Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Goodbye Summer, Hello School

Walking away from summer is oh so hard to do. We won't pass this way again, this same summer, these same ages and giggles and me filled with awe watching the grace-filled moments. 
And then those times I ache at the reality that I am not the best spectator, sitting and watching from the side lines, but still learning it's all good, it's ok and that really every thing is still a miracle. Each day like a present to unwrap, one at a time.  And each one a gift to give back in some way.
Might I even whisper here that I was down right scared to start school this year?
I was, but it was good and I join in continuing with my own studies tomorrow and we will do the days together and give thanks and live life as a prayer.
Lord, teach us to number our days so that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quaker Quotes

"A Friends' meeting, however silent, is at the very lowest a witness that worship is something other and deeper than words, and that it is to the unseen and eternal things that we desire to give the first place in our lives.  And when the meeting, whether silent or not, is awake, and looking upwards, there is much more in it than this.  In the united stillness....there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when the most familiar."      ~Caroline E. Stephen, 1908

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Quaker Attender?

“It is not in differing from one another
that disunity arises-
it is in not listening to God
and each other.”

`Kenneth Sutton 1989

Recently I’ve had a lot of questions about being a Quaker Attender. People want to know what being a Quaker means and they want to know why it is worth it to me to split our time as a family between church and Quaker meeting. I think if you asked one hundred Friends, you may get one hundred answers about the meaning of being Quaker. It has been a good challenge for me to ponder the question personally.

To me, a Quaker is one who is always seeking God and God’s voice, however one best does that. It is recognizing, and opening my heart to God in me and acknowledging God within others no matter how different they are from me. It is about listening and receiving ministry from God while loving others and at times sharing of myself too. For me, it is about accepting, not rejecting. It is about making one’s circle bigger, not narrower and allowing yourself to listen for truth in that bigger circle. It is about loving, caring and finding peace within yourself so that you might share big portions of that healing presence with others, no matter what “religious language” they speak.

So, why do I attend? Because unprogrammed Quaker worship touches my heart in a way no other form of worship does. Because I yearn for contemplative time and it is not available at church and I go because it is anything but silent. The time is filled with prayer, waiting eagerly on God and renewing my spirit. The practice of listening is sacred to me and I want time to share what I strive to do individually throughout the week together with others. I also want to my children to learn to still and experience that not every moment in life needs to be filled with fast action and entertainment. Then I want to sit back and grant them the freedom and experience the joy in watching them grow wherever they choose to plant themselves.

I go because I love attempting to live out the testimonies daily and though I am at times very slow to speak, I believe that God gives greatly in the unselfing- the shedding our masks and allowing ourselves to be known. He reminds us to attend to ourselves so that we may better honor others and in turn offer them what we have to give. It is in this willing spirit, I remember I am connected to what is much larger than myself and that we are all more alike than not. I am also reminded God loves us all and is pleased when we are in unity.

Likewise, I am pleased when I find unity and love amongst the congregation at church. I think that began for me more when I had peace within myself, knowing I am never out of the presence of God in any context. I enjoy seeing action lived out of strong convictions there. I love to hear the ministry and I enjoy seeing the praise. Any enthusiastic invitations I once perceived as pressure, I have come to see as pure love. I also admit that I like hearing my husband sing and seeing him very happy. There is some thing very special to worship alongside of the one you love dearly.

All people matter so very much to God. My prayer is that God would continue to grow us all as a people together in the larger community of the body of Christ.  In that manner, we would be united in Love with less denominational boundary lines drawn in the larger church including Friends. May I be patient, listen more and talk less and may my heart be in my ears.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Well Watered Garden

In a well watered garden,
Sun scorched flowers flowed forth
Faces reaching out toward the sun
Washed by streams of pure water
As we too are washed
By the Living Word.
Ever open to receive
New Light.
Living, pouring out
We are watered
When we water others.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I collect nests. It’s the time of year the birds are done with making them, and their little ones venture out and away. Shortly after, I find a few per year on the ground after a surprise summer storm or wild winds blow unexpectedly. I enjoy arranging them in an indoor display and even tuck a few in my simple holiday decorations each year. Rarely do any visitors notice on their own, but I usually put them through the chore of finding them. It’s fun for me. They are filled with such beauty, but also are reminders of safety to me. They are natural safe havens for baby birds before they take flight into the world on their own.

There is so much God has given us in nature to learn from. All people have the need to feel safe at times, and I find chronically ill people have this need due to the constant uncertainties they live with. I know I do. Fear and anxiety can rear their ugly face.  Nests remind me that my true home is safe in Christ.  Bits of branches like God’s promises are woven together.  Our little home encircles in words and I am reminded to share loving words, grace words and to comfort one another in our home, like that nest when winds here blow too. We hold hands of love both near and far. Here it is safe. Here we help one another. Here is Emmanuel, God with us, who whispers quietly in my heart and yours, do not be afraid.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Photos

The past two months we have had great fun making bread with yeast. We never had much success before getting to know and love Kathy Summers. The wheat bread, challah bread and bread pretzels are out of her cookbooks entitled The Best and Easiest Handmade Breads and Healing With Handmade Bread. All the recipes we have tried so far have been truly relaxing and have made the best and quickest bread we have ever had. With these recipes, I am once able to eat bread again after many years. Thanks to Kathy, we are able to "Give thanks. Eat some. Share some" as she says.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peace is not a Place

As far back as I can recall I was on a quest for peace. Ultimately, I think it’s all I’ve ever really wanted here on this earth. I desired it even as a young child and some how attached peace to long walks alone through the field, up along the bubbling brook and precariously wriggling across fallen logs high up over the water where no one could find me. This desire for peace has never left me through the many stages of life and any shift in maintaining it tends to deflate my world.

Being a young mother was a test of maintaining not only peace, but sanity. I can recall fighting for a chance to even go to the bathroom or take a shower myself and often had one child in with me for safety sake and the others on the other side of the door screaming and pounding. At that time, I had been used to very structured time of daily reading, devotions and prayer life prior to those years and had no clue how to go about re-establishing a connection with God in the midst of the noise and constant motion which motherhood totally obliterated. It was not like I could take time out for scheduled reading, prayer or even a walk along the brook anymore. And I grew weary of rebuking myself for it.

That’s when I first started to look outside the box of what I knew about devotions, quiet time and recapturing peace within my being. I set out on a search and had to throw lot of guilt down the drain on preconceived notions and prescribed schedules that I had viewed as a measurement of spiritual health. As I did, I began to savor any fleeting moments in which I would sense God’s presence deeply.

Consequently I began to look for God’s presence in all my moments through out the day. I found peace and devotion while sitting on the park bench, when smelling a flaming red rose and while watching my kids play and viewing them as silhouettes catching lightening bugs as the sun went down. I saw God in the face of that neighbor who never gave up befriending me. I began to snatch these experiences and reflect on them, then fit in prayer and reading when I could, not necessarily how I was taught, and in return I felt a connection with God in a different way. My guilt released and was replaced by newly found freedom.

Then one day my peaceful world shattered and no matter how one prepares spiritually for that or confidently believes they have faith to handle it well, it takes the experience and time to put it to the test. For a good while I could not put the pieces of life back for myself or my family and I craved peace, retreat, and sanctuary of the soul as I became increasingly ill physically. I yearned for a quiet place to run where I didn’t feel trapped by life circumstances. I wanted my predictable life and so called “normal” family back. It was a tall order as circumstance and illness had disrupted all of our equilibrium and as sick as I was I sat for hours outdoors, I’d walk my property line along my yard and gaze endlessly at the field across my home. I’d do anything to escape the inner confines of my house and the recollection of it all. I’ve always been a runner in my mind.

Silly it was. I bought myself a delicate silver peace necklace which my hand habitually clung to. It was as if I attempted to brand myself with peace but anyone who saw me knew my soul and body were a far cry from that necklace’s proclamation to the world.

Fearing for my family, I was back to the business of restoring order and peace in a house full of strife and like never before I came to understand I had to rest in the truth of what peace really meant to me. I was forced to learn it could not be found by escaping to another place–an open place, not even a quiet place. It can’t always be found in health either. Life doesn’t hand us an eraser to wipe up complexities but it does bring to us the gift of a new morning and a chance to just take the next step in blind trust.

Ultimately, I found peace was not a place we live in, but within our hearts. I was awarded the opportunity to re-frame what I’ve always known about the God I believed in, that he is good and that all from his hand is good though may not initially be welcome through human eyes. He is there to connect with in extraordinary ways and I am still learning that if I cannot have that peace and connection restored within myself and God, I can never find it within walls, outside myself or with the larger world where we are called to continue the good.

It started with the Spirit within my spirit and must co-exist through motherhood, chaos, diagnosis’, and loss. While it eluded me, the more I practiced non-traditional times of silence, the more I began to recapture it when I became willing to bring my true self to God and abide with him. I still have times of more structured worship, but unprogrammed worship has taught me that hiding my emotions within myself or in a field rather than casting them to the Light robs my world and the world around me of peace.

I’m not healed physically but I am here and whom I’m meant to be. There is obviously no perfect life or family but one with love, and many a day I still wear my necklace. I know it is completely unnecessary but the beauty of that Asian peace sign has become a comfort, a symbol of empowerment in Christ; it is a reminder of an objective decision I made for healing what could be restored and to recapture and redefine the peace I craved.

Although there is much more to know about Jehovah Rapha, I believe that true peace is not a place, but God within. That peace is every where I could possibly go and in every circumstance. I take it with me in my heart and especially into the noise and confusion of living. This life is fleeting with much to continue learning about the Spirit and peace, but perhaps too there is still time to let the little kid run and play once in a while rather than yearn so desperately for what has already been granted and just accept the offering with open hands and heart.

“.....peace be with you.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday Photos

Prairie skirts have been the thing for us girls here this spring. I have the need to wear all cotton clothing. We sent to have them made by Katie's Mercantile, which is very reasonably priced. Katie will even send fabric swatches in the mail if you ask her and they are fun to look at. I miss being able to cross-stitch, so I gave sewing a try after 20 some years and made another one for myself by tracing the first one for a pattern. I was pleasantly surprised I could focus well enough with my eyes, but I have to say I enjoy ordering them much better! Lots of room in them to climb trees still, but we still wear our jeans at home and about also.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm Back

I find it absolutely impossible to blog while attending a Spiritual Formation Program and simultaneously home educating my daughters. Thus, these are two of my 101 reasons for being silent here. Please know that I have missed you all and have snuck by your blogs late at night because of it, but haven’t always had time to leave a message. Admittedly so, I did complete Year 1 a month ago, but I’ve had to play catch up in many areas. Also, confession is good for the soul, so I will tell you ahead of time, if I am able to attend Year 2 beginning in September I will once again go quiet in this place. I find myself using the phrase, 'Lord willing' lately!

While catching up with life, I’ve been made aware that I need to limit my time on the internet to balance life and take care of my eyes, for which the screen glare is the worst for dry eye. So, I’ve pruned. I’ve pruned and set time limits and made my computer area a separate little private space in my home, rather than by my favorite chair for less easy access. Presented here for my benefit probably more than yours, are the places I am mostly at and why. Here goes:

My e-mail box- Messages are ‘red flagged’ and deep. I am having trouble keeping up with them all, but love to hear from family and friends, please know I will get to yours in time

The Well-Trained Mind- These ladies know their stuff when it comes to home education. Great place to sell and buy used curriculum and books

Living Whole With Chronic Pain- For when I need a great display of love, unity and courage. They are my family on the net and they make Jesus their center, not their pain.

Face Book-The quickest skim ever once or twice per week, when I am nostalgic for 1981

QuakerQuaker-aka convergent Friends with good reads that enrich my days

Quaker Faith&Fellowship- Mostly quick glances, because it is hard to leave what you helped create and those you love. Because shutting doors on those who have gone out of this life before me I am learning, takes time

That’s about it. I’m aware of my need to re-prioritize life day to day as well as my aim to keep Christ first. It really comes down to obedience, for me. ‘Obedience’ may not be a popular word today and especially amongst Friends, but it is important and not so bad. I am finding life beyond my computer precious and I need to keep in mind it comes first and it is fleeting. The words of Richard Foster to ring true to me right now. Foster said, “Obedience is really not as burdensome as it seems at first blush. We are doing nothing more than falling head over heels in love with the everlasting Lover of our souls. We are responding in the only way we can to the invading, urging, inviting, persuading call of Eternal Love.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seeing God's Face

The God that dreamed us up makes no mistakes. I see God in the face of the ill at the hospitals I frequent, the poor and oppressed, the severely learning disabled and the one who opens the door for the young single mother toting a baby on her hip. Though today, my mind has traveled back in time to my teaching years. They were good years, working as a speech and language specialist. Some were in programs for the poor and disadvantaged and other assignments were amongst the very private, elite elementary and high schools in my region. I enjoyed them all, but as we added more children to our own family, I considered myself fortunate to come home to tend to my own full-time. There was a gap in time, prior to doing so in which I still needed some additional income. So, I picked up a few tutoring jobs with students within their own home settings. It was just a temporary couple of assignments, but one student in particular that helped fill in that gap, gave me a gift.

That would be Ephraim. (I changed his name for privacy sake, and what fun that was to pick out a child’s name again just then!) Only Ephraim was not so much a child in chronological years, as he was in intellectual years. He was nearing his eighteenth birthday and we were pushing the system to continue to provide for his needs, as he was autistic and deserving of continued care.

I did not have much experience with the autistic as a therapist, as I mostly worked with children with language and articulation problems, but I always loved a good challenge. I prepared heavily for meeting Ephraim by reading his files, test results and researching communication options. I was determined to provide at least a basic daily language skills communication board or system of some kind for him and his family. As it turns out, what little I was given to work with, I would be devising this method and any materials required myself. I soon learned that God sent Ephraim to teach me, rather than me to teach him. Some times the Maker is surprisingly creative like that.

One glance from the front door to my student at the dining room table revealed a handsome and promising young man. I was greeted by the kindest and most relieved looking set of older parents, who quickly took the opportunity to welcome me into their home with warmest of greetings. They did seize the opportunity to take a break and step out into the lingering autumn air with me there. I placed my briefcase down and slowly made my way to try to get near as possible to Ephraim. He allowed that, from the first day, yet never looked at me for weeks to come. He was full care, needing to be fed, clothed and aided in moving about. He also needed to be changed as he was yet still in diapers. Some days were better than others, and I soon learned to start with the basics and we were associating objects and words on the level of a very young child. I was striving my best, not wanting to let this young man or his family down.

The family owned a great mobile vacation home. I soon learned that this was a hide away of sorts in their own yard, for family members to take a well-deserved break from the constant, exhausting care of Ephraim. It was also one of Ephraim’s favorite places to be however! One day, his Dad greeted me at the door and told me to leave my brief case in my car. We linked arms with Ephraim and took him to the trailer to let him sit in the driver’s seat. That was the first time I heard him laugh and laugh he did, as what appeared to be a cup of saliva flowed out of his mouth. He simply loved sitting behind that wheel! His Dad explained to me, that despite the professional Child Study Team services and this young man’s Individual Education Plan, he simply wanted his son happy. That was above all goals for his son. This father made it crystal clear that I was to focus on being with Ephraim, rather than all the doing that we had planned and wanted to know if I could understand that?

I glanced at Ephraim and I glanced over at his father and I thought of our Father in each one of us that day.

I soon began to see God in the face of Ephraim. We often played simple games in that trailer, we did puzzles together, and we blew thru straws, and traded small toys back and forth. Some times, I was lucky enough to have a helper and to take Ephraim on a short drive around his neighborhood in my car. The motion was of course stimulating and entertaining for him as he glanced out the window and he often would just laugh the entire time on a good day. There were many bad days too. But how beautiful a moment in time was, like heaven on earth when Ephraim would finally look ever so briefly into my eyes, linger a few seconds and smile broadly, all the while dumping saliva and me cleaning it up as fast as I could. I can’t quite describe the feeling of joy, love and peace that would be contained in those very few moments of connection. They would give me a smile that would light up my heart for days and his parent’s hearts as well, when they would take notice. The first session that happened, his Dad hugged me and said, “Today-that- was-it , that is all we want, not academic achievement, not promises, not tests and more evaluations, but love and happiness.”

I was used to demands-very big demands while participating in Child Study Teams. This was all new to me, and while we had those formal sessions that were periodically required of us all, Ephraim would sit in the next room in his wheelchair and his Dad would give me a wink as all the professionals would use their big jargon. We all had to take our prospective places in our occupations, but I think his Dad was everything good and right. He had made certain that Ephraim was as functional as possible and went as far as he could go in every area of development, and surrendered the rest. I also found he did his surrendering to God. We got along even better from that time on. What was a temporary job, simply stuck in between the corners of my life, and taught me much.

God has a special place in his heart for the people this world does not. It’s vital that we do our best and put our faith into action, but God was teaching me a different lesson this time about simply ‘being’. He wanted me to learn that some times that is enough and that his children are enough, and unique and loved so dearly by him. He taught me that the heart is more important than the mind and to speak plainer and that there is much time to keep big words out of my mouth in this life. This young fellow gave me no arguments, no intellectual debates. He didn’t have a lot of words, but had the miraculous capacity to suddenly connect at times. Those moments of love and sharing of raw emotion and the little affection I was able to break through to share with him meant so much. I know those moments originated in God, the Source from the very beginning. I know that Ephraim was fully human and fully part of God’s kingdom. As I left that assignment and made my way home, I took the lesson with me that it is also at times easier for the most simplistic of minds to speak and believe in the Living God, than the lofty and gifted. Some days, I still pull of my memories of Ephraim and his family out when I need to remember what matters most.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Making Time for Reflection

I pull back my morning curtain and smile inside, wondering if it is ever possible to fully comprehend the depths of how much God loves us. Glancing at the sunrise, seeing the snow laden pine branches hang low and the cardinals red streak across the pristine white new layer and the black capped chickadees flitting about so playfully, I fill with awe, with joy and peace beholding creation’s new chapter of a day to live. I take a deep breath in Him and whisper a prayer to start my morning. I dress and make my way out to the kitchen and see the delicate faces of miniature daffodils in the very dead of the winter, warmed from the memory of my mother’s visit the day before and their faces pull me toward them and seem to nod in agreement with the happiness of all the goodness that I am aware has grown through the years. All this, and the day has just awaken and I know that I must seek to live the experience of life, and wake up the senses to receive the here and now.

The girl’s laughter floods the room like sunshine, and they are chewing over breakfast and the idea of skipping lessons today and heading straight for the hills with their sleds. I spin with the thought of all that truly needs to be accomplished, yet in their eager faces I am once again reminded that we can do this, we can slow in all this busyness and hold onto a contemplative way, into the presence of God and live our lives like a prayer. We pile onto the school room couch warmed under the thick quilt together as we review our assignments for the day and Little One reminds me that it is day twelve on our ‘100 Day Calendar for Joy Habit’s by blurting out her memorized quote of the day from Helen Keller, “You will find joy in overcoming obstacles,” she tells me, face peering up like a shining new penny. She’s chosen a good one I chuckle to myself inside.

“Yes,” I answer, “ and we can count the joy until it becomes a habit and we can celebrate each new day.” Daughter Two adds her poem she wrote from her blog last week. We slow and linger under the quilt in the schoolroom while we move through the sharing of the new poem and literature of the week, plan for a history project together and math. Calmed and contented we move through our morning routine and I reach back in time and am suddenly become that excited and happy child in my mind and announce that school is out early and they scramble for the hills.

I sink into my chair by the window and know this was an exceptionally good morning, and I am relieved to have an unexpected break in my schedule. Even though I’ve got a truckload of more stressful work awaiting me, I grab the time to pray for more grace and reflect on what moment I was most grateful for in the past twenty-four hours and what moment I was least grateful. As I do so, I am reminded that Jesus was so very busy while on earth, yet he was known to slip away for solitude. So, I take the moments to think on these many consolations from my morning that left me feeling peaceful, happy and connected to God and while uncomfortable as it is at times, I let my mind seek out the moments of desolation. These are moments where I commonly feel a lack of peace- perhaps a bit rushed, stressed, or a bit nervous and I know in time that I can come to use these patterns for deepening inner growth. This involves a practice of trust, this continuously listening for God, yet it draws me in to feeling safe, because listening and following God is following the voice of love.

I’m quietly adding this habit of examen to my own ‘100 Days of Joy Habits’. For some time now, I’ve done a daily review of sorts at the end of my day by reading through ‘The Serenity Prayer’ and contemplating the day. I’m now eager to go a bit deeper in awareness, knowing God always speaks and wishes us to balance our deepest desires together in union and I’ve just got to keep remembering to fully show up for life. This God always longs for us to have freedom, and is drawing us to himself, The Light, and I know that I will never be done with this process of continual discernment in life.

In fact, it is the very time that I think I know the will and way of God in my life, that He moves in an unexpected way and reminds me to live with my hands and heart a bit wider open to listen to him, to make more time for him and to allow his transformation to take place and grow. In learning to evolve from this daily life review to experiment with more of an Ignatian examen, I am reminded how critical it is to not to journey in this life alone. It helps to have others to hold out a mirror in which I can see my own reflection, perhaps in many different ways that I’d not normally come to realize by myself. Also, I’m finding lately that being more transparent isn’t always comfortable, but laying one’s self bare tends to yield the most fruit. I’m eager to grow this habit over time to note the repetitive patterns in life that resurface and need my attention and obedience. It is a one-piece life of communion through the day and God speaking in the many moments that keeps me coming back to invite God into all of my moments. Life at times is full of ambiguity, but it is also true God is moving around us and in each of us and we are never done with this living communion and discerning life circumstance until we take our last breath. We are made to commune and to be faithful to follow his voice.

The silence is broken by the sound of footsteps and boots being flung across the entryway. Rosy cheeks enter, chilled but thrilled with the break in our routine and while the snow gets tracked into the house, wet cloths are scattered about and the list of chores must be attended to, joy is there. I count it and I hear the laughter and life that fills this house that reminds me to take a deep breath, to capture the fleeting moments, to pray and that there is no separation within all these moments as I try to place the whole of my life in balance under the leadings of Christ. And God is there in the faces satisfied with the hot cocoa and the mess and the whirl of the rest of the day on the way and warms our hearts with his freedom, love and grace for gifting us our heart’s desires among our messes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Honestly Now...

This space has become a bit intimidating in the New Year. It seems everywhere I turn, there are people making admirable New Year resolutions. I’ve caught myself trying to paste on an Academy Award Winning face, but the truth is I feel about as bare and empty as my hollowed out tree in my back yard in the dead of winter.

Just hanging up a new calendar this year was hard. It was a gift from my online friend that passed on this autumn. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that online friends aren’t ‘real’. I’m still a bit bent over from missing his (almost) daily e-mails and calls. The calendar is a precious present, but a bittersweet reminder that all the possibilities for chewing over our thoughts and words, laughing over editing mistakes and other impish times are gone and my heart aches to try to write in this place. While I do not grieve without hope, this has been a most difficult of doors to for me to close on a loved ones going out.

There are some seasons that are just naturally heavier with burdens than others and winter, while it is beautiful, seems to some times be one of them. I’ve just spent a month slowly initiating a drug not approved in the US for my motility disorder. I truly pinned my hope on this one. Over the course of a month, I have mustered up boldness enough and laughed here at my typical dumping out and meticulously dividing dosages that I increase in tiny increments. I look as if I got it straight off street and I’m quite certain it would have been much cheaper that way! It always takes courage to start, being allergic to most medications, so the bottom kind of dropped out hard when it failed, especially as I waited so long and when it happens to be the last option. In the midst of this and the holidays, my husband, who I could count the number of times he was ill in 25 years of marriage on one hand, slowly developed symptoms of a temporary autoimmune disease that normally hits young children under the age of five. I say temporary, but the approximate eight weeks for this ditty to burn itself out has seems to have come and gone. I am now watching him jog off to the lab and doctors like I frequent, which is very strange and a bit unsettling.

So, a bit of unexpected happenings seem to be following me like a shadow into the New Year and I wish to fill this space with bright and shining new stories and they are not flowing. I don’t share for sympathy, but for the importance of being an authentic believer. I am simply a messy child of God. I’ll tell you what is good, though. The emptiness is not completely barren, because I know that God’s promises are true. I am being ‘held’ and we all are. I now know not to live life by feelings, and that feelings change and there is hope for other unexpected good openings. I’m keenly aware of the simple and extravagant gifts God sends in the midst of what seems like dormant times: the never ending laughter inside my walls here from our children, their help in our home, and a chance to give back a miniscule amount of care and love that my husband has shown me over the past 5 years, as if that is even a bit possible!

There are grace filled moments every day and always someone to help encourage that has life harder than we do. I am ever more aware of the blessing of seeing God’s face in those that remain and journey alongside me. I’m even thrilled to make a new younger friend, whose smiling face is on this page and whether she knows it or not, is teaching me more about God these days than I am teaching her. Beyond that, she thinks I might be able to sew, and has me literally in stitches of laughter in the midst of my some times tears! I stink at sewing, but am willing to give it a go again once more.

I’ve also been reminded that we all must write love on our own arms each day in order to do so for others; to love our neighbors as ourselves we must truly love ourselves. Weekly I am told this and blessed by my Christian Spiritual Formation classes that have started up again this past week. It is hard to believe it is semester two already and it is by far the most healing thing I’ve done since my illnesses began, though it does limit my time online and especially in writing here. God has placed me with the kindest people though, who are full of wisdom and shine his Light. I’ve been assigned to a wonderful supervisor who knitted me a beautiful prayer scarf that arrived here by mail before the holiday. It has warmed my heart-the one I’ve had to reveal to her in truth the past four months along with my Spiritual Director who is such a good listener and challenges me in my own spiritual walk.

So there is much going on in a bare winter tree that looks hollow and dormant. I know there is Truth in my roots and they help me stand on the promise that God will see me through, as the Lord is the strength of my life. (Psalm 27:1) We can all trust and look forward to the future, knowing our heavy seasons will not last forever, especially when Christ is at the center ensuring we have a Living stronghold in this life. When we feel too weak to hang on, God never lets us go. There will be a time for nourishment and for springing up with new life and growth. Each new day is a gift in which there is another chance to set our mind on things above, things eternal. Christ asks us to leave things behind and to follow him and some times those are the hardest of things or people, but necessary in the journey.

May your footsteps be ‘held’ and gently guided, as we grow with the Christ child in the coming year. I hope for you to see beauty in new beginnings and know the reality of his Presence and I trust that peace and joy will tip toe quietly into all of our days and cause us to smile when we least expect it.