November 28, 2010

with patience

I find myself wishing it was already done, so that I could sit back and enjoy the season, and yet... these are days of preparation. The days set aside to clear out the weary and the darkness... and invite the light in to wash our hearts with hope and with love. I worked towards it today, bringing in box after box and finding just the right spot for each piece... letting Christmas come alive. But the weary snuck back in, along with a bit of ache... daring me not to press on. On this first Sunday in Advent, I refused to give up without lighting that first candle.
A deep breath in, a flickering light, and prayer for a beautiful season. I'm not there yet... but there are weeks to fill wonder, and days to sing with joy. And there is no need to hurry when the invitation is to linger, so I practice patience. Mostly with myself. Tomorrow I might need a reminder, but in this moment, in the glow of the Prophecy candle, I choose to make my way through Advent the same way I live every other season... grasping each gift and making the most of its beauty.
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November 25, 2010

plenty

My kitchen is quiet and dark... no spoons stirring, no dishes clanking  or oven baking. My Mom will cook today... and as I think about her in the kitchen, I am reminded of those long ago mornings, up before the light dawned, watching her put the turkey into the overn and peering in the window, knowing it would have to cook forever. I remember the make-shift table of plywood and sawhorses that galloped down the hall, all the way to the front door... and waiting for the guests who would fill all those seats. There was food a-plenty... turkey and stuffing, stuffed shells and meatballs, a huge basket of fruit, pies and a plate of congo squares. And I remember early Friday mornings huddled with my sister, both of us dressed in fuzzy yellow footie pajamas, plucking left-over grapes and clumsily trying to work the nutcrackers for a morning treat. My visions of Thanksgiving long long ago... when all I knew of the holiday was this and the Pilgrims.
So many years have passed... dinners at an assortment of tables, sharing with families and friends. And along the way, what I know about this holiday has grown. Even this year. In seeking the holiday, and looking back, I found that I was in this same place last year. The very same place. And I learn something new about me... and have to make a choice. Do I dig deeper and peek around every corner looking for Thanksgiving, crying when it is no where to be found? Or do I let my heart rest in acceptance of Thanksgiving being a holiday to celebrate for one day?
Today while my oven sits cold, I sit in the quiet... heart beginning to warm. Anticipating the grandeur of the parade we will snuggle in to watch, excited about the rushing in and being in the midst of family, and simply thankful for it all. Every day, every gift, every moment, every breath He gives.
And I am overwhelmed to see... that while I have been seeking, Thanksgiving was just sitting right in my heart, celebrating itself every day... waiting for me to notice. 
Truly more a way of life, than a day set aside. 
And I chalk it up to one more gift in the sea of plenty. 

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.  Psalm 65:11

Yes... my cart is full, in fact, it is overflowing.  The blessings spill over the sides and to take inventory is impossible.  God's gifts are simply too beautiful and too bountiful to count...

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving... and if your blessings end up spilled all over the floor... don't forget to splash in them.
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November 19, 2010

and i'm thankful

Yesterday I was searching for a way... to find the warmth of Thanksgiving.
The thankfulness lives in me all year long, but I find myself seeking the holiday magic. Thursday will come... we will watch the Macy's parade, we will gather with family around my Mom's table, and there will be Thanksgiving overload... but I find myself stamping my foot with an I want it now kind of attitude. I sink deep into thought and ask how I get there... how do I feel it now?

Oh, there are a million answers... but I need the right one for me.

Funny... that my answer arrived via Honey Baked Ham, right on our doorstep. A turkey and a quandary over what to do... then finally, a decision. Tonight we will cook... and share our meal with friends who are going out of town. A surprise pre-Thanksgiving feast. Suddenly my heart is in overdrive... wanting to make it a special evening, and somehow, I know that it will be... laced with that holiday magic and that warmth I was seeking.

Ask and it will be given you;  Search and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened for you.
Matthew 7:7
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November 18, 2010

in pursuit

One peek at the calendar and I can feel the weight of not enough time on my soul.
Thanksgiving is next week?
With a sigh, I try to grasp hold of my bearings and realize that once again, my mind is headed in too many directions. Guiding one to finish his science project and making sure the other has everything she needs for her chorus performance at the downtown tree-lighting Monday… packing up shoeboxes, looking forward to the weekend and wondering how much we can pack in… and all the while, seeking the warmth of Thanksgiving and trying to prepare for Advent. I am in pursuit of that elusive Gold Star. The one that a Mama wants to display proudly on her forehead... and I can only feel the approaching Big Black X.
Oh, to be able to do it all with a smile!
I want it… not just for them, but for me. The me I always wanted to be,  thought I would be.  While I am thankful, and truly enamored, by the grace that covers all that I cannot… I choose to strive towards my visions of how things should be, knowing with everything in me ... that it is completely unnecessary. Perhaps because… I’m sure I could count the number of years all of our excited and sleepy eyes will meet before the holiday dawn… maybe on just one hand. I can feel this life as I know it slipping and sliding into the unknown.  I don't really dwell in it... but realizing how few days remain in this year has sent me into panic mode. 
With a deep breath, and yet another, I focus on what I can do... and what is truly important.  Looking up, I change my path... and my pursuit.  A wave of confidence rolls over me and I purposefully recognize my direction... full of right turns that will bring me around in a circle.  A circle around my Savior.  And with Him in the center... I can trust that the days are enough.
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November 16, 2010

he gets it..

When it happened, I didn’t think a thing of it… but there sitting in front of the screen it started sinking in. At first it was a gasp and a flurry of rationalizing and calculating, but soon my mind lost all hope and fell to quick heavy sobs.
My pictures are… gone.
One trip over the cord, and three foot fall to the tile… is apparently death to a hard drive. Destruction to three years of photos, and whatever else was stored there in the wait to replace a dying computer.
Eric came to my side and tried to find what I could not… and tried to soothe my tears by reminding me of the beautiful album full of Africa, and the four discs of photos lying on the table- nevermind the thousands that my mother has. In all fairness, he didn’t know that I have already lost a disk of Africa, and that this was a second loss. Between gasps of breath tears I choked out I… know. And the body racking sobs set in again as I flipped through photo CD’s… 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007… Why did I trust a contraption of metal and plastic to have the sole hold on 2008, 2009, 2010? At least I had just finished uploading some of 2010 to print…
Camden slipped into the kitchen and quietly spoke Mom, memories are more important than pictures. And while my whole self knows this, the wisdom of an almost-fourteen year old boy left me to cry another river. I… need… to… be… alone.
And I was.
With a lip stuck out in a pout worthy of any two-year-old, hands clenched around the glass of water that Eric wanted me to drink, and an ache so deep down in my chest. When there was not a single tear left, I moped out to the couch and dug my hands into the soft fleece blanket and curled into myself, hoping the feelings would pass.
This morning, as I put my arms around my son for our start-of-the day hug, I told him how smart he was. That yes, photos are certainly not as important as people.
Or memories, Mom.
Yes, Cam… or memories. But they are my hold on the past… I want to always remember what your face looked like when you started middle school, during your first concert, when you turned 13. You are growing up… changing everyday, and a Mama takes pictures to preserve the days that pass too quickly.
I could feel the moisture beginning to build up behind my eyes, and maybe he could feel their presence. He stood on his toes next to me, impressed with the fact that he will tower over me, perhaps before the end of this year… and I laughed.
He gets it… and his Mama?
Well, somewhere deep inside I do. But I find myself stuck in the sadness of it, so often skipping the moment so that I can document it, knowing that I can then return to it at my leisure, and again & again.
So in my prayers that the photo files can be recovered (is this a silly prayer?) I hope also that the memories will be recovered and etched upon my soul.

Sharing this on a Tuesday... the mess of me, and the wisdom of him.
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November 15, 2010

not rushing...

I go seeking fall... poking around the store, knowing Thanksgiving is coming, wanting to wrap myself in the warmth of it, the comfort. The pumpkin spices, caramel colors and golden wheat baskets bring on fall to the full. But there, beyond the rust colored leaves and woven cornucopias I see... the sparkle of Christmas.
Oh, Christmas is coming, and before I know it, the sparkle stirs my heart.
Christmas is coming... the story, familiar and true will be retold... the promise renewed. And while I don't want to rush it, I look forward to having that promise bloom in my heart once again.
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November 12, 2010

i can't get over it...


I picked up Jesus Calling this morning to read today's entry... and I can't help but be amazed. I don't know why I wonder how He knows, but I can't get over it either. I want to shout His goodness and His knowledge from the rooftops. And so I share... again.

This is a time of abundqnce in your life. Your cup runeth over with blessings. After plodding uphill for many weeks you are now traipsing through lush meadows drenched in sunshine.

Oh yes, I am.
My heart feels light, my face is smiling.
I am off to spend tonight and tomorrow at my Mom's Christmas Bazaar with my whole family. We are even having a sleepover in the Africa Room. Hooray!

It feels like a holiday, and I receive this gift with the open hands that God desires me to. He reminds me that He is not about earning & deserving... He is about believing and receiving. My pleasure is His pleasure. Oh, thank you.

I hope your weekend is a bounty of sunshine and blessings. And... if you didn't read my last post, could you please? If you have ever known a military family, have ever wanted to help and maybe didn't know what to do or understand the emotions of it all... this might give you just a little insight.
Thanks... your friendship touches my heart.

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November 11, 2010

unsung heroes

She dresses carefully, indulges in one last spritz of perfume, and looks into the mirror with a critic's eye. 
Will he still think I am pretty? 
Will he still love me?
The answers come in the crush... his arms wrapped around her, after being away so long... tear-stained faces held in the others hands while eyes meet... home at last.  He pulls her close again, and spins her around... she, the unsung hero.

She, who put on a smile and waved goodbye, so many months ago... then wrapped her own arms around their children, making promises she doesn't have the power to keep.   She gives them everything she has... encouragement, energy, love... to fill the void until he comes home, and so often has nothing left for herself.

She is the one that holds a well of tears just behind her smile, that refuses your offer of taking the kids for a few hours... because to be alone is to have time to let the fears to slip in.  To have them away at school is far too long as it is... their touch, the only thing that is truly comforting.

She, who chooses the comfort of the couch over the lonliness of the bed that stretches into emptiness... that is far too quiet.  Unless she is lying across it weeping tears that make her wonder Can I ever stop?
 
She writes love letters and waits by the mailbox for one in return.  Her breath catches every time the phone rings... hoping that it might be him.  And when it is, she lets the untruths slip from her mouth... We are okay.  Everything is fine. 
 
She sits in the unknowing... waiting with hopes wrapped up in prayers, so proud of what he gives.  And she keeps wiping away tears, keeps trying to muster up a smile and an I'm doing just fine, keeps praying for her soldier... because it is her part.  She does what she does in service to her country... so he can serve his.  To make his job easier, to lift burdens from his heart.   It is the least she can do... and the most.

They are two, serving their country with honor and pride.
The soldier arrives home in glory... she is the unsung hero. 
And she would have it no other way...
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November 10, 2010

land of the free


A thank you note in yesterday's mail brings it all back...

Stacking crisp uniforms into his duty bag, and slipping special photos in between the layers to keep them safe on the road. And while he donned camouflage, we chose reds, whites and blues. We cut strips of paper and recorded the days happenings before adding it to the chain... and we waited for the day he'd be headed home to see it. Next week, two months... six months. Everyday was a new message and we learned not to get our hopes up. But as much as he missed being home, he was glad to be there... doing something, honored to serve. We missed him terribly, figuring out how to manage without him, but our crew of three held up the homefront, so proud of our soldier.
The years have gone by... five since he's been home for good... and thankfulness abounds. But our hearts still ache for those serving now. For friends whose hearts are separated by the great wide ocean.
We know... that freedom isn't free. That brave Americans make sacrifices for the freedom we enjoy.  And we have to believe that this land of the free is more beautiful because of those men and women who protect it.

This week... I remember the soldiers in my life, and send up a prayer for every soldier, and for our great country.
And I am thankful for this special friend who thanked my soldier, my hero.

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November 09, 2010

peace for right now

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19


I find such peace in the words... God will meet all my needs.
But even more than that? I know he gives beyond my needs.
He gives me a glimpse of His presence in the clouds...
In the warmth that comes from a loving embrace...
The music that flows from the piano... played by Cam.
He gives me the waves and the breath of the sea...
A bloom that brightens the gloom...
An I love you in the dark.
He gives me all I need... and then tops it off with more than I could want. Certainly more than I deserve.
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November 05, 2010

glimpse of winter

And just as I am accepting fall, a little bit of winter sneaks in. Just a glimpse... Florida style. Brisk breezes free to fly without the weight of the thick humid air, and a temperature that makes me want to wrap myself in layers. But not just yet... first, I want to enjoy the chill, embrace it. I let my toes tingle and my feet pick up the pace across the cold walkway. I breathe it in and know... that these days are a gift. And while I typically go without a chill from April to November... a beautiful day like this brings me right back to August... and the rush of cool air that whipped past me, and all around me, as we bumped along dirt roads in another land.
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November 04, 2010

saturday celebration


The morning was beautiful. The bright blue sky that held the sun, and the little wisp of breeze that was just passing through. We sought the narrow lengths of shade provided by the tall palm trunks, and even though it wasn't much, it was deemed enough. We set up chairs along the curb, and hung tote bags on the arms... ready to grab when the sky would begin raining candy.







This parade is a long-standing tradition in this town... and we haven't missed many in the fourteen years of calling Florida home. Looking back, there are as many years we have participated as those when we have been spectators. In the parade, or on along the curb, there is never a shortage of fun. Or candy.


We clapped, we sang, we cheered, we stood with hands coving our hearts. And I may have yelled at a little boy who ran out in front of an ATV, thinking it was Camden. How I mistook him, I will never know... if I stood those two boys together Camden would have towered over him by three feet. I somehow forget that mine are no longer little.


I will tuck this Saturday morning away as one of my favorites. Sunshine and smile on my face, friend on one side of me, and sister on the other. And six kiddos... big and small... just having fun.  (How did I not get a picture of all six?  These are the cousins!)


Oops... make that seven. That's Eric on the ATV, throwing candy to the crowd, and he had a great time, too!
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November 03, 2010

chasing the sky



My eyes are forever drawn to the sky.
The sun shining through the clouds, sending golden rays to earth, never ceases to amaze me.  I hope to capture the beauty, and yet know... that there is no holding of the sky, just as there is no holding back the years.  This morning, after passing up three or four others, I decided to take the time to seek the perfect vantage point for the glory in the sky.  But chasing the sky only turned me back around to what I know... beauty is fleeting.  Chasing the sky may be exciting, filling me with anticipation of what might lie around the bend... but perhaps there is more beauty in grasping on to one small moment and enjoying it for all its worth on this side of the bend.
I move on with my day, glancing to the sky time and again... and see that the moment has well passed now that the sun has climbed higher still. 
But tomorrow is another day... another sunrise. 
Another chance at amazement
I choose to live knowing that... and trusting that God has more beauty to reveal.
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November 01, 2010

still... and hopefully forever

I spin the beads around my wrist.
I listen for the jingle at my ears.
I reach up for it around my neck, loving the shape of it.
These are the pieces of Africa I can touch. The bits that I can hold in my hand.
There is more... the visions and memories, dancing in my mind that make me feel like Africa was last week, not three months ago.
Three months?
Oh, the tears come. Love for Africa still runs through my body... and makes my heart swell.
Forever, I hope.
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halloween this year, part 2

Just before the last hour, they made great progress. Room clean enough, graphs made- at least in rough draft... and it was on to costume creation. And sometime in that last hour, within the frenzy, it became fun again. Camden zombifying an old tee shirt & sweatpants... Laura rediscovering parts of her outfit from decades day during homecoming week. Phone calls and texts were exchanged... meeting places determined. And then... a few pictures while the sun was still high enough in the sky...

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