Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I was thinking about the last time I dressed up for Halloween, which was in my senior year of college. Can you guess what I was? (The title gives it away.) I already had this hat, which I love (and sort of screams "Sherlock Holmes") and I paired it with this big-buttoned jacket and a pencil skirt and tall black boots. And people knew who I was! It's always nice when you don't have to explain who or what you are dressing as for Halloween.

As kids, my brothers and I listened to all kinds of stories read aloud--on cassette tape--and one that I remember was called A Baker Street Dozen. It included 12 of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries that were read dramatically and linked by violin interludes. In particular I recall one called "The Speckled Band," and I remember being equal parts intrigued and terrified listening to this tale, which was probably at night as I was falling asleep (that's often when we listened to our beloved tapes).

So I looked up "The Speckled Band" yesterday and decided it was a perfect story to read on Halloween! You can find it here (there's an audio recording too, but it isn't terrific, so I recommend you read it). I wasn't as scared reading it this time around as I was as a little girl, but if you've never read it and you don't know how the mystery ends it might be just the thing to get you in a spooky Halloween mood.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DIY Mini Envelopes

Ever since I was a little girl I've loved paper--notebooks, note cards, blank pads of paper, pretty stationery. And as you all know by now, I also love making homemade things. So when I came across this mini envelope template I was inspired to make my own tiny, paper envelopes. Aren't they adorable?

I decided to make three different sizes so I printed the template at 100%, 75%, and 65%. I also printed them on card stock so they would be easily trace-able. 

You can make these envelopes out of any kind of durable paper--scrapbook paper, heavier wrapping paper, simple colored card stock. I wanted to use supplies that I already had at home, so I decided to make mine from plain brown paper bags from the grocery store and a few of my husband's old flight charts (I asked first!). 

They are really fun and easy to make and once you have the templates you can make new ones whenever you'd like. And they are entirely free, as long as you re-use old paper items you already have. It's so satisfying to make something from nothing, isn't it? 

So, what will I use these adorable tiny envelopes for? I haven't a clue! (Spoken like a true creative type, right?) What I should say, is that I haven't a clue yet. Possibly something related to Christmas gifts? Or for slipping little notes to my husband? They're simply too cute not to use.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mother-Daughter Book Club

My mom, at a café in New York a few weeks ago

My mom and I have our own private Mother-Daughter Book Club. Which makes it sound much more formal than it actually is, but I think it's a fun way to think about it. My mom and I both happen to love reading and over the years we've told each other about the books we're reading, recommended books to each other, and often, we read books together and talk about them over the phone. I think that qualifies as a Mother-Daughter Book Club, don't you think?

This started back when we lived under the same roof and, therefore, had access to the same bookcases and only one library. So instead of having the luxury of reading two copies of the same book at the same time (as we do now) we often had to find ways to share the same book! I remember, more than once, that one of us would begin a new book, the other would pick it up as it was laying somewhere in the house and get hooked on it, and we would have to negotiate how to share it (because once you start a good book, it's hard to put it down!).

I was thinking back to this because I recall that this happened with one particular book, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I was remembering this book because my mom and I are now reading another of this author's novels, called Caleb's Crossing. My mom just finished it and I'm a few pages from the end. We both agreed that the book started out rather slowly, but that by the middle it comes to life and is so captivating. It's a beautiful story of a Puritan girl who grew up in 17th-century Martha's Vineyard, when it was a wilderness filled both with Native American tribes and English Puritan settlers. Caleb, in the novel, is an Indian man she befriends who becomes the first Native American graduate of Harvard College.

Here's a passage from the book that I read twice because I thought it was breathtaking and so beautifully written:

The island cried out to me. I longed to feast my senses on its light and air, and restore my spirit with its peace. If I answered its call, soon enough I would live again the familiar rhythms of its seasons--wincing winters and dappled summers, its shy, reluctant springtide and gleaming, bronzed leaf fall. I would be cradled by the known world of kine and crop, the heaviness of each day's familiar chores lightened by love of the very place in which I did perform them. I knew that life; I knew my place in it. If I threw my thoughts forward I could see myself at every age. To be sure, parts of the picture were wreathed in fog--the goodman beside me did not turn his face to show me who he was; the number of children at my board ebbed and flowed--but the woman at the center of the vision was clear; in bud, in blossom, and blown. I did not fear even the last of these visions: the frail old crone, hands gnarled and claw-like from a lifetime's toil, cheeks, etched and hollow, billowing forth a final breath. I knew that even as her petals withered, a good fruit ripened: the fruit of a life lived for family and faith and the rich harvests of a fertile place.

I highly recommend this book, and urge you to start your own Mother-Daughter Book Club! If you have any suggestions for what we should read next, please do let me know.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Inspiring Words

Remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago on the new women's magazine called Verily that I discovered? Well, while I anxiously await my first issue in the mail I've been enjoying reading Verily's blog, which includes inspiring guest posts on all kinds of topics as well as their "Daily Dose" series, which pairs beautiful quotes with whimsical images. I thought I would share some of my favorite of these "Daily Dose" posts with you this Friday. I hope they bring inspiration to you as we enter into a beautiful fall weekend.

Source: via Kate Z on Pinterest

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finger Lakes Feast

I am very excited to officially announce that the cookbook my dad and I co-authored, along with my photographer brother, is available for purchase in stores and online. This cookbook was entirely a joint effort. The three of us combined our interests and talents and together made a product that none of us could have produced on our own. 

Finger Lakes Feast is what we call a storytelling cookbook. It is sprinkled with brilliant essays by my writer father on a multitude of topics, from local Upstate New York history and lore, to cheese and honey and flour production, to nature and agriculture, to the area's very best food artisans. They are really wonderful. 

Then there are recipes, of course, with beautiful images to accompany them. The dishes we feature were collected both from our own family recipe box as well as from the area's greatest chefs and restaurateurs and vineyard owners, who graciously provided us with their most divine recipes. They were all adapted for home cooks and cover a great range of flavors, with many of them featuring local, seasonal, fresh ingredients.

If you are interested in buying our book I would like to give you, my wonderful readers, an opportunity to have a signed copy of Finger Lakes Feast. Your best bet is to purchase the book on Amazon, which is selling the book for a price comparable to the author price. If you are indeed interested in an autographed copy please email me at and we can discuss the best way to do this. I have a few ideas.

Thank you so much in advance for reading and cooking along with us! I do hope you enjoy our book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Memorization

One of the blogs I read has been offering weekly Fall Challenges to its readers, challenges that are meant to be inspiring and reinvigorating as we enter a new, quieter and more introspective season. This week's challenge was to memorize a poem

I've done a lot of memorizing in my life but hardly any of this kind. As a classical pianist I've memorized hundreds and hundreds of thousands of notes, have taught my hands and fingers to play countless phrases and melodies and harmonies with no help from the written page of music. It's become so natural for me to memorize in this way.

But to be able to recite a poem from memory? That's a more difficult and foreign kind of memorization for me, and I thought it would be a perfect challenge to take on. 

I chose this poem by Emily Dickinson, "I Never Saw a Moor," a simple and beautiful ode to faith, to believing without seeing. My dad was the one who introduced me to it. As a confirmation gift my parents gave me an icon of John the Baptist (which was hand-painted by a monk in an Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria!), and they inscribed a note along with this poem on the back. I've read it often, and I realized how beautiful it would be to have it forever in my mind and on the tip of my tongue. So I've memorized these few lines and have internalized the unbending faith that is in them. 

I'd really love to do more memorization of this kind. Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 is a favorite of mine, and I also love the poet Rumi, whose poetry I was introduced to in a wonderful college class I took. This Fall Challenge (or more accurately, all of my chatter this week about poetry) also prompted my husband to re-read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," a very long and haunting poem that my husband had memorized when he was a teenager because he loved it so much (and I didn't know this about him until this week--another good outcome of the Fall Challenge!). 

Do you have a favorite poem or poet? Do you have any poems by memory?

Monday, October 22, 2012

DIY Christmas Card Sneak Peek

Since this is our first Christmas as a married couple, I want our Christmas card to be special.  And since anything homemade is automatically more special (not to mention more fun!) I'm making them myself. It's also more economical, which is something I think most newlyweds can appreciate!

October might seem like a ridiculous time to begin thinking about Christmas cards but since they are a DIY project--in other words, labor intensive and time consuming--I thought I'd better get a head start. We are also planning a trip for mid-December and I did not want to be scrambling to finish them amidst packing and preparing to leave.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share a sneak peek of some details--without giving away too much! 

This is not the photo we will be using (so as not to ruin the surprise) but I do think it's sort of sweet. 

I plan to eventually share photos of the final product and blog about how I designed and created the cards. In the meantime, if you're looking for DIY Christmas card ideas, feel free to email me and I can offer you a few tips.

Did this post get you in a festive, holiday spirit? I hope so!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fresh Cranberry and Orange Scones

I happened to have fresh cranberries and oranges in my fridge this week and I wanted to use them up. They make such a nice flavor combination and fresh cranberries also happen to be very good for you. For some reason, I also had hot tea on my mind at the time, and there's nothing quite as delicious as hot tea and freshly made scones. 

The recipe below is a combination of several recipes. There are some variations you can take, such as using all white flour instead of white and whole wheat. You can skip the glaze and instead add a little bit more sugar in the recipe. You can use all buttermilk for the liquid. 

I really wanted to make clotted cream to go with these (I guess I was feeling very English this week) but discovered that while it is very easy, it is also very time-consuming to make clotted cream. It requires leaving heavy cream in a pan in your oven at 180 degrees for 8 or more hours! I suppose in the chilly English countryside leaving your oven on all day to make clotted cream might be a cozy perk--even if it is on a very low temperature. Considering the still-80-degree Southern days we've been having, I decided to skip the clotted cream.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (diced into small chunks)
3/4 cup fresh cranberries (chopped, and tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar)
1 cup liquid (I used juice from one orange plus buttermilk, to equal 1 cup)

Juice from one orange, plus a few teaspoons confectioners sugar, whisked together 
(adjust for desired sweetness)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
Add grated orange peel.
Add butter, and use your fingers to combine with the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
Stir in the cranberries. 
Gradually add the liquid, and with a fork stir until the mixture comes together in moist clumps.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface, knead lightly about 4 times, and shape into a round disc that is 1 inch thick.
Cut into 10 wedges and bake on parchment paper for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, transfer to a cooling rack, and drizzle each scone with a little bit of glaze.

(Note: If you want to skip the glaze, dial up the sugar in the recipe to about 1/2 cup, or a little bit more if you like sweeter scones.)

(Pictured here is hot coffee, which is also delicious with fresh scones, but hot tea is the classic combination. Try it with both!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

To Regret and Forgive

What are your thoughts on regret?

That very word is so "loaded" these days, I think. We tend to hear it most in the context of, "Have no regrets" or "I don't believe in having regret." I know I may be alone in this (well, my husband and I talked about this last night and we agreed so I'm not totally alone!) but the idea that we shouldn't have regrets is a pet peeve of mine. I disagree with it.

I do, however, agree with the larger connotation of these catch-phrases, which is that we should not wallow in regret or dwell on the past. We shouldn't cry over spilled milk, and I agree wholeheartedly with this (though it can be difficult to do). It's so important to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and for the things we cringe about only in hindsight.

But to say that we should never have regrets implies that we never made mistakes. That there's nothing we could have done better, or made right. I think that regrets are actually healthy if we allow ourselves to acknowledge them honestly and learn from them. I believe that all of us--our successes, our happy relationships, our good stories, in addition to the sad stories and the failings and the things we wish we could take back--make us who we are.

I found this quote on regret by a modern Christian philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstorff, from his book Lament for a Son, and I think it's lovely:

And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, 
to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. 
I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better...And I shall allow them to 
sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all 
throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry."

What do you think of this idea of acknowledging regrets, forgiving them, and striving to do better? I would love to know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Wedding Planning: DIY Spiced Nuts as Favors

There are just a few more pieces of our wedding that I'd like to write about as part of my Wedding Planning series. I've been wanting to write about our wedding favors for a while now, but I decided to wait until we were closer to the warm, cozy, gift-giving season, which these spiced nuts fit into perfectly. In other words, these favors are lovely for weddings but I think they make unique gifts for just about any other occasion, too.

The winter before our wedding, I found this sugar-and-spice candied nuts recipe and made a few batches to jar as gifts. The next year, when our winter wedding was upon us, I decided to do exactly the same thing for all of our lovely guests. But first I began collecting jars.

Lucky for me, my mom was a big canner and used to make lots of jams and jellies and so she had dozens of vintage glass jars tucked away in our basement. She was downsizing and decided she wasn't going to be doing much canning in the future, so I happily gathered and cleaned them all to use for my favors. 

To make them extra cute, I knew they would need tags. I hopped onto the Paper Source site (where I'd gotten so many other wedding supplies) and they had these exact "H" cards, in dusty rose, and on sale! It was meant to be. I used leftover gold ribbon from our wedding invitations to tie them up in a bow.

Two weeks before the wedding, I made the spiced nuts in my parents' kitchen. I had bought 20 pounds of raw almonds, walnuts, and pecans at a good price (I think at Sam's Club) and I had gotten out my mom's biggest mixing bowls and cookie sheets and pans. I made batch after batch after batch! It was a lot of fun, and while it took hours, it was really very easy. It did require attention and constant stirring, but it was such a joyful task. It made my wedding feel oh-so-real!

I loved the way our florist chose to arrange the jars at the reception, among dozens of candles and lemon leaves and vintage family wedding photos that I had been collecting for months. It was so special and it took my breath away (the photos don't do quite it justice). 

(This last photo is not related to favors but I thought I would include it because it was another thoughtfully arranged part of the reception. On it are more vintage family wedding photos, as well as blank cards that we asked our guests to write notes on, which we will read on our one-year anniversary. We can't wait to see what our friends and family said and to relive this magical evening.)

All photos by Robin Fox Photography

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reading Aloud

Julius LeBlanc Stewart / Bearded Roman via The Atlantic

A few days ago, I stumbled on an article called In Praise of the Lost, Intimate Art of Reading Aloud, a sweet and delightful little piece. The author writes about how reading books aloud can be such a personal, bonding activity, and that it need not be limited to parents reading to children. She writes about how wonderful it is for two adults to read to each other, too, and particularly, how it can bring closeness into your relationship.

My husband and I are big advocates of this lost art. We read the Bible aloud in the evenings, and we just started reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy together. In fact, even before we were in the same physical location we experienced great books together. One Christmas, we decided to give each other a copy of the same book, and when we were apart, we would read it and talk it over each night on the phone. It wasn't reading aloud but it was the next best thing. We chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which had the added bonus of giving us the chance to talk about and deepen our faith together.

In writing this I've just realized that all of our reading together has been centered around faith and philosophy. We've learned and gained so much by talking over these rich works together, and I know we'll continue to do so. But now I'm feeling inspired to dive into a novel, next. I love the author's description of how she and her lover took turns picking their favorites.

What do you think? Do you read aloud with your significant other? What would you pick to read first? (I think, like the author, I would have to introduce my husband to Pride and Prejudice--but then, he may insist on War and Peace! I vetoed it once before when he suggested it, out of intimidation, but it might be a fun challenge.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate


As the days grow crisper I find myself craving hot chocolate for an after-dinner treat. So, because everything is better homemade, I decided to make my own batch of hot chocolate powder that will last for months and months. It is so much more flavorful and delicious than pre-made cocoa mix and it has a special ingredient, too.

3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons cinnamon (I would add up to double this amount next time)

Whisk all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar. 
To serve, heat milk in a mug and stir in about 
2 heaping scoops of the cocoa mix. 

The bitterness and spice of the cinnamon is a perfect contrast to the sweet chocolate, so feel free to add as much cinnamon to the mix as you'd like. I like to make homemade, freshly whipped cream to go on top, and I finish it with a dusting of cinnamon.

Update: I just thought of a very cute gift idea for this hot cocoa mix that I may try this Christmas. Fill glass mason jars with this powder, along with a handful of mini marshmallows stirred in for an extra festive twist. Tie with a bow and you have a beautiful homemade gift!  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

12 Ways to Use a Tea Towel

Through one of the lovely blogs I follow, I discovered Studiopatró, a San Francisco-based company that makes printed tea towels. After clicking on the link from this blog, I found myself gazing at these beautiful, quirky, practical, and fun tea towels for a good long time. There is something about them that I really love! I have a penchant for simple, delicate, and pretty things that add an extra bit of beauty to a space.

Then I found this video on their site (I told you I spent some serious time there!) called 12 Ways to Use a Tea Towel. Even though posting this makes me a little bit of a blog-copier, I think it's ok, because blogs are all about sharing, right? These ideas are so cute and some are quite original. My favorites are using tea towels as napkins for a special dinner, and wrapping a cookbook (like this one, perhaps) in a tea towel to make for an even more lovely gift (this idea is pictured above--it's not in the video, but this photo was on Studiopatró's site, so I guess there are 13 ways to use a tea towel!).

What do you think? Aren't these towels adorable?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Published Essay

"Limbs" by Noah Zinsmeister

I'm very excited to shamelessly announce and direct you to an essay I wrote that was just published by MercatorNet. Mercator is an online magazine that covers a range of ethical, political, social, and cultural issues, which its editors and writers try always to reframe in terms of "human dignity". I love this goal and purpose and am thrilled to be a part of it in my own small way.

My piece was published here on MercatorNet's Tiger Print blog, which is specifically aimed at young adults and covers modern culture and ideas and style.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!

p.s. Don't you love this photo my little brother took? I couldn't resist posting it today, a day that really feels like fall.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Girl Power

My husband is teaching me how to shoot. As in, how to fire a handgun safely and accurately. This may seem like a strange thing for me to blog about (it doesn't quite fall under any of my usual categories) but I actually think there is an explanation for why I feel compelled to write about this.

I realized a few months ago while watching an episode of Army Wives (this is an embarrassing detail) that I was really afraid of guns. I realized that if I ever came into contact with one and needed to use it to defend myself, I wouldn't know what to do. I'm sure I would have just frozen up, and that's what makes guns dangerous--guns aren't dangerous on their own, they're only dangerous when used improperly or abusively.

So I asked my soldier husband if he would teach me how to use a gun. We decided to start out using an air gun and a target in our backyard. He taught me the basic safety rules, how to load and unload the weapon, how to breathe, aim, and how to squeeze the trigger. After those first few lessons I began to feel more comfortable handling the gun and more confident in my knowledge of how to use it safely.

Then this weekend he graduated me up a level. We went to a local indoor range and rented a real handgun. And I'm telling you, I was scared all over again. I really didn't like it at first. First of all, guns are incredibly loud, and the man in the booth next to us was using a particularly loud weapon. I jumped every single time he fired, even with the earmuffs we were wearing. At one point, one of his shell casings (the brass piece that holds the bullet and ejects after you fire) nicked me in the arm and I had a split second of panic. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I had never been around live fire before and it was a little bit terrifying!

When it was my turn to load the weapon and shoot I felt quite nervous. I knew in my mind what to do (my husband is a very good teacher) but shooting a real gun for the first time made me feel pretty tense. We practiced shooting at close range as well as firing several rounds one after the other. My biggest problem was that I had a hard time relaxing and I noticed that when I didn't over-think, my accuracy was so much better. My husband kept telling me to be sure of myself, that I'm in control of the weapon, that I know what to do.

And you know what? By the end of our hour, while I wasn't exactly enjoying it, I began to feel a million times more secure and calm. Knowledge (and practice) really is power. We plan to visit the range a few more times and eventually, buy a handgun to keep in our home for protection. I know that with a few more lessons I will feel even more comfortable and confident that I could defend myself and my family if I had to.

And I think that's why I wanted to write about this today. Of course I pray that I never have to use a gun, ever. But if I needed to, I would know how, and that's a powerful thing. Women are naturally fierce protectors of the people they love. Instead of harboring a fear for guns, as I did before, I'm beginning to see them as a tool that can offer me and my family safety and protection.

Women, what do you think? Are you afraid of guns, or do you know how to use them? Would you ever want to learn? Do you agree that not knowing how to use them is an uncomfortable feeling?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our Response to Beauty

This week, while visting my family, I got a chance to attend a classical violin concert, which was a real treat. One of the pieces on the program was J.S. Bach’s Partita in D Minor for solo violin. The final part of the Partita is Bach’s very famous Chaconne, an absolutely exquisite piece of art (you must listen to it here and here).  It was the first time I had heard the Chaconne performed live, and it was breathtaking.

Hearing Bach’s Chaconne reminded me of a speech I heard while in college that had an enormous influence on me. The speech was by Professor Christian Moevs and it was given at an event honoring Arts and Letters honors graduates at Notre Dame. I was a junior at the time and I worked at the Performing Arts Center, where the event was being held, and this is how I happened to hear this speech.

In it, Professor Moevs talked about a fascinating experiment conducted by The Washington Post—they hired Joshua Bell, a great violinist, to play his violin in a D.C. subway in jeans and a t-shirt. Among other things, he played Bach’s masterful Chaconne in D Minor, and he played it on his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin. They wanted to see what would happen.

Sadly, what happened was basically nothing. In the 43 minutes that Bell played, 1,097 people walked by on their way to work, and exactly 7 stopped. 27 people gave money. The other 1,070 went by without pause or notice.

I somehow (I can’t remember how) got my hands on a copy of Professor Moevs' speech, so rather than paraphrasing the part that has been so meanginful for me, I will let you read it here:

...the response to beauty is not really a question of education. It is innate in the human soul. In fact, one of the people most drawn to Bell’s playing was a 40-year-old career busboy in a cafe in the [subway]. He was working hard, but every chance he got, he’d stand at the very edge of the cafe, craning his head out to see and listen. When they asked him later, he said he had no idea what the violinist was playing, but it gave him peace.
Peace. Peace is the innate nature of man; it is a bottomless, shoreless ocean in the heart. Great music is the ocean calling to the wave, which is really the deep calling to the deep. When the soul responds to that call, it is awakening to its own infinity, its freedom, its transcendence of nature and time. That is the experience of beauty. This experience of the eternal in time, of the infinite in the finite, is what great music and art and literature are about; it is what Bach’s Chaconne is about. Our response to beauty is our response to God.
How do we lose God? Like those people at rush hour who walked by Bach and Joshua Bell. Those people had things to do, things to become, with an eye on their watches. We lose eternity, and enter the prison of time, by striving to be this or that. We lose being by becoming, by not knowing how to be still, how to simply be. We must play our roles in the world, do what God has given us to do, as well as we can. But we must not live for our roles. Let us live only for God, who has given us those roles. That’s what Bach did. He worked as hard as anyone ever has. He also inscribed “For the glory of God” on top of every piece he wrote, including the Chaconne.

I can’t read this without tearing up, and I must have read it two dozen times by now. He captures so beautifully what music is, what great art is, and as a musician it cuts right down to my core. In fact, this line—“Our response to beauty is our response to God”—is one of the major reasons I decided to continue my music studies in graduate school. I was a double major in college and was trying to decide which path to pursue after college. I happened to pull out this speech as I was packing up my room after graduation and that line spoke to me. God gave me a gift, I thought, the gift of music, and it’s a gift that brings beauty to my own life and to others. What I do with this gift is up to me, and how I respond is my response to God.

Professor Moevs concluded the speech by describing one incredibly telling, poignant, and unexpected outcome of the experiment:

There was one demographic group in that rush hour crowd that did respond unanimously to Bach and Joshua Bell. That was the children. Every single child was instantly mesmerized, tried to stop, kept turning back. And every single one of them was pulled away by an adult, who had someplace to go.
I want to leave you with that image: the child turning back to Bach, entranced by beauty, longing for the ocean, and being pulled away by an adult.

Isn’t it beautiful that these children were drawn to the music? And heart-breaking that they were pulled away? I will never forget this, and I pray that I never inadvertently pull my children from great beauty but instead lead them to it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Radical Generosity

Photo taken on Columbia University campus by Noah Zinsmeister

Among many other things on our whirlwind weekend in New York, we went to the church that my little brother goes to on the Upper West Side. It's a very famous church with an incredible congregation, from what I can tell (young, note-taking, full-voiced, and eager). Redeemer has several pastors but we were blessed to be able to hear the founding pastor, Tim Keller, preach. I've been to this church twice, and both times Tim Keller gave the sermon. He is an incredibly gifted minister and his sermons, on both occasions, have been memorable and so meaningful.

The message for the sermon yesterday was on generosity. He spoke on how we so often think of generosity in terms of money, but what God really cares about is much more than that--He wants generosity to live in our hearts. It is so easy to be superficially generous (giving our financial resources) but not radically generous (giving our time, sharing our home with others, opening our hearts and our vulnerabilities to those we love, not expecting anything in return for a good deed). Our earthly generosity so often tends to be superficial, but what God wants is for our generosity to be radical--for our hearts and our minds to be open and giving.

There was much more to the sermon but I wanted to share this little bit with all of you readers. The idea of trying to be radically generous is so powerful--just those two words together are inspiring.

What do you think? I would love to know!

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