Monday, December 5, 2016

Wanting


Everyone is talking about what they want for Christmas, listing this electronic device, that gadget, or this awesome something-or-other. When I think about Christmas and what I want, the things seem to fall into four categories: Too Expensive Things, Helping Others, Helpful Things, and the Intangibles.

Too Expensive Things:
- Hot Tub / Spa: This would be wonderful for my Psoriatic Arthritis, but totally not in anyone's budget.
- Mini Vacations to Places of Awesomeness: Camp Calumet (of course!), Cape Cod, PA to visit my in-laws (once a year isn't enough!), MD to visit my grand-in-laws, Disney World would be nice

Helping Others:
- Water Buffalo: I'd love to get a cow or goat or or llama or water buffalo (definitely a water buffalo!) or in some other way help people through Lutheran World Relief of Heifer International.
- Camp: I'd love to get supplies for our Favorite Place in the World - Camp Calumet Lutheran. Their Alternative Christmas Gifts are awesome - you can give the gift of food, fun, music and more!
- The Arts: I'd love to help Epoch Arts with building repairs and updates so they can have more space in which to carry out the WONDERFUL things they do for the community.

Helpful Things:
- Arthritis gloves, a wedge pillow, soft spica thumb spints, and wool socks for comfort.
- Gift cards for food, gas, and thrift stores ... and the many supplements I need to take daily.

Intangibles:
- Peace: World peace would be nice, but personal peace, family peace, any kind of peace is wonderful!
- Community: As many people living with chronic illness have experienced, it can be isolating. Somehow the ability to be "connected" via the internet is even more isolating, as in-person interactions seem to be less and less. I love the doses of community I get at Tuesday Night Sunday School and Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op or theater programs, but would love to be involved more deeply in community in some way, shape, or form.
- Compassion: It is my wish that those I love and care about know that I love them and value them, even if I'm often forgetful and bad at communicating at times. 

And then I think of all the blessings I have and realize that, all in all, I just want the world to be a kinder, better place for all. 

Thank you God, for the myriad blessings in my life. Please help me and others to focus on what we can do to make our homes, communities, and world a better place this Christmas and throughout the next year. Help our wants to be focused on the greater good, rather than selfishness. 



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hugs


There are certain people who, when I see them, my heart leaps because I know what's coming ... a nice, warm, loving hug. Within this hug is not only love, but celebration of friendship and joy in seeing and being with that person.

Perhaps one of the best huggers I know is Bailey. He is an awesome, amazing, thoughtful, loving teen who makes my day every time I see him because he's just as excited to hug me as I am to hug him. Despite facing more challenges than an average teen, Bailey seems to always take time out to find out how others are doing...and to offer a hug.

Some of my favorite hugs are those that come after not seeing someone for a long time - the spontaneous I-can't-contain-my-love-for-you type of hugs, like when Alia (photo above) reunited with her friend Sammy at Camp Calumet a few years ago. The sheer joy on his face, and the fierce determination to not let him go on hers was priceless to witness. 

I love it that most of my children still hug me, and have come to the realization that we need to hug more. One of my children in particular isn't a huge fan of hugs, or of being touched for that matter, but he did give me one of the most precious gifts I've ever received for Christmas one year - a hug ticket. 


Hug people today. People you love, people who do nice things for you, people with whom you're having a disagreement, your children, your mom, your dad ... not just when someone deserves a hug, but especially when they might not deserve one. That may be exactly when they need one. 

God, thank you for hugs - for the way they communicate love and comfort to others while making us feel that love and comfort in return. Please help us to be kinder and gentler today - to offer hugs and love even when it difficult. Inspire people to hug others today -especially those who haven't received a hug in far too long. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Givers



If there's anything I try to teach my kids it's this: We are here to help each other.

Perhaps with money, often with time, and always with love, we need to be there to help and support each other.

Giving money can be helpful, but usually only solves part of the problem.

Giving our time to others can be incredibly helpful. Lending a helping hand to a friend or a stranger makes everyone feel better.

Giving our love to others is priceless. Showing someone that you truly care about them is helpful in any situation.

It is my experience that some people who prefer to give only money and not time and talents as well generally tend to see value more in things than in actions, more in vacations than volunteerism, more in passtimes than in people. They give money, and leave it at that. Don't get me wrong, the money is greatly needed, but they could give so much more - and get so much more in the process. They miss out on so much!

There is a disconnect when you donate money without any physical involvement in the charity or organization. You don't meet the people receiving the help, and you're not one of the people helping someone's day be a little brighter. Seeing the impact of your donation of money, time, or effort is valuable beyond measure.

And so my family arrives early to help set up. We stay after to help clean up. We find ways to put our time and talent to good use for the benefit of others. We invite others to experience the same joy we do when we're giving. We help. We pray. We hug. We smile. 

And we get so much more than we give!

God, please be with the givers. Help them to give from the heart, with their time, their talents, as well as their money. Please help us to help those in need ... and help those in need to receive joyfully, without guilt, knowing they are giving others the opportunity to give, and that they someday can pay it forward. Thank you for talents and spiritual gifts that help us to be of service to others. And thank you for the givers in our lives who have helped us more than they can imagine over the past year ... and for those who set the example of what true giving is all about so that we may follow in their footsteps.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rain



Driving through downpours over the past two days, I not only gripped the steering wheel and prayed for our safety, but I also gave thanks for the earth-nourishing rain ... simultaneously cursing and blessing the rain.

Sitting in a theater watching one of my favorite scenes being rehearsed, I witnessed Hate trying its best to turn a young woman from her beliefs, toward violence. As she, weakly at first, spoke out against Hate, raindrops began to softly tap on the flat theater roof. As she grew stronger and stood her ground, proclaiming her beliefs and speaking against Hate, the rain grew increasingly louder. The deluge seemingly washing her wounds clean - a baptism of sorts, as she renewed her faith. 

God, thank you for the rain that nourishes the earth, as well as our souls. Please help us to see rain as a blessing instead of a hindrance or bother. Be with the persecuted, the abused, the hurting, and the broken. Give them strength to stand against hate and violence and embrace love and peace. Please also be with the oppressors and abusers - touch their hearts and minds and help them see love and all its possibilities for their lives. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burdens



Just about everyone I have encountered lately has been weighed down by life's burdens. Financial, health, relationship, work, school, and other stresses interrupt thought processes and impede progress. The holiday season only seems to amplify all that we need to do as well as what is lacking in our lives. 

What if we took stock of our worries, our stresses, our burdens...our plans for our lives that don't seem to be working out and then did something about them?  Often our perception of what we feel we should be doing doesn't match up with what is healthy for us, or with what God wants for us. We live in a culture of doing, of busy, of accomplishing, of making progress for progress' sake. Often we take on too much, inflicting on ourselves much of the stress in our lives.

Advent is a wonderful time to lay down our burdens and have faith that God will help us through - to take a look at the busy-ness in our lives and weed out what isn't serving us, our family, or our faith well. If we didn't have so much to do, perhaps we'd have better health, less financial stress, healthier relationships, and free up adequate energy for school or work and the other things we need to do in life. 

God, please help us to slow down, to realize what is truly important in our lives, and to let go of the rest. Inspire us to ease our burdens in a positive, productive way.  Be with us as we nurture our relationships with others and help us to also nurture ourselves. Thank you for opportunities to joyfully help lighten others' loads. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Start


Emails have been pouring in. A family in need of peace, friendship, love, and a new start will soon be arriving and we need to be ready for them. They have lost so much - friends, family, their home, their livelihoods. They need so much - a home, jobs, education,.. support as they get settled into new lives and get back on their feet. Soon, very soon it seems, the New Start Ministry will be swinging into action to welcome this family and all that entails.

After thinking we may be most likely to get the opportunity to help a Syrian family, we have recently learned that Congolese refugees are more likely. This doesn't change much about what we need to do to prepare for their arrival - but does allow us to learn about another beautiful people and their dire situation. 

God, please be with all refugees as they seek safety. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to help a family have a new start. Please help the New Start Ministry and our refugee family as we navigate unfamiliar paths together. Lead us as we learn to celebrate our differences and find a common bond. 
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 John 3:17-18

Monday, November 28, 2016

Collide



They are killing each other. The Council meets to figure out who is to blame, what must be done. Can there be peace when two countries collide?

Through the lens of hate, a situation gets blown out of proportion, someone losing it all as a result. Finding your voice to stand up for the wronged isn't easy. 

Urging others toward peace is nearly impossible when fear and hate are thrown like daggers, judgement overruling love in the process. Sometimes a look to the past can shed light on the future. 

They are being persecuted. One stands strong while the other falters. Another preaches hate while carrying a secret of her own. It is often easier to join the crowd than to risk becoming a victim of hate. 

Hate, feeding on our inclination to fear difference, is strong, but Love is, too. Not gentle and starry-eyed, Love makes us take a look at how we love each other and commands us to stand up to Hate, even if that means putting ourselves on the line. 

This second day of Advent, I pray for the cast and crew of Collide as we do our best to do our best through tech week and two performances of this amazing play. God, thank you for this inspiring group of teenagers who thoughtfully crafted this tapestry of what it is to live in a world of fear, judgement, and hate while striving for peace, acceptance, and love. Please touch their hearts and their minds as they work through their own battles to bring this work to fruition. Please bless the crew with patience, understanding, and the energy to not only complete this production, but to lift up these youth as they struggle with lines or with life this week. Thank you for Collide and its wonderful messages during this time of division and collision in our world. 

ADVENTures 2016


As I drove through the night from Connecticut to Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband's family, and back again, I had a lot of time to myself as my husband and children slept. Quiet time, lest I wake my sleeping family. 

With peaceful music wafting through the van, I began to pray. I prayed for our safe journey, for the safety of other drivers and their passengers, especially those who veered across the dotted line and back into their lanes, perhaps too tired or distracted. Prayers for friends and family poured out along with those for our community, our country, our world. After praying about things that weighed heavily on my heart, I drove on in silence, opening my heart and my mind to God. Prayers of thanksgiving followed, as the dawn illuminated the myriad blessings in my life. 

As I journey through Advent, I do so prayerfully. 

________________________
ADVENT PRAYERS
November 28th: Collide
November 29th: New Start
November 30th: Burdens
December 1st: Rain
December 2nd: Givers

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blessed Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we are blessed to have survived the seven and a half hour trip to Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with my husband's family .

In this land devoid of WiFi , we are blessed to be spending some quality time together. Thanksgiving dinner done, my family enjoys Home Alone and looks forward to sharing Christmas gifts of sharing photos and home videos with grandparents, a great-grandparent, and an aunt.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe the incredible Christmas gift we received yesterday. A "12 passenger van" to replace our slowly falling apart one. Bewildered is another good word to describe it. And amused. You see, this is no typical "12 passenger van." It does have the seating for twelve like our former vehicle, but has much more cargo room. We were astonished to discover that the van was in fact a fifteen passenger van missing aback row of seating!

I'm in a bit of shock, and unsure how I'm going to manage parking such a thing, but we'll make it work. We will not only have enough room to get everything to Camp Calumet  this Summer, but will be able to continue to use our van to help others .

I'd write more, but I need to get back to some  movie watching with my family. Besides, I haven't been blessed with good phone typing skills and this is taking me forever.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's OK


The teen sits at the table, doodling during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

He leaves worship before the Sharing of the Peace begins. He does this every single Sunday. It's OK.

He sits in the back of the worship room, enveloped in his hoodie. It's OK.

I know the doodling teen is listening simply by the way he seems to not be listening. Too look at someone as they speak is much too distracting - facial expressions, lips and tongue moving, things happening in the background. It's much easier for him to focus on paper and pen and voice than the world around him and what is being said.

Not liking to be touched by people he doesn't know well, this is the best way for him to meet his need to refrain from physical contact in an appropriate manner and not seem rude. 

The hoodie wearing boy is doing his best to not be overwhelmed by the assault of sounds,  sights, smells, and sensations of his surroundings. 

Unlike his brother, the ten year old likes to sit up front during worship. That's OK.

He rubs a soft blanket on his cheek or squeezes and runs his hands over a spiky, squishy ball as we wend our way through worship. It's OK.

He climbs into my lap, leans against me, asks me to rub his arms, or sometimes asks me if he can have a drink of water. After the drink he flaps his arms and spins them around and around. That's OK, too.

And he kicks his feet, stands up then sits down again, walks around a bit, and comes back to his seat during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

Not only is the front of the sanctuary where all the action is, but there aren't people in his way taking up too much of his attention.

Our church provides "sensory bags" for children like him to help them be able to better enjoy worship. Getting pent-up energy out in preparation for sitting still for the remainder of worship is key to his experience. Moving helps him listen, helps him concentrate. Sitting still, he would be concentrated more on sitting still than the lesson.

People with sensory issues can have a difficult time navigating Sunday School lessons and worship if made to conform to the standard rules of sitting still and eye contact and removing your hat or hood during worship. Giving them the freedom to do what they need to do to be able to learn or to worship tends to be worlds less distracting than the involuntary outbursts that may occur if they are not allowed to do so. 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently... Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Romans 14:1,4