Posted in Faith

I’m late

I’m late for Lent.

But somehow I don’t feel like I am.
 
It feels like it’s been Lent for a year.
 
All the sacrifices.
All the not having.
All the fasting.
All the giving up.
All the solitude.
All the praying.
 
So when Ash Wednesday showed up on my “Birthday Eve,” I wasn’t having it! (at least not yet)
 
I wanted a day or two or three or four to celebrate.
Have my own “Fat Tuesday” of sorts.
 
A party with friends (over Zoom) to play games and blow out a virtual candle on a virtual cupcake.
 
A big giant chocolate chip cookie after a delicious take out dinner with my husband.
 
A guilt-free social media binge day to see all the birthday wishes from friends old and new, far and near.
 
A day filled with dings on my phone and a few cards in my mailbox.
 
A final hurrah two whole days later with my kids escaping some locked internet room.
 
A few days to celebrate. Revel. Create my own carnival.
 
But now I am ready for Lent.
 
Fat Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are over.
 
The normal chips, chocolate and cheese are out the window (except for on Celebration Sundays…look it up…it’s a thing).
 
But that’s not really what I’m ready for.
 
That’s not the Lent I’m diving into. Not this year.
 
I’m giving up the BIG THREE… (or at least trying to)
 
FEAR.
 
Not the put-your-seatbelt-on-to-protect-myself kind of fear.
 
I need that.
 
More like the people-might-not-like-me kind.
The I-might-fail kind.
The I’m-not-going-to-be-okay kind.
 
I do not need that at all.
 
GUILT.
 
Not the take-responsibility-for-my-harmful-actions kind of guilt.
 
I need that.
 
More like the I-never-do-anything-right kind.
The responsible-for-everyone-else’s-feelings kind.
The why-do-I-have-a-good-marriage-and-my-friend-doesn’t kind.
 
I do not need that at all.
 
SHAME.
 
Not the I-was-unkind-to-my-husband-last-night-and-I-don’t-want-to-do-that-again kind.
 
I need that.
 
More like the I-am-a-bad-person-no-matter-what-I-do kind.
The how-could-anyone-ever-love-me kind.
The God-must-be-disappointed-in-me kind.
 
I do not need that at all.
 
But because this is a year where I’ve already given up lots and lots and lots more, I’m making room for a different BIG THREE.
 
FAITH.
Believing something that hasn’t happened yet will come true. Especially what I can’t see with my the eyes in my head, but maybe I can with the eyes of my heart.
 
I need that.
 
HOPE.
The confident expectation in the God who is my Father, the One who wants good for me. The anchor for my soul that grounds me and reminds me that good always triumphs over evil in the end.
 
I need that.
 
LOVE.
The intense feeling of deep affection that God has for me and that I have for others. The great interest and immense pleasure that God has for me and that I have for others. It never fails. It always wins.
 
I need that for sure.
 
So Lent, I welcome you with open arms.
 
I’ve had a lot of you this year.
 
But I’m ready for just a little bit more.
 
I am running a little late.
 
Or maybe, I’m right on time.
Posted in Faith, Grief

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was sad.

About a year ago, she was skipping along, busy as a bee, marching to the beat of getting things done and getting ahead. She believed the new year held possibility and promise like every other year.  Why wouldn’t it?  It was the start of not only a year, but a whole new decade.  She was excited.

But right after her big party in her new house with all her friends, an ugly monster came.  It came and gobbled up all her normal, all the rhythms that held her and rocked her and told her that everything was okay.

Days went by.  MUNCH.
Weeks went by.  MUNCH MUNCH.
Months went by.  MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH.

The monster kept devouring her normal.  But not just hers.  The normal of everyone around her.  It ate up bank accounts and dreams and businesses and celebrations and hugs and peace-of-mind and worst of all, it gulped down lives.

She tried really hard to stay upbeat and hopeful and to “look on the bright side,” but it didn’t really work very long.

She was sad.

One day, she figured out that she had to do something about it.  But what?  What should she do about her sadness?

She could take Vitamin D.
She could binge watch TV.
She could eat a cookie.
She could work in her garden.
She could pretend the monster wasn’t there.
She could make a grateful journal.

If that helped, maybe then she could tell all her friends and family to do the same.

After making her “what-should-she-do-about-her-sadness” list and checking it twice, she tried hard for a really long time.

Guess what happened?  She was still really sad.

Oh no!  What should she do?

One morning as she was swallowing her Vitamin D for the 282nd time, she thought of a great idea!

She was going to STOP doing some things. They weren’t working anyway, no matter how hard she tried.
 
So she STOPPED making the monster smaller than it was. She actually said the word “monster” out loud. She told her friends and her family that it was scary and horrible and that she wanted it to go away.
 
That was really hard for her. She liked talking about rainbows and butterflies and happy things.
 
But it was really good for her too. She felt like she was finally telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.
 
She also STOPPED trying to rush really fast to “happy,” even though Joy was her middle name and she had been told her whole life it wasn’t good to be sad.
 
She looked right in the mirror and said, “You are allowed to be sad right now. That’s the best thing to be when you lose a bunch of stuff that’s really great.”
 
And then she took a shower and cried for a long time.
 
That helped a bunch and she figured out that now she could START doing some things too. She had time and space (like more than ever before).
 
She STARTED to talk, talk, talk. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To a counselor. To her journal. She got her sadness outside of the inside of her. She gave it really carefully to those who loved her and who she trusted to hold her all safe, like inside-her-heart safe.
 
She also STARTED to listen, listen, listen. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To her kids. And guess what she found out. They were all sad too. Just like her. She was not all by herself. How about that?

The story is not over yet (even after 324 days) and sometimes, the woman still eats cookies, binge watches TV, and pretends the monster isn’t there.

But more often, she cries.  And prays.  And talks.  And listens.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was sad.

But she was not alone.

And it was the perfect place to be.

Posted in Celebration, Health, Thanks, Word of the Year

How to Choose Your Word of the Year (simple steps and helpful reminders)…Find Out Mine

A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads).  It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey.  (The Dolly Mama)

When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible.  On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43.  I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried.  It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc.

You know what I mean.

You feel the same pain.

Bottom line: resolutions rarely, if ever, work.

On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE.  I love a fresh start.  A new day.  A new week.  A new month.  And especially a NEW YEAR.  Hope “rocks my socks.”

Thank God He gives me a fresh start every morning, even every moment.  I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again.  HOPE.

HOPE, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY.  I need HOPE. 

A word of the year encompasses HOPE.  It’s an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow.  Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them.

Here’s why:

  • A resolution concentrates on “DOING.”  A WOTY values “BEING.”
  • A resolution instructs.  A WOTY inspires.
  • A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”).  A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
  • A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”).  A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
  • A resolution can be “broken.” A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).

If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun.  I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (my husband). 

It’s not a race.  It doesn’t matter when.  But it might matter IF.

It might seem overwhelming.  It’s not.  It’s just fun.  Give yourself the treat.

Helpful reminders:

  • Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
  • Cup your ear to your hopes and dreams.  Be mindful not to listen to your doubts and fears.
  • Be true to yourself.  You want your  word to represent your unique needs and desires.
  • Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting.  This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
  • It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself).  It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.

Simple steps:

  1.  Ask yourself a simple question:  What do you need?  Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves.  This is a huge starting place.  Don’t skip this step.  Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
  2. The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)?  Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
  3. Make a list of words that come to mind.  Write as many as you want.  It can be a noun, verb or adjective.  If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. (Word of the Year Ideas)
  4. Cross out the words that don’t work for you.  Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
  5. Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms.  You might just be surprised at what you find out!
  6. Give yourself some time to process the list.  Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
  7. Take a deep breath and choose your word.  Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
  8. Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day.  I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out).  Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
  9. Give yourself permission to change your mind.  If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year.

An Update From Yours Truly:

My WOTY for 2020 was “Hygge.”  I don’t want to give up this friend.  I love her.  She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best.  I have a long way to go in my friendship with “Hygge.”   She is “the feeling of coziness and well-being.”

The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one.  “Hygge” can come along with me into 2021 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her.  When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, TEND, SHALOM and HYGGE).  That makes me super happy.

Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2021:  my Word of the Year is BREATHE!

Breathe.

After 2020, my muscles are tight, my brain is fried from all the decisions, my adrenaline is overused, my body is drained and my soul is plain-old exhausted from clinging to HOPE in the middle of all the heartache. 

Breathe.

This “just-the-friend-I-need-right-now” WOTY will give me the courage to do this…

PHYSICALLY.  Shoulders down.  Lungs open.  Slow, long and deep.  Often.

EMOTIONALLY.  Let the good in.  Get the toxic out.  Good boundaries.  Open heart.

MENTALLY.  Take one step at a time.  Like a snail.  Gracious.  Steady.  Intentional.

SPIRITUALLY.

Breathe.

INHALE the grace of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE the shame I heap on myself.

Breathe.

INHALE the peace of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE the fear that threatens to overwhelm me.

Breathe.

INHALE the love of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE all that tells me otherwise.

Breathe.

Back to You:

Consider joining me on this journey to find out what word can come along side you and be your gentle and kind friend throughout this new year that we are embarking on.  When you do, please please send me a note letting me know what your word is or post it in the comments on social media.  I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.

Happy New Year from my heart to yours!

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief

Kitchens and the Howl of the Not-Yet

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The past months have been marked by much suffering.
 
The pain can be overwhelming.
 
Substance abuse by those we love.
Every kind of loss imaginable from the dang virus.
A very scary diagnosis.
Betrayal.
Unkindness.
A debilitating disease that prevents normal life-function.
Mental illness that doctors are having trouble treating.
The excruciating long and threatening unknown.
 
We find ourselves overwhelmed in the most ordinary of places.
For me, it’s often the kitchen (even when I’m not cutting onions).
 
We cry…
 
How long?
How much?
Why?
Why right now?”
 
I love the holiday season.
 
It’s FULL (even this very strange year).
 
My tree is FULL of ornaments.
My tummy is FULL of food (way too much of it, as my current waistline is showing).
My neighborhood is FULL of lights (it seems even moreso in 2020).
My garage is FULL of empty Amazon boxes, gifts waiting to be wrapped and opened on Christmas morning in the family room.
 
And especially this year…
 
My heart is FULL of
 
gratitude
wonder
hope
love
 
I’m desperate for them. I’m holding onto them with all my might.
 
I like living in the FULL of good things part, not the CRYING part.
 
The period leading up to Christmas morning is commonly known as Advent. It’s Advent right now.
 
Advent speaks to the “howl of the not-yet,” the pleading, the waiting, the yearning, the “crying in the kitchen” part.
 
Advent is NOT Christmas morning.
 
Advent speaks about and grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today, and yearning that is unfulfilled.
 
Advent gives a glimpse of fruition at the end of a long season of waiting.
 
Advent says there is suffering and it is real, palpable. But advent also says there is hope, just as real and palpable.
 
Advent says “don’t skip over the suffering. Don’t minimize the heartache. Sit in it, acknowledge it, and feel it.”
 
This is not an easy place.
 
I struggle with Advent.
I do not sit with the grief, acknowledge and feel it.
 
I skip right to Christmas morning, the happy place, where the answer is here and salvation has come, the “FULL in the family room” part.
 
Skipping right to Christmas doesn’t work.
 
It doesn’t take away the pain.
It doesn’t make bad things not happen.
It doesn’t bring true healing.
 
Advent brings healing.
 
It’s the place of truth that speaks to both heartache AND hope, both suffering AND a savior.
 
Right now, there is more than a week until Christmas morning.
 
I think I have some more “kitchen” work to do.
 
Howling.
Waiting.
Questioning.
Grieving.
The Not-Yet.
 
Christmas morning will come soon enough.
 
A baby will be here.
A Savior will come.
What is empty will be filled.
Heartache will be healed.
Yearning will be fulfilled.
What is broken will be repaired.
What we’ve lost will be found.
 
It will be time for the “family room.”
 
But right now, I’m headed to make breakfast.
 
(P.S. I lit my third candle this morning – this time the pink one)
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**thanks to Shauna Niequist, who penned the idea of the “howl of the not-yet.”**
Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief

I Lit a Candle

I lit a candle this morning.

For the first time.

Not just any candle.

The candle of “Hope” on this first day, this first Sunday of Advent.

It’s a new thing I’m doing this year, the year of all years.
 
The candle of Hope.

Hope.

A simple word.  But not a simple word.

A complex and intricate word.  A pregnant word.

Pregnant?

Yes, pregnant.  The “full of meaning” kind of pregnant.

I’ve been pregnant six times.  Two ended way too soon, loss and grief and confusion permeating my heart.  Four ended at just the right time, joy and life and expectation bursting onto the scene.

Pregnant.

This word.  Hope.  What I felt every single time those two lines appeared on my bathroom counter.

This word.  Hope.

Two times, it ended in a bloody mess.  A bloody mess that brought the end of possibility, the death of the little life that had stopped growing, and abject heartache.

In this particular season of Advent, in all things 2020, it sure seems like I’m sitting in the middle of a bloody mess on my bathroom floor crying.

All I did was open my newspaper this morning.

[One-third of small businesses closed.]

[Numbers in hospitals highest they’ve ever been.]

[Two teenagers dead after Black Friday mall shooting.]

That was just the front page.

In this particular season of Advent, in all things 2020, it’s really okay to be sitting in the middle of a bloody mess on my bathroom floor crying.

It’s why I lit a candle this morning.

NOT because there is nothing to grieve.

NOT because everything is as it should be.

BUT exactly because there is lots to grieve.

BUT exactly because everything is NOT as it should be.

This word.  Hope.  What I felt every single time those two lines appeared on my bathroom counter.

BUT this word.  Hope.

Four times, it also ended in a bloody mess.  But those times, the bloody mess brought the beginning of possibility, the birth of the little life that had grown just enough, and undeniable joy.

Mary.  My favorite pregnant woman.

Young, poor, single.  A nobody.

In a world where her headlines read just like mine.

In a world where there was a lot to grieve.

In a world where everything was NOT as it should be.

BUT in her womb, a baby grew.

Just enough.

AND yes, her pregnancy ended in a bloody mess.

But hope tells me what her Baby tells me as He bursts on the scene.

[I’m right here with you in the middle of your grief.]

[I will put things right and things will be as they should.]

[Take courage, my child.  Prepare your heart for Me.]

It’s why I lit a candle this morning.

HOPE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith

19 Weeks of Darkness

19 weeks.

The time between our clocks “falling back” to “springing ahead.”

19 weeks.

DARKNESS comes earlier and there is almost a collective “OH NO” heard in the air.

19 weeks.

The apprehension of depression looms large in the hearts of those who struggle already and general melancholy arises in those who don’t.

19 weeks.

The warning of COVID numbers and “a whole lot of hurt” to come sends us wanting to pull the covers over our heads and make it stop.  STOP.  STOP.  STOP.  As if the winter DARKNESS is not bad enough.

19 weeks.

The election and the fall out either way.  Fear creeps into our minds and our stressed bodies are unable to hide it.

The “Holidays.”  Trepidation on how to navigate the risks and rewards of seeing family and friends makes this one of the most confusing seasons ever.

New Years.  No watching the ball drop with Times Square revelers and the dread that 2021 won’t be the end of all that 2020 has brought to us.

MLK Day.  The usual day of hope has an underpinning of tension as we understand that there is still SO much work to do.

Valentines Day.  We wonder.  Cute little candy hearts and cupids just don’t cut it anymore.  There’s real pain out there.  Real pain.

DARKNESS for sure.  And not just the literal kind.

19 weeks.

A womb of sorts.

A cocoon of sorts.

A tomb of sorts.

The unknown and all the possible things that could go wrong.  DARKNESS.

19 weeks.

But what happens IN the womb? The cocoon? The tomb?

Not after.  Not when it’s over.  Not when we see crocuses and robins and longer days.

But IN?  IN the DARKNESS?

There is CREATION in the womb.
Of a whole new life.

There is TRANSFORMATION in the cocoon.
Of a whole different being.

There is REDEMPTION in the tomb.
Of a whole only-God-can-do-this kind.

Gifts.  Beautiful gifts.

Gifts that could not come any other way.

19 weeks.

There will be DARKNESS for sure.

But there will also be HOPE.

Posted in Faith, Thanks

Pattering

It’s (almost) my favorite sound in the world.
It’s happening as I write this.
I could listen to it all day and all night.

The sound of RAIN pattering on the roof.

[I get all goosebumpy (is that even a word?) when I hear it.]

RAIN speaks to quenching.

A parched soil.
A parched soul.

[Calm washes through my body, my spirit responding in kind.]

RAIN speaks to cleansing.

A mucky house.
A mucky heart.

[I peek outside, and can almost see the trees drinking it in.]

RAIN speaks to refreshment.

A weary world.
A weary body.

[The idea of a nap in the middle of the day sounds just about right.]

RAIN speaks to redemption.

A hopeless day.
A hopeless mind.

[A smile creeps to my lips, a glimmer of hope rising within.]

Thank you, RAIN.

I need you today.

#nobadweather #pluviophile

Posted in Faith

E Pluribis Unum

My Dear Fellow-Americans,

I know you are hurting because I am too. It’s all just NOT right. The people who are supposed to lead us towards “e pluribis unum” (out of many, ONE) have tried to divide us in two.

We are NOT two. We are MANY. But we are also ONE.

We prove it day after day, in the ordinary moments of our American lives.

We are ONE.

I’ve seen it play out in these past months like no other.

All different colors of fire fighters beating back the flames, not caring at all whether the people they are saving vote Red, Blue, Green or Purple or None of the Above.

All different ages of people wearing those inconvenient and uncomfortable masks just because we want to stop one person from dying.

All different walks of life figuring out ways to keep our businesses from crumbling by getting take-out, shopping local and hiring contractors.

All different creeds walking peacefully together to speak out for healing, justice, restoration and HOPE, saying “It’s enough. We want change and we want it for everyone!”

We are the PEOPLE of the United States of America.

We respect each other.
We cheer for each other.
We listen to each other.
We count on each other.
We need each other.
We help each other.
We learn from each other.
We love each other.

No one can stop us from doing that. NO ONE.

So, when someone tries to convince you that we are TWO, don’t listen. We are MANY. MANY colorful, diverse, caring, beautiful souls.

But we are also ONE. ONE in purpose. ONE in resolve. ONE in heart.

From my hopeful heart to yours,

E pluribis unum.

Posted in Faith

Spiral

It’s easy to SPIRAL into hopelessness when checking out the news or social media.

Covid. Politics. Shootings. Sex-trafficking. Addiction. Riots.

We don’t have to look very far to see what’s going wrong. It all feels heavy, dire and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

Where do we start? Who do we help? What can we possibly do to make a small dent for good in this gut-wrenching broken world? Would it even make a difference?

We often fall into the trap of two not-so-helpful choices:

…draining what little time and energy we have getting stuck trying to figure out what is most crucial

or

…crumpling under the sheer magnitude of all the horror.

There’s a third option. A much better one: make the world a better place because we are in it. Plain and simple.

It REALLY does NOT matter what we choose to invest ourselves in. We might care about clean water for the planet, special education needs in our communities, or our child struggling with normal every-day life.

It can be a big-world, local community or one-person issue. We, all by our sweet selves, can be a powerful force for good.

We’ve already done it thousands of times, most of it small and seemingly insignificant: a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, a meal made, a listening ear, a thoughtful gift.

No, we can’t do everything. But we can do something. And that is lots better than doing nothing.

You see, all those tiny, supposedly inconsequential moments of good grow into the huge life stories of hope, change and restoration.

The good beats back the bad one choice at a time, one person at a time. It’s not insignificant after all. It’s essential.

I’m not sure where your passion lies, what sets your soul on fire, what your heart longs to see restored.

Be encouraged, my friend.

Your “cup of water” for one “thirsty” person will send ripples of life-changing goodness into the world. Trust the ripple.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Thanks

Painted KINDNESS

It happened again.

Children brought hope to my discouraged heart.

Hope in the form of painted rocks.

Painted rocks outside our local elementary school.

Messages of goodness, encouragement and kindness splattered all over simple gray stones.

In “pre-crazy times,” I would have thought, “how cute” and moved on quickly.

Not now. I stopped, savoring each one, breathing a prayer of thanks.

Thanks for each child. Thanks for the purest and simplest of words, designed to breathe life into my disheartened soul.

I needed these rocks. I needed these deliberate acts of kindness from children who decided to take a moment to paint rocks.

I want to be like them when I grow up.