Hands

I have been thinking about hands a lot lately and so if you’ve caught me staring at yours, hopefully this explains a few things.  Hands are such an amazingly accurate extension of our souls.  If you watch someones hands for a while, you’ll come away knowing them deeper.  I would like to make a photo collage using the hands of my favorite people, those hands that love, that serve, that comfort and caress.  If you were to look, you’d realize that the hands of those you love match the soul they are connected to.

The other evening I sat in bed trying to piece together everything that my hands had done that day.  They cooked for and fed my family, played patty cake, changed diapers, sewed gifts, typed messages, wiped tears, and wrapped presents.  They also expressed my emotions: they clenched in anger, were flung up in frustration, and they twiddled in impatience.  They didn’t always do what they should have done, but they never stopping doing something.  After surveying all my hands has done, the one thing that continued to astonish me was that they never. stopped. moving.

I am not one for idle hands, and even when we sit down to catch up on our DVR stuff at the end of the day, I will Facebook, text, email, crochet, fold laundry or play angry birds.  My soul is barely capable of idle hands, it’s almost itchy to my spirit. I wonder whats inside of me that can’t stop?  With all the flurry of motion that my 10 digits engage in, what exactly am I trying to avoid?  There is something deep inside me that continues to remind me that I am not a machine called to endlessly produce, and that all this production is thinning my existence.  I’m either too tired or too distracted to drink deeply of the beauty that overflows the cup of my life.

 My hands are dry, and my knuckles have little cuts from the constant motion, a few of my fingertips are burned, and my nails are sort of gross and embarrassing.  I feel like they sort of match they way I feel inside after a day or a week of “too much.”

When I don’t rest my hands, chances are I’m not doing much to rest my soul either.  While the world around me insists on demanding more, there is a voice inside me that calls me to less.  Less Leanne, less, yet infinitely more.  Stop, look, breathe, and for the LOVE OF GOD… listen.

 My daughter has gotten skilled at different techniques or leading me away from my chores and distractions.  She usually leads me to the couch or the playroom and when I bring my iPhone with, she pushes it down and demands my full presence with her.  I’m proud of her for realizing her need for connection, a little embarrassed that at 2.5 she needs to be that sneaky about it, and also astonished that the little ones seem to get it, when we older ones miss it.  And miss it…again and again and again.

Can we find rest for our hands and our souls?  Can we engage ourselves in more moments that moisturize our dry souls?  Can we led peace heals the cracks?  I have to believe that we can, and that when we do, it will be like someone turned the brightness up on our often faded lives.  We were notice, we will see, we will breathe and we will just be.

Father lead us, teach us, shock us and show us how you call us to live, with each other and for you.  Remind us that you cherish us too much to watch us dance endlessly.  Teach us to rest in you.

Her Nativity

II am mother to a rambunctious two year old with ringlet curls, big brown eyes and a recently adapted thick southern drawl.  She keeps me on my toes and guessing on the dullest days and the crazy ones she leaves me breathless in every imaginable way.

This is her nativity as I like it to be: (For the most part that is, we are currently AWOL One wiseman and sheep, they are on a tour of another part of the house at the moment)

This is a classic nativity set-up, with the wide eyed animals, Mary and Joseph looking lovingly over a beautiful baby in a manger.  All the while the angel up top brings a glorious and heavenly presence to the classic scene.

Now, this is her nativity the way she likes it to be: (I actually had to fudge it a bit to get it all on the table, she usually scatters the figured all over the living room and kitchen)

A lifetime ago I had a friend named Jen and one December and we sat together, cross legged and watched her little boys playing on the floor.  As we chatted she explained to me that she was intentional about providing her children a nativity that they could interact with, so they could experience the Christmas story on their level.  Ever since that conversation I have been in love with this idea and my amazing “mom” Sandy blessed our family with this Little People set over the weekend.  When I sat with Jen that day and imagined my future children interacting with the Christmas Story “on their level” I thought they would finger the pieces with wonder and awe and maybe use it to put on a play of Luke 2 in our living room.

Instead in the past 48 hours my daughter has:

– tried to use her pink cart to “grocery shop for Jesus”
– Used the camel as a bowling ball and the three wisemen as pins.
– Put the cow on top of the stable and told me that it was silly to have an angel up there
– and repeatedly showed me how fast her angel flies by throwing it like a missile across the living room

Kel and I have the immense privilege and gift of shaping the manger scene for our daughter, of drizzling truth into her two year old world and setting the stage for every Christmas to come.  On the one hand I don’t want to be the nativity nazi and steal all her fun and wonder.  But on the other hand I feel like these biblical little people deserve more respect than our circus or farm set gets.

Mainly: I don’t want to stifle her Christmas experience.  Even though she is only two, this Christmas will speak to the next, which will speak to the next, and so on.  These interactions, this year, this Christmas are lovely and will echo in all her Christmases to come.  Instead of being frustrated with how she interacts with the story I have to remember that it is God who knit together my baby girl.  Every stitch intentional and on purpose.  It was our shared father who filled her with energy, who breathed into her a creative spirit that would one day come up with camel-wiseman bowling.  So now instead of yelling at her for not nativity-ing my way, I try take several opportunities each day to gather up the pieces and patiently explain the story over and over again.

This evening we had a beautiful breakthrough as we were putting baby Jesus to bed and saying night night to the camel.

As I was getting our little guy ready for bed, Kel was helping Noelle arrange the nativity set for the night.  As as she picked up the little Mary some lovely words floated through our living room.  Kel explained to her that she was holding Mary, who was Jesus’ mommy.  A spark of understanding flashed across her face and as she put Mary in the stable next to Jesus she said: “It’s okay Baby Jesus, it’s okay, its your mommy.”

When I heard that, I cried and vowed that I was done losing my patience with nativity play, whatever tomorrow may bring.  Tonight something clicked that spurs me to persevere.  Tonight a spark of divine understanding met up with her two year old heart.  She connected with the story of her God, and oh my God…. so did I.

The Muir House- A book Review

Today I’m crazy excited to be able to participate in an online book tour of Mary DeMuth’s newest novel, The Muir House.  For more information on the tour, go here.

The Muir House by Mary DeMuth centers around main character, Willa, whose attempt at new life as a hipster in Seattle is foiled by a past in Texas she cannot escape and is forced to return to.  She is haunted by half-memories and gaps in her history, and her thought life is consumed by piecing together the events of her past.  A large part of her baggage revolves around the death of her father and a fractured and unhealthy relationship with her mother, who is now in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease and incapable of giving her the answers she so badly longs to find.

Her time sifting through her past in her hometown of Rockwell, Texas is further complicated when she finds herself caught in-between moving into a new life with her quasi-fiancee, Hale and being strongly pursued by her controlling high-school sweetheart, Blake.  As the book unfolds, Willa must make a choice to stop obsessing over her past, leaving it behind to step into a more whole and hopeful future which she can feel God calling her into.

I love a book that hooks you with unanswered questions and Willa’s mysterious past unravels just enough through each chapter to keep you wanting more.  Also, Mary DeMuth does a pretty decent job of giving her characters depth and although at first glance they may seem one dimensional, as the book goes on you realize that they have as much depth as anyone you might know in your real life.

As I turned that pages of this book I found myself connecting and identifying with Willa.  For one, she has questions about her past that cannot be answered by the parents that shaped her life.  I feel her pain in that problem, because from parenting decisions, to holiday traditions to family recipe questions, I long to go to my parents for answers but they have both died and I feel and grieve that void.  Another connection point for me comes  through Willa’s need to make a conscious decision not to allow her past to define her future.  From personal experience I can say that allowing God to carry you into a beautiful future in spite of a painful past is a learned behavior, which involves a series of positive choices much more so than one single choice.  This book does a great job at using narrative to encourage the reader to consider forgiveness, reconciliation and ditching baggage in light of the freedom offered to us in our Big God’s open hands.

If you are interested in checking out this book and are willing to bring me chocolate cupcakes you are more than welcome to borrow my copy, just don’t mind the highlighting and note taking in the margins.  If you’re not a baker or don’t live in the Ada, OK area grab yourself a copy by stopping by one of my favorite e-retailers, amazon.  And hey, Christmas is coming way too soon, so pick up a few copies and check some folks off your list.  I’m getting a copy for my Mother in Law, I bet your Mother in Law might like it too.

Check out this great read, and thanks for checking out my first book review, I’m thinking of making it a monthly deal and perhaps even throwing in a giveaway or two.

Advent

This year more than any other year I have a pressing need to reflect upon and enter into the season of Advent.  Advent is a churchy word, and it might sound too heady and religious to fit into your daily life in 2011, but I hope you will reconsider.  Advent is all about waiting, something we don’t do very well anymore.  We want things yesterday, or sooner and when our fast food takes too long or our iPhone lags a bit we get irritated and impatient.  We don’t practice waiting, we fill every spare second with stuff and junk and that is precisely why we need to dig into Advent.  It is a season of waiting for, and preparing room in your heart for the birth of Jesus.  I am so thirsty for more Jesus in my heart-space.

If you do a little historical digging into the political and socio-economic time into which Jesus was born, you’ll quickly realize that the Jews were a people in desperation.  They were oppressed and nearly crushed under the weight of the Roman Empire.  They were taxed into starvation and their babies were being slaughtered in their midst.  They expected a knight in shining armor savior to go to war for them against their Caesars and Pontious Pilots.  Instead our New Testament shows us Jesus, a teacher passionate about stirring up a global heart-revolution.  He doesn’t draw a sword or focus on military strategy, his territory is people and loving them free.  This is still his driving passion today, but we need to enter into Advent to that we understand what a revolution the Christ child is.  He rewrote the rules for the world, when revolution was weak and stagnant, he stirred life into the world, restoring it to a place of vivid brightness.

Come thou long-expected Jesus… born to set your people free.

Free from all the busyness, lists, shoulds and musts that we attach to his Christmas.

Are you interested in preparing your heart for his arrival like a bride prepares for her groom?  I spent some time yesterday with my friend Katie who is the beginning stages of planning her wedding to my husbands best friend Andy.  I love weddings, from the grand gestures to the tiny details, it all matters to me and I love getting lost in gathering the bits and pieces of a dear friend’s perfect day.  What if we put 10% of that effort into preparing our hearts for Christmas?   Instead of getting busier, what if we waited and created space?  The world waited for the baby in the manger just as we still await his final return.  Earth is still broken, awaiting a total restoration that we deeply believe is coming.  No matter how great 2011 was. we are all a bit hurt and the manger with it’s wiggling warm infant is the salve for our wounds.  My simple prayer is that every year we see the manger a bit clearer as we grow a touch closed to the heart of it all.  May we breathe deep the clean evergreen of this season as we await the healing birth of Jesus, together, maybe around a plate of brightly frosted and sprinkled cookies.

This is what I’m doing for Advent, it’s call the Jesse Tree and its a family advent plan with roots into the Old Testament.  If you still need an advent devotional type-thing I recommend you check it out.  Along this line, I have found Ann Voskamp’s blog  “A Holy Experience” beautiful and refreshing, I have it emailed to me.  If you are looking for a bit of centering truth in the middle of your day, subscribe to that, it’s lovely and true, unlike about 90% of that crap that finds its way into my inbox and probably yours too.

Do you practice Advent at all?

Spaghetti Anniversary

Each year our ministry hosts a spaghetti fundraiser dinner right before our town’s Christmas parade.  I had big plans of letting the kids attack massive plates of spaghetti before attending a birthday party and watching the parade.  But like a lot of my plans, I have had to tweak to them.  This morning my daughter woke up with a ruptured ear drum, and she has a very festive dark red goo coming out of her ear.  So instead of a quiet morning of writing I’ve had a hectic morning of shortened naps complete with a visit to the doctor.  On top of all this my Son is cutting more teeth and he is beyond crabby.  His moods swing between totally elated and absolutely pissed off.  I love him, but he’s fickle and about 80% of the time I have no idea what his issue is.

During one of his mysterious mini-meltdowns God took me back a year.  Last year on the night of the spaghetti dinner we were in the hospital because of some weird contractions I was having.  The third trimester of my pregnancy with my son was stressful,  wound up in the ER several times.  My mom had just taken her life and somewhere in my panic and doubt I doubted if my Son would get here safely.  My world just didn’t feel like a safe place and I truly believed that all my grief and stress was harming him.   I was so ready to have him, to hold him, to know he was safe in my arms.  I wanted him to enter the world and see light, to feel warmth and joy, to be held by his Dad and so many others who loved him as much as I did. I felt as though all I could provide him was a sad space, crushed by the weight of my heavy heart.

A year ago today was dark, and I spent the evening hooked up to monitors, desperate to meet our son.  And now he’s here, with his fuzzy blonde hair and his ridiculously beautiful blue eyes squawking in the living room because he can’t have the remote.  I have everything I wanted a year ago, and abundantly more.  So in spite of brick red ear goop and my crabby son, I want to focus on how today is an answer to prayer, no matter what comes my way.

 

brisk walks > butts on couches

I just got back from the park with my two kiddos, we played on the toys and walked a mile.  It was chilly and as the sun set the temps went from the  lower 50’s to the upper 40’s.  As we loaded back into the good ol mini van, our noses and cheeks were rosy.  Before you think I’m too awesome, to be honest I didn’t want to leave the house at all, my new default has been to stay in my yoga pants, cook, play with the kids, write something and pick up a mountain of “good” ideas on Pinterest.  However, as the kids napped and I formulated a plan for the dreaded 3:00 – 5:00 shift, I made a good choice and got the coats, hats and shoes ready for a trip to our favorite park to stroll and as my 2 yr old puts it “Slide-Swing.”

As we walked I used the time to process life and tip toe over piles of goose poo.  I thought about good choices and how you are never done making them, and how they are rarely the easy choices.  If you make a healthy food choice for breakfast, you still have to make one for lunch if you want to stay on track.  And you don’t get to go to the gym just once a month, you have to keep going every other day or so.  If you plan a date night with your sexy hot spouse, you will still find yourself working on your marriage the next day.  Going to church once a week doesn’t set you up with God for the week, you need to keep going to him to draw wisdom and strength.  You can pretty much apply this formula to anything worth having in life.  One good act  ≠ (does not equal) done.  You have to keep walking, keep working, keep growing… until you die.

The trick is to make peace with this reality and not allow it to discourage you and cause your head to explode.  There is this delicate line that we all have to discover, a line between determination and grace.  Every now and  it’s okay to eat ice cream before bed and leave the dinner dishes in the sink, but not all the time.  Some nights its okay to space out in front of the TV with your spouse after a long day, but not every night, you have to work and connect and communicate.  If you’re like me and Kel communication is your bread and butter, without it, you’ll starve.  You have to  find your own rhythm between determination and grace, rest and sabbath, it looks different for all of us, but you have to find it.

If you’re not careful, this can get a bit daunting and It’s tempting to let them define who you are.  If your house is clean and you went to the gym, then you’re awesome, if not, then you may be… less than awesome.  But dust on your shelves and the contents of your kitchen sink doesn’t define you, rather all these good choices string together like Christmas lights to add brilliance and shine to the big picture.  If you take time to achieve health, you will be ready and well to act on the amazing and beautiful things that do define you and leave a legacy.

So today I ate more than 5 fruits and vegetables, did a Kickboxing DVD and went for a walk.  I didn’t do these things because they sounded awesome or because they define me.  But because I did them I was alert, healthy and chipper. ready to connect with the people I love and hear Gods voice as he directed my thoughts and my heart.