Playdates With God: Christmas Party

ipod to christmas 2012 138
ipod to christmas 2012 134
Sonnet I by Ali G…
ipod to christmas 2012 132
painting by Puerto Rican artist Enrique Mora (just captivating)

There have been Christmas plays and Christmas concerts, Christmas parties and Christmas dinners, Christmas cards and Christmas shopping, and it feels like the good of the season has been crowded out for the busy. So on Friday, when something happens in Connecticut that makes the world stand still…the last thing we want to do is go to the office Christmas party. It feels wrong to eat and drink and laugh and make merry when there is so much loss. But these things have been planned for a long time and there are those who have worked with hands of love to make them happen and sometimes…sometimes the best thing to do is to be together.

So we go and I determine to see meet with God there.

And it’s not hard because our hosts are charming and the shining faces of friends feel like a warm place to worship. And even though the Name is not spoken; because I look—I recognize God there. We were fed in love and wrapped in conversation and the shadow that hangs over the day does not disappear but it becomes a part of the living and breathing and laughing and weeping that is life on this broken earth.

And as our host shows me around the house—sharing his extensive art collection he has painstakingly pursued from all over the world—his joy at these created things is contagious. And I am reminded of what Timothy Keller and Katherine Alsdorf say in their new book.

If we are to be God’s image-bearers with regard to creation, then we will carry on his pattern of work … we are to be gardeners who take an active stance toward their charge. They do not leave the land as it is. They rearrange it in order to make it most fruitful, to draw the potentialities for growth and development out of the soil …

So I let myself get lost in beauty—in swirling color and another’s joy in sharing his passion. And suddenly the world is kinder—broken, still … grieving, still. But kinder.

And I wonder if this is how we make it through–sharing love this way. Scattering beauty. This life is my little patch of land. I want to tend it well—stir the soil well for the planting. Redeeming the broken bits into something beautiful.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him.

Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

Christmas in July

There is a tall White Pine outside this hospital room window and I sit on the bed and watch evenly-spaced branches bow low over the parking lot. A soft breeze blows and long needles shimmer—arced branches wave unhurriedly.

My boy is sleeping in the bed next to me—lulled into slumber by the heat of the infection he still fights off in his body. On the last day of July his appendix ruptured and I held him tight behind a curtain in the ER—willing his pain to sleep as we waited out the slow turning of the wheel of modern medicine.

I’m scared, he told me, before they wheeled him off to surgery.

Me too, I wanted to say, but instead I prayed with him and he gave me a butterfly kiss and I had to walk away from him—singing Jesus Loves Me in my mind.

 

Jeff and I held hands and prayed in the waiting room and I leaned on his shoulder and closed my eyes.

I guess I feel like crying because I’m so tired, I said.

And he just pulled me tighter.

And when the surgeon came out smiling it felt like I’d just come up for air from underneath a heavy ocean. This doctor is our new hero—he only just operated on our oldest the week before. After he gives us the run down and shows us pictures of the rupture, he gives us a crooked grin.

Guys, I don’t know … do you have any more kids?

We laugh, the three of us, and it feels so good I could cry.

Later, Jeffrey would tell me, God was there.

He would look me in the eye and whisper, I felt him.

I sit on this hospital bed and look out that window at that solitary pine swaying and I let the rhythm of its gentle undulation touch the tired parts of my body. I’ve never been so happy to say goodbye to July and I pray for a brighter August—for something, something to ring the bell of joy.

And that White Pine just looks on, speaking Christmas into my tired like a million brightly wrapped presents are tucked under its skirts.

::
This week’s memory verse:
 
 

Check previous Tuesday posts for prior verses.

For memory cards of the whole book of James visit this post.

This is Living

When I told my husband this morning that I want to stay in my PJs all day today, I wasn’t kidding.

There have been too many interruptions of the quiet lately and I find I just want to sit at the kitchen table and watch my birds through the bay. I’m finishing up the sermon and it feels like worship as I sift through words and thumb thin pages.

Jeffrey has been running with me on the mornings that I don’t have to work. He is in earnest to grow and do good and his golden heart makes mine stronger. While these days seem to hurl by me in a blur, summer for him is a deep breath. I breathe deeper when he is with me.

I’m reading a new book for this work that I do and in the very beginning pages the author says this:  <

Where in your life do you say, “This is living!”? If you don’t have something in your life that regularly inspires adventure, risk, and passion, beware. Because if you don’t, you will seek the counterfeit.

Every Sunday feels like an adventure to me now. It’s like surfacing from a deep pool and watching the heavens open up before me. As much as I have loved the Lord and church and Bible study all my life, I am asking myself…why is this so different? And I know it’s because my faith is being stretched. And I’m depending on God in ways I never have before. And this is the good news: the possibilities for growing my faith this way are endless.

Where are you leaning on God these days?

Just wondering. Because it sure feels good to me.

Here are a few of my favorite things this week:

I made this pasta salad for dinner with my mom last night. This dill dressing is amazing. And the avocado? Sooo scrumptious.

My neighbor gave me this tip to squirrel-proof my bird feeders: slinky! If you use a shepherd’s hook to hold your feeder, simply thread the slinky over top and it secure it by looping one of the wires over the hook. I have a double shepherd’s hook, so I had to actually wind it around the pole—which sounds laborious, but it didn’t take much time at all. Also, I used a staple gun to secure the slinky to my wooden feeder that sits on a pole. It sure is fun watching the squirrel try to get past this one! So far so good…

See that little booger sitting down there? He can’t get up!!

Jeffrey and I made this for breakfast this week and it was so simple and delicious. I’ve pinned it on my Pinterest page too.

And I can’t wait to try this with some old wine bottles I have saved. They will make beautiful vases.

Here is my [un]framed picture of the week:

This poor little nest was blown down during the windstorm that left us all a bit worse-for-the-wear. Won’t you share some of the beauty you’ve caught this week? It sure has changed the way I see things. Join us over at the [un]framed Facebook page with your shots.
Sitting with my Sandy today. Love to you all. 

What Does a Writer’s Retreat Teach? Or, Hobnobbing with Madeleine and Eugene

We were sitting around a table overlooking the Frio River, listening to Jeffrey Overstreet talk about how artful story invites the reader inside—invites the reader to discover what the story has to say to them—when he paused and had us go around the table and introduce ourselves.

My friend Marcus was seated to my right, Claire to my left, but the others were new faces. There was a retired photographer, two persons of the cloth, a young college student, an elderly woman, and Jeannie.

When it was Jeannie’s turn, she spoke about the nonfiction books she had written over the years, about coming to Laity Lodge to write, and about her dear, dear friend Madeline L’Engle. Immediately, my shoes felt too big.

We all tried to pretend like it was nothing but all the while, I’m thinking…Madeleine L’Engle! When I was a girl, this dear woman’s books opened up a whole new world to me. A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet … Jeannie’s casual namedropping sent me into a reverie of wistfulness, remembering the joy of discovering a series of books that aroused a deep awakening in my young self. How I loved Charles Wallace and Meg. They taught me through their story that anything is possible. And who wrapped science around fantasy in such a way? I’d never read science fiction before. I didn’t know people wrote like that.

We took a break and I went to the restroom and was startled to find Lauren Winner washing her hands and Ashley Cleveland exiting the stall. What’s more, they greeted me casually, engaged in a bit of small talk before going on their way. Back at our open-air table, I tell Marcus.

“I can’t believe she referred to Madeleine L’Engle as her dear, dear friend!”

He shrugs his shoulders.

“And Eugene Peterson writes here all the time.”

“Eugene Peterson? Really?” I am a bit star-struck. “But that makes me feel so … small.”

Marcus laughs.

Why? I don’t understand that. That should make you feel special not small. You’re here too. Laity Lodge is for everyone.”

I tell him about running into Ashley and Lauren in the restroom.

Right,” he says. “Because they use the bathroom too.”

We laugh but I am quieted a bit inside. Later, I walk down the road with my friends Verbieann and Ann (who has since become a New York Times bestselling author) and tell them the story. I turn Marcus’ words around in my mind.

Am I special? I mean, just because I haven’t held court with writers like Madeleine L’Engle or Eugene Peterson…does that mean there is no value in the words I share? My friend Elaine was recently at a conference in which the speaker posed the question, How do your words help solve the problem of pain? I’ve been thinking about that. Wondering. And I remember the young girl I was—wrapped in the pain of a broken family, uncertainty of self—and I know the question goes deeper than it appears at first glance.

Though Madeleine L’Engle’s story about a young misfit girl and her brilliant little brother and how they rescue their father using a tesseract and all the amazing things they encounter in the process…though these words may not appear to address the problem of pain directly, they surely helped to save a young girl who was drowning in it when she first encountered them.

I think about these things all these months after my conversation with my wise friend Marcus. I am learning to embrace myself as word-giver. It still feels fragile—I’m still self-conscious and clumsy. But when I look back, I see that time at Laity Lodge as a pivotal step in this acquiescence. Because Laity Lodge is for everyone. My time there was like a warm embrace; I was cradled in that canyon. Everyone there was someone special. This is because that riverbed and those canyon walls are saturated with the presence of God. Dan Roloff told us that the place was built to provide a place where people can encounter God. While there, I felt the breath of my Creator, I felt loved as a favorite child.

The truth is, we should feel this way no matter where we are, no matter what we do. But sometimes, gravity gets in the way and our earthbound nature blinds us to who we truly are. Laity Lodge is a place of transcendence for me.

We are gearing up for the retreat again this year. I’ll be there. Won’t you consider it too? There is a chance you could go for free. I’d love to meet you there. Would even share that table overlooking the Frio with you.