Saturday, December 31, 2011

Days gone by

So, I don't have a specific list of things to reflect on, necessarily. 2011 was more like this:

House on the market. House sold. We moved. The end.

Wasn't that enough in itself for the year?

But there was so much in the every day, so much in the posts, in the prayer, in the pictures ... checked out this reflection of a year--20 questions for asking yourself--and I was surprised, and not surprised, at some of my answers.

Some status writers on Facebook are eager to say goodbye to 2011. But one friend's response resonated with me--that even the bad was something to cherish and not wish away--especially if it provided opportunity to grow. I couldn't agree more. I find myself thankful.

I haven't stopped counting thanks, but they haven't appeared on Mondays like they used to. I give credit to that mystery woman at church a few weeks back. At the computer prepping the list of thanks for that week, I stopped short, remembering my conversation with her. My thanks paused here:

2571. thankful for my broken heart

I think sometimes when it's all good, it's good enough. But brokenness triggers a searching, a yearning, a grasp for hope. Brokenness spurs change, passion, determination, faith. Broken places heal stronger, make us stronger, and position us to be compassionate to others in a way that might not happen at all in the granted of the all good.


Worship was intensified in the brokenness. And in that trail of thanks, over 2,500 steps long, I know I wouldn't have been able to declare 2571 a moment earlier. Now the visuals and the every little thing that pixelates this life, they just flow unnumbered, but not uncounted. I might pick it back up in lists again. But sitting quietly with 2571 this evening. (Oh, and Shane too.)

I don't suppose God sees it as coincidence that the song that ignited a word for me nearly a year ago, would be the last song I sang tonight at church. Heh, or maybe he does. But I don't.

Looking forward to a new year. Looking forward to our continued progress of making this home ours. Looking forward to a fourth year on 66Books. And a focus for 2012: Joy.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Ready for joy.

Happy new year!

More than infinity

Cuddling with Erin. Hugs and kisses. Love looks between us.

"I love you more than you love me," she said.

"No, I love you more. Way more than you love me," I countered.

"No, I love you way, way, way more," she said.

"Well, I love you infinity," I said.

She looked at me, hesitated, said,

"I love you more."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A little like slow motion

Like running for the long jump. Feet pounding, thump, thump, thump. And then the spring: legs stretching, arms reaching, face grimaced. That's what 2011 felt like to me. Parts of it. Viewed in hindsight, slow motion. And the cry out, kind of a growl, like tearing off a band-aid stuck on too tight. Ly. Tightly. Waiting for my feet to touch ground ...

... thinking of the chance meeting with a woman at church a couple of weeks ago. She told me things. My response to her like it was meant for my ears ... only God knows your heart. Thoughts lately of that ... quiets me.

... the ending of a year that started in one house and finishes in another. I'm sitting in our school room tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard looking around me. Hearing the hum of the heater. Woolly socks on my feet. Christmas wreaths still on doorways. I am frequently amazed we're here. Frequently amazed. We are here.

... thoughts on a word of the year. Reviewing posts of 2011, a playlist sounds. Worship. What a year. What a year.

... prepping a reading plan for 2012; a new team of writers and some returning. I'm on Thursdays starting next week. Entering a fourth year. And, for me, a new focus point:

Joy.

I sat and colored with the kids yesterday. And Denise. All of us doing our own thing. In big, bold, block letters I spelled out J O Y in red on orange paper so it filled the page. Outlined it several times. I looked up and noticed Denise and Lanie also writing out J O Y like a banner across their pages.

"I like that word," Denise said.

"Once you start to focus on it, you'll see it everywhere," I told her. Which we did throughout our errands that afternoon. (I made sure to point it out.) We shared smiles. And I felt grateful to count her as a friend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry indeed

When I was little, we'd stay in our rooms until we heard music playing on Christmas morning. Then we'd come down to open presents and have breakfast, usually cinnamon rolls. In our other house, I couldn't carry on that tradition because of the open floor plan. One step out of a bedroom gave full view to the family room below. But this house is different. And each room has a speaker.

Lanie and Erin were eagerly standing at our bedside Christmas morning with merry wishes on their lips and big smiles. "Go turn on the music!" Lanie said. So I went downstairs and plugged in the lights on the tree, turned on the coffee, preheated the oven and turned on the music. Our first Christmas here. And while Thanksgiving wasn't the warm-fuzzy experience I'd hoped it would be, Christmas was.

The coffee was good. The cinnamon rolls were hot. A sausage and egg breakfast bake followed with fresh berries. Lanie called it pajama day. And I said to Shane, "Part of me feels like having a fire in the fireplace."

"Which part of you would that be?" he joked.

"The cold part," I said.

Erin dressed up for church

Christmas Eve at bedtime

The after hours

Christmas blur

Bed heads

Giggles

"My house is warm, my friendship is free." Thank you, Anita, for making my walls and my life so beautiful.

Cinnamon rolls

Window clings

Mini mugs for hot chocolate

Cookies gifted and gratefully received
 Thinking of loved ones lost ... or left ... or far away ... and missing them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmastime

Shane said it doesn't feel like Christmastime to him. But it does to me. Tree up, lights glowing. Advent lollipop trees, garland on the mantel, wreaths on doorways, candle tarts warmed, cinnamon pine cones, cookies and music.

Enjoying Christmastime by Michael W. Smith this year. By far, my now favorite is Carol of the Bells by Barlow Girl.

My dad's girlfriend told me when she was a girl, her relatives would spend Christmas together, getting a tree on Christmas Eve, propping it in a sand pail undecorated. She said when all the kids and cousins woke up Christmas morning, the tree was fully decorated and lit up, presents underneath and stockings full. She said it was magical. It sounded that way. I can only imagine the party it must have been for the grown-ups pulling an all-nighter (how fun!). I bet the coffee tasted good that morning.

My girls already requesting the color wrapping paper for their gifts. When Erin was much smaller, we color-coded packages so the kids could spot their gifts if they couldn't read their names. Funny this has stuck with them as being part of Christmas in our house. I was about to abandon the idea, since Erin can spell and read her name. But it looks like a tradition is born of anticipation.


Revisited a former tradition by bringing back the cookie swap. We skipped last year's since our house was on the market, but it felt good to be back in the kitchen baking, and sitting with friends for an afternoon. Shane was going to take the girls to the movies, but Erin decided to stay home in her tutu. I loved having her here, and we sang songs and prepped until the friends arrived.

The day went fast, the hellos and hugs too brief, a lot like the season. I sat down at the end of the day, covered in a baby blanket, drinking the last of the salted caramel hot chocolate. And whether it felt like Christmas or not, I was glad it felt like home.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wonderland

chocolate dipped marshmallow with Christmas sprinkles. Cute and easy.

cheese plate in shape of Christmas tree

pretty meringues (store bought)

craft activities

heart shaped cheese on snowflake Ritz crackers. E. Z.

the cake from a local bakery

birthday song

Erin with my dad

filling goodie bags (snowman Peeps!)

used first for musical chairs (snowflakes), reused for glitter craft

snowflake glitter ornaments, crafts, and winterscape color pages

peppermint kiss cookies and white fudge Oreos with snowflakes piped on

Fun day.

Lucked out with all the fabulous ideas others have scouted out on the internet and shared through Pinterest. Got the tree cheese tray, Oreo snowflake, peppermint cookie, the dipped marshmallows (and the Christmas ornament garland) all from there.When I thought I'd never actually do one of the hundred images/links I'd saved, I did five in two days.

Had a happy celebration with Erin, who chose to wear her little black dress to her party. Easy theme, easy prep, made it easy to relax and be hands-on with the party instead of working behind the scenes. Of course, it helps having a room full of awesome friends and relatives who jumped in to slice up, dish out, photograph, etc.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Decking the halls

Shane gave me such a great compliment once. That he could walk into the kitchen of total chaos ten minutes before guests would arrive, then turn his back and it was magically transformed and ready for company. He said it always surprised him I could pull it together so fast.

Until this year. Big fail at Thankgiving. Family showing up 40 minutes ahead of schedule, me still in pajamas, the kitchen all chaos and I hadn't even started the mashed potatoes. Not my best moment. Or the ones that followed.

With Erin's birthday party tomorrow, I got a head start on it yesterday. We've always done a casual playdate party, but this year, I thought I'd spruce it up for her. I even decorated.










Whether or not I can pull it off and be out of pajamas before her friends arrive remains to be seen. But I'm hopeful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do'in it Friday

By the second cup of coffee, I was reviewing my things to do. Mental list of this and that. Thought to myself, "I'll do it Friday."

Then I realized ... it is Friday.

Getting ready for a winter wonderland tea party for Erin, who turns five on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate frosted with Christmas sprinkles

Rainy day. Drive downtown. Rushing kids out the door. Sandwiches in bags in hands out the door. Navigating streets of memory. Slightly stressed. Parking garage. Erin doesn't want to walk down the steps. Rainy streets. To the symphony hall. Get tickets at will-call. Find seats. Up one. Up two. To the third (after one relocation). The very.last.row.

Oh.

Frowny girls. Grumpy voices. Squirmers till show starts.

Erin sits on my lap the whole time. I didn't mind. Half way through whispers, "I'm tired. Can we go yet?"

"We're almost there," I said.

Lanie needs a potty break.

"But we just had one. It's almost done. A few minutes?"

She coughs. And coughs. And coughs. Lights rise. We're out. Potty break. To the rainy streets. Up the garage stairwell. Out into afternoon traffic. Through the city. On the highway. On the expressway. One falls asleep. I had promised a treat. Dunkin' Donuts ahead. Two kids out of the car. In the rain. In line.

"One red icing with sprinkles," I said. "And one chocolate frosted with the Christmas sprinkles, please."

Pay. Out the door. In the car.

"Who might let Mommy have a tiny bite of their donut," I asked.

"You take big bites!" Erin protested.

"You can take a bite of mine, Mommy," Lanie offered.

Donuts handed out, and I stopped.

There was an extra chocolate covered donut with Christmas sprinkles. I smiled. Thankful.

Brighter days

It was a weekend in July. Shane brought home the box truck the real estate agent let us use, so we could load up the kids' play set and take it to our next house. Amazingly, it fit.

Shane got the truck situated so all I had to do was put it in drive and go.

"I set the radio to your favorite station," he said. Because that's the kind of guy he is.

It's been awhile since I heard the song "Move" by Mercy Me. It played today while the girls and I were on a rainy commute to a holiday symphony performance downtown. I remembered the heat of July and the heartache of all that, how that song had played as I started up the truck and pulled out of the neighborhood, the opening of a new chapter. I remembered being thankful that day for a hope-full song and a catchy beat. I sang and I laughed at the sometimes-soundtrack life offers up. So fitting on many levels.

I’m not about to give up
Because I’ve heard You say
There's gonna be brighter days
There's gonna be brighter days
I won’t stop I’ll keep my head up
No I’m not here to stay
There’s gonna be brighter days
There's gonna be brighter days

I just might bend but I won’t break
As long as I can see Your face

When life won’t play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can’t seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won’t let it drag me down
Oh I’ll keep dancing anyway
Gonna move move
Gonna move move

I’ve got to hold it steady
Keep my head in the game
Everything is about to change
Everything is about to change
This hurt is getting heavy
But I’m not about to cave
Everything is about to change
There’s gonna be brighter days

I just might bend but I won’t break
As long as I can see Your face

When life won’t play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can’t seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won’t let it drag me down
Oh I’ll keep dancing anyway
Gonna move

No matter what may come
Gonna move to a different drum
No matter what life brings
Gotta move to a different beat

Monday, December 5, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2562-2570)

  • writers at 66 Books who've contributed through years
  • new writers up for the possibility of 2012
  • a new reading plan selected for next year, if it's a go
  • the change in me since I've been a part of it
  • the difference here makes, I can't say it enough. 
  • opportunities to connect with others
  • new friendships made
  • seeing family friends so frequently because we're "just around the corner"
  • how she joins us on Fridays for dinner, and we are closer for it

Make no mistake--when I count these gifts and give thanks, it's only to God. Because while I'm thankful for the Big Gifts (salvation, forgiveness, hope), I am thankful for the endless little gifts. Abundant life ... I wonder if it's in the awareness of and abiding in his presence--that I can be thankful for coffee deliveries before a holiday weekend, for kids who embrace and love me, for picture-window sunset views to replace the sunrises, a captain's bell under vine, the company of friends around a table, the silky sweetness of chocolate. It's no generic thing--my thanks is intended for a father who gives good gifts. I'm eternally grateful.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gold

The whole house has been under infection of some sort. I think I started the ball rolling with the fever/sinus infection combo, followed by Erin with skyrocketing fever. Then Shane to cough and losing his voice. Lanie boasted immunity and then fell victim to fever and cough. Erin's been the longest though, with a cough that won't let go and taunts her at night. For the past three nights, we've let her sleep in our bed.

Coughing fit tonight called me to comfort her as she fell asleep. I lied next to her and held her close, savoring these last days of four. She turns to face me.

"You're my Christmas present," she said. That love. I know it. How she tries to explain it so I'll understand.

"While you were out today, I found a rock," she told me. This important news before she fell asleep. "It looked like gold!" We smiled.

Four years old, my rock hunter, still. Excitement of golden rocks. And joy at love like an anticipated gift on Christmas morning.

I write this down so I won't forget.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eye of the beholder

David's been over the past few days supervising brush clearing in the jungle. We walked around looking at trees and he made comments about them--some being ugly, haunting, not graceful. To my interest, I had never considered the trees that way--I rather liked some for their imperfection and quirks (and the haunting, spooky ones were my personal favorites). I suppose that's the melancholic in me.

In today's reading, the heart and the beholder.


When an enemy would flame with words, criticism, condemnation–the Lord corrects in love, stands with me in my retching admission, forgives.

Writing today at 66 Books