My husband and I were able to travel in Europe for a few weeks in May. We were going through a major transition - he had just graduated from four years of graduate school and I was about to launch into my masters degree full time. Trey has brought homework along on every trip together for most of our marriage, and the last year of school was incredibly stressful for him. When some pretty amazing circumstances allowed us to travel to see family and friends in Europe for a fraction of the normal cost, we jumped on the opportunity. It was a time for Trey to totally disengage and reset; for us to connect better with both sets of parents who were then living in the UK; and to celebrate and give thanks. We know it was a rare opportunity. Enjoy the pictures! Looking back over them has helped usher me into a sense of thankfulness once again.
Locations: London, Bath, Bexleyheath, Cambridge, Glasgow, Inverness, Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, Paris, Kandern, Freiburg, Lucerne, Mt. Pilatus.
I have seen more snow this winter than I have ever seen before. That is excepting Colorado in winter, but its snow was already on the ground, not coming out of the sky. When I tell friends anywhere outside of Boston than our total snowfall for the year currently sits at 7.5 feet and that the weathermen are telling us there is no reason to expect an end yet, the first thing they gasp out is, "Are you surviving?"
Let's just say... I'm so incredibly glad I'm not one of the early Puritans coming to America. I understand better now their death rates. I find it almost unfathomable to think about how they did survive with pretty much woods shacks and zero food. I feel like I'm going to die with my nice centrally heated apartment and a well-stocked grocery store 5 minutes away.
The real question, though, is not how are we surviving physically, but rather, how are we bearing up in our spirits. We've had a blizzard every weekend for the past 4 weeks. I'm guessing that for people from places like Canada and Erie that's no big deal, but it's a huge deal when you had no expectation of living according to the whims of the weather vortex that suddenly decided to land on your city. The mental taxation is amazing as almost every aspect of public life suddenly becomes very frustrating and complicated.
Frankly, I understand why depression rates are higher in colder climates. As the physical world caves in on life, bringing with it darkness and confined quarters, it's only natural that our souls respond in kind. Our souls are intimately connected to physical reality; they can't and don't survive aloof from outer realities.
What has been necessary for me to survive is finding the presence of the Lord in it. All of my friends know that I struggle with busyness. My life often feels hectic and chaotic and overly full of people. But this crazy month of snow has taken much of that away. Every week as my world is once again turned into a living snow globe, I am allowed to step back and retreat from the pace of life.
In many ways, I have found the last month to be one of the most spiritually healthy for me in a long time. The slower mornings and evenings have allowed me to take care of myself in ways I often struggle to do. I've exercised my body more consistently and generally taken more time to plan meals (though I feely confess that recent days have been an exception). I've read more than I have in maybe years and I've made some good headway on a quilting project I started last fall. My husband is teaching me how to play video games. I know for some that may not seem like a healthy use of time, but for me, it's trying something new (always a good thing), I find it better than watching TV (yay for active relaxation!), and it helps us do something together that doesn't stoke my competitiveness (growing in marriage... always a good thing). I can count more things I'm either doing for the first time or picking back up after a long hiatus in last month than in the whole last year.
To my biggest benefit, though, I have started my mornings more quietly than I have in a long time. When you're life is suddenly this quiet, there is only so much gooning out on Facebook you can do before it starts to turn your stomach and so I've been more consistently reading scripture with breakfast than I have in a long time. It is deeply refreshing. I guess if my spiritual growth requires the mental fatigue of 7 feet of snow, I'll take it. I long for spring and sunshine and any shoe that's not a boot, but more than any of those things, I'm thankful for the monkish solitude of cancelled meetings and closed public transportation.
One of the books I've enjoyed reading these recent weeks is Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God. I'll leave you with the following passage:
"If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that divine presence, God presently makes Himself to be felt in his soul to recall him, which often happens when he is most engaged in his outward business... My God, here I am all devoted to thee. Lord, make me according to Thy heart. And then it seems to him (as in effect he feels it) that this God of love, satisfied with such few words, reposes again, and rests in the fund and center of his soul. The experience of these things gives him such an assurance that God is always in the fund or bottom of his soul that it renders him incapable of doubting it upon any account whatever.
Judge by this what content and satisfaction he enjoys while he continually finds himself so great a treasure. He is no longer in an anxious search after it, but has open before him, and may take what he pleases of it.
He complains much of our blindness, and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. God, saith he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion, which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder God and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully; there they flow like a torrent which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.
Yes, we often stop this torrent by the little value we set upon it. But let us stop it no more; let us enter into ourselves and break down the bank which hinders it. Let us make way for grace; let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left. Death follows us close; let us be well prepared for it; for we die but once, and a miscarriage there is irretrivable.
I say again, let us enter into ourselves. The time presses, there is no room for delay; our souls are at stake. I believe you have taken such effectual measures that you will not be surprised... Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the Lord, who reposes in it, and He will quickly calm the sea."
Pictures of our recent trip are up! These are people and places we love dearly. Hope you enjoy...
Here are some interesting thoughts from the introduction to a new favorite coffee table book called Bird Watching by Paula McCartney.
I saw the book in a shop some time back and have had my eye on it since. I finally recently added it to my collection. The photos are very pretty and I was shocked when, after opening up the packaging and starting to explore its insides, I discovered McCartney's photographed world is a fake! Not a single real bird is depicted, but rather cheap craft store replicas. After a few incredulous moments, I laughed out loud and read the introduction. In it, Karen Irvine, the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, offers a refreshing and fascinating discourse on how we hope to encounter nature and the role photography plays. She questions our motives and applauds McCartney's work as a tongue-in-cheek and whimsical exploration of our attitudes.
For those of us who love and frequent Instagram, dumping bajillions of pictures of our encounters with the world onto Facebook, I think the below thoughts are incredibly important. Are our expectations of nature honest? Do they need to be in the first place? It's good food for thought, so I'm passing on this paragraph, though I definitely encouraging you to check out the book itself.
"While the pristine natural settings McCartney photographs are already picturesque, she was looking for something more: 'I wanted to make the landscapes more romantic, more idyllic,' she explains. Like many painters throughout history, McCartney creates fictions at will, and uses birds as symbolic, beautiful elements within a controlled composition. And like the doves who repair Cinderella's dress in Walt Disney's movie, her passerines are friendly, feel-good additions to the landscape. McCartney's pictures reveal a strong need for the fulfillment of an ideal. In this respect they call forth broader issues concerning our relationship to nature and wildlife: What are our expectations when we approach the natural landscape? Are we always waiting for certain romantic experiences to punctuate our wandering, such as a deer running by or a perfect snowflake landing on our mittens? To what extent are we trying to satisfy a preexisting image of nature that we carry in our minds? And what role does photography play in fixing these images and desires in our consciousness?"
Also thought I would share some pictures from the past weekend. Trey's sister came to visit and we had a splendid time driving around Cape Ann and showing her the many nearby small coastal towns.