Friday, January 29, 2010

To Not Run Ragged

This year of new beginnings is already eight percent underway. A few weeks and days into a fresh start already has me committed to new projects here, there and everywhere. While I look to the ideal of "living simply and intentionally," I also think of the woman on Proverbs' pages who rose early, stayed up late, worked her fingers to the bone, keeping busy with good things.

I, too, am busy. I've got irons in the fire. I'm writing, designing, creating/crafting. I'm working, I'm reading, I'm scheming.

I'm occupied, for sure. I'm occupied with good, profitable, fun things. But, I'm starting to run a little ragged. On days like today, it feels like the quality of life is, at times, a bit threadbare.

When I'm watching the clock instead of leisurely enjoying time during infrequent visits with friends, it's a problem.

When I'm rushing from one appointment to the next, chomping at the bit at every stoplight between me and my next destination, it's a problem.

When I feel like my "free" time is filled with frantic emailing, scribbling and in the end, little feeling of accomplishment, it's a problem.

This is when I stop, and remember that just a week ago, I was doing this.

This is when I stop and cry out in prayer to the God who offers rest.

This is when I sit back and remember the Sabbath was a day the Lord made, to reflect on all that He made that was good.

I love the image above because it gives me hope about my current condition. Pictured is a lovely arrangement of frayed/tattered/sun-worn fabrics, proving to me that what is seen by some as broken-down can be redeemed. I, too, hope and pray to find my shortcomings to be composed into such a scene -- that what seems fit for the rag pile today can be material for something beautiful tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh, and

If you care to see/hear/engage in the results of last night's chew* discussion, click the link on the right sidebar or see this right here.

The time is NOW

"Yes, when I get big and have my own home... I'l have a desk like this in my parlor and white walls and a clean green blotter every Saturday night and a row of shining yellow pencils always sharpened for writing and a golden-brown bowl with a flower or some leaves or berries always in it and books...books...books."
-Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Not too unlike Francie, I often have dreams for when I grow up. When I become more settled, more financially stable, more in control of my time and energy...then...only then will I be able to create in a space like the one mentioned above. When I get a handle on things and when I have a sweet little corner set up for my writing and art, that's when it'll happen more often.

Well, that's bullhonky.

The time is NOW.

Today is the day that I should seek to pray to learn balance between going and doing, and staying home to pursue the (for me) re-energizing benefits of making, sewing, cooking, printing and writing. While I do have a pretty great b-art-ment in my current house, I also know that "needing a creative space" can sometimes be an excuse for not carving out discipline to simply do what I love.

It was pretty revolutionary for me to realize (thanks to good ole Edith), that sometimes, we can re-charge and rest in some pretty productive ways. For her, gardening turned into a way to unwind, rather than an arduous task on a to-do list.

Sometimes, we put off what we love because we think we need all of the supposed ingredients to make it happen. But, I repeat, that's a load of shasta. The time is now. Our efforts, however garbled, muddled or messy will do us right, if in fact, we have the resolve to put them to practice.*

*Granted, I do believe in the power of a good environment inspiring creativity. But, I think we all have the resources at our disposal to make those spaces without spending a lot of time or money. The first exercise in creativity may well be in discovering how to use what you already have to make you're own little version of Francie's dream desk right where you are.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chew on This

When a friend of mine suggested that we (plus two more) take/make more time for meaningful (cross-state) discussions, I was quick to hop on board of her clever little projectwagon. Her specific idea was for a blog called chew*. It is essentially an avenue through which to discuss a chosen topic each month, electronically meeting once to talk e-face to e-face.

This month is the kick-off, tomorrow our very first foray into the iChat conference. I've been looking most forward to it, but have just as much enjoyed the preparation that falls right in line with this desire to chase my own musings.

Our discussion tomorrow will center on "living simply and intentionally." We'll ask what it means to live this way, if Scripture sets a model for it, if God desires it at all? We'll talk about the idea of simplification in light of the complexity and messiness of human relationships. While I don't imagine we'll arrive at any earth-shattering conclusions, I know I'll be better for having listened and learned from others who are running the race.

The following are some (of the countless) things that have crossed my mind as I've prepared:

-This quote by John Donne about both the simplicity and the complex majesty of Scripture:

Oh, what words but thine can express the inexpressible texture and composition of thy word; in which to one man, that argument that binds his faith to believe that to be the Word of God is the reverent simplicity of the Word, and to another, the majesty of the Word, and in which two men, equally pious may meet, and wonder, that all should not understand it, and the other, as much that any man should.

- Jesus' commands in Matthew 6 and in Luke 10 to "Seek first his kingdom and righteousness" and to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind...Love your neighbor as yourself."

- This idea that being busy is not a sin, just being busy with your own things.

- The story of Martha and Mary (in Luke 10) in comparison/contrast to the idea of the Proverbs 31 woman.

-Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way community he started in Pennsylvania. He says: "What we can say is that an encounter with Jesus will mess up and transform not only what we believe, but who we are -- our economics, our politics, our families, even our very lives."

-An urban-planner friend of mine who says: "I want to live a simple life. But I want to live in a complex world. For example, I want to live somewhere where I can walk down the street and at various places buy vegetables, cds, clothing, and coffee. This, to me, seems like a simple way to live - everything I want right down the street. But my city has to be very complex to allow me to do that. It has to be structured with enough people in such diversity that it makes sense to build small shops and sidewalks and neighborhood centers. It is much simpler to build one wal-mart than forty small stores."

I've got a heck of a lot rolling around in my head about it all. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I've found some resolve to return to the kitchen for more healthful, more intentional, more balanced cooking and eating. After months of it sitting on my shelf, today I pulled down Laurel's Kitchen: a gem of a vegetarian cookbook, written by a community of women in the 70's. Oh, if you care anything about the slow seasonal nature of cooking good food, get you a copy of this cookbook. Don't waste a minute. The verbose introductions to each chapter are themselves fit for feasting.

I tried the above recipe from December's issue of Real Simple this evening: Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Pear. So dang tasty.

Raise your glass for a return to home-cooking, to flavor and fresh.*

*I'm seriously debating whether or not to watch Food Inc.: a documentary about meat processing, local farming, etc. etc. It's been a topic of much recent discourse, and I'd be lying to say I'm not curious to see it myself. If I do watch it, will it change the way I shop and eat forever? Perhaps. Am I willing to risk what may cause a serious increase in my spending, general attitude and efforts? Maybe, just maybe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


This is the last album I previewed. Oh Patty, January 26th is thirteen days too long from now.

This is the last song I purchased on iTunes. Satisfied customer.

This is the last purchase I made on amazon. (I know, I'm ages behind the rest of the literate world). Jazzed about Birmingham's DISCO project.

This is the last hair accessory I lusted over. Found it here, thanks to her.

This is the last guilty pleasure I indulged in. (See #3 from yesterday. I don't know if/how it's justified as of yet.)

This is the last person I talked to on the phone. She's a dear heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Better Late

New Years' resolutions as they come to me... whenever they come to me, be it today or mid-June, I'd like to keep them here for the sake of my own records.

#1: Chase my rabbit trails of curiosity and be better for the learning and discovering -- not just the asking.
#2: Take seriously my commitments to things and people. Yeses are yeses. No's are no's.
#3: Don't waste time reading and watching things that aren't productive for my learning and growing as an imagination-driven truth-seeker.
#4: Practice hospitality. Be generous in love, time, resources.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Something To Write Home About

From the outside, it looks like a weirdo San Francisco storefront. From the inside, it looks like a weirdo retail Pirate Supply store, selling planks by the foot, peg legs for every occasion, eye patches for the fashion-forward sea rover. Take a few steps deeper into the space, and you'll see things are always much more that what meets the patch-covered eye.

Pictured above is 826 Valencia, the model writing center founded by Dave Eggers back in 2002. What began as an idea to merge communities of journalists, editors and writers with kids in need of help with their reading and writing, has turned into another animal altogether. When Eggers decided to provide a communal space for his writer friends, he invited local kids to come into the space each afternoon for help with school assignments.

After learning that the space was in a retail only zone, he decided to create a "store" up front to justify their occupancy. What started as a joke, turned into a way to make the space more attractive to the kids who would eventually come in droves to learn to love the written word.

The model has now been replicated here and here and here. It's run and funded by locals who simply love and believe in kids.

I highly recommend a viewing of Eggers at a TED conference here, as he explains his concept. If nothing else, read and take to heart his final words, his plea for volunteers to catch his vision:

It can be fun. It needn’t be sterile. It needn’t be bureaucratically unteneble. You can use the skills you have. The schools need you. The teachers need you. The students and parents need you. They need your actual person, your physical personhood and your open minds and your open ears and boundless compassion, sitting next to them, listening and nodding and asking questions for hours at a time. Some of these kids just don’t plain know how good they are, how smart, and how much they have to say. You can tell them. You can shine that light on them, one human interaction at a time. So, we hope you’ll join us.

And, dear Birmingham residents, you can. If you're interested in getting in on our very own Woodlawn-based version, read more here and email Chip Brantley at While it's still in beginning stages locally, there are ways to get involved today, tomorrow, the next day. There are ways your physical personhood can speak light into a kids present and future.

Bury My Heart

It comes natural to me to bury my heart in certain places, in the tied-up experiences of life as it was. I think about college, about Athens, and I melt into a puddle of sweet memories. I remember Penland, and while I recall both the difficulties and joys of it, I still smile, filled with warmth at the mere thought of my autumn spent in the mountain's vivid treetops.

These days, they were good, but they weren't effortless. They were brimming over with fun, heartache, confusion. But, these days -- they look good through the lens of my hindsight.

My experiences embody my ambition, my courage, my resolve to do what I set out to do. And, I think, sometimes, I tend to camp out on those highlights of my timeline. I refer back to those life-changing experiences, I draw from them, I take comfort in them. I bury them and glance backwards with loving longing. They prove to me that I am (or at least, at one point, was) becoming the woman that I want to be.

But, do I seek to make meaning out of what's here and now? Do I wait for life to be wrapped in glamour and light again? Living is a continual laboring, waiting, watching. I pray to seek balance of activity and inactivity. Motion and repose. Dreaming and dozing.

It is said that when a place or an event captures one's heart, that their heart is there buried. I think I've certainly laid rest to parts of my own in the places and people that have formed my past. My hope is that my heart was buried alive -- that where it lies, it beats.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Wells of Silence

I love discovering rubies of wisdom, finding them buried deep in unlikely hiding spots of our culture, our kids, our memories. Simon and Garfunkel sent me reeling this morning with the poignancy of these words:

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls."
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.

When my racing thoughts had me thinking about silence this morning, I found myself in one of those brain-exploding states. How do I think about something that involves me ceasing to think? How do I learn the practice of silence when I there is so much I want to understand in order to do it rightly?

I read, in Kathleen Norris' Vocabulary of Faith, a story from her years as a teacher. Her description of "the silent game" she played with her students wasn't far from the one I, too, remember playing. For 30 seconds or so, she'd allow for rumbling, restlessness, shouting and noise-making. The din would reach an almost unbearable level, but when she raised her hand, it was understood that silence was the goal. Some kids loved it. Some kids struggled for stillness. Others still, found the silence to be scary - "like [they] where waiting for something to happen."

I had assumed the game was always just a ploy to get a classroom full of rowdiness to settle into peace. But, Norris' words brought new light to the darkness of that kind of silence. If we stop listening to the instruction of a Sovereign voice, we eliminate the opportunity for a kind of quiet that teaches.

It's real easy for me to get wrapped up in a fast-paced life that crowds out the chance for the sound of silence to last long enough to instruct. I long for moments of quiet to pepper the hubbub of my daily, to remind me that in stopping, I am priming myself for learning.