viva la woodchip.

july12 098

I did it. I went camping. This INDOOR girl spent four days – FOUR days – in the OUTDOOR world. For the first time. With two children. Without their daddy. And we survived. Amen.

So…a few reflections:

DO camp with another mom who is an expert at camping because she owns basic camping necessities like a grill and a griddle and a real tablecloth with clips that hold it down to the table and special toilet paper and a wine bottle opener and an overall state of calm and confidence.

DO camp with another mom who has children near the same mental and emotional and physical ability that your own children have. Because if you do, you will both be managing similar meltdowns and quarrels and conflicts and whining for that $1 toy gem at the camp store. And, you’ll both observe how good it is, in this culture, to remove your children from rectangles and watch the sun kiss their skin and smile at all the humorous things they do and say. And, most importantly, all of the children will go to bed all at the same time.

DO search until you find a camper that meets your basic physical and mental needs – like a queen size bed and bunk beds and bathroom and kitchen sink and microwave (just to name a few). Your internal well-being relies on this. Trust me. (Yes, someone somewhere makes these types of lovely campers!)

DO ask for a camp site that is next to the playground, across from the bathrooms/showers, a skip and a hop away from the pool, and that has an eye-sight view of the massive trampoline pillow where the children will expend much of their 12+ hour energy. (I’m assuming that ALL campgrounds would have these parent necessities.)

DO choose the PERFECT weather week – like mid 70s/low 80s. Because this could make or break your camping experience.

DO choose the week when most of the bugs and mosquitos that surely swarm around every camp site fly away to visit another campground or your friends’ homes. This, too, could make or break your camping experience.

DO pack tons of liquids and snack foods because you and your children’s bodies will constantly feel the need to ingest more than it normally requires. And, most importantly, bring Coke and M&Ms. And, bring ingredients for summer recipes like fresh BBQ Chicken Salad and Limonada de Coco, because it will help you feel special. It will remind you that you really are on a “vacation.” But, do make these when all the children are running around the campground making new friends and spinning around on the merry-go-round, so that you can eat in peace, so that your taste buds can savor every delicious bite, so that you are able to feel each little lime-y coconut-y slushy piece of ice slide down your throat.

DO bring lots of firewood, because making a fire each night is a MUST in the world of camping (along with s’mores). And then, after the children are nestled in and then out like a light because they’ve jumped and ran and biked and swam hard all day, pull up your new, red Costco camping chair beside your friend’s chair, stare into the fire, and start talking – about things that matter, about things that don’t. Talk and laugh and be silly and serious until midnight. Or 1 o’clock. Or 2 o’clock. Because in those 3-5 hours, you can cover A TON – like friends and family and in-laws and parenting and your story and decorating and finances and how life is so very wonderful and so very hard and how important it is to be gracious truth-tellers and what it’s like to feel like you’re “too much” and bucket lists and what you’re learning and how you’re failing and how you hope your children will grow to be lovers and doers of good and how to offer yourself as a wife whose husband knows she loves him and is grateful for him and how the people camping next to you talk really, really loud. Basically, you can solve most of the world’s problems in those night hours. So…

DO have your first camping experience with a friend who is fun and neat and organized and flexible and experienced and silly and honest and open…to all that life has to offer. And, who will invite you into an experience that will give you perspective of the OUTSIDE world and perspective on all the things you unknowingly take for granted about your INSIDE world. And, who will post funny pictures on Instagram and tag you as you sit 1 foot away from her. And then laugh about it. And, who will partner with you in an experience that reminds you that you’re capable – of doing new things and hard things and unlikely things…for yourself, for your children, WITH your children. And, who will play her radio ALL day on a station that has ALL the songs you know, so that at any moment you can raise your thumb to your mouth and break out singing and dancing and partying, like it’s 1999.

And then, pack up, go home, wash everything really good and know…that at the end of the day, it’s OK to say, you’re a hotel girl. Hands down.

#VivaLaWoodchip

 

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perfect pictures.

NOTE: a bit late, but you know how life goes.

We love seeing them. We hate seeing them. We think all sorts of thoughts when our eyes fall upon those perfect family/kid/selfie pictures swirling around on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on Christmas cards. What is it about all those pictures I post (I mean others post) that makes people’s minds turn from the story and life behind the eyes to the judgment of the intent?

I get it. I really do. It’s so easy to impose meaning and messages behind what we see over social media – pictures of people’s kids and in-laws and food and double dates and guys/girls nights and vacations and pets. I think most of us love the “real” pictures – the ones that help us believe that our “friend” or “follower” is just as normal and human as we are, our life is. We have a responsibility to discern if/what/how/when to post pictures – ones that tell true stories rather than give a false identity or appearance. And then take note of how our brains are interpreting them.

We see SO much.

So here’s my sidetrack thought for today…

First, a confession: I totally blow up people’s phones on IG and I totally hold back on how many pictures I post on FB. In fact, I don’t even have my IG settings set to automatically post my pictures on FB. Why? Because I don’t want people criticizing my love and gratitude and celebration and momentous moments with my kids (or my life). I don’t fear criticism of my pictures, I fear the criticism, by adults, of me, my intent of why I post each picture. The thing is, I hear women all the time saying nasty things about other people’s pictures on IG and FB. It’s so easy to be critical of how much and what kind of pictures are posted. And each time I hear a negative comment I think, “But what if there’s more behind why that person posted that picture?” Because actually, I may be that person.

Here’s what I know…There are lots and lots and lots of parents whose lives are spent managing really, really hard stuff with their kids – tantrums and meltdowns and dis-regulated emotions, shame and blame and self-harm. They’re engaging in “investment parenting techniques” (thanks ETC!) which takes tons of time and lots of grace. They’re trying to move their kids to brush their teeth and hair and eat and get dressed without them falling apart, and in fact, they’re trying themselves to not fall apart! There are lots of moms (or spouses) who stay at home with the laundry and dishes and toys and school work and stove – with the mundane. And, there are lots of moms (and spouses) who go to work everyday who aren’t with their kids, and still come home to all of the above. And, I’m finding there are lots of stay-at-home parents who are struggling to find their identity and calling (outside of being a parent) now that their children are in school (or out of the house). And yes, we know, that there are lots of people who are just plain bored and dissatisfied and jealous and use social media sites in really unhelpful ways.

We all have a lot going on.

When you’re in the season of growing and cultivating “family,” it’s so, so easy to forget the tenderness and vulnerability and fragility and goodness behind your children’s eyes, deep in their souls. We get weary. We get discontent. We get frustrated. We get busy. We crave anything that reminds us that we’re breathing and beautiful and that our life has a purpose beyond taking care of other people’s needs. And so maybe, just maybe, when we post a sweet or silly or amazing or entertaining picture of our kids, it’s because we need to visually be reminded of why we give…our hours and intention and body and money and emotion, and maybe even our mental health – ahhh! And maybe, for one moment, we catch a picture of our child’s true self, the child that we believe in and love with all our heart – the brave and precious and focused and listening and joyful parts – that maybe don’t show up as often as we would hope, or as often as our friend’s or sister-in-law’s child does. And for a split-second, or 15 minutes, we can breathe because the fear and shame and anger and guilt and “I don’t know if I can make it through this day” subsides.

We see him. We see her. We see what’s happening…

…and it’s a defining moment in the day. And it makes us smile. Gratitude swells, perspective returns, the re-set button gets pushed. And we move forward. Again…and again…and again.

Maybe all these pictures people post help remind them of the story they’re in, but also of the bigger story – that the loneliness and longing and really hard days – the ashes – can be and are being transformed into beauty…in their our children, in them us, one snap shot at a time. And I think we would all agree that the more glimpses of what’s true and beautiful and good in this world we can get, we need to take. Amen?

There’s always a story behind what we see with our eyes – at church, at the grocery store, at school, at Christmas parties, on platforms. No family or couple or parent or child – or day – is perfect. Right? So, let’s not even go there with our minds. Let’s remember that every family is experiencing their own challenges. They all wake up with bad breath, bed heads and clothes they would never dare wear in public. Every home is rupturing just as much as it’s finding its own way to repairing and reconciling. Maybe we could try to halt our evaluation and criticism and jealousy, and instead, celebrate what lies behind the eyes and smiles and smirks and poses of those pictures – pure goodness, pure “life” – and then celebrate it…that family, their story.

So keep posting, people! Mark your significant moments and days and people with photos. Let’s cheer each other on. Let’s celebrate the “life” in one another’s homes. We need one another in the outrageously grand moments of life just as much as we need one another in the most boring and hard, soul-sucking moments.

NOTE 1: Please, please, please, don’t ever, ever, ever replace your human relationships with social media relationships. (Someday I would love to write a post about this!)

NOTE 2: There might be some unwritten rule about over-posting, but don’t send it to me – ha!

So here’s a slide show of our “perfect” pictures from 2013. A few years ago we started the tradition of making a slide show to send to our friends and family instead of a Christmas card. Nothing against Christmas cards, but in hopes that they would see and sense the story building in our family, behind our eyes. But know that behind all the fun and joy and activity you see in these pictures, there is also the reality of our bad breath and scraggly hair and piles of toys and dishes and laundry and dirt behind toilets and numbing out with rectangles and multiple mornings when we groan for our children to sleep through the night, and…a longing and desperation for more healing and hope.

But, here we are, another normal breathing family, sitting in the reality that both brokenness and beauty exists, together. And that’s a good thing. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have one without the other.

May this year bring you a refreshed sense of self, a new perspective of others, a deeper love for God, and a growing belief of his deep love for you.

Happy, happy new year!

Love, The Woodwyk Family

Woodwyk 2013 Year in Review Slideshow (plays better on computer than phone and you should hear music).

 

unexpected moments.

Sometimes we get to plan out what’s going to happen. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we know what’s coming. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we’re confident that what’s about to happen is going to be exciting and wonderful and grand.

And, sometimes, we know that what’s coming is going to be hard and gruesome and painful.

Yet, I don’t think we could ever know or anticipate how these experiences are going to change us.

In the past few years, I’ve had these amazing and life-giving opportunities to speak around the country. I’m blown away at how I’ve been invited to offer my voice, my story, my heart. Each time I’ve felt so honored, so humbled, so overwhelmed by the openness of others to listen to my voice. Each experience has proven to be powerful and transformative for me in profound and surprising ways. Beyond grateful.

And then, last summer, the day after Father’s Day, I was asked to “speak” at a different kind of event. It was something I had never been asked to do before, something that felt even more honoring, more humbling, and actually, more scary.

One of my best friends asked me to read a letter at her father’s funeral.

Let me back up a few years. Well, maybe like 20+ years…

renee2

Renee and I have been friends since high school, and we were roommates for about three years before I got married. We’ve had countless talks over shopping excursions and car rides and pasta and chips and salsa and morning cleaning and “smokey treats” on the deck and way too many late nights. Renee is someone who shares the value of being honest and open and reflective and imaginative and silly. She’s a learner. She’s a listener. She’s sensitive. She’s kind. So, as you probably can imagine, the spectrum of our conversations were wide. I remember so many of our crazy and stupid and lazy moments filled with jokes and laughter and music and SNL replays. But, mostly, what I remember are the moments that were filled with sharing what it was like to be a part of the “real” world…what it was like to be a daughter, a sister, an employee, a person with privilege, a person of color, what it was like to feel betrayed and forgotten and misused, dreaming of all the ways we wanted to find love and what that would look like and who that would be with and what kind of wives we would be, and what it would be like to become a mother and what we would name our kids and who they would look like, and all the ways we wanted to parent similarly to our own parents while giving ourselves permission to do things differently, what it felt like to have our heart sink and soar, long for and hope and trust, and how we were always going to fight for what’s good and true, in us, in others.

renee wedding

So many moments, so many hours, so many days…sharing what it was like to be human.

Our stories were being made, being shaped, being shared. And, they still are.

I loved that then. I love that now.

And so, when she asked me to read the letter she wrote for her father’s funeral service, how in the world could I say “No” to honoring a friend like that, honoring the man who she called, “Dad”?

So, yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

Honoring because these were the words from her heart, from her memory, scattered on paper, capturing who he was as a father, as a friend, as a man. These were the words that she wanted the people in his life to remember, about him, about his life, about the way he stepped into his world.

Humbling because I was asked to do this because my friend trusted my heart for her, and had entrusted her heart to me. Essentially, I was going to represent her story, her heart.

Scary because, well, let’s face it, there were going to be hundreds of people in that church whose hearts were going to be a bit more raw that evening, whose emotions were going to be a bit more surfaced sitting in those pews. And, because when you say, “Yes” to something like this, you risk having your own heart be publicly put on display…in a microphone. And, because the emotions captured in my friend’s letter were piercing the emotions in my own soul reminding me of the loss of my mom.

Yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

I practiced and read and practiced and cried and practiced and cried some more.

And then it was time.

The funeral was an evening funeral which was lovely and beautiful and meaningful. The mood was somber, yet celebratory. There were tears and laughter and music and prayers. The service was filled with friends telling stories, friends remembering their friend. It was a gift to be a part of this group of people remembering and celebrating and affirming this man’s life.

renee and john

I’m so glad she asked. I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

Because in that moment, I was able to experience one of the most profound invitations to “speak,” to use my words, to offer my voice.

Unforgettable. Powerful. Transformative.

Sometimes, we get these unexpected moments that help us put all other moments in perspective.

May you allow yourself to be surprised by the moments you get invited into today, this week, this Father’s Day…and may they forever change you.

paulin kids

Our kids…20+ years later.

paulin kids 2

children of light.

Thrilled to introduce you to Jen Wise, a woman who’s voice invites me to lean into more of our Creator through story and food and reflection and beauty. I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing team of writers for Restoration Living, of which she is the wise and inspiring gatekeeper that pulls us together, keeps us in line, rallies our voices (aka Managing Editor). So, after a year-and-a-half of writing for her, I thought it was time to ask her to write for me – so I could share her voice with my little world, and her passion for people and wholeness and truth and living life to the full. So, what better topic than parenting as we approach summer and the shift that happens when the kids come home…to us, to our care. I know you’ll be moved and challenged and empowered to offer your best self, your whole self…to your children.

light

“Sir, are you really calling the police because there is a squirrel with a long tooth in your yard?” – Police Department to my husband.

In his defense, he had to call. It was Saturday morning and we were wrapping up a leisurely waffle breakfast when I noticed a new squirrel in our backyard. This little guy stood out because he was eating his waffle (don’t judge – it’s their weekend too, you know!) on the right side of his mouth. Sticking out of the left side was a gigantic tooth that looped up and around, rubbing the fur off his face. A quick Google search told me that this squirrel was not going to survive unless someone caught it, sedated it, and trimmed that crazy tooth. I knew we needed to get help – call animal control – this is an emergency!

My husband didn’t share my concern.

That’s when the tears started. First me. Then the kids. Then he caved.

As it turns out, the Police had absorbed Animal Control due to budget cuts. To say they weren’t concerned would be an understatement. We were to “let the squirrel take its natural course”.

This, obviously, led to more tears.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a squirrel, toughen up, this is life. And you’re right – this is life. And that’s why I cried. Hard.

SPROUTING

There is something heart wrenching about watching your children stumble upon the realities of our world. Sometimes bad things will happen. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do. Sometimes (many times) other people aren’t going to care about what you care about.

So yes, I cried about a squirrel… but really it’s so much more than the squirrel. It’s grieving what’s broken in the world. It’s grieving that this world is broken at all. It’s grieving that my young idealistic children are slowly making this realization.

And don’t most of us go through this ourselves? As our lives sprout we believe that if we’re good, the world around us will cooperate. We believe that if we’re kind, others will respond likewise. We believe that if we do the right thing we will be safe and successful and life will play out the way we believe it should.

By the time we have roots and branches we’ve seen and felt enough to know better.

EYES OPEN

An introduction to brokenness comes as a tidal wave for some: sexual abuse, chronic sickness, natural disasters, or the death of a parent. I cannot even pretend to understand the profound impact these events have on a young heart. For most of us though, our realization is more of a trickle. Throughout our days we encounter moments that highlight the truths we’d rather have kept in the dark.

Our family has walked through many of these ‘enlightening’ moments over the last few years, necessitating some difficult and sometimes painful conversations. Some of these include being hurt by friends, the disparity of wealth in our community, and the death of a family member. Beyond that, the extinction of dinosaurs, where meat comes from (and what makes it more or less ethical to purchase), the marketing and selling of things that are bad for us, and the sickening reality that some people just want to hurt kids.

The thing is, no matter how much I want to tell my boys that the world is whole – no matter how much I want to shield them from knowing that it’s not – I can’t. And I shouldn’t.

We keep media to a pretty innocent level in our home – there are certain topics we generally steer away from – and we don’t alert them to every tragedy that crosses our headlines. Still, we don’t lie to them. We do let them know, on their level, what disappointments and dangers loom. We are open about the brokenness that they are sure to bump up against.

UNSHAKEN

Rather than a reactive stance of explaining-away or putting a rosy spin on everything, we take a proactive stance of preparing our children for what they will inevitably discover. We take opportunities now, while they’re young and under our care, to get their toes wet. We let them experience a bit of unfairness. We encourage them to take risks with new opportunities and face fears out of their comfort zone. We resist the (very strong) urge to protect them from every feeling of discomfort or pain.

Help them face fears and hold up against disillusionment now while they have the luxury of your support. They’ll be better equipped to remain grounded in the years to come.

And this goes for us as well. Step into that new social scene – take on that project that’s a little intimidating – volunteer in a place you’d rather pretend doesn’t exist. It’s good for us, it’s also good for our kids to observe us stepping forward, taking risks, opening our eyes, facing fears and coming out the other side.

FORWARD, UPWARD

Ultimately, the key to coming out the other side well, as children and as adults, is a deep understanding of identity and purpose. When we know who we are and the value we hold – when we know why we’re here and the role we play in all of this – we’re less likely to be thrown for a loop when the landscape shifts.

There are so many opportunities to help your children understand their identity, for us these moments are some of the strongest. Upon every hard realization, every burden, every tear, we have a chance to invite our children to walk with us – a chance to remind them that this is why we’re here, this is what this is all about. We’re binding wounds, working for wholeness, bearing light, and loving this world.

This points them forward, upward. It helps them, and us, have a grounding that is not dependent on a pain-free sheltered life. It turns those moments from despair and disillusionment to moments that propel us forward, stepping more fully into who we are, stepping more confidently into our role as healers.

Our family has an identity, we know who we are, we know our role in the world – the darkness does not change that. The bad things that we see from our path, that cross our path, and that sometimes will explode on our path do not change who we are, what we are called to, and what we are working towards.

When this is rooted in our souls – we aren’t easily shaken.

May we embrace who we are and our role in this world. May we walk confidently forward with eyes wide open to see the brokenness around us and where we can extend healing. And may we, with grace and strength, invite our children into the process of restoring their world as well.

BIOPICFINAL_WEB Jen is a compassionate theologian, obsessive foodie, constant hostess and voracious reader. She attended Cornerstone University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary earning a MA in Theology. Jen is the managing editor of Restoration Living. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Philadelphia. Catch up with her on twitter @jenlwise.

a grandma…in waiting.

Let me introduce you to Linda Lyzenga. She’s a friend, a mentor, a kindred spirit. I love the courage she possesses…to find more of herself, more of others, more of God. This is such a sweet post. I love that she is allowing the process of becoming a grandma to call out her deep heart, the best parts of who she is. Grateful for how she is choosing to step into her role, now AND when the baby comes, with grace and understanding and intention and acceptance. What a gift she will be to this baby. I’m confident that she will be a grandma who delights in her, nurtures her, reminds her of how good she is…even if it is from afar.

lyzenga

Congratulations are in order! I’m going to be a grandma. Every where I go these days I see young moms with babies and I want to peek at each little one and then share the good news – I’m going to be a grandma. I am the expectant one. Anticipation is high. They’re going to have a baby girl in April. I can hardly wait; other grandmas that I know say there’s nothing like it. Oh, just wait, they say. Lucky you! First one? You’re going to love it!! *Sigh* Did I say that I’m going to be a grandma? Congratulate me!

Now tell me how to navigate being a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be thought of as the grandma who lives far away. I want to be a grandma that’s available at the drop of a hat. I want to take care of baby girl when her mommy has to go back to work. I want to be there for all those monumental firsts. I want to experience… I want… I want… Oh, I sound like a two-year-old. There are moments some day’s of an almost desperate sense of separation – of longing, loss and loneliness.

Most days I’m fine. It’s not like they moved away yesterday. It’s over ten years ago that younger daughter left home for her great adventure. Off she went – leaving all that was familiar here in Western Michigan to go to a university in Southern California. I thought she’d be back. But then, she got the job; and then, she met the guy. They’ve been married over five years now.

When her sister flew the coup to make a fresh start in Northern Florida, I was left decidedly as an empty nester. I couldn’t be more proud of both my girls. I’m truly happy for the life that is theirs. My girls are not coming home. They both live far, far away. People often say, “That must be hard.” Some days I must admit – it IS hard. Most days, though, there is a special grace that soothes my heart. On any given day when I miss them, I think of how we’ve been able to keep in touch. In fact, is it possible that we’re closer now than we ever were? When the geographical distance seems too great, I imagine how it was when children from past generations left home – never to be seen again after having moved to places far and away. Long distance telephone calls were reserved for strict emergencies. Other communication was relegated to snail mail – a delivery of old news. Today there’s ease in communication with free minutes and cell phones. Email. Facebook. Skype. Packages sent UPS. Special little notes sent in the mail. We’ve had a really good track record of cross country trips and have found a good rhythm of making it work. For this I’m beyond grateful!

But now that I’m going to be a grandma something has shifted in my perspective. Self compassion and self awareness invite me to process why I’m feeling deprived and despairing when this grandchild hasn’t even arrived on the scene yet.

What’s going on?

It’s the anticipated face to face moments that I’ll miss out on. The hoped for shared experiences that simply will not be. Precious memories with that teeny tiny new born seem to be waiting in some kind of vacuum.

More than that, I realize that it’s the fear of not being known – of being missed.

With this realization distilled and clarified, I realize that I have a choice. I can choose to view this new relationship from a vacant place of distance and scarcity of intimate face to face time. Or, I can choose to step into my new role from a place of abundance and gratitude.

With generosity and creativity I can be known as a loving grandma – fully present; engaging – even from a distance – with intention and creativity.

Celebrate with me – I’m going to be a grandma!

Linda is passionate about wholeness and healing and finds her sweet spot in the role of Spiritual Director. Married with two adult daughters, who have flown the coup – far from Western Michigan where they grew up, she’s home alone with her husband of 39 years. Though a life long learner, Linda never had opportunity to go to college until recently and is now working on getting her Associate Degree with hopes to finish it before her husband retires next year and they take off – visiting their kids and exploring the country in their RV. Meanwhile, she enjoys yoga, baking, reading, writing, and hiking. You can know more about Linda through her blog.

remembering. celebrating. anticipating.

Ahhhh! 2013 has arrived. I’m so eager to see what this year will bring, yet I’m still reflecting on what 2012 brought…

I met some really amazing people this past year who brought new perspective and insight and creativity and beauty to how I view people, the world, God. I felt enriched and strengthened by what they offer the world.

Some relationships were rekindled and deepened, some faded and changed. Learning to both “let go” and embrace the gift in how each one changes me.

I’m blown away by how God continued to refine me and awaken me and encourage me and use me as I think about all the lives and stories I had the opportunity to be invited into as a counselor. That space continues to be stunningly sacred and holy.

I’m humbled and grateful for the places and spaces that I was able to offer my voice in different corners of the country this year. The traveling, the beautiful scenery, the energy radiated and given…it filled me and brought life to my soul. I experienced more of God’s redemption and healing in my story as I shared my one small voice in the sea of voices out there.

I was a student of the human heart in new ways as I listened to and observed the people I sat next to, ran into, watched from a distance, allowing their suffering and ache and healing and hope to remind me of our humanity and the longing for wholeness that exists beyond any border, any political camp, any skin color, any gender, any religion, any family.

I’ve come undone and felt desperate in new and shocking ways…mentally, emotionally, physically, and while I could write so much about this, I’m choosing to practice gratitude while I name the good in each experience, in each person, in myself.

I watched my children live another year and was amazed at how their words turned into sentences, how they continue to live awake and full of awe and wonder, how their innocence keeps turning into enlightenment, how they crave love and delight and connection and safety, and how they easily and authentically remind me of what matters, of how good we are no matter what we say or do, and how important it is to keep fighting for what’s good and true.

I’m utterly grateful to keep sharing each year with my husband, whose companionship and love and faithfulness keeps recycling and renewing each day.

And my Creator…I’ve felt his embrace and gentleness and power and presence in ways that were both subtle and gigantic, and heard his whisper that kept calling out the best in me, even when I wasn’t sure how much energy I had left.

So, starting the new year by remembering what was…and grabbing it all up, storing it in my memory, my heart. A ton of mundane, but much of the divine in the daily; an abundance of new experiences, fun and extravagant and hard. So much to remember, so much to celebrate.

And then, anticipating what will be…more good, more hard, more ordinary, more extraordinary. And, learning what it means to receive it all with acceptance, with grace, with humor, with openness…to how it all fits into God’s larger story…for me, for his world.

May your heart become stronger, more tender, more whole, more free. May you be reminded of who you are in profound and surprising ways as 2013 unfolds.

Happy, happy new year!

A little peek into our 2012: A Year in Review

 

holiday cheer.

tree

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”

Glowing hearts. Glorious tales. Good cheer. Kissing. Singing. Parties.

We’re making our grand entrance into the most wonderful time of the year…right? Family parties, work parties, school parties, social parties – they’re starting to spread themselves across our calendars. Food and festivities and fun are awaiting us.

But what happens when you add the people? Parties with people? What starts stirring inside of you when you begin anticipating the people at the parties? How can it be that the people can make or break our holidays?

Let’s review some of the lovely cast members…

The grump. The one that greets you with that smirk or look or signs of boredom or no looking at you at all. Their face, their attitude, silently shouts, “I don’t wanna be here. I’m here only because I have to be.” They’re reading the newspaper, watching TV, positioned in isolation, tucked away by themselves. Yup, the one you totally don’t want to be seated next to at the dinner table. You feel ignored.

The talker. The words and stories are shooting out of their mouth like a bubble machine, floating around in circles with no direction, no intent. They’re really not interested in you or what’s happening in your life, rather, they’re eager for you to know, desperately know, that they are present and breathing and that there’s an abundance of things happening in their life, their world. You feel unseen.

The clown. The one that’s going to make everyone laugh, the center of attention. The one who wants to bring up the level of joy, all night. The one who enters conversations turning everything into something humorous and lighthearted, minimizing any sign of tension, shutting any deep feeling down. Their desire for harmony is well-intentioned, but they seem to miss any moment for connection and depth. You feel too much.

The social networker. The phone, the tablet, Facebook, Twitter, you name it…they drag the outside world into the room, into the space, already occupied with people, real people. They seemingly can’t get enough of other people’s lives, the outside news, the constant “noise.” They seem distracted and unengaged. You feel lucky if you have more than a 5 minute continuous conversation with them. Keeping up with everything “outside” seems more important than building anything meaningful “inside” the room. You feel unimportant.

The critic. They’ve got something to say about everything. Their ideas, their opinions, their thoughts…they fill the space between you and them. No matter what you say, no matter how you say it, they will correct you, enlighten you, try to convince you that their truth should be your truth. You feel dumb.

The disaster. The drama seems to have followed them everywhere since you last talked with them. Something strange or chaotic or awful or hurtful has once again entered their life. Their stories are unending, filled with lingering, run on sentences. All you can do is listen with amazement. You feel boring.

The star. The report as you catch up is nothing but wonderful and perfect. Once again, they’re doing everything right and good to further their life, their future, the world. They’ve got it all together and all you can do is stand in their shadow. You feel inferior.

The helper. The one who dutifully is making sure the party is running smoothly, paying attention to every detail, including that you just put your glass on the wrong surface. They’re picking up after you, cleaning up your mess before it even becomes a mess. They’re missing out on connecting with anyone because they’re frantically making sure all the “work” is done before the relaxing can begin. You feel intimidated.

There are a lot of seemingly selfish people during the holidays.

There are a lot of people who present themselves in irritating and annoying and unhelpful ways.

There are a lot of categories we could put them in.

There are a lot of people who want to be heard, be noticed, be liked, be valued…

Just like you. Just like me.

We’re all looking for and hoping for and longing for the cheer and joy and love, aren’t we?

So, what if this year, we focused on how we could share, dish out, the “wonderfulness” of this season on others instead of feeling entitled to experiencing it ourselves? Could we become selfish in a new way? Selfish by soaking in and digesting all that gets dished out to us?

Listening to him.

Paying attention to her.

Understanding him.

Appreciating her.

Respecting him.

Enjoying her.

So, that we can offer what they are looking for, hoping for, longing for.

So, that we can offer back to them exactly what their soul craves…

Delight

Belonging

Value

Security

Understanding

Appreciation

Love

Maybe, just the chance to be human.

I’m convinced that this was one of the gifts of the baby in the manger…God entering humanity, embracing our humanity.

This year, what would it be like for you to enter into the humanity in the room? What if the “wonderful” and “happy” already exists? In him? In her?

Maybe our “wonderful” and “happy” comes when we find it in others.

Maybe you being you and allowing you to connect with them is just exactly what this most wonderful time of year is about.

Because seriously, what would a party be without the people?