Getting Back on Track This Lenten Season

Today is Ash Wednesday. This is the first of our 40 day journey toward Easter. There are many ways to observe this season, and I invite you to consider waiting, using post-its, or whatever method works for you to use this time intentionally to grow in your faith. I will be removing 40 things from my home as I do each Lent. And, I will be getting back on track with a few spiritual practices that I have been neglecting. So on this Ash Wednesday, I ask for forgiveness for the ways I have fallen behind in what I intend to do. This Lenten Season will be a time to reset, begin again, and extend the same grace to myself as I extend to others.

However you plan to observe this season I hope this time will help you grow in your faith and strength your relationship with the Creator. Peace be to you, this Lenten Season.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to Me!
Today is my birthday! I believe that each birthday is a cause for celebration. In fact, if you ask me for my favorite holiday I am going to say my birthday. Every time January 31st rolls around I celebrate. I remember stories of being sick on my birthday when I was young. I remember sleep over parties with my Mom making Grandma’s Cinnamon Twists and Orange Julius for all my friends. I remember eating out with friends. Birthdays deserve to be celebrated.

 

I would love to share with you the grand plan of how I am celebrating my birthday except life didn’t go as planned this month. So my birthday celebration is on hold as we work on plan b! Maybe my advice for this year is to make plans to celebrate your birthday and be flexible in case the first plan doesn’t work out.

 

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Another Year of Life
Amazing God, Thank you for another birthday. Thank you for my parents who brought me into this world and taught me to love you. Thank you for my grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins, great aunts and uncles, and extended family who loved me and love me still. Thank you for my baby sister who knows me so well and loves me still. Thank you for my church families throughout the years who raised me, supported me, and sustained me. Thank you for my friends who helped shape me into who I am. Thank you for my dear husband for being faithful and all times loving. As I celebrate this new year of life, I know I wouldn’t be who I am without the love and support and challenges from so many people. So, thank you, God, for the people in my life now and in the past.
What a year this has been. Amazing trips to new and favorite places. Time spent with family and friends. Quiet days at home. God, for the ordinary days and extraordinary days, I give you thanks. Thank you for work that I love that challenges me and lets me share my gifts with others. Thank you for the material things that make my life easier. Thank you for giving me a spirit of generosity and help me to be even more generous in sharing what I have.
Thank you, Holy One, for this past year of life and for all the years of my life. I am thankful and excited to see what is next. I know that you will be with me whatever comes next and I am grateful for your abiding presence. Amen.


A slice of apple cake made by my friend, Kelly, for a previous birthday celebration.

A Prayer for all the Not a Morning People

A Prayer for all the Not a Morning People
If you know me in real life, you know I am not a morning person. Rarely do I wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Every weekday morning I have two alarms set to get myself out of bed in time to go to work. I dream of being a morning person and then when I wake up I just want to go back to sleep. So, while I appreciate all of you who prefer to get up with the sun, this prayer is for those of us who struggle every morning to get out of bed and start the day.
God, How is it morning again? Are you sure? Could I just sleep a little longer and then get up? I know you made beautiful sunrises, and I would love to see them if they happened later in the day.
God, you know all things so you know I am not a morning person. I do not jump out of bed eager to greet the new day. So today, God, what I need is the strength to get moving and start my day. Give me patience to listen to all the morning people in my life who can talk without a cup of caffeine. Distract me so I don’t head back to bed. Remind me of all the good I can do for others after a shower and a cup or two of tea. God, mornings are so hard for some of us. Thank you for loving us despite our complaining every single morning. Thank you for the snooze button and days without alarms. Thank you for waking us up to start a new day, and we will try to stop wishing we were all still asleep. God in your mercy, hear the prayers of those who wish the day started at noon. Amen.

Watch for the Wonders and Give Thanks!

Watch for the Wonders and Give Thanks!

Recently I spent some time watching the ocean. I could feel my breathing slow down as I watched the waves crash onto the shore. Little waves tumbled in while big waves came in so hard you could hear their strength. I longed to be out on the beach closer to the beauty of the ocean; however, it is cold where I live. I enjoyed the ocean from inside a warm room. And yet the thick glass separating me from the ocean did not stop me from hearing the waves or experiencing a sense of wonder at the vastness of the ocean.

So I sat and I watched. I gave thanks for the beauty of creation. I asked for protection for all who work on the water. I prayed for forgiveness for the many ways we have harmed our waters and all of creation. And I sat in awe that the God who made the oceans and all that live in them loves me.

Welcome!

 

What does welcome look like? For me this week, welcome looked like a hospice family member who was so worried that I would slip on the icy sidewalk leading into their home that she placed a walkway of towels on the path. When I pulled my car up to the sidewalk, I smiled. With all that going on in this person’s life, she stopped and thought of my safety. I felt like a very important person walking this red carpet laid out just for me.

Since I walked this sacred path, I have been thinking about welcome and hospitality. How can I welcome someone else with this much love and compassion? What opportunities do I have to lay out a path of towels to keep someone else from falling? Who needs to know they are a very important person and loved beyond measure? How can I live a life of true hospitality? While we all continue to think on these things, I invite you to pray with me.

Welcoming God, Open our hearts to each other this week. Remind us to look out for those walking alone and invite them to walk with us. Slow us down so we can see where we can clear a safe path for another. And when we are the ones being welcomed, give us grateful hearts to embrace the compassion we have been offered. Amen.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most in the End
Atul GawandeWhile I admit that I was drawn to this book because of the work I do, this is a book for everyone to read. In easily readable and understandable language, Gawande helps us to see that we will all die and the way we deal with aging in our country needs to be changed. He shares stories of people who felt like they had lost all control as they aged and the frustrations family members faced as they tried to be caregivers and keep their loved ones safe. In these pages you’ll see the author change his own understanding of how those in the medical field help us throughout our life. I hope this book will give you the courage to have difficult conversations with your loved ones. What are your hopes and fears for the end of your life? What does your best day look like and how can we help give you one more best day?

In my work, I see first hand the challenges of caring for family members who are ill. Many people prefer to remain at home and do not understand the challenges of caregiving. Others live in facilities with all the challenges associated with not being in one’s own home. I loved reading about the reformers who offer alternatives to these two options including the first assisted living home and Chase Memorial Nursing Home with two dogs, four cats, and 100 birds. Although Gawande shares different options being tried across the country, he does not sugar coat the difficulties that these places face as they try to care for people as they age.

I loved this book because I love what I get to do for living. I dream of a day where people aren’t afraid of the word hospice because everyone has already had conversations about end of life wishes and goals with their family members. While I know this type of conversation is not easy for most people, I encourage you to read this book and talk with your loved ones about what you want, what is important for you in your life and also in your death. I hope that reading this book and meeting the people on these pages will give us all the courage to speak honestly about our limits, our hopes, and our deaths.

Advent Blessings

Advent Blessings
Due to many things happening in my life and the world, I am struggling with preparing myself for Christmas this Advent season. I know I am not alone. If you are not feeling this way this year, you may have on a previous year. So this year, I’ve decided not to put up my Christmas tree and instead light my Advent wreath and more candles around the house. We put up our outside lights too. When snow fell recently, I sat and watched it fall from the warmth of my house. And I’m listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. I’m looking for hope, peace, joy, and love this season as I await the return of Christmas joy again. I’m searching for the goodness in each person I meet and relying on God’s mercy and faithfulness.
However you are celebrating or not celebrating this season, I wish you God’s peace as we await the birth of our Savior.

I Love Lists!

I admit it. I love lists. I love making lists. I love crossing things off my list. On my computer and on my google drive are countless lists from days gone by. I came across this list from 2012 that made me smile.

To Do This Year!

 

Clean out master bedroom closet

R’s life insurance

Clean out guest room closet

Clean out cabinets under bathroom sinks

Find solution for office!

Clean out drawers in island

Clean out drawers in coffee table

love your husband

buy him awesome presents

 

Since we no longer live in that same house, you might guess that I have accomplished all those things simply by moving to a new location. Not true. The closets need to be cleaned out again. Rich’s life insurance should be investigated and possibly updated. Our office space needs decluttering and a solution. We no longer have that same island, and the coffee table drawers are full of a variety of surprises. And it is obvious that my husband found my list and added the last two items.

I share this with you to make your smile, and as a reminder that things change and things remain the same. No matter how many lists I make I will always need to clean out a closet or two. No matter what house I place my coffee table in, those drawers are going to need to be cleaned out. If I leave a list out, my beloved husband is going to add his two cents to it. So embrace the new and the old. Make a new list or add on to one that already exists.

As this new year in the church begins on Sunday, remember you are loved more than you know. Go out and share that love with everyone you meet! Be loved and be love! Notice those around you this Advent season, so we may be prepared for the arrival of the Savior in just a few weeks.

Plantation Mint Tea

Plantation Mint Tea

Join me in visiting a hospice patient. She is sitting on her sofa holding a cup of tea. She shared that she was anxious and worried. I encouraged her to hold her tea with both hands and move the cup up closer to her face. I encouraged her to smell the tea and let it calm her. I encouraged her to drink her tea and let it warm her from the inside. She shared that this tea, Plantation Mint, was her favorite.

Today I am drinking this tea in her memory. I’m enjoying the minty smell and flavor. I’m giving thanks for the life of a religious and faithful woman who now is with God and is no longer anxious or worried. I’m enjoying the warmth and calm this tea brings. May you find warmth and calm this day too!

Book Review-Let’s Take the Long Way Home

Let’s Take the Long Way Home
Gail Caldwell

This is the book I wish I had written after my friend died, and I’m sharing this book review on what would have been her 45th birthday. It is a chronicle of grief and friendship. It is beautiful and heartbreaking. You’ll be privileged to learn how these two met, how they spent their days together, Caroline’s diagnosis, illness, and death, and how Gail copes with the death of her best friend.

Every time I read this book, I cry. I know what is going to happen. On the very first page, we read, “It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything , and then she died and so we shared that too.” I hope you’ll read this book. I hope you’ll read this book with a friend or a book group. I hope reading this book will inspire you to reach out to those you love and tell them how much they mean to you. I hope this book will remind you that death is part of life and even though it is hard, we do not need to fear death. I hope you’ll read this book and encourage other people to read it too.

“The belief that life was hard and often its worst battles were fought in private; it was possible to walk through fear and come out scorched but still breathing” (78).

“It’s taken years for me to understand that dying doesn’t end the story; it transforms it” (123).

“The only education in grief that any of us get is a crash course. Until Caroline died I had belonged to that other world, the place of innocence and linear expectations, where I thought grief was a simple, wrenchingly realm of sadness and longing that gradually recede. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity” (150).

“I found myself doubting or dismissing the intensity of our friendship, as though I could discard the love and therefore skip the pain. This worked for about twenty minutes, or until I would say to someone we both knew, ‘Oh well, maybe we weren’t that close,’ and the listener would burst out laughing. I started trying to remember all the things I didn’t like about her. There weren’t very many” (153).

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures” (182).

These last two quotes remind me of my dear friend, Kristi, who died when she was only 39 and who would have turned 45 today. No longer do I attempt to dismiss or diminish the intensity of our connection, there is no point. And even though she has been dead for 5 1/2 years, I am not over her death. As long as I live, I will be holding on to the memories we made and working to make the world a kinder, more fun, and more eco-friendly place.