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Archive for the ‘Books/Reading’ Category

Today’s title is actually ‘stolen’ from a lovely book by Joyce Rupp that takes you on a daily journey of spiritual growth.  I’ve had this book since the week of guided prayer that I enjoyed in June of last year.  My Prayer Guide, Margaret, suggested it to me as a means of something to continue with after our time together had come to an end.  Over a period of six weeks Joyce uses the image of a cup in its various guises to teach us something about our spiritual selves and our walk with God.  The open cup, the broken cup. . .  you get the meaning.  I bought the 1997 version of the book second hand because I loved the cover and the woodcut prints, but it’s available in a lovely new version too and I’ll put the links to that at the bottom of this post.  I didn’t actually use it last year but I picked it up a week or so ago and it’s been part of my morning ever since.

Part of the joy of this book is that you have to choose a mug or a cup to travel with you, I have a thing about mugs 😀 .  I chose the cup that I use the most, my ‘Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’ mug. wuthering_heights_mug_new2_grande It’s not the prettiest but it is my favourite and it’s the one that’s with me most often when I’m praying and spending time with God.  I was sitting this morning with my chosen cup [full of lovely frothy coffee I might add] after my prayer time and reflecting on today’s entry which is about what the cup can teach us.  In the past I have often felt that ‘life’ got in the way of my relationship with God.  That having to leave for work or do the school-run were distractions that, quite frankly, irritated me because they disturbed my link to the divine.  As I looked at my cup I realised that although it has sides that contain and hold my spirit safely, it is also portable, allowing me to transport it with me into my daily life.  Influencing what I do, how I think, how I react.  Touching all those who enter my life, however briefly.  Faith does not have to be reserved for those quiet and often brief moments alone in prayer, at church or in the car.  Faith is ‘portable’, a 24/7 gift that is infinite and omnipresent so it doesn’t suddenly stop when we leave the house or speak to someone.  I know now that I was wrong to feel so frustrated by the interruptions of ‘life’ coming between me and God, because my life IS my relationship with God and it’s meant to be shared.

Blessings to one and all.

Sharon xx

Links as promised . . . I am not sponsored by any of the products linked below.

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.com

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Barnes & Noble

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.co.uk

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Eden.co.uk

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cloisters 5Awwww it’s the most beautiful day here in sunny Milton Keynes, UK.  The kind of lovely day that I’d like to wrap up in pretty paper and send to you all so you can share it.

I make no apology for banging on about prayer in my last two posts, it’s something I feel I need to, ‘get down on paper’ if you follow me.  Sometimes you just need to write things down to make them stick. 

I went to the taster session on Tuesday evening, as a forerunner to our, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which starts in June.  It was all I knew it would be and much more.  I signed up then and there and paid the small donation.  I came all home full of anticipation for what I’m thinking will be a wonderful week.  It’s certainly a fabulous opportunity, a bit like being on an individually guided retreat but at home.  Perfect!

I found myself craving that silent, peaceful place that a retreat provides.  It isn’t necessarily a ‘real’ place, more a state of mind really.  A silence that comes from within so that, even in a busy street, you can be silent and still on the inside.  Since giving up work in December I’ve created a lot more silence in my daily life.  I’d always been a Radio 2 kind of girl, a constant murmur of background chatter and music; but of late even that has been turned off. 

I watched, ‘The Big Silence’ [further reading] yesterday to remind myself what it’s all about and how difficult it can be for some people to just settle into the silence.  That was me a few years ago, struggling to be at peace without a TV or radio to fill in the blanks, now I crave that silent time because I know that God is there in the silence. 

We’re using a book called, ‘Patterns of Prayer’ by Eugene McCaffrey, OCD at the Carmelite contemplative prayer group that’s just started in my parish.  It’s the most wonderful little book, the kind of book that makes you want to read each page over and over to soak in all that it has to say.  It speaks to me on so many levels.  Anyway, I wanted to share a small part of it with you as it’s relevant to this post and Eugene puts it so much better than I can:~

Silence

Silence is an essential condition for listening.  Prayer is born in silence, a still receptive silence that enables one to hear the deep vibrations of the spirit.  Silence is our way of helping God so that he can help us.  We try to be still, conscious of our own poverty and of our own need to hear and to receive.  Silence is much more than an absence of words or noise, much more even than just being quiet.  Rather, it is a response to our whole being reaching out to grasp the word of life.  It is an alert and attentive receptiveness to “hear the word of God and obey it” [Luke 11:28].  Like the boy Samuel, we cry out with our whole heart, “Speak, for your servant is listening” [1Samuel 3:10]. pp28-29

Earlier in the book it says that it takes two to pray [p26] and I think we often forget that.  We are not alone in that moment, God is with us, always.  But we need to listen and in order to hear Him we need to be silent.  As Fr Christopher Jamison says in, ‘The Big Silence’, “Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God”.

Peace and blessings

Sharon xx

 

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The Light Years

Click image to see the book on Amazon.co.uk

As promised here is a review of my latest read.  I finished this book yesterday, progress had slowed as I’m back at work but still read it in less than a week which is pretty good given how busy I am.

So, I tend to initially be attracted to how a book looks and this cover is very pretty and caught my eye in the store.  I then go for the blurb and will read the first two pages of chapters one and two.  If it still has me hooked by this point it’s a ‘keeper’.   This is the first of five books in the series and looks at the life of a upper-middle class family in the late 1930’s.  The threat of war is slowly creeping into the lives of the Cazalet brothers Hugh, Edward and Rupert and their respective families.  London is their regular home but they all meet up every summer in Sussex, at the family ‘pile’ where their now elderly parents and [spinster] sister Rachel, still live.  

It is what I call a gentle read, rolling along at a sedate pace.  All seems pretty normal at the start but, like with all families if you scratch the surface, tensions and personal battles soon appear.  Like many families of that time a lot of effort is put into ‘people pleasing’ and appearing to do the right thing and behave in the correct manner as befits people of their station.  Keeping up a front and not letting the side down, even between the married couples, whilst keeping a tight hold on all emotions.  It is told from the perspective of each of the family members, from the grandparents right down to the children which is sometimes difficult to keep up with.  There is a family tree and a list of the respective households [including staff and servants] at the start of the book and this came in very useful at certain points. 

There are no chapters, the book is divided into two parts and each part is sub-divided into small sections, a new section for each person being focussed on.  I personally found this strange and prefer chapters although I have to be honest, I don’t really know why.  Old habits maybe?  I also found that, due to the shortness of each section and the speed at which it changed direction, I often became disorientated and lost track a bit.  This made it hard for me to become totally engrossed and ‘lost’ in the book.  I love books where you can totally lose yourself for a couple of hours without even realising the time, the ones you long to get back to and grieve their loss when they’re finished; this book isn’t quite one of those.

It was fairly well written although occasionally a phrase or sentence would present in such a way as to impede the flow and I’d have to re-read it to be sure that I’d understood the meaning correctly.  Initially I thought it was me but no, it was the style of writing and, for me anyway, it wasn’t always smooth.  That may say a lot more about me than it does about the author however.

For anyone who loves historical, family focussed fiction based around the pre WWII years, this is the perfect book.  It’s a real fireside read with comforting overtones and most people will recognise themselves or one of their family members in one of the characters.  It’s an almost voyeuristic look at the Cazalet family and you quickly become one of the family, getting emotionally involved and taking sides by the end of the book.  The book does not end on a cliff-hanger but does leave you wondering what’s going to happen next. 

Yes, I enjoyed the book.  I’d give it THREE STARS out of five.  I will probably buy the next in the series although not straight away.  It didn’t ‘drive’ me or pull me in like other books I’ve read but it fits into my occasional need for a book that I can read without having to invest too much emotional energy.

I’m now about a third of the way though C J Sansom’s, ‘Dissolution’ and so far it’s a cracking read.  Much better than I’d anticipated even from my initial assessment.  Loving it…..

For those who are wondering, it was a pretty good week at work in the end.  I have had a really bad day today but one out of seven isn’t bad.  Bad as in emotionally difficult but good inasmuch as I’m here with my ‘boys’ and we’ve been very busy cleaning, doing homework [not mine lol] and generally preparing for the week ahead.  I hope you all have a great week too and with any luck I’ll be back next Sunday with a review of Sansom’s book.

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Sunday. . .

keep-calm-and-relax-its-sunday-21Sunday and how it ‘feels’ for me depends hugely on whether or not Monday is a work/school day.  Because I work in a school, and an academy at that, our holidays are different from local authority schools.  This gives rise to shorter terms and more frequent but slightly shorter holidays.  I quite like it.  I like the fact that some of my holiday mean that I’m ‘home alone’ and, being a girl who likes her own company, that is a good thing.  So lots of my Sundays are relaxed but many more are domestic whirlwinds of activity and homework support.

Tomorrow is a work day, first day back in fact.  I am not on domestic overkill today because I’ve had over two weeks to catch up on all things ‘clean and tidy’ so I’m pretty chilled on that front.  Also, Si and Ethan are not back tomorrow as Ethan has an inset day and it’s Si’s turn to stay off with him.  So, no uniform to get out, shoes were cleaned on the day we broke-up and PE kit was ready even before then.  I have my share of OCD to go with the depression 😀 .  In some ways it can be a blessing, really 😉 .

I always feel very anxious the first day back after a break.  I’ve no idea why and it only applies to this job [Teaching Assistant].  Si is the same, he also works in a school so we know how each other is feeling.  I think there is a lot of emotional energy tied into working with children and one has to gear oneself up to playing that part.  And it really is an act sometimes.  Remaining calm and patient in every situation.  Being prepared to listen [properly] to the good and bad of children’s lives and reacting with  compassion and love regardless of how you feel on any particular day.  No room for depression at work which is possibly a good thing.  Despite having been crippled by my emotional state at times it has never caused me to have a day off work.  Luckily I have amazing colleagues so that helps too.

So, back to today.  Up at 8.30am ~ very rare to lie-in past 6.30am and by 8.30am tomorrow I’ll have been at work half an hour ~ OUCH!!  lol  Si went to meet his dad for breakfast in Mac D’s which they do every other weekend or so.  I stayed home with E and sorted some laundry, hoovered downstairs, made breakfast for one not so small boy and made the beds.  I also have to deal with the ‘zoo’ first thing each morning which involves cleaning all the trays, feeding them, washing all food and water bowls and sweeping or hoovering depending, as I only hoover every other day unless a disaster occurs.  It is now lunchtime and I’m going to enjoy the last of our Christmas gammon, that I cooked a few days ago, in a ham and mustard sandwich.  It’s our second joint as we loved the first one so much we bought another.  I’ve also got some vegetables to make soup with that I’ll put on to simmer after lunch.  Then it’s going to be family time, possibly walk Honey if the weather doesn’t turn wet ~ it’s very gray and damp out there in not so sunny Milton Keynes.  Then reading time. . .

I’ve nearly finished ‘The Light Years’ so I am hoping that by my next post I’ll have a review of sorts and I’ll be onto my next title. 

Enjoy your Sunday…..

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Flying leaves of a bookHappy New Year!!

I know this blog has been rather neglected of late but a new job will do that to a girl.  It’s been madness at work since I started at the new school back in August’14.  Given that I’m doing the same job I’ve done for the last five years you’d think it would be an easy transition.  In reality, it’s taken quite a while to feel settled and I’ve actually no idea why, but there we go.  I’m hoping that next term will feel less chaotic.  As a direct result, the rest of my life has taken rather a back seat, including blogging, crochet, reading and cooking for fun.

So, here we are in 2015 [never even thought I’d live this long lol].  I don’t ‘do’ resolutions as I tend to set myself up to fail or they become a big metaphorical stick to beat myself with.  However, this year is going to be ‘The Year of the Book’ for me personally.  I’ve ignored my love of reading for far too long but have decided that all that is going to change in 2015, and that’s as close to a resolution as you’re going to get from me 😉 .   My son Ethan [9] has also suddenly ‘found’ a passion for books and reading and I think that’s gone some way to refuelling my love of the written word.  We sit and read together, usually on my bed for half an hour before his bedtime, it’s the perfect way to end the day.  Happily, I’ve discovered that I can [and have] put a free Kindle reading app. on my android ‘phone and that has been liberating to put it mildly.  My ‘phone is so much nicer to read from than my Kindle; who knew??

So, I’ve been to Waterstones ~ oh dear I hear you cry!!  Historically I have not been a regular user of bookstores since the demise of Borders in the  UK, 😦 preferring Amazon.co.uk pricewise.  However, I’ve noticed that since the introduction of Postage & Packing on all orders less that £10, Amazon is not always that much of an amazing deal anymore.  Yes, lots of free Kindle books and yes, lots of great second-hand Market Place deals [1p + p&p type offers] but on new books and the latest releases there’s not much to separate them from the high street stores.  I think if you’re prepared to subscribe to Amazon Prime then possibly you do better, but I’m not so that’s that. 

To the book haul…..

The Light Years‘The Light Years’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard ~ first of five [so far] in the series following the Cazalet family.  At the moment we’re pre WWII with signs of international political unrest ‘on the horizon’.  The Cazalet family, brothers Hugh, Edward and Rupert and their respective wives and children, are living the good life, running the family firm and holidaying in Sussex each year at the family home where their parents and unmarried sister Rachel still live.  All appears idyllic at the outset but scratch the surface and reality appears…..  I’m half-way through this and enjoying it immensely.  It’s not too brain taxing which makes it a great bedtime read.  Will probably buy the next in the series at some point. 

Mindful Way Through Depression‘The Mindful Way through Depression’ by Williams et al.  This is non-fiction and my only nod to the fact that I’ve dealt with chronic depression on and off since my late 20’s.  I don’t publicise this but I acknowledge and accept it’s part of who I am.  I no longer get medical support [and haven’t for years] as that involves drugs which I won’t take and counselling that I find negative and difficult.  This book has been the best thing I’ve ever found for dealing positively with low mood and chronic unhappiness and I’d fully recommend it to anyone struggling to any degree with this kind of thing.  It draws on my Buddhist roots which gives it a familiar feel, and you don’t often meet a depressed Buddhist lol.  My christian faith has fuelled my depression, probably because I tend to focus on the huge list of things I’ve done wrong [from a religious pov] in the past and that leads to self-loathing, which in turn leads to a negative downward sprial…..and you can guess the rest I’m sure.  Things have been desperately bad for the last couple of months so it was time to take the bull by the horns and be proactive…this book is part of that stir into action.  Sadly I’ve had to put my faith to one side for a while as it was literally killing me.  It’s in storage, not thrown away…..for now at least.  I’m on chapter four of this book and taking it slowly as it’s meant to be savoured.  It has a CD of accompanying meditations with it making it great value.

DissolutionI also bought C.J. Sansom’s, ‘Dissolution’.  The first of five in a historical crime fiction series [also described as a thriller, murder mystery, whodunnit, detective story].  This is a TBR [To Be Read] so I’ll let you know what I think of it as it’s a bit of a departure from what I normally read.  I’ve noticed that I rarely read male authors, not a conscious choice but an interesting observation nonetheless.

Elizabeth is missingNext is ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healy…it’s all over the bookclub lists and new release tables and gets very good reviews.  Again, it’s a TBR so I’ll let you know.

Finally I bought ‘Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death’ by James Runcie.  This is the first of the

Granchester 1

‘Grantchester Mysteries’ series [they have recently been televised but I didn’t watch them].  The first three books are in print with number four due out in May of this year. 

I’m hoping I will find a touch of the Morse and Marple mixed up in these….we’ll see!  Also sitting on my TBR shelf for now. 

Just to keep you all up to speed I’m also just over half-way through the second in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series by George R.R. Martin ~ ‘The Clash of Kings’, (A Song of Fire and Ice).  I really enjoyed the first book which is my first foray into the Fantasy genre for quite a while.  Once you’ve got to grips with all the characters and their families and affiliations it gets easier and I quickly became totally absorbed, which is the sign of a good book for me.  I bought the first seven books a while back on my Kindle, they were on offer at £2 each which was a really good deal.  I tend to read these at work during my lunch break or whenever I’m trying to kill time and my ‘phone is handy. 

I intend to post proper reviews of the books I’ve finished as I go. 

Just a quick line about e.book versus hardcopy.  The one thing that I find really difficult about e.books is when you have a complex plot, like in Game of Thrones that requires a lot of concentration at the start just to keep track of who’s who, I like to flick back to the beginning every now and then to refresh my memory.  That’s not easy on the Kindle which, for me, is a huge downside.  Similarly you may have a list of characters and their families such as there is at the start of the Cazalet series, which you might want to refer to frequently at the start; again not always so easy with an e.book.  Given a ‘gun to the head’ type choice I’d still go with a hardcopy every time but Kindle [Amazon] do offer so many good deals that it’s nice to have both to choose from.

By the way my TBR shelf has about 30++ titles on it so these are just a small taste of the latest editions.  I’m not sure why I always have two or three books on the go at once but I don’t think I’m alone in that habit. Usually one non-fiction, one ‘easy read’ and one ‘makes you think so bring your brain’.

Happy reading all…..

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AYJWG

Click on the image to view the book on Amazon.co.uk

Well, who’da thought it?  I bought the lovely book on the left there from Amazon Market Place, second-hand for a 1p plus p&p.  It’s hardback and, to all intents and purposes, was in ‘VERY GOOD’ condition.  So a real bargain for£2.81 in total.  I’ve only just discovered J. Rees Larcombe, but she’s my kind of Christian.  This is a lovely daily devotional book with thought provoking reflections.

So, today the book arrived.  I was initially quite concerned as the packaging was not up to the job, just being a grey plastic bag really, which had worn open at the corners in transit.  The corners were a little dented but hey, it cost me a penny. 

When I opened the book I was really chuffed to discover that it had been signed by the author.  Not dedicated to anyone in particular, just a general ‘With love from Jen x’ and her signature underneath.  Hmmm, this made me curious to find out, with no particular dedication, if I’d also struck on a First Edition, maybe handed out at a launch or similar.  And oh dearie me yes, after I’d done some research, I found that it is indeed a FIRST EDITION.  So, all in all rather a gem I’d say. 

It kinda makes no difference in the great scheme of things because I won’t be selling it at any great profit [if it’s even worth anymore at this point].  I shall just treasure it and relish in the fact that it’s a real find with a lovely personal touch that I wasn’t expecting. 

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1One week from today I will begin my two month sabbatical before I start my new job at the end of August 😀 .  I have decided to use at least the first month of that time to focus on my faith/religious life.  I have [within the last year or so] become very aware of Ignatian spirituality.  It is a very good fit for my way of life and for the way I view my faith and how it [and I] fit into the world and my everyday life. 

I have realised over the years that having a faith is of very little value if you can’t put it into practice in everything you do each day.   “Finding God in all things” is the Ignatian [Jesuit] motto.  I freely admit that although, on the face of it, that would seem quite a simple thing to do, it actually isn’t at all.  It’s all too easy to be ‘taken over’ by everything going on around you, to be influenced by others without even realising it.  Before you leave the house in the morning your resolve to ‘live out your beliefs’ is strong and unshakeable, ten minutes after arriving at work real life ‘hits’ and all that ‘unshakeable’ resolve has vanished and you’re whingeing like a bitch.  🙂

I’ve found this free Ignatian Online Retreat which I thought I might start during my time off.  The photo’ above is the image for week one of the retreat.  It lasts for 34 weeks so hopefully I’ll create a habit that I can continue once back at work.  

I’ve also just bought myself Fr James Martin’s new book, ‘Jesus, A Pilgrimage’.   I just love Fr James, he also wrote ‘The Jesuit Guide to [Almost] Everything’ which was really where my love of all things Ignatian began.  He writes in such a way that his books are accessible to everyone.  They are not necessarily just for people of faith either.  He can also be found on YouTube giving various talks on his faith and way of life.

It’ll be interesting to see if my ‘me’ time pans out the way I’ve planned, or whether life will take over completely with a round of family commitments, domestics and the usual ‘stuff’ that creeps into our daily lives.  I hope I stick to my plan.  It’s become very important to me because I know that this time is such a gift.    I know that when I’m working, finding time just to pray is tricky, never mind anything else.  So watch this space and we’ll see what happens.  Hmmmmm!!!   😉

 

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Sundays. . .

Sundays here are often very busy.  I always intend for them to be ‘lazy’ days, but life often has different ideas.  Housework, laundry and homework have to take priority during term-time, sadly. 

Today I had a cup of tea in bed [rare] and all five cats joined me [standard 😆 ].  You think you’re going to settle down with numerous pillows, a good book and indulge in half-an-hour of undisturbed luxuriating and then, one-by-one, they all appear.  I’ve noticed that they have their own places on the bed.  Reuben has to get in [under the duvet I mean] and sit on my legs, Willow has to get in and sleep as close to my face as possible making reading and tea drinking nigh on impossible.  Callie has to sit under my right arm and Kitty and Ava always sleep on the right side of the bed, as close to the radiator as possible. 

At the moment I’m reading ‘Prague Counterpoint’, by Bodie and Brock Thoene [pronounced Taynee].  It’s the second book in their Zion Covenant series [nine books] which are stories based in fact [all events are historically accurate] during in the second world war.  As the series title suggests, the focus is on the Jewish holocaust, following the lives of a few families from various backgrounds.  The first book, Vienna Prelude,  starts us off in 1936 as Hitler starts to move through Europe.  This second book brings us to March 1938, and Hitler has just moved into Austria, destroying all hope and instilling fear into those who had fled Germany in the preceding years, to take refuge in what they thought was a ‘safe’ country.  I really enjoy these as have studied the holocaust for many years.  Although these are officially works of fiction, the accuracy and detail within them is impressive.  

My ‘boys’ went for breakfast at McD’s today, leaving me ensconced with my tea, book and feline friends.  A nice peaceful, slow start to my day….followed by some of yesterday’s Artisan loaf toasted with some butter for breakfast.  Yummy!! 

To share ~ below are some photo’s we took of Willow and Reuben [our Devons] last night.  She is definately growing, but still half the size of Reu.  They’re inseperable!

Have a lovely Sunday all….xxx

Something has caught her eye.

Something has caught her eye.

Little and Large ~ cute!

Little and Large ~ cute!

No idea what Willow is looking at.

She’s about to chase his tail.

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