One thing.

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Isn’t it easy to get all tangled up? I want to enter into the suffering of the world, I want to understand. I don’t want to turn away. But then there is just so MUCH. And it is easy to drift along, getting pulled into one mess after another, looking up vaguely when the children want food. 

And I have always wanted to be a monk and mystic, so I need to slow down the intake. 

I think it’s actually pretty simple. I know that I need to do things in their proper order. Or in other words, actually do what I am sitting down to do. When I sit down to edit, I need to stay away from Facebook, although it is excellent in it’s designated time. When I do school with my kids, I need to be there with them, not planning the next day via text.

A time for waking. A time for free writing. A time for exercise. A time for checking in with family, friends and issues on Facebook. A time for writing and editing. A time for school, a time for my community. A time to nap. (Napping makes me feel rich. I have discovered the joys of a twenty minute nap. It can restore a day after a five am wakeup.)


Do one thing. Monk and mystic. Simple work, surrounded by the mystery of God. His close presence, right there, wanting to be with me joyfully for some reason I can’t quite comprehend. His love a glow inside. A quiet presence around, enveloping. 

*

Now the skies are blue again, with swiftly moving clouds that converge in the afternoons, bringing storms and rainbows. It is my favorite time of year, but then they all are. (I even love the smoky season because it reminds me of the veil we live in, how we cry out for it to be taken away.) 

My lanky kids have been busy.  Sometimes I wake from a nap to hear them singing and playing ukelele. Sometimes they get along like puppies. Or they always get along like puppies, but the play turns to snarling. 

Yesterday, Solo and Kenya made cookies with a little M&M surprise in the middle. 

“They’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good,” Kenya told me.

“You can use recipes, you know,” I told her. 

She made a face. They don’t use recipes for anything. They are scientists with food, preferring to experiment. Recipes are boring. When they feel snacky they make themselves hardtack, (after Leafy’s obsession with boats) or strange little biscuits. 

“Mom! I’m hungry and there’s no flour!” 

Quirky kids. Joy of my life. (Of course, for snacks I keep boiled peanuts and corn on the cob in the fridge, so I’m not the most conventional of snackers myself.)

Isaac is finishing up with his second term of school today. He’s most interested in breaking codes. He loves to play with numbers in his head for hours and is a little more impatient with using a number line or blocks to solve equations. (Recipes are boring.) He’s also loving learning to read Thai and has begun speaking bit by bit. He has tons of friends and is cheerfully resilient and impervious to school yard issues. One of his teachers told me that he is “relaxed about friendships,” which means he plays with anyone anytime, without much awareness of the kinds of insecurities the rest of the world deals with, or why friends might be upset if you don’t play with them one day. In other words, he is Chinua’s son. I’m the interpreter for the rest of the world and our complex feelings. He reminds me of Kai, who at that age used to ask, “Why are you crying? When are you going to stop?”

Solo’s dancing continues to amaze and delight us. He is the most uninhibited creature I have ever encountered, and I have to stop myself sometimes from trying to “hibit” him. (Mostly just when he’s shouting out random words in the middle of conversations because things have gotten too normal for him.)

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Also, here’s an exciting thing: The first episode of the Shekina Meditation Podcast is out and the second should be out later today. YOU. GUYS. This has been a dream/idea for so long. One of those ones that just sort of floats out of sight because you don’t exactly know how to do it. (Like writing a book, or playing an instrument.) And we finally grabbed hold of the necessary pieces and stuck them together.

You can find it here. It should be on iTunes soon as well. I’ll let you know.

Artist Date

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The days are getting hotter here, with warm damp air in the mornings, hazy with humidity, which becomes heavy and hot by noon, sweltering in the late afternoon, when the power goes out and we go out on the porch to get some air. Everything in my life is sticky with salt and sand, and walking along the village paths, I notice again how the world becomes dust colored (red dust colored, that is) in this season in Goa. The houses have dust thrown up on them from the scooters, the cows are dust colored, and the pigs too. The trees have red dust on their leaves. But the birds are still colorful, darting through the trees, flashes of green and blue. The heat grows. We have less than two weeks with the community here, and I have signed myself up for more cooking and guiding meditation. Chinua will play a concert with his friend Peter on our rooftop tonight. We’re getting every bit of life out of these four weeks that we can.

The sea has been beautiful. I have missed it in our Thai mountains. After a hot day at the house, it is beautiful to walk into the welcoming sea, the perfect temperature, with little waves to play in. Isaac loves the sea. I remember that he loved it from the very beginning, when he was a tiny little guy learning to walk on the beach. They all love the sea. 

I have spent the last few days booking trains and hotels for our journey to the South India. There will also be a few buses and taxis involved, but we can book those as we go. I feel accomplished and also rather shocked by how easy it was (though it did take several days to figure it all out). I remember eighteen years ago that we had to stand in crazy crowds in the train station, pushing to get to the front to buy tickets for the train. Now I can do it all online, and it works! India is changing quickly.

There are so many gifts. A new little gem of a hideaway restaurant. Uttapam and sweet lassi. Groups of kids calling hello in high pitched voices. Friendly beach dogs. The heart-shaped leaves of the trees next to our house. So many friendly people who have seen our kids grow up. The peaceful lines of palm fronds. Miri and Sarah and Svenya and Laura, beautiful women, all of them. A chance to cuddle the baby of our friends, and see my sons dote on him. Open mics where people sing their hearts out. My neighbors brushing their teeth and clearing their throats. The motorbike, the roads, the birds, the houses and smells. They are all gifts to my eyes and my heart.

My friend Nadine, from our community, asked, “Why does that man have curly hair on one side and no hair on the other?”

And I answered, “It is his comb-over, but the weather makes it too curly to stay.” And we laughed. Her husband told us that in Sweden, they call the comb-over the Robin Hood hairstyle. 

“Really?” I asked. 

“Yes,” he said, “because you take from the rich and give to the poor.” He reached from one side of his head to the other.

I went to a contemporary dance gala the other day, and it surprised and inspired me. It was true contemporary dance, very different from things I have seen here before, and it was so, so beautiful. I am inspired and also frustrated, not getting the time or space I need to write. Maybe this is like one long Artist’s Date. I am storing up inspiration. Filling my eyes for a future time. Possibly. 

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I'm so thankful for my patrons! The Day in the Life video for February/March should be up today! If I can get the slow Internet to upload it. :) 

In Ten Years

I wrote the following a few days ago:

"The rain is coming down hard, straight to the ground without wind, and I’m baking bread because it just needs to be baked, on a day like this. A man just walked by holding a large leaf over his head. And a few minutes ago Isaac sat in my lap, wiggled around a bit to get comfortable, and said, “I have a little nest. I’m a chicken.”

“Are you?” I asked, squeezing him tight. 

He turned his head to look up at me. “You’re my nest. Nests don’t talk.”

Okay!

I sat quietly, still rocking a bit, until he turned around again and said, “Nests don’t move, either.”

Days like this, I thought. I want some like this."

 

I was reading an article recently about crafting a writing career and it was asking about what I want in ten years. And I thought it was a good question, but in a totally different way from maybe the way the question was meant. I think the original writer meant you should figure out how many books you want to write, how you want to publish them, and how often. These are good questions.

But I have this driving question lately, about what makes a good life. And since I have finished and published a few books, what I know about finishing and publishing books is that it doesn’t really do anything. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s AWESOME and I get a little thrill every single time someone tells me that they read my book. (Every time. Like a dork.) But accomplishments don’t seem to have an effect on how you feel about life and yourself. You don’t keep them, if that makes any sense. As though your brain can’t store them. They’re not everyday things, not the things that get you through August 12th and February 2nd and June 10th. (Those are just random dates.) They slide on by and you’re already feeling like you need to accomplish something else, and the days keep coming.

So what are the everyday things that matter? When I think of myself in 10 years, I think of the practices and rhythms of life. What are the values, the patterns and points of light that I want my life to include in 10 years? And if I know that, can I reverse engineer the next ten years? If something won’t matter then, can I drop it now? (The answer is sometimes.)

Here are some of mine. 

* I want a writing practice that includes both fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction to record, understand, reframe, and treasure my life, and share that with others, and fiction because I have to. (Also to share, always to share.)

* I want a rhythm of visual art in my life that grows and changes.

* In ten years I will have one child under eighteen. (I’m about to start crying right now.) I want them to be well loved and well launched, with bright futures, meaningful relationships with God and people, and long-lasting relationships with Chinua and I. I also want Isaac to be a good sailor, so he can sail Chinua and I around the world when we feel like a little jaunt to Turkey. (Little joke. Sort of.)

* I want a home that is bright with creativity and hospitality—in my mind these have emerged as themes of our family. You are welcome come over for dinner and there will also be an eight-year-old playing a trumpet. I want to help people on their path toward God and do that often and well in my home.

* I want to help foster a thriving community that encourages love, devotion, learning, and experience of Jesus for people on every point of the path that ultimately leads to oneness with Him. 

* I want to be a good friend. I want this so bad. To live in love in my community every day. To pursue God and be strong in love through suffering. To be an encourager.

* I want to have the means to help my kids, help the people in my family who may need it in the future, to travel, to give, to live well but simply.

* I want love and friendship and adventure and romance in my marriage.

* I want health, strength, flexibility and the ability to run or climb mountains.

 

That’s about it. 

But when I think of it this way, I see that the future is actually now. These are all things I can immerse myself in now. Developing good habits, working through issues so I can be a good friend, writing, painting, walking, praying, continuing to ask God to form humility and love in me. It’s also interesting to me to note that I want to launch the kids well, and that means a lot of time with them during this next season. But it’s a huge part of what I want to see in ten years! So every little paper that I have to push them to write, or the moments I spend reading to them, or the time I take teaching them to cook? They all matter. 

Here I have this day in front of me and the rain is coming down again. I can be open to this day now, and all that it is growing in me. And that is good, and that is enough.

A month of cooling.

I’m recovering from a few bad days of sickness and some nights which included the sudden start (in my life) of sickness-related asthma and a couple of middle-of-the-night trips to the hospital. Our town hospital. Argh. What can I say. I may have ended up in tears when I couldn’t breathe and the doctor was still insisting that nothing was wrong with me. I cried them into letting me use the nebulizer and then I could breathe again. I don’t know where the doctors I saw learned, or whether they want to be doctors, but they seem to have a grudge against people who are sick at 3:00 am. Which, fair enough, is a pain of a time to be diagnosing anyone. But to my credit, I don’t make a habit of dancing around village emergency rooms at 3:00 am for nothing

All is well. I now have an inhaler for my imagined inherited asthma, and I slept last night for the first night in days. 

 

And what I really want to talk about is the way that October has snuck up on us and given us a big bear hug from behind. October. I love October, and I don’t think it’s for the same reasons that you love October, because mine is probably different from yours. I love any new month, really, especially since I have begun making little creative goals for myself and have been mostly fulfilling them. And this is the month where it will cool down a little but it still isn’t really cold, and the rice is tall and green, and things will start picking up and getting exciting in the walking street market (by which I mean: food! Interesting food, right down the street from me!) and I will catch glimpses of our town’s Jack Sparrow, and the statue man who lets people paint on him and who Solo thought for years was a real statue. And people will take pictures of my house and I will try not to be annoyed, and the sky will be impossibly blue. 

October is rewriting, watching Skillshare videos (so exciting!), drawing and making mood boards, fall cleaning (Out, clutter! Out!), walking, running and riding my bicycle, better morning habits, living in joy, playing board games, going for hikes, cooking and cooking and cooking with no waste (my new goal), reading aloud to my kids, popcorn and tea and homeschooling. I think October will be good. 

Awash with kittens and books.

(From Saturday)

The rain is pouring steadily as I sit in my studio, and I can hear cats thumping around in the roof. Somehow all the cats on our street have pegged the empty space above the ceiling in our studio/kitchen as the ideal place to give birth to their kittens. They then raise them until they are big enough to get into trouble and move them to a safer, less gravity-vulnerable location. So there are a lot of little mews and squeaks, some claw scraping, some thuds. 

Today is Saturday, our busiest day at Shekina Garden. We eat community lunch together and later in the afternoon, have a devotion circle. Lately a lot of friends and travelers from around town have been coming to eat lunch with us and many people have been sticking around for the circle in the afternoon. Today I’m sharing. So the wet, gray morning is lit from within as I think about what I want to share. 

Yesterday I went to my friend Naomi’s house and we cooked together with our friend Fon. The rice paddies around Nay’s house are brilliant green again, the stripes of the earth around the paddies a deep brown. Everything is beautiful, everything is alive. Ants are alive too, and trying to take over our houses and bite our children. Fire ants are the downside to the rain filling the earth and turning it green. There is drought in much of Thailand, as well as in our beloved California and even my home in B.C., Canada. We don’t take any of this rain for granted, we’ll take the ants and the mosquitos. I am thankful for the rain.

So we cooked. Fon ordered us around the kitchen and we sliced banana flowers to make salad, and chopped vegetables to make stir fry and curry. Then we sat and ate together and I was glad I had skipped work to meet with friends and cook.

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(This morning.)

Saturday was beautiful. It’s our most beautiful, busiest day. Many people came for lunch and the devotion circle afterward was inspiring as people discussed the words manifest, incarnation, and atonement, and we talked about God’s love as evidenced in the incarnation. 

The cat has moved her kittens to the grandmother’s house next door. The grandmother next door is already overrun with stray kittens that she has taken in. They like to break into our house in the evenings and steal Wookie’s food, so we have to padlock the door downstairs (there is no other way to keep it closed) and the other night I accidentally padlocked the door while Chinua was in the bathroom and he had to climb out through the window. Our upstairs is not connected to our downstairs, you know, so all the doors are separate and when we go out we have to lock three doors.

Today I have an early, two-year-old waker who is eating cereal opposite me at the table. A lot of it is on the table and some of it is making its way into his mouth and belly. He woke up saying, “I’m hungry Mama, can I have some pizza?” Which was odd. He settled for cereal. 

In work, I am finishing up with my big commissioned hummingbird painting, getting ready to send it off to my friend Linda in California. And now I turn to writing for a time. I’ve decided to self-publish my novel, A Traveler’s Guide to Belonging, and that should be coming out sometime in early fall. Finally! I’ve been waiting on agents for months and finally decided, no more. Let’s do this, I believe in creating things, making them as lovely as possible, and then making them available to the world. I’m not waiting on someone to do it for me any longer. 

The tree outside is again covered in white flowers and after I'm done with this post, I'll work on revising the first book in my fantasy series. I’m over the moon to be working on fiction again, and especially fantasy--getting up in the early hours of the morning to enter the world I’m making and write about all that people are doing in that world. I think you’re going to like it. It’s a lot of fun to work on this book. I get annoyed when I have to leave it.

Our life is made of books, actually. The kids read for school, they read for play, they write books, I write books. I read books to them in the evening, read alouds from school. Sometimes I don’t get finished until 9:30, and then I read myself to sleep. People ask me how I find time to read. Reading is my obsession, and I have transferred my obsession to my kids. Kai and Kenya count down days before their favorite authors release new books. We are swimming in books.