Landslide

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Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides,
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Oh, I don’t know.

Well I’ve been afraid of changing,
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder, even children get older,
And I’m getting older too.

Take my love, take it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around…
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills,
Well the landslide’ll bring it down.

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My Dad really loved the song “Landslide,” written by Stevie Nicks. We played it during the slideshow at his funeral, and even my little niece knew it. She said, “This is Pop-pop’s favorite song.” I have memories of hearing him hum it in the next room, in the car, on a walk. Sometimes I sing it now, at the top of my lungs, and I hope he hears me.

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Blossom in all seasons…

I’ve been thinking again about the change in seasons. I don’t know what to make of this winter/spring mix. As I was looking back through summer photos of the mountains to find aspen pictures for this post, and I was struck by how luscious and green everything looked. I found myself wondering if I’d even seen these photos before, because everything looked so new and beautiful. (I had seen them, I gone through them and uploaded them to Facebook, but that was right after I had taken them, in the middle of summer.) In the dry and dreary winter, I saw summer’s beauty and bounty and remembered that life would renew again.

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I want to remember the aspens throughout the seasons. The papery leaves, brilliant green in the summer, yellow in the autumn, crumbled and lost in the winter.

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March has been a strange season… Still no resolution. This month has left me feeling unclear about what to write here, but I know I must write something. I cannot let the time go unrecorded.

Sometimes I can go for days without thinking about my dad, or at least without despair. I can have days where I accept joy, and it does not come mingled in tears. Just the other day, I participated in an event that I had been working on and driving towards for weeks… It was a lovely day, and I had a lot of fun, but my dad never knew anything about it. He didn’t meet the people of Grey Havens. He didn’t know I had found a group of young adults to lead even nerdier than I am. He didn’t get to see their hilarious skit. All of these things happened after he died, part of the life I live now without his presence. But here’s the thing that scares me: I haven’t grieved about it. At least, it doesn’t seem like I have yet, anyway.

I do not know if I am numb, blinded by temporary happiness, or just reaching a new stage in the grieving process. I do not want it to be any of those things. I do not know what to make of this. What will spring bring to me? What will the tenth month bring? What will happen when I reach the anniversary date of the last time I saw him?

Lately I have been distracted from thinking about grief because I have been looking at the new blessings of my life. (Why do I feel bad about that?) I have a new job, praise God. I am getting to know new friends. I am growing closer to my nieces. I am finding things to enjoy in Colorado… And my dad won’t see it. Well, hopefully he will, but it won’t be in a way that I can interact with him about it. And it scares me that I haven’t broken down about it yet. I worry about what may be coming. (I suppose that’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I should be careful. I need to stop overanalyzing. Grief is grief, there is no formula.)

There are some days that still pierce me. I am struggling with churches and questions of faith right now, and I can’t talk to my dad about it. I know he would have listened. I know he would’ve held me when I felt so confused and alone. I miss singing next to him. I miss the way he loved to worship. I also miss learning from him. I miss hearing him tell me stories about our family, his childhood, about mom.

The white flowers on the tombs of the kings of Rohan blossom in all the seasons of the year, that is why they are called evermind, simbelmynë. They grow where dead men rest, and I am the simbelmynë. I am the aspen tree. I stand rooted through winter, spring, summer, and fall, with my scarred bark and my papery leaves, but still I stand, silver and golden in the sunlight. Because there is always sun.

I am the evermind. I grow where death has overtaken, and I bloom there bright and beautiful, a white eye in the grass, ever seeing, ever remembering. 

Winter Sustenance

imageToday in northern Colorado, we had a mini heatwave, and thankfully, I had the day off. So I brewed some chai and rushed over to the place I like to call my walking lake.

To get to the lake, I have to climb a stone staircase. Before that, all I see are the walls of earth that make up the basin in which the water flows. I’ve been to this lake countless times since I moved to Colorado and still, each time I reach the top of those stairs, the view takes my breath away. Sparkling blue waters beneath rocky mountain shadows surrounded by amber waves of grain.

This morning, I saw a most unexpected sight.

I felt as though I’d stumbled into something… magnificent, secret, natural, and holy.

My walking lake had been taken over by flocks upon flocks of waterfowl. I’d never seen so many in one place before: walking on the ice, swimming in the patches of thawed water, calling to one another under the snowy mountains. A gentle breeze, life on the ice. An abundance of LIFE in this frozen winter…

As I walked, I listened to The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album (click to download for free on Noisetrade). As birds flew, singing, overhead, the music blasted in my ears: “Oh come let us adore Him.” As the breeze rustled in the leaves and the sun glinted on the icy waters, I heard, “Fields and floods, hills and plains, repeat the sounding JOY.”

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy.

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These plants are so dry and brittle.
They look as if one touch could crumble them into dust.
But I reach out, I touch them, and they are strong,
Made to endure this death of winter.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she writes: “Manna today, or I starve.” I must have eyes to see, to behold the glory in each day, I must take in the manna, my daily bread, or I won’t make it through the day. And God, oh He’s so gracious, He provides that manna in abundance.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!
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Autumn.

I don’t have many words today, but I have this:

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I’m starting to love aspen trees. The bark, ash grey with scars of black, leading up to flimsy branches with beautiful crisp leaves bright and yellow in the autumn sun… Magnificent.

There’s just something that speaks to me about the aspens. It speaks of hope, wonder, beauty amid turmoil.

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It speaks of autumn too: that even death can be beautiful, that what seems like loss can be a renewal.

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I wrote a lot about spring this year, when the world felt full of promise and excitement.
I did not know the gloom and pain that summer would bring.
I did not know that fall would lead me to contemplate this “season of dying” in more than just metaphorical terms. I did not know I would get to see the aspens.

And yet the hope I saw in spring, I see still in fall. Maybe it’s a fool’s hope, but it’s hope nonetheless. That hope says He has made everything beautiful in its time, and that death is just a part of this thing we call life– and He has redeemed it. The aspen tree is strong and beautiful, and it thrives even amidst its scarred and seemingly burned bark. The fire that kills it makes it grow stronger the next time. Its leaves are tough yet smooth, invoking wonder in both the spring and the fall.

Autumn is golden.

May

It’s been a dark winter.
It was a long and lonely fall.

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Yesterday, the only sunny morning of the week, I took a walk outside.
I breathed in the beauty of the Creator,
And I felt refreshed.
There was a sense of something bursting forth…
Something I know not what, yet.

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This is the season of the poets:
Something within our bones swells with joy
When we experience this renewal of the land
When the flowers bloom and the harsh ground turns green again.
Its a rush to see the luscious forrest once more, no longer the barren wasteland.

We say, ‘Yes, all can be well again–
After winter must come spring, it must.’
We need this grace, we cherish it.
As much as we need the sun to come up each day
and the rain to fall on the sinners and the saints.

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Rain, what beauty, what grace!
What transformation!
The showers, the storms, the drenching,
The power that causes the blossoms–
We need that grace too.

Drink deep, little earth, little heart,
And bloom, bloom, blossom little daughter.

Recommendation Time

I’m going to do something a little different on my blog today. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted very much in a while. Believe me, I’ve noticed too. (You can see how hard I tried last time and couldn’t really produce a complete post.) So today, instead of producing something of my own, I wanted to take some time to share what I’ve been listening to, reading, and watching lately. It’s recommendation time!

Listening to: This Bell will Ring by The Weatherfolk.
IMG_6450I feel so cool right now. I’ve actually sat down and had dinner in the flat where this album was recorded, with the people who recoreded it. The Weatherfolk are some American worship-leader-missionary friends I met in Scotland, and they just released their first full-length album for FREE on Noisetrade. Please go check it out and support them. The song “City of Stone” was written about Edinburgh because they fell in love with the city just as much as I did, and they want to see the Kingdom come alive there. I only ever heard it when they sang it live in coffee shops, and I cried every time. I’m so glad it’s now available for constant listening!

Also listening to: “Arms of my Father” by Hope Dialect
Hope Dialect isn’t around anymore, but they had a reunion concert last summer, hence the video. I only recently became friends with the awesome lead singer guitarist dude, the dude killin’ it on the violin, and the dude rocking out on the drums, so all their stuff is new to me. I’m still discovering new favourites, and I love it. Right now, I especially love this song “Arms of My Father,” which has been on repeat during my commutes the past few days. “You said nothing can tear me away from the arms of my Father…”

Reading: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
I just stared this the other day after finishing a couple books in the Orson Scott Card Ender series. It’s a highly entertaining series, but the plots and the stories consumed me, and I needed to take a break and check out some more nonfiction. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from The Problem of Pain so far: “We were not made primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.'”

Also reading: Small Still Voices! That’s right, we’re back from hiatus, and we’ve already got some great posts up this week. Keep a look out for my contribution coming on Friday.

Watching: Blue Like Jazz based on the nonfiction book by Donald Miller
I own this movie, but I recently discovered that it’s now available on Netflix. I saw the movie before I read the book (sorry, Donald Miller) because I was fascinated by the film’s story. The film-makers ran out of money, and the fans rallied behind them to fund the project through Kickstarter. And it worked. (In other news, The Weatherfolk funded their album and Hope Dialect funded their reunion show through Kickstarter too.) If that’s not enough reason for you to check out this movie, I’ll go on: The nerd in me thinks it’s a fascinating exercise in adaptation. In many ways, the movie is not at all like the book, but in other ways it is a perfect adaptation of the heart of the book. It’s also fascinating to see how elements of the book had to be changed to fit the movie-mode. There are cartoons in the book, guys, like sketches and stuff. And yes, they do make their way into the movie. It’s also interesting in that it’s art made by Christians about faith and the search for faith, but it doesn’t restrict it’s audience to only Christians, and in fact it doesn’t fit neatly into the category of “Christian film” either. All-in-all, it’s worth checking out.

Here’s the thing about Blue Like Jazz: it’s going to get a reaction out of you, and it’s going to surprise you. It made me uncomfortable. It made me angry. It made me laugh, and then it made me feel uncomfortable for laughing, and then it made me laugh again. I confess I was getting pretty heated in my seat in the movie theater watching the protagonist be a complete jerk and worrying about how poorly this movie seemed to be representing Christians to the non-Christians who may be watching. And then came the ending scenes. If this movie doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, please stick it out until the very end. The ending solidified the story for me and it made me go, “Yes, yes. People need to see this.”

Doing: I’ve been trying to take more pictures now that spring is here and the flowers are in bloom. This isn’t a recommendation (unless you like photography) so much as it is a chance for me to post a picture. So here you go! IMG_9357

What have you been listening to, reading, watching, and doing this week?

A mad god’s dream

I’m two months in to my life in Scotland and two months away from leaving this place to go back to my home in America. My mind’s already starting to wander towards the things I’m looking forward to when I return. (Among the unimportant things on that list: my own washer and dryer, a garbage disposal, pumpkin spice, buying in bulk…etc.)

HOWEVER. I live in Scotland, man! I don’t want to be rushing my time here just because I’m missing the little comforts and conveniences of home. So with that in mind, I’ve been compiling a little list, a list of the things I love about Edinburgh. Here is an excerpt, in no particular order:

1. Looking out my window and seeing this every day:  

2. The fact that ‘tea’ never means just tea, and that biscuits/cookies are almost certainly included whenever you have a hot beverage (even if it’s after a three course meal).

3.Seagulls. Now, most people think this is weird, as I don’t know too many people who think seagulls are cool, but to me, seagulls represent the seaside of my childhood. I grew up on the beach, but I’ve been living away from the ocean since I turned 12, and it’s nice to just hop on the bus now and be at the beach within a half hour (althought it’s freezing!). I can see the water when I walk around the city, and it’s nice to hear the cry of gulls as I do my homework.

4. Accents. I know it sounds silly, but I really do love just listening to people speak around me. I think it’s going to be quite a blow to come back to university in the states and have to listen to professors speak in an American way.

5. Pretty money. Sorry, America, but Scotland’s money is just prettier than yours.

6. This city is a literary goldmine: Dark winding spires, stall pointy steeples, imposing themselves against the vast black sky… Deserted ancient graveyards illuminated in the rays of the afternoon sun, raindrops twinkling on the stones… It’s impossible not to feel inspired in this city. Granted, most of my blog posts, as you’ve seen, have been about having writers’ block here, but I think I’m just still letting the city sink in, and even though I probably won’t produce a great literary work while here, I just enjoy walking and observing this city steeped in history and beauty.

7. Occassionaly seeing this guy around every now and then:

8. Feeling like family at the churches I attend. I don’t mean this as a slight to American churches, I’m just saying that I will miss the families I’ve grown to be a part of while here in Edinburgh.

9. That being said, when most Scottish people say farewell, it’s never a final goodbye, only, ‘Bye just now.’

But hey, I’m not leaving yet! I’ve still got loads of Edinburgh and Scotland to enjoy, experience, and explore. I don’t need to be itching to get home just yet.
I’ll end this post with the poet Hugh MacDiarmid’s description of the city that reminds me of how blessed I am to get to live here ‘just now.’ <3

But Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream
Fitful and dark,
Unseizable in Leith
And wildered by the Forth,
But irresistibly at last
Cleaving to sombre heights
Of passionate imagining
Till stonily,
From soaring battlements,
Earth eyes Eternity.

The Father of Heavenly Lights

So, I took a ridiculous amount of photographs on the Fourth of July… Oh my goodness, I had so much fun photographing fireworks! I’ve been wanting to show them off, but I haven’t decided on the right way to do so yet…
And then I got the idea for a post in which a firework photo might be somewhat appropriate… It’s a stretch, but here we go :)

The cd burner on my laptop stopped working right about the time the cd player in my car started to work again… Which means I’ve been listening to a bunch of old cds, since I can’t make any new ones. Well, on one such cd-trip down memory lane, I rediscovered my love for the song “Green” by Brendan James. The first two lines of this song get me every time:

Zeppelin never left her, never died or second guessed her, painted on her body
The stars would never hurt her, never lie, never desert her, painted on her body

I don’t know if I can wholly explain why these lyrics get to me, but I just think it’s the idea that this girl he’s singing about was craving something she could count on… She wanted a constant, she wanted hope that wouldn’t desert her, and she found that in the stars and in music. She could always count on the stars to be in the sky every night, shining down on her. She could always count on music to be there to lift her up, to never judge or abandon her…

It’s so beautiful, and yet so sad at the same time.

But in a world of constant change, loss, pain and turmoil, stars can give us a glimpse of the stability we long for, and music offers us the power to hold on, to know that we are not alone… But better still is the Creator of such examples, for He is our true source of security.

He is the Father of Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

So I rewrite these lyrics, because heavenly music draws us to the One our souls truly long for. One day the stars will fail, but His love and His word stand forever:

God never left her, though He died to resurrect her…
Her God would never hurt her, never lie, never desert her,

Painted on her body — Still another will write on his hand, “The Lord’s.” (Isaiah 44:5)