Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Hissy Fits

"In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside 24 hours."
 ~Mark Twain

I think Mark Twain must have visited Alberta, Canada sometime during his lifetime, because I just found this quote of his about the weather in Spring. It almost describes the weather we've here had today... sun, wind, billowy clouds, overcast, calm, rain, sleet and snow.... we've had it all!

Fortunately, I choose not to live 'under the weather' so it doesn't matter what's happening out there, we've still smiling, still happy. Hope you are too!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sometimes More Is Too Much

Have you ever found browsing through old post that something strikes a chord with you, even though it's your own words you are reading? I recently found something and I'm taking the liberty of re-posting it ... with the hope that you will enjoy seeing this re-run.

* * *

I'll never forget the story I heard years ago of a fellow who was an artisan in his craft. He loved to bake bread. Because he wanted to work the dough himself, he could only produce a few dozen loaves in a day, and because he had time to be creative in his bread making, his bread became more and more popular. Pretty soon people were clamouring for him to expand his business. He kept saying no as that would mean taking his work into a whole different dimension.

I didn't know the fellow but I felt bad for him, because here was someone doing what he loved, and doing only enough so he could still enjoy what he did. To take it to an assembly line would have taken the artistry out of his baking, and the joy of actually working the dough with his hands would have been traded for turning machinery buttons on and off. Some may call that progress, but is it?

I like what Oscar Wilde says, "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter." The artist here is the baker, and the portrait his loaf of bread. Maybe I'm being romantic, but perhaps that's why the customers were begging for more. Perhaps they felt the love this man poured into his baking. Every loaf unique, not exactly the same shape or even with the exact same ingredients, because he had the freedom to change his mind and add raisins without ruining a truckload of flour. You won't get that in mass production!

Too often we live by other people's standards of what we need to do to feel productive. "Show me your piles of files in your outbox, and your stacks of bread, and I'll tell you if you've been productive or not. Let me see how much work you've accomplished and I'll judge how much to reward you."

So what am I trying to say here? Mass production and creativity don't usually live on the same street. We may be tempted, even pushed into, doing more and making it bigger. But more is not always better. Not if the trade-off means loss of time for relationships, nurturing our own inner world, and sacrificing rest for bodies that are not machines. Not if we trade in our God-given creativity and the ability to be original and truly enjoy our work. 

There's an old wise saying, "When you eat the fruit of the labour of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you." I look around me...sometimes I don't always get a whole lot accomplished in a day. I don't have neat stacks of finished files to show for my labour anymore. But for my efforts I may have a beautifully articulated article that will encourage my readers. I may have a friend who feels hopeful again because I spent an afternoon with her.

Occasionally, I wonder what happened to that artisan-baker. I hope he never traded in his delight of working with his hands for an increase in production of his bread. I think everyone would have been disappointed in the end. Sometimes more is too much. So I'm learning to ask for Wisdom to know when to stop.

* * *

May the fruit from the labour of your hands
bring you happiness and wellness today.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seven Things

Last night, my sister sent all the family a quick e-mail with a list of 10 things she and her family had been doing recently. It was a great way to catch a glimpse into their lives without my sister spend a lot of time writing a long letter or email. I'm doing the same for you today, only it will be a magnificent list of seven:

1. I'm busy getting ready for a weekend away to the mountains with my hubby. Early tomorrow morning, we board a Via Rail train for a 5-hour trip to Jasper National Park. My first-ever train ride, and I'm really looking forward to it!

2. We're staying at the Jasper Park Lodge -- a beautiful place to visit any time of year. Here are a couple of snaps I found on their website... to give you a peek:

3. Went out for a nice breakfast with my mom and sister this morning, a lovely beginning to my birthday celebrations this weekend! Not only did we have the usual breakfast fare, but when the lovely waitress found out it was my b-day, she came later on with a wonderful piece of cheesecake lit with a single candle. Don't think I've ever eaten cheesecake for breakfast, but then, you do need your dairy intake, yes?

4. My nephew found a gift wrapped parcel on our front step when he came home from work. It was for moi! A bag packed with bright cheerily wrapped treasures, along with a card from a dear friend who always seems to know exactly how to touch the soul with kindness and grace. I was joy-ed to the core of me!

5. The snow from our slushy dump of a few days ago is mostly melted. It was fun to drive in the neighbourhood and see all manner of snowmen in front of homes and schools!

6. I went to the shops to look for something new and springlike to wear while we're in Jasper. And what a treasure trove I found today. I thought of Katherine over at Sew Me Something Good because her site is so wondrously colourful whenever I go and visit. There were so many beautiful clothes in gorgeous colours, I felt a little like I'd popped into Katherine's colourful blog or Bert's sidewalk chalk art from the Mary Poppins film!

7. I'm taking my watercolours with me on this trip. I've had a hankering to play with them... more colours to feast my eyes upon!

And so, now I'm off. It will have to be early to bed tonight -- so no late night blogging, reading, or cleaning out forgotten corners at three in the morning!

Wishing you bright, beautiful colours in your corner of the world!

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's the Best Thing That's Happened?

I have never cared for the opening line people use when greeting me, "So, what's new with you?" I realize it's a reasonable way to begin a conversation, but I tend to feel put on the spot, as if the question is loaded with an expectancy for something out of the ordinary and requires an equally out-of-the-ordinary response.

Now, I have to admit, although my life is very pleasant most of the time, it is also quite ordinary most of the time. I haven't been away on an exotic holiday, nothing untoward has happened to me or anyone I know, and the little joys and pleasures I may experience from my every day routines and rituals -- alone or with others -- don't seem to be the fodder for opening conversations.

Of course, I could tell the person how I enjoyed playing with my kitty cat as she chased the string around the room. But, first of all, it's not new information, and second, the person, unless a tried and true cat friend, probably isn't going to be as eager to know whether Miss Kitty played with her toys today or not.

So, what to do? I believe author, speaker and life coach, Valorie Burton of Rich Minds, Rich Rewards, shared a wonderful new question in her weekly e-newsletter I received this morning. Here's an excerpt from it:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?
"This is one of my favourite questions to ask people in lieu of the overused and often insincere, "How are you?" It's a simple, thought-provoking question. Ask it of others -- and once a day, ask it of yourself.
In my seminars and workshops, I often have participants ask each other, "What's the best thing that's happened to you today (or this week or this month ...)?" Most people have to think for a moment, but the response is always one that lifts spirits and puts life in a whole new perspective."

Now, doesn't that question create more opportunity for interesting conversation? To share more heart stuff? For me, one of the best things that's happened to me today was that I enjoyed a refreshing walk in the neighbourhood, breathing in all those earthy Spring smells and listening for the bird songs of the newest arrivals. I even chatted with a chirpy sparrow when I passed the tree he was perched in.

So, what's the best thing that's happened to you today?

Gratefully yours,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For The Joy Set Before Him

Easter Meditation

What gives an Olympic athlete the motivation and stamina to endure countless months of hard training, working out till his muscles scream in agony? What makes him choose to work on his technique or program, even when he hears the laughter of friends floating through open windows on warm summer days? What makes the athlete endure? What gives him the motivation to keep at it?

It's the dream he sees in front of him -- the joy set before him. Perhaps it's the dream to compete with the world's best, to win a coveted gold medal, to beat his own personal best record, or to receive accolades from fans around the world. Whatever his dream, that's what makes him endure his 'cross' of hardship.

Jesus Christ also had a dream. It was this dream, this 'joy set before him' that gave him the courage and the willingness to endure great hardship and suffering.

"...He, for the joy (of obtaining the prize) that was set before Him, endured the cross..." Hebrews 12:2 (amp.)So what was this great joy? What was worth so much that He considered it a prize, a prize so grand, so wonderful that He thought it well worth enduring the shame and degradation of all that led up to the cross? What was the prize that gave him so much joy just thinking about it?

Was it because He was finally going back to heaven, after his stint here on this planet with all these crazy people? Was it because He was going to get to sit at the right hand of the Father when He returned? Was it for the inheritance and the title of "King of Kings"?

No! No! The realization that the great joy, the great reward He kept seeing and thinking about during this time was.... me .... and you... and every other person ever to be born!

We were the picture He had in his mind's eye when He let cruel men beat his body, rip out his beard, and pound nails into his flesh. He endured all that in anticipation of the joy of knowing that his sacrifice would clear the way for you and me to become friends with God again, for all time and eternity.

We are his reward. We are the ones that gave -- and continue to give -- Jesus Christ joy unspeakable. Don't ever think that you aren't much to God. You are what He saw and dreamed about. You are the prize! You are the one for whom He endured the cross... for the joy set before him... It was YOU! YOU! YOU!

Oh Happy Day!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Focus

Our Lord has written the
promise of the Resurrection,
not in books alone,
but in every leaf in spring-time.

~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Choose Carefully

I have been working on paying closer attention to what I say I will do and what I actually do.

For instance, last night as I sunk my weary self into a comfy chair, after having been out ALL day doing wonderful and good things, I commented to my husband that life can sure get busy. Already April is well underway, and though I meant to start strictly on April 1st to begin a thorough cleaning of all cupboards, corners, and drawers in my house, here it is April 8th and I have not opened even one closet door yet.

As I said, there I was lamenting to Rick that life is just too busy, when he quips back, You're the one that chooses what you do each day. I was about to defend myself when I remembered I want to pay closer attention to what I tell myself these days. He was right! I do have a choice, and if I'm not getting around to doing what I had planned, perhaps I have to quit playing the 'April Fool'.

Sometimes I forget that I can't do it all. Sometimes I forget that if I want to add something new to my agenda, something else has to be dropped. It's like that old saying about purchases, when we bring something new into our home, we should also discard something old.

* * * * 

My Tip for the Day

Whenever you are tempted to say yes, ask yourself if you really have time in your day for it. We always try to squeeze things in but eventually there is no more room in the day.

Never forget there are only 24 hours in the day: basically 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for work, 8 hours for personal care, family, social activities, play, meal prep and eating, errands, appointments.
To add a new thing, you must carve out the time to do it; it may mean dropping something else entirely. Don't be tempted to pile up your plate of things to do or attend like you are at a giant buffet table, hoping to try it all. Instead choose the one or two things you can truly focus on comfortably, with joy and grace.

Write it in your calendar, so it's there as a reminder that there is a particular time and day already committed to something else. Even your resting and walking times.

Sending you wishes for a beautiful and well-paced day!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Musings

It's bright and beautiful today and the air is full of warm earthy smells. I heard my first robin the other evening -- that's always a happy Spring sound. I love to hear their evening vespers as they warble from roof top peaks.

It's been busy around here, so I haven't done much in the way of creative writing for my blog. I have lots of things stirring on the inside, but it takes time to 'mine' them out. I was talking to God about that recently, how it seems so hard to put into coherent writings those bits and pieces I've been chewing and mulling over, especially those deeper things I hear Him whispering to me. As quick as anything, I heard Him quip, "Mining is hard work".

I chuckled. Of course! What else did I expect? Diamonds don't often lay atop the soil, we have to work hard to get at them. And then, the work doesn't end there, because they come in a very rough state. So much more work is needed to cut and polish until that gem becomes something we want to wear and enjoy. So, too, our words and ideas need such hard work.

So what to do when the mining gets too hard? There are little things I do, like going for a walk, taking a tea break, or going somewhere to browse at something new and different. Some times the best thing is to put it on the back burner and let it simmer some more.

One thing I do for sure is read. I let the mined and polished gems from other 'miners' encourage me not to give up, but to press forward, to keep cutting, polishing and working.

You'll see in the above photo a glance of what I'm reading to encourage myself these days. Oh yes, I don't know about you, but I generally have 4 or 5 books on the go at the same time --- usually different genres and authors. It's a little like eating a 6-layer chocolate cake; you experience all sorts of yummy textures and flavourings, all melded together in a single slice.

Wishing you all a pleasant and joy-filled day!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Simply Sunday: Star Breathing God

I'm pleased to have my friend, Rosalie, share a poem based on a phrase found in the Psalms. My imagination is tickled by the words 'star breathing God'.

Enjoy and have a wonderful day!

* * * * *

by Rosalie S.

Gaze into the deep blue heavenly sky
In daylight you see the birdies fly
Night brings on the celestial scene
Twinkling stars with light years between

Stars scattered across the vast domain
Sparkling like diamonds washed with rain
Wondrous star breathing God made this display
The sun, the moon, the Milk Way

The great galaxy goes on and on
Beyond the earth, beyond the sun
Then comes the moon, a golden jewel
Shines in its glory on earth now so cool

What would be a dark and scary night
Is now displayed with brilliant light
Did you know the stars do sing?
Praises to their God and King

When the sun rolls down in the west
Nature's world goes into rest
The stars made to light the night
By the same God who spoke


"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made,
and all their host by the breath of His mouth."
Psalm 33:6 (amp)