the rocking chair chronicles

I've taken to starting the day in my rocking chair by the big window in our bedroom. I stumble out from under the covers, brush my hair and whatnot, take my meds, brew a hot beverage, draw up the bedroom blinds, and take a seat. I started this new ritual intentionally - an attempt to pray and ponder truthfulness before I turn on the laptop and dive into both its goodness and necessities (for work), but also its distractions. While I'm huddled in the bedroom, you can often find Johnny in the breakfast nook transcribing Scripture before he heads out to his garage-drum studio. Yes, he writes out a chapter of the Bible which I think is pretty impressive. I merely read it, write in my journal, and whisper Morning Prayer. He and I are very different types, but we work well together as a married team; a good balance for one another.

From the rocking chair I see an antique wooden prayer bench (courtesy of my Mom) in the opposite corner. Atop the bench sits an iron cross aged in brownish hues. To my right is the big window, and I'm continually fascinated by the scenery: morning light, our semi-wild gardenia and rose bushes in need of pruning, the front porch made of red brick, tall pine trees, our neighbors' houses, garbage trucks picking up the stink, a stop sign (we live on a corner), perhaps a cat skulking through our flower beds, cars whizzing by, folks walking their dogs, a constable's car on the lookout, and so on. It may not seem exciting, but to take in the rhythm of our neighborhood first thing in the morning is a comfort. Then I get to Morning Prayer, picking up a notebook beforehand or afterward - here are some of my recent, scatterbrained notes:

10/13 ~

Lord, please heal each room in our house - show us how to live in them.

The sunlight today reminds me of a favorite passage from Gilead:

"It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance - for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light .... Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? .... Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm."

The birds have a lot to say today. Goodness.

I like the sight of Mr. and Mrs. Egg's [neighbors across the street] American flag gently folding in the wind.... The upcoming election - boo, hiss. I hate politics.

I am dust (Psalm 103:14), like the dust which currently covers many surfaces in our home. Which reminds me, I read somewhere that household dust is mostly comprised of human skin. That's really gross.

10/14 ~

Sitting here, listening, is not about spiritual epiphanies. God will speak when He is ready and I'll be waiting here, rocking.

Resuming the art of journaling has been very good. I've completed various half-used notebooks, laughing at old entries and ADHD-like notes; remembering not-yet-answered prayer requests and swooning over well-written quotes from my favorite books. However, if my children read these journals one day, they might think me more odd than they realized. Who can make sense of my random and erroneous thoughts? To think God sees all of this in my brain before I put pen to paper and loves me still - now that's something.

Today's morning brew: French pressed-yerba mate (tea) w/cinnamon, nutmeg, and a few cloves; very autumnal.

The day is gray though light rallies behind the clouds. I'm determined to be thankful for the bleak view. Isn't the Lord present in both darkness and light? Aren't they the same to Him?

10/16 ~

Even with more overcast weather today, I love to look out on our intersecting streets and see that all is well, or at least I pray for it to be so inside each home.

Though I'm not feeling so hot, God's Word is a comfort of the truest kind. All will be well - I feel it somewhere deep within. Today and onward, no matter my questions swirling, He is watching over us, very aware, very loving, more than we can fathom.

The incense burned down on top of the prayer bench, so I placed the pumpkin spice soy candle on the window sill - perfect for this somber weather. The house is ever so still and hushed. Even the thunder is soft, though for Milo's frantic scramble under the covers, you'd think a major storm was thrashing about. What a scaredy-cat (pun intended).

Speaking of cats, we often laugh at their little rituals or how they find new spots on which to sit and sleep. Is it just me, or do other humans crave a good ritual, too? A new view in the house?

This new morning routine of mine makes for a late breakfast, but while I'm able, it seems my current beginnings are to be filled with quiet prayer and a notebook.

10/18 ~

What a sight: as I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen this morning, there was my husband at the breakfast nook table, the morning light shrouding him like an icon, I swear (today he's writing out Matthew 22). I love that man; I kissed his neck. Twice.

Today Johnny and I made a date for Morning Prayer after breakfast, so I read and listened; saved liturgy for the two of us.

Autumn leaves incense on the wooden prayer bench again.

Mr. and Mrs. Egg sure do have green thumbs. Maybe they'll give us lessons. Please?

10/19 ~

I'm not feeling well enough to be at Church today, but it was good to be with the Lord in this rocking chair. And by the way, we have great acoustics in the bedroom; actually makes me sound like a decent singer.

Is there a better word for the sunlight today than golden?

I read Zechariah 3 which sadly I haven't read before, I don't think. It's amazing:

"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?' Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, 'Take away the filthy garments from him.' And to him He said, 'See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.' And I said, 'Let them put a clean turban on his head.' So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by."
[vs. 1-5]

I like the Apostles' Creed and all, but I prefer The Nicene Creed:

"I believe in one God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of the Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of light,
Very God of very God

10/21 ~

Even with the racket of workmen next door and my husband mowing the lawn, I am loving this rocking chair time. I mean, Johnny is very easy on the eyes.

My mind is still on family today (Papaw's birthday was yesterday).... Burning piñon incense on the window sill kindles memories of Colorado summers as a kid:

-Uncle Bill's and Aunt Faye's ranch: the sandbox with all the cousins, the glorious "backyard" full of wild foliage and sagebrush, eating outdoors watching a storm roll in on the other side of the mountains, Bill's art studio in the basement - that cowboy frozen in bronze.
-a different Colorado summer with my family - my Dad led music at a high school Church camp. He and I went camping with the students; not enough warmth in our tent, so we huddled back to back, snuggled for dear heat, and somehow fell asleep. Or those seven mile hikes which seemed much longer to mine and my brother's short legs - how good trail mix and canteens of water tasted on the side of that mountain!

Piñon goes best with cooler weather, such as our current chilly mornings in Houston. Sipping chicory coffee seems to honor my Cajun relatives who I met late in life, but just in time [my Mom was adopted and a few years ago, she found three sisters living in Texas; their family from Louisiana]. Aunt Denise introduced me to French Market coffee in her perfect, tranquil kitchen in Austin as we watched albino squirrels scamper about her front yard, and listened to NPR and Neko Case. I think my literary and musical preferences are genetic, I really do.

Today I prayed several prayers from The Valley of Vision - good aid for my own meager prayers. There was even a prayer for sleep which Johnny and I need oh so bad. I used Daily Light, too - I'm thankful for these saints who compiled prayers of wisdom and Scripture, morning and night.

10/22 ~

The sky is especially peaceful this morning - a soft matting of clouds like cotton. Johnny is off to the auto mechanic; Lord, have mercy.

Note to self: ask dear hubby to hang the hollow log birdhouse from that pine tree in my direct line of vision.

I'm loving this Pocket Naturalist guide to Houston birds which we picked up at the bookstore* yesterday. Now we can find out which birds are flitting around our yard and trees. Gosh, I'm dying to see some of these other drop-dead gorgeous birds, too: a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, Orchard Oriole, Indigo Bunting, and a Painted Bunting, just for starters.

I should get back in this rocking chair at dusk, though Evening Prayer in the bathtub isn't so bad.

Kate got me to pondering simplicity.... Hmm.

I hear lots of talk from people moving back into the gritty heart of their city for very good reasons, namely to live out urbanity more directly and serve their neighbors. The suburbs may not be as cool or eye-pleasing (to me), but shouldn't we outskirt-dwellers do the same? Shouldn't we mine for truth and beauty amongst the chain stores and cookie-cutter scenery? Be seeds of change and goodness (as we should be everywhere)? Johnny and I think so, for it's no accident God led us to this house, this street, these neighbors - how can we serve them? What is our task? Plus, we've found some good out here - two indie bookstores, a to-die-for Mediterranean restaurant/market, and some of our closest friends, to start with. This line of thinking coincides with the prayer our priest printed out for Wednesdays - "The Local Community."

I can't get away from Psalms 90 or 103 lately. Could Moses have said it any better?:
[I think not since he was inspired by God]

"Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ....

Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands
[Psalm 90:1-2, 14-17]

There is beauty to be found in our house, just as it is: the bathroom window in desperate need of new covering (to replace an old Indian tapestry), remnants of a few day's incense on top of the prayer bench, dusty kitchen counter tops, the stove in need of a good crevice-scrubbing, catnip residue on the living room floor, a broken end table upstairs, and our very-dirty windows. But what peace dwells here; what comfort. What bounty, even in what is old and worn out.

Two more excellent excerpts from Acedia & Me:

"For contemporary people with easy access to books, the Internet, and television, the power of words as experienced by the monks is almost beyond comprehension. But even now, repeated exposure to Scripture can be a revelation. One day when the air was so frigid that it hurt to breathe, I was on my way to visit David in the psychiatric ward. As I cursed the cold and the icy pavement under my feet, these words of a canticle from the Sunday divine office came to mind:

Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat...
Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow...
Bless the Lord, nights and days...
Bless the Lord, light and darkness...
Bless the Lord, ice and cold...
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
(Daniel 3:45-50)**

Unaccountably consoled, I was grateful that without my willing it, or being aware of how it had happened, the liturgy of the hours I had prayed was having its desired effect

"The word healing comes from a word meaning 'entire' or 'complete,' and signifies a restoration to wholeness. For that reason it is a more 'holistic' word than therapy. While many people are helped by psychotherapy, I suspect that there are also many like me who have benefited from occasional counseling but have received more help from spiritual practices such as prayer and lectio divina, or holy reading. Perhaps the most radical aspect of the psychology of the desert monastics is the extent to which they believed that Scripture itself had the power to heal."

* - [our other bookstore purchases:

-Called Out of Darkness by Anne Rice.
-Is Christianity Good for the World? by Douglas Wilson/Christopher Hitchens.
-Real Simple magazine, November 2008.
-A 3-pack of Moleskine cahier pocket ruled notebooks (in buff brown).
-I really, really wanted The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass, Picnic Lightning by Billy Collins, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, every book by Michael Pollan, and Lotta Prints by Ms. Jansdotter, but I restrained myself. I'm proud of me, aren't you?
-And after the bookstore, a trip to Office Max for a box of my favorite Uni-ball pens (in micro + black).]

** - [I don't read a Catholic Bible (I'm Anglican), but I found this beautiful passage in our copy of the Apocrypha under "The Song of the Three Children"]

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