The week before Christmas…

It is hard to imagine that next week Friday night my family will be gathered together for our Christmas weekend. For the last 5 years, the days surrounding Christmas, have been a time of joy mingled with sorrow. The night my brother was killed in a car accident I was opening gifts with my sisters family. We were anticipating more Christmas gatherings with the larger family and the night was unfolding in such a beautiful way.

And then the phone rang….and life was forever changed.

One thing I have come to realize during my journey of grief and loss is that every heart holds a varying mix of sorrow and joy.  Your sorrow may or may not be related to the loss of life, but sorrow comes from so many different experiences. I believe it is a kind decision to honor the sorrow that is present in your being.

And so as I move into this week I want to honor all my heart holds. I am grateful that as a family, we have learned to allow for the joy and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears, the silence and the great amount of noise that comes when we gather. We will talk about life today and all the goodness it holds, and we will talk about Len and where we are missing his laughter, his goofiness, and his presence.

I hope you will be honest about all your heart holds this week as we get closer each day to Christmas. I hope you have those who want to know more about your sorrow as it mingles with the joy of the season.

peacehopelovejoyI hope this Christmas season(starting today) brings you just enough quiet to experience deep peace, just enough laughter to experience deep joy, just enough family to experience deep love and when you reflect on all your heart holds, may you experience an abundance of HOPE!

The night before Christmas…

Well not quite yet, but I am sitting in my living room with the fire on, the house cleaned, all my gifts under the tree. The snow is piling up outside as the wind howls, and the cold feels almost painful when it meets your face.

I wonder if this is the sense of satisfaction that parents feel the night before Christmas.

So, it is not the night before Christmas, but it is the night before the Visiting Angels caregiver open house at my home and I am marveling as I go through their gifts and cards and feeling so grateful for each and every one.

Our Caregivers are a variety of ages, some in their 20’s and some in their 80’s and a lot in between. They live all over West Michigan and come from all different backgrounds. They vary in personality like the uniqueness of each snowflake, and they are gifted in such a variety of ways.

 

The food is bought, and the options are abundant. The sweets and fruit will offset each other. There will be such good energy and joy. I so enjoy the conversations, the experiences shared, the memories made, the laughter, the tears, and I can say without hesitation, that every story shared comes from such giving hearts.

I am grateful for this bunch of people who make up our multitude of angels. They are dear souls who brave the winter roads and drip in the summer heat as they serve the needs of so many. It will be good to celebrate them tomorrow during this Christmas Season.

“A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”

Author: Charles Dickens

 

Who surrounds you…

goodforyouandgoodforyoursoulI thought about merely posting this and saying Amen. Might be the shortest blog ever. 🙂 But then I thought of a little more to say.

Let’s just break this down a bit: As you get older: I am not sure what older is, and perhaps it should say as you get wiser. I really do embrace this truth more with each passing day, but I am not sure if it is age related or my willingness to become more reflective about the relationships I am in, what I offer, what I glean and how we help/harm each other.

Just want to be surrounded by good people. I understand more fully now what surrounded means. I used to crave people 24/7 and was often with people all day long. I confused being with people as being known by people. There is something I enjoy about such a variety of people, but today, I read surrounded, and I envision my circle of people. There is a relief in knowing that I have a say in how many people make up that circle. It has been a painful process at times to embrace the reality that some friends stay for a season as opposed to a lifetime. During those times I have had to choose if I will erase the memory of their presence or embrace that our friendship was precisely that, for a season.  I am so grateful for friendships that are tried and true and also equally appreciative of how new relationships are formed and bring such goodness to me.

People that are good for you, good to you and good for the soul. I used to only count the first two in my decisions of who I surrounded myself with. I did not know about good for the soul until I spent enough time learning about what my soul longed for. I have learned that every soul is unique and longs for something. It is for each person to discover and it is indeed a process of discovery. But be curious about yourself and learn about your own needs. Be curious about others and ask what it is that their soul longs for. Be curious my friends and live and love well!

 

 

The beauty of a faith community

IMG_0459I will be the first to tell you that belonging to a local Church can be one of the most beautiful experiences. I also know that the faith community that can be so beautiful and bring such joy can cause confusion, pain, and uncertainty as well. The Church has been a constant in my life. I worked in a large church in my first job after College, and I have always been involved in a Church at varying degree’s from childhood, and it is still true today.

I have grown in my understanding how the Church is a gathering of broken people, and we don’t always love each other well. And when this group of people acknowledges our own brokenness and enters into relationships with each other with a commitment to compassion and curiosity, I believe that together we bring goodness and joy in all different ways to our broken and hurting world.

FullSizeRender-2This morning was one of those sweet moments at Eastern Ave Christian Reformed Church. It was the first year that I have been involved in our annual Christmas dinner. As it is so often in my world, if I am invited to serve in some fashion, I am willing to jump in, but as a single woman, it has been more difficult for me to just go and participate. And so when my dear friend Mary asked if I would join her, I said absolutely. The combination of worship and fellowship left me feeling deeply grateful as I enter my week.

IMG_1614We worked yesterday on food prep and set up with a host of other folks and this morning again the willing hands were abundant. I am so grateful Mary invited me to join her and I am thankful I was able to experience the power of the presence of good people in a room enjoying one another in company and conversation.

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I hope you know what it is to experience the goodness of a faith community. If you have been lagging in your participation, consider giving a local Church a try during the coming weeks of the celebration of Christmas. It is my wish this Christmas that each of you will find an abundance of peace, comfort, joy and hope this holiday season. May we always, my friends, continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior!

 

 

Welcome Home

I have owned my home since 2003, and after I did some remodeling, I can honestly say that I love coming home. There is just something about pulling into my driveway and knowing that this home is the space I created, the space that holds all my familiar and awaits me at the end of each day.

Maker:L,Date:2017-7-16,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-verDuring the winter months, it is always fun to turn onto my street as my very tall pine catches my eye and gives me a sense of delight, as the lights shine in the darkness. This very tall tree in my front yard reminds me of the importance of finding ways to shine my light in my home and family, my friendships, my neighborhood, community and in my world.

As I pull into my driveway, I wonder if my dog Dutch will have gotten into anything, as in if she found a snack to enjoy, while I was away. Someday I could write a book called The Adventures of Dutchess. She is really quite a character.

As I unlock the door, I see the shadow of my chocolate lab awaiting me on the steps landing. Dutchess is a deep dark brown color, and as I enter my home, the motion sensor on my FullSizeRender-1light does not yet sense my presence. I greet Dutch often with a “well hello there Dutchess.” She immediately rises on her hind legs and raises up to hug me.  She will rest her head on my shoulder in a charming way and in her own dog way, there is a sense of welcome home!

I am grateful for all the people in my life and I am grateful for the way that I, as a single woman, created a home that is very comfortable and welcoming. But in the silence and in the dark, I am grateful at the end of the day for the way that this dog welcomes me home in such a tender way.

As I write tonight, I remembered a video I once found. It is one of those that feels perhaps a little sputton and a little comical and yet communicates a bit of truth as well. So I will close with this short video. Enjoy and know that I am grateful for the way Dutch welcomes me home at the end of a busy day!

 

 

 

 

I stayed home from church…

I so enjoy talking to our clients on the phone and hearing about what is unfolding in their day or weekend. We often hear about medical struggles or a new diagnosis, we hear about the joy and anticipation of children and grandchildren coming to town, and we hear about the heartache of loneliness.

I was caught off guard this past Mondy when a client said to me “Oh Trish, I stayed home from Church and I had such a good day.” I was troubled, and so I replied with the statement that always works when I am not sure what direction to go, “tell me more.”

She went on to share what a good day she had because she did not experience all the struggle that accompanies her when returning home after Church.

“Tell me more about the struggle,” I gently responded.

“Church has become such a difficult place, awful really,” this 84-year-old woman shared.  “All the young people walk by me and don’t even notice me. The pastor seems to always have something to say to the younger people. I don’t know the songs, and it doesn’t seem anyone remembers that I am a charter member.”

I couldn’t help but smile, and there was a gnawing at my heart of the tragic story that was unfolding as well. I could go with the change is hard response, but there seemed to be more here to hear and respond to.

I think about how this woman and her husband were instrumental back in the day when a small group of people worked together to develop this community of faith. I am sure there were abundant memories of the many ways they served, supported financially and in other ways, prayed and worked with many in this sanctuary which she enters every week. I am sure that over the years, this space held an extraordinary place in her story. And now, many years later, the pain of loss and change gripped her each week and ruined her Sundays.

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I wonder how her experience might change if we gave more thought as to where we are sitting. What if we mixed young families with older members so young life can be shared, and simple pleasures can be contagious. What if we filled pews before we spread out so even if the back was empty, everyone would be sitting by someone.

I wonder how her experience might change if we took time to connect, make eye contact, offer a touch of our hands or a shared hug as we walk into Worship.

I felt something change in my heart as I listened to this woman’s declaration that her day was so much better when she didn’t go to Church. I wanted to plead with her to try again, but she has gone week after week. I don’t know what it looks like when she is there, but her experience recounted convicted me that I am going to be looking out for those in my church who stand alone, no matter what their age. If you are a member of a faith community, I hope you will do the same, and share some of Jesus love by stopping and connecting with a soul who longs to be noticed.