We have just been down to Alabama for a four day weekend. We had both Friday and yesterday off of school (Friday for teachers to get grades turned in and Monday for MLK), so we headed down to see our college friends at one family's farm on the river about an hour from Birmingham. We love to stay in this house. It is cozy yet spacious. It is somehow perfect for everything- quietly reading a book by the fire or going for a run on country roads (my run was 2 miles of lovely on Saturday) or gathering in a large group and shooting guns (why?!) or, the big draw, feasting, laughing, reminiscing and sharing time to reminisce over next year. It is definitely my family's home away from home. And really, that says a lot. Our own home changes at least every two years, but somehow "the River House" has been part of our lives for at least ten! It's an amazing ministry of hospitality that our friends and their family allow us to keep coming back. Not only do they house us, they feed us large quantities or amazing food and love us well. I have to say that I feel extremely cheerful today in spite of nearly eleven hours in the car yesterday. I also feel like my pants are fitting more snugly than usual! I come away from these friends built up and blessed every time.
Being built up and blessed by friends is no small thing. I have been very discouraged lately by the sad things in my own life and in the lives of people around me. This trip truly came at a perfect time. I spent most of Friday freaking out and delaying our departure. George called our hostess at noon and said "Well, Abby's mopping...." I was having major control issues. I know that makes me sound very Type A, which really isn't the case. It's just that there never seems to be time to do anything and nearly everything seems to be spinning wildly out of control. Mopping was a way to at least control the snowy, salty mess that had accumulated in my kitchen over the week. It wasn't exactly a good time to seize control over it, but it needed to be done. And once it was, I felt a little less like a terrible person (mother, wife, tenant), and more like it was okay for me to take the break from my regularly botched responsibilities at home.
And now I'm back and ready to botch everything up all over again. But it's okay. I really do feel better in spite of more bad news today. Will I ever get used to all of the bad news? Part of me hopes so, but most of me hopes not. May I never be cynical and pessimistic, no matter how much suffering I see the people of God encounter. "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13) I still expect to see the Lord being good to his people on earth in a way that makes sense. The important thing is to remember that even when it doesn't make sense, he is still good. Yet, I will confess that goodness I can comprehend, that I can feel and taste and touch, is what keeps me hopeful- from losing heart.
So, not as substantial as encouragement one gets from time with good friends, but here are a few tidbits to brighten your day or give you a little something to look forward to. Hey, I do what I can!
1) Jon mentioned a BBC miniseries called Lost in Austen on his blog that very much interested me. It also prompted me to do a little looking around. I discovered that the BBC's new Emma will be coming to PBS this Sunday! For those of us without TV, episodes will be available to watch online. I am not sure how I feel about Eli Stone's Johnny Lee Miller playing Mr. Knightly or Harry Potter's (also Wives and Daughters') Michael Gambon playing Mr. Woodhouse, but I think I know what to do. Guess who will be rereading Emma for the fourth (fifth?) time this week? It's the only way to keep from holding everyone up to the Douglas McGrath Emma (which I have seen at least two dozen times). And, I mean, it's not like it's a chore!
2) I'm also excited about Valentine's Day coming out in the theaters. I am sure it will not be the best movie I have ever seen. But I think the filmmakers are on to something. I feel stupid that I am falling for it in some ways. I mean, the comments on the YouTube page for the preview are very telling. It appears that a whole bunch of tweens and high schoolers are really excited about Taylor Swift being in a movie opposite some other guy named Taylor. I have no idea. I choose to remain "out of it" in that regard. However, I like the idea of lots of big Hollywood people coming together, playing a lead in a small story that is part of a big story. Basically, it's the Love Actually formula. And y'all know I love Love Actually. For one thing, if you don't like one of the story lines, it's no big deal. For another thing, if you do like more than one of the story lines, you get more than one positive movie watching experience. You get the happy feeling you get from watching 13 Going On 30 times four (or however many story lines delight you). Did I mention that I very much enjoyed He's Just Not That Into You? Yes, I did. Again, same idea: Ensemble cast. Light comedy. Happily ever after. Times six. Is it so bad that I, like every thirteen to twenty year old female in the country, am interested in this? Don't answer that. I'm going.
3) The preview to Valentine's Day reminds me that I like this song. And thinking of music reminds me that I am very happy to have the new Vampire Weekend album (you can listen for free). My children, Elspeth in particular, are delighted as well. I especially like that she sings falsetto along in "White Sky." Crank it up. It will make you merry (even if they are "the whitest band"- according to the Stuff White People Like guy).
4) This is not good news actually, but in writing this post (by way of clicking over to Stuff White People Like), I have discovered that Conan O'Brien is leaving The Tonight Show. It just seems to me that the NBC people, and Jay Leno in particular, are jerks. And I can't help but wonder if David Letterman isn't about ready to say "SEE?!! This is what I was saying!" This is all coming from someone who has no television reception, so I know nothing. But I already didn't like Leno. This just helps me along. I know I was trying to be uplifting. So here, have a funny Conan clip. Seriously, who is funnier than Conan? Okay, I didn't actually put a link to a clip because I literally spent hours yesterday watching and trying to decide which clips to put up. I highly recommend the Martha Stewart and the Jordan Schlansky ones. And I am so ready to post this.
I have a few books and recipes to recommend as well, but they will have to wait. Y'all have a good day! And I'll try to post more often if I can.