Category Archives: Slice of Life

Surprise! It’s a TUNNEL!!!!


Rosalyn Eves recently posted a short video to her facebook of the reactions of babies going through tunnels. At first, they are comfortable in their carseats reclining in the daylight – perhaps gazing out a window, looking at their parents, distracted, or even crying. The car they are riding in enters a tunnel and the darkness is instant. Their innocent countenances change just as quickly. They are shocked, afraid, surprised, overwhelmed, delighted, or frozen in complete awe of what has occurred. Beams from passing cars rhythmically illuminate their faces and their big, round eyes.

Surprises can catch us in the just the same way. Suddenly, we are thrown into a new environment and all we can do is stare ahead and wonder how it happened. Sometimes we look desperately for the light at the end of the tunnel in order to get out of the situation, but other times we are hypnotized by the transcendent beauty of the surprise – like walking with your head down around a corner of a new city and the high city blocks open up into a plaza where an orchestra is playing.

We tend to not remember the days that are boring. We are on the treadmills of our lives – waking, bathing, school, work, eating, sleep – but there are days when a surprise box is delivered to our doorstep. Those are the days we remember. I think of some of those moments of my life:

The day, as a child, when my Mom opened the front door and my Dad stood all tall and handsome with a suitcase in his hand. He was coming back to live with us after a year-long separation. He set down the suitcase and opened his arms.

The day I was supposed to go to the university when a letter was slipped under my door with a request to pack my swimsuit and go to the train station. I started that day on the coast of Italy eating cheese and good bread and ended it kissing under a lavender sunset.

It was the middle of the night when a small voice cried my name from the next room. It was the last word I heard my Grandma say. I ran in to find her small and turning cold.

After two years of trying to get pregnant, the test finally said yes. My first baby was coming. I was so overwhelmed I ran and ran and ran until collapsing on my knees.

The day the call came in that they finally figured out what had been wrong for so long. My Dad had stage-three colon cancer.

There are many more moments when I was overtaken by events and I caught my breath. I am grateful for them all.

If only we could think of each day as a surprise and a wonder – because how we react when we go into the daily tunnel of our life is what it is all about.

What is a surprise that threw you into a tunnel of blackness or beauty?

A Body Journey

backpackerWhen I think of long journeys, I imagine a silver train slinking through the Russian landscape at twilight or a lone backpacker traipsing through the rainforest. I never imagined the journey I have been on for the last thirty days. One I had been preparing for a long time, but was unaware of it. I did not have any bags to pack. They had been packed already. No new shoes to purchase, because this journey was done in bare feet. I did have to buy a ticket, but I never had to leave my home. For the last thirty days, I have participated in the “I love my body diet.” It was a journey in finding love for myself again. Its an odd name, since there is no food involved, just a daily assigned exercise to increase awareness about oneself and a group of women who talk every day over social media about their experiences. Many of us posted videos as well. I have NEVER experienced close feelings with a group so fast. We were vulnerable and open and supported one another through this process.

The exercises were exploratory. Here are some examples. “Write 25 things you love about yourself.” or “See yourself in everyone. You are me and I am you. This is what you want to be thinking today. Look at others and see yourself in them. Let them be a mirror to you and discover where you are inside. See if there is something you can learn from each person you come in contact with today.” Or this exercise, “Write a love letter to your body. Tell your body all the things you want to experience with it. Let it feel your love through your words.” Many had a hard time with this one. “Stand in front of your husband naked and say, “I love my body” as many times as you can.” There was always something new to do that forced me to take a hard look at my thoughts and feelings.

One of the first exercises I did was a process of finding value statements for my body. However, to come to that it was required that you write down the things that you dislike about your body and your feelings toward it. I just looked back on that for the first time today. “I am short-waisted, short, short-limbed with arms like a quarterback. I look like an apple on sticks. I don’t like my double chin and wrinkles around my eyes. I have boobs that are way too large. My skin is dry, flaky, bumpy and my hair is thin. Things I resemble: T-Rex, Captain Kirk, Dolly Parton, Snookie, Queen Elizabeth in her older years.” As I read these phrases thirty days later, they do not even resemble my feelings any longer.

This is part of what I wrote yesterday when we had to go through each of our body parts and write what messages they have for us. Notice the difference:
“Hair- Keep working with me. I won’t let you down. The right hairstyle for your personality and face will come. Be bold. Don’t be afraid. Skin – Thank you for always being willing to learn life lessons from me. Eyes – Be awake – open – open – open to all possibilities. Arms – Please stop putting me down. Never again. We are strong and have carried much. Be grateful. Love me. Knees – Get on me more! We were made to worship and be humble. Ankles – We are free. Never wobbly, never wavering, no bondage. Feet – We are tiny, careworn, but wisdom-filled. Walking in the Lord’s paths of righteousness. We will carry you to your destiny.” My last body message was “I send love to all my body and all my parts. I send strength and a message of deep respect, awe, care, and compassion. I send forgiveness and gratitude.”

As all good journeys, this one has changed me. I brought home a great souvenir. I never realized before now that I had always thought of my body and spirit as enemies. One was always trying to pull the other in its direction. If my body felt heavy and encumbered, so did my spirit. If my spirit was sad, my body ate. Now I view them as best friends. They work together as one toward bettering myself. They house each other – a Russian nesting doll of love.

Have you had a similar journey? What life lessons did you learn?
Are you needing to take the same journey? Do you love your body?

If you would like more information, the creator of #ilovemybodydiet, Jennifer Lamprey, can be contacted on facebook or at http://jenniferlamprey.com/product/i-love-my-body-diet/

Dear Christmas

Photography by Folkert Gorter, Superfamous Studios

I’m not feeling merry. Festive has fled, and while there is tinsel winding its hairy way around the lounge room furniture, I’m counting down to the new calendar and year that sparkles and glitters just a few days away.

This year has been a beautiful mess. Difficulties have kept me company and awake more nights than I’d like to consider, and answers to prayers have left me furious. I’ve made some friends this year (a miracle in itself) and I’ve been blindsided by generosity and danced myself giddy at opportunities. It’s been a beautiful mess of a year, no doubt about it.

And if someone else wishes me a merry Christmas I may not be able to stop myself shoving their Santa hat down their shirt.

I don’t want a merry Christmas. I would like a merciful Christmas. I want one for dear ones, first off. For two friends in particular, one who is weathering the first Christmas after the passing of her firstborn son, and one who is gathering the silken, sharp hours of her mother’s last Christmas. I want a merciful Christmas for them both, softly delivered like countless hugs and tears melting in the neck creases of loved ones. I want the mercy of a solid nap for them, of belly laughs and clasped hands, of whispered words lifting the weight of their bones, lightening strikes of joy, peace or even generous forgetfulness, all of it shoved determinedly into an odd little parcel then slipped in their pocket. Continue reading

Gifts of the Bookish Variety

colourful bookshelf

With Christmas fast approaching, we at Segullah thought it would be a great time to recommend some of our favourite book-related finds of 2014 for your viewing, reading and possible buying pleasure, roughly arranged by “recommended for”, and with the recommender’s initials afterwards.

Recommended for:

- Non-fiction readers:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – by Susan Cain. For those who likes Malcolm Gladwell-type informative essays or who is interested in people-types. – DY

No Man’s Land, essays by Eula Biss. Recommended for more sophisticated literary readers who appreciate interwoven themes. – DY

The Boys in the Boat – by Daniel James Brown is a great read for anyone who likes nonfiction, history, and inspirational true stories. This would be a great book for older teens or young adults. – JC

- For historical fiction types:

I liked All the Light We Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr, for historical fiction types, people who like WWII, people who like interesting structures. I happened to be reading it simultaneously with The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer) and it made an interesting pairing-a fictional white German boy in the 1940s and a young Malawian boy in the 2000s both using radios-disassembling them, finding scrap parts, etc.-to find their life paths. – MY

The Meaning of Names by Karen Shoemaker was an off-the-beaten-track find, beautifully written about a German American settlement in Nebraska during WW1. – AW

- For kids:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – by E.L. Konigsburg. Specifically for any curious child in grades 3-6ish, who you’re reasonably sure wouldn’t get any ideas and actually run away. One Segullah staffer recently purchased a couple of copies so she can (someday) share it with her grandchildren. She would also love to share this with the recipient and, maybe someday, hope to take them to the museum herself.

- For older teens/young adults:

I agree with Melissa about All the Light We Cannot See (see “historical fiction types” above); it’s one of those books you can feel pretty comfortable recommending to anyone. My 16 year old son loved it, too. – AW

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is a great read for older teens/YA’s too (see below under “Sci-fi/Fantasy” heading). – KG

- For contemporary fiction readers:

Where’d You Go Bernadette – by Maria Semple. For any of my adult friends who is going through a tough year and who might need a distraction from their sorrows, I would definitely give this, which I read twice this summer. I’m having a difficult time starting something new because I’m reasonably sure I won’t find anything else that amused me so. – DR

One Plus One – by JoJo Moyes is a fun book that’s perfect for anyone who wants to read a romance that’s grounded in real life. This book is sweet and funny and perfect to curl up with on snowy day (there is a bit of adult content in the book). – JC

Love Letters of the Angels of Death – by Jennifer Quist. Both KG and AW have this as a favourite this year, and I recommend it to everyone who does, has ever or hopes to one day love and be loved (reviewed earlier this year here). – AW & KG

- For Sci-fi/Fantasy readers:

This year has been all about The Martian for me, by Andy Weir. It’s about a human astronaut being abandoned on Mars, and his survival. There is swearing throughout (quite a bit at times), a whole lot of science, problem solving and I found it fascinating, hilarious, reviewed it here and it’s my favourite book of 2014. – KG

Red Rising – by Pierce Brown. Blurbed as “a cross between Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies”, this story is about a caste system on Mars, and I lost myself in it and the world building. The second book is due out next year, and I can’t wait. – KG

- For writer-readers:

My favorite book of the year was Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which is basically a memoir told by stringing together essays and articles she wrote as a freelance writer. It works beautifully and is as much about writing as it is about relationships. – SM

All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir – by Emma L. Thayne and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich It’s been around for decades now, but I just got to it this year, and it is the best thing I’ve read this year. It’s a sampler of essays, talks and poems. – SJ

- Bookish present ideas

If you’re after something not books but book-related, check out Out of Print, who do some amazing clothing, bags and associated gear, Book Riot who recommend new wonders every week and of course the Etsy search engine (it’s how I found these stunning literary bracelets!)

Don’t forget you can search for “Book reviews” on Segullah (click here for results) too!

Which books/bookish items do you recommend this year?

A Basin of Pure Water

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In October my family traveled to St. George, Utah, to spend a few days in the warmer autumn air. We like to go out to the red sand dunes up a nearby canyon and play, dig, and bury. To get to the best part of the dunes you have to walk through some brambles and prickly plants. If you don’t want red sand to fill your shoes, you have to take them off and walk barefoot. This is a slow process and can be a bit painful. I tried to walk in sandals once, but tiny spiky enemies got between my foot and the sandal and I swore I would never do that again.

Once the long walk is made, the reward is sand as soft as silk. The kids like to play and I like to dig my feet under the hot surface to find the cool, moist sand underneath. I lie back and contemplate my life and that blue, blue sky. The sand follows us back to the car and when we are back at the hotel, we all stand and gather in the bathtub and wash our feet.

In Christ’s time, a basin of water sat at the front of a home so a servant could wash the dust of the road off the travelers’ feet. It was a sign of welcome, respect, and a form of refreshment after a long journey. No doubt the roads that people walked on then were dirty and full of small stones and brambles. Their feet must have been tired and hurting. Christ and his disciples had traveled many roads together. During their last supper, He did an act of tender significance. Before Passover, He gathered His friends together and took off His outer garments. He wrapped a towel around his waist and brought a basin to each one. He knelt in front of them, lifted one foot after another, and washed the dust away. This was the job of a servant and not one for the host. By humbling Himself, Christ showed the example of how to serve. In John 13, He says, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”

As Christ washed the physical road dust from their feet, He washes the spiritual road dust from ours. His atonement cleanses us. How vulnerable would you feel if Christ knelt in front of you? How much love would you feel for Him for this act of service and He for you? Christ says that if “ye know these things,” you will be happy. What “things” is He referring to? Is it more than doing simple acts of service, but literally becoming a servant?

Like my time at the sanddunes, I have had the opportunity to literally wash the feet of some of my life’s fellow travelers. I also have had my own feet washed. I have never experienced such an outpouring of pure love so quickly. I would suggest that you do this for someone, especially your spouse or children. You will feel an immediate bond and a sweet love. I have also had my feet washed symbolically. People that I would consider way above me, in many respects, have served me. It is very humbling. As the Christmas season is upon us, I am looking for more ways to serve. I want to be like my Savior. When I picture Him kneeling down and dipping his hand in the water and touching each foot of His disciples, I imagine Him doing the same for me.

Who symbolically is washing your feet in your life? Who provides a basin of water to refresh you after your life’s journeying? Who will you bring the basin to this December?