Monday, May 04, 2015

your Practice Resurrection photo stories [2015, vol. 2]

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate.
I'd love to include your photo story next week!

via: Lent & Beyond

For the next six weeks (from now until Pentecost), will you join me in feasting on Resurrection goodness in our everyday lives?  It can be as simple as a special candle you use for your meals during Eastertide or as elaborate as travelling across the world to meet new people.  Whatever it is, will you show us a picture and tell us a few words?   Plant spring flowers (maybe a new variety this year)?  Show us! Get up to see the sun rise on a Sunday morning?  Tell us about it! Take a new route to work (maybe taking more time than necessary in honor of the mad farmer)?  Share it!

"I set up an easel in the middle of our garden beds and told Lucy to paint what she saw. She dug in and created the most lovely garden masterpiece. Claude Monet would have been proud. It was a peaceful session of plein air painting for both of us."  (Betony & Tim Coons, Greeley, Colorado)


A Last Blue Bonnet Sighting at Pedernales Falls
"During Lent I realized that I'd forgotten some things that used to be so life-giving to me. In particular I used to be nourished by natural beauty, but in the non-stop pace of the last few years, I'd forgotten its power to heal. Since Easter, I've been more intentional about plunking myself down in nature. While my first foray ended in being attacked by fire ants, more successful attempts -- including a camping trip to Pedernales Falls--have been deeply restorative.  Thanks be to God."  (Krista Vossler, Austin, TX)


"We've had our share of pain this year, but it's hard not to feel life renewed in the giggles of a two year old." (Alicia Nichols, Vestal, NY)


"I try to remember each day to notice the creative genius of our God in the order and beauty of the natural world around me. It's views like this one on a golf weekend with my Dad and brothers that remind me each new day is uniquely designed and crafted by God with me in mind in order that I should glorify Him and do the work he has remade me to accomplish!" (Benjamin Murphy, Vestal, NY)

"Took a spontaneous exit for funsies and found a lovely village, Gengenbach, in the Black Forest region. Beautiful medieval town square, delicious gelato, and a fantastic sprawling playground amidst a vineyard and creek. Lots of families and kids out on a gorgeous spring Sunday."  (Tsh Oxenreider, Bend, Oregon & currently on a year-long journey around the world with her family)


"Watching my girl climb the Ornamental Cherry tree in our yard reminds me that security in God's abundance allows me to freely and fearlessly enter in to new life with others.  Also, it reminds me of climbing the apple tree in my Grampa's yard when I was a girl." (Kelcy Poat, Hammonton, NJ)


"Anna was our surprise baby in several ways.  We found out she was coming when her older brother was only 6 months old and we waited until she was born to see if she was a he or she. Surprise! A baby sister to two older brothers.  She's a spirited one, to put it kindly. God has grown that little 5 year old heart to love and care for her sick father. Her dad (my husband) was hospitalized around Valentine's Day with heart failure. She has gone from giving him a hard time (once a diva of sorts) to taking his hand and caring for her dad (a true daughter of the King). She breathes life into the heart of her father. She's the best surprise I've ever received." (Natalie Briggs, Temple, TX )


Three steps to play along:

  1. Add something to your day that helps you practice resurrection. (one day or fifty days doesn't matter)
  2. Take a picture and write a description in 1-50 words.
  3. Share it with me via an email, Facebook or hashtag it on Twitter or Instagram #practiceresurrection2015.  I'll share some of your photo-stories with everyone here each week.

Who wants to join us?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Easter daybook, week 5: every branch that bears fruit he prunes

An Easter daybook for these 7 weeks of Alleluia! Join me, won't you? 

(see all Easter daybook 2015 posts here)


The Jubilee Tree, Cookham - Stanley Spencer

John 15:1-8: He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

{all readings for the day: Acts 8:26-40  • Psalm 22:25-31  • 1 John 4:7-21  • John 15:1-8}


Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. source


Everything is New/Battle Hymn of the Republic

Listen to my Resurrection playlist here



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Saturday, May 02, 2015

7 quick photo takes from New Mexico trip

I'm in Denton this weekend, enjoying a couple of days with sweet Kendra and her UNT friends.  Here's 7 New Mexico takes from the trip Brian and I took in March.  (spoiler alert:  New Mexico is beautiful. )

Here's a reminder of how we made the decision to take off for almost a week at (almost) a moment's notice.

--- 1 ---

I thought you might like to see on a map the location for our stay -- just to see how serious we are about the "getting away" goal.

See that heading for Carson National Forest?  Here's the real-life marker.

Isn't that National Park Sign delightfully retro?  It made me feel like I was driving through a Vintage U.S. Parks Poster.

Brian's begun to use home share locations for work travel so we decided to do the same for this trip.The website described the location this way:  
In the majestic high country of northern New Mexico, at the southernmost abutment of the San Juan Mountains, is the small 18th Century Spanish village of El Rito, named after the "little creek" that flows through it. Alongside El Rito Creek at the mouth of the narrow canyon from which it flows down from the mountains is my home...
We were also given a postscript on the driving directions "You'll know you missed our driveway if you come the cattleguard that marks the National Forest Boundary." In that scenario, the directions told us we should "turn around".

--- 3 ---

Photos of some of the yard area:

I'm certain this would have been even prettier if we'd visited a bit later in the spring.  Behind that fence sits a lovely hot tub, perfect for stargazing.

indoor view of one part of the landscape

the "back yard" of our airbnb

The house itself was inventive and charming.  Hand-built by the owners from the very clay of the adobe walls to the mountain-harvested beams in the ceiling, each little nook provided a fun surprise (including a lot of artwork made by the owners).  As lovely as the entire house was, it barely competed with the generous views of mountain and sky from large and strategically placed windows all throughout the house.

This is the room where I thought about writing and about yoga, but mostly took naps.

Windows like this on each side of the bed in the master bedroom gave us amazing
starry views any time we happened to wake in the night.  
Which was, unfortunately, quite often because of Brian's worst-cold-ever.

Day trip to Santa Fe: New Mexico Museum of Art, Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Loretto Chapel, and plaza window shopping 

We were especially intrigued with this chapel since the Sisters who founded it show up in the book we were reading together on the trip (Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather)

We walked the Stations of the Cross at the Saint Francis Cathedral.  The bronze statues were the perfect medium for sculpting images of the Passion.  This was a profound experience for me.

-- 6 --

The kitchen was a favorite room and we used it well (don't judge us for our bourgeois wine choice, just call us frugal!)

Brian is a kind and hospitable cook.  I'm so grateful.

At the moment of desperation in which we planned this trip, I remembered that people in Texas often travel to the mountains.  Since we couldn't afford airfare to get to the coast (I'm an oceanside kind of girl) I began looking up locations for us to sleep in New Mexico. Somewhat dubiously, I concluded that mountains might possibly be as Grand as the Sea.

Turns out that mountain views are pretty grand, indeed.  Unfortunately, Brian was sick (different sick than the birthday sick two weeks earlier), but we managed to still enjoy our time with a balance of exploring new places (Monastery of Christ in the Desert , for one) with simple, restful reading, cooking and hot tubbing.  We did attempt a game of dominoes at one point.  I thought about writing; Brian thought about studying.  Mostly, though, we just tried to notice the day and place together.

Of every place we visited in the few days we had, the monastery is the place I'd most like to revisit.  The 13-mile windy, narrow road into the middle of total silence was itself an adventure.  We joined the monks for mid-afternoon prayer (None).  In that quiet space we brought our intercession for the list of wounded, aching, and ill friends and family we carry in our hearts.  I know God hears us the same no matter where we are, but it felt reasonable to carry these Lenten prayers into the middle of the desert, somehow.

While I'm catching up here on my quick takes posts please join me in my weekly Eastertide blog series:  Easter Daybook (on Sundays) and Practice Resurrection Photo Stories on Mondays.  Join me as I keep looking for the Risen Christ every place I find myself. I'd love to hear how you are practicing resurrection during Eastertide.  

Check out the #practiceresurrection2015 series and send us a photo story or two in these coming weeks, won't you?

--- Other good words online this week ---

  • Sexist Assumptions and the Difficult, Dirty Work of Grace by Tania Runyon at  Good Letters:  I get a bit squiffy (is that a word or just something my friend Margaret says and I totally understand?) on this subject of sexism. Not because I don't believe it exists, rather because I think we dumb it down all the time in our need for significance.  In this essay, Runyon demonstrates a beautiful equilibrium and nuance in the midst of an everyday encounter of small -- but demeaning -- talk.
  • Embrace that five-foot tree: 5 ways we can give our kids more freedom by Tsh Oxenreider at The Art of Simple: Another subject  prone to "squiffiness" (I'm totally making that an official word here on the blog) -- parental discipline and practice.  Even though I've written them myself, any parenting post that includes a numbered list makes my blood pressure go up just a little bit.  I've learned that Tsh is trustworthy, though, and her advice is solid.  Pretend I'm Good Housekeeping and I'm giving this post a seal of approval.


Hoping for a good and content weekend for us all, friends.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - Easter Sunday

| a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life |

| pretty |

Our Easter table.

I stopped by the Next to New shop the day before to get matching water glasses and white place mats.  I found some clear bottles at the hardware store and "pencil" daffodils at Central Market.  Napkin rings are just odd bits of ribbon I'd stashed away.  

| happy |

Easter desserts

It's always wise, I've found, to invite dinner guests who have culinary degrees: lemon tart and blueberry pie from our friends.  Also, who can pass up the dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt truffles from Central Market?

| funny |

Easter egg hunt

Our guests (a co-worker and her roommates + another co-worker) not only brought dessert, they also brought the party.  They walked through the door with painted eggs, cascarones and a pinata. No one was exempt from the fun.

| real |

When's the last time you tried to crack open a pinata?  It's serious work.  We all ended up channeling long lists of people we'd like to take a crack at.  Cray-zay!


Missing Alex and the boys' girls, but glad to be together!  Please notice the confetti.  We found this on our floors, beds and porch for days afterward.  A happy reminder.

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see what others have to say. |

16 thoughts for 16 stanzas about practicing resurrection & regretting that hashtag

Two years ago today I published this list of ruminations on the Mad Farmer's Manifesto.  You could call it a conversation between me, the daily news headlines and Wendell Berry's very good poem.

If I re-wrote it this week, I'd include words about Baltimore and Boko Haram.  I'd still talk about Boston. I'd probably say a bit more about Jimmy Fallon and include a paragraph or two about The Overnighters with the bit about The Queen of Versailles.  I'd mention women giving birth in Syria, Iraq and women grieving children in Pakistan and Nepal.  I might include a paragraph about driving through New Mexico, right through Fort Sumner where in 1865 the US Army was charged with the internment of 9,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women and children. 

As for doing something every day that won't compute I'd have to question the wisdom of creating a hashtag slogan to celebrate Eastertide.  To be honest, I've pretty much regretted it since the moment I clicked "publish".  I think I'm just not a #hashtag sort of girl.  Can we share photos and stories anyway?  I hope so.


originally published at catapult* magazine on May 9, 2013

With due credit to Mr. Berry.


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made.
When I read the first stanza, all I can think about is the documentary my husband I saw recently. We watched The Queen of Versailles because our Canadian friend told us one of the characters comes from Binghamton, our hometown. I watched 20 seconds and knew it was the Queen herself, Jackie Siegel (former beauty queen now married to the man trying to build the largest single family residence in America). I knew because of her accent — perfectly nasal with harsh, flat vowels. But I also knew because of something less tangible, something about her perspective on the world and economy — a sort of blithe expectation that she did not have much to contribute to the success of her family, and, therefore, she could not help the impending economic collapse. Which really made no sense. Before she was a beauty queen, she was an RIT-degreed engineer for IBM. She worked for IBM at its world headquarters in Endicott, NY at its zenith.

This was the culture we grew up in. It wasn’t necessarily a class system, but everyone knew if your dad worked for IBM. Siegel tells the story about a colleague who wrote a computer program that would count down each year, day, hour and minute to his retirement. And just as clearly as I recognized her accent, I recognized this mindset. This is the culture we were steeped in growing up in central New York in the early 1980s. IBM thrived, President Reagan spoke at the high school football field a few blocks from the factories and corporate offices, and we all benefitted. Until IBM moved out.

But Siegel wanted more than that retirement mindset — the grin and bear it wherever you can earn a living, dreaming of the day you can get yourself a little plot of retirement vacation land mindset. However, as the documentary reveals, you can take the girl out of the status quo, but not quite the other way around.


Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
In the steamy summer of 1948, E. B. White, on guest assignment for the New Yorker, spent a few days strolling his former hometown. The essay was released in 2000 as the slim volume, Here is New York, which The New York Times calls one of the ten best books ever written about the city.

One of White’s most perceptive observations, in my opinion, is this:

New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along…without influencing the inhabitants; so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul… I sometimes think that the only event that hits every New Yorker on the head is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is fairly penetrating — the Irish are a hard race to tune out, there are 500,000 of them in residence, and they have the police force right in the family.
I wonder if an unintended progress, of sorts, resulting from an event like the terrorist attacks on 9/11 — an event which penetrated every New Yorker so completely they’re still looking at the skies for wayward aircraft and checking skyscrapers for fire exits — is neighbors noticing each for a literal fear of dying.

It may be that the only good to come from each wave of tragedy we experience is the way neighbors share a conversation. Boston, West, Newtown — neighbors experiencing the same story. Neighbors making certain someone’s going to notice if the ground opens up beneath their feet.


And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
When I was in middle school, we heard a lot of sermon illustrations about the apocryphal sign of the beast and how in the End Times our government would act like the KGB and know everything about us. That was then, before the Wall came down and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Now when I write an email to my friend about, say, moving into a new house next month, an ad for new Sears appliances shows up at the top of my inbox. And it’s not like Google’s trying to be secretive. Their courtesy is so thorough they provide a hyperlink “Why this ad?” with the answer: “This ad is based on e-mails from your inbox.”

Well, thank you, Google. You’re way friendlier than I ever imagined the KGB. Your art is cooler, too.


So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute.
One of the most well known contemporary Chinese artists, Ai Weiwei, created the world-acclaimed exhibit in 2010, Sunflower Seeds. The exhibit featured 100,000,000 porcelain seeds. One hundred million unique sunflower seeds hand-painted by 1,600 Chinese artisans, piled into an exhibit hall to be kinetically experienced by exhibit attendees. The artist hoped visitors would contemplate the exhibit as a “comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work.”

Ai Weiwei has been openly critical of his government’s position on democracy and human rights. He currently lives under house arrest.


Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Fifteen years ago, when I was in my late twenties and early thirties and my children were in preschool and I was exhausted and broke, I created a dream scrapbook as a sort of reminder that better days were ahead. I listed, among other things, “own a bed & breakfast,” “RV across America” and “earn a six-figure income” — my version of counting down the days to retirement, I guess.

Now I’m in my forties living out a dream with my family we never knew we had. And we’re dead broke. We’re broker than broke. Dreams — at least good ones — are expensive. They’ll cost you everything — in our case, even our retirement.


Love someone who does not deserve it.
In the PBS series Call the Midwife, based on the real-life memoir by Jennifer Worth, viewers are invited to re-visit an era when doctors made house calls, nuns delivered babies and midwives rode bicycles. Before The Pill and after England’s National Health Service Act, poor mamas delivered babies in their own beds, surrounded by several generations of family. The nuns dedicated themselves to caring for human life no matter how poverty-stricken, uneducated, diseased, moral or sober the patient.

Medicine has come so far. And yet, it has not.

Yesterday I read in the news that the night bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was admitted to Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 11 other victims were still being treated there. By the same medical staff. In the same institution.


Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
My 17-year-old daughter thinks our country hasn’t been its Best Self since the time it was founded. She wonders about a government that permits torture. She wonders about the American citizen lying in a Boston hospital bed, held without Miranda rights, facing the strong likelihood of torture by his own government.

When I read her this stanza from Berry, she thought, perhaps, we should denounce ourselves, instead.


Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
“There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid.”

—King Solomon


Ask the questions that have no answers.
My friend Jenny is trying to cure cancer.

My friend John and his sister Michelle make art, raise money and tell stories hoping to eradicate sex trafficking in our city.

My friend Phaedra wants to be a working artist and a mom.

I’d like to write something meaningful here.


Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Recently clicking my way through hipster house tours on a high end design blog, I paused my image-pinning long enough to wonder at a statement from one of the urban home owners: “What I love most about our house is that it feels like our grandparents might have lived here.”

May the same be said about our earth.


Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts
Actual headlines:

“More people 34 and younger watching The Daily Show than actual cable news for political convention coverage” (September 5, 2012)

“Daily Show’s ratings now higher than most of FOX News” (June 6, 2011)

Also, this study exists.


So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
ERSAL, Lebanon, September 10, 2012 (UNHCR) — For Syrians fleeing their homeland, there is never a right time to leave. Zaina, 24, endured more than a year of fighting in her hometown of Homs before 10 neighbours were killed in a single helicopter attack last month. Nine months pregnant at the time, she decided she had had enough.
“I felt I am going to give birth and that I have to leave this place,” she said.
Zaina, her sister and sister-in-law left Homs but did not get far. Before reaching the border, she gave birth to a little girl with blue eyes and porcelain features in a canvas tent, attended by another Syrian fleeing the conflict.


Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

— Mother Teresa

May all progress lead us to this sort of greatness.


As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Put another way: may all pollsters be confined to getting their information from the selected majors of college freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors and then their resulting occupations.

Another option: may all market researchers know only what they can discover strolling through a suburban neighborhood garage sale.

A third possibility: may all would-be tyrants study only the “How to Get Your Baby to Sleep” section of a Barnes & Noble.


Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
After we moved 1,700 miles across the country to a city four times larger than our hometown, we said things like, “Thank God for our GPS!” and, “What would we have done before the GPS was invented?” Then our GPS was stolen by what I can only assume was another mom who recently moved here, crying and cussing at the steering wheel, driving in circles around Austin’s highways. That was the day I started learning my way around Austin. Wandering — a lot — taught me how to get around.

Other possible methods to make progress like a fox:

Walk a prayer labyrinth.

Pray a rosary.

Follow a toddler.


Practice resurrection.

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