Fun · Gifts · Grace · Hope · My Journey · Quiet Pleasures · The Journey · Uncategorized · Vacation

Sacred Indulgence…

This past week I went on a trip to visit my sister. Away from home. Away from all of the responsibilities of my daily life.

While on my little getaway, we snuck away for a few days to a spa on the bay.  On our way up we detoured and visited the tulip fields – a bucket list item for me. We took a sonic drive off the beaten path and the scenery was spectacular. Once to our destination the sun began to peak out. Our room was beautiful and the view spectacular. We ate out, walked along the water, shopped, and strolled around the little town.  We also just relaxed and did a little bit of nothing.

While this was amazing, I found myself thinking about all of the things I should have been attending to at home during spring break.

Many people I know take these little trips all the time. It’s their normal. Not mine. This isn’t even a once a year even for me. It was truly a treat!

My ability to let down and relax is difficult. After all, I should be home taking care of my responsibilities. Now was the time to test a new way of thinking and acting!

On our last evening, we scheduled massages at the spa. Wow! The experience from start to finish was wild.  Like nothing I’ve ever done. It was all about me the entire time. Life is rarely all about me. I’m all about everyone else from my job to my home. I spend most every day taking care of others.

I found parts of the spa experience easy to partake of, while others were difficult. The hardest part was not talking for an entire hour! And for that one hour I did absolutely nothing! I was completely still except for the actual massage happening. That doesn’t even happen when I sleep, as I toss and turn all night!

The massage was just part of a week of indulgences.  An indulgence is the attitude of allowing yourself or someone else to have something enjoyable. It was a wonderful time! I had to step out of myself and let people “indulge” me. I had to…no, I GOT to… receive rather than give. That is a tough one for me.  It is difficult for me to let others do for me. I am much more comfortable giving than receiving.

As I’ve contemplated the week, I’ve been drawn to think about my relationship with the Lord. I’m good at giving to Him. I give Him my “prayers” or lists of things I’d like Him to help me with.  I give Him time most days, but honestly I’m usually pretty busy during that time. The hard part for me is what I’m going to call a “sacred indulgence.” It’s that time where I get to let Jesus love on me and I do absolutely nothing but receive from him. It’s that time when I am being still and know that He is God… He is in control, not me. Quieting myself to receive all that He has for me. Indulging in His grace and love. It’s free and I don’t have to travel far from home. It costs nothing but my intentional, uninterrupted time and willingness to let go and let Him love on me…a sacred indulgence. 

28 Days · exercise · Grace · Health · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Questions to Ponder · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

It’s Not a Sprint…

As I continue down this path to better health, I’m learning more and more about myself each day.  Today I ventured out on another walk by myself.  I’m rather enjoying these solo treks as they give me time to breathe, process, let go, pray and just BE.  I decided to head to the high school and walk the track on this sunny day, knowing the entire track would be in the bright sunshine!  I have a routine. First I begin in lane one and each time I loop around I switch to another lane working my way to lane 8.  Walking alone gives me “think time.”

Today I had a huge revelation about myself and why I chose to go to the track and not walk the neighborhoods.  The track is predictable.  I know where I am, where I’m going and how to get home.  When I walk the neighborhoods, I am not always sure where I am.  I get caught up in looking at yards and houses, allowing my mind to get distracted by those things.  On the track, I don’t have to think about where I am or where I’m going.  Being that this whole exercise thing is something I’m learning to like, it felt good to have a little control of the situation.  I like things to be planned out and predictable.  I wish I were more spontaneous and daring.  I love the comfort of the track.

Today there were three high school girls there with a track coach.  They were warming up and then moved to the other side of the track and were working on starts for their sprints.  They were coming out of those starting blocks very quickly.  I tried to steer clear of their work while still keeping to my 1-8 lane progression!  As I watched them come up out of those blocks quickly, I realized something else about my journey.  This journey is not a sprint.  I can’t think that I can do everything fast and furious to get quick results.  I did not get fat overnight and I won’t change overnight.

Today is Day 15 and I was very discouraged over the weekend.  I don’t look different at all.  I feel better, but nothing has changed as far as my body.  Another mindset that I need to let go of.  Just because I have done good things for a few weeks does not mean I’m good to go and a changed woman!  Past failures can be linked to this very mindset flaw.  I’m in this for the long haul, not for a short sprint.  I am changing old habits and old belief systems.  First and foremost, my goal is better health so I can live my remaining days on this earth active and able to fulfill God’s calling on my life.  I want to feel good each day as I get out of bed and have energy to attack the day!  I want to be fit for the day when we have grandchildren!  It is not going to happen overnight.  It’s a daily decision I make to love myself enough to make good choices and afford myself the time to take care of ME.

My initial goal was February.  I can do anything for 28 days.  After that I was not sure what I would do, because deep down I thought that in those 28 days my life would be transformed and I would be “normal.”   I’m still looking to the end of February to celebrate the initial goal I set, but I know that I like this and want to continue into the rest of my days!  I’ve now set another goal for my 52nd birthday and I honestly think I can get there!  Funny thing about it is that it’s going to take time and energy and work… all things that I have to do.  No one can do them for me.  I have to love myself enough to make it work!  My biggest supporter, God, has assured me that He will never let go of me or my dream.  Together… we’ve got this!

So, today I celebrate 14 days of healthy eating and close to 20 miles of walking!  It feels great!  I’m encouraged!  I hope you are encouraged if you need that today.  If I can do this… so can you!  If you are doubting that you can make changes in an area of your life, invite God to join you and love yourself enough to try it today!  One foot in front of the other!  

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Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

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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Christmas · Healing · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

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.

Christmas · life happens... · Seasons · The Journey

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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Generations · Gifts · Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Questions to Ponder

There Will Be A Day…

One minute everything seems to be okay.  Life seems quiet.  No storms.  Just when you think things are quieting down… taking a turn in the right direction.  Then the phone rings late.  I can hear a voice talking loudly on the other end.  The curtain has once again come down.

I crawl into bed, hoping to just ignore it all and let sleep distract me.  Nope.  It didn’t happen.  Restless and not wanting to keep him awake, I escape to the living room to walk and pray.  Pray about what?  I know nothing about what is going on.  “Discipline issues.”  That’s all he said to me.

Although the sun is shining and it’s vacation, life is still happening around me.  Life has been happening around us for quite a while now and I’ve often wondered if other’s feel the same struggles we do?  It’s like being on a roller coaster… up and down and up and down.  Some times faster than others.

Eight years ago I found myself alone after 8 years of marriage.  I was settling into this new life and then an old life emerged and changed everything.  I fell in love again with a man I’d never really stopped loving. I’m in love with that man today.  Our love changed my world, moving me back from whence I came.

Then reality set in.  I’m in love with someone that is hurt and broken and struggling.  We are a pair to draw from.  I’m the same way.  Just when I think I have it together…I’m reminded that I don’t!.  MY demons rear their ugly heads.

It’s like when you throw a rock into a calm lake.  The rock hits the water and then ripples out.  No matter the size of the stone or the force of the throw, it still ripples out.  Sometime the ripples seem to go out further and further, as if they will never stop.

Our lives have that same effect.  For everythingthing we say or do, there are ripples of effect.  Some good.  Some sad.  Some hard.  Some amazing.  Most of those ripples involve others.  The stakeholders in our lives.  My hurt and pain and choices, all in some way or another, effect those in my life.  My mood and emotions engulf those around me.   Is that fair?

There is an old saying, “you hurt those you love the most.”  Is that fair?  It sends the most confusing message.  I love you, therefore I am going to hurt you.  How many times have we been the recipient of this?  The giver of this?  Our world is made up of fallen beings.  The sin in the garden set that one in motion.  It’s part of who we are and what we do.  Does that make it right?  Are we forgiven?  God forgives.  Some people forgive.  I forgive some people.  I’m fallen.  You are fallen.  Together we are fallen.

My heart that was heavy an hour ago has lightened a bit. The sun is shining and I’m on vacation.  I was also gently reminded that while other can cause grief and heartache for me, I do the same. It’s easy to get caught up in a “they hurt me” mentality,” losing sight of our place in this broken world.

When I think I’ve got my ducks all lined up… then WHAM!  They all fly away loudly!

A song by Jeremy Camp called There Will Be a Day, popped into my head as I sit writing this morning.

 

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have

But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that tries to grab

The many trials that seem to never end, His endless Word declares this truth

That we will enter in this rest with wonders anew

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings

That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears

No more pain, no more fears

There will be a day when the burdens of this place 

Will be no more , we’ll see Jesus face to face

But until that day, we’ll hold on to You always

In the meantime, as we live in this fallen world with hurting people just like ourselves, we have a hope on the horizon.  I’m holding tight to that today.

I’ve let myself get so caught up in the everyday mire that I temporarily lost sight of what I hold do dearly… my hope in Jesus.  He’s got this one.  He’s got all of the late night phone calls, the tears, the child-rearing heartaches, the relationship struggles, the past hurts and suffering… as well as the joys and celebrations.  We will have all of this with those we love and yes, we will hurt those we love.

But there will be a day…

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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.