Monday, March 17, 2014

Joy Within

A new day.  A new journal.  My previous journal sported a brown cover with a solitary lighthouse gracing the cover – a picture of loneliness.  I frowned a bit each time I reached for the repository of my inner thoughts and ideas.  Sadly, I judged the book by its cover.  And I judged it harshly.  I was more than pleased to fill the final page and set it aside for something different.

Today I begin a new journal.  This journal quips, “Joy Within” across a flower-bedecked cover.  Flowers, joy, color . . . “Whatever is lovely, think on these things”  These things of beauty delight me and bring a smile to my face each time I see the journal’s cheerful, or should I say joyful, cover.  It’s a small thing to note, but worth noting.  For, joy lies in small and unexpected places, in lowly places, in humble places.

I welcome any sense of joy these days.  The world news reeks of sorrow, war, imperial pressure, and defeat.  This Lenten path we call life wends through the Valley of the Shadow of Death . . . but wait!  Death has been defeated!  I know that full well.  I cannot forget that the victory has been won for tomorrow.  I live in a warring today, but I am destined for a peaceful place for all of my tomorrows throughout eternity.  The lonely lighthouse on a brown journal will be replaced with an abundance of flowers and joy within.

A smile creeps ‘cross my face.  I am surprised to be smiling.  I set out to fill the journal and find joy within.

* * * 

“Good morning,” chirps the first to ascend the stairs to greet me; following with another morning greeting, “What does your day hold?”

“Joy, I hope,” I respond brightly.  “I hope I am surprised by joy.”

* * * 

Of late, world issues, social pressures, and commonplace worries crowd into our daily arena with To Do Lists and expectations that trample the humble things beneath trudging feet.  Joy resides in the dust – choked.

Our family has bowed in prayer regularly for those oppressed in Ukraine.  We have watched anxiously for God’s fingerprints amidst the muscle flexes of bullies and the wagging jaws of man.  I have wept as I pleaded for peace, respect, and freedom.  At times, I wondered if God has heard.  And then . . . SURPRISE!  JOY!  Natalie forwarded this photo of peaceful protesters kneeling in prayer as they endure humiliation through invasion.   

A nation once ruled by Atheism has knelt in prayer in the main square of their endangered country as the whole world looks on.  A nation once ruled by an iron fist behind an iron curtain has chosen to kneel as God’s child, trusting Him for the outcome.  Surely He has heard.

God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 NLT

 My worries and anxieties melt when I kneel down and pray with these faithful Ukrainian sisters and brothers.  I pray for peace alone.  My thoughts and fears about “right,” “wrong,” “precedent,” and “war” have buried my joy in the dust beneath pacing feet.  My prayers for peace bring me down to a humble place where joy lives.  I scoop it up hungrily.  I am starved for joy.  I am empty and He fills me.

Instead of filling with expectations, 
the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled.   
This breath!  This oak tree!  This daisy!  This world!   
This sky!  These people!  This place!   
This day!  Surprise!

C. S. Lewis said he was “surprised by joy.”   
Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise?

~~ Ann Voskamp ~~
One Thousand Gifts Devotional

 * * *

So, what does my day hold, you may ask?  Peace and prayer and lots of joy.  I will be turning away from the global eye and the booming internet voice; I will be kneeling and resting in the quiet of God’s palm – right here, right now, this.  I will kneel often and rise up with a fair dusting of joy to be found right here on earth this very day amidst the cries of war and the shouts for freedom.  For, I have found joy within.

This is the day that the Lord hath made, 
I will rejoice and be glad in it.   
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Wonder

Made me stop and wonder . . . and then smile.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Gift of Internet Silence

The sun shines brightly, calling, “Come!  Play with me!”  I turn around and survey the landscape (by which I mean, housescape) a-jumble in “must dos” and “should dos” and I resolve to dig deeper for the tenacity needed to stick to “the plan.”  But, alas, I am human and prone to focus on the wrong things even with the best of motives.  It just seems wrong to waste a perfectly sunny day when I know that rain will arrive next week.  Thus, I give you the gift of silence from this bloggy little place.   I am away at play in my garden or in my kitchen or in my Tiki room (jumping on a trampoline).  If you should happen to be in my vicinity, please stop in and play.  My silence upon this page echoes loudly with laughter in life beyond the page.  And since our life is held firmly and safely in the palm of God, I have no need to fret or worry or push.  I shall relax, be still, and send you most joyful wishes as I embark on a weekend of FUN and light and internet silence.   EnJOY the weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dining Caravanserai Style

“What’s for dinner,” he asked casually as we finished up our luncheon.

“What?” I managed to reply without extreme exasperation.

“Dinner?  What are you planning?” all innocence displayed.

“I don’t know . . . *sigh* . . . I will just look into the cave of wonders and find something fantastic.  We’ll have adventure for dinner.  It will be fun.” I left it at that, with only the faintest breath of sarcasm.

As the dining hour approached I did, indeed, set out in search of something full of wonder and nutrition to lay upon the table as we gathered at day’s end.  Hmmmmm . . . I scoured the fridge:  quart of broth, assorted veggies, an abundance of eggs, a bit of mayo (my own spicy concoction), sour cream . . . hmmmmm.  Minneolas rolled around the counter begging to be noticed in their vibrant orange-y peels.  Onward to the pantry:  a large golden portion of couscous shone brightly amongst the labor-intensive beans and such – no time for soaking and boiling and waiting – couscous it is, then!

I bundled the bits and pieces of produce and larder stock onto the counter like an ancient mosaic artist ready to begin to craft a gift from the broken pieces and fragments.  I rifled around in my spice cupboard pulling out cumin and coriander, garlic and garam masala.  I plundered the citrus basket for a lime or two – nearly too far gone, but still fragrant and pliable.  I poured and portioned, stirred and seasoned, filling the house with the earthy fragrance of a spice road caravanserai – those roadside inns of olden days inviting men to dismount camels, water and feed the beasts, then turn into the inn to find nourishment and rest for himself at day’s end.  A fitting place to serve a meal wrought from my culinary cave of wonders.

The cobalt-patterned bowls began filling with jewel-toned veggies and creamy sauces for drizzling.  The fragrant couscous soaked up the lime- and garlic-laced broth.  The abundance of eggs from our diligent hens became half-moons hard-cooked and filled with fluffed and spiced yolk creams.  A bit of Worcestershire, a hint of ginger, a zest of lime – ordinary no more!  The tangerine-skinned citrus over flowed the dish and spilled sticky-sweet nectar, daring us all to find room upon our already-laden plates for just one taste more. 

We carried the feast-filled receptacles to a table laid with numerous glinting candles.  We prayed; we lifted weary arms and forked down the first mouthfuls.  It had been a long and busy day with much labor in it.  Some studied, some cleaned closets; some laundered, some thought deeply for an answer not to be found just yet.  We all came to the table hungry for food, for rest, for the touch that says, “You are among family, and we are glad.” 

Slowly, laughter began to tinkle; words grew more rapid with lightness.  The heaviness of the day passed with each sip and bite.  Compliments flew my way and I smiled.  The cave of wonders had not failed me. 

As the candles burned low and the remaining morsels vanished, I signaled for the surprise ending to this exotic meal:  Strawberry-rosewater-almond ice cream that graced tiny dishes, far too rich for major scooping.  Inspired on my last trip to Disney’s Epcot, where Elizabeth and I enjoyed a lavish treat of perfumed ice creams in Morocco, I fired up my ice cream maker and let my imagination run wild.  It ran and played in a most delicious fashion.  Success never tasted so sweet.

All too soon the candles sputtered and the diners departed to close down their day.  I watched them go in satisfied fullness, knowing that soon they will again be weary and hungry, and I will once again dig deep into that cave of wonders I lovingly stock with odd bits of taste and spice alongside the staples known throughout the world since that very first meal in Eden. We will pass this way again, but never in the exact same step.  The gift we shared tonight will never happen again in just this way. I wash the last dish, pondering this meal, storing its recipe in my heart:  Welcome the weary ones with fragrance and sweetness that draws them in from across the vast desert of the daily walk.  Feed them and entreat them to rest.  Dine Caravanserai style in this oasis of life – soothe each hunger pang in our home, sweet, home.  Repeat as often as needed, or once a day (whichever comes first).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Choosing Joy

"...believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it. I don’t want to wait anymore.
I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting."

~~ Shauna Niequiest's ~~ 

Today I am off on an adventure wrapped in ordinariness and daily doings, like dropping a friend off at the airport, visiting Costco, coming home to tea and bookclubMy travels won't make the news, nor change the course of mankind's grind, but I will breathe in and out the most wonderful freshness and joy, if I so choose.

 graphic shared by from Sue Fitzmaurice, Author on FB

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tip for Today

Have tiara, will shine!
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sifting Through Cinnamon in Search of a Lost Hour

Quick! Administer cinnamon toast!  I'm fading!!

I awoke this morning and discovered that an hour had been stolen clean out from under my nose!  Yes, I "saw" that the clocks had been changed yesterday (Saturday night, in fact, by my zealous husband), but I didn't "feel" the loss until this morning when I awoke an hour behind schedule with an hour loss on top of it.  Eeeek!

I padded downstairs to put on the kettle and discovered I had forgotten to run last night's dinner dishes, in addition to noticing that the steamer used for broccoli prep had been missed on the clean-up sweep the previous eve.  (By notice, I mean, with my nose -- Ick!)

What's a girl to do in such a situation?  Pray for a miracle to turn back time and tidy all in one gesture?  Cry and hope somebody takes pity on you?  Brew a pot-of-tea-for-one and make some cinnamon toast?  How 'bout all three?  Okay, the praying for a miracle part seemed like a futile effort, since I didn't want to repeat the time change scenario.  Fair enough.  Crying, even in the silver-screen fashion of gently flowing glamorous orbs of crystalline sorrow seemed silly since every other person in this house is asleep or faking sleep, save my husband who is chirpy as ever in the morning, popping in and out the door doing the morning "chores" of letting out chickens and the cat and such.  Since crying would stuff me up and dilute what  little surface beauty I awoke with, I opt to suck it up and hit the cinnamon toast hard!

One of my sweetest childhood memories involves cinnamon toast -- that slightly sweet treat delivered on a bed tray to the infirm.  It rarely happened, but when it did -- oh my!  What delight!  Much later in life, following the delivery of a baby (number five), I developed some sort of "fever sickness" and writhed in bed for many days.  My friend/nurse came to the rescue and watched my four littles  + littlest (baby) while I recovered.  I remember little of that week, save for a distinct moment when a tearful Elizabeth came in to my darkened room with a tray of tea and cinnamon toast.  "Here Mommy, please eat this and feel better," she sobbed.  I ate, tasting the cinnamon like a fire of life, a healing fire.  I recovered in due time, but my spirit lifted measurable with the first tiny nibble of c-toast.

Daily I intake a spoonful of a cinnamon-honey-turmeric-ginger concoction I store in a pooh-bear-approved honey-pot shaped jar.  The spicy, silky, yummy flavor slips down easy and delights my body and mind.  Sometimes I spread it on toast or flavor a cuppa tea with the jewel-toned elixir, but today -- with all its off-kilter change-o-mania -- I went straight for the toast, butter (LOTS), and cinnamon/sugar shaker.  A pot o' tea sidled alongside to enable me to nibble, sip, repeat when necessary.

Here I sit at the keyboard, drumming out words tinged with humor: clear proof of the amazing healing properties of cinnamon toast.  If this day doesn't improve, I plan to serve cinnamon toast at lunch and, if necessary, cinnamon toast at dinner.  I will not be beaten by this time-change villain.  If it won't give me back that hour I will simply celebrate cinnamon-ily until I just don't care a fig for that lost hour.  Did I just say "fig"?  Sweet, gushy, yummy, spread-on-toast fig?  I wonder how that would taste, with just a hint of cinnamon?

Happy Monday (what's left of it, that is)! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Wonder

This is the day which the Lord hath made; 
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

* * * * *

Where on earth did joy come from?
It didn't.
It came from heaven.

~~ Sherwood Wirt ~~
The God Who Smiles 


Friday, March 7, 2014

A Closed Door. An Open Window.

For the first time in many weeks I omitted a particular plea from my prayers.  I haven’t given up in despair; rather, I have heard the answer:  And it is no.

“No,” He said.

A flood followed the simple two-letter utterance – like a flood gushing through a cleft rent by a recent quake.  A persistent rumble.  A daily fixation.  An unending string of wondering.  And then, “Crack!  Whoosh!”  The water flows.  Tears:  of disappointment, of surprise, of relief, of hope . . .   Tears wash away the debris.

After the flood, the mopping up commences.  And then I look around, assess the damage, tabulate the cost, and (last-but-not-least) accept the gift – the gift of knowing where I stand, even if I find myself behind a locked door.  For, every “no” contains the seeds of a “yes” to something else in a tomorrow awaiting its chance to become my today.  Each closed door provokes a pause in my journey, but the journey does not end behind this sealed venue. 

"Whenever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window."
~~ Reverend Mother from Sound of Music ~~

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens;
but often we look so long at the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us."
~~ Helen Keller ~~

"When God shuts a door, He opens a window."
~~ Jewish Proverb ~~

And they that went in,
went in male and female of all flesh,
as God had commanded him:
 and the Lord shut him in.
~~ Genesis 7:16 ~~

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; 
and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, 
he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, 
and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, 
as he did aforetime.
~~ Daniel 6:10 ~~

Today I sit beside an open window next to a closed door, gazing at a cornflower-blue sky.  The most recent storm passed over us with thunder and lightening and water, water, water everywhere.  For me, the stormy nights bring the greatest challenge.  I find it hard to lie down and rest during a tempest, be it out there, in here, or in a teapot.  “How much longer?” I have been known to wail at each passing peal.  “How much more must I endure?  If only I knew how long it was going to last!”

And then . . . s-i-l-e-n-c-e . . . it is done . . . the storm has passed.

After a weather episode of wind or rain or heavy snow, I immediately enjoy the peace; but soon, I survey the landscape for damage and direction.  Downed trees, flooded flower beds, leaking fissures . . .  Grab a -------- and let’s get to work!  As we work, side-by-side with loved ones or as a solo instrument, the eyes wander to and fro finding gifts amongst the grit.

“Oh look, how beautiful that snow looks as it clings to those branches!”

“Well, we needed to get rid of that dead branch for some time; 
guess the storm took care of it for us.”

“Hey, look what I just found over here!  I misplaced this ages ago!  Well, what do you know!”

In and among the damage and the gifts lies true loss and often pain; but seeds of hope carpet that barrenness in due time . . . if only I wait and watch with hopeful eyes.  In the waiting space I can sit by the open window and pine, or I can live bathed in the streaming sunlight, breathing in the fresh breeze, waving to passersby as their journey continues unabated.  Some may stop in for a cuppa and a chat, entertaining me with tales and exploits as they chase dreams and dodge arrows.  Others hurry by at a  pace that affords a mere wave.  Most scurry by my window, unaware of me at all, hidden in a blind hurry to make the next appointment.  I see myself in their eyes, I know their anxious scuffle all too well, and I wonder when I will once again mount up and ride out toward a new adventure or battle or sunset. 

For today, I sit contentedly by a window flung wide to the fresh breeze of promise blowing the gift of hope my way.  (And I giggle as I imagine God breathing a sigh of relief now that my barrage of pleading has ended with a smile for me and some peace and quiet for Him . . . for today, anyway.)  I love you, Abba Father.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm Away Playing at Life Today


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 costly, care for it.

Life is wealth, keep it.

Life is love, enjoy it.

Life is mystery, know 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 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 ~~

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Internut Syndrome

One day back as a “blogger” – JUST ONE – and I’m already frustrated!  I forgot that I have internet problems:  connection problems, time problems, discipline problems . . .  

I rolled out of bed this morning with a cloak of tiredness dragging me down.  Last night, I did “one quick check” before hopping into bed and . . . well, you know how that goes:   A comment!  An email!  I’ll just quickly read it and reply, and then off to bed.  Oh, I almost forgot to opt out of that site.  Hey, it’s morning in Ukraine; I wonder what’s going on?  And on and on it goes until I am way past bedtime, overloaded with cognitive “junk food,” and smarting with a bit of back pain from sitting too long at a makeshift station designed for “quick” checking the internet. 

Yep!  I have all the symptoms of Internut Syndrome. 

When I rose without shining this morning, I discovered my internet connection was down . . .
AGAIN . . . grumble. 

Just, great!
How am I supposed to blog? (I did make a commitment, you know.)
What if I need to pray about something specific in Ukraine?
What will ------ think if I don’t reply to her sweet comment?

And then I knew for sure . . . Internut Syndrome had taken hold.

I shuffled downstairs in my cute, pink, cableknit sweater slippers and I didn’t even notice they were cute.  I dropped leaves into the tea infuser without remarking the fresh, minty breeze from our newest favorite:  Immuni-tea.  I murmured a muted “Good morning” to my daughter as she wrestled with two sunnyside-up eggs; she murmured back in kind.  The teakettle performed, the tea steeped, while I gathered cup and saucer, hefted the cozied teapot, and made my way to my favorite chair.



A gray blankness held me in limbo: 
gray sky, gray light, gray day.

I reached down mechanically and scooped up the first book my hand encountered in the basket beside my chair:  One Thousand Gifts Devotional, by Ann Voskamp.  I leafed open to the next entry:   

Devotion 19 – Awakening Grace

I poured out the floral-minty morning brew, perfectly steeped and dancing with fragrance.  I lifted my faithful companion teacup (Blue Willow, of course) from its saucer and caught a steamy whiff of meadow dances, rollicking streams, morning dew, and flowers waking.  I felt my brow begin to unravel from its tight-knit scrunch as my shoulders started melting into suppleness.  Fear of failure had wrapped me in its grip; pressing expectations had pinned me down.  One day blogging and I was a mess!  And then I turned my attention to Ann.

She began by quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

Give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

She went on to quote Robert Louis Stevenson:

The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.

Yes, yes indeed.  I have fallen asleep in life – that’s a primary symptom of Internut Syndrome.  The virtual eclipses the tangible whilst the unreal pounces and devours my sense of time . . . the REAL of time.

Another sip of tea.
Another gaze out the window
Is that a glint of blue?

I grab a pen and scribble:
2146. [Thankful that] the internet is on the blink – my morning just gained time . . . real time.

* * * * *

That tenseness that I shouldered as I came downstairs has faded.  That nutty, nagging voice in my head has gone silent.  Maybe it was just a dream – a bad dream.  Not to worry, for I am awake now . . . and thankfully so.

[D]are yourself to give thanks . . . 
and it’s the setting of an alarm 
and you could wake up to nothing less than your life.

Giving thanks, this is an awakening – the breath of God upon the face, close and warm.

~~ Ann Voskamp ~~
One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Quiet Time

I have stood in a silent place and listened.
I have sat in the shade of a mighty wing and rested.
I have danced in a sweet meadow with no one to see me but God.
I have lived quietly . . .
And found it nourishing, satisfying, and, above all, blessed.

* * * * *

As a child, I loved those cozy books with glimpses down a rabbit warren or peeks behind the walls into a mouse house.  I pored over each heavily-detailed page depicting life among a mouse family dressed in period togs, seated by a warm fire, reading a story to sleepy babes, while sipping bedtime beverages from floral-sprigged china.  The picture of bliss:  Home Sweet Home.

While I love a robust adventure or a romantic saga, a cottage-cozy tale replete with tasty meals, tufted ottomans (why isn’t it ottomen?), and a tumbling garden always gets my vote.  I have a burgeoning collection of “bedtime reads” that coddle and comfort before I drift off to sleep.  Finding such joy in the quiet spaces of my day sustains me and breeds contentment.

Once upon a time, I sought, sought, sought fulfillment through events, acquisitions, and goals.  I worked hard at being, doing, and achieving.  The “rewards” flowed steady, but I was often too tired or overbooked to enjoy the sweet fruits of the sweaty labor.  I craved rest but had a hard time scheduling for it.  I “collapsed” now and again, naming it rest.  In due time, I would drag my still-crumpled and weary body back onto life’s treadmill and plod along.

Somewhere along life’s path I found tiny moments to steal away and hide from the taskmaster I called life.  I felt guilty as I soaked in a tub without an instruction book clasped in my damp hands.  Guilt whispered harshly when I lay down and cuddled a child in the shadow of a billowing laundry basket.   In fact, guilt hissed at me so often and from so many places that I began to just ignore it like the distant hum of a neighbor’s leaf blower.  “It will pass,” I assured myself as I stopped up my ears with laughter and celebration in a tiny moment spent tickling a beloved tummy.  These random moments of pure fun or sweet quiet began knitting together to form a shawl of beauty and warmth to wrap round me as I rambled through the busy days as wife/mommy/daughter/sister/friend.  Little pearls of wisdom and joy threaded through the fabric of my daily mantle adorning, as well as, strengthening its fiber.  Peace and contentment grew in the shadow of these loving, nurturing moments woven by and through and around me.

I have no idea when I first noticed that I could no longer hear guilt’s guttural grumble; nor do I wish to retrace my steps to find such an unwelcome companion.  Instead, I greet each day with a cuppa tea and a quiet time, fresh and ready for joy to meet me.  Some days I read, others I write, and often I simply gaze in wonder at the freshly-sprung day and all its blossoming beauty.  One need only pause and look to find once barren twigs come to life with floral frosting or a simply threaded web hosting a dewy dressing rivaling a Tiffany display.  Life stores unmatched artistry in the quiet corners of our life.  We need only open our eyes as we rest our hands and our mouth.   This wondrous cape of life and love wraps me up in readiness for whatever I may encounter as I sojourn on this earth.  I may keep my shawl closely pulled on those chilly morns, and later pillow it behind my head on a warm bed of grass beckoning me to cloud gaze.  I used to run through the day chasing bossy To Do’s and anxious checklists, but now I step softly and listen, for there is so much to be found in a quiet time.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 
1 Kings 19:11-12