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“What’s on this table?”

Six year-old Nelson stood up from his chair where he had been coloring a magi cut-out for the manger scene at the family-friendly interactive prayer station and walked over to another table where a different, slightly more contemplative station was set up.

“Well,” I told him, “You sit and you think about all the ways God has shown love for you. Like, maybe through the people who love you or the good things that you have.”

He smiled at me, He nodded his understanding. Then he sat down in a chair and sat still for about 3 minutes, which is a very long time for a six year-old.

I watched him as he stared at the candles on the table and appeared deep in thought. I thought about how important it is to look for the signs of God in my life…and for Nelson to do the same…and for each of us to do the same.

God is good. But sometimes life is hard. Life is hard and it can be hard to see where God is or what God is doing. It can be hard to see when we are grieving or exhausted or overwhelmed or depressed. During this time of year, all of that can feel magnified. This is a hard time of the year if life is not all it was hoped to be.

So, sit and think of all the ways God has already shown love for you. Even if you’re not sure there’s anything current to add to the list, think of the things that have already demonstrated God’s love in your life.

Nelson thought of his mom and his sisters and his friends and toys and his house. I think of my family near and far, my home, the work I’m called to do and our sweet dog, Sam. How about you?

Just in case you think I’ve actually got this whole Advent thing figured out, I would like to point out that I’ve fallen behind on posting. To ice the cake of forgetfulness (is there such a thing? There should be. There should be a cake for all sorts of less than desirable qualities, I think. Cake of procrastination…cake of tardiness…cake of cheapskatery…), I never even took a picture yesterday for “prophet.”

But here’s the thing. On March 1, I didn’t take a photo for the word “prophet” either. But the word that day in the Lenten Photo-a-Day challenge was also “prophet.” So I’m reblogging my post from March 1. You can follow that link to read it, but I promise you, it’s exactly what is below.

Blessings to all the prophets God has used in my life!

 

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What is a prophet? Sure, there are official job descriptions and callings and titles that come to mind when I think of this word.

Yet, simply, the way I understand “prophet” is “mouthpiece of God.”

A prophet is one through whom God speaks.

At the risk of being sacrilegious, I would suggest that God speaks to me through you…and you…and even you!

You said something that made me realize what God had been pressing on my heart for some time.

You wrote something that caused me to pause and reconsider my perspective.

Your actions taught me what it was to be like Jesus.

Thank you!

Maybe you’re not always up to the description of “prophet,” but probably even when you didn’t realize it, God was using your words and actions to teach someone else.

To me, that prospect is both awesome and terrifying.

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I’m still seeking ways to quiet my life and remain focused on good news during this season of Advent!

Yesterday, I set up the prayer stations for Advent IV. This is one of them.

Read along in Luke 2:1-20 if you need a reminder of who we’re celebrating. A baby born to a young unmarried couple in a borrowed outdoor structure of some sort, celebrated by shepherds and angels.

Then go be good news to the people you’ll encounter today, remembering that God did not focus God’s lavish love on the “important” or the “right” people alone, but rather chose to entrust his greatest gift to the young, the poor, the simple, the unexpected.

It’s rainy here, which is not looking like good news for a lot of people as we’ve already received more than two inches and it’s falling fast and hard. Basements are flooding, people are being trapped on more rural roads and travel is more hazardous than usual.

Stay safe out there!

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Today, little sister Katie and I made glitter ornaments that she can give to her family members and friends at school.

Here’s the pin that links to the website I used to make them. I couldn’t believe how well it worked and how cool it was.

So where did patience figure in?

Well, have you ever poured floor wax and glitter into tiny little holes at the top of ornaments before?

Actually, have you ever poured glitter anywhere before? Oh, so much glitter. So, so, so much glitter.

Also, these ornaments are glass. Guess who sat on her bag of ornaments, all wrapped up and finished and ready for her family and school friends? (Yes, Katie.)

So guess who had to patiently get all of the materials out of the cabinets again and set up a workspace so Katie could make a new ornament for her mother and her baby cousin and whoever else lost their ornaments in “the incident?” (Yes, me.)

It’s a time of year when it can be hard to be patient. For me, Advent Fatigue hit yesterday afternoon hard. I’m so tired. Maybe you are, too. We’re tired of waiting in long lines. We’re weary of our to-do lists that are still only half-completed. Our hands hurt from writing Christmas cards and we’re tired of the commercials. We may be over the music and the lights and the flashiness of the season.

But we are still waiting. It is still Advent. Our patience is still required.

Today, I’m going to set my to-do list aside and spend time with friends. Coffee with one or two; lunch with another; dinner and board games with still others. I’m well-rested from a good night’s sleep and hopeful that at the end of it all, the particular fatigue I feel will subside some.

Happy Friday!

mercy

 

Ralphie shows no Mercy. In our quest to watch all of our Christmas movies this December, we watched this one last night. Did I pause it so I could take a good picture for you? No. Sorry. Life moves a long fast.

This was a hard one. When I read the word yesterday morning and said to Jason, “I have to take a picture of ‘mercy’ today,” he replied, “Give me your hand!”

Remember playing “Mercy” when you were a kid? I did not like that game. I always just said “mercy” because I’m not competitive and I have low tolerance for pain.

Mercy as a definition is tough, I think. A lot of people were trying to get to the bottom of its meaning yesterday in my social media circles. Some things I read about mercy yesterday (the day this word should have actually been posted):

Mercy is not getting what is deserved.

Mercy is not getting a consequence you were expecting.

Mercy is compassion.

Mercy is when someone is kind and you did not expect that kindness.

Mercy is forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We have all been the recipient of mercy at one point or another. and the undeserved, unexpectedness of it may have changed your heart or your direction in big ways or small ways.

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Music is freeing. Sometimes you can’t find the right words to say or describe how you feel…but then there’s a perfect song or lyric that speaks for you. There’s something about how music can be anything–any rhythm, any flavor, any words. ┬áThere’s music to dance to…and music to sing along to…and music that just requires listening…and music that happens too fast to comprehend…and music with confusing lyrics…and music you have to listen to sixteen times before you memorize it..and music you memorize after hearing it for the first time….and music that gets stuck in your head all day. And isn’t it beautiful that new songs are created every day? For all the music we have in the world, there’s still more music to be made. Your favorite song of all time may have not been written yet! You may even have a song inside of you that you’ll write down and share some time.

In case you’re wondering, I was not playing this monstrous piece of music…well, I was with my right hand, one note at a time. I was practicing because I’m singing it on Sunday morning. In English, mostly, in case you are worried about the Italian.

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“Show me what strong looks like,” I said.

The little boy, waiting for his mom to pick him up from our after school program replied, “Why, Chicken?”

He calls me Chicken. This is slightly confusing since this nickname came out of nowhere, but we had a 9 year old boy at our Parents’ Night Out on Friday night who started calling everyone Butt Cheek, so i realize now there are worse nicknames.

“Just…what does strong look like?”

He strikes this pose. Then growls for effect.

There you have it. Five Year-Old strong.

Of course, we all know that strong sometimes looks different than this pose. This represents physical strength to a degree, but we know that strength can sometimes come in the form of mental or emotional determination. Sometimes strength is signified by surviving. The strong don’t always win or have the biggest muscles. Sometimes the strong quietly keep on…keeping on.

Some people are being strong this season. As everyone around them gives into the holly and the jolly, they are the ones just hanging on, hanging in and doing their best to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We don’t always think of them when we’re “acting” strong, but their strength to keep going inspires me.

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I did not bring my laptop home from the church yesterday, so I was unable to do this on Day 15. But here’s a picture for “rejoice.”

Last night, five of us ventured out to take Christmas carols to some of our church members who we knew would enjoy it. I’m so glad we went!

This picture is of our group at Willie Ann’s house. Willie Ann is a saint and no one would ever dream of arguing that she’s not. She’s the kindest, most hopeful, most loving, most encouraging, most wonderful person I’ve ever met. And I mean that. When I grow up, I want to be just like Willie Ann…although I have a long way to grow to be as wonderful as she is.

Willie Ann rejoices. She rejoices every Sunday when she sees each one of us at church. She rejoices over worship. She rejoices when exciting things happen. She even rejoices when life is hard. She is full of joy and full of life and she rejoiced loudly when our questionable band of carolers arrived on her doorstep last night. She loves each of us as close to the way God loves us as anyone can.

May you know the joy of God’s love today!

 

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At our house this year, we’ve gathered around fires a lot.

For Mother’s Day, I was given a firepit in the backyard. In our house, we have a fireplace.

There’s nothing quite like gathering around a fire with loved ones. It’s a tradition as old as…well, fire. In the winter, we gather in our living room and enjoy the warmth of our gas fireplace. It makes winter all the more bearable in my opinion.

 

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Justice. Just-ice. Just ice.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned about the difference between Advent and Lent. I apparently have a lot more time to reflect and be thoughtful during Lent.

I know, I know, that’s the point of this project! But tonight was Parents’ Night Out and Sunday is Youth Sunday and the children’s Christmas play, so you’re gonna have to cut me some slack. And I’ll reflect and try again tomorrow!

Speaking of Lent, I wrote about inustice back then. You can go read about it if you’d like.