Sunday, November 30, 2008

whim, washing up, white

-I've been on the look out for the movie Love Actually for weeks now because, well, it's British and Christmassy and Love Actually. After buying some groceries yesterday afternoon, on a whim, I decided to brave the cold a bit longer and check the charity shop across the street for it. I ran in, groceries in tow, and immediately saw Love Actually on the shelf. I grabbed it, paid (50 pence) and left all in about 30 seconds. I watched it last night, and it was as lovely as ever.

-Cooking broccoli, cheese and potato soup (which is so very good with white Irish cheddar and Irish potatoes taken from the ground that morning) and sharing some with my housemate Jonee. After devouring large bowls of it and sitting back contentedly watching the movie mentioned above, he jumped up and said, "You cooked. I'll do the dishes." Those might be my favorite words ever.

-Looking out of the window to see a blanket of frost covering the roofs this morning.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

relax at home

-Having a table quiz to raise money for the youth program and enjoying the banter, relaxed atmosphere and decadent desserts. There were dozens of yummy treats to chose from: I had a raspberry cake roll and the always-tasty banoffee pie. The whole night felt really comfortable and entertaining.

-Going with several friends to see my friend Kellie's band play and having fun all hanging out together. Back in Decatur, I would often drag friends to little shows, and so I felt really at home and myself to be doing it here.

-Waking up to a really cold morning and indulging in a second steaming cup of tea.

An addition--I don't want to forget this:
-Yesterday I went to visit an immigrant family who live in the area to learn more of their story about how they came here, how life is here for them and what their needs are. As I left, 5 of the children gave me hugs, and 3 said, "I love you" with the joy of genuine affection and the pride of being able to speak English to me. It was a humbling experience for me: here I am, fluent in the language of the place I live, and yet how often do I use it to express love? I have much to learn from these children.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

sunny thoughts

-The hiss of piping-hot buttery popcorn. I'm a little popcorn obsessed...I think it's my family's fault. We always had popcorn in the afternoon, and I crave it several times a week. It tasted just as good as it smelled.
-Sunlight shining on a big leaf in the middle of my path through the park to work this morning.
-Getting an email from my parents with pictures of our house all decorated for Thanksgiving. Everything looks so festive. I can't wait to be there in a few weeks! I've also received other texts and emails wishing me a happy Thanksgiving, which were so thoughtful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

uncommon ground

-Getting a thoughtful thanksgiving card from my parents--and in it a leaf from our front yard. It's funny how the card and leaf just smelled like home. It's said that smell is the strongest sense of memory, and I think it's true.

-Preaching my first sermon as an ordained minister. Sermons are never really easy to gauge--you're invested in what you say, but once your words leave your mouth, they go where they will. I think I was a bit more nervous than normal preaching as an official minister for the first time and being in a place where I haven't preached before, so to have that hurdle jumped is great.

-Volunteering at Common Grounds, my favorite non-profit fair-trade coffee shop. I have a Tuesday night free, and thought it would be a great way to get to know people and spend time contributing to a place I love. I already met another volunteer there who's an American phd student in creative writing and the girl who works there full time, and they are both quirky, friendly and laid-back. I'm really going to enjoy the conversation, company and free coffee!

Friday, November 21, 2008


-Putting Christmas lights up in our living room around our big picture. I normally wouldn't go all Christmassy quite this early, but I figure I don't really get Thanksgiving over here, so bring on Christmas! It reminds me of my old apartment to have lights around a picture, and creates the warmest glow in the room. The new cinnamon and spice candle also adds a Christmas feel to the room.

-Watching rain fall lightly and sparkle in the sunlight, making the trees glisten and shine.

-Having a teenage girl in the youth group say (when she heard I was preaching Sunday night), "So, you're ordained as a minister and all?" "Yep I am." "That's sooo cool!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

this hour and that one

-Receiving the most amazing package from Jessi. (THANK YOU!) She sent me a great top, a cd of music we both love and a copy of The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, complete with her own personal notes to me in it. Her inscription to me in the book was so thoughtful it brought me to tears. Feeling that she was right there with me, I read the entire book last night and this morning. I found myself emotional when I read a sentence about dancing next to the band and saw that beside it Jessi had written "I thought of you immediately." It's a wonderful thing to be so deeply known and loved.

-Annie Dillard's wisdom and truth. I was particularly shocked into new awareness and profound simplicity when she said, "What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing."

-I've decided to volunteer on Tuesday evenings at my favorite coffee shop, and have already noticed the people working there treating me as more than just another visitor. Their friendly smiles, helpful information and enthusiasm ("The girls working are so excited you're helping! I'll leave a t-shirt out for you.") make me already feel like an insider.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

pure poetry

-Going to a poetry book launch with Jonee and Jason. The author was one of Jonee's poet friends, and the launch--with traditional singing, heartfelt readings, free red wine and quirky attendees--was charming.

-The fun of Northern Irish sarcasm.

-Instead of drinking my morning coffee while blogging & checking emails, I opted to sit in bed and read another chapter of my Jane Austen book while surrounded by warm blankets and pillows.

Monday, November 17, 2008

a wee dander

I awoke last Saturday to find the weather unusually mild, with bright sunshine. I decided that sunshine in Belfast is a terrible thing to waste, and so I walked up Cavehill, the hill that overlooks the city and ocean. It was so relaxing to meander my way up, slowly taking in the fluffy green grass, sights of the ocean and regal hills. I wanted to share it with you, so grab a cuppa tea (the closest you have to the English/Irish variety), sit back, and walk the hills of Northern Ireland with me.

(Belfast Castle)

(view of Belfast and the sea)

(When my cousins Lee and Adele came to visit once, Lee sat on a rock on Cavehill and claimed it as her own. I think this is it.)

(Hey! Thanks for coming.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

purple broccoli and little ears

-Walking to work on an unusually warm day and seeing Maureen sweeping her front porch. I stopped to say hello, was invited in for coffee, and decided that I should always make time for this sort of thing. I had a really encouraging chat with Chris and Maureen, delicious coffee and cinnamon raisin bread. I left the Blake's feeling, like I always do, lighter and more at home.

-After teaching the Flipside (youth club) kids about God's goodness in creation, on a whim, I asked if any of them wanted to pray. One boy did, and he thanked God for "making everything and calling it good," asking, "help us to treat other people as God's good creation." It was awesome.

-Going on a late night Tesco run with a couple of the youth leaders after clubs on Friday. It's become a bit of a tradition to venture out together at 11PM to the open-all-night massive grocery store, and it's always an adventure. I love finding interesting foods I can't find in my tiny branch of Tesco near me. This time it was purple sprouting broccoli and oreccheitte pasta (which means "little ears"). Throw in some bacon, cream and onion and I've got one creative (and colorful) dinner!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

dream, delicious and dad

-A great chat with Chris about where we think Fitzroy will be this time next year, and the year after... I'm really thankful to be a part of it.

-Going to Common Grounds (as usual) for lunch and asking Stephen what soup they had today. He replied, "Butternut squash, and it's really lovely. I've changed the recipe a bit--a little more nutmeg and some cloves--please let me know what you think!"

-Reading my Dad's blog and being amazed at the way he weaves stories together with subtle grace and finds hidden in them a deep, lasting meaning. What a gift.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

go lightly

-Spending my day off curled up on the sofa watching Breakfast at Tiffany's and having lots of popcorn. It really is one of the most remarkable movies. (Remember how much I like it?)

-Discovering an amazing song and listening to it over and over: "The Writer" by Ellie Goulding. She's not very well known, and so isn't on iTunes and I can't find her chords anywhere. I'll just have to to make it to London to a show at some point!

-Seeing pictures from Clay's birthday and knowing that he had such a great time. My sister organized a suprise dinner at an Italian restaurant owned by another Patranella--Clay's third cousin. It sounds like they had an experience worthy of the Godfather (minus the violence of course!) as they ate delicious food and were then escorted to the private bar, which was of course named the "Corleone Bar."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

there and back again

-Lunch with lots of Fitzroy folks that included great conversation, amazing food and time to relax. It was also great to catch up with some parents of youth I work with and hear from one that her daughter was really excited when she heard I was returning. It was another of those great hobbitish Northern Irish Sunday lunches, where you leave when it's dark outside after several hours together.

-A deep discussion on election (God's, not ours) with one of the youth--initiated by her.

-An hour-long Skype conversation with my parents, where we finally caught up with each other on everything. I can't wait to see my family at Christmas.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

got any change?

-Bright orange and yellow leaves crunching under my feet as I walk. My life is full of change right now, and it's comforting to know that the seasons are changing with me.

-Hanging out with Veronika at St. George's Market and greeting each other with "it's so great to see you!" and "we have lots to talk about." It's amazing that, knowing her only a few weeks, I feel like I can really confide in her, and her in me. This is a real gift from God.

-Eating Cadbury's dark chocolate fingers that, (try to follow me) I used to buy at home in Texas to remind me of here, and that ended up instead reminding me of home tonight. How funny.

Friday, November 07, 2008

no really, escape, awake

-Having a student at Nightreach look at us with suspicion when we said that we were giving them bacon sandwiches, soup and tea into the wee hours of the morning just to show them kindness and that we (Fitzroy) want to be a presence in the community. I think some of the students, who are mostly Catholic, are used to Protestants trying to challenge or convert them and after explaining to him that that's really not what we're about, he smiled and said, "thank you." I could actually see in his face the moment suspicion turned to gratitude.

-Having a really long day and Jonee my housemate noticing my weariness and saying, "Wanna go to the cinema?" It was the perfect way to relax and recharge.

-After sleeping like it's going out of style (because of a night out til 3am with Nightreach) I wake and groggily make my way downstairs, make coffee, take the first sweet and rich sip and smile as it coaxes me awake.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

if there's two things you can't talk about...

...they're politics and religion. Well, I always talk about religion, so I've already blown that one. Today, I'm going to go ahead and talk about politics too. This is a massive glimpse of grace for me personally, so there's just one for today:

-Seeing Barack Obama become the first African American president (which is something we can all be proud of) and feeling hopeful, determined and inspired at the direction our country is headed and the person who will serve as our leader. I genuinely believe he's going to do great things for our country. Put in Northern Irish terms...I'm chuffed! Oh, so chuffed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

life as an ocean

-If "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills" from Out of Africa is the best opening sentence of a book (which I think it is), then I may have found the most perfect conclusion in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Speaking of his son-in-law joining the abolitionist cause, a man says,
"You'll be spat on, shot at, lynched, pacified with medals, spurned by backwoodsmen! Crucified! Naive, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!"

Adam responds, "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

It's a deeply complex, multilayered book. I recommend it!

-From the first second outside my door this morning to when I arrived at work after a half-hour walk through the park, I was bombarded by cheery, "good morning's". What a great way to start the day.

-An old man who talked to his little dog lovingly in a strong Belfast accent, saying "Ackkkk, Ackkk houw are ye?"

Monday, November 03, 2008


-Going to two gigs at the Grand Opera House with Ruth this weekend. The first was Martha Wainwright, which was pretty good, but the second was the Swell Season aka Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from "Once." They were absolutely brilliant. I love the old-world feel of the Grand Opera House.

-Hearing Glen Hansard sing to a massive audience without a microphone, just belting out his song with passion. It felt so personal, even thought I was waaay up high and far away. The acoustics were amazing--I understood how it would have functioned so well (and still does) as an Opera House.

-Glen also sang a song called "People Get Ready" that's all about making things right and bearing light in the world. He spoke of the how the outcome of the American election impacts the whole world, and then sang that song. It was so relevant and powerful.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

cocoa, snow, joy and color

Hi everyone!
I finally have internet at home, but there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out. I'm having some trouble getting pictures to upload, so I'll add those soon.

-A warm, soothing cup of cocoa after a day out in the cold rain.

-Ten minutes of snow one cold morning. I stared out the window confused at the wierd-looking rain and then realized there were huge, fluffy snowflakes swirling down. I opened the front door and just stood there, staring skywards in amazement.

-Walking past two old men in the park on my way to work and hearing one say to the other, "I'm happy for each new morning."

-Leaves of gold and orange littering the ground and decorating trees.