Of Michaelmas

Today (September 29) is Michaelmas.

Today is when I learned that today is Michaelmas. I’m off to a good start, huh?

While I still don’t know the full depths of this liturgical holiday, here’s what I’ve grasped and why it’s resounding deep in my soul:

  • It marks a turning of the seasons and a time of transition.
  • It is a time to turn inward and to gather strength for the long days ahead.
  • It reveals hidden uncertainty, fear, and doubt about the future.
  • It celebrates strength and courage, and embraces their cultivation.

Today also marks an acceleration of focus on our house project. Almost overnight it seemed like it went from steady progress to sixth gear. Supplies are needed, decisions required, and at times it’s feeling like we’re trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. Three spontaneous trips across the border to meet immediate demands so the workflow isn’t interrupted. We celebrate the breakthrough while balancing on God’s promise of provision, even when our bank account dips lower and lower.

It seemed coincidental, this holiday landing at the same time as our home’s construction pace increases. At second glance, the threads started to weave together and clarity emerged.

Yes, we are in a time of transition.

Yes, we will need strength for long days ahead.

Yes, we struggle with doubts about the future.

Yes, we need strength to be cultivated in our hearts and minds.

Seems like Michaelmas landed exactly where we needed it to be this year.

Strength in the Balance

My favorite Pilates teacher is offering a free online challenge this week, which is a welcome change after exhausting every video on her YouTube channel. I’m loyal, what can I say?

I followed the video yesterday and as I teetered forwards on one leg, arms outstretched above my head, her onscreen cue struck me at my core. Not my Pilates core, but the one deep in my soul.

The exact phrasing escapes me, but the idea was this:

Focusing on balance engages the parts of our body that are often overlooked, giving them an opportunity to strengthen, which in turn stabilizes our entire being.

I finished the video and rolled up my mat, pondering the significance of that statement.

This fall feels wobbly.

School starts on Monday and I’m sorely underprepared.

Our home is coming to the final stages, which means moving is right around the corner. While we anticipate the fruition of a dream, the work to get there seems slightly daunting.

I’m struggling with body self-image like I’ve never struggled before. Some indulgent behavior is following me like a school yard bully that I can’t shake.

Tensions of desired focus (like writing) and current reality (like 5 AM alarms) pull at me daily.

I fight to find a center, a place of balance, only to feel knocked off kilter from another direction.

Thus, these timely words in the midst of a morning workout have pursued me over the past 24 hours. Here is what I’ve realized:

Balance comes not from eliminating interruptions. It happens when weakness is noticed in grace-filled spaces.

My theme for this year is strength – that word was strong on my heart as January began. Perhaps I’m walking into the beginning of an answered prayer. All year I’ve been praying for strength. Now, I feel off balance. Are my prayers going unheard? Perhaps. Or, perhaps those overlooked areas of my life – my habits, my thoughts, my perspectives, my inner life – are wobbling because they are on the path towards strength.

Holy Week – both sides of the cross

I see the cross, adorning the crest of Calvary’s hill.

I see myself, in the shadows, on both sides of the cross.

I stand, staring at the cross. I celebrate. I smugly nod my head, reveling in this victory. We did it. We preserved our way of life. We protected tradition. We guarded holiness. Our people are safe from this rebel and his revolutionary ideas. This is a great day in the history of our faith.

I am a Pharisee.

I slump, my gaze clinging desperately to the cross. I weep. I throw my head back as a wail of torment fills my throat. We lost him. Our messiah. Deliverance is dying on that hill. Our people will forever be in bondage. This tragic day signals an end of all hope for our faith.

I am a disciple.

Both sides of the cross live in my heart.

Holy Week – included

Jesus washed Judas’s feet.

He did it without rancor or animosity or bitterness.

I look in the mirror of history. I’m at the table. I take the place of His beloved, leaning at His side. I see myself as Peter, fiercely committed in spite of my fervor. I choose to be one of the chosen few, the inner circle.

I never see myself as Judas.

I look in the mirror of my heart. I see: Sell out. Betrayer. Thief. Hypocrite.

If He had excluded Judas, then I am excluded too.

He includes His betrayer in His most vulnerable act of love.

Judas and I.


The Smell of Holy Week

It’s Holy Week, and this thought won’t leave my mind:

How long did Jesus smell like Mary’s extravagant perfume that she broke and poured over his feet?

Could the disciples smell it during the last supper as He washed their feet?

Did Judas – who chastised Mary for her foolishness – realized what he was smelling as he kissed and betrayed Jesus in the garden?

Did the Roman guards catch a whiff as they whipped him?

The soldiers who hesitated to break His legs – was the lingering scent still there?

Did His tomb smell like her gift?

How many people, in the last week of Jesus’s life, experienced Mary’s act of worship and lament because He smelled like her sacrifice?

And how many people, after being with Jesus, spent time with Mary and realized she smelled the same.

The enduring presence of being with Jesus and my irrational, excessive, illogical, foolhardy WORSHIP of Him – that costs my reputation and finances and self-sustainment – should mark my daily interactions and cause people to pause and wonder, “Wait. That smell. Where have I smelled that before?”

The day we made Candyland

Halloween candy sat languishing in the cupboard.

A haul from a birthday piñata got tossed in at some point. Who knew there was such a thing as Thanksgiving candy?

We aren’t much of a candy family, and with the holidays upon us we wanted to do something with all these sweets before they met their final demise on garbage day.

Presenting – Candy Land In Real Life

Hunter and Madison worked all morning to create their own game boards. At one point they decided to join them together, creating a massive Candy Land Universe. Hunter built some LEGO people for our place markers, we pulled out a spare dice, and started the game.

It had it all – caramel corn bridges, taffy swamps, a magic eggnog pool with portals to the next realm, lollipop tunnels, and enough arguing over whose turn it is to last until next Christmas.

But, oh did we have fun.

Rewrite the Story

Up til now, he’d been quiet.  Listening for over an hour as I unravelled my family’s story.  I paused, took a breath, and said, “Yeah, I think that’s about it.”  A nervous giggle  escaped my throat.  I had just laid bare the core of who I was.  What happens next?

He leaned forward.  Hands clasped between his knees.  His eyes, which had never left me, shimmered in intensity.  The silence shouted.

“Two things,” he began.

“One,” ticking off a finger to underscore his emotions.  “That was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

I gasped.  Hot tears pooled, fighting to escape.  I had kept my composure but now my emotions quavered.  Those two simple statements of truth turned the lock on a long-forgotten corner of my heart.

“And number two,” he continued, “you have the chance to rewrite your story.”

* * * * *

Stars twinkled in the early morning sky, mirroring the dew drops shimmering on each blade of grass.  Words poured out, confessing fears and repenting lies.  I sat in our backyard on the porch’s bottom step, emptying my heart in sorrow.  Prayers fell short, of words and distance.  The ever-present God feels so distant sometimes.

Anxiety and fear closed in.  I wanted to build walls, shut myself in, launch attacks, and alienate everyone.  I knew why too.  Recent events as well as a some upcoming situations were waving every red flag and yanking every trigger inside me.  Terrified, I just wanted to hide.

::Inhale ::

God, I don’t want to be this way.  I don’t know how to believe.  God, help me in my unbelief.

:: Exhale ::

Rewrite your story.

The phrase appeared so clearly, recalled from memory but also spoken for this moment.

These battles I can’t seem to win.

These fears I can’t seem to conquer.

The wounds that heal, only to rip open and spill fresh pain.

The rejection that lies, well enough to believe.

I am not a broken record doomed to repeat the same damaged song.

I am an author writing the story of a new life.

Boo Bump – Halloween Learning Fun

We tried out this math-based game recently to help celebrate the Halloween season. The concept is to roll die, stack objects on the numbers, and block or steal your spaces from other players. We played with candy which upped the ante.

All the kids enjoyed playing, and the older ones helped Leah (who is almost 3) with some of the math. In fact, it was such a hit they ended up taking it to their weekly co-op to play with their friends. Imagine my surprise when I found them huddled around a table, engrossed in the game, instead of outside playing when it was free time! We found this version of the game at Teachers Pay Teachers.