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First Gear

In his daddy’s red and white truck, this boy and I

studied earth science and college notes

Leaning against each other, my feet dangling out the window

In the Kentucky Sunshine.

Driving down small town roads

At a red stop light

He says, “I think I’m beginning to love you. What do you think?”

Looking straight ahead, down the 4 lane road, I answer,

“I wasn’t going to think about it until you said something.”

The red light changed yellow to green

and we moved on down the road

Shift, Second Gear

A few years later, our red-Ford truck climbs up

snow covered graveled driveway

Our little guy between us, enjoying

the adventure, no fear with

back wheels slipping and sliding

But he gets us home

A home tucked next to his grandfather’s farm

A red Ford truck soon to be traded in for a mini-van

big enough to hold a basketball team

worth of boys

trading outside stuff

For important inside stuff

Shift 3rd Gear

Our driveway moved

To another state, this boy-filled mini-van full

brown eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes all

Eager for nanny hugs and papaw rides

In the red and white truck for

Candy and Coke Store moments,

For walking on the farm through

Rutted tracks made by tractors and trucks

To the daffodil fields, grave stones

tobacco and hay fields, over creek beds

looking for tree nuts, walking sticks

or just sitting and waiting in Papaw’s

red and white truck

redtruckbar_edited-1Shift, Fourth Gear

Teen boys wants to drive

To make life his own and daddy buys

a $500 project where hands that held mine

remove emblems, chrome and trim

motor sanding, hand sanding

sand rust harsh then fine

bondo-fill gaps,

sand more, preparing for

Viper Red

new hands at spray gun control

daddy’s voice coaching

encouraging

even results

and they dig deeper

beneath the exterior to the heart

inspecting hoses, belts transmissions and motors

bleeding lines, filling tanks

with just the right stuff

A Viper Red Project

“It will mean more to him this way”

says his daddy. “He’ll take better care”

Readying him for the long ride

down the road

Fourth Gear

Maybe one day our mini-van will empty out

each boy driving into life

with something that means more

and he’ll take better care

and while they shift their gears

from first, second to third

just maybe me and that boy

that took me out in his daddy’s red and white truck

will find time to go down a lonely dirt road

lean against each other with my toes out the window

no more studying, no more sanding

just knowing we love this long drive together

This boy to man, this son, he graduates in a month of Sundays – and his truck will finally be finished next week. When he was a Freshman, he and another boy riding with me in my mini-van talked trucks. The other boy talked about his powerful Chevy truck with detailed auto language. He snorted derisively on my son’s Ford, sitting the driveway, waiting to be sanded, waiting for Viper Red to give it new life. My son looked at him saying, “My Ford truck is so powerful, Zeus called to see if I could drive over and haul the sun few hundred miles north.” I just gotta love a boy that thinks like that!

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feet2

(Still remembering and celebrating 31 years of marriage)

There’s nothing worse than being young…. and being the last picked.

When you have buck-teeth, wear high-top shoes because you have flat feet- before high top shoes are cool and your dad doesn’t live with you because he got tired of it – you feel like you come in last –every time.

When you can’t find the phonics lesson on the worksheet in second grade and math doesn’t make sense – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your thesis director in graduate school dumps you because he feels you have no creative ability and you make careless mistakes – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your kid, who you’ve poured all within you, prayers, squats for discipline, encouragement – everything you always thought a good, loving parent was supposed to do says, “You’ve set me up to be a failure. Deuces” – you feel like you just came in last.

When you gain some weight and can’t fit into your favorite clothes, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve come in last.

When the publisher says, “We love it. Send us all you have” for your children’s book – and they get bought by a bigger publisher (Random House) who says, “We don’t know how to draw wind” – I went from first place to rock bottom last.

This morning, my 15 year old drove down the mountain. A fresh driver, careening a bit to the right edges – and my struggle with auto-terror won over my desire to be supportive-encouraging mom – and I gasped, “Jesus Help Us.” As my son careened and steadied, I both encouraged and flipped-out – and I felt like I’d come in last.

There’s a lot of last-place moments in my life. Situations that seem to whisper, even shout, “Failure. Loser.” They don’t define me though – those last place moments.

They are just moments that set up God’s greatness.

shoes222Jesus told us, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt 20:16)

We see that with Rahab, Naomi, David, Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus – so many people in last place, due to their own choices – though maybe those  seemingly bad choices were all that was  available, still they were brought to blessing by God.

Sometimes you can’t get first-place positioning without having last place experience.

Braces got rid of my buck teeth, my feet slipped into a little blue cotton sandal, and in the midst of it all, I found a Father who championed me against the mockers- and I bask in God’s favor.

I couldn’t find the phonics lesson, but I read and read and read (my defense mechanism against people on school buses making fun of the little buck-tooth girl in high-top shoes) – and it wasn’t too long in second grade I was moved to the advanced reading class – and I basked in God’s favor, the little girl who’d found Him in a closet and talked to Him in her back yard.

The Dean of the Graduate school called the English Department, telling them, “Best creative thesis I’ve read,” followed by Honorable Mention in the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor society’s creative publication the same semester. Charles Dickens responded to a man’s request to view his manuscript to determine if he had creative ability. Dickens replied, “For all I know, the land is yours by right” – More than the land being mine by right – I basked in God’s favor.

The book publisher, the irate son of my prayers, the closet full of too-tight clothes – and the inability to always control my terror  – He knows the desires of my heart, the love in my heart. He knows my weaknesses, my failures, my miss-its – He knows my heart’s intent, its integrity – and, though the humanity of myself fails – Jesus intercedes in my behalf – and I bask in God’s favor.

33 years ago, in a field outside the mule-barn at a college social, two young men picked football teams. Two girls remained to be picked – the last picks for each team. I was one of those two – and the red-headed young man picked me – last. Then picked me for a life-time. I bask in God’s favor.

It is an opposite day paradigm – the business of being last.

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birthday10“Old people are respectable in spite of themselves” (1934 movie, Patsy Patterson, Lady by Choice). I don’t know if that’s true, but it made me smile the day after my birthday.

I celebrated with what I call “Big Dinner.” When I tell the boys we’re having “Big Dinner” – it’s not a cook-out, or kitchen island eating. It’s dinner at the big table, decked out, me cooking (who else cooks when you have 5 sons – just mom)- and it is a sit-long-talk-much, eat slow, linger kind-of-dinner.

Around the big table, the conversation between these boys-to-men happens in its own time, punctuated by humor and laughter, politics and faith. Saturday was like that.

Go out? Not a chance! Where else can my granddaughter pour me a cuppa tea from a Mrs. Potts’ tea set, let me sit with her while she tucks in for a nap ten times the only doll I’ve ever had a chance to buy in 28 years, let my mom visiting from states away work her brand of magic on my floral arrangement and set the table, and enjoy talking to my daughter-in-law-to-be while she helped me with the dishes.

While setting the dishes out, I saw my 6 ft 4 son, sit at the little table and let his 2 1/2 year old niece pour him tea.

I didn’t want restaurant-rushing. I wanted intentional savoring of those God’s given me. Maybe when we seek God in the every-moment – maybe that’s how we somehow become respectable – in spite of ourselves.

I know that faith and hope cannot be based on feelings – or 5 sensory detail – but I believe that we can choose to find God in the midst of the 5 sensory detail. By choosing to find God in it, good, bad and in-between moments have the ability to be filled by God’s grace, have the ability to become something more than they are. It’s not easy – this God-choosing. It takes being intentional and vigilant, determined in our faith and hope to be present right here, right now. Maybe that is the greatest gift of growing older.

Living fully, intentionally
right now
in the 5 sensory living
in a God’s grace revelation that redeems
or the inhale of a Lord Jesus Christ
exhale Have-mercy-on-me moment

No what-ifs invited
No looking back
No looking forward
Just looking the moment in the eye
And challenging it to
Bring the God-in-it-on
Knowing He’s got my back
He’s got the plan
He’s available in each
moment

so I soak it in
right now
soul-eyes wide open seeing
my sweet heart’s eyes crinkle when he smiles
The freckles on my boy’s nose that tell of moments in sunshine
red blooms in a weed bed
seeing words in red, spoken for me
choosing to see goodness
in the midst of a challenge

Sadie2Hands and feet feeling
summer-time hotness, toes in the grass, hands pulling blueberries
still reaching to hold hands after 31 years of I do
dirt from the floor stuck to sensitive feet
evidence of a dog shedding love everywhere
and boys mowing, kicking a soccer ball,
grass and wet from the brothers coming in
after playing soccer in the rain
on a celebration day
choosing the love interpretation of an any-moment
like goodness of a hug not yet given
rather than the gritty dirt under my feet

hearing a son reach out, speaking life
in his very own brand of saucy humor
while hearing so much in the 15-year-old’s controlled silence
not anger, not manipulation – just so much control
hearing I love you in a boy cleaning my kitchen
for my birthday
laughter from the outside of a conversation
between 5 boys being brothers
the turtle dove’s reedy call from roof top perches
the sound of peace and hope in a rare silence
instead of fear and trouble borrowing
hearing instead God’s whispers, God’s words.

bday4ctasting raspberry tea as it travels down my throat
cooling a heated moment
chocolate-orange squares comforting
in a long afternoon of choosing to bloom
where I am planted
sweat in a weed-pulling moment under a hot summer sun
communion bread pulling me back
to the roots of who I am
when I’ve forgotten or feel
forgotten

the smell of rain in the cumulonimbus creeping up behind the trees
tomatoes and cucumbers pulled from the vine
dill and sage, lavender and thyme
on fingertips and counter top dishes
Learning how to savor, keep and store summertime smells
for days needing warm savory reminders
when metallic smells herald ahead
of a white blanket chill

Being fully present
No day-dreaming
No dissing the daily

finding His take in
5 sensory living
of  right now
There’s always something worth keeping
In the present – no matter how it feels

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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rain tree seeds


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gespachocc13Saturday, I jumped in my canoe and paddled to my garden for dill. The day before, during a lull in the rain, I’d spotted my youngest one, sitting on the raised garden edges, slipping his hand into the tomatoes, chard and peppers to pinch off a few leaves of chocolate-mint and stuff it between his cheek and gum.

On Saturday’s in the summer, I make my Life-Gets-Sweeter Every Day Gazpacho – and so I’d come for dill.

The first thing I ever cooked was a prune cake in the 7th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I knew how to make Divinity, a meringue cookie, cakes, dips – and cucumber’s with vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
½ cup sour cream,
salt and pepper to taste

It was a beginning - this learning how to make life a bit nicer, sweeter

cucumbers

Another day, a few years later, all starry-eyed and in love with my new husband,  cucumbers nestled on a plate next to summertime tomatoes. Separate – but so close. Sometimes they both found themselves on the same fork – at the same time. Oh my! Summer Delicious!

Life’s sweetness didn’t just stop growing there. A few more years, time enough for a little boy to grow up and say, “I Do” to his sweet heart, a subtle step was taken in my life, not a leap, just a step when tomatoes fell into the cucumbers, all in a single container in order to take a bit of outside summer with me to lunch when I’d started part-time job editing for an on-line gardening company. As I said in my previous post, God never meant work to be a place where I stop finding His kind of sweet living.

dillAs sons 2 and 3 tumbled into the teen years, challenging us, stretching us – a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of living – I was determined not to let my life be defined by the heart-ache in the challenge.

The bigger the challenge in the daily (see post here), the more I burrowed into Him, like St Teresa of Avila in her book Interior Castles describes – I was wandering through the 6 crystal castles, weaving my way closer and closer to the 7th castle -where He welcomed me at its steps,welcoming me with a chalice of living water,  wrapping me in His arms pulling me into His shining castle – and finding His peace – His amazing comfort – and suddenly, even in the challenge – life felt sweeter – 6 sensory sweeter – the 6th sense being a spiritual sweetness.

Just because I’ve been in the interior castle – doesn’t mean I stop wandering back out to exterior castles.

Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I’ve yet tasted all the sweetness He has created for me – for you.

Christ in his mercy leads me to the interior castle; my imperfect humanity finds me sometimes wandering all over the place, in the interior castle, through the rooms of the exterior castles.

Day by day, season by season, life marches onward –  2 more boy stepping toward independence, 2 others on deck. Challenges flow and ebb – moments of blessing crash against a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen moments – and life became a bit sweeter:

Honey and Cream corn, until the white corn showed itself, found it’s way into my container with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oh My! – the result was heartier – so much more of something than a side dish yet not a main course, not a hot soup – and as my mind reached out to place this concoction of summertime – gazpacho came into my vocabulary.

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

The daily has changed some out our house – only 2 fully in the nest – another half way in, one a fly by – and one fully in his own nest. The challenges are different. The stretching is different. The sweetness is there – available for the taking . Jjust like always , the choice is there to grab bitterness or sweetness.

Over Independence Day celebrations, friend sat around our table – and I passed some of this Gazpacho for them to test-taste – to see if they thought it was as delightful as I thought – had the recipe finally “arrived” – or was I just, well, nuts in the taste buds.

My friends sampled it, taste-tested it, asked for a bowl of it.

“Add an apple,” one said.

And I did. . . .add an apple, a red delicious apple.

the dish became more . . . hearty, rounded, complete – sweeter not as in sugar but as in so terribly nice.

Kind of like life – if we let it, don’t give up on it, keep adding good things to it, it just gets sweeter and sweeter, heartier, more filling, better for you. . . . in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-evidence-of-things-not-seen- kind of way.

The more I hold on to things of Him, as we come and go, sit and stand –
The more I trust He is not surprised by teen challenges and boys-to-men dealing with growing up responsibilities
The more I see His love letters in the daily
And know He is beside me everywhere I want and don’t want to be
That He’s got my back
The sweetness into everyday rises like a fragrance
out of any situation, complex things
things that bring tears
that tear at the heart
simple things like blueberries
little boy hugs and gazpacho
It’s there
waiting to be chosen
this attitude of life getting sweeter daily


Messy Marriage  photo 65f0f5f9-b796-4cfb-977e-fe63b69f9e6d.jpgkatherines cornercountingmyblessingsBy BannerFans.com Faith Along the Way

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soccerb12bcc

Knight in Shining Armor kind of brave – it’s a God kind of brave – a willingness to sacrifice all – life, pride, reputation, arms and legs, dreams, financial possibilities, comfort, popularity – in order to save someone else.

A God-kind of brave – that we read about from the book of Martyrs – a record of bravery of men, women and children risking all for the second Baptism – for having a copy of the Gospel of Love.

A God-kind of brave that comes to another country to pursue religious liberty – a Jesus-kind-of religion that doesn’t oppress or limit – but frees from bondage, heals wounds and finds joy.

A young boy following his passion for a sport – who shares the Gospel of Love in black grease paint oncheekbones, who risks popularity, riches, a dream job – in order to share the Gospel of Love, a knight-in-shining armor kind of brave – a Tim Tebow kind of brave.

I want my boys who juggle the soccer ball on toes passionate for a game to be passionate for their Savior, to be passionate for a neighbor they don’t know – willing to risk all – so others can know the bottomless, unquenchable love of a mighty God.

That kind of brave.

“Sometimes you’re too poor to have ethics,” the university commencement speaker said – a person of high-rank in the Tennessee primary and secondary education system.

Yet – isn’t that when it counts – when what’s really inside matters? When life isn’t easy – that’s what you see what a man is made of.

This mother’s heart wants to raise these 5 sons from brave boys into brave men:

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy” (Pinocchio)

A real boy, a real man where things like ethics, morality, bravery and courage, unconditional love are like invisible ink -

Unconditional Love [bravery, morality, ethics) is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love {bravery, morality, ethics}is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally{are ethical, brave, moral}? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love {be brave, ethical, adhere to moral principles} anyway – then you are loving unconditionally {brave, ethical, morally upstanding}. ~ Blue Cotton Memory, Unconditional Love Rule 2

If you’ve been around my blog for a long time, you’ve probably heard me quote St. Augustine from City of God who said that the only difference between a pagan and a Christian – is not the things they face because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Seeing Tim Tebow walk out his faith in the midst of cultural challenges that seek strip him of his dream, his job, his cultural standing, even that faith itself – is a testimony of that faith. His ethics count now more than ever. His faith in the midst of adversity is a testimony to that faith – and it takes a brave man, a courageous man, a Daniel-in-the-Lion’s-Den kind of man.

The soldiers who are being discouraged from mentioning their faith in our military are those kind of men – men who would risk a court martial to pray over a wounded soldier or share the knowledge of a God who loves, who saves, who promises eternal life with that loving  – that is noble bravery at its best.

Our faith is being challenged – and we need brave men and women who will stand in the fiery furnace of cultural condemnation – and be a beacon for our boys and girls, our men and women.

A Tim-Tebow-kind-of Brave

~ Congress Shall Make No Law Concerning Tebowing and Other Religious Behavior

~Words Make a Difference

~A Horrifying, Mortifying Commencement Speech

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flowrjar2I am so glad God
Loves
with immeasurable capacity
More than just
his Son
Who didn’t just love James and John
Plus 10
But loved each of us
Who hadn’t even been born
Yet
With equal, immeasurable capacity
The Father and His son knew
Love might be washed in a Holy
Spirit baptism
and not be
diluted
Not diminished

Like the Zarephath widow
With only a handful of flour
remaining
in a jar
A bit of oil
And a prophet promise
The flour jar didn’t empty
didn’t exhaust itself
spend itself out
Because the promise of God
Left more than enough
always more than enough
for the daily

Wouldn’t a God who wouldn’t
empty a jar
Not empty a heart
Of love
But refill to overflowing
every time
It spent itself
On one of us?

And aren’t each of us
One of His?
If God would send His son
To spend Himself
On each of us to come
The jar of meal runs not out
The oil bottle empties not
So trust your heart
To love more than enough
For all He sends you
To love
The easy and the hard
The ones you want
And the ones you don’t

For God so loved the world
He sent
His only begotten son
to teach us about
love choices
so then how can we love the world
when we cannot love
those He gives us
through birth,
marriage,
backyard mazes
classroom halls
church steps
grocery aisles

how can we love the world
unless our heart
loves like
the widow’s jar
that empties
not


Beauty in His Grip ButtonSalt & Light



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swing3One morning, when the sun spilled through the front window’s of my grandmother’s house – something happened between the drinking of hot cocoa at her kitchen table and my sockless feet pushing off the porch floor propelling me high and low on my grandmother’s swing.

My “Can-I-stay-here-forever” wish which every child asks when it’s time to leave their grandparent’s house – and which should always be answered with a gentle, hug-filled, “No” – garnered a yes. My mother said, “Yes” over the phone, in the morning light slipping boldly across the upstairs hallway as Grandmother and I made beds. Yes, because of a broken marriage.

Radical divorce – 1967 radical. Radical divorce giving a yes to askings that should always receive no.

Radical divorce planted a seed dream in my heart – a dream to grow up and have a “normal” family – to become what I perceived was an everyman life – 2 parents loving each other, raising children in security, love and faith who grow with support to reach their dreams, butterfly-kiss families.

Radical meaning “favoring or tending to produce extreme or fundamental changes in political, economic, or social conditions, institutions, habits of mind; someone who demands substantial or extreme changes in the existing system.”

Divorce radicalized family, an extreme fundamental cultural exchange that left me uncomfortable.

As I grew, this everyman dream (born age 5) competed with my writing dream (born age 6).

God was in this everyman dream of mine – conventional, traditional – rooted all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, to Adam and Eve.

Faith inside the Garden of Eden was Normal. Faith outside the Garden of Eden is Radical.

Faith - In the Garden NormalFaith - Outside the Garden Radical

Faith – In the Garden Normal
Faith – Outside the Garden Radical

The Soul is always trying to get back to the Father; Only in Him does the soul find rest, recognize the normal state God created him/her for. The soul wants to be found, wants to be at home, wants to be accepted at His family table. The soul yearns for God-normal and God-ordinary.

Yet, we live faith outside Eden. Faith outside Eden is radical.

As I grew in living and grew in faith, I met other children of the Father . One young man had scripture tattooed over his arms, legs, back, chest.  He wanted to capture the attention of the outsider, he said. Radical reaching.

My maid-of-honor’s sister’s family were missionaries in Africa, entering war-torn regions, losing a son to asthma in a place where medical help wasn’t readily available. He’d grown up in Africa, wanted to go back and minister, a washing-feet kind of ministry. Radical reaching.
This everyman dream to love and be loved in marriage until we’re each 100.
This everyman dream to raise children with parenting arms that don’t pull apart.
This everyman dream to raise to wholeness, not brokenness.
This everyman dream to raise sons with a Rama/alive knowledge of the Father’s healing, mercy, strength and love.

I have been struggling with my everyman dream lately – that trying to live God-ordinary is not enough.

Suddenly, faith had become radical, and I was asking God for an ordinary dream.

Had my non-radical dreams been like a balloon weight keeping me from soaring high? Had I dreamed too small, too low? Limited God’s purpose for my life?

And that, my friend, was a deception of a radical snake that entered a normal garden that was Eden at one time. The devil was playing semantic games with my faith.

coffeeiced2One noon-time, my oldest son walked up the porch steps, prowled around the kitchen for lunch while I sat in the rocking chair grading college essays. He had popped over from the university.

“Do you know,” he said. “We’re a peculiar family. Not all families are like us.”

“Ummm – yeah – we’re called to be a peculiar people,” I countered, deliberately mis-translating his intent. Apparently, he had just discovered not all families were like ours. I don’t know whether he found out other parents didn’t give their kids Payne’s Common Sense and stockings full of C.S. Lewis before Narnia was made into blockbuster movies. I don’t know if he found out other families didn’t talk about the Senate, the House, the Legislative Branch and decisions affecting our families. Maybe not all families believe in laying on of hands for healing. The conversation never went down that road.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)

Maybe we are a peculiar family. If peculiarity meant different, not the status quo defined in the media – well, maybe my everyman dream was more radical then I realized.

If being radical is a son praying for a friend in the school bathroom

If being radical is reaching out hands to hold while praying God’s peace in a hard challenge for a friend or a stranger

If being radical is a son hanging out with atheists to show them the heart of a child of God

If being radical is praying for broken boys when they have no one else that does

If being radical is standing in faith and overcoming instead of hope and joy being destroyed

If being radical shows sons stopping a bully and ministering to the bullied

If being radical is praying for a friend in Wal-Mart’s parking lot

If being radical is raising sons who pray that God show them the bride He intends for them

If being radical is praying for a baby to turn and believing God does

. . . .Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

bloomriot“How can you stand to come here everyday,” a fellow worker moaned.

“It’s a good job. There are worse jobs. Maybe I don’t use all my gifts, all myself but it’s a good job,” I answered. “I believe in blooming where I’m planted.”

“I don’t want to bloom here,” she laughed.

Yet, even in the hard ground, even the ground we see as uncomfortable, we are to reach for Him, find His blessings and in the reaching and finding, we bloom where we are planted.

 Radical: “Implanted by nature; In botany, proceeding immediately from the root; pertaining to the root or origin; original, fundamental; as a radical truth” (Noah Webster, 1828 dictionary).

Blooming where I am planted is radical living, radical faith when the root is the Father – and that root is where normal lives.

Maybe there is something radical about the ordinary everyman dream – something beautifully radical growing and blooming. Something that shouldn’t be diminished or discounted. Something that maybe doesn’t soar but blooms riotously.

Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.
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pinkdogwoodThe boys, from the biggest to the smallest, roll their eyes, sigh: “You’ve told this story before, Mom.”

. . . and I tell it again, whether it’s the story of the day they were born, that 97 one earned on his Sophomore research paper, that I’d coached him through on a Mother’s Day in 2009 – when he did not want to give the detail, use the 3-step-method-of citation, put topic statements on all his inside-paragraphs

or the mystery of the missing turtle head

or the “You’re a cake” lecture

or how one 5 year old brother tried to evangelize his 3 year old brother one evening when he didn’t want to say his bed-time prayers

or how the oldest brother prayed for a baby brother for 3 years – and in the sixth grade, wrote about how when God answers prayers, He answers them abundantly

“I know the story, Mom,” each moans as I tell it for the gazillionth time.

But sometimes, we need to hear the stories, over and over and over . . . until the truth in the story, the soul of the story sinks in. It’s like that with our stories – and His stories.

Because He’s told the story since the beginning of creation

Through all creation.

“Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?” (Isaiah 40:21)

How the earth is reborn in the spring, grows, drops seeds to the earth, and dies for 3 months under the harsh cold – and rises again on a spring day.

How the moon grows to its fullness, wanes and disappears, to be reborn.

The story in the petals of a dogwood of a crucifixion to save us all

Since the beginning of time

Creation has told the story of rebirth, of being made new

Of giving ourselves away like the seeds circled within the fading petals of a sunflower

whitedogwood

 He tells the story over and over and over

The story is being told all around

Since the first day of creation

it flies, burrows,

creeps and runs

nests and sits

erupts, sheds and falls

feeds, heals and refreshes

Because sometimes for a story to sink in

Like a seed into the soil

To reach deep and take root

The story from creation to salvation

the crucifixion to the resurrection

is told told over and over

In every possible way.

The whole earth isn’t just full of His glory

it tells the stories of His glory

over

and over

and over. . . . as many tellings and re-tellings and it takes. . . until the truth of the story, the soul of the story sinks in.

My stories might not be as good as His stories – but I hope those stories tell of His glory. I hope that one day, my boys will really hear what I am saying – and see that I am pointing the way to Him.

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory”
(Isaiah 6:3)

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springredbud_edited-1“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Spring, like morning reaching red-bud blossom tops, has come. After grey sky days spraying mists, spilling water from clouds too full, the sun came out, splashing colors across my world.

The dove sat on the electric lines, the robins, sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, tanagers, jays and blue birds are opening up nests, calling across the yard to each other – and the cat, Miss Kitty, stretches in the sunshine, watching, welcoming.

Sadie sniffs the moles waking up, moving under the grass – digging a golf course in our back yard.

The peonies purple stalks, lavender spider’s knots, volunteer pansies, irises and lilies are stretching upward, past the almost spent buttercups.

Like winter promises spring, storms promise blue skies, challenges promise refreshing. Saturday, as the rain washed clean my schedule, I thought how beautiful the Sunday skies would be – washed clean through to blue and white.

Challenges do that, from gentle mistings to torrential power-washings designed to wash or break off what doesn’t belong, potentially revealing more of who He designed us to be – one stormy challenge at a time.

After spending so many months introspective, inward, inside, wrapped in blankets, hibernating from the cold winter,  I’m ready, ready to give up my wish for snow (it always missed us). I’m like that with challenges sometimes – they become so familiar that I’m not always ready to let go when it’s time.

It’s time now to let this winter go. I’m throwing open my doors and windows, cleaning off the porch, scratching away dead leaf quilts that covered flower beds.

Spring has woken with a joy-comes-in-the-morning vibrance. I am eager to greet it – aren’t you?

 

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well2014c

“And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.” (Genesis 26:18)

I can go to Muddy’s farm, though she’s not there anymore. I can walk through the field where the house once stood, where the white stone milk barn is overgrown with growing, climbing, twining things.

I can walk the path Muddy’s children, my grandmother and 3 uncles walked, where my mother and her 3 sisters and brother walked,  where my brother, cousins crossed the swinging bridge.

MuddycreekccI remember Muddy when chickens and roosters strutted in the drive, and the water behind her house where Brashears Creek meets the Buck Creek. My boys have been there, skimmed slate rocks across  the surface. That day, the water sparkled like diamonds under the blue sky and sunshine, as if to say, we’ve missed the sounds of feet like yours, murmurs like yours – won’t you stay like the children long ago stayed, shrieking, laughing, splashing, cooling in the summer heat, dragging toes through our sparkle?

Muddy’s creek wasn’t just a pretty sparkly. It refreshed, pushed back, nurtured – cooling fevers, quenching thirst, washed away the daily.  It’s banks could tell a story of provision for real needs, real refreshing – real life. Sometimes it forgot its place, over-stepped it boundaries and crept in un-invited into Muddy’s home.

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Proverbs 37:25).

Muddy's Milk Barn

Muddy’s Milk Barn

Muddy’s farm, where she and Claude walked out their faith, marked passages in prayer books that held journey significance.

where children were born and grandchildren summered.

where after cooking noon supper, Muddy would take her bible or her prayer book, sit up in her bed and read until time for dinner preparation.

where the harvest, the milk barn cows, eggs and chicks helped fill plates at her daughter’s, Mary Edna’s kitchen table in the city, when food was rationed during the war.

The farm’s been reclaimed by nature. Fire burned Muddy’s house down long ago – before I knew I wanted to visit it, to listen for her, think of the living that walked the wood floors or chose the wall paper – who watched her daughter move to the city, two sons marry and farm down the road and further down the road a piece – to the son who lived beyond her, who died one winter morning trying to help a cow birth a calf.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22).
University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

The builders of the house and the barn are gone, as are the aprons, the cake pans, the box of candy beside Muddy’s chair the day I remember winding my way to her, cows needing to be milked, the voices calling to supper, the radio, Claude’s leather University of Kentucky football helmet from their 1898 team, The Immortals. It’s all gone – but they left behind something nature couldn’t reclaim.

They left soul wells of living water that Muddy and Claude probably inherited from their forefathers. Their soul wells are my inheritance, available for me to open, to drink deeply from and be filled. Those soul wells reach down to nurture still today, just like they did during World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, through the 50s.

Life’s challenges may try to fill up those wells built for my aunts, uncles, cousins – my brother and I, our children – but they’re there, just waiting to be cleared, opened up for refreshing.

The names of that well are the same as Muddy’s:  Savior, Redeemer, Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah-Shalom, Jehovah RaphaJehovah-Raah, I Am.

I re-dig those wells for my house – my husband digs them with me  for our sons, their wives, our grandchildren – and great-grandchildren,  – on down – leaving a rich inheritance. The wells we leave might be neglected, might be forgotten by some – but for a heart hungry for the great I Am – they will be there to be re-dug, to nourish, refresh and fill to over-flowing for the heart thirsty, a heart willing to find a Father God who loves us more than we can wrap our hearts and brains around.

The children of the righteous need never go begging. They have been provided for. Sometimes, they just need to go to the well, re-dig it, and drink deeply from the Holy waters.

muddy55c*Note: I know it was Mary Eva (Muddy to her grandchildren- Mayme to her friends) and Claude’s farm – not just Muddy’s. I wish I knew more of Claude’s story, but I bet his story is passed down from his sons to his grandsons, the shared work, man’s responsibility and leadership of the household – the hard digging of the wells. I approached this from the matriarch’s perspective that has been handed down over kitchen table preparations, where women gather and share their history. In this house-full of boys, there’s no one really to pass my history down to – thank you for sitting down to the table with me, dicing up some celery, maybe peeling some potatoes, sharing a cup of coffee or tea.  We all need to share our stories.

See a Root’s Inheritance here.
See Names of God used here

Tell Me a Story

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Bradford Pear Blossoms

Bradford Pear Blossoms

“How are you doing?” a neighbor asked.

“Right this very minute I’m doing great,” I answered, laughing, “In 15 minutes, who knows?”

Robin’s egg blue sky, happy Sadie walking beside me not running crazy, laundry almost caught up – chaos wasn’t walking with me in that moment.

Sunday morning church, a savory beef and mushroom stew in the crock pot, a blustery soccer game, lemon-yellow buttercups that I’d planted swaying – and an impromptu date with my husband. I’d wanted to take photos of the Bradford Pear trees and a patch of crocuses around town. I knew if I waited – the impending snow might delete that opportunity

“Now?” he asked, watching a little March Madness but he drove me, walked with me, patient with my photo-taking – and then we grabbed a bite at our favorite restaurant, a little Cajun place where we could watch a little of basketball madness while trying to figure out the artist singing 70s songs piped in for ambiance.

A day of joy-catching –  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced 24 hours of straight joy. To count it joy only if it’s in a long stretch is to diminish joy – and to diminish my life through review – and, well, really impossible – for me, at least.

If  Joy-Catching moments could be stitched into a story-quilt, I would want the pieces to create comfort, warmth.

If Joy-Catching catching is the sight, sound, taste, touch and smell of my word story, I want my story to be joy-filled.

If my story were a glass, I would want it to be half-full to over-flowing – not half empty.

corcusc_edited-1Every daily has a winter moment in the midst of blooming and budding things.

In the middle of my dog-walk, the leash broke. I met a Redbud Winter.

Everyone dressed, walking out the door to church, the littlest remembered he couldn’t find his soccer jersey, which he needed right after church. A Dogwood Winter in the last-minute turned a Sunday morning calm upside to find the errant jersey.

Friday, I was driving home from work, feeling joy just rise up inside me – that wonderful feeling of anticipating good things – and I held on to it, savored it, let it just burst into bloom – because I realized that maybe in 5 minutes a Blackberry Winter might roll through – a house full of children promises a crop of chaos.

Tomorrow morning’s forecast  suggests a Whippoorwill Winter might be in the making if I don’t stick to the time schedule chocked full of before and after school activities.

I remember a few years ago, our house selling – oh, what a high. After work, I drove by the house we were going to put a bid on that evening. A Pending sign covered the sales sign.

Dr. James Dobson in his book, What Women Wish their Husband’s  knew about Women, said that for every high, there is an equal-measured low. That pending sign took me to the lowest low.

The joy is there for the catching, in the face of the storm, in the storm’s midst – and in the aftermath: joy – just there for the catching. If I don’t catch it, the tenor, the texture, the words, the fullness of my story changes.

Sunday, I pulled out my camera to joy-catch Bradford Pear Blossoms. These 23 years I’ve lived in Tennessee, when the Bradford Pear blossoms burst out under a strengthening, the mercury climbs into the seventies only to back down in the face of unexpected frosts, ices and snows. A Bradford Pear Winter has the potential to steal away the blossoms.

“There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
 A right time to wage war and another to make peace (Ecc 3:1-8).

. . . . and on the eve of a Bradford Pear Winter, there is a right time to Joy-Catch.

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FeedMyLambs“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter – you and me, too.

“Yes”, Peter answered.

Jesus told Peter – and you and me – “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my sheep. . . . Feed my Sheep” (John 21: 15-19)

A few weeks ago, my family chose to sponsor through Compassion International an 11 year old boy in Haiti. He is one of those lambs that need feeding, literally and spiritually. My support allows for others to spiritually mother and father this boy – and it allows those spiritual parenting hands to fill bowls and make soul-contact that I cannot because I am so far away.

Christians are a faith people commissioned to take the gospel to the world, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to feed God’s lambs. Yet, as we minister to the great needs of those around the world, it is equally important to not neglect the mission fields in our own communities, from backyards to school yards to church yards – all filled with children and young adults who cry out to be fed and shepherded. 

It is a daunting mission-field, filled with the churched and un-churched – wearing rebellion, disinterest, eschewing group-think and God-think, daring others to look beneath the tattoos and piercings, the black clothes and saggy pants – daring you to find the beauty beneath because they have trouble finding it themselves. . . . continued over at The Mom Initiative.

(The M.O.M. Initiative is an acrostic for Mothers on a Mission to Mentor Other Mothers. It exists as a group of moms and a package of resources to equip, enable and support women as they experience Titus 2 in real life. Stop by. Be encouraged. Pass it on!)

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floridatrees14“For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:9)

We packed up the van with 3 boys, 5 beach towels and bathing suits, one camera, a knitting bag, two computer bags, too many media chargers and too many pairs of shoes. I bet if someone looked hard enough, we could have come up with a kitchen sink. I don’t know how to travel without one.

We spent two days with my mom – experiencing so much blessing. We broke bread with those who love us, met people who shared their gifts with us, like Mary and Charlie’s red and white Camellias, come pink edged in purple – and ivory. They took us on a blooming tour of their hands’ work – building my mother a beautiful bouquet. I think they grew more than Camellias, azaleas – and all sorts of beautiful flowers I won’t get to see through the summer – I think they grew generosity of heart, friendship and genuine kindness, too.

IMG_9788cc

Sunday morning, My husband and I walked these Northern Florida small-town sidewalks canopied with Red Bud blossoms and tree moss -to church where we listened to a sermon that included The Devil and Daniel Webster. Then we moved to a Sunday school room, meeting a community who had prayed comfort for us this year when my husband lost his sister. A retired World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War  Navy chaplain  change our lives by telling his stories – of facing fears, ministering to athiests and waiting on God.  It made me want to go back every Sunday. It taught me about waiting for God to grow opportunities that save.

IMG_9820ccGod met me in the sidewalks and pond walks, the church walks and breaking bread – in the people, in the petals, in the moss above and winter leaves below not quite blown away.

We spent the rest of our holiday further down in Florida, practicing my joy-catching – and I caught smiles, a brotherhood strengthening, and time to savor. The littlest, the 14 year old, decided at the beginning of the journey, he was Zack who played baseball and basketball, who referred to us as “you people” – who settled into his born-to persona mid-way through and decided we could keep him.

We talked politics, faith and humor, why we need to love the hard along with the easy. We encouraged them to not out-smart their common sense as they logically tried to one-up each other. There was a little letting go and learning to live with time – time to find Him – in a long walk, in flipping rubber lobsters in a pot to win a blue and yellow stripped stuff animal, over a cup of coffee, in the strengthening sunlight.

IMG_9891ccDespite 10+ hours of over-stuffed traveling, teens trying to keep wrestling to words, despite them not being sure they really wanted to be with us in a hotel room for 5 days, not trusting mom and dad’s ideas of fun – I believed God would satisfy the longing in this soul and fill it with his goodness, that if I would seek goodness – I would find it. God proved himself good to me – I cam home with a soul-net full of joy caught.

“Thank you for taking me,” said the new college student when we got home.

Yes – a soul-net full of joy caught!

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks (Lamentations 3:25)

pinkflowers

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icetreebuds“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt 6:26)

Sunday morning, as the winter storm blew towards us, I loaded the car from a visit to my aunt’s. Robins chirped over the backyard fence, maybe they were just calling hello in their own grocery-store rush. Two geese, racing in tandem, honked back and forth, racing? playing tag? Were they taking advantage of the calm before the storm – or preparing?

careless in the care of God

The ice didn’t come until I was home in my own nest, with my own chicks, wrapped in my own feathers. Most people are tired of this old snow. Me? We really haven’t had any. I keep telling people, Moses is standing at our western county line. When the snow clouds come, he parts them like the Red Sea.

I love snow – but it only dusts. Last night, though, water fell wrapping everything in a sheet of ice.

Diamond glitter is deceptive, dangerous – and it encased my world – red buds, dog wood buds, even the bird nests.

The birds, though, hopped around, on one foot then another across the icy grass. No complaining about the cold. No complaining about nests in the ice trees.

living the daily, even the ice-storm-kind-of-daily free and unfettered

icenestI woke early, wanting to find God’s love letter in it. Stepping out my door, the birch creaking with the icy burden, limbs snapping to the ground. An icy mist filmed my face.

wanting to connect with God, to answer His call with the uniqueness of my own voice He put within me – to let that voice connect with Him before I left to work where I am planted, where the job description allows only a portion of who I am

these birds not tied to a job description – me striving not to be

and I need to soar in the knowledge – the living, flying, spirit-filled knowledge – that He counts me more important

more important than these birds – careless in the care of God

Give your cares to me, He says, as I meet Him – let my kingdom  be your nest for shelter, nurturing, protecting and refreshing – where you can soar, fly, race, sing, swap word-songs at fence-post gatherings

So many people avoid God – thinking living for Him is limiting, oppressive or confining. It’s not, though. God is liberating. God’s Kingdom works in direct contrast with the world. It’s an Opposite Day kind of thing.

“Opposite Day, when slow means fast, when pink means blue, huggable means squirmmy, when sacrifice means gain.

The universe has order – God made it so – how our blood flows, how my grandmother’s coffee cake bakes, how cells divide, how coffee brews – it is all orderly process. Yet, what He wants from us is sometimes like an Opposite Day Paradigm.

To give ourselves up – our dreams, our hearts, our time, our identity, our dignity – to beggar ourselves until we’re empty with nothing left to give – that is the great deception.

. . . . God’s Opposite Day Paradigm take Sacrifice and turns it into gain. (The Sacrifice of Opposite Day Things)

Liberate your soul! Give yourself to Him – and become careless in the care of God!

icetreenest

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spiderweb
“It behooveth him to wax, but me to be made less” (John 3:30, Wycliffe Translation)

A storm brewed one summer night, tearing at the trees, pink flower petals – and the weaver web. All the parts – all six hands and feet of  that tiny spider were intent on making the silk thread stick  – stick to  brick pillars and porch eaves dripping water  – arms and legs weaving and darning simultaneously.

Just like this mother in me – with these boys – stocking shelves and hearts with nobleness books on heroes, freedom and faith, loving forever to God’s beard and back to plate-fulls of carrots and broccoli with dipping sauce to make it go down – to bed-time chronicles, God stories and prayers tucked in and lectured out on how to live this faith thing that is the most important part of the spinning and weaving and releasing of ourselves into our children.

Hands-on shoe-tying and shirt buttoning instructing,  math problem and oil level checks, to  true friendship discernment and loving hearts that need saving, challenge confrontation and over-coming training – and learning not to give up o confront challenges to overcome – sometimes 2 arms, 2 legs and one heart work as determinedly as the spider with the web – though maybe not as gracefully, as fluidly

like a spider mending and weaving on a stormy evening.

like a mother and a father giving out all that is within us until one day they stand tall above us, tall enough inside and out to leave . . .

to search out their own eaves and pillars on which to stick their faith and life mission where they become small and He becomes bigger – and the work of their life reflects His glory.

I don’t know if I explained that well – how our life’s work, that He designed us for – , that’s the story they will read, the song they will hear, the web a canvas to the artist. It is our family, that web – and the work and faith of our hands and hearts, what we put into the raising of them – that will say the most about us – and suddenly it is so much bigger than just me – these children and grandchildren – and in the weaving, the mending, the praying and faith of it are what people see, not me but the results of the life I lived, of the faith and love I lived.

We’ve recovered from our colds, but a steaming cup of wild apple ginger tea still tastes best – I keep forgetting the spoonfull of honey, or maybe I’m just a little too tired to wrestle the lid off.  Won’t you grab a cup, let it warm you as it goes down – and include 5 minutes of your heart  on the word. . . Small – and join Lisa-Jo’s gracious hospitality for Five-Minute Friday.

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webwormwater

tent worms nest
in apple tree leaves
in limbs raised
reaching skyward
as if to heaven
leaves rustling in the
still quiet
green raiment devoured
without a sound

bagworms dangle from
family fur shrubs landscape
by porch steps, garage doors
under windowsills
leeching nutrients
until pine needles devoured
limbs browned
the high and low siphoned away
peace, joy stripped

how, some ask, in the devouring
and leeching – how can
God be good
or true
– to let us endure
hard times, challenging times
hurting fearful times
that pull and drain
threatening the root and heart
of us

how could there be any good
in a righteous man dying
a hammer and nail driven
death on a cross?

but there was
good
God’s kind of good
in the unfairness of Christ’s death:
salvation for all mankind
The great I am is
the hope message
in the challenge
in the high and low
likely and unlikely places
like tent worms give hope
to a hungry sparrow

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28)

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writingwindowStart

When I was young and read one Nancy Drew book a day, The Secret Garden made me believe something whole and beautiful can come from loss and brokenness, and a Candle in Her Room broke my heart: words and the world they created became close friends

 . . . . and so I write

When I was bursting independence, I wrote newspaper print on the how prenatal care reduced infant mortality from 25% to 2%, interviewed Mitch McConnell on his run for the Kentucky state senate, visited haunted houses and old men sitting on town square benches – I collected stories

 . . . .  And so I write

Living hours away from grandmother’s front porch swing, I wrote about little boys growing to someone I loved who only remembered the first son and the little boy with the great big frown. Dementia had stolen her stories, so I sent her mine because even 5 minute stories are worth 5 minutes of joy.

 . . . . and so I write

“Why are you shouting at me, Mom,” this fresh teen said as I came into the kitchen. I wiped the shout from my face, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t shouting. Was my face still shouting at your brother?” Communication is a large part body language and small part word choice and tone. My son couldn’t hear tone. We needed to learn more about body language and context. CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder) taught me much about communication – and how graceless with it I can be. Because body language isn’t there to detract from the message – and tone can be better controlled than in real-time, verbal communication, lectures started coming via letters.

 . . . . and so I write

27 years of living with these 5 boys to men, raising them in a world dominated by male communication: humor, frustrating, dreams, challenges, late night

Stop (I couldn’t stop there)

heart spills when everyone’s asleep and I’ve been up grading papers – coaching independence with training wheels  – and then they cross a threshold into the men’s club – and this woman’s history, the story-keeper of family faith, challenges overcome, and miracles has no one to pass it down to, a one-woman club because there’s no one to join.

“God created a “Pass it Down” mechanism within each of us, the need for our life, experience and learning to be given away. It is something as necessary to us as water is to life” ~ My Life is Not My Own

Here, at blue cotton memory is a mother’s inheritance for a daughter available for any daughter needing a mother’s inheritance.
 . . . . and so I write

I think God knew I would need a place to tell the stories of God in our family – his miracles, his comfort, his provision, his love, comfort and saving:

I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done. ~ Psalm 78: 2-4

. . . . and so I write

I’ve been in a hot chocolate mood this week – with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. The boys call it Mama’s Special Hot Chocolate that I only make on snow days. Grab a cup, let it warm you as it goes down – and include 5 minutes of your heart  on the word. . . Write – and join Lisa-Jo’s gracious hospitality for Five-Minute Friday.

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As each of us mature in our God-given gifts, we become more insightful about the strengths and weaknesses of this gift designed with us. In this understanding of how this gift ticks/works, negativity and confusion are replaced with hope and faith.  This insight has the ability to make us not only more comfortable in our soul skin but insight into how to temper, reign in and release this gift.

I have been on mom-quest for quite a few years to find the answer to the question: How do you persuade a compassion/mercy spiritual-gifted person to do anything?  (see When Talking Suffocates)

I am so excited about today. Brandee from Smooth Stones is guest-hosting – my very first guest host.  As I read her post, Love Wins, I thought, “This is how my son feels.” This was the compassion gift talking to me. After I read that, I messaged her, asking “How do you persuade a compassion gift person to do anything” – what is the best way to encourage them. . . .I want to know how to be the parent he needs.”

Who better knows the answer to this question that a compassion gifted person who has learned how to use that gift? She has graciously opened her heart and insight to us today:

When Logic Loses, Love Goes Straight to the Heart

So you long for effective interaction with someone who has the gift of compassion or (as I like to refer to it) mercy. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by the drama of it, the roller-coaster of it, or even this other person’s anger. You want nothing more than to guide, help, motivate, or otherwise make a positive difference in this person’s life, but you’re at a loss. How can you grow—or even just maintain/preserve—your relationship with this sensitive other?

Maryleigh perceived correctly that my spiritual gift is mercy and asked me to speak to being parented effectively, given my gift, which led to my compiling the following list of key thoughts. I hope you’ll find it useful regardless of the nature of your relationship with a mercy-gifted person. Before you read the list, take a deep breath and know: you’re to be commended for both recognizing someone else’s spiritual gift and caring enough to seek ways to improve your relationship with this person. God has almost certainly placed you in this person’s life for a reason.

  • Realize: your approach is critical; you must pass through her* feelings to get to her thoughts. If you’re careless with her feelings—especially by patronizing, judging, or labeling—she’ll shut down, which is to say: she’ll get stuck over your approach and fail to receive even your best advice.
  • Always remember: with her, you’ll get further with love than with logic.
  • Postpone a hard conversation until you’re in control of your emotions. Again, she’s sensitive to approach; unless you’re legitimately calm (not just “fake calm”), you’re not going to get the response you want.
  • If you’re in control of your emotions but she can’t seem to control hers, acknowledge her feelings, reassure her of your love, and suggest postponing the conversation until a set date and time in the future. If she wants to continue in conversation, you might try unless she’s being verbally abusive in some way but realize: it’s important for her to learn that conversation is most productive when everyone’s in control of his or her emotions.
  • Prove to her over time: you’re trustworthy. You’ll never force her to work through her feelings alone. Even if you must postpone a conversation, you’ll never leave her holding the bag for long, let alone forever.
  • If you have a good handle on your approach, try to help her see the big picture. She can easily lose perspective, overlooking her long, positive history with a loved one (or even the Lord!) in the face of the present difficulty, and things can become “gloom and doom” in her mind all too easily. If you can somehow teach her (through words and/or example) to take a step back when her emotions threaten to consume, you’ll deeply bless her life. I was in my mid-twenties before I gained enough control to stop hyperventilating and vomiting when especially upset.
  • Realize: anger is almost never her (or anyone’s) real emotion. Try to determine and respond to the source of the hurt beneath the anger. If you can see through both anger and hurt to the fear at the core and respond to the fear, all the better.
  • Take comfort in the fact that—if she’s being particularly unkind—she’s very likely to experience remorse and offer an apology after calming down. She knows what it’s like to have hurt feelings and doesn’t like to cause them in other people.
  • Try to imagine living life with your heart on your sleeve or your nerve endings exposed and know: that’s her reality. Her feelings are more real to her than her thoughts. Never invalidate them, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Look her in the eye. Let her know you’re hearing her. Magic words (but only if they’re true): “I love you and always will, no matter what. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I’m here for you.”
  • Know: it’s better to say nothing than to say something insincere or untrue. She can detect insincerity and lies in a heartbeat.
  • Try loosening the reins: she’s probably more trustworthy than you think.
  • In as much as possible, give her space and time to process information, make decisions, and even fulfill tasks. She’s probably more innately responsible than you think, especially on her own timetable.
  • Help her find a local mentor with the gift of mercy. If she doesn’t seem to come alive under this person’s wings, it’s the wrong fit. Ask the Lord to provide a mentor and choose him or her with care; some people (even within the church!) never learn how to use the gift of mercy responsibly. The more your person can learn about and experience caring for others in a safe environment, in safe ways, the better. Ideally, the local mentor will apply his or her gift in the name of Jesus (as opposed to only in the name of a specific hospital, school, etc.). I recommend that—with a responsible mentor—your person delve specifically into the areas of pastoral care and prayer. In these realms, she’ll have the opportunity to respond to many types of people and situations and may therefore be able to better determine how she’s innately gifted to serve. (For example, even as a teenager, I worked more effectively with adults than with children.)
  • Note: an important part of your person’s education will involve discernment. Encourage her to see herself as a steward of her gift of mercy: as having responsibility for how, when, where, why and for/with whom she uses it. Encourage her to seek God’s face before acting so as not to fall prey to those who would take advantage of her kind heart. Again, I can’t recommend enough that she work with a responsible mentor; until she has a solid grasp of her gift, her spirit could easily be crushed (whether intentionally or unintentionally) by someone in need of mercy.

*I do realize that your person may be male. I’ve chosen to refer to your person with female pronouns (her, she, etc.) for the sake of simplicity, also because I’m female and these are things I wish people to know about interacting with me.

brandeeBrandee Shafer is an English instructor turned SAHM to the 4 children for whom she records her life and thoughts, through blogging. She, her husband Jim, and their children live in a log cabin on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, where she writes, teaches “homeschool preschool,” and tries, daily, to diminish toppling piles of dishes and laundry.

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fathersons14cI am in smack in the middle of a communication refinement class. Some people get Words of the Year – the Father – He enrolls me in a class that usually lasts about a year. This last one started in the summertime.

I’m a blog writer – writing about the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men – so how come I need a communication class? Because while I can think out what I want to say in advance – even for a conversation, especially for classrooms – real-time in the daily doesn’t allow you to delete, rewrite the words or re-do tone.  It doesn’t allow you to erase emotions from previous encounters that splash into the rest of the day. Writing allows going back and actually editing for hindsight. In-the-moment living does not.

I watched a movie about Louis Pasteur the other night – I cried with his victory– but indignation filled me during plot development: Specialists believed that if they didn’t know it, it just couldn’t be. 3 out of 10 women died of childbed fever, Pasteur asserted, because physicians didn’t wash hands or sterilize tools. Leading physicians of government agencies scoffed.

However, one by one, Pasteur won over these great physicians – because un-refutable evidence came alongside their calling. Pride was set aside – yes – not only because facts proved they were wrong – but also because this field was their calling – and to refuse this truth was diminish the nobleness of their life work.

Communication is my specialty field, especially written communication.  I am still trying to find a cure for foot-in-mouth disease. I still need an editor for careless mistakes. I have the English Master’s and journalism degree. I guess you could say I am a field specialist.

In the process of becoming a field specialist – I had 5 sons – with 5 different love languages and 5 different spiritual gifts. I teamed up with Don and Katie Fortune’s training program and became certified in Discovering Your God-Given Gifts – for children, adults and teens. The books not only changed how I viewed myself, it changed how I saw my children. While the other books explained the strengths and weaknesses of each gift,  Discover Your Spouse’s Gift  contained detailed insight into how each gift communicated and how each gift viewed communication. It enabled me to feel not only more comfortable about myself but to better understand communication perceptions and responses.

At the beginning of this class God enrolled me in, He sent me out to buy Sticky Faith. I needed to break ineffective communication patterns (see Going Through the Gate or Fence Jumping). You’d think that would be enough – but God and I, we were just warming up. Sometimes, while taking God’s faith classes on “Standing” or “Walking,” “Refreshing” and “Shalom” to name a few,  bad habits take grow like weeds in other areas – like Communication.

Gift of Exhortation and Encourager love language – that’s me. I learned long ago that gifts are like double-edged swords – gifts and love languages can be used to build up or tear down. I am careful with my gift – careful not to tear down – careful constructive criticism builds up.

One son’s gift speaks blunt and direct, another son’s speaks solution, one is all of them, the teacher is instructive. One communicates through serving; one son communicates through compassion.

The one gift that stymied me, froze me in my communication tracks was the compassion gift. The compassion gifted person or child makes decisions on how they feel. The compassion gift comprises the largest area of the population – so when Bill Clinton said, “I feel your pain” – he won them over.

Logical argument shuts them down. Too many words, even encouraging words suffocate.

To my dismay, I mistook one son to be a server when he was a compassion gift. The communication specialist in me was like Pasteur’s nay-sayers. I didn’t want to be wrong – and I didn’t know how to shepherd a compassion-gifted child. How do you persuade a feeling person to make healthy choices when logic isn’t their language?

What do you do when you discover that your gift overwhelms your compassion child?

Then, one day, the blinders came off – and I saw. . . . how I had missed it.

The compassion gift is an emotional gift. They are risk takers without considering the risk, only seeing the need. The other gifts are intentional about entering the muddy pit to help lift someone out. The risk taker throws himself in, a first-responder, without considering the risks – the preparation, the solution, the after.

Really – the risk taker goes into the mess, literally empathizes, feels their pain, goes alongside them – and leaves it to the other gifts to implement the solution, the rescue, the after.

The compassion gift, the risk taker – stays with them – like a firefighter down in a collapsed well with a child –while the other gifts figures out how to extract her healthy and whole. Not only knowing your gift-job and other’s gift-jobs liberates one to do what they do best. It reduces judgementalism and increases admiration – and understanding.

My son – he probably felt talked to death by me. Too many words, too many logical presentations are like shingles to the skin with this gift.

I’ve  been praying, asking – trying to find out how to communicate with a child, a family member or neighbor with this gift.

How can you encourage without words? How can you persuade without words? Shepherd without a voice?

How? My heart broke that I’d let him down. One of my greatest strengths is my not-give-up-ness – I kept searching.

Then I came across Brandee’s  “Love Wins” post at her blog Smooth Stones in November. She wrote:

“I can hardly stand for someone to tell me what to do. I love a good story. I’m fascinated by facts and passionate about scripture. If the spirit’s right, I don’t mind a hint or suggestion. Sometimes (again, if the spirit’s right), I can tolerate unsolicited advice.

But I’m very sensitive to approach. The minute someone tells me what I must do or must think, I shut down. I despise feeling patronized, judged, or labeled. I can get stuck for a long time over a feeling and have been known to argue with people in my mind for years” (Love Wins, Brandee).

I thought, “This is how my son feels.” This was the compassion gift talking to me.

After I read that, I messaged her, asking “How do you persuade a compassion gift person to do anything” – what is the best way to encourage them. . . .I want to know how to be the parent he needs.”

Who better knows the answer to this question that a compassion gifted person who has learned how to use that gift?

We ended up talking on the phone. If I had a sister, I think we’d talk on the phone like that.  She talked about her communication needs, answering my questions. In our brainstorming and heart-sharing – the answered came upon me – and it changed my life.

How do you persuade a compassion-gifted person?

. . . without words. . .

oh, my. . .

by coming along side, even in the midst of their challenge

loving them

encouraging

because experience talks to them more eloquently than words.

Listening

Loving

Being there

Sitting or walking right where they are, intentionally connecting, listening, waiting with them; Showing them unconditional, non-judgemental love speaks volumes , not like shingles on skin, but like soothing soul touches.

Will you join me here Wednesday. Brandee’s guest posting here, talking to you and me about communicating with the Compassion Gifted. I’ve never had a guest writer before – and I am so excited!

Below are other posts about Spiritual Gifts:

Mother Words:
Junkyard Treasures:
The Freshness After the Storm -
Perceiver of Truth
A Boy Called Faithful 

 

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knightThe bully in the bathroom, he was itching for a fight, taunting another boy. A circle of boys stood, tense, waiting. My boy, he stepped in, saying, “Dude, he’s bigger than you. He could squash you.”

The crowd laughed – some nervously, some disappointed: situation diffused. The crowd dispersed into the hallway – crisis averted.

Stepping in . . .intervening. . . interceding. . . like St. George and the Dragon, David and Goliath, Christ and each of us . . . . for something as simple as a bully in the bathroom or life-threatening challenges.

We’re designed and equipped for big and little heroic intercession – interceding with their feet, hands, and mouth – and, most importantly, interceding with cross-emblazoned soul shields.

Warriors prince and princesses – sons and daughters of the king,  kneeling by the bedside, hands clasped at the steering wheel, head bowed at a work station – interceding anywhere at anytime.

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know” (1 Tim 2:1)

  • Sometimes interceding is being the shield

David, when his son with Bathsheba became sick, “David prayed desperately to God for the little boy. He fasted, wouldn’t go out, and slept on the floor” (2: Samuel 12:16). David stood in the gap, fighting against the darkness that comes to steal, kill and destroy – interceding for his boy.

  • Sometimes interceding is not just being the shield, but the spear, too.

David’s bold words of faith in His God: “GOD, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:36). David stepped in the gap – with faith words and actions, interceding for the Israelites.

  • Sometimes interceding helps another bear the shield.

Mose’s standing on the mountain side, hands raised to God – interceding against the forces that deceive about things as little as apples and as big as God- and when Moses weakened, Aaron and Hur stepped beside him, holding Mose’s arms up high when he couldn’t do it himself – interceding (Exodus 17:12).

Our boys-to-men, they’re programmed to stand between the helpless and challenges like giants and dragons – and whatever else the devil can muster up for an attack.

On the way to school the other morning, we talked about intercession – not interceding as if prayers were penny wishes thrown in a fountain. We talked about interceding as if prayers were front-line soldiers holding off the enemy to save someone God wants saving – and you know – God wants every one of us saved – salvation saving, life-and-limb saving, challenge support and rescue saving.

When we intercede, we become like a shield, protecting, destroying or lifting out of overwhelming challenges – either in tandem with the one being attacked or for the one being attacked because he cannot, cannot right now, or cannot on his own.

The intercessor runs to find God – not a slow-walk but like a child running through the house trying to find their mother or father to come help, opening and slamming doors until they find the one who can help:

Isaiah said, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you” (Isaiah 64:7) – imagine that – trying to lay hold of God. Searching every room, calling his name, and when you see Him, you run, grab hold of his sleeve, turn Him to you – and beg Him to help. Isaiah laments that the children of Israel don’t see God as available like that – because God is – available – passionately, faithfully available.

Job cried, “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21)

halloween5Which is most effective? Prayers like penny wishes thrown in a fountain – or prayers laying seige to a challenge that needs to be torn down:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men (1 Timothy 2:1).

Didn’t Abraham do that? Plead with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah? Didn’t Esther pray to save the children of Israel? Didn’t Isaac intercede for Rebekah so that she would conceive?

Do you give out heart-cries to the Father?

“Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion.
Let the tears roll like a river, day and night,
and keep at it—no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing!
As each night watch begins, get up and cry out in prayer.
Pour your heart out face-to-face with the Master.
Lift high your hands. Beg for the lives of your children
who are starving to death out on the streets “(Lamentation 2: 18-19).

Are you a relentless warrior?

“I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem. ‘Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out,
reminding GOD to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said'” (Isaiah 62:6-7).

Heart-cries require believing in the promises of God – really, really believing.

Heart-cries require time commitment, standing firm on the battlefield, a giving up of yourself to save someone else in big and little ways.

My life has been blessed by warrior intercessors who took heart-cries to the Father – women warriors in the blogahood – and in my neighborhood – my life and the lives of my family have been blessed because of the time sacrifice, the battlefield stance – a giving up of self to save in big and little ways.

God seems to have some pretty great team-building activities up his sleeve – what a powerful way to turn the seams of this blended family seamless – through intercessory prayer as if we were the front-line warrior standing between another and the enemy.

Heart-cries to the Father – for the lost and the found.

Who can you stand on the front-line for today?

 

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bulb314

Purple Iris and tangerine and lemon-colored lily bulbs burrow, roots reaching down for warmth in my Tennessee red-clay garden. The once rioutous pink, blue, purple and yellow flowers have retreated to their roots, and butterfly lures are just clacking sticks in the wind.

Winter is a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for,-the evidence-of-things-not-seen” kind of season.

The deceiver tries to hood-wink stray thoughts into believing it’s a dead time, a separated-from-God time.

Winter from 753-717 B.C. was nameless – no January and February – just gaping, no-name nothingness (50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World, Sprezzatura). I don’t know about you, but it tests my resolve, my confidence – when I cannot put a name to something – like the knocking sounds in the basement or when one son’s stomach hurt for 5 years, or when we didn’t know if our only child would turn into an older brother.

Not knowing is hard.

Not knowing is a winter-time season of a prayer sent out, like a nameless January and February.

Each Winter asks us to wait.

Each Winter demands faith.

Paperwhite bulbs on the sill remind me to have faith.

Snow falling is a faith dance from heaven to where I am, reminding me He hasn’t forgotten me in the winter of a prayer journey – where things are happening that I just don’t see.

But He does. He sees. And prayer returning will burst forth into riotous blooms – maybe not quite what I thought I was planting, but more wonderful than I imagined.

Something powerful is going on in this seeming nothingness of long nights, cold paths that don’t invite long walks, air that tingles against cheeks as if saying – “Go back in. We’re not ready for you, yet.”

Winters are for discipline or grace or extravagant love – and the emerging spring of a prayer answered is more beautiful because of it!

“He orders the snow, ‘Blanket the earth!’
    and the rain, ‘Soak the whole countryside!’
No one can escape the weather—it’s there.
    And no one can escape from God.
Wild animals take shelter,
    crawling into their dens,
When blizzards roar out of the north
    and freezing rain crusts the land.
It’s God’s breath that forms the ice,
    it’s God’s breath that turns lakes and rivers solid.
And yes, it’s God who fills clouds with rainwater
    and hurls lightning from them every which way.
He puts them through their paces—first this way, then that—
    commands them to do what he says all over the world.
Whether for discipline or grace or extravagant love,
    he makes sure they make their mark” (Job 37: 6-13)

wintermorn

 

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birdwings23c“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because
they have perfect faith,
for to have faith is to have wings.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird

Praying today that you and I , believe -really, really believe that He’s got the it in our lives taken care of. Praying that we trust Him enough – that when we do struggle with believing, we run to Him, into His thrown room – no knocking, just running with abandon and need,

. . . just like my boys did long ago when they believed Copper, the dog, had chomped off the over-night turtle guest’s head . They came running in, wailing, distraught that the unthinkable had happened.

I hope, if you and I have unthinkable moments, we shove past the guards, straight into His work room – and throw ourselves into His arms for comfort.  He can fix it so much better than anyone else.

My boys didn’t think anything could be done. They grieved. Poor Copper was placed in the figurative dog house. I suggested we wait a while and set the turtle aside. They drifted out of the kitchen, not understanding, not believing - it just seemed so impossible.

God – this Father of ours, He’s not too busy with someone or something more important. He’s also not surprised – about anything. He’s already drafted the plan. While we’re there – in His work room, )’cause isn’t that really what His throne room is) – He drops everything for you and me.  He’ll take us for a walk, like He did in the twilight with Adam and Even in Eden – and He’ll dry our tears. Later, He will let us crawl up in His chair so instead of getting worn out and giving up we can rest to soar.

God knows we struggle with really, really believing that He’s got it. He knows we struggle sometimes with believing miracles are supposed to be everyday possibilities, even though Jesus came and showed us miracles weren’t meant to be every-now-and-then happenings.

He doesn’t chide us about our inconsistent really, really believing. He doesn’t hold back until we’ve believed 3 times and proved we’re good believers.

“And Jesus said to a father who wanted his son healed, ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’“(Mark 9:23-24).

I do believe; help my unbelief

Be honest! He already knows anyhow – He knows every struggle. He’s detail-oriented like that. Just straight out ask Him, “Help my unbelief.”

and He will

He will help your unbelief. He will help you spread your faith wings and soar!

“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind” (Isaiah 40:31)

Note: Click here to discover The Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head

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snowroad“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road”(Luke 24:32)

dirt, gravel, sand or asphalt
a thoroughfare
drag
bridle path
cow path
a beaten path
footpath
or bicycle path
in the lowlands
high lands
or mid lands
heat covered
puddled
or iced
He approaches us
on our own Emmaus road
solitaire
“What are you thinking about?” He asks, intruding
in my alone
a twosome or a klatch – He joins in,
like He belongs
“What are you talking about?”
sometimes I make room
and pull Him in to the community,
whether I am bumper to bumper
in Christmas traffic
and car-line pick ups
and He listens
really listens to me
spill my passions
over routine laps in the daily
or cruising down an empty highway
“Tell me more,” He asks
unsure at first of His sincerity
because I’m just a small fry
broken and torn
no hint of coolness
no mantle of importance
but He wooes me
like I’m somebody
worth listening to
and, finally, I believe,
yes,
He really does want to hear
what I think and why
and I do, spill inside out
He listens until I’ve put it all out there
and then
He starts telling me
big and little things, little and big
until suddenly it’s time to go
to push the pedal of the daily
and I whisper, “Stay. Come home with us.
Be with us in the breaking of the bread
and open our hearts and eyes
and I mean it
even in my kitchen mess
and after-school emotional pop-corn
fills the vehicle
I want Him to join us
on this Emmaus Road journey
where He opens our eyes and hearts
on the road
do you hear that?
on the road
while we’re going about the journey
in the daily
on the road
are heart and soul opportunities
to burn
in a Holy Spirit Fire
with Him
Stay
Stay with me Lord
every step, every mile
of my day

 

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not just re-posted but re-vitalized – kind of like an old piece of furniture that you just don’t want to throw out – but an overhaul giving it new life:

“Hast thou entered into the storehouse of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

Rumor has it, there’s a big snow coming. Some in its path are pulling in the welcome mat, and some, like me, are rolling it out.

The in-house boys are rolling it out. School will be cancelled – it’s a home and hot chocolate day. My out-of-the-house boy – all grown up said, “I still have to go to work” – and my heart saddened at the growing up – when snow days aren’t holidays anymore.

Whether it’s a scorching hot summer day, a torrential down-pour – or snow – snowman-deep – I find myself looking for the message God is sending in it – a love note just for me. I bet He has one in there for you, too.

I’ll be at work if it comes -but I don’t want to lose the holiday of it. The holiday of it is still there.

When the BIG SNOW comes, I will be hauling as much as I can – into the Storehouse of the Snow.

“Snow is here represented as something which is laid up like treasure, and kept in reserve for use when God shall require it. . . . like the weapons of war, to be called forth when God should please,” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

What have I laid up in the storehouse of my soul? A treasure? Weapons of War? Snow? I admit, that when times toughen, and the little foxes tear at me, it is what I have stored up that sustains, strengthens, gives hope and sees me to a good result, a peace result, a joy result, a content result. In the midst of battle, it is the storehouses that tip to victory.

My Spirit has grieved to not see
Snow for the storehouse
Snow for the ground
For the pin oaks and fir
when all along
the snow for the storehouse was in me

The hurricane of snow’s icy taste,
feathery-feather falling flakes
melting into dripping
water
at warm finger touches and cheek kisses
as the wind blows into swirling
metallic smells mercury cold
rabbit, opossum and wild coyote tracks
size little boy sevens and men elevens
crunch in the wild loud quiet
snow is nature preaching raucous simplicity lessons
of God’s mighty weapons, tools pulled
from His word, of His faith, about His love
stored up in my heart
working out my fingers,
voiced in the faith ballad
walked out in my snow boots
God-Words heard, read, stored
in the Storehouse of the Snow

the snow today was just for reminding
to inventory this storehouse
of my soul
these miniature crystals, dazzling Holy Spirit light
from the inside out
Like God in me
Hast thou entered to inventory
the storehouse of the snow?

bluecotton3c

I grew up on small town Main Street USA – before the big city creeped closer and closer, and suddenly boon-dock citizens were big town city folk. I grew up to back yard and front-porch greetings, after schools walks to say hi to my mom at work and sit with my aunt a spell, kick around Fall leaves on sidewalk trails, traffic noise. Until I married farm boy – and this can-do girl went everywhere with him – to feed the cows, to bale hay, to strip tobacco. If he hung out with his family, I did, too – in the house, on the farm, in the barn – I was all in – at being with him. Now – before you think I’m now a bona-fide farm girl – my mother-in-law is probably laughing incredulously here – I only helped bale hay and strip tobacco once. Not because I gave up though – but hay baling became rolling and they stopped growing tobacco.

I’ve been in a barn a time or two, owned one. I love photographing them – so I thought, with my poem on God’s Storehouses of Snow – we ought to talk about what’s inside those barns:

Inventory in the Storehouse of Snow

barn1_edited-120 sticks of faith stories hung on rails in the rafters, curing, seasoning to share, remind and encourage when challenges come either to you or a neighbor?

barn61415 bushels of humility from wrongs handed out and graceless moments, whether intentionally or not, cored into forgiveness, ready for sharing

barn314Unending bails of God love so that you can love more than you need

barn81410 Faith, hope and love seed bags, for open-handed sowing to feed those hungry for the bread of life?

barn2141 Storehouse Manuel filled with the Word of God, the most important item in the Storehouse of the Snow, the most powerful weapon, the greatest treasure, without which all the rest means nothing.

Everything  – everything – contains the opportunity for good. Make sure you are not missing the blessing offered in things like dead twigs, vanilla beans – and snow.

Let the snow fall. Let it fill up the yards. Let it fill the Storehouse of the Snow.

barn816

Click here to see original, “Store House of Snow and Other Blessings”

 

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tealeaves

“All I want is to sit in his shade,
    to taste and savor his delicious love” (Song of Solomon 2:3)

Growing up in my grandmother’s house, sometimes I got myself into a fried-bologna sandwich jag. My grandfather would get himself into a milk-toast jag. Right now I’m in a tea jag – either wild apple ginger tea or tangerine rosemary or sweet orange spice.

Some might say that a jag is about unrestrained indulgence – an indulgence, yes – starting from the moment the burner under the kettle is switched on, through the tea leaves measured out, to the steeping and the honey, to the sitting, the holding of the cup, the savoring of a moment uninterrupted.

Whether it’s tea or coffee, milk-toast or fried-balogna sandwiches – it’s a time that allows me to pull away from the glare of the daily – to sit in His shade, and to taste and savor his delicious love – whether it’s just sitting at my work desk looking out the window, or at a lunch counter with words on paper, or on a bench in a sunny breeze.

Sitting in the shade with Him is an indulgence. A God-kind of indulgence is a pleasure that should not be so rare it is special. His kind of indulgence and pleasure should happen often. Sitting with Him allows our souls to steep in His Holy Spirit – allowing all the inside parts that have been dried-up to unfurl,

- kind of like how the Tea Forte describes its tea infusion that allows “the delicate leaves to luxuriantly unfurl in the hot water, offering up their complex characteristics producing a deliciously aromatic, flavorful cup delighting all the senses.”

Tea time isn’t just a comfort time – it is a coming to be time – at least when we take our cuppa or our sandwich, settle down in His shade for quality time with Him.

 

 

 

 

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knitIt’s tangerine rosemary tea in my grandmother’s tea-cup on a holiday afternoon
as the sun slants through the front windows
And I lasso time to write
My heart

It’s snowflakes on the first day
Back to work after the holiday
Snowflakes cover the road
Covering my windshield
And my black ballet slippers
Leave a path across the grocery parking lot
For club soda, vanilla bean ice cream
And chocolate syrup
Because my littlest one found the recipe
In an old book
Though I knew the recipe from an old memory
Saucey boy thought he’d discovered something I didn’t
know
And I lassoed time
Because he threw down the gauntlet
To make soda memories

It’s, “Mama can you make my sandwich
‘cause it would just taste that much better?”
Or, “Mom, can you bring by the stapler?”
“Read my essay – did I do the cites right?”
expressing appropriate appreciation in the dry
humor of a miniature snowman
and how repentance grows out of hard lessons learned,
grows into tears, hugs and walking tall
And I lasso time out of the jaws of not enough
of me to go around

It’s the no in healthy boundaries
And faith in the journey of a prayer sent out
It’s decisions not for popularity
But for love
and letting go so that independence with training wheels
can work
For standing when sometimes I’d rather
retreat to “Stars and Butterflies” and “The Militia Marching In”
And I lasso time for grace
because I asked God for these boys and this job
and He grew my heart and the will to fight
for moments with tangerine rosemary tea,
chocolate sodas, the dry humor of a miniature snowman
and an answered prayer come home

(Gotta admit I cheated a line or two here – re-reading, thinking of my boys, I added a few lines – because my heart told me to)

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“How’s it going? – A New Year? A New Day?” – question asked.

“Oh the same old, same old,” comes the cliched same old answer.

And it sounds so glass-half empty – so not new – so already faltering outside the New Year gate.

Sometimes, even on a shiny New Year day, that’s how I feel.

Laundry still piled up. Hungry mouths to feed. Teens still angsting – just maybe over different things. Trying to grow where I’m planted, though I find myself sometimes surprised about exactly where I am.

There’s a lot of same old, same old in my life . . . . I might be living in a same old, same old 24/7 world – but I am learning to live it with a mercies-renewed-each-morning attitude. Not like a one-time gift that we have to make last – with crazy glue and duct tape.

Won’t you join me over at  The Mom Initiative for the rest of this post. I am so excited to start my New Year there today!

 

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snowroadI learned a lot in December. . .

1)Christmas can still be joyful, even if the Christmas candy doesn’t get made until New Years

2)When a son is ready to soar – there’s peace in this mama’s heart when the plane leaves at 6 a.m. Christmas Even morning to take him to the west coast -

3)Saucy little 13-year-olds laugh when they get coal in their stocking for not believing in Santa.

4)I also learned ethical opportunities can be found skipping across a parking lot:

Monday before Christmas, phone to my ear talking to my mom, I hauled myself out of the van, lunch and all to see a dollar bill skipping across the mostly holiday-empty parking lot.

Frustrated, I could see myself head to the ground, unsweet tea all over the place, gracelessness every I tried to regain the dollar – was it the one I had in my hand when I ordered the unsweet tea? Something inside me wouldn’t let me give up.

Still talking to my mom, I gained on that greenback as it flirted away from me – looking more like a 5 than a 1. The pursuit turned more serious, less whiny feeling.

When I finally captured the bill, it wasn’t George or Lincoln starring back at me. It was Benjamin Franklin –  with his “Well, what are you going to do with me” look.

When I taught college composition, we talked about Franklin and his 13 Virtues – and we’d talk about what we’d do if we ever found Franklin lying on the ground in front, of, say Wal-Mart. Not a one of the students would have turned him in. They would have picked him up, put him in their car – and left.

“The management will just keep it,” they said.

My husband mom’s advise? “Don’t tell them how much!”

I chased down a few leads, like who I’d seen walking in before me, call my supervisor to let them know I’d found some money, call security and alerted them – never telling them the amount. They didn’t know I had Franklin stuffed away in my purse. For all they knew, it was George, or Lincoln or even Jackson.

It burned a hole, zipped up tight in my billfold.  Over the next 24 hours, while I finished up some Christmas shopping – it kept whispering from the confines of my black and white striped purse, “What are you going to do with me?”

I didn’t know – so I asked God, “What do you want me to do with this? Who needs it? I want to use it for you.”

And I waited.

I couldn’t let down all those college students who would have just walked away with no chance of ethical liberation– not when I’d encouraged them to find the owner.

Around 10 a.m. the next day, Christmas Eve – I received a message, from a friend at work asking if I had found Franklin – because someone had lost him.

I contacted Franklin’s owner. Not wanting to leave money from a fundraising for a non-profit in her car during work, she took it in – and wiley Franklin ever the freedom-advocate fell out. She didn’t realize it until that night when she was counting and reconciling it to collection records.

The money was going to help others with electric bills and food for Christmas, she said.

I thought that was pretty perfect – that $100 was being spent on just what I had talked to God about – helping others.

I learned in December that ethics always work out to the good of those who live by them – and that God encourages us to chase dollar bills across parking lots no matter how silly it looks – and that when we wait for Him to tell us what to do – it works out perfectly.

Franklin got exactly what he deserved.

 

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IMG_9410There was a lot of imperfect going on at the Blue Cotton House for Christmas.

I don’t think the perfect gift was in anyone’s stocking – or wrapped in paper. The house kept falling into disorder. We didn’t read The Night Before Christmas – but from Sunday through Wednesday – there were smiles and laughter, hugs hello and good-bye.

The truffles didn’t get rolled and sprinkled until yesterday (3 days after Christmas). Some still need to be dipped in chocolate – and the majeskas? Well, they just didn’t get made.

IMG_9433It was a patchwork Christmas – one son leaving for California with the sunrise Christmas Eve. The oldest making it for Muffaletta Christmas Eve, parting ways for Christmas Eve service – and then there were 3. No mad-cap gift prep because the youngest is 13.

I’m graceless at new things – like 3 home on Christmas Day and no little ones, this moving out of raising boys-to-men to the mom’s role in the life of little-men-to-growing men. The Christmas Tree and table decorations, and traditions like turkey on Christmas Night and muffalettas on Christmas Eve, the music, the movies, the hanging of the “First Christmas” with my husband on the tree – it anchors me in the ever-changing dynamic of celebrating life with 5 sons growing.

Andrea Bocelli’s “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Adeste Fidelis” allowed me to feel what the shepherds must have felt when the angels appeared to them that night long ago.

Our church read the Christmas story – and gave some background information. Did you realize that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah as high priest was the only church leader who could have given the verdict for Mary to be stoned if Joseph so chose to go that path. Not a coincidence that Zechariah was struck mute, giving him time to understand what God wanted him to do.

My big little guy, all 13 years old, not believing in Santa but believing in our Savior, he wanted me to make my Christmas casserole of hard-boiled eggs, chips, bacon and my cheese sauce. “No onions, Mom,” he asked.

Santa didn’t get a letter from the boy’s this year. The boys have always done one, passing the writer role down from the oldest to, well, the 4th son wrote it last year and the 5th wouldn’t write one on principle.

“I don’t want anything,” the 15 year old said.

The 18 year old wanted clothes – not grunge-looking clothes but clothes that showed a maturing, to go with his short hair cut.

IMG_9366Christmas Morning woke to a quiet. No early risers discovering what Santa brought – just a 13 year old discovering mid-morning a stocking full of coal – because only believers get presents from Santa – non-believers get coal.

“It pays to be bad,” the 3rd said. “You can get a good price for coal.”

There were smiles, new pants that fit just right, and sweaters for swag. There was It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man who Came for Dinner, Christmas in Connecticut, A Christmas Carol, and Ben Hur

and harness bells on the door.

Remote controlled helipoters instead of nerf guns

Merry Christmas phone calls to loved ones far away

Letter B gift exchanges – which is why there is a BIG Darth Vader under the tree

and my grandfather’s ornaments, my grandmother’s Christmas balls and my mother’s wreath because I don’t just like things, I like the story behind them.

IMG_9381Turkey, oyster dressing, a friend’s squash and cranberry casserole, savory green beans, egg nog and unfinished truffle balls – shared with friends and 3 of 5 sons.

It was an imperfect Christmas made perfect through the birth of a savior over 2000 years ago

when angels sang to a bunch of shepherds, shepherds who were so low they weren’t even allowed to go into the temple once a year to present their perfect sacrifice to atone for their sins – so they could be brought into the inner circle of God’s family.

Yet, according to our Christmas Eve service, these shepherds the angels visited were the select shepherds who raised the lambs, raised them without blemish, without brokenness, watched over them so they would be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.

The angels appeared first to the most lost – and  dropped into their lap the most important news scoop since creation – Glad Tidings, an angelic message, the Inside Story of the greatest story Ever Told – through this baby in a manger, God and sinner reconciled.

IMG_9445How imperfectly awesome is that – Angels announcing to the lowest left-out of God’s children that a savior was born to save them, to wash their sins away that weren’t allowed to be washed away in the daily or yearly – because He would bring the temple to them, and there, in the fields, outcasts by their own, they would in a few years, have the opportunity to have God in them, Salvation in them – and they, too, would be washed white as snow because of the perfect sacrifice of a Savior, born in a manger.

Maybe that’s why I love the shepherd story the best, that the angels sing a message from God – and the shepherds carry it in their hearts to their community:

“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the Newborn King”

and like the shepherds, I want to take the message to those that cross my path, even if it’s a path that takes me out of our way, even if is to people who think I am not worthy of the message, even if I’ve settled down to an evening under the stars, I want to rouse myself from my comfortable place to live the amazing joy of sharing something so awesome, just like the shepherds.

Between you and me? I want to not just do it, but feel the way those shepherds must have felt.

Christmas Day came for the outcasts, for the broken and the orphaned. Christmas Day came all for each imperfect me and you and everyone.

Wishing you an imperfectly beautiful Christmas Day every day this year!

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

“How many of you have parents who make under $10,000 a year. . . because if your parents make under $10,000 a year – that’s poverty! Raise your hands if your parents make under $10,000 a year,” the counselor said in my marriage class my senior year of high school.

This school counselor really wanted students to raise their hands. Some girls in my marriage class did. I didn’t.

I knew we didn’t have a lot of money – but I had never considered myself “poverty.”

My mom, grandmother and I talked about it at dinner that night. Like me, they were a bit shocked. They didn’t consider themselves poverty, either.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things.

I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My grandmother and mother sewed beautiful, hand-made clothes. My grandmother could go down to the department stores, see a dress, come home and make it.

They made Christmas sparkle – from the family bible in the hallway turned to Luke’s story of Christmas to the hand-made Christmas balls made of pins, ribbon,  beads and old brooches and they tucked them into the backyard greenery slipped onto the mantles to the tree to the dining room table to the candies, cakes and feasting.

Poverty was a state of mind, a condition of the spirit – I learned that my senior year of high school. Crippling poverty is a life walked out without faith, hope and obedience to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

christmasball5God’s plan for our lives is not limited by the condition of our pocket book. He tells us that over and over in little stories building up to the greatest story of all: the Son of God born a man to save us all.

When God’s plan to redeem us finally manifested itself, it was through a poor Jewish girl, living in the land of her ancestors – a land now owned and occupied by a people who did not recognize the God of her ancestors.

God sent an angel to a poor Jewish girl, rich in faith.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich in faith.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:26-34)

Mary, whose ancestors who had been land-rich and powerful: Sarah’s Abraham, Rachel’s Isaac, Leah’s Jacob, Ruth’s Boaz, Rahab’s Joshua, Bathesheba’s David, – Mary whose financial and circumstances were the antithesis of her ancestors financial and power circumstances – a young girl who had less to give God than anyone else on her family tree  could only give herself and her faith.

“And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).

Poverty? A young girl who believed to the point of obedience to a holy God,– a young girl so obedient to what she believed, so faith-rich that God manifested His saving grace through her.

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).

christmasballscGod sent an angel to a poor girl, rich only in faith – who was willing everything, including her reputation, to face stoning, public rejection in order to be obedient to God.

God doesn’t define us by an annual salary. He doesn’t define us by our failures or insecurities. He defines us by our faith in Him, our reaching for Him, our Hope in Him.

Mary – a frayed thread in a Holy Genealogy, whose life is not defined by her financial circumstance but her faith circumstance – she didn’t live with a poverty mentality, a have-not mentality.

She didn’t give the angel a list of I-can’t-do’s and I-don’t-haves.

Somehow by releasing her autonomy to become a servant of the Lord, she lived a have-mentality.

Her willingness to “let it be to me according to your word” showed she didn’t consider herself a have-not-what-I-need-to-get-through-this-challenge – but an assurance that through Him, she was a have-more-than-enough-to-walk-this-challenge mentality.

Our culture has set a deceptive identification trap – defining each of us by our income, race, sex, even our sin. When we define ourselves by anything other than our relationship to God, our obedience to God – we limit ourselves by taking the focus off of how He sees us, His plans for us, what He can do for us.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

That’s the story of this tapestry – isn’t it? That nothing is impossible with God. That out of the frayed threads of ourselves, if we just believe in Him, love Him, seek Him out – the threads of ourselves can weave a redemption story, a hope and faith story.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

How do you define yourself?

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