Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mary

Photo by Michal Pechardo

Mary
Luke 1:26-38
"26 In the sixth month after Elizabeth had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. 27 He was sent to a virgin. The girl was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came from the family line of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel greeted her and said, “The Lord has blessed you in a special way. He is with you.”
29 Mary was very upset because of his words. She wondered what kind of greeting this could be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary. God is very pleased with you. 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago. 33 The Son of the Most High God will rule forever over his people. They are from the family line of Jacob. That kingdom will never end.”
34 “How can this happen?” Mary asked the angel. “I am a virgin.”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God. 36 Your relative Elizabeth will have a child even though she is old. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. 37 That’s because what God says will always come true.”
38 “I serve the Lord,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me just as you said it would.” Then the angel left her.

Friday, December 22, 2017

O come thou wisdom

Photo by Thought Catalog
"O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go"

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Photo by John Price
"O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery"

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Photo by Joe Yates
"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
– Calvin Coolidge

Monday, December 18, 2017

Emmanuel

Photo by Tyler Nix


"O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear"

Friday, December 15, 2017

Hot Chocolate and a sense of wonder

Photo by Alisa Anton
As I sit here typing, I am drinking a hot chocolate from the Lobby Coffee Bar.  I love hot chocolate.  I love it so much that last year I actually had to give it up during Lent just to see if I could.  (I could!)  All that chocolatey warmth and whipped cream topped yumminess, I just can't help drinking them, especially on a cold day like today.  The smell of snow is in the air and I am wrapped in my new plaid scarf.  Content for the moment.  A respite from the crazy December I've had.

In just two weeks, our family dealt with four colds, two ear infections and pink eye.  The last one was me. (Thank you so much middle school student where I taught that day!  What a nice Christmas gift.  You do remember that Rudolph had a red nose, not a red eye, right?....)  Hubby was away for work, which brought on the usual plague of illnesses and lack of sleep.

In the midst of this, I was shopping for gifts, attempting to make the perfect Christmas cards, printing out the address labels and sending out 80 cards to my closest friends and family.  I may have slept a couple of hours in there.

Life is crazy.  Especially in December.  No matter how much we try for it not to be or aim that we won't be so "commercialized" this year, it happens.  December is just gonna be that way.  The key to December is to take hot chocolate breaks.  Maybe literally.  (You know I will be!)  Or figuratively, in the sense that we need to take a few moments each day to sit and sense the wonder of the season.  December is all about those little moments.  The one where your daughter blurts out Jingle Bells in the middle of CVS and makes everyone smile.   The one when your children find the Elf on the Shelf climbing on the freezer with an ice cream scoop.  The one where you find yourself mesmerized once again by the holiness of the Holy Night.  The beauty of Christmas lights.  Baking cookies with friends.  Coming home to family.  What is your hot chocolate moment?

My favorite moment of wonder came this past Monday as I sat at the round table at my moms group.  We were all a bit weary.  But, we became captivated as one of our mommas held her one month old baby.  He smiled and then fell asleep so gently and quietly.  I was struck by the fact that Christ came to us like this.  So small.  So helpless.  So beautiful and new.  The infant Jesus.

This December, I wish you many "hot chocolate moments" of wonder.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Life as a first draft.

Photo by:  Ben white

"Life is a wild and unpredictable first draft." 


I heard this recently in a video we were watching at a moms group that I attend.  I loved it.  It got me thinking about life, especially my life lately.

My life up until now has been somewhat predictable.  I grew up in a small town, finished High School and went on to college and graduate school.  I worked in Youth Ministry for 15 years.  I got married and had two children.

I had achieved pretty much everything I had set out to achieve when I was 18 or so.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy by any means.  I had many struggles and set-backs along the way.  But I got there.  I felt as though I had written a chapter.

And now, here I am at age 38, facing down the empty page.  Staring at it, wondering what it will contain.  In the year since I retired from ministry, I stayed home with my children, taught a class on writing your life story, wrote a curriculum series and became a substitute teacher.  I never thought I'd do any of those things.  But I did.

My life lately is less of a daily, predictable slog of the typewriter.  It's more of a wild ride with an IPad in tow; writing the story as I go.  And isn't that life really?  It's not predictable.  Especially life as a follower of a wild and unpredictable God.  Life is about discerning our mini callings and life callings.  Seeking them and living them out.  Life is trying something, failing and trying something new.

Right now, I couldn't write one of those essays on "Where I will be in Five Years."  I don't know.  I honestly don't.  I'm discerning, creating, living, loving and seeking out my next callings from the Lord.   There's something exciting about that.  There's definitely something to having a plan and sticking to it, but there's also a grand adventure in the daily revelation of God's grace as he leads me.  He's writing that wild first draft and I'm along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cotton candy as big as your head.

I love Fall.  I love the gorgeous warm days, the changing of the leaves, the pumpkins.  I love apple cider, sugar donuts, and an occasional pumpkin spice latte.  Most of all, I love the Fall festivals.  I take my kids to many of them.  For the most part, they are free entertainment and they contain many of my Fall favorites.  My daughter and I attended a well-planned one at a local church. We had a blast.  My daughter enjoyed the pink cotton candy as big as her head. 

Sometimes you just gotta revel.  Life is hard and there are not a whole lot of the mountaintop moments.  Sometimes you need to revel in the small pleasures.  Enjoy that cotton candy.  Carve that pumpkin.  Run that 5K.  Enjoy it and remember that life is all about the little things.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stars

Photo by Austin Neill
Last night, we were driving home with the kids and it began to get dark.  It's getting earlier these days as Autumn begins its descent.  My two year old is not used to being outside after 5:00 pm, so she was excited about the the darkness that was painting itself upon the sky.  "Nighttime,"  she repeated several times as she stared in wonder out the window of the car. 

I smiled and put my head against the head rest at the end of a busy day.

When we got home, I stood outside with her in the driveway.  I remembered that she has probably never seen the stars before.  One of my absolute favorite things in life is showing my kids something or watching them experience it for the first time.  The. Best. 

I held her little body in my arms and pointed up to the sky.  "Look at those little dots of light," I said.  "Those are stars."  "Stars," she repeated in absolute awe.  I also pointed out the moon.  A reverse "C" shape in the blackness.  Scooping up the stars.

She just stared. 

Later, as we got her PJ's on and began to sing her to sleep, she said, "Stars.  In the SKY!"  She continued to be in awe and wonder at the beauty of our world's creation. 

God reminds us in Psalm 147:4 that he "determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name."  How amazing and wonderful that we have a God who knows.  A God who numbers the billions upon billions of stars in the universe.  A God who knows all of the stars and also knows you.  A star among the billions. 

Look up tonight "In the SKY!"  and remember.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Teach to Learn

"Teach in order to learn."  ~Baba Hari Dass

This week I began my new mini calling as a substitute teacher.  After 15 years as church youth director, I am re-inventing myself and discerning my next calling. My sister suggested substitute teaching.  It's flexible, I can work whatever days I want/can and if my kids are sick, I can stay home.  So, I thought, "Why not?"

I was a bit anxious.  I remember how students treated substitutes when I was a kid.
My friend wrote to me on my first day and said to do this "As if" I was already the best, most strict teacher I could think of.  I loved that advice, although I felt as though I was a doggie-paddler channeling Michael Phelps!  I've never been a lead teacher in a classroom setting (although I've worked with kids and taught Bible lessons for 15 plus years!), so I wasn't sure what to expect after only a half-day orientation.

I'm following the advice of this quote above from an Indian Yogi.  I will teach in order to learn.  On my first day, I taught 24 squirming, fidgety, sweet and eager to learn 1st graders.  They probably taught me more than I taught them.  They were eager to help, to show me the ropes.  They also loved drawing pictures of characters in our book and really wanted to write the letter "E." 

My second day I worked with potentially autistic two year olds.  I loved this as well, but in a different way.  My experience as a mother of a two year old came into play.  My quiet personality fit well with the children who weren't yet able to communicate well through speech. 

I'm scared out of my mind some days, but I also welcome the opportunity to be stretched and grow as a person, teacher and mom as I teach in order to learn.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grey's Anatomy and my last day on earth.



If I were to write a 4th grade English assignment on how I spent my summer, I'm sure I'd mention the many trips to the water park with my kids.  The trip to Six Flags for my son's sixth birthday.  The four (Yes, four!)  birthday parties for our family.  (We are all born in August, and let me tell you, planning that many parties is exhausting...)   I'd mention the one night spent at the beach with my husband in the midst of flash flooding and the "vacation" to a kiddie amusement park.  I'd also mention the hours and hours of driving my son around to his various Vacation Bible Schools, cooking classes, Lego builds and birthday parties.   It was a lot.

But, I did get a tan, so there's something.

My guilty pleasure of the summer, if you will, was watching Grey's Anatomy for the first time ever (I know...I know!)  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  My long-time spiritual director encourages me to do this kind of thing.  So-called guilty pleasures that have nothing to do with my real life.  Something to watch that takes me out of the real world for awhile.  Anyway, I enjoyed it.  I didn't "binge watch" it like normal people do.  The only thing I'm binge watching lately is Thomas the Train.  But, I did watch three seasons over the summer.  George and Meredith and Izzy became my stand-in friends and I wanted to "catch up" with them every evening.  I do get annoyed with Meredith's narcissistic tendencies and the on-call room activities, but it's fun to be in a different world for awhile.

A few Grey's quotes have stuck with me.  Like this one: "If you knew this was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?"  My first thought was, "Wow.  That is so profound."  I wanted to go out and live that life right now.  I wanted to go to Italy and write a book and show my kids the Grand Canyon.  I had my passport in hand, just staring at it.

Then I realized, if it really was my last day on earth, I'd probably spend it just like I am.  I can't shirk all of my responsibilities and go out and live just for me.  I still have to get my son to the bus and my daughter to preschool.  I have to make sure they have hot meals and my husband has clean towels and uniforms.  Does responsibility keep us from living the life we want or is it just part of our lives?  We can still live a life of adventure, creativity and love in the midst of these daily monotonies.

Right?

I'm hoping that's the case.  Because life would be pretty boring if we didn't.

Meanwhile, I'll live the life I'm living and focus on the important things.  Like gearing up for the "This is Us" premiere...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by Jared Doyle







"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."

~2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by Caleb Jones









"Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August."
~Jenny Han, The Summer I Turned Pretty

Friday, July 14, 2017

Photo by Andrew Neel

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."

~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Summer hiatus

Photo by:  Ben White
Hello readers! Thank you for allowing me a short "summer hiatus" from the blog!  Whew, it's been a busy couple of months.  My son graduated from preschool, we buried my mom, I celebrated two graduations and we have enjoyed the summer sun at our local waterpark. I've played mommy chauffeur and worked on a couple of editing projects.

I hope your summers are going well!  What a fun time of year for adventure.  Comment with your favorite summer adventure thus far!

Much love,

Alisa

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Meditation: Super Mom

Photo by Samantha Sophia
"Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled.  They are the ones that never give up, despite the struggles."

~Sharon Jaynes


"We are what we believe we are."

~C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Meditation: Be Kind

   
Photo by Olia Gozha
                       
Today's meditation is a guest post by my young friend Callie, age 10.  (Future pastor?)

 BE KIND  by Callie Tuel

            Jesus is a savior. He saved ALL of us. A savior is someone who saves. For example, Batman and Superman save people, Martin Luther King Jr. helped to save people from the segregated times, but Jesus saved every single one of us. Not just the people in his city, and not just the colored people, but, like I said, he saved ALL of us.
                So, what did Jesus save us from anyway? Sin! When you steal a cookie from the jar, lied about something, or blamed someone for something YOU did, know that Jesus breathed his last for YOU, because he loves you. You have been forgiven, and though you were once crimson with sin, he washed them white as snow.
                Sometimes we don’t feel the love. Times like when your dad is in the hospital, or you spill juice all over your favorite outfit, or you make a mistake, it doesn’t feel like he loves you. Even in times like this, God is on your side.
                We all feel like this sometimes, so we all need to try our hardest to be the light in somebody’s  day, the peanut butter to their jelly, or the milk to their cookie. Sometimes all someone needs is a little bit of love, and we all know we can give it. So today, I challenge YOU to step outside your comfort zone, and…


BE KIND!!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Meditation: Spring

Antonina Bukowska
“Life stands before me like an eternal Spring
with new and brilliant clothes.”


~Carl Friedrich Gauss

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by Tim Trad

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

 —John Muir

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Meditation: The Resurrection Life

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw
"Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' " 

 ~John 20:29

How then shall we live?  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen!

Photo by Ivan Chen
"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them, 'Greetings,' he said.  They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him." 

~Matthew 28:8-9

Clasp his feet today.  

There is joy abundant waiting for you.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Joseph

Photo by Alexandre Chambon
After Jesus' death on the cross, there was a question of what would happen with his body.  Or, possibly, no one had thought too much about what would happen to it.  Thus, Joseph of Arimathea enters the scene.  We don't know a lot about him from the gospels, but we do get a few pieces of information about him.  In Luke 23: 50-51, we learn that he was a good and upright man. He was a member of the Council but had not consented to their decision and action.  He was from the Judean town of Arimathea and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  John 19:38 spins a different picture in that he was a secret disciple of Jesus because he feared the Jewish leaders.  Whoever Joseph was, it appears that he was a disciple and that he wanted to play a role in the great mystery that had occurred and was occurring through Jesus' death.  He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.  The gospels agree that it was a new tomb, where no one had been buried thus far.  Matthew gives us a key piece of information.  The tomb was Joseph's own tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  Joseph had wrapped the body in linens and prepared it with spices.  John clues us in that Nicodemus, an earlier character in Jesus' story, helped Joseph to prepare the body for burial.

Reading the various accounts of Jesus' burial, I couldn't help but notice this detail that I have heard so often but haven't thought much about.  Joseph placed Jesus' body in his own tomb.  The one meant for him when he died.  To me, this is an added layer of symbolism in the resurrection account.  Joseph allowed Jesus into his tomb.  As a disciple, Jesus' death took the place of Joseph's spiritual death.  Joseph allowed Jesus in to his life.  Even a good and upright man like himself must have had some sins that he would have liked to have kept hidden. Instead, he allowed Jesus to enter in.  To enter with his grace and his love and to conquer death for him.

The question for us is do we allow Jesus in to our spiritual "tombs?"  Do we allow his death to penetrate our good and upright lives?  To allow his grace to penetrate down to the deep, dark tombs.  To roll back the big heavy rocks we've placed over them.  To die for us and to rise again.

I'm sure Joseph was as surprised as the other disciples to hear what happened with Jesus' body in the end.  He was probably ready to look for a new tomb for himself when he heard the accounts of the resurrection, or went down to the tomb to check things out for himself.  Most of those who witnessed the resurrection were either scared, disbelieving or incredulous.  Even those who had walked with Jesus for several years of his ministry did not believe what they heard.  He had talked with them and preached to them about what would happen, but they were still amazed and some were still in doubt.

Are we, like the disciples, still incredulous about the resurrection?  Are we scared of what it could mean for our lives?  Are we disbelieving, needing to see his hands and feet first?  Or are we like the women who saw him and were filled with great joy?

For the next couple of days, let us ponder what our reaction to the resurrection would have been and what it is today.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Grant McCurdy
"That's what art can do- wake us up and remind us of who we are, who we were, and what we might become." 

 ~Bo Bartlett

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Legacy: Eliot

Photo by: Elena Prokofyeva

This Fall, I was at a wedding of a former youth group member.  It was a joyous occasion and I had fun catching up on all the news.  In the midst of the joy came a moment of sadness.  I asked about another youth group member, Eliot.

There was something unique and beautiful about Eliot.  He was funny, but not in the same way that others are.  He had a great personality.  He was caring, yet he was quick to point out the truth when he saw it.  He was also a bit lost at times, a bit of a wandering soul.  As a young college grad, I was sure that if I just took him to the latest Christian conference, he'd find God and all would be well.  Real life isn't like that of course.  Real ministry is messy and challenging.  People are unique and their story is their own.

For years after I had moved on to a new church and a new area of the country, I would still think of Eliot.  When he came to mind, I'd pray for him and hope that he'd found his way in life.  I hadn't heard anything about him in about 13 years.  At the wedding, I asked about him casually, wondering where he was, what he was up to.  They told me he had died.  Drugs, they thought, or maybe alcohol.  "So sad." "He had been in rehab." They told me this as if it was something I could understand or comprehend.  I nodded and agreed, "How sad," as the conversation moved on to other topics.

This news has haunted me ever since.  Although it's been two and a half years since his death, I am freshly grieving the news.  The uncertainty of it was the hardest part.  How?  Why?  What happened?  Recently I did some research online and found out that he had passed away at age 27.  He had struggled with addiction for ten years, but he had been sober for a long stretch, with a girlfriend and a job at a California tech company.  He had quickly relapsed and died of an accidental overdose.  His father said in an article that his friends described him as funny, intelligent, sensitive; the one who kept them all balanced.

Where to go with this news?  What is the legacy of this intelligent, funny, caring young man?  His father said in the article that through this tragedy we have to "become a larger vessel.  We have to embrace life with all of its joys and sorrows."  I think that's just it.  Some legacies may seem clouded by the way the person died or the shortness of their life.  But, they are legacies nonetheless.  I knew Eliot for only about four years, but he made an impression on me.  He stood out as someone who cared about others and who saw the humor in life.  He wanted to seek out truth and to live life to the full.

Another part of his legacy will live on in the "What ifs?"  We can't go back and save him from drugs and alcohol.  We can't change that part of his story now.  What we do have is the present and the future.  We can use his story as fuel to help us to seek out others who are struggling and to play a part in their story.  We can offer the caring, sensitive presence to them that Eliot was to others.  In so doing, we become a larger vessel.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Tim Marshall
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand"

~  Oceans (Hillsong United)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Legacy: Fran

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva
I knew Fran from the church where I worked for nine years.  When I found out that she had passed, I drove the 45 minutes back to the church to attend her funeral, because she was one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  Whenever I would see her in the hallways or the pews at church, she would always greet me with a smile and a hug.  In her Southern accent, she'd say, "Hi, Lisa," her sweet, shortened version for my name.  Fran was the grandmother of one of my youth group students and I always enjoyed greeting her and talking with her and her late husband Fred.  At her funeral, I enjoyed learning more about her life and her legacy.

When thinking about Fran's legacy, there are so many things that I could include.  The three things that stand out to me about her life are her relationship with her husband, the way she raised her children and her faith.

I loved hearing about Fran and Fred's relationship.  They met one day in an elevator at work and that led to an almost seventy-year relationship.  They were loving and caring towards each other throughout their lives.  I remember seeing them hug each other at church and I would smile and hope that I will still hug my husband so lovingly at her age.  She supported her husband in his career through her administrative skills and I'm sure with emotional support as well.  They seemed to truly have a partnership, that which good marriages are built on.  She and Fred were an example to us all of what marriage should be.

Secondly, Fran did an amazing job raising her children and being a part of her grandchildren's lives.  They shared that she was very involved in their lives and hobbies, never missing a play or ballgame.  She also made sure to celebrate each milestone and made their birthdays and holidays very special.  She cared for each one and shared with them her faith.

Fran grew up in the Presbyterian church and began teaching Sunday school at age 16.  I was amazed to learn that she continued teaching it for over 30 years!  One can only imagine how many children's lives she touched.  Her faith gave her a positive attitude and an excitement about life.  She wanted to share it lovingly with those around her.

In describing Fran, the words to "The Old Rugged Cross" come to mind:  "I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown."  I can picture Fran up there in heaven, dancing with Fred and wearing a beautiful crown with many-colored stones.

May we all seek to be a little more like Fran.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Michael Ramey
"The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort- the opening, terror.  Conversely,  the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing- the opening a wonderfully joyous moment."  
~Andy Rooney

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Meditation

"Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains!  For the Lord comforts his people."  ~Isaiah 49:13

Photo by:  Linda Xu





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Legacy: Betty

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva
For the second person in my legacy series, I'd like to write about my friend Betty.  Betty passed away in November in her 90's.  It may seem odd, but I still don't believe she has passed.  I know it in my head, but in my spirit she lives on.  It feels as though I should still see her walking down the halls of my old church when I visit.  I guess I haven't quite reached the acceptance stage of grief for Betty.
A huge part of Betty that will live on is her humbleness of spirit.  Even when she passed, she did not want attention drawn to herself.  A funeral was not supposed to be held to remember her, so we gathered for lunch in the fellowship hall of her church to celebrate her life through fellowship and shared remembrances.  In some ways, I felt a little hurt by this.  Betty deserved to have a full-out funeral and to be remembered for the amazing person that she was.  But, that's not what she wanted.  The time we did share was nice and I think she may have approved.

When I think about the legacy Betty left, I first think of the many people she touched in quiet ways.  She was a "worker bee" type who spent many hours volunteering at the church.  Being on staff at the time, I saw her at random times throughout the day and week, working on various tasks.  As a staff, we would often point out that we needed to try and make a list of all that Betty did in case she ever passed and we didn't even know all of the small tasks that we'd have to find someone else to fulfill.  That was her way of serving.  She had her tasks and she did them well.  She also loved the fellowship of being at the church, especially after her son passed.  Betty loved to talk and I had many conversations with her in the front office, in the hallways, or in my office, when she went up to check the balcony.  Conversations with Betty led to a wide range of topics.  It may start out with frustration about the copier, but she would end up talking about her past and her travels or how much she loved the kids in her neighborhood.  I have to laugh because some days I had to calculate whether I had the time to go down and make a copy when Betty was there, because a two minute task could turn into 30 minutes!  But I enjoyed talking with her and I knew deep down that even talking to Betty was ministry, because sometimes she just needed to talk.

To me, Betty was an encourager.  As the youth director at the time, Betty would always tell me what a good job I was doing and how important she believed youth ministry was for teenagers, especially in our area.  She really "got it."  Something that not everyone does.  She didn't believe teenagers were a nuisance, but people to be treasured and cared for.  This was evidenced by her taking care of the balcony, a frequent hangout for the teens of the church.  Instead of getting upset about the teens writing in the pew pads, she would read their notes and look at their drawings.  The drawings often tickled her to laughter.  The notes drew her to prayer.  A few times she shared them with me out of concern.  Youth ministry needs more Betty's.

Betty also encouraged those in her "inner circle" to step outside of themselves to care for her.  She would never say she wanted this or asked for it, but as a widow living by herself, she needed her friends and fellow church members to step up and help her when she had one of her falls or when she needed reminders to eat more or a ride to the doctor.  As a widow, God used many others to play a role in her care. I believe there is something beautiful in that.

A big part of Betty's legacy is her role as a military wife and a mother of an adopted son.  I don't know a whole lot about this area of her life, but I know she gave it all she had.  She took on the challenges of life as a military wife and worked extremely hard to make a good life for her family.  Even in her widowhood, she still kept that up in her stubbornness and not wanting to ask for help.  She had to do things on her own for many years through moves and deployments so why should now be any different?  I also don't know the depths of her relationship with her son, but I know that she loved him with abandon.  She worked hard to help him through all of his medical challenges and for years she spent most of her life taking him to and from doctors and dialysis appointments.  She loved him despite many challenges and worked hard for her son.

Betty's roles as a humble worker bee, encourager, a catalyst for care and loving wife and mother will live on.  She also really liked milk shakes from Chick-fil-A. Let's go have one in her honor!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Meditation: Snow

Photo by:  Jonatan Pie


"Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb toward it." 

 ~Edmund Hillary

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life Hack: Dry Skin

A little bonus for everyone.  I recently read this hack in a book for moms and it works really well.
If you have dry skin on your hands or around your nose from a cold, try Lanolin.  I have been using it all winter and it has worked really well and is safe for kids to use, too.  Lanolin is found in the baby or nursing section of stores.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Legacy: Part Two

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva

Several friends and family members have passed away recently and it has led me to think deeply about the idea of legacy.  (See Part One here:  http://www.pancakesandperseverance.com/2017/03/legacy-part-one.html )  I love the idea that we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. I believe we can learn a lot from their stories, both from their deep faith and perseverance and in some cases from their mistakes.  Story is so powerful as a catalyst on our spiritual journeys.

Today I will begin with my first story, perhaps the hardest one, about my mother.  My mom passed away suddenly on February 18th, 2017 from unknown causes after a several years long battle with mental illness.  Preparing to speak for her funeral, I thought back on her life and her legacy.  My relationship with my mom wouldn't fit neatly onto a Hallmark card, so in some ways it is tough to think through what her legacy was and is.  But, as I dig deeper, I find that several things stand out about my mom that will live on long after she has passed.

First of all, my mom raised us the best that she could.  Isn't that all you can really ask for from you mom?  My mom loved hugs.  She hugged us in the morning, when we came home from school, and whenever we said hello or goodbye.  She made sure we had food and clean clothes and a neat and pretty home to come home to.  We didn't eat too much candy and we had a strict bedtime every night.  We would eat dinner together as a family and enjoy stories of my parent's growing up years and the story of how they met each other disco dancing.  My mom taught us by example that no matter what you are going through, you can get through it with a sense of humor.

My mom's faith legacy will live on in our hearts.  She brought us to church every Sunday, rain or shine, sickness or health.  We were dressed up and shined up and excited to be there.  Church was a positive experience for me and I credit that in part to my mom.

My mom loved Bible study.  She loved fellowship with other women and encouraging them in their daily struggles.  I remember her walking a friend through her battle with cancer and talking to us about her Bible study friends.  She also led our church's Fellowship Committee for a time and helped to create beautiful coffee hours and receptions for the church.  Her example of faith and commitment to the church and to fellowship was an example to me of God in the flesh.

I recently received a sympathy card stating that I, as her daughter, am her legacy.  That struck a chord with me.  My mom's main job for most of her life was raising my sister and I.  Now that she has passed, I would agree that we are her living legacy.  She has passed on to me her love of music, dance and writing.  Her love for the beauty of flowers and decorating.  Her love for the Lord.

It's a big job to be someone's legacy.  I want to emulate the things she did well and to learn from the things she did not.  I sometimes worry that my mom got stuck in the process of motherhood and never really moved on to other things after we were grown.  She didn't always remember to have a life outside of it, to be her own person as well as our mother.  From this, I will remember to do these things.  To be the best mom that I know how to be, but also to be my own person.  To be who I am and to be it boldly.  To love with abandon, to live creatively in my context and to push beyond my limitations to reach for my dreams.

Her legacy will live on in my life and I will continue to unpack just what that means.  For now, I will remember to love and to laugh as we did together while watching Jay Leno and eating ice cream in front of the television.

 

Legacy: Part One

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running—and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.  That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” 
~Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message

I've been thinking a lot lately about legacy.  I've had several friends, acquaintances and family members pass away in the last few months and it has left me thinking about their legacies in this life.  I also saw the wonderful movie, "Hidden Figures," recently.  This movie challenged me to think about those who had an amazing legacy, doing something so important in our country's history, only to be recognized later.  

I also recently realized that if I live a full life, I may have already lived about half of it.  That scared me.  And motivated me.  What have I already done in my life and what do I still want to accomplish?  More importantly, what has God done through my life and what does he still want to do?  I will be spending time in prayer about this, asking "What's next?"  What does God have planned for my next steps in life?  

I love the quote above from The Message version of Hebrews.  Talking about Jesus, it says that "he never lost sight of where he was headed."  May that be the case for us.  May we not get so caught up in the everyday monotony of life that we lose sight of heaven.  May we keep in mind every day that we are living this life for God and that he isn't finished with us yet.  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  ~Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

I've always loved to think about this "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before me, paving the way and pointing me to God in big and small ways.  Today I will begin a weekly series on legacy, exploring the stories of those who have taught me about faith, perseverance and strength in the midst of life's challenges.  

Join me as we take a walk among the clouds.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Tim Marshall

We arrange our lives as best we can,
to keep your holiness at bay,
with our pieties,
our doctrines,
our liturgies,
our moralities,
our secret ideologies,
Safe, virtuous, settled.
And then you –
you and your dreams,
you and your visions,
you and your purposes,
you and your commands,
you and our neighbors.
We find your holiness not at bay,
but probing, pervading,
insisting, demanding.
And we yield, sometimes gladly,
sometimes resentfully,
sometimes late… or soon.
We yield because you, beyond us, are our God.
We are your creatures met by your holiness,
by your holiness made our true selves.
And we yield, Amen.
Walter Brueggemann – Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What's Next?

Photo by:  Ãlvaro Serrano

2017 has thus far been a rough year.  Among my immediate friends and family, we've dealt with:  Three deaths.  Two hospital visits.  Stomach Bug.  Family-wide flu.  Car breakdown.  Financial struggles.

And it's only the end of February.

Yesterday I woke with my head on the pillow and a sense of dread.  I was scared to get up, wondering what would go wrong next.  I am normally a very optimistic person, but I have felt a bit Job-like in 2017.  This blog is written to help us find joy in the everyday.  Some days it is much harder than others.  Some days joy seems to have flown away, leaving us wondering what just happened.

All I can come up with is that our author is not finished yet.

There are gonna be some chapters in our lives that are just painful.  Some days and hours that we can barely get through.

But we will.

We will persevere and we will get stronger.  We'll lean in to the love and strength of our God who is so much bigger.

The God who is writing our story.

And he's not finished yet.

Instead of waking up with dread, worried about what tragedy will befall us next, let's turn to the Lord with wonder and ask "What's next, Lord?"

"What's next?"

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Meditation

"Lend me your hope for awhile. 
 A time will come when I will heal, and I will lend my renewed hope to others."  ~Eloise Cole

Photo by:  Luca Bravo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#worstvalentinesdayever

Valentine's Day is such a loaded day for me.  As I'm sure it is for many people.  It started out well.  I used to love the elementary school Valentine's Day parties where we ate about five cupcakes and cookies, put our names on tiny valentines and delivered them in manila envelopes to friends.  It was like a super fun sugar high!

As I got older, Valentine's Day became more of a challenge.  Growing up, I was pretty shy.  I always had friends, but I didn't have all the little boyfriends some friends had through elementary and junior high.  Around that time is when someone decided to introduce the candy grams and flower grams.  #worstideaever.  You could pay money to have a sucker or flower sent to someone you loved or cared about at school.  Of course, the tall, skinny blonde girl in our glass always got about five of them, and I got maybe one if I was lucky, usually from my best friend Angie.  (We always supported, each other no matter what.)  I always remember feeling so unloved as I watched others get the candy grams.

In high school, it was the stuffed bears and flowers.  Girls would get them from their boyfriends in the morning and carry them around all day like a badge of honor.  So depressing.  At some point, around my sophomore year, I decided to instill a new tradition of wearing black on Valentine's Day.  I wasn't a goth or anything like that.  I just really did not like Valentine's Day.  I talked some of my friends into doing it and the tradition stuck for several years.

College was more of the same.  I had boyfriends off and on, so  I did receive the occasional cardboard heart filled with candy, but my soon to be engaged friends always had me beat. At one point, my single friends and I created something called the "Purple Club" as a support group of sorts to air our Valentine's Day woes.  In grad school I remember once hosting an Anti-Valetine's Day party at my tiny apartment with my famous homemade lasagna.

As you can see, Valentine's Day and I go way back.  We have a love/hate relationship really.  I've always liked the idea of the day.  To recognize love and celebrate its many forms.  Love for a partner, spouse or child.  Love for God and his love for us.  Love, as our chief aim in life, is something I believe is worthy to be celebrated.  Sadly, pinning all of this expectation on just one day can lead to much disappointment.

I've been married now for the last ten years, and I can say that I enjoy the day a bit more now.  I have a guaranteed date on Valentine's Day for the most part, unless he's working (which is often the case).  I have someone to love and celebrate, along with my children.  This year, though, it was not in the cards.  We were signed up to go to our church's date night on Sunday.  We were very excited, because it involved free childcare and was a free event.  You can't beat that!  Sadly, the day before rolled around and my kids ended up with fevers.  We had to cancel.  We were so bummed.  Hubby did make it up to me by getting Japanese takeout and we had a little dinner after the kids went to bed on Sunday.

Yesterday, the actual V-day, I ended up lying on the couch shaking with fever chills.  I had to resist the urge to immediately go to social media and post #worstvalentinesdayever.  Because, although it was bad, I have definitely had worse.  The highlight of the day was hubby making me chicken noodle soup and handing me my gift.  It was wrapped in eight plastic bags, which I had to individually unwrap.  Cute.  Inside was two garden flags for our walkway.  The part I liked the best was that he took the time to think about what I like.  I have this little unspoken garden flag war going on with the neighbor across the street, so now I am up two flags, thanks to my handsome hubby.

Maybe not the best Valentine's Day ever, but I spent it with my three loves, and that is all one can ask for.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Meditation



"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; 
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding as the grave.  It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame." 

 ~Song of Songs 8:6 NIV

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Kickboxing for Jesus

Today I had to laugh during my exercise class.  The class is entitled "Body & Soul Fitness" and it uses Christian music for the workouts.  It has been great and just what I needed to try and get back in shape.  Today I had to laugh at the irony of punching and kicking to a song about Jesus.

But it works!

The instructor encouraged us to kick out our frustrations.  I'm sure everyone can relate to having many frustrations right now.  Exercise a good way to get them out.  If you don't like to exercise, do something that makes you laugh or makes you happy.   Watch a comedian online, take a walk, go to a movie.  

It also reminded me that we need to take Jesus with us wherever we are and whatever we are doing.  It could be kickboxing, it could be traffic, it could be a tough meeting at work.  Wherever we are, let's thank him for being with us in the good and the bad in the exciting moments and the tough things in life.

When life gets frustrating, kick it out!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Alisa Laska

"Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, Save that Thou art- Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light."  

~"Be Thou My Vision" Irish Folk Melody

I remember this song playing as I would walk around helping preschoolers to fall asleep at nap time.  I was a college student substitute teaching at a Christian school.  I will never forget the innocent quiet that would spread across the room.  The same type of quiet found in the falling of snow.  May God grant us this innocent quiet today.