Friday, May 5, 2017

Lucky

This week I lost someone close to me.

And while she was in fact someone close to me, even more so she was someone very, very close to many other people close to me. So, even as I feel my own loss, my own shock over her absence in this world, I feel even more devastated for the people standing at the epicenter.

Her very young son. Her husband. Her best friends. Her family.

Along with the sorrow, there is concern, and worry, and then even more layers of sorrow.

I've been reminded again this week how slow I can be in processing loss. It just doesn't penetrate to my heart and soul as quickly as it seems to for some people. I am not that person who can burst into tears immediately upon hearing bad news, and I kind of wish I were. I hold it in my gut. It feels like anxiety and stress before it feels like sadness. On the outside I can be very calm. I don't have many words to say, or I have too many words to say and it's all a rambling stream of nothing. But I hold it together. I'm that person who often appears very "strong" in a crisis.

Inside, my heart hurts and my stomach is in knots.

I feel nervous. Jittery. Anxious.

I fear what comes next.

Because what comes next...at some point...when my brain has done its work filtering through the confusion and dismay over the reality of that which is done and unchangeable...I feel sad. Really, really sad.

I hate feeling sad.

Honestly, I'm kind of tired of feeling sad.

And I say that knowing full well that I am among the luckiest people in the world living a wonderful life full of so much happy.

I know that, and I'm grateful. Truly, truly grateful.

But sad is sad.

You can't wish it away and you can't even 'gratitude journal' it away. No matter the enormity of the blessings in your life, when grief comes knocking there is no hedge of protection wide enough to shield you. You just have to feel it.

Or, you don't, and then you get all the problems that come with that but I'll leave that to the professionals to explain why that's a bad idea. (And it is a bad idea so if you are dealing with repressed grief, maybe go talk to someone?)

So....this is really not a good blog post given my whole Word of the Year and all that. But when I picked the word "happy" it wasn't because I believed that would magically mean I would get 365 days of easy breezy sunshine days full of cookies and margaritas (Yes, I think that sounds like a perfect combination. What?) It was more about setting an intention to keep looking for happiness, and recognizing happiness, even in the midst of life's inevitable rough patches.

I also chose the word "happy" (or did it choose me???) because I had started to recognize in myself a tendency to hold happiness at arm's length. Not because I don't enjoy feeling happy but because sometimes it can feel like too much happiness only puts you at more risk for eventually feeling sad.

In the last 48 hours I've felt that inclination creeping in again. The desire to throw up some walls and see if maybe I can't just build a fortress of protection against future pain. Sure, it makes for a rather boring, lonely life but maybe it's worth it in the long run??

I know. It's not.

And the bright light who left us this week never would have done that. She lived utterly without walls and knew so much love and happiness because of it.

She was like a field of clover.

Beautiful. Wide open. Full of life. And you felt lucky to be around her.

"Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God's best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one's self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another." Thomas Hughes 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Happy List v.3.0: The Birthday Edition!

HAPPY birthday to me!!

😃

Yes, today is my birthday.

My 47th birthday. On a Tuesday. So..... not anything to get too revved up about.

BUT the sun is shining which is a welcome change and we should always be grateful for another year to try and get this whole life thing right. God knows I'm still working on it.

Exhibit A: Last night I had a terrible night's sleep in that "sleeping" was not what I was doing at all, and then the scale decided to gift me a number this morning that I was in no mood to see (Do not even ask me why I opted to weigh in ON MY BIRTHDAY! I never claimed to be mentally stable.), and then I found out that Snow Miser was going to foil my sweet husband's attempts to get home for my birthday, and then I decided that all of that meant I should eat some seriously crap food for lunch which really only served to make me feel gross (WHEN WILL I LEARN??)...

....and so then I decided I better make a Happy List and quick!!!!

1. Birthday Memories

My 40th Birthday with two of my best girls.
Feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago.
Any actual birthday celebration I have ever had as an adult- meaning celebrating with some sort of party and people other than my husband and kids- was because Tracy made me. She was the perpetual Birthday Girl who not only loved to celebrate her own birthday but everyone else's as well.

One of my most special happy/sad birthday memories that I've been thinking about a lot lately is the one I celebrated after we lost our babies. It had been four months and I was still mostly spending my days alone at home, but I think Tracy knew that with the right people, in a familiar environment, it would be good for me to be with friends. She gently floated the idea of a small dinner at her house with just a handful of close friends. I still have the picture we took that night and I can see in my eyes so clearly what that gathering meant to me. I look tired, and a little sad, but also hopeful. I was smiling and for one of the first times in those four months, the smile was real. 

She was a big part of so many of my best birthday moments and while I miss her desperately, I'm trying to cherish the memories and keep smiling- just as she would want me to.

2. Sweet friends & family

I have gotten so many nice messages today that it's impossible to remain in a funk for too long. I especially appreciate everyone who has encouraged me to partake in as many sweet things as possible without guilt or regret. 

My people get me.

One of my favorite birthday messages came from one of my oldest and dearest friends (We have literally known each other since birth. Well, her birth since I was born a month earlier than her.). This friend has always rivaled Tracy in her ability to NEVER forget an occasion and to always send a card on time. 

(Sigh...she really puts her postally challenged lifelong friend to serious shame. But not really because she's the nicest person ever so therefore has never shamed anyone in her life.)

Anywhooooo.... Lucky for me in addition to being incredibly nice she also has a just-the-right-amount-of-spicy sense of humor and totally gets me.

This card made me laugh and laugh...




Oh, I do love a good purse.

3. Sunshine

Did I mention the sun is shining today?



Cold. Still snow on the ground. We will take what we can get.

4. Messages for the Moment

I don't know about you but sometimes it's just plain WEIRD how certain messages can come through at just the right time. 

One of my favorite books of daily readings had this thought for my birthday (why it doesn't actually say "Lori's Birthday" I do not know.)



"I want that spirit or force of happiness that is so much deeper than happy- peace that comes from you toes..."

Love that. 

5. After School Snacks



Annie has the best after school snack ideas. 

When I wondered if we really should have ice cream at 3:00, Annie wisely said, "Mom. Treat yo' self!"

And so we did.

Happy Fat Tuesday, Friends! 

Tomorrow...we fast. 

For sure.

😳

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mind over matter

Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their mind to be.
~attributed to Abraham Lincoln

I have a loooong memory. 

I'm one of those people who has bizarrely early memories of their childhood and a particularly uncanny ability to remember the seemingly unimportant and insignificant details of life. In fact, I tend to specialize in childhood memories that would appear to have no memorable qualities at all. 

Random things we ate in places that don't matter. What someone was wearing. The book I was reading at the time. Snippets of conversations that served no purpose beyond the moment in which they existed. 

I can hardly tell you any of the names of the cities or historic places my cousin Tracy and I visited on our trip to Germany with our grandparents, but I can sure tell you about the 99 different things we laughed about during those 10 days. If she were here and I suddenly barked out, "PURE VASSAR!" she would collapse in a fit of laughter, I guarantee it.

One such small moment has been bubbling up in my memory bank these past weeks. Ever since choosing my Word of the Year, I've been replaying a scene from Lori: The Early Years over and over.

I was about 9 or 10 years old.

(If my sister is reading this she is laughing right now because I almost always think I was about 9 or 10 years old when recalling memories from childhood. Must have been a big year for me. 😉  )

My dad had just come home from work and I could hear the door from the garage to the house slam shut. 

(For years and years after he died, I still associated that sound with him coming home. It took a long time for the disappointment to fade, hearing that door close and having it still not be him.)

His heavy steps went from the mud room, to the TV room, to the front hallway. I came running up from the basement to say hello to him.

I was probably in the basement because after around the age of 10 (!) that's where my bedroom was to be found. And I would have been running because there was a space between my bedroom door and the bottom of the stairs where it was still possible for the basement monsters to grab me if I didn't move fast enough. 

Oh, you don't believe me?

Ha. Well, I'd have liked to see you try casually walking from my childhood bedroom to the stairs. I'm 100% certain we would have never seen you again. 

I, myself, was taking no chances and always, always made a mad dash from the threshold of my bedroom to that first bottom stair. Once you hit the staircase you were safe but I always ran up the rest of them as well, because you can never be too careful when dealing with basement monsters. 

As I careened up those final stairs and made the hairpin turn into the front hallway my dad stopped his trek from the garage-to-mud-room-to-tv-room-to-hallway-to-kitchen, his final destination, and smiled at me. 

Most likely, he said something like, "Well, Lorinda! (One of his many nicknames for me.) How ya doin'?"

And I must have said, "Great!" Or, "Good!" Or, "Super Duper!" Because the part I remember most is what he said next.

He gave me a squeeze and issued what became a prophecy over my life. 

Oh, I don't think he knew that's what he was doing for one second. I think he was just saying what came to mind in that moment. But sometimes the things we say without thinking too hard about them are the very truest things that we really mean the most.

At least, that's the way I took it.

He gave me one of his famous hugs, squeezing my face into that barrel chest and said, "That's what I love about you. You're always happy. You're a happy person, Lorinda. That's a good thing to be."

And off he went to sort through the mail he had carried in, and to talk to my mom about his day and what was for dinner, and to probably lie down on his bed and read one of the 18 magazines he subscribed to.

And I went slowly back downstairs-until I got to the bottom and then had to sprint to my bedroom- thinking to myself all the way.... "I am? I'm a happy person?"

I wasn't always a happy kid. I could be brooding, and emotional, and WAY too dramatic at times. No one is always a happy person. My dad knew that. This wasn't about setting up some expectation for my life that I could never attain. This was about a general quality he saw in me, or maybe it's just what he saw in me in that moment.

But it stuck with me. 

And whether it was something that was always there and he just gave it life, or it was something that grew out of his words, but from that day forward I strived to be the person my father saw in me. I believed myself to be at my core...a happy person. 

Which is why I'm still here believing in the pursuit of happiness. Even in my moments of deepest sorrow, there has always been a part of me deep down that believed I would feel happy again. And when those happy moments come, however fleeting, I try to grab them. I try to remember to close my eyes and add them to my stockpile of memories so they can be used as band-aids when the wounds of life break open again. 

I'm a happy person.

I always have been.

My Dad told me so.

"Children will not remember you for the material things you provided,
but for the feeling that you cherished them."
~Gail Grenier Sweet







Friday, January 20, 2017

The Happy List v.2- The GLAD GAME Edition

Well, friends, this was one of those weeks when my word of the year felt a wee bit cumbersome. Like an ill-fitting coat with a collar that's too high, and sleeves too long, and puffiness that's just too darn puffy... Happy was hard this week. 

Now when talking about the majors and minors of life, this week's frowny faces have all been the result of minor inconveniences, disappointments and stressors. Believe me, I know major. I am HAPPY to say that nothing this week qualified as major. 

But still...there were some bumps.

Here is where I am learning to be glad for my word of the year though. Like Pollyanna, it's becoming an intentional daily exercise for me to try and take the rough patches, smooth them out and put a little shine on them. 

Remember The Glad Game? If you don't then it probably means you didn't have a childhood and someone failed to introduce you to the Wonderful World of Hayley Mills. I'm so sorry about that. I hope this youtube clip will restore just a smidge of your childlike wonder.

(Please follow this up with an immediate viewing of the original Parent Trap and then look for In Search of the Castaways. Then try to stop singing "Let's get together, ya, ya, ya...")


Oh, Pollyanna...you happy little scamp. Count me in for The Glad Game!

Here we go...let's turn that frown upside down!!

1. Winter is....COZY!

I'm a little over winter. At least the freezing-temperature-ice-and-snow-everywhere winter. But who has two thumbs and really enjoys any excuse to stay indoors under piles of blankets reading and/or watching TV?! This gal right here, that's who! (I'm pointing at myself with my two thumbs- FYI).

It's cold but our house is cozy and time spent with my favorite pups and people is always a good thing. Plus, it's pretty.






But just so we're clear... Spring, you are totally welcome to arrive early. Just sayin'.

2. Reading is Fun!

Sigh...thank heaven that when all else fails, there are always books. 

I'm reading a great one right now and I SO wanted to be finished with it before I put it on The Happy List but it's too good to leave it off. I'm 80% finished so I feel confident I'm going to like it all the way to the end, but I don't know the end yet, so I'm taking a leap of faith here.

It's unusual how long it is taking me to read this book. It's fairly big but I've been known to read entire books in a day so the fact that I've been working on this one for a week says something. Sometimes that would say something bad, like I'm bored with it and having a hard time sticking with it. But in this case, it's a good thing. I'm savoring it and letting the story unfold slowly which is something I almost never let a story do. I'm known for racing headlong through a book with nary a thought toward words like savoring and slow.

The title is The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob.



It's culturally interesting centering on an Indian family, with the storyline traveling from 1970's India to the 1980's in New Mexico and Seattle. In some ways it's an immigrant story, but also just a story of a family with all of their quirks, past mistakes, and struggles to love one another. I'm enthralled.

3. Comfort food is GOOD!

I made this on Monday night and it continued to make me HAPPY for two more days. 

Make this when you want something warm, and familiar, and comforting but also want to convince yourself you are still making good choices. Broccoli is also one of the vegetables Annie actually likes and asks for, so any dish with broccoli in it is going to make it into my rotation.

Not gonna lie...you still need to watch your portion size with this. But if you keep it under control you can enjoy this cheesy indulgence guilt free. 




Soooooooo.....good.

I'm actually mad right now the leftovers are gone. But that puts a damper on The Glad Game so I'll move on.

4. Music is a GIFT!

If I'm not sleeping, reading, or watching TV (which I really don't very often) then I'm listening to music. 

Music is one of my guaranteed, go-to mood boosters and this album by Ben Rector is currently one of my favorites. It's not new and the song Brand New has gotten quite a lot of airtime so you may be familiar with it. But honestly, I don't think that is the best song on the album by a long shot. 

Here is my favorite that has become sort of an anthem for me: 

I used to think I needed all the answers
I used to need to know that I was right
I used to be afraid of things I couldn't cover up in black and white

But I just wanna look more like love
I just wanna look more like love
This whole world is spinning crazy
And I can't quite keep up
It's the one thing around here
That we don't have quite enough of
So I just wanna look a little more...
like love.




I hear a lot about love these days and how it "wins" and conquers all and is the answer. And I don't disagree. But sometimes it feels as though those phrases are still being wielded like a weapon. That the love that wins is really only reserved for the chosen ones who belong to the right crowd. 

Our crowd.

I'm challenging myself to practice a more radical love that includes those who I disagree with and who disagree with me. People who don't like me or my ideas and, if I'm honest, people I'm not so crazy about either. 

Is it really hard to love people who already agree with everything you think and do? Is that much of a stretch?

I can only speak for myself and I know that I need to work on loving and listening beyond my own intellectual, emotional and spiritual walls.

I just wanna look more like love. 

To everyone.

That would make me HAPPY! 😍

5. Because sometimes we just want pretty eyelashes



So, I was given this as a sample at Sephora and my first thought was:

Seriously? Eyelash Primer? Now that is a gimmick if I've ever heard one. The cosmetic industry will do anything to steal our money!

And my second thought was:

Give it to me. 

I never said I wasn't a sucker for a good makeup gimmick.

But I have since eaten my words twenty times over! This stuff works!! 

I have been blessed with dark eyelashes but they are incredibly thick and straight. I mostly use mascara to give them a little more oomph, definition, and shape. But no matter what I used I found I always ended up with either flaking, or smudging under the eye over the course of the day or evening. 

NO MORE!!

First of all whatever is in this magical tube of white goodness (yes, it's white) it helps to give my lashes more natural curl than any mascara ever has. I'm almost worried it's Elmer's glue, but if it is do not tell me. I don't want to know. Leave me to my innocence.

Once I put this on and let it set then it's off to the races with my usual mascara. Right now I'm just using a Neutrogena mascara and it seems to be working dandy with my heavenly eyelash primer of goodness. (Too much? I really do like it.

I don't even wear mascara everyday but when I do...this is now my secret weapon.

-----------------------------------------------------------

So, there you go- this week's Happy List! Proof positive that even on a bad week there are still things you can find to make you smile.

Pollyanna is so proud of me.

Come on, play along! The Glad Game is just good clean fun for everyone.

Be HAPPY, friends!






Friday, January 13, 2017

The Happy List v.1

It's cold here.

Really, really cold.

That means I'm spending a lot of time indoors which gives me too much lots of time to think, surf the internet, read, shop online, and apparently, blog about it all.

Some of the blogs I read do a regular "Friday Favorites" feature which I always enjoy. I'm a fan of reading a hodgepodge of mostly useless but sometimes helpful ideas, products, and activities from people I don't know in real life but kinda like to think I do. Sitting here this morning, after having braved a freezing cold trip to Trader Joes and deciding I was never leaving my house again, I thought to myself, "Self, why don't you just have a little fun (remember, I'm having FUN these days) and write your own little list of what is making you HAPPY this week." I thought Self had a good idea, so here we go- for better or for worse.

Just so we are clear, I'm not promising this is a new regular feature. I'd loooove to say it would be, but there's that whole issue of mine with sustaining new ideas...sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's really hit or miss and there's no way of predicting the outcome at this early juncture. Stay tuned. 

1. Trader Joe's Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream


I'm starting with this because 1) It's right in front of me, and 2) I don't want to set the bar too high and have your interest pique right at the outset, but I also don't want to kick this off with a total loser. Hand cream seemed a safe bet.

I actually literally picked this up this morning and the nice TJ checkout gal and I had an extended conversation about it. She was really curious to know what I thought of it and I promised I'd report back. This is what people living in freezing temperatures talk about. 

Here's what I think after one use thus far: I like it. Helpful? No? Okay, I like how it goes on feeling really thick and moisturizing but it soaks in quickly and before you know it you are typing away on a keyboard with no greasy, slippery feeling in your fingertips (slippery is not a benefit when typing). For you smell-sensitive people, there is definitely a scent, but I find it a pleasant one. Not floral-y. I do not do floral scents. Shudder. But it's not a citrus-y scent either. I will do citrus scents. I am smelling my hands right now and I can't put my finger on how to describe it. Maybe a combination of baby powder and coconut? (Somewhere there is a perfume chemist fainting dead on the floor at my inability to describe a scent accurately). 

Anywhoooo.... For the one hour I have been using this hand cream, I am downright pleased. I will be keeping it in my desk drawer so I can have nicely moisturized but not slippery hands on these dry, bitterly cold days. (Have I mentioned it's cold?)

2. Plan To Eat



Okay, so I wasn't going to put this out there until I had been using it a little longer because of my very public struggles with meal planning and sticking with any plan relating to meal planning...but....this really is one of my favorite finds of the past couple weeks.

Here is what I can tell you, in the past 10 days I have only gone to the grocery store 3 times (That is record setting for me. I have been known to go to the grocery store 3 times in a single day.) I have had an advance plan for dinner every night aaaand- here's the kicker- have gone into the dinner hour knowing not only that I had a plan but that I had the ingredients on hand!

Whoop! Whoop!!

Here's where this site is making a difference for me. I don't necessarily hate to cook. I have many recipes I like and that my family likes. In fact, what I don't like are any meal planning services that tell me what to prepare. I KNOW WHAT WE LIKE, and I like finding new recipes for myself. What I HATE (yes, all caps) is making a grocery list for multiple meals, from multiple recipes, spread across several days. All the flipping back and forth to lists, the writing down, the cross-checking of ingredients...bleccch. Just put me back to bed. 

Enter....PLAN TO EAT!!

I get to import all of my favorite recipes (and it's super easy to do), drag and drop them into a calendar, and voila!! They produce my shopping list!! I can easily edit the shopping list based on ingredients I already know I have on hand, or items I want to add, or substitutions etc... and the list will be right there on my phone when I'm ready to hit the dang store. (Sorry for the colorful language.) 

I cannot over-emphasize all of the versatility of this site. I'm only still learning it all myself. It will adjust recipes based on quantity for you, you can create separate store lists if you shop different places for different things, you can add friends and then you have access to your friend's recipes as well (hello, Sister!!), you can easily shuffle meals around on your plan....I'm just agog, AGOG, I tell you, how user friendly and adaptable this site is! I. Am. Loving. It.

It is also very affordable. You can do a 30 day free trial and if you decide you want to stick with it you can either pay $4.95 a month, or $39 a year. 

I mean, come on! How much is your time worth? I'm quite sure I saved nearly one billion dollars in quality of life currency over the past 10 days by not going to the grocery store, pushing my cart through snowy, icy parking lots, every. single. day. (Which would normally be what I would have done.)

Plan To Eat. Friday Fave for sure.

3. The Secret Wife by Gill Paul



So, one of my "happy goals" of 2017 is to read more fiction. I always enjoy fiction but when I'm in a more introspective, ponderish, broody place I start reading more non-fiction in the areas of theology, spirtuality, self-helpish sort of stuff. The former Psychology/Religious Studies major in me eats it up, and it does me good in a way that fiction doesn't. However, reading fiction and escaping into other places, time periods, and imaginary people's lives also does me good in a way that all of the deep-dive intellectual stuff can't. 

I started one book at the beginning of the month but I wasn't liking it. I used to never abandon books. I can count on one hand the number of books that I've started and not finished in my lifetime. But using my One Word as my guide, I decided that to continue reading a book that wasn't making me "happy" was silly. I moved on.

Luckily, my second try was a winner. This is not great literature (please look to someone else's recommendations if that's what you are looking for), but for me this book did what I wanted it to do. It sucked me right in and kept me turning pages and interested right until the very end. 

Now, I can't tell you how much I dislike the cover art for this book. If you read the book you get where this image ties into the story, but it really gives the wrong impression for the overall nature of the book. The book is historical fiction but it jumps back and forth between past and present, ultimately tying the two together. I'm a fan of that literary technique (or whatever you want to call it). The historical part centers on the Royal Romanovs of Russia just before they are overthrown by the Bolsheviks, and then following their not so friendly removal from power. It was entertaining and interesting and is one of those that finds you going to Google to remind yourself of all that history that you once learned but have since forgotten.




Okay- just a long sleeve tee... I know. But, I have been shouting from the rooftops for months now, "MY KINGDOM FOR A NOT BOXY, NOT TUNIC LENGTH, NOT SLUB FABRIC, SLIGHTLY FITTED LONG-SLEEVE TEE!!!"

The neighbors are so thrilled I have finally found one.

I think Nordstrom has probably had this basic for an eternity but I was always happy with my long sleeve GAP tees so that is what I went with for years. UNTIL THEY CHANGED THEM. (She crumbles into a heap unable to function for days.)

And now I've been on a long-sleeve tee quest and it has been harder than it should be because it seems we are never going to leave this fashion cycle of everything fitting big, and "slouchy" (which is just a new euphemism for tent-like), and tunic-y, and otherwise TOTALLY WRONG for someone who is only 5'1" with curves. 

All you tall, willowy people look positively lovely in your flowing fabrics and ponchos. I promise you do and I even envy you. But that is the wrong direction to go when you are short with curves. Without at least a semi-defined waistline, you are headed straight to Oompa-LoompaVille. You can take that to the bank and cross-stitch it on a pillow, my friends.

So, this tee is saving me from that fate. 

FYI: In case you are looking to purchase one yourself and not sure about sizing: Based on reviews and the sizing recommendation that says it runs a little small, I went with a Petite Medium. (That was my other excitement with this tee. It comes in Petites sizing!). The PM was right for me. It's still fitted enough to be great as a layering piece but loose enough to be worn out its own. (If you know me in real life, that might help you with sizing. If you don't then that will be zero help at all. You're welcome.)

Thanks, Nordys. I've found my will to live again.





I enjoy following a few real bloggers out there. (I say 'real bloggers' as in people who are clearly trying to cultivate a following and make some money out of their hobby- and actually blog on a regular basis- unlike, ahem, fake bloggers like myself.)

Anywhoooo... I had a handful I followed and kept up to date with but hadn't added anyone new in awhile. I don't like getting too many on my list because then it starts to feel like it's just something that clogs up my email and reading all of them becomes another 'to do'.

However, somehow this week, and I honestly can't remember where or how, I stumbled on this gal and after reading through a few of her posts I decided to subscribe. I'm really drawn to her more minimalist, capsule wardrobe approach but she does it in a way that still looks fun and not like you are just wearing a "uniform" all the time. (Although truth be told, I'm a big fan of a uniform. I lean toward finding combos I like and sticking with it. Like a good long-sleeve, semi-fitted tee! Just sayin'.)

Now this gal is young, and tall, and willowy, and no kids, so we pretty much have everything in the world in common but I like her anyway. I also like her emphasis on responsible shopping and hunting down ethically made products.

She's doing a 10 x 10 day challenge right now with her friend and fellow blogger, Style Bee, so now I'm getting hooked on her too. My blog list may have just increased by two...

Check her out! She's fun!

------------------------------------------------

Hope you enjoyed this first-ever-possibly-not-last-I'm-not-making-any-promises Friday Finds, Fun and Favorites!

Have a great Friday, a restful weekend, and don't forget to BE HAPPY!!

XO






Friday, January 6, 2017

Seek and find

The following is a sermon I gave in January, 2013 on Epiphany Sunday at Magnolia Presbyterian Church. I am choosing to post it here mostly for posterity but also because Epiphany has become very special to me over the years and even more so in the past year.

Permit me one more memory from December, 2015. When we were meeting with Father W and Deacon S to plan Tracy's service we spent a great deal of time just talking about Tracy. Father W encouraged us to tell stories, share memories, and to offer up our own feelings about who Tracy was and what she meant to us.

Because Tracy and I spent so much time together as part of her parish women's group, I had a lot of insight into her faith and her spiritual journey. I was trying, but struggling, to put into words what my heart desperately wanted to communicate to Father W about Tracy's heart for God.

I eventually stammered out something very close to this (while going through multiple tissues), "She might not have been traditionally religious in the sense that she didn't read the Bible much, she wouldn't have been able to quote scripture to you, and she didn't necessarily go to church every Sunday. But from the time she was a teenager, she was on a journey. She felt God in her heart. She didn't always know what the "right" answers should be when it came to doctrine or theology, but she was....a seeker."

Father W nodded and smiled the whole time I was speaking. He then said simply this,

"To seek God is to find God."

In those words, he brought me enormous comfort.

Since then, I have looked up those words and found they originated with Gregory of Nyssa and the quote is actually completed this way,

"To seek God is to find God. To find God is to seek God."

I like the wholeness and the circular nature of the longer quote. Faith can so often feel like an endless of journey of seeking and finding and then losing your way again.

To me, Epiphany reminds us that the journey is worth it.

And that if we continue to seek...we will find.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Please note: This was written to be spoken, which is always a bit different than if it were written only to be read.)

We Have Seen His Star
January, 2013

Years ago, I remember reading a Bible story to my oldest son, Jack. Jack is now a pretty big kid, almost 18 years old, but at the time he was maybe about six years old. Close to the age of some of you kids sitting here today. I don't remember exactly which Bible story we were reading but I remember that when we got to the end of the story Jack looked at me and asked me very seriously, "Did that really happen?"
Now I don't know about you but sometimes I get to this point in the church year- 12 days out from Christmas- Epiphany Sunday- after all of the traveling, family gatherings, eating, gift giving and receiving- and finally having returned home to mounds of laundry and a startling return to school and the daily routine- sometimes I feel just like my little Jack did when he asked me that question so long ago. I can't help but look around at times and ask myself, "Did that really happen?"
This amazing, miraculous piece of our Christian story. God choosing to be with us in the most humble, surprising way. A little baby, born in a manger. Angels greeting shepherds with the incredible words, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
When we gather together on Christmas Eve and light candles and sing familiar carols, it's so much easier for it all to feel just that close. But now...almost two weeks after...Christmas Eve is already feeling like a memory. I'm sure it is for the kids among us. School is starting back up and I'm sure that some of you even already have reading to finish, projects to complete or you know that all of those things will be coming soon. Grown ups are back to full work-weeks and anxious to get all of the clutter of Christmas put back in the boxes and put away for another year. Soon, all of the tangible evidence of Christmas will be gone. No more decorated trees, wreaths on doors, lights on houses...
Did that really happen?
And that's what I love about Epiphany. Just when we are all tempted to put the Christmas story behind us and start pushing forward toward Easter- we pause to revisit the Nativity one more time. We take time to hear again one of the more puzzling parts of this familiar story and consider what it means for us.
When we read Bible stories downstairs in BLAST one of the things we sometimes do is to identify together 'what does this Bible story tell us?'- and 'what does this Bible story not tell us?' This can be useful when we are learning some of the more familiar Bible stories because it is interesting for the children to see how sometimes we remember stories based more on tradition than what is written in scripture. I remember when we did this a year ago with the story of the wise men the kids were particularly fascinated to realize how much of our retellings of the birth Christ are rooted more in our own imagination than in the words of the Bible.
For example: the kids were surprised to learn that nowhere in the words of Matthew does it tell us that there were only three wise men. We don't know where the wise men came from other than it was east of Jerusalem. We don't know the names of the wise men or even how they came to recognize the importance of the star they saw and why they would know that meant a new king had been born. We don't know how long they traveled or how old the baby Jesus was when they finally arrived. And even though we often refer to them as Kings, we don't know that they were kings at all since the Bible doesn't tell us so. And finally, other than knowing they took a different route home to avoid that evil King Herod, we don't know how their lives might have been different after having seen and worshiped the son of God.
So, that was a pretty long list of things this Bible story doesn't tell us. But anytime we go through this process in BLAST of figuring out what we know and what we don't know we always finish by asking one question. In fact, you would find this question printed out in big letters on our bulletin board down in the BLAST room. The question we ask then is, "What's the Big Idea?"
The reality is that the stories in the Bible often have some big holes. And that's why allowing some degree of imagination to fill in the gaps is completely understandable and even useful. Using our imagination to consider there might have been a fourth wise man named Hank, or whether the Innkeeper might have been a bit cranky about all the interruptions that big night helps us remember that these are real stories about real people. People who lived and breathed and had good days and bad days, but were all part of God's story. But even when we use our imagination to try and give some color to these stories we have heard so many times, there is still information missing that we might wish we could have. But if we look carefully, usually we can find a bigger message, beyond the details of the story, that we can take with us and apply to our lives.
So, What's the Big Idea in this unusual story about some unidentified wise men who followed a star to find the Baby Jesus?
Bible scholars far more knowledgeable than myself have come up with some pretty interesting answers to some of the questions as to the details of the story. There are educated guesses as to where the wise men came from, how many there were, who they were and why they were interested in the possibility of an infant king. But I want to keep it simpler than that today. I want to look at this in much the same way we would if we were downstairs in our BLAST class.
So, what's the Big Idea?
Well, the first thing we can say is that this story emphasizes yet again how incredibly important the birth of Jesus was. Important enough that men in a foreign land, not of the Jewish faith, decided to spend considerable money and time to witness this newborn king. We don't know how far they traveled or how long it took them to get to Bethlehem but it is easy to imagine that it couldn't have been a simple journey and yet the wise men clearly refused to give up on their quest to follow the star. We should be just as determined and courageous in our own decision to follow Jesus.
Second, the fact that these wise men came from somewhere other than Jerusalem and were not Jewish reminds us again of the angel's words from the gospel of Luke that he "will be for all the people." Jesus didn't come only to save the people of Israel, but to save all people. He didn't come to show God's love only to the Jews, but to everyone. The wise men are one of our first examples of just how far God's love can and does reach.
Third, one thing the scriptures do tell us very clearly is that when the wise men did find the Baby Jesus the very first thing they did was to fall down and worship him. We have no idea what sort of faith or understanding of God these men had and yet once they were in the presence of the Son of God they could nothing else but worship him. Somehow they knew this child was more than just special, he was holy. The wise men then are an example to us all of what our response should be to the presence of Jesus in our lives. Our response should be to worship him.
Finally, as I read and re-read this passage of scripture over the past week, the words that kept jumping out at me are the ones I then chose as my sermon title, "we have seen his star". Those words spoke to me for two reasons. The first, is this is another one of the clear and indisputable details of this story. The wise men saw a star that was in some manner so unusual and remarkable they knew it meant something extraordinary was happening. In fact they go so far as to call the star "his star" meaning the new king's star- demonstrating that they absolutely believed the star and this baby were unquestionably connected. Certainly other people must have seen this star if it was so noticeable, but as far as we know, only the wise men saw the star and followed.
But perhaps more importantly for us today, the other thing those words kept bringing to mind for me is the thought that WE have seen his star, too. You, me, kids, teenagers, grown ups... we have all seen his star. We have heard the story, we have sung the songs, we have celebrated his birth. We too have seen his star. What will that mean for us?
Will it quickly fade to nothing as we become busy again with daily routines and obligations? Will the star become a distant memory until sometime in February we find ourselves wondering, "did that really happen?"
Or, can we find in ourselves the determination of the wise men and keep following that star throughout the year, however long it takes, wherever the journey may take us, until we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus?
We have seen his star. We don't know how the wise men's lives might have been changed after having seen and worshiped the son of God, but I can't help but believe that their lives were changed. And my prayer for myself and for all of us this Epiphany is that having seen his star, our lives will also be changed. I pray we will all be moved with greater urgency and passion to follow the star, to fall down and worship the son of God, and to share our gifts with the world that God created and loves so much that he gave his only son.
We have seen his star- may it continue to shine in you and in me so that the love of God might be known to all people, everywhere.
Amen.

 
"For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:2