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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Starting the morning right

I don't have time for a real post this morning, as I'm headed up north with the family for a rare bit of vacay. But I started my morning with gratitude, and with this lovely yoga-sesh (one of my all-time favorites), and let me tell you: it's a great way to start your day. My heart and my spine feel so alive this morning! I had to share.



More later. Here's hoping the north woods and great lakes rejuvenate the artistic side of my brain!

September


With the beginning of September, my notebooking starts in earnest. I did some priming of the pump last week, and I've joined Edie Wadsworth for a more guided, encouraged, and spurred-on version of this month. I always use autumn (I count September in there too--so I start with my birthday, which is TODAY!) as a time to take stock: a jumping off point, so that hopefully I continue throughout the whole "school year" with the journaling, studying, and awareness necessary to expand my mind and love my life.
(apologies for the Paul-ine sentences)

So yesterday, at Edie's prompting, I took stock, made notes, and 'rated' certain areas of life that are important to me. And I cried.
It takes brutal honesty with oneself, to make progress, and often that is the very thing I run from. I hide the truth from myself because I don't want to deal with it with God. Because facing that kind of hurt or discontent or shame is brutal. I hate admitting that I'm unhappy, because I know I have a beautiful life. I don't like thinking about bad habits until I know how to fix them (which of course won't happen till I face them)...

But with these kinds of assessments, it's easy to get caught up in where you're stuck: to feel that it will necessarily be a long time before you're better again--to believe that you cannot walk in wholeness before you've addressed all your struggles and confusions. But my Bible-reading this morning reminded me--Jesus invites us to walk in HIS wholeness. To simply look to Him. 
He came for the broken.

Yes, healing can be a journey, a long troubled road. Sanctification is long-term, ruts are real, and addressing old wounds can be necessary. 
But don't let that stop you from walking straight into the arms of Jesus now. 
Don't turn away from His smile.
Walking with your head held high is always appropriate with the Father and Brother we've got.

"Therefore if anyone is Christ he is a new creation: the old has passed away, behold, the new has come!" -2Cor.5:17

That passage was at the top of my devos this morning, and I immediately, went: yess🙌: Don't let grief over your sin keep you thinking about it and identifying with it. Hurl it from you. You are a new creation. Of course we may have to do that again tomorrow (probably). But don't let shame keep you from walking away: "Go, and sin no more" Jesus says. In another of the passages from my morning, He even says, "neither do I condemn you" --Think of that!

I turned to Psalms next, and today's reading was chapter 51. And for some reason today, this familiar passage felt like a particularly gracious invitation. This broken-hearted passage addressing sin and shame and depravity, was for me today, a smile.
We are not left to ourselves. Laid out before me were the words to say: a prayer of repentance and faith, needing only my heart behind it. An invitation to call my sin sin, ask to be emptied and refilled, that I might turn and praise--turn and teach others the very truth of God that has so lifted me.
Forgive me by your power and love, and restore me to your delight.

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." -Ps.51:12

This does not lessen the need to seize your life with both hands, but increases it. This didn't dampen my mood for a September of transformation: it established it. Jesus has smiled upon me, and by his light, I will see glory again. 
It's a reminder that this CAN be day one. A clean slate.
Come to Me. Be made new.
"if you tarry till you're better, you will never come at all"

Because it's cyclical, you see. I knew that there was no way I could motivate myself, or face my baggage, without the smile of God. And I knew that all my rubbish warranted anything but that. And yet, with my eyes cast down, how could I see the Lion's tears? Does He not care more about it than even you do yourself?

When I began, even in my numbness, to write it down... to let myself be broken by the truth... what did He send through the cracks in my soul? Sunshine. Dandelions. A new day. A whole year of newness.
I begged from my blankness that He change my desires, He answered.
Open your hands. He will fill them.

"I hear a sound I recognize
You lift my chin, and seek my eyes.
A song of love you sing to me
I ache to sing it back to thee"

My yoga teacher says, "don't decide where it ends". But every time we step onto the mat we decide where it begins. Here. Step onto the mat. Turn to look to Jesus. Breathe in; breathe out. The hardest part is over. You have begun.
Do you want to want Him?
Ask. He loves to give.

A place to dance

Okay so last night I was thinking: this is just dumb. I can't think of a good name for my home, why am I wasting the mental energy on this? I can think of so many almost good ones, or almost think of so many really good ones. I can think of brilliant names for places that just don't fit my apartment. I've had some excellent suggestions, none of which I can really imagine day-in, day-out referring to my home as. Which is important. Yes I want it to be fun, possibly literary, and evocative of me and the home I create, but it can't be too intense a name, or I'll never use it in normal conversation. On the other hand, I thought of (and had suggested to me) some hilariously ridiculous ones that I nearly went with just because they were so funny. But I really wanted something with a little more meaning.

Today, as I've pretty much decided what I'm going to call my little home-on-earth, I've decided this search for the perfect name has been hilarious and rewarding. Hopefully next post I'll have a collection of quotes and excerpts about small cozy spaces and whatnot, but for now, I'll share from my notes...

Inspiration: probablyblue studios, Mole End, Hobbit hole, Toad hall, Fairacre, Crinkleroot corner, Bagshot row, Bramblyhedge, Bucklebury,

Honorable mentions: 
pocket-pad of blue-bumbliness, 
MARTY  (My Artsy Residence is a Tardis Yo) {blue and seemingly bigger on the inside}
The Meriadoc
Bumblebury
Merry Gold Place

Runners-up:
The Blue Legume
Comfort Cove
The Falafel
Mushroom Basket

I am genuinely attached to all of those. And I really think I'm going to keep a list of all the names I (and others) come up with, as an ongoing story for the new place.
It's a great way to incorporate stuff you love (including non-sensical humor). To be reminded of favorite books and song-lyrics and all manner of stuff. I hope to keep a running list, and as I say: post quotes and things, and more name ideas. Even though I think I've decided....

How can I not call it the Dandelion Den?


New digs

I've moved, my friends! My adventures in the city continue, but in a new vein. Year three in the city begins phase two: renting solo. And I'm loving it.

I'm a little behind on sleep lately. Between packing, cleaning the old place, and organizing the new place, I've stayed busy. And of course there's still work (make all the coffee--roast coffee, train newbies), and soccer on Thursday nights (ow), and church stuff (I officially became a member last week!).

It's all been good, but a handful. {I just took a deep breath and something cracked in my neck. Clearly I need to get back to yoga with Adriene now that I have AC!} And God has come through again and again, just as He says. Somehow I can still end up stressing, even though He always comes through for me. But He is also eternally patient. Thanks be to God! A trailer was available when I needed it. Friends showed up in town when I was looking for a hand. Other friends blessed me with a window A/C unit. The list could go on of course: my manager was very accommodating; the last days of cleaning the Pineapple House with Amy were a blast. I really mean that. It was a chore to get that big old house up to snuff, but it was also terribly satisfying, and great bonding-time: dubstep, magic-erasers, hard cider, and all. Thanks to all for the prayers!

So I've moved into a tiny little studio apartment, and am wracking my brain for a name for it. My next post will be of the pictures I just took of it all put together (!!) ...and hopefully I'll have thought up a name as well. I am taking suggestions btw

first night
first breakfast
first tea
 
first cake

grace for the moment

"For strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination." --Arthur Conan Doyle

Welcome friends, along this crazy road we call life, full of the absurd and the ridiculous, the lament-worthy and the charming. There is much that is glorious here, and much that is unexpected and difficult. (Or very much expected and still strangely difficult.) We couldn't make this up. I couldn't.

I've been rousingly reminded of a proverbial truth recently: you can't borrow grace. So many times we worry, developing stress over what's around the next bend. Personally, I've never been one to worry about the distant future, but the near future... oh boy. That extra work load next week? That task you've only done once before in your life... the car dealer you should probably call? How am I going to have the energy for that event I said I'd do? What if I'm awkward and conversation lapses when I see that person I haven't seen in a while?

Most of the time I don't even think those sentences out to completion. I don't live in worry-zone. But the events still try to loom over me, creating stress. (And I don't need anything else to tighten my neck and make me tired.) "In this world you shall have trouble". There's plenty to trouble the world, and those who notice what goes on. But we are not to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow is supposed to worry about itself.

So often in my life, the events or moments that have been crowding my mind ahead of time, or creating worry and stress, look completely different once I'm face-to-face with them. Most often, once faced, these things are far easier to manage. Occasionally circumstances are harder than you ever expected them to be: but rarely are they coupled with the crippling 'I can't do this' that worry holds. There's something reassuring and straight-forward about one step in front of the other, once you're there. Even blind steps, once you're making progress through the murk, have that degree of: one-down, x-to-go, that helps bring an immediacy to the God is with me and what's the worst that could happen? (at worst, If I perish, I perish), and even helps you feel linked to the rest of mankind. Because who of us has this figured out actually?

It's easy at this point to make some diminishing comment about how mostly we deal with small stuff. But, to quote Sir Doyle again, "to the great mind, nothing is little". It is frequently the smallest glimpse, the oldest longing, the unsurprising outcome: the mundane, that can be the hardest to deal with. The most wearing on your soul, wearying to body, schedule and mind.

But anyway, that's quite a bit of ramble...
What I'm trying to say is that there are several things I'm learning (relearning, trying to practice).

1) I can't pretend things aren't there. Or that they don't affect me.
No amount of 'this shouldn't hurt' or 'I know it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things' can effectively counter the impact the world has on me. And who says it should? I would rather notice, I would rather feel, I would rather gaze dizzily at this world and laugh in confusion, than miss it altogether.

2) Don't confuse responsibility with going it alone.
This one has been really big for me. Going into the world as an adult, figuring out how to do the things your parents have always done for you: getting a job, and a house, paying bills, making necessary phone-calls, having hard conversations, getting out of jams, repairing your car... all of these things are good things, and necessary, and they make me feel, well... responsible. And I do believe that as Christians we should be the most trustworthy, unfearful, willing (and therefore responsible) people you can think of. The trouble is, it often takes desperation to realize I can't do any of this without God. And so I wait until I'm really overwhelmed before I give it all back to him. How silly. I could have been living free from the weight of it all.

But there's more. Responsibility doesn't mean going it alone with people either. God gives us people: family, community, caring strangers. He wants us to look after each other, to serve, and to have the humility to ask for and receive help. We've all seen plaques that say things like 'asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength'. And yet, am I still too self-conscious to ask how you do that? To ask someone to go with me? To pray for me?

It's hard to lay it all down, and still take up the cross. To serve and work and be faithful at the same time as wait, and let go, and trust God for the strength for the next minute and the next.

3) So there's a lot of: ask God about it (and ask God to help you not to worry about it, to give you strength in the moment), and then think about something else.
I'm starting to put everything in my phone now. I used to be able to keep track of complex schedules in my head, but not lately. I set reminders for myself all the time, and have my phone tell me when I should leave for appointments. Because every day (and minute) has enough trouble of it's own. I need to be able to rest now, knowing that there isn't something I Should Be Doing.
Which leads me to my last...

4) Schedule rest, schedule breaks in the calendar. Say no to guilt--whether it's 'I should have been looking at houses earlier', or 'I should have known that' or 'I should have exercised'.
It's not up to us to get it all right. Trust God. for the past. for the present. for the future (near and distant). Talk to Him about all the coulda shoulda wouldas. Remember all those times he came through and you laughed at your worry (like this afternoon).
Call your mom (or your dad). They might know the answer already. And if they don't you can laugh about it together, and you'll realize they didn't have it all figured out when they were raising you either.
And look how you turned out!

Cheers everyone:
May you get naps.
May you find hope.
May the sun shine.

Run the Earth and Watch the Sky

We're here to tell you about the glory of hash-browns. And tired feet. And victory smiles. The magic of early mornings, the sun on your skin, the shifting quality of light with the change of seasons. We're here to tell you that the sun rises fresh every morning, scattering dew and reminding us that we are living a comedy: every darkness is followed by light, every sorrow by hope, every tragedy by a this-isn't-the-end. Death is followed by life (if you believe the King). Retreat is followed by reinforcements (He always keeps his remnant). Morning follows night.
And for us, supper follows sweat. We were born to run through life and hit the finish, and every day is a little like that; a little like practice; one step closer to the prize.
We're light-shedders and care-takers; we blaze trails just by running our helter-skelter path. And laughing. Our laughter burns like muscles pushing up off the ground and running on. We will see good, and we will not be defeated: the glories of this spinning world are a chant to keep us on our feet. Our King is to be trusted, our Savior a prize worth any cost. And what cost to Him? He says, Look to Me and Run. And so our noses point down a shadowed, burning, and light-studded path to the One worth the race.
And if you can't see where we're pointing, then look at the bee. And the rock, and the flower. Feel the sun, and the pull of the tide, watch the meteor shower. Taste raspberries and cantaloupe, and fresh bread with butter. Smell coffee and mown grass, and lilacs in May, and the ocean, and bacon, and rain. Have you seen red-winged-blackbirds over a swamp? or a dog smile, or a turtle crawl, or a toddler grin, or a groom watching his bride?
Made you look.
That's the song of his people. He's the Giver. Every cricket, every deep-lung breath, basket of laundry, ruminating cow, tree pouf-ing with green in the spring: is water to be poured down our throats, gravel to be crunched underfoot, a fence to be hurdled. That burrito is fuel for every taste-bud and enjoyment-sensor you have: to hearten your soul for the days ahead, as well as strengthening your body and bone. Soak in that sun, and rest your feet and your hands and your mind. You need it, to run the true course. We don't give up that one, but sometimes our best running is done when we hand our weary heart to our Brother and flop down in the grass. When we're believing His Finished, we run strongly, no matter what our feet and hands find to do.
Feast with your people. He loves feasting. Remember why we feast (victory). Remember when we'll feast (marriage supper of the Lamb). Remember who's the bread (Jesus).

Of course some days we groan when the alarm goes off; say 'I can't, I can't,' when difficulties come our way; bite dust when we step out the front door (figuratively speaking; usually). And that's why we remind each other to grin back at piles of dishes, to follow the flight of a bird with our eyes, to hug a child, and end an argument, and pick up the slack. To drink water and keep running. That's why I believe in waffles, and books, and team-work, and grit, and doing the hard thing, and finding love. We have victory running through our veins, the Victor's blood pumping in us. We were born for this, to be spent for the sake of Another. To be poured out, and picked up; to believe and be made new. To laugh in the face of danger, because we will never recant, not even by despairing. Born to talk back to fear, and listen as the heavens proclaim, and cry when tragedy laps at our feet, and to cry again when our hearts are so overwhelmed with joy and longing and beauty that we cannot contain it.
This is our calling.
We are dandelions and we cry out from the rocks.

Dedicated to my hard-running Sis. Happy Birthday, Lovely!

Also, shoutout to N.D. Wilson, whose books help fuel my days, whose dandelions captured my imagination years ago, and whose writing inspires mine.

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.

___________________________________________________________

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?