Tuesday, 25 September 2012

have you played lately?

...living "freely and lightly"

Wishing you whooshing joy today!!

photos © Melody Armstrong

Monday, 24 September 2012

on being small

the mossy woods in Caroline, AB.

Have you ever laid down on a soft piece of moss in the middle of the woods and starred up into the trees?  Or laid on a cool patch of grass and been mesmerized by an endless shimmering of stars? Have you ever laid in the sand near the ocean and listened to the rushing, roaring, symphony of waves crashing on the shore?

have you ever felt incredibly small?

What about the times in your life when you've laid flat out - but not by choice?  When you've been completely broken -- in heart or in body?  When life has left you battered, crushed and powerless in a world where we are valued for our strength, power and independence?

My soul has been longing to understand what an abundant, successful life looks like in God's economy, where the first will be last, where if I lose my life - I will find it, and where when I am weak - I am actually strong in Christ. 

And what about my dreams, my grand hopes for the future, my longing to really be somebody one day--all in the name of "accomplishing something special for God"?  How do those secret places of my heart fit with God's perfect plans for me?  Do they have any resemblance at all?

I read the words of F.B. Meyer (in Ann Voskamps one thousand gifts. p. 171) and they tip me right upside down:  

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them.  I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always, down, to get His best gifts."

wildflowers in Kananaskis 

I am so incredibly small, but can I accept that as a good thing?

Nothing in the world tells me that smallness is good.  That, in fact, that it might actually be true greatness.   Nothing I read in magazines or watch on TV tells me that if I want to be great, I need to learn to be the servant of all.  No self-help book that I know of has ever spent a chapter on being meek, reminding me that it is the meek who will inherit the earth.

This idea of "smallness equals greatness" seems only to be a God-thing, completely foreign to the confines of popular thought today.  And really, can God be trusted when the culture I am woven into applauds strength, success, independence, empowerment, and getting ahead at almost any cost?  

God or culture?  What am I willing to risk, to live a life of love and humility?

I'd like to end by retelling (and abbreviating) a story I read in Peter Scazzero's book The Emotionally Healthy Church (p. 119): 

There once lived a water carrier in India who made the same trip every day from the stream to his master's house, using two large pots attached at either end of a large pole he carried across his neck.  The one pot was perfect and became very proud that it always delivered a full load of water at the master's house.  The other pot had a large crack in it and became very discouraged that it only ever arrived at the master's house half full.  Finally the cracked pot spoke to the water carrier at the stream one day and apologized shamefully for its brokenness and for only ever delivering half its original load.  The water carrier smiled at the cracked pot and pointed to the beautiful flowers that lined one side of the path back to the master's house saying: "I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we passed these spots, you watered them.  Now for two years I have been able to pick those beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table.  Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace his house."

What gifts of beauty have grown from your brokenness?  What new perspectives have resulted from your smallness?  Is being strong, independent, and powerful really all it's "cracked up" to be? (pardon the pun!)

If you wish,  you may leave your thoughts and reflections in the comment section below.

photos © Melody Armstong

Saturday, 22 September 2012

learning to live freely and lightly....

this one who teaches me daily....

"Are you tired?  Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me - 
watch how I do it.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

-the words of Jesus in Matthew 11: 28-30
(the Message translation.  Line breaks and emphasis added)

What does "living freely and lightly" mean to you.  I welcome your comments.

photos © Melody Armstrong

Friday, 21 September 2012

Embracing Fall

laying on the road for this shot

I am a romantic through and through and so
I have always loved fall.  
For me, it is a season infused with magic -- from energy-filled walks on cool, crisp mornings to the warm sun streaming down on slow-paced afternoons.  I am enraptured by the wild display of blazing colors and transformation everywhere.

I wish I could bottle up fall’s fragrance so I could spritz it on my sheets and pillows. Fall is the back-to-school season, that deeply ingrained internal rhythm of fresh beginnings and renewed purpose.  Fall is about fullness and abundance, harvest and bounty.  It is farmer’s markets, wide smiling sunflowers, and crabapples eaten right off the tree.  It is jean-jackets, soft flowing scarves, and a favorite pair of boots.
last flower offerings from the Fall Farmer's Market

this is ME!

gift from a neighbour making my whole home fragrant

September in Banff, AB.
FALL IS ALL OF THIS, and SO MUCH MORE.  It is this “more” part of fall that I am not always as eager to embrace.

Fall is the closing of doors only recently flung wide open.  It is seeds falling into the ground, dying now for a harvest later.  It is a beginning of the dormancy - the waiting.  It is the letting go of summer and the surrendering to winter.  We can clutch and cling and grasp for yesterday, but it has already slipped through our fingers.  Fall is the quiet acceptance that all things change and that change is good -even necessary.

I love the way Nicole Nordeman describes the transition from summer to fall in her song Seasons, and the way she sees God in it all:

Every evening sky an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You in children's games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop if sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer.

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come
You are Autumn.....

As we continue forward in this gorgeous season -the celebration and culmination of all things summer, I ask you the same questions I am asking myself: are you willing to embrace all that this autumn season represents in your life?  Will you keep your eyes open for the ways God will show himself - not just in the bounty and harvest, but also in the rest, the dormancy and even the dying?  Will you recognize and offer thanks for the gifts He faithfully and lovingly provides - not just in the easy, warm summers of our lives, but also in the cold and barren winters?

My prayer for you today is that you may grasp the "extravagant dimensions of Christ's love.  Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." 
(Ephesians 3:18b the Message translation) 

I invite your comments as you reflect on this post today. I'd love you to join the conversation.  

All photos © Melody Armstrong

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

bad hair days....anyone?

This serviette says it all....so I put it in my journal.

well behaved hair?  Hmmmm.....?

 and in case you need more body, simply run your fingers through your hair and.......

here's wishing you a fabulous hair day!!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

When You're Upside Down and Twisted

My "back flip twist" boy!!

how does it all unravel so quickly? 

you know what I mean...all those great intentions I have: never to holler at the kids - especially before school....always hug and kiss and wave them out the door....greet them at the end of the day with loving arms and undivided enthusiasm for the events of their day...ultra delicious, nutritious meals served with a smile....fully chewed bites and more than 5 minutes at the table together...stories before bed....FLOSSING (well, forget that one--it's just not going to happen)...special snuggles and prayer time for everyone....and loads of energy left to finish the laundry, attack the pile of papers that I vowed I'd never let build up, AND WRITE A POST ON MY BRAND NEW BLOG.  

Windblown like me......

Instead....I stand at the door calling out the time, I roll my eyes at yet another misplaced jacket and then gather the kids into a rushed group-hug and shove them out the door while at least one of the three are still putting on shoes....later I come running in the door at 4:10 (twenty minutes after they've arrived home) frazzled and loaded down with tearing grocery bags containing the evening's ill-planned, semi-nutricious, super-fast meal....I don't even bother to ask how anyone's day was, but instead bark out orders about getting homework done NOW so that we can be out the door in 40 minutes to get to someone's hockey or basketball evaluations.....forget bedtimes stories...everyone has 30 seconds to brush teeth...holler out to "quit fooling around," threaten everyone in order to get them into bed and then blow waves of kisses from the hallway and hope that they know how much I REALLY do love them.....crash on the bed leaving wet laundry in the washing machine, paper piles untouched, the post unwritten and flossing.....well forget that.

So, what slows the racing heart? What brings peace in the storm?  What provides hope for a new start tomorrow?


It's transformational.  The very act of giving thanks -to the One who gave me this day and everything in it, is what sets everything right again.  It's what lets me keep beginning again.  It is  the unclenching of the jaw, the opening of the hand, the long slow calming breath that fills my soul and lungs with life - His abundant life.  

So, I count.  Count the ways I am loved - even by children who I shove out the door.  
a different day.....when I did it right.  Haha.
 I count the gifts of beauty that peek out from behind text books, hockey helmuts, and wild ringlets flying. 

 I breathe thanks for the groceries that spill out of ripped bags and thanks for the healthy legs that run out the door and into gymnasiums, ice rinks and soccer fields. 

Everywhere I look I see His gifts.  I see His imprint.  
I see His glory.  Everywhere.

may we all have eye to see.

....if you'd like to take a deeper walk into this journey of THANKSGIVING, please treat yourself to a copy of Ann Voskamp's one thousand gifts.  
(Thank you Ann for "the LOVE DARE" -- i'm loving the counting...the lists...the journey you've challenged me to travel.)



Saturday, 15 September 2012

An Invitation to Read My Heart

a favorite rock i found while playing in the stream
I start this blog with a confession:  beginnings scare me.  I never begin a new journal on the first page.  I always save it for later when it will be "just perfect."  I'm a little stuck on the "perfect" part when it comes to beginning this blog. Since I can't leave the first page blank, I'm struggling with how to begin.  Should I introduce myself or just jump right in?  What should I write about?  Will it be interesting enough to bring you back for more?

So I've decided to let the whole perfection thing go.   I invite you to come and READ MY HEART on these pages.  My earnest and ongoing prayer is that you find rest, restoration, and replenishment for your soul as you join me here and we journey together.