Tag Archives: hope

A Baby, Why?

I was lingering over coffee with a friend this week when she suddenly said, “Why did God choose to come as a baby?” Yes, this is just one example of the delicious people I spend time with these days.

I told her I genuinely did not know but nothing could be more surprising, unexpected or tender. She added, “Or, in need of care.”

It somewhat paralleled another feeling I was having lately about my daughter’s pregnancy  Our world seems so divisive, chaotic, fearful, angry and upside down right now and yet, our family has another tiny baby boy coming our way in the spring.  I was thinking, “Thank God for a lovely, hopeful, opposite-of-everything-else, sign of new life.”

My friend’s words just keep ringing in my ears, “God’s revelation in Jesus came in need of human care.” God’s Word came needing flawed humans to keep it alive.  Isn’t that something?

An all-powerful, all-knowing God chose to be revealed to us but packaged that Word as an infant.

So here’s what I’m wondering this Advent,  are we looking in all the wrong places for Truth, Light, Righteousness and Justice? Maybe we are searching for BIG answers or an adult leader to be in charge of the world while God is delivering truth in tiny, fragile, unexpected ways that need us to see the truth, cradle it, feed it, sing to it and help it grow.

When our grandson was born, even though I had raised three babies of my own, I was stunned at how much he needed us. I was struck by the fact that he seemed to thrive and be comforted from day one by sleeping held closely on a loved one’s chest, hearing a heart beating next to his. I marveled at there flex he had to grasp a finger with his tiny hand and hold on.

What if God’s latest Word has already been delivered and it is like that, in need of human nurture, love and connection? What if it’s waiting on us to respond so it can thrive and transform us and our world? Are you looking this advent for some small, infant-like wisp of justice, goodness, grace or peace? Is there some tender piece of Good News that needs to nestle safely in your arms and grow?

It’s happened before…

 

 

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Tree Trauma

Tis the season of gifts. You have your list and I have mine. Retailers are working as hard as they can to make sure we want to give what they have. Thankfully, our family’s gift lists have been trimmed down over the years due to our intentional simplification. Today I found a picture of Christmas from about 20 years. We were in a large room and the gifts were all over the room, a huge pile in front of each person, above our heads. We were sitting down, but still. And, this was just our celebration with one side of the family. Everyone had at least 15 gifts; there were 11 of us in the picture. You do the math.

In the Christian faith, we mark this season before Christmas as a time of watching and waiting. We decorate with the focus on a few candles. Sunday by Sunday we light one candle, then two as we talk about gifts, The gifts we talk about in Advent are the ones God wants to give us: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. That’s it.

The older I get the less I want wrapped, bought gifts and the more I desperately crave God’s gifts.

Last week, we put up our tree. I love having the tree up and lit early so I can enjoy it for all the weeks leading to Christmas. Because of our empty nest, we are short on labor around here so I decided I could assemble the four pieces of our artificial tree by myself, get the stand and skirt on it, get the lights working, add all the red ribbon by myself and then coax my husband into adding ornaments with me later.

This proved to be a very difficult task for one person. It is still hot here in Texas so I was in a full body sweat by the time I got it all up, MOST of the lights working and ribbon swirling sort of attractively around it. For some reason my dog chose that time while I was distracted and sweating to help herself to a whole bag of pepper jack cheese. This cheese thing, plus the sweating really dampened my Christmas Spirit which comes and goes anyway due to the over-the-top nature of all things Christmas.

When my husband got home I shared my work of art and told him he had just enough time to add ornaments with me before the Cowboy game. He was motivated and moving fast. Then, in the midst of it all, I had a huge wave of Missing My Children which hit without warning as we put up ornament after ornament with their preschool and elementary age faces plus all the baby’s first Christmas ones and the ones we love the most and the ones that always make us laugh. So, yes, I started crying and telling my husband no one warned me about the empty nest tree part.

He coaxed me to move onward mostly because of the Cowboy game. At the last touches the tree seemed to sway a bit, then a bit more. He quietly asked if I’d secured the stand with the three big screws provided. I told him there were no screws provided and that I was sure we didn’t need them as long as no one ever brushed up against or came even remotely close to the tree. He disagreed.

What happened next involved both of us at times prone on the floor under the tree, yelling at each other better ways to do what needed to be done, needing a flashlight, dismantling the whole thing and sweating.

It’s up now, no longer swaying and quite beautiful.

Between the heat, the dog eating the cheese, the Empty Nest meltdown and the after the fact securing, I’m back where I started, just needing God’s gifts: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ.

Every one of us has our seasonal challenges, some are bigger than others, of course. May God’s best gifts continue to soothe you and yours this season.

 

Surely There’s a Saltine Somewhere

Have you ever had something so painful or traumatic happen to you that you are afraid of revisiting it? I’ve recently been wrestling with just such a thing and I quietly asked God about it. “Should I even open that drawer?” And the silent whisper in my spirit that was not me, answered back, “Yes, and not only open that drawer but make a list of what you are thankful for that is in there.” I wish everyone could have seen my shocked and incredulous face at even that thought. I find that idea just distasteful which is, again, how I know it was not my idea.

We are in the season of gratitude. My friends are posting on social media their sweet points of gratitude. I love this because it helps me to be grateful for things I might not have thought of on my own.

Lately, I’ve been reading about techniques for surviving adversity and a strange recurring theme keeps popping up. It is gratitude. Making a small thankful list at the end of each day has seen some people through some huge difficulties. Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, about the sudden death of her husband says that is the one thing that saved her in the midst of that momentous loss. She says it is a “practice”; something you have to train yourself to do. I agree.

I’d add a couple of other thankful thoughts to that one.

Zoom In. Sometimes, especially when life is really hard, you have to zoom in on the very small things to be grateful. In Texas, in this season, that is akin to looking at a pile of Texas brown leaves and finding the one sort of red or gold one to marvel at. You have to go small sometimes to find your gratitude. I have a friend going through some really rough chemo right now. She told me she found herself giving God thanks for a saltine cracker. No matter what is happening to us, there’s a saltine in there somewhere. Find it and give thanks for it.

Give thanks for what you are without. Sometimes it is the absence of something hard that we can be grateful for. Since I got off my cancer medication, I no longer have joint and foot pain with each step. I’m grateful for what is missing.

If you’ve lost something or someone you love, give thanks for what you had. It is a miracle that we cross paths with anyone at all, much less those who have enhanced our lives in some way. Give thanks that you met; knew each other, had fun, shared life, shared a journey or a season. Thank God that you had that job or your health or those children in your home while it lasted.

 See the funny. There is always something funny. Have you noticed how some of the best funerals are filled with laughter? I’ve laughed with people on their death beds or who have been through great tragedy. Laughter is grace.  Yesterday, my husband was taking a very deep Sunday afternoon nap on the couch. He was sleeping so long and hard, I feared he was about to miss something so I went to gently wake him up. Instead,  I tripped on his shoes and fell, with my whole self, onto his face. This is funny enough but then he didn’t even wake up at which point I panicked and started waking him up in a far less gentle way. He woke up to me shaking him violently and screaming, “I fell on you and you’re still sleeping!”  This is hilarious to me because he always sleeps harder than a human should and I always fall. But, both of those things don’t usually happen at the same time. I cannot quit laughing about this. See the funny. Give thanks for it.  It is grace in this hard life.

Give thanks in advance for what will be. In life, there are always hidden sweet surprises around every corner. You don’t know what they are. You can’t know. Most, we can’t even imagine. Maybe it will be a saltine, a red leaf, a memory, a new friend, laughter through tears. You don’t know what it is, only that it will be. Thank God now for the sweet surprises to come.

 

Breaking News

This weekend was another happy college football weekend for our family, if you don’t count the outcome of the game. It was especially delicious for us because all our children were there, our son-in-law, our grandson, other relatives and lots of friends, old and new.

Football weekends are always very busy and loud with cannons, fireworks, lots of yelling, singing, music, fly overs, marching bands and such. In the midst of all that noise this weekend, my daughter confided that she definitely felt the baby move this week.

I have written and spoken about this phenomenon before. It’s called quickening. If women wrote more theology I’m sure this would be classified as an “official” theological concept because I’m not sure there is any other more God-filled idea than this..

In the noise of life, in the busyness and movement of all things, something flutters, quickens. It is new life unfolding in a dark and hidden place.

When my daughter mentioned this, I felt like we should stop everything and make a giant announcement about it including taking over all the news channels and social media. Breaking news: we’ve got a flutter here, a quickening, something new.

Right now in our world and in our news feeds there is so much muck, darkness, accusation and trouble. The same is true in our people circles, at least in mine. People you and I love are facing hard and challenging things.

That’s why quickening is breaking news. I believe God is absolutely faithful with the quickening. Whatever we are facing, if we are just still long enough, there is a flutter of new life. We don’t know the form it will take, but it is there.

For those facing disease and pain, there is a flutter of health and relief trying to win in your body. Grieving? Look for a flicker of light or laughter to come back, even for a second. Facing something hard? An addiction, a difficult relationship, a financial burden,  a job decision? Somewhere in all that God is at work, knitting something new that is going to flutter past you or make itself evident in a conversation, a dream or a prayer. It will be subtle because that’s how these things go. You might miss if it you aren’t still enough or perceptive enough.

God is absolutely faithful in the quickening. God is a masterful  Creator when it comes to  at new life. And, I think God enjoys the surprise of it too. Just when you thought all was lost, it’s not. Just when you believed you’d never feel again, you do. When all seems dead, a flutter.

Emily Dickinson perceived it when she wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Pregnant women say quickening feels like that, hope with feathers…like a butterfly’s wings or a tiny hummingbird moving inside. God’s faithful quickening in us, in our too real, messy, sometimes sad and loud lives is actually the best breaking news of the day.

 

The Power of Pink

It’s that time of year when pink takes over sports, products, articles and all facets of media as we focus on how breast cancer has or will change the lives of 1 in 8 women and many men. Yes, I know some people don’t like the pink emphasis, but I do.

Six years ago at this time, I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. I had two weeks where I knew before I could widely tell people because I hadn’t seen a surgeon yet and did not know The Plan. During that time, I had a couple of days at the university I attended, Texas A&M. It is where my dad went to school and my brother. It is where I met my husband. It is where I met some of my still best friends. It is the undergraduate university for all three of our children. Woven throughout my Aggie experience is the Corps of Cadets at A&M.

The cadets now wear pink carnations at a home football game each year to increase breast cancer awareness. Six years ago, at a home football game, in the midst of the crowds, I sat down on a curb in the shadow of the football stadium and lost it. I wept for all the not-knowing I was in the midst of. I wept for all I feared I might miss. I wept because I was weeping in public on a curb at an event that was supposed to be fun. I wept because cadets have to wear pink carnations.

Last Saturday, six years later, I found myself standing in a spot very close to the same spot where I lost it. Since then, I’ve finished treatment, thanks in part to a new test (The Breast Cancer Index) which gave my doctor more information about my specific response to treatment. I’ve benefitted personally from advancements made due to the hype/funds raised and spotlight on this disease.

In the last six years, I’ve worn lots of pink. I’ve seen two children graduate from college, our daughter get her Master’s degree and our youngest graduate from high school. I helped plan and attended our daughter’s wedding. I was there (right there) for the birth of our first grand baby and now am excited about another one on the way. It’s true! And in and out of all that, lots of sweet, precious, normal life.  This time as I stood in that  same spot, instead of melthing, I was watching our third child as drummer in the Aggie Band.

In that six year time frame, I’ve lost two friends, Lina and Sharon, to breast cancer. I’ve seen others diagnosed and fight back (Rhonda, Robin, Vickie, Tana, Melissa, Terri, Kim, Stephanie and Kenda.). I’ve been encouraged by another tribe of  women who  fought the disease before me. They inspired me by being happy, healthy and telling me I’d get past this. One even told me, “You’ll one day have days where you won’t even think about it,” She was right.

Pink matters to me.The ribbons and the hype supports us in the fight. It honors my journey and the journey of so many.

This weekend the entire Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M once again wore pink carnations. This time our youngest son wore one. He was 13 when I was diagnosed. I wore my new pink Aggie breast cancer shirt even though most everyone else was in maroon. My husband had no trouble finding me this week in the crowds.

The back of my shirt says “There’s no place like hope.” That says it all. Cadets in carnations give me hope. Pink is hope. Thank God for hope.

A Soul on Tiptoe

Writer Sarah Young often captures my imagination with just a few words. In a recent devotional in her new book, Jesus Always, she writes of a soul on tiptoe as it looks up to God in hope. On tiptoe is the posture I’d like to adopt.

Our eight month old grandson has learned to pull up to standing. I like to sit on the floor on the other side of whatever he is pulling up on to be ready for his facial expression the moment he sees something new from his heightened perspective. His blue eyes glitter. His smile shows both wonder and radiance. His whole face says, “Do you see what I see way up here?” It is the baby version of a soul on tiptoe.

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When life gets hard we are told as people of faith to “look up”. A soul on tiptoe is already looking up. In Lent, Christians pull back a bit, look inwardly, pray, give up things and we wait on God. We wander around in the wilderness knowing something spectacular is on the other side. New life is being born in tomb-like places.

How is your soul? On tiptoe? I hope so.

PS After my last blog, A Bucket of Skunks, my son-in-law asked me to clarify to everyone that he makes very good, non-skunk like coffee. In fact, even if there wasn’t a sweet baby at his house, I would just show up for the coffee.

One Little Word: Hope

On MLK day 2017, I feel nudged to write. The problem is I have so few words today.

I’m finding myself in a season of disappointment around some extended family things; some things in our country and the even Cowboys losing a heart breaker last night. Strangely, everything seems connected/heightened and intensified  by social media. I even found myself this week tweeting a member of congress a word of encouragement. I’ve never done that before but it seemed like the right thing to do.

So in these days of confusion, anxiety and disappointment what is the good word?

I found it today delivered to me, once again in a devotional: Psalm 33:22, which reminded me that hope comes from God. Hope doesn’t come from tweets or any one leader. It doesn’t come from what my relatives are doing with their lives. Hope doesn’t come from what I can control or do or say. It comes from God.

When I find myself disappointed, it is usually because I misplaced hope. I put my trust in the wrong place, the wrong people, the wrong outcome.

MLK himself also delivered me a word today, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

There will always be finite disappointment as long as there are people around I suppose.. Today, for me, there are also deep breaths and a little reminder that changes everything: to trust just in God, our infinite hope.

MLK, thank you for your vision, your leadership and courage….and this Word.    .