Monday, December 20, 2021

Inconvenience and Whining

 This fourth Sunday of Advent fell in a weekend of difficulties, frustrations, and inconveniences. Just the sorts of things that feel like irritating stones thrown into your path, one after another, by God who is trying to do something ... and you're not sure what. 

I said I would not careen into Christmas, but this fourth Sunday of Advent does put that intention to the test. Our Lessons and Carols service at church was at 6:00 last night. This one time each year, I'm in charge of the service, of what happens. Adam gets to sit and enjoy it, which is so good for a pastor occasionally.

But we had a fun and exhausting "big dinner" to attend on Friday night. And farmers market on Saturday morning (and all the labors that lead to that). Cookie baking happened on Saturday, but I was tired, and kept noticing the general slovenliness of the house. I'm waiting to clean until today and tomorrow, but the grime was building up. This irritates me. Adam went back to the school to do classroom work he couldn't do before, from 7:30 - 3:00. He wanted to go back and do more today, but I growled at him and put my foot down. "You are on break!" I said. "We will rest now!" I was saying to myself.

One of my hand chime ladies fell ill and was in the hospital, throwing my musical plans for Sunday night into chaos. I shuffled around and made "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" work somehow, while worrying about her health and feeling guilty that I was even bothered about hand chimes when she was hospitalized. 

I had to practice: 1) a solo with my auto harp (an instrument I'm ill-at-ease on), 2) a duet ("Do You Hear What I Hear?" that I'd arranged and hand-written on staff paper in pencil with many scratches and mistakes, and with only a few words scribbled on the page, scrunched between wonky quarter notes, 3) "O Holy Night," which we'd thrown in there at the last minute, 4) various preludes and the carols, of course.

Then there were candles to put in windows, poinsettias to water, refreshment tables to arrange, holly to snip, more cookies to bake, programs to print and reprint. (How could I make three mistakes in such a simple document?) So Much To Do. And I must do it all with a smile and a happy spirit because I am, after all, the pastor's wife, and I've been doing this for many years, and none of these little difficulties should get to me now. 

But they do. And I have learned self-control over the years to suppress my inner rage at minor inconveniences. Now I simply whine ... at home.

Sunday morning after snipping new holly to replace dead holly in the sanctuary, I suddenly developed a sharp muscle pain in my back, just under my shoulder blade. Adam rubbed it, I took Tylenol, and I went on with my day. But I did ask God, "Really? This childish behavior again from You? We both know you've already got my attention. We both know I have issues with my attitude when things don't go absolutely smoothly. Do you really have to remind me again to slow down and not care so much about the details? I already know that, God!" (I took more Tylenol in the afternoon.)

But I have to relearn regularly to lay down my little idols at His feet and remind myself that they are worthless, lifeless things. Even preparing a worship service can be an idol. All ministry can quickly become an idol because it has the trappings of religion all around it, and it smells and looks like God. But it's not God Himself. It's far too easy to worship the ministry work, and not worship the Lord Himself. As I sit at the piano in the sanctuary week after week (and especially last night), I close my eyes and pray, reminding myself that I'm there to worship too, not just to facilitate others' worship. I disengage my thoughts about what key signature I'm supposed to be in, whether my voice will cooperate, whether this or that song was the best choice; I turn my mind around again to worship. 

Today, we rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


 Home is the quietest place, the place most calming to the spirit. I'm home as much as possible, and it heals me. I'd never considered how homeless Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were, after they left  Nazareth. How utterly homeless did Mary feel when they went to the home they were expecting to stay in, in Bethlehem, only to be told that the guest room was already occupied, and there wasn't space for them? "All we can offer you is where we keep the animals." Have you ever lost your home? (We have.) Being without a home is spirit-crushing.

They went from Bethlehem to Egypt swiftly, then to Jerusalem, then back to Bethlehem through Jesus's babyhood till the magi came. When they finally returned to Nazareth, I wonder if Mary let out a sigh of relief and though, "No more of this cray living! I've done enough, God!"

I'm very thankful for my home.

A friend gives me a waxed amaryllis bulb each Christmas. Slowly, so slowly, it rises, and gradually pushes out the first bloom, then the second. But after years, I have large clumps of amaryllis in my flower bed. So many beautiful things come slowly in life.

I celebrated in WalMart yesterday and bought a big, square tin of lovely cookies. I bought 3 bags of chocolate. (One for me, one for Adam, one for Julia. He instructed Julia to take his bag of peanut M&Ms AWAY so he couldn't eat them all.) I bought some new boxes of tea for church. 

The Yorkshire tea, in malty biscuit flavor, is for home, however.

I've decorated, although the outside of the house is devoid of Christmas cheer, I'm sorry to say. I'm at an age where I accept what I can do, and don't worry about what I can't do. In addition to our fake tree, I'm putting the appropriate ornament on our Jesse Tree each morning.

I've placed my little wooden tree with its ornaments on top of the piano.
Our old creche is assembled with its pine cone trees.
And I've hung my woven Advent calendar on a door. I was faithful to snap on only one figure each day for about the first 5 days, but then I couldn't resist; I put them ALL on. It was so much fun! The snaps are stubborn and sometimes don't work. I did save Baby Jesus, however, and will lay him in the manger on Christmas morning.
It's a jumble of figures, isn't it?
Mostly, I'm trying to get a variety of things finished before my daughter and her family arrive next week. Then I want it to be sheer family fun and together time while they're with us. I'm weaving, knitting, making lotions, doing yard work. And making Youtube videos nearly every day, which has been fun! If you have time and want to, go watch :)
I'm trying to be slow like the amaryllis. It's a gentle constant push against the hurry, a steady application of the brakes each day, all day. I choose not to go careening toward Christmas this year. So far ... so good!
Outside, doing yard stuff:
Inside, doing yarn stuff:
In the kitchen, making yummy stuff:
And I'm doing occasional poetry readings:

Monday, December 6, 2021


 It's December 6. In a eye's blink, 2021 will be past. Advent and Christmas, with all their beauty and wonder, will be gone.

So I want to go slowly. As Robert Frost says in "October," -- "Slow! Slow!" He wishes for autumn leaves to fall only one at a time. At that rate, autumn would take all year long!

This past week I met with a dear friend at church, and we did "the greening of the church" for the first time ever. We started small, and we wore out quickly. We do the poinsettias every year, but the green swags of cedar, holly, and magnolia are a new thing.

There are cedar swags on the windows that you can't see here.

Each week I tell myself I'm going to stay HOME and get things done, work in the yard (so much tidying up to do!), and stay happily in my studio. But every day, something comes up -- a grocery run, errands, recycling, doctor visits -- and before you know it the week is gone.

We put up the Christmas tree. Our daughter's new kitten Leo loves to climb in the tree (of course), so he will be consigned to her room quite a bit this month. We're watching Christmas movies in the evening and drinking eggnog and enjoying the twinkling lights in the living room.

The house it quiet now. It's early Monday morning and I have the whole week stretched out before me. I wonder what I'll get done?

I have three scarves to weave, one knitted scarf to finish. Painting, of course -- I'm working on North Carolina's lighthouses. 

Pondering Advent, I read a friend's post about the carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." We do plead with the Savior to come and ransom us. Truly we "mourn in lonely exile here."  I once wrote a song about what the world might have been like, if Jesus had never come. A fallen, broken, dark world where no savior, no rescue, ever arrives. How thankful I am for His birth at Christmas! His love pierces the world's darkness, consigning it to the corners. His love pours a balm of healing on all our brokenness. I cannot imagine living without the hope He gives me, of peace both here and after I die. These are my thoughts during Advent, that each year we wait in desperate hope for help in the hovel of our lives. He always comes.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Advent: A Time of Repentance and Mourning

 That title up there -- Adam told me that yesterday as we drove home from church, and it's stuck with me. For many American Protestant Evangelicals, who have little historical understanding of Advent (or Lent, for that matter), it feels more like they are engaged in a month-long baby shower with lots of presents and enthusiasm. 

NOT to be critical, however. Joy is also appropriate, as the angels told us. 

The advent calendar is hung, waiting Dec. 1. I think I've somehow lost the inn keeper, if I ever had one.

The Christmas cactus is beginning to bloom.
I'm sick. Not very sick, but either 1) an allergic reaction to lots of mouse dust in the barn, or 2) a cold caught from my grandbaby, John.
If it's John's cold, it is worth every single snuggle and hug!

They were here for a week, and now they are gone back to their busy lives, and we miss them. He is a very sweet baby.

So, being sick, I'm drinking tea and taking it a little easier for a few days.

I'm knitting a scarf with two yarns together, an easy pattern.
Time on the couch with the humidifier blowing pillows of moisture into the air, and my lovely (fake) fireplace glowing away. I love it.
The blanket is for Tricky, who loves to sleep on it. I'll wash it tomorrow, but until then, it's hers.

For years, I've wanted an elegant snow globe, but they are so very expensive. Last month, while strolling through the Christmas section at WalMart, I found this:

It sparkles and churns silver glitter all around, and even though it might be on the edge of ... well, not tacky, but not elegant ... I am enjoying it a lot. 

What do we mourn during Advent? Not the birth of the baby, but perhaps the fact that He had to come at all. We mourn our brokenness and wickedness that made our rescue necessary, and His coming and rescuing of us essential in order for us to regain peace, a better way to live. I look at the world around me, and the church in our world, and it's hard to see that we have found peace, or any better way to live. But I continue to hope.

I hope to post once a week this month. We shall see!

Friday, November 5, 2021

November Before I Knew It

 October flew away, and now we are into the fast downhill race to Christmas. Can we slow it down? I'm spending my days mostly at home, doing my artistic work and household chores. Taking the dogs outside and resting when I need to. This does seem to slow things ... a little bit.

Julia now has a kitten called Leo. She found him in our yard. He was about 3 - 4 weeks old, and desperately looking for someone to take care of him. She is delighted!
Last week I enjoyed lunch with a group of dear friends from church. What a gathering of beautiful souls is our church! I may be the pastor's wife, but these women are all GOOD FRIENDS, and I'm so thankful for them.
I don't think I posted about my trip to West Virginia a few weeks ago. In addition to seeing my mother and other precious family members, I also got to see my grandbaby, John. He's grown so much and is so much fun! 
After canceling our church's community Thanksgiving Day dinner last year because of Covid-19, we are eating together again this year! Adam and I are so excited to enjoy this day again, even if our crowd may be a little smaller.
I participated in an Art Walk in Oriental last week! I felt like a real artist for the evening, haha. It was so much fun, and I sold quite a few cards. Adam and Julia came along for moral support and to help me haul my stuff. I set up by the waterfront and the Tiki Bar. Delightful!

It's downright chilly here now. The low last night was around 40. Brrr! I'm finally settling in to my new routine since Adam took a second job as a middle school science teacher (which he absolutely LOVES). My days are my own, and the house is mostly quiet. I'm making a loose schedule to keep myself accountable to get at least 2 things done each day. It helps. Yesterday was "painting in the morning and resting in the afternoon." (I only do "resting" once each week!) Today is "soap-making in the morning and yard mulch in the afternoon." We'll see if I get that done.

Here are some of my recent youtube videos, if you want to come along with my daily doings:

Making my first beeswax candle:

Making pumpkin bread:
My West Virginia trip (part two):

One more? Just toodling around outside in the autumn and inside my studio:

And here are a few cards I've painted recently:

Enjoy the season! Cherish and savor every day! Soon it will be January with plenty of time to rest and ponder. Now is the season for joy.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Autumn Road

The storm arrived in sleep's deepest hours,

And stayed 'til noon in spitting showers.

Its chilly wind disturbed the weather.

We dashed inside to don our sweaters. 

All along the road the leaves were flying,

They seemed alive and in no way dying.

Fluttering, fighting, and flying down,

Yellow and red, green and brown.

Above it all the gray-blue sky

Was watercolor majesty.

I am skipping along the road,

The wind has loosened my heavy load.

And I am happy that autumn's come,

The sultry days of summer, done.

I am alive and in no way dying,

Like the maple leaves, free and flying.

copyright, M.K. Christiansen

Monday, October 11, 2021

Time to Burst Outdoors!

 It feels like autumn at last! I step onto the back deck, feel the gusty, cool breeze, hear the leaves rattling lightly, smell the damp rain ... and I'm so happy! Summer is over, finally! Now life and joy can begin!

(I deeply apologize to those who cannot identify with this feeling against summer. I know I'm outnumbered.)

I've been physically active recently. My doctor told me that my pre-diabetic situation remains unchanged since last fall, but that my vitamin D levels were very low; this deficiency was likely causing my fatigue and achiness. She gave me a prescription for D2, and voila!!! I'm feeling so much better!

I've been clipping shrubs and suckers on trees. Totally cleaned and rearranged the guest bedroom after our daughter moved out to the Little Dependency. Dismantled a huge drafting table for Adam and cleaned said Dependency. Finished knitting my homespun sweater!! (It's a bit wonky, but I think I love it.)

Loose ends still need to be woven in. The neck opening remains too big in spite of my cinching it up along the back. The bottom hem curls up. (sigh) But it's still a very fun sweater, and I'll enjoy it. I'm working on another mitred square blanket: 
This one will be smaller than the last, and will have a diagonal pattern.

I've tried to keep walking each morning when I'm not doing other physically-challenging farm or house work. Next, I want to paint our front door a bright teal/blue.

Here's a video I made yesterday -- short and sweet. My favorite poem.

Here's another video of ambient music I've been listening to lately. Very soothing.

In two days I'll drive up to West Virginia to see my dear mother, plus son and daughter and baby grandson will be there!!! I can't wait to hold and play with him. I'll be sure to take photos and make a video.

Okay, all you lovelies, venture forth into the brisk beauty of fall and think of all the fun things coming before the year's end. Thank you, Lord!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Pursuing Peace, Part 2

 First, I want to thank all of you who commented on the first "Pursuing Peace" post. Annie, your comment was so wonderful and helpful to me! So much honesty and wisdom in your words. Thank you!

I've spent some time studying Scripture to discover the answer to these two questions: 1) What emotions/internal effects will I experience from reading Scripture? and 2) What does the Bible say about how I can obtain internal peace?

For the first answer, I turned to Psalm 119, the premier passage about God's Word and what it does to God's child. It was a fascinating study! Here's a list of the primary emotional effects that Scripture had on David:
1. delight/joy
2. avoidance of sin/purity
3. revive his fainting soul/sustain him
4. thankfulness
5. meditation
6. longing/desire for God's Word
7. understanding/wisdom
8. fear/reverence of God
10. comfort

I probably missed a few, but that's the basic list. Annie added an important verse from Psalm 119: "Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble." (119:165) So peace can be a result of loving God's Word. That's important to remember! I need to remember, however, that this verse does NOT say that peace comes from studying God's Word, which is what I tend to do. I love to study it, pick it apart, find connections, treat it like a piece of fascinating, wonderful literature. The love David has for Scripture is not a pedantic thing; he loves it because it reveals God's heart.

I found many other passages helpful in my search for spiritual peace, but none more than Philippians 4. (I'll put the other verses at the bottom of this post, for anybody who's interested.) Paul is addressing church conflict in Phil. 4 -- two women who are fussing with each other, Euodia and Syntyche. He urges them to live harmoniously. (Their names mean sweet-smelling and common goals. Haha!)

In verse 4, Paul tells his friends to be joyful. Then he reminds them to be gentle with everyone. Next he instructs them not to be fearful, "Don't be anxious." To avoid anxiety, they are to pray, asking God and thanking Him. And then ... peace comes as a gift of God, in inexplicable gift that's hard to put one's finger on. It's not something we drum up ourselves, not something we obtain with effort. It's God's work.

I don't know that this is some guaranteed recipe for peace, every time. But it's certainly good practice, and an excellent place to start. Perhaps the hardest step is the beginning: Be joyful! That's very hard when you're anxious and have no peace. I think Paul gives us a clue to being more joyful; what are we filling our minds with? I've always loved verse 8. It's gently convicting about what I expose myself to: is it true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent, praise-worthy

If I fill my mind with things that are lies, wrong, impure, ugly, disreputable, awful, worthy of derision, then I can expect a troubled spirit. My lack of peace is a choice when I expose myself to such things. I think I should stop reading the news.

It's clear Paul is trying to get these Philippians to find inner peace. They're struggling. "Let your mind dwell on these [good] things." "Practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you." (9)

It's no wonder that we feel more peaceful when we walk in beautiful nature that God created. Or perhaps we feel peace when we go to worship on Sunday and arrive early to sit in the sanctuary and pray. Or when we remember to thank God for the list of good things He's given us. 

A joyful attitude, a gentle disposition, praying instead of fear, and daily asking God for His peace -- all of these are challenges for me. 

Additional passages: Luke 8:48, Rom. 5:1, John 14:27, Gal. 5:22, Ps. 29:11, Isa. 26: 3, II Tim. 2:22

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Pursuing Peace

 I've been quite busy lately, and remiss about blogging. Isn't the cooler weather delicious? I'm outside a bit more now. I've also had a significant positive change in my health -- I've cut sugar and many carbs out of my diet. Oh My Goodness! It's been about two and a half weeks now, and I feel like my old self (nearly). 

One of our healthy meals

Gradually, I was feeling more and more fatigued, so much so that I could not function well after lunch. I pushed myself, but I had minimal energy. And I hurt so much. My back and torso were achy, and often my legs also.

Now I have good energy all day long and don't hurt anymore. Apparently the pain was caused by inflammation, a result of the sugars and processed foods I was eating. What a difference!

All that to say, I was able to do some real work today. I'm refurbishing a lovely chair that we nearly put on the burn pile. It's large, solid wood, and very loungy. I'll have to buy foam for the cushions, and upholstery fabric, and sew it all up. Quite a challenge! I've never done that before.

I'm also getting a handle on my front porch, which has been wrapped in heavy plastic for years, and is packed to the gills with junk.

I have a new, large storage closet in the little house, and much of this junk is going over there. (It's not junk exactly, of course. The true junk is being thrown away.)
I moved much junk off this side of the porch today!

Here's a youtube video I posted today.

It's about trying to find a bit of peace in a tumultuous world. I've often been told to read Scripture to find peace. And that can work ... but the purpose of Scripture is often to convict me of sin. I'm not sure that its purpose it to give me peace. The Holy Spirit gives peace, but He also convicts. It's a thorny subject. 

I do feel peace when I go outside and walk in the pasture or watch my chickens or fiddle with some project out there. Perhaps summer is difficult because I don't go out in the heat. Spinning is also a lovely, peaceful activity, and my spinning wheel is my new peaceful friend.

I've been walking each morning in a neighborhood, listening to music as I go, and reminding myself that, even though I dislike exercise, walking in a beautiful, peaceful spot is not really exercise, right?

Perhaps I'm better at knowing what doesn't give me peace, than what does. And if I avoid the things fraught with discord, I will be a few steps closer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Pleasure of Achy Muscles

 I was commiserating with a friend recently about how horrible it's been to be housebound for the past 4-6 weeks. We've been confined in our homes because of the summer heat. By the end of August I begin to question whether I love the outdoors, because I don't go there. I think longingly of farm work on chilly days wearing a barn coat.

The other sad effect of hibernating in front of the air conditioners is a softening of the muscles. I've always been a rather strong girl, from a line of strong West Virginia women. We're an outdoorsy lot and enjoy a bit of physical labor. I enjoy tearing things down, hauling brush to burn piles, clearing limbs, raking leaves, and yanking out weeds -- as long as it's 70 degrees or cooler!

We're nearly there! The last two mornings I've hauled all kinds of debris from our old, massive burn pile. I've dragged tree limbs to a new burn pile location (in the big field). I've dug out lots of rusted metal scraps from items we burned in the old pile. I've dug out and wheel-barrowed away many loads of old ash. It was fun! I wish my body would let me do more of it. 

Why clear out our farm burn pile location? Because we want to transform it into a NICE fire pit, the kind with paving stones around it and camp chairs, where you can safely sit and roast marshmallows. This would be a lovely addition to our pecan grove area, and if we ever do turn that part of the farm into a Hip Camp location, the guests would enjoy it also.

Do you remember the Great Mysterious Hole we found in our house lot? Here's a link, if you want to read about it. In the end we concluded that it was probably a boot-legger's hole from years ago, but we're still not sure. It's become unsafe for Adam to drive the riding mower over, so we decided to uncover it again, fill it with all that metal debris from the burn pile, plus the ash, and close it up again. 

So that's where I've been hauling all the stuff too. Shovel, haul, dump, repeat. I came inside an hour ago and my muscles were not screaming at me. They were humming, awake, saying, "Ah! I remember this work! I've missed this!" It's that gentle achiness that actually feels good, so long as you don't push yourself too far.

I'm much too old for heavy work, but I don't want to become a couch-sitting ball of mush either. I'm ready for the days of barn coat and burn piles and geese calling overhead.

Hello, autumn.

Friday, August 27, 2021

When It Feels Like Fall

It feels like fall
in spite of the date
which tells me it's
August 28th.

It feels like fall
in spite of the sweat,
and the sauna heat
says it's not fall yet.

The corn says it's fall
as it rustles and whispers,
as its poor little stalks
grow crisper and crisper.

The leaves say it's fall
as their greens become brown.
They look tired of summer
and long to fall down.

In the early of morning
when the wild geese call
when the new mist rises
It feels like fall.

by M.K. Christiansen