Tuesday, December 31, 2013

When in Philly, Order Crabfries...5 Things I Learned in December

I'm back from my 11 day escapade which included flying to Ohio and Wisconsin. Some people go to sunny Florida or on cruises for the holidays. I go to two of the coldest places, one of which had a wind chill of negative 20 when we left. It was "too cold to snow." But there was snow on the ground in both places so we had a white Christmas.

It started with a flying adventure that took me from a cancelled flight in North Carolina to Philly to eating my first ever cheese steak (minus the cheese...maybe that's why I didn't find it to be so good) and ended with a super fun wedding. I'm now exhausted but it was worth it to get to dance for hours on end with family and watch the brother and new sister-in-law get married!

In December I learned:

1. You can take too much video content on your phone. Which I did. 79 videos later. 79 videos?!?

2. I apparently never delete anything off my phone. This has to be done if you like to take videos as much as me.

3. People generally like to be your friend in airports. The world seems to stop (at least for me) in airports. Be careful, this can be good or bad, both the friend thing and the time thing. Out of all my plane adventures, including walking a mile for the cheesesteak, I never missed a flight! Met some new friends in line for crab fries, didn't miss a flight.

4. I learned Wisconsin is magical. It felt like Narnia to me. Everywhere was snow and lots of it. It was Christmas time still and beautiful lights and amazing views from the sky (I took pictures, of course). Except for the negative 20 temps, I didn't want to leave.

5. Rest is good. Time away is good. Coming back is good. Celebrating is good. See below.

It's New Year's time. Womp womp.

For your information, I don't like New Year's much. I never have. It's always a let down after Christmas, my most favorite time of the year. And I am not much for coming up with resolutions or a 'word' for the next year. But the past couple years, God's been showing up, as He often does when my rebellious self comes along, and He as given me something to grab ahold of for the new year. Last year it was brave. Of course, like most things I like to oppose, I struggled a bit along the way. Being brave is not my favorite thing, unless it looks how I'd like it to (smell the teansy bit of internal defiance?). Brave this year meant showing up when I didn't want to, sitting it out and resting when I needed to, letting go when it was time.

This year I think God might be calling me toward the word celebrate. Sounds nice, right? I'll let you know.

Celebrating when all is right in the world, easy enough. Everyone loves the days and years and holidays that are merry and full and bright. But what about when you're living on little and it's too hard to feast?

God shows up in our lack. He is always making life from death and giving us reason to celebrate, but it looks different than what we imagine.

Most days, celebration-living is the just barely normal and get through the day kind. I'll hang out with you on those days, too.

But, remember, I'll throw paper with you when it's the celebrate with confetti kind. And then I'll take videos to record it.

Happy (hear the enthusiasm?!) New Year, however it may look.

Linking up here.

Question: What did you learn in December?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What I see in the faces

It was an exceptionally cold December from what I remember. I would meet with the family outside at a park, by their choice, week after week.

I was cold. But it didn't matter. They were the ones who would be cold if they didn't find somewhere to go soon. All the homeless shelters for families were full this time of year. They had to leave where they were staying. They had exhausted all their options.

I had many families like this, but this one stood out to me. A mother. A father. And a baby. All together, one unit. Trying to make it work. Didn't want to be separated.
I can't even remember the names of the parents. I'm usually so good at names. I remember their faces, all three. And, of course, I remember their baby's name like it was yesterday. I never forget a baby.

All I had was a listening ear. Some words to share, resources mainly, from the little I could pull together with places who might take them at this time of year. I had to do something.  Words of encouragement here or there seemed far too trite up against what they were facing.

I'm not a social worker, but sometimes my job becomes one, especially during this stint of time when the people who wanted a counselor were homeless. Everything else was trumped by the fact that they had no where to go.

I prayed for them that the little time I spent with them was somewhat meaningful...

Because one day, I never heard back.

Which is what happens sometimes.

You send letters.

But what do you do when there's no permanent address and the phone is shut off and you can't even locate the people you are trying to serve?

All that was left at the end of it all was the fact that I could pray.

That they got out of cold.
That they stayed resistant.

That they held onto hope.

You know how I knew they had hope? Other than the fact that they never let discouragement and disappointment after disappointment get the best of them?

Three things.

They showed up, whenever they could. As a family.

Every single time their baby smiled and laughed. I know it might not mean much to you or me, but that baby was fed, loved, cared for and knew it. They would go hungry before their baby did.

The parents told me 'thank you' every time. Even when inside they were fighting misery.

I can count on one hand the number of people who have told me thank you over the years.

The one thing I am most thankful for in my recent work-life has been learning that God lives and puts Himself amongst humanity. I used to think humanity was humanity.

Broken and hungry and fighting through are we, yes, but also significant and with faces and with laughter and hope. 

*sharing 31 days of spreading joy and reminded that joy often comes in unexpected ways. check out what amy and other inspiring bloggers are up to this month!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Letters To {and what I want for Christmas}

And it's Chinese again after days of chicken noodle soup and coughing and reverse temperatures (is that possible) and someone told me today the color is back in my face and I want to know "when was it gone?" because most of us never know until later that we were that bad off.

The wonder of Christmas reminds me we were all that bad off but a child was born so things could be made right again.

And we claim it's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, but we won't admit that's us.

we use meds to cover it up
we run ragged when we must lie down
we keep talking when we need to be stilled.

He has come to give us rest, to find our true rest.

Everything in this Christmas season tells me I should keep burning the candle. But I refuse. This year, I won't do it.

It might mean Chinese again instead of cooking something spectacular and the only gift I'm imagining is one I'm already getting this month: time with people I love {and new carpet}!

I'm not being funny. I'm not being selfless, but there's nothing on my dear-Santa list this year except time. That's all, just time.

Except for maybe the magic and wonder of Christmas to last all year round.

Time and wonder, can you wrap up those for me? If you can, you'll be my new favorite person.

linking up with ruth and others for letters to (santa). do with this what you'd like and join in!

Oh, and I'd love to know, what's your non-traditional (or traditional) Christmas wish?

I'll be taking some bloggy breaks over the next few weeks for various reasons, not to mention dancing to holiday music (this jolly song is a good choice but you might embarrass your friends).

JOY and PEACE to you as you prepare Him room.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I will lift my eyes

from this fragile life
you will rescue me
you are my prince of peace

and i lift up my soul
to you who makes things whole
o mercy love of old
in you i place my hope

i place my HOPE....

so guide me in your truth
be my strong refuge
o forgive my doubting heart
lead me back to you

help me to believe
your love is all i need
even when the storm is strong
you will provide for me...

I keep seeing hope everywhere these days.
God always knows. Here are some stumble upon finds:

for your weekend: emily freeman
when you're this close to giving up: ann voskamp

it aint over: Ed's story (via storyline blog)

and of course, if you're going to own a world record, by all means make it in the form of Christmas lights.

linking with the sunday community

Friday, December 6, 2013


GO: Reflect. That's the prompt for Five Minute Friday.

Possibly this blog consists of me reflecting 90 % of the time. So if you know me, introspectiveness, reflection, and all those things that help you do mental gymnastics (it's fun -- you don't have to get off your couch!) is something that actually recharges me, oddly enough. Writing helps me collect my ideas and perhaps synthesize them, at least that is my attempt. Thank you faithful reader friends for pausing with me to think through life a little bit.

But, it's a little ridiculous for me to reflect about reflecting the whole time, so I'm going to stop now.

I thought about making this post long, and wordy, and more than five minutes, which is so characteristically ME, but instead I will let my timer go off and stop cold turkey wherever I am. Mid-sentence.

Girl who likes to finish thoughts.
Writer who likes to tie things together, likes resolution in the story.

Stopping in the middle is so hard. Especially for 'reflectors.'

What if I'm not done?
I am done.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Just a day in the clouds...

Yes. That right there would be (four) different angles of the clouds from outside the plane window.

I love! (with an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence) clouds.

If I am on a plane and there is a beautiful view like the one above, I can do nothing more than get out my phone and hope the flight attendant does not walk by as I snap away. I think that's allowed, right? It was in airplane mode.

Today, although it's a day late, I'm unwrapping the lovely here with emily and others at chattingatthesky for Tuesdays Unwrapped. What better way than with the clouds?

I want to live in the clouds. Is that bad? I feel like all the concerns of the world just fade away when I stare out at their beauty.

When I was little I dreamt of walking on clouds made of cotton candy. I can live my life in daydreams at times so sometimes reality bites. You can't walk on the clouds, Julie, I discovered. It would be quite silly to try.

Wanna know a secret? Sometimes, when I'm flying and I see them right beside me..I feel for a second it's true. For a moment in time, the clouds really are made of cotton candy and I can walk on them without falling.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November Learnings

1. I don't need anymore stuff. There's a squish ball here. A set of finger paints over there (I work with kids). Perhaps I need a real office...

I borrowed a Christmas tree this year. And ornaments. From two different people. Please don't hate.

Christmas is my favorite. Not stuff.

Allison Vesterfelt, can we be friends?

I will pay someone (or even better, barter) to help me get rid of more stuff.

maybe not the dancing pumpkin...
2. Or my plants. I'm sad to say my aloe plant didn't make it for the winter. The transition indoors did not come soon enough. Oh, visit from Jack Frost. Oh, poor aloe plant. I cannot show you the after picture. I have learned my lesson about timing for plants in the cold.
3. Ellie Holcomb songs on repeat cure a headache. Okay, they don't cure a headache but this and her other songs sincerely ministered to me this month when I was a pitiful speciman who lost chunks of days. Those songs were life-giving. Thank you, God.
4. Along the lines of music, Sara Bareilles cracks me up. She may be one reason Twitter isn't completely overrated (yet). And she's a great musician, too. I have watched this one about 500 times.
5. Pain teaches me things, and better yet, brings me closer to my need and my savior. Even when it's beyond ridiculous.
6. It's a good idea to put your list of what you learned for the month in a special spot especially if you're traveling or organizing. Hence the shorter list.
linking up with emily and sabrina to fill you in on what I've been learning lately. let's hear it for online community! 
What have you been learning? And for the love, has anyone else experienced the death of {the closest thing to} a cactus? They are supposed to be the hardest plants to kill, ever...
...I think it's all over, but I just want to be sure.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Way Waay Back

Finally. I watched The Way, Way Back. Not to be confused with The Way Back. It's a lovely, funny movie. I recommended it before I watched it. Which makes sense. I know what I like. I don't watch a lot of movies. But I like the complicated-real, the coming-of-age, the twists and turns and the 'I-am-not-sure-how-this-is-going-to-end-up,' said my dad, who liked it, too. Turns out, Jerry Seinfeld, who says there is no such thing as fun for the whole family, is wrong. Apparently, it's fun for the whole family to watch people go through intensity (there are splashes of laughter along the way, don't worry).

The movie is a tough one. I still recommend it. It's real.

Real like I just spilled hot water all over me at Whole Foods as I type this because my hands turned to icicles and I was using the cup to keep warm because it appears the store turned on their air conditioning (hello, winter!).

Real like I have no idea how to move many of the items in my apartment as tomorrow they are going to tear up and replace the carpet, and they typically do this when you are moving out but since I have been there since the beginning of time, I'm just going to pray that the movers are very, very nice and know how to play the game Tetris. I tried, I did.

Real like I need a full time job. Yesterday. You know the drill if you've ever been through the mill with jobs in a field that essentially cannot stay stable for more than a year, once, twice, maybe three times. Okay, I'm done. I'm enjoying the rest, while being a good little job searching person. But, it's mental health. There are times I want to run away from it and/or get off the grid for awhile, but I need to work. And then I'm reminded that people matter. Drat!

I'm blessed for in-between times. For little gaps that give me sanity. And for the opportunity to refresh at a time of year I love so much.

I sort of skipped thanksgiving on here.  

It was half-intentional. Not because it had anything to do with thanksgiving. Just timing. Wanting to get off the grid. Rest awhile. Perhaps go someplace different since half the time lately I'm in an airport. This time I secretly hoped I had gotten on the wrong plane not because I didn't want to come back home but because I was finally excited for a new adventure. Finally ready.
I wrote about adventures in October and I'm really glad I did. I need to do things even when I don't feel like doing them, necessarily. Like thanks and giving.

It helps prepare me for when I'm ready for it on a soul level, not just mechanically or because adventure tends to be my nature. But true to the core, ready for change, ready for the tides to turn, and ready to embrace joy. Not just choose joy, embrace joy (I think there's a difference, even though choosing joy can be good, too).

Does that ever happen to you? Taking some time away is renewing. Refreshing. Helps you sort through yourself and all the barriers you create for yourself. I like time away every so often. I'm still living out this time away. Writing this blog post has been a challenge.

But...I'm constantly on the prowl for joy. Real joy. Embracing joy. It's always the way, way back.

I've wanted to write about my joy story for a long, long time. There's not enough time for all that now (I'm still so cold...). But I know what it feels like for joy to leave you. Something happens on a deep, deep level when you lose joy, when you let something steal your joy, when you forget who you are, for a time, and for some people, for a lifetime. It's one of the saddest things. If that's where you are, my heart breaks for you. You're not alone and joy can once again return.  People write a lot about the difference between happiness and joy, and I think that's good. Good to remember you can have this sorrow in a joy-filled life, or experience sadness, or grief. I've stepped into that many a time. And joy still covers it. But joy still hopes. Joy can laugh. Joy knows that this is temporary.

Joy is so complicated. That's why Jeremiah 31:3-5 is my hope verse for joy. I literally saw God transform my sorrow turned to hopelessness, my belief that pain could win into joy that began by believing this as I read it.

that he has LOVED me with an EVERLASTING love

he DRAWS me with his unfailing kindness

he will build me up...he will rebuild me.

again I will dance with the joyful.

Pick up your timbrels. Dance with the joyful. Choose joy, yes. But remember joy has chosen you and embrace it.

linking with shelovesmagazine for their joy link up!
see what others are up to there.
I'd love to hear your own joy story.

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