Advent · Gifts · Grace · Hope · love · My Journey · Quiet Pleasures · Random Saturday · Seasons · The Journey · Uncategorized

The Anticipation of Advent…

For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. (Frederick Buechner)

As I child, I couldn’t wait for the toy catalog to come in the mail! It was big and the pages were shiny and filled with toys! We would sit for hours pouring over the pages and marking things we wanted. If there would have been brightly colored sticky notes back in the day it would have looked like a flower with all of the colorful petals sticking out of the sides!

Oh how we dreamed of the coming days of fun…more fun than we could ever imagine.  If only we could have all of the things we dreamed of. This  went on for weeks and we would leave the catalog out in obvious places for mom and dad to see.  We mentioned them in conversations around the dinner table, in our Santa letters and to Santa himself when we sat on his lap. The anticipation of Christmas morning and getting something from those magical pages… there was nothing else like it!

This year, the beginning of Advent reminds me of this. I’m beginning 25 days of reading through my favorite book by Ann Voskamp called The Greatest Gift – Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. This will be my 5th Advent reading through it and I have more anticipation and excitement than ever before. I’ve let the negativity of the world and all that is happening right now get me down. I’ve let social media wear down my soul as I’ve spent countless hours reading and seeing all that others have that I don’t and all of the negative things that are making people feel anxious and angry. I’ve spent hours and hours looking out and not allowing God in.

So, today I’m giving myself a gift.  The gift of Advent. Do you need to give yourself this gift as well?

So now we pause.  Still.  Ponder.  Hush.  Wait.  Each day of Advent, He gives you the gift of time, so you have the time to be still and wait.  

                                                                                                     (A. Voskamp, The Greatest Gift) 

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Entering the Throne Room…

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”    -Psalm 5:3

It’s so easy… yet so hard. I’m up early before leaving for work. I can’t just get up and go.  I need time to prepare for the day. I need coffee and quiet time. I’ve got all of the tools necessary. Quiet and comfortable location (several options), coffee, journal and favorite pen, bible (several) and time.

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GO!

Good morning, Lord…

Suddenly a million distractions come my way.

Oh wait! I need to find a good worship song (on my iPad!).

Now that scripture would be great to put on a photograph… and then I can put it on Instagram!

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Hmmm, I wonder if anyone has commented on the one I put on yesterday?  I’ll just check real quick…

Oh ya, my bible plan… back to business. 

Lord, thank you for this new day. Please give me strength to get through this day and…

Wait! What time is it?  Shoot, I need to be in the shower in 5 minutes! 

I wonder if anyone commented on the photo album I put on FB last night?  I’ll just do a quick check before jumping in the shower!

And that it how it plays out more mornings than I care to admit.  To quote a great movie, “Squirrel!” 

Some mornings are much better and my time is spent indulging in the sacredness of my Heavenly Papa.

While I’m confessing my innate ability to botch my morning quiet time with Jesus, some mornings don’t have any quiet time at all, although that is rare. I’ve tried to exercise first thing and that has been a disaster! I’ll save that for later in the day… if I get to it!  Oh my, that is another blog for another day!

The other evening I was reading Abba’s Child  by Brennan Manning. In the summer of 1992 he spent time alone in a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without TV, radio or any reading material. After reading about his experience I began to ponder what that would be like.  Time alone with God with nothing else. No distractions but our own demons that keep us from that sweet time with the Lord. How long would it take before I could truly “be still and know”? (Psalm 46:10)

I wonder what I’m missing by letting the things of the world get in my way? What sacred indulgence does God have for me that I’ve missed because I’m too busy getting my sanctuary ready to be with Him?

What am I afraid of? Why is it difficult to go to the throne room without my coffee and journal and bible (AKA my iPad full of distractions)…?

Lord,   Show me how to simply come before You and be in Your presence… uninterrupted so that I may partake of Your sacred indulgences awaiting me.   In Jesus’ name… let it be done, let it be so…

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Gifts · Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Questions to Ponder · Random Saturday · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey · Uncategorized

God’s Got This One…

I am a creature of habit. Everyday I take the same route to and from school. With several routes available, I stick to the same one.

I do not notice detail. I can pass by the same object or place day in and day out and not notice some obvious detail.

One late afternoon back in November while driving home from school on my all-too-familiar route, I was crying out to God with a burden laying heavy on my heart. I begged Him to show me that He was in this with me.

“God, I need to know you’ve got this one.”

As I turned off of Division onto Mission, there it was! High up in the sky were two crosses atop a church all lit up. It was as if I’d seen them for the first time ever. For a split second I thought they’d erected a new building. Then I realized that I was looking at the two crosses atop St. Aloysius Church on the GU campus. They were lit up for what I thought must have been just for the Christmas season. Come to find out, they are lit up year round.

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At that moment, I was not only surprised with a sight that I’d never noticed or paid attention to, but also by the almost audible message…

“I’ve got this one.”

As suddenly as I had turned the corner, I felt His peace. A sign. A confirmation. High in the sky.

From that afternoon on, I don’t pass through that neighborhood without searching out my two crosses of hope.

Since then, I’ve been drawn to that campus to look at it more closely and take photographs. I’ve tried to get there at different times of the day in different light. I’m not one to do things alone, but this place draws me in.

One day as I walked around and took pictures, I stopped to notice the statue of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga that stands in front of the church.

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Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was a Patron Saint of Youth. He died at the age of 23 assisting the sick during a plague. A short life well-lived.

My visits to this beautiful spot have drawn me into some reflection around my own life.

Moving too quickly through life causes blindness to things around that God wants to use to bless and speak to me. While my life has gone on longer than St. Al’s, am I able to say that it has been well-lived? While I’m not a patron saint of anything, can He still use me? If there were a statue erected for me after my passing, what would the placard at the base say about me and my life? Would people be drawn in to read and reflect, as I’ve done? Would my life have left an imprint that caused people to stop and think about what story they will be leaving?

This 23 year old boy left such a legacy in his few short years, that a Jesuit university was named after him.

I’m not looking for a university to memorialize me, but it draws me in to think about what I’m leaving behind. How am I making a difference in this life I’ve been given? Am I on auto-pilot and not even able to notice where I can be of service and make a difference?

I’m looking up and around more these days. Yesterday morning, as I returned home from an early appointment, I made a stop at St. Al’s with my camera and then took an unfamiliar road along the river home. A road I’d never been on. For it may be on those roads that I find more of my purpose in life as I continue to build my legacy.

Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · Prayers · Questions to Ponder · Random Saturday · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Lion or Lamb

First day of March and it’s cold cold cold! We are under the blanket of a Polar Vortex. Low temperatures and high winds which will bring below zero temperatures. Big snowfall coming in tomorrow! Then rain. It’s happening all over the country.

March – in like a lion, out like a lamb.

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The month is starting out stormy and cold and fierce. According to the old saying, that means it will go out peacefully and gentle… maybe warm.

Today I’m reminded about life and how it parallels this old saying. God does not promise us that life will be easy. There will be storms. There will be lions in our life. Fierce times where hardships and battles roar around us. At times it will feel as if there may be no end. When will the gentle lamb come in and breathe grace and relief over us?

“For I know the plans I am planning for you,’ declares The Lord, ‘plans of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and an expectancy.” em> Jeremiah 29:11

Those words encourage me on this blustery day. I patiently await those plans that He is has for me as I give Him my whole-self each day – lions and all.

This cold wintery weather seems to be mirroring the start of 2014 – full of roaring lions. My hope rests in the coming of the lamb and gentler days… healing days… restoration… renewed hope. Spring.

“Then you shall call on Me, and shall come to Me, and I shall listen to you. And you shall seek Me, and shall find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 12-13

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365 Days of Thanksgiving…

We are fast approaching Thanksgiving and the end of November.  This is the month we are “thankful.”  Many of the devotionals I read lately have the underlying theme of thanksgiving woven through them.  FB is full of people’s 30 Days of Thanksgiving.

I began the 30 Day quest on November 1.  I was on a roll though the 12th.  Then life happened.  I suddenly didn’t feel thankful and certainly didn’t want to pretend and write something each day just because I had started and everyone else was doing it.

Today is the 23 and for the past 10 days I’ve struggled.  I’ve struggled with earthly issues.  I’ve wept and wrestled with God and prayed to continue to find joy amidst the things that are weighing me down.  The furthest thing from my mind was being thankful on FB.

Admitidly, I lost sight of being thankful.  It almost made me mad to read everyone’s thoughts each day. That is one of my greatest struggles with FB.  When I’m feeling down, other people’s lives seem to be “magnificant X100!”  This only leads to my wounds needing more licking and my struggles seeming greater than they are.

This morning I awoke early (because it’s Saturday and I can sleep in!).  I grabbed my morning coffee and headed upstairs to my little hideaway.  I began to pray and invite Jesus into my morning.

In today’s  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Jesus has invited me to sit quietly in His presence and let Him fill my heart and mind with thankfulness.  He encouraged me to look for the tiny treasures that He’s already layed out before me today.  I’m to look carefully and pluck them up one by one.  By the end of the day I’ll have a magnificant bouquet* for which I’m encouraged to offer up to Him with at grateful heart.

Moments after reading that, I could see out of the corner of my eye, the sun rising in the east.  I turned to look and this was the first gift of my day.IMG_3861Instantly, I knew what He wanted me to rest in… today and every day.

Hope. 

His hope. 

Hope for things seen and unseen. 

Hope for eternity. 

No matter the circumstances surrounding me each day, I have the gift of hope sitting at my feet.  For that I am thankful… every day.  I need to step out of the “November is the month to be thankful” box and live with that thanksgiving and gratitude every day.

* I heard a commercial on the radio the other day for a Thanksgiving bouquet on sale from a leading floral company.  It’s guaranteed to stay alive for two weeks AND it will bring you holiday memories!  Hmmm… I wonder what memories come packed in the box it arrives in?  Are they generic memories or can they be molded to each family? We are a little low on the memories this past year… maybe I should order one and see what we get!  It’s only $19.99!!!!!

 

Gifts · Grace · Healing · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Questions to Ponder · Random Saturday · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Epic Grace… Again!

Today was meant to be a day of cleaning, laundry, sheet-changing, some fall baking… a list that was way too long, but sounded wonderfully domestic! Well, I managed to get a few loads in the laundry (and they are waiting to be folded), tidy up the kitchen and rearrange the living room. Next on my list was to dismantle the mantle and get fall going in my house. Unable to locate the crate that holds the summer birds, I sat down in my newly arranged living room to rethink my next move.

That’s when it happened! Sitting on my freshly dusted and arranged side table was “the book.” The book that captivated my heart this summer as I read it early as part of the launch team. The book that opened me up raw and ready for God to take me to a deep place of intimacy and grace. The book that I’ve given to friends and have more copies to mail off this week. The book written by my pastor and friend, Kurt Bubna.

Epic Grace – Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot.

My eyes caught the title and my mind began to think about grace. When I close my eyes and think about “grace,” I’m a bit overwhelmed with what it really means. It is a term that seems to be used more freely these days. A dear friend and colleague will say to me when things are tense at school, “I’m sprinkling you with grace.” I think about my ability (and at times my inability) to extend grace to others.

With my mind completely distracted by “the book” sitting near me, I abandoned my list of chores and picked up Epic Grace. I began reading Chapter 1; this time in a real copy of the book. Over the summer I read a PDF. Now I can highlight and underline and make notes… my favorite thing to do in a good book!

Grace suddenly took on new meaning for me today. I prayed before I began reading that I could get a clearer picture of what grace really is. Page 2 jumped out at me and this is what I read.

God’s gentle grace comforts us when we are deeply wounded.
His larger-than-life grace covers us when we are wrestling with hardships.
His empowering grace helps us to stay the course when the going gets tough.
And God’s epic grace shows us how to rise above our pain and circumstances with enduring hope and faith in him.

I had to stop and read those again. What a great pictures of the layers of grace that we experience…especiallly while suffering through difficult times. Grace. It’s gentle… larger-than-life… empowering… EPIC.

This past summer I received each of those gifts of grace as Jesus guided me through a difficult season. In the midst of my suffering, He taught me to persevere. That was only possible through His grace. It was gentle, larger-than-life, empowering and epic.

This afternoon I continued on through chapter 1 and cried my way to the end. Kurt’s journey of grace in this very first chapter once again stole my heart and took me to the foot of the cross. I wept as he spoke of a tremendous loss in his life. I continued to weep as he wrote about a woman who lived a difficult life, but saw every day as another day to show her Jesus who much she loved him.

Every day is another day to show my Jesus how much I love him. Once again, I’m wrecked! One simple truth shared and today I’m looking at my day through different eyes and with a grace-soaked heart… and I’m only in chapter 1.

If you have any desire to laugh, cry, and experience God’s epic grace, I strongly encourage you to get yourself a copy of this amazing book. It will draw you in and pierce your heart with God’s gentle, larger-than-life, empowering and epic grace.

#epicgrace
http://www.kurtbubna.com/the-book

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Lessons Learned · Random Saturday

Lessons learned on a not-so random Saturday…

Yesterday was a day… a Saturday.  I woke up irritated and frustrated due to some events from the night before.  It’s a kid weekend, and one kid and I don’t seem to see eye to eye on anything.  Friday night was a rough start to the weekend.  Saturday morning, I’d hoped to be up at my usual o’dark early to have some quiet time and sort through the angst and frustration I was feeling, knowing that if I didn’t, the weekend would only get more difficult.  Restless sleep led me to actually sleeping in until after 8:30… highly unusual.  My heart was heavy, but instead of leaving it at the foot of the cross, I carried it around and ran scenarios through my head.  The house began to wake up and life went on as usual.  I tried to approach the day with a happy heart and be all that I could be!  But, due to my high transparency, that was not a huge success.  By mid day I was off by myself, sobbing, and playing the “why me” card.  Being a step mom is the hardest job on the planet in the family world… or so I thought.  I was feeling so low that I even wrote a “poem” which depicted such a sad little story about me.  No one will ever read it!  I’m pretty sure I heard God whisper, “Um ya, you should really shred that, because it is not about you, but about Me.  Your value and worth come from me, not a husband or (step) children.”  Well, I heard, but did not obey right away.  I still had some wallowing to do.  I kicked around the house and imagined my life if I hadn’t come back to WA.  I played the “what if” game and ran lists of shoulda, woulda, coulda’s through my mind all day long.  Without all the gory details, you can see that it was not a productive or healthy day…. for anyone.

My mood began to pick up a little as the afternoon wore on.  I was able to get out in the yard for a spell.  My husband and I had a good talk about our future and our health and made some decisions as to what we are going to do together to improve our lives.  The clouds were beginning to part and I began to feel like maybe the day was not a total loss.  I prepared dinner and everyone helped.  Before we knew it, we were sitting around the table (minus our middle child who was away at a skating party) enjoying one of our family favorites; taco salad and fresh guacamole.  The mood was light and the sun was trying to shine.  Suddenly we heard a motorcycle heading down our road at a very high rate of speed.  Note I said heard.  My first thought in that split second was, “dang, that guy must be going really fast.”  I turned my head to watch him pass by and what I saw was the motorcyclist, his bike, a bicyclist and his bike flying by our window, coupled with a horrible crashing sound.  Our world stopped for that split second and we watched, in slow motion, as two men and their bikes slid down the road coming to a stop across the road in front of our driveway and bay window.  We immediately jumped into action, calling 911 and getting blankets.  I kept praying that they would get up and brush themselves off.  No one moved.  People began streaming in from all over the neighborhood.  I stayed on the line with 911 and eventually emergency help arrived.  When all was said and done we had two ambulances, four fire trucks and several law enforcement.  It was chaos everywhere as the story unfolded.  Everyone began to recount what they had seen and heard.  Debris was everywhere, including a beer can way up on our driveway near our patio.  The area was cordoned off by police and we were asked to go inside our house so they could do their job.  We all came in and sat in the living room. We prayed.  We felt absolutely helpless.  Our middle daughter was not home and we began to worry about her and just wanted her there with us.  I began to make phone calls to assist her in getting this way, as our whole house was blocked off.  I just wanted to hold my family and not let them go.

Life can change in an instant.  In this case, it was not our lives that were directly affected, but what am impact it had on all of us.  Anything that was going on during the day, seemed pointless.  I’ve already been down this path once with my beautiful bonus daughter in CA.  Her near fatal car accident stopped us in our tracks and put our lives into very clear perspective in the matter of a moment.  Last night we watched as they tried to revive the motorcyclist and knew that when the ambulance drove away,  he had not lived.  We prayed that the older man on the bike would live, but found out later that he had lost his battle during surgery.  We watched as the investigators spent hours marking, measuring, photographing, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.   Our middle daughter finally arrived home with the help of her mom and a long walk from where they had to park.  We all stood together in our living room, thankful that everyone was okay and safe.  It was a very poignant moment on many levels.  Another example of how precious life is and how we get wrapped up in the small stuff.

In an instant, people’s lives were changed… and not in a good way.  In an instant, my life was changed… our lives were changed… in a good way, for the lack of a better way to say it.  My perspective on the woes of my life were once again, brought into much clearer focus.  My pity-party ended abruptly with the collision of two unsuspecting lives.  People came, people helped, people wept, and people prayed…. all forever changed.