Tuesday, 23 December 2014

...anticipation



I'm sitting in our living room this morning with a hot mocha in a favourite mug, just enjoying the soft glow of our Christmas tree and the hush that still rests over the house.  The kids are sleeping in (one of their long- awaited holiday pleasures) and a quiet anticipation of my own fills the stillness of this moment.  

It's advent --the season of waiting, anticipating, longing.  In two short days, Christians all over the globe will celebrate together the coming of our Saviour, Jesus.    

But this moment, right here, is about the waiting, the believing that something good is still on the way.  It is about remembering the promise of hope for the all the nations, the promise of hope for me and for you. In every sorrow, in every question, in every hardship, there is assurance that help and salvation is on the way.

"5 My soul is quiet and waits for God alone. My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and the One Who saves me. He is my strong place. I will not be shaken. My being safe and my honor rest with God. My safe place is in God, the rock of my strength. Trust in Him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a safe place for us." Psalm 62:5-8

  
I love to imagine how all those years ago, in the presence of humble shepherds lying out under the stars with their sheep, a mighty angel of the Lord appeared and lit up the entire landscape with the shining presence and glory of God.  His appearance alone would have made anyone tremble in fear and amazement.  But the the good news he proclaimed, how could they have known it would not only blaze in their own hearts forever, but that it would ignite the heart of every believer down through the ages? Can you imagine what it would have been like?  The heavens radiant with God's presence and a thunderous chorus of praise filling the skies....all of it to announce the coming  of one who would save, who would love, who would lay his life down so we could really live.  
"...Don't be afraid!" he said.  "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!  The Savior --yes, the Messiah, the Lord-- has been born tonight in Bethlehem!  How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket lying in a manger!"  Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others--the armies of heaven--praising God:"Glory to God in the Highest heaven," they sang, "and peace on earth for all those pleasing him."
Luke 2:10-14 (TLB Living Bible)

My wish for you and I is that we would treasure these last moments of waiting before Christmas day arrives.  That we would acknowledge our needs, and revel in the hope of a Saviour and provider who promises to meet us right where we need him most, and every other space in between.  My prayer for you comes from the beautiful words of Ephesians 1: 19-21 (TLB. TheLivingBible):


19" I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in heaven, 21 far, far above any other king or ruler or dictator or leader. Yes, his honor is far more glorious than that of anyone else either in this world or in the world to come."

Love, Hope, Joy and a Merry Christmas to you all,

Melody



Wednesday, 26 November 2014

waking to this

waking to this
the heavens declaring
and I can only smile
and count
more gifts
more grace
more ways He loves

the rush of the day waits
a hush settles
on my soul
a moment
to taste eternity

there is so much more
no wonder
my heart wonders
and longs for home


P.S.  for more beauty and sky gazing...see here or here.

word and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014


Sunday, 26 October 2014

feeling blue...and loving it


some shots from my lving room and the old & new blue accents that I’m loving

images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014

Saturday, 25 October 2014

my fall manifesto...revisited



i want to......

-laugh every day --no matter what
-let thanks to God be the first thoughts on my mind
-listen, really listen, to my kid's stories -- even when I'm trying to "get stuff done."
-make crabapple jelly and juice



-pay attention to my life (and read Buechner when i need reminding)
-sing loudly in the shower
-grumble less about busyness
-accept
-eat slower...savour more
-juice, juice, juice and love the art of it


-pull out recipe books when I get the cooking blahs
-remember that cooking blahs are an amazing problem to have
-make family opportunities to give
-get out with friends more as a couple (without kids)
-write often. whenever, wherever, whatever
-stop to write love notes...even if they are on plain paper :)

(this love note i wrote for my Dad was still stapled to the inside of a 
cupboard door in his garage, years after it was written...hmmmmm)

-give longer snuggles at bed times
-plant life (tulips and gladiolas)
-celebrate small victories and maybe losses too
-keep eyes wide open for beauty everywhere


-rediscover the Bible and let its life land fresh in my soul
-share it, share it, share it (whatever "it" it)
-less wine
-walk to the forest more (lay in moss &listen to stillness)


-lace up in these cooler mornings and get out in it
-say "yes" when the big kid wants to go for a drive
-cinnamon bun dates with boy in braces 
-make mall dates with preteen queen of the house
-watch net flix with hubbie (more TV? )
-play (especially if it's snowing in Sept!) (like mom, 87)


 -enjoy home days to the fullest
-read to the kids
-get more music (non 80's haha) on the family ipod
-find some great audio books for our long drives
-set aside days where a fleece onsie is full fashion
-bake with the kids and enjoy the mess


-create...create...share...
-be true to my creative self and indulge whenever I can


....and the list goes on.....but thought I'd share a few with you. 

hugs and love,
Melody

(p.s. I've included some links to older posts in case you're in the mood to kick back and read a few other related pieces.  Enjoy!)

words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014 















Tuesday, 21 October 2014

sitting with sadness awhile....




have finally agreed to allow my own Sadness a seat at the table of this great life banquet of mine -at least for the time being.

Sadness is rarely allowed to pull up a chair, much less have a voice in the conversation of my soul. I usually do a good job of pushing sadness back and squeezing the door tight to keep it out.  I think Sadness is a lousy guest.  It talks too slow.  It asks me awkward questions while looking me square in the eyes.  It takes a long time to make its point when it finally speaks.  I don't enjoy sitting with sadness, ever.

I much prefer to sit with Joy.  We're great friends and have so much to talk about as we laugh and savour life together.  Some of my other favourite guest are Happiness, Triumph, Strength and Success.  They are  always welcome to join the party whenever they show up.  While they are a lot less dependable than Joy and Sadness, they are so much fun and they really boost my self-confidence.  I admit that our conversations can get a little shallow at times, but at least they don't ask me uncomfortable questions about myself,  my character, or my faith the way Sadness does.

Sadness has been incessant lately, continuing to knock at the door of my heart.  It will not take "NO!" for an answer.  I've told Sadness time and again that there is no room at this soul table because the seats are already filled with Joy and the enormous Blessings' family.  But Sadness disagrees and insists that there is room at the table right next to Joy, maintaining that the two are comfortable together since they spend most of life side by side.   Not only that, Sadness is also pushing me to squeeze in and extra chair for Brokenness, --another guest that I find to be an intolerable party-wrecker.

So, I concede.  I have finally agreed to make room at my soul table and sit with these usually unwelcome guests.   Strength, Success and the rest of the rowdy and jovial bunch haven't shown up.  Joy is present and smiling as usual, but seems to be especially quiet today.  I'm feeling a little on my own with Sadness and Brokenness but have decided to engage as honestly as I can and see what they have to share with me.   I'm hoping that maybe we will find a way to be at peace with one another.

I'm pretty sure that the main course of this meal will be humility.   O, God, please also bring Courage to this soul banquet as I learn to quiet myself, listen, share and be nourished at this table. 






words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

an open heart


“It takes courage to push yourself 

to places that you have never been before...

to test your limits...

to break through barriers.

And the day came when the risk it took 

to remain tight inside the bud 

was more painful 

than the risk it took to Blossom.” 



It's always safer being closed.  But is safer, better? 

My husband and I have been pondering the questions again....the ones that keep popping up when relationships get stretched and worn thin.  Is it really worth the pain to keep caring, to keep trying?  Is it possible to somehow be impermeable to hurt and disappointment, and still maintain an open, tender heart?  Or, should we just accept pain and hurt as the inevitable cost of choosing to maintain certain relationships? 

I've been watching this sunflower in its slow and careful unfurling to the world.  Its destiny is to bloom - to open up and boldly share its radiance.  I'm certain our hearts are destined for the same, regardless of how vulnerable it makes us feel.


There is no guarantee that our relationships will turn out the way we'd like, no matter how hard we try or how good our intentions may be.  Still, I think it is right to keep risking, regardless of the cost. The willingness to be tender and open in relationships, to share our truest selves with the world,  allows for the possibility of an amazing miracle to occur...the unfolding of something shockingly beautiful.  

words and images (unless otherwise cited) © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014








Monday, 6 October 2014

september stillness


i pause

from all the racing, running
wildness of my world

and catch a glimpse
of more 
than shimmering leaves
that flutter and wave
to catch a fragment
of my 
always divided
attention

it's like they know
i'd be sad to miss the show

and that would be easy 
on these days when it 
seems 
miss 
more 
than 
  notice

so i stop and sit and stare
    (can eyes drink in a view?) 
and since a poem 
might distract
like
words
sometimes 
do
i open the page
to sketch
what i'm aching
to really see

that my life is vast
and deep and flowing 
with countless
moments
of 
grace
that have 
my attention.

words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014










Sunday, 7 September 2014

listen to your life


......a quote written in my journal.  love it. 


...storms?


...pain?


...sunshine & gentle breezes???


wherever you are today
and whatever you face
may courage abound 
 as you make your way to 
"the holy and hidden heart of it."
(Buechner in Now and Then)


Photos © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013







Saturday, 6 September 2014

arrested by beauty


 "I was in no hurry.  I prayed.  I sang.  I listened. I watched.  IN all that time, I never earned a cent.  I didn't write a word.  I didn't build a thing.  The world is no richer for my passing through it.  But I'm far richer for not missing it."  (Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God)

I had half an hour and my plan was to sit on a bench in the sun beside a man-made pond and read while my son was in a guitar lesson.  But I only made it to the edge of the parking lot where the lilacs gathered in their royal finery.  There I stopped, mesmerized by shades of purple I've never dreamed of (and yes - right there beside the concrete -beauty that almost made my heart stop momentarily). I gazed at the shapes and shades of petals that formed each luscious cluster and whispered my "wow"s to the Creator who spills out beauty so lavishly.  I buried my nose into the soft blanket of color and breathed in as much fragrance as my lungs could hold.    




I could hardly keep silent.  Where were the crowds?  Where were all the hungry, hurried souls who crave this kind of beauty in their lives?  Why weren't there others crowding in for the show with cameras and paints and silly, bedazzled smiles like mine?

Have you ever experienced something so beautiful that you would call a complete stranger over, risk looking like a crazy fool,  just in case they might actually see it too? 

I feel this way all the time, wishing I could share the beauty with every passerby - not only the breathtaking beauty of creation but the immeasurably more potent beauty of the Creator who breathed love and spoke these wonders into being.  

Sometimes I just want to shout it out.  What does it matter to be the fool?


words and images © copyright melody armstrong 2013 (unless otherwise cited)

Monday, 16 June 2014

an amazing father....

What a great day together yesterday - celebrating YOU!!  Your kids (all kids, actually) and I adore you.  

Yesterday, you took the boys and their buddy out driving.  Of course they loved that!  It's just like you - having fun yourself by making things fun for others.  You are such an incredible person.

Thank you for loving deeply, for being committed and caring, for putting the Lord first and us next (the best order!), and for always living by example.  If our kids follow in your footsteps - I know they will be wonderful human beings. 

You're an AMAZING FATHER!!  XOXOXOXO from us all.


...you even manage to get our girlie-girl in on the car scene!!


and you make a mean pizza!!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



Thursday, 5 June 2014

the weeds in me....

My sister is a wonderful gardener, a real gardener, not just a wanna-be like me.  Last spring she gave me a truck load of transplants to kick start my new flower beds and I couldn't wait to put them in. 
But before the planting....before a flower bed can start to take shape, I know I've got my work cut out for me.  The ground is hard and full of weeds.  The soil isn't ready.  

For the record, weeding is hard.  It's tedious and pain-staking.  It's also critical to a beautiful garden.  So....I dig.  I bend and pull.  I turn soil and follow the roots right to their beginning.  I don't let one little weed go, because if I do, I know it will reproduce faster than anything good in that ground.  


That's the way it is with weeds.  If we don't deal with them, they take right over and choke out the beauty. 

Before long, my back aches and everything inside of me screams that there must be an easier way.  But no!!  There is never an easy way to true beauty.  So I keep on going, adding to the weedy pile of ugly but tenacious roots till the soil has all been turned and the weeds are gone.

Then comes the HOPE -- I can finally plant those seedlings of hope that become the BEAUTY I dream of all winter. 


Tender shoots finally have a place to be planted, nurtured and grow.  

But the hard stuff comes first.  That's spring for me -- that season of dealing with the hard stuff, even while glimpsing the gifts of new beginnings around me.  

So...I hope you will permit me a bit of a rant, just in case I'm not the only one who struggles in spring.....

Many people count spring as one of their favourite seasons.  Not me.  I don't mean to be a spring scrooge.  I am grateful for all the precious gifts that come with spring like longer daylight hours, kids playing later in the neighbourhood when I should be sending them to bed,  birdsong through newly opened doors, buds forming on every branch and crocuses scattered along the walking path.  I'll be the first to admit that something magical happens in me when those first shades of green begin spreading like blankets everywhere, and there's no question that the gentle fragrances of rain and apple tree blossoms and lilacs are some of life's most sensual gifts.  But for me, spring can still be hard.

Where I live, a good part of spring is brown and cold.  And, it's the season when all my running and rushing and commitments catch up with me and I feel dog tired.  Instead of spring cleaning and diving eagerly into new projects, I'm often scraping bottom -- dragging to complete what I've already started.

It's the season where all the weeds I've left unattended in my life, begin sprouting up everywhere and I'm forced to take a closer look at those things that need to be pulled up.  I know that I'm going to have to dig deep and feel the pain.

I don't want the beautiful things God is doing in my life to be choked out by deep-rooted weeds of sin.

So, I call out to the Master Creator, the Designer of my life, the Maker of my dreams, the One who calls me His own.  I know it's only His loving hands that can truly tend the garden of my soul.   

I come to the end of myself, to that place where I just can't do any more, that place where I'll just never be able to measure up and fix all the wrongs, that place where no matter how much I try, it's just not enough to pull out of the hole I've dug myself into -- and there I find Jesus.  There I find the One who saves!  

I grew up hearing the phrase "Jesus Saves."  And now I get it -- after all these years.  Yes,  there is One who saves, who rescues, who delights in making right from all the wrong....who heals my brokenness and turns my mourning into dancing, who lovingly breaks up the hard ground and digs deep enough to get the weedy roots while tenderly protecting the beauty He sees (even the stuff that's still to surface.)

When friends used to tell me that my christian faith was just a crutch, I used to disagree.  Not any more.  I've lived enough years now to realize that it doesn't take long to reach the end of myself, the end of my independence, the end of my own strength, the end of my own strivings.  Yes, do I ever need a Savior to lean on!  I really don't want to live any other way.

And so......please try to be patient with me, even as I try to be patient with myself.  No doubt, the weeding process can be a little ugly.  But join me in keeping a look-out for the flowers He's planted-- they'll be in full bloom before you know it.

With love,
Melody





words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014





















Sunday, 11 May 2014

memorize....


of all the intricacies
i want etched in my mind
i tell myself
i won't need to memorize your hands
the shapes, the bends, the ridges
where your lines and wrinkles end
and mine begin
as counted days of holding on
still sweetly grow
and two hands blend into one
till yours lets go
and i'll look closer than ever
and hope to find
my hands as old as yours
with lines of tenderness
still reaching, serving, sharing
with wrinkles from pressing and smoothing
and faithful, humble folding
with secret giving
and i'll tell myself
maybe i should have memorized
and i'll wonder
will my hands ever
look like yours?


words and images © melody armstrong 2014



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

winter in spring


this spring
the winter cold
still goes deep
with every shiver
i go deeper too 
into the warmth and softness 
of God's love
wishing to hibernate 
but choosing to keep awake
to settle into the silence
the gentle comfort
of dark quiet hours
milder somehow
on weary eyes 
willing even through tears
 to gaze steady
into all that is pain 
and loss and beauty 
and grace
and with gratitude
brimming
there find His loving face





 words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Practicing Sabbath


It's officially spring.  I am soaking in a hot bath with the window open, watching lazy snowflakes drift inside.  I settle into the quiet. I breathe.  I listen.  I let the beating of my heart accompany the spring-infused song of a lone bird on a bare branch out back.  

I admit there is a tiny, persistent voice asking me if I really deserve this luxury - this lavish gift of peaceful stillness, but I ignore it.  I resist the impulse to fill this vacant moment with something more productive than just "being."  

I choose to practice rest, to honor this gift of a moment by giving God thanks for it and by paying attention to it. This sabbath --this sacred seeing--is something I'm longing to understand more fully and practice more regularly; but it is counter to the way most of life spins around me and, therefore, it feels suspect at times.  It feels indulgent.  If feels "princess-ish."  

Still, I persist.  And in doing so, I find that my heart keeps filling with each quiet moment till I spill with gratitude and my perspective shifts in surprising ways.  The heaviness I've felt for all the hurting people in my life simply lifts.  I'm reminded that I can trust them to God...that He knows their needs and promises to be their refuge.  I can release them to his providential care and just rest.

I pay attention to this moment instead; and to the simplicity of beauty around me --the treasures of shells and rocks and driftwood I've collected along water's edge, the candle that smells like spearmint, the heart rock I found at the bottom of a stream, the  pewter letters that say "B E", the coconut shell we once broke open, drank of its milk, nourished ourselves on and then re-filled with beach-found treasures. 

I notice.  I give thanks. 

Mark Buchanan in his book The Rest of God.  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath writes:
"this is the essence of a Sabbath heart: paying attention.  It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment.  It is the trained ability to inhabit our own existence without remainder, so that even the simplest things--the in and out of our own breathing, the coolness of tiles on our bare feet, the way wind sculpts clouds into crocodiles and polar bears--gain the force of discovery and revelation.  True attentiveness burns away the layers of indifference and ennui and distraction--all those attitudes that blend our days into a monochrome sameness--and reveals what's hidden beneath: the staggering surprise and infinite variety of every last little thing."(pg. 50)








I find myself hidden in the cleft of the Rock, safe and secure.  My heart rests in this quiet moment --a moment filled with beauty, birdsong and God's unspeakable peace.  

I practice Sabbath.



words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2014