Monday Mercies

Monday is the day of the week that is filled with the most should’s and to-do’s as we try to start off our week in the best way possible.  Instead of starting our week with a list of things we think we should do or ways we want to work harder, maybe it would be better to start with reminding ourselves of the mercy God has already, abundantly, granted us.  So these posts are small prayers, scripture verses, or thoughts to help us center ourselves in God’s mercy for the week ahead.

Embracing Father,
You grace each of us with equal measure in your love.
Let us learn to love our neighbors more deeply,
so that we can create
peaceful and just communities.
Inspire us to use our creative energies
to build the structures we need
to overcome the obstacles
of intolerance and indifference.
May Jesus provide us the example needed
and send the Spirit to warm our hearts for the journey.
Amen

—from Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice

Mother Nature

By 6:30am the birds are already chirping outside my window loudly enough to wake me up.  I’m already partly awake but their chatter declares it is morning and it is time to get up and greet the glorious new day.  As I walk into the kitchen on the hunt for some caffeine I see the beautiful early morning light already streaming through the window.  It lights up the greens, pinks, and whites of the garden flowers and makes the world seem magical.  I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, giving thanks for this quiet moment of peace and beauty.

When I moved to East Texas in 2015 I had no idea how much I would love it.  Most of my life I lived in different suburbs of Houston.  Traffic and crowds and concrete were just a part of the constant scenery and I didn’t think anything of it.  But when I first came to East Texas I lived in a little house with half an acre around me and woods behind me. And I discovered the wonder of living every day in a place where you are surrounded by green trees and lots of open space.  Now living in little Jefferson I often joke with Steven that I live in a Disney princess house and that I’m just waiting for the birds to start making my bed and laying out my clothes.  The garden is magnificent with different flowers and fragrances ready to greet you everyday.  The sunlight streams into my windows in the morning gently urging me to wake up just a little early to enjoy a few moments to myself.

Even driving through East Texas is more beautiful.  On my weekly drives to Kilgore and Dallas I was constantly amazed at how many different kinds of green there are and just how tall a tree can grow to be.  The sun would often be a gorgeous ball of firey orange and red in my rearview mirror as I drove eastward on Thursday evenings.

That part of my spirit that is weary from running so hard and chasing so much is beginning slowly to put herself right again.  And I’ve found that slowing down to enjoy the beauty of mother nature is a big part of that.  Waking up as the sun comes up, winding down as it settles down for the night.  Sitting outside and letting the sunlight warm my face while I enjoy the whooshing sound of hummingbirds flying from feeder to feeder.  Turning off the tv and instead reading a good book while it rains outside in the evening.  Mother Nature’s rhythms invite me into a life that offers balance and joy.

As we celebrate mothers today, I’m filled with gratitude to our Creator God, who is Mother and Father to all.  She’s made a beautiful world filled with wonders big and small.  The pulse and beat of the natural world invites us to find peace, joy, and rest- beautiful gifts our worn out souls desperately need.  So, this morning, I’m going to enjoy the quiet for a little while and offer thanks to our good, good Mother/Father God.  I’m going to give thanks for the beauty of these days.  I’m going to give thanks for my beautiful mother and for all the amazing mothers I know.  I’m just going to sit here in the calm and remember that I am a beloved creation of the Almighty.  And I’m going to listen to the birds chat with one another outside my window.

Monday Mercies

Monday is the day of the week that is filled with the most should’s and to-do’s as we try to start off our week in the best way possible.  Instead of starting our week with a list of things we think we should do or ways we want to work harder, maybe it would be better to start with reminding ourselves of the mercy God has already, abundantly, granted us.  So these posts are small prayers, scripture verses, or thoughts to help us center ourselves in God’s mercy for the week ahead.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.

Show us your face and we will be saved.

Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.

Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:

“If you knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.

You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

Amen.

– Pope Francis

Hello, again.

Yesterday I walked barefoot out the back door and into the yard to cut a flower from a bush growing along the fence.  I put the pretty pinkish white bloom in a small vase and stuck the arrangement on my nightstand.  I had spent some time earlier that day unpacking my suitcase completely, carefully finding a place for each little thing.  I zipped it up and put it away.  And then marched outside to get the flower.

bedside flower

The home I’m living in right now (as I wait until I get married and move into a new home with my soon-to-be husband) has the most beautiful garden and the best smelling flowers.  When I’ve been my most stressed I’ve gone outside and just sat on the porch or in the grass.  My gracious hostess even pulled out her hammock and I have spent several hours just laying in the sun letting nature heal my tired soul.  I’ve longed to bring in one of those little flowers and put it on my nightstand so that I would get to see and smell it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  But I’ve kept myself from doing it because I knew that no sooner had I cut it and set it out then I would have to re-pack my suitcase and leave again.

I have spent the past three years on the road driving between work, seminary, family, and friends.  When I got my car 2 months before school started it had 3 miles on it.  My first brand new car.  As of today it has 83,172 miles on it.

But now the semester, my last semester of classes, is done.

About a year ago I began to realize that all the travel and multi-tasking had somehow altered the way I thought and operated.  In moments of stillness I had one of two reactions. I either fell into a deep, exhausted sleep for hours (or even days) or I quickly found other things to do.  Great things, to be sure.  I would organize dinner parties, go on quick weekend trips to visit friends or family, or paint a room in my house.  I’d decide it was the perfect weekend to clean the garage or re-plant the flowerbed.  Busyness had rewired my brain until I was fully addicted.  And it scared me.

I began to read books and blogs about Sabbath and stillness and choosing slowness.  My heart sang out!  This was exactly what I needed! These words spoke of the idolatry and illness of constant busyness and how, over time, it robbed you of the joy of connection and peace. Every line on every page felt like it was written about me, about the way I had been building my life.  And I knew I wanted to change.

I think that at the heart of busyness is an inability to believe that it’s ok to rest and trust God.  We believe that we are worth what we contribute, what we create.  And so we toil and toil.  And we place such small value on who we are that we believe we must construct something better, shinier, more efficient.  So we work hard, strive, and fill our lives with busyness.  We are so busy showing how awesome and capable we are because if we stop we will have to accept ourselves just as we are, flaws and all.  And that seems painful.  It IS painful.  So instead we work harder.  We keep busy.

One of my absolute favorite author’s, Shauna Niequest, in her book Perfect Over Present, uses a metaphor of filling up a little red wagon with responsibilities and deadlines and commitments and then having to haul that wagon with her everywhere she goes.  She describes the physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion that goes along with hauling all that junk around and her desire to just stop and let it go.  As I was reading her beautiful book for the first time last September I thought yes, that’s exactly what it’s like.  I called my fiancé and told him about the book and her analogy.  “Why don’t you just stop pulling it then?  Or at least take some things out of it?” , he said very lovingly.  “I can’t,” I said, “Everything has been superglued to the wagon…and I’m chained to the wagon.”  As much as I wanted to stop and let go, I knew that the process of releasing busyness wasn’t something I could do overnight.  It wasn’t as simple as walking away.  I was going to have to learn how to unchain myself and then take things out of the wagon one by one.

And so that’s what I’ve been doing.  I stopped writing blogs because I had to be writing papers for school and I couldn’t find time or energy for both.  In October I took a part-time appointment close to my fiancé so that we wouldn’t see each other just once a month.  Because I needed to finish school before I could make any other schedule changes, I put school as my priority and carved out specific weekends that were off-limits to anything but schoolwork.  I actively worked on letting it be ok to make a B or even *gulp* a C if that meant I got to sleep more than 4 hours a night.

This of course makes it sound like I made huge strides towards a less busy life with less anxiety.  And that is absolute nonsense.  I mean, I tried, believe me I tried.  But more often than not I still had far too much on my plate.  And what seemed like it would be manageable in December felt like the Herculean labors in February.  I cannot even begin to count how many hours I talked to friends and family trying to process my anxiety and exhaustion.  And sometimes I did ok.  Sometimes I felt more normal.  But, especially at the beginning and end of the semester, it felt like more than I could handle and there were lots of tears.  Thank God for my patient and thoughtful Steven, and all the people who held me up when I felt like I couldn’t go one more day or one more mile.

But I’ve made it.  I have one paper left and one final.  I think Steven and I have grown even closer and I think I’ve learned a lot more about what matters to me and what doesn’t.  What matters is people.  Making time for phone calls and visits and meals with people.  People I’ve known and loved for years and people I’m meeting for the first time.  Being present with people and being sure to hear and see them.

Augustine restless.png

And what matters more than anything else is my relationship with God.  Augustine said that our souls are restless until they find rest in God.  I believe that.  And I’ve been restless and filling up my days, sometimes in pursuit of trying to understand God, when what I should have been doing was stopping and smelling the little flowers.  Letting the sun shine on my face and fill me up with light.  Feeling the abundant love God has for me, just as I am without having to prove or be anything, through the world and people around me.

My life has changed a lot in the last few years.  I have learned so much, grown so much, and discovered that God’s goodness is so much greater than I ever could have imagined.  In this new chapter of my life, I want to let God write a story that is full of love, joy, peace, faith, and grace.  And I think all of that starts with resting.  So that’s what I’m doing now.  Resting in the sure and certain promise that God is love.  And that, if I will slow down, if I will let God rewrite the busyness addicted parts of my brain, I will be able to see and feel that love of God in the every day stuff of life.  And that is, after all, what this blog was always supposed to be about.  The way that the Divine works in the ordinary, daily stuff.

So let’s try this again, shall we?  I’m Becca.  This is my blog.  It’s about the stuff of everyday life- mine and yours.  And it’s about the way that God shows up every day in beautiful and powerful ways.

 

Prequel to the Love Letters

I have  not written a blog since December.  December, y’all.  I’d say I’ve been busy, which is true, but terribly uninteresting since seriously who isn’t busy?  Everyone is busy.  Busyness does not make me a special snowflake.  So I’m back at this writing game.  And to keep me at it consistently for a while, this week I am going to write a new post each day leading up to February 14th.  You know…Valentine’s Day?

As a teenage girl I dreaded this day because I was usually single and even when I was dating someone my expectations were so high it was impossible for me to be pleased (I was real pleasant y’all).  As an adult I know that a lot of my single ladies out there are stressing over it.  There is, of course, the typical cliche of single ladies everywhere wearing their sweat pants and eating ice cream all day trying to drown their single-hood sorrows.  I get it.  Sometimes being single sucks.  Being married looks like it has some challenges too.

But I don’t think Valentine’s Day should just be about the person you are dating or married to.  Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love!  And if it doesn’t it should.

So leading up to Valentine’s Day I am writing a new post each day of the many ways love shows up in our lives and how we can celebrate it!  Hope you enjoy!

It makes me want to cry

Lately I swear I will cry at anything. Seriously, every tv show, commercial, YouTube video, and Facebook link brings me to tears. For example, the roomie and I were watching HGTV’s Income Property show…you know the one with the super cute host (just saying ;)). And there was a newlywed couple who were looking for a house where they could eventually have a basement apartment to rent out. I say eventually because for the moment they wanted it as a place for the wife’s mom to live because her husband (wife’s stepdad) had passed away unexpectedly and they didn’t want her to have to live alone right now. So at the end of the show they are taking her around the house and of course she gets choked up because of course it’s beautiful. But all of the sudden I realize that the son-in-law is crying too. He isn’t looking at the house that he just bought. He’s looking at his mother-in-law. He kisses her on the cheek…and I start crying.

Then not ten minutes later I’m catching up on Facebook happenings and someone has posted a video for Britain’s Got Talent where a little boy gets stage fright halfway through his song and starts crying. His mother is standing behind the curtain being kept back by the hosts but when her son starts to cry she races out and hugs him with her back to the audience separating him from them.

watch it here for yourself!

I started crying the minute she started running.  She loves her son.   And he knows it.   Just her hug and pat on the back and he is going to try again.  Love, love, love.

Life is hard and often full of nonsense.

But life is also beautiful and full of love.

People are mean, selfish, and stupid lazy.

People are compassionate, generous, and caring.

It’s all these things. Not just one or the other. I can’t pick and choose the things about people I will accept. I have to just love people…which can be really hard sometimes. But Lord knows I’m not always a delight either (don’t anybody rush to disagree with me or anything). I can, however, choose to see the beauty even in ugly situations. I can choose to see kindness instead of selfishness.  I know tv is edited.  I get that.  But I see it everywhere.  The person who rushes out of a store in the rain to help an old lady make it into a building (yes I’ve actually seen this several times…one of the perks of living in the south).  The child that comforts their mom or dad when they are upset.  Teenagers congratulating and high-fiving their friends on getting that position on the team…even if they didn’t both make the cut.  People giving their time and energy to volunteer to hang out with crazy teenagers each week.  Or the same as before but insert crazy adults or kids.  Really volunteering at all…doing anything.

That man could have looked at his mother-in-law and thought about how much this was costing him (it was reaaaaally a nice place). That mom could have been disappointed that her son’s nerves cost him the audition. But instead both reacted with compassion and a self-less kind of love.

Sometimes the world seems terrible, awful, and rotten. But then I take a breath and look again and I see beauty, kindness, and love. And it makes me smile…and reach for another Kleenex.

May you find, even in a messed up world, opportunities to smile today!

Weekend Plans

I keep meaning to write…writing several posts in my head throughout the day…but then at the end of the day I am too tired to stay up the extra 30 minutes it would take to sit down and knock out a post.  So now finally it’s Friday and I have the day off and some time to do what I want to do.  Plus, bonus, it wasn’t such a crazy week that all I want to do today is veg.  Today I am conquering things that need doing around the house.  So far I’ve made cinnamon rolls  (my roomie does lunch and dinner but I can manage a batch of muffins or cinnamon rolls out of a can…be impressed), swept the front room, planned breakfast for the week, and done the dishes.  Then roomie and I tackled the back patio.  Having 3 dogs plus a construction project going on behind us means that we have one messy patio.  So we hosed down, bleached, scrubbed, and re-hosed the patio and all the patio furniture.  Not a bad way to conquer the day.

That’s the thing about living in a house that I didn’t really anticipate.  There’s always something else that has to be done!  I probably should have realized it since I saw my parents constantly working on things every weekend.  But my selfish teenager self never really thought about it.  Now in the midst of completing one task you discover another that needs your attention.  For instance, while cleaning the patio we realized that the frame around the back door needs to be painted.  We also decided to spray paint  the little iron table we had on the patio.  Both are projects for another day.  And even though our awesome yard guy came this morning, we still need to trim trees and pull weeds.  I’ve got a load of laundry running with two more than need to go in after that and my bathroom needs to be cleaned.  The lists just never end.

And after 5 years of full-time youth ministry (it was officially 5 on September 8th!!) I’m starting to be ok with that.  The list isn’t going to ever end.  You get soooo close to checking everything off and 10 new things get dropped on your desk (thanks staff meeting).  Or you clean the house in the morning only to come home in the evening and find that the dogs have made a huge mess for you (insert spouse, roommate, or kids as needed there).  It doesn’t end and that’s ok.  Sometimes you just have to celebrate what you got done that day and move on.

Last weekend I discovered an awesome new bookstore and found this little gem on the shelves:

Painting Flowers on Rocks...who has time for that???

Painting Flowers on Rocks…who has time for that???

The list isn’t going to end.  You aren’t going to get it all done.  And, if you somehow get it all done we both know you cheated at something somewhere.  So take time to do some things you enjoy.  Go read a book.  Play with your kid.  Take the dog for a walk.  Call your friend and talk about nothing important.  Paint some flowers on rocks.  Whatever.  But take some time this weekend to do 1 thing you HAVE to do and 1 thing you WANT to do.  That shouldn’t be too hard.  So…what do you want to do this weekend??

Have a great weekend everyone!