Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Seize the day!

Everywhere we go, Cora gets enormous attention. Especially on bus rides. The passengers around me can't keep their eyes off of her and vie in attempting to draw her precious smiles their way. And more often than not, I also am the recipient of the same hackneyed observation from the older women: "It goes so fast and they're grown before you know it." Over and over I receive the same words, over and over I smile and say, "Yes, I've heard." Except once. Just a few days ago as I boarded the bus and took a seat at the front in the easily accessible handicapped area (I think Cora constitutes a bit of an encumbrance for me), a couple across from me began the usual ritual of sending silly faces and sweet coos my way. I was amused with their funky, hippie dress and hair, and the guitar cases at their sides. As they rose to get off at the next stop, I was surprised to hear a new reflection from the woman: "I know people always say it goes too fast, but it didn't for me. My daughter's 23 now, and it felt like 23 years--because I always lived in the present." Well, that's a pleasant change, I thought.
Over the past few days I've been considering what that means, to live in the present. How can I make each day count, so that they don't pass by in a blurry, breathless burst of vapor? It comes with intentional living, intentional delighting. To not be worn down by grown-up cares, but to savor all the sweet little delights that continually come my way; to not allow busyness to shroud my days with "just getting through", but to be attentive and receptive to every little moment of goodness and beauty. To genuinely look and feel and love.
Certainly I know that life will always pass too quickly, no matter how much I enjoy each and every day. C.S. Lewis acknowledged that this frustration of ours with time is a consequence of our God-given desire for eternity. So it seems that to truly live in the present, I must actually live in the light of eternity, with the knowledge that each of these daily delights are only mere foretastes of the infinite joys of abiding with God. I know it seems trite; as Christians we hear it so often. But I need the reminder; it renews my hope, it makes me look for these little glimpses as gifts from heaven, and it makes me desire that all my thoughts and actions have lasting significance. I want to wring everything I can out of every day God gives me on this earth, in loving, in doing good, in worshiping Him.
Last night, I was listening to some Celtic worship music by Eden's Bridge, and it seemed to embody these things I was thinking about, but of course in a much more poignant way. David and I listened to this song over and over again in the car one day as we drove along the rocky Scottish coastline one October. It will always carry beautiful memories for me, as well as to prompt me to stop being "a fool" that is too busy picking up small, hard stones rather than soaking in the glory of God's beauty and wonder that is before me every day. I hope you can listen to it here--it won't allow me to because I'm not in the U.S. so I don't know if this works.
Stones And Sea by Eden's Bridge

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Blessing and Mourning

The past couple weeks have been full and rich. First off, a week with parents, tromping about Vancouver by foot, bus and ferry. We tried tons of fantastic restaurants and in general discovered much more of this congenial city. A surprise treat fell into our laps when their friends who accompanied them to Vancouver for the weekend had to suddenly return home earlier than expected on Saturday, forcing David and Cora and I to sadly make use of their room for which they had already prepaid on Saturday and Sunday night--a room on the 27th floor with views over the bay to the mountains beyond, no less. We left Mom both nights tending to a sleeping Cora while we relaxed in the hottub and sauna...ahhh. Lots of love and laughter that always accompanies family visits made it a memorable week.

After they left on Friday, we spent the weekend almost entirely with friends, entertaining another couple for dinner Friday night, spontaneously gathering a large group for game and dessert night at ours on Saturday night, and celebrating Chinese New Year down in Chinatown on Sunday. A lively weekend followed by a calm: it's been reading week at Regent. But although we have had no classes, we have had a lot of work to catch up on. Still, we've enjoyed spending more time than usual with each other. We've cherished relaxing mornings over coffee, reading side by side on the couch, afternoon walks, and reading aloud before a cozy fire after dinner.

Wednesday night we attended the Anglican church for the Ash Wednesday service. It was a moving time of self-examination, mourning, and repenting afresh in preparation for the coming celebration of the passion of our Saviour. In these 40 days, I hope to perpetually keep before my face my own weakness and inabilities, in light of God's perfect strength and enabling.

Oh, may these our Lenten days,
blest by thee, with thee be passed,
that with purer, nobler praise
we may keep thy feast at last.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Fairy Truths

“Among these trees lived a nightingale, which sang so deliciously that even the poor fisherman, who had plenty of other things to do, lay still to listen to it when he was out at night drawing in his nets. “Heavens, how beautiful is is,” he said, but then he had to attend to his business and forgot it. The next night when he heard it again he would again exclaim, “Heavens, how beautiful it is.””
The Nightingale, Hans Christian Anderson

What truths can be found in common fairy tales! As I read these lines this afternoon, I saw fragments of my own fickle self—daily enamored with the beauty of my King and Savior, and daily forgetful and distracted by the day’s business. Herein lies the source of my perpetual need for time with my Lord, to gaze at His face, to listen to the song He sings over me, to bow in humility and surrender again and again, knowing that I will still fail, still forget, still become troubled, still become preoccupied with myself. But daily, He still continues to sing over me. Still He is faithful. Still He is love. His mercy knows no end. And so, by His grace, I keep hearing the beautiful song. But only by His grace! May He keep reminding me, keep drawing me, keep luring me with His music, even as I faithlessly disappoint. I offer only marginal moments of joy to Him; He pours down streams of joy upon my head.

Later in the tale, the nightingale is replaced in the emperor’s court with a bejeweled artificial nightingale, loved more for its outer beauty and predictability. Truly this parallels our society’s exchange of trifling trinkets for the glory of “I Am.” Are we not quickly captivated by the glistening artificial brightness of the world? Do we not love the predictability of being able to choose our own way? When seen objectively through the truthful lens of God’s Word, what a poor alternative we have selected.

Nothing like a fairy tale to stimulate thoughts about spiritual realities! As Chesterton aptly said: “If you REALLY read the fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other—the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.” The condition for my peace and happiness exists solely in right relationship with God. I am so grateful for His continual promptings of that truth!

Monday, February 5, 2007

February Already?

January flew by. A move. Regent orientation. Learning a new city. Starting classes. Cora’s cold. My cold. Making new friends. Trying new churches. A visit from Dave’s parents. The whirlwind was enough to make anyone breathless. Usually January is a bit of a calm after the storm (splendid storm that it is) of the Christmas season. Not so this year.

An update on Cora’s new tricks of the month (she's only one week away from 6-months old!!!), for we all know she is the main draw to this page anyway:

  • The favorite is peek-a-boo. A blanket can keep her occupied for ages. Up over the face…yanked down to her chest. Over and over and over. It doesn’t matter if we’re there to say, “Where’s Cora?”…. “There she is!!!” It’s still exciting even if only the ceiling is the boo. Occasionally of course, the blanket gets worked up too high and she can’t manage to pull it down. The hands fly out in a bit of a panic, and little muffled grunts can be heard, followed by a slight whine. Then Mama appears to pull down the blanket: “Peek-a-boo!” A smile is such a nice reward.

  • Rolling has finally been fully mastered. She has been tummy-to-back rolling since 3 months, and for the past month has been making (a bit half-hearted) attempts at back-to-tummy rolls. She tends to give up quickly, at which point the thumb goes promptly in the mouth to comfort her helpless disappointment. This past weekend, however, she persevered and got it down—and boy is she pleased. She loves to show off to us (particularly to Daddy.)

  • Sitting up is progressively becoming less of a challenge. She has long been able to hold herself up very well for long periods of time with a light back support. Now she does the Neanderthal hunch, both fists on the ground between her legs holding her up. This lasts until she starts to reach for a toy, at which point she slowly tumbles to one side. Or she does the yoga baby stance where her chest is completely lying down between her legs. Then she catches sight of her Sweet Pea Robeez and begins munching away while she's down there. Yum.

  • She is becoming quite a bit more vocal, if it can be called vocal when it’s mainly her tongue making the noise, not her vocal chords. She can certainly blow some spit. And some avocado.

  • Best of all are all the smiles: big, gummy, open-mouthed smiles. Occasionally we even get adorable chuckles, though we have to work pretty hard for them. Most of the time as we dance around attempting to be funny, we merely get “you are really weird” looks. She seems to be quite serious and laid-back. Certainly not very excitable. Seems to take after David.

So, in closing, here's a little anecdote from our Friday night dinner party. We had 10 people representing 4 countries over for chili, rice, and homemade Irish soda bread (btw, who new yummy homemade bread could be so easy? Everyone wanted the recipe which unfortunately meant I had to give up the secret that it was basically flour and buttermilk, and that it only took me a few minutes to throw together.) The first pots of after-dinner coffee and tea went quickly, so I set about making another pot. Distracted with feeding Cora a bit later, I asked David to fill everyone’s cup and refill the creamer. A few minutes later, I overheard an exchange between a couple of the guys that something seemed to be wrong. Asking if everything was okay, Kevin, in typical British politeness, said “The cream seems to be a bit off.” Oh, it can’t be, I replied. It’s fresh, organic half-and-half. Kevin replied, handing me his cup, “It seems to have curdled.” Dave went over to check the date on the carton, and as he held it up, the other Dave asked “Is that what you used? The buttermilk?” Yes, I’d agree that would taste a bit “off” in your coffee.

Fannie Farmer's Irish Soda Bread

This is an authentic Irish soda bread, which contains no baking powder and is leavened solely by the acid and alkaline combination of the buttermilk and baking soda. The loaf is tender, compact, slightly moist, and has a rough crust with the characteristic X slashed on top.

4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or an 8-inch-round cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, stir and toss together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the buttermilk and stir briskly with a fork until the dough holds together in a rough mass. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 30 seconds, then pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches thick. With a sharp knife, slash a large 1/4-inch-deep X across the top. Place the formed dough on the prepared baking sheet or cake pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes, until it is nicely browned and the X has spread open. I served mine warm, but traditionally, you are supposed to let it cool, then wrap in a slightly damp towel and let rest on the rack for at least 8 hours and then serve completely cooled. Great with chili!!!