Restoration for the Weary

IMG_9718 (2)While we anticipate the restoration of living things outside our windows, we revel in the reality that Jesus restored all things that were broken, winter-bound, and frozen in the icy grip of sin and separation. His resurrection accomplished in one breathtaking stroke a restoration of all that God originally called good.

Though it’s April when you’re reading this, and hopefully turning to spring where you are, I’m writing during the last days of winter. This morning, I got stuck in my driveway three times trying to get my daughter to her train. We have two feet of snow out there (more or less), and I’m longing for the beach I sat on last week in Puerto Rico, doing nothing but listening to the waves and wading out in them to snorkel for yellow-striped fish and elusive sea turtles.

I unashamedly admit I need that kind of restoration in the middle of winter. Winter in Chicago is not for the weak.

Lately, I’ve been seeking restoration more often.

I loved being back at The Glorious Table this month and sharing this message of restoration and encouragement when Easter time isn’t all the joy we expect it to be. Please jump over there to read the rest.

Five Hopes I Wish for You and Me

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I learned about mercy and hope this morning while watching my daughter prep for oral surgery.

I had not known, until the technician informed me, that the Pope had declared this next year, since December 8, a special jubilee of mercy. I’m not Catholic; I didn’t know what a special jubilee was, no did I know the pope could call one. But he has, and he has opened up the special bricked up door in St. Peter’s to symbolize it.

I saw that door when we visited St. Peter’s Basilica. I remember it. I didn’t realize it’s significance.

All I could say to her was, “I dearly hope he’s right.”

The Friday Five linkup at Mrs. Disciple is on Hope. Five things we hope. This morning, I can’t think of anything I hope for more than exactly this.

I hope and pray mercy on you. On me. On all of us.

I pray more than anything we learn to extend it beyond what we believe is possible in 2016.

“I am convinced that the whole Church — which has much need to receive mercy, because we are sinners — will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”

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Is there anything more important, in this world of fear and confusion, than to hope for these words? So here are my five hopes for all of us in the Year of Jubilee (An unfulfilled celebration in the Old Testament that I find particularly beautiful and hopeful.) They are all hopes of mercy.

I hope for us the wisdom to listen and learn from those who are different.

Let’s learn the particular mercy of hearing others. We can give no greater gift, I’m convinced, than to see and hear another person. Would it be a beautiful mercy to go out of our way to hear those we may not normally listen to this year? Wouldn’t it mirror Jesus’ willingness to hear the people around him, really hear them, not assume he knew all about them? (Even though he did.)

I hope for us the patience to give second chances.

It’s the popular thing to give up on people as soon as they disappoint us. It’s easy to delete a friend. Easy to move on to the next honeymoon relationship, until the next crack appears. But what if we chose not to? Does it sound hopeful to think we could do the hard work of inviting the cracks, repairing them together, offering second, third, and fourth chances? We might need a few, too.

I hope for us the freedom of feeling forgiven.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.  Psalm 103

Completely, absolutely, unwaveringly forgiven. By God. And by ourselves. Nothing offers more hope than to know you are forgiven. Nothing prepares us more for the next hope.

IMG_4468I hope for us the release of forgiving others.

Who needs your forgiveness? Offer it in this year of mercy. Be liberal in your offering of forgiveness. You are the one who will feel the free release of hope fill your lungs.

I hope for us the joy of offering mercy to anyone, anywhere.

The one who does not deserve it. The one who cannot hope for it. The one who doesn’t look like you. The one who looks disturbingly too much like you. The one who speaks another language. The one who lives and sleeps next to you. Everywhere. Without consideration of who is keeping score.

This — this is peace on earth. This is the only hope we have. This is the hope of Christmas.

Five Traditions — Identity on a Tree

IMG_0566When I married almost thirty years ago, I adopted most of my husband’s family’s Christmas traditions wholesale. My family didn’t really have any, so why not borrow? Hey, my parents had seven kids. Traditions? We called it good if there was just a little peace on earth and minimal bloodshed.

My husband’s family had traditions. Lots of them. I’m petty sure my husband’s family had a tradition for Ground Hog Day and National Cheese Doodle Day. So, they had Christmas covered. Cheese fondue Christmas Eve. Stay in pajamas Christmas Day. Stockings only before breakfast. Our first Christmas together, we drove the ten miles to his parents’ house in our pajamas to keep the tradition. And woke everyone there up, because they had said 8am, but apparently, they did not mean it.

But a new family needs to build new traditions as well, to forge their own identity. As our children marry and/or fly the nest, I expect they will do the same. A dance of combining old and new into “us.” So yes, we’ve made our own.

At Mrs. Disciple, we’re talking traditions for the #FridayFive. Rather than tackle five general traditions, I’m focusing on tree decorations. We have traditions on our tree, and it makes it our own.

First, the tree has a specific time.

That inviolable time is the day after Thanksgiving. We go, wind, rain, sleet, or snow, to cut down the perfect fir tree, which will inevitably be pronounced (by me) as the most beautiful tree yet. The smells of pine, spruce, twine, and hot chocolate mingle right into our car as we drive away. Th photos capture the same roles every year – my husband kneeling over with the saw (it’s not usually his best look), middle child swinging the twine over the car just so, youngest child hopping around with cold toes and making greenery into antlers, and oldest child checking to ensure the tree is balanced to perfection.

It will take my husband approximately ten and a half hours to hang the lights on it. Just so. Then, we decorate, taking some time to talk about the ornaments we choose to put on. We consider a perfectly ordered, themed, and color-coordinated tree an abomination. Our ornaments range from the one my husband made in first grade from a toilet paper tube to the Murano glass one we bought in Venice. They dangle next to one another, a reminder that our year, and our lives, combine differing measures of perfect beauty and last minute DIY improv. I don’t covet those perfect trees on the Pinterest boards. I want my tree of memories.

So for our five traditions, here are five kinds of ornaments we traditionally hang to keep our memories alive and give us our family identity.

The childhood ornaments

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The ones my husband made, already mentioned. We don’t have any that I made. My parents did not keep such things. We do, however, have fragile glass balls from my childhood tree, their paint gilded and fading, but their beauty lies not in the paint.

We have the ones our girls made, the ones stuck together with glue and glitter and a little sheer hope and childlike faith. They are made of aluminum and popsicle sticks and fun foam and construction paper. There were also some made of dog biscuits, but those met an untimely end when we hung them too close to the dog. My favorites, of course, contain their tiny faces, peeping between evergreen needles, reminding me that those days fled by quicker than those needles will fall.

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The travel ornaments

Wherever we have wandered, we have a memory on our tree for it. San Francisco’s painted ladies, Nova Scotia’s lighthouses, Europe’s landmarks, a light-bedazzled crab from North Carolina and a painted sand dollar from Puerto Rico. Every time someone pulls one out of a box, we are transported.

IMG_6423We remember the being together days that only vacations offer. We may start talking about the next one.

The watershed ornaments

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Look at those two clinging together for dear life. They were right. (But my husband is so not a blond.)

Driver’s license. High school diploma. College. Baby’s First Christmas. All are celebrated on the tree. Which can tend to bleed into the next category . . .

The obsession ornaments

The resin girls doing perfect back flips through branches remind us of the gymnastics years. The scarecrow and Aslan ornaments and Glinda bubbles and Snow Whites bring back hours of theater efforts and applause. Belle and Ariel are telling which princesses were favorites around here once upon a time. And Snoopy at his typewriter is mine, no matter what. If someone has a zeal for something in this family, an ornament probably shows it.

The handmade ornaments

IMG_6426Several of the ones I made when we were first married and could barely afford a $17 tree let alone ornaments still hang. A bit bedraggled, perhaps, but they hang. They remind us of harder days and instruct us that those days are good ones if we embrace them. I can’t look at them without seeing again, like a reverse telescope, the hope-filled and beautiful first years of a new family and new dreams. Who knew what the years after would bring? Who expected what this tree is filled with?

We did not. But hope took us through those almost thirty years. Hope still does.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  (Romans 5.2-4)