Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Published 4:53 PM by with 4 comments

Looking Ahead to 2014 and My One Word

Daily prompt #30: looking ahead

If I've discovered anything about myself this year, it's that I am way more organized and able to follow through with goals if I write them down, figure out the steps needed to accomplish them, involve others, and set specific times to do specific steps.

A lot of ideas came into fruition in 2013 because of this: a fundraising concert on my birthday for Compassion International, a novel written during National Novel Writing Month, letters sent all around the United States to friends, family and strangers, more mandolin playing, poetry published for the first time, daily writing habits established, health back on track, apartment organized and re-organized, and half of my 1,000 gifts list completed.

This isn't an I'm-so-good victory list: it's a sigh of relief and happiness that I had the support of loved ones and the energy to make my dreams come true! I couldn't have done all these things on my own.

For 2014, here are a few hopeful goals. If they don't all get accomplished, THAT'S OKAY. The world won't end. But it would be great to see these to completion!

~ Finish my novel (it's about 3/4 completed, and I did write 50,000 words, but it needs to have an ending, and I have promised a few people that they could read it)

~ Record a CD (with my family, on all our instruments... this is the crazy, insane, I-must-be-dreaming goal!)

~ Learn how to can food (my mom used to do this with us, so I'd like to make some tomato sauce, applesauce, etc.)

~ Finish memorizing all of Romans 8 (I'm about halfway there)

~ Go to the Botanical Gardens once a week (we were gifted a family pass, so it's free anytime now, woohoo!)

~ Publish more poetry or writing (in a magazine? in a book? who knows)

~ Write letters to the Compassion International child I help sponsor, every other week (I've fallen off the bandwagon badly with this, so it's definitely a priority)

~ Finish out my 1,000 gifts list by my birthday (it's taken me almost a year and a half to write down 500, but I'm intent on finishing this, and then starting a new list on my birthday, Lord willing)

~ Keep a list of all the books I read during the year (hoping this will help me keep track of progress, avoid reading too many of the same genre of book, and keep me motivated to read more)

~ More dates with Chris (once a week, hopefully? at the Botanical Gardens, preferably, since that's one of our favorite places to go)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grace was my word for 2013.

It was hard.

I learned how to show Grace to others, myself, and my family. I learned that if we do not give Grace to others, we cannot accept it for ourselves. I learned that if I do not believe in Grace for myself, then I cannot give it to others. It goes both ways.

It was good.

I feel less guilty, more free. I feel more aware of my twisted nature, yet more grateful for Grace that covers all my sins.

Grace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My word for 2014 is Deeper.

I've dipped my toes into a lot of ideas. A lot of projects, a lot of relationships, a lot of space. Now I feel ready to dig in a little. Or a lot. To refine my thoughts into more focus. To deliberately spend more time on specifics instead of generals.

This might look like more time away from this blog. Not sure yet.... it might look like more time writing through my pondering, here or less publicly.

I want to get to know and be comfortable with myself. Lately I've realized that I can categorize a lot of what I say into "Ego". I don't want that. I want to be genuinely Me, without feeling like I have to impress anyone, or stand up for myself against anyone, or pretend like I'm better than anyone. It's silly. And lame. I just want to learn Who I Am and then be able to sit back and Be, not Prove. There can be humility and happiness in Being; there is very little of either in Proving.

I'm also going to spend more energy on certain relationships, certain projects.

Especially God.

The older I get, the more I realize that I don't know exactly what I believe about God.

There are a few things that I do believe for sure. Those things would categorize me under the heading of "Christian".

But I don't truly belong to any denomination, even the denomination of the church I call home.

Maybe someday I'll be more brave to write about some of my wonderings. I have several friends who inspire, encourage, and embolden me to question what I believe while continuing to rest in God's unfailing love. As one of them wrote today, "when you feel safe, feel really safe, then you are not afraid to ask tough questions. [We] have found safety in Father's love. That is a great place to be. Because it is Him not our answers that make us safe."

So I'm going to ask my Father and trust my Father and learn more about Grace from my Father.

I want a Deeper connection with Him.

I want a Deeper connection with my husband.

With my daughter.

With my family.

With my music.

With my friends.

With nature.

With myself.

So here's to a new year, everyone. May 2014 bring renewal, lessons learned, and loving hearts!


Finishing up the daily prompts from December Write Alm! Thank you again, Amanda! Now I'm jumping into exploring my One Word. There will be more posts as I discover what Deeper has in store for me this year. I'd love to know what your One Word is!

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Published 8:33 AM by with 0 comment

Looking Back on 2013

As the new year peeks around the corner, I'm doing a lot of writing, both on the computer and by hand, as I wrap up 2013 and prepare for 2014.

Here are the top posts on the blog for this past year, both in hit popularity and because I like them! I didn't include any of the "This Moment" posts, even though many of them were high on the list, because you can always click on the sub-category list at the side of the blog and scroll through the pictures if you'd like ; )

Harmony Emelia's home birth continues to be the top post of all time here!

Goodbye Facebook was also a hit, along with part two and part three. It was good to give Facebook up for a while. I'm even more determined to not let it take over my time in 2014, especially as I see how much the internet can suck our lives into its grasp!

A Christmas Miracle: Finding Jane is my personal favorite. Such an incredible true story.

How I Almost Ruined Christmas Eve will be the reminder for me to have the right priorities as a mother.

If you knew me when I was a kid, or a high schooler, or in college, then you should (please) read this post called Letter to My Past.

Okay, here's one "This Moment" post, because I also wrote about doing something that took me far out of my comfort zone. And I'm so glad that I did, because it's been a BLAST!

The series of questions I've posted has been very popular with viewers, though not necessarily with commenters. Hopefully more people will share their opinions this year when I ask questions! One of the most viewed posts was this: Should I Let My Daughter Listen to Music with *#^%*$ in the Lyrics.

Ten Things I've Learned in the First Year of Motherhood was so helpful for me to write down that I will definitely be doing this again when my daughter turns two.

I'm going to write a letter to my child(ren) each year on their birthday, which will be kept in a special keepsake box for them. A partial version of each letter will make an appearance here, and this one was the first installment.

After reaching the 100th blog post milestone (again), I celebrated!

Daring Greatly is what I hope to do in 2014 as well as 2013.

GRACE was my word for 2013. It has been a wonderful (and hard) year of learning Grace for myself and others. Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I'll share my word for 2014! Have you chosen a word yet?



This is the last prompt from December Write Alm: day #31, toast yourself! I missed writing yesterday as we drove back home from visiting family, but I'll be writing on yesterday's prompt a little later today : )  Thank you very much to Amanda at Write Alm for her lovely daily prompts! I've so much enjoyed using them as a spring board for inspired writing almost every day.
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Published 3:28 PM by with 0 comment

A Christmas Miracle: Finding Jane

Prompt for day #29: all the possibilities

This is the story of a girl who loved music. Who felt in her bones that she was meant to be a guitarist, a classical guitarist, since she was four years old. Who waited both patiently and impatiently until she was eight to begin guitar lessons. Who was determined to pursue music in college, go on to grad school, and hopefully dive into the world of competitions, and maybe tour some day.

She gave up that dream.

Halfway through college, a book came into her life: Hidden Art, by Edith Schaeffer. One of her mentors (now a beloved best friend) suggested that she read it, because it spoke about the beauty of expression and art that can be found in ordinary life. One story stood out. In the chapter about music, Schaeffer wrote of a woman named Jane.

"I have told in "L'Abri" how Jane came to a place of certainty, after much prayer and struggle, that God was calling her out of opera, where she was having a tremendously successful career, into the work of the L'Abri fellowship. She was willing simply to cook, garden, scrub floors, talk to people, and teach the Bible. There is a place for the conscious sacrifice of the expression of a talent, asking God to show His will for the use of our lives in any way He plans- rather than insisting that it must be fulfilled in particular ways. It is a turning from or giving up- with complete trust that God really is love, and all wise, and would not waste the life of any one of His children... among those who have met in L'Abri [are] people who have chosen to put aside ambitions, and are simply enjoying musical expression without the desire for 'success'."

If you look at the picture below, you will see question marks inked across this page. When the girl read it, her world exploded. How could someone give up their musical dreams?! To mop floors? To SACRIFICE years of study, hours of practice every day for months and months, the fine tuning of a talent? WHY would you do that???

She and her friend discussed the possibilities at length several times. There was obviously a deeper turmoil going on in this girl's heart and mind. Recently the girl had begun teaching, a job she enjoyed very much, but one that she intended to use just as financial support through college until leaving for grad school. Maybe someday she'd pick teaching back up again, but the world of music performance called!

At least, she thought it did. Now she wasn't so sure.

Reading about Jane in "Hidden Art" planted a tiny seed of change. Now, instead of plunging ahead with her own plans, the girl began asking God to show her what His plan for her was.

Long story short: by the time she reached her senior year, she knew without a doubt that she was not meant to be a performer, but a teacher for children instead, a teacher in the same classical music program she had studied in when she was eight. It took months of prayer, listening for the Spirit, seeing her path change, watching opportunities come and go, realizing that she didn't really have the mindset it would take to make it in the competitive realm of music, and most importantly, discovering where her joy really lay.

Fast forward almost five years.

The girl was at a Christmas party, happily chatting with an elderly man, the grandfather of one of her new students. During the conversation the man mentioned that he used to live at L'Abri. And then went on to describe how wonderful the music was at L'Abri, especially when a woman named Jane was around. "Not the same Jane from the book by Edith Schaeffer?" the girl gasped. Yes, the very same.

The Jane whose operatic debut was on stage in Vienna. The Jane who was set to become a Wagnerian soprano. The Jane who spent some time at L'Abri to search for answers and felt the Spirit gently whispering to her that there might be another Path for her life, who finally found that she felt most satisfied by serving others, singing with handicapped children, and teaching at L'Abri. And more than just being satisfied: she felt that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do, created to do. She found joy. She found peace.

The girl blurted out her own story, how Jane had been a key to a new way of listening to God instead of forcing her own way. The elderly man nodded and smiled, then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. "It's late, but I know her. She'll still be up." He dialed a number, listened to the ring, and spoke to the hello on the other end: "Good evening, Jane, my old friend. There's a young woman here, a classical guitarist and teacher for children, who would like to talk to you."

Tears filling her eyes, the girl took the phone. In the midst of the Christmas festivities going on around her, she was oblivious to all except the quiet, gentle voice of the eighty year old woman halfway across the country. Jane asked for her story. The girl managed to tell her of a Path changed, of tough decisions, of the pages in a book that inspired her to think differently, of a new life as a wife and mother that would have been hard if not impossible as a performing musician, of her love of teaching, of the incredible grace given in spite of so many mistakes.

"God will never waste the life of one who lays it down for him," Jane said, her ancient voice still deeply rich. "My dear, I am so glad that our journeys have crossed here! What a blessing to know that God always works in mysterious ways. We may not understand at the time what he has in store, but he always has a plan for our future good."

Passing the phone back, the girl cried tears of wonder. Now, whenever the question of "what if" arises, this miracle of a woman named Jane speaking across the page and over the phone, a living testimony to the incredible Providence of the Living God, echoes through her heart.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose..."



Questions are Marked in the Pages of Our Lives



This story is not meant to make anyone else doubt their own life Path. I present it here as an encouragement that God speaks to us in tangible ways that connect the dots, so that we can see his Hand in our lives. It was a humbling, beautiful experience that I will never forget!

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Published 10:33 PM by with 1 comment

This Moment: Our Favorite Advent Tradition

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. ~ Amanda

If you're inspired to do the same, come share your moment with me in the comment section!


Our Favorite Advent Tradition


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Published 10:29 PM by with 3 comments

Merry Christmas! December Projects Day #25

Prompt for day #25: seek peace

Delicious food, conversation, joy at opening gifts (80% of our presents to each other were from thrift stores or hand-made... that's how we roll), stockings in the morning, naps in the afternoon, dancing in the kitchen and living room and dining room, reading well-worn-but-always-timely verses from Isaiah, but best of all, celebrating the arrival of God in Flesh.

He it is by whom all things were made,
and who was made one of all things;
who is the revealor of the Father,
the creator of the mother;

the Son of God by the Father without a mother,
the Son of man by the mother without a father;
the Word who is God before all time,
the Word made flesh at a fitting time;

the maker of the sun, made under the sun;
ordering all the ages from the bosom of the Father,
hallowing a day of to-day from the womb of the mother;
remaining in the former, coming forth from the latter;

author of the heaven and the earth,
sprung under the heaven out of the earth;
unutterably wise, in His wisdom a babe without utterance;
filling the world, lying in a manger.

~ Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), poem read in last night's Christmas eve service



Her Favorite Christmas Gift




Aunty helping Harmony open her stocking on Christmas morning


Playing horses with grandpa


Harmony's new Quiet Book, made with love by grandma


Playing with her favorite page in the Quiet Book


The most delicious Christmas chocolate cake EVER


The Christmas feast about to begin

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll be taking a break on the blog from writing every day, as we wrap up this year with family visits, friends over for food and fun, and spending more time offline during my vacation from work. We wish you a Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Published 3:25 PM by with 4 comments

How I Almost Ruined Christmas Eve, and December Projects Day #24

Prompt for day #24: count your blessings

Woke up this morning early with the first glow of grey light, even though I was awake every hour with a little girlie whose last major tooth is coming through. Prying myself away from the cozy bed that I share with my family, I crept into the living room. Wrap myself in a thick blanket, pull on socks, put the kettle on for a first cup of tea, peek outside to check the weather, eat a little strawberry yogurt, and settle down comfortably with my journal and the computer to start the day.

Five minutes later, Harmony walks out of the bedroom.

She's never up this early anymore. I can only imagine that the painful new tooth is what woke her. She's obviously fussy, rubbing her sleepy eyes and reaching for me. Before I can think twice, my natural reaction kicks in: annoyance. I know how the rest of the day will go; she will be whiny and over-tired, making these final Christmas preparations difficult. Muttering under my breath, I grab her a bit too roughly and bring her back into the bedroom, getting under the covers with her in the hope that she will go back to sleep after nursing.

Harmony can all too easily pick up on my emotions. She looks up at me, her tiny face framed in blankets, and her mouth quivers, eyes filling with tears.

In an instant, I am sorrowful.

What a terrible way to start the day. What a terrible thing to make my daughter cry, just because I wanted half an hour to myself before anyone else woke up. My selfishness turns into grief and guilt.

But before I could begin the woe-is-me-I'm-an-awful-mother routine, the Spirit whispered to me: "You are blessed to have your family here, safe and sound and warm together on this Eve before the Savior's birth." 

Oh yes! I am blessed. What else am I thankful for?

For early morning cuddles with my precious girl.

For gifts wrapped, waiting just one more day to be opened and give a little joy.

For the classical music station playing Christmas songs all day long.

For my folks watching our holiday favorite, the Muppet's Christmas Carol, last night.

For my husband and daughter (and everyone else!) who constantly forgive my shortcomings.

For a delicious dinner brought over by my mom.

For my sister washing a huge part of the dirty dishes.

For apple cider flavored tea with local honey.

For my husband who leaves his work aggravations at the door so that he can just enjoy our family time.

For beautiful Christmas cards lining our wall from friends and family all over the United States.

The Savior, sent to earth as a little baby, God become man, Light embodied.

For this moment, where I can rest in the knowledge that I am loved.

Looking back down, I see Harmony's eyes have closed as she cuddles next to me. Her face is peaceful now. A tiny hand rests on my arm.

Thankful for a re-start of the day. 

May I never forget how blessed I truly am.




Caroling with Candles




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Monday, December 23, 2013

Published 8:44 AM by with 2 comments

Letter to My Past, and December Projects Day #23

Prompt for day #23: childhood memories


IF YOU KNEW ME WHEN I WAS FIFTEEN OR YOUNGER, READ THIS:

Dear fellow home-schooler or parent of home-schooler,

I was a weird combination of super shy and super wild. If you looked at me during a conversation, I'd clam up. But send me out into an ultimate frisbee or soccer game, and I'd turn into a crazy whirlwind. I'm sorry for being annoying both ways. But I'm glad that you didn't judge me too harshly, because I have a lot of wonderful memories with everyone in Idaho, going on field trips, nature hikes, camping, park days, and play dates, besides all the supplemental classes I took. Oh, and ignore my terrible sense of fashion. I had an obsession with Little House on the Prairie for a while, so long dresses were in vogue (in my mind) until I was about fifteen. Unless, of course, I was pretending to be an elf, or a Redwall warrior, or a magician. Much gratefulness goes out to everyone for not squashing my spirit. I would have been bullied if I'd gone to school, probably. But instead I remember having an awesome childhood, with a group of friends who would climb trees with me and imagine that our bikes were horses.

Love,

The Girl Who Had Her Head in the Clouds


IF YOU KNEW ME WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN OR SEVENTEEN, READ THIS:

Dear college students or youth group friends,

You really helped me mature during these years. Going to college early was a big leap, but I'm so glad that I did. I was able to solidify my desire to be a musician, study what I loved, and gain some more confidence in who I hoped to be. Attending a youth group helped bring me out of my shell. I also realized that I was pretty weird, which was both good and bad, so this was a pretty formative time. Thank you for not making me feel like an outsider. Or a freak.

Love,

The Girl Who Was Discovering


IF YOU KNEW ME WHEN I WAS EIGHTEEN OR NINETEEN, READ THIS:

Dear University folks and friends and church,

I was still fairly immature when I moved from Idaho to Missouri. Mostly I was torn up because my parents had just separated. I'm honestly not sure how I made it through the first year of university. I dropped below a hundred pounds, barely ate, worked like a madwoman to get A's, tried to practice my guitar night and day, and had to adjust to living on my own halfway across the U.S. from my family. It was a hard time; I made some poor choices. I'm sorry if you were on the receiving end of those choices. I found that (naturally) we change whether we like it or not: what matters is HOW we change. And I unfortunately got a little more cynical, bitter, and headstrong. I'm sorry. Keeping my head above the water was the goal, but I wish I had been more open to positive change. Thank you to everyone who helped hold me up!

Love,

The Girl Who Stumbled


IF YOU KNEW ME WHEN I WAS FINISHING UP COLLEGE, READ THIS:

Dear everyone,

Halfway through my time at the University, I changed my life path. Instead of being a performer, I realized that I was being called to be a teacher, instead of just using teaching as a part-time job that would get me through college before I moved on to grad school or the world of competitions. Part of it was that I felt led to work with children. Part of it was that I don't have the razor-sharp determination that it takes to make it in the competitive zone. But it took a lot of angst before I was able to make this decision.

I still made some really stupid choices that broke friendships. You'd think I'd have learned after the mistakes of the past few years, but I didn't. Also, I thought way too much of myself. So if you thought that something I said or did was arrogant, it probably was. I apologize.

A big thank you goes to my church friends. I was THIS close to swearing off established religion forever, due to a lot of hurtful circumstances with other churches in the past, but ya'll came along and proved that the church is a place where messed-up people can come to find real Grace. You didn't reject me because God didn't reject me.

I really did enjoy much of this time working towards the guitar performance degree. Memories of late night conversations, reading books aloud to a circle of friends curled up with tea, playing our music for each other, dinner parties where we would experiment with new recipes like roast duck, expeditions all over St. Louis, study sessions for exams while watching football, walks in the nearby park... there are many lovely memories. There were just a lot of my own personal issues as well that needed to be solved or resolved during this time.

I'd like to think that I came out of the university as a stronger, more secure individual, who learned from her mistakes and was intent on growing into a better person, one who can let go of anger, embrace forgiveness, and look with hope to the future. I couldn't have done it without the support from my family and the friends who stuck by me. And over the years, you have all helped me in more ways that you can imagine. I am full of gratitude.

Love,

The Girl Who Grew


Girls Can Be Wise Men, Too



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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Published 9:59 PM by with 0 comment

December Projects, Day #22

Prompt for day #22: joyful

There's really nothing better than spending time with your family and beloved church, bowing your heads in worship and singing carols at the top of your lungs outside the church and laughing with the children and hanging hand-made ornaments on the trees in the sanctuary and watching the tableau of Silent Night unfold. I don't know who I liked more: Mary and Joseph, looking down fondly at the real little baby in the manger, or the sheep who kept wiggling their ears and tails, or the angels who tried so enthusiastically to (silently) convey "alleluias to our king", or the two-person camel costume that made an appearance with the wise men and almost brought down the house.

Add to that an afternoon with two of your best friends, discussing the past year and looking ahead to the future over pizza and root beer, then an evening of caroling in the neighborhood, and a lovely party afterwards with hot chocolate and conversation and yummy treats, then a calm bedtime at home, settling down to a quiet apartment with last-minute gifts to finish: I am truly blessed and joyful in this season.



Silent Night Tableau at Church
(picture by Kathy N. since all my photos turned out blurry)




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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Published 3:22 PM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #21

Prompt for day #21: hello winter

Freezing temperatures plus down-pouring rain all day is not the ideal way to celebrate the solstice, but we're at least thankful for all the water that the midwest can get. This summer brought drought conditions that left everyone praying for more moisture during the cold months. Now all the snow from the past weekend has melted away. Looks like we'll be having a snow-free, chilly Christmas this year. 

I wonder if every year as a parent changes a person as much as this past year has changed me. So much in my thoughts and views is altered, in little and large ways. It was all very gradual, not too many things that were so sudden in change that I was jerked out of my comfort zone, but small stretching, a push here, a pull there, until I look back and see how much my world has expanded since this time last year. It's like looking back down from a climb up the side of a mountain, where you can see just how far you've come, and it's astounding. Then I look up and am glad that the future path ahead is shrouded in mist, because if we could really see what lay in store for the journey, then wouldn't we be tempted to turn back or dig in our heels? 

We can plan our route, pack our best tools, wear the thickest boots, bundle up against the elements... but we can't know exactly what the path will bring. Here's to welcoming with bravery and determined steps the coming months, the changing of the seasons, and new growth. 



Anticipating the Coming of the Christ-Child



* I missed day number twenty. Too much busyness, but that's okay. 

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Published 11:23 PM by with 7 comments

This Moment: Hearing Light and Watching It Blaze, and December Projects Day #19

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. ~ Amanda


If you're inspired to do the same, come share your moment with me in the comment section!


Hearing Light and Watching It Blaze



Prompt for day #19: shine a light!

As a synesthete, music for me is an experience of sound and sight and feel. Melodies sing in my ears, causing a mental light show in my mind's eye, where colors, shapes, and images swirl. If the music is intense enough, then I not only see and hear the sound, but feel the impact of the notes in my body. It is such a strong, involuntary reaction that there are certain music genres and songs that I can't listen to while driving or interacting with people; my brain can literally be overwhelmed with music, making it impossible to focus on anything else.

The beautiful light fixtures in the photo taken today reminded me of the first few notes in the beginning of this song by Explosions in the Sky. The single globes of sound hang, glowing, in the air. Then the slow melody begins, flooding my vision with color.

Synesthesia is a strange thing. I didn't find out that I had this neurological condition until my freshman year of college. Before then, I assumed that everyone could "see" music, that everyone's alphabet had colored letters, that everyone associated people with specific colors based on their personality. It took days to accept the fact that this wasn't true. 

Only one of my students has synesthesia too. In his guitar lesson, we talked about learning to follow the deep red of the bass melody instead of letting the bright green of the high triads overwhelm it. We are always asking each other what we see and hear in the music.

Over the years, I've learned to live with synesthesia. During the past few years it has even faded a little, whether due to the exhaustion of being a parent or just getting older, I'm not sure. It can look exciting and fun on the outside. Sometimes it is. But sometimes, when I realize the association between lovely hanging lights and the beginning notes of a post-rock instrumental, and there's nobody around to share this exciting revelation with who wouldn't think I'm crazy, then it feels a little lonely. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Published 8:05 AM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #18

Prompt for day #18: snow globe

Honestly, I have no inspiration coming from today's prompt. Part of it is that I've never owned a snow globe. Part of it is my own fault for being exhausted due to staying up until midnight. But staying up late was worth it, because I was able to talk to a friend who was becoming distanced, and all is right between us now. *big sigh of relief*

This will be one of the very, very few days where I actually seek out some kind of caffeine. After getting rather addicted to coffee and green tea during the first years of college, I quit drinking anything caffeinated, so when I do drink a cup, it's like an energy explosion. The trick is to time the beverage at the right time. If I drink it too early in the day, then I collapse before I'm done teaching in the evening; if I drink it too late in the afternoon, then I'm wired far past my bedtime (and my students think I've gone insane).

Lessons from last night: long distance friendships only continue to work out well if both people think the best of each other and don't let miscommunication, long periods of silence, or fear of judgement derail their connection. Plus, a little face to face Skype time is better than an impersonal email or text. WAY better.

In spite of the sleepiness, I'm grateful today for many things. Good morning, world.



Snowman Says "Good Morning"





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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Published 8:27 AM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #17

Prompt for day #17: quilt

Someday I'd love to have a beautiful, handmade quilt for our bed. 

Someday I'd like to travel to Ireland.

Someday I'd like to go back to Germany and visit my friends there.

Someday I'd like to travel around the rest of the States that I haven't seen yet.

I should update my Life Goals list to include all these things.

I should begin thinking about my goals for the upcoming year.

I need to buy a 2014 calendar.

But I always wait until they're on sale a week and a half after the new year begins.

Good thing I printed out my free Unravelling the Year workbook already! 

Super excited to go through those questions just like last year. 

In fact, I'm gonna go work on it right now.

{early morning thoughts}



Playing in the Snow




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Monday, December 16, 2013

Published 8:30 AM by with 1 comment

December Projects Day #16

Prompt for day #16: baby, it's cold outside

... so that's why we've been inside most of this weekend. 

"Even the best laid plans o' mice an' men, gang aft agley", as the quote goes. Six performances on mandolin and/or guitar or dancing with the flashmob this weekend turned into five, as one was moved to a different night that I couldn't attend, then turned to four when a babysitter became ill and had to cancel at the last minute. My sister had a fever that skyrocketed on Sunday, requiring a trip to the urgent care where she received antibiotics for a very nasty sinus infection. The snow rearranged our family's schedule further with guitar lessons that needed to be moved, outings postponed (little feet fall too easily on ice), and early morning trips to the church to plow the walks. 

Yet even in the midst of the hectic pace, unexpected joys arrived. My "adopted" little brother, Alec, who has been part of my life since he was fourteen, stayed with us for the first few days of his winter break of college (sophomore year) before driving home to Milwaukee. After switching back and forth between "Adis" and "Avec" for a while, Harmony settled on "Adec" and was very happy to spend time with her new best friend. 

This weekend brought more beautiful traditions of the Christmas season like our Lessons and Carols celebration. Poetry, Scripture passages, instrumental music, a crowd of forty in a lovely home, heartfelt prayers, raised voices in carols, and delicious food made for two beautiful evenings. All the other performances went very well too. In spite of the ice on the roads, we finally managed a trip to my favorite new local landmark, Strange Donuts, to try their weekend special, the Pizza Done (a donut and a pizza together?! that's dinner AND dessert at the same time! brilliant!). 

Also, the most amazing thing happened last night that brought me to tears.... but it's such an incredible story that I need to wait until I have more time later write about it. Oh, don't worry, I will certainly be writing it down. You'll just have to wait and see!




Family Doesn't Always Have to Be Related



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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Published 4:32 PM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #15

Prompt for day #15: late afternoon light

As the sun begins to set, the early darkness wears on me sometimes. Normally a positive person, winter's long hours of night make it a little more difficult to keep my thoughts cheerful. My mind drifts to sadness: a family far away who are in the process of helplessly watching their very young daughter die from cancer, a baby in our church who broke her leg last week, an old friend whose beloved dog just died, a student's seven year old brother who may lose his eye after a horrible accident, an elderly friend who is becoming more frail every day.

And yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Newtown school shooting. All those beautiful children gone. The nation remembered, but what about next year? The year after that? Ten years from now? While our news feeds have moved on to cover more recent tragedies, those families in Newtown will still be missing the bright smiles of their children who never got to grow up. I look at my own child giggling as she plays and my eyes fill with tears.

It would be easy to push sorrow aside when it doesn't directly affect us. Yet we are told to mourn with those who mourn. It would be easy to wallow in sadness, letting the waves of trouble break our wills and bury happiness. But that isn't the answer either. Yes, grief may come for a night, but thanks be to God, we are told that this isn't the end of the story:

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have lifted me up,
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning...
O Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me;
O Lord, be my helper.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
that my soul may sing praise to you and not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.*


Twenty-six Bells for Newtown



*Passage heard today in church from Psalm 30. For a tribute to Newtown and a call to choose love instead of fear, please read this letter.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Published 7:58 AM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #14

Prompt for day #14: daydream

I think of Cinderella hopefully singing "If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true." It's not quite that simple, though, right? All the dreams I've had took work (some, years of work)  to bring about. None of my dreams came true simply by my own power, either; they have been aided along the road with the support of my family, friends, and mentors.

But one of the factors in bringing my dreams into reality was this: making decisions along the way that pointed my travels in the right direction. I had to deliberately think ahead and make a conscious effort. Nothing happens merely by chance; I don't believe in a universe where our lives are governed by the roll of a dice. Daydreams rise from my thoughts, my heart looks ahead to beautiful possibilities, Providence takes a hand, and my feet set out on their next adventure.


The Heart Takes One Step at a Time






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Friday, December 13, 2013

Published 7:16 AM by with 6 comments

This Moment: Christmas Wonder Amid the Bustle of the Airport, and December Projects Day #13

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. ~ Amanda

If you're inspired to do the same, come share your moment with me in the comment section!




Christmas Wonder Amid the Bustle of the Airport


Prompt for day #13: silver

When silver and gold are paired together at Christmas time, they seem to stand on equal ground. In everyday life, however, gold appears to have a slight upper hand, at least in monetary value. I find myself thinking this morning: are you content to be silver, to sit back so that someone else can shine more brightly? Do I try to make myself look golden in the spotlight, or do I try to let the Spirit of Love shine through me and point back to the true worth of the Son?

I want to be content to glow a gentle, silver light.

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Published 7:10 AM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #12

Prompt for day #12: illuminate*

The morning rises slower every day;
shivering in the cold, we wait for light
to greet our eyes and guide us on our way,
wishing the sun were warm as well as bright.
Life in the dark, the winter tune we sing
while solstice nears, the final shortest day.
It marks the dawn of counting down to spring,
rebirth of light, conquering death's decay.
Our season celebration: life has won!
fast followed by the birth of the true Son.


Christmas Guitar Orchestra: Silent Night



*I mixed up yesterday and today's prompts. Oops! Also, this is the guitar group I co-lead during December, comprised of students ages 11-18. 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Published 10:33 PM by with 1 comment

December Projects Day #11

Prompt for day #11: something old

Every Christmas it feels like I grow up more. I am learning that GIVING gifts honestly means more to me than RECEIVING. When my sister and I were younger, there wasn't a huge emphasis on presents, but we always found beautiful toys, books, and treats waiting for us on Christmas morning under the tree. I used to wonder at how my parents could be so happy when they didn't have nearly as many gifts as we did. They would have one or two presents each, and some predictable candies/socks/etc. in their stockings, but that's about it.

Now as I shop for stocking stuffers for my husband, toddler, and sister who lives with us, and as I decorate the tiny tree we bought at Home Depot (the last of the least expensive trees in the entire lot, it tilts over to the right, but looks lovely anyway), a spirit of warmth grows. The wreath is hung on the door. Carols play over the radio. Wrapping the gifts for our tradition of opening one each on Christmas Eve, I imagine watching everyone unwrap them. The joy of seeing their faces light up will be more than enough to make my heart happy.



Blessing the Apartment Staircase



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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Published 7:02 AM by with 1 comment

December Projects Day #10

Prompt for day #10: should / shouldn't

This could easily turn into a list of "I should do but I didn't do". Let's not. How about this...

Should I look back on this past year with regret? No, I shouldn't.

Should I beat myself up for making mistakes? No, I shouldn't.

Should I set myself up for failure by thinking negative thoughts when I try to change? No, I shouldn't.

Should I neglect talking to God out of guilt because I forgot to read my Bible for the past few days? No, I shouldn't.

Should I make excuses when I can't do everything I am asked, feeling terrible because my days don't have thirty hours in them? No, I shouldn't.

And now::

Will I look forward to the upcoming year with open heart, excited for newness? Yes, I WILL.

Will I move on from past mistakes, accepting the Grace that has set me free? Yes, I WILL.

Will I think positively so that I can establish new, good habits? Yes, I WILL.

Will I continue to come before the throne of Him who welcomes me whether I've read my Bible faithfully or not? Yes, I WILL.

Will I encourage myself to have better eating habits, but not berate myself over the occasional quick snack? Yes, I WILL.

Will I prioritize my life so that the most important tasks are accomplished, with my family and personal well-being at the top of the list so that we can all be healthy and happy to serve? Yes, I WILL.

Will I remember that no matter what happens, God is good all the time? Yes, I WILL.

Will I love my little girl even during the hard moments in the middle of the night or when I'm at the end of my patience? Yes, I WILL.

Will I wake up to each day striving to live a life of gratitude, even when I stumble? Yes, I WILL.

{Many thanks to Amanda at the habit of being for encouraging me to show myself more compassion! As I have been shown compassion, so I need to learn how to give compassion to my own heart so that I may pass it on to others.}




St. Nicholas Brings Pom Poms in Her Shoes



If you have toddlers, check out this lovely article: A Jolly Toddler Holiday- 3 Ways to Enrich the Experience. We hope to keep our celebrations this Christmas exciting but low key for our daughter, enjoying things that would make her happy yet not overwhelmed. Pom poms are one of her favorite toys, so we filled her shoes with them on St. Nicholas' day!
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Monday, December 09, 2013

Published 7:05 AM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #9

Prompt for day #9: bright

Yesterday:
I was a child.
Dreams floated through me
day and night.
Imagination reigned-
my bicycle was a dragon,
books took me far away,
invisible friends whispered secrets.
Christmas was filled with bright eyes,
gifts beckoning under the tree,
colorful lights gently glowing
strung across my bedroom window.

Today:
I am a child.
But my own child is eighteen months.
My husband and I share secrets.
We read together
books that make us laugh, think, discuss.
My dreams are no longer imaginary,
but beautifully real.
We decorate the tree
and hang our daughter's stocking
next to ours, cozy warm
in our tiny apartment.

Tomorrow:
I will be a child still.
An older child,
with more experience
(and hopefully wisdom)
under my belt, yet still
the same child at heart
as I was yesterday.
May we sing the ancient carols
with new spirits each year,
welcoming the baby in the manger
with Advent and love and joy.



All is Calm, All is Bright



Also, here is my absolute favorite album during the month of December: Bright Day Star! 

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Published 2:28 PM by with 0 comment

December Projects Day #8

Prompt for day #8: apothecary

Sometimes I feel empty. Worn down, small, fragile. Just like my little brown tea mug.



I have nothing to give. Desperate for help, I call on the Great Healer, the Source of Strength, the Spirit of Hope, the Creator of Beauty.



He pours new life into me by the power of his Grace. My eyes are lifted up, my lame feet walk, my deaf ears hear. 



My cold heart is transformed again by the warmth of love. Renewed, I have the determination, ability, and most importantly, the joy to continue this journey.


(Yes, I can find analogies in simple things like making a cup of tea. Feel free to either join me or laugh!)



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