The Bookshop

Summer 2016

What wonders will I find today? The heavy wooden door resists, barely allowing me in as I push on the rounded brass handle. Despite the effort, I know I am welcome here and nod a greeting to the young clerk with the black glasses. He was the one who helped me find that one about the violinist in Nashville, set in the late 1800s. He glances up from his cash register and waves a quick hello.

I step further inside and breathe in the scent of paper and coffee. An espresso machine to the far left noisily chugs away. The rich aroma is hard to resist. Cappuccino is my candy, but I’m on a mission.

The coolness of the air conditioner reaches my flushed cheeks, giving immediate relief from the heat wave outside. My arms fall at my sides, the outside world fades away, and my shoulders relax as my hazel gaze sweeps across the cavernous room. A small graces my lips, and my heart skips a beat before it begins to race with anticipation. The books are everywhere, and they call to me.

Familiar carpet, thick and stoic, stretches down the wide center aisle all the way to the back wall as if awaiting royalty. Slowly, I let my bright pink flip-flops guide me in the direction of their choice. I’m not worried about where they will lead me first. Before leaving, I will step leisurely, contentedly, into every section of these cherished four walls. The only hard decision will be which book to purchase today out of the thousands laid before me. My budget whispers a reminder that there can be only one. But before I face that inevitable dilemma, I will enjoy every moment in this bookshop.

On the way to the first row of tall shelves to be explored, my fingers dance to a slow rhythm over spines and covers of books that tease me from their place on shelf ends. Pictures and words splash around to get my attention. Just a few paces in, I find myself stopping in front of a particular book that calls to me like fireworks on the 4th of July. The front of it is hot pink, same as my shoes. A blonde, fit woman with a wide, confident smile—everything my opposite—cheers me on to take a look inside the pages. What I find takes my breath away. Stories I can relate to are waiting for me inside. Truths about myself that are loving and God-breathed, not critical and full of doubt as I am so used to thinking. A helper wrapped up between two hundred and eighty-eight unique pages.

Keeping it with me, I continue to browse the store like a lazy bumblebee with a busy mind, stopping here and there for a quick fix of sweet nectar. But I already know that the one I hold onto will be the winner. It’s the one I need most today. Most often it is fiction that saves me from the stress and anxiety that life brings, but sometimes my heart needs clear-cut, straightforward facts in order to continue to heal and thrive.  It’s hard to pick just one, but I know without a doubt that I’ll be back for more.

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Patient Grace

Gratitude overwhelms me. Sincere, amazed gratitude. Humbling gratitude. The kind that causes me to weep with thanksgiving over my eggs and toast at the breakfast table while I try, ineptly, to explain how grateful I am to be loved by God. The kind that doesn’t come often enough. How moved I am to remember the point in time leading up to when Jesus rescued me. And how He rescues me still.

How could I ever forget that? Has He been patiently waiting for me to recognize all that I’ve missed the mark on lately? Thank you, Lord, for showing me once again. May I never lose sight of You.

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As I approach the autumn of my life,

When I long to hold on to the summer of my existence

To remain…to explore…to inspire…to love…

When spring is what I long to return to—

Back when all things were blossoming and new—

I find now that I have no choice, really,

Than to drop the phone, to close the screen,

To take the time to reflect upon all that led me here…

To this moment in my years, to read His words of grace once more

And fall to my knees, breathless, as I remember how unworthy I was…am…

But it is by His grace I have been saved through faith in Christ alone–

It’s nothing I earned; it’s all a gift….

A wondrous, humbling offering of Love—

Not demanded, not deserved.

Despite my wretchedness, still I am loved…

For who I was, for who I am, for who I will become.

And who am I, to gain such a gift?

How glad I am in knowing

That even if I cannot adequately express to anyone

The love and thankfulness I feel for my Redeemer,

God can decode every single grapheme of gratitude

Etched across the memoir of my heart.

And that is all I need,

As this heart still beats, rejoicing.

For neither autumn, nor summer, nor spring,

Nor even the winter of my life, when it debuts, too,

Can outdo the agenda of God and the glories of Heaven.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

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Heart-Musts: #1-10

This is a time when I am restricted from a lot of the things I feel my heart must do. The things I love or the things I hope to some day experience have to be put on hold due to social distancing and the recommendation to stay home as much as possible. In some ways, nothing’s changed in this regard too much…quarantine or not, my job would keep me away from my wanderlust anyway, at least until summer.

To keep my heart entertained, I’ve started a list things I feel I must do when the opportunity comes once again. This is not an exhausted list. As long as the quarantine lasts, I will come back and add to it. It’s a dreamy catalog of happiness sought and joy remembered…continued from all the heart-musts I hope to do—some never done before, some hopefully repeated. There really are no rules….just the things God has put on my heart to someday experience with wonder. I thank Him for that.

  1. Gaze at the stars from the summit of a mountain
  2. Attend an outdoor concert while sitting on the lawn
  3. Watch a sudden downpour of heavy rain from the inside of a car
  4. Share an evening with the fireflies
  5. Drive from the the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean
  6. Sing along at a dueling piano bar (I have a terrible voice, but what does it matter?)
  7. Drink a huge cafe mocha at Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove on a foggy coastal morning (in a real mug or whatever they call it)
  8. See the northern lights—will this ever happen?
  9. Return to the Isle of Skye
  10. Visit the New York Public Library

Will I really do these things? Or see some of these things again? I hope so. So far, the northern lights and fireflies have been elusive…I must be looking in all the wrong places. But in the meantime, it’s nice to dream.

What are some of your heart-musts?

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More Dancing, Please

You know that saying, “Dance like no one is watching”? Literally, right now no one is watching. I know this because I pretty much danced the whole way home during The Walk Up the Hill today, and not a single quarantined soul saw me. I think.

But you know what? At this point, I really don’t care if they did.

I’ve been frustrated, stressed out, sad, and missing life as it was before the world turned upside down. I’m always trying to look on the bright side, but some days it’s just a hard battle no matter how sunny you are. Life gets that way.

One of the things that has helped these past few weeks are our walks. We head out when all is still, the crickets tuning up for their evening chorus…the light breeze chilly enough for long sleeves. I often watch my husband and try to figure out what’s on his mind as he treks a few hundred yards ahead of me.

I know he misses golf. He doesn’t talk about the loss of his stress-relieving pastime, but I can tell by the way he sometimes skips the sidewalk in the narrow park and marches through the cool, thick grass alongside it…as if pretending he’s once again heading down his Sunday fairway, toward the green. Our happy yellow dog trots right beside him. Nothing’s changed for the dog. Except she’s getting more walks now, so all is right in her world.

But nothing feels right in mine. Unless I take the time to really think on what I can be thankful for. Unless I have the pleasure of being stopped by a friendly neighbor on my way to the mailbox, and we have a longer than usual six-feet-apart chat in real life. Real life! No screens or miles between us. Unless I find myself tutoring a smiley student or two in a video conference while clutching my Christmas gift teacher mug that says “Best Teacher Ever” and is full of my homemade chai tea latte, which makes me feel like I am almost holding a Starbucks in my hand and almost in my classroom. Almost.

We say we are safe in our homes, we say we are doing our part to save lives, we say things could be worse–how dare we complain–but the reality is that our community is distanced, our activities are no longer scheduled, and that takes a very real toll on our emotions.

I am not a runner, but tonight I wanted to break into a full sprint. I didn’t want to hurt myself, so instead…I danced. I didn’t care if I looked like a fool. But no one was watching anyway.  And it helped that is was nearly dark. The streets were silent, with no cars passing by on the newly paved road…the houses were all tucked away with their people, as if calling it an early night and heading to bed. The sun had barely settled in itself. Not even my husband who was ahead of me knew that I was groovin’.

The walking is good for us. The fresh air is an amazing feeling when you’ve been stuck to a computer screen for hours all day. And it is when I walk that I start to forget all of my struggles and all of my worries. It is when I begin to brainstorm creative ideas….it is when I begin to daydream of better days.

The walking is good, but the dancing is better. Dancing is like a gift to the stars, as they show up to their cozy, indigo theater seats one by one. Dancing is a better representation of your soul rather than simply plodding along with one foot in front of the other. When life feels grim, it’s the music that has the power to unlock your tension which begins the life-giving movement and fills your body with new energy and delight. It’s in the dance that we discover the freedom to feel.

My walk didn’t start out that way. I was as grumpy as a bear woken up out of an early hibernation when we first set out. But about halfway through (I’m sure there’s some science in this having to do with endorphins or something), a new song came on through my earbuds and I rebelliously decided to smile and bust a move right there on the sidewalk in front of an audience of none.

By the time I got home, my frown had disappeared and I felt a little closer to content than I had all day.

So I’m going to try to remember this dancing day. And I might just do more of it.

But don’t tell anyone.

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Let Go of Worrying About What Others Think of You

Our thoughts are strong and powerful. More than we even realize. We don’t often enough give them credit. I’ve been told I think too deeply. That can be good and bad, depending on the thoughts. I love much, and I worry much.

I’m working on the worrying, and I have to say I’ve improved…but still it creeps in now and then when I least suspect it. Used to be, I’d worry about my health. To the point of distraction.

These days, I’ve been worrying too much about what people think. Always trying to predict how they’ll react…from every angle.

So it made me wonder how you are. Do you worry about what others think of you? Of your actions, words, decisions…I could go on and on.

I’m not up to writing today because I’m feeling under the weather, but I was thinking on this worrying what other people think thing and when I opened my medicine cabinet tonight a note I had taped inside caught my eye.

It seemed just the thing to share with you, in case you spend too much time worrying about what others think of you, too. Let’s not let that rob our joy. There are too many other good things to think on, too many spectacular wonders and life-giving thoughts we could focus on.

So from my little medicine cabinet to your heart, here is a list of reminders I wrote down a few years ago after listening to a podcast of Trish Blackwell’s. Her podcast is called The Confidence Podcast, and her book Insecurity Detox is one of my favorite books. My notes here are from her podcast episode #262: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Caring What Other People Think.

The statements below from the show are what I wrote down to tape inside my medicine cabinet to remind myself of how important it is to remember that I need to focus on knowing my worth for who I am, instead of trying to base it on who I think I should be in order to please everyone else. For a list in it’s entirety and to listen to the podcast, you can click here.

  • I am loved and I have value.
  • It’s okay for people to disagree with me or not like me…
  • God made me as I am, and has given me a story…
  • People liking me or not liking me has nothing to do with my value…
  • I choose to spend my emotional and mental energy on things that bring me joy….

Simple, yet profound. If you find yourself stuck in that worry cycle, too, I hope this is helpful for you to remember, as well.

While I continue to rest now, I’ll be spending my energy on dreaming of the glorious lavender fields under a pink sky in the Cotswolds of England. Because that is one of many things that will bring me joy. What do you think on that brings you joy?

Sweet dreams to you.

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Make Room for Joy

I know you had a rough day today. You’ve been trying so hard to stay positive, and that takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we get determined, though, to retreat our little turtle heads inside of our little turtle shells, and no matter how much knocking goes on to try to get us to come out, we just. don’t. want to—-Right? I’ve had days like that, too.

But I can’t to go to sleep tonight until I share with you this…

It will pass, that heavy thing. Some way, somehow…it will.

That great big world out there is waiting patiently for you to discover its brilliance once again. Those cotton candy clouds and that radiant shining sun that you loved to watch? They’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Sometimes we feel imprisoned by what we feel we can’t do, but we are not prisoners. We have so much to be thankful for…a roof, water, heat, technology, books, memories…the ability to breathe. Even for those who may not have a backyard or a window to open, even for those who may not be able to go for a walk…nothing can incarcerate the imagination…nothing can snatch hope away…unless we let it.

Don’t let it. 

Create! Innovate! Choose to look for the good. You have a mind that can be original and smart, so use it. Look around and see all that is there for you. Look, and see the gifts you’ve been given. Give in to gratitude, and hang on tightly to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Unless you let it disappoint you.

Don’t let  it. 

You are stronger than that. You can do hard things. We can have our moments of sadness, and we will have journeys with grief riding along in our pockets. There’s room for that. But Joy is where the power lies, so let’s make even more room for that.

Hold on.

And I’m going to knock on that shell just one more time to say…watch Some Good News. 🙂 It just might help turn that frown upside down.

 

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Easter At Home: Rejoice!

Today, I’ve got a list of 7 things you can do at home to celebrate Easter, and even some things for the kids! 🙂

If you’re worried or sad about not being able to go to church this weekend, I understand. But remember this:

God is with us wherever we are.

You may be depressed that your egg hunt won’t be the same, or that you may not wear that special Easter dress to mark the occasion. Instead, we’ll be watching church through our computer screens and singing worship songs in our living rooms, which will be very…different. Just remember, God loves you no matter what you are wearing and He is excited that you’re celebrating his son Jesus no matter where you may be.

God is with us wherever we go.

Church is important to Christians. Absolutely. It’s where we go to worship together as a body of believers, where we learn more about what the Bible says, and where we go to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But in times like these, during the COVID-19 crisis, do not fret because we can’t be there together in the same room right now. We can worship God and praise Him at any time, from any place.

I can say with confidence that He knows exactly what is going on in our world, and He understands why our Easter won’t look the way we are used to.

We needn’t worry because…He is with us wherever we go.

So while you’re at home on Easter Sunday…rejoice as you normally would, in your heart and with your soul. We humans like to keep to our traditions as much as possible, though, so if you need some ideas of how to celebrate Easter without leaving your home, I’ve got a list for you.

Here are 7 things you can do to celebrate Easter from home:

#1) Read the Easter passage in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, or John 20:1-31 .To read or listen to these passages, click on the name of the book in red that you’d like to go to. Better still, go back a little further or read the whole book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for the entire account of Jesus’s life on earth, including the time when Jesus died on the cross three days before Easter.

#2) Pray to God, thanking Him for Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23. If you haven’t yet done so, ask Jesus into your heart and believe in Him, as He is the only way to eternal life.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:16.

#3) Pray for your loved ones, your community, your country, the world…and anything else that might be burdening your heart today.  Wow. We have a lot to pray for these days. Many people out there need our prayers. Beyond thanking and praising God, praying is a means to communicate with Him….asking for wisdom, comfort, healing, or specific needs. Sometimes you don’t know the words to say, but God hears your heart. He knows what you need.

#4) Sing!

  • Click here for Good Housekeeping’s list of 20 Best Easter Songs–Worship Music for Easter Sunday

#5) For the kids 🙂 :

#6) Easter meal ideas….click here for 87 of them from Country Living.

#7) Watch an Easter service online. If you need some links for that, here is one for South Valley Community Church and here is one for Twin Lakes Church, both in California but can be viewed anywhere.

Have a blessed Easter! Stay safe, be well, and fear not. God is with us….always.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

A Playlist to Cheer You

Are you ready for some music? 🙂 I didn’t think it would take me all day to do this. But it did. Typically, I am a night writer. Yet here I am, and here I’ve been since this morning…searching for songs that I hope you will find encouraging and uplifting.

As I write this, the sun is finally peeking through the heavy gray clouds that have been my company all day long. Except, this music has been my sunshine despite the clouds, so I hope it does the same for you, as well.

I had a tough minute a few moments ago, when I thought these links wouldn’t post and all my day’s work would be for nothing. Then, by some miracle, it seems to have worked out after all. So, I’m just going to post what I’ve got before it’s all lost…except I originally had a section of songs that were meant to help you remember how amazing you are…but I guess that’s for another post. I look forward to that!

Also, just to warn you…this is kind of an eclectic mix.

Enjoy! 🙂

If you want a song to help free your worries:

 

If you want to dance:

 

 

If you want songs to shore up your courage:

 

 

If you want some beautiful music for your wake up:

 

 

If you want music for stretching:

 

If you want to pretend your traveling:

 

If you’re feeling patriotic:

 

 

If you want some tunes while cooking:

 

If you want music to write to:

 

 

If you want to praise God:

 

If you want music to help you sleep:

 

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Some Good Stuff

Well, here’s some more good stuff for you today! Thanks to Facebook friends, some of these videos were shared this past month and they put a smile on my face during this time of uncertainty and isolation.

Pop some popcorn if you have it, put your feet up, and enjoy! I hope you like them. I’m so grateful for these creative, talented people who decided to look for the good.

For a smile…

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 1

  • This video is the first true thing that put a smile on my face after being sent home from work to work from home. I love that it’s not a parody, it’s just honest to goodness things we can smile about these days.

 

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 2

  • If you’re a Hamilton fan, there’s quite the surprise for you here! The rhythm alone of the song they sang made my heart glad when I heard this for the first time the other night. I’m looking forward to Episode 3!

For inspiration…

If Quarantine Is Driving You Crazy

  • Don’t be fooled by the depressing beginning. I promise if you watch and listen to the end, you will be inspired to get on your feet and make the most of your day however you can.

For the soul…

It Is Well With My Soul (virtual choir)

  • This has been one of my all time favorite songs since high school, especially when I learned the story behind it. This talented group of singers performs it beautifully despite not even being in the same room together!

 

Hallelujah (virtual choir)

  • Another beautiful virtual performance.

 

Have a wonderful day and look for the good stuff!

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What Will Tomorrow Bring?

All day I’ve kept myself busy at home, properly sheltered in place. I worked during the work hours, attended meetings online, and planned lessons for the future.

In the afternoon, when work was done for the day, instead of indulging in my newest daily pleasure—what I call The Walk Up the Hill—- I stood in the sunshine on my front porch and ate ice cream.

It was thrilling, holding that little cup of rainbow sherbet while looking up at the clear blue sky. I took my time, tasting the variety of flavors while listening to the sounds in the neighborhood. When I’m in my front yard, it’s usually to rush from my car to the front door and vice versa. I like to say hello to the neighbors who are friendly—because we do have some that are not. But that’s another story.

Today, a friendly neighbor walking her dog passed by and remarked (from at least 5 yards away) that she was wearing her hole-y pants today because well, why not? I don’t know her name. I should know it. We laughed, and I replied that I was wearing pajama pants because, well…why not? When she came back around a few minutes later, she stayed all the way across the street this time.

Maybe I shouldn’t confess to people when I’m wearing pajamas. But really…who wasn’t in their pajamas today?

The evening passed quickly with an interesting homemade dinner, a nice Zoom meeting among friends, and a few rounds of double solitaire with my husband. Now, all is still….the hum of the refrigerator is the only noise I hear, other than the typing of my keyboard and this odd pulsing heartbeat rush I hear in my left ear every once in awhile.

Before going to bed, I checked the news online. I wish I hadn’t. Rule #1 of Sheltering in Place During the Spread of a Highly Contagious Virus = don’t check the news before bed time. But I did. Fear slithered in a bit, and I felt my breath become captured by a renewed sense of urgency.

But I have vowed to not give in. I will not give in to this fear.

The truth I have right now in this moment is that right now in this moment I am okay. So I will think on that. And when I think on the future, I will not think of the worst what-if-this-happens or what-if-that-happens in regard to myself and my family and friends. Instead, I am going to think on what am I looking forward to tomorrow.

What am I looking forward to tomorrow?

So many things. A waterfall of life-giving things that bring joy and comfort and calm.

Stretching when I wake up. Entering the stillness of the kitchen on a brand new cool morning. Reaching for my coffee mug, and then….oh, the hot, sweet coffee. Praying. Saying good morning to my husband while attempting to make him smile. Watching my dog practically do cartwheels to get to her breakfast. Eggs…I love eggs. Listening to the morning announcements on my job’s Facebook page. Seeing my colleagues’ beautiful, dedicated faces through the computer screen for our daily meeting. The kids. I get to see my students tomorrow. I get to see their smiles in those little boxes on my Chromebook, and maybe I’ll almost-cry like I did last week when I heard them read aloud for the first time in a week and I was so proud of them that my heart was going to burst. They are handling this whole distance learning thing with such maturity…and courage.

I could go on and on.

That’s my saving grace tonight. I’m stopping fear in its tracks by thinking on all the little things that for years I’ve taken for granted. But as many of our freedoms have been temporarily taken away in order to help save lives, we still have so much we can look forward to. We have riches that we didn’t even realize we have—in all the good things that are still all around us, every minute of the day. Can you see your good things? Are you looking beyond what you can’t do to see the beauty in what you can?

I hope so.

Tomorrow night, instead of checking the news. I will pray—for the ones who are sick, for the families who have lost loved ones. I’ll pray for our world, for its leaders, and for this virus to be under control. I look forward to praying. For when we pray, I know God is listening. That’s amazing.

Good night, friends. May your tomorrow be as bright as the light that shines from your heart. Don’t let anything dim it. People need your light to keep keepin’ on.

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.        -2 Timothy 1:7