Overcommitted

With sincere apologies, I am sorry to be so late in typing today’s post.

This has been one of those weeks where no matter how much I get done, there’s still more to do.  You know what I’m talking about?

I have overcommitted myself with volunteer work.  And blogging promises to myself.  And exercise promises.  And lunches with friends.  And planning new events.  And chores.  And running here and there.  And motherhood.  And wifedom.  And such.

It’s been exhausting.

But I don’t want to complain because it’s also been wonderful, all at the same time.  For instance, I am working on some posts for next week already, and have successfully left Monday’s calendar slots BLANK to make sure you all don’t get ignored.

Or lost in the hustle and bustle of it all.

Or forgotten.

After all,  I know I said on Wednesday that I’d show you around here on the new blog design, but now the thrill of it is gone for me.  This is home.  I think you can find your own way just fine.  Feel free to sit back, click on things that interest you, and if you’re looking for a challenge, try to hunt out my typos and mistakes…it probably won’t take long for you to strike gold.

Speaking of gold, let me share with you a treasure I found this week.

This:  IMG_4554

It is one of those books that has changed my life.  You know what I mean?  It has in it the kind of words that veered me slightly from the course I was on, back to the course of my destiny.  It asks many great and wonderful questions.  It bravely shares many challenging and deeply thought-provoking sentiments.  It took me to the wilderness  (from which I’d just returned), and it framed it for me in a new light.

I think my favorite thought of all from it was this:  “At the core of me is God.”

Think on that for the weekend.

Or for the rest of your life.

Whichever.

You let me know what you decide.

Until Monday…

Lisa

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How I *Know* Everything

I guess there are at least some benefits to having blogged for over a year now.  One of them being that when your mind is just not able to properly communicate to your fingers what to type, you can just choose to re-post something you’ve written before.  Which is what I’m doing today.  This post was originated on my first ever blog (www.lisachristiansen.blogspot.com) in February of last year.  But I think it’s still one of my favorite posts.  And if I’m lucky, it will inspire me with some new writing for next week.  Until then…enjoy!

Technology is not my friend. 

 

You know how sometimes when you’re writing and you just *know* you’re on to something and you’re typing so fast you’re hardly even thinking about it and you feel electric with energy because you are starting to think you are just Such. A. Flaming. Genius?

 

So then you take a moment to review it and you smile and you think, This is SO GOOD!  I’m just gonna cut it and paste it over here where I can edit it a little better without the worry of accidentally hitting ‘send’ before it’s too soon.

And you go and you cut it. 

 

But then for whatever stinking reason under this side of heaven it Just. Won’t. PASTE.

 

 

Yep, you guessed it.  Somewhere out in cyberspace (or hiding in some tiny irretrievable recesses of my computer) is that sheer genius piece of writing.  From Friday.  When I was trying to ‘work ahead’ and tell you what I *knew*.

 

So let’s just agree that Friday’s lost entry was my Pulitzer Prize winner that unfortunately got lost in a galaxy too large for any of us to find.  And when we see who wins the Prize this year we’ll all *know* it was supposed to be me…OK?

 

Instead, I’m going to use today to clarify something.  Because since some of you have been kind enough to let me know you are, in fact, reading what I’m writing here in Blogland and that I’m not just writing it to myself [which, by the way is incredibly kind of you, and also extremely terrifying for me, but I thank you anyway].  Still, since I’m pretty sure I’ll have at least one reader every day (thanks, Mom) it’s important that we  are of the same mind on something.

 

And that something is what I mean when I write the word know with those cute little asterisks around it like this:

*know*

 

You see, when I write that I *know* something, I’m talking about the kind of *knowing* that me and my women friends had when we were young and newly married and we were SO READY to start a family and have our kids spaced out here. And here.  And here.  And we had it all planned out.  And we *knew* that’s how it would go. 

 

You know what I’m talking about?  Remember that kind of *knowing*?

 

I do. 

 

Any guesses how many times I’ve *known* I was pregnant? 

 

At least 12. 

 

Yep.

 

I’d bet at least that many.

 

Which is, of course, different from how many times I’ve actually been pregnant. Which, for the record is three.  (And believe me, I’m OK with that!) So, you see, when I say I *know* something, I think what I really mean is that I’m being intuitive.  But the stink of it is, that sometimes it’s really hard to separate our intuition (our built-in truth-finder, if you will) from what we really, really want.

 

And what we want may not always be the Truth we’re intended to live.

 

SO…

 

sometimes we have to *know* and be wrong, and sniff (and cry) our way back to our Life Path before we *know* and get it right. 

 

And the reward is that when we *know* and then it’s confirmed for us over and over and over again– through the things we see (ultrasound), and the things others see in us (You are GLOWING!) and the way we feel (over-the-moon-euphoric!)– that we have, in fact, found the Truth. 

 

Or we’ve let it find us.

 

Either way, I’m fairly certain that what happens in that moment is that our minds are finally in tune with our hearts.   Which really isn’t that far of a distance.

 

Still…sometimes it’s a looooooong and crooked road there.

 

*Sigh*

 

Anyway.

 

Now we can at least be on the same page and you will know that when I *know* something I just may be Dead. Wrong.

 

And that stinks.

 

But it’ll be OK.

 

You know why?

 

Because I’ve learned that my being wrong is really just an invitation from God… to wait. 

 

I guess it’s the only way He can make sure He is out in front of me before I go blazing ahead.   He’s real protective like that.  And I REALLY like to blaze!

 

Still. 

 

In my heart I know that it really would be a whole lot easier that way. 

 

You’d think we’d have gotten it awhile back when God sent us Jesus who told us

 

                                                            “Follow me.”

-Matthew 9:9

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

-Matthew 11:30

 

 

But I’ll be honest, I used to think He was lying.   Not about the following, so much.  More about the easy.

 

I really did. 

 

And trust me, I realize it’s probably not nice to say you think God’s a liar, but since it’s my understanding that God created my heart (and my head… and my soul),  I guess there’s no real sense in my hiding the fact that I may think He’s a liar. 

 

Because He’s got a Front Row seat in there, anyway. 

 

Still. 

 

It’s what I thought.  

 

He was lying. 

 

And I thought that because it seemed like my own personal experience told me otherwise.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking this, because how often don’t we say to ourselves and each other that “life isn’t easy”?

 

It seems that way a lot. 

 

But then.

 

I let God weigh in with His two cents (and seriously, that’s about all the more I let Him weigh in because I’m stubborn like that).  And  I realize that it really may not be as hard as I first thought. 

 

I mean, after all…

 

I’m living right now.  And right now.  And right now.  And this isn’t really all that hard. 

 

But you know what’s IS hard? 

 

 

WAITING. 

 

 

At least most of the time. 

 

 

At least for me.

 

 

So that’s why God is sending me (and maybe you, too) this here little postcard today. 

 

It’s to remind me why I need to wait:

 footprints_in_sand_wallpaper

 

 

 

So,  I’m making a choice to listen.

Because if God isn’t there yet…well, I guess I really don’t want to go there yet either. 

 

Even if it means letting someone else get that Pulitzer.

 

So that’s why I’m gonna sit another day or two before I rewrite that sheer genius entry I lost last Friday.

 

Because I may not have to rewrite it at all.

 

You see, I’m still trying to sniff out the Truth, even though I *know* what it is.

 

And that sometimes takes awhile. 

Courting God

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How long do you think a love affair could last between two people if one of them insisted to the other again and again and again, that they were unloveable?

It’s amazing that we can see so quickly it would never work when the question is framed like that.  It seems that so much of the courtship and wooing that goes into finding that “forever mate” is a dance where we show each other just how lovable we can be.

Why do we insist on making our courtship with God so differently?

Those were my thoughts as I read my devotional by Henri Nouwen this week:

God is saying, “I have always loved you and I love you now.  I want you to receive my love.”  And you are saying, “You can’t love me, God, because I’m so bad.  By thinking about my past I will prove to you that I am beyond forgiveness.”

What kind of person would ever put up with that kind of message again and again and again?

None that I know of.

So how can we explain why God would put up with this?

The only answer I have is so trite it seems to lose meaning over time, but it is still so true it needs to be said again.

Because our God?

Our God is an awesome God!

Amen.

Sacred Cows

As you already know, my Lenten journey this year is about “giving up” my excuses. The first excuse that came to my awareness was in regards to my overall health. I realized I could no longer “cheat” my way to good health knowing full well what every American is taught from birth  (but many, like me, continue to deny in the “land of plenty”):  that in order to lose weight I must make smart food choices (diet) and I must move my body more (exercise).

So I had to take a personal inventory: Did I really want to change? Yes. Was I willing to change?  Yes. Was I willing to let go of old habits? Um…I think so…where are we going here?  Was I willing to let go of my idols? Wait….what? How did this get religious all of a sudden? I thought I was trying to look like a super model. Or at least a local ad model. Or at least the best looking girl in the room (when I’m the only one it). How did this get to be about idols?

But my heart knew.  And it did what it always does.  It waited.  It waited for my head to catch up. And eventually my head did.   I realized that if I looked at the past three or four years, I’d worked out pretty consistently in some way or other for all those years,  but, I’d also successfully lost and then gained and then lost and then gained.  Could idols have something to do with it?  In all those years there was ONE thing I could think of that I had absolutely refused to give up.  That ONE THING was now on my heart, and in my head, so I knew it was time for me to let go.  It was the “sacred cow” I’d never been able to let go of  in all my other attempts to get healthy.

And its name is Diet Coke.

And it pours most deliciously from a fountain out of any McDonald’s restaurant.

And it only costs $1 (a dollar!) regardless of how big or small you want it.

(Large, please!)

And I have been addicted to it for over a decade.

ADDICTED.

I know it may seem laughable that I would think that giving up Diet Coke (it’s Diet, for crying out loud!  ONE CALORIE!) would  be a significant step towards good health.  (Though there are lots of articles to say it is a significant step).   The truth is, an addict is an addict. It really doesn’t matter what we’re addicted to. Sure, some things are arguably much more harmful than others, but the behavior is really the same.  In fact, I would argue that the behavior itself is the most harmful of all!  When you look at the definition of an addict: to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively, you can see right there that anything we’re addicted to, other than God, is breaking the first commandment.  I had been addicted for years.

So…with a deep breath, much prayer, a hard look at my lifestyle, (and the reality of having just turned 40), I decided that I needed to stop drinking Diet Coke.  I knew it was my “sacred cow.”

You see, when I think of  “sacred cows,” what I think of are false idols.  And I realized that not only was Diet Coke  a “sacred cow” for me  in the figurative sense —something immune from question or criticism–every time I’d tried to get serious about my health before, but it was also a sacred cow in the Biblical sense, something that takes your focus off of God.  I specifically think of the Biblical story of Moses and Aaron. Remember that one?  Where Moses went up the mountain to talk to God and receive the commandments, while Aaron, his brother, stayed down with the people who grew increasingly doubtful and impatient, so he built them a cow out of gold to worship?  (Exodus 32: 1-35)

Yeah.  It seems so ridiculous in its ancient context that it’s easy to think it has no meaning for us to today.  I mean worshipping a golden cow?  Laughable!

Until you realize that Diet Coke is your golden cow, and you’re a Diet Coke junkie.

Then it’s not so funny.

Then climbing that mountain for God seems really, really hard.

I can finally write about this because it’s been over a month now since I’ve had a Diet Coke or soda of any sort.  And while that may seem like no time at all, those who know me know what a lo-o-o-ong time that is.

And no one is more surprised that I could do it than me.

Even more surprising to me is the fact that I really don’t miss it.

Or at least very rarely.

I have made some other changes, too.  I’m doing this awesome Jillian Michaels workout every day, and out of respect to my last year’s Lenten sacrifice, I eat with more self-respect, consciously making better choices (most of the time).

I wish I had more news than that. You know, something real impressive like, I lost 10 pounds as a result!  But, as of right now, I haven’t.  (An unimpressive 3 pounds?  Yes.  An inspiring 10 pounds?  Not so much).

Even so, something else has changed. Something even more important, I think, and that is this: I’m focusing on the change, and I’m letting the results be whatever they’re going to be.  I trust they will come.  Not in my time frame, but in God’s.

So why am I telling you all this? Is it because I think you should feel guilty for going to McDonald’s or drinking Diet Coke? Of course not.

But I do think you need to look at any “sacred cows” that may be getting in the way of something you say you really want.   (Exodus 24:3)

And then take another look at just what’s stopping you from getting there.

Because no matter how hard you try?

You cannot climb the mountain while holding on to your sacred cow.

My 12-Step Lenten Journey

Despite living all of my 40 years on earth as a Catholic, I tend not to “give up” things for Lent.

You may have noticed that whenever I talk about what I “gave up” for Lent I always put “give up” in these cute little quotation marks like this: “give up “, see?   That’s because my Lenten prayer is not just about a 40 day fast.  At least not anymore.   Sure, for years it was like that.  I’d give up candy, or soda, or a favorite dessert for 40 days…or as long as I could stand…or until I forgot.  But that’s not how I “do” Lent anymore.

Four years ago, I listened to my priest as he encouraged us to not just “give up” some THING for Lent, but to make it matter.  He said that if we were going to “give up” something for Lent, the best thing to “give up” was our sins!  Right then and there, my Lenten prayer changed from my telling myself what I would (try to) “give up” to my asking God what he would like to see changed in me.  In that moment, Lent was changed forever from my “giving up” my favorite things, to my offering God my willingness to change.  And what a difference it has made!

By that count, I can tell you what my last 4 Lents have involved “giving up”:

2010:  Pride

2011:  Judgment and Jealousy

2012:  Negative self-talk/image (i.e. Loving myself)

2013: Excuses

Looking at this  list, you’d think I’d be just about near-perfect by now,  wouldn’t you?  (Ha!)

Of course, through this process, I quickly learned (SPOILER ALERT!) that “giving up” my sins  really needed to be more than a 40 day undertaking.

Now, as a result, Lent is less about spending 40 days in the desert and more about beginning the process that every “12-stepper” already knows.  It means admitting that  I,  myself,  am powerless over the very things I attempt to “give up.” 

Yep.

Pow.Er.Less.

That’s so much nearer the truth!  I have no more power over my pride now that I did in 2010, no more power over my judgments and jealousy now that I did in 2011, no more power over my negative self-talk/image than I did in 2012, and no more power over my own excuses (for doing things I shouldn’t and not doing things I should) than I did when Lent began this year.

So, why bother then? you may be thinking.  Great question!  And the answer is this:  because while I don’t have power, I DO have awareness.

Awareness of how I am weak.  Awareness of how I am imperfect.  Awareness of how I.am.not.God.

And, though it may not sound like it…that is Good News!

The even better news is that, for those who are able to take that “first step” and are fully honest with themselves  about their powerlessness, there is a second step.  And that step is that with my new (and usually painful) awareness:  I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  (Because, trust me, as soon as you get honest enough with yourself to see all that exists inside of you that you cannot control…you would quickly be headed for the loony bin, if it weren’t for this second step!)  And  that sanity comes for me in the form of compassion, which God readily puts on my heart, for those who “suffer” the same weakness.

The best way I can think of to describe this process of awareness and compassion is like a river gently washing away the roughest edges of a stone.   Over time, as the “waters” of God’s mercy flow over me,  I find myself, bit by bit, letting go.  And then I take the next step.  And then the next.  And then the next. Until finally you can use your experience to help others in the best possible way:  you can say, I understand what you’re going through.  I struggle with it, too.  I’m here for you.

That’s the best example I can find of what Lent is for me: a lifelong 12-step program whereby God shows me the places in my heart where I need to improve, and I do my best to follow.  And, just like the washed-out drunk who has the courage to get real honest about their weakness with alcohol,  I’ve come to understand that while my journey may begin by my “giving up” something, it’s a decision I have to continue to make day after day after day for the rest.of.my.life.

To be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with fasting from, say, Diet Coke or M&M’s for 40 days to help yourself experience some of what Jesus suffered in the desert.  I’m just saying that, to my understanding, it wasn’t just suffering for 40 days with no food and water that changed Jesus.

It was his choosing not to succumb to his temptations.

And doing that didn’t just change him for 40 days.

It changed him forever.

Choose Always the Hardest

Choose always the hardest.

The words still ruffle me, even though it’s been several weeks since I first read them as the final sentence in a list of “Antidotes to Pride” that were part of a daily devotional written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The rest of her list, though by no means easy to accomplish, at least made sense.  For instance:  speak as little as possible of oneself, pass over the mistakes of others, and never stand on one’s dignity, all need no further explanation as to how those actions could fend off the temptations of succumbing to our own pride. This final antidote though, choose always the hardest,  was a real head-scratcher for me.

I happened to read this particular devotional only days after Baxter died, so it seemed natural to think that in her words might be a clue for me as to the timing of getting another dog.  I wondered if in her words were the answer to whether we should get another dog right away, wait awhile, or never get another dog again.  The problem with that scenario was that all three of those situations, at that particular time, felt like they very well could be “the hardest.”  After all, another dog, only a year after putting all my time and energy and effort in my first-ever dog, seemed like a LOT of work!  And could very easily wear me down, making it “the hardest” thing for me to do.  At the same time, with the gaping hole of his loss and the constant deep sense of sadness I felt, waiting to fill that hole seemed equally difficult.  Sitting with reminders of his absence day in and day out at times nearly drove me mad!  Then, of course, to think that perhaps he was my first and last dog ever, felt both like a tribute to him, and the worst possible thing I could do with so many other dogs in the world who are in need of a good home.   Do you see my dilemma?  All difficult choices for their own reasons…but which was the “hardest”?  I felt it important that I let God show me the way, even in this “smallest” of decisions, rather than counting on my own pride.

Then, I can’t recall the exact incident that made me realize this, but at some point…maybe it was something someone said to me, or a thought that just simply “came” to me, I realized that perhaps I’d already done the “hardest” thing:  I’d made some choices.   And I’d done that even before the saddest day came.  I’d chosen gratitude, and to continue to take care of myself and my family (even though the dog was high maintenance by then), and I’d already decided that regardless of any outcome, I would not blame.

That’s when I came to believe that Mother Teresa was not asking us to make our most difficult earthly choices by always choosing the hardest, but to choose always the most difficult choices of the heart:  forgiveness, compassion, faith, joy…and love.  These are the gifts only God can provide us, but only if we choose.  And in nearly any situation, any circumstance, they are always “the hardest” choices thanks to that other God-given gift called free will.

So, now I see more clearly how choosing always the hardest is an antidote to pride.  It was just another way of saying words I’ve prayed so many times they’d fallen numb of meaning:  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.

Or, perhaps even more to the point, as Richard Rohr puts it:  Thy kingdom come.  My kingdom go!

21 Days

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By this midpoint of Lent, I hope you’re finding your Lenten journey has been fruitful!  It is amazing the things that can be revealed to us, as we sit quietly in the desert of our hearts.

I’ve had a bit of a startling realization myself this morning.  Although, to be honest it really shouldn’t be that startling, because it’s almost always the same realization, shown to me in a new way:  the realization that I have a real knack for getting in God’s way.

This morning’s realization came to me after finally writing out in my journal exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish when I began this blog last Lent.  And when I wrote out those memories of what I’d hoped to achieve, I had to face the reality of what was wrong now.

Here’s what I remember about my reasons for the launching of The Mystic Mom:

1.  To share with “the world” (which at that time consisted of my mom, my mother-in-law, and a few friends of mine–Hi, Faithful Readers!), how I “see” God working in my life all the time.  Since I felt that the “mud had been wiped from my eyes” after reading several books by and about mystics (in various faiths…not just Christianity) I wanted to share how the Being that I call God really is a very ordinary and real part of our everyday lives.

And that’s it!  That was the start and end of my list at that time for starting this blog.

But, here’s where I get in the way.  Because as soon as I hit that “publish” button for the first time, a whole new list of thoughts began to form.  You know, those sneaky little thoughts that you try not to even entertain, but somehow seep into your being and attach themselves to the other, simpler, intention?  Thoughts like:

  1. Maybe someone would tell me how much my writing has changed their life.
  2. Maybe that person will tell some other people and one of those people will be a publisher.
  3. Maybe that publisher will want me to write a book.
  4. Maybe I won’t have an idea for a book, and my one chance for ever writing one will be gone!
  5. On the other hand, maybe I will have an idea for a book and it will be published, but not sell.
  6. Or, maybe that book will be a New York Times best seller!
  7. Maybe I will become famous for that best seller.
  8. Maybe I will have to travel the country promoting my book.
  9. Maybe I’ll have to travel the world!
  10. Who is going to watch my children while I’m traveling the world?
  11. Will my husband be jealous that I’m now traveling the world and the kids are more his responsibility than ever?
  12. Will our marriage survive this jealousy?
  13. What will we do with all the money, too?  Will we give it to charity, or hoard it for ourselves and become all focused on riches and wealth and forget all about God?
  14.  OK, Reality check.  The book will never get written.  The world doesn’t need another book.  Especially a book by me.
  15.  I’ll just blog sometimes.  For fun.
  16. Or , when I have something really important to say.   And that I know is coming from God.
  17. And also if I have the time to blog. If I don’t have the time that’s OK, too.  God will surely understand that.  I mean, he blessed me with motherhood three times over.  Surely he knows how busy I am!
  18. God probably doesn’t really need me to say anything anyway.  He’s got a whole slew of angels to deliver his messages.
  19. Plus, there are lots of better messengers than me.  More gifted.  More talented.  Just…better.
  20.  Why am I doing this again?

Do you see what happened there?  Over the course of the past year, I’ve drifted away from my original intention of taking my enthusiasm for understanding God through mysticism to “the world” and convinced myself that I should fear failure, and success, and just about everything in between.  So the posts have dwindled, the keyboard was broken, and The Mystic Mom was silenced.

And in that silence, God was able to be heard.

So this morning, when I  asked God to walk me through this whole process again and show me what it is HE intended (if anything) for me on this whole blogging journey, he very conveniently pointed out how far I’d strayed from my original intention.

Then he very conveniently also pointed out the one thing I’d promised to “give up” this Lent…my excuses.

And I know from experience, that excuses can only be extinguished with actions.  If I begin to act, then the excuses disappear.  This type of action is called discipline (from the word disciple), and it takes a lot of effort–especially in the beginning–to follow, and trust, and allow yourself to be transformed in the being God intended you to be.

For me, the act of discipline is, in most cases, the same thing as forming new habits.  I’ve heard it said that forming a habit takes only 21 days. I hope that’s true.  That’s why I’m announcing today that I will now be forming the habit of publishing a blog post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the end of Lent.  I will also tweet and post some other encouraging words on my Facebook page five days a week. 

It’s a start.  I don’t promise my posts will be good.  And I’ll probably surely fail the schedule at least a few times.  But, I promise I’ll get up again, when I do.   Also, in the beginning at least, I’ll probably be doing a lot of sharing of other people’s writings and words instead of my own.  But it’s the action of writing every day that I need in order to get rid of the excuses.

I learned a long time ago that what the Catholic church calls “sacraments” are really actions, not things.  They are actions of God for people.  We call them visible signs of invisible grace.    They are not “received” by us, so much as they are “celebrated” by us.  Because God is always everywhere, so is His grace ever-present.  Sacraments are the principal action through which Christ gives his Spirit to Christians and makes us a holy people.  We celebrate by affirming, honoring and praising our life in Christ through the sacraments.

With that reminder, I am now keenly aware that my writing…this blog, my journal, (a book?), whatever…is my sacrament.

My only real “job” here is to TAKE the experiences God gives me, BLESS them with a grateful heart, BREAK them into a lesson, and GIVE that lesson to others.

Why would I want to make an excuse for that?

A Technology Fast… I’ll Call Him John

For a little over a week now, I’ve been taking what I believe is a Lenten fast from technology.

To be fair, I can still browse using technology  without much difficulty.  But, this has a bit of a one-way mirror effect for me.  I can browse out in Bloggyville and throughout cyberspace, but I’m almost forced to abstain from corresponding with it, or sharing my thoughts.   In effect, I’ve been the equivalent of “struck mute” in the technological arena. In other words…I can really only “listen” to you, and can’t really “say” much in reply.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, this fast has NOT been voluntary.

Regrettably, a family member (who shall remain nameless) spilled apple juice on our laptop over a week ago.  This resulted in keys that very inconveniently now type two letters at a time (and sometimes even perform random functions!) with the touch of only one key.  Were it not for our family Christmas gift of an iPad (or some serious patience with editing, I’d not be able to write you at all).

Ju6st so you6 know what I+’m talki=ng abou6t, I+’ll leave thi=s sentence u6nedi=ted.

See what I mean?

And for added fun, when I try to delete something, I get this:  33333

Currently, we are working on trying to figure out the best way to replace the keyboard.    Until we can figure out the most cost-effective cure for us (yes, we are even running the old keyboard through the dishwasher),  I am mostly silent in cyberspace.  I trust there is a reason for this, though I find it incredibly frustrating to have been rendered “mute” in the season of Lent.  I think of Zechariah and his being struck mute until his wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to and named their son John (the Baptist), as God directed.

Right now, I’m not sure what this forced “silence” is trying to tell me, but when I figure it out, I promise I’ll share it with you.

In the meantime, until my technological “voice” is returned to me, I ask that you head on over and visit  my good friend, Anne at Making Room for God.  She has been kind enough to share her insights and observations with all of us daily as a Lenten Reflection.  So, please go on over and visit her, and I’ll be sure to let you know when all my technical difficulties finally cease.

Until then, I promise you all that if I give birth to anything new in the days to come, I’ll share the news.

And, of course, I’ll name the newborn John.

2013: Simplify

Happy New Year!

It’s obviously been awhile since I’ve posted.   And the problem with not writing for a while is the same problem as anything else you like to do that is good for you, but is also lots of work:  the longer you stay away from it, the more difficult it is to start up again.

But, I’ll tell you this much.  I had a great time while I wasn’t writing.

I had a very relaxing Christmas with my family.  We took a road trip to Florida and hung out and did all kinds of  fun stuff while we were there.  All our worries, and troubles were left behind.

All too soon, of course, I found myself back wading through waist-high piles of laundry, and sorting through endless emails and junk mail.  Hard as I tried to stay in the frame of mind from that vacation, it didn’t take long to feel overwhelmed by life’s chores and duties.   There was a scene from Finding Nemo  that kept playing through my mind.  (Probably because we played it in the car about four different times in both of our 17 hour drives).  You know the scene where Marlin and Dory are all caught up in the peaceful feeling of staring at the phosphorescence emitted from the angler fish that’s luring them closer, until finally Marlin notices (almost too late) that the light that’s making them feel so good is coming from a fish that is about to devour them and he says, “Good feeling gone!”?

finding_nemo_dory_marlin_angler_fish

Yep.  That’s about how I felt:   good feeling gone.

I was back to making list after list of chores that needed to be finished.  Volunteer work that needed to be completed.  Kids appointments and activity arrangements.  Errands that needed to be done.  Odds and ends that needed to be completed around the house, and of course, the then looming task of coming up with some resolutions for the New Year.

Buried under all these lists and plans, I thought back to the last day of our trip.  On that day, we were going to spend the day at Busch Gardens in Tampa and I was determined to plan and plot out the day, so we could get all the things we (mostly me) wanted to see and do crossed off the TO DO list before we had to return home.  So I was marking maps and taking surveys from the family wanting to know everybody’s TOP 3 THINGS THEY WANT TO SEE AND DO AT BUSCH GARDENS.  And I tried to plan them out.  Then, I panicked with the realization that there were eight of us on this trip and that would result in 24 things to see and do in one day with a wide area of interests since we ranged in age from 7 – 66.  So, I went back to the drawing board, and re-surveyed everybody asking them OF THEIR TOP THREE THINGS THEY WANTED TO SEE AND DO AT BUSCH GARDENS WHAT IS THEIR NUMBER 1?

That was better.  It narrowed our list to only 8 things to HAVE to do, which felt much more doable.  Then, I only needed to plan out lunch times, and locations, times of some of the things that were scheduled events people wanted to see/do, etc.

Even in that moment I could feel myself beginning to go a little crazy with the need to control and plan and plot our move down to every last detail, but it will all be worth it, I told myself.

That’s when my brother, who is every bit as prone to nervousness and worry about controlling time as a Zen monk in deep meditation,  piped up and said, “How about we not plan anything and just go to the park and see what happens?”

I looked at him confused.

What was he suggesting, exactly?  That we just show up haphazard and leave a day at an amusement park to chance?

I thought about it a bit.  If we did that, it would certainly mean I could just “stand down” the rest of that evening.  I wouldn’t have to do anything else but go to bed, wake up the next morning and head out the door to the park.  (Well, I am a mother of three, so it’s not quite THAT easy, but you know what I mean).  It was certainly a different approach than anything I was used to.

So (with some reluctance) I agreed and that’s what we did.  Left our day to chance.

And you know what?  We ended up getting into a really short line for a big roller coaster, and we saw an animal theater show that hadn’t made it onto ANY of our LISTS OF THINGS TO DO AND SEE, but we all agreed afterwards it was a highlight of the whole day.  We also ended up walking past a BBQ chicken stand right as it opened, so we were at the front of the line that quickly grew longer behind us.

Whaddya know?  I had to ask myself at the end of that day, maybe NOT planning isn’t such a bad thing after all. 

But still, I thought as I starting organizing and listing all the things that I was resolving I would do and get right this year, that was vacation.  REAL LIFE doesn’t work that way.  If you want to change, you need to plan.

Clearly, I hadn’t yet learned the breadth of the genius lifestyle my brother has always known.

Suddenly as I began listing improvements in the sixth area of my life (yes, six areas, one per page with 12 points to work on in each area, one for each month…makes sense, right? :))  that I was resolving to improve in the coming year, I realized I  was growing so tired from the list, I was pretty sure I’d not even have the energy to ring in a New Year let alone make changes in one.  Overwhelmed yet again, my brother’s words came back to me.  “How about we just show up and see what happens?”

But this isn’t a vacation, I thought.  This is LIFEThere’s a difference.

Then I thought of my brother, who, in the best possible way has made his entire LIFE a vacation.

That’s when I realized that maybe vacation isn’t really a trip you take to get away from everything, but rather, a state of mind.

I know I’m still a long way from being able to approach life with the same kind of open-ended questions as my brother, but I can make an effort to try it out more often.  And around the same time I was thinking that, is when this little  word popped into my head:

SIMPLIFY

And I began to think, what if I only made ONE resolution for this year…and it was this word ?   Could it work?   Would I get results?

I have no idea.  But, I’m sure if I asked my brother he’d say, “Let’s find out.”

So, I am.

And with that,  I give you my entire list of resolutions for 2013:  Simplify.

I hope you’ll join me!

I May Be the Only One

I’m probably the only one who experiences Advent this way, so don’t feel like you need to read on today.

Because it’s probably just me.

I feel like I am the only one, at least.

The only one who, despite all my God-and-Jesus loving talk the rest of the year, finds myself year after year during Advent in a very dark place.   All the JOY of the season that I want to feel, all the LOVE and PEACE and CALM that I pray for everyone else?  I can’t find it myself.  I barely even know how.  I can’t seem to string two words together to complete a thought, let alone find LOVE and PEACE and JOY and CALM this time of year.

And every year I wish it were different.

Until the darkness envelopes me so much that I’m blind to everything.  Left straining to see.

And eventually I do, if I squint real hard, I begin to see.

Those little bits of light that shine in even the deepest darkness.

The first glimmer of light was in the sound of my son’s trumpet at his jazz band concert this week.  And in the voices of the choir at his school as they joined together in song for the season.   JOYful music is contagious.  My heart was dancing inside me as I returned home that night, content–even if only momentarily– for the first time in weeks.

There were bits of light in the very dog hair that I’d been cursing the past few months (because it’s EVERYWHERE), when I happened to look at the calendar and see that we brought our dog home for the first time–“rescued” him from eight months of not belonging anywhere –this same week last year, and how he didn’t have any hair to lose then, because the stress of having “no room at an inn” must have really gotten to him.  Now, a year later, he is every bit the beautiful and hairy Golden Retriever he was meant to be.  Suddenly I found myself weeping with LOVE for this hairy dog that somehow misunderstood the whole “rescue” thing… because in the end the one who feels rescued is me.

There were bits of light in the hustle and bustle of this whole season as I went to the post office today, dropping a bunch of packages right before the lunch hour of our tiny little post office, only to find the post office worker in no hurry to break for his lunch, but instead taking his time to care for my packages and make sure I had everything I needed.  Did I want insurance?  Did I want  priority service?  Which Christmas stamps did I want?  Suddenly I felt his CALM and I wondered why in the world I’m running around like a lunatic when this time of year his job must be pretty stressful.  If he could take it in stride, then I might be able to, also.

And then, a hint that maybe I was finally beginning to understand.  It may have been a “sign” if that’s how you like to say it…there were even bits of light in the black sky last night as I walked with my dog.  Even though it was still early evening,  it felt like bedtime the sky was so black.  Until I noticed the shimmering stars in the crisp night air.  And suddenly, I thought of the Wise Men, and how they trusted those little bits of light to lead them to their King.

And I realized that maybe the way I have been experiencing Advent once again this year isn’t really all that “wrong.”

Would I like to be more organized?  More giving?  More cheerful?  More loving?

You bet I would.

But it’s quite possible that if I were so busy being all those things, I’d miss the Truth of where the Light comes from.

Suddenly, I realized the only thing really “required” of me this season is to trust in the darkness, and cherish the bits of light I see.

And it’s only in realizing this, that I am just now–finally– able to usher in a sense of PEACE.