Sunday, 29 September 2013

how to savour the fragrance of fall

Shrug on your favourite sweater, grab a bag and one of your (favourite) kids, and set out  for a walk around your neighbourhood, keeping your eyes peeled for a crabapple tree loaded with fruit.  Knock on the owner's door and ask if you may pick away till your heart is content.  Most people are more than happy to see you pick from their tree - leaving some for the birds, of course.  

Once your your heart is content and your bag is overflowing with tart, red, apple-ly (my word!) goodness, head for home. 

Heat your stove to medium.  Fill a pot 3/4 full with water and throw in a pile of crabapples cut in half.  Add some cloves, some cinnamon (and any other falls spices you might like....anise, cardamom, allspice...)  and let the simmering begin.

Before you know it, your home will smell like heaven and your family will be asking you what you are making that smells so amazing.

You will then say "ummmmmmm.................nothing."  

Then you will feel guilty for teasing them like that and end up making a batch of cookies or something. I guess that's the rub.  Haha!!

And hey.........there's always the option of trying your hand at making crabapple jelly. The recipe is on the back of the Certo boxes at your local grocery store.  What's the worst that can happen ----- your jelly doesn't turn out and you have several jars of crabapple syrup for pancakes???  Your neighbour might even like some of that!!!!

images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013

Friday, 27 September 2013

first frost

this photo taken by Garth Schimpf --thank you for noticing....and sharing your creative eye.  
Everything was shrouded in a blanket of minuscule, frosty icicles when we woke this morning.  Wasn’t it just four days ago that my friend and I went out for a walk and ended up swimming in the river because the sun was shining so warmly we just couldn’t resist?
I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.  A frost like this can occur at any time.  I experienced a little frost (and melt! thankfully) of my own this summer.  It was just hurtful words, but let’s face it, they really are worse than sticks and stones sometimes.  And as soon as they landed, I felt a chilly, white coolness spread right across my heart ---that frosty protection that deadens the senses and takes a little of the sting away.  

The only problem with a heart-frost is that it is not selective. Allowing that coolness to spread wide and thin means losing all the warmth.  This is not the inner climate I want to live with -- no way.  So I prayed for a melt.  I prayed for warmth and sunshine.  

Before I knew it, the beautiful thaw began----and there laid my heart, the frosty white in shadows, melting in sunshine patterns till all was green again. 

Maybe it’s not coincidence that just two days ago my blog randomly posted a little piece from the past called winter white forgiveness.”  Although I have no idea how it happened, I see how beautifully it connected to my thoughts today as I looked out over my backyard and saw the real-life melt, right before my eyes.

The warmth of God’s grace is a mighty and miraculous thing!  

p.s. if you live anywhere near me, don‘ forget to cover your plants tonight.  Haha!  

words and images (except where cited) © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013

Sunday, 22 September 2013

still lovely......

 I saw this flower on an evening walk and loved it so much for all of it's glorious, ragged, half spent beauty.  

I wish I could have brought it home still preserved in it's luminous  sunset glow, and propped it up on the dresser beside my bed to remind me that HERE IS BEAUTY - IN ALL IT'S IMPERFECT PERFECTION. Then surely I wouldn't forget. Again.  

And all the days when I am so hard on myself and feel like I just can't get it right, I could see this piece of gorgeousness and remember what I KNOW WAAAYYYY DEEP DOWN IN THE FIBRES OF MY SOUL:  that I'm still lovely...covered in God's love and forgiveness. 

But I do forget.  Over and over and over.  I am still so hard on myself - even over small things.

I can be my own toughest critic.  Add to that the criticism of others, and it's a wind strong enough to send all my delicate petals flying right off the stem some days.

But God sees me so much differently than I see myself.  He is never hard on me the way I am....but instead, he favors me with his love and freedom.  He cherishes me unconditionally.  He calls me His own.  

One scripture from the Bible that speaks so tenderly to my soul in times like these is Zephaniah 3:17:
"The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save;  He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (NKJ Version)

He sees this wildflower that I am, this vision of frailty and beauty wrapped in one, and rejoices over me with singing.  He bursts into song at the sight of me.  Imagine!!

The crazy truth, so simple yet so mind-boggling, is that my sins aren't enough to diminish His love and my strengths aren't enough to earn it.  NEITHER MY SINS NOR MY STRENGTHS ARE ENOUGH.  

BUT GOD'S GRACE, that unearned gift of love that he offers every single, longing, wildflower-of-a-soul that turns to His gaze --IT IS ENOUGH.  ALWAYS.  

Words and text © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

a love note?

(or more aptly...."I love it when shit happens" --as per my husband) 

Thank you Colten.....for telling me to bring my camera
and for always keeping your eyes peeled.  
I [heart] you.

Friday, 20 September 2013

a step into autumn

It's always just one step, at first.  Even though I love almost everything about autumn, my other foot still drags a little --lingering in the last shadows of summer light.  For some reason, I'm hesitant to empty my pockets of summer's riches even though I know I need to make room for the new treasures I will discover on the paths ahead.

This making room --this letting go, it's the very thing I need in order to see beauty in this moment, to receive the gifts of the present. 

There are so many new paths to explore.

There are new palates of colors to fall in love with.

And if I am willing to keep my eyes wide open along the way (not closed in a day-dreaming revelry of yesterday's warmth), I wonder what I might find?


May your emptied pockets be filled with new gifts of beauty today.  

words and images © copyright melody armstrong 2013

Thursday, 19 September 2013

wasn't it just yesterday?

....that our life was water
of river and lake 
to cool
to float our boat 
to forget school
to laugh and swim
to sit by and gaze at
and daydream?

....that our life was warmth
and freckles and sun 
and I followed the boys
just for fun
into the river - 
clothes and all
and who cares about hair
or hurrying?

...that our life was fresh
sweet cherries staining 
teeth and clothes 
and peach juice dripping
from chins to toes
an overflow of 
goodness and thanks
in every bite?

wasn't it just yesterday...

...that our life was together
 in early light snuggled
some afternoons huddled 
under canopy
of rain-drop symphony
storytelling faces
in strands of twinkle-light glow
thanks to husband 
who doesn't even know
he always brings light?

...that our life was transition
even while drenched 
in shades of green
and sun
a gentle knowing
that change would come
that summer treasures
get buried beneath
a pile of leaves turned gold
then snow
until who knows?

words and images © melody armstrong 2013

Saturday, 7 September 2013

living blissfully

Not every day is there a magic mix of a life-long friendship, ocean breeze, a gorgeous linen top rippling across your warm skin, and fine sand between your toes...but today --YES!!

And tomorrow when I run and dive into the Atlantic ocean and my way-too-straight-of-hair for the beach goes right back to the frizzy, wild curls of summer.....I will laugh and appreciate and hug my dear friend till she's all salt-watery-wet and laughing too.

And the day after that, and after that, and after that.....when summer fades, holidays are over, schedules screech, meals are thrown together and I'm tempted to forget how blissful my life still is -- right there in the dailiness, the mundane, the rushed, the ordinary, I will wear the necklace my girlfriend gave me today and write my "thank you" list for every gift in my life I can possibly think of (which will be a "blissfully" long list, by the way.) And then I will be transported right back into the magic -not of the beach and sea breeze, but of the perfect blessings of another ordinary day.

words and images © copyright melody armstrong 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

soul stillness

what does it look like?
this thing called "stillness" 
 that my soul longs --even aches for?
this thing I unconsciously arrange for
this thing I am supposed to BE
so that I can know God
is God

the more I reach for it
the more elusive and fragile it becomes
I chase after it
 like a delicate soap bubble 
floating and lifting on a breeeze
but the moment I think I might actually hold it
it's gone

words (with exception of quotes within the collage) & images  © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

seeds and growth

Seeds.  Such tiny things.  So seemingly insignificant yet they are the perfect encapsulation for life and promise.

But new growth takes time.  Once these little globes of potential are tucked beneath the soil, you can't do anything but watch, weed and surrender to the process - even when it's painfully slow.  You can't rush it.  You can't control it.   

I learned it again this spring as a huge patch of our lawn struggled to come back to life.  While tender shoots of green were popping up elsewhere, this one section remained stubbornly brown and dry.  (The fact that it was buried beneath a skating rink from November to March could have had something to do with it.)  

So we added seed and loam.  Then we watered and waited.  Nothing much seemed to change so we did it all again in mid July. 

More loam...more seed...more water...more waiting....and still pretty patchy.

There are places in my soul that feel this way sometimes.  

Plenty of seed gets planted and watered, yet I am bare and showing in too many places....nowhere near the lush, green lawn I'd imagined.  It seems to be taking forever to become the person I want to be.

As a result, I'm constantly learning what it means to wait and to trust this process of death cycling into life.  The seed that holds so much promise and potential is only produced once a plant begins to die.  I forget that sometimes --that the dying process is always intimately connected to the beginnings of new life.  Too often, I'm looking for a short cut.  I want instant results --- and by the way, I don't want anything to have to die first!!   

It's September and the grass is almost completely filled in now.  Woooo Hooo!!  Just in time to be covered with an ice rink again this winter.

And maybe, just maybe......after a little dying, a little planting, a little watering, and a lot of waiting, some of my patchy places have filled in a little too.

Thank you to the One who died to make me fully alive.

Words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

summer in my back pocket

I've wanted to write.  Truly.

But it just didn't come easy for me this summer.

I guess I've been tucking all the meaningful moments into my back pocket instead, COLLECTING AND CHERISHING THEM LIKE TREASURES.......waiting till the last few unrushed hours of the season to pull them out and savour each one.  

It's actually a triumph for me TO BE FULLY IN THE MOMENT without capturing it in a photo or immediately putting it into words that render it permanent.  My mind is a place where words and images are constantly tumbling, rolling, and forming themselves into a story of the moment - even as I'm living it.  It's a bit weird actually.  I wonder if other people experience life this way -- in words and pictures rolling live.

I've wanted to write about the luxury of long, quiet hours alone at the lake,

the heartache from floods that devastated our city and surrounding areas this June,

and the intense living from sunrise to sunset that a family of five does when there is time to play and enjoy each other.

I've wanted show you images that capture the quiet magic of a sunset swim beneath an eagle perched so close that it took my breath away (I SO wish I'd had a camera for that) or the boisterous hollars of children flying off a tube through the air, all framed in blue.

But MOST OF ALL, I'VE JUST WANTED TO SHARE MY HEART WITH YOU.  To speak to you right where you are --in the middle of your magic, and heartache, and cherished moments.  I've wanted to give you what some of my favourite authors give me: something to consider, to spark imagination, to celebrate, to question, and to remind that THIS LIFE REALLY IS WORTH LIVING.

As we slowly step past these days of deliciously inviting shades of green (shades so rich that they almost hurt to look at and not jump into) I invite you to come with me over the next few posts as I empty my back pocket and share with you some of my summer finds.

Word and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013