12/20/2010

good news, not-so-good news

good news - We enjoyed a month of restful waiting as we celebrated Advent with dear friends, lighting candles, singing carols, feasting, philosophizing. Four candles light the darkness, holding the Christmas Crazy at bay. (You know, the rush of shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning, etc. we associate with the holidays.)

not-so-good news - Our abstinence from Christmas Crazy means that until Saturday, we didn't even have a Christmas list. And we have a lot of people to celebrate with.

good news - We figured out our Christmas list. Yay!

not-so-good news - We have a list of people, not necessarily gift ideas to go with them.

good news - We are smart, creative, and resourceful. We can figure this out!

not-so-good news - We only have three days left before Christmas, and lots of stuff to do in the meantime (work-work, housework, administrative tasks, appointments, events)

good news - There are Twelve Days of Christmas, so we don't have to have everything figured out right away.

not-so-good news - The toughest to buy for people are the first ones getting gifts.

good news - We have eggnog, cider, candy canes, Christmas movies, and Christmas music to keep us jolly during all of the Christmas Crazy.

not-so-good news - Stations keep playing things like The Christmas Shoes or that Paul McCartney song that gets really annoying after awhile.

good news - Regardless of where we are at in the Christmas Crazy, on the evening of the 23rd we're meeting friends for a showing of White Christmas at a local old theater. This will be MM's first time seeing it! How fun that it will be on the big screen and with friends.

more good news - Afterward, we're going to take all our friends to go look at our favorite neighborhood Christmas light display.

really good news - And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And really, in light of that news, none of the Christmas Crazy matters much.

Happy Christmas, friends.

12/17/2010

still waiting

Advent is a season for waiting; we wait for the coming of God. We need him to come. Our world is messed up and we are messed up. We lament our condition and long for God to set things right, to make us better. So we pray and watch for signs of his presence. We do all we know to do so that we are open and ready. In the midst of hardship and disappointment, we continue to wait. We wait in hope. We believe that something is happening in our world, something is taking shape in our lives, something large, light-filled, and joy-giving. Even in December's lengthening darkness, this seed of joyful hope grows within us. We are pregnant with it. In our waiting, we are enlarged. God is coming!

~ Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God

12/16/2010

wakens my ear

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens
--wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
~ Isaiah 50:4


Read these words this morning, and want to chew on them awhile. How good it would be to know how to sustain the weary with a word. The way to do this, of course, is to stop talking. The tongues of those who are taught are silent. Those who are taught, listen.

12/14/2010

scenes from a weekend - gifts

Well, this week my excuse is that I sat down to do my morning reading, writing, thinking, praying, etc. and fell asleep. For FIVE HOURS! Yowza! So here are some scenes from our weekend...

Friday

The sound of snoring that drifts from our room as my dear friend retreats under homemade quilts and releases her cares for a time. Her five year old son has had five brain surgeries this last month. She is exhausted, but understandably, she can rarely bring herself to leave his side. It was indescribably good to watch her allow herself permission to rest. This is a long road.

Glimpses of the city - an elegant matron in her bright coat and scarf speaking into the speaker of an apartment building; the last of the colored leaves drifting over the streets and swirling around pedestrians; Christmas window displays in tiny shops and grand hotels - as I drove to a much-needed massage. I felt rich!

Saturday

A long, slow, easy morning with MM, filled with love and endearments and silliness and laughter, and shoulder rubs for both of us. The whole morning felt like grace.

The rumble of over a hundred Tubas blasting out Christmas carols and patriotic songs in a beautiful, old auditorium. My father-in-law got his euphonium on, so we went to cheer him on and soak in the joy that only TubaChristmas can bring. Before I went to my first TubaChristmas years ago, I never would have guessed that those instruments could bring tears to my eyes, but we were all moved several times during the concert.

Purple inland fog through which we glimpse a glorious, firey sunset across the Bay. WowWowWow! Closer to the city, we see that firey sunlight, reflected on the windows of homes and offices built into the coastal hills. Mingled with Christmas lights, the hills look ablaze. WowWowWow!

My handsome husband lit up by the sparkly lights of Union Square. He'd turn and smile at me, and make my heart stop. Every time. Then a bit later, warm hugs all around as good friends joined us for cocktails above the sparkle. We swapped stories behind the Y in Macy's. (Next year, we stay the night!)

Sunday

The twinkle in my husbands smiley eyes as we snuggle in the early morning light, recounting last Christmas and the early days of our love story. We still marvel at the speed and miraculous of it all. What a year!

The twinkle in my nephew's smiley eyes as he makes poop jokes and shows us how to operate his flashing Mr. Worm toy. Five brain surgeries take a toll, but in this moment he giggled and teased like any other goofy little boy. Even with his head covered in bandages and tubes sticking out everywhere, he sparkles.

The double blessing of another friend's son, alternately sharing deep wisdom and hilarious, rambunctious joking on our third-candle night of Joy. This guy doesn't often comment during our readings, but when he does, its absolutely on the money. And he seriously cracks me (and himself, apparently) up! Joy, indeed.

My husband's hat on the dashboard and the feel of his hand on mine as he thanks God for our lives and our loves and the gift of it all. All of it. Surgeries. Tubas. Cocktails above Union Square. Reduced income. New jobs. Painful backs. Christmas lights...

We are thankful.

12/07/2010

tuesdaybook - dishes and twinkle lights

For today I am:

Seeing... A pile of dishes and various sticky somethings on the floor, table, counter - evidence that a whole lot of fun has been happening in the Little House on the Tree-lined Street in Fake New Jersey. But the sun slanting through the windows thrills me even as it lands on things I must clean.

Hearing... The ticking of the kitchen clock and the occasional neighborhood sounds (dogs barking, birds twittering, leaf blowers... (Oh, the leaf blowers! We are in a deluge! The one minor drawback to the Tree-lined Street is the noisy leaf blower brigade this time of year.))

Wearing... Jammies, mommy slippers, fuzzy white bathrobe. Amen.

Tasting... Coffee. I know! I KNOW! (MM, your wife is weak!) And steal cut oats with cinnamon and blueberries. I'm celebrating Tuesday.

Planning... Dinners with people and outings and trips and such that have been floating around must land somewhere on our calendar today. I'll do some preliminary emailing and see what comes of it.

Working... My project ended Friday, so I am doing a bunch of personal/household admin stuff. Lots of paperwork to address, bills to pay, budget spreadsheets to update, etc. Tax season is coming, and I'm a little freaked out after our crazy year of me freelancing and us marrying and combining households. It will be an interesting April. We need a Tax Guy!

Creating... Sewing some pillow cases; working on scarves; downloading photos from the phone and printing some, etc. The big thing I hope to do this afternoon is work on our website designs. :)

Learning... Working on some scales and chords for piano today. And some new CSS tricks for the aforementioned websites.

Reading... We're still working our way through Anne of Green Gables. :) Among other things, I'm reading the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. (Comics? I don't always know the difference.) Weird. Occasionally funny. Comic nerdiness. We saw the movie for free when it came out, so I'm actually following along pretty well. Its another fun chapter in the cultural exchange between my husband and I. Its been cool to enter each other's worlds of music, movies, books, etc. We have four giant book shelves to work through and a huge Netflix queue. Love getting to know my man this way! :)

Pondering... My future. Heavy. I know, right?

Remembering... Christmases Past. This year I'm still in waiting mode, which is peaceful. I remember many Christmas seasons crammed with activities and to-do lists and projects and stress on top of work deadlines. I'm doing less stuff this year, but enjoying more of what I'm doing. Almost every night MM and I hit Starbucks and then drive around looking at lights. Last night we walked hand in hand through our favorite neighborhood and kissed under a tunnel of orange, red, and pink twinkle lights. Magical. Sooooo much better than burning my fingers with a hot glue gun at 11pm after a 10 hour work day and an evening slogging through the mall. :)

Thankful for... Twinkle light tunnels. The carpet of maple leaves in front of my little house. My fuzzy white robe. Sunlight glancing off the ornaments on our little tree. Our vacuum. Time to write and think and pray.

Off to wash dishes, etc.

scenes from a weekend

Meant to post this yesterday, but got derailed with a craft project. Sometimes a girl just needs to play with glitter. (Sorry, MM.) So, here it is...

Friday

My husband opening the door to me when I got home from my last day of work. He made a hilarious joke (which I can't share with you) that had me howling with laughter before I'd even set my stuff down. Then he wrapped me in his arms and gave me the best hug. Lovely start to the weekend.

Later, the cool, Midtown indie/hipster kids just outside the window from us at the restaurant, telling stories, sharing philosophies, probably talking about bands I've never heard of. MM and I love the vibe and energy of our old stompin' grounds

Saturday

Examining thrift shop doodads and trinkets and funky whatnots, as the owner chatted and joked with several other patrons. The place was lively and bustling and fun. Beautiful evening gowns for $20. I left with three decorative matchboxes for $1 a piece. Darling!

Three pony-tailed little girls selling apple cider for 50 cents a cup outside their parent's store. "We need money for Christmas presents." I'm a sucker for kids selling stuff off a table, so of course I bought some. Too cute! As I sipped my drink, I watched them, after a brief consultation, give a cup to a homeless guy for free. :)

Holding hands with MM as we talk things out after an afternoon of hurt and misunderstanding. The deep feeling of grace as we make amends and reconnect. We spent the rest of the evening in that grace with mac'n'cheese and Christmas lights and lots of hugs. "We're OK."

Sunday

A cup of coffee in our friends' warm, sunny sitting room, connecting for the first time in a month, as their little son showed us his Lego creations and pretended to be a kitty that needed to be scratched behind the ears.

Later, at the dinner table, another young friend (9) offering her mother bread "broken for you" and juice "shed for you." One of the loveliest communion moments I've seen. We are so blessed to get to share Advent with this family. To mingle deep questions with laughter and music and tacos...

Still later, snuggling MM as we drift off to sleep, warm and cozy.

So thankful.

12/01/2010

belated daybook

Happy December! It is beautiful and cold today. Homemade turkey chili (Oh, Thanksgiving dinner how we have loved you this past week.) and cornbread for dinner. (Although with that menu, I feel as though I ought to call it supper.) I didn't do a daybook yesterday, so here's a belated one. For today I am:

Seeing... Glorious color, still, on the maple tree in the front yard.

Hearing... The air stirring in the heater, the chili bubbling on the stove... and Max out on my porch goofing around with our musical snow globe. (Every day when he gets home from school, he comes to our porch and turns on the tunes. Today he brought his sister over, and they are out there singing along. So cute!)

Wearing... A brown scarf, a fuzzy brown sweater, a read long-sleeved t-shirt, jeans, and brown knee-high socks that my Sweetie got for me at Target. When he comes home, I will bust out a pair of Christmas socks. Sexy.

Tasting... Leftover shepherd's pie and fresh, unfiltered apple juice, a hosting gift from the friends who came to celebrate Advent with us.

Creating... Knitting scarves out of my leftover bits of yarn. Right now, a lovely dove gray.

Working... Finishing up my techwriting contract. Tomorrow its screenshots, and a SME interview. Friday, its compiling and unit testing. And either Friday or Monday its, turn in the files, computer, and key card.

Learning... Dug out my piano books and am attempting to re-start learning the piano. Eventually I will get a teacher, but for now, I'm using books and my friend YouTube.

Reading... MM and I are reading aloud together the Anne of Green Gables series, and it just cracks me up every time he bursts out laughing at something in the story. He's genuinely enjoying the book! :) Fun!

Planning... Nothing really. Taking this week off to rest and wait. Next week we'll start Christmas prep in earnest.

Pondering... Hope. Anticipation.

Remembering... How life (and Christmas) was before MM, and I am still amazed at how rich and deep and full and beautiful he makes everything. I remember sitting and holding hands with him at a Christmas concert last year and marveling at how magical the world felt.

Thankful for... A warm scarf and coat; warm socks and gloves; a warm sweater; a warm bed; a warm home. Many live without these things, and I am mindful that my life is all gift.

11/30/2010

reassembly required

Ahhh. Even one day of quiet does wonders to reassemble my soul. All my scrambled thoughts and feelings begin to unscramble themselves and start to make sense. Clarity. Peace.

I try not to feel guilty about needing this - pace and time to sort myself out after big (or little) events. It makes me feel weak. And there is so much to do, of course, that it feels wicked and lazy to take time to stare out the window. I fight a barrage of: "I should __________ (update a website, file paperwork, reply to emails, return phone calls, do the dishes, do the laundry, ...etc, etc.)"

But sit I do, and submit to the reassembly process. And wait.

Today's reassembly process features candles, fancy bread, spiced apple cider, knitting, and a podcast or two.

11/29/2010

waiting for Christmas

We hosted three fun gatherings in four days. It was great to eat and laugh and connect with people. But I am done. Like way done.

I can tell, because now that Advent is here, I have zero interest in Christmas. Zero. Even the thought of it makes my blood pressure rise. (Oh the joys of the post-party introvert crash.)

I don't want a tree. I don't want to decorate. I don't want to bake. I don't want to make crafts. Or send cards. Or buy presents. Or go to concerts. Or do anything.

I just want to sit and stare at a wall in an empty, silent room. Alone. Eating Cheetos. For a month.

***

But instead, I will stare out the window at the beautiful tree in my yard, drinking in every last ounce of Autumn splendor. I will continue the rhythms of work and chores and exercise that are good for me. I will eat healthy food. (Turkey tacos and salad tonight.) I will let myself have coffee in the mornings. I will probably get a book or two at the library and read. I will hug my husband. A lot.

I will listen to Christmas music.

***

Last night we gathered with beloved friends to light the candle of Hope. We pondered what hope means. What makes it different from wanting or wishing? What happens when your heart is sick from "a hope deferred?" Keep hoping? Change what you hope for? Is choosing "contentment" the same as "giving up hope?"

We prayed that we would have the courage to hope, even when things are bleak and dry and sucky. That we would patiently wait for hopes deferred, and let that waiting do its work in us, increasing our faith, deepening our trust.

It was good for my soul to gather and share and ponder as we begin this season of waiting for Christmas.

***

I take that with me into this week.

I may not feel like decorating, shopping, or putting on an ugly sweater for a Christmas card photo. But that's ok. Right now, I feel like waiting. And that is enough.

11/26/2010

pressed down, shaken together

This morning I enjoy the soft sound of Husband Snores coming from the next room as I sit curled up in a fuzzy blanket, sipping coffee and watching colored leaves drift to the ground. Peace. Rest.

***

Yesterday we hosted both our families for Thanksgiving. The house was once again bursting at the seams with storytelling, laughter, art, and music. (My piano got delivered on Wednesday!)

At the beginning of our party, I took the three little neices into the mudroom to craft some centerpieces for our holiday tables. Each girl got to be the hostess for the table displaying her centerpiece. (Sure beats having to sit at a kid's table. :) And they were darling!) MM and I decided to add the creative snowman centerpiece to our Christmas decore this year.

Throughout the day our Thankful Tree filled up with colored leaves. Each guest wrote something he/she is thankful for on a colored paper leaf, and taped it to the poster of a bare tree that we'd hung on the wall. It was fun to watch the tree fill up and to go read the sweet messages: "My wife!" "My wonderful children." "Happiness is God's Love!" "Our house." "My pet hamster, Angelo." :) I loved walking out this morning to a quiet, post-party living room, and that tree on the wall, declaring gratitude, and echoing the joy of the day before.

The best part was that for hours, every nook and cranny of our little house was filled with people laughing, hugging, and loving on each other. Some people told family stories; others played games; still others played guitar or piano. In general, people celebrated life and love and each other. It was awesome.

Great moments:

~ My mom, upon seeing the maple in our yard, grinning and marveling over how it reminded her of the trees where she grew up (Rhode Island).

~ My sister-in-law, helping in the kitchen, heard the sound of classical guitar, and gasped with delight, "Oh! My honey is playing guitar!" and ran to go listen.

~ My honey waving at me from across the room full of noisy relatives and mouthing, "I love you!"

~ My sister dancing with imaginary castinettes during "The Camel Song" and roping my brother-in-law into an impromptu fox trot. He managed to break free: "You have had way too much pie!"

~ The little girls twirling around in their beautiful new Christmas dresses that Auntie P bought them.

***

Today we rest. We spend the day in gratitude, quietly this time. We admire the Thankful Tree inside and the maple tree outside. We sip eggnog and eat leftovers and snuggle in our jammies to watch movies. Our cup is full. "Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over."

So thankful.

11/16/2010

fair to middlin'

The leaves have begun to fall in earnest around Fake New Jersey. A nice layer of them carpet my front lawn awaiting my attention with the rake. If only I could stop coughing long enough to get out there and scoop them all up into a ginormous, bejeweled pile.

I'm sick again. On the tail end of my last cold, I caught another one. Or it caught me. Either way, I am under the weather. MM is still coughing out his bronchitis, poor guy.

This makes three weeks of sickness in our little house. In our Nyquil haze, we're kind of missing out on, "the magical, golden enchantment of autumn days (the wine of the seasons, when the year held its breath at the approach of frost and fire)." No walks around our beautiful neighborhood yet, though we hold out hope for more porch time in our wicker chairs.

Thanksgiving is next week, so we are working hard to get better before we cram our house full of people and food. Tonight we're buying dining room chairs. Early next week we hope to have my piano delivered and tuned, ready for little fingers to play carols. On Thursday I plan to spelunk in the Scary Wedding Room in hopes of finding the fruit bowl.

There are still delights to be had: vanilla scented candles, delicious homemade soup, cranberry-chocoloate-chip-oatmeal cookies, flannel jammies, jazz music, good books to read...

We'll make it.

11/11/2010

autumny goodness

It has been an emotionally topsy-turvy week for me. I'm recovering from a cold, so I'm a bit run down, and I've just had lots of churning and gyrating in this healing soul of mine. I'm not even sure what all is going on in there. Just feeling a bit more fragile than usual.

It'll all come out in the wash eventually. For now I'm concentrating on the basics: eat healthy food, drink lots of water, get good sleep, don't over do it... MM, as always, has been supportive and loving, even while he is recovering from bronchitis.

Despite sickness and emotional upheaval I am still enjoying my favorite season:

~ I've not been able to go out walking much, but even my short drives to work or running errands make me squeal over the beautiful leaves.

~ At our house, I harvested the eucalyptus leaves from a couple bouquets and placed a small bowl of them in the living room. I run my fingers through them now and then to breathe in the fragrance of fall.

~ I assembled a wreath for the front door, set up a small display of gourds for the dining table, and set the little scarecrow on the front steps next to the one pumpkin that escaped carving this year.

~ On the sunny days, I join the scarecrow for a bit of porch time. I sit in my wicker chair to watch squirrels fight and play and stuff their faces. I watch the leaves of our maple tree flutter to the ground.

~ On the rainy days, I light candles and make soup and bake and wear sweaters and snuggle up on the couch to read under a soft blanket that's the same dark orange as my neighbor's tree.

~ This is the season of jazz and folk and "old timey" music for me. In early October MM put his Feels Like Home CD in my car, which is the perfect blend of jazz and country. Been listening to it a lot as I drive through the tree-lined streets.

~ The other day we watched You've Got Mail, "Don't you just love New York in the Fall?" And a Harry Potter movie is coming out, which, by now feels like a fall tradition.

Doing my best to soak in the golden beauty of this season, before the long dark of winter. What is everyone else doing too harvest some autumny goodness?

11/06/2010

ode to a vacuum

To the tune of "We are the Champions" by Queen. (This really is much better if you have MM nearby to do the dramatic orchestral pieces. But you'll do your best, I'm sure.)

We bought a vacuum, husband.
And we'll clean our carpets now and then.
We bought a Dyson!
We bought a Dyson!
No time for Hoovers,
cuz we bought a Dyson...
All Floors!


I've used it twice now, and I have two words:

Awesome!

and Gross!

11/02/2010

tuesdaybook - day off!

Its that time, friends. For today I am:

Seeing... Sunlight filtered through dirty window panes and venitian blinds on to our makeshift kitchen table. In front of me sit the small plant, candle, trivet, devotional book and small bible that are always on the table. (I could write a whole post about those items and what they mean to me... another time.) I also have my manicure set (to use my Autumny nail polish!), my Oprah magazine (she looks very peaceful on this cover), and The Queen of Attolia. Porch time, here I come! To the left I've got my bible, my journal, and my notebook. Ready for some thinking, planning, and organizing.

Hearing... The thump of the washer and dryer. The hummmm of the refrigerator. The occasional gurgle and sigh of the coffee pot. I do not hear MM coughing, which is good. Poor guy has been sick since Friday and just needs to sleep!

Wearing... My red "Hot Stuff" socks (a gift from my sister), blue jeans, a chocolate brown sweater layered over my red long-sleeved t-shirt. And I've got my brown plaid hat and my brown scarf ready and waiting for porch time. I feel warm and cozy.

Tasting... Dark, Kona coffee. I know, I know. Its Tuesday, and I'm supposed to drink tea during the week. But, oh, it feels like a celebration today. (No work!) So I'm celebrating with coffee. (Two cups!) And went with what MM calls "vacation coffee." (When we were younger, Kona wasn't everywhere. But anyone who vacationed in Hawaii brought it back, so in his mind Kona = Vacation Coffee.)

Creating... Not sure yet, but I've got vague notions of baking banana bread, and doing some sewing. This season really calls to my creative side, so I can feel the pull, but haven't got a project to focus on yet. Christmas is coming...

Working... Housework, mostly. Still catching up on dishes from the party last week. But I also want to start working on some website redesigns, and think about a couple of writing projects. This upcoming weekend is our writing retreat, so I want to be ready for that.

Pondering... Lately I've been thinking a lot about boundaries. In this new role as Wife, I'm having to renegotiate a lot of lines. How much ownership do we have over each other? Which things can we speak into and in which do we need to let the other just sort of work it out? What things do I have a right to ask of my spouse, and which things do I need to let go.

Boundaries have always been tricky for me, and this is 24/7 boundary work, so I get overwhelmed sometimes. The good news is that each of us loves the other so much that we both long to please and delight each other and neither one wants to hurt the other. That creates a beautiful space in which to figure out boundaries.

Remembering... Autumns past when I was so buried in work I couldn't see straight. Something about this season attracts deadlines. First Quarter projections, I guess. Anyway. I spent so many October/Novembers pulling all-nighters and sucking down coffee to fill in the gaps between adrenaline bursts. And of course two days into Christmas vacation, I'd crash, and be sick for the holidays. May it never be so again!

Planning... Lots of house planning around here lately. We are figuring out systems to keep the bills paid and the chores done and the pantry stocked. We're trying out a new form this month, and MM almost has the budget spreadsheet finished. All of this is so that we can get into a groove and devote our energies to other pursuits - hospitality, travel, writing, etc. But right now, we just gotta figure things out. We're getting there.

Thankful for... My friends. I have an army of friends who have made my life Rich. (Abundance!) All of them interesting, funny, creative, kind, talented, smart, and beautiful. And they have given me much love and fun over the years. I am blessed.

11/01/2010

two days off

I drove home from work at 2:30 today under a brilliant tree canopy filtering the golden sunlight of my favorite season. An afternoon of no work! Such abundance!

I stopped at the drugstore to get MM some medicine (poor guy has a cold), and to get me some "autumny" nail polish. On the spur of the moment I grabbed an Oprah magazine - of all things! I am off the next two days, so I plan on spending a lot of time on the front porch painting my nails and reading magazines and watching the leaves change color.

Bliss.

I am so thankful.

A season of true rest. Thank you, God. Thank you, Husband.

10/29/2010

abundance!

This past Sunday, MM and I came across a definition of "abundant life" in an essay of Dallas Willard, who described this kind of life as what we lose as a result of nondiscipleship:

The abundant life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10):
- Abiding peace
- A life penetrated throughout by love
- Faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good
- Hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances
- Power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil

MM and I want that kind of life. We feel like life needs to be more than drudgery and taxes and buying lots of stuff. We want a life of beauty, truth, love, and adventure. And we suspect that we will find those things in uncommon, perhaps unglamorous, places.

~

Last night we stuffed our little house with 24 people and almost as many pumpkins.

It was loud!

Filled to the brim with shrieking children playing tag in the kitchen; chattering adults cutting, carving, scooping, and creating pumpkin masterpieces in the living room; and quieter folks laughing and swapping stories on the front porch. The scent of popcorn, spiced cider, and caramel sauce wafted out the door to mingle with the crisp October night air, a mix of trees and moonlight and fireplace smoke. Cheery jack o'lanterns grinned down the steps as new neighbors and old friends mingled, taking photos of their creations.

This morning we awoke, tired and sore, to a house bearing the marks of a really good time: pumpkin guts stuck to the card table, kitchen counters piled with dirty dishes, and a brotherly note left in plastic letters on the fridge: "Max is stinky!" (Oh, poor Max.)

The whole thing cost about $30 to put on.

What abundance!

i don't think i ever posted this...

Its from a while ago. From before MM and I were married, which wasn't really that long ago, but sometimes feels like it with how much has happened in such a short amount of time. Anyway, an old post:

~~~

Its been a busy few months. MM and I continue to bond and grow in love and faith and strength as we learn to know one another. This past weekend, bathed in the sunshine and birdsong of a spring afternoon, we finished two of our pre-engagement books. We've been working on them for months, so we feel like this is a big accomplishment.

For such small books, these sure packed a wallop! We've had hundreds of hours of deep discussion on a range of topics: What are your passions? What are your top five fears? What experiences have you had with pornography? How much debt have you encured? How do you like to be treated when you are sick? What are your thoughts on pre-nuptual agreements? Describe the jobs you've had...

This has been an amazing process of discovery, and we are so glad we did this. We feel like this gives us a really good foundation for our relationship. But we're also glad to finish these intense questions. We're looking forward to more sunshine and birdsong. A bit of sabbath rest after all our hard work.

Last night, instead of watching the movie we'd planned on, we lay on my couch watching the moon pass through the patch of sky observable through my window. Beautiful and peaceful, it made me feel calm and at rest. A rare feeling for me.

This is what matters. The moon making its way across the night sky. The one I love in my arms. A stretch of time with nothing to do but BE. Time set aside - sanctified - for rest. Deadlines. To-do lists. Schedules. Emails. All those belong to kronos time. This is kairos. Time infused with meaning and purpose. This moment is about feeling small and loved in this big, ancient world. This magnificent universe filled with moons and stars and quasars. This moment is about wonder and delight in the magic of a moonlit night.

Lovely. Sabbath.

10/23/2010

the land of the living

As Wesley said, "life is pain."

Oh how well I know that! I have had 20+ years of physical and emotional pain that have threatened to do me in more times than I can say. Not many people know this about me, because for a variety of reasons I have needed to just suck it up and deal. There wasn't time/space to express all that pain with others.

Over the years, I made time privately to grieve and rail against it all, and did what I could to heal. And I knew that to keep from despair, I had to find ways to affirm goodness. Like Sam in the movie The Two Towers, I need to affirm, "that there is goodness in the world. And its worth fighting for." Or like the Psalmist, who says he would have lost heart if he had not believed, "that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

For the last few years I've been fairly wallowing in pain (back, hip, shoulders, thumbs - my freaking thumbs hurt now? Seriously? Gah! - , jaw... soul...) so its been doubly important for me to seek out goodness and light. To name it out loud.

Along with the daybook and friday fave five entries that I post here, I keep a gratitude list in my journal. My journal is where I pour out a lot of the pain I'm working through, so its important that I write down goodness there. I use sparkly pens to write blessings in the header of each page, a glittering thread of beauty amidst all the yuck and blerg.

The other evening I sat on my porch and the streetlight caught some of the glittery ink. It had been a hard day near the end of two hard weeks. The sparkles reminded me that in the midst of much pain there is still good, albeit in simple ways and small spaces.

I sat for awhile staring at the sparkles and listening to crickets and the neighbor's water fountain. Breathe. Notice. The scent of cool water on dusty sidewalks. The deep prussian blue evening sky. The warm light from the window. The sway of this rocking chair. The slink of that cat. The love and safety in your husband' heart.

There is good in this world. In the land of the living.

10/14/2010

things that are making me happy today

1. Catalog Living - oh how this blog makes me laugh. Such a simple idea, and so funny.

2. My pencils. I am purging my extensive collection of office supplies and only keeping the stuff that makes me super happy. I have a fun batch of pencils - bright colors, fun designs, momentos of various events ("Vote for a Float," "Women's Retreat"), and the remnants of 2 bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils given to me with love.

3. My new notebook. Oh, the shoes! So cute. And chick. It makes me smile every time I open it to check my calendar, write another task on my giant task list, or jot down meeting notes.

4. Our home office. We moved the desks around, got a ginormous Billy Bookcase, and have started to sort, file, organize, and settle in. We still have a lot of work to do, but it is nice to know where my colored pencils and glue sticks are.

5. Working next to MM all day. Its just so much cheerfuller with him around. :) He whistles and sings and laughs at stuff all day long. One time he burst out with, "oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Macarena!" For no reason. Just felt like saying it.

10/01/2010

fake friday fave five - with furniture and food

Lots of goodness this week. Here are five:

1 Our bed got moved! Oh, I am beside myself. I keep going in there just to look at it! We have a ridiculously ginormous bed and an old house with small rooms and plugs and air vents in weird locations, so arranging furniture is tough. When the store delivered the bed, we told them to set it up against the only wall in the bedroom with no windows. Bad idea. It has been a nightmare to get in and out of and to make. Plus, if either of us drops anything on the side squished up against the wall, we have to go spelunking to retrieve it. Lame.

Also, our bedroom closet is too small do accommodate my usual preference of closet shelves instead of dressers. After a bunch of measuring and calculating and research, I decided that we needed to move the bed, and get two small dressers to use as night stands on either side. Solves the awkward bed problem, the nightstand problem (they don't really make nightstands tall enough for our ridiculously ginormous bed), and the closet problem. Yay!

2 Three work from home days! Normally, I like going in to the office to work. Its good to be around the team, etc., But the office set up for this gig is less than ideal. One giant room. No cubicles, so our desks are jammed together ala The Office. ("It is a fitness orb.") And there isn't a separate room for conferences and meetings. Loud. And it's freezing cold! Gah! I hate being cold! Makes me not want to work. Makes me want to curl up with a blanket and a warm cup of cocoa and a book. That's not conducive to productivity.

So, I worked from home three days this week, and got to be comfy and warm and eat snacks and visit with MM, who also worked from home. He was in the office. I was in the dining room. We could meet in the kitchen for lunch and snacks. It was awesome, and I cranked out a lot of work! Offices of the world take note: cold is the opposite of good.

3 Broadway! Last night was the first show of the new series. A guaranteed monthly date with my dear friend with dinner and a show is, as the commercial says, priceless. We had a yummy dinner and a good, newsy, girlie chat. And the show was good! (We've had some profound disappointments before - Starlight Express.) It blessed my socks off to enjoy good food, good art, and good conversation with my good friend.

4 House Church! Our little house church took a hiatus when MM and I got engaged. We're very small, and there's no way MM and I could go every week with only 11 weeks to plan the wedding and honeymoon and find a house and move. (I still get tired, just thinking about it. We rock, man!) Anyway. We started meeting again in September to figure out what we want to do during this next season. This last week we actually got to do a trial run of our new format, and it was good to just be in those rhythms again. I'm really looking forward to this next year of worship and growth and connection.

5 Enchiladas! MM and I made enchiladas this week for dinner. I hadn't made them in a loooong time. (My last house didn't have an oven.) And MM had never made them. We both lurve enchiladas, so this was tasty and awesome, and fun cuz we did it together. Now, our cooking styles are quite different. MM is some kind of top chef - excited, loud, stressed, experimental, and brilliant. His food is art! (He wants to do Italian/Mexican fusion enchiladas next time.) I am Rachel Ray - chill, cheery, and basic. My food tastes good, but it is basically "dump things in a pan and heat it up." (Not that Rachel Ray is "dump things in a pan", but she's always saying, "I'm a cook, not a chef." That's how I feel.) Bottom line: way fun to cook with my husband. Also, yummo!

9/28/2010

tuesdaybook - fluffy, white robe

For today I am

Seeing... My cozy, red couch with its fuzzy, orange blanket. The tree canopy over my street. And boxes (and boxes!) of books.

Its a work from home day - hallelujah! My home is warm and cozy and peaceful. I've got a deadline today, and it is soooo much better to work like a madwoman from the comfort of my home. I am sooooo thankful I have the option to do this.

Hearing... Tea water boiling on the stove, and MM clicking his way through his morning webcomics and blog posts.

He's working from home today too! Yay!

Wearing... Blue and white knit jammies that my Mama gave me for my wedding shower, athletic socks, and my fluffy, white robe.

Tasting... Mmmmm - just poured the tea, and soon there will be steel cut oats with cinamon, and maybe some banana. (I'm out of dried cranberries.)

Creating... Designing my new journal and prepping my new notebook.

I use composition books for my journals. That way they are all the same size and shape. It also gives me a way to customize my journals. I clip/tear photos and phrases from magazines or draw original art and cover the journals with collages. Ann Voskamp buys blank books and continues the art inside, but I need lots of space for lots of words, so I'm happy to just design the outside.

I use store bought journals as my analog productivity tool. Partly b/c I find it to be less cumbersome than electronic tools, and partly because, philosophically, I like to have non-digital elements of my life. I enjoy "bouquets of freshly-sharpened pencils" and beautiful papers and colorful ink. Using a simple month-view calender and written lists allows me to keep my organization system simple, and use items that give me pleasure in the process. Sometime I'll describe my productivity notebook, but for now, I'm happy to be setting up a new one. A gift from a friend!

Working... For the office - writing, writing, writing. And some graphics design. And some formatting. We are delivering a draft of the help system tomorrow! Gah!

For the home - MM and I are going to shelve the CDs and books. This has been a fun project! We are both book lovers and its been cool to merge our libraries. MM has an amazingly varied pallet, and I have genre's of books he's never read before. I love getting to know him and seeing the books that have shaped some of his worldview. It's also fun to think that all these cool books are in my library now! :)

Pondering... Some of the insights, breakthroughs, epiphanies, and "aha! moments" of late. I'm going through powerful shifts as I continue to heal, and its hard to keep up with it all. I'm an internal processor and need to take time to assimilate all my experiences (hence notebooks, journals, blogs, etc.) In between writing, designing, formatting, and book-shelving, I hope to grab snatches of time to process.

Remembering... How last year, at this time, I was getting ready to go to Greece! What a great adventure! I can't wait to travel again. It will be a few years before we can afford to go. Every other year, MM has a conference in Wisconsin, so our trips abroad will need to alternate with that. We are thinking Ireland for 2012!

Planning... For today - dinner. Wraps & chips - something light before tango lessons. For the future - loose plans for the fall/holiday season.

Thankful for... The opportunity to work from home instead of having to get all dressed up and sit in a freezing office at an uncomfortable desk. The gentle caffine stylings of black tea. My rockstar husband who loves me so well. My Cornish Hill mug, that reminds me of an old, beloved boss. The sunshine falling on the leaves outside my window and streaming through the blinds into the kitchen. A new day to work, create, heal, and grow.

9/25/2010

saturday morning: don't worry, about a thing...

I sip rich, Sumatran coffee from my wicker rocking chair on the front porch. A soft, warm breeze carries the scent of freshly mowed lawns and hearty Saturday Morning breakfasts. Leaves with the first tinges of fall color flutter a bit as squirrels chase each other for love and nuts in the branches of the maple tree in our front yard. An elegant, middle-aged African American couple strolls by, holding hands, and smiling into each others eyes. They greet the folks they pass with the same smiles, sharing their contented happiness with the neighborhood.

Little Max chatters and hollers and sings goofy songs next door. I have a soft spot for Little Max. He's five, and ill-used by his older siblings, always crying over something or another. Singing or crying, and oh so cute with his little British accent. Today, he and I chat while he walks the outside of their porch railing. A raised bungalow porch is quite a high place for a little boy to fall down from, and I tell him to be careful, because I would be very sad if he fell and got smashed. He laughs off my concerns as he slides down the side of his house from the banister. He puts on a brave face, but does stop singing his "Dad's ukulele song" and goes inside with a frown saying, "I only get a little dirt. And it hurts my hands."

I love Max. I hope he spends more of today singing than crying. It is hard to be the youngest.

Inside I hear the clatter of dishes as my husband washes up from last evening's guests. Wine and appetizers and five hours of lively conversation with folks we haven't really seen in months.

Our new Pandora station provides sweet soul and reggae groove accompaniment to the dish washing. And out here with me, actual birds chatter and squawk along with Three Little Birds.

In this medley of kids playing, dogs barking, reggae grooving, birds chattering, neighbors singing, leaves rustling... I sip and rock and breathe and drink deeply of this moment.

Ah - MM is calling me to our own hearty breakfast.

I am filled with thankfulness.

9/24/2010

FFF: rockin' in the dance hall, groovin' with you

I've seen several blogs participate with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story's "Friday Fave Five" meme. I don't want to mess with joining the Mr. Linky crowd, but I do like having a regular way to recount the good things that I have experienced in a week. Here's some for this week

1 My pretty blue henley. It is light and soft and the blue is at once cheerful and soothing. I can't think of a descriptor other than a bright, Swedish blue, if that means anything to you. MM really likes the little buttons down the front. Ahem. ;)

2 We had friends over for a spontaneous get together on Sunday. My man and his buddy P went out to the back yard to practice sword drills, while L and I sorted through my gobs and gobs of old fabric. LP played with toys. Afer the sorting, playing, and practicing, we all had pasta and salad and a tasty wine. Well, except for LP. She had some noodles and milk. We rigged up a Big Girl chair for her by seating her on a giant book housing the collected works of William Shakespeare. Higher learning. All in all it was just a fun, surprise chance to hang out with folks we love.

3 Snuggling with MM! nuf said. :)

4 Dancing with MM in the kitchen. I shared this song with him, and we had fun dancing and singing along. And it is good to have another way to say, "I love you. I love you. I love you." Previously we were using Buddy's song to Walter, complete with the "That was wierd." followup. :) 

5 Working from home the last two days. I enjoy dressing for work and going in to the office about 2-3 days a week. Then I want to hunker down at home and do loads of laundry while I work on my writing. My home office is warm and quiet and cheerful. I have a refrigerator with healthy food. And its just peaceful here. Plus I can wear sweats!

9/21/2010

tango tuesdaybook: workin' 9-5

Seeing... Ugly office furniture and a hazy sky and rooftops through the broken blinds in this fourth story office.

I'm on a short project, and our set up is one giant room with no cubes, but desks shoved up against each other ala The Office. These people actually get work done though, so there will be no Office Olympics with Flonkenschtein. Bummer. I was so ready to bring home the yogurt lid.

Hearing... The tippy tap of fingers on keys. And the soft whir of computer fans.

Usually a guy in the neighboring office plays a weird blend of classic rock and elevator music, but he's out today. I personally have "Our Love Is Here To Stay".

Wearing... Officy clothes. Two things of note: my swirly skirt from my trip to Greece and a cream scarf.

Tonight is our Argentine Tango class. It really changes the movement, etc. to wear high heels and a skirt. Plus, its fun to wear something twirly now and then. And the scarf is to keep me warm in this freezing office! Yeesh! Plus it adds to the romance of my twirly skirt.

Tasting... Steel-cut oatmeal with coconut oil, vanilla, cinamon, and dried cranberries. Yum!

Creating... No official creating today. Today is about productivity and fundamentals.

Working... Topics for a help system.

Pondering... Balance. Rhythm. Values. Priorities. What do we do with "our one wild and precious life?"

Remembering... The lovely, romantic, deliciously autumnal weekend with My Man.

We got to socialize with people a little, which was a blast, but most of the weekend we just hung out with each other. Went on a few driving adventures on Saturday, and spent Sunday sipping coffee, and puttering around the house. Mostly we just held hands and smooched and enjoyed the gorgeous days.

Planning... Our fall/holiday schedule is filling up. I'm trying to balance activity with stillness, and people-time with alone-time. Not easy.

Thankful for... My Man of course - his strength and love carried us this last year. What a doozy! We met, bonded, and married in a little over 13 months. Oy vey!

8/25/2010

a day at the beach

Last week my Okole Po'o G and I went to the beach. On a Thursday. Because we could. (Both of us waiting for our new jobs to start.) And it was just like old times.

We've been going to the beaches together for over 20 years. We love the ocean, but have a special place in our hearts for lakes. We grew up in a smallish town near several beautiful lakes. One in particular served as our home base for many hot summers.

Her parents owned a sail boat, so she grew up on the water and at the marina. My family would spend many summer days at the other beach, from sunrise to sunset (breakfast on a grill is divine!), not leaving til the park rangers finally closed things up.

When we met in high school we would go to the lake our friends for a day of baking in the hot valley sun. Now and then we'd swim out to "the Green Thing" or to the ropes, but mostly we just laid in the sun and read and napped and watched lifeguards. The fragrance of Coppertone sunscreen (for me) and coco butter tanning oil (for her) would mingle with the scent of barbecues and the snack bar fryer to create this intoxicating aroma that just said SUMMER to me.

As we transitioned from high school to the local community college, our adventures broadened. We go sailing with her folks. We tried sailboarding a few times, but didn't manage to do much other than write a goofy song. We camped at one of the lake campgrounds. We kept "beach bags" in our car with all our supplies, so that we could head to the lake at a moments notice. And one year we got jobs in the marina store and the snack bar.

That was a great summer! In the morning we would drive her little baby blue Kharmann Gia the long, twisty road to the lake, singing along with the oldies station. We'd work and oggle the sailors or lifeguards. At lunch we'd lounge and swim. At the end of the day, we'd drive the twisty road all the way out to the community college theater where we were both doing summerstock. We'd stay up way too late running lines, sewing costumes, building sets, and setting up sound and lights -- geeking out with our dorky theater friends. We'd finish most days up at a Denny's. Moons over my Hammy, baby!

The whole summer was a blur of sunscreen and Shakespeare and friendship. That great feeling of weightlessness before the trials of adulthood descended. The closest I ever came to the surf lifestyle.

So last week, it felt perfect to lay next to my friend on a blanket in the sun. Credence played on the little radio. We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and tanning oil. We ate chips and talked about boys. We took naps and read, the scent of barbecue wafting over us...

I could feel the ghosts of summers past, in that lovely afternoon with my friend. Perfect.

8/17/2010

tuesdaybook - front porch (redux, part 2, again)

Seeing... Sunlight through the maple leaves; sunny yellow blossoms on the potted plant on my porch; and the tiniest tinge of pink in the blossoms of my green hydrangeas; a delicious blue summer sky

Hearing... The clatter of dishes as my neighbors enjoy breakfast, chatting with their smart English accents; a distant lawn mower; the twitter of tiny birds in the palm trees next door

Wearing... old jeans and my favorite red sweatshirt (a theme for these days)

Tasting... delicious ceylon tea from our beloved tea shop that is no more :(

Creating... fun pillowcases for my man and maybe some for me too

Working... on getting my name changed - today, get the authorized copy of the marriage certificate - tomorrow, a day of big fun at the social security office - Thursday, another day of happy fun times at the DMV - Friday (hopefully), fill out paperwork for my new job, and change my name with all insurance agencies...

Pondering... the deep healing that needs to occur in my soul, the progress made so far, and what I can do to facilitate it all; what rhythms MM and I need to develop, so that we can do the things that are important to us (make music, write stories, fence/dance/adventure, learn Italian, cook our way through cultures of the world...); how we (all of us) must slow down, create solitude/silence, and listen in order to number our days aright...

Remembering... My husband's goodbye kiss this morning as he left for the office

Planning... a visit to the ocean this weekend - the last of the summer

Thankful for... the fragrance of morning sun on the damp, cool earth; that the workers who I thought would be here all day, left after 15 minutes; that the paperwork we need to get our marriage certificate finally arrived; that I have been blessed with the time and space to just enjoy a cool summer morning on my front porch

8/16/2010

summer list - unofficial deliciousness

Though I haven't an official, documented Summer List this year, MM and I have, nevertheless, been trying to make the most of this month off at the tail end of summer. We aren't working on the house. We aren't making lists of things to buy and do. We aren't doing any more than the bare necessity of bookkeeping. We are, however:

- watching LOST from the beginning

- grilling dinner at least once a week on our little tailgate bbq

- sipping as much limeaid as possible

- slurping popsicles on the front porch

- gazing at the crackling blaze in the firepit

Last weekend we bought an inflatable raft and spent a lazy afternoon floating on a pond. This weekend we pitched a tent and camped in our back yard. So fun!

We cooked on the grill and the camp stove. MM had his first bite of a real S'more. (He remains unimpressed.) We spent long, slow days reading comics and making googly eyes at each other from our camp chairs. In the evenings we sipped whiskey by the fire. And after the last log turned to embers, we snuggled up together under the stars, breathing in the scent of pine trees and listening to the frog chorus sing us to sleep.

Simple summer goodness with my man.

8/10/2010

tuesdaybook - front porch

Seeing... Leaves, leaves, leaves - and yard grass that's returning to green now that we are giving it some TLC - and squirrels chasing each other violently up and down tree trunks - It is a beautiful, blue-sky summer day!

Hearing... The squawk and twitter of jays and finches and other nameless birds - a dog barking down the street - the long, low, far-off whistle of a train - the wind through all the leaves, leaves, leaves

Wearing... old jeans and my favorite red sweatshirt

Tasting... cinnamon raisin toast smothered in real butter

Creating... space inside my soul to think and feel and dream again

Working... on resting - my job, this morning, is to sit on the front porch

Pondering... nothing much today - this is a day for meandering, whispy thoughts, not deep ones

Remembering... that my soul needs front porches and cinnamon toast and leaves, leaves, leaves...

Planning... a few trips with my One True Love

Thankful for... a whole month of mornings like this - and the Dear Husband who gave them to me

and now we are two

Dear Reader,

I am married. Yay!

And it is grand. To be with my One True Love. All the time. Forever.

Happy are we in our little house with the big yard. Outside, I water the front lawn and he waters the back. We meet at the gate to exchange kisses and "I love yous." In the laundry room, he irons the dress shirts while I fold the towels. In the kitchen, he does the dishes while I make the lunches. I sweep the floor and he sorts the recycling. (Recycling is very important.) At table, he serves the Bread and I serve the Wine....

And everywhere and all the time we pray and talktalktalktalktalk and hold hands and kiss and dance laugh ourselves silly. My husband (!) makes me laugh so hard I snort.

It is good to be married.

7/08/2010

a summer list - joy

Well, dear readers, MM proposed (so beautifully) on May 8th, and we are to be married July 24th.

Just take that in.

Yes, eleven weeks. Eleven weeks to plan and prepare for a wedding, find and move into our first home, and finish work projects.

MM and I are a team, so we are both in this together. This is definitely not the Bridezilla scenario where the woman does everything and ends up raging at everyone. But still. All of this is pretty stressful. And I'm already in counseling. For stress. Ha!

We've been intentional about staying joyous and connected and in love during all this activity, and for the most part, I think we've done alright. God has been so good to us! Stuff has just come together perfectly in all areas. And we have a wonderful community of friends and family praying for us, encouraging us, and helping us. We found a house on Wednesday, applied on Thursday, got approved on Monday, and somehow got 18 people to help us move our things on Saturday.(1) And we've been disciplined about taking time out from all the tasks and to do lists and work to play and just be together. We went hiking in Muir woods, attended a ballgame, celebrated Independence day, and made time for naps when we needed them.

We are very much in love and remain connected, but I will confess that the stress has stolen some of my joy. I have not enjoyed this season of engagement as much as I could have. For lots of reasons. And, sadly, I think that my lack of joy and increased stress has prevented MM from enjoying this time too. It is hard for him to hear me constantly freaking out about how there is "so much to do!"

And I cry a lot.

And that's hard on him too. He loves me, and it hurts him when I cry. And I mean, I cry a LOT. Just this morning I cried three times before work.

He'd come over to have breakfast and iron a shirt before heading to the office, and by 8:30 we're standing on the porch with him stressed because he has to leave and I'm crying. He can't stay, and he's worried about leaving me home crying with no one to comfort me.

I feel terrible about burdening him like that. My sweet man, who just wanted to iron his shirt, for goodness sake!

But at the same time, I can't help it. I am stressed. There is a lot to do. This is a crazy, intense season, which for us is compacted into eleven weeks and coincides with a huge (terrible) work project for me and a bunch of work deadlines for him. Its. Just Nuts.

Every spring I make a "summer list" of things I want to experience in the summer. Stuff like, "float down a lazy river in an innertube" or "eat a corndog at a county fair" or "go star gazing in the country." The list helps remind me to remember to experience summer with all my senses. To take time out of the rush of life to soak in some Abundant Life.

This year I was so busy with the rush of life that I didn't even make a list.

Tomorrow is the last day of my work project. Then I have two weeks to just settle into the house and finish the wedding preparations. And be fully present to joy.

But I need to start now. Because with all the stress and the crying I do, I really, truly have had joy. I thought that I would live out my days alone, but God did the impossible and brought me to the perfect man for me. And these few weeks of planning our wedding and our home and our new life together have been beautiful. I am thankful.

I am thankful that God gave me a man who is so good to me. Who is so kind and gentle and loving. Who cares deeply when I cry and longs to give me comfort and rest. Who will shoulder my burdens without a thought yet struggles mightily with sharing his with me, because he knows I'm handling a lot right now. But does, because he longs for us to be connected in all things, not just the happy ones.

A man who washes the dishes and goes to the grocery store and cooks dinner. A man who brings me green roses and funny "disco" lighters. A man who sits down at the table to write actual notes in the endless piles of thank you cards - wearing a superhero mask. A man who touches my freshly washed face and tells me I look beautiful without makeup.

I am thankful for this wonderful man. And I am thankful for these days. Days I thought would never come. Days of love and growth and new life with a handsome man who inspires me, makes me laugh, and rocks my world.

So, I will eventually write my usual summer list. But first. For the next few days, I'm going to recap the last two months in a list of joys. Moments and events that show the beauty of this busy time.

* the look in MMs eyes when he proposed

* the beautiful words he used that I only half heard because I immediately freaked out when I saw him get down on one knee

* the way he hugged me and said, "ok, sweetie, you have to say yes first, and then you can cry."

* Victoria's (a lady at the next table) joy at our news, her gushing and hugs, and gift of champagne!

* the tenderness MM poured out on me after I drank too much of that champagne while we called everyone we knew while sitting in the hot sun - he was so loving and kind to me in my miserable state and made the whole evening sweet and snuggly and shushed my embarrassment with words of grace

* the overwhelming rush of good wishes and congratulations from loved ones, colleagues, even strangers - their joy in our happiness made us feel so special

And this was only the first day. I will add to the list as time allows these next few weeks.

(1) Something to note. MM and I are going the traditional route. No living together - or sex - til we're married. So in the midst of all the other stuff, we've been fighting the good fight to hold out til our wedding night. So far, so good! But that has added another layer of stress to all this. Lets just say we are very much looking forward to our honeymoon. Whoa Nelly!

5/04/2010

hello again! tuesdaybook

It's been awhile! So much has been going on. I have a few half-written posts to put up soon, but am on a deadline at work, so those will have to wait. But I at least want to share something while you wait. For today I am

Seeing... Sunshine! It is gloriously sunny today. Windy, but bright and cheerful. It's pouring through my window and easing its way across my wood floors. Looks like honey.

Hearing... Just above the traffic noises, my neighbor chat with a landscaper about changes he wants to make in his yard.

Wearing... My sparkly flip flops! These babies are covered in crystals and make me so happy. Last Friday I got some very much-needed Girl Time with my bff. We got our first pedicures of the year. A pedicure deserves sparkly flip flops! Yay for being Girls!

Tasting... Coffee. Sigh. I'm trying to stick with coffee and sodas only on weekends, but the last couple days I've just needed an extra kick in the head to wake up. One thing I will do today is have green tea this afternoon instead of the off-limits stuff. I'll get back on the horse. I promise!

Creating... Hmmm... I haven't really created "stuff" for a while now, because MM and I are busy creating US! We have been using up lots of energy getting to know each other and bonding. Neither of us has had the energy to do the stuff we usually do. He's only been able to noodle on the guitar. I haven't done any art or crafting. We haven't been able to write much. Or read deep, intense stuff like we usually do.

But its worth it! So far, US is very beautiful. :) And we will blend in those other creative pursuits soon. This is an amazing season of growth and life that we never thought we'd get to have. Yay for US!

Working... Blerg! Spreadsheets and technical writing. Did I already say blerg? Sigh. I am happy to have a job. I am thankful that I have skills and a place to use them. I'd just rather use my energy on other things. Alas - this is where I am right now.

Pondering... The theme God has given me - still, even though Lent long over - is Trust. Learning to relax and rest. To be at peace instead of anticipating disaster. To choose love instead of fear. To believe that I am safe & that God has got it all under control. That all the things that worry me or stress me out will all come out in the wash, and that I can focus my mind on other things. I am pondering these truths. Trust.

And I am continually amazed at how wonderful MM is to me as I learn to be at peace and to trust. He is strong and kind and loving and so understanding about this healing process I am in. I'm very thankful that he is by my side and in this with me. He is teaching me so much! So I'm also pondering how cool it is that we learn these deep things in relationship. One of the mysteries.

Remembering... "It is such a folly to pass one's time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus." ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

Planning... Some more girl time later this week. And trying to rearrange some activities this month to fit in some unexpected events. Our calendar is packed tight through May, so we must be delicate in how we move things around. It is an art and a science.

Thankful for... Beautiful spring days that lift my spirits. The healing that is happening inside me. The ways that MM and I are connecting and growing together. That we are starting to dream and plan for the next season of our lives together. (!) Grace. Love.

3/10/2010

no less, no more

My theme of solitude/silence popped up in our Lenten devotional this week. After a retelling of Jesus' choice to remain silent in the face of his accusers during the trial before Caiaphas, the author closes with this prayer:

Jesus, I follow you. Whenever discipleship puts me in peril, give me the gift of a holy silence--to speak the truth, no less, no more. Amen

The scene shows the power of a holy silence. The high priest and the Sanhedrin spit and hiss and fume, hurling insults and accusations. Jesus just sits quietly until he needs to speak truth, does so, and then sits quietly again as they continue to spew fear and rage.

One could say that Jesus just took it because he knew it would all come out ok in the wash, that three days later he would rise from the dead and do the big post-resurrection "Neener Neener" dance, so why bother.

I still think that facing slander and false accusations (that will lead to your painful(!) execution) in silence requires a TON of trust that God will take care of you. I'm still mulling over these ideas. And this quote:

If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

I think, at this point in my life islence would definitely not be my first response. I would kick, scream, vomit, flail - do anything - to avoid execution. I have a hard enough time remaining silent in far less dangerous situations. Still working on trust.

And the ending, "no less, no more" makes me think of the musings in this post. I want to learn to speak the truth when it needs to be said. To not let fear or pride get in the way. I have a long way to go.

***
Reliving the Passion provides a vivid and moving walk through Jesus' last days from Mark's gospel.

3/09/2010

tuesdaybook

I've got some ideas swirling around, but nothing's landed into a real post, so I'll do the daybook thing again. For today I am:

Seeing... bright sunshine in the morning and dark clouds in the afternoon thanks to the changeable weather of March.

Hearing... the ticking of my clock, the muffled noise of a neighbor's television, and some squawking bird in the tree behind my building.

Wearing... a pale yellow sweater that my girlfriends gave me. We all got together to have our photo taken and wore different colored versions of the same sweater with black pants. This sweater makes me think of that day and those girlfriends and the gift of long friendships.

Tasting... almond black tea. I'm slowly going back to The Oatmeal Plan. One of its health disciplines is to have coffee only on the weekends, and to have tea during the week. I love coffee, but it isn't good for me. I love tea, and it is actually beneficial. No brainer. This way, coffee is a treat to be savored. My life needs more savoring.

Creating... a couple of gifts for people I love.

Working... on my job search still. I did get a call about a promising opportunity, but I still need to plug away at the looking. Things are pretty dry still.

Pondering... how MM and I might use the budget we drafted as a tool for prayer. (If we come up with something, this may turn into a post of its own.)

Remembering... how lovely it was to walk along nature trails with MM this weekend. A dream come true to walk amidst natural beauty with my True Love. The entire event left me refreshed and happy, but it was particularly cool to walk within 10 feet of three does! They stared at us and sniffed but did not run away. Wow!

Planning... a few bits of fun for MM's upcoming birthday :D and some get togethers with girlfriends - cocktails to celebrate a milestone, monthly theater night to see Chicago, a coffee/dessert date, and an annual ice skating trip with one of the sweater girls.

Thankful for... an extra evening with MM to snuggle and pray and talk and laugh and rest. We need it!

3/04/2010

daily bread

Last night MM and I canceled our normal Wednesday night plans (host a couple folks for dinner and then go to house church) and just rested. We rubbed each others sore shoulders and watched some episodes from season one of Flight of the Conchords. It was good to laugh and rest together. We needed it!

We are tired. The intensity of the last month or so has left us feeling a bit pummeled. On top of our regular life stuff (jobs/job search, social connections, events, housekeeping, etc.) we are going through the wonderful, laborious, joyful, scary, delightful, exciting, and sometimes painful work of knitting our souls together. This relationship is a gift. An absolute blessing of goodness. And we want to do it right.

We are both intense people. Leaders. Planners. Action takers. We plunge into things head first and work mightily. And this is no different. Instead of one pre-engagement book, we have three! And it is not uncommon for us to spend an hour or more on just one question.

This month's chapters and questions were about money, and one of our exercises was to not just talk about spending, but actually create a budget. This is a great exercise, because it allows us to see how we are spending our money and how that reflects the condition of our hearts. "Where your treasure is, there your heart is also." Our current spending habits and our proposed budget categories paint a picture of our values, priorities, and dreams. And a sound budget is a game plan for making dreams a reality.

So we've been talking and dreaming and planning and creating spreadsheets and idea lists. With all the question answering and bonding and dreaming and planning and strategizing, its easy to get stressed out and turn our days and weeks into task lists. But while that is an excellent way to manage projects with deadlines and project plans and such, we don't want this to be a "project."

This is a Love Story.

We need this to be about joy and delight and adventure and surprises and fun and romance. Somehow while dreaming about the future, and strategizing about how to get from here to there, we need to live fully and abundantly in the present. We need time to just sit and stare at each other and touch each others faces. We need time to drive around listening to music and sharing stories from our childhoods. We need to hold hands over a cafe table and grin at each other. We need to play and do things that nurture our souls and fill them up. We need to laugh and create and breathe deeply of Goodness.

Yes, it is good to work. It is good to plan. And it is very, very good to dream! But it is also good to simply give thanks and eat our daily bread. We are alive and together and in love - today. We are in this moment. We need to hear, see, taste, smell, touch, and feel the goodness of this moment.

So, we created some space in our schedules. Empty time. To rest and play and just be. To loaf. To drink in these days of love. To eat simple, daily bread and give thanks.

3/01/2010

mondaybook

My heart is full today after last week's intense soul work and a weekend of more soul work and lots of play. So I am going to do my own version of the Simple Woman's Daybook.

For today I am

Seeing...
Light pink carnations on the credenza in front of the window all sweet and ruffly in the morning light, still blooming strong from one of the bouquets my sweet Valentine gave me two weeks ago.

Hearing...
The whir of my old laptop getting its morning virus scan and the gurgle of Goldie the radiator in the corner.

Wearing...
My "Its all fun and games until the flying monkeys attack" T-shirt. :)

Tasting...
Right now, Pete's coffee, black.

And later, Chinese food left over from last nights Sabbath dinner. I ordered takeout from our new favorite restaurant and served it on a set of Asian plates that my best friend gave me for my first Christmas in my little studio. A set of two, "for you and a boy." Seven months later I met The Boy, and every time I use these dishes I think of the hope included in that gift, that my heart would find someone to love. Thanks, Ninja, for hoping on my behalf! I can't imagine using those plates with anyone more wonderful.

Creating...
A muslin shopping bag, embroidered with something fun. I gave these as Christmas gifts two Christmases ago and have some leftover fabric. They are easy to make and practical and personalized.

Working...
On more job search stuff. Putting together a portfolio and updating my online networking profiles.

Pondering...
How best to use my time and energy this week and month. MM and I are busy bonding and integrating our communities and thinking and dreaming about the future (!), so I have lots of ideas swirling in my head. I want to make sure to maintain balance, though, and not get overwhelmed or swept away by a million details and activities. Thinking a lot about how to dream dreams about the future, and plan strategies for getting from here to there, but still remain fully (and abundantly!) in the present moment. (This may spawn another post...)

Remembering...
My sweet Mommy's smile this weekend when we visited her for her 82nd birthday.

Planning...
A couple of birthday events for MM. The Big Lebowski Bowl and a Snowshoe trip.

Thankful for...
The abundance of relationships in my (and MM's) life. We spent Friday through Sunday afternoon ensconced in love from multiple people.

And for Baby Laptop, which allows me to write this while sitting on my sofa in a pool of morning sunshine.

MM - who loves me.

2/25/2010

when it needs to be said

Have been chewing on this quote from Celebration of Discipline for a while now:

Control rather than no noise is the key to silence... Under the discipline of silence and solitude we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. The disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done...A person who is under the discipline of silence is a person who can say what needs to be said when it needs to be said. (Prov 25:11) If we are silent when we should speak we are not living in the discipline of silence. If we speak when we should be silent, we again miss the mark.

Oh this is hard for me. So hard!

I hate confrontation and conflict. Hate it. I am always afraid to share my thoughts, feelings, etc. with loved ones. I am afraid that what I say will make them so mad or hurt them so badly that the relationship is destroyed. To preserve the relationship and keep the "peace," I hold things in. Things that should be said.

Like most folks, this comes from a childhood lived in dysfunction. Things that should have been brought out into the open, discussed, resolved were not addressed. If person A was upset with person B he/she would never talk to him/her directly, but would instead stew in sullen silence, or talk with person(s) C, D, E, J, R, etc. Other things were completely ignored with none of the persons talking about it to anyone, even though everyone was scared/worried/hurt/frustrated/angry about the issue.

I still do this. I fret and worry and stress about things that scare me or upset me, but don't say anything about them. Even when a loved one - a safe person - asks me what is wrong, I will sometimes freak out and not share what is going on inside me.

Silence when I should speak.

I am also fairly creative and a good problem solver, and an encourager. So there are other situations when I talk too much. A friend might be hurting or struggling in an area and I have "50 Sure-fire Perfect Solutions" or a "Simple Five Step Plan for Making Life Awesome," and instead of just listening as he/she wrestles verbally with the issue, I launch into advising and counseling and problem solving, oftentimes unbidden.

This seems to be just a part of my personality. I don't mean any harm, and don't mean to puff myself up. I'm just excited and like solving problems. Exhortation, baby! But whether I mean to be arrogant or not, it is presumptuous to solve peoples problems for them and to tell them all about what they must do - especially when they didn't ask for my help! Its a form of control, really. And its not my job.

Speaking when I should be silent.

Wading through this is difficult and painful and scary. I've been working on this for years, trying to figure out when to speak and when to just-shut-the-hell-up-already. And I think I still get it wrong most of the time.

Being with MM has really helped me with the first part. He genuinely wants me to tell him when something has scared or upset me. He doesn't want anything to ever be an unspoken barrier between us. He welcomes tough conversations as a way to grow closer and more loving. He is kind and loving and patient and gentle as I learn how to do this. I am thankful for his goodness to me.

And the practice of solitude and silence is helping with the second. When my mind starts racing with "solutions" to a friends "problem" I am learning to keep that to myself and just listen. My desire is that if I offer anything at all, its sympathy and affirmation. To offer true encouragement instead of unsolicited advice. I don't always get this right, but I'm trying.

2/22/2010

the communion of saints

In this season of my life, my weekly church experience is small and simple. No buildings, worship bands, Sunday school classes, children's programs, etc. Just me and MM and some friends endeavoring to read, contemplate, pray, both alone and together, and coming together to share how the whole following Jesus thing is going.

Part of our weekly experience involves communion. MM and I actually celebrate communion twice. We have our own time on Sunday or Monday night, and then we celebrate again on Wednesdays with our friends. We do so simply, crackers or bread and wine or juice. A few simple words and a time of prayer. No fancy music or sermons. Just good friends passing a bit of bread or a cup and reminding each other, "...broken for you... shed for you..."

Celebrating communion with such intimacy speaks to me about what it means to follow Jesus in community. We don't just sit in the same section of pews once a week. We are connected to each other. We know each others stuff. Weaknesses, fears, hopes, successes, failures, frailties, and joys are in plain sight, and getting plainer the more we interact like this.

Large group settings do not offer the same opportunity to "bear one another's burdens." To extend grace and mercy to one another. To even "one another" at all. That verse telling us to "first be reconciled to your brother..." (Matt. 5:23-24) doesn't really hold the same meaning in a gathering of 400+ people as it does in a gathering of four. If our fellowship is broken, we will feel it! And, hopefully, make amends. In larger groups, fellowship is often broken, but no amends can be made because the problems go unnoticed.

Celebrating communion with such frequency reminds me how receiving grace is a daily thing. We are - I will just say it bluntly - sinful creatures. We hurt each other and ourselves and "turn each to his own way" daily, and are in constant need of restoration. Remember that you are loved. Forgiven. Restored. Renewed. Again and again, remember. "...for you."

It is good, this communion of saints. I'm glad to be in this place.

2/19/2010

singleness of eye

I want first of all...to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God...

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

2/17/2010

Lenten Blessing

God of times and seasons, you have brought us again to Lent for the study of your word, for the remembrance of the temptation of your son, and for the contemplation of his cross. The birds know their seasons; forbid that we be blind to our times. Grant us a Lenten blessing, and may no one miss this time of growth. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

2/16/2010

spazz alternative

More quotes from Celebration of Discipline:

Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence.

***

When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind. When we repeat the intimate words of God that he has left within us, our silence remains intact.

***


I have a tendency when I am upset (and I am upset a LOT) to come to God crying, spilling out an endless stream of hurts and fears and worries and problems and things that are just messed up and that I need help with. It is a fine way to pray. Simple Prayer, according to Richard Foster in this book. It is the prayer of children, and we need this sort of prayer from time to time.

It is cathartic for me to tumble all my problems out and point and say what it is that hurts or bothers me about each one. It is good for me to go to my Father when I am upset and let him listen to my troubles and comfort me.

But it is also good for me to listen back, and I am not as good at this part.

I say my piece and get my release. My mind is clear and my heart is a bit lighter and I can move on. I do make an effort to listen. To mark down truth or wisdom or any guidance or instructions. Things to remember about whatever I have been worried about.

But I think that practicing solitude is a way for me to really listen. In fact, to listen before I start pouring out my list of troubles. That's the trick for me right now. To spend a bit of time on a regular basis (weekly? daily? not sure yet) just sitting in the whatever - fear, pain, grief... - with God. Feeling and listening but no talking.

Glargh! That is hard for me!

But so beneficial. I think that ultimately more productive work gets done in 10 minutes of me sitting in silence than in me spending hours spazzing out to God about all my stuff. To sit and be present to his goodness and love brings true rest and peace, not just the momentary lightness of "emotionally barfing" on God. To find a few verses that speak of truth and just focus my mind on those things instead of the 793 things that are upsetting me does more to calm and comfort.

2/11/2010

learning to flop

I'm a week or so into this season of pondering solitude. This quote from Celebration of Discipline still resonates with me:

If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

I am practicing trust. To trust that God loves me and will care for me in this season. To trust that he sees everything that is happening in my life. To trust that he has the solutions to the problems I'm facing, and I don't need to figure it all out. To trust that "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

Now, to a certain extent, I've always trusted God. I have always known that "God will take care of me." I have always had hope that "things will get better." But this seems to be at an even deeper level. I am the most vulnerable I have ever been in my adult life right now, so trust means something new. Despite all that "trust" and "hope" and knowledge that "God is good no matter what," I have never truly, deeply been able to relax into that. I have always had to remain alert, ready to spring into action if disaster strikes - and surely it will.

Its like those people who do the trust fall exercises. There are some who can just flop themselves down, completely trusting that others will catch them. But others hold themselves stiff and alert. They do it, because otherwise the camp counselor will yell at them. But they don't reeeeaaaallllly believe that the others will catch them. Or, they have a tiny thought that "they might catch me at first, but they will drop me eventually." If all goes well, the first sort of people think, "of course!" The second thinks, "it was just that one time. Next time I will land on my ass."

I'm that second sort. And I feel like this round of practicing solitude is to show me that this season of my life is in part about learning to truly relax into trust. Relax into hope. Relax into the notion that all is well. That I am loved. That I am safe. That I am cared for. That my needs will be met. My hurts will be healed. My fears will be calmed. To really believe all the verses that I've clung to all these years.

A season of trust falls.

2/04/2010

solitude:take a break

During a particularly stressful season back in our 20s my friend and I used to joke about how we really wanted to enter some kind of treatment facility. "I just want to be somewhere pretty, where they feed me and hand out medicine. And I get to wear my bathrobe all day. And all I have to do is go to "circle time" and do art." A few years ago we discovered that each of us secretly enjoyed The Starting Over House television program, because, though those ladies didn't wear bathrobes all day, they did get to remove themselves from the hectic demands of everyday life and create the space and rest they needed to work through their hurts and issues. We wanted to start over too!

But as much as we longed to go, my friend and I didn't need to be in a facility. We just wanted a break. We work on our hurts and issues in the midst of busy lives filled with work and ministry and relationship and the quotidian tasks of maintaining a home and life. Life continues to make its natural demands on us no matter what work we are doing inside our souls. The toilets must be scrubbed, the laundry must be done, groceries must be bought, the oil must be changed every 3000 miles... We just wanted to have a break from having to think about money and work assignments and "did I remember to buy cat food?" so that our souls could grieve and heal and listen to whatever instruction or comfort God had for the stuff going on inside us.

I think that for me, in this intense season, the discipline of solitude is like that. It is a break. It creates space inside to come rest and breathe deeply and to "sink down into the silence and solitude of God." I need that space. I need moments when my entire job is to breathe and know that God is love. Don't worry. Don't try to solve all the problems. Be gentle. Don't try to "get better" or "snap out of it." Don't try to escape or control the situation. Be still. Be patient. Just breathe.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ~ Isaiah 30:15


Returning. Rest. Quietness. Trust. Just what the Doctor ordered.

2/02/2010

solitude: trust

A few quotes from Celebration of Discipline:

Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.

* * *

If we posses inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.

* * *

One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying on words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

* * *

I want to experience fulfillment instead of emptiness. To settle into a deep inner silence. To carry a portable sanctuary of the heart - a place of rest and refuge and worship. I need to trust.

This weekend I came across Isaiah 12:2 and have been using it as my own personal shema:

Surely God is my salvation.
I will trust and not be afraid,
For the LORD God is my strength and my might.
He has become my salvation.


This has been a good centering prayer every day. A way to remind myself that I do not need to freak out about all the stuff that is scary or upsetting to me right now.

(Of course, as soon as I say it, I get that Jeremy Camp song stuck in my head. Sigh.)

2/01/2010

Lent 2010: Solitude

This time of year (late January) feel tired and worn thin, "like butter scraped over too much bread." Three months of holidays and celebration have taken their toll and I long for the still, quiet peace of Lent. A time to slow down. Consume less. Pray more. Read. Think. Contemplate. Be still.

Lent is not for another few weeks, but I need this now. The three months of celebration are in the midst of my healing work in therapy and starting a new relationship that we believe is headed toward marriage (!). I am also unemployed, and the stress of making ends meet and conducting a job search during a recession is added to the emotional upheaval and celebratory tiredness.

Last week I really felt like all this adds up to me needing to practice some Solitude. My plan is to read through the various materials I already have (Celebration/Celebrating the Disciplines, Sacred Rhythms, Spiritual Classics, Sabbath, Wilderness Time, etc.) And maybe I will use the Spiritual Formation Bible to focus some of my reading on Solitude. I will take notes "chapbook"-style and post some of them here.

MM and I will do some sort of Lent thing together, but I think this year, instead of giving something up, I will practice Solitude. Yay Lent!