November: learnings

1. The differences between wind-borne leaves and birds is sometimes negligible in November.

light 2

2. Fall is a season which might convince one of the glory of dying: the dance of the leaves as they fall, and the trees casting less and less shadow and admitting more and more view of the sky and the sun. If I must waste away and decay — and, eventually, I must, if I don’t die suddenly and young — I’d like to do it this way: showing up less and less of me, and more and more of the Majestic Glory behind me.

3. Teaching depressing literature is easier than teaching happy literature. I think, when I find the way to teach the happy literature well, I will consider myself a better teacher than I am now.

4. There’s a new doll on the market, like a Barbie, but made to match the proportions of an average, real-life girl. Along with the Lammily Doll, you can buy a set of reusable stickers in order to give your doll acne, cellulite, scars, stretch marks, and make her blush, among other things. The need for such stickers, to me, indicates the death of imagination: kids can’t imagine things that aren’t there; they have to have physical evidence. (And who wants to pretend her doll has acne, anyway?)

5. I finally “got” the parable of the lost sheep: for years I’ve read it and felt just a bit disappointed deep down that the angels didn’t rejoice that much over me, because, having been saved so early, I never got lost. Praise the Lord for allowing me to see that in truth there are no good sheep. Each of us who is in His fold as a repentant sinner is there because He went out and sought us when we were lost. And His grace is such that He would save even me, though I spend so much time thinking that somehow I didn’t need finding.

6.  It is hard to get a really good picture of cotton bales when driving past them:

cotton

7. There are so many guest rooms all over the U.S. which have been made available for me to use on someday visits: it makes me grateful for years of moving all over the place, and for having attended a college where everyone was not from one state. (Will I visit them all? It doesn’t seem all that feasible, but it’s nice to have the option.)

8. Speaking of long-distance friends, I re-discovered that I have some wonderful ones. And that is wonderful.

9. Asian grocery stores are interesting to visit. (Or, at least the one I’ve visited was.)

10. My taste in apple pies is not like other people’s. I don’t like them goopy or very sweet: I’ve only been making apple pies for twenty years or something, but this is the first year I learned that other people expect goopy sweetness. Still, people like to look at them, anyway:
pie11. Again and again, at many times and in many ways, through all the surprises that a November — or any other month — can offer, God is indeed good. He lets me taste and see it. I rejoice.

12. I can’t count? (Actually, this is a December learning, since I noticed today that when I wrote this post yesterday, my numbers ran 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 10.) I’ve corrected that now.

What-We-Learned-November

Today I link up with Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at The Sky to share things I learned in November. Use the button above to visit her site and join in the fun yourself.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 27: goodness. mercy.

Today it’s hay bales standing in calm ranks on their new-mown fields.

hay

It’s dogs frolicking in pairs in the ditches of the highways: a pair of tiny terriers, a pair of hounds, and — most improbably — a pair of Shih Tzus. The weather, apparently, brings out the joyous dogginess of all dogs.

It’s the breeze that made my swift walk through the sunshine a hint of heaven.

It’s a sliver of setting moon visible through night-blackened oak tree.

It’s the fresh remembrance of what God’s forgiveness means — what it required of Him — brought by trying to explain it to someone else.

It’s this good reminder, rediscovered today:
“If we consider the lives of the Saints, we see the strange paths along which they were driven by the Will to the accomplishment of their destiny: how unexpected and uncongenial were the ways in which they were used to bring the Kingdom in and do the Will of God: and how the heavenly Bread which they were given was given to make them strong for this destiny, and not because it tasted nice.”  —Evelyn Underhill

It’s gratitude that He so often makes that bread both strengthening and sweet; that the ways are not always uncongenial, and that even in the strangest paths, I know that His goodness and mercy attend me all the days of my life, leading me to His house, where I shall dwell forever.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 26: lovingkindness

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

Maine, October 2012

Maine, October 2012

His love does not depend on me or on my ability to compose thoroughly satisfactory blog posts every day of this month. (Or my ability to do anything at all — praise the LORD!)

Tonight, after a day in which I’ve noticed many things but can’t seem to put words to them, I am grateful to notice — to remember — this heavens-high love, which has removed my transgressions from me as far as the east is from the west, which knows my frame and remembers that I am dust.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 24 (and Five Minute Friday): dare

How should I presume to write about daring on a day which I have spent almost entirely in being afraid?

dare

Oh, I’ve done lots of things today, but woven through all of it is the stripe of fear: fear of disappointing other people, fear of not being enough, not being good enough, not accomplishing enough, fear because of the past and fear for the future.

In short, y’all, I was afraid.

“Fear not,” He says; “I am with you.
“Be not dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you . . . help you . . . uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

He tells me to be anxious for nothing, and yet I let anxiety ache along my spine, wore it as weights on my limbs all day, and looked out through it at so many gifts I might have noticed.

noticing

And He says that I am to cast all my anxieties on Him, because He cares for me. But I didn’t.

It was a long day, a day without daring. Yet He showered me with grace in the love of my loved ones.

So that here, at the end of it, Christ is my hope. I have been afraid, but I’m on my way to His table. He makes me able, makes me brave to come to Him, to be healed.

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Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, Dare. The button above will take you to her site, where you can read more and join in.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 23: counting graces

and cotton

and cotton

Today I noticed the wonderfulness of a two-days-old baby squirming and sleeping in my arms: long expected, but only so recently visible, new and perfect and so very loved.

I noticed the way a student twirled a finger in his curly hair, so that he seemed like a much younger boy than he is, looking shyly out from under thick eyelashes.

I noticed the flavor and scent of cinnamon-orange tea. It really does smell like Big Red gum, but, while the idea of a steaming hot cup of liquid Big Red isn’t all that appealing, this tea is delightful.

I noticed how God can take a day when there is not enough of me and fill in all the holes, complete the incompleteness, make of it something beautiful.

Which reminded that He does that every day, I just don’t always feel how much I need it.

Which reminded me to thank Him.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 21: doing

Today I notice that NOTHING I do is EVER perfect.

1. That isn’t the sort of thing I’ve been trying to notice this month.

2. That isn’t new information.

He calls me to let go of my doings and rest . . . .

He calls me to let go of my doings and rest . . . .

But, y’all, I’m not perfect, and I don’t do perfect things. I misspelled a word on a literature test study guide — not just any word, one of the words in the title of a poem; and not just misspelled, but put a completely wrong word — and accidentally included a quote from our last exam on the test I gave today.

And I know it has something to do with the fact that I took too much time off from carefully preparing this past week, but it also has something to do with the fact that I’m generally flawed and fallen. So that even though I’d like to project and feel that I’m a thoroughly put-together teacher, an example in all my ways and materials, I’m not permitted to do that. Because it isn’t true.

I’m a doer. I always have been. No matter how much you tell me that it isn’t about what I do at all, that ultimately I CAN’T do enough or do well enough, no matter how much I try to believe you, there’s a corner of my soul that continues to be sure that my doings are what give me value, that my doings define me.

That, friends, is idolatry. Because it isn’t my doings at all; it is all Christ. I am valuable because He values me. While my doings only ever earn me death, His doing on my behalf gives me life and defines me. When I put my doings in the primary place, I put them in the place of Christ. Another doing that deserves death.

And so He reminds me: NOTHING I do is EVER perfect. He doesn’t do it to hurt me; He does it to drive me to Himself. This is grace. He calls me to let go of my doings and rest in what He has done.

Because even though I can’t do perfect things, the perfect God loves me. Because even though my doings are never enough, never good enough, He defines me as precious — not because of my doings, but because of Himself.

This God, His way is perfect and His all words prove true. 

I notice, and rejoice.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 12: Unexpected

noticing

Sometimes, if you’re noticing on a scattered-showers Sunday afternoon, you might see two people riding horseback up Main Street with a rainbow spread overhead.

I reckoned it a peculiar thing, and yet it made me glad.

I was driving, and failed to get a photo, but I do have this photo of Main Street, sans riders and rainbow, but including the authentic remains of insects on my car windshield; I leave the rest to your imagination.

Main StreetIn this I am reminded of another inexplicable sighting which I had downtown last year: fourteen red balloons released into the sky. Here are a few of the things I wrote about that:

The essential usefulness of a shiny red balloon is arguably small, how much smaller when let go into a wide sky, out of reach of human hands and eyes? And yet.

And yet, watching the balloons rise up and up out of reach of all measures of usefulness, I was filled with the delight that comes with things which exist quite outside practicality: glad, inexplicable things. There they were, reflecting sunlight, defying gravity, going who knows where to astonish who knows what placid birds with gratuitous shining.

What might it do to our doings if we were to take this approach to them? If we were to give up on measuring results, make them for the sheer joy of it, and let them go?

It gladdens me to remember, and to know that inexplicable gladness is there for the noticing.

Isn’t God good?

©2014 by Stacy Nott