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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?

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Not my will but thy will, Lord.

I pray it because I know I should but on my more aware days I realize that truly I want things on my time-table.  God’s stretches out too far.  I don’t want results in 40 years.  I want them now.

But even in my own life, I sometimes feel like things have stalled.  I want to push.  I want progress now!   And I have to remind myself that some things, even if they are God’s will, take time.  After all, a 40 year time-table is not unheard of.

–SueBE

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know the kind I mean – no one can do anything at all to make you happy.  The trash men put your garbage can down behind your car.  The mail was laying all over the porch instead of in the mailbox.  And don’t forget that cup of coffee – the one that was too bitter, than too sweet, too hot and later too cold.  Nothing but nothing is right.

Put the coffee down and take a deep breath.  Nope.  Don’t pick the coffee up.  Now take another deep breath.  You can do it.

And as you breathe so deeply, think about it.  Why are you being such a crank?  Does it have anything to do with the many people you’ve griped at or is it something else?

I know that in my own life, it tends to be someone or something else.  Someone I can’t crab at or something that is entirely out of my control.  When that happens, I put myself in time out.  Adult time outs are very important.  You can do a wide variety of things.  Enjoy a cup of tea.  Read your Bible. Spend some time knitting.  Or you can just breathe.

When you’ve spent some time decompressing, you’ll probably find that you see the world differently and, most likely, the yardstick is a bit more generous.

–SueBE

 

Travel guru, Rick Steves, tells the story of why he decided to donate his retirement “nest egg” to house homeless women and children. In the 90s, he decided to buy a building complex to help the community. In time, the buildings became uninhabitable due to mold.

“To me, this was actually good mold. God was in that mold. After much thought the right move became clear. I’d tear down the duplexes and replace them with four­plexes, doubling the people I could house and creating a little community I’d call Trinity Way.”

God was in that mold.

Today, I had to contact a company’s customer service about an issue, and I felt myself tensing as I was talking. I had to remind myself that the outcome would not have been improved had I screamed at the representative on the phone.

In the end, I’d say that I wasn’t completely calm, but I didn’t blow my stack. The best I could achieve was to be tight but polite. And that was enough in that moment. Tight but polite.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements, he writes:

“Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.”

In the case of Rick Steves’ vision to house the homeless, maybe that mold was an obstacle that led to a miracle. A blockage that turned into a blessing. Things may not always go as you’ve planned, but sometimes detours lead to a better destination.

Heading into the new year, just a gentle reminder that, no matter who we meet, we’re always talking to God in human form. Sometimes, he even morphs into mold.

I know.  I know.  I talk about change a lot.

I’m more than willing to admit though that I’m not always a big fan.  I like to know what is, what was, what will be.  Change?  It makes that whole knowing thing pretty iffy.

Today’s quote wasn’t chosen simply because I’m more comfortable with slow gradual change.  Think about the changes in this world that our worked through persistence.  That’s how wind and water erosion work.  That’s how toddlers learn to walk, speak and eventually, as preschoolers, to read.  Persistence.

God knows that.  It is why he’s so patient with us.  Thankfully.  Because we aren’t always (ever?) quick to catch on.

It takes 6 weeks to build a new habit.  Why not pick something small that you can do that can help make a big change.  Post something positive online.  Recycle.  Walk around the block.  The possibilities for improving something in this world are endless.

–SueBE

Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another deep breath. Then respond.

This is something that I really need to work on lately.  I’m crabby enough at this point that I’m starting to annoy myself.  One key thing for me to remember?  I don’t need to respond at all.  Silence is, for very good reasons, golden.  Especially if I can’t come up with something kind to say.

Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another deep breath.

–SueBE

Take a deep breath and smile.

I learned a new phrase recently — live in the pause.    At the end of each yoga practice, our instructor reads something inspirational.  Sometimes it is poetry.  Sometimes a bit of a song.  Sometimes scripture.  The other day, it was the quote in the meme.

As is so often the case when Leslie reads something, this was just what I needed to hear.  A reminder to take a deep breath and pause.  Take your time.  Think it over.  Say a little prayer.  And then if you still need to say it, go ahead.  After all, you can never take something back.  You’ll always have another chance to speak your mind.

I had just finished making up a new batch of memes, including the one above, when I got to try out that pause.  I had just posted a meme in the Inaugurate Light Project community.  I explained that I know I’ve been posting a lot of Christian quotes.  I am, after all, Christian and it is the philosophy I know best.  If someone else from another tradition wants to share quotes, I’ll gladly make up the memes if they will send me quotes.

To my surprise, someone responded almost immediately.  As I read the response my shoulders tightened.  How dare I assume everyone in the group is Christian?  Not everyone is and although this person wanted to share memes she can’t when I post something Christian.  And on and on and on.

I started to type out my response.  It was sharp.  It was a bit rude.  Okay, more than a bit.  I even worked in the new short hand my son had explained to me.  ^^ stands for “read what I wrote above.”

But then I paused.  I said a little prayer.  This was an opportunity to show someone a little tolerance which is what the group is all about.  No, I hadn’t been shown much, but that really wasn’t the point.

I deleted my original comment.  Then I carefully wrote out a new one.  Live in the pause.

It isn’t easy.  But it doesn’t wear on your all day the way that getting in an argument does.

Take a deep breath.  Pause.  Pray.  Chances are, you won’t regret it.

–SueBE

 

 

I knew not being in charge was going to be profoundly difficult.  But then again, so would being in charge.  You see we just spent a week cleaning out my Dad’s house.

Put me in charge, and I’d have a plan. And boy would it be a Plan with a Capital P.   Yep.  I’m just a bit type-A.  I’m not sure if everyone who is type-A is like me but I have a lot of type-A friends.  “This is how you should deal with it. Rent a dumpster. Put your foot down.  If you want it just show up and take it.”

Take a deep breath.  Let it out.

Four days we showed up to work.  Four days we watched sneaking and sniping and arguing.  “I made an appointment . . . there’s no other time I can do this . . .”

Take a deep breath.  Let it out.

For four days we sorted and packed and pitched.  We recycled and wondered what the heck is this?  And we shared stories.

We talked about the memories stirred by various objects.  We discussed our goof ball find of the day.  And we sat in the yard and shared lunch.  We sat in the sunshine and breathed deep.

I’m not going to lie.  It wasn’t all sunshine and happiness.  Some people live to create drama.  So we let them create it. Take a deep breath. Let it out.

Sure there were times I was tempted to speak my mind.  And I did occasionally tell people what to do when I needed help.

I still wouldn’t call myself patient, not by a long shot, but sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do is let the person who needs that sense of control be in charge.  No, they may not do it your way but be patient.  Breath in.  Let it out.

Walk gently.  Breathe deeply.

–SueBE

 

If you’ve been reading the meme’s that I’ve posted throughout the week, you’ve seen that quite a few of them have to do with patience.  When I first saw these Lenten quotes about patience I was a bit . . . what?  What does patience have to do with Lent?

The more I think about it, the more that I realize that patience is a huge part of Lent.

Lent is all about awaiting the coming dawn.  Waiting, to put it simply, is not my strong suit.  I want it now.  No really.  NOW would be better than later.

But that isn’t always the case.  Waiting and patience give us time for preparation.  Preparation can make the difference between success and a failure.  I know this, but I’m still not very good at waiting.

Lent is also a time of turning into the light.  It is a time for us to remove what stands between us and God’s light.  It is a time of helping us remove what keeps other people from seeing God’s light in us.

Quite often that requires patience.  Patience to take care of what ever it is in us that keeps us from being Christ’s hands on earth.  Patience to listen to what the other person has to say, because until we know what is in their hears and their minds, we very often have no clue what they need.

Patience.  It is a key part of empathy.

Patience.  It is most truly something that I need today.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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