carbonated holiness

Learning the laughter of folks in my church.  I feel like you really know someone when you can recognize their laugh across a room.  At our PW meeting yesterday, a funny comment was made, and the room erupted in laughter.  How delightful to hear such different varieties of mirth.  I’m reminded of Anne Lamott’s words: “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

A wonderfully deep night’s sleep.

Coffee with vanilla bean Bluebell ice cream in it, just like my sista drinks hers.  Yum.

life’s a hoot

1458651_10106080253485154_1038659626910995996_nA cozy Sunday morning with a warm fire inside and a loquacious owl outside.

Feeling deeply connected to God in worship.  This isn’t a given — and yesterday, with the lovely music washing over me, I felt completely at peace. What a gift.

A relaxing evening watching the Superbowl with Jen and Carlos.  I’m really not that into the game itself, but I’ll admit it was pretty exciting.  Homemade chili with jalapeño cornbread, on the other hand, I was very into.

 

nice kicks

Two teenaged best friends laughing together in a shop.  The evidence of this close friendship was that they had mixed their sneakers — they each had one of the other’s shoes on.  How whimsical.

Someone going out of their way to do something kind for me.  (Okay, now I realize that’s wildly vague!  I left my laptop at a meeting, and a colleague picked it up and brought it to me because it was on her way, which saved me another trip out of town.)

The magical powers of a dark chocolate mocha to lull me out of a sleepygrumpy fog and into a more chipper place.

the rhythms of relaxation

(I’m getting back to glimpsing grace, my friends…it’s been too long!)

A cozy fire and hot coffee on a chilly morning.

Delightful conversation over fragrant, delicious pasta.

The cadence of gentle rain on a tin roof, calling me to greater restfulness with each plink and plunk.

the colorful life

 

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Hola, chickadees.  I had quite the grand adventure after Christmas!  My boyfriend Carlos’ good friend was getting married in Puerto Rico (she and Carlos are both from there) and so off we jetted to San Juan for a few days of relaxation and wedding-related-festivities.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a more beautifully colorful place.  Naturally, I took, oh, a couple-hundred pictures, but I’ve tried my best to narrow those down to these (still plentiful) ones.  Enjoy your tour of San Juan, my friends.  It’s stunning.

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Old San Juan has ancient cobblestoned streets, which range from deep blue to gray.

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It’s a historic city (aren’t they all, actually?) and has wonderful fortresses to explore.  This was thought to be drawn by a prisoner in the cell of one fortress.  I’m going to go ahead and pretend it was Blackbeard.

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Them’s some thick walls, y’all.
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Oh how I love old crumbly buildings!

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It was slightly windy up there.

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Onto other favorite things: turquoise everywhere!  (It’s my favorite color, and if you’ve ever been to my house, you’ll know that.)

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There were lots of other colors, too.  Old San Juan looks like it was hit by a rainbow at some point.

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The three wise men are very big there.  (Literally, and figuratively.)

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All of our explorations made us thirsty.

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Mojito time.  Then we walked around some more, and felt a little sleepy, so…

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Coffee time.  Did I mention how delicious everything was there?

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Here’s coffee another day, with mallorcas, phenomenal slightly-sweet bread filled with guava (though they can be filled with all sorts of things).  Oh, yum.  Yum yum yum.

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More wandering, now…onto wildlife:

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(This is honeysuckle — it has sweet sap in it you can drink.)

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Oh, you know, just chilling at the Avatar tree.

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There was a proliferation of pigeons.

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And some baby dragons.

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And many contented cats.  I started to think that San Juan was actually run by cats and pigeons who happened to tolerate humans.

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Of course, I would find a Presbyterian Church.  They were serving the homeless one day we stopped by.  Go, you Puerto Rican Presbys!

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We popped in a couple of Catholic churches too.  Just lovely.

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The colors!

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I love the decorative tile they use everywhere.

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Now, onto the reason we came: the wedding!  I didn’t take a ton of pictures because I was too busy celebrating and dancing and enjoying time with Carlos’ good friends from college, but I did snap a few.

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Lovely spot, eh?

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Before we left, we enjoyed a bit more time contentedly ambling about Old San Juan, drinking more coffee, snapping more pictures and enjoying the island life.

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Thanks for letting a bit of your color spill into my life, Puerto Rico.  I can’t wait to see you again (save a few mallorcas for me, please!).

A Storybook Christmas

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Merry Christmas!  Our Christmas program at Cameron Presbyterian this year was called “Once Upon a Time…A Storybook Christmas.”  I wrote the story and thought it was a fitting thing to share today.  So, get yourself another cup of coffee and cozy up with those you love and enjoy the story of God becoming one of us.

~~~

Once upon a time, in a very far-off land of dusty deserts and shining stars, there was a little boy who herded sheep, like his father before him, and his father before him.  His father woke him for the evening shift, watching the sheep from sundown to sunup to keep them safe from the sort of creatures that sought them in the darkness of the night.  This was a rare treat, you see, to get to stay up in the middle of the night and watch the stars.  Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the little shepherd boy picked up his favorite old, worn shepherd’s crook and went to where the sheep were lazily wandering together.

It was a night just like any other – except this night, something was going to happen.

You see, at the same time the shepherd boy was awakened to watch over the sheep, there were travelers roaming from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  There was a young woman, riding on a donkey, and her husband walking beside her.  Her name was Mary; his was Joseph.  Oh, yes, and there was a baby.  You see, Mary was very pregnant, and the bumpy donkey ride wasn’t helping matters.  She was going to have her baby very, very soon.

So soon, in fact, that she told Joseph to stop at the nearest sheltered place, and as they entered the outskirts of Bethlehem, he sighed with relief.  Surely someone would take them in this night.  But each place they went, they had no luck.  Finally, they had to settle for a simple shelter at the edge of the town, one where animals often stayed.   And that is where they sat, and waited.

Meanwhile our little shepherd boy was sitting on his favorite rock, that gave him a bit of height to watch over the sheep.  He also liked this particular rock because it made him feel closer to the stars.  Every night the stars shone like diamonds glittering through a velvety dark sky.  It was a night just like any other – except this night, something was going to happen.

A miracle was going to happen.  Just at the very moment that brave Mary gave birth to her child – a son – our little shepherd boy was looking up at the stars.  And something changed.  One star became bigger and brighter than all the rest!  As if that wasn’t enough, an angel appeared!  A real angel!  This angel saw how pale the little shepherd boy had become, and how his companions were also quaking in their sandals, and so he said,


“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And then, that one angel was surrounded by lots of angels, all singing with joy and delight about this very special baby that had been born that night.  The little shepherd boy went and woke his dad, and along with the other shepherds they hurried to Bethlehem to see this amazing miracle child.

And so it happened, that when that angel appeared to the little shepherd boy, Mary gave birth to a little boy.  For Mary, that moment first holding her baby didn’t need angels singing or brilliant stars shining to be a miracle.  Just like any mother holding her baby for the first time, it was already a miracle.   But, you see, there had been an angel: that same angel had visited Mary, too.  Nine months earlier, the angel Gabriel had come to tell her that she would have a son and that he was the son of God, and she should name him Jesus.

“A big name for a little baby,” she thought, as he curled his hand around her finger.  “Jesus,” she whispered, “you are going to be so very special.”  And as his dark eyes became sleepy, she wrapped him up tightly and set him in a manger that was usually used as a trough for feeding animals.  He didn’t seem to mind as he drifted off to sleep.

As the shepherds made their way to Bethlehem, they noticed other people along the road staring up at the brilliant star.  “Something’s happened!” they all said.  “What could cause such a star, right over Bethlehem??”  The little shepherd boy spoke up, telling them all the angel had told him of this special child who was born, who would save the whole world.  And so the group of those traveling to Bethlehem grew with the story of this great child.

Others were watching the skies that night, too.  Wise people, who studied the stars, saw the change and, even though angels didn’t appear to them, they figured out that such a bright star was a roadmap to Bethlehem to meet a child they had heard of through ancient prophesies.   So they too set out for Bethlehem, bringing the very best gifts they could offer: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

As luck would have it (or more than that), everyone found their way to the tiny cave in Bethlehem, a place as ordinary as any other, but where something extraordinary happened.  Mary and Joseph were overwhelmed as the wise people came offering extravagant gifts.  Travelers along the road came and knelt down before the manger, saying with joy “This is the Messiah – the Son of God!”  Angels sang and stars shone and, through it all, that very special baby just watched with wonder and delight, taking it all in.  And then finally, very shyly, the little shepherd boy came.

“I…I don’t have anything special to offer your baby,” he said, as he stared at his sandals.  “But this, this is my favorite thing in the world,” and he held up his weathered, worn shepherd’s crook.  “They say your son will be the best shepherd there ever was, that he will lead people wherever he goes and bring them healing and hope,” he said, with a little more confidence.  “And so I think he will need this.”  He handed Joseph his shepherd’s crook and Joseph smiled warmly and patted him on the head.   Mary wiped tears from her eyes and said, “Thank you, child, this gift is priceless.”

And so it happened that a little shepherd boy blessed a tiny baby in Bethlehem with a shepherd’s crook, and that tiny baby went on to become the greatest shepherd there ever was, tending to those who felt alone and lost, bringing hope like a shining star in the night and joy like a mother holding her baby for the first time.

We call this story Christmas.  But the most amazing thing is, it’s not just a fairy tale from long ago.  This once-upon-a-time-story actually happened, and happens still when Jesus, God’s son, comes to a world in need of good news.  And we don’t just tell this story.  We live it!  Like that little shepherd boy, we offer the very best we have to give to the baby Jesus, and the story goes on: the story of hope, of peace, of joy and of love.  The story of Christmas.  And so it begins again…in you, in me, in all of us.

(© Rev. Whitney Wilkinson, please use only with permission)

(Advent)ures Day 25: Rejoice

No Advent journey would be complete without the music of Sufjan Stevens.  Thanks for coming along with me this past month. It’s amazing how mindfully traveling through these days of Advent have made them more substantial somehow.  I will share something tomorrow for Christmas as well.  Wishing you all a lovely eve to Christmas!

(Advent)ures Day 24: Extend Our Listening

Apologies for missing yesterday, chickadees!

Today, I share a prayer I used in worship Sunday, one influenced by Mary’s Magnificat when she found out she would birth the child of God into the world.  I find it haunting, beautiful and as relevant now as ever.

Prayer for Magnificat