merry early

christmas has arrived early in my world.


stress and poetry

have you ever volunteered to do something, and then end up questioning the supposed wisdom of that decision?

that is where i am today. i volunteered to write the script for the the opening of the One Hope Benefit Concert video at PORTICO, and now, having already been up for hours working on this thing yet again, it seems no closer to being done.

the voices telling me that it cannot be done are working overtime.

you've never written a video script before.
what were you thinking?
you've never written anything decent in a two week period.
what makes you think you can do this?

this sucks. do you really want to show it to someone else?

like i said, working overtime... but i am pressing on.

in the midst of my research, however, i did find this gem that is becoming my chorus for the day. i hope you enjoy it as much as i am...

love the earth and sun and amimals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others...
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
| walt whitman


i know nothing

the more i read, the more i meditate; and the more i acquire, the more i am enabled to affirm that i know nothing. | voltaire



we need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.
God is the friend of silence. see how nature— trees, flowers, grass—
grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... we need silence to be able to touch souls.
mother teresa


nine things that make me happy

any book by cecelia ahern. having read almost every book that ms. ahern has written, i was super excited to get her newest book, the book of tomorrow, from the UK. given my propensity for reading ridiculously fast, i am gloriously taking this one slow.

chocolat-banane tarte from Brioche Doree. sadly, these amazing little tartes can only be purchased in paris, at one of my favorite stops while wandering the city. i had read about them in a couple of different tour books before i went on my first visit, and make sure i have one every time i go back.

whimsical washroom characters. i LOVE our new PORTICO washroom characters (and the signs they are on). they are playful and quirky and make me happy every time i see them.

my christmas tree. only nine more sleeps until i put my christmas tree up! it is my annual, october 31 tradition. you may think it is insane, but given that i live alone, and am gone for most of the day, in order for my tree to feel as loved and appreciated as other christmas trees who may have more people in their home, i put mine up earlier. that way we both get the maximum amount of enjoyment.

airplane paperclips. i ordered these adorable clips from china, and they were worth the long, long wait to actually receive them.

fall. i think i've made it pretty clear that i love fall. i adore fall. the colors, the food, the sweaters, the grey, rainy days... bliss.

books i am reading. my friend phil commented (regarding my sickness-induced absence from blogging) that i cannot blog and blow my nose at the same time, but i can read 11 books. yes, it's true, all those books you see under 'reading right now', i am actually reading.

my 'assignment'. a while back, i gave myself the assignment of writing out passages of the Bible, in an effort to better understand and learn. at first, i will admit i was mildly skeptical, not thinking that it would be as powerful as it has turned out being. i'm writing out 1 John right now, and let me tell you, it is exceedingly challenging seeing John's words about loving other believers written by your own hand. it's been equally convicting and challenging, and a practice i plan on continuing.

and as always, paris. i'm living vicariously through two friends who are fortunate enough to find themselves in paris at some point this fall. i've been now twice in the spring, and fall is definitely the next time i want to go. perhaps 2010...


the happiness of life is made up of minute fractions—
the little soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look,
a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals
of pleasurable and genial feeling. | samuel saylor coleridge



last night my small group began our journey through Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God. i believe that this is the first time any of us have read the book, at least of those who were sitting in my living room last night.

in his introduction, Keller says,
one of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain you do.
as someone who has been on this Christ follower journey for the better part of 36 years, i have had more than my share of moments when i thought i had it all figured out. usually, these times of 'illumination' are followed by times when i crash and burn and realize the there is truly very little that i actually know or understand.

to make the point even stronger, i came across this quote by Buechner yesterday that seems to underscore what Keller has said...
it is as impossible for man to demonstrate existence of God as it would be for Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle. {Frederick Buechner}
how brilliant is that?


no room

i have a special love for the books of the Bible that John wrote. his poetic, artistic style of prose simply makes me happy.

back in august i told you about an assignment i'd given myself to write out parts of the Bible in an effort to better understand and live out what i believe. this past week i have been writing out the second chapter of 1 John.

1 John 2: 9-11 says,
those who claim to be in the light but hate a fellow believer are still in the darkness. those who love their fellow believers live in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. but those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
now, i'm not much for math, but this equation seems pretty simple...

love fellow believers = light = no stumbling

hate fellow believers = darkness = blindness, disorientation, stumbling

according to John there are two possible responses to other Christians: love or hate. there is no room here for merely tolerating people. no middle ground to compensate for personalities that may clash with mine, those who have hurt me or people close to me, those i would rather simply go somewhere else. apparently it is all or nothing.

the decision is mine. do i stumble around in the darkness, or will i walk in the light?

as a person who is hopelessly clumsy on the best and brightest of days, there is only one option...



i am sick.

which is why i haven't written in a bit. apparently it is hard to write and blow your nose at the same time.

i will be back soon...



i have always, and will forever remain, a lover of old fashioned, paper books.
although, i may not go this far...



as much as i loved the angel's two questions from yesterday, my favorite part of Hagar's story happens at the end.

between the angel's instructions and Hagar's return to Abram and Sarai's house, there is sandwiched a verse that is brilliance.
She [Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” {v. 13}
the God who sees me. this reminds me of a quote i first read in a book over a decade ago that has resonated in my soul since...
to me, one of the proofs that God's hand is behind and all throughout this marvelous book we know as the Bible is the way it continually touches upon this very fear in us--the fear that we are so insignificant as to be forgotten. that we are nothing. unconsciously, his Word meets this fear, and answers it. {Amy Carmichael}
the majority of the self-imposed stupidity of my life happens because i forget that God sees me. i feel forgotten and insecure and insignificant, these feelings cause me to say the stupidest words, do the stupidest things.

the story is silent as to what happened when Hagar returns to Abram and Sarai. it says nothing of the reception she got when she walked back into the tent. no mention of whether or not the situation changed. this is all it says:
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. {v. 15}
the only change was that Hagar had a new name for her God, and with this new name, came the realization that she was seen and heard.

how many self-induced problems would be eliminated if i could remember this...



yet another reason that i love my job: yesterday i was able to attend the Leading From A Healthy Soul one day conference.

Mark Buchanan, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Rest of God, opened the conference by talking about the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar from Genesis 16. let me tell you about it...

God promises Abram that he will have a son and heirs as countless as the stars in the sky. Sarai doesn't get pregnant. Abram and Sarai get old. Sarai takes matters into her own hands. Abram doesn't object strongly enough. Enter Hagar, Sarai's maidservant, who is handed over from Sarai to Abram {which apparently worked back then}. Hagar gets pregnant, then treats Sarai with contempt. Sarai, no longer impressed with her solution, blames Abram, whose own solution is that Sarai can treat Hagar however she wants. Sarai treats Hagar like crap. Hagar runs away.

now you're caught up. this is where it gets good.

Hagar is out in the desert, when an angel appears and asks her two questions:
"Hagar, Sarai's servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
{v. 8}
* * * * *

at this point, Mr. Buchanan compared the angel's questions to that timeless classic, Monty Python's The Holy Grail. The old man standing at the bridge asking three questions to allow people to pass.

what is your name?
what is your quest?
what is your favorite color?

these questions deal with the core of who we are.

what is your name? / who are you? identity
what is your quest?/ where are you going? destiny
what is your favorite color? (obviously not asked by the angel) passion

* * * * *

back to the story. Hagar, only able to answer the first of the angel's questions, is sent back to the sucky situation. then, as if the return isn't bad enough, he has more good news, this time about the baby she is carrying,
This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." {v. 12}
i'm not a mother, but i cannot imagine anyone getting too excited about this. you can pretty much feel the foreshadowing of parent/teacher conferences and other discipline issues settling around you with these words.

but despite this, Hagar focused on something different, which i'll write about tomorrow... {stay tuned!}

for now, i want to leave you with the angel's two questions, the same questions Mark asked those attending the conference. let them sink into your soul and don't rush the answers.

who are you?

where are you going?


review: Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham

call me what you will, but i am always a bit wary whenever i pick up a book that is solely for women. as a single, never-been-married, never-had-a-child woman, it has been my experience that most books written solely for we of the fairer sex deal more in the realm of the wife and mother than simply being a woman, thus alienating anyone whose life path has taken them elsewhere.

marcus buckingham’s new book, finding your strongest life: what the happiest and most successful women do differently, was a happy kind of exception to that rule. while he does deal with these responsibilities, the principles that he lays out for living a strong life transcend external roles, and are as applicable in the boardroom as they are at starbucks with friends or in the family kitchen.

dealing with core issues that we face as humans, mr. buckingham’s book takes his reader on a journey of self-discovery, including finding direction for your life from the myriad of choices there are available and being true to yourself, whoever you are.

being an unashamed ‘test’ nerd, i loved the online strong life test, which quickly helps a woman determine the role she was born to play, advisor, caretaker, influencer, motivator, etc. the best part, however, was after taking the test, armed with what your lead and supporting roles, chapter seven explains them, providing examples of strongest moments and ways to expand that role in your life.

using examples of real women, find your strongest life is a good place to start for those looking to get out of the ruts we too easily find ourselves in. filled with useful information, mr. buckingham’s book can be a catalyst to your strongest life.



since grampa died, i have not been focused on writing as i was before. to be honest, it's been a very dry spell.

with this realization come the questions...

what if this crazy writer thing is just something that i desire, not something i actually am? what if all my dreams in this realm are merely illusions or worse…delusions? i read the words of others who move me, and realize that while i have things inside of me to say, i currently am not able to remove them from me. and that is what a writer needs to do… detach from themselves the words, angst, emotion, ideas, and smear them onto paper.

am i too lazy? do i not give my voice the opportunity to emerge? why is it far easier to stare at a screen, play solitaire or even clean than to wrestle with what is inside me to the point where it can come out and become an entity of its own?

and then, after what has been so firmly a part of you is down on paper {or the blogosphere}, it is subject to the world and all its opinions. to criticism, first from the unending critic inside of me, then to the world at large. do i want to subject this piece of myself to such hostility?

but the opposite is equally as unappealing as well. to sit alone in a room with all the unrealized words, dreams, thoughts, ideas living inside of me... making me feel that i am living only a shadow...

i write not because i want to, but because i have to.
“if you hear a voice within you saying, ''you are not a painter,'' then by all means paint… and that voice will be silenced.” {Vincent van Gogh}
i pray this works for writers as well...



i wasn't going to turn my computer on when i got home last night. it was almost 11 pm, and i had been at the church since 8:30 am, and wanted nothing more than to find myself fast asleep in the comfort of my bed.

but my growling stomach had other plans... so while i was waiting for the eggo waffle to toast, i hit the 'on' button, waited as my dinosaur home computer powered up, and checked my email.

while taking my first bite of the syrup-covered yumminess, i saw an email that i didn't expect.

* * * * *

let me backtrack to early august. willow creek's leadership summit, as always, introduced their audience to a number of people who are impacting the world in different ways. one of those people was jessica jackley, whose organization KIVA, helps connect people who have $25 they can spare to loan with people who need microfinancing to help get on their feet. KIVA's website explains what they do as, "KIVA lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to life themselves out of poverty."

so when i got home that night, i sat down at this same computer and donated my first $25 to a group of women in the dominican republic. hoping to inspire others, i even emailed a few friends to join me in the venture.

* * * * *

back to last night.

the email subject read, 'your KIVA credit is now ready for use'. to be honest, i had no idea what it was talking about, until i opened the email and saw that the group from the dominican republic had already made two payments on the loan they received, my share being $2.08 of each payment. hence the email, acknowledging my credit of $4.16, which i could either relend, withdraw or donate.

i don't know about you, but sometimes i find that the cynicism and pessimism about the world we live in is overwhelming. i don't think that i actually expected to see any of the investment i had originally made. but somehow, this $4.16, which in mississauga couldn't even buy you a happy meal at mcdonald's, makes me feel as though some of the more cynical parts of me were somehow being silenced.

i went to sleep content in the realization that you don't have to change the whole world, or write it off as hopeless... you only need to do whatever you can, and if you're really, really lucky, you get to do it again.



happy october!

october is perhaps one of the happiest of months, as it is the entryway to all things fall and orange and gold and dark red and pumpkin.

to celebrate this joyous month, here is a poem capturing the essence of my most favorite of seasons.

by robert frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

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