The Long Room🇮🇪 in Dublin, Ireland

As part of the Trinity College expedition in Dublin, we walked through the highly impressive Long Room. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first edition books that I told you about at the castle (HERE), this was a vast college and beyond what I could have imagined as a book lover. There are many invaluable elements contained within this extraordinary room, and countless busts of famous writers and philosophers are located throughout the Old Library building. Everyone from Aristotle, Homer, Isaac Newton, Plato and Shakespeare greet you while perusing the titles at a distance.Originally built in the 1700’s, this library is classified as “one of the most impressive libraries in the world”. Just walking through it made me feel smarter😄! I also felt compelled to read many more books per year, start a book club, discuss the great writers with my peers…but, alas, we eventually had to fly home and go to work! I’m lucky if I get through a book every other month :/. If you are a reader or book-lover at all, you would enjoy this room immensely. “The main chamber of the Old Library is what is considered The Long Room at nearly 65 metres in length” (213 feet for us Americans).

I suppose the academic and perpetual student in me rose up on this particular day. The small library at Blairquhan Castle and this extraordinary sight of books📚in The Long Room were two “indoor” highlights of my European trip. The “outside” countryside in both Ireland and Scotland captured my heart – my daughters felt the same way. But, here is one final photo (from the internet) of The Long Room – view from above:

See the source image

The Blairquhan Castle🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

If I could capture the “feel” of this castle in words, I would. I’m neither talented enough, nor do I think I can convey the warmth and elegance of the interior. For such an enormous setting, those who refurbished this exceptional landmark provided a welcoming, warm, relaxing yet regal and elegant experience for those of us privileged enough to visit and stay for a few days. I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I was to explore the library! Those books you see below? Many were first editions!

Here are just a few captures of the Blairquhan Castle: (If you have the interest, I encourage you to click on the blue link to see professional photos which are far superior to mine below!)   

 

Will Increased Thanks = More Joy?

That is the question I look forward to researching myself over the next several months. I have recently returned from a 12-day spring break vacation/college touring experience with my family, and during that time, I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know I’m late getting to the party, as this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a crazy long 60-weeks, and it just hit one million copies sold. This was not a book I received from Booksneeze, but one of two I picked up independently to read while away.

If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m a true non-fiction reader. If I’m needing “escape”, I’ll turn on the television. Therefore, after I had finished the book, I was surprised to read that the criticisms of One Thousand Gifts have centered upon Voskamp’s ‘poetic voice’, ‘too many metaphors’ and ‘long descriptions’. Usually, you’ll find this type of writing in novels and I’m the first to close the book. I’m impatient with all the flowery-stuff and just want information. So, I wondered how I could have fallen so head over heels for this treasure that I’m presently re-reading.

As I turned the final pages of One Thousand Gifts, I leaned back into the chair I was in at my father-in-law’s place in Florida, and had two immediate thoughts:

1) Do I even know Him? I was overwhelmed by Voskamp’s willingness to pursue God at the depth she does.
2) I too began searching for God in the endless, seemingly small things as I hadn’t before. I was practicing eucharisteo at a baby-level and didn’t begin writing anything down until last week.

I don’t know if my new decision to record 1000 gratitudes on paper will elicit the same joy, adventure and peace as it did for Ann Voskamp. I hope it will, because like her, “I am a woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.” (Page 46).

I wouldn’t classify myself as a gloomy person by any stretch, but I can definitely lean toward the serious, joke that I’m humor-challenged (thank God my kids have a well-developed sense of humor!), and often believe that I should be experiencing more joy. Without a doubt, I have been ungrateful for what I do have, often laser-focusing on what I ‘should have’ but don’t. This is not pressed upon me by anyone. I “self-condemn” all on my own. I usually see a better way of doing many things, and while that “critical eye” is valuable in my professional work, on a personal level, it simply increases the “never-satisfied”. After reading One Thousand Gifts, I’m fairly confident that my discontentment is attached to my ingratitude.

Although my daily life is strikingly dissimilar to Ann Voskamp’s, there are threads of sameness that all of us as parents feel – the routine; the often mundane; the wish for more joy but the inability to capture it while immersed in the time consuming family responsibilities. Throughout this past week, I have (coincidentally?) come across no less than four other affirmations that this relationship is real between thankfulness and contentment.

Beyond the search for thankfulness in everything – even the “hard eucharisteo”, Ann openly shares the journey of her deepening faith over the months numbering gratitudes. She reveals the slow overcoming of a painful childhood, and confusing and self-condemning young adult life. Immediately in Chapter 1 she acknowledges believing the same lies we often do:

“..that God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.”

“…(that we are) discontented with what He’s given…I have desired more.”

“If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold…”

She is also generous to show us that the daily challenges remain, despite the new found joy in thanksgiving. The daily challenges are now viewed in the light of gratitude.

With my newly begun list sitting at a mere 33, I confess that I’m enjoying the “chase” as Ann calls the hunt for gratitudes. I also don’t need much prodding to write in fresh notebooks, like most other writers/bloggers reading this post! If you’ve read One Thousand Gifts, I welcome all of your thoughts about the book.

34. For the small blog I keep; the visitors and commenters; the followers, and the interesting people I communicate with across the globe. 🙂

Ann Voskamp’s daily blog.

Image linked to One Thousand Gifts on amazon:

AnnVoskamp

Ann Voskamp, Author

The Storm Inside

The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are by Sheila Walsh was a pleasant surprise. I made the wrong assumption that this would be another “self-help-sort-of-book” with a Christian base, but it was sincerely so very much more.

The book is written for women, and dives into the depths of their internal and often unspoken struggles. Confidence and insecurity are addressed, but other topics such as the prison of regret, shame, and the feeling of unworthiness make this read highly meaningful and relevant.

Throughout the book, Sheila is careful to explain that no woman has it all together, none are perfect Mom’s, daughters, wives, etc., and she tells readers how to stop believing the lies. Walsh states, “We must replace the lies we have believed for the truth of who God says we are.”

Sheila Walsh’s intention is for women to live free of fear and the feeling of insignificance. She wisely notes that women can often feel things like shame, without even having a reason to be ashamed! She also seriously deals with letting go of past mistakes and not allowing them to define you.

“…believing is a choice. If you wait until you “feel” worthy of the love of God, then you will die waiting. We must receive by faith the truth that Christ has made us worthy.”
Sheila Walsh, The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are

I received a copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.The Storm Inside

 

Is It Really All “Small” Stuff?

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: And It’s All Small Stuff” books were at the height of their popularity, I would read the title and wonder, “What about the Mom of twins who just found out that she has stage 4 cancer? Is that ‘small stuff’”? At the time, I knew of a distant family friend who was my age, had toddler twins like me, and discovered she would not see them grow up.

In defense of Richard Carlson’s point, I’m sure he wouldn’t have categorized life-threatening illnesses as ‘small stuff’, but such attitudes definitely make us take pause, don’t they? By ‘attitudes’ I simply mean those who minimize even the greatest tragedies and offer ill-timed advice such as, “Everything happens for a reason”. Ironically, those providing such wisdom have rarely (if ever) gone through “big stuff”.

If you read my post “The (UN)Enthusiastic Mom”, you know that I’m someone who attempts to clear the mental deck daily and keep myself focused on what’s good around me. The longer we live in this world, the more effort this takes. That said, there is serious “stuff” within my current circle of influence that is not “small” and should not receive a flippant “positive spin”.

For example, our friends just buried their mother who deteriorated daily for the last seven years from the dignity-depraving ravishment of Alzheimer’s. Other family members are desperate to save their son from his cyclical use of heroin, and all the stunning behavioral horrors that accompany such addiction. A friend of mine is suffering alongside her spouse as he battles the mysterious and unpredictable disease of depression. Another close friend is attempting to manage the social, parental, emotional, and geographical shock and fall-out of ending a 24-year marriage.

Ugly, sad life situations do not need a, “oh, it’s going to be fine” statement – at least not when people are in excruciating pain right before our eyes.  Certainly not when they are deeply struggling with the “whys?” in life.

Let’s not be the people or worse yet, the Christians, who offer what I term “Stupid Comfort”. It is not all “small” stuff and we dare not minimize another’s pain. When we just don’t have words, let’s be quiet by our friends’ sides, or honestly say, “There are no words to comfort you; I’m just here.” Romans 12:15.