Where I’m From…

I’ve joined a month long writing group and our first assignment was to get in touch with where we came from. We were tasked with writing a poem…not my strong area! The format came from a poem written by George Ella Lyons. So, today I become a bit more vulnerable in my writing and share with you a snippet of Where I’m From…

Where I’m From…

I am from “Kevin, Mary, Kathy, Mike, Megan, Jeff, Jenny, Matt”
and a kitchen table made from a door!
From children that were to be seen and not heard and ironing hankies.
From the big house on the corner with lots of gardens to weed.

I am from the front pew of church full of legs trying not to swing
and the white baptismal dress passed down.
From real butter and link sausage on Christmas and Easter.
From a teacher, a newspaper man, and seven of eight.

I am from pine needle houses and imaginary horses.
From half cheese glasses of juice, cookie cans above the stove
and hot dogs roasted over the fire.
From Herb Alpert and Firestone Christmas albums.

I am from people who loved me even if they struggled to show it.
From Sunday night pot roast and Wonderful World of Disney.
From beach fires, skinny dipping, inner tubes, bee stings and
the deep blue waters of Bead Lake.

I am from hard times and amazing times.
From a family torn apart…
But a childhood lived well.

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365 Days of Our Story…

It’s really just another day on the calendar.  12:01 AM and the new day begins.  364 days out of the year I’m sleeping when this transition takes place… completely unaware.  But there is that one time each calendar year I’m actually awake when that clock strikes midnight.  There’s fanfare and noise and kissing.  It seems to be magical.  Poof!  It’s not just a new day… it’s a new year!  Out with the old and in with the new.  Fresh start.  New beginnings.  Resolutions made to NOT make resolutions (oh that’s another blog for another day!).

I woke early this morning.  Oh, how I’d like to say it’s because I was so excited for the new year and all it has to offer.  Nope.  I woke because the heat came on, my bladder was screaming and my worry button turned on… right on schedule.  I was determined to stay in bed and sleep.  But alas, my brain won out and I had to get up.

           Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.

These words are going around FB.  I posted the picture.  It’s kind of exciting!  There is that fresh start we all long for.  Of course I want to write a good one.  Who doesn’t?  I wanted that for 2014.  That story was full of heartache and struggle, while at the same time covered with grace.  Was it the story that I wanted to write?  Nope.  Do we ever get the story we hope for?  As a writer of sorts, the only way to get that story written exactly as I want is to write fiction… create what I want to happen.

Our life story is not fiction.  It’s true mystery, suspense, comedy and a love story.  Each of these genres weave in and out of our daily comings and goings.

My story for 2015 is not yet written.  It’s just beginning.  As I lay awake in the early hours this morning, I felt a heaviness and fear creep over me.  Suddenly, the hugeness of the next 365 days overwhelmed me.  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Why?  How?  What if?  The idea of the vastness of what could happen seemed to press down on my spirit.

My life is full of messiness and clutter and unmet expectations.  I imagine that many of us might just feel the same way if we let ourselves truly be honest.  My life is also full of love and blessings and joy, but I let the heartache of 2014 overshadow those.

As I day in bed on this first day of the next 365 days, I began to pray… for that is the only thing that quelled the fear that was grabbing my heart and mind. I can’t look ahead on the calendar… I can only look at today… right now, for anxiety is born when we look at what has not yet happened.

                              “I can’t do it all, all the time,
                                              All I can do is
                                         Just. The. Next. Thing.
                                         Right now, at this time.  
                                               - Ann Voskamp

So my prayer for today and everyday of the next 365 is this…

Lord Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to write the story you have blessed me with.  God, I know my story will be full of mystery, intrigue, love, heartache, loss… for you never promised that fairy tale I have always longed for.  I pray that I will stay on the my path that you have placed me on… even if it seems difficult and doesn’t look like that of others.   Help me to see the surprises and joys and grace that you will place in front of me.  Give me just what I need at just the moment I need it… and let that be enough.  I pray this also for those you’ve put in my life – whether they be near or far.  May You be revealed to each of us in a deeper and greater way this year… and may we keep our eyes and heart wide open each day to see all that you have for us.  Let it be done… let it be so… in Jesus’ name.

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Mary Did You Know…

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Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
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Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, the Great I Am.
(Lyrics and music written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene)

Honest and Real and Raw…

Christmas letters.  That one time each year that you can summarize all of the fabulous things that have happened in your life over the past 12 months in one cheery, perfect message!

Susie made the Honor Roll… again… and had the lead in the school broadway production.  Jimmy was voted MVP in each of his 5 Club Sports travel teams.  Your spouse is the best thing that ever happened to you!  The family Disney Cruise was the highlight as you celebrated 30 blissful years of marriage!  Even your family dog was top in his obedience classes.  Ahhh, life is good…. no, according to your letter… perfect!

Can you feel the sarcasm dripping from my words?  If you are a cheery Christmas Letter writer, I apologize.  There was once a time in my life that I was able to write a letter that summed it all up in a perfect package.  Once upon a time.  Then life began happening and I found it more and more difficult to write a letter…eventually stopping altogether.

Do you really want to know how one’s year has gone?  Do you really want the honest truth about each family member and their struggles?  I’m always amazed that on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of cheery Christmas paper, a story can be told that paints a picture of perfection… even when it hasn’t been.

Being that person that wears her heart on her shirt sleeve and is as transparent as one could possibly be, I am no longer able to compose a Christmas letter.  If I did, you would immediately remove me from your Christmas card mailing list and would want to “unfriend” me from sending one to you!  At this point in my life, an honest compilation of our year would be too raw and real.

I joke that FB is like a 27/7/365 Christmas letter!  Amazing family celebrations… fabulous vacations… beautiful home remodels… daily reports of the many things accomplished… perfect children and grandchildren.  I’m guilty at times, for I only like to post positive things or words that encourage.  I don’t generally air my dirty laundry publicly.  When you post a cheery family photo the comments come back that you look so happy and your life is so great!  Really?

My recently posted family selfie at the Thanksgiving table portrayed us all as smiling and happy!  It must have been a beautiful day!  Well, there were moments that were sweet and then there were the other parts that were amazingly stressful and hard.  But the family photo spoke a different story.

What do we want people to really know about us?  Do we want people to know that our life is difficult and full of heartache?  Or do we want people to think that we’ve got it all together?  When you ask someone how they are, do you really want to know?

This Advent season I’ve been thinking about the extraordinary thing that happened to an ordinary woman 2000+ years ago in that plain stable.  What would Mary and Joseph’s Christmas letter have said?  Her journey was anything but easy and beautiful.  They traveled long and far to find themselves without a place to rest while Mary gave birth.  No resort upgrades for them.  No room service or WiFi.  Raw, real and full of grace.  A few visitors.  No family selfie to remember the event.

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I’m desperately trying to find balance in this world of social media.  I want to share in the joys and celebrations of my friends and family without feeling “less than” when I’m done.  I did not take a fancy vacation this summer, but found myself posting river pictures every weekend in hopes that you would all see that my life is not a total loss!  How sad is that?  While my Thanksgiving day was not at all what I’d hoped for, I forced a family photo so you could all think that my life is “normal” just like yours.  It’s not.  It’s the life I’ve been blessed with, but it’s not like most others.  We struggle and grapple and pray… every day.  Christmas this year will not be what my heart longs for, but the photo’s I post of my decorations will lead you to believe otherwise.  Again… how sad is that?

My hope this Advent is that I will not try to be anything but who I really am.  My cries to my Savior are honest and real and raw. I long for honest and real and raw relationships with people.  As the year comes to an end, I will once again re-evaluate whether or not I want to continue with FB.  I long for that connection, but need to figure out how to stay connected without losing my perspective on life.

My prayer for all of us is that this season can be a time to be honest and real and raw with ourselves and those we love. I am going to believe in God’s grace for those things that may seem impossible.

Silent Night…

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace

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Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

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Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

(Josef Mohr, author / Franz Gruber, composer)

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The Brother and Sisterhood of the Family Manger Scene

Growing up, my favorite memory of Christmas was our nativity set that sat inside the fireplace.  Baby Jesus hid behind the manger until Christmas Eve when he was born!  The angel Gabriel delicately hung inside the fireplace from the dampner.  It was a treat to set up and then spend hours watching and admiring.

My mom graduated from this life in November of 2009, 55 years after the birth of this family treasure. She was the keeper of this beloved nativity from 1955 to 2007.  She then passed it to my sister Megan for her family to enjoy.   Megan kept it until 2011 when she passed it on to our other sister, Kate who held it until her passing in 2012. We then decided that this very special nativity needed to be shared among the remaining seven.  So began The Brother and Sisterhood of the Family Manger Scene.  My sister Mary enjoyed it last year and passed it on to me in the new year.

Today, I found it in the closet and suddenly was transported back in time.  I cleared a spot on the buffet and began to gently unpack each piece.  Emotion flooded as each player of the Great Story was revealed.  Some are in great condition and others are chipped.  The donkey is missing part of his ear.  I remembered hiding Jesus.  I pictured the straw that was spread around the family.

So, this year…59 years after it’s beginning, I am the honored holder of The Family Manger Scene.  It has such a special place that I am not bringing out my own nativity this year.  I will treasure each day that I get to look, remember and rejoice in what it represents.

Upon opening the first box, I found a card.  Inside is the running record of the keeper of the manger.  Accompanying the card was a hand written paper that my mom had written, penning the history of the nativity.  It took my breath away to see my mom’s printing.  She was famous for scrawling notes on anything that was loose and had room!  She loved to chronicle life and for that I’m so grateful.

So, here is the story of The Family Manger Scene

In the Fall of 1955, my Grandma Katie purchased the manger at Kauffer’s Bookstore and the basic characters. This included the German made 3 piece set of Mary, Jospeh and the Baby for $8.50.

Grandma Katie tried for years to start a manger scene for the family and my mom said NO.  There were little kids and they would want to handle and break the figures.  Finally, in the fall of 1955 she started it and purchased the above mentioned set.  Shortly after that, Grandma Katie passed away, not waking up on Thanksgiving morning.

After the funeral, a family friend who was unable to attend, sent a card and check to finish purchasing the manger scene figures.  So along came the shepherds for $1.75 each.  The Wise Men were a bit more spendy.  The Incense carrier was $2.75.  The kneeling wise man was $3.00. The standing man was only $1.50 because he was damaged.  The 3 little lambs made in Italy and were $0.75 each.  Only one of them made it this far in the journey.

Only my mom would keep track of the prices and remember them 50 years later.  She noted at the bottom of the handwritten memoir that she wrote in 2005, 50 years to the day that Grandma Katie passed away.

I’ve been missing my mom more than usual lately.  It comes with the time of year, as she passed away 5 years ago on November 11.  To find her handwritten note was special, touching and sad all at the same time.  I am so thankful for the little treasures that she left behind… even the scratched handwritten notes.

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Changing Seasons…

The temperature and the leaves have fallen.  The trees are bare.  The ground is frozen and covered with the last of the leaves.  Most of them are not even ours.  They have blown from across the way… from the oak trees.  Today is the day to get the last of them up and gone.  The end of the autumn season.

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With a season change comes the time to put away things that you no longer need.  Rakes, flower pots, wheel barrows. All tucked away for the winter.  Some things you have to throw away, for they are not reusable when spring comes.  The two flower pots on my patio that have bloomed beautifully all fall, are now frozen in time.  They still look alive and well, but if you touch them they are brittle.  It’s tough to have to throw them away for they have been a source of life on my patio for many months.  IMG_6233

This change of season should feel a bit like cleaning out… simplifying.  There should be a feeling of excitement for winter and all that it will bring.  Clean yard, neatly stacked wood for the winter fires, snow shovels out, ice scrapers by the back door, scarves and mittens down out of the closet, hot chocolate ready to be made.

I wish it were that easy.  This season change feels more challenging than others have been in the past.  Life has gotten very complicated with all of the things we battle day in and day out – relationships, finances, responsibilities, memories of things lost and hopes for things to come.

Just when I think it’s more than I can handle, God steps in. Like the first evening of November when I walked outside into a glorious sunset.  All the worry that was heavy on my heart washed away for a moment as He revealed that it’s not about me… He’s with me in this change of seasons.

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Of course, I took all the worry back and continued on, waking early in the morning with anxiety and fear.  Wishing, hoping, wondering.  Then He steps in again and lands a letter in my mailbox from a dear friend struggling with breast cancer.  Her words were that of encouragement and love.  Once again, God reminded me of His grace and goodness.  My sweet friend’s words encouraged me to find the blessings throughout the day… to take my mind off the things that are weighing me down.

I’ve let myself get bogged down by all of the leaves falling on me at once.  What I need to do is take one leaf at a time!  Find the blessing and beauty, and do what needs to be done in each moment, covered in His grace and new mercies every day.  The seasons change whether I’m ready or not.

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How are you embracing the season change in your life?  Be encouraged and open to all that the new season will bring.

“For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you” declares the Lord.    Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)