In lieu of trying to belong to any number of societies: Chesterton, Sherlock Holmes, the Inklings, and so on: I propose and establish one of my own. Don your intelligence cap at the door; dust off your logic and imagination; did you bring your inspiration and encouragement? We are shapers, my friends; lit lamps; light-bringers. Bring quotes*; poetry should be uplifting and thoughtful, or witty and clever, (or both). Humor is encouraged; laughter is invited back. Pull up a chair. Anyone for tea?

* C.S. LEWIS, J.R.R. TOLKIEN, SHERLOCK HOLMES, G.K. CHESTERTON, N.D. WILSON, AND P.G. WODEHOUSE, ARE ENCOURAGED

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Spring in a bottle


The last ten days has been like watching spring on a time-lapse.
The first few days I was wearing long sleeves, and walking or sitting outdoors, trying to catch the sun-rays while avoiding the wind. The last few days have been changing into shorts and tank as soon as I'm free, and heading out to hike the park trails in seventy and eighty degree weather.
The quality of light has been charging my mind with childhood memories, and literary flash-backs: everything from Make Way for Ducklings to the Ashtown Burials Series.
I can't believe I hadn't discovered the beauty of my nearest park before now. But I've recently been exploring, and the trails go on way further than I thought. I've been tramping the trails while listening to The Dragon's Tooth on audio--some multi-action in the way of good books & adventure inspiration, exercise & fresh air, and massive intake of nature surrounding. (Don't worry, I sometimes stop the audio and just listen to the wild.)
Just in the last ten days or so, the lakes have gone from frozen over to thawed and shimmering; the marshes have woken up to a cacophony of frog-singing, and the ponds are again the paddle-pools of the ducks. The mallards are everywhere, and I even came upon a woodie pair or two the other day.
The grass turned green with those first magical rains last week. The dragonflies can be seen flitting about, and I saw a butterfly too. One of those first days I saw eight beaver out on the thawing ice, and yesterday I saw a muskrat swimming along in the thawed, warming water. Swallows swoop about, loons dive into the lake. The swans were out early, but now I think are gone. Moss greens and thickens, trees shimmer into pale green; pussy-willows come out, and bushes flower. Dandelions, creeping charlie, and violets bloom on the sunny verges and against the protected walls of houses. Now the daffodils and tulips come alive in peoples gardens as I pass. My skin darkens.
Birdsong greets me in the early hours of the morning, friends in the dawn. Their chatter surrounds me as I walk trails or sit beside the creek. Robins sing their piercing evening-song as I read on the porch at sunset, and soon night-hawks will screech their protests to the night.

Sunday afternoons are for writing...

It's easy to wonder how we got to where we are; and to wonder whether here is the right place. Am I where I'm supposed to be? It is an off-shoot of the eternal socratic questions of why am I here, and where am I going. Am I doing it right? And for us, the beloved of God, it is an aching desire to please our God, to find Him, and enjoy Him as we ought.

When the glass is smoky and dim, when we can't see what His plan is for us.. as is often true.. most often.. it is then we wonder whether we have strayed from the path. Did we miss something? My step is so unsure, my past is a mess. What is to say I made the right decisions?

As Jonathan Parnell said this morning: our choices come from who we are, but we are also shaping who we are with every choice. This is terrifying. And yet, as he reminded us: wherever this has landed you, the mercy of Jesus is there too. Take it!

This is faith: to trust Himself and the good he has already given. To take the step before you, to seek good, to ask for Him to make a way where there is no way (His specialty). And in this moment now, to seize upon the mercy he is always offering.

Our Jesus is ridiculously kind.
When these thoughts scratch at the corners of my mind, even as I take the step forward, he faithfully prepares my way before me. I read many beautiful passages from my bible this morning, but the gift waiting for me at church today was Psalm 139. Words I know by heart, and yet needed desperately, like water. There is no place you can go. Nowhere. That God is not there too. Nowhere I can get to by rejection or running, nowhere I can get to by misunderstanding, inattention, or weakness; nowhere that either rebellion or sheer accident can take me, that would take me from the ever-present presence of God. God is Here. Now. Pursuing you. With unlimited attention.

This could sound like terrible news, or the best thing you've ever heard in your life.
We are terrified of being known. And made for it.

Lewis says, the more we "let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become".
Gift number two 437(ish): when C.S. Lewis shows up (even more prominently than usual) in Joe Rigney's sermon. (And you hear there's a book too).

Gift number (I don't know, I'm skipping many): Dandelions. Growing all along the sheltered side of the church wall. Life and light, sunshine and glory, unafraid and undaunted.
"--Living fire, laughing like dandelions standing tall in a fresh-mown lawn, like dandelions that have cracked concrete with nothing but roots, like dandelions unafraid to be turned into ash, or cut or poisoned, ready to be born again."
"Your blood is all green and gold with the strength of dandelions. And their strength is in their laughter, for they fear nothing." DANDELION FIRE. N.D. WILSON.

"Mountains groan
And seas roar
Because all they know
Is you for who you are
Bright and Morning Star" SHANE&SHANE

I was reminded this week as I reread Scent of Water, "For a few moments the sun was hers and then with grateful joy she gave it back to Him again." It is when we give it up, give it back: our lives, our gifts, joy and beauty, that they become more ours than before, that we begin to see more and see better, the glory spread around us, handed to us, and laid before our feet.

I think this is strikingly prominent in nature and creation. How could you possibly enjoy it properly if you didn't see it as an uncontainable cry of joy in who God is? The unending song of all that God has made, that is only silent to us because it never stops.* Not only a manifestation of God's nature in his art and the work of his hands, but also the returning exultation of the created.
Of course, I forget too. I become deaf to it. But oh what glory when we are able to hear again that unquenchable shout of proclamation.
*SEE LEWIS' SPACE TRILOGY

A Series of Remarkable Characters: Barbara Grahame


A Series of Remarkable Characters hopes to become a collection, and is at present an idea: a sort of gathering-round of some beloved fictional friends. I hope to introduce you to some of the ones that people forget, or those who struck an unexpected chord in me. As well as those who do not fit the classic heroine profile--they neither swoon nor swash-buckle--but who are in their way, entirely extraordinary.

My first entry is Barbara Grahame, from the novel Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. I have tried not to give too many spoilers, as I hope you will read the book yourself. The story of course holds many splendid characters, and Barbara is not the main. But she is so real and vivid in my mind, that I immediately think of her in this context.
                         I hope you will enjoy my summary sketch.

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Barbara Grahame didn't have to buck every system or act like a man, to be strong, intelligent, and different from the women around her. It was her self-possession more than anything that made her remarkable. She rose to every occasion with wit, provisions, and clear-thinking. Those who knew her came to expect this. But she didn't act for the purpose of being noticed, or of breaking the mold. She worked with what she had and used it to capacity.
She still wore dresses and made tea, and let the men do the fighting; but when faced with the enemy mastermind, she didn't hesitate to take him down. She used his own intelligence and confidence against him, along with whatever she had in her pockets. She exercised her agency and acted alone.
She was human, and not immune to irrational womanly feelings, but she kept her own counsel and waited with fortitude (but not with inaction!) until she too could get what she wanted.

___________________________________________________________


Don't be afraid.

I loved this devotional from Solid Joys this morning.

It stems from 1 Samuel 12:20-22 where it reads:
"Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people of himself."
Do you hear that?
FIRST, he says: Do not be afraid.
{a familiar preface in the mouth of Jesus}
Before he gets to anything else, before he points out the very real sin--that he is not going to avoid or hedge--first: do not be afraid.
And Then: I know, he says. You have done this thing. You fell. You did great evil. I know.
He's not going to tell us it isn't serious. It's totally serious. But he says,
Listen: don't turn away. Don't run from me in fear because of what you've done. I still want you near me. I will make a way.
You may feel 'what is the good of serving God now, when I have rejected and abused him?' But I tell you, there is always good in serving the Lord, because in doing so you draw near.
And I, the Lord, want your heart.
Don't turn aside to empty things. In your guilt, you will be tempted by comfort, danger, distraction, anything to make you forget your deficit. But it won't help, I'm telling you. They will only deepen the ache.
But with Me there is forgiveness and hope. In Me is mercy, and I promise:

I will not forsake you (this is the Lord your God).

For my own sake {he says} For all the unbreakable and inexplicable reasons of my Name, 

I will not leave you to die.

COME TO ME. FOR I AM PLEASED TO MAKE YOU MINE.

What month is it?

  

I've just come back in from shoveling snow. Yes, nearly two feet of it.
It was a good way to work up a sweat: something that I have been lamenting the difficulty of doing these days. It being mid-April, my body is pretty fed up with winter, and simply longing to get out and use those larger muscle-groups... not to mention get some sunshine and have a picnic. Earlier in the year I find it easier to stay busy with youtubes of yoga and dancing and whatnot. By now I'm ready for something real.
It is very strange indeed to have these full-on blizzard conditions with so much light. Oh, the sun's not out or anything: it's been full-on white-out for days. But the indirect light coming through (and reflecting off the snow) creates a surreal and disorienting quantity of white light that continues past nine in the evening. Believe me when I tell you, it's weird. And I almost wish that I weren't so burnt-out on winter and could enjoy the strange and rare qualities.

In the meantime, I do what I can. The physical exercise was indeed good for my mind. And I (being me) whipped up a cake to bake while I was outside. I pulled it from the oven about half-way through shoveling, and when I was done, tipped it out onto a pretty plate. So now I've got a vanilla-honey almond-flour cake at my elbow, and I'm trying not to eat the whole thing. Probably should heat up a cup of soup before I cave...
I've been enjoying Joy Clarkson's podcasts today. It's good to hear young intelligent women with busy schedules and rich inner-lives talk about subjects I love.
And I started out my day with a Joe Rigney sermon: The Hometown Kid, the Disciples, and the King, from a couple of weeks ago, since roads were closed and churches cancelled. (recommended!)
{It has done my heart good to see all the neighbors out helping each other in this snowpocalypse.}

You will notice I have revamped my blog a bit. One does, in hopes of stirring the creative juices. Unfortunately, lately I've had dozens of ideas to write about, but they're only at about 75%. It's infuriating... like having a word on the tip of your tongue and not being able to think of it. I get impressions, or am moved by things I'm reading or thinking about, but the thoughts won't form any sort of writable substance. I blame winter.
I try to take notes, so if I have some clarity of thought, or am wildly inspired to write, I can come back to them. If that ever happens, you can expect to see some evidence here on the blog...

In the meantime, I must be content with the bits and bobs that are easier to grab hold of: what fills my days, in the more tangible sense. Leaving the themes, philosophies, reasons, and motivators until that later date when I am able to brush the cobwebs from the leaflets of my thoughts.
  
In the restless lethargy of an April with no spring it behooves one to drink tea, save money, and feed the mind so much interesting information that it forgets worries less about what it has not.
So this week I listened to Churchill lectures after work most days, finishing yesterday. I studied a significant section of French each day. (Today I did a shorter lesson but also learned the days of the week in French.) I watched some old classic movies: Laura, Charade, Pimpernel Smith. And some newer shows: from The Flash, to Hinterland and Occupied. I finished a couple of books (Ellis Peters, Bonhoeffer) as you can see from my side-bar. I started Betty's Wartime Diary, and The Scent of Water (reread) and have read from others.
Soon I will get back to the documentaries I'm also in the middle of. One must be in the right mood though, to appreciate them.
And then of course there's work. And sleeping. The cooking of soups and egg-bakes and various other  sustaining victuals. Listening to classical music, and plenty of other kinds.
I think I'll make a curry tonight.
  

Let me know what's been sustaining you through the winter months!

Wanna have tea over Skype?

Cheers to warmth and light!
Shalom

Inspiring!



I'm learning French, guys! And this is such a good word for me, because I find it incredibly intimidating and embarrassing to speak French out loud (and being nervous makes my accent atrocious), but how else am I going to get better? Now I gotta go find a native French speaker so they can tell me what I'm getting wrong....🙊

In leu of someone to speak to, I go around mumbling to myself at work, << un cafe avec du sucre >> and so on. If there are any French speakers around me, they probably think I’ve gone nuts as I quote from today’s lesson << la tortue mange des pâtes >>. What self-respecting turtle would actually eat pasta? It’s rather like those math problems when no one questions why Steve has 97 watermelons in his van.
On the way home I try to translate Dr Seuss from memory, but I don’t even know the book well enough in English. << Le chat dans le chapeau >> .... << je n’aime pas des œufs vertes et... >>
I petered out at this point. But a good exercise, however amateur. I will prevail!

Gotta start somewhere, right?

Here's a little jumping-off point of a post. More soon


He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise
-BLAKE


"I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy-tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts."

"They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not."
-CHESTERTON


"Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind
Run on top of the disheveled tide
And dance upon the mountains like a flame"
-YEATS


Not much of a blogger in 2018, am I?


And so goes life.
Trying to snatch the mood as it comes to me, and set down a few words. I haven't found the stillness required to write, lately; swinging instead from work to sleep and back again. But, unexpected as the smattering of rain across my window (and not wholly unconnected I should think), comes a breather in which the words inside my head agree to come quietly.
I'm feeling that overwhelming urge again, to see the world. Perhaps it's because my passport came through, and the world is now a step away. I want to drop everything, grab my go-bag, and get on a plane.
Travel. Walk the streets. Sit and watch. Close my eyes and listen.
Stroll along the Seine, scramble over Yorkshire hills, peruse Welsh bookshops, see if Ireland is really as green as it looks. Swim in the Mediterranean, visit the Cairo museum, sample the food in Singapore. Athens. Rome.
This world is big, and I feel the breath-taking need to see it for myself.
My hunger to know is awake again, and I must feed it books before it dies out or kills me.
But also... SEE THE WORLD!

(Anyone need a traveling barista? An au pair? A pen-pal from Minnesota?)

Meantime, trying to get back to reading. It's remarkable how slow I've become at that, what with work, and the internet, and the distractions of adulthood. I need to get back into training hardcore, because this will never do. Must learn all the things! Next week I'll bring my backpack and stay after work to study with all the coffee. Also, I hope to get back to writing here. But for now I'm going to post this, as silly as it is. Just for a jump-start.
Cheers!

Boromir

Have you ever been seized by an image in your own mind, and then flooded with its story so vividly that you feel the weight of sorrow and wells of potential for love and grace and joy imbedded there?

One day, not long after I'd watched the Fellowship of the Ring, I was remembering Boromir. Not a figure new to my tears. Every time his scene comes around I weep where I sit.

I have of course read the book innumerable times, heard Aragorn call him valiant, and seen the sorrow in Faramir's heart at his loss. Known best for his greatest mistake, he is yet redeemed, and therefore a glorious story, and a familiar one. "Whether he erred or no, of this I am sure: he died well, achieving some good thing. His face was more beautiful even than in life."

He falls farther than he ever thought, and yet does not fully despair, but seizes the next opportunity to lay down his life for his friends, taking hold of integrity once more. And at the last, repenting from his very gut to his king, the king who was never more his than at that moment.

And yet the scene that I thought of was one from the movie, thrown in there no doubt, to make our hearts break. It was of Boromir being tackled by hobbits as he tried to teach them to fight, and his laughter as he wrestled them off. (Thank you, Sean Bean)

And suddenly I saw this scene as if these were his children. As if he had made it home.
Not as if he had never come to grief. But if, having fallen thus, he yet had turned and laid down his life in direct opposition to his sin (which is repentance); and come to bare humility before Aragorn. ...But that death had not then claimed him.

If back from the brink of death he had been saved, a new man, to return to Gondor... he would have spent his days laying down his life for his people. How else can one saved from such a place live?
He would have been like Edmund ("you were only an ass, I was a traitor"/This our traitor's only hope, He can save the dead). Except, I think, with more joviality.

Imagine him embracing Faramir. Known, beloved, and now seen. Imagine him finding a wife. He would think the sun rose and set with her. He would try to impress her, but she would be one he never need pretend with. At the end of the day, she would know, and love. For, and in spite.

And children. He would have kept the laughter, though wiser and less carefree. He would be one to use his laughter as a weapon against the dark. The only way he would have been able to conquer with that kind of past: he knew his place and kept the laughter.

And I weep.


Oh wounded heart
So tempted and so strong
A valiant fighter
Good, at war with wrong

This knight has fallen
Past all thought and hope
Yet undespairing
Seizes sacrifice like rope

At last unto the king
He poured his weight of sorrow
As he poured out his life
And gained tomorrow

"From darkest failure
Through remorse, regret
To full opposing of misdeeds
You've come to honor yet"

So speaking, Strider knelt there
Never more his king than now
Placed his sword in shaking hand
And kissed his sweating brow

Brought humbly thus
Unto death's very brink
What if this shadowed cup
Had not been his to drink?

But called to live again
He cast aside the grave
To give his life for others
And be saved

Once-traitor, now the just and fair
Like Edmund, that beloved king
Yet more disposed to mirth, I think
And more inclined to sing

How else to live
When falling made him softer
Than knowing now his place
To keep the laughter

I see his brother
And a long-delayed embrace
Long known and loved, but now...
To share an honest face

I see him telling tales of old
And playing with the young, his own
Depth of wisdom, unafraid
And full of mercy, known

His wife, a rock of courage
An ocean couldn't part
Full knowing, loves his soul
And holds his heart

These arrows pierce me now
As arrows pierced your chest
What do we prize?
What should we leave at rest

But taking honor in both hands
We'll seize integrity
And giving up ourselves at last
We'll gain the White City

Well hello, 2018

Hello everyone.

I feel rather a day late and a dollar short for this new year: the blank slate I admire so much. In past years I've tallied up books read that year, written tolerably interesting blogposts about time past and time to come, started new notebooks, taken time for contemplation, cleanliness, devotions.

Did I get to any of that yesterday? No.
I worked a double shift at work and I was tired. 
I'm trying desperately not to get the (knock-down drag-out) Flu that is going around. And also, to combat the oppressively low temperatures, I'm making mounds of food as fuel, and so that I can have actual protein and vegetables in my system. I did yoga, but it didn't seem to unblock any energy: I crawled directly into bed, glad that my actual yoga challenge did not begin until today. Today I have (slightly) more time to breathe, take in my surroundings, take in what's important. 

I am choosing to remember that Jesus is the one who offers each of us a clean slate. No guilt, no shame, no condemnation. Freedom from fear. And that the offer extends to the track marks left behind by life and sin and brokenness. I'm thankful that not only was that mine yesterday, but it is mine again today. Grace for the new year. Grace for the asking. Mine for the asking. 
I am glad because not only are his mercies new every morning, but he doesn't get tired of us starting over. He is not wearied by our faithlessness.

Which is good, because I'm tired. (Between this line and the last I fell asleep on my arms and thus decided to take a nap before continuing).

So I want to celebrate persistence. And look for laughter.
I want to practice mindfulness: a phrase easily glossed over, especially if you've heard it a lot. But important.
I want to prioritize quiet. And space to write. 
{This often gets categorized into 'time' when it is generally mental space that I lack.}
I want to have courage and be kind. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, after all.
I want to choose joy, and fill myself with good things. Jesus is making me new!
I want to find what feels good, starting with this yoga challenge I'm doing.
I want to see good.

And Breathe.
               God is here.

God is for us, you see. Who can be against us?

Because I like looking back on it myself, here are a few other things on my list for 2018: the practical side:
Get a passport. Like, really. ASAP.
Actually open that Etsy shop.
Finish my Rosetta Stone French.
Finish all those C.S. Lewis lectures I found!
Read books that make my eyes light up.
... I would love to read Sherlock Holmes again, and watch Princess Bride, and...


This is me, feeling more up to starting my year, but still looking eight years old. Jeez.
You know what? I don't think I'm going to get to scrubbing my floor or my yoga mat today. And that's okay. I worked two shifts (simultaneously this time), took time for quiet, got a few books from the library, fell asleep. I'll do yoga on my mat just like it is, and just like I have been, until the right moment comes along. Do you see that gorgeous cross-section children's-guide to Egypt? Library discard! Mine now. The others are loans.

Hope to get back to writing again this weekend. Hope to be back here.
Until then, I wish you hope and joy in this new year. Stay warm. Find space. Move. You are loved.

Anyone want to read my random musings on Boromir?