Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Who's Your Advent Buddy?

Hey gang, it's Advent.  

Tucked right between the lavishness of the Thanksgiving feast and the sheer madness of Cyber Monday, she has gently eased her sacred way on in, longing to claim her rightful place.  A place of stillness, of waiting, of reflection, of hope.  She doesn't jump up and down yelling 'pick me pick me' but she knows that her time to shine is now.  She wants to point us to Jesus. 

It's all about Jesus.

Not the stress inducing shopping insanity, over-the-top decorating, cookie baking marathons, the endless hours spent writing cards and wrapping presents, the jam-packed calendar, incessant jingle bells, or Santa and his mythical elves and flying reindeer.


Three years ago, a new friend invited me to get together each week of Advent.  And so we began, using Sarah Young's Jesus Calling for Christmas.  The reflective devotional readings, favorite Scripture, and the most exquisite winter photography have guided us into a much-needed gentle, quiet rhythm each year since.  

Through family disasters, illness, covid.  The disappointments, the sorrows.  The hard and the crazy, as well as the joyful stuff.

We curled up with our mulled cider yesterday, caught up on all the family doings, and then settled in.  We talked of what it looks like to live abundant, Christ-centered lives while we're in waiting mode.  Of how God has prepared this season of the year, and our lives, with 'the most tender concern and attention to detail.'  Of our need to pay attention with gratitude to what He's doing instead of continuing to revert to our old default modes.

Being thankful.  Even and especially while we wait.


Advent is not a solitary observance.  We were never created to do life alone.  We were born for relationship, for community.  Is there a friend you'd like to make space for in this sacred season?  To share Scripture and thoughts and prayer?  It can't hurt to ask.  And no, it's not too late.  

This is the kind of presence we're all longing for.  Often we just don't know it.  Or are scared to ask for it because we've been hurt by being vulnerable in the past and who wants to chance that again?

This is a hard time of year to live a solitary life.  I'm guessing that God might be putting someone on your heart who needs a soft place to land, a hot cup of tea, and this kind of spiritual companionship.  And you know you need to cultivate this for yourself, too.  Maybe it's time to re-connect with someone you've been missing.  Go for it.  He is with you as you reach out.  I promise.

A bit of a benediction for all of us thirsty souls:
May God bless us as we continue our faith walk, becoming more and more like His dear son.  May we not be afraid of the presence of another soul, of quiet conversation, or the depth of the vast spiritual treasures He has for us.  May the Spirit guide us into refreshing new rhythms and deeper grace as He continues to whisper, 'this is the way, walk ye in it' {Isaiah 30:21}.





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Friday, November 25, 2022

Porch #70 * Simple Gifts

a soft place to land
a calm weekend haven
a gentle pause from life's busyness
so we may experience
the tender lovingkindness of Jesus
as we do life together
in community

Every evening this past week, I've been jotting down 4 random happenstances that have sparked gratitude in my expectant soul.  No overthinking or analyzing.  Serendipitous gifts that remind me again that God is in the details of life's dailyness.  All the details, all the time. 

smart chickens that quickly outwitted a menacing hawk

a quiet afternoon car ride with hot chocolate in hand

adding an overflowing autumn basket to the mantel

windchimes clanging loudly on a gusty, starless night

warm woolen socks for chilly feet on a frigid morn

ferreting out the best bargains for the food pantry

the calming scent of a honey-crisp apple candle

the company of spiritual companion Henri Nouwen

iron-sharpens-iron relationships

God's kindest grace when memories of Mom are triggered

walking the labyrinth praying 1 Samuel 3:10 & John 14:27

chowing down the best bbq ribs ever

my childhood blanket warms me on a short beach walk

Christmas lights glow on windowsills

reconnecting with old friends

a doorstopper of a new novel

Spirit's presence at an awesome worship service

Thanksgiving chicken pie picnic on the porch

the welcome sound of laughter & little feet running through the house

sheer joy of an afternoon nap before more pies take center stage

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where I ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed;
to turn, turn, will be my delight.
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Joseph Brackett
1797 - 1882

I can't wait to hear about your Thanksgiving week, the simple gifts you've given and received, your thoughts as Advent begins, and all little miracles that have come from the hands of our gracious God ...  


Sunday, November 20, 2022

When There's Turkeys in the Room

- i'm thinking you'll want to share
this on your social media -

Every family has it's own unique idiosyncracies.  And the nuts don't fall far from the tree, do they.  Nowhere is this more obvious and irritating than at the holidays when far too many of us revert back to childhood roles and behavior, often without a clue.

It's usually not an attractive sight. 

It's rare to come across an extended family where this doesn't occur in some way, shape, or form.  And right up front I'll own my own stuff.  I don't have to look further than my mirror.

Tell me I'm not the only one.

I understand my storyline and have worked through how it's impacted me.  I've forgiven, I've moved on, but I'm still prone to head back into those old familiar ways of relating that protected me, made me feel more important, gave me a bit of power and control.

It's like slipping into an old ratty sweatshirt.  At least it's familiar and comfortable, even though it's long lost its appeal.

Some families have obvious dysfunction ... and others specialize in more subtle, passive aggressive ways of relating, disagreeing, speaking their truth.  If you've been repeatedly hurt, frustrated, scared, or disrespected, it changes the way you see the world and your default mode becomes living life on high alert, always prepared for battles, real or imagined.

It's easy to point the finger at others 'round the table, the ones that arrive with a bit of a chip on their shoulder ... or the ones who didn't bother showing up at all.  But the Psalmist points us to the mirror. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:3-4

I like how the NKJV puts it because it goes to the roots of harmful, often sinful ways of relating.  This is what happens when festering wounds aren't identified, tended, and released to the Healer of our hearts.  Anxieties, unfinished business, pain, unforgiveness, anger are a sampling of the toxins that fill our wrecked souls and begin to define who we are and how we are seen by others.  And out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

So if you're weary of being held hostage at family gatherings, click here for some excellent straight-talk on how to prevent the walking wounded from ruining your holidays.  You'll find it'll apply in other situations as well like the workplace, friendships, and yes, church life. 

And if you're feeling some nudges from the Holy Spirit about your own role in ongoing messy family dynamics, pay attention to what He's whispering ... or maybe even shouting.  The Healer of hearts specializes in guiding us into all truth (John 16:13).



Click here for relationship expert Leslie Vernick's clear-cut guidance on what constitutes physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse.  

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It by Leslie Vernick is an excellent companion if you're navigating rough family dynamics.  Click here to look into, have a listen, or get a sample.  I highly recommend.


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I appreciate those of you who support my work and keep this space blissfully ad-free!  As an Amazon Associate, I receive a small commission when you do your regular Amazon shopping after clicking on their links here ... at no extra cost to you.

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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Porch #69 * Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Ruth

a soft place to land
a calm weekend haven
a gentle pause from life's busyness
so we may experience
the tender lovingkindness of Jesus
as we do life together
in community

Ready or not, here they come!  The holidays.

Who among us hasn't lived with not a small amount of apprehension, angst, and anxiety over the thought of pulling together a scrumptious 50 course meal with all the trimmings that has to be identical to Aunt Ruth's from 60 years ago?  

Dressed in pearls, carefully coiffed hair, her lipstick fresh, looking stunning in the loveliest dresses and prettiest aprons, she single-handedly whipped up yearly holiday feasts for dozens of far-flung family members the likes of which will never be replicated by this generation or the ones to come.

I have no idea what it cost her year after year and I don't mean financially.  But she (and my uncle) pulled it off with such grace.  I always picture her laughing.  I loved her so much.  But I'm afraid I'm not from the same gene pool.

My sister and I have decided to keep it super simple this year.  Chicken pies from one of the Cape's best bakeries.  Cranberry sauce, rolls, gravy, a side dish or two.  

And hopefully, a decadent dessert.

As much as we might long for the good old days, the stark fact is that so many of our favorite family members are no longer with us.  It's sad and yes, we miss them more than ever on the holidays.  We linger with the fond memories and the fine legacy, we'll regale each other with hysterical stories and yes, maybe shed a few tears.

But for sanity's sake and to honor who they were, we move into the reality of where we find ourselves here in 2022.  

We can't turn back the clock, nor would we want to.  But we can make decisions that recognize who we are right now and focus on creating new memories with the next generation who wouldn't know Aunt Ruth from Adam. 

And yes, we're using the loveliest Thanksgiving paper goods you ever did see.  I'm imagining that a few ancestors might be turning over in their graves.  But I make no apologies to anyone.

It's all common sense.  It's all grace.  These are the good old days.



How an Introvert Does Thanksgiving
Sophia Dembling

Joshua Becker



I will exalt you, my God the King:
I will praise your name 
for ever & ever.

Every day I will praise you
& extol your name 
for ever & ever.

Great is the Lord 
& most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation commends 
your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.

They speak of the glorious splendor 
of your majesty & I will meditate 
on your wonderful works.

They tell of the power 
of your awesome works &
I will proclaim your great deeds.

They celebrate your abundant goodness
& joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Psalm 145: 1-7