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Baking Christmas Gifts-the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Do the holidays cause you to reminisce?  My thoughts are traveling back to Christmases past.

  • Cutting a real Christmas tree and my sister, Missy, and I trying to get it in the stand.
  • Wrapping presents with the comics from newspapers.
  • Finding oranges, apples and nuts in our stockings (along with a book of Lifesavers, and chocolate covered cherries.)
  • The anticipation I felt waiting on Christmas Eve for Santa to come.
  • Cooking Christmas treats to share with friends.

Cooking strawberry bread was one of my favorites.  One of the recipes we used required you to cook the bread in metal coffee cans. (I wonder if that was a cooking phase, and if any of you tried that recipe years ago.)

As I was thinking about this bread today I began to think about the opportunities that came with it.  This was a family cooking project.  We came together in the kitchen to cook.  We talked about who we would like to bless with our cooked bread.  Those were good conversations.

Creating a space for children to learn about giving is a rich opportunity.  When Mom allowed me input it helped me to become more invested in the giving.  I wanted to see the reaction on peoples’ faces when they received the gift we made with so much tender loving care.

Mom has had my children out to help her, even when they were young, as she made gifts for the postman and the garbage collector.  What an awesome lesson to teach children to see our community helpers and thank them for what they do to help.

But these goodies can become even more than a thank you.  As I am writing I am realizing there is a dear friend who is in her 90’s.  We could take bread to this year.  She would probably like the bread, but she would LOVE the visit from our children.  We could take tea and cut her some bread while we visit.  To know she had been thought of, planned for and cared about could be one of her favorite gifts this season.  All we need is a loaf of bread and a little time.

There is a friend who has little several little children .  It is harder for them to get out of the house right now.  We could go visit them and plan a little tea party for her little ones.  The recipe: a blanket, some apple cider and strawberry bread..

Maybe you do not have children who will be cooking with you this season…not a deal breaker.  Turn on your favorite Christmas songs and enjoy singing while you cook.  As you cook maybe your questions may be different.  Who would you like to sit with for a little while?  Maybe there is a lady you have admired from a distance but have not taken the time to engage.  This could be your opportunity.  Call her and ask her if she might like to visit…you’ll bring the bread.

You know Jesus called himself the “bread of life.” He said, “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” (John 6:35)

As you go, He goes with you.  He has always loved the one in front of Him so well.  He will help you to do the same.  Honestly, none of us need just another good thing to do.  This is an invitation to step out of the usual hustle and bustle.

Enjoy the opportunity to gather.

 

 

Lucy’s Strawberry Bread

3 cups of flour                                     1 cup of pecans (optional)

2 cups sugar                                         1 t. salt

1 small pkg. frozen strawberries      4 eggs beaten

3 t. cinnamon                                       1  1/4 cup oil

1 t. baking soda

 

Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Make a deep hole in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour the rest of the ingredient into the hole.  Stir carefully.  Only stir enough to dampen and mix the ingredients.  Pour into well greased bread pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. I used one large bread pan and one medium bread pan.

I test all my bread with a stick test with an Amish Broom Cake Tester before taking them out of the oven.  This often looks done on the top but the center may not be completely done. There is a wonderful invention that looks like a small handheld broom but it is only for cooking.  By breaking off piece and sticking it into the bread you can see if the bread if done on the inside.  A clean stick means the bread is ready.  If some dough comes out on the stick it need to cook some more.  This is probably one of my faves in the kitchen. If the top of your bread looks brown and the center needs more time you can loosely lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top until you are finished to keep the top from burning.

I saw a bread pan at William Sonoma the other day and am kicking myself for not grabbing it for this recipe.  It is absolutely beautiful and I think this bread would be beautiful in it.Nordic War Anniversary Loaf Pan If you wanted to bump it up even another notch you could sift powder sugar over the top of the loaf just before serving.

I would love to hear you feedback.  Post in the comments about how you like the bread. We would all love to hear your success in gathering stories.  When you share we all get the blessing of your ideas! It would be wonderful if your success lead to the success of another and another and another…

Gathering Around is participate in Walmart Associates Program and Williams-Sonoma affiliate program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feels by advertising and linking to Walmart .com and William-Sonoma.com.
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Making Room at the Table

What is the first picture that pops into your mind when you think about the word “table”?

Grandma’s table was formica rectangle with six metal chairs.  We traveled to Pennsylvania twice a year for Christmas and during summer.  Grandma and I would exchange snail mail and often would discuss the food she would have when we came.  We planned getting together when we weren’t together.  She shopped intentionally for me.  Her table was the gathering place.  Starting early in the morning over her cup of instant coffee (gasp) we would begin visiting.  The rest of the house would be quiet and she would make some toast.  (The smell of toast still brings tears to my eyes.) Others would eventually come, neighbors and family.  Shoes rarely touched the den carpet, but everyone came to the kitchen table. I knew I was special at that table.

The small round wooden table at the Aunt’s house also comes to mind.  Even as small as the table was, there was always room for one more.  They used Johnson’s Brothers coffee cups and saucers.   No matter when you popped in–and lots of people did all the time–they would say, “All we have is leftovers.” And out of the refrigerator would come a delicious fare suited more for a king than an average person.  Everyone felt special around that table.

Mom’s Queen Anne oval table was the most versatile table ever.  We moved it thousands of miles from one room to the next.  Because we loved to rearrange furniture we put it in every possible space we could think of.  When it came to eating, all were welcome.  Christmas breakfast was the most treasured of events.  In the early years grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to the feast.  The leaf was put in and the dining table expanded.  Card tables were set up to include more people.  Laughter and stories resounded and the smell of country ham filled the air.  No one was in a hurry.  We just visited.   We still have Christmas breakfast to this day. You can not help but feel special at such a wonderful event!

My Mother-in-love gathers a motley crew of us most Tuesday nights.  Pop built her a table that seats one billion people and she is never happier than when it is full of people.  We are on a group text that pops up on Tuesday mornings.  We wait to see it.  Everyone responds with a thumbs up or down if you and yours can come or can not.  Are we eating this week? Who can come? There are family members, a minister,  and college students on the list.  This week a neighbor/friend came who had never been before.  It is always a joyful time.  Who ever can come is always glad they did.  All feel special.

A tiny two seater table also comes to mind that belonged to an elderly woman I knew as a child.  She had me and her granddaughter to lunch one day.  I was very young and I can remember the lunch like it was yesterday.  The meal was simple–apples and cheese.  It was beautiful.  I cannot remember the plate but I still remember how she placed the food on it.  Maybe that food is all she had or maybe she bought it just for us.  That lunch was one of the best lunches I had ever had.  I felt so loved at that table that day.

Tables convey community. People invited to sit at your table feel special.

  • College students a long way from home often reminisce about how much they miss their tables at home and how much they love home cooked meals.
  • Elderly widows’ eyes feel with tears as they relish the sound of families and recall years past. (They also may enjoy their quiet homes a little bit more when it is time to go home.)
  • People who have never sat at a table (unfortunately there are many) soak in the tangible love like a dry sponge does water.

Here are some commonalities.  To have someone to eat takes a little bit of time and as least a small amount of preparation.  It does not have to be hard.

  • People can bless people and feed them-but in a lot of different ways.  It might be pizza from a box or a huge feast. The food is not always the blessing.
  • Wether you can cook or not does not matter in the least.
  • A space can be anything from the largest table to a blanket in the park…making a space for people is the goal. Consider another.
  • You could brew coffee or serve instant (Really? Did I say that?) But the truth is a glass of water will suffice.
  • Invitation=blessing.

Who could you make a place for this week?  The table and the food are truly irrelevant.  Make a space for people to be heard.  God could really use you to encourage them!  You could be a game changer just by making a space for another person!

 

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Dreading the Holidays? 5 Ideas to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright

The holidays are quickly approaching.  Some, like my children, are super excited.  Actually, many adults have already “decked their halls.”  Christmas cards are being made and wish lists have been started.

But maybe you are not excited.  In fact, you may even be dreading the holidays.  I do not know your story, but for whatever reason you are not looking forward to the upcoming festivities.  This post is for you.

This is not an all-inclusive list but a few ideas that may help your creative juices start flowing. You can be a powerful person this holiday to make it better than you ever anticipated.

If you have family that tend to be toxic this idea is for you…make other plans.  If every time you get together you and those around you get hurt and leave the holiday feeling more wounded than you came, be kind to yourself.  It is ok to give yourself permission to take a trip or have a staycation. There is no hard and fast law that says that we have to spend our holidays with our families EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  What would you like to do this holiday?

Maybe you are alone (or lonely) and you are trying to figure out what to do this year.  This list may help.

  1.  Plan an event.   Make it fun.
  • Host a christmas brunch where everyone brings a dish. You could have a single gift swap where you bring your favorite book and swap. If you don’t like hosting in your home borrow a room at church for the party.
  • Take a group caroling (it doesn’t matter if you can’t sing).
  • Game night! Cook some easy food like pizza and enjoy playing.  You could invite anybody to this.  Even if folks have other plans in the morning might love something fun and different to do on the night of Christmas.
  • Theme party.  Christmas in Hawaii and everyone come with food and dressed for the destination.  Maybe you choose a old holiday classic like Holiday Inn, White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street and plan around the movie.
  • Macy’s day parade party.  Invite everyone to don their favorite Christmas pjs or ugly Christmas sweaters and have your own voting to choose the best of the floats and musical acts.  Tally the results and announce the winners over brunch.
  • Gather a group to go to a midnight mass or a Christmas Eve service at a church and go out for a Christmas Eve dinner afterwards.

 

2.  Make the holiday about someone else.  

  • Ask your  pastor who needs encouragement over the holidays.  Who will not be spending the holiday with anyone else?
  • Serve a meal at the soup kitchen.
  • Take goodies to the nearest nursing home and just hug necks and say “Merry Christmas” to the residents. If you want company in your project you could contact your church (or the people who work in your office) via social media to invite others who might be interested as well.
  • Invite an elderly neighbor over for a quiet meal.  Do some investigating and find out what he or she really like to eat and pamper him/her.
  • Do some cooking (or creating) and go out to find people you can bless.  Just a Christmas Card with an encouraging word about the difference they are making  could change an entire day for a gas station attendant or waitress on Christmas Day. Think of yourself as Santa’s Elf.  Maybe you hand out candy canes or chocolate covered cherries.  Christmas devotional books are good too. The point is to bless people who may feel overlooked on such a special day.
  • Every single holiday meal we have someone (or several someones) who eat with us.  One of my sisters, Missy, has a neighbor we love.  She is expected every holiday.  When we are setting the table we always set her a place.  We have more fun stories about Mrs. Jackie and the joy she brings to the table!
  • Remember there are always some college students who live across the country or in another country who have no where to go for the holiday.  They would treasure a home cooked meal and a good conversation.  You can contact your local college and ask for the faculty who works with the foreign students to locate these students.

3.   Plan a personal retreat.  This requires thought and care.  To truly pamper yourself you have to think ahead and plan.  Since a lot of places are not open on Christmas you have to gather you special items ahead of time. Enjoy the entire process.  Who knows, you may love it so much you may plan more in the future.  You are worth it!

  • Identify what you love.
  • Splurge on yourself.  If you love gifts buy yourself a few things you would not normally get and have the store wrap them for you! Save the gifts for you special retreat. Spread them out over the day or treat yourself to them all at once.  It is your day and can be whatever you decide for it to be.
  • Give yourself permission to pamper you.
  • Do you like baths…get some new bubble bath.
  • If you love to read…get yourself a new book for the day.
  • So cooking is your thing…plan the recipes you would like to try the most and make food that you would love to eat. (If you have leftovers you might plan to bless someone with those or plan to enjoy each leftover morsel the next day.)
  • If you hate to cook then think ahead about food.  Are their restaurants open that you love.  Make an order ahead of time to make sure you can get your favorites.
  • Movie night.  Think of a movie you have been wanting to rent and get it.  Think of a movie you haven’t seen in years.  You may have to order it ahead of time.
  • Turn your favorite music on and sing at the top of your lungs.
  • Spend time reading the Christmas story and journaling about the parts that touch your heart.
  • Maybe you like to draw or color.  New supplies would be a fun present to open Christmas day.
  • Pull up a dance video and learn some new dance moves while nobody is watching.
  • Wear you pjs all day if you want to.

4.   Shake it up a bit.  Maybe this particular year is hard.  The first year after one of my sister’s divorce she and her daughter started a new tradition.  They began going to our parents’ house on Christmas Eve and spent the night.  They all did Christmas morning together with our folks.  She knew that would be hard for her to stay at home that morning so she planned ahead and created a new tradition.

  • Be honest with yourself and decide what would help you to help yourself.
  • Maybe you have always done breakfast, but you hate mornings.   How about planning ahead and allowing some input to try a new midday get together.
  • Maybe you are have a large family and traveling is hard.  Stay at home. You could invite others to come to you.
  • Or maybe you have never traveled and this is your year to make a change and hit the road.

5.   Ask to be included.  Now this is risky…you have to be careful who you ask.  You are not close enough with all people to ask to jump in on their holiday festivities.  However, close friends would not mind having you join their Christmas meal!

Possibly you somebody who misses having your home full at the holidays and you might want to invite a young family with no in laws over for a meal.  You might never know what a blessing that invitation might be to them as well as you.

 

This is the time to choose now how you can have the best holiday possible.  Please do not hear me negating any pain you might be having.  Pain is real and it hurts.  The challenge here to be powerful in spite of the pain.  Plan ahead and give yourself somethings to look forward to could be empowering and encouraging.

I would love to hear about your plans in the comments below.  Your ideas may spur on others with your thoughts.  I am praying that you would have the best of holidays!

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Letting Go of the Security Blanket

What have been some of your turning points? When did you experience a moment and you knew life was changing?  Even in the very middle of these events you recognize the significance.

We have had one of these turning points this week.  The end of an era is upon us.  Our baby girl is growing up.  We knew it was bound to happen it just seemed like a giant step toward “grown-up.”

Elizabeth Jane just announced to me that she had really gotten too old for her blanket.

For a few years I have been expecting this time to come.  Honestly, as of late, I had started to think she may not ever want to get rid of it.  Every time I would wash it I would think that soft pink blanket would come out of the machine in pieces.

Mary Taylor was 10 when Elizabeth Jane was born.  I made the blanket for Mary Taylor and she kept it on the foot of her bed.  Mary Taylor wanted the new baby to have her blanket.  There is really no telling how much time Elizabeth Jane has spent with the blanket.  As a baby we swaddled her in it.  As a toddler she drug it a thousand miles.  It was a bit like a princess with a long, soft, pink train flowing behind her everywhere she went. The last few years it has lived in her bed or with her as she was waking up.

Every single night she has slept with that blanket.

When she announced to me the time had come her mind was completely made up.  Some dear friends just had a baby girl and I wondered if she was thinking about giving it to their baby.  She was not even considering it.

She said, “Mom, I have really gotten too old for the blanket.  I want you to take it and put it up in my baby box in your closet.”

End of subject.  No tears.  Not one more thought.

So I washed it for the last time and placed it on top of our dresser.  Isn’t that funny.  I did not want to put it up in the closet just yet.  Just a few more looks.  I may rub it myself a few more times.  It is a little hard to type with these tears in my eyes.

At the very same time that I am sad, I am also really impressed with this sassy young lady.  Elizabeth Jane had thought this through.  She realized she was growing up and  was OK with it.

She is truly brave.

I wonder about the areas I need to be brave like she is.  Are there places in my life were I have held on to something that I really need to let go of?

What am I finding my security in (short of the Lord)?

  • a full or moderately full bank account
  • a great doctor’s appointment
  • knowing the cabinet is full of groceries (or stockpiles)
  • being a certain weight on the scale
  • having the “right” people around or on my friend list
  • a big pretty house

This list could go on and on.  One person’s security may be totally different than another person’s.  What pushes my insecurity button may not be an issue for you at all.

Do not misunderstand.  It is not that these things are inherently bad.  In fact they can all be good things.  Caring about finances is wise.  Feeding our families is important.  Taking care of our health is smart.  Having friends and a home are precious.  It is when these things become our personal “security blanket” that we have to check our hearts.

Maybe like Elizabeth Jane, it is time to take a long honest look.  She knew she did not need that blanket anymore.  She knew there really was not security there.

So I am going to hug the blanket close, and put it in closet in the baby box.  While I am there (it is one of the few quiet places around here) I am going to take a honest look at what I find security in.  I am hoping that I find that I place my security in God, who truly is our only source of real security.

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How to Live From A Healthier Perspective

Have you ever been truly moved by a song?  Great song writers who pen stories of real life are my very favorite. Ben Rector is one of those men.  His song “30,000 Feet” touches my heart deeply. The character of the song has been in and out of cities singing and performing to the point that they “all just seem the same”.  That is until one night he meets an older man on a plane.  He and this man exchange stories and it’s a bit surprising to find how similar their stories are.  The chorus reveals these similarities when both men find themselves saying almost the very same things about their lives.

 

     “I have been better and I have been worse.
I have loved a pretty girl.
I’ve seen a couple places that I’d never thought I’d see
I’ve walked into harder times.
I’ve walked out the other side.
It seems like you end up getting what you need.
Looking down from 30,000 feet
Life’s been good to me.”

 

When I first heard this song I just cried and cried, because it is so true.  As Ben sang his song it was as if flashes of life went through my mind.

  • The good and the bad.
  • My Love that I treasure.
  • The places that we have seen that we NEVER would have thought we would see.
  • The many ways that I have gotten what I need.

To be truly honest some of the places we have been were amazing and some of those places stunk.  But each one of them yielded amazing fruit.

We just do not want to stay in the past.  When we live our lives looking backward it is hard to walk forward well.

The bottom line is that God has been so good to us.  We really do “always end up getting what we need.”  At some point I am anticipating living a life where I expect to get what I need instead of stressing that I might not.

I can hear some of you saying right now, “But Betsy, look at this time in my life…I did not get what I needed.”  Really?  If you needed it and you did not get it would you be here today?

There is another part of the song that I love as well. It reminds me that the perspective we have in this life is very important!

“Sometimes we can get lost
Living in the here and now.
Sometimes it take the skies
To see what’s on the ground.”

When we are in the hard places and life is overwhelming, we need a higher perspective.  We need the Lord to help us get above what we are seeing to be able to see a bigger picture.

So in the midst of the hard times of life we can recall where we have come from as well as Whose we are.  We have all come through places “we never thought we would see.”  Already we have seen Him bring us through many challenging places. He is faithful. Our good Dad desires for us to come to Him.  We can lean into Him and get His perspective at anytime…day or night.

Encouraging each other is a great way to get a fresh perspective.  Yesterday I got to sit with a dear friend and talk about stories.  She shared about hard times she had recently walked through.  She felt guilty because she thought she was “taking up our time” by sharing.  Honestly, I was so encouraged!  She is staying the path in the midst of storms.  In sharing the lessons she learned, my heart found faith and hope.

Being willing to share our stories is so vitally important. It is not that we always make the right choices at the right time.  In fact, not one person does that well all the time. We need to learn from where we falter and what recognize what our buttons are that get pushed.  This are learning opportunities.

Haven’t we all “been better” and “been worse” at different times in our lives?  We have “walked into hard times” and chances are we will walk into them again.  But it is the “walking out the other side” that grows us and refines us.  In spite of the struggle in the midst of hard, we can come out better than we started.

The most encouraging part of my friend’s story was how she left anger and bitterness behind with the junk of the story.  In the purification she recognized that kindness, respect and honor were the way to make a difference.  She could have drug the anger, bitterness and resentment around like a ball and chain, but she laid them down.  She is going to be part of a solution!  This world changer is going to make a difference in lives because of the decisions she has made.

Living from a healthy perspective means choosing to step out of the victim role and into the role we have been created to be in.  Each and everyone of us can be powerful  We all can be part of a solution.  In the midst of hate we can love.  Where there is drama we can walk in peace. When there is disunity we can be conduits of unification.

Just

keep

moving

forward.

When it is hard and we need encouragement it’s time to circle up the horses. Pull in and find a dear friend to sit with who is not just going to tell you what you want to hear but who loves you and wants the very best for you.  Be willing to ask for help is also important.  Just like Ben Rector’s song, sometime all we need to get above the problems to see life in a whole new light.

We can be a part of solutions.  We can make a difference!

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To Do Lists…Do They Rule You?

 

What is on your “To Do” List?

On days when your list is long, do you ever feel a bit anxious or hurried? I am asking because I do.  The list mocks me and, if I am not intentional, it rules me.

Today my list felt a mile long.  It is one of those weeks (months to be honest) when life is full to the brim.  I was distracted by all the things before me.

Of course there was a slow poke in front of me in line.  Other people checked and out and left. All my stuff lay crammed on the conveyor belt…it was too late to switch lines.  I listened as the elderly woman in front of me talked on and on with the cashier.

I have to be honest.

As much as I value the elderly I was not liking this lady today.  Her jabber was slowing me up from checking off my list. I really did not want to hear about her diabetes and how the company that makes this canned goods was going out of business.  I am now embarrassed to type my thoughts, but these are the honest truths.

I heard some folks talking loudly across the front of the store.  To get my mind off of the eternally long time it was taking me, I began to observe these people.  They were obviously a family or close friends.  They spoke in a language I had never heard.  Large backpacks and lots of children made them look a bit gypsyish.  One man was pushing two tiny babies around in a buggy. They seemed quiet pleasant as I tried to figure them out.

In the midst of my distraction I heard the lady in front of me speaking directly to me.  I focused as she is asking me if I heard the cashier say that her son was healed of diabetes.  I am instantly engaged.  I am also aware that this elderly woman’s demeanor had completely changed.  As she is left she looked at the cashier and told her that she knew now why she came to Walmart today.

It was my turn.  I jumped right in and asked the cashier about her son.  We began to encourage each other.  I told her that it was amazing how the Lord uses her to minister to people as she checked them out.  It crossed my mind that her conversation with some customers may be the only one they have all day long.  She is beaming and so am I.  She shared with me how the greeter prayed for a man’s hand this morning.  As I left she came around and hugged me, knowing we have each made a new friend.

I found myself smiling as I walked to the parking lot.  Even though I can not find my van, I am so touched by this woman’s ministry I am wandering and thinking.

I began to hear the people again. Their strange language is reverberating though the parking lot.  They are loading up in to multiple vehicles and as I locate my van I notice their license plates.

Florida

They had been displaced by Hurricane Ima.  I get a nudge from the Lord.  “Speak to the them.” I argued.  “But they don’t speak English. This could be humiliating for us all.”

As if to say, “I will make this one easy for you,” one of the men headed directly toward the buggy return, beside my van.  The flashes from the store came flooding back.

  • heavy laden backpacks
  • tiny little babies
  • lots of people

In spite of my potential embarrassment I began to speak.  I did not have a clue what to say, so I just jumped in.

“God bless you man.”

He looked at me with a huge smile and without even waiting for me to say the rest he said (in perfect English) “Thanks so much!”

I mentioned that I had seen their Florida tags.

Continuing in his joy he responsed, “YES! And we are headed back now!” He was obviously thrilled to be going back home.   I blessed their return as we parted ways.

I was so busy that I almost missed huge blessings.  My list was so big and distracting that I almost failed to see the Lord at work all around me.

I still have so much to do.  The list really is not any shorter than it was an hour ago.  But I am sitting in my chair typing this out so that I do not forget one single part.  I have temporarily kicked that stupid list to the curb.

So if you find yourself in the same place as me I hope you will remember this story.  May the daily grind of your day not overwhelm you to the point that life becomes all about getting the very next thing done.

May you see people loving people.

There are people all around us who have hard things going on in their lives.

It sometimes helps our perspectives to get our eyes off ourselves!  There is so much for which to be thankful, even in the Walmart line.

 

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Getting Tuned

Some days are just purely melodic.  When we step back and look at the whole of the day we can see the Grand Orchestra coming together.  We relish the beautiful music.

You accomplish your goals.

A long term project is competed.

The kids are getting along without your help.

That song you love comes on the radio.

The boss loves you and is so thankful for you.

Your cup of coffee never gets cold.

But some days sound more like those minutes before the orchestra begins.  Everyone playing their own instrument but no one is playing together.  As they listen only to their own pitch their sound mixes with with sounds of each musician doing the very same thing.  It is offensive.  What comes out of the orchestra pit is rough and messy.

The goals never even make the radar.

Even short term projects are left undone.

The kids wake up bickering and you can’t seem to help.

THAT song is playing and you can not get away from it.

The boss has you with one foot out the door.

The coffee is cold by the time you get the first sip.  For some reason we sometimes think that all days should sound like the London Symphony. All notes should be perfect and all instruments should be used to their greatest potential.

Really?

It takes the months and years of painstaking practice to hone an ability capable of playing in a fine orchestra.  Those performers were once kids screeching out note by terrible note as they learned their instrument.  Their pieces were awkward and only parents could love the sounds.

So why do we expect ourselves (or our children) to play like master musicians?  In some areas we are newbies.  We are toddlers learning to walk, in spite of our age.  Maybe we could begin to be kinder to ourselves, choosing to have the grace for ourselves that we have for others.  We might need to get a fresh perspective on our position in the orchestra.

This hard day may be the tuning.

We may need to listen only to our instrument.

The notes will not ever be right if we do not take the time to properly tune.

So if this day has been messy and awkward just cut yourself some slack.

It is ok.  It really is.

Some days are not perfect.  Some are.  Embrace them and enjoy.  Live fully in them and let those notes resonate all the way though you.  But if they are less than prefect, live there too.  Instead of resisting the foul notes  just lean into them.  Remember those are the days in which there is a lot to learn.  Listen to your heart (or your kids hearts) and tune.

The adjustments made on those hard days can be the very ones that were the most needed.  Let’s begin to have grace for ourselves as we learn and grow.  Fine tuning takes time and patience.

Remember you are not alone.  The Conductor is an expert and He is more than happy to help!

 

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Bringing It Into Focus

A few weeks ago I stopped short in a post.  I asked a question and left it hanging.

I started a conversation about how the lens we look at God thru can distort our thoughts about him.  Fear and worry, as well as a myriad of other things, can get in between us and the Lord.  I proposed there is a better option.  That option is the one we are going to look at today.

What if we traded our fear, wounds and insecurity lens in for Jesus lens.

If we looked at the Father through the life of Jesus Christ, how would that impact the way we view the Father.

We are told that Jesus is the “exact representation” of the Father.  (Hebrews 1:3)   It does not say “similar” it says “exact.”  If we see Jesus we are not seeing something like God, we are seeing God.  He IS God.  So, if we see Jesus, we see the Father.  Those characteristics demonstrated in the life of the Jesus are there because Jesus came to let us see our Father.

Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19) and He did not speak on His own but only what the Father directed him to say. (John 12: 49)

So let’s break that down.  The love and care that Jesus shared with all those He came in contact with…that was all God.

Stopping for the hurting and wounded…the Father.

The woman caught in adultery and the creative solution…our good Dad.

The frustration toward the religious leaders taking advantage of believers in the temple…again, God.

Often times we have believed that Jesus was a truly nice guy.  But God?  Harsh and distant may be closer to the truth.

So why did Jesus come?  God’s greatest desire was to make a way for us to be in a relationship with him (like Adam and Eve had in the Garden).  Sin keeps us from God.  Our sin causes wall between us and the Lord.  But even if Jesus just dealt with our sin problems, why would we want to draw near to God if these misconceptions were all we knew about Him?  We need new lens with which to view the Father.

One of the main reasons that Jesus came was so we could really begin to know who our Father REALLY is.  He came to show us, in flesh, how loved we are by our Father.  Thankfully, He wants to offer us a healthy framework or foundation with which we can truly walk into a relationship with our Good Dad.

The first step is considering the life of Jesus.  Does what we see in the life of Jesus mesh with what we believe about God the Father.  When we hit a snag we can stop and think about that for  awhile.  Asking some questions to discern why we think one thing about Jesus and another about the Father would be a good first step.  Identifying  inconsistencies will help us take a fresh new look at God.  Praying into the struggles we notice and asking God to teach us more about Himself is a another excellent opportunity for growth.

Relationships are valuable and a relationship with God is paramount.  If you have always felt like He was distant this is a place to start.  The truth is we are invited to be his children (Romans 8:16) and we are called his friends (John 15:15).

You are invited to walk WITH God.  He dearly loves you.  You are so loved that He put on flesh and came to live among us.  (John 1:14)  That is just how important you are!