Merry Beachy Christmas!

One of my friends in Michigan commented on Facebook yesterday that it didn’t “feel like Christmas” because it was 50*F, rather than snowy and cold.  Others quickly chimed in, and were either happy that it was (comparatively speaking) so warm, or disappointed that it wasn’t expected to be a snowy white Christmas.

For those of us who live where the weather is warm this time of year, we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and appreciating the unique ways people decorate for the season.  I am frequently astounded at the fun, beautiful, and creative sand sculptures I see when walking the beach.

The nativity scene above not only includes Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus, but animals, shepherds, an angel, and the neighboring inn.  I love the way that the sculptor made use of debris on the beach to create the beautiful Christmas scene.  They took what was around them, what some might have ignored, or considered trash, and turned it into something beautiful, sharing their faith with others.

Holidays in general, and Christmas in particular, can sometimes feel challenging.  It is a time when families and loved ones gather together to celebrate Christ’s birth.  But if you’re mourning a loved one, or separated from family, or struggling financially, dealing with health issues, or feeling a little lost or overwhelmed, it might not feel like a happy time of celebration.  We might think that we’re the only ones that feel this way.  But I think we all have at least a few of these concerns on our minds.

I certainly miss my Dad, and his funny, sort of Bah Humbug! sense of humor (and matching Christmas hat). 🙂 I miss my grandparents, and their sweetness, and sense of fun and excitement to see and spend time with everyone.

I wish my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter didn’t live so far away.  And I wish that they could be here for Christmas.  Who wouldn’t want to see the excitement on their grandchild’s face at Christmas?  But we’ll have to make do with Facetime and photos.  (Including slightly fuzzy Facetime photos!)

Lila 12-9-19

I think most of us have a financial or health concern of some kind.  Whether it is our own finances or health, or concern for the struggles, and mental or physical health of people we care about.

I encourage you to look beyond, and let go of your struggles and concerns.  Spend some quiet time in prayer.  Remember why we celebrate Christmas.  Because Jesus was born into this world to save us from our sins.  We do not have to struggle through life alone.  In fact, life is so much easier and better when we don’t!

When we reach out in love, with kindness for others, when we look for things to be grateful for, when we open our hearts and turn to God, relying on Him for hope and help, peace and joy start trickling into our life and heart.  I encourage you to go to Mass, to let the beautiful Christmas hymns wash over you, and open your heart and ears to listening for God.  He is always there, waiting to welcome you into His love.  Give yourself the Christmas gift of the time and opportunity to feel that love.

shell Christ tree

Whether you are knee deep in snow, or strolling the sandy shores, I wish you a Merry Christmas wherever you are!

sand snow flatsand snowman

 

 

Ice And Sunlight

When you live in the midwestern United States, you get used to snow.  Generally speaking, it snows all winter long.  It starts with an occasional flurry in October.  A Midwesterner knows that in all probability, your children are quite likely to need to wear a coat to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.  This year there was a snowstorm across much of Michigan, so family and friends there stuck to indoor Trunk-or-Treating parties and events.  The snow keeps coming all through the winter, well into April.  And there’s no guarantee that there won’t be a freak snowstorm in May.

Ice storms are less frequent, but often produce spectacular results.  When temperatures are on the edge of freezing and a storm blows through, it’s somewhere between rain and snow, and the ice coats everything.  It makes for super dangerous driving, since the roads are literally covered with a sheet of ice.  If you’re trapped at home and can’t drive anywhere until road crews can salt, and the sun warms everything enough to start melting, you might as well take a walk.

My daughter Jennifer, (who happened to be up visiting us in Michigan during an ice storm) and I went for a walk in the neighborhood.  It was strangely quiet, since there were very few cars on the roads, and few people out in general.  But every once in a while, we would hear a strange creaking noise, followed by a loud crack, and then a loud boom as a branch, heavily laden with ice broke off a tree and crashed to the ground.

oak crossed

As we walked along, we admired the strange, stark beauty of the thick coating of ice on the trees, shrubs, and plants in the neighborhood.

red berries

It was interesting to see how the thick layer of ice weighed the branches, leaves and berries down.  Even thick branches arced down toward the ground.  Once tall bushes looked much shorter, and any dead brown leaves still clinging, became frozen in place.

crusted leaves

Do we become like that in our lives?  Especially in our faith life?  Somewhat frozen in place, sort of isolated?

berry clumps

Near others, but kind of stuck in our own little cluster?

If we look around, we can see the sun at work.  Glistening and shining, melting the layers of ice, with light shining through the layer of ice that may be upon us.  Maybe the path we’ve taken seems to be the end of a forking branch.

close drip

But you’re always connected to God’s family, and there is always another direction to go.  God’s love is never-ending.  The sun comes to melt away the ice, and His Son, Jesus, came to take away the sins of the world.  No sin is too great, no sorrow too heavy if we hand it over to Jesus.

drip down

Even when we’re bent low with the weight of our troubles upon us, we can ask God for forgiveness, and look for a new path in life.  We can pray and be strengthened.  We can pray for others, whose burdens look heavy.  We can lighten their load with every act of kindness we share.  We can let God’s light shine through us, as we share the love of the Lord.

tiny crust

May you open your heart this advent season, and look with joy to the coming of the Lord, and sharing that joy with others.

All The Walls

We started stripping the wallpaper in our master bedroom yesterday.  We’ve never cared for the grass-cloth wallpaper, it was on the walls when we moved in.  Like most people, every house we’ve ever lived in has been a “fixer upper”.  As time and budget allowed, we gradually improved each place, turning them into nicer homes.

Our old home of 20 years had wallpaper in nearly every room when we bought it.  From a foil print velvet floral flocked wallpaper in the bathroom, to a brown vinyl textured in the living room and kitchen (which coordinated so nicely 😉 with the brown tile countertop with an impressed grassy plant design) to the burgundy vinyl “accent wall” and plush gray, carpet-like wallpaper in the master bedroom.  It took me months to strip all the old wallpaper off, scrub down the walls to remove the glue residue, and prime and paint all the walls.  But gradually, working on it on nights and weekends, I got it done, and really improved the look of our home.

When we first moved to Florida and stayed at my Mom’s old house for three months while we house-hunted, we started fixing it up for her.  We replaced hardware and faucets, and installed a storm door on the back door.  The rotten, shredding curtains were replaced with mini-blinds.  And I stripped wallpaper.  The ditsy patterned wallpaper in the kitchen was the first to go.

ditsy kitchen

Then I moved on to the dining room and family room.  The textured wallpaper was very thoroughly stuck, and bits of drywall came off when I peeled it off bit by bit.  Which meant I had to do a lot of patching after spending days scrubbing all of the glue residue off.

scraping diningpatch dining

Eventually I was able to prime and paint, and ended up with a cute dining area in which to eat and sew.  Don’t judge- I’m sure I’m not the only one who works at their dining table!  Speaking of sewing, my Grandmother made the seaside picture on the right of the photo using trapunto, a form of quilting popular back in the ’90s.  It’s currently hung in our guestroom, and reminds me of the long line of sewists in our family.

dining

When we moved to our new home, as soon as I finished cleaning, I started painting.  I covered up the school bus yellow kitchen walls, and painted the sunroom, living room and office poo brown ceilings white.  I scraped and scrubbed the elephant wallpaper border off the walls of Dan’s office, and painted over the deep red walls.  Eventually I moved on to the main bathroom.  The metallic copper colored walls and gold ceiling had to go.  Along with the horrible wallpaper, which, one of my friends commented, looked like mold. 🙂

bath wallpaperwall mold

They must have used super strength glue, and obviously did not properly prep the walls before installing the wallpaper, because it came off in tiny little bits.  Hundreds if not thousands, of tiny little bits.

wall bits

Needless to say, after that time-consuming process, I didn’t even feel like tackling the grass-cloth in the master bedroom.  So here we are, a year and a half later, finally ready to face the task of removing wallpaper once again.  But this time I had help!  Dan helped me peel and scrape off the grass-cloth.  I started scrubbing off the residue, but it was getting late and I was tired.  So I’m maybe a quarter of the way through scrubbing, and then I can move on to priming and painting.  Yay!  And phew!

All of this talk about working on the walls got me thinking about the walls in our lives.  What kind of walls do we put up to hide, to avoid, to protect?  Protective walls can be good.  We all need shelter from the storms.  But are we putting up walls to avoid people because we’re scared?  Scared to talk to them?  Scared to reach out in friendship, or deal with a relationship?  Do we put up a wall to “block out” God?  Are we scared to have faith?  To consider depending upon someone other than ourselves?  Are we afraid of what that faith, and relationship with God, with Jesus, might require of us?

Are you thinking of knocking down some of those walls?  Of opening your heart and your mind to new relationships and possibilities?  It’s easier than you think.  Take one small step forward, crack open the door, throw open the window, and invite life in.  Pray.  It can be nothing more than a simple conversation, talking to God.  But it can mean so much more.  It can be the start, or the continuation, of an everlasting relationship.  Are you ready to knock down some walls?

 

Offer It Up

Do you ever feel like you’re walking along, flowing through life, then someone says something rather profound, and you really feel it hit you?  I don’t think that this is uncommon.  For instance, as we are working through grief after the death of a loved one, a song, a smell, or a comment can easily transport us back to thoughts of that person.  We think that we’ve bundled up that grief, packaged it tightly, and stuffed it into the back of our mind.  Then that comment or thought floats across the surface, and it’s all brought back full force.  Maybe slightly dulled, but definitely still there.

A few weeks ago I heard some very disturbing news from a family member.  They were physically hurt, their immediate family is really struggling, and they do not see a clear path out of their problems.  First of all, this breaks my heart because I love them.  Secondly, I live 1,300 miles away, and can’t be there to give them a hug or try to help in some way.  Other family lives nearby, so they aren’t alone or uncared for.  But all I could do was call, listen, and pray for them.  And of course, worry.

That worry must have been weighing on me more heavily than I realized.  Sitting in Mass two weeks ago, Fr. Charles did something unusual.  He paused before the consecration and asked everyone to “Place all your worries and troubles on the altar, and offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord.”  Whoa!  That hit me like a ton of bricks!  And it was obviously the reminder I needed to quit my needless worrying.  The tension in my shoulders eased and my heart felt instantly lighter.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I tried desperately to blink them away.

How often does God put someone in your path to help you see things in a different way?  How many reminders does it take for you to remember to pray and put your troubles in God’s hands?  I can’t magically make everything better for everyone I love, no matter what I do.  I can certainly do whatever I can to help, and I can definitely pray.  But I need to remember that what I really need to do is to put it in God’s hands.  To offer it up as a sacrifice to Him.

birds 10-5-19

Look Up And Appreciate The Splendor

 

We’ve all experienced times in life when it seems like everything is good, maybe not perfect, but still pretty darn good.  You may not be rich, but you’re rich enough, especially in the things that matter.  You know that you’re loved, you’ve got a roof over your head,  food in your belly, and you’re doing ok.  Honestly, most of our life is probably lived like this.

Yet somehow, we become complacent, get used to the relatively smooth sailing as we go about our daily lives.  We get caught up in the little problems and daily distractions of life.  We forget to look up, and say thank you for this beautiful life.  When is the last time you took the time to watch a beautiful sunrise?

sunrise 9-5-19

Literally watched the sky start to light up from the horizon, with a little glow of orange and coral, until the color spreads, turning apricot into pink and purple streaks across the sky in front of you?  Wow!  What a beautiful way to start the day.  Thank you Jesus!

sunrise1 9-5-19

No matter what stresses the day may bring, no matter what good news or bad gets brought to you today, life is good.  God made it good.  Appreciate the splendor, and beauty, and wonder of life.  Look with the eyes of a child at every little thing, and appreciate the beautiful life you are living.

Is life completely perfect?  Of course not, we won’t experience complete perfection until we’re in heaven.  But we are certainly blessed, and receive gifts from God every day, in the people and world around us.  Let the love into your heart, and let it shine out through the life you’re living.

What Are You Thankful For?

We all have troubles, and things that worry us:  physical limitations and health scares; jobs (or lack thereof) and money issues; and any number of situations and problems among our families and friends.  But don’t let that become the focus of your life.

Focus instead on the wonderful things in life, the things that you are grateful for, the things that make you happy.  I am thankful for my faith.  Unbelievably thankful!  Even when there are struggles, and bad situations, it calms me to know that in the end it will all be ok.  I don’t have to worry, it is in God’s hands.  And I am constantly reminded of the goodness in life.

I can see my neighbors flag flapping in the breeze, amidst the palm trees as the sun rises this morning.  And I know that despite any political or partisan bickering and nonsense, that I am blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.

flag 7-20-19

As I reminisce about my nephew David’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, I am grateful for my family.  We all flew in from Florida, Colorado, and Tennessee, or drove across the state of Michigan to meet up and celebrate the marriage, and to welcome Caitlin into our family.  It was so much fun to spend time with people I love, to laugh and be silly!  Photo booths are designed to bring out the silliness, so you should just embrace it and have fun (which we obviously did!)

photo booth 7-6-19

I am grateful for my sweet husband, and our unconditional love.  For his good heart, his strength, and all his “handyman” skills.  For his willingness to dive in, work hard, and get things done.  Even after years of working together to turn our old “fixer upper” into a beautiful home, he wasn’t phased by the idea of tearing down a non-load bearing wall in our new “fixer upper” home to open up the kitchen.  Of course this means we’re living in a bit of a construction zone.  And since we don’t have the money to replace the flooring throughout our house, we’ll  be living with a holey floor for the foreseeable future.  But that’s ok.  We have a roof over our heads, and each other!

I am thankful for my parents instilling me with a strong work ethic.  I am grateful for the blessings of intelligence, for the creativity and sewing talents God chose to give me.

I am so grateful for my beautiful, wonderful children, and their spouse and fiancée.  I love seeing my children happy and blessed with people that they love.  And I’m so, so happy that my daughter and son-in-law brought the blessing of Lila into our lives.  This sweet granddaughter of ours is such a joy!  When we FaceTime, it’s so cute to hear her ask “Where’s Grandpa?” if he’s not nearby when I answer my phone.  She loves to have you sing nursery rhymes over, and over, and over again.  It’s so fun to hear her giggle and belly laugh uproariously when we do “This little piggy” for the twentieth time.  And to hear her sweet little voice ask for “A, B, C!” so that she can (try to) sing the alphabet with me.  I love her quick hugs, and slobbery “smooches”, and to hear her say “I love you” back to me.  She fills our hearts with joy, and I am so grateful for every moment that we get to spend with her, whether it’s running in circles around the hotel, or last minute snuggles before we checked out.

Lila Grandpa runLila Grandma 7-7-19

Do you let the wonder and curiosity and joy of playing and running in circles into your life?  Do you appreciate the awesome beauty of the world around you?  Do you pray and place your troubles in God’s hands?  Do you feed your faith by attending Mass, reading The Bible, and living a prayer-filled and grateful life?  God, gratitude, and happiness go hand-in-hand.  Open your heart, cast your troubles upon Him, and live!

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet husband, and to all the Dad’s I know.  Thank you for being such a great partner on the journey of parenthood.  From the moment our babies were born, it’s been super obvious how much you love them, and how much they love you.  You’ve been an inspiration to them, as well as a teacher of how to live, how to laugh, how to dive in and fix things, build things, keep trying, live fearlessly, speak your mind, be a gentleman, be a kind, loving, and wonderful human being.

Thank you for being a wonderful husband.  Our children have (and in 8 months) will have successful marriages by hopefully following the example we have tried to set.  Thank you for being my rock, for tolerating my sewing habit :-), for having the good grace to take photos of my creations for this blog, even when I get giggly about modeling.  Thank you for having fun while modeling the shorts I made you, for making me laugh, for being my best friend and true love.

Thank you for knowing how important our faith is, for letting it be the foundation in our life and marriage.  Thank you for being the shining light of love that you are.

I love you,

D