27 January 2016

Thankful Heart

If I cannot do great things,
I can do small things
in a great way.
 - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes I muse upon how I am exactly where I should be. 
Yet I am not at a standstill. I am no statue. I can move forward while being exactly where I should be. It is a paradox I love to dwell in.

Thankfulness seeps into these musings every time. From a thankful heart flows many other good things. It stems from being content, no matter the situation, because who are we to question God's ways? We do not know what lies ahead that God has planned for us, and we cannot fully understand His higher ways. When we come to each moment with a thankful heart, we set ourselves up with the right attitude from the get go.

We learn from Job that our God is so big, nothing we can ever present to Him is too big for Him to handle, and yet nothing is too small for Him to not notice. The Eternal One pays attention to us. When others might ignore us when we seek to be heard, God always hear us. When we cry out to Him in our trials and sorrow, He comforts us.

Lord, thank you for paying attention. Help us receive the comfort You give and help us dwell in thankfulness, always.

25 January 2016

In Wonder of Nature

I stand in wonder of nature. Nature shows a powerful display. Usually, the coast of Venice is calm and serene. But with the winter winds wildly blowing, the whole town was out to see the water in fury at the coast. The rare scene at a normal safe haven. 

I am not sure if I have ever seen the waves this wild at the jetty. I stood in awe upon the rocks, feeling the force of the wind against my body, and seeing all the white crests of agitated waves pounding the shore. Surfers long for these days, and they are out, floating on top of the churning waters. Of course, photos do not adequately capture the waves, the intense roar of wind, and the sounds of the waves coming in. Big splashes against the rocks suddenly appear as we stood there on the rocks.

It was amazing. A beauty in its own way. A dangerous beauty of nature. Nature doing what it is made to do. To witness such a different scene of wild, untamed nature. It is different kind of appreciation, with awe of the power it wields. We can only stand by and watch in wonder and wide eyes.

The glory of God is displayed in the quiet mornings as flowers slowly open, but also in the roar of the crashing waves on the coast, with winds chilled and unrelenting.

Excitement and variety expands to fill our moments, with just the short drive to the jetty, where everyone was gathering to see a rare wild day. Hopefully all with eyes wide open in wonder.

22 January 2016

Mystery of Truth

...that mystery of truth of which the word is the gatekeeper.
 - Malcolm Guite

The mystery of truth is always a great joy to discover, as the mystery deepens. In little bits and pieces, we sometimes glimpse a reveal of truth that we had not noticed before. In words we have read twenty times, we suddenly clearly perceive the truth that those words are conveying.

It is about paying close attention with wide open eyes.

Revelations of God's mind and imagination is the joy that we get to discover. Just like seeing something wonderful for the first time, we have to look upon the world and our daily surroundings as if we just landed here and are looking upon it with fresh eyes. This is how we will stop and see some pieces of the mystery suddenly come to light.

G.K. Chesterton wrote about how he dreamed of a new land with such desire, and set sail to find that new land, and after a long journey, he ended up right where he started, but saw his own land with new eyes. That is how we should view our every day. 

I love the idea of God's mysteriousness being hidden in our daily lives. Out there to be discovered, except it is right in front of us most of the time. For if some concealed answered are actually revealed, we take a step into something deeper than we are. We let the glory of God surround us as we let it come to us with openness.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
- Proverbs 25.2

20 January 2016

Joyful January

For us the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heav'n move, and fountains flow,
Nothing we see, but means our good,
 As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is, either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.

 - George Herbert

This month is particularly special to me. Here are some reasons why January is my very favourite:

- Winter is here, and all the lovely things that come along with the season
- I take long walks outside and breathe in the crisp air
- I get to celebrate some special birthdays
- I get to celebrate my birthday multiple times with family and friends
- I pull winter clothes out of my closet; they see the light of day!
- Making outfits with layers is much more fun, and I get to use more of my wardrobe
- Hot beverages are more frequently drunk (coffee and tea all day)
- More time with family and friends makes me smile more often
- The prettiest flowers come into season (tulips)
- I travel to St. Louis for work (and it could snow!)
- I bundle up with scarves, sweaters, and boots here in the south
- Dreams of future travel begin to dance about in my head
- The air feels refreshing, like the atmosphere is washed clean
- Snuggling on my sofa with a warm blanket and book is one of the best activities
- I look ahead with hope at the year ahead

What brings you joy this January?

19 January 2016

Momentary Prayer

I would know what he would answer me
    and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
    No; he would pay attention to me.
There an upright man could argue with him,
    and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.
Job 23.5-7

In this moment, Lord, I am feeling an emotion that will change in ten minutes. Or maybe in three minutes. Inconsistent, we all tend to be. Like the wispy clouds tossed about in the wind. Like the beam of sunshine coming in through the window, shifting every few minutes as our planet spins.

We wake up cheerful, and turn into a grouch quicker than an electric kettle can boil water. It is always something silly, or imagined in our own minds. How is it that we even get onto that tangent?

We walk a thin line between rushed and collected. We dash off places, somehow always lacking time. But then we hardly ever slow down enough to notice time.

We barely give a person the chance to say what they really wanted to say. Our own 'needs' seem to get in the way.

Help us pay attention to the moments we are in, at that moment, and not lose it to something else we are trying to get to. So many moments are rich in Your blessing and grace. 

Let this momentary prayer be a consistent reminder of Your consistency, and my need for You. My inconsistency is not even reliable. But You, Lord, are reliable every moment of every day, without any fluctuation or variable. Thank you for being my constant.

18 January 2016

Evening Tea Ritual

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.
- C.S. Lewis

My evening tea ritual has become such a staple to my every day. I love how it has become something I invite others over to enjoy with me, as well. There is something I can provide easily: tea. To think that such a small gesture of warmth and welcome is so simple and enjoyable, it is no wonder why tea has always been an important part of hospitality in so many cultures.

That is part of the charm, too. A long history it has, and always given and shared with a sense of welcome to visitors. I do not allow anyone to come over without offering them tea.

Pouring a steaming cup of tea means steeping times which leads to conversation. When there is something pleasant on the horizon, the conversation falls to deeper places. Here, let me pour you some more tea. Filling an empty teacup and handing it to a companion is a delightful exchange of welcome. It is saying to the other, here, take this hot tea with some thoughts flowing through your mind, you are welcome to share. Time is paused.

Occasionally someone does not like tea that much, but I have been amazed how they end up liking it, because when made properly, the best flavours come out. Plus, it is always more fun to drink out of darling teacups or pretty mugs. It is so much fun to serve others, and see them enjoy the tea I make. When I am alone at home, I make a pot for myself, accompanied by a book, of course. 

15 January 2016

Solitude Extends Outward

I have been more day dreamy than usual....
My head caught in clouds from time to time.
It's this month.

I wish to dwell in it fully. January is by far my favourite month.
I wish to sink my heart into these days, to immerse myself in these few weeks that become filled with so many lovely things, but also contain many scheduled and responsible things to attend to. 

I am caught betwixt a moment of solitude and moments with chatter and liveliness. Each day has mixtures of both elements, and I lack for neither. The space between moments is the air I breathe slowly and deeply, but my mind is probably leaping bounds ahead. All that motion deep within, while solitude extends outward.

Candles flickering and twinkle lights glowing create the ambient environment in my cosy space. Tea steeps and the teapot radiates heat from the recently boiled water. Hot water means tea time to me. The empty teacup waits to be filled. I seek to bring warm and cosy feelings to any visitor, and I am delighted when they tell me how relaxed they feel. Home should contain our comforts, our stories, our artifacts, and our friends.

Then, the clouds outside will hold our dreams. 

13 January 2016

Reading List

My dear friend, Zoƫ, sent me a box of seventeen Shakespeare books last week. It was such a delightful surprise to come home from work to find a box of books waiting for me by my mailbox. (It's the best of surprises, for a bibliophile like me!) She found the set at a library sale, which is the best way to find good, old treasures. The neat thing is, I only have two of the books she sent me, so my collection of Shakespeare has suddenly increased exponentially! I have lots of reading to do. And that is a very good thing.

In the meantime, since I have been devouring books in these past few weeks, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the books I have finished.

Faith, Hope, and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination by Malcolm Guite
This very scholarly book is a source of so much insight, knowledge, and analysis of the poetry of the English language and imagination. I got to know Coleridge, Blake, Davies, and Herbert who are quickly becoming very near favourites of mine. I enjoy how Malcolm explains the poems to reveal the deeper meanings and Christian tones. I feel like I will need to read this again in a year or so, in order to apply more that I learn between now and then.

Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite

An advent book, with a poem and reading for each day through Epiphany. Poems are selected from some of the old favourite poets (Rossetti, Blake) as well as modern poets I do not know as well. It's a beautiful book, and I will be reading this every year at advent. 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

When Hemingway lived in Paris in the 1920s, he was a young writer trying to finish his first novels. This is his memoir of living there, and the authors (like F. Scott Fitzgerald) he met and learned from. His descriptions of those meetings and the things he learned from others were my favourite parts.

Ship of Theseus by Doug Dorst

This is a modern fiction book that caught my attention and was definitely worth reading. It is quite a mysterious  adventure, with deeper themes of discovering who you are. I wrote about it more in this post.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

In your personal and work life, you tend to think inside a box where you look at every situation in the way that will best benefit you. This book helps you see how much you do that with others, especially with those who are closest to you at home and at work, and how to get out of the box and change your whole outlook to be encouraging, open, and looking toward the interest of others over yourself.

11 January 2016

Wintry Moods

Slate grey sky, a darkling scene
Within this delicate morning chill
Soft light grows feelings serene

I now present the grey, wintry start to each morning. The days I long for. Where bundling up is necessary. Grab your jacket and scarf because it might be wintry out there. It's no somber scene to me. The frosted, chilled windows is a lovely start with cold air that will slowly warm a little bit this afternoon. The winter winds have died down, but the morning is still grey-hued filled with vast expanses of chunky clouds. Like a blanket of the morning. Like the one draped over my legs. I sit here drinking coffee with a great feeling of thanks for this day, the weather, the reading I have been able to do, and this amazing interview I have been listening to (along with the subsequent interviews).

I finished reading the book of advent poems and readings, which goes through Epiphany. Epiphany can easily be overlooked, as the new year begins and life drives forward quickly. It is when the magi visit Jesus. That event brings the world into the joy of Christ, including all nations and races. I really like the reminder of the magi visit, and it should be a more widely celebrated event in our country. I have been reflecting on that latley, and how all pieces of the Christmas story extend out into every month thereafter, and by that extension every single day.

Grey chilled sky and air
Wintry winds shake leaves,
fallen, they dance upon the ground,
as we dash to and fro,
our days full of busy-ness.
We will possibly miss the scene before
our eyes can see the glory
of the brilliant winter morn.

06 January 2016

Devouring Books

I cannot help myself. Since life has slowed down a little bit, and I don't have to study for hours each night, I am devouring books. Like the Cookie Monster devours cookies, I devour books.

Since we are on the subject of reading, my recent read, The Ship of Theseus, was a book that induced multitasking and mystery, intrigue and suspense, adventure and story. I finished reading it and was left with many questions, which I expected, but that is also why I liked it. It answered a lot, but also left the story open to my own thoughts and imagination. You, as the reader, feel like you are part of the story, which is an added bonus in a world already very interesting.

It's easy to feel included, since part of the book is the handwritten notes by two readers who write notes to each other through the whole book. They are trying to solve the mystery of the author, V.M. Straka. The real author is Doug Dorst and partly J.J. Abrams (which is why I was initially drawn to this book, as I knew it would be full of the mysterious that isn't always fully revealed, like one of the best shows made, Lost). As Eric and Jen write to each other in the margins, they sometimes leave notes, postcards, letters, newspaper clippings within the pages, which are actually in the book, so you can pull them out and read them as well.

The story itself is an adventure on the Ship of Theseus, which retells the mysterious theory of rebuilding oneself piece by piece along a journey. Will you be the same person in the end? The ship itself is rebuilt several times, and piece by piece it is made new. Is it the same ship that it once was? This is what is asked of the main character, S, as he journeys to discover who he really is.

There is something about leaving part of the mystery a mystery that draws me in more. If you tell me all the answers outright, then there is no time to ponder and work it out. The magic of the imagination is gone. This book leaves much to the imagination, to my delight.

What the story points to, is how important story is. It is worth telling, writing, and preserving. Each of us is part of an important piece of the story, which is why S writes furiously while aboard the ship. He has much to tell, and he feels the urgency to write it down. It rings such truth of God's plan and story we are part of. 

All that ink, all that pigment, all that desperate action to preserve that which had been created - it is valuable because story is a fragile and ephemeral thing on its own, a thing that is easily effaced or disappeared or destroyed, and it is worth preserving. And if it can't be preserved, then it should be released and cycled. (pg. 450)
It is more than just fulfilling a task. It is writing a good story where good choices are made, where love is at the centre, and when people grow to learn this, it leaves you with the feeling of a new beginning.
...the ship is one of theirs, and as for the identities of the two people at the wheel, well, both Sola and he will let their imaginations fill in their features. (pg. 456)

04 January 2016

On Foggy Beginnings

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand,
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

- Alfred Lord Tennyson

The new year is upon us, with a wintry chill and grey cover. I am giddy with excitement. The past several days have been both busy and relaxing. Filled with family time including gifts, games, food, and laughs, but also time to clean up Christmas decor and freshen up for the new year. There is such a good feeling in having a fresh start and space.

On the last day of the year I looked upon the morning that was clouded in fog and mist. It was a gladsome tiding to me; an inkling of the time ahead. Time is shrouded in fog and mist. We cannot see ahead except for just a few steps in front of us. But we can have faith that what lies ahead is filled with goodness. We can choose to believe that God wants for us something better than we can imagine for ourselves. We can look into the fog of unanswered questions and know deep down that God has a plan for everything. And we can walk in it.

We do not need to fret over what we cannot see. The days coming up this year will contain trials and challenges, but they will also contain joys and smiles. And like a flash (or a sparkler!), it will be known to us and we will not be in the dark.

I look ahead into this new year with hopeful expectancy. I know that God is good, and He has good plans. People also have plans, and they have the freedom to make choices that can cause heartache, so all I can do is trust in God's plans, which are full and true. He will take me to places I never thought possible. Already at the end of 2015, I saw inklings of that. There is more to come!