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Joy

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Many generations ago, simple shepherds watched over their sheep on a hillside on just another night.  Suddenly, the light of impending Joy dazzled their humble lives – and lit up all of history.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.

Yesterday we returned from a snow trip to Vail. We are tired, but we hold a new collection of white-dusted memories.  Tonight we light the candle of Joy.  It is a pink candle.  In advent tradition, purple is a somber color, pregnant with heavy meaning.  But pink is exuberant, overflowing with life.

Joy to the world.  The Lord is come…

…Let earth receive her King…

…Let every heart prepare Him room…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

As tiny snowflakes dance over Vail, we abide under the jagged nearness of the Colorado Rockies.  We eat, sleep, play, rest, connect under its untamed shelter.  Nothing sings God’s glory like a wild mountain range coated with falling snow.  Nothing invites childish glee like an expanse of fresh powder.  Heaven and nature sing.  In the midst of Advent season, we roll away together for the simple purpose of enjoying the sweet wonder glowing in a snowy day.  Let every heart prepare Him room.  Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.  Joy to the world.

Immanuel-God-With-Us sought us in our heaviness and lifted us into freedom. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Mt.4:16.  He burst through His own grave to save us from ours.  It is a gift too great, too infinite, to bear on fragile shoulders.  Why, O why do we not crumble back to dust under the weight of it?  Always and only because the Gift is wrapped in Grace.  The proper response to Incarnation is infinite, overflowing, staggering, explosive, rollicking JOY JOY JOY JOY.

…Joy, unspeakable Joy, an overflowing well, no tongue can tell…

We are human, and therefore composed of dust and breath.  We cannot live on the high plane of Joy to which the gift of Incarnation forever beckons.  But we can, and ought, to revel in earthly Joys.  We should pursue them wholeheartedly in God’s name and to His glory.  (Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.)  Simple family laughter is a profound form of worship.

…Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go…

What do you do to light the candle of advent Joy?

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Eucharisteo

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Giving thanks, this is an awakening — the breath of God upon the face, close and warm. Ann Voskamp.

Eucharisteo is Greek for Thanksgiving.

It evokes eucharist, bread-and-wine-communion, the absorbing and taking in of Christ.  We take communion to remember how He bled His new covenant of grace over our fatal wounds, our slow dying.  Do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19.  Eucharisteo is a life of communion, a face turned upward to glory in forever-remembering.  Remembering has one pure result: eucharisteo, thanksgiving.  Read this, an invitation to be changed by a thanksgiving life.

Sometimes eucharisteo is a flame that burns purifying pain into a broken story.   It can be a sacrifice that feels too great to bear, a deep and holy offering from shaking hands.  I have walked that desperate journey (perhaps will walk it again).  I know, Lord, that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort. Psalm 119:75. 

Then, other times, eucharisteo is as easy as breath.  Sometimes God dazzles us with grace upon grace, a heaping of YES and AMEN.  Sometimes His bottomless mercies shower like rain.  Then eucharisteo is an anthem of joy that rises from a dancing heart.  The Lord your God is with You, a victorious warrior. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zeph.3:17-18.

Then again, sometimes eucharisteo is sweet and still.  Sometimes thanksgiving is entwined within the sturdy fabric of daily rhythms, yearly traditions, simple fragments of a righteous life.  Often, eucharisteo is woven through roasted turkey, spiced cider, pumpkin pie.  The precious rituals of the fourth Thursday in November are not the true Thanksgiving, but they can be the tethers that anchor us to a deeper truth, a richer worship.

I wake early on Thanksgiving morning, linger over coffee and Matthew 1, the whisper of advent.  I grind wheat to make the first of the year’s batches of Christmas bread dough, a rich recipe that tastes like warm tradition.  I shape the dough into cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls and loaves – the recipe is bountiful, like the season.  Lucy and I don matching aprons.  She licks the honey spoon, eyes alight.  It is over 60 degrees in Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  Dreamy Scott and Jack play football and soccer in the unexpected sun.  A quiet heart day, spent readying ourselves for a feast of thanks.

We eat late, as the sun sets, after a day of shining and play.  We pray over the five kernels of corn hidden under the napkins (hidden like so many jewel of grace that we do not see) in our salad bowls.  We remember the pilgrims who died by the scores in the terrible first winter with only five kernels of daily corn.  They still praised God, and He heard their cries, providing a way to future abundance.  True Thanksgiving is always a remembering worship of His Story.  We linger over conversation, pecan pie, mulled wine and football.  The Lord has blessed our family with a mighty blessing, and we remember the God who loves us with an everlasting Love.

Gathering

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I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass.  

Counting Crows.  A Long December.

This past week Scott took some much needed time off.

We gather our little family together and move upward, into the steep beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  We breathe in the clean simplicity of wild air.  We leave so much behind as we gather each other in.  So much falls away in that lofty space.  It is lighter up here.  I breathe deeper.  I see farther.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. Ps. 72:3.

We shuffle our feet through a thick carpet of fallen aspen leaves.  Lucy catches her hair in low hanging branches.  I untangle her, then teach her to bend under the awareness of obstacles.  We climb rocks, set a goal to find the perfect walking stick.  Scott holds each child firmly as they slide their little feet across the slick mirror crusting a frozen pond. We tramp gleefully up and down gentle slopes, peer closely at reeds sheltering salamander swarms, attempt to leap as far as a cottontail rabbit.  Scott and I pause, hands entwined, absorbing the jagged glory of the soaring Rocky Mountains.  We snap photos to hang in stasis these golden moments of wild grace, the building blocks of a childhood, our light-hearted solace under the weight of the world.

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!  Albert Einstein.

We clear a space to find each other, to gather in, to revel in the beauty of creation reflected in the joy we find in seeking it.

What have you done lately to gather in your family?

Harvest

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Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.  Hosea 2:14

Just now, I put groceries away, served my children lunch, unloaded the dishwasher, fried bacon, milled flour.  Yesterday at this time, I did this:

We launch out early, coffee hot and expectations soaring, wheels rolling forward under the shadow of the Colorado Rockies in search of joy entwined with harvest.  We spend the day gathering what has ripened under burning skies, where seeking roots have gorged on intentional moisture, where farmers foresaw the promise of growth and nursed it into being.  Colorado is high desert, where both beauty and growth is rocky, pocked with dry crags.  Green shoots of spring and rich abundance of autumn are hard-fought here.  These farmers open their gates to us, who are reaping what we have not sown.

Grace is the only air that isn’t toxic.  Ann Voskamp.

I breathe it in, grace-air, in the company of those who have wrapped me in it over the long drought of my hardest years.  We spend the day harvesting more than pumpkins and berries – laughter, friendship, memories, joy, tradition.  It is a day of passing over. The burning beauty of summer abates into a fruition, a gathering, a harvest of grace.

For those who are bone dry from the glare and heat of summer, take heart. The jeweled ripening of harvest is awakening.  Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Gal.6:9.

The Harvest

I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’

Hosea 2:23.

Pearls

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O taste and see that the Lord is good!  Ps.34:8

I write here of the crucible of my heart.  This blog is a record of my Search for Sanctuary, my seasons in the Holy of Holies where the Lord unravels and re-knits me, lifts up my head to shine under His dazzling glory, unveils my ugliness only to replace it with His reflecting Beauty.  It is an archive of intensity, which it has to be since my narrow soul-borders limit the amount of Infinity I can absorb and express at once.

But that is only part of my story.

My cake decorating class final exam. Bomb Diggity.

Like you, my life is mostly prosaic.  It is a quilt instead of a kaleidoscope, composed of colorful scraps but settled instead of tumbling.  Most days simply slip by, pearls falling from a string.  I live a simple life.  I take my children to the park. I wash dishes. I fold laundry.  Today I organized our office and stuck one of those sticky vinyl quote thingies on my family room wall.  I wear yoga pants, like, every day.  I am potty training Lucy and I hate it.  I bake.  I eat the same thing for lunch every day of my life (a hummus wrap) unless we have leftovers from dinner the night before.  My favorite possession is a toss up between my Keurig and my minivan. I walk my dog in the evening after I put Lucy to bed, while Jack and Scott play Wii.  We enjoy each other’s company. Jack and I never miss an episode of Thundercats.

We live a quiet humming life.

We are in the midst of storm years.  I have written glimpses of those years here and here, and of the results of mingled light and darkness in other posts. There is more that I cannot write because our pain overlaps the pain of others whose story I am not free to share.  There is still more after that that is Scott’s story.  We are a family under intense pressure.  We can allow that pressure to crush us or remake us, disconnect us or unite us.

It takes a few million years for time and pressure to transform graphite into diamond.  God is a God of miracles, so it takes Him only a lifetime.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil.1:6. During our season of sifting, can we not abide in that most blessed of words – happy?

This weekend we went to the State Fair.  Hand (lives) joined with our friends, walking in step towards a memory of simple fun.  Joy bubbles over as we see our children’s eyes light up at an ice cream cone dusted with sprinkles, mirrors that reveal their bodies distorted, the ferris wheel.  As the wheel takes the four of us around once more, Jack leans against Scott’s chest, “Daddy, this is my favorite day.” Scott and I lock eyes, smile, tighten our hold just a little bit.  We talk, laugh, circle the booths and rides again and again, dusk softly tucking itself in around us as the lights flicker on, twinkling rainbows that beckon us to do it again, come back for more.  So we stay until late, until their eyes are heavy and their feet are aching and they have flown into the night sky in the green airplane and the pink ladybug as many times as their hearts can hold.

I want my children to remember their parents as joyful people who lived a wild adventure of Love.  I want them to be surprised when I tell them (in a long time) how much we hurt during those years that God was sifting us.  I want them to remember popsicle juice sticky on their fingers and dance parties in the family room under the banner of the new vinyl wall quote I put up today: May Love be the Heart of our Home.  If I do it enough, will they remember me smiling into their faces, hugging them tightly, laughing at Daddy’s jokes?  Will they remember me happy?

I am a happy woman.  A cup of coffee from my Keurig in the morning, a twilight walk in an empty field, a morning at the zoo, a clean counter, a text from my husband in the middle of his work day.  These are my 1000 gifts, my pearls that slip into infinity with a kiss of grace.  Suffering and intensity are necessary as we navigate this place where the saints of God live until we are released to where we belong.  For now, we live on a tension line between glory and hell and we dip one way or another on a daily basis.  But over that line we can choose to create a cloister of joyful surrender, of quiet charity.  

These little moments are my cloister.  These connected memories are my charity.  Being Mary at His feet is my pearl of great price.  All is grace.

O taste and see that the Lord is good!  

What are your pearls of grace?