An open Christmas letter….

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We didn’t really do cards (or pictures or a letter) to mail this year. Life has been …. unexpected … this past year, and we have had to wisely choose to let go of some chores, some traditions, some ideas, and some ways we spend our resources of time, energy, and money in order to focus on absolute priorities. None of this means we love less , nor does it mean we have no time to think of others, hold you in our hearts, and pray God’s blessings, provisions, healing, peace, love and joy for so so many whom we hold dear.

If you follow me or any of the family at all, you know we’ve grown in numbers this last year, with Noah marrying Legend, and Michael visiting Jenna every couple of weeks. Taylor drives down for many weekends throughout the year, as well. Tom’s mom often joins us and sometimes we are blessed with visits from our dearest friends and family.

We are making new traditions and growing closer as a family with adult children. Each of us is working hard for every dollar we earn , and when we have downtime we try to squeeze as much life out of it as possible.

My heart is filled with gratitude for God’s love this Christmas Day , with an amazement for the ways He works and moves in my life and the lives of my precious family. His graciousness, merciful provisions and presence are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I have reflected on and celebrated all He is to me in this month of Advent, and I long for His love to pour out more freely from me in the year ahead.

I pray you and your family have had a joy filled Christmas. If you haven’t , if you’ve struggled with grief and loss or just been frustrated with consumerism and our culture, I hope for greater peace for you in the days to come.

May God bless and keep you and shine His face upon you, and give you peace.

Being transformed….

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Being transformed….

There is a trend I’m sure you’ve noticed the last week or so. People are posting pictures from ten years ago and comparing them to who they are today.  It makes sense given that we are about to enter a new decade. So, I jumped on that bandwagon as well, and I’ll share a few comparison pics at the end of this post.

For me, this past year is much different than ten years ago, yet oddly similar in the fact that life has been hard of late. The last few months have been a struggle for me, and frankly, for our family.  Tom’s job change and my working full time has taken a toll on my spirit.  Many days I fight inner battles to see all the good and positive blessings in my life instead of being dragged down by the ideas and illusions that life isn’t like I want it to be, and this has been an issue for me for many years in the past, but for a couple of recent years, I felt more on top of it than I have the last 8 months.

Here we are in the middle of our lives with unsettled careers and still challenged by our finances. I often see I’m still fighting the same old lifelong battles within myself, wondering when I’ll ever overcome those areas that hold me back. Yet, in reality, much has been defeated of the old me, the false self, and I live more authentically out of my true self than I ever imagined.

When I walk in truth, I see all the blessings and provisions in my life, in the life and individual lives of my little nuclear family.  The truth is that God is at work in me constantly and that I’m more aware of His presence on the daily than I was so many years ago.  I can even now recognize how His presence has been with me since I was very young, that back then I talked with Him all the time and that my current relationship with God has actually been growing since I was born.

In my heart of hearts, I can grasp that my current work is actually something I held as a desire for many years, in the back of my mind and when I would apply for jobs during my times of unemployment.  No, it isn’t what I envisioned for myself when I was in the midst of my Masters program, but it is God given and I believe it is a passsageway to whatever is next that will bring me closer to my purpose, my vocation, my calling.

Other areas of my life that remain a challenge can be summed up with my lifelong battle with discipline and sloth.  Do you know the actual meaning of sloth?  It means more than laziness [see this link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth_(deadly_sin) ]. Sloth is about choosing the easy, comfortable way, instead of making the difficult choices to do the hard work that Love (loving God, loving others, loving ourselves) requires.  Yet, “to whom much is given, much is required”, and I have been given so much of Love, and so much more than comfort is required of me.

I’ve asked God to move me through His Spirit to begin making more disciplined choices, to desire more to do the hard work of Love…..and to discern what this means for me, when I should say “yes” and when I should say “no”, knowing when I actually should act versus when I simply feel false guilt about something.  The areas where I lack discipline are obvious and not-so-obvious.  One is eating coupled with physical exertion, which would be the obvious area.  Another area has to do with surrendering my energy and time resources in trust that if I give myself away to help others that God will supply my needs for time, emotional, mental and physical energy.

My hope is that I will become more able to say yes to serving others when opportunities present themselves to do so, and that I will choose to give my “free” time in this way, instead of choosing whatever else is more comfortable to me, more relaxing, and so on.  I also hope to begin again to choose to exercise consistently and eat healthier, whereas the last 8 months have seen me eating comfort foods and avoiding the effort it takes to go to Planet Fitness.

As I write, I realize we are headed into Thanksgiving week, not New Years, and that what I’m writing seems more like a resolution post.  However, I see it more as an opportunity to begin reflections that lead me into the Advent season and on into a new decade that begins with Epiphany, with Light and Truth shed on my heart and life, starting this season of the year with a grateful heart and awareness of God’s provisions, God’s goodness, God’s gifts in my life.  This awareness is the springboard which then can point me more towards giving to others, at Christmas, yes, but even more so in the years ahead, allowing God to change me more, once again, continuing His transformation in my spirit, remaking me from the inside out.

(Romans 12:1-2  So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.)

 

 

Fall family fun ….

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Spending time with our adult children to celebrate mine and my husband’s birthdays was wonderful and exhausting! We tried to cram as much of Fall into three days as we could …

Take care of yourself…

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From The Upper Room daily devotional emails:

Today’s Reflection

IN CARING FOR OTHERS we use up a great deal of physical and mental energy. If we do not replenish these limited resources, we run the risk of compassion fatigue. We cannot fulfill our God-given callings to be compassionate human beings in bodies that are constantly neglected and overextended. How we feed, exercise, relax, listen to, and nourish our bodies are matters relevant to faithful discipleship. As Francis of Assisi lay dying, someone asked if he would have changed anything in his ministry. Significantly he responded, “I would have been more kind to my body.”

—Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion (Upper Room Books, 2005)

Today’s Question

What do you do to relax and rejuvenate? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

“You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
—1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NRSV)

Prayer for the Week

Give me the eyes to see when others hurt, the ears to hear when others cry, and the courage to bring light into their darkness.

 

WE ARE NO GOOD TO OTHERS IF WE AREN’T GOOD TO OURSELVES….but, we must learn how to take care of ourselves, not simply to indulge ourselves.

Truth and beauty…

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“God is constantly coloring outside the lines. Jesus challenges the structures that oppress and exclude, and busts through any traditions that put limitations on love. Love cannot be harnessed.

Liturgy is public poetry and art. You can make beautiful art by splashing paint on a wall, and you can also make art with the careful diligence of a sculptor. Both can be lovely, and both can be ugly. Both can be marketed and robbed of their original touch, and both have the potential to inspire and move people to do something beautiful for God.

So it is with worship. More important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real. The Scriptures tell us to “test the spirits,” and the true test of the spirit of a thing is whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbor. Does it have fruit outside of our own good feelings?

Beauty must hearken to something beyond us. It should cause us to do something beautiful for God in the world.”  Excerpted from Common Prayer Pocket Edition: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Truth for me for August 27….

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“Dallas Willard puts it well: ‘I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.’ ” (Richard Foster, Everyday Means of Grace)

“A new thing…”

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I’ve had some meaningful realizations this summer. One of those has been in regards to writing.

I have aspirations to write regularly, to be one of those disciplined writers who writes something everyday. I would like to write on this website blog, write in my book, and write poetry as an actual profession. I even have a few small children’s books written in the back of my mind and I’ve had a few poems published as well as a couple devotions.

Yet, what I’ve come to grasp this summer is that writing is a form of giving for me. It takes emotional and mental energy from me to produce well-written materials. These last few months , my energy stores have been depleted due to some ongoing life circumstances. I haven’t had it in me to write anything on a consistent basis.

In my head, I sort of beat myself up about this, feeling like I’m failing because I’m not following through with this ambition of mine. My heart acknowledges the truth of the season of life in which I find myself and offers me the reality of grace. Good self-care demands my graciousness towards myself, my limitations.

Therefore, I’m taking leave from writing here for a while. I will post pictures I take that inspire me, and I’m going to see if this space will allow me to post short video logs.

My hope is that this change will help me to move forward while still wrestling with many life transitions. Come with me on my journey. Maybe we can grow together….

Isaiah43:19 “See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”