I’m on the downhill slope in life.  I could almost hear massive calendar pages turning today, the 1st of January.  Initially, I cringed with a flicker of panic. I might not live long enough to write everything I want to write! There’s so much more I want to do!DSC_0035-1

Then I caught my self and remembered my resolution:        No more striving to do it right. No more yardstick in my mind when I get in bed at night, measuring my day, my words, my actions, or lack thereof– always finding myself wanting. No more (pitiful) efforts toward House Beautiful (I’d already given up on the yard) or photo-ready outfits.

No more turning dreams into bullet-point goals that I use to beat myself up when I don‘t reach them, when “life gets in the way.”

No more waiting to live when I am well, or stronger, get it all right, or finally get all my piles sorted and my mom’s boxes emptied in the attic.

My resolution for 2019 is to live right now. Invest in this moment, because it really is all I have.

(Anyone figured any other way?)

I learned as a child to postpone my life and not feel emotions. I’ve been on a long journey to being wholly present.  I’m waking up to really living and want to make the moments count.

If this hasn’t been an issue for you, perhaps you are tempted to stop reading.

But I find many around me struggling for other reasons. We have so much motion, activity, so much noise in our world. So much interaction with screens in place of in-the-flesh people.

Our culture is simmering us, slowly, in a pot of our own making.

Well, this frog is jumping out.

Recently, at just the right time, my daughter handed me a copy of Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful way of Living, Zondervan, by Shauna Niequist.

I’m savoring every page.

Present over perfect living is real over image, connection over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful.

Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and scuff of leaves as they scrape across driveways on windy nights. This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.” p130

No more lists of changes for 2019.

I’m singing along with Marcia Ramirez: There’s a Reason

I’m letting go of trying to be in control. There’s a reason He is God and I am not. And I’m so glad!

 

with grandsElysse loves lifeJT1_0281Jeremiah badmittonJT1_0370So I’ll simply love on my family, enjoy my dog, relish friendships, bask in worship and beautiful music, and relax into soft Florida breezes.

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And I’ll have more tea parties, with fine china.

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How about you? Where does 2019 find you?

Where is the peace on earth?

All the ho ho ho-ing and season’s greetings, Christmas carols, crowded malls and grocery stores, packed restaurants and TV commercials promised happiness and warm fuzzy feelings, a Christmas of unsullied glee. Even the angel’s song, quoted in Luke, promised peace on earth. We had so much to look forward to as we decorated trees and hung wreaths, baked cookies and wrapped gifts. So what happened? Where is all the peace on earth?

Jeremy singing carols
Jeremy singing carols

Peace tree

Christmas morning
Christmas morning

 

Why do we still have a world in which two police officers are murdered as they sit in their squad car? What do we say to their children when they open the last gifts they will ever receive from their father?

What about the families of the school children slaughtered in Pakistan to make a political statement?

The ones beheaded by crazed Isis militants for refusing to deny Jesus, the one whose birth was meant to bring peace?

The ones who have lost a child or spouse to disease or accident?

The ones whose children died too young, live with grave disabilities, or never lived at all?

The one who doesn’t even have someone to grieve?

The one whose family has been desecrated by joblessness, abuse, unfaithfulness or addiction?

What do we do with all the broken pieces of our world, and our lives?

 

cross
cross

manger scene

 

I can only see the manger as the portal to joy if I see the empty cross standing high above.

The child who began with a bed of straw became the man who ended with a crown of thorns.

It is a strange, seemingly twisted reality:  He died to conquer the darkness.

He rose as king, opening the door for each of us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death into marvelous light.

 

Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortugas
Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

My earthly heart still feels pain, and my earthly eyes still see darkness,

but my heart knows the wonder of the manger.

Beyond the stable, beyond the hills of Judea, and beyond that cross

is Life, reaching for you, for me,

to guide us through the portal.

The manger entrance to eternity.

 

As she lay dying

His sister called, and early the next morning my husband flew west to be at his mother’s bedside. He and his sisters kept vigil. At the hospice nurse’s urging, they spoke to her as if she could hear them, even though she didn’t respond.

old hands

Back home, I waited and prayed. For three days, I prayed that the Lord would minister to them even as they ministered to her. Prayed that whatever remained for her spirit to transact with Jesus would take place.

After hours of thunderstorms, late in the afternoon the rain stopped. I grabbed my dog’s leash and pulled on my walking shoes. Outside, leaves dripped, shinning in the soft light of twilight. The grass and trees seemed greener, more vibrant.

When I stepped out from under our oak trees onto the street, I looked up and gasped. On my right, pink and purple clouds tumbled upward from a sunset of scarlet and tangerine.

As I turned to the east, peace poured over me. Pink cotton candy clouds billowed with reflected sunset colors, and two complete rainbows, one over the other, arched across the horizon. The outer bands of color fluxed in and out of the clouds as if someone were mixing watercolors.

A holy moment. A gateway to heaven. I couldn’t move.

double rainbow for  blog

Finally, Lily tugged, anxious for her long-awaited walk. I set out, often turning to witness the rainbows. I tried to snap their exquisite beauty with my cell phone, frustrated that the purples and greens wouldn’t come through. I was too close to capture the complete arcs and hoped I could move far enough west to get them. But when I came around the circle and out from under more oak trees, the rainbows had vanished.

But the deep peace abided, an other-world kind of peace that has no basis in circumstances or status.

Pure gift.

sunset

Not long after I returned home, my husband called, his voice hoarse with emotion.

“Mom’s gone. She’s gone to be with Dad.”

They had been telling stories and laughing about their hard-headed father, who’d died only months before. The sister who’d been caring for their mother so long was holding her hand when she slipped away.

I loved her very much, and I knew that somehow, the Lord had included me in her home-going, 1,300 miles away.

These tiny glimpses of heaven are promises of what is to come, encouragement when the sky is dark and life is brutal. When progress seems so long in coming. When we lose a loved one.

Have you recently experienced a great loss?

Or do you face the gradual seeping away of hope?

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)