Vacation

Three weeks ago PB and I went on vacation.

As you can see, I forgot to come back.

In Europe, everybody goes on vacation in August.

For the whole month.

Me too.

Every August.

 For the rest of my life.

I just decided that.

I’ll push the re-set button in September.

Sunday of summer

10 Things I Learned in July

1. Peaches ruled my kitchen in July. I guess that’s what #75 of juicy sweetness will do. Peach jam, peach pie, peach popsicles, peach sauce, peach pie filling and bags of sliced peaches are stacked in the freezer. In January, I’ll be able to taste summer on my oatmeal and it will all be worth it. And I’ll share them with Hudson, my peach-loving grandson.

2. Green beans still grow out of PB’s ears. When the kids were little, a strange phenomena occurred every time we had green beans for supper — a bean would be seen hanging out of their dad’s ear. They never caught him sticking one in there, so they were convinced he had some magic power every time he ate greenie beanies. A few days ago we discovered Opa still has it. Two year old Evie was amazed when she spied a legume peaking out of her grandpa’s ear.  Our grown up son smiled, shook his head and said, “I never have caught him in the act.”

3. Writing 1000 words takes me about 40 minutes. I challenged myself to 1000 words every morning in July. I’m cutting back to 500 in August. Because I need time to shower and brush my teeth in the morning.

4. Celebrations add joy to life. We celebrated a lot this month. Fourth of July, Ruby’s one year old birthday, Charlie’s three year old birthday, a bridal shower, a church fun night, an evening of friends on the porch, a wedding. That’s a lot of partying for an introvert.

5. Sailboats really do make that creaking sound, just like in the movies. PB and I got away for a few days and spent some time in Door County. On our last night we took the sunset sailboat cruise in a boat that sailed around the world three times. We went about fifteen miles, which was enough to romanticize a sea-to-sea trip without leaving Green Bay. The creak of the sails and masts was enchanting.

6. Jazz is messy music. I’ve never been a big fan of the jazz style because it doesn’t seem to have any organization. But we happened on a concert in a barn performed by the best jazz artists in the country and we loved it. The music was played with incredible joy and with so much crazy technique that we were in awe. I think I like jazz now.

7. One of the best things about vacation is going to a church where we are nobodies. We walk in, we sit down, we listen, we walk out. That’s a treat for us. Since it only happens once or twice a year, PB and I like to try out different places of worship. Unfortunately, we found out last week that some churches don’t open the Bible or mention the name of Jesus. The guitar riffs were awesome and the lights and smoke were impressive, but we left feeling empty. It made us long for our home church. We’ll be glad to get back to our sanctuary next Sunday.

8. Baptism is a holy sacrament. We’ve seen many parents present their babies for a sprinkling, and that is special and sacred. But there’s something about an adult coming to be immersed that carries a distinct blessing. A group of us gathered at a shoreline and one by one, seventeen people waded in to have PB dip them under and lift them back up. There were cheers on the beach, tears in the eyes and joy overflowing.

9. “Hamilton: An American Musical” is an education. PB and I listened to the whole thing while on the road. Before every song I paused the music and read the annotations from Genius.com about the history behind each song. We brushed up on our American history and couldn’t get those catchy tunes out of our head. Warning: there are some explicit lyrics in some of the songs. But still, wow.

10. There’s no place like home. Spending a week away from home is good. Coming back is even better.

hello August

Ordinary Time

time

I don’t know much about liturgy and all the festivals and feasts that some of the church denominations observe throughout the year. But I have been sitting in a pew long enough to know that there are some special times in the church year, like Advent and Epiphany and Lent and Pentecost.

I like the rhythm of seasonal celebrations. They provide a framework for certain kinds of devotional reading and reflecting. December is for entering into the Nativity, March or April for remembering the cross and the empty grave. But what about now? Is there any high and holy day we’re missing in July?

Since we are equidistance from both Easter and Christmas, I assumed there would be a special observance smack dab in between the big ones. Instead, I was intrigued to find that the part of the liturgical calendar we are currently in is called “Ordinary Time”.

Ordinary Time.

It turns out that this season is the longest, which seems fitting.

So many of our days are routine, unremarkable, commonplace.

Could Ordinary Days be the best days of all?

No gifts to buy, no decorations to create, no traditions to uphold.

No cut-out cookies, no chocolate bunnies, no hustle and bustle.

Instead,

a day to wake up and walk in the early morning air,

a day to make some sandwiches and wash some dishes,

a day to pull some weeds and arrange some flowers,

a day to love some people and serve some brothers and sisters,

a day to laugh or cry or wait or move,

a day to lift my eyes and and listen for trumpet sound —

that’s an ordinary day in Ordinary Time that becomes extraordinary.

Happy Ordinary Time, my friends!

Celebrate this extraordinary day!

ordinary

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Romans 12:1, The Message

Incubation

I have learned a valuable lesson.

Here it is:

It takes me three weeks to learn valuable lessons.

I read a bad book on writing. A person probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to a badly written book on writing. There was one redeeming sentence, though, and I took it to heart.

“If you want to be a writer

you need to write one thousand words,

every day,

Monday through Friday,

for the rest of your life.”

Three weeks ago I set out to obey this commandment. I wrote whatever came into my early morning fog-brain. I whined. I complained. I rambled. I typed out numbers and dates to add to my word count. (Two thousand and sixteen — that’s four words.) I stopped at exactly 1000 words every morning for two weeks. I wanted to quit when I read back the blather and twaddle that I found on those pages. Terrible stuff. But I kept going.

After the third week, two things happened.

First, I came to my senses and realized I could make my own rules and set my own goals. I don’t have to follow someone else’s idea of what is required to become a writer. Especially someone who wrote a bad book on writing.  I tweaked the word count and assigned a topic. Monday through Friday, for the rest of my life.

Second, I had a divine moment of clarity. All that drivel I had been spewing for three weeks finally cleared the way for deeper understanding, renewed purpose, and clearer vision. Once the gunk was gone, creativity had a chance to flow.

It was a hard climb, but worth the trouble. Slightly out of breath, I feel like I’m on the edge of a huge scenic overlook and am just now getting a view of a sweeping panorama that I didn’t know was coming. (Cue the soundtrack.) I have been slogging up an incline with nothing in my sights, just plodding along in the underbrush, unaware of how far the climb will be. Then, one day, there is space and sky and vista. (Crescendo violins.)

Incubation time is more necessary than I realized.

Three weeks.

I need to let an idea sit for three weeks and see what hatches.

I need to stick with a discipline for twenty one days to see what develops.

That’s a valuable lesson.

 chicken

The Silver Drawer

“It is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.” Zechariah 10:1

thunder2

The sound of a thunderstorm makes some people nervous, but I’ve always loved the rumble in the heavens. When I was little, we would sit on the front porch and watch the summer storm clouds roll in over the cornfields. I must have picked up on my mother’s calmness, because I never felt the urge to dive under my bed and plug my ears. Instead, we counted the seconds between thunder claps and lightning bolts as we kept an eye out for the men coming in from the field.

Occasionally, if the skies turned an eerie yellow and the air hung heavy, we would scamper down to the basement to wait out the windstorm. A call always went out as we hurried down the stairs, “Don’t forget the silver drawer.”

The silver drawer was pulled out of the hutch and carefully carried down the steps to safety. Those knives and forks were the real deal, not stainless steel every-day utensils. This was silver silverware — the kind that needed to be polished before every holiday meal. The kind that was washed and dried by hand so it wouldn’t tarnish. The kind that was rolled up in felt pouches and placed into a special wooden chest. The kind you would take to the cellar if there happened to be a tornado warning.

I didn’t understand the value of that treasured box at the time. I grew up thinking that every family kept their drawer full of silverware close by during times of trouble.

Thunder still congers up feelings of family and safety and the fun of unexpected time together in the basement on a muggy summer evening. Today that silverware is in my house, in the same hutch, in the same chest, in the same felt pouches. And, naturally, I will haul that drawer downstairs if the winds blow hard enough.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.”   Psalm 29:3

10 Things I Learned in June

 

june july

1. If I hadn’t picked out the name “Nonnie”, I’m pretty sure my grandma-name would be “Peaches”. I had my daughter ask Hud Bud, “What is one word you think of when you think of Nonnie?” His answer was, “Peaches”. He does love to eat my frozen peaches.

2. My Facebook post, “The peach truck is in town today” got more comments than cute pics of grands. I felt a little like Winthrop Paroo singing, “The Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street…” I bought 50 pounds of Georgia sunshine. Soon I’ll be up to my elbows in sticky juice. I’ve got to do it — Hud Bud is counting on me. (See #1) (I’ll try not to mention peaches in all 10 Things.)

3. I spent June in the book of Psalms. Psalm 65 was especially meaningful and full of lovely phrases in the Common English version. “To You even silence is praise.” “We are filled full.” “You calm the noise of the nations.” “You make the gateways of morning and evening sing for joy.” And my favorite: “Thy paths drop fatness.” It’s delightful to read the same thing in different versions and see what pops. The KJV won the prize with “Thy paths drop fatness.” Goodness gracious.

4. PB has been adding a funny phrase at the end his thinking-out-loud idea sessions. Sometimes it sounds like a sincere request, other times it seems more like a double-dare to counter his ingenuity. It’s a strong wallop of an ending, intending to scare me off from throwing a wet towel on the idea, I suppose. “What do you think of that?” he says. Except it sounds more like “Whuduya think of THAT?”

5. I have decided what will be engraved on PB’s gravestone. (See #4.)

6. Someone has a list with my name on the top. I met a friend for lunch and soon after we sat down in a quaint booth, she pulled out her Notes app on her phone. She had a “Dinah” list — all the things she’s been wanting to ask me or pick my brain about. Having my very own list on her phone was a compliment of the highest order.

7. Binge watching a TV series is fun, once in a great while. PB and I watched the entire first season of “Poldark” in three nights. The PBS series is set in Cornwall, England in the late 1700s. PB was hooked after episode one. I was hooked after the opening panoramic scene of ocean waves crashing against the cliffs. My ancestors came from Cornwall and I kept looking for my great-great-great-grandparents Matthew and Mary Biddick from Trewince Farm at St. Issey Parish to show up on screen.

8. Gathering people on the back porch is an old-fashioned thing to do, and should be brought back. We had 22 people on our porch one night this month, eating cookies and drinking lemonade and telling stories. It reminded me of the Acts 2 church that met in each other’s homes, shared simple food with gladness and praised God together.

9. Quote of the month: “So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.”  From a keynote graduation speech given by Neil Gaiman.

10. I am sad when June comes to a close. June is so full of summer while there is still lots of summer to come. Once July hits, there is a quiet panic in the background of my mind, whispering, “The rest of summer will fly by and you can’t stop it.” And I begin to get edgy about what I need to prepare for fall. I am deliberately putting off the panic until August. Let’s enjoy July.