Eye of Newt and Dead Flowers

Somewhere between waiting at work for hours for a paycheck and arriving home to a televangelist praying against high blood pressure on late night tv, I think I've cracked. No, maybe that was a few nights ago when I just wanted to swear a blue streak while driving home. Home. What a stupid word.

"For Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."

Sure. It's profound and beautiful and profoundly beautiful. Why must it be so frustratingly paradoxical to try to rest? I don't mean to strive. But HOW THE BLOODY DEUCE?!

When You feel like answering, God, I'll be here. I probably just won't hear You because I adore fireflies and revel in poppies, but can't hear the voice of my own Creator. Great. I'm dying to fail. Again.


"My soul, wait silently for God alone,
    For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my defense;
    I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
    The rock of my strength,
    And my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
    Pour out your heart before Him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah."
//Psalm 62:5-8//



From a sort of journal entry:

"This has been a good week, though one of wilderness. But if Jesus could endure for forty days and Paul for three years, what is my single week? The blessing of the test is not in proving our faithfulness to God; He already knows it. No, it is that we cannot fathom the depth of our own strength until we are put to the seemingly impossible task, and we find ourselves not only enduring, but thriving."


Confessions of a Bibliophile

The day dawned bright and beautiful, the weather perfect for what was in store. For what could be a better use of a day off than a book hunt, that glorious pastime when a bibliophile (or several, although they usual disband upon nearing a quarry's possible den, being varied in the exact nature of their taste for game) pursues an elusive volume from used bookstore to used bookstore, occasionally getting distracted for hours along the way.

Beast of the Chase: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Master of Fox Hounds: Yo soy la maestra de los perros, eh?
Kennelman: Dad (he takes care of my car, okay?)
... Nothing else really fits from all the terminology that I found... That's enough.

Beginning Point: Dogstar Books, West Chestnut St. (for those who are Sirius about books... har har...)
Time: approx. 10:15AM EST
Mission Status: Failed. Den contained a mere two volumes of Lewis plus what appeared to be a biography, although there was a very intriguing collection of philosophy and logic AND a first edition Silmarillion for a mere $25... Ahem. At this point, M.F.H. was still in possession of wits and avoided all possible pitfalls that threatened to significantly reduce the contents of her wallet.

Brief Detour: Prince Street for an iced caramel latte (cars aren't the only creatures that need fuel), the Thai stand for lunch aka two hard-won veggie crispy rolls to be saved for a later time of day (HA! take that, lunch crowd! At last, I beat you!)

Stop the Next: Winding Way Books, West Chestnut St.
Time: approx. 11:00AM
Mission Status: Failed. In every way possible. If, that is, you view a decrease in finances as a failure. However, since the M.F.H. increased in intellectual wealth, this may have been an incredible success. Four books and a very nice conversation with the shopkeeper later, M.F.H. left the Seuss-ish store simultaneously richer and poorer.

Stop the Third: Barnes & Noble, Fruitville Pike
Time: approx. 11:45AM
Mission Status: Success. Except that the point was to procure the beast of the chase at a used bookstore, thereby reducing expenditures. So actually, it was a failure of a success.

Stop the Final: The Book Haven, Marietta Ave.
Time: approx. 12:30PM
Mission Status: Failed. Attempted to find Lewis's work here with the intention of returning aforementioned successful failure if should be discovered. However, did find a very nice biography that might possibly have depleted last of available funds...

Final Accounting:
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
The Call by Os Guinness
Othello by William Shakespeare
Charles James Fox by John Drinkwater

All in a day's hunt... Er, work.

Now to find space on the maxed out bookshelf...

You Won't Relent

The blessing of brokenness...

"How could I expect to walk without You
When every move that Jesus made was in surrender
I would not begin to live without You
For You alone are worthy, You are always good"

When we look on the face of God, we know who we are.


Tunnel Vision

I arrived home from work this ... well, night, I guess, on the borderline of being out of sorts and was nudged over the line by a moment of unpleasantness involving my mother. That moment led to a mental litany of woe over the things that weigh on me, from dissatisfaction with growth to frustrations at work to the present blank slate awfulness of the future. One shower later, I was brushing my teeth when my dad wandered out of their room to play a midnight insomniac's game of solitaire. I asked him about a medical bill issue and was surprised when he said that he had taken care of it. Into my funk and furor, a ray of light.

It was a little thing, trifling really. A matter of a mere few dollars that maybe means I'll finally be able to go to a gym or who knows what, but it has been hanging onto the edge of my paycheck and tips, waiting to be paid and just one more little nagging thing that frayed at my already fragile nerves. So small, and yet... grace.

It's an unpleasant place to be when you can't appreciate the blue of the sky because you're too busy staring at the clouds.


Rhythm and Glow

So often, I am deaf to the voice of my Father. But one way that I swear He speaks to me is in the evening kiss of a firefly's light. How else (okay, weather factors favorable to fireflies aside) can I take the single firefly that appeared at my table while I was sitting outside during my break this evening? Somewhere between Mumford & Sons, who are delightful but not always cheerful, and the exhaustion of stress and sun-addlement, the world grew darker than the circumstances merited. Cue a lone light that descended from above until just within range of a welcoming hand. Why is it that I flick off or writhe away from all insects but these? But ants are not so favorable to poetry unless you are a practical person, and practical people do not tend, in my rather limited experience, to think in poetry.

And I was on my way home, caught between drive and dream ... Standing still in a moment of eternity / Where worlds collide and I feel the breath of heaven over me ... I chanced to sight, out of the corner of my eye, a brethren lantern. Upon daring to look closer, I knew him to be not one but many, a hundred thousand instruments of phosphorescence playing a joyful symphony. Not a lone stirring of hope, but a reminder of the myriad promises of a good and glorious God.

Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
My eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
   too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul...

One tear falls,
Shimmers in the darkness
As refraction captures the light
of a single firefly.
I keep my hope in a jar
to light up the valley of the shadows
when the soul's midnight presses down
and His hand is my only trust.
And this, the hour of need, sees
a hand that shakes but dares
to unscrew the lid
and release
one dream to light the way.


If I could say what I want to say...

The sun lights up a drop of dew
The drop of dew soon dries
You are the light of my eyes, my eyes
I'm brought to life by you...
//Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Profundity Grips

Two thoughts from church this morning:

#1. "It took one day for the Lord to deliver them out of Egypt. It took a lifetime to get Egypt out of them."


#2. "There is always a wilderness between the promise and the Promised Land."


Friendly Fire

Sunset is not just a time of day. It's an atmosphere, a quick-to-fade, precious few moments of light, in which the world is not itself. Very occasionally (given Crystal's scheduling proclivities), I'm actually home in the evenings, and some of those evenings, I happen to look out the bay window in the dining room to espy the back yard when it is brighter around the edges. And what always catches my eye is the poppies.

Last summer, my sister got married, and as she was exploring possibilities of flowers and colors, she thought at one point that she wanted poppies. So she ordered a pound of seeds from some supplier and asked Mother to plant them. Mother, happy to oblige, planted a long swath of seeds at the end of the cultivated portion of the garden, and they bloomed in good time, showing their flaming red faces and black hearts with equal openness. And this year, we've had the delight of their presence again.

Imagine... All is green, from the pale bright of the new mown lawn to the shadow and shift of the walnut tree to the dark depths of the corn stalks, already waist high in their army straight lines in the field. Beyond the field, a mysterious few pines, darkest of all against the white sky of sunset. And planted firmly in the middle of a world of gold-washed green: poppies. A chorus of redheads, all cheerfully, defiantly not green.

I particularly like them because they aren't beautiful. Perhaps these are just annuals that weren't meant to see another year, the leftover seeds that didn't make it last year, but decided that the arcane perfection of soil and sun were the cue for their entrance into the world. But they are a ragtag bunch. Some are bleached white around the edges or straight through to the center, faded like my grandfather's eyes when he grew old. Some are torn or wilted with rough and ugly edges. Some have lost petals, gaps in their smiling teeth that will only grow larger with the passage of time. And yet, despite their individual ugliness, they are beautiful en masse. In fact, I picked the only perfect one I found (and it was perfect, not a flaw from petal to pistil) because it made such a smug contrast to its imperfect brethren that it disturbed the poppy groove. A flower like that deserves to die.

They are a band of misfits, none too pretty in and of themselves, but glorified by their community, by their unapologetic flaming red, by their unlikely but true complement to the green around them. They are battle-scarred and glorious, a worthy patch of wildflowers that light up my evening when the sunset glow turns them into a hundred tongues of fire.


Soul Embrace

Yesterday's gradual drizzle building up into rain meant only a dim half light to wake to, hardly sufficient to rouse this often drowsy, no longer morning person. It was only complemented by an inner world of gray that did not wish to push back the clouds anymore than the sky seemed likely to clear room for sunshine. At this point, I would like to apologize if I seem to only write when I face the lows in life's heartbeat monitor. But I suppose I simply don't feel a need to wrestle with joy when it radiates its warmth into every corner of my days. I'd rather rest than wrestle.

Through a series of positive events and a dash of contemplation, I gradually came to the point where I could, as I put it to Hadassah, embrace the rain which was so powerfully indicative of my emotional state. But I have a history with rain and loving it and sitting on porches listening to good music with a world of beautiful solemnity filling up my head.

What about today? Today, I woke to the warming remembrance of an incredibly surprising surprise visit from David, Mary Michael, and Trent at Prince Street last night. I was tired, yes, because the combination of excitement and espresso kept me up until three in the morning (also, a book recommendation list for Hadassah), and the early hour of 6:30 that I had to awake in order to be at the prep kitchen clothed and functional by 8. But other than lack of sleep, I had no reasons for complaint. The sun was shining down on me, the world was all as it could be, blessed be His name.

But as the day has progressed, I've reached this hour, no Bradbury-esque three o' th' morn (that was last night), but a fairly respectable quarter 'til ten. I'm almost overwhelmed with missing beloved friends and familiar places, the fragments and habits of eight months of fully lived life. Though the sun has set in the western sky and the only beacons in the darkness are the indolent fireflies, I feel as if I have been so blessed, as if somehow it must still be shining on me as warmly as it was earlier today when I drove down 283 with my windows open and Alison Sudol's sweet voice blasting. And yet that warmth can't penetrate my skin... I'm living in the sun as if it is still raining. How do I embrace rain that isn't falling? Why must I learn the lesson of yesterday today when today is not yesterday or anything like it?

Sweet river roll over me
Let my body find peace and let my mind be free
Oh, my soul sings to Thee
//from "Sweet River Roll" by Josh Garrels//



The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: 
he leadeth me beside the still waters. 
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the
paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.
//Psalm 23:1-4//

When we are in the valley of the shadow, when we've hit life's lows and dark places, sometimes it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We look to the left and the right, but our eyes can see nothing but desolation. What then is there for us? Are we to abandon hope?

I am reminded again of Mr. Cote's wisdom. He always told us that emotions have their place, but that place is not to lead our lives. Emotions color life, but the colors run wild when feelings draw the defining lines as well. While we were in Brazil, I remarked to Chelsea about the contrast between a child's coloring book and that of a teenager enjoying a little regression. Somewhere in the intervening years, we learn better muscular control, we adopt a sense of the oughts so that the Lisa Frank puppies who were once scribbled over in that favorite screaming magenta are now sedately shaded in tones of black, brown, and gold. There is something delightful about seeing what the child comes up with, but at the same time, I should not like to live constantly in such an inconsistent and ill-scrawled universe. A place for everything and everything in its place, as the maxim goes.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
//Proverbs 13:12//

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face,
But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.
//Proverbs 15:13//

How do I walk in the joy of the Lord if my heart is sick and my spirit broken? Must I deny depression and sorrow? But as we learned this past year, to do so is to live in the Room of Good Intentions where we don a mask that deflects any attempt to connect deeply with one another.

Two threads intertwine. The first relates to what Mr. Cote said about emotions. They are the sea upon which we are tossed, but our anchor goes beyond the emotions to the firm sea-bed foundation of who God is and what He says concerning our lives. We may move upon the surface and experience the storm, but our trust is in a stronger place than the whimsy of the current so we can rest assured that we will weather the storm.

The second thread goes back to Psalm 23. Corey shared a small epiphany on Thursday evening at small group and it was this: we lie down in green pastures, but we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We do not rest there. We are in motion, or to quote Meet the Robinsons, we "keep moving forward." Our rest is for a better place where no darkness threatens our path. Complete despair is perhaps the moment when we give up and cease walking through the valley, coming to a rest (if such agony may be conducive to rest) in the midst of our darkest hours.

It is easy to languish into despair, but the greater joy lies in taking His hand, for He never leaves us nor forsakes us, and continuing into the new day beyond.



My Beloved is beautiful
He is dazzling and excellent

Confession: I don't entirely understand what it means to love Christ. Sometimes I swear that I just knot myself into thought loops that are impossible to reconcile with reality. Like, maybe I'm not so far off track as I feel myself to be, feelings being untrustworthy thermometers. But at the same time, I'm okay with that dissatisfaction. Discontent is wrong when it is a matter of material possessions, but I never want to be content with where I'm at in relation to Jesus. Because this place I'm at, no matter how close, is still too far as long as there is any space between us.

It's funny how we begin to understand things more clearly as life goes on.