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What will you be known for?  Last night, a friend and I were talking as we attempted a new craft.  While we worked we chatted about family and how we remember various people.  She mentioned that in all of the photos, her great-grandmother looked incredibly stern and that’s actually how almost everyone thought of her.  My grandmother was all over smiles with a great sense of humor.

Just then, my friend dropped a bead which she managed to trap against the table.  Proud of her accomplishment, she showed me the bead with a flourish which was when she smacked the open tube of beads across the kitchen table.  The patter of tiny beads raining down is a very distinct noise.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

I’m fairly certain this is how we will be known?  Laughter.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

On Sunday, we met our choir director’s husband.  “She’s told me about everyone but which one are you?” he asked me.  “Soprano.  And I laugh at everything.”  He looked confused because truly that describes both my friend and I.  I pointed at myself.  “I’m inappropriate laughter.”  “Oh, I know who you are.”

Yep.  That’s me.  My friend?  Over the top laughter.

Even when tiny green seed beads are raining down in my kitchen.  The sugar bowl.  I forgot to check the sugar bowl.

–SueBE

Probably about 5 years ago, we decided to try an experiment with Summer Bible School. Instead of having a week-long event for the children, meeting each morning, we would do three evenings for all ages.  Not surprisingly, I taught the adults.

To the surprise of many of the adults, we had craft time the same as the children.  Each person got to ink a quilt square.  The lady in charge was absent that night, replaced by her son, a college student.  “Draw whatever it is that makes you think of church.”  I had stepped out when it was the children’s turn and a few sat in thought but before long they were all drawing.  Some chatting.  Some laughing.  Having fun.

When it was time for the adults to take their turn, we received the instructions.  No one moved.  Then the questions started.  “Can we do this?”  “Is this right?”  “What about…”

The same assignment, two entirely different responses.  For the most part, the adults managed to take a fun craft and turn it into WORK.  That’s a four-letter word in case you didn’t notice.

JOY.  Three letters.  And a completely different attitude.

I’d love to think that I approach the tasks that God gives me with this JOY but I have my suspicions that it would be a good idea to remember to do this more often.

–SueBE

It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

As much as I love music, I just backed out of a choir performance.  The governing body of the Presbyterian Church is meeting in St. Louis in 5 weeks.  They asked for volunteers for a big choir.  We had to promise to learn all the music and make a regional and a dress rehearsal. Oh, and we aren’t going to tell you how much music or when these rehearsals are.

The last of the music arrived yesterday. Ten pieces.  Ten.  There is no way we can learn it without sacrificing the music for our own services unless we schedule another rehearsal every week.  The regional rehearsal is the same day as our family reunion.  If I go to the rehearsal, I’ll miss a day of family time with my father-in-law and the cousins and all their stories.

This choir gig was looking like something else altogether.  But I had said I was going to do it.

Fortunately, I sit next to the men.  Specifically, I sit next to my son.  Yesterday, his engineering class had to present their hovercrafts before the class. It had been a crazy amount of work but the four students who gathered on my back patio had a blast, building, waiting for glue to dry and presenting the hover craft. My son was the pilot and he stepped out in front of the group wearing a pirate hat.  His motto has always been have fun or why bother.

When the choir director held out this second packet of music I made eye contact with my son.  One arched eyebrow was all the question I needed.  Does this still sound like fun?

The crazy part is I almost didn’t let myself back out.  I had made a commitment.  But so had more people than they need.

So given the fact that I have way too much on my plate, I turned my music.  Honestly?  I felt a weight lift.

Purpose and joy.  I need to remember that.  Maybe I need to go find that pirate hat?

–SueBE

 

 

This right here is how I see Miss Ruth.  She’s always there to cheer someone else on no matter what is going on in her own life.

I don’t know that I always manage to pull it off but I do have my moments.  The boys don’t often get me to camp with them for good reason.  On one scout camp out, a huge thunderstorm struck during the night.  Several camp grounds were evacuated but not ours although in the morning we saw how the wind had twisted the dining fly (think tent without walls).  Skirting the sides, I discovered that the camp box with the stove, coffee and doughnuts was unscathed.  Soon the scout master and I had coffee going and breakfast (doughnuts) set out for the crew.

The camp director couldn’t believe we were all in a good mood but seriously?  Coffee and doughnuts?  I almost never get doughnuts so I was happy.  And once we were fed, we got to work.

Sure, it would have been easy to be gloomy.  It always storms when they talk me into going camping.  Or the temperature drops below freezing.  I can focus on that or I can focus on friends and fun with the kids.

I’m not as good at it as Miss Ruth but sometimes I do manage to bring along a little sunshine.

–SueBE

We’ve all met them.  They are the people who leave you walking a little lighter with a smile on your face.

One woman asks about my dad every time I see her.  She was in the same care facility but only temporarily while she underwent rehab.

A teen at our church changes her hair color on a regular basis.  She’s never content with one color but combines them and greets me every week with a hug.

Human contact.  We all need it and it can really change your day.  I make a point of talking to the checker in the grocery story and the man who picks up the gymnastic mats after yoga.  It is amazing to see the light come into their faces because someone has seen an acknowledged them.

But I’m not spreading just any light.  I’m spreading His Light and Love and Joy.  It is my little way of helping the people I encounter have a bit of hope in their hearts.

–SueBE

This is a brutal time of the year for many people.  Reduced daylight.  The stress of the holidays and seasonal spending which can exacerbate financial woes.  Loneliness and more.

As much as I don’t love the busy-ness, I love Christmas music no matter how insipid my 18-year-old tells me it is.  Lights?  I love a well-lit tree.  Manger scenes?  Stars?  Cookies?  I’m your girl!

But I try to have a care for those around me who are less in love with the holiday season.  I keep my eyes open for people who may not have plans for Christmas day.  Our table seats 8 or 10 if we decide we really  like each other.  And you can always add auxiliary tables.

I do my best to share hope, to reflect light – especially those awesome Christmas lights.  Spread joy.  Fill the world with His Blessings.

–SueBE

 

This coming Saturday, I have to remember to set aside my less wonderful yoga pants.  Why?  Because I’m going to spend the morning painting faces at our church’s Christmas preschool breakfast.

Hard core introvert that I am, I love painting faces especially when it involves children.  They love being the focus of your attention of that short while and coming out of it with something unique and special.  And I have to tell you that it makes a big impact on their parents too.

Spend a little time today focusing on someone else.  Listen to what they want and need.  Share Christ’s joy.  I’m not going to tell you that every encounter will end with a smile, but those that do will brighten your day as well.  It’s like candle light that way.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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