SEE, CARE, AND ACT

Frozen_lake_warning_sign_3599By Lisa Huddleston

Two teen-aged girls walked along the icy shore of the just-beginning-to-thaw Michigan lake. They probably were talking about boys they liked or other girls in their class or their families or something ordinary to their lives. They both wore long midi-coats made of plaid wool (popular in the 70’s) and furry mittens and boots and hats. And they thought it was just an ordinary day as they walked and talked.

And it really was just that until they saw the large dog struggling to climb out of the hole he had made in the icy surface of the lake. The dog was a big chow, and he bobbed up and down in the water almost lifting his body onto the ice only to break through again and sink below the surface. The panic showed in his face, and his desperation was palpable.

Without much thought, one girl left the other and foolishly ran onto the fragile ice heading straight for the tiring dog. And, of course, seconds later she found herself over her head in the freezing water, her long, heavy coat weighing her down as now both she and the dog worked together to break a pathway to the shoreline. Bouncing off the lake’s bottom up to breathe and break ice and fall under again. Flailing woolen hands and wounded paws and pounding away the ice that finally gave way to make way for both the foolish girl and the frantic dog.

The friend who had remained frozen on the shore screamed to offer moral support or to summon help or just to voice her fear. But the girl couldn’t hear anything, but her own heart and her gasps and the splashing of the dog.

Today my pastor preached a good sermon reminding us of God’s faithfulness in the past and His promise for the future. And he prayed three prayers for our congregation:

1. An attentive faith that desires to see as God sees.

2. A passionate faith that seeks to honor God.

3. A courageous faith in the utter trustworthiness of God.

And I remembered that day on the lake. I wonder if I still have the eyes to see those who are perishing? Do I still have the passion to put their rescue first? Am I still courageous (or maybe foolish) enough to trust God with whatever task is given to me despite the risk to my safety? I suppose only time will tell.

QUESTIONS AREN’T THE BOGEY MAN (FEAR NOT!)

The Doubt of St. Thomas

The Doubt of St. Thomas

By Lisa Huddleston

What is it about questions that gets usually good people so worked up? You know, questions like why is gluttony the one sin no one wants to condemn? Or why do people often turn into self-righteous jerks when they become “believers”? Or why do we (afore mentioned believers) follow some “rules” of the Old Testament and not all? Oh, there are many more, but I’m sure you get the picture by now.

I have a young friend who has been asking these and other very good questions, and in return for her certainty that God is big enough to answer any questions she, or anyone else for that matter, may ask has been condemned and accused of being a non-believer. It makes me weep.

And so I have a few questions of my own. In what or whom are we believing? Is it in the “historical church”? Is it in the “foundational truths of our denomination”? Is it in tradition or safety or the status quo? Is it in anything that doesn’t require us to change what we know we know? Are we afraid that if we change just one of our beliefs that the whole system just may unravel like a pull in an old sweater?

God is big enough! Big enough for questions and new ideas and mistakes and half-truths that lead to whole ones and doubters and even (though it pains me to write this) arrogant know-it-alls. God is big enough for us all!

Baruch haShem.

LESS, LESS, LESS

Merry Christmas

By Lisa Huddleston

Whew! Almost all the Christmas decorations have been put back in their basement hideaways and what I could remember of the usual decorations are back in their places. Do you forget what was on the mantle and the coffee table and so on? I do. Oh well. Things are looking more normal, and I am glad.

Some things went great this year. I was glad to simplify our decorations and didn’t miss the Christmas tree at all–even though there were many ugly remarks made at the family party. Too bad. I may do even less for next year. God knows.

Other things were a little more chaotic, but we live and we learn. Next year? Maybe a sister/mother luncheon? A cousins who want to get together party? A little less stress and food and gifts and more time together to visit and really talk to people. Ah … sounds lovely.

Another change? More focus on Jesus, His love, His grace, His mercy. Less judgment, less criticism, less preaching. Ah … that also sounds lovely.

So tonight I will rest well in my newly–if oddly–redecorated house. And in my new plans for comfort and joy. To all a good night.

SOME WERE WAITING

By Lisa Huddleston (reprint)

Waiting?

Some were waiting

the day he arrived.

They had been waiting

for years,

for months,

forever.

 

The aging prophets

looking with milky eyes

to see

the light of revelation.

A he and a she.

Both waiting

to behold

the Hope of the nations.

 

The young couple

newly wed yet still apart.

Waiting for

her son,

their son,

their Savior.

 

And the hosts of Heaven

waited, too,

to announce his birth

with glory.

And he was here!

Wrapped in human skin

and cloth

and laid in a manger.

 

Some did not expect him.

They had no room in the inn.

They struggled to stay awake

as they dozed over their sheep.

They had their own children to birth

and their own dreams to nurse.

 

Yet he came just the same,

unexpected but not unannounced.

 

For those who waited,

joy burst forth in praise.

“My soul magnifies the Lord!”

“My eyes have seen your salvation!”

And their hope was fulfilled.

 

The rest were surprised

and afraid.

“Fear not, for behold!”

This Good News was

for all the people!

 

For those watching sheep

and for those watching stars.

For old prophets and young infants

yet to open their eyes.

For those he would call,

for those he would heal,

and for those he came to set free.

Even for those who had no idea that he had come at all.

 

This gift.

This Savior.

This Jesus.

 

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those

with whom he is pleased!”

THE CHRISTMAS PARTY POOPER

Sweet, crocheted snowman from a dear coworker.

Crocheted snowman from a dear coworker for whom I did not bring a gift. (Btw, this is actually a toilet paper cozy! Perfect gift for a party ‘pooper!’)

By Lisa Huddleston

I have cleaned the kitchen, folded another load of laundry, and made a pot of coffee since returning from the Adult Learning Center’s Christmas brunch. Now I am drinking the above-mentioned coffee and wasting time on the computer in order to recover some equilibrium in my soul. Parties wear me out!

This morning’s gathering was especially trying as I only really sorta kinda knew the people who are physically in the class I work with. The rest I greet upon entering and exiting the building, but I wouldn’t say I really know them. And small talk with people I don’t know is exhausting. Also many of these folks brought gifts! I know that bringing gifts to a  Christmas party is not really surprising–but some of them were for me! Who knew? Oy. So awkward.

So I stood in line with the rest as we harvested food onto our festive plates from the buffet displayed on classroom tables, and then I found an isolated seat on the stairs–strategic as I could see the whole room and overlook the pained conversation without actually having to participate in it. Waiting a few minutes after consuming my food for the sake of manners, I then stealthily wove my way down the stairs and into the office where I had stashed my purse. Planning to make my get-away, I found several teachers gathered in the front office so I paused for just a few more minutes to exchange more stiff but well-meaning chit chat.

It is funny to observe the differences in people. Some (those holly jolly extroverts)  had a wonderful time today. They brought sweet gifts and cards and asked everyone about their plans for the holiday break–and really cared about the responses. They may still be there, for all I know, visiting and hugging and laughing. Others, tight-lipped introverts like me, silently smiled and answered when addressed, slipping away as soon as it was possible to do so without being too rude.

The food was excellent, the sentiments warm and heartfelt, and the efforts deeply appreciated. Truly, it was a very, very nice party–and it was exhausting.

Now Merry Christmas to all and to all a good nap!

CROWDED BY CHRISTMAS

By Lisa Huddleston

Making room on the love seat.

Making room on the love seat.

What is it about this time of year that always brings tears to my eyes? Try as I may to be joyful, the nostalgia always gets the better of me. Always. And it really makes me sad. (Maybe it does that to others, too, accounting for the lovely, haunting, minor keys of so many of my favorite Christmas songs.)

This morning I saw clips from a long-ago Christmas episode of “I Love Lucy” and almost choked on the sadness I felt. Why? What is my problem? Christmas is a happy time. “I Love Lucy” was a comedy! My brain knows that, but my heart feels tugged into melancholy, and I can’t seem to fight against the tow.

Sweet memories and sweet babies.

Sweet memories and sweet babies.

My youngest cousin’s “Throwback Thursday” pic of my long-deceased and dearly-loved grandparents. Framed photos of my young children tentatively balanced on Santa’s lap. These treasured pictures I almost left in the basement this year along with the rubber tubs of carefully wrapped decorations and beautiful lights and even the two Christmas trees I decided to forego and replace with more subtle and less space-consuming reminders. The more muted nativity scenes, the natural beauty of the woods–these I have allowed. The pictures of the kids and some Santas here and there are okay. But I just can’t handle the crowded, the gaudy, and the obtrusive.

So I do what I must. I plan menus and feed those who gather and whom I truly, dearly love. And I try to leave room for normalcy–some sense of today and not just of memories. Room where the Christmas tree used to block my path. Room for the carefully preserved photographs on my cleared countertops. And room for the tears that come in spite of my best efforts.

Christmas just does that to me. And I have to make room the best ways I can.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS

By Lisa Huddleston

I know I’ve written about this topic before–heck, I’ve been writing this blog for so long that I’ve probably written about just about everything–but I just can’t let it go without addressing it again.

What is IT? The over-hyped issue of saying “Merry Christmas.” Naturally, being a believer that God came to this planet as a baby wrapped in flesh his parents named Jesus, I do not have any problem with this greeting. But I do have a problem when others who also call themselves believers use the words to assault people who do not agree with them.

In case you’ve missed what I’m talking about (as if that is possible) here is an example of something I saw posted on social media recently:

They'll know we are Christians by our love?

They’ll know we are Christians by our love?

Wow! Nothing says, “Jesus loves you” like deliberately offending someone who doesn’t believe in Him anyway. I know, you think it’s your right to say, “Merry Christmas!” And, of course, it is.

But Jesus had more than a few things to say about putting our rights before the redemption of others. Things like “turn the other cheek” and “give him your cloak also.” And in writing about Jesus, the Apostle Paul said that Jesus, although equal to God himself, did not cling to his rights but rather poured them out so that we could be saved. Not to be served but to serve.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). And I’ll try to do the same. Baruch haShem.

GOD WITH ME, GOD WITH YOU

God With Us--Enough

God With Us–Enough

By Lisa Huddleston

I have done and am still doing my day-to-day best to keep it simple this holiday season. I’ve minimized the decorating, I’ve finished the shopping, and the Christmas cards have already been mailed. Yet, I still find myself struggling with breathless moments of anxiety.

Why? Because I feel responsible for the happiness of everyone around me. I want to meet every expectation I think they have, to fulfill every tradition I think they love, and to make sure that each one will have the holiday I believe they are hoping for.

Again why? Because I have an inflated ego. Would Christmas be Christmas if I didn’t put up lights or send out cards or buy presents? Would Christmas be Christmas if I didn’t host a party or bake my grandmother’s sour cream cookies or put up a Christmas tree? Would Christmas still be Christmas if I didn’t even exist? YES!

So … not my responsibility, but rather my privilege … to share love, to bring joy, to accept and demonstrate peace. Because of God With Me and God With You, Immanuel.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! And that is more than enough.

P.S. If you are having a hard time, I don’t want to give you the impression that I have it all figured out. I do not. I will still struggle daily. And chances are, many of you will still struggle. But, even in that struggle, I am thankful for God With Me through it all. Baruch haShem.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS ADJUSTED

Ahhhhh ... alpaca!

Ahhhhh … alpaca!

By Lisa Huddleston

Last Saturday, I made plans to meet my husband after the Vandy football game and do a little Christmas shopping. After he left, I started thinking about making a quick run to my favorite yarn store, Haus of Yarn, before meeting him. I had an idea for a birthday present for my daughter that required a yarn purchase, and it just made good sense to make the most of the long drive into town.

I arrived at Haus with only about 30 minutes to shop so I felt pushed, but I could do it. I knew I wanted something gray and chunky and soft so I gave those specifics to a kind lady working there, and she led me right to something perfect: baby alpaca, soft and squishy and in several (no, not 50) shades of gray. Great! I paid for the yarn, jumped in the car, and headed to Vandy to meet Chuck just in time.

The afternoon was very enjoyable: a late lunch at Ted’s, shopping in Green Hills, and people watching over a cup of Starbucks. Lots of fun, but that soft yarn was calling my name the whole time, and I couldn’t wait to get it on my needles when I got home.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

That evening I cast on the required number of stitches that the pattern called for and got right down to business. The yarn looked beautiful, and the diagonal ribbing was working out just right. I was feeling pretty proud of the great, hand-made gift I’d be giving my daughter. And, hey, I was really getting good at this knitting stuff! (Insert a lot of back patting here.)

The following day was pretty full so I didn’t get to knit until late in the evening, and I was too tired to work on it then for fear of making a mistake. After knitting just a few rows, I put it down for the next day. It was nearly finished so it took very little time to wrap it up on Monday. I carefully measured the length–yep, exactly nine inches as specified. I couldn’t see any mistakes, and I proudly began binding off the cowl. I was excited to see how it looked on so I immediately pulled it over my head. Wait! It was really tight. Not what I’d hoped for at all. More of a rogue turtleneck without the turtle than a true cowl. What the heck??

I went back to the picture I’d seen on Ravelry.com … hmmm, my friend had adjusted the pattern by casting on 80 stitches instead of the specified 60. And I looked at the last cowl I had made–I had cast on 100 stitches for that. Man! I wanted to give up and cry, “Everything I do just turns out terribly! Waaaaaa! I really suck!” So that’s just what I did.

But after my short pity-party, I dried my tears and moved on. And lo and behold, some good lessons were learned:

1. I loved the yarn I used and will give it another try for a cowl.

2. A little more research will help me to avoid future disasters like this one. Yes, I will spend more time reading the notes other knitters have added to their projects on Rav.

3. Experience is the best teacher. I love my 100 stitches-diameter cowl so that may become my go-to number.

4. You don’t always get what you expect, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole thing out. The soft, gray, turtleneck-sans-turtle will still be great on a very cold day, and it is still very pretty.

5. The next one will be better because of my time spent learning on this project. Not perfect–but better!

Good life lessons, good knitting lessons, and all in all, a good yarn to tell.

TAKING A MENTAL HEALTH DAY

Keeping the fire burning ...

Keeping the fire burning …

By Lisa Huddleston

I had tentative plans for today, but last evening I sent my friend a text saying that I was wrung out and needed a mental health day. So here I sit, thankful for a friend who knows and understands me and thankful for a whole, blessedly empty day and various ideas about how to spend it well so that tomorrow I can get back into the traffic.

First I hope to clean up the house (although I guess that really is third on the list–I’ve already read 1 Peter and now I am writing). It’s really a mess here where I sit. Multiple fires have burned since Wednesday when I last ran the vacuum cleaner, and everything is covered in dust and wood fibers. We have also had a lot of people pass through the house over the Thanksgiving weekend. Food (way too much of it) has fallen here and there, and although the dog tried her best to keep it all cleaned up, the kitchen floor could really use a good mopping. Also, decorating has been started but not completely finished so there’s that to tie up (pared down this year to limit the chaos–just a few nativities and some greenery. Hallelujah!). I will feel much better when order is restored.

There is also some knitting to tend to (some for Christmas presents and some just for me), some research for tomorrow’s book club meeting to complete, and I must spend at least an hour in the basement exercising either on the treadmill or with a DVD–or both. I will feel better when these things are done; I know I will. At least, I hope I will.

And hope is what this time of year should be about. A living hope, an eternal inheritance, a blessed assurance that Jesus Christ has come, is here, and will come again soon.

Here’s hoping I make it through my list today and find the peace I know is hiding under all the ashes and crumbs. Here’s hoping you do, too.

Baruch haShem.