September 30, 2015

I mean to let myself be embraced...

Good morning!  Today I'm sharing a poem by Philip Booth which sums up so beautifully how I felt on vacation.  The pictures are from some of our walks in Missouri--I'm already missing the lovely time we spent in nature. 

Talk About Walking

Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk.

I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines.

Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for air frames on
today’s flights. I’m taking off
on my own two feet.

I’m going
to clear my head, to watch
mares’-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.

I’m going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear.

  I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I’m going?
I don’t. How long or far
I have no idea. No map.
I said I was going to take
a walk. When I’ll be back
I’m not going to say.

Maybe today's poem will inspire all of us to take a walk today!  No matter what the day brings, please know how much I appreciate each one of you!

September 28, 2015

...the call of a life that is more real

“Here and there among men, there are those who pause in the hurried rush to listen to the call of a life that is more real… He who sees and hears too much is cursed for a dreamer, a fanatic, or a fool, by the mad mob who, having eyes, see not, ears and hear not, and refuse to understand… ”
Harold Bell Wright, The Shepherd of the Hills  

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling to different areas of the country is experiencing how life is lived across this beautiful country of ours.  One of the things that really stood out during our time in Branson was the deep faith and unabashed weaving of religion into daily life, including the tourist attractions and entertainment.  It was like being able to drink from a deep well of cool water--refreshing and life giving.  Taking time to pause and reflect on the gifts God gave us was a balm to the weary soul.

After we had unpacked at the cabin I went for a short hike, and discovered a small chapel right across from us!  The door was unlocked, and the small sign welcomed visitors to come in and take time to meditate or pray.  A truly unexpected discovery!

"…I never understood until the past months why the Master so often withdrew alone into the wilderness. There is not only food and medicine for one’s body; there is also healing for the heart and strength for the soul in nature. One gets very close to God…in these temples of God’s own building.”
Harold Bell Wright, The Shepherd of the Hills

The next day we toured the cabin site of Harold Bell Wright's famous novel, The Shepherd of the Hills.  This church, one that Wright preached in during his stay in the Ozarks, was saved from demolition and moved to Inspiration Point in 1991. This second highest point in Missouri boasts views that can extend all the way to the Boston Mountains in Northwest Arkansas on a clear day.  Pitching his tent on top of this mountain, with unparalleled views, Wright penned his notes for what would be come the second most widely read book in publishing history at the turn of the 20th century.

"while they read and talked together, there was opened before them the great book wherein God has written, in the language of mountain, and tree, and sky, and flower, and brook, the things that make truly wise those who pause to read.”
Harold Bell Wright, The Shepherd of the Hills

While on top of Inspiration Point, it seemed the appropriate time to both follow the scriptures AND inject a little adventure into our vacation...

"Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion" (Isaiah 40:9)

We took that verse to mean we might as well try our first zipline, since we had gone up the mountain!
It had never been on my "bucket list" but I was ready for a little zing in the day---and even managed to take a few pictures on the way down!

 Phil on the left...
 Livestock below...
and a last look back at the tower from whence we had started!

A couple of days later we visited the Ozark attraction Silver Dollar City, which my family first experienced way back when I was a young girl.  One of the first buildings I wanted to find was the Wilderness Church, whose view had so impressed me when I was a young girl.

The gorgeous view out the windows and the peace within the church was just as I had remembered.

Inscribed above the windows is a line from Psalm 121:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

I felt refreshed and soul-satisfied after being able to spend time in the beautiful mountains and away from the crazy hustle and bustle of my daily life.  I will end this post with a final quote from Wright, and the wish that all of us may find time today to experience some of the beauty God has given us, right outside our front doors.

“We, who live in the cities, see but a little farther than across the street. We spend our days looking at the work of our own and our neighbors' hands. Small wonder our lives have so little of God in them, when we come in touch with so little that God has made.”
Harold Bell Wright, The Shepherd of the Hills 

September 24, 2015

Watch now, how I start the day...

Hello!  I find it amazing how much WORK can pile up during a week of vacation.  I have been looking forward to sharing a few special moments with you from last week, but since my return I've been dealing with an out-of-control end-of-summer garden and a paperwork pile-up at the office that grew to rather staggering proportions!  And then there is the unpacking and the laundry...I'm sure you've all been there/done that.  Looking forward to vacation is so much fun...coming home, not so much.

Phil and I were lucky enough to find a sweet little cabin nestled in the woods outside of Branson, Missouri.  It was just what I needed...away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and a place where we could both unwind and simply breathe.  The cabin's name?  Serenity.  Ah yes, just what the doctor ordered...

We had a hiking trail right behind our cabin

A lovely swing on our enclosed back porch for blissful reading (and naps)

And our own private lake at the end of the trail

Serenity and peace.  What more could I ask for?  The only thing that made this even better was tucking my favorite poetry book by Mary Oliver in my backpack...

Tomorrow I'll share some of my less sedate moments from our vacation.  Was there a ZIP LINE involved??  Stay tuned for the adventures of Phil and Martha!!

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

September 13, 2015

My blessing goes with you...

One year ago today I started the day with an extra large cup of coffee, and a special t-shirt that said it all...

And from that moment on, the clock started ticking down until the moment when our "baby girl" would become a wife.  Such a fun path we took--a special family shower in South Dakota hosted by her aunt...

featuring her Grandmother's beloved handkerchiefs!

and a lovely tea party hosted by her maid of honor...


a path that had now led us to a morning of decorating...carefully placing all the decorations that were made with love and a lump in my throat all summer long, while I tried to figure out how the years had flown so quickly by...

Then off to get all gussied up...

and watch my baby girl become a beautiful bride.  The love in their eyes says it all, and a year later I am joyfully wishing them a happy first anniversary and also celebrating their recent move into their new home!  

I'll leave you with their beautiful wedding song, The Blessing.  I don't think they could have picked anything more lovely to express their deep love for each other.  God bless you, Caitlin and Andrew!

In the morning when you rise
I bless the sun, I bless the skies
I bless your lips, I bless your eyes
My blessing goes with you
In the night time when you sleep
Oh, I bless you while a watch I keep
As you lie in slumber deep
My blessing goes with you

This is my prayer for you
There for you, ever true
Each every day for you
In everything you do
And when you come to me
And hold me close to you
I bless you
And you bless me too

When your weary heart is tired
If the world would leave you uninspired
When nothing more of love's desire
My blessing goes with you
When the storms of life are strong
When you're wounded, when you don't belong
When you no longer hear my song
My blessing goes with you

This is my prayer for you
There for you, ever true
Each every day for you
In everything you do
And when you come to me
And hold me close to you
I bless you
And you bless me too
I bless you
And you bless me too
I'll be taking a break from the blog next week, but I'll hopefully have lots of vacation photos to share with you on my return!  Until then, God's blessings on all of you as well.

September 7, 2015

Lions and trifles and bear(naise)...oh my!

Part of the fun of visiting our long time friends always involves the two of us meandering through small art galleries, browsing in little boutique stores and judiciously winding our way through antique stores.  Last weekend was no exception--we visited the charming Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, and had so much fun.  Of course we had to check out the excellent fiber store--Yarnology--where I came across this yarn.  Looks like Miss Lily will be sporting a little lion hat this fall! 

We visited an antique store that is actually nestled into the side of a cliff, located in the historic BUB'S beer building, built in 1862.  There are 3 caves located in the building (hence the really musty, earthy scent!) but we didn't have to venture too far underground to score some real treasures.  My friend found a couple of darling delft pieces for my daughter's new kitchen, I found a beautiful set of china for my son (twelve place settings--every piece intact!), and when I turned a corner I came across this tea cookbook.  Who could resist, and at only two dollars, resistance seemed futile! 

and trifles...
In a  happy intersection of two favorite things, we came upon a small cafe that offered fresh, homemade soups and sandwiches and offered seating in the attached bookstore.  What a treat to enjoy my delicious kale and white bean soup and turkey/brie/apricot chutney sandwich while pondering which books to investigate further!  In the end, it was a no-brainer when I found this cookbook--it had me at "New England."

and bear(naise) sauce....OH MY!!
Not only do the recipes sound wonderful, but it is filled with charming pictures of many of the New England landmarks my husband and I have visited over the past few years.  I can't wait to try out the lobster bisque recipe--I've been longing for the sherry flavored bisque since our last trip to Rhode Island.  Now if I could just find a way to buy lobster that didn't involve having to cook it myself...

And since it's a holiday, it's the perfect day for a light verse that seems to fit in nicely with my cookbooks.  Happy Labor Day!!

Recipe for Happiness

2 heaping cups of patience
1 heart, full of love
2 handfuls of generosity
plenty of faith
1 handful of understanding
dash of laughter
generous sprinkle of kindness

Combine patience, love and generosity with understanding. Add a dash of laughter and sprinkle generously with kindness. Add plenty of faith and mix well. Spread over a period of a lifetime. Serve everyone you meet.

September 2, 2015

I can't help thinking of thanks...

Last week was move-in time for our newly renovated office building.  I shared some photos of my old cubicle environment back in May, and after a summer of shared work space and lots of construction disruption we are all settled in and ready to face our busy fall schedules.  Can you guess what floor I now work on?

I'll admit, I was a bit nervous about how I would feel working in a more "open" environment.  I had a private office in my old job and at first struggled to adjust to cubicle-land when I started this job.  But so far I find my new space quite nice---the benefit of taking down all the cubicles is how much natural light now floods the floor.  We have huge floor to ceiling floors all along one wall of the floor that overlooks the dairy barns on campus, so anytime I stand and stretch my legs I can turn around and see cows and horses, with the lake in the distance.  You can probably guess by my computer screensaver in the picture below that I'm a country girl at heart, so I really love that view right outside the windows!


Although relatively small, my new work space is well organized and has way more storage than I initially thought I would have.  A place for everything and everything in its place...I like that!  Being more open to the rest of the floor also encourages me to keep all my papers more contained and not spread out all over.  I like coming in to a tidy desk each morning. But what I really love?  The definition of philanthropy is painted on the wall I face...a daily reminder of why I do what I do.  I love looking up and seeing "generosity of spirit" and "sense of gratitude" as constant reminders of what I strive to achieve in my personal as well as my work life.

These photos were taken last week--I hadn't finished personalizing my space yet with plants and pictures.  Having two monitors so that I can have different spreadsheets open at the same time is so handy.  One of the IT people promised me it would be "life changing"...not sure about that yet, but it is definitely a big improvement.  We also received brand new, incredibly comfortable work chairs and our work stations all raise and lower at the push of a button.  That means I can take a break and stand while working during the day to stretch my legs.  I love it!

But wait, there's more!  We are also lucky enough to have a totally remodeled staff kitchen, complete with fresh healthy food choices (plus chips and candy bars for those afternoon slumps) and an amazing coffee machine.  Caffè Mocha at work?  Yes, please!!

Not all the benches and high top counters were installed yet when I took this picture last week, but our old conference room was converted into a bright, sun-filled work cafe where staff can eat lunch (no more sandwich crumbs at my desk!), work on our laptops or grab a cup of coffee and meet with a colleague.  It's simply wonderful having a fresh new space that encourages collaboration and creativity.  

I thought this poem by Suji Kwock Kim was appropriate for today, as I spend my days working to thank donors for their generosity and my nights being thankful for all the blessings in my life.  And today I am extra thankful for my new work environment and for all of you who take time out of your busy days to connect with me on this space.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.   


If the angle of an eye is all,   
the slant of hope, the slant of dreaming, according to each life,
what is the light of this city,
light of Lady Liberty, possessor of the most famous armpit in the world,
light of the lovers on Chinese soap operas, throwing BBQ’d ducks at each other   
                                                             with that live-it-up-while-you’re-young, Woo Me kind of love,
light of the old men sitting on crates outside geegaw shops
                                                             selling dried seahorses & plastic Temples of Heaven,
light of the Ying ‘n’ Yang Junk Palace,
light of the Golden Phoenix Hair Salon, light of Wig-o-ramas,
light of the suntanners in Central Park turning over like rotisserie chickens sizzling on a spit,
light of the Pluck U & Gone with the Wings fried-chicken shops,
the parking-meter-leaners, the Glamazons,
the oglers wearing fern-wilting quantities of cologne, strutting, trash-talking, glorious:
the immigrants, the refugees, the peddlars, stockbrokers and janitors, stenographers and cooks,
all of us making and unmaking ourselves,   
hurrying forwards, toward who we’ll become, one way only, one life only:   
free in time but not from it,
here in the city the living make together, and make and unmake over and over
Quick, quick, ask heaven of it, of every mortal relation,
feeling that is fleeing,
for what would the heart be without a heaven to set it on?
I can’t help thinking no word will ever be as full of life as this world,   
I can’t help thinking of thanks.

September 1, 2015

Welcome, September!  May you be a joyful month of fresh beginnings in school and lovely weather that eases us into autumn.  Today I am offering you a small sampler of Emily Dickinson, photos courtesy of the glory that is Door County, Wisconsin.  

The sun just touched the morning
The morning,  happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell
And life would be all spring...

The robin is the one
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctity are best

A spider sewed at night
Without a light
Upon an arc of white.
If ruff it was of dame
Or shroud of gnome,
Himself, himself inform.
of immortality
His strategy
Was physiognomy

The one that could repeat the summer day
Were greater than itself, though he
Minutest of mankind might be.
And who could reproduce the sun,
At period of going down--
The lingering and the stain, I mean--
When Orient has been outgrown
and Occident becomes unknown,
His name remain.

How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And does not care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.