Thursday, December 30, 2010
As the year draws to an end, I look back over the journeys of these past months. The winding paths, the beautiful scenery, and some dark forests. The guiding Light that never left, even when I couldn’t see it.
I see wrong choices I made, the selfishness of my heart exposed.
I see the painful consequences of some of those choices.
Yet I see the saving, loving, healing grace of God poured over my paths and in my soul.
I see how He faithfully brought good from bad, shone light in the dark, pruned fruitless branches.
I see how He taught me, convicted me, encouraged me, humbled me, and overwhelmingly loved me.
And I realize if I could go back and start over…
Sure, if I could go back knowing what I have learned, I would make different choices. I would love more, let go more, hold on more, and trust more.
But if going back meant I would lose the heart lessons, the mind renewal (Romans 12:2), and the soul mending that have come as a result of the brokenness…
It wouldn’t be worth it.
Everyone has their share of struggle, pain, heartache, and uncertainty. Praise God that He can bring good from these difficult paths--sometimes the good being the changes He makes in our hearts rather than changing the circumstances.
I’m still in the midst of the journey, but looking back, I’m grateful (gasp!) for where it has brought me so far.
I don’t want to turn back.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Long after the angels disappear into the heavens, the shepherds return to their flocks, the magi journey home, and the great star sets, Jesus remains.
The Child in whom we rediscover God's great love for humanity becomes the adult Redeemer who challenges us to imitate his selflessness and compassion in order that we might transform our world in love.
May we allow the miracle of Christmas to continue long after the holiday trappings have been packed away.
May we welcome the adult Messiah and his challenging Gospel to recreate our lives-- making the peace, justice, and hope of this holy season a reality in every season of the new year.
(From Everything Christmas, by David Bordon and Thomas Winters)
Friday, December 24, 2010
Our final choir practice was last night in the church, a last chance to prepare for tonight's breath-taking Midnight Mass. We began and I forgot myself as I sang with the other choir members, these dear friends I’ve made in such a short time, who have welcomed me with kindness into their choir family.
As Ruth sang “Gift of God” with my brother, and the choir gently sang our responses to the verses, I closed my eyes, overwhelmed by the beauty of the music.
I opened them and saw my uncle, the choir director. He lost his seventeen-year-old son, my cousin, in a car accident this summer. Yet there he was, pouring himself out, feeling the music as I was. Finding healing in it. Tears gathered in my eyes as I watched him with compassion and admiration.
And in that moment, I felt the petty details of the week be stripped away. Why had I allowed such clutter to build in my heart and mind this week? Had I been preparing my heart with room for the Savior only to fill it with worries and selfishness just before His coming?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Frosting (and eating) cookies-- note the healthy veggies on the table as well
Rachel and her Luscious Lemon Bars!
"In the cookies of life, friends are the chocolate chips!"
Monday, December 20, 2010
- Christmas in my Heart: a Treasury of Timeless Christmas Stories, compiled by Joe Wheeler (There are several of these books-- my favorite Christmas series. Beautiful old-fashioned pictures accompany meaningful, timeless stories)
- Everything Christmas, by David Bordon and Thomas Winters (A delightful collection of quotes, recipes, traditions, and stories. Thank you, Kandace!)
- Victoria Classics: Holiday Bliss (Victoria magazine-- need any more be said? A feast for the eyes with it's gorgeous Victorian Christmas decorations.)
- The Christmas Hope, by Donna VanLiere (A new favorite by the author of The Christmas Shoes; this one the story of a couple grieved by the death of their teenage son who take in a foster child for the holidays.)
- Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories, by Bess Streeter Aldrich (one of my favorite authors, but I hadn't realized she had a Christmas collection! Somehow she weaves tales with both a depth and a simplicity. Thank you, Lanier!)
- The Farm Chicks Christmas: Merry Ideas for the Holidays, by Serena Thompson (I loved the original Farm Chicks book; this Christmas edition has the same cute, country charm.)
- An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County, by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron (Cozy and heartfelt-- although the book became due before I had read all of the stories!)
- The Anne of Green Gables Christmas Treasury, by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (This book has been a favorite for years and has such a special place in my heart. It includes recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, and quotes from the books.)
- A Little House Christmas: Holiday Stories from the Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Another nostalgic collection. How I wanted to go back in time when I read these books...and still do, sometimes.)
Wishing you time for merry, cozy Christmas reading!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
It’s one of the common questions of the season. A friendly conversation starter. Yet I’ve noticed that the answer usually is directed toward gift lists and shopping.
Implying that if we have made our list of gift recipients (and checked it twice!), completed our shopping, wrapped and labeled our presents…then we are truly ready for Christmas.
Yet isn’t being ready for Christmas less about giving gifts…
…and more about receiving the ultimate Gift?
The gift of a God’s incredible, redeeming love in sending His Son to become one of us, to live among us—and to die for us.
I think this is one time when it's better to receive than to give.
Lord, help me to prepare in this final week of Advent, to be truly ready for Christmas. To not get distracted by the world’s requirements for a perfect holiday, but to focus on what You desire of me. To set aside time from preparing gifts, goodies, and activities so that I may prepare my heart to receive You once again this Christmas.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
And then I noticed the wheelchair lift appearing from the side of the bus. The young girl who appeared to have cerebral palsy, helpless as the mechanics gently lowered her to the ground. The dad, meeting her in the cold and snow, to bring her back into the safety and warmth of their home. He stood for a moment talking to the bus driver.
And I no longer cared that I had to wait.
Earlier in the day a woman sat down in the chair next to me in the doctor’s office, one of many patients that morning. She turned to me and shared that her sister’s heart stopped while driving last week. That she is on life support and not responding well. They’re ready to pull the plug, she said. But she looked at me with hopeful eyes as she mentioned that they saw a little improvement yesterday, just a tiny movement, a glimmer of a response.
And I remembered how fragile and precious is life.
The Christmases of these two families won’t be like the picture-perfect holidays I keep seeing on the TV commercials. But I have a feeling there will be a supernatural thread of grace woven through them that is missing from the superficial media ideals.
A Scrooge could look at their situations and question if God is in the midst. And because I am not in the exact situations, I don’t know how I would react to those crosses. But on the outside looking in, I see God there. I see Him in the love the father showed his handicapped daughter. I see Him in the miracle of the doctor who just happened to be in the car ahead of the patient’s sister, who performed CPR while waiting on the rescue squad.
When trials come, sometimes we wonder if God is really in the midst of it all. But things aren’t always the way they appear. He is there if we have the eyes to see. Always loving, always comforting, always caring and working in ways unseen.
Just as long ago He was in the midst of a stable—where things definitely weren’t the way they appeared. Who would have thought a baby in a manger could be the Savior of the world?
Emmanuel. God-with-us, indeed.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Week three of Advent focuses on joy. Not a superficial, temporary happiness, but a deep, abiding joy. A joy that is rooted in the gift of a Child that was born to save us from our sins. Of a God who loves His children so much that He became one of us to redeem us, to teach us, to heal us. A joy that glows steadily throughout the ups and downs we experience because we hold onto these truths.
Sometimes I take for granted the joy of knowing Jesus. Of the faith I was born into and now claim as my own. The comfort of His promises when life is uncertain.
Until I meet someone who does not share that belief.
As I listened to a dear friend share some very painful circumstances with me recently, I was heartbroken to hear her express doubt in the Bible and the Church. To hear her wondering about the afterlife. I cried with her for the hurt she is experiencing, but I also was devastated to think of her lacking the comfort and hope that God’s promises give. To see her searching yet denying the very thing that gives meaning and purpose when life doesn’t make sense. I pray that God will reach out to her in this time of darkness and that He will help me do the same.
As I pondered our conversation the next morning, I realized anew the incredible gift of the Savior, of the Church He gave, and of His daily graces. As Christmas nears, my heart is filled with humble gratitude for this gift.
And for receiving it not only at Christmas, but every day.
What a reason to rejoice.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
As a recovering perfectionist, my new prayer is: "Lord, help me not to make a mistake...unless You will be glorified by my mistake."
Because the fact is, God can and does use our mistakes and our brokenness to glorify Him, to point to His power, healing, and perfection (His power is made perfect in our weakness--2 Corinthians 12:9). He can use our mistakes and brokenness to pull others into His embrace who may have once thought they were too flawed to be accepted. Without mistakes, sin and brokenness, there would be no need for a Savior.
And who could ever say that?
I recently heard the point that we are like a Pharisee when we focus more being perfect than on God's forgiving love. How true and how convicting. We are focusing on ourselves rather than God. (One of my favorite definitions of humility: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself-- but thinking of yourself less.")
There's a beautiful humility in acknowleding our need for Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. A humility in admitting that no matter how much we love Christ and want to follow Him, we are frail humans who fall short and make mistakes and even sin against Him.
But even more beautiful than acknowledging our need for Him is actually receiving His forgiveness, receiving His unconditional love, and allowing Him to bring good from the messiness and imperfection in our lives.
The third week of Advent begins today. Let's continue to root out the pride in our hearts to make room for the coming Savior, admitting our frailty and need for Him in our lives every single day.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I think not.
I took this to a potluck recently and when I went to get myself a slice, it was gone. (But I did get to try a bite of my brother's piece!)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
submitted by Ann Hess to Come on Over, a Gooseberry Patch cookbook (one of my favorite cookbook series!!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup nuts (optional)
9-inch pie crust
Cream the eggs, sugars, and butter. Add the flour and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Spread batter in the unbaked pie crust. Bake at 325* for 1 hour or until the center is done.
If you're really letting loose, serve warm with ice cream. :)
Thursday, December 2, 2010
It is the beginning of Advent.
Amid the crazy and lively fun of baking, decorating, and singing around the holidays, I love the hushed calm of Advent. The Church season of waiting and preparing. The season that says, 'Something wonderful is coming and you must prepare-- not by hustling and bustling but by being still and quieting your heart. Prepare Him room.'
So we prepare. And we wait.
Waiting is not one of my favorite things. I like to be doing something. Accomplishing something. Moving forward. Yet Advent teaches me that waiting can be beautiful.
In the spiritual life, waiting is not empty or stagnant. God wants our waiting to be purposeful and full of promise and hope.
Life holds so many opportunities to wait. And in an instant gratification culture, we often don't embrace those opportunties. We look at them with contempt, frustration, and restlessness. Even in Christian circles, we struggle with waiting on God's timing. Waiting for the end, the prize, the blessing.
But what if the blessing is in the waiting itself?
We don't always choose to wait. But we can choose to wait with hearts full of hope, not empty and restless hearts. We can focus on using today to prepare for tomorrow. We can quiet our souls and open them to God, asking Him to change us while we wait. To hold onto the hope of His promises when we cannot see ahead.
"When we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:25)
Be still, my soul. Make room, my heart. Grow closer to your Savior in the waiting so that you recognize Him in the coming.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Thankful for things that begin with the letter 'S' today...(do I sound like I should be on Sesame Street?)
So thankful for a Savior who offers the gift of salvation to us. For the happiness of sunshine. For the breathtaking beauty of sunsets. For the friendship and memories shared with my sister. For the example of the faithful saints who have gone before us. For silliness that keeps us light-hearted. And for deep, serious conversations. For anything sweet that I can eat-- chocolate, cookies, pies, cake, anything will do. For the beauty of simplicity. For the joy of singing. For a warm soup on a winter day. For the wonder of a glittering night sky.
And right now, for the anticipation of a good night's sleep.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Today's theme for GreaThings is the letter 'G'...
I'm thankful for a God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies. For the gift of today. For opportunities to grow and learn throughout life. For giggling uncontrollably with my coworkers in the midst of a busy day at work. For good books with a cup of tea. For the beauty and delight of gardens. For the amazing relationships with my girlfriends, online and in person. For His grace that flows from above into our lives.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Unfortunately I'm joining on the last few days of this blog event, but I LOVE the idea behind it. For the past two weeks, these bloggers have been publicly sharing their blessings as they count down to Thanksgiving. The posts are beautiful testimonies to God's goodness in our lives when we open our eyes to see it. Thank you, Chantel, for hosting this!
Today's theme was Special lessons God has taught you this year.
Honestly, I don't even know where to begin with this one. This past year has held so many lessons for me-- sometimes I was a willing student and sometimes I just wanted to skip a day in the school of life.
But looking back now...I'm so grateful for the lessons.
I've learned that humans are incredibly resilient.
I've learned that "where the mind goes, the man follows."
I've learned that the devil knows this, and he will make the mind his battlefield.
I've learned that God's grace truly is sufficient; and that when we are weak, He is strong.
I've learned that God does not send us suffering; rather He allows it and then weeps with us and comforts us.
I've learned that joy, trust, faith, and hope are not emotions, but choices.
I've learned that I am like the Pharisees when I focus more on becoming better than on God's forgiveness.
I've learned that I can become so focused on doing God's work that I lose sight of God Himself.
I've learned that forgiving love is one of the most powerful kinds of love.
I've learned that we are all broken, but many people hide it well.
I've learned that our choices have consequences, but we serve a God who knows how to "work all things for good."
I've learned that not everyone can understand each other, but we can still offer a helping hand, a kind word, or a prayer to those in need.
I've learned in a deeper way that relationships with family and friends are amazing gifts to be treasured and nurtured.
I've learned in a deeper way that God can one moment seem so incomprehensibly above and beyond our imaginations-- a sacred mystery...and in another moment seem so comfortingly close, understanding us because He created us and His Son became one of us.
I've learned in a deeper way that He never, ever lets go of me-- and that I never, ever want to let go of Him.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
As I sipped my tea, I noticed a few customers seated at a table, deep in conversation. It reminded me of times in the past when I'd met with friends at a quaint restaurant or coffee shop to catch up. To share the ups and downs of our lives. To rejoice, lament, and laugh with each other. Leaving full of encouragement, comfort, and inspiration. A bond is formed and strengthened.
I thought of what a difference there is between spending time with a friend in a coffee shop and saying hello to a friend in the grocery store.
When I see a friend in the grocery store, it brings a smile to my face (unless I am sneaking through with no makeup and lounge pants!). I chat only for a moment but it can brighten my mood just to see them and remember them.
But it lacks the depth of the coffee shop times.
The more you spend time with someone and the deeper the conversation, the closer you grow.
Including one with our God.
Sometimes my prayers are like a hello in the grocery. I think of the Lord randomly throughout the day. It brightens my mood remembering He's there. I ask for His help in a quick prayer or lift up those around me in prayer.
But if I don't set aside specific time to meet with Him in prayer, my relationship lacks depth. I need my coffee shop time with Him. To have a heart-to-heart conversation and lay it all out before Him. To praise, rejoice, lament, and even laugh.
When I remove distractions, when I quiet and open my heart, when I go deeper in my time with Him...
We grow closer. The bond between Savior and sinner, Father and child, is strengthened. I leave with comfort, encouragement, or inspiration.
The devil knows this. And he will do everything he can to keep us from that quiet time. Distracting us with all the things on our to-do list in the morning. Keeping us rushed and busy during the day so we are too tired in the evening.
The quick "grocery store" prayers throughout the day are wonderful because they connect us to and remind of of God's presence. But we need to set aside quality "coffee shop" time for Him in order to go deeper and grow closer. He wants to hear the ups and downs of our lives.
He is always, always ready to meet with us.
We just need to accept the invitation.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
"Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of. You know whatever you do, they'll still be there." -Amy Li
"How do people make it through life without a sister?" -Sara Corpening
"When sisters stand shoulder to shoulder, who stands a chance against us?" -Pam Brown
"Sisters are for sharing laughter and wiping tears." -Anonymous
"Good or bad, distant or apart, sisters are tuned into each other with an uncanniness that baffles outsiders." -Barbara Mathias
"You know full well as I do the value of sisters' affections to each other: there is nothing like it in this world." -Charlotte Bronte
Happy birthday, Kendra!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Earlier this summer during my recovery from surgery, I read the fascinating and convicting book Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent. It's an incredible, true story of a upper class couple and their relationship with a homeless man (I should actually do a separate review on this book-- it totally deserves it and I definitely recommend it!).
In the book, one of the homeless men at the shelter where the Halls volunteer shares the reason for his good mood: "I woke up," he says with a smile. The Hall couple then begins the tradition each morning of being grateful they woke up, of taking a moment to appreciate being alive another day.
It's such a simple thing. To wake up in the morning.
But when you really think about it...
It's a miracle.
None of us are guaranteed another day when we go to sleep at night. When we wake to a new day, it's truly a gift.
I've begun to make this a habit of being grateful that "I woke up" in the mornings. It's amazing how a day can look so different with this perspective. Instead of grumbling, thoughts of to-do lists, and worries, there's a joy and a delight in simply being alive for another day. An awe and a gratitude for a fresh, blank slate on which to write the day.
Try it with me. Tomorrow morning, receive the 'gift of today.' Be thankful you woke up.
Then give a gift back to God by the way you live your day.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Another death this year. Another life cut short.
First, my seventeen year old cousin in a car accident. Creative, sensitive, an animal lover and a gardener. Leaving a hole in his family that can never be filled.
Then, a twenty-six year old prospective roommate and a co-worker of my brother's. Beautiful, vibrant, shining with love for Christ, and a kindred spirit. Her simple cough turned out to be widespread lung cancer.
Now, the dad of three dear friends. Battling esophageal cancer for a year. Praying the night he died, one of his daughters at his side.
As I talked with his daughter E. at the funeral home, she inspired me with her trust in the Lord during this time. She shared with me little details of how God is providing for them even now. How their faith is giving them comfort and strength.
I'm learning that some things in life have no earthly answer for why they happen. We live in a fallen world.
But rather than turning to despair from the lack of answers, there's a different path.
Hope that there is One who is in control. Who sees the bigger picture. Who weeps with us and pulls us closer to Him if we let Him. Who asks us to trust that He will bring good from pain.
And there's the hope of more. Of more than this life only.
There's "the hope of heaven."
I love that phrase.
It reminds me to look up, to look beyond, in faith. To remember that this life is temporary, but an eternity awaits with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. Where heartache and loss and tears are only a memory.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Please bless the veteran soldiers of America on this day. We are so grateful for the many sacrifices they have made and continue to make in defending our beautiful country. They have endured much for our freedom. Protect them this day from the forces of evil-- both physical and spiritual. Pour out Your strength and grace upon them. Be with their families and loved ones, and bless them for their great sacrifice as well. We pray for those veterans who have given their lives in battle and for their families. We pray for those veterans who gave a part of their life by their service in the past. We pray for those veterans who continue to give of their lives by their service today.
We ask for courage for ourselves, to honor their service by fighting for our country in whatever way we can at home.
And Lord, please especially protect that soldier who still has a special place in my heart.
Monday, November 8, 2010
It was one of those prayers that just happens, without much thought to it, while I'm going about my day. A quick mental whisper while I am busy with another task.
"Help me not to make a mistake in my choice."
And then I paused.
Something seemed askew with that spontaneous prayer. "Not to make a mistake." Something all-too-familiar was behind that phrase.
That nasty thing called Pride.
Oh, sure, it seemed harmless enough that I was asking for help. Admirable, even, to include God with my decision-making. Yet I wondered, am I really more concerned with what He wants or about making a mistake? Am I more worried about the good of my soul or about feeling regret?
Someone once told me that perfectionism and pride are one and the same. That perfectionism is a pretty term we use for pride.
Perfectionism is all about not making a mistake. So is pride.
Pride reminds me of the spearmint in my old garden. If you've grown spearmint, you know how deeply it grows and what a stronghold it creates! It would overtake my garden every year. I would root it out again and again, only to find later a new sprout from deeper roots that I had missed.
Pride will pop up again and again. Just when we think we've rooted it out of our hearts, it sprouts in an attitude, a judgment-- even a prayer! Only with God's help can we truly uproot it and plant the seeds of humility.
And I have this humbling feeling that it's going to take a lifetime!
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
I absolutely love the changing of seasons. And I love the colors, the activities, the decorations, and the food that go along with them.
Especially the food.
Fall has some of my favorite flavors-- apples, pumpkin, and cinnamon. I've been baking and cooking with these items a lot the past month (even pretending to be a pioneer woman and getting pumpkin puree and roasted pumpkin seeds from what used to be the decoration on my table!). I realized I haven't shared a recipe in the two years this blog has been going. So to remedy that...
Andrea and I put together this Black Bean 'n' Pumpkin Chili last weekend. It was wonderful to come back from an afternoon out to a delicious aroma and warm comfort food. Mmmmm.
Black Bean 'n' Pumpkin Chili
From Deborah Vliet/Taste of Home.com
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
2 TBS olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
In a large skillet, saute the onion and yellow pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook a little longer. Transfer to a 5 quart slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through. Yield: 10 servings.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I used to have all sorts of to-do lists and lots of structure and schedules in my life, but in the past couple of years I've cut out a lot of things. I'm learning to slow down and just 'be' rather than 'do.' Trying to "be a Mary in a Martha world." And finding more peace because of it! Nonetheless, here's a peek into my week...
-spent time with my mom and sister organizing my bedroom and closet at the happy little duplex my friend and I rent from my parents. We have a girl from church coming to live with us, so I'm making room to welcome her. :)
-spent some afternoon time in prayer with Jesus at the Adoration chapel at church. People are there praying 24 hours a day, Sunday through Friday. Absolutely beautiful.
-went to the library, one of my homes away from home. Used their laptops, perused the newest issue of Country Woman, said hello to a friend from work and discovered we are both bookworms. :)
-called and talked with my mom for awhile. I'm in the midst of heartache after the breakup of a relationship, and sometimes you just need your mom!
-Enjoyed a day of sleeping in; I couldn't believe the clock said 9:12am!
-Ate pumpkin oatmeal with my roomie Andrea while watching Rachael Ray.
-volunteered at the local homeless shelter/soup kitchen. What a touching experience. Today there were a couple families with young children. And the conversations with the two young men while they waited in line for seconds. And the lady who was so very grateful for the food, thanking us so graciously. And the man who wanted "service with a smile," making me wonder if they sometimes want the smile as much as the food.
-Voice lesson with my dear teacher and friend. She is going through a tough time as well but we still find a song to sing.
-Mass at the nursing home. This too is a touching experience. The faithful residents in their wheelchairs. The couples holding hands. The way Father Todd is so kind and authentic to each one of them. When he went around during the sign of peace and shook their hands, it reminded me of Jesus in the Gospels, going around healing and giving hope, looking at each person individually, letting them know they were valuable.
-Voting! I was so grateful to the local pro-life organization for printing a list of pro-life candidates in the paper. I'm a one-issue voter in that case and not ashamed! Without life, there aren't too many other issues. ;)
-Supper with the family and joining them for one of the few TV shows we enjoy, The Biggest Loser, motivating us to have a healthy lifestyle.
-Working in the Cardiology department. On Wednesdays I take care of patients coming in for a doctor visit. I'll take their vital signs, talk with them about their symptoms, educate them, and schedule any tests the doctor orders. I also work on analyzing the EKG strips from heart monitors that patients wear.
-The evening will likely include a supper of leftovers, a walk around the neighborhood, and cozy candles lit while I snuggle on the couch with some good books!
-Working in Cardiology. On Thursdays I work in the stress testing room. We do different types of stress tests (treadmill or medication) to determine how patients' hearts work under stress and if they have blockage in their arteries. I love this part of my job and I love working with the patients.
-In the evening is a memorial Mass at church for all those who have died this year. My seventeen-year-old cousin died tragically in a car accident this summer. My family is planning on going to the service to support my uncle and aunt and their family.
-Once again, a Cardiology day. On Fridays, I'm the only nurse in the department, so it makes for a busy day of stress tests, taking calls, and tying up loose ends for the weekend.
-Friday night, it's girlfriend time! My friend Kacie just had her 30th birthday this week, so she and I are going to our mutual friend Kari's house for a fun night of highlighting our hair! I chose a caramel color that is supposed to go with medium to dark brown hair. We'll see!
Saturday and Sunday
-No plans at this point. I'm still adjusting to not spending time with Grant, but thankfully others have stepped in and kept me company with love and laughter. I'm seeking the Lord in this time as well, holding onto Him for comfort and growth, and finding joy in the other blessings of life for now. Some options for this weekend include:
-Visiting my dear 94-year-old neighbor Vivian. She is sharp and witty and an absolute delight. Last time I brought my crochet projects and worked on them while we chatted.
-Cleaning and organizing the duplex. Helping Emily move in. Cooking and planning meals for the week. (We're pretty low-key about this. Often a meal or two will last us the week with leftovers; salads or sandwiches work well for lunches.)
-Visiting the local coffee shop, one of my new haunts. They have a tea called Hot Cinnamon Spice that is just perfect for fall. I feel like a city girl going to coffee shops and ordering my usual "One Tall Hot Cinnamon Spice tea." (for the record, I'm a country girl through and through ;)
-I like to spend time with my family on Sunday since it's not only a day of rest and worship, but also a day of coming together as a family.
-Going to church, of course. :) One of my aunts has been talking about wanting to come back to church. I'd like to invite her this week and go out to breakfast afterwards with her and my family.
And there is a peek into my week! Thank you so much for visiting! Blessings on you as you continue through the carnival!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
- when I enjoy a homemade breakfast of pumpkin oatmeal during my favorite cooking show, Rachael Ray.
- when Father Todd reaches out a hand to the residents at the nursing home Mass today, one by one, calling them by name, looking so very much like the Jesus in the Gospels.
- when a hug and a kiss from my voice teacher convey her empathy as we both continue our journeys in the midst of struggle.
- when a woman at the soup kitchen today says she doesn't mind what I serve her, that she's just grateful for whatever we give her.
- when two others from the soup kitchen chat with me and another worker, bridging the gap between those serving and those being served.
- when I am able to cast my votes today, to be a part, however small, in bringing our beloved country back to the morals and values it was founded on.
- when my brother lays a comforting hand on my shoulder, silently showing his care amd reminding me of the amazing bond of family.
- when the sun falls just behind the trees at eventide, melting into the horizon and leaving a golden glow that warms my soul.
-when we realize that all the good and beauty and wonder in this life is but a reflection of the One who created it all, and that He wants to be in an intimate relationship with us, now and forever.
Monday, November 1, 2010
On an hour-long drive home this weekend, It was bound to find it's way to the surface. And as the suffocating wave crashed over me, tears flowed from the depths. The overwhelming desire to call him, to hear his voice, was fighting reason and willpower.
So I turned on the radio.
The beginning strains of Amy Grant's "Better Than a Hallelujah" were playing. And I was reminded so beautifully...
"The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a hallelujah sometimes.
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah."
Sometimes I feel so very human. So limited. So unable to take hold of more than one day at a time, but instead having to focus on the present moment and give the rest to God.
Maybe that's exactly where He wants me.
This lack of control finds me leaning more on Him, letting go when my fragile mind can't figure it out. It finds me resting in His mercy and love, trusting in His power and goodness to cover and heal my weakness and sin.
The finite seeking the Infinite.
The weak needing the Strong.
The child reaching to the Father.
Yes, I think this is right where He wants me. My choices may have brought me here, but His grace is bringing good from it even now.
Just like He promised (Romans 8:28).
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of these girlfriends in my life.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
"For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." (Galatians 5:22-23)
What an intimidating list! I think I'd be doing quite well if I could have all those fruits!
Just like real fruit, growing spiritual fruit takes time. It would be wonderful to go to the local farmer's market and pick out a handful of joy, a basket of faithfulness, and a whole bushel of patience!
Yet I wonder if we would truly appreciate the fruits of these virtues if we could obtain them immediately.
Would we see our need for the Lord's graces if it were not so difficult to be that which He asks us to be?
Instead we need to trust the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of His fruits in our lives when we ask. We need to nurture those seeds with prayer and practice. To be humble when He prunes, even though it is painful. To be hopeful and not lose heart when all we see are bare branches instead of abundant fruit.
Paul knew this when He wrote about the fruits and gave some encouragement in the next chapter.
"Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)
The tending, the growing-- even the pruning-- will be worth it.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Jesus' own mother knows that feeling.
She lost Him once herself...
"Each year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it. Thinking that He was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding Him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him."
Can you imagine this? The uncertainty, the anxiety, the pain in Mary's heart-- not only was her son missing, but He was the Son of God.
After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for You with great anxiety."
Mary understands the anxiety we have when we can't see what God is doing in our lives. The mental searching for directions, for reasons, for understanding.
And He said to them, "Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what He said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom, and age, and favor before God and man."*
Even after His parents found Him, they didn't understand it all. We won't understand everything that happens in our lifetime, but we can continue to find Jesus in it. We can find Him in the friend who gave us a random hug just when we needed it. We can find Him in the peaceful sunset on a stressful day. We can choose to trust that He is there even when we don't see Him in the way we would wish.
And like His Mother, we can keep all these things-- these moments of finding Jesus-- in our hearts.
*Scripture from Luke 2
Monday, October 11, 2010
And create it into beauty once again."
-Porcelain Heart, by BarlowGirl
Have you ever realized how emotional pain can become physical pain? Like when your heart aches so much that you can feel the real, true pain in your chest?
Why is it we can feel loss? Why do regrets hurt so much? Why do we sometimes only realize what we have once we no longer have it?
But the decision is made. For now. My choices, my actions, they have brought me to this place.
A place where more choices are to be made.
The choice to use the past to prune me, mold me, and humble me.
The choice to wake up, get up, and show up-- to make the effort to put others' needs before my own.
The choice to trust the One who picks up broken pieces and puts them back together.
Even when trusting is hard, I must trust Him with the outcome.
The choice to use this as a growing time, learning from my mistakes. It's the least I can do, and the most I can do.And that small hope within will grow.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Maybe it's the romance of it-- a twinkling heaven above. Maybe it's the vastness of creation, the reminder that the world is so much greater than I can imagine.
Whatever the case, as I walked with Grant under the canopy of stars a few nights ago, my thoughts turned as usual toward the One who "brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name" (Isaiah 40:26). I imagined Him in heaven, my loving Father watching over His children.
Then a realization came to me.
He had been thinking about me before I had even thought of Him.
He never stops thinking about me. Or Grant. Or any of His children.
It's not just when we turn to Him that He turns to us in response. It's not just when we call out to Him in prayer that He gives His attention to us.
We are on His mind. All. The. Time.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I sat there. And thought about God.
How sometimes He seems so very silent.
How sometimes I feel like He's just beyond my grasp. That I can't understand Him or His ways. I can't feel Him.
I hold onto the image of Jesus in the Gospels. I believe in Him. And I believe Him.
But sometimes life--and the Evil One-- bring up questions in my mind. When a friend's adoption fails. When a local young Christian gets cancer. When bad things happen to good people. Or even when good things don't happen to good people.
Then once more I became aware of my surroundings. His creation was begging me to see the reflection of the Creator. He didn't need to come down from Heaven to remind me who He was. It was there all around me. The warm, comforting feel of the wind on my skin. The beauty of the sky. The trees with their welcoming arms. And the unconditional love of a dog.
That is who He is, I thought. A God who creates such beauty, warmth, love, and security can only be those qualities as well. I may not understand His thoughts and His ways, but I can find comfort in who He is.
He invites us to climb into His arms--a perfect place to rest and enjoy the view.
Monday, August 16, 2010
"...On their way they were healed. When one of them discovered that he was healed, he came back, shouting praises to God. He bowed down at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him."
I'd like to think I'm always the one racing back with a thankful heart for the blessings I've received. That I shout praises to God and bow at the feet of Jesus.
"Jesus asked, 'Weren't ten men healed? Where are the other nine?' "
But many times I'm not. I'm one of the other nine.
I've been praying for months about the decision of whether to have ovarian surgery done in an attempt to cure my PCOS. Somehow it all came together smoothly and the surgery was scheduled before I knew it, orchestrated in the beautiful way God often uses-- usually while I'm in the midst of worrying and over-analyzing.
Surrounded by the prayers, love, and encouragement from so many, my surgery date of August 3rd came and went, once again with the gracefulness that seems to come only from above. Thankfulness washed over me as I realized it was over. The months of wondering, of preparing, of fearing the unknown. They were gone. Competent surgeon's hands had erased the source of my condition and given me a great prognosis, a "10 out of 10," he called it.
For a time I was the leper returning in thanks. But how quickly I became one of the other nine. My gratitude was overshadowed by the difficulty of my recovery. The pain, the slowness, the sense of purposelessness tucked my relief and gratitude under the rug. The feelings of thankfulness were replaced by feelings of pity, of boredom, of loneliness.
What a selfish child I must seem to God at times! So many times before I came to Him with prayers for help and healing-- yet afterwards my prayers of thanksgiving were only a fraction of those times.
Lord, thank you for your care and healing touch. That you are by my side every moment, even when I forget you. That you give me infinite second chances. That you love me as your child, even when I'm childish. That this life you've given me is beautiful, even when I can't see it. Thank you.
"Then Jesus told the man, 'You may get up and go. Your faith has made you well.' "*
*Scripture verses from Luke 17:11-19
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
But there's such a depth to it that goes beyond all this.
Faith is a gift, yet it's also a choice.
Faith is an active decision, yet it can't be made without grace.
On retreat several months ago, a priest assigned me a section of the Bible. Read Luke 18:35-42, he told me. Let Jesus ask you that same question, he said...what would your reply be?
I sat in the warmth and quietness of the chapel and found the passage. A blind man. Needing Jesus. Wanting him. Calling for him despite the obstacles.
Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?"
My heart cried out, You know what I want most, Lord! You know the desires of my heart! You know the confusion and the pain in this season.
The blind man answers, "Lord, I want to see."
Yes, Lord. I want to see, too. It's a yearning in my heart. I want so much to see the future, to know it will all be okay. Open the eyes of my heart that I see the flaws and faults that blind me, those that keep me from fully trusting you.
Jesus, ever compassionate, ever aware of our desires...was touched by this man's simple plea. "Look and you will see. Your eyes have been healed because of your faith."
A promise. A beautiful healing. A reward for the blind man's persistent faith.
This passage continued to feed my soul when I read it. It wasn't until several weeks later as I flipped to the bookmarked page once again that it hit me. In a way I hadn't seen before.
"Look and you will see."
An action first. The blind man must look. Must believe that if He opens His eyes in faith, He will see.
"Your eyes have been healed because of your faith."
First comes the faith. Then the healing. Not the other way around.
The same is true for my life. Faith is not the result of miracles. Rather miracles are the result of faith.
Faith is not faith unless we first open our eyes and look even when it seems that nothing will be there. But when we open our eyes, we will see. We will be healed because of our faith.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
And it hangs crooked.
Time and time again I would adjust it, but the next time I was in the kitchen, it would once again be tilted to the side. One day as I studied it, I realized that whenever I see the sign, I'm focused on the way it hangs crooked, rather than the sign's message and instruction. I decided not to adjust it anymore. Instead when I see it, I will be reminded to laugh.
Life is like that. It hangs crooked at times. We get frustrated trying to adjust it, only to find later on that it has tilted one way or another once again. Instead of enjoying each day even with its imperfections, we are distracted by or consumed with what's not right about the picture. The joy we could have had is lost.
Instead of trying to fix it all, let's just laugh instead.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Which is interesting, considering the author appears to adopt some Buddhist views. (That would be my disclaimer for any potential readers.) Yet despite our differing views on where we come from and where we're going, M.J. and I seem to agree on the middle part of the journey.
Her passion for living in the moment and being grateful for the blessings of each day are attitudes that we as followers of Christ should embrace. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, that our Father will take care of it just as He does for the lilies and the sparrows. St. Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, to be content in whatever state.
Through some very real struggles this past year, I have realized anew how important gratitude is in all circumstances. No matter how difficult a cross we are carrying, there are always blessings to recognize if we have the eyes to see.
In the midst of weariness, we can be thankful for the strength and grace of God. In the midst of heartache, we can be thankful that He knows and He cares. When people let us down, we can be thankful for the friends who are tried and true. When we're uncertain about the future, we can be thankful for the family and loved ones who support and encourage us. When we feel like we're in a stretching season, we can be thankful for the hope that God is molding and changing us-- even if we may not see the whole picture yet.
Living with gratitude makes life shine with beauty. Sometimes life is crazy, difficult, painful. But when we embrace gratitude...looking up to the Giver instead of inside ourselves...life is definitely beautiful.
Monday, March 1, 2010
by Grant Colfax Tuller
My Life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not 'til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who choose to walk with Him.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
But between those two glorious events-- His birth and His rising from the dead-- there's a time that shouldn't be overlooked.
The 'in-between' time.
The time when Jesus grew up in Nazareth with His parents. Teaching us that a quiet life lived for the Father is pleasing to Him. The time of the Gospels, when He began His public ministry, reaching out to the lost and the hurting. When He healed the sick and the blind and the lame. When He taught those around Him how to live and how to love. The times He laughed and cried. When He was tempted by the devil. When He was rejected by those around Him.
This is a God who not only saved us, but cared enough to live with us. Who not only wants to be our Redeemer, but also our Friend.
He cares about the little details of life. He understands because He's been there. Nothing is too great for Him to handle, but also nothing is too small to bring to Him.
What an amazing God.
Thank you, Lord, for being born for us. Thank you for saving us. And thank you for the in-between time.