Best. Christmas. Ever…

So many families are disappointed that the snow has prevented loved ones from spending Christmas together. I admit, I am feeling a bit down in the dumps that my husband and I won’t be heading out to see my parents and brother. The roads are pretty bad…

Disappointment. It’s something we don’t like to talk about on Christmas Day, but it is often there lurking in a room filled with smiles and laughter. Children get disappointed if Santa forgot a toy on their list. We pastors get disappointed weather impacts our carefully planned worship services. Adults get disappointed if…well, I think we adults can finish that sentence in many ways.

And now this Christmas Day, Santa has delivered a big dose of disappointment for many…snow falling steadily and piling up quickly, leaving many to make those calls to loved ones, “I’m sorry, but we won’t be seeing you today.”

It is disappointing, but I can’t help but to see the God moment in this Christmas Day storm. Perhaps the changed plans, the unexpected stillness and the forced “slow down” is God’s invitation for us to enjoy a different kind of celebration — a Christmas Day not based on what has always been or one that carries the heavy burden of expectations, but one that is as holy as that very first Christmas when Christ was born. That day was filled with the unexpected “disappointments” that really were beautiful blessings. I mean, really, Mary must have been a bit disappointed that she had to deliver her child in a stable.

The snow is still falling. Every so often I can hear it slide off  the roof of our 18th century home. The snow pile against our front door is now 4 feet high. I can’t see Vermont’s lofty mountains from the kitchen window. They are hidden by a blanket of gray skies. I can’t even see my old stone well for which my little some-day farm is named after.

I can’t see much of anything. And that’s a good thing, I remind myself. For only God knows the plans God has for us. Faith in those God plans is trust game we must play. We need to see beyond the things we usually see or want to see, in order to truly see God.

That means this day, seeing beyond the disappointment of a Christmas Day snowstorm.

And so, I am loving the unexpected gift of peacefulness I unwrapped this morning as I stood outside feeling the gentle flakes fall on my face. I loved this gift so much I have yet to stop playing with it. In fact, the other gifts, the ones from a store, are still unopened under our Christmas tree. They can wait.

God’s gifts cannot.

The gift to see the world differently, the gift to let go of our expectations of what this day should be, the gift to let God’s healing love surround us in the guise of a snowstorm…these are the gifts to open.

Merry Christmas.

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And Yet Another Friend…

I just heard that yet another friend, another woman with young children, has been told the news every woman fears.

You have breast cancer.

The shock, the grief, the numbness—the emotions are many and often they never come just one at a time. They often team up, mingling together, creating a hurricane force of dread capable of destroying any sense of hope. But before we scurry about trying to batten down the emotional hatches, we need to stand still before God. We need to feel the ground beneath our feet. We need to hug someone or simply hug ourselves. We need to take a deep breath.

Then with strength we didn’t know we had (but it is there, it’s always there with God) we stretch out our hands to grab hold of the truth that whatever storm is raging in our lives, be it the cancer storm, the depression storm, the storm of broken relationships or the storm of financial ruin, there is a peaceful calm. Meteorologists call that place the eye of the storm. I call it the peace of Christ.

When I was just out of college and trying to find my way in the world of magazine publishing, worrying if I would ever become an editor of a glossy magazine read by millions (it seems so silly now), I used to sing to myself some Christian song. I don’t even remember now who sang it or what. I haven’t heard it in many years, but the words went something like this, “Don’t give up, you’re on the brink of miracle. Don’t give in, God is all around.” And then there were words about the stormy seas being all around but God would lead us safely to the shores.

Not only would I sing the song to myself all throughout the day.  At night, as my worrying thoughts would keep me from falling asleep, I would  play the song on my bright yellow Walkman (I thought I was so hip with that Walkman). I would push the rewind and play button so often that eventually the ribbon on the tape cassette broke. I am really showing my age, aren’t I?

The rewind button in my mind has just just been pushed.  I can hear those encouraging words once again.

Don’t give up. You’re on the brink of a miracle. Don’t give in, God is all around. Don’t give into fear, think of things that are pure. And praise the Lord, your miracle is here. 

Yet another friend diagnosed with breast cancer…

Here’s to today that the Lord has given to us. We can breathe, we can pray, we can laugh. Let’s treasure the moments in this day.

For storms hit. All the time. But peace can always be ours.

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The sun’s light in the back fields of the Accidental Country Pastor’s home in Vermont is always a moment to pause and pray, thanking God for the promise of peace that passes all understanding. 

This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

A Shamrock Surprise

It’s been one of those days where everything seems to be getting done at a snail’s pace. There are things weighing on my heart, matters swirling in my head and, of course, stuff on my plate calling for my attention. Extra strong coffee isn’t breaking through this haze nor is the over the counter medicine helping to remedy the sniffles and coughs from allergies that appear along with the buds on the trees.

Between the sniffling and coughing and replying to emails and planning Holy Week worship, I wonder: Why can’t the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be something that never leaves us? Why is peace so fleeting?

I have moments where I feel God’s presence. These moments often come when I am walking up to the top of Sofie’s Hill, named so for my Bernese Mountain dog who, in her younger years would run so quickly up the grassy slope to this beautiful spot where one can drink in the views of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

There we sit together, me in deep prayer; Sofie in…perhaps deep prayer, but I think her thoughts are more about the biscuit she will soon get that is still sitting in the pocket of my sweatshirt.

But then it happens.

As soon as I descend from that mountain top (more like hilltop) high, the peace evaporates as I begin thinking less about God and more about the day’s agenda before me.

Peace evaporates when I forget God knows my agenda better than I do.

Peace evaporates when I forget God has the answers to the questions and the solutions to the problems.

Peace evaporates when I insist on focusing on the weeds around me rather than seeing the beautiful new life sprouting forth out of adversity.

The peace I long for is not steadfast because I am not steadfast in my trust of God. Thankfully, though, God is steadfast and always trying to remind me in many ways that He is there even when I am not.

I got a beautiful reminder of that this morning.

I noticed the Christmas cactus on my desk was looking a little shabby. Luckily this cactus is a hearty, low maintenance kind of a plant suited for someone like me with a brown thumb. Still, as hearty as it is, even I knew it needed some TLC.

As I parted its wilting leaves in order to get the water directly into the soil, I noticed something hidden underneath. There sprouting forth was not just one but two clovers. Their three heart-shaped leaves quickly brought to mind the legend of St. Patrick and how he used the clover (or shamrock) to teach about the trinity with each leaf representing Father, Son and Holy Spirit.imgres

I couldn’t believe my eyes that underneath what seemed to be dying leaves were these clovers growing. What I saw staring back at me was God’s way of saying to me, “I am here, even when you can’t see or understand. I am here.”

That’s when it happened.

Peace washed me over as I realized what I might see on the surface is not what God sees. That always there is hope growing in the midst of what seems hopeless. There is always an answer and always a solution. God is always there and the peace I long for is always there too.

I just need to clear the negativity and the gunk I allow to weigh me down in life so that what is revealed is the beauty of God—the blessed trinity—always there in my life.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: If peace seems fleeting in your life, take a step back and re-examine your life. Is God in all things or not?