Stopping to say thanks for 2014

As I sit here at my green writing table, I can hardly wait for my fresh new, 2015 notebook. . . I geek-out on New Year’s resolution thinking, excited for the energy that comes with a fresh start.  It’s like I’m this penned-up dog ready for my owner to release the leash as I stand at this huge field of freshly fallen snow.

But it’s not 2015 just yet.

Before we jump ahead, let’s stop and look back.  Gratitude has a way of warming us up, rejuvenating us for what’s next.  The best way to speed up is to slow down first.

One practical help I found for zooming up and looking back is an annual examen prayer.  If you’ve got a little time, check it out–I sense you’ll be glad you did.  But if today is busy, you can still think a bit on the broad strokes of it:

  1. Looking back, what (and who) am I grateful for this year?
  2. Where have I felt true joy?
  3. What has challenged me?
  4. What has troubled me?
  5. When did I have time for renewal and pause?
  6. Have I noticed God in any of this?
  7. In light of all this. . . what is my response moving forward?

The pages in my 2015 notebook are blank, unknown. . . and yet I’m thankful, knowing that no matter what comes, all will be well (Julian of Norwich).

Cheers to all of it!  And happy new year.

The best Christmas gift

Last night at 1:52 a high-pitched toddler voice jolted me awake.

“Where are you mama?  Where ARE YOU MAMA!?”

My two-year-old’s screams came from the living room.  Trying to find me, she was lost.

As I sat rubbing her back, wrinkling her new red and white Christmas reindeer pajamas, I wished I could take her fear away.  Even when I physically touched her and repeated, “Mama’s here, mama’s here, mama’s here.  Everything is going to be okay,” it took time for her to stop crying.

Why couldn’t she notice, take a deep breath, calm herself and realize she had exactly what she wanted?

In this season of Advent–and all year round–I get in a funk from time to time, drowsy from the cares of day-to-day life.  I find myself asking. . . where are you God?  Sometimes even, Where ARE YOU GOD?

God is all around us, daring to shine through people and situations–even hard ones–right in front of our eyes.  God didn’t come as a book.  He came as a person.

So let’s live gratitude today for the best Christmas gift, Immanuel, God WITH US. . . rubbing our back, daring us to quit crying, to see him physically with us saying, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.  Everything is going to be okay.”

What I’m doing this December

I have a #gratitudeparty hangover–the absolute best kind–as I sit here warmed up by words over the last chilly month.  As I sit here all cozy, I remember one of my favorite author’s words, “Oh that’s cute. . . now on to the next thing.”  I think he’s right, but my next thing is listening and waiting for a bit.  I want to live thanks in advent this year instead of doing the whole Christmas rush around.  I’d love it if you joined me in one or both of my waiting practices:
1.  I’m taking a daily walk between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  Julia Cameron (one of my favorite authors on creativity) is really intense about the importance of taking walks.  I think it sounds stupid. . . so that probably means it’s life-changing.  Thoreau walked daily for like four hours (I’m thinking minutes here), but I’m reading his 1861 work, Walking (free ebookpublic libraryIndieBound), which he wrote seven years after Walden.  
2.  I’m posting a daily photo on Instagram for my church’s Word-of-the-Day challenge.  To participate, take a picture each day, December 1-25, that illustrates the daily word for you after reading the related Bible passage for inspiration, then post your pic to Instagram with these hashtags: #SouthwoodSightings #Watch (for example, for December 1).  The challenge is described in more detail here.  If you’re new to Instagram, ask a student to show you the basics, or click here.  

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