Confession: I opened my eyes this morning dreading the day ahead. Again. Even in my groggy, coffee-less thoughts, I knew this was neurotic. I closed my eyes and prayed: the Lord made this day and I should rejoice — not dread, but be glad. I opened my eyes and made a mental note to write in my gratitude journal: soft, peaceful light hovering over the stillness of our bedroom. I reached over to rest my hand on my husband's strong arm. I stroked our cat's blue gray fur. I stood up and opened the blinds to see gardenias resting on the outdoor red brick windowsill. Every year I look forward to snipping a few of those flowers to place in a blue pottery bowl in our living room. I learned this simple act of joy from my mom.
After coffee I still worried. I decided that one way to change my mental perspective would be to change my physical location. I didn't have to go far — I just took a few steps from the armchair to the breakfast nook table. I carried along the usual suspects: Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, journal, pen, and a card for a loved one. I didn't want to miss today's mail, so I picked up my pen first. The simple longhand movements across the paper caused me to breathe slower and deeper. I stopped thinking about my self, worries, and fears and veered my thoughts toward this person whom I love and admire. I also thought about how she would handle this day — with courage, peace, hard work, laughter, creativity, patience, and selflessness. O Lord, change me.
I looked out the window and our [Orthodox] Easter lilies took me by surprise. How could this be when I've seen them every day for a week now? Four are in full bloom, four will open by this evening, and several more will open this week. The previous owners of our house planted these white trumpets and they multiply every year. This never ceases to amaze me since Johnny and I do nothing to cultivate their beauty. It is all the work of the Lord who speaks these flowers to life.
Then I looked up to the wide blue sky, sunshine, and our neighbors' pear, elm, and pine trees. And all of the sudden I started singing an old, favorite hymn. I couldn't recall some of the words, so I Googled the title. I sang the entire hymn and smiled when I finished. It is the perfect declaration to sing again and again as I do dishes and laundry, take a walk outside, and shower — or any time today when dread might resurface its no-good, lying little head.
Last week I heard Psalms in the pine trees of the local park. Two days ago I spied a small congregation in our neighborhood's retention pond — a white egret, a blue heron, and wood ducks — sitting near pools of recent rainwater foraging God's provision for a feast. Likewise, I want to live in perpetual worship of my Creator. One way to do this is to sing.
This is My Father's World
This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world:
He shines in all that's fair;
in the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
Posted by jenni at 1:54 PM
I don't believe creative writing ever comes easy, but lately, once again, it is so hard for me. Extra hard. Today's lack of words might just be the result of not sleeping well and not feeling well. Since I cannot depend on blissful sleep or perfect health, I decided to beg the masses for writer's block advice . . . again.
So have at it, please. Time of day? Rituals? Writing exercises? Morning Pages? Anything.
Posted by jenni at 5:08 PM
Today has been one of those days. Yet I feel compelled to rejoice and be glad in it, and to contribute more joy . . .
My husband made bacon this morning. I made French pressed coffee. Therein lies proof that our marriage will survive.
Hopeful light flickering from a Mark Twain tobacco flower & vanilla candle on a gray, drizzly day in Houston.
Yesterday I met a handsome new friend. One day I will tell the little guy that I've known him since the minute he was born.
Lemongrass & clementine zest dish soap. Citrus makes for enjoyable chores.
Everyone should watch "Dove Real Beauty Sketches." Women, stop hating yourselves. Notice the beauty of every single woman God puts in your daily path. Tell them how beautiful they are. These things are good and true — we are all made in the image of God Almighty.
Carrot Cake Lärabars. I've yet to meet a flavor I don't love.
Vanilla Creme holy basil tea with a splash of coconut creamer.
Three favorite songs of late — "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" by The Rebecca West, "Joy" by Iron and Wine, and "Ohio" by Patty Griffin. Oh, how I love music.
Birdsong after the rain.
IMAGE issue 76 finally arrived in my mailbox last week. I was impatient for another exquisite collection of art, faith, and mystery.
French lavender lotion to quench my parched skin and soothe my busy thoughts.
Raspberry lip balm — I associate this scent with happiness.
Falling asleep praying "The LORD is my shepherd" as I inhale, and "I shall not want" as I exhale. That's my kind of mantra.
Posted by jenni at 7:46 PM
Even so, my soul needed a sweet talkin' to. I turned to Psalm 104:
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
I went on a walk and the sky was blue for miles. A small bird's bright yellow beak flew by with the speed of a shooting star. Lavender wildflowers quilted the grass. An orange butterfly meandered along my path whispering, Peace to you. Birds lingered on branches and golden light splashed their feathers. I said, "Hey, there." They did not flee. A neighbor's tree was lush with antique white blooms of grace and rainbow leaves. I looked at the sky — delicate, wispy strings of clouds emanated from the horizon like a child's sketch of the sun. The heavens declare the glory of God, He said, just in case I didn't get it. I caught the scent of jasmine as I turned the corner toward home.
Today felt like the incarnation of a rainbow sprouted from the leaves of my neighbor's tree. God arched a band of colors across the sky for Noah as a sign that He would never again destroy mankind or the earth by water. Likewise, He has given me promises of great things to come in my life. Some days, like today, I'm tempted to doubt. But I was walking around in a promise. We are always walking around in a promise.
. . . I just read a footnote for Genesis 5:29:
'Noah' sounds like the Hebrew for 'rest.'
Breathe. Everything is going to be more than okay.
Posted by jenni at 9:19 PM
Brain Pickings tweeted a great quote this morning:
We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
And so I want to share my joy from this gray, rainy day . . .
Psalm 94. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. —vs. 19
Johnny made spicy chorizo and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Mucho delish.
Rain to nourish our grass and trees.
Remembering our neighbor's bed of amaryllis in the sunlight yesterday. The color of hope.
A burst of citrus aromatherapy from a lemon peel in the garbage disposal.
A fantastic record that I'm playing on repeat: Through the Deep, Dark Valley by The Oh Hellos.
Jalapeño black bean soup and lemon lime Zevia for a late lunch. Just right.
Casey N. Cep's beautifully written review of Christian Wiman's memoir My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer. Casey is one of my favorite people on Twitter. Christian Wiman is one of my favorite authors. I must buy this book soon. I'm reading 7 books, you say? So?
Our sheets are in the dryer which means tonight is Clean Sheets Night. It's the best.
Rooibos chai with a splash of vanilla almond milk.
My crazy, sweet, talented drummer-husband who makes me laugh, loves me so well, and inspires me to work harder and be more creative.
The rustic perfection of my favorite swings at Laity Lodge. I'm writing an essay about our recent trip to The Letter of James for Today retreat. Lord, please give me the words.
Sleep well, my friends. May you have joy and peace in believing.
Posted by jenni at 7:42 PM
This morning I decided to do something different. After a mug of piñon coffee and Psalms 90 & 91, I took a walk with Johnny around our neighborhood instead of waiting until evening. We inhaled the scent of spring as the wind teased hair from my ponytail. Mockingbirds swooped at cinematic angles. I'm surprised they didn't break into songs of joy they had learned for all the hope bursting from the seams of creation.
Our tired eyes rested on a young cypress tree. A pink oleander tree. A favorite sycamore tree. An elm tree. Johnny admired "his" turtles by the pond. We greeted a bold baby squirrel perched on a neighbor's fence. We tried to recall the name of the yellow "trumpet flowers" growing in another neighbor's yard. I smiled at the sight of two red roses growing through a crack in a third neighbor's fence — last year there was only one bloom. The clouds moved so fast that their shadows raced across the grass. I was perplexed that the liturgy of the sky seemed to move slowly, yet shadows revealed the swiftness of reality. Johnny used to run after such shadows in his childhood. I pray to hide in the shadow of God's wings. I crave sunlight, but have I ever thanked God for these true shapes of darkness?
And then we saw a tree I could have sworn was dead. Just the other day its bare gray branches were set against a strong tree lush with green. Behold, today the weak tree is budding! This season proclaims renewal every which way you look. It should take our breath away.
But this evening I am weary to the bone, to put it lightly. It seems like I'm always waiting — to feel healthier; to triumph over my vices of worry and fear; to see promises brought to life right before my eyes; to radiate peace and joy. . . . I remember something Johnny shared with me this morning from Matthew Henry's commentary on Psalm 90: "Probably Moses penned this prayer to be daily used, either by the people in their tents, or, at lest, by the priests in the tabernacle-service, during their tedious fatigue in the wilderness." That's what I'm feeling — tedious fatigue in my weatherworn tent of a body. It does the strangest things. Discomfort has been my companion in many a wilderness for how long now?
As I watch the last of the light fade, I can either whine and complain and veer my imagination to stir up all that is bad, or I can pour a glass of Cabernet and practice a little courage. Lift my chin and have faith, for God's sake — it's all about what I cannot see. I don't need to understand. Faith is good and true like shadows and dead trees.
So I'll do something different tonight. I'll echo Moses' prayer:
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
I will pour that glass of wine, thank you. I will start the dryer and listen to our clean clothes tumble. I will read a book. I will enjoy dinner with my husband. And yes, we will watch Dancing with the Stars. At last I will rest my body on our platform bed thanking God for today. I will thank Him for tomorrow — I will do something else different. He will make many things new. I can't wait to see.
Posted by jenni at 7:56 PM
Hey, friends. It's been too long. I've been a lazy blogger. I've been a lazy writer in general. Again. But I am nearing the last few pages of a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' journal. I'm looking forward to putting my pen to the fresh pages of a robin's egg blue journal with a bird and golden script on its cover. So at least there's that.
It has been more than mere writer's block — more like writer's drought. A famine of words. I often find myself sitting, sipping holy basil tea, looking wearily to our backyard red maple, and confessing to the Lord, "I don't know anything anymore." Slowly and stubbornly I have come to admit that it's not a bad place to be. I don't like it, but I know it's a blessing to fall on my knees before Jesus who knows everything. He is everything. "His steadfast love endures forever."
The famine is my fault. I have not cultivated letters into words and sentences because I did not want to be honest. I did not want to share more sufferings in my life. I did not want to share the joy and beauty lavished on me by the Lord. I did not want to write a single word of anything.
It's all quite immature and obnoxious.
Thankfully the Lord never lets me go. He has kept me in a dark place to change me into who He knows I will be. He's doing this because He loves me. And no matter my lack of typing and missing deadlines He's reminded me that I am a writer. I always have been, I always will be. He didn't remind me with another trial upon current trials, but with a few ridiculous blessings in particular. I cannot share those stories for legitimate reasons. I'm just trying to say that once the Lord calls you to do something, you can never escape that vocation. You might think you've escaped, but He finds you. It is good.
Last night I decided to resume blogging. Again. It will probably be a slow reentry. Again. But it's time to be honest. It's time to share my sufferings and count them all joy. It's time to seek out beauty and truth, take hold and never let go, and tell you what I find.
Posted by jenni at 5:54 PM