peace

Let me just preface this blog post with the caveat that this is more of a “stream of thought” post. So, you know, definitely more messy than usual.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”

It is the season of reflection and promise and hope. But mingled in with all if that? A sense, for me at least, that the holidays are no longer mine.

Of course part of this feeling is because I am a parent and an adult. I have seen the metaphorical backlot of Disneyland and the wonder and amazement has been replaced by the reality of seeing a headless Goofy smoking a cig and hitting on Ariel.

Such is life.

The other part is that I am more and more aware of the audacity of what this season represents. Peace? In this life? Right.

Watching world events unfold only reinforces this feeling of futility. The war, the hunger and the brutality facing others makes my heart scoff at the notion of peace.

In my own life, I sense that there will never be a season of “smooth sailing” that won’t just be “relatively smooth” when compared to other seasons. There will ALWAYS. Be. Something. As a wise woman once said to me at a women’s retreat, “every woman you know is either going into a crisis, in a crisis or coming out of a crisis.”

I find myself mentally investigating this unfulfilled expectation of peace: I hold it in my hand, turning it over and raising it to the light to see it as clearly as possible.

Is there a solution to this feeling of unrest in my spirit? I think often of the environmental changes I could make – quit my job, change careers, move, have more kids, volunteer less, volunteer more and so on.

And always I wind up at the point that my circumstances are less the culprit of dissatisfaction and that the true cause is my spirit.

Certainly, a chunk of this unrest might be inherent in the motherhood conundrum: am I doing the right thing?

But honestly, and after much inspection and reflection, the problem is with me.

A few years ago, God spoke to me through a pastor at church who explained that peace, or shalom, did not mean absence of conflict as much as it meant wholeness in/with God.

This was as remarkable of a concept then as it is now. And also? A terribly inconvenient concept. It is much easier if Jesus is the prince of peace when peace means absence of conflict. In the no-conflict scenario, I am bolstered when I then pray for peace during difficult times. “Please make life easy!”

With the idea that peace is wholeness in and with God, I am faced with the reality that life is not easy nor comfortable, and it is not God’s responsibility to make it so. If that isn’t a total bummer in this age of comfort, I don’t know what is.

But, I know that wholeness in spirit is far more attainable in this life than my previous notion of peace. My pursuit of old peace only led to more dissatisfaction and cynicism.

I heard about the shalom explanation of peace years ago and forgot it. Tonight God reminded me of it while I was having my nightly mental conversation about the day’s happenings and internally lamenting “there will always be some sort of conflict!” In the midst of that reflection, I was reminded of shalom. And I was also reminded of God’s gentle and sweet lessons that he lovingly repeats as often as I needed.

Well played God, well played.

I don’t have a nice, neat way to tie this all up. I know it’s christmastime, the perfect season to both be reminded of expectations unfulfilled while simultaneously projecting the perfect Christmas card image. I know it’s hard to imagine any sort of peace amidst the hurried Holiday season.

I don’t even know how this peace revelation will all play out in my life. Knowing me, and my stubborn (persistent) nature, I’m likely to be back in this same mental spot in 30 days.

But maybe not.

It seems to me that living in peace, or wholeness with God, means living as He said: loving God, loving others and serving the world.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step i take, Let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally! Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!” – Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller

every good & perfect gift…

is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. ~ James 1:17

Today was a day that reminded me that God is always good.  Not just good in the ways that I want Him to be (read: convenient for my comfort), but good in the way that I need Him to be.

on being forgetful

I was reading Psalm 59 and verses 10-11 stood out to me.  They said,

God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
But do not kill them, Lord our shield, or my people will forget.

And so I ran a quick search through all of the scripture, looking for passages that talked about forgetting, and it’s amazing how frequently the topic comes up.  It comes up in the context of forgetting our youth, forgetting our shame (more new testament than old, it seems), NOT forgetting our God and forgetting our way.

With so many passages admonishing us not to forget our God and the works He has done, it reminds me that we are a forgetful people.  That I am a forgetful person.

In a few months it will be spring.  A few months after that, it will be summer.  I know that most days I will drive to work, taking in the green grass, blooming flowers and green-budded trees and I will forget the waist-high snow drifts and bottle-necked roads.  And that is just the weather.

We are about to have our world rocked next month with the birth of our twins.  And I have a feeling it will become easy to get caught up in just getting through each day.  I hope that we will not forget the work that God has started in us.

refocused

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  ~Micah 6:8

I was having a rough day emotionally.  Really, a rough week.  I’ve been over-tired and that makes the days long.  Being tired distorts the lens through which I look at life.  Little things seem big and big things seem gigantic.

Tonight I was letting myself just get worked up.  I can’t even say what I was worked up about because it’s sooo inconsequential to anything.  And I decided to go on BibleGateway.net to see what the verse of the day was and it was the verse I posted above.

It was like drinking cool water on a hot summer day.

Sometimes I over-think things (this is not shocking news to people who know me) and I find myself worrying about things that I should not worry about.  Telling me “don’t worry” is seldom effective in turning my attention from my generally inane worries.

Saying “don’t worry” makes me try to find ways to justify my concerns.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, put the verse from Micah in front of me tonight just when I needed it.  The verse does not say, “The Lord requires you to be awesome all the time, to never make mistakes, and to win popularity contests.”  What the verse does say provides a lot of freedom.  God has shown me what is good:

Act Justly.

Love Mercy.

To Walk Humbly with our God.

In the simplicity of the words, there is so much beauty.  God does not explicitly list of rules and regulations, but He gives us wisdom.  Am I seeking justice?  Am I being merciful?  Is (whatever behavior) allowing me to walk with Jesus?  And the thing is, more often than not, if I am being honest with myself, I know when my actions are good – and when they fall short.

If you read the rest of Micah 6, he spends a lot of time reminding the readers of all the things God has already done for them.  How easily I forget all that God has done!  Writing down 100 joys over the holidays was a great reminder of the abundance of blessings God has put in our lives – big and little.

And so I think about what was troubling me before, and I know that it was just a distraction.

 

100 joys (91-100)

In a change from how I’ve been documenting my daily joys, I’m switching gears and am going to cover the top 10 joys of 2010 (in no particular order) to round out the list, and the year.

joy #91

Last January, Frank and I were ecstatic to learn that we were expecting a baby in September 2010.  We were filled with wonder, hope and joy at the thought of finally being blessed with a baby.  While Lily’s life ended at 9 1/2 weeks, I still look back at the time we were pregnant with her as such a treasure and a joy.

joy #92

This summer we hosted a party and loved gathering our friends around for cocktails and desserts.  We really enjoy entertaining and it was a highlight of the summer for us!

 

joy #93

This was Frank’s crashpad in Atlanta.  Why is that in the past-tense?  Because, blissfully, Frank is no longer based in Atlanta.  He no longer has to commute Chicago to Atlanta!  His commute is an easy 90 minute drive to a nearby airport.  Oh, what a joy to see my husband more than six full days a month!!

 

joy #94

Our Church family.  We continue to look for ways to be more plugged into our Church and we are excited about the future at our church.  As always, a particular joy for us was attending our church’s Christmas service this year.  We were so blessed that our friends Rose and Al came along for the ride!

 

joy #95

Our Friend family.  Many of our friends have made up my 100 joy list, but there are so many that I didn’t include that are also joys and delights!

 

joy #96

Our family-family.  Everyone, at the time of this writing, is healthy and happy and safe.  It has been more than three years since my dad had his stroke and he is approved for driving, bike riding and general getting-into-troubleness.  All of our parents are up to their usual antics and getting excited to welcome the twins into the family.  My sibs are up to their usual antics, as are Frank’s sibs.  It was such a joy to spend time with our families this year and we are looking forward to more time together next year.  Not only is it a great joy, but a huge blessing.

 

joys #97 & 98

When we had a positive pregnancy test for the second time this year, we were ecstatic and when we found out we were having twins, we were over the moon!  This pregnancy, and everything about it (nausea, food aversions, heart burn, back pain – you name it!) has been a joy.  We are hopeful that our babies will stay put until late March 2011 and we plan to enjoy the next 88 days as we prepare to welcome them into the world.

 

joy #99

Aw, c’mon, y’all knew that Frank would be one of my top 10 joys, right?  Stop gagging for a minute and bear with me.  For as much as we’ve been through together – infertility treatments, family health issues, job changes, etc, being with Frank has made all of it a joy.  He is my absolute best friend and most favorite person.  While I treasure all of the stuff he does for me, I am most blessed by just spending time with him.  He is just a fantastic person.

 

joy #100

Jesus.

This year there were many times when I wondered, “WHY do I have to go through this?  WHAT am I supposed to learn?”

There was a song we sang at church where the refrain was “God is good all the time.”  It’s so easy to believe that God is good when things are easy.  It’s so easy to believe that God is loving when things are going your way.  But a lot of times, life doesn’t go my way.  This year, we experienced a lot of heartache, too.  There were times when my heart was just broken.  I would look at the mess I was in emotionally and wonder, “How am I going to piece this disaster back together??”  And sometimes it seemed like there was no winning.  But God has consistently shown Frank and I over the course of our lives that He is always good, sometimes especially when we don’t get what we want.  Frank and I can both cite example after example of God blessing us by closing doors that we desperately wished were open.

God’s love and patience with us as we struggled at times this year was almost palpable this year.  Without these struggles, we wouldn’t have stopped to pay attention to what God was doing.  We would have happily continued onward – and I am not sure that would’ve been the best course of action for us.

So my hope for the new year, and for you all, is that when we encounter new struggles and when hope seems lost, that we would remember that we have a loving Father in Heaven that only gives us good gifts.  And like all parents, sometimes the things that are good for children (vegetables, for one…) are not always what we want.

100 joys (37-46)

I have lots of joys to share from this weekend, so without any further ado (and in no particular order):

joy #37:

Tea!  I went with my sisters-in-law, mother-in-law and niece to a wonderful tea at the Drake.  It was really a lot of fun!  I always enjoy going to tea there and it is such a treat.

joy #38:

Before anyone gets worried that I’m outside ice skating in my “condition”, I would like to first say, I am NOT ice-skating.  However, work hosted a free ice-skating event this weekend and it went great!  It was a lot of fun to see all the kids out ice-skating and throwing their bodies around the ice like weapons.  So many kids went down HARD on the ice, but after looking around with dazed looks on their faces, most of them got back up and kept skating.

joys #39-44:

Some of my favorite joys stopped by the ice-skating event to say hello. Since I don’t want to short-change anyone, I figured I’d make them all joys.  Here they are (in no particular order, lest I hear about it later):

Joy 39: Sarah – my baby sister – is always a little bundle of joy.  She’s the smallest of us kids, but she makes up for it in the amount of energy and noise she can generate.  She’s a doll!

Joy 40: My cousin Meghan is a genius.  No, seriously, she is.  Sometimes I think I can get a contact-smart off of her if I sit by her long enough.  She scored a perfect on her ACT in 2nd grade.  Ok, maybe it was 3rd grade.  Whatevs.  Meghan rocks and she flew in from DC to be here.  For Christmas.  It just worked out that she also came to the ice-skating event.

Joy 41: My amazing sister Caitlin.  She rocks.  She’s taller than me, which makes me happy.  She’s also the only one of my family members who will read this and think, “Really?  Why THIS picture of me??”  Hey, it’s my joys.  This picture is from our awesome vacation to Marco Island in 2009.  Happy times, indeed!  She came out to our ice-skating adventure as well because she’s fabulous.

Joys 42 & 43: Frank (the taller fella and my dear husband) and Andy (the smaller fella and my brother).  I picked this picture from our wedding because, well, I can.  So there.  Frank and Andy are really long lost brothers.  Both of them have had to deal with two older sisters growing up (although Andy had the added bonus of a younger sister, too).  Both of them are easy-going, smart, funny and charming gentlemen.  They both made the trip out to the ice-skating event and, as usual, made me smile.  Way to go, guys!

Joy 44: My cousin Dave.  Also a genius (like his previously-mentioned sister Meghan), Dave is studying to be a lawyer.  Dave made the trip out to see our fun winter festivities.  Dave is awesome.  Dave, thanks for being awesome.  Oh, and Dave?  We need to work on a few legal matters.  You give a hefty discount for family, right??

joy #45:


I’m not entirely sure what is going on in my uterus, but whatever it is, it sure involves a lot of kicking, punching and flopping – and I love it!  It’s great to feel the babies moving around.  I can actually see them moving, too.  This morning while I was still sleeping, Frank put his hand on my belly and Baby B was kicking him.  Such a sweet joy!

joy #46:

It’s official – we have fewer than 100 days until we meet our babies!  Tomorrow (12/20/10), the babies will be 24 weeks along and will be considered “viable” with a 90% survival rate (with medical intervention, of course).  Hurrah!  Way to go, babies!  Praise God!

100 joys (8-12)

Continuing with what I started yesterday, here are a few of my joys today:

Joy #8

People who smile.  Not just smile on their face, but smile with their attitude.  It’s so hard to find people like that!  Today I  ran across a few well timed genuinely smiling people and it made all of the difference.

 

Joy #9


I made spicy pulled pork today for my coworkers as a holiday treat today.  Ahh… joy.  Isn’t food wonderful?

 

Joy #10

This guy!  He is SUCH a joy!  He was gone last night and came home today and just seeing him when I walked in the door made my whole day all better!  (that’s Frank, by the way – he’s doing something very serious… I like when he’s doing serious things because then I can distract him… he loves when I distract him while he’s intently working on something… )

 

Joy #11

Yeah, yeah – I know.  I’m a consultant.  I’m supposed to love this stuff.  But I have to say, about three years ago I dreaded the winter because I had dry patches of skin along my nose, my eyebrows and the side of my face.  I washed my face, I tried to moisturize, but to no avail.  I switched to Mary Kay and I haven’t had this problem since!  I love that I don’t worry about my face any more – it gives me lots more time to worry about other things… ahhh… joy!

 

Joy #12

This is our theme for our nursery – lambs! (disregard the already embroidered name on the quilt – it’s not even close to any of the baby names we’re considering)  It makes me smile because lambs are such sweet looking animals and totally gender neutral.  Although, I’m sure I’ll find out that lambs are really very unfriendly beasts that attack small domesticated animals.  But whatever.  They make me happy and bring me joy.  Yay for lambs!