all through the night

Sometimes night swirls around us with a darkness so dishearteningly deep, it’s hard to sleep. But, God is with us in our bleakest, darkest moments with lanterns of hope.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4)

Darkness doesn’t always make sense. The sun may be shining bright outside, but inside there’s a comfortless void of dismal little deaths when our dreams are dashed, we’re stress oppressed, hope seems pointless, and worries wake us up at night.

Frenetic antics around our whacked-out world can (for certain) add to sleeplessness.

And pain, in all its sizes & stinging edges.

Pain often kept my bedfast quadriplegic Papa awake at night. He memorized old hymns and mind munched the words to distract pain in the dark wee hours. (Before calling out through the monitor for the caregiving elf to stumble in & turn him onto his other side.)

So, Virginia, we get it. No Santa Clauses around here: dark nights, can’t sleep, woe are we.

But, wait. Virginia hasn’t weaned herself off Christmas music (yet.) NO shame, you understand, intermingling Christmas music with her eclectic playlists all year round. One of this week’s high frequency comforting compilations is folk singer Shawn Colvin’s exquisite Holiday Songs and Lullabies. Here’s a nighttime song for today via YouTube (email readers, you know the drill: click to Roses website to view.) 🙂

Love along
His watch is keeping
All through the night

Sleep, my love
and peace attend thee
All through the night

This traditional Welsh lullaby offers hope: God is with us all through this night, and in all the nights and dark corners of our lives, to lighten our ways into (eventual) days.

“Be cheerful and rest trustingly in the arms of Divine Mercy, and do not fear.” Padre Pio (Saint Pio of Pietrelcina)

Don’t give up hope. Let go and let the peace of God attend you all through the night.

grace, peace & lanterns of hope

Virginia : )

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

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Transformative Blackbird Grooves

A few weeks before Christmas my neighbor Laurin recommended the movie, “The Big Year.” Since my brother & I like birds (really like them) she thought we would enjoy this movie, based on a book by Mark Obmascik about three birders from diverse backgrounds going after the gold medal of birding: whoever spots the most North American species in one year (a Big Year.)

For some reason (not just because I like birds) this movie starring Steve Martin, Jack Black & Owen Wilson struck a chord with me, watched multiple times over the holidays. (My uncle needed to see it? friends? family?)

Since the movie starts at New Year’s and ends the following New Year’s, it seemed kinda holidayish. There’s also friendship, humor, transformation (especially Steve Martin’s character), lots of amazing birds, and music grooves that make the movie even more fun.

One song in particular caught my attention: Brad Mehldau’s jazzy rendition of “Blackbird,” originally written by Paul McCartney for the Beatles. At an important juncture for Steve Martin’s character, hard-nosed businessman Stu Preissler, this song conveys transformative internal grooves.

When my brother downloaded the movie music this week (& Brad Mehldau’s jazz album, “The Art of the Trio”) he added a rendition of ‘Blackbird’ Brad Mehldau does with Swedish soprano Anne Sofie von Otter on their “Love Songs” collaboration.

wow.

Here’s a YouTube version to have a listen.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night, Take these broken wings & learn to fly… Blackbird fly, blackbird fly, Into the light of the dark black night…” (Paul McCartney)

Over @ Haddon Musings, Bernadette posted a quote last week that went straight into my journal. Seems like a good fit for this song, not to be missed.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C. S. Lewis

May our broken wings be mended to fly like blackbirds in the night!

grace, peace & transformative blackbird grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. The C.S. Lewis quote also applies to characters from The Big Year movie, which makes it an inspirational film for everyone (not just birders!)

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Extremists for Love

Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., an extraordinary man who led a movement of change, who dreamed segregated Americans could become a ‘symphony of brotherhood’ working, praying & struggling together in peaceful equality. We commemorate his efforts and the thousands who rose up with him against injustice to let freedom ring in this country.

What a life. What a legacy from this man of faith – a preacher from a long line of preachers (his father, grandfather, great-grandfather) – who found the courage to stand up against segregated injustice, violence and hatred.

In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Martin Luther King, Jr. kept on going…

 ‘even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…’

 …blazing a path of change through non-violence.

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again & again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” 

Pray God that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dreams will continue in these turbulent times, that hearts sweltering with the heat of injustice, oppression and hate will be transformed into fountains overflowing with freedom, justice and love.

A favorite book, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (edited by Clayborne Carson), combines his letters, writings, and speeches into a comprehensive portrait of his life. I highly recommend this book for a deeper look into his life that is truly inspiring & a valuable resource for fighting injustice anywhere.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is for all Americans and the world, regardless of race or creed, as a pastor he often challenged the Christian establishment’s status quo. To look the other way or not get involved was not his way – or the way of Jesus Christ.

Take a few moments to read his  “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”  written to the clergy. See how relevant his applications are to our challenges today:

“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ … Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

 Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”  

All these years later, there’s still too much hate-filled rhetoric filling airwaves, hallways and heart-waves. As we remember the legacy of this great civil rights activist, killed for his beliefs and dreams of equality, let’s ask ourselves, what kind of extremists are we?

WHAT KIND OF EXTREMIST AM I?

WHAT KIND OF EXTREMIST ARE YOU?

How can we become creative extremists for Love? To extend justice to all, equally, through the prism of Love, stamping out the darkness of hate whenever & wherever it lurks in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, countries…around our globe?

grace, peace & creative extremists (for LOVE!)

Virginia : )

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Gelato? Ice Cream? (inspirational splurges)

While visiting Italy awhile back, one of my travel buddies was really into Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream that bursts with flavor.  As we visited each city, town, village, (neighborhood), she had to sample the local gelato.

It was all very scientific.

We occasionally helped her with difficult research tasks like which flavor was better? Which gelato shop required further tasting: the one up the street tried this morning, or the one on the corner sampled after lunch?

‘Twas an educational endeavor.

“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy the ice cream on your plate.”  Thornton Wilder (1897–1875)

Now that last week’s snow in Williamsburg has finally melted, we’re contemplating ice cream in January, because? During winter months we don’t frequent our ice cream shops so often as summer. They need us to think: ice cream. (Like, who needs an excuse to eat ice cream? It is. Therefore, partaking is… an option anytime, even in the dead of winter.)

Hmmn, what’s all this about ice cream, Virginia? Look around, depressing stuff’s a happenin’ all over. Bleak outlooks on & over the horizon. But, that’s why God gave us ICE CREAM. To provide temporary relief dealing with the hard stuff.

“I guess ice cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.” Lucy Maud Montgomery

Every now (& then) ice cream can be a spirit-lifter-upper. Bye, bye blues, hello happiness! Of course, it’s just a temporary fix, but what a delectable one (especially with a little chocolate fudge sauce added to the mix?)

It’s so cool that Ben & Jerry’s has amazing vegan ice cream flavors. Soy-free! Almond Brickle that melts in your mouth (it’s ice cream?) And a peanut butter oreo cookie concoction that is over the top yum.

If you’re having a freaked-out Friday, try adding a bit of ice cream (or gelato) to your plate. Then, ask God to help with whatever is bothering you.

grace, peace & imaginative ice cream splurges

Virginia : )

“Love does not measure; it just gives.”  Mother Teresa

p.s. Later on Friday – an intentional inspirational splurge with Ben & Jerry’s vegan PB & Cookie ice cream topped with Almond Caramel Brickle. Ooops, forgot the hot fudge!

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Snowtime Flexibilities

I don’t know about you, but cold weather makes me cold.

Really cold weather makes me really cold.  Like this cardinal, I want to take flight – but under warm blankets (wake me up in the spring!)

“Spring will come in our souls if only we have the patience to last out the winter under the cold snow. A good winter is the best preparation for a good spring.”  Carlos G. Valles, SJ

But a good winter doesn’t have to be SO COLD! The weather didn’t get the memo this week that Virginia (the state of) is in the south? And we don’t do temps like 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) or wind chills below -1 degree F (-18C)? All week we’ve dripped our faucets, run the heat all night, and bundled up for outings occasioned by necessity with hats, mittens, woolen scarves, earmuffs and our warmest functional winter coats (vs. fashionable ensembles.)

Mine makes me look like the Pillsbury Doughgirl.

In case you don’t remember the Pillsbury Doughboy, here’s a refresher. (Pillsbury piecrusts are still the best, says pie-maker Virginia who used lots over the holiday.) Note his well-rounded appearance? Just like me in my Pillsbury Doughgirl coat (but it’s warm!)

Swinging by our Neighborhood Walmart Tuesday evening to restock a few holiday-depleted items (like piecrusts), I found numerous empty shelves and long check-out lines. A bit perplexed as the smaller neighborhood Walmart is usually a quick in & out (vs. the gigantic one across town), I checked the weather on my iPhone to see if we needed to drip the faucets (we did) — but somehow a red alert winter storm warning had snuck into the forecast.

woah! A mad dash into Trader Joe’s ensued for the umpteenth time since the onset of the holidays. Did I mention the frigid temperatures? But at least we haven’t run out of chips, dip, and all those goodies Trader Joe’s so tastily creates.

Basic necessities for a winter storm (snow inclusive.)

Our front porch @ a blustery 7:00AM today.

Last night nearby cities of Norfolk & Virginia Beach were under a blizzard watch. They endured 65mph winds, 12 inches of snow, and some friends there are still without power. Here in Williamsburg, we received 8-10 inches of snow and gusts up to 35mph.

View out our back porch this morning.

This morning I woke up @5:00AM to wind whipping around the house, gustings that continued throughout the day. Rattle, rattle, shake, shake, but we are grateful the electricity stayed on.

Our windblown Nightmare Before Christmas front porch decor.

We haven’t taken our holiday decorations down yet, but we’ve talked about it. (The Three Kings need a chance to make it to the creche stable: Epiphany is January 6th.) Contemplating packing away this snowman has been a struggle.

Each time I pass by, bouncing it makes me laugh!

Dwight (my brother) said, “It’s a reminder. Let’s be flexible.”

We decided to leave out our snowman as a winter thing, with the added bonus of daily flexibility remindering. Sometimes flexibility can be the best tool in our tool kits.

Bruised reeds bend in storms, but don’t break.

These bushes aren’t exactly reeds, but they did fine in today’s winter storm, because they bent with the wind and didn’t break.

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Anonymous

A good reminder as the first week of 2018 starts with winter storms disrupting our schedules and plans (sending us into hiding under warm blankets!)

As a pick-me-upper for our frozen toes, here’s a YouTube video of The Bangles ’80s hit cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song, “Hazy Shade of Winter.”

Look around,

Leaves are brown,

There’s a patch of snow on the ground,

And the sky,

Is a Hazy Shade of Winter.

(Paul Simon)

grace, peace & snowtime flexibility grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. Had to share this pic of my brother rocking out in last January’s snow…

(it was too cold to venture outside today!)

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2018: A Calendar Year

It’s a new year! Today! 2018! HaPpY HaPpY New Year!

Enough already with the !!!!s, Virginia, we get it (you’re muttering.)  🙂

But, how grand is it, out with the old, in with the new!?! A chance to start afresh. No more 2017. Now it’s all about 2018, even if we’re a bit worn out from holiday merrymaking & energizer uncle visits. In his late 70s, our uncle still teaches full time as a professor @ Grinnell College in Iowa. Museums, movies, walks, talks, friend parties, family gatherings, special church services – our holiday sped by powered with lots of love (from Above!)

Out with the old year, in with the new – which includes calendars. You know, those handy things with pictures we hang on walls (or flip over) to help us remember what day it is? (month, year?)

This year I opened (& properly protected) a coveted gift in a Yankee swap at my brother’s (very fun) Christmas work party. Too cool for words (or hot, in this case.)

A Hot Dudes Reading Calendar!  Upon careful reflection, this calendar requires appropriate inspection with prioritized placement near my desk.

Between Christmas & New Years we make an annual excursion to select new calendars for the house. (Strategic timing: day after Christmas they go on sale ½ price.) My uncle got in on the fun this year after a long day traipsing around the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. (BTW, the Terracotta Army exhibit is 5*!) Zipping out in the blustery cold (my uncle kept telling us how much colder it is in Iowa) we sought out our favorites.

Like this Teapot calendar that we’ve put up in the kitchen the last 8 or 9 years.

(I found the last one in the store!)

Others offer beauty, like this tall Falling Waters collection of waterfall photos I’ve enjoyed the last few years.

Each month offers incredible views like this one featured for January.

There’s all kinds of daily inspiration to be enjoyed, however, like this stand up Art collection of paintings from museums around the world.

Today features a favorite “Irises” painting from Vincent Van Gogh. (What a great way to start the New Year!!)

There’s excitement when we turn the pages of a new month, a new week, a new year.

New. Crisp. Nothing written on it yet. What amazing opportunities portend these pages?

“Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings.” Maya Angelou

Virginia! (your turn for !!s.)  What you sippin’ in your tea? Bad stuff is happening everywhere. Some of us barely made it through 2017 (& would prefer not revisiting it!) Everywhere we look horrors encroach humanity’s advancements for equality and our equanimity regarding the future.

If we put on lenses of hope, however, we can see God’s redemptive Love at work around us & within us, even in our muddled puddles.

Each day, what opportunities for God’s grace will come our way? New beginnings? New chances? (“Fall down seven times, get up eight?”)

We have a choice in 2018 – to see hope, seek hope, and BE hope (with Heavenly help.) As pages of our calendars fill up with work, activities, business, appointments, family commitments, don’t forget to carve out time for hope in 2018.

Last (but not least) one of my favorite calendars…

“No one is excluded from life’s hope, from God’s love.” Pope Francis

grace, peace & a hope-filled New Year

Virginia : )

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Never, Never, Never Give Up!!

Betwixt Christmas and New Year’s, hope everyone is having a blessed holiday week, or at least indulging in a little hot chocolate. It’s birizzy cold in these parts and will get even colder New Year’s Eve. (14F =  -10C)

My visiting uncle & I are headed out to warm up with some decadent hot chocolate @ Mad About Chocolate, a most favorite place in Williamsburg.

It comes in little cups, but packs a powerful chocolate lifter-upper punch. Much needed after Virginia (just barely) met her Advent-post-a-day gig goal on Christmas Eve. So grateful for the encouragement from so many of you that kept the posts rolling.

The day after Christmas we made a family outing to see “The Darkest Hour,” a movie about the struggles Winston Churchill faced during WWII leading Great Britain at the crucial juncture before the Battle of Britain when all seemed lost.  Incredibly inspiring movie.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Contemplating the New Year, there may be challenges looming on our horizons or fully planted in our lives in the here and now. Remember what Winston Churchill also said, “never, never, never, never give up!”

grace, peace & New Year’s courage

Virginia : )

Posted in Life (in general), Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments