happily ever after

happily ever after

photo of person flipping book page
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Have you ever waited for something?

Maybe this is a ridiculous question because of course, our days are filled with waiting. We wait for the dryer to buzz to begin folding clothes. We wait at stoplights and in rooms designed for this sole purpose.  We wait for results and answers and solutions.

But I am referring to the big and exciting category of waiting, like a trip or a Broadway show. Maybe it’s to hold the keys to unlock a new home or to land a dream job. Or repeatedly checking the mailbox for tickets to watch a favorite team or band and then waiting to take an assigned seat.

For me, it was a long-awaited book. I know, perhaps I need to work on larger dreams. But in my opinion, books are a reason to celebrate.

I had been waiting to get my hands on the latest book by an author whose debut novel had consumed a few days of my summer eight years ago. I couldn’t contain my anticipation to experience the next world she would conjure from the weavings of her imagination.

Once the book was in my hands, I quickly gazed at the beautiful dust jacket and then removed its folds to expose what laid beneath, black woven fabric embossed with gold letters and designs. I fanned the pages, careful not to reveal any clues and marveled at the intricate care and thought behind the book’s assembly. Newly released hardcover books can feel like an investment but I immediately felt the worth of this book, a gift.

It would be a safe bet to envision my next scene, sitting in my favorite chair with the book spread over my lap and a cup of tea by my side. However, this particular time, your wager would be wrong.

I finished gushing and placed the book next to my chair and later in the evening, I took it downstairs to my to-be-read shelf.  I visited this book often as I grabbed any other book but it from my shelf in the following weeks. 

Somehow the build-up in my mind about this book felt paralyzing. What if this book wasn’t all I had hoped it would be? I mean, what if I didn’t even like it? 

When I finally took the book off the shelf at the beginning of February, my fears weren’t relieved. The plot was slower developing than I anticipated and at times, I was confused. I couldn’t immediately figure out what was happening or how certain characters connected or were they? I was interested but I didn’t feel immersed in the book. I was impatiently waiting for an instant pay-off and craving fore-knowledge of an enjoyable reading experience.

The book is just shy of 500 pages and at nearly 200 pages in, I realized, I had two choices. I could abandon the book or slow down and trust the author. 

/////

I have grown accustomed to holding my breath.

Sometimes I am waiting to be thrilled and other times to be disappointed. 

I create scenarios in my mind that rarely materialize.

In fact, when I spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on these possibilities within any given day, I neglect to sink into actually living within the designed mystery of each 24 hours.

I want the revelation of the future or the unraveling of an ending in advance and this mindset shields my eyes from the present. 

I want to know how my life and the lives of the people I love turns out. 

Perhaps this is merely an introvert’s struggle but, I have secretly longed for parties or gatherings to be over in order to know a good time was had. Did I find someone to talk to and avoid feeling awkward? Did my presence matter? This is a guarded way of living because it robs me from deeply inhabiting each moment or to allow my mind and soul to be anchored to what is before my eyes, not in a rearview mirror. It’s my grasping to control when it was never in my job description.

I only get to live the pages titled today. If I am persistently looking for the sentence,“…and they lived happily ever after”, I will miss all the preceding paragraphs. I won’t be able to comprehend the ending without the context of beginnings and middles. 

As a daily practice, I open the book of my life and lay it open before the Author and Finisher of my days, letting Him fan the pages to my occupied place. I watch as he indents paragraphs and scribes long chapters, adding every necessary comma and period. He tenderly whispers that I might not always understand how my life stacks up until I have inhabited every section of my life, maybe not until I reach the other side.  I unclench my fists to allow me to smooth each wrinkled page of this precious mysterious life I have been given.  To think, I am given a new story every day scribbled with bits of wonder in characters woven in and through the pages. 

I slow down and trust the Author.

Oh, how did my long-awaited book end? 

I will let you know.

I am still savoring it.

 

 

the opposite of speed reading

the opposite of speed reading

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“Everywhere there are doors leading to new spaces and new stories and new secrets to be discovered and everywhere there are books.”
~from The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

There are days when I wonder if Carl knew what he was subjecting himself to when we married.

There are the days when a casual walk through our home is marked by a trail, a gathering of books I am currently reading. Each book blending into the landscape until I scarcely realize the sum.


However, over the last year when my life felt tangled and out of sync from aging, mounting stresses at work and dealing with chronic pain, I reaffirmed my shift to living more simply and slowly. My affection for books didn’t diminish but I grew weary of seeing books scattered everywhere. The physical clutter caused me to feel anxious by the vast quantity of literature surrounding me at all times.


Those who live with me, understand this is a slow process. I am not perfect but I am trying to rein in this habit and retrain my ways. It’s a delicate balance to keep order among the books I own and those retrieved from the library.


Two months ago, I lassoed every stray book and took the weighty assortment to my downstairs workspace. Once assembled, I sorted those books into two piles. One pile represented library books that no longer interested me or were not the right timing and would be returned. The second pile was comprised of books I wanted to read, either my own or library owned. I cleared out a section on one of the shelves above my work table and separated library books from owned books. I attached small post-it notes with due dates along their spines.


Any book entering our home will first be placed on this shelf. From this collection, my reading material will come.


I hadn’t realized the weight I felt from having books, even those I was enjoying, spread throughout my spaces. All these unfinished books seemed akin to feeling indecisive and overwhelmed. My reading attention had become scattered and splintered. I was highly distractible. My digital habit of keeping my computer or phone tabs open morphed into countless bookmark usage. After all, I am surely capable enough to read a book, catch up on Netflix with Carl and text a friend simultaneously.


This year, I am endeavoring to read one book at a time. Well, to be honest, one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time. I have also decided to no longer set goals related to the number of books read in a year. My personality drives me towards speed reading instead of savoring the experience of a great book.

Maybe you haven’t read a book in years and have no concept of my issue.

Have you let magazines spill over the coffee table?


Surely you meant to take out a pen to complete the Sunday crosswords but watching each week’s edition cover the previous one leaves you discouraged.


It could be too many clothes to fit in your closet, so they “decorate” other areas of your home?

Are you afraid to open your inbox because the number of emails, unread or otherwise has reached staggering numbers?

Putting my overflow of books in their place and beyond my line of sight brought freedom. No longer am I letting my books manage me.

A small newly created habit where I scan the shelf, assess which books are due soon, which ones cannot be renewed for extra days and the books which have lost their luster for now. Then weed out books and decide which ones might be next in line. I leave the books in their appointed place unless it is time to bring one upstairs.

Since I am a mood reader with a capital M. My previous routine was to gather an armload of books when deciding on my next read, peruse the first few sentences or pages and whichever one captured my attention was the winner. Now I use the same method, but I don’t sit in my living room chair but before my work table. Nothing comes upstairs unless it is my chosen book, not a hopeful contender.


Like keeping a tidy home, tasks need to be done regularly.

To keep my mind tidy, I must be vigilant to not create piles of any sort.
Tidy up, my friends.

Once you finish, why not take 15 minutes and read a good book?


I am off to practice what I preach as I see a few stray books attempting to create a book stack. But here’s a peek at what I am reading now:

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The Next Right Thing
This book is about making decisions. I preordered it before I knew a big job-related decision was looming. I was completely undone with indecision and didn’t have the attention span to read this book. However, one of the bonuses for preordering was a video and workbook course called Discern and Decide. I spent most of one day and completed the course. A different medium helped connect the dots. Months later I was ready to make the decision to leave my job. There will always be decisions to make, large or small. I am hopeful reading this book will aid me to make my next decisions regarding work. The course is still available for a fee, it was immeasurably helpful to me.

The Starless Sea
I have been waiting for Erin Morgenstern to release a new book after loving The Night Circus more than eight years ago. Her newest book is beautiful inside and out and required restraint to delay reading until I had sufficient time to fully immerse in the richness of her storytelling. I have read the first 25 pages and by the time this post is published, I hope to have spent the weekend between the cover of a captivating book.

*****

I love this quote from James Clear’s most recent 3-2-1 newsletter:

Reading is like a software update for your brain.

Whenever you learn a new concept or idea, the “software” improves. You download new features and fix old bugs.

In this way, reading a good book can give you a new way to view your life experiences. Your past is fixed, but your interpretation of it can change depending on the software you use to analyze it.

This post is a part of the slow collection. Never miss future posts by subscribing to this blog. Email subscribers are always the first to read new posts and updates. Find details on the sidebar. I appreciate your readership.

don’t short circuit failure

don’t short circuit failure

Over the last few weeks, I have written about how not being

chosen propelled me towards wrappers.

I have reflected on parts of my history and revealed

failing a semester of physics.

Last week, while perusing a sale table in Barnes and Noble,

I stumbled upon this gem:

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I smiled, laughed out loud enough to  prompt a mother and child to rush past me.

I flipped through the innocent looking pastel pages of equations and diagrams which had

stymied me in my past.

A  thick workbook represented failure to me.

It reminded me of my pride in being unwilling to admit my need for help.

Perhaps if I purchased this book and worked hard enough,

I could learn that which

had seemed out of reach,

I would be healed.

The failure would be erased and I would be rendered free.

I could literally close the book on the physics

chapter in my life.

Releasing my grip, I set the book down,

took out my phone and captured

the image.

Revisiting my physics story has helped me to

view failing differently.

You see as much as we imagine no one has ever

crashed and burned like we have,

failure is universal.

Most of us rarely reveal ourselves to others by

boasting of our latest epic fails.

Yet when we give voice to our less than stellar

moments, we diminish our failing’s power to rule.

Physics has opened up conversations with

others who suddenly feel empowered to recount their own

disasters.

If you were to witness the sharing of failure from afar,

those sacred viewed moments would be a collection of

heads nodding and hands thrust over hearts.

You might not be able to make out the words or

even guess at each person’s scenario,

but for a faint steady current

coursing between two masters in falling short.

I am not sure if that would be considered a closed

or open-circuit,

I just know inviting others into our

failures always fills a dark

corner with light.

 

more random madness

more random madness

I had every intention of writing this week.

I think the previous week’s high from attending the writers

conference was replaced by a bit of a dip.

The blinking cursor seemed extra bold and although

I had a list of post topics, it just didn’t happen.

If you think I abandoned my recap of the conference,

I decided to add the last bits and pieces to the end of the

post titled agendas.

I just forgot to let you know. Check it out.

Also, sometimes you take a step outside of your own

world and attempt to view someone else’s reality and

it can make writing a random post seem a bit insignificant.

If you would be so kind to lift a prayer for Steve Stern and the

Stern family.

You can read more of their story here.

I innocently left the house yesterday to meet a friend for breakfast which

could have turned into a late lunch due to our lengthy chatting.

When I returned home, I found my March Madness bracket all in

disarray.

All I can say is as long as Michigan State wins it all, my beat up and bruised

bracket will be somehow be redeemed.

Spring break is upon us and I will probably only be watching basketball with

one eye now that the upsets are happening.

I thought I would share a few books I have read and what is on my list

to read in the weeks to come.

I set a ridiculously high reading challenge goal on good reads and

I need to pick up the pace.

A few books I have enjoyed since the beginning of the year:

Product Details

Pursue The Intentional Life

Such a tender and wise book about numbering our days right.

…a book to help me live my highest until the Lord calls me home.
I long to see Christ’s life formed in me. I want to become the person
God had in mind when He created me. I yearn to touch the world
for God’s glory and advance His kingdom. The substance of this 
book represents my earnest desire to “number [my] days…that
[I] may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Product Details

Made to Crave

I have circled this book for quite a while.
I finally took a chapter a day and finished it.
Great wisdom and spiritual help for food issues.

I underlined quite a number of passages but this

verse was the gold I mined from this book:

“You have circled this mountain long enough.
Now turn north.”
Deuteronomy 2: 3

Leaving Church

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a book on my top ten list,

An Altar in the World.

Leaving Church chronicles the season in her life as an

Episcopal priest and her decision to leave the pulpit.

This  is not the life I planned or the life I recommend to others.
But it is the life that has turned out to be mine, and the central
revelation in it for me–that the call to serve God is first and last
the call to be human–seems important enough to witness to on paper.
This book is my attempt to do that.
Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through
at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over
and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life and 
finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be
losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up
finding them again.

The Invisible Girls

Sarah Thebarge spoke at the writers conference

and I found her book at the library.

Our public library has what are called Lucky Day books.

They are high demand books which you can check out only for

one cycle. They must be completed in 3 weeks and cannot be

renewed.

It was a lucky day to find The Invisible Girls waiting for me and it

took me 2 days to read it. If life could have stopped it would have been

a few hours.

This book is brilliant and heart wrenching and redemptive.

Go back to the agendas post and re-read what I wrote about Sarah’s

talk.

God is writing your story.

Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

On the teetering stack now.
For some reason, my book cover images
don’t want to cooperate so click on the
links.
It’s Friday…perhaps the blog is
ready for the weekend or just plain
rebellious.

The Memoir Project

Truth & Beauty

Let Your Life Speak

Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred
Rhythm of Rest and Delight

Divergent

Tattoos on the Heart

What are you reading?

reading material

reading material

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I haven’t written a post about what I am reading in quite a while.

Do you remember my pause from reading  the last portion of 2012?

Well, it was a wonderful hard time.

It felt wonderful to be fixed in one direction…reading the Word.

Hard in that, I love reading books.

It’s was like fasting from sugar.

Everywhere I roamed, it suddenly felt like there were sweet landmines everywhere.

It seemed like every blog post I read was about favorite books.

I just grabbed paper and pen and compiled a list of all those gorgeous books.

During that time, in the midst of seeing flashes of light, I discovered my need for glasses.

My new glasses are pictured above.

My world had been thin light grey type and now it is suddenly black boldface print.

It has been a revelation!

Cue the choir of angels singing Hallelujah!

But is it just me or do other glasses wearers have to clean their lenses every two minutes?

It’s been an adjustment but seeing is worth it.

It definitely makes reading more enjoyable!

The new year has found me with better sight and eating a lot better.

Thus the beautiful colors of fruit next to my book stack!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

This is the first book in the Flavia de Luce mysteries.
I found it for pennies at the Goodwill, which I am finding to be a goldmine lately.
I am beginning to adore eleven-year-old Flavia, a miniature detective with a penchant
for concocting poison.

Praying the Names of God Journal

I started this using this journal at the end of last year.
It’s a great part of my morning routine.

The One Year Bible-New Living Translation

I haven’t used a One Year Bible in a long time.
I tend to pick a reading plan and go from there.
For some reason, I wanted to keep life very simple,
without a lot of page turning.
I am enjoying reading from the New Living Translation
after last year reading The Message.

The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year

Did you know Lent begins the next week?
I want to be more connected to the church calendar.
I grew up in a church where the weekly bulletin pointed me
to where in the church year we resided.
I have just started this book and am excited to be more aware
and reflective.
How fun that I ordered this book from a seller only to receive
it in the mail from the author with a sweet note including her
contact information. I love that! She’s from Seattle.

Not picture above because it resides on my nook is this book

Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement

For a limited time Kris is giving free pdf copies away for your
computer or e-reader when you subscribe to her newsletter.
Click here (hurry)

Otherwise go here.

Leaving Church

Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World
was one of my favorite books I read in 2012. I am slowly
working my way through this memoir. Slowly because
I am sure I won’t want to get to the last page.

Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home

I read this classic by Richard Foster when it was released in
1992.
{in}courage’s book club Bloom is beginning  to read it starting
next week.
There are usually blog posts and videos throughout the week.

Find out more here.
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making

This is a fun book to flip through and be reminded of all the yummy goodness
that can happen in your own kitchen instead of grabbing it off a shelf illuminated
by fluorescent lights.

What are you reading during the month of February?

Speaking of February, I will post a new desktop for your computer once
it’s up on the site!

Have a blessed Monday!

happy happy joy joy

happy happy joy joy

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‘Tis the season for compiling the best and brightest of the past year.

Deidra at Jumping Tandem wrote about her Happy Things.

{in}courage has an amazing list of “the bests” of 2012 from readers…there are over 1600 comments.

Here’s my list of what made me say happy happy joy joy!

BOOKS

Lion Sightings in the Rose City (Volume 1)

Lion Sightings in the Rose City
This is a brand new favorite given to me by a dear friend.
I am enjoying taking a stroll through Portland and seeing God’s
handiwork. Thank you Barb!

The Night Circus
Definitely a  page turner with a huge dose of magic.

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
This memoir amazed me with the power of sparse
words written with depth and emotion.
Only criticism…wished it had been longer!

An Altar in the World
I read this book in August in the midst of a self-proclaimed respite.
Oh how I adore this book. It shattered my respite in the most gentle
way. My respite from  noise turned into seeing the sacred in the midst
of the throng. I feel such a deep kinship for the author and in tiny ways
this blog has been my pursuit of making an altar in my little piece 
of the world. I plan to read this book again soon.
MUSIC/WORSHIP

10,000 Reasons
Matt. Redman. Never. Disappoints.


A New Liturgy
A beautiful way to spend time in prayer and worship in
less than the space of 30 minutes. I dare you not to be repeating
the words through your day.

MOMENTS (and one which also contained my quickest organizing
task ever.)

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Our living room spread out with dozens of annual photo calendars
and Christmas card/letters.
Non-stop laughter and sweet Caleb patiently waiting until his year of 
appearance.
After years in a file all the Washington family Christmas
histories are in a binder with sheet protectors. 
Seriously should have done that YEARS ago!

 

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This boy looking so much like his father, it took my breath away. Even the way he sits(sigh.)

Oh this college girl holding her last year’s roomie’s beverage of choice.
Starbucks hire that smiling girl…she’d be good for business!

This smile…paid for every one of those pearly whites…just like in the photo above.
So glad she has more to be happy about than just straight teeth…oh so glad!

That day with that guy!

ON THE SCREEN

Can’t wait for season 3 of Downton Abbey…looks like a few new faces!

Call The Midwife helped me wait for Downton Abbey.
There is a Christmas special on tonight!

RANDOM THINGS

I have had this hiding in a cupboard.
No more!
Wonderful to keep your winter skin soft and smooth!
Heavenly!

Nature’s Wick candles

A wonderful candle with a wooden wick.
It mimics the sounds of a crackling fire.
I found mine at Target and opted for a single wick for longer burning.

COMPANIONS

Praying the Names of God Journal

Praying the Names of God Journal

I will be continuing to work through this journal into
2013. It has been a rich help to focus on one name of God
for 3 days with pages to journal, write out prayers and reflect.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 90:14

If I don’t allow God to satisfy me early…I will find
much to drag me down as soon as I walk out my
front door.
Some days it can happen before the coffee is poured.
Meeting Him before my eyes, ears and heart greet the
day helps to counteract discontent.

Every day [with its new reasons] will I bless You
[affectionately praise You]; yes, I will praise Your
name forever and ever.

Psalm 145: 2

Don’t you love that with God there will be a new reason
each day to bless and praise Him?!
FOREVER!

My word for 2012 was fixed.
To live satisfied, to find new reasons to praise God
is the definition of remaining fixed.
I will write more about this word and a word for
the year to come soon.

But for now…

O God,
my heart is fixed (steadfast, in the confidence of faith);
I will sing,
yes,
I will sing praises,
even with my glory
[all the faculties and powers of one created in Your image]!

Psalm 108:1

What things made you do the happy happy joy joy dance?

I would love to know!