the gift that is laughter {#135-157}

If you've never heard me rave about my niece and nephews, only one thing can be true: we haven't met.

Having never been married, and therefore never had children of my own, my heart is made complete by the fact that my brothers have had the most perfect children in the world in the form of the one girl and six—almost seven—boys that they have brought into our family. Since my family all lives out in the wild and wintery west, there isn't much that could begin to tempt me to move my big city life in that direction, but when my oldest nephew Nicky asks me when I am going to come to visit him, it's hard to not drop everything and run for the suitcase.

One of the greatest things about my family is that we laugh. Not any polite, gentle kind of laughter, but the kind of laughter that makes both your throat and stomach hurt afterward. The kind that involves snorting. And milk flying from noses. The good kind.

Recently my sister-in-law, Loralie, has posted some conversations she and my brother have had with the kids, the two boys in particular, on Facebook, that have left me smiling, and just plain laughing out loud. Especially the last one, which I may have peed just a little when I read it the first time. {My poor niece Megan seems to have gotten caught in the cross-fire here, but being the only girl in a family riddled with boys is something that I understand only too well, and I know it will only make her stronger in the end :-) }

What an amazing gift it is that laughter can be passed down through the generations...
Jayden: Daddy can I have more whip cream?

Dad: Just hold on a second. 

Jayden: Daddy can I have more whip cream?

Dad: I'll get it in a second...just wait please.
Jayden: Daddy can I have more whip cream?

Dad: Jayden. I said you needed to wait! Please stop asking.

Jayden: I wasn't asking. I was just singing...."Dad-dy can you pleeease get meeee more whip creeeeeam" (in a singing voice)

* * * * *

Jayden: "I think God is talking to Megan."
Lor: "What is he saying?"

Jayden: "Beeeeeee patient"
Lor: (laughing) "Yes Jayden. I think you are right!"

* * * * *

This conversation happened during Nicky's math while Lor was explaining how every set in math is a group of shapes with the same attribute.
Lor: You, Daddy and Jayden could be a set. What attribute do you all have the same?

Nicky: We all have brown eyes.

Lor: Right! Megan and I could be in the same set too. Why?

Nicky: Because you both have anger issues.*
* in defense of my sister-in-law and niece, neither of them actually have anger issues!

* * * * * * * * * *
So grateful for...

135:: being wished a happy birthday eve.

136:: the knowledge that even receiving potential bad news about the unborn nephew doesn't change God's character; He is still love, He still deals in the miraculous, He is not limited by human wisdom or imagination; He can still do the impossible; He still heals.

137:: an early morning phone call to wish me a happy birthday.

138:: all the many phone calls, texts, Facebook messages and Tweets that made me smile and feel loved.

139:: phone call from my oldest brother.

140:: messages from baby brother and sister-in-law.

141:: the friend who sang over and over again!

142:: the friends who took me to Panera for lunch.

143:: the friend who made me laugh at the number I wasn't even able to say!

144:: chocolate cupcakes hanging on my door handle when I got home.

145:: the gift that reminds me that I am loved. {thanks Mom & Dad!}
146:: clean, lavender-smelling sheets as I lay down to sleep and dream of the beautiful day that it was.

147:: a late-night phone call from the brother, the niece and nephew; Nicky asking me when I was going to come visit him.

148:: that I serve a God who sees me. {Psalm 31:7}

149:: the simple fact that the God who never should have died, faced death, so that we—for whom death was inevitable—wouldn't have to.

150:: waking up early on a day when you don't have to.

151:: rooibos provence tea during Life Journal time.

152:: the privilege of being able to use my gifts in a worship service.

153:: for the lessons only silence can teach.

154:: holiday lunches with good friends.

155:: having a weekend where someone else—actually the same person!—cooked for me twice! {thanks, friend}

156:: having a friend that you can always count on to laugh with you.

157:: that the sense of humor can be passed down through the generations...


Silent Saturday

sandwiched between the Day that is Good
and the Day that is Holy
is the one that is Silent

how did Jesus' disciples spend
this Silent Saturday?

did they wonder what they could have done?
should have done?
did they remember Jesus' words differently
in this new darkness?
did they remember His words of hope
or did the grief obscure what should have
made their hearts expectant?

should they have
        spoken up?
        fought off soldiers?
        stuck beside Him all the way?
        taken Judas out long ago?

did they blame him more than they should have
because blaming themselves hurt too much?

what does one do on a day
when Light has died
when Life has died
and you don't have the expectation
or the hope
that He will rise tomorrow?

you wait.
you try to remember all the things
that you saw and heard when the Light shone brightly
some vital instruction
something that will help make sense
of the senseless

for those of us
on the other side of Easter
it is easy to overlook this day
this silence
this day after

because we know
it is also the day before

        before the stone is rolled away
        before hope rises
        before an empty tomb
        before a walk with a Stranger

but the Disciples did not
they were living it
in brutally real time

this makes me wonder...
all the things that today
cause us to despair
have strained our hope
turn our stomachs into knots of string
just by thinking about them

i wonder
if we knew that Jesus would rise in
        our despair
        our hopelessness
what we would do with today?


the glory days are returning...

All that is gold does not glitter,
not all those who wander are lost;
the old that is strong does not wither,
deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
a light from the shadows shall spring;
renenwed shall be blade that was broken,
the crownless again shall be king.
—J.R.R. Tolkien
Remember those three glorious Christmas seasons, when on one beautiful day, a week or two before the holiday you stood in line at a movie theater for a ridiculously long period of time, after getting there earlier that day to actually purchase tickets for yourself and ten or twenty of your closest friends, to ensure that the moment you had been waiting for, in some cases for about 365 days, was actually going to happen?

I do. Those three years when the December release date rolled around and the new Lord Of The Rings movie finally arrived in our eager and expectant lives were glorious, and even to this day, every time I turn the November page on the calendar, I feel a pang of sadness that those glory days are over.

It's not to say that I don't still enjoy the movies. Since the movies were released on DVD, I have spent more than a few weekends with one foot firmly planted in Middle Earth. But there is something special about the first time you see a movie, even if you've already read the book. The mystery of seeing someone else's vision of what you've both read brought to life, how it compares to your own, and takes on a life of its own is a beautiful thing. Regrettably, you can only see something for the first time once. Unless, of course, you can arrange for a bout of amnesia, which, having never attempted it, I probably wouldn't recommend.

So, before you actually begin to consider self-induced amnesia, let me make your day by telling you that in 610 days, on December 19, 2012, the glory is returning...

If you haven't yet read The Hobbit, don't worry, you've got a bit of time.


Abundance {#119-134}

I laughed this morning.

Sitting by myself at the kitchen table, doing my Life Journal, I laughed as I read God's word.

It all began years ago...

More than a few years ago, while attending the Leadership Summit, I was privileged to hear Tim Sanders speak on the topic of scarcity vs. abundance. Scarcity being believing that there is not enough to go around, while Mr. Sanders defines the law of abundance as believing that there is always enough to go around.

I've been thinking about that session of the LS lately, since I have noticed that scarcity thinking has become more and more prevalent in my life... and it is not a good thing. This crept-in belief is slowly poisoning my outlook, from knowing that with Jesus, I have all that I truly need, to thinking that in order to be good, to be happy, I need more. Something else. And this scarcity thinking has me making bad decisions, rash decisions, and not being myself.

Back to today...

It began probably ten minutes earlier. After I got up and was gathering what I would need for the morning quiet time, I was thinking on this scarcity thing, and I thought to myself, "How does a person get beyond scarcity? What do I need to do to get myself out of this?"

I left the question hanging in the air as I opened my Bible for today's readings. When I got to Psalm 34, verse 9, that is when the laughter hit.
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack! {vs. 9}
Are. You. Kidding. Me.

There, in black and white print was the answer to my question. And in case I may have doubted it, or thought it seemed a little too obscure, David, the Psalmist, went on...
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

What man is there who desires life

and loves many days, that he may see good?

Keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.
Could my question have been answered any better had I had an actual audience with my God in His throne room?

Sure, the answer isn't easy, and I know that I have some work cut out for me—as I seek hard after God, pursue peace instead of more, and rid myself of the lies that I have been believing for too long—but how amazing is it that when we ask our questions, He hears them, and loves us enough to answer them, if only we pay attention?

* * * * *

Paying attention to the gifts...

119:: a serendipitous moment resulting in an online chat with a dearly missed friend in Africa.

120:: God's love, even when I feel unlovable.

121:: heart-shaped ice cubes.

122:: Mom wanting to fly across the country to be with me for my birthday... even if it didn't work out.

123:: my birthday present from Mom & Dad arriving six days early, and the anticipation of waiting to open it.
124:: pretty party favors hanging in my kitchen.

125:: an awesome job at a church I love.

126:: anticipating a visit from a dear friend.

127:: all the friends who ate and laughed and loved at my Welcome To Spring party. {Yummy cake courtesy of Lyndsay, who rocks!}

128:: receiving the cookbook that I have wanted practically FOREVER! {thank you, Ang!}

129:: birthday gifts: all perfect, every one of them.

130:: beginning the book that two friends have raved about.

131:: laying down to sleep with the echoes of laughter still hanging in the air, remembering all the beautiful moments of the evening.

132:: the reminder to love one another.

133:: a rainy day with one of my closest friends doing all the things that we love to do, talking and laughing through it all.

134:: that sometimes, when I ask a question, God answers right away.



There are some days that the words just won't come.

Maybe it is because I let the busyness of life win. Perhaps I simply have nothing to say...

...or maybe it is really because there are days when I fear what is inside, and somehow believe that if I let it out, these things I don't even know I want to set free will define me. judge me. find me wanting.

On these days, perhaps it is best to let someone else do the talking for me. Who better than Madeleine L'Engle?
I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly. —Madeleine L'Engle
Where would I be without a full-time God?

I don't think I want to know.



I think I have loved Henri Nouwen's writing since the moment I was introduced to his books. His words seem to me to be the perfect combination of wisdom, humility, passion, and holiness. Reading his beautiful daybook, Bread For The Journey has been such a treat so far this year, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last year that I do so.

Every once in a while, a day sticks out in my mind. Perhaps the topic, or maybe just where my head happens to be that day, but there seems to be one every once in a while that I just cannot get out of my head.

The reading from April 6 is just such an example...
Being Humble and Confident
—Henri Nouwen, Bread For The Journey, April 6

As we look at the stars and let our minds wander into the many galaxies, we come to feel so small and insignificant that anything we do, say, or think seems completely useless. But if we look into our souls and let our minds wander into the endless galaxies of our interior lives, we become so tall and significant that everything we do, say, or think appears to be of great importance.

We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and confident, humorous and serious, playful and responsible. Yes, the human being is very small and very tall. It is the tension between the two that keeps us spiritually awake.
The tension between the two keeps us spiritually awake. I think it is easy to live on either side of a spectrum in this life of a Christ follower. It would be easy to err on the side that Jesus is love, and it really doesn't matter what I do so long as I am happy, simply because Jesus loves me. Conversely, it would be easy to take the role of the zealous, hyper-holy follower of Jesus, removing myself from the world to remove all temptation, never engage in culture for fear that it will taint and make me unholy, and be unswerving in my judgments, never allowing love to factor in.

Jesus hasn't called us to either extreme, but rather to a life of tension. Tension between the 'anything goes' and the 'everything goes'. Tension between how life is today, and how I want it to be. Tension between hating the sin and loving the sinner. Tension between the holiness that I would settle for, and the true one that God has called me to.

Henri is, once again, beautifully right. Without this tension, I would easily be asleep.


going my way... {#108-118}

Life does a good job of teaching us that things won't always go our way. Sometimes a brutally good job.

Our job, it seems to me, is to manage how we handle these things that don't go the way we want them to... how we deal with it when life goes pear-shaped and the only thing we can control is our own reaction to the situation.

There are days when I handle these things beautifully, and can see how much I have grown...

...and then there are the days that drown those good days out simply by their sheer volume. Days when I react more like a spoiled child in a grocery store who wants the chocolate and will use whatever means she can volume-wise to get it.

But I am learning and growing—although some days it hardly seems so—in the grace of God. This grace that I need more than air, as I count the gifts given to me, heals my dry, cracked soul, one golden drop at a time.

One drop at a time...

* * * * *
Golden drops of grace...

108. The four pounds of coffee Dad brought me back from Guatemala that are making my office smell like heaven.

109. Even when I am completely alone, my God is still here.

110. The smell of lavender.

111. Incredibly creative people who help me think outside of boxes of my own making.

112. Crawling into a freshly made bed.

113. God speaking when I set my ears to listen.

114. A mini road-trip with good friends.

115. Farmer's market flowers.
116. Reconnecting with a good friend after too much geography and too much time have gotten in the way.

117. Planning my 'Welcome To Spring' party.

118. A phone call from Mom...


spring things...

Threshold of Spring

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Uncollected Poems

Harshness gone. All at once caring spreads over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,
is touching the earth.
Paths appear across the land and beckon.
Surprised once again you sense
its coming in the empty tree.
When it comes to poetry about the seasons, Spring is definitely the prom queen of the four. Poets seem to see Spring as the most mystical and magical of all the seasons, and I suppose it is for good reason. No other season has that beautiful, resurrection quality, where after the long, cold, dark months, Spring brings us back flowers and birdsong, convincing us that life will go on, that winter won't prevail forever... that even though it has felt like it, there is life after snow.

One of my very favorite spring things is going to St. Jacobs, both the farmer's market and the town with my small group... which is what we are doing tomorrow!

Whatever you find yourself doing, I hope you have a happy, happy weekend!


learning to be a good receiver...

Confession: I am not a good receiver.

When it comes to giving, I have no problem there at all. I love the giving part, especially when I know that someone really needs, or would really love what I am giving them. Love that.

But turn the tables, and I start to feel all awkward and prickly. Last week my mom asked me to give her a list of things I would like for my birthday. I understand her request, we do live pretty much on opposite sides of the country, and she doesn't have the ability to just stop by and see what is going on in my life. But putting together a list of things that I would like for someone else just seems so very uncomfortable. Like asking for something.

That being said, I do have a friend who tells me that my inability or unwillingness to ask for help is not good, and while it is uncomfortable to hear, I know she is right. Somewhere along the way I have equated independence with the need to do everything on my own, or I shouldn't do it at all. For someone who is part of a faith community, I am beginning to see the dangers and pitfalls in such an attitude.

Then yesterday, Henri Nouwen joined in on the discussion, in his book, Bread For The Journey...
Daring To Become Dependent
—Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, April 4

When someone give us a watch but we never wear it, that watch is not really received. When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received. When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received.

Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say, "Without you I wouldn't be who I am." Receiving with the heart is, therefore, a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers.
So, I am in the process of learning how to be a good receiver.

What about you?
Are you a good receiver, or do you need to work on it like me?


grace & white space {#91-107}

it's too easy to define your life solely by the things you do not have. by those things that somehow, along the way, you had dreamed or wished you would have, but for whatever reason, simply have not arrived.
  • a spouse
  • children
  • the 'right' home
  • good friends
  • the dream job
  • any job
  • good health
  • {insert whatever it is you want but don't have}
it's far too easy to rehearse that list, and if one is not careful, they can begin to see their life solely in the context of what it isn't, of what is lacking.

as a graphic designer, i am a huge proponent of the concept of 'white space', which is leaving a portion of what you are designing blank and unmarked. instead of filling space up with more text or graphics, leaving white space creates room within the design, and allows the important elements that are on the page to breathe, and speak to the reader.

by not filling up the page, what is important can clearly be seen.

perhaps that is why God doesn't give us all the things that our hearts desire. maybe that is why he doesn't fill our lives so full of everything... because what, then, would we truly value? how would we know what was most important?

i cannot help but be grateful for the things that i wished for that didn't arrive, and the beautiful life it has afforded me...

...and for all the gifts, unexpected and rediscovered, that God does give me, and the grace to be able to count them.

* * * * *

i am so grateful for...

91. The blank cheque of hope, knowing that whatever I am waiting for, God is still the same.

92. The smell of fresh coffee grinding at Starbucks.

93. The fact that the things that happen to me are not my life, and all the lessons we are learning from Ecclesiastes.

94. Celebrating nephews who share the same birthday.

95. The privilege of walking through life with some amazing young women of God.

96. Spring cherry green tea on a morning when coffee won't do.

97. Sharing licorice babies with co-workers.

98. That no matter what the question is, hope in God is the answer.

99. Meeting with a friend over pink cupcakes to discuss what God is saying to each of us.

100. A Friday afternoon field trip to St. Jacobs—and starting the weekend early.

101. Find a beautiful new Lug—and having the self-control not to buy yet another one!

102. A pretty, floral-y scarf that feels amazing wrapped around me neck—and, apparently, makes my eyes look bluer.

103. The scrapbook mom made me of our trip to NYC, and sharing it with friends, old and new.

104. Watching Marie Antoinette with B & M over quiche and cupcakes.

105. Getting my first massage, and the friend in massage therapy school who made me homework!

106. My nephew N who asked his mother to have the pastors pray for his brother, J {who has been in a wheelchair since the discovery of tumors/cancer in December}, because N wants to go for a hike with J next week. N said to his mother, "God healed him before and He can do it again... I know it!"

107. How the faith of a child reminds me that sometimes I think and believe too much like a grown up.


Happy April!

I love April...

...and not just because it is my birthday month.

Although late fall is my favorite season, there is something magical to me about this month.

Have you ever read Rosamunde Pilcher's beautiful book, September? She writes about what is obviously her favorite month {not to mention her birthday month} with so much love and passion, one would almost actually the believe there to be golden light shining down on Scotland during September.

Well, if i ever wrote a book about my favorite month, I would hope that my readers would believe that in April the atmosphere has a pinkish, sparkly tinge to it, and everywhere you turn, the faint smell of cherry blossoms.

All this to say, I couldn't be happier that April has finally arrived.

Happy April!

{If you want to use the balloons as your computer's desktop, simply click on it and 'save as'.}

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