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Category Archives: Relationship with God

Expectant Like Mary

Expectant Like Mary

This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.

Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.

I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.

Luke 1:46-50, ESV

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?

Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?

Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Finding Peace for Stress Junkies Like Me

Stress Junkies Like MeStress has been piling up in my house of late. College application deadlines. New braces. Another (brief) parking lot accident. And add to that every major road leading out of my town is currently under construction. Yes, massive stress bubbling under the surface. It’s the kind of pressure that leads to hypervigilance.

Deadlines do this to me, especially life-course-determining ones. Anxiety used to be my roommate. I kicked her out a while ago and changed the locks, but once in a while she slips in through an unlocked back door. That girl knows no boundaries, I tell ya!

In the middle of one of those days, I took my son and husband to the airport for college visits (landing in rush hour traffic both to and from Boston) and made it home in time to get my daughter to dance, throw a nicer shirt on, and attempt to manage back-to-school night at the high school jumping between the schedules of a freshman and a senior on a massive campus. It felt like an episode of a teen sitcom as I rushed around trying to slide into each class before the bell rang.

So it was in my great hurry to arrive at the last class that I cut a corner down a hallway, and, to my great surprise, there was a low-to-the-ground, black end table next to a couch in the loft area between halls. I imagine high school students gather and are aware of the furniture there—but not me. I was not aware. It simply was not in my line of vision. I had Algebra I, Part 2 (whatever that is) to get to, where my friend teaches the class. What a nice way to end the long day, except for this: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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If Waves Could Speak

If Waves Could SpeakEarlier today I found myself standing with my toes in the sand staring out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the vantage point of Duck, North Carolina (Outer Banks). My cousins had generously shared their vacation with me, and my husband committed to the intense job of Mr. Mom in addition to his many other duties all week.

Considering we are in the throes of college application deadlines in our home, I couldn’t run for that airport terminal quickly enough! I left three kids, two dogs, two tree frogs, and three caterpillars behind. Begrudgingly, my husband took on frog duty, and I am happy to say that within two days, they captured his heart as he watched them hunt crickets and their little throats vibrate. (If you have not witnessed this, it should go on your bucket list!)

Our view is oceanside. With the sliding door set to screen, we can hear the waves crash to the shore. After days of high winds, we finally made it out to the beach.

With toes dipped in the water alongside my cousin, she offered me a precious memory of her mother, my late aunt, in the waves one summer. I thought about my children playing in the waves on many a beach escape. And if I really went deeper, I knew the waves knew so many of my secrets, dreams, memories, and emotions.

As the ocean water surged to a crest and then spilled over to crash, it looked as if it was responding to a hidden nod that it was time to bend and roll, with a delayed reaction in parts of the line but otherwise mastering uniformity in the landing. An invisible agreement. A knowing.

And I thought about what the waves would speak of, if they could speak about my own life, and what they had witnessed: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Bowing Low: The Message of Reconciliation

Bowing Low

Knock, knock, knock. Send her an email.

Really, God, we’ve been through this for years. I get the idea, I ask if it’s time, and You say, “Not yet.”

Yet.

And so it was, that still, small voice telling me what I already knew He would want me to do: I needed to reconcile with someone I had hurt and been wounded by—three years ago. Outcome didn’t matter. A response from the other party wasn’t the point. It was about who I am in Christ. If I truly am reconciled to God through His Son the Christ, then I must be a reconciler. There isn’t any gray area there.

Consider what the Apostle Paul says in one of his letters to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul makes it very clear that when God made us a new creation, He “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

It’s not a choice or an option, really. Once we are new creations, it’s part of the deal.

And let’s be honest: That is wicked uncomfortable in theory, but God is with us(Immanuel) in practice. When it was time, after three years of healing and asking God to confirm it, it was as natural as sliding on my flip-flops.

Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Prayer from Dirty Bath Water

Praying from Dirty Bath WaterI watched them approach the shrine, bow, ring the bell, toss a coin, and clap. Somewhere in there, they made a request—a wish, really—for a good medical test result, getting into the right school, a worry about one of their children. I was struck by how much my Western mind and heart did not connect with how they offered their pleas. I understood the heart behind it—but not the actions.

But I wasn’t raised in Japanese culture.

My host family and I had many conversations about this around the dinner table. I wanted to understand at which point their “faith” held on, tangibly grabbed belief, and grew expectant. Twenty-four years and two degrees in Asian languages and culture later, and I’m still not sure. But I do know that it opened a door to rich conversations and some understanding between us, and I came to learn that rituals and gestures at the shrine were more about respect than faith. Ringing the bell was to get the attention of the god of that shrine.

Why is Jesus not found at a shrine?

Do we not have rituals we must perform, like money and hand gestures, to conjure His attention?

And, what on earth do you mean, ふいつげらるど-さん (Fitzgerald-san, or Miss Fitzgerald, my maiden name) about talking to God in your bath water?

Bath water? In Japan, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Strong Enough to Jump

Many of God’s creatures like to create life in my aboveground pool. We’ve had tadpole rescue sessions (before the pool was shocked for the summer), and a few months ago, I discovered many eggs (larvae?) half-hatching from what looked to be flying ants. Yeah, so fun. Welcome to mating season. Come one, come all to what has been mistaken as a “love pond” in my backyard.

I was having such a lovely float around my pool one day for a good half hour. Slowly I drifted round and round to the steady pulse of the pool pump. I stared at the tall trees, prayed for dear ones, and marveled at the fact that my children are no longer the ages I am interrupted every few minutes. It was glorious. GLORIOUS!

When my youngest son came out with goggles on and the jumping-in-pool determination of an 11 year old set on a good swim, he made it through one quick pool-bottom-floor lap before surfacing with a shout:

“Ew! A dead frog! There is a dead frog on the bottom of the pool!”

Still not wanting my peace disturbed, I replied: “Are you sure he’s dead?”

My son, lover of all animal life and greatly saddened that an amphibian friend met its demise in our pool, exclaimed: “It was belly-up, Mom. And not moving.”

With that, we both scrambled out of the pool in search of a net to extract the remains to give it a proper burial (before my dogs thought it made a nice chew toy).

My son, Little Man, completed Operation Dead Frog Retrieval and put him down on the grass at my feet. Yup. Dead. Froggy had suffered his last supper with a side dish of chlorine.

He simply couldn’t jump out. His legs could only take him so far. He never made it out of the solar cover and over the side of the pool into the bushes.

I then thought about the five tadpoles we had rescued a few weeks before Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“Deep Calls to Deep”

Deep Calls to DeepI look at my French bulletin board hanging over my kitchen table, filled with Christmas card photos from many years and places we have lived. Along with graduations, births, weddings, and celebrations, I see broken hearts, unraveled marriages, cancer, loss, abandonment, children with developmental struggles, addiction, etc.

But you know what else I see?

Jesus. The grace of Christ in so many lives. The calling out to Him from the depths of messy life—and the answering.

It was about nine years ago that I sat on a cement bench on a small island beach in the South Pacific. It was night, and I was squeaking out a desperate prayer in a tiny voice. The weight inside my heart was holding down so much pain that if it had bubbled up full force, it would surely have broken the sound barrier. Instead, like the slow leak of a balloon, only low-energy pleas came out. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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