A Book That Brings Beauty- Beatrix Potter and Her Animal Friends

Beatrix Pic 1

What book do you think of when you desire to look at something beautiful? What stories come to mind when you want to read something wholesome and satisfying to your children? We’ve all heard of them, and a lot of us have read most if not all of them, but Beatrix Potter’s animal stories are some of the most treasured and classic of tales, beloved by children near and far.

Not only are these stories a delight to children, but they have been and still are a delight to adults as well. It has been said that even C.S. Lewis himself was captivated by the likes of Squirrel Nutkin. So why is this? What causes these stories to stand the test of time?

Maybe it is because what is conveyed through these stories is not bound by years or decades. What is gleaned in Potter’s pages is timeless because stories of value and substance, that lend direction and offer a moral compass, are as much needed today as they were in the early nineteen hundreds. From The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Roly-Poly Pudding, children are reminded of the importance of obedience and honesty, and that there are very real consequences for the decisions one makes.

So many other great things can be awakened in a child as a result of delving into these classic tales: A love for animals, a desire to experiment with watercolor paints, sketching the natural world, or writing creative narratives about the creatures one comes across on a nature walk.

To help aid you in your rediscovery of Potter’s Complete Tales, I want to introduce you to a quaint and beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Beatrix Potter, written by Alexandra Wallner, simply titled Beatrix Potter.

 

Beatrix Pic 2

 

Her childhood becomes very real and relatable as this book portrays her time spent drawing, painting flowers, and secretly keeping pet rabbits, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and snakes.

 

Beatrix kept a diary written in her own code. The sights and sounds of the woods were like magic to her.”

Children are invited into the pages of this little gem to discover that things were not always easy for Beatrix. She often battled loneliness and was plagued with bronchitis and rheumatic fever which left her with a heart condition. These things, however, did not keep her from finding comfort in the natural world around her and recreating God’s creatures on paper with pencil and paint.

Beatrix Pic 3

 

If I have done anything – even a little to help small children on the road to enjoy and appreciate honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good.

If you would like to delve even deeper after reading this charming picture book biography, , I recommend picking up Beatrix Potter: A Journal,published by Penguin Books. It is made to look like Beatrix’s own scrapbook with black and white photos of her and her family, journal cards, and original sketches and paintings.

Beatrix Pic 4

Delve into these wonderful books with your children and let the love of nature take root and blossom in a bounty of creativity and wonder. And go out and enjoy God’s creation with your children!

Imagination ~ Something to Think About

Fritz von Uhde, The Children’s Room

Read for the Heart 11292009Growing up, my siblings and I were almost constantly in the throes of some imagined story — shipwrecked travelers, desperate orphans, disguised royalty, westward pioneers. After our obligatory hour of reading, our afternoons were often spent outdoors in worlds available only through the creative power of our minds — worlds often introduced through the stories we had read…
In the past few years I have come to the conclusion that those hours of imagination gave me far more than just good memories. As I have begun writing my first books and done a bit of speaking all over the United States, numerous people have asked me what gave me the ability to dream, what drove my desires and shaped my goals. How did my brother become a composer? My other brother a writer? What was the secret to our upbringing? The answer is simple: God, family, and … imagination.

Imagination is too often described as a ‘childish’ thing — attributed only to the young, the very creative, or the ‘artsy’ and impractical. But in reality, imagination is a transformative force that is common to all people who dream deeply enough to accomplish something of worth with their lives. At its core, imagination is the ability to envision the future we desire, the force enabling us to pursue a dream whose reality is radically different from the present. We cannot set out on a road of great hopes and determination if we have no concept of what it is we are journeying toward. Imagination drives inspired action.”
~ Sarah Clarkson in Read for the Heart pp. 147-148

When my children were younger, we had an hour of quiet time every afternoon. They each had their own basket of books, carefully selected by mom, and a treat of some type. This was an hour I truly appreciated! Mommies need a break from the go, go, go of mothering. This hour also blessed my children. They read books about history, science, Christian history, and fiction of all sorts.

These books helped stir my children’s imaginations. They could be bold heroes or delicate princesses. Every era of history could be acted out! One of our favorites was Roxaboxen, which directed hours of pretend. This sweet book is about children playing outdoors and creating their own town, Roxaboxen.

Old clothes from Goodwill and garage sales and hand sewn capes became the wardrobe for my budding actors and actresses. They made props out of anything and everything.

Children are creative, given the opportunity. If they have been given a solid diet of TV and video games, they might struggle a bit with using their minds to amuse themselves. Our culture encourages conformity, not individuality. Our Creator God gave us minds that can imagine. Schedule time this week for your children to play, indoors or outdoors and give them resources for play (dress up clothes and props)  and use their imaginations!

Here are some great children’s fiction that Sarah recommends:
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
A Little Maid series by Alice Turner Curtis
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

These are books that make wonderful read alouds as a family, or they can be given to older children to read on their own. What book are you reading to your children this season? May the Lord bless you as you stoke the fires of your children’s imaginations! Pick up Sarah’s book with 384 inspiring pages!

Christmas ~ A Time to Enjoy Reading Aloud!

Sarah’s Book on Books ~ a great Christmas gift idea!

On a storm-blown Sunday afternoon in a creaky old manor house in England, I rediscovered the timeless delight of classic children’s books. It took me by surprise. I was one of about thirty international students studying and living in England for the summer, and this was our first British teatime all together. A shy, awkward silence had fallen about us as we tried our best to balance philosophy, sophistication, and hot mugs of tea, when one of our tutors said something that sent us all staring.
“Let’s read Winnie-the-Pooh.”
A swift current of suppressed mirth ran the length of the room, but we were up for some fun, and the tutor assigned each person a part in the story. Pooh’s expedition to the North Pole was the story of choice, and before we knew what was happening we were immersed in the comical, compact world of the Hundred Acre Woods. The story had all of us — tutors, college students, post-graduates, old, and young — laughing until our sides literally ached.”
Read for the Heart pp. 113-114

Reading together as a family is a Clarkson tradition. Hours of memories have been made around good books. During the holiday season, busyness can rob you of precious time spent together as a family. Since all children should sleep at night, should being the key word, start the bedtime routine a little bit earlier and pull out a favorite book to read. If Pooh is a bit daunting by its size, try some holiday picture books or some shorter chapter books. Two that are recommended by Whole Hearted children are The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Cosmic Christmas. Enjoy their reviews!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a book I like each Christmas because it is a funny, family-friendly story.  It has inspired me to look at Christmas differently and a little more realistically.  For example, what if Jesus had colic?  The only thing about this book is that it has some questionable language so is better if Mom or Dad reads it aloud and edits as they read.
~ Reviewed by 10 year old young lady

Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado ( also recently published as The Angel Story) opens a unique porthole into the uncommonly written realm of angels.    It is written from Gabriel’s perspective on his mission to give Mary the seed of Christ as Satan is desperately trying to stop him.   While it is written from a biblical Christian perspective, this soul stirring book provides a new look on the ” all is calm , all is bright”  normal theme of Christmas.

This book is a must read in our home each year.
~ Reviewed  by 13 year old boy

What books are you reading to your children this holiday season? May the Lord bless the time you spend together!

My Gift to Him….His gift to me

My personal, Christmas quiet time table, in my bedroom, private–sequestered away from the hustle and bustle of my home.

Getting my body to move, my mind to clear, was as if I was coming off of a thick cloud of  anesthesia–and then a heaviness began to creep over me as I began to awaken and remember what day it was–another event in my home, just two hours away. Stress crawled over me like mist over the sea–weariness bade me stay in bed, beckoned to me, urging me back to sleep. Then suddenly–the memory  of all that needed to be done moved my body into action and made me hit the ground quickly.Too much to do, too much cooking, too many activities, too many people’s needs to meet, too much, too much….was beginning to take its toll. All of these feelings were familiar from so many years, months and days of knowing this feeling–and so the assurance that I had made it through many other such seasons,  kept me from panic or the blues. Resolve, familiar resolve, whispered to my heart, that soon–very soon, all would be well. A plan began to form–tomorrow morning, I would ignore everything on “my list” and arrange a special meeting. Decorating a place just for me and him; clearing out the clutter from this space, giving time to beautify–I began to get pleasure and peace in my heart just knowing what I had to look forward to–my time with him.

***********************************************************************************************
I have always loved the passage in Genesis when, after creating a breath-taking, dazzling, wondrous world, breathing with life, color, sounds, scents, pleasure–that God, the master artist, was strolling in the garden–looking for Adam and Eve–the ones for whom He had created such a personal gift. -He was walking along in His garden, surely admiring it, wanting to know what His children thought–if they were happy–if they appreciated it–looking for them in the heat of the day. “Where are you?” He called out–and they were not looking for Him—

Most of my mother-life, after I fell in love with being a mother, I have found I receive such pleasure at providing for my treasures–cooking, decorating, providing, loving, serving–hoping to be God’s very hands and breath and words to them so that they can better perceive what He is like. I look for them in the garden of my own life–”how do you like what I have provided? I want to be close to you–I want your companionship.”

Recently, after Nathan had been home from California for 10 days, I was looking, as always, on my email to see if I had any letters from him–or Joel. There in my in-box, was a short note–

“Mom, I don’t know what I would do without your love and encouragement. I appreciate everything you have done to make home a haven. Thanks for your love and prayers.”

No money or thing or experience could have topped the pleasure he gave me–he was my special one–he is the one from whom I long for time and friendship.

and so it is with God, my very own Father, who prepares life and looks out for me–to see where I am, to spend time with me! Imagine!

I realized very early in my knowing Him, that the miracle was that He was always looking for me–wanting me to be His companion, friend, to talk, to commune, to live together hand in hand–to delight in the pleasures He had prepared for me. 

And so I knew that my Christmas season would not be complete, unless I gave Him what He wanted, unless I made my plans–around Him, around just being with Him, listening to Him, loving Him–just what I needed–just the gift of my love I would give back to Him. He was not looking for my works–my good deeds, my Martha effort to beguile my family or my friends with dazzle and good food and fine presents–but He was looking for simple, feet of clay–me–to tell me more that was on His heart.

As I desire the companionship of my own children–that is what–amazingly–he desires of me.
**********************************************************************************************
And so I made it through the day, talked with so many, fed, cleaned, rushed about to the other tasks that needed to be cared for–but I knew that my date was just ahead–so my heart took pleasure.Sunday morning as I opened my eyes, I looked out my window upon a purple-ish, blueish sky that promised colder weather again. My eyes lit upon the table I had late last night prepared for myself and for Him–a place of beauty, a place of quiet, a place of worship

–the framed picture Sarah had framed for me at Christmas years before–”The Peace of Christ be with You.”

Just what I longed for….A beautiful, delicate bird nested upon pine boughs–the reminder of the years before when I was spotting again–after a miscarriage, and yet pregnant again–but again beginning to bleed–alone in the mountains of Austria–when praying to God, wondering if I would ever be able to keep a baby–God sent a small bird, to perch upon the very window sill in which I was pouring my heart out to Him from my small hotel room.

–He spoke to me His comfort–”Not a  bird falls to the ground without My knowledge–I see you–I hear you–I am with you”–and the baby inside of me became Sarah–in spite of 6 months of bleeding. And so small birds, when they hop across my path or are collected in my home, are a symbol to me of His love, His care. This new little bird, recently purchased for its lovely colors and simplicity–was appropriate for my table before Him.

My berry and vanilla candles–the flickering lights a delight to me– a reflection of light–a reminder of His light into my world. The fragrance like incense–lifting my prayers to heaven.

My little cross that reminded me of what I wanted the new season of my life to be characterized by–belief. All spoke to me of our special bond–I was His and He was mine.

It was worth the little extra effort it took to make the setting of my date a special one–after all He had done to make the place I lived in His world such a place of beauty.

One of my favorite instrumentals softly set the stage. I had picked a book the day before–Prepare my heart, Lord, through one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Goudge–a beautiful, lovely children’s story–the picture of a child’s faith–the heart of faith, the delight in life, the expectation of goodness–contrasted by an adult who had forgotten how to have grace of life, compassion, to live in freedom, not under constraint. And so as I sipped my coffee, the Lord greatly encouraged my heart–I want a heart of innocent, loving trust.

And then to my Celtic Daily Prayer book–verses from the Psalms, the Old Testament, the New Testament–and more from His heart–Psalm 18: 28, “The Lord lights my lamp; The Lord illumines my darkness.” Verse 32,  “The God who girds me with strength, and makes my way blameless.” Verse 35, “You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.” Psalm 118: 6, “The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

And so it went. He spoke of His love for me; His presence; His strength; His peace. I gave Him the gift of myself, my time. He gave me the gift of peace, rest, delight and strength to keep going. Now, I had what I needed and longed for–perspective, a plan of simplifying, dancing one more time knowing He was with me in the minutes of my days.

Have you given Him the gift of yourself during this busy season?

He is walking in the garden, calling your name. May His peace be yours today.

Joy to the World indeed the Lord has come!

 

A blurred but artistic picture Joy took of our mantel before a Christmas party at our home in our living room!

Oh, my! As usual, the days are flying by! I have so much to write to you in the next few days that I may just write a blog a day for a while! But I haven’t been writing because I have been making family and friends a priority! And of course having lots of fun myself. 

First, Joy and I are reading every day in our devotionals a wonderful advent book, called The Jesse Tree. We are loving it. A very sweet friend sent us a bag full of wrapped little presents that we open one day at a time and read the verses that go with it! Loving my time each morning, staying in our gowns and eating home made mcmuffins with home made bread, sipping our juice and sharing our wisdom in scripture over candlelight and fire place. What a luxury to have the opportunity to have leisurely time talking to my sweet daughter about our wonderful savior without having to hurry this memory. (It has been quite cold!)

Flying to Nashville and on to Earlington, Kentucky to visit my sister-friend! We are not really related, but I never had a sister and neither did she. She flew to my home for 28 years in a row over the Christmas holidays to keep the commitment to be family to each other we had made as single missionaries. So now, the past few years as she is homebound, I fly to Gwennie’s house to celebrate Christmas. She has been the family God knew we would need when we didn’t have many around to love us. She always wraps mounds of tiny gifts to delight each of my children and me–even if it is tiny, like a flashlight or pocket knife or pair of pretty socks. We go one gift at a time and ooh and ahh! It is like really having a real live auntie or grandmom for my sweet ones.

 
Mrs. Janie’s tea room–Sarah, Joy, and Gwen enjoying the civility!

Our trip included a luncheon to a tiny town in Sacremento, Kentucky to Mrs. Janie’s, a tea house in a Victorian home that serves on the weekends only. We had 3 courses–ambrosia with pineapple scones, buttered asparagous with a baked chicken breast in herbed cheese and wrapped in phyllo dough and a baked potato casserole with cheese and chives and red velvet cake and ice cream for desert with a cup of tea–all girlish memories. I love making memories with my girls around other like-minded, godly women who are life-giving and build into their souls. Gwennie loves them and models Christ to them and on the side is just a lot of fun.

After this, we celebrated Christmas and I got two blue–blue shirts and a cd of great music. We ate coconut pie–a classic that Gwen’s mom always made! And then one of my best times was attending the Messiah with all the girls. I dearly love the Messiah and always marvel at the way God stirred Handel to gather all of the scripture in such a way as to tell the Great Story. Everyone should gently lead their their family to love the Messiah. Joy and I were humming under our breath, Sarah and Gwen were living in ecstacy during several of the choruses. Such beauty in words and music.

Finally, went to Nashville to visit with precious friends who have shared life and history with me since our 25 year olds were wee ones. Such a fun time to pray, talk, share, have lunch at Puffy Muffin and watch our girls catch up with each other. Of course there were lots of, “I can’t believe how much you have grown up!” on all sides.

 
Nate driving off to California in front of our home with his car. I was so brave! till I went inside! :)

Having Nathan on my mind. Would you pray with me for the Lord to show Him favor and find him a good job that can help to pay rent– And to find  favor with his agent so that she can get him auditions and also that the Lord would specifically direct Nathan in a place where he can find a good community in this work and have a settled, long term job or one good commercial!  Nathan loves the Lord and is hoping to serve Him in the arena of music, acting, speaking and writing–but at this moment needs our wonderful Lord to open doors for him and give him favor with the right people. Would so appreciate your prayers for my dear, fun, loving Nathan boy! Can’t wait to see what God will do as I have seen Him love answering prayer the past few years and He is the Lord of North Hollywood. All this mothering is a continued walk of faith and labor in the gates of heaven.  And of course it is the training grounds of my sweet son as well. Thanks ever so much.

Oh so much more this week, but it will have to wait till tomorrow. May God bless you, every one! I have some cookies to get out of the oven! Preparing for our two book parties for Sarah and there will be such treats. More later this week about the pictures of my home during this season; weathering the blues and storms during this season with Him, our humble king; recipes, babies, favorite catalogues and things to order and traditions for all ages. Oh, I am blessed today.

***********************************************
Forgot to mention that the winners on December 1 for the drawing from all of you who promoted our conferences were:
 
  Kristin Kerley (TN)
  Jennifer Tammeling (CA)
We will have another drawing on January 1 for $50 in books and cd’s or free conference registration for all those who advertise our conference in their newsletters, on facebook, on blogs
and in support groups or Bib
le studies. Just write Jennice to let her know where you advertised. We so appreciate your help in getting the word out to as many moms as we can reach as we see the Lord change lives, encourage and give inspiration to so many every year. 
For more information and to get links for your area, go here
You can click on the different conferences and then open the folders at the top for flyers and information to copy for the conferences.

You can also get a link to read our most recent Whole Heart e-letter by connecting here

Have a great Friday!