Not long ago, several friends — the most kindred of kindred spirits — read Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson. Unanimously, they acclaimed and recommended it.
At various times and with various words, they repeated, “Tina! You must read this book! You would love it!”
As I sometimes do, however, I grew contrary. I did what we are universally told not to do and judged the book by its cover.
At close quarters and in extended confinement, even the most congenial and compatible of personalities can begin to clash, as many of us have assuredly relearned in this strange “Season of COVID.”
This very uptick in irritability, however, also represents a dearworthy opportunity to grow in humility, to seek to understand the souls around us a wee bit better, and to acknowledge our own weaknesses a little more forthrightly.
The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art and Laraine Bennett can aid us in the effort. In it, the authors apply the framework of the four classical temperaments to children and offer specific suggestions to harmonize the parent-child relationship.
Note: “On This Shelf: An Affirmation of Vocation” has lain dormant for more than a year. We’ve welcomed a fourth baby in that time and, while I have less time to write than ever, I somehow always find time to read. Heretofore, then, I’ll devote “On This Shelf” to book reviews. I begin with “The Life-Giving Home” by Sally and Sarah Clarkson because it is, quite spectacularly, “an affirmation of vocation.”
“The world is thy ship and not thy home,” says St. Thérèse of Lisieux. As a panic-inducing pandemic sweeps the globe, this fact is well worth remembering. We have always been and will always be subject to illness and death — but this mortality need not be a cause for despair. The very doom that stalks us also summons us to hope, for, as C.S. Lewis once so memorably put it, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” On this earth, the insatiable desire for life meets death at every turn — unless and until we understand this time on earth as a pilgrimage and death as a passage into new life.
Then, even on this earth, we can find rest and refuge. As we travel light, holding the things of the earth loosely in our minds and hearts, cleaving to the Creator, placing ourselves lovingly at the service of the bright eternal souls that surround us, sudden vistas of suggestive beauty will greet our tired minds and refresh our weary bones.
Very often, these glimpses of the eternal will appear, paradoxically, at home.
Last night, three hard-working men dug four new flower beds in our backyard. Thus commenced great excitement from the children and agonized indecision from me about filling said beds!
While we sat at the breakfast table, I floated a few ideas about potential flowers to plant.
“We could plant geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue), like in the poem!”
For the past couple of days, I’ve battled an apparent throat infection coupled with unusual body aches. It’s not unusual for me to fall into self-pity, and I have today.
Then, this afternoon, our hot water heater ceased to function. Now, I’m not normally the unshowered stay-at-home mom of popular stereotype, but I’d not showered since Sunday for a variety of reasons (the chief of which was the aforementioned sickness). I really, really wanted and needed to take a shower today.
So, I did — and I learned anew just how grateful I am for hot showers … and healthful meals … and potable water … and my cozy bed … and our beautiful home … and my precious family.
After several friends texted me about One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler, I purchased and rapidly read the book. In it, Fulwiler writes with all her trademark humor about the complementarity of family life and the cultivation of a “blue flame” — a particular pursuit so essential to a person that it not only makes her more herself as she pursues it, but also more herself as she fulfills her familial vocation.
It might be that my “blue flame” is writing, but it might also be that my “blue flame” is creating order and beauty in our home because I’m not at all sure I could endure the level of chaos and disarray I’d need to embrace to be able to write with any kind of real regularity.
Nevertheless, life in our little household has been so marked by milestones lately that I feel compelled to record them somewhere, however briefly and imperfectly:
Whew, does “this shelf” need dusting! Last week, I threw open the curtains and cracked the window … and, boy, did it reveal how neglected this space has been! My own home, husband and children have been less neglected (if not necessarily perfectly attended), however, so I really can’t regret the time I’ve not devoted to writing!
Incidentally, do you agree with my dear Auntie Leila that a woman ought to devote herself first and foremost to her Lord, her husband, her children and, ahem, her home, whatever else she chooses to do with her remaining free time? She created quite a dust-up (no pun intended!) with what I thought was a fairly innocuous, self-evident suggestion!
Carrying on …