The Victoria and Albert Museum

I made a new friend on Saturday.  Our friendship formed quickly, easily. This friend is both foreign and familiar, but definitely amiable. My new friend is not a person, though I do have a few of those; it is the Victoria and Albert Museum. As I may have mentioned before, I love a good museum. I love wandering through grand, hushed halls, not knowing what will catch my eye, looking forward to learning something new. London is the city if you love museums – there are so many to choose from that it’s difficult to know where to start! I asked a local acquaintance last week for her suggestions and she simply gushed about the V&A, spoke of it as an old, dear friend. After a few minutes she realized she had gotten carried away and apologized, but in her passion I saw the sincerity of her recommendation. So, it was on my list and we headed over right after visiting Kensington Palace. As the Brits say, we got on very well.

One of many views of the V&A from the street. (Not taken by me. Click through for source).

To give you a bit of background (and to quote Wikipedia), the V&A “is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.” We were a little bewildered when we first arrived – where do you begin when there are over 4.5 million objects to be seen? – and a kind volunteer must have noticed our wide-eyes. She informed us that there are about 8 miles of galleries but thankfully she gave us a few ideas of where to start.  The entrance hall is so dramatic – tinged with color, a mix of old and new – but we did eventually move on.

This is the site that greets you when you walk in.  The beautiful glass art display by Omar Abel draws your eye up to the carved wooden ceiling.

This is the site that greets you when you walk in. The beautiful glass art display by Omar Abel draws your eye up to the carved wooden ceiling.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it? It was one of my favorite things I saw all day.

Look beyond the first glass piece to see another one equally as stunning. (By Chihuly, I'm assuming.)

Just beyond the first glass piece is another one equally as stunning. (By Chihuly, I’m assuming.)

After looking at the map of 8 miles of possibility, we opted for the Medieval and Renaissance wing first. It was an easy choice when we looked to the right and saw this:

The airy, open space was filled with both art and artists.

The airy, open space was filled with both art and artists.

Another friend of the V&A, I'm sure.

Another friend of the V&A, I assume.

The entire wing was breathtaking, but this altar/arch was incredible!

The entire wing was breathtaking, but this altar/arch was incredible!

I really enjoyed seeing the detailed books from this era. Such skill went into making each page and letter, and the colors have been maintained beautifully.

A large choir book from about 1380!

A large choir book from about 1380!

Three personal devotional books (each only about 5-7 inches tall) and a sculpture of Jesus on the cross from about 1250.

Three personal devotional books (each only about 5-7 inches tall) and a life-size sculpture of Jesus on the cross from about 1250.

There were interactive exhibits, audio stations, touch screen displays, quiet corners to sit, libraries, children’s areas, … This might also be a good time to mention that admission to the V&A is FREE.

(I felt like a creeper when I took this picture.)

(I felt like a creeper when I took this picture, but come on, how perfect is that?)

 

The Medieval and Renaissance Wing sprawled over three floors but we only had time to explore two before we needed to move on. I had heard wonderful things about the V&A cafe so we decided to get a snack before heading home. The cafe is basically a museum in and of itself – famous for it’s impeccable design, and for being the first museum “restaurant.” Sam and I soaked it all in as we rested our feet. 

One of three rooms of the cafe. GORGEOUS, right?

One of three rooms of the cafe. GORGEOUS, right?

picstitch (3)

The second of two rooms in the cafe, where we chose to sit. The blue and white tiles around the room depicted the months and seasons.

We then passed back through the museum gardens, which was decorated with an interesting Chinese installation (we missed an exhibit on Chinese painting by one day).

The garden of the V&A.

The garden courtyard of the V&A.

"Better it is to get wisdom than gold."

“Better it is to get wisdom than gold.” (Proverbs 16:16)

I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new friend quite yet so we meandered through a few more areas: the Club to Catwalk fashion exhibit and the museum gift shop (I LOVE MUSEUM GIFT SHOPS and this one did not disappoint). But, it was time to catch the tube and head home. As I reluctantly said goodbye, I knew our new found friendship was one that would be easy to maintain. I’ll pop in and catch up when I’m in the city, knowing the invitation stands. I know our relationship won’t become stale but will change and grow, as all good relationships do. I’ll introduce my family and friends when they visit, hoping they appreciate it as I do. 

It may sound silly. It just a museum. A building. But it’s more than that. It’s thousands of years of history, people’s passions and gifts, it brings a bustling city to near silence, causes couples to walk quietly holding hands and parents to point out new wonders to their children. It’s welcoming and intoxicating. And astoundingly beautiful. If you are ever in London you must go and say hello for me and maybe make a friend yourself.

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Kensington Palace

On Monday, Sam and I hopped on the Tube and headed to Kensington, a royal borough of London. Kensington is home to numerous embassies, universities, museums, bicycles, crisp white buildings, and very wealthy people.

This sums it up...

This sums it up nicely.

To get there we walked through Hyde Park (quickly – searching for a loo),

Hyde Park Serpentine

across the Serpentine,

serpentine

and through Kensington Gardens to our first attraction of the day: Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace has been the home of King William III, Queen Mary II, Queen Anne, King George II, Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and many others.

Princess Diana

It is now the London home of these royal beauties:

Unfortunately, this was our only royal sighting.

Unfortunately, this was our only royal sighting.

The tour-able portion of the palace is separated into three sections: A look into the life of Queen Victoria, the King’s State Apartments, and the Queen’s State Apartments. All of that was in area 3 on this diagram. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and of course, Prince George) live in Apartment 1A, marked on this diagram by the number 2.

I had no idea the palace was this large! We toured a large portion of it and didn’t even leave section 3. (Note: These labels are a little outdated.)

It was at Kensington Palace that Victoria went to bed a Princess and woke up a Queen. We were able to tour the room where she signed the charter, becoming queen. Sam modeled the period wardrobe for us.

Eat your heart out, Mr. Darcy.

One thing I’ve become aware of since moving to the UK is the gaping hole in the history portion of my brain where knowledge about British monarchs should be. The timeline of monarchs is something every Brit seems to have memorized while I can’t even recall how many King Henry’s there were or what century any of them ruled in. (Though I do know Henry VIII was the one with several wives.)  I wish more of that information had stuck with me over the years, but it does make for a sense of discovery as I tour museums and piece together more of this country’s amazing past. Learning about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was fascinating.

The exhibit was marked with lines from both of their diaries, demonstrating the clear affection they had for each other.

Young Victoria and Albert

Young Victoria and Albert

This airy, romantic room was dedicated to their courtship and wedding.

This airy, romantic room was dedicated to their courtship and wedding.

Victoria had a lonely, isolated and sorrowful childhood and felt she found happiness for the first time upon marrying Albert. They were married for 21 years before he passed away suddenly, and Queen Victoria fell into a deep depression. She said the happy portion of her life was gone. For nearly forty years after his death, she remained in official mourning, wearing only black and attending state events only when required.

A famous portrait of Queen Victoria at the age of 80, two years before her death.

A famous portrait of Queen Victoria at the age of 80, two years before her death. She was buried in a white dress and a wedding veil, still mourning her Albert. 

Next, we moved on the king’s apartments. They were, unfortunately, under construction but we were still able to see a few breathtaking rooms.

The King's Gallery as it was decorated for King George I in 1727 by William Kent.

The King’s Gallery as it was decorated for King George I in 1727 by William Kent.

"The dial positioned over the fireplace is still connected to a wind-vane on the roof so that the King could see which way the wind was blowing, where his navy was likely to be heading, and when the posts were likely to arrive.  Created for King William III, it is still (amazingly) in working order."  - See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/kingsgallery#sthash.9EeDF8oy.dpuf

“The dial positioned over the fireplace is still connected to a wind-vane on the roof so that the King could see which way the wind was blowing, where his navy was likely to be heading, and when the posts were likely to arrive. Created for King William III, it is still (amazingly) in working order.” – See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/kingsgallery#sthash.9EeDF8oy.dpuf

The view from the King's Gallery.

The view from the King’s Gallery.

The ceiling of the King's drawing room

The ceiling of the King’s drawing room

In the King's drawing room

In the King’s drawing room

This next room was my favorite… the Cupola room, a site for dancing and entertainment.

I did not take this picture. Click through for the source. But this gives you a much better idea of this grandiose room than my pictures could!

The ceiling was incredible!

The ceiling was incredible!

Being a wallflower in the dancing room... (Actually just enjoying a sit for a second!)

Being a wallflower in the dancing room… (Actually just enjoying a sit for a second!)

Finally, we moved on to the Queen’s apartments, where they quite artfully told the story of the conflict behind the throne in the late 1600s and early 1700s.

The Queen's Staircase, dating back to the 1600s, updated by Christopher Wren for Queen Anne.

The Queen’s Staircase, dating back to the 1600s, updated by Christopher Wren for Queen Anne.

Queen Mary II's gallery.

Queen Mary II’s gallery.

Further down, past the gallery, they told the sad story of how Princess Anne (later Queen Anne) had eighteen children, and only one lived past infancy. Prince William. Every birthday Prince William had was a landmark occasion, celebrated lavishly by his family, a bit of hope against a melancholy past. One display showed birthday banners celebrating William’s 11th birthday, surrounded by seventeen little empty chairs. Sadly, that party was his last. As I proceeded through the exhibit, I wondered, “How have I never heard this strange story before?” 

Prince William

The death of Prince William, the heir to the throne. 

Touring the palace provided a fascinating look at some of the royal history of England, and the glamour, wealth and often loneliness that comes with it. It made me thankful for many things: the opportunity to visit such a beautiful place, modern medicine, joy and hope in Christ, my family, privacy, and the fact that I’m not royalty!

Kensington Palace from the gate side

Kensington Palace from the gate side.

All of that excitement, and it was only lunchtime! We found a delicious Qdoba-type place for lunch, inhaled some burritos, and continued through Kensington to our next stop: The Victoria & Albert Museum (also known as: My new favorite place in London). I’ll write up another post just about “the V&A” later this week.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

And so it begins…

This is what I’m sure will be one of many procrastination posts. I began my first Master’s class last week (Research methods) and I already feel like an idiot.

ImageHere are a few confessions/rants of a noob grad student:

– I implemented iPads in my classroom for two years and not once did I use the terms Technology Enhanced Learning, or Technology Learning Community. Nor did I collect quantitative data from my experience to deftly insert into forum posts. Fail.

– I have to look up half of the jargon used in our assignment posts: “phenomenology,” “post-positivism,” etc. especially when combined with other terms, such as “realism in ontology” and “constructionism in epistemology.” My brain hurts.

– Why is it all so disorganized? Where is my syllabus? What reading am I supposed to do this week or next week? People say they’re working on an essay and I immediately get nervous. “Did I miss an essay?! How could I have missed an essay?!” Can I have a suggested timeline for our end-of-module essay?  That’s online learning for ya… Educational technology won’t get ya anywhere. Geesh.   😉

– I looked at the clock earlier and it said 11:18 a.m.  I thought to myself that I’d just search for a few more articles to add to my Mendeley arsenal and looked back at the clock and bam 1:20 p.m. How does that happen? I’ve been sucked back into the strange time-warping vortex that is schoolwork.

A few days ago I was excited, somewhat confident, and enjoying my school reading. Today, I google every other term, read classmates posts for affirmation before posting my own, and email numerous questions to the class tutor, though I am still enjoying it in a slightly masochistic way. Time for lunch, maybe some fresh air, and definitely more coffee.

(On second thought, maybe decaf.)

2 months after surgery

It has been two months since I had surgery to fix my pectus excavatum. The recovery has been many things  – difficult, frustrating, painful, important, necessary, slow, boring, lazy, etc. – depending on the day. But now, two months out, I can look back and really see how far I’ve come since I was laying in the hospital in a post-surgery daze.

Here’s where I’m at now:

– I can drive. Tight corners, mini-roundabouts, and parking are still difficult, as I can’t move the steering wheel quite as quickly as I’m used to. A flat tire I got a few weeks ago is evidence of that. But, I can at least get myself around if I need to. I’m working now on building up the time and distance I can go while driving.

– I am on ZERO pain medication. None. Zippo. No ibuprofen or nuthin’. That, possibly more than anything, shows my progress. My back still aches often, and my abdominal muscles whine from having to support my new-and-improved posture, but it’s all very tolerable.

– Slowly, but surely, I’m picking back up household chores such as emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, etc. Some things are still difficult, or I can just tell I shouldn’t be doing them yet… I tried to sweep the kitchen floor the other day, figuring I could just lazily drag the broom behind me as I walked, but even that was too much resistance on my chest. Similarly, the other day I had Sam move the laundry down to the laundry area for me so I could try to switch out loads from the washer and dryer. Three loads later, I sat on the couch hugging my heating pad to my chest, aware I had pushed myself too far. I have to remind myself to take it slow. Sam reminds me often too. That’s what I struggle with the most now… I feel fine, so I want to do normal things, but I have to remind myself that I just can’t do everything yet. Thankfully, Sam is an absolute gentleman and does all the chores I cannot without so much as a frown.

– Though I’m not supposed to do any weight-lifting, running, or anything that would put stress on or “jostle” the bar, I have been able to do some cardio… Taking Tobes out on some faster walks, even going to the gym and riding the exercise bike once (without Toby, of course). It’s a tricky balance, getting needed exercise while not overdoing it, but I’m working on it. I keep reminding myself of what the surgeon chided when I asked about what exercises I could do, “You’ll have plenty of time for that once the bar is out.” No need to rush. 

*Warning**Medical details in this bullet point*  The incision is healing up well and I have almost all feeling back around the incision site. My only concern, which has just come up this week, is that I’ve developed a lovely yellowish-red bruise around my sternum and that my sternum aches just a bit. Two months after the surgery seems like a strange time for that to pop up. It also makes things look different because of the discoloration, so it’s difficult to judge if things are possibly reverting a little or are staying as they should. Please pray with me that everything is as it should be and that I will continue to recover well.

Overall, I’m feeling great. In fact, I’ve had a few people ask me recently, “Oh, how are you feeling??” and it takes me a second to figure out what they’re talking about. (“Why? Do I look extra pale today or something? Bad hair day? OH! The surgery!… got it…”) That’s a good sign, right? 🙂  My grad school started this week and I had no problem sitting at a desk, reading and typing for a few hours a day. My walks with Toby are getting longer, and my errand-running endurance is increasing. Things are going well! Thank you to all of you who have prayed me through this. Please, keep the prayers coming, as I continue to recover and trust God throughout this process. It looks like the bar will be staying in until this summer or fall, so please pray also that I am patient and discerning with what I do. God has already shown me so much throughout these last two months – he’s shown me that with Him I can handle more than I ever thought possible. That I needn’t be strong myself, because I have the constant resource of His strength to use as my own. He’s taught me to be appreciative and present when I’m feeling well, when I’m surrounded by friends and family, but to trust Him and praise Him just the same when I’m suffering and in pain. Those lessons aren’t over, I’m still learning, reminders are often needed, but the times of resting and the many hours I had to think during my recovery have shown me how incredibly blessed I am: to have a God who loves me and provided eternal life at a terrible cost, to have family and friends that surround me (physically and in thought and prayer) and exhort me when I need it most, beautiful creation that surrounds us here as a constant reminder of God’s omnipotence, and new opportunities to glorify God and live for Him. This may be my last “medical” update for a while – I hope I have nothing new to report until the bar comes out – but I hope I have lived (and typed) in a way that gives the glory to God. I could not have done any of this without the hope, strength, and comfort hat I receive from the Holy Spirit. I remember moaning from the hospital bed, “Is this even worth it?” when I was feeling my worst, but even if it wasn’t, I hope I have glorified God and that I continue to do the same throughout this process.

Thank you again for your prayers! Onward to recovery. 🙂

Weather, or not.

I know I’m not the first – or the last – to point out that Brits love talking about the weather. First of all, they are a polite and proper bunch, so a conversation topic must always be primed should the need arise. Weather is that default topic.

Lately I’ve been barraged by Facebook posts on this topic from friends all over the U.S.  (Yes, I am jealous of your snow. The cold you can keep!) It seems the country as a whole has dealt with weather that is both atypical and unpleasant. It reminds me of my time back in ND… the months when you were only outside if you were running from a warm building to a pre-warmed car, shoveling your driveway, or on recess duty. The months when your snot would freeze before you could wipe it, where you’d take a deep breath and explode into a frozen coughing fit.

Brutal cold yields brilliant skies though!

Brutal cold yields brilliant skies though!

When I found out I was moving to England, I had a few Nodaks ask me if I thought the dreary UK weather would get depressing… My first snarky thought was “You mean, compared to this tropical paradise?”  But after being here for a while and surviving through the shortest day of the year, I can give an informed (and less snotty) response. The weather here really isn’t bad… it’s certainly ordinary enough. I stopped checking the forecast months ago. It will probably rain at one point in any 24-hour period then the sun will come out. The temperature will probably be within ten degrees of what it was the day before. You can dress the same as yesterday with only slight modifications – for fashion or comfort – and be just fine.

One of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, lived in England for several years. In his book Notes from a Small Island, he perfectly describes the steady, reliable English weather I’ve noticed here:

“I have a small, tattered clipping that I sometimes carry with me and pull out for purposes of private amusement. It’s a weather forecast from the ‘Western Daily Mail and it says, in toto: ‘Outlook: Dry and warm, but cooler with some rain.’

There you have in a single pithy sentence the English weather captured to perfection: dry but rainy with some warm/cool spells. The Western Daily Mail could run that forecast every day – for all I know, it may – and scarcely ever be wrong.

To an outsider the most striking thing about the English weather is that there isn’t very much of it. All those phenomena that elsewhere give nature an edge of excitement, unpredictability and danger – tornadoes, monsoons, raging blizzards, run-for-your-life hailstorms – are almost wholly unknown in the British Isles, and this is just fine by me.”

I remember finding it amusing that there was only one Doppler radar for the entire state of North Dakota, and that on the local channels the weather was often forecast for the entire state! Until then, I was used to turning on the news and seeing three overlapping radars showing ever-updating storm coverage of just a few nearby counties. Here, they forecast for the entire country kingdom! Given, it is a fairly small one. Sam and I saw a forecast the other day which only showed the weather for four cities in the entire UK: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. “One in each country… that should cover it!”

I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?

I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?

Yet, none of this stops the Brits from constantly discussing the weather. I’m sure some consider it an exercise in increasing their vocabulary. There’s a quirky old man who lives down the road, we often pass on the street. He’s always murmuring something random or posing an unexpected question in passing. One day Sam and I were out walking the pup and the man grumbled, “A good day for weather, I think not!”  Feeling utterly American by not knowing how to respond, we smiled politely, chuckled and walked on… We’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.

Back to school!

Have you heard the expression “Teachers make the worst students”?  From my observations of teachers participating in day-long continuing ed conferences, I’d say that’s a fair assessment. Run out of coffee and all patience and civility are gone. GONE. 

But there is one thing I know for certain on that topic… This teacher is looking forward to being a student again!

“Ohhh! Ooooh! Me! ME!”

I miss the classroom. I really really miss greeting my students in the morning, working with them throughout the day, praying for them and watching them grow and learn, looking forward to the next unit or topic. I miiiiiisssssssss it. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I see how God is using this season of not teaching in other ways. One of those ways includes me being a student again! 

I am officially enrolled at the University of London working towards a Master of Arts in Educational Technology!  Bring on the books, school supplies, homework, etc.  

TRUTH.

First of all, who knew grad-school-shopping was so difficult! Knowing I wanted to focus on educational technology, I searched and searched for online programs. Ironically, most Educational Technology programs are not offered online. Other programs focused more on the infrastructure and programming needed to properly implement technology on the district level, instead of the curricular emphasis I was looking for. After narrowing it down to a few programs I decided on this program at the University of London’s Institute of Education, and I cannot wait to dive in!

I am really interested to see how effective the “distance learning” option will be. Though I am a general proponent for educational technology, I do prefer face-to-face educational opportunities over “distance learning,” yet this seemed like the best option. I’m expecting forum posts, papers and emailing. I would much prefer classroom discussions, group projects and speaking but I do find it fitting that I will be testing the limitations of educational technology as I pursue my master’s in that same field. I am however looking forward to the benefits of online classes: doing my homework in my pajamas, lugging my laptop to wherever I want my “classroom” to be that day, being home with the animals while working, the flexibility it allows for traveling and substitute teaching, etc.  As I age I realize that I have homebody tendencies, so those all sound lovely to me. I’m sure I’ll get a bit stir-crazy from time to time but I’m confident in England’s supply of distractions and outings to remedy that.

Some things you just don’t grow out of.

I also have the option of popping down to London to attend classes and conferences or go to the library in person, which is a definite benefit over other programs programmes. (I do, however, need to practice practise writing in British English, not American English. That should be interesting!)

My classes, well, class – I’m starting small with one module – begins today.  New planner, favorite notebook and pen in hand, I anxiously logged on to my laptop. “Access denied.” Whaaaa? When taking classes online, access to the website is imperative. After many phone calls to their admissions office and tech support (where he waltzed all around the question “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”) I discovered that I am registered, however I’m merely “in the queue” to gain computer access. Dang. Brits sure do love queuing. Access should be granted overnight and I should be able to log on and get caught up tomorrow. So for now, this super-excited former-teacher’s-pet can’t-wait-for-school-to-start nerd is feeling disappointed.

*sigh*

I guess I’ll have to wait one more day to start school. So I sit, drinking a latte, watching Gilmore Girls and writing this post, reminding myself that in a few days I will probably think back to my current bored state with longing. But now, I’m eagerly anticipating school!

2014: A new resolve for the new year

Happy 2014 to you all! I passed the true test of every new year by actually writing the correct date on important paperwork today. Huzzah! (Unlike that one time while teaching when I started to write the date on the board with “199-” and then slowly erased in shame.)

We rang in the new year with a small group of really fun people, playing drawing games and an obligatory match of Apples to Apples, chatting a lot and laughing even more. Just before midnight we hiked out into the dark, armed with glow sticks and torches (…flashlights… although real torches would have been way cooler) and grand plans for the crucial countdown.

torches

Our friend, Emily, acquired celebratory floating paper lanterns (ya know, the kind from Tangled). We hoped to ring in the New Year watching them float away, their glow speckling the sky above our beloved town, a clear analogy of the glowing hope of the upcoming year and our ol’ troubles leaving town. But, you’ve probably noticed my word choice implies a bit of a let down. Yeah, they didn’t work. The typical blustery, damp, British weather wasn’t in the festive mood and it didn’t cooperate.  The lanterns didn’t celebrate like most people do on New Years… they didn’t get lit. (Ba dump chhh! That was a stretch… sorry.)

lantern

Instead, we counted down, huddled together, and popped confetti poppers. We were surrounded by an intimate, cozy darkness with flashes of fireworks on the horizon. We said goodbye to 2013 – along with it’s struggles and joys – and headed back indoors.  Auld lang syne.  Now to begin another lap around the sun.

toast

Then, there was New Years Day. January 1. Always a strange holiday in my mind. A national holiday to recover. To gather your wits and organize yourself enough to get through the next 364 days. To ponder life. (OR to sleep in, laze around in your pajamas, drink coffee, and WATCH SHERLOCK.) I did reflect a little at least. Right after Christmas I read a great blog post from SheLovesMagazine about oneword365, revolving around the general idea of simplifying new year’s resolutions to one main idea. I love that. Yes. Just one word. It will keep me focused, provide a base for other goals, my poor memory can retain it… Yes. Let’s do it. Okay, now what word?

For a few days I ruminated on a few. Simplify. Nah, just reminds me of “Semper Fi” which leads me down the rabbit hole of movie quotes. Health. I’ve had enough of worrying about my health, plus I have doctors orders not to work out too hard. I actually have an excuse to not make the “work out more” resolution! 

So what did I decide upon? Let me preface it with this… I kept ruling out option after option, but then it became quite clear to me. A few sermons I heard echoed this general idea and I felt myself naturally drawn to do the opposite, so I thought it a good choice. I cheated a bit though; it’s not an adjective and it really should have another word in front of it. I chose “(Be) present.” 

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often wander to to-do lists.  I forget to enjoy the “now.” Sometimes an urgency takes over rushing me to the next. I sometimes don’t relax well… “What should I do after this?”  But I want to be present and enjoy as much as possible of: chats over cups of tea, time reading on the couch with Samuel, walking and stretching my legs while Toby stretches all four of his, time praying to and praising God, gaining not just knowledge but wisdom. I want my mind focused on HIS will for me. His plan. Not my schedule.

One of my favorite parts of a new year is picking out my new day planner. That handy leatherbound book that will fill with appointment reminders, deadlines, and holidays. But this year I want it to hold less weight. I want to have a mindset of “now” and a flexibility that allows me to enjoy it. That calendar will remain only a little paper-filled book instead of a weight filling my mind.

I heard an excellent sermon lately from Rob Turner at Apex Community (from December 8th, 2013) on the topic of Entitlement. The entire sermon was convicting and thought-provoking, but one part truly hit home for me. He talked about how the meaning of Hebrews 12:1-2 tends to get warped. We take the “running the race” analogy the wrong way. He said that we set up miniature finish lines to mark our progress throughout life. I finished high school! I got married! I got that job! I finally took that trip! But this mindset causes us to always focus on the next finish line. For the last few months I’ve been focusing on moving to England, then having surgery, then starting grad school. With that mindset we’re always running a race or training for the next. But the finish line mentioned in this verse is not one of this world. Are we laying aside every weight as the verse says? Are we pressing on with joy in our day-to-day life as we serve God? The little accomplishments and tasks that mark our days are not what Paul was speaking of. We are daily running. Daily pressing on. No finish line tape to tear through yet… So, we must daily refocus our priorities. Daily recenter on Christ.

This year I will be present. Present with God. Present with friends. Present with family. Present in my life.

Happy New Year!