The Weight of Waiting: A Giveaway

Last week we finally had our first frost and I was forced to abandon waiting on those last green tomatoes to turn. I picked the vines clean, tomato and pepper, marveling all the while at such a bounty in the second week of November.

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November. How can it be November, I mused? I sat at the kitchen table with a filled-to-the-brim colander in front of me and watched the leaves drop off the walnut trees. They fell from the branches in huge clumps, looking like birds dropping down to the earth.

I’d hoped to can this final crop but I knew the busy would catch up to me first. So I bagged up a poke of chilis and sent them off to a friend—another lover of growing things. It felt good to give away something long-awaited.

I’m attempting to lean into waiting seasons,” says my friend Kris Camealy, in her Advent devotional Come Lord Jesus, “to let God grow in me, a holy promise for the things promised but not yet revealed.”

Advent begins November 27th, and I can hardly catch my breath thinking it. Tomorrow we will pick up our boy from college—the nest will be full again for a short time. My hungry heart beats joy at the thought of kith and kin gathered around the hearth again. Thanksgiving ushers in that season of waiting in the sweetest of ways, stoking our hearts with wonder for the most common moments.

Advent always stirs that deep longing, fills with expectation. I strain my neck to see the manger, but also look inward to find Christ in me. I look ahead to the day when all will be made new in this tired world. Sometimes, it’s hard to let that work begin with me, let my fingers slip from the tight grip with which I hold it all. Waiting is hard.

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John Calvin said that the world is a theater of God’s glory, that he is “inclined to allure us to himself by gentle and loving means.” In his book Ravished by Beauty, theologian Belden C. Lane says, “[P]raise is a matter of studying in minute detail the footprints of God in the world.” He is referring to nature, but I have followed God’s footprints through the ways he is working in the lives of those I love of late. Some things are worth waiting for: watching my boys become amazing young men, feeling the bloom of marriage open into full blossom, friendships that weather the long storms …

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The past two weekends our church hosted a War Chest Boutique party for WAR International. If you’re not familiar with that ministry and its good work, by all means, read about it here. They are fighting human trafficking, among other things, and helping victims of this atrocity rebuild their lives by training them to in the craft of jewelry-making and the like. We sold over $1800 of merchandise. I find it a fitting thing to give away some of that beauty as we prepare to usher in Advent. Purple is the color of Advent, so we have a purple theme going on. If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of Kris Camealy’s Advent devotional Come Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, a beautiful purple clutch purse, an Amethyst chip ring, and a lovely  handcrafted Christmas ornament, just leave a comment on this post. I’ll announce the winner next Friday, November 25th.

This year I will step into Advent with thanksgiving and wonder and awe. This is how I feel God grow in me, this is the gift of waiting: the giving back of what has been sown and waited for, the giving away of that which has been tended with love.

West Virginia Morning: Cricket Symphony (and a winner!)

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The Crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summers ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days of the whole year—the days when summer is changing into fall—the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change. ~ E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

This morning, as I walked Bonnie around the house in the dark I was surrounded by a cricket symphony. We crept under the waning crescent moon hanging like a smile in the sky—Jupiter a shiny dimple on his right cheek. The Big Dipper stood up on the end of its handle, pouring starlight over our steps. I shivered in my housecoat under the cool of autumn, but the crickets kept singing. I tried to count the number of chirps per fourteen seconds to guestimate the temperature, mindful of Dolbear’s Law, but Bonnie would not cooperate with my calculations, pulling lustily on her leash to chase after one smell or another.

Fall has fallen in our little valley and it leaves me beside myself with joy.

Something about the slow-baring of the landscape creates more room in my spirit and I am enabled to receive the moments more readily as gift. The way the trees slowly release their leaves, blanketing the earth and burying her spring promises speaks love into my heart. I’ve been thinking about love these past couple days.

Early in the week I sent Teddy a Halloween care package. In it was not only a bag of his favorite fun-size candy bars, but some orangey lights, a light up jack-o-lantern, silly miniature hats attached to headbands, and various glo-items. Last year I was stricken with grief when I realized it would be our first Halloween without him. Our long-standing practices of visiting the farmer’s market to pick out the pumpkins and then waiting for precisely the right time to carve them seemed lonely and lost with him gone. So I sent him a similar package, a mother’s whim, filled with corny Halloweeny stuffs to share with his friends. He sent me a picture of a group of them, sporting the light-up pumpkin necklaces I’d included. It made him happy, I think, to share with his friends. And so, I thought I’d repeat the process. This year, the text came.

I got the package.

I waited, but that’s all it said. So I responded. Did you like the stuff?

Yes. He said. The lights are up.

The pumpkin lights up too, I responded.

It does! He said.

And that was it. No “thank you.” No “cool, mom.”

Nothing. Just silence.

Last night, I went to hear a lecture by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed. She’s written a couple books about Thomas Jefferson and has extensively researched his relationship with Sally Hemings. Her talk was smart and poignant and really made me think about the ways we look at people and groups of people. At one point, a woman from the audience stepped up to ask a question. She commented on some of Dr. Gordon-Reed’s observations about Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. You talk about the length of their relationship (38 years), that there is no evidence there was any other woman in his life during that time, and about the children they had together (I’m paraphrasing here) but what is keeping you from saying that they might have possibly been in love?

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Dr. Gordon-Reed took a deep breath. She alluded to the fact that this may have been true. “It strikes me as unlikely that he had a purely physical relationship with her for 38 years,” she said. But she was very cautious, going on to say, “It’s tough here because people will romanticize things and minimize the impact of slavery. And you can’t do that.”

Throughout her talk, she continuously reminded us that Sally Hemings was “enslaved.” She never had the freedom to refuse a relationship with Thomas Jefferson, whatever her feelings for him were. She was fourteen years old, scholars believe, when their relationship began. That likely means she never had the opportunity to fall in love with another man, to flirt, to feel that wild fancy-free feeling of attraction.

We will never know Sally Hemings’ feelings on the matter, because she remained silent. She never spoke about her relationship with Jefferson, for good or ill. Likely, they were very complicated. But I left the lecture with this thought impressed upon my mind: To love, to truly love, we have to be free.

And yet, how many things in this life hold us captive? As frail humans, we are subject to so much brokenness keeping us from freedom. Addictions, insecurities, dysfunction, our tangled-up-messed-up histories … Not one of us is free to love in the ways we were created to love. Some of us are freer than others, but all have some strings pulling on our hearts, enslaving us to our fallen nature.

There is only One who loves perfectly. Only one who is completely free and has done the work to assure our freedom. But in this already-done-not-happened-yet kind of freedom, we still wait. We wait and we wonder.

Freedom. I’ve had glimpses—kingdom glimpses that set my heart on fire. But really, I have no idea what it means to love. But I am learning. And one day I will know.

Yesterday, I read Teddy’s less-than enthusiastic texts about my gift-package with a little feeling of let-down.  Then I let it go.

The winner of my book book bundle giveaway that includes Shelly Miller’s Rhythms of Rest, Lisa Whittle’s I Want God, and Emily P. Freeman’s Simply Tuesday is Jen Martinson! Congratulations! You are going to love each one of these books. I’ll be in touch soon!

I Went to Nest Fest and All I Bought was a Bunch of Books (so I’m giving them away!)

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We drove five hours down I-77, outrunning the rain, driving between mountains, watching the leaves go from patchwork back to green again, then landing where the sun shone bright on a field-full of artisans and musicians and writers and creatives of all types. We went to the big white barn. I knew my friend Shelly would be there, and Lisa, and Emily. That’s why I went—to see some friends. And before I even walked the grounds I ran out of cash because I bought so. many. books. My only regret? I didn’t buy more books. I wish I had bought Tim’s newest book—a beautiful Christmas story that seems to celebrate his love for his three “pixie” daughters, because amazon tells me they are out of stock. And I wanted Edie’s book too—I loved her Lenten devotional this year. And Logan was there and Myquillyn, of course, and so much loveliness!

Sometimes, I need to run away to find my way back home. You? Autumn fills me with the wanderlust and a road trip always cures the ill. Jeff came along with me—my favorite travel companion. He sees a lot, that man. Just sits back and watches. You know what he said to me after watching me hug on Shelly for a time, then sit at Lisa’s feet to catch up, and soak up some wisdom from Tim? “You need to write more,” he said. “It’s clear how happy this makes you.” He knows I’ve been struggling with words lately. We’ve been wrestling with the question of time and I’ve gradually arrived at a place of acceptance. Acceptance that my time needs to be invested in other things for a season. But he knows it makes me sad. Because, writers gotta write, right?

The next best thing to writing is rubbing shoulders with some special writers. So that’s what I did this weekend. And because writers need readers, to celebrate beautiful YOU, my dear reader, I’m giving away some books. I have a signed copy of Lisa Whittle’s newest book I Want God, a signed copy of Emily P. Freeman’s book Simply Tuesday (my favorite go-to book when I’m feeling very small), and a book that Shelly Miller was supposed to sign for you but didn’t. I discovered too late that she forgot to sign it.  But … her sweet hands held this book, I promise. So that’s a copy of Rhythms of Rest, not signed, but touched by the author. One lucky reader will win this awesome stack of books. Just leave a comment for a chance to win. If you share on social media, let me know and you’ll get extra entries for each way you share. Winner will be announced on Friday, 10/28. I’ll leave you with a few random shots from Nest Fest. xo

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The Sabbath of Sabbaths (and a winner!)

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Last night at sundown, Jews around the world ushered in Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 16:29, God mandated this holy day on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar as the day of atonement for sins. Yom Kippur is called the Sabbath of Sabbaths because Leviticus 23:27 decrees it as a strict day of rest.

When I realized the significance of the day, I called one of my Jewish friends and asked if he would take me to Temple with him. “Oh, Laura,” he said. “You don’t want to go to that service. It’s soo long. And it’s all in Hebrew. You’ll be bored to tears.”

So I started reading more about Yom Kippur, falling down so many happy little rabbit trails, delighting in feeding an endless curiosity about the roots of my faith. Jewish traditions are fascinating.

I learned that, according to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah, which is the first day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar and considered the start of the Jewish New Year, God writes names into the Book of Life and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” a fate of life or death. There is a ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known as The Days of Awe, in which individuals seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and people, and try to influence the sealing of their fate. This is done through prayer (of repentance), fasting, and giving to charity.

The span of the twenty-five hours of Yom Kippur, from sundown on Tuesday to Sundown on Wednesday, are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt. At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

As I read about the traditions of Yom Kippur, I couldn’t let go of the idea of attending the service. I found a reformed Jewish congregation nearby and called their office (surely this service would be in English?). I told the nice man who answered the phone that I was interested in attending their Yom Kippur service that evening but I am not Jewish. Is that something he would recommend?

“I want to say that anyone is welcome to come to any service at any time,” he said, and I heard a cautionary note in his voice. “But generally we recommend to people who are visiting to come to our Friday Shabbat services. A Rosh Hashanah or a Yom Kippur service would tend to run very long and could be a bit overwhelming. But you are welcome to come any time.”

I acceded defeat.

So I finished up my workday and drove on home, where I read more about the traditions associated with Yom Kippur.

  1. No eating or drinking
  2. No wearing leather shoes
  3. No bathing or washing
  4. No perfumes or lotions
  5. No marital relations

It is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur, which symbolizes purity and reminds that our sins shall be made as white as snow. Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.

I could go on and on.

I spent some time in prayer, repenting personally and for my community. And when my husband came home from work, we took a long walk in the last receding light of day. The falling sun bathed everything in amber and I felt my soul shift into a holy place. I imagined Jesus in the synagogue with his family—Jesus the boy, Jesus the young man, Jesus my Lord—ushering in Yom Kippur with prayer and song. I felt a rush of gratitude that my salvation rests in his hands, not my own. I felt a rush of gratitude that all these rules have been replaced by grace.

And this morning when I awakened, still flush with the love of this high holy day, even though I couldn’t make this a strict day of rest, I felt rest in my heart. And I remembered what Mark Buchanan said in a panel discussion with Ann Voskamp and Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh: Sabbath is a heart attitude.

And this makes me smile.

Shelly Miller’s new book Rhythms of Rest is all about how Sabbath is a heart attitude. I’m glad to give a copy of her lovely book (along with a couple others in the bundle) to:  Sharon O.! Yay! Congratulations, Sharon. You can email me your snail at laraj@suddenlink.net and I’ll get these out to you ASAP!

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Be Happy (A Giveaway)


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This morning when I stepped out on the porch with Bonnie, a flock of geese cut through the newly born blue of the sky above—honking the day into awakening. They were so low I could hear the swoosh of air pushed underneath wings, almost feel the breeze of the passing. I spun around to watch their flying V move across the sky, until they soared out of sight. I could hear them long after they disappeared over the horizon, cradled the memory of long-necked grace amidst receding trumpet blasts.

On Tuesday we saw our son off to his second year of college; drove for hours, helped him unpack and organize all the stuff of life, and then left him in his dorm room. This was an easier departure than last year’s, for we all knew a little more what we were doing. Last year we drove away from him with a sinking feeling, fear in our gut. This year his roommate had driven down from New York all by himself—no parents, no entourage. The young man’s confidence in his solitary travels gave me pause. When we pulled away I wondered aloud if this would be our last year of dropping our boy off in this way. We’ve talked about sending him with a car next year, and if that’s the case, it’s unlikely we will tag along. This thought added a new dimension to my musings and I studied the landscape more intently as we drove toward home.

A century ago, the Anglican Bishop, Phillips Brooks told his ministerial students to study three “books”: the book of books, the book of the Bible; the book of nature; and the book of mankind. I find this sound advice for the span of a life—both for the college sophomore and the mother driving away from him. Life itself is the best of schools if we pay attention. I know I cannot hold all of his life in my hand. There is only One who can do such a thing.

This is the natural way. Kids grow up. Life changes. We roll with it. But every once in a while something inside of me rises up and says, “hold on, things are moving too fast here.” I want to memorize the moments, hold on to them as they pass.

Somehow I think driving away from our boy will never be easy. It has been a long, hard summer, with his grandfather’s illness, and he was a big help on that front. The memory of his face lighting up when his friend came into the room lingered with me on the trip home. I could still see his smile long after we were gone. He was happy. Happy to be back in school, to have a purpose, to see his friends.

And because he was happy, I was too. I am learning that happiness doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. In her book, The Happiness Dare Jennifer Dukes Lee says,

“You are the imago dei. You carry the DNA of your happy and holy God. … God is the inventor of happiness and the chief spreader of it. When you desire happiness, you …  are responding to something built into your soul. Your desire to live happy is not a flaw. It is your soul’s memory of the original paradise, etched and alive in you.”

I think I would add that your desire for your children—for all of your loved ones, in fact—to be happy, is a God-designed thing. Opening the hand in this way requires a trust I don’t always feel. There are so many things in life that pass out of our vision but still remain strong in our hearts and minds—the trumpet calls of love.

Last year, in honor of Teddy’s first year of school I hosted a giveaway of some good reads I’d been enjoying. I think this is a nice tradition. This year, I did a little shopping at the school bookstore (one of my favorite things about the campus). In this happy giveaway package, one reader will receive a copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book The Happiness Dare, one pair of Natures Precious Gems hand embossed natural brass earrings, one pinkhouse handmade scarf, and a sweet little Be Happy bag from naturallife.com.

Just leave a comment by Sunday 8/28 at midnight for a chance to win! Winner will be announced on Monday 8/29.