Friday, February 28, 2014

Joy Dare - Last Day of February

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
A Gift Dull, Shimmering, Cleaned

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
597. Ha! Joy Dare prompt: A Gift, my life has not had any new added drama in about a week.
598. Snow blowing off the roof at the Y
599. My couch! So comfy and cozy and CLEAN!
600. Vespera said, "I don't care how cold it is! I'm just glad to be home!"
601. Happy, laughing, smiling Vespera & Niteo after picking them up from her up from the airport...all the anxiety gone out like a big exhale
602. Time with Niteo before we went to the airport - picking up flowers and balloons, chatting about his grandma and my mom, driving slowly around the city in traffic
603. A great filming gig for Mango & Mane last night, too
604. Applesauce and hashbrowns for everyone at 10pm

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 27

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Seen as Reflections
3 Ugly-Beautiful Gifts

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
587. When J. rides in the back of my car, and I smile at her through the rearview mirror
588. Any sunset over water
589. Candles on mirrors
590. That minivan
591. Scar from a good-news bone marrow biopsy
592. Winter in MN
593. The MN orchestra is back!
594. Recognizing the orchestra guest, Sedra Bistodeau, as someone I'd seen perform with her family many years prior! What a treat!
595. A busy day that went off without a hitch...minus the naughty little boy at the orchestra ;~) But he was so cute and funny it was hard to think of it as a hitch
596. Vespera coming home today!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Joy Dare, Shabbat, and Slowing Time

Last week we talked about how slowing down enough to notice the gifts in our lives may actually make us feel like we have MORE time. We constantly feel like we don't have the time to stop, notice, and give thanks. And, yet, when we do, we feel somehow as though we've done more, lived fact, had more time. 

Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, "Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind."

Abraham Joshua Heschel said,
"One who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal of embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man."
"The world has already been created..." I cracked a smile at this. Do we really somehow think that everything will cease if we cease our toil? "Better is a handful of quietness..." Why?

I think that when we stop we recognize who we are and who God is. We see that our work will never be done, and yet, that is just fine because God created this whole world for us, and the world is held in existence by God. It is all held together by God. Our work matters, yes. But our connection with God and with each other matters more. When we are quiet, we see creation, in the people around us, in the gifts we have dared to count. And then we can go about our work, mindful of those things.

This practice of quiet, of mindfulness, of ceasing toil isn't easy, I think. So, God made it mandatory. Among the ten commandments we find, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8) Holy means set apart. We set this day aside. "...the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work..." (Exodus 20:10)

The Sabbath Manifesto project (a non-sectarian project, by the way) says it this way:
"Way back when, God said, 'On the seventh day thou shalt rest.'  The meaning behind it was simple: Take a break. Call a timeout. Find some balance. Recharge."

"Somewhere along the line, however, this mantra for living faded from modern consciousness. The idea of unplugging every seventh day now feels tragically close to impossible. Who has time to take time off? We need eight days a week to get tasks accomplished, not six."
Blogger and former YWAM missionary, Andrew Odom, puts it this way,
"We are destroying every sense of our being by not observing a day of rest. Remember the tortoise and the hair? There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall farther behind. Our lives are too hurried, too full, and subsequently too out of balance."
We are not very good at stopping, but it is only in the stopping that we are restored. In the words of Rabbi Wolpe:
"Shabbat means stopping. Pursuit slows and ceases; grasping and getting are no longer our aim. The world still spins but we do not. Balance is restored. We give ourselves a day to celebrate God's giving us a world. Flash and dazzle dim. Meaning slowly ripens. As the poet wrote, peace comes dropping slow. Shabbat Shalom."
Strangely enough, the practice of Shabbat seems to free me all week long. Yes, my work is more productive when I have rested. But, somehow, greater productivity does not equal more frazzled and hurried. Stepping out of the toil once a week teaches me to step into the moments of daily life. And there I can count my thousands of gifts...

Joy Dare - House That Mercy Built

Today's Joy Dare Prompt: A Gift Worn Out, New, Made Do

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
571. Mango's big brown teddy bear that we gave to him in college. It's been loved and snuggled by both our kids since then.
572. Mane so happy about the NEW doll she found at the thrift store.
573. Stainless camping plates as extra baking pans
574. Storing the baking pan in the oven...reminds me of my mom
575. Remembering my mom's storage solutions - coffee mugs in a cake pan in the oven, extra blankets under the mattress...
576. Mane's knitting laid out on top of the picnic basket in the corner of the living room
577. Finding a way to clean the couch
578. Mango's video recording gig on Thursday night
579. Wooden xylophone from Romania hanging by the fireplace
580. Finding instructions on how to care for the houseplants on pinterest
581. African violet looking revived after following those instructions
582. Pothos plant putting out new shoots - also after following pruning instructions found on pinterest
583. Thinking of all these gifts from the big green chair in my living room!
584. Constant comments from others about how comfy and cozy our living room is
585. Remembering the song House That Mercy Built and how that's been our mission
586. The pleasure I get from thinking about and pondering how to make out home that way (Now how am I going to get an extra bedroom back?!)

 The House That Mercy Built by Point of Grace

A light in the distance
Welcomes those wayfaring souls
Come this far
A heart grows tired, faith grows cold
Wandering down the winding road
Just simply knock, the door will open

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where brokenness is healed
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built

Mercy will find you
Though you've given up
In the middle of what seems like nowhere
He'll shelter you beneath His wing
His love will cover every need
Just simply seek and you will find

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where emptiness is filled
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built

There is a house that mercy built
With blood and tears
We've nothing left to fear
We live in grace
Here in the safe embrace of God
The mercy of God

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where grace has
Been revealed
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built
Rest in the hope
Rest in the peace
There is a house that mercy built

Monday, February 24, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 24

Today's Joy Dare Prompt: 3 Gifts Before 11am

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
563.Chocolates from my secret santa at work (yes, before 11am)
564. Sunrise over the snowy trees
565. Croissant & coffee breakfast
566. Olympic closing ceremony
567. Beautiful story about an Olympic athlete finding her birth family
568. Speakers are all installed in Vespera & Niteo's apartment downstairs!
569. Grocery shopping with Niteo
570. It is a gift to know and experience the seasons!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 23

Today's Joy Dare Prompt: A Gift of Tin, Glass, Wood

My list (picking up from the last list):
560. Cans of coconut milk from Trader Joe's
561. Glass butterfly plant stake
562. Round wooden pieces my dad made to make Vespera's speakers fit

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 22

Today's Joy Dare Prompt: 3 Gifts That Changed Today

My list (picking up from the last list):
557. Sleeping in
558. This American Life podcast over breakfast
559. Waking up to find that it's Saturday, though yesterday felt like Saturday, too, with Mango's snow day!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 21

Today's Joy Dare Prompt: 3 Things White

Bwaaaaahahahahahahaha!!! 8 inches of snow in MN is definitely something white. I suppose it's a gift since school got cancelled and Mango can spend the day at home...and we have a fireplace...and plenty of food in the house...and warm blankets...

My list (picking up from the last list):
554. SNOW DAY!
555. My wedding veil hanging in my closet
556. Little white underdress in the cedar chest from Mane's dedication

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 20

February Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
20. A Gift at Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

My list (picking up from the last list):
551. Mango's breakfasts every weekend
552. Lunch with Bible Study peeps
553. Mango always says, "This is EXACTLY what I wanted!" And he means it...every.single.time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lashon Hara

At Bible Study last Wednesday, we talked about the power of naming things, the power of writing down the gifts we have been give. Ann Voskamp mentions how the first job of Adam was to name the animals. We are a people who count and name and label. How powerful it is when the things we name and label and count are gifts, gratitudes, thanks... I was reminded of the Hebrew term "Lashon Hara," or "evil language," as a kind of inverse of speaking gratitude.

Leviticus 19:16 says, "Do not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord." Here is the scripture from the Torah that is most frequently cited against Lashon Hara, a scripture that brings lashon hara right up against LIFE. Words have the power of life and, conversely, the power of death. Consequently, the Jewish rabbis have written numerous hedge laws to prevent people from accidentally participating in lashon hara, and the Jewish people acknowledge the harm that has been done in the world through lashon hara. For example (from
  • The Midrash tells us that the snake slandered G‑d to Eve when convincing her to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Joseph spoke negatively to his father, Jacob, about his brothers, causing them to hate him. This led to their selling him, and ultimately caused the Egyptian exile.
 When Miriam spoke negatively about her brother, Moses, she was rebuked by G‑d and afflicted with the skin disease.
The spies who were sent soon afterwards to Israel did not take a lesson from this story, and they too spoke negatively—about the land of Israel. The result was that the Israelites of that generation all died in the desert. 
Another fabulous article from Judaism 101 tells us these things about lashon hara:
The Talmud tells that the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse. 
The person who listens to gossip is even worse than the person who tells it, because no harm could be done by gossip if no one listened to it. It has been said that lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech) kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told.
 An article at describes the 3 people hurt by lashon hara in this way:

  • The person speaking: Although you briefly become the center of attention when you dish out a juicy piece of gossip, in the long run people start mistrusting you. ...
  • The person spoken about: The person under discussion is, of course, being killed in everyone's eyes. Whether the information is true or false, it is hard to take back defamatory words already spoken and undo the character assassination already committed. ...
  • The person spoken to:  ...the Talmud says that listening to lashon hara is even worse than speaking it; the person had the power to stop it and didn't. Now the transgression is complete.
We see, in these articles, how words have changed the history of the Jewish people...and the world (Adam & Eve, Joseph, Miriam, the spies that went out ahead into the promised land...)  How powerful words can be. And how easy it is to use them. It's so much more difficult to commit other acts, either positive or negative, toward others. It's much harder to DO something. But it's so easy to SPEAK something.

So easy to speak something...and yet so difficult sometimes. Why does it sometimes seem like it's easier to "name" the difficult things, the problems, the hurts, the frustrations, the pain, lashon hara? Why must we train ourselves in order to name the gifts, the positive things, the gratitude, the thanksgiving, eucharisteo?

Yet, we must. We must train ourselves to name our gifts. In naming them, we draw attention to them and to the One who gave them. In naming them, we affect those three people from the quote above: the person speaking, the person spoken about, and the person spoken to. We give life, rather than speaking against it.

Joy Dare - Feb 17-19

February Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
17. 3 Gifts Found in Giving/Serving
18. 3 Gifts on Paper
19. 3 Gifts that were Plan B's

My list (picking up from the last list):
542. Less time to worry about my own stuff
543. In serving/facilitating Bible Study, I review materials ahead of time and do my own research...and get more out of the whole thing than I would otherwise.
544. In Giving our Team Yarn stuff, we find that there are more good people in the world than I often think
545. Mane's cheerful plant drawing hanging on my fridge
546. The notes Dr. P drew for Mane while were in his office to help us all understand
547. Graph paper pictures Mane is learning right now
548. Adopting a teenager
549. Living downstairs from Mango's parents
550. Moving Mane's bedroom

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Joy Dare - Feb 15-16

February Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
15. A Gift in Losing, Finding, Making Something
16. 3 Gifts in Shadows

My list (picking up from the last list):
536. Losing the sense that I am responsible for absolutely everything opens up a lot of freedom in other places.
537. We FOUND so many things under the beds & dressers, rearranging the rooms! What fun!
538. Hats, scarves, shawls...Team Yarn has been a year full of making things. So much joy in meeting people and passing on these gifts.
539. Noticed the shadows of the Olympic skiers in the sun while we were watching the other day...
540. And the shadows of the camera-people, which was fun for Mango
541. The whole house in shadows in the wee morning hours.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Joy Dare on Valentine's Day

February Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
8. A Gift Broken, Fixed, Thrifted
9. 3 Surprise Gifts
10. 3 Times You Heard Laughter Today
11. 3 Gifts in Working
12. 3 Hard Eucharisteos
13. 3 Gifts Behind a Door
14. 3 Ways You Feel the Love of God

My list (picking up from the last list):
515. Oh, the oil lamp Mango gave me for Christmas the first year we exchanged Christmas gifts
516. That pink, screaming stuffed monkey from Wyoming...we fixed it so it wouldn't scream! Good memories from the trip to Utah!
517. A book by Sandage & Shults I found today! Yay!
518. Laughter - listening to TED talks online
519. Seeing a hummer limo on the street today
520. Finding chocolate wine in St. Anthony
521. Finding gluten free mole sauce at the co-op
522. Laughter - at the thrift store
523. Laughter - with Mane in my car
524. I meet so many people with so many kinds of jobs from so many different places at work
525. Sweet & sympathetic co-workers
526. Saw some great parent/marriage dynamics at work last weekend
527. Austin's shaved head
528. Levi playing guitar in the hospital
529. Deanna posting HILARIOUS things on facebook, despite all she's been through this year
530. Mane's poster
531. The wreath they made for me at Reuben Lindh before Mane was born
532. Fuzzy bathrobe
533. In reading the words of honest people
534. In the sunshine...oh, the gifts of sunshine in the hard winters of MN
535. In Shabbat

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chodesh Adar - Accept the Grace of Joy

Today is the 11th of Adar. The eleventh day of the Jewish month of JOY. Adar is considered the month of Joy because it includes Purim (the Fast of Esther) and falls one month before Passover. Both Purim and Passover are deliverance stories, times of joy and celebration. The Talmud says, "When Adar comes, joy is increased."

How fitting that my Bible Study group began a study of Joy last week and I have been following the Joy Dare prompts this year! And how fitting that the month of Joy comes in one of the darkest seasons, right before spring...right when we need it the most. This is the month of anticipation, of joy breaking through, of awaiting our deliverance. From winter. From captivity.

I wrote this for my Bible Study group:
I got to thinking about the plethora of literature that's been generated in recent years about happiness. A website called Happiness Club lists the top 20 books on happiness. Amazon and Goodreads both have lists and lists of books about Happiness. I've read a few of them myself. Most notably, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, where I learned that Happiness is about learning to simplify, organize my closets, and have more fun. Clearly, we live in a culture where we are longing for something. We call it Happiness, but I'm convinced we are really after Joy...because we are after something that can only come from outside ourselves...ultimately, God.
A number of other thoughts have come tumbling through since then. I wonder what it means to have joy or to be joyful when you aren't happy? If we make a distinction between Joy and Happiness, can we assume they are independent of each other? Some people describe Happiness as something that is based on circumstances. We are happy when things are going on our. Joy is independent of circumstances. Something we have from within, despite circumstances. Or, perhaps, something that comes from without, that comes from a reliance on something greater than ourselves.

I like the idea. But what does it look like? How do we have joy when we are mourning? In the midst of sadness? In the midst of struggle? When we are tired, broken, defeated, frustrated, angry...

I'm not claiming to have answers. I just wonder. Romans 12:12 says, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." And again, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Seems like a pretty impossible standard. Rejoice always? Pray without ceasing?

I also started thinking about people I know, whom I would consider joyful. ...or not. So, my neighbor, who was previously a drug addict, who has been clean for years now, has a daughter in high school, married to a sweet Hispanic guy who experiences a lot of discrimination, raising her "surprise" baby now, low income, watching previous friends die from overdoses or gang related violence, working to help clean up our part of the city... She has joy. Definitely. I mean. I can't even figure it out. Because I know that sometimes she's sad and she struggles, and she doesn't hide that. But somehow, she's always overflowing in joy.

I don't know what it is. I just know that isn't me. And I also know you cannot fake it. You can try to see the silver lining all the time. Try to see the rose in the midst of the thorns. Try to think of how it's always better than it could be. But, honestly, those things feel forced.  There is something so genuine and real about the truly joyful people I meet. And it seems to me that it's sort of like grace. It's not something you can earn or create. It's something you are given and you must open your hand and receive it. TRYing will get you nowhere. Acceptance is the only path. Accept the grace of joy.

And so Begins February - Joy Dare

February Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
1. 3 Gifts Red
2. 3 Gifts on Paper
3. 3 Gifts Found in Writing
4. 3 Gifts Found When Bent Down
5. A Gift Hammered, Stitched, Woven
6. 3 Gifts Found Outside
7. A Gift at 11:30am, 2:30pm, 6:30pm

My list (picking up from the last list):
494. R.'s red blankie, which is actually a scrap of her mama's tshirt and always makes me smile.
495. Little red cell phone that has a headphone jack so I can use it like a music player!
496. Little red roo case for my tablet
497. Printed photos to hang on my wall
498. That moment of challenge and excitement when you first look at a blank page
499. Those little notes Vespera and I used to pass back and forth in a box in her room
500. Letters from T in a box under my bed from when we were children
501. Letters from Mango, filled with his love for me
502. The space in my own head I find when I write
503. The way a person's face calms when you bend down and get lower than them in order to talk or explain something
504. The room looks bigger when you get down low
505. You capture the warmth of the fire best when you stoop down in front of it
506. My kitchen table, built by my dad
507. The blanket C made for me
508. The coasters woven for me by Mane
509. Animal tracks in the snow
510. Miles of rolling, snow-covered hills in southern MN
511. The sunset when it's cloudy\
512. Often this is when T comes over!
513. Mane has swim practice!
514. Mango will be home!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Joy Dare - Things old and found, reused and rediscovered...

January Joy Dare Prompts (think of 3 gifts for each day - use prompts if you want!):
22. A Gift Wrinkled, Smooth, Unfolded
23. 3 Gifts Found in Christ
24. 3 Things Blue
25. A Grace Borrowed, Found, Inherited
26. A Gift Before Dawn, At Noon, After Dark
27. 3 Gifts in the Kitchen
28. 3 Graces Found in Friends
29. A Song Heard, A Soft Word, A Light Seen
30. 3 Old Things Seen New
31. A Gift on Paper, In a Person, In a Picture

My list (picking up from the last list):
464. Mane's stash of tissue paper that saved me at Christmas time!
465. The smooth stones under our feet at Lake Superior
466. The big blue beanbag that unfolds into a bed!
467. Grace...the ability to receive it and to give it
468. Light...being able to see...insight
469. Humility - this is so often lacking in the church. We presume to know so much. But Yeshua was humble, born in a humble place to a humble woman and living an unadorned life.
470. Fuzzy blue sweatshirt with the celtic lion
471. Blue stoneware Bethel mug
472. Blue stone in my class ring. We were looking at rings with Mane the other day...exclaiming over all the old things.
473. The big old red truck that is always there when one of ours breaks down. Mango's parents let us borrow it whenever we need!
474. So many things I've found...enamel dishes, that big glass vase, little wooden table in the sunroom...
475. The rocking chair in the sunroom that my parents gave me when I got married
476. Pillows! Lots of soft pillows! I remember Mango's parents buying us a bunch when I was pregnant. LOVE pillows!
477. Pickles and Olives with the little peeps!
478. A dream about camping
479. I actually really love the water heater in the corner. It's so old-timey.
480. Cast iron pans we got at the camping store when we were first married
481. Mason jars - lots and lots of mason jars
482. Listening ears when I feel like I'm talking too much
483. The soups that T. brings over
484. Book Club!
485. Just listened to Dragon Fire again the other day. It's a kid's song. So fierce and true. Brought tears to both Mango and I.
486. Mane leans her head on my shoulder and says, "I love you."
487. Light?! There's actually sunlight breaking through the trees right this moment. Feels like we haven't seen sunlight in ages!
488. Ha! That high school trip to Mexico. I read my mom's journal about that trip. Talk about seeing an old thing new. My mom. That trip.
489. Those old jeans turned into a quilt on my bed! I don't know that I'll ever do a project like that again. But, wow, we had some crazy old jeans from the 80's and 90's.
490. Old teachings and doctrines seen new through my Bible Study series this year.
491. My mom's old recipes 
492. Dr. Steve Holland listening so carefully to us at Mayo
493. The awesome snow picture that Niteo just posted on facebook of our Christmas trip to Brainerd