And Now I See (A Poem)

“And Now I See”
by Virginia Knowles
August 2015

I reach for them the moment I awake
Lift them to my eyes so I can see my world.
I need this vision, these lenses
Without which I live in mist.

Yet an inner clarity I desire far more
A wisdom which grows within
And wakes my very soul
With a long and lovely light.

Each moment of courage and compassion
Each joy, sorrow, solitude brings
More and more focus each day
I open my soul, and now I see.


I originally thought of writing this poem while in the process of shopping for new and stronger eyeglasses. I am so thankful that someone once invented the optical lens! I would be so lost, and could not read without them!

But as I type the poem now from last week’s longhand version, I think of my daughter Jo who starts grad school tomorrow for her master’s degree in counseling. I smile every time I see “Courage, dear heart” – a phrase from C.S. Lewis – tattooed on her collar bone. She has been an avid reader since she was four, and I just got back from delivering a book case to her new apartment. She is also quite a world traveler. In the past several years she’s been to 10 foreign countries: the Dominican Republic, Italy (for a few months), France, Monaco, the Vatican City, Australia (for a semester), New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland – all without me, but several with one of her older sisters. I confess I am simply jealous for her cultural and educational experiences. She opens her eyes and her soul, and I love to hear her perspective. So I think I’ll just dedicate this little poem to her, ‘K?

All the best to you, Jo! You’ll rock grad school!

All the best to all the rest of you, too!

Let’s see…

Grace and peace,

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Other poems of mine that you might like:

Linking up at… Mom’s Morning Coffee blog party!

Posted in Authentic Life, Grace and Wonder,, Mindful in the Moment, My Children, Poetry | 2 Comments

North Carolina: Mountain Shops

We’ve been home from North Carolina for over a month, but I realized I hadn’t posted pictures from our last two days there! What reminded me is that I created and ordered six 11″x14″ poster collages on the Walmart photo web site. I haven’t hung them up yet, but they look great! Many of these pictures made it onto the final one.
Ten of us went to the village of Blowing Rock on a Wednesday. I love that place! So quaint and picturesque!

My grandson enjoyed the playground when we stopped for a picnic lunch. What a cutie!

We visited several shops. I am always drawn to words, so I love inspirational signs.

I was supposed to meet my family at the ice cream store, but they weren’t there when I arrived, so I popped into another store two doors down. Cross Trade reminds me of Trades of Hope. They import lovely craft work from Brazil to support artisans with a fair living wage. What a surprise to see that the cashier is my friend Anne, who is also the mother of my brother-in-law. What a sweet lady! We had a nice chat. I hadn’t seen her in years and didn’t realize she lived in the area.

We all enjoyed our waffle cones at Kilwin’s ice cream store.

Heading back to the van, I saw the Dulcimer Shop. I love dulcimers! I’ve owned one since I was in 8th grade, but haven’t played it in years. I bought new strings and a music book, and enjoyed hearing the owner play one of the dulcimers for us. 

Take a quick listen to the sweet music that the owner Bill Magee played for us on request!

I’m getting my dulcimer restrung at Lyrical Lumber here in Maitland, Florida very soon. Two of my daughters want to learn to play it, and fortunately it is super easy. There are even instructional videos on YouTube.

On Thursday, one of my adult daughters bravely took five of her younger siblings to Grandfather Mountain, while the other three of us adults stayed at the cabin to do a final cleaning before leaving the next morning. I’ll put those photos in a separate post.

That afternoon, we all visited Mast General Store, a beloved local vintage landmark.

Besides being a general store, it is still a working post office!

Of course, the kids bought both Nehi and Cheerwine sodas!

One son arranged his Mast treasures on the table back at the cabin.


It was my second son’s 16th birthday, so I got him a Grandfather Mountain t-shirt to remember the day.

Such a lovely trip to North Carolina! Here are the links to the other photo posts so far.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Posted in, Making Memories, My Children, My Grandchildren, North Carolina Trip, Photographs, Video, Vintage | Leave a comment

Off to College She Goes!

My fifth daughter, Lydia, left for college yesterday. She’ll be a junior at the University of Florida, majoring in ceramics. With the exception of the semester that her next older sister spent in Australia as an exchange student, this is the first time any of ours has moved away from home to go away to college.

Another older sister suggested that we put together a surprise gift basket in UF colors, orange and blue. I found a tall orange rubber laundry basket and a matching smaller one at Old Time Pottery. I filled the smaller basket with a blue towel and hand towel, blue desk lamp with a box of bulbs, blue water bottle, blue and orange bath puff, and Florida Gator magnetic clips. Oh, and some dark chocolate and a package of highlighters. Her four older sisters gave her a bunch of other great stuff like first aid supplies, toiletries, hangers, gift card, snacks, and other goodies, so we easily filled up the hamper with all of our stuff.

We also decided to have a quick going away dinner as a family, though not everyone was there at the same time during the evening. I found the funky cake on sale at Walmart. Lydia doesn’t drive a VW bug, but she does have an awesome motorcycle!

I lost track of how many hours we spent packing up her bedroom in the week before she left. She’s a prolific artist, so there were all her supplies, as well as clay sculptures, wire sculptures, oil paintings, ink drawings, bas relief panels, and two large and heavy frescoes. I wondered if she’d be able to fit it all in her bedroom. She did, with the exception of one that came home and a few that we forgot to put in the U-Haul truck.

Yes, they even got the motorcycle strapped in! 

Then off we went!

She is very fortunate to be renting a room from a sweet Christian family that her sister has known for years. It is only five or ten minutes from campus and from the restaurant where she starts work tomorrow.

My two main jobs after we got the truck unloaded were to hang up all of her clothes and to arrange her books, videos, file box, pictures, and art (hers and others) on the book case. She told me to put them in categories: classics, modern fiction, Christian, French, cooking, art history… I donated the book case to the cause and now I have two big bins of books sitting in my living room that I took out of it. Guess I’m going to have to shuffle my own book collection around!

In the process I found some old photos of my girl. She looks so much like I did at those ages!

Time to say goodbye. I didn’t cry. She’s just away for the weekend, isn’t she? 

Isn’t she? Never mind that her teenage sister had already moved a bunch of her own stuff into the empty bedroom by the time we got home…

Still in denial,


Posted in, Life Transitions, Motherhood, My Children, Photographs | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday, Melody!

My 10th (and last) child turned 10 today! That’s a milestone!

Melody had a birthday party with her friends on Friday and one with our family today. She chose a Hawaiian theme. 

Chalk boards are so versatile for making impromptu colorful signs! My 14 year old daughter Naomi drew the chalkboard designs and the birthday banner.

We bought the other decorations at the dollar store.

We borrowed a slip-and-slide from a friend. I’m glad that after a while we thought to pair it with a Little Tikes slide that was on our porch. It’s so much more fun to swoosh down on your bottom from the slide than take a belly dive onto the ground.

To go along with the water theme, we also had water balloons and squirt tubes. The balloons were sort of a waste of time, but the squirt tubes from the dollar store were in high demand! You fill them like a huge syringe from a bucket, and then they shoot out a stream of water. I’ll remember that next time!

Meanwhile, three of her older siblings were having fun jamming straws together to make a super long one. Yes, he actually drank from it!

I made pineapple chicken, chicken nuggets, and a fruit platter. We also had macaroni salad, potato salad, and bags and bags of chips and Chex mix.

Today we had her family party – which for us means about 17 people in three generations.

The lunch menu was BBQ chicken, leftover pineapple chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, tater tots, biscuits, fresh sauteed green beans, and two cakes.

Melody wanted a strawberry icebox cake, which her sister Julia has made twice for us. It’s a really simple cake – with layers of whipped topping, graham crackers, and strawberries – but a bit time consuming hulling and slicing! Anyway, I didn’t quite make it to church this morning what with all of the food prep and last minute tidying.

Yes, I carved this strawberry into the heart shape…

The second cake was a last minute inspiration. I had bought some cinnamon streusel snack cakes to give Melody a quick treat at breakfast before she went to church. I took the five cakes that were left over, sliced the top layers off, put the bottom layers in a glass pie plate, diced up fresh peaches, spooned on some whipped topping, and sprinkled the streusel layer on top. Yum!

Melody got some great presents at her parties! Her oldest sister Mary gave her two cute dresses.

Mary and Julia are both pregnant together again! Mary is expecting her fourth baby in February, and Julia is having her second next month! So far it’s four adorable little grandsons for me, but the next up is a girl, and our sixth grand baby’s gender hasn’t been discovered yet.

Two of the sisters who couldn’t come today posted their greetings on Facebook.

Joanna wrote: “Happy 10th birthday to this huge-hearted girl, my littlest sister whose personality precedes her presence, who asks a lot of questions, but always the right ones… Like “When are we going to Disney?” She won me over the day she was born, and still has me wrapped around her finger. Mel, you are always enough, and always loved. Have a blast in your first year of double-digits, and tell your stories like only you can. Xoxoxoxo”

Rachel wrote: “Happy double digits to the most energetic, adventurous, and brave young lady I know – Melody Lynn! You’re one in 7 billion!”

That’s all for now on the birthday parties! I’m writing a separate post that’s more about Melody on one of my other blogs, This Mom Grows Up. You can find it here: Mothering My Melody.

Posted in Decorating, Food Glorious Food, Holidays~Celebrations,, Making Memories, Motherhood, My Children, My Grandchildren, Photographs | 1 Comment

Guest Post by Susan Moore: Top 20 Very Best Things to Say to Someone Who is Struggling

Dear friends,

I’m thankful for the privilege of hosting this guest post by Susan Moore. As the mother of a large family myself, I’ve always loved her old blog, Joyful Mom of Many
Now I’m delighted to present the most recent post from her new site, Susan Moore. Susan is the mother of 12, veteran of home schooling, writer, photographer, triathlete, and a domestic violence survivor. If you click on the title below, it will take you to the same article on her own blog. Please welcome Susan.

… because they just gained the courage to flee an abusive marriage.

[Virginia’s note added later… In case you don’t pick this up, Susan wrote this list facetiously. Before you scream, read further to see what she really thinks you should say.]
  1. Have you tried … (taking a nap, eating, medication, more prayer…)
  2. God never gives us more than we can handle.
  3. The sun will come out tomorrow!
  4. Whatever you do, don’t try yoga (or antidepressants)… #causesdemonpossession
  5. You just need to submit more… to God, to your husband, etc
  6. I know just how you feel… fill-in-the-blank with non-abuse related incident, like: “I know just how you feel… my middle child was *so* colicky!”
  7. If you just trusted God more then none of this would have happened.
  8. You just need to try harder (read your Bible more, pray more, etc)
  9. Think positively!
  10. Things could always be worse!
  11. At least you aren’t experiencing… (insert 3 hour long personal story)
  12. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on!
  13. You aren’t really struggling; it’s all in your head!
  14. You must be in sin.
  15. It was the Lord’s will.
  16. Have you forgiven him?
  17. I just don’t want you to become bitter!
  18. Just remember, God is in control!
  19. The Lord works in mysterious ways…
  20. The storms will relent if you simply trust God and repent.

Or, you could simply say something like, “That must be so hard! I can’t imagine what you are going through or how you are feeling, but I care and want to walk alongside you in this.”

Please know that it is not my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings or to offend anyone with this article! I think that it is human nature to want to empathize with someone who is in the midst of a challenging time, whether they are recovering from an abusive marriage, or are reeling from a cancer diagnosis or perhaps dealing with the overwhelming grief and concern of trying to help a wayward child. It’s so hard to know what to say!

The fact is, I told myself many of the things on that list! It is quite possible that I was even harder on myself than others were. Also, most people do not have evil intent in saying these things. The vast majority of people really do care and want to help.

When you love and care about someone, it is only natural to want to “fix” the situation that they are in. Many of the 20 statements above are true, but not necessarily helpful. The most helpful thing I have experienced was friends who cared enough to simply be with me. They cared enough to check on me, and were okay with the fact that I wasn’t okay.

I didn’t have to pretend to be happily trusting God, when I could barely get out of bed. They lovingly came alongside me without judgement or condemnation and refused to leave me, even when I cried out in despair and didn’t feel like I was making any progress.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for these few faithful friends to play that role in my life. I can tell you this though: I don’t think I’d be here now if they hadn’t stepped in.

What about you? Have you been blessed by friends who have walked through dark times with you, or have you been able to be that faithful, steadfast friend for someone else?

Thank you, Susan, for all of your wise words!

If you would like to read related articles here at Watch the Shepherd:

Grace and peace,

P.S. If you leave a comment here, can you pop on over to Susan’s original blog post and leave the same one there? We would love to hear from you and make this a real discussion!

Posted in Abuse in Families, Do Justice ~ Love Mercy, Domestic Violence, Gender ~ Authority,, Legalism ~ Spiritual Abuse, Problems in Patriarchy, Stress~Weariness | 3 Comments

Peace Be With You

Peace be with you,
the peace of Jesus…
Peace with God:
a communion and
a transformation
paid by his sacrifice.
Peace with others:
authentic fellowship,
and compassion.
Peace within you:
Shalom healing
and affirmation
deep in the soul.
Peace be with you.
Posted in Authentic Life, Bible~Theology,, Jesus, Peacemaking~Forgiveness | 1 Comment

North Carolina: The Gardens at Biltmore Estate


This is a continuation of my
These gardens deserve
their own blog glory!

conservatory and rose garden

they look like
they are painted

resting our feet
mother and child
Italian Garden

water lilies

This is just a tiny sample of what you will see in the gardens at Biltmore.

Other botanical gardens:

Other flower posts:

North Carolina trip posts:

    Enjoying the beauty,

    Posted in Flowers, God's Good Creation, My Children, North Carolina Trip | Leave a comment