19 October 2017

Musings from a Pumpkin Patch

Musings from a pumpkin patch.

Spotted lawn of sprouted autumnal harvest.
Glories of a season slow to arrive,
but quick to awaken our senses.
A milieu we are keen to welcome.
Sage colours emerge in beautiful arrangements;
Earth-toned and wonder-flitted.

Is there a whisper of autumn in the breeze? Today, it almost felt like the air was attempting to let go of the heat, as the overcast skies kept the temperatures down and the moody grey layers above rustled the leaves below welcoming an approaching season. Patience, dear ones. In time all the best things are worth waiting for.

When I see from across the lake, the pumpkins pop of colour sunbathing on the sloping lawn of my church, my imagination immediately rushes to a windy golden afternoon with a chill in the air and a jacket on my shoulders. Taking walks with fallen leaves shuffling under my feet and a cool breeze rustling my hair. Sitting outside with a book with my imagination wandering.

This is what a little bit of musing from a pumpkin patch does to me. 

16 October 2017

C.S. Lewis and Sixteenth Century Literature

One has to chuckle at the title of this massive book - Oxford History of English Literature: English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, excluding drama. Not the most catchy title. It's not that drama isn't of interest (hello, Shakespeare), but if drama was included, the book would weigh about two tons, and be 1200 pages long. I am glad the book focused solely on prose and verse. 

Poets are not so like putty as is sometimes implied. (pg.352)

This substantial book was a huge achievement of C.S. Lewis's literary/academic career, published in 1954 after he spent more than 10 years working on it. Since he refused to give his opinion on a book unless he read it, he spent countless hours over those years at the Bodleian Library in Oxford reading all the 16th century works. Just think about that for a moment - he read all the books/writings of the 16th century that he discussed in this book, sitting in the wonderfully medieval Duke Humphrey's Library of the Bodleian to read them all. If I could be half as good of a reader and have half a beautiful old library in which to read them....

He divides the 16th century into three main literary descriptors - Late Medieval, "Drab", and "Golden". He then discusses the writers of those categories, and what they brought to the table (or didn't bring). To add some context,  Lewis, with some of his classic witty style, would drop in bits and pieces of history, which I really enjoyed, as it helped me place this time period in my mind's timeline properly.

While I did learn about many obscure authors I had never heard of, along that journey through the 16th century, I learned about what was going on that influenced the writers, which was interesting to me. Why did English literature go through a drab phase during this century, in which the language was dull, straightforward, and missing a sense of wonderment? If the world had ended at the end of the 16th century, it would have ended with a seeming assumption that English literature was in a grave decay, never to be revived. Thankfully, the 17th century revealed the genius that had been hidden.

Somehow or other during the latter part of the sixteenth century Englishmen learned to write. (pg.418)

Many of the great writers we know and read today were born in the 16th century, but didn't publish until the turn of the century, so they were not covered in Lewis's grand analysis of the century. That would include John Donne, John Milton, and George Herbert. But you do get insights on some others who did publish in the 16th century like Thomas More, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and John Davies. These were the shining lights in the midst of a century in great need of some good writers. 

I don't know anyone who has read this book. At 558 pages (plus another 127 pages of notes and references), it doesn't appeal to the masses. It isn't deeply academic, though, and it does capture Lewis's amiable writing style, but I don't think it is at the top of anyone's list of books to read, except for me, it has been on my list of books to read. I made it a goal to read the whole book, to challenge myself with something that would take me out of my comfort zone a bit. I am so glad I did, for that elusive 16th century phase of English literature actually makes sense to me now, placed the context of history, and I appreciate the authors of that century in a newfound way.

13 October 2017

Of Mountain Views and Waterfalls

A quick, busy trip up to north Georgia provided a few days to explore the region. It was fun to experience an area that I have not been to before, including a drive up into the mountains - the southernmost of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail goes through the park we visited.

I did not expect that I would get to see mountains or waterfalls on this trip, so I was delighted to be able to view the landscapes that inspire me so much. There is something in me that loves the woods (I'm pretty sure it was my Dad's unceasing love of the woods that got into me). I've never been a beach girl, but give me woods and waterfalls all day, and I am quite content.

We drove deep into the woods to Amicalola Falls State Park, and breathed deeply the fresh air as we took to the path that lead to the waterfall. It was a stunning scene, with the sound of falling water and the cool mist that arose from it. The air was crisp and delightful, only getting as warm as 70-75 degrees. It was the perfect day to be outside. I wished that I could bottle that weather up and bring it back to Florida.

 A lodge at the top of the mountain had commanding views of the mountain range, and we had a late lunch there. That would be a lovely place to stay, there at the top. We were thankful to stumble upon the lodge as we were so hungry and still far from the small town of Dahlonega, which is a tiny mountain town known for its past gold mining days. We went into town later and walked around some antique shops and a general store that sat along the square that was the center of town.

11 October 2017

Centre of the Woods

I am in the centre of the woods:
Here the elder trees surround me.
Light scatters down through canopies
of vibrant leaves, waning green.
Gatherers of acorns scamper and shuffle,
I can hear them on the leaf-strewn ground,
while high above the thin trunks so limber, 
sway with the breezes, lulling in sound.
Somehow, this tiny space I occupy holds
a lake, hills, and hundreds of trees
as well as the scattered leaves at my feet.
God's whisper of creation present even in the breeze.

Here, at Lake Lanier I took a deep breath of fresh air. I woke up that first morning to my first taste of autumn temperatures. What is it about the woods of the north (the north to me) that delights me so much? The scent of trees in the air, the rustle of the branches, the fluttering leaves falling gently, the bird calls across the woods, the windy paths that lead to lakes and waterfalls, the shady spaces with sunlight streaming through the layers of leaves, the echo of your footsteps, the hints of stories dwelling deep, the sense of a magical realm apart from our usual daily view. Just being here in the woods slows me down and excites me to be outside to enjoy a piece of beautiful creation.

03 October 2017

Read Deeply

Reading notes for the soul (tidbits I've collected in my journal over time):

- The books we read, read us.

- Feel free to wonder and wander. Don't lose the sense of letting the imagination follow along new and different paths. 

- Diversify your reading. It is always good to gain other perspectives. Yes, even if you don't agree with them.

- Create and offer descriptions that swim with imaginative thoughts when you write. When you read such sections that greatly inspire, stop and read that passage again.

- The words we read, write, and speak teach us to pay attention and think about certain things in different ways. The quality of the words can dictate what you think as a result. 

- Draw on the promises of God by reading books that offer imaginative stories and different places that stretch our minds in a way that leads us to deeper thinking about deeper meanings..

- Our job is to keep the narrative of hope alive as the world grows dark.

- We read Scripture to build our interior selves in wisdom. We have to be able to have confidence in our lives and beliefs when struggles come along, rather than wavering to and fro like a wave.

29 September 2017

Lost Words

Logos, the word made flesh. By the Word, the heavens were made. The Word dwelt among us and has begun the new age of our history. These words we might know from history and Scripture, but what about words that aren't being spoken?
The unspoken word is unheard. 

The less we use certain words, the more lost they become. Tucked away only in old books. Trailing away into the depths of history to make way for new words. Throughout all history, this has been happening. What would make us think it would slow down now?

Authors complained in the sixteenth century how words weren't being used properly. Some writers detested the new words and the direction language was going, except, did they know they were part of a drab age of language, and a golden age what about to come? They didn't know there were better thing to come. It was a very good thing that change came to the language and its usage.

This world is spinning and remains unstill, and our language follows the whirling. 

We are given the gift of old books and words of the past to study and learn from those who lived before us. As we try to be new, modern, and better than ever, do we lose sight that some very wise things that might be tucked away in the old books? This is the danger, I think. It's not that the language continues to grow and change, for that will always happen.

The essentials remain the same, as always from the beginning of the cosmos. Just as our Creator is the same. We are each of us part of the book being written. Our pages are being filled each day. 

We have one Author, and we are part of one main volume. Each of our stories is placed in chapters of the book, but they are never lost. God's hand is in every page, and in His love, He gathers all the scattered leaves that are our lives to place them in the book (John Donne wrote about this in his Meditation XVII). May we review and contemplate those pages in early chapters, and glean wisdom and insight so that our pages shine forth the goodness and grace of God.

27 September 2017

Fairy Light

Is there glittery fair dust coming in from the window?
Or is it my imagination?

I'm going to require you to stretch your imagination. Sometimes we can grow so lazy and complacent with the artificial noise and entertainment that our world offers, that we lose all those innate desires to create, wonder, grow, and learn. I believe we were made to create, and given a variety of talents in order to explore those possibilities. It might not be writing, but it could be drawing, playing an instrument, telling spell-binding stories, brainstorming ideas and projects, coming up with ways to help others through processes or systems, or gardening.

We all need to use our imaginations more. Me included.

If you could read a story of your choosing about anything, what would it be about?
Would it be a meaningful journey?
Would you be learning a lot of things to unpack?
Would it be a mystery or puzzle to solve?

Would it be centered around family and relationships?
Would there be some deep, meaningful contemplative scenes?

I tend to want all of that, which is probably why I am so eager to read so much, and I have several books bookmarked at the same time. You cannot just narrow your reading to one thing when there is so much good to discover.

If you could transform one room of your house into anything with a bit of magic, what would it be?
Would it be a forest to explore?

Would it be a lakefront spot with mountains in the distance?
Would it be a beach with soothing waves?
Would it be a nature reserve home to a lot of animals?
Would it be a certain trail to a cliff in Scotland?

It would be tough to narrow it down, for the forest, cliff, and lake with mountains would entice me to enter that room. Maybe I can include it all by saying it would be a library, because all of these things exist within books and your imagination. I will admit, my whole home is something of a library, with books on shelves everywhere, and stacks in a few places, but there could be (maybe one day) an actual room dedicated to the books.

Until then, I will just have to let the fairy light filter into my living room.

25 September 2017

Where We Belong

A swift darkness covers your heart
Clouds coalesce and cascade around you
Lifting you out of what was a part
Of a normal day, normal work; true
It is hard to know that feeling is come
As if you could prepare your heart to know
When that sweeping landscape occupies some
Of every fibre, then the memory does grow.
Filling your mind of that mournful day
That depth of sadness never known before.
It pricks with a sting unnatural to God's way,
An eternal life we wholeheartedly pray for.
Holding his hand in final time, it was not to be
Forever final, for in God's grace we go not alone.
I just transferred my hand to God's, you see,
My grip falls away; God holds where we belong.
There can be peace in sadness, for eternity
Is still elusive, as if waking from a dream.

When you lose someone so dear, in my case my dad, you remember that day, year after year. You do not try to, it is just there along with the darkness of that day. As I look back now eights years, I find hope. I see hope. I embrace hope. Hope adds colour to the landscape, reminiscent of those years of visiting the North Carolina mountains as a family each autumn. 

Through words of poetry, given in reflection and quiet, they formulate thoughts better than I feel I could. They speak as if I was just grabbing them from the air around me when I feel inadequate. Pen poised in the air for but a moment, and then words spill out in minutes. 

As is my way, I had turned to books as I tried to grasp the difficulty of death. The author who helped me the most here is George MacDonald (1824-1905). A consistent theme in most of his writings/stories is this recurring notion of sleeping (dying) to wake up. A dreamlike wakefulness that sets one free. Of letting go and losing oneself in order to find one's true self, and reach the space of eternal life. This is particularly potent in my favourite novel of his, Lilith.

Strange dim memories, which will not abide identification, often, through misty windows of the past, look out upon me in the broad daylight, but I never dream now. It may be, notwithstanding, that, when most awake, I am only dreaming the more! But when I wake at last into that life which as a mother her child, carries life in its bosom, I shall know that I wake, and shall doubt no more. I wait; asleep or awake, I wait.
- George MacDonald, Lilith

20 September 2017

Autumnal Wishful Thinking

This afternoon light is glorious, and it is fading a bit sooner each evening. The way it casts a glow into my kitchen invokes feelings of autumn (or in my case, wishful wonderings, ponderings, and dreamings of autumn). If I adorn my table with chrysanthemums, will that usher in autumn? This is my wishful thinking.

When we arrive at this time of year, when I start to see the northern places showcasing their first pumpkins, squash, apples, and sweaters, I long for autumn sometimes with the sudden desire to jump on a plane to the north. Of course, that doesn't happen, but in my head I do this. Is it a jealousy of northern areas? You bet. Am I done with this southern heat and humidity? Absolutely. 

In church this week, we sang one of my favourite hymns - For the Beauty of the Earth. It was certainly appropriate in the midst of our hurricane recovery. It is a hymn I can play on my piano, and for some reason the tune and the words are so lovely to me. Perhaps it is because I try to find beauty in all things - whether it be view-able beauty of the earth or subtle moments of beauty in relationships. I feel like the refrain has been my anthem - 

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

To listen to my favourite piano arrangement of the hymn, click HERE.

When autumn rolls around, I begin to see the shift in seasons (albeit slowly) from the longest summer of heat, to a cooling season of transition to winter. Paradoxically, the falling leaves of autumn bring life to me as one who needs seasons and chilly weather. The leaves fall that I might be lifted up. God's wondrous beauty of creation has many paradoxes.

May the autumnal glow warm our hearts, and may the feeling of autumn get here very soon.

18 September 2017

Hurricanes are not good for writing

Hurricanes are not good for writing.
They steal my time and my focus.
They break trees, normalcy, and my electricity,
forcing me to leave my home.
Missing my home to quietly reflect,
leaves me off track.
I am ready, now, to get back.

This very elementary poem kind of sums up my past week and a half. When a hurricane is heading your way, especially when it's the biggest and most powerful hurricane (let's not forget it had 185 mph winds for several days), it consumes your life. Pre-storm you try to prepare. You fight the crowds to get water, food, gas, and batteries. You try to figure out what to do around your house. You might have to figure out where you are going to go. 

And hanging above it all is the big question mark of where that storm is actually going to go. Because nobody knows. Not really.

When it comes over your town in the middle of the night and destroys hundreds of 100 year old trees and takes away all sense of civilized living in the heat of summer - no a/c, spotty phone service, no internet, debris all over the streets. You begin to look at life a bit differently. When you have to rely on family to feed you and let you stay with them, you feel grateful at the same time as feeling like a nomad. When your tires have 4 holes from the debris (yes, that's 4 holes and 4 visits to tire store) you feel like nothing seems to be able to go back to normal.

And yet...

It could have been worse, and we will get through it. We are slowly getting through it. My electricity was restored, and I was able to sleep in my own home for the first time in 5 days. But there are still others who do not have electricity yet and my heart aches for them. I know their pain. 

I spent some time this morning in reflection, in a much needed time to write. I will keep on writing to clear my head and see what comes out. This storm has weathered me (I think it has weathered all of us), but if I am flexible, I will be better to have bent in the wind rather than stay rigid and break from the wind. 

After time in reflection, the matter of the storm diminished from the mountain it was, to a molehill. I am able to see over it now. It looks surmountable. I will not be stuck here, but will move forward with a heart more thankful and more open because of getting through the storm, letting it teach me to be flexible, to be okay with needing others, and to know it is short-lived. 

I feel sad about the circumstances we have had to endure, but I am still blessed and not lacking in good. Emotions go up and down with the events of the hurricane and its aftermath, but God is steady. He is my centre.

13 September 2017

Hope After the Storm

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
 Psalm 62.8

I am not sure I can adequately put into words the mixed emotions that have swirled these last several days, but I will try. From the stress of the pre-hurricane preparation and not knowing exactly where the storm would go, to the overnight experience of going through the eye wall of Hurricane Irma after it decided to make landfall in Marco Island (Naples), experiencing 100 mph winds sitting in a closet with my mom, to the aftermath of my historic neighborhoods where the debris was absolutely everywhere and huge fallen trees blocked roads and leaned on houses. Thankfulness abounds that everyone is okay, but our lives are disrupted in ways I have not known before. 

As of today, I still do not have power, and the reason is pictured above. From my home (you can see the top of my car in the corner), the neighboring garage apartment narrowly missed major roof damage from this fallen tree, that then fell onto the power line pole and transformer. Notice how my next door neighbor has power lines strewn across their driveway. We hear that there are four pages filled with locations in our neighborhoods that have this issue, and we don't know when our power will be restored. Just across the alley and that fallen tree, another tree fell on the roof of a neighbor creating serious damage.

The drive around my neighborhood and the lake means driving over debris and around fallen trees. I could not even bring myself to take photos as my eyes were too wide open to the sad, broken trees and homes. The power of nature is a fearful thing, indeed. I slept in my home last night, and it was very hot, and extremely creepy in a completely darkened neighborhood and only a few candles burning. Tonight, I am accepting the hospitality of my sister-in-law's family where I can charge my phone, login to get work done, and appreciate air conditioning and good company.

Last night as I drove around the lake, the rainbow had just emerged, and I really needed the reminder of God's presence amidst trials. My home made it through the storm, but as that 100 mph wind was shaking my brother and sister-in-law's house that night, I didn't think that my tiny home from 1950 would make it through unscathed, but it did.

My heart feels heavy and sad for this lovely city. The trees, the historic homes, the lives disrupted. But the way that everyone has worked together to clean-up, clear messes, neighbors jump in to help neighbors has left me feeling hopeful from the showcase of the true human spirit to help one another. I have been on the receiving end of help in multiple ways in these last few days, and I thank those kind souls with a humble heart, and direct my praise upward to the Lord, because He heard my prayers.

Before I left my home to take shelter elsewhere, I wrote a prayer on my little chalkboard in my kitchen that said -
Lord please watch over this little treehouse. No storm is too big for You.

05 September 2017

Wisdom From Above

My mind is more at ease,
my heart is more at rest.
A bird calls to greet the day,
puffing up his chest.

I gather leaves that scattered,

when my heart felt scared and weak,
infusing truth and honesty,
through every moment, seek.

What of the wisdom from above?

First, it is pure, then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine.
- James 3.17

Oh, that eternal perspective. It is hard to maintain because our own selfish needs/wants kick in so automatically, but it is essential. I cannot hold onto joy without it. I cannot hope with my heart at ease without it. I grow weary without it.

These kinds of qualities help lead me to that hopeful eternal perspective, even if I am not fully present there yet. I can at least get there with my actions and words, then my heart will surely follow. Maintaining the obedience in faith. 

Suddenly, I feel uplifted as I dust and vacuum. Sometimes it is in doing the simplest of things that my heart finally gets there, catching up to the trust I had already been harboring. It lingers with me, and I don't wonder why. I know why.

01 September 2017

Meditation on Psalm 16

Meditation on Psalm 16

I have no good apart from You
In my soul, this nourishing meditation
reassures me, it is true.
Each corner of emotion grows smooth
when I place my trust and hope

and bestow You all the room
Of my heart that holds my portion.

Falling inside the lines of pleasant places,
with blessings undeserved in motion.
When my Lord is the instructor true
and circles of love draw into that centre

my heart swells with less me, more You.

30 August 2017

But First, Oxford

On that initial visit to England I wrote about in a recent post, I visited Oxford for the first time, which was eight years ago.

I remember when my brother and I were making plans for our days in England. He asked me what I wanted to see. My number one priority was to go to Oxford. I didn't even know much about it, except that C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and other authors I enjoyed had all lived there and taught there at Oxford. I knew I had to eat at The Eagle and Child Pub where the Inklings met each week. I knew Harry Potter had been filmed there at various locations. I didn't know what to expect, though. I didn't know what it would look like, as I had never been to a place so old and rich in history and tradition. I couldn't predict the feelings it would rise in me.

We took the train up from the country, through London Paddington, and an hour from there into Oxford. Taking the train is the best way to travel, I quickly learned. I loved watching the English countryside glide by as the train sped along.

From the train station, it is about a mile walk to the city centre, and the reality of stepping onto those streets and seeing the dreaming spire-adorned buildings (libraries!!) awakened in me a new feeling -- that of being part of history, which I had never felt until Oxford. The history of the States seemed so modern in comparison. I was going into buildings dating from the 13th, 14th, 15th centuries, which astounded me, as England's (and Oxford's) rich history was even older than that.

Here was this beautiful city of cream-coloured stone buildings (many looked like castles) that had been witness to centuries of history with its traditions intact to this day. Much of the city looks exactly the same as it did hundreds of years ago. Some sections are more modern (outside of the centre) or have additions/updates, but the core looks the same. I loved that immediately. I had this feeling that I had found the place I had been searching for, but didn't know I had been searching for.

Oxford was like an awakening dream for me on that first visit. Sure, I did some of the more touristy things like tour Christ Church College where all the crowds went to see the Harry Potter dining hall (I was a bit more interested in all the Alice in Wonderland connections to be honest), but then we toured Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis lived and taught for 30 years, and we walked in his footsteps. It was quiet there. The chapel (dating from the late 1400s) was where he went to morning prayers every morning once he became a Christian. The walking path beyond the building he lived in (Addison's Walk) was the now-famous path where he walked and debated late at night with J.R.R Tolkien and Hugo Dyson about myth and Christianity (Christianity is the true myth, Tolkien explained to Lewis), which greatly influenced him leading to his belief in Christ.

I knew somehow deep in my soul that some place like this existed on our planet. I just had to find it, and I found it in Oxford.

Like proper English folk, we had afternoon cream tea at Magdalen, sitting outside by the river. We watched punting boats glide by, and the Magdalen bell tower rang 4 PM, then 5 PM. I felt like I was part of the city. It held so many meaningful connections (in the literary sense as well as my own Christian faith) that I had only briefly encountered. It thrilled me that there was so much more to discover, which I have been able to do almost every year since. It has become an essential place for me to return to each year. 

While I love to travel and explore other places as well, my heart is always saying 'but first, Oxford.'

28 August 2017


I want to learn to walk in the dark as much as the light...to be less afraid of that dark and to be more willing to explore it and find treasures within it.
- Brian Draper

These recent several days have been dreary, rainy, moody. It is so suited to my inclinations to be quiet, still, reflective. For some reason the sunshine and blue sky is not the environment that renders inspiration in abundance for me. But weather does. I am able to dive most deeply while at home, or at a coffee shop. Something about the solitude at home is restoring. Something about the ambient sounds and sense of community at coffee shops is inspiring.

I've been reading this book Soulfulness by Brian Draper, on the importance of being mindful in our everyday. This is already how I aim to live, and the book helped remind me of even more reasons why I need to. Just as we need a Sabbath day, we need to be restored by the soulful acts of listening well, breathing deeply, noticing the tastes and scents of our food, taking walks outside, and sitting quietly in thankfulness. This is especially important when we are going through a dark time, when our souls seem more drained and strained. The book describes the good practices of meditation, which is simply 'calming abiding in the present moment'. It's so simple, and yet we too easily miss the mark (I am looking at myself here). 
We all have so much to attend to, and it is all too easy to just keep going while pushing aside the quiet, soulful times. But we need that. Before we fall into the depths of thinking and attending constantly to work, chores, activities, etc..we have to make a choice to be mindful and engage in healthy letting-go times to feel renewed. This is to avoid a soulless rhythm. 

I like his suggestions in the book. They are all so simple, but try to get everyone you know to stop, sit quietly, and breath for ten minutes, and I bet you cannot. The world tries to get us to keep moving, keep buying, keep producing. But taking time to be soulful should be a daily thing for us all.

24 August 2017

A View of England

Miraculous are the effects of Divine wisdom.
- Thomas Traherne

As I was drifting into and out of sleep on recent morning, I had a sudden unsolicited mental time travel back to my first visit to England, staying on the family farm of a friend, eight years ago.

I was back in the farmhouse, upstairs in the craft room where I slept. The room was stocked with supplies and some storage, but a desk sat under the window, and on the ledge sat pretty pin/pin cushions, sewing materials, threads, etc. A twin bed rested against the wall to the left of the window. The little upper latch window was always open, and I had never experienced staying in a place with the window open all day and all night. In Florida, you just cannot do that, at least without a screen to keep out the bugs and lizards. But in England you can, and it is glorious.

That first night in England, light rain fell as I lay in bed. At first, I was worried the rain would come into the room since the window was open a bit, but it was silly to worry that the English windows were badly designed. No, indeed, they are actually quite perfect I came to realize.

The sound of the English rain falling into the garden below my window lulled me to sleep, and the air was chilled coming into the room. This was early September, so it was the autumn feelings that arose. I quickly grew to love those windows, as the spot afforded a view of the lawn/garden and it allowed the fresh country air of Kent, England to reach me all night. Little did I know in those nights that my love of England was already growing exponentially.  

England was a land that somehow felt familiar to me (as if from a dream or story), and yet these were the days I was experiencing it for the first time. A place I felt at once at home, and yet with so much to discover because I knew so little.

I remember once waking in the middle of the night, chilled, so I pulled the blanket up closer and tighter. What I realized was how deeply I had been sleeping every night. It was peaceful, deep sleeping with the only sounds being the soft patter of raindrops and early morning bird song. There's nothing better to sleep to.

These memories kindle a deeper love and appreciation of England and the time I have spent there in the years since that first encounter. I began to reflect after that first night upon how special the experience was. I could feel that the trip was much more than just a touristy holiday. It was an introduction to some of the places and ways of life I hold closest to my heart. It is all so much a part of me now. Is there a place like that for you? 

22 August 2017

During Summertime...

During Summertime...

You go on a few weekend road trips and read books that make you chuckle (this is a P.G. Wodehouse).

You celebrate your little nephew's first birthday at his shark-themed party where he played in splash pools, ran around, ate pizza and cake, and was as happy as can be.

You enjoy the evening glow of the pre-sunset light each night and feel a deep thankfulness for every beautiful moment of every day.

You watch your niece at your place, and she ends up falling asleep after all morning and afternoon is filled with completing puzzles, playing piano, reading books, watching Star Wars, and writing a story.

You watch the partial eclipse with everyone at the office (using a carefully crafted viewing box) and marvel at the eclipse-shaped shadows! I know I'm not the only science nerd out there who really enjoyed it.

17 August 2017

Inner Place of the Heart

To trust in God is action's highest kind;
Who trusts in God, his heart with life doth swell;
Faith opens all the windows to God's wind.

- George MacDonald

The inner place of the heart muses upon the state of life at present. This path that we are on today is littered with broken pieces. Contemplating scenes flash like slides in the head. Each slide (like an old fashioned photograph) holds some different action or outcome (welcome or unwelcome), as a result of other actions. Only pieces are grasped (past and present collide and crumble), with each slide providing a glimmer of what happened or what is happening.

A darkling landscape of questioning sweeps in. This doesn't mean despair (though it could feel as if it is), as a sudden warm feeling of comfort comes in the good light promised as the darkling scene begins to showcase the light. Each step is a struggle because we can barely see, and it leaves us eager to find a way out. But sometimes the way of ease isn't the way God guides us to go. It is at the darkest point that the pivot comes, back toward the light. It comes to greet us at the edge of darkness. Through the cracks, a beauty emerges. 

Going to a place we would usually not dare to venture may be our path. A place outside of comfort, that exposes us to elements we are afraid might batter us, but a place leading to joy unknown to us from our present perspective awaits us. We are left with circumstances that force us to move this way, as we cannot go back. It means we must keep going. Hold onto the hope of good. Hold onto it with a grip beyond your own strength.

Trust in God and all His light and love. He is there, waiting for us. He is providing shelter if we do feel battered. That, at the centre, is what holds us close. This, we rest in, knowing that darkness may cover us for awhile, but we are taken care of by our loving Lord, who goes through it with us.

15 August 2017

Stranger than Fiction

When one hasn't a touch of the poet one stands some chance of being a poem.
- G.K. Chesterton

I started reading The Club of Queer Trades by Chesterton the other day and I was so delighted in every page of the book. Chesterton's classic literal vs. mad characters make me chuckle, while there is a mystery slowly being revealed with small clues along the way. The wit of Basil and his keen ability to observe (to see through the holes of the 'facts') and find truth is something admirable that we would all benefit from if we could see so clearly. We can easily get caught up in the facts, which may at the surface appear to tell the story, but many gaps leave room for actual truth behind the scene that could easily be glossed over by those who push the way forward for the facts. 

Basil's brother, Rupert, is the literal one who looks only at the facts. He is the one to jump to conclusions. Basil sits back and watches the scene unfold, then the spotlight goes to him, where he cheerfully states his brother is wrong (like a good brother would do), and then slowly reveals (with a grin on his face) what really is happening. 

"Facts," murmured Basil, like one mentioning some strange, far-off animals, "how facts obscure the truth. I may be silly - in fact, I'm off my head - but I never could believe in that man - what's his name, in those capital stories? - Sherlock Holmes. Every detail points to something, certainly; but generally to the wrong thing. Facts point in all directions, it seems to me, like the thousands of twigs on a tree. It's only the life of the tree that has unity and goes up- only the green blood that spring, like a fountain, at the stars." (pg. 22)

The book centers on six stories of odd professions that some residents of London have taken up, to be part of the Club of Queer Trades. The rule of being part of this super-exclusive underground club (they literally meet underground) is that a member must be making an income from some trade that he has invented. That leaves the door open for some risible, odd trades.

In pure Chesterton enjoyment, you stumble through the London streets with Basil and Rupert as they solve mysteries that reveal the odd trade, such as the Adventure and Romance Agency, where a client will pay this agency to create adventure in their everyday life. Suddenly, the client will be caught in a dark alley that leads him to a mysterious house where his name is written on the lawn, threatening his life, so then he must investigate the house and find a mysterious lady, and the story continues to unfold in various seemingly dangerous encounters.

Or, in another story, Rupert is about to head out to a dinner party, when an old clergyman shows up at the door with a terrible re-telling of being made to dress up as an old lady and take part in a crime with a gang of other men who dressed up as old ladies. He recounted detail after detail of such horrible treatment. Rupert misses his dinner party because the story went on for hours, which was the aim of the young man dressed up as an old clergy. His job, you see, was a Professional Detainer. Apparently, their agency is very busy, as many people need to hire professionals to detain other people from being somewhere.

Each story is its own jolly fun that Chesterton delivers in all his writings. The discovery of the profession always made me chuckle. And yet underneath each story and situation, there are some subtle moral, political, and social statements, per Chesterton's usual (the judicial system, standing up for what is right, not judging too quickly, morality, madness, secret societies).

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction," said Basil placidly. "For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." (pg 83)

10 August 2017

Silvery Grey Expanse

Cloudscape above familiar land. My home
Resonates with feelings akin to softness.
Comfort and cosiness permeates the air, come
Along with the silvery grey expanse
Aglow, catching the sun's final rays until some
Turn of the earth brings us 'round again,
Back to where we started, or is it known
That we move forward to where we go.

Does the silvery sky inspire my soul? When it covers the blue-hues radiating from the sky, cast over me a time of musing. This is when interesting light and shadows emerge. For a while it does cover the sunlight, then as I look again, glimpses of breaks leak the light. Smooth entryways of a soulful musing invited by the waves of sky, cast in shadows and shades analogous to crumpled tin foil and embers of a quieting fireplace as the evening deepens. It is nature's own creative hygge. 

08 August 2017

Winter in August

My niece doesn't notice (or care) that it is midsummer. She has her own style and personality that makes me smile. Who says you can't wear a winter cap in August? The look isn't complete without some Hello Kitty mittens.

The wild abandon of a four year old is refreshing. When you are four, you don't care what others think about you. You express your creativity without reserve. You let your imagination wander and you make up stories about travelling through space or living with dinosaurs.

The sad thing is, we lose that sense of being ourselves as we grow up. When I watch my niece, I see her creative wheels spinning in her head. She thinks about what she might have heard the day or week before, and asks questions to learn about something ("what are satellites, daddy?"). She soaks up information like an eager sponge. She picks out her outfits, matching colours, and does not worry about what other people might think about her selection. She asks you what your favourite dinosaur is (mine was triceratops that day, her is always T-Rex).

When we really take a moment to think, we all probably spend a large amount of our time worrying about what other people might think. From what we wear, where we live, what we eat, where we spend time. Do we act in ways that really go along with our personalities, or are we trying to impress someone or be like someone else? Are we trying to please God, or please others?

We were all created with different fingerprints. We are made to bring our unique self to the table everywhere we go. That is not an excuse to do wrong and say it's just following our personality. Not at all. It is embracing the tools God gave us and wondering as we look at the world how we can use that for good purpose. I used to hide all my writings and never share with anyone. I was worried that people wouldn't think it was any good. I'm no C.S. Lewis, but perhaps something I write will connect with someone, or resonate with them in a way to make them think. Or be useful and helpful. My work is then purposeful.

Perhaps my niece will grow up to be a fashion designer, or teacher, or scientist. Whatever it may be, may she always be truly herself and embrace her creativity.