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Growing Up With Bobby and Bebe: A Series

Agree to Disagree

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When my parents moved to Colorado 6 years ago, they drove in from Phoenix and walked in my front door into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink. I heard in my heart (when God tells me something, it’s something smarter than I could have thought of…), “They are here for the rest of their lives and your job is simply to love them, not try to change them.”

I think I literally glanced up at the ceiling trying to get eye contact with God, as well as position my ear better to hear the response to my rebuttal, “Even my Dad?!”   [Read more…]

I Had a Dream

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Right before waking up this morning, I dreamt a friend and I were standing in the middle of a four-lane road with cars flying by in either direction. We were discussing the vital importance of practicing the act of writing for 20 minutes everyday, no matter what…

And then I woke up

Prior to waking up and prior to standing in the middle of the road, where I was, incidentally, holding a vintage typewriter under one arm, I had been at a beautiful gathering of writers and journalists who were sitting at tables together, sharing and listening. [Read more…]

Speak: Contemplation

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

I’ve been contemplating many things for quite some time and the more I keep it in, I feel I may implode.

Why have I held these things in rather than go with my usual mode of verbally processing my thoughts to whomever may be in the room or on the other end of the phone? To be fair, my husband would attest to me processing these with him over the years, and each time he reminds me, “Adrienne, THIS is the content of your book. Write it. Write it down. People need to hear.” I love him and need him to say this to me, especially since writing it down is part of the equation: In order NOT to implode I must write these things down and get on with living.

So, again, why have I shared these thoughts I ponder day in and day out with only a few?

Open confession: I’ve feared segments of Christendom. [Read more…]

Practicing His Presence: The Effects of the Wind

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Woolly sheep resting in a pasture under a bent pine atop Auckland, NZ. (photo: #loneviajera)

Right now all I can hear is a wind from the north raging and whistling the sweet tiny lake cabin where we are presently staying. I’m kind of surprised my youngest hasn’t run down and jumped into bed with me yet from the ruckus…a sign he really is exhausted playing as hard as a 5 year old does. The elements have a way of carving, forming, shaping, anything that’s in its path. I’ve stood cliff side at the ocean’s edge, dared the railing at the Grand Canyon, sat above the tree line atop the Andes as the sun beat down and the winds and height made it clear no life could live at the peak too long. And we wonder, wonder why all the suffering, why all the pain and erosion? We raise our fists to the sky, maybe to the God some don’t even believe in, but whose fault it surely is for all the agony, and no answers come, at least not ones some may care to hear. It’s amazing houses withstand northeasters, but more miraculous is the beating a tree may take day after day after day. And it’s a variety of trees, too, not just those rooted down deeply. On the shores of warm beaches spanning the globe, shallow rooted palms sustain gale force winds regularly. And some days they don’t. Some storms are weathered by all sorts of trees with all sorts of root systems on any given day. And then, one day, whether it was a storm or just the specific day and time established, it was the one, the one where the uprooting determined the final number of rings to be counted. Therefore I don’t wonder. Well, I do if we think of the word wonder in a way that conjures up awe and continued pursuit and a life of curiosity, but not “wonder” in a despairing way, because we are all only here as long as we are here. Only alive hearts feel the stretch, ache, and deep pain of being bent low in the path of the screaming wind. But the elasticity with which we are made, the brilliance and endurance with which we were created, resurrects us to our original design, rising tall, again, on our firm foundation.

(*This morning I only had 10 minutes to write, so often I just don’t because it doesn’t seem like enough time to finish a thought. But I followed the cheering and advice of my writer friends and put my butt in the chair (I stayed in bed and pulled the laptop in…) and sat with my eyes closed and my fingers on the keyboard, and this is what came of it. There are links to other posts I’ve written like this if you follow the tag: Practicing His Presence.)

Who is Invited to the Table?

A year ago when we sold our house and stuff and embarked on this journey as The Graveswolds, God put two words on my heart: GATHER and TABLE. I said, “Really, Lord!? You are teaching us about hospitality, but we don’t even have a house OR A TABLE?!”

And He said, “You don’t need those to experience hospitality. Wherever you go, gather around tables with friends and strangers and break bread. Share your hearts and listen to those gathered. Do this often. This is Kingdom Come. This is the work of peacemaking.”

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up sooner, at least not in my writings or a more formal venue. I honestly thought my voice and heart didn’t matter on a scale other than loving others and practicing peacemaking in the day to day.

I’ve rethought that a bit…and my voice and heart matter big time, just as much as yours!

I’ve grappled with these feelings, and a deep down knowing, for likely my whole life. The last several years they have resurrected, and too many “coincidences” and gut feelings have “fallen into place.” When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, there were reminders everyday, but since life seemed peaceable, I wasn’t sure what to do with how I felt or the things I wondered. It just was what it was and life kept going…my life kept going, at least.

Specifically, these feelings resurfaced when I found myself in Auckland, New Zealand and Australia, last year on holiday, and again, just a few weeks ago. I walked the streets freely, my accent the only thing distinguishing me from the locals at first glance, and that, only if I used my voice. I sat stunned on a park bench one day, overlooking the bustle, watching the swells of people, diverse, colorful and living, thinking of tensions around the world and back home on American soil. And I can’t say it any other way as I thought,

“Holy shit! Some Europeans just went all over the whole freaking world and started ‘discovering’ other places to live, in spite of whoever lived there first…”

Not only that, they swung by Africa and other countries and continents to do a little “shopping” on their way there, for a “workforce” to make their dreams come true. What the what?! #$%^&*?

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A bumper sticker on the back of a car we saw while recently in Australia.

As a kid, celebrating Thanksgiving and learning about the earlier days of the “discovery of the New World” and the founding of the United States, my young heart wrestled with some key, un-ignorable logistics.

Wait…people were already here, so really, did Columbus ‘discover’ a New World?”

I remember a commercial with a Native American chief atop his beautiful horse, overlooking pollution, a tear streaming down his cheek, and my guts hurt. Every single day of high school, and then some, I drove across an Indian “Reservation,” past government-issued housing, to get from my custom home to classes and activities. I pondered, too, the very real possibility that maybe some of my German blood could have been traced to the brutally hateful side of things in the world wars, but hoped they had sheltered or helped, and seen the deception, instead of the devastating alternative. I wondered if any of my earlier Stateside relatives had befriended Natives or rallied for or against slavery in America’s history, or civil rights, which crowd they followed, or if they blazed trails of healing instead. I hoped distant relatives had loved well as much as it depended on them…

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Me, circa 1977, leaning against our house that was an old hunting lodge my parents remodeled, along the banks of the Maumee River in Ohio.

 

I am a vanilla white, mixed breed American girl, born and raised in the United States. From word of mouth, as well as DNA testing, my bloodline includes: German, French, Swiss, English, Irish, Scottish, early Egyptian Jew, and 2.67% caveman… (“23andme” is an interesting way to learn about genetics from a medical standpoint, as well as an historical one). These things don’t define me, but they are part of who I am today, no matter how far removed I am from them.

My family moved to Arizona in 1978 to be closer to relatives. Had my family personally removed the Natives from the Phoenix metro in order to move there? No. We didn’t. We simply moved into the neighborhood, just as we had on the riverbanks of Ohio where we found exquisite Native tools and arrowheads, and, as an adult, I’m aware of this now, mindful of this, conscious of the fragmented reality that my freedom to move about wherever I want, to vacation to the ends of the earth, to drive and fly here and there, have come at a cost.

I’m a peacemaker. Why were there battles in the first place? And if someone “won”, that means others lost, and I don’t really think we have “enemies” since our battle is not with flesh and blood, soooooo, what does that really entail? What happens to the “losers?” Is there a better way to do all this? Is anyone actually speaking to each other or are WE all just pulling weapons on one another, pointing fingers, erecting walls, or corralling people into segregated groups, heaping label after label after stereotypical label on each other?

One thing I know…we have hurt one another. WE. There is no “us” or “them” but WE. And WE belong to each other. WE are a family of humans who cannot choose the members. WE ARE FAMILY. But this God-breathed human family is hurting. We may not have family trees to point a finger at who the bad relatives were versus the good ones, but the human family has a common trunk in the Tree of Life and the breath of God, and somewhere in the Garden WE began distinguishing, deciding, and judging between each other rather than belonging to each other.

I’m from a mixed bag of a lot of history…none of us knows all the specifics on how our blood has been woven into this world’s pain. I know I’m not a racist, nor do I have ill will towards anyone, but the reality is, not knowing what to do about the broken system doesn’t bring healing if I don’t do anything at all. If I’m going to be completely honest with you and myself, I can hope and wish and pray all I want that my ancestors were trailblazers of peace, but here I am today, comfortable in society in 2015 while heartache abounds on every side, so there’s been a breakdown somewhere along the line.

It’s not a matter of pointing fingers…we all have logs in our own eyes. WE have ALL hurt someone at some point, just as WE have all been hurt. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I am sorry. And I forgive you. I’m responsible for my life and actions and how I see and treat others. Help me understand…will you please tell me your story?”

I think TODAY is as good a day as any to start trailblazing peace and love. It starts with US…you and me. WE must stop waiting on systems to clean up the messes of our ancestors, no matter the color of our skin or our dark histories. Our SOULS run deeper than systems. We each must take responsibility for loving others well. Our present state of being is not without context.

The quote at Hemingway's in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

The quote at Hemingway’s in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

Have you ever heard the statement, “Can’t we all just get along?” Some people don’t believe it’s possible, but WHAT IF we tried? “Getting along” doesn’t mean everyone is best friends or believes the same things or even shares all the same interests, but it does imply seeking the good of all people, as long as it depends on each of us. At a table, we are compelled to sit with others and look into another persons’ eyes, to really SEE them and HEAR them and seek to KNOW them.

In this beautiful, bustling, broken, and hectic world, I believe there’s been a breakdown in making peace over time. We are naive to believe ALL the Native Americans and ALL the Pilgrims sat around that first Thanksgiving table…or that just because the lunch counters didn’t have dividers anymore that all the white guys saddled up next to the black guys for biscuits and gravy…or that within our own families, certain relatives were ever even on the guest list. Perhaps mealtime got interrupted, was hurried, or became all about the food and not about who was gathered there to share stories and break bread?

I’m a simple girl…idealistic, but unabashedly hopeful. As long as it depends on me, God has given me a glimpse of my life’s work and it’s to live and breathe peacemaking, everyday. I don’t know all the details of how it will work or look, but Someone modeled Love for me many years ago and it looked a lot like gathering around tables, breaking bread, and sharing stories.

 

Maybe the basic act of breaking bread together again
is where everyday peacemaking must begin?”

Moses Wasn’t Worried About His Prostate…

…and other life concerns.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about Moses’ prostate, mostly, how it’s never really mentioned or addressed in scripture. And I was thinking about how aspects of media, social media, the internet, news, and television, have created a sense of “awareness” and even “community,” yet, at the same time, it’s so much awareness and connectedness, so much information, about everywhere and everyone, it borders overwhelming and spread too thin, raising the question, “What can I do?”

It’s SO much to take in, vast and expansive…so many exquisite stories, 7 billion approximately, and all hold beauty and tragedy, life and death, every one pertinent, worthy, valuable. Behind every story, way deep down, is a soul, hand-crafted and God-designed, we aren’t just stories on the news. While 7 billion individuals seems like a lot, seen as a whole, it’s just one…all part of one family, made up of many parts. (The part about how we can’t choose our family members is another post…)

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So, then I was thinking about how big a task Moses had in leading the Israelites out of Egypt, so he kind of needed to be focused on the thing at hand. See, at the time Moses was carrying out the task of leading the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, he wasn’t scrolling Twitter or Facebook or World News, seeing all the other incredibly important causes or events around his country or on the other continents, or tweets about non-things like red cup outrage, or checking his calendar to make sure he was making his bi-annual prostate check-ups.

He just did the thing…the thing he was called to do.

Same with Joan of Arc, I mean, she changed the future and course of France from when she was 13 until she died at the stake at the age of 19, so hadn’t even qualified for a mammogram yet and likely hadn’t even had a PAP test…she wasn’t watching World News, distraught by the plights of peoples world wide, or even so crippled by the entirety of the war ravaging her country, but she just did the thing, right there, where she lived, within her community, and this little old 13 year old rocked history, unaware of the totality of it.

Then I was imagining all the amazing women I know and don’t know all over the world and picturing them with huge love in their hearts and God’s assurance of grace and might over their lives, and my heart swelled…

OH, the impact!

OH, the beauty!

OH, the power when women simply say, “Yes” and “Let’s do this…” and the ripple effects…oh, the ripple effects!

OH, the lasting effects of collaboration and focusing on THE THING! A THING! ONE THING!

These could be men, or boys, or girls, no matter the age, background, credentials, or training…but either way, seriously…the impact!

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And then I look at my phone, email, social media or have a doctor’s appointment about a lump, or think about water in other countries or stories of women, or glance at our family calendar, or remember I need to pack for an upcoming trip or send a note to a loved one or pray for 7 friends with cancer or friends fighting for their marriages or for adoptions or try to remember if today is a no-carb day or a free day or if I actually should fast or plan a date night to always stay engaged rather than “just married”…and there are so many real things that matter. So many. And all important.

…then I look in the mirror and see myself, alone with only my head and heart and hands, and get overwhelmed because the worst thing happens…paralysis…loss of feeling, action, direction, purpose. I have no illusions I’m Moses or Jesus or Santa or all the amazing women all over the world, so then I wonder what my point is, how I can make any sort of impact or difference in the world…like, why am I here and what is the point of me and there’s just so much pain to heal…

See, our battle isn’t against flesh and blood. The red cup thing that wasn’t really a thing, was actually, INDEED, a thing, because the truth is, it was a petty opportunity to distract HUMANS from THE THING of loving EACH OTHER, no matter what we believe. It was an attempt to get us pointing fingers instead of turning our palms up and offering a hand, reaching for one another. It was symbolic of all the things that can easily divert us from loving well, in spite of our messes. Until we stop delineating between who is more deserving of our rallying, our generosity, our listening ears, empathetic open arms, but mostly, God’s unconditional love, we are still missing it. Do I really believe every single one of the Israelites that Moses led out of slavery was nice and always behaving or someone I’d agree with on every issue? There’s no way, just like “God so loved the world that He sent His Son…” wasn’t just for the ones on their best behavior.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, the less I claim to know, the more free I feel to be faithful with the small thing right in front of me. However, that only comes when I’m not stuck in a rut of paralysis, looking around, some days wishing my “just do the thing” was an organized, structured, approved-of, sponsored, official “thing.”

I don’t think I’m called to any Moses-scale operations, but I, like you, am called to avoid the distractions and be mindful of the one thing it all boils down to: practicing extravagant, unconditional, day-to-day, for everybody, kind of LOVE.

(images courtesy of pixabay free photos)

It’s The Smallest Gestures

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Did you know that in South Dakota, USA, drivers on rural roads wave to one another? They greet each other on the approach, essentially saying, “Hello! I see you…have a good day!”

The gesture is friendly and reminds me how we are all connected and share a desire to belong. It reminds me how we are part of a bigger family, a big, beautiful, diverse one that’s messy and dysfunctional all at the same time.

I’ve adopted the wave even outside rural settings, kind of like a smile to a stranger on a sidewalk, or a simple “hi!” to a fellow human at the store. I even like to wink, so I hope someone doesn’t take it the wrong way…Anyway, it’s easy for me to be busy and focused, determined to cross off my “to-do” lists in an attempt to feel a sense of accomplishment on any given day. But this one-finger wave, or two on the days I’m coordinated, allows for connection and acknowledgement, on the road to wherever it is we are going. It’s more like, “Hello! I see you…I wish you well…Godspeed.”

Clearly I read a lot into things. My counselor says I am a “highly cognitive thinker”…it’s the empathizer and peacemaker in me, wanting to connect all the dots, making sense of the non-sensical, hoping there is a reason or purpose in the day to day, knowing deep down in my heart how much God is in love with every one of us…when we strip everything down and see each other as souls created in God’s image, kindness to a “stranger” driving by, someone we may never meet, may go farther than we might imagine with a simple flick of the wrist. Love can be spread in a zillion subtle ways.

The locals don’t wait to see if I know the wave or not, they just wave because it’s their practice, their nature…and as I “reply,” as modeled in the picture above, I’ve come to feel a sense of belonging…crazy how in a place that’s so freaking cold, I can feel warm and invited. 

If You Could Do ANYTHING…

ANYTHING at all, to make a lasting contribution to the world, regardless of experience or finances,

WHAT WOULD IT BE?

This simple question has generated some beautiful responses from people lately as I’ve asked old friends, new acquaintances, and total strangers, the words you just read.

And you should see how people’s faces light up at the question! As if for once they are given the chance to dream and think and believe and aspire outside their day to day.

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I’ve spent a lot of time looking at my feet, watching every step. Last year I hung out a car window and did not watch the ground but looked up to the tree tops in search of koalas. This picture came to mind when I wrote this post because of the limitless possibilities of the potential answers to the question, “If you could do ANYTHING…” Plus, the fresh air felt amazing!

The question of “What if?” has limitless outcomes and asking ourselves “What if?” whether, “What if I take a risk?” or “What if I never take the risk?” or any variance of the question, can at least re-shift our focus if we’ve been spinning our wheels in the same space for a while, or believe we’re at a dead end.

Some friends and I are using the information from the interviews and responses we are gathering to dream collectively about something we are launching soon and it’s all just kind of surreal and exciting and kind of scary all at once.

And I’m lovin’ it!

We would love to hear your heart and contribution to our research by sharing your answer in the comments? So, here it is again:

If you could do ANYTHING…ANYTHING at all, to make a lasting contribution to the world, regardless of experience or finances, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY!

The Stories Behind the Buzz

Today I shaved my head. Let me rephrase that, first I put it into two high pig tails and let Emily and her best friend, Sunny the daughter of one of my dear friends, cut them off to donate. But the reason for the cut wasn’t to donate. Then we had a bit of fun, because when you cut two pig tails off, well, you get a really bad mullet…almost Pat Benatar, but not as rockin’. After the pseudo mullet-mohawk phase, the beautiful Bina, our babysitter and Em’s big sister from another mother, stepped in with the 1″ clip and cleaned it up around the sides so we could see what a sorta-pixie would look like. From there I let all three of the girls have their turn at trimming here and there, just cuz, why not? And finally, I went to town with the 1/8″ clip and loved every minute of it.

I sent this "before" to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he's always had a crush on Sinead O'Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive... ;)

I sent this “before” to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he’s always had a crush on Sinead O’Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive… ;)

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Here are the hair bandits after the first cuts.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type situation...post pig tail chopping.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type situation…post pig tail chopping.

 

Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

T-shirt brought to you by "Chosen and Dearly Loved" a ministry for special needs.

T-shirt brought to you by “Chosen and Dearly Loved” a ministry for special needs.

 

It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don't even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age 13...it would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I'll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray...

It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don’t even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age 13…it would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I’ll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray…

For me it was a choice for empathy. For everyone I know who loses their hair because of caustic chemicals coursing through their veins, it’s an inconvenient and scary side effect on top of a disease on top of pain and discomfort and emotion and hope and bravery and courage and wonder if it will work.

Today on Facebook I posted that 4 of my friends are on chemo, but shortly thereafter, realized I was wrong and the number is 6, as I miscalculated. And those are my friends. Then there are my friends whose spouses are sick, whether with cancer or undiagnosed ailments and endless pain, unexplained, yet more real than ever.

And then let’s talk about our sweet friend’s whose daughter has to have her foot amputated or my friend whose daughter just had to be taken to Juvie or the friend whose husband just had his body crushed by a car in a bike accident or my friend whose son’s heart is broken and irreparable and so they wait and my friend whose son has 100’s of seizures each day or my friend whose son’s disability is ramping up because of puberty and he’s getting too strong for her and our dear friends whose son has been sick for over 5 months, in pain, every day, and my sweet new friend whose daughter has a terminal illness.

Then there is my Dad who misses our Mom every. single. day. Her picture is everywhere I look as we stay at what was their house, and my guts hurt for his guts, and for his heart…but that doesn’t even include the pain he has daily because he needs a new knee and his best friend isn’t here to hold his hand through it. And for my beautiful Mother-in-Love who has been brave and strong for 17 years a widow on a journey not meant to tread alone. And my friend who is a young widow as of December.

And I don’t care how “acceptable” a death is at a latter age, the company of orphaned daughters and sons I have met on this journey grows regularly and there isn’t a day that goes by that we wouldn’t each love another hour with our parent…just one more question, please tell me one more story…but they are buried along with a portion of our hearts.

And the news the other night aired the total fire destruction of an apartment of someone my family loves and prays for regularly.

And all the single parents and broken homes and busted up hearts and heart-wrenching addictions. The parents who are waiting and longing to adopt.

But that doesn’t include the bereaved parents who have joined the community of late, a community I’ve been part of for over 8 years now, like my sweet friend who is figuring out life with her family minus their heart-daughter after 6 beautiful years. And the friends who have welcomed a new life into theirs after the loss of their sweet handsome boy.

ALL THIS, and we haven’t even turned on the news to see and be aware of all that transpires worldwide…

On any given day, we all carry things in our hearts, some we share, others we hide and hold closely, all of them chisel at the walls we try to erect around our tender hearts because life is hard and maybe protecting seems like the safe and right thing to do.

But, on any given day, none of these things are meant to be faced alone. No, I am not going to have a port put in my chest and take chemo to show empathy to my friends who have cancer, but maybe we should? Maybe empathy is entering into the stories of others with both feet? Maybe we would be more tender with our enemies if we both were in the same hospital with our ill children, just down the hall, just trying to love well, realizing we have something in common?

I tell you what…Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure written about in a history book that lies dusty on a shelf somewhere. God was in LOVE with ALL of us and came here to show us how to love well, which included loving everyone, even the crustiest among us. He ate dinner with those “society” called down and outers, but the thing is, they looked a lot like me, and you, and that guy, and that lady over there. Each of us has a story and we all have hard things. If we don’t start living empathy, choosing it, getting uncomfortable and walking through hard things with one another, then those of us who call ourselves “Christians” are using His name in vain. Jesus came doing the opposite of the way of the world…He came loving selflessly, He spit in dirt and made mud and smeared it on a guy’s eye to heal him, He told us if we wanted to find our lives, we needed to lose them…He didn’t just ask us to believe, He asked us to follow Him….

John 1:9-14 in the Message says this:

“The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
*But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.”

*my emphasis added

I’ve ever only wanted to be who God created me to be. The months of Noah’s life gave me a glimpse. The weeks leading up to my Mom’s death opened the door a lot wider. Shaving my head in solidarity for friends and anyone and everyone going through hard things, well, let’s just say, I’ve never felt more free to be my true self, my child-of-God self, my most imperfect, messed up, forgiven and loved-self. And, I’ve never felt so free or more full of God’s purpose and beauty.

All the time I’ve spent doing my hair as I’ve been growing it out to “feel” pretty and sexy and fancy, well, with 1/8″ hair, I’ll have a bit more time to live intentionally. And that’s what the shave is about for me…a reminder to live a life of empathy, because we are all here, living hard stories.

And if anything, I know I’ll get ready faster than you tomorrow morning 😉

(More on John in another post…)

Still Practicing His Presence: Advent

When my Mom died this past June, to say my world was rocked would be an understatement. I was flailing. My Mom and I used to talk on the phone AT LEAST once a day, if not more, and this just 6 miles apart across town. Sometimes my Mom made me crazy. I didn’t always understand her wisdom, discernment, and prophetic insight. I still don’t entirely, even looking back. My Mom had a very close knowing of her Lord, the way two best, heart-to-heart friends would sit…that’s how it was with my Mom and God. Why? She was liked and loved by everyone who knew her, so it would be safe to say God loved her, too, but that’s safe to say about all of us, so I’m not certain it’s a favorites thing.

I think they were close because she drew near to Him.

She knew better than to trust that just by simply reading the Bible, she’d “get to know Him,” though she read it over 30 times in her life. People read books about other people every single day…it doesn’t make them BFF’s.

No…she sat still. She listened, because He speaks. And I observed her doing this day after day and year after year. She also candidly let Him into the deepest parts of her heart and let loose all the good, bad, and ugly, willing to accept His ability to see and know all things. She never bought into the cushy American gospel with its frills and whistles, abundance and sought out manifestations. Even if surrounded by it. Even when it was preached from the pulpit. Even when she and my Dad were kicked out of their “church” because they wouldn’t financially invest in a Ponzi scheme...in the name of Jesus.

Nope. My Mom drew near to Him. She called Him and asked Him if He wanted to hang out…just as friends do…and, not a big surprise, there was always room for her.

She didn’t allow ever-changing circumstances to change the God of the Universe. The ebbs and flows of trends and mood swings and popular famous Christians throughout our American Christian journey did not sway my Mom into believing the God who made her and loved her was as fickle.

My sister gave me a FaceTime tour of our parent’s house the other day, how beautifully she had decorated it for Christmas. I cried as she narrowed in on some of my favorite ornaments from childhood, red velveteen birds with nests full of clustered eggs, clipped among the branches. The whole tree reminded me of my Mom…not really what a Christmas tree is supposed to conjure up if you think about “The Reason for the Season.” But I’m grateful it makes me think of my Mom because above all else and anyone else, she was in love with Jesus, her dearest, heart-to-heart friend…and it brings it all back around for me.

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in love...it is from the 1920's.

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in love…it is from the 1920’s.

You see, 8 years ago we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at Children’s Hospital of Denver with our son, Noah, and with family and friends who gathered…and I still look back on that year and think of those two holidays, plus my birthday, as among my favorites. It was when my heart died to the First World dream of a Christmas tree filled with toys made in China under more toys made in China, and it came alive to what ANYTHING, not just Christmas, but LIFE really means!

We can try as we will to draw parallels between the original Christmas story and our very abundant First World Christian lives, but I’m long over that. It’s not about trees or Santa or a church Christmas play or gifts or lights or choirs or gingerbread or candles or parades or wreathes or any other beautiful holiday season token…none of these bad in and of themselves.

Specifically, in my heart, anyway, these days of Advent leading up to the celebrated birth of Jesus long ago are about the question: Is there room? Is there room at the Inn? Is there room for God’s unconditional love in my life? Is there room at our tables and margin in our calendars? Is there space for others to feel welcomed and loved? Is there room for one more, or two, or three? Is there room for generosity and warmth and sharing and grace? Is there room on my shoulder? Is there room in my heart?

This Advent season, and every day, is there room…?