Prayer, Work, Study

rainbow 2A balanced life is an opportunity to live to our fullest potential. I love the monastic ideal of dividing the day between the three core needs of our lives: prayer, work, and study.

As a family we punctuate our day with prayer in the morning, at meals, at noon, and in the evening. Of course, I am frequently tossing prayers up to heaven for a variety of daily mini-disasters or concerns. Yesterday, some of the kids and I spent an hour in Adoration. It was one of the fastest hours of my life.  There is a lot to pray for in this world of ours, and it is wonderful that we have such a loving God to call upon, knowing that he will listen and respond. The key is joyful prayer is to allow God to be God and not set Him by our clocks.

Work is also a large part of our day.  Today three of the kids helped a neighbor to gather in a hefty wood supply.  We all helped to stack the wood so it’ll be dried and ready for next winter.  A couple of the kids worked on planting seeds for the spring garden, and one of the kids made zucchini bread. Everyone worked hard today.  Everyone will sleep well tonight.

And finally, study is one of the most enjoyable activities of the day.  Each of the kids has a full curriculum to draw from, but book learning isn’t the only kind of earning that matters. We also learn by responding to daily needs.  Learning to cook, to fix broken tools, to take care of animals, to organize our supplies for the year, to balance a budget are all invaluable learning experiences. It is fun to study history, to read and write, to tease out math problems, but learning is like breathing, it happens without even knowing it.  The key is to make sure that you are learning things which improve and inspire your life rather than being dragged down by the negative influences around us.

A balanced life of prayer, work and study have been the best recipe for joy and contentment in our lives.

~~~

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Real World Disconnect = Despair

autumn11Some people would say that we are more connected to the world than ever, but I wonder if this is really true. I heard a statistic this week that suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. That tragic information made me pause.  Why would teens, in a world full of options, choose to end their lives?

What are kids connected to? Or disconnected from? They are connected to the vast information web, they are connected to sound bytes, superficial relationships built on Facebook and Twitter, they are connected to pictures, images, and sounds, but too often, they’re disconnected to what is happening right in front of them.

What actually feeds us – spiritually and physically?  “You shall be known by your fruit….” I do not get fed by social media interactions. Even e-mail has its limitations. It’s not to say that these technological innovations don’t have their purpose and value. But it is to ask: “What are we crowding out when we engage in them to the exclusion of other forms of human communication and interaction?”

When I took my kids to the lake yesterday and they ran around watching the geese and ducks, sat and enjoyed the sun setting over the water, and played tag down a wooded path, they engaged in a real-world reality check. They absorbed a truth which cannot be improved upon. Joy and health seeped into their beings.

When I go outside and work in the garden, when I take a walk down a country road, when I sit and chat face-to-face with someone, even a stranger, I engage in a real-world reality that cannot be replaced by any technological gadget.

I wonder if that is why some television programs have become so weird. They are reflecting that absence, that disconnect, that xeroxed print, which has been copied too often and become anemic and a little warped in the process.

Perhaps what our teens need is a little more time with natural reality, not “reality” shows. Perhaps what some writers need is to reflect human beings and our real world, and not slapstick, word-bytes meant to get a laugh or jerk a tear.

Perhaps, reality isn’t meant to lead to suicide.

~~~

Mortality Among Teenagers Aged 12-19 Years: United States, 1999-2006. (2010). Retrieved February 20, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db37.htm

 

The Adventures of Tally-Ho

Tally Ho spread 1_smWhile my husband was alive, we came up with a great idea to write a story based on the wonder of raising our kids in the country.  It seemed so right, like an apostolate. We knew we had been blessed in a mighty way, and that God had guided us to our little home and helped us to learn the amazing skills needed to garden and manage a mini-farm.  John took to homesteading like a fish to water.  Other homeschool dads used to call him “Our Amish Paul Bunyan.” So, it felt natural to share our joy and success with others. I wrote stories based on what we did every day: meals, working our little garden, nurturing nature, loving kids…loving God. John was going to create the illustrations since he had a wonderful knack for drawing.  Except he couldn’t.  Leukemia intervened, and that success was put off…forever it seemed.

After he passed away, I felt tugged to see our project through to completion.  But how? God has ways. I’m not sure if John was whispering in anyone’s ear, but somehow or another I met up with a wonderful illustrator who knew exactly what we had imagined. She put her talents to work, and the story unfolded better than I had imagined. It’s been published under the title: The Adventures of Tally-Ho. Tally-Ho was what John called our fourth daughter because she loved to gallop around the house on her imaginary horse. How we used to laugh about that.  What a wonder imagination brings to life!

As I state in the dedication to the story, John’s love made the stories true.  His vision is what made our real-life family possible.  As I contemplate the finished product, I wonder what God will do with this little book.  Surely, He has a plan. I very much doubt that it has anything to do with making money.  I pray it has something to do with loving families.

So Tally-Ho, like a new kid on the block, is finding its way in the world. I pray that it will be a light and joy to souls.  Perhaps it will be a vision of what might be…a hope, a dream, a longing that yearns to be fulfilled. Real dreams don’t die…they grow.

I think John would agree.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Ringshttp://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Sanity

 

autumn leaves fallingSanity

Mom liked to say: “Everyone is crazy, except thee and me. And I’m not so sure about thee.” I knew she was joking, though there was always a shadow of pain in her eyes when she said it. Still, I’d laugh. Like I was supposed to.

I always got up early, when the world was still dark and cold. I’d get everything ready for school, eat a bowl of cereal, and maybe have toast scraped with butter. At promptly seven, I would get her coffee ready, spooning in plenty of sugar and creamer. I could practically taste the dark aroma. She was always pleased with my coffee, which always pleased me. Life was too hard not to make people happy when you had the chance.

On school days, I’d hike up to the bus station and wait, hugging myself, trying to keep off the morning chill. I’d try not to think too much about Mom and her troubles. I had troubles enough.

On the weekends, I would make Mom breakfast with her coffee: usually just an egg and toast. She had simple tastes. Then she’d get up and go about her business and I would head outside to play, sniffing the fresh clean air. I can’t remember studying much. Maybe if I had studied harder, I would have been able to respond better. Maybe I would have understood what she was really trying to say.

It must have been Veteran’s Day or something because I had the day off, and I stayed inside to help Mom make her bed. She was in a good mood; she hadn’t been drinking lately, and she wasn’t brooding over Dad so much. It felt good to pull the sheets tight around the mattress and then spread the blanket smooth. I remember I was wedged between the bed and the wall, the window behind me, when Mom stopped and stared right past me out the window.

I didn’t want to know what she was thinking when she pointed her finger and giggled, an eerie giggle. I only felt cold ripples roll over my arms. She spoke in a hushed tone. “Well, now he’s gone and done it! I didn’t think it was possible.”

I remember the soft sigh I heaved. I didn’t want her to hear it, but I couldn’t help it. It just escaped. She waited for me to ask. So I asked: “What did he do?”

We both knew we were talking about Dad, but it seemed only I knew that it wasn’t about Dad. Mom’s voice projected a certainty that made me look out the window. “He’s gone and turned himself into a Japanese man. Look there.”

I don’t remember what else she said. I just remember looking out the window and seeing no Dad and no Japanese man. I kind of hoped there would be one or the other.

A brown leaf fluttered to the ground, delicately, like sanity. “And I’m not so sure about thee.”

~~~

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Ringshttp://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Love is Life

summer flowers 2015I graduated from college a long time ago.  But I’ve never stopped learning. In fact, as I served in various schools and in Peace Corps and eventually became a home-schooling mother, I have encountered a multitude of new, rather steep, learning curves. Presently, I am learning at a faster rate than ever before.

This past year I learned how to help my son navigate through the difficulties of a long-distance, online college education, and I am presently considering the next three kids’ futures. They are facing a vastly different world than the one I grew up in. Technology is huge and understanding its place in the world is necessary to succeed in pretty much every field. College tuitions are so high now that for one child, I could easily spend more than I did to buy my house. The consequences of accepting loans are considerable. Choices have strings attached and learning everything I can about higher-education options is vitally important for my family’s health.

I have also been learning how to handle the many house and property issues which creep up on a daily basis. I’ve learned to ask for help and hire experts who can solve issues like broken stoves and stuck drainage pipes, but I’ve also learned that there are things which I can do to avoid problems before they arise. The old adage, “A stitch in time….” is very true! It helps to know where the well-pump turn-off value is too.

There was a time when the mere thought of handling large gatherings at meals, organizing classes day-in-and-day-out, and maintaining a bustling home would have sent me into a panic.  But panic really isn’t an option. In every home, the hardest part is being involved in the daily lives of those around you. I should say, being aware of the spiritual welfare of those around you. The “stitch in time” adage applies. As human beings, we go through an incredible amount of change and stress in the course of a day, a week, a month and a lifetime.  What happened yesterday may still color our mood tomorrow. In today’s techno, information overloaded society, this is especially true. Our kids are immersed in a turbulent sea of information and disinformation. Recognizing mood swings, depression, creeping irritation, a deep-seeded sadness, over-arching pride, or a whole host of other emotional and spiritual dangers is vastly important for the success of a family. And deciding which action to take involves another field of expertise. Not something one learns in a day…it takes a lifetime.

But in all these learning experiences, I have found one common ingredient: to care makes learning meaningful. Whether I am learning how to teach, how to fix a faucet, how to love, I know that the most vital aspect of life-long learning is the love with which we approach the situation, be it a lecture or a broken heart.

If I have learned anything, it is that love is life.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

A Dangerous Occupation

needle and threadEarly this afternoon, I took courage in hand and attempted to sew some buttons on a sweater.  Since the nights have been chilly, I thought this was a wise move.  Little did I know.

As I sat there with a surprisingly hot sun beating down on me, the hum of cicadas in the background, and the whirl of combines in the next field, I figured I was completely safe.  Not so.  Once unleashed, our thoughts can lead to dangerous territory.

Beware, stream of consciousness moment here.

First, I thought about how my children were playing so nicely in the yard. Then my mind jumped to pictures I have seen this week of refugee children fleeing to safety, and I considered their fate. Even if our country does finally open our arms wide to them, they will still have to deal with deep scars involving all the trauma created when people act more like beasts than human beings.  How does one address such needs? There are those who try – thank God.  I should try…

Then I move from that consideration toward the beautiful music I heard at church last evening. I can still hear some of the strands of Beethoven’s creation in my mind. Which reminded me of the diary of Samuel Pepys which I am currently reading. Granted, Pepys lived a century before that noble composer, but the reality of humanity’s greatness and foibles follow us through the centuries. I am as amazed by Beethoven’s genius as a composer as I am by Pepys as a journalist.  Both were intensely honest men driven by passions they little understood. One rose to create music which invigorates the soul even today, while the other depicted a mind and heart I despise one moment and pity the next. Next, I start to wonder where they are right now, at this moment.  Surely their souls live in some form or fashion. What does God do with such men? Closer to home; what will time relate of my journey on this earth?  What will God do with me?

On to something else.  Quickly!  Finally, I finish my sweater and I decide that I’d better get to writing this week’s blog.  What to write?  As I am no composer, I figure I might give a brief glimpse into our world today.  In the US, we are considering various candidates running for president.  There are twelve Republicans and a couple Democrats so far as I know. The most colorful and clownish generally gets the most attention. The country is mainly divided between liberals and conservatives, and despite fairly peaceful daily conditions, people seem to be on edge. Terrorists in the Middle East make life miserable for millions but world efforts have joined to oppose them.  Our national debt has ballooned out of control, but few people seem to spend too much time worrying about that. Movies and games, like Pepys plays, are a national obsession.

Like the centuries that birthed Pepys and and Beethoven, we are a world of individuals united by a common fate.  We share our history and our future.  What one does, effects the whole.  Yet we don’t seem to really believe that.  We stem from a distant first and we will all end in a unseen last.  As I plied my needle in and out, tying a button to a sweater, so we ply our lives, tying ourselves to each other, for better or for worse…

Told you it was a dangerous occupation.

Consecration to a Loving Life

Clare and DianaIt happened again.  A strange dog showed up, fought for a place in our canine society, won a position in our hearts and eventfully was claimed by owners who took him home. But probably not to stay. He’ll be back. For several years running we have been the beneficiaries of other people’s unwanted or un-cared for animals.  Some people simply drop them off and let nature take its course.  Since we are soft-hearted, we generally allow the animals to find their place among our menagerie and life moves on.  When the older generation passes on, I never worry about replacement.  I know new life will find us.

Why are so many animals attracted to this four acres of land?  I suspect for the same reason that dogs have been known to break free of every cage their owners can devise in order to return here.  They love to be in friendly society. They discover that they can make inroads into our heats and thus they’ll return again and again. The yearning hope for a loving home is irresistible.

In reading an article about the consecrated life in the Springfield, IL Catholic Times this week, I read something which clarified the issue for me.  Bishop Paprocki quoted in his article Consecrated life: means by which the Holy Spirit builds up church an article written by William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, in which sister Bethany reflects that they have “the security of knowing that they are loved…” by God, by their community as well as by their family. The Bishop reflects on McGurin’s interest in the consecrated life.  He expounds on the theme by thanking the men and women who have dedicated their lives to a consecrated expression of love toward God and their fellow human beings.

Why do people have an attraction to consecrated life?  Why do people strive to connect in this way?  What makes dogs traverse danger and distance to find a place in someone else’s home?  Animals, like people, are looking for security and a sense that they belong. We are looking to be loved.  But I suspect, even more, we are looking for people to love. You’d think that would be easy.  But in this world, not so much.  Loving involves tremendous risk.  It involves intimacy and trust.  Many people look to be loved without realizing that what they really want is a safe person to love.

I can’t accept every animal that comes for a visit.  Certain critters have to be openly discouraged from hanging around. Rats and skunks I can’t trust.  But more often than not, I am flattered that animals show up, year after year, discovering a place they can love and be loved. And I, in turn, discover that I love isn’t a limited commodity.  There is enough to go around.

Perhaps I haven’t joined a consecrated order in name, but I’d say that I that by loving God, consecration to a loving life comes naturally.