I have an immense love of handwritten letters, cards and postcards. As grateful as I am, especially now, for all the many instant ways I have to connect with friends and family, there is just nothing quite like the feeling of opening the postbox and discovering between the bills and flyers for pizza delivery, a small stiff envelope with my name scrawled in pen across the front. The joy that rises inside me in that moment is one of the greatest everyday highs!

Usually I don’t make it up the three floors to our front door before the letter is out of its envelope to discover who is the wonderful person to have take the time to send something. Because this is why it is so special: someone cared enough about me to find a piece of paper or card to write on, sit down and write something funny or encouraging, find an envelope, look up the address, check again how to spell my surname, find a stamp and then make the trip to the post box.

That’s why every handwritten envelope that appears in my postbox holds more significance than its size and weight would suggest. And why I also love nothing better than sitting down with a cup of coffee and taking the time to write to someone I care about. Because I like to imagine that the smile on their face when they come home to the letter lying on the door mat is about as big as mine is when I slide it into the postbox at my end.

My friend Ellie is making one of her new years resolutions to write more handwritten letters. So this week’s Friday favourites is for her: here are some of my favourite ideas for things to send in the post!

Ideas to send in the Post

1. Send a bouquet of balloons to someone you love! Victoria at a subtle revelry came up with this idea to write your message onto balloons, then send them (without blowing them up first!) in an envelope. They’ll get a lovely surprise when they open the letter and blow them up. And who doesn’t love balloons?

2. Tea bags! (Or loose-leaf if your friend is a tea-snob…) This is something I have done a few times before. Find tea bags that are individually wrapped – there was a tea shop opposite the building I used to work in that sold individual Kusmi tea bags. They are perfect for slipping into an envelope with your letter, and the recipient gets to have a lovely cup of tea while reading all your news!

3. Recipes. This is another favourite of mine if I am writing to a friend who I know likes to cook or bake. Buy some recipe cards like these gorgeous ones from the Rifle Paper Company, and slip one in to the envelope with you most recent favourite recipe… gingersnaps anyone?

4. Cute notecards are of course a basic necessity. I am a little in love with these typewriter parrot notecards from Quill and Fox (which I recently discovered is owned by a friend of a friend… small world!)

5. Confetti!!! Yes it may make a bit of a mess, but how much fun! You can easily make your own of course but I found this confetti by etsy seller The Lonely Heart, made from the text of Pride and Prejudice which I find just a little exciting…

Do you have any good ideas for things to send in the post?

 

p.s. Happy Epiphany everyone! May your day be filled with wise and divine revelations.

My Parents Laughing

The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.  ~ Nicolas Chamfort

(Photos of my parents have a good laugh on Christmas Eve)

Yesterday morning I couldn’t wake up. Just couldn’t. I normally roll out of bed when Rasmus is finished in the bathroom, so that I am up and ready to start my day when he leaves for the office. Yesterday it didn’t happen. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, couldn’t throw off that heavy feeling of sleep rolling over me.

So I turned over and went back to sleep for another two hours.

It’s a new year and a new start and I’m feeling simultaneously inspired and lethargic. Because it may be a whole new year, we may be past the winter solstice and on our way to brighter days. But right now? It’s miserable and grey and wet and cold and so windy that planes are being grounded all over northern Europe.

Today does not feel like a day for pursuing big ideas and plans.

And yet today is what I have to work with. I never get to do today again. Tomorrow I will throw off yesterday and begin again. But today… what will I do with today?

This morning, about half an hour into my morning ritual of reading through my emails, facebook updates and twitter, I suddenly saw light out of the corner of my eye. From my spot at the dining table in our north-facing kitchen, I could glance through the hallway into our home office/guestroom dump room and see the sun spilling across the windowframe onto a little patch of wooden floor.

I immediately got up and practically skipped across the flat to sit on the floor in this little spot of sunlight. The back of our flat looks out south over the city, to the gently-sloping forested hills in the distance, and it was here, in the east, that the sun was forging it’s way up in the morning sky.

I sat there for five minutes. That was all the time there was to enjoy the warmth and light of the sun before it again disappeared behind a bank of dark cloud. But I found such energy in those five minutes.

What is it that makes watching the sun rise such a powerfully hope and peace filled moment?

I think it has something to do with the promise of light. The promise of growth and productivity. And the reminder that this cycle of days never stops. Every morning is a new opportunity to embrace something positive and life-giving, to push myself to reach my potential and draw it out of others.

And perhaps that peace also comes from knowing that tomorrow will come like today did. Whether today is that productive, enjoyable, useful day I hoped for, or whether at some point it all comes tumbling down around me, tomorrow will come again and I can start over again. Each new morning brings new hope, new grace, new mercies, new energy for the journey onward.

And maybe tomorrow I will wake up to rain again. But I hope the memory of that sunny moment this morning will keep me energised.

I have a lot to do. I haven’t had a full time job since last April, but I have my event planning course that I’m supposed to be finishing this summer, my blog to keep up with, and a few fun projects that I’m working on (more on those later this month!).

I should have lots to fill my time with. But I seem to have cultivated an exceptionally well-practised skill of procrastination and bad time management. What is it about us, that sometimes we can even procrastinate those tasks that we enjoy???

I’m attempting to apply some new time management techniques to my weeks, to help me combat my laziness and have something good to report to Rasmus when he gets in from work every evening. (Just to clarify, I’m doing this for myself of course, but gosh does the accountability thing help!)

  • The Pomodoro Technique. I came across this recently. It’s so simple really – you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on just one task on your to-do list during that time. Once the buzzer goes you have minutes to take a break and assess your to-do list again, and then you start another pomodoro. The name comes from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that it’s founder used.
  • Project-based to do lists. I have three or four different projects that need to be worked on each week (counting studying as one) so I need three or four to do lists to keep me up to date. Also, if I think of something I need to do, while working on something else, I just write it on the appropriate list and go back to what I was doing. No distractions!
  • A general to-do list. All those tasks that don’t fit in any other category. For these I love the teux deux website. It’s simple to use and moves any incomplete tasks to the next day.
  • Structured (limited) time for emails/twitter/blog reading. These could take over my whole day if I allowed them. So I give myself an alloted amount of time and then have to move on to something else. The glory of this is that I no longer waste time reading articles that I’m only semi interested in. I focus on what’s actually important to me.
  • Rewards. “You can only go and bake when you’ve done three pomodoros on your coursework.” Rather effective…
  • People time. I am an extrovert so all day by myself in the flat causes my energy and motivation to falter by mid-afternoon. Once Rasmus is home I am usually bizarrely excited to get back to working on my projects – not because I don’t want to spend time with him, but being with other people and talking about my work makes me excited for it. Being in a new town makes this hard because it takes time to make friends, but I am planning to be very intentional about seeking out time with other people during the day.

So those are my attempts at good time management for this month. If you have any more tips, I am all ears!

picture via kvelv

The start of the new year came about in a gentle and welcoming way for us: eating fondue with new friends, flowing champagne, sleeping late and a lazy day in pyjamas.

So this morning, this first Monday morning of the year, I sit down to my long to-do list and my varied list of goals and hopes and dreams for the year, and feel ready.

Ready but a little overwhelmed. There’s so much I want to do, to be, to achieve this year. Good goals and mostly achievable, but it’s going to take effort and perseverance and discipline to reach where I want to be by new years eve next year.

And courage, a lot of courage. Because as I glance down this list, so many of the lines are new to me. And newness requires stepping out of my comfort zone and attempting something that I have never done before. And there is the possibility of failure. That is probably what scares me the most.

But I do not have a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a strong mind. And that spirit is whispering, you can do this.

So I am choosing one word to be my mantra for the year, to be my calling, my hope, my kick up the butt.

This year I will be brave.

December dawn from our bedroom window

Creating “home” in a place doesn’t need to take years, or even months. With the right attitude and the right person, it can take weeks, or even just days.

I am not defined by having, or not having a job. There is so much more to who I am than how much money I am bringing in each month.

Our wine glasses do not fit comfortably into our new dishwasher and I should not try to force them (three down…)

Standing in your empty flat before you walk out the door for the last time will break your heart just a little bit. Take lots of photos before you go.

If I step out of my comfort zone and go to new places, walk into rooms full of people I don’t know, try something I’ve never done – wonderful things can happen.

Time differences suck when you are trying to maintain relationships across the globe. Discovering a hand written letter or card in the letterbox can bring instant joy; the thought on your friends’ face when you post one brings almost as much.

California does have the best climate in the whole world. Florida in July is in the running for having the worst.

I can get up at 7am and go for a 3km run. Two or three times a week. And it doesn’t kill me.

I have muscles I never knew existed. All thanks to a little thing called Pilates.

It is ok to feel contradictory emotions simultaneously. It just means I am human. I should not try to force myself to choose between them but just let them run their course.

Sunshine makes me absurdly and joyfully happy.

Wildly dancing around an empty room to my favourite songs also makes me absurdly happy.

Wildly dancing in the sunshine makes me fit to burst…

I am not as self-disciplined as I wish I was. And it’s effing hard to change because you need self-discipline to create good time management habits.

Making big life-changing decisions requires a lot of research and planning and discussing all the different options, but in the end you just have to step to the edge, hold hands and jump.

Living intentionally is important, valuing every moment, taking time to think about what I want my life to look like, be like, and then actively seeking to make every second count.

I love my husband more than I thought it possible to love one person.

My faith will change its shape and feel as life’s turns mould and imprint it. And it may feel unknown or scary. But it will be stronger and more beautiful for all the challenges and influences.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – Jesus

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.” – Mary Oliver

“By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.”

– Teilhard de Chardin

 

 

Today, on the day before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it seems the right moment to remember Mary, this young peasant girl who said yes to an angel and suffered the whispers and shame of conceiving a child before marriage, who gave birth in a strange village far from her home, who held the son of God in her arms moments after she pushed him our of her body. Sometimes, being the favoured one of God, takes us down a road of challenges and heartache before we see the glory of God.

The Lord is With Thee
-from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1

They hail me Mary, full of grace.
They bless me: brave, obedient—holy.
What would you have said to the twelve-foot,
light-soaked man, a gold flecked tower
whose honey lips spoke your name? I said Yes.
Then ran, traveled days, silent, hungry,
purging in the grass, to my cousin’s.
I knew nowhere else to go.

I found Elizabeth, impossibly, full
with child. She, fifty and bare, as pregnant
as I, thirteen, unknown. We, an absurd pair.
Did I hope she would recognize my angel tale,
believe for me what I hardly could?
The Lord is with thee, she said.
Her baby soared inside.

Her face was vague to my memory.
What I recalled was her voice: in candlelight,
she once tucked me under wool with my sisters,
sang us to sleep with poems of Yahweh.
How easily she spoke of God,
as if he were a neighbor, a fish vendor on the street.

Blessed art thou among women. Blessed is the fruit
of thy womb.
For three months she hid me
from rumors, from my angry betrothed.
I took walks. I threw up. I ate.
Robes can only hide so much.

Then I stood beside the midwife, water basin
in hand while my cousin squatted and screamed.
I knew what my Yes meant this body must do
and wept for myself, for this child of God
given to my clumsy care.

Who am I? I once said to Elizabeth
after dinner, beside our fire. I am small
and weak in faith.
She placed her palm
on my cheek, whispered, You’re God’s.

© Micha Boyett Hohorst, 2010. All rights reserved.
Visit Micha’s blog Mama:Monk to read more of her beautiful poetry and writing.

 

 

“This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places, the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?

This is the stuff of God…”

Read the rest of Sarah’s article Incarnation at A Deeper Story.

 

 

 

 


“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 64:4

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
– Psalm 27:13-14

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
– Joseph Campbell

“One of the themes of Advent is the expectation that God will bring new life to birth within us; that God will be born in us today as surely as Jesus was born back then. And in addition, that a greater, unimaginable birth of the reign of God will somehow break in upon the world at some future time, when the world will, at last, be bathed in God’s love and peace and justice.

Waiting for God to break in on our lives is not all joyful anticipation. Like awaiting a real birth, we long for it desperately, and fear it at the same time. Will it hurt? Will I be the same person afterwards? Will it change me? Can I bear it? What if something goes wrong?

Like awaiting a real birth, there are moments when you can’t believe it will really happen at all – it seems too different, too impossible to be real.

Like awaiting a real birth, the realisation that it will surely happen only comes gradually: from the first wondering moments, to the certainty of the condition, then waiting through the fragile weeks when you hardly dare hope because you know it might all come to nothing. And then, at the end, when it all seems too much to bear, the certainty that there’s no going back.

Like awaiting a real birth, whether you believe it or not, it will happen anyway.”

Read the rest of Maggi Dawn’s blog post How Long, O Lord.