Sunday, January 30, 2011

This weekend's Nashville explorations

Two noteworthy destinations of this weekend:

First of all, I discovered the lovely greenway very close to my house. The trail was bustling with walkers, bikers, and people walking their dogs. Yesterday was a gorgeous, 55 degree day with blue skies and sunshine, and walking the path was a perfect way to get some exercise and spend some time in the great outdoors.

Also, this morning I went with a friend to Marche Artisan Cafe, which was voted for the "Best Breakfast in Nashville", located in the Five Points area of East Nashville. I loved the rustic, artsy decor, and the food was delicious. I got a fluffy, foamy cappuccino, and the "breakfast hash" which included eggs, potatoes, bacon, peppers, and onions. It was so yummy! I would definitely love to go back and try some more of their breakfast delicacies again.


Last weekend I had a handful of events planned, and ironically, each one of them fell through in succession. I had something planned for Saturday evening, only to find that it had gotten cancelled. Since I had set aside my evening for this event, I didn't have any backup plans.

Once again, frustrated to be in a new city all by myself, I tried to figure out what I could do that would make me feel better. There are only so many things that one can do alone on a Saturday night -- things like going out to a new restaurant or somewhere downtown are not options -- these things just make one feel even more alone.

The librarian in me didn't need a second thought. "I am going to spend the evening a Borders!" I thought to myself triumphantly. Getting lost in the shelves of colorful new book covers and paging through a variety of books sounded like a great and comforting option.

So that's exactly what I did. I headed straight over to Borders, and spent an hour and a half perusing the shelves, surrounded by other bibliophiles and the company of good books. It was quite enjoyable.

Before I left the store, I decided that I would allow myself one purchase. After all, I rationed, one book cost the same as I would have spent on a weekend dinner out or a movie. The question was, what book did I want to spend company with tonight?

I was a literature major who should only like classic, bona fide literature, I do have a weakness for "fluffy" Christian historical fiction. I know, I know, it is often not the most well-written of the genres. But there are some quality Christian fiction writers. And if nothing else, this genre provides lighthearted and entertaining reads; I also enjoy the historical aspects of some of these books and the historical world that the characters inhibit.

So, I wanted to find one of these books to escape away in, follow the characters, and be captivated by a story.

I really didn't know what to select because I don't know enough about Christian fiction to know the best new authors, so what ever I picked was probably going to be a gamble.
I ended up picking the book by Karen Witmeyer called "Tailor-made Bride." It's a story about Hannah Richards, a young seamstress who moves to a new town in Coventry, Texas to establish shop. In Conventry, she meets J.T. "Jericho" Tucker, the rough and tumble livery man who thinks fashion merely encourages vanity, materialism, and greed and is vehemently opposed to a high-fluted lady like Hannah bringing these ideas to their small town. Hannah, on the other hand, can't figure out why this stubborn young man is so cold to her, and so opposed to women fashion and beautiful dresses. Hannah sees her work as a ministry of beauty in helping other women discover the fashions which highlight their God-given beauty.

The story follows the relationship of Hannah and J.T. through their series of misunderstandings, and eventually growing affection towards one another.

I have to admit, a part of me was attracted to this book because it's a story I would like have unfold in my own life. City girl moves to country town. Meets dashing cowboy (or in this case, horseman). She melts his heart. He woes her. They fall in love and live happily ever after.

It was a cute book. Definitely there were aspects of it that were cheesy, but overall it was very enjoyable. And it was great company for me on my Saturday night alone.

"We read to know we are not alone. " ~ C. S. Lewis

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1st Blog-anniversary!

flickr/by Will Clayton

This week marks the 1 year anniversary of my blogging endeavors! Between my previous blog, Contemplative in the City, and this blog, I have written 117 posts, and have enjoyed every moment of it!

I have been so grateful for an outlet to muse, write, share my experiences, record my adventures, and reflect on the loveliness, confusion, and excitement of life. It is really a gift and a joy.

And thank you to my dear readers, who inspire me and encourage me so! I hope that in some small way you find something here that will bring you a piece of the joy and grace that I receive through writing here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Loneliness of Sundays

Many of my single friends and I have talked about how difficult Sundays are for us, particularly since many of us are far from our families. This morning on my way to 8:30am Mass at the Nashville Cathedral, I was thinking about how much I dislike going to Mass alone. I have felt that way ever since college since I would sometimes end up at a Mass without my close friends and be sitting in the pews next to strangers.

The loneliness of Sundays is exacerbated by the fact that Sunday is a family day, and our families are far away; we don't have the opportunity to attend Mass with our families, participate in family brunch, or spend the day hiking or museum perusing with our siblings.

Naturally, this loneliness is felt even more acutely for someone like myself who has moved to a new city and hasn't yet found a parish "home" or set community of like minded people to share Mass and meals with.

I was thinking that maybe experiencing Sundays alone is just harder for me than other people, because of my introverted, melancholic nature. However, when searching for something completely different, I stumbled upon this article on Heather King's blog, Shirt of Flame. (As an aside, for more information on Heather King and an orthodox assessment of her book, check out Matthew Lickona's review.) King writes about what she calls "The existential loneliness of Sundays", and I found her perspective very gripping:

"I've never quite understood why, but of all the times of the week, Sunday
tends to be when I most keenly feel my existential loneliness. Maybe it's
because Sunday is the day traditionally spent with family and (by choice) I
am far from my family. Maybe it's because Sunday reminds me of the poverty
of sleeping alone. Sunday is when I see my death before me and simultaneously feel so sorrowful, and so over-awed and grateful that I ever got to live at all, that my entire being “becomes” the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem.

I used to think I felt sad because the weekend was coming to a close--not that the weekend had usually been all that stellar. But recently I’ve been thinking maybe it’s because Sunday is the day we're most likely to go to Mass, and then we all leave, and Christ is alone for the rest of the week. Maybe Christ, too, feels especially far from his family on Sunday. Maybe Sunday is the day that he, too, feels most keenly the poverty of sleeping alone. Maybe, if we
wonder whether God ever hears us, he wonders whether we ever hear him. "

Good food for thought on this Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Maria and the Symphony: reunited at last!

One of my very favorite things to do while I lived in Washington, D.C. was to go to the Kennedy Center to listen to the National Symphony Orchestra play. I loved hearing classical music masterpieces played live; I found it so inspiring, relaxing, thought-provoking, and often times, breathtakingly beautiful. I loved having my world expanded by hearing new music, and the ability that the music had to uplift my spirit and strengthen my soul. Music really does have that capability, to draw us out of the everyday, and to allow us to contemplate Truth and Beauty.

While I was in D.C. I was blessed to be able to take part in the "Attend Discount" ticket option, where students could get excellent tickets for as low as $10. I was able to see dozens of shows through this program, and I was so grateful for it.

Although I do love country music, since I have lived in Nashville I have really missed the opportunity to hear the symphony. From what I could tell on their website, the cheapest tickets are $40, something which I just couldn't afford right now.

However, I was thrilled to find out from a friend that the Nashville Symphony often has "rush tickets" available, which are $15, and available if you show up at the box office an hour before the show. My friend really wanted to see the performance of Sibelius' Finlandia, and when she suggested that we try to get rush tickets, I was totally game!

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center
flickr/ photo by sduck409

So, we showed up at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall an hour before the show, and were able to successfully land our $15 tickets! How exciting!

I was thrilled to be back in a Symphony Hall again. This was my first time to Nashville's Schermerhorn, and it is absolutely beautiful! Amazingly, it was severely damaged by the flood in the spring, but after months and months of restoration, it just reopened for performances for New Years. You would never know it went through a natural catastrophe; it's just lovely!

It's designed in an art deco style, but has very clean lines and a much more modern, minimalist flair than your typical art deco architecture. The most memorable aspects of the design are the chandeliers, made of clusters of round deco balls. Grey marble throughout the Schermerhorn adds to the exquisiteness of the hall.

Hallway in the Schermerhorn
flickr/ photo by sduck409

The music itself was lovely. The program included:
Sibelius - Finlandia, Op. 26
Sibelius - Lemmink√§inen’s Return, from Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22
Sibelius - Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47
Nielsen - Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 "The Inextinguishable"
I was not very familiar with the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius previously. I found that I did recognize parts in Finlandia, particularly the middle section, from which the hymn "Be still my soul" is based. It was just beautiful! I think that was my favorite part of the program.
However, I also really enjoyed the Violin Concerto, which featured an incredible performance by Stefan Jackiw. The score was very dramatic was said to highlight Sibelius' dashed dreams of becoming a violin virtuoso.
View from the stage
flickr/ photo by sduck409

Nielson is also a composer that I was not familiar with, but I really enjoyed his Fourth Symphony. It was a very fluid composition, and I especially loved the rigorous violin ensembles which resounded throughout the symphony and the emotion that it conveyed.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to the Schermerhorn, and am eagerly looking forward to other shows which I can find rush tickets for!
Editor's note: Unfortunately I cannot take credit for these photos...I cheated and got them off flickr. They show you how beautiful the hall is though!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are you famous?

One of the many good things about having to rely on outside internet connections is that it has motivated me to check out different coffee shops in the area. My standby is Panera, since it is very close to where I live, and the atmosphere is almost always conducive to writing. One of my other favorites is the Frothy Monkey, which I discovered my first day here in Nashville. However, since it is quite close to Belmont University, it can get really crowded with students, especially on days off, weekends, and evenings.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, I had the day off and decided to explore a part of Nashville that I hadn't been to yet: East Nashville. I had heard from a number of people that this is the artsy, eclectic area of Nashville where many musicians and artists live. It definitely has a more hipster feel, with a focus on organic living and community activism. There are a variety of shops, restaurants and bars sprouting up there, in additional to a few coffee shops.

I stumbled upon a coffeeshop called 'Bongo Java'. I believe that it is a coffee roasting company, and they have branches throughout Nashville. This one had a very artsy feel, and I could just imagine that the some of the other customers in their skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and square glasses were planning their next big gig. It was fun to imagine what 'famous people' might be in my midst. Or at least up and coming famous people.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one thinking this. As I was sitting at my table close to the wall, typing busily away on my laptop, two older men in their 60s at the table across from me both turned and were staring at the wall next to me.

My immediate reaction was to glance back in their direction. One of them noticed that I was looking their way, and said to me, "Oh, don't worry! We aren't looking at you. We are looking at those photographs on the wall." I looked up at the wall at the series of photos that lined the cafe - apparently an exhibition of a photographer.

"Oh that's okay!" I said nonchalantly.

Suddenly, the one man at the table noticed my fast typing and asked with much interest, "Are you a famous writer??"

I laughed and said "Oh, no." (Maybe someday, I thought to myself).

"Oh," the man said, a little disappointed.

"Well," he ventured, "are you writing something interesting?"

"No, unfortunately not," I answered. I was just writing a message, not even an interesting blog post.

Suddenly I thought maybe I should reciprocate the question. "Are YOU a famous writer?" I asked the man.

He smiled and shook his head. "Nah."

His friend eagerly cut in, "But he's a famous photographer!"

"Really?" I said excitedly.

"Well, not yet," the other man answered a little sheepishly.

I have often heard that Nashville is a gathering place for musicians, and not just country musicians, but musicians of every genre. I think it is also a gathering place for other types of creatively-minded people, from artists to writers. There is a creative energy here that really permeates the air and a laid-back culture which values good entertainment and artistic achievement.

It's neat because it really does mean than you don't know who you might run into. Even in little coffee shops, you get a distinct sense of it being a community gathering place for artists. Sometimes they are famous. And sometimes they are not famous yet.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To artists

Spring by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 1890

"To have an art at your finger tips and in your mind, as you have, is a trust; you are meant to develop and use it, partly because it is only by doing so that you can fully integrate your own personality - and that is another way of saying 'save your soul' - and partly because you must give to the world, to the millions who are starved for beauty, the beauty that God has given into your trust for that purpose..."

~ Caryll Houselander, (From the Letters of Caryll Houselander)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saints who eat bon-bons?

I would guess that most of you who read my blog at least know who Mother Angelica is, the sister who started ETWN.

She is hilarious.

In my extra time that I have found at home without internet, I have been reading snippets in the book "Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality." It is delightful.

She has some amazing insights that have really spoken to me, about suffering, the cross, and the holiness of everyday life. She speaks with her characteristic dry wit throughout, and some of her entries are more humorous in theme. I wanted to share this one in particular with you, because it literally made me laugh out loud. My favorite part is the very beginning. If you have seen Mother Angelica, you can just hear her saying this.

flickr/by carabou

"I like to sit in bed, eating bon-bons, and reading the mortified lives of the saints. When I was a young novice, I used to flip through those biographies looking for someone like me.

I need nine hours of sleep a day. The medication I take requires me to eat seven times a day. I like air conditioning and comfortable chairs. I went through all of the lives of the saints and I couldn't find one like me.

But then I came to the conclusion that the saints weren't the problem, it was their biographers. I've often said that I wish every biographer of every saint, who did not depict the truth, would go to purgatory for forty years, because they have made the saints unreal. You'd swear these people were holy when they were conceived, after reading one of these accounts. But it's not true. The saints would be the first to tell you: they struggled like you do. They ate, and drank, and slept, and were frustrated, and victims of injustice. They were like you! Can you imagine emptying heaven now and putting all the saints in a big arena? They would look just like you do now: fat and skinny, young and old. They had their faults and eccentricities. They bugged people. It takes a saint to live with one. Every Christian is supposed to bug someone. That's what the saints did."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blogger without the internet

I am currently a blogger without a home interner connection. Is that an oxymoron?

I decided to hold off on getting internet connection, since when I inquired, Comcast estimated that the cheapest option for me would be $50/a month. With all of the other moving expenses (and now car expenses) that I have recently incurred, I decided that for the time being, it wouldn't be the most prudent idea for me to spend that on the internet.

Besides, that means that I would have to go to cafes, coffeeshops, or restaurants in order to use the internet for leisure. Granted, when you add up all of the drinks and snack items that I have (will) end up buying, it could get pretty pricey in itself, but it's a good way for me to get out of my house on the weeknights and weekends, potentially meet other coffeeshop junkies, and just be more social than just hole-ling away in my house on the internet.

I have to admit, at first I was a little bit skeptical about how this arrangement would work. After all, since I was 12 years old and my family first got the internet at our house, I always had the option to get online at the click of a mouse. (Although, during though first few years it was ridiculously slow, back in the days of "dial-up" connection!)

But although I do miss the convenience of having the internet available to me whenever I want to look something up, check the hours of a restaurant, or get in touch with someone, I actually have really, really enjoyed many aspects about being internetless.

Most of all, I have enjoyed being detached from the "noise" of the internet, which can (for someone undisciplined like myself) can be a constant distraction. I should mention too, that by opting out of the internet, I am also opting out of a cable package. I do get a handful of digital channels on my tv, but they really are not interesting enough to watch except for the weather channel here and there.

I have...
1) Gotten to bed earlier. Without e-mail to check or new websites to explore for "just a few minutes" which turns into hours...when it's bedtime, it's bedtime
2) Read real, tangible books more. I have already checked-out an array of some dozen books from the library where I work. When all is quiet in my apartment and I have some leisure time, I have been able to pick up any one of these books and get lost in the pages. I am particularly enjoying Flannery O'Connor's "Mystery and Manners" right now.
3) Prayed more. When there is no internet around to check, I am more likely to reach for my Magnificat or other spiritual reading, and to savor the quiet time in prayer.
4)Used my infrequent internet time wisely. When you are limited to internet time for an hour or two at a coffeeshop, you are more likely to just get done the things you need or want to get done, rather than dilly-dallying and putzing around.
5) Get excited about real mail. I have no e-mail or Facebook to check when I get home in the evenings, so opening my mailbox is more entertaining than it used to be. (Especially when I actually get letters!) I am sincerely hoping that I can translate my interest in writing letters into actually writing letters. I got a handful of Christmas cards mailed a few weeks ago. I guess that's a start.
6) Have more time to reach out to people in other ways, whether it is by phone or in person.
7) Have more time!

I don't know that I will stay internetless forever, but for now, I am recognizing and appreciating the benefits of living a lifestyle without home internet access. And realizing that having internet access at home isn't necessarily essential for me right now.

Granted, I should probably mention that not having internet access will probably have minor effects on my blog. Don't worry, I fully intend to keep my blog up and running, and hopefully continue to increase content and readership! However, it is likely that my posting during the week will be more sporadic than my posting on the weekends. But when I have more "coffeeshop" time, I will be writing away...perhaps featuring a few new additions per day.

Check back often!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Unsettled yet settled

Perhaps as can be expected, my comfort level living here in Nashville goes in waves. One day I feel happy to be here, more-and-more acclimated, and full of serenity about my new life here in Nashville. The next day (which happens to be today), I feel confused, unsettled, and out of place. I think that because I have moved so many times in the past 7 years, as much as I want to get "settled" and put down roots, I am scared to, because of the vulnerability it takes to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people. I know that I must take heart in the fact that God has led me here, though, and I will slowly get more "settled" here in good time. Unfortunately, living in a "instantaneous" world, it would be a lot more comfortable if this happened instantaneously. But for now I will try to savor the joys and grow from the challenges.

After all, being "unsettled", in a metaphysical sense, isn't so bad after all. For if we are "settled" in this world alone, we are unlikely to seek heaven as our true home. We need to use our "unsettledness" within the world in order to settle in the Lord, to nestle close to His heart.

As a (at least formerly) nomadic young adult, I have been trying to pray this prayer and rest in it's truth:
* ~ "My home is in His heart" ~ *

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Blind Side and the kindness of strangers

Last weekend I watched the movie "The Blind Side", starring Sandra Bullock. I had heard a lot of good times about this movie, but I was skeptical about how good it would actually be. I mean, let's be honest, after awhile all of the inspirational sports films have the same plot with a slightly different slant. There is an underdog, no one thinks he is going to make the team, he does, proves everyone wrong, and wins the championship. Viola! There you have it.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised at that a) The Blind Side doesn't follow this plot as closely as other sports movies, and b) the way that this movie truly touched and inspired me.

I won't give a detailed summary of the movie here, you can go to wikipedia or look at the back cover of the movie for that. But the basic plot is that the affluent Tuohy family takes in a homeless African American teenager, Michael, giving him food, shelter, and most of all, the love of a family. Mrs. Tuohy showers Michael with kindness, compassion, and most importantly, a confidence in him that helps him blossom as a student, and as a football player. The story chronicles the Tuohy's relationship with Michael, the beautiful way they change his life forever, and more importantly, the way he changes theirs. The movie is based on a true story of one of the Baltimore Ravens (Michael Oher); in the movie Michael becomes a star football player and eventually lands a scholarship to Ole Miss.

This movie brought me to tears several times. I think with any good film, one is able to pick up something different out of the story and identify it with their own life. I was particularly able to identify with this movie because it was set in Memphis, Tennessee, my new home state. And although I don't rub noses with them everyday, I have definitely become more familiar with the affluent areas and people of this area -- the Southern mansions, manners, and lifestyle, such as the Tuohy's are part of.

That's a minor aspect though. The thing about this movie that truly touched me was how it illustrated the transformative power of the kindness of strangers. The Tuohy family barely knew Michael at all when they invited him into their home. Yet Mrs. Tuohy stepped out in risk and vulnerability to offer him the love and compassion which he so desperately needed. She had no previous connection with him, other than she had seen him around school. She was not obligated in anyway to interact with him. Yet she saw his need. She reached out to him. And she loved him, as her own son.

Mrs. Tui's hospitality touched me deeply because of my current move to Nashville, a town where I knew no one, and still know just a handful of people. As a "stranger in a strange land" the kindness of strangers has meant the world to me. Even simply someone smiling and asking with genuine concern, "How are you?" has turned moments of feeling alone and overwhealmed to bringing a rush of comfort over me.

There have been a few people in particular who have truly looked after me; making sure I feel welcome, opening their homes and hearts to me in friendship. One older woman at Mass always makes a point to acknowledge me, wave, touch my shoulder on her way to Communion, or in one amusing moment, give me the thumbs up at the sign of peace. For the new girl in town, these little gestures of concern have made me feel not-so-alone, just when I need it most.

Yet there is nothing that dictates these people go out of their way to acknowldege or affirm me. We have no prior connection. They could just continue on their merry way, and we would simply remain distant aquaintences. Yet these people have stepped out in charity and selflessness to show me hospitality and compassion.

Like Mrs. Tuohy, the thing that touches me most is their loving perception.

Mrs. Tuohy noticed.

She noticed, and then she immediately reached out.

These new friends here in Nashville have noticed. They have taken the time to percieve my loneliness, my discombobulation, my longing for friendship and have reached out to me in love. For this I am eternally grateful.

"When I was a stranger, you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:45)

Words for today

"You must try to never forget that God would not suffer the least fraction that he did not know not to merely be the best way to your ultimate joy, but the essential condition of it, and the only way to it."
~ Caryll Houselander, Letters to Mrs. Boardman (from the book "The Letters of Caryll Houselander)

~ * May you know that His will is your peace, even through your biggest crosses this day. * ~

Friday, January 7, 2011


I am a photographer wanna-be. If only I had a good camera. Maybe some day...when I have more money for frivilous things like that! In the are a few of my little snapshots...trying to capture winter's silent beauty.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
(by Robert Frost)

Whose woods these are I think I know./His house is in the village though;/ He will not see me stopping here/ To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer/ To stop without a farmhouse near/ Between the woods and frozen lake/ The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake/ To ask if there is some mistake./ The only other sound's the sweep/ Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep./ But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

12 days of Christmas 12

Sorry for the delay, folks. I don't have internet hook-up at my new place, so right now I am relying on coffeeshop wifi. Enjoy the last of the Christmas series!

Madonna with the Christ Child, Sassoferrato (1609-1685)

Love came down at Christmas
by Christina Rosetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

12 days of Christmas 11

Day 11

A Christmas Carol
by Phillips Brooks
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas to-night!
Christmas in lands of the fir tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine;
Christmas where snow-peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where corn-fields lie sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas to-night!

Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray;
Christmas where peace, like a dove in its flight,
Broods o'er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas to-night!

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master-of all,
No palace too great and no cottage too small;
The Angels who welcome Him sing from the height,
"In the city of David a King in His might."
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas to-night!

Monday, January 3, 2011

12 days of Christmas 10

Our Savior is born! Let us make merry!

Norman Rockwell, 1928

A Christmas Carol

by George Wither

So now is come our joyful feast,
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors' chimnies smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lie,
And if for cold it hap to die,
We'll bury it in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
A bagpipe and a tabor.
Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
Give life to one another's joys;
And you anon shall by their noise
Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun,
Their hall of music soundeth;
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
So all things aboundeth.
The country-folk themselves advance,
For crowdy-mutton's come out of France;
And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
And all the town be merry.

Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn,
And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel.
And those that hardly all the year
Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices
With capons make their errands;
And if they hap to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants.
But now they feed them with good cheer,
And what they want they take in beer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse
The poor, that else were undone;
Some landlords spend their money worse,
On lust and pride at London.
There the roisters they do play,
Drab and dice their land away,
Which may be ours another day;
And therefore let's be merry.

The client now his suit forbears,
The prisoner's heart is eased;
The debtor drinks away his cares,
And for the time is pleased.
Though others' purses be more fat,
Why should we pine or grieve at that;
Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
And therefore let's be merry.

Hark how the wags abroad do call
Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you'll see them in the hall,
For nuts and apples scrambling;
Hark how the roofs with laughters sound,
Anon they'll think the house goes round;
For they the cellar's depths have found,
And there they will be merry.
The wenches with their wassail-bowls
About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
The wild mare in is bringing.
Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
And to the dealing of the ox
Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have,
And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
And wise men play at noddy.
Some youths will now a mumming go,
Some others play at rowland-hoe,
And twenty other gameboys moe;
Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days
Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
To make our mirth the fuller.
And whilst we thus inspired sing,
Let all the streets with echoes ring;
Woods, and hills, and everything
Bear witness we are merry.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

12 days of Christmas 9

Adoration of the Magi, Rogier van der Weyden

The Magi
by William Butler Yeats

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,

In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones

Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky

With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,

And all their helms of Silver hovering side by side,

And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,

Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied,

The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.


This morning I was reflecting on the concept of New Years resolutions and some of my particular goals for the 2011. For many of us, resolutions focus on variations of the themes to be healthier, work out more, dedicate more time to daily prayer, be more organized, spend less money, etc., etc.

Reflecting on my own resolutions immediately led me to wonder, "How will I know that I am truly making progress in these things in tangible ways?"

I think that when we make sweeping resolutions, we are often tempted to simultaneously create unreasonable standards for ourselves. I know for me, whenever I am attempted to improve in certain areas of my life, my biggest struggle is the temptation to continually compare myself to others and the ways that they are doing these things better than I. In my mind, they are being successful at a, b, and c, and I am just lagging so far behind.

In creating resolutions and goals, it is important to also reflect on our personal view of progress and success in these areas of our lives. For example, in regards to health and fitness, does it mean attaining the body size of the models in J. Crew ads? Or does it mean reaching your ideal weight by eating healthy and exercising regularly, and just plain feeling good?

Is it being able to organize your house to spotless perfection like your next door neighbor? Or is it filing a few piles of clutter away, one at a time?

As I reflected on resolutions and changes that I want to make in my life, I recalled this beautiful quote from Mother Teresa:

"We are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful."

This certainly does not negate the importance of setting high standards for ourselves and always seeking continual conversion in many aspects of our life, whether it is spiritual, physical, emotional, or social.

But it takes the bar, which we often set unattainably high, or ridiculously low, and places it exactly where God wants it to be.

Whether we have already failed at our New Years resolutions on the second day of the New Year, or whether we are finding ourselves overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping up with the Jones'...we can remind ourselves that it isn't success in worldly terms that God calls us to. It is simply faithfulness.

So in 2011, will try to be faithful in all of these little aspects of my life. Even though my successes my be small and hidden to the world, I will seek the peace that comes from striving after faithfulness, one day at a time.

12 days of Christmas (and New Years) 8

A traditional New Year's ditty...

Auld Lang Syne
By Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.