Saturday, December 10, 2011

 Coffee making this morning.
A seventeen year ritual.
(Yikes. That's a long time!)

Wow. Time doesn't fly when there's nothing at all pressing to do. I've done about a million things today, I think, and it's just mid-morning. I like this!

I tried to sleep in this morning, but once my eyes popped open they stayed that way. So, I caught up in my Advent reader, prayed, thanked the Lord for His blessings, read my Bible, and climbed out of bed. By then it was 6:00 a.m.

While I lay in bed thinking and reading and praying and thanking God for His blessings, I thought of something that came up in my Judaism class. We were discussing brachots--the blessings Jews recite daily for just about everything they do. They have specific blessings for their food--for each food, a blessing for a rainbow, a blessing for seeing a friend for the first time in a while, blessings for everything--even the toilet! It is a way of being mindful and thankful. Brachots are reminders that, in busyness and distraction, we are not in control. They can remind us that we are blessed and that God is the giver of gifts. The rabbi who taught our class said more than 100 blessings can be given in a day. Wow. That is commitment. I may not recite 100 specific blessings in a day, but I can certainly lift my heart continually in gratitude to God and speak out blessings to those around me instead of holding my appreciation for them inside my heart.

On the other hand, I've also been thinking of the old Orthodox prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." Like the brachot, this is another thing to be asserted often, at least in my life. When I am fearful or fretting or frustrated, it comes from wanting to control my life. It comes from looking for a sense of security that is derived from my own efforts and abilities. And this fails me every time. So, in the night, when I couldn't quiet my heart, I didn't pray "Lord, help me--please do something about this!" Instead, I prayed, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner," and I meant it, because fear and fretting is anti-faith. Peace does not come from circumstances that are momentarily calm and controlled. It comes from a heart that is yielded entirely to God, and my heart is too often revealed as not yet surrendered and at rest. This is a grace because it continually points me back round to Him. "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." This is the real story of Advent: Jesus Christ came to earth to die for sinners, and now he extends His grace, mercy, and love to us when we call on Him.

"Silence shatters to pieces the mind's armor." 
~Dag Hammarskjold

So, once I was out of bed this morning, I began to clean--the kind of clean that is motivated by eyes that have been opened. Much-to-do can clutter the mind and blind the eye, and this temporary blindness can be a grace when circumstances squeeze me, but when the blessing of ample time is given again, I begin to see the true state of my surroundings, and my heart begins to crave what is truly simple.

"Affected simplicity is refined imposture." 
~La Rochefoucauld

I'm not trying to practice voluntary--or involuntary--simplicity. I'm not determined to declutter. I'm not trying to shed materialism. This isn't about participation in any kind of simplicity movement or statement or conscious lifestyle. I just want simple. The kind that comes from way deep in my heart and I don't need or want to understand what or why. I just want to do it. So, I began to remove things from counters, shelves, and corners and put them in boxes to be given away or in cupboards to store. And now the ambience is becoming roomy and airy, and it feels so good. "All in order, sweet and lovely." (I'll keep quoting Blake on that til the end of my days.)

And then I made coffee in my French press, as I do as often as I can. And I used my favorite old round Polish pottery mug. The mug doesn't make me sad anymore. For a long time I didn't want to drink from it because it seemed connected to so much that was lost in my life. It was just like it was the year I was in a dark depression at Christmastime and someone gave me a CD of beautiful classical guitar music. To this day I cannot listen to that CD because it is so connected to that dark time. But the ache of recent years has faded (thank the Lord!), and the mug seems friendly again.

Yep. There it is in all its crazy, tacky, colorful glory!

 And then I decided to put out a few Christmas things. Not much, though, because I'm not a gung-ho decorator. Or crafter. Point in case: I made a garland today. Sort of. I was putting a few ornaments in a pretty glass display bowl (because I'm not going to have a tree this year except for that ceramic one on my table), and I got the idea to string some of the ornaments on a line for a garland to hang across my kitchen window. All I could find was kitchen string, and I wasn't motivated to look for something better, so I decided to experiment with that string, and if I liked the garland, I'd change the string later to something more transparent or tasteful. So I quickly (that word--quickly--is a key trait to my crafting projects because I really am not Martha; I prefer to enlist my daughters' to make things for me) tied random ornaments (kinda sloppily) to that thick white piece of kitchen string and strung it across the window just to see if I will enjoy the look. Well, there it still hangs, and I'm pretty sure it's going to continue to hang there just as it is until Christmas is over. I'm sure I could look online and find some amazing ornament garland tutorials to follow, but I don't want to know about them. I'll just enjoy my rustic, simple, thrown-together garland. It is cheerful!

And now I will carry on with my day. Happy Saturday to you!


  1. Love the simplicity of your festive expression! no tree for us this year either, but the snowflakes and icicles hang in the window with some snowmen on teh ledge, and a cute sled from a "special friend" has a nice ribbon and some stuffed 'moose' sitting by it! Thankful to our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for ALL in our lives ~ daily ~as you are.

  2. My DH and I are going through a very difficult circumstance right now and your post was like a balm to my heart because it revealed where I am going wrong in my thinking:

    "When I am fearful or fretting or frustrated, it comes from wanting to control my life. It comes from looking for a sense of security that is derived from my own efforts and abilities. And this fails me every time."

    Thank You Susan. :o) Oh! And I think your simple garland is truly *lovely*.

  3. "I just want simple. The kind that comes from way deep in my heart..."

    Yes, yes, yes.

  4. My sentiments too. I have a wreath with pine cones from my yard and berries from my holly trees with a red bow.... Duplicated on my small tabletop tree.

  5. Sometimes I find myself simplifying externals fervently because doing it internally is more difficult. Your thoughts on not doing it as a movement or lifestyle to pursue, but as an outworking of something going on in your soul...yes. That hits the nail on the head for me!

  6. Haha, Susan, the kitchen twine couldn't BE more perfect for your cheerful kitchen window garland! Don't change a thing! :)
    It makes me smile reading your words about being able to use your Polish pottery mug again without that ache. Glad for you, {Susan}. Lovely, as always, to "hear" from you again in this space. I send much love to you during this Advent season.

  7. You said: "When I am fearful or fretting or frustrated, it comes from wanting to control my life. It comes from looking for a sense of security that is derived from my own efforts and abilities. "

    Thank you. Simple, joyful, beautiful Christmas to you, Susan.


  8. Bless you Susan, for this post.

  9. Congratulations on completing the term. Prayers for a wonderful break--filled with family, beautiful music, peaceful moments, and lots of fun!

  10. Susan, I just finished catching up on the last month of posts (since the "Slow down, Grandma Susie" post). You blessed me, as always, with your words. I want to wish you a happy, happy Christmas with your family, and I also want to say how very happy I am that GOD is helping you get through the hard things in your life, as evidenced by the Polish pottery mug. And I am thankful that you come here to help others along the way with the lessons He's taught you. Thank you, Susan.


  11. I'm so happy to find your blog! I found High Desert Home after you'd stopped blogging there and spent many happy hours reading your posts. I visited it today after a long absence, not at all certain that it would still be there, and was so pleased to find the link to your new blog, and I have been happily dipping in here and there for an hour or so. Coincidently, I first came across a reference to your blog on Elspeth Thompsons blog - I see that you have mentioned Elspeth earlier on, I also turn to her blog and her books for inspiration. I love your bauble garland, I'm a twine person myself, I much prefer to put things together from what is at hand when the inspiration strikes. Warmest wishes to you and your family for the festive season and beyond


  12. Thank you, Laurie! You reminded me of my snowflakes--I hope to get the ones my kids cut for me over the years up in a window or two later today.

    Michele, I'm just glad for what you said, and I pray God will encourage and strengthen you in whatever it is that is going on. Blessings to you!

    Sandy-- :-)

    Mominapocket--I collected a bunch of pinecones form my high desert home and packed them around with me for months, but in one or the other move I made in the past two years, they seem to have gone missing! And there are no pinecones in this yard! I miss those big prickly Ponderosa pinecones, but, oh well. :-)

    Kate, me too. Everything is getting that way for me. Narrowing down. And what God is doing deep inside me working its way out.

    Thank you, Megan! :-) You know, I still laugh aloud sometimes when I walk into the kitchen and see that thing hanging there, but I actually like it, too. It would look much better, though, if I had some cute little curtains on the window. It's a bit stark as it is. . . :-)

    Dear Jody, my longtime friend, thank you! A beautiful Christmas to you, too.

    Maddie--sweet! Thank you.

    Thank you, Sue! You too. I'll see you soon. (I'm in the process of filling out my football pool worksheet from Matt--oh, and he and Zane stopped by the other night when they were out on a run--fun to see them!)

    Very nice to see you, Judi, and thank you, as always!

    Sue, it is really nice to meet you, and I am glad you are here! Very warm wishes to you, too!

    Thanks everyone!

  13. Funny you mention that CD. I have always been that way. I hear a song and immediately am connected to some past event - happy or sad. Music that got me through hard times is still painful to hear. And the beautiful KAthryn Scott music I listened to during my last labor. Sigh. Cannot even listen to it now.