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Bittersweet

bittersweetMy home is where I keep my stuff but it’s also where I keep my heart. My favorite person in the whole wide world shares the space with me and at the end of the hall my favorite teen has a room she makes her own.

This morning both are away. He is nearing the end of a week-long business trip and she is at high school with all the challenges that entails.

As I was moving around our home, my eyes fell on items not of my choosing but from the hearts of others. It started when reaching for a simple coffee mug. It was a birthday gift from a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Then reaching for a spatula, another gift from a friend I haven’t seen in 6 years at least. Picking up a prayer shawl from a friend I’ve never seen.  Settling on the couch with a book recommended by a friend I keep thinking of visiting but haven’t set a date. Looking up and seeing a painting on the wall done by my mother. Realizing the ear rings I chose this morning were the gift of creativity from a dear heart.

I may be home alone with just a couple of big dogs today but my home suddenly seemed very full and very empty all at the same time.

Invited

christmas invitation 5Tonight we will be listening to big band music at a casino. Not how I was brought up to spend the Sunday before Christmas but somehow this year it makes me feel closer to the original Christmas than I have in a long time.

You see I was invited. Not in the old fashioned invitation in the mail way but in the way that is most often used today, an event invite on Facebook.

Someone I know personally and have worked with over the past year plays with a great band. They have been booked to play the main room at San Jose’s casino tonight from 6pm-8pm.

The thing that makes me feel more like the first Christmas is just how far removed this is from all the trappings of the holiday I have grown up with and leaned on to remind me of the meaning of the season.

Over the same year or so I have worked with dozens of people who through scattered comments about their schedules or their experience have made it clear they are deeply connected with a church. But over that same year, not one invitation to come to their church. Not even at Christmas.

So tonight I’m going where I’ve been invited. I’m going where I was asked to come and experience what’s being offered.

The Messiah was long anticipated by some. Just a myth to others and most of the world He came to had no expectations at all. But even from the very beginning He didn’t demand or command welcome. He went where He was invited, where there was room, where only those in the know would find Him.

For the next year, for the next month, for the next week how different would your life be if you only went where you were invited?

How different would your next week be if you invited others to join you on your journey?

 

 

What Am I 4? YES

1483191_10153625707655637_870175769_oLast night I found out a dear friend had sent me a Christmas present. It arrived on Wednesday but I had added the delivery box to my little stack of Christmas gifts to wrap that I had ordered for others. A message sent me searching for it and then the craziness began.

There were three perfectly wrapped little boxes with a ribbon and a note on each. As I read the notes I knew immediately where they were from and the messages penetrated my heart. So often God uses my friends to speak His words. This was one of those times.

The quotes are from the book/movie The Help. In that story the maid who also serves the family as a nanny is teaching a very young child that even if her circumstances don’t reflect it she is smart and kind and important. Through the movie it becomes evident that these are not just words but deep life lessons this woman of color has learned the hard way. But it’s not until the end of the movie, when she has written a best selling book, loved with a sacrificial love, and changed the world around her that you see she finally accepts these truths as truth for her, too.

These words “spoken” into my life and heart had a power I cannot explain. It doesn’t matter that they have been filtered through so many voices or that they were so familiar to me I knew the reference without Googling.  I’m not even sure how intentional they were selected. But the impact goes deep. It goes to my very core.

My first reaction was to identify with the tired woman who spent her life taking care of others only to find her true calling and expression of her gifts when she out grew the position she thought would be her whole life. But the words were spoken by her to a child who did not understand the decisions of the adults she depended on. It was the child in me that received the words, too.

Unpacking the messages in these three statements is something I will have to sit with a while and take in gradually. They truly are gifts to my heart.

Now I just want to open the boxes.

 

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

DSC_5271As I was waiting for my favorite person in the whole wide world to clear the thin layer of ice on my windshield this morning a song came on the radio. A particular lyric caught my ear.

“There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas…” Well, of course, there won’t. There wasn’t last year and there won’t be next year. It’s summer in southern Africa so why would there be snow?

The next line was “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life”.  That’s true for everyone of us every day we wake up.

“Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow….” Well, that’s just not true.

“Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” Maybe. Maybe not.

But I have to wonder if we know it’s Christmas time either.

When did the sacred get over shadowed with the commercial? When did the pressure of gifts and decorations and parties and stuff become the focus?

If everyone, and I do mean everyone,  just stopped all of the nonsense that has nothing to do with the celebration of the Virgin birth of the Messiah how much would your December change?

And, yes. They know it’s Christmas in Africa.

 

 

In A Word

magnetic-poetryA few years ago I met with another writer every Wednesday morning at a coffee shop to work. Laptops set up across from each other, unlimited refills of coffee and the fresh pastries made for a very productive couple of hours.  One morning I was sharing how at the beginning of the year I had decided I wanted a theme for the year. I wanted God to amaze me. I wanted to see His glory in the small things and His power in action. I wanted to be amazed. But I had to confess God seemed to have a different theme for that year. I told her His theme seemed to be focused on my self control. Her response was “If God can help you with self control He’ll amaze a lot of people!”

This week I’ve been reading a book that recommends spending the year with just one word. To explore the depths and treasures of the meanings not just in general but in specific application. As the news fills with obits for Nelson Mandela they search for just the right words to sum up his life, his story, his impact on the world he was born into and the world he left behind. Revolutionary. Hero. Icon. Humble. Passionate. Faithful. Gone.

I wonder what word you would use to describe the year you just had. Is it a word you chose in the beginning of the year with optimism and anticipation? Is it a word you look back and see has been following your every move for the past 12 months?  Is it a word you are proud of? Is it a word you are known for?

I still love to be amazed by God. He is still refining my self control and amazing people around me. I have a word for next year. It has already begun nudging me and narrowing my focus and revealing some of its depth. I am excited and a bit fearful of where this word will take me. It is not a word to companion with without risk and vulnerability. But it is a word that at the end of the year, at the end of my life, I will be truly grateful if it is the first word you think of when you think of me.

What’s your word?

Laundry, Airplanes and Dog Poop

Yes, this is my prayer list. Or a part of it. Years ago I found the admonition to pray without ceasing to be unrealistic. But since I adopted my prayer by association I find it has become part of my moment by moment day.

how-to-fold-a-towelA friend who was frustrated with her life said she was ready to throw in the towel. I pray for her while folding towels.

A friend who sat and listened to my story after sharing hers ( a really rare thing) on a snowy day in Colorado (not such a rare thing) has a husband who’s medical condition makes it difficult for him to fly his plane. Living on the approach route to San Jose International Airport ( call me if you are coming to town. No, really, I’m 10 minutes from the airport.) I pray for them every time I see a plane coming in.

A friend I have never met, but hold dear, has a daughter who just got a very special dog. The Labrador has been trained as a seizure dog and the teenager who now relies on this dog has a better chance at a normal life. As I let my own, very untrained labs in and out of the back yard a dozen times a day to do their business or chase squirrels I thank God for the people who train working dogs and for the precious child who is watched over by loving puppy eyes.

A spatula, a rose garden, a pen, the coffee table, assorted coffee mugs, my tape gun, my glue gun, filling the van with gas and countless other touch points through out my day bring people and situations to my heart and mind. Each a nudge to lift them in prayer. My life is surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses masquerading as laundry and dishes and socks dangling from the mouth of a puppy who wants to go outside again.

Who is on your prayer list? Who is on your heart?

I Just Don’t See It

optical-illusion-old-woman-young-ladyEver stare at an optical illusion? You may see one thing and not the other. This one has two women. Have you seen them both?

What I love about this one is they are both wearing the same ruffled bonnet. I’d like to think they are the same woman. One looking forward and one looking back. Can you see memories of days gone by? Do you see the trust of innocence with her back toward you?

Is she beautiful youth or weathered age? Does she have it all ahead of her or have her days dwindled down to a precious few? Do you keep going back to her youth or her age?

There is so much of your story I do not know. You may think when someone looks at you they see all your flaws, all your failures, know all the words that you wish you could take back. You may think they know your story or know that they don’t have a clue how you came to this point in your journey.

Some people can stare at this picture all day and never see the other woman. I can look at you and never see the things you think are so obvious. I can look at you and see beauty and strength and virtue and wisdom while you look in the mirror and see failure, disappointment and flaws. Both wear the same hat. Both are part of who you are but so much is not visible. So much I just do not see.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

The Long and Short Of It…

war and peaceI Googled the phrase, searched classic literature for examples of it’s use and now I am compelled to read War and Peace, the icon of The Long of it.

Classic literature is classic because it holds up over time. Written in 1869, read by millions of high school students in AP English classes and college students majoring in history or Russia or literature or even political science, the scope of story telling Tolstoy reached for is impressive. It’s a huge book because he was telling an even bigger story. Can you imagine how much he left out?

Fast forward and today approximately 58 million Tweets of 140 characters or less will be offered up electronically. They tell a story, too. A quick glimpse, maybe a clue leading to further investigation, a thought, an emotion, an idea, an inspiration, an encouragement, an outburst of rage or sorrow. But in those 58 million there is history and political science and even Russia. They have become the Short of it.

Just because you don’t have the time to sink into the depths of War and Peace doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to connect with the big story.

Just because you are not immersed in pursuing your dream or fulfilling your calling doesn’t mean you aren’t still part of the big story. Every page of your story is written one at a time. One scene. One character. One conversation. One decision. If all you see right now are the Tweets, I invite you to find a comfortable chair, settle in and take the time to see The Long and The Short of It.

It is your story, your life…

 

 

 

Singular Point of View

iI never got a job I didn’t apply for.
I never changed my mind because someone yelled their opinion loudly.
I never knew the whole truth.
I never walked a single step in someone else’s feet.
I have only one option for seeing and it’s through my own eyes.
I have only one life to live and I will live it as me.
I will never reach my full potential.
I will never have it all, know it all, or do it all.

I just wanted you to know….

What do you remember?

At some point in my early education I was required to memorize and recite a poem. I can’t recite it in total anymore but the first lines have been coming to mind with enough frequency recently that this morning I found myself Googling them to read the rest.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

I think part of the reason the poem stuck in my head and heart is because of a painting. For the first 19 years of my life it was a constant in our home. Even when I wasn’t living in the home I knew there was a huge sailing ship hanging over the couch in my mother’s living room. It was a great painting in my mind. The ship’s sails were full of wind and it spoke of adventure. It also spoke of my early years. We moved a lot when I was growing up. Houses and schools and friends and neighborhoods changed but the ship was always there.

I wish I could show you a photo of that painting but it sailed away. The artist gave it to someone outside the family and I have no idea where it is now. But on mornings like this, when the sun is bright, the breeze is picking up and there a just a few clouds in the sky I hear the call of the sea and yearn for the sight of full sails on the horizon.

 

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