It’s just a Hug

Last night I was in a great conversation with a small group of multi-generational women, when it came up that sometimes the older ladies can go for weeks without any physical touch or affection whatsoever. I’ve heard that before, but it’s almost inconceivable at a time in my life when virtually every minute of the day I’m holding a baby. Sometimes I feel like I’ve surrendered any concept of physical boundaries, because my daughter’s life literally depends on my touch. But their homes are quiet and empty now, and they don’t always have family around to meet that need.

You’ve probably heard about studies that proved infants will fail to thrive with out human touch. Here’s an old NY Times article, The Experience of Touch, explaining the research of Harry Harlow on this topic. My question is this: Who’s to say that this is only important for infants? I’m guessing it would be safe to say all human beings need kindness in the form of physical touch every now and then. I’m no doctor… and I don’t even play one on TV,  but I’m pretty sure I’m right on this.

As we wrapped up our discussion, I figured, what the heck! I can give a couple more hugs today. It’s just a hug.

“Alright, come here ‘old lady’. Before you go, you are getting a hug today!”

And I held on just a little bit longer than normal. I think it made all the difference.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27, New International Version

 

 

New beginnings meet old Habits

Happy New Year to all!

Just checking in to greet everyone and tenderly address the topic of New Year’s Resolutions. To resolve or not to resolve, that IS the question! At least it’s the question of the week.

Here’s the rub, I have managed to come up with a highly organized list of home, health, relational, and lifestyle improvements. I should also admit that I have some fairly sophisticated strategies on how to get those improvements underway. The problem is, I’m not quite feeling the motivation to take those all important first steps.  If I make a resolution without the motivation, I’m doomed to failure. If I let my lack of motivation lead, I fail for not even trying. As my hockey-minded husband would say – (paraphrasing the Great Wayne Gretzky) “The only shot you are guaranteed to miss is the one you do not take.” That may be true, but I’m a bit disillusioned on whether or not I have enough strength to launch that puck all the way to the goal. You see, I’ve come up short a few times. And that can be embarrassing.

So, I think what I really need to do is just surrender. And believe me, there is a difference between “surrender” and “quitting”.

Surrendering to Whom?

You see, when I think of “quitting” it brings to mind the idea of dropping a task, as if it were an object of burden, and walking away. The burden lays abandoned on the ground. It still exists, it still longs for completion. Meanwhile, I have just averted my attention to something else and left the burden in a neglectful way.

When I think of “surrendering” there is another Being involved. And it’s not just any person, it’s someone who wants to be involved. For instance, say I’m bearing a burden and I come into contact with another person. If I drop my burden at their feet, I’m not surrendering it to them, for they have no attachment to it and could simply walk away. It’s still mine. But, if I come along to someone and they indicate that they want to lift this burden from my shoulders and take it as their own, I have to choose what to do. I can say “no”, and keep bearing that burden, or I can accept their offer and “surrender” my burden to them.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. Because, there are some burdens that simply can not be detached from me. I can surrender a pile of unused clothes or items cluttering my house, and never will have to think of them again. But I cannot merely detach from myself such things as: my current state of physical fitness, my poorly managed nutritional habits, or my strong inclinations to waste my free time on social media. These internal realities are mine to keep and to deal with. So, instead of surrendering them, I have to submit myself to someone whose guidance would help me to improve these realities. And, I better be sure that this Being is someone who can be trusted to bear up under these burdens. Also, this Being had better be someone who has my best interests in mind. Hmmm… who could it be.

It’s almost too simple, isn’t it?

For fear of inciting the easy “Sunday-School” answer (“Jesus”), I will share the following invitation made by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (11:28):

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

 Trading a burden for a Yoke

Did you catch that? Yes, Jesus, offers to help us with our burden. We place His yoke (think of that big wooden thing an oxen wears, when he is dragging a cart or “burden” around) upon our shoulders so that we are reigned into His leadership. Then, His yoke distributes the weight of the burden in such a way that it is able to be carried. We then make forward progress together.

Now, that helps us to understand that when it comes to Jesus, surrendering is a good thing. It actually brings God’s help into the situation. Where as before, it was just up to me and my lonely old resolutions. My weak will power battling old in-grained habits. Man, that’s a battle I’m not sure I even want to bother with. I know I’ll lose.

But, how does bearing a yoke under Christ’s lead bring change? I think we should take a little closer look at that verse, and see if we can get some clues. Let’s chew on it a little bit more and I’ll share my response back here soon.

Feel free to share your thoughts! And I’d love to hear how you answer the question: “To resolve or not to resolve?”

 

 

Thanks-Living

I missed the worship service at church yesterday because I was helping in the nursery. Not a big deal, because I really do enjoy baby-wrangling from time to time. From what I could hear, the service was a time to share what we are thankful for and stories of what God has done. And now I’m thinking I should try to listen to the recording, because here we are, just a few days away and I’m not feeling very thankful.

A Place for Everyone… and everyone in their place

I miss my grandma and my grandpa. I miss my family and our traditions, in general. It’s hard because I feel a little alone – as though my family never existed. I really miss the memories of having cousins, aunts, uncles, and the whole family all together. We all knew where we would be on Thanksgiving, because we were family and we belonged together. But somehow we grew up, and grew apart. Some people have passed away, and every year I feel a little like an orphan.

Really, this idea of belonging is such a very treasured and important thing in a person’s life. I want to be in places where I belong, with people who claim me as their beloved. And I’m assuming this is a longing that comes from the little bit of “image of God” that the Holy Spirit is re-working through me. “I am my beloveds, and He is mine.” In Song of Songs it seems that God’s Word acknowledges this deep need of humanity. He fills this need within me – I am His. I was bought with a price and I’m living now in the freedom that comes through faith in Christ.

But as I sit here wishing for the family tradition I remember to be re-manufactured,  I wonder if I’m not being grateful to God? Lord, I know in my mind that I’m yours.  I have a husband and children who love me. We always have a table full of family and friends. But sometimes that tangible sense of belonging lingers – just out of reach. So, what do I do?

I guess I’ll keep trying to live in such a way that my kids will reap the benefits of “belonging” through a stable home and loving, family traditions. I’ll try to show your generosity and hospitality by inviting others into my home for a good meal and a pleasant evening. I guess I’ll keep in step with our traditions, trusting that you will graciously fill the gaps in my character and bear good fruit in my obedient heart.

Really, I know that is the best thing to do. Because, Lord, if I know you… you’ll end up reminding me of how much you love and favor me. And you know, it’s not so much that I’m ungrateful. I think I’m just reminded of my loss – a broken childhood and lost family. I’m overcome each year with a wave of mourning.

And He says to me - 

“He gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. That we might be trees of righteousness, a planting for the Lord. And He might be glorified.”  (Isaiah 61:3)

So then, what are the things I miss about the Thanksgiving of my youth?

1)      Like I said, I knew that my family would be there because we were a family and it was a priority to be there. There was nowhere else to go?! I spent the day where I belonged, with people to whom I belonged.

2)      We all contributed something. We started out with the simple jobs like peeling potatoes, washing veggies, putting peanut butter and cream cheese into the celery stalks, slicing the cranberry sauce. Then we moved into the more advanced things like making stuffing, dinner rolls, and lemon meringue pies. The guys would move furniture, take out the garbage, and sneak into the kitchen for taste tests.

3)      It was a time to learn new things. My grandma invested time into each of us – teaching us recipes and letting us get our hands dirty.

4)      We learned to serve our family through a hard day’s worth of work and a beautiful meal.

5)      For one day each year our very humble home turned into a fine banquet hall. My grandma would let us set the table with her beautiful china and silver. I felt like we were rich.

6)      We were praised for our work and everyone was satisfied.

I think a lot of what I miss, is that Thanksgiving was a treasured opportunity for inter-generational communion. We were all together – sharing, learning, partnering, and giving honor and affirmation to one another. For some reason, the tradition of the day trumped the disagreements and frustration of the day before and the day to come. On Thanksgiving we were a happy family; with a turkey in the oven, rolls rising on the counter, and not another care in the world.

So then, the question is… how can I weave the values, that these positive memories represent, into our holiday this year? Can you help me turn these laments into beauty, joy, and praise? And please – help me to generously bless others in the same way I have been blessed. Help me, Lord, to share hospitality and a sense of belonging to all who are at my table this week. That’s going to get me a little closer to “thanks-living”.

(Re-)Introductions

Happy New Year, friends!

As many of you know we are right smack in the middle of the biggest snow storm of the year in Western Washington! School has been cancelled for another day, and so my boys have holed up for a lazy day of snow-fun and hot cocoa. I, having felt the urge to write a little something, am nestled down in front of my big picture window where I can look up at the snow-laden branches of the cedar and fir trees in my front yard. I’d say that these are the perfect conditions for creative expression! After writing approximately 50 pages worth of research and reflection papers in the month of December, it’s nice to have a day like today to stretch the old finger tips out across the keyboard in a more leisurely fashion.

This blog is a place for me to share some of my reflections on life and scripture – especially where life and scripture intertwine.  Usually what happens is that I’ll find myself walking along through my day and some person, some interaction, or some paradoxical situation will catch my attention and cause me to pause. I’ll begin to chew on the cause of that pause, add a bit of scripture for seasoning, and then few days later I’ll share with you my reflective process and the final nugget. Honestly, writing is the way I’ve processed life for many, many years and I’ve been all the better for it. It keeps me healthy. If you gain something from my reflections, I’m astonished and honored to have been able to share what God has shared with me.

If you’d like to know more about the theme of my blog “Holy Leisure”, please take a look at my entry from last winter: So, what’s this about Holy Leisure?

 

In the works for later this week:
The Beginning and the End: Life in Seasons

Off to Grandma’s House

Have you been out to see your grandma lately?

Just wondering. Because I was able to go see two grandmas today. Sadly, not mine.

Honestly, I’d give just about anything to go visit my grandma. I miss her like crazy. We had a somewhat difficult relationship, seeing that most grandma’s get to just spoil their grand-kids with very little sense of responsibility for character. My own mother in law tries to keep needless spoiling in check, but I can’t fault her for striving for a two-thumbs + both arms + a loud yell “YAY, WE GET TO SPEND THE DAY WITH GRANDMA AND GRANDPA” reaction.  I know this reaction first hand, because my own boys said this today as I was loading them into the car. (Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for boy-sitting this summer while I do my internship!) Anywhoo, back to my grandma. She was a saint (slightly broken), but selfless none the less. She raised my sister and me when my own mother could no longer do the job. So, all the teen year drama? Grandma was dealing with that all over again in her 60′s. The poor lady. Then when my first born was just 5 months old, she passed away. On days like today (when I’m visiting someone else’s grandma ) I would be happy to just pick up the phone and hear her voice again.

Conversations

So, what do you do when you are visiting someone else’s grandma? Here’s what I do: we talk about the weather, the view from her nursing home window. We talk about the precious needlepoint project hanging on the wall. She just might start the same conversation over again after a few minutes. But, really, is that such a bad thing?

“You know, I completed that needlepoint in 1948″.

“Yes, I see the date next to your initials. It’s beautiful! You are very talented. Did your daughter take up needlepoint like you?”

“Yes, she did. Now, SHE is very talented.”

“Oh, I’m sure. She obviously had a good teacher.”

“Well, you know the one over there? I did that in 1948. I worked so hard on it, I just had to keep it.”

“Yes, it’s beautiful. You are very talented…”

The grandma #2 was in need of a little household help before heading into the hospital for back surgery. We talked a bit in between floor mopping and cupboard washing. Her family lives out of state now, and she was ever so thankful to know that she would be coming home to a clean house. Then, she showed us a few tips on how she keeps her goldfish happy. Did you know that goldfish LOVE nibbling away at a thin slice of orange? I didn’t. The wisdom of the ages, obviously. What really strikes me is that $10 worth of goldfish are the pride and joy of this delightful lady.

The Long Process of Grief

I’ll be the first to admit. It’s probably a little easier for me to visit someone else’s grandma than it would be for me to visit my own. First of all, I don’t remember what they were like. I’m not grieving the loss of the “grandma that I used to know”. When I see this little lady (not trying to be discriminatory, there just aren’t a lot of “unattached” grandpas available) she looks like all the rest in “the home”. A little bit of attention brings light to her eyes. We don’t talk about finances. There are no important decisions to be made. I’ll talk about anything with her and we will probably discuss the same thing several times. I’m not concerned with her deteriorating mind, because it seems like a perfectly normal thing for her to experience. But, when it’s “your” grandma… every lapse in memory tears at your heart. Yes, you are losing her. But, if there is ever a time for acceptance and unconditional love – it’s now.

One time my husband’s grandma (almost 94 years old) timed me while I did a word search puzzle. It seems she had been keeping tabs on the different staff people who come in to help her. She had been timing us all. I won, of course. That gave us several visits worth of conversation.

How to know when it’s worth it?

When I was leaving grandma #1 today I took her hands into mine and said, “It was very nice to meet you, Betty. I’d love to come back again sometime.”

She said, “I hope you do… my goodness dear, your hands are so warm!”

I held on just a little longer.

Next time… I’ll start with holding her hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Told You So

Well, in my previous post I shared my struggle with disappointment. The crowds of people who had been following Jesus, especially his closest friends, had the most disappointing week in their lives. They entered Jerusalem together to celebrate the Passover. Jesus entered as a king, a possible savior for their generation. By the end of the week, Jesus had been arrested, tortured, and sentenced to die. Finally on Friday, he died the death of a cursed man and was buried in a borrowed grave. The crowds scattered. In their disappointment, the disciples denied Christ and went into hiding.

Here is what Luke says happened next:

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee…?”  -Luke 24:1-6 NIV

Remember How He Told You?

Oh, that’s right Jesus. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention a few days ago when you said:

“We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” – Luke 18:31

It seems pretty clear to me, but of course I wasn’t marching around the dusty roads with 11 other guys and Jesus. I have little hints in the gospel accounts to help me understand their developing faith – they knew Jesus was a miracle worker, they knew he was a wise man, some of them knew that he definitely was the Messiah, some of them were concerned with finding a good “position” when his kingdom came into power. Honestly, they really don’t sound too different from many of us in the church today. Maybe I should just insert my own voice into the dialog:

Angel: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you….?”

Me: “Oh, right. I guess I do kind of remember that… I mean, he said all sorts of things. Some of it I just brushed off as being above my head. I figured he would come back and explain it further if it was really that important. I really just thought we would get this whole restoring the kingdom stuff worked out first. It seemed like that was the first priority.”

Angel: “Whose priority?”

Me: “Ummm, well… isn’t that the top priority? I mean, it seems like it is?”

Angel: (eyebrow raised, shaking head side to side) “You know what, how about you just go tell the rest of the disciples and then go ahead to the place he told you to wait for him. I’d better let Him sort this out with you.”

Whose Priority?

We, like the disciples and the all the Jews in Jesus’ time, are so concerned with getting what we need from God for today, tomorrow, and the immediate future. They, understandably, wanted relief from an oppressed life. Their land inhabited by Romans and their culture infiltrated by the Greeks; the Jews knew they weren’t able to freely live the life that God had promised them. On the other hand, we want God’s hand to influence our circumstances so that we can succeed in the lives we have planned for ourselves.

Good Friday is an awesome time to remember that Christ died for our sins. The divine sacrifice for the sins of the world. Praise Him! We have the opportunity to reconcile to our Father through Jesus’ broken body and shed blood.

Easter is is the time to celebrate the resurrection. Jesus conquered death. He was raised in power in order to bring the future hope of residing in God’s glory. The resurrection wasn’t just a chance for God to show off that one time… 2000 years ago. It was an inkling of what He is doing – in us and for the whole of creation. Jesus is telling his disciples – first things first ladies and gents. My kingdom is coming, my reign is being established one heart at a time.

A Fatherly Chat

Father:  “My daughter, I know you didn’t have the father you had hoped for. But don’t give up hope. I gave children parents because the roles of “fatherhood” and “motherhood” are a hint of what it is like to be loved like me. I have placed into the hearts of mothers and fathers just a bit of the love that I have for you. Unfortunately, (as you know from your experiences as a daughter and a mother) some mothers and fathers don’t quite know how to put that love to good use. Some do better than others, but none are perfect. And you… you hoped that a good father would have made everything right for your life. It certainly would have helped! But, you see, I’m still able to reveal my fatherly love to you in many different ways. And soon, when we meet face to face you will understand the fullness of my love. Between you and me, even if you had “the best” father in the whole world, his love still would just be a small expression of my own. For, I am the masterful Creator. My people and my created world are are just little brush strokes. Every effort of my creation has meaning and purpose as it expresses just a little bit of my character and love.”

Me: “So, you mean I have to keep waiting? Even that is disappointing – so exhausting, such a let down.”

Father:  “Yes, keep waiting. But, reset your “expectations” to “anticipation”. Because, little love, expectations come from your desires. Some of them are good, but some of them… well, they are born out of misunderstanding. Instead, anticipate that I will provide for you the things that you need, as I always have. Anticipation comes from trusting in my character and faithfulness. I will continue to express my love for you and through you. You play a part in this masterpiece as well, for you are my workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). And, you are making this world more and more beautiful.”

Me: _____________. (humbled, speechless, in awe)

Resurrection Hope

Only in the presence of an artist can the techniques and creative intent be truly revealed. We look at art and try to figure out what it means to us. (Thankfully, many talented artists have generously give us the opportunity to do so!) But, when we are face to face with an artist, they tell us what their creation means to them. Perhaps, this is why we don’t value our world as much as we would like to. We just can’t get over what it means to us…so much so that we are slowly destroying it with our good but generally selfish intentions.

Here’s what John reported when he had a chance to interview The Artist:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:1-5

Amen and Amen. Let it be so! Come Lord and finish your great work in us!

When hope Disappoints?

Today is Palm Sunday. Hopefully you will all have the chance to declare “Hosanna, in the Highest” if you attend church today. I remember as a teen going to church with my grandma. On Palm Sunday we would all get a small cross made from a piece of palm. The vicar would lead his small congregation in a procession around the outside of the church. As we marched, every now and then we would hold our palms up high and proclaim “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. This is definitely one of the most intriguing memories I have from my early search for God.

Palm Sunday is such an exciting tradition, we get to join the crowds that met Jesus as he prepared to enter Jerusalem before Passover. He was there out of obedience to his Father, knowing that there was nothing but trouble awaiting him once he entered the city. I wonder how it felt for him to look at the cheering crowds – those enthusiastic men, women, and children lavishing him with a king’s welcome. The hope-ometer was very high. They had seen miraculous healings, signs, and wonders. Jesus had stood up to demons for them – casting them out in the same way that an older brother might roll up his sleeves and knock-down a neighborhood bully. Jesus preached the presence of the Kingdom of God in their midst… it was theirs for the taking. Being so conscious of all the messianic prophecies, Jesus must have known (even as he received their praise) they would all fall away.

Learning not to Hope

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I would have been a part of the crowd that day. I suffer from… disappointment. Without getting too personal, we’ll just say that my early childhood taught me the lesson that it’s easier on the heart not to let my hopes get too high. Tempering hope is one way to battle against the extreme pain of disappointment. Hopes dashed. Love lost. The constant reminder that if anything good was going to happen, it was going to be the fruit of my own effort. I could trust no one else to look out for my tender heart. This, of course, is how over-achievers are made.

There are, however, some good things about this coping method. Because hope and expectations are often linked, I’m fairly easy to please. I have no illusion that life is going to be perfect. My husband can attest to the fact that if there is a “worst-case scenario”, I’ve already predicted and planned for it. Of course, the down-side is that I miss out on some of the joy that comes with anticipation. For example, when we took our boys to Disneyland a couple of years ago, I didn’t crack a smile until we were actually in the air flying to California. I wasn’t going to let some last minute travel glitch dash the little bit of hope I had for my boys’ and my first trip to the Magic Kingdom. I calmly figured I’d celebrate when I could see the whites of Mickey’s eyes.

After many years of counseling and the healing love of my very dear husband, I guess I can say I’m in recovery. And because I’m recovering from disappointment, when I read the Holy Week/Passion accounts in the gospels I find them particularly uncomfortable. You see, I’m anticipating the extreme disappointment of the people. On Sunday, they thought a new era was on the horizon. Yet, by Friday afternoon, the King of the Jews was nailed to a tree. Cursed of men. Rejected.

Defending the Heart

One of my biggest sources of disappointment was waiting for my dad to come visit me on “his” weekend. I was ten years old and living with my grandparents at the time. My dad had actually fought for custody rights for the first time in 7 years. He did not win custody, but was granted weekend visitation rights twice a month. It seemed to me that a whole new era of paternal relationship was on the horizon and my hopes were very high. Then, sadly, every other Saturday morning I would stare out the window. I would spend hours looking down the long country road that passed in front of my grandmother’s house, waiting to see my father’s car on the horizon. For some reason, though he fought the battle to be in my life, he had a hard time actually bringing me into his. Even with phone call reminders and promises made, I think he only came to see me once or twice. Eventually I grew embarrassed with myself that I even expected him to come. I stopped waiting, only indulging my hope every now and then with a quick glance up the road. I adopted the attitude that he was missing out, not me. I had other things to do with my time. My grandma couldn’t stand to watch my heart break and called the whole thing off. My father didn’t turn out to be the person I had hoped he would be.

I have a feeling that the crowds of people calling out Jesus’ name must have felt the same pain. They waved branches to a triumphant Messiah, only to find out that he was just another man by the end of the week. Maybe the defiant mutterings of the teachers of the law were right. How could he let us treat him like a king? How cruel. How deflating. I’ll never hope again.

Seems to me, that if a person is going to put up a fight for someone else, they should have the guts to see it through to the end. What gives, Jesus? Why go to the trouble if you just plan on leaving our hearts in our hands? What about you, Dad?

And so, we wait for an answer.

Palm Cross photo by Colin Patterson on Flick’r. http://flic.kr/p/4yvGHH

The Battle between Winter and Spring

Well, today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the Lenten season. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to post on this very special day. I’ve tried to make this an intentional season of spiritual growth the past few years and now I find I really look forward to it. In case you are just exploring the idea of celebrating Lent, here are a couple of devotional books I enjoy revisiting:

Walter Wangerin,Jr., Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering Death and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings

There are seasons in our lives where self-indulgence, pride, and general pre-occupation with our own selves can begin to take hold of our hearts. This churns the soil of our hearts and prepares the ground for the seedling of worldly filth to take root: anger, rage, hatred, prejudice, the list goes on. Lent is a season to deny ourselves of these man made attitudes and reflect on God. We humble ourselves so the Master Gardener can dig up these winter weeds and prepare us for His plantings. Nouwen’s words this morning really spoke to me – he put it this way:

“The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy”.

As we look out our windows on these very gray days speckled with cloud clearing sun bursts, how can we not agree?

Blessings, friends. I hope you will consider how you can join in on this special season. Are you going to give up anything for Lent? Or maybe you have another way you prefer to participate in the season? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Photo courtesy of Amarand Agasi for public use on Flick’r. http://flic.kr/p/5ycwrT



Stretching the Heart

I’ve come to realize that grief is an under appreciated emotion. Certainly it is painful, inconvenient, and sometimes overwhelming. However, I really believe that it provides an opportunity for growth.  Whenever I have allowed myself to fully grieve – to hurt, and ache, and wonder what might have been… all the while accepting that things are as they are – I’ve stretched my heart.

How to fill a stretched out Heart

With thankfulness for the opportunity to be touched by a beautiful life.

With inspiration to see our own lives to become a blessing for the future generation.

With respect for the unyielding call of eternity.

With love for one another.

Courage to love Again

I’m sure we have all heard the phrase, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” (Tennyson) Of course, these are the things we tell ourselves when we are out of the immediately painful season of grief. You know, when the muscles surrounding our heavy hearts have firmed up a bit, and it’s a little easier to carry the load. This is the time of grief when we are able to set our sights on the things ahead. Our peripheral vision once again comes into view. We can slowly begin to pour all the thankfulness, inspiration, respect, and love we have gained into another life.

Can grief be taught?

As a mother I have the privilege of teaching my children many things. Some of the more honorable life lessons I’ve been a part of are: how to share, how to delight over a brand new baby, how to be a good friend, and how to give of yourself for the benefit of another. A lesson on grief and loss should really be viewed with the same honor. I want my boys to know that we can celebrate and respect both life and death.

I’ll be telling my children about the loss of a dear woman today. Our friend, the principal of their elementary school, passed away after losing her battle with cancer a few days ago. We were on a short trip when I found out, so while I have had a chance to begin grieving, husby and I decided to wait until we were home to share the news with them. In case you are wondering, the pounding waves and fierce winter winds of the Oregon coast create an excellent place to shed some tears. Your children can happily kick at sea foam, chase gulls and never notice your broken heart (really, whose eyes aren’t watery when you are out on the beach in February?).

I know their little hearts will be stretched because Mrs. Murphy was truly a beautiful woman. Despite her year and a half long illness, she came to work every day she was able. She gave herself to our children generously. She was always thankful for our parental support. She encouraged our children to give their best efforts in school and all of life. While we are thankful that she is finally in comfort and peace, we will miss her very, very much.