Monday, June 27, 2011

Room in My Brain

I am truly enjoying this time where I have room in my brain to read some of the books that have been gathering dust on my shelves for a very long time.  I will admit to a bit of a book fetish and an incredible "need" for books.  I have been trying not to purchase books and to use the library.  And to some degree I have succeeded.  But I still have shelves full of books waiting for me to read.  (And yet, I have been going to the library on a ridiculously regular basis recently.)  Enough rambling.  Time to get to the point.

This morning I began a book that has already completely grabbed me.  I've only read the first little bit (and 15 of those were the introduction), and already there are 4 green post-it notes (on 15 pages) telling me to keep these thoughts and go back to them.  The book is by Carolyn Arends and is called Wrestling with Angels - Adventures in Faith and Doubt.  I know that I am a bit of an addict to her music.  And I like her blog.  And now, I might become a bit of an addict to her writing.  Hmm.  Wonder if she's written any other books?

Here is some of what I loved this morning.

"I was coming up with a mass of contradictions.  Life is short - don't waste a minute of it.  Life is long - don't rush it.  Life is cruel - watch your back.  Life is beautiful - open your heart.  I kept looking for the cohesive overview, a way to organize each of my observations into a neat outline.  But if one exists, I didn't find it.  Life is messy.  Life is a mystery."    p. 36

"...Life is worth living because of the God who made it.  A God who - if we look for Him at all - will keep surprising us with His presence in the midst of the craziness we've made of this world."  p. 37

"...My life has so far consisted mostly of a serious of seemingly routine moments, completely unremarkable except for the fact that the God of the Universe chooses to encode Himself in even the most mundane aspects of our lives."  p. 40

And, now I think I need to go listen to some of her music.  And be inspired to see God at work in my life.

P.S.  The fourth post-it note reference is being saved for another day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Inspirations from Soul Survivor

I've been reading Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey.  In this book he tells about people who have helped him see what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.  The subtitle of the book is How My Faith Survived the Church.  Quite an interesting book to read.  And now I am inspired to read some other authors.  Authors I had heard of, but to be honest I thought they were a bit "heady" for me.  I just usually prefer lighter types of reading.  But now I want to read some of Annie Dillard's books and some of Frederich Buechner's books.  I didn't even know that Buechner wrote novels.  Here's a bit of what Yancey wrote about them.

It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open. Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there…so that creation need not play to an empty house. Annie Dillard quoted by Philip Yancey in Soul Survivor p. 232

What is the particular brand of holiness each day brings? Annie Dillard summarized by Philip Yancey in Soul Survivor p. 234

We go to nature once we have our theology and let her fill the words – awe, glory, beauty, terror – with meaning. Philip Yancey in Soul Survivor p. 235

Separate yourself from your work. A book you made isn’t you any more than is a chair you made, or soup. It’s just something you made once. If you ever want to make another one, it, too, will be just another hat in the ring, another widow’s mite, another broken offering which God had long understood is the best we humans can do – we’re forgiven in advance. Annie Dillard quoted by Philip Yancey in Soul Survivor p.246

In searching for God, many people tend to look for the miraculous and supernatural. Instead we should be attending to the ordinary: waking and sleeping and above all dreaming, what we remember and what we forget, what makes us smile and what makes us cry, what delights and what depresses us. In the most commonplace events of a day, God speaks. Frederick Buechner summarized by Philip Yancey in Soul Survivor p. 259

These quotes remind me to see God in the ordinariness of my life.  It is so easy to be blinded to what we see and experience everyday.  But when my eyes are opened and my mind is ready, I am so richly blessed as my heart and mind are pointed to God by what I see and experience in my life!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

1000 Gifts

And the list of 1000 gifts goes on...

225) a few raindrops while walking which inspired me to shorten my route and make it inside before the skies opened up
226) random gift of a movie coupon while standing in line to pay for a movie
227) dinner and movie with a friend
228) chance encounter at a coffee shop
229) joining small group for devotions
230) long summer nights
231) a warm sunny day
232) no pain after somewhat strenuous activity
233) watching a bird hop across the grass
234) child's delight in planting carrots and watering the rows
235) clean windows - on the inside now, too!
236) a clean house, thanks to a friend's generosity
237) people willing to bend the rules and accommodate individual circumstances
238) a walk and laughs with a friend (40 minutes and no pain!)
239) the smell of freshly chopped herbs
240) new perspective after a man I met walking commented on how he used to be fit like me and better able to walk
241) clean water to drink
242) being able to cook dinner for a friend
243) a Saturday afternoon nap
244) playing Scrabble with a friend

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spiritual Slothfulness

One blog I check regularly is Wrestling with Angels by Carolyn Arends, a musician and writer.  Her recent entry was pretty thought-provoking (as they usually are).  You can read her whole post here.  Several times as I read (and re-read) her words, I found myself saying (well, thinking) "Ouch."

"Pay attention to God. If I don't, I'm guilty of spiritual sloth, no matter how hard I'm working. ....

Attending takes time without offering quantifiable results. It requires stillness in a culture that rewards industriousness. It's inefficient in a world that considers getting things done next to godliness......

God is not looking for leaders who take matters into their own hands. He values faithfulness over efficiency. It's no good to organize the whole world yet be oblivious to the God who created it and holds it together. ....

My job is to pay attention."    quotes from Carolyn Arends' blog.

I've had time these last months to pay attention.  And it has been so good for me.  I have been able to see and experience God and His presence in so many ways.  I don't have to go back to work for awhile, but I'm already starting to wonder how I can maintain some of what I have been able to do and the good habits I have been blessed to be able to cultivate.  Because I do want to continue to pay attention - to avoid spiritual sloth.  And not only do I want to do this.  I need to do this.  Maybe that is the first step - realizing it's a need and not a want.  Awareness is the first step, but I also need to consciously work to pay attention and see God.  A second step in paying attention is, for me, to continue to list the gifts I see from God. 

The list of gifts.....
214) smell of lilacs as I pass by
215) sunshine in the evening after a day of rain
216) glimpsing a rainbow while walking in the drizzle
217) curly hair that gets curlier in the rain
218) clean windows
219) fresh haircut
220) watching a 3-legged dog galumphing through a patch of dandelion seed heads
221) the word galumphing
222) shaved asparagus pizza

223) living in a country where women are free
224) making cards

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rectangle Delight

I just finished a quilt top - and I love it.  It's in different colours than I usually gravitate to, but I love how it turned out.  It took a few tries to get the fabrics to all work.  That's what happens when you buy 6 pieces of fabric and just admire them for a long time (as in years) before actually using them.  It becomes harder to match.  But the effort was worth it. Even as I was sewing the rows together, I just wasn't sure about the narrower rectangles.  But once it was pressed.  Wow.  I'm pleased.

(The colours in the close-up are a more accurate representation.  This was made with a pattern I found on the Internet - Rectangle Reverie.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life is.....

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
           Mother Teresa

And to this I add -
Life is a gift.  Open it.  Relish it.  Delight in it.
Life is new each day.  Embrace it.
Life is surprising.  Roll with it.
Life is exhilarating.  Take hold of it.
Life is complicated.  Take it one step at a time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trusting my Creator

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."   Ralph Waldo Emerson - quoted on p. 141 in One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Oh, it is so good to be able to trust God, the Creator.  There are so many things that are unclear or unseen.  So many things we don't know.  But we do know that God is in control and that He is always with us.
And so I continue to thank God for the gifts I see around me.  My list of 1000 gifts continues.....
181) bunny bounding through the grass
182) whimsy of a face on a tree

183) squirrel running over the wires
184) garbage/recycling pick-up
185) having the strength for short walks
186) someone who is willing to take the time to point out something that needs fixing
187) mechanics who can fix things
188) umbrellas
189) friends
190) sunshine in the morning
191) a decent night's rest
192) morning light and long shadows
193) dew sparkling in the sunshine
194) the combination of fresh spring air on my face and warm sun on my back
195) an 8 year old girl's giggle
196) a 4 year old girl's song
197) a 6 year old girl's feet over my feet as she reads a story
198) a 10 year old girl's telling of a story
199) neighbours offering to help
200) being able to surprise and bless others
201) a child's hand in mine
202) a new perspective (walking my walking route in the opposite direction)
203) long "summer" nights
204) freshly cut grass
205) visits with family
206) celebrating a 30th birthday (no, not mine)
207) pink sky at sunrise
208) harmony of voices in song
209) sunflower and sweet pea seedlings poking up through the soil
210) the delightful smell of tomato plants
211) feeling peace after a difficult time with making a tough decision
212) prayer support and encouragement during the time of decision 
213) finishing a quilting project (especially one where I tried something new)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beauty Outweighs Burdens

"For those who can see, the world’s beauty outweighs its burdens, its grace greater than its grime."   Ann Voskamp on her blog A Holy Experience   
And the list of 1000 Gifts continues.....
163) cold feet warming up under a cozy fleece blanket
164) rereading cards expressing love and prayers
165) the words of children - speaking God's Words into my life
166) clean towels folded neatly in the closet
167) finding fabrics that will work in a quilt
168) fresh spring leaves glistening in the sun against a blue sky
169) finishing a walk - just ahead of the rain coming
170) rain droplets on the end of a pine branch (spruce or fir?)
171) daffodils brightening a gray morning
172) fresh morning walk
173) loving note from a student, showing me the face of God (Thanks, N.)
174) my parents' 53rd anniversary - commitment and faithfulness and God's grace
175) the peaceful feeling given by purged and organized shelf and drawers
176) daily phone calls from a sister

177) incredible variety in flowers - demonstrating God's insurmountable creativity

178) shadows - because  they mean that the sun is peeking through the clouds
179) bleeding hearts
180) successfully putting a link on this blog!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Today's thoughts

Today, I’m.....

enjoying the spots of colour that are now nestled into pots on my front step.

praying for wisdom and peace for the decision that I must make about whether or not I go back to work for the end of this school year.

feeling satisfied that my hands dug into some soil - and a little sore because I put my hands into some soil.

anticipating the sunflowers and sweet peas that a dear friend planted for me today.  (Yes, she did manage to suggest that I sit and watch while she did the work.  I'm sure she was right about that, but it's still hard to do.)

appreciating the gift of time and energy of that same friend who came and planted!  (Thanks so much, G.)

moving a little more gingerly since I seem to have done some movements that maybe I shouldn't have.  Sigh.  Good reminder, though, I guess.

And just for some more appreciating, the list of 1000 gifts continues.
151) chicken pesto pizza
152) the aroma of lily-of-the-valley
153) the sight of lily-of-the-valley in an elegant green vase
154) an elegant green vase
155) playing with tools on the computer with a friend - learning together as we played
156) the delight of figuring out what can be done
157) the surprise of seeing what is possible
158) the satisfaction of organizing even the smallest thing - like the fabric in my closet
159) getting to know a friend better by spending time together
160) catching a whiff of lily-of-the-valley wafting through my living room
161) digging in the soil and getting soil under my fingernails (This is for you, Mom and Dad.  I really wanted to use the word dirt here as it seems to fit so much better.)

162) putting plants in pots and arranging them on the front steps