I’ve just started Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, a summer gift from my mom who has fallen in love all over again after reading it for the second time.

I’ve never been to this area of Italy. The only Italy I’ve seen is Sicily. Steve and I took a military rotator flight over when we were living in Bahrain. With only five days to explore, we just stayed in Sicily and ate calamari and drank liters of red table wine. I have a snapshot-memory of Steve bodysurfing in the Mediterranean like a boy. Another of us rooting through tiles in a pottery shop. And then two dinners come to mind – one on a deck jutting out over the ocean and another in a courtyard walled in with an ochre wall that was perfect at dusk.

Mayes ushers me back to those memories. I love how a good book can do that.

She also makes me long for a farmhouse to restore, land to walk, old brick floors, stone walls, fruit trees, olives, and a vineyard. Imagine that being your life. Astounding.

I like reading about how she is fixing up this old home and its land, the restoration and resurrection of the property a metaphor for the transformation that takes place in the self when we put our hands in the dirt and stack stones and prune fig trees (figuratively or literally).

I love how taking on a project helps us feel alive, how it changes us in the process of getting the work done. Creating, beautifying, rebuilding are each such profound healers. So, in lieu of not having a dilapidated farmhouse in the wings, I think about the projects I do have, the God-given projects. I think about the things I need to sink my hands and heart into in order to stay alive.

The inertia of life can too quickly pull us toward numbness, paralysis, despair. I loathe that reality. So I try to push back in my own small ways. What has God given me to restore, beautify, redeem, remake, create?

I write a paragraph or two.  Nothing finished. Just something. The act of participating in my own life puts blood in my veins.

Priming the pump. Pruning the vines. Washing the windows. Digging the well. Perking the coffee. Breathing the basil.

May we all have the courage to participate in life in real and meaningful ways! May we all have the courage and vision to take the old, falling down farmhouses and turn them into mini-masterpieces.

Oh! Teach us to live well!

Teach us to live wisely and well!

And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,

confirming the work that we do.

Oh, yes.

Affirm the work that we do!

–Psalm 90

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