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‘Tis the Season

I’m thankful today for:

Spring air and birdsong and the sight of grass again.

Music and space at my house to move around to it. Raises my spirits every time. Why don’t I remember to do this every day?

Ingredients for granola, an oven to make it in, and the snacking all weekend on it. It’s not just for breakfast, you know.

Paint left over from an earlier project in a color that worked for the wall in the guest bedroom that had to be patched. Looks pretty good if I do say so.

God communicating to me through a constellation of scripture and current authors, stirring my heart about justice and mercy, hope in the face of despair. Love and grace win, and I’m entrusted to live that out. Excited to see what all that means in the future.

Rebirth. Refreshing. Awakening. ‘Tis the season. Bring it on.

Margins

I like the actual physical act of writing with a pen, if it’s a decent pen. And I keep a journal in addition to blogging. As I’ve been writing with a fountain pen in my journal, I’ve noticed something interesting. I’m observing the right margin again. See, for years I’ve ignored it in the interest of making the book last longer. Ever the good steward, that’s me. Thrifty. Don’t waste paper and all that. But fountain pen writing slows me down, and the look of the page seems to matter more. Why is this?

Margins set off the words like matting sets off the picture in a frame. Is it that the act of writing with actual ink awakens the artist? I wonder.

I’ve been pondering those margins. Too much of my life is running clear to the edge, ignoring the need for margins. Hence life lacks a certain attractiveness and I crave beauty. Too much is crammed onto each line, or into each day, and I feel mentally messy and chaotic and exhausted. Burnout is a lack of white space.

Good steward, did I say? Hmm, maybe of paper. But not so much of myself. Which is more valuable? (That’s a rhetorical question, just to be perfectly clear.) Will I ever finish learning that lesson?

There is something to be said for living full out. I have written many times in my journal that that is my desire, made it my prayer. And yet. I must also create new margins in my life and rediscover the beauty of old ones in order to sustain a full out life.

in The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz has written that we are made to pulse, not to run continuously like machines. Full out, then rest and play. Repeat.

Sounds like margins to me.

It’s been a week

You know how sometimes things get worse before they get better? Yeah, that.

I moved into a newly remodeled, bigger office last week after being shuffled through two different temporary spaces ever since my old office wall came down to expand a classroom back in August. Most of my stuff has been in boxes, just like when you move residences. I got to pick a paint color and tell them how to place my furniture. The new space has great light from big windows. It feels good to finally unpack and begin to settle in. But it also feels overwhelming.

I always like to sort and purge as I pack for a move. That’s how through multiple home moves I have kept the accumulation under control. But when a move comes on top of normal job responsibilities, some very urgent, you don’t get the luxury of sorting through things.

I had a dream once where we had to move in one day, so we put all our household belongings in grocery bags in the back of a pick-up truck. At least this wasn’t that bad.

So now as I unpack, I’m trying to sort and purge. When I took this job, I inherited several other people’s files and never reorganized them to integrate into my system, which admittedly needs improvement. This must be wrestled to the ground. Keeping in mind document retention guidelines, so far I’ve filled a wastebasket and run to the shredder several times, and my table is covered with piles. The office that looked so fresh and clean before I moved in is now controlled clutter. And in the midst of this, regular work must get done. Nevertheless.

One thing became abundantly clear yesterday. A lot of stuff I thought was essential to print out 4 or 5 years ago because I was sure I’d use it or reference it has not seen the light of day ever since. My temptation is to read it all through again and hang onto it like lost mementos, when it should probably all get pitched. After all, it’s all no doubt still available online.

Life lessons in all this?

Often things have to get worse before they get better. And they will get better only if we persevere through the ugly times. Keep looking forward.

We create surroundings that reveal and reinforce our inner condition. If I lack focus, how can I expect to keep organized?

Clutter squanders energy, and who can afford that? I’m still learning this lesson.

Patience. God, the God of order, is patient with me in my process. I need to be patient with myself.

Where I work we have a women’s empowerment training program called Soup of Success. Part of the funding comes from grants, and the other day one granting organization sent a team of interviewers to gather stories of success from graduates of the program. I was privileged to sit in on two of those interviews. They were powerful and uplifting and spiritual. I handle a lot of the communications for our agency, so I was hoping for some good quotes we could use. I heard that and then some.

One woman whom I’ll call Angelica now leads a class for women in prison called Beauty for Ashes. One of the things she tells them is that “It’s only midnight for one hour.” Persevere, and on the other side of the darkest hour we start moving toward the next day and sunrise. I can only imagine what it means to be in prison and have a gritty woman come alongside you with that reminder.

That night turned sad for me. Sad and tired. My life looked impossible, against me, overwhelming. I finally just went to bed, hoping to see daylight in the morning. And you know what? It came. In fact, it’s now two days later and thanks well up in me for the sunlight coming in my window, for a friend to call and compare our weeks, and for God who cares deeply enough about me to remind me that he loves me through the midnights and will bring back the light.

Oh, and for the resale shop where I found a bigger crossbody bag today. Leather even, and with today’s sale of 30% off, only $16. black leather crossbody bag

Sometimes self-care means carrying the right purse.

My big slouchy green one looks good and holds a lot. But it strains my shoulder and most likely throws my posture clear off. I’m sure my massage therapist can tell when I’ve been carrying it. I’m feeling it, so it’s time to switch.

My little red cross-body looks good too, except that it’s kinda worn. I’ve resewn it myself where the zipper started to pull loose. It’s much kinder to my posture and doesn’t put all that stress on my shoulder, especially since it’s lighter. That’s because it won’t hold much. Neither sunglasses nor hairbrush fits. My house keys make it bulge, and my business cards are going to end up dog-eared and dirty from being crammed in.

The answer seems to be a crossbody just a tad bigger that looks decent. Think I can find one at a resale shop?

I don’t want to carry baggage, unnecessary weight. Yet I don’t want to feel cramped either. And I for sure want to stand up straight. Such is life.

Pen, restored

The antler pen works again.

If you read my last post, you understand.fountain pen made  of antler

After filling a page with sentences to get the hang of it, I was surprised that writing smoothly with it takes applying a certain amount of pressure. It is not effortless like the disposable fountain pens. It requires slowing down and being firm.

The meaning of this as regards the writing process is not lost on me.

The pen’s the thing

I have three cups of writing instruments on my desk. One contains various colors of Sharpies and washable markers. The other two are crammed full of pens, pencils, and odds and ends like a letter opener I never use, two pair of scissors, a ruler, highlighters, and a White-out pen.

One person does not need all these. It’s ridiculous. About once a year I go through them and throw out the pens that have dried up, but new ones keep appearing. Just this week one came in the mail, a give-away from a Realtor who wants my business. I’m set for life.

A friend gave me a nice pen for Christmas, red with white snowflakes. It looks pretty, it feels good in my hand, and it writes well. So why do I hang onto all the business marketing ones that have found their way to me? Because they work and as long as they do, it feels wasteful to throw them out. You know the “starving children in Africa” line parents give their picky-eater kids? I think of kids somewhere without school supplies. What abundance I have.

Lately I’ve got a little crush on fountain pens. Did you know Pilot makes disposable ones? (Check them out here.) Who knew? They are so nice to write with, smooth and easy and much more expressive. Another friend hunted down a three-pack for me. Then today I dug into the back of my office cabinet where I had stashed a couple of really nice fountain pens Art had. One’s made of wood, the other of antler. I found instructions online and tried my hand at flushing out the nib of one, since it has not been used in more than ten years. With any luck, I’ll be able to pop in an ink cartridge and write with it.

Because keeping the flow going makes the writing smoother and more expressive. And because sometimes flow needs all the help it can get. And because writing with a nice pen gives me pleasure.

But pens are not just smooth or expressive, or pleasurable to use. Sometimes they get people shot or blown up. That’s what happened this week to some people in France. Terrorists didn’t like what some cartoonists drew, so they killed the artists. Horrifying.

Pens are powerful. Thoughts and words and images are powerful. Writers and artists are sometimes heroes acting with profound courage. Others use pens to deceive or destroy. I believe that the flow of truth will always win, eventually.

Keep the flow going.

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