First Quick Take: Looking at the Sky on Friday, bright and early
Such a gentle sunrise this morning. The meadowlarks were just waking up as I went out to take a look. See the little crescent moon? These two beautiful things made me think of this thing of beauty:
Praise be to thee, my Lord, with all thy creatures,
Especially to my worshipful brother sun,
The which lights up the day, and through him dost thou brightness give;
And beautiful is he and radiant with splendor great;
Of thee, most High, signification gives.
Praised be my Lord, for sister moon and for the stars,
In heaven thou hast formed them clear and precious and fair.
Praised be my Lord for brother wind
And for the air and clouds and fair and every kind of weather,
By the which thou givest to thy creatures nourishment.
~ St. Francis of Assissi
Exerpt Canticle of the Sun
Second: It was 6 am when I went out to look at the sunrise. Don't ask me why I was up that early. It's not at all normal for me to be out of bed before 7 or 8 these days; I stay up late reading most nights and sleep in while Dan is up doing his reading. Anyway, maybe since it was somewhat of a novelty, my first thought on looking out was to take a picture. My next thought was to get a cuppa tea. (Yes, for a minute there, I was thinking coffee, but only for a minute...) Below are some shots of our tea set up for Lent, right next to the coffee pot. We get a little Lenten reminder of what we're missing when we pour our tea, you see. Makes it more penitential. (ugh.)
We just read a lovely little story in Coffee With Nonna that was appropriate for our Lenten coffee draught, though. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but on mornings when our school day is going well, the children and I take a little "coffee break" at about 10:00. We have a little snack and a little coffee (except when it's Lent) and read a chapter with Vinzee and Nonna before we get back to work. Vince Iezzi's gentle re-telling of his childhood memories is always full of little lessons, but yesterday's story seemed almost like a little gift -- a little grace -- of inspiration and consolation for me. The story was called "Him and Tea." How's that for apt?
The stories all take place during WWII, a time when Nonna's family had to contend with food rationing, and in this little story, Nonna is out of ration stamps for coffee, so she and little Vinzee have to drink tea -- just like we were drinking tea yesterday instead of coffee (though for a different reason). Vinzee is a sweet, thoughtful little guy (about six or seven years old) and he has lots of questions for his grandmother, whom he calls "Nonna." As we were all drinking tea together yesterday, the children and me, Nonna and Vinzee, Nonna tries to explain to her grandson (and us) how saints become holy. She tells Vinzee:
"Saints and holy people are people just like us. They are just a little bit more aware of God. In your life and in my life, in fact in everyone's life, there is a thirsting for God. This is our job -- to thirst for Him -- and some people have a bigger thirst than others. So they know, love and serve God in different and stronger and bigger ways. These people are saints and there are many of them... These people learn how to listen and to hear God's voice telling them what to do. They do not demand, stomp their feet, or challenge God like some people...
"They listened to God's voice and His letters and learned what they had to do."
"Oh, Nonna, God doesn't write letters," (Vincee) said scornfully...
"Oh, yes He does!" Nonna said with great conviction. "He is always sending us letters. The problem is few of us open these letters or bother to notice they are there."
She noticed (Vincee's) shocked expression.
"The letters and notes from God come to us in many different ways. Mary got what she was to do from an angel, and Francis from a wooden cross, Joseph from a dream, and Moses from a burning bush. Sometimes we get his messages even from a small word or a slight nudge from a friend or maybe a whisper from a family member, maybe a Nonna..."
(Poking my head in here: See how this story speaks to me? Being a basically literary person, I've always thought of God's messages as Nonna describes them, as little notes. I'm always begging Him for postcards.)
Vincee also wanted to know how the saints knew what to do to please God. Nonna answered:
"Well, I think I have to answer your question with two answers. A saint always knew that they were pleasing God by the stillness they had inside. There is a certain peace that only is God's peace that makes all of us know we are near Him, and He is happy with us. People smarter than I am say that when we feel this peace it means that God is resting in us. I often think about what these smart people said. Can you imagine that, Vinzee? God, with all the things He has to do, comes and rests in you. We become His place of rest, away from all the questions, all the needs, all the problems that He hears all day and all night. He gets rest inside you."
(Me again: *sniff. Don't you love that? The truth of it, and the way Nonna explained it. And, this sweet lesson comes on the tail of our study in Catechism of Sanctifying Grace. Perfect.) Nonna goes on, though:
"The other way saints know that they are doing what God wants them to do comes from satan. You see, every time we get close to God, Satan comes along and tries to destroy or detour us away from what we are doing. The devil puts things and thoughts in our way and we begin to have doubts, or fears. He distracts us. Have you noticed that every time you pray, your mind wanders away to other things, and it becomes hard to pray? Or when you try to do something good, everything goes wrong? Well, all these things are the devil's doing. He knows that when you pray you are talking to God and he doesn't want you to get too close to God."
Then, in this same story, Nonna goes on to teach Vinzee about the influence and beauty of the saints in our lives, using stories from the life of St. Francis of Assissi as illustrations. How can you beat that? St. Francis is my beloved Confirmation saint. I can't help but feel peace and stillness, just by thinking about him.
"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace..."
And, right now, reminders in perserverance and lessons on God's loving care and the examples of His emmisaries, His saints, are balm to my heart. These are hard and uncertain times for us; we have many unanswered questions, but yesterday, reading with the children, as Nonna says in the last paragraph of the story, I "got (my) answers the way God wanted (me) to get them -- without coffee -- with just Him and tea."
Third: Here's what our morning tea time looks like...
The red kettle doesn't have a name like her predecessor (the late lamented Mrs. Hoity Toity), but the teapot is lovingly known as "Betty." Brown Betty if you want to be formal. As you see, we are, of course, drinking Irish Breakfast Tea these days.
"What's that purple thing back there behind the teapot?" you ask...
It's an "in-lieu-of" tea cozy -- actually a hat I crocheted for one of the girls, but which works very well for keeping Betty cozy and our tea hot.
Fourth: Anyone who knows my kitchen, might have noticed that my coffee pot is on a different counter. (Notice that, kids-far-away?) This is because our kitchen has been getting a make-over. Paul was here a couple of weeks ago and helped us get some long-overdue projects underway. He helped us out with much of the precision carpentry, and Dan, being home these days, has had time to finish up lots of little odds and ends. Last week, Dan, with help from Gabey, of course, put new laminate flooring in our kitchen. We've also been able to finish up some structural changes that have been on a back burner, things that have required more time than money. Because the boys knocked a big hole in the wall and built an arch between our kitchen and dining room a couple years ago (below), we had no need of the original, tiny doorway on the opposite side of the kitchen.
So that old doorway is now sheet-rocked over, textured and painted. And, joy of joy, Paul and Dan added me some storage: a new cabinet (where I now store all our coffee, tea, and cocoa paraphernalia).