Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Things Learned & Completed in February

February was much too short! I spent three weekends in a row traveling around my new home state and that really enabled me to emerge from my Hobbit-hole and live life to the fullest. Being out in nature, exploring new places, being around people, and allowing myself to receive love from the beautiful people in my life poured some light into my melancholy spirit. I can't say I have been clinically depressed, but due to hard events in the past year, I have been in a prolonged state of deep sadness and hurt and seeking healing. It was nice to feel like I could breathe more naturally for once, even if the sadness hasn't left.

So, onto my list of what I have learned and completed....

1. My in-laws are really special people. Well, I already knew this about them when we first met in June 2012, but it is confirmed to me again and again every time my husband and I spend a weekend with them. They are generous in ways I cannot even comprehend and, Lord willing, I want to be as loving and selfless as my mom/father-in-law someday. It seems to flow naturally from them and I adore their simple approach to life.

2. I managed to read 3 books in a matter of weeks. Anne of Windy Poplars was an absolute delight. Although I am reading the Anne series somewhat out of order, it is easy to follow through with the unique plots and characters introduced in each book. This series makes me smile and I am appalled that I never read them sooner in my life! The other two books I completed were Ten Poems to Set You Free and Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime by Roger Housden. I learned about some new 20th century poets that, to my surprise, I really enjoyed. I found myself savoring all of the poetry selections. I found some emotional rest in pouring myself into these refreshing books.

3. I learned a bit of the fascinating history behind famous historical sites in Santa Fe, NM. The Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Mission, and the St. Francis Cathedral were the main places I visited. Pictures from my visit there are from my first-anniversary post here.

4. Jemez Springs, NM may be an incredibly tiny town that is easy to overlook, but I have learned that it is a tucked away retreat! The trails that weave in between the mountains and along Jemez River are so wild and gorgeous! The southwest feel of the few shops and eateries makes it such a cozy place! Best of all, the Giggling Springs outdoor soaking pool is the most relaxing oasis ever! My husband and I spent the day there for my 25th birthday and it was divine! I emerged from that mineral pool feeling 100%, physically and mentally/emotionally, something I haven't experienced in a long time. If you read the list of minerals in the water, then it all makes sense why it makes one feel on top of the world! :)

5. Coconut flour pairs well with bananas! I attempted to bake a berry cobbler with coconut flour earlier this month that did not turn out well at all. It was edible, but lacked flavor and it was too moist and just, overall, uninteresting. So, I switched it up and tried a simple Coconut, Banana, Chocolate Chip cookie recipe, which you can try here, and they were so delicious and the texture was perfect! I am trying to eliminate the amount of grains and unrefined/refined flours I am consuming, so Coconut Flour seemed like the more beneficial and healthier option.

6. Etsy is my new way to receive inspiration for future DIY projects. Whether in fashion, home decor, gifts, decorations, or jewelry, Etsy rocks my socks!

7. I learned about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is actually more wide-spread than many of us think due to the fact that it doesn't physically appear as a dangerous illness. I didn't know what to think when I watched this video. No doubt this is a very devastating genetic illness, but I can't wrap my head around how thankful and happy the lady in this video is. She is the face of true child-likeness and humility.

8. I've learned that reading is partly what inspires my writing. I have experienced a very long drought in my writing projects, but just last night experienced a little spark of creativity after reading a book. I often feel this way after reading a book and, although I don't always act on it, it has definitely brought a flood of ideas and meditations.

9. Life has seasons. Life has seasons. Life has seasons. I learn this every day. I repeat this to myself every day. I need to remember this every day because it helps me to rest.

10. I am learning to enjoy who I am. It has taken me 25 years to get to this point. 25 years of being confused by my intense, romantic, extreme, and idealistic nature, then understanding but disliking myself, then attempting to change myself, putting myself through lots of self-flagellation and forcing myself into molds that couldn't fit me longer than a short season. Those closest to me have seen every all these transitions and, honestly, it hasn't always been pretty. What is most interesting about this is that my husband, Nolan, has been the only one who hasn't seen all the different Erika-types that I drifted in and out of. He has only ever seen me for who I truly am. And he has accepted all of me, even when it has been excruciating and painful at times. I feel like I am becoming more of my true self since he has been in my life. Not because he himself is the source of my life, but because my raw edges rub against his and all that is truly me is being brought up to the surface. I always say that my husband taught me grace. Not because he knew it better than me or practiced it more consistently. He is just as much a human as I am. But he is a man that was humbled and touched by grace in the midst of darkness and there is a reservoir of life in him that always remembers this and seeks to extend it to others even when he is imperfectly walking it out.
 All this to say, his acceptance of the real me is what is making me more truly myself, more relaxed in my skin, more delighted in the way I see life through rose-tinted AND depressingly-blue smudged glasses. I don't feel comfortable preaching self-love here, but rather an acceptance and appreciation of one's self. To think that my Father in heaven stitched me together this way because He delighted in this combination that is me! It is more than I can fathom. But what if I just told Him "thank you" for making who I am a delight to His heart?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

prayer minstrel: Josh Garrels

It has been several months since my last Prayer Minstrel post. I figured I should break that cycle and post another one!

Josh Garrels. You'd think this guy came straight out of Portland, Oregon, but he's actually from Indiana. He is pretty much the epitome of a hipster who collided into Jesus. A pretty fab combination if I do say so myself! He is one of those musicians that accompanies you throughout life's seasons. I first began listening to him in early 2012 when I saw a free download for one of his albums online. I don't think you can place his music into one particular style. From folk-country, rap, indie, to acoustic groove. He is very colorful with his songs and instrumental arrangements. I love it when an artist can blend together their own unique style without trying to either imitate the styles that are popular nowadays or make something so out-of-the-box weird that you're left figuring out what exactly they are trying to create. Garrels is a visionary and pioneer as a musician. There are few out there, particularly in the Christian music scene, that are moving ahead with as much vigor as he. I think it is especially profound when you cannot just label an artist as Christian. He doesn't fit into one category because his music transcends those bounds. He uses themes that unite all dimensions of humanity but also pulls listeners back to their Creator. He is specific without being preachy, but all-encompassing without being vague. Good job, Garrels. I predict his music will outlast generations.

While I enjoy weaving together the right words to reflect an artist's music, I am compelled to summarize Garrels with these words from Joshua Hedlund at Indie Vision Music.

Josh Garrels has done it again, using his well-developed creations to sing (and occasionally speak) about the richness of God’s creation. The first third gives us more of the layered indie sound of Jacaranda, the middle section hits on some of the folky campfire sounds of his older work or of Lost Animals, and the last act shows Garrels continuing to develop himself as an artist with soundtrack-worthy offerings. The musical grooves would still be interesting and encouraging without the lyrics (there aren’t many musicians who can get away with five wordless tracks on an album), but it’s the poetry that really sets Josh Garrels apart, expounding upon oceanic themes to celebrate adventure, life, love, community, and home.

Perhaps this is what I love most about Garrels music. He is a fellow-pilgrim on his way to Glory and this sense of travel is evident in his songs. He even manages to capture intimate glimpses of his humanity, the grace of God that surrounds us in pain, and the sweet relationship we have with Christ our Lord. His lyrics are earthy, but rich and beautiful. His voice, although warbly at times, is deep with resonance and somehow you just end up loving his voice for its unique qualities. The gentleness of his voice is evident throughout all of his albums, even when he is rapping there is nothing harsh or grating about it. All of his musical arrangements are like a painting! Orchestral, intimate,and organic, it feels like you're listening to a film soundtrack. Another evident part of his music is his connection to the creation of earth. Maybe that is the organic aspect to his songs. Garrels even shares his affection for the wild: “I’ve always had a deep connection with the woods, fields, and lakes. They somehow make me feel free and timeless, yet also brave and purposeful. My dad was an avid walker, and would take my family on hikes in the woods. All through my life, when I’ve been in the midst of a personal crisis, hurt, or spiritual need, I’ve gone to nature to pray, think, and even scream and cry.” {source}

His album, Love & War & The Sea In Between is deeply personal to me because it was something I listened through some tough and joyful transitions of my life. There isn't a song on there that I don't find myself absolutely obsessing over. Even now, as I play the songs I recall the days that his music accompanied and the bittersweet tint that filled those moments. Josh is a rustic poet and he knows how to place this earthly life into memorable songs. A perfect example of this is found in his song, Beyond the Blue.

 Stand on the shores of a site unseen
The substance of this dwells in me
Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep
But the eye’s of my heart anchor the sea
Plumbing the depths to the place in between
The tangible world and the land of a dreams
Because everything ain’t quite it seems
There’s more beneath the appearance of things
A beggar could be king within the shadows,
Of a wing

And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn
To listen, to love, and to pray and discern
And to do the right thing even when it burns
And to live in the light through treacherous turns
A man is weak, but the spirit yearns
To keep on course from the bow to the stern
And throw overboard every selfish concern
That tries to work for what can’t be earned
Sometimes the only way to return is to go,
Where the winds will take you

And to let go, of all, you cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond,the blue

Yellow and gold as the new day dawns
Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long
To dance and rejoice and sing her song
And rest in the arms of a love so strong
No one comes unless they’re drawn
By the voice of desire that leads em’ along
To the redemption of what went wrong
By the blood that covers the innocent one
No more separation
Between us.

So lift your voice just one more time
If there’s any hope may it be a sign
That everything was made to shine
Despite what you can see
So take this bread and drink this wine
And hide your spirit within the vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe

And let go, of all, we cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond, the blue

Said I let go, of all, I could not hold onto
For the hope, I have, in you

Josh Garrels in his element.

 Perhaps even best of all is that Garrels is a family-man. The love for his wife comes across in a couple of his songs, as well as in his video for Little Blue, in which his wife accompanies him to sing and play the xylophone. How can you not adore this guy?

 There are two songs, which I've posted with lyrics below, that seem timeless and ancient to me: Words Remain and Good Friday. There is something about the combination of words, his voice, and song arrangement that really encompass the soul-cry of a man uniting himself with the spirit, the flesh, the death, and the resurrection, and the hope of Christ Himself. I can imagine both these songs came out of a very deep place of introspection, loss, and soul-tribulation for Garrels. They are haunting, like a prayer one cries in a shadowed place where the death of Christ is manifested and personalized. There is a weeping quality evident in Garrels voice as he sing-cries the last words of both songs. Both are tremendously powerful and leave the listener with a resounding silence and the image of the Cross to behold.

I want to share his entire albums on this one post, but that would be ridiculous! I highly recommend you check out his songs on Youtube (they are all on there!) and then go purchase them via Amazon or wherever!

Flood Waters
Higher than the yonder mountain and deeper than the sea
From the breadth of the east unto the west
Is the love that started with a seed

Stronger than the wildest horses and the rising tide
The chords of death hung so heavy round our necks
Will be left at the great divide

Flood waters rise, but it wont wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than graves

Farther than the pale moon rises upon the open plains
Past the time of the longest blood line
There shines an immortal flame

Somewhere in between forever and this passing day
There's a place moth and rust cannot lay waste
This is grace, the face of love

Flood waters rise, but it wont wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than grave

(lyrics I posted early in my post)

Pilot Me
I will arise and follow you over
Savior please, pilot me
Over the waves and through every sorrow
Savior please, pilot me
When I have no more strength left to follow
Fall on my knees, pilot me
May your sun rise and lead me on
Over the sea's, savior pilot me
O' Lord

Words Remain
Heaven and the earth will pass away
But your words all remain

And my hands are growing old
And weary with pain
Still I fold them to pray

To the one unchanged
Yesterday and today
I will try to stay awake
Take my last breath of faith
As I wait for you to come

Take me beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By your word, spirit, and blood

It was prophesied long ago
Every word set in stone

Not one will pass away
Or walk alone
All that I own

Does not compare
To the love that we share
Please remember me

When the hour arrives
And you must decide
If you'll wait for me to come

Take you beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By my word, spirit, and blood

 Good Friday
 Broken wing, forgotten dream, shattered thing
That a mans hands can’t ever truly mend

Shadow land, desert sand, a man searches
For a love that’ll never die

Truth be known, you’re not alone
Your aching bones will find a home
In place where God he sets us free

Wake me up before you go
I will listen for the sound of your voice

Hear the wind in the trees
It goes where it please
Like the breath in me

And all who have breath can sing

When we laid your body down
In earth and in the ground
Oh child, rest your soul.

Will a hope be made good
When a word is understood
In the day, will we see you again?

Gather round, hear the sound
Of a story that’s so old that it’s been told
Before time

He was born in the flesh and the blood
In a world that was dark as hell, and dead in sin

Born of the spirit, and the virgin child
He’s the son of God, son of man

I didn’t recognize that look in his eyes
When they cried
With a sorrow that no man has ever known

Hang him high, watch him die, hear the cry
Crucified up on that God forsaken tree

And all who have breath can sing

When we laid your body down
In the earth and in the ground
Oh Lord, rest your bones

Will a hope be made good
If your words are understood
In the day, will we see you again

Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

First Anniversary in Santa Fe

Our official first year photo taken outside of Los Alamos, NM.
My dear husband planned a fun getaway to Santa Fe for our first anniversary this past weekend. Having only passed through Santa Fe once in my life, it was really enjoyable to stay a night there and take time walking through the main plaza, savoring all the rich colors and earthy architecture! These first pictures are of the hotel we stayed in. It was quite enormous and I enjoyed staying somewhere more fancy than I am accustomed to.

The view from our hotel room window. Pure loveliness!
We ate lunch at a quaint little place called Tia Sophia's and, afterward, we roamed all the shops and places around the Plaza. There were some many hidden stores with gorgeous textiles, jewelry, and apparel! I was in heaven!

The St Francis Cathedral and Basilica was even more beautiful than I was expecting!

 Nolan walking the labyrinth just for laughs! haha!

The Loretto Chapel with the legendary spiraling staircase!

 The San Miguel Mission. The oldest church in Santa Fe.

Here is a very neat glimpse into the original 1600s adobe steps leading up to the sanctuary. It is built over now, but it was very fascinating that they were able to preserve them. 

Here is a spontaneous shot I took of Nolan standing next to the oldest home in Santa Fe. 

And, here I am, dressed up for a dinner date with my husband. I asked him for a fancy night out and although he is not a big fan of dressing up, he was pleased to make it a special evening for the two of us!

My husband smoking his cigar on the rooftop of the Eldorado hotel, overlooking Santa Fe.  

We ate the most delicious and fancy dinner at La Plazuela inside the La Fonda hotel. It was my choice for the evening and I am glad my husband enjoyed it, too! The gelato there was to die for!

These last snapshots are random. These words I wrote to my husband in the snow are from our drive up to and past Los Almos on our last day. The photo of us sitting is from an intimate little coffee shop we found next to the Loretto Chapel in which my husband fell madly in love with their iced coffee! The last picture is of some anniversary gifts and three delicious French pastries from Santa Fe (probably the best pastries I have ever eaten in my life!).