Sunday, November 27, 2011

In the waiting-Advent

This is my church. This is the alter and the building and the Body of Christ that together have restored me from the inside out. Sitting in the back row of a Catholic Church on Christmas eve last year, I told God, "I will wait for you. I will." Thankfully, it was only six more days until I found Christ Church. Some might call it an accident. I'm more inclined to Divine Providence. Whatever you want to call it, I'm thankful.

It seems fitting that I'll end my first liturgical year with waiting in a season of Advent.

I couldn't help but think yesterday kneeling in that pew, sitting in that building, worshiping with those people, "I want to wait. . . .here." Not just for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but also for his return.

As we wait.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My first liturgical year - Advent

Not exactly intentionally, I stumbled into my first liturgical church service Christmas Eve of last year. I didn't know much about the liturgical calendar. I didn't know much about Advent. I didn't know much about, well, anything.

I'll write more about this year in the days to come. It has been hopeful, exciting and profoundly life changing.

For today, we celebrate the end of the church year. We enter now into a season of waiting and expectation. The busyness of this last month before Christmas dims as Advent whispers sweet peace in the waiting.

As for me and my house, there won't be a frantic rushing to get the latest everything at a $10 discount. There will be patient waiting. There will be remembering that God sent his son and when he did. . . . everything changed. For them and for us.

For now, the creche is empty, but not for long. As we wait.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Real Life Mondays-Audrey Assad - Carry Me

One of my friends the other day wisely said, "We're all carrying something." I couldn't agree more which is why I'm so in love with this song right now. When we can't run, won't stand, feel weak and helpless, when life is too heavy - He carries us.

My real life-on a Monday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Backwards and Forwards

Some of the best advice I've ever received is, when things get weird or scary, go back to the place where your footing seemed secure and work from there to discover what happened. It's pure genius really. Life doesn't often get messed up in one big tornado. A bunch of little things happen and we're not okay anymore.

Confusion and frustration are my go to emotions and the beginning of things spinning out of control. I start to be more carefree with my spiritual practices. I read the Bible, but I stop absorbing it. I say prayers, but I stop listening. I begin this weird dance with the Lord where I beg him to speak and then doubt or avoid what he's saying. It's crazy and I never recognize it until I'm smack in the middle of a mess.

Advent is a great time to take a spiritual inventory and I've been doing just that. Asking myself the hard questions. Why am I running from some things? What's working? What isn't? When was the last time I was in a great God place? What did that look like? What changes need to be made to get back there?

In yoga last week, we were doing backbends, bridges, and fish poses. The instructor said, "How do you feel?" Uncomfortable! "That's because you love productivity and accomplishment. The secret to moving forward is appreciating backward motion in moderation." Sure enough, a few downward dogs and forward bends later, I was feeling more balanced.

We look back to know where we came from and fall on God's faithfulness. We take what's working and carry it with us. We leave, by God's grace, what we need to let go. We press on, straight ahead with focused determination.

And the occasional peek in the rearview mirror.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spiritual practice as separation

I love technology and up until last year had the latest everything Apple had to offer. I've had an iPhone since the day the hit the market and have been through, uh, several since then. I'm surely not far from owning an iPad. And I'm aware of the irony that even though I don't own a TV, I can (and do) watch the latest Grey's episode on my phone every week.

And technology affords me so many of my favorite people at my fingertips. I can Skype, text, e-mail, twitter, or Facebook most people from wherever I am. I love connection.

But, as Advent has been settling into my heart and life I realize my focus has been a bit off. I've touched base with a lot of people by 9 A.M. but maybe not given the day to the Lord as I need to. I've created more noise in a life that is often already overwhelmed, especially on the weekends at work.

So, today I begin, through advent, a social media free weekend policy for my own life. From Friday at 5 p.m. to Monday morning I will abandon the joy of twitter, Facebook, and blogging. I'm putting it on here so I'll really do it :) Keeping my e-mail and text open, but that's enough.

During the week I'll be still be around to debate important things like why McDonald's should die and how much coffee qualifies as an addiction.

But, for the weekend, I'll focus on him.

What are YOU doing to cultivate Advent in your heart this year?


Pumpkin Pie

Although I love being sugar and chemical free, it does make the holidays a little boring. This year for Thanksgiving I decided to figure out naturally sweetened pies that everyone would love. It took some research and a few practice rounds, but this one has officially made the cut!

Gluten free pie crust is a royal pain. You'll need a fairly large crust for this recipe.

*Pre-heat baking sheet at 375

1 - 15 oz can of pure pumpkin

1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed!)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c. honey

1/4 c. pure maple syrup

3 eggs

Stir pumpkin and evaporated milk together.

Add spices. Stir.

Stir in honey and maple syrup.

Blend 3 eggs together then stir into the mixture.

Pour filling into pie crust.

Put pie on preheated baking sheet into the over for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack.

Store in the refrigerator! Yummy!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Right in front of me

Truth be told, I'd probably be most content in a life that involved talking about God with people 24/7. I love to know where people find him and once they do, how he shows up and changes everything. I like to be around people who genuinely love him even in the messy places.

Coming home Sunday night was an adventure. I suppose the closest I live to completely walking by faith is scheduling flights that get me home at the last possible minute. It has worked out fine enough times that I ask myself often, "What could go wrong?" Oops.

I was sitting at the airport in Baltimore waiting on a guy who was semi uninterested to determine my fate when it hit me. Spiritual hangover. I had spent most of 3 days discussing, sharing, questioning, thinking about how God shows up and how he remains when things are hard. Incredible, life changing conversations, but in that moment I was a little overwhelmed. I had no idea how I would start to move all this external information inside. How the wonderful truths would translate into my own life. And it didn't help that I was very tired.

I leaned my head against the airport wall and prayed, "God. I want this life to matter. Not because I do, but because you do. A lot of the time I feel stuck and frustrated and lonely and in your way, but if you can use me where I am, I want nothing more. It doesn't even have to be big things, but gentle reminders that you are at work would help a lot. No rush. I'm willing to wait on you and for once I think I really mean that. Amen."

I opened my eyes to mass hysteria. 50+ people not able to get to all kinds of things because the plane was late. Most of the connections wouldn't be made. By now the guy at the desk told me, "Get to Charlotte and run. Good luck." Thankfully my spiritual gift is running in heels. I was reading a book minding my own business when a college aged woman came up to use the pay phone beside me. She fumbled with her credit card and I immediately recognized the look of incoming tears. She needed to be at her destination by 8 a.m. and she wasn't going to make it. For real.

I looked at my own phone and looked up, "Do you need to use my phone?" She burst into tears quickly telling me how she left her phone charging on accident and was now in a big mess. I handed it to her and said, "Take your time, really." She made several calls and returned it still crying.

She asked, "Are you going to get home tonight?"

I smiled and said, "I don't know."

She said, "But it's going to be alright?"

I said, "Absolutely."

She smiled and left and I prayed she would live within God's very best for her all the days of her life. As God settled into that moment I remembered again that the greatest use of my life is always meeting the needs right in front of me.

And that's the greatest calling.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Real Life Mondays - A wonderful weekend

Just returning from a fabulous weekend in Baltimore with some of my favorite people on the planet. From the airport to lunch at M&S Grille where this salad changed my life. I now want to eat it every day. Not kidding.
It was SO fun to hang out IRL with friends of The Virtual Abbey. Rob is my hilarious adopted brother and Raima has inspired my life with her wise and beautiful spirituality.
And another rapid fire conversation with Penny! One of my favorite human beings for a bazillion reasons. Plus she brought tiarras which I may now wear to various outings. Or to work.
And, the reason we were there-to celebrate the sacrament of marriage with Meredith and Dan. There aren't enough words to describe how grateful I am to have Meredith as a friend in this life. And I adore Dan because he's smart and Godly and funny and wise. And they both let me borrow their books :)
The church was beautiful. The couple was stunning. The homily was incredible.
In a word - it was worship.

To be amidst such love and friendship was a blessing straight from God and I leave Baltimore motivated to keep living for him. To keep trusting him.
And thankful to be surrounded in this life by so many who love him so well.
A wonderful weekend indeed.

My real life - on a Monday.