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Rehearsal Dinner Blessing

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.

While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.

This is how the day began.

Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.

When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnB and hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.

Did I just turn onto a one-way road?

I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!

I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.

We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.

We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.

My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .

This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.

It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.

Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.

This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.

There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)

We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.

All a gift. All deep, deep grace. Every moment.

Shadow

Sunday readings come from the EpistlesHebrews 8 speaks of the duties of the high priests and contains the words, They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven in verse 5. Chapter 10 begins, The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. 

I was drawn to the prompt shadow and began searching for pictures to illustrate the light and dark. As I worked, the song Shadows by Amy Grant ran through my head for teenage me. This was from Lead Me On, a soundtrack during a difficult season.

Also Audry Assad Carry Me, from a more current time.

Here is today’s page.

I love how the light was shining through the window when I took the pictures.

In the shadow of the question is from here.

What are you drawn to in the picture? What does shadow stir?

Weep No More

A deep kindness in this difficult weekend came at the end of this morning’s worship service as we stood to sing “We Will Feast in the House of Zion.”

I was taken in my heart and mind to the chapel at The Seattle School where a group of us gathered informally on Sunday morning before the final session to sing and worship.

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
~Sandra McCracken

It was such a sweetly, sacred space, all of us gathered to celebrate what God had done, was doing, will do. We were acutely aware of the fleetingness of a moment that would never return to us on this earth. Our hearts held so much.

This morning I clapped and sang with joy as my mind wandered briefly to that chapel and wondered if anyone was gathering there. I wondered if they, too, would be singing. If any would remember our voices. My voice.

Returning to present, standing between two of my daughters, I felt held and loved by my heavenly Father reminding me that the small details matter and that I am loved in them.

Change of Plans

I’m sorry I don’t have any quarters.

The cashier apologizes while fishing through her drawer for $.58 in coins to add to the dollar bills handed me as change for my $6.42 purchase. I quickly pass the paper money to my husband and prepare my hand for the pile of coins she is counting.

That’s okay. I actually prefer dimes.

I am speaking truth. I do. Dimes remind me that I am seen and that there is enough ~ enough money, care, resources. I watch for them and notice where they appear. On the floor of a closet I am cleaning, in the dryer, on a walk, there they are. I collect them.

We say goodnight as my husband, dog, and I exit the neighborhood Dollar General. I am grateful for its re-opening in time for the start of the school year. It is my go-to for last-minute necessities that arise. Along with the needed item, I feel care in my hand, heavy with coins.

Would you keep these coins in your pocket for me until we get home?

My husband obliges, and I pick up the pace, eager to see how many dimes I will find when we arrive.

This Sunday night is different than last when I was anticipating back to school week for my children. They headed back to school, then one returned to do school at home this year. With this change of plans came uncertainty, sitting in the tension between withdrawl from one program and application to another.

I know this  unexpected turn of events is for the best this season. That is how we do it, year by year. I am thankful for resources, space, and time. For knowing my focus.

I am thankful for an unexpected handful of change containing no quarters and four dimes reminding me again that I can trust.

All will be well.

 

Changes

It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.

I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.

There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.

I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.

Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.

This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?

It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.

I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.

I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.

Whenever that may be.

My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.

Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.

Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.

I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.

Changes.

I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.

It was worth it. IS worth it.

And I allow the tears to come.

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

Hope for Healing

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

There were too many strikes against the wounded places in my heart this morning to sit through church. Already late from the effort it still takes to get everyone out of the house, which seems eerily similar to what it was years ago only in a different way, I arrived halfway through the one song I was hoping to sing.

Enduring the rustling and settling of the children who sit with us while hoping that the ones who do not were doing what they were supposed to in the back, I tried to focus on the task at hand and enter worship. I was frustrated and exhausted.

Darkness is familiar, and the deepness that it brings threatens to pull my soul further into a void. The constant struggle to remain upright and grounded is real.

It was a lifetime ago, yet I still grieve. What am I grieving? What feels life-giving? I held that tension in my heart  while looking up at the glow of a single candle signifying the beginning of Advent. I stood and sat and tried to sing what was hard.

Your law is good. . . 

I could not make it through all of the words. It was nothing less than a miracle that I sang that song from the stage last week when I was on worship team, revealing how well I can shore up and do what needs to be done in the moment.

Standing as Scripture was read, feeling the ground beneath me, I breathed in, holding hope that I could do this. I sat.

Words came at me, and I noticed them blurring together. It took energy and effort to stay present, and I was doing really well.

God expects full obedience to his commandments.

The sermon series on the Ten Commandments continues. Whatever week this is feels a week too long. Each week is too long.

I believe and agree with this. I am also deeply triggered by this. There were too many strikes against my spiritually wounded heart this morning to sit and hear the very verses about the law that were used to beat me into submission and rob me of life. They bring no comfort.

Maybe comfort is there. . . just not right now. Maybe there is hope for healing from an abuse of the law, but right now I need comfort and care. I did not feel it in this space.

I spend much time comforting and caring.

I found myself in the tension of longing to communicate, of pressing into the questions surrounding the fray while trying to contain all that was dumping out of my heart.

Is there balm in Gilead?

As a terrified sixteen-year-old girl I was trying to grasp the law on my own and be pleasing. As a forty-six year old woman living with the implication of this desire, it is difficult to see goodness. All I feel is sadness and deep pain.

I am aware that others are not responsible for how their words are inadvertently used to crash into my heart. It does not make the crashing any less painful. It was in the pain that I found myself sitting in the breezeway, ear buds in, listening to music while writing in my journal.

We are all full of stories.

Later I found myself sitting with a friend, hearing more of her story, asking her about hope.

Today is the candle of hope. The very questions I asked my friend, I ask myself. What does hope look like to you? When did you feel hope? What do you hope for?

This is where I am and what I will be pondering this first week of Advent.

Fog

It is thick, real, palpable, settling into every crevice of my brain. Memories lurk deep within. Thoughts jumble together while feelings vacillate between razor sharp and numbingly dull.

This is me. Now.

In the midst of the fog, I long for clarity. I savor aha! moments when they present. Shadows come into focus as light dawns, and I attempt to gaze on them with curiosity rather than terror. Often terror wins. My lens is fear.

What if I could wait for, could anticipate, beauty? Goodness?

What if I could sit in awe and wonder at the gift of life as a joyous adventure rather than a grim duty?

I have so many questions and so few answers. I ponder them as I sit in the fog.

You need light to see through fog but not too much of it. Driving a car with high beam lights on can actually be dangerous in foggy weather. There are special fog lights that are different from headlights, offering alternate illumination. Gentler. Not as harsh. Alerting others.

I am trying to work with the light I have been given to expose what I need to see. It is tempting to force on all the lights from all the angles to illuminate all of the things. This results in a blinding glare which is neither helpful nor kind.

Moving through fog demands slowing down. Sometimes this means pull over, stop, and wait. This is challenging for me, the stopping and waiting part. It is hard to feel life passing by as I remain on the shoulder for a season waiting for clarity. I envy the confidence and accomplishments of others.

Navigating the fog demands space. I am trying to claim and create a bit of space in my full days. Sometimes it is shared with a dog, sometimes not. Even as I clear physical space, my emotional place clutters. It is an exercise to settle into the stillness of a moment.

Gentle light arrives in the form of scheduled phone calls with a wise guide, spontaneous conversations with sisters, surprise words from unexpected places, late-night conversations with the one I love, sessions spent in a counselor’s office. Slowly, focus comes, and I see a little further and a little more clearly.

When glaring light floods a foggy place, rendering me blind, I am gently reminded of truth by those who love me. The high-beams click off and the fog lights turn on, and I am led to safety.

Friendship Friday ~Jesus Showed Up

Jesus showed up at just the right time.

My Bible reading plan this year is chronological. That means intensive Old Testament time. Nine months to be exact. God’s word is always alive and powerful, speaking to wherever we are in the moment. The minor prophets were calling to me for months. As was the weeping one. There was lots of weeping.

Steve would tease me before bed, Time to be encouraged by a dose of Lamentations.

In a strange way, I am encouraged by the Old Testament. It is full of mess and grief and people who see God directly, hear from him specifically, and still do the opposite. It has people who follow the rules and are foiled and who break them and are blessed.

There are stories that occur over chapters and those in just a few verses, whose magnitude is more real to me the more I live and experience life. The Old Testament is a reminder that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.

Nothing. New.

In the midst of poor choices, direct disobedience, chaos, and confusion, God is still glorified and working all things. I am neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar. That is not what this is about. I am not trying to prove points or make cases. I may be a kindred spirit with Jeremiah, but I digress.

This is about Jesus showing up this week, as I finally made it to the New Testament. How timely to read about his entrance into our world on a day when the horror was magnified. Even though he has been here all along and is well-acquainted with our sorrow and grief, it brought comfort to be reminded again.

He chose to come to us.

It reminds me of one of my children and the Baby Jesus story.

One year, a particular child was in kindergarten. His Sunday School teacher gave each child in the class a plastic nativity scene to assemble. She gave each parent a sealed envelope with a note and the Baby Jesus inside. The note contained instructions about helping the child assemble the nativity scene and how to respond when they noticed the baby was missing. We were to put it in the manger on Christmas Day.

This particular child tore into the box immediately in the van after church. Where is he? Where is the Baby Jesus? He demanded.

Determined to follow the plan, I mentioned that it was not Christmas yet. We would have to wait and see.

Come on, Mom. He already came! Now where is it?

Laughing, I had to admit that he had me, as I pulled it out of the envelope.

That is how it feels. Jesus already came. He has been in my Old Testament reading, and I know that. In the midst of all that is wrong, there is also right. I am not pretending to have the answers. I am just grateful to be resting in the comfort of the Gospels.

 

 

 

Loved

URLOVED

I almost missed the message of the license plate in front on me while waiting at a stoplight. Having just dropped off the girls at middle school, I was lost in my own thoughts, preparing for the next pick up and drop off. Looking up, the letters caught my eye.

You are loved.

I needed to be reminded of this today. Thank you, Owner of the Personalized License Plate Car. I did not get to see who you were before you turned right, and I went left, but the message touched my heart. Or maybe someone got that plate for you, so that you would always remember. If so, the love trickled down. Either way, I am grateful.

The thing is, my head knows I am loved, but my heart does not always feel it. It’s a difficult dichotomy to bear. It can be frustrating to those who love me when I cannot see what is right in front of my face.

Like the license plate.

So I keep looking and trusting that I really am loved. And I keep seeing the signs that are all around. And even though I can not always feel it, I believe it is there. And sometimes I get to feel it, and it overwhelms me.

This time when I arrive home, my nine-year-old boss, not Zephyr, is waiting on the porch for me. Just as insistent that I get inside and on with the day, I try to appreciate her eagerness to be with me and only snap a little bit. Then apologize. She loves me, and I love her back.

We get ready to go, and I disappear into the bathroom. When I emerge, her dad is standing there, an unexpected change in routine which throws me all the way off.

Why are you here? I ask curtly.

I had to get something and thought I would pick up Mae and drive her in.

Softening, I recognize what I almost missed in my irritation. This act of love frees up a chunk of morning time that will help me launch the day. It gives me a head start on later, when I have a dentist appointment.

This is love, and I see and feel it with gratefulness.

I am loved.

And so are you.