Monday, January 13, 2014

January Days

Hello again! Two of our big kids have been home since Christmas, and Nate hasn't had much work, so I've had to share the computer with many people. Yesterday Julia went back to college, and Isaac back to his apartment near the University, and now it's just the four of us again. I had high hopes of getting everyone together for a jaunt to the Como Conservatory. But as the afternoon wore away, it became apparent that I was the only person who wanted to go. I am still a bit out-of-sorts about that.

We found this yellow primula at Trader Joe's. It will have to do for now. 

We survived the deep freeze (it had a name: The Polar Vortex), and during those frigid days I was simply grateful for a warm house and the pleasant set of humans that make up my family.

I was also grateful for caramels.
I made these as the absolute last batch of the season.
They are nestled in salt that came from Norway.

As you can see, the box says "Havsaltflak."
But when I opened it, I didn't see the words, and I thought it was fake snow.
I sent a text to my friend thanking her for the lovely snow.   
She quickly texted back, "It's not snow! It's salt! You're supposed to eat it!"
Whew. It is so delicious on these caramels. And beautiful, too. Actually, reminiscent of snow.
We ate all these, bit by bit, and so yesterday I had to make another last batch of caramels,
since they are the Christmas gift for this friend who gave the Norwegian salt.
Here is the recipe if you want to make these for Valentine's Day.   

Having my big kids home changed the rhythm of our days. I still got up early and made my coffee, unloading the dishwasher and scrubbing my sinks before the household woke up. I still tried to read at night, after the baby was asleep. We went to see "Frozen" together, and found out that the baby can make it through a movie as long as it's his naptime.  My daughters watched the entire Season 4 of Downton Abbey, during which time they became quite grumpy if Malachi and I tried to join them.

These are quiet winter days, not to be wasted or wished away, but to be spent carefully, just like any day in any season. I am currently reading Phantastes by George MacDonald, a book about wonder and the sacramental  found in ordinary living. Isaac is reading Pensees by Blaise Pascal. At night, on the few evenings when Malachi stayed asleep and I was able to read and chat with Isaac, we discussed our books. It's a delight to talk books with my son. He explained that Pascal's central theme is that man is bent towards either  pride or wretchedness, but the right attitude is to keep the mind on God.

 I keep circling back to this truth. It sounds like the secret of life. It reminds me of the verse from Hebrews 12, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Fix our eyes on Jesus. Sometimes this is so hard to do. And yet if I don't do it, I find myself wrestling with the dual miseries of pride and wretchedness. Pascal lived (only for 39 years) and wrote during the middle part of the seventeenth century. He was one of those who saw things clearly, despite the fog.  

I'll end with a quote by Pascal, not the one I was looking for, but good words to remember when we don't want to accept the gift of a deep, dark winter.

"We never keep to the present. We recall the past, we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is the present usually hurts."
(B.P. 1623-1662)


  1. I despise Downton Abby. I call it, "Masterpiece light." And, despite myself, I usually watch it anyway.

    We have made it past the winter solstice. The days ARE getting longer, although it is hard to tell yet. I always feel better once we get past the winter solstice.

    I had a couple of epiphanies from the Lord this season, wondrous and amazing, where I felt that He was working on building my confidence and security. The trouble with pride is that whenever one is aware of it on any level, one must be fighting against it. The only way to lose pride is to lose oneself in God and and not be focusing on whether one is proud or humble. I think I've said before, this is like telling oneself, "I will not think about the vase on the table..." And, if we do achieve a point at which we are not tortured over whether or not we are conquering pride, it could mean that we have lost ourselves in God, or... it could mean that we have become blinded by pride. A wretched state indeed, but it forces us to throw ourselves on the mercy of God daily, which is actually a good thing. I was hoping 2 Corinthians 12:9 would not have to be my verse for the year, but it looks like it might be. A blessed promise nonetheless.

  2. It is a blessed promise, Ruthie!
    (Anna Kate is reading over my shoulder and cannot believe what you said about Downton Abbey! haha)
    Here is Pascal again - I could have made the entire blog post his exquisite words: "Jesus is a God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair."
    Good stuff....