Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 20

A few days ago in a phone conversation, my father kindly let me know that my best friend, my go to gal, the one I call first when needing to vent, my sister, Carol, does not read my blog. (I'm trying to make her feel bad, so if you talk to her, you can tell her all that I've said so far.) She also wanted to know what the title of this blog even means, anyway. Hmm...

What does it mean?

Well, I started writing in order to sort out and tell my story about making a station of the cross and about my talks with God. Two years ago I had an incredible journey where my relationship with Christ grew and where I truly felt God's presence - strongly. So last year when I set out wanting to repeat the experience as I made another station of the cross, I started by writing. Getting it down. That was blog entry number one.

Since then, I have kept it spiritual in nature because it's just better that way. I have continued to write mainly because it helps me sort out thoughts, share realizations with friends, and act as a journal of sorts. Since I am not good at finishing handwritten journals, by making this blog I am keeping a record.

For the name, well, it goes back to the first entry. Both stations I made involved sewing. Creative sewing. Without patterns. Lots of cloth. Lots of color. Freehand. And yet, my favorite piece of cloth is really just a bandanna. Just a simple square. Useful. Whimsical. At times necessary. Hence the title - Bandannas and Cloth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 19

The Day I Got Saved....

It happened a long time ago, up on a hill, between two other guys....

I don't actually have a story for the day or moment or revelation of when or how I was saved. Growing up, my Sunday school teacher told us to tell people it happened a couple thousand years ago. I happened to be Episcopalian in a small town in the middle of the bible belt where being saved was important. There were rallies at school and whole hoards of kids would run down front to get saved by some visiting youth pastor for Young Life. The First Baptist Church always had a youth director at the football games and school activities. Being saved meant being a part of a group. I was a part of the rebellious crowd. The Catholics and Episcopalians.

Since we (the Catholics and Episcopalians) did not want to sit scattered on the bleachers every week at FCA while the rest of the student body joined in the middle of the gym to denounce Satan, we all joined the chess club. Under normal circumstances I would not admit such a social suicide, but in Maryville, it was the only way to avoid the weekly savings. Of souls. Many of my friends loved going to FCA. But not me.

This question - When were you saved? - has always made me uncomfortable. The Baptists of my life don't like the, "Well, you see, a couple thousand years ago, there was this guy named Jesus. Turned out He was God, and God's son, and He ...." That answer is just not enough.

Then, a few years ago, I went to an Alpha course. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, click here. In the course there was a description of my question, "When were you saved?" The speaker's answer - Imagine riding on a train and dozing off. When you fell asleep you were in one country, but while you were sleeping, the train crossed a border and when you woke up, you were in a new country. While you can't account for the exact moment it happened, you know without a doubt you are in a new place.

This explanation helped, but it still didn't do it for me completely.

Next, I heard a sermon at my current church. A Bishop from Rwanda was speaking. (I go to an Anglican Church that is actually an African mission church under the Diocese of Rwanda. So this would be normal for us.) This bishop answered the same question again.

I listened on the edge of my seat.

He said for some, it is a moment. They can feel it. It is an experience.

For a few, they have no recollection. The those few, they are raised in the church and accept Christ. Their parents raised them to be believers, and they followed.

Imagine a road with Christians walking in one direction. Towards Christ. Non believers are walking the same road, but in the other direction. Away from Christ. Those that turn, and start walking towards Christ remember. Those that are born on the side of the road and continue in the same direction don't remember ever facing the other way. At first, as a baby, they are carried, then hold the hand of a parent, then eventually walk on their own. But always, always, they move towards Christ.

In my life, I have always faced in the direction of Christ. I was one of those born on the side of the road. I have had plenty of times I have looked back. I have talked with those, loved those, walking in the other direction. But while I have slowed or stopped to rest or considered the opposite way, I have not turned. Away. From Christ.

The part I absolutely adore, is Christ uses us all. The ones that turn towards Him, the ones that turn away, only to retrace steps, the ones that stop and question, the ones that whine, or march, or run, or crawl. He uses each of us to guide the other. We pass each other on this road. Sometimes we walk side by side. But wherever we are, we are all on the same road together. Believers and non believers. Old and young.

So now I'm ready to try this again...

Question - When did I get saved?

Answer - I don't know. I was born facing Christ, and while there are plenty of times I probably appear to be sticking out my tongue or complaining or turning round and round in circles or causing trouble in the ranks, I'm still aiming in that general direction.

Thank goodness He still offers me grace and even comes to walk beside me and guide my way.

Otherwise I'd totally be lost by now...


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 18

Today, instead of writing my own thoughts, I figured I'd share some of my favorite blog sites. Maybe you can enjoy them with me...

1. - This one has various guest writers each day. They also introduce themselves thru one of the tabs. There are lots of great women there, and their blogs are a fun way to spend a morning.

2. Proverbs 31 ministries - This one has good daily devotionals. The women writing here also have good individual blogs.

3. A Holy Experience - Ann VosKamp. Amazing writer. This is a wonderful place to drink your morning coffee. Seriously.

4. Endure and Shine - This one is a hard one. A friend, Paul Edel, wrote here. He passed away a few months ago, and his journey to heaven is chronicled on his blog. It's beautiful, the blog offers resources, but take a box of tissue with you to this special place. He died three weeks after he wrote his last entry.

These are just a few that I enjoy visiting. I love to play around, and there are lots of different places to go in this blog world. Feel free to share back.

See you here tomorrow!

Random verse for the day
Paul to the
Philippians 1:3-6

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 17

One of my favorite verses -

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Y'all that have been keeping up know that we planted St. Joseph underneath the For Sale sign in our front yard on his feast day. We prayed over him and asked Jesus to talk to his daddy, St. Joseph, and ever since I have had a greater sense of peace about my house situation. It's liberating.

Yesterday I had the thought that the worse the situation is for us in the market, the better for God's presence to be recognized when He takes care of us. Today, I met with my realtor. We went over homes that are selling, and none are in my neighborhood. The number of homes sold are about half overall what they were a year ago. Our competition is mounting by the day. And my realtor; well, he just looked at me, gave me a little homework, then said, "At some point we just have to let go and let God."

I smiled. I know, Bob. I already have. And it's going to be just fine.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 16

Grace. Michael and I have been given grace all weekend. Some of it has been hard to accept. Yes. Hard to accept.

1. Michael was given a gas allowance to help with the cost of his commute. Since gas prices have gone up dramatically lately, his new firm decided to give him this allowance to help combat some of the cost of his daily drive until we are able to sell our home.

2. We have had logs sitting outside our house in a pile that the county refuses to pick up. The logs are too long. We don't own a chain saw, and though I actually tried standing on one end of one darn log and pulling on the other end with all my might, that chunk of wood just wasn't breaking. However, today a man drove by in a truck and picked up almost all of the logs to use at his home. They have been outside our house with faded notes from the county hanging off a branch for months. As the guy drove off, Michael just said, "You know God did that."

3. We went to get our meat. It's delicious all organic meat raised on a farm nearby. The couple that owns the farm gives us what we need. Michael used to work with Miss Francis, and she decided we were poor and needed her meat so our children could be fed properly. Up until I tasted her meat, I thought we were feeding our children just fine. After I tasted homemade sausage, I had to concede. We keep offering to pay them, and we even did pay them once, but she ripped up our check. Miss Francis doesn't want our money. She keeps telling us we're a young, poor family that is in the middle of a big change. We can pay later, once we move. Once Michael isn't driving so far every day. We even told them about the kind gesture from his firm, but still, they give us the meat for free. And once the weather is better, we get to go back out to the farm so the boys can learn to ride horses. Did I mention the boys played in their barn all afternoon? She even fed them snacks before she packed up our meat. In her cooler. Because the cooler we brought wasn't big enough for all they planned to give us. Seriously.

I finally came to the conclusion that I need to recognize each gift for what it is. A gift. Offerings of grace. Undeserved. Not earned. Just because.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 15

So, my family gave up madness (anger and yelling) and shopping for lent. And we are on day fifteen now. Which means we have twenty five more days to go.

Last night two mommas at the soccer fields were laughing at me because I had planned to go to Target, evil of all evils for those not allowed to shop, to look for shoes for my kiddos. They do need shoes, so that purchase fits within the rules. Of course the mommas were laughing and accusing me of getting the shoes to have something - anything - to buy. If I look inside myself, they might be a little bit right. Yet, honestly, my kids have asked for new shoes. And in their case, it is a reasonable request. They each have two pairs - one pair of athletic shoes, and one pair of soccer cleats. Kelly has some cowboy boots, some rain boots, and some hand me down crocs, but for Key that really is it. We got those athletic shoes last September, so for almost 200 days he has worn only one pair of shoes. Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, Sunday church, birthdays, school days, park days, rainy days, lazy days - one pair. I'd say we are getting our money's worth. And yet, Nike did a bang up job, because those shoes are still good. Nice tread. No holes. Faded. Dirty. But worthy of more wear. So why, during lent, do I go out and buy them shoes? Because. I want them to take off their socks. I want them to walk outside in this beautiful spring weather and feel warm earth between their toes. I want them to partake in the gift of nature that God himself is giving us.

Lent is a discipline, yes. But just that. A discipline. Not new rules that can't be broken even in the face of a gift from God. God's gifts - well - they are to be taken and celebrated, a remedy for our tired and weary souls. Never, ever, to be ignored.

So last night I went to Target, and I got them flip flops or crocs. One new pair each. And on Sunday, a feast day, I plan on ordering summer athletic sandals for them too. I think Jesus is okay with that.

Now for how we're doing with anger, well, that's another story....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 14

All around me are signs. I need to live here. In my present.

What I have been doing, bit by bit, is pulling back. Not going to social functions. Not taking meals to people I think about all the time. Not joining in group activities which require meeting new people or deepening already loosely established relationships. Pulling away from all that is. Here. I keep searching in front of me, and comparing how much better things will be. There. But there isn't here yet. Here is here.

I have been to this same place before. Every time change occurs in my life, I start planning. Immediately. I feel a deep desire to know what will happen. I find comfort in well laid plans. Every time God has ripped my plans to shreds. It's actually predictable in its unpredictability. Never have things gone the way of my plans. So why, at this point, have I not learned to trust God? Why do I continue to plan and worry and fidget? It's exhausting trying to hold onto all the possibilities of the future and keep it organized and straight. It takes up an inordinate amount of time. Time that could be spent living. Right now.

Today, I decided to let go. I noticed details around me. I felt a cool breeze waft through my front door. I made funny faces through a glass at my five year old. I put away my plans. And guess what? During that play, that tickling of socks and reading of books, that napping and cuddling, I realized there was no room for worry. Instead there was only room for overflowing heart and joy and simple laughter. And that now. That here. It was healing.

So I am listening. I am living. I am choosing to give the there to God and invite Him to join me here. And I am guessing the there, well, it will probably go much smoother from here on.

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 13

Have you ever heard the phrase, "You should count your blessings!"?

I think it's funny that the phrase is often used by mommas as a rebuke to their children when those kiddos are misbehaving, acting all sour, and being terribly ungrateful.

What the mommas really want to yell is, "Gosh *&%#@**it!!! You ungrateful heathens!! You better count your obviously undeserved blessings because they are getting ready to disappear if you don't say THANK YOU right this minute!! And stop whining!!!! .......And stop crying too!"

It's the whining that shuts down the compassionate side of my brain faster than anything. Frankly, sometimes I just start laughing when they whine. Which makes the whole darn situation worse. Makes me wonder, when I start whining about my pitiful, just awful, no good circumstances, does God laugh at my ingratitude? Does he look at me, and go, "Whew buddy! You've got no idea..."?

Lately lots of my friends have started journals and blogs that are based on the book, One Thousand Gifts. I love reading all their lists of God given gifts, and when the above phrase popped into my head, I thought it would be fun to do a list for today. Plus, instead of waiting until I am acting ungracious, starting my day off already counting blessings puts me in a much better frame of mind. So, here goes...

1. I've got a great family.
2. My husband rocks.
3. I get coffee brought to me by said husband almost every morning.
4. My bed is super comfortable. We didn't always have this one.
5. My current dwelling is a pleasant place to be.
6. The weather - it's beautiful!
7. Birds are literally outside the window singing. How cool is that!
8. I have a job.
9. I have a job that makes me still get to be a full time momma.
10. I like, no, love the people I get to work with.
11. I get to pretend to have girls twelve hours a week and then send them home.
12. My child just said thank you to me for making him a snack every day after school WITHOUT being prompted!
13. My other child is learning to do the bathroom paperwork all on his own.
14. Yummy wholesome food is in my refrigerator.
15. I ran into three fabulous women I know at the grocery store.
16. I get to go to bible study tonight.
17. I have books waiting to be read.
18. I heard my Mom and Dad's voice on the telephone today.
19. It's a Wednesday.
20. St. Joseph is buried in my yard.

And I could count on and on and on. But mainly, I must say...

21. I have a Creator - a Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to thank for all the above.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 12

Just thought I'd share in print what many of us sing each night before dinner...

God our Father,
God our Father,
We thank you.
We thank you.
For our many blessings.
For our many blessings.

Of course, if you come eat at our house, you get to hear the boys fight over who gets to sing the blessing, at which point we do both....

The Lord's been good to me!
And so I thank the Lord!
For giving me...
The appleseed...
Oh. The Lord's. been. good. to. me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 11

Please read my blog entry for my conversation with Kelly.

Right after I had that conversation with my youngest son, Kelly, I wrote that blog entry. Funny how God waits for me to break down and agree to His terms before He acts. He does that to me a lot. It is almost predictable that the moment I finally listen to Him, He gives me a gift of hope or understanding or joy. In the next instant this time, He gave me hope, and a feeling of confidence that all will be well. I still don't have full understanding, but I'm jumping ahead, and y'all don't know what I'm talking about!

Friday night I had that conversation, and I wrote it down for my blog the next day. Saturday morning my real estate agent in Rock Hill called. I had left her a message earlier in the week saying that I did not want to look at any more houses until I could buy one and that when I sold my house, I would call. I was canceling my appointment with her. So she called me back, on Saturday morning, which I did not expect, to tell me I had made the right decision. The house I had planned to see sold immediately. But she had more news. Another home that I asked her to look into awhile ago is for sale, and the owner would like for us to come look at it even if we can't buy it. She would love to have a family like ours in the neighborhood (she lives two doors down), and is willing to work with us. Then that same afternoon, a St. Joseph statue arrived in our mailbox. Michael's mom sent it to us with the instructions on how to use him to help bless the sale of our home. Legend has it that if you bury St. Joseph upside down with his feet pointing to heaven and his face towards your home, and you pray over him, your home will sell. As thanksgiving you are to display him in a place of honor in your next home. As we read the prayer, it said that St. Joseph's feast day is March 19th, the day he arrived and we buried him. It was fun and joyful and prayerful for the whole family to dig a hole under the "for sale" sign and bury St. Joseph.

I love that the moment I gave up my plans to God, Michael and I got invited to view a home we can't buy and that St. Joseph showed up in our mailbox on his own feast day. I asked Michael why I was agreeing to drive to Rock Hill to see this house when we still have to sell one here. He told me to stop asking questions and just enjoy the ride. So I will. I go tomorrow.

Saint Joseph (You know, Jesus's Dad)
Patron of Workers

Glorious St. Joseph, you are the pattern of all who work. Obtain for me, please, the grace to work conscientiously and to put devotion to duty before my selfish inclinations. Help me to labor in thankfulness and joy, for it is an honor to employ and to develop by my labor the gifts I have received from almighty God. Grant that I may work in orderliness, peace, moderation and patience without shrinking from weariness and difficulties. I offer my fatigue and perplexities as reparation for sin. I shall work, above all, with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must to render of time ill-spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.
For Jesus through Mary, all in imitation of you, good St. Joseph. This shall be my motto in life and in death.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 10

I know I seem to write about my kids more often than not, but I think they are a major way in which God speaks to me. This time God chose Kelly to pass on a very important message. Here's our conversation:

Kelly - If I pray really hard for a BIG pile of legos to appear right (pointing to the carpet) will God give them to me? I really want a BIG (arms opened as wide as he can get them) pile of legos!

Me - I don't think it works that way, Kelly. Do I think God is powerful enough to get you those legos? Yes. Do I think he's going to? Probably not. He might. But he also might have other plans for you today, and they don't necessarily include a BIG pile of legos magically appearing in front of you.

Kelly - (Quiet for awhile, twirling and standing on his head, then pausing) I still believe in God. Even if I don't get legos. And I still believe in Jesus.

Here's the thing. I've been turning God into Santa Claus in my mind. I don't mean to, but I have been doing it without even realizing it. I want to move. I am ready to get on with our new life in Rock Hill. And in my obsessive personality, I have been rushing prematurely towards a move that is not yet planned. I keep thinking that if I pray hard enough, God will give me my dream home in Rock Hill. And I keep waiting for my present. I keep treating each night like it's Christmas Eve, and each new day like a kid who's been given coal when nothing in my world happens. I keep waiting. Of course, waiting is really not the correct word. Nor is praying. Nail biting, worrying, panic inducing, obsessing is a much more accurate description of what has been going on in my mind. I've also been irritated with God for not playing out his Santa Claus role in my set time frame.

I didn't realize any of this until I had the above conversation with Kelly. When I reread those words and inserted house for legos , I realized my folly. I haven't been believing and loving and trusting no matter what. I have simply been making demands and then waiting to see them come true. And that behavior is not real faith. Real faith comes from Kelly's wisdom - believing in God and Jesus no matter what they give me. Accepting them as Truth. No if's. No and's. No but's. Just accepting that they are.

The Truth.

The Light.

Whether I get my BIG house (any house) or not.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 9

So I just went to Walgreens to pick up a prescription, and I ran into a couple of women from my church. Forest Acres is just a small town tucked into one corner of Columbia. May I add that I was in old yoga pants a size or so too small, drugstore flip flops, and a decent t shirt complete with necklace to take the attention off my yoga (pajama) pants? I should have known I was going to run into at least one person. Anyway, while standing in the parking lot with these lovely ladies, we witnessed a wreck. It wasn't a bad one. A guy was pulling into a parking space when a woman in a neighboring car opened her door to get out. He hit her door, crunching it, and busted out a light on his car. He immediately bolted towards anger, repeatedly yelling at the woman and asking her, "Really???" She stood obviously a bit intimidated and shaken up that she had almost been run over. He never once saw any fault with himself, all the while appearing unstable and ranting about his headlight. Meanwhile she continued to stand there, unable to close her door, and trying to figure out how to better her situation. So, we walked over, and we suggested she call the police to file a report. He said there was no need, since she could pay for his light and that they were on private property, it being a parking lot and all.

We told her to call anyway. We were all thinking, "Umm, yeah, buddy, you're screaming at someone you almost ran over, so we can certainly understand why she would refuse help all the while agreeing to pay for your damaged light....come again?"

She was already dialing as he presented his convincing argument that no police be involved. Once she had an officer on that handy little cell phone, he got much quieter and went into the store to get his prescription. He wasn't my favorite character in this particular situation. But I can't judge him either.

Because, when I'm honest, how many times have I turned to anger, blinded by my part in a situation? How many times have I chosen being right over being civil? How many times have I defended my position rather than worked to solve a problem?

This entire morning reminds me of a definition of anger that I try to keep close when I feel frustration rising up.

Anger = Not getting my way

That guy's day was not going his way, that's for sure. He needed some sort of drug, which means he was already not feeling well in one way or another. His day had just suddenly been delayed. He was wearing work clothes. Now his car needed repairs. And he took it all out on this one lady. How many times have I taken out mounting frustration in one fell swoop?

I really don't have answers. All I can say, is he looked ugly this morning. I know there have been times I have looked plenty ugly myself. (And I'm not talking about the yoga pants.) And seeing him show himself in such a way made me get calmer. It made me not want to be like him. So on this journey for lent where I have agreed to if not give up anger, to at least keep it in check, I will picture him. My example of what anger looks like. And I gotta tell you, I really don't want to look that way. ever. again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 8

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I figured it would be a good day to share lyrics of a famous Christian songwriter and singer from Ireland. Robin Mark is one of my all time favorites. I might be biased, given that Michael, my husband, is a drummer and had the unique opportunity to play his drums in concert with Robin not once, but twice.

When It's All Been Said and Done

by Robin Mark

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love's rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
That you found purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and in heaven after
For you've joined me at my true home
When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is gone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 7

So, this writing every day thing is getting to be a mixed up bowl of blessings. It's a good exercise, but truthfully, I don't always feel like writing. However, I promised God I would, and as my mom loved to say, "Patrish, the road to hell is paved with good intentions." (Imagine it being said in a southern accent, coolots, and a polo reading, Cox's Hallmark Bazaar.)

So, if I don't want to help on paving the road directly to the devil, I must keep up my promise. But seriously.

The only thing striking me today spiritually is my gratefulness for Jesus. For what His life and death means for Christians. It means we get a God that is all powerful, and yet like no other God among our world religions. He extends grace. (I didn't think this up on my own. It's in a book called What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey.) In the past couple of weeks I have been reminded that in my little bubble called the bible belt, I am usually sheltered from outside religions. While my shelter provides me a safe haven, there can be times when this is not a good thing, in my opinion. The more educated we become of what's outside our immediate surroundings, I believe the more aware we become of our differences and similarities. These experiences make us more compassionate and understanding, they give each culture new richness, and I also believe we become more appreciative when we arrive back home.

My son, Key, has a precious friend I will name Fred (just keepin' the real name private, being that he's not my child) that I absolutely adore. Key keeps telling me Fred is not perfect, but I beg to differ. He really is just precious. Seriously. Tall, skinny, preppy with glasses, gangly legs and arms, good manners, and smart. He also has the same eight year old boy humor as my son which I personally find hilarious. And Fred - dear child - is Hindu. He's been a wonderful addition to my son's experience with the world outside of South Carolina. Fred goes to spend summers in India with his grandparents, and they come here to visit for long periods of time. And Key gets swept up with them as if he is one of their own. He loves it. So one day on the way to church, Key says to us, "Dad, Fred had to be good in school all week. He couldn't get any marks because he has to go to temple, and the gods will be angry if he gets marks in school." I think my heart stopped for a second. And in that moment, I wanted Fred in our car so I could sweep him up and tell him he's just a boy. It's okay to mess up. It's one of the big ways we learn. I know Fred's parents well, and they are gentle, kind people. But the gods that keep a checklist are a part of their culture. So my husband talked with Key about how Jesus would feel if Key got a mark at school. We talked about Jesus forgiving us when we mess up. About how Jesus doesn't keep a checklist. All I could think was how I want Fred to know he's loved - no matter what - and how thankful I am that I know about a different God and His unending grace.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, in truth and love.

2 John 3

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 6

Today I ask a favor of you. Most of you know that my house is for sale. I picked my real estate agent by visiting open houses in the neighborhood, scouting out competition. When I first met Bruce, I did not know we were moving, but I did know it was a possibility, and since I have an obsessive personality, I immediately started doing research. He was the one that was nice, and honest, and not pushy. We became acquaintances, and he was helpful even before we knew what we would be doing. And so, when the time came to sell our home, we picked Bruce.

Then, the week he was to come over and list our home, he called to say that he was in the hospital. Bruce is a leukemia survivor, and the disease had come back. We waited, but he did not get out of the hospital. So, he sent over a friend, Bob Wilkins, who is now our real estate agent. He's also great, by the way. Bruce has been in and out of the hospital since last November receiving chemo. In his off time he has continued to work, and has been very kind in hosting open houses for us.

Today, Bruce goes in the hospital to receive more chemo and prepare for his bone marrow transplant. The transplant will happen next week. Here's my favor. Please add him to your prayer list. I know he'd be grateful. I also had a thought this morning that the wait that my family is going through for our move is hard. It really is. Some times I wait more patiently than other times. But my wait cannot even start to compare with the wait Bruce goes through in battling leukemia. So please pray for him as you see fit. I personally pray for healing and also for a restful heart. I pray for his whole family as they all wait together.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 5


Last fall, my son, Key, started playing club soccer. For their first eleven - yes, eleven - games together as a team, they lost. So you can understand my joy in watching his team come from that start last fall to this past weekend where they just won their first tournament. These boys worked so hard, and kept playing, and kept playing, and steadily improved. And this weekend, they won, and then won again, and finished by winning the whole darn thing. Key wore his medal to school today. I keep getting teary eyed I'm so happy for him. You know what he said? "I love soccer! I'm never gonna quit playing! Never, ever!"

I could go on and on telling you sweet stories from this weekend. I pray for the goalie that lost in sudden death and at the same time rejoice for the team that won because they are our friends. I am so impressed beyond words by the kids with casts on their legs that sat in uniform with their teams, and I especially loved seeing one of our SCUFC players that had the flu come to sit to watch the final match and support his buddies, his teammates.

These boys exemplify perseverance. And as one of the mommas losing her voice on the sidelines, it's just beautiful. I learn from their example every weekend. Seriously.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 4

It's another soccer weekend. Fact is, it's often a soccer weekend, especially if the calendar is anywhere in the vicinity of January thru May or August thru December. Thank goodness Michael and I don't mind standing outside. We're getting better at it too. We used to show up and borrow stuff from others, but now we have our own chairs and snacks and sunscreen and hats and jackets and blankets and extra soccer ball. It like a day at the beach without sand or water. It's also a marvelous place to watch human behavior at its worst and its best.

This morning Key's team won. So that alone makes it easy to be gracious. It also made me wonder if I could muster up such goodwill if we had lost. See, the ref really preferred the other team. He particularly liked their player number 4. He particularly disliked our player number 27. So much so that it was a bit difficult to watch at times. Our player number 27 might as well have gone to sit on the bench for the entirety of the game, because if he so much as touched the ball with his feet he was called down. The other team got several goal kicks, drop kicks, penalty kicks, etc. Player four on the other team quickly learned he was well liked, and once he figured out no whistle would be blown on him, he used this knowledge to trip, push, illegally tackle, etc.

At the sidelines, parents were becoming frustrated, especially the parents of kids getting knocked down. Surprisingly, player 27's mom remained calm and positive as she stated that the ref really did not like her son. In addition to the parents were the siblings observing all of this display of human nature and absorbing lessons. I have to say, I think other than the obvious frustration of the ref's calls, the parents kept a positive attitude overall. Their coach has continued to drill into the boys other people's behavior does not give them permission to react in a way that reflects negatively on them, their team, or their league. At all times they must play fairly. If they get tripped, they get up; they do not trip back. If they get pushed down, they do not retaliate. They let their sportsmanship and their soccer skills speak for themselves. They play assertively, aggressively if needed, but always fairly. Always. Two things can get them ripped off the field - walking and bad sportsmanship.

Here's where I'm going with all this.

Jesus is not passive.
He lets His actions speak for themselves.
He turns the other cheek and moves forward.
He is fair.
And gracious - no matter the score.

Because a score is merely a circumstance. That's all. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. But it's in the end still just a circumstance.

How we behave is merely an outward sign of what is in our hearts. And today, I saw goodness all around me.

Matthew 7:12a In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 3

So just to recap so far, we as a family have given up madness (no yelling or anger directed towards one another), and shopping for unnecessary things.

Right after I sat down at my computer and wrote about being Jesus to one another, and how I knew Satan would tempt me, I needed to go pick up Key from a friend's house. I waited for half an hour, I had forgotten my cell phone at home, and my child was not appearing in the place which we had agreed he would be for me to pick him up. I needed to go to the restroom, and my gas tank light was on. I was twenty minutes from home. Needless to say, I was becoming....angry. I had lots of rude and not at all nice thoughts about my friend and her insensitivity. The first thought that came to mind, in fact, was not, "I hope they are okay." It was, "Where the h*@* are they?" Which then made me realize that I needed to calm down and take true stock of the situation. This situation was turning out to be an inconvenience in my day, which immediately led to self centered frustration - directed outward towards my gentle friend. And that would not be exactly fair, given that I did not have my phone on me for her to call if something was wrong. I had left home early, and she did not cause me to have an empty gas tank. I knew where they lived way before I ran low on gas.


I needed to stop worrying about what amounted to an inconvenience and figure out how to be useful in the situation. So I drove home. And guess who was waiting for me? Both of my children home from their playdates, and another mother that had taken care of my youngest all afternoon. They were playing in the backyard. Waiting patiently. For me. It turned out Key and crew had needed to go pick up his friend's brother because friend's dad had gotten stuck at work. So as a nice gesture, friend's mom had tried to bring me my child to save me a trip. Had I not left home early without a phone I would have known this. In turn, friend's mom had been worried about me. Her thoughts had not turned to anger, but to concern.

Lucky for me I had given up anger for Lent.

Otherwise I could have missed my contribution to the whole thing. I could have damaged a sweet friendship. See, I didn't calm down and think straight on my own. Actually, I looked up at the ceiling of my car and said in an exasperated tone, "Lord help me! Really? No anger? That's a crazy thing for me to try!" And, thank goodness, He answered, by filling my lungs with a deep breath and a sudden realization that the mother that had my child was gentle, and kind, and treated Key as her own. Always. And that whatever was happening was because of some miscommunication; not because she suddenly changed personalities and became careless with friends. In fact she has never been careless with friendship. And so therefore, I should not be either.


It's getting easier letting anger run through me like a sieve, because I am getting humbled. I am messing up on a daily basis, and because I am more aware than ever of my emotions/ reactions right now, I am more aware than ever of my shortfalls. Which makes having patience towards others and extending grace towards others way easier. And it's easier because, honestly, when people expect anger and they receive sweetness, it's a gift for both. It changes what could become hostility into a life breathing moment.

Psalms 16:11

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness
of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures

James 1: 19-20

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Journal Day Two

I Love You Lord

I love you Lord.
And I lift my voice
To worship You,
O my soul, rejoice.
Take joy, my King,
In what You hear,
may it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear.

song and lyrics by Laurie Klein

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And We Begin: Lenten Journal Day 1


Monday night I went to a dinner. It's a dinner called Ultreya, meaning onward. The first Monday of every month I go to this dinner and I share precious time with a unique gathering of people. We are all there because of one common bond, and that is our participation in a retreat called Cursillo. Several denominations have these retreats, and they come in many forms tailoring to the needs of the group. The purpose of these retreats is to ask the question "What now?" How do I take my utter gratefulness in being saved by Christ out into the world around me? Here we are, Christian and all, so what now?

We often times have been through a personal journey or we are facing a journey of some sort. Many of the Cursillistas on my weekend were cancer survivors or people living with a chronic and debilitating illness. Michael and I were facing a move to a new city, leaving behind a very comfortable and supportive group of friends and believers we very much counted on. Our house went on the market the day we left for the retreat, and we left our 3 yr. old with a babysitter for the weekend for the first time. I was six and a half months pregnant, supposed to be on bed rest (I didn't find that out til after I got back), and Michael was commuting two hours round trip for work til we moved. We had no health insurance due to that waiting period with new jobs, and we were feeling a bit uneasy about the whole situation. The week before I felt Satan attacking. I had contractions, I was completely irrational towards Michael, I hated everything we owned, I didn't think we had enough money or enough this or enough that. I had way too much to do to go spend three days in the woods, without my only child and no phone, talking to God. I wasn't going to even share a room with my husband. I had to room with a woman I had never met before. What if she snored? What if I had to get up fifteen times a night to pee? If it hadn't been for Peggy Williams showing up at my door, ignoring my protests, packing my suitcase in her car and ushering me to the passenger seat, I would not have made it. Seriously. But I did. And the weekend was a period of pampering and listening and sharing and rejuvenation of the Spirit within each of us that attended. It was a time when we felt Jesus through the people around us. It made us want to share the gospel, to shout it out loud and proud, because it was so, so good. It was that mountaintop experience.

Ash Wednesday is the time we remind ourselves we are dust. And to dust we will return. And somewhere in between the dustings we are to be Jesus to each other. We are to share the gospel, to walk like Christ. But it gets hard, and we get tired, and we forget. So here is our Ash Wednesday. Our reminder. It is the first day of forty days of preparation for the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is our time to prepare again for our time between the dustings. It is our time to pray to our Lord and to walk a walk like His. It is our opportunity to have another mountaintop experience, in a different way than the restful form of Cursillo. We can have another bonding time in communion with God by intentionally giving up and giving outwardly more than we may do the other 325 days of the year. We can begin to experience renewed compassion for Christ and also feel His grace reaching out towards us. Satan will be there, no doubt. If he tempted Jesus, I guarantee he will tempt us. But we have Jesus to lead the way. He's been there. Done that. And when we come off our mountain on Easter Sunday, He will be there still, filling up all of our crevices with the Spirit, His Spirit, when we move onward.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Preview of our family lenten journey

If you haven't read any previous blogs, Lent is a big deal to me. In fact, I'll be writing about my forty day journey every day starting Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.

And now, my writings will be getting a whole lot more interesting.

Because I talked to my kids. They are brilliant. Naive and clueless as to what they have signed up for, but brilliant none the less.

Every year I have the family give up something together. In previous years I have been the dictator of sacrifice and picked what my family would do without. No discussion. I would consult Michael, my husband, but I can't remember really giving him much choice either. This year I decided I needed to explain the whole purpose of Lent with my children a little better, and so we had a candid cuddle session where we talked about Jesus. The whole topic arose naturally after my children asked me how old I would be in the year 3000, and my sweet oldest started to tear up at the thought of death. He's my more serious one. Or so I thought. The younger one pulls no punches in the deep thought department, I must say. Anyway, I explained why Jesus died, and we talked about Easter coming up and about Lent, which ushers in Easter. It was good stuff. Then, I asked them what we should give up for Jesus for our forty day journey. I talked about how last year we gave up pork every day and all meat on Fridays. They remembered. I suggested for this year we try candy. That was immediately voted down. So was the cookie suggestion. At this point I expected my babies to move on to things like squash, which is what I did as a child, but no. My sweet, sweet boys took the discussion seriously. They considered legos, but decided that was way too hard. So...they settled on two things. Key suggested we give up shopping for all unnecessary stuff. No new clothes or toys or legos. No taking our allowance to Target, and no buying things for the house for me. No unnecessary things. (This, by the way, does not include food. Candy is still safe.) And for Kelly. My sweet Kelly. No madness. No getting mad at each other. And no yelling. For Kelly, we are giving up anger. Oh, how hard this one is going to be. How easy anger and madness rise up. How easy madness can turn to fear, and resentment, and distrust.

So for Lent, my family is going on a journey like no other. We are living on what is reasonably necessary, and we are not to harbor madness towards others. And I can't wait for Lent to start. I need every day I have left to start warming up. Because this is going to be one strenuous journey. Believe me when I say that Satan can't wait either. And I, in all this, am praying right now that God holds my hand - very tightly - because I will need Him by my side. each. step. of. the. Way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Lent is coming. I have been trying to decide what I plan on giving up for weeks now. Most people don't even celebrate lent, but for me lent has become the ultimate symbol of waiting and patience. Getting to Easter Sunday has become an incredible journey these last few years. (Please see the labels to read about those journeys. I am not savvy enough to do one of those highlighted links here.) The season of lent, which leads us into Holy Week and finally Easter Sunday, has always been important given that I grew up in a liturgical church that puts emphasis on spiritual discipline, such as fasting, confession, weekly celebration of the Eucharist, incense, sanctus's sang at every service, and on, and on, and on.

I am not Catholic. I'm Episcopalian. Lately Anglican. But it really, honestly, does not matter the category.

The point is, I'm Christian, and in my particular upbringing the religious seasons were to be practiced using set disciplines.

Lent was the time of sacrifice in order to taste just slightly the way Christ felt in sacrificing himself for us. By giving up something we love, we are constantly reminded of Christ. Some people give up meat, chocolate, facebook, etc. Others instead feel compelled to add a discipline to their day, such as daily devotionals or exercise.

So, given this knowledge, every year growing up, I gave up the same thing. Brussels sprouts. Lent was always a thorn in a kid's year. So, we came up with more useful ways to celebrate Christ's sacrifice by giving up foods we despised. Then we would quite righteously announce we could not eat said Brussels sprouts because we were using them to contemplate Christ's sacrifice for us. We thought we were brilliant.

Now I'm a grown up. And I'm torturing my kids with Lent. But in all seriousness, by practicing this discipline as a child, however halfheartedly, I find myself deeply moved when practicing these disciplines as an adult. I have even found myself mentally preparing for Lent way before it starts. I prepare myself for the discipline of patience, for the journey. The last two years I have made a Station of the Cross (#5 and #8). This year I do not feel a strong pull to make another one. So then what? This year, I have decided to step out of my comfort zone, and write for forty days, on here, and post my ramblings on facebook. Some days may be short, but I will attempt to post something spiritual, whether it be about my Lenten journey, or a hymn I love, or a Bible verse, each day, six days a week, starting on Ash Wednesday. I am stating this to give myself some accountability. Please feel free to join me. I'd love the company.