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A New Beginning and a Dream Fulfilled

In early February, a recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn about a position in a law firm.  After nearly a year of the pandemic plus plans for a restructuring of my team at work, I felt ready to make a change. I updated my resume for the first time in over a decade!  As I engaged in the recruiting process, I contemplated what God had planned for my life’s work.  The law firm job was enticing from a compensation standpoint, but it also sounded very intense and potentially soul crushing.

While praying about the future on Ash Wednesday, I suddenly thought: If I’m going to leave CBIZ, I should pursue my heart’s desire, which is to work at Cambridge. I wonder if they are hiring right now.  I should check…  

My dream for the past few years has been to teach at The Cambridge School. In 2008, I finished my Master’s Degree in History but then put my teaching dream on hold for financial reasons. CBIZ has been a wonderful place to work and grow for over 16 years, and it provided well for me and our family.  However, my desire to teach and participate in a school community was ever present.  As the kids matriculated to Cambridge and experienced a rich Christian, classical curriculum, it rekindled my passion for this kind of formative education. 

Upon checking the Cambridge Careers webpage, I was ecstatic to find a posting for a newly created position: History Department Chair for the Upper School!  The full description confirmed my hunch that this was my dream job!   It had the administrative, operations and leadership responsibilities that I’d cultivated during my years at CBIZ, plus the joy of teaching history!  My heart sank when I read the requirements which included an advanced degree in History and five years of teaching experience.  My teaching experience was deficient, limited to just one year teaching as a Graduate Assistant at SDSU.

As God’s perfect timing rolled out, Dennis and I had a video call scheduled with the Head of School and Director of Advancement, Jean and Jeff, the very next morning.  Dennis and I discussed and decided to ask them on the call whether I should apply for the position or not.  Maybe the experience issue would be a non-starter.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and eagerly anticipated our call the next morning. We had a delightful conversation and both Jean and Jeff encouraged me to apply for the position!

The next week was a whirlwind!  Turns out the recruiting process was wrapping up so I hustled to complete the application and essay questions before turning my attention to preparing for my demo lesson on Friday.  I was asked to prepare a lesson for the modern European History class, which had already covered the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment philosophies.  Since the class just started studying the French Revolution, I chose to teach a lesson on how Enlightenment ideas shaped the French Revolution. 

I’m teaching a demo lesson in three days on a topic I’m not entirely comfortable with yet! This idea was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating!  I prayed constantly as I sought insight, focus, and a whole lot of inner calm.  One of my favorite verses brought such peace: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7

Off to Barnes & Noble I went after work on Tuesday evening to get my source material.  My little scholarly heart was overjoyed to have a topic to research!  The next morning I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep as ideas and questions popped into my mind.  Finally at 5:00 a.m. I got up, started the coffee, and dug into the readings.  I spent all day reading, taking notes, and formulating an outline of the historical events.  Dennis watched me and commented, “You’re loving this, aren’t you?” 

“Yes, so much!” I replied.  Getting to use these mental muscles was pure joy, plus I was fueled by the nervous energy of striving for a job I wanted so badly.  Giddiness interspersed with moments of terror characterized those few days.

It was really sweet to watch the kids, Sienna in particular, grapple with the idea of their mom working at Cambridge.  At first, Sienna was wary.  On Wednesday evening she said to me, “You should get this job, mom.  You’re working so hard.” Then, on Thursday afternoon as we sat in the Starbucks drive-thru, she dreamily commented, “Oh, I could tell kids ‘My mom works at Cambridge!’” My sweet girl.

As my notes and timeline came together, I struggled with finding the right balance between lecture and discussion for the demo class.  I’d come across a great primary source to read and discuss: the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  It was drafted during the revolution and clearly showed the influence of Enlightenment philosophies.  By practicing my lecture over dinner to Dennis, Sienna and Mateo, I was able to identify places to cut back to make room for the discussion.  After calling my brother (who did the same Great Books program as me at St. Mary’s) to talk through my plans, I finally felt ready!

By the time Friday morning arrived, I was full of excited energy.  When my anxiety flared, I kept praying and reminding myself to be fully present to soak in every moment.  The interviews, conversations, and lunch gathering were all so stimulating and supportive.  I felt such a connection and so comfortable with the wonderful people who already found their vocations at Cambridge. The demo lesson went well!  I identified some things I wished I’d done differently, but all in all, I was proud of what I accomplished.

The thing I want to remember from this experience is how utterly I depended on God for peace, grace, and wisdom during the days of preparation.  It was a real life illustration of how a growth mindset sets you free to try your best.  If I had a fixed mindset or was hooked by fears of failure (i.e. perfectionism!) I would have collapsed under the stress of preparing for the demo lesson and interviews. 

Relaxing at the beach after the interviews and demo lesson – what a great feeling!!

In hindsight, I could see how God only gave me the information I needed to take each next step in faith.  If I’d known when I asked Jean and Jeff about the position that I’d be teaching a demo lesson a week later, I may not have had the courage to ask!  As it happened, I just took the next step and prayed fervently for strength, wisdom, and peace to handle each task in front of me. 

I’ve also reflected a lot over the ensuing months about the ways God equips us for our vocations in his kingdom slowly throughout our lives.  My undergrad program at Saint Mary’s and then my MA in History were wonderful preparation to teach in a classical school.  Obviously, I had no way of knowing that Cambridge was in my future when embarking on those studies, but God did.  Likewise, it’s fulfilling to see how my experiences at CBIZ helped me build skills that are transferrable to a school setting.  

As the Holy Spirit suggested might happen (during one of my morning runs), rather than the History Department Chair, I was offered a position to teach history in the upper school! Cambridge is giving me the opportunity to grow into the chair role by providing the teaching experience I need.  I’m so humbled and grateful that they are giving me time and space to grow.  What a gift and further confirmation that God equips us over time.

It’s so exciting to finally share this news!  I’m wrapping up my time at CBIZ next week, after almost 16 ½ years.  Transitions are hard, but the past few months have given me time to adjust and the leadership has been very supportive. I’ve developed some special relationships at work that can now become personal friendships. 

Now I’m off to read and prepare for my two classes next fall! 

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No Condemnation.

While on my long run Saturday morning, I noticed my thoughts were demanding all my attention.  Try as I might to be present and in touch with the moment, I kept getting pulled into my head as judgments caught my attention: I hate how my eyes keep watering! This run isn’t feeling all that great. Am I going to turn at Camino Del Sur or keep going down the bike path? Why can’t I stop thinking so much?! Rubbing my eyes so much can’t be good for the dark circles under my eyes… Etc.

I came to a hill, (ironically, the same place where I thought of the idea for this post about not fearing the hills!) and I could feel myself struggle against the pain of running up the hill.  I didn’t want to go through the discomfort, though I’d been looking forward to running this particular route for the past week.  It hit me, I was not accepting my feelings at all.  I wanted to go on feeling steady and comfortable, which doesn’t allow you to do hard things, like run hills! 

I prayed for help: “God, please help me get out of my head and accept my feelings.”  I thanked my mind for all the stories and actively connected to the moment.  I started observing my thoughts instead of fusing with them, which allowed me to see the critical nature of all these thoughts. 

Oh yeah, it’s my harsh inner critic! I suddenly realized.  It’s amazing how in touch I’ll be with this part of me and then completely forget it even exists. 

So, obviously the harsh inner critic is just me.  It’s the voice that tells me I have to do things perfectly.  I must always make the right decision in terms of food choices, insulin doses, activities, behavior, etc.  It tells me to strive harder and then proudly praises me when I accomplish something.  It also judges, judges, judges, all the time.  I mean, how can you tell you’re doing the “right” thing unless you identify all the “wrong” things?  Black and white, all or nothing thinking is very important for the inner critic.

What I’m referring to as the inner critic is also described as the “false self” my others.  The “Old Adam” is how Luther describes the remaining sinful nature that is alive and active in us, even though we are redeemed and sanctified through baptism into the triune God. 

It’s insidious how this part of me gets triggered.  It’s been triggered in the past by keeping a planner and wearing a tracking watch; really anything that helps me measure my performance. Recently, I realized that social media, Instagram in particular, caused me to judge my healthy eating and exercise habits against those “influencers” I follow.  I’d started to compare my routines against these curated ones and found myself coming up short.  It’s crazy that I kept putting these images in front of me! 

It helps to refer to this part of me as a separate entity so I can more easily identify how unhelpful this perfectionistic attitude is.  But, it’s actually just my sinful nature rearing its head.  When I’m in this state, it’s like I tell God, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me; I’ve got it from here!” 

I know that I’m not performing for God’s approval, his love for me is unconditional and assured.  I’m performing for my own sense of accomplishment and gratification.  I want my inner critic to go easy on me, so I choose rightly to keep the condemnation to a minimum.

Oh, the peace and relief that comes when I recognize my striving and surrender – it’s incredible!  Today’s sermon at church touched my heart deeply as Pastor Horn reminded us: “In baptism, you have God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit constantly watching over you and taking care of your every need.” When I repent and accept grace as the free gift it is, the inner critic gets awfully quiet.  After all, there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1).  Amen.

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Set my Spirit Free

For the past several months, I’ve started the day by reading the Daily Lectionary most mornings. The lectionary provides readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm for each day, following the themes of the church year. Mateo picked up on this routine and started asking me to wake him up early so he could do “devotions” with me.

Yesterday morning we read from Luke over breakfast, concluding chapter 11 with Jesus’s warnings to the religious hypocrites of his day. This led to a great conversation with the kids about the dangers of self-righteousness. We talked about constantly returning to Christ’s grace and our need for forgiveness, rather than trying to uphold the law ourselves and then looking down on the sins of others.

The Lutheran Study Bible has wonderful notes and prayers that I cherish! This reading shared the lyrics of a hymn in the form of prayer:

Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy work along, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
“Not What These Hands Have Done” (Lutheran Service Book, 567: 2-3)

There’s such freedom in this knowledge as we acknowledge, over and over again, that our peace, hope and salvation are because of Christ’s work, not our own. When I readily accept this grace, (which includes repenting of my sinfulness), I allow the kids to receive grace too. Which, in turn, turns the pressure down on all of us!

When I looked up the hymn reference, I found such comfort and peace in the fourth verse:

Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.
“Not What These Hands Have Done” (Lutheran Service Book, 567: 4)

Amen, Jesus.

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The One About Antiques Roadshow

“Mom, can we go for a walk?  I’m almost done with my homework,” Teo asked.

“Sure, let’s go!”

“Let’s see if Sienna wants to come too…”

I peered into Sienna’s bedroom, knowing that her math office hours ended just moments before.  She was in the middle of working on homework but jumped at the chance to take a break and join us for a walk.  We like to do the “two cul-de-sacs” in our neighborhood, which is just about a thirty minute walk at the kids’ exploratory pace.

As we were leaving the house, Teo asked, “Hey, could we watch Antiques Roadshow tonight, if we get everything done?”  Our weeknight routine does not include any television time for the kids, but it was early and they’re starting to stay up a bit later.  Plus, it can be good motivation to get them through their showers if they can watch a little something.

“We’ll see,” I replied in my typical motherly response.

As we started walking, my mind kicked in to overdrive.  Okay, Sienna needs to finish her homework, then we can have dinner which is quick because it’s just leftovers.  If both kids take showers right after dinner, we should be able to put on the show around 7:00 or so.  That way we can still read with the kids and they’ll be asleep at a decent hour.  What if Sienna dawdles with her shower or her homework?  Well, we’ll just watch it without her…

Meanwhile, on our walk, the kids became super squirrely and silly, pushing and pretending to trip one another.  My arm was sore from my second Covid-19 vaccine earlier in the day and I could feel my mood plummeting.  I tried to take in the surroundings and let go of my rapidly deteriorating emotions.  I told the kids a couple times that their antics were taking away from my enjoyment of our walk.  Finally I turned around abruptly and said, “Okay, I’m done.  You guys are not making this fun at all.”  Mateo protested and begged to finish the second cul-de-sac, but my mind was made up.

When we got home, I went to our bedroom and gave myself a little timeout to pray and ask myself: What’s bothering me?  The answer came quickly.  Oh, when I started trying to figure out how to control the events of our evening so we could watch the show, that’s when my tension started to build.  But, I don’t have to take that on!  If everything is done and there’s time to watch it, we’ll put on the show. If not, it’ll just be a good lesson for the kids in the reality of time management. 

I felt a sudden lightness of spirit and took a deep breath.  What a (completely self-imposed!) burden lifted.  It’s not my job to control all the aspects of our family life so that everything fits in perfectly. This is precisely the mindset that causes me to be stuck in my head, disconnected from my emotions and the present moment.  A little prayer of surrender followed: Lord, please help us have a good night of connection and fun as a family. Amen.  Then I went to the kitchen to start heating up leftovers.

Just a few minutes later, I overhead an exchange between Teo and Dennis.  “Dad, can we watch Antiques Roadshow tonight?” 

“Why don’t you take your shower right now before dinner so we’ll have time later?”

I smiled to myself as I realized (yet again), how life unfolds just fine without my striving to control it.  Better, in fact. 

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Endurance Inspiration

Endurance activities have long held a certain mystique, curiosity and interest for me.  About five years ago I ran my first (and to date, only) marathon.  Running long distances has been my main source of exercise for most of my adult life.  More than the physical benefits, running provides time alone to pray, breathe, and connection with the moment.  Running is such a source of peace and joy!

I also love to swim, but the pandemic has kept me out of the pool for a while now. So, it was really engaging to read Diana Nyad’s memoir Find a Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream recently.  As you may recall, Diana Nyad finally accomplished her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida in the fall of 2013.  Her miraculous swim (without a shark tank) took nearly 54 hours of continuous swimming!

It was so interesting to learn about the challenges and nuances of marathon swimming.  Issues to manage include sleep deprivation, salt water chaffing, seasickness, sharks and jellyfish, to name a few. Navigating the Gulf Stream was a huge challenge to the crossing as navigators have to consider winds and the direction of the jet stream to ensure proper landfall. 

But, the most fascinating part of her story is the mental strength Diana cultivated through years of swimming for long durations.  Her training swims would routinely last 15-20 hours!  She would mentally do counting progressions of different increments (and in four languages!) as well as sing songs in her mind during the many hours of isolation.  Passing the time without dwelling on how much longer she had to go seemed to be the biggest challenge. 

I felt so inspired by this story!  Truly, Diana cultivated an ability to persevere through extreme pain for prolonged periods of time. Relating to some of Diana’s insights into the nature of endurance activities lit a fire in me to enjoy longer runs the past few weeks.  Especially her comments about the journey being more important than the destination or goal.  Although she did eventually achieve her goal (on her fifth try!) and felt such fulfillment in accomplishing it, Diana ultimately learned that all the work she put in training for the swim was worthwhile and important, even if she’d never made it.

I’ve thought a lot about enjoying the process, showing up and engaging in life as I learned to be present in the moment and let go of control.  It can be easy to focus on goals and outcomes for motivation, but that mindset tends to pull me into controlling thinking patterns and away from the joy of connection to the moment.  For example, when I read book with the goal of getting through it versus enjoying the process of reading.  Or, when I set out to run with a set mileage or time in mind versus going for a run to enjoy the process of running. 

This past week I ran 12 miles at Lake Miramar and really felt present and engaged in the act of running. As I was checking my phone for messages before getting into the car, a fellow runner asked me, “How’d you like your time?” assuming that I was checking my running pace.  This gentleman is in his 60s and clearly an experienced runner (he’d passed me on the second lap a little while ago). 

“Oh, I’m actually not tracking my pace. Trying to just enjoy the process of running,” I replied with a smile. 

“Good for you!” he said. “Well, you look good out there, very smooth.”

“Oh, thanks!” I exclaimed.  “Have a good day!”

This little exchange was so delightful!  To have a seasoned runner affirm the virtue of running without tracking my time made me feel seen.  Also, I felt like I hit a really strong and steady rhythm in the run, which is what I think he noticed when he said my running looked smooth out there. 

Have you intentionally experienced an activity while deemphasizing the outcome or result?  How did it feel?  What did you learn? 

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Unpredictable Moments of Connection

The kids and I recently started a routine of taking long drives on Friday afternoons after school; not every week, but frequently.  We usually swing through the Starbucks drive-through and then head to the coast via Rancho Santa Fe.  What began as a pandemic coping strategy turned into one of the highlights of our week!  We’ve had some wonderful conversations about school and life during these pretty drives.

Back in the fall, Teo and I discovered a cool little used bookstore in Encinitas called Artifact Books.  For the past month or so, I kept thinking we should hit this bookstore on one of our Friday drives, and this past Friday was the day.  After getting fuel, both for our vehicle and us, we headed to Encinitas by a different route through Rancho Santa Fe.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the drive was so lovely!  Winding, tree-lined roads, with vegetation in full spring bloom. 

Early in the drive, Sienna turned on Michael Card’s The Life, Disc 2.  This two disc sets the life of Jesus from his incarnation through his resurrection to music.  The second disc includes songs covering his passion and crucifixion and the CD was already on track #7.  I warned the kids, “We’re about to get to Jesus’s trial and crucifixion, so the tone of these songs will be sad and dark.” 

“We know, it’s okay,” Sienna replied.

As the music played, Teo asked some historical and theological questions about the song lyrics, most of which Sienna promptly answered while I marveled at her Biblical knowledge.  Bible class at school the past three years have definitely infiltrated her mind and heart.

We made it to the coast, parked in the tiny lot, masked up and walked to the entrance of the store.  We were greeted with a posted sign: “Closed on Friday, March 26th, sorry for the inconvenience”. 

“Oh man, they’re closed!” I exclaimed.  Teo read the sign aloud and we all looked at one another, bewildered. 

We got back in the car and I did a quick search for other used bookstores in the area, to no avail.  “Well, guys, I guess we’ll just head home,” I said. “Yep.  Okay,” they conceded. We all rolled with this change of plans quite easily.  The kids are pretty tired by Friday afternoon and seem to enjoy the peace of the drive more than anything. 

One of my favorite Michael Card songs came on as we started our drive back through Encinitas, Joy in the Journey:

There is a joy in the journey
There’s a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
and freedom for those who obey
All those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe

We turned down a particularly picturesque street, lined with mesquite trees and pastures full of horses. Sienna suddenly sighed and said, “I’m just so happy with life right now.”  It was such a relatable moment, that feeling of everything being right in the world.  I smiled at her and patted her leg.  When these tender moments arise, I try to really soak them in. 

Reflecting on our drive, I marveled that the bookstore being closed was just a funny anecdote to our trip. It didn’t ruin the outing or leave us feeling disappointed and frustrated.  Having an attitude of “Oops, these things happen!” helped me accept the moment and not dwell on it.  What I’ll remember from this Friday drive was simply being with the kids, sharing sacred music and enriching conversation.  

You can’t plan or predict when moments of connection and meaning will occur, but being present helps you enjoy them fully. 

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Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

Ever since she was a baby, Sienna wakes up in a dreamy and happy way.  The old adage to “never wake a sleeping baby” totally didn’t apply to her.  She’d wake up with joy and enthusiasm, as if to say “What exciting new thing awaits me?!”  Fortunately, this sweet trait continues to bless our mornings. 

Sienna picking out her pink climbing rose

Typically, I’ll go into Sienna’s room to wake her, after Dennis, Teo and I have been up for a while already.  As she’s a young teenager now, I really cherish the morning routine of waking her. I bask in her sweetness before she’s conscious enough to roll her eyes at me.  Often I’ll gentle stroke her face until her eyes flutter open.  Other times, I’ll be silly (on mornings when I’ve already had some coffee) and animate her teddy bear, or I’ll start singing a song like “Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory”. 

We recently planted a couple vines outside her bedroom window, so I started pulling aside the curtain by her bed as we greet the day.  One is a baby pink climbing rose and the other is a beautiful jasmine plant that smells amazing!  They’re both just getting started, but we’re excited to watch them grow. 

This past Monday morning, I pulled the curtain back and spontaneously broke into the old Oklahoma song “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”:

Oh, what a beautiful morning,
Oh, what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.

Before her eyes even opened, Sienna smiled at me.

Both of my parents brought music and special songs into our lives.  It’s amazing how often those songs make the trek from the recesses of my mind into the present moment.  Throughout my childhood, my dad would often sing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” all the way through.  Just when we were giggling and assumed the song had to stop soon, he’d go for the next verse or another time through the chorus.  I have such fond memories of him belting out that tune!

I’ve been reflecting on the sweet moments of family life lately.  Sienna and Mateo have grown so much this past year and time feels like it’s flying by!  I want to cherish the routine moments of our days, the ones I will miss when they’re off to college and living away from home.  When I think back to my childhood, it’s the songs, traditions, and moments of connection with my mom, dad, brother and sister that remind me of the love that surrounded us.  I pray our kids cherish these moments too.   

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The Moments That Matter

Dennis and I started a routine, years ago at Grace Lutheran, where we’d go on coffee dates while the kids were in Sunday school.  In Hillcrest, there were many fun little coffee shops we could walk to and also a Farmer’s Market that included a few coffee vendors.  It was a delightful time and we both looked forward to it!  Especially when the kids were small and we needed some time to connect without little ears and voices contributing to the conversation.

When we transferred to Gloria Dei Lutheran this summer, we reinstated our coffee dates by driving to the Starbucks down the street, while the kids were in Sunday school.  Our rationale that we need time in the week to connect and talk to one another is a little less relevant now.  Between the pandemic and Dennis being a stay-at-home parent, we have plenty of opportunities to connect.

I started to wonder: Maybe we should stay and attend ABC (Adult Bible Class) during the Sunday school hour instead of going on our coffee date?   During the sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Horn made a couple appeals to the congregation to attend ABC following the service.  The readings were so rich and full of gospel lessons, he was particularly excited to unpack them in more detail.  After his second reference to the class, Dennis and I looked across Sienna and made eye contact.  “Let’s stay for the bible study,” I whispered.

“I need my coffee,” Dennis whispered back.

“We can go after class with the kids…” I offered.

“Okay,” Dennis nodded and agreed.

Dennis and Leo at his 1st Birthday – October, 2020

After the divine service, the kids scurried off to their classes while the adults caught up with one another in the fellowship hall.  Dennis then carried our godson, Leo into the sanctuary for ABC.  Our friend Brandon, a.k.a. Leo’s dad, and I joined them in the pew, right up front.  Leo is 17 months old and such a delightful little guy! He sat on Dennis’s lap for a bit, then cuddled between us on the pew.   

About halfway through class, Leo was back in Dennis arms and feel asleep.  We joke that Dennis is the “baby whisperer” because seriously all babies and toddlers LOVE him!  It’s just the sweetest thing. 

Toward the end of class, Pastor concluded his comments on Ephesians 2:4-7: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seating us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” and John, chapter 3.  Pastor said, “Jesus is always right there beside you, ready to answer your prayers.  He’s always holding you close, just like that…” he pointed to Leo asleep in Dennis’s arms.  “See how he’s sleeping in such peace because he knows he’s being held and he’s safe?  That’s how close Jesus holds us.”

Tears sprang to my eyes as I silently prayed, “Thank you Lord for putting us here in this moment.”  I felt such peace that we’d opted for Bible study instead of our coffee date this week! 

Class ended and a lovely woman in the congregation came by to tell Dennis and me, “Oh, your baby is so sweet!”  We giggled as I told her, “Oh, he’s our godson, but thank you!  This is his father…” I gestured to Brandon and we all smiled, basking in the joy of the moment.

Time and again, I discover that peace and joy spontaneously occur when I stop striving.  When I allow the day to unfold and let go of my plans, tender moments of connection have the chance to happen. They truly are the moments that matter.

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The Prayer that Never Fails

For a variety of reasons, I’m in a period of quietness and waiting right now.  It’s an unusual place for me. The planner inside wants to analyze and figure out how events may play out.  But, I’m finally learning that God’s plans are high above my plans.  Any stories or ideas I generate in this waiting are quite unlikely to be accurate.  Indulging those thoughts is an exercise in pretending to control what is completely out of my control.

So, I’m using all of my mindfulness skills to stay present in the moment and connect with the people around me.  Beginning each day, I’m asking for strength to remain engaged and aware of how I can contribute during this slower, quieter season of life.  Jesus words: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34) have never rung more true. 

When my thoughts start pulling me toward the unknown future, my prayer over the past couple weeks has consistently been: Thy will be done, Lord.  It’s been a mantra of sorts: Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.

As I wrote those words in my journal the other night, I remembered a reference to this prayer in one of the Mitford books (I believe it was Book #4: Out to Canaan).  Father Tim and his wife Cynthia would often cite “the prayer that never fails” which stumped me at first.  Finally, through the context of the story, it became clear that Thy will be done is the prayer that never fails. 

It’s so true, right?!

God’s will always comes to fruition. All of our plotting and planning and trying to figure things out often run in opposition to God’s will.  This conflict between what we want to happen and what God wills is the source of much of our angst.  Whether we think of it as surrendering or acceptance or resting in God’s grace, it all amounts to the same posture towards the triune God and our life.  He is in control and will reveal his plan in his own perfect timing.

I’ve sure I’ve quoted this sentence before, but it’s so fitting in this season. John Kleinig wrote: “We are not called to become more spiritual by disengaging from our earthly life, but simply to rely on Jesus as we do what is given for us to do, experience what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to enjoy.” Grace Upon Grace, pg. 23.

The abundance of God’s grace and providence means that this life is full of experiences, activities, and delights for us to enjoy.  We want to do it all and experience the fullness of his blessings!  But, this side of heaven, this abundance is tempered with our human sinfulness, not to mention just the limits of time and energy.  We can’t do it all or experience everything that we might wish to enjoy. True peace and joy come from relying on Christ and enjoying what he graciously gives us. 

So, I wait and hope and pray.  All the while knowing that the prayer that never fails is good and true. 

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Finding novelty in mountain views, ear piercings, fancy meals, and lost teeth

One thing this pandemic has taught me is the joy and energy that novelty adds to life.  After the monotony of 2020, I started to crave change and look for opportunities to break out of the daily routine.  The ability to try something new is exciting, and experiencing those once-in-a-lifetime events or milestones is exhilarating!  This is also one of the joys of parenthood, when you enjoy these new and exciting events through the lives of your children. 

Fortunately, 2021 has ushered in more fun and novel experiences!  Just this past weekend we enjoyed many fun things…

First, we joined many of the other Cambridge sixth graders and their families to hike Iron Mountain. We’ve been doing many hikes around San Diego County to get the students in shape for their Yosemite trip in late May.  There’s no confirmation that the trip is still on, but the practice hikes have been fun!  Iron Mountain was a great one and the first that our entire family, including our dog Claira, attended. 

Less than a mile into the 6 mile hike, it occurred to me that my blood sugar may be dropping.  I didn’t really feel low yet, but I tested and confirmed my suspicion: 66 mg/dl.  I scarfed down a whole Clif bar and then started to feel low a few minutes later.  Dennis, Claira and Teo hung back with me so I could slow down and allow the glucose a chance to get into my body.  Sienna and her friends ran ahead and we trailed behind the group by several minutes. 

After mentally drafting a few #diabetessucks posts in my mind, I decided to let go of those thoughts and just enjoy the peace and pace of hiking with my guys and our very energetic little dog.  Claira looked like a Billy goat jumping between rocks as she climbed the mountain with enthusiasm!  

The view at the top was spectacular!  It was truly one of those days that make Southern California living worthwhile.  There was a very friendly vibe among the many hikers out that morning.  One lady offered to take our picture at the summit, after watching me try to get a selfie shot.  As we passed other hikers, choruses of “Good morning!” rang out.  You could tell some extroverts really missed socializing and wanted to chat!

After our hike, we were just home enjoying a relaxing afternoon when Sienna asked me, “Could I get my ears pierced today?” 

“Sure, if you want to!” I replied with restrained enthusiasm.  I’ve learned that my excitement can often have a subduing effect on Sienna.

“Well, does it hurt?” she asked.  We went on to discuss the process and I confirmed that it does hurt, like an injection does.  Sienna also wanted to know how likely it was to get infected and other very sensible concerns.  Once I’d addressed them to her comfort, she said, “Yes, I want to do it.”

Just the two of us headed out to Claire’s in Carmel Mountain where we proceeded to stand in an “Ear Piercing Starts Here” line for about half an hour, while I recounted my experience of fainting when I was twelve and got my ears pierced at the Claire’s in Bayshore Mall.  Ah, memories! When we made it inside, we learned that appointments were needed or they could “fit us in” as time permitted.  A little 5 or 6 year old was being coaxed back into the chair by her mom, so fitting us in didn’t look very promising. 

Sienna opted to make an appointment for the next day after church and we headed to the car.  Watching her face as we drove away, I said, “Honey, are you sure you don’t want to get it done today?  We could go back and take the 6:00 p.m. appointment or maybe they’ll fit us in sooner.”  Sienna wrestled with the choice and I told her, “It’s really fine, we can go back.” 

“Okay, yeah, let’s do that,” she said.  I could so relate to the anticipating of the event (including tackling a fear) and then the disappointment of having to wait. 

Sienna was so brave and mature!  I watched her brace herself for the first piercing.  “Breathe, breathe, breathe…” I coached her after the first earring was in.  She took a couple deep breaths and was fine for the second ear.  When she looked in the mirror she exclaimed, “Oh, I love it!  That was so worth it!”

We had fun picking out earrings and taking pictures of her adorable ears!  What a fun and unexpected way to spend the afternoon.  Sienna’s growing up so much this year and I’m savoring these sweet moments with my girl.

After a wonderful Lenten divine service and a powerful sermon about the love and grace in God’s perfect law, Dennis and I went for a coffee date while the kids were in Sunday school.  I told Dennis I was making pork chops, his favorite, for dinner.  I’ve recently started making a “fancier” meal for Sunday Night Dinner and I’m really enjoying the intentionality of a special meal for the Sabbath Day. 

“I’ll just have my pork chop with beans, tortillas, and hot sauce” my loving husband informed me.

It took me a second to recover from the disappointment, then I said, “Love, I was planning on making a mushroom gravy, beans, and asparagus with the pork chops.”  He loves asparagus, so I teasingly asked, “Do you think asparagus will go well with your tortillas and hot sauce?” 

Dennis laughed, and I thanked God for the millionth time for blessing me with a man who finds me so funny!  I also reassured him that a meal including beans, tortillas and hot sauce was most definitely on the menu this week, so could he please try my mushroom gravy?  Indeed, he could.

If I do say so myself, dinner turned out great!  Our oven was having heating issues so I totally guessed at the cooking time, which actually did my pork chops a favor because they weren’t overdone and dry!  The mushroom gravy was rich and delicious!  I felt like a real cook because I made up the recipe as I went.  Novelty again… so fun! 

Dennis raved about the meal and I couldn’t resist asking him, “Are you glad you forfeited your tortillas and hot sauce tonight?!”  “Yes, definitely!” he agreed. 

Finally, Teo lost a tooth today at school!  It’s been a long time since a child lost a tooth in our household.  When he came home with it today, we joked with him (who understands how the tooth fairy works), “I hope the tooth fairy has some cash!” 

For many reasons, I’ve felt in an “in between” place in life recently.  Which, perhaps ironically, has helped me embrace being present in the moment.  I’m not planning ahead or trying to control my emotions. Instead, I’m feeling deeply and allowing each day to unfold in God’s perfect timing.  It is such a beautiful and exciting place to be!  Letting go also allows me to appreciate the enjoyment that novelty brings, whether in the form of mountain views, ear piercings, fancy meals, or lost teeth. 

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8