Woven Together

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to spend thanksgiving with my family, my husband’s family, and my brother-in-laws family. Tyler’s mom has an incredible gift for hospitality and serving others. Bringing our families together on this day so that we wouldn’t be scattered at separate houses was a very special gift to us all and symbolic of how she views family.

Tonight, as we drove Gram home, I noticed all the homes with one room lit up showcasing families gathered around the table. It struck me because so often we spend our time in separate rooms, not tuned into each others’ lives.

I’m thankful to be part of a family that not only values time spent together, but also opens their home to others, extending their love and generosity even further.

We stood in a circle before the meal, holding hands while little Eli said a blessing (with some help from Mimi!). We ate, laughed, and celebrated and now the 9 of us remaining are cuddled up on one couch watching the Patriots.

I am so thankful for my family. I can’t imagine anything more important on this earth than spending time with the people who share my history and my genes and the ones who have welcomed me as their own.

To my own family, thank you for all the wonderful memories you’ve made possible over the years. Watching the parade, baking special treats and watching Dad try to figure out which way the turkey should go in the pan. We can’t forget Gram’s festive turkey sweaters and fun table games.

To my in-laws, thank you for the traditions that you’ve shared with me, whether we are visiting the extended fam in Pennsylvania or celebrating all together in Maine. Thank you for welcoming my whole family into your celebrations.

Father, thank You for the families that you have blessed me with, both by blood and by marriage. I praise You for the way You have woven us together and I pray for continued unity. We are all part of the same family, Your family, brought together by the grace of Your son. We praise You for all the blessings of this past year and ask for Your favor in the year to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

May the Hand of a Friend Always Be Near You

At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
    to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
Psalm 119:62-64

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I’m thankful for the gift of friendship.

As I write this, I’m watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, a classic holiday movie about two strangers who navigate the most ridiculous journey home for Thanksgiving. It makes me think about the wonderful friendships I have formed, sometimes under unusual circumstances or in unexpected places.

Friends are so important in our walk with Christ. They lift us up, ground us, keep us accountable, challenge us, laugh with us, offer a shoulder to cry on, grieve with us and celebrate right along side us. There are many examples of friendship in the Bible: Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi, Barnabas and Paul. Jesus modeled friendship with his disciples. It is an essential and beautiful part of life.

For a lot of us, Thanksgiving means going home. Back to the place we grew up, where we made our first friends. A lot of people have become strangers but there are those precious few people who we look forward to seeing every time we go home. They know our past and share some of our favorite memories. There’s something special about the people who knew you when you had braces, awkward bangs and loved Limited Too a little TOO much.

I have a few of these dear childhood friends and several more from other stages and experiences in my life. God has very clearly ordained some of these friendships and they have left indelible marks on my life. You know when you meet someone who just gets you? It’s like you are speaking the same language, almost like they have known you as long as your childhood friends. Those people are treasures. Kindred spirits.

As Tyler and I make the move back home to Maine, and away from many of our friends, I have been thinking a lot about how important it is to cultivate and nourish these friendships. I have friends I haven’t seen in months, some I haven’t seen in years. Yet I know we are still knit together by heart and I pray that God would hold the fibers of our friendship together in spite of the distance that separates us.

Thank You, Jesus, for modeling friendship and for being the ultimate friend to us. I ask for your blessing and favor over all my friends tonight, scattered as they are. I praise You for the way You have put people into my life who have become unexpected gems and beacons of light. I thank You for the way they sustain me and teach me about myself and what it means to love others. I pray over the transition in our friendship and that the road between our houses would still be well traveled.

“May the hand of a friend always be near you” – Irish Blessing

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Released From Perfection

To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless.
Psalm 119:96

I’m thankful to be released from the false promise of perfection.

I am a recovering perfectionist. I have spent most of my life figuring out the absolute right way to do things so that I could get the best possible outcome.

And I have failed and disappointed myself time and time again.

I worked with the late Bill Bicknell who used to say, “The best is the enemy of the good.” (I think this quote is attributed to Voltaire) Bill taught this in the context of quality in public health practice. Essentially, when we strive for perfection, the cost of getting there is not worth the end.

This idea of striving for unattainable perfection came up again last week at a faculty workshop led by one of my colleagues at BU. She was sharing some new teaching methods she had used in her courses recently and gave the disclaimer that they haven’t all worked perfectly, she’s just been willing to try. Some of her experiments have failed but some have yielded pretty incredible results in the classroom.

I don’t have to depend on my own abilities or plans to yield a life of excellence but I do have to be willing to step out on a limb and accept that sometimes I will fail. The security lies in God’s sovereignty: His abilities and plans know no limits. He is not handicapped by doubt or forces out if His control. He IS in control.

We are not.

That reality terrifies us but really, we should speak this verse and breathe a huge sigh of relief. We don’t have to be perfect!

Our pride gets in the way here because we WANT to be perfect and we want so desperately to be able to control it. But until we stop striving for the impossible and obsessing over the details, we won’t get to taste the improbable yet incredible glory that God bestows on us when we learn to walk in His way.

Our version of perfection will never measure up to God’s greatness and the cost of trying to get there on our own is far too high.

Thank You, Jesus, that you died for all my gross imperfections and continue to cleanse me from my sins. I rejoice in the freedom of letting go of an idol that only serves my pride instead of the goodness we trick ourselves into believing we will produce by being “perfect”. You are perfect, Jesus, and I pray that our striving nature would strive to be like You and not a worldly version of perfect. Thank You for lifting this burden from me!

In the Light of His Presence

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:15-18

I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in Threshold this year. I remember hearing the facilitators describe the experience at a workshop last year and thinking, wow, I would love to do that.

To explore some of the most challenging questions in life with a small group of people who are learning how to say yes to God’s big plans for our lives is a true treasure. In the three short months we’ve been together I have learned so much about the rich diversity of stories God is telling in us.
Stories of redemption, promise, and hope.

Each of us has a unique set of experiences and gifts that God is weaving together in a much larger story. We may never know or understand how our individual lives connect but I believe in the great purpose He has laid out on the path ahead.

I feel the light of God’s presence each time we meet, piercing the darkness of the world and inviting us into a better way. A brighter path.

Thank You Father for the opportunity to connect in this way, especially during this season of transition in my life. I ask for Your blessing upon each participant and on our facilitators. I pray that we would each increase in our courage and boldness as we uncover Your deep purpose for our vocations.

He Directs Our Steps

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23

I’m thankful that God answers prayers in His own way and His own time because His ways are so much higher than our ways. Thank You, Jesus, that I do not have to direct my own steps.

Two years ago, Tyler and I felt the longing to move home to Maine. An opportunity came up that seemed to be the perfect ticket and timing to make the move. We felt in control: the opportunity would have given us both plenty of time to wrap up details in Boston and get settled in Maine.

It didn’t work out.

I remember exactly where I was sitting when I found out and the exact feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were pretty devastated.

Thankfully, God had exciting plans for us in Boston. Jobs that challenged us, friends that enriched our lives so fully, and an incredibly vibrant church community.

We found a great apartment to move into when we became Mr. and Mrs. and began to settle in and enjoy our life in Boston. We were even thankful that the move to Maine didn’t happen.

Right before Tyler’s diagnosis, we felt like God was calling us to be bold and take risks. We thought maybe our next move would be somewhere far away – California? London? We felt open to wherever God was leading us.

And then cancer entered our vocabulary and we couldn’t stop thanking God for how He set us here, in the land of the best medical care with secure and supportive jobs and a very special community of people who loved us. Even our apartment was a gift – conveniently located just a few minutes drive from where Tyler had chemo.

Sometime after, or maybe in the midst of, Tyler’s treatment, we felt that longing again for Maine. It was different this time, we saw our home state differently. We saw the beautiful land and the kind, warm people but we also more clearly recognized the great potential our precious Maine had for growth and change.

We talked about moving in a year or so, when the school year was over and our lease was up. There we went again – trying to plan each step.

We assumed it would take a long time to find jobs in a state that has a fraction of the opportunities of Massachusetts. Tyler found an interesting company that ended up contacting him on LinkedIn. I told him there was no harm in exploring it, truly believing that it was not going to pan out.

A week later, he had a job interview. Less than a day after that, he had an offer.

Our heads began to spin. This was not our plan! What about our current jobs? Our friends? Our church?

I became painfully aware of how tied I still am to being in control and making my own plans. What if I don’t find a job right away? I felt myself shrinking back from the opportunity.

At the core if it, we knew Tyler had to take the job. We had prayed specifically over the last few months that we would be open to taking risks and stepping out boldly when God called us.

So here we are. He has called and we have answered.

Yes, Lord, we will follow You down this path. We will trust You to work out the many details and loose ends. We put all of our hope in You for the future You have set before us in the wonderful state of Maine.

Although there is definitely pain in leaving Boston, we are so joyful to begin this next chapter. We will be close to both of our families (including my Gram!) and my hour and a half commute on the lovely MBTA will soon end, leaving me more time to serve and spend time with loved ones.

Boston, you will always be special to us as the city where we learned as students, grew as professionals, fell in love, got engaged, and the place where we discovered how powerful community can be.

Thank You, Jesus, for our life here. We pray blessings on this city and all the people who have made it special. Thank You for ordering our steps and being present in even the tiniest details.

We grieve the end of this chapter but look forward to welcoming our Boston family into our new life, just a couple hours away.

Maine, we’re coming home <3

Wisdom from the Greatest Generation

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78

I’m thankful for my wise and wonderful Grandmother. My Gram is a treasure to everyone who knows her and especially to me. She has always provided wisdom and encouragement to me from the time I was very young. She is sharp in her intellect and kind in her actions. She has accomplished so much in her lifetime as a nurse and advocate for the elderly (She even made it into the New York Times!).

My Gram continues to amaze me with how she spends her time and her talents. For the recent election, she organized a van to take the residents in her community to vote.  She also collaborated with the municipalities to ensure that those who couldn’t get out to the polls were able to fill out an absentee ballot. She helps facilitate a current events discussion among her peers every Friday and takes classes at the University of Southern Maine. Did I mention she’s in her 80s?

My Gram has taught me so much about faith, family, work, love and what it means to be a woman of strength. She continues to pass her wisdom down through the generations, sharing her experience and her heart with my niece and nephew and even my friends. I can’t wait for my own children to get to spend time with her. She truly embodies what it means to be a part of the Greatest Generation.

Gram, thank you for being such a pillar of strength in my life. I cherish the time we spend together and am so looking forward to being a bigger part of your life in Maine. I love you so very much!

A Psalm for Our Soldiers

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91

I’m thankful for the veterans and soldiers who have fought and continue to fight so that we may be free. It’s amazing to me how many men and women willingly put their lives in the line of fire for us. I am not that brave! Thank you for your courage.

I’m especially thankful for my grandfathers who both served in WWII. I honor both of you on this special day. Thank you for your example of bravery, discipline, and commitment. We grandkids have all benefited from your hard work and service!

I pray this psalm over all our soldiers and especially over our veterans who face many difficulties when they return. We need to do a better job supporting them.

Interested in helping veterans in your area? Check out volunteer opportunities here:

http://www.volunteer.va.gov/apps/VolunteerNow/

If you see a veteran this week, tell them you appreciate their service. Thank you can go a long way :)