Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saying "Thank you" Saves My Life

 Once again, Sarah Bessey is bringing writers from here, there and everywhere to share our stories. To share the things that are saving us, bringing us hope, and helping us put one foot in front of the other through each and every day.

As I've written before, I confess to being discouraged and disheartened. Truth be told, those words feel small for what I've been experiencing. It would be so easy to let the darkness of those feelings get the best of me. The only thing, and I mean only, that helps me find light in the darkness, the only thing that's saving me right now is gratitude. Pure, simple, deep gratitude for the things of God, as He enters into the mess we've made. Thankfulness for the things that are good. And looking for them. Focusing on them. Watching for them and putting them in front of anything and everything that could, and does, disable me from the inside out.

And so I try to breathe in the air of thankfulness.

I'm thankful for my husband who loves me deeply. I'm thankful that he makes me laugh and laughs with me. Thankful for kisses, for his hard work at his job to provide for his family, and that he thinks I have skills I don't even see. He is my biggest encourager. He gives me freedom to speak my mind - in whatever colorful words I choose - and shares his too. I know that is a gift. I love his heart. I'm thankful that he cuts the grass and makes the bed, that he is okay with my quirks and loves the great outdoors. I'm thankful we enjoy the same kinds of TV shows and for cuddles while we watch them. I'm thankful to work side by side in the garden or around the house with him.  I'm thankful for time with him. When a week has gone by (again) in which our shifts at work have been completely opposite and we haven't seen each other awake in days, I'm especially thankful for time spent. Together. And I'm thankful for us and the gift that he is.

And there's so much more.

I'm thankful for two blonde girls who have entered my life and brought so much with them. They have taken up residence in my heart. I'm thankful to call them family.

I've rediscovered (how did I forget!?) that music is the language of my soul, speaking deep to my soul and for my soul.

Novels, the stories of others, have helped provide the perfect amount of distraction and escape and I'm thankful for those that have taken the time to imagine new worlds, new times and new places for me to live in, even if just for a moment. I love books. I love the pages. I love starting a new book and anticipating all that is to come. I love the race to the end, turning each page and wondering what is around the corner. I even love the end, when a sort of stillness (or is it sadness?) takes over and I'm left wondering what on earth I'll read next.

I'm thankful for hot yoga. Breathe in, breathe out. Stretch. Pushing harder and becoming more than I thought I could. Reaching past my own limitations. Clearing my mind and focusing on the alignment of each pose, trying to make it a little more than the last time I was there. Listening to my body and learning how deeply connected the body, heart and soul truly are. Aching the next day and knowing that I've done something good for my body and my soul.

Can iPhones be good for the soul? Mine is. It's through that little gadget I stay connected to friends and family both near and far, especially when work is what it is, and let me say, I'm thankful for them too.  And it keeps me organized...sort of. Lists upon lists, calendars and apps help me juggle when there's simply too many balls (on fire!?) in the air.

Perhaps a picture truly is worth a thousand words. If that is the case, in the last couple months, I have written novels. My Canon and I have become reacquainted and I'm ridiculously thankful for a creative outlet. We truly are creative beings, in His image, aren't we? Somewhere deep down we long to make something. For me, it's capturing moments in color. It's playing with light and color and composition to honor the beauty that is out there to be found if only one is willing to look.

Oh, and summer. Summer and outside and ice cream and gardens that grow seemingly before our eyes and the bbq (did I mention that my husband is king of the grill?...he makes yummy food and I get break from the kitchen!) and the smell of sunscreen and cold adult drinks on the back deck and flowers and bike rides and coffee (always coffee) and awesome power of thunder and lightening and packing picnics and fresh fruit and veggies and fun with friends and shorts and bathing suits and laughter. Lots of laughter. I freaking love summer. Summer is definitely saving my soul.

And so it's gratitude through which I see every gift, every instance of grace, every hope through which my soul is being saved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Current Read

The Charlemagne Pursuit, Steve Berry

For a few hours a little debate went on (in my head, of course) over whether I should jump right into the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time or if something else in my pile was more where my mind was at. As much as I always love a good look at the good vs. evil battle, I admit that my current state of mind called for guns and intrigue and adrenaline. It called for distraction. Another Cotton Malone international thriller seemed like just the ticket. Nazis, ill-fated submarine voyages, a navy cover up, cryptic journals, the President of the United States, murder, and intrigue. Nothing remotely close to my reality. Yes, just what the doctor ordered. Here we go....

The dark Thing

Meg's eyes ached from the strain of looking and seeing nothing. Then, above the clouds which encircled the mountain, she seemed to see a shadow, a faint thing of darkness so far off that she was scarcely sure she was really seeing it. 
Charles Wallace said, "What's that?"
"That sort of shadow out there," Calvin gestured,"What is it? I don't like it." 
"Watch," Mrs. Whatsit commanded.
 It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow. it was not even as tangible as a cloud. Was it cast by something? Or was it a Thing in itself? 
The sky darkened. The gold left the light and they were surrounded by blue, blue deepening until where there had been nothing but the evening sky there was now a faint pulse of star, and then another and another and another. There were more stars than Meg had ever seen before. 
"The atmosphere is so thin here," Mrs Whatsit said as though in answer to her unasked question, "that it does not obscure our vision as it would at home. Now look. Look straight ahead." 
Meg looked. The dark shadow was still there. It had not lessened or dispersed with the coming of night. And where the shadow was the stars were not visible. 
What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort? 
Meg's hand holding the blossoms slowly dropped and it seemed as though a knife gashed through her lungs. She gasped, but there was no air for her to breathe. Darkness glazed her eyes and mind, but as she started to fall into unconsciousness her head dropped down into the flowers which she was still clutching; and she inhaled the fragrance of their purity her mind and body revived and she sat up again. 
the shadow was still there, dark and dreadful. 
Calvin held her hand strongly in his but she felt neither strength nor reassurance in his touch. Besider her a tremor went through Charles Wallace, but he sat very still. 
He shouldn't be seeing this, Meg thought. This is too much for so little a boy, no matter how different and extraordinary a little boy. 
Calvin turned, rejecting the dark Thing that blotted out the light of the stars. "Make it go away, Mrs. Whatsit, " he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
(A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle, pg 71-72)

I used to think that things like bitterness, anger, selfishness, entitlement and greed were such sad sins. Given an inch, they grab hold of the individual, perhaps even making them think they are a victim, and cloud every bit of who they are. Every perception, every dream, every thought held captive by the sin that so easily ensnares. So you're angry. The focus of your anger doesn't even know so who else does it hurt but you? I thought that those sins were about that person. And I felt sorry for them. Poor sad person caught in sin (aren't we all?!).

The older I get, the more the world around me is teaching me that that isn't the case...at least not the whole story. Bitterness and anger spread like angry, black tar oozing and engulfing all that's in it's path. The dirty fingers of selfishness, entitlement and greed reach and grab everything within reach; choking, strangling and stealing all the life they can. No one is exempt. No one is free. The black Thing reaches, shadows, covers and darkens.

Remember that old kids' movie "Fern Gully?" If you don't, that's fine. Just don't tell me. It's not really that good by today's standards and, well, was a long time ago. Long story short, there's a rainforest and it's full of life. Not so far off the truth. As is the case in rainforests, there's someone trying to cut it down to make a buck. Again, not so far off the truth. Cutting down the forest, kills the life. Still with me? Now here's where it gets a little bit fantasy. Some of the life in the forest is a whole fairy civilization. Anyway, there's a character in the movie called Hexxus. He's an evil spirit (I think) and he/it thrives off of the pollution created by the machines used to cut down the trees. He becomes this dark, black ooze, destroying life and blocking out the sun.

It's that picture of a Hexxus type creature that comes to mind when I think of what such deep seated bitterness can become.

I say this with no condemnation or judgement. There is no pride in me as I think through these things. I have lived it. In some ways, I am still living it. That person that I was angry with? Well, they didn't know I was angry with them, right? It didn't affect them at all. But oh, how it affected me. Deep down in the depths of my soul it changed me. Made me something different. Discoloring my view of the world and my perception of truth. Holding on to the ugliness brought no satisfaction, no joy, only a desire for more anger. And it wasn't limited to me. Those I care about most were painted by it's blackness. It colored their view and their perspective. It was with that realization, the hurt I was causing them, that made me begin the difficult work of forgiveness and letting go. And let me tell you, it is difficult, gut wrenching, painful, a few steps forward and a few steps backward kind of work.

But let me tell you this, light is in the work. Truth is there.

I live on the other side too, where the mire of someone else's bitterness and, heaven forbid, hatred not only keeps them from moving forward but the rest of us too. We are all held back, bound, by the reaching arms of unforgiveness. And it hurts. The pain is far deeper than the painful work of letting go.

Light can be there too. 

Again they focused their eyes on the crystal ball. The earth with its fearful covering of dark shadow swam out of view and they moved rapidly through the Milky Way. And there was the Thing again. 
"Watch!" the Medium told them. 
The Darkness seemed to seethe and writhe. Was this meant to comfort them? 
Suddenly there was a great burst of light through the Darkness. The light spread out and where it touched the Darkness the Darkness disappeared. The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure. Then, slowly, the shining dwindled until it, too, was gone, and there was nothing but stars and starlight. No shadows. No fear. Only the stars and the clear darkness of space, quite different from the fearful darkness of the Thing. 
"You see!" the Medium cried, smiling happily. "It can be overcome! It is being overcome all the time!"
(Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle, pg 91-92)

It can be overcome. The darkness, the ooze of bitterness, the ugliness of hatred and unforgiveness can all be overcome. There can be light and freedom and hope and joy again for all.

Photo from http://draco6767.deviantart.com/art/Hexxus-from-FernGully-140499382

Monday, July 23, 2012

Current Read

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

While it seems like everyone is all caught up in the hype of the Fifty Shades of Grey crap (read here for a blunt review...as long as you don't get weirded out by "language"), I plowed through what's supposed to be a fantasy classic instead. It was a quick read, a fun read, a good for the heart read. I love the battle between darkness and light and using the weak, the small, to defeat the powerful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm not a morning person by nature. If I could, I would stay up late and sleep in.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn't work that way.

Fortunately, my body adapts.

I'm now much more able to get up at 4 to go to work early and, as long as I have a quick shower, function quite normally. Weird, I know. My normal schedule, if someone working on call can ever have a normal schedule, has me up early and to bed early. It's taken discipline but the internal rhythms of my body have shifted to adjust to the necessities of work and play, so much so, that sleeping in on the weekend is difficult.

Here's the catch. This week my work schedule switched. Instead of early mornings and evenings to share with my family, I'm working nights.

I don't like it.

My body doesn't like it.

My heart doesn't like it.

Oh, to be reminded that I am such a creature of habit, grasping at any bit of routine I can in this crazy life. Cherishing evenings in the back yard with my husband. And sleep. I already miss sleep. I worked till 11 last night. There's unwind time when I get home (much to the chagrin of my poor husband who had to be up at 4:30!). At 6:45 this morning, the road crew was working in our back alley. The world around me wakes up regardless of whether I am ready for it and off we go again. I'm not good at relaxing in the morning - I feel like if everyone else is at work, I should be accomplishing something too. Never mind that when I'm at work, the rest of the world will be relaxing. My bad.

The view last night as I was leaving work.
I think if I did it on a regular basis, I would adjust, we would adjust but I can't help but wonder if long term it would be healthy for my body or our marriage. In the meantime, I know it's only a few weeks. There will be some morning shifts scattered in there. We'll make it. I'll enjoy morning coffee without the rush and hustle. I'll enjoy quiet mornings at my house by myself. I might get some things (read dishes, laundry and errands...ug) done. I'll go to yoga. And then I'll go to work. And I'll try to be quiet when I get home tonight so my poor husband can get some sleep.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Current Read

Venetian Betrayal, Steve Berry

Another Cotton Malone adventure to enjoy in the summer sun. I'm starting to work on the earlier ones that I've missed, filling in the blanks. It's fun.
Sometimes it's hard to see God. Sometimes it's easy to lose faith. Not belief. I know God exists. I know God is real. But sometimes life seems to hurt and keep on hurting in an ulcer inducing way; not the big world hunger, earthquakes killed thousands and war devastates sort of way but in the up close and personal sort of way. When you feel a bit like you're drowning and safety doesn't seem within reach. When all you want to do is stay in bed. When you wish those who's actions help create the chaos would JUST. GO. AWAY. When every angle of life seems a bit off kilter. When a little cabin in the woods seems like the only way to find any peace. When it feels like life is just a long string of those moments. It's then that it's hard to see God and even harder to believe that He would act, even though I know He can.

And that's when memories can serve us well. Memories of when He has acted in very real and clear ways. I hold onto those, knowing that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. That just because I can't see Him, doesn't mean He's not there. Choosing to be thankful instead of hovering in hurt. 

Thankful for our home and our backyard oasis. Time spent there with family and friends is a gift.
Thankful for small things...

...and for big things.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Current Read

Fire, Kristin Cashore

Diving in to another world of fantasy, politics, war, royal families, treachery and magic. Oh, and a strong, if not slightly tortured, heroine.

The truth is, sometimes these worlds of fantasy and fiction are the most perfect summer escape from the things of the real world.

How does our garden grow...

One of the small joys in my summer (so far!) has been our back yard. I've joked often that it's my favorite room in the house but, honestly, it's no laughing matter. I love my yard. I love my garden. I love watching the growth as life blooms in our little oasis. 

Raspberries. We put the canes in last year and have been pleased to see the fruit of our labor.


Tomatoes on the way!


Dill, already making an appearance in whatever delicacies we whip up.

cilantro. I'm dreaming of salsa...and cilantro lime grilled chicken...


Green onions.

Slightly stunted cucumbers

Tiny tims making an appearance, one by one.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

My back yard

Current Read

For someone who loves to read books, hunt for books, talk about books, look at books and wander through shelves of books as much as I do, finding this online friend's blog series was just about as good as that good ole' proverbial candy shop. All this week, she's posting 10 books a day (each day has a theme of some sort).

And my list goes on.

 The Amber Room, Steve Berry

 I just finished this one. Plowed through it, really, thanks to warm week nights, a back yard that feels just as much like home as the inside and a long weekend. It was okay. The thing is, it certainly wasn't my favorite of Berry's and I truly do enjoy his stuff. Truth is, if I had read this one first, I might not have kept going with his other ones. So there. It was okay. Okay.

The Diamond of Darkhold, Jeanne DuPrau

This one is just to finish off the series and see what they do with it. A quick young adult fiction read seems like a good choice in a week where I'm doing a lot of class prep and the summer sun is calling me outside.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Go, Marissa, Go!

Our sweet girl is in Chicago this week competing in the North American Irish Dance Competition. She recalled in her competition this morning for the first time ever...that means she did well...also means she'll dance again...this afternoon.

Marissa and Colin at the last local competition of the year.

Good luck, Marissa. Daddy and I are excited for you and very proud of you!