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.

The Positive Side

Sometimes when Dan and I go for a sunset walk, we know that we’re unlikely to see a pretty sunset.  It may be an overcast cloudy day, or the skies are just gray and misty looking.  Sometimes there is a large bank of clouds blanketing the horizon, so you know that the sun is unlikely to make an appearance.

That doesn’t stop us from walking, feeling the breeze on our skin, enjoying the sound of the waves, and breathing in the fresh salt air.  It is therapeutic to walk out in nature, to absorb the beauty of God’s creation.  Occasionally we’ll feel the need to quicken our pace, to hurry and try to “beat” an approaching rain shower.

rain cloud 5-1-19

We usually make it home long before the rain hits.  Once in a while we are treated to a little shower when we have gotten too far from the park entrance and can’t make it back in time.  Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised when the sun peeks out or drops below  a bank of clouds and we actually get to see the sun set.

sunset 5-8-19

When the world seems to be swirling around you, and you feel a bit overwhelmed, where do you turn?  Are you grounded in your faith?  Do you know, honestly know and trust that it will all be ok because God really is in control?  It can be hard to do, because we like being in control, feeling like we have power over our world.  And we do, because of free will.  We choose the paths we take and are responsible for the consequences of our actions.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have faith, and trust and lean on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, to help and guide us.  It’s more that when we feel overwhelmed that we do turn to God as our first line of help and support.

It can seem easier to turn toward the world, to hear that it’s not our fault, to “drown our sorrows” in unhealthy ways, be they alcohol, drugs, bad and dependent relationships, or whatever other source of fleeting pleasure, yet long-term sorrow or pain that we burden ourselves with.  Know that you can always change.  You can always open your heart, and let God in.  There is always room for healing, for forgiveness, for moving forward into the light.  You can let go of the burdens that you’ve been trying to carry on your own.  They really do become lighter when they are shared.

Open your heart, listen, and pray.  Look for the light and the beautiful sunsets.  God is always there, always waiting and calling out for you.

sunset 4-24-19

A Little Help

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter flew down for a visit this week, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent the day at the beach.  We walked the beach, built sand castles, played in the ocean, and were enjoying the wonderful day.

ocean play

A couple in their young thirties were walking past, and I complimented the gentleman on his cool track chair.  I like seeing people who are differently abled have the tools and technology to be able to enjoy something we take for granted, like enjoying a day at the beach.  He asked my husband and son if one of them would be willing to carry him into the water.  He explained that he would drive his chair closer to the water so it wouldn’t be so far, and his wife demonstrated the proper lifting technique.  Our son quickly stepped forward and helped his wife carry him into the ocean.

Everyone enjoyed playing in the water, and the gentleman tried to give me tips on mastering the boogie board.  “Start swimming before the wave gets to you so that you’re going the same speed as the wave.”  I did more bobbing like a cork than truly riding the waves, but it sure was fun!  I was truly impressed by his swimming skills because the waves were quite strong and breaking pretty hard.  Even when they washed over his head, he continued to swim with just the use of his arms.  His wife frequently walked up to shore to check on his sweet service dog.

When we took a little break, our son let the dog sniff his hand, gave him some pets and back scratches, and the dog backed into his legs for more pets and attention.  He obviously sensed that our son loves his own dogs and knows just how to give a proper back scratch and rub! 🙂  The couple spent an hour or two playing in the surf before our son helped carry him back to the track chair.

As a rather shy person, I was thinking about how hard it has to be to ask someone, a complete stranger, for help.  Especially asking them to do a more physically demanding and personal task like carrying you into the water.  How hard is it for you to ask for help?  Is it easier for you to help others than to ask for help yourself?  We all need a little help sometimes.

Life can feel challenging at times, and that is the perfect time to pray and ask God for help.  If you’re not used to prayer and talking to God, it can be awkward because you may feel like you don’t know what to say.  I think just having a conversation like you would with a friend is a great way to start.  Say what’s on your mind (it doesn’t have to be out loud, it can be a conversation in your heart).  God listens.

I am loving being able to spend time with my family, and build precious memories with my granddaughter.  I hope that you are enjoying some conversation with God and Jesus, are willing to ask for help, as well as to step forward and help.  We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, and look forward to Easter.  Enjoy this Holy Week in anticipation of the glory to come!
Lila shovels