We are all unique minorities of one

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No one has the exact experiences or traits as any other one person. The closest any person can come to having the same set of traits and experiences as anyone else is in the case of identical twins. Nature and nurture considered, circumstances and situations, personality types and mental capacities, every little nuance in each individual’s life means that it is pretty near impossible for anyone to be able to fully understand where someone else is coming from when they live, react, make choices, and journey through life’s ups and downs.

All that being said, no individual can pass judgement on someone else by comparing their circumstances and actions to one’s own. We can have a level of empathy from going through very similar situations at times, and some people have an empathic ability that can truly feel what someone else is feeling and sit with them in that feeling, even if that empath hasn’t truly experienced the other’s same set of troubles or sorrows. But, beyond that empathy, we don’t , in this life, truly know the other person’s nuances of experiences, character traits, family situations, reasons for choices, and so on.

Therefore, how can anyone assume to grasp what another is feeling and suffering and then purport to exclaim that the one who is struggling shouldn’t need to do so if they would just choose to live life the way that the other person, the one who is judging, has lived? How can any person make a blanket statement that generalizes the circumstances of another, or a group of others, casting judgements, stating opinions, and saying that those others need to be doing life differently, better, handling the blows of life more like the one who is making the generalizations?

Until we reach eternity and know as we are known, we would be wise to sit and listen to others, to consider their stories and the nuances of their lives, finding connections, yes, but reveling in the differences, learning from the varieties of perspectives of every person whom we meet. Welcoming each other in and all of our stories to be told is the essence of intellectual hospitality, and really, just plan ole hospitality. God ultimately made us for union with God and with one another, but the fullness of that reality will not be met until the other side of our current life as we know it. From this moment forward until we are beyond death and dwelling in the forever after, each of us as individuals can only reach towards unity if we are willing to forego our preconceived notions of how others “should” act and react, and then open ourselves to learning all we can of each other’s differences, the depths of the beauty and mystery found in each person’s unique minority.

No time like the present…

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What seems like a very long time ago, and it has been over 20 years, I spent much of my time either dwelling on circumstances that had already passed or thinking of scenarios that might happen in the future. I would replay events and conversations that had happened, over and over in my head, or my imagination would create potential actions and words of conversations that I could have in my future. I was stuck in a cycle that kept me from actually living in the moments I was experiencing.

It took many years of God working through friends and books, through Bible studies and songs, and even some therapy, to get me to a place where I began to be intentional about living in the present moment. I consciously fought to shut out the what-ifs or might-have-beens, and instead, to focus on what was the reality before me. Breath prayers, talking with God throughout each moment of my day, and purposeful mindfulness pushed me forward.

These last couple of years, I find I am keenly aware of the present, and rarely do I find myself mulling over past moments or being concerned about the future. This place of groundedness and peace has not come easy, and the events of reality in our world at large, and sometimes in my small little corner of it, still tempt me at times to want to escape from the present moment. I confess I sometimes do escape by getting lost in a story on one streaming service or another.

Nature is one constant that can always bring me back to the present moment, whether it’s watching birds eat at the feeder out my back window in the winter or noticing all the beautiful flowers on my walk around our neighborhood in summer or seeing the squirrels playing all through the trees behind our house all year long. I can depend on creation to bring me back to my center because it always directs my focus to the Creator of all, who is I AM , the ultimate source of all that is the present.

Through the lens of love…

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I had the opportunity to visit where our family used to live last week. A park is there that was created within and around the ruins of an old glass plant that had once been a booming business hub for the area. As you look at these pictures, it may simply seem like modern art, or one could easily dismiss them as the ruins they are. Another viewpoint would be to view them as a redeeming of what was lost and repurposing of these ruins as a place of beauty that offers the community a lovely place to gather, to exercise, to fish, to bike, to have fun as families and friends. How you view these remains is completely dependent on the lens you use…

It reminded me of the work of Jesus in my life and the lives of anyone who believes in Him as the Son of God, and chooses to follow His example of life, of service, of death, and of love. I see the same examples in nature as Spring bursts forth with flowers, new life from the old dead ruins from last year’s growing season. It’s that simple to grasp, no matter the complexities that evolve as we delve deeper into following Him, the starting point is simply a matter of a choice to believe and follow….yet again, completely dependent on the lens you use, how you choose to see it all.

May we continually choose to see through the lens of love….

Thinking about my dad….

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This week marked what would have been my dad’s 100th birthday. He passed away in 1987, though, at the age of 65. I never had the opportunity to know and love him during my adult life, since I was 19 when he passed.

I almost died when I was 2 years old, from asthma. My earliest memory actually comes from this trauma. I recall being in bed, someone caring for me, and having difficulty breathing. At the time, I had no idea of the importance of all that was happening, of course. I really only know from the stories of others that mom and dad were so worried and it took a while for them to discern what was causing me to be asthmatic.

My dad raised doves. He had a large cinder block dove cage up on the hill behind our house. He would come in from tending them and I suppose I would hug him or sit on his lap. As it turns out, I was, and am, allergic to doves. I’m actually allergic to all feathers, even in a feather pillow, as well as all other animals with fur…except dogs.

Dad gave up the doves, letting them go to live in the wood on the hill behind our home. I got better, though I did have a lot of other allergy problems and was given dimetapp to get me through all the symptoms for all my years of growing up. I don’t have any clue why mom and dad didn’t take me to an allergist to get tested or have me put on allergy shots. I do know that my dad became hyperaware of anything that might affect my breathing.

When I became a teen and started messing with my hair more, and using hair spray, dad would often express concern about the spray. It aggravated me at the time, as most teens would react to well-meaning parental concern. I didn’t understand why he was concerned at the time, but as I think back, and now that I’ve been a parent myself for these past 28 years, I can get why he was worried, albeit misplaced.

My dad loved me, and though he wasn’t perfect, he showed his care for me, his pride in who I was, and his belief in who I was becoming. No, I didn’t know him as an adult daughter should know her father, but in my memories of him, I’ve had this wonderful gift. Everywhere I’ve lived over these years, there have been doves who nest somewhere close to my home. I hear them coo in their mournful way, and I am comforted, reminded of my dad and the sacrifice he made so that I could be well.

An island of lizards, chickens, and frogs…

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…cats too! Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 … what a beautiful and fascinating place!

Our family was blessed with the gift of a family trip from our oldest son to all the other 6 of us, to cover 2021 birthdays and Christmas presents. It was much needed, and it was the first time for all 7 of us to do a trip together. What an overall joy it was!

There were chickens and lizards round every corner , it seemed. Crowing woke us each morning, for several hours, and the croaking of the Coqui 🐸 frogs soothed us each evening as we shared dinner and played games on the patio. (The frogs were too elusive for a pic). Cats were wondering around many yards and streets as well, with a sweet black cat, Onyx, taking up residence in our Airbnb’s courtyard. (who crawled up behind me on the chair as I was putting bandaids on Jenna😊).

Yes, we had some injuries, along with sunburns. Michael fractured/broke/jammed a toe on a rock in the ocean, and Jenna twisted her ankle and got some scrapes when she fell off /wrecked a scooter. Also, I had plenty of blisters from all the walking we did, so we were very thankful for the first aid kits provided !

There were such stark contrasts all around us between the poverty and the upper class /tourist areas. You may not know, as I didn’t, that almost 50% of Puerto Ricans are living below the poverty line. Some of this can surely be contributed to by all the damage the island has had from hurricanes, but beyond that, the deeper issues seem to relate to the fact of their being a part of the US and the negative impact the US government’s economic “rules” have had on the Puerto Rican people. It saddened me, and I won’t soon forget these facts of life there.

Friday night, we ate at a cute gastro pub type of restaurant on Condado. Legend wanted to find a place for dancing and our server suggested La Placita. It was only a mile away and I was tired of Ubering everywhere, so I thought we could handle walking. This was a big mistake!! That mile took us into some very questionable neighborhoods and Michael’s toe was throbbing, as well as my getting more blisters. La Placita turned out to be a fun, culturally enticing place, but we were too early for the dancing and all exhausted after the long walk. No pics taken during this little jaunt, but we definitely learned the hard way… if we ever return, I’d for sure go back to La Placita, particularly in the daytime, for the open air market.

T-Mobile district/convention arena

Of course, the natural beauty was breathtaking, and much of the architecture of Old San Juan was incredible. The Fort of Castillo San Felipe del Morro was especially impactful.

Naturally, we ate some great meals while there. Barbacoa was our first night and had the best guacamole and fresh mojitos. Old San Juan was fun to find a simple cafe for paninis and such, then we went for churros and ice cream in the T mobile district. Shrimp tacos in Condado were fabulous, and we tried Mofongo and fried plaintain. Breakfast out at Cafe’ Bistro after sunrise on Saturday was amazing!

Of course, the time at the ocean was my favorite part! We ended our trip with a final walk to enjoy the sun and sand and water one last time…

I’m so very thankful for this time to get away and just be a family together.

Becoming second nature…

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I’ve watched people walk by my window for a number of years and thought, “I want to be a person that walks on a regular basis.” There were times in my past, more often than not, that I was that person, but for quite a number of years now, that hasn’t been me.

It’s not that I haven’t walked at all. I have had my share of times when I’ve walked around the neighborhood or gone to “hike” in the arboretum down the street. I just haven’t been consistent.

Last year, my bloodwork showed that my bad cholesterol had gotten higher than my good cholesterol (though my overall cholesterol was still “normal”). I took some action with my diet and added in an Omega 3 supplement that I thought would help. After a few months, my bloodwork showed very little change. I told my doctor I didn’t understand, and she said that consistent exercise is really the best way to keep cholesterol in check.

Well, 5 months later, in October, after I turned 54, I decided to commit to following this walking app I had found. I told myself I would follow it for 12 weeks. Technically, that 12 weeks should almost be up, but I’m still working the plan. There were days when I had so much other physical activity from yard work, or walking all day Christmas shopping, that I figured I could skip using the app. Then, there were days that were too busy with holidays, family gatherings, travel, weather, etc. However, I haven’t given up.

After the first 6 weeks, it was time again for bloodwork, and to my satisfaction, my cholesterol had decreased overall as well as specifically bringing down my bad cholesterol. It’s working and that was just the motivation I needed to keep going with following the walking app. I won’t stop until I complete the 12 weeks on the app….and then , I still won’t stop.

I’m becoming that walking person that I desired to be and I don’t ever want to go back to being a person who just watches the walking people go by. Walking is once again becoming second nature to me. I desire it, and this is such a positive thing for me!

The fact is, this is how we develop and grow into people of virtue. We choose behaviors, consistently, day after day, following disciplines, that turn into habits, and the more we repeat them, the more they become a part of who we are. There are things that come more natural to us that we picked up as children that seem like they’ve always been a part of who we are; loving to learn has been that way for me. Yet, other good behaviors haven’t come so naturally to me, and those require more concentrated effort, choices to be disciplined, to develop habits that will eventually become second nature.

Four and a half years ago, God opened the way for us to move to this neighborhood and into our home, both of which have felt like places with more space to breathe, to be and to become. Now that I’ve allowed the influences and inspiration around me to lead me to become a walking person, that victory is pushing me forward to work on some other habits that have needed my attention, other behaviors I want to change or new ones to develop. I’m so thankful to have more emotional and mental space in my life now so that I can think through choices that lead me to disciplines that will overcome some bad habits, developing new ones that will become second nature, in time.

I’m thanking God for his answers to my prayers, for his ways of working things for my good, for his provisions and his care. “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps. 118:5-6)

God empathizes with us….

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This Advent season was a time of contemplation for me, though I was outwardly busy with the usual buying of gifts, preparing for family gatherings, decking the halls and such…. From the first part of December forward, I had one line of thought running through my mind and heart. God empathizes with us; God sits with us in our sorrows and our struggles and completely understands all that we are experiencing.

Why and How? Because of Jesus coming and putting on our flesh, walking where we have walked, feeling hungry, having sadnesses and joys in his life, getting tired and having sore feet from walking all over Israel….everything that Jesus experienced as a man enabled God to fully understand us as humans. God has always been love as primarily who God is, but because of Jesus, God’s love for us grew even deeper. I keep thinking that maybe this is why the God of the Old Testament seems a bit different than the God of the New Testament….

My heart has been soothed in ways I never fully realized prior to this Christmas season. I want to encourage you to invite God to come sit with you in your hard human places and to let God love you there, to realize that God fully understands what you are dealing with as a human, God truly empathizes…. as our world has gone crazy with the chaos of Covid and climate change, and all the ways life has challenged us as humans, as a country, as individuals, in these last couple years….God gets it in ways we probably don’t even yet understand ourselves.

As 2022 begins and we end up the 12 days of Christmas with Epiphany on January 6, I hope for you to feel a new Light in your spirit as you let God into your world just a little further…. God’s love brings a Light that will shine for you in all your darknesses when all other lights have gone out. I pray that you feel God’s Presence and Light in all the times and seasons ahead in this year.

A Time for Everything – Ecclesiastes

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet, no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

The world has changed and so have I…

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I’m not who I used to be. The world has changed and I don’t feel like me. At least not in many ways that had seemed stable before so much happened that made me feel incapable.

It started before 2020 impacted all of creation. My little self was rocked before Covid hit our nation.

March 2019 is when it started with an injury to my ankle. I had no idea that was the beginning of a long term of feeling downhearted.

Yet, as I think back, I wonder if a lot of other griefs piled one on another actually changed me and the events of 2020 finally unraveled any thread that had been holding my old self together.

Death and loss were a part of life for me since I was little. Being the baby of 8, with older parents, in a blended family, I remember many extended family members passing away when I was young and mom taking me to viewings with her, probably so she wouldn’t have to go alone or maybe just because I was young and no one was home to watch me. Also, I remember many comings and goings of my siblings, who were older, and having to say goodbye a lot, with brothers who were in the custody of their mom and siblings already married and living far away. “Losing” people seemed a natural part of life to me, always, but the sadness was still real and impacted me.

One set of my grandparents had passed away before I was born. My others lived most of my growing up years, with mom’s dad passing away when I was about 12, and her mom passing away when I was 18. I also lost a very close church friend when I was in 8th grade, she was in 7th and struck by a car. I remember that hitting me harder than any loss previously. A close friend’s dad passed when I was in high school and a classmate of mine died in a car accident my senior year. All of these impacted me more significantly at that time of my life, and I think they changed me some.

My dad passed away in 1987, somewhat unexpectedly, yet not, since he had congestive heart failure. Then, in 1989, one of my brothers died from cancer and one of my sisters found out she had stage 4 cancer. She miraculously won her battle with cancer and did not pass away until 22 years later from complications of the damage caused by the side effects from cancer treatments. Nevertheless, her challenges and tenuous hold on life affected me greatly.

In 1990, my closest in age brother left his wife, who had become my best friend and like a real sister, since she was closer in age to me than my sisters. This tore my heart in many ways that I didn’t fully comprehend at that time.

Our first born came into our lives in 1993. We were overjoyed. My heart was torn when I had to go back to work when he was 6 weeks old and I had to put him in all-day daycare. Everyday, I had to release him into the care of others and accept that I needed their help to raise our little boy. Then, in 1996, when our second son was born, I was able to stay home with him longer than the 6 weeks, but ended up having to return to work in a daycare where I could take my oldest with me, but couldn’t take the younger since he was in diapers, so I once again had to leave him with others and trust him to their care. I remember crying most days when I had to leave my boys. I was also mourning the loss of what I had dreamed/hoped my life would be, a stay at home mom.

Then in 1998, we came very close to losing our precious 6 day old daughter. We prayed to release her to God, no matter what, as we waited while the doctors performed emergency surgery to have her on dialysis to try to get her kidneys to work again. The doctors were astounded that she survived. We were so humbled and thankful for God’s blessing of sparing her life, yet, still the idea of the loss and releasing her to God, brought me low in my spirit.

As school progressed for my children, each step of their growth was another letting go, as it is with every parent. There is a type of loss here, accepting that we aren’t able to be everything our kids need. Yes, it’s a natural part of our lives as parents, but nonetheless, it shapes our hearts more than we realize.

It was early in the 2010’s when the next significant loss through death came crashing into my life and the lives of my family. The waves of grief hit one after another starting with the passing of one of mine and my husband’s dearest lifelong college friends, who died from brain cancer. Then, in quick succession, my closest uncle passed, then my closest aunt and then her husband, followed closely by my sister who had had cancer in 1989, then my husband’s father-in-law, who had been like a “second dad” to me and the best of grandpas to our children. Another brother passed from complications with diabetes. In the midst of that, my brother closest in age to me also almost passed away with a serious medical condition that has lingered with several other close calls over the last 8 years.

Our family also journeyed through some terribly heart-rending friendship betrayals and losses from 2005 to around 2017. This included being torn away from a community of work, church, school, and college alumni in a manner that ripped all of us to our cores. I think we all developed some armor of protection around us during these times and learned a new way of living in relationship with others.

Then, my mom began to show evidence of some memory loss and decline. She had already been moved to an assisted living center, but around 2016, we had to move her to a memory care unit for her own protection. My heart literally hurt every time I visited with her. We would share laughs many times, but also a lot of tears. She would experience rapid downward progression with her dementia and then stabilize. For 3 years, I felt that I said a final goodbye at the end of each visit we had. 2019 was the worst.

A month after my ankle injury, mom had another decline that sent her to a hospital and we learned her body had forgotten how to properly chew and swallow. Because of this, she had to be on a strictly liquid/pureed diet so she wouldn’t aspirate her food. A month or so later she experienced times of falling asleep in her wheelchair and falling out of it, which precipitated her being moved to a special reclining wheelchair that she couldn’t move on her own, therefore, she lost her ability to move around the halls and be on her own, which she much preferred.

Her final decline hit rapidly after that. She passed away at the end of December 2019. Of course, I had been prepared somewhat for this loss, and in some ways, it was a relief to see her battle with dementia come to an end. Death is still final, though, and losing mom made me more aware than ever how much I still long for mothering in my life.

Not as serious, but also a loss, my ankle injury caused me to lose my own mobility for a very long recovery time. Coupled with the stresses of mom’s decline and subsequent passing, I gained back weight I had lost. This blow continues to challenge me in the aftermath of the pandemic, because of my lifelong struggle with my weight. I now feel incapable of the emotional strength I know that is required of me to wage war against this battle that has drained so much from me since I was very young and first put on diets by doctors who didn’t know better back in the 70’s.

Now, in this year of 2021, one of my two living sisters has had to go into memory care. I wasn’t prepared for this, as were none of us in this family, especially her husband, girls, and grandkids. My heart feels unable to face this and, for the first time in my life, denial, or maybe avoidance, has crept in as a means of managing the grief and the struggle it is emotionally for me to go visit her.

There are other losses I could detail, but I won’t because not everything needs to be shared in a public setting. I also don’t want to come across as simply having a pity party or making excuses for myself. I’m not looking for answers from whomever reads this, nor am I looking for sympathy from others. I always desire empathy/understanding, in all parts of my life. However, my point of writing this is to sort through it all for my own self-care. I am trying to find a new way to move forward amidst all this loss and all that continues in this world with the pandemic, wars, racism, etc. I’m trying to wrestle with the acceptance of my humanity and limitations, to stop beating myself up over the fact that I’ve been brought low by all of this and to accept my inability to lose weight due to my emotions being made worse because of the heaviness of everything that has happened up to this point in my journey.

I do hope this serves to encourage someone else who may be struggling, to know they aren’t alone and to give permission to be human, to feel grief and loss and sadness, to accept that these losses over the course of a lifetime can sometimes create a “weight” in our souls that becomes too much to bear. We need help and support to get through without doing ourselves in with our vices. My vice is in the form of food, not binging, but not being able to live in strict control of limitations of what to eat and how much to exercise. I still fight every day to make wise choices and not let it overtake me, but the emotional energy I need to be more strict and intentional with weight loss is being used elsewhere, to keep me working every day, to push me to be present for my family and friends, to make me strong in dealing with bills and the day-to-day of life, and so on. I just don’t have it in me right now to follow an eating plan and exercise plan with huge restrictions, but, knowing I have medical needs that are impacted by my weight, I know that food has to be managed and I do need to lose.

So, what can I do to change? How much longer do I ride out this downward wave of sadness and grief ? I’ve never stopped trying to eat better and exercise more, but in the last two years, I have failed every single weight loss/management tool, trick, plan that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!). My daughter’s wedding is in 2 weeks, and after that I feel I will finally have more headspace and some emotions freed up to allow me to use my free time to walk more and go to Planet Fitness, to truly cut back on all the comforting carbs (can I confess how much I’ve craved mac and cheese the last few months?!?). I’ll also be turning 54 in October and I feel hopeful that weight loss before I turn 55 , that I had intended for the year before I turned 50, could be a real goal to pursue.

Therefore, I’ve written this to push me forward to take the turn in the road of my journey and break off of this path that has far too many ruts in it . Yes, the world has changed and so have I, but in many ways, I’ve changed for the better; I want to focus on that and let it influence this huge area of my life that seems like it’s only gotten worse…

Not over or under or around, but through…

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Not over or under or around, but through…

It’s been far too long since I’ve felt like writing here. Those who know me well would understand that when I’m silent, I am processing and gaining understanding. This past year has given me much to contemplate and sort out, and I haven’t had the words to put together to encapsulate my complete thoughts much of the time, mainly because my thoughts haven’t felt complete.

This puts me in mind of the Matrix movie. For those who are Matrix fans, you’ll remember that Neo learns entire new skills by a program being downloaded into his “main frame”/brain. Neo’s learning happens in a flash…. Me, on the other hand, my new programming can take a long time to process, especially when it’s undoing old learning and re-programming me to think in completely new ways.

I can’t actually say I’m finished yet, with the re-programming, but I have had some breakthroughs in the last couple of months that I do think I’m ready to begin sharing, even while still in process. The major breakthrough I’ve had seems to have become a theme for me during this season, and it is: “There’s no way out but through.”

I feel like I should have learned this so many years ago, and truly, maybe it’s just been a progression of learning it over time and life’s experiences. However, this past year, in particular, as well as some specific challenges that have presented themselves to me and/or some family over the last few months, have made this truth hit home in an entirely new way. I feel like I’ve been forced to sit with this and reckon with it from a fresh perspective and that God has truly been working in my life circumstances to really bring this home as a part of my truth and understanding of living into all that God uses to transform me/us into who He meant us to be from the start.

This truth can actually be summarized as how we learn the virtue of perseverance. We all have to face the facts at some point in our lives that there are situations that can’t be avoided or short-cutted. Sometimes, we just have to do the hard work of slowly working through a tough time in order to get through to the other side.

I have experienced this directly in the last few months with an experience of choosing to take a side road to get out of a traffic backup. I have to laugh now, but at the time, it was a situation that sent me straight to praying out loud and singing hymns from my childhood to help me persevere through the dark, snowy night and the twists and turns on a gravel road that definitely wasn’t made for two cars at a time. I journeyed through backroads that put me in mind of terrible movies like Deliverance and crime shows like Criminal Minds. I gripped hard to the steering wheel, all the while thanking God for every sign of civilization I came across and asking Him for safety and relief from the blinding snow (the kind where you feel like you’ve suddenly chosen to travel at light speed in the Millennium Falcon). The same thought rang through the back of my mind that entire hour on that detour I chose to take….there is no way out of this except to keep pressing forward until the end, which I was hoping would get me back to the highway and on the other side of the traffic backup (and it did).

There are so many circumstances in life to which I’ve been realizing this applies. I see it in mine and my husband’s mid-life transition with moving, changing careers, letting go of our children into their adult lives, and helping our parents prepare for the letting go of their Earthly lives. This is a transition that is taking waayyy too long, in my opinion, but, there’s no way out of it but through it.

Thinking more outside of our individual life situations, looking at the difficulties we have been facing as a nation and all across our world, the same truth applies. Whether it’s COVID or race relations or national and global policy and politics, there are simply things we need to do the hard work of learning from, growing through, and being transformed into something better, people who were intended to be more than who we are and who we have been, people more like our Brother Christ and more like the Creator meant for us to be when we first entered into this life.

So, in all this, I have to ask myself what is going on here that God wants to use for change, for good for all of us….not that God is causing it, not at all….but what is going on that brought us to this juncture, this mountain we have to climb that has no way of circumventing it? Something, or things, led us here to these moments in time, choices we made have ended up bringing about these consequences….because to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We are in these consequences of our own making, but what does it say about what we need to learn from it, how we can grow through it, and ultimately, what good can God bring about if we allow Him to transform us by persevering through all of this, doing the hard work required to change, and leaning into the hope of finding all of the world a better place on the other side of it because of our choice to accept that we must go through it and not take any shortcuts this time?

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

Hope and the Mystery of Christmas 🎄

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This Christmas season has been different than so many others for me. Has it been for you?

Grief has weighed me down amidst the usual joys of preparing for Advent. It’s my first Christmas since my mom passed away last December 27. Of course, this year has also been filled with so many other losses, for all of us this worldwide pandemic. Grief has become somewhat of the norm.

Keeping traditions as much as we have in the past has been my way of fighting for the joy. Yet, I’ve tried to give myself , and everyone else, more grace and leeway to let go of some of the traditional patterns we have kept, to not be so determined to keep them all in place that we end up causing more stress than finding Hope in the usual rhythms of this season.

I found some renewed hope in focusing on making more room in my heart for Christ and inviting Him even deeper into parts of my soul that I may not have even realized had grown overcrowded with the stuff of this world. God’s Spirit has come through for me by revealing a couple things in me that still need His transformation and by reminding me that He can do that for me if I will seek Him in those areas and allow Him to do His work there. God used songs to reach me in those places, and bits of quiet time, moments alone and focused on Him, away from all the sadnesses and disappointments of this world in this last year.

Just this last week, there was a song called “He is Worthy” that lifted me to the true Hope that is found in the Mystery of the Baby who came to our world so long ago. The reason for Christmas is our reason for Hope in whatever season or circumstances we find ourselves, at any time, but all the more so in times such as we have all seen in this last year.

I do not understand all the mysteries of how God took on our flesh in became fully human while still being fully Devine. Nor do I grasp all of Who God is or how all the stories we read in the Bible could’ve happened. However, I know that I find joy and Hope in Him, in reading about the Mystery, through embracing the Truth even though I don’t totally understand, and by asking Him to come into my heart in ever deeper ways, pursuing my relationship with Him and all the rhythms and traditions of life that bring me closer to Him.

I find Hope in believing in the Mystery, the unknowns , while knowing, from personal experience, that He is the only One who is able, who is worthy, who has come through for me in my life on the deepest levels, and who can truly redeem all of this mixed up world. I’m clinging to Him this Christmas, even in the sadnesses all around and within me.

If you ever want to talk more about the Mystery and finding Hope and joy in this life, I would be honored to spend some time with you just talking and sharing together.

God bless you at Christmas and in the year to come.