Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent: Day 2

I love stories.  One of the things I miss most about my Granny is that she was the storyteller of the family, always remembering bits and pieces of her life in the form of a story.  In college, I had a friend who was an enormous storyteller.  The guy could go out to run a few errands and come home with a story that sounded like he had been out having the greatest day ever.  I can hear him in his California-drawl saying, “Dude!  You’ll never believe what happened…” and then he would launch into his story, recounting some silly thing or other that had happened in the post office line. 

I am not an innate storyteller, mostly because I don’t like to be the center of attention in a conversation.  I would much rather listen to others talk, responding and asking them questions.  Having my story or point of view driving the conversation stresses me out.  If I am one on one with someone, that is different.  But even then, knowing where to approach a story and what details to share or not share is not something that comes easily to me.

This morningI noticed this verse in Psalm 102: 

“These will be written for a generation to come,
That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.”  Psalm 102:18

The words “that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD” stopped me short and made me think of my kids and the stories I have told them and the many I have not.  It is not just my children who need to hear my stories, but my grandchildren and for their children and on and on. 

When I think about my life and the stories I have been given to tell, I see God’s mercy, grace, and kindness all over them.  So while I may not always be able to spin a trip to the grocery store into a funny yarn, I know I can tell of how God drew me to Him, how He has taught me tenderly and patiently, year after year, how He has held me up in the midst of loss and how His purposes and His love make daily life, no matter what the circumstances, always worth living. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent: Day 1

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a time of preparation for Easter set aside by the church.  I am choosing to observe Lent this year by giving up a couple of things that I enjoy daily and by making time in my schedule to write.  Though I know I will miss the things I am giving up, and I know daily writing time will be a challenge to find (hello the sixth sense toddlers have about Mom waking up early!!), I am feeling something today that I didn’t anticipate at all: freedom.

I have been hoping to make some changes in my daily life for a while now, but with life steam rolling along at top speed it can seem impossible to stop and change direction.  It is easy for me to look at my life and see all the ways I don’t have freedom to choose how to spend my time. This Lenten season has offered me something I have needed: a reason outside of myself to act on my desire for change within my life.

Our church has been going through a series lately called: Less is More.  The main point is that we need less of ourselves and more of God in our lives.  It is my prayer and sincere hope that the structure of Lent will help me to live more for God and less for myself, and that in doing so I will grow in love and joy in my relationship with Jesus and as I serve those around me.

It is good to be writing again.  I hope to write a more personal family update here at some point, but today the main goal was simply to begin.

And so I have.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Minute Fridays: Mercy...and an introduction

I am so happy to be writing today!  And to be linking up with the Five-Minute Friday crew again.  Click over to Lisa-Jo's site to find out what Five-Minute Fridays are all about.  You are welcome to join in!! 

The prompt for today is Mercy...

The fingers of the sun reach through the trees behind our home, light filters green and fresh, falling onto the wood floor of our family room.  I see the light and I remember and am grateful for this: his mercies are new every morning.

A quick search for the meaning of mercy: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly; compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power.

At the tail end of a day it can seem like I have used up my whole share and a lot more of the mercy of God. 

Upon awakening to the morning light, I find God’s mercy isn’t packaged up, like leftovers in his fridge of good things, saved up so that nothing is wasted and set on the shelf so the dregs can be passed out another day.

Instead, God sets a brand new, unopened package of his mercy carefully on the threshold of each new day. 
There is something else that is new in my house, a sweet new person whose very presence in our family speaks of the mercy of God.

Meet Samuel Theodore Corley, born on August 24, 2013

Oh, mercy…

I hope to write more soon about the miracle of Sam’s story, how God wrote his coming right into the story of our cross-country move so that for many weeks I lived on a separate coast from the rest of my family as I waited for Sam’s arrival.  This space has been so quiet because truly, rather than sit down to write about life, it was all I could do to live the wildness and strangeness of each day.

May you soak in the new, every morning new, mercy of God, my friends!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

the hunt for beauty: a desert morning

I’m in the desert right now.  Not in the metaphorical sense, but the actual desert: hot, sandy, and creosote-bush-covered, where road runners and families of quail skitter across the road and where you better get up early if you want to enjoy being outside.  Otherwise, its just too darn hot.

I woke today feeling the weight of what I am waiting for bearing down on me.  I have felt this way the past couple of days, with time crawling by like so much old honey being poured out of a crock.  But instead of trudging through another day, I made a decision.  I chose to go on the offense, to go hunting. 

Hunting for beauty on a desert morning.

Still in my pj’s, I slipped on flip-flops, grabbed my iphone, walked out the back door and into the cool morning, my lungs filling up with air sharp with the peppery tang of the desert in the morning.

First stop on the hunt: my father-in-law's garden.  He built this greenhouse using old sliding glass doors salvaged from construction projects.  He's cool like that.  

inside the greenhouse you can find surprises like
avocado trees, a citrus tree, and lots of happy tomato plants
sunlight on a happy squash plant

grape vines in the sand

 Next stop: front yard.  The sun shone on the rosemary, filling the air with its woodsy scent.

rosemary spilling over a retaining wall

they do live in a desert after all!

harnessing the power of the sun

morning sun on the woodpile

The desert is harsh, stark, relentless.  Waiting for something completely out of your control has a lot in common with the desert landscape, I am finding.  But the desert is also full of texture and light, and the startling beauty of objects in stark relief.

Back inside the cool of the house, I felt a bit lighter inside, freer.  Beauty will do that to you.  Especially the beauty you find right where you are.

Where are you finding beauty today?  It would be a delight to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken

Found a spot of quiet this morning, so joining in with Lisa-Jo and the other Five Minute Friday folks over here.  Come on over to read some beautiful pieces on the prompt: Broken.

Here is my offering:

In just two days, three men packed everything we own into boxes.  The speed at which they worked impressed me.  I would go run an errand and when I returned, the kitchen would be completely boxed up, which is a task that could have taken me weeks to accomplish.

“Could you show me your high value items?” the lead guy asked us as we walked through the house together.  My eyes scanned bookshelves, glanced into drawers, mentally ticking through our belongings. 

What do we own that is of value?

We do have a gorgeous set of Noritake china that my husband’s grandfather brought back from Japan after WWII.  And I suppose I have a few pieces of jewelry that you could say are “high value”. 

Walking through the rooms of our home, I thought how the high value items in my life were not going to be boxed up by these jovial gentlemen, but were, instead, sitting right there at the table, with bed heads and wearing jammies, eating their last breakfast in our little blue house. 

My husband, my children, the relationships we have been celebrating with good-bye dinners and see-you-later lunches: they can’t be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed just so in a box.  I won’t unwrap them on an afternoon in Maryland.  But I do hold them in my heart as tenderly as I hope those packers placed our china in a box.   

And if the china gets broken?  Or the pearls misplaced?

I’m OK with that. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

broken bread, poured-out wine

Nearly 20 years ago on my 21st birthday, my dear friend gave me a gift I treasure to this day, a book in which she wrote these words:

Dearest Amy, May this book help you grow closer to your Heavenly Father as you learn to be “carefully careless” about everything but your relationship with Him.” 

The book, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (or OC as I like to call him) is my favorite devotional companion (not counting the Bible, of course).  I am spending time with OC again this summer, finding gems on a daily basis.  Here is one from today:

“…I am free only that I may be an absolute bondservant of His.’ That is the characteristic of a Christian’s life once this level of spiritual honor and duty becomes real. Quit praying about yourself and spend your life for the sake of others as the bondservant of Jesus. That is the true meaning of being broken bread and poured-out wine in real life.”

I love the phrase, “broken bread and poured-out wine”, how it connects the elements of communion with living a life of service and sacrifice.  In the physical act of communion, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus as we chew and swallow the bread, as the liquid slips down our throats.  Chambers urges us to live our lives as committed-for-life servants of Jesus.  Jesus showed us the way to do this, not just in His ultimate sacrifice, but in the others-focused life of service He lived.

Personally, I like to keep my loaves whole and intact, my wine bottle neatly corked and stored on the shelf.  But living as broken bread and poured-out wine means, instead, being willing to be broken, divided, chewed, consumed; being poured out as rich liquid for the nourishment and sustenance of others.

This pouring out, this breaking looks different in our individual lives.  It can be asking a calm question instead of retaliating with a sharp word; responding graciously to an ungracious child; waiting patiently for someone who is serving us, at an appointment or a business, recognizing that they are people, valuing them over our schedules; signing up for the not-so-glamorous job at church; or forgoing sleep because a friend needs to talk late into the night.

I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1, NIV:   

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

We are facing some crazy things in our lives right now, even over and above the cross-country move.  I long for communion, for the peace of abiding with Christ.  Living as broken bread and poured-out wine means that in the sacrifice, right there in the breaking and the pouring, is the communion I am desperate for.  Here in the sorting and parenting and the towering pile of unknowns, in the daily sacrifice of serving and interruptions and plans gone awry, there is Christ.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

a little more clear

I remember the day had been long.  It was July 3rd, two and a half months after first learning my husband was selected to teach at the Naval Academy.  We lay in bed, quiet words passing back and forth between us.  We were still waiting for Naval orders making the move official, allowing us to schedule movers and plan a move date.  Since April, we had come up with enough scenarios and what ifs to fill a book.  That night it felt like we stood at the dark end of a long road, with no knowledge of what would happen next or which way to go.

When you are completely at the end of yourself, in that dark place of not seeing, not knowing, what then?

Fingers intertwined, we prayed together, acknowledging that no matter what happened, we loved God and wanted His best, wanted His glory and His good in our lives.  Our sleep that night was more peaceful than it had been in a long time.

The next day dawned sunny and bright, our favorite holiday, July 4th.  I was in the kitchen peeling peaches to add to the homemade ice cream.  My husband is the ice cream maker around here, so when I finished, I went to find him to tell him all was ready.  He met my eyes over his laptop, saying, “Just got my orders!  Ice cream is going to have to wait a bit.”

I literally fell to my knees in gratitude.  “Yes!” I exclaimed.  “Thank you, oh, thank you, God!

So, a week from tomorrow movers will come, pack our things, load them up and ship them off to the East Coast.  We have been preparing in literally a million different ways, but today after church things are going to get serious.  I am going to tackle the kids rooms’…and my closet.  Though we don’t have to do the actual packing, we want to make sure that the things that are packed are worth moving. 

It feels as though the things we are going through right now are searing something into the marrow of my bones, deep and precious things about God and His character, a clearer understanding of living by faith, trusting God moment by moment, not putting my faith and hope in scenarios I construct about my future, but like a trusting child, slipping my hand into God’s strong one, being content right there.