Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking back and looking ahead...

2008 has been a good year.
There have been great joys, laughs, warm hugs, soul-stirring conversations.
There have been days of victory and triumph, music and dance, food and wine.
There has been love and peace and joy and harmony and reconciliation.

2008 has been a tough year.
There have been many tears and much grief.
I have lost friendships and relationships.
I have been abandoned, forgotten, and rejected.
I have seen friends lose loved ones and lose themselves.

2009 is just a few hours away.

When 2007 was a few hours away, I was in Madrid.
Same thing at the start of 2008.
And I remember distinctly, last year in Madrid,
a year ago today, thinking,
"Gail, enjoy this. You won't be back here for a while.
Things in your life are going to change. Big time."
The Spirit spoke clearly to me. I heard. And took it to heart.
I enjoyed those days there. With friends. In solitude.
Walking. Journaling. Taking photos. Reading.
Watching. Listening. Learning. Growing.
(Os echo de menos, Eduardo, Leti, Alvaro, y Marta.)

All of those walks, those prayers, those thoughts
prepared me for this moment in my life.
All the walks and talks and journal entries and classes and retreats
and books and times of prayer and fasting and meditation
I have ever taken or experienced,
they have all prepared me for this moment in my life.
For such a time as this.
The beginning of a new year, a new support system,
a new way of living, a new kind of faith.
Newness of life.

Looking back and looking ahead,
God has been good.
He has provided for us.
He has protected us.
It hasn't always looked like what we want it to look like,
or felt like what we want to feel.
But it is what it is.

My nephew, who flew back to New York yesterday after spending several days with us, said this to us a couple of days ago:

"We walk not by sight, sense, or circumstance.
We walk by faith, Spirit, and The Word."

I want to thank a few of you who have held on to faith and hope for me of late when I have not had the strength to hang on. Especially Jen, Lisa, Karen, Matthew, Jill, Alejandra, Amy, Shelby, Leonie, Laurie, Jena, Katie, Wendy, Debby, Val, Sara, Melodee, Otis, Joy, Robin, Raquel, and Steve. Just to name a few.

The old truth is new truth.
It is still truth.
All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of things shall be well.

*Two of the photos seen in the post are of plaques outside of the children's library here in Charlotte.
The third is of the cover of the journal I began on November 2nd of this year.
I had no idea how prophetic that title would be -
Life as we then knew it is not the life we now live.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping it simple...

Merry Christmas. Peace on earth.
Good will to all children, women, and men everywhere.

I pray that you will find peace in your heart,
in your home, in all areas of your life.

And do what the ornament says: look up. ask for help.
wait and pray. have faith.

At the end of the most quoted Bible story (at this time of year anyway),
I re-discovered a verse I've skimmed over dozens of times.
Luke 1:45 - Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

I want to be one of those blessed women.
One who believes.
One who looks up, prays, waits, has faith.
Finds peace.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

If you have time, check out Lulliloo's beautiful post about one of her favorite Christmas songs. It happens to be one of my favorites as well - "O Holy Night."

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Few Christmas Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order.

Notice I wrote, "a few of my favorite things." There are many others that I don't have photos of and a few that prefer not to appear in public. Just had to throw in that disclaimer so as not to offend any of my other favorite things or people.

Took this photo and the next one while playing hooky with my husband from the Spanish service a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have to translate, so we went on a brief date while the kids learned faithfully about their faith. Being the ancient married couple that we are, he read the newspaper and I read a book most of the time that we were there. I looked up long enough to capture a photo... of my coffee, pound cake, and book. And then I went outside to take photos of some of the ornaments on the tree on their patio.

But I only have eyes for my own Christmas tree. We have had this artificial tree for almost ten years, and I think I love it more each year. I sit for hours in the living room each Christmas and just stare at it. With visions of sugar plums, sugar cookies, Christmases past and Christmases yet to come dancing through my mind. I have been know to simply sit there at weep at how beautiful it is to me.

Last Saturday, Kristiana participated in a Christmas recital at a local mall. Yes, the children were sent to entertain the harried shoppers. They did a great job. I was quite the proud Mommy. So here I am with one of my absolute favorite people in the world at the Concord Mills mall.

In the window at Nordstrom's. Simply stated. Elegantly displayed.
In that marketing meeting, I would have suggested that they write:
"Joy, peace, love, grace, mercy, strength, courage, and cookies for all,"
but somehow I don't think it would have fit.

So I'll say it here:

Monday, December 15, 2008

What can I say?

I will keep it simple: Thank you.
For the cards and notes, emails and even a blog post - thanks, Lisa.
Thanks for remembering my special day (not that I gave you much choice...)
and sending good wishes.

Dear and dearly loved church friends gave me a small surprise party.
(I'm the giant in the middle of the group!)
Along with a dozen roses and a pile of precious gifts.
Steve and the kids showered me with their own stash of goodies.

In the end, there were several bouquets of flowers and chocolate,
cake and gift cards and pajamas,
scented oil and hand-crafted gorgeousness,
jewelry and many, many hugs.
I have extremely generous friends.
More than that, I have loving, caring, giving, supportive friends.
They, you are the greatest gift of all.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

Tomorrow is my birthday, my 43rd birthday!
Yup, I have survived 43 years on this wildly spinning, tilted planet.
I have spent a lot of time this week thinking back on the life I have lived.
I have lived well. I have loved deeply.
I have read and written and dreamed a lot.

I continue to hope and pray that the best years of my life,
that the most passionate love of my life,
that the deepest friendships of my life,
that the most soul-jarring travels of my life
are yet to come.

This much I know for sure -

I have ventured out and I have stayed put.
I have learned and I have taught.
I have laughed and I have cried.
I have loved and I have loathed.

I have grown and then regressed.
I have feasted and then fasted.
I have prayed and then cursed.

I have longed for love and then rejected it.
I have asked for forgiveness and then denied it to others.
I have spoken truth and then lied unrepentantly.

I spend too much time staring at the full moon.
I spend too much money on stickers, pens, and beads.
I spend too much energy on disappointment and disdain.

I eat organic baby green salad from Earth Fare and bacon cheese burgers from Sonic.
I drink filtered water and lemon drop martinis.
I awake in the morning and enter into a time of prayerful meditation
and go to sleep with unashamedly lustful thoughts in my mind.

I want all that the world has to offer but insist that I could turn it all down if necessary.
I yearn for that which I cannot have but long to abandon that which I ought to embrace.

I am human, through and through.

And tomorrow, I will celebrate all of my contradictions and hypocrisies,
all my joys and sorrows,
all that has come my way already and all that is yet to be.

Tomorrow is my birthday.
And I plan to celebrate me!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A video on friendship...

Here's to friendship, folks.
To sisters and sisters-in-law,
to partners and lovers,
to the ones we see and the ones we read,
to those who live around the block and those who live across the sea.

Grab a tissue and check this out.
It is just over five minutes, but worth every second.

Then go call a friend or email a friend or hug a friend.
Everybody loves a hug and a smile!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"That's my boy..."

Earlier today, during a cloudy, blustery North Carolina afternoon,
my son, my handsome, funny, talented, tender-hearted, athletic son
won the RCC Christmas Classic Tennis Tournament
for boys 12 years old and younger
down in Gastonia, North Carolina.
It's the first tournament he has ever won.
He is likely to be ranked in the top 65
of all 12 year old players
in the state as a result of this win. Yeah for him!

That's my boy!

While everything was going on with his sister,
he never once wavered in his love for her.
He followed the example of his Biblical namesake, Daniel:
he prayed for her regularly in spite of all the odds.
And celebrated with joy as she was healed.

That's my boy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Joy to the World!

Health and peace and strength are ours again.

We rejoice with exceeding great joy that Kristiana feels better,
is sleeping better, eating better, and is altogether better.

Thanks for your prayers and support and encouragement.
They meant more to us than you know.

No matter what the illness, a cold or a headache, or even something more serious,
no matter what the situation, a problem at school or at work,
no matter what the present or the future,
be sure to love the ones you're with.
be sure to laugh with them,
be sure to hug them and cuddle up close.

I know it isn't always easy;
some folks are a lot easier to love than others.
Yes, indeed.
But in the end, I don't think you ever regret loving someone.
At least, I never have.

It doesn't always last forever.
And it doesn't always end well.
But I have never regretted any love
I have ever given, received, or known.

But enough of this.

She is well.
I am happy.

Joy to the world!

Addendum added on Saturday, December 6th, 7:35 pm -

Along with all of you, we continue to rejoice in Kristiana's continued restoration. Daily improvement and regaining of her strength. It's a wonderful thing to behold.

That photo was taken about two weeks before she fell ill - on her birthday at the end of October - but she's looking just that happy these days. I will post an updated photo of her this coming week.

And, yes, there has been much ice cream and cake and dancing and hugging this week! We expect it will continue.

Also - it seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote these words about her.
But it was less than six weeks. How poignant these phrases feel now...

"The road ahead through the remaining teen years may prove uneven, sometimes treacherous, perhaps dangerous. But together we will walk its every twist. Exploring. Wandering. Telling and writing and photographing the stories of our lives. We will weep and laugh, question and respond. We will live the questions and question our living. We will run into things and into each other.

And every day that I am given the chance to love this beautiful girl, I will.
Every day that I am given to teach her, to learn from her, I will.
Every day that she opens her soul to me, I will open mine to her.

On this day fifteen years ago, the trajectory of my life was altered.
Thanks be to God for this daughter of mine, this indescribable gift of Kristiana.