Lessons From A Blue Denim Couch

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Day #2 of being couch-bound. Sigh.

I’ve had chronic issues with my back since I was a teen. I can sometimes go years without any problems. But lately, in anticipation of swimsuit season, I’ve been doing Pilates with furor. I think I’ve overdone it. I’ve pushed myself and injured my already-tender back.

As I lie here on my heating pad, with long stretches of the day in front of me, I am reminded of the word I chose for this New Year. Experience. I decided to “experience” life in all of its fullness in 2013, completely living in each moment. I’d savor tastes, treasure each season, and bubble over with laughter. As I pictured myself engaging in “experience” for this year, I had a glowing, rose-tinged mental image of relishing a sunset on Waikiki beach with my family of five, our arms entwined. I have no idea why that image came to mind, because a trip to Hawaii is not anywhere in our plans for the year. Wishful, romantic thinking? Instead, here I lie on my blue denim couch on this snowy day, thinking about my dishwasher that needs unloading.

I often wait for Real Life to happen. When I was single, I thought my life would truly begin when I got married. Then I wanted to have children so badly, I thought that my Real Life would be when I became a mother. I’ve often wished to rush Winter away, so I can live in the fun of Summer. I want Monday through Thursday to speed by, so I can enjoy the weekend. You get the picture. Hence my choosing the word, Experience.

So how do I live in a way today, given my injured back, that I “experience” this? Because, as I am learning, my Real Life is happening right now. This is a moment of my life. God gave me this moment, He is in this moment, and I believe He wants me to be present to it. My Real Life does not occur only when my back is healed and I can be up and about. My Real Life is happening now. Right here on this denim couch.

So, as I lie here, I am contemplating how I can live in such a way that I honor my chosen word. I can “experience” my back discomfort today, really feel it, and appreciate that most of the time I am active and pain-free. I can “experience” feeling compassion for some groups of people I rarely think about, those who experience chronic pain and those who are disabled. I can pray for them.

I can look around and appreciate some of the gifts that this enforced day of rest brings: The  feel of warmth from my heating pad, the beauty of the frosty trees that peak through my window, the quiet hum of the refrigerator, the the furry companionship of my kitties.

I can appreciate and “experience” the luxury of having the time to do things that my active self normally feels guilty about doing, such as reading a juicy thriller I’ve been eyeing.

I can exercise my “ask” muscle and recognize that sometimes I need help. I can ask my college son, home for spring break, to empty that dishwasher for me. I can give him an opportunity to serve his invalid mother and I can experience being cared for.

Perhaps God will give me some lessons of “experience” on a sunset beach in 2013. I would love that! Please God? But, for today, He is teaching me some lessons of “experience” from a blue denim couch.

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on March 6, 2013. 1 Comment

A New Year Prayer

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A New Year prayer to bless you.

This is from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan poems and devotions. I love to begin the New Year with a tradition of praying this prayer with my husband. We hand over our year to God, putting all the details and experiences to come into His hands.

 

O Lord,

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

with thee, O Father as my harbour,

thee, O Son, at my helm.

thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,

thy  comforts to cheer,

thy wisdom to teach,

thy right hand to guide,

thy counsel to instruct,

thy law to judge,

thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,

they triumphs my joy.

Length of days does not profit me

except the days are passed in thy presence,

in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains,

sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee,

but may rely on thy Spirit

to supply every thought,

speak in every word,

direct in every step,

prosper every work,

build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire

to show forth they praise;

testify they love,

advance they kingdom.

 

Amen.

 

May you be blessed, my friends!

This entry was posted on January 1, 2013. 1 Comment

Advent 2012 (Part 2) On Waiting

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I joined a group of parents hovering around the outdoor sign at my son’s school this morning. We gathered together to pray for the community of Sandy Hook. We also prayed for the safety of our children’s school. I came home with a heavy heart, feeling a solidarity with parents around the nation who sent their little ones to school today with twinges of fear and helplessness. I poured a fresh cup of coffee, lit a candle, and settled down for a personal quiet time. I opened the  Advent lectionary verse for the day from Zephaniah 3: “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion….the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.” How I love it when God speaks directly to my heart!  Lord, be in the midst of my children’s schools! I will hold fast to that scripture in this season of fear.

During Advent, we celebrate coming:  The arrival of the first coming of Jesus. And we anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ. It probably won’t be in my lifetime. But, especially after an unfathomable tragedy like the shootings at Sandy Hook, I long for the day, as the Bible says, when every tear will be wiped away. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain….” Revelations 21:4. I am waiting for that with longing.

I have friends who are waiting for employment. Waiting for a healing. Waiting for a baby. Waiting for a prodigal child to return. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Please, God, we’re waiting.

Besides the tradition of lighting the candles on the wreath, I want to use the season of Advent to engage in spiritual practices that form more of Christ in my heart, for the sake of others. I want to know, come January, that I am more then of what I am not now.

What am I not? I am not patient by nature. I don’t wait well. I am fast-paced and have little regard for slowness. So, I am practicing slowing down. I am doing this in some small ways. I am deliberately choosing the longest line in the grocery store. I am letting other cars pull in front of me on the road. I am trying to listen to others tell their stories before I blurt out mine.

I am also longing for a tear-less world of peace that Revelations speaks of. Therefore, I am practicing being a peacemaker. I am biting my tongue instead of giving a quick quip. I am trying to reach out in love to those that are hard for me to love. I am trying to let slights go.

I am attempting to bless others with patience and peace, with the hope that God shapes me into that kind of person for real. That’s the very mystical thing about spiritual practices…..God uses them to form more of Christ in our hearts. We practice…..and He shapes us.

What is something that you are waiting for? Consider you could engage in the Advent season in a way that lets God change you for the better. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

This entry was posted on December 17, 2012. 1 Comment

Advent 2012 (Part 1)

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I grew up in a church tradition that celebrated Advent. Along with decorating the  tree, lighting the Advent candles at the dinner table was a visual and spiritual marker that represented the beginning of the Christmas season.

We’ve attended a non-liturgical church for the past 16 years that doesn’t celebrate Advent. I was okay with that for a long time.  I didn’t want to engage in any practice that reminded me of some of the things I didn’t like about the church in which I grew up. But, over the past few years, I’ve longed for a practice that bookends the Christmas season. One that didn’t involve consumerism. A spiritual practice. I realized that I missed celebrating Advent.

A few years ago, I told my family that we were resurrecting an old tradition. I pulled my Advent wreath out of the basement, bought the pink and purple candles and a little Advent booklet,  and we began. Now it’s become a sacred tradition in our home.

Yes, that is a Jewish dreidel in my Christian Advent wreath. I put that in because I like to be ironic. Also, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. So, in my book, it works.

My youngest son has a good friend who is Jewish. He likes that we light the Advent candles, much like his friend lights the candles on the Menorah. I like that, too. I also love the thought that we are joining a community of believers around the world who are lighting their Advent candles around their dinner tables as well. It makes me feel connected to the bigger Church as a whole.

Do you celebrate Advent? If you’d like to begin, just start with any candle. We use a traditional wreath with one purple candles and one pink that mark the four weeks before Christmas. The pink is the last one to be used. We light our candle, read a portion of Scripture, and sing a hymn, such as “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” The Trapp Family we are not. But that’s okay. We aren’t performing. Our kitties are the only ones who hear us.

I will write more about Advent during the coming days. Do you have an Advent tradition?

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 3, 2012. 1 Comment

It’s Not Just A Tea Cart

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I have kept a little white bookshelf in my kitchen for the past dozen or so years. It represented my Life As Homeschool Mom and was filled with all sorts of books; current curriculum, references, and my favorite childhood reads.

A few weeks ago we chose to put our youngest back in school. It was the right decision, one born out of much thought and prayer. He’s happy and thriving, is reconnecting with friends and loves his teacher. It was clearly a God-inspired leading. Whew! One major transition executed pretty painlessly. That makes me a happy mommy.

On the heels of Little Squirt’s re-entry to school, I moved the bookshelf down into the basement, and replaced it with my tea cart. I wanted to mark this new season of Retirement From Life As Homeschool Mom with a bit of purposeful decorating. My tea cart is more than just a carrier of tea things. It represents my new life season. My Year of Space.

On the bottom shelf of the tea cart I placed my art books. I have collected these over the years, and love to peruse the pages, soak up the beauty, and share my favorite pictures with my kids. I come from a family of artists. I have an artist’s heart, and dabble in drama and writing. I’d love to  take some time, now, to explore the visual arts. Perhaps I’ll draw or paint. Or maybe I’ll take a class. During My Year of Space, I have the space to find out if this is a new love or hidden talent of mine. Or maybe I’ll resurrect my drama skills. We’ll see.

In my tea cart’s glass case I display a few favorite china pitchers and tea cups and my crystal creamer. Some were gifts, and one was a trinket from our honeymoon in London. Coffee is my drink of choice, first thing in the morning. It wakes me up and stimulates my mind. But tea is my drink of choice when attempting to unwind. I love a late afternoon break with Earl Grey, sipping and pausing, breathing deeply. I reflect with envy on my U.K. ancestors who settled down ceremoniously for afternoon tea and scones. That, my friends, is living.

I also associate tea with friendships. I remember coming home from school as a little girl and seeing my mother enjoy a “cuppa” with a neighbor. I’d do my homework to the sounds of their conversation and laughter, feeling warm inside. I, too, love to meet friends for tea. And in this season of my life, I have the space and time to invest more into my friendships…to linger over that jasmine green while fully being present to them, without one eye on the clock. I have more time to deepen some friendships now. That is always a good thing.

On the top shelf of my tea cart is one of my favorite pictures of my children, taken years ago. I was homeschooling two at the time, with a toddler in tow. It was a crazy, busy season of life, but I loved every minute of it. I was born to be a mom. I adore mothering my children. I have two young adult children in college now, and my relationship with them is changing. My mothering is transitioning into mentoring. My role as mother is changing into one of friend. It’s new for all of us. I’ve never done this before! But we’re learning together.

So, in this season between Homeschooling and Job, I am living in My Year of Space. It is my time for a bit of ME…to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life, explore some new territory, take some pauses, enjoy my friendships, and learn to parent adult children well.

If you are over at my house, feel free to browse the art books on my tea cart. Then I’ll pour you a hot cup of lemon zinger, and we can sit, relax, and talk about life.

This entry was posted on November 5, 2012. 2 Comments

Seeking God For My City

My church is engaging in a national prayer initiative called Seek God For the City. We are joining, in spirit, churches around the country who are praying for their own cities during Lent.

Every evening after dinner, my husband, children and I pass the prayer guide around the kitchen table, and, together, lift the needs of our city up to God. The guide has led us to pray for spiritual awakening, transformation of communities, and reconciliation of relationships. We have prayed for the marriages, college students, homeless and elderly of our city, to name a few. I am thoroughly enjoying this time with my family, and trust that God is using our prayers.

I’ve lived in my particular city for over twenty years. Other than appreciating its lakes, the good school system, the quiet orderly neighborhoods and restaurant choices, I don’t usually give my city a whole lot of prayer thought beyond my family’s needs. I have prayed for my city during tornado warnings and blizzards. I’ve prayed for it when my teens are driving on its roads or trick-or-treating on Halloween. I’ve prayed during election time. You know. Self-absorbed prayers.

Yet, in intentionally seeking God for my city, what has been so unexpected has been the transformation in me. While I’ve prayed in deeper, more strategic ways for my city, God has worked on my heart. He’s tenderized it to care and notice and intercede in fresh, new ways. My eyes see, really see my city, as if for the first time.

I pass a bicyclist on the street….feel myself getting concerned about her safety, and I pray.

I drive by a struggling restaurant….opened with great hope by a family…their livelihood….and I pray.

I watch the families cavorting at the park….wonder about their stories, and I pray.

My heart softens toward a neighbor who never looks my way. I pray.

I watch the wind ripple the lake…feel thankful for the summers of joy it’s given my children…think about all the people who will flock its beaches soon, and I pray.

I pick up a few pieces of rogue trash on my lawn, blown by the wind on garbage day…..consider the ways my life is entwined with the residents, the laborers, the business owners of the city….and I pray.

Thoughts on Lent

During my childhood, I gave up gum for Lent every year. In the way that I understood it, we were supposed to let go of something important to us during that season of remembering Christ’s work on the cross. Gum was important to me. I loved the taste, the comforting rhythm of the chomping, and I thought that chewing gum made me look cool. But, in all honestly, gum wasn’t really that special to me. It was fairly easy to give up for Lent, which was why I chose it. Call me a Lenten Slacker. Chocolate, though. That would have been a real sacrifice!

I have attended a non-liturgical church for most of my married life, and for years we didn’t really acknowledge the Lenten season much, other than to notice the “Fish Fry Fridays” sign on the lawn of the nearby Catholic Church. But over the years, I began to miss entering into the rhythms of the church season. I’ve longed to inhabit the story of Christ through celebrating the liturgical year.

We’ve brought these traditions back to our family. We’ve become a couple who googles local church services on Ash Wednesday. We encourage our children to consider these questions during the Lenten season: What takes your attention away from God? Will you considering detaching from something in order to attach more fully to Christ? I teach my children that the point is not just to “give something up” during Lent. Our daily goal should be to become more formed into Christ’s image. What is preventing that from happening more fully in their souls? What can they do about that during Lent?

I’m going to do a bit of unplugging for Lent. I generally wake up in the morning anxious to taste my first cup of coffee and turn on my laptop. My mind wakes up as I read a few blogs, check my email and Facebook, and peruse  Pinterest. None of those things are bad, but I can get caught up in technology to an unhealthy degree. A better choice for me would be to ease into my day from a place of peace, not from a place of technology. I am detaching from my need to plug-in first thing in the mornings. Before I do anything else, other than pour that cup of coffee, I will put on my Gregorian chant music, pick up my Bible and prayer books, and enjoy some good Solitude time with God as the sun rises. I realize that my attachment to technology, first thing in the morning, has become an intrusion into beginning my day well with God.

Is there something you might consider detaching from for Lent, to give room for God to work more fully in your soul? Do you need to detach from a certain food, an unhealthy relationship, a hurried schedule, or gossip? Or perhaps there’s a life-giving spiritual practice to begin incorporating into your day as a new Lenten discipline. Don’t be distressed if you find yourself failing at it. It’s not about being perfect! It’s about moving toward God. His mercies are new every morning!