What I’m Into – October 2014 Edition

october

We have had the most amazing October.

I’ve complained enough about the Minnesota weather on this blog for you to know how completely awful it is for much of the year, but this October? Magical. Perfect fall temperatures all month long…and the colors!

It has been a full and beautiful month, and I feel very grateful for its gentle loveliness, easing us toward the cold slowly.

What I’m Reading:

I’ve been all over the place this month with my reading. Normally, I’m a finish-one-book-before-going-onto-the-next kind of girl, but this month I’ve been scattered. I’m reading bits and pieces of several different books.

books i'm reading

In the mornings, by my sad little light-box, I am going back between Levertov’s collection of faith-based poems, The Stream & the Sapphire (which is stunning) and Debbie Blue’s Consider the Birds (which is completely brilliant.) I love both but can only read each in small bits because they give me so much to think about.

I’ve had a couple different opportunities this month to talk about the intersection of faith and art. It’s a conversation I’m so interested in…but haven’t thought much about lately. So I picked up an old favorite — Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on WaterRe-reading this is bringing me back to a sort of “home base” as I work toward finishing Book 2. Why I do this anyway. What it means to be a Christian and a writer. What it means to find cosmos in the chaos. Beautiful stuff.

I’m trying to read Kate Morton’s The House at Rivertonbut I’m having a hard time getting sucked in. And I can’t believe I still haven’t ever read The Joy Luck Club. I’ve had it on my shelf for years, but I just started it this month. I’ve only read a few pages, but I can already tell it’s going to be exquisite.

I’m hoping to do better with finishing books this month, and am hoping to play along with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly Twitterature roundup — where you write super-short reviews of everything you’ve read lately on the 15th of every month. Fun right?

What I’m Watching:

I’m loving fall television, as usual. On my list of regulars: Scandal, Grey’s, How to Get Away with Murder, Nashville, (ahem) Vampire Diaries (ahem), and Marry Me.

I had high hopes for Red Band Society, but I lost interest pretty quickly. And I was super sad when they cancelled Manhattan Love Story. I thought that one had so much promise!

Andrew and I got all caught up with Parks and Recreation on Netflix. I keep hearing rumors that there’s one more season coming. Is that true?! Please tell me it’s true.

We also started watching The Blacklist, and though we can’t stop calling the main character Robert California (his Office name) instead of Reddington (his Blacklist name), we’re definitely sucked in.

When I’ve caught up on everything else and there’s still laundry/dishes/projects to do, I’m rewatching ABC Family’s Greek on Netflix, which I’m way too old for but which still makes me laugh.

What I’m Listening to:

This month, I discovered the gorgeous worship music of The Brilliance. I’ve only listened to their free live album, Road Recordings, from Noisetrade so far, but I’ll definitely be buying more soon.

I couldn’t stop myself from downloading a couple of songs from Nashville. (“Joy Parade” and “When You Open Your Eyes.”) I also grabbed a couple of song off of Andrew McMahon’s new album, In the Wilderness, (because Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate will always remind me of some of the best times of my life.) “Maps for the Getaway” is my favorite off the new album so far, with “Rainy Girl” a close second.

Other Things I’m Into:

– Leaves, leaves, leaves. Beautiful, crunchy, golden leaves and the boys who love to play in them.

fall collage- Green smoothies. I cannot believe I’m even saying this, but it’s true. I made a whole bunch of bags ahead of time this month and have been whipping them up every morning LIKE A REAL GROWN UP.

– Don’t worry. I’m still into McDonalds. And Diet Coke. And coffee. And wine. And gigantic piles of pasta. So pretty much all the goodness of the green smoothies are counteracted by the rest of my life. BUT STILL.

– A family trip to Duluth over a long weekend.

duluth collage

– Scraps of paper with carefully written “I love you”s from my kindergartener, who is so proud to be learning to write.

– Infinity scarves.

– Potato soup. I make this recipe exactly, except I add ham, and I cannot stop eating it. Seriously. I’ve probably made ten batches this month alone. So good.

– Bonfires with friends.

bonfire

– Carving pumpkins with my loves

pumpkin carving

– A kindergarten Halloween party (and parade) in which 6 of the 23 students in Dane’s class were dressed as Elsa.

– Apple cider candles

– The ducks on the pond in the evenings, making all sorts of lovely racket.

– Holding a chicken for the first time at a pumpkin patch. How cute is he?

chicken

Blog, Speaking, Writing…

I had the chance in October to speak at some really cool places, including Imago Dei church in Peoria (you can listen to that recording here if you want to) and the Emerging Artists Collective in Minnesota. I haven’t done much speaking since the Epic Road Trip last winter, and it felt good to get back out there. To say things out loud and to interact with real, wonderful people face-to-face.

Lately, the animosity of the Christian Internets has kept me from wanting much of a part in “The Conversation” happening around faith. (I wrote a little about that here). But being in those rooms, filled with genuine people, talking and listening to one another, I was reminded of everything I love about that Conversation. The honesty. The hope. The expectation. I was honored to be part of it.

speaking collage

I’m continuing to make slow (but steady) process on Book Two. Over the last couple of months I’ve turned a corner and am no longer deleting more than I write. So that’s a good thing.

I’m hoping to have a complete draft to my editors within the next couple of weeks. If you are the praying type, continue to pray for clarity, insight and attentiveness to God’s Spirit as I work to finish.

wine and writing

I bounced back into the Blog World this month after a pretty long hiatus, and it’s been so good. The post In Transit was my attempt to capture an incredibly meaningful spiritual insight I had at the airport on my way home from Peoria. One of my most unexpected and favorite days of this month.

I also started a series of Modern Psalms this month. So far, the ones I’ve done have been a way to honor hurting friends and to enter into their world — Psalm for a Lost Child for my friend whose son died last month, and Psalm for Wednesday Morning Chemo for a friend with cancer. Each of these posts has been deeply meaningful to me as I struggle to figure out what it means to enter into the suffering of others and wait.

I celebrated my book turning one year old and then I celebrated the simple beauty of One Day through an Instagram challenge with Hollywood Housewife.

It’s good to be back.

 

If you’re just finding me here, you can also follow me over here on Facebook or here on Twitter. Or on Instagram here.

As always, I’m linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into. So glad she does this fun linkup!

 

What about you? What have you been into this month?

Psalm for Wednesday Morning Chemo

For Melissa

I do not (as far as I know) have cancer. But, these days, I find myself living life alongside a dear friend who does. This is for her – and for anyone else who finds themself on this hard new journey: a psalm, a prayer, a simple grasp toward hope.

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

God of water and wilderness
and of hospital rooms, filled with IVs
smelling of antiseptic and latex:
To you we pray.

Glory. Glory.
Glory.

You have counted the hairs on my head,
so You know, too, about the ones falling out.
The way I feel every morning:
like I’m combing away a part of myself,
becoming someone I hardly recognize.

Still, I have to believe that you who number things like hair and stars
and the grains of sand of these ten thousand fall-frozen lakes
must know each of the 37.2 trillion cells in my traitor body.
Including the renegade ones —
those damn cancer cells, dividing, dividing —
Dividing my whole life into Before Cancer
and Now. Here.
Waiting.

I’ll admit, it’s hard to savor your goodness
when everything tastes like metal.
And if I’m having trouble trusting it, Lord,
It’s only because I’m afraid.

Here is what I know:
You are the God who sees —
not just the ocean’s surface
but every creature in its endless deep.
You who watch the jellyfish dance
and listen to the whale sing her mournful song
and know where the sea turtle
lays her eggs —
you see me too:
my heart, my fear, my hopes —
and even those odd-shaped cells
with their multiple nuclei
and their coarse chromatin —
and all their capacity for destruction.

Your eyes do not look away:
Not from the sparrow
falling.
Not from me,
as I sit here in Wednesday morning chemo.
The drugs are pumping
into the port they cut into my chest —
the place I held my babies when they were small.
The place where you say you’re holding me
now.

The weak fall light is straining through the windows —
and the trees —
they are almost entirely bare now.
They look a little haunted in the absence of leaves,
but I bet you know
exactly
how many leaves fell.
And I bet you’ve already planned it all out:
how many leaves
exactly
will grow there when spring comes back.

It always comes back.

And it’s Wednesday morning.
Again.
And all there is to do is sit.
The medicine courses, again, into my body,
and all I can do is
Receive.
All I can do is
Pray
to the God who sees it all:

Especially that which I
cannot. 

Glory. Glory.

Glory.

One Day

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself,
tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

OneDayHH

Every year around this time, the lovely Hollywood Housewife does this project called One Day, where she invites us all to spend an entire day photographing the details of life — the mundane bits that make up right now. I’ve wanted to participate for a while, but every year something has gotten in the way.

This year, I was determined. I put my a sticky note on my phone labeled ONEDAYHH!!! so that I would be sure to remember, first thing in the morning, that this was a day to be captured.

I know that there are all sorts of things to be said about the problems with being attached to your iPhone. To always taking pictures and tweeting about things instead of entering into them and being fully part of them. I get that. And in many ways, I agree.

But I also know about Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is about the alarm clock going off too early. About the long, short days — the temper tantrums and the quick-get-your-shoes-on-or-you’ll-miss-the-bus, and the deadlines looming and the waiting for bedtime. But Kairos — Kairos is about what God is doing. About that moment outside of time where everything happens. Where the world stands still and you are noticing it all. The bush is burning, and you are shoes off, seeing it, filled with awe.

And I know that last Wednesday, that wacky little phone with its quick shutter helped me see the Kairos in my everyday Chronos. Instagram — with all of its tricks and filters — didn’t so much “dress up” reality for me. Instead, it helped me see the beauty.

Anyway — feel free to stop reading right here. Go put your own sticky note on your own phone and commit to capture the day. So what if the “official” day is over? You can still play along! Maybe you’ll see your own little glimpse of Kairos in your random, lovely details.

(But you know, if you’re interested in seeing my totally narcissistic collection of photos, feel free to keep scrolling. It’s mostly for you, Mom.)

(Also? You can always follow me on Instagram here!)

First thing in the morning selfie. Only because I'm doing @hollywoodhwife's #OneDayHH linkup -- documenting the details of one entire day. Black and white and filtered because I'm not THAT crazy.

First thing in the morning selfie. Only because I’m doing @hollywoodhwife’s #OneDayHH linkup — documenting the details of one entire day. Black and white and filtered because I’m not THAT crazy.

Early reading by light box. Denise Levertov is my current obsession.

Early reading by light box. Denise Levertov is my current obsession.

Liam is up. And having a tantrum for no reason I can understand. Just like every other lousy morning of Age 3.

Liam is up. And having a tantrum for no reason I can understand. Just like every other lousy morning of Age 3.

When Daddy's out of town, Dane gets to sleep in Mama's bed. Early morning snuggles with my oldest.

When Daddy’s out of town, Dane gets to sleep in Mama’s bed. Early morning snuggles with my oldest.

7:13 and the sun is finally coming up. #nofilter

7:13 and the sun is finally coming up. #nofilter

A boy and his bead project. My 3yo's favorite morning activity.

A boy and his bead project. My 3yo’s favorite morning activity.

Frozen microwave pancakes. To the genius who thought of these -- one million thank you's.

Frozen microwave pancakes. To the genius who thought of these — one million thank you’s.

Banished outside because he keeps trying to eat the kids' breakfast. Sorry Marty.

Banished outside because he keeps trying to eat the kids’ breakfast. Sorry Marty.

Lunch box packed and ready to go. Today's menu: peanut butter sandwich, mini peppers, grapes, string cheese and a chocolate marshmallow cookie for dessert.

Lunch box packed and ready to go. Today’s menu: peanut butter sandwich, mini peppers, grapes, string cheese and a chocolate marshmallow cookie for dessert.

He was excited to wear orange to school today for United Against Bullying Day. "Mom, if there's a bully, I'll just smile at him, and he won't know what to do!" I love (and fear for) his tender heart.

He was excited to wear orange to school today for United Against Bullying Day. “Mom, if there’s a bully, I’ll just smile at him, and he won’t know what to do!” I love (and fear for) his tender heart.

Ready for the day. Thank Jesus for chunky sweaters, infinity scarves, and fall boots

Ready for the day. Thank Jesus for chunky sweaters, infinity scarves, and fall boots

Andrew's out of town, so, naturally, the garage door broke. Can't even close it manually. Please, no one steal our stuff.

Andrew’s out of town, so, naturally, the garage door broke. Can’t even close it manually. Please, no one steal our stuff.

Our sweet church.

Our sweet church.

If you would have told me seven years ago that I'd be going to a weekly women's Bible study -- and loving it -- I would have laughed in your face. Grateful for the grace-filled places God has brought me.

If you would have told me seven years ago that I’d be going to a weekly women’s Bible study — and loving it — I would have laughed in your face. Grateful for the grace-filled places God has brought me.

Also...yumminess.

Also…yumminess.

"We need to go to the moon. I'm gonna drive the rocket!" Driving with Mr. Liam.

“We need to go to the moon. I’m gonna drive the rocket!” Driving with Mr. Liam.

Mama Friend: the one who comes in, sits down at the table, and starts picking up your 3yo's sticker explosion like it's no big thing.

Mama Friend: the one who comes in, sits down at the table, and starts picking up your 3yo’s sticker explosion like it’s no big thing.

Lunch! Of! Champions!

Lunch! Of! Champions!

The kids ate all the Mac and Cheese, so I'm settling for a green (well, brown) smoothie...and some Cheese Puffs to balance things out.

The kids ate all the Mac and Cheese, so I’m settling for a green (well, brown) smoothie…and some Cheese Puffs to balance things out.

Rest time for Mom, Legos with a friend, and Liam's latest TV obsession: Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs.

Rest time for Mom, Legos with a friend, and Liam’s latest TV obsession: Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs.

20-minute nap on the couch with this shaggy thing.

20-minute nap on the couch with this shaggy thing.

Alright Book 2, you unruly thing . Let's do this.

Alright Book 2, you unruly thing . Let’s do this.

Look who made it home from his business trip!

Look who made it home from his business trip!

Off to the bus stop to pick up Dane...with some shenanigans on the way.

Off to the bus stop to pick up Dane…with some shenanigans on the way.

Home!

Home!

That time of day when I ask myself, "how in the world did the house get like this?"

That time of day when I ask myself, “how in the world did the house get like this?”

Temper tantrum redux

Temper tantrum redux

Sitting on the bathroom floor in potty-training solidarity.

Sitting on the bathroom floor in potty-training solidarity.

A post-tantrum snuggle.

A post-tantrum snuggle.

Dane's stash of necessities for pretend camping in the garage.

Dane’s stash of necessities for pretend camping in the garage.

On an adventure. The compass was supposed to go in his Christmas stocking, but I buckled and gave it to him early.

On an adventure. The compass was supposed to go in his Christmas stocking, but I buckled and gave it to him early.

Candles lit. Dinner wine poured. Various leftovers in the microwave. #scroungenight

Candles lit. Dinner wine poured. Various leftovers in the microwave. #scroungenight

Laid back Wednesday night dinner.

Laid back Wednesday night dinner.

Neighborhood ducks.

Neighborhood ducks.

Some days, it's hard to be five.

Some days, it’s hard to be five.

The kids are in bed and yelling at me from their rooms. I'm ignoring them, watching #ManhattanLoveStory, and eating all the chips.

The kids are in bed and yelling at me from their rooms. I’m ignoring them, watching #ManhattanLoveStory, and eating all the chips.

Kids are asleep. VICTORY LAP!!!

Kids are asleep. VICTORY LAP!!!

He is my spirit animal. He usually looks like I feel.

He is my spirit animal. He usually looks like I feel.

Finishing out the day with some TV with the husband. Andrew and I just finished #parksandrecreation and decided to try #blacklist. But all we can see is Robert California. #theoffice #forever #wewatchtoomuchtv

Finishing out the day with some TV with the husband. Andrew and I just finished #parksandrecreation and decided to try #blacklist. But all we can see is Robert California. #theoffice #forever #wewatchtoomuchtv

Psalm for a Lost Child

A month ago today, my dear friend lost her twelve-year-old son unexpectedly. He went to bed one Friday night in September with a cold, and the next morning, he didn’t wake up.

In my life, I have been shielded, so far, from debilitating griefs like this one. Loss is an ocean, and I am out of my depth as I try to tread this dark water with my friend. I don’t know how to “walk through this” with her, and I’m starting to hate that phrase — as if there is any “getting through” this kind of thing at all. As if I could do this “with” her — as if this were anything but the loneliest kind of grief.

Still, I’m learning to show up in the unknowing. To have the courage to talk and to ask — even if it means I say the wrong things more often than I say the right ones. Most mornings, all I can do is clasp my own remembrance necklace around my neck to remind me to hold the empty space. To remind me to pray. To remind me of Jack.

Today is the one-month anniversary of Jack’s death. Today I’d like to share the piece I wrote for his funeral. This is the best way I know how to join my friends in their pain, to make space, to remember.

photo credit: Filo.mena via photopin cc

photo credit: Filo.mena via photopin cc

If this was your plan, God, it’s a lousy one.

There. I said it.

What sense could there be in taking a healthy twelve-year-old while he sleeps? Contrary to the sympathy cards with their pastel colors and cursive sentiments, I do not believe you needed another angel in your heaven – filled as it is already with so many we have loved and lost.

You were there, God, in the moment Jack stepped from this world to the next, and you did not stop it, did not intervene, did not give us the miracle – and we want to know: What master plan would make this all okay?

You have plunged us into an ocean of grief, and we find ourselves confused and angry, pitched back and forth by questions with no answers. Why and why and why?

Here in this place, Hope feels as small and flimsy as a piece of driftwood.

Let it be enough.

Remind us that, in fact, your plan is not death, not death, never death – only ever redemption. That in spite of all of this grief, you have always been about repairing what was broken, returning what was lost, making things right.

Let this be the solid thing that we cling to, a raft that carries us through the grief. Where there are no answers, Lord, let your Love be the Answer, strong enough to hold the full weight of our anger. Our pain. Our broken, bleeding hearts.

If we’re being honest here, God, Heaven seems like a cheap consolation prize for an empty twin bed, Lightning MacQueen sheets still rumpled and waiting.

Teach us to lie still, our backs against the sturdy raft of incomprehensible hope and look to the sky.

Show us the stars as they come out, both visible and invisible, pinpricks of light scattered across the whole of the dark. Lighting it just a little, just enough. Let those stars be signposts that point us to that foreign city where all is being made right, where we will find each other again.

May heaven become real in our hearts – that place where Jack is running, where Love is winning, where that terrible machine of Pain and Death is being dismantled, finally, one piece at a time.

You are standing at finish line that is also a starting gate. Teary-eyed, open-armed, waving that checkered flag. Calling us home.