Muck

I like cute-creative Halloween. Not ghosty-ghouly-gorey Halloween.

Like the year Tween dressed as a skeleton on Hawaiian vacation: skeleton costume plus grass skirt with Mardi Gras beads and puka shells topped with a straw hat. Cute, creative, and made us all laugh.

As I walk the dog through decked out neighborhoods, I continually avert my eyes to the dog, to my own plodding feet, to avoid the grossing-me-out décor. Pumpkins and hay bales, all good. Severed bloody limbs hanging from trees? No way.

I do the same with social media and news reports, which these days seem about the same. But even as I ignore insensitive comments, I can’t help arguing with them in my head. Did they read or hear the same info I did? Then how in the world did we come to such different conclusions?

How in the world, indeed. How in the world…

The other day I heard someone comment that we’ve had a bad week, oh, for about a year now.

Yes. That feels spot on.

As that comment ricocheted around my brain, I recognized that I feel increasingly, steadily, angry. Naturally an optimist, I seem to have lost myself, as I can’t find much about which to be optimistic.

I hate how noisy the world has become, with everyone shouting at one another. Not only disagreeing—never mind agreeing to disagree—but hating on one another.

Here’s what I hate:

I hate that our country’s issues have piled up like bricks in a wall, with friends and family members on either side hurling invective and brandishing pitch forks.

I hate that those with power refuse to even listen to those without power, as if they don’t have a right to an opinion, or their own perspective based on their own experience. Nope, they’re just wrong.

I hate the struggle to defend myself as a woman working in a man’s world. And the apparent inability of men to see that that is my experience. (And if I feel this way, as a white, middle class working woman, I truly cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like to be someone without as much privilege.)

I hate that life can be so hard, that people I love hurt so much for so many reasons and there is little I can do about it.

In so many ways, I feel stuck. Like one of our favorite children’s books, I’m one duck stuck in the muck and I want to cry, “Help, help, who can help?”

But I don’t cry, because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of sounding ridiculously needy. I’m afraid of being that vulnerable. I’m afraid of being accused of losing the faith, of being faithless. I’m afraid I won’t hear the right response, “We can, we can!” I’m afraid we’re all stuck in this muck.

I had a conversation yesterday about the title of my blog, “Miracles in the Mundane,” that there truly are bright, sparkly miracles in everyday life if we open our eyes to see them.

I still believe that. I do.

It’s just harder to find miracles in the muck. So, tired as I feel already, I must keep digging.

Maybe we should all try. Put down our burdens and instead start digging and looking for miracles. Because, honestly, that would be the best help.

Re:Create • Sanctified Imagination

Pictures of cute kittens and babies aside, one of the more useful benefits of social media is connecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. That’s exactly what happened when, a few years ago, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He had stumbled across our church website, then found my picture, and reached out. Since then I have been grateful to be back in touch, especially through his posts on Facebook and his blog. Quite a thoughtful writer, I am thrilled to have him share on the blog today. We would all do well to consider how the people in our lives shape the stories we read, tell, and live.

re:create recess #2: Randy Ehle

Re:Create
One of the greatest truths of our humanity is that we are created in God’s image. And being created in the image of the Creator God—the creative God—means we, too, are creative. Creation came into being when God spoke. He has revealed himself for all history through his Word, written. His redeeming Son, Jesus, is called The Word. And so my image-of-God creativity is expressed in words.

Re:New
I grew up in the church, so I knew all the stories, all the books, all the characters. I knew about daring to be a Daniel and being patient like Job (though frankly, Job never seemed all that patient to me once I really read him). I knew the twelve disciples and most of the twelve sons of Jacob. I knew Moses and Joseph, David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah. I’m sure I had the full set of Little Golden Books, including Jonah’s whale and Jericho’s tumbling walls.

But by the time I’d become a pastor, the stories had become merely that: stories. Even with more translations at my fingertips than Legion’s demons, I could scarcely read my Bible without already knowing what comes next. Familiarity had bred, if not contempt, at least complacency. Then I met Carolyn.

Carolyn volunteered in our church office. Warm, chatty, deeply caring, and ever wanting to learn more about Jesus, Carolyn and I had long conversations about life, the Bible, and whether the God of the Old Testament changed in the New. I learned as much from Carolyn’s questions as she did from any of my seminary-trained insights. I also learned something about disabilities. You see, Carolyn had been in a wheelchair for a quarter century, the result of a freak accident in which her mail jeep overturned, pinning her under a mound of first-class letters, junk mail, and packages.

Carolyn's baptism in the American River

Carolyn’s baptism in the American River

As I got to know Carolyn, I also met anew some men and women I’d been reading about since childhood: the blind men, lepers, and paralytics whose lives intersected with, and were changed by, Jesus. As I heard more of Carolyn’s story—not just the accident, but everyday life with a lower spine injury—I began to wonder about the lives of those biblical men and women.

Re:Write
Though I’ve enjoyed writing since my school days, for most of my life I wrote only for myself. Even when I began writing a blog, I did little to solicit readers. Writing was an outlet for the thoughts and ideas circulating in my head, but I never felt I had much to add to the world’s conversations. Any conversation. Meeting Carolyn began to change that, and led me to think about another paralytic:

His friends created the world’s first skylight, lowered his bed through the hole, and hoped beyond hope they wouldn’t have to lift him out the same way. Waving the swirling dust away from his face, the itinerant healer in the room below spoke … not words of healing, but of conviction!

“Your sins are forgiven.”

We who are familiar readers of the text barely skip a beat here. We rush right on by, scarcely noticing the crowd’s incredulity. We want to get to the good stuff, the miracles, the healing. We know what comes next and love to watch Jesus stick it to the self-righteous religious folks … who, of course, are not we. Because of Carolyn, I read the words with new eyes; like a blind man given new sight, I began to see beyond the words on the page.

The over-crowded room had only packed tighter with the invasion of the horizontal alien from above. The dust and dirt of the impromptu renovation choked throats while the brief cooling from the escaping air was replaced with the heat of the noonday sun now streaming onto their heads.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

What?!? What in the world does that mean?

Neither the hushed crowd nor the prone man could believe what they’d heard. They were equally incredulous, but for vastly different reasons: the crowd, because of the healer’s audacity to think he had the right to forgive sins; the paralytic, because of the audacity to think he—crippled as he was—had even the slightest capacity to sin.

If we were filming in 21st century style, we might pause the action here and focus the camera on the man’s reclined face. He would speak an aside, directly to the audience, revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. Having no such cinematic tools at our disposal, however, we are left to our imaginations – our sanctified imaginations. It’s a term my mom uses often to encourage deep, extra-biblical thinking about feelings, thoughts, and actions the Bible doesn’t tell us. And so I write—or rather, rewrite—from that sanctified imagination.

In recounting the story of the paralytic, the gospel writers are concerned with Jesus’ divine authority. Saying “your sins are forgiven” is easy and shows no visible effect; but causing a known cripple to walk is no cheap trick. In fact, the evangelists tell us, this is more about confirming Jesus’ authority to forgive than about demonstrating mercy.

There’s more to the story; more to the story that’s written, and more to the story that’s not written. Maybe my re:creation—my sanctified imagination—will open others’ eyes to the Creator. Maybe my words will open others’ ears to the Word whose Word is Life. Maybe I have something to add to the conversation, after all.

rehle-bio

 

Randy Ehle is a husband and father, coach and teacher, writer and speaker. He was—and longs again to be—a pastor. He’s lived in Canada, Germany, England, and throughout the United States; and has traveled on four of the seven continents. A self-described “rushed contemplative,” Randy has known life and death, gain and loss, wisdom and foolishness. He uses writing as a creative outlet, spiritual inspiration, and personal challenge for his readers. Find more of Randy’s thoughts at www.randehle.com.

The Kids are Okay

We have completed Week 2 of the school year and I can happily report that we are all doing OK! At least mostly. I think.

We’ve only had…
…one lost backpack,
…one slept-through alarm clock,
…one forgotten bike lock combination,
…one forgotten lunch box,
…one “oops, I forgot to turn it in” homework assignment,
…a couple “oops, I forgot to do it” homework assignments,
…one seven-hour homework marathon (A+ for persistence! And Fail-on-Mom not checking on too-long quiet child),
…one minimum day during which Tween and friends went into town for lunch – a tip-toe into independence – where he purchased one authorized half-eaten sandwich and drink and $20 of unauthorized gum and candy (ew!),
…daily rush-to-get-everyone-out-the-door miscommunication,
…and one soccer ball to the face, resulting in smashed glasses, two hours at the eye doctor (all good!), dilated eyes, and a late night of all-hands-on-deck homework.

Dilated crazy eyes!

Dilated crazy eyes!

There have been highlights, too. Like Day 1 of junior year when Teen allowed me to read him the biblegateway verse of the day, a Psalm, and then proceeded to read his favorite Bible verse to me, also a Psalm, including explanation as to why it was his favorite verse, what it meant to him and what it says about who God is – in general and in his life. Miracles like that do this Mama’s heart good!

Also, twice this week Teen has chosen to hang with me, sometimes talking, sometimes not, sometimes showing me videos he thinks are funny, giving me a glimpse into his mind and his world. Okay, so he’s been stalling on bedtime, but he’s also been choosing Connection with Mom on his schedule. Cardinal rule of parenting teens: be available when they’re ready to connect.

And Tween and I have still found time to read aloud together. One day soon he might figure out that he’s “too old” for this and decide that he prefers to read silently and alone, but I hope not. It’s an easy connection place, shared story making for shared experience. Plus, snuggles.welcome-back-to-school-clipart-2

Last night we attended Back to School Night at the middle school. Having done this before – albeit five years ago – sixth grade doesn’t seem so intimidating this go-round. We know our way around the school and many of the teachers are familiar, as are the courses and expectations. And yet… Teen experienced sixth grade as a series of belly flops, fun in the air and painful when you smack down hard. We know Tween, too, will take his share of risks and flops and that the pain will radiate to the whole family. It happens. By design.

And yet… We know Tween’s strengths and limitations. We know his gifts and challenges. We can anticipate where he will excel and which teachers will suggest a conference in the near future.

The temptation to give in to the anxiety can be overwhelming. But I don’t want to live in fear. I want to delight in my children.delight

Glennon Doyle Melton affirms that all children are gifted and talented, their lives containing glittering Christmas gifts, and God decides when they get to unwrap their special gifts. School insists that all children excel in the same ways at the same age, but that simply is not the case. Clearly kids are not all the same, as people are not all the same – and thank God! The world would be so boring, so inoperable, if we all shared the same gifts.

As parents we have a responsibility to regularly, daily, more often than not, communicate to our kids that they are okay. To do that, we have to truly believe it. Deep down in our guts we have to know that, whatever bumps our kids take throughout a day, they are and will be okay.

We each have the opportunity to delight in one other, but so often we should on each other instead. Like this talented mom, who condensed Things Moms Say in 24 hours into a less-than-3 minute song. Funny, and True, but if our kids only hear these things we all miss out.

I am making anew a decision to delight in my kids. I want their first and last glimpse of me during a day to be smiling, loving, delighted. I request that they “Kiss your Mama!” as they depart for the day and arrive home again, a sweet connection to remind them I will always be in their corner. Sometimes it’s forced, but it’s a good habit nonetheless. I want them to know that, Yes, You are Okay!

Of course I want my kids to do their very best. But their best may not always measure up and that has to be okay, too. I will continue to advocate for my kids as only a Mama can, but I will do it in faith that God created them exactly the way He intended them to be, with their own delicious blend of sweets and savories. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but they will always be my favorite flavors.love not worry

At times it will be a struggle to resist the temptation to fear. To not let their bumps reflect on my ability to parent, or my self-esteem. To be my kids’ rock rather than a puddle of my own worries. To stand strong against this competitive culture and its constant comparisons one to another.

Stand with me and let’s delight together in our children. Their uniqueness can make us laugh, can cause us to think new thoughts, to wonder – with awe – at who they are and who they will become. So much better than worry, don’t you agree? The kids are okay.

 

100th Post: Pay It Forward

Guy bought a car last week since our household now claimed three drivers and two cars. We swore we would not buy a car, but this deal was almost too good to pass up.

We almost passed it up anyway. The car was older and bigger than Teen wanted, had a lot of miles, and lacked a good speaker system. Older and bigger didn’t make for major considerations in our book since the price was right (better than, truth be told). As for lots of miles, Teen will drive it around our small community for about two years before he takes off for college with his bike; we don’t need it to last forever. The car had been kept in pristine condition, every service record on file, and in fact, most service done by the local mechanic selling the car on behalf of the owner. The mechanic had his reputation on the line; he wouldn’t sell us a lemon.

Guy figured: this is a reasonable cost for increased freedom, both for Teen and his parents.

teen driverBut, no speaker. There had been one, but it had been removed. Bummer.

Guy did due-diligence, checking the service records and asking the mechanic to do one more once-over. And dragging his feet a little, as suspense does wonders for a teenager’s motivation.

When they finally went to seal the deal and purchase the car, lo and behold, a subwoofer had been installed. Teen was so excited he might as well have been driving on the moon! He admits: the sound system makes the car.

The next day we told our co-workers about the purchase. And that afternoon a co-worker went to have her hair done the next big city over from our small town.

(Not a random fact. Hang in there!)

As our co-worker sat in the stylist’s chair, chit-chatting the afternoon away, Stylist told her about the new car he’d just purchased (same make/model, different year, as the car we purchased). And the car he’d just sold (same everything). He told her that the mechanic who had serviced his car, who had sold his car for him, had advised him to remove the subwoofer because he could sell it for a lot (close to half-again the price of the car). So he had the subwoofer sitting on his kitchen counter. Taking up space.

When the mechanic told him that a dad was “seriously interested” in buying the car for his 16-year-old son, Stylist felt guilt-stricken. What teenager wants a car without a good speaker system? Would he really ever get around to selling the subwoofer? Did it matter to him all that much? Didn’t a kid’s happiness matter so much more?

He decided to pay it forward. He immediately packed up the subwoofer and drove it back to the mechanic’s shop and helped to reinstall it in the car. And he turned down two full-price offers over our lesser offer because we had expressed interest first.

By then our friend had figured out the catch in this story: she knew the car’s new owners! She knew the happy Teen beat-bump-beating down the streets. Small world, great story.

As soon as Teen got his driver’s license he hyper-focused on trying to find a car in a reasonable price range. He got excited, and hopes dashed, over and over. We said: God will make it clear which car you’re meant to have. And He did, as we receive this story as confirmation that God has been behind-the-scenes.

bloggingThis is my 100th post on this blog, and this milestone deserved a good story. We all deserve good stories, and we all live good stories day-in and day-out. Even when our stories are uncomfortable, even painful, they can be hope-filled and redemptive as we seek miracles in our mundane.

Writing this blog has been redemptive for me. I have enjoyed the discipline of regular writing and reflection; I have thought differently, lived differently, as a result, which is exactly what a discipline should do: change you, preferably for the better. I hope my writing has improved with practice, and I know my life has changed as I’ve felt happier and increasingly centered in all the right ways.

And I feel as though I am contributing something new to the world as I share my stories, my small attempt at paying it forward. From time to time (at least), I hope you feel like this blog is my gift to you. Because it is.

Just over a year ago I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference with this blog on my heart – I just didn’t know it would be this blog. The theme of the conference:

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story?

I bought the coffee mug. And I began writing.

I meet so many people who tell me they can’t write, and yet they have stories to share. And, honestly, I’ve read plenty of writing that shouldn’t have been written. But whether or not you think you can write, we need to hear your stories. Please, tell your stories. Let someone else write them down if need be. The world will be a better place as you pay it forward.

what is your story question

Grow

God has rarely been subtle with me. In my life, He definitely tends toward the dramatic.

Before she knew she was pregnant, God woke my mom up in a London hotel room to tell her she would have a baby girl. When three doctors told her I would be a boy (before ultrasounds, of course), she told them she had it on Good Authority that I would be a girl.

Having heard that story from an early age, I knew that God created me and had plans for me. I live God’s promise in Psalm 139:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15).

When He called me into relationship with Himself, it was again with no small drama. My sister and I fought almost from the day she came home from the hospital. One day in the course of a scuffle during a mall trip with Mom, my sister managed to pull my eyeglasses off my face. They fell to the floor and broke. I was almost seven years old so my sister was just two. Flooded with shame I owned the blame; as the Big Sister I should not have been fighting with the Baby.

Surely frazzled, Mom headed for a coffee break. Seated next to her at the coffee counter, sipping my ice water, I quietly prayed. I wanted to ask God’s forgiveness, but I remembered something some Sunday school teacher must have told me: “God doesn’t have to forgive me because I don’t have a relationship with God. I need to ask Jesus into my heart.” And so I did.

Shame lifted, I leaned over and told my mom what I had prayed. Surprised, she recognized the peace of God washing over me. Many years later she told me she hadn’t experienced God’s peace quite like that ever before. Miracle of miracles, I stopped fighting with my sister, too. At least for that day.

God called me into professional church ministry through a prophetic dream. No kidding. Had you asked me before that time if I believed God still spoke through dreams, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. But that particular morning I awoke from a vivid dream. Married just about a year, I rolled over and told my still-sleepy Guy, “Our high school director is going to announce his resignation during staff meeting this morning. He’s taking a job in Washington. You’re going to take his job and I’m going to take your job as junior high director.”

Guy scoffed, “Yah, right.”

As I left for my morning commute I laughed, “Call me after staff meeting!” He didn’t call.

But when I returned home, he had dressed to take me out to dinner. The high school director had announced his resignation during staff meeting, just like I’d seen. He was, in fact, taking a job in Washington. Guy’s job would be restructured and I was invited to interview for a staff position, one I joyfully filled for several years.

So, yes, I tend to be dramatic. But then, I am created in the image of a God with a strong dramatic flair.

Without a doubt I know God has been calling me to Himself since before I was born. He calls all of us, though admittedly He often whispers. He doesn’t always use 2×4’s and loud exclamations. Still, He loves us and wants us to know Him, to love Him more fully today than yesterday, tomorrow more than today.

Which means God also calls us to Grow in our relationship with Him.

Growth should be simple. With basic healthy ingredients – water, nutrients, sunlight, love – kids grow, plants grow, animals grow. Relational growth requires time, commitment, love. Spiritual growth requires the same – time with, commitment to, and love for God and His people. This looks like worship, study, prayer, service, relationship, and outreach. It should be simple, but don’t kid yourself that that makes it easy.

I love God and I love His Church. But I don’t always like what God asks and sometimes I don’t like the Church. Truth be told.

But Ephesians 4:1 tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And what does that worthy life look like? It looks like humble, gentle, patient, loving relationships with God’s people. It looks like unity, like making every effort to maintain the Spirit’s unity as there is only One Body despite our myriad denominations, churches, theologies and worship styles. It looks like peace, like bearing with one another, like love.

To grow in relationship with God, we must grow in relationship with God’s people. We don’t get to choose One or the other – it’s a package deal. Like it or not, Love is the answer.

And hopefully, when the rubber meets the road, when we come to life’s dark twists and turns, our investment in God’s family will hold us and keep us safe in God’s hands.

Connect
When did you first discover your professional vocation/calling?

Study
Read Ephesians 4:1-6, 12b-16.
What is the “calling you have received” (vv. 1, 4)? What does a life “worthy” of this calling look like (vv. 2-3)?
What does the end goal of our growth as Christians look like (vv. 12b-16)?
What do you think it means to attain to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13)?
The phrase “in love” appears three times in this passage (vv. 2, 15, 16). Why is love so important in Christ’s body?
What does this passage say about unity? How is unity an indication of growth as disciples?

Live
During which time in your life have you seen the most growth in your relationship with Christ? To what do you attribute that growth period?
Where do you see examples of disunity among God’s people? In your own life?
What practical difference does it make in your life that God intends for His people to be “joined and held together,” to “grow and build itself up in love,” as each person does their work of service (v. 16)?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that your worshiping community will reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Word

You may have noticed the cultural trend away from resolutions – 25% of people who make resolutions break them within a week – and to choosing a guiding word instead, something like “Love” or “Focus” or “Courage.”

For those who follow Jesus, our word ought always to be “Jesus,” the name of our Beloved continually on our minds and hearts and whispers.

But there are many ways to focus on Jesus, many ways in which Jesus wants to grow us, and many, many words from which to choose.

A few years ago I chose “endurance,” as in, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Except that running is not my thing, and the whole idea of endurance deflates me. Endurance sounds like agony, hard work, the opposite of joy and fun and life.

Early 2014 I attended Donald Miller‘s Storyline conference (highly recommend!). I was already using his daily planner and each day I would write “LOVE!” on that planner. Except I only used the planner when I was in the office (four days/week), and then I was out of the country for two months, and during the fall I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t resume the practice (but will – it is January, after all). So even “love” wasn’t the best guiding word for me as it didn’t inspire me as it should.

So this year, what’s the word? It’s a phrase, actually:

“Put yourself in the way of beauty.”

It comes from the movie version of the book, Wild, in which Cheryl Strayed walks out of her broken-to-bits life and into the wilderness, walking herself into the woman her mother raised her to be. I read the book when it first came out (much preferred it to the movie version) and it almost convinced me I’d like to backpack, to take on a quest of sorts. When Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl voice-over’d this sentence it jabbed me in the best way. I remembered reading it, was sad to have forgotten it, as it’s such great advice. It’s advice my mom, my everyday model of grace and beauty, might have spoken to me.

But first let’s define beauty. I actually really like this definition from Dictionary.com:

“the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).”

I expected something more superficial, as so much of beauty in American culture is just that, surface-y and fake, and absolutely not what I’m going for.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

God created and creates and everything God has made is good, beautiful. Even when life gets all wonky, God works His beautiful purpose in our lives. We just don’t always see or appreciate God at work – hence my ongoing search for miracles in the mundane. (Hah! I just mistyped that “mundance” and I kinda like it – let’s do a little boogie!).

God surrounds Himself with beauty – “Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary” (Psalm 96:6) – and His people who share Truth are also beautiful – “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7).

Then there’s 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” This one reminds me of our well-meaning Sunday school teacher who used it to beat up her 7th grade girls’ small group; um, excuse me, but what 7th grade girl isn’t more than a little bit concerned about outward appearance? Yes, focus on inner beauty (as I plan to), but also teach the arguably most awkward humans on the planet how to do their hair and dress to their body type and love the physical shell God gave them. Be good stewards of the inside and out of God’s gifts.

One more Scripture, Philippians 4:8 uses a synonym for beauty – “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

So what might putting myself in the way of beauty look like on a day-to-day basis?

Getting up early or sleeping in. Naps are definitely beautiful!
Time with God in His Word
Smile, laugh, enjoy
Solitude and relationships in a healthy rhythm
Gym time and walks with friends and dogs
Surrounding myself with good stories and uplifting people
Meaningful work and play projects that motivate and inspire me
Concerning myself less with what others think and more with my own well-being
Creating experiences and making memories, not collecting stuff
Decluttering home and life so the beautiful stands out
And so much more!

As I’ve been pondering this phrase for a couple of weeks, it has already prompted different behavior, giving me hope that this word will stick in all the right ways. After Christmas we spent a few days with Guy’s parents in southern Oregon. High on our kids’ priority list: snow play. In two cars we drove to a nearby mountain and found easy parking. We tumbled out – dog, too – and threw a few snowballs, took a few pictures, and tossed our freezing-cold selves back in the vehicles, all in less than fifteen minutes. I started flipping through the pictures I’d taken and hardly noticed when the rest of the gang hopped back out again. A natural spectator, it would’ve been easy for me to wait in the car. Instead I decided to put myself in the way of beauty, to open the car door, step in the snow, walk up the hill, and see what God had done. Yes, it was a decision, just like staying put would have been, but this decision I made for beauty.

Look what I found:

A solitary pop of color

A solitary pop of color

Do you see the sunshine heart? God loves me!

Evidence of God’s love in a sunshine heart

"Survive Rough Times"

“Survive Rough Times”

snow redeems

 

It hasn't melted yet...

It hasn’t melted yet…

I also found my family – Guy, boys, my beautiful mom and my nephew, our dog – and together we played and laughed and enjoyed the beauty. A SoCal girl for most of my life, snow has been an occasion, not a regularity, and I really do prefer moderate temperatures. But I am glad I got out of the car to put myself in the way of beauty.

Here’s to a Beautiful New Year!

Meatless Monday

My sweet Guy bought me an Advent gift, this beautiful book I look forward to savoring:

Advent bk

For some reason, this picture insists on uploading sideways. Then again, my Advent/Christmas/life/today seems to always be a little sideways so perhaps that’s exactly right.

And today, December 1st, these words leap off the page and into my heart: “Jesus…whispers to you in a noisy world: ‘Right where you are, look for the small glimpses of My love unfurling around you….’

“Miracles happen whenever we speak words that make souls stronger. Miracles happen whenever we look for shoots of Jesus’ love everywhere – because this grows deep roots in Jesus’ love for everyone. Miracles happen in the drawing close to the little people, the least people, the lonely people, the lost people – because this is drawing close to Jesus. This is how we all draw love everywhere.” Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, p8

And later I read this from our mission partner Amor Ministries: “…do we really live our Christmas season as if it will change the world?”

I want to glimpse Jesus’ love right where I am. I want to witness as God unleashes miracles in our mundane. I want to draw love everywhere. I want to participate in God’s change in the world. Don’t you?

I’ve been meaning to post this Meatless Monday recipe for a while but it seems Jesus meant it for today. I took it to lunch with girlfriends several weeks back; it is a perfect take-to-friends meal. It’s also so easy that you can keep ingredients on hand and whip it up for unexpected guests. Or, you know, those harried weeknights when the day has more than gotten out of hand and you need a quicker-than-quick family meal. Yeah, we’ve had a few of those, too.

Tomato, Black Bean & Corn Soup

1 container Trader Joe’s tomato and red pepper soup
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c cooked brown rice (TJ’s brown basmati is my fav)
½ jar TJ’s corn & chile salsa (or 1 c roasted corn)
Chili powder, to taste
Ground coriander, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Empty TJ’s prepared soup into a stock pot. Add remainder of ingredients. Heat through and serve. The soup tastes even better if you heat, turn off heat and let sit, and then reheat just before serving. If you’ll be serving littles, the roasted corn might be the way to go as the salsa has a definite kick, but then you’ll want to up the spices a notch for good flavor. You could also try less corn salsa + some roasted corn.

TJs tomato soup

Easy (mostly) Trader Joe’s ingredients to keep on hand for when you need them

Soup might not change the world, but it can sure change someone’s day. With soup, you can offer warmth and hearty goodness and love – your love and God’s.

Oh, and you might as well go ahead and double the recipe from the get-go. Yes, it’s that good.