Saturday, December 31, 2016

Invaders


Ugh.

This is not how I envisioned our New Year's Eve. 

We don't know where they came from, but they have changed our entire New Year's Eve experience. 

Instead of Zack going to Leila's to watch LOTR and the rest of us going to Gramma and Papa's house to watch tv, play on computers, and generally relax, we are all staying home, stripping beds, doing a ton of laundry, and using way too many towels. 

Instead of me picking Zack up and returning to Gramma and Papa's house for dinner, games, and counting down the new year via cable, we are picking through children's hair with a nit comb and vacuuming furniture before dinner, games, and counting down the new year via the internet. 

We don't know where these invaders came from, but they are definitely messing up our plans. 


However, we will make the most of it. Our house will end up much cleaner at the start of the new year than it would have been had things gone according to plan. I'll be able to perhaps keep myself from getting even more sick (I'm having an allergy attack on top of having a cold) without all the driving and running around I would have been doing. 

I am so thankful for my husband, who is doing the majority of the work today, as whenever I move, I either have a coughing fit or sneezing fit. I am grateful that, all things considered, this is far from the worst that could happen today. I feel blessed to be able to spend this New Year's Eve, whatever form it takes, with my husband and five children, despite the mess that has become of this day. 

What a fitting last day of a challenging year. We'll keep on doing what we strive to do every day - make the most of whatever the day throws at us and enjoy this blessed mess!




Friday, December 30, 2016

15340 and a Half




The Sixth Day of Christmas also happens to be my 15341st-ish day on this earth (including leap years). 

On this day, I will spend quality time with a young man who I try to talk to multiple times a day, and who doesn't respond ... because he's at work. Or sometimes because he is playing on the computer and has his headphones on. But mostly I do this on the three days a week he's at work. I miss him. So he said he'd take his mother out for her birthday. 

Our tattoo plans fell through (oh, darn, we'll just have to spend another day together sometime), but we will be going out for amazing Asian food and to see a movie. In recliners. With popcorn. I really want to bring a blanket and pillow, but I might get too comfortable and do what I do at home and fall asleep during the movie!

As a family, we will also be packing for New Year's Eve at Gramma and Papa's house. They're on a cruise, so they won't mind. Food, computers, DSs, Kindles, clothing, pillows, blankets, and our memory jar. We may as well be moving in!

For now, I'm going to curl up in my bed and contemplate the fact that I should be doing something useful. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Fourth, the Fifth



...days of Christmas, that is.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, I had a horrendous migraine. 

Before the migraine got too bad, I had the opportunity to deliver some useful things to the apartment the New Start Ministry is setting up for our refugee family...and to help out a bit there as well. It will be a cozy home for the three of them, close to a wonderful and helpful family who were refugees just a few years ago. What a wonderful way to start my day!

Then I went to the restaurant where Zack lost his wallet to retrieve it - they had found it while cleaning the night before. I treated myself to avocado maki and then headed home. By the time I arrived home, my migraine had amped itself up to unbearable levels, so I put myself to bed with ice packs encircling my head, where I spent a good portion of the rest of the day.

Today is the Fifth Day of Christmas. 
The migraine is still here. However, so far I've communicated via text and email with a dozen people to coordinate New Start appointments and donations, for church stuff, to sort out homeschool co-op info, and other things. I've made up schedules and payment information for all the homeschool co-op students, and emailed them. I've done dishes, made lunch, and made dinner. 

What I haven't done is change out of my pajamas. 

So now I'm going to take a shower, try to eat some food, take some medication, and pray for sleep... and for my migraine to be gone by tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Third Day of Christmas




On the third day of Christmas
I did much driving...

One teen to lunch with his girlfriend.
(I also had lunch with my friend.)
Two children to Target.
Then back to the restaurant...
(To look for a lost wallet.)
A quick trip to Kohl's
(To use a $10 coupon.)
One child from her friend's house.
One trip to the grocery store.
And back home again!

My children love the week after Christmas. Their friends who go to school are off for the week, so they can get together for a playdate or a lunch date. The added bonus is that I usually get to chat with a friend or two as well. 

Today didn't exactly go as planned ... and no, we didn't find the wallet ... but that's life sometimes. Zachary learned how to report a bank card as lost...and to be more careful with his wallet. I got two new pairs of wool socks for $1.12 and had a wonderful conversation with a friend. The two Target shoppers waited patiently in the van while I looked for the wallet, ran into two stores, and picked Alia up from her friend's house, instead of being dropped off at home after our shopping trip. Having their DSs with them and brand new games to play on them helped a lot.

The rest of this month promises to be just as unpredictable as today. We shall see what the fourth day of Christmas brings...



Monday, December 26, 2016

On the Second Day of Christmas

For those of you who love Christmas as much as I do - don't worry! It's not over yet! The Christmas season lasts until Epiphany - January 6th. Today is only the second day of the twelve days of Christmas!

On the second day of Christmas...

I am thankful my migraine is at a dull roar today. It was so bad at one point yesterday (Christmas Day) that I didn't notice I'd received the same gift from two people. Easily remedied, it's not a big deal, but that it didn't register in my brain at the time I find a mixture of amusing and concerning. When the festivities were over, I retreated home and passed out for a couple hours, my head encased in ice packs. I'm feeling much better today. 

I am thankful for the time we got to spend with family, for good food, and good conversation. And for Christmas worship, filled with joyful Christmas hymns, friendly people, and hugs. 

I am also thankful for the wonderful gifts my family received - and gave each other - this Christmas. When I ask my children what their favorite gifts were, Christmas Angel gifts top the charts. This year...


Alex gave Alia a pink chihuahua.
(Standing in for Alex is his puppet, as Alex does not like having his picture taken.)


Alia gave Zachary Santa footie pajamas.


Zachary gave Daddy Magic the Gathering cards

Daddy gave Mama a tandem nursing mama carving (didn't get a good photo, sorry!).



Mama surprised Coren with a 2DS (thanks to Grandpa!!!), a case, and screen protectors.


Coren gave Haley an owl in a Santa hat.


Haley gave Alex a Five Nights at Freddies Fazbear

These Christmas Angel gifts, made or purchased for $5 or less, are gifts from the heart.

My favorite gift of the year was made by my husband...


During these twelve days of Christmas, so many things are happening in our little world. In twelve short days, we will help set up household for and welcome our New Start refugee family and begin to get them settled into life in the United States.We will celebrate my birthday, usher in the new year, and celebrate Jim's birthday as well.  And we will begin our Winter Session of Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op.  


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pantookas


After a horrible night's sleep, I dragged myself from the warmth and comfort of my bed and made pancakes for my children. My husband made bacon, the result of which was our most difficult to tear from his bed teen bounding out of bed at record speed. Upon finishing cooking breakfast, I immediately retreated to my bed, my body in near agony from the effects of rainy Christmas Eve weather combined with doing too much yesterday on my arthritis-damaged body. 

I sit here on Christmas Eve morning, feeling blessed.

Even though Coren can't find the pantookas (apparently Dr. Seuss expects us to hang these from our ceiling). Even though I've managed to burn both hands over the past two days. Even though I'm still suffering the effects of a major allergy attack yesterday. Even though vicodin will barely take the edge off the pain I'm experiencing.

I am blessed. 

I am blessed because I have five wonderful children who have wonderful senses of humor and of play. And who don't think it's odd at all when we ask them if they've found the pantookas yet. Because I have a loving husband who understands my need to retreat to bed after being up for less than two hours. God has blessed me with another day of life. The much needed rain is nourishing the earth. Bacon. Warm bed. Christmas music. Love come down. So many blessings. 

So...
Hang pantookas on the ceilings .  Pile panpoonas on the floor.  Trim every blessed needle on the blessed Christmas tree. Christmas comes tomorrow! Trim you, trim me!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Preparations



Gifts are wrapped, bourbon balls made (and taunting me from the refrigerator), Christmas lights hung, Christmas cards sent, holiday movies watched. 

Our Advent calendar is dwindling, acts of kindness it contained carried out over the past twenty-something days. 

Christmas Angel shopping has been done and there's a giant stocking full of Christmas Angel gifts awaiting Christmas Eve...and even a couple gifts that didn't fit hiding in teens' bedrooms. 

Today we make sugar cookies, peppermint bark, and go on a super secret birthday mission while Daddy and the teen boys are at the movies to celebrate Alex's eighteenth birthday. We brave the grocery store for last minute baking items. We watch more holiday movies. 

We listen to Christmas music - not holiday music - today. We start and end our day with the Word. We continue centering our days in the sacred stories that remind us what this season is all about. We prepare to celebrate the greatest Gift. 

God be with us as we give, as we receive, as we worship, as we sing, and as we celebrate. Fill our souls with your love that we may pour it generously out to others. Give us patience as we await those special days and the holy moments they contain. Thank you for your abundant love, and for sending Love down to live among us and die for us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Eighteen


Eighteen years ago it snowed. Not too much to be concerning or impede driving, but enough to cover the ground and provide a wonderful view from my hospital room window.

Eighteen years ago I thought he might die.

Eighteen years ago I spent that first night in the hospital, nurses not believing me for hours and hours that I was truly in labor. He emerged from my body gray and lifeless. My heart nearly stopped, waiting to know if he would be ok. Lifesaving suction and resuscitation yielded heart-melting cries. Allowed only a quick kiss before he was whisked to Special Care, my heart left the room with him.


He is now, technically, and adult. I have to admit this freaks me out a bit. Sometime soon, he could decide to move out on his own. He'll definitely take a piece of my heart with him when that happens. 

But I don't have to worry about that too soon. He says he's never leaving. That's OK with me at the moment. I need someone around to reach the too high things. 

I feel so blessed to be Alexander's mother. He has been one of my greatest teachers in life, and one of my biggest blessings.

Alex has matured incredibly over the past year. He has graduated from homeschool student to teacher at our homeschool co-op, teaching Creative Writing this Winter Session. This is amazing to me, considering less than six years ago, he did not write. Dysgraphia still challenges him today, but he doesn't let it hinder him. Inspired by a Fan Fiction class that I may or may not have pushed him into taking when he was 12 years old, he began to write His amazing creativity splashed little by little onto page after page. This child who would read at fifth grade level at age five, but struggled to write a single sentence at twelve began producing much labored over paragraphs full of plot twists, humor, and drama. And now he'll be the teacher.

How have the eighteen years gone so fast? People warned me it would happen. Eighteen years ago it was difficult to believe. Now, not so much.

Alex,As you enter adulthood, I hope you remember these eighteen things:1. Be patient.2. Be kind.3. Hug your mother.4. You can do anything you set your mind to if you work hard. 5. Hard work is a good thing.6. Whenever you're bored, get to work on accomplishing a dream or creating something amazing.7. Talk to your parents, grandparents, friends, etc. about what you hope to accomplish, take in their words of wisdom, and move forward with what works for you.8. Set goals and make a plan to reach it.9. Be flexible ... don't let a bump in the road end forward momentum.10. Don't forget to have fun.11. Learn to cook things you like to eat (and remind your mother to buy the ingredients!).12. Get a job. Really. It will be good for you. 13. Work towards getting a job that you love - one that is more calling then work. 14. Learn to manage your money well. 15. Give what you can, when you can, of your money, time, and talents. 16. Volunteer somewhere that feeds your soul. Work of the heart is as important as work for pay.17. Watch more Christmas movies with your mother. It's good for you. I promise.18. Always remember ... I love you!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wrapped Up


While wrapping Christmas gifts, I pray.

I pray for those wrapped up in family issues, more concerned about relationships than celebrations.

I pray for those wrapped up in financial difficulties, more concerned about their next meal than a Christmas feast.

I pray for those wrapped up in abusive relationships - those who want out but can't see their way out, and those who choose to stay. 

I pray for those wrapped up in surviving war, their only wish peace. 

I pray for those who spread love and joy this holiday season through caroling, random acts of kindness, visiting, and sharing their time and talents with others.

I pray for those wrapped up in dealing with natural disaster, who are focused more on safety and uncertain future than festivities. 

I pray for those wrapped up in mental health issues, who struggle all the more at this time of year.

I pray for those wrapped up in physical health issues, especially those unable to spend the holidays at home.

I pray for those wrapped up in caregiving, often forgetting to take care of themselves in the process.

I pray for those wrapped up in all that goes into resettling a refugee family who will soon arrive, combining holiday preparations with the work of setting up all that is needed for a new start in life.

I pray for those wrapped up in gathering things for others and in expectations of what they will receive this holiday season, that they may look past the wrappings and into the hearts of those around them.

I pray for those wrapped up in welcoming a new life into the world, adding celebration to celebration.

I pray for those wrapped up in blessing the dying with their love, their care, and their prayers.

I pray for those wrapped up in seeking shelter and food, while many of us don't give a second thought to the bounty of our holiday feasts and the warmth and safety of our homes.

I pray for those who have nothing to wrap, and nothing to open, and find Joy in the moments, the connections, the love, the laughter, and the light.

While wrapping gifts, I realize just how blessed I truly am.








Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Family


"This is your family."

These words brought tears to my eyes. After months of waiting and a lot of hard work, we finally had, in our hands, information on "our family." The New Start Ministry had been aflutter with activity since receiving the news - securing housing, translators, seeking employment opportunities, finding English as a second language opportunities - but this was a bit different. We were all gathered in one room to talk specifics about our family and what will happen after their arrival. We were talking about them by name, not just as a future someone. 

One question posed echoed through my mind. "Do they have any family here in the U.S?" Family. Our family has lost their family in some way, shape, or form. They will arrive, the three of them, without their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews. We don't know if they had to leave their family behind, if some of their family went before them, or if they are all that is left of their families.

These refugees are leaving all they have known behind. embarking on a new life journey that is nothing like anything they've ever experienced. They are counting on us, their New Start family, to help them acclimate to this new existence.

Thank you, God, for the amazing group of individuals who are using their gifts to give our family the best chance possible here in Connecticut. Please be with us and guide us as we strive to accomplish all that needs to be done in these two weeks before their arrival. Please be with our family and give them peace as they await the day they begin this new life. Be with all refugees through their struggles and help them to see your light in the darkness of their lives.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pageant



Our one and only rehearsal was snowed out. 

We met a little over and hour before worship began, picked out costumes, got our scripts, and ran through the pageant once. Once. 

Luckily the Interpretive Movement Ministry, which was part of the performance, had rehearsed in weeks prior and knew what they were doing. We call our Interpretive Movement Ministry a ten minute ministry because we have all of ten minutes between Tuesday Night Sunday School and Choir rehearsal to learn and practice. 

We reserved our seats, went over our lines, and had a really difficult time not laughing hysterically whenever the shepherds had their part. Then we waited for the rest of the cast to arrive.

Seats filled up as people arrived for worship. They soon discovered that they, too, would be a part of the Pageant - the entire congregation was the cast!

Soon it was time for us to begin - the readings had been read, the gospel proclaimed, the choir transitioned from worship to pageant with "Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came". Then this happened...




Laughter and joy abounded as we experienced together the story of Jesus' birth in a unique way. 

Following the Pageant, the Interpretive Movement Ministry touched hearts with their performance of When Love Was Born (Mark Schultz). 



God, thank your for youths and adults who put their hearts and their time into praising you through Pageant, movement, and song. Thank you for our Angel Gabriel and his custom-made wings and for Barbara, who took video of the Pageant so that we may share it with others. Help us all to hold the meaning of your birth in our hearts and minds throughout Advent, the Christmas season, and always. Help us to be as excited about and as willing to tell others about the wonders of your birth as the shepherds were and to accept your will in our lives as willingly as Mary. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Less


I want less.

I want to spend less. To own less. To expect less. To have less. To need less. To want less.

My life would be so much better with less.

Less clutter in my house. Less time spent on cleaning. Less money spent replacing things that I probably don't really need anyway.

In this time of giving and getting, all I want is less. 

But I also want more.

I want more time with my family. I want greater ability to be of help to others. I want more of what helps my health, feeds my soul, and lifts my mood. I want to do more with my time. 

And so today we clean, we get rid of things that no longer serve us, and we make room for things that make our lives better. That means freeing up space for a gaming computer and virtual reality system purchased by our sixteen year old ... and freeing up space in order to have space - room to breathe. Today we hang Christmas lights inside our house, hang Christmas stockings, and fill the house with Christmas music. We box up donations for various people and places. We make room.

God, be with those whose lives are cluttered with the unnecessary - with things that bog them down and hold them back. Help them to let go of these things in order to lead more fulfilling lives. Help us all give of our abundance to those with not enough. Thank you for the time, the energy, and the inspiration to make room for more of Your goodness in our lives, as we use our excess to bless others.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dreams



On the nights my body has allowed sleep lately, I have had some wonderful, and some crazy, dreams.

My favorite dreams are those in which I'm confidently hiking or running or doing something physical without worry or experience of exhaustion or pain. I'd forgotten what it felt like, and I wonder if it will ever again become a reality for me.

My least favorite dreams are those in which I'm driving and my brakes don't work. I'm propelled forward into dangerous situations, occasionally dragging my family along with me. These dreams have haunted my nights lately, coming in all shapes and forms. Perhaps this signals how full-steam-ahead my life has become, and how I seem pushed through days without enough opportunity for meditation, contemplation,prayer, nor time to process all that I'm going through. And more than likely my fears about my family suffering due to my illnesses.

If there's one thing both types of dreams are telling me, it's that it is time to slow down; to breathe; to pray; to prepare; to dream. It's time to concentrate on my health, my family, my marriage, and my spiritual life.  

As Christmas approaches, different dreams surface during my waking hours...dreams of family time; laughter; love; peace; and the changes I need to make in my life to make these things happen. And so I clean, reorganize, and whittle down possessions to make room ... in our home, in our lives, in our hearts for what is to come. I free up space and time to concentrate on what's really important - family, friends, fun, and faith; room to center our lives in reflecting the light of a baby born to a young mother so long ago.

Thank you, God, for dreams that inform and those that propel us to make positive changes in our lives. Be with those who struggle with sleep, with nightmares, with waking lives that are more nightmare than sweet dream. 










Thursday, December 15, 2016

Breath



I breathe in life, love, nourishment for mind, body, and soul.

I breathe out gratitude; hope; prayers for others, of thanks, for the world.

Every breath an affirmation of life. Every breath a prayer.

I am thankful for every breath, every step, every waking and sleeping moment.

I am grateful for sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell; for voice, for limbs, for movement; for hot and for cold. 

Even when I'm having a bad day. Especially when I'm in pain. This is what keeps me going. 

Thank you, God, for everything...for life, love, for every life-sustaining breath; for pain, exhaustion, for every arduous breath; for lessons learned through joy and those learned through hardship; for words of encouragement that nurture and support me; for words of disdain that help me stand more firmly in my ways and beliefs or propel me toward positive change. Please help those who are struggling to see the beauty in the world and in themselves and those who suffer without hope. Help us all wake up and become keenly aware of the countless blessings around us and within us...to make every breath an affirmation of life; every breath a prayer. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ministry

Seven youth, ages 8-16, created a cast of puppet characters and put together a Christ-centered Christmas puppet performance, as well as an interpretive movement piece, in just a few months.

It amazes me that in that short amount of time, the children learned how to properly operate puppets (it's not as easy as it sounds), practiced lines, learned songs, and - most amazing of all made it appear that there were twice as many puppeteers during one of the pieces. And they had fun in the process.

We're not your ordinary puppet ministry. We do theater games.  We do out-of-the-box sorts of performances. These extraordinary children go along with my hair-brained ideas, showing no outward sign that they think I've completely lost my mind. Their imaginations are inspiring.

After their awesome Christmas performance during Tuesday Night Sunday School, they earned a few weeks off. Little do they know that I'll be using these few weeks to plan some more out of the ordinary things for them to do for Easter. After all, we'll only have around nine rehearsals before our next performance.

Thank you, God, for these youth, for the time they (and their parents) took to come to rehearsals and for the energy they put into the performance. Please bless this ministry and help it grow. Be with all who attended the performance, may they carry the message of what Christmas is really about with them through Advent and the Christmas season. 
______________

Bethlehemian Rhapsody:

When Love Was Born (Mark Schultz):
Ask the Animals:

Christmas with a Capital C (Go Fish): 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Connecting


I couldn't help but look into their faces and smile as we sang. It was such a great feeling, connecting with others through song as we caroled our way through visits to a nursing home and a few church folk who can't always make it to worship. 

Nine of us, including eight year old Alia, got a tad bit overheated in the nursing home, and more than a tad bit chilly caroling outside people's homes, but it was heartwarming all the same. What could be better than sharing a gift that you have - one that costs no money and comes from the heart - with someone else to brighten their day? 


At our last stop, Alia noticed that next to her tabletop Christmas tree, Betty had a betta fish. When we were done singing, Alia struck up a conversation with Betty, complimenting her on her beautiful betta and letting her know that she, too, has a betta. Betty, never having seen a white betta like Alia's, was very interested in learning more...but it was time for us to go. It was getting dark and dinner time was quickly approaching. 

Being the thoughtful person that Alia is, she formed a plan: we would print out a picture of Angel, Alia's betta, and mail it to Betty. Better yet, we'd include it in a Christmas card. And maybe we could go back and visit Betty again sometime so they could swap betta stories. 

It is those connections in life that are so important. I love that Alia doesn't care about age or color or gender or economic status when connecting with people - she cares only about the person and the connection. If only we could all, without thought or hesitation, make those connections daily ... what a wonderful place the world would be!

God, please help us to be better connected with the people around us. Help us see You in all we encounter and serve others as we would serve you. Thank you for the connections we have in our lives and the opportunities you provide us to make those connections. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Safety


After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight.       Matthew 2:13-14

Two young parents were forced to flee with their young child. Leaving their home - a place that was no longer safe for them - they went on a long journey in order to seek refuge. It was not an easy journey, to be sure. 

I could easily be referring to the passage from Matthew about Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt in order to keep Jesus safe, but I'm not. I'm speaking of a nineteen year old mother, twenty-three year old father, and almost-two-year-old child who have left their war-torn home to seek safety in the United States. The New Start ministry will be working hard over the next twenty-six (and counting) days to prepare and provide housing, household items, clothing, food, and other necessities to the family. What a wonderful thing to be doing during this Advent and Christmas seasons!

God, as the New Start family prepares to journey to us, please help us to prepare the way for their transition to life in the United States. Please touch their hearts with peace and anticipation of good things to come and our hearts with generosity and joy in giving and doing. Thank you for the opportunity to use our time and talents for this good work. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Truth


Why do we struggle so much with the truth, our truth, and letting others in on it. Why do we try to cover up every blemish, every fault, every not-quite-perfect thing about ourselves?

The truth is, everyone has imperfections. Everyone makes mistakes. We are all human. Embracing our own human-ness could make the world a better place.

The truth is I'm fat. I'm sick. I'm tired. I have scars. I don't fit culture's definition of beautiful. I have tattoos. I'm in constant pain. I sometimes yell at my kids. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have depression and anxiety disorders. I'm a Christian. I'm kind. I believe in love and forgiveness and acceptance and sharing joy. I'm incredibly "crunchy" when it comes to things like birth, breastfeeding, parenting, and what I feed my family -  most of the time - but there are days when I allow way too much screen time just so I can lay in bed and not have to deal with anything for a while. 

I love my children and my husband fiercely. I am blessed with wonderful, generous, loving parents and in-laws. I struggle with feeling like I'm not enough and don't contribute enough. I struggle with feeling like I do too much and use all my energy being everything to everyone. I am thankful for amazing friends, for opportunities to give, and for the enormous amount of love in my life. I feel best when I'm able to do something positive for someone else...and when I'm curled up with my family watching a good movie or playing a game. 

There are days I feel lost and despair. There are days I feel lost and rejoice. I value solitude as well as connection.

I spent half of my live striving to be normal. I will spend the rest of my life striving to be me.

What would happen if we all told our truth - just put it all out there for the world to see? If we were all our true selves, not fearing judgement, not feeling shame?

I've been told that my blog is intensely personal, and I agree. But life is intensely personal. There are many people who have the same struggles as I have or had, and knowing we are not alone in our pain or sadness or frustration is comforting. Sharing with others the message that you are not alone, you are valued, you are loved, is essential for all of us to do in one way or another. And so I put my truth out there, in all its raw ugliness, raw beauty, in hopes that someone feels less alone, less shame, and can feel the self-worth that carries us all through the most difficult times.

God, thank you for the opportunity to share my truth. Please help me and others to live and speak our truths and help others living similar truths to not feel alone. Help us to receive others' truths without judgement, with love. Be with those who are persecuted for living their truths. 



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Instead



I should be cleaning my house. 

I should be responding to emails and working on homeschool co-op stuff and planning classes.

I should be grocery shopping.

I should be showered and dressed by now, as it's early afternoon and I'm still in my pajamas. 

But I'm not.

Instead, I'm relaxing a bit on this St. Nicholas Day.

Instead, I sent a little money to someone gathering funds to make an amazing someone's Christmas a little brighter. 

I'm helping to address a child's letter to a friend and finding a stamp so it can be mailed post haste.

Instead, I'm painting banners for the Interpretive Movement Ministry, watching a Christmas movie, and dreaming up gift options for my Christmas Angel.

Some days, there are more important things than cleaning and checking things off a to-do list. There are books to read and art to create. There are children who need attention and Christmas dreams to be dreamed. 

And today there was a giant St. Nicholas Day stocking awaiting us when we woke, its contents promising another day of Instead - a day of movie watching and special treats instead of housework and too much to do.

God, thank you for Instead days. Thank you for St. Nicholas, who was a shining example of what it is to give and to serve others. Thank you for people who think to organize something to help meet a family's needs and give them something a bit extra this Christmas ... and to all who donate to such causes. Please help us to be more giving and more forgiving, to put aside agendas and take time to enjoy life, each other, and all you have given us. 

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.