Tuesday, November 30, 2010

from Texas to Belfast to Philadelphia

-An early morning bike ride with my dad. As soon as we started, we realized how much the wind was going to make things more difficult and got more of a workout than was expected. The chilly wind was invigorating.

-Writing a letter to a friend. Remember those? They're so great.

-Watching a charming, witty movie chock full of stars (Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant), The Philadelphia Story. It was very dialogue-heavy, but that trio pulled it off effortlessly.

Monday, November 29, 2010

change and the familiar

-Having several of my friends share this video via facebook and appreciating two things: 1) how interesting my friends are and 2) how profound the simple wisdom of this video is for this season.

-Saying good morning to Ted my coffee shop buddy at the sugar/cream counter and enjoying the company and conversation. I also appreciated the fact that, due to a very overzealous group of 10 mothers with their cute babies, the gentleman occupying my usual seat made an early exit and I was able to sit there and happily sermonate (with the vital aid of headphones). Can you tell I like a little routine in my caffeinating? :)

-A gorgeous sunset that whispers a change in the weather is on its way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Poem for Advent

“Amazing Peace” by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles in the eaves of our houses.

Floodwaters await in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow

To avalanche over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and gray and threatening.

We question ourselves.

What have we done to so affront nature?

We interrogate and worry God.

Are you there?

Are you there, really?

Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.

Floodwaters recede into memory.

Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us

As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children.

It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk

Into their sunsets.

Hope spreads around the earth, brightening all things,

Even hate, which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft.

Then only half heard.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now.

Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.

We are thrilled by its presence.

It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war.

But true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.

Security for our beloveds and their beloved.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

inherited inspiration

-Seeing that my niece Gianna has inherited her Aunt Weeza's love of food. Notice that she has a biscuit in each hand (and that she's so delighted about it!). As a child, I used to hide stashes of biscuits on the window sills at my Aunt Madelynn's house, just to be sure I had a good supply wherever I might be.

-Starting the morning with cinnamon rolls and my Grandmother's delicious sausage pinwheels. Oh, and coffee. Gallons of it. Bliss!

-Watching The Secret Life of Bees. It's one of the most powerful, inspiring and centering movies I've seen in the longest time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

giving thanks

It's been such a lovely Thanksgiving! There's not much I love more than cooking (& eating) a lot of food with family. I got to make roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes, pancetta-garlic brussel sprouts and my favorite decadent dark chocolate tart. What fun. My nieces are precocious and precious as ever, the sun's been shining and now a cold front has brought a refreshing change to things, we all piled in and watched The Great Gatsby (in what I hope will be a new Thanksgiving tradition of a Robert Redford movie every year) and I had that tasty turkey and dressing twice now (with hot sauce of course). My sister took a lot of play-by-play pictures as we were cooking in the kitchen, so I'll post some of those soon. Looking forward to another morning of communal coffee time with energetic little girls and sleepy conversation among the adults. My family's great.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

spicy, solidarity and skyping

-Helping my mom make her famous hot sauce. From rain sprinkling on me as I picked chili petines outside, to the smells of it coming together, to that first bite that made my eyes water from tasty spiciness, it was fabulous. Let's hope I can remember it well enough to make it on my own.

-Going to the grocery store today. I know, it sounds crazy, who would like to be in a grocery store right before Thanksgiving? Well, I suppose I would. I met a nice lady near the sweet potatoes and while waiting for pancetta I met another friendly person. I found people more chatty and warm than the normal grocery shopping experience. Maybe this is because of the anticipation of cooking delicious food for loved ones, and maybe it's just the solidarity of surviving the place together! People left the store tired and heavy-laden with bags, but with heads held a little higher at having accomplished it.

-Skyping with some wonderful folks in Belfast: Roberta, Katrina and Jonee. It was so lovely to hear a Northern Irish accent again, to catch up on all the news at the church I served there and to laugh at funny stories shared. I'm so thankful for the time I had in that wee place and for the friendships that continue. I also came across a great thought (through my good friend, the illustrious Chris Hunter) from David Bruce, the Executive Secretary of the Board of Mission in Ireland. He said something so powerful for his own context, and powerful for ours as well:

"The Presbyterian Church in Ireland needs to be known not for her Presbyterianism but for her wholehearted commitment to the Lord of the Gospel. We need to be people who demonstrate to this island, north and south that our confidence is in Christ, and that his people incorporates all nations, each tribe, every ethnicity, rich and poor, black and white, male and female, unionist and nationalist, loyalist and republican, immigrant and indigenous, slave and free, for if we are in Christ then like it or not, we are one. Let us move beyond the bawn. Let the walls fall. Let the mission begin."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

community & cravings

-A passing of the peace during worship that was so enthusiastic that it lasted for several minutes as people flooded into the center aisle to greet each other. None of that perfunctory "How are you?" "I'm fine." business, but instead real community and conversations.

-Going to have Thanksgiving lunch with my Nana at her senior home and enjoying the hospitality of the place, the time together and (of course) the food.

-Conditioned cravings: My family and I almost always ate Chinese food after church when I was growing up and so I often crave it on Sundays. In Belfast, a large meal on Sunday (or any other day, really) was always followed by a cup of tea or coffee. So today, after my big Thanksgiving meal #1, I craved coffee Belfast-style. It was delicious.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

splendid saturday

-Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions and parsley wrapped in corn tortillas for breakfast (with hot sauce, of course!). What a delicious, Texan start to the day.

-The way Fritz the dog immediately follows me the second I come outside, and the way Zulu the guinea fowl immediately follows Fritz. Such affection.

-Spending a lazy Saturday afternoon watching Avatar with my dad.

-Also, today is my dear friend Pierce's birthday. She's the most lovable steel magnolia you'll ever come across. Happy birthday!

Friday, November 19, 2010

all together now

-A hello hug from a friend.

-Moments during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (pt 1) when a house elf was being particularly funny or situations were hilariously awkward and the entire room snickered in unison. In such an individualistic world, I really think that is community, if even just for a moment.

-Stars twinkling hopefully through dark trees, making me feel at once home and connected with other places far away that I also love.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

time to talk

-Discovering vocabulary cards in my Harry Potter book whilst devouring all 759 pages of it in 3 days in preparation for seeing the movie tomorrow night. Some of the words that literally fell onto my lap include: innovation, minimum, perishable, onset and (oddly) manacle. What a random and loquacious surprise.

-Another great catch-up chat with Ted in the coffee shop. He's always there and we usually wind up talking for a good while, no matter how much sermonating I need to do (because people beat computer every time!). Today I heard all about the house he and his wife built for 10 years, his recent trip to San Antonio, his Thanksgiving plans and how his Catholic faith shapes the way he sees the world. Now, he is loquacious! As he went back to watching Westerns on his laptop and I went back to preparing a worship service, he said, "You know, I'm here every day, but I really don't talk to many folks. Just you and one other. Not everybody's open enough to talk to people around them." I'll always have time for Ted (and thankfully, he always has time for me).

-The prophetically resonating and no-nonsense wisdom of Anne Lamott discovered in a recent article, found here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

wimberley whimsies

What a fun, Texas day I've had. I went with my Mom and her good friend Cosette to Wimberley to visit that quaint little hill country town where Cosette and her husband have built a beautiful house that they call their "vacation/weekend home" (for now). As my mom predicted, I absolutely fell in love with Wimberley and the surrounding hill country. From a pleasant not-cold-not-hot breeze of fresh air, to quirky antique stores, to delicious hamburgers with sweet potato fries, to Shire-like trees magically guarding the river, to whimsical homes with welcoming artistically sculptured gates, to golden sunlight filtering through moss-adorned trees, to funny stories shared with previously-unknown shopkeepers, to a perfect Texan sunset on the way home, it was idyllic in every way. I'm going to have to go there again soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the best un-laid plans

-A productive morning that made time for tea, a biscuit and Harry Potter in the afternoon. I'm re-reading the final book in preparation for seeing the movie (yep, I'm obsessed) and it goes so quickly it's like a fun vacation that you want to slow down so it lasts longer.

-Hearing that my nieces are loving their new school and being able to picture their happy faces this morning as my sister described them.

-Coming across a lovely Mary Oliver quote: "Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable." As someone with a tendency to hyper-plan, these are prophetic words.

Monday, November 15, 2010

midnight musings

-A day of great conversations with some of my wonderful friends. It just so happened that I got to talk with Rob, Karen, Jennifer, Kirsten and Pierce all today! I have fabulous friends, and I'm so grateful for them.

-For some reason, my mind did not want to go to sleep last night, which was frustrating, but ultimately creatively stirring. I ended up redesigning my blog (as you can see) using a beautiful, whimsical picture my sister took and also using the everyday sacramental imagery of wine and crackers (bread) here too. It really fits my ethos about holiness that "lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color" (Annie Dillard). I also worked a bit on a Celtic worship service I'm doing in a few weeks time and enjoyed finally falling asleep with the resonating sounds of Celtic hymns in my mind.

-Finding The Great Gatsby dvd (with Robert Redford) at my local library. My sister is reading the book and mentioned the movie on her blog, which inspired me to find it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the return of the fellowship

-Going to a presbytery meeting and enjoying the community found in that place. We were discussing important changes to the book of order, and I was honored to be able to speak in favor of the amendment. The discussion back and forth was wonderfully respectful, and while the vote didn't go the way I'd hoped it might, it was very close and true dialogue was achieved. I was also able to vote on new candidates for the ministry and was so encouraged to add my voice of affirmation there. I also reconnected with two women who were on my Committee on Preparation for Ministry and who continue to be supportive and read my blog here. It was such an uplifting day.

-Meeting up with Kyle, Josh and Amy and catching up with those awesome people who have been a part of my journey for so long. To be able to sit with them over good wine and chat about amusing college days, discerning calls, foodie tendencies and theology was such a gift. I'm so thrilled our paths have converged again.

-A decadent Sunday afternoon nap followed by an even more decadent cup of hazelnut hot chocolate.

(Kyle has suggested that, with my coffee obsession, I should sign blog posts with this: The Rev. Barista Whitney W. I like it!)

Friday, November 12, 2010


-Wearing one of my favorite Belfast tees...it says "yer ma" and while it seems to slag off mothers, remember that in Belfast that's a way to show affection. :) I love it (especially with the golden yellow autumnal scarf that my ma gave me)!

-Going to visit my Aunt Dorothy and seeing the familiar place I would always visit in the summers with my cousin for Vacation Bible School. It felt a bit like walking back through time. I adore the large windows making the house feel like it's being hugged by the sprawling arms of oak trees.

-Putting together the pieces of a Celtic service and finding inspiration and a sense of home in getting to focus on that lovely wee island that means so much to me.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

unexpected ways

-Going on an early morning (like just after 7) bike ride with my Dad. It was chilly enough outside to wear my warm grey sweater and so refreshing to watch the sun streaming through the clouds as we sped down our tree-lined street.

-Having a big delicious, fragrant bowl of Irish oatmeal for breakfast, made decadent with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a pat of butter.

-Joining my local library and enjoying perusing the aisles and aisles of books. I recommended one to a stranger near me (The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield--which someone on my blog here recommended to me!) and left with arms full of novels, cookbooks and even old movies (of the Cary Grant variety).

-Passing a Methodist church sign that read "God meets our needs in unexpected ways."

-Getting a lovely letter from my great friend Catherine in Belfast and just hearing her voice as I read it.

-Getting to talk briefly to the great new momma Karen.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Grace be with you

Oh, today is a very special day! My wonderful friends Karen and Rob welcomed their new baby girl into the world. I am so excited for them and ready to be an overzealous aunt (proof of which you've seen in my last post). Oh, and did I mention her name? It's Grace. This might have something to do with her parents both being ministers, but I think it's more simple than that: Karen and Rob have the deepest faith I've seen. And I know they're going to be fantastic parents. Now that's a glimpse of Grace!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

(and one more pic I just had to add)

girls just wanna have fun

My dad and Clay went hunting this weekend and so it was just us girls hanging out in V-town. We had such a relaxing time full of lots of playing in the yard, afternoon naps, delicious food, reading and chatting.

-The lovely relaxing back yard. We're big fans of putting things in the yard that wouldn't normally be there...like this chandelier my mom found at a garage sale!

-Gianna was really enthralled with this ball.

-That girl is really walking now! She had so much fun in the grass.

-While playing outside, Natalie suddenly took a big breath in and said, "It's a monster!!"

-So we went to investigate. It turned out to be a lawnmower.

-Precious Gigi.

-Nonnie passing on her gardening genius to Natalie.

-She was also the gate keeper.

-Having a wee cuddle.

-And then practicing our soccer/football skills.

-What a perfect girls' weekend! Thanks for coming Sista, Natalie and Gianna! Love you.