Fractals | Morning Frax

This morning I awakened at my usual 5:00 a.m. with a bit of anxiety. I couldn’t pinpoint any major stressors, so I figured the culprit was the many tiny things on my mind—the lengthy task list, school (un)readiness, deadlines, projects up in the air.

Deep breaths. Journal. Prayer. Still anxious.

Then, the words of Psalm 94:18-19 came to mind, and I knew I had to meditate and pray those very words. I doodled flowers, wrote the words beside them, and colored everything a cheerful red and yellow in my doodle journal.

A few hours later, to kill time (while waiting at the doctor’s office), I “fraxed” the [photo of the] doodle and words. The result–with scripture added:

Psalm 94 Fractal

May it provide what your soul needs today.

#ThursdayTreeLove (But It’s Friday) | Between Water and Trees

Joe Wheeler State Park-1

For I [fully] satisfy the weary soul, and I replenish every languishing and sorrowful person. —Jeremiah 31:25

I spent four days this week working, resting, and resetting in a tiny bit of heaven—between water and trees—at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama.

I resisted this work “retreat” because it was…well…more work, and I already had a long list of tasks that wouldn’t get done if I spent time there. My internal tantrums were driving me nuts, so I took a moment to whisper a prayer and ask God to help me change my attitude.

By the last morning, I had to apologize to God for my earlier grumbling. The mornings were work-intensive, but fun and interactive, which is my preferred method of collaborating. I am not a fan of long, long meetings, but I don’t mind getting down to business and doing the work.

Thanks to careful planning, this was the first time (for me) a “work retreat” actually felt like a retreat. I enjoyed the morning meditations, spiritual gems dropped throughout the sessions, the time spent in work groups, and getting to know my brilliant colleagues in a different way.

Most of our afternoons were spent in leisure and recreation, so I was even able to work some of the “long list” referenced earlier.

It rained most of our time there–offering a soothing, steadying rhythm, perfect for the contemplative soul. However, the weather did not hinder encounters with nature. I was able to participate in a two-mile nature hike, deer watch (deer post coming soon), and enjoy the sweet tweets of baby birds as I walked the breezeway from my room to meeting spaces.

Joe Wheeler State Park-3

I had time to sit, write, and think on a balcony with a gorgeous view of Wheeler Lake and time to spend with Sylvia G, one of my dearest friends who has known me since I was a child!

I did not realize the full impact of limited movement for 15 consecutive months on my mental and emotional state until I was able to spend significant time away from my home and campus. My being positioned between all that luscious nature offered the respite I needed to clear some of the cobwebs and move some thoughts forward.

If you know just a little about me, you know I find in trees my most experienced counselors. You also may know that something stirs excitedly inside this NOLA girl–who grew up down the street from the Mississippi River–whenever I am near any body of water.

Joe Wheeler State Park-2b

I’ve been languishing [see previous post]. Of course, the retreat was not planned for me, but God knew I needed a strong dose of therapy, that I needed to be situated between water and trees to truly rest, reset, and hear His voice clearly.

He always delivers, even when I’m standing in my own way.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Precious Joy

Even though there are signs of spring, many of the trees around me are still skinny, naked, and exposed–shadows of their spring, summer, and early autumn selves.

I thought about those trees this morning as I watched the sun fill the sky, a backdrop for the leafless trees. I contemplated one of the passages of scripture I studied yesterday–

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His faithful servants. —Psalm 116:15

I turned toward the computer to begin the workday, and my eyes met the pink sticky note on which I had written Psalm 96:12b a couple of weeks ago, anticipating the arrival of spring.

Let all the trees sing for joy.

Somehow, these two Bible verses are connected for me.

Today marks eight years since my little sister was taken from us. It’s strange how my body knows when the date is nearing. The grief and sorrow over the losses of both my sisters [and so many more since] are palpable, but it firms me up to know that God feels each individual loss intimately. We are precious to Him.

Maybe, the verses are connected in my mind because they point to hope.

Hope is in the “spring” of that soon-to-come Great Reunion when the trumpet sounds and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will rise first and meet our Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:12-18). Oh, how we’ll sing and rejoice!

In fact, all the earth will worship, and the trees will sing for joy!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

All Wrapped Up in Joy

I woke up this morning with all the “things to do” on my mind and all the uninvited annoyances that entered my sphere days earlier nagging my heart. Before jumping out of bed in a frenzied rush–15 minutes later than I’d intended and an hour later than I should have–I paused and convinced myself to spend my usual first moments of the day in meditation.

I thought about my blogging friend Rev Russ’s query in his post “It’s All Hard”: Is life hard or have we become wimps [not exactly his words]?

I mused for a moment about just how difficult it can be to navigate all the “stuff” that comes our way from day to day, just how hard it is to push past the everyday slights and disappointments, how hard it is to [always?] act and speak with prudence, how hard it is to accept [not tolerate] difficult people, how hard it is to forgive repeat offenders, how hard it is to love ourselves, flaws and all.

The thought of it all made rising from bed a bit challenging, so I asked God, “How can I face the day when I wake up bone-tired? Weary?”

He immediately answered with three doses of His Word, so I wrote them in my journal and determined to let them direct my day.

When things were said or done that had the potential to unsettle me–A person whose desires rest on You, You preserve in perfect peace because [she] trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).

When a sense of my very present vulnerabilities threatened to overthrow me–My grace is enough for you, for My power is brought to perfection in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

When I felt like the tasks were unmanageable, too much, impossible–I can do all things through Him who gives me power (Philippians 4:13). 

Despite the disappointments, the distractions, the conflicting personalities, the tedious work, the “must get done” list, my step was a little lighter today; my mind at ease; my spirit unencumbered.

As I wrote the last scripture in my journal this morning and click-closed the pen, God whispered one more word into my heart–The joy of the Adonai is [my] strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The peace, the grace, the power–all wrapped up in His joy.


Forgive me for the wordy #WordlessWednesday. The image above is an edit of a fallen hyacinth flower. I visited my family in New Orleans last weekend, and the gorgeous and über aromatic hyacinth plant stole the show in my mother’s garden.

All scripture from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).

Full Vent

I’ve been angry lately. Justifiably so. About many things.

Normally, my anger dissipates rather quickly, but this anger has been simmering for some time and is now a full-blown blaze which I can’t easily extinguish.

As I was walking through campus a few days ago alone with my thoughts, the anger flared and I felt it with everything in me. Just as I was beginning to appease myself and reel it in, I was given Divine permission to be angry and to give my anger full vent.

Scripture tells us to “be angry, but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). People generally get so caught up in the “do not sin” part that they forget that anger is a natural response to life’s injustices. Scripture validates our emotional response to the wrongs committed against us and humanity in general, the altered circumstances when everything was “just fine,” the disruptions in life that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and plain unfair.

Be angry.

Grammatically speaking, God invites us to be–to welcome anger as a state of [our] being. There is something in the scripture that urges us to feel what we feel fully and to let it momentarily become part of who we are—without apology. Such full in the face immersion in the anger diminishes the magnitude, the awfulness of the thing and we can move toward reconciliation and healing.

I’m generally not a ranter. I don’t get angry enough to cause alarm. I don’t yell (too loudly). I don’t throw things. I don’t threaten and I certainly don’t hit. I’ve been trying to put words (and actions) to what it means for me to give full expression to my anger.

As I figure this out, I’m noting that the biblical parameters give me a lot of room to vent…as long as I do no harm to others or myself. As long as anger is a temporary state of being, resolved by “sundown.”

Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down. And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]. –Ephesians 4:26-27 AMP

 

Psalm 23 Celebration Freebie: We Did It Again!

Yesterday, one of my besties, Aleta, sent a morning text filled with encouragement for the day and a beautiful poem, a reworking of Psalm 23 by Japanese poet, Toki Miyashina. She wrote:

 

The poem speaks perfectly to our need for peace and calmness of mind as we rush through our days of madness. Meditate on it today…

 

When the seriously involved mom of four-busy lawyer-pastor’s wife who is also taking courses toward yet another degree tells me that something helps her find balance in her days, this woman takes note.

 

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here;
His timelessness, His all importance,
will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours;
for I shall walk, in the pace of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.

 

The only “solid” information I have on the poem is that it was written in the mid-1960s. But what has been popularized as the “Japanese Translation of Psalm 23” is really a reworking or reinterpretation of the psalm rather than an actual translation of scripture. No matter. Toki Miyashina beautifully captures the essence of the psalm for the busyness of our modern-day lives: God as guide and giver of rest and sustenance and God as pace-setter and balance-keeper, under whose management we produce harmony and effectiveness.

I must see this poem as I’m going through my busy days, so I designed a simple printable for my Arc and Classic planners. And…I’m giving them to you in celebration of my completion of NaBloPoMo for the second year in a row and as a simple “thank you” for enduring my random postings and musings for the last 30 days.

 

There are two designs and three different sizes: for full-sized planners and notebooks (8.5 x 11–such as the Arc, Levenger, or Tul); for the Classic (5.5 x 8.5–Franklin Covey, DayTimer, DayRunner, etc.); and for A5 planners. The printable was designed with floral elements from Jen Maddocks Designs. Take your pick and download the size you need–or all of them. Click one of the links below:

Be sure to adjust your printer settings for the size you need. Enjoy!

Something Old and Blue and Something New

This was a pretty pathetic mail week.  In fact, one friend–who usually writes long, informative letters–responded to my lengthy letter through a lengthy email! Oh, pooh!  I understand “busy” and since her email was loaded with great news, I forgave her.

Since nothing new arrived and I still have a lot of catch-up blogging to do, I’m sharing “something old and something blue.”  In honor of the first week of classes at my university, here’s a book-themed postcard “Onyx” of swap-bot sent earlier this year:

Some of my all-time favorites

“All-time Favorites,” By Onyx

“Onyx” read my profile and made this postcard especially for me. The painted postcard measures approximately 10 x 6 inches.  She featured three of my favorite texts: The Holy Bible;  Homer’s Ulysses [The Odyssey]; and (we’ll assume) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

The Bible is a favorite not simply because it is the sacred text of my faith; I’ve loved it since my undergraduate days when I enrolled in the course “The Bible as Literature” with the inimitable Dr. Bernard Benn.  It was under his tutelage that I fell in love with scripture as poetry, history, narrative, and so much more.  It was also in his class that I realized that studying sacred texts as I would study literature–uncovering multiple layers of meaning–led to deeper, more meaningful Bible study.

Although I learned to seriously love and appreciate Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate and The Odyssey as a graduate student, my teaching them to my own students solidified their place among my favorites.  Shakespeare became a favorite because of his incredible insight, his masterful wordplay, and his revelations of the political and social climate in which he lived. The Odyssey because of Odysseus’s journeys to self-knowledge and home, quests that are a part of the “universal human experience.”

This is probably the first time in a long time that I won’t be teaching all three of these texts in some form, but it won’t be difficult to find a way to work them into my courses–British Literature Survey and Contemporary British Literature.

The first week with my mostly new students made up for the empty mailbox. I’m always happy for the start of a new semester–fresh faces, fresh ideas, and new opportunities to make a difference.