Monday, March 30, 2015

Published 11:12 AM by with 1 comment

Mondays Are All About Gentleness

This month has looked a lot like exhaling to release how I believed my time was supposed to go.

Out of all thirty-one days of March, I was healthy for maybe seven of them. The rest of the time I was battling a stomach virus, a cold, a severe chest cough, strep throat, bronchitis, and the full-blown stomach flu.

My time was often spent lying on the couch or in bed, even in between going to meetings that I thought were essential or cooking food for my beloved family so they could stay/get healthy or going to teach music or trying to play with/teach my rambunctious toddler.

But last week, when we were gearing up for what was supposed to be an exciting visit from an ensemble of young musicians from Germany, where we were supposed to be a host family, my body failed me. I spent days flat on my back exhausted and too sick to move. It was a sad moment to realize that all our plans were going out the window.

And you know what?

Another host family was found.

Food was still prepared.

My house didn't explode in flames because laundry sat in baskets for way too long.

Meetings were held without me.

Concerts were given without me.

Children were taught their music by substitute teachers.

And everything was fine.

Without me.

So now, for the first time on my feet in five days, I can truly say that I am blessed with both time to recover and gorgeous people who keep everything spinning when I am out of commission. It all does NOT revolve around me.

It's a relief, in a strange way, to know for sure that I am expendable. That the world won't fall apart if I can't make all my commitments happen because I have fallen apart. Which of course has always been true... but sometimes it takes hard situations to know it again.

Since Honor is my One Word this year, it will be good to focus on taking the time to Honor myself by helping my body back to full health. Probiotics, clean eating, resting when I need to instead doing too much, not pushing myself beyond my energy limits, lots of water, going to bed earlier rather than later, getting outside more as the weather warms up, slowing down. It's always getting myself back to the basics. Honoring these essential, beautiful rhythms of life that bring me peace, health, and energy to be who I want to be for those around me.

My guitar and mandolin are still waiting patiently for me to return to them. The to-do list is still long, but when will it not be? Monday is going to be about easing back into the swing of things gently, Honoring renewal.

Time to begin again, again.


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Friday, March 20, 2015

Published 2:47 PM by with 0 comment

Intentional Living: Welcome Spring

Looking back into my Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook from the lovely Susannah Conway, I'm pleased to see that many of my small and large intentions are beginning to blossom. On the first day of spring (yay, happy springtime!) it seemed fitting that I review my goals created in December for 2015. What can I be doing to further my pursuits? Where might I be falling short? What might not feel right for this season? What still needs gentle change?


My one word: Honor

Honoring God has looked like... time spent meditating and praying and reading snippets of my Bible out loud. And lots of looking for the secret messages He sends me!

Honoring Myself has looked like... trying to make sure I have time for music and/or art every single day. Lots of tea, fresh flowers (best five dollars every two weeks I'll ever spend), time to breathe. Sometimes it means letting that load of laundry go unfolded another day, or make a simpler (still healthy, hopefully) meal for dinner so I can take a half hour to regenerate my creative spirit. Taking time for me means that I have more energy and love and renewal for everyone/everything else. That is the truth.

Taproot's latest magazine, SONG, has been sweet music to my soul!

Honoring my Family has looked like... being intentional to BE with them, to put down the phone and step into intentional living, to spend time talking and laughing and resting with them.

Honoring my Friends has looked like... going out of my way to contact those who mean the most to me, by letter and text and call and face to face conversations and walks in the park as we chase littles around playgrounds. And I got rid of Facebook, which was a relief!

Honoring the Seasons has looked like... celebrating the holidays that mark change and growth, in special ways, some old, some new. Plenty of home-made cards, now that Harmony is getting to the age where she enjoys helping me make art to send to friends and family! Valentine's day was hugely fun in that way.

Today we woke up not too early. We have a ritual around breakfast: sing our morning prayer, eat together, then when I finish more quickly than Harmony does I read a Bible story to her from The Jesus Storybook Bible, then I read a passage from my Bible out loud. We sit with the windows wide to let the morning light in. We talk together sometimes. We sing several songs together as I play my guitar. Then we clear the table and prepare for the time ahead. I love the deliberate sameness that brings intentional Beginning to each day.

Today we celebrate the newness of springtime. We created an egg tree, in honor of blessed life that springtime represents and in anticipation of the Easter joy coming in a few weeks. We read books about springtime or that celebrate the seasons.

See note at bottom for titles!
We decorated "happy first day of spring" cards to send out with a spring poem inside. We cleaned the house all week (especially needed since we were all very sick last week) so that we can welcome the new season with a clean home. Harmony and I are about to dye more hard-boiled eggs after her quiet time.



We will spend the afternoon outside soaking up the sun, as she learns to ride her tiny tricycle better and better. This will mark day 79 of going outside every single day, something I'm calling #365daysofnature on Instagram!

I am happy with my life. I am grateful for the time and blessings I have been given.

May I continue to see the direction of where I am meant to go.

~ Prompt for March 20th: Intentions

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.

*Here are the books we read today for spring! 

"Springtime for Jeanne-Marie", from The Adventures of Jeanne-Marie, by Francoise

"A Time to Keep: the Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays", by Tasha Tudor (gorgeous illustrations)

"The Story of the Root-Children", by Sibylle von Olfers (one of Harmony's favorites!)

"Birds: A Child's First Book About Our Most Familiar Birds", an early Little Golden Book

"Spring Story" from the "Brambly Hedge" series, by Jill Barklem

These books are great for ages two to six or seven years old. The Brambly Hedge stories are a little challenging for Harmony since she's not quite three, but she likes the pictures a lot. We love reading about springtime!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Published 2:40 PM by with 2 comments

Find Where Your Comfort Is

Comfort is...

her little voice saying, "snuggle, mama, I need snuggles!"

curling up with the latest Taproot magazine and a warm cup of tea

the silent beauty of the fresh flowers on my table

walking up my front steps to hear faint sounds of the piano being played

lying on the lawn in the sunshine

lying on the lawn in the moon and starlight

finding secret messages in the words of my books and Bible

a quick nap on the yellow couch

reading aloud to each other

late night conversations with friends over drinks

feeling my fingers settle into well-loved favorite pieces on the guitar

folding paper cranes in the peaceful quiet of nap time

the art on my walls

my claddagh ring

his familiar, beloved smile

doing dishes while day-dreaming out the window

knitting away at a steady project

singing the songs to my daughter that my mother sang to me

waking early in the morning to lie in bed simply breathing and being before arising

eating bread fresh baked from the oven

writing

letters from friends far distant

soup on chilly nights

light filling the rooms from all the lovely windows

closing my eyes and knowing peace




When I find what brings me comfort, I find that I am grateful once again, that I am graced beyond measure with many blessings. What do you find brings comfort to your body and soul?


~ Prompt for March 18th: comfort

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Published 2:12 PM by with 1 comment

Constellations

Speaking of secret messages yesterday? Here's what I read in a book of poetry this afternoon, as I was contemplating what it means to love the wideness and fullness and deepness of God. It feels sometimes like he is stretching the constellations of His love farther than we can see. What a dangerous, daring, baring, beautiful love he has for us.

Lovers 
Don't tell all of their 
Secrets.

They might
Count each other's moles
That reside in the shy
Regions,

Then keep that tally strictly
To themselves.

God and I 
Have signed a contract 
To be even more intimate than 
That!

Though a clause
Mentions

Something about not drawing detailed maps 
To all His beautiful

Laughing
Moles.

~ Counting Moles by Hafiz, from The Gift



~ Prompt for March 14th: Constellation

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Published 3:34 PM by with 1 comment

Secret Messages

Ever since I was very young, in single digits, I have loved codes, messages, secret writing, the like. My friends and I used to write each other notes and full-length letters in scripts only we could interpret. Even in high school I had a group of friends who knew how to write in Elvish. We didn't focus on how super nerdy we were, just how cool it was to be able to write Elvish!

It wasn't just about disguising what you were trying to say. It was also about giving each other secret messages of information and kindness and interest that could be seen only by us invited. Symbols of friendship, a hidden meaning in a hand wave or chalk-written message on the sidewalk... we reveled in the feeling of initiation into knowingness.



And then it wasn't just about speaking with each other. It became about finding secret messages in the world around us. An eagle swooped overhead. What was he saying? A stranger bought a drink at the coffee shop for us: a compassion sign. A child gave us a flower. What did the flower mean? A song with powerful lyrics came on the radio; it helped us see a hard situation with new eyes. We read a Bible verse which brought new understanding to a circumstance. Everything had a hidden meaning. We learned that God speaks in many ways through the created world.


Even as an adult I still do believe that everything can have magic and beauty and blessing, in a grace-filled kind of way. But it is not a dark, intense pressure of trying to dig out what something IS, no, not at all. It is an eyes-open, light-filled acceptance of what comes across our path, knowing that at the foundation of all things is Love. Life is viewed from the heart. The messages that come into our lives to see may not always be pleasant or positive, but if our deepest place is one of security in Love, then the messages we find will only allow ourselves to grow more into the person we are meant to be.



When Mandy at Messy Canvas began writing about Secret Messages, I was captured immediately. She was one of the first to bring me back to this childhood way of excitement over finding out what the universe held for me to discover, what God was whispering into my ear. She writes, "a Secret Message is a reminder of sorts for something you innately know at your core. Like a colorful fortune cracked out of a cookie at just the right time." So I am always on the look-out now for those Secret Messages on this road of Becoming. Sometimes they are in the form of written words, sometimes in the voice of a friend, sometimes in the actions of an unknown person, sometimes in a surprise or a nature experience or a gentle soul-whisper.

What have you seen lately?

What has been speaking to you silently?

What has been speaking to you out loud?

What has the Spirit been speaking to your heart?

What have you been speaking to yourself?

In the words of the amazing Mandy, "May you find {a secret message} that airs out your lungs, melts your heart, and bolsters your soul."

All art pictures in this post created by Mandy Steward

Whether you think that you can or think that you can't -  you're right. ~ Henry Ford


The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. ~ Anthony Robbins


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle


Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. ~ Anais Nin


Love doesn't always show up the way you think it should - where you think it must, when you think it could. ~ Radical Creative Sanctuary, Instagram


Being creative, for me, is simply about seeing beauty in the mundane. It's about noticing the sky and listening to the heart beat of our home. Being in the kitchen barefoot - yep, barefoot, because I need to feel the ground. There is no right way for it to look. It's just love and care and devotion to seeing the beauty in our every-day lives. ~ Carrie Anne Moss, Annapurna Living


... I don't know what exactly what thought or series of thoughts were gracing my mind at the time, but I can remember the love and contentment present in my heart. I've realized that I no longer seek to understand life, or people; instead I desire to create meaningful relationship with everyone and everything I come into space with; and I choose wisely, who and what I share space with. It's beautiful... I think the energy of my life is shifting from that of a seeker to one of radical embrace. I recall the snow was falling softly yesterday, and I just remember thinking - this is magic - as I watched it float effortlessly toward the ground. Bless the tiny details and mystical moments in time we are able to hold on to and share. ~ Soulinspired, Lindsay on Instagram





~ Prompt for March 14th: Secret message

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Published 3:48 PM by with 3 comments

Obsession

Playing classical guitar and playing mandolin are two very different worlds.

Yes, they both involve music, being a stringed instrument, and possessing a relatively similar tuning, but that's about all they share. One focuses on classical music, a strict world of technical focus and accuracy of playing. The other can have a wide range of genres, from Irish to early music to bluegrass to folk to old time.

With guitar, I'm focused on improving my tone, playing the beautiful music that I adore so much, and enjoying the sound of the instrument that has drawn me in since I was four years old. It was my first musical love, and one that I will continue to love for the rest of my life, I'm sure.

With mandolin, I'm completely head over heels crazy for the fun new tunes that I've been learning, the excitement of performing and jamming with others (yay, I don't have to be by myself in a practice room for hours on end!), and the laid-back, happy ease of the musicians in this field. This has been a breath of fresh air into my musical endeavors, making me branch out of my comfort zone.

This morning I worked on learning the melodies of "Frosty Morning", "Gal I Left Behind Me", and "Piney Woods" on mandolin. Plus there was quite a bit of time listening to the Fuzzy Mountain String Band on CD!

This afternoon I practiced the first Gymnopedie by Satie (the transcription by Parkening) on classical guitar while sitting outside on the front porch as Harmony played nearby. I also did slow spotwork for tricky spots in other pieces. I'm so stoked to record my CD this summer!

This weekend I performed on mandolin with a local old time band for a dance at my favorite nearby dance club. It was SO much fun. My fingers felt like they were going to fall off after over four hours of playing, but it was totally worth it! Both the dancers and the musicians had a blast.

Next weekend I am performing classical guitar selections for a film festival. Vastly different audience, vastly different music. But I'm looking forward to this event just as much as the performance last night.

Thank goodness I don't have to choose just one instrument. What can I say... I'm just obsessed with music!

My instruments to play today :-)
The dance! My view from over the banjo player's shoulder on the stage.


~ Prompt for March 8th: Obsession

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Published 9:45 AM by with 4 comments

Make a Record(ing)

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of my journey as a classical guitarist.

Twenty years! That seems like such a long time. More than two thirds of my life has been spent as a musician. As I've written before in my story about finding Jane and the Christmas Miracle, I gave up pursuing the path of becoming a performing, competing guitarist, but I've continued to develop my skills as a musician and music teacher. There have still been plenty of performance opportunities, thankfully, just not the touring and competition lifestyle that would have made it very difficult to be a wife and mother.

But recently I've found myself wistfully thinking that I would love to have the opportunity to share my favorite pieces of music with the world. My time will be more and more involved with homeschooling my wonderful daughter as she gets older, and we want to have more children in the future, so my time dedicated to music is going to increasingly decrease! Homeschooling is exactly what I want to do, so I'm very happy for that, but it would be so cool to make that secret dream of recording music to share with others come true.

To my delight, after a few months of pondering, asking opinions, and inquiring about options, I am excited to announce that I am hoping to record a solo CD in August this year!

This is a first for me. I've played hundreds of performances, performed on television multiple times, performed on the radio, and worked in recording studios, but have never made a solo album as a classical guitarist. I don't want to make a flashy impressive CD... I just want to record some old favorite pieces that I've played for years and several pieces that I've loved for a long time but only recently learned. Nothing fancy! I truly want to simply share what I love so much about the classical guitar: the beautiful music.

Right now I'm still in the planning stages. I need to solidify my set list, memorize all the music, arrange for graphic design, etc. My former university guitar teacher, the amazing John McClellan, will be my producer and has generously offered to guide me through the entire process of making an album, so that is a huge blessing! The biggest challenge will be raising the money to get the CD made! I will be using a Kickstarter campaign to fund the CD.

The second toughest part will be getting the time to practice and prepare all the music! I will need to have consistent practice time to make sure that I can play my pieces at their peak. That's why I want to record at the end of the summer, so I can have plenty of time to prepare :-)

Here we go on this next big adventure! Time to make a dream come true!



~ Prompt for March 5th: Make a record

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Published 11:58 AM by with 4 comments

Imperfect

As I wrote yesterday, we all want to be loved.

Oh my, how much I love to be loved.

Don't you?

And we don't need to be perfect to be loved.

We all make mistakes. We all have faults. We all have weaknesses. 

I get impatient over dumb things. I freak out if my house gets too dirty, yet I allow my laundry to pile up until nobody has clean underwear. I neglect grocery shopping only to find that we are eating quesadillas and toast for dinner. I have little self control when it comes to buying books (that's why I don't go to bookstores). I struggle with self-discipline in planning my daily time out effectively. I have a weird fashion style (or lack thereof) that makes my husband and sister raise their eyebrows occasionally and tell me kindly that maybe I should try matching my clothes a bit better. I stay up too late and then behave grumpily in the morning to my sweet girl. I forget my friends' birthdays. I fall behind on writing letters. I get mad when I don't win a freaking board game.

I am imperfect. So VERY imperfect.

But I am loved anyway.

First and foremost, I believe that God loves me, and has loved me since the beginning of time. He loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me so that my imperfections could be covered with the Son's perfection and I could be good enough through him to stand before God. He created me to be ME!

Secondly, but very importantly still, I believe that there is a group of people around me who love me in spite of my imperfections. They like me for my quirkiness, and either guide me gently when my imperfect self screws up or forgive me. Everyone needs folks like this who surround them with understanding! 

So the next time you want to beat yourself up for being imperfect, remember that you are loved anyway, and give yourself a little grace  :-)


~ Prompt for March 4th: Imperfect


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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Published 2:35 PM by with 0 comment

Beloved

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,
"Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon
Language,

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
Hear.

~ Hafiz, "With That Moon Language", from The Gift, translation by Daniel Ladinsky



~ Prompt for March 3rd: Beloved

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Monday, March 02, 2015

Published 10:22 PM by with 0 comment

Floating

What keeps me constant these days? The Tiny is growing faster than ever, my schedule book fills the days with events weeks in advance, I am finally getting good at remembering what to bring when we all dash out of the house (backpack with extra clothes and snack and water bottle and pacifier for the Mininsky, her pony purse, my purse, my water bottle, my phone, my glasses, my keys). 

What keeps me steady?

Looking out the window at the sky.



Breathing Scripture memorized to my spirit.

The feel of my guitar under my fingers.

The flowers everyday on my table.

Soft, deep sighs, eyes closed.

Late night talks with my love.

Pausing to savor the moment.

Getting hugs.

And tea.

Lots of tea.

Isn't it funny how the littlest things in life keep us grounded?

These mugs of tea float me through my days. Chamomile, green herbal, Yorkshire black, pomegranate flavor. A spoonful of honey, a squeeze of lemon. A bit of cream, two cubes of sugar. Sipped slowly, gulped quickly, poured into a mason jar to take with me on my travels. According to mood I choose my cup. Maybe one day I'll have a delicate, flowery teacup to drink out of properly, but until then these lovely characters will keep my fingers warm, my tummy happy, and my moments marked with gentle sweetness.







~ Prompt for March 2nd: Float 

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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and many others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Published 2:53 PM by with 0 comment

Precipice {and Gratitude}

Looking into the year ahead from this vantage point, the height of the turn of the seasons, still feeling like the beginning of the year, the landscape spread out before me is breathtaking. Metaphorical destinations symbolizing where I hope to go in my music, creative pursuits, and personal growth are growing more clear. The mist is beginning to lift. It may look like these places are far, far distant but the reality is that my journey will take me to them if I keep my eyes fixed not only on the path, but on the beauty surrounding the way and on the lovely people traveling with me. I would not be here without the grace of God. I would not be here if it weren't for His implanted joy of music in my soul. Creativity is what makes me feel alive... makes me bow in worship to the One in whose Image I was created to create. I would not be here without the support of my wonderful family and close circle of friends; their love gives me wings. 

These folks. My friends. Although I may not be able to constantly tell them how much they are appreciated, they are with me in spirit every day. Their wisdom, their thoughtfulness, their quirkiness, their awesomeness, their gifts: all these are inspirational to me. For all the times they have encouraged me, helped with babysitting, shared their talents, cooked a meal, gone out to coffee, had late night conversations, listened to me play music, and gently helped me back to the right path when I began to stray, I am so very, very grateful. This life wouldn't be the same without you. 

~ Prompt for March 1st: Precipice 
                                                     
Gorgeous work by hand-lettering extraordinare Helen Boggess
                                                                                           
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Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and many others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts!


                                                                                                                                                                                              
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