Book Review: Real Love for Real Life

“Home is the school where we learn that love shows itself in the details.”

My friend Laura and I just finished up Andi Ashworth’s Real Love for Real Life: the Art and Work of Caring. I wanted to take this opportunity to heartily recommend it.

We live in a culture that has largely farmed out caretaking to paid individuals, and Andi posits that perhaps this shift has undermined the value of unpaid caretaking. Whether it be to our children, our parents, or our neighbors and friends, special care in the mundane (and the not-so-mundane) can feel like an overlooked skill.

Parenting is the most obvious battleground for this struggle. Who hasn’t felt as though no one notices or appreciates their efforts in care for needy little ones or the home in which they live? Andi encourages us on the road of day-in and day-out caring for our kids. Keeping our eyes on Christ, who gave His life to serve, we can find encouragement and endurance for the road ahead.

Andi reminds us of the value of taking time to celebrate as a family in recounting her family’s annual Valentine’s dinner. She gives examples of hospitality to strangers and neighbors. She recounts friends’ faithfulness in preparing for her son’s rehearsal dinner at their homeReal Love for Real LIfe. She also reminds us of the importance of prayer in care for people.

Reading this book, I felt called back to the wisdom present in Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art. Andi encourages caretakers in creativity and the careful art of fostering homes and environments designed as havens for those who shelter there.

All the while, Andi maintains an eye towards balancing the need for rest and play amidst the tasks that might fill our days. I found her perspective on saying “no” — to many good things, in order to say “yes” to the best things — refreshing.

The book also provides a sweet glimpse into the life at Art House, where Andi and her husband Charlie Peacock (“Chuck”) encourage artists and musicians with hospitality and prayer. I’ve been an observer of their ministry for years, so this element of the book was a treat for me.

Rabbit Room Press was responsible for the reissuing of this gem. You can buy it here.

Inkwell 2014

S.D. Smith, Story Warden

S.D. Smith, Story Warren

This past weekend, our family went to an all-day conference together. It was sponsored by those good people at Story Warren, and I feel truly blessed that it happened right here in Charlotte.

If you don’t know Story Warren, it’s a site dedicated to helping parents and kids foster “holy imagination.” If you have kids in your life in any way, shape, or form, this site should be on the short list of ones you visit.

The day was split up into four breakout sessions (poetry, music, story, and illustration), with a general session at each end. I circulated with my two youngest children, so that meant we went to Story with Andrew Peterson first. Andrew just finished up his Wingfeather Saga (the last volume of which doesn’t release until next month, but you can get your hands on it now, here).

What I loved about this conference was that it was a little bit of teaching and a lot of doing. Andrew talked about why we create — why we write stories. We are people in a story. God wrote us in His story. Then he picked up a whiteboard marker and started writing a story with all the kids in the room participating. Little faces lit up as a world grew before our eyes: the planet Symperion, where the sun rises in the north and sets in the south, the sky is purple, and people pay for things with bones instead of money.

When you're writing a poem about a spaghetti monster, it helps to know what it sounds like.

When you’re writing a poem about a spaghetti monster, it helps to know what spaghetti sounds like.

Each session was that way:  some instruction and a lot of “doing.” The kids ate it up. How inspiring is it to walk around a conference and happen across a boy not that much older than you who is doing commissioned illustrations? Or to take part in writing a Scripture song? It makes things possible that our standardized-test, grade-oriented culture wants to squash.

After a break for dinner, we ended the day with a concert from Randall Goodgame doing Slugs ‘N Bugs, and Andrew Peterson playing a bunch of his songs. Riches poured out before us!

Here’s Randall performing “Two Shirts,” a song that he recorded with the African Children’s Choir. We have all the Slugs ‘N Bugs albums, but the latest, “Sing the Bible,” is far and away the favorite around here.

Violet Tulip Olympia Beijing

Your brothers wanted to call you Violet Tulip.  They thought two flowers for a girl’s name was beautiful.

Since you came during the opening ceremonies to the 2008 Olympics, on the luckiest day in China, 8/8/08, I thought we might call you Olympia Beijing.

Despite all these great ideas, Maddie fits you better.  Happy 4th Birthday to our most favorite daughter.  We love you!

Fantasy vs. Reality

The fantasy: 

Every homeschool teacher has her ideal planning environment.  For some, it is a quiet house with the children off at friends’ homes.  The computer is free for the access and the printer is nearby.  It’s a chance to reorganize the bookshelves, sort through unnecessary stuff, and feel settled and established.

For others, it is a day at a favorite local coffee spot with books, planners, and a laptop spread out on a big table, basking in the sunshine streaming through a window and Patty Griffin crooning in the background.

Last week, I was able to have a day like the first scenario given.  A friend took my kids for the day even though she has four of her own, and I was able to plow through a good amount of work for the year ahead.

But I still needed to spend time with my books and my planner.  Was I able to live my dream?  Did I spend the day at Amelie’s in that sunny spot?

Well, not quite.

The reality:

“Oh, look!  This shirt has a hood on it.”

Milestones

Sorry for my absence these last weeks.  This is why I have doubts about my ability to be a “professional” blogger…I like the freedom to just disappear for a couple weeks and not feel guilty about it.

Anyway, we had VBS and my mom came to visit.  We celebrated quite a few milestones in the last few weeks.

One little girl turned three…

 Here is the birthday girl in the middle of her two buddies, Alexa (l) and Elisabetta (r).

 Last weekend David and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary with a dinner cruise on Lake Norman.

Yesterday we started school.  It’s my fifth year officially homeschooling.
More to come…

Watermelon

 It is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.
– Mark Twain, in Pudd’nHead Wilson

One Thousand Gifts 7.25.11

138. I just looked at my calendar for last week to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  It was quite full last week, and I would like to first of all express my gratitude that I was able to meet my heavy load of commitments without losing it.  Not a joke.  Thank you, Lord.
139. a houseful of men praying
140. quiet prayer times with my journal
141. the Word — living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword
142. renewed commitment to staying accountable, striving towards self-control and discipline
143. a great week at camp for the boys — Ben went down the zipline even though he was terrified
144. Cameron’s steady progress in piano, and a wonderful teacher who is worth the drive
145. Cam’s striving to understand the sermon better. On his own. Without me pushing him.  (when will I learn to just calm down and stop freaking out about things?!)
146. Air conditioning in the ugly-hot days of July
147. a new trampoline
148. our pumpkin is turning orange
149. enough basil for bi-weekly pesto
150. time playing with little Haddon…he is so sweet 🙂
151. watching Maddie go out of her way to get a laugh out of Ella…it doesn’t take much
152. the gift of time…right on time, never late, and learning to trust God to provide it