Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flowers and Sunsets and Cats in the Church

 I really can't get over the beauty that can be 
found around here in FEBRUARY.
I feel like I'm in some sort of seasonal, time-warp!

 This is the view when I step outside of the Chapel doors.

 Tuesday lunches have become one of our favorite times of the week!  We have a small break between TWO, yes TWO, 3-hour classes, so we zip down the hill and prepare ourselves a delicious lunch in the campus kitchen.  We then take it outdoors and bask in views like the one above.  Honestly.  The colors.  The company.  The calm.  All SHALL be well.

Caitlyn and I HAD to take the long way down the big hill the other day, as the sun was setting, and when the sky looks like this, you simply HAVE to pull over and watch that sun go down.  The gap between the land is the Golden Gate Bridge, and the colors and reflections the night sky offered were glorious!
Really, now.  God is GOOD!

How I love seeing these faces appear on my phone!

 " Are you here?  Are you coming?!"
Not yet, little ones.  Not yet.

Poor Cinco!  
She never knows what I'm going to drag her into next!

Hope Lutheran is doing a brief (Lenten) study on Mystics and Saints.  Last week, Pastor Deb preached on Óscar Romero, and Henri Nouwen and Teresa of Avila, etc. are to come in the weeks ahead.  This Wednesday, I preached on Julian of Norwich (the English mystic who lived with a cat), so of course, I simply HAD to bring along Cinco.  She sat and walked nearby as I preached, accompanying me as Julian's cat did with her.  The congregation was great - they were really, good sports and I found a lot of cat lovers in the bunch!  I really do LOVE this call!  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Psalm Good Times

California nature for the win.

Nothing like flowers in full bloom AND raindrops.

YAY!  I'd love to spend my ENTIRE Saturday working on Greek.
Said no Seminarian.  EVER.
(I just might be getting the hang of it, though.....)

At least my Pastoral Care "homework" included watching a rather quirky and powerful movie, "Lars and the Real Girl".  Yes, that's a life-sized doll holding a hymn book in a church service.  Amazing to watch the entire town rally around one man who clearly needs community!

Off to worship, wearing my happy, new scarf.
Have I mentioned how much I love my time at Hope?!

 My initial view when we used FaceTime 
for our weekly, Lenten group! 
I could practically TASTE it!

 Thanks for hosting, Sue Ann (left)!

Andrea and Susan, deep in conversation 
about our Psalm Pilgrimage this Lent. 

 Susan and Sarah, in, well, NOT as deep of a conversation!  :)

Meanwhile, here's my *&@^#$(^& kitten, 
breaking my blinds AGAIN!
Knock it OFF, Cinco!

 Susan, Sarah and Mark, reflecting on Psalm 84:
"For the Lord God is both sun and shield,
he will give grace and glory."

Stac, remarking on the importance of honoring one's 
grief process, and being compassionate enough
to allow people the space they need held. 

Needed some MOVEMENT after all that sitting,
so off on a neighborhood walk with Vanessa
and all the munchkins we could find. 

My absolute, favorite place.  
(Baby Holden didn't seem to mind, either!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Walking a Sacred Path

Our "Deepening the Well:  Resources for Ministry and Life" class took a field trip today to a local labyrinth.  We were asked to journal when we exited the labyrinth.  Forgive me if I ramble...

17 February 2016:  Walking this seven-circuit labyrinth, I found it to be the least perfect labyrinth I've ever experienced. Painted on the floor, not straight, uneven in places, uncentered at times, crude lines, very real.  After I let go of its imperfections, I began to find myself reflecting on just how much this labyrinth was like ME in so many ways....uneven in places, uncentered at times...VERY real.  Hmm.  Walk around in circles enough times, and these things just come to you.

I walk the first part of every labyrinth with my arms held tightly behind my back.  This allows me to grasp/hold/hang on to whatever might be troubling me in a very physical way.  It literally opens up my chest cavity, as if to bear my real self to the space as I walk.  When I reach the center of the labyrinth, I release the hold I once had on my arms - this is as symbolic as it is physical.  The blood begins to flow again, and my arms can swing free, hang loosely, open up once again to the new life flowing from within me.  

The clouds were dancing outside today - fascinating to watch.  Slowly clumping together, and floating by the swaying trees, just outside the school windows in which this labyrinth was painted.  There was a constant, rhythmic, dripping from a faucet in a nearby kitchen...which is rare to see in water-conscious, California. 

As I step upon this imperfectly painted, holy wood, I think of all those with whom I've walked the labyrinth:  I've danced it with Abby, I've prayed it with Susan, I've skipped it with Liana, I've trudged it (through snow) with Sarah...and as much as I've loved those memories, today I wished I'd have had the chance to walk it alone.  The woman ahead of me walked a very, veerrrrrry slow and deliberate path today, and pace WAY too slow for this gal.  I'm aware of the gift of slowing down every once in a while, but this was nuts.  This is a MOVING prayer for me...and we weren't moving!  

I entered the labyrinth today with the words "Lord, help me forgive" on my heart.  I was mulling over a seemingly, important thorn in my side, and wanted to pray over this while twisting and turning.  Instead, I ended up leaving with the thought "Lord, help me forgive myself."  Forgive me for leaving the children, Lord, was the immediate thought that came to mind.  Forgive me for leaving the little ones behind.  For confusing small children about my departure.  My heart ached as I took each step.  

I walked around that labyrinth in that school room, surrounded by an analog clock that can only be found on school walls.  Low hanging lights that are so typical of old, school gyms.  Squeaks and creaks of an old, wooden floor.  A sliding-wall, divider to separate the space.  And for heaven's sake,  there was even a piano.  Goodness, I couldn't help but think of the children.  Seeing and hearing from so many of them yesterday for my birthday certainly made my heart more tender and open to emotions.   Obviously, I know it's not really the children, that's just where my heart went first.  Always.

"Forgive those who trespass against us."  That petition of the Lord's Prayer follows the one where WE ask for forgiveness of our own trespasses.  Here I walk, I thought, thinking about how I'm going to reach out, to forgive, to move one...and I'm brought back to my own reality of just how much I need to be forgiven myself.  I wonder how many people are thinking to themselves tonight about forgiving me. Somehow, I struggle with making the choice to forgive those closest again and again and again...  "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?"  Psalm 103:3 comes to mind.  

So, surprise, surprise, I'm left with a paradox of yearning to want to forgive, but not really being in an authentic, space of willingness.  When those we thought we knew/understood shatter our expectations, it's hard to know where or how to begin again.  Clearly, fear takes up a huge space of what could better be used for love, and shuts down one's openness and willingness to extend grace.  I can't even begin to imagine how many times I've been offered grace...with a personality like mine, I know my exuberance is often too much for folks.  I know that my candid nature is sometimes to loud or my wit too quick for all.  

So, there's grace upon grace for am I not willing to offer that to others?!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sabbath and Sunshine and Spring in the Air

February 2016 brought me to my second semester of Seminary at PLTS.  I was thankful to be able to load up that backpack with all of the texts for this next semester.  Like the wall-hangings say, I'm full of faith and blessings!

Spring Classes include:  Christian Education, Introduction to Greek, Public Ministry, Lutheran Confessions, Spiritual Formation Group, and Deepening the Well - Spiritual Practices.  

Dr. Kirsi Stjerna is not only my Advisor, but we get to spend class time together this Spring in Lutheran Confessions.  Let's just say that I will have a VERY good understanding of the Book of Concord - it's FULL of Lutheran info.  

(Did you notice the extra classmate we 
had the first day?  Check out the second seat!)

Always amazing to look around in February,
and see flowers in full bloom!  Lovely!

 Stumbled across a picture of Susan and I from back in January when we were helping out with the Rice and Beans Food Breakdown at Bethany.  

 Again with the beauty!

I'm not entirely certainly how many times we'll be coming across the word "dinosaur" in the Bible, but if it was written in Greek, I would be able to pronounce it!  

I'm happy to say that my brain is beginning to make the connections it is supposed to when reading Greek.  I still can't do it as fast as I'd LIKE to...but at least I'm catching on!

 AND!  Recognizing Greek words in public settings!
Βαπτισμα = to baptize
μετανοια = to repent

 Thank goodness for Hallie.  Or Heelie.  Or Halline.
Or whatever our profs continue to call her today.

What a joy that Liana attends Preschool within walking distance!  Something about spending early, morning time with little people makes my heart smile!

 Look at those eyes...Cameron, you're a dear!

 Stunning beauty, just bursting on neighborhood trees!

 My socks must have known C wanted to read all about penguins!

For a boy who removes ALL of his clothing, EVERY chance he gets, I was surprised he wanted to crawl inside my big, ole sweatshirt!  Silly boy!
You know that feeling you get once you've completed all the household STUFF you need to do, and the piles are gone, and the laundry is hanging up?  Yeah....well, that happy feeling COMPLETELY disappears if you hang too many wet clothes on the shower rod, as the SOUND that a CRASH like that makes is enough to make one think your bathroom is having its own, personal EARTHQUAKE!  Cinco didn't come out from under the bed for a good hour, and my clean clothes were covered in cat hair once again.  Sigh.

 Poor, little furball.  
Didn't mean to spook you!

"Brenda?  Will you please babysit my American Girl doll?"

Sure, Liana.  Love to.  Just be sure to come back for her.
And bring something for her to wear...besides the helmet!


Delia from Bethany crafts there beautiful Angels out of old and discarded metal.  I used these three Angels, as part of my Children's Sermon for Transfiguration:  going from ordinary to something holy.  Kiddos loved feeling and holding the angels, and left with a concrete (well...METAL) idea of change.  

 Little bugaboos!  Maddie and Michael, 
all ready for the big, Super Bowl game!  
Go, Broncos!
 Emma even made a Broncos wreath!  

Such an exhausting, FaceTime conversation,
it put Emma to sleep!  Silly beans! 

Congrats, Broncos!   

Preached for the third time on Transfiguration Sunday.
Spent my lunchtime at the sparkling Bay.
How fortunate I am to have such peace in my backyard....

 ...and such beauty in my neighborhood!

 AND on my campus!
Blossoms in February!?  Unreal!
 Coming down the hill from Campus is ALWAYS a treat.

 Going to to get the mail isn't so bad, either!

I was able to (finally) stand a few moments on the piano bench, as I have had to avoid that activity for a while because of my snapped tailbone!   YAY for that!  

I can't tell you how ODD it is to be seeing lush, green grass on campus.  NOT the typical colors for this season!  Nor is it common to have the windows open. 

Open windows DO lead, however, to amusing conversations with one's neighbor about how to best feed and dress the smallest of your dolls.   Good to know.

 Oh. My. Goodness.
This cheeky, cherub is now THREE years young.
As for the striped lad you see sleeping on my shoulders, 
well, I just scooped him up and off to dreamland he went.

I'm thinking Tuesday afternoons are going to be my favorite.
We had  a brief, gap in-between classes, and
we chose to eat our lunch on the lawn.  In the sun.
In February.  

Morning time with the boys. 

 5 months old, and going strong on the cuteness factor.

 Silly, bugaboos!  Love those grins!

The Miracle Pillow!  My pal, Ashley, dropped this Coccyx Pillow off at my house, and it has been a lifesaver!  Doesn't take away the pain, but it does give me an extra hour or two when seated.  It comes with me to each class...even in the car.  

 Cinco.  Cinco, Cinco, Cinco.
Only my furball would somehow figure out how to leave me little, piles of snack-ralphing (that's not a real word,  but I like it better than vomit).  Look at how oddly it's spaced out?!  What a nut!

 ...and the darkness did NOT overcome it.
Not yet, anyways.  We practice our text by listening to our Prof read the text, and then we record ourselves, repeating the text.  He said I'm saying most of the words correctly...WHEW!

 Yay for FaceTime!  We began our Annual Lenten Book Study, gathered together at Andrea and Bruce's home in Castle Rock.  The gang was kind enough to digitally include me in the discussion - it was almost like being there!  

 Look at them all!
Andrea, Susan, Sarah, Bruce (standing),
 Lynn, Sue Ann, Mark, Stacie.

Life in the Psalms.  Twill be a wonderful Lent.

Sabbath and Sunshine.
A beautiful way to spend our President's Day! 

We traveled to Stinson Beach, just over an hour away.


 I could set up camp here and NEVER leave!

A wee, bit of ocean wonderfulness!
Hallie, Bren, Caitlyn

What a darling, little food shack on the beach.
They served soft serve ice cream...with olive oil and sea salt.  
A rather content, Beach Bum named Brenda.

 Tuesday, February 16th.  

I'm officially 37 years young.  A strange number to be!

The skies were absolutely fantastic today - swirls and curls all over!

Do you see what I see?  💜

 Another Tuesday, another chance for a lovely lunch outdoors!

 Grilled chicken salad - a birthday lunch,
made by and shared with friends!

 Big, beautiful flowers are blossoming everywhere!

Berry cobbler, complete with burning candles!
Year we go!

Sitting in the middle of Confessions class, 
and whose face appears on my screen!?  
Why Miss Maddie, calling from Colorado!  

 I no sooner hang up with Maddie, 
and Cait calls from Colorado, too!  
They all look like they've grown so much!  
So much love from CO!

Thankfully (wisely), our prof let us work outside for a portion of the day.  Smart idea, considering we were all pining to be OUT in the beautiful sunshine!

Came home after my late night class,
and found a BEAUTIFUL, decorated door.
Purple and LOTS of stickers, of course!

Aw, let the craziness ensue!  Evie, Liana, Cameron (and eventually Ryan and Baby Holden) joined the fun!  What a blessing to be surrounded by such awesome and loving neighbors!

 Seriously.  I got to blow out candles TWICE today! Birthday joy comes in a quart-sized container of Cookie Butter Ice Cream from Trader Joe's.  JOY!

Anyone who knows me knows I'm most delighted when surrounded by (and possibly trampled underneath) lots of children.  This whole DAY, I've been tackled by love, from phone calls to birthday song videos, to some of the most incredible messages on Facebook (I still have yet to sort through them all!)'s SOOOO spirit-filling and kind!

You folks really know how to make a girl feel special!! 
 My deepest thanks!