Ode To Winter: Ten More Pictures

Monday, March 19, 2018

There are at least ten more pictures I could share from my little winter walk. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. 

Since there are still piles of snow everywhere I normally walk, I was shocked to find so little snow around the lake. When I headed out, I planned on getting lots of shots of the snow and didn't expect to be able to sit on the beach, or really anywhere, at all. 

I found myself watching the geese and the people more than anything else. I overheard snatches of conversation and laughed out loud after being forced to follow a couple of guys who were pushing the rattliest food cart ever to one of the house boats because I couldn't get around them on the dock. 

The world we live in is a beautiful place. There are stories and details that inspire stories everywhere we look. It was fun to go hunting for a few of them with a camera in my hand. 

I guess that'll do it for now. 

When's the last time you took your camera along for a walk just because?

Ordinary Suspense

Sunday, March 18, 2018

For years now, one of my go-to genres has been suspense. The tangled plots that mess with your mind just enough to convince you that you're always on the verge of solving the crime for yourself  make these the kinds of books that I almost always fly through.  "Beneath the Surface" by Lynn H. Blackburn is one of those books that's perfect for times when such a mood strikes.

It's the first book in a brand new series and will be hitting shelves in bookstores and libraries at the end of this month. If you're in the mood for a little suspense that is developed just as much through ordinary people as it is through a horrific string of murders, then this will be a good fit for you! I'll admit, this one seemed to be more about the characters themselves than the actual murderer on the loose angle. As hard as I tried, I didn't have any idea who I was up against or who to suspect and it didn't seem as though Blackburn was concerned with making that possible.

In some ways, it was nice to just sit back while the story happened, but my mind does like the challenge of sorting through all the evidence that suspense writers usually toss out there. There wasn't any one character that I was especially taken with. The romance between two of the main characters that was apparently a LONG TIME coming took center stage and there weren't any real obstacles in the way of things working out between them.

My favorite part by far, as hard as this is for me to admit, were the food references. Blackburn, who lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, was very generous with details where food was concerned. Since the book happens to take place in Carrington, North Carolina, that meant Southern cooking was basically a well developed character with a role to play. Which...Was fine by me!

I may continue reading the series to get to know the supporting characters (and for more stories filled with awesome food on display against a southern backdrop), but if nothing else, this one was a great way to spend a few days while winter took a little break.

What's something you appreciate in books that might be a little odd?

What's one genre you go to again and again for a quick read?

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own honest opinion. 

Ode To Winter: In List Form

Friday, March 16, 2018

I shared some pictures from a winter walk and promised you a few more. Today I'm here to make good on my promise to share the list of winter things I've been smitten with. For those of you who don't know me, I am always cold. I wear sweatshirts almost all summer long and not just because of air conditioning that's working overtime. If there is a sunny spot, I will be in it. I love the beach and am always ready for a trip to the ocean or the lake or any place where I can stretch out and enjoy summer in all her glory. I tell you all of this so that you can know that winter had to do some major stunting to change my mind.

On to that list...

1. The crunch of snow, that's still white even though it's been hanging around for months now.

2. The strange silence after another fresh snowfall.

3. The way clearing snow brings everyone together.

4. Pale blue skies after weeks and weeks of gray.

5. Early nights sending people home to cozy up with their families.

6. Fresh, cold air in my lungs. So cold it stings my cheeks, but not so cold that it burrows its way past the layers of clothes I'm wearing.

7. Feeling the sun on your skin when you were so sure you'd have to wait months for that to happen again.

8. Hovering over the stove with pots and pans of food and something special in the oven, knowing that people will dig in just as soon as it's done.

9. The way the noises of the birds and the squirrels and whatever else is out there catch you by surprise because they're less and less common.

10. The way the park can be totally deserted one day and overflowing with people the next. Same place. Same people. Just different days. I also wonder what it is that they're up to when the cold keeps them home.

When winter was just getting underway, I snapped a picture for IG and wrote a little caption to go with it about what my version of developing a mind for winter looks like. Every season really does carry with it unique ways to enjoy the little gifts God sprinkles throughout our lives.

What about winter could convince you to love it?

Just As He Promised

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March 3, 2018

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' This phrase, 'yet once more,' indicates the removal of things that are shaken - that is, things that have been made - in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain." Hebrews 12:26-27

These verses come on the tails of the chapter in the Bible that is known as "the hall of faith" where the writer reminds us about men and women who have gone before us who were characterized by a faith that shaped their lives. They left homelands, bore children they never dared hope to bear, were tested, crossed through a sea that had been parted, were hidden away from people who ordered them dead, knocked down walls, hid spies, and faced brutal deaths all because their eyes were on God and their hope was set on an eternity that was in His hands. The writer tells us that there is neither time nor room to go over the faithful witnesses who have graced this earth. 

Still, things have been recorded and the reminder stands. Faith is granted for specific purposes. It is intended to make us brave and bold and strong. It's not something we can muster on our own. By faith we will do things we would never otherwise dare to do. What sets faith apart is that we don't do what we do because we think it will make us happier or more successful or more respected. By faith, we obey God. By faith, the fear of man and of death disappear. By faith, we keep hoping in God knowing and believing that He'll sustain us and the faith that is driving us forward.

This is all familiar. This is what it means to be a Christian. It's easy to remember Moses and Daniel and Abraham and Sarah and Rahab. It's easy to think of the faithful grandparents and neighbors and teachers that we've known personally. The ones who consider Him faithful and able to do as He promised. What's not so easy is to reach a point where we wonder what we're supposed to do next. What's not so easy is stepping out without hope of reward or security or of everything working out. There are entire seasons of life where the ones we have looked to for direction let us down. We're left to wonder what faith would have us do. We want to do what is smart, but we also want to do what is right. 

And so...We are forced to look to God. We may have been looking to Him all along, but in those moments when trust is broken and betrayal is constantly being shoved in our face, we learn what it is to look to Him alone. 

And so we look. And what we see is that He is shaking away what was never meant to remain. Just as He promised. 

It hurts to be lied to, to be told that what you thought was true actually isn't, to be told that what you've given of yourself was nice and all but that it's actually built a case against you. It hurts to have the ones you love be pitted against you. It's difficult to look to the years ahead and not have a single idea as to what you're supposed to do with them. It feels like being unfaithful to God and to the life you committed to Him when you're given no choice but to start over with a whole new set of rules and motivations. God doesn't mean for people to hurt one another or to lie to one another or to let selfishness turn them against one another. He doesn't mean for women and children to be trampled on by the men who have taken interest in them. He doesn't mean for churches to bully and cast out the ones who have found themselves sitting in the pews asking for help.

What He does mean to happen is for us to seek the city that is to come. He's taught us about that city that He is preparing and made a way for us to get there and He's making us fit to spend eternity there. We would wander away from faith and cling to the very things that God Himself is shaking away.

When things hurt, that's God shaking away what is meant to be shaken. The shaking will continue until what was never meant to remain is destroyed. It will be hard. We'll get angry. We'll get so sad that we'll cry ourselves to sleep. We'll be confused and we'll wonder why it has to be so difficult. We'll think He's finally done and then the shaking will start all over again, loosening our grip on the next thing that we've got to stop clinging to. 

He doesn't mean for us to do it on our own or to be so strong that we don't need anyone else. He doesn't mean for us not to trust or love or care anymore. It will seem like that's best and that it's the only way forward and the only way out. In those moments, what He's doing is showing us that He is our strength. That He is the only way through and that we will get through. 

A day is coming when all the shaking will be over. In that day, all that will remain is what can never be shaken. In that day, we'll look to Him and we'll see that everything went just as He promised. 

That city and Christ and the struggles and the faith granted to us and the witness of those who have gone before us and the opposition of those who hate us because of who we are in Him...They are all reminding us of one thing, namely, that we are His and that we will remain in Him. Just as He promised.

He remains. And we will too. 

Currently: March 2018

Friday, March 09, 2018

March 3, 2018

This happens to be my favorite picture from the walk I took on Saturday. I love the sky and the bare trees and the wall and the way this whole scene is layered just the way it is. It's almost like some kind of perfect accident. And yet, I think it's safe to say that a lot of people were in on planning the placement of every single element that went into it. It caught my eye and stopping for the picture was a good move, if I do say so myself.

It's good to be back here with pictures to share and a desire to put time into posts again. Even though blogging has changed shape over the years, it's still alive and well and I'm grateful. Texting and emailing with blogging friends has been a real treat this winter (and always is, really). 

Let's get right to the currently stuff...

Planning: Strategies to keep my head straight...This looks like guarding sleep time, meeting with God regularly no matter what, and challenging myself to be brave in specific ways. I'll keep you posted.

Seeing: Signs of spring all of a sudden. The trees have been budding and the sun has been coming and going, but it was still really cold and snowing every few days. Until this week.

Making: Choices that are consistent with who I am as a Christian. It's weird to say that, but it's the best way I know how to put the thing that is on my mind alllll the time these days. I've been reminded that THAT is what grace is for that that is what it means to have the Holy Spirit as your Helper and that there is nothing else that matters. Nothing.

Pretending: That it's not crazy to listen to the same five songs over and over and over again. I'll tell you about two of them and then I'll post a playlist later on. Cause...You might be the kind of person who does the same thing. Maybe?

Wearing: What I always wear this time of year. Layers and sweaters and coats and hats and gloves that are constantly coming off and on depending on what's happening. I also have this plain black skirt that I found at a thrift store for like $2 last fall that I'm still wearing several times each week. It's the perfect thing to make every outfit look put together. 

I'm linking up with Anne and Sarah!

Ode To Winter: In Ten Pictures

Sunday, March 04, 2018

I've learned to adore a good winter walk. No amount of bundling up can keep me inside these days. That's huge for this person who has been dubbed a "summer girl" by everyone who knows her. Theoretically, winter should be over soon. That's a little hard to believe with all of the blizzards we've been having, but I've been itching to get back into my garden and to take books and my writing notebook and every single meal outside all the same. As much as I'm looking forward to warmer days, I wanted to take some time to celebrate the season that is NOW.

These ten pictures were taken on an unusually warm day. My morning walk and the day off I had ahead of me convinced me that I needed to make the most of it all. My batteries couldn't charge fast enough. It actually worked out that they took as long as they did, because the light was perfect by the time I made it out.

I meandered along, stopping where I wanted for as long as I wanted. I fiddled with camera settings and took test shots. I kept checking to make sure I hadn't lost a glove since it was warm enough for me to tuck them into my purse. I made my way down to the beach where I sat cross-legged as close to the edge of the water as I could get without actually getting wet. I took my hat off and tilted my face up to the sun and fought the urge to stretch out on the rocks for a nap. I listened as people wandered by or stopped to stare out across the lake.

I didn't see a single familiar face or hear any voices that I recognized. I walked far enough that even the sounds of the city faded away. There were geese and seagulls and other birds I can't name singing songs and calling out warnings. There were dogs barking and the first of the boats making passes across the water that was so still. There were kids laughing and adults telling story after story.

And there was me. Camera in hand without any reason to rush or hurry along to anything else. I've got a few more shots to share and an ode in list form coming soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy these ten pictures.

Do you have a favorite season?

Back Again

Friday, March 02, 2018

March 30, 2017

It's been a while. Somehow, it's already March. I've been hanging on tight to that word I chose for 2018 and kicking around a few others. I wrote about two of them and the others will probably make their way into posts before too long. I've been coming face to face with the work of the Holy Spirit everywhere I turn. Not just in theory, but in the doctrine of WHAT that work is and what real evidence of it looks like. I've been reading less again and writing more. I'm still walking every chance I get and doing my best to stay in touch with friends who are far away. I might have finally come to the end of my "I can't get enough TV" phase thanks to watching an entire season of a show by watching a few episodes everyday after work last week.

Last night, I dreamed that someone was at my house and I realized they were wearing my slippers. And it really bothered me. To the point where I was like, "Okay, excuse me. TAKE MY SLIPPERS OFF. What were you thinking?" I've been trying to think through the parts of who I am that need some intentional work. Apparently I'm stubborn and territorial and lately I've been tempted to let the way things are make me angry. This little post isn't the place to go into that, but pay attention to your mind at rest...It can help you get to the bottom of things!

One of the words that's been on my mind lately is the word sturdy. I ran across it somewhere, wrote it down, and have been thinking about what it takes to BE that and what it looks like when it can be said of you. For one thing, it makes you sure and brave and gives you an endurance that you can't summon on your own. I'm pro at chickening out...At being afraid and letting that fear keep me from even TRYING something. There are always so many opportunities in front of us. We don't have to attempt everything, but it's important that we don't hide away. I want to be sturdy and it takes one thing, namely, staying close to God and being led by His Spirit. This verse from Acts says it all. When you fear Him and are comforted by His Spirit, there's a lot less wrestling with yourself and with the people around you and with what you should do in light of what's right in from of you.

Those three paragraphs have taken me a long time to write. Not because they were especially hard to string together, but because coming back always seems to hold a certain pressure. I wrote them and I'm going to hit publish...Do me a favor and tell me what's been on your mind lately and what you've been up to and what you're working on? I'd love to hear about it!