Monday, 11 May 2009

Chicken Scratchings

chicken sctrach On Wednesday, Ann came along to help at Sewing Club and showed the girls a lovely example of Chicken Scratch Embroidery.

[It is sometimes called Snowflake or Amish embroidery. More details here]

Anyway, it reminded me that I haven't done a proper book review of "The Pace of a Hen" which Lynn kindly lent me three weeks ago. So here it is [and the book is off to the Post Office to go back to Lynn]

Written by a Quaker woman, Josephine Moffett Benton, nearly fifty years ago, in many ways it is a book "of its time". She takes the symbol of the cross, and suggests that a wife and mother has to divide her time between prayer, recreation, work and family - and there is a proper balance to achieve.

I admit I find some of her ideas difficult to put into practice. I am, by nature, a busy sort of person, and not given to idleness. Even if I am 'just' watching TV, I usually have some knitting or mending in my hands at the same time. When I am at the sewing machine, then I usually have a classic serial or play on the radio. If I have to wait for a bus, then I will do a crossword or write a shopping list.

clock I recognise that the way I manage my time has changed over the years - twenty years ago I had small children and their needs had to come first - now I can defer mealtimes [within reason!] if necessary, and go to the shops at random times, and I do not need to worry about finding a babysitter if I want to leave the house at night [although there is still the dog to consider!] And I am grateful for a patient, and tolerant partner who puts up with my bizarre ways and somewhat haphazard approach to some aspects of homekeeping.

I don't think I believe [as St Teresa of Avila may have done] that being a wife/mother must necessarily impede one's spiritual progress. If one is fortunate to have a husband who regards it as one of his responsibilities to encourage his wife's "Growth in Grace" then in fact marriage is an added blessing and not a hindrance. And maybe we can achieve more as a couple than we could as two separate individuals.

JMB also writes about parenting in a way which probably would not be acceptable now. Ideas on discipline have changed over the years. But I do agree that it is important for children to understand where the boundaries are. On reflection, I am sure every parent can see mistakes, and things they wish they had done differently - but by the grace of God, my children have reached adulthood and become lovely women of whom I am very proud - and that is more to do with Him and them than with me, I think!

But two things in particular have resonated with me as I have read the book - and I am very grateful to Lynn for her generosity in lending it to me.

The first thing is a reference  to Rodin's sculpture "The Cathedral". JMB rodin cathedralsays that she was talking about this to a friend. She could not work out how to copy this piece with her own hands - then they realised that it required the two of them to put their right hands together. The artist's metaphor for a place of worship was a spire formed by two people coming together in prayer.

My own personal prayer life is very precious and important, and my daily time alone with God is vital - but it is also true that I need the loving, supporting prayer of others too. Husband, family, friends - especially at times when I am stressed or weak or unwell, or seeking guidance - it is so often the prayers of others which carries me through. And equally, I am aware that it is important that I share in prayer for my family and friends.

The second thing I liked particularly was JMB's emphasis on slowing down and listening to God. I know that is a constant Quaker theme ["Be still and cool in thy soul" said George Fox, the founder of The Friends] But I do need to decelerate a little sometimes; these tasks will still be there tomorrow - and if they never get done, were they that important anyway? It was a timely reminder to me, that I must be careful not to be over-busy, and that recreation and re-creation times are not just valuable but essential.

So thanks Lynn, for your kindness!

Finally, a poem by Wilfred Peterson

Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart
By quieting of my mind.
Steady my harried pace
With a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me,
Amidst the confusions of my day,
The calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
With the soothing music of the sighing streams
That live in my memory.
Help me to know
The magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art
Of taking minute vacations; of slowing down to look at a flower;
To chat with an old friend or to make a new one;
To pat a stray dog;
To watch a spider build a web;
To smile at a child;
Or to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day
That the race is not always the swift;
That there is more life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward
Into the branches of the towering oak
And know that it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Lord,
And inspire me to send my roots deep
Into the soil of life's enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars
Of my greater destiny.

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