Monday, November 29, 2010

Coming Into the Mess

We started our Jesse Tree today, generous gift to all from the beautiful Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience. I invite you to spend some time there. She writes of the holy, messy everyday and Jesus drips from her every word. With each post, she has a way of reorienting my gaze back to Him and every day, I need that.

This year she has written a Jesse Tree advent devotional e-book and it's free. Go here if you'd like to download.

For months I've longed for this Christmas season to be one of intentional anticipation, one in which we slow down and incorporate gentle practices of expectancy. I've envisioned serene mornings of hot chocolate and Bible readings and Jesse Tree ornament hanging. How we'll awake Christmas morning and celebrate His coming more than we celebrate with consumerism.

And today, on this first "serene" morning of expectancy, hot chocolate spilled across my tableau of perfection as children bickered and littlest one got sent to time-out. We finished our first devotional to find that he had destroyed the Lego creation his older brother had painstakingly assembled and by 9:45, I felt undone. I fussed and fretted and reprimanded and said to myself, This is not at all what I envisioned. Why do even the most sacred and well-intentioned practices crumble before my very eyes?

And just as quickly, I sensed a Spirit-tug and I knew this:

He came into the mess and He comes into the mess.

Born in a stable amid the stench and groan of animals, out of the womb of some non-descript girl who moaned and cried just like I did, born to a people who would rather worship the things of this world than worship the One who came to save them from it.

There was nothing serene about any of it...except Him.

Daily, we will continue our Jesse Tree journey until Christmas Day and the setting will likely be life is every. single. day. As I type this, there are crumbs scattered across the table, dirty dishes littering the counter, and nary a Christmas decoration in sight, save for the paper advent chains my children made in church last night. And maybe this is just the perfectly imperfect way to begin this day and this season. Life stripped of glittery, lit-up, and bedazzled perfection and replaced with life undone and messed up, cluttered and loud and torn apart just like the Legos.

He came to piece it all back together and to bring peace to all of us who feel just a bit undone. Besides, glittery perfection isn't as obviously needy of a Savior.

During this first week of advent, if you're feeling just a bit unraveled and overwhelmed, I invite you to segue from Thanksgiving to Christmas by being thankful for the mess that points us to Christ.

Emmanuel, God with us...

With us in the mess...

With us in the celebration...

With us in the fear and anxiety...

With us in the giving and in the receiving...

With us every moment of every day, no matter what the day holds...

To bring us peace.

Grace and peace to you all, dear ones.


Today, I continue to count {albeit inconsistently} the gifts with Ann and the other folks that are part of the Gratitude Community at Holy Experience. I have learned from her that the counting makes all the difference.

28. Hot chocolate, spilled or unspilled

29. Paper chains, reminiscent of my own childhood

30. The very loud, clamoring, imaginative children playing make-believe as I type. {Did I mention they are loud?}

31. Seasonally-appropriate cold for our southern climate after a looooooong summer

32. The reorienting and encouraging words of bloggy girls and friends-in-real-life girls who love Jesus

33. The Word, opened on the table and surrounded by crumbs and empty mugs...and gentle inspiration from this scene that it needs to be opened more {all the time?} in this messy place

34. Cupcake. He will be three tomorrow and he is joy incarnate for all of us. His name means mercy and He represents that, child conceived out of patched-up love.

35. A new-to-us dryer that will hopefully not eat our clothes

36. Fire in the fireplace each morning

37. Thanksgiving and feasting with family

38. A break from the routine

39. Coffee

40. My husband, who lovingly and graciously comes to my rescue, time and again, when the stress has me undone and incapacitated

41. My Sunday Inklings friends

42. Christmas lights and candles

43. All of you who read this and come here...I'm thankful for you

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Practicing Rest

She came to me with piano book in hand, one of her many impromptu breaks from practicing and said,

Look, it's a song you play with no hands.

No hands? I asked. How does that work?

It's a song with just rests, she replied matter-of-factly. You don't use your hands. You just practice rests.

I let her words sink in and settle down deep.

And in that instant, I knew that God had once again spoken timely truth into a single mundane moment.

Life lived with some songs of rest every now and then, I thought to myself. What might that look like?

To simply accept the fact that yes, we work and practice and perfect and labor and sometimes we just need to play a song of rest. That songs of rest give Him glory and breathe life back into our stressed-out souls in ways that songs of a zillion fancy, strung-out notes cannot. That songs of rest lullaby our spirits in ways that chords and trills and constant staccato cannot.

Fast and furiously, I pound and plunk out the notes of the crazy everyday and it is cacophony, not calm...discord, not delight.

Oh to be nine and and naive and fully accepting that sometimes we just need a song of rest and that's all there is to it. That practicing rest is just as legitimate as whatever else we're doing all day with our ever-tasking hands.

And I, at 37, know that rest takes actual practice...discipline even?

The season ahead is one of gratitude and celebration. It's also one in which the to-do takes precedence over the rest our souls need. We're so busy tasking and preparing; receiving rest takes a backseat...

He takes a backseat.

Ironic, yes, how busy we can become as we prepare for and celebrate the One who is rest.

Too often, my busyness and inner mess blinds me from seeing Him as that. And I'm grateful beyond words that He relentlessly pursues me anyway, amid piano books and dirty dishes and unfolded laundry, an unassuming 9-year-old girl unknowingly speaking divine truth words just for me in that bleary-eyed moment...
Child, practice rest.

I pray that for me, for you, for all of us, our hands and our hearts can find peace, stillness, and grace in the One who invites the weary to come.

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Unwrapped with Emily {Chatting at the Sky}

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Remember Me?

So I've been kind of busy with living and all. The kind of busy that leaves you breathless too many moments of the day. For introspective types like me, it's like a nagging thirst and the water is always just beyond reach.

All work and no writing makes this girl downright beastly. I have craved rest and solitude like a marathoner longs for the finish.

But here I am, finally, enjoying a rare moment of complete silence at my kitchen table and feeling as if I have absolutely nothing and everything to say. I've learned that days without reflection and rest {both the physical and spiritual kind} create an internal bottleneck and when the moment for contemplative expression finally gifts itself to me, I am ironically at a loss.

So with that in mind, I give you pictures, hoping they may be worth the thousands of words I'm apparently without, a few glimpses into some of the more delightful moments of living we've enjoyed during the fall...


I already know that when they are grown, I will look at this picture and cry.

I know, this picture is in a previous post but I love it. A few days away that The Man and I enjoyed, a belated trip to celebrate our 15-year anniversary. Already it seems like a lifetime ago.

In case you're wondering, yes, Brownie is still playing golf. This fall he started playing in some kid tournaments. It was only going to be one tournament, just for fun, but somehow it turned into 6. He and The Man conspired to make it a "tour." Anyway, here he is at the actual tour championship, the only tourney I was able to go to because we also have a 2-year-old and golf courses are quiet and 2-year-olds are not.

Be still my heart. Getting to and from the tourney was so crazy, I couldn't enjoy it much then. But now? I just love this picture of the boy and his daddy {also the caddy.} Again, one of those pictures that will make me cry when the boy is grown and the daddy and I are old.

Hi Papa and Nana! They came down all the way from Michigan to visit us for 4 days and watch Brownie play golf. We had the best time.

Golf is the prettiest sport I think. For a girl who is not sportsy, I rank my affinity for a sport based on the beauty of its surroundings {or the cuteness of the uniforms.}

We enjoyed the loveliest field trip to a farm and vineyard up in the mountains. I cannot tell you how beautiful it was. Even though I was chasing my kids, the beauty of the place quieted my soul.

The kids ground corn with this old-fashioned corn grinder for what seemed like hours. I now have 2 bags of coarsely ground corn and they are expecting me to whip up some tortillas or bread or something pioneerish. If anyone can tell me how to make grits or cornbread out of it, I would be much obliged.

And there were still a few raspberries on the vine.

I don't know how many times he rolled down the hill but I look at this picture and it makes me feel free and giddy.

And last but not least, Brownie turned 7. I always cry at their birthdays because it's going by too fast and I want to slow it all down.

We bought an overpriced golf cake from the grocery store with air-brushed icing and plastic figurines and he loved it.

Happy fall. I've missed being here and hope not to stay away quite so long.


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