Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faithfully Fastidious Fridays

I finally did it...
Took the leap...
Got organized...
Followed all the advice.

I got myself ready for guests for this holiday season...drop-ins & otherwise. 

I hate that feeling of not being fully present during the holidays because
things aren't picked up...
or I'm out of snacks and drinks...
or I don't have a few projects on hand to fulfill an unexpected need for time with little ones.
I want to be intentional.
Joyful.
Loving.
Kind.
Filled with Grace.

So here are my practical ways at keeping my nerves at bay and my guests cherished this holiday season...


 

Aerial View:
Wine & Goblets,
Christmas Joy in my plate ware,
Napkins & Spreaders.
To the left out of view?
Candles, of course!

Ready to share Christmas cheer! 









Note the Christmas box, here at left, underneath the table pictured at top. It sits at the ready waiting to be opened by hungry guests.
 
 
Below:  Box top removed:  3 different kinds of crackers...pistachios...holiday cookies.  It all fits snugly in the decorative box.  Just add small platters, bowls and a spreadable topping for  - waa-laa -  Seasons Greetings in seconds!
 

 

 
 


















The penguin tin in the frame at right?
Filled with craft projects for little ones who visit during the season.



Overnight guests are planned for as well.  For the three Young American college students we have staying with us for a week (Christmas show rehearsals and performances...can't wait!) in our roomy 1400 square foot California bungalow, I have called my kitchen baker's rack into double duty.Charging station for PDA's, three boxes favorite cereal (I asked ahead of time), coffee disks, napkins and lunch makings on the first shelf. Second shelf contains Christmas spreaders, a box of assorted snacks for after late night rehearsals munchies and plates to grab in the morning for bacon, eggs and croissants my husband makes them. Then they can help themselves! 
A close-up on the lunch makings box:

Clementine oranges, bread and peanut butter,
Fiber One brownies (in case they aren't getting their
fiber anywhere else), granola bars, etc.  I also included some Ziploc baggies for sandwiches and brown paper bags to pack their lunches.
(Late day addition:  I turned a necessary trip to the pharmacy into a minor grocery excursion this afternoon by adding apples & bananas to the lunch choices.  A few dollars for me, no additional trip and a little more variety for them!)
 
 
These small but purposeful steps are helping - and will continue to help - our family keep the noise at bay and the spirit of the Season in our hearts this month. So next time you're out grocery shopping, consider picking up various & sundry non-perishables, put them in a festive container, and wait with joy (not dread!) for friends to drop by and share the Christmas season with you and yours!
















Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writer's B.O.


Call it what you will.

Writer's B.O.
Poetic B.O.
Spiritual B.O.

It doesn't matter the label. 

Between launching my CynthiaWrites website a few months ago, writing this blog, being hired for freelance writing gigs, keeping up with my social media obligations relative to my new field, and working on two independent projects as well, I came down with it.

B.O.
Better known as...
BurnOut.

My girlfriend asked me a couple of months ago how I could write semi-daily and not run up against a block.  I hadn't truly considered this and how blessed I have been to be supplied readily with topic after topic, knocking me on the head and helping me grow.  I told her, "Honestly, I just pray for God to give me the words.  And for Him to open my eyes to what I might otherwise be missing.  Then I can write about it and share it."

But after only a few months of trying to keep up with a very varied schedule,
I found myself struggling with topics...
words...
ideas...
yes, even grace.

Thankfully (pun intended), Thanksgiving came upon me at the very time the mental exhaustion set in, and I intentionally didn't write...

Wednesday in preparation for the Thursday event -
Thursday in honor of being present with family and giving thanks for all of the good God has heaped upon us the past year -
Friday in order to decorate the whole house (yep, top to bottom in one day!) and spend the evening with out-of-town friends -
Saturday just because I still needed the rest -
Sunday & Monday (because the dreaded kidney stones returned...arrgghh!).
The final two days I started to waiver because I was feeling guilty for not "doing my job" for so long.



Yet my will to rest outweighed my culpability in deserting my craft.
For, after all, why should I feel guilt?
The impetus in writing this blog - nay, writing ANYTHING
(including performance newsletters, social media articles &
 
yes, even copy for a website about bolts and hinges!)should be a willingness to listen...
to follow...
to love God and do as He directs.
It's only when I do simply "to do" that the intent gets muddy...
self-serving...
unfocused...
graceless...
tainted.

So I surrounded myself with readings of thanks,
words of thanks,
thoughts of thanks,
but mostly, things and people for which I am thankful. 
That's when the miraculous occurred and the healing began. 
 
So today from out of my rest and rejuvenation emanates much gratitude to Him who led me "beside restful waters" from which I drank, deeply and contentedly.

Thank God for Thanksgiving.
Thank God for a week of rest and family.
Thank God for reigniting my snuffed flame, kindling in me the fire of His path.
Thank God for bringing moments in my life of intentional living...
Being present through Him and with Him and in Him,
so I can stop "living" and re-start LIFE.



{Thankful for you all this day.
For your reading,
your patience in waiting to hear from my simple brain,
for your friendship in Christ.
Looking forward to a blessed Advent season with you.}



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Susceptible

Poor God...

It's got to be frustrating being constantly subjected to my inner monologue.  The constant sullying of this perfect image He created, worn down and away by earthly pursuits, human discontent.

Poor God...

Don't get me wrong. 
If anyone can handle it, He can.
He is the Creator of the Universe after all.
Still it has to gnaw away at His beautiful heart to know that, despite His best efforts, His constant calling, that I am so susceptible to distraction. 
And in that distraction, susceptible to falling...again.

How much easier it would have been for Him to have created drones,
simple automatons who would
do without questioning,
love without condition,
follow without free thought.
Thankfully He knew what a mistake that would have been.
He didn't do it.

If He had, we would have never been capable of creativity, poetry, artistry, integrating our subtext into all of our personal works.

We would never have experienced the grandeur of the Mona Lisa...
the Sistine Chapel...
the Parthenon.

We would have never been blessed to read
The Iliad or
The Count of Monte Cristo or
the poetry of Robert Frost.

There might not be airplanes or rockets or even electricity.
Pizza may have never been created...
or BBQ ribs or strong, dark coffee or curried chicken.

So many creations, discoveries, visions, inventions.
Things which may now seem commonplace, seem ordinary in our familiarity with them, but in reality are glimpses of Heaven. 
His Heavenly vision perfecting itself in the humanity of His child.

Thankfully He allows the distractions in my life.
He gives me the freedom to choose.
He listens to the monologue in my brain...
lets me choose earthly pursuits from which to draw comfort or confusion or inspiration...
And quietly waits for my choice.

So grateful I've become most susceptible to His grace.

Monday, November 19, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

So many things this week...simple joys.  Thank you, Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience,  for the encouragement to share my blessings with you all.  Thanks for reading.


Gratitudes #757 - 776

#757  A lovely meeting at the church with Father Jim and the ladies...a discernment for all
#758  An awesome haircut for my boy...if only we could keep it like that after we leave the salon!
#759  An appointment with my therapist....yes, I see a therapist...am so grateful for her.  Hadn't been since February...time to get busy and work through the grief
#760  Braden's audition for America's Got Talent

































#761  1st professional audition for my boy
 #762  His sister totally behind him...taking pics the whole time..."Great job, Buddy!"
#763  The whole family behind him
#764  Probably the most happy and excited I have ever seen him over any single thing, event, opportunity
#765  A visit with Lisa
#766  Her generosity in helping me set up the hall for the Movement for a Better World "Adopt a Family" program
#767  Early morning Saturday...not wanting to get up...Drew:  "Do you want me to go for you?"  Me: "No, thanks, honey, but it's my responsibility."  Drew:  "Yeah, but you're my responsibility."  Waaahhhh....
#768  Getting the doughnuts, making the coffee, serving others, checking in families, visiting with other families, fellowshipping, saying prayers before meeting our adopted families


 

 
 
#769  A sweet little family in need...three beautiful children...twinkling eyes, excited giggles, a gracious Mama waiting patiently for her boy to translate
#770  Looking forward to seeing them again for the Christmas season...so excited to shop for gifts for those children!

#771  Gorgeous roses
#772  Decorating the hall
#773  My precious Sarah K
#774  Funny texts from Theresa
#775  Listening, loving, discerning, praying
#776  Closer to Him today




{Thank you for reading...
for keeping me company on this beautiful journey...
for letting my words &thoughts into your lives...
for your gift of time.
I am more grateful than you could possibly know.}
 
 
 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Decorating for a Better World?

Sometimes I can't believe how blessed I am...

Today the "Movement for a Better World" organization at our church kicks off their "Adopt a Family" for the holidays.
We join together for fellowship and prayer before heading out to bring boxes of food and blankets to a family in need for Thanksgiving.
 
One of my jobs for this effort? 
Decorating for all of the volunteers who so generously give of their time to those less fortunate. 
I'm astounded I get to serve in this way....





 


 









 











I used to think that this skill (as my sister, Margaret, wrote in her wedding thank you to me, "one of your many callings") was a bit frivolous...that I couldn't exactly label it a "calling."  But as I'm beginning to witness, the more I am asked to do it, the more it makes sense that it is a given gift...
it isn't something to be embarrassed about...
it truly is something that speaks to and serves others. 
I love looking at the faces of the people who approach something that I've built, so second nature to me, and how it brings them joy...especially on a very early Saturday morning!

So as we partake of a doughnut, some coffee & fellowship on this blustery autumn day,
I thank You, God, for this gift...
this calling...
this opportunity to serve and bring joy to others.
Thank You for the beauty you've created all around us.
Thank You for showing me that it's a gift to share it.

"God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." - Genesis 1:31a

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is The Voice

I've always had a special penchant for King David.  As my friend, Vincent, would say, "He's the bomb-dot-com."  I know he had an affair and all, but this hasn't deterred me.  Truthfully, the fact that he was a sinner and was still the chosen one of his time is probably why I like him all the more.  I guess it makes me feel like there's still hope for me.

But the real reason I've always loved David is his gift of the Psalms.
Anything that is musical or communicates in poetic form, Biblically speaking, is for me.  Actually, I think given the right circumstances, I could have been quite the psalmist myself...
You know, throw a giant...
A war and my own armies...
A bunch of persecutors...
An anointment and appointment by God to rule a country...
Throw all that my way, and I think I could have come up with some pretty awesome material.
I'm just sayin'....

But I digress. 
I was reading one of the Psalms a few days ago and my consciousness was struck, I'm sure, because the content was fixed on the Lord's voice. 
The voice, with all its' miraculous workings and abilities, has forever been my passion.
So this passage moved me greatly.

Psalm 29:3-9
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the glory of God thunders,
the Lord over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is power;
the voice of the Lord is splendor.
The voice of the Lord cracks the cedar;
the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon...
The voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame;
the voice of the Lord rocks the desert;
the Lord rocks the desert at Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
All His palace say, "Glory!"

I could clearly see in my mind's eye
the thunder...
the power...
the splendor...
the fire...
the quakes...
the response of nature to the Lord's voice.
So powerful is it that it can move mountains.

Yet, I was concurrently struck by sadness as I realized the number of times the Lord was shouting down to me only to be ignored.
The number of times the Lord was singing me lullabies of His peace only to be drowned out by my own useless musical cacophonies.
The number of times the Lord's voice whispered to me in the quiet of my mind only to be knocked aside by the siren song of the devil wafting out to me from the Halloween candy jar.

This is not what I want.
I want the thunder...
the power...
the splendor...
the fire...
I want the voice of the Lord to twist me like that oak and strip me bare of all pretense and pride.

I want the glory of the Lord's voice, in all of its beauty and majesty penetrating me to the very core, so deep and so sure that I cannot turn away from it during the day.
And at night, as I drift off, I want to sleep to the lullaby of my Lord, my Saviour, my precious God on high.

 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cadence

Cadence: def. music A progression of chords moving to a harmonic close, point of rest, or sense of resolution.



For those of you who read "A Minor Chord", my inconclusive blog post last week, you will understand the reference of this title.  (For those of you who have not and don't want to be confused with the upcoming text, you may read it here to catch up.)

Because I left you all hanging without a resolution to my problem, that of my inability to see a future for myself without my dear, departed dad, I thought I should write this post as I found some answers. I joyfully share with you the texts I read after my continuing discerning prayer which initiated a whisper of solace and hope in me.  I have copied them, unedited, that you may read them in their entirety and reap whatever personal fruits the words may have in store for you.  They are meant to encourage and inspire you in whatever disheartened circumstance you may occasionally - or currently - find yourself.

"Sit quietly with Me, letting all your fears and worries bubble up to the surface of your consciousness.  There, in the Light of My Presence, the bubbles pop and disappear.  However, some fears surface over and over again, especially fears of the future.  You tend to project yourself mentally into the next day, week, month, year, decade; and you visualize yourself coping badly in those times.  What you are seeing is a false image, because it doesn't include Me.  These gloomy times you imagine will not come to pass, since My presence will be with you at all times.

When a future-oriented worry assails you, capture it and disarm it by suffusing the Light of My Presence into that mental image.  Say to yourself, "Jesus will be with me then and there.  With His help, I can cope!"  Then, come home to the present moment, where you can enjoy Peace in My Presence." - Jesus Calling

"He said to His disciples, 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat or about your body and what you will wear.  For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  Notice the ravens; they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them.  How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life span?  If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why do you worry about the rest?" - Luke 12:22-26

"Be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, who marches with you; He will never fail or forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6

"(We destroy arguments) and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ..." - 2 Corinthians 10:5

(Biblical text from the New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition. My emphasis added on those phrases which resonated with me relative to my problem.)

In a miracle of Divine glory, He gave me His answers. 
He knows that it will take time. 
He knows I will miss my darling dad in the coming days, weeks, years. 
But He also reassures me that He will never fail me in my grief. 
He will take care of me in whatever stage I find my person, my body. 
Though as any responsible parent, He warns me about my constant worry over those things which I cannot control, He gives me a phrase, through Sarah Young, that I continue to utter as the gloom assails me. 
"Jesus will be with me then and there. With His help, I can cope!
(I have added to this phrase another, the ever popular "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13 - through which I find great comfort.)

But, still, I believe He led me to write the first post without a solution.
In an effort to assure each of you that we all find ourselves humming a tune with no end sometimes, and we are not alone in this feeling.
But from now on, as I write His word...
His message...
His strength...
into every chord...
every melody...
every harmony of my life,
the chord will resolve.
The cadence will sound.

Oh yes, Lord, that is music to my soul...
  

 
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Thank you, Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience, for the encouragement to share the joys and thanksgivings of my life.  We're back from the Special Edition about my children last week.   Feeling incredibly grateful at this moment to have the opportunity for you all to share in my daily thanksgivings with me.  Thanks for reading.

Gratitudes #724 - 756
#724  Caring, competent doctors who tend my children - the kids' dentist is such a great guy
#725  The ability to pay for my daughter's Junior trip to Monterey
#726 Wonderful birthday celebrations for my children...people in their lives who care so much and took the time...to sing happy birthday, send them a card or a gift, share their joy in my children's lives
#727 Rich and the banner day he orchestrated at Wipeout for my kids and their friends

On set!

#728  Rich, taking time out of his busy day shooting, treating Braden and Colleen like rock stars

Wipeout's producer letting my kids announce
the contestants who moved on to the next round
#729  Getting to see the inner workings of a TV set...been awhile
#730  Mary, her hilarious offerings, her making all over my kids...SUCH a great person!
#731  Getting to see old YA students now in full-blown production roles
#732  Nancy, Beth, Kirk - catching up
#733  Autographs and pictures with Jill, Wipeout's host
#734 A safe trip for my husband...that he only stayed 3 days this time

#735  A good talk with him on the phone while he was gone, grateful for his ability to listen
#736  A birthday celebration for Michelle, delicious Asian cuisine, yummy coconut cake
#737  Maddie safely home from NYC for a few days where she had been without power from Sandy for over a week
#738  Being asked to interview for service on our Parish Council...praying for discernment
#739  A lovely meeting at church for Movement - people beginning to know my name...this is BIG, people!
#740  Organizing the adopted families for Thanksgiving...talking to people who care enough to serve those less fortunate
#741   Watching Alias reruns with Colleen...she makes me laugh!  (Colleen, not Sydney Bristow)
#742  Breakfast for dinner on Thursday - I can make me a pancake!
#743  My husband coming home, waking up next to him, feeling so blessed
#744  Some good workouts...K.E.N.P.O!
#745  A much-needed hair appointment and two subsequent good hair days...hallelujah!
#746  Beautiful flowers for my daughter's sweet 16, arranged by her Mama with love
#747  Braden's sense of humor...fantastic!
#748  A good pair of metallic platform pumps
#749  Getting through some pretty intense days of grief relatively unscathed
#750  Trusting, hoping, praying...thanking Him for the great & the awful
#751   Shark Tank...I know, I know, ridiculous...but I love it!
#752  Continuing to dream & listen
#753  Hitting a high B with clarity, control and vibrato...gosh, that felt good - also a bit surprising
#754  Braden's descriptors of his Grandpa Joe when his religious education class shared about someone they loved who had passed on...the Dia de Los Muertos celebration (Day of the Dead) that we observe at our church on All Souls Day...in his words:  "A great Grandpa; very loving and kind; had great character; preacher, war vet, messenger"  (Messenger?!?  Come on, that kid is deep!  Sobbing...)
#754  Listening to musical theater songs with Drew and the kids at dinner, telling them about composers and history
#755  Family game night
#756  Last but certainly not least, so intensely grateful for every military person...man, woman...Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard...past, present, future...those who fought and planned and drove vehicles and watched and strategized and went without simple luxuries...those who sacrificed their lives, their health, their time in service of our country and all who live here...thank you.  God bless you and yours.


Thank you, Uncle Pat (Patrick McGonagle) who was killed in action in service to our country in the Marine Corps during the Korean War...
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you, Uncle Billy (William McGonagle) who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you, Daddy
(Joseph McGonagle),
who served during the Korean Conflict
in the Air Force
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
{Thank you for reading...
For your prayers...
For your time.
Praying for an incredibly blessed week
for you & yours.}
 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Minor Chord

I've come to look on this blog as my ministry. 
Being transparent. 
Sharing problems, insights plus, hopefully, a little humor along the way. 
I desire it to help those who read it. 
It comforts me as I remain centered and focused on those issues which are most important.
 
I always wait for a resolution to a problem before writing about it. 
I'm awaiting God to give me the answer so I can pass along any understanding I have gleaned along the way.

I do not like to write without a solution.
To me this is akin to singing a song in a major key and stopping one chord short without resolving the final....you're just hanging on that next to the last minor chord. 
(This gives me the creeps just thinking about it.) 
I have a need for symmetry unmet when this happens.

I have put off finishing this post for the longest time in waiting for a resolution. 
And while I'd love to tell you that it's finally hit me...
that my density has been punctured and dissolved into understanding,
that's simply not the case. 
I have no solutions...no insights...no ending to my problem.  
Sometimes there is no end in sight...no answer...nothing to soothe our weary, worried souls except faith. 
The faith that we don't have the answers but continue to walk beside Him in the knowledge that He's got us.  
We're in His care. 
We'll be provided with an answer one day. 
But maybe not until He greets us at the end of our earthly lives.

So here's my deal-io with no solution.
I have a practice that has followed me through my life.
On the surface, one might think it has to do with fashion.
But in reality it is a practice of seeing into my future with a vision in mind...something concrete that will help me achieve my goals.

I plan ahead with a specific wardrobe, hairstyle and home decor in mind.
I'm sure I adopted this practice from being an actress with years of audition experiences.
Having to adapt to the character and become a new person was a gift.
I always relished character roles.
From childhood to middle age, I have been a chameleon, playing bit parts and dressing accordingly.

I've been the good student touting conservative ideals with a button down shirt plus a hint of flair...hot rollers for the unruly curls a must.
I've been the rebellious 20-something with a black, white and red wardrobe, spending nights dancing at clubs and days auditioning in LA or toiling away at a desk....teased bangs and Madonna chic waves or closely cropped pixie - take your pick.
I've been the singer, teacher, director with tough love, dramatic appeal and the knee high boots to match...straightening iron required.
I've been the doting Mama with the neat and decorous home supervising an agreeable marriage and well-mannered children while donning multiple maxis, jeans, blouses and often workout wear....diffuser on my blow dryer always attached for an au natural look.

These have not been acts, just phases through which I've passed.
With each phase, I've looked ahead for the appropriate wardrobe, haircut and color and home decor to match.
Each of these visuals has helped me achieve whatever the goal ahead of me happened to be.

Now I look in the mirror and observe a woman 20 pounds heavier than six months ago, graying at the temples and dressed in an old T-shirt and capri workout pants...again.
I have a hole in the only pair of jeans that fits.
I'm sure someone will commit hara-kiri if they see me approaching, even one more time, in one of the two sundresses that I don every other day.
(Have I mentioned it's getting cool and I can't wear one pair of holey jeans and sundresses for the fall and winter seasons?)
And here's the thing from this actress with the clear future vision...
I just can't seem to see any way out.

I have not achieved roly-poly status in an "I am woman, hear me roar and I love my body and physical appearance no matter what" kind of way but in an "I just watched the person who knew me best in the world slowly greet death and I can't figure out why it ever mattered to me what my hair looked like" kind of way.
No vision of the proper nutrition and workout regime to fix this.
No desire for it either.
No vision of a hairstyle...
Personal style...
House styling...
That would assist in my goals for the future.
No vision at all of my future without him and how that would look.

So though it bothers me to do this, that's the end.
There is no summation.
I have walked away from my computer for three weeks in an attempt to listen for an answer and finish this post.
I am facing the fact that this is it for now.

Because we are all human, I'm sharing it with you.
I'm trying to be as transparent as possible.
To let you know you're not alone whenever this feeling creeps into your life.
To let you know that we all have unanswered questions.
We all have grief that can't be broken.
We all have the occasional pit from whence we are trying to free ourselves.
I can only hope that knowing we all experience these types of hardships brings you some small measure of comfort.

I ask that you pray for me.

Looking ahead to my major chord...