Yesteryear

We’re coming up on a year with Covid-19. This week last year, we had no idea what lay ahead. Just around the corner, life was completely changing for the whole world. Here are my comparisons to where I was then, and where I am today. 

Yesteryear me was shuttling kids to school, prepping for Grandparents’ Day and gathering items for a school auction.

Today I wake up late, help my kids write spelling sentences in our dining-room-turned-school-room, and head to the park to enjoy the warm day. 

Yesteryear me was searching for a dog for my family, thinking it would bring comfort and peace to my boys when they needed it. 

Today we visit the same dog at a friend’s house. We brought a good dog and owner together, it just wasn’t us.

Yesteryear me was not yet aware of the tiny life starting to grow inside of me. 

Today my 3 month old gives us smiles and joy–our favorite surprise of the year.

Yesteryear me heard about a virus attacking other countries and tried not to worry about it here. 

Today I see my country ravaged by disease and fear, quickly-made decisions, and extremely human people trying so hard to make this right. 

Yesteryear me was in a crowded gym watching my kids play basketball on teams with friends. 

Today we didn’t even realize basketball season passed us by.

Yesteryear me was faintly aware of the election year that lay ahead and knew we’d be up for some tough talks and walks.

Today I see a fractured government made up of broken people who have a seemingly impossible job of listening and responding to millions. 

Yesteryear me was getting ready to assume more work hours outside the home.

Today I serve in 2 new jobs. One as teacher to my kids and one as mom to a fourth little boy.

Yesteryear me was so excited to take my kids to their first TobyMac concert (later in March) as a surprise. 

Today, boys none the wiser about the cancelled event, our home is a concert hall as they play their drums, piano, and guitar.

Yesteryear me was filled with hope for the future.

Today I am filled with hope for the future.

fresh air

This January my husband and I made lists of achievable, yet challenging, goals that would push us beyond our limits in a good way. I loved the process and I am seeing progress.

One of my goals is to bring more joy and slower satisfaction to my morning by using my french press daily (instead of the Mr. Coffee percolator). On quiet mornings I clean out the previous grounds and measure in the days’ coffee while waiting for the water to boil on the stove: a slow and awakening process. Ideally, with a fresh steaming cup of joe, I sit down at the kitchen table to read scripture and journal for thirty minutes before the children amble down the hallway, hungry and talkative.

Midway through January, my toddler set her internal alarm clock to 4:45 a.m., turning my gentle mornings into groggy automation. Like poorly placed dominoes, my first actions of the day clinked haphazardly instead of creating beautiful ordered patterns.

The downward spiral leached into other parts of life as well, and my goals and dreams suddenly felt bossy and restrictive: run more, screen less, read more, shop less, listen more, talk less, be more aware, whine less, wake up earlier, complain less, play more, be less distracted. Although worthy strivings, the breathe-in in breathe-out script started to feel as overwhelming as groggy trips to the refrigerator and halfheartedly wiping smeared banana off the wood floors.

My ache for caffeine still throbs in chaos, and stubbornly I refused to put Mr. Coffee back on the counter, so the morning coffee routine survived.

Eventually, our mornings evened back out, but it wasn’t until then that I realized the gift of fresh air. It isn’t an inductive Bible quiet time, a three-mile run, or a sun salutation yoga routine. It’s two minutes tops of stepping outside in my pajamas and unceremoniously dumping coffee grounds onto next spring’s flower bed with unbrushed hair and half-open eyes. But, I inhale deeply of the fresh morning air and praise God for the goodness of a new day, a tiny bit refreshed and ready to return to the madness. It’s not perfect and it’s not a magic pill. It’s a gift that I embrace wholeheartedly.

This is free grace. An unexpected grace. I didn’t research the importance of fresh air in the morning and budget time out of my day to make it happen. I simply realized I liked the taste of french press coffee best and was too lazy to take care of old grounds before the morning, and God took care of the rest.

This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This is amazing grace: a beautiful fresh breath of air that carries us through, lifting a weight off of our shoulders we didn’t even know we carried, sitting in the old air of a house shut-up in the winter. Lost in our chaos. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, adopting us as sons and daughters. The most beautiful, precious gift of fresh air.

On Watching

Welcome special guest to the fire Amber Beuschel. Amber is a free lance writer from souther Indiana, mother of 5 and a member of a writing community I recently joined. If you want to read more from Amber you can find her at Higher Thoughts and Other Things abeuschel.wordpress.com.

“Mom,” my oldest daughter cried out. “I just saw a huge branch fall!” Her finger was pointed at something I couldn’t see through the front room window. A large branch from a tree over our house had dropped from the weight of ice.

I opened the front door and five sets of feet pattered out onto the porch, despite the freezing rain driving against their faces. Fascinated with the ice storm, they stood, unfazed by the wet, the cold, and the slippery.

After coaxing them back inside, they decided to set up a watch. This after a full day of eLearning activities. I was impressed. Their goal was to watch and see. What else might happen? Would other branches fall? Would they see a car slide? Would the wintry mix change over to snow? The possibilities seemed endless to my brood.

Watching their faces I was struck by their joy in the waiting. Why can’t I be more like that? I think it’s because I don’t start off attentive in the first place.

My daughter doesn’t normally position herself in front of a window to watch for twigs and sticks to fall from the sky. But today there were new things happening, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see just what else the sky might bring.

I want to be more like that, to listen, to anticipate, to watch.

We have a finite number of moments and minutes anyway. Many of them are dedicated to doing. But some of them should be given over the watching.

Maybe it’s a twig I’m watching for. Maybe something more, less, worse, or better.

What can I gain from watching?

Attentiveness. I notice more when I watch. Like the 9-year old, when I take time to observe, I make space for both the familiar and the new. Aware of these things, I am prepared to adjust, accept, respond to the changes around me. I am focused.

Alertness. With better focus, I see what is happening around me. Not only that, I am primed to act. Ready, I can move. I can do. How often do I find myself thinking about how I could act better after a matter? When I am focused to begin with, I begin to act better beforehand. That’s a skill I wouldn’t mind to have sharpened!

Appreciation. My attention and response in sync, I receive a third gift. I get to enjoy a moment. I was prompted by my daughter’s attention to the single branch to notice the entire backyard, to take in the sight of dozens of shrubs and trees coated in ice. We sat watching cardinals dart from tree to tree, wondering if birds ever slip. We judged the speed of cars entering and leaving the neighborhood. Wasn’t that too fast? Or wow, look how slow! The appreciation for how ice impacts nature, human behavior, and our entire day was at the front of our minds.

We might have checked off the 24 required eLearning activities today, but the one that stood out above all the rest wasn’t an assignment at all. It was simply the observation of a child, and it gave me plenty to think about. Plenty to watch for. 

I’m definitely setting aside more moments and minutes to watch tomorrow. 

Walk them home.

We live two-ish blocks from our residential high school. The majority of the student body lives in dorms, including my two youngest, the first year we lived here. After we found our permanent home our kids moved back and our house was often filled with students needing a break from dorm life. I loved it – all of it. Going to bed to the sounds of teenagers laughing over a movie or a game. Waking up to empty cookie containers and cups on the counter. So good. One of the other things I loved was that because there is a strict curfew in the dorm – I knew the moment that all would go silent. As much as I enjoyed the house full – I also liked knowing when peace would resume. It was a fun season.

As the clock ticked closer to the daily locking of the dorm doors kids would scramble to get shoes on, find the right coats to make the quick trek back to campus. There were shouts of ‘Thanks for having us Pastor and Mrs Lange – we had a great time’ and off they would walk into the night. Now there is absolutely no reason for us to be fearful for these kids walking back to campus at 11 p.m. It is 2 blocks past houses of everyone we know and then they hit the back entrance to campus. It’s well lit and safe. But most nights, as the kids were readying to leave, my son would be as well.


“I’m just going to walk them home.” he would say.

It was sweet and chivalrous and most likely an attempt to stretch the night just a few minutes longer. Some nights he would stay and chat – sometimes its just so hard to say good- bye. After they were safely inside the dorm he would walk home with the satisfaction of squeezing every moment out of the time he had with friends.

Makes sense to me.

Even more so in a season of my life where I am literally watching friends attempt their own sort of Home walk with people they love. Their loved ones are in their last stages of life, some that feel like they are just steps away from the final home resting spot. Just yesterday I cried with a friend over her father in laws recent passage to home. To call it rough is an under statement as he succumbed to his battle with covid. We were thankful that his sons and wife we able to be with him in his last moments. We all know friends for which this has not been the case. I have another friend that is working hard with hospice workers to help her husbands walk home more comfortable. As Tom and I grow older our parents do as well and the conversations about our own home walks with them grow more frequent. My lense for life has been brought into sharp focus as I realize the importance of how we choose to walk our people home. What has also become clear to me is that it is not just my cancer ridden friends and family that are on their home walk but every single person we encounter, every single day. Each of us is on a journey to our final eternal resting spot in our home that is being prepared for us – even as we take our next breath.

Two years ago, on a snowy day in February, I began to build this virtual fire. I had been inspired by a conversation with my sister in law and memories of the summer our family built a backyard fire for 28 days in a row. Each night our backyard was open to ANYONE. We enjoyed fellowship with friends from all factions of our life. My favorite nights were when we were able to introduce new friends and watch the connections grow. Each night stories were shared in the safe warm glow of the fire, under starry Michigan skies. This collaborative blog that celebrates its Two year birthday this month is an attempt to bring a space of pausing and sharing and listening to our weekly rhythms – like the feel you may have when snuggled around the warm glow of flames toasting marshmallows on long sticks. I’m so grateful for my friends that said yes to the invitation to join me here. I have learned so much from their perspectives on life and the way God meets them in simple everyday moments. He has used each writer to share the words I needed at just the right time. He is so good like that.

As I look back to that day when I spent hours snuggled up in our over stuffed living room chair building the framework for this blog I realize there was so much I didn’t know. There were a gazillion reasons to not start. First, I didn’t know if anyone would say yes. Maybe my friends would think I was crazy, maybe they would not want to take the time. Second and the harder for me, the logistics part. I’m not wired for detail ( which is sometimes apparent in my typos that linger because I’m just so eager to share my words). I’m a painter – I want to create a beautiful landscape with words – not take the time to learn the ins and outs of how to actually create a domain name, drop and drag pictures, format and so many things involved in this type of project. Finally – I would be committed. The idea that would be fun to do “someday” would now be a space to which I would dedicate hours from my weekly calendar. I’m really good at starting new things and getting a team on board – its the maintenance thats hard – the continued walk home – if you will- that gives me trouble.

Despite all the obstacles -we did it! We began and now two years have flown by. The weekly campfire posts are days that many of you have shared you now anticipate. I know I can speak for the rest of the writers when we express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the time you have taken to read our words and share your encouragement.

A few years ago when another friend was walking her husband “Home” she shared some deep bitterness she hoped he could reconcile before his earthly journey ended. He held shame from a life filled with regret. Things he wish he had not done and things he wished he had done. It’s the ‘wished he had’ part that I want to end with today. What is on your “someday” list? What skill would you like to learn? What book would you like to read, or write:)? Or even who do you want to invite to lunch and you keep saying, “yes someday when things settle down – we will make that happen.”

Might I suggest you do it….

now?

I am so grateful my posse of campfire writers said Yes. I am so grateful we didn’t wait for a ‘less busy’ season. Two of our team have had babies since we started – their life certainly is not any less. I realize that the last two years could have passed without the gifts of these people being shared. No one would have known and the dream may have slowly faded into the passing of our busy days. And that makes me sad. I believe what has been created around our little fire has made many of your home walks, or daily life, better. I also believe that you, the one reading these very words, may have something to contribute to the world on your walk towards home. For some it may be starting something new. For others it may be giving some things up so your life is free to invest in loved ones or strangers you have not yet met that need what you have to offer. I’ll leave you to your own evaluation of how you spend your time but know that if you need a cheerleader as you attempt a crazy idea – I’m your girl.

Friends – thanks for showing up. Thanks for pulling up a chair, pausing and listening as we’ve told our stories. Thanks for making us a part of your own walk home. It has been an honor and a privlege.

And to my campfire writer friends. Thank you for being an early adapter. Thanks for bringing your best and most heartfelt words. Thanks for getting up early and staying up late to hit your deadline. Thank you for your vulnerability as you’ve shared pieces of your lives and the way God makes a difference. My continued walk home has been better – because of you.

Welcome to the fire and year 3….. We’re so glad you’re here!!!

On Being Burned

Using our candle snuffer after morning devotions.

“What is that smell?” My six year old son asked. He was smelling the surface of the table in our homeschool room while we were trying to read our devotions. 

Of course this led to each one of the boys taking turns coming by that spot of the table and getting a whiff of the strange, stinky smell that Charlie first noticed. 

“Ok, let’s focus back on our reading,” I told them after they each wrinkled their noses at whatever the smell was. As they read, I went and got our all purpose spray and a paper towel to clean the spot on the table not wanting to test it myself. 

“‘Mom, I don’t like how that smells either,” my sensitive-nosed Charlie informed me of the spray. With a shrug I tried to get back to where we all left off. 

After finishing our reading and putting out our candles (we have a really cool snuffer that we use to put out our candle flames), Charlie complained that he could still smell the awful smell. His oldest brother was by him and sniffed, ‘It’s you Charlie! It’s…” he leaned in toward Charlie’s head, “…it’s your hair!” 

Both the brothers smelled it and scrunched their faces, “Ew! It’s something funky in your hair!” Charlie was only able to feel it and had me check it out. As I leaned over to check out the smell for myself I realized what it was. 

“Your hair is singed!” I said to him. “You must have leaned over your candle too closely and now your hair is burnt. That’s the funny smell!”

We then noticed the little pieces of hair from his front bangs fallen around his face and shirt. “Time to go shower and rub shampoo on it, buddy,” I told him. “That should take care of the smell.” It did help, but we had to add some good smelling oily hair product to it to help get the last of the burn smell away. 

Have you felt the fire lately? As we all know and have witnessed, there are little fires everywhere. Have you seen the way people talk to each other on social media? Have you been burned by a co-workers harsh words? How about a promise forgotten? Did someone betray your trust? Did you get backed into a corner? Perhaps the people you love the most let you down.

When we experience the burn in our lives what happens? Sometimes, like Charlie’s hair, we notice the smell. Something just stinks. It’s odd and leaves us unsettled. We also feel a sting when we get right into the heat of it. And most often the sting or stink doesn’t go away for a while. It leaves behind a lasting stench or blister that annoys and distracts us for a time.

In my household we very rarely intentionally hurt each other. But we are often frustrated with one another. I can feel burned by my husband for a harsh look or even the lack of a look. He can feel burned by me when I leave the house a mess after he’s had a long day of work. Sometimes our kids burn us when they roll their eyes at a legitimate concern of ours. Sometimes the burn is big and sometimes they are just a series of little burns that build up.

Let me ask you this. When you are in the midst of these times, do you recognize the battle? Are you able to peer through all the smoke and see the enemy for who they really are?

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)

Do you recognize the depth of the fight? This battle is deeper than the person in front of us or behind a screen. It’s spiritual. The verse above is taken from the text in Ephesians that tells us what it means to put on the whole armor of God. Why do we need a full suit of armor? 

Because even when we aren’t expecting it, the tiniest flames fester and can cause us pain. Because if we don’t take the precautions to put out the flaming arrows, big or small, they will eventually destroy us and those around us. In this metaphor we are to make FAITH our shield. Believing in and trusting God is a shield against the hurt that Satan seeks to inflict.

In Proverbs chapter 3 it says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” It’s an inner shield! The heart must be bound up with love and faith. Read on and we learn not only does this help us find favor with others, but we are directed to the ultimate trustworthy one, our Creator.

Friends, when you find your hair is singed, the air stinks, and blisters emerge; 

Don’t give in to the burn. 

Don’t let it close you off. 

Don’t go and burn someone else’s hair. 

Rather, cover that heart shield with a dousing of faith and love. Shampoo away the stink and forgive. Put some ointment on the blister and heal. Trust God to put out the arrows that will likely keep coming. Trust him to fight the battles because they belong to him. (1 Samuel 17:47)

silent storytelling

As the prelude begins, we walk, barefoot, to the front of the church and assume the resting stance. A brief pause, and then we begin dancing. Although I had only practiced once a few days before, the muscle memory takes over and the motions become fluid and delicate, mirroring the other dancers. We wear matching red and white mu’umu’us, floral hairpieces, and star-shaped cowrie shell chokers, celebrating the specialness of the occasion about which our hands tell the story. I wasn’t even in high school the first time I joined this ensemble, candles flickering, strong voices intoning memorized lyrics, and the smell of pine mixed with a bit of must. A rich tradition: the Silent Night Hula.

Since college graduation, my participation in this tradition has dwindled, limited by the time and expense of flying across the ocean to spend Christmas with family.

This year, however, we needed to hold family close, being reminded more than ever of the temporal nature of our earthly existence, so we quarantined, masked, tested, and flew. This year, we marked x’s on the dance area, 6 feet apart. This year, we added liturgical facemasks to our traditional outfit. This year, small family clusters in cloth masks donned face shields and held battery-operated candles. But they sang, and we danced.

I wanted to cry at the beauty and sadness swirling through the sanctuary, but I couldn’t. So many tears have been shed already, so I just kept dancing to the muffled voices.

Hula is storytelling. Ancient dances share history and ancestral knowledge (read more here), and especially before the unification and transcribing of Hawai’ian language, hula carried the stories through generations. Although hula is typically paired with a chant or song, the movements convey special importance beyond being simply an illustration.

Silent storytelling. Muffled voices. Silent Night.

And here’s where I realized the gift of the hula especially for times like these: when almost everything is taken away we can still tell the story of the holy infant so tender and mild. Of the dawn of redeeming grace.

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

My home church on Christmas Eve

a weary world…. rejoices.

Post first shared on http://www.justbeth.blog

“Would you like a double – shot today, Beth?”

Why yes – yes I would. Yes I would like 2 doses of strong espresso in my simple almond milk latte.

2 shots….. yes, a double.

Indeed.

I love our towns little coffee shop. It’s open 3 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch, coffees and dessert. The limited availability keeps my appreciation up for what has come to be a weekly treat. A Simple Almond Milk Latte often with a muffin or danish on the side. Sometimes I pop in for a quick to – go order and other days I meet up with friends to linger with our coffees and good conversation. I love that the owner knows my name. I love that if I’m not visiting with her at the coffee shop I may see her at the Veterinarians offices on the other side of town where she works on the days when the coffee shop is closed. It’s one of the many treasures of small town life. The knowing of the people.

The day Debbie asked me for a double , I hadn’t even considered that option. I had actually never had a double shot in a latte before. It always felt like it would be too much.

Too much caffeine.

Too much money. ( you pay for that shot- unless you’re a character in a Hallmark movie where it feels like the coffee is always “On the house.”)

Too much of a splurge. A latte was one thing but a double shot latte… just felt excessive.

But on that day, the day she offered… it sounded just right.

Perfect actually.

It was my way to take my weary soul and rejoice.

You see, the night before I had received more disheartening news. It came when it was too late for conversation and the only action I could take was attempt to sleep. The night was long and restless. The day ahead felt daunting as my body felt the effects of the rest – less night before. The weariness felt extra that day. I added the news to a long list of energy drainers from this year.

Weary…… from rule changes.

Weary…. from job loss or pay cuts.

Weary ….. from cancellations, re- schedules only to be cancelled again.

Weary…. from what feels like lots of talking but far to little listening.

Weary…. from all that 2020 has dished out.

But… on this day… the day of the double shot… I made a decision.

SO yes – double it up Debbie.

It was in the sipping of my delicious treat that the words to an old Christmas Hymn dropped into my soul. The tune is not one of my favorites so it was odd that was pulled from my memory. The words though… the words.. that describe the event that many of us will celebrate this week… the birth of Jesus – Our Savior… the words…

” A thrill of HOPE… a WEARY world…… REJOICES”

A

Weary

World

Rejoices.

God saw my sleepless night. He knew my Spirit, soul, body and mind were overwhelmed and he reminded me…

Beth…. You are Weary

AND

You can rejoice.

The weariness does not have to cancel your rejoicing.

The shifted holiday plans do not have to defer your hope

The questions that remain unanswered do not have to steal your energy, your focus, and the gifts of the present moment.

Yes – You are Weary.

and yes, You can Rejoice.

December 25 marks the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas or Christmas Tide. It is a segment of time in the Church calendar when we pause to celebrate the birth of Christ. We Rejoice that our Savior had been born, the Savior who has come offering…

HOPE for ALL people.

PEACE for ALL people.

JOY for ALL people.

LOVE for ALL people.

He came in to a Weary world and he invites us to REJOICE.

That day last week, the day of the double shot. It was important. It shifted me. It reminded me that my weariness is legit but my rejoicing can push through. I can say yes to simple pleasures that come my way. I can open my eyes to the gifts of this season. I can live, love, serve and celebrate.

Let’s do it. Let’s expectantly walk through these 12 days of Christmastide with eyes ready to see light in the darkness and let’s agree to be the light for those that just cannot see.

Oh my weary friends… Let’s rejoice. Shall we?

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us NEW BIRTH into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being GUARDED by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You REJOICE in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials…”

Join me over at http://www.justbeth.blog where I’ll walk through Christmastide – committed to finding a reason to rejoice each day.

This sits in the corner of my kitchen counter… Rejoice!

Let Us Go Now…With Our Different Gifts

In recent years, the nativity scene that we traditionally positioned under the Christmas tree in our home has been consigned to the top of our bookshelves in the living room (thanks to our cat and the more recent addition of a grandson).  This requires that I climb a ladder to place the figures in and around the manger, and because I carry each figure separately, I have had more opportunity to study them. 

I’ve always liked the fact that this nativity has not just one or two shepherds, but a group of four, and I find myself drawn especially to the unique characteristics of these figures.  As you can see in the photo, each approaches the stable and the newborn Jesus in his own way. One kneels as he presents an open bag with small loaves of bread, another plays a horn, a third gazes up in stark awe and wonder at the sky that had been filled with angels, and the fourth carries a sheep, draped over his shoulders.

We know that the wise men brought precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to present to the newborn king, but our nativity reminds me that even the humble shepherds had gifts to offer—as people created uniquely by God, they had gifts that differed, just as each of them differed.

I know people who are like these shepherds.  I have friends who, in all situations of need or for gatherings of any kind, are immediately thinking of food. Like the shepherd bringing bread, their first thought is, “They’re going to be hungry.” They have an instinctive sense that food itself is a gift, bringing a sense of well-being, or adding to the fellowship of all who are present. They cringe when others want to dismiss a meal as “too much trouble.”  Food is necessary, and therefore not a trouble to them.

I have other friends whose gift is music, and who likewise consider music to be a gift.  Like the shepherd playing his horn, they seem to be always thinking, “There should be music.” Some of these friends play or sing with a talent that makes me marvel.  Others simply have an enjoyment of it that is contagious, knowing that music can set a tone and enhance the mood of any event.

I have friends who approach God in stark awe and wonder.  Like the shepherd gazing up at the sky, they are all eyes and ears for his message of grace and hope—a reminder to the rest of us that it is entirely appropriate to be blinded now and then by the glory of God and his amazing work in our lives…especially in sending his son, our Savior. 

And I know people who have a strong sense of vocation.  Like the shepherd bearing the sheep on his shoulders, they seem to be what their work is…but also able to join their friends as they participate in the activities of the greater community. With their strong sense of purpose, duty, and responsibility, they can be committed to the efforts and purposes of those around them, as well.  

The Bible really doesn’t give much of a description of the actual shepherds in the account of Jesus birth in Luke 2.  We really have no idea how many there were and speculation about their unique gifts and talents is just that—speculation.  There may have been only two or three, or there may have been a dozen—with two or three or a dozen differing gifts. What we do know is that it was a night like any other, and that they were there in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks by night, when,

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”                           (Luke 2:9-14)

And we also know that the shepherds—after seeing and hearing the angels’ glorious announcement of Jesus’ birth—did not just look around at each other and say, “Wow, that was something!”  Well, they may have said that, or something like it, but Luke 2 continues by telling us what they DID most definitely say to one another: “Let us now go, even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass…” (Luke 2:15, KJV).  And together they went. With their different gifts and unique personalities, they went together and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus. 

After seeing the angel’s words confirmed, they again did not just look at each other and say, “Well, that was nice.” Well, they may have said that, or something like it, but what we know for sure is that they went and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17). This thought strikes me as an important one.  They went together, with one purpose, to spread the word.  But each most likely did it in his own way, in his own style—and this is good, because those who heard this news, and were amazed by it, were also unique and different, hearing and receiving in different ways.  Each of the shepherds brought something unique to the spreading of that good news!

It is now December 24, 2020, and it’s time again to celebrate our Savior’s birth. In many places in this incredible year, we will celebrate in new and unique and perhaps non-traditional ways. But let’s remember that we are nonetheless doing it together. Each of us, uniquely made and uniquely gifted, can say to one another, “Let us go now…and see this thing that has come to pass, that has also been made known to us!”

One of the things I would like to remember in 2020 is that, gathered together to worship in church, or worshiping from a distance and online, the body of Christ is still the body of Christ, and each of us who is part of this group of believers in Jesus is uniquely gifted for the sake of that body and the Good News of Jesus.  This is assurance that God gives us in his Word, and there is much for us to do, as God’s people, both in encouraging one another and bringing hope and healing to the world around us.

So–let us go now!  Let’s be like the shepherds.  We have gifts that differ.  Let’s bring them with us as we celebrate the good news announced by the angels when Jesus was born.  And then let’s also “go now” to spread the word, knowing that God has uniquely gifted us for that, as well!                                                                                                                       

I saw her.

Oct. 22, 2020. It finally happened. My first real tears inspired by COVID-19. I was one day into a new decade of life, one I had looked forward to in the way a 15 year old looks forward to the freedoms that come with their sweet 16. Many dread this milestone – but I was all in. One of my husbands students recently referred to someone this age as elderly. Whatever – I was Excited with a capital E.

I turned 50 – 18262 trips around the sun. I have lived some life, tackled many mountains both personally and professionally. My faith in a loving, providing God is solid. I’m now looking forward to the stage that provides opportunities to mentor young women who are on the journey I have previously traversed. I even feel fairly confident I can continue to walk the road of the challenges of 2020 with hope and expectation as well as bring a bunch of people along with me.

I love birthdays!

But then it happened. I had made it 7 months before allowing this nasty pandemic to push me to face the emotions I’d actually been feeling all along. Time and time again I had wanted to pause, to feel, to honor the sadness that just kept coming. I never did. Each day required a new thought, a new skill, a better attitude, a brighter outlook to just keep going. But that afternoon, sitting in my office after having made yet another decision that would keep us and others around us safe, I cried.

Really cried.

Crocodile tears, loud nose blows, cried. Me, alone in my pink desk chair, feeling the unexpected weight that comes with loss. I was overwhelmed with the reality that COVID had not only hit our town, our high school but now our family. I was feeling decision fatigue as my husband and I evaluated how to handle our situation. I longed for the day that being sick didn’t involve the health department, contact tracing and the intense opinions of others.

And then I saw her.

It was on this day, this day that the disappointments that fueled so much anger and sadness broke through, that I happened upon this loved one. The kind of person that knows you well. The kind of person that has seen you in some things and can speak the words your heart needs to hear.

It was just a glimpse, but a I saw her.

The lines surrounding her eyes spoke of years filled with both laughter and tears that had taken a toll on the sensitive skin that is the first to show signs of age. ( I sell skin care – I know these things.)

I saw her.

The nose shared by her mom and her sisters. The mouth quick to smile unspoken words of encouragement.

I saw her.

The sigh that accompanies deeper thoughts that most likely would not be shared with anyone but herself and her journal. The desire to see the bright side.

I saw her.

Her face was one I’d seen a million times. It was familiar, it brought comfort, it held wisdom that only comes from living many days on earth.

I saw her.

What I love about looking into the eyes of someone you know well is that entire conversations can be had without ever speaking a word and I could tell – she wanted to tell me something. It’s a sweet gift God gives to those that share a heart connection. That is what happened to me in this one, chance sighting.

In those brief moments as we looked at each other I heard her say…

Good Job.

You are Loved.

You are ready.

God’s still got you.

Nothing is too hard for your God.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has great plans for you.

As I turned from her face I was filled with a hope that comes from a deep knowing. A peace that is rooted in truth. I shook my head as I moved my eyes from her gaze because it was one that should have been impossible to share. This face, the one that told me so much, belonged to…

my mom.

She lives hundreds of miles away.

The surprise was that she was no where close when I caught her gaze,

but all of a sudden…….

I was looking her

square…

in the eyes.

This wonderful, telling meeting between my mothers eyes and mine – it happened ..

in my bathroom.

As I stood looking in the mirror.

I saw her. Her wisdom, her love, her compassion, her grace…. things that show up with those fine lines around your eyes, I saw them…..

in me.

Heres to 50 and all the gifts it brings.

my momma and me – she’s taught me so much.

Toy Story

I don’t like the new Toy Story movies. Ok, I enjoy them as movies, but something about them just feels off to me. I finally hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago: Andy grew up. Ok, ok, I know, that’s the whole premise of the movies, but I didn’t realize that’s why they bothered me. Until Toy Story 3, I could dig in the basket underneath our tv, pull out the worn DVD case, and pop in one of Pixar’s earliest classics. I could enjoy a well-worn plot and hear the old familiar lines, “You are a Toy!” by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. No matter how many times I watch the movie, they are frozen in time and I get lost in the comfortable entertainment.

But the new installments ripped away that comfortable feeling. In Toy Story 3, Andy grows up and gives his toys away… forcing me to recognize that I grew up and left my comfortable home, my parents, and lifestyle to forge a life of my own (soon joined with my sweet husband). At the time, I was excited, a little naive, and also a little… well… young. I couldn’t wait for the next life stage, forgetting to slow down and enjoy the one I was in.

In Toy Story 4, Woody realizes that he no longer is the beloved toy, and has to completely change his trajectory. (Spoiler alert!) He leaves the life he knows and forges a new one with Bo Peep.

I think my whole life I have had this false belief that my memories were not just memories, but bookmarks of time to which I can eventually return. I kept those bookmarks saved so that I can go back to those beautiful barefoot frisbee afternoons at college in the Triangle, back to summers at home with morning daycare and long afternoons on the beach, back to those first moments as a mom, a newborn snuggled to my chest with no other children demanding attention.  Back to our wedding. Back to the best (and worst) times in life. I could just pull the worn DVD out of its case and relive it.

But I can’t. Life is linear. As much as we like to watch time travel shows and movies – it’s not reality. 

Certain parts of linear time appeal, while others bring stinging tears: I’m ok with turning 30 but I’m not ok admitting that I won’t see beloved places and people again on earth. I love the ages that my children are now, but I miss their newborn smell and simpler days. I’m thankful for the wisdom that age has brought, but I’m embarrassed by the way I acted in my youth and I want to go back and fix it.

God is above time. God is not limited by time. And although I struggle with my humanity, it is comforting to know that I am held by a limitless being. That my sorrows over lost time and past time are held by the eternal one.

Christ beside me, Christ before me.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

My talented brother-in-law carved “Woody” into my Toy Story loving son’s pumpkin.