Name – AdventΒ 

23 12 2015

  





Praying – AdventPhotos (2015#23)

22 12 2015

Traditions are a big part of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Certain practices, foods, decorations – any number of things that mark this time of the year. Those things that it seems like the season would be incomplete without. I do think however, that some traditions, some touch-points are bigger and go beyond this one season of the year.  
One of my earliest recollections of spiritual life is the memory of family prayer. My parents would begin each day with a time of audible prayer. They would kneel at the couch and chair in the living room, and simultaneously pray aloud for probably 5 minutes or so. Lifting their praises and their petitions; interceding for various family, friends, church members, and always my brother Jason and I. When you’re a toddler, that seems like it takes approximately 14 hours. Jason would wait for them to start, and promptly sneak into the other room to play with the kitchen set. Morning family prayer was very much a tradition (or discipline in church-speak) in our home. The day felt weird, incomplete without that as the starting point. Once I became a patent myself, I knew one thing for sure; I knew that I wanted my kids to hear me praying for them at the start of each day. Not just telling them that I was praying for them, but making sure they heard the conversations I was having with God on their behalf. I knew how important it was, because I know how often as an adult I cling to the awareness that I have been prayed for, by name, this morning! I know it, because I heard it, every morning, for twenty years. And so, I prayed for my girls, at the start of the day, and I made them listen. I have to confess, there were some mornings, trying to juggle 5 people out the door, that it felt like I was stripping some gears to stop the madness, settle my spirit, and stand in the place of intercession before God. More than once, I had to apologize. The girls don’t hear me pray for them every morning anymore, but I hope they hold fast to the knowledge that I do. I hope they have taken into their adult lives the understanding that through prayer our heart, mind, emotions, schedule, relationships, needs, wants; our life, is brought to a place of surrendered preparation for the presence of our abiding Savior. I hope this tradition extends well beyond a block of days on the calendar, and is in fact, the way we prepare for every day of this life we are blessed to live.

  





Getting On In Years – AdventPhotos (2015#22)

22 12 2015

Bill and I just celebrated our 29th anniversary, so it was in late December, 1986 when we returned from our honeymoon to a living room filled with wedding presents yet to be opened. We received some wonderful gifts, and I can’t think of any that I have treasured more over the years than the milk glass vase in today’s photo. It was a gift from my Grandma Reese. It wasn’t new, she gave it to me from her small assortment of milk glass because “it was one of her favorites.” She had owned it for a number of years, so I’m not entirely sure how old it is, but I know it’s old. It’s original use was to be a planter or vase, but since we’ve already established that keeping plants alive is not something I do well (or at all,) I have repurposed it. I’ve used it to store baby bottle rings, then sippy cup lids, then plastic tableware. I’m quite certain that when this vase was made, no one even considered the possibility that one day it would be used to corral forks that people would use one time and throw away, but that’s one of the benefits of hanging around for a while and making yourself available; you just might get to do something that you would have never thought of in an earlier time and place. Like a stable, that was used for a nursery, like a manger that was used for a crib, like a King who was made a sacrifice.
  





Trust – AdventPhotos (2015 #21)

20 12 2015

  





Thanks – AdventPhotos (2015#20)

20 12 2015

#AdventPhotos – Thanks
I have an amazing family, but out of everyone who lives, or has lived in our home over the years, no one matches Louis Bichon for simple, unfailing gratitude. He’s over 12 years old now, getting stiff joints, going blind, and constantly plagued with allergies and a touchy digestive system. He has eaten the exact same weight control food twice a day, every day for the past 11 years, and every time I dump it in his bowl, he’s just as happy as if it were the first time he were tasting it. Oddly, my family seems somehow less grateful for yet another bowl of Cherrios. Go figure. Of course, I’m just as guilty. I got an fancy-shmancy automatic tea brewer last Christmas that I was thrilled to get. I’m a tea addict and this thing has all the bells and whistles. As I was using it earlier today I realized that in the period of a few months I had moved from being appreciative of this new luxury, to it being just another invisible tool that I take for granted. I don’t know why we’re so prone to move past thankfulness, but I’m going to try to be more like Louis and stay in the gratitude zone. It’s not my right to live in a country that affords me, and every other citizen a level of freedom that is desired around the world, it’s a blessing and I want to be thankful for it. I didn’t do a single thing to earn the family I have, countless others would give every possession they have to know the kind of love and security I have always known, I want to be thankful every day for that gift. Every time I am up at my doctors in Cleveland, I see good people who would love to trade their health issues for mine. I could not have ever worked my way to a point of deserving the grace that God has lavished onto my life, I want to live in a place of humble gratitude. Not taking for granted, not expecting more, but always appreciative of whatever I find residing in my “right now.”

  





Joy and Sadness – AdventPhotos (2015#19)

19 12 2015

  Those two words don’t really seem like they go together, do they? At first glance they appear opposite one another – an “either/or” condition, not “and.” But then again, when I saw today’s theme I instantly knew what picture said joy and sadness, both equally complete and residing in my heart at the same time, neither diminishing the other.  

This is a photo my of of my husband’s brother, Colin Kelly; Junior or Junebug to family & friends, and Uncle Bug to all the nieces and nephews. I’ve known him since he was a baby, our dads have pastored in the same denomination and districts since the 1970s. He was such a funny toddler, forever wanting to give everyone the preacher handshake, running around Lily Lake Campgrounds like he owned the place. He was the baby of the family, and was the last to start his own family, so for years he was the fun uncle to all of our kids – not the slightest whiff of “grownup” to spoil the bliss. I’m still not sure how many “no” movies my girls were able to sneak in under his strict oversight:-). And then in 2007, He and his wife Missy were blessed with a son. 

This picture is of Colin, but I didn’t take this picture today, I couldn’t. He died suddenly in March, 2008 so this is our 7th Christmas without him sitting with all the sibs, grandkids, and greats around the tree while His dad reads the Christmas story.  

He loved, loved, loved Christmas, all of it. The decorations, the food, the music, the movies, and the Christchild. So when I see this picture of him, at Christmas, in my heart it’s everything all at once. All the funny, crazy, sweet, sarcastic, politically incorrect, gentle, loving, generous memories of him flooding through my mind and my heart is filled to the brim with joy. The joy of knowing him, of being part of his family, of having my kids blessed by how much he loved them. There’s simply no room in my heart for one ounce of anything else but joy. Yet at the same time, my heart is somehow equally filled with sadness. Sadness that he won’t be here again this Christmas. Sadness that his wife has to take their son to visit his daddy at the cemetery. Sadness that the fabric of our family has been forever altered by his absence. But the sadness doesn’t erase the joy that overflows from the lifetime that preceded his death, anymore than the joy can eliminate the sadness that has followed his death. Both states existing completely and simultaneously, in the same space and at the same time. I don’t really understand how, but I know it’s true.  

That seeming dichotomy makes me think of the mystery of a King who was also a helpless baby. A person, fully human who is also fully God. Not God one day, person the next day. Not 50% God, 50% person. Completely God, AND completely man, 100% of both, in the same place at the same time. How can that be? How could God really be just an ordinary person like me? Once again, I don’t really understand how, but I know it’s true.

We probably all have someone missing from around the tree and table this year. Someone whose memory brings utter joy, and at the same time, their absence brings utter sadness. As you find yourself in that place of Joy/Sadness, I’d like to encourage you to not shrink away from any of those feelings, but to allow yourself to be inspired by the awareness that in these things that exist beyond the capacity of language, these things that only the heart can know, that is also where we can grab hold of the mystery of this God/Man who came to earth, who is in heaven and yet here. Who is already here, but not yet returned. This is a place where we can gain a glimpse of the heart of God.

  





Foundation – AdventPhotos (2015#18)

18 12 2015