Thursday, May 11, 2017

Here's to You and Here's to Me

Enough time has been spent, or wasted,
Wishing things were different for those
Who make mistake
After mistake
Ad infinitum.

Prayers for them are not in vain.
Forgiveness and redemption are not out of reach, but
I want to write an ode
To all the men and women who
Stay the course,
One day, nay,
One moment at a time.

To you, who look away from the alluring glow of
Sex on screen,
Or from interest in another’s eye,
And gaze on the lover in your own bed
With gratitude.

To you, who make the decision anew every day,
Turn your will over to the care of God.
Refuse that drink, that pill, that vice,
Whatever it may be.

To you, who stumble, fall, get back up
And keep going,
Breathing in the sweet, sweet mercy of
The new morning.

To those who want more,
Press in.
Come closer.
Breathe deeper.
There is freedom in obedience.
Beauty in keeping your promises
Day after day
Ad infinitum.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What I'm Into: The First Four Months of 2017

My first instinct is to apologize, but I’m not going to waste my breath. The truth is, most of you didn’t notice my absence and that’s completely okay. I stepped away from blogging for a bit to focus on my current work-in-progress and to assess the value of blogging in my life. If you’ve followed my blog for more than a year you probably realize this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging is worth the time and effort at this point. I’m making some changes to my online presence, though. Stay tuned.

And now, I have a bit of catching up to do! I'm linking up with Leigh Kramer again today for What I'm Into.

What We’ve been reading . . .

I’ll just share the highlights.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp If you’re into Ann Voskamp, I know what you’re thinking. You’re just reading One Thousand Gifts now? Well, not exactly. I started towards the end of 2012 and I finished at the very beginning of January this year. I LOVE the concept. The premise absolutely resonates with me. But Voskamp’s poetic, mystical writing style rendered this book unappealing to me. I kept setting it aside. I like concise writing and that’s not Voskamp, so the form got in the way of the content. But I eventually finished it and I’m glad I did. I needed this reminder to be grateful. I want to read Ann's new book also, but I’m not sure I want to spend four years on it!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I listened to the audio version of this. It was good, but it was also a little dark and frightening. And Todd was out of town, so it induced a bout of insomnia. But it was a riveting story! Also, I heard something about how many book titles from the last few years have the word “girl” in them. Lots. Go ahead. Google "books with girl in the title."

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity by Katherine Willis Pershey My opinion on this book morphed while I was reading it. I didn’t agree with all of Pershey’s views and sometimes felt she was harping on issues that were completely off-topic, but in the end I found it to be a lovely book. It meshed the story of her marriage with stories of other marriages and an open and honest analysis of the idea of marriage. It’s not a self-help book. For that, I will point you to Love and War by John Eldredge. But it is a rich volume and by the last chapter, I was cheering Pershey on as she stated, “In bearing witness to our flawed but faithful marriage, I—we—hope to point to the love of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Christ whose grace is sufficient and whose power is made perfect in weakness.” A thousand times, Yes! 

The Silver Chair and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. I can hardly believe we’re finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia. I think The Last Battle may have been my favorite book of the series. It was a beautiful, heart-rending picture of end times. In tears, I told my children, “I hope this is exactly what it’s like!” But I know that C.S. Lewis was a mere mortal and what he’s experiencing now is even better than what he depicted in this book.

But here is my favorite part, just the same (spoilers):

Then Aslan turned to them and said:
"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." 
Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." 
"No fear of that, " said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?" 
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. 
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the morning.

What I’ve Been Watching . . .

We finished Lost. I don’t have time or space in this post to completely unpack my thoughts on the series. Initially I was disappointed in the finale. After I digested it a little bit, I was less disappointed. I also read this article and found it very helpful. I will say that I think the writers got lazy and left a lot of holes in the plot. I’m disappointed in the last few seasons. But I loved the characters and the premise. It is what it is, I guess.

I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, too. Someday I’ll write a whole post about this series, including the special Netflix episodes released in November.

Things I loved in the month of April . . .

Being part of the Easter play at our church. 
Here are some backstage shots:
In full stage makeup, thanks to my friend Gabriela. That night I washed my face,
put my nose ring back in and said to myself, "There you are again!"

We all said we hated duck faces, and then proceeded to make them for this selfie.
Photo Credit: Sarah Jayne

Visiting Kristina for the first time in almost eight years!

Celebrating my niece's 18th birthday!

Easter Sunday at my brother's house in Michigan.

Adrian's volcano at school!

Visiting Aunt Ruthie

Nothing like a selfie with your favorite great aunt!

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

On Turning Forty

We had a great Christmas. A happy Christmas.

And then, two days ago, I turned forty. I don't feel any different, really. It's just a number. But it means I've been here, on earth, for forty years.

In this strange, in-between week of Holidays, when the world slows down and gets ready for a new year, I always turn a new age, too. I get introspective and examine my life and make plans for the year to come. I lounge around in my pajamas, reading novels and eating chocolate.

Sometimes I write poetry.
Well, today I did, anyway. Here it is.
Be gentle, critic. 

      On Turning Forty and Changing the World

      My shoulders are weary
      Carrying this load. My feet ache. Cold.
      I just want someone to pave the way . . . pay my way.
      I want . . . too much.
      The pavement is shifting and I’m having forbidden thoughts.
      About to fall.
      No. Be grateful. You have so much.
      But I’m selfish. Stubborn. I want . . . so much more.
      Is it too much to ask? Just for one day?

      In the warm, lighted haven. Heaven, to me.
      Books all around. I browse.
      On a book jacket.
      What I’m longing for. We all are.

      This life. This world.
      I close my eyes. Breathe deeply and know
      I am not alone.
      This ache. This wanting.
      Proof that there is more.

       I open my eyes and see clearly again
      The gifts right there in front of me
      All along.

Friday, December 23, 2016

From the Archives: It was a warm December . . .

I'm too busy wrapping gifts and making cookies to write a new blog post this week, but I looked through old Advent posts and this one from 2011 resonated with me. In all your Christmas preparation, I hope this short post reminds you what it's all about . . . 

I apologize for my absence lately. I was super sick for a week. Laid out on the couch, couldn't do anything but order a few gifts online kind of sick. Thank God I'm feeling better because we had our Live Nativity at church this past weekend. It was cold, but it was good. And now, not only do I have gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, stockings to fill, and a few last minute presents to take care of, but I also have eighteen people coming to my house for Christmas dinner! In my mind, I used to be much more organized. I finished my shopping by Thanksgiving so that I could truly enjoy Advent. But in reality I'm not sure it ever went that smoothly. I wanted it to. But was there ever a Christmas free of stress? I mean, since I was about ten years old?

The next best thing, I suppose, is taking a moment away from the stress to remember what it is we're doing this for. To recapture the wonder we felt as children. In those moments, I realize it has nothing to do with whether Camilla gets the Lalaloopsy doll she just started asking for last week. It has everything to do with the Gift we received over two thousand years ago. It sounds like old news. It's all been said before. God's Son, born of a virgin.

For me, in this rare moment of quiet by the Christmas tree, it is new again. It can be new in all of our hearts if we step back from the craziness that Christmas has become. If we focus on the Christ Child. Who He was. Who He is. And how He continues to make us new.

"Because of God's tender mercy,
the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace."

Luke 1:78-79

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Choosing Joy

This year has been quite a ride. I’ve written about my struggle with anxiety and about some of the peopleI’ve lost. With all the heartache in this crazy world, I want to write something joyful this Christmas season. Something that brings you peace and hope.

Just bear with me. I’ll get there.

Last night I was talking to a longtime friend about some tough subjects—the crap that’s happened in life. In mid-sentence, I had a flashback to when our group of friends was young, happy, in love, full of hope. It hurt so much to look back for a moment. To think about the hopes dashed in the past 15 years.

This morning, I was overcome by a sudden longing to see my friend Laurie and I just started bawling. I had an ugly cry, as Laurie would have called it. We may not have seen each other much in the last couple years of her life, but it’s quite a different thing to know I’ll never see her again earth side.

Over the past five months, my anxiety has been much better. Part of that victory comes from leaning on Christ for peace and joy. Some of it comes from managing it with constant redirection of my thoughts.

This is my brain’s refrain: No, don’t go there, Alison. That’s not happening. It’s not your cross right now. Don’t pick it up.
It can be exhausting.

I think the improvement is partly due to storing up sunshine during the summer months. Now that’s starting to wane. Taking Vitamin D supplements isn’t the same as absorbing it through my skin. I can feel the struggle more now that the sun goes down earlier and I’m not outside as much.

But perhaps the greatest growth comes from choosing joy over fear.

Ann Voskamp says, “All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.”

It’s true. When I think about Laurie’s family or about our friends who lost their daughter this year, I can’t imagine bearing that kind of pain. But deep in my heart I know God’s love never ends. It never fails. My own life story reminds me He’s been there in the midst of my darkest night, my deepest pain.

If I worry about losing someone, or my marriage failing, or illness striking us, how does that help those already suffering? I can have empathy for them, but when it morphs into worry and fear, I’ve crossed a line. I’ve begun trying to control my future instead of trusting God to lead me through it. Instead of embracing all the good things He’s given me today.

So I’m choosing joy now. I’m choosing to smile about the blessings He’s poured out on me in His love and grace.
Photo Credit: April Olivia Roskos
Let me share a few of them with you . . .

A three-year-old girly girl filled with wonder and words.

An active boy whose creativity blows me away.

A leggy tween sharing her problems with me. Me!

Knowing when to stop what I’m doing, shut up, listen, and offer a hug.

A husband who works hard every day . . . and then comes home (often to a cranky wife and kids).

Putting up a real Christmas tree and decorating it—all five of us, together.

How are you choosing joy this advent season?