29 July 2016

Water Your Life

"I used to sit on the grass and wonder what to do with myself. I also got tired of the blank white wall. I also got tired even of the beautiful blue sky. I also thought the thatch was just thatch and wished the roses did not stand in a row."
 - G.K. Chesterton

Water your life.
Take a moment to pause and really look at the gifts you have.
If you were here right now I would offer to make you some tea, and serve it to you.

Your life is moving really fast. You missed a kind moment today. You are too hard on yourself.

But, you are enough - just as you are. Something in us always wants to remind us of how we failed. How we are not worthy. How we don't deserve to be recognized. Why are we so much harder on ourselves?

When our what-ifs become negative, we are cutting off our creative hope. That breeds fear and worry rather than a good imagination of the future. Don't give up. Don't shorten your meaning and purpose. What you are making and doing is important to God's kingdom. Whether you are making muffins, making stories, making good decisions, doing good in your business, doing your work using the best of your talents. Each thing you do is important.

We are imperfect drafts that are going to be in process for a long time, until Christ perfect us in New Creation. There are many more pages to fill with your personal imprints and creative notions until then. It is all for the glory of God. It will all be perfected one day. 

The things that are important to you all matter.

I just wanted to tell you that. I feel like you might need to read that today.

There is a conclusion to the story began above by G.K. Chesterton. He realized if he could draw his own ideal scene, he would draw the same scene that was before him, even with white walls, blue sky, and red roses. Nothing else seemed quite right. With new eyes he looked upon that scene which had grown so weary to him, and his whole perspective shifted. He looked upon it as if seeing it for the first time. That is how we should see our every day.

28 July 2016

Mystery upon Mystery

It is the sacred stubbornness of things, their mystery and their suggestive limits, their shape and special character, which makes all artistic thrift and thought. The adventure is not an all-transforming enchantment, it is rather the answering of a challenge; and one in which we have hardly the choice of weapons. 
 - G.K. Chesterton

The mystery of the mystery of God is deeply appealing to me. I wonder why that is.....it is a mystery itself!

I suspect it entails upon me the notion of an eternal perspective that I can catch glimpses of, because God made me for eternity, but due to my current state of being in time, I cannot see the whole. This gives me hope as tiny pieces are revealed to me over time through creative and imaginative outlets, as well as with seeing truth and beauty with people or out in nature, and I know there is so much more, and it is so much better than what I get to glimpse. And that renews my hope and peace.

Most people like to know all the answers right up front. They want to know how the story ends, and be told how it works and what it means. I have always preferred to do a little of the discovery first. I do not mind not getting all the answers right away, as I know they will be revealed at the proper time and it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, I can search, wonder, seek, ponder. This is not an excuse to be idle and complacent, but rather to stay motivated through the answers that may seem distant.

C.S. Lewis ponders many mysteries in his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. He is writing letters to a friend about prayer, his practices, his wonderings, and all of questions that conjure up many mysteries. It is hard for most people to wait patiently, since our world tells us that we should get an answer now, and patience is little seen as a virtue anymore. Going out and stepping on others to get it is viewed more highly these days.

I would rather ignore the call of the world, and dive into God's mystery. Thankfully, Chesterton agrees with me.

26 July 2016

Northernness and Sun Showers

I am sitting here, watching the grey late afternoon clouds cover patches of heavy sunlight. I sniffle, and blow my nose (thanks to a cold I have). Something about me becomes more quiet and thoughtful when I have the sniffles, perhaps a hesitation in my body to do much causes my mind to work. Only, it doesn't have much energy, so it drains away quickly. Also, the thoughts may not be necessarily cohesive, so this post could be a jumble and rambling of words that I may read later and wonder what happened to me.

Anyway, the clouds roll in, and I wish for rain. I am at home after work with no agenda other than to rest, read, relax, and hopefully rid myself of the sniffles. Today was a case of not feeling quite myself due to feelings analogous to being stuck in a fog at times. A dullness followed, and I fought it all day.

Let the rain come and wash it all away and I can sit, snuggled with my books and a blanket as the rain drenches the sun-parched land. But it does not rain.

Let me dream of days when the afternoons begin to cool before the sun goes down. A coming of a new season, with lovely, mysterious air abounding. With winds shifting to draw in the northernness, both real and imaginary (as C.S. Lewis wrote about the longing for that other-worldly landscape - northernness, which influenced him since the beginning of his imagination. This brought me to the Bodleian Library online exhibit about pure northernness.)

Alas, the sun is breaking up the darker clouds, much to my dismay. Angles of corner light keep filtering through my sheer, white curtains. On the whole, the light fades and I think about putting the hot water on for tea. With a chilly interior realm, the exterior slams against it, with brutal heat. I must remedy that with cool indoor ennui, and then remedy that with a cup of tea. Tea fixes it all.

And just like that, the rain is falling, against all my sodden hopes, it falls in thick drops as the sun still permeates the sky. And just like that, feelings of northernness abound again as the raindrops fall from the sun.

25 July 2016

The Good and the Other Good

It seems to be that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers because, at that moment, we expected some other good.
 - C.S. Lewis

The sky is blue, but I really wanted a cloudy, grey day. Or, rather, the clouds are dark and menacing, and I was hoping for a day of sunshine. We always seem to be hankering for that which we don't have at that moment, which causes us to not fully enjoy the good of the present. We take for granted that we get to breathe in deeply of good moments of beauty and joyful recognition of our God every day.

The sun rising over the trees, engulfing the lake water with a glow. The giggle of a child. Fresh, homemade bread. A steaming cup of tea. An impromptu conversation of delight.  An old movie that makes you smile. Your favourite book in your hands.

Here it is! The immediate gift we are given in this day!

Taste, see, breathe in deeply of it. It will soon be gone, and if you spend your time aching for anther good, you will miss the imprints these moments of good could make in your memory.

Carolyn Weber, in her wonderful book Surprised by Oxford wrote as a reminder to herself - "but then I remembered that remembering is the antidote to despair."

We should store such good memories deep in our memory books, mentally and in our journals, so that we can come back to visit it with a glad and thankful heart later, remembering that such good gifts come from our Father above.

The good that God offers us isn't always exactly what we had in mind, but it is always good.

To embrace that is to be joyful in the Lord, and to glorify Him through enjoyment of Him through enjoyment of His beautiful gifts.

19 July 2016

Rooted and Grounded in Love

...to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
 - Ephesians 3.16-21

These verses were part of my morning reading, and I would like to commit them to memory (even more than they walk around in my head already). These words, to me, encompass the love of God as we can know it, and as we can enjoy it through imagination, community, stories, and sharing with others. If Christ dwells in us, our actions, communications, and creations all echo the love of God and it surpasses even our own understanding. 

God can use our talents/passions/creations to bring about something so good it would defy all trials if we were to attempt to make it known on our own. By our embracing the gift we were given, God can use it to fit good pieces into place that our hands just cannot manage. Our tiny placement is indeed part of God's wonder-filled plan.

I love the thought that we can have knowledge with the saints of depth, height, length, and breadth of God, and yet still be underneath even greater knowledge that surpasses us all. That reveals mystery to me, which invokes appealing desire to keep learning, with knowledge that I can always continue to learn and never run out of mystery to ponder.

That notion is deeply appealing to me. The depth we go with God actually goes deeper. The rabbit hole continues onward....The mystery dwells within us and we do not fully understand. God is at work, creatively, actively within us, amidst nature, around the world.

God is not a leader of just one region of the world that will make choices to hurt a people. Battles have ensued since ancient times. God is the prolific Author of the story of life. He sees and rules above all, and is not bound by our needs or our tendencies to be destructive. He is love, and the paradox is we can choose to model and embrace that love, or not.

18 July 2016

Thoughts and Jots


Humility, or the ending point of being lost, can become the starting point of righteousness.

Life without faith is death. For life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving and you'll really start living. There is not other force in the universe comparable to that.

- Carolyn Weber

Setting aside my love for good coffee for a minute (just a minute, okay?), I love coffee shops.
The ambiance of sleek, clean, cosy, and cool interiors including the ambient sounds actually help my focus most of the time. A place to meet other people, talk, read together, write, share stories. Or a place to go alone.

The only thing missing from this ideal environment is books. You may think of a few other items that you would say would be missing, but the whole nature of coffee shops is to reflect, talk, ponder, and conclude on topics of musings.

I marvel at the variety of visitors who frequent coffee shops. From my cosy spot at the table, I can observe relationships, news, kindness, business, and leisure. I can also have a friend meet me and discuss good books over a delicious latte. 

While most coffee shops are missing books, I can bring them along with me to solve the problem. In this case, April and I are reading Surprised By Oxford together, and discussing the deep and wonderful thoughts that arise from such a book. It is one of my favourite books, and it's a delight to read it with someone who is so eager to read it and wants to talk through the topics and themes.

Concord Coffee is a lovely place in which to meet for some thoughts and jots. As we flip through some pages to begin to read passages that drew us in, and share thoughts that we had, we sip on delicious lattes and listen to the other pieces of wisdom being spoken. The book is full of deep conversations about the realness of life, relationships, and decisions. Discovering God in a personal way, and what that means. All the questions that come along as a sidecar to that deep faith she comes to know don't always get answered immediately, and the beauty of living the unanswered questions is part of living out that faith.

To me, having journeyed now on my 3rd or 4th reading of the book, it is refreshing to be reminded of these truths that Caro discovers in Oxford. Truths I need to be reminded of. I am joyful as April reads a passage that opens up her eyes to some deep truth. That is what I love so much about reading good books.

These are words that can be shared and mused upon. Oxford always has wisdom to share. Descriptions of my favourite place always makes me smile, and I long to be there in Oxford again. Until that time comes, these memories float back to me with her heartfelt passages that seem to lift off the pages as I read them.

Even Oxford's infrastructure was conducive to contemplation, revelation. Its walls seemed infused with mystery. When I walked through the stony passageways, I often felt voices from ages past murmuring great mysteries. It was tempting to think that resting my head against this stony chest would betray a heartbeat, or by putting my ear to this shell, I could heat the distant but undeniable advancing and then retreating of whispered wisdoms. The walls were saturated with thoughts of endless minds across hundreds of years into the present, like a find chain linked with hopes for the betterment of humankind. (pg. 136)

These words! Exactly how I feel about Oxford! 

To sit in our local coffee shop discussing these wisdom-soaked pages in our books is refreshment for the soul. We glide out of there to head to work with a lighter step in our gait because we have driven to the depths of some spiritual truths, remembering God's love is the greatest of all things. And it makes our hearts sing.

There is always birdsong in Oxford (pg. 85)

I reflected on the book several years ago in a previous post HERE.

14 July 2016

Summer Heat

I don't think I have complained enough about the summer heat. In the depths of summer, we are, and it seems like it will never end. I try to ignore it, or escape it, and pretend it's not there by keeping my a/c cold and continuing to wear my preferred light sweaters, cardigans, and jeans. But there is no ignoring it. That works for a little while, but the heat is hitting us so hard right now, that I have broken down to wearing cotton shorts and the thinnest grey tee that I can find, to wear to lounge and sleep in. Normally, I would wear some pajama pants and a shirt with longer sleeves. These are the only shorts I own. I wasn't made for the hot, humid places.

This photo is a seemingly contradictory paradox. Hot tea in the evening while dressed for the heat of the summer. But my evening ritual of winding down includes a cup of tea (herbal, of course), even if it is still 95 degrees outside at this time of night. Hence, my breaking out the shorts and tee. Hence the need for a/c turned down. Hence my complaining. I am out of my comfort zone.

I am going to keep pretending, though, by lighting candles and keeping my home chilly. To create an environment that allows me to escape the intensity of the heat and feel cosy. As I dream about the weather that will come 4-5 months from now, I will see the challenge before me to appreciate what is in the now. Pardon my complaining. Maybe you love this heat. In that case, enjoy it! Relish in it! Write lovely things about it, as I shall try to do.

Intense and insightful;
Significant, memorable, thick -
Proceeding without delicate measures -
Bright, vibrant, and quick -
Hot breezes and warm conversations -
Cooling down with ice cream
And thoughts that lift us above the clouds

12 July 2016

Deeper Prayer

I haven't any language weak enough to depict the weakness of my spiritual life. If I weakened it enough it would cease to be language at all. As when you try to turn the gas-ring a little lower still, and it merely goes out.
 - C.S. Lewis

Lord have mercy.
Lord show me grace.

I am weak in prayer. I know I do not pray as much as I would hope to or say I will do. A work in progress, I am. I do not devote enough time to sitting thoughtfully devoted in prayer. Eyes closed, Mind clear. Focused on You in a quiet state. To bring all my thoughts, worries, questions, and doubts to You would help so much, and yet it seems to be always on my to do list, and not always getting done. 

How can this be? How can I draw closer to You if I don't talk with You? If I ignore the urges when the time isn't convenient, like in the middle of an email or making dinner. But really, what could be more important in this world, than connecting with my Creator?

It is the thing we all struggle with - prayer. As I ponder why, I know part of the answer is that we are far to easily distracted by the whirlwind that this world likes to catch us in. and we give in far to easily. I am comforted to read C.S. Lewis' own struggle with spiritual life, when he was described as the most deeply converted man (his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer is on my list to read again). I am not alone in this.

I want to bring everything on my heart to God, to lay it at His feet, and be immersed in His presence of comfort and wisdom. I know full well that if I don't give these things to God, I will keep them within myself where they will fester and become embittered.

But to be free and full of joy no matter what is given is the language of prayer. 

This is, I pray, what I come to know more, as I let the distractions fall away (along with all the comparisons), so the truth can break through the cloud that forms around me. I pray that Your grace envelopes me so that through my speech and actions I give glory to You, and encourage others to draw close to You as well, seeking wisdom from above, rather than from the world.

When thoughts arise  out of nowhere that declare despair and darkness, stop me in my tracks, guiding me back to see the light or truth, grace, love, and faith. It is from You, Lord, that all eternal wisdom comes.

Blessed be He.

08 July 2016

For the Love of Reading

The world offers itself to your imagination.
- Mary Oliver

One of my favourite things in life is making readers of people who would not usually say they love to read. I feel that I have been given a love of books, reading, learning, and growing in knowledge and wisdom by God so that I share that love with others by encouraging good habits in reading.

My approach is subtle, but I try to promote books at every turn. And not just reading easy books that contain only a trite plot that keeps the pages turning, though sometimes those are what can start someone on a good trend of reading in general, but good books that have deep, meaningful stories and underlying wisdom. Don't be dismayed by your visions of heavy volumes of books, for they can most certainly include children's books, so I will gladly recommend those as well. Especially if the author is George MacDonald, Elizabeth Goudge, A.A. Milne, E. B. White, Madeleine L'Engle, or C.S. Lewis (among many other good authors who wrote stories for children).

My job is to encourage, engage, and explore with someone the possibilities that are in books. No matter what age you might be, I am going to promote books. On my recent holiday to the North Carolina mountains, my mum and I shared the upstairs suite, which had a sitting room. We called it the "reading room", which is what my 3 year old niece called it, too. She would ask to go up to the reading room to read her book after her bath. And that is where reading time ensued. It warmed my heart. She sat intently, quietly listening to the story being read to her as she was completely engaged by the story, understanding the moral and commenting on the characters' actions.

To a reader, a book opens up an entire world of imagination. Stepping inside that story (real or imaginary) requires opening up the cover and turning pages. It requires an open mind and a ready spirit. It requires time devoted to reading. If you are selecting good books, you will not look back on one page with regret. You will come out after turning hundreds of pages as understanding more about God, story, humanity, and yourself. Into deeper fields you will then venture. You will begin to recognize the authors that write with depth, meaning, truth, and beauty.

When someone tells me they loved a book, and then wants to talk about it, I am thrilled. When someone wants to spend time reading (when they normally would never even think of that sort of thing), I am jubilant. For I know that these books will be shaping thoughts, instigating ideas, and tickling the imagination to good ends, and that brings joy to my soul.

07 July 2016

Thankful for the Mountains

The poetry of the earth is never dead;
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun
And hide in cooling trees...

- John Keats

I am so thankful for places like the mountains. In such a varied landscape, everything feels different. The temperature, the roads, the air, the weather. It really is such a magical place, with so many hidden gems of natural beauty behind and amidst hills and valleys.

I am grateful to walk these trails, to be in the woods, to breathe the fresh air, to see and hear waterfalls, and get to ingrain all that into memory and write down onto pages.

May I always give glory to God for holidays. For time spent away from home. It makes the coming home all that much sweeter. The beauty of the landscape here captures my soul. It rejuvenates me and the fresh air fills me. On this trip it has been more difficult, because I was so sick for the vast majority of it, but now at last I am coming out of the cloud of the ill and able to (somewhat) rejoin the regular world. 

When I felt a bit better, I drove some of the curving, twisty mountain roads to the neighboring town of Cashiers, to park along a busy road for the trailhead. Then a short hike the Silver Run waterfall. The embankment was very steep and eroded and I had to crouch and slid down the rock to the water edge for a view of the falls, and take in the scene of beauty. After a bit of shopping in town, we headed back to Highlands and had the first lunch out on the trip, at the Main Street Inn, a historic, lovely inn on a hill. My favourite meal, by far, I had an open face chicken salad sandwich with homemade chips, and house made berry lemonade. Delicious. If there were more days on this trip, I would have come back for this same meal.

After another stop at the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, we headed to our favourite mountain spot for ice cream, Sweetreats, where the rest of our gang was already sitting outside with ice cream in their hands, dripping in the warm afternoon.

Without driving more than 10-15 miles, there are countless waterfalls, trails, shops, restaurants, twisting roads, and places of interest. I don't have to leave the mountain to enjoy all these things. We stay up above 4,100 feet and bask in the high elevation of God's country.

05 July 2016

Enchanted Woods

The woods feel enchanted and other-worldly. The pitter patter of raindrops dripping down to lower leaves leftover from the early morning rain adds to the birdsong. The calm and quiet of the woods helps restore me as I wake each morning achy and sickly.

The sun slices through the upper leaves, making some spots glow, while the shade covers the rest. The sun won't last long, as the afternoon is forecasted to be rainy. 

Just a short time later, the grey clouds hover overhead, very close. The air is cool, damp, and darkening by the minute as the rain builds in the sky. The light rain drizzles and doesn't make a loud sound, but it can be heard pattering the leaves as the droplets spill down the wide-brimmed leaves. The rain echoes as it falls, bouncing across the woods in sound. I sit outside on the porch, enjoying the quiet ambiance of rain falling in the woods, with a new (old) book. 

All around my the tall, thin trees have overarching branches that reach out and hold onto each other on the steep slopes. They are graceful and tall; seeing ages of history and seasons of change. 

There is wisdom in these God-created woods. 

There is story in these woods. History to be told. Just sitting outside among the stillness during a rainstorm you gather from the sounds what the woods have been like forever. You cannot see any houses from this spot. We could be out here all alone, and the woods would be the same. We are the changing creatures, always moving and seeking. Sometimes we need to be still, like the woods, relishing in the earth's refreshment of a summer rain, and feeling a little enchanted at the same time.