Holy Stalking at Advent: A Look At Restlessness

“We are too quick to seek meaning.”

The spiritual director said. I shared this insight on Tuesday and days later, here it is hanging out in my soul. When something sticks, pay attention.

Combine with this wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Not everyone can wait: neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas)

Not everyone can wait.

If  you are sated or satisfied or a jerk (modern translation), you have no need for waiting.

Only those who carry restlessness around with them can wait.

This seems so backwards, doesn’t it? Yet if I have something in completion, I’m not waiting for it.

We don’t just have a child, we have children in progress wondering who they will become. We don’t merely have a job. We have a job that is either fosters  growth or close in. Holy restlessness to see which it is. We don’t simply have friends, some are for a season and others are lifers.

A walk I took with Niece #1 last January came to mind as I put flesh to this ida of, “The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around in them.” When we ask if she wants to go for a walk nine times out of ten, the introvert book reader in her says “No,” making the rare yeses precious.

This photo, taken near the start of our walk, disappoints me because it’s nearly in focus, but not quite. Argh! So close, yet so far. When the goal is meaning and clarity, I don’t want to share it with you. With so many gorgeous images out there, who needs a slightly out of focus stump?

Restlessness

About 15 minutes into our walk, #1 laid down on the path.

Fifteen!

Not fifty.

Restlessness within me abounded. But so did joy. Joy we were together. Joy mixed with fear, if you’re laying down now, are we in for a long haul? 

#1 laying

Later she grabbed my camera and took this picture.

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#1 on the move

the sound of laughter
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I have three distinct memories from this hike related to carrying restlessness.

1. The sound of this walk is laughter. Restlessness doesn’t have to be synonymous with drudgery.

2. It can also involve experimentation. After the laying down, #1 tested out crawling to see if it used less energy.

3. Restlessness can fortify. I look at these pictures and think, “Dad was still alive. Her grandpa was still alive.” We didn’t know a few weeks later we’d be thrust on a trail where we’d want to lay down and crawl. This time in the mountains fortified us as a family for the road we didn’t know we’d be on.

In this season of waiting, I am thankful God doesn’t limit us to kum-ba-ya waiting. instead he’s comfortable, maybe even desiring, us to carry restlessness.

10 ways to be unproductive {but happy} at Christmas

This was one of my favorite posts from last December (one of the hardest months of my life). On Saturday I was part of a Spiritual Direction Advent group and the leader cautioned us about seeking too quickly for meaning. We Westerners do like information and meaning, don’t we :). It was a timely and gentle reminder the tug culture has on us all. The tug isn’t the problem, it’s the complete buying into and and not differentiating between tugs. I’ve added a few comments below just for fun.

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I hit a small wall last week with the amount of tips out there on how to be more productive. With the new year around the corner, I fear we’re only just beginning the goal setting, productivity tips, YOU CAN DO AND BE MORE, phase our liturgical productivity calendar. 

Who says productivity is all it’s cracked up to be? I’m a disciplined person and like lists, don’t get me wrong. But enough, ok, enough!

Has the paradox of Christmas taught us nothing? I have a feeling how we view productivity is not how God does.

10 ways

Here are 10 ways to be unproductive in the traditional sense:

1. Sit in the dark and look at Christmas lights. Better yet, lay on the floor and look up at them.

2. Eat a cookie or some other holiday treat guilt free.

3. Look at the world through the eyes of a three-year-old. Can you imagine how much more fun we’d have if we got excited about the little things of life? Family coming?! SO EXCITING. Hot chocolate? Is there anything more delicious to drink?

4. Read a children’s Christmas book, complete with voices. Fun with a child, true. But children are not required for this to be unproductively productive. I wrote about nine children’s books I love. Last Thursday I was with a small group of visiting scholars from China hanging out at a Wendy’s and I read Wombat Divine by Mem Fox to them. It was a blast!

5. Light a candle and watch the flame flicker. Let your mind and soul rest.

6. Conjure up a happy childhood Christmas memory. Sit and enjoy it. Maybe share it with someone.

7. Ask an elderly relative about Christmas when they were a kid.

8. Read Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory or Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. This year my in-person book club decided to read short stories for December and we chose four from this list and recommend them all.

9. Sing Christmas carols out loud.

10. Recall getting one of your Christmas trees and call to reminisce with someone who was there.

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Which of these will you do today? Anyone else a little gagged at productivity talk?

photo credit:  Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

Boys 10-14 Still Need Us — But I’m Filled With HOPE!

We’ve done it. We have.

We’ve started a small movement for boys ages 10-14. Lest ye think it matters naught, stick around.

OK, I’m bad at surprises so I’ll get to the punch line.

Last week Elizabeth, Niece #1, and I spent four hours at the Operation Christmas Child warehouse in Denver helping to check and package boxes for OCC. An hour into in Niece #1 called out to me, “Aunt Amy.”

I paused, it’s not really a big chatting job and I was lost in thought about how I tend to romanticize semi-hard labor and then my nails break and my back aches I wonder why all stages aren’t as glamourous and fun as shopping for children and making festive images for blog posts to get you and me off our butts. But I digress. “Yes dear one?”

“I’m packing a box for a boy next year. It’s been an hour and I’ve seen, like two. Two boxes in an hour.”

She added with her wry teenage smile (and the fact that she’s a much calmer personality than me and thinks I’m prone to hyperbole. WHAT? Me?!), “You are very persuasive.” 

Can we please have a moment of silence since asking you to tattoo this on your forehead might be going a bit far.

I told her, it’s not that I’m persuasive, it’s just so damn heart breaking to see girl box after girl box. OK, I didn’t actually cuss at my niece, however, the discrepancy is from the pit of hell. But redemption, she is a’coming! I know many of you packed boy boxes this year. Yay!!

So, here’s the plan for next year:

1. I’m going to call Samaritan’s Purse when it’s not the height of the crazy season and get some facts for us.

2. I’m going to make two PDF handouts. One with the plea for boys and updated gift ideas and another with just gift ideas. That way you can print out copies to share and leave at tables handing out information.

3. I’m now going to give you a short tour of the packing center so you are informed and pumped for all the future boys who will get boxes — without your nails having to break or your back needing to ache :). It is encouraging to know what happens to your boxes!

I love giving tours! Welcome to OCC

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There are nine OCC centers in the U.S. that will process 8.3 millions boxes with total goal of 10 million boxes from all countries. Denver’s goal is 800,000 boxes and from personal experience, a line with six people working for 3.5 hours can process about 1,200 boxes.

Volunteers are trained for about 10 minutes in a professional and effective system. Truly, I’m impressed. Then you are assigned to a  line.

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Elizabeth is in the gray jacket and her job was to open the box, remove and deposit any money and pass it on to her daughter who would go through the box, removing illegal items and, if needed, restocking or beefing up (you’d be surprised how many aren’t full). She then would set it on the top of the white shelf where the lady in orange would tape the box closed. The next person to open the box will be the child!

The taper would then stack the boxes and my job was to sort them by gender (boy/girl) and age (2-4, 5-9, 10-14). The goal was to get at least 14 boxes in a BIG box. Pastors and leaders are told there are at least 14 boxes inside so they can know roughly how many kids to invite to parties and events.

I’m going to show you two pictures. There is a difference — can you spot it? (I’m pretty sure you will.)

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How many “Girl 5-9″ boxes are filled at a time? And how many “Boy 10-14?” Two to one. In full disclosure, there are also two “Boy 5-9″ big boxes, but the number #1 box by far are “Girl 5-9.” I get it, I really do. They are safe and and familiar :). But armed with our lists, we’re going to help boys 10-14 be fun and familiar too :)!

This is what a fullish box looks like. Please, please don’t pick plastic containers that are too large. I felt bad when I couldn’t get at least 14 boxes to fit, knowing there would be disappointed kids and that some kids would get twice as much as others.

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And then it happened! The Red Sea parted and Moses walked forth with the first box for a boy 10-14 our line saw! Give or take, that’s how it want down. I told my new taping friend I needed a picture and could she hold the box?

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Every couple of hours, all work is stopped and everyone one in the warehouse prays together for the boxes, people distributing them, and the kids receiving them.

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And sometimes a gem like this is found in a box. (My taping neighbor apparently wasn’t having the nails issue I was.)

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Doesn’t this just fill you up?! And make you want to pack more boxes for boys? Several of you have asked me how many extra boxes were packed for boys based on you sharing or responding to the gift ideas. Mind sharing in the comments? Which picture was your fav?

Merry Christmas to the boys :). You are not forgotten by us. We love you too.

The Speed of Advent

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:5 (NKJV)

advent

The holy echo for this season came in an early morning reading. Could Isaiah have imagine how far the echo of Advent would ring?

Advent is for us, not just some. O house of Jacob.

Advent is an invitation. Come.

Advent it isn’t about idling or accelerating, the two options most offered by the voices around us. Do nothing, Do too much. No, it is about a steady pace– let us walk. 

Advent is about direction, we aren’t walking for the sake of a nice post meal stroll — let us walk in the light of the Lord.

When I read this yesterday morning my soul whispered, pay attention, this is your posture for advent. We again join the Church universal, invited to walk in the light of the Lord. The light of anticipation and waiting.

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.

Will you join me in this posture toward the season?

Knowing it is for a season, these weeks will pass. I was reminded of this when a post went live Sunday on a site I’m a monthly contributor. The post is a VLOG I filmed last summer, sitting outside surrounded by green, life, and high temperatures for a series called “Who do you think you are?” The season will not always be as it is. What do I want the echoes of this advent to be?

P.S. My favorite line from the VLOG is “I”m tempted to believe that ordinary is a rest stop and not a destination.” You can watch it here.

For Those Who Receive Hard News This Week

Dear friend,

I don’t have to tell you, it’s the holiday season. We have reminders surrounding us. I don’t care where you live, social media and the internet won’t let you forget.

You might want to. The holidays are supposed to be happy, but you’ve gotten news this week that has t-boned you and now you’re not sure which direction you’re going.

It was the day before Thanksgiving last year for our family. With one doctor’s report pieces both fell into place and scattered all over the floor.

So that might explain what’s going on. 

Oh my word, this … just … might … I do not want to say it because then it will make it true … be his last Thanksgiving. 

Hard news near a holiday

Your news might be medical too. Or involving relationships or finances or your job or be about your kids or a pregnancy or a dashed dream.

So many ways bad news can enter a life.

I am so sorry for the hit you have taken. The air that has been knocked out of your soul. The way you may have lost your bearings this week. And though you know you’ll (probably) recover from this, right now you’re a bit stunned. And you know deep in your gut might be a game changer. You will bear the mark of this week for the rest of your days.

What you might not know right now is the size of the scar.

The news you received may end up fading over time. Or it may not. Our shock is over, but we still dance around the holes in our lives figuring out what they mean.

For you, what to do this week? When the message being projectile vomited at you from all directions is be thankful (OR ELSE).

That’s not the gospel. That’s not why Jesus came. Your pain is real. But your pain is not supreme. So, again, what do you do?

Embrace the messy middle. You may need to make adjustments this holiday. Change locations, scale back, maybe make a road trip. I don’t know what you will need to do.  Honor the holiday in some way while also honoring your pain. I am grateful for the memories I have of last year. They include Dad’s last turkey dinner at a dear friend’s house and texting with my sister afterwards saying how for both of us there had been tears. We were in shock.

The messy middle creates space for the good and the bad. The joy and the sorrow. The pain and the pleasure. You may want to deny what’s happened or deny the holidays. If possible, lean into the tension and find ways that real holidays involving real life are richer than the shallow versions offered by advertisers. A better cell plan isn’t the answer to a rich and fulfilling life, finding ways to make gestures towards each other is.

A few years ago part of our family was with Dad who was in rehab for a broken hip, and just as the rest of us sat down for the meal my phone rang. After I had spent most of the day on a situation involving a suicidal American in China, I was now going to miss the meal with my family because her mom had gotten my phone message. I had to break the news that would forever be associated with this holiday and yet she needed to know and be a part of the plan for her daughter’s safety.

Let me say it again — I am so sorry for the news you received this week. Some years are harder and you’re having one of those.

It comforts me that Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation was written in the midst of Civil War. Clearly all was not right with the country. And yet.

And yet he knew in the midst of bad news it is worthwhile to pause and remember the story is bigger than this news, this week. God gave us two hands, one to hold the troubles and one to hold the hope. Use them both. Offer them both.

I will be thinking of you this week. And if you want me to pray for you or just want to share your story leave a comment or email me at messymiddle@gmail.com. We can’t make it go away, but we can let you know you’re not alone.

With blessing,

Amy

Eleven Gift Ideas for Boys ages 10-14 (Operation Christmas Child)

Last December I spent an afternoon helping to pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child and learned three things:

1. Operation Christmas Child is ah-may-zing.

2. Working a packing line is nothing like a Lucy and Ethel comedy. Not saying it wasn’t fun, but no chocolates where shoved in my mouth.

3. Boys ages 10-14 are painfully underrepresented.

OCC

In case you’re not familiar with OCC, they gather thousands and thousands of packed boxes of Christmas gifts. People over around North America have prepared boxes filled with gifts for either a boy or a girl in the age categories of 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Can you guess which kids got the most boxes? Of course you can, because you’re no dummy. Girls ages 2-4 and 5-9. And I get it. I really do. All that cute girl stuff!! Who wouldn’t love to get one of those boxes?!

A boy age 10-14, that’s who. OCC is driven by the generosity of thousands and do their best to distribute what they have. But if you only have girl boxes for 2-4 or 5-9 year-olds, what can you do?

I have a friend who works at a home in India where kids get these boxes and she says it’s heart breaking to see a boy ask for a boy box and … then be given a girl box. It’s a small thing. Or is it?

If girls were being ignored, we’d go all Title IX about it and yell “Girl power!” But it’s not girls, it’s boys.

The truth is, I think you’re like me and want to pack a box for a boy, but don’t know what to get. I’ve been thinking about this all year and have done informal polling on Facebook — wow, the ideas that poured in. Thank you.

Good news, this is a solvable problem! Here are 11 gift ideas for boys ages 10-14 with a few reminders from my friend:

  • Aim for the lower end of the age range, in this case age 10.
  • These kids are raised without IPADs or computer games — don’t think North American boy. These are the poorest of the poor.
  • Boys in that age range like coloring books too.
  • Dollar stores have good stuff for boys!

Gift ideas

1. Card games — it doesn’t matter that they can’t read the rules, they’ll make up their own! Ideas include: Old maid, crazy eights, or Go fish

2. Items with Super heros, sports, or cars (maybe not American football and you know it pains me to say :)). Boys are boys are boys. Oh and not stuff with war toys or weapons. But there’s a lot out there with super heroes, sports or cars!

3. Small toys — like yo-yo’s, balls on a string, I found a small board game for basketball involving a dice and two pegs (dollar store type of place), marbles

4. Legos — turns out this is really popular! They can get expensive. The cheapest (and good for small boxes) are creator lego sets and they go for $4.95 at Barnes and Noble. or Target.

5. Round things — small balls, nerf balls, and I’ll say it again, marbles.

6. Logic games and puzzles — guess what, Rubik Cubes are big in the junior high scene in America this year. So, you can find them fairly easily. Or variations for Rubik Cubes (remember those snakes? and circles?). Puzzles — I found small puzzles with cars, trucks, or cartoon characters playing basketball. Dominos are good too!

7. Toothbrush and comb — You can also put a bar of soap in the box (but no liquids like toothpaste). Hey, they might prefer a box of all toys, but their teeth will thank them later.

8. Coloring books and crayons — just not princesses or too girly. Sports, super heroes, animals. You might think this is below them, it’s not. Other school supplies too — colored pencils, markers, small notebooks.

9. Flash-lights and batteries — Can’t you picture a group of boys playing with flashlights?!

10. Solar calculator — How else will they learn the magic of 43046721? (Take the square root, take the square root, take the square root, take the square root and what do you have? Other than a whole lot of fun?!) These are things we’ve been conditioned to think are not fun. Well, we’re wrong :).

11. Something silly — like fake teeth or plastic bugs. I can just hear the laughter now! And Jesus smiling. He was a boy after all.

I hope that helps you with ideas and gets you excited to SHOP FOR BOYS — my new mini-campaign (#shopforboys). Care to join me? You can find more about Operation Christmas Child and how to pack a box here.

There are small and simple ways to make a difference in the life of a boy, who will grow up to be a man. The news often makes me feel more helpless than I really am. We are not helpless! We can #shopforboys. Would you consider helping to get this message out? Girl boxes may outnumber boy boxes, but let’s dent that ratio!

Are you with me?

Why I have changed my tune on Halloween and become a BIG fan

Having recently spent time in my beloved Beijing (and thanks, by the way dear BJ for having horrible air most of the time I was there, but then deciding to clean up your act about the moment my plane took off. But I digress.). Where was I? Oh yes, having recentely spent time in Beijing, I am struck afresh by how much of life happens on the streets.

The Heart of Halloween

Breakfast stands pop up.

Fruit and veggies to be sold.

Poop (some might say a little too much life).

Dancing, badminton, car washes.

Life, life, life!

Without garages to pull into and the high value of private space, there is a level of engagement that is different than life in the West.

People, we have an opportunity this Friday night to get out there and mingle with our neighbors. One of my very first blog posts encourage people to “Take back the streets.” In part I said:

I have mixed feeling about the “Fall Festivals” that have become the norm at many churches and other places of gathering. Part of me applauds the church looking for ways to be a haven and being willing to open their doors instead of close them. But another part is kind of turned off by the withdrawal and segregation. It’s the ONE night a year in America where we are socially sanctioned to wander around our neighborhoods, knock on each other’s doors and greet one another. The ONE night. And what have we done, we have said safety is more important than engagement (I told you, you might not agree).

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The main push back I have gotten is over the origin of Halloween. I really never intended to take a massive stand on Halloween. The truth is I care about relationships and finding connecting points. I don’t know much about the origins of Halloween and, frankly, it doesn’t really interest me because I believe nothing, absolutely nothing is beyond the hope of redemption.

Do bad things happen on Halloween? Sure. Do bad things happen other night of the year and in the name of evil. Absolutely (and tragically so). Do I ABHOR the evil perpetrated against children or cats? Big fat yes.

But as one who bears the Image of God, I also bear the image of fun and creativity and playfulness. Of connection and joy and giggles. Of memory building and traditions. Do I delight that God made us in His image? Bigger, Fatter Y-E-S.

Now, can you just tun off your lights and not engage on Friday night and still be an Image Bearer? Of course. And that’s fine!

However, if you’re looking for some creative ideas for Friday, here are a few I’ve heard:

1. A group of teachers in China live in a building shared with graduate students. They hung up a sign explaining about Trick-or-Treating and asked students who would be willing for foreign children to Trick-or-Treat to hang up one of the provided pumpkins.

2. A family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hands out hot dogs to those passing by their house. This year they wrote to a record label and and pitched the idea of Christmas Music CD’s being handed out with hot dogs. The record label LOVED the idea and sent 100 of David Crowder’s CD. My friends are not all that taken with Halloween, but they are taken with their neighbors and with Christmas. I only wish I lived closer because who doesn’t love a hot dog on a cold night?!

3. A church in Denver held their Fall Festival on Sunday night to free up their congregation on Halloween.

4. My sister and her family have started leaving a bowl of candy on their front porch so no one has to stay home. We get to wander their neighborhood as a family connecting with neighbors and fellow Trick-or-Treaters. (And this year for the first time ever Del, Elizabeth and I have a themed costume we’ll do together! Can’t wait!)

Engagement can come in many forms, be creative. Find one that works for you, your stage of life, your family and your personality.

I’d love to hear more ideas of ways you have found to engage and connect with folks. Anyone else planning a costume for this year?

P.S. My time in Beijing was profound on multiple levels. I’m sifting through and will share more.

Can Labor Day be a holy day?

Happy Labor Day for those of you in the U.S!

This weekend a conversation I had last May with a visiting scholar from China keeps coming to mind. I wished him a Happy Labor Day, telling him it wouldn’t be Labor Say in the U.S. until late August. He gave me a quizzical look and said, “But it’s International Labor Day!”

“Well, it’s International Socialist Labor Day, so you’re right, socialist countries all over the world are celebrating. Since the U.S. isn’t socialist, you can guess our labor day is another time. :).”

He was a bit surprised that he’d never heard a key adjective in the name and took him a moment to adjust to this new information.

labor day

What strikes me is not the difference, but the similarities. Two such different countries with vastly different histories and systems came up with a similar holiday to address a need in society.

This points to a universal truth that supersedes politics, history, or culture.

What are we humans good at? Extremes! A holiday like labor day is a small attempt as a society to say that though work is important and necessary, it is not everything. Labor with no rest is slavery. And rest with no work is laziness. Living with the tension of working AND resting is … messy. 

Though it is not billed as such in either country, I see Labor Day as a nod to God and the rhythms of feasting and fasting, planting and harvesting, working and resting. We tend to pick an extreme and plant a flag there (dare I say a modern day altar or idol?) and then fuss at our slavery. What’s one of the in words of our times?

Busy.

We glorify it and hate it.

Labor Day isn’t a high holy day. True. It is not a part of the church calendar and is celebrated at different times of the year in different countries. When Labor Day comes to your country, how about seeing it as a reminder to live in the messy middle, to resist the extremes the Tempter wants us to believe are our best choices. 

To labor well.

To rest well.

To be present with the people we are with — either in work, social or home settings — and to quit believing we can (or should) be in multiple places at once.

Amen? Amen.

May we be people who see God sprinkling reminders and invitations all around us.

(and I’d love to hear about Labor Days around the world!)

Photo credit Juan Torres via Flickr cc

Do blow torches and fireworks mix?

My parents have a few mantras. The one I most hear is: Where did you come from?  How did two Type Z personalities create a Type A person? 

(Double recessive genes is my standard answer!)

One that’s less philosophical is: There’s no place like Frisco, Colorado to watch fireworks. 

(Frisco IS great, but the Hong Kong Harbor … ah-may-zing!)

Fireworks

 

My dad loved fireworks.

When I was a kid, he loved loading the three of us girls into the car and going to the firework stand. Depending on what was legal that year, he’d stock up. When we returned home, another one of his mantras was “the girls will love this!” as my mom gave him quizzical looks as to the amount and veracity of the purchases.

Yeah, the girls will love them.

But when it finally got dark and Dad lit his blow torch, we knew who was having the most fun. It was only years later I learned not everyone’s Dad uses a blow torch because it’s an efficient way to light fireworks. To this day, that blue flame means good times are about ready to roll! And I can testify you can light those black pellet snakes, as we say in Chinese, mei wenti, no problem, with a blow torch.

It’s funny the things we miss about Dad. I didn’t realize fireworks were such a part of my story, but turns out they are. This year as we watch them, there will be the usual oohs and ahhs!, but also some tears.

May you enjoy loved ones this week whether is a holiday where you live or not. And if you want to light a blow torch in my dad’s honor, I know what he’d say … Go for it!

 

Photo credit: Sunsurfr via compfight

 

Want to know what happened with the Mother’s Day post this year? {Pretty cool!}

Our bleeding heart blossomed Saturday.

Bleeding heart

I love bleeding hearts. Isn’t it calming to look at?

And then the snow came on Sunday. I’ve put a trash can over it and hopefully it’ll survive the onslaught. But because Sunday was Mother’s Day in America, bleeding hearts and moms have mixed together in my mind.

It happened again — starting about Wednesday of last week, the Mother’s Day letter of two years ago struck a chord with the hearts of many (mostly positive, but not all). I love hearing back stories.

Two years ago when I hit “publish” on the post, my mind was on the lunch I was heading off to eat. Our favorite restaurant was being destroyed in my Beijing neighborhood and a group of us were going for one last meal. I had one meal on my mind, God had a feast for his children.

*Re:Think Worship linked it in Creative Mother’s Day Ideas for Church. Shout out to Dan (the host) thanks for all you do to help churches!

*A Catholic priest contacted me asking to use The Wide Spectrum of Mothering in Mass and in future seminary classes he teaches on preaching.

*A woman who hosts a FB group for those who have miscarried asked to use it as well and the post was shared nearly 10,000 times. She told me she has 600 followers.

*Time Warp Wife had me as a guest author on Friday using the letter as it went nuts — in a good way! There are currently 321 comments. (Anyone else chuckling at the irony of a single woman posting at a sight with “Wife” in the title? You just have to. This is so beyond me it’s hilarious). And Darlene has been delightful to work with!

* Beth at Selftalkthegospel asked about combining the two letters and she did a stunning job. Stunning.

*This was one of my favorite comments this year:

After finding so much comfort in your Wide Spectrum of Mothering last year, this year I chose to share it in my facebook group for those who live with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I wanted to thank you, not just for the comfort I found there — but more than that, for the comfort others in the group found. Some of them had held grief and shame to themselves for years, believing they didn’t have the right to those feelings, and your spectrum acknowledged them, and gave them permission to their feelings (something that those of us with BPD sometimes need).

On behalf of myself and the group, thank you. Your words have made difficult journeys a little easier to bear, and given a voice to hurting women on a hard day.

*A pastor in Dallas turned The Wide Spectrum of Mothering into a responsive reading! Next year I’ll get it added to the resources.

*Cyd who commented on the first letter and was one of the examples in the second letter supported me in the comments.

* I got an email from a woman who was able to forward the letter to her pastor and share a bit of her story with him. This has helped both pastor and parishioners to have the kind of conversations both sides wants to have.

*Sandi Patty’s daughter shared it with Sandi and she put it on her Facebook wall.

*And many commented again — sharing a bit of their lives. The good, the bad, the ugly. The messy middle. God is in our midst.

I love seeing how much God cares for and pursues his people.

Yes, the snows of life may come

snow in May

 

 

May 2014 055

snow on bleeding heart

They will. Even after you have gardened and weeded and been excited for a favorite plant.

Yet beauty can exist in the storms as well. It has been an encouragement to me to see the compassion extended to each other through this letter. Bad things are going to happen, but a kind word can sure go a long way, eh?

As Paul Harvey would say, “and now you know the rest of the story” — for this year.

How have you seen God’s heart bleeding for others? What compassion has been extended to you this week?

P.S. WELCOME to all of you new to The Messy Middle … so fun to have you join us! Amy