Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Random Thoughts

The other day I looked up a book in my public library's online catalog--The Joy of the Snow by Elizabeth Goudge. It's her autobiography, and frankly I didn't expect the library would have it, but I thought I should check before I bought a copy on Amazon.com the minute Lent was over.

Much to my surprise, the library had a copy. But what was downright shocking is the fact someone had it checked out!

Who is this person who finds Elizabeth Goudge as compelling as I do? Is it the same person who requested The Scent of Water when I was halfway through with it, forcing me to track down a copy to buy? Are there just two of us scrapping after Goudge's books, or is there an entire posse?

If only the library had a way to let you contact the people who have been reading the books you've been reading--or want to read--especially if they're books that you assume no one else is reading or has ever heard of (heck, I'd never heard of EG until Jody mentioned her earlier this year over at Gumbo Lily).

I would love know who my fellow Goudgians are--I imagine them as elderly Episcopalian women, much like my own mother, who have downy soft cheeks and smell of Chanel No. 5. But maybe they're like me, middle-aged women who wandered back into church in mid-life and swoon over novels that are a heady mix of C.S. Lewis and Rosemary Pilcher. Or they might be anglophile teenagers who've already worked their ways through Jane Austen and E.M. Forster. Whoever they are, I want to know them!

I'm not sure how this library program would work. Maybe when you checked out your books--and nowadays, we check them out on the library's computers, no need to have contact with an actual human being--you could put an X in a box that said you were willing to let your email address be released to anyone who had also checked out any of the same books in the last six months.

I know, I know, it's probably unfeasible, and you'd probably get emails from creepy people who had also just happened to have checked out Your Money or Your Life or Yoga for Dummies instead of Karl Barth's Apologetics or The Collected Poems of W.H. Auden.

But it's killing me to know there's someone out there who's reading The Joy of the Snow and I have no idea who. I want to know!


We went to a beautiful Easter service on Sunday. We attend a university chapel, which means we get to hear from an ever-changing roster of hot shot preachers--N.T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, just to name a few who've come through in the last year--as well as our own beloved Dean of the Chapel, who is from England and awfully cute for a balding, middle-aged man.

This was our first Easter at the chapel, and it was grand--and really, really crowded. We decided afterwards that perhaps next year we'll try the 9 a.m. service instead of the 11 a.m. My mother, ever-practical, suggested we just go to the vigil the night before. We are a family who can do a midnight service, no problem. Or stay up all night and go to the sunrise service bleary-eyed and cranky.

As the temperatures outside rose to the high 80s, the temperatures inside were quite steamy as well. The chapel--"chapel" is a misnomer; it's a Gothic cathedral--holds 1,800 people, and we had that and then some. The typical 11 a.m. service hosts a mix of students and people from around the community, but Sunday's service was student-heavy, and most of them were dressed for a big cocktail party. It was fun watching the Man--who gallantly gave his seat to an elderly woman--having to avert his eyes through the entire service. A serious amount of naked flesh, I'm just sayin'.

And yet, it was lovely to see everyone, nice to see the kids, the old folks, the families, all of us nearly prostrate with heat stroke, most of us coughing and sniffing with spring allergies and colds. There were trumpets and bells and lots of loud singing. I let the boys take off their jackets and ties and unbutton their top buttons. I mean, everyone else was naked, why not them?

As we all drained from the church, it was amazing to see how many people automatically took out their iPhones to check to see if Jesus had texted them during the service. Touching, really.


I have good news about our friend David, who I wrote about again in my last post. His doctors opted for a serious round of antibiotics, which did the trick. He's home, done with chemo, and will go in next month for a bone marrow transplant. Thanks for your prayers, positive energy, white light, white heat. I promise you that David appreciates them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prayer Request for David

Back in January I requested your prayers, positive thoughts and good energy for our friend David, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Since that time he's done remarkably well with chemotherapy, and about a month ago made the decision to undergo a bone marrow transplant in May.

Today we received scary news--David went into the hospital last night with abdominal pain and needs surgery. The problem is, surgery would put him at risk for infection, and it could prove fatal to take that risk. But it could also prove fatal not to treat the blockage which is behind his abdominal pain.

As I write this, David's doctors are trying to decide what the next step is. So again I request your prayers, positive thoughts and good energy for David. Pray for healing, for guidance for his doctors, for courage and strength for David, his wife Becky and their son Isaac.

Thanks so much. Easter blessings to all. He is risen indeed!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Walk Through My Garden

It has been a busy week here on the farm. We've got seeds sprouting and flowers blooming in containers and a whole lotta of garlic. And as you can see from the above picture, there's still much work to be done.

We've expanded the smaller garden by the garage, because doesn't every family need sixteen heirloom tomato plants? Of course!

The Big Plot is for pole beans and lima beans and kidney beans and pinto beans and watermelons and pumpkins. I believe this is the summer when I will finally have to learn how to preserve food in jars or else become the crazy neighbor lady who leaves baskets of produce on your back steps in the middle of the night.

Right now we're eagerly awaiting the spring peas, which you can see here unfocused in the foreground. I'm worried that the summer-like days we're having are going to do my little peas in. Note to self: next year plant early spring crops much earlier!

While I'm waiting for the Big Plot to be finished and fenced, I'm growing some flowers in containers--dianthus, snapdragons, phlox and lobelia. I love dianthus to extreme. As pretty as roses, but a lot easier.

Once the Big Plot is done, I'll have eighteen feet along the fence for flowers. Will's claimed four of those feet, and has already planted bachelor's buttons, marigolds, sunflowers and four o'clocks. I'll be planting cosmos, stock, and coneflowers, and various herbs hither and yon.

More flowers in containers. Columbine and phlox.

This is my strawberry pot. I got it at a thrift shop for five bucks and bought the plants from White Flower Farms. Now I wish I had more.

Plants in waiting, including three hydrangeas, some zinnias we started from seeds, and zucchini.

Now: who will do the weeding? Any volunteers?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little Altars Everywhere

Yesterday I was told a story about a young pastor visited at home by an older pastor. The older man told the younger man that every table in his house should be an altar. By this, he didn't mean the young pastor should have a chalice and a silver platter of communion wafers on his bedside table and TV trays. Instead, he was preaching a kind of mindfulness. Pay attention, he was saying. Keep God in mind whatever you do.

This story appeals to both my love of order and my love of beauty. I believe God also loves order and beauty, and it is nice to be in accord with God from time to time, instead of always lifting my eyes to the Heavens and saying, "Huh?" or "Do I have to?"

(I will say, after my initial positive response to the story of the young pastor and the old pastor, an irritable thought nudged its way into my brain, whispering, This way madness lies! What if it starts with tables and ends up with sinks? Who could make an altar out of sink? Think of the globs of toothpaste, think of all those little hairs!)

So when I came home, I worked on turning my tables into altars. I straightened my sewing table and the coffee table. I neatened up the dining room table, which is currently being used for quilt-making. I never quite got to the kitchen table, but I eyeballed it a lot and thought about how un-altar-like it was, covered up by recycling and library books.

Looking around as I write this, I see that some of my tables have been re-cluttered, and so I must go make altars out of them again. I suspect making altars out of tables is a daily practice. But here's the funny thing: once you make your little altar, you look at it differently. An altar, after all, is a place for communion with God. And here's one right in your living room! There's one over there where you put your coffee cup while you're reading the morning paper.

Little altars all over your house. Like maybe God lived there or something.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This is the next step in the quilt. Last you saw it, it was laid out on pieces on the floor. In the above picture it's been pieced and is waiting to be basted. Since this picture was taken, the quilt has been basted and stenciled in preparation for quilting. At this very second it's sitting in my little quilt hoop, where it is in the process of being hand-quilted.

The problem: I don't know anything about hand quilting. I've hand quilted a very small wall hanging before, but I was just winging it. Now, for some reason, I feel like I should now learn how to hand quilt properly. I am becoming a respectable quilter in my old age, giving thought to to the rules, conceding they might prove useful.

I'm in a bit of bind (quilty pun), however, because I've given up buying books for Lent. I have a book habit that I feed pretty regularly, though I'm good about buying used and trying to find a book in the library before I lay down cold hard cash. Nonetheless, I suspect if I kept records, I'd find that I averaged a book a week.

Oh, but there are so many books I find myself needing! Right now! Like The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer and The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson and Free Some Day: The African American Families of Monticello.

And right at this very second I need Hand Quilting with Alex Anderson. I really, really need it.

I could get it on Sunday, because Sunday is your "free day" in Lent, when you are welcome to indulge yourself. I don't know why this is the case, but it is. The problem here? I don't buy things on Sunday. That's my Sabbath practice, with the occasional exception of going to the grocery store. Otherwise, no shopping.

Would it be cheating to ask the Man to buy me Hand Quilting with Alex Anderson?


I suppose this is the point of Lent: to give something up and then to want it back really badly and be forced to ask yourself, What is it that you really need? You know what you want, but what do you need?

I know the answer is God, but I feel like the answer is Hand Quilting with Alex Anderson.

Jesus wept.