Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, beautiful brothers and sisters in Christ!

As we embark on this most blessed day, I'd like to share a brief summation of the homily delivered so eloquently tonight at our 6PM service by a visiting Cardinal Emeritus.  He addressed the three traditions many families keep on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:  The tree, the meal, the Mass.

The tree:  Let us remember that the gifts we look forward to receiving from under the tree this year, however special or significant, are simply a representation of the Greatest Gift given for us some 2013 years ago...the gift of Jesus, our Savior being born to save all people.

The meal:  As we savor the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the meal or dishes we enjoy each year, let us also remember our hunger for Him; our hunger for the Word; and our ability to help those people who haven't a meal to eat.

The Mass (or whatever service your denomination celebrates):  Let us remember that it is in this sacred space that we are given -- over and over and over and over -- the gift of Jesus Christ.  And it is also in this holy place that we eat of His body and drink of His blood, the First Meal, the very special reminders of His sacrifice in being born an innocent babe...living human, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, all to cover our lives in grace.

May the blessings of this holy day and season continue to be rained upon you as we enter the New Year.  I will be praying for each of you as my family celebrates together.

May we endeavor to be Christ's peace alive in the world.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fish or Cut Bait, Part II

Yesterday I wrote the first part of this post where I detailed a scenario that my husband, Drew, had dreamed about cleaning fish on a pier.  While researching the possible interpretation of his dream, I came upon article after article that brought the symbol of the fish to light as one being universally sacred.  Even Carl Jung talked at great length about fish in his psychological theories. Other psychologists and researchers have mirrored those findings in their papers. (Various quotes below:)
"In Christianity, Christ is at times represented by the fish symbol (spirituality). These water dwelling animals may represent messages from our unconscious and indicate to us how well we navigate through our emotional waters. They could symbolize body and soul nourishment and navigation through the unknown depths of ourselves."
"The fish symbolized more than allegiance to the church. The Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ can be read as an acrostic for "Jesus Christ, God's son, savior." Fish also played a role in the story of Christianity. Jesus told his followers--many of whom were fisherman by trade--he would make them "fishers of men," meaning he would teach them to bring people to the Christian faith. Fish appear in many Bible stories including the story of feeding 5,000 with two fish and five loaves."

Fishers of men...fishers of men...a fisher of men.
I always wanted to be that fisher woman.
But alas, I lacked the patience.

When I was young and living in Fairhope, Alabama, my family started a semi-regular practice of going down to Fairhope Pier on the bay and crabbing.  My dad would secure chicken backs to the bottoms of crab traps then lower them over the side of the pier into the murky waters below.  Our job was to watch for any signs of movement from the rope affixed to the wooden pilings.  If it quivered or jiggled, we could assume that a crab or two was having a southern fried chicken feast.  We were to haul the trap back up to capture that fowl-eatin' crab.

I loved this job.
And I hated it.
The excitement of the catch was thrilling. 
The wait was interminable. 

My eldest sister, Theresa, home from college one Friday night, brought a date along to one of these family excursions.  The guy, Craig, from my 12 year old viewpoint, was a bit high falootin' for crabbing but he seemed like a good sport.  My dad rigged up the traps, and I took my post.  Not ten minutes had passed before I ran out of patience.  I just HAD to check the trap.  I pulled that rope up, hand over hand, until it reached the water's surface, only to find it empty, save the water-logged back, skin flyin' from its surface like a sea anemone.  Dejectedly, I lowered the rope down again.

Craig looked over at me and said in his collegiate, preppy, pretentious tone, "Patience is a virtue, Cynthia."  (Really, dude, didn't I just meet you?!?)  Even at twelve years of age, I knew myself well enough to realize what I really wanted to do was throttle him.  Instead my eyes filled with hot, embarrassed tears. 

Didn't Mr. Jesuit College KNOW how hard it was to wait? 
How mundane the time lag? 
How humdrum the watching?

I look back on that impatient, hot-headed young girl and still relate in my heart to her problem. 

She wanted the excitement...
the thrill...
the adventure of reeling one in.
She wanted the accolades. 
But she was too immature to display the discipline it took to be patient...

Jesus, the fisher of all fishers, calls us to this life of simplicity. 
He calls us to wait with grace...
live by example...
forebear in good cheer.
He calls us to be fishers of men -
Not by reeling dudes in before they're ready.
Not by yankin' that rope of salvation before they've even nibbled at the feast.
But to be fishers who are steadfast...

I hope to do this.
I pray to become this.
If I do, I think it's safe to say, they'll come swimmin' in.
And Lord, how thrilling that catch will be.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fish or Cut Bait, Part I

Boy, have I had fish on the brain lately in oh, so many ways.  It started last week.

Drew was on the pier cleaning fish.  With a knife, gutting them.  Insides and entrails spilling over onto the wooden slats.  Messy stuff.  I was standing over him exclaiming, "That is so gross!" 

That was Drew's dream as he recalled it last week, which is of significance only because he NEVER remembers his dreams.  We laugh about it sometimes because I will wake in the morning - maybe seven out of ten mornings - and say, "I had the weirdest dream last night."  Then I will proceed to describe in minute detail the setting, characters, wardrobe, event...everything. 

He always remarks, "How do you remember your dreams?  Especially in detail like that?  I never remember mine."

So when he finally described one to me - something I could really sink my teeth into - while we ran errands, Christmas shopping and the like, I went to work doing research on the meaning. 
I find the subconscious fascinating. 
How our thoughts and fears, anxieties and goals, can reveal themselves in such a concrete yet elusive way. 
This brain God created is so awesome.
An infinite mystery...a maze of complexity...a miracle.

Funny, though, when I went to various websites about dream interpretations, there were such a myriad of explanations about fish.  What you do with them:
Eating fish (spirituality, food for the soul)
Swimming in a fish tank (detached from society, feeling judged)
Swimming with the fish in the ocean (acquiring wealth & status)
Dead fish (fear of disappointment)
Going fishing (confronting and bringing repressed emotions to the surface)
Fish in general (fertility, pregnancy)

There are fish associated with good feelings and events:
Octopi, Dolphins, Salmon, Whales, Goldfish, Koi, Lobster

There are fish ominous in their meaning:
Jellyfish, Sharks, Oysters, Squid, Orca, Eels, Leeches

I finally came across a meaning for cleaning fish:
"To dream that you are cleaning fish suggests that you are altering your emotional expression in a way that will be presentable to others. You are censoring yourself and not expressing how you completely feel."

Wahn, wahn, wahn...
I read this to Drew and said, "Should I be concerned that you may not only be censoring yourself and repressing your true feelings, but that you dreamed that I'm standing over you saying, 'That is so gross!'?"

He laughed and said, "We're good, babe."  Argh...praying so!

But the element that I found most interesting in my research was one that appeared over and over in every website, every article, every faction of meaning...
Christ is centered in the meaning of dreams of fish.

Fish on the brain, I tell ya'.  More tomorrow on my clear message, clear direction for these Advent posts.

{Photo courtesy of Fotolia, Microsoft Images partner}

Sunday, December 16, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Still living joy with intention day to day this Advent season rather than taking the time to write about these graces. But today, after the incident in Connecticut on Friday, I am feeling beyond compelled to say "thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord, for how blessed I am."  So here they are, nearing 1000.  Thanks as always to Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience  for the encouragement to share with you all.

Gratitudes #821 - 856

#821  Driving to get Nikki for a visit, all helping with dinner as a family
#822  Delicious pasta with Brawleys, Nikki and us - a mini-Boyne reunion
#823  Visiting with a newly graduated group of YA's, all migrating to Glendale to take on the production world!
#824  Gathering & fireworks at Annie's...that Drew could join us this year
It's official - I'm, now & forever more, the shortest in our family!
#825  Shopping at our favorite lot for a Christmas tree

#826  Christmas card photography


#827  The ocean - my favorite place
#828  Color coordinating...art & fashion symmetry
#829  Traditional Starbucks hot cocoa on the drive home

#830  Decorating the tree - Braden's turn to hang the angel  (next year, the kids are going to have to carry Drew on THEIR shoulders, they're growing up so fast!)

#831  Getting my dates for directing a tour in Ireland - end of January, you
can't come quickly enough!

#832  Love from my Daddy
 (Robyn pointed it out to me & waited while I took a picture...from my girls, "Hi, Daddy...")
#833  Girlfriends & God
#834  www.moreloveletters.com
#835  A few hours with Drew out Christmas shopping
#836  Gift shopping for our church adopted little family, looking forward to seeing their bright shining faces
#837  Drew and me grocery shopping for families without - a perfect way to spend time as husband and wife, blessed by God in our marriage, able to give
#838  Work on the website
#839  A new monthly newsletter gig, 1st edition published
#840  Jesus in the quiet still of morning
#841  Hot coffee, comforting in the ritual
#842  Setting up for another Movement For a Better World food delivery
#843  Braden going to the church to volunteer, so in his element
#844  Coll and Brae getting up early on a Saturday to go to the church with me, helping all morning, doing jobs to serve others
#845  Delivering the food to our family together
#846  Eduardo, Brenda, Andrea SOOOOOO precious, eyes lit with excitement as they helped us unload their Christmas gifts
#847  Praying in a circle together - me praying a thought then pausing while Eduardo translated for his beautiful Mama - back and forth, back and forth like a gorgeous pendulum of language and Him
#848  BIG Hugs all around before we departed - a promise to see them again in a few months
#849  Christmas shopping with Braden
#850  The rain, washing away evil, cleansing our world
#851  Finally, the cold 
#852  Thoughtful gift from Robyn, reminding me of his love & His love

#853  Having my children with me so often, our warm cocoon of a Christmas home
#854  Reading about Him, loving Him, leaning on Him
#855  That my children are safe, hugging them, caring for them, grateful for their lives
#856  Surprising, joyful, reassuring Word at church today

{I thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts.
I know we will all continue to pray as the world recovers
from the shock of ugliness in Connecticut last week.
Praying for you all and your families.
Looking ahead to His birth with love & anticipation
of its goodness in our world.}


Saturday, December 15, 2012

God Heals the Brokenhearted

John 14:1-4
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Following the horrific incident that occurred in Connecticut, I am realizing there are no words. 
No words to address the pain that families of the victims are feeling. 
No words to express how heartbroken we are as a nation about the deaths of these innocent babies and adults.
No words to comfort, to deliver insight, to make sense of it or make any of it right.

But I also knew that I could not just write another post and avoid focusing for at least a moment, in my very limited way, on this tragedy.

I am brokenhearted.
I cannot imagine living this.
The very thought these events are real is unfathomable to me.

Still with my extremely imperfect ability to understand, there is one thing I know to be true.
God comforts the brokenhearted.
God heals with His loving hand.
Even in times of utter confusion and desolation on our broken Earth,
God's got us...
at our lowest...at our sickest...in our deepest and darkest moments of despair.
God is with us.

Please understand that I know these thoughts cannot begin to address the magnitude of the sadness on the East Coast. 
But I also must recognize that the magnitude of our God is greater even than these trials.

I will be praying for the repose of the souls of the victims and their families.
I will be praying for the safety of all of our children, throughout the world.
And I will be holding my own children close to me, close to my heart and to my person as we continue through this season of Advent.

Please join me in praying.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Faithfully Fastidious Fridays

Simple (painfully obvious) tip on this rainy Friday

In preparing for Christmas dinner, a refrigerator clean out is probably in order.  (Especially if you, like me, haven't done so in a while and a bag of spinach leaves has taken up spoiled residence in your vegetable drawer!)  Gotta make room for the Christmas goose or turkey.

So here's the tip...
Start the cleanup the day before or morning of your trash pickup day.
That way any food that needs to be tossed doesn't hang around for a few days or even a week waiting for the refuse officers.
Seems logical but, hey, it took me most of my married life to figure this one out.

Happy Cleaning!!

Cleaned, washed & organized by 11:00AM on Tuesday...
A few hours to spare before the garbage truck rolled up!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesus & Cheese

I love my friends.
And not just because they love cheese as much as I do...but partly.

I shopped at Lazy Acres on Tuesday for some gourmet treats to serve that evening...
prosciutto wrapped Asian pears...
dried apricots and maple spiced pecans...
caramel & nut blanketed Fuji apples...
Medium Cheddar...


Luckily my girlfriends feel the same way.  We talked about life and work and Christmas and family for a while.  We ate cheese.  We laughed.  We drank sparkling water, drank wine.  So comfortable.  Like having home wrapped all around you, the familiarity seeping into your pores.  Such friends

(You know they're true blue when you say, "Whoops, that's a text from Braden.  He needs a ride home from the nursing home where he's been carolling.  Drew's working late.  Please tell anyone who comes while I'm gone that I said 'Welcome,' pour them a glass of wine, and I'll be back in a few." - and they laugh and say, "Okay, drive safely" as you leave your own home, in the middle of your own soiree to take care of your family, knowing your other family will look after each other.  Such friends.)

Once I was back home and we were all present, I asked to say a prayer, knowing our evening had been abundantly blessed.
We joined hands, and I prayed.
For us.
Our families.
The coming of the Christ child.
For the opening of our hearts to the significance that He was born as a helpless infant, humble and needy as we are each day.
For our blessings and our trials, our joys and our challenges, and everything we experience that is a reminder of how we can lean on Him in praise and thanksgiving, sorrow and hardship, grateful that He is there for us every moment, every day.
Finally, I prayed...

"And thank You for the de-lon-cious CHEESE!  Amen!"

My friend, Kate, laughingly said, "Jesus & Cheese."
And I said, "Yay, the title of my next blog."

So here it is:  Jesus & Cheese.
An intention of eight girlfriends to assemble as women in Christ, giving of ourselves for another during this season of Advent.



Together we wrote 23 letters to a friend in need.  Someone we've never met.  But someone who needs us. Needs words of abundance.  Needs words of blessing.

The website moreloveletters is dedicated to sharing encouragement and hope to people who are suffering.  I signed up to sponsor a "love letter bundle" in support of this effort after reading about it from a blogger on "incourage." 

(See my invitation verse here for the evening's theme.  Click on Nov/Dec issue and scroll to page 3.) 

Thankfully, my friends are women with hearts open and ready to share words of reassurance...
help & hope.

The greatest cheerleaders around!

So as Advent winds on, I reflect on how grateful I am for my life, my friends, my family...
our desire to give and help...
and of course, for that which brings us together...

Jesus & cheese!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Miracle on 34th...no, Deborah Street

Five weeks ago, I was deep in prayer for my neighbor who was ill. (Read here if you need to catch up.)  What I did not share in my blog post is that while praying for healing for my neighbor, I was also praying that God open his heart to believing...
that he lean on God in faith instead of on metaphysics for worldly explanations...
that he become open to the Word in his life so the chaos might cease and the restoration begin.

In this season of light and faith, it is with the greatest joy that I share with you...
This prayer has been answered.
It is a divine miracle, I have no doubt.

As long as I have known him, Jay has always believed in EVERYTHING -
I mean, the great news is, he has never believed in nothing
Over the years, he has had more than his share of physical trials and suffering.
A brain tumor, a degenerative joint condition that has left him in horrible, chronic pain, loss of work and vocation due to these conditions.
Searching, searching, always searching to be filled by....something.
Argumentative, challenging, sometimes gently mocking faith.
Still his call to me would always be, "Would you pray to your god for me?  I'm asking everyone I know to pray to whichever god they worship."
And I would answer, "Of course, I'll pray to God for you."
Then secretly, I would pray for his requested intention plus some extra...
Like, "Okay, Lord, this is in Your hands...open his heart to believe.  He needs it." 
Sneaky, I know.

Maybe I didn't mean my prayers enough at the time.
Or maybe it just wasn't time for him.
Maybe Jay had to go through more.
But after the severity of his illness in October, I redoubled my efforts and prayed fervently.  Many of you joined me, and it has finally happened.

He asked me the other day, "Did you know I started going to church?"
I tried to not look shocked as I said, "No, I didn't...which one?"
I was trying to be casual while inside I was really doing a Snoopy Dance.

We spoke about his new experiences for a while, how it was a hard adjustment for his family, this believing in something real that never was spoken of as real before, and he took me through his urgent frustrations and desire to share the journey with them.  He paused and looked at me expectantly, a look akin to a statement, "Right?  Isn't that right?  Shouldn't they understand I've had a major shift and follow me along this path?"

I paused, as always concerned about being forthright for fear of offending, but I inhaled deeply and took the plunge.
"I'm going to tell you something." 
"You're such a great guy.  It's just you can be very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very pushy."
He looked at me and said sheepishly, "I know, it's one of my worst faults."
(No argument?!?!  Instead admission and feelings of remorse?  ANOTHER MIRACLE!)
I said, "No, it's not a fault, really.  I'm just suggesting that you let your actions speak for themselves.  Continue to walk the walk.  I'm betting if you just quietly do your thing, your family will get curious as to whether or not this is a permanent shift.  Then if the changes are good, they'll be more likely to follow where you're going."
He said, "You're right.  And I also believe you were just channeling Him when you said that."
(My metaphysical, agnostic neighbor is saying "channeling God"?!?!?  Whaaatttt?!?!?!  Miracle #3!!)
Oh, and the for the record, since Jay was attributing my comments to Divine Intervention, I will say that I only intended to use 1-2 "verys" in the statement above...but I guess the Holy Spirit thought I should really drive the point home!

When I was getting ready to walk back to my house, I said to him, "I'm so happy for you, I want to cry."
And he welled up, saying, "I feel moved to tears all the time now."

Oh, Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth, thank you for listening to and answering our prayers.
I want you to know I'm calling this what I know it is.
Truly...it is a Miracle on 34th Deborah Street!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bear Humbug

I can't take it when there is someone in need.
Anyone who needs anything, I'll find a way to give it.
I'm a self-professed sucker.
Even when I've been burned in the past...

Like the time Drew and I were in New Orleans, and I gave a woman begging on the street $5 only to be pulled aside by a cop who chastised me for giving her money (and of course, showed me that she made a beeline for the liquor store and bought a Mickey's beer...thanks alot, lady).

Or the time that I gave some money to a man who had been stranded on the side of the road when his car broke down....only to be approached by him a week later in the same exact spot with the same exact story...wah wah wah...

Or just a few months ago when a man outside of my grocery store was asking for money, and I told him I didn't have any but he could have some of the groceries I just bought for my family...and he cussed me out.  Nice...

Still, each time I see someone in need, I can't help but think to myself,
"What if I'm looking into the face of Christ?"

So when Braden received the "Baby Shower" invitation from his 7th grade religious education class, asking for donations on behalf of Precious Life Shelter, I jumped on the opportunity.  Precious Life provides much needed diapers, clothing, stuffed animals, wipes, etc. to women in need.  Women who have come from situations I cannot even fathom.  Women who have helpless babies born into these desperate circumstances who need care and might not receive it but for the efforts of this organization.

I was heading to the store to pick up prescriptions and a few groceries, planning to purchase newborn diapers to send.  Of course, when I got to the baby aisle, I couldn't resist also getting wipes - the jumbo package for sensitive skin - to add to my diaper offering.  Then I saw the stuffed animals.  I am embarrassed to admit I went back and forth mentally about whether I should spend the extra money on a stuffed animal in addition to my planned donations.  I walked up and down the aisles trying to justify an extra $9.99, looking for a less expensive choice, my fist closed tightly around that Alexander Hamilton currency, while my heart tried to loosen my grip. 

Was I really this wound up in knots over the difference between a $17.48 total contribution and a $27.47 total?  I thought of my own two precious babies, now 16 & 13, at that age - helpless, needy, beautiful.  I couldn't take the thought of them suffering, so I grabbed the softest bear I could find, loving that a baby would soon feel the cushy suppleness of the fur against his skin.

I stopped by the pharmacy for Braden's diabetes supplies before checking out. 
The total? 
"I can't afford these prescriptions plus $28 worth of donations as well."
I was beginning to have bear buyer's remorse even before approaching the register.
I talked myself back into generosity over fear of being "too giving" (is there such a thing?) this holiday season. 
Still all the way up to the cashier, I was experiencing an inner struggle.

When I was about to pay, I remembered that the pharmacy had given me a 20% off coupon for my shopping total.  The amount off?  $25.26...only a little more than two dollars from covering my entire donation.

Oh, God, how little do I believe?
Of course, we are promised that when we are generous,
God will repay us and even promote us.
I am such a baby in my faith, I still have such a hard time handing over all I have to those less fortunate, confident in the fact that God will provide for me and mine.

On the way back to my car, laughing at the lesson while chiding myself for my doubt,
I had a fleeting thought of that promised promotion...
"I wonder if I'll see it when it happens?"
I glanced down at my receipt in hand .
Sitting on top of the paperwork I had not yet looked at was a slip of paper, a message which read,
"Here's our way of saying THANK YOU for shopping your Pavilions Store...
$10 OFF.

The price of the bear.
The reward for finally choosing the right thing.
The love of Christ printed out on a grocery store coupon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Visiting my many gratitudes today...the first time in a while (on paper!)  I decided to live my joys with my family and friends minute by minute the last few weeks rather than take the time to write about them. But today, a breather.  So here they are.  From Thanksgiving on - simple joys. Thank you, Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience, for the encouragement to share my blessings with you all.

Gratitudes #777 - 820

#777  Going to see the Freshmen Class of The Young Americans in their 1st show...New Kids 2012!
#778  Visiting with old friends
#779  Dinner out with Drew, the kids and Coll's friend, our wonderful Sarah
#780  Sarah & Carlos and their family - catching up after years

#781  Cooking together as a family for Thanksgiving dishes to share
#782  Colleen learning to make my mashed potatoes for the first time
#783  Thanksgiving Mass -
2 celebrants & 3 co-celebrants
#784  A gorgeous day with friends and family
#785 Constant view of the ocean

#786  A volleyball game on the beach (I watched but Drew & Braden got nice and sweaty)
#787  Family pics on the sand

#788   A sweet hello from my Daddy

#789  Decorating the entire house for Christmas with the family
#790  Braden hanging Christmas lights for the first time...becoming a man
#791  A night out with Jason & Jamye, in town for just a few nights
#792  Sydney and Kalen

#793  My Santas


#794  Young American students coming to stay for a week
#795  Jazmine
#796  Days of writing
#797  New ideas
#798  Helping with our youth ministry
#799  Middle schoolers & parents spending an hour with Father Jim
#800 Being asked to be a part of our church's Parish Council
#801  Braden's Fall Concert - a surprise solo for our boy  ("I didn't lie that I didn't have a solo...I just didn't tell you!")
#802  The Young Americans annual Christmas Show
#803  Watching Francesca and Sophia sing...so precious!!
#804  Seeing my old students in their element
#805  Bill & Robyn
#806  Jessica and David, singing like angels..."Ave Maria" & "O Holy Night"
#807  "The Life of Pi" - visually stunning
#808  Having Drew home for the weekend
#809  Braden attending the Youth Ministry Progressive Dinner & Caroling, getting out of his comfort zone
#810  Dinner & TV with Colleen ("This was the best weekend ever!")
#811  Sweet words from Father Jim
#812  Getting ready for Christmas


#813  Advent preparation, cherishing the promise of His birth

#814  Two Advent calendars down, two to go

#815  Choosing Joy

{Thank you for reading.
Thank you for loving Him alongside me.
May He bless your week.}