Humble Roots Review

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“Feeling worn thin? Come find rest.” The invitation on the back of the book succinctly summarizes the lovely message, but there is so much more within its pages. In Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes the Soul, Hannah Anderson has written a meditative volume that peels away the insidious pride in our lives as the source of much of our anxiety and stress over our limitations.

Hannah is a relatable friend from her very first words, “I was done. I had reached my limit.” I could have written the first chapter describing the spiritual exhaustion, changing only a few circumstantial details. I suspect there are many of us out there, moving from one day to the next in an effort to just survive the many to-do’s on our agenda. Fortunately, Hannah goes beyond defining the problem and opens our eyes to the solution.

As a home school mom and Registered Nurse who has worked 12 hour shifts nearly every weekend for the last fifteen years, I am quite familiar with the sense of overwhelmed chaos that carries days into weeks and then what seems like weeks straight into years. Some of my favored verses during this season of my life have been these found in  Matthew 11:28-29:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Hannah digs deep into the fullness of that rest as we learn to be like Jesus, who was meek and humble, not filled with the constant anxieties of how to get it all done or the nagging worries of what others might be thinking. Soothing analogies from the garden relate scriptural principles of growth and nurturing. Humble Roots is a deep watering of the roots of the soul, and a rejuvenation for the wilted and sun-beaten traveler.

A special source of delight are the illustrations that preface each chapter. Michelle Berg Radford captured the wild beauty in the botanical drawings with fabulous detail. I particularly love the blackberry vine at the beginning of chapter 10, Thorns and Thistles, the depiction a reflection on life with its notoriously harsh thorns and lush, sweet fruit.

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I read with a highlighter in my hand as truth spoke to me time and again. Even though Hannah has an appealing conversational voice, I found myself needing to ingest a chapter at a time, so I could reflect on it and sometimes share it with someone. She includes many rich quotes from spiritual fathers such as C.S. Lewis and Andrew Murray that made me want to jump up and embroider them on a pillow. One of my favorites by Lewis was stated as her goal for Part II of her book, which said this: “…to get ‘rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.” Understand that the message is not one of shame and low self-esteem, but rather one of finding your value in your identity as a creation of the God of the universe instead of in your accomplishments or talents.

It seems counter-intuitive that pride and perfectionism are not the solution, but the problem. We live in a society that values achievement and the accolades that accompany them. But the constant striving to do more, to be more, to have more is driving us to exhaustion and frustration. Hannah’s message is not that we should stop trying, but that we need to stop seeing ourselves as the shoulders upon which the world rests. Humble Roots is a refreshing reminder that we aren’t meant to carry problems that are too big for us, and our attempts to do so are foolish pride.

*I was blessed to be part of the launch team for Humble Roots as it came at a time in my life that I desperately needed to hear its message. In the interest of full disclosure, I was not compensated for this review other than a free copy. My opinions are my own, and expressed with authenticity. 

 

 

When You Can’t Even

Last week was a doozy.  In fact, that could probably describe the theme for the whole of 2016, but we’ll stick to last week, here. My husband’s truck decided to die as he backed it into the driveway. A dog that I was responsible for puppy-sitting escaped from me less than two hours after he arrived and promptly made a mad dash out of our quiet neighborhood, down the two lane country road outside, and all the way to the busy highway. You can guess the outcome of that episode. My dishwasher washed its last dish, surprising me with a load of dirty dishes from the night before.  After a doctor’s appointment, I was way late for the chemistry class that I teach at our homeschool co-op, leading me to attempt to climb the stairs like the Olympic sprinter that I am NOT, thus tripping and falling UP the stairs and badly breaking my toe. Yet, I am somehow supposed to count it all joy and give thanks.

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How do you give thanks when thorns pierce and exhaustion sets in? Can I really be joyful when it seems like everything is going wrong and life seems harder than it should be? The barb stands front and center in my field of vision, and all I can see is the unyielding brown vine punctuated with a cruel point.181

At every turn, with forced cheerfulness I announced the most positive thought I could muster. If the truck was going to quit on us, at least it did it in the driveway and not on the road. If I had to give up an appliance, the dishwasher would have been my pick. I can wash dishes in the sink. Clothes, not so much. If I was going to break something, I sure am glad it was just a toe and not my ankle. I’m still working on one for the dog. My usual tactic in those situations is to think of something worse that could have happened and be thankful it didn’t. But are these really what it means to count it all joy?

Maybe we are supposed to be looking for the lovely in our lives by surveying the full picture. If I am counting it ALL joy, shouldn’t I be regarding the whole? The thorns are out there, yes. But they are part of our beautiful existence.

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 Count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.~ James 1:2-3

Three Steps to Recovery When the World is Pressing Hard

1.  Pray hard. It is my first response even if it’s a quickly whispered plea in the midst of chaos. Prayer settles my soul as I pause to breathe and remove myself from the immediate drama of my circumstances. Remembering that it’s not ultimately up to me, that I do not have control over my circumstances but that I do have a say in how I am going to respond is calming. Ephesians 6:18 says, “…  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

2. Keep it in perspective. Recognize that our lives are made of many seasons. Some are filled with joyful occasions, like the birth of a child, or the beginning of a new career. Other times we struggle to adjust to changes or to balance the budget. When we allow a myopic view of our problems to dominate every day, we fail to see anything else. If we lie on our bellies and follow the ant’s movements across our red checked blanket, we miss the fried chicken and friends. He’s only a problem if we don’t flick him away. Sure, he may return. He may even bring an army with him. But if the ant is the most memorable part of your day at the park, maybe you need to change your outlook. 

3.. Persevere.  Years ago, we moved to this house into a world of trouble. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, you can somewhat relate to the comedic circumstances of that decision. Clearly, it worked out because we are still here. In the midst of trials that included a range of delights- from discovering that the septic tank appeared to have never been pumped since the dawn of time to the fact that the previous owners had been creative geniuses with “repairing” holes in the walls by filling them with wads of newspaper covered with Laura Ashley wallpaper, I was over it. The day our church newsletter arrived in the mail, I immediately clipped the memory verses and slipped it under the edge of a refrigerator magnet. The yellowing slip of paper continues to remind me of an important truth in any situation. Most importantly, it is a symbol that God hears and responds to me, even when He chooses to allow circumstances to remain.

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Farm Day Fun

Hurricane Matthew’s harsh winds have relented, and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are relieved, though we were never in the kind of mortal danger that our coastal friends fled to seek refuge with us for a day or two. Even here, where the smoky silhouette of mountain ranges stand proudly just up the road and the ocean is a four hour drive away, the fall-crisped leaves shook like a thousand maracas just outside my windows. Out my window, the many old hardwoods stand still once again, letting sunlight filter through the burgeoning oranges and reds. A beagle sounds a half-bark, half-howl from the neighbor’s yard, and then silence is restored. Harvest-time and thankfulness await us in the weeks ahead, and there’s no better place to live it than a local farm day.

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As our world becomes more complicated by the very advances that allow us to accomplish more and faster, people are intuitively seeking ways to hold onto the simple, good things in life. The old ways certainly aren’t easier, but that is part of the charm. Ironically, we have lost something along the way as we have figured out how to avoid work. The  meticulous process of plowing and sowing a field, waiting and protecting it, cultivating the plants, and finally harvesting fulfilled a need in us to invest in something bigger than ourselves, and to provide essentials for life to our families. Visiting a working, old -fashioned farm salvages what has been nearly lost in this age of drive thru fries and online orders at the big-box store.

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Here in the all-too-quickly developing rural south, we still have a couple of farms nearby who open their property to the community at harvest time. Around late October or early November every year, my family piles into the van and heads to a beautiful farm where they still use horses for most of the work. A large number of local craftsmen and women participate, demonstrating hand-quilting, churning butter and making soap while crowds look on in appreciation.

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A fabulous hands-on experience awaits with antique tools such as a wash-board and ringer, cast iron clothes iron on a wooden board, and a beautiful pottery butter churn at stations while a willing teacher shares memories and instructions.

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Docile farm animals invite eager hands to pet them.

This particular farm is well-known for its sorghum molasses, crafted entirely in the old way from the planting and harvesting of cane to a horse-drawn molasses mill. The process is fascinating to watch, and the free samples are all the convincing you need to purchase a quart Mason jar of the thick brown confection.

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A timber-framed and pegged Amish-built barn draws admirers in to gaze up at the finely crafted rafters. The earthy scent of hay and horses hangs heavy in the air, and children dash from one bale to the next, exclaiming in delight. Soft neighing and nickering drifts from nearby stalls, reminding visitors that this is a home, and not just a tourist attraction.

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A day spent wandering the grounds of this place brings healing to my soul. The effects of a constant barrage of email alerts and discouraging news headlines fades and is replaced by the serenity of purple mountains majesty standing strong and proud, wind gently caressing my hair, and the sounds of people interacting face to face and laughing together as they recount memories of how things used to be. Maybe if we try, we can hold on to just a little piece of it, even as we move forward.

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Falling in Love with Home

Fall. The word itself evokes a sense of coziness and an urge to sit with my knees drawn to my chest and a warm mug of coffee cocooned in my hands. The morning air startles me with a slight chill as I step out onto the screened porch with a delusional Yorkie who is desperate to catch the fat but nimble squirrel on the deck. By noon I’ll be wearing shorts and blasting the ac in my oh-so-awesome Sienna, but I’ll take it while I can. We have the best of both worlds here in the south, really.

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This time of year more than any other makes me want to burrow into my little nest with my people. Fall decorations are my favorite with multi-colored leaves, baskets, and fat orange pumpkins. Yellow mums pop like sunshine against the red brick steps on my porch (assuming I don’t forget to water them. Again.) A vintage quilt as varied as Joseph’s coat tossed across a rocking chair invites me to actually sit for a minute and just be.

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Say what you will about the pumpkin spice craze, but there’s a reason for it. Pumpkin spice creamer in hot coffee makes a breakfast dessert (is that a thing?) Then there are the donuts, umber-colored and dusted with sugar and spice and everything nice. Pumpkin ice cream tops warm apple pie like nobody’s business. Pumpkin scented candles are like tiny bonfires you can burn right on your desk while they fragrance your home, and who in their right mind doesn’t love that idea?

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October offers a tiny lull in this interim between summer pool parties and holiday festivities. A comforting rhythm ticks off the days as big yellow buses crawl along the road filled with rambunctious children morning and afternoon. The school bus doesn’t stop here since our school can’t be contained in brick and mortar, but it reminds us that we are part of the same cadence. My final home school senior and I linger over bowls of Cheerios and mugs of coffee as we ponder the Lost Colony and its fate, why penny candy no longer costs a penny, and whether the new SAT represents a fair scale by which to judge a person’s potential. Dual enrollment classes at a local university fill out our afternoons, and then sooner every day,  the sun slips low behind the rim of woods around our home.

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My mom always reminds me that, “A house is just a house, but it takes a whole lot of living to make a home.” We have lived a lot of seasons in this particular house, and it has become the epicenter for all the parts that make the whole. But the real heart of home is in the gathering, and the sharing, and the laughing- and sometimes crying. As the leaves begin to let go, the sense of melancholy that fall seems to carry with it makes the anchor of home so much sweeter. We need the retreat from the brisk evening air into a kitchen that smells like homemade potato soup and sounds like love. In a world overrun with chiming reminders to check email and screens that cast a pallor on our faces, we are desperate for rest. Fall is God’s way of bringing us into that place of rest and joy in the harvest, whether you grew vegetables or, more importantly, as a family.

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A Revelation

It occurs to me as I lie here in a recliner,  forced into stillness by a shoulder surgery this week,  that my family is right when they say that I do not take time for myself. I tend to think,  and rather pridefully, that the world will stop spinning on its axis if I cease my frenzy. And so,  as others have just watched the finale of Downton Abbey, I have had to start over with the season one DVD because it has been so long since I saw an episode,  I needed to be reintroduced.  Who has had time for the guilty pleasure of watching something just for me?
My blog is deserted, even though I think about it in the corner of my mind where all of my unfinished projects haunt me. There’s always something more important, more pressing, to do.  Laundry, clean bathrooms, preparation for the chemistry class I teach at co-op, my job at the hospital as a nurse with its incessant demands, homeschool lessons, dirty bathrooms… And yet,  all of those things still exist as I sit sidelined,  and somehow the world is still clicking right along while I sit here with one arm in a sling and Lady Mary snubbing Cousin Matthew on my flat screen. Huh. Imagine that.

Saturday is NOT a Day Off!

Sleeping in,  you say?  What’s that like?  It’s Saturday. A rainy, dark Saturday with wind blowing small trees into feathery arcs bending and waving wildly.  A steady staccato lulls me back into unconsciousness even as my hand reluctantly leaves the blankets to shush my alarm clock for the third time.  I force my eyes open and roll from the bed, my feet thudding onto the carpet. It’s Saturday.

I spend almost all of them this way.  It’s the choice we made when we decided thirteen years ago to home educate our children.   But then some well-meaning friend posts a cute reminder on Facebook to remember that there are only 940 Saturdays between my children’s births and their eighteenth birthdays.  And my heart feels like it just collapsed into a smashed prune, for just a few minutes, as I contemplate the loss of all those glorious Saturday mornings with snuggles and cartoons and picnics and mundane trips to Target.

And then I remember. There is nothing magical about Saturdays unless you have also squandered the Mondays-Fridays. There may be 940 Saturdays, but there are approximately 5,634 other days to read stories, eat ice cream, have tickle fights, kiss little noses, go to Target, and have discussions that fill your heart with more love than it can hold. So make every day count- whether or not you can call its name “Saturday.”

Family time spent carving pumpkins on a day that wasn't a Saturday- about 2,555 days ago!
Family time spent carving pumpkins on a day that wasn’t a Saturday- about 2,555 days ago!

(And guess what just happened? Saturday just slipped into Sunday before I could get this posted, because I was enjoying watching a football game on the couch with my crazy bunch even if the day did mostly consist of being a nurse instead of a mom!)

Summer of Sprucing up the Homestead- Ruffled Curtains DIY!

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Sitting on the screened porch with the sounds of my pool’s filtering system humming, birds calling, and squirrels rattling the leafy branches above me, project plans race through my mind. I have been at a stand-still on my kitchen ever since the post with the before pictures in January. Between homeschooling, my daughter, teaching a chemistry class at our co-op, driving a child back and forth to college classes for the past two months after his car inexplicably decided to die, leading a ladies’ Bible study through Esther (AWESOME!), working 12 hour days on weekends (even some extra shifts) taking care of MORE people at the hospital, and just generally trying to keep my house going, I had not found time to sew my curtains and finish what we started. (Lazy. That’s how I felt when I had any spare time. Flat out LAZY. My husband says it’s called TIRED.) Until now.

Last week, I had a ball sewing the cutest ruffle curtains to go in my kitchen. And at last there is color. I still have a few things to do to the kitchen, but here are my curtains along with a little tutorial on how to make some yourself, if you get an urge. If you do find yourself with an urge, I would like to encourage you to act on it quickly. Summer has a way of sucking us into a heat-induced semi-coma that leaves us sitting on the front porch sipping ice tea and watching those afore-mentioned squirrels playing tag in the yard. At least that is my idea of a nice evening here in the south. Y’all might have different plans if you are not so fortunate as to live here. Anyway, here is the finished product, along with the pictorial.

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So, let’s get started. This is not a hard project, even for a beginner, but it does require a little patience to get all these ruffles ruffled without getting a little ruffled yourself. Sorry. It was too easy.

  1. Step one is really just cutting a basic flat panel to the measurements of your window that serves as a backdrop for all those pretty little pieces of fabric that make your ruffles. I used a piece of white heavy cotton that I had in my sewing cabinet left over from who-knows-what. I don’t have a picture of this because I was not concentrating on making my blog post when I started this project. It just occurred to me as I got into it that someone might want to make one, and I should tell them how. So hopefully, you are comfortable cutting a rectangle to the measurements that you want and hemming it all around. Fold down the top and make a pocket for your rod. So don’t forget to allow room for said hem and pocket when you measure and cut. Now, let’s get to the fun part.
  2. Step two- Think about how many ruffles you will need to fill your panel. If you want to use several colors, like I did, lay out your fabric and see what order you think looks best. Don’t put two tiny prints together, or it may look too busy. I separated my checks and polka dots with a bigger print. The measurements for the height of each ruffle can vary, but a good height would be 7 inches tall. I cut two 7″ strips across the width of the fabric for each layer of ruffles. (For the one on the back door, I did 10″ tall strips because I wanted it to be longer and cover the window. I don’t like people seeing me in my jammies drinking coffee at 10am when they come to my door. I mean 6am. Definitely not 10am.) My fabric was 45″ wide, which is pretty standard for cottons, and I had to sew two strips end to end for each layer. You need each ruffle to start out being about two and half times the width of your panel so that when you gather it, it will be nice and fluffy. Wimpy ruffles just aren’t as appealing. Again, sorry about the lack of photo evidence for this step. In the next step, my brain kicked in for a blog post, and I began to take pics.
  3. Step three- after you have sewn the strips end to end (see previous step), it’s time to get out ye olde iron and begin ironing down a small hem around the sides and bottom of the strip. Don’t bother hemming the top. I never bother to measure, fold, and pin the hem on things like this, because it is so much easier and pretty accurate for me to just use my left hand to fold/roll the hem as I follow it with my iron. Unless it’s a dress. Then it freaks me out not to measure and get my hem straight. But not for this project, because ruffles are so gathered, you aren’t going to be assessing the hem for perfection. Anyway, here’s a photo of me, ironing a piece. Because you might want to look at it. And now is a good time for a break for your eyes from all of these words anyway.IMG_8941 IMG_8940
  4. So now that you have ironed nice, crisp edges, you can hem them all around using matching thread. Use matching thread. We don’t want tacky hems. Then comes the fun part. Set your sewing machine’s straight stitch to the longest stitch, because now we are going to make a basting stitch across the unfinished top edge. When you reach the end of the stitch, don’t back-stitch. Just stitch right to the end, leave a few inches and cut. Oh! And I did this in two sections because that is a really long way to stitch and pray that it doesn’t break. To reduce the chances of such an occurrence, I stitched to the seam where I had sewn the two pieces together to make one really long piece. Remember that step from above? In other words, I would stop at about the half-way mark with the baste stitch and then start another one.

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    P.S.- Don’t be confused because the fabric changed colors. I am not a wizard. It is just another of the many pieces I used to make ruffles. I told you, I kept forgetting/didn’t want to stop because I was so excited to be finally sewing something again!
  5.  Now comes the fun part. You now take one thread- the bobbin thread- and gently begin to pull it. Now you are a wizard. Your straight, flat strip begins to pucker and gather into an adorable little ruffle. The trick here is to pull slowly so that your thread doesn’t break (don’t even think it!), and stop to carefully move the fabric along the thread, pushing the gathers back to beginning of the piece.

    Ta da! We are back to this color piece! Ignore fabric colors in this tutorial. The steps are in proper order, even if my model keeps changing her clothes.
    Ta da! We are back to this color piece! Ignore fabric colors in this tutorial. The steps are in proper order, even if my model keeps changing her clothes.
  6. Once you have it all gathered to fit the width of your background panel, and you are happy with the way your ruffle looks, (you may need to spread them out a little if you have areas that are flatter than others) it’s time to pin it. For this part, flip your sweet little ruffle wrong side up and upside down on the panel. For the first ruffle, make sure you have place it with the raw, gathered edge just beneath the seam for the curtain rod pocket. It would be a darn tragedy to sew that shut at this point. I would do something crazy like that if I was hyper-focused on something else, like taking careful pics for my blog. I didn’t because I wasn’t. I’ll try to think of you more next time.
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    This is the first layer of ruffles at the top of the panel. Surprise! It really is orange.

     

  7. You can check the pins on the back of the panel and see if you have it on straight. IMG_8953Now that you have it pinned, carefully sew it to the panel. Don’t forget to shorten your stitch setting on your machine so that it will hold to the panel. A basting stitch wouldn’t do a good job of that. Then all this tedious ruffle making would be down the drain. And you would be mad. And your curtain would be a Pinterest fail, which might at least be good for a few good laughs. Also, when you get to the subsequent layers of ruffles, be careful not to sew a ruffle that folded back on the panel to the back of it. Picking out errant stitches is a pain in the you-know-what. Ask me how I know. I guess I was thinking of my blog some. And no, there is no picture of that moment.
  8. For the next layer, pin the piece again, face-down and upside down. Have it overlap the edge of the one above by just a little bit so that the panel behind it is covered. I should have overlapped my top two pieces just a wee bit more, but it turned out okay. The bottom ruffle should hang just past the bottom of the panel.

    Let the hem of the second piece overlap the raw edge of the one above it just a little to cover the white panel and prevent it from peeking through.
    Let the hem of the second piece overlap the raw edge of the one above it just a little to cover the white panel and prevent it from peeking through.
  9. When you have sewn your last piece on and all the fluffy adorable-ness delights you like a flamenco dancer, you can lay the whole panel on the ironing board and iron down just the top, teensy edge of each ruffle so that they lay nicely. Like maybe the top quarter inch or so. you don’t want to iron the whole thing. or you’ll end up with a bunch of mashed down, creased fabric that looks like someone slept on it when you weren’t looking. And just like that, you have a cute new window treatment!
    Remember- just a teensy edge! No need to squash it!
    Remember- just a teensy edge! No need to squash it!

    And here again, is the finished product! IMG_8979