" I pray you know joy in the odd moments,
beauty growing up in the muddy corners of the ordinary.
I pray you experience God making his 'kindness
known in the midst of a besieged city'. "
SARAH CLARKSON, from her January 15th Facebook post
A while ago, I jotted the above words by Sarah Clarkson into my journal. She always knows how to describe the ordinary stuff of life with such gentle grace, reminding us that our lives have a touch of the sacred. This week her words, especially the last line, fit so well in light of R*ussia's recent invasion of Uk*raine. All week I have been asking myself: how do we who watch, and pray, from afar carry on with our ordinary lives, how do we keep making something beautiful when the world is so broken?
Then I came across something from Andrew Peterson, author of Adorning the Dark. He says, "Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work, and it can't be done alone." No, it's not easy and, no, we cannot do it alone. We need each other, each one doing our part to keep things sane and kind in our corner of the world. Together, we strengthen each other. Together, we ensure that beauty and goodness prevails in dark and troubling times.
When I started the draft for this post I meant to write about the books that I'm 'butterfly reading'. So even though things feel sidetracked, I'll just carry on in that vein. Butterfly reading is when I give myself freedom to slip in and out of various books, dipping into a page here, a paragraph there. Allowing lines to nourish my heart, jostle my thinking, and bolster my courage. All without delving too deeply.
I certainly don't do this with every book or even all the time, but there are seasons when I can't seem to settle on a single volume. That's when I appreciate lightly flitting from book to book, much the way butterflies flutter from blossom to blossom, gathering inspiration from hither and yon. I never know what will fire my imagination in the moment. What will comfort or encourage. It can be old memories that jostle into consciousness. It can be ideas I never thought of before. It can be a description that perfectly says what I had no words for until that moment. Sometimes it's a line that makes me laugh out loud, and suddenly doldrums drop from drooping shoulders.
What I have discovered over the years is that one book will so often trigger something else I've read. The lines from each place builds on the other, all adding to my feast of good words. In my butterfly reading, I like volumes that are physically small in size and length—short chapters that don't bog down, but still with interesting things to discover.
Here are three books I've been flitting in and out of this week....
Notes on a Nervous Planet
by Matt Haig
" The problem is not that the world is a mess,
but that we expect it to be otherwise. "
A small volume about how modern life feeds our anxiety and how we can aim to live a better life. British author Matt Haig has experienced being ill with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. He asks the question, "How can we live in a mad world and not ourselves go mad?" How often I've asked myself that question. He's learned a thing or two and happily shares his hard-earned wisdom with readers.
The Book of Delights
by Ross Gay
" I came up with a handful of rules:
write a delight every day for a year;
begin and end on my birthday, August 1;
draft them quickly; and write them by hand.
The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice.
Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day. "
I felt drawn to pull this book of short essays from the shelf recently. Author Austin Kleon mentioned it on his blog or in his newsletter, and my friend, Lorrie, said someone else inspired her to read it. Must be something in the air. Written by award-winning poet Ross Gay, this book is the result of him recording the small joys he used to overlook in his busy life. Noted on the inside cover, he doesn't dismiss 'the complexities, even the terrors' of living in America as a black man. But his life changed when he spent time thinking about delight every day. He enjoys his garden and the natural world around him.
Spring, An anthology for the changing seasons
Edited by Melissa Harrison
" The seasons roll through our literature, too, budding, blossoming, fruiting and dying back. Think of it: the lazy summer days and golden harvests, the misty autumn walks and frozen fields of winter, and all the hopeful romance of spring. Sometimes, as with Chaucer's 'Aprill shoures', the seasons are a way to set the scene; sometimes they are the subject-matter itself—but there's magic in the way a three hundred-year-old account of birdsong, say, can collapse time utterly, granting us a moment of real communication with the past. " from the introduction, Spring, 2016
This book, ordered online, took several weeks to arrive. It had traveled all the way from Kennys Bookshop & Art Galleries Ltd in Galway, Ireland. Imagine that! It's the Spring edition of the British four-season series I've been enjoying by editor Melissa Harrison. This collection of essays and poetry, taken from both classic and modern writing, is a delightful way to celebrate the arrival of a new season. It's also a pleasant way to vicariously enjoy a bit of nature when you can't get out yourself, or the weather is inclement.
" He thought of the grammar of Gaelic, in which
you did not say you were in love with someone,
but that you "had love toward" her, as if it were
a physical thing you could present and hold—
a bundle of tulips, a golden ring, a parcel of tenderness. "
JODI PICOULT, Mercy
I am enjoying these three books. They have made great butterfly reading in a week that has been fraught with larger world events. They keep me grounded. Just as the tulips have done on my dining table. Reminding me to delight in the little joys. To keep loving and being kind in times of turmoil. To let the beauty in God's natural world still wow! me in my tracks.
* * *
On that note, I'm wishing
you a safe and pleasant weekend. Delight!
Photos on this post are mine