Win a few, miss a few

Yes indeed. I had grand plans to do a Photo-a-Day on my blog during Advent. I came up with my own list… and I did not make that happen. I did get most posted on Facebook in a private forum, but blogging just… didn’t… happen.

Since Advent started, I have recovered from a lovely GI bug that flattened me over Thanksgiving, and then came down with a case of strep two weeks before Christmas. Suddenly it was the week before Christmas. I had 12 patients to see in 2 days (plus a team meeting). Plus documentation and phone calls. Plus emotionally processing some heavy duty ..uhhh… stuff in people’s lives I care about deeply. On top of all that, the escalating gun violence, political vitriol, and a few interpersonal pressures knocked me down flat.

It sucked.

The house was not cleaned. The shopping was not at the level I prefer to do. And I simply wasn’t vested enough in the Christmas Spirit to do all of the decorating. And the tree? While we managed to put it up during Thanksgiving weekend, I did not get around to decorating it. 2015treeFor the record, we finished that task this morning.

Yes. Christmas morning. So fire me, Martha Stewart! You win a few, you miss a few.

My favorite Wise Woman and Spiritual Director helped me give myself “permission” to let things slide. To just enjoy what happened and not insist that I finish what I started. I did not go there quietly.

The bins and boxes of decorations sat in the living room for the entire month of December. No lie. We just moved them out of the way this morning to make room for presents. I just didn’t have time (or brain power) to complete my grand plans. I bought a ham for Christmas dinner and then failed to think up a complete menu!

Sometimes, life is just like that. For whatever reason, you can’t rise above the circumstances you are living through. Whatever the difficulty may be, it takes more emotional energy than you have in your possession to make things happChristmasJason.jpgen.

Guess what? Cookies still got baked. Presents were found and wrapped (after a fashion). We have a lovely dinner this evening with the combined talents of several wonderful cooks. There was lots of precious time spent with my husband and lovely daughters, and the ones they care about the most. Cats were loved on and spoiled. Most important of all, the birth of Jesus is being celebrated. God’s grace is in my life and in my heart.

I think I’m blessed. Beyond words…

Merry Christmas from all of us!

 

 

Photo-a-day: Satisfied

14 The Eternal sustains all who stumble on their way.
For those who are broken down, God is near. He raises them up in hope.
15 All eyes have turned toward You, waiting in expectation;
when they are hungry, You feed them right on time.
16 The desires of every living thing
are met by Your open hand.
17 The Eternal is right in all His ways,
and He is kind in all His acts.
18 The Eternal stays close to those who call on Him,
those who pray sincerely.
19 All of you who revere Him—
God will satisfy your desires.
He hears the cries for help, and He brings salvation.
20 All of you who love God—
He will watch out for you,
but total destruction is around the corner for all the wicked.
21 My lips will sing the praise of the Eternal.
Let every creature join me and praise the holy name of God—forever and always!
From Psalm 145, The Voice

satisfied

Last August, I savored this bowl of peaches, freshly picked from the orchard. They were warm from the sun. The weight, the scent of peaches filled the kitchen. The smell and feel of peach fuzz on my hands as I peel, slice and cook.

There is something about pulling the fruit right off the tree. It’s experiencing the full work of nature in my hand. It’s remembering the labor of the farmer, who cultivated the trees, watched over their blossoms and setting of the fruit.

It speaks of warmth, of summer, of harvest, of hard work finally seen through to fruition. It’s knowing that behind all of it, there is a Creator’s care and design.

Satisfied.

Photo-a-day: Joy

I love to sit and watch the birds from the vantage point of our dining room. The bay window offers a view of the bird bath, garden and fish pond. Many days in the spring and summer months, there was a long line of birds dropping by to use the bird bath.

Every time a bird hopped in the water, it looked like they are having a party. Dip. Flutter. Splash! (Repeat.)

It looked like full-fledged Joy to me!

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As I write this, I am in the midst of some kind of bronchitis or bad cold. I feel rotten. In fact, I’d like nothing better than to ditch the virus and be back to 100%. (It IS December. There’s a boatload to do, both at work and at home!) But instead, I rest and nap and remember that I am beloved and cared for by God.

That’s joy. To know, deep down, that every moment is in God’s hands, every event is known and in God’s control. To have that sense of delight and well-being.

Brushing up on my rusty Greek, the word for joy, χαρά or chara, is related to xáris (charis), grace. Doesn’t that make sense? The very nature of Joy is wrapped in the gift of Grace. In this season of Advent, I think on the promised gift of Grace, born in human form in the Christ Child.

That’s why, even in this moment of feeling on the puny side, I can still listen and sing — with joy!

This gift of God we cherish well
That ever by our hearts shall fill
How great our joy
(Great our joy)
Joy, joy, joy
(Joy, joy, joy)
Praise we the Lord in Heaven on high
Praise we the Lord in Heaven on high

from How Great our Joy

 

 

 

Photo-a-Day: Love

  

They gave diapers. Wipes. Baby toys. Crib sheets. Bottles. Cups. Pacifiers. Beautiful home-made quilts. 

Four moms-to-be at a local shelter will receive these gifts of Love PLUS a $200 gift card!  All from our small and struggling congregation. 

As we lit the second candle for Advent, we were asked to consider what the flame of Love would look like as it burned in us…

“I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.” I Cor 13:3

I think we’re well on our way…

TBTG

Photo-a-Day: Traveler

Stiffen, Germany
Seiffen, Germany

During Advent one year, I traveled with my mom and sibs to Germany for the annual Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market). It was a feast of lights, music and shopping. While the big city markets are a planned tourist destination, many of the places we visited were smaller towns and inns where the welcome was sincere and the food amazing!

Among the places we saw was the Erzgebirgskreis district, home to many wood carvers and artisans of all kinds. (If you own a nutcracker or a “smoker”, they probably came from this part of Germany). We saw homes across the valley decorated with lights as we entered Seiffen. Even the smallest home had lights in the window. The market was almost garishly decorated in lights and tinsel, but this quiet scene was the one that was etched in my memories.

We were the travelers, happening on this scene. We were the visitors, crashing the party. It occurred to me that so much of what we see and experience in this life, we are the tourists, the visitors, the strangers, the travelers.

But we do not travel alone.

And when people thirst, when those poor souls with parched tongues
look in vain for something to drink,
I, the Eternal, the God of Israel, won’t leave them to suffer. I will respond
By making the hard, brown hills sparkle with streams of fresh water
and causing valleys to come alive with springs.
I will see that gentle pools wait on the desert floor for the weary traveler,
and great fountains bubble up from dry ground;
In the desert, I will plant cedars, woody acacias,
myrtles, and olive trees.
I will establish great cypresses to flourish in the desert places,
plant oaks and pine trees side by side.
Isaiah 41:17-19 The Voice

Photo-a-Day: Night

2010-07-21 05.49.09

NIGHT

We are people who are living in the Night…

The leading stories on the evening newscast are depressing. The stats on violence and mass murders confound us. We long for good news. We are tired of the dark. The nights are very long these days…

When I saw the word “Night” I thought of the chorale “Wake, Awake.” Philipp Nicolai, the composer and author, was a pastor during the plague epidemic in Germany in the late 1590s. If ever there were a time of darkness and discouragement, that had to be it! My hymnody textbook  recounts a story that there were so many deaths in Nicolai’s city that one day he performed 30 funerals!

In the face of that much death and fear, Nicolai still found a way to speak/sing the promises of his faith. It was as if he said, “yes… things are bad. Get ready for them to improve!”  This is one of the hymns that I strongly identify with Advent and the prophetic and hopeful imagery of the Second Advent.

His hymn was later re-harmonized and perfected by J.S. Bach into the chorale many of us church musicians know well. (For those of you playing at home, it’s BMV 140)…

So sing on! The Night is flying… the Light will come!

“Wachet auf,” ruft uns die Stimme
Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
“Wach auf du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde!”
Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
“Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohlauf, der Bräutigam kommt,
Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Halleluja!
Macht euch bereit zur Hochzeitsfreud;
Ihr müsset ihm entgegengehen!”

Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight’s solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
He comes; prepare, ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet,
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Alleluia!
Bear through the night your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.
 
 
 
Care to play along? The list is found here…

Photo-a-Day: Journey

2012-02-16 17.01.12

With the epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings, this Scripture seems appropriate…

 

The path violent men have followed, I will not travel. Violence is not my way. Your ways and Your voice now guide my journey.
I will press on—moving steadfastly forward along Your path.
I will not look back. I will not stumble.
I am crying aloud to You, O True God, for I long to know Your answer.
Hear me, O God. Hear my plea. Hear my prayer for help.
Liberator of those who long for shelter beside You,
set them safely away from their enemies, ever welcomed by grace.

Psalm 17:4-7 The Voice

 

Care to play along? The list is found here…

 

P.S. Jump in anytime. And don’t worry if you post the wrong photo on the wrong day… like I just did… 😉