i heart advent



I haven’t put up my tree yet.
I haven’t even gotten it down from the attic.
I’m not opposed to get all Christmas-y.
I’m just not to the tree stage yet.
I like to do it one step at a time.

Yesterday we made a list of 25 or so things.
One for each day.
Yesterday we made an advent wreath.
Well sortof.
It isn’t really a wreath ( just a big candle holder), and I don’t even have the right colors.
(Micheals and Target were all out of purple……..and good luck finding tapers!)
But in the middle of our kitchen table is a glass dish with three chubby pink candles and a one green one surrounding a big white candle that Owen likes to call the Jesus candle.
Owen couldn’t wait to light the first candle ( of course, he couldn’t because he is a little pyro).
….but he knows that it represents hope.
…..and he knows that next week he will get to light another.
And eventually…..we will get to that big special white one in the middle.

Not everyday, but often enough I’ll be posting about Advent.
A few years ago my writers group and I published (does kinkos count as publishing?) a little Advent booklet for our church. I’ll be recycling plenty from there….but going through the traditional four weeks: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
I am hoping (begging) for some help. If you would like to guest post and write a piece for one (or more than one) of those weeks please contact me ( email me if you know it, or comment below) and I’ll work you in.

Today, we set out the nativity scene.
And we talked about Jesus’s birth.
(and then O arranged them into an animal vs. three kings battle while Tess chewed on the baby Jesus).

And maybe tomorrow (or the next) we will tackle the tree.
Because Advent is a season of preparation, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

walking on air

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breakfast with Andrew or Geoff

Mansfield has one homeless man that I see on a semi-regular basis.
He doesn't look like he should be homeless.
He looks more like someone I went to highschool with.
Who could really use a shower.

This morning I saw on my way home from getting coffee, and pulled over like I occasionally do.
I didn't have any cash.
So I went next door and got some breakfast instead.
Two sausage egg and cheese bisquits.
And I pulled them out.
And he remembered me.
And we sat on the stoop and ate our breakfasts together.

And introduced himself as Andrew.
Which is probably not his real name.
Because later he told me a different one.
And we jumped right into our stories.

Before getting on to me about what is "safe"....
I don't really think we are called to safe.
But nonetheless I didn't give him my last name or social security # or address or anything crazy like that. (well one thing crazy, and maybe we will talk about that later).

I didn't ask.
But he told me bits about how he got here.
That he used to be a newspaper writer.
And that he has been homeless for 7 years.
And told me that he has a facebook.
I whispered my secret dream of being a writer too.
I asked him a little about how it is and if people are nice to him and if the weather is warm enough.
He sang me a song about his life. Which had a little something for everyone alcohol, Jesus, women and dumpsters.
We laughed.
And not the awkward I'm not sure what to say laughs.
But real true laughs.
And we ate our bisquits.

And as I got up to leave, he thanked me and opened his arms for a hug.
He smelled of cigarettes and sleeping outside.
But I hugged him anyways.
I thanked him for one of the most real conversations I've had in months.

Even if his name really isn't Andrew.

cliche

The old “when God closes a door he opens a window”.
Open windows I can handle.
But what about when God opens the door, lets you get just a peak at what’s on the other side and then slams it in your face.

That is what has left me a bit reeling this morning.
Because I feel like God is so ridiculously good to me.
But.
I am not always so good to him.
I am searching for what it is I am supposed to do.
How I am supposed to serve.

And just when I go out on a limb and am obedient.
Which is scary.
But feels so good. Because for a rare moment you are doing exactly what it is that you are supposed to do.
The stars align and you know it isn’t the stars and then,
The door slams.
Right on your nose.
With no windows in sight.
And it hurts so much more than it should.

And there is always the question….
Is God closing this door?
Am I supposed to start looking for my windows.
Checking my motives.
Should I placate myself with holding up my end of the bargain.
Finding whatever lesson it is that I am supposed to learn.
(which that last sentence implies that it is indeed about me)
Which maybe it isn’t. And maybe that’s the whole point.

Or instead maybe I am not supposed to roll over.
Maybe I am supposed to push the damn door down.

But how are we to know?
When to start looking for windows…
Or pushing down doors….

thanks giving

Lately I haven't really wanted to go to Sunday School.
It has been .... kind of off.
The study we are in hasn't been drawing out real conversation.
We mostly make jokes about something else. Watch the clock tick. And decide on where to eat afterwards.
I had even been wondering if this room at 11:00 o'clock was still the one for me.

But then there was this Sunday.
The food was lame store bought muffins ( I can say that b/c I brought them).
There were many empty seats.
The study was still a little stale.
But right before praise and concern we did something different.
In honor of Thanksgiving we went around the circle and were each asked to share one thing that we were thankful for.
Sounds so second grade right?
Wrong.

We went around and people spilled their hearts.
No one just said, " I'm thankful for my family".
Instead they praised their wife sitting beside them until they weren't the only ones choked up.
No one mentioned a new iphone ( not even me), but instead were so amazingly grateful for unexpected pregnancies, and blessings and healing and new relationships.
Something about looking into our hearts and sharing what was good.
What was God given.
What was grace.
Broke us with the amazing blessings that have been lavished upon us.

So many people were thankful for this class.
The very one that I was having thoughts about.
And by the end, I was blubbering like a baby.
And I was too.

a start

so haven't blogged in 10 or so days, (which is a while for me).........
I have 10 straight days off ( counting yesterday that I wasn't supposed to be off but stayed home with sick kids)....and I figured I'd catch up on my blogging.

Only really I don't have much to say.

And that is a problem.

I figured I'd post anyways.

But I think there is a message here anyways.
Something about how we need a story.
We need things to write about.

Which is probably going to take me getting off the couch.....

par for the course

All these serious posts lately….and I’m not really a serious girl.
So, let me lighten the mood.

One word: golf.

You see I am not really a detail kind of girl.
More often than not my socks don’t match. My posts (and all other written correspondences) are filled with typos and misspellings.
And I see the speed limit as more of a suggestion to me than an actual value that I think I am supposed to stay under…

But golf is kind of a detail sport.
I think the whole point is accuracy.
Not, just to hit the ball as hard as you can. Who knew?

In college I used to work at PuttPutt and figured this made me a professional golfer of sorts. I can putt through a freakin windmill, surely I can land a ball on the green. (turns out that is faulty logic).
So I bought clubs and played with Shaun a few times.
I thought years ago ( before kids), that if I learned to play it would be something we could do together.
Until he tried to actually “instruct” me on how to swing.
Teachers are the worst students.
Especially if we have a big ass golf club in our hands.
There was also the crazy lingo ( birdie, bogie, eagle…what the heck?)
The only word I need to know is “mulligan”.
Also there is all that secret golf etiquette.
Like not to step on someone’s line.
I don’t see any damn lines!
So, lets just say this I’ll learn to play golf phase so we can do it together thing didn’t last long.
I’m also not so sure about any sport that wants you to wear collared shirts and khakis.
I barely do that to work.

But, then my parents came in town and wanted to play.
My parents aren’t really athletes.
Well, my dad can play a mean game of ping pong and my mom can kick everyone in the family’s tail at Wii hula hoop…..but that is about the extent of their athletic abilities.
They must have grown tired of their sailing phase, and cooking club phase, country and western dancing phase and have now moved on to another socially acceptable senior activity….golf.
So Shaun gets us a tee time , I dust off my clubs ( literally) and put on my khakis.

I mentioned that me and Shaun had played a few times, but he had totally been holding out on me. This time we got carts!
I would pay a green fee just to drive those fun little carts around all day.

Shaun was super patient and mostly held his tongue.
There was cussing.
There were lost balls, dropped balls, completely missed balls, and sand traps. Lots of sand traps. There was even a dog bite. ( don’t ask Shaun about this part). But, next time you consider hopping a fence to retrieve a golf ball……you might just want to take the drop instead. ( a drop…look, I’m learning the lingo J).

Two hours later we had only made it through hole 5, and the real golfers behind us were getting a little impatient ( and yes, we had already let some people play through).
So we drove our cute little carts back to the clubhouse.

On the way home, I asked Shaun when we could play again. And he about drove off the road.


(some final thoughts on my whole half experiment coming soon……..)

week 6... the grand finale

The grand finale.
Well, I was hoping for one but I’m not so sure this is it.

This post is a little late because I couldn’t decide what to do for this week…..
I kept waiting….

I was hoping for a big fat check to land in my mailbox.
So that I could be faithful and give away half.
And of course go skiing with the rest.

But no big fat check came.

Turns out I have to give away what I already have.
Because that was what it was really all about any ways.

I also toyed with the idea of giving away half of what is in my savings account, or checking account, or something else big and substantial and impressive.

But that isn’t where I have ended up.
Instead I’m not giving away much.
But I’m hoping you will.

In front of me is a short stack of 10$ bills.
All crisp and new and fresh and straight from the ATM.

But these bills are marked.
In Sharpie across the front is this verse:

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.” Romans 11:36a

Because all these things I have been giving away, weren’t really mine to begin with.

When something isn’t yours, you treat if differently.
Usually better.
When I borrow a book I am careful with it and treat it much better than one I actually own.
I try not to dog ear the corners or leave it laying around or let Tess rip out the pages.
Because I want to be able to return it in okay condition.

So I am trying to think about all these things I have and the numbers in my bank account like they really are.
Not mine.

A gift. Or on loan.
And I have to ask myself a really tough question…
"Are the things I own being used in any capacity for his glory?"

Would I treat my stuff differently if I saw it as God’s instead of my own hard earned paycheck?

Something tells me Jesus didn’t have a storage unit somewhere filled with all his extra robes and wedding presents.
(and for the record neither do I, but…..I could easily fill one).

So back to the 10$.
The idea came from a few places…
Sometime last fall my friend Tina posted about this thing called the 10$ blessing which was essentially to stick a 10$ bill in your wallet, pray for an opportunity and dole it out whenever one shows up.
And secondly, from reading in a book about a man who had received a 100$ bill from Shane Claiborne (read about it here…but the book was This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick Mckinley). How special this money was and how he knew he needed to use it for good….because Shane is one of the poorest guys he knew…and well because this money was marked. Each bill had the word “love” written on it.
So I’ll be mailing out my 10$ bills. Not as many as Shane.
And they are also marked.
But they don’t come with any kind of instructions.
That part it is up to you.

And if no money shows up in your mailbox in the next few days.
Don't be dissapointed. Instead, get out a sharpie and mark your own.

wasting time...follow up to week 5

(Week5)

Let me be up front that I am a cheater.
This should be obvious to that noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday.
A girl using her time wisely shouldn’t miss her weekly Sunday post.
…..but I had an exceptionally busy weekend.
And I am a complete cheater.
I checked my facebook and google reader almost everyday.
Even on my so called days off.

But maybe I spend a few minutes rather than the better part of an hour there.
I was amazed at how hard it was to not come home and plop myself down in front of the computer.

My kids watched less cartoons.
I graded more papers.
We danced in the living room.
I cooked dinner. Real dinner, vegetable included.

Overall. I got more stuff done.
And my son didn’t have to say,
“Mommy, I’m talking to you! Pay attention!”

And yes, I was available to help a few people out.
I didn’t do anything spectacular.
I delivered a meal and I babysat for someone on Owen’s soccer team.
Neither of which I wanted to do.
Or were for a good friend that I was happy to serve.

But I couldn’t help but think that
That was exactly what this time had been carved out for.

The babysitting gig was especially tough.
I mean the kid was nice enough.
Owen loved having a friend over.
and the parent thankful.
but it kept me up a few hours past my bed time.

So as this kid up polished off the nilla wafers, downed the last of our milk and told me for at least the dozenth time that he wasn’t going to sleep I tried to remember that this wasn’t “my time”, but time I had gladly given away.
I was annoyed. I was tired. I really just wanted to go to bed.
I kept waiting for the warm-fuzzy-happy-I-am-doing-a-good-deed feeling to come over me.
Instead I just kept getting more tired and impatient.
I was also a little disappointed.
Why hadn’t God used me to do something really cool?
Rather than just babysit and pick up dinner for some people I barely knew.

Well because then it would have been about me.

And well. Serving isn’t supposed to warm and fuzzy and happy.
It is mostly just supposed to be work.
Although the fuzzy warm stuff is an occasional side effect.
Giving is meant to be about the giving.
Not what I hope to receive or learn or get recognition for.

(and stay tuned…..week 6 is coming. Tomorrowish.)

raw

When I was in college I tried snow boarding.
Us girls thought the snowboarding pants and boots were much cuter than the ski ones.
My snowboarding experience only made it halfway up the bunny hill.
I fell and my knee made a funny noise and felt all loose inside.
I tore my MCL before ever even getting on a lift.
So much for those cute boots.

I opted out of surgery and only had to wear a big bulky expensive brace for a few months. Ok, I think I was actually supposed to wear it for a few months which I translated into a few weeks.
But despite not following the doctors orders it healed up ok.
Mostly.
When it gets cold or I run too much or I play a particuarly aggresive soccer game...it creaks and cracks and hurts. Then I'll favor the other leg for a while until it doesn't hurt anymore.

Today, while driving in my car to meet a friend...
I remembered something.
which made me remember something else.
which made me remember something else.
and then I hit a raw spot.
not eddie murphy raw.
more of the exposed and oozing variety.

It caught me off guard and frustrated me.
I thought that this raw spot was something I was over and done with.
Something that I had moved past.
That I was fixed.
or healed from.

And most days I am.
If by healed you mean not something I think about.

But today.
on I-20.
I was oozing all over the place.

There was no crying or breakdowns or anything like that.
Just an old aching wound.
Reminding me that it is still there.
Reminding me that we are all a little bit broken.
and that if you look closely...
you will see that everyone is walking around with a bit of a limp.

Week Five...and possibly the hardest week so far.

So I am wishing that I had only made this a 4 week experiment.
I could probably.
I mean, how many people actually read this blog anyways.

But…I’d hate to disappoint the eight of you.
So I have 2 more weeks to go.

And this week,
Inspired by my favorite day of the year,
I am giving up something precious to me.
Something priceless.
Something that I am incredibly wasteful with.
Something that last night at 12:01
I magically received a little bit extra of
….well at least until next Spring when it will be taken back.

My time.

Because it isn’t always about stuff.
Sometimes it is just about being available.

Literally giving up half my time would be almost impossible
Because I still have to you know…work and sleep…
And that takes up over half my time as it is.
So there will have to be rules.

For this week,
I will at least try not to waste half my time.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday
(ok, for you math whizzes out there…I realize that 3 days out of 7 isn’t officially half, I am not counting Sunday...because technically I “rest” or at least try to that day anyways..)
….I will not facebook.
Or catch up on my TiVo
Or spend hours reading strangers blogs.
Or run to QT during my conference instead of grading papers.
Or all the other wasteful things that I do with my few free moments.

I think it would be bigger of me to tell you that I will serve with that time.
Or pray.
Or read my bible.
But all I can promise is not to waste it.
That I will be intentional with it.
And that I will be open and available to those around me.

And taking a nap isn’t a waste.
Or going for a run.
Or playing hot wheels on the floor with my son.
Or picking up the kitchen.
Or reading the same book to Tess over and over and over, rather than one of my own.
Or getting a babysitter on going on a long over due date.

Sadly I am a little afraid of how hard it is going to be for me to not check for new comments until Tuesdays.
Or look up everyone I used to go to high school with on facebook.
Or watch last week’s episode of House.
Or to finish one of the three books I am in the middle of.

And I am pretty anxious to see what happens in those empty spaces.