Sunday Blessings

30 September 2012

Story Time with Mama by Breezy
{watercolor (c) Breezy Brookshire}
Happy the home when God is there,
And love fills every breast;
When one their wish, and one their prayer,
And one their heav’nly rest.

Happy the home where Jesus’ name
Is sweet to every ear;
Where children early speak His fame,
And parents hold Him dear.

Happy the home where prayer is heard,
And praise each day does rise;
Where parents love the sacred Word
And all its wisdom prize.

Lord, let us in our homes agree
This blessed peace to gain;
Unite our hearts in love to Thee,
And love to all will reign.

— "Happy the Home When God Is There" by Henry Ware, Jr.

Have a beautiful and restful Lord's Day, ladies!
"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." — Joshua 24:15

Poem of the Week: To Autumn by William Blake

28 September 2012

pinterest: autumn arrives in early morning
To Autumn
By William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

I hope you're all enjoying a beautiful and crisp autumn evening! Don't forget to link up with your respective poems below. :)

Characters With Character: Hector, Prince of Troy

25 September 2012

Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.
The Iliad

Recently I read Rouse's translation of Homer's classic epic poem, The Iliad, as a part of my World Literature course. While there are certain qualms I could raise with this particular edition (mainly the odd insertions of modern-day language issuing from the mouths of ancient Greek warriors), it was a fairly good translation. In the past, I've viewed The Iliad to be a some hundred-paged bloodbath at the hands of a seemingly-endless stream of Greeks and Trojans who have a marked propensity towards senseless slaughtering and are each the best at something, but this particular reading opened my eyes to several elements I had missed in past perusals . . . mainly, the fine character traits in a certain Hector, prince of Troy.

It sounds strange to tack such a title onto one of those very warriors I just called senseless and bloody, does it not? And yet that is the very trait in Hector's character that I admire — he's different than those around him. Born into a bellicose world that believed glory could be found solely on the battlefield, he bears all the outward marks of a typical Trojan prince. He's courageous, agile, heroic, assumedly handsome, and if he didn't have any other credits to his name than those listed, would fade quite easily into Homer's abundant cast of characters.

When I first read a children's edition of The Iliad many years ago, I felt pangs of remorse at noble Hector's death, but I could hardly give a reason for my emotions. Yes, he had died, but his death was just one of many to fill the bloodstained pages, and never had the other slaughterings affected me to this extent. Reading the book a second time gave me a clearer picture of what so endeared me to the favored son of Priam.

He accepts his responsibilities, even if he didn't choose them for himself. There is a quote in The Iliad that particularly spoke to me. In a dear scene between Hector and his wife, Andromache, the former explains, "I have learned to bear myself bravely in the front of the battle." The key word that stood out to me in his statement was learned. In other words, Hector made the conscious decision to accept his fate and play the role for which he was destined. He did not choose this battle — it was thrust upon him by Paris' foolish theft of Helen — but his actions reflect on that of his country and will determine the fate of his son.

He has remarkable self-control. We hear often enough about the Greek Achilles' fiery temper; rarely do the illustrious and all-knowing They mention Hector's self-control. At The Iliad's tragic conclusion, Hector has been killed at the hands of Achilles, and the women of Troy are all mourning him. It is during this moment that Helen says, "Twenty years have passed since I left my country and came here, but I never heard from [Hector] one unkind or one slighting word." Various editions debate whether Helen is persuaded to leave with Paris, or whether he simply captures her and takes her to Troy, but either way, she is the cause for the legendary war that spans more than ten years. Every day, Hector sees her and is reminded once again why so many of his countrymen are dying. A lesser man would have found it easy to lash out at Helen each time, to blame her repeatedly for the war . . . but not Hector. That alone speaks worlds about his character.

He puts his country over his own personal comfort. One of my favorite scenes in The Iliad takes place between Hector and his devoted wife and son, right before Hector enters the fray once more. Knowing that she might never see her husband again, Andromache begs Hector repeatedly to forget about the battle and to remain safe within the comforts of the palace. He refuses her entreaties, and says, "I could not show my face before the men or the women of Troy if I skulk like a coward out of the way." Hector knows that though it may be better for him if he were to stay behind, it wouldn't be better for his country. Even the warmth of family life cannot draw him away from his duty.

He remains faithful to one wife. The worst part of both Greek mythology and legitimate historical accounts of ancient Greece is the abundance of wives among men of import. Repeatedly, one hears of women being treated like trophies: they were won through conquest, and when thus obtained, were as much the man's property as his sword and spear. I understand that this is certainly not native to Greece alone, but that fact does not make it any easier to stomach. Having gone into The Iliad expecting such practices, it was vastly refreshing for me to read about Hector's faithfulness to one wife. There is no record in the book of him having any other wives, and his devotion to Andromache and their infant son, Astyanax, only proves this further.

When in the face of death, he does not shrink and play the coward. Near the end of the story, there is a space of time when Achilles chases Hector around the city. However, Hector eventually accepts that his life is hanging by a trembling thread, and he knows the thread is about to snap. With this knowledge, he bold faces Achilles and refuses to cower in a show of weakness. Despite the fact that he's suffocating quickly from Achilles' wound to his neck, Hector has just enough breath to gasp out a final request: Achilles should not leave his body to be mangled by dogs in the street, but should allow Priam to give it a proper burial, for the sake of his wife and those he loves.

I'm used to categorizing The Iliad as quite dull and nowhere near as fascinating as The Odyssey, and I was pleased to be proven wrong in my second reading of it this month. Though it is not a book to which I will turn on a rainy day when I'm seeking after something warm and comforting, it certainly possesses its own sort of charm, a luster I had somehow missed in previous readings. There's a reason this epic poem has remained a classic for centuries.
“Why so much grief for me? No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate. And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you — it’s born with us the day that we are born.” — The Iliad

Sunday Blessings

23 September 2012

"In His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit, Christ is not absent from us for a moment. By the Spirit's power we make the goal of our lives not earthly things but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand. Through the Holy Spirit Christ pours out His gifts from heaven upon us, His members. The Spirit, as well as the Father and the Son, is eternal God. The Spirit has been given to us personally so that by true faith the Spirit makes us share in Christ and all His blessings, comforts us, and remains with us forever."

— From the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&As 47, 49, 51, 53

Have a blessed Lord's Day!
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." — 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Poem of the Week: The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls by Lord Tennyson

21 September 2012

The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying, 
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying. dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

Link up with your weekly poems below!

Sunday Blessings

16 September 2012

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

— Excerpt from "All Creatures of Our God and King" by Francis of Assisi

Have a blessed Sunday, ladies!
"Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein." — Psalm 69:34
P.S. For those of you who read this post yesterday and wondered why I made my British soldier call Halifax home, Kenneth's hometown has now been changed to the properly English Bradford on Avon. Apparently geography isn't my strong suit.

My Pulse Quickens to Set Foot on the Home-Shores Again

15 September 2012

It's time for another edition of Character Letters! This month we are hearing from Kenneth Hughes, British infantryman and a character in Rifles in the South Field. He lived in Bradford on Avon with his widowed mother and sister before coming to America to fight against the rebelling colonials. Kenneth has a steady hand, and an eye for details. His paper is the best available to a lowly foot soldier, which isn't very nice, so it follows that he wouldn't waste any space by doodling in the margins.

. . .

12 January 177—
Boston, Massachusetts
My Dear Mother,

At last I am safely on American shores and take this time to pen a short epistle to you. I know Jemima will fret if she does not hear from me soon, so I mean to write her a letter as soon as yours is sealed, but please do not show her this one, and if she asks, says it was meant for your eyes only. The news I contain below is not something I wish to be repeated to all the girls of Bradford on Avon. 

To sum it up in two words, it's perfectly dreadful. Savage. Untamed. Not a decent British pub to be found for miles, and all the newspapers arrive three weeks late. What's worse, none of this seems to bother the colonials. But it is to be my home for goodness knows how long, so I'd best make my peace with its feral wilderness. A soldier must shoulder his burden. My only comfort is that I will not be here long — most likely the rebels are the sort that couldn't shoot straight if they tried — and will soon be home and in the warm comforts of civilized society once more. Just the thought of a good cup of British tea and some of your warm biscuits makes my pulse quicken to set foot on the home-shores again.

I know you will be sighing at these lines and wondering why your one son hasn't any gumption. And I can assure you that I'm not here in America shivering and quaking like Burns' "cowran, tim'rous beastie". I wasn't raised fatherless to start at a shadow. But the bloodlust that flowed so heavy through Father's veins seems to thin in mine, and I sometimes wonder why we don't just let these colonials alone. They're fools to stand up against the British crown, of course, but haven't we also done foolish things in the past?

This letter was meant to encourage you, but I fear I have done the opposite. I am only weary and dull of mind; I suppose that will pass. I pray God will keep you and Jemima in good health for the duration of this trial. As for myself, pray that the whole bloody affair is swiftly over.

Your faithful son,

Poem of the Week: In the Garret by Louisa May Alcott

14 September 2012

ring around the rosy
In the Garret
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
All fashioned and filled, long ago,
By children now in their prime.
Four little keys hung side by side,
With faded ribbons, brave and gay
When fastened there, with childish pride,
Long ago, on a rainy day.
Four little names, one on each lid,
Carved out by a boyish hand,
And underneath there lieth hid
Histories of the happpy band
Once playing here, and pausing oft
To hear the sweet refrain,
That came and went on the roof aloft,
In the falling summer rain.

Meg on the first lid, smooth and fair.
I look in with loving eyes,
For folded here, with well-known care,
A goodly gathering lies,
The record of a peaceful life
Gifts to gentle child and girl,
A bridal gown, lines to a wife,
A tiny shoe, a baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain,
For all are carried away,
In their old age, to join again
In another small Meg’s play.
Ah, happy mother! Well I know
You hear, like a sweet refrain,
Lullabies ever soft and low
In the falling summer rain.

Jo on the next lid, scratched and worn,
And within a motley store
Of headless, dolls, of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain
Be worthy, love, and love will come,
In the falling summer rain.

My Beth! the dust is always swept
From the lid that bears your name,
As if by loving eyes that wept,
By careful hands that often came.
Death cannonized for us one saint,
Ever less human than divine,
And still we lay, with tender plaint,
Relics in this household shrine
The silver bell, so seldom rung,
The little cap which last she wore,
The fair, dead Catherine that hung
By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sang, without lament,
In her prison-house of pain,
Forever are they sweetly blent
With the falling summer rain.

Upon the last lid’s polished field
Legend now both fair and true
A gallant knight bears on his shield,
Amy in letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair,
Slippers that have danced their last,
Faded flowers laid by with care,
Fans whose airy toils are past,
Gay valentines, all ardent flames,
Trifles that have borne their part
In girlish hopes and fears and shames,
The record of a maiden heart
Now learning fairer, truer spells,
Hearing, like a blithe refrain,
The silver sound of bridal bells
In the falling summer rain.

Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
Four women, taught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sisters, parted for an hour,
None lost, one only gone before,
Made by love’s immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Oh, when these hidden stores of ours
Lie open to the Father’s sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,
Lives whose brave music long shall ring,
Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing
In the long sunshine after rain.

Link up with your poems below, and have a lovely day!

Book Review: The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag

08 September 2012

It would be dishonest of me to say that I picked up this book with an entirely unbiased opinion of it. I already knew Jenny could write brilliantly (I read her blog, after all). But there is a great deal of difference between an author who can write well and an author who writes on subjects that interest you. Jenny's magnificent fantasies Adamantine and Plenilune are so vivid and dramatic (from what I can tell; I have not yet read them in entirety), and in comparison, The Shadow Things seemed just a tad more . . . simple. But that is the very deception of Jenny's abilities, for she pulls you in by a seemingly innocent guise, and then slays you then and there with her rich prose and unforgettable characters. Her writing pulls at your heartstrings, and makes you want to weep and smile at the same time.

In other words, this young woman is a Penslayer.

The Shadow ThingsThe Shadow Things
By Jennifer Freitag
*Summary via

The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God and face the consequences of his decision.

My Thoughts: The beginning was a bit slow, but after I got through the first chapter or so, the rest of the book seemed to fly by faster than I wanted. It drew me in, making me both long to see how the story ended and hate that I would soon have to part with these characters I was loathe to leave. What constantly amazed me was how well Jenny weaves her characters' lives together, including little events that seem insignificant at the time, and yet play a larger role later on and make the story into a fluid and beautiful piece (something with which I frequently struggle in my own writing).

As you already know, characters are my favorite part of literature. And I fell in love with Indi almost immediately. His questioning nature, his boldness, his passion for the Truth, and especially his humility and self-control were all elements of this young man's character that drew me to him. Another character that reached out and tugged at my heart was Indi's sister, Lenag. Poor, long-suffering Lenag, who remains faithful to the end. She withstood so much pain and hurt, and yet she never turned her back on God. Her actions put my faith to shame. And who could forget Procyon, the humble Brown Man who first brought Christianity to the dun? He was the tiny spark that kindled a fire, a conflagration that refused to be put out, no matter how hard Angog and Cynr stomped on the flames.

Pros: Perhaps the best part of this beautiful piece of literature is how each scene is interwoven with the Truth, and yet it never comes across as shallow. Too many so-called "Christian" novels turn into sap with only a mentioning of God thrown in to appeal to the intended audience. Jenny's writing is a perfect example of how Christianity does not guarantee safety or comfort, and nearly every page is steeped in the reality of the Gospel. Jesus Himself said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.The Shadow Things shows the great sacrifices made by early Believers in an honest light, and should humble every Christian reader who spends time within its pages.

Cons: It is definitely a book for more mature readers. Besides some violence and a bit of language, there are instances of adultery and a married man purchasing many slave women for his own pleasure (their purpose in his household is implied, but not stated explicitely). One cruel man unfairly questions his wife's purity because of her close relationship with her brother. Some of the pagan practices are particularly horrific, but they only succeed in convincing the reader of the evil of Indi's former religion. There were also several sweet kisses and embraces between a married man and woman, but those can hardly be called cons.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 14+ because of the mature content listed above.

Get thee to Jenny's blog and purchase this book immediately. It will change your life. And it's on sale for $5.95 with an autograph from the author herself: what's not to love?

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
Llyeln's eyes hardened into brittle orbs, and his jawline became sharper. "You once told me," he said, "in the quiet hours during the winter, of a man who slew his younger brother out of jealousy before the face of God. I was not about to let that transpire again." — The Shadow Things

Poem of the Week: Words by William Charles Wentworth

07 September 2012

journal + mug = paradise

By William Charles Wentworth

Words are deeds. The words we hear 
May revolutionize or rear 
A mighty state. The words we read 
May be a spiritual deed 
Excelling any fleshly one, 
As much as the celestial sun 
Transcends a bonfire, made to throw 
A light upon some raree-show. 
A simple proverb tagged with rhyme 
May colour half the course of time; 
The pregnant saying of a sage 
May influence every coming age; 
A song in its effects may be 
More glorious than Thermopylae, 
And many a lay that schoolboys scan 
A nobler feat than Inkerman. 

Link up with your poems below!

That Daunting Description

04 September 2012

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
E. L. Doctorow

When the Penslayer herself beckons, the rest of us simply must follow suit. And that is why I am seated here tonight, with the fresh and exciting challenge of describing my descriptions. Splendid idea, yes? I can think of no better way to spend the evening.

The problem with penning description just right is that it is one facet of writing that does not echo real life. When I am waking in the morning and glimpse the golden beams of light streaming through my bedroom window, I do not set out right then and there to exclaim about their beauty, whether mentally or aloud. I notice them, but do not attempt to capture what it is about them that gives one the sensation of laughter. I only know that they are beautiful.

It is easy to fall into such a rut when I'm writing, especially when you consider that the author knows the most about her setting and characters. Why take time to even mention a young woman's dark tresses and harrowing eyes? She is practically my own child, and I have every detail of her features memorized — I need not spend time elaborating on something so obvious. And so I leave my poor readers with the bare bones of a story, something more befitting of an outline than a complete book.

An exercise that has helped to improve my sparse description over time is to approach everyday scenes with the mind of a writer. Little conversations and actions that play before my eyes each day are given fresh color as I attempt to piece them together in a way less like commonplace life and more like a scene in a book. The past year has been one of much growth when it comes to my writing, mainly because of the heartbreakingly beautiful excerpts that are daily published by the bloggers I most admire. Some are poetic, some are heartwarming, some are so funny they make me laugh until tears stream down my face — but all are brilliant. I know my snippets will never reach such a height, but I do look on them with sentimental fondness, rather like a mother on her small children.

He saw [the man] falling, the British infantryman raising his loaded rifle. Sunlight glinted off the steel barrel, concealing the next action from his eyes. He only felt the urge to move, and before his more practical side could object, he was throwing himself between the older man and that mocking rifle. The shot rang in his ears, and the bloody world around him shattered into bits, leaving nothing but an empty black abyss.

My favorite part about description is finding a new way to state something that seems tired and old. Nearly everyone has written at least one scene where a character loses consciousness — it's such a well-worn subject that a reader can easily see through the holes. As we know, there is nothing new under the sun, and human nature always has been and always will be the same. The trick is to find a new way of stating something that has been depicted numerous times.

The wave of emotion passed quickly, and Susannah was left reeling, still making no sense of her sudden change in mood. Why on earth should the headline in a newspaper affect her to such great lengths? The memory of that sudden flash of unnatural rage was so painful that she put the thought out of her mind. Fanny was already coming in to clear the tea things, and Mr. Dixon was folding the offending newspaper and kissing his daughter on the cheek, saying he thought he might continue reading in the library and would be there if she needed him.

Another interesting method for adding color to description is to see the world through the speaker's eyes. A lovesick swain who can think of nothing but his sweetheart is apt to portray her in an almost heavenly glow, while a more practically minded bachelor would imagine her faults and virtues in stark lists (that is, if he bothered to think of them at all, which is doubtful). In this particular scene, Susannah is in something of a daze, and her perception of the world is dreamy, almost ghostlike. She's so preoccupied in her own thoughts that any actions of those around her are melting into the hazy background.

The world refused to stay still; it swirled around him in shades of tawny gold and brilliant scarlet, like oil paints on a palate. So he closed his eyes and focused on taking slow, shallow breaths. That, at least, was manageable.

Kenneth, like most male characters, does not like to admit it when he's failing. He prefers to appear bold and strong, without revealing too much emotion. However, here we have caught him when he is alone, and that mask assumed in the presence of society has slipped just a bit. We are seeing the inside of his mind, and just now he is not only giving us a glimpse of his artist's soul but also of his very human nature.

"My name is Azin." The girl said no more, and even those four words were spoken with some measure of hesitation, as if she questioned their validity.

Azin is a difficult character for me to portray, mainly because she is such a little wisp of a girl, both in looks and manner. Her words and actions are fleeting and hard to catch on paper, rather like trying to tack down a rose petal: she either slips away or tears into shreds. Because she herself is simple, the way in which I describe her is simple. Azin does not see the world through ruby-tinted glasses a la Anne Shirley; her perception is shadowy, and tinged with bitterness and regret.

And now I'll end with one of my favorite bits of description that I've written thus far:

It was a lonely sky, with no moon or stars to shed even a soft light. Nothing, nothing but this endless night, like a pit that has no bottom. He was alone, and he knew not where he was. He could not move, and yet he felt no pain. The sky seemed to be made of black velvet, and it enveloped him in an embrace that had no sharp edges.

How do you write description?
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