Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remembering Our Wedding

A few weeks ago we received the following email from some friends of ours (who attended our wedding more than a year and half ago with three daughters in tow). Their eight year old was recently asked to write about a "wedding experience" and this is what she had to say:
"One of my dad's friends had the best wedding I have ever been to.  My friend Olivia also came.  We got one free toy each from a basket.  We played house under tables. Also we danced crazy by the elevators and danced with the bride .  We all got to ring bells when the bride and groom left.  I had so much fun.  We still see them sometimes like last night at a football game.  The bride's hair is red and she looked so pretty.  She is also so nice."
"Way to make a lasting impression!" our friend added below.

I love that. And while it was definitely our intention to have a kid-friendly wedding (and I think our "lasting impression" has something to do with that) I also think there's a whole lot more to it than that. A wedding is intended to be more than just a ceremony, more than just a celebration. It's also a mystery, and a holy union, and it invites us to a deeper love, and it calls us to a higher place. It's both a picture and a promise. And I think she was responding, mostly, to that.

People tell you that you will barely remember your wedding. That it goes by in such a blur. But I remember our wedding. Not the whole day, in its entirety, but there are moments, perfectly preserved moments, that I remember with absolute clarity. Keith's face as I came toward him down the aisle. My daddy's kiss on my cheek. Tears in my mother's eyes. I remember hugs and congratulations. Beaming smiles. Dancing. And dancing. And dancing. Glances and touches. Whispers. Shouts. Words. Beloved faces. There are so many moments that stand out to me.

And I remember, most of all, the feeling. The feeling I had all day and well into the night. It was too strong to say it was mere giddiness. Too sweet to call it just excitement. Too boisterous to consider it only gladness. Would it be overreaching to describe it as transcendent? No, I don't think so. I think it was absolutely transcendent. A kind of transcendent joy that I'd only experienced in hints and murmurs before. And I was completely consumed by it, lit from within, on fire with it.

It was a perfect night. Do all bride's feel like their weddings are perfect? Maybe. Probably. I hope so. Ours truly was, in every way. There was nothing out of place. Nothing wasted. Every word, every face, every step, every touch was destined, ordained, blessed. It was like something from a fairy tale- the good and true kind of fairytale, where there is so much at stake, but the hero is brave and strong, and love is triumphant. It was magical and beautiful and thrilling and real.

We didn't have a professional video made, but we do have the ceremony's audio recorded. It came up on my iPod yesterday and I was reminded again just how perfect- how right and true and good -each word was for us. I relived that transcendent feeling. I remembered how this life can be, is meant to be, full of Grace and Truth. And I remembered, in the words of Frederick Buechner (words we used in our wedding ceremony), "that here and there even in our world and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation, which, fleeting as those glimpses are apt to be, give us hope both for this life and for whatever life may await us later on."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

And yet there are some things I would be willing to bet maybe even my life on. That life is grace, for instance – the givenness of it, the fathomlessness of it, the endless possibilities of its becoming transparent to something extraordinary beyond itself. That whether you call on him or don’t call on him, God will be present with you. That if we really had our eyes open, we would see that all moments are key moments. That he who does not love remains in death. That Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwells among us full of grace and truth. 

That here and there even in our world and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation, which, fleeting as those glimpses are apt to be, give us hope both for this life and for whatever life may await us later on. 

What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.

-Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Blog Crush

When it comes to attraction, I guess I have a taste for the "nerdy". Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer can make my little heart flutter merely by polishing his glasses. I have a thing for bow-ties and suspenders (just ask my husband). I think a library is an incredibly romantic setting. There is nothing so captivating to me as a love of books, a wide vocabulary, and an active mind. Well-read, well-spoken, gets me every time. So it seems almost inevitable that this man would win a place in my heart.

John E. McIntyre writes a delightful blog for the Baltimore Sun. And he's my new crush. Go!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall is Flirting

What a morning! The temperature is hovering somewhere around fifty-four degrees and there's a lovely crisp chill to the air. The sun is shining with that perfect angle, just the right slant to light the whole world all hazy-golden and gleaming.

I would love to be outside today. The first-fruits of fall are calling me like a siren's song. But there is work to be done, and I'm tethered to a desk and a computer screen and responsibilities.

I would love to be hanging fall decorations. Festoons of crisp colorful leaves and scarecrows and pumpkins. But the decorations are tucked in the attic, and the entrance to the attic is through the guest-room closet, and the guest-room closet is blocked with those last three boxes I never got around to unpacking after Keith and I married, plus another whole stack of boxes waiting for the garage sale that I have yet to organize.

I would love to be trying out this recipe. But it is full of flour and sugar and fat and all kinds of other delicious things that I shouldn't be eating right now.

Yet fall is flirting with me, and maybe, just maybe, thinking about staying. There will be time, there will be days, for basking in the briskness, and prettying up the house, and baking tasty treats. I'll content myself, for now, with gazing through wide open windows, and lighting a pumpkin spice candle when I get home tonight.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Deathly Hallows Trailer

Oh, how I love the Harry Potter series! I suppose it's time to start the seventh (or is it eighth) re-read so the books are fresh in my mind before Part One of Deathly Hallows comes out in November. A new trailer was released yesterday. Have you seen it?

Do you love it? Is it November yet? Why can't it be November yet?

I was hooked on Harry Potter after being forced to watch the Prisoner of Azkaban at the dollar theater with some friends. Yes, I was a little late to that party (blame my innate suspicion of all things hyped) but I have more than made up for it since with incessant revisiting of both the books and the movies. I think they are exceptional story-telling.

Keith was also a little skeptical of HP at first. His first encounter with the series was the book, Prisoner of Azkaban, for a children's lit class in seminary. He was initially turned off by the trio's blatant rule breaking, their constant defiance of authority, and the exceptions and allowances made by those authorities on their part because Harry is (or is he?) the Chosen One. Seemed to Keith that this did not set a very good example for children and young adults to follow.

Of course, on closer consideration, you realize that while the trio certainly are not rule-followers, they do display excellent moral character- standing up for the weak, the marginalized, befriending house elves and half-giants. The children show remarkable lack of bias, insatiable curiosity, compassion towards others, and of course, strength of character- all of which are essential to the events of the final book. Harry, Ron and Hermione have to be willing to break some rules when it comes to standing up against the authority of the ministry of magic. They have to be curious enough and strong enough to keep fighting as the fight gets more and more dangerous and demoralizing. They have to remember and respect the rights and freedoms of those they're fighting for- muggles and centaurs and house-elves and just regular old witches and wizards.

The heroes of Harry Potter are true heroes. And while the books may not encourage strict rule-keeping they do constantly embody virtues like goodness, kindness and mercy; friendship and bravery and learning. And when you consider that strict rule following can lead directly to things like the Death Eater's rule or even Nazi Germany, well, I think I'd rather raise children who have strong moral character than children who fall in line and are afraid to make waves in the face of troubling circumstances. All that to say, I think Harry, Ron and Hermione make fine role models and I am more than willing for my children to read about them, love them, and emulate them when the time comes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Peek Inside My Pocketbook

Inspired by Design*Sponge
“There is something beautiful in the everyday life we decide to create for ourselves and the tools we carry tell a story about who we are.”

  1. Blessed iPad- Something I never would have purchased for myself, but now that I have one I cannot live without it!  It's my journal, Bible, notebook, and complete portable library as well as putting mobile internet right at my fingertips. Plus, isn't the red leather cover pretty?
  2. Mint Mojito Orbit gum - My favorite flavor and I can never find it anymore. I snagged two at the gas station last night. For all I know they could be the last two on earth
  3. Snazzy wallet from Target- with absolutely no cash inside! But I do have a library card and a Baylor faculty spouse card. So I'm cool
  4. Travel sized Kleenex- slightly worse for wear
  5. My passport- not nearly enough stamps in it yet, but I always keep it handy, just in case
  6. Cute vintagey pocket mirror- with customary sassy saying on the front (Beauty: It's not just a job, it's an adventure)
  7. Flash drive- I'm trying to make the move to complete online file storage with DropBox, but old habits die hard and sometimes I just need tangible proof that all my files are backed up
  8. The Illumined Heart by Frederica Matthewes Green- there used to be two or three books in my purse at any give time before my iPad came along, now just this one for use at Small Group tonight)
  9. Hair ties and clips- essential now that mine is getting so long
  10. Cosmetics- cheek and lip stain, both freebies
  11. More cosmetics- three mini sparkly Lip Venoms (for extra plumping, like I need it), pint-sized mascara (the one makeup item I couldn't live without) and an unopened black eye pencil (Sonia Kashuk for Target, the best!)
  12. Writing tools- I never go anywhere without tons of them because you never know when inspiration is going to strike. Although, this is another habit that may fall by the wayside as lately when inspiration strikes I just pull out my iPad and go to town.  For now: 10 pens, 3 highlighters, and 1 Sharpie (Grandmom would be so proud)
  13. Randoms- Underneath all the pens you can barely make out one lonely (or is it lucky!?!) penny and a couple of paper clips, also a Chick-Fil-A mint crumpled under the gum packs
  14. iPhone- I never would have believed I could be so attached to my two pieces of Apple technology. Just goes to show you they are doing something right. Also with a pretty red case because (what can I say?) red's my color!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Real if Wikipedia Says It Is

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dyscalculia or math disability is a specific learning disability or difficulty involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending mathematics. It is akin to dyslexia and can include confusion about math symbols. Dyscalculia can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury.

The word dyscalculia can be pronounced either as "dis-cal-qu-lee-ah"[1] or "dis-kal-KOOL-ee-ah".[2]

Dyscalculia is a lesser known disability, similar and potentially related to dyslexia and developmental dyspraxia. Dyscalculia occurs in people across the whole IQ range, and sufferers often, but not always, also have difficulties with time, measurement, and spatial reasoning. Current estimates suggest it may affect about 5% of the population.

See also: the reason my brain has completely quit functioning on even the most basic level, and migraines like swarms of killer bees are attacking the area directly behind my eyes.

We're doing price cards at work this week. I should not be trusted with price cards. Or really any type of math or calculations or numbers. Ever. Yet somehow this is my responsibility every year. I think maybe someone is trying to kill me. I'll let you know if I make it till tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Musings for Monday

This song came randomly playing over my iPod the other day and it was just suddenly....nostalgia all over the place

Remember the movie Free Willy? It was released in 1993, when I was 12 years old and at the height of my oh-my-gosh-i-want-to-save-the-world!-rain-forests!-endangered-animals! phase. I started a club at my school called Kids C.A.R.E (Caring And Rescuing our Environment), and all my folders and notebooks were covered with things like sea turtles and killer whales and cute little baby seals. And how cute was Jason James Richter in that movie? I had such a crush! Also, I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist and live in a submarine with dolphins. I figured it was the closest I'd ever get to my lifelong dream of becoming a mermaid.

The reminiscence also got me thinking: Keith mentioned on his blog the other day (and I agree) that science is no good at telling us Stories. Religion is much better at giving us the Who's and the Why's and the Meaning of Things. Since thinking about that, I've also noticed that, in politics, the liberals are much better at telling compelling Stories than conservatives are. I wanted to save the environment and save the world as a little girl because of the compelling Story behind that idea. And as much as I also believed in other things (take "Family Values", for example), saving the planet was the Story I was most impassioned about. Interesting, no?

Also, just what exactly does it mean to "Hold me like the River Jordan," anyway?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Baylor Bears Rise Up

I fell in love with Baylor as a little girl. On the journeys from our home in South Texas to Kerens, the sleepy East Texas town where my daddy grew up, we always made a stop in Waco to visit. We went often to Homecoming football games and pep rallies. We walked along the creek outside the Student Union Building, and visited the live bears in the "Bear Pit" and sat through hours and hours of Pigskin and Sing in Waco Hall.

And everywhere we went, my parents reminisced. Baylor campus was the setting of so many thrilling stories- my parents initial meeting, subsequent dates, uncles getting into adventure, cousins being born and living in small trailers near campus while their daddies went to law school and med school. It was the site of so many adventures, so much laughter and growth and learning. It was the place where my parents became who they are. Walking through it as little girl was like walking through a fairy tale come to life.

And then one day, that little girl grew up, and suddenly it was my turn to go to Baylor. I stood on the steps of Collins dormitory, where my parents first met all those years ago, and kissed them both goodbye to set off on my own adventures. And I filled four years there with even more laughter and growth and learning. Baylor was the place where I really became who I am. Graduation day came and went, and now, almost seven years later, I am still in Waco, still in love with Baylor.

I'll never forget standing next to my parents my freshman year at the Homecoming bonfire and realizing that for all the times I'd done this before, it had never been my Homecoming, had never been my Baylor. Suddenly it was. When it was time to sing That Good Ole Baylor Line, Mom turned to Daddy and said, "Get your hand up." He smiled down at her and I heard him say, "My heart's up." Mine was too. And still is, every time I sing the song, every time we do a "Sic 'Em Bears", every time the Bears score a touchdown. This year especially, seeing Griffin back on the field, seeing that he's still got it- it's exciting! It makes my heart soar.

I've been a Baylor fan as long as I can remember, and I will continue to be my whole life. But the life of a Baylor fan is not exactly easy. I'm not always sure what it is, that keeps Baylor fans going. That keeps us so loyal, keeps us coming back for more. But I know that at the beginning of any football season, if you ask us  what we think about the coming year, we'll tell you we're optimistic. Sometimes we'll say cautiously optimistic, and sometimes we're more cautious that others. But we are always optimistic. Maybe it's because of all that Baylor has given us. Maybe it's because we love Baylor so much that we just can't help it. And maybe it's because we know, we just know, that one of these years, the Baylor Bears are gonna rise up.

I'm optimistic this is going to be the year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Laying Down Burdens

"Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, and a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten herself up completely. When Jesus saw her, he called her to him and said, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.' Then he placed his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."
Luke 13: 10-13

There are burdens we can bear. There are burdens we are meant to carry. Things that make us stronger, that draw us closer. Loads that we can shoulder alongside others and help them carry for a time. This is good. We are meant to do this. We are better for it. 

And then there are burdens we pick up on our own. Things that we aren't meant to bear, burdens that no one can shoulder. Loads we can't ease, can't even assist with, because no one really can. There are heavy loads that only God can ease, only He can carry. And it's best to turn those over to Him. 

I carry more than I should most of the time. Not by anyone's fault but my own. I take it on myself. And I do no good by my insistence on carrying them. But I sometimes can't seem to put them down. I feel bent over, doubled, crippled by it sometimes. Sometimes I can barely see above the ground.

And my sweet husband tells me, reminds me, over and over again: You carry too much. You can't carry all of that. It's not yours. You weren't meant to. And he's right. But I don't always know how to put it down. I can't seem to straighten on my own.

Thank you, Lord that You can free me of those burdens. That You will take the ones that aren't mine. Those better left in Your hands. Thank You. Only You can make me straight. Only You can lift my head, square my shoulders. I can't do it on my own. I'm sorry that I even try. I can carry all I need to carry, and the rest I trust to You.

And thank you, to everyone who was moved to concern over my post from yesterday. Thank you for checking on me, for loving me, for wanting to share my loads. I am fine, and I will be fine. And your encouragement means more to me than you can know. It reminds me that we can all bear one another's burdens. And that we are never, ever, alone.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No More Tears After Makeup

I cried my way through my morning coffee this morning. I'm a girl. Things are hard. Sometimes girls cry when things are hard.  Sometimes girls just cry. It happens.

I cried my way through my morning coffee, with a ragged piece of toilet paper balled up in my fists, making desperate attempts to swipe at snot and tears without ruining my makeup.

Then I cried on my way to work. Same ragged piece of toilet paper clutched in same white-knuckled fist on the steering wheel.

I parked my car in front of the office, shut off the engine, and spent a few, just a precious few, seconds with my head on the steering wheel. I gave over to it, just for a few seconds. Let my shoulders shake. Let my breath come in gasps. Let the tears flow.

Then I picked up that same ragged scrap of toilet paper, one more time, dabbed at my face, and then pulled myself together. I pulled myself together and I walked into work composed and steady. Buttoned up. No one would ever know.

A few minutes ago I walked into the bathroom. I was struck by the face in the mirror. Staring through red, puffy eyes ringed with faint mascara smudges. The shoulders drooping. The smile not reaching the eyes. Bits of toilet paper lint clinging to eyelashes, and stuck in hair, and all down the front of the shirt.

So much for pulled together. Still, it's a quiet day here in the office. I don't think anyone noticed. But from now on, no more crying through coffee. No more tears after makeup.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Froggy Bottoms

He sits at the head of the long oak table, my mother flanking him on his right, me on the left, and throws his head back in a hearty belly laugh. Despite the height of the thirty foot ceiling above us, his laughter shakes the rafters and rumbles through the house, filling it with warmth, with mirth. He is larger than life, my grandfather. He has lived so many different lives, has experienced so much more life than most could even dream of. He has been, and can be, so many different men. A cowboy, an outlaw, a hero, a bandit, a horse thief, a crooner, a two-stepper, a child comforter, a prankster, a side splitter, a story weaver. He moves from one to another fluidly. Sometimes he is more than one, many at once.

It is the story weaver who makes his appearance now. He has a title for the book, he says. Our book, the one we both want me to write. About him. About all of his fabulous, dangerous, adventurous lives. About all of those wonderful, devilish, delicious men he has been, and still is. The book will be called Froggy Bottoms, he says. He asks if he's ever told me about Froggy Bottoms. He has not. And so the tale commences.

From the time that he was a young boy, my grandfather adored Ike. Ike was a black man, a shoeshine "boy". He was friends with every one in town, but like most people, he had a particular fondness for "missah Mahvin" (as he addressed my grandfather). Ike was one of few "colored folk" that lived in the Rio Grande Valley, a place that straddles the divide between two worlds, Texas and Mexico, and as a result has a unique flavor all its own. Ike and "missah Mahvin" were fast friends, and Ike tried his best to warn "missah Mahvin" away from Froggy Bottoms. But there were many adventures to be had in Froggy Bottoms. People to meet. Fun to be had. Strange sights to see.
There were even a few places in Froggy Bottoms where a boy might get into trouble. Like the old brothel. Oh, "missah Mahvin" never actually set foot in the brothel, no, but he and his friends liked to drive down to Froggy Bottoms and park outside the brothel to "hear the colored ladies talk their deep, rich, southern talk." Of course, they only ever viewed these women as ladies, and of course all they ever did was talk to them. The ladies would come outside and beckon with wide smiles and wide arms, offering to "take good care of such handsome young fellas." The boys would grin and make their best attempts to banter back before speeding away, their courage all used up.
One particular night, while several of "missah Mahvin's" friends hung out the passenger side of the car trying to get a better look, a huge, dark shape suddenly appeared outside the driver's window. Time seemed to slow, as if it took hours for the tall frame to bend all the way down and lean in to face "missah Mahvin" who was driving the car. The giant inquired in a thunderous voice just what these boys were doing out here so late at night, and bothering these nice ladies. Suddenly time sped up, and "missah Mahvin" has never moved so fast as he did when he put that car in gear and hightailed it out of there.

Once again, my grandfather's colossal laugh bounces and echoes around the room. He grabs my arm with one huge hand, a working man's hand that can crush or comfort with a touch. He pulls me in close and plants a kiss on my temple before the giggling begins again. The resounding hee-hee-hee-hee of his laugh as he leans back and gives himself over to the joy of living. Then he quiets and leans forward intently, placing one huge hand on his knee and the other on the table in front of him. And he begins to spin another magical tale...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sprained Ankles Lead to The Happy Painter

I've always been a klutz. I trip, I fall, I knock things over. Sprained ankles were a regular part of my childhood experience. Same goes for burns, cuts, and unexplainable bruises. I think I've mentioned before that I am not allowed to handle the knives in our house. When we first started dating, Keith was appalled by my propensity for sticking bare hands into hot ovens, running into walls, slicing off inches of skin. If you left me alone long enough in a rubber room with a baby's teething ring, I'm sure I could manage some way to do inadvertent and unintentional bodily harm to myself.

So it should come as no surprise that moments after hitting publish on my last post, I managed to horribly wrench not just one, but both of my ankles. My sweet brother had picked me up at the hotel and we were on our way to lunch and an afternoon of hanging out and catching up. We were leaving a restaurant with kind of "leveled" parking. There was a big (read: three foot) drop from one level to the next, which my buff little brother (he was in the army, and he works out every day, and drives a pedicab) neatly stepped over. Rather than go all the way around to the stairs, I attempted to follow him. The next thing I know my dress is up nearly over my head and I am on the ground, both ankles rolled underneath and throbbing in pain, hands scraped, knees bruised, pride absolutely demolished.

It took a few moments to gather my composure, another few to convince myself that my ankles would actually bear weight, and then another few for my sweet brother to assist me in hobbling to the car. Once he had me settled safely inside and taken care of he turned to me and said, "Why would you even do that? You should never do anything like that!" To which the answers were obviously "I have absolutely no idea, because you're right, I totally shouldn't ever do anything like that!" I just wasn't thinking beyond the fact that, my brother had just made it look so easy and it would be so much shorter than going all the way around.

It wasn't long before he had me on his couch, swollen ankles propped up on pillows with a big bag of ice. We chatted for a while, then started channel surfing, and finally landed, riveted, on the man we call The Happy Painter. Anyone who hasn't lived under a rock for the past thirty years or so will instantly know who I mean. The Happy Painter, Bob Ross, the kindly man with the 'fro who taught painting on PBS, who painted "happy little clouds" and "happy little trees" on his show, the Joy of Painting.

I remember loving The Happy Painter as a kid. I don't know if it's the calming manner, the soothing voice, the rhythmic brush strokes, or just his incredibly optimistic point of view, but I was always entranced when The Happy Painter came on. And it turns out, I still am. Hunter and I got completely absorbed in his show, watching him transform colors into forms and shapes while dispensing wisdom like, "Don't worry about exactly how the paint goes on, just let it do what it wants to do," or "Even if you mess up it's okay because we learned something today."

I think watching Bob Ross may be one of the best forms of therapy available. I know that if I watched his show every day, I would be a much better, calmer, kinder, and more patient person. So I started out bummed over a sprained ankle that meant no fun time outdoors, and ended up so thankful that I got to spend half an hour with The Happy Painter. I guess Bob was right, "Even if it doesn't turn out the way you meant it to, it's okay. You'll find something beautiful in it."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Telling Stories

I made it through the last (and biggest) of our annual sales meetings today. Another two days solidly packed with crucial information, another two days attempting to equip our representatives with all the knowldedge and all the tools they will need for the coming year. It went really well, and I have a good feeling that everyone involved would heartily agree this was our best one yet. And that's what we strive for every year. To do it a little bit better, perfect it just a little bit more than the previous one. To always be learning and growing and striving and reaching.

We had an exceptional guest speaker, one we will invite back year after year because he is so good. He keeps our audience entranced an energized. He is so relevant, so timely, so sincere and so relatable. I've always been impressed by the way he customizes his delivery, the way he makes everyone in the room feel like he's sharing something that is meant just especially for them.

Something else I noticed for the first time this morning was his use of story. At first I thought it was just that his presentation was peppered with stories, just chock-full of entertaining anecdotes that kept our attention and made his words memorable. But then I realized it was more than just that. The stories weren't side notes to highlight the points of his presentation. Instead, the story was the presentation, and the information and points just helped to serve the purpose of the story, in a way that made it actionable and inspiring. Normally, attendance at one of our meetings is a lot like trying to drink from a firehose. It's just a crazy, intense, non-stop spew of information, information, information. Our guest's presentation created a wide river that we could all jump right into and follow the flow.

I am so committed to the value of Story, the importance of it. I feel driven to tell stories, called to relate that way. I am fully convinced that Story is the most effective means of human communication and connection. I know this, I believe this, I am passionate about it. And yet, I have never thought to put this into practice in my presentations, never come at things from quite that angle. I normally focus so much on myself and on the information- what do I need them to know, how can I state it clearly, how can I keep it brief and to the point. He does something naturally that I've been completely neglecting. He tunes in to that deeper and essential Story aspect and lets the information work for him. And I keep wondering, how did I miss that? It's seems so very clear and obvious now.

So that will be my goal in the future. To sit with the information and figure out the story it's telling, to flesh out that story, and to tell it in a way that is meaningful and memorable. To take Story, that thing I love and believe in so much, and make it more a part of my actual life. To embrace Story in a new way that allows me to really live it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I loved this post from The Rabbit Room about Inception, so I wanted to share it with all of you.


Lessons in Shared Dreaming

POSTED BY Sarah Clarkson
inception“This is your first lesson in shared dreaming.”
Talk about a line to get a writer thinking. The minute Dom, a major character in the movie Inception, said it, I sat up straight and wished I had a pen in hand. I went to the theater expecting an action flick, I came out feeling that I had taken part in a swift, sparkling debate; the sort you have late at night with best friends, drinks and elbows on the table, eyes alight with big ideas. I love a movie that makes me want to be a philosopher. I love it even more though, when the movie is philosophizing about what I, as a writer, love best: the telling of a story.
Inception, I realized, is a conversation in the art of imagination. This is a movie about the making of dreamscapes - worlds made in the mind of one person and offered to another. As a writer, this captivates me. Isn’t story the same thing? What is a novel, but a dream world built in the mind of an author? What is a storybook but a wide, new space of imagination into which a reader is invited? Inception is an excellent movie for writers. With this in mind, I returned, late last Thursday night, notebook in hand, to jot down a few of the ideas flung to me by the movie. Perhaps they will spark a new debate and keep the ideas flowing…
I was struck first by the movie’s emphasis on the architecture of the imaginative world. In the beginning of the story, a brilliant young architect is hired to construct the landscape of a dream. As she begins her first exercise in creation, she is cautioned: the dreamscape must ring true. If it is to be accepted by the mind of another, it must taste and smell, feel and look, real. This is a challenge faced by all crafters of story. The scene must be set, the reader brought by words, almost unaware, into a world as personal, touchable as our own. We all have those books we have read where the scenes were so vividly wrought, we feel we lived rather than read them. Twenty years after reading it, I still remember a scene from The Wind in the Willows, where Mole finds his old burrow. The musty scent of his abandoned hole, the ache of homesickness suddenly relieved, the hominess of his fireside and newly swept rooms, I can see it all still because the imagined world was masterfully made.
Yet a story world must also ring true to soul. There is a straight-shooting sense in our hearts of what is true about existence; hunger for beauty, need for love, our own frailty, the crying need for redemption. If a story lacks that truth, my heart will write it off as a dream not worth pursuing. I wonder sometimes if this is the element so many find to be missing in modern “Christian” stories, both in literature and film. They portray the good of Christianity, but neglect the dark that makes faith necessary. The world is thus incomplete. All elements of reality must be included in the soul world of a story, salvation and sin, grace and guilt.
I found next that story is, truly, a shared dreaming. The dream worlds in Inception may be created by one person, but they are peopled by the subconscious of the others who enter them. I had never considered the idea that what I create as an author is, to an extent, unfinished until it is met by the imagination of a reader. I cannot transmit my creation, with all my own images intact, into the brain of another. To enter my dream, my reader must begin to dream himself. He brings his thoughts, the faces formed by his brain, his memory, his desire to the making of the story I have begun. Can a story be fully realized in isolation? I begin to think not. Inception reminds me that storytelling may start in solitude, but its end, its goal, is only realized in community. A shared dream.
And what is the purpose of this dream? What do I offer the soul of a reader through my gift of story? Most authors write their stories with some idea in mind, some truth, some knowing they feel they must communicate. An idea for “inception” if you will. And so, I have always thought that some nugget of truth must be one of the main gifts I give in any story, even if it is subtly or symbolically given.
While I can’t say much lest I give away the plot, I will say thatInception broadened my understanding of this gift. It helped me to see that sometimes the gift is simply the space of the story itself. An imaginary world creates a new room in the mind where the boundaries of material life fall away. In the reading of a story I inhabit someone else’s world. In it, perhaps I am freed to confront and recognize my own emotions and desires more clearly, as they are sparked to life and bumble into the story I am reading. Perhaps the gift of a good tale is the space in which to find and realize truth, to see it afresh, not merely have it imposed. Or perhaps, I make room so that another, more powerful Creator can implant an idea.
Is it possible for one human to plant an idea, untraced, into the mind of another? Inception asks this question, and I don’t know about a human being able to do that. But the Holy Spirit sure could. The whole time I was watching the expert “dreamers” in the movie struggle to implant an idea in their subject’s mind, I thought of God, sparking knowledge in us as we are unaware. God creates ideas, as he does worlds, out of nothing, he is the kindler of every act of creation. He is the silent partner in every “dream” we create. What if God himself joins writer and reader to bring a new idea into being? What if our stories, our shared dreams, offer a space wherein God can bring about the inception of his own perfect ideas?
So there you have it. Hamlet said he would “sleep, perchance to dream.” I think perhaps I’d rather write, for then I’m sure to dream, and the world I make is one that I can share.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Habit Forming

August is typically a crazy moth for me. It's a time when work shifts into something even higher than super high gear. When days are long and full and to-do lists seem endless. It's a month where I struggle to find enough energy to keep up with social commitments or personal convictions. I may journal from time to time. I enjoy blogging. I like getting together with my friends and being part of a regular small group. But in August, all of the time for these things seems to dry up. None of it really ends up happening.

But I like my crazy job, I like the feeling of accomplishment I get as I push myself a little further, make sure my work this year is just a little better than last year. I'm weird, okay, and I like a challenge.

This year I decided to add an additional challenge. I challenged myself to blog every day for the month of August. Every day for a month. And not just any month, but the hardest month. The month when the odds of me getting out any blog post at all are something like...non-existent to none. And yet, somehow, I came pretty close to pulling it off. Look at my August archive. Aside from one day, that I took off on purpose (to spend one day completely free of modern "conveniences"), and one day when I just plain passed out (before I had a chance to even thinking about blogging), there is a post there every day. Thirty posts for the month of August. One post (nearly) each day.

And I realize that I really liked it. That I've weathered this August much better than usual. There have been moments of exhaustion, but they've been manageable. There have been emotional breakdowns (well, only one, actually) but much fewer than in recent years. I'm not prescribing blogging as a cure-all for any woes, but it has certainly helped keep me saner this past month. And I find myself feeling an itch to post everyday, even though my one-month deadline has come and gone. So I'll probably keep posting, maybe not on the weekends, but certainly close to something like everyday. Every week day, maybe. Definitely with more regularity than before.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. So now I guess I have a new one. And since I really am weird, and really do like a challenge, Keith and I have started setting the alarm at 5:45 a.m. to get up and go walking every morning at the butt-crack of dawn. Not sure yet if this will prove to be quite as addictive. But there are some definite benefits, so I'm going to try to keep up with it. At any rate, wish me luck.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Waco's Local Sustainable Food Movement

We went to our first Local Farmers Food Festival (put on by Waco's Local Sustainable Food Movement) on Thursday, and it was wonderful.  The movement is spearheaded by Ullja Kuntze, who some Baylor alums may remember for the delicious smoothies she sold out of a small trailer in front of the Comet Cleaners near campus. She moved on to open a European Bakery, and this is apparently her newest project. Anyone who's met Ullja knows she is warm, friendly, successful, and throws herself into everything wholeheartedly. So I expected nothing less from the Food Festival - and I was not disappointed.

She's managed to organize a whole slew of local farmers and ranchers (offering everything from farm fresh eggs to grass raised beef to organic vegetables to free range dairy products - even home grown herbs) and even circumvented a pesky city ordinance restricting "farmers markets" with an ingenious pre-order system for perishables (ensuring that the vendors know how much to bring to each festival and nothing goes to waste). The festivals are held every other week, I believe, and we will definitely be back at the next one.

For our first experience we kept it simple, pre-ordering only a dozen farm fresh eggs. When we arrived we also loaded up on summer squash, cucumbers, okra, red and yellow onions and garlic. The fresh veggies are first come first serve, not pre-ordered, and limited in variety and supply right now with the heat, so we got there early and snatched up as much as we could. Everything is organically and sustainably grown, hand-picked, and so, so, so good.

We were so excited about cooking our fresh veggies. We stewed the okra with yellow onion, tomatoes, garlic and just a splash of Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette Dressing. I steamed the summer squash while Keith grilled Cuban flank steak. It was one the best meals we've made in a while. All those fresh flavors just really are tastier than most of the vegetables you get at the store. Plus, I am so excited that something like this is happening in Waco and happy to be able to support it.  

Next time we are going to get more eggs, as many fresh veggies as we can get our hands on, a lamb shoulder roast, and hopefully an herb planter full of basil, thyme, mint, oregano and dill. Can't wait. If you live anywhere near Waco, I highly recommend joining Waco's Local Sustainable Food Movement and pre-ordering for the next Food Festival (September 18th) as soon as you can.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The New "It"...Veggie?

I usually hate it when something I've always loved suddenly becomes ubiquitous. And it seems like that is happening currently with one of my favorite vegetables, the sweet potato. Formerly relegated to a prime spot at holiday meals, sweet potatoes are cropping up everywhere lately. Sweet potato fries seem to be on the menu at every restaurant I go to. Plus I see lots of new and creative sweet potato dishes getting attention- sweet potato casseroles, sweet potato salads, sweet potato soups and pies.

Are sweet potatoes having a moment? Do vegetables really get to be trendy? If so, I guess I'll celebrate. Because sweet potatoes do seem to have kind of been missing the love before now. And if there's one vegetable I can't get enough of it's the nutritious, delicious sweet potato.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Interesting Perspective On Suffering

From The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton

Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.

"I see everything," he cried, "everything that there is. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.'

"It is not true that we have never been broken. We have been broken upon the wheel. It is not true that we have never descended from these thrones. We have descended into hell. We were complaining of unforgettable miseries even at the very moment when this man entered insolently to accuse us of happiness. I repel the slander; we have not been happy. I can answer for every one of the great guards of Law whom he has accused. At least—"

He had turned his eyes so as to see suddenly the great face, which wore a strange smile.

"Have you," he cried in a dreadful voice, "have you ever suffered?"

As he gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than the colossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. Only in the blackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text that he had heard somewhere, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thoughts About DaySpring

I can't recall exactly when it was that I first came to DaySpring. Maybe it was a crisp, still, mid-October morning with just the promise of a cool breeze in the air. Or perhaps a fresh, spring day in early April, one of those day's that's just casting off winter's chill and filling up with sunshine. It could even have been a sun-drenched, sultry morning in September, a day of Indian Summer still clinging to oppressive heat, just like this one. It could have been any of those days, or none of them. The truth is, I don't remember much about the exact day, the time of year, or even, exactly, the year that I first encountered this place. That's not what stands out to me.

What stands out to me is the softly-stealing sense of homecoming that crept over me and overtook me before I was even aware of it. What stands out is the fact that it all felt so new, and yet somehow so familiar, at the same time. This place was unlike any other church I had set foot in, different in a way I couldn't quite put my finger on. It was fairly buzzing with life and cheer and abundance, but so, so peaceful. People were so friendly to me, so kind and welcoming. Even though they'd never met me before, they were genuinely glad to see my face. I felt something inside me give a deep sigh and stretch out a little bit. Here was encouragement, here was love and acceptance, here was room to grow, here was a place to rest. And, incredibly, I felt all of that in an instant. It was instinctive, I just knew. This was home.

And then there was the silence. Again, something so familiar, silence. Yet this was a kind of silence I had never experienced before. This wasn't dead silence, not void silence, the silence of a group of people who were bored, who were going through the motions. Nor was it a timid silence, not holding back, the silence of people who were afraid to laugh or cry or clap or shout for joy. The best way I know to describe it is a rushing silence. It was a silence of barely contained excitement. It was a silence of action, a silence of waiting. The silence of a deep breath taken right before something tremendous and wonderful happens. The silence of reverence and sincerity, the silence of centered participation. It was a great, rushing, lovely, lively silence.

And there was a surprise. A coincidence I suppose, if you believe in those things, but it felt just exactly like a special surprise meant only for me. There was a quotation scrawled across the front of the worship guide, a quotation from my very favorite poet. A line of poetry that had already been a very favorite of mine for a long time, that held great meaning for me. "Earth's crammed with heaven," it said, "and every common bush afire with God; but only those who see take off their shoes. The rest just sit round it and pluck blackberries." So true! And so definitive of the way I have experienced faith, of my unique perspective on the world. And then a lovely young woman sang and played a beautiful song she'd written, based on that line. And it really was like receiving my own special present, a gift meant just for me.

And now, five or six or seven (or however many it's been) years later, I am still impressed by these same things every week at DaySpring. Because every time I set foot in this building, or teach a Sunday School class, or spend time with any of these people, or sit in the woods just outside here, I am still struck by that sense of homecoming, that same feeling of belonging and rest. And I still feel the buzz and the life in the silence at DaySpring, and am learning, ever more, to reflect and even inhabit that kind of silence, to center it down, inside of me that way. And I still, always, walk away with a special surprise. A little nugget of truth, a little gift all my own, meant just for me. I'm so glad, so blessed, to have had DaySpring as a part of my life. Thank goodness I have at least one more year to call it my home.