Be the Light

 

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For so many of us, this week feels dangerous. People are getting ready, which means different things to different folks.

Some are going to guard the gates.

And some are going to shepherd others to safety until the storm passes.

We all have a call to justice. But we have to listen to the way of the call. For me, even though my gift is words and my weapon is sarcasm, I am not being called to raise my voice in anger. I am holding fast to truth, to seeking it and speaking it with compassion and kindness.

Whether we go to guard the gates or shepherd others to safety, let us make sure we bring our Light.

Otherwise, we just become part of the darkness.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.        

Martin Luther King, Jr.   

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 

 

 

Every Day is Valentine’s Day

If you and I are friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Instagram, you are more than familiar with my #everydayisvalentinesday hashtag.  You see, one day, when I least expected it, love happened.

Tory and I first met in 1987, when I started junior high.  A few years later, we became closer friends during my freshman year, his junior year.  We were BFFs the next year, and in the time before email, My Space, and Facebook, we were pen pals when he went to college.  My senior year, I broke up with my boyfriend two days before prom, and Tory came back and took me.

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Then I went to college in Virginia, he started working full time and going to school, and after the summer of 1994, we kind of lost touch.

Fast forward 21 years to 2015, we reconnected.  We had both split from our spouses, and we both had children.  We met for lunch one day, only expecting to catch up with an old friend, but we soon realized that there was much more to our unfinished story.

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Having a relationship that is based in this deep friendship, caring, and genuine love for each other (you should read what I wrote in his yearbook senior year.  #humiliating.) is amazing.  We love each other’s family, and we love each other’s children as our own.  When we started posting pictures on social media, all of our friends from back in high school were so happy for us.  And soon, #everydayisvalentinesday was born.  Pictures graced our feeds from restaurants, Christmas parties, the beach, volleyball games, Angel games, Disneyland.  Jen told me once that it’s like we’re living in our twenties again.  And you know what, it is.  Christmas Eve is even Valentine’s Day.

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But before I continue to gush, let me be clear.  We are not perfect.  Life is also tough.  We both have major things in our past that affect our everyday lives.  We cry.  And bleed.  And our hearts break.  Through custody battles, court dates, money issues, going back to work, we have made a pact:  we will get through it…. together.

Now, in my 40s, I don’t want what Valentine’s Day means for most people:  big gestures professing one’s love, on one day of the year.  The #everydayisvalentinesday that is in my life now is the feeling that is supposed to lie beneath all those flowers and chocolates and fancy necklaces.  I don’t want the prince in the shining castle.  No, give me the farmer who smells like the earth, works his fingers to the bone, and has the scars to prove it.  Tory is Ride or Die.  And I will Ride or Die for him.  He is devoted to me in a way that I have never experienced before.  Our Valentine’s Days are filled with electrical work on the house, with sewing curtains for our kitchen. Valentine’s Days are when we’re sick and lie on the couch.  They are days when we meet our parents for breakfast then shop at Costco.

One #everydayisvalentinesday we even got married.

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Our Valentine’s Days celebrate our accomplishments, but they are also when we lose our battles.  Because when you let go of ego, when you are honest not only with your partner, but with yourself, when you bear your soul, and when your partner does the same, #lovewins and #everydayisvalentinesday.

A Holy Family

Last Thursday night, Shea and I went on a date. We had dinner and then we hit Barnes and Noble to spend a gift card.

On our way out, a man approached us cautiously and asked for money. He said “We need gas to drive to Eugene.” I looked in the car behind him and saw a woman.

I knew I had some cash in my purse and as I rummaged for it, I took in the details: the man who could not look me in the eye, his pride coming off him in waves. The car stuffed with clothes and Dollar Store bags.

And in the backseat, a baby.

“You have a wee bit,” I said, surprised.

“Yeah,” he said. “My son. The shelters are full in Medford, and Grants Pass too. That’s why we have to get to Eugene.”

They turned away a baby, I thought. I offered him all the money I had, which just happened to be more than usual.

He didn’t want to take it. “It’s too much.”

“Eugene is a long way,” I told him.

That was the first time he looked me in the face. “God bless you.”

And then they left.

I told my mom when we got home and the next day she said “It makes me think of that picture you posted on Facebook.”

Maybe you saw it. It’s called “Jose y Maria” by Everett Patterson.

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Two years ago our priest told us at Christmas Mass that while Christmas is such a special and precious celebration, we make a mistake if we leave the Baby in the manger. He grew up to be the Savior of the world. He is with us.

I think we make a mistake if we leave Joseph and Mary in the manger. They looked poor and alone that night and not like they were carrying the Son of God.

If we look around we can see that they are with us too.

 

 

 

The Best Princess of Them All

Sleeping Beauty hit the big screen in 1959. Ariel swam along in 1989.

In between, there was only one princess in the world and she had cinnamon buns on the sides of her head.

I was 5 when Star Wars premiered. You know what I wanted for Christmas? A blaster. I was 12 for Return of the Jedi. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the bikini was a thing. All I knew was that she climbed up on that big bastard Jabba and sent him to hell.

Bad. Ass.

I wanted to be her with every fiber of my being. And it had not one thing to do with Han Solo. I wanted to lead a resistance, fly an X-wing fighter, rip a blaster out of my holster and defend my droids.

I SUPER wanted to ride those cool speeders through the forests of Endor, wiping troopers off on giant redwood trees while wearing a camo cape.

A camo cape. Think of all the things a camo cape can mean on the back of a bad ass princess.

I know that Carrie Fisher wasn’t Princess Leia. And I think that playing Leia cost Carrie something.

But I also think there was a lot of Carrie Fisher in Princess Leia and that if she hadn’t been such a brave young woman, my generation would have spent more time asking ourselves “Am I pretty??” instead of “How can I be an Imperial Senator when I turn 18?”

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

Carrie Fisher

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Merry Christmas

 

 

You guys, I have shown you my very cool Advent calendar: A magnetic nativity scene where each day the kids open the door and place another character into the picture.

Do you know that in the middle of my prayerful and restful Advent, my oldest and youngest child were doing their best to block the baby Jesus spot so that the middle child would have nowhere to put him?

They are 10, 8 and 4. They know what the manger scene is supposed to look like. And they know what they are about. And yes, I did have to settle an argument between them about whether the sheep will have to make way for the baby in the hay.

And by “settle”, I mean threaten to take the calendar down and cancel Christmas.

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Do you see how they played a twisted kind of Nativity Risk?

You know me, though. And how much I like my metaphors. So here’s one for you to hold on to these last 48 hours.

What makes my Nativity scene holy is not that the main players are perfectly placed–but that they are there in that place, floating Wise Man and Fallen Star alike, celebrating the birth of the Lord (who, in our version, may float in his trough above the manger).

Same thing with the next 48 hours. Whatever you are trying to pull off, success is not what will make it holy.

Presence will make it holy.

Good luck my friends, and have yourselves a Merry Christmas.

I Know Where Jesus Is

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An hour ago, I was snuggled up on my couch in the soft glow of my Christmas tree, reveling in how ready I am for Christmas.

God has since flicked me in the forehead.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes posted this on Facebook. Then CNN. Then I started looking around.

Then I was ashamed, and here I am.

I know about Aleppo. I know about the refugees. I donated money to Together Rising, which has since sent over $2 million to help Syrian refugees. But I didn’t want to really know. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want suffering to invade my Christmas–which in part is the story of poor refugees looking for a place to give birth to the Savior of the World.

Then this question was whispered into my heart: If you could go back in time and help Mary and Joseph bring Jesus into the world in calm and safety, would you go?

In a hot freaking second.

Well?

On the night Jesus was born, the world didn’t know he was coming. But we do. And we know where to find him, right now.

You guys, Jesus is in Aleppo.

Maybe this is not the business of our government, and maybe that’s good. You could contact your representatives anyway, to let them know you are standing on the side of the persecuted and hope they are too.

But we are people of the one true God and we know this is FOR SURE the business of our churches, temples and mosques.

This link will take you to a list of agencies who are providing relief to refugees and some who are trying to get relief into Aleppo directly.

More than the tree, more than the nativity scene, more than the advent calendar and prayers–Aleppo is Christmas.

 

Get ‘er Done

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You know we like Advent over here.

But every year we buckle down to observe the holy heck of out Advent and we notice that the crap still creeps in.

Like Tuesday I’m sitting on my yoga mat before class, meditating (aka: trying to talk myself out of bailing and going for coffee) and I can’t help but hear the conversations around me that all sound like this:

“I have SO MUCH TO DO. There are not enough hours in the day. Not enough days in the month. Every year I tell myself I’m going to start early and I never do.”

We have all felt that. I have felt that. But that’s not how we should feel this time of year.

So here’s your pep talk.

This weekend, this one starting right now—Purchase. Wrap. Use Amazon Prime and Ebates to do it from the cushy, warm comfort of your couch plus free shipping and cash back. It doesn’t have to be wrapped nicely. It just has to be wrapped. You don’t need cute gift tags. A folded over square of paper works just fine.

Get ‘er done.

Decorate. We got our tree in the parking lot at the mall and I don’t even care. Last year we did the big family haul to the woods to cut it down in the wild. It was the most giant cluster ever. This tree is shorter and skinny, which means the kids could reach it. There are lights and ornaments. The end. The tree does not have to be a work of art.

Get ‘er done.

Sit down with the remote. Search up all your favorite holiday movies and set them to record. Roll through Freeform to find the kids’ favorites. One night two weeks from now when you have reached the breaking point you will be able to yell “GO WATCH TV! And don’t come back until you’ve watched Prep and Landing and Prep and Landing Two TWICE.” Then you can open a nice bottle of wine and catch up on your favorite A Christmas Carol. May I suggest Alistair Sim, although Captain Picard will work too.

Just get ‘er done. A few days of nose to the grindstone now will help you create the sacred space you need later to be calm and present. We’ll need our wits about us for the hard parts. And there are always hard parts. For lots of reasons.

But let’s don’t let one of those reasons be because we left it all so late that we didn’t have time to breathe.

We can do this. We can get ‘er done.