Friday, December 25

Merry Christmas

I did not venture out to Christmas mass tonight. I usually love the beauty of such a service on Christmas Eve night. Instead, I found the Pope on television. Did you know that he has to walk the distance of 1 1/2 football fields just to get to the place where he will deliver the Liturgy? He sits in a chair and very calmly speaks his message, appearing almost as if his message would be dry and boring and hard to understand, but the words are powerful and beautiful. The Liturgy tonight was exactly about what I was thinking...exactly what I wanted to will leave this particular message up to Pope Benedict. I have posted some excerpts, but the entirety of it can be found at the link below. If you take a moment to read, I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Christmas Message 2009

Highlights from the message:
"The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean?

The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His "self" is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one's own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people.

Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another. Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence."


"God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time. Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbour is never time lost. It is the time when we are most tr uly alive, when we live our humanity to the full."


"Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later. The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to "come over" (cf. Lk 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbours.

The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction. Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbours and they can easily go to see him.

But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell amongst us.

We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him.

But a path exists for all of us.

The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: "Come on, 'let us go over' to Bethlehem to the God who has come to meet us."

Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has travelled the longer part of the journey. Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here."


"God's sign is his humility.

God's sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love.

How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God's power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like.

He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him.

Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love."


"Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist's sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God's love. Origen says of the pagans: "Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood" (in Lk 22:9).

Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: "Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)" (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen."

Wednesday, December 23

Amazing Grace

This is Monti and I with his band a few weeks ago. We played at The Rutledge for a fundraiser that benefited kids with cancer. Ginny Owens was the headliner. I was so thankful that Monti asked me to play this song. Every time I sing it, I feel as if I am singing my own testimony. Here is a link to the entire set: Monti & Friends

This is Monti's song.."I Am Nothing" will love it.

A Place To Rest My Head

I've been thinking about home for the past week or so...thinking about where home is found...thinking about who and what truly defines being home. I've been thinking about my friends, my acquaintances, my family, myself.

Some of us are physically living in a brand new house this December, living in between newly built walls and fresh paint. Some of us are hearing the cries of newborn babies we never expected only one year ago. A few of us have found love and have decided to make it official, and it's fresh and new and perfectly what and who we had been hoping for. A great many of us have found community this year. We have found a sincere friend or two, a vision to run after, a support system, common ground, and the realization that we are not alone.

Then, there are some of us are coming home tonight with one less person to hold onto. Some of us have lost our best friends. Some of us have lost the belief that home will ever be found. Others have moved to another state or country...far away from the familiar soil and communities that bring them comfort and the actual feeling of belonging. They may have chosen the move. They may not have. Some of us miss the places we have come from. Some of us are still running as far as we can without wanting to look back.

Some have found the release of forgiveness this year. Some have found the place and the courage to begin building again. Some of us have looked and found beauty among the ashes. Some have found God for the first time. Some of us have found truth after so many years of confusion and lies. Some are truly free. Some have hope.

Some will sleep tonight on a park bench, in a tent, or at a rescue mission. Some will sleep in houses that have yet to see the fulfillment of the dreams that were born in them. Others will sleep and take for granted the walls and blessings that surround them.

But every one of us will say..."I'm going home." And where will home be?

Tonight, I sit quietly in Florida, beside a Christmas tree, down the hall from where my parents sleep. And I never meant to call Florida home. It was the last place I ever expected to be. I was born in small town New York, running on the land where my grandfather played, later taking on the streets of a city I never wanted to move to, but then grew to love. And after many moves all over the state and all through my childhood, my Heavenly Father began to call to my heart and beckon me, on my own, to cities, towns, homes, and people I never would have imagined. I never wanted to leave the places and the people that I left behind. I never wanted to forget or be forgotten. Sometimes I was afraid. Sometimes I would drag my feet. Sometimes I ran back to where I came from only to find it was never the same. Sometimes I felt very, very alone. But when all was said and done how could I not move forward? How could I not continue with the storyline of this great adventure that was being written for me and in me?

Tonight, I am remembering that although I sit in this living room alone, it will not be forever. I will not feel alone forever. After highschool, when the door had shut to go to college in the mountains of North Carolina, I prayed, and said, "God, if you're going to keep me here in NY, I need friends, good friends, friends that will lead me to you." And He has never stopped answering that prayer. Wherever I have gone, He has given me friends. And He has done a work in my family. He has brought us closer together. And although we all live miles away from each other, God is working in us, bringing us more and more freedom to love each other well. Tonight, I am remembering that my home is in Him. He is here, in this room, in this house, in this family. But He is there, in my future, in the places I will live, in the people whose paths I will cross. Christ has given me a home and it is the hope I will carry. I have to trust that He will be enough and will bring me to the places and the people where I can truly say, "God saw my need and He gave me a place to rest my head."

It does not matter where home has been in the past. It does not matter what it looks like now. What matters is that in Christ, I always have a home...and with Him I will never be without comfort. I am so thankful that He has given me a family and friends to hold me through this season.

Saturday, December 19


Yesterday I was met with the news that a friend had passed. I remember her sweet, sweet spirit. I remember the season when I knew her most. It was a season of God showing himself in such a genuine way to a very thankful group of friends. It was a season when we all knew love a little bit better. I've been gone for quite awhile and haven't seen her for longer. But I remember her. And I still have dear friends who knew her more. Their hearts are broken this weekend and shocked at such a sudden loss. God is with us. He is still with us, holding us, holding her. She's dancing with Jesus this morning. She's laughing and enjoying the best foods of the Kingdom. She's at home...a place that we should all be longing for...a place that hopefully we will all find ourselves one day.

Lay down softly in our sorrow
Lay down sister to die
And cover over, my sweet Father
Cover over her eyes

Your broken body, it cannot weather
The years your youth still longs to spend
So go down graceful, sleep with the angels
And wake up whole again

‘Cause it was not your time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took your life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

Slower passing are the hours
To tell this tale that takes its time
But the finest moment, no man can measure
Is to look your Savior in the eyes

So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

It was not her time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took her life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

And the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, Rita, lay down

Wednesday, December 16


At the very beginning of this year, my class and I read about penguins. We read about their characteristics, their relationships, the environment they live in. And for some reason, we have continued to talk about penguins throughout the year.

I was struck by the way that penguins must huddle together in the severest of cold in order to survive. Standing or walking alone would bring certain death. They need one another.

And so, one day, in the midst of the classroom chaos I began to lecture my kids on the importance of working together...and I began to talk about the the time I was finished...we were like the penguins and we needed to huddle together.

Every so often, we talk about our need to get the job done, to support one another. But it's not a daily thing...and not something I would think my kids would think about upon leaving school.

Today was full of beautiful moments. We sat on the carpet so excited to give each other gifts. I don't usually get a whole lot of gifts from my students but this year is different. This year, quite a few came in with beautifully wrapped gifts saying, "Can you open it now?!" To which I surprisingly responded that we would wait until the party (because usually I cannot wait very long to open any gift).

So, there we were...sitting together in a circle. And I had to tell them finally why their teacher had not answered their pointed questions in the past few weeks. Why I might have seemed sad. They sympathized..asked questions. I smoothed it all over, giving them assurance that not all hope was lost. And then, I handed them each a pair of new gloves stuffed with a candy canes, Christmas pencils, and fun erasers. They loved them. I told them that the point of the gloves was to remind them, over the holidays, that when they felt alone or sad or when things got particularly hard, they were not alone, they had a hand to hold. It's our new saying, "You are not alone". We are learning to encourage each other. So, with gloves on each hand and excited little bodies that could hardly contain themselves, I got to enjoy the gifts that each child had picked out for me. A new mug to drink my hot tea (I so totally needed one), a few cards which I of course read out loud for the class to hear, lotion, a candle holder, and a cupcake mix with all the ingredients and tools put together (so cute). Each opened gift was followed by a hug and a thank you and several comments by the class. It was like a little family enjoying Christmas day together. Several more cards were passed out to the rest of the class. Several more moments of enjoying each other's company.

And this is the gift that brought tears to my eyes and let me know that this year, the penguins are not just penguins, they are an example of how to survive and weather the storm. My students are listening. God is listening. and maybe, just maybe...I have been listening too.

Sunday, December 13

Good News

I found my boots today! And of all the was in the exact spot where I searched frantically several times earlier this week as I was trying to rush out the door. It made my day and after the long, and melancholy post of yesterday I thought I should update with some good news. At least one thing was found...there, there...that didn't take long.

In other news, my apartment is cleaner now than it has been for a very long time. That is something to come home to. I also realized that I know my way better around Nashville than I had thought. I didn't get lost on the East side tonight...and that was a very good feeling.

Friday, December 11

Holding On

For the past two days I have not been able to find my favorite pair of brown boots. I have looked everywhere. I can't find them. I have a favorite math book that I have been so excited to use with my kids in the classroom. Ever since my last sub, I cannot find it anywhere. I have looked almost every day for two weeks. I'm sitting here tonight with the sound of emptiness. The Christmas lights are shining, my mac is singing Peter Bradley Adams, a phone call, a few texts, and an overwhelming feeling of a weekend all alone.

Rob Bell said that most people have not allowed the empty place to open up inside of them. I am trying to let it open up. I don't know what that looks like though or what to do once it is opened. When he was speaking Wednesday night, all I could think about was the homeless people sitting outside...and how I wanted them to come in...or maybe I wanted to go sit with them. They were my Monday night friends, and now Mondays are a closed door. And I struggled with hearing the message of how suffering brings out suffering shapes we are not alone, how we have a God who came and screamed alongside of us. I struggled because I wanted to be outside in the cold, sitting with the people who have been placed on my heart this year...not in a room hearing how the suffering I was going through was good for me.

All of this loss. And I think the reason it is so hard at this time of because this time of year is about relationships and being with the ones you love and loving better. Such a magnified time of relationship and love.

From just about everyone I hear...write, sing, embrace it and let God use it. And to that I say, I no longer chase the is chasing me. I have written one song. One, since this whole ordeal began. It's lyrics are pure and honest...full of the weight that any song should have the responsibility of carrying. But I drag my feet honestly. I don't want the music. I don't want the exposure. I don't want it...if I have to go at it alone. I sang for World Relief last night...sang to the nations...and it was a beautiful opportunity and experience. But I didn't want to carry my guitar into the cold air and drive home in the silence. I didn't want to sit with facebook in my quiet apartment. There was no reason to make dinner for I made chili for 70 people the next day.

I am so aware of loss. So much so that I see it in my students. I understand what they are going through. So young...they are dealing with death, violence, deportation, family separations, losing friends, moving...not to mention being a kid and learning who they are in the world. And I just have realized that if I am so blessed to have resources and tools and faith to make me stronger...and it's still this in the world are they carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. This is the issue we will begin to face in my class...the issue of making it through, of holding on to hope, of finding a way to cope and healing and finding the good in every situation.

I have not shared anything personal with my students. I just haven't had the heart to. They still believe that all is well, and life is as it was in their teacher's world. But they are so in in tune with the changing of the seasons. Without being too explicit, I will say that although they do not know...they know...and they have drawn me pictures of hope this week.

We are helping each other through. One my students said today, "I don't want to go home. I want to stay with you." I kind of felt that way too.

"Miss T., this is all of us hugging you. And this is --- running to get in the picture."

Me: "Why did you draw this?"
Student: "I don't's a broken heart and then it came back together. The butterflies are for love."

We read "The Purple Balloon" with the school counselor today. "The two heart balloons are going up to the sun so that they can shine."

(abstract but I see a sunrise)

Monday, December 7

Thank you @PeterBradleyAdams

So I ran across this song by Peter Bradley Adams today, and it was so perfect I had to post it. If you go here you can download a free mp3 today. God says that in every circumstance He surrounds us with songs of deliverance. And it's true. Every day, I wake up with a song that leads me through to the next day. At just the right moments a song will reach into the very heart of my questions and speak life and hope and peace. He is with us. It's the hope of Christmas. Emmanuel..."God with us." Enjoy.

Sunday, December 6

The Truth

I think we all know that we can go through times of great joy and times of great discouragement. And then there are all the in between times, when we are wondering what the outcome will be, which side we should stand on, who or what to really believe and place our hope in, what words to pray. We go through times when answers are few and far between and we try desperately to hold on to what we have known, except what we thought we knew to be absolutely true also seems to slowly slip away.

I am starting to believe that everyone should be so blessed to see their circumstances fall away. They were never true anyways. Your dreams, your house, your relationships, your job, your ability to physically and mentally meet the challenges of everyday life, your financial security could be entirely gone tomorrow. And then what? Who would you be? What would your truth be then?

Mostly, we as a nation, we as people, are consumed with ourselves and our ability to have more fun, feel more secure, have the approval of as many as we can, acquire as many possessions as our little hearts delight in. Of course, we do like to give and to care for others in need, it makes us feel better about ourselves...we become stronger, deeper, more likable in the end. If we're really honest, we like ourselves better for having reached out.

But how many of us have reached out in discomfort? How many of us have loved through a very closed and padlocked door? Have we been patient when someone else's decision affects our own decisions? Have we been kind when we were unfairly treated, when we have been abandoned and bruised? Have we allowed someone to walk away from us without holding it against them in spite and in bitterness? Have we allowed them to return with no record of past grievances? Have we continued to protect the ones who have left us alone with no promise of a returned effort? Do we still hope, do we still persevere even after the last battle seems to have been lost? Even after the death of something we held so dear? What happened to laying our lives down? What happened to loving no matter what the cost?

I'm talking to myself here. I'm looking at my life and seeing how attracted I am to being loved at every moment. How attracted I am to feeling comfortable and safe and cherished. And those things are good, so good. But what about the days when I feel unlovely, unworthy and so much less that who I really want to be? Who will love me then? I know God will love me. But my question is, who will love me in the unlovely moments? And the bigger, deeper question this leads to...who will I love in the confusing, unlovely, ugly, tiring, disheartening moments? Am I willing to subject myself to someone else's mess? Am I willing to stand strong when everything else is falling down? Am I willing to change? Am I willing to listen? Am I willing to trust?

And when I speak of trust...Who do we really trust? If our answer is ourselves, we will end up empty and disappointed every time. If we depend only on ourselves, we will become the miserly, selfish people we would never have wanted to see ourselves associated with. I am speaking of trusting in God. I am speaking of allowing God to place people in our lives, then trusting Him to help us love those people and even more, opening the door for them to love us back. Trusting in a person will be disappointing at some point. Every one of us is imperfect, and we will fail one another. But God never fails. His promises always come to pass...even when it looks like He wasn't listening...He was. God loves us. He is always working, He cares when no one else seems to. If we could learn trust in a perfect God who loves us without condition, then maybe we could learn to love one another better, we could learn what it means to stay faithful when everything else falls apart.

This is the hope I woke up with this morning. Late hours on the phone with my little brother, who is not so little anymore. He spoke to me about love last night, about how it can last even when hope is gone, how it is more than feeling good and everything being perfect. It is about steadfastness. It is about laying down our own agendas and showing support and loyalty and so many other things. Even after what seems to like death, love rises again and promises a better future than what has been in the past. Love is deeper and wider and higher and longer than I ever imagined. And this morning, I am filled with that hope...that there's always more to the picture.

This is the verse that kept playing over and over in my head yesterday and I am beginning to realize it's depth. My circumstances have been falling away and the truth I thought to be true. But here is a new truth beaming through the curtain of my questions:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

In my adversity my brother (and sister and parents for that matter) have brought hope and strength to my life. My friends are loving me well. But even more, if I call myself a friend, I too must love at ALL times, even when it is not convenient or comfortable or rewarding. I must walk in love because I walk with a God who has never stopped loving me. (1 Cor.13)

Friday, December 4


I sat at my reading table this morning calling students over for reading assessments. When one particular student sat down I realized that we were in for a longer conversation, and it wasn't going to begin with any kind of reading. "Miss T. the police came and took my dad away yesterday. He's not allowed to live here anymore. They're sending him back to Salvador." This student went on to tell me that he had been crying and how much he missed his dad. He only had the hope of visiting at the end of the school year. The one thing that seemed to make him smile was the promise from his dad that he would send them anything they needed and lots of gifts for Christmas. His mom packed up all his clothes in a box last student drew him a picture of a race car or something along those lines and stuck it in the box as well.

I keep thinking about this situation. I keep thinking about the mom and how she just had a baby a few short weeks ago. She now has to move in with her brother in order to care for her children. She doesn't have the warmth of her husband at night. She has to stay here in the U.S. and care for her family without the husband she loves. I know all the politics about illegal immigration, the need for paperwork, but tonight I could care less. When you look at the faces of families who are trying to live a better life, of the children who are bright with hope for the future, how in the world can you forget that this country is about families working for a better future, for freedom and for hope? I heard stories of interrogations and searches at my reading table this morning. It seems like such a different life.

And tonight, my little student is going to bed in a land far, far away from his daddy. A daddy who was not even allowed to say goodbye. This is my first experience with such things but according to stories I heard today, it is not uncommon. Have we closed our doors? Has the high society club met their maximum occupancy? Or am I oblivious and ignorant to some kind of explanation here? I want to know why immigration is such a problem. I guess I have some research to do.


I'm in the middle of reading Abba's Child by Brennan good, talking about our identity and being loved apart from performance. Tonight, I ran across this quote by Henry Nouwen...

For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.

So good. Thought I'd share.

Wednesday, December 2

The Love Chapter

There is much to say much.
On the way home, in the midst of traffic and my intense effort not to break down, a knowing came to my heart; an understanding, if you will. I have continued to reflect on 1 Corinthians 13 (The love chapter), continued to run these verses through my head,

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

And as I thought about the patience part and the not giving up, I thought about my intense to desire to not give keep keep keep becoming someone better than I had started out to be. And then I thought about the fact that I am this little person on a big planet with a lot of misgivings and failures and how if I feel this intense about hoping for someone who has walked away, how much more intense does this perfect, loving, God, who is all of the things in the verses above, feel when a person walks away from Him?

How does He feel when a person says to Him, "I'm not good enough for you...I never will I'm going to quit trying now. I bet you can find someone better, someone more suitable to have a relationship with." How His heart must break at the sound of these words. The whole point of sending Jesus was God saying, "You don't have to be good enough, I don't want your goodness. I don't want your valiant yet failed efforts at trying to follow impossible rules and expectations, I just want you. I want to live with you, and laugh with you. I want to dance with you and dream with you. I want to fight it out and see the other side. I want your heart to be free and full of life. I want you, and no matter what it takes, or how long I have to wait...I will never stop waiting and hoping for you to come home." And then He lets us walk out the door, knowing full well that we may never return, knowing full well He may not hear from us for days, months, years. Knowing full well that other things could entice our hearts and keep us from missing Him. And to Him that's ok. Because He is love and love never fails, never gives up, keeps on waiting.

"But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.
24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'
So they began to celebrate.

So many thoughts tonight. I feel a bit closer to understanding how God feels for those who are running from Him. What do I do with that knowledge? Not too sure. Love Him my life without well and extravagantly and with a hope that doesn't give up? I am learning as I go.