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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 |

robindance_fullypresent_incourage

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)

 

You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?


I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 

Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?

 

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 | 5 comments

Clay pieces

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. ~ Thomas Merton

 

I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art.

Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity.

Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you.

As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance.

Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves.

Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember.

This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers.

Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity.

I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades.

A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it….

I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution:

Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.

 

My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.

Clay angel

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Picasso

 

I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is. 

Joseph and a sheep

 

Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).

Mary and Jesus in manger

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ~ Michelangelo

 

Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…

Glazed but not yet fired

 

And after.

Handmade Clay Nativity

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~ Aristotle

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Christmas Tree Toppers – Does Yours Come With a Story? (Angel, Star, Bow – DO Tell!)

Dec

18

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 11 comments

Madame Alexander Christmas Angel

I waited a long, long while to find her, but the moment I saw her, I knew she was the one.

There was never any question about what I wanted to top our Christmas tree; not a bow or a star or but an angel. That decision was forged by the time I was five, my mother’s DNA pressed into me from the outside in, a small but lasting impression of what you’re supposed to do when you’re grown up.
 

So much of who we become is seeded in early memory, the things we remember, of course, but also the things we don’t even realize we remember.

 

Mama topped our tree with an angel, so, of course, that’s what you were supposed to do.

But I was picky. I couldn’t find an angel I liked. For years I settled for a big, colorful bow. Then one day I walked into Belks and I saw her, and the heavens opened amid a chorus of glorious hallelujahs.

Or maybe something a little less dramatic. And more quiet.

She was pricey. You are not going to get a Tuesday Morning deal on a Madam Alexander doll at Belks. I thought twice…three times. Probably four. But…

her red hair…

those green eyes…

her crooked wings…

She was absolutely, positively imperfectly perfect. 

 

Madame Alexander Angel Tree Topper

 

I know I know, she’s as far removed from a Biblical description of an angel as possible, but she represents the one who brought good news 2000 years ago. She’s visual reminder of a spiritual reality.

 

One thing that makes her more special today than when I found her +/- 20 years ago is I cannot find any Madame Alexander angel toppers today. When I searched images (and Amazon), I couldn’t even find another version of her (though, admittedly, I didn’t scroll beyond the first few screens of images).

 

It’s been forever since I’ve hosted any kind of a link-up, and I know it’s a busy time of year where I hope you’re offline more than on, but I’d love to see what tops your tree, and if there’s a story behind it, I hope you’ll share (either by way of a blog comment or even write about it and link a post below. You can also link a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter image).

Christmas Tree Topper - Link-up


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