27 November 2014

Blessed Thanksgiving

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
- Colossians 3:17

May your Thanksgiving be rich in blessings by way of spending time at home with family, talking with them, relaxing around the adorned table, enjoying the harvest of the season, tasty spreads lovingly prepared, long walks to work off the food, sweetness of dessert, as well as time spent in an attitude of thankfulness. Remember also those loved ones who are not with you. Be thankful for the past, and for memories that float to you. Let your life spill over into thanksgiving, and in your heart, know that God is good, without fail.

26 November 2014

Books on Words

Philology - n. Science of language; (now rare) love of learning & literature. From the Greek philo (logia, logos, word, speech) love of learning. (OED)

I realize that most of the books I am reading right now are about words. I guess this isn't much of a shock, but I think lately, I have been more and more drawn to the written word. Yes, even more than usual.

When I was in grade school and middle school I loved English class. I loved learning to write neatly and in cursive, while other students proceeded to moaned about how dull it was. I didn't understand why they thought it was dull. I loved spelling and vocabulary homework, even the tests, because I aced them all. It just came to me like second nature and I liked learning all the words. I didn't think much of it then, of course, except that I liked it.

As much as one goes through phases during the teen years and growing up and feeling too cool for the academic sort, my love of English class never faltered. Even when a teacher didn't grade my essay as highly as I would have hoped, which happened in high school, because when you are in AP English there are certain high expectations held above you.

Anyway, my love of words never dimmed, even though I got distracted from it sometimes. Perhaps that is why now I am diving into the vast sea of words. The more I read and the more I learn the more I realize how much more I have to read and learn. So, here are a few of the books that have been keeping me afloat in my endless word sea.

Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster - I found this book in The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. I have a feeling it is going to be very interesting. I have only read the introduction thus far (23 pages), and I am enthralled already. It's been a great while since I have done some analyzing of novels and I look forward to diving into his book about the story, people, plot, fantasy, prophesy, pattern, and rhythm.

Diversions & Digressions, by Lewis Carroll - Who is the prime example of word play and stories of logic? Lewis Carroll, of course. I found this book at a little used bookstore in Santa Monica, CA, where outside I promise I walked by Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) who smiled at me, dressed very smart in a dress shirt and vest. Or maybe it wasn't him. But that didn't distract me from finding a good book. This book is a collection of Carroll's older published logic games, writings, and humour. I had never read any of these before, so it is quite fun.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss - I know I have seen this book a hundred times on shelves and the display table at bookstores over the years, but never knew what it was. Honestly, I just never picked it up because I am not naturally drawn to bestsellers. But suddenly in the library sale section the words caught my eyes and I realized that this was a book about punctuation, and it was written by a British woman with an obvious sense of admiration for being properly punctuated and also a sense of humour. Watch your commas! (Which one is correct? - 1. The panda eats, shoots and leaves. 2. The panda eats shoots and leaves). Yes, this is indeed a fun book so far.

The Meaning of Everything, by Simon Winchester - Other than the general knowledge that the Oxford English Dictionary is the most thorough and best dictionary one can get of the English language, I had no idea how it came to be the twenty volume set of books it is. It has a 71 year history of being written by a great number of people, including volunteers around the world who sent in various words, illustrations, and examples. It all had to be compiled by individual word by tireless workers (in a little building they called the "scriptorium" behind the editor's home) who saw the importance of having a source for everyone to go to when they needed to know the meaning and usage of a word. This is the story of the men involved, the drama over the years, the processes, and some interesting stories about Oxford and the Oxford University Press where each new volume was published as they slowly made their way through the alphabet (they would publish the letter A, then part of the letter B, and so on). I love that J.R.R.Tolkien worked for a year on the dictionary, in 1919, working on the letter W. One of the toughest words he worked on was "walrus", which apparently had some strange history and etymology. In later years he created the word "hobbit" and it is part of the OED. 

25 November 2014

You Are Enough

Just in case you were wondering -- you are enough. You don't have to be more than you. God has made you with the specifications that He desires. To put you to use for good in this broken world. You do not need anyone to change you and you don't have to wait or try to improve yourself in some way to be a part of something good.

I am gently reminded of this oftentimes in the quiet place of my soul when I am part of things that are much bigger than me. Rather than feel swallowed up by the enormity of the operation, I feel blessed to be a part of something that is bringing good things to the world and perhaps shining a light on God and His goodness.

My job, for example. I am just a tiny piece of the larger company, and part of one small office where I am behind the scenes. While I do not directly see the impact we are making on the financial and spiritual lives of the doctors we work with, my talents and gifts are being put to use in a way that serves others. I am particularly thankful for my boss who shares stories with me about clients and the impact we are having. I am constant in my pursuit of learning more and desire to become even more entrenched in the business, but I know that I was brought in because of who I already am. I am enough.

My church is another example. I am part of a large church in town, where I know a few people in the perspective of the thousands of members. I help in a tiny way by volunteering at the bookstore every Wednesday and have gotten to know a good number of people by working with them. A new three-story building was just completed, with classrooms for all ages, a gorgeous courtyard with a fountain, and the bookstore, just off the courtyard. The new bookstore space has a cafe and coffee counter attached and it is in viewing distance of the whole first floor so I am getting to see and meet more people as they wander in. It is a challenge for my introverted self to be a cashier in a shop, but my knowledge of books and authors comes in handy when people come in looking for a particular book and I enjoy helping others, making coffee, and alphabetizing bookshelves. I am enough.

24 November 2014

Week of Thankfulness

You received Christ Jesus, the Master, now live Him.
You're deeply rooted in Him.
You're well constructed upon Him.
You know your way around the faith,
Now do what you've been taught.
School's out, quit studying the subject
and start living it!
And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Colossians 2.6-7

I am adopting this Scripture as my course of study for the week. To focus on living deeply rooted in Christ so that everything I do reflects a little bit of His love. To let my life be led by God's wondrous power so that my living spills over into thanksgiving.

I love that each of our lives is able to be used in such a way, that we are not too small or insignificant to make some sort of difference with God working through our person.

While I am always full of thankfulness in my heart, this week I want to try to dwell in it and muse about the blessings that are present in my life. Knowing that I am undeserving of them all, an attitude of thanksgiving reminds me that God is good, indeed.

Musing upon this: Our day-to-day living should reflect the thanksgiving that is in our hearts. 

21 November 2014

Oxford in My Heart

Wishes are the memories coming from our future!
- Rainer Rilke

My heart longs for the cobbled streets of Radcliffe Square, the tall dreaming spires among many colleges in Oxford,  the cosy cafes where I can get a pot of tea and a scone, the warmth of used bookstores with so many hidden treasures, the misty mornings, very old buildings that hold a lot of tales and history, the fog-laden green landscapes, and all the beautiful walks and trails.

I cannot say that every single place in England is just to my liking, since I haven't been to every place, but I know many spots that are to my liking, specifically Oxford. Because I have been there on several occasions and spent time wandering the streets, the secret is open to me, and that only peaks my interest and makes my heart long for it even more. All the exploring I have done is not enough.

I also want to learn, That is the perfect place to learn, I think, At least for me. I already read copious amounts of books, dress like I am in prep school, and sit in coffee shops sipping cappuccinos and writing in my journal that I am usually mistaken as a student, but really it is not a mistake.

A dream held deep in the heart can be suppressed, but not forever. 

The longing hits me every now and then, and it cannot be ignored. It comes with memories of the past visits and visions of the future times my feet will trod along those familiar streets. Do you want to meet me on Broad Street for lunch? I know a few good spots. Oxford is a place that has always been on my heart, somehow, even before I first crossed the ocean. I think it is the way I was drawn to English writers, stories, movies, obsession with tea, teacups, cold weather, the Oxford comma, British English, and rolling hill landscapes. I didn't even try, but Oxford is in my heart.

20 November 2014

On Being Intentional

Do you ever get stuck in a rut where you have a list of a hundred things you want to do, dreams you want to pursue, and tasks you want to accomplish, but when you reach a moment to do something about it, it passes you by? Whether we are distracted, idle, listless, or lacking confidence, I think we all hit a rut like this sometimes.

I know, for me, it generally comes along after a period of intense busyness. When I finally get through that time and have a moment, I sometimes do not evaluate the best option for the use of my time and end up watching a favourite movie for the hundredth time because I am worn out. My brain needs a break, but my creative side is crying out for attention.

How do we get around this?

When I ask this, one word comes to mind. My close friend Jen and I talk every week, and we always address eachother's struggles and goals for the week, the month, and the year. Her goal for this year has been to incorporate the word "Intentional" both in meaning and action in everything she does.

I think she is on to something crucial here. Throughout this year we have brought up "being intentional" in conversation multiple times, and each time it has shown to be such a good reminder of how we should live our lives. 

If we are intentional with our time, our gifts, our work, and our family, we are giving each of these things thought and attention, and that means our actions are more purposeful and life-giving. We aren't just letting the wind take us by its whims and fancies, but we are being mindful and diligent to pay attention to what really matters in our lives. Who we give attention to, how we spend our time, how we speak to one another. These are all matters that sometimes rarely graze the minds of most people, but to live intentionally is to change that pattern by opening our eyes to what is in front of us.

I am trying to focus more on being intentional because these days are so full and busy, and I want each piece of that to be meaningful, and when I do stop for a millisecond, I want to make use of that time in the best way possible. I will always be a work-in-progress, and here is the next case of serious study.

19 November 2014

Collecting Cosy

Nothing is better than getting cosy inside after being outside where the temperatures are dropping. Put me in a corduroy jacket, a scarf, and boots and I am happy to step out there to the 40 degree weather. But then it is also delightful to step inside for a cup of coffee and a book or magazine (especially when reading an article about librarians. Love it!).

The condensation on the windows is a sure sign that things are changing. I cannot help but smile when I see it. This is it. At last. My favourite time of year -- when things start to feel different and a season actually changes. It is glorious.

So I am collecting the cosy. This is the time of year when the candles burn more often, the blankets get frequent use, I run out of socks because I wear them with every outfit, baked goods are spiced and delicious, and hot drinks are a necessity. Tonight the window panes are getting frosty, maybe.

The sky is grey and overcast, like the northern wind has brought it all down here, and it has. Layers of northern sky are now set over us.

O darling, let's step outside
to feel the cold air wrap
itself around us.
We'll guard ourselves with
boots, jackets, and scarves
for added measure.

Isn't it lovely how the branches
reach skywards as their
leaves fall, letting go of a
comfort that now shall play
a different role.

Let's take a walk through
the leaves and as they crunch
beneath our feet, let's think
about the cosiest, loveliest things --
of tea, scones, books, fireplaces, and
snuggling under blankets on the
coldest of nights.

18 November 2014

Rooted Deep

Sprung from one root we all are,
but we have the tendency
to forget our depth.
Winter is approaching,
so take root in us, deeply Lord.

Shield us from the bitter chill
of Winter. Graft us in, down
deep in the roots of
what we know.

Warm our frozen hearts;
warm us to our cores;
help us remember Your
love and warmth that You offer.
Fold us into Yourself.

17 November 2014

Feeling Thankful for Little Things

I am feeling thankful for chunky sweaters and boots, and the weather in which to wear them. I was made for this kind of weather, so I really look forward to this time of year.
I am feeling thankful for a visit this weekend to my brother and sister-in-law's new house. Even though it was a short visit to Gainesville, it was a delightful, relaxed time with them.
I am feeling thankful for really good coffee, no matter where I am. This was my vanilla latte from Huckleberry in Santa Monica, CA. I am always looking for a good place for coffee everywhere I go.
I am feeling thankful for the short tea break I occasionally take at work. Things are so busy (which is a good thing!) but I do not want to stop because I do not like feeling behind, however when I do stop, it is nice. To sip a cup of tea and maybe write a few words in my journal feels indulgent.
I am feeling thankful for soup. It is the perfect season to try out a lot of different soups now that the chilly air is showing up, and this sausage, kale, tortellini soup that my sister-in-law made while I was visiting this weekend was superb.
I am feeling thankful for any misty, rainy, chilly day. Call me strange, I know, but I really do like days that are misty and chilled, with a greyness filling the sky. Everything seems so much warmer and cheerful when you go inside to warm up and make a cup of tea, Plus, it is the perfect weather in which to make the above mentioned soup.

14 November 2014

Autumnal Wind

The wind rustles the trees, but not an ordinary wind. Something of the Autumnal category. The branches hit the glass of my bedroom window unintentionally. The window has gotten in the way. But it wakes me. The moonlight casts a shadow of said branches into my room, and I am used to those particular shadows, otherwise it would be a little spooky. Then suddenly silence overtakes the rustle, hushing the leaves.

I can hear my own bated breathe awaiting more wind, or possibly even some rain? It is hard to tell with these shifty Autumnal winds. But it is quiet again. So it was just a flash of wind, I imagine, flying down from the North, hurrying along its path to get South, like the visitors we get in the Winter who do the same thing.

Snuggling back under my soft sheets and blanket, my eyes close again and resume previous sleep and dream sequences. If the winds come back, I do not notice.

13 November 2014

Evening Routine

With my cup of tea getting cold,
I let the musings of my mind unfold,
and spill onto this page

A damp chill is scattering in the air,
as the sun hits the horizon in colours fair,
and we embrace night again

A lasting hope dwells in my heart,
softening me, which is where I should start
under God's grace abounding.

Never displace these cheerful moods of my soul.
Keep me constant, even if I feel the control.
Let your way be my way.

An evening books sits upon my knee;
Delight in the words, and help me see
through a different set of eyes.

12 November 2014

When in California....

...you can drive along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica and then explore, by foot, the walkable streets for shops and restaurants along the Third Street Promenade. There are blocks and blocks of shops, restaurants, and people-watching. This is where my brother and sister-in-law live so we got to do a lot of exploring here.

...you can try some places that are Californian. So, eat at In- N- Out, because apparently that is the thing to do in California. And everyone is probably going to ask you if you ate there.
...you can drive along the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. This is looking back to Santa Monica from Malibu. Be warned, it is expensive parking if you actually want to get out and spend time on the beach.
 ...you can visit the other "other" Venice. It's funny to me because I am from Venice. This Venice is so dramatically different but I wanted to see it. Let's just say it is not a place where old people would want to retire for a nice quiet experience. It is quite the opposite.

...you can visit the original Disneyland where Walt walked around and you can ride lots of the original rides. You can also see how many Rogers' you can fit in a teacup.
...you can drive around downtown Los Angeles and check out some deconstructivism architecture. This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. 

11 November 2014

The Griffith Observatory: Los Angeles

One of the best places to visit in Los Angeles is The Griffith Observatory. Not only does it have the best views of the city and the surrounding mountains (and the Pacific Ocean on a very clear day like this day), but it also houses important telescopes, a planetarium, and astronomy exhibits to indulge the science nerd in me.

It was also free, though be warned the parking lot is small and this is a very popular place to visit. We were smart by getting there early. I loved wandering around this spot. The rooftop also had access to see one of the telescopes, which is what I was secretly hoping for (I told you, there is a science nerd deep inside me). Downstairs, you can view displays on each planet, experience a camera obscura, and stand on a scale to see how much you would weigh on each planet. I think most of us liked that on Pluto, we weighed something like 4 pounds.

We even had lunch here, in the cafe on a lower level, with views. I had some tasty butternut squash soup. But really, the height and the views is what makes this place special, and also very important for science. The clear, dry air gives the telescopes the best views deep into space. Oh yea, and you get a clear view of the Hollywood sign.