Friday, December 30, 2016

GIVE THEM WONDER


We packed away the final ornament and as soon as I turned my back, I heard the attic door slam and my heart deflated a little.

The older I get, the more faded the details from my past – the depth of time between now and then slowly dissolving details that were once clear. Like classmates’ names, birthday parties, the expansive layout of our ranch-style home in Oak Forrest. But there are memories that still stand solid – so precious, they have withstood the test of time, molded with the same magic and awe that accompanied them many years ago.

I remember every Christmas.

There weren't lists of meaningful family traditions per se, but I remember feeling like I was lit from within at Christmastime. I felt extra tucked-in. Safe. Warm. It was the best of everything.

Being a parent myself, I realize just how much work it must have been for my dad – hiding gifts, touring the neighborhood lights, visiting family, picking out a fresh cut tree and keeping it watered, and the deliberate effort of creating what he wanted me to feel -- special. He didn’t bake, decorate gingerbread men, or doll me up for professional photos with Santa. But still, it was special – not just for him, but for me. And that’s ink on the pages of both of our stories.

There’s a reason I remember childhood Christmases so vividly and hold a candle to them as well. Those storybook memories hold the broken ones together – like the year my mother died, when we lost every penny we had to theft, or the times things didn’t make much sense – but they carved deep grooves in my character. They etched the great worth of family, friends, and good health into my soul.

December continues to open the wardrobe door to a magical other world. The very essence of childhood – a sense of wonder, imagination, the innocent belief in possibility, creativity – so many of the things that gradually wane with age are always at their prime this time of year.

I want my kids to somehow experience that intangible feeling that something special is underway. I'm both desperate for it and I hate it. I fight the shine even as I fork over money for new stuff – toys, toys toys, and a fancy vacuum system with its own remote control.

I tell myself we'll lounge around and eat like kings, or maybe like the judges on Master Chef. I categorize a three-columned grocery list and burn a three-wick candle. I bake things. I buy a new puzzle. I build gingerbread houses with a 2- and 5-year old and pretend it's not frustrating at all.

I am writing their books. And while they might not remember the designer painted walls of their nursery or the framed art that hangs across from the crib, I am doing everything possible to ensure they’ll remember the magic and wonder of traditions that draw us closer – a time of year that finishes the common stitches of our everyday memories with fine handiwork and colorful thread that won’t be forgotten.

We are the author of their storybook, moms and dads, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

DEFY GRAVITY


What a ride it has been! Within days, the new year will come and in review of 2016, my experience has been filled with new faces, strangers turned into friends, facing fears, personal challenges, overcoming mountains...literally and figuratively, exploration, long working hours and simple living.For all the moments of pure exhaustion, physically, creatively and emotionally, there are more moments of accomplishment, adventure and pure fun.

My theme going into the next year is "defy gravity"...overcome the weight of everything that brings us down. Whether that be our circumstances, other individuals, our personal flaws and challenges, we can lighten that load through understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and a whole lotta faith. Our hearts may break and trust may be severed, but the true test is how we handle each situation and overcome them. One thing I have quickly learned from arriving at this crossroads was truly dealing with the extra weight in my little heart that I have carried with me. It may have hindered some healing and made facing some personal or professional fears and challenges more difficult. As fast-paced as life can be, it actually has slowed down my mind enough to recognize the areas I have neglected in past years and give me some moments of clarity.

To do list:
forgive
explore new territory
give work my best effort
not just meet, but connect with new friends
heal
live a healthier lifestyle - spirit, mind and body
treat myself
go beyond the surface
be the best version of myself
reflect
overcome mountains
get a stronger mind and body
have fun
drink less coffee
put smiles on faces
lend a helping hand
open my heart
keep my mind open
do what I love and love what I do
learn
grow
eat more apples
have more adventures
get rid of the extra weight (figuratively and probably literally, too)
be myself
love myself
love others
challenge myself
accept others
and defy gravity.



Friday, December 23, 2016

TAME THE THINGS THAT KILL YOU



You can't tame the things that try to kill you. You have to kill them. To kill the root of a sin, ask God for the grace to do its opposite. Be cognizant of the places you lose this battle, and actively wage war against it. And you will thrive. 

Impatient? -- Choose the slowest line at the grocery store, the longest lane at the red light.
Lustful? -- Praise godly character. Resist the natural urge to chase after beauty and consume it. 
Greedy? -- Give things away. Set aside a portion of your income for a ministry or charity. 
Selfish? -- Ask how you can help others. Beat them to the "ask."
Idolatrous? -- Cut yourself off from the things that you worship. 
Prideful? -- Offer gratitude to God and others for what you've been given (but not in the Luke 18:11 sense). Weep with those who weep. 
Gluttonous? -- Fast. 
Gossiping? -- Speak kind words of / to others. Look for ways to praise your enemies. 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -- Phil 4:8




Monday, December 19, 2016

REDEEM THE THINGS I HATE



Every year Christmas is a weight around my neck. I begin the feel the downward pull into Holiday Dread around August. Panic sets in around mid-November. 

Not this time.

Over the past few years, I’ve set out to redeem the things I hate. The way it works is this: I’m miserable because I’m focused on myself instead of on the Gospel. So I ask God to help me focus on the Him and His Kingdom instead.

In my twenties, Valentine’s Day became the day I cooked and baked goodies for some of my single friends and delivered them as “The Valentine’s Fairy.” I loved it and need to start it back up! 

This year for Christmas, I’ve begun accumulating a list of places I can serve and help out. Our Bible study talks much and often about celebrating Jesus on His birthday and giving Him gifts. Reminding us that it's His birthday, not ours.

I’m looking for other people who have crappy Christmas situations (divorce, sickness, etc.) and I’m praying about ways to lighten their load and share some of the Father’s joy with them. It thrills me when I find a need like that and get to put it on my calendar.

What I’m finding is that the Gospel actually works. Not just to save people from hell, but to save me from the tyranny of myself. And perhaps you may think that’s selfish too. But the God I serve is loving and efficient enough to make the right thing bring joy. He’s beautiful like that.



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THIS IS NOT A FOOD BLOG


i thought i'd be adventurous and make banana bread this last weekend. in doing so, i discovered something significant about myself...

it's safe to say, i'll never be a food blogger.

that's right. i'm fairly certain i'll never be the author of one of those chic food blogs with its dreamy photography that you love to visit and plan on following so much that, surely, it will magically turn you into the best chef you never imagined you could be... by sheer osmosis, if nothing else. nope. that's not me.

let me count the ways...

first, i'm just not a master at photographing the preparation of food, nor the final product. i either have to cook or photograph. i can't do both. it's the cold, hard fact that i'm learning to accept.

i look at some of these food blogs and think "how in the world do they do it?" as i picture them working magic all around their kitchen, camera in one hand, mixing spoon in the other, while everything else just falls into place all by itself... ingredients, picture-perfect work spaces, ambient lighting... all that stuff just does its own thing on its own... something like those various inanimate {in the real world} objects that dance around in the animated beauty and the beast story.

or... maybe these commoner-turned-pro cooks are hiring professional teams of photographers and stylists that make everything look like a feature spread in martha stewart living. i don't know.

i just know this. while my camera dials are getting covered in flour and oily finger prints, i take rushed, blurry photos, made even blurrier by the jiggling of my camera because i can't stop laughing when my kid{who said banana bread is for} walks through the room, sees me clicking away, and giggles to what he just witnessed ever-so-nonchalantly as he exits...


Sunday, December 11, 2016

BOOTIFULLEST







I'm the "bootifullest mama ever." My 5 year old told me that so it must be true.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

DECEMBER


December has always been special, well because DUH, but it feels extra special now, because it's halfway through my cancer treatment! I'm so incredibly thankful. 2016 was a time of renewal and rebuilding, and getting healthy, and I think 2017 is going to be about getting even healthier, new opportunities and endeavors. I'm ready. I said in a tweet a few months ago (and I think I say it every year, but this year I mean it) that I feel like, at 38 years old, I'm becoming who I'm truly meant to be - it's scary and sometimes painful, but also exciting and empowering. I don't have a whole lot figured out, but I do feel like I know so much more about myself than ever before. I've never felt more me, if that makes sense, and it feels good. I'm excited to see the lessons and adventures this new year brings.

I hope your December has been, and will continue to be, filled with goodness and joy and wonder and love. Thank you for supporting me this year, and all the years - you make my life sweet, I appreciate and honor your voices, and I adore all of you. Merry Christmas (Happy Hanukkah! And Kwanzaa! And all the holidays that you hold dear this season!) and have the very, very best New Year. xoxo.



Saturday, December 3, 2016

WAITING






We can’t hide behind the trees, the lights, the glitter of the superficial forever. For He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. The beauty we long for, but so often fail to see is not int the glitz but in the grit. It’s in the rock-bottom real of our hurting places that Christ came and is coming to make His home.
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