Monday, December 24, 2012

Good Year: The Holiday Letter 2012

It’s late-December and we’re nearly done with Advent (the Christian season of waiting and anticipating the birth of baby Jesus). Normally, I’ve got the Christmas cards in the mail by December 2…and am emptying my mailbox with two hands, in order to corral the overflow of returned greetings by December 10…but this year?  Well, this is the Christmas letter, that almost never was.

But I’m juuuuuust narcissistic enough to feel the need to share my life story each year, so please….bear with me!  ;)  And I hope I hear back from you, as well.  Because despite the constant Facebook posts, blog reading, Linked In updating, twitter feeds, Instagram rolls, and texts…it’s nice to see the photos, read the personal notes, and hear a bit, of your story in return…feeling that heavy cardstock in my hand and wiping the glitter remnants on my face (everyone needs a little sparkle!) are just a bonus!

So….where to begin? 

In July I started a small business (and by “small,” I mean there’s one employee and she’s me!) called Just One Bite, where I produce single serving, microwavable cake and brownie mixes that are mostly gluten-free and void of preservatives.  I started by selling them at farmers markets…but that’s a hard crowd to woo, especially in semi-rural Belton.  So I turned to selling mostly online ( and with the help of friend, who has a growing-in-readership blog and was nice enough to mention me in a couple of posts…I’m actually doing okay!  Of course, when I say “okay” I mean, I’m-actually-making-enough-to-pay-for-the-ingredients, kind of okay!! So, I won’t be quitting my day-job any time soon…but for now, it’s exciting, creative, and fun! 

And speaking of my day job…this has been a good year for me!  Beginning Easter Sunday, I served for four months as a Sabbatical Interim Minister at Countryside Christian Church in Mission, Kansas, and led them through a time of healing and hope.  While it wasn’t always easy, it was enriching and I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve and love and be invited to take part in the spiritual lives of others.  And then, less than a month ago, I was called as the Minister of Discernment (little bit Interim Minister, little bit Senior Minister, little bit Wilderness Guide!) for Cherokee Christian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas.  Having just started, we’re still in the “honeymoon phase”…but I trust, as I lead them in a process of discerning what God is calling them to be and do in the world…that it will be quite a journey!!  And again, I am just so grateful for the chance to do the work I have been called to, with God's people, who are willing to do the hard work, as well!

Brett is still serving faithfully at Raymore Christian Church, here on the Missouri side of things…and he just celebrated FIVE years as their Senior Minister!  This is the longest we’ve ever been in one place, since being married…so it feels like quite a milestone for both of us!  Every now and then, I get ancey-pants, but that goes away when I look at how much work we are putting into our house – and yes, the proverbial “we” may be used here, as overseeing projects, is a VERY stressful job!!  New floors are going down (slowly but surely) as I type this, and refreshed baseboards and a new coat of paint already have the place feeling new again.  Brett is still into sweepstaking, we both served as Docents at the Kansas City Zoo this year, and we really enjoyed a trip to Colorado Springs this past summer. (In fact, we’re dreaming of a little retirement cottage in Manitou Springs, where Brett can become a Pikes Peak train conductor and I can open a little boutique!  Because if there’s one thing Manitou needs more of…it’s boutiques!!)

Brett’s family has had a rough year.  His parents, Dwayne and Glenda, have been in the hospital with one thing or another, 14 times in 12 months, between the two of them!  Neither has had the opportunity to work much, given all of the troubles, but are still employed by WalMart, there in Mason City, Iowa.  They love their church where they are both very active and when the weather is a bit warmer, continue to nurture the garden oasis that is their front yard.  Scott, Emily and the kids are still in Milwaukee and lead the kind of life you’d imagine with two growing, active, and energetic children!  We look forward to seeing the whole family this coming summer, when we gather in Bemidji for a week of outdoor fun (a trip that Brett won, through sweepstaking!).

My family is doing well!  Mom is healthy and cancer free, still working at Bolivar HS as a Biology and Anatomy teacher...and Dad is counting down the days ‘till he can sell his pottery full time and get out from behind the computer and daily grind of the dreaded “office job” once and for all.  He joined me at a local Holiday Craft Fair to sell some of his pottery, with the goal of selling one piece…and ended up selling at least half of what he came with…so there’s certainly a market for his work and his vision…now he just needs to find the time to create!  If you’d like to see some of his work, you can find his blog at

Otherwise, all is well!  And we hope this letter finds things as well, if not better, for you!

As always, you are welcome to our home at any time (just give me an hour or two warning…not that the house isn’t spotless ALL the time…but…..)!  Merry Christmas and may you know more love and laughter in the new year, than you know what to do with!!!

Peace and joy and love to you,

t, b, wyatt, abby, and shuffles

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joy: An Advent Thought

In eight short days, Jesus will come into the real world.  Not under a beautifully lit manger scene with new hay and a warm bath to welcome him.  But to a dingy barn, with the smell of lanolin and poop to welcome his new nose, while a servant-class young mother and a manual laborer of a father will wrestle with first-time parenthood.  That baby will preach and no one will listen, love and will be chastised.  That baby will speak when others are silent, act when it is not in his best self-interest, and will pray when there are no other words.  That baby will shelter the dead and will comfort the heart-sick, will cry out for the victims, and will weep when any of us are broken.  Is it possible that this is our joy?  Must our joy come from the least of these?  The most broken of these? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 3-10: Sometimes We're Called To Be Starters

So, you know that "25 Day Photo Challenge" I boisterously decided was a good idea in the middle of Advent? 

Here's what I know for sure....

Day 3: Gifts 

Seriously?  On day three?!!!  Who made this list?

Day 4: Tradition

We have no Elf on a Shelf.  We don't go caroling.  We find the mall, sigh inducing.  And unless eating Puppy Chow and watching Hallmark movies can be considered tradition....

Day 5: Santa


Day 6: Stockings

I was going to post a photo of the new tights I bought, which go with this smokin' hot red skirt I found for $9....but that just seemed weird.  And possibly not the "stockings" that the list was referring to.

Day 7: Snow

Um.  Up until today, we have reached 60* or higher since last February.

Day 8: Tree

Now our tree.  That's a beauty.  Photos later, perhaps.

Day 9: Treats

Again.  I would refer you to the Puppy Chow mentioned earlier.  But apparently, we're calling that "tradition" now.

Day 10: Joy

I could say something about joy....but I need to "save" whatever word I can muster, for this coming Sunday's sermon.  (Though let the record state...despite the fairly dismal showing of this list...I know great and abiding joy this time of year.  In ways that I don't sense, during other times of the year. And though I don't have photographic evidence of this abiding joy, it is is real in nearly tangible ways...and it carries me from one winter to the next.)

So.  I'm out.  I should have known better.  Some of us are called to be starters.  And I'm afraid that's me. 

For MM: The Rest of the Story

There are a few things that shouldn't be hanging out in the world, alone. 

Like fried bread...without the cheese.
Or Burt...without Ernie.
Salt and no pepper.
Ketchup without its mustard.

And it was clearly an oversight, to not include the shepherd.  With the sheep. 

So here's the whole set... together at last.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Peace: An Advent Thought

It’s bigger than us, you know.  Peace. 

But it begins with us. 

It begins when we breath in the breath of God and cease the hand waving and the frenzied checklist of expectations and instead, extend our hands in an embrace and trade our checklists, our itemized "my-language," for dialogue grounded in hope, so that it becomes "other-language." 

Peace begins when we can recognize that we have “enough.”  Enough food, enough stuff, enough love, enough faith and in turn, respond when we encounter those who do not know what it means to have enough. 

Peace begins when we recognize the value of another…the value of God’s creation, made in the image of God…and respond with fewer frowns and eye rolls or snapped fingers or harsh words and instead with compassion and encouragement and love as we work – as we have been called to – as instruments of peace.

It's certainly easier said than done...maybe even especially during this time of year.  When breathing in the breath of God reminds us of how tight our chest is, how heavy the heart can be, and how high our shoulders have ascended. 

And so I pray this day, that peace might be yours...that it might fill the heart in ways that are consuming, so that you might share it with another, in ways that are life-giving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 2: Decorations

I'm a day or two late, because despite the longer-than-normal time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, I'm just now starting to get the actual decorations put out and around the house.  We go a little Christmas-Crazy when it comes to decorations. 

I'm probably making up for my parents, who last put up a tree, in '02. 

It's hard to choose just one here are a few of my favorites, but by no means, is it exhaustive.

I wish you could see how long this snowman's arms are!
They make me smile each and every time I walk
by them!  And...he's sparkly and handsome.  He's
like the Brad Pitt of snowpeople. And he's all mine!

This is the sheep-half of the "and the shepherds kept watch over
their sheep" duo.  As made and finished by my husband, Brett. 
We were living in the armpit of Texas at the time, purely
miserable, and frighteningly poor...and we'd given each other a
limit of $10 for Christmas gifts that year.  I think I
bought him a flashlight.  But he made me this nativity
set out of scrap wood that he'd found in the backyard when
we'd moved sits at the fireplace and each year,
no matter where we're at in our relationship or how distressed
I am, I remember that moment and how grateful
I am that he's my husband.

I never knew my Grandfather - my Mother's dad - but
the story goes that when my Grandma and my Grandfather
bought their first television, he insisted on having this
duck-lamp to go on top of the t.v. (apparently, this was a
trend) or it was "no sale."  So each year, The Duck gets
dressed up with a bow and a Santa hat...
and even though I don't have
any idea who my Grandfather was or what his laugh sounded
like or how he smelled or what he was passionate about...
I feel a little connected to him - and my Grandma - each
time I see that duck (who now, lives next to our television).

These can you not smile, when you see these guys!
We've had them for years, and I guess I used to always figure
if we ever had a kid, we'd hide them around the house
"Elf on a Shelf" style...but now they just sit there and beckon
joy with their sweet smiles and lazy, swinging legs.  Much
like, I suppose, how I'd like to beckon the holidays.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hope: An Advent Thought


It's such an easy word to say.

"I hope Santa can find me!"
"I hope I get a car!" 
"I hope I get asked to the prom." 
"I hope I don't get caught." 
"I hope I can find a job." 
"I hope you'll love me even when it's not easy." 
"I hope she doesn't die before I get the chance to say goodbye."
"I hope we have macaroni and cheese."
"I hope we can pay for it."
"I hope you know how much I love you."
"I hope..."

I say it a dozen times a day. So much so, that maybe it loses its meaning? 

But during this season of Advent, that word...hope...takes on a different, special, nearly tangible meaning.  It's as if it might sprout wings any minute and show the world how to fly.  It bids us to take deep breaths and yearn for the unexpected.  It calls us to Emmanuel - God With Us - and in that calling, expects us to be the embodiment of the holy, for another.  It ceases our weeping and gives us pause in our pain, so that we might touch wonder, if only for a brief second.


It's a big task.  A hefty word.  A delicate scent.  An overwhelming gift.

I hope you sense it this day....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1: Light

Doing This: Since I've Got Nothing Else To Do

So, Pinterest has beckoned and I've decided to do this...

Yeah.  Yeah.  It's a challenge from 2011, but I've never been super hip.  So let's call this "typical" and move on.

I think it might be fun and give me a little something to do.  Otherwise.  Just bored to tears over here.  Tears, I tell ya.

Excuse me while I go change my shirt.  It seems I have broken out into a cold Advent sweat....