Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas


Upon the threshold of my first Christmas in Gonzales, I await with that thrill of excitement, that sudden glimpse of childhood memories and overwhelming holiday warmth that seems to beckon us through the last few weeks leading up to that sacred holiday. This is certainly a feat for me at present, as the last few weeks have been filled with sickness, unexpected expenses, and unpredicted weather changes, with the holiday blues threatening at my door.  Despite these minor setbacks, preparing for Christmas in Gonzales has left its mark in our home. 

The tree, hand picked and chopped from Abrameit Tree Farms, stands tall and whimsically decorated before our living room window, bearing all the humble signs of a young marriage. Of course, each ornament carries with it a significant piece of definable history- the day we bought that paint-it-yourself house ornament from Hobby Lobby, which remains laughably unpainted to this day, or the purple dove with silver stitching from Mom and Dad last Christmas, or the traditional gold flat orb that says, "Our First Christmas '08" (which we still can't remember buying, but there it is nonetheless).  

Other signs of Christmas cheer emanate throughout our tiny house, such as the soothing melodies of A Charlie Brown Christmas album, the constant presence of space heaters in every room, and piles of gifts with which we anticipate slightly spoiling our nieces, nephews, and younger cousins.  Wrapping paper, shopping bags, scarves, house shoes, and an overcrowded coatrack speak inarguably of the time of year in the Wittman household. And in the kitchen you will find the open Better Homes Cookbook, my favorite deep red mug with nutmeg-colored rim, and the inevitable empty packets of hot chocolate. 

There is something particularly soothing about tearing open a packet of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows. I think it is perhaps because it has been a staple throughout my Christmas childhood memories; memories of being 8 and getting lost with my brother in the snowy winter wonderland in our front yard, being followed by that faithful border collie, Molly (or Good Golly, Miss Molly when we were feeling particularly mischievous), and admiring the gutter's glistening collection of icicles (also known as "snow weenies" by my brother, but don't tell him I said that).  Other memories include playing countless ping-pong tournaments in Papa's garage and taking a break back inside the cozy house with my cousins for some popcorn and pretzel sticks and coke. 

I suppose that I am not the only citizen of Gonzales with memories of Christmases past filling the air.  Perhaps you are finding yourself fighting a sickness or a particularly lethal case of the blues, or an unexpected expense is keeping you from gifting to your heart's content.  I've found that the warmth of holiday cheer, whether it be found in rereading the gospels, or in Christmas cartoons or music or decorations, or simply the lingering gaze back into another time of our lives, may be precisely what the doctor ordered for reviving a joyful heart. Indeed such memories are for me a thick, warm blanket bundling my soul against any of life's threatening chill.  And above all, I am thankful for the present as well as the past.  So, while I may be "dreaming of a white Christmas" in the past, I am certainly thankful to be right here in Gonzales for Christmas. 

Greg's On the Square


Every town, I imagine, has its secrets. Every town has its political scandals, its shameful, undisclosed portions of history, and its unsolved mysteries. It is both presumptuous and naive of me to say that I have stumbled on a secret which most of the Gonzales natives have yet to discover, but so it goes. I can't help myself. 

One of the best-kept secrets of Gonzales is a coffee shop on The Square.

Roughly once a week, I find myself returning to that beautifully historical portion of the town known as The Square. Where exactly "The Square" is, I still haven't figured out. As far as I can tell, there are three or four squares, and I can never recall which road leads to which square. Nonetheless, I somehow make it through the maze of traffic lights, churches, and parked vehicles to Greg's Coffee Shop. Call it a gift.

Greg's is one amid the myriad of historical buildings on The Square.  I once heard someone negatively refer to it as "an old building."  But then perhaps you must first live in the dizzying metroplex of Dallas to appreciate the charm of a coffee shop in a historical building on The Square of Gonzales.  I even love it for its constant coffee-shop-in-the-making feel, due to the remodeling.  I love it for its coffee shop aroma, its wide variety of specialty beverages, and exotic selection of beans for home-brewing. I love it for its friendly baristas and my beloved extra-hot latte. I love it for its picturesque view of The Square, which always stirs in my heart a desire for an impulsive walk through historical, mysterious Gonzales.  And so Greg's has become the place where I escape the drudgeries of housework and grocery shopping for a romantic cup of coffee. 

And there is romance in coffee. That is key to discovering Greg's. If you don't appreciate the romance in coffee, then you may forever see Greg's as just another old building.  I love coffee for so much more than a caffeine rush, the aroma, or even the flavor.  What I love is the way it brings people together.  I cannot tell you how my heart leaps every time my husband brings me a warm, flavorful latte from Greg's while I'm at work.  Whether I'm having a wonderful day or the worst day, for the few moments that encompass the gift he brings, I am delighted and glowing.  There is something very special about the gift of a hot cup of coffee. 

On another note, I cannot tell you how many introductions have been made over a cup of Joe. The coffee shop atmosphere seems to invoke opportunities to make conversation and form new friendships.  With my former experiences serving coffee, I have seen on countless occasions that it often represents a threshold; it is an invitation from being strangers to becoming friends. 

And then there are other situations in which groups of people gather around coffee with their Bibles, or coffee with desert, or coffee with their newspapers, or coffee with… well, the list could go on and on. For myself, though, there is no more prestigious position to find myself in than that of partaking in coffee with the women in my family. At every family gathering, this is my goal and my hope. Perhaps it is more prestigious to win the Nobel Prize or to be a Poet Laureate, but at the moment nothing in my mind presents itself as more appealing.  It is rare that I ever partake in these special moments, but when I do, I am delighted. The women are, or were at one time known as the Claggs. And when they are together, chocolate and coffee will be found as well. And there will be laughter, stories, miscommunications, and perhaps the occasional competitive card game of Nerts.

  This is my personal experience of falling in love with coffee and the special moments it brings. And it is my belief that far too few citizens in our town have given themselves over to this beautiful romance. Despite the fact that I have never heard the phrase, "Oh, I don't drink coffee," so many times as I have since i have moved into town, I must contend that others in this town find it romantic, too.  Sometimes, they are gazing through the windows of Dairy Queen. Sometimes, they rendezvous in more exclusive gatherings. But I see them. It happens. Groups of older men meet regularly to drink coffee in this town, and there is no use in denying it.  I have seen it with my own eyes, and it is a remarkable sight to behold.  The pride and wisdom of Gonzales are without a doubt the men who have lived to see so much more than I have. And while their personal cup of Joe is found in the diner atmosphere, they seem to agree that discovering coffee in Gonzales is worth the trouble. Perhaps, then, you don't have to go to Greg's to enjoy the rich enchantment that coffee brings. But then again, perhaps you ought to give Greg's a try, too. And who knows? Perhaps you will even feel compelled to take an impetuous walk through the picturesque town square and rediscover Gonzales for yourself. 

A Common Occurrence While Washing My Dishes

The field, brown and damp lay in tangles of brambles, weeds, and limbs
and the foggy air clings its mist as dew upon the earth;
the fence of wooden posts and wire is a fine mess of dead vines
with a solitary green arm making its appeal to an overcast sky.

The red cardinal makes his royal appearance, sharpening the scene
as a dramatic thought in the wake of a dream;
his good wife, the earth-toned lady with orange beak speaking of her role,
she gathers with him, leaving only vague, spotted prints in her train

while the earth awakens and the eager chirps fall on attentive ears.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rediscovering the Ronettes and Other Amazing Sounds

I have found that I am indeed rediscovering the Ronettes. And perhaps you are too, just by visiting this blog and listening to the music.

The fabulous Ronettes:





Something of their style and sound remind me of a modern, yet often quite retro singer. In my opinion, probably the most gifted singer I've ever heard. But when being introduced to Duffy, do not fool yourself by listening to just one song. It sometimes takes a few to begin to appreciate her incredible talent and the soul she puts into the songs.



I highly recommend watching this video on youtube: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGK8ynBeASg&feature=fvsr

I cannot wait to get her new album for Christmas and/or my birthday. (Hint, hint!)


And did I mention that I love The AdLibs?? I just do. 





Love,
Natasha

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conflict Resolution

My soul hungers for scripture; my flesh lusts for glory.
The more I feed my soul, the more my eyes are opened to the ghastly appetites of my flesh.

Christ in me, transforming the attitudes of my mind, can be the only resolution to my conflict.

Amen.





Love,
Natasha

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Moon Boots, Tang, and Toast

Last night, Micah and I drove to Austin for a Trace Bundy concert.

 We dined at the Beal Street Restaurant, the dimly lit tavern with walls covered in Elvis paraphernalia, business cards and BB King concert posters. Micah: Fish and Chips and beer. Myself: Garlic Hot Wings and Coke. Dessert: Hot Fudge Brownie a la Mode. Way too much dessert. Officially: I am my own worst enemy. So it goes.

We alternately watched two different tv shows in silence, rushing to read the subtitles race across the screens. On the left: Alton Brown acting out something weird that seemed to have nothing to do with cooking whatsoever. Micah was confused, so I told him that is just how the show goes. He's quirky. On the right: Awful stories about kids almost dying from drinking energy drinks or jumping out of windows. Too many scars for dinnertime entertainment. But we did learn our lesson about energy drinks (being, don't drink them. Ever.) Yikes.

We strolled up and down 6th street, weaving our way past the pedestrians, and past the mindlessly chattering bikini-wearing, hoola-hooping girls outside of one particular restaurant. Argh. That sort of thing never fails to anger me. Really, you would think it would be illegal or something. Like... soliciting or just being gross in general. And then, amid the bicycles, the ancient stone buildings, and the strolling couples, it occurred to me. Austin can be pretty well summed up in this: skinny jeans and tattoos. Seriously. It was overwhelming, how this theme so consistently ran throughout the crowd. I felt prudish and simple in my white bohemian skirt, grey sweater and eggplant blouse. I felt young. Too young. So I went and bought some skinny jeans and got a tattoo.

Just kidding.

Finally, there was a line forming outside of The Parrish venue. We waited, walked up the stairs, got our hands stamped, and picked our seats in the intimate, dimly lit room. Second row seats. Micah, amazingly enough, met Mr. Bundy in the restroom, who was putting in contacts. He found out that Micah's birthday is today, and was shocked. Apparently, there was another Micah at the concert whose birthday was last night. So he promised him a birthday song.

Cort Carpenter was a very impressive opener for the show. I am baffled by anyone who plays a guitar while playing the harmonica. I just am. Although, I had this weird memory of watching The Mario Brothers movie, with all of those awful monsters wearing those harmonicas. But I digress. It was good. Thank you, Mr. Carpenter.

Next, Jonah Werner. Trace Bundy's childhood friend, and a very impressive performer. Witty, humble, hilarious, and extremely talented singer, rapper, and guitar player. Very good with that...um... looping thing? Obviously I know nothing about that, but he kept clicking petals to record and play back the sounds he was making on the guitar, and it was very very cool. His overall performance had a nice flow, with one overall story being told throughout the songs. He even told a story about awkward teenage romance in the 80's-90's, about a mutual love for moon boots, tang, and toast. Very sweet and funny. So much fun.

Finally, Trace Bundy gave a fantastic performance. It is one thing to listen to his music on c.d. But it is a completely different thing, and much better thing, to watch him play the guitar. Really, I couldn't help but imagine God deciding to invent this thing called a guitar, and creating all the different sounds it could make. That is what it was like, watching him play. It was like watching God invent the guitar. Even from the way he holds the guitar, it is a completely different instrument than the guitar the rest of the world plays. It is like he knows the guitar personally, and understands it like nobody else does, coaxing it to make all of these beautiful melodies that only he and the guitar and God know. Incredible. He also played drums and guitar on his iPhone, which was amusing and shocking and, well, funny. But very good. You could tell that he was having so much fun. Which made it so much fun.

And it was quite a delight for Micah to have Trace Bundy perform a birthday song for him. He played music, recorded it, and then somehow "reversed it", which made it finally sound similar to the traditional Happy Birthday song.

My favorite part of the show, however, was witnessing how humble the two best friends were in their performances. They were self-effacing, God glorifying, and communicated a simple, honest message of trusting God and thanking Him for their gifts. So there we were, a group of music-loving people, gathered in an intimate venue drinking beer and water and having a good time. And these two men, simply, honestly, told us about their love for God. They didn't do it with a K-Love slogan or a Jesus Fish bumper sticker or a Jeremy Camp song, or an invitation or anything. They played music. What most people refer to as "secular music", but was really God-inspired, holy music. Songs about pain, love, moon boots, tang and toast, and dueling ninjas. But God was glorified in their humility, gifts, and honesty. That just means so much more to me than what "Christian Sub-Culture" has to offer.

Well, that is my take on things. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a fantastic show, and got to meet Trace Bundy in person. And, we stayed out until 1 a.m. Not intentionally, but it happened and I'm sort of proud of that. ha.

Love. You. All.

Natasha

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Diana

We are heading out to Houston this morning. And flying out to Chicago Sunday.
Our bags are packed, complete with my knitting, trench coat, and our new cameras.

The Diana F+


The Diana F+ Camera

The Holga:

The Holga 120 GCFN

Thank you for your prayers and Happy Anniversary wishes!

Love,
Natasha W.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lovin' Spoonful




My time on the front porch, I've decided, is some of my favorite moments of the day.

This morning, Watson perused the yard for delicious strands of green grass along the sides of the fence and down the short driveway, and back again. I wore my snuggly striped pink pajamas (because it's been cool and stormy all week) and my seasoned pink sweatshirt. "Seasoned" because it is the very same sweatshirt I wore in the highlands of PNG. After bringing me comfort in such foreign lands as those, it never fails to bring me comfort on a cool, stormy day. I was sipping Cafe Verona from my favorite Autumn-ish mug, a nice deep yet bright red with faded brown rim, and wearing the hood of my sweatshirt up to make me feel mysterious (and maybe to not scare any unsuspecting neighbors who have yet to see me without makeup or shower).

Sitting on the porch this morning was a most savory visual experience. Everything wet. The roof dripping with its heavy drops narrowly missing my mug. The bareness of the ground peaked through between leaves and grass, with such a smooth, glassy bareness, a smooth translucent glow, I almost wondered if a light was shining from beneath it. The leaves, wet and black, lay on the ground in scattered clumps here and there, wearing the tell-tale signs of the changing seasons, the passing of summer.

The air was wet, but clear. After the rain, the air feels like such a relief, that a new beginning is upon us. The storm is over. The summer is past. The seasons have changed. Everything is changed. And how very thankful I am. "I was a long long way off, and I think I like how the day sounds through this new song..."
"The sky is as clear as my mind is now..." (Greg Laswell)

At one point in our outing this morning, Watson began to wander off beyond the yard in search of greener grass ("The grass is always greener on the other side", it would seem) and failed to respond to my reprimands. I lay my coffee cup down on the porch so that I might chastise him thoroughly. He immediately responded and trotted back to the porch. As he neared the mug, I began to panic at the thought of Watson knocking it over against the concrete porch and breaking my cherished mug. Upon reaching the mug, however, he merely gave it a gentle sniff and began to attempt a few licks inside the rim. I snatched it up, only slightly disappointed at that last cupful being ruined, but much more thankful that the mug was preserved. The incident put me in a mood for Mississippi John Hurt. I am not often in such a mood, but it seemed like the perfect moment for "Coffee Blues".  The light strumming of the guitar is always soothing, and once I begin to listen to his deep, rich, husky voice, I am compelled to listen to more of it. Something about his music conveys to my soul that God is good and there is goodness in this world (through Him)- beautiful, sweet goodness.



Love,
Natasha W.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Inspired by It's a Good Day by Perry Como


The little black dress:
- Simple, elegant in that non-chalant sort of way. Work-appropriate.

Product Image Merona® Women's Twisted Neckline Dress - Ebony

A lesson from Doris Day on How to Wear a Sweater:

Day pictured in the early 1950s on the U.S.S. Juneau

And Audrey Hepburn on How to Be Dramatic:

Audrey Hepburn Picture Gallery

The only place I've eaten in Austin, and the only place I'll ever want to:

http://www.bluedahliabistro.com/4menu.html

Blue Dahlia Bistro

Mussels in Sherry Lavender Sauce

Board of Cheeses
-with apple slices, jam, and olives

Visually Stunning Menu and table set-up:


Cappuccino to share:

Creme Brulee with a Raspberry:


The Library Book I erroneously left at a training class, over an hour away from home:

My Cousin Rachel Poster Movie German 11x17 Olivia de Havilland Richard Burton Audrey Dalton

Okay, technically that is a movie poster for the German version of the movie, which was made from the book I left in Buda, TX.

I just watched the first five minutes of the movie, upon which four things happened at once:

1. I wonder why my name cannot be Olivia de Havilland. Darn the luck, I say.
2. I am chagrined to think of watching any more of the movie without Micah, who I just know would love it.
3. I am stunned by how very charming the character Ambrose looks in the movie, and immediately adapt my mental image of him for when I get my book back and am able to finish it.
4. I am once again impressed by a particularly elegant set of curtains, even in black and white.

Cheese-Stuffed Ravioli with Lemon Parm Sauce

-Refrigerated Cheese Stuffed Ravioli
-Juice of 3 Lemons
-Store-Bought Grated Parmesan Cheese (About.... 1/4 Cup?)
-3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
-Walnuts (1/2 Cup)
-Cherry Tomatoes (or Grape Tomatoes), in halves
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1/4 Cup)
-Salt to taste
-Thyme to taste
-Fetta, Crumbled

Cook the ravioli according to package directions. Mix the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt, parmesan, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Once the ravioli is prepared, drizzle with oil to keep from sticking. Plate the pasta. Spoon sauce on top. Sprinkle with walnuts, fetta, and tomatoes.


Love,
Natasha W.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pumps, Flats, Espresso, and Perfection

Top of the morning to you! And Happy Birthday to my Mama!

This morning, we did a terribly dreadful thing. To do something dreadful is one thing, and then to do it terribly is a whole new thing. This is what we did. We took Watson to the vet clinic at 8 am, weighed him on this giant scale, and shoved him (with some trouble) into a giant, ugly, stinky "kennel" (which, let's face it, is a euphemism for "cage"), and said goodbye. Snip, snip, Dear Mr. Watson. See you in several anxiety-filled hours. 

Micah left for work, while I stayed home, chatted with Mom about her birthday and my latest drama, ate some pistachios and cereal, and came in here to peruse online. I did peruse, and in doing so I did something very wrong. I visited old blogs that I am specifically forbidden to visit. The reason? These fantastically published blogs lead me inevitably to wrong thinking, such as jealousy, vanity, and selfishness. 

The whole reason of writing under this new blog, "Sola Gratia", is to refocus my writing on things that are not vogue, overly charming, or selfish. I want my life and my thoughts to be deeper than that. 

And so here I am, once again trying to figure out how to use certain trendy phrases in my blog about Sunday School lessons, phone conversations, and vet clinics... words like, "pumps" and "flats" instead of "shoes", describing my morning as "perfect with that delicious cup of espresso" instead of the truth:  "complicated and heavy conversations", "nervous without Watson lying at my feet all morning,"... "ran out of cream again..." etc. 

Well, there you have it. Life as it is. Bon appetit!

Love
Natasha w.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Matthew 1; Luke 17

It is Monday, and I am newly returned from an exhausting, unspeakably lovely weekend.


Friday night we kicked off the weekend with a witty, visually intriguing, clever Hitchcock suspense film, Rope.

Brandon: “What would you say to a glass of champagne?”

Janice: “Hello, champagne!”

In addition to the witty dialog, the film is heavy with experimentation of existentialist and moral concepts, and beautifully graced with the performance of James Stewart as professor. I highly recommend the movie.

We also spent a great deal of time poring over various newspapers, making comparisons, suggesting headline designs, and pointing out major errors in our own local Gonzales Cannon. Having the Saturday off, (a novelty in itself), Micah and I worked relentlessly to organize and furnish the Study (Newsflash: We no longer have an “Office”, but rather a “Study”). We began the day with donuts, garage sales and a resale shop, bargaining for some delightful finds such as a greatly needed rug, which Watson has already approved of by curling up on it quite often, a perfectly charming silver tray for serving coffee and tea essentials, and a couple of books, including Masterpieces of Music before 1750.

Yesterday, we began our Sunday morning with a jog/power walk through the neighborhood, successfully but barely avoiding a fight between Watson and a couple of roosters, and waking up half the neighborhood upon the attention of a chained pit bull (apparently guarding said roosters?).

We taught our first Sunday School Class/ Small Group Meeting, for the (loosely defined) 5th-8th grade class. We picked up three beautiful kids yesterday evening and took them to the fellowship/swimming party. We attempted to learn some Spanish, but most of what they shared was rather uncouth. Ha! Our new little friends were fantastically interesting, and marvelously well-behaved. We cannot wait for Friday night’s sleepover at the Mason’s house. More swimming and Spanish lessons await us there.

Today: Still pondering yesterday’s lesson, on Matthew 1, which left me feeling rather convicted about “responding with mercy”, and “thinking before we act or speak.” Yikes. Hearing a lesson that I still need to learn, and teaching a lesson that I still need to learn, are remarkably different concepts. This morning, I did my own study on Luke 17, with very helpful insight from D. Bock’s New Application Commentary on Luke. The truth of scripture still weighs heavily on me now, and I pray earnestly that it will continue to weigh heavily.

The “Study” still requires some work, which I plan to accomplish today, such as unpacking boxes, and arranging books on the new bookshelf.

A Basil Potato Frittata will be ready at noon.

I’m contemplating doing something rather bold: Attempting to compose a series of paintings, drawings, photographs, and other pieces of art for the biggest event in Gonzales- The Come and Take It event.

I’m not yet committed, but I do love the idea so far.



Love,

Natasha W.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Rather Long-Winded Contemplation of Creativity

The morning began with that ever-deceiving hint of coolness... that momentary chill that is altogether foreign in the heart of Gonzales, Texas. The over-cast day, welcomed only momentarily by the locals, fuels my soul with hope and excitement at the thought of a cool summer shower. Those who have been here for much longer than myself know instinctively that, after the initial rainfall, this impending shower is no more refreshing than the pouring of oil into the heated skillet. As the morning wore on, my hope remained doggedly and steadfast, despite the rising chorus of the locusts. They sang their rattling, sizzling song, even before the oil had begun to pour.

Last night, I made my seldom visit into the chaotic world of Facebook, with no real purpose more than to satisfy a timid curiosity at what the rest of the world was doing. The rest of the world, in case you wonder, is engaged, married, or pregnant (usually a combination of some kind). Upon the shock of seeing that yet another high school friend was married without my very notice, I followed the links to find something most inspiring. This old "friend' or "acquaintance" or whatever such persons are once you haven't spoken in years, had posted a page of artwork for sale.

My virtual re-acquaintance with this individual represented in my mind a kind of free-spiritedness I have found lacking in my own life. I have found it lacking, more specifically, in my spiritual life (not at all, however, intending that the spiritual is separately compartmentalized from any other aspect of life). I suppose that when I am honest with myself, which I usually try to be, I feel a bit like the simmering, sizzling locust beneath the cloud. The cloud, then, is my created-on-a-whim metaphor for a structure that is intended and promised to be beneficial, but rather looms darkly, lowly, oppressively, giving way only, perhaps to a liquid that is altogether unsatisfying. And so I sizzle, simmer, attempting to drown out the sounds of my own thirsty desires.

Before we begin to make assumptions about said desires, let me clarify that this is not a metaphor akin to The Awakening by Kate Chopin or anything of the like. My spirit longs, rather, to sing in the rain (cool, refreshing rain), paint on the rooftops, to write a piano concerto, etc, etc.  Perhaps in a feeble attempt to relieve some of this nervous artistic energy, I completed a task that is altogether superfluous in nature.

I pulled from the wreckage that is my cupboard the much-neglected espresso and latte maker. I attempted to make lattes for my husband and I (since he only drank a cup of Earl Grey this morning) as a surprise. He was delivering a can of OFF for me before beginning his interminable journey of delivering newspapers all over Gonzales and the neighboring towns. The espresso machine, apparently enraged and possessed, began to boil, bubble, and splatter hot water through it's steam cap in a disastrous display (granted, I probably shouldn't have tried to loosen the steam cap while it was hot) just in time for Prince Charming to enter the scene of the crime. Surprise, surprise. Actually, despite the horror-stricken look he must have seen on my face, he didn't seem too surprised. Needless to say, that isn't flattering.

Nonetheless, Micah helped me brew espresso, nixing the milk (that never got steamed), for an iced latte. As for me, while working in the air-conditioned house with an overcast view through the window, I had no desire for something as Summer-typical as an iced latte. Instead, I poured espresso into a short mug (all of my demitasse cups are currently used for decoration), a little nervous about the pungently light roast of the Papua New Guinea blend from Fredericksberg Coffee and Tea, Co.  Undeterred, I added a bit of cream, a bit of Starbucks Vanilla Syrup, and a single ice cube. This was a thrown-together beverage evocative of the Starbucks Barista trade-secret beverage, known in some parts as "Fire on Ice", others as, "Vanilla Blast", and honestly I forget what else (but believe me, there are others).

Although the recipe varies as much as the name, it is essentially espresso, cream, ice, and a syrup of some kind (typically vanilla, hazelnut, or both), poured delicately in skillful layers using an upside-down spoon, and quickly chugged, often in congregated circles of sleep-deprived, chanting baristas. This was used on early weekday mornings, after a long sleepless night, around exams time for the college kids, and also on those groggy, why-are-we-here Sunday mornings.

My own cup was thrown together quickly, sans the layers, poured in moderation, and sipped down slowly, savoring the complexity of the flavors and sensations.

And so this cup, however superfluous, however destructive to my now ruinous kitchen, is the beginning of soulful expression. It is a cup raised in earnest desire to seek my God passionately, without reserve, without apathy and the halfheartedness that makes one as ineffectual as the sizzling locusts.

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
C. S. Lewis 

I suppose then, that what I desire is not merely to be creative. I don't think that could ever really be enough. Writing piano concertos (which I admit is more of an expression pointing to extravagant creativity than any real intention to write a piano concerto) can never be enough in itself. The desire is deeper than that. God created us to create, I think, and not solely to create, but to express ourselves to Him and how we feel about Him to others. That is what I want. I don't want to play old, tired church games. I want to throw off the confines of tradition and sing to God a new song in my heart. This is quite an internal matter, and not to point fingers at any external institution or authority. But I need to write my own songs. I need to sing them freely, loudly. I need to face the fact that I traded writing letters to God for writing letters to the World. Although I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, I realized my need to cultivate and express affection for God when two things occurred to me at once: 1. I had failed to spend time in prayer and Bible Study on a daily basis for a week or two, and 2. I thought to myself that I hadn't noticed any sin or points of weakness in my life.

  I was confronted by the revelation that I had slowly, quietly, habitually slacked off in my pursuit, and had been thinking I was okay, whilst God was accomplishing basically nothing in the work of sanctification in my life.

If the definition of repentance is truly the act of turning from one direction and moving toward the opposite direction, which I believe it is, then let today be a day of repentance.

Cheers, and God bless.

Natasha W.