Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Invitation to Beauty

I believe God's presence is everywhere. Yet it's hard, sometimes it's so hard, to enter and to remain there. I sit in stillness for a few moments and find that I'm so distract-able. I see the violin and want to pick it up. I desperately need to practice today! I see the vacuum and want to pick it up. This house is a mess! I see my coffee cup and want to pick it up. It's almost empty again! I see my pen and want to pick it up. I need to capture these thoughts, these moments!

I want to pick up everything I lay eyes on, yet I'm supposed to be here, present to Presence, laying it all down. I think to myself, this is why we teach children to close their eyes and pray.

So I close my eyes. My thoughts still flit and falter like a hyperactive child. And my ears find new distractions. For a moment I think about the soft hissing of the gas fireplace. Then a ripple of birdsong pierces the air and I think about that for a moment. I close my eyes tighter still and try to find some center in it all. Some wellspring of peace.

From somewhere, the thought comes that I was created to love beauty. I was intended to enjoy the ripple of birdsong, to admire the soft hiss of the fireplace. My love for the beauty on earth calls me back to, calls me deeper into, my love for the Author of Beauty. I am free, called even, to revel in it. I am invited to take more of my moments and consecrate them to awareness and appreciation and adoration. To center them on the Beauty of the Divine in this world. In His world.

Oh, what an invitation!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Three Years Ago Today...

I married the most amazing man in the world. 

Here's to many more.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday

The pattern of my spiritual life might resemble nothing so much as a series of arcs. A continuous pendulum swing, back and forth, careening wildly between grasping attempts at ordered discipline and desperate free-falls of complete abandon. I have always, I think, tended to extremes. And though neither apex is sustainable for long, and balance is something I have always sorely lacked, there does seem to a sort of grace in the sweep and swoosh and swing. There does seem to be some sort of peace in the middle.

I mention this because I have been looking forward to this season of Lent with undue anticipation. That may seem strange to some, but upon reflection, it makes perfect sense for me. The last year of my life has seen some of the most tumultuous upheaval I've ever experienced, almost all of it good, but jarring nonetheless. The six months leading up to our move were filled with to-do lists and problem-solving. And the six months that we've been settled in North Carolina have felt...not quite so settled. Between all the newness and all the travelling and the constant slowly-dawning realizations of just how much we've left behind, I think it's fair to say that I'm just beginning the process of finding new rhythms of home and routine and friendship and grace.

I responded to all the upheaval, not by exercising rigid and rational control over my life and my schedule as some would, but by losing myself wholly and wholeheartedly in the chaos. My life has been characterized by anything but discipline lately and my nearest impulse has been to indulge, to soothe, to comfort. Sounds fun, a swan-dive into decadence, but it isn't really. And so visions of Lenten discipline float like oases on the horizon and I find myself craving an altogether different kind of comfort. The comfort of surrender and sacrifice, of restoring some order to the chaos I've created, of saying no to my urges once in a while. The comfort of self-care and self-discipline rather than self-indulgence.

And so Ash Wednesday swept softly by last night. I had one of my deepest floods of homesickness, so far, sitting on the back pew of our new church. DaySpring was the place I first experienced Ash Wednesday and the subdued joy of Lenten practices. I missed the cool stone walls of the chapel. I missed the sweetly-bitter scent of palm ash burned so recently the smoke still lingered in the air. I missed the familiar faces. I missed the particular feeling of a DaySpring silence. Silence has always felt different to me there. Full of promise instead of empty. Ready to spring instead of reposed.

So it's with a sigh and a feeling of deep relief and strange joy that I begin this season of Lent. Lord, help me be still, and silent, and yours. Let mine be a silence full of your promises and ready to move at your urging.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Breakfast Anyone?

What do you eat for breakfast when you're....?
a) lazy
b) not a morning person
c) not particularly fond of any breakfast foods
d) all of the above
Because seriously, I'm all of the above, and I'm kind of at a loss.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I just can't seem to do it. I don't really enjoy cereal. I detest eggs in almost any shape or form. Don't like oatmeal. Don't like yogurt. Can't eat fruit alone first thing in the morning without experiencing a major acidity problem.

Most days it's just coffee with Splenda and a dash of fat free creamer. For a while I was pretty consistent about half a bagel with a little smear of cream cheese, but, let's face it, that's pretty much the nutritional equivalent of chewing on a little bit of cardboard. Actually, cardboard probably has more fiber. This morning I had an apple and a spoonful of peanut butter at my desk around ten o'clock. Is that even enough to call breakfast?

I'd like to start my days right, with a healthy meal that I actually enjoy. Something that's quick and easy to put together and won't require getting up more than fifteen minutes earlier. Ideally nothing egg-based.

Does such a thing even exist? Anyone got any ideas? Because I could sure use some suggestions.

Morning Walks

One of Murfreesboro's historic homes.
Keith and I walked a great deal the last six months that we lived in Waco. We were trying to get a little more exercise, and we both love being surrounded by woods and trees. Since Waco is home to several amazing woodsy park areas (most notably Cameron Park, the nation's second largest city park after Central Park in NYC), it was easy to make walking part of the routine. We could meet up at the head of any number of favorite trails right after I got off work, log several miles, and be back home in time to cook dinner. Easy.

And another one. Two chimneys, how delightful!
Now we live in Murfreesboro. And there are several pretty amazing state parks with woodsy trails running through them, all a "short" thirty to forty-five minute drive away. Add in the fact that my working hours are now nine to six (and it gets dark at half past five), and we've got a bit of an obstacle to overcome. It's taken us this long to come to a solution, but I believe we've found one: morning walks.

Through the breezeway in the back, you can just make out a wishing well. Keith laughs at me because I call every well a wishing well. But who's to say it's not?
For the past few days, I've been walking Keith to school (his day starts with office hours at eight), then meandering my way back home through town. It feels like a pretty good compromise. I can get a fair bit of walking in and still be home in time to straighten the house before my own office hours start. And though I would prefer a woodsy, moss-covered lane with nary a car in sight, the streets of this town offer some pretty decent "scope for the imagination."

My footbridge. Like a portal to a forgotten time.
I've been making a loop through the town's historic district to admire the lovely old brick structures that have stood here for hundreds of years. I've made crossing the footbridge part of my daily routine. I love bridges and I love water and I love the wild tangle of tree and shrub and vine that surrounds it. I've been noticing things and people I haven't had the chance to notice before.

Walking back up the driveway toward our little "cabin in the woods".
When you walk past the same places at the same time every day, you pick up on changes that might have slipped your awareness otherwise. Yesterday, for example, I noticed slim, light green stalks poking out of the fresh earth everywhere I looked. They were just stalks, swaying in the chill breeze. But yesterday afternoon, the weather warmed up considerably, and this morning those same slim stalks were topped with the bobbing heads and preening bonnets of dozens and dozens of daffodils.

A lovely little surprise in the front yard.
 I even found a few slim stalks in my own front yard, just biding their time, waiting for their own time to bloom.