things that warm

Steam curling up from my afternoon cup of coffee, swirling into the air for a beautiful moment, and then disappearing.

Sitting on the floor cross-legged in front of my record player eating Chinese food and letting The Beatles serenade me.

A night cold enough for a fire.

retreat in the mountains

Howdy, chickadees.  I’m back!  I had the very good fortune last week to stay in lovely Montreat for a conference called the Church in Purple, looking at how we can move beyond a politics of red and blue to finding our common ground, using purple seasons (of Lent and Advent) as a guide.  It was a very helpful conference, and gave me great hope for the church.  I’d like to share my week with you, but first a disclaimer: you will not enjoy this post if you do not appreciate several pictures of 1) mountains 2) fall foliage 3) my dog or 4) coffee.  Now that that’s out of the way…come to the mountains with me, y’all.

ImageImage

Here’s that lovely place, which some refer to as “Presbyterian Mecca.”  I’m a Mo Ranch gal, so that will always be my spiritual home, but this place is pretty charming.

Image

My wee hobbit hole for the week, courtesy of my friend Beverly.  She was so kind to let me stay here, just a short walk from the conference center.

ImageImage

The porch.  Glory, glory, halleluia.

Image

Here’s #2 I warned you about.

Image

(And here we have #1.  I might have thought, “I wish to see mountains, Galfalf!” when I saw this.  There was no sign of Smaug, thankfully.)

Image

“On Mountain Time” is the name of Beverly’s cabin.  Naturally, she has wine glasses to match.  Naturally, I made good use of them.

Image

Hayden made good use of this quilt.

Image

Image

Not too shabby, huh?

Image

For all I know, I wandered through the middle of the road, because I spent most of my time looking up at the beautiful trees.

Image

(Except when I was looking down at the leaves crunching beneath my feet.)

Image

He moves pretty fast for an old fella.  (Check out that leash action!)

Image

Each night, we gathered for worship and had communion, which was my favorite part of the whole week.   Note the barefoot fella…we preacher types are eccentric (you don’t need me to tell you that!).  It was indeed holy ground.

Image

I’m not sure if it’s been scientifically proven, but there is something about a Wednesday at a weeklong church conference.  By then, you’ve shed the preoccupations you arrived with and aren’t yet taking them up in anticipation of leaving, so you reach a raw place of honesty with God and yourself.  Or at least I did.  We were invited to write prayers down in worship and then burned them in a refining fire (the light at the back of this picture).  We walked out with candles and watched as our prayers took light and drifted up in smoke and ash.  It was powerful.

Image

Then it was back to my wee cabin to curl up with the pooch and read.

Image

I have a habit of picking up a new coffee mug in interesting places I go (which feeds my habit of drinking coffee copiously).  This fair-trade teal mug is pretty spectacular.

Image

IMG_4536

I also have a habit of doodling whilst taking notes.  We heard from people across a theological and political spectrum and how humor was a powerful way to bring them together.  I saw this same tool used in Belfast, where those delightful folk have used sarcasm as a great tool of healing.  We also talked about the importance of bridging difference in worship style and approach.

Image

It was good to be in the Dripolator again.  It provided a great sermonating spot Thursday afternoon (as do most coffee shops!).

ImageImageImageImage

Black Mountain (just outside Montreat) is such a beautiful place.

Image

I did not necessarily intent to get a watch, but this beautiful wooden one made with sustainable African and Indian wood just spoke to me.  It was, naturally, entirely too big, but the clock repair shop next door helped with that…

Image

I do believe this place could make an appearance on Hoarders, but the man working there was a delightful Baptist bloke, and we chatted about my great-uncle’s amazing cuckoo clocks and a bit about Jesus, too.  People really are extraordinarily fascinating.

IMG_4485

My favorite place is probably the local used bookstore, where I found yet another (with yet another different cover!) copy of The Little Minister.  I love collecting different versions of this book.  I also found something perfect for a dear friend Gina in Sanford and a dear friend Catherine in Belfast.

ImageImage

(Montreat likes to show off a little.)

ImageImage

Closing worship.  It’s such a gift to just participate in worship, without worrying about remembering your sermon or the timing of things.  I loved that space.

Image

I also loved this back porch space, and spent a very lazy amount of time Friday morning (the conference ended Thursday night) drinking coffee here and writing my food column for next week.

ImageImage

Hayden seemed to enjoy it, too.

Image

I did a bit more running around Black Mountain, including the very autumnal activities of drinking local  hot apple cider and eating a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing from the local cupcakery.  It was a perfect day.

Image

And now, we’re home again, had a wonderful weekend at church, including a very fun concert (pictures from that coming soon).

Thanks for coming to the mountains, y’all.  Isn’t it a delightful piece of the world?

a romance of cinematic proportions

Today is my fabulous Sista and hilarious Brother-in-law’s 9th anniversary!  And what a lovely couple they make…

Image

They really are made for each other.  And they enjoy all sorts of fun activities in their life together, such as boating…

Image

Eating breakfast (at Tiffany’s)…

Image

And going to fabulous parties.

ImageImage

You might even call their marriage great!

Image

Tristan and Isolde have got nothing on you two!  I wish you many more wonderful adventures ahead.  Love y’all!

taking time to just be (and not just do)

Today has been a grace-full day, mostly because I showed myself the grace of recharging after a very busy weekend.  I slept in a bit, drank coffee, scrambled eggs, shallots and ham together and ate them on leftover pumpernickel bread from World Communion Sunday yesterday.  A delicious start to the day.  Then, I just took some time to listen to the rain, really.  To hear its rhythm on my metal roof and appreciate the rhythm of life that does not have to be go-go-go/do-do-do (this is starting to sound like a Beatles song!) all the time, but really should be about be-ing (be-be-be?).

Image

Then I did some laundry, which my freshly bathed buddy helped me with.

Image

After that, it was time to bake my favorite chocolate chip cookies, something I don’t think I’ve done in months.  They were as delicious as ever, plus the chocolate chips were fair-trade, which is always good.

Image

My grace-filled day continued with curling up in my favorite spot and watching Inkheart, a cheesy fantasy movie about people who read stories and then they come to life.  It was pure, delightful escapism.

After a wee bit of work (in the form of a Building and Grounds Committee meeting), I came home and caught up with my dear friends Karen and Rob.  Now I sit sipping warm camomile tea sweetened with honey from a church member’s bees, listening to that rain continue its cadence and looking forward to a restful night.

Days like this are just delightful, and give me so much energy for those busy days.  Ah, Sabbath.  

come to the table

Image

 

Yesterday was the big day: our bi-annual street fair in Cameron.  Thousands of people came, and we fed lots of them with grilled chicken and barbecue plates, complete with hush puppies made by yours truly and some serious experts.  It was a beautiful morning, with time to stroll a bit and practice our ecumenism by purchasing ham biscuits from the Methodists.  Then, before we knew it, our stall was abuzz with activity.  Several of my good friends stopped by, which was a fun surprise.

 

Image

Thanks to Ed for the great pictures!

ImageImage

Getting our hush puppies on.  We make them as fast as we can, and often have several folks wanting them at the same time.  We decided it might be fun to make “don’t rush the hush” t-shirts.

Image

Mmm.  I managed to only eat two this time, as opposed to, oh a dozen or so last time I made them.  I am thinking jalapeno butter might be a capital idea.

Image

Image

Thanks for the picture, Cat!

After a fun and busy day, it was time to rest and get ready for World Communion Sunday today.  This might just be my favorite Sunday of the year.  We used prayers and songs from around the world, and celebrated the God who unites us.  On the table, I have chalices from South Africa, Northern Ireland, North Carolina and Texas.  If reading a sermon is ever something to strike your fancy, you can check those out here: cameronpresbyterian.blogspot.com.  Then I enjoyed a lunch out and a stop at the grocery store (my favorite place to go).

 

Image

I picked up these lovely autumn sunflowers to cheer up my small-town abode.  Now, it’s perhaps time for a much-needed nap.  Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend, y’all.

swell season

How has it been so long since I’ve posted??  It wasn’t intentional, but I suppose the days have just been running together a bit.  Life in Camerontown is as delightful as ever: fall has come, and with it, evenings cool enough to burrow into my warmest comforter and days sunny and that perfect balance of not-too-cold/not-too-warm.  Church life continues to be energizing and challenging, and I still give God thanks every day for bringing me to this place.  The next couple of months bring exciting travels, with a conference at Montreat in a couple of weeks (at the height of all the beautiful mountain foliage, as luck would have it), Halloween with my family in Texas (I can’t wait to trick-or-treat with those nieces of mine, sip coffee with my Grandmother and my parents and wine with my Sista and bro-in-law!) and then a somewhat-improvised trip to Belfast in late November.  My trip to Israel was cancelled and so I needed to put together something continuing-education-y and talked to my friend Steve at Fitzroy Presbyterian and we decided to make our own study on nurturing our spirituality as spiritual leaders.  Add in his priest friend, a spiritual director and some wonderful books, and we’re all set for a refreshing and life-giving time.  Plus, I get to wander the stalls of St. George’s Market again, catch up with dear friends and preach in my old stomping ground.

This morning, as I sip my strong and slightly sweet tea, I’m looking forward to meeting some young adults who have been visiting the church for coffee in a bit.  I love getting to know people’s stories and what has brought them here.  This weekend brings the antique fair in Cameron, where thousands of people descend upon this charming community and we at church make grilled chicken plates.  It’s a great way to come together as a community (plus the money we make all goes to mission, which is always good).

So, all in all, as we enter into this favorite season of mine, I’m aware that this might just be my favorite season of my life so far.  God is good, all the time.  I hope that you and yours are happy and well.