28 February 2017
Books have much to say, and there is power behind the words written between these covers.
Recently, I have been finishing books that leave me inspired and thoughtful. These are pages I have longed to get back to during the day, and find myself fully indulging with at night. In these books, I've had questions raised, longings bemused, musings that linger, and insights into lives and stories.
Here are a few of my recently completed books, and a little snippet from each one to entice you to pick it up as well:
Envelope Poems by Emily Dickinson
The poems compiled here are all from snippets found on envelopes or scraps of paper. Each page shows a snapshot of the real poem in her handwriting, and then a typed version is supplied on the opposing page, because her handwriting is a little difficult to read. Oftentimes I imagine she was scribbling these lines when her thoughts were working on a poem. So, the envelopes become a jotting place, pulled from her stack of mail on her desk, and therefore not neatly written. When paper is scarce, you use every scrap you can when you need to write, She probably had words in her head all the time, as I feel most of the time, and those words need to get out. These are the random jots where new poems fused in her mind. They are scraps of images and ideas that tantalize the imagination.
As there are apartments in our own minds
that we never enter without apology -
we should respect the seals of others -
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
In our modern twenty-first century life, we are always chasing that which is faster, better, newer, and flashier. We jump on the bandwagon of our American culture so quickly, and we later realize that we don't even care about what is being done on that bandwagon. We buy just to buy, to accumulate, and look good to others. We try so hard to keep up appearances, to impress people we don't even like! Erin shares her story of all the years of struggle she has gone through with this, and it's still an ongoing process. It is refreshing to read that, as she became a well-known blogger and HGTV star. She was stressed all the time, trying to keep up. A more simplified, minimalist lifestyle is what she moved to, and she's much happier. Her tale is the tale of many, resonating with this modern culture of always being connected via social media and always having something to say that meets the audience expectation.
Busyness is a byproduct of our culture. It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to overschedule, overinform, overprovide.
But the answer is not to lower the expectations we have created.
The answer, I believe, is to live up to the expectations we have been created for.
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
I wrote a separate post on this book recently, because it was such a charming book.
"So that they learn not to rush, to do one thing after another. So as to train them in restraint, patience, silence, and mindfulness in every gesture." He paused. "You must be wondering why I'm telling you this. It's because this is the spirit in which to set out on a journey - any journey. If you travel in a hurry, without pausing or resting, you'll return without having found what you're looking for."
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
I know I have written some posts about this book at some point, but with this third or fourth reading, it was even better than before. It is more like a history of a world, breezing through the beginning of time and space, through thousands of years of history and three ages of time. As Eru Ilúvatar (the God of Tolkien's world) creates the universe, the first beings help bring forth the rest of creation with their songs. The blending of music is a beautiful image and scene to behold, and the idea of Ilúvatar using all the sounds (even the noisy clanging sounds of Melkor) to blend into a harmonious melody that used every piece is such a reminder of our God who can use whatever we give Him. Ill intended as Melkor's music was, Ilúvatar used it for good. As history unfolds, we learn about the creation of elves and men (both were the highest and most loved of the beings), how the dwarves were created, and how out of the immortal Ainur, some selected to exist down on Middle-earth among the creation, including the supreme evil Morgoth (Melkor), who was the most powerful, seeking more power and total dominion. These are the tales of wars, the sad tales of immortal elves, the power-seeking tales of men, the love-driven tale of Beren and Lúthien, and how the gods intervened by sinking a whole civilization and their island. Reading these tales (which all precede The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) explains a lot of things that you don't fully understand as you read the later stories. I love to see the puzzle pieces fall into place that I may have wondered about in later stories.
Then Beren and Lúthien went through the Gate, and down the labyrinthine stairs; and together wrought the greatest deed that has been dared by Elves or Men. For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall, that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment.
24 February 2017
It may indeed be fantasy when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Lately, my goal has been to take moments to slow down and pay more attention to the nature just outside my windows. As the season shifts into spring, there are bold colours showing up on branches all around, shifting in these unsettled winds.
I make my way up my shallow steps and get a full view of the purple blooms that cascade like a waterfall, bringing feeling analogous to spring without much effort. With warming temperatures, the flowers make their presence known to soak in the sun.
My neighborhood is old, filled with homes built mostly in the 1920's- 1950's. The historic buildings are lovely and have history. The trees that sit in between homes and outside my windows have seen so many years of seasons. What is that like? To know so much?
Even though we don't have a real winter, many of our trees do grow barren during the winter months. So, when the burst of colour comes forth this time of year, it is a treat, a short-lived one that must be savored, because it'll be gone before you know it.
I do love spring, but it is all too short. It barely lingers and then summer is here. Sometimes I want it to delay, to keep the wintry presence hovering, which is partly why I love a foggy morning. The presence of the clouds at ground level makes me think of warm and cosy things. While driving in the fog is not really fun, I love to be at home or somewhere lovely to notice the contrast of colours against the grey palate of fog, the silence as the fog dampers the sounds, and the atmospheric realm of shadows that trees and homes become. It's the mysteriousness that grabs me, I think. That can be said about nature as a whole, don't you agree?
21 February 2017
- J.R.R. TolkienBlank pages are the world of my imagining - places yet to create and ideas yet to explore. There is great wealth in our imaginations. Tucked away are the grand stories of great heroism set alongside the loveliest, simplest tales of the everyday. Here is where I let the words spill out in ink.
What are blank pages to you?
A new month?
A new prospect?
A new idea?
A move to a new home?
How about a new day?
Each day we are given twenty-four hours as a gift to be well-lived. The sun rises and the light that God created comes streaming into your home as you wake up and stretch underneath soft sheets. A whole new day to wake up to, and a day full of choices. What is the first thing we choose? Do we choose thankfulness?
I seek to awaken my mind's attention to the mindfulness of each new day. As I wake up before the sun, I get to watch the world awaken as I do from my tiny home in an old neighborhood. A darkness envelopes me as I first wake up. Several minutes later, somehow it comes so swiftly, the light peaks above the horizon and I see the colour rise from my bathroom window. Then, as I pour cereal into my bowl, the light makes its way into my kitchen, kissing my skin with its morning glow. Many times I am writing on my sofa with a mug of coffee as the sun's light begins to illuminate part of my living space, coming in at soft angles edged with glowing borders.
My writing hand pauses above my page as I look up, and I take a moment to appreciate it. I find myself taking a deeper breathe. I am practicing being in the present. The beauty of a small moment of seeming insignificance. To me, sometimes the most significant things are the quiet, unassuming things. Things that almost go unnoticed. Things that are taken for granted. Things that are not broadcasted just to be noticed, but part of the everyday that you have come to depend on always being there.
17 February 2017
There is a Danish word, hygge, that is making its way around the world as if it is some newfound discovery. It is not new, but deeply embedded in their culture. Pronounced hoo-ga, this concept is not easily summed up in one word, as the Danes have, but in several words/atmospheres in English: cosy, warm, inviting, rustic, soothing, indulgent, gentle, taking pleasure, slowing down, community.
During the darkest and coldest months, the people of Denmark seek out the hygge in all moments, to contrast the stark and dreary landscapes. They create for themselves atmospheres that promote good conversion, comfort, and meaningful time together. The more rustic, the better. The more cosy, the better.
It is about adding a candle to the table for dinner, sharing a meal of good food with those you care about, curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a blanket, and a book. It is the process of making a simple meal. It is the most simple, enjoyable, lovely things. In frequency these things should be, in my mind, with the necessity of enjoying them with others. It is more enjoyable to do things like devour delicious tacos together, and have long conversations over a pot of steaming tea.
It is the atmosphere of openness and the sense of a safe place where we are cared for. Where your opinion and thoughts matter. A sanctuary of cosiness.
Hygge is (compacted in one word) all the aspects that I have tried to embody in my home and in my every day for as long as I have have my own home. It is fun to put a Danish word to it now.
15 February 2017
Something in me longs for love. A deep notion with a core ancient in origin. Something rooted in my existence, as far reaching as the cosmos, and as close as my nearest thought.
Handled with utmost care when grounded in grace.
We love because He first loved us (1 John 4.19)
Drifting to and fro from what our minds tell us is concrete and knowable, and what our hearts hold as hope of the unknown.
We are all living question marks. Stepping forward day to day into a new realm not yet known. But because we have an ultimate love given to us providing all that we need, we can give our love to others as a gift. We can use the passions lying within us, for their good. Others can see what is important to us by this.
Where do our hearts linger?
Love is outlined before us. Little rocky paths we scuff with our feet. Do the paths lead to those around us?
Do those others know what is in your heart?
You can see that it is not a romance that I speak of. Not in the modern sense. More like an ancient, eternal sense. Love transcends all emotion because it is an action we choose to make. Our hearts can swell as we care and love others well, as we fulfill God's intentions for us.
Different kinds of love surround us. Friendship is love. It is the kind of love that is unnecessary for our existence but that challenges us the most, in all the best ways. We look out into the world together, side by side. We don't lose ourselves in each other but keep one another on track. A deeply embedded thankfulness abounds in me for those whom I call my friends.
When we love by giving, we open up ourselves with gentleness. Something our world needs in abundance, along with love.
13 February 2017
"He says it's how you learn to love books; it's got a lot to do with memory. He says that when men fall in love with women they learn their faces by heart so they can remember them later."
"It's the same thing with books," continued Teseris. "In lessons we learn bits by heart and recite them. Then we read the books and discuss them and then we read them again."
I do not recall being so charmed by a new (modern) book of fiction in a long time. This book absolutely delighted me. It was smart, full of references to literature, and all about learning about relating to one another in deep ways. The main characters have some growing to do, especially Miss Prim. She leaves her city life to go work as a librarian in a big house of a gentleman, who takes care of four children who live in the house. Will she become accustomed to the slow life in the tiny village? I was sad to reach the last pages. It needed to be longer. The best kind of books always need to be longer.
Life was discussed in every chapter with direct, unapologetic frankness by the characters, which meant there was nary a dull conversation.
The story moved and folded over conversations that centered on things like Greek texts, which somehow became much more than a study of literature. Miss Prim, uptight and taciturn, slowly softened as time went on. Her Employer, who was unnamed through the whole book, was the intelligent, unsentimental gentleman who wasn't going to give her an easy chat. He debated with her by the fireplace on cold nights as they drank hot cocoa. He infuriated her as she cataloged books in the house library, questioning her modern-education mind with his old-fashioned one.
The contrasts were indelible, and yet they could all compliment if their hearts would become more pliable to a gentle change. It's obvious, as a reader, to see certain things, and yet, realistically, each person has issues to deal with deep within. And sometimes those issues must be dealt with before the heart can truly open up. Issues of the heart are usually a longing that cannot be filled. The searching may continue for ages, but it's only when Miss Prim learns to look beyond herself to something much bigger than she begins to feel filled.
All the tea times with buttered toast and cakes had me longing for a daily tea time, with conversation overflowing with the people of the village. Why don't we do this sort of thing often in real life? Perhaps I need to have some lime cake or a tart on hand at all times.
09 February 2017
The Lord knew all the history of love and loss; beheld throughout the universe the winged Love discrowning the skeleton Fear. God's comfort must ever be larger than man's grief, else were there gaps in his Godhood. Mere restoration would leave a hiatus, barren and growthless, in the development of his children.
- George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel
I read the majority of this book by George MacDonald in a dedicated few hours one morning as the foggy hours brightened slowly.
In The Hope of the Gospel, MacDonald pulls from many sayings of Jesus, especially the beatitudes, and then expands on what those lines mean in terms of what we think and how we act. I like how he often spells out his points in a juxtaposed manner, which draws my attention to a varied perspective of a story I had already known. His phraseology pulls me in as well: old-fashioned and yet so applicable in today's world in all the same ways.
Therefore, that he is empty of good, needs discourage no one; for what is emptiness but room to be filled? Emptiness is need of good; the emptiness that desires good, is itself good.
I read quickly, sipping coffee in between pages, as the words form a thought-process that bridges familiar story with some deeper meaning, and yet I slow down in certain paragraphs where the words need greater attention and underlining. These are practical insights that direct the heart and mind towards God, which we so often exclude from our daily lives.
To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace - the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us.
Every obedience is the opening of another door into the boundless universe of life.
06 February 2017
The last week in January I always go to Saint Louis for a corporate event. If I can fit in a little sightseeing, I certainly do.
Highlights of my trip:
St. Louis Public Library - Big, grand, beautiful. It has been recently restored and the glory of it shines forth. You know my heart is drawn to libraries wherever I am. It was cold outside, and we wanted to rest, so we picked a few books off the shelves in the religion section, and read for about an hour. It was one of the most enjoyable hours of the trip.
Pi Pizzeria - A sleek, modern spot for some delicious pizza. Thin crust or deep dish, and all kinds of gourmet selections. I ate here twice within three days, and I wasn't sad about it. In fact, I wish I'd eaten there 3.14 times.
Downtown Architecture - No matter what city I am in, I like to get a taste of its history through the architecture. You can get a sense of the former glory here, with some classical facades detailed with ornate arches and doors. I like seeing the details of the old mixed in with some modern buildings. Pieces of downtown are restored and lovely again, while many are in need of love and care.
Snow Flurries - Twice there were snow flurries for me. I say "for me" because nobody else probably cared, but for this Florida girl who hasn't seen snow in years, the sight of while flakes falling from a grey sky makes me feel like a little child seeing snow for the first time.
Rooster - Breakfast and coffee each day that made me eager to take a walk along the windy cold streets to get there. It was a .5 mile walk from the hotel, and worth every step. Everything there is local and fresh. I had the smoothest latte and the tastiest homemade granola with yogurt and fresh fruit.
My company gatherings- Of course, the whole reason I was in St. Louis was for my company meeting and awards banquet. The highlight for me is always to have some time to see the people I care so deeply for. I've known many of them for almost four years now, and I love to spend a little bit of time with them, hearing their hearts and their thoughts.
01 February 2017
Conscience runs quick to the spirit's hidden door. Straightway, from every sky-ward window, cries up to the Father's listening ears arise.
- George MacDonald
Fill me up with infinite overflow, O Lord.
Words from George MacDonald become prayers to me as I meditate on the words each morning. I borrow them in my mind, and scribble them on the pages of my journal. The depth they exhibit stirs my heart and mind.
A day begins in fog: layers of cloud settled all the way down to the grass. Fog resting at the tops of trees so that they only look like a shadow. Inside, we are within the shadow of the fog that surrounds.
Lord, You are there. You are in every shadow and every sunlit space. At the tops of trees and at the tip of blades of grass. You are also with me. Somehow I live as if I have forgotten that sometimes. You walk beside me when no one else seems to be there. Even if someone is there, so are You. But people shift, whereas You do not. You are always there, here, and everywhere.
I thank You for Your consistency. Let the morning reflection sink deep within me as I go through this new day and new month.
Morning fog - heavy laden on the earth's quiet start.
Muffled awakening of souls to greyness abounding.
Let me dwell cheerfully even if I cannot see
The light beyond and above the clouded shroud.
Help me look toward that which is eternity, not dependent on what I see now.