- Days to recover from my gluten exposure and the patience of my family
- Scrambled eggs and pineapple-mango smoothies for my confused tummy
- The beauty of this art in remembrance of those who didn’t make it home to England
- A morning with Valeria and her kids–thank you friend!
- Husband knowing how to pack for my son’s overnight polar backpacking experience with the Scouts
- The nurses and care partners I am so privileged to work with–truly, truly don’t know how I would make it through my work days without that beautiful community of caring for each other in the middle of the storm…
- Sleepover for daughter with giggles and hot chocolate–thanks again and again, Valeria!
- A rare Saturday off. Now I remember why people enjoy Saturdays so much!
- An amazing church, St. George’s, that truly appreciates its musicians and their contribution to The Table.
- Phone calls from friends when I needed them the most
- Son home, safe, sound, and a bit soggy. With lots of laundry. :)
- This. Just this song. Over and over. “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal…”
I like to post these early Monday morning, but it just didn’t happen this week. I inadvertently ate gluten Saturday at work and am still living with the consequences. I will spare you the details, but I will say that joint pain, headache, fatigue and brain fog are not conducive to writing. Here is my list for the week:
- Red leaves against blue skies
- Foggy, rainy fall days spent inside cozy having school in our pajamas on the couch
- English Breakfast Tea
- Pumpkin scones
- Midday bike ride/walk with the family
- Cousin time
- Sleepovers and Sound of Music
- In-laws taking kids to see Wizard of Oz
- Recovery time on the couch
- Two different families loading up me and the kids in their vehicles to get us to church Wednesday night
- hugs and conversations around the bonfire
- flannel sheets
- getting the garden “put to bed” for winter
- working with the most amazing group of staff that are always there to help you out when things get rough, as they often do
- the change of seasons–so, so happy I get to live in a place that experiences all four seasons
- a crock pot of soup on a chilly day
- a game of Clue around the table
- a week of quiet routine at home–hmmm…so this is what normal feels like :)
- a job my daughter really enjoys
- a report from the harvest-fields that has my heart singing!
- pumpkin scones, hot from the oven
It’s hard to even know where to begin…do I pick up where I left off? Fill in the blanks of the last 7 months without a new post? Try to stutter around the awkward silence of “where have you been?” I don’t really know what to say. The camera stopped working. The computer wouldn’t upload pictures, or if it did, they got lost. Then the computer died…well, I’ll just leave the last few months at that.
It can be very difficult to be grateful when things seem to continue to tumble down–crash down hard. And I tend to isolate myself when times get tough and I get overwhelmed. But the worst times are a bit less dark when you look for the Light. Looking for the gifts and the Giver in the middle of the strain and the pain and the “what on earth?”, well made it easier to keep walking. Not flying with wings like eagles, not running, just walking. Putting one foot in front of the other walking on through life. Soaring and running without being tired–I suppose those days will return. I hope they will. But for now, I am content to walk and not be faint.
So after a loooonnnngggg time of not telling what I’m grateful for, here’s another Monday morning, and doing my best to face it with an attitude of gratitude and joy in my heart. Here’s my overdue list:
- Faithful friends who loaned us their car for the weekend, so we could all go to church!
- A morning full of hugs from the Beautiful Belmont Girls of the Balcony, 9:00 edition. Oh, how I’ve missed those ladies and their encouragement and love!
- Provision from God, using the most unbelievable ways
- A two-week break away from everyday life, sorely needed by us all.
- Grabbing an hour for tea with my amazing friend
- Conversation between grammar lessons and picking up children with my other amazing friend
- The messy: a counter filled with salt dough maps of Egypt and mummified fruit, the den turned into a road rally of hot wheels, tubs of fall clothes to sort through in the living room. The beautiful: children learning, playing and awesome clothes from the cousins!
- Being home in my own kitchen, with hot running water and a dishwasher. Priceless!
I will admit, I don’t really know what to do with Lent this year. “Umm…shouldn’t you have thought about this sooner,” you say. I have. I’ve thought about it a lot, long and hard and I’m still not sure as I write these words.
I didn’t grow up in a culture that practiced Lent, but I have participated for several years as an adult, however. This year, I’m just not sure how to approach it. Since last year, I have experienced Inner Healing Prayer and have been freed from co-dependency in a most amazing way! There is a new freedom in Christ and in me that I love!
So now what? I know Lent is not a biblical command or even suggestion. I know participating in Lent doesn’t save me, make God like or love me any more or “get” me anything from God—no extra star in crown. Got it. I also already know I was a sinner, loved by my amazing Creator, and saved from eternity without Him, and that my eternal life started the minute I cried out to Him to save me. I don’t want to wallow in my sin and be sorry for them. They are done. If He doesn’t see them or remember, why should I? And I am no longer that same orphan. I am a daughter of the King, a co-heir with Christ!
So back to Lent. What to do? I can participate or not. My college friend mentioned an online Lenten Retreat she was interested in attending. Hmmm…an online retreat? What on earth? I checked it out and enjoyed both the website and the author, who is a Methodist priest and artist in residence. I LOVE her work. Love it. It resonates within me and makes me want to run to my palette knife, canvas and easel. What I appreciated about her intro to the retreat were Jan Richardson’s words about Lent:
From the rending of Ash Wednesday to the resurrection of Easter Sunday, the path through Lent encompasses every aspect of who we are. Most of all, Lent invites us to know how completely God loves us, and to let go of all that would keep us from recognizing, receiving, and responding to that love.
Letting go of all that would keep us from the Love of God? Yes, please. This is a Lent I could get behind, that I could be a part of, meditate upon. Not giving up wheat, sugar, caffeine, fast food (I already did that last month!), but giving up that which I try to hold onto that keeps me from “recognizing, receiving, and responding” to the complete love of God.
And in Ann Voskamp’s words that I nod in agreement:
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God.
I pull my favorite Lenten Devotional, Bread and Wine, off the shelf and read the introduction.
“We ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. …put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ…Lent is a good time so…let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like…He (Jesus) reveals the appalling strangeness of divine mercy and the Love from which it springs. Such Love could not stay imprisoned in a cold tomb. Nor need we, if we truly surrender our lives to it.”
And so, I am ready to let go. I am ready to let go of what is holding me back from receiving all He has for me—all His love, His promises, Him. I want all that He is willing to give, if only I will receive it. I am ready to celebrate Lent–to admit my weakness and rejoice in His power and strength; to acknowledge my lack in all I do on my own and marvel at the abundance of grace and mercy in all He does; to confront my shortcomings and realize His overcoming. I am ready to meet the One who Isaiah prophesied (Is. 61:1-3):
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
So today, on Ash Wednesday, I am ready for him to give me a garland instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of fainting, so that He may be glorified. I am ready to decrease so He may increase. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
The thought of one more coat of oil paint on my last set of cabinets is about to put me out of my ever-loving mind…Four weeks of my kitchen contents spread all over the house and coming up with things I can make in a toaster oven has made my gratitude run kinda thin. I thought I was done. Then I lifted my last set of freshly painted and need to be installed cabinets into position to admire the effect. I missed 2 huge spots. Two. Very noticeable. ANd the grain on this last net is much more pronounced that the two sets already installed, painted, and filled. Another coat? Really? I am tired of being cheerful and happy about this. I can’t stand it. I can’t find anything. it’s a mess. The last weeks have been filled with this journey. On top of all that there were two delays installing the oven. For the last four days, the oven was actually in my house, but uninstalled. Even one more meal out of the toaster oven seemed unbearable. But it wasn’t.
Most of the kitchen has been re-assembled. The painting is done. The oven is in. In the midst of all that, it seemed to much to deal with, but there were so many other things going on with other people, that really…it was just an oven. I wasn’t fighting for my life from cancer. My adopted children weren’t being held virtual hostages by their country of origin. My baby wasn’t diagnosed with leukemia…all things people I knew were going through. It was just an oven and a mess.
So I have much to be grateful for. Sometimes you have to hear about others battles to realize your own is not nearly as big as you thought. My list for at least the last two weeks :)
- the chaos of progress
- afternoon out of the mess to soothe my weary soul with art and friendship
- friends to call on when I need their guidance
- Chai tea and talk with Donna
- a warm house in bitter cold
- no frozen pipes!
- fuzzy socks
- flannel sheets
- old quilts
- snoring dogs
- starting a new path with friends
- a beautiful, sunny warm day; such a respite from the gray, overcast, freezing month of January!
- pattering and dripping of rain
- huge box for the kids to play in
- sunset of pink
- an almost unbelievable find amidst the dead leaves and icy cold–the promise that winter WILL end, spring is on the way, and new life is growing
Well, 2013 ended three months of illness–suspected whooping-cough and perhaps flu, plus other respiratory illnesses galore. I’m grateful for new beginnings, aren’t you? My new year’s gratitude list:
- Ending well
- Beginning with expectation
- Burning the “Old Man”
- Hundreds of robins, stripping our holly tree bare in one day. They were so full they sat around digesting for a couple of hours after they finished!
- Hearing Papa Don preach the first Sunday of the year.
- trip for three to the aquarium
- Monopoly for the rest of us–time to hang out while we watch the storm come in
- A warm house in absolutely frigid temperatures
- Sound of water dripping through the night=no frozen pipes!
- A close call realized–oven instructions tucked behind the panel nearly caught on fire!
- A great deal on a new oven
Coffeehazelnut steamer (kid temperature!) with Stacy
- Healthy kids growing well
- Frost on the windows and doors
- a sort-of snow, about all we get around here :)
- new storage in the kitchen
- afternoon with Valeria
- Beth and her birthday–so grateful to have you in my life!
- Play date for Blue Eyes
- grateful my family is NOT dependent on my gardening skills for their next meal. Everything froze…:(
- Encouragement by Ann to start to collect gratitude lists. What a gift to us all!
- New youth pastor, new beginnings for our Sr. pastor, new hopes for the future
- Friends finally on their way to Ethiopia after waiting over six months for clearance by the Embassy. Godspeed, Jeff and Julie!