Friday, December 25, 2015

wings

In 2008 with our college-confined offspring living on scholarships, grants and student loans, we stopped spending money on Christmas presents and began focusing on presence.

In transition from presents to presence, my husband and I gifted winged ornaments for future evergreen trees -- an airplane painted in festive colors, softly feathered angel wings.

There can only be two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. -- Hodding Carter

We come with empty hands and full hearts to celebrate Christmas and share a simple meal -- homemade potato soup, crusty bread, holiday cookies and Spumoni ice cream, or crepe-like pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit.

Friends and extended family often struggle to understand a Christmas without presents, and I struggle too, attempting to put words to a tradition forged over time ... and destined to change.

There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens -- Ecclesiastes 3 more

As my husband and I spend this day together, just us two, we are quiet and content, having gathered with friends on the eve of Christmas to hear and share the miracle of Jesus birth, then caroling and prayer at fire stations and the hospital.

We celebrate tomorrow with our daughter, future son-in-law, son, daughter-in-law, and our two grandchildren at my parents' home with extended family -- nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts.

A new season is upon us. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."



  
Rjw


Friday, December 11, 2015

joy and delight





My wish in this season of Advent?

Collect and affirm stories of triumph, celebration, joy and delight.

Joy and delight are easier to find these days. Grand-parenting seems to come more naturally to me than parenting, a small and flourishing seedling of patience, a God- cultivated gift, grows within me.


precious time
a rainy Tuesday afternoon
cold enough for a hat
skipping the mittens

a busy city street
a tree lot on the corner
tossing the tree
in the back of the jeep
instead of tying it on top

tiny hands helping
drag out the tree skirt
untangle the lights
string the pink beads
put the angel on top

add a few ornaments
sequin tree picks
Seuss-looking bling
clay airplanes, kid-made
one jack-in-the-box
snowmen, santas and stars

Rjw

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Sunday, December 6, 2015

tipping point

The meltdown happened Saturday at 1:27 p.m.

My heart had reached the tipping point and i called my husband in tears, asking him to come get me and bring me home.

The cheerful holiday chatter and smell of baking cookies in a house filled with four generations put me on edge. The silent rumbling darkness in my heart threatened to surface and unleash an infestation of unaddressed conflict and poisonous enduring contempt.

The rumbling began a few days ago when my fingers retrieved the red-scarfed rabbit from the box of ornaments for our Christmas tree. The rabbit is the tangible reminder of my own gullibility. The soundtrack it cues up is decades-old laughter at my expense, a memory laced with stupidity and shame: watching for the jackalope mile after mile and day after day on a family vacation road trip in the 1970s.

The timing is no accident. My faith community is focusing on a 3 Scripture tool for evangelism: Matthew 22:37, Matthew 22:39, Matthew 28:18-20.

My struggle is within Matthew 22:27: loving God will all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. 

At a recent coffee with my friend-and-pastor, he encouraged me to open my heart to God. Since that meeting i have been intentional in my prayer and meditation, asking God to remove whatever is keeping us apart.

The self- and other-centered contempt i hold within my heart is what God is revealing and redeeming.  He invites me to excise the bruised and wounded flesh, to make room for His gifts.

As my grandson and i add more decorations to the tree my heart ponders the question: What am i hoping for this Christmas? 

i am hoping to collect and affirm stories of triumph, celebration, joy and delight -- to love my children and grandchildren in a way that invites and embraces heaven here on earth.


tip·ping point
noun
noun: tipping point; plural noun: tipping points
  1. the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change. 

    definition source: Google.com

Friday, October 30, 2015

treasure map

Traveling with toddlers is unpredictable even on short rides. Traveling 362 miles with a toddler, then turning around and driving back home the next day is a challenge.

Over the past three decades, with and without toddlers, these roads, this journey, has become too familiar.

Traveling hundreds of miles for short stays is part of our blended Iowa-Wisconsin family -- Albert Lea MN once seemed the perfect half-way point. Career opportunities did not take us there.

So as autumn moves into northern Wisconsin, we find ourselves traveling south for the funeral of the family matriarch, my mother-in-law, my husband's mother, our children's paternal grandmother. The little boy in the carseat is one of her eleven great-grandchildren. His father and his aunt occupy the front seats of the rented van; my hubby "Grumpa" is stretched out as best he can in a second row seat; i am riding co-pilot in the back row, next to the sturdy carseat that holds our most precious cargo.

"Why?" is his favorite question. "The Blu House" his favorite destination.

He treats us to nearly an hour of heart-wrenching appeals to go to The Blu House, punctuated with tears of disappointment and that favorite question, "Why?"  Our breakfast at McDonald's seems to change it up, perhaps because we invited him to choose the restaurant?  We spend the next six hours sampling the toys, games and books daddy and mommy packed for the trip, and making sure there are lots of running-playing-moving games as we visit rest areas and gas stations along the way.

For the toddler, the hotel pool offers respite, the promise of more adventure. The rosary, wake, visitation, funeral, luncheon and burial become places to meet new playmates, young life affirming hope in the dust of death.

The matriarch is remembered for homemade mac-n-cheese and sweet rolls, thoughts drift to noisy family gatherings around her kitchen table, the Thanksgiving ice storm that compelled us to stay an extra day, the weddings and funerals and baptisms that invited us to travel this way.

And then, our time here is over. We are back in the van. Reversing directions. Heading home.

The roadside running-playing-moving holds no allure. The toys, games and books packed for the trip have grown tired and stale. In an effort to avoid the "Are we there yet?" cliché i dig into my own bag of tricks and tear a blank page from my journal.

Together my grandson and i draw a secret pirate treasure map spanning three states, decorated by pictures of us as pirates with simple drawings of pirate landmarks; i soon discover that the map has turned the tables for i am the one redirecting the boredom, asking "Are we there yet?" and inviting sweet toddler fingers to find our location and inform me "Not yet!"

Over 724 miles and many-too-many hours on the road my grandson held onto hope.


Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14 GNT

Friday, October 23, 2015

avoidance

My abandoned desk is buried beneath chaotic stacks of boxes and bins, containers filled with neglected journals, photographs -- keepsakes spanning five decades -- remnants of captured moments, snapshots of the lives woven most tightly with mine.

In this season of downsizing, the stacks of boxes stand day after day, sentinels quietly waiting to be reduced, contents sorted, gifted, treasured, discarded.

This photo from the early 1960s surfaces -- unfamiliar, unexpected, painful.


My heart aches for the girl on the swing, watching, waiting.

Is she summoning the courage to touch the fish?

Navigating the confusion of having already failed that task?

Or, lost in the obscurity of not being asked at all?



[Jesus] took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Mark 5:40-42

Monday, September 21, 2015

three days to sleep

As I scan the recent months, the sparse entries in my blog, I am reminded how difficult this summer has been, an unexpected emotional, physical and spiritual marathon, a crescendo on a decade when life was not unfolding as my spouse and I had envisioned.

Like a ram stuck in a thicket, I fought to free myself. My body grew tired, fell still. I lay there, mind racing, heart beating a panicked rhythm. Week after week, then day after day, I climbed the stairs and threw myself onto the bed and yelled at the ceiling, "I can't f---- do this!"

And God answered. If He was offended by my vulgar language He did not show me His disappointment. Instead, He gently acknowledged the depth of my struggle, revealed my chronic refusal to rely on His strength, and brought to mind the words of my own Psalm:

 … Loving God
Break away the stone of my hardened heart
Crush it into gravel and pave a new path for this broken life
Grind the fired clay of my self-reliance into fine dust …

This past Thursday (Sept 17) I came home from work and for the first time in a really long time three days to sleep stretched out before me, days in which I threw myself on the bed and welcomed rest, days set aside to embrace the life-affirming rhythm of sleeping when tired, eating when hungry, enjoying the gentle companionship of the people walking closely beside me, and the favor of our Loving God.

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Exodus 16:17-18

Rw

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pruning

Lust
Greed
Gluttony
Envy
Anger
Pride
Sloth

Grief
Denial
Bargaining
Guilt
Anger
Depression
Hope?

the weeping hydrangea near the front porch flourishes

cobwebs linger, gluttony and greed

pruning three decades

life's furnishings, encumbrances, possessions

dispossession

loss, failure

banished

i gasp for breath

i am a foreigner in an unfamiliar land

Friday, June 12, 2015

Captivate me

Savior God
Rescue me from the dungeon of my iniquity
    from the depths of my sin
Pride and self-sufficiency tempt me daily
Teach me to seek reprieve in Your Arms
   to trust in Your Strength

Loving God
Break away the stone of my hardened heart
Crush it into gravel and pave a new path
   for this broken life
Grind the fired clay of my self-reliance into fine dust
Drench me in Living Water
Remold me on Your Potter’s Wheel
   that I will be a vessel of Your Peace
   trusting that You are with me
   embracing those around me with Your Love

Mighty God
Help me put down the weapons of insecurity
   and choose to live boldly in Your Way
Teach me to absorb the impact of sin
   be bruised but not broken, frail and strong
   safe in Your Promises
   turning to You
   releasing the pain

Creator God
Let my eyes appreciate the hues of earth and sky
Coax my hands to touch the endless textures of the land
   to receive each morsel of food as life-sustaining
Let my ears delight to the sounds of life emerging
   the birds of the air sing Your Praises
   each breath an affirmation
   the aroma of the fruits and flowers is Your Scent
   the movement of the wind is Your Caress

Captivate me


Rw

photo credit: wildflowerramblings.com

Saturday, June 6, 2015

i have tasted the evil



one image
a thousand words?
this image breaks my heart
tears flowing
inconsolable
one image
my heart breaking
broken
because the image is so true
i have tasted the evil
i have witnessed it with my own eyes
Lord, why are you silent?
hear the cries of my heart
hear the cries of her heart
Oh Compassionate One
this cannot be what you intend
the consumption of human flesh
the eating of our young
Created in Your Image
the travesty is indescribable
unforgiveable!
my heart hardens
i am without mercy
open the eyes of my heart
Lord God Almighty
El Shaddai
i am tempted by evil
tempted to vengeance
protect me from my acrid rage
be with me in my trouble
rescue her
rescue me

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16 NLT

Rw

Saturday, April 11, 2015

sacred space


sacred space

     a place of comfort

            the quiet back hall stairway 

        where a friend and i sat together

                  unready to reenter the world

     we had witnessed death and resurrection

               exhausted and fragile 

                         we sat in our humbled humanity

                                            each heartbeat thankful for grace

                                                      and our loving, redemptive, healing God

                               we held onto precious gifts 

                                                     friendship, faith and time

                                                           the provision, food for our souls

                                                                 sacred space


Saturday, January 31, 2015

rise

As a child being raised in the Catholic church, i remember a gripping and claustrophobic fear of death, my imagination transporting me to the total darkness inside my girl-sized casket, being underground with worms and June bugs. i was in second or third grade.

i remember bits and pieces of conversations, the adults in the church discussing human death and buried bodies awaiting resurrection, my young mind catching phrases and images, never enough to fully form an accurate understanding, obscured by my tangible belief that everyone but me fully knew, that asking a question would surely reveal my shameful and glaring ignorance.

The child-me is nervous as i type, we've erased and rewritten, consulted the thesaurus and checked the spelling in an effort to delay.

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." - John 5:28-29 NIV

As the recorded voice of Max McLean reads aloud the words in John 5, i feel as though we -- me, the child-me, and perhaps all breathing humanity -- are in many ways already dead, choosing to lay motionless within our caskets of addiction and pride and fear, turning our backs on the light of Jesus' calling on our lives, standing backward on His path, seeking to avoid the darkness by closing our eyes.

That is not what God intended. That is not what God intends.

God is wiping away shame and ignorance, offering restoration to everyone and anyone.

As i read and listen to the words, God is unfolding the shaded gray knots of shame and inviting me to explore with an open heart the stories within this library we call the Bible. God is inviting me and the child-me to see things differently, to turn from our fear, to hear his voice, to rise and live, to proclaim "This is the day the Lord has made!" - Psalm 118:24 NKJV








Rw

photo credit: Lovely Sun Rise ...

Friday, January 16, 2015

darkness

I often give evil too much credit.

In the predawn hours on this wintery Friday, my dog Harley is nestled on my lap. Sleep eludes me, so we are in the living room, snuggled into white cotton blankets, finding comfort in the back-and-forth motion of a wicker rocker. The street lamp outside the window illuminates a clean, white snow. The light of the floor lamp near our rocker floods the pages of a book, allowing me to re-read The Shack.

There is something about December's short winter days and long cold nights, something magnetic and dark, something that pulls me toward despondency. And in the weeks that follow, in the days of January, as I climb out of the dark and uninhabitable caves of depression I am helped by revisiting familiar stories: Gone with the Wind, It's A Wonderful Life, The Shack ...

These are the earthly measuring sticks against which change in me is self-measured.

Like a lost gift found behind a wilting and abandoned Christmas tree, something I hadn't seen before leaps from the page, bringing life to my tired soul. I close the book, stopping to ponder the idea that darkness is not a thing of itself with mass and shape and power, but rather darkness is the absence of light, evil the absence of good.

Christ Jesus has illuminated the way.

Those who trust in Jesus have been given redeemed hearts, but our bodies and the world in which we live is still physically affected by sin. Our bodies still die, our psyche is still marred, we still are prone to the selfish pursuit of being our own god, and Creation is still screwed up, but this is not the end. Our redemption has just begun. - from Beliefs, Fellowshipcf.org


So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord ... For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. - 2 Timothy 1:8-10 NLT excerpt

 Rw