30 July 2015

Midwest Explorations

I had the privilege of travelling to St. Louis again, as I do semiannually, for my company conference. Several days of back-to-back meetings and social gatherings filled each hour, and while it's an exhausting time, it is always full of goodness. I am perpetually overflowing with thankfulness for my company (and my boss!), and each trip to St. Louis is a little reminder of that.

It's the people who make it so memorable. It's the people who make the company. The culture. The friendliness. The kindness. The faith-based morals and ethics. I've been in the business world after college for nine years now, and it's like nothing I have experienced before. 

I will admit, am pretty terrible at taking photographs during any of the company events because I am so drawn into the people and the goings on, that I don't even touch my phone for most of the week.

But this time, a special invitation from a colleague friend to stay at her house in a tiny town in Illinois was an opportunity to be a little photographer and explorer. My new colleague, April, and I were invited to go and we had a grand time seeing the tiny town out in the country, watching the sunset at the lake, and staying in a gorgeous 100 year old house. This Florida girl also saw a lot of cornfields, which was a first!

Something I love about travelling is getting a tour from the local resident. That is my insider information for the history, the secrets, the stories. Staying in old houses that have their own story to be discovered and beautiful details so lovingly cared for is right up my street. All in all, this quick getaway from the city was a respite I welcomed with open arms, and I got to see more of the Midwest! 

29 July 2015

Heaven Roots in Earth

This is the way. Walk in it.
Lift your eyes beyond to see the glimpse of the hope of our true home.
Heaven roots in earth.
What we have here is not drastically different from New Creation. It will be familiar, yet newly fresh born with all the beauty of undying lands not touched by sin and corruption.

Here and now, we have to see through the shadows and darkness to catch a glimpse of the deep good that dwells within. Sometimes, it is right in front of us, but sometimes shadows can come and cast shadows over that which is good. When I begin to doubt or worry, the shadow comes in forms so familiar to me I hardly notice. Then I see myself in a mirror and notice the tense shoulders and the furrowed brow. Concern and worry can shrivel up a kind face. It takes great effort at times to push away that which draws into despair, and view with unclouded eyes the true meaning of an answer of task.

This is where we are. At this very moment. We are standing in the mud after the rain, but we do not see yet that the flowers are about to bloom and the grass is growing lush. An earthy scent rises and our eyes catch a glimpse of the new growth that came from the dirt-packed beginning. 

27 July 2015

Step Out to Adventure

A story is the highest mark,
For the world is a story and every part of it,
And there is nothing that can touch the world or any part of it
That is not a story.
- G.K. Chesterton

Some of us tend to stay in the comfortable box we have set around ourselves. What we know is good can be kept that way, right? We don't venture out because there are unknowns. Truly, though, every day is an unknown, and we should be living the unanswered questions. I have embraced this concept and know that God has blessed me already with such questions that I am simply living out. Most of the time, all I need is a little encouragement; knowing someone is kind of backing me up to take that step out gives me comfort as that step is taken.
We can think of this in the context of a larger picture, like a great story we are part of.

What are some challenges that are sprouting up in your life that require you to step out of your comfort zone and do something daring?
Could it be part of our story to take that opportunity? To challenge ourselves with something that will require much of us?

I know what is being asked of me. It is demanding. It is challenging. It is scary because there is possibility of failure. But it is part of my story. The task has been entrusted to me, and I am quite excited to take it on, even while those nervous feelings flutter.

The adventure set before me requires much of me. I have to take personal time to work on it when I oftentimes would rather just lounge in the evening with a good book. I realize that some of the good things in life (the advances, the progress) takes some sacrifice of those things (for a little while) which we hold dear. 

I see the opportunities set before me and the two options. One option is to stay the same. To remain where one is, in a comfortable place. Where things are known and he scent is familiar. The other is to take on a challenge of moving forward to something that will stretch you and make you try new things. I am one that thinks it is good to be stretched every so often. There is much to learn and grow from, but that must be done when we let ourselves be the clay on the potter's wheel. It takes us all a long while to be shaped, so look at that opportunity as part of the story and your shaping.

22 July 2015

Drawn to Mysteriousness

"What is his name?" asked Syme
"You would not know it," answered Gregory. "That is his greatness. Caesar and Napoleon put all their genius into being heard of, and they were heard of. He puts all his genius into not being heard of, and he is not heard of. But you cannot be for five minutes in the room with him without feeling that Caesar and Napoleon would have been children in his hands."
- from The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I have come to appreciate good stories so much, that I tend to re-read them with an insatiable appetite. As I read, I know I am stepping into such a marvelous mind of the author, who has created this imaginative story with a depth and mystery.

The Man Who Was Thursday is one of such favourites, and I am reading it again. This is the kind of book that doesn't get old. The mysteriousness is intriguing even when I know what is going to happen, and because there is such a depth to it (meaning behind meanings), I realize something else each time I read it. The viewpoint of the story leaves so many questions but as the paradoxical situations are revealed, they manage to unravel themselves in due time to another question. The characters are vibrant, yet elusive. The adventure is full of dark passages, weather, and running through the streets of London. 

The story begins in Saffron Park, London, where two poets have a debate about revolutionizing society. One is an anarchic poet, the other, a poet of law, order, and respectability. Not one sentence in this debate is fully serious, or is it all serious? When Syme, the order-driven poet, makes Gregory mad when he says is not serious in his anarchist theory, he seeks to prove to Syme that he is very serious, so he takes him on a bit of an adventure underground (by way of a pub) to a secret meeting location lined with weapons and bombs; a series of passages that lead to a meeting room where the Central Anarchist Council was about to meet to elect a new member to the board of men, who were all named after days of the week. There was a vacancy for the man "Thursday". In a twist of fate, our friend Syme is elected as the new Thursday, after the reader has just learned that he is also a detective. So, we have an undercover detective in the midst of anarchists, and that is just where the story gets even more mysterious and full of adventure around London. What Syme thinks is true, might not be. Who he thinks is an enemy, might be a friend. 

I love the mysteriousness of the story. I love when I find myself thinking deeply as I read, and when the story lingers in my mind long after I set the book down. Chesterton tends to have that affect on me. If I can manage to have a Chesterton book in my book stack at all times, that's a good scheme. This book is at the top of the stack.

20 July 2015

Heat Lightning

Summer is...
Heat lightning
flashing with brilliancy
in the velvet sky.
Illuminating clouds and stars
for but a moment,
half a moment,

suspended in air of our atmosphere.

Strange cycles of heat and false hopes of a good rainstorm has been our schedule lately. I yearn for the cloud cover that brings a refreshing rain. Not the rain that loses its energy in five minutes, but the silvery grey sky that is so heavy with rain that the droplets fall for a good many hours, soaking the ground and washing away the heat. Yes, the humidity is still there, but with a sweetness of the rain it is a bit more tolerable.

I do not come with the opinion that day after day of sunshine brings happiness. No. I rejoice in the day-long rains where I can dive into a good book, with a cup of tea at my side. That makes me much happier than having a sunny day. But where there is light, there is cheerfulness.

Consider me strange and outlandish. Like heat lightning. The other night as I got ready for bed, I walked toward my bathroom and it was illuminated for split seconds because of the flashes out the window. I just stood there in the dark room watching, fascinated with spindles and zigzags of colourful lightning in the clear sky. We are used to cracks of thunder after flashes of lightning, but everything was silent. Just a brilliant light show by our Creator. Better than any fireworks I have seen.

17 July 2015

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

The overflow of joy should spread out all over my path like a toy box turned upside down with legos and blocks cascading and filling my footpath. My heart is full of God's love and all my speech should reflect that. Be gentle. Be kind. The person you are talking to might be having a tough day.

Be a better listener than you are speaker. People don't usually say that they need someone to talk. They always say they need someone to listen to them. Sometimes that is all someone needs to feel cared for. We can demonstrate and pass on the love of God in the smallest things.

Speaking in reassurance to one another. Speaking in respect. Addressing the other with total attention and presence. That means being in the moment.

The subtleties become a bright light of goodness.
They can help us see clearly, and sometimes through other things to the other side. The heart of the matter.

Take a deep breathe. Pause. Then speak.
Let the words be caring. Let them be true, honest, and aimed at love. Don't stray off toward gossip and negativity. Let your heart always be known by your words.

16 July 2015

A Place Where Things Happen

Reading words by my favourite authors on New Creation restores the hope that may have fizzled as our days can sometimes be filled with dreadful things, negative thoughts, and selfish inclinations. Reminders spark up again of the the deeply wonder-filled moments to come. There are threads of goodness in the world already. These are the glimpses we should be expanding upon in our daily lives.

A great good is coming.

It is encouraging to know that Heaven is not a place that sits still. Things happen. Vineyards and gardens are planted. Houses are built. Your skills are used. Every time I think about or read Narnia again, it reminds me of our future hope as a story. It doesn't sit in stagnation. It runs free and beautiful, through lovely paths, and wide open spaces.

The glimpses of New Creation we read about tells us how it is a joyful thing that sweetens creation and becomes the perfection of all tasks at hand. 
The immensity of hope is that we have nothing on earth to be afraid of. Once we realize and visualize the joy that is coming, it isn't so scary anymore.

The pages of the universe contain the true and beautiful creativity of God in New Creation. We will be able to discover God's goodness when everything is deeper and more wonderful than we can even imagine now.

Our story passes through tragedy here on earth, but it will comes out with smiles on the other side. We are to be forever full of joy. 

15 July 2015

Acts and Orange Juice

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all).
Acts 10. 34-36

The morning hums with heat. When I wake up it is already 75 degrees before 7 AM. I read in Acts as I sip on my glass of orange juice. Learning and thinking about how the disciples were charged with the task of spreading the news of Jesus, and that meant they had to change their current Jewish-only way of thinking, that all outsiders are unclean. Their thoughts and ways had to be reshaped to model after what Jesus taught them, so that all people on earth would be viewed as the same, and that they all should hear this news of Jesus.

It was a mindset they had to overcome and begin to understand the dramatic change was due to God's plan to open up His love through Jesus to all the nations and races. It makes me think about what mindsets I need to change so that I can love my neighbors better.

How interesting it is that it began like that. It was the acts and behavior of Christians (as they were first called at Antioch) that started the revolution of truly loving thy neighbor, and thinking them worthy of turning to Jesus. They, at least, should hear the good news, and then make their choice. 

While this was a radical shift in thought for the disciples, they heeded God's direction and it changed the world. I wonder what could happen if we heeded God's direction so devotedly. 

14 July 2015


We live underneath a beautiful sky, don't we?
Do you ever look up with wonder? Do you ever look at the stars, or the planets when they are close enough to distinguish with the naked eye?

The sky changes every day, and the colours reflecting off our atmosphere swirl with the upper winds and currents above us. Illustrious and translucent, we can sometimes see through the wisps.

But what about above our sky and deep into space? God's creation extends out beyond what we see here on earth. The other planets, moons, and stardust that circles us as we circle them. A beauty we can only see through telescopes and images from spacecraft.

I have a fascination with the cosmic details of our galaxy. Back in college I took an astronomy class that I loved and read many books about our planets and all the moons in our solar system. While scientific facts backed up many of the findings, a lot of the truths of these spheres of ice, rock, and gas were left to the imagination, such as what the surfaces looked like (and if there was a surface). I don't know why, but learning about the periodic elements and how they make up our galaxy is so interesting and always grabs my attention. I realize that it is the science nerd inside me.

A spacecraft called New Horizons is circling Pluto right now and is about to capture images of this little-know-about planet so we can learn more. Early images show part of a heart-shaped feature on the surface, that we may see detailed glimpses of in the next day as the probe sends some heart-shaped glimpses our way. It is kind of exciting, I think.

This starbreak is celestial air
Just silver; earthlight, dying amber.
Underneath an arch of pallor
Summer keeps her brightened chamber.

- Leonie Adams

13 July 2015

Summer Essentials

A few glimpses of my summer essentials.

Sweet blackberries in the afternoon.
La Croix sparkling water all day, every day.
Cold brew coffee from Concord.
Salads on my vintage plate (everything looks prettier on this dish).
The afternoon light in my cosy living room.
Hours of reading.
Comfy, handmade leather shoes.

Hello, summer. I am finding the good things that I can find despite the heat you produce for months on end. I've accepted that it will be here for quite a while longer. But I know that it will end. I just have to be patient.

To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose,
Scentless, colourless, this!
Will I ever be thus (who knows?)
Thus with our bliss,
If we wait till the close?

Tho' we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end
Sooner, later, at last,
Which nothing can mar, nothing mend:
An end locked fast,
Bent we cannot re-bend.

-"Summer is Ended" by Christina Rossetti

10 July 2015

A New Page Each Day

Since a new story began with Jesus and it is still going on, we are part of the story. We add a new page each day. Our names are on each page and you have a part to play. Not one of us is insignificant.

Even the small parts have a place. We each have a specific role that nobody else will be able to fill. Do you ever think about how important your role is to other people around you? You are who you are for many reasons.

It is amazing to think that we are part of the story that continues since Jesus walked here on these grains of sand. Our mundane trips to the grocery store, our hours at the office, our time in church, our reading in a cosy chair, our conversations with those around us are all part of it as well. Seemingly normal and routine things have a way of becoming so much more when we make it about God, and not ourselves.

The way in which we choose to live is what matters. Whether we are picking out ripe apples or typing emails to clients, all that we do is for the glory of God. We would not have apples to eat or fingers to type with if it were not for God's grace and goodness.

Muse about that next time you make or eat apple cobbler and when you send thirty emails today. 

08 July 2015

Notes on Paradoxes

The paradoxes of the beatitudes leave us with many upside down notions that seem to disregard the ways of the world.The truth of the matter is we don't know how the story will continue. We don't know how it will turn out every day.

Jesus is saying that the way things are now are not the way things are meant to be.
A change is coming. The meek will not always be despised or forgotten. The weak will not always be without strength. A sudden change is coming.
A Eucatastrophe, as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about in his stories. A swift and sudden change for good. It comes when the world seems clouded and all is darkness.

The good thing that needs to happen will instantly happen at the last dire moment. When you think all is lost. Somehow the buried good must come to fruition. And it will. When it seems most impossible.

We know this to be true because of the resurrection. The good and best thing occured after the darkest thing happened. After the cross --- the resurrection.

Because Jesus entered into each of the paradoxes of the beatitudes, He is the one who knows how all of them feel. He doesn't look down upon those who are abandoned, lonely, harmed, hated. He relates to all of us who deal with those things because He has gone through them Himself.

The crushing is not the end of the story. The darkness can be contradicted by the light that is Jesus.

The defeat, hurt, and tough situation is not the end. The joy is sent before you.

Why not resist the darkness?

07 July 2015

One Heart and Mind

I've told you all this so that trusting in me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I have conquered the world.
- John 16.32-33

We are to be like Jesus in all the ways we can. To have one heart and mind. We are, ourselves, so independently minded that sometimes sparks fly when opinions differ amongst people, but if we all had the same mindset pointed toward Jesus, we would have less reason to argue or disagree.

The challenge set before us is to enter into each situation with the outlook not of what you want, but what you can do to serve others. To ask yourself how your decision will impact them. This is how we can be more sensitive to others and recognize the way we can show love.

I feel scattered sometimes, being pulled in many directions. How can I serve others when I have so many things set before me? A slippery slope of negative thoughts could emerge from this. Instead, I don't think about how much I have to do as a whole. I believe that God will not give me more than He can help me conquer. Jesus has already conquered it. Take one piece at a time. One step. All that I have before me are things that God will help me through.

So, keep on. Do what you do best. Do not lose heart.

Most importantly, do not let the world change you (or tell you what you should be). Let God change you. Those two could lead into very different paths. 

06 July 2015

In Suspension

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.
- Psalm 24.1

We hang in suspense sometimes. How are things going to play out? What is up next for me? God has great plans for you and me. All that is required of us is to be ourselves and let ourselves be led by God's plans.To do all we can, the best we can, and trust that God will take care of the peripheral remainder.

This amazing pedestrian bridge in downtown Greenville reminds me that while I may hang in suspension sometimes, not knowing what is coming, there are beautiful things to admire as we wait. We still have space to walk, grow, and learn along the way.

I often think about how I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and it is full of goodness. I think about different circumstances that didn't work according to my plan, and I didn't understand why, until later. Even certain things that happened for a reason, but not the reason I might have thought. How it all comes together at the right time. Blessing upon blessing. I don't have to possess all the knowledge and be perfect. I don't have to have it all (as the world would view). I just have to be open and willing to grow and learn at all times. I have to be ready to take on challenges that might bring me out of my comfortable box.

I could sit here and think about all that I don't have. I could think about all that I wish would happen, but then I would be losing sight of the here and now. I am in such a good place in these moments, and it is all because of God and His plans coming to pass. It is not because I did anything, except trust in God. It is amazing what you can do when you put all your trust in Him. Anything is possible, big and small. Nothing is too big or too small for God's attention and care.

04 July 2015

A Little Red, White, and Blue

Every time we go to the mountains, I feel like I am travelling deeper into America. There is something about going into the country, to a place that feels old and sheltered with trees that have grown there for hundreds of years. I can imagine history taking place among the rolling mountains and landscapes steeped in tradition. 

The home we lived in had a lot of red, white, and blue decor. I loved all the blue and white china that hung in the dining room area and in the master suite. The red china cabinet and red decor in the living room made the home feel cosy and warm in a mountain cabin. And that is where we were.

There is a certain ice cream shop that we go to on a regular basis, Sweetreats, where they mix the ingredients smooth when you place your order. There's nothing like it, especially in a waffle cone. I rarely eat ice cream, except when in the mountains. It seems to be a quintessentially American summer treat. Though, I know every other country indulges in ice cream when the hot days roll in. My staple order is always vanilla yogurt with banana and fudge.

We always visit the mountains around Independence Day, but this year we were a bit early, so I think back to last week as we now celebrate America's birthday. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country where we have freedoms and rights. We have landscapes to explore and beauty of such variety among all the states and people. We should be so thankful to God for all that we have here. I am certainly enjoying a long weekend with a full and thankful heart.

Happy Independence Day, America!

02 July 2015

Nothing Is Ordinary

Ordinary and unmeaning existence is like ten thousand thrilling detective stories mixed up with a spoon.
- G.K. Chesterton

I love when the ordinary isn't ordinary.
Like when the sunrise or sunset is so beautiful, it catches your breath.
Or when the flowers in bloom are so lovely and the scent makes you smile.
Or when a cup of coffee is so smooth and delicious.

When my journal opens to a blank page on my lap, and I have time to think and muse on paper.
When something so simple is made special with a touch of elegance.
Or when you make a really simple meal that uses few ingredients and tastes so delicious.

I am one who enjoys seeing the loveliness in what someone else might call ordinary. You might see a messy table with dishes. I see lovely remnants of a meal with someone. That is one reason I have always liked taking photographs. Even when I was little, I always had one of those old-fashioned disposable cameras with me, taking photos of all sorts of things that caught my eye. Nothing is ordinary.

Scenes of the everyday are what capture my attention. Coffee cups on a table ready to sip. Scenes of a hike deep in the woods. Books on a shelf, neatly stacked. Fresh cut flowers in a vase. Dappled light coming in the window.

Tucked within each day's normalcy is tiny glimpses of something greater. Something so beautiful even we cannot imagine. But they are glimpses I like to notice, and capture if I can, in words or photos.

01 July 2015

Being Methodical

I am about to make you crave this coffee. I wanted another cup immediately when I reached the bottom of my cup.
You know I love coffee shops and I can hardly contain my excitement for this one. Coffee shops are places that invite resting, relaxing, delicious drinks (and tasty treats), which tends to promote thinking and conversation. If visiting alone, it is a perfect environment for writing. If a companion is along for the ride, it is a good place to slow down. 

I drove my Mum down the mountain to visit a favourite city, Greenville. I haven't been to the city in several years and I've heard some great things happening there and wanted to check it out. It is like visiting an old friend. I have lots of memories in Greenville, with family, specifically my Dad. He was the reason we went up there the first time. He took the BMW M-Driving School out at the BMW factory and test track outside of town. Some of us went up with him, to explore Greenville and also see the BMW factory and test track (and try to sneak peaks of Dad driving on the track). Ever since that trip (almost 7 years ago?), we have loved going back to Greenville, and we have very fond memories of Dad having such a blast during those several days of driving school.

Anyway, many new things have come to Greenville. One place I knew of was a coffee shop downtown that I had to visit -- Methodical Coffee.

So, we went there, of course. It was the most important stop, to me. I ordered espresso with almond milk and an earl grey grapefruit doughnut made by a local doughnut maker, Circa Doughnut. It was the most delicious doughnut I think I've ever had. So much so, that when I came back for my second cup of coffee in the afternoon, I bought another doughnut to take back for breakfast the next morning.

I loved this coffee shop because it was clean, beautiful, and simple. It was bright and cheerful. I was in love with the dishes, the tile floor, and the wallpaper. I love how they played records. It had a balcony area for a more quiet space to write. The baristas were very nice. Everything was delicious. I love Greenville even more now.