Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gaining the Whole World

"I don't want to gain the whole world and lose my soul"

It's the line of a song that has resonated with me lately. As I think of the year to come, and wonder of it's possibilities, it reminds me to keep my focus.

There are so many things I COULD do - and many that the world perhaps says I SHOULD do. But I don't want the world.

I want "God-connect". That. That wonderful ASL sign whose meaning English words fail to fully capture. I'll have to show it to you's awesome. Really, really awesome. And, it's what I want. And when I feel it, it's all I want.

Yes, there are tons of things I'd love to buy or have - but nothing that I need. "All I have needed Thy hands hath provided...." I have what I need. And for that I am grateful.

I want to continue to serve...Joyfully. I want to continue to be where God would have me.

May I hear clearly. May I follow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking Forward... Looking Back....

I really enjoy this time of year... The hustle of the Christmas season has settled down, and it's nearly the New Year. The nights are long, and typically the weather is cool - both encourage me to settle in and reflect. It helps that I am introspective by nature, and I enjoy both "process" and growth. (Though, often, I enjoy them more retrospectively!)

2008 was long - and hard. It was a year of sleepless nights - which shouldn't surprise me. They say that whatever you do New Year's Eve is what you do all year long. For me it was true. The very first night of 2008, I was awakened every two hours.

My son had a friend sleeping over, and, like clockwork, every two hours, he came to my bedside. I'd settle him back in - sure it would be the last time! - and return to my bed. As I'd pull the covers back up and close my eyes, I'd hear "Pray for your friend"...whom He called by name. At first I agreed willingly. By the second (and THIRD) awakening, I said "You know... I DID. I'm tired. I'd like to SLEEP!" But then, I couldn't sleep. "... OK. I'll pray. AGAIN!"

And that's how I spent a good part of my year - being awakened... and praying.

Yet, in the midst of it all, there have been many, many blessings. Many new experiences and new beginnings. I began my interpreting. I began my blog. I made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and deepened established relationships. I was given a new church family that I love dearly. I was baptized in the creek - a very different experience from my sprinkling experience as a teen. But, as it should be: My relationship with God is very different now.

I could not ever say it enough: I am very, very blessed...beyond my wildest imaginings, I am blessed.

Yet, I imagine the New Year. I wonder what it will hold. I pray for balance. I pray for peace, and joy and love. I know that hope is with me, and pray that faith will continue to be at my side as well. Mostly, I pray that I hear Him clearly, I obey Him willingly, and I accept the gifts that He continues to send my way.

Monday, December 29, 2008


It is always greatly encouraging to me when I am given confirmations about some of my thoughts and plans.... especially in the times when I am trying to discern if it's a "Linda Original" (God help us!) or if it's me really hearing His will for me. It's as if I am hearing God say "Yes. That is what I mean."

There have been several that come to mind this past year, but I'll just share one or two.

The first one took me a few days to realize - thank God, or I would have fallen out of my seat or ran very fast from the room. I had agreed to meet with the interpreter at church for the first time. I was nervous. She was nice enough, but I'm not a big 'stranger' person, and definitely not a big up-there-in-front-of-people person, and if I were going to interpret, there I would be. She walked in to the room, and the first sign she showed me was "Up until now". I didn't think anything of it then. At home, a few days later, it hit me. "Up until now", in English, also translates "Thus far". My key phrase which always reminds me - I have no idea where we are going from here, but Thus Far, God has been with me.

The next example came shortly before my return to the State Park. I was at an event of Priscilla Shirer's. It was the worship portion of the program. There was a song I didn't know. But it had a phrase in it that I needed to hear - over and over again. And then she said these words:

"I'm here to declare to You that my past is over"

After that there was no NOT going. I definitely needed to. Whatever would happen would happen. I just needed to show up.

And most recently at church. It happens frequently, actually. The pastor will speak about something I've just blogged about (I mean JUST blogged about - that morning or the night before) - or something that I've been thinking about.

This week was the end of the year summary, look forward to the new year sermon. Many, many of the plans for the church - including some of the words and phrases that he chose to speak - are plans that I have decided for myself personally.... even in situations where the phrases have somewhat different meanings for a person, than for a church, hearing the words back, provided confirmation.

And as I was sitting there, listening - with my eyes and my ears - it occurred to me, how supremely blessed I am to be in a place where the corporate goals are so similar to my personal goals. It was again the "Yes. That is what I mean" that encourages me to continue to focus on the growth and continue on the path that I am on.

Thank You, God.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Navigating in the Midst of the Storm

I know that Jesus like to teach in parables, so it especially catches my attention, when, in the midst of my life, I feel I am shown a parallel meaning to what I am experiencing.

Saturday night, after a long, long day of work, and then dinner with a dear friend, I am driving home.I get off the interstate and turn onto the state road that leads to my home. The road is pretty winding, with almost no shoulder. As I had turned off of the interstate, it had begun to rain. Now, there was a frank downpour.

I've been driving for a while now, so it's pretty instinctive for me to slow down a bit, turn on my windshield wipers, and continue on my way. But tonight was a little different. I realized I couldn't see the road.

It wasn't that the rain was hitting my windshield too fast, and my wipers weren't moving fast enough. And it wasn't that I was driving too fast for the road. It was that the rain was falling so hard and so fast, that I couldn't see the yellow and white lines for the blur of the falling and splashing rain. The road that I had traveled a thousand times, and knew nearly instinctively seemed to have disappeared.

So... I did the only thing I knew to do. I slowed down some more, and I prayed: "Lord, Guide me. Keep me on the road. Keep me safe." as I scanned the road for the church - and it's parking lot - that I knew lay ahead. In those few minutes, I'd occasionally be given a glimpse of the yellow dividing line, or the white road edge markings.

There was no pulling over. There was no stopping. And then there were lights ahead of me. Headlights. "Lord, guide those that I will pass. Keep us both safe. Protect us".

That's when the realization hit me. THIS is a parable I am living. This stretch of road. This storm. "Uhm, God. Could You hold that thought for JUST a minute... I need to focus on this oncoming car". It was in it's lane and I was in mine - it was going faster than I thought it should, and I'm sure I was going slower than they thought I should. Then, we passed safely. "Thank You". My ultimate prayer. "Thank You". I can never say that one enough....

As quickly as it came, the storm died out. The road was clear - a few sprinkles here and there - but the monsoon I had just driven through had passed. And there was the church - and it's parking lot.

I've now had some time to ponder the realization. Life brings storms - that can pop up quickly, and in very familiar territory. Yet, when they do, the well traveled roads become unrecognizable. The usual drive can be treacherous.

May I remember to slow down, ask for guidance and protection, continue as He leads and know that shelter is not far ahead.

And, always, always, as I make it through may I remember to say "thank You" with all my heart.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


It's been on my mind today. "Deciding".... "choosing"... "living intentionally"

There is a huge difference between thinking about something, or wanting something, and deciding to do it. The difference between choosing and not. In merely being alive and fully living life.

Be it health, happiness, finances, or faith.

Deciding involves being intentional about choices. There are some areas that I take for granted. Some areas where choosing is easy, and other areas where I don't always see that there is a choice (there always is!). And sometimes, by not choosing, I am choosing (but that's another story altogether).

But, deciding is not all about my strength. Sometimes the hardest, but most appropriate choice is "surrender". To hand over my will and accept His. To give up my plans for me and accept His. To quit doing things as I always have, and accept that His ways are better.

Today I wish to choose. I don't have any true power over the outcome - I do believe in grace and mercy, and the steadfastness of His love.

I am deciding to live intentionally.

I choose health. May I live as He has intended.

I choose happiness. May I rejoice in knowing that He is enough.

I choose faith. May it stay strong in my weakness.

I choose to surrender... May I pick up my cross and follow after Him.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I WILL Praise You in This Storm

So... it was a memorable Christmas - not one I want to repeat anytime soon, but definitely memorable! One of my "gifts" was the GI bug that my daughter and mother had last week. Christmas (early) Morning for me was spent hourly praying for mercy and healing from the dry heaves.

As predicted, based on the experiences of the other two, after 12 hours, I'm feeling significantly better. Thank you God!

A couple of IM conversations during the day have me coming back to my current mantra: "I WILL praise You in this storm", as my gratitude list grows longer and longer.

The first few that come to mind:

I am grateful that this hit me AFTER Santa had been by.

I am grateful for my two wonderful children, who not only agreed to postpone their Christmas exuberance for 30 minutes, so I could rest, but helped their mom to her first serving of Jello.

I am grateful that they were able to entertain themselves for several hours when I was totally useless.

I am grateful I made it to the living room and was able to take pictures of the kids opening their stockings.

I am grateful that my ex-husband is a good person, and helped me get settled when he picked up the kids.

I am grateful for my laptop.

I am grateful for my friends - both face to face and online.

I am grateful for my ample supply of Jello, popsicles, ginger ale and saltines.

I am grateful for the ability to stay in bed and doze... all day long.

I am grateful that I process these ailments quickly.

I am grateful for a God that is with me no matter what.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

God Bless Them, Every One...

As I sit here and think about Christmas, I have many thoughts competing for attention in my brain. I have no idea how to put all the thoughts and feelings into words.

I think of our Christmas Eve candlelight service: of the incredible experience of signing some of my favorite Christmas Songs. Then, standing with my children, all of us holding lit candles in the darkened sanctuary, singing Silent Night.

I think of the moments during the service that I was reminded of how much I love my church family - for loving and caring for my children, and thus loving and caring for me - allowing me to participate in the deaf ministry in a way that so moves me.

I think of the excitement of my children as they try to settle down and fall asleep so that Santa can visit them. I envision the looks on their faces when they wake in the morning (and to quote the Grinch: "...and the noise, noise, noise, NOISE"). Unlike the Grinch, however, I recognize it as Joyful noise, and look forward to its presence in my home.

I reminisce on my mother's recent visit. It was certainly the busiest and most "memorable" in many ways...Toward the end, we finally had a little 'down time' to just visit, which is what I will remember most.

I look forward the possibility of a visit with one of my "teachers" Christmas afternoon.

And I do look forward to my "long winter's rest" which, quiet possibly, may start in just a few days... (YES!)

But, the feeling I keep returning to is Gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for. And, tonight, as I sit here, thinking about Christmas, I am most grateful for the love that surrounds, supports and sustains my life.

Merry, Merry Christmas to you all.

And, as Tiny Tim would have said: "God bless them, every one!"

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son" John 3:16

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coming into the Home Stretch

The insanity of my holiday season is coming to a close! YES! I am very excited about that! I look forward to the decrescendo, and honestly, I long for a little boredom!

There are no more 'events' to prepare for - the Christmas letter is written, the cards are mailed, the shopping is complete, and essentially wrapped (and truth be known, mostly unwrapped as well!). Parties and gatherings have been hosted and attended.

The latest was the Grandparent meal. It's quickly becoming a Christmas tradition. Every year during my mother's visit, the Grandparents from both sides come to my house and share a meal. It's become a really a nice way to spend an afternoon.

What remains ahead is an unplanned day and a Christmas Eve candlelight service. Being with God by candlelight is honestly one of my favorite ways to worship. I'm excited to interpret with a harp and violin...and anticipate the peace that overcomes me, as the sanctuary is illuminated by candlelight.

There will be the task of tucking two very excited children into their beds. But, I know, as they listen for sounds of reindeer, I will be listening for echos of angels' wings. And as I become still and listen, my heart will be filled with the Peace, Joy, Hope and Love that is Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our Christmas Laundry

It was at our Women's Christmas brunch. We were listening to The Laundry Lady talking about the birth of Christ.

She had many things to say about finding something new in the Christmas Story. She started her presentation talking about humbling 'hand me down' clothes, and 'swaddling' clothes. Describing swaddling clothes and burial clothes as essentially the same - she reminded us that they are the 'hand-me-down' clothes that we wear as Christians.

She asked if we were as prepared for the birth of the Savior, as Mary and Joseph had been. Mary would have been prepared, she said, as they set forth to travel. She would have packed the things she'd need at the birth, including His swaddling clothes.

This is the piece of the story that stuck with me: Mary and Joseph were just 'regular people'. And, oh how I loved the literary license she took to illustrate this point.

She said that we all worry that the poor Baby was born in a dirty stable, with a rickety manger to lay in. She advocated that it might not have been as bad as we think. After all, His parents would want the best for their Son.

She said that Joseph - like any other father - would be needing a 'project' to keep him occupied - and out of Mary's hair - as the birth of his child neared. Being a carpenter, she envisioned, he likely focus on creating a solid manger for the Child.

She then went on to say that Mary would likely be "nesting" in their home-away-from-home. Tiding up the stable to the best of her ability. Preparing for the birth. "Joseph, move that cow - it'll be too close to the manger", she imitated. (oh yes, I laughed....I've nested as well!)

We were reminded that what was different about the birth of Christ was The Baby Himself. Not his parents. The Baby.

At the end, she asked us which was our "Christmas Laundry" - the swaddling / burial / 'hand-me-down' clothes of Christ - or the cute little elf suits that hung merrily on the back of her laundry rack.

May I treasure my 'hand-me-down' clothes...

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Real 12 Days of Christmas

Sunday morning was the Children's Christmas Program at church.

They did a rendition of the 12 days of Christmas. It was, of course, cute and wonderful, and all things kid-like (including my son doing his sign-wiggling dance to "FIVE books of Grace")

It was a story of "The REAL 12 Days of Christmas", explaining the meaning behind the song. Historically accurate or not, it gave me a new perspective on the song.

The story goes that some Christians who weren't allowed to openly study the Bible, created a song that helped explain and remind them of it's teachings.

For me, it was the eighth day that really struck me. Not only do I love the girl holding the sign, but it again reminded me how truly blessed I am.

All of the swirling insanity of the past week - OK, weeks - has blown away. I am minus a printer, but otherwise no worse for the wear. And, I am again restored in the faith that "pressing into God" in the midst of the storm is the right action. "Thus Far, God has been with me"... Again and again. Amen.

During the closing song - "Angels We Have Heard on High" - I found myself, sitting, with one child on my lap, the other beside me, my voice cracking with gratitude... "Gloria, In excelsis deo".

"Glory to God in the highest"... and peace on Earth to men.

Thank You, God for Your steadfast love, your faithfulness, and all the gifts that You continually bless me with.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve points of doctrine,
Faithful Apostles
God’s Ten Commandments,
Fruit of the Spirit,
Eight “Blessed are they”,
Gifts of the Spirit,
Days of Creation,
Five books of grace,
Four Gospels true,
Faith, Hope and Love,
Two Testaments,
And God’s Son born to set us all free!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Standing Firm in the Midst of the Storm

So... couldn't tell you what exactly is going on here... but something is....

I feel like I am the target of arrows coming in all directions. So, I am doing all that I know how to do. Standing firm, holding tight to the faith that I will not be abandoned in this storm. Wearing the full armor of God, and breathing...

Be near me, Oh God. Protect me and those I love from the onslaught. Heal those who are sick. Help us to fully realize Your peace in the midst of the storm.

Give me the strength and the courage I need to rely fully on You....

And, yes, I WILL praise You in this storm....

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I Will Praise You in this Storm ~~ Casting Crowns

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shifting the focus

I was feeling particularly unprepared to interpret. But, there I was, standing on the stage, struggling through, feeling completely inept and unqualified for the task at hand (no pun intended!)

Then, my focus shifts to the boy in the front row - to the Joy in my son, as he dances before God..... or perhaps it was the embarrassment, as he boogied up onto the stage to hug my left leg.

Either way, I noticed: When I shifted the focus off of my self - off of my own insecurities in my abilities, the signs come off my hands without a problem....

Thinking back to this day - which occurred over the summer- is a good reminder for me today. Sunday is quickly approaching, and I have no idea what the music will be. Talking about feeling "particularly unprepared to interpret". Usually, I have had a few days to review the music, and get it "into my body" and the lyrics onto my hands. Doesn't appear like that will occur this week.

Oh - did I mention that this week there is also a children's program, and they'll be rehearsing when the band usually does.

And, did I also mention that my mother is here from out of town. She's never seen me interpret before.... oh... no pressure...

I will say, though, I am pleased to realize that my first instinct is NOT to just dump it into the other interpreter's - the real interpreter's - lap. My first instinct is to pray over and over again, that there will be some music I *do* know.... and mostly, that I will be able to remove my Self from the equation, and fully rely on God.

Help me to remember... it's so not about me and what I can or cannot do....

It's all about You...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moments of Gratitude: Honest Conversation

I am continually amazed at how God works in my life. How people show up just when I need them to, or bring up something that they need to talk through...and happen to invite me to the task of listening and responding.

With those people the rules for conversing include:

"I will speak the truth, even though you may not want to hear it"
"I will speak lovingly"
"I will hold up mirrors and help you see what you are projecting to the world"
"I will ask questions and challenge you to work through it"
"I will not betray your trust"
"I will laugh with you, but not at you"
"I will hold the space and honor your pain and your sorrow".

With these people, I can discuss freely, and know that I will hear honestly what they see in a situation where I may be blinded. Following such a conversation, I realize again and again, what a true gift of friendship and of love honest conversation is.

Often, in the midst of such a conversation - one where I am holding mirrors, providing feedback and helping to 'process' - I am reminded of something that I need to hear. Ironically enough, out of my own mouth.

In helping and loving another, I am helped and loved in return.

Thank you God for honest conversation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Walls...Prisons of our own Making

I have been witnessing and experiencing walls again lately.... my own, and those of others. Curiously enough, I find those two things go hand in hand. When the walls of others grab my attention, and start to annoy me, it's time to start focusing on what's being built around me.

Walls are fascinating obstacles to me. Erected to protect our Selves from perceived threats, they can quickly become a barrier to true relationships. Meant to contain our vulnerabilities, they easily become prisons to our hearts. Established to block out pain and suffering, they surround us in darkness, blocking out only the light.

I have seen walls elaborately created, and I have seen them more simply "functional" and crass. Mine is somewhere in the middle... and in various stages of construction and deconstruction.

When I originally built my wall, I didn't have the "God-connect" - the faith - that I do today. I was very Self-reliant: My way. My timing. My plans. I felt that I needed to protect my Self from everything that got in the way of My purpose. So, I tried.... really hard. It was exhausting and very, very isolating.

Fortunately, through the years - with much help of many people sent into my life at just the right time -I have been able to disassemble some of the most stifling parts. For not only did my wall keep others from intruding, it kept me from participating in my own life. In the same way I tried to prevent others from stifling me, I stifled myself.

Now, when I see - and bump into - walls of others, it brings me right back to the days when I was struggling behind my own wall. Looking back, I can see the people who stood outside, quietly waiting for an opportunity: to speak the truth, to toss a flower, or to extend a hand. Standing beside me, loving me, and slowly earning my trust.

There are some days when I am patient, able to sit quietly, gently speak, toss a flower or extend a hand. And then, there are other days when I just want to pound on them and say "DON'T YOU SEE? This is NOT HELPING!!"

There have been times in the past, where I have done exactly that. Times when I have knocked so loudly, the stones rattled. It didn't help. Not one bit. It wasn't loving, and it didn't earn trust.

Yet there are still days when I feel that way. I want to shake and shout, "I KNOW you've been hurt....", "I KNOW you've been abandoned....", "I KNOW you're scared". "COME OUT!" "RISK IT!!"

Instead I cry out to God, "TELL me... SHOW me... what do I do...?" This past fall, when I did just that, I was reminded again of the book: The Wall: a parable.

I'd read it in years past... but in the present reading, I see clearly the God-imagery. Those willing to speak the truth in ways that it can be heard. Those willing to stand quietly by. Those willing to toss a flower of hope. Lend a hand of encouragement. Simply love. All of them waiting for the direction of His timing.

I am reminded again, of how God continues to bring people into my life that do all of these things for me....and for my wall. To continue the dismantling process. To help identify those stones that still trip me up, and point me in the right direction.

He continues to send people I can discuss with, pray with, laugh with, cry with.... Those who encourage me to stand quietly, and speak gently, rather than shake wildly and confront in a full-fledged assault.

And, He sends those with walls for me to practice. Standing patiently. Speaking gently. Waiting for His words and His timing.

Thank you for those You have sent to me.

May I listen. May I follow Your lead.

A Child's View

I know why Jesus loves the little children, so! (Especially if He could return them to their mothers!)

I had the honor of the presence of a 3 year old today (...and her nearly 6 hr old brother). She was playing with my advent calendar, moving the snowflake from pocket to pocket, touching each picture on the dated stockings.

I pointed to the space where 25 would be and asked her "do you know what is here?" She shrugged. "Baby Jesus' birthday," I said. She looked back and put her tiny finger next to mine. "Baby Jesus' birthday," she repeated.

I love to hear kids perceptions and understandings, so I asked: "What do you know about Baby Jesus?"

She looked me dead in the eye and said:

"Jesus loves me".

'nuf said

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

Dona Nobis Pacem. It's a song I learned as a Girl Scout. It's the ringtone for my phone. It's also a sweet, sweet prayer.

It's Latin. The English translates to "Grant us Peace" or "Have mercy on us".

This time of year, especially. As the germs make their way around the schools. As the ice storms come. As the intensity of the holiday season builds. Grant us peace. Have mercy on us.

Ah, but You already have. You have given us peace. Your mercy rains down upon us every day.

All we have to do is to realize the gift is for us, to accept it, and to open it with the joy and enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.... or the shepherds on the first Christmas morning.

May I see the gift that is before me.... even when it is not wrapped exactly as I expect it to be.

May I accept it and open it with joy.

May I thank You daily for the gift and for the mercy that is continually extended to me.

Help me to see clearly.

Help me to extend grace, and peace, and joy and love.

Give me hope.

May it shine through me to the lives of others.

May they see You.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Naughty is the New Nice

In my afternoon out in the world, searching for the remaining bits and pieces to complete my Christmas Shopping. On a shelf in the store I spied a mug. On it the words: "Naughty is the new nice". I kind of chuckled to myself and thought back to a different lifetime of mine when I'd envisioned a line of T-shirts that said "Naughty IS nice"...

But, after the initial giggle I thought more about it. I asked myself, "would I use this?" (no). "would I give it as a gift?" (no). "Would I want to have to explain it to my children?" (Oh, God help me, no... not now!) "would I want it to become their motto?" (no, no, no!)

I realized it bothered me as much as the junior clothing label, "No Boundaries", does. Seriously. We wonder why the world is where it is today, and seems to be spinning farther and farther out of control.

It is a good reminder to be cautious of where we focus our attention - even in jest, and comes timely with this email that arrived to me today:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Help me to find delight in You...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ooh Tidings of Comfort and Joy....

Today has been one of those sweet, sweet days where God comes and meets me in the midst of my mess. I've been learning (again) about walls - in myself and in others - and my frustration on both sides.

When I'm in "learning mode", I don't much like being with groups of people - even groups of women I love dearly. But, I had made special arrangements to be able to attend the Women's Brunch for church, so I went.

On the way, I was listening to the songs for Sunday's worship service - getting them "into my body", so that they will more easily come off my hands as I interpret. Our first Christmas song arrives this week: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". As I drove and sang, and watched the signs that appeared somewhere deep behind my eyes, I thought "I sure could use some 'tidings of comfort and joy' "

Not too long after I'd arrived, one woman pulled me aside. "I have something for you," she said, "It's for your tree." I opened the box and unwrapped the bubble wrap. As the layers peeled away, I could see the shape - a hummingbird. "Because you've brought me so much joy". Oh yes, if you know me, you know the tears came. (*I* have brought *her* joy? I see the reverse...)

I thought back to the summer when I'd posted about, and she and I had talked about, hummingbirds. The tears didn't surprise me - it's another reason I avoid groups in "learning mode" - I cry *really* easily. The trembling, however, caught me unprepared. I hugged her and thanked her, and excused myself to the bathroom.

"Oh, God..." It's one of those weird prayers of mine that encompasses "meet me here" and "you ARE here". It comes out during those times when I want to say *something*, but there is nothing to say that is remotely adequate for the situation.

I tried to compose myself, wipe my eyes, and re-enter society. It worked pretty well until the music started and I got to see "Mary Did You Know" and "Breath of Heaven" in American Sign Language, off the hands of my friend and mentor.

After the speaker, we exchanged Christmas ornaments, by number. I received one that said "Believe" on one side and contained Luke 2:30 - 32 on the other. There could not have been a more perfect ornament for me. In my home, year round, the word "Believe" is portrayed again and again.

I spent the afternoon out in the world, running errands - and meeting Him again and again.

As I walked through the neighborhood with my dog, (ipod in and blaring!) I signed (GREAT BIG) "Tidings of comfort and joy"

Thank You for meeting me in the midst of my mess.. with comfort and with joy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I love this quote by Elizabeth Barret Browning:

"Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush is on fire with God;
but only he who sees takes off his shoes;
the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries."

It summarizes my perspective very well... Earth *IS* crammed with heaven. The question, is, am I the barefoot one, or am I so busy plucking blackberries that I don't notice.

Life can get very busy very quickly - two kids, 3-4 jobs (depending on the season), my service work at church, school, home... Add something like the Christmas Season, and it's easy to get focused on the things right in front of me begging for attention - the blackberries, begging to be picked.

I remember sharing that quote with my sister at one point in our lives, and she replied, "but what's wrong with plucking blackberries?" Nothing, I suppose. I enjoy blackberries - I enjoy my kids, my jobs, my service work.

But, being in and acknowledging the presence of God... that goes beyond words. Experiencing His presence, and responding in humility by removing my shoes... blackberries will never come close...

May I feel You in my life - may I take time to remove my shoes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Focusing on the Babe and not the 'Ho'

OK -so please forgive me if the title offends... but OH how it tickled me last night.

I was talking with a friend of mine (via IM), and we were discussing the rapid arrival of the upcoming holiday. She has a two year old boy, and was telling me they were trying to focus on Advent and not the payload - on Jesus' coming and not Santa's. All of a sudden that phrase came to mind, and I just LAUGHED... as I do every time I think of it!! (And I could dedicate a whole 'nother blog to how accurate the statement really is!)

I asked her if she'd ever done the Walk Thru Bethlehem that happens in Nashville in early December (it is Sunday December 14th from 1p-7p for anyone local to Nashville!). It is amazing.

The entire lower level of the church and the grounds turn into the town of Bethlehem the night of Jesus birth. Live animals, crafts for kids, fish market, synagogue, you name it. I think the Roman soldiers reminding everyone to register for the census is one of my favorite parts... aside from the stable, of course!

It is an event that touches me deeply every year. There are things that have happened there that I will never forget. There was the year that my son - probably 3 years old - ran into the midst of the Nativity Scene to show the Baby Jesus ("and his Mommy") a Christmas card that we had received that morning at church.

Last year an expression of horror appeared on his face when he was told by the Innkeeper, "there are NO ROOMS in the Inn. You cannot stay here...." He looked so troubled by that statement that the Innkeeper quickly followed with "... but if you've come to see The Child, He's right out there...." (Just in time... no tears!).

My daughter has always loved the crafts and the live animals. And I just loved the feel of the place. The bustle and the excitement and anticipation.

My very first year there, I was surprised at how touched I was by the scene. I mean, I know the story. I've seen illustrations of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. The wise men. The animals. But as I turned the corner, and my eyes met His - well, the doll in the leading role - my heart paused. It paused long enough that I know I put my hand to my chest to be sure my heart would beat again.

Last year, there was the serendipitous meeting of an old acquaintance. We had a mutual friend, that I hadn't talked to in a long time. She asked if I'd seen her. I said no. She suggested I call her... which turned out to be a huge God-thing.

So, this Advent season, I too, will be trying to focus more on the Babe than on the 'Ho'. And I will again walk through Bethlehem. And I expect, as always, I will be awed at the sight of the Child in the manger. The Gift, given to all....

See you there!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traditional Ornamentation

At my open house, someone commented on my Christmas tree. It is covered in ornaments from all different periods of my life and in multiple genres.

There are the hand crafted toddler-made bells and stars, and the needlepoint bells and crocheted stars hand-crafted by adults. There are crosses of various shapes and sizes, and a few ornaments that have been gifts over the years. As I unwrap each one from it's storage box, I smile and remember the year it was added to our collection, and silently re-thank the giver or creator.

And then there are my "traditional" ornaments. I don't mean the shiny glass ball ornaments, either.... I mean MY "tradition"-al ornaments.

When my children were little, I started a tradition. Every year, I get an ornament made (a white porcelain snowflake) with the picture from our Christmas Card. I also create a framed ornament with a picture of each child for that year. I have school pictures, pictures from a parent's (shopping) night out, infant shots. As the years pass, I see more and more white porcelain snowflakes with our pictures in them. More and more smiling faces. And I am overfilled with Joy.

I have been given such a remarkable gift in raising these children. They have been given into my care, and blessed me beyond my wildest imaginings!

They also remind me of the other remarkable Gift that was given - the One for which we celebrate Christmas. Every year, that reminder travels deeper and deeper into my heart. Blessed beyond my wildest imaginings, indeed! There are no words that seem adequate.

"Thank you God!" will have to suffice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hoping for Grace

My goal has been to write every day - Thus far, I have met that goal... everyday.

Today, I will be a slacker... not much to say except that to best care for my Self, ensure adequate rest and focus on the tasks at hand, I must keep this short... very, very short.

I trust that I will be extended Grace as I show up and be honest. As I live in the truth of a schedule coming to a rapid close (yes, I AM looking forward to some R&R!), and feeling like I am not able spread my self so thin. I strive for balance. Step out on faith, and hope for grace.

Until tomorrow...

May you be blessed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


There is just something about this time of year that brings my mind to 'traditions' - just like it will turn to 'goals' in just a few weeks. So I think of the past, and the present, and of what traditions I am setting into the future.

As a child, Christmases were at my grandparent's house in Northern Virginia. My mother, her siblings and their families, all returned home for the holiday. My siblings and I were the only grandchildren, as our cousins weren't born until after we stopped traveling.

It wasn't a "go and be spoiled at Grandma's House" kind of thing (aside from the cookies!). It was more of a "children-are-to-be-seen-and-not-heard" place where our grammar and word choices were corrected...frequently.

But, it wasn't ALL bad. There were some fun things. The "road race room" for example. It was basically a storage / play room - but it had the "road race" table in it. This large table - built by my grandfather and uncles - stood about 4 feet in the air, about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide (or maybe it just seemed huge because I was small...) Nonetheless, upon it was an elaborate electric car and train set, complete with houses, landscaping, people... Clearly, my favorite room in the house!

There were also the coloring books - and the one year she had ROLLS of coloring pages. Once we were older, we dabbled with grandma's oil paints. There was plenty of time for needlework and other quiet activities.

The aunts and uncles were there, as well. Every year, we'd take a trip to "the city" - Washingtong DC - and go to the Air and Space Museum or the National Zoo.

But one of my favorite memories about Christmas at Grandma's house: Christmas Eve. Sometime before then, Granddad would get the tree, put it up, and place the lights. Later, we'd decorate it as a group - kiddos getting to throw the tinsel on, and I'm sure, the adults getting to disperse it evenly, so it wasn't so "clumpy".

By Christmas Eve night, usually everyone had assembled. After a meal at the long, long dining table (seating 12-15, I'd guess), we headed into the living room. My uncle, my mother's youngest brother, would bring his guitar, and it would begin. We'd sit around and sing Christmas carols. In the early years, Uncle Ken would let us help strum the guitar. As we grew, I brought my clarinet for my rendition of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear".

At the end of our singing, we headed downstairs - banned from coming up again until 7am Christmas morning.

But, as the clock struck 7, we raced up the stairs. Santa gifts, and stockings were unwrapped, and thus fair game until after breakfast, when the wrapped gifts would be opened.

Little did I know that much of that would carry forth into my adulthood... (to be continued)

Proverbs 22:6 - Train [teach] a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Grandma's Cookies

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas this year. Specifically about memories and traditions. One of my favorite memories and traditions is my grandmother's cookies.

Every Christmas for years during my childhood involved a trek from Massachusetts to upper Virginia. Ten hours, give or take, in the car. It was a long drive, with three small kids, in the years before DVD. (God bless my parents!)

We'd wake before dawn and head on our way. Once we made it through New Jersey, we knew we'd make it the rest of the way. By the time I was in my "tween" years, I'd learn to sleep for the morning part of the trek. If I woke, I'd ask, "Where are we?" Anywhere north of New Jersey, I'd drift back to sleep.

One of the things that I am sure I dreamed about were her cookies - her "sandies". Similar to "wedding cookies", the were the first thing I'd check out once I walked through my grandparent's front door and hugged them both hello.

Sure enough. Year after year, sitting in the dining room, in the blue glass jar, were the sandies. I'd do a little dance and smile from ear to ear. If I were quick enough, I'd open the lid and pop on into my mouth. Yum. Cognitively, I know that she made them for everyone, but in my heart, it felt like she made them just for me.

During my college years, I began to make these cookies for myself. I'd asked for the recipe one year, and it arrived in my grandmother's handwriting, on a 3x5 index card. Year after year, I'd make them. Some for myself, some to share. Even now, the same 3x5 card guides my creation.

A few years back, after my father died, my mother started visiting her parents more regularly, I asked about the jar. On one of her next visits to my house, out of her luggage comes my grandmother's blue cookie jar.

So, that tradition continues. My kids now ask when I will make the (in)famous cookies.... I always save them for Christmas celebrations.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Open House

One of the things I've really enjoyed since moving to this new house is opening my home to friends and neighbors in December. It's not something I grew up doing, and wasn't anything I did before I moved here. But Oh, how I love it.

There is something about people gathering here that I really enjoy. The conversation, the laughter. My heart is just filled, and the feeling of their presence lingers even after they are gone.

Every year, it's different. Every year, it's just right. This year was no exception. Children. Adults. Laughter. Joy. Fellowship.

(and a clean house to boot!)

Life is good. Thank you God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hope Never Ends

Hope is the most incredible thing. Words fail me, when I try to describe it. There is just something about it - all-encompassing. Empowering. Contagious.

Yet, sometimes it feels like there is no hope. I remember feeling that way many years ago. One of the women that God had brought into my life shared something that I will always remember. On a bookmark she had made me for Christmas, she had written:

"Hope never ends... It is renewed over and over again, as we continue to risk to be honest"

I thought about that for a while. "Hope never ends..." It's always there. Hmmm... Like God. And, like God, the days that I don't feel hopeful, are the days that I've turned my back to hope, focusing solely on the world and on my troubles.

And then I read the rest of it. "It is renewed over and over again, as we continue to risk to be honest." Risking to be honest. Wow. Ain't THAT the truth. It is a risk to be honest, some days - to walk in the Truth. The Truth and the world are often polar opposites. And choosing Truth sometimes seems like choosing a heap of trouble... or at least some hard, hard work.

But I do agree... the times that I have risked to be honest, are the times that I have felt a renewal of hope. The days where I have taken off the robe of expectation and the mask of superficial "nice-nice" and stepped into the Truth - however ugly and messy it may be - were the days when the gloom and despair went away.

Overpowered by Truth, the secrets and darkness had no place. Captive no longer, all I could see is Hope.

The Truth always comes to the Light. And in the Light is Hope. And Life. And God.

Hope, like Love, never ends....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Strength in the Whirlwind of Time

There is much going on. Transitions. Preparations. Tying up loose ends. Change of seasons. Change of holidays. Deadlines. Commitments.

Yet, during this time of change, when the fear of running out of steam before the To Do List is complete is very, very real. I find hope. Isaiah 40:28-31.

Some things don't change. And there is strength and endurance available.

Lord, help me wait on You.

28Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the L
ORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.

His understanding is inscrutable.

29He gives strength to the weary,
And to
him who lacks might He increases power.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;

They will mount up
with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Visitation Realizations

There was a death in my family recently.... my church family, that is. A young man that I didn't know very well - I know and love the women in his life: His wife, sister-in-law, mother-in-law. We all shared a meal together on Sunday after church - though he and I didn't speak. Had I know it was the last time I'd see him here on Earth, I'd have chosen differently... but I digress...

The night of visitation had come. As I parked the car, I thought back to my father's funeral, where I was reminded "Love never ends". I took a deep breath, gathered my things, and headed inside.

I'm sort of a newbie to funerals and visitations and all. I can count my experiences on, oh, two fingers. I soon learned how different visitations are when you actually know the family.

I looked around. Quite a group - a wonderful, wonderful group. Family, friends. Hugs. Tears. Laughter. It brought tears to my eyes. The palpable love of these people for one another. My heart runneth over. (And, yes, I think I may get elected the designated "church crier" :) ) Again, I digress...

Pictures of Todd scrolled through on the big screen. I got introduced to a side of him that I hadn't known. I'm fairly new in the church, and he'd been chronically ill the whole time I'd known him.

I looked around again, at the people gathered - talking to his wife, mother, extended family - talking with each other. Providing support, encouragement, love. I focused on the people I'd come to know in the past year. I smiled to myself as I remembered meeting each of them. Many I had prayed with, or studied with. Laughed with, cried with.

I shook my head as I left. The evening had nothing to do with me, but I left there with a realization of how much I love my church family - more and more every day - and that I, too, am well loved and cared for within the group.

Be well, Todd. Know that you are loved. Your wife, too, is loved, and will be well cared-for.

Reside in our hearts...

Walk with God...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doing the Next Right Thing

I am definitely in deadline mode. And, somehow, they all seemed to hit this week. Papers to grade, a house to decorate. The tree is up, and one batch of my grandmother's Christmas cookies are waiting to be rolled in powdered sugar.

A few things will get triaged to next week - the Christmas letter and Christmas card mailing, wrapping the out of town presents, and sending them on their way. Preparations for my mother's visit. Volunteering at school. More cookies.

In the midst of the whirlwind of tasks screaming for my attention, I try to stay focused on the 'next right thing' to do. It helps keep me from being overwhelmed by the To Do list. Each deadline met is one more bit of progress. One step closer.

I also try to maintain some self-care - Reaching for a bit of balance, as life events are juggled in the air: A deep breath in... and out. Quiet conversation with God. Time on the yoga mat. A (short) walk with the dog. Focusing on gratitude - I am truly blessed. Asking for strength and endurance as I keep walking, knowing that He is walking beside me.

Little by little, as each task is completed, there is more hope for - what do they call it? Oh yeah... " a long winter's nap...."

Thank You God for the abundance in my life..... give me the strength, endurance to continue and the discernment to know what exactly IS the Next Right Thing to do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Show Up, Be Honest...Leave the Outcome to God

It had been a hard morning. I didn't feel very prepared to interpret. I had mixed feelings about handing part of my share of the interpreting to my mentor - in the form of a song. And, I was tired... very tired.

I got to rehearsal. Usual deal - I'm plugged into my ipod, practicing on the stage, while the band is getting set up. But, it was different. It felt different. I felt different.

I flipped through the music. One song was new to me. I copied the lyric sheet from the back up vocalist, and headed to the foot of the cross. I figured if there was any place to try to work it out, it was there.

I'd heard the chorus and a couple of the verses before, but never the second verse. I wasn't very familiar with the song, or the style of the substitute worship leader. It wasn't a song that "grabbed" me. By the time my mentor was there, I was willing to hand that song to her.

Anyone who has seen me interpret - and is able to see my feet - knows that I interpret in stocking feet. I love feeling the reverberations of the electric bass and the drums coming through the floor of the stage. It helps me "feel" the music. Helps the music get into my body.

I also love being at rehearsal, because I love feeling the presence of God up there. I love the fact that I can usually get through the emotions of the songs at rehearsal, and be dry-eyed during the service. (usually)

But... it was different. During the rehearsal, the vibrations in the stage were making my legs ache. Mid-thigh, both sides.... an ache to the bone. Much of the rehearsal I spent on the floor next to the stage.

It was different as well in the fact that my heart wasn't in it - whether it was tired, or uncertainty, or the non-stop aching, I don't know. Whenever there was an opportunity - between songs, during the instrumental portions, I'd look to the air vents and sign - "Help me feel You". "All-of-me need feel You". Later, at the foot of the cross, I'd sign "Help deaden the vibrations in my feet, open my heart, take me out and You come in..."

When my mentor arrived, I complained and complained.... begged for Motrin and signed "really, really need God help-me today". "He will" she signed back.

All that to say - it was a rough morning. Time for worship to begin. Music starts. First few songs, announcements, prayer. One more song, then we swap. "you next" I sign. My mentor nodded. The song ends, and goes directly into the next song. No time to swap interpreters. OK, so I guess this is my song too.... Fortunately, I knew the chorus, and it wasn't a fast song... and she could "feed" me the words I didn't know and couldn't hear.

Then, we switch places. My turn to sit and her turn to interpret. She'd start the sermon, and I'd pick it up with about 15 minutes to go, and close it out.

The pastor, now apparently used to us in training-mode, said "Now would be a good point to switch out..." She looked at me and signed "trade". During that time, the pastor had gone on to say we'd be going through lots and lots of scripture. Uh-ho... that meant lots of chapters and verses and numbers to keep straight - not to mention the content itself. We both froze for a minute.

"Scared" I signed. "me too" she signed back. "try..." I signed "You help me". As we traded places, she signed back "I don't know if I CAN help you".

There I stood - the most awful morning ever. Standing there, honest in my fear and in my total need for God-help-me. And I listened.... and I let my hands talk....about imputed righteousness, of all things.... I can't, He can.

Recalling that morning, I thought of a phrase my friend Karen had told me: "Show up, be honest and leave the outcome to God".

Amen and Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

House Revisited

"Hey Honey", he said. "Hi", I replied. "Don't worry, I managed to get the fireplace lit this year, but you had some pictures delivered here, Honey..." "Pictures?" "Well... sure looks like pictures..." He read the company name and described their mailing envelope. Hmm.... Interesting. I haven't mailed film to be developed in a long, long time... I'm digital now. I upload pictures to be developed. Yet, I was curious to see what pictures there were. I hadn't lived in that house in nearly 3 years, and I've been digital about that long as well.

So, on my way home from work, I headed to the old house. My "married" house. It's only about five or six miles from my new house, but it's a totally different exit off of the interstate. I drove down the winding country road, and then down to the end of the street.

The fence was the first thing that struck my eye - I remembered tearing the old one down, and putting this new one up. I noticed the lavender was doing well. Down toward the gate, I walked. I'd been to the house since I'd moved. The past two winters, I'd helped him light the gas fireplace - taught him to find the 'sweet spot' that allowed the pilot to light the burner. I'd seen some of the changes in the house - it really looks beautiful! These owners love that house as much as I enjoyed it... and I love that!

At the edge of the driveway, I noticed the new steps - real terracing down the hill. I remember how they have expanded the deck and put in new steps and planters. I see the garden areas I initiated have been continued and improved.

I chatted with the new owner for an hour or so - me sharing some of the history that I know of the house and the land, him catching me up on the goings on since I've been gone. We talked about the hostas - originally from my mother's - or perhaps grandmother's garden, the trillium that I pulled from out of the woods, into the front garden. The lillies, the clematis, the bridal wreath spirea, the daffodils transplanted with me from "the womb house", all doing well.

All of us... all of them... all doing well.

Thank you God for the opportunity to return to previous places that have held meaning. For the opportunity to see growth through the years.

Oh... and the pictures... They were from my grandparent's 60th anniversary party.... years and years ago... lost in limbo, and now returned to me.