Wednesday, September 29, 2010

deep thoughts

I am a creature easily killed by monotony, but even I will readily admit there are some habits worth having. I have a few myself.

For example, when I'm driving I always stick my gum wrapper (if I have one) under my right leg. I'm not sure when or why I started doing this, but I'm glad I did. It saves me the trouble of interrupting whatever train of thought I might be riding when it suddenly occurs to me that my gum has lost its flavor, and wondering, "oh great ... where'd I put my wrapper?"

I just reach subconsciously under my leg and there it is, always. I recommend habits like this.

It may or may not interest the general public to know that the thoughts which initiated this missive were originally scrawled on the back of an unpleasant letter received weeks ago by the author (and long since resolved), while barreling down the highway at just about exactly 70 miles an hour. The letter had been haunting the interior of her purse for long enough, she thought, and anyway, she didn't have any other paper handy.


Keegan's dog, Shilo, is having puppies. Right. Now!

Two so far.

I'll keep you posted.

Ahh, new life. Nothing like it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cheap thrills

Tuesdays aren't always my favorite.

I mean, I like the things I do on Tuesdays ... I just do a lot of things on Tuesdays. Towards mid-afternoon, I generally start wondering, will this day never end?

So I've decided it will be a good idea to start looking for the happy little things that poke out at me from the midst of the frenzy that accompanies the third day of my week.


In spite of my failure to either find or make much time at all for cello practice during the preceding week, my lesson went off without anything quite exactly like a hitch. Good thing I have a patient teacher.

While waiting for my dear, indecisive sister to pick out a pair of sunglasses at Wal-Mart, I discovered a display in the midst of their usually-tacky cheap-jewelry-section, containing some necklaces I actually liked, for (only?) $5.00 each (they came with earrings). I bought two. Happy birthday to me, or something. One of them has a key and a heart on a longish chain. The other (which I really like) has an empty bird cage, and hooked a little higher on the chain, a bird in flight. It made me think of the verse from which I derived the title of this blog. Yeah, I like it - even though the clasp is really quite stiff.

The grain elevator is so busy right now with harvest getting underway, they asked my fellow cleaning girl and me if we'd mind coming half an hour later than usual this evening - which left me with a full fifty minutes (as opposed to the usual ten) free after piano lessons. (I know, the math doesn't work out - I'm usually running late, and I wasn't tonight.) I sat at the park, eating my convenience store supper in a leisurely manner, and reading Douglas Wilson's "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning" as the sun sank behind the trees. It was a blissful oasis of stillness and solitude.

A few people were still working at the elevator when we got there, in spite of the recalculated start time. So we got out our supplies, started in the back corner, and cleaned all the offices in the opposite order from what we always, unfailingly do otherwise. (My fellow cleaning girl is a much more systematic soul than I.) Have I mentioned that I love variety? Yeah ... I might be a little too easily amused.

On the radio driving home (at last) around 10:00, yet another hair-rippingly desperate, grief-stricken Daughtry song was immediately followed by the station's deep-throated mantra, "Iowa's best variety" - and then some unidentified number comprised mainly of perky, honking vocals and carnival noise. I laughed.

(meditative pause)

You know, I titled this post "cheap thrills" - but they're not cheap. They're costing me my life. Each one in succession finds me with a little more time behind me, a little bit less ahead. Oh, let me use what's in between for good!

(No, I'm not moody. Definitely not moody. Why would you say that?)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, what do you do...

...when life jumps out from behind a corner and bites you in the foot for no good reason at all?

...when you're tired in the morning, but not at night?

...when every last thing on your schedule seems to be vying for top priority?

...when you feel like the lone nincompoop in a world of experts?

...when fear holds you back from joy, and you're afraid to break the chains?

...when the day is too short and the list is too long?

...when all the voices of reason disagree amongst themselves, and you can't trust your own compass?

...when you know what you want, and you know that it's good, but you know you can't have it, or at least not yet?

...when you want to just trust everyone, but it turns out you can't?

...when you're tempted to just not trust anyone, but it turns out you must?

...when your heart says one thing, and your mind says three more, and your actions make up a pantomime of their combat?

...when you want to please everyone, and can't seem to please anyone, and know all the time that you should only really care about pleasing God?

...when all your good intentions just sit there and look at you, like what, were we supposed to do something?

...when you know you're supposed to be happy, but you just can't remember how?

What do you do?

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2Cor. 12:9)

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33)

I think you should sit down for a moment, and read passages like this, and drink up the promises, and remember.

It's not the end of the world, after all.

And if it is - well, hallelujah!

Friday, September 24, 2010


To anyone who's met me in person, it probably goes without saying that I err on the quiet side. Depending on my mood and how much sleep I've been making myself get, sometimes far on the quiet side. I often find this extremely vexing. I envy people with vibrant, bold personalities - people who stand up for things and speak their minds. They make it look so easy, so natural. It can be so hard for me - hard to remember, hard to do.

All this in spite of the fact that I know a personality switch on my part would change only the particular nature of my sins - not their pervasiveness or gravity. These things are rather easier to accept in theory than to really, truly believe.

But this morning in the quiet at work, somewhere between the cinnamon rolls and the lattes and the chocolate chunk cookies, something struck me.

I thought, what if God is letting me show myself initially to the world as a timid people-pleaser, so that as He grants me grace to learn courage (as I believe He is, a little and a little at a time), it will be only that much more evident that none but the hand of God could do this thing.

He used a runaway prince with a speech impediment to lead His people for forty years.

He used fishermen and tax collectors to lay the foundation of His Church.

He used a talking donkey once, for Pete's sake, to keep a man from destroying himself.

He can do something with little old me - and I hope and pray that He will.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

notes on a scandal

(or: a few things I've discovered in the more recent portion of my brief stay on this queer planet)

There are better and worse ways to make chai tea at home.

In spite of my thus-far non-habit of using them, I really like aprons - chiefly because they allow a cook to wipe her hands off on herself without a second thought.

It's delightfully acceptable to wear fuzzy socks to church, if you also wear boots and a long skirt to cover them up.

I guess my sister eats chocolate chips under stress (current example: Chinese checkers with Keegan).

Even I have my competitive moments.

According to Keegan, the only difference between himself and Justin Bieber is that he (by which I mean Keegan) doesn't have any recording contracts.

I hate changing clothes. One way to decrease stress on a Sunday afternoon is to leave on most of your church clothes - exchanging, perhaps, a skirt for a pair of jeans - and then making the minimal switch back to decency in time for the evening service.

I also hate brushing my teeth. (Don’t worry, I do it, I just don’t enjoy it.)I have yet to come up with a good solution for this problem. It’s possible there isn’t one.

However, I actually kind of enjoy washing dishes. I find this a little peculiar, but convenient.

Dark chocolate-hazelnut lattes are pretty good, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The trick: not to require it myself, yet not to neglect showing it to others.

Too bad it's so much easier to get it backwards.

Pretty much amazing that nothing is impossible with God - and He's on my side.

Or rather, I'm on His.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

pleasant places

So I had expectations regarding our first family vacation in probably twelve years (if I'm counting right).

So they weren't all met with any phenomenal degree of precision (a few came pretty close).

So I struggled for 2/3 of an afternoon with disappointment and general disgruntlement about the content of the above two sentences - and subsequently got over it.

So what?

It was a splendid time.

One thing I noticed on our last day at the cabin was what a seeming overabundance of cell phones our family posesses (that word has way too many s's in it). We recently discontinued our subscription to the conventional practice of using a land line - investing instead in a new total of five cellular communication devices. (So if you've been trying to call our home phone ... that's why it hasn't been working.)

At home it really is the next thing to a necessity to have so many, with all our various jobs and errands and projects and whatnot.

At the lake, it seemed superfluous. We were all together. Why these piles of phones? They mostly lay useless on the desk all week.

Part of me wishes we didn't need them. I wish life could go back to how it was when we were little, when if one of us went somewhere, all of us went somewhere. Simplicity - that was the word.

But our vacation this year wasn't just good because it was good to be together and relax and rejuvenate next to a beautiful lake. It was fun and lovely while it lasted, but to my surprise, when it was over I was ready to go home. I realized how much I love my life - how incredibly, out-of-this-world-amazingly God has blessed me.

With strange delight, I find that I'm not dragging my feet as I return to the real world. I'm excited to get back into giving piano lessons, taking cello lessons, cleaning elevator offices, working at coffee shops, playing with my favorite kids, trying new recipes, spending time with friends, even cleaning our perpetually messy house - not to even begin to mention all the projects I really should be working on, and haven't even started yet.

And I think that's what a vacation should be for. To step back, breathe easy for a few days while you take a good look at how good you have it - and then dive back in, all rested up and ready to go.

I sat in my car for a few minutes after I got home from work tonight, listening to the last track on Judy Rogers' Psalms CD. The moon was sliced in half in the dark September sky, grey clouds drifting across. So beautiful. So unearthly beautiful.

And then I noticed that the half-moon looked like the head on a body made of clouds, and I laughed because the beauty transcended my trivial, comedic mind, and encompassed it and embraced it, and laughed with me - and I was only an echo - only a happy echo.

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

(Psalm 16:5-6)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

lesson learned:


Don't try to paddle a canoe all the way across Lake Okoboji, and back again, on a windy day.

On the other hand, praise God for super-friendly people who help pull stranded canoes out of the water, and let Sacagawea-wannabes use their cell phones to call in the rescue squad.

Thank Him for strong, forgiving dads and brothers, too, who constitute the majority of said rescue squad.

We live and learn. At any rate, we live.

Ode to How Much Better I Feel When I Get Enough Sleep, and Take it Early

You stayed up late again last night.
This was not wise - you knew!
You wandered off to find your bed;
You changed your mind! Oh, silly head!
A Chopin film was on instead-
A choice you surely rue.

Remember back to days of yore-
It happened once or twice-
When sleep you found at early hours,
You dreamt of butterflies and flowers,
And woke with strange, refreshing powers-
Oh, how unearthly nice.

The grass was green when you arose;
The birds with vim did sing;
The sun might shine, or hide its face-
Small consequence, in either case,
For glad contentment found its place,
Whate'er the sky might bring.

With energy your tasks at hand
Were swiftly made complete.
You felt alive with each exhale,
And smiled to both succeed and fail;
Your foes ran off, their faces pale,
Full swathed in sore defeat.

Oh, go to bed on time tonight!
Forget not what you learned:
The night is dark and made for sleep-
You cannot sow and fail to reap-
These fleeting hours you cannot keep.
Be from this folly turned.

Your life will not be always bright-
The waves will still crash in;
But God made man to need his rest,
In order to be fully blessed
With strength to fight and live the best,
And find his rest in Him.

Sleep, sleep, beautiful sleep!
Sleep of the evening,
Beautiful sleep.

Friday, September 10, 2010

precip at the lake

I like rainy days.
I love thunderstorms.
I like eating waffles and fried ham for breakfast with my family.
I enjoy walking to the lodge in the rain with Cami, skipping out on our intended mission of asking for a key to the "rec check" building, and having an impromptu, possibly illegal piano concert in the abandoned auditorium.
I like spending three hours on a 550-piece puzzle with the above-mentioned sister.
I sort of like listening to the multiple episodes of "Bonanza" playing in the next room, and laughing because ... well, what else can you do?
I rather enjoy building a chain of dominoes across the dining room floor with Eli, even if we have to do it three times because someone keeps prematurely setting it off.
I get an inordinate amount of pleasure out of looking forward to eating freshly caught fish for supper.
I like the grey of the sky and the wind in the trees.
I like the angry, restless water.
I like the lush green, and everything wet.
I like my family a lot.
And I like peaches.
Not that we have any.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

day one, and bad kitchens

So here we are on the cation. So far the weather is perfect, and our cabin is quite nice. The boys are buying fishing bait with Dad, Mom is out for a run, Cami's eating a muffin, and I'm sitting on the couch (one of three actually) with a mug of coffee, a stack of books, and a laptop with no internet. What a life.

Apart from Keegan's dog inconsiderately breaking her leg shortly before we were supposed to leave (I'd like to say that's the last time she'll try to climb a six-foot fence, but that may be giving her intelligence more credit than it deserves), and a couple of friendly neighbors dropping by to chat and, incidentally, bump our intended departure time back by an hour or two (we love our neighbors, don't get me wrong) - anyway, apart from those things, yesterday went surprisingly according to plan. By early evening we were all here; we unpacked most of our vast supply of . . . supplies; we ate supper at Perkins (so much for all that food we brought); some of us watched a tennis match until midnight (miracle of the day: thanks to Dad, I think I actually understand the scoring system!); we slept like logs.

There's a stack of magazines on top of the fake fireplace here, that Cami and I were looking at while we waited to leave for supper last night. Most of them seem to be resources for the modern woman, anything from Oprah, to Country Living (ha ha, right?), to Home Decorating. Home decorating for millionaires, that is.

I found myself staring at a large photo of a beautiful designer kitchen at one point, trying to figure out why I hated it so much. It wasn't that I didn't like how it looked. It looked great. Excellent taste, excellent design. Quite lovely.

Then it struck me (I call myself Captain Obvious) that it was because that kitchen was not meant to be used. The framed photos at the back of the countertop, the bowl of fruit in the center of the island, the absolutely clean aura of the place - was not to be disturbed.

Frying hamburgers? Canning tomato juice? Kids running around? Nuh-uh. No touchy-touchy.

I flipped a few pages over to a similar spread, displaying a perfect living room. Same sensation. Perfect. Untouchable.

The very function and life purpose of a house is to be a home - to be used - to be lived in.

The kitchen was invented for cooking. The living room was invented for fellowship. The bedroom was invented for rest. The bathroom was invented for . . . well, you know what bathrooms are for.

To me, I guess the foundational problem is that these designer homes defy their created purpose. At the core, they're just not true.

Kind of like us, huh? Created for God's glory, living so often for our own? Small wonder that we can't find peace, can't rest, can't live. But praise be to God for seeing fit to gradually redesign us, to return us to the truth.

Ouch, when He breaks in pieces that expensive designer couch that kept me from inviting real people to come in and sit awhile. But - oh, hey! This is kind of nice . . . this is right . . . this is what I'm here for.

What a weird thing to write about the first day of vacation. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the cation

Family vacation: an American tradition, right? Maybe even somewhat of a Planet Earth tradition. But for one reason and another, our family hasn't gone on one since probably 1998 (I'm bad with dates), when all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents on my dad's side of the family gathered for a week at a camp near Lake Okoboji. Back in those days, I was a freakishly skinny string bean whose sense of fashion and decorum (judging from old photos, anyway) was even more prehistoric than it is now; my sister Cami was the sweetest, cutest thing you ever saw, and never said a word (some things never change, huh?) (just kidding - love you, Cami!); and my brother Keegan (now fourteen) was a chubby toddler, infamous for his absolute refusal to part with his beloved cowboy boots, and too small to understand that "vacation" was all one word - hence the invention of "the cation." Keegan made up a lot of words when he was small.

Anyway, the point is, we're going on a family vacation this year! We just decided to do it a few weeks ago, and we're going to the same lake as before - which, since we moved, is a grand total of thirty minutes from home.

But a vacation is a vacation, right? It'll be just our family, and none of us will have to go to work. We can swim, if by some weird chance it's hot out. We can sit in the sun and read, if the sun shines and books are handy. We can fish almost no matter what. We can play games and sing and read together if it rains (which it might). We can eat and take walks and photographs, shop a little and borrow our neighbors' canoes and kayaks. We can talk and be quiet, and just enjoy each other's company for awhile.

Who cares if it's September, and we're only half an hour from our house? I'm excited.

And now, since we're leaving in four hours, I should go pack.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Up before the sun, cold morning.
Sweatshirt and slicks, hair pinned up.
(Why? Home day! Why not?)
Snuggle up recliner,
giggling four year old lap warmer.
Reading Spurgeon...
Sam doesn't get it.
Explain in small words:
Song of Solomon,
Jesus died for us,
He loved us first,
now we love Him.
Maybe Sam gets it now.

no milk, two eggs, no bread.
Cinnamon, apples, raisins, honey.
Warm bowl, warm hands;
shivering shell of a body,
cinnamony-warm from the inside.

Kitchen table observatory.
Gentle sun kisses cold air,
reaching across low from the horizon.
Green grass, green leaves-
but not for long.
Sky is piercing blue, clear into forever.
All the world breathes deep.

Welcome back, September.
I missed you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

John 16:33

Possibly my new favorite verse (if one should have favorite verses, which one probably should not). Anyway, I love it.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

for those times when I don't do so well...

I don't know - maybe it's a firstborn thing. Maybe it's a girl thing. Maybe it's just a sin thing - but I've discovered in myself a strong (yet shockingly inconsistent) compulsion to always do everything "right." Or at least to feel unreasonably guilty when I don't. People-pleasing, I think they call it.

It really bothers me when I get to the end of the day, and all I can say to myself is, "Tierney, you just ain't done so good today." (Why bother with good grammar when everything else has already gone to pot?)

Sadly, this feeling gets to me most acutely over simple mistakes and blatant, visible sins - instead of the thousand times each hour that my heart was behind closed doors, kneeling before its own throne. To my shame, I'm often more perturbed by my mask falling off from time to time, than by the fact that I'm even wearing a mask in the first place.

Except when I stop to think about it . . . then they both bother me.

Today was kind of one of those days, at least in terms of "oops" moments.

I was blessed last month to start working for the most wonderful woman at her most wonderful little coffee shop, and I just love it. The harsh reality, however, is that this sensation of filial affection has so far done very little to abate my periodic episodes of startling ineptitude. I'm a newcomer to this gourmet scene. And I'm just kind of a spacey, distractable individual, prone to forget things that matter when they matter most.

I left home this morning just barely on time, only to get stuck behind an elderly driver in an elderly Grand Marquis, waiting in a no-passing zone for an approaching vehicle half a mile away to get past before making his left turn (I love elderly people to death - they just scare me a little on the road); and then again behind a semi-truck that took almost two miles to get up to speed (my love for semi-trucks, however, was slain in its infancy, if it ever existed at all).

Nobody is ever at the coffee shop right away when it opens; but I was still five minutes late, and as the sole employee of the day, that was just not Step One as it was intended to be taken. Lesson learned: just leave early.

I got what I'm pretty sure was my first-ever customer complaint today, which made me 1) panic; and 2) realize that I take life way too personally.

Later on, I made not one, but two trips to the grocery store because I forgot the first time that I was out of not one, but two ingredients for the frosting I was supposed to be making. Good thing I was working just a block or two from the store.

I think I accidentally charged at least one lady tax on an item that didn't need it. . .

And I came home to a letter in the mailbox, putting one of my other jobs in potential jeopardy due to past disorganization on my part, of a more technically serious nature than I had heretofore been aware. . .

And I didn't have supper ready until almost 7:45 (waffles might not have been the best of all possible choices). . .

And now my left knee hurts, probably because I've hardly worn anything (on my feet, silly) but flip-flops all summer.

But you know, it could have been worse. I think. And anyway, God will use it all for some kind of unimaginable purpose. And it's good for me to fall down, to fail sometimes. The confidence that comes from satisfactory performance is mostly fake, and in any case has its foundations set in play-doh.

So here I am at the end of the day, and all I can say to myself is, "Tierney, you ain't done too good today - but your God sure is good, and He's forgiven you, and tomorrow's a new day."

That's alright. I can live with that.

progress report

This one's for the record books:

So far I'm liking this "type" of blogging a lot better than my former approach. Of course, one hopes that I will periodically comment on subjects of a depth slightly greater than what is inherent in furniture and cement bricks; but we'll get there, hopefully.

In the meantime, I find it strangely liberating to let go of what (I can now see) was becoming an idol to me, with regards to my writing. Both the writing itself, and the feedback of other people. I am so needy - practically every time I would post something on my old blog, I would check obsessively for comments, and lose a significant portion of my self-worth when none were forthcoming.

"All that work, the best I could do - and still, nobody likes it? Oh, woe is me, the scum of the earth!"

Yeah, it was time to let go.

My challenge to myself with this blog is to look for the joy in the ordinary things of life, and to just write every day about something.

At present, three of the four posts I've posted have exactly (0) comments on them - and I could hardly care less. Quite possibly this is at least partly because I haven't poured hours of work and most of my heart's blood into their creation.

I've also discovered that I write, perhaps not best, but at least most easily, under two particular conditions:
1. in the morning;
2. when I've been reading good writing.

Good endings are so difficult. So important.

This post just isn't going to have one.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

caffeine, furniture, joy

First things first: in spite of my dismal prediction, I did survive all day yesterday without a drop of any form of caffeine. After writing that I surely could never do such a thing, I became very miffed with myself for unnecessarily creating a situation from which I could not emerge alive without the aid of artificial stimulants, and decided to give myself a lesson in Not Being Stupid.

I also thought, hey – maybe if I let myself suffer the full, un-medicated consequences of my rather foolhardy behavior, I’ll finally decide it’s just not a worthwhile habit to keep up.

Smart, huh? Only took me nearly 21 years to figure it out. Einstein would be so impressed.

I’ll be coffee-shopping tomorrow, though (by which I mean, working at a coffee shop – not shopping for coffee beans), so I probably won’t escape un-caffeinated. Some things just aren’t worth trying to resist.

Funny the things a person will come up with to dream about. I have big, impossible dreams coming out of my ears, but the thing that's really been gently tugging at my heartstrings lately is. . .

. . .a desk.

Yep, a desk, to sit at and write, to put books and maybe a picture frame on, and to keep things in the drawers.

I like to think that I'm not fussy, but I guess I kind of am. It has to be a simple desk (not a roll-top), but not super plain, and definitely not ugly. Inexpensive, and not too big (but not super extremely small, either) Maybe a slightly beat-up one, with some ornament and character to it, that I could refinish or paint, and make my own.

And it absolutely must set under, or at least very near to, a window - preferably one with a decent view. A stunning view would be even better, but you can't have everything.

Realistically, would I use a desk enough to make it worthwhile? I thrive on variety, so chances are in favor of my using it a lot at first, during its brief stint as a novelty, then abandoning it for large chunks of time while I root around for new crannies to sit in.

But right now, it sounds perfectly lovely, and I want one. It would be a fun project, anyway.

In fact, the place where my dresser is would make a nearly perfect writing spot: cheery yellow walls and a south-facing window, plus it's in my bedroom, so it wouldn't invade anyone else's space. Maybe I should throw out most of my clothes, junk the dresser, and buy a desk to put there instead.

I was at a thrift store this afternoon, and found this wonderfully amazing solid oak dining table – with six chairs, even – for (drum roll, please) only $150. It is, admittedly, in need of a certain amount of TLC. But it’s so beautiful, and I’d love to learn to refinish furniture – I am so tempted to buy it, I’m almost positive I’ll have to choose between doing it, and hating myself forever for not doing it.

And what, I suppose you’re wondering now, would I ever do with a huge dining room table and six chairs? For now . . . I haven’t got the foggiest idea.

But that’s not the point, now, is it?