Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Coming

I’ve been waiting for you, preoccupied in thought.
Though hurried hands tend to the present;
the eyes of my heart look back in that over-the-shoulder,
what-just-happened, sort of way.
I look out the window, wondering how long.
Watchful,  checking again... ready for you way too early.
You appear out of nowhere, as though somehow you hurried, but didn’t.
Your sweet time taken, I knew you would get here.
Never too late to save the day.
You look wonderful, different, a little older, wiser.
I embrace you completely with a great sigh of relief
and for a moment, time stands still.
I have needed you to start again. 
Bring my hands and heart together to beat in perfect time.
A rhythm of new beginnings.

Patricia Spreng

Welcoming in the New Year and wishing everyone a blessed year of new beginnings.  Joining with friends at d’Verse Poets

Friday, December 30, 2011

And So I Sing

I sing
though I have failed
to be the sweetest song

I write
though I have not
become the brightest thought

To over think the gift
(unworthiness thereof)
is insult to the Giver

So I will live
as I will die
a sinner saved by grace

And so I sing
to echo him
the Giver of the song

Patricia Spreng
Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone - Chris Tomlin - as sung by Patricia Spreng
(Music accompaniment by Premier Performance Plus soundtracks)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Silence falls
in peace

a forest where 
quiet tears lay frozen
in beautiful sorrow

a still life
by layered  memories

covering each other
in colors of unique

so I remember
life and laughter and love

Patricia Spreng
in loving memory of Margie, Marilyn, Mike, Mom and Dad

Joining today with d'verse poets for open link night... where you will find the wonderful words of poets.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trying On Advent - Christmas Eve

Celebrating the birth of Christ

O Come, Let Us Adore Him

Ever so tenderly,
hold this baby close to your heart.
Swaddle him in arms of warmth and love.
Cradled to your breast,
your face buried into his very being,
breathe deeply, peacefully
whispering sweet words
only he can hear.
He is the way, the truth and the life.
Never let him go.

Hearts beating so close together,
love and holiness seem inseparable.
Sing softly songs of praise
as Heaven's breath warms your embrace.
a tiny hand curls around your finger,
gripping your hand and heart.
He is the way, the truth and the life.
He will never let you go.

Patricia Spreng

So, at the end of this Advent season, on the Eve of Christ's birth, I leave you with my photographs of the monarch's birth.  

Throughout this Advent series, my photographs and observations of the monarch butterfly have attempted to depict the waiting we experience in Advent.  I know it is has been quite a stretch to compare the waiting for the Son of God and the waiting for a monarch butterfly to hatch.  For me, it has been an exploration of sorts… a wait and see  kind of writing project.  Of course, I did not have the whole series thought out and ready for posting when I began.  So, in that regard, I have enjoyed the waiting to see how and if Advent could possibly correlate to the monarch waiting and watching.  I have loved the contemplative time, and the opportunity to sort through and compare what turned out to be 3 things… remembering the waiting for the Christ child, waiting in hope for Christ to transform me, and waiting in faith for His return.  The past, present and future.  It has led me through some interesting thought processes to say the least.   

The dictionary meaning of the word "monarch" is not lost on me,  "sovreign, esp. as king; a supreme, powerful being." The Greek word monarches means sole ruler.  Yes... soul ruler.  Throughout the waiting, He has proven himself to be faithful, present and powerful from the smallest seed, through the darkest night, to the birth of his promise in the fullness of time.  Immanuel, God with us.  Oh, come... let us adore Him.
 From my family to yours...  Merry Christmas and God bless you all.
May you know the nearness and peace of God this Christmas.
Patricia Spreng

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Party was Last Night...

I imagine Mary without a book called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  I imagine her not knowing what to expect.  All she really knew was his name and that he was the Son of God.   Well, yes … there’s  that.  But still, what was she to expect?

She must have made plans.  After all, she had nine months. She must have thought things through.  Even the Bible says she pondered them in her heart.  While most of us choose colors, themes and nursery furniture, I’m quite certain she never would have chosen ‘early mid-eastern stable’ for her nursery theme.  She must have had some expectations.  But I’m sure they were nothing like my expectations and disappointments of Christmas. 

Every year, I build and rebuild Christmas… trying to find meaning in the preparations… significance in the celebration…traditions for my children… satisfaction in perfection.   My friends will laughingly, lovingly tell you I am the furthest thing from a perfectionist.  Forget about breaking New Year’s resolutions.  I make and break Christmas resolutions every year:

    1.      I will buy tree lights, cards and ornaments right after Christmas on sale.
     2.    I will start my Christmas shopping in late August after the kids start school.
     3.    I will start my Christmas cards in September.
     4.    I will keep an organized, indestructible list of what and who I have bought for.
     5.    I will wrap all presents before Christmas Eve.
     6.    By next year I will have all the stories of our Advent Jesse Tree in order and memorized.
     7.    I will make it meaningful for all members of our family.

I admit… I never succeed.  Why do I feel responsible for making Christmas meaningful for everyone when God has already done it?  I think I am better at celebrating communion once a month than I am at Christmas, once a year.  At least in communion, I am alone…  communing with God.  He knows my heart.  He gets me.  I confess, I grieve, I contemplate, I repent, I remember and give thanks.  At Christmas, I am not alone.  I am surrounded by chaos, commercial bells and whistles, lists of children’s expectations and the all encompassing, self-imposed role of ‘Maker of the Merry Christmas.’  Um… no offense, but I’m pretty sure that job was already taken by Jesus.  And God only used one star to decorate the whole shebang.

Today, my heart stings in fresh disappointment.  In the middle of yet another road trip hauling kids to their expected destinations, I returned a call to my favorite neighbor.  I was so happy to hear her voice… an oasis.  Then, suddenly, in one of those Twilight Zone moments, I realized… breathlessly… that I had missed our neighborhood Christmas party… last night… at her house.  -- Oh. No. --  My mind raced.  My heart thumped… in the rhythm of ruined expectations.  My brain was jammed into “rewind” without first pressing “stop” … because why?  I was out over spending.  Distracted because I had left everything to the last minute.  And in the middle of Kohls of all places, I was called to a last minute music rehearsal for the Christmas Eve service… to which I rushed unprepared.  My mind was like a chain link fence of excuses rattling in my brain.  The tears came.

Bah.  Don’t be too impressed by my monarch Advent preparations.  Apparently, while there are beautiful and great truths I have found in raising monarchs, the sad truth is I am still not prepared to truly celebrate Christmas.  If I could spin my own cocoon right now, I would.   I would like to crawl inside and weep over ruined expectations and hurting my neighbor’s feelings. For now, my covers will have to do.  If Mary knew me, she would have expected that I would need her son to save me… from myself. 

Come Thou long expected Jesus.

Patricia Spreng

joining with Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

peaceful wings

 peaceful wings
dart, flit, sing and share
seeds snap
and fall

his color commands
his call cries out
me first
move over
as feathers fly
he wonders why
he's never known a friend
if only he had seen
the invitation
was for everyone

  patricia spreng

Sharing with Laura at The Wellspring,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trying On Advent - Fourth Sunday

Waiting for the Son of God

Today in reading a morning meditation, I found some telling words written by Henri Nouwen,
We often experience our time as empty.  We hope that tomorrow, next week, next month or next year the real things will happen. But sometimes we experience the fullness of time.  That is when it seems that time stands still, that past, present, and future become one; that everything is present where we are; and that God, we, and all that is have come together in total unity.   This is the experience of God's time.  "When the completion of the time came [that is: in the fullness of time], God sent his Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4), and in the fullness of time God will "bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).   It is in the fullness of time that we meet God.” 
Throughout this Advent series, I have related the waiting of Advent to my observations in raising monarch butterflies.  The transformation of the monarch butterfly is a story of hope in waiting.  Where, as Nouwen says, “the past, present, and future become one; that everything is present where we are…”  In the case of the monarch, that’s the seed, the caterpillar, the chrysalis, the butterfly.  All are one, reperesented in different forms.  But, it has not come into the fullness of time yet.  And so we wait, even when it turns black and death appears imminent. 

There are moments in Advent where we must be still and wait; moments to be sorrowful for what was; and, moments to rejoice in hope for what is to come.  It too is a story of hope in waiting.  Likewise, my life is a story of hope in waiting.  Christ in me, the hope of glory.  There will be more seasons of my life where I must wait, unsure of what is to come.  There will be more seasons that come suddenly as unexpected, unwelcome changes force me to find a new normal.  And there will be more seasons of celebration and joy. 
Regardless of the catalyst for change, what week of Advent we are in, or what stage of transformation either the monarch or I am in, He is present in all of it.  He is present.  Yes.  He is the present.  As Nouwen writes, we are deeply blessed when we
 “experience the fullness of time.  That is when it seems that time stands still, that past, present, and future become one; that everything is present where we are… and God and we, and all that is have come together in total unity.”  

The Word, The Baby, The Messiah, The King.  He is present… all at the same time, represented by different forms.   This is the story of hope in waiting… hope in transformation.  It is the story of Him who was and is, and is to come… all at the same time.
…and in the fullness of time God will bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).

So, we wait in longing for the Son of God, who was the infant Christ child; and is our Savior; and who will come again as King.  The monarch butterfly, who must wait in its chrysalis form, is a symbol of joyous expectation even though it must endure changing from a glorious jade green to the blackest form.  What appears to die, will be transformed into new life in the resurrection.  Like Christ did, like the monarch butterfly does, like I will some day. 
Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Closing Chapters
The greatest wave,
swelled to heights of beauty, grandeur, strength.
It's power crashed upon the shore,
released to move, displace and change.
Its purpose accomplished,
receding silently beneath my feet,
dizzying the space between then and now…
giving way to others who will yet come.

The greatest novel
built with strength and power of the word,
crashed upon my soul
an undulating story moving in rhythm and time.
Weaved its way within me
to move, displace, and change...
 and now, its closing chapters
leave me wanting, hungry…
wishing for any other way
but unexpected endings
slipping through my hands.

Patricia Spreng

 Joining with d'Verse Open Link Night cause it's been a while... come and read the wonderful words of poets.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trying On Advent - Third Sunday

Waiting With Joy… Rejoice!

Instead of using the traditional pink candle to symbolize our joy in waiting for the Christ child, today I’m using a beautiful jade green.  I think you’ll see why below.  In following suit with my previous posts in this Advent series, I am reminded of the waiting process, and the beautiful colors I have observed while studying the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly.  Come and see the  beauty in the stillness and waiting for what we know will become of the jade green chrysalis.   Celebrate the gift of knowing He will come again!

Christ in me, the hope of glory. 

Colossians 1:27

I find it quite wonderful that, in all of its yellow, black and white striped-ness, when the monarch caterpillar molts for the last time, it secures itself to its foundation and hangs upside down for about two days. 
It emerges as a beautiful jade colored chrysalis.   What a surprise!    It makes sense though.  All of its life it has eaten only the green milkweed plant.  In the transformation, it has become the very substance of what it has taken in.  In the same way then, if I faithfully take in the Word of God, shall I not become more like him?  While this chrysalis is a symbol of waiting for the return of Christ in all of his glory, it has also become a symbol to me of waiting for my resurrected life that is to come. 
We celebrate your presence with us, Emmanuel.
We rejoice in the hope that you are coming again.
We rejoice in the stillness and beauty of waiting, growing.
In the waiting, you are here, loving us, guiding us, changing us.
Thank you for the gift of time.
Help me to trust you in the waiting.
You have proved your faithfulness over all the ages.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
I am amazed by you, Oh God!
I love you and wait for you with open arms!
Come Lord Jesus!
Patricia Spreng
In his book (click... Discovering Advent, Mark D. Roberts writes that “In the Christian season of Advent we prepare for the “advent” of Christ at Christmas. Our preparation includes many things:
We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore.
We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . . and into our hearts.
Today we remember the joy of waiting, because we know how the story ends!”
(Roberts, Mark D. (2011-11-07). Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime (Kindle Locations 627-631). Patheos. Kindle Edition.)
Joining the faith building communities of Laura at The Wellspring,
Deidra at Jumping Tandem,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trying On Advent - The Second Sunday


As a child, my family and our church observed the season of Advent. There was definitely a  sense of anticipation in the air and I knew it had something to do with God and Christmas.  But, I spent most of my Advent time preparing the way I imagine most children did… anticipating the arrival of Santa and presents.

Fast forward: 

This year during the second week of Advent, I happen to be in downtown Chicago, IL with two of my sisters.  It is a far cry from a place of quiet preparation.  For four days I have been working with my sister in her business… selling her beautiful, warm, woolen wares alongside 900 other talented artisans who are selling their wares at an exclusive art show held in an enormous convention center.  I have been engulfed in one of the busiest “holiday” selling and buying seasons.  No one here seems to have heard there was an economic downturn.


In his book, Discovering Advent, Mark D. Roberts reminds us that “the main point of Advent is growing into a deeper, truer relationship with God. It’s sharing our yearning and hope with our community of faith. It’s getting in touch with our need for a Savior and our yearning for the kingdom of God. In Advent, by putting ourselves in the place of those who, centuries ago, longed for a Messiah to set them free, we get our hearts ready to be renewed by the good news of Christmas: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
Roberts details how during Advent, (which is Latin for the word coming,) “Our preparation includes many things:

We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore.  
We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . . and into our hearts.

Today we focus on the coming of Christ who brings forgiveness from our sins.”

Roberts, Mark D. (2011-11-07). Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime (Kindle Location  498-501; 575-583; 586). Patheos. Kindle Edition.

It’s no coincidence that the first time I decide to observe Advent in my adult writing life, I have come face to face with Robert’s suggestion to focus on seeking forgiveness during this second  week of Advent.  For me, this is definitely not the easy part of Advent.   Seeking forgiveness is difficult no matter what day it is or church I belong to.  I am truly thankful for how God provides the way for forgiveness. 
Here again, I am reminded this week of the lessons I have learned in raising monarch butterflies.  These are a few observations I’ve made and how they relate to forgiveness... 
Four or five times through the course of its life, the monarch caterpillar crawls away from its milkweed plant and remains completely still for two to three days.  It does not eat.  It does not move. Then slowly, very slowly, it begins to move forward through the molting process.  In an undulating movement that takes time… it leaves its old skin behind.  It still looks and acts just like a caterpillar.  But, something has taken place inside.   If I truly retreat to be alone with God, I know I come away looking the same… but, hopefully, I am changed inside.  This is spiritual transformation... my trust-formation.  Little by little, God challenges me, changes me.  It is not easy.  It takes work.  Retreating allows me to  look at myself, listen to God, and ask him for his strength and courage to change, to leave behind old habits, behaviors, thoughts and sin. 
This caterpillar has just crawled out of its skin and left the old behind. 

… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Hebrews12: 1 NIV

… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.   Hebrews 12:1 ESV

After crawling out of the old skin that doesn’t fit any longer, the last step of molting fascinated me the most.  The caterpillar uses one of its front legs to flick off the remaining old skin around its face.  The dead face mask looks somewhat like a tiny catcher’s mask.  I wondered as I grow in Christ, what old or false identities must I remove in order to reflect Christ more?  

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.    James 4:8-10 NLT

Psalm 130:7-8
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
I wait for you Lord.
In this waiting, help me to retreat and reflect…
to shed behaviors  that do not please you.
Forgive my sins.
Help me to live to reflect Your likeness.
Thank you for your cleansing forgiveness, Lord.
Keep redeeming every part of me,
Strengthen me to change…
for I am your Israel.
Come Lord Jesus.

Patricia Spreng

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trying On Advent

This morning, before church, I was reading through a few of my favorite blogs and I realized it was the first Sunday of Advent.  Though I didn't have a wreath with purple and pink candles, I donned my purple suit coat instead.  I may wear it for the next two Sundays. Then, I will wear pink.  Dare I say it?  I think I will be the candle.  A living light. That's kind of a tall order for me, a sinner.  A mother with children and hectic work, school, sports, and church schedules.  I can bend my "light" toward crabby in an impatient instant.  But, I'm thinking that's what Advent might be for.  A preparation, a mindfulness, attending to the Christ child the way I would my own.  I wonder if anyone will notice? I want to prepare my mind and heart for the coming of Jesus.

I remember the Advent wreaths and calendars in my home as I was growing up. It was almost magical opening the little doors of the calendar and lighting those candles, though I admit, I didn't understand their meaning at the time. Truly, most of what I remember of those Advent days was squabbling with the rest of my 9 siblings over who was going to get to open the little calendar door or light the purple candle, and the hurt feelings that ensued after discovering it wasn't me. That, and no one ever seemed to want to do the reading part.   Now, I have a strong desire to do the reading part.

I came across a book review by Glynn Young in his blog Faith, Fiction and Friends of Discovering Advent, by Mark D. Roberts.   Young wrote a compelling review.  I know this because after reading it, I was compelled to buy the e-book this morning and read it this afternoon.   So now,  I can vouch for both reviewer and author. =)

As I was reading through Discovering Advent, it occurred to me that my work in raising and photographing monarch butterflies is another way of looking at Advent which is latin for "coming."  As I raise and photograph the  monarch transformation (which I affectionately refer to as a "Trust-formation,") I wait and hope for the promise of a monarch butterfly.  In the same way, I wait and hope and actively engage with the spirit of God in my own transformation or Trust-formation when I choose to abide in him.  In the same way, I wait in hopeful anticipation for the second coming of Christ and the fulfillment of his promises.   I appreciated that  Mark Roberts encourages us to enter into this time of Advent creatively.  

He writes, "All families are different, and I encourage you to adapt or to change what I suggested here, or do something completely original."

And so, over the next 4 Sundays,  I offer my Advent blog post, Trying On Advent.  I will use 4 photographs of the progressive transformation of monarchs I've raised to illustrate the "coming" combined with the following excerpts from  Mark Roberts' Advent Devotional Guide which is also found in his wonderful book Discovering Advent.  The photographs and prayers are from me.

A special thank you to Glynn Young and Mark D. Roberts for pointing me in this direction.


First Sunday of Advent - Waiting
(from Discovering Advent by Mark D. Roberts)

Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping. Beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve, Advent helps us prepare for the coming, or “advent” of the Christ child at Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.”

We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore. We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus. We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins. We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . . and into our hearts.  Roberts, Mark D. (2011-11-07). Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime (Kindle Locations 533-537). Patheos. Kindle Edition.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Psalm 62:5-7
monarch butterfly egg - photo by Patricia Spreng
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6
Roberts, Mark D. (2011-11-07). Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime (Kindle Locations 454-455). Patheos. Kindle Edition.
My prayer:
Thank you for planting the seed of faith in my life... for allowing me to grow in hopeful anticipation as I transform and wait.  For I know whom I have believed...
I wait for your coming Lord Jesus.
Preparing you room…
in my heart, my mind and my home.
I am nesting, as though heavy with child.
My heart quiets and quickens in anticipation of being with you.
Help me to make wise choices in the chaos of Christmas …
taking in, believing, embracing your promise of Christmas…
Emmanuel, God with us.
God with me…
as I wait for you.
Come Lord Jesus.

Patricia Spreng

Sharing with Charity Singleton at Wide Open Spaces for the Advent writing project she is hosting at The High Calling.
with Laura Bogess at The Wellspring

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.
Chronicles 16:34

Yeast Rolls
because you have infused me with faith, hope and love and I want my thanks to rise up.
Spinach Salad with dried cherries, feta, red onions, sugared pecans, and sliced strawberries dripping in raspberry vinaigrette…
because you have taught me that life is a harvest of very odd and different blessings that I think would never go together, but do.
Baked Vidalia Onion Opus
because I know the tears must come and they are meant to be bitter and sweet.

Yum Yum Yams
            because you make  life more fun with orange food and poetry.

Mushroom Bisque
because fungus happens … and eventually you make it into something wonderful.

Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes
because your faithfulness, grace and mercy bring very necessary comfort to the broken hearted.
Roasted green beans with basil and toasted almonds, asparagus, baked corn …
because sometimes you want us to do things we don’t like and eat our vegetables without complaining.
Pumpkin, apple, cherry, pecan, and an apple walnut torte with carmel rum sauce…
because you love to spoil us with your blessings… just because you can.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8 

Joining with other thankful hearts at Faith Barista.
Giving thanks for the blessing of the d'verse poets group, come and see the wonderful words of poets.