Christmas 2018: Dispelling the Shadows

24 12 2018

 

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“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor the Way to the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.[…]

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:1-2; 6-7

“Distress”, and “The shadow of Death” have been constants this year. It’s been a pivotal and life-changing year on a number of levels, with some great blessings and opportunities. But I am quite confident that part of the busyness and rush has been God’s way of buoying me up from distress, and helping me to navigate the shadow.

Things slowed down a week ago, right around the one-year anniversary of my sister Joan’s death, and the emotional distress fell heavy, while Death’s shadow grew more looming. My late Uncle Charles said it well, “Death always comes as a stranger,” and it is true. No way to prepare for it, and it is never familiar, but an intrusive presence that always appears at the wrong time.

Which is why this Christmas season has been the hardest in a number of years, and each moment has been a choice to embrace the Christ child afresh. At a Christmas concert I attended on Saturday, the pastor’s words were very profound. He pointed out how messy and imperfect the actual Nativity was. Full of difficult journeys, imminent danger, stench (a stable—yes), and great inconvenience. 

From Isaiah’s prophecy to Zechariah’s song, the darkness, distress, and shadow of Death is never glossed over or minimized. What is maximized is the Light that has come because Christ is born. That Light which transforms the darkness, and dispels every shadow. So from the bright lights of my Christmas tree, to the brightness of friends and family, I turn my eyes and embrace the Light, embrace the promise of Hope, embrace what is, and cling to what is good. 

God is good, and he has shown his goodness, and his zeal to bring Light into our darkness, and be with us no matter what our state, in the promise of the Christ child. Each season, and especially each Christmas season, gives us opportunity to embrace and allow the Light to shine on us.

[B]ecause of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

 

 

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New Spaces for New Growth

15 03 2018

“I have, in the past, seen settling down as a deterrent to growth.
It doesn’t have to be, though. It can be the launching of new growth.”
— Jan Denise

I am adopting this perspective as we settle into our new home. Since we started this journey of putting a deposit down, packing, and moving, I have been stretched in a variety of ways—some difficult, some welcome. The stretching continues, as we settle down in a new part of town, with new roads, and ultimately new challenges.

First to the good growth. It is a pleasure to have coffee while enjoying this view. The view at our old place was supposed privacy bushes that the birds built their nests in; which alternatively attracted flies and other bugs. They still did not hide the neighbor’s cinder block wall, or block out their “tenant’s” noise.

We were sometimes bothered by the landlord’s intrusive wife, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and neighborhood wanderers—the bane of being directly off a major strip. So the shades were always drawn, which only added to my depression and the feeling of the walls closing in. I am a light and space girl, and I cannot tell you what seeing this every morning has done for my soul.

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I am thrilled that the dogs have space and comfy pillows on which to perch. Puppet, in particular, is all about the comfy pillows and is trying them out in every room.

 

And for a mold-free bedroom that also has lots of light, and that I can decorate and fix up.

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After 11 years that comforter needs to be replaced and our wood needs some help. That’s what 4 dogs will do for you, but I wouldn’t trade it!

And now, to the discomfort. We still have essentials to get: like a refrigerator, which means we are spending way more on takeout and delivery than I want. We are full-time workers, so the unpacking and the final cleaning and polish is slow. We moved in with the knowledge that it is an old space, and some things have been neglected; so it is also navigating the waiting and the logistics of having those items repaired or replaced. We have been gifted with a washer-dryer, but have to wait until our benefactor moves next month; so weekly laundromat visits are back on the agenda for now.

My challenge is not to fixate on either the pleasurable growth or the uncomfortable parts. My job is to just be present in the process, learn to be patient with the process, and take things as they come without stressing myself out and wishing for something different.

It’s also allowing for gaps, mess, and imperfection, because even that is a form of growth and beautiful in its own way.

I am also thrilled with this full length mirror so I can make sure my outfits are on point.

Today’s couture is my favorite Yoga shirt and leggings: perfect for the day’s agenda of teaching the Yoga, and training new teachers!

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All the Things…

28 02 2018

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”
– Josiah Gilbert Holland

Ain’t it the truth, Josiah. Last week and this week have been crammed full of all the things, in a good way. I have the privilege of leading another Teacher Training with CorePower Yoga Pasadena, and my team of coaches and our faithful instructors has recruited a really awesome group of Yogis that are diverse, mature, and hungry to give and receive knowledge. We are heading into Week 2, and I am so looking forward to what I will learn from them, while presenting all that I know (sometimes, not much!)

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We are also moving. Moving is an evil word for me. Since leaving my childhood home at 19, I have probably moved about 40 times in my 51 years. Various circumstances: finances, bad roommate situations, roommates getting married or moving, the list goes on. My heart has always longed to settle and lay down roots in one place, and I thought with my marriage in 2007 and actually buying a house, that I was finally at that place where I wouldn’t have to move again for a long time.

As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re making plans. Suffice to say, we lost that house, and ended up moving two times before being plopped in Atwater Village in 2011. The actual city of Los Angeles was the last place we thought we would find ourselves, and we both assumed it was a “make do” place, just a place where we could—hopefully quickly—get back on our feet.

Quickly didn’t happen. We have been here almost 7 years; but despite the hardships, fits and starts, and living among boxes and toxicity (a blog post for another day), something was being built. We loved the new Northeast Los Angeles community and all the fun haunts, events, and eating places that made this city seem less plastic and more human and community-oriented. We found a wonderful new church where we could get to know others more regularly and let them get to know us. Thanks to CorePower Yoga opening a studio in Pasadena, I found a location close to home where I didn’t have to hop a freeway to practice Yoga or to teach. So lots of wins in the midst of what was a hard season of waiting and testing.

So now, we get to move again. Another place where we never saw ourselves: the city of Pasadena! Our address is on Wesley; named after the theologian Charles Wesley, but also the name of one of my favorite nephews—so that’s a good sign.

We are further east from all that we have known in the past, but still close to some of the things that we hold dear: our church, my work, and new adventures in a new community.  It is a place of blessing, from the way it was delivered to us, to the favor we have received from the landlord, to our church communities and friends rallying around to help us in a multitude of ways, financial and physical.

It is a place that we can hopefully settle for a spell. I have no idea how long that spell will be—I learned to stop putting time frames on things after the horrors of 2008-2011. But what is true, and what I can count on, is that it is a place of space (two bedrooms and storage–whoo hoo!); a place of ease (4 miles to my Yoga studio, less than 2 blocks from the Pasadena campus of our church); and a place where we can find peace and quiet in our surroundings, yet still have the hum of community, events, and some city amenities. In the two weeks that we have been packing and moving, I am quickly falling in love with Hastings Ranch, since we’ve spent so much time there finding the things we need for the new home, as well as some of our favorite casual dining haunts.

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What I am enjoying now as we move boxes, paint the new house, and close out the old, is this view. The San Gabriel mountains are right at my backyard. My friend Joyce wrote on her Facebook page: “The mountains can teach us so much about our lives, our faith, ourselves. Think on what you’ve learned from your mountain adventures and feel free to share. Ready? Go!”

I replied to her post, not about a mountain adventure, but a mountain focus from Psalm 121-1-4:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

There are no coincidences in our lives. The fact that I have a mountain view is part and parcel of God’s reminder for me to continue to look to him for help. It is also a comfort that he will keep our footing in this new territory and watch over us here, no matter how long or short the spell will last.

We still have some odds and ends and large furniture to move, and I am knackered beyond belief. Week 2 of Teacher Training begins today, so I am still on and working hard to ensure these great Yogis are set up for success. But I am grateful for God’s hand in all the things; and that despite my desire for speed and efficiency, he is building something more enduring than I could imagine.





Love and Lent

15 02 2018

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Go in Peace.”

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Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

It was curious to have Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday happen in the same frame, but apropos, since the greatest gift of love was Christ’s road to suffering, which commences with Ash Wednesday.

Husband is neither a romantic nor a planner, so this day passes by like any other. I taught my two Yoga classes at CorePower Sherman Oaks, and did my own body love and maintenance by taking a special “Love” themed class featuring Beatles music at CorePower Pasadena. Sweet Brit, the assistant studio manager at Pasadena ably led the class, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it Be” while we were in Savasana. I got a rose and some delicious juice treats from KoJuice. The rose is stunning, and blooming happily on my kitchen table.

Then the husband and I attended Ash Wednesday service at the Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee campus, and received our imposition of ashes. I never feel as though I am very focused during this season because life always seems to be whooshing by at a pace that doesn’t seem to encourage stillness and reflection. I am gearing up to lead another Teacher Training in a week, and we are also moving (finally) to a new home at the end of the month. Sad to say, I feel divided, and consumed with everything else but Lent.

Which is why I love the devotionals I get from Rick Savage, one of the care pastors at Montrose Church. Starting with Ash Wednesday and going through Easter, each day gives a minute focus for the day, and a global focus for the season in bite-sized portions to which I can commit. I figure this Lent I can work on taking on a more spiritual focus rather than giving up something tangible; so I’m committing to more time with devotionals, and more time in the word. Believe it or not, I am a horrible devotional person. People give them to me as gifts, I start one, and after a couple of months, never pick it up again. It’s a rhythm that has never stuck well; so I figure it is a worthy goal in which to commit to help me to turn inward and delve more deeply.

Pastor Rick’s Ash Wednesday’s devotional encouraged that the path of Lent is a journey inward, and turning our eye and ear to what God is doing is pivotal to being a part of it.

  “What shall we do on the journey? “Blow the trumpet in Zion.” Stir up the ranks. Get the good word out. God is on the move. The times, for now, might be difficult, but these times are in the hands of God. “Rend your heart” so that you will be in tune with what God is doing.”

Today’s devotional, addressed my feelings or overwhelm and chaos, even with just simply doing my job and maintaining life.

“We live in a noisy world. Lent is a gift to us in that noise. (emphasis mine) Perhaps that’s why God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Every follower of Jesus is helped when they find a way, in the noise, to “Be still” and draw near to God. Lent is set apart each year for a purposeful being still, quieting our hearts in the busyness, and listening to the Spirit of God speak into our lives…

“We may not be able to stop the noise but we can come to Jesus. We can listen to the Spirit and have our hearts cleared of clutter, and learn again the ways and paths of God.”

Listen and learn. Makes it seem less difficult than this season sometimes appears; makes me feel less guilty about my own inability to jump into the season with both feet. It’s okay to dip a toe, or wade, as long as I come to the water consistently and get wet.

Along with the Lenten devotionals, I was also invited by an online friend on the Bible app to do a 31-day devotional on Wisdom, taken from the book of Proverbs. Accountability is a good motivator for me to stay consistent, along with the fact that it’s nice to be chosen to be included in something. So I accepted, and dipped in.

Today’s devotional talked about the teammates of Wisdom: Love, Faith, and Trust. I was struck by how it expressed Love’s role in partnering with Wisdom.

“Love gives wisdom a playground in which to play – because honestly if we have no love for God, why would we listen to His wisdom?”





2018: New Year, New Soul

7 01 2018

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“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton is one of my favorite Christian theologians/thinkers. Like C.S. Lewis, he is less highbrow, and more akin to Christianity in work clothes. As intellectual as people say that I am, I relate to hands-on and sweat of the brow as much as I relate to the theoretical. But I digress…

I never share the resolutions that I make, but feel the need to put down them down online. Who knows, it may do wonders to make me more accountable:

  1. Read more books, and actually finish them. Like most of my friends, I have stacks of books waiting to be read. I started three books before 2017 (that is how pathetic I am), but never finished them. I need to complete them and track my completion of books. I used to read a book a week—it would be a good challenge to get back to that. Here are the books I need to complete: 1. Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. 2. Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. 3. The Curse of Conservatism by Coleman G. Luck.
  2. Meditate more. It does wonders, but I need to set a consistent rhythm. Some changes are afoot in my schedule that will help that, so no more excuses.
  3. Up the home and studio practice. It was really abysmal in 2017. No excuses—I feel so much better when I practice at home, and I need to connect with my own studios and other studios in a greater way.
  4.  Write again. This dried up considerably in 2016, and died a slow death in 2017. The question is, how to feebly pick up the pen again? This blog post, and another article on my Communities Digital News page are a feeble beginning. Which leads me to…
  5. Ditch the perfectionism. I think Voltaire said it best: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I can create the perfect project, article, meal, etc. but because I only have the materials to achieve “good”, I ditch the entire thing. Time to stop that; if I am not paralyzed by perfection, it will go a long way to my getting words on the page.
  6. Find ways to increase the voice: musically in particular, vocationally in general. Maybe unburying and dusting off the piano? Right now it is surrounded by boxes (long story for another blog post). Maybe taking another Kahmelson & Kahmelson class? Actually signing up for those songwriting expos I get invited to? The possibilities are endless, but I need to take action on just one.







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