Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Close the door on 2012.
Open the door to 2013.

My blog plan for January is to spend a quiet month, posting a photo each day. I will probably toss in a few words here and there, thinking a picture can't possibly be worth a thousand words without my help. But mostly, I will try to stay quiet.

I know you all are busy with your own planning and re-grouping for the new year. I'll take the month to work on a few projects and find the space to breathe, deeply. Let's relax, take a deep breath together, and look forward to all that 2013 has for us.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55: 8-9

joining the quiet Sunday Community
also linking with

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Day After Christmas

A Short Story

As Beth opened the door of the coffee shop, bells jangled from the handle. Caught between the inside air and the crisp wind outside, her ponytail blew around her face, her denim skirt twisted around her legs. She closed the door, pushed her hair and skirt back where they belonged and inhaled the sweet, bitter, cozy scent of coffee. Jess waved to her from her corner table. The door opened behind her, the wind grabbed her hair and skirt again. She stepped aside to make room as Cara stepped inside.

The two friends greeted and walked over to join Jess, waiting for them with three cups of pumpkin spice coffee.

“My favorite part of Christmas is when it’s finally over,” said Cara as she plopped into her chair and took a sip from her cup. “Thanks Jess, this is good.”

“Don’t talk like that,” said Beth.

“You don’t have to survive my family,” said Cara. “The hateful glares between my mom and dad. My grandma lecturing my dad about all he should or shouldn’t have done while ‘Silent Night’ plays in the background. No, I am glad when the holidays are over.”

“Don’t you enjoy any of it? What about the music or the food or the decorations?” asked Beth.

“No, it all reminds me of what our family isn't. I can’t see past the animosity and resentment.”

Beth turned to Jess, “How was your Christmas?”

“You make me feel guilty, Cara. We all got together, had lots of presents and loads of food and lots of fun.”

“How about you, Beth?” asked Jess.

“After church, we each opened one gift, we had our big meal, read the Bible and sang hymns, each picking our favorite.  Later, we went to the convalescent home where my grandpa lives and my dad led a service for all the dozing old people. It was delightful.”

“You don’t sound too thrilled with Christmas, either,” said Jess.

“In my family, there is so much focus on what is right or Scriptural we forget to have fun.  We have to ‘do’ Christmas instead of having a relaxed, easy, happy, together Christmas.”

Jess leaned back in her chair. “There is such a huge build up before Christmas. Seems it starts earlier each year.”

“And drops harder when it is over, when all the disappointment and dissatisfaction hit. When you realize all you didn’t do or didn’t get or didn’t give. When the next three hundred and sixty-four days seem a relief,” added Cara. “I wonder if it is wrong to feel a sense of grief. Relief and grief, when finally, it is all over.”

“I don’t think it is wrong. Recognizing your feelings is a good thing. What you do with those feelings is what matters,” said Jess. “Acknowledge your feelings of sadness, regret." Jess paused, "Cara, can you think of three good things that did happen?”

“Three things?” She counted them off on her fingers. “Well, my dad did try to say something nice to my grandma instead of fighting back, even when she was hounding him. My brother and I had fun building a puzzle together.  The mashed potatoes turned out well even though I tried a new recipe.”

“There you go. Three things to appreciate and remember, with a smile and gratefulness. Does that change your perspective?”

“Yes, I guess it does,” said Cara. “Guess I could come up with more good things, too, if I tried.”

“Exactly. Isn’t that the message of Christmas?” asked Jess. “The gift of love, shared with us, right in the middle of our messy lives. Right where we are.”

“I can see what you are saying,” said Cara. “It would be hard to be angry and bitter if I think about loving, kind things.”

Beth added, “I can see that I need to work on my perspective, too. To see all I do have in my home and family, instead of thinking about all I think we don’t have. We do have some fun together, even if it isn’t exactly like I would like it to happen.”

“Look,” laughed Jess. “I am not trying to be a psychotherapist or something. But being grateful makes a huge difference. Focus on the negative, and that is what you will see. Focus on the good, even if it is just a little, and the little grows bigger.”

The three girls sipped their coffees, quiet with their own thoughts.

Cara said, “I came here to unload and complain to both of you, expecting you to sympathize with me. Instead, I see Christmas in a different light. A light, kind of like the Christmas star shining over everything.  Gratefulness, illuminating, shining light on the beautiful and on the ugly parts of life.”

“I like that,” said Beth. “The manger scene, the shepherds in the field, all lit up by the light of the Christmas star. Right where they all were, busy with their lives, their work. The light shining over all of it. And here, now, each of us with our own family challenges. The light shining over us, too.”

“Makes me almost look forward to next Christmas,” said Cara, and the three girls laughed.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Take the Slow Journey

"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life."

- Author Unknown

"And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
2 Peter 1: 19
joining with the quiet Sunday Community

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

...In His Hands

"Mom, you worry about me too much."

Immediately, all the justifications, rationalizations, reasons (excuses?) come to mind. But I don't say them, because he is right. Instead, I say, "Okay, so how should I think about you? If I shouldn't worry, what is the opposite of worry?"

He didn't know, and I wasn't sure, either. Like fear not being the opposite of courage, worry is not an easy term to label, define. I told him I would work on it.

My well-worn Thesaurus and Webster's Dictionary and Strong's Concordance sit on the shelf next to my desk, an easy arm reach away. I love words, thinking about them, wondering, playing with meanings, attempting to use them in intelligent, meaningful ways. I pull out the Thesaurus and skim down the long list for synonyms of worry.

The image of waves comes to mind. Powerful waves pounding on the shore, the spray wetting everything within reach, the rocks worn smooth from the daily impact, the crashes resonating through the sand and air. Beaches re-configured day after day as the waves wear away at the shore. Tides changing, every day different. Anxious, uneasy, concern, dismay, grief, anguish, difficulty, agitation.

I skim down to the antonyms. Certainty, assurance, security, trust, calm, serenity, quiet, peace...The image I see here is water, perfectly reflecting the mountains, the trees, the sky above it. Not a ripple, still, smooth, even, glassy, reflecting. Steady.

Another image, of hands, the Lord's hands, holding, calm and steady, this crazy reeling world of ours. The song, "He's got the whole world in His hands..," murmurs in my head. It doesn't feel like it, these last few days, but He does hold the world, firm and certain.

A theologian was asked to give a brief statement of his beliefs. His surprising answer came in familiar words, simple, steady, not complex or hard to understand, another image, another song:
"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so."
Perhaps the reason these water images come to my mind is from a series of recurring dreams. I take the kids to the beach, the same scene each dream, not a known place, except in my repeated dreams. We park about a block away and walk, lugging chairs and towels and shovels and pails and skim boards. During low tide, a tall brick wall separates the sand and ocean from the town. At high tide, the waves crash against the wall, the only sand available when the waves are drawn out. In my dreams, we manage to arrive at high tide each time, and we are swimming in the waves. Not little, fun waves, but twenty and thirty footers that roll in one on top of the other, smashing against the wall. I keep myself and little heads afloat, struggling, attempting to not be terrified. Really, it is a beautiful scene. The water is crystal turquoise, clear and smooth. The waves don't ever seem to actually crash, we just float over the huge swells, trying to get to the shore, which isn't even there. I wake up. Dreams are hard to describe, and I imagine some psychologist or whoever studies dreams could come up with implications. Over the past few years, I have had this same dream many times.

Perhaps this dream is a way of working out my worries for our children. They are not little now. Two of the three guys still at home are taller than I am, the third quickly catching up. In my dream the other night, the youngest had his arms around my neck, and I was working hard to keep both of us afloat.

Swimming in waves is not my favorite thing. I will sit on the shore and watch the waves all day long - from a safe distance. The Southern California beaches where I grew up had rough waves, and I know the feeling of being churned in the turbulence of a crashing wave and tasting sand. Not my favorite way to enjoy a beach.

Odd, that this idea of worry would be so intertwined with waves and water and a dream.

When my son tells me not to worry, I want to tell him of the crazy world, of his personal challenges, that it is my job to worry. But, no, my job is to trust.

To trust the steady hands, the whole world held, secure.

 To trust the strength of quiet love.

To accept what we have, here, today. Grateful.

To lighten up, and travel lighter.

Linking with Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky for
Tuesdays Unwrapped

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guarding These Words

"And all those who heard marveled concerning the things which were spoken by the shepherds to them. But  Mary kept on continually guarding all these words in her heart and bringing them together for the purpose of considering them in their total import."

Luke 2: 18-19
Wuest Expanded Translation

joining the quiet Sunday community

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Listen to the Quiet Voice

I like to win.

I like life to go smoothly.

You are probably laughing right now.

Me too. I know better, but I still get frustrated when I don't win or life's road is rough and bumpy, with tough surprises around the corner.

When I wanted to put one photo on my blog post, the message came up, "Ooops, you're out of space. There is no more room." Argh. Last week our daughter helped me out of the same hole, and I thought we'd fixed it. My computer skills are in the barely-get-by category. Somehow I raised kids who are computer literate - must get that from their dad. They try to help me. Now that most of them are living in their own homes, it is harder to understand by remote. They are patient with me. More patient than I am with my computer.

It's aggravating. My computer, a machine, tests my patience. And I fail. Miserably. Sometimes to tears.

The quiet words, the quiet voice drifts through my head.

Be grateful for everything.

Even an uncooperative, misbehaving computer?


I am vividly reminded of my need for grace and mercy. And patience.

I am reminded how much I appreciate each of our children (not just for computer skills).

I am grateful to have a computer and an avenue for writing.

Grateful to realize my whining is incredibly insignificant.

Grateful for a pleasant evening gathered around our table, laughing, drinking hot chocolate, challenging each other in happy games.

Grateful we have a warm, snug house, the snow outside.

Grateful we have cupboards full of food.

Grateful we can smile and laugh and talk together.

Grateful for family fun.

Grateful for time to relax and play and enjoy.

In all of this, I win, and life travels smoothly. Just like I like, grateful and awake to the joy.
(even weeds look pretty in the snow)

Linking with Ann Voskamp, listing One Thousand Gifts.
link to my list

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Unwrap this Moment

Our youngest son, thirteen, has some difficulties with memory. The situation is complicated, and for here, I don't need to share details.

The point is, I respond in two ways.

  1. It doesn't matter, he won't remember this moment anyway. Why bother?
  2. Or, this moment, now, is all we have. Pay attention. Make it valuable.

My default attitude, I admit, is to just get through this day, unaware, unappreciative of the passing moments. Survive.

How do I exchange that default attitude and live each moment full of value?

Last night, lying snug in bed, the house dark and quiet,  I listed three things in my head, three things to help me be more aware of each moment:
  • make sure he is secure, that he knows he is loved, cared for, protected
  • be sure he learns something - even if it's the same thing he learned this morning or yesterday or last week - be sure he is learning, growing, taking something in
  • watch for opportunities for gratefulness - reaching out to others and the Lord - responding to life with gratefulness. Each day I have him write three things on a gratefulness list. For now, it requires a lot of prompting from me, but he will grow in his ability to see.
These three words:
  • secure
  • learn
  • grateful
Perhaps he cannot articulate the impressions, the memories of his days. But he is aware at a deep level, and these are what I need to build into him.

And obviously, this has applications for all of us.

  • Love the moment.
  • Search for the value of now.
  • Seek to learn, be always looking, learning.
  • Enjoy, with an open heart of gratefulness.
Appreciate all that is here, now. Listen to the sounds. Look at the sky. Feel. Move. Go for a walk. Laugh. Smile. Play a game. Read aloud. Talk. Listen. Not just going through the motions. Enjoy the life we have here, now, together. Live. Alive. Awake. Unwrap the moment.

Linking with Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky, and "Tuesdays, Unwrapped."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wonder Full

         Full of wonder at the wonderful.

joining Deidra and the quiet Sunday community

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Awake to this Day

I woke up this morning, warm, in a cozy bed, my husband breathing deeply beside me, the early sunlight filtering through the blinds.


A day ahead: shop for groceries, take books back to the library (one overdue - oops), go for a walk with our dog and her boy in the brisk air, chat with the guys, hang more twinkle lights, complete a writing project on the computer, read, plus all the minute tasks that filter through my days.

This day ahead, a gift. To enjoy. To relax and revel in its delights. To breathe, and smile.


The short story, A Messy Thanksgiving, is posted on If you didn't get a chance during the busy Thanksgiving season to read it here on this blog, you can click to jump over there. With another major holiday a few weeks away, Sandy's messy holiday story is still appropriate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's All in the Attitude

"Your attitude is an expression of your values, beliefs and expectations."

-Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author.

"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.
Do you understand?" 

-Captain Jack Sparrow, a pirate. Perhaps not the wisest person to validate a quote, but the truth lurking here is worth the risk of the source.

drawing by

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Want More

Does this seem an odd title when my theme is traveling lighter? When I wrote last week about minimalism?

Dissatisfied isn't always about things. Sometimes it is discontent with me.

When I lie in bed at night, I think of all I should have/could have/ shouldn't have/said/done. (Take your pick. There are always regrets to mull over. This girl is far from perfect.)

I want to be more awake, more aware to each moment.

In this moment, what do I want more?
          This cookie, this second helping? Or, more health, more strength, more energy?

In this moment, what do I want more?
           The satisfaction of a caustic reply? Or the emotional confidence to love and give? Do I want more strength to give up what I want to gain more love, or do I choose to snap back a "smart" retort?

In this moment, do I skip daily Bible reading and turn on the computer to read emails?
           Or do I want more, the deep satisfaction of quiet moments with the Lord, preparing my heart and mind for the day?

In this moment, our son returning a painfully slow answer (that takes Forever...) do I show patience and kindness?
         Or do I bleat a hasty, impatient response that is all about me and my time, not understanding or acknowledging or meeting his needs?

In this moment, I want more. More awake, more aware of others.

In this moment, the setting sun fading the air to peach, to gold, to navy, do I see it?
           Am I aware of the beauty of the deepening day?
            Or am I too absorbed in dinner preparations, clearing up a daily load of clutter, or fretting over all that didn't get done that day?

In this moment, do I see the amaryllis bulb unfolding a tiny bit each hour, soon to explode in a firecracker of blossom?
           Or do I settle in the secure familiar of haste and hurry of anxiety over [anything] [everything]?

What do I want more?

I ask a lot of questions.

The answers are a process. Part of being awake, aware, realizing I have a choice.

And the calm beauty of the season is there. Here.

If I look for it.

More love.

More kindness.

More patience.

More strength.

More beauty.

I want more.

Emily Freeman, "Chatting at the Sky", is hosting a series for December, "Tuesdays, Unwrapped."
"Celebrate the lovely, the messy, the unexpected."
"Unwrap the small, secret gift of the everyday."
Linking with her, today, to unwrap the beauty, the gift of this Tuesday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sunny Choice

"I have just come out of a gloomy room into a sunny room to write these words. I had my choice. I could have stayed in the sombre room, but I choose to come into the sunlit room and the warm, cheering beams are even now falling on my page. 'Walk in the light!' And I make my choice, and how often I choose to walk without Christ in the unfertilizing and unfruitful gloom of self-will! In the light of the Lord I could have a garden of Eden; how often I choose the dingy wilderness where I can grow neither flowers nor fruits...The way of light is the way of delight, and 'the joy of the Lord is our strength.'"

My Daily Meditation
-John Henry Jowett

joining the quiet Sunday community

Saturday, December 1, 2012


December first, the Christmas season officially in stride. As if we didn't know that already.

Last week I mentioned my theme word for this season is AWAKE.

To not coast through the next few weeks, unmindful, unaware. I want to open my eyes. To see, what?

The beauty and peace of these days, as opposed to the overload of clutter and chaos.

Our son picked out a book at the library, Listen to the Silent Night, by Dandi Daley Mackall. A book that messed with my thinking about the classic image of the silent night. All the not-so-silent noises of that evening: the jostling crowds, the donkey plodding, Mary breathing heavy, restless, the sheep rustling in the grass, the soldiers barking commands, sandals flip-flopping across the dusty roads, Joseph asking for a place, the innkeeper speaking, "No," the cows and chickens bedding down in the straw, Mary struggling with the birth, the newborn Baby alive, catching His first breath, full of life, angels with their message to the shepherds, the shepherds running, shouting the news.

There is a lot of awake that night.

A night, a season to pay attention.
A season to listen.
A season to see spectacular sights.
A season to sing.
A season to laugh with joy.
A season to be grateful, so very grateful.
A season to be awake, watching.

Houses glowing, inviting, displaying light, welcoming, are one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Houses saying, "Life is here." Friendly. Happy. Bright. Like the old tradition of keeping a lighted candle in the window to welcome family arriving home, to direct their path through the dark night, Christmas lights are a way to say, "Welcome, come in, we greet the season, and you, too."

I want to be awake, to not miss the now. How will I do that?
By stopping what I am doing when our son asks me to read him a book (just did that, in case you are wondering).
By baking cookies with the guys.
By putting up our decorations (doing that this weekend).
By playing Christmas music, all day long, and singing along (sorry, guys, maybe I'll stick to humming).
By opening my eyes to find the joy around me, especially in the littlest things.
By smiling.
By simmering cinnamon and cloves and oranges and apple peels.
By going outside in the dark, in the cold, to gaze at the stars.
By connecting with others - family, friends, neighbors.
By displaying the Jesse Tree ornaments each day.
By dipping into the calm assurance of the Gift given to us, the Lord Jesus.
By being AWAKE.

And, in all the busy-ness and the doing and the bustling of Christmas, to take the time to look, to see, to enjoy the depth of the season. Like a deep pool of clear water, I can keep it stirred and murky with all the activity and must-be-dones. Or, I can allow the mud and murk to settle, allow the calm and peace to prevail, revealing the crystal clear beauty and peace of the true message. Awake to the gift of life.