Posted in Celebration, Faith, Guest

Resurrection

I would love to welcome my husband today to this blog.  He is a man lean of speech, hence a beautiful haiku.  This man is the heart of my hearts, love of my life, sharer of my faith and lover of Jesus.

 

Darkness ravages

Radiant morning follows

His true way revealed

 

Happy Easter Everyone from my heart to yours (and now my husband’s heart to yours as well)!

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

I Don’t Agree with Dr. Seuss on This One

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  (Dr. Seuss)

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (King Solomon)

In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates.  I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college.  They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).

The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year.  For a long time, I loved it.  It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness.  It helped people look “on the bright side” of life.  It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking.  Or so it seemed.

I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss.  Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“And will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”

Wisdom.  Hope.  Life.

So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?

I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes).  I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”  But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.  I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.  I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.  I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.  I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.  JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).  

BUT…

(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)

I’m discovering ever so slowly that:

  • CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress.  Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
  • SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it!  What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
  • GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.

It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.

It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.

It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.

It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes.  One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm.  A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene.   What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated,  beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.

BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…

I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences.  But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day?  What then?”

I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.

I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.

I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.

I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.

All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound.  What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane.  I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.

I do love Dr. Seuss.  It’s his birthday when I am writing this (March 2nd)!  So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel.  You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children.  For that, I am truly grateful!

BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…

I wish your quote said this instead:

“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”

King Solomon was right.

 

***************************************

P.S.  When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point.  I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.”  I think he’s saying remember to smile.”  So there you have it.  If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company!  Point taken.

 

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P.P.S.  If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question:  can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time?  What was it?

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

Merriment and Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.  Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Merriment.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.   First-born and hubby not coming with baby…Government shutdown…Family and friends navigate divorce and children and Christmas…Anxiety creeps in and sleep is hard to be found.

Melancholy.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Christmas.


Suffering AND Savior.

Non-violent AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Guest, Health

Planned For

I saw this today on Facebook from my fellow-blogger, Janet Newberry.   I’m not sure what you are waiting for, frustrated by, questioning, or can’t see the “plan for” today, especially with Tuesday looming on the horizon.

Sometimes Christmas cheer “being sung for all to hear” leaves us staring at the reality of our own lives and wondering, “Can anything good come out of all of this?”  Janet’s reminder to my heart today was too GOOD not to share here with you readers!  You can read more about her at the end!


Anyone else need to be reminded today?

God has a plan.

These words were a gift to me in prayer several weeks ago:

“PLANNED FOR”

And I forget.

I forget because, with eyes of sight, I don’t see the plan. We’re spending this Christmas season in an ugly RV park. This morning we wake up crowded with the laundry we hung to dry yesterday and the Christmas presents that need to be wrapped–all sharing our tiny space.

There’s no place to sit in here.
There’s no place to invite friends–or enjoy family.
The booth you see in the pic is our dining table, office space, my writing desk—and gift wrapping center.

As beautiful as it is to travel in Freedom (our Airstream)—it is not our home away from home. It is our 365 days a year home. 19 months into this adventure, we are feeling all the feels of a small space on a rented spot—where we plug in, but don’t belong.

RV parks are functional—not beautiful.

I get frustrated pretty easily when functional gets to take precedence…and beautiful seems to be forgotten.

So, today, I am writing these words—and making them public, because they are the beautiful I am holding onto with all my heart:

“PLANNED FOR”

And I am remembering that the manger was not a revision to the nativity story. Mary and Joseph were not cursed with “no room in the inn.” They were entrusted with the ordinary—and given eyes to see the extraordinary.

In the middle of the not beautiful—and honestly ugly, and simply functional—Mary and Joseph held the extraordinary in their arms and in their hearts.

The manger didn’t interrupt God’s story. It was His story.

God didn’t look for someone more able to care for His Son when Mary and Joseph failed to create a social media applaudable baby nursery.

Christ was born into the chaos—and into the tiny space of the manger—because this was God’s plan.

Love fits perfectly in tiny spaces. Perfect love casts out fear—when we trust Him.

The story of the coming Messiah had been written very differently in the minds of those who longed for Him to come.

We write our own stories in our waiting.

Christ was going to come as a King! A new ruler! “Us” instead of “them” was finally going to win!

God’s story was love.  God’s plan is for “us” and “them.”  When Love rules, we all win.

And the manger was not Mary and Joseph’s permanent home. God kept speaking. The angels kept leading. And the story of Jesus’ life continued.

Out of Bethlehem. To Jerusalem. Back to Galilee. Nazareth.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

That may be your question today, too. “Can anything good come out of this?”

Today’s place in your story may not be what you’ve “planned for.” And it’s not the place you want to stay. You can’t yet see the words on the next page. Me, neither.

Will you remind me, too, friends?

Together, let’s trust the One who’s holding the pen. He’s “PLANNED FOR” you.

He’s “PLANNED FOR” me, too.

Today’s setting and circumstances—in your story, and ours—don’t come as a surprise to our Father. He knows.

He knows our hurts and our hopes—and He has a plan to touch both—with beautiful.

THERE IS GREAT HOPE!


Janet Newberry is an educational consultant– and an unshakeable believer in the transforming power of love.  Janet and her husband Doug have sold their home and travel America in an Airstream named Freedom.

Janet and Doug help families have real conversations without shame, so children have the freedom to ask for help in relationships of trust.

Janet coaches families in personal relationships as they connect with her in online classes that help people untangle fear and trust love. 

Read more on her website https://janetnewberry.com/ and join them on their weekly BRAVE LOVE podcast.  https://janetnewberry.com/podcast/ 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Friendship, Guest

What if God is Waiting for Me? #holyadvent

Advent is the “Howl of the Not-Yet,” the WAITING for wrong to be made right, hopes to be made sight, broken places to be healed and questions to be answered.  We wait for God to come.  We wait for Christmas morning!

Our journeys are bumpy, filled with twists and turns, steps forward and slides backward, confusion and clarity, the messy and the beautiful.  It can seem like Advent never ends.  We cry out!  We howl!  We plead!  “How long?  How long?”  We wait.

But is waiting only reserved for us?  Are we the only ones who cry and long and plead?  What if God has His own Advent, His own howl, His own waiting.  What if God is waiting for us?  


Join with my friend Annie Ellerbusch as she uncovers this.

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about waiting (the Season we have upon us).  What am I waiting for?  What have I been waiting for all my life?  Maybe it’s more like what am I missing?  I know I am missing something, but what is it?   

As I persisted in thinking, I realized I had been focused on my waiting, MY waiting.  But I was not the only one waiting.  God was waiting for me.  God had been for a long time.

God was waiting in the most intimate places of my being, in the parts that only the two of us could visit, the memories that only the two of us shared, the places where I pushed down all that I could not accept, understand, or live with

…all the parts that I had ignored, dismissed, disowned, outgrown, left behind, rejected, abandoned, hid away or hid from 

…all the parts that I could not expose or share, that needed to be locked away for their own protection, or to protect myself and others

…all the parts that were either too bad or too dangerous to be set free, or too good and precious to risk losing

 God was there waiting for me, waiting IN me.

God was keeping all the parts safe, every one of them.  God valued and treasured all of them, all of me.  The words that came to me were intense, even insistent.

“It is your JOB and your JOY to take care of all of your parts, to take care of your self.  Only you can do it.  No one else will do it for you.  No one else CAN do it for you.  Not even ME.  This is your job, your responsibility.  

This is also your gift.  You are a GIFT.  You are My gift to Me.  You are My gift to you.  You are My gift to the world.

Take your self.  Love your self.  Own your self.  Care for your self.

Trust me.  You will see.  You will see what good will come from this.”

God was waiting for me to come and claim all my parts, to look at them and learn about them, to see them and hear them, to understand them, to accept and love them, to learn to care about them and for them, to welcome them back, to gather them up into the whole, my whole

. . . to inhabit my own wholeness , wholly known, wholly loved, and wholly free. 

 

TO SEE MORE POSTS RELATED TO THIS, CHECK THESE OUT:

Parenthood (The Constant Return to Advent)

Advent (The Howl of the Not-Yet)

The “You Better Watch Out”…God

You are the Gift


Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Parenthood (The Constant Return to Advent)

“Advent is for the ones who know longing.”  (Sarah Bessey)

“Tis the Season.”   (Mom utters with eyes rolling  while corralling little one hyped up on the latest candy cane-induced sugar high)

“Tis the Season.”  (Dad pronounces with pride brimming watching high schooler dance in holiday pageant)

“Tis the Season.” (Parents cry waiting for any hopeful news of their adult child living on the streets with addiction)

“Tis the Season” is right!  A season filled with wonder, joy, hope and generosity.  A season also filled with waiting, anticipating, yearning, the pleading question “is it all going to be okay?”  This is the howl of Advent.  Christmas morning is the answer to that question.

The entire journey of parenting feels a lot like Advent.   In fact, it starts with the womb, nine months of waiting, anticipating, yearning, the Question, “are they going to be okay?”  Our precious baby is born and for a moment when the doctor says, “All is well,” we burst with joy and wonder, waves of relief flooding our hearts as the question is answered.  “Yes, they are going to be okay.”  Advent quiets.  Christmas morning arrives.

Until…

We arrive home, alone with this human we are responsible to feed and care for, keep alive and healthy.  We wake in the dark, tiptoe over to the bassinet and put our hands on their backs or our fingers under their teeny noses to see if they are breathing.  The Question arises again, “are they going to be okay?”  Advent returns.

This constant returning to Advent, to the Question, permeates parenthood.   “WILL THEY BE OKAY???  Will they choke on that bagel?  Will they make friends in their class?  Will they learn to read?  Will they score a goal?  Will they have a seat in the lunchroom?  Will they tell us the truth about that party?  Will they drink and drive?  Will they get into a good college?  Will they struggle with loneliness?  Will they meet someone who loves them?  Will they make enough money?  Will they be a good mom or dad?  Will they have a happy marriage?  WILL THEY BE OKAY???”

Advent grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today and yearning that is unfulfilled.  BUT (and it’s a big BUT), Advent also speaks the hope of an answer at the end of a long season of waiting, a Christmas morning to come.

But as parents (whether our child is 2, 22 or 42), we wait, always returning to the Question.  Wondering if there is an answer to the burning doubt inside.  Will they be okay?  Really?   Is there a Christmas morning for us, for our children who we love so tenderly and so dearly?

Not too long ago, I was in the middle of a long period of Advent, asking and asking the Question.  It was nearly impossible to see any glimmer of hope on the horizon, near or distant.   The waiting was long.   I fell into a bleak and dreary place.  The Question engulfed me until I asked an ever scarier one:  What if they are not okay?  What then?

Just when I needed it (or more likely, when I was able to hear it), a gentle voice spoke into my heart, clear as the air on a crisp Spring day, “Even if the unspeakable happens, even if their treasured life comes to an end, they will be with Me, enveloped in My unfathomable love.  They will be perfectly safe.”   Further words came after that I had so longed for, “THEY WILL BE OKAY!”  And then, when I thought it was over, the same kind voice gave the answer to an even deeper question I had not even asked.  “AND SO WILL YOU.”  The sigh of my soul was almost audible, as I collapsed into the knowing place that no matter what, even if all questions are answered with a NO, the Question is answered always with a YES and Advent always ends with the beautiful Savior of Christmas Morning!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
(O Holy Night)

Continue reading “Parenthood (The Constant Return to Advent)”

Posted in Celebration, Family, Thanks

Ten (Short and Sweet) Padre Snapshots

“My father didn’t tell me how to live.  He lived and let me watch him do it.”  (Clarence Buddington Kelland)

I am privileged today to be spending time with three dads:  two “oldish” ones (Allen and my brother Stephen) and one first-timer (my son-in-law Cody).  As I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram this morning, images and pictures of fathers near and far, alive or passed on, silly and serious, coupled with lots of writing or just a plain image, my heart became full.

Dads get a pretty bad wrap in our culture.  Their absence or abuse seems to be the downfall of our families and ultimately our society.  Dads are to blame for the ills that befall our hearts.  In the media, they are painted with a large brushstroke of incompetence, ill-will, and ignorance.  For many today, this image is more true than you’d like it to be.  It fits with your experience.  This day is actually one of the hardest of the year.  I am sorry.

But as social media reminded me this morning, it’s not a complete picture of all dads.  Some dads, like the three I am with today, are good men: kind-hearted and loyal, fun-loving and humble, gentle and strong, present and loving.  Enjoy these snapshots of some of the best dads I know.

1. My husband Allen getting into the baby pool with our four-month old.

Summer 1992_0003

2.  My brother Stephen taking long fishing trips with his son to the remote regions of Canada and New York State.

3.  My father telling the story of the “Wide-Mouth Frog” to a bright-eyed grandchild the same way he did with me so many years ago.

4.  Allen patiently hooking up many a worm on fishing poles for our not-able-to-do-it-yet boys. (key word:  patiently)  And as you can see, braving the dangers of taking our young wiggly boys on a much-longed for boat ride.

Family Camp_0032

5.  My son-in-law Cody playing peek-a-boo with his six-month-old and producing cackles of laughter.

6.  My friend Glenn walking his daughter down the aisle and then performing her wedding ceremony with tears in his eyes and love in his heart.

7.  My brother Tim holding his kids close at the graveside of their mom.

8.  My father-in-law giving the toast at our wedding after agreeing to be Allen’s best man.

9.  My brother David attending concert after concert with his daughter.

10.  Allen and Rachel holding hands while walking into their favorite coffee shop in the wee morning hours before high school.

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These are the pictures (and so many more about so many of you or the men that you love) that are etched into my memory from men who have decided to be present, to be intentional, to bring healing, to love their children well.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I salute you!  Keep up the good work!  You are the reason that I can remotely understand the love of my Heavenly Father.  No one else does it better!  Happy Father’s Day!

 

WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR SNAPSHOTS OF THE GREAT DADS YOU KNOW!  Feel free to comment and share (especially out on social media)! 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Family, Friendship, Thanks

Best Friday!

“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” (Song of Songs 2:12)

For months now, the anticipation has been building!  The final countdown came about 10 days ago.  Last night, it came to fruition.  Yes, I know it was Good Friday, the day we Christians reflect on the unconditional love of God as found in the death of Jesus Christ.  But this Good Friday had been named “BEST FRIDAY” by my friend Jody several months ago when she planned her future wedding date.  “Come to my wedding on Best Friday,” was her invitation to her family and friends, Allen and I being among them.  “Can’t wait, Jody!” was my reply and I sent emojis and texts over the past few weeks reminding us both of the imminent celebration!

Jody is one of the members of my women’s group, the Beautiful Mess, that meets every Thursday morning.  She has been with us from the very first day over 11 years ago.  On that day, we found out that her dad and my mom were raised by missionary parents in the same small African country, working for the same small organization and actually had grown up together.  Immediately, we had a connection and an unbreakable bond.  I loved her from the start.  As I spent time with her, I found her bright, sunny smile, gracious heart, and super upbeat, yet laid-back disposition intriguing and delightful.  Her relationship with her four boys wins her the “best mom award” (as I playfully reminded them last night and heard no argument…in fact, they were all very quick to agree).   I am pretty fierce in my love for and desire to protect her.

Thanks to Jody, this phrase “Best Friday” has been reverberating in my head and heart for quite some time.  The excitement of the anticipation of something long-waited for has brought me sheer enjoyment.  Coupled with the fact that this “Best Friday” celebration marked the end of my 40-day fast, Jody would receive “her happily ever after.”  This put a huge smile right on my heart (and my face, I will admit). The fast had started the day after my birthday, one celebration, and was ending it with another.  I couldn’t have asked for better book ends.  And celebrate we did.  Dancing.  Food.  Friends.  Love.

I am so thankful for the fast.  I removed the external, physical pleasure for the sole purpose of internal, soul-level healing.  It brought me better health, both physically and spiritually.  It reminded me that I am much more than JUST the physical.  It’s a mystery to me how it works (even though I am confident that it definitely does) and I’m okay with that.

Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, speaks of all the “serious-side of spiritual growth” practices like prayer, meditation, solitude, fasting, etc.  They are valuable.  They matter.  But one of my favorite chapters is titled the “Discipline of Celebration.”  Wait?  What?  Celebration is a discipline in and of itself?  Why?

After last night, I am again reminded of why.  Why do we dance and cheer and weep for joy along with our friend who finds the love of her life?  Why do we buy balloons and ice cream cakes (which I am doing again today for our son Josh) to celebrate the birth of someone?  Why do we get dressed up, go to church, have egg hunts and gather with family on Easter Sunday?

Celebration says to others, “you are valuable, I choose you today,” not out of convenience, but actually with fierce intentionality.  It says, “I really know you and love you.  You matter.” 

Yes!  There are times for fasting!  The practice is invaluable.  In fact, I want to incorporate it into my week and not just go back to “business as usual.”  I want be reminded often of HOSANNA (God, Come Save Us!).

But yes!  Last night, on Best Friday, the time for fasting was over.  It marked the time for feasting and celebration!  At least for the three days this weekend!  Here goes!

Jody, you are valuable.  I love you.  What matters to you matters to me!  I celebrate with you!  As John said to me last night, “Jody is the best person I have ever met!  I promise you I will take care of her!”  How could I not do a little internal leap for joy  (and some external leaps as well for those of you who saw me dancing the night away) as I know you are fully-known and fully-loved by this man!  Yippee!

Josh, you are valuable!  I love you.  Your birth marks one of the best days in my life!  I hope that you find that we, as a family, celebrate all the facets of who you are.  You are truly one of a kind!  You are loyal, bold, curious, and determined, along with being super quirky!  You one of my favorite people in the whole word!  How could I not have tears welling up in the corner of my eyes as I write this!  Yippee!

Jesus, you are valuable!  I love you.  You matter!  Your fierce pursuit of me by your coming to earth, living among us humans, dying on that cruel cross and then overcoming the worst that humanity could do to you by rising from that death is the reason I have hope for the healing of my heart (and you readers out there by the way)!  I can’t wait to join my family to celebrate you on Easter Sunday!  I choose you!  Yippee!

Happy Easter to each of you!  Let’s celebrate together! (Even if it’s just on our screens!)

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Family, Friendship, Thanks

We are the Gift

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.  (Hamilton Wright Mabie)

As I sit here listening to needles fall from my Spruce, I am not sure if our tree will survive until tomorrow.  It’s one of those minor stressors that come about because we bring something that’s alive from the outdoors into an environment where it is not designed to thrive.  The tradition seems silly at times, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

Tonight and tomorrow, many of us head into environments where, like my tree, we are in survival mode.  There are so many reasons why it might be the case.  Thriving is not even on the agenda.  We are just going to “make it through.”

From the thousands of Christmas movies, books, and shows, we know in our heads that “Christmas cannot be bought from a store.  Christmas is just a little bit more.” (The Grinch)  But our actions speak otherwise.  We rush around buying gifts and would never be caught dead without one in hand for those on our list.  Part of the survival of Christmas.  Get a gift.  Bring a gift.

I don’t really want to just survive until Tuesday.  My thoughts swirl as I think about how to “make that happen, keep my needles from falling off.”  And then my heart is quieted.  It’s not the outer world:  other people, the food, the dying Spruce, the gifts, and even the Steelers game that are going to do it for me.  It’s a gentle reminder from my friend Annie that she has hammered into my head for the past ten years (obviously I am a slow learner):  We don’t just HAVE gifts to offer.  We ARE the gifts.

As you go into today, tonight and tomorrow, be encouraged.  You ARE the gift for those who spend any moments of precious time with you.  Open yourself up.  Unwrap yourself.  Let others in.  Help them to know you.  At the same time, view others as the gifts that they ARE.  Seek to unwrap their hearts.  Get to know them.  It’s scary and vulnerable and you might just be hurt and rejected, but you will be giving the best gift of all:  YOU.

I long for one thing in this life and just perhaps you do too (whether you know it or not):  being fully-known and fully-loved.  I am so thankful that Jesus paved the way for us and showed us how this works.  He opened His heart fully for us, taking a huge chance on being vulnerable and rejected, giving Himself without pause.  He knew beyond a doubt that He IS the best gift for us and that you and I ARE the greatest presents He could ever receive.  All of the scary rejection paled in comparison to the JOY that this union of hearts would bring.  We were worth the risk.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today, tonight, or tomorrow when you risk your hearts for the chance of knowing and being known, loving and being loved.  I can’t promise you that it might not end up painful.  I can’t promise you that you might not be rejected.  But I can promise that your heart will be more open, and in turn, more healed. And you might just be a little closer to getting what you really want this Christmas!

(Check out this fun video – What If We Saw Everything as a Gift?)

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

The “You Better Watch Out”…God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia.  My bunkmate stirs below me.  I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep.  Sleep does not come.  I rehash the day.  Thoughts swirl:  “I did a bunch of wrong things.  Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep.  I should confess my sins.  Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today.  Please forgive me.”  Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.   I go into a bit of a panic.  “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart.  If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”  I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart.  I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.”  Still nothing.  I lay there wide-awake.  My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, when my dorm mother read us another chapter in the story of Narnia and especially Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them.  “I love Aslan.  I wish God was like Aslan.  Why can’t He be?”  As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope:  “Maybe He is.”

For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season.  A jolly man with a jolly heart.  A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.”  We all know of him.  Believe it or not, I had a friend who “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did with God as a young girl.  After all, how different are they?  “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.  YOU BETTER WATCH OUT…Santa Claus is coming to town.”  It is eerily similar to the Sunday School song from my childhood:  “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.”  Both of them are watching.  You better watch out.

More recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has taken off as a new family tradition.  If you’re not familiar, this Elf (which comes in different sizes and even sexes in the form of a cheaply made elf doll that will set you back 30 bucks), is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent.  He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas.  His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list.   You better watch out!

I loved celebrating Santa with my children (we just dug out Rachel’s letter from the North Pole) and might currently have an Elf on the Shelf  if I still had littles.  But as you read above, and this is the point:  I believed in a “you better watch out” God very early and sadly, it continued well into adulthood.  God was no different than Santa or Elf on the Shelf.  He was up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave.  It’s not hard to figure out what my relationship with Him was like because of this.   I was filled with and acted out of fear and guilt.  I hid from Him, or at least (fruitlessly) tried to…who wouldn’t? I struggled to feel close, spending much energy and time on my external, visible behavior, hoping that it would be enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s disapproval of me.  My internal craving for love and belonging was completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar.

Enter the stories of Narnia and a reunion with Aslan as the mom of four kids.  I found three-hour radio theater dramatic renditions absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these stories that I loved as a child.  I could kill two birds with one stone:  share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).  As I came to reconnect with Aslan, I found even more so that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once.  He is the one who I longed for my whole life.  He is too good not to be true.

I had finally found the answer to that hopeful thought I had as a child.  God is not like Santa.  God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.  God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”  God is like Aslan.  God is wise.  God is playful.  God is generous.  God is kind.  God is mysterious.  God is terrifying.  God is magnificent.  God is beautiful.  God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period.  His agenda is a loving, intimate, close relationship with me.  He loves me because of who He is, not how I behave.  He actually can’t help Himself.  True, lasting change will come, but it will be born FROM of a place of love and acceptance, the inside out, not FOR love and acceptance, the outside in.

What relief!  What freedom!  Even as I write this, “you better watch out” is quieted again and my heart settles down with a big inner sigh.  A long deep breath of safety and belonging.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  This is what I long for.  This is a line I can get in, a lap I can climb up onto and take pictures of every day for a lifetime!  My flicker of hope so long ago, “Maybe He is,” is a burning light of hope that shouts, “YES.  YES HE IS.”

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P.S.  I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus (see Ethiopia Tikdem post).  I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. In his response, Lewis offered this relief:

“Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”