The Bluestocking @ Home

Musings and Reflections


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Bound in the Light

Bound in the Light

Some places become a part of who you are. They become like second homes; places that when you walk through their doors, you feel that breath that you didn’t realize you were holding release, your shoulders relax, the stresses of your day, your week, month, or even year, dissipate and the burden of them lessen. Sometimes they are grand places, and sometimes humble and simple. Sometimes they have deep history, and sometimes they shiny and new. But they are places where your heart feels rest and your spirit is renewed.

This space, these pews, walking through these doors, this is one of those spaces for me. In a rush between responsibilities on Sunday morning, I caught a glimpse of the sun hitting the pews and it stopped me in my tracks, as it often does. Oh, the ways that the sun and those old stained-glass windows merge to create the loveliest of visions of colour and light, in and out of days, moving and changing with the seasons!

Stained-glass windows have for centuries told the story of the faith, they have told the stories that weren’t always accessible through the written word. Today, they continue to inspire as only art can, though we rely on them less to weave the story of who we are, and where we have come from.

And even though the scene is moving to me, even though it has been a place of solace and inspiration, it isn’t the stained glass, or the aesthetics of this place that make it home. When these pews are filled, it is the people in them that make this home. So many stories, so many relationships, so many deep journeys. Even though none of us are perfect, and at times we stretch, challenge, irritate, and upset one another, the very act of growing together and learning to soften our hearts towards one another, in love and in grace, is what makes this ground so sacred. And not because of the work that we do on our own, but rather because of the work that God does in us. Because without the way that he works on and in our hearts, we wouldn’t still be here. We wouldn’t be able to grow, to forgive, and to love one another, to share in both the joys and the sorrows.

Here we are, stepping into the Advent season, and some truths never change. Emmanuel, God with Us. He remains the glue that holds us together. The essence of a people bound to disappoint one another but blessed deeply by a grace that helps us work through our disagreements, our differences, and our hardships. And the difficult parts of the journey of community and in community are also the very things that make the joys we get to share all that much sweeter. When you’ve been through the trenches with someone, when you’ve helped carry their sorrows and their grief, when you’ve worked through misunderstandings, and differences, the joys become more sacred and carry great meaning.

But community is hard. It is hard work. Everything is easier and more picture-perfect until the pews start filling up. But we too are so much like those stained-glass windows; like broken pieces of glass, molded and fit together into a mosaic that through the changing of the seasons, in the morning and in the evening light, paints beautiful visions of colour dancing across the walls of our joint history. Without each of those unique pieces, those odd shapes, those different colours, the final assembly wouldn’t be the same and our stories wouldn’t be nearly as rich. And yet, a stained-glass window needs one key element to serve its purpose fully … it needs light.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

It is the light of Christ shining through us that fulfills the story of our lives knit and molded together. Some seasons feel darker than others. Advent reminds us of the waiting, the waiting for the light. But the joy that we have on this side of the cross, is that the light is what binds us both individually and collectively. And the light shining through us reflects both to us and to the world the glory of him who is in us. It is he who changes and molds our hearts, it is his love and his grace that when flowing through us gives us the strength, the patience, and the endurance to grow together as one body.

After all, “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5.

This first week of Advent we light the candle of hope. A hope for the future and a hope for the goodness that is to come. When we invite the Christ light to shine through us and to shape us, I am confident that the future is bright. Bright not because of all that we can work to accomplish, though there is much work to be done, but bright because of the grace and mercy of a loving God who knows how to take amazing groups of “misfits” and do beautiful things through them. Bound in the light, and with his help, a vision of hope for others who have yet to feel the warmth of that deep and abiding love.

Oh, and you … you, looking over at all us of dressed in our Sunday best, walking through these doors, or other similar doors, wondering how you could ever fit in here, thinking that the people entering this space couldn’t possibly make room for you or understand you .. you’re just the piece we need, perfectly loved and wanted. We are all still stumbling along trying to make sense of this life and the hardships that find their ways into all our lives, no matter what our outsides look like. But in his light, and in community with one another, the burden of it all is so much lighter. In fact, we need each other because in the sharing of these mysteries together “our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1: 4)

Warmly,
Magdalena

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Nurturing Rituals

Relishing and indulging in some cozy moments, and delving into one of my fall reads; these moments are not only an integral part of my self care, but of continual growth and brain food. Before I was a mom, and a homeschooling mom at that, I was a comparative literature major. And even now as a mom and homeschool mom, I am still a writer, a photographer, and a creative.

Years ago when I started my first blog, simply called The Bluestocking, it was because even after finishing my academic career, I still felt the yearning towards academic thought, having rich and deep conversations with people about literature, art, creativity, and also about the ideas and experiences. Later when I became a mom, not surprisingly, those desires didn’t dwindle, rather they grew. And for a season it was so hard to juggle all the things, but it never stopped me from carving out little moments here and there for my loves.

Later when I relaunched my blog, it felt like it was time for a slight revisiting and revisioning of what being a Bluestocking meant to me after kids, as a homeschool mom. The desires were the same but they now existed in a different framework. Most of my days are here at home. Which suites me just fine, because I am such a homebody! And so I write, photograph, create, cook, imagine, ponder, and dream here. And so I became The Bluestocking At Home.

I used to think that wasn’t enough. I used to think that I needed to make my mark somewhere physically outside these walls to be validated. But as it turns out, I don’t want to and I don’t think that I need to. Though that doesn’t mean that I don’t invite all kinds of good and worthy things into this sacred space. It doesn’t even mean that I won’t move into and through different spheres at different times in my life and in different seasons.

But making time to nurture and feed my mind and my spirit, to pursue my art, to hone the writing that I can release to the world, those things are all vital to the work that I do here with my children. The decision to homeschool wasn’t simply about schooling at home, but about this passion I have for seeing our entire lives as opportunities for growth and learning. Those moments aren’t solely defined by certain hours and years, spent in certain buildings, culminating in pieces of papers telling us who we are. Rather, the goal has always been to encourage each of us to see every day as an opportunity to ponder new ideas, be moved by beautiful art, discover new talents, and never lose our sense of wonder.

As a result, I’ve stopped seeing my pursuits of reading and art as extra moments of frivolous self care, but rather vital components and building blocks to helping foster a love of learning and chasing dreams in my own children. These pursuits keep me balanced and centred, and they ultimately enrich our lives as a whole. Making them a regular part of my life also combats feelings of discontent or doubts about vocation. I’m not stuffing my dreams deep down somewhere for “when the kids are grown”, rather I’m choosing to show my children that being a whole parent is possible. That you can love your kids and be a person too. In fact, that moms are very much people with dreams, goals, and ambitions.

And I realize that for those moms who work outside the home, this might be more pronounced and tangible. But for us stay at home, and stay at home, homeschooling moms, those lines can get a little blurry, making it all the more key to allow our kids to see that a mother is just as complex a being as anyone else they might meet.

And so I read, and I write. I run around with my camera and am forever scribbling in notebooks, coming up with crazy new ideas of things I’d like to try out and create.

What about you? How are you feeding your mind and spirit? What nurturing habits breathe life into your dreams?

Warmly,

Magdalena


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Settled Into The Bone

October 15th is the feast day of Teresa of Ávila, a saint whose words have often spoken to my heart. On the days when we feel oh so weary, so very bone weary, this imagery of allowing God’s presence to settle in our bones and the releasing of ourselves to sing and dance and praise, and love, it is like a balm and healing ointment.

Not all days feel like days to sing and dance. Not all days feel like days to praise. Some days are heavy laden with memories, with hurts, and sorrows. Some days the sorrow reaches the bone and it aches deeply and you are short of breath, spiritual breath, emotional breath, mental breath.

But then a thing happens. Slowly, the breaks begin to heal. The sorrow, enveloped by time, cradled by love, nurtured in patience, begins to make way for new beginnings. The scars, not always visible, will remain, but life invites us to try again, to welcome the new day with a new hope.

October 15 is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This past September marked ten years since my traumatic miscarriage at 16 weeks. That day, a decade ago, I lost my son. His name is Luca Olivier. He was my second, his big brother was so excited for his arrival, my husband and I were so excited to see our family grow.

I held him in my hands for a brief moment. A moment so brief that even a decade later it hurts to know that it wasn’t nearly long enough. For so many years, I was haunted by the trauma of that day, by the things that felt like they were my fault, by the moments that that couldn’t be undone, by the heart crushing sorrow that penetrated every cell of my body and settled deeply in the depths of my soul as they took his tiny body from me. It was one of the darkest moments in my life.

The seasons that followed were not linear. There were highs and lows, there was much healing, and yet there were moments that felt as though I was being pulled back to the earliest days. After a decade I am in a completely different space with my grief. I have been able to hold the hand of others who have experienced loss, I have told my story, and I continue to speak about Luca, because he existed and he was mine and I am grateful for even those brief months we spent sharing this body of mine. I have organized prayer services, I have written about loss, I have raised awareness. Through it, and in the midst of it, there has been healing.

And then, last year, on the anniversary of the day I lost him, the day came and went and I forgot that it was the day. And this year, it wasn’t until the day after that I remembered. And I was consumed by shame, by guilt, and by a different kind of grief.

But then I realized that sometimes healing means no longer needing to relive the pain in the same ways. And in some ways the pain has morphed into an honouring memory rather than a gut wrenching experience. I will never forget the way I was treated in that hospital that day, it traumatized me deeply and still makes it hard for me to walk into a hospital without anxiety, I will never forget the pain of labour, the utter distress of having my water broken by the doctor and knowing that there would be no turning back and that everything about that pregnancy was over in that moment.

I don’t want every memory that I have of this sweet boy of mine to be marred by the darkness of that day. From the moment I knew I was carrying his life within my womb, there was pure joy and wonderful anticipation. There were dreams of family and there was the excitement of a little boy who would talk to my belly so excited to be a big brother. There was love, so much love. There is love … deep and abiding and it has not ceased.

And so when faced with guilt or shame, I also realized that the darkest parts of my sorrow have had a chance to heal. I can think of Luca now without the very raw feelings of those early days and years. I would not begrudge my body when bones and muscles and joints heal in the aftermath of an injury. I would rejoice in the moments when I no longer needed crutches or a cast, or the day when I realized that I was no longer limping but walking at full strength again.

It has to be okay to walk again. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t love enough, or hurt enough, or that it wasn’t a big deal. It means that healing has taken place. It means that the sorrow has made way for hope, for joy, for new beginnings and for more love. It means that you have taken the pain and allowed the presence and peace of God settle deep into your bones, and hold you when you thought you couldn’t carry yourself any longer. And in the surrender of the pain and the sorrow a new road has emerged. It doesn’t erase the one that brought us here, it simply offers a new way. And along this path you may find others who need you to walk alongside them so that they too can walk towards their own healing. May we always be open to that journey, for the road of grief is to often lonely and overwhelming, but the yoke when shared makes such a difference.

Luca, sweetheart, mommy and daddy love you dearly as do your big brother and little sister. Thank you for touching our lives so deeply even in your brief time in our lives.

Warmly and with Love,

Magdalena


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On Seasons

The winds are changing here.  More and more mornings greet us with cooler temperatures, carried in on ever-so-slightly brisk winds.  I have watched these past few weeks in awe as the leaves  have gracefully changed colour;  reds and oranges and yellows inched their way onto a new tree, spreading through our landscape with subtlety but also in such an intentional way.  And the sight of leaves ever so gracefully and peacefully floating and swirling from their tree tops to the ground has become an elegant dance that calls and beckons us to come outside and play.

Autumn Caddo I

Autumn at Caddo Lake ~ Texas

Last week, the change in colours was brilliant, though fleeting!  On a Monday the reds were so fiery and yellows glowed with an intensity reminiscent of burning bushes and there was a holiness in it, and how could it not take your breath away?   Every day that week, I wanted to soak myself in the moment.  We drove around with only scenery in mind and just took it all in.  A mere seven days later,  many of these same trees stand bare, leaves scattered at their base like fallen ashes.  Yellows have turned deeper orange and then brown, and are beginning their descent as well, as wintry winds begin to weave through the branches, as though sweeping away the last remnants of a lovely party that must, alas, come to an end.

And now we feel ourselves drawn inward again, huddled by cozy fires and comforted by the warmth of hearty meals bubbling on stoves.  And so we nest.

The bustling nature of modernity has perhaps somewhat blurred our connection to nature and her rhythms.  So often we are rushing ahead to the next moment that we hardly have time for pause and reflection.  We live in an age where it is possible to be connected to literally everything we could think of with a few swipes and taps of our fingers, our technology a form of wizardry in its own right.  We can stand in the middle of nowhere and still be connected to millions of other people, accessing information from all corners of the world, privy to the thoughts, ideas and ramblings of people in places we have never heard of or seen.  I don’t deny the lure and the comfort in finding the world a smaller place than it sometimes seems.  I have so often found solace in knowing that I am not alone in my thoughts, my joys or my struggles.

And yet, there is the yearning for balance.  Too much of one season is never a good thing.  Anyone who has ever lived through a long and fierce winter can attest to that! Though similarly, anyone who has experienced a seemingly never-ending scorching summer where the heat refuses to break understands the yearning for cool autumn days!

Autumn Caddo II

Autumn at Caddo Lake ~ Texas

But we all have seasons in our own lives don’t we? We have our very own Summers and Winters, Springs and Autumns.  Our very own ebbs and flows, even though sometimes it is hard to place your finger on it.  Others times, we know and can distinctly sense the difference in our own season to not only the season outside, but to the seasons of those around us.

There are seasons in our lives that buzz with activity and growth; living them, we feel full of energy and excitement, chasing dreams and passions is what we hunger for, our personal Spring.  Our Summers bring feelings of pleasure and relaxation and a yearning to soak in the gifts of beauty around us.  Our Autumns refreshing us with their brisk winds, reward us with the harvest and bounty of the hard work of the previous seasons.  And our Winters, our own personal dormancy.

Sometimes Winter feels like the end.  For many people winter is the dreaded season.  I love winter.  I cherish the quiet and the insular.  For me it is a time for reflection and for renewing strength.  Would it be possible to burst forth in Spring without the quiet moments of Winter?

Sometimes Winter does mean loss.  Having suffered through my own dark and quiet moments of mourning, perhaps nothing is harder than feeling alone in a season of Winter when others are joyfully celebrating Spring and new beginnings.  But in that there is a lesson too.  The realization that there is in fact, a time for everything under the sun.  And Winter cannot last forever, ultimately we all must come out of it.  Even the longest, darkest and coldest of winters eventually gives way to that first spring bud or that brave blue crocus that has the tenacity to poke its head out from under a blanket of snow and stand as a beacon of hope reassuring us that a new beginning is not far off.

Sometimes, our seasons last years and perhaps that is why we do not always recognize them as such, but whether they be short or long they are part of our journey.  Our journey of constant renewal and change.  Nature’s seasons are always about forward motion; one leg of the journey giving way to the next.  And no matter how dark things get, how hard the storm rages, in time the sun shines again, in time a new balance is found.  It may not be the same balance as before but it is nevertheless a balance.

As winter inches (or in some places plows) her way towards us now we feel her sting, but we are also given a chance to cocoon ourselves for a short while.  And although life around me seems to be bursting with activity and excitement, I am also yearning for a time of reflection and quiet.

Our universe is filled with these archetypal metaphors of rhythm, of seasons and change, of life and death.  The rhythm of expansion and contraction is always present.  And with it, the reminder that even when things are contracting they will eventually expand again.

As for me, I look forward to a little self-induced cocooning.  I am craving colder night and crisp mornings, of more time spent curled up with good books and scribbling away in journals, of crackling fireplaces and hot apple cider, of rosy cheeks flushed from outdoor play, of the stillness of the woods as nature slumbers and the brightness of the stars as they somehow seem brighter in these winter months.

I hope that wherever you are and whatever season in life you are in that balance, joy and hope find you.  If you are basking in the excitement of Spring and Summer, may your adventures fill your reserves and take you to places that you never imagined.  And if you are contracting and turning inwards to the quiet days of Autumn and Winter, may you find wisdom and peace in the gentle solitude of those days.

And if you find yourself in a Winter not of your own choosing, I pray that hope finds you.  I pray that wounds have time to heal and that your spirit finds renewed strength.  That even in the darkest, coldest moments, the promise of Spring remains that twinkling, glimmering light that beckons you forward.   Spring will come again, birds will sing their joyful songs and the trees will once again come alive bursting with life.