“Love is not a disease.”

"Beautifully written.  Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy." -Christopher Paulini

“Beautifully written. Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.” -Christopher Paulini

I just finished reading a fantastic YA crossover fantasy novel– Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  I categorize it as a YA crossover novel because while it’s intended for young readers it certainly packs enough action, suspense, and complexity to be appealing to a more discerning palate like mine.  [wink and smile]

Briefly an overview:  Seraphina is Hartman’s debut novel about a world where dragons and humans co-exist in relative peace.  I enjoy reading fantasy novels, but haven’t read enough to have come across many dragons or be very familiar with dragon-lore.  So I’m not sure if this compliment is misplaced, but one of the things I loved about Hartman’s treatment of draconian typology was that her dragons are able to adopt human forms.

This motif of degrees of humanness is what puts Hartman’s work in the top tier of fantasy writing because it is able to draw a universal parallel between this imagined world and our real world.  The complexities of living in a world where appearances are not necessarily trusted and that persons are judged by their parentage is reminiscent of our world’s continuing dialogue on race and privilege.

Love and friendship between species (human and dragon) is Hartman’s recurring theme.   The title of the post is a piece of wisdom imparted from one character near the end of the book when he begins to recognize that love between human and dragon is something to be celebrated and not condemned.  Fascinating thoughts and a good reminder that love is without borders.

Definitely recommend you pick up this engaging fantasy.  With the sequel due next year, I predict Hartman’s dragons are going to be the next “it” book.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Glimpses of the future

I’ve been job searching for about a month now.  I guess in the grand scheme of unemployment trends in the US currently that’s not very long, but when you are the person in the midst of “the hunt” it can feel a bit like walking up an enclosed spiral staircase when you can’t see how far you’ve come or how far you have left to climb.  That blindness to the length of time I’ll remain on this journey to find a job can be maddening.  There are few moments during that day that I find I’m not trying to tease out the blueprints to that metaphorical spiral staircase.

How many steps will I travel before I at least reach a landing where I can rest for a while?  How many more times will I search Monster.com or Idealist.org before I find that listing for my job?  Which interview will go well?  Should I wait to accept one job in hopes this more interesting possibility will be offered?  What will I eventually find at the top of all of these stairs?

Then for me at least there is this underlying question that I’ve been asked since I was 8 and one that I’m still not sure how to answer even though I’m almost 30.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I’ve always had a diversity of interests and I’ve enjoyed exploring multiple avenues of career possibilities in my twenties, but now I’m at a point when I feel like I need and want to make a move toward narrowing my focus.  Even though it feels like the right time to be making this kind of big decision, the prospect of doing so is somehow terrifying and so I begin to feel a bit claustrophobic.

Yet in the midst of all the angst of the job search, I find moments when I am afforded glimpses of the future me that I’m journeying toward.  Like beams of light shining in through small windows built into the walls of that spiral staircase, my path seems illumined for just a moment and I feel some hope knowing that there is still a world outside this enclosure and that when I reach the top I’ll emerge to enjoy a whole new perspective of my journey.

Yesterday evening I had one of those moments when I led the first session of a 7 week small group study at “The Church.”  Channeling my energy into teaching others some of what I learned while in seminary was completely invigorating.  [smile]  It felt so natural to be fostering our discussion about prayer and encouraging those gathered to let go and experiment over the next few months with some new prayer practices.  I felt for a moment like I was fulfilling my purpose and that I could enjoy doing something like this for the rest of my life.  That feeling was such a welcome respite from all the uncertainty that I’ve been carrying with me lately and exactly the boost I needed going into another job interview this afternoon.

Today I am grateful for glimpses of the future.

What are you grateful for?

– Margaret

Nada te turbe

In October 2009 just after completing my archaeology Masters coursework and right before headed back to the states, I retreated to Taize– a special spiritual center nestled in the Burgundy region of France.  Sometimes I have trouble believing I was actually there.  Looking back on the solo journey from Bristol to Paris where I boarded a train at the Gare du Nord then got off at a small station in the middle of the countryside where I was just hoping a bus that would take me Taize would show up, I am amazed I had the courage to take so many risks and just trust that everything would work out.

At Taize, the day is broken into periods of rest, prayer, work, and table fellowship.  Prayer happens corporately three times a day and is characterized by silence and song.  The unique music of Taize (sparsely accompanied, simple chanting) is what initially drew me to explore the prospect of retreating there.  It’s simplicity provides a spiritual connection that I find myself falling back into at the most random times.

Tonight as I am laying down to rest, this chant adapted from a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila drifted into my mind.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante;
todo se pasa, Dios no se muda.

In English:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing distress you;
While all things fade away, God is unchanging.

I’ve felt distressed over the last few days– not by anything super serious, but just by the everyday struggles of adjusting to a new life phase in which I’m/we’re no longer students.  Learning to adapt to new routines, schedules, and budgets as well as the continuing search for a job is overwhelming.  Add to the mix that my little sisters just turned 25 and I am now less than a month away from a big birthday myself (the big 3-0), I feel a bit like the world is spinning and I’m trying to keep up. Yet God’s love/presence/grace in my life is steadfast and ultimately I know having the courage to trust that all will be well is what I am called to.

Tonight this chant feels like a place to rest for a while.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Visions and Dreams

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Sunday marked a month of living in “The Parsonage!” [smile] In the grand adventure of life a month is not so long, yet in many ways those 7 weeks of transition that characterized the first half of our summer seem like so long ago especially because of everything that has happened in between then and now.  Visits with parishioners, Sundays, tons of boxes unpacked, cleaning, moving furniture, placing frames on the wall, making an empty house our home. In that time, we’ve been living into life together in this new place and I am so grateful. 

This month of discovery has also been full of dreaming and visioning.  We’ve been dreaming what our house will look like with pumpkins on the porch and Christmas lights lining the eaves.  We’ve been dreaming what fun adventures we’ll take exploring the parks and sights near Kingsport.  Ever since reading Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap I’ve dreamed about visiting that magical little town just a little way down the road.  [smile]

Happily the dreaming and visioning have not been limited to our own small vision of life together, but has spilled over into our interactions with “The Church.”  Spurred by the excitement that always comes when a new minister arrives to a United Methodist congregation, we’ve joined our parishioners in dreaming dreams and seeing visions about what this next chapter will be for this church, these people, and most importantly the community surrounding us. 

This state of dreaming is a glorious place to be and such an important step in moving forward.  A friend/second once or twice removed posed this question on Facebook earlier in the week and I felt it so relevant to where we now find ourselves. 

Kathe:  Thinking about what church was supposed to be, and what it is now. How did we get here from there? More important, where next?

Her questions aren’t ones that has an easy answer and I think its interesting that Kathe hasn’t received any responses to her query online.  I think part of the answer lies in the process of dreaming and visioning.  I am reminded of the passage from Joel that is quoted in Acts: 

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.

Dreams and visions move us from where we already find ourselves toward the not yet kingdom of God that is to come.  So today I am thankful for a faith that encourages such imaginative dreaming and visioning. 

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Running Partners

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Now that the transitions of life have settled down a bit we started a jogging routine with the help of the “Get Running” app.  Essentially it’s a guide like Couch to 5K.  We have a goal set to be able to run in the Apple Festival 5K in October and slowly but surely we are working up to it. [smile]

After our run today, we sat on the back porch for a few moments of devotional and silent prayer.  We started with reading from Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill.  Psalm 1, the one we read today, seemed particularly appropriate for the state of post run bliss in which we were basking in at the moment. The psalmist writes:

Blessed are those who walk [or run] hand in hand with goodness, who stand beside virtue, who sit in the seat of truth; for their delight is in the Spirit of Love, and in Love’s heart they dwell day and night.

I’ve tried building a running routine before, but it never really took.  This time running with Caleb I feel like its probably something I can stick with.  Caleb ran cross country during high school, but to say I’ve never really been a fan of running is an understatement.  Still working some exercise routine into our lives is a must and jogging has the added benefit of getting to know our neighborhood and our neighbors better.  I’m learning to enjoy the process but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like cursing a blue streak while running up that final hill on our way back to our house.  [smile]  Tackling the task of running together is what’s been making all the difference.  I love the quiet conversations that we can have during our running and having a running partner to push me through the last running interval or up that last hill makes each task a little more bearable.

Partnership is so essential to cultivating a rich spiritual life as well.  Together with my family, with my friends, with Caleb, and with our church I am challenged to think more deeply and live into the questions that arise on the journey toward discovering who God is, who I am in relationship, and what is the call on my life.  Running and walking together I am learning what it means to really be alive.  What a blessing!

Today I am thankful for running partners.

What are you grateful for?

By way of a happy coincidence, my mom forwarded me this illustration by StoryPeople today.  Hope you enjoy

Run Proud by StoryPeople

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Reminders

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

I’ve been trying to think about what to write today, but I have felt distracted.  A friend of mine from college has been on my mind this weekend.  Well she has been in my thoughts and prayers for a while, but particularly this weekend.  I haven’t seen her in several years, but through the wonders of Facebook I have been able to stay connected enough to watch her beautiful family grow and her life to unfold.  [smile] Within the last year, she has experienced a very severe health crisis and recently shared that she is reaching the end of possible treatments for her illness.  Faced with this scary news, my friend wrote an inspiring reflection about her desire to celebrate life with her family, to continue fighting her illness, and most importantly to trust that God is working.  Her choice to move forward into this future which she would not have chosen trusting that God is walking with her has served as a particularly poignant reminder for me this weekend of the importance of living fully into the present God has given us.

Today I am thankful for this reminder that we have been gifted with one holy and precious life.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Home

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Saturday evening we returned “home” to my parents’ new parsonage.  It seems strange to call this place home from the very beginning because everything is all so new and very different.  For the first time, none of my “stuff” was moved in with the rest of the family’s and my room will be more of a guest room than a place I’ll be living in for an extended period of time.

Home has been on my mind a lot lately because of all the changes happening with my parents and now going on the sixth week of being without a house of our own.  What is home?  Where is home?  Growing up as a preacher’s kid has prepared me to think about home in ways that are beyond location.  When it came time for a move during my childhood, we would wake up in one house/home one morning and go to sleep in a new house/home that night.  Most if not all the furniture would stay with the house and we’d come in to just add our own little touches.  Because parsonages are owned by churches for years, I’ve run into many other preacher’s kids who grew up in the same houses I did.  It’s an elite club. [smile]

One big moving day… that’s how the Methodists do it.  [smile]  I’ve never thought about how odd that system really is until I have found myself on the brink of my first move with my own nuclear family.  I’m excited, but also feel very aware that part of the process of moving in will be creating for us the sense of being at home in a place where we will be creating our family history.  Focusing on the present moment of being together in this place will be key.  Home is not the place.  Home is the life together.  So while I long for a house to begin to fill with our love and our stuff [smile], I am trying to remember we have never been home-less.  Wherever we share the activity of the day and wherever we lay down our head that night is our home and we are so blessed.

Today I am thankful for home in its many forms.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret