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All Shall Be Well

My friend Julia Bloom, who is also one of my favorite singers and songwriters, released a new song yesterday. It was an honor to be able to collaborate with her by contributing my photography for the video. The lyrics are from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, and the melody and harmonies are simply beautiful.

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Winter Berries at Sunset

Winter Berries at Sunset

I’m taking a cue from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy and Katie at Cakes, Tea and Dreams and asking the question, “What’s saving my life right now?” I love this discipline of focusing on the positive things, as little as they may seem.

This verse comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

This one, too:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Here are some of the things that I am thankful for, or, that are saving my life, this winter:

  • Lighting candles. I bought a couple of brass candlesticks in November and lit tapers every time I had friends over during the holidays and burned through several candles. I light them when I’m home alone, too. The glow from just two candles can fill an evening with comfort and warmth.
Candles are meant to be lit.

Candles are meant to be lit.

  • Hosting family and friends. In December, I hosted a Christmas party for my small group, a Lessons and Carols service, dinner and movie nights, Christmas Eve with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and six-year-old niece. In January, I hosted a pizza and game night, spent an afternoon watching movies with my niece, and hosted my small group. I love having people over and I love making memories in my little house.
Late night pie

Late night pie

Morning at home

Morning at home

  • Lavender Body Butter. Minnesota winters are dry, resulting in extremely dry skin. My hands  I bought a jar of this body butter at a roadside stand on the Old Mission Peninsula while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan two summers ago and it was well worth it. I’m sensitive to harsh chemicals and fragrances, and lotions tend to make my skin drier. This body butter is fabulous. On my desk at work, I keep a bar of hard lotion that my mom made from many of the same ingredients.
  • Hot Chocolate. I love coffee and tea, both. But this winter I rediscovered my childhood love: hot chocolate. I gave Smitten Kitchen’s Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix to my coworkers last Christmas, and made some for myself as well. I have savored many marshmallow-topped mugs this winter.
Cuppa Hot Chocolate

Cuppa Hot Chocolate

  • 5ft inf. I don’t know how or when I discovered this website and Instagram feed, but I’m sure glad I did. The cheerful and creative arrangements of flowers and objects are like Vitamin D for my soul.
  • Sunsets. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the sun set after I got off work. That is a hopeful sign indeed. The darkest days are past and spring isn’t far off. While winter is lovely, I savor the little signs of warmer and brighter days ahead.
The sun sets after 5 pm!

The sun sets after 5 pm!

It’s a Brand New Year

Well, it was a brand new year. On New Year’s Day, I joined a Writers’ Consortium with the goal of beginning to write my family history this year. Almost as an afterthought, I added that I would like to publish at least two blog posts a month. I was tempted to commit to two a week, but I decided to set the bar low. Apparently, it wasn’t low enough. I blinked, and January flew by.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Psalm 27:13

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Psalm 27:13

I’ve been enjoying the month’s snowy enchantment and dark evenings. It’s perfect for hibernating and practicing hygge. There have been countless mugs of tea and hot chocolate, game nights, books read under wool blankets by Christmas tree and candlelight, movie nights, books discussions, and snowshoeing adventures.

Hot chocolate in a Rabbit Room mug and The Molehill Volume Three make for good company on a dark, snowy night.

Hot chocolate in a Rabbit Room mug and The Molehill Volume Three make for good company on a dark, snowy night.

I have yet to put the tree away. In my defense, all of the Christmas ornaments are put away. Garland, sparkly blue snowflakes, and golden birds are all that remain on the flocked branches, so it’s more of a winter tree than a Christmas tree. It provides so much light and cheer on dark evenings, I haven’t been able to haul it back down to the basement yet. Soon, though. Its days are numbered.

I sure love the winter skies.

I sure love the winter skies.

To any faithful readers out there, I really do hope to be a faithful blogger in 2015. Thank you for all of your encouragement and kind words. This is 29 days late, but I wish you all a wonderful and blessed year!

The Daily Dash

I hope to blog about some highlights and favorites of 2014 soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d mention here that my cat Dashwood started a blog of his own (with a little help from his human). You can read about his antics here.

Mr. Dashwood enjoys big cups of coffee, long books, and cuddling on cold nights.

Mr. Dashwood

Snow-Covered Cheery Hill Cottage

Cheery Hill Cottage in the Snow

It may not be astronomical winter, but it sure feels like it. Here in southern Minnesota, our first snow started to accumulate late last Monday night. I happened to have our first snow-covered day off. I put on some Christmas music, lit a candle, and made ginger spice cookies.

Delightfully cozy on the first snow-dusted evening

Delightfully cozy on the first snowy evening

Last week, I read this article explaining why Denmark is the happiest country on earth despite their long, dark winters. In one word: hygge. It’s a concept that’s hard to explain in English, but has to do with coziness, togetherness, and well-being. It’s defiant merriment. I like to think my Danish ancestors settled here in Minnesota because there are more opportunities to practice hygge. Maybe that’s why I’m still here, not 20 miles from where my great great grandparents settled all those years ago?

Winter Skies

Winter Skies

I hope to practice hygge and hospitality this winter. Winter can be long, but I’m thankful for the cold weather. Without the cold, we wouldn’t have this:

I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by snowflakes. At least I hope not!

I don’t think I’ll ever cease to be amazed by snowflakes. At least I hope not!

Because of the bitter cold, nights spent like this are more satisfying:

Enjoying the hospitality of friends -- and their warm fireplace!

Enjoying good conversation, the hospitality of friends, and their warm fireplace!

Because it’s dark by the time I get off work, I spend more time reading. And every time I sit down to read, this dashing kitty curls up by my side:

Mr. Dashwood enjoys big cups of coffee, long books, and cuddling on cold nights.

Mr. Dashwood enjoys big cups of coffee, long books, and cuddling on cold nights.

They’re saying this may be a milder winter. I don’t want to get my hopes up, because March (and May) of 2013 is still fresh in my memory. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime I’ll say, along with Jason Gray, let the winter come.

Crossing into Winter

Crossing into Winter

 

Autumnal Splendor

This fall was brilliant. Here’s proof:

xx

This whole field of flowers was dancing in the evening breeze.

When in Iowa...

I turned down a gravel road in the middle of Iowa and met this cow.

"I do like a road..."

“I do like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at the end of it.” –The Story Girl, Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Morning Light

The Morning Light

An evening meal for sparrows

An evening meal for sparrows

Pilgrim at Maple Creek

Pilgrim at Maple Creek

EBB quote

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; And only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”  –E. B. Browning

I had to walk to work one week because I had two flat tires. If hadn't walked, I would've missed this tree. This tree! I still can't quite believe it, and I saw it...

I had to walk to work one week because I had two flat tires. If hadn’t walked, I would’ve missed this tree. This tree! I still can’t quite believe it, and I saw it…

Oak leaves ablaze in the evening sun

Oak leaves ablaze in the evening sun

Cheery Hill through the cheery tree

Cheery Hill through the cheery tree

I found every color of leaf this year, including rare blue leaves. This has been identified as jewelweed by my high school IB Bio teacher.

I found every color of leaf this year, including rare blue leaves. This has been identified as jewelweed by my high school IB Bio teacher.

A walk in the yellow woods

A walk in the yellow woods

October days are best spent under ruby oaks, golden maples, and sapphire skies.

October days are best spent under ruby oaks, golden maples, and sapphire skies.

These pink maple trees amazed me.

These coral maple trees amazed me.

Follow the moss-covered path.

Follow the moss-covered path.

This is my Father's world

This is my Father’s world

My mom spotted these violet leaves on a walk in the state park.

My mom spotted these violet leaves on a walk in the state park.

These four maples put on quite the show this year. I'm pretty sure they were yellow last year.

These maples put on quite the show this year. I’m pretty sure they were yellow last year.

Wildflowers

Asters in the prairie wind

All this color on one branch...

A kaleidoscope

Jewelweed revisted

Jewelweed revisted

I love how the golden leaves are set on fire by the day's last light.

I love how the golden leaves are set on fire by the day’s last light.

Beauty underfoot

Beauty underfoot

Sunset at the end of my street

Sunset at the end of my street

Fading colors of late October

Fading colors of late October

Ginkgo, aka maidenhair, aka goldilocks

Ginkgo, aka Maidenhair, aka Goldilocks

Illumination on the last day of October

Illumination on the last day of October

November woods

November woods

And now this remains.

And now this remains.

100 Years

Earlier this year, I stopped at the local used bookstore on my lunch break. As I scanned the shelves in the back room of that shabby, ivy-covered brick building by the railroad tracks, a title caught my eye: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.

A Diary of Private Prayer

A couple of years ago, when Andrew Peterson wrote about the book on The Rabbit Room, I bought an old edition. I had never seen the book anywhere else, up until that afternoon in the bookshop. I slipped it from its snug spot on the shelf, turned it over in my hands, and inhaled the dusty scent. It was the same edition. I lifted the cover to read this inscription:

Inscription

What?! It looked like my Grandma Lorraine’s handwriting, and she lived in Minneapolis in 1967… I have since confirmed with my dad and two aunts that, surely enough, it is my grandma’s handwriting!

Grandma Stewart

Lately, I’ve been reading her autobiography. When she was in her 70s and couldn’t sleep, she sat at her typewriter and composed a 31-page memoir. I read this today: “The Lord really works in mysterious ways.” Indeed!

Grandma Car

Today is her 100th birthday. She died a little over 18 years ago, shortly after I turned 16, but her legacy lives on. I have a lot to thank her for, not the least of which is a godly heritage–and a love of books!

Grandma and Grandpa Kopp

Happy 100 years, Grandma! I love you!