Monday, November 30, 2009

Watching and Waiting

I sit and wait. I twiddle my thumbs and wait on God.

I ask and I seek and I rest in silence. I put my money in the bank of His faithfulness even when my actual bank account is meager and my circumstances are unchanging.

This season of advent marks the remembrance that God is back, looking to the needs of his people. During the next four weeks, join me to wait expectantly for the coming of Emmanuel.

As I find myself waiting on a great many things this year, I am reminded that my prayers should be less like a laundry list of requests and more like a simple call for more of His Spirit.

The truth is He has come, He is coming. The truth is that I am told there is a time both to work and to watch. I am told to:

Be still before the Lord, all people, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. (Zechariah 2:13)

An old adage suggest we put things in front of our eyes to remind our hearts of what is authentically lovely. Here are a few suggestions of easy handmade decorations for the Advent:
-paper chains (see above). Depending on your fancy, either add to it or take a piece away each day leading up to Christmas.
-patterned banners like this one here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thankful Heart Prepares the Way

(lovely centerpiece, brought to you by design sponge)

The calendar has brought us to Thanksgiving once again, reminding all to stop and say a few words of thanks for things and people that bring our lives color and flavor. In keeping with a tradition, here is a list of some things I'm flowing-over-full glad for this year.

A: Abby, my roommate, friend and creative instigator.
B: Bici Bike Coop and the way that it's helped to bring a resurgence of cycling in the Magic City.
C: Cheerwine: North Carolina's most notable contribution to carbonation.
D: Dark Chocolate and Lavender: a exquisite combination that recently has won me over.
E: Enter the Worship Circle, and particularly this old favorite, that reminds me that giving thanks makes way for Him.
F: Free rent for two months. An unfortunate foreclosed rental property that turned out to be quite the financial blessing.
G: Greyhaven and the way it brings Birmingham's musical community together.
H: Hairbows, and the way this lovely girl has given them renaissance.
I: Ira Glass and his uncanny ability to find and tell a story.
J: Jamie: because she's got the softest bed covers this side of the Mason-Dixon (among some other reasons.)
K: Kennedy, Amos: A Gordo printer whose artistic abandon and wise words have blazed a trail for me.
L: Layoffs: My own, in particular, that has given me the energy and courage to follow a thrilling, meandering path.
M: Marriages that give me something to learn from.
N: Novels, and my recent revisitation to works of fiction. It had been too long.
O: Otium Sanctum: an inspiring group of women that push me to slow to see the cross in the clothespin, beauty in the quotidian.
P: Penland School of Crafts: The place where my inner artist was resurrected.
Q: Quilting, and the goals I have to learn the art.
R: Redeemer Community Church: The church both gathered and scattered.
S: Sisters, sisters. Mine, in particular.
T: Twitter, and the ways in which it has started conversation. (Though, ask me tomorrow, and I may have a different opinion, altogether.)
U: Urban Standard, for the way that it gives space and voice to the creative class of our great town.
V: Vampire Weekend, and the mix-it-up-ness that their music brought to my repertoire this year.
W: Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry, and his words that have been a mantra of sorts.
X: X-acto knives. I actually got a lot of use out of mine this year.
Y: You. Chances are, if you're reading this, you mean something to me.
Z: Zooey Deschanel. She's just so darn cute, and I adore her movies and music.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Know When to Walk Away

Maybe Kenny's right. When it comes to life's cards, you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold and walk away. From my experience, there aren't lightning bolts of confirmation or chastisement... just heavy-hearted hunches, out-of-the-blue thoughts, tiny inklings. Some call it intuition; some call it God.

I call it humble uncertainty.

I call it fear-and-trembling faith.

This week, I walked away from two things that have meant a great deal to me over the last few years. In doing so, it really feels as though I'm closing and shelving old books, opening blank pages to the haze of what's ahead. It serves reminding myself that I'm not just leaving beloved things and people. I'm approaching altogether new ones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resting with Purpose

Let every safe harbor be a a place to rest up, not rest on your laurels, before you set off again for unknown jeopardy and joy.
--Nikki Hardin

I'm home, sitting on the worn-in cushion of my favorite loveseat in my favorite spot in the house. Outside the front window, fall is stealing the leaves from trees' branches, making way for a vista of scraggly lines and outlines.

God, I've missed home. I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I drove up, saw my friends and roommates descend the front steps. I don't think I knew how heartsick I was until I joined together with my family of believers and let praise pour forth from my lips. It didn't quite hit me until I was curled up beside my roommate in her soft-as-butter bed talking into the night.

I'm home where being myself comes easy.

Don't get me wrong. I loved Penland. There was purpose for my time away. There were, there ARE things that I learned, things I am learning. These lessons may take months, years to seep into my consciousness. It was so good that I went. It was both restful and labor-intensive. It was a strange hybrid of retreat and get-ready.

I read the above words from Nikki Hardin (publisher of that old skirt! I used to wear) when I was still in North Carolina. I scribbled them down, hoping that in reading and re-reading, I would not fall into the temptation of resting on my laurels, rather than resting up for what is ahead for me.

Life back here in Birmingham beckons for me to fill it up to the overflowing. I have dreams to chase, now with more of the skills I'll need for the trek. I thank God for what the last two months put in my arsenal.

(If you'd care to, check out an almost-complete album of what I created while at Penland here. I'll be making the switch to etsy asap.)

A million thanks to the people who have encouraged me to follow this less-than-logical artistic path. Your votes of confidence in me have given me the courage to put flesh on the bones of my dreams. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Love's Volume

At night, I fall asleep to the sound of metal cylinders rolling across the metal bed of the printing press; I dream in pantone colors. For two months, I've spent the bulk of my daily hours surrounded by this music of the print shop, the shuffle of feet sliding across the concrete floor as tired arms turn the crank over carefully carved blocks and handset type.

Crank, roll, whirrrrr, clank, click, click.

I've been introduced to new sounds and songs, added them to my library, developed a hunger for the cacophony.

When I return home, I hope to find much as I left it -- the work, friends and home I parted from with some hesitancy. But it's likely to be just as I feared. Life has undoubtedly changed without me in it.

But, time has changed me, too. I've been quieted; I've been slowed. I've been debased from pride I didn't know I had. My sins and shortcomings have been magnified under bright studio lights.

And while, I haven't digested all of my lessons, I have slowed my pace to lend ear to His sometimes-soft voice. He's here. God, is He ever here on this mountaintop, amidst the canvas of some of His best work.

He's here among the sinners who can't see the forest for the trees. He's here among the artists who fail to recognize the most creative work that is our habitat, that is ourselves. He's here whispering, He's here shouting. His voice is the sound of fog settling on mountaintops. His voice is like the sound of rushing waters.

I'll make a soundtrack of my time here. I'll burn a set of songs into my memory. And along with the metal scrapping and the obscene amounts of Hall & Oats, will be the soundless voices crying out for community and a God who speaks both soft and loud.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What I've Been Missing and What I'll Miss (in that order)

My family came to visit this weekend, and we stayed in the teensy town of Spruce Pine at this lovely bed and breakfast. The resident puppy clearly had us ladies wrapped round his little paws.

They don't make mountainous views like this one just anywhere.

Or cascading falls like this one here.

Peace has flowed like a river here in Appalachia. It is beautiful, no doubt. I've had the time of my life here at Penland, relished the time in this lush autumn landscape.

But, sweet Bama, I'm soon coming home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is a Vandercook SP 15

Do you have any way to get your hands on one of these bad boys? If so, please deliver to my stocking on Christmas morn.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let Us Then

Henry's words have sunk down deep. Ever since I first read his Psalm of Life last winter, I've been stewing with the last stanza-- with the idea of working and watching; toiling AND taking time to sit.

A real tension exists for me, between taking grasp of my narrative and letting myself be worked into it. I love this idea of being able to be both active and idle before the Lord. We are to be participants in our own lives, while maintaining the humility to know that we are not our Maker.

Among Young Lifers in Athens, it was considered a goal to become BOTH/AND, rather than EITHER/OR people. We talked about going deep and wide in relationships with kids. One didn't have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

We also talked for years about prayer. "Prayer isn't preparation for the battle," Bart would say. "Prayer IS the battle."

Likewise, James chapter 4, verse 10 of the Message reads:

Get down on your knees before the Master. It's the only way you'll get on your feet.

I printed the words pictured above today as a lasting reminder to aim for the perfect blend of taking steps while trusting.

Let us, then, be up and doing/With a heart for any fate; /Still achieving, still pursuing, /Learn to labor and to wait.

Weather: Pristine.
What I'm listening to: "A Traveller Dreams of Home" by Birmingham's own The Great Book of John.
What I'm reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
What I'm working on: The misadventures of Little Liza -- a line of paper doll greeting cards.