and scorn and sharp nails in the hands and feet.  In such wise did He show us the way and make manifest His love.

And yet, even with passages like this, this novel in not overly religious in tone.  It is not preaching to the choir.  All the characters are painfully real – both in their virtue and their flaws.  As a teenager, Kristen is innocent and devout, eager to honor her parents and to live up to the expectations of her culture.  Yet when temptation presents itself, as the handsome and charming Ereland Nikulausson, Kristen is easily led astray.  Readers find Kristen’s selfishness and foolishness frustrating (I remember thinking, “Wait.  What? How could she be so stupid.  No Kristin. Noooo!).  And we yet can’t help but hope she will escape the bitter consequences of her actions

Many of Undset’s characters are complex in this way.  We see in them both flaw and hope.  We relate to them and root for them.  Ereland’s pride and his constant excuses for his behavior are maddening, yet we want to believe that in the end he will prove honorable.  We want to believe that he really is as great as Kristen believes him to be. Even Kristen’s parents, Lavrans and Ragnfrid are, for all their love and devotion, not perfect, and they bare their own secrets, griefs and struggles.  We to ache for them.

In addition to providing complex characters, Undset portrays life in medieval Norway with richness, beauty, and accuracy.  Life for these characters, and indeed for entire Western world in those days, centers around the Church and her traditions and around the conventions of their society.  While some of these conventions might rub the modern reader the wrong way (like a father’s absolute power over his daughter), a life so fully centered on and entrenched in the Christian calendar seems not only orderly and disciplined but also festive and meaningful.

Undset won the Nobel Prize for literature no doubt by creating an epic saga that combines a stunning portrayal of life in medieval Norway with complex, sympathetic characters. And without being heavy-handed or overly-simple, she manages to communicate beauty and truth.

Again, these characters are not perfect.  There are some pretty grown-up situations in this book and some complex issues.  But this is exactly the kind of book I want my kids to read – impressive and engrossing from a literary standpoint and beautiful and inspiring in it’s portrayal of eternal truths.

So, to recap.  Why should your teen (this is not a book for tweens) and you read Kristen Lavransdatter?

  • It is great historical fiction – a rich and accurate portrayal of life in medieval Norway.
  • It won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • It illustrates how the rhythm and seasons of life used to be lived in accordance with the Christian calendar and how this brought both times of fasting and feasting, all in honor of Christ and the Saints.
  • It shows the power of sin and deceit and there devastating effects.
  • The novel contains sympathetic characters – not perfectly good nor purely evil.  They are easy to relate to.
  • Kristen Lavransdatter contains nuggets of spiritual truth, beauty, and wisdom without being simplistic or preachy.
  • Reading Kristen Lavransdatter allows you to enter into a great conversation with  your child and with others who have loved this trilogy.

SEXUAL CONTENT

Yes, but no descriptive or graphic passages.  In fact, some younger readers (okay and me) might miss the initial sex scene all together and not realize what has happened until a few pages later.

LANGUAGE

None

VIOLENCE

Very mild.

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

Not in the creepy way that I’m usually looking out for in YA lit.  Kristen Lavransdatter is steeped in Christianity.  However, as was common in medieval times, superstitions are also influential in the lives of Undset’s characters.

FOR DISCUSSION

  • Why do you think Kristen falls so quickly and easily from what her faith and her parents have taught her?  Were you surprised by this?
  • Does she truly love Ereland?  Does he love her?
  • What do you think prevent Kristen from confessing her sins?
  • In the end is Lavrans too unyielding?  Why do you think he comes to the decision that he does about Kristen’s marriage to Ereland?
  • What is Kristen’s greatest virtue?  What is her greatest flaw?  What about Ereland?  Lavrans?  Ragnfrid?
  • In what way are the themes of love, sin, forgiveness, and despair played out in this  novel?

IMPORTANT QUOTES

“I’ve done many things that I thought I would never dare to do because they were sins. But I didn’t realize then that the consequence of sin is that you have to trample on other people.”

“No one and nothing can harm us, child, except what we fear and love.”

“It’s a good thing when you don’t dare do something if you don’t think it’s right. But it’s not good when you think something’s not right because you don’t dare do it.”
OTHER ARTICLES AND REVIEWS 

Re-reading Kristen Lavransdatter

Penguin Group Book Club (with discussion questions for all three novels)

I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read Kristen Lavransdatter

Love and Trespasses in Kristen Lavransdatter

Amazon has some great reviews.

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Pretty, Happy, Funny, RealSocial Media Sunday

Paper Towns by John Green

As children, Quentin and his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman were best buddies. But as often happens, by the time they reach high school they are in different cliques. The beautiful Margo is popular and mysterious.  Quentin is just counting the days until graduation.  So, when Margo shows up at Quentin’s bedroom window late one night and asks him to join her on a secret mission, Quentin is more than a little surprised.  And even though he has been in love with Margo since they were nine, he hesitates – Quentin has never really been the sneaking out type.  But Margo is persuasive, using both emotional manipulation and the promise of adventure to lure Quentin out for what she promises will be the night of his life.

What ensues is a night of revenge, trespassing, and petty crime.  And then she’s gone.  Margo doesn’t come back to school and she never goes back home.  When it becomes obvious to Quentin that she isn’t coming back, he makes it his personal mission to find her, believing she has left clues to help him.  Trying to decipher her clues and locate Margo, Quentin enlists the help of his friends and hers and in the process turns the social order of their senior class upside down – and with only a few weeks until graduation.

John Green’s characters in this novel (and in The Fault in Our Stars)  are cool, edgy, slightly odd, witty, and, for the most part, extremely likable.  They are, however, not really guided by any sort of moral compass (unless you count the poetry of Walt Whitman).  In fact, I think Margot Roth Spielman might even be suffering from a borderline personality disorder of some sort.  And yet, she is the heroine of this novel.  She is the cool chick.  And while her exploits frustrate and even anger some of the other characters, and while readers might even find some of them funny, she is basically a very selfish, very strange, and a very bad person. And again, she’s the cool chick.  She’s the one Quentin loves.  And in the end, I think Green wants us to love her too – or at least like her.  But I don’t.  She’s the embodiment of everything I would never want my children to be.

Paper Town’s is funny and intelligent.  So in that regard it is a much better novel than a lot of the YA novels out there. Unfortunately,  it lacks a deeper value.  It lacks characters who grow into better people, which is kind of what you want in a book for young people.  The novel tries to be deep and Green’s characters do have some deep thoughts and some great lines, but in the end, I don’t think they are the kind of characters that make a great YA novel.  They aren’t nobel, honorable, or even particularly kind.   To his credit, Quentin is a better person, and I think a better character, than Margo. But I’d like him better if he saw her for what she really is – not a cool chick with some strange quirks, but a deeply disturbed person with mental issues that allow her to treat others with total disregard.

VIOLENCE 

No. But there is vandalism.

LANGUAGE

Yes.  Again, these are teenagers with no moral compass.

SEXUAL CONTENT

There is a lot of talk of characters who have had or are having sex.  And there’s a seen where Quentin peeks in on a teenage couple having sex, but there is nothing graphic. Also there is quite a bit of drinking.

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

None

If your daughter or son does read this novel, here are some ideas to discuss.

  • What does Quentin really feel for Margo?  Love?  Fascination?  Admiration?
  • Is Margot a product of her upbringing or is she just a bad person?
  • Does her parents’ lack of concern for her justify Margo’s behavior?
  • Does the fact that Margo leaves her little sister behind make her leaving worse?
  • Do her boyfriend’s behavior and her best friend’s justify her revenge streak?
  • In the end, what do you think of Margot?  Is she eccentric or out and out crazy?

QUOTES FROM THE NOVEL

“That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.”

“I’m not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.”

“Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement, There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for plannning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future–you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college.”

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

“The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.”

“Radar threw his books into his locker and shut it. Then the din of conversation around us quieted just a bit as he turned his eyes toward the heavens and shouted, “IT IS NOT MY FAULT THAT MY PARENTS OWN THE WORLD’S LARGEST COLLECTION OF BLACK SANTAS.”

“It’s not just the gossip and the parties and all that crap, but the whole allure of a life rightly lived – college and job and husband and babies and all that bullshit.”

johngreenbooks.com

johngreenbooks.com

Keep Love in Lent

I am participating in the Keep Love in Lent at Catholic Bloggers Network.  If you are a looking for meaningful Lenten ideas for your family, head over and check out some of these inspiring links.

 

CBN Lent LinkUp

Why I Spoil My Kids – No Apologies

When my children were babies I picked them up every time they cried, despite all the dire warnings. I buy my kids things that they have not earned. And I often do things for them they could easily do for themselves – sometimes even their chores. So, I suppose some people would say my kids are spoiled, but I disagree. By definition, spoiled means ruined. And I can assure that you my children are not ruined. In fact, I would argue that these extravagances are not only not spoiling my children, they are actually helping them to become the best version of themselves.

We as parents take great pride in our children’s accomplishments. And as American’s we have a particular admiration for independence and hard work. We hold in high esteem the “self-made” man, and we want our children to possess the qualities we believe made this country great. Maybe this is the reason this quote by Anne Landers has been circulating around the Internet so much recently:

It’s not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.

Pshhhhst. As if the entire point of raising children is to make them independent, self-sufficient human beings. It’s not that those are bad qualities in a person. In fact they are essential. But I certainly don’t think they are the supreme measure of success. What about compassion? What about kindness? What about generosity? In fact, I’d say a better motto might be: It’s not what you teach your children to do for themselves, but what you teach them to do for others that will make them successful (and good) human beings.

But how do you teach generosity, kindness, and self-sacrifice? You model it. This is not to say that I am the perfect model. In fact, I struggle daily with my own selfishness. But my own parents were and continue to be so incredibly generous in every way, that I am at least aware that there is a better way, and I want to teach it to my own children. Here are the ways I “spoil” my kids for the sake of generosity.

I BUY THEM THINGS THAT THEY HAVE NOT EARNED.

I remember once when I was in high school and my mother took me shopping. On the way home that evening, it suddenly dawned on my how selfless she was. This was by no means the first time my mother had spent a day out with me like this, but as we drove home and she chattered excitedly about how cute my new boots were and about all the places I could wear my new outfits, it occurred to me that she hadn’t spent a dime on herself. She was absolutely delighted to have spent the entire day walking around the mall, waiting outside dressing rooms, and spending money on clothes all for me. I don’t even remember exactly what we bought or how many things. I don’t think that mattered. But I do remember being suddenly and utterly awed by my mother’s generosity – not because she spent a fortune (I’m sure she didn’t), but because she was just as happy to spend her money on me as she would have been on herself. In fact, happier.

So, yeah. I do the same for my kids. Not all the time and certainly not whatever they want. But I don’t always make them wait for a special occasion or until they’ve saved up their own money to buy them nice things. Recently Charming Mary wanted a record player. Apparently in this age of digital downloads, record players have suddenly become very hip. It was shortly after Christmas – not the time of year one usually buys gifts. But I did. For no reason other than the fact that she wanted it, and I wanted to do something to please her. And please her it did. She was completely delighted and extremely grateful. (And as an aside, I might add that the record play has been transformative, improving her taste in music and inspiring her to reorganize her room.) Of course I could have made her wait and save her money, maybe do some extra chores, to earn her record player. There are certainly valuable lessons to be learned from that kind discipline – patience, hard-work, frugality – and those lessons should be taught. But so should lessons of unearned generosity and kindness for the sake of kindness. That lesson was certainly worth the price of a record player.

I DO THINGS FOR THEM THEY COULD DO FOR THEMSELVES.

I make my kids’ beds. Well, not usually, but for Lent this year I’m doing it. I also sometimes offer to do their farm chores if they have friends over or if they are in the middle of a good book. I fix them snacks that they could easily fix for themselves and, while they know how to do their own laundry, I often do it for them. Why? Because I want them to be the kind of people who help other people. As parents we want kids have to learn to be responsible – even when it’s hard. But sometimes in our eagerness to make kids responsible, we neglect to make them kind, flexible, or compassionate. Rigid rules about who does which chores and inflexible schedules not only build resentment, but they also run the risk of building a kind of pride ,and they foster a notion that we shouldn’t help those we presume are perfectly capable of helping themselves.

My parents have always seemed to derive a real sense of pleasure from doing things for us. Even today my father goes out of his way to pick up my kids from school to save me a trip. I don’t wait on my kids hand and foot. But I do help them – even when they don’t need it. Because the truth is, they rarely need it. But I want them to see that helping others is a kindness that doesn’t have to wait until the need arises. Helping others can just be a way to make someone else’s day a little easier or a little brighter.

I LAVISH AFFECTION ON THEM

When my kids were babies, I heard all the dire warning about my children manipulating me with their tears. I was warned that they would never be able to sleep alone or self-soothe. I was told they would control my life. Meh. I picked them up anyway. We let them sleep in our bed when they got scared. And I carried them way past the age when they could walk on their own. (all just like my parents did for us) Well, they are all big now. And no one wants to sleep in our bed or be carried around, and they never cry to get their way. Those years when they were little were a vapor. I am so glad I rarely missed a chance to cuddle or comfort. And I am convinced that their own sunny and compassionate personalities were formed, in part, by a childhood of extravagant love.

THEY ARE THE CENTER OF MY UNIVERSE.

Next to God, that is. And my husband. Actually, alongside my husband. That’s how we want it. We’ve heard all the marital advice about not letting your kids come between you, but we think it’s silly. Sure we need to make time for us and we do. But it was our love that created them. Giving more of our love to them does not drive us apart. It brings us closer. It’s not us against them. Our family is one unit. And our love doesn’t divide. It multiplies. When we were first married, many well-meaning people told us that we should put each other first. Well, who says anyone has to be first? Our policy has always been to put the person first who is neediest in the moment. When they were little, it was usually one of them (or all of them at once). But sometimes it’s me. Or Charming Hal. The point is that I want every person in my family to feel as if he or she is most important person on earth to me. The current wisdom is that kids need to learn they aren’t the center of the universe. I’m not worried. The universe will make that pretty clear as soon as they walk out the front door. But I do want them to think they are the center of our universe because our love for them should give them a glimpse of the love their Heavenly Father bears for them. And He loves them with a love that is completely self-giving and all encompassing. He does not worry about sending us the wrong message about us own importance. And it’s a good thing because the cross sends a pretty strong message that God thinks we are a big deal. He is capable of loving each of us as if we are the most important person in the universe.

So, there it is. My dirty little secret. I spoil my children. But the thing is, I don’t think I’m the only one. If fact, most parents I know are just as generous and helpful with their own kids. However, thanks to Facebook and Pinterest and 24/7 info-tainment, we are constantly reminded of all the ways we can screw up our kids. It seems like a lot of the advice we are getting warns us not to over-indulge them, coddle them, or make them think they are too important. Yes, there is some great wisdom in all of that advice, but I must have missed the posts, pins, and articles about teaching kindness, generosity, and self-giving. The funny thing is, for most parents, those things are the easiest things to teach because they just come naturally.

The Centers of My Universe

The Centers of My Universe

 

Lenten Ideas for Teens and Tweens

It seems like every year Lent sneaks ups on me. I know it’s coming, yet I still find myself scrambling at the last minute to find something to read and to think of something meaningful to do or not do.  Not this year. This year I think I’ve got a game plan – or at least the beginnings of one.

My children on the other hand, are a different story.  I realized the profound shallowness of one of my chidren’s Lenten preparation when I heard her say, “I’m glad it’s almost Lent, I need to get in shape.”  It dawned on me then that I wasn’t the only one in the family who needed to prepare in order to prepare for the resurrection of our Lord. So, to help my children get beyond just giving up sweets (and shedding a few lbs) I’ve compiled a list of ideas for teenagers.  For those of you who have managed to raise kids who are free from the trappings of this world and whose idea of  reasonable Lenten disciplines are horse hair shirts and sleeping without a blanket, I applaud you.  I’d love to know the secret, but there’s probably no need for you to keep reading. But my children are a delightful mix of worldliness and would-be saints – who listen to pop music, own cell phones, and think leggings are pants.  Here are some things I’m going to suggest they prayerfully consider giving up and taking on for Lent…

LEARN TO PRAY BETTER

Prayer is the key to holiness and to growing closer to God.  It should be as important to us as oxygen.  And yet it’s so easy to forget to pray or to get distracted at prayer.  Having a prayer system can help.  Here are some of my favorite ways to add prayer to my day or to make my prayers more meaningful.

  • The ACTS prayer – This is a way to organize prayer so we don’t spend to whole time just  listing the things we want from God. The ACTS prayer involves praying first Adoration, then Confession, next Thanksgiving, and finally Supplication.
  • Aspirations – These are short, silent prayers offered up anytime and anyplace - Jesus, I love you.  Lord, have Mercy.  Jesus, I believe.  Help me with my unbelief. Mother Mary, prayer for us.  Any small way that we can turn our hearts and minds to the Lord throughout the day are pleasing to Him and can help us grow in holiness.
  • Keeping a prayer journal - It’s easy to say, “I’m going to pray for Brittany.” Or “I’m going to be more thankful.”  But as we all know, easier said than prayed.  I’m going to encourage my children to write down their prayer intentions and blessings.  As any seasoned prayer knows, writing down prayers not only helps us remember what to pray, but allows us to look back later and see how God as worked in our lives.

BEFRIEND THE FRIENDLESS

Every time I pray the third sorrowful mystery of the rosary (the crowning with thorns), I ask Jesus to help my children and me to remember the outcast and the bullied.  I realize that our Lord suffered much more than bullying, but still for the sake of His suffering, I hope that my children (and I) will make an effort to relieve the suffering of someone else being mocked, ridiculed, or forgotten.   A kind word, a smile,  or a “how’s it going?” might mean the world to someone who feels invisible most of the time.  I hope this Lenten season my children will invite a loner to sit with them at lunch, compliment a kid who others barely notice, or is some way make a special effort at kindness.

LISTEN TO CHRISTIAN MUSIC

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m not a huge fan of contemporary Christian music.  I dislike it for the same reason I dislike most Kelly Clarkson or One Direction songs.  There’s nothing wrong with them.  They just aren’t my thing.  But they are a darn site better than most of the vile, brainless junk on pop radio.  Blogger,Matt Walsh, makes a great case that pop music isn’t only immoral, it’s also making us stupid.  Lent is a great time for all of us to cleanse our hearts and minds.  While I do monitor what my kids listen to, totally blocking out the world isn’t really an option. But I am asking my children to take on more Christian music this Lenten season.

SERVE

It’s tempting to see Lent an excellent time for the kids to kick some bad habits or to take on a few more household chores. Ya know, make a few sacrifices.   They could pledge to keep their rooms clean for the entire 40 days of Lent or to quit leaving their junk in the car.  After all, why not kill two birds with one religious stone.  But that’s not really the point of Lent, so I refrain from asking my kids to do the things  think they ought to do for Lent.  But I do encourage them to think of new and sacrificial ways to serve their family, friends, church, or community. And cleaning their own trash out of the car wouldn’t kill them.

SHOW SOME GRATITUDE 

Again, I’m not trying to turn Lent into my personal to-do list for my kids, but I’d like to see them write more thank you notes.  Thank you notes are a concrete way to express gratitude, often to someone who isn’t expecting it – a former teacher, an aging relative, an admired adult.  One thank you note a week during Lent is a modest, but meaningful goal.  And it has the power to touch the lives of both the sender and the receiver.

PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE

This one is pretty obvious.  Lot’s of young people probably quit or limit social media for Lent.  That’s great.  I’m not asking my kids to give up all social media.  And I don’t want them to give it up just to be able to say they gave up something in the Lent.  I want them to make better use of their time in general.  By limiting social media, they will have more time for prayer, spiritual reading, or just being quiet before God. What better way to grow closer to Him?  How much should they limit?  I think I’ll leave that up  to each of them.  My prayer is that they will make space for God.

COVER YOUR MIRROR

Apparently, this is an idea that is taking hold this Lenten season.  Wow!  I admire any young lady who can go a month without looking in the mirror.  For those who aren’t quite ready to go to that extreme, I suggest looking in the mirror less – say only in the morning before leaving the house and not again the rest of the day.

FREE YOURSELF FROM SELFIES

Like looking too much in the mirror, the paradox of the selfies is that they are vain both pride (Hey! Look at me!) and their insecurity (Please, please, look at me).  Spending 40 days not being overly concerned about what others think sounds like a great way to develop spiritually.

READ GOOD BOOKS

Obviously spiritual reading – the Bible, the lives of the Saints, stories from the mission field are a powerful addition to anyone’s Lenten disciplines, but I’d also like to see my children read some classic literature during Lent.  I know.  I know. Lent is not about getting them to do what I want them to do, but developing a taste for literature that draws our senses to what is true and beautiful is a worthwhile pursuit any time of the year.  Why not make Lent a time to let God develop in us a taste for what is lovely and true in literature instead of what is ugly and common and popular.  Haley who blogs at Carrots for Michaelmas suggests 10 Book to Read With Your Daughter So She Doesn’t Turn Out Like That Horrid Girl From Twilight.

IF YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING NICE, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL

Of course we should always avoid gossip and unkind talk, but sometimes we forget that this rule applies even when it’s people we don’t know.  For some reason we feel totally free to make catty remarks about a stranger’s outfit or a celebrity’s weight.  After all, we don’t know them and they don’t know us.  What can it hurt?  But poison is poison.  Why put it out there?

I’m not sure which, if any, of the things on this list my children will choose.  The point is not for them to make themselves miserable or the “accomplish” some Lenten chores. But Lent is a time set apart.  Our lives should be different during these days to remind us that because of Him our lives are different.  We are different.  Yes, we are called to go with Christ into the desert.  But if we come out smug in our own spiritual toughness (and 5 lbs thinner), we’ve missed the point.  We go into the desert to be with our Lord.  We do this through prayer but also by being willing to shed those things which we hold dear but that might (or might not) keep us from loving Him fully.

As a parent it is my job to guide my children to choose meaningful Lenten practices.  It’s a big job. The grace’s offered to us during this time are boundless, and I don’t want my kids to miss out.  Hey! I just thought of one more thing to add to my Lenten journey – praying for my children’s Lenten journey.

Look how open she is!

Look how open she is!

Shared at

The Prairie Homestead

Mostly Homemade Mondays

Keeping Love in Lent

CBN Lent LinkUp

Facing YPS…

LC:

Yesterday I posted a little about YPS, today I wrote an entire post about it over at my other blog. Check it out!

Originally posted on Charming Farming:

Last weekend I took my daughters shopping. It was one of those glorious February days when God gives us a little sneak preview of what is to come. It was sunny and 70 degrees, and everywhere we went people were in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. They were riding bikes and eating at outdoor cafes. Everyone seemed more alert, happy, and hopeful.

Well, that is everyone except me.  The sudden onset of warm weather and the realization of impending swimsuit season forced me to face a difficult reality. Charming Friends, I suffer from YPS.  Yoga Pants Syndrome  is a serious  condition that affects millions of women each year.  YPS primarily effects women over the age of 30. School teachers, stay-at-home moms, and women whose jobs are affected by the weather are most prone to YPS; however, it can strike at any age regardless of occupation.  This heartbreaking problem is caused…

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Blogging My Way to Sainthood…

Today is the day!  Seven Posts in Seven Days!  When I read about Jen Fulwiler’s link up extravaganza, I was so excited! My blogging has been a bit sluggish lately, and I’m sure this seven day link-a-thon will be just what I need to get going. But the thing is, I’m not going. At least not on blog posts, at least not yet.

My weekend did not exactly go as I had envisioned it.  After giving my family the heads up about my need for some one on one time with my computer, I had high expectations for a little ME time. (Their blank stares should have tipped me off.) In my mind I would spend the better part of the weekend indoors reading and writing, with the only the faint sounds of my children playing outside and the soft tapping of my fingers flying across my keyboard to keep me company. I envisioned take out food and and my husband peeking his head into the bedroom door every few hours to say, “How’s it going, Hon? Can I get you anything?”  It was a nice dream.

But instead my weekend, as usual, was not my own. (If only I could have seen that coming.)  As I lay awake last night trying to decide if should get up and write instead of just tossing and turning, I thought about what I did do all weekend. What really kept me from writing even a single post or reading more than a few pages from the book I hope to review?  I once heard that people trying to lose weight keep of journal of everything they eat to try to track patterns and motivations for their eating habits.   Maybe this same technique will work with distractions.  Here are just a few of the high priority tasks that threw me off track this weekend.

I shopped for throw pillows.  Don’t judge.  At the time it seemed crucial. My daughters are 12 and 15, and about the only thing they agree on lately is that their room is boring and babyish. Fair enough. So when a little rearranging of the furniture and packing up the American Girl dolls and stuffed animals didn’t have the transformative effect they were hoping for, I agreed to buy them a few new accessories to punch up their room. I thought some funky new throw pillows would be an inexpensive and easy way to do the trick. I was so,so wrong. Have you shopped for throw pillows lately!  Unless we wanted pillows that looked like we won them throwing darts at the county fair, I had to let go of a little more cash than I had planned and the girls had to break open their piggy banks.  The girls also had to engage in their traditional arguing and bargaining before they could agree.  Also, since the nearest cool pillow store is an hour away from our little farm town, this outing took the better part of the day.   Oh well at least I was able to kill two errands with one 120 mile round trip.

So, I also shopped for crickets too.  And I guess I did my good deed for the day too.  Frank the Gecko will not die.  Not on my watch!

I returned a goat.  Several weeks ago we borrowed a goat.  Without going into all the details, I will tell you, boy goats stink.  They stink real bad.  For this reason we don’t keep one on the farm – except for when our gals are, shall we say, receptive.  In December when it seemed as though the time for romance was upon us, we borrowed Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, from some friends.  Then it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed.  And we’ve been struck with Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, for weeks. On Sunday when it was sunny and warm, I jumped at the chance to return him to his rightful home and to try to start fumigating the goat barn.

I scoured Pinterest for low carb, healthy recipes.   All that shopping I did with my daughters on Saturday was a grave reminder to me that swimsuit and sundress season are just around the corner. And I am unfortunately suffering from a condition known as YPS.  YPS is a serious and debilitation condition caused by wearing yoga pants (not the same pair) during all of the 18 snow days we endured here in Arkansas.  Yoga Pants Syndrome prevents its victims from realizing the effects of baking cookies and eating popcorn all winter.  Within weeks sufferers from this condition find they can wear nothing but yoga pants.  It’s time to change my ways.  Past time actually.

I ate everyting in our house containing carbs, sugar, and excessive amounts of fat and calories.  That’s what you’re supposed to do before starting a diet right?  Purge.

I watched Downton Abbey.  I CANNOT BELIEVE CARSON AND HUGHES HELD HANDS!!!

I looked for that quote by Saint Francis de Sales about how distractions and frustrations can make you a saint.  I can’t find the quote, but, to paraphrase, he says that all of life’s little frustrations (a bore stops you, a child interrupts you, you burn dinner) do not require a saint, but they are certainly enough to create one.  Lord, please let life’s minor snags make me a saint.

Well, what do you know! Day one of seven done, and with a couple of hours to spare.  Of course tomorrow will have it’s own frustrations and interruptions, but with the help of Saint Francis de Sales, I hope to meet them with grace AND to get a second blog post finished.

 

Shared atThe Prairie Homestead Barn Hop


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