30 December 2016

Morning Hours

It must be possible that the soul made
Should absolutely meet the soul that makes;
Then, in that bearing soul, meet every other
There also born, each sister and each brother:
Lord, till I meet thee thus, life is delayed;
I am not I until that morning breaks,
Not I until my consciousness eternal wakes.

- George MacDonald

Rising before the sun allows you to appreciate the growing light and catch glimpses of the eastward glow.

With my head still on my pillow, I try to start each day with prayer. If we can be thankful for all the little things so mundane and everyday, our outlook is changed about everything else.

Lord, I thank You for this new day.

That is how to get out of the right side of bed. I need some light, so on goes the lamp.

Thank You, Lord, for the electricity to light my lamp. 

We take advantage of how we have as much electricity as we want here. I have some friends half-way across the world who are doing amazing things for neglected children there, and they have to plan around only half a day of electricity.

The same feeling of thanks rises in me as the darkness begins to melt away and I enter my kitchen to turn on my electric kettle. The water will come to a boil and I will pour it over freshly ground coffee beans in my french press.

You are the source of all things good and pure, O Lord.

A simple breakfast of cereal and fresh orange juice accompanies reading another chapter in Scripture. I continue where I left off yesterday. Right now, I am reading through the story of King David. So many thoughts and ponderings follow reading a chapter each day.

Your word, my Lord, is a lamp unto my feet.

Then, my coffee is ready. I pour the dark liquid into my mug, grab my pen, and journal for a little while. These are my morning pages of whatever may be swimming around in my head. I release the words onto paper to clear my mind and/or get ideas out that need some space to wander on the blank pages.

The sun rises over the horizon and my home illuminates the longer I write. This is when time flies, as my hand scribbles to fill pages. Many of them becoming prayers.

I am so deeply thankful for words, Lord. They express the contents of my heart and soul and they help my consciousness awaken to the eternal.

27 December 2016

On Venturing Out

The softest whisper of a chill glides through 
bare limbs of branches bereft.
The winds feel autumnal, with dancing leaves 
cascading across the roads and yards.
Their leaves fallen, gracefully, all clutter to 
the ground. Roots beckon to them for
warmth provided by their congregating.
Can we do the same, by our presence still,
granting autumnal support the way
leaves provide that which is needed ahead?

It feels a bit autumnal here; winds are blowing as if eager with an announcement of a coming change. I hear leaves rustling down the alley as they scatter about. My mind turns to the beckoning winter that has not yet come, but teases for a while. I stay cocooned in this warm southern corner and dream about real seasons in distant places. I will seek a cosy spot here at home and pretend it is icy and snowy. A warm hearth keeps my home cosy, and I make a cup of tea. 

The post-Christmas cosy feelings emanate and I indulge with a big mug of coffee, books, and maybe a chore or two. It is the middle of the afternoon, and something causes me to have an idea that venturing out to a store is a good idea, and I am proven wrong. I become one of those people who goes to Target the day after Christmas. But my errand is a noble one, at least, a needed one. Taking stock of some items at home, I realized I was almost out of dish soap and a few other cleaning items. Hence, why I thought a quick saunter out to the store would be okay. Walking around the store actually wasn't that bad. I got what I needed, and even snagged a roll of wrapping paper for half price and a little box of Ferrero Rocher on sale, too.

Then I reached the cashiers. It was like being at Disney: queues so long with no way around it. Carts were filled with sale items, grumpy children sat in said cats, and parents chiding their youngsters for being grumpy. There was no choice. You had to go through those gates to be released back out in the world. So, I waited. And I came home and remained in my cosy place for the remainder of the day, because why would you want to venture out there?

25 December 2016

The Word Made Flesh

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 - 1 John 1.10-14

Merry Christmas! 
Rejoicing abounds in this day, for the birth of Christ. A promise fulfilled.

Do you hold any traditions for Christmas? One of my new traditions is to listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols sung at King's College, Cambridge. The music and readings is exactly what I need to hear at this busy time of year. The harmonious swirl of voices permeates my home and I am transported to the ancient chapel. I close my eyes and let the beautiful sounds wash over me.

The gathering of such old traditional songs mean so much, especially in this modern day, full of worldly troubles. We need to stop and take the time to listen to these words that have been around for centuries, and be immersed in the story we hear each year, but with new ears and amazed hearts. For what our Lord has done for us is truly amazing.

24 December 2016


Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

- "Noel" by J.R.R. Tolkien

It is not bitter-cold here in my land presently, but in the imaginary world that Tolkien creates, the winds of winter are blowing through these lands. The mountains have teeth, I imagine them white-capped with snow. Alluding to the biting cold, the chilled wind slices over the mountains. All the while, the world was grim and grey. It is always when the night seems darkest that the shadow of light begins to emerge, slowly, just at the edges of dawn.

This poem of Tolkien's was discovered about three years ago, in a school program. How amazing is it, that the poem (only a portion of it is shown here, as the whole poem isn't yet published that I can find) remained hidden for so many years? This gift of lost words bodes well with Tolkien's love of history and myth. Discovered stories emerge like pieces of history being unearthed. 

As dawn approaches, Noel is here. The Light has split the darkness. The darkness shall not overcome it. 

Joyeux Noel is French for Merry Christmas. And a very Merry Christmas I wish for you.

23 December 2016

Dayspring is Near

Though winter night will soon surround us here,
Another Advent comes, Dayspring is near.

- Malcolm Guite

The day approaches. Closer and closer we are to Christmas Day. All the preparations will soon come to a halt when we reach Christmas. No more preparing, as He arrives. 

Dayspring is one of the names given to Christ without naming Him yet. A way to call out to Christ to come, while resisting to name Him until Christmas arrives. Set in the ancient Antiphons (poems from the first century Christians), there are seven poems that call out to welcome Christ with these names - Wisdom, Root, Key, Light (Dayspring), King, Emmanuel, Lord.

Collecting thoughts and musings these last several weeks, I have been reading Advent poems each day, reading devotionals, and listening to lectures. My heart does long for the quiet reflection that we should enter into this season. The rush of the days has made that a challenge. I am drawn closer by way of these poems, lectures, and readings. I pause enough each day to allow these words to flood into me, restoring the hope of Advent and the reminder of Christ's plan and purpose.

The cyclical nature of our calendar and seasons helps us prepare and appreciate each change. We know what is coming, and we need reminders each year. In general, we all crave stability and a routine sameness to our days, but the shift in season and atmosphere forces us to pause in wonder, or at least recognition, of the essence of the changes. If we look closely, we will see that there is purpose to each season. God has a plan for all those fallen leaves. They provide a blanket of warmth through a cold winter to the roots that rest underground through the cold spell. 

As seeds lie (seemingly) dormant underground, we see evidence contrary-wise as spring approaches. Noting to myself in my memory banks that it is underground in the dark that the seed grows. Then it can give fruit. It is our time now to grow in this season covered in dark.

20 December 2016

A Great Light

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in the land of deep darkness -
on them light has shined.

 - Isaiah 9.2

Another paradox of Christmas is held in these prophetic lines from Isaiah. The B.C. perspective reaches us today, with words that remind us that while they waited before Christ, we are also in a holding pattern, waiting for Christ.

The great light Isaiah writes about comes in the humblest and least expected of ways. Our Lord comes to earth as an infant (which literally means 'one without speech'), who has to learn everything as we all have in our own lives. He doesn't suddenly know it all. He depends on Mary. He learns from Joseph. He has to learn to walk, talk, and He experiences all the ups and downs of growing up. 

How amazing to think about our Lord growing up into a young child, and being God all the while.

Imagine. Just for a moment in time the worlds collide into an earth that God touched with His human feet. The dust in His sandals was the dust He created. The men who mocked Him were the beings He created and loved.

Our hearts and minds should be held in awe and wonder of this as if it were just being revealed to us. We live in such a time in history that nothing seems to surprise us anymore. Yet, this event we celebrate each year, this great light, was a surprise in so many ways. He was expected to come and conquer. To rule at last and come as king.

In the smallest shape, He came. With a purpose unknown to all, He came. 
The road to the cross was ahead. He knew that, and He came.

Let us marvel at this in deep wonder, as we continue to wait.

16 December 2016

Advent Reading - Waiting on the Word

O huge and most unspeakable impression
Of Love's deep wound, that pierst the piteous hart

Of that deare Lord with so entyre affection,
And, sharply launcing every inner part,

- Edmund Spenser

I interrupt your daily routine with a lovely book recommendation for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. I like to read thought-provoking and beautiful writings that bring me through a season that has so much to say to all of us. Waiting on the Word is a book I will read through each year at this time, to prepare my heart and mind for this season and feel nourished by the good words.

Through the poems each day (there is a good mixture of both old and new) and the following couple pages of notes on each one, I have been able to spend 10 minutes each morning reading the day's selected poem, and then I read the reflection that Malcolm writes, and reflect on it myself. Accompanied by a cup of coffee, I pick up this book and read a poem that muses upon the darkness of Advent and the coming of the Word incarnate.

Of course, Malcolm's thoughts on the poems are so intricate and insightful, opening up the whole realm of the poem that helps me understand so much more about what is being said. A lot of people tend to steer clear of poetry because they do not understand it, but here, Malcolm offers a mini-analysis, which is most welcome.

As we wait on the Word, let us dwell in thoughtful musings to shape us and bring us closer to God. Let us slow down to gain insight from practices of thoughtfulness. May we keep our hearts focused on the meaning of Advent and the glorious reason that on Christmas day everything changed. and the story has so much more yet to come.

14 December 2016

People Look East

We sang the Advent Carol - "People, Look East" in church this Sunday. It is funny how a carol I encountered in reading blogs and other readings on Advent just recently, in the last two days, brought this carol to my attention. Somehow I do not remember this carol from any Advent season before, but here it is, with words just so occasioned for this third week of Advent. 

I came home from church, and plucked a lovely, old book from my shelf - The Oxford Book of Carols. I found it in there, along with the music. I read through the words I had just sung in church and let the words of ages past float around in my head. I really like this carol as it looks at what is to come, with a longing and a voice of song - to look eastward to the coming Christ, as we look eastward to the coming day.

It is about preparing your home, quieting your busy-ness, gazing to the grand order of the cosmos, feeling encouraged through the tough times, and singing so that all the earth can know the Lord is coming.

It rings true of Jesus's first coming at Christmas, but it also has a second meaning as we continue to look eastward for Jesus's second coming. In these words is the wonder and patience of waiting actively. Pursuing with eager feet, and continuing onward as we wait.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together,
People look East, and sing to-day:
Love the Star is on the way.

I love the descriptive words used for Jesus in all the verses (star, rose, guest, bird) rather than using His name during Advent, as we cannot exclaim what we do not yet know. We withhold saying the name until the day when we can suddenly burst forth in celebration. It is a reminder to us that Jesus is all those things, and everything we need. He is the beauty and the necessity, as in Him and through Him all things hold together.

12 December 2016

Joy of Every Longing Heart

I oftentimes notice that a song is stuck in my head and I've been hearing it play for awhile. It is too easy to get songs stuck at this time of year. Every note and tune is playing again and again. The song floating around in my head lately is Charles Wesley's carol- "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus".

The phrase that I find myself humming most often as I cook dinner or as I dust my bookshelves is -

Joy of every longing heart

The answer to all our longings is Jesus. The joy of it is that Jesus is reachable. He was here. He was a baby, just as we were. He went through all that we have gone through and will go through. The peace in our hearts can be that Jesus goes before us in everything. We can take comfort in that knowledge that we are not alone.

As the days grow short and the errands grow long, these darker days lacking light do not have to hinder the joy. There can be joy in a paradoxical bright sadness. Even amidst what John Keats called -

In drear nighted December

It is the time of year that holiday decorations brighten the velvet dark landscapes. We tend to become overcrowded with tasks, gatherings, shopping, etc. Fill in the blank with that which fills your days.

Here is where we need to meditate on our Advent hope. We are not left in the darkness. We are to look beyond to what will come. In a B.C. viewpoint, it is Jesus coming at Christmas. In an A.D. viewpoint, it is Jesus coming back. 

During Advent, as candles burn and the blustery winds keep us wrapped up, we can have both hopes on our hearts as we prepare for each. One hope has been fulfilled, and we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus, knowing the long-expected Jesus came in an unexpected way, and the purpose was for Him to die for us.

The coming hope is what can give us an outlook of light as we sit in darkness. We don't sit hopeless. We look toward the promise with hopeful hearts.

By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone.

08 December 2016

Narnian Voyage

Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.

-Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I can feel the wind blowing my hair. The picture on the wall has come to life and the ship in the frame is heading straight toward me. Only magic could be at work here, as splashes of water strike my face. Suddenly, the picture frame increases and overtakes the room, swallowing it, and me, into the watery scene of ship and sail.

We are back in Narnia, of course, and that is the scene at the beginning of the book, and what happens to Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace as the magic of Narnia brings them into that world. It is such a wonder-filled scene, which brings to mind the scenes in Lilith, by George MacDonald, and how Mr. Vain travels into the land of seven dimensions. It is through a picture frame: the landscape moves and increases as he moves closer to the picture, which eventually becomes the new reality.

C.S. Lewis was an enormous fan of George MacDonald, and these little glimpses extracted and knowing the links is delightful to me. The more obvious links this book contains is to The Odyssey by Homer. It is, indeed, a voyage to several different islands, and in each place certain trials and tests await them all, with some magic lingering in the air. The places they visit are dooming to some, and growth opportunities to others.

Eustace, for example, is the most annoying young man. He grumbles, complains, makes fun of everyone, and runs away from the crew when they land ashore so he doesn't have to help them with various chores. His greedy nature leads to a transformation into a dragon. He must shed his scales of bad choices in a painful way, but he comes out the other side a new person, lead by the mysterious lion, Aslan.

One of my favourite scenes is when Lucy reads from the magician's book upstairs in the library on one of the islands. It is the loveliest story she has ever read, but she cannot re-live reading it again.The pages only move forward in one direction, and she cannot go back to read it again. Such is the way of our life. It is read in one direction and we cannot re-live moments again, but should be immersed in each day, with attention intentionally given to all that touches our hearts in the everyday.

06 December 2016

Tidings of Comfort

Words for the silent Word himself to speak
Before the cross, above the open book,
Read them aloud and wait till they are true.
-Malcolm Guite

As the temperature drops, I seek cosiness. I seek a comfortable spot in my cold, tiny home with a cup of tea and a stack of books. The sunlight coming through the curtains is welcome when it's cold. But our weather shifts, back and forth, from warm and muggy to chilled with brief days of cold.

More than any other time of year, winter is when we seek the comfort of our warm homes. Warm both in temperature and in spirit. I find myself seeking tidings of comfort lately, with appeals to myself to hang out at home. To be away from the busy streets, traffic, parking lots, and stores. It appeals to the inner me - the one who wants to be cosy at home writing and filling pages. It brings me comfort to write words down at last.

There is something in me that has been seeking out the comfort. Maybe it is because the world is so harsh, my heart yearns for the opposite to counter the effects of it. Maybe because when I do take a deep breathe, I feel as if I can see above a line of clouds. Clearer and clearer vision becomes, when we take a step back.

The comforts of the season are of home and people, yes, but that comfort to which I appeal is the comfort of God in thoughtful moments of solitude and prayer. Getting away from the bustling world, to do as Jesus did, go up the mountain to pray. We should seek our spiritual retreat as well, more often than we do.

Seek a quiet solitude.

A mountain above all the noise.

05 December 2016

Paradoxes of Christmas

Christ is the morning star
Who when the night of this world is past
Brings to his saints the promise of the light of life
And opens everlasting day.

- Bede

I hold onto a quiet life. A home that promotes rest and peace, with time to rejuvenate after long days. I cherish details of a place, including conversation and atmosphere. I linger over cups of tea and coffee as I read. I avoid drama and controversy. If something new comes along, I usually do not jump in right away. I need to see how it is going to be good. I don't seek to make anything change, and yet change comes anyway. I long for certain things to stay the same or go back to how it was when some particular thing was good. But, to my chagrin, we are all guaranteed that change is the promise we get. It shall come.

I am one who does not always deal well with change. Some changes are easy to go along with, while others really tug at me for a long time. Internally, I go over and over, rolling it around in my head until I am exhausted. Then, I feel defeated. If I can prepare, I would like to. I like to think thoroughly, muse thoughtfully, and transition slowly when it comes to bigger things. I like to know the rational behind the change. I have the tendency to create certain expectations in my mind that usually do not become reality, or that I fear could be become reality. I suppose (I hope?) I am not alone in this.

I take comfort in some knowledge from the past. The world wasn't very good at handling change, either, when Jesus came to earth. He didn't meet expectations, he shattered them. He didn't come to rule over all, overthrow leaders and become king, but to serve and die. Yes, our King did create quite a change. The very best change came to us, and it was resisted.

When Jesus was here, meeting people and changing the way they do everything, it threw everyone off. He changed the importance of routine atonement by sacrifice by becoming the sacrifice himself, on our behalf. He promoted love above all, no matter what nationality the other person was. He, a humble carpenter, spoke with authority as if he was speaking from God or something. No one else had ever done such things.

This season of Advent is the time for preparation of the coming of Jesus, but in these days before the light, we are cast into darkness, which is essential for the story. The days here grow shorter, and by late afternoon the sun is already setting, which enters us into a season marked by darker times. It seems interesting that it works out that way, appropriately placed for our hearts and minds to turn in that direction as nature leads us that way.

The paradoxes of this season are numerous, and studying them helps us appreciate every nuanced moment of dark days when we choose to take time away from the hurry and rush of a holiday season that wants you to jump in before Thanksgiving. It should, instead, be a gradual movement, a thought-filled process of entering into Advent darkness of the unknown but hopeful future that suddenly breaks out into the most wondrous light of life that comes in Jesus.

Prepare your heart, and the change won't hit you with such force that it cracks you open. But if it does, look at it more intently and perhaps you might see how it could be for good. Maybe it is letting the light in.

02 December 2016

On Being an Aunt

It's a pretty special job I have, being an aunt to my sweet niece and baby nephew. I get to watch these little ones grow and learn, and I have the privilege of stretching their imaginations, teaching them, listening to their stories (even if it is baby babble for one right now), reading to them, and giving them things to wonder and think about. Hopefully these things help me become an aunt they want to hang out with as they grow up. When I get to spend some time with them (like over Thanksgiving break), it's a delight.

My favourite parts of being an aunt center around imagination and wonder. Seeing them respond to something for the first time is a joy. I watch the introspective reflection in tiny ways that compound upon what they have learned so far.  Hearing my niece talk about her favourite topic in great detail (dinosaurs right now) reminds me what an open book her mind is. She is soaking in all the information because it truly is for the first time, and she is fascinated.

That is why it is so important to nourish little ones with good stories, truth, and love. To let their minds wander into creative, imaginary stories of their own. They figure things out that way. I find that little ones always want to learn. There is something deep inside them that craves it. I remember feeling that way when I was little (wait, I am still that way). Books, music, drawing, playing outside, paying attention to the world around them are all good things to grow the fruits of their lives as they develop. All while sharing with them that they are surrounded by the love of God at all times. 

I am no expert at being an aunt, but like these little ones, I love to learn.

30 November 2016

Artfulness of Imagination

I turn my head and sudden shafts of light catch my eye, causing me to pause in wonder of God's created universe, where the power of a star in our galaxy gives life and light to our planet, casting lovely shadows and shapes onto the wall of my office, traveling more than 92 million miles to get here. Why do these little things that occur each day fascinate me?

We return to good books, poetry, art, and music for a reason. There is more truth to be drawn from it each time.

God has crafted us with shaping imaginations that are meant to explore, wonder, dream, create, and discover truths.

Malcolm Guite explains this well in a short 2 minute lesson on why we return to these imaginative things that remind us in different ways at different times how to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The creative works reach us differently each time we see or experience them. How can we incorporate this into our daily lives in everything we do all day? 

Recently, I have been thinking more deeply about how I can be more aware and present in each moment. With each sense more attuned and awoken to the daily blessings. This is the season we are called to pay attention to the details - Mary's journey, a period of darkness and uncertainty, the star, the birth, the coming of light. All things that should cause us to stop and ponder. Musing upon the story of Jesus. Welcome to Advent.

28 November 2016

Advent Beginnings

Truly to me, this consideration, that his mercy is new every morning, so his grace is renewed to me every minute, that it is not by yesterday's grace that I live now, but that I have my daily bread, my hourly bread, in a continual succession of his grace, that the eye of God is upon me, though I wink at his light, and watches over me though I sleep...
- John Donne

Over a cup of steaming tea, I contemplate these words, and the meaning of recognizing the new mercies of every morning. Even with the nuances of everyday, our days begin refreshed. We are hit quickly from the moment we wake up with worldly distractions that seek to distract us from distraction. 

As we enter the Advent season, it grows only more distracting. Our minds become cluttered with all the crowds of shopping and getting here and there. Our culture rushes into Christmas with items on sale weeks before Thanksgiving, so that we are already tired of Christmas before it even arrives. We lose sight of the story of darkness traveling to light. We become distracted with the parties, gifts, errands, and "doing things".

I don't want Advent to fly by in this state. I wish it to be filled with meaning and deeper appreciation of the arrival of Jesus. This is my goal for the season. To be fully present and taking moments to simply think about the story as if I was in the story and seeing it unfold. It is an event that changed history, but we do not have the B.C. state of mind, when we live in A.D. Can we think from a perspective of B.C. for a little while to gain the transition from darkness to light?

But in the end solitude is not so much a place as a state of mind and heart: it is the ability to enter into the desert of the heart, the poustinia, the inner cave of the heart, however one might wish to describe it. It is an inner attentiveness to God, a continual stream of contemplation which becomes possible even in the midst of crowds, noise, and the demands of daily life.
 - Esther De Waal

22 November 2016

Links to the Spheres

I thought it would be fun to share some interesting places I've been meandering through all over the spheres of the interwebs lately, just because. It's a holiday week when our busy-ness kicks in and we scramble to get to places to be with family/friends. Without further ado, here are some links to spheres of the interwebs.

- There is nothing quite like listing to a beautiful choir in a cathedral, singing ancient carols that echo off the stone and harmonize perfectly. This short piece, Adam Lay Ybounden, is particularly lovely.

- My old home (built 1950) gets so cold, and the floors stay frigid after a cold night. These dreamy moccasin slippers are what I want on my feet this entire winter.

- The Feast of Christ the King was this Sunday, and the poet, Malcolm Guite posted this poem with the poetic words reminding us that in Him all things hold together. Everything visible and invisible is under His sight and under His wings of grace.

- Do you know what the 2016 word of the year is? The Oxford English Dictionary will fill you in on the word of the year. There is also a shortlist of the other words that didn't win the title. I personally vote for the word hygge

- The insanely talented mandolinist Chris Thile has a new collaboration with another talented musician, and I keep hitting repeat of the video of this song, Scarlet Town. I love the duet with piano and mandolin. I cannot wait to hear the rest of the songs.

- I love candlesticks these days. There is something so old-fashioned and also elegant about them. I have been indulging several nights a week as I eat dinner by lighting them on my kitchen table. I came across these gorgeous candlestick holders and these as well. They would look lovely adorning any table.

- If you are looking for the energizing road trip song for a long drive to visit family this Thanksgiving week, this is the song. Colony House will keep you cheerful.

21 November 2016

Begin Exactly Where You Are

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.
- Malcolm Guite

A recurring theme has sprung up in many ways before my eyes lately, all reminding me to be still and begin right where I am. I do not have to wait for the "perfect" moment or setting, time or space. I do not have to be in my favourite place to begin writing or musing creatively. Right here is where I can start - wherever here is at the moment.

The challenge is to keep beginning right here, and not rely on feeling like it, or feeling inspired. Waiting for that would be like waiting for rain in the desert. The more you wait, the drier you become. The majority of the work of writing well-formulated thoughts out is simply sitting down and putting pen to page, wherever i may be at that time. 75% of the time I have no idea what I will write about when I open up my journal, but I just let the pen touch down on the smooth, blank pages and let my thoughts lead the pen onward. 

Whether this is at home in the quiet, still place of my tiny tree house, outside in a garden or on a bench, or at a coffee shop that is buzzing with conversations and ambient sounds, I can write my heart out on blank pages at this very moment. Take a deep breathe, slow down my routine, dwell in the moment, and let the conscious thoughts mingle. 

18 November 2016

Oxford in Heart and Mind

I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera. 
- William Butler Yeats

The air is getting chilled. I return to Oxford in my mind. Oxford is always in my heart. I walk the streets paralleled by walls laden with green ivy vines and centuries of whispered stories. So much of every inch of this place is ingrained in the past. Even the shadows are beautiful, as they are silhouettes of ancient architecture. The cobblestones have rested there hundreds of years, being trod upon by the musing, thinking students, the professors, and the tourists. Each crevice of the stone buildings cries out for the learning life. Gardens are tucked away behind the ancient stone walls. The very air has the scent of life-long pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, trials, research, and history.

The streets are paved with learning. The desks are lined with books. The windows are decorated with flowers when you need a colour pop. Ancient tales hide in every nook.

Students have satchels filled with books as they ride their bicycles across town and hop off in front of a coffee shop to dash inside for a cappuccino before a tutorial. 

Why does Oxford draw me so? 

If you set up a profile for me and had to list my hobbies and preferences, it would read something like: excessive reader (especially of British authors from 1400s-1900s); avid writer; loves to drink pots of tea and eat scones; prefers the cold, greyscale weather; loves to roam old bookstores for treasures; feels giddy with excitement when entering a library (the older, the better); an old soul who prefers traditional services like evensong; delights in orchestra/concert events and lecture events; great reader and researcher of the Inklings literary group; frequently goes on long walks; loves a good mix of city and country sights; admirer of Medieval, Gothic, Norman, and Classical architecture.

Oxford is the only place in the world that is a perfect match to all of these things that describe me so precisely. Can a soul be matched with a city?

Why Oxford over other places? 
That question could lead to an entire dissertation, so I will ere on the side of brevity. Have you ever been to a place that has caused you to stand in awe of it (be it size, history, beauty, detail, atmosphere)? A place where every sight you behold makes you pause and admire with great respect? When the respect runs so deeply through your veins it becomes part of your draw to the place? A place that feels like a second home, but then always somehow feels so steeped in the past that you cannot possible belong because you live in the future? It feels like I step into history when I am there. Another day in Oxford is like turning a new page in its journal - centuries of historical importance. 

I don't miss other places like I miss Oxford. Many other places in England and in the States I have loved and wish to return to, or explore more deeply, but Oxford is always the place that tugs at my heart to return as often as possible. 

 I agree with Mr. Yeats, but all I do is dream and remember Oxford when I am not there, and when I am there, it's all dreaminess.

I picture dreaming spires lovingly in my mind.
An imitation of Oxford you shall never find.
You cannot reproduce the authors and tales of place.
You cannot rearrange a skyline of spires full of grace.

16 November 2016

Time for Reading

Why do days get cluttered up so much more as we get older? We have a list of chores and to-do items that take time and consume our thoughts. A weekend can turn into a big list of chores, and then Sunday evening comes, and we realize how little we rested and relaxed.

I am trying to be intentional about making time for the resting part. It is so hard to fit all the errands/chores into the weekend, sometimes, and I find that while that is hard, it is sometimes even harder to actually feel relaxed. Our weeks are so accustomed to busy-ness that our weekends just follow suit.

I have been trying to go against that grain that is so entrenched in me lately. I am trying because it has become natural for me to try to do too much. Instead, I am letting myself read more. I am putting aside the chore and reading another chapter.

Here are the books I have been indulging in lately:

Lilith by George MacDonald

This is one of my favourite books, and a re-reading felt necessary. With each reading, this book becomes more enriching, and I see a different aspect more clearly than before.
It is a fantasy, dreamlike book, where you, the reader, sometimes are not sure which parts are dreams and which are real. There is a lot of melding of the two, which fascinates me. 

Mr. Vain is brought into a land of seven dimensions from his old, cosy library. The wise, knowing raven brought him there. He is given an invitation to do what is wise, but he instead chooses to try to fix something himself. As a result, as he travels through the land, he encounters many trials and learns from his mistakes. While he tries to do what is right, he uses only his own momentary feeling to make his choices, and forgets all that the raven told him. The wise words float right out of his head. This makes for quite an adventure, with strange, fantastical encounters along the way, and the most deeply beautiful ending (akin to The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis) that I could read over and over again.

I underline so many lines throughout the book because it is rich in metaphor and meaning found in the darkest places. The characters are purposeful and provide wisdom to the traveling Mr. Vain, and we see ourselves in him all the while, filled with the same questions he asks, and doesn't get answered right away. 

Yet even through his mistakes, the sweetness lingers as you read. When the love of God is portrayed through some characters, and the requirement of dying to be awoken, tugs at your heart and soul.

Click HERE for one of my previous posts on Lilith.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I get the newsletters from the Oxford University Continuing Education Department, since I have taken a few courses through them, and this book was spotlighted, as the author finished her master's there. They highlighted how it was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The cover is beautiful and the synopsis indicated it was a magical book, "a spellbinding tale of maps, myth and friendship." That was enough to intrigue me, so I ordered the book and finished reading it in a few days.

It was the tale of Isabella, a map-maker's daughter, who is brave beyond her years. Something very strange is occurring on the island on which they dwell, a myth and a mystery surrounds it. When her friend is in danger somewhere in the forgotten territories of the island, Isabella guides the search party with her knowledge of the stars, and charting maps of ancient realms. Therein lies monsters and dead forests, underground tunnels, and a selfish governor who put everyone in danger from his arrival.

I enjoyed many undertones of myth, story, courage, and redemption. It portrayed an ancient time that could be almost any time, an imaginative realm of floating islands, fiery underground dangers, and the reminder that people who think that myths are not true make a mistake not to think some of it is possible.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The movie caught my attention, but I knew nothing about it except it looked like magical kind of story, which drew me initially. I heard the movie was good, so of course I wanted to read the book first. Maybe some day I will see the movie. 

Something I loved about the story was the peculiar children were all normal children who cared for one another very much, but they each had something "odd" about them, that makes them a target for bad things to happen. The story embraces their uniqueness, though, it doesn't mold them into what might be "normal". Miss Peregrine has her own unique gifts as well, and she keeps the home as a place welcoming to each of them, while simultaneously keeping the home a safe place in time for them.

The adventures of the time loops really added interest to the story, to me. The danger exists for these children in more ways than just being hunted by some evil creatures. I appreciated some unexpected aspects of the story, and it was a fun, quick read.

14 November 2016

Ruth - Moving Pieces

"The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
- Ruth 2.12-13

I finished reading Ruth this morning, a seemingly random, gentle story in the Old Testament about a young woman who puts others interests in front of her own. She takes care of her mother-in-law, Naomi (after they both lose their husbands), moving with her to a foreign place, gleaning fields for their daily sustenance. The fields belong to a wealthy relative of Naomi, Boaz, who is an honourable man, showing mercy and love. He ends up marrying Ruth, and it all ends happily. 

As a reader, you might wonder why this story dwells in the pages of Scripture. Then, the last paragraph reveals the mystery. A genealogy is listed....Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

Within this short book, we see how God is moving pieces of the grand story of the world with a small, simple story of goodness. King David would not have existed if this small story of Ruth and Boaz had not taken place.

I love when little details like this are revealed in more than just a list. We get a story about how it all came to pass. God is overseeing all. We don't know how He plans to use our small story for something much bigger. But if we let Him use us, His plans shall come to fruition.

This is no invitation to assume that we are so great and we shall make things great. It is not you or me that does great things - it is God through us. God can use all that we give Him, to bring some glimpses of His kingdom, but the point is, we must take our annotated selfish notes and let them rise in the wind of God. Let Him take them where He might. Ruth leaves all her family and her familiar land to move with her mother-in-law, to take care of her. I can imagine Ruth dreamily imagining a quiet, cosy life in a familiar place, but she went with Naomi instead. We don't know what she felt, but it was a strong urge. God moving pieces that changed the course of history. One small story.

10 November 2016

Soup Season

It may not be downright frigid yet. and it may not ever get to the status of downright frigid here, but when we start to cool off in the evenings into the 50s overnight (it's coming soon!), I start craving the warmth of soups. Each year I try a few different recipes, and gain a new soup to my collection.

When the leaves are falling and the winds pick up in the afternoon, adding blustery notes to the day, there is nothing more cosy than ladling steaming soup into a pretty bowl and sitting down at the table with some fresh french bread. 

I admit, though, I am not good at following recipes. I get an idea from something I might see on Instagram or a blog, and I alter it, replacing and exchanging ingredients to my taste and to my availability. That is exactly what I did with this soup. I won't give measurements, because I don't measure (I know - I am no chef!). But that is one of the best things about soup. You can alter and exchange ingredients and kind of make it up as you go.

This was one of my favourite soups thus far. Simple and savoury. I am such a fan of vegetable soups, but I am also a very simple cook. If it gets too complicated or has too many ingredients, I usually pass. I like to make tasty dishes without getting too complicated. I'll leave the complex matters to those wonderful professional chefs.

For this soup, I sauteed in olive oil chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, added a cut and cubed potato, peas, vegetable stock, rosemary, and let that boil and cook for a while. I shredded a stalk of kale and stirred that in, and seasoned with salt. The best part (aside from its deliciousness) is it makes a lot, so I can serve it to others (my brother got to taste test this one with me) and I have leftovers for the next few days.

What are your favourite soups when the weather turns cold?

08 November 2016

Something Solid

The Lord is just in all His ways,
and kind in all His doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.
- Psalm 145.17-18

The wispy, misty morning brightens meanderingly. The contemplative atmosphere created promotes wondering what lies ahead, but you cannot see through the fog. Into the distance, you are blind. Stuck in the cloud of a vaporous nature, you cannot see forward, and are forced to look at the very present moment. The place you stand.

I contemplate the paradoxes, disappointments, and changes that we go through in life. The ebb and flow of our relationships, our government and the state of the world, and our community. Feeling jostled asunder likes waves of the sea, we are tossed to and fro as we try to grasp onto something solid that won't fluctuate and toss us away. All we want is that pure, solid thing to hold onto. 

Through all the turbulence, only God remains that solid foundation that will not toss us away. His word we can dwell in - it remains unchanged for all of time. His word comforts and guides us. As a lost sheep looks to its shepherd for guidance and security, so shall we look to God. There is a reason we are called sheep. We lose our way too easily, and we forget truth all too quickly. From one minute to the next, we forget, and lose our true selves. We need a shepherd, that is God, who can fulfill each and every need.

May we not be afraid of not seeing far ahead, but rather be content with the knowledge we are given right now. for God gives us what we need in its due time, even when the fog surrounds us in all directions. I am thankful that God sees through all of it.