Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Daybook. . .

(Big bonus points and a hearty congratulations to all who finish reading this entire, long post!)

Above is a picture for thought I am sharing... 

My basket on return from the Saturday farmers’ market. I am deeply thankful for fresh, nutritious food. 

Outside my window... 

Is grey sky, fallen maple leaves on a fading lawn, a dirty white picket fence that will be scrubbed this week, the tiniest hint of breeze.

I am thinking... 

About several things.

First, I read Proverbs 24 yesterday since it was the 24th day of the month, and I ran across the old familiar verses that formed a large part of my vision as a mother at home: 

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”(Proverbs 24:3,4)

What makes a house a home? What makes a home lovely? Not pretty furniture from the store. Not vintage pieces or meaningful family heirlooms. Not having a decorator’s touch. By wisdom a house is built. By understanding it is established. By knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

And “a wise woman builds her house.” (Proverbs 14:1) We women are the ones entrusted with the call of bringing a spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge into our homes. We set the tone. We create the atmosphere. And, I don’t know about you, but it is a task too big for me. So it is a call for us to press harder and deeper into the Lord. It is a call to yield to Him as He builds knowledge, understanding, and wisdom into us so that we can naturally build it into our homes.

We pray for God to fill our homes with His love, His peace, His joy, His grace, and He does, but He largely does this through His work of guiding and changing and filling the woman who is called to build her house.

* * *

It was a long, quiet Sunday, so I was thinking about other things, too. I was struck that true, deep gratitude walks hand in hand with compassion. When I am thankful that I have enough or plenty, I am compassionately aware that others don’t. And I am thinking that if this doesn’t generate generosity and acts of mercy and a heart for justice, something is amiss.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did or one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

It’s not enough to think about it, acknowledge it, talk or write about it, or to feel strong pangs of sympathy:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warmand well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

And, so I want my prayer to be the prayer that I read in the More-With-Less Cookbook (the prayer was written by a missionary in Somalia):

Teach us to care, O God
In the Somali-Muslim way
Which does not hoard
Nor store for the future
But shares gladly
Regardless of how little.

* * *

As I looked over my bookshelves yesterday, culling even more books from them, I ran my finger down all of those books about simplicity, and I thought how most of them don’t strike me as currently interesting or pertinent. Maybe my thinking about simplicity has simplified. As I thought about this, I was struck how Jesus simplifies everything that matters to God down to this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . [and] love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

And, in light of that, I was thinking how, for me, all of those books about simplicity on my shelves have really been distilled to, or replaced by, this:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. . .” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

* * *

And one more thing! I am focusing on this, contemplating it, praying about it:

Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (I Peter 4:7) Not be self-controlled so that you will earn Brownie points with God or so that He will hear and answer your prayers. And not be self-controlled so that you will pray. Be self-controlled so that you can pray. For me this is attached to the idea getting rid of what hinders and entangles. What distracts me and holds my focus? Decluttering my life regarding possessions, eating, activity, etc. brings greater clarity to my mind and heart. My prayer life is connected to this.

I am thankful... 

Yes I am! This morning’s gratitude walk through (I literally walk around when I do this): a roof over my head; fresh air blowing through my own very cheerful, quiet house; wood floors; the beautiful, delicious blueberries I ate for breakfast this morning; morning coffee; plants and trees out every window; so many good people who love me; a truly lovely, quiet Sunday afternoon and evening; a church I like; friends in that church; and so many more of God’s blessings.

From the learning rooms. . .(if this applies). . . 

Yes, it applies. Always. Saturday I got interested in what a fire burning in the home (in a woodstove or fireplace!) offers to its inhabitants. This was motivated by something I read in an old journal of mine about standing round the woodstove with the family every morning. It was a natural gathering spot. I think I’ll likely write a post about this, so I won’t say much more, but thinking about this led to some pretty interesting information in my books and online, including a discussion at some Frank Lloyd Wright forum about the fireplace being the center of the home (and what might stand in for it now that it is not so necessary and ubiquitous; some even suggested a TV, which brought some interesting responses).

In the kitchen... 

That’s where I am right now! Drinking coffee from my Mrs. Incredible mug. Listening to birds chirp outside the window.

I’m really tightening up my eating. I’m eliminating snacks for now. I don’t need to lose weight but I mindlessly eat throughout the day, solely by whim and fancy, and, you know. . . “be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

I’m also trying to take good care of my physical health. It’s summer, a great time to eat largely “raw” foods, so that’s what I’m starting to do. My green lemonade is thawing on the counter right now. I ate blueberries for breakfast. I’ll have a fruit smoothie later (made with frozen berries, a fresh banana, and some coconut water—that’s my everyday smoothie). I’ll have a large green salad for lunch (with lots of veggies on it).

And I’ll eat something cooked (because it’s fun to cook!)—but very vegetable-oriented—for dinner, as well as something raw. And I’ll make sure to drink plenty of water. If I have a snack, I want it to be planned, and I want it to be when I’m really hungry and not just prowling for more food to stuff into my mouth.

I need to do this with my eating right now.

I am wearing... 

Brown hiking shorts; a brown, really soft, light-weight t-shirt (one of those super-comfortable ones from JCrew. . . I found it at a re-sale store); a blue polar-fleece jacket (it’s almost too warm to wear right now, so it will come off soon. . . like now!); bare feet; really messy hair.

I am creating... 

Order from chaos. That’s a God-like act, isn’t it?! :-) I really am trying to organize my life well while I have freedom and time to do it. And, let me tell you, this is no small task. If you could see the boxes and boxes of my writings and scribbles and notes and jotted-down thoughts, you would be in awe (not of the quality, but of the quantity). I need to sort through all of this and put it into some kind of sensible order, and since just a peripheral glance in the direction of this stuff stirs up wild overstimulation in my brain, it’s going to be quite an undertaking. But I can do it! And I will.

I am going... 

Blueberry picking with my sister tomorrow! My sister is so good to me. When she does anything she thinks I might be remotely interested in doing, too, she invites me. Last year, I went with her to a wonderful blueberry farm way up along a pretty river drive, and it was the most pleasant day imaginable. The sun shone (but not too hot); the sky was blue with a few cute, puffy white clouds; birds sang their loveliest songs just for us; bees buzzed as they did their work (but never threatened), the bushes were rife with blueberries that practically fell into the bucket of their own benevolent will. I felt like I was in a fairy tale!

I am wondering... 

What I am wondering about. I’m not sure. Probably a lot of things. But my brain seems to be slightly sludgy this morning.

am reading... 

Breaking Bread: The Spiritual Significance of Food by Sarah Covin Juengst, Just Eating? Practicing Our Faith at the Table: Readings for Reflections and Action. Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. Palace Walk. Recipes from some of my raw food cookbooks.

I am hoping... 

That the grey will vanish and the sun will shine today. I am thankful that we’ve had some sunshine lately, but I am hopeful that we will have more! Because it is summer, after all! For everything a season, right? And isn’t this the season for sunshine?

I am looking forward to... 

Whatever comes, because this makes life an Adventure: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”(Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Around the house... 

Windows are open. There is silence (after Alina finished playing softly on the CD this early morning). Lights are off. Flowers in little vases need refreshing.

I am pondering... 

I think I answered this one above in “I am thinking. . .” So, right now I am pondering what is the difference between “I am thinking. . .” and “I am pondering. . .”! (I am also pondering how long this daybook entry is becoming. Even I--a tireless pounder-outer of words on the keyboard--am starting to run out of steam!)

One of my favorite things... 

Is going for walks and hikes. Which I did yesterday evening (and I will again today). I walked on the running trails and hills of the south part of town. I power-walked up a very long, steep hill, and I was thinking how strong I feel right now even though I want to notch up my fitness level a bit more. I love being outdoors. I love the fresh air. If I’m not walking the forested trails, I love to walk past homes in my favorite part of town to see the yards and what’s going on there.

The other day, I was walking along one of these streets, and I was struck by the range of incomes and lifestyles that mix nicely in this neighborhood. I went by one house with a beautiful garden; there was a well-kempt, stylish woman walking through it while talking on her cell phone. She glanced at me and turned away (probably because it was a serious phone call and not rudeness). Somehow the garden itself struck me as cold, too-perfect, unwelcoming, and showy, even though it was clearly designed for entertaining.

Then I saw, down the street a ways, an upholstered couch sitting right by the street in front of a modest, airy-looking house with windows and doors thrown wide open. I could see a young couple sitting on that tree-shaded couch, talking and laughing gently. He was stretched out, legs in front of him, with his head resting on the back of the couch. She was sitting upright, cross-legged, eating from a small carton of ice cream. As I approached they both smiled warmly at me and said hello (and a few other neighborly words). I walked on, still hearing the quiet mumbles of conversation and laughter, and I thought how much I’d rather sit on that couch than on one of the cushioned benches of that perfect, cold garden.

(I guess I just got my second wind for pounding out words on the keyboard!)

A few plans for the rest of the week. . . 

Go blueberry picking. Attend school orientation. Clean the garage out entirely. Get those papers organized. Scrub that should-be-white picket fence!



  1. I must ask you. Is the Fun to Cook Book yours? If so -does it have a recipe for Canasta Canapés? I have been searching for a childhood memory - a cookery book with this recipe. I had no idea what canasta or a canapé was but it represented the height of adult sophistication. There were also instructions for checker board sandwiches!

  2. Susan,
    I always enjoy reading your daypost entries, and though it may be a bit long for some, it reads so smoothly and has much interesting content, that it really isn't hard! :)
    I am following right along with you on the simplifying theme. Just now, we are emptying our refrigerator freezer in an effort to figure out why we are getting water dripping inside the fridge. Oh much stuff that needs to be eaten, *before* we buy or bake new! My cupboards get the same way. Time to eat what's on hand, give thanks, share, and not hoard!
    I appreciate all of your reflections on scripture--very practical and excellent thoughts!

  3. I am so glad I popped in before bed. Order from chaos - exactly the words I used this wknd lol. I have had the same feeling from many simplifying bks too. Like should simplifying really be this complicated?? Simple really happens inside first. All the organization in the world won't calm a cluttered mind. And vice vs if your heart is quiet then the environment sort of falls into step with that don't you think?

    Always good to hear from you. : )

  4. Susan,

    Do you own a television in your new home ... Or have you been television free for a long time?
    Thanks & always enjoy your posts!

  5. Hebrews 12:1-2 really spoke to me in the post...throwing off the hindrances and sinful attitudes so that I can run the race and gaze on Jesus...such spiritual simplicity and lightness!

  6. loved the post, and after being on the simplicity journey for yrs and yrs now myself, I have discovered that after simplicity comes gratitude. Paring down to a simpler life means we think before we fill our lives again wit things, and gratitude for the things that we love and have. JMHO.

  7. That Hebrews 12:1-2 Scripture was the one the Lord brought to my attention this morning. Love the confirmation.

    Lovely post. Simply so.

  8. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!!! Just randomly visiting some of the daybooks and clicked over and just before I ALMOST left (after reading of course) saw that little tiny link (High Desert Home) and nearly cried when I saw you are back and sharing your lovely thoughts!!! I pray you are well! WOW! I surely have missed you and you no doubt never even knew who I was, but I really, REALLY enjoyed your blog!! I can not wait to see what treasures you have to share!

  9. I love these Day Book posts because they make me feel as though we've sat across the table from one another and shared good conversation (and perhaps a cup of coffee too!).
    There are so many things I'd love to talk about. You have so much wisdom to share. I am so delighted that you are so content in your new little home.
    Thank you for visiting Susan - and your kind words.

  10. That basket of vegetables is gorgeous. Good for you. That is how we should all be eating and supporting our locals farmers! It kills me when I see people walking out of our farmer's market with a muffin and coffee. How could they all pass up the bounty of beautiful produce? And wonderful that you are out berry picking too. So great to fill our freezers for the winter.

  11. Hi Susan & thanks once again for another lovely post. Not too long at all, I really enjoy reading them.
    I liked your reflections about enriching our prayer lives.

    Your "I am thankful" together with the use of
    “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did or one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40), reminded me of the terrible famine, currently worsening, in East Africa.
    It reminded me that there is so much more I can do and that I have a life so full of blessings, when I think about those poor souls in such desperate need.
    I thank God that He has used you,to nudge me, here, to do more for those in need.
    God bless you, Susan.

  12. Susan, I love to read your thoughts. I am a busy mama with 5 children at home so I rarely have these long leisurely days to think about things. But if I did, i would think about all the things you post about. So I'm thankful that you share yourself with us, so at the very least I can live vicariously through you, and at the most..learn from you! love, andrea

  13. Lucille, yes, the Fun to Cook Book is mine, but--sorry--no recipe for Canape Canastes! :-) (What is in/on them?) My daughter gave me this little book after finding it at a thrift store, and I think it's adorable. Interestingly, I did get an email from a friend who reads my blog, who received the Fun to Cook Book when she was young as a gift from her mother! I hope you will be able to find your recipe. There's something about those childhood memories once they take hold in our minds. I've searched for, and purchased, several things just because they came to mind in a sweet way and I couldn't let go of it. :-)

    Thank you, Silvana. I always appreciate all your share in your comments.

    Thank you, Nancy! No, I do not have a TV. For most of my marriage there was no TV in the house, so my kids were raised without it, too.

    Aimee, the Hebrews passage is almost my entire focus right now. Just wanting to use that as a gauge of what needs to go/change/etc. It really is simplifying and freeing! :-) So glad to see you here again. I've been thinking of you and praying for you all.

    Winterwood, good words. I totally agree. :-)

    Thank you, "Anonymous." I love that confirmation, too!

    Oh, Peggy, of *course* I know who you are! :-)I always loved writing those Daybook posts and loved reading the simple wisdom of your blog. It's really good to see you here. I'm glad you happened by and caught sight of that HDH link. I hope I'll see you again, and best of "luck" on that book!

    Thank you, Linda! Always so encouraging. Yes, I should title my daybook posts "Coffee With Susan" instead! :-)

    The first Andrea. . . it seems you and I both care about local food and eating sustainably! :-) It's so much better in so many ways, if you ask me.

    Claina, I love that you seem like such a deeply thoughtful and caring person. Your comments are always full of encouraging words.

    And Andrea the Flourishing Mother, you may be a busy mama, and you may not have long leisurely days to think, but you certainly have a lot of good things to say that inspire and challenge me. (Thank you for the little book recommendation recently--I bought it and will read it soon.) I really am always happy to see your face here, Andrea. :-)

  14. Oh, and Kim, I doubt you'll look back for a reply to your comment, anyway (I don't think many people do), but I'll say it anyway. I think I should just take your comments and turn them into posts of their own! Thanks for sharing your excellent insights and thoughts!

  15. Thank you for your reply. I am trying to eliminate television altogether from my life. Can not do away with the actual tv since my husband likes to watch football in the fall.

    Experimenting on how to replace evening hours ( when husband travels) with other activities such as walking and reading insteading of watching tv; I am determined to persevere.

    Sometime would like to hear what you usually do in the evening hours. Nancy

  16. Hi Nancy!

    I like not having a TV, but if the Oregon Ducks are playing football and someone I know is watching it on TV, I'm there! :-) I do like sports, too, but, like I said, I'm glad I have no TV.

    Evenings? Walking. Reading. Just plain sitting/being/listening/praying. Puttering. Cleaning. Planning. Sorting. Little jobs I want to do (that don't require tons of energy). Talking to my kids or my mom on the phone at times. Sitting on the front steps. For me, it's generally a quiet time. A slowing-down-for night version of my early morning gearing-up-for-the-day routine. :-) I've gotten so acquainted with quiet and love it so much that I can sit for long periods of time. And it does me a world of good! :-) It's all about our season of life, who we live with (and how we should live with them), what we're called to. . . don't you think?