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It’s January in Tennessee – the winds have one moment blown a smackerel of cold and snow and another moment rain and mildness. Mild warmth in January is over-bearing, so the heat is off, the windows cracked open to let in a little coolness. I woke to the Robins and Cardinals chirping backyard chats. These backyard residents always remind me of Jimmy Stewart’s Rear Window living.  This morning, these flighty neighbors called back and forth to each other as if . . . it were Spring.

Spring? In January! Even the Bradford Pear buds are emerging.

They do this every year! Every single year!

Instead of falling in with them (nature duped into thinking Spring is here; me anxious I’ve missed the snow), this morning I said to myself, “Spring weather in a Tennessee January? It’s just a stage.”

I didn’t say it out loud. After all, the birds and buds wouldn’t have listened to me. So I just left them to fall for it all over again..

Year in, Year out – you’d think they’d learn and not be fooled – Two weeks of Spring weather during January in Tennessee is just a stage. Misbehavior? Sass? Mischievousness? Unhealthy boundaries? Rebellion? Lack of Discipline? Weather behavior run amuck?

It’s all happened before. Springtime in a Tennessee January is as predictable a stage, as a 10-year-old with the blues, a 12 year old pushing buttons, a 16-to-19-year-old with no smiles for the camera, and a 21-year-old who figuratively come home.

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done will be done again” (Ecc. 1: 9)

“I’ve never had a truly happy day in my life,” my first-born said when he was 10. I knew better – I had videos and photos testifying to happy days. However, I thought I’d failed, that somewhere I’d totally, irrevocably ruined his life despite trying to hard to be a good mom.

The second son was so dramatic, his blues much deeper and louder, that I didn’t recognize the pattern. However, when my third son, the joy-of-the-Lord son turned blue at 10 – I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “It’s just a stage,” I exhaled.

It’s liberating, to say, “It’s a stage” – for both of us. It means it’s o.k. to be blue. It’s o.k. for seasons to be uncomfortable. I wonder if sometimes our greatest fear is that we’re made all wrong, irrevocably broken, “unfixable.” It’s liberating for him to realize he’s a regular boy just as it’s good for me to realize I’m a regular mom. Each stage is designed with a beginning, a progression, an end and an ever-after.

Twelve is a dicey stage. It’s a button-pushing stage. One day, the 4th son came in, saying about the 5th one, the 12 year old, “I’m going to kill him. Really, Mom. If he doesn’t stop, I’m  going to haul off and hit him.” The button-pushing stage can be wearisome – not due to lack of excitement, but for the repetitious nature of cause-effect in the stage.

Three sons ago, I would have panicked. Don’t kind, loving moms who love, discipline and pray for their children have obedient, happy-go-lucky children who adore being together? All hugs and love! Right? A mischief of boys doesn’t work like that – training to be a knight in shining armor is filled with wrestling, challenges, showmanship – learning how to lead and follow. These stages have been humbling, sending me closer to the Father, looking to find that place of comfort under his wing the bible talks about.

“It’s a stage,” I told this son who was terribly tired of his brother in this stage – but he didn’t know it was a stage. “You did the same thing to your brothers. He’ll grow out of it.”

The pressure seemed to just fall off of him. “Well,” he said, turning away. “Then I deserved everything I got when I was his age.”

Interestingly, once the boys seems to understand the behavior was part of a stage, their vengeance tempered. The cause/effect of this button-pushing staged seemed more survivable.

Maybe by recognizing there are stages, we are better able to understand where we are isn’t permanent, that where this stage leads is to something God-better. Uncomfortable? In a hard challenge? In a hard winter before a reviving spring?

Just like a tide’s ebb and flow

Just like seed-time and harvest

Just like springtime weather in January

It’s not a surprise – to God. Maybe to us, but not to God. It’s not the precursor to a fail, to a world-gone-wrong season. Sometimes a stage is a new season, a new life-appropriate challenge we haven’t yet experienced yet – and, like all new things, live the beginning of it awkwardly, inconfused and frustration.

“There is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything about which is said,
‘Look! This is new!”?
It was already here long ago,
    in the ages long before us” (Ecc. 1:10)

I’m in a new-to-me stage. It’s like the first time I experienced the 10-year-old blues, the 12-year-old button pushing – and all those other stages I experienced as the mom in the relationship. It’s new territory, a new adventure – but now I’m tempted to be excited that God is adding a dimension to my story. Maybe it’s more of a rueful excitement that recognizes the awkwardness, moments of self-doubt, frustration, even the failure – all sorts of growing-pains, the kind that sharpens and softens the soul.

This time, this stage, I know that after every hard challenge, there is a period of refreshing. That because of Christ, after every crucifixion moment comes resurrection.

This Spring weather in Tennessee is just a stage. I’m in good company, with these red birds, cardinals and Bradford Pear buds, learning how to live these stages God designed.

“The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns”
(Ecc. 1: 6)

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Treating Boys as Knights in Training
When the Knight Pledges His Life to His Lord
Raising boys as Knights in Training
Six Mom-Stages of Raising Boys to Men

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
#TeaAndWord#TestimonyTuesday#TellHisStory, #Glimpses,#LMMLinkup

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It was a June evening when my second son married. Chaos had been hood-winked by a Thursday evening wedding. The couple was to leave on a cruise the following Saturday morning, so a Thursday evening wedding it was.

Because the bride’s family lived out-of-town, she invited me to help. I gladly let her take the reins. How I enjoyed being invited along for the ride! She took me with her to the baker, the caterer – and anything else in between. As a mother-of-sons-only, this invitation was a beautiful blessing – a God-sees-me blessing.

The wedding was small, about 40, a family-only wedding, on a farm retired to host celebrations. A young couple, the husband with his cello, the wife with her violin played, their music wafting through the ceremony and celebration of this sweet young couple. Family came from the east coast, the west coast and in between.

Maybe it was because of the un-traditional weekday timing. Maybe because it wasn’t designed to be a blow-out. Maybe that’s why chaos was kept at bay that delightful June evening – when Spring still ruled, just-right coolness fell over the party, and fireflies attended, and evening let twilight linger gracefully: gentle breezes, gentle music and family at its best reaching out to meet each other, reaching to begin friendships.

I’m learning to stop inviting chaos into the daily – whether it’s a big event daily or a regular daily with all its dishes, dirty socks and Sadie needing a walk.

The boys had all  outgrown the jackets, dress pants, shoes and starched shirts and had to be fitted for new ones. All of it had been organized down to the socks days before.  No tuxedos, but how handsome they all looked in suits, jackets, ties and shiny shoes. No last-minute chaotic scrambles.

Home had been mowed, mulched, trimmed and arranged by four of the boys with a team-work camaraderie that was a seen moment born out of a “faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for,-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen” belief. Brothers in a brotherhood work best when they know they’re needed by each other. Being needed is to be seen.

tablesI tempted chaos, though. The night before the wedding, I finished putting together bright-looking fabric banners for the Friday morning breakfast. The morning of the wedding, my mother used her special brand of magic to create white roses, pink roses and baby’s breath arrangements for dinner table-tops. My husband took the wedding poem I’d written, What are you Doing for the Rest of Your Life II  accompanied by the art work my son’s mother-in-law-to-be had created . He delivered 50 copies  by lunch time for each place setting. I was also prepping for the breakfast the day after the wedding: Blueberry French toast, Pigs in a Garden with country ham, biscuits, sausage gravy and chocolate gravy.

There was so much to think about, about 40 people to think about, and, not the least, were thoughts about my once little boy all grown up and marrying a sweet girl I’d prayed for since he was little.

There were so many people who needed to be seen – really seen, really met – because all who came loved part of this new whole – and love like that deserves to be seen and met.

I pulled the evening bag out of my top drawer, the one my mother had pulled  out of her top drawer for my very first formal dance – because, I guess, every girl needs a handbag to go with a beautiful dress. She always made sure  10 cents were tucked away in the inside pocket in case of emergencies. It was a twenties-looking confection with silver beads and threads around and about a silver-beaded flower embroidered on white silk, lined with satin.

I pulled it out of my top drawer, and paused, thinking of my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter who had a new baby sister. Weddings risk being stuffy affairs  for little ones. They have to not spoil their dress clothes, keep quiet at the right times when they don’t even know  what all the right times are yet, and this little one who gets all our attention when she comes to visit, risked not being seen. Since it was a small wedding and she was the first grandchild, she would be the only little one walking around – no playmates for the swing on the big oak tree. No playmates for impromptu tag when the grown-ups aren’t paying attention. Even in big events, like weddings, when all eyes are on the bride and groom – each person still needs to be seen to truly belong.

I carried the purse through the house, pulling a tiny, pink heart-shaped sucker from a vase I’d put sweets in for the next day. I wandered to my thinking room, where there’s a child’s table, a Mrs. Potts tea set and a mischief of tiny mice  waiting for Ava to come play. Since it was going to be a grande occasion, I tucked the Prince and Princess Mouse into my purse, snapping it shut!

What little girl doesn’t want to carry around a sparkly purse filled with a prince and princess mouse. I could just envision it, the snapping open, the snapping close, and the little mice in-between all that elegant snapping. All was ready!

Maybe it’s just me, maybe sometimes you feel it, too – the little bit of Hagar within each of us who so needs to be seen by someone who loves us. Hagar only had God. God didn’t tell her that her life journey would be easy – but the relief she felt is palpable, relief that God saw her,  the realization that she wasn’t alone. He was there, El Roi, the God who sees me – and sometimes the realization that He is the only one who sees us must be enough – for her – and you, and me.

“So she called Adonai who was speaking to her, “You are the God who sees me.” For she said, “Would I have gone here indeed looking for Him who looks after me?” (Genesis 16:13, Tree of Life Translation).

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!” (Genesis 16:13, The Message)

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to reach beyond our inside circle, to reach outside our comfortable companions – and find the Hagars, the ones who don’t know God sees them, who feel invisible, who don’t have a comfortable inside place with someone who loves them. Sometimes we have to realize He sees us – because he stepped right in front of us – either literally, or through you or me, or in the Lord’s own mysterious way of making himself known when our words cannot.

When Ava saw me, she ran, hurtling her little self at me, wrapping her arms around my legs for a hug. I knelt down, and asked her if she’d take care of my purse for me during the ceremony and festivities, if she’d take care of what was inside.

Her face lit up and broke into a smile, her little fingers snapping open her Muddy’s purse, to find her two friends inside. She took care of it all evening, until it was time to leave for bedtime.

weddingbenboysChaos tried to find a way in to the wedding. The wrong cake was delivered. It was forgotten that Brooks and Junior, the two golden retrievers, were to walk down the aisle. A few little things here and there. But those things?  They weren’t seen then. We didn’t realize about the cake and the dogs until the next day – and the next day, well, we laughed about chaos’ attempt to be seen at the wedding.

It was a day of good things seen – a couple saying their vows to God under an oak tree with a swing, family members seen laughing, telling stories, weaving their stories into ours, smiles and joy were seen, love, too – and a little girl snapping open and pulling out a prince and princess mouse from inside her Muddy’s purse.

 “Therefore Yeshua answered them, “Amen, amen I tell you, the Son cannot do anything by Himself. He can do only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does. He will show Him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed” (John 5:19-20, Tree of Life Translation).

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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” ~ George Eliot, Adam Bede.

The oldest son walked in first, into the hospital room that Saturday in late February. I’d been admitted just long enough to have IVs placed. The antibiotics hadn’t even been started yet. I was septic with double pneumonia. My husband had gone home to bring back what I’d need for a stay. The second son and his wife came with my two youngest about 30 minutes later, followed by the 3rd son. I couldn’t talk; it wasn’t worth the effort, but, like any time all the boys gather, there is more entertainment to be found in the listening than by trying to add my 2 cents worth. It was an unanticipated gathering where love doesn’t need to invite, love just comes.

2016 was a year of unanticipated gatherings. I call them grace gatherings.

Gatherings: fellowship, belonging, inside the circle, storytelling, listening, laughter, tears, highs and lows, memory-making, engaging authentic caring, maybe just a just-holding-hands, sharing, quiet or loud, praying, believing, forgiving, hoping, choosing love, a just-being-there kind of gathering.

You see, there are the on-the-calendar gatherings with cakes and candles and a year added to someone’s count. There are holiday gatherings with feasting, thanksgiving, sparklers and fireworks. There are Soli Deo Gloria gatherings reminding us of God’s love and faithfulness in the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His son. There are back porch gatherings, kitchen counter gatherings, breaking bread or sharing a cup of tea gatherings. People arrive either through formal invites or the casual, southern-styled, the-door’s-always-open invitation to stop by, sit long and talk much over a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.

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Ben and Katrina’s June, 2015 Wedding

Then there are the big-moment, still-planned gatherings like weddings and graduations with suits, ties and starched shirts. Or planned family gatherings in flip-flops, sand with a dab of beach soccer. Last summer,  35+ members of my husband’s family gathered at the beach. We’ve done this since 2009. This was the first year all my boys (with their family) have been together like this since 2008. It was a memory-making gathering.

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Family, June 2016

. . . and then there are the unwanted gatherings where grace just brings you to stand with others in the hard moments when illness threatens or death comes . . . . unwanted gatherings redeemed by grace.

Grace:
1. 
Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Twice this year, Grace gathered and lined up, gave hugs, shared stories that touched our hearts and brought smiles.

Grace always makes time to love.

Those memories we’d all gathered?  Memory stories overflowed with more than enough grace to pour on aching, loss-sore hearts. Nanny had sowed enough love to bring grace to every one of our hearts when she went home to heaven in November. Those memories we’d gathered? Whether 6 or 66, we each had within us a lifetime of memories gathered to pull out when we miss her, to pull out to comfort in her absence.

It’s hard when a beloved character in your story leaves your story. It’s like when Beth dies in Little Women. The gatherings are never the same kind of sweet as when she was there, and it leaves the reader poignantly homesick for earlier chapters, even though the story continues on, fulfilling the designed hope for each character remaining in the story.

Yes, I would have preferred only the birthday sparkle and back-porch kind of gatherings in 2016. Who wouldn’t? But I find myself humbled by a loving God who instills in the hard gatherings grace that redeems through His unfailing love, a love so big that not only does he seek a one-on-one gathering with each of us, but manages to give each of us what we need in the table-packed, porch-packed, house-packed, beach-packed easy or hard gatherings.

2016 was a Grace-in-the-Gatherings kind of year. I don’t know God’s design for 2017. I do know there will be birthday gatherings with cakes and sparkle. When Spring comes, the back porch will open up again and sweet tea and lemonade will taste mighty fine with those who come to sit long and talk much. My 4th son graduates in May, a new grandchild will come in July. The one thing I can rely on is my reliable  Father-God who always shows up, whether I’m alone or in an easy or hard gathering – and brings His abundant grace to share with all who come.

Praying grace in your gatherings in 2017!

“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship” ~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith.

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http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Giving Up on Perfect, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday

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The Great Smokey Mountains in 2012, after a torrential storm filled the rivers and streams to overflowing

“we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.”
~ Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected.

The Great Smokey Mountains caught fire and burned, and in the burning almost feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. The loss of children in Chattanooga to a senseless school bus accident, a car accident over Thanksgiving that took one of our town’s last year’s high school graduates, merciless violence at Ohio State. In the last few months, we lost my oldest aunt, my husband’s mother. A strange red car drove through my front yard today and off into the field beside us, and, like each one of us, I have my own challenges that try to steal my peace, grace and faith. It’s not just me that feels breathtakingly overwhelmed.

There are so many people hurting right now – hurting through the loss of loved ones through the in-your-face hard things like sickness, disease/cancer, car accidents, violence, through wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and all sorts of natural disasters, hurting, too, through the inside hurts that most cannot see but are wounds that nevertheless try to steal the grace, faith and hope right out of our souls.

In all of this, I hold on to the one who won’t let go of me.

Mountains may burn, the senseless and overwhelming may happen, the little foxes may tear at the vines, but God never waivers in his constant love for you and me. God has ever remained faithful, has always pursued each of us, sent his son so that we could live resurrection after each hard crucifixion whether physically, emotionally or spiritually.

I pray each person hurting right now stand firm in the Holy Spirit overflow of God’s love, knowing that He’s got it – whatever you’re wrestling with, whatever sadness or fear that threatens to overcome -each of us rest in the peace of comfort that He’s got it.

The solution may not look like what we anticipate.

The right now might not feel like salvation or resurrection. Yet, despite the crucifying hurt of the right now, I pray that we stand in the hope of our belief in our faith that with Him we will rise out of the darkness of these overcoming hurts into the joyous hope that Christ’s resurrection brings each of us.

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Growing along the trail about 1/2 from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains, Spring 2016

 

a legacy of love

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About 10 days ago, our family celebrated a life well lived, well loved. There were roses symbolizing the 12 grandsons, and another set of roses, symbolizing the 12 great-grandchildren (11 here and one on the way). Her quilts were displayed, along with the little girl dresses she’d made for these long-awaited great grand-girlies. Every stitch, every story was a testimony to how well she loved.

Nanny’s  son, my husband talked about how “Dad and mom would turn small accomplishments into big accomplishments.  The grade was not the measure, but how hard we tried.”

One of our sons, the joy bearer,  read 1 Cor 13:4-8a. Like any good composition teacher’s son, he added a coming-away comment to explain how the quote promoted the point being made: “Nanny loved everyone the same way she made pancakes. There was always too much, but you could never complain.”

Two of her 12 grandsons shared stories. Love isn’t meant to be always somber and serious. Love is meant to laugh, too – and we laughed in remembrance of the joy and unconditional love she brought to our lives.

Then Sherry, her daughter spoke – and she knocked it out of the ball park! If you’re a stay-at-home, well, you will be doubly blessed by the  insight into the life career you have chosen.

“Mothers/Grandmothers are a model of hope to the young. Hope means to long for, envision and anticipate. Although mom dreamed some dreams that did not come true, set goals that weren’t met or had ideas that never became reality, her children and grandchildren did not know that.

They saw dreams coming true when they attended Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. They saw goals accomplished as mom lovingly made quilts for them or taught them how to sew or attended ballgames, plays or whatever else they were involved in.

The hope for tomorrow always depends on the accomplishments of yesterday. Our success and strength for the future depends largely on our past. A mother’s decisions, accomplishments and dreams are really the beginning of a child’s life. My mom’s decision in choosing her life mate affected not only her but all of us. While mom did not have a workplace career, she made her family and friends her life career. The memories that she gave her children will live on in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After my dad died, mom asked me many times, ‘Why am I still here?’ My answer was always the same, ‘God is not done with you yet.’ I believe she remained to show us how to go on and live with strength, grace and, most importantly, love. Never forget how much she loved her family. When she wanted to give up, she didn’t – and we are all better people for witnessing her life” ~Sherry, November 16, 2016

She made a life-time career out of loving others – I don’t know about you – but that is the best job-description I’ve ever heard for housewives and stay-at-home moms! What a job advertisement!

What a legacy of love Nanny has left us – a legacy gently stitched into the heart of everyone standing under the apple tree with the tire swing – a legacy strong and true enough for passing down.

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” ~ (1 Cor 13: 4-8a)

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“It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Who wouldn’t like a 7 Day Spa treatment? Even one day at a Spa sounds enticing. There’s mineral spring spas for relaxing soaks, day spas for massage therapy, saunas, revitalization treatments, and destination spas for physical and mental strengthening in wellness.

Once people went to the mineral springs to “take the cure” for an array of ailments. Today, it’s more about pampering the outer man and his emotional inner man. Each spa is designed as a get away, whether for an hour or a week, to help one re-calibrate personal well-being. Simply put, Spas today help us get away from a life that we’re having trouble getting a hold of.

I don’t know about you, but while a spa getaway sounds delightful, I need something that’s going to go beyond releasing the inner pressure through a deep-muscle massage. I need spiritual re-calibration which can only come from relationship with the Father who designed and created me.

Dolly Lee’s book, 7 Days of Soul Care: A Guide to Letting God do the Extraordinary with Your Ordinary, felt like a soul-spa treatment where we are invited to rest, to massage the sinewy knots out of soul muscles, to slow stretch the God-design of ourselves by breaking old, ineffective patterns of soul fitness and developing not just healthier but truer soul fitness.

7 Days of Soul Care offers a holistic approach to soul care – the body, the soul, the mind: Know God, Know Yourself; Embrace Your True Worth; Know Jesus, Know God; Discern Your Soul’s Condition; What Trials Can Reveal; Take Steps Toward God; Rest and Play.

Regardless of how long you’ve been a Christian, Dolly’s book is refreshing soul care for the Christian whether they are just newly embarking on this life journey or for the Christian who needs a tune-up under the hood of their soul.

Dolly encourages us to be exceptional in the ordinary daily – not through acts and achievement but through real, intentional relationship with God. By learning who we are to him and how he sees us, we end up living exceptional in the ordinary. It is not a snap-of-the fingers metamorphosis; it is a life time development.

Dolly defines exception as “‘connecting with God to be my best,’ and by ‘best,’ I mean ‘more fully myself as God created’”

In order to see ourselves as exceptional, we need to understand how God sees us:

“Extraordinary—God looks at us with delight just because we’re his.” ~ Dolly Lee

“The more we see ourselves as Beloved, then the more we can see others as also Beloved by God.” ~ Dolly Lee

“I’ve learned what we believe about our worth is one of the biggest determinants of how we live our lives.” ~ Dolly Lee

Dolly shares her challenges that led her on this journey that led to this book. Chapter 6, what “What Trials can Reveal,” was a particular favorite of mine, providing fresh insight into the story of the Prodigal, allowing me a more multi-dimensional look into a story I thought I had mined thoroughly for wisdom.

“Whether we identify more with the dutiful, resentful older brother or the wild- living prodigal, God invites us to receive relationship with him. But we each must accept his invitation to join the party.” ~Dolly Lee

Her chapters include a devotional, questions and activities for discussion, and closing with a prayer. While 7 days to Soul Care can be read, in, well, 7 days, I recommend working through one chapter a week. I particularly enjoyed the caliber of questions and activities. The questions are ideal as prompts for journaling because these are not surface questions. The questions invite you to pull out your life experience and study it through Soul Care eyes.

Some examples are the following:

  • “Can you recall a time when God or someone else comforted you? What did you feel and think? How have you been able to come alongside someone else because of a similar trial you experienced?”
  • “When you read the story of the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4:6–42, what do you notice? How does Jesus embody grace and truth in his conversation with the woman? What truth about himself does Jesus want to reveal to her? What truth about her does Jesus reveal? How does she respond to Jesus at different points during their interaction?”
    • “How does she respond to Jesus? List the different ways. Can I compare her response to my response to my interaction with Jesus?”
  •  “How can you practice the freedom to live as our extraordinary God created you, so you can be exceptional in the ordinary things of life?”

Dolly’s Soul Care discussion areas not only invite us to write or talk out our answers – she also tells us it’s o.k. to wordlessly go to God because “Sometimes trust is turning our gaze and our broken hearts toward God without words.”

Dolly says, “We can’t be exceptional—connecting with our extraordinary God to be our best—without discerning the condition of our individual soul.”

dollyfinalI met Dolly a little over a year ago at Deidra Rigg’s Jumping Tandem Retreat. This trip was a big deal to me – the first time on an airplane by myself, away from all my kids. All my flights were cancelled when I pulled into the airport to leave. I was told I could get there Saturday night, which meant getting there in time for a wrap up before catching a plane back the next morning. I held on tight to my grace, opted for kindness and faith – and I arrived on-time Friday afternoon, frazzled, hoping that someone was really going to be there to pick me up – and, a distance away, came Dolly from the opposite direction, arms wide open for a welcoming hug. We’d been bloggy friends for a few years – and on that very frazzling afternoon for this girl who hadn’t been this far from home alone before – well, Dolly was all grace and comfort.

Dolly is good at that – bringing comfort, restfulness, hospitality into a group of women. She’s also fearless – She was one of the brave who embarked on a zip-line adventure while I stood securely on the ground watching.

Her sweet, welcoming, fearless nurturing is woven continually through-out her book, 7 Days of Soul Care. She has created a retreat, a spa for us to dip ourselves into the living waters, to refresh ourselves in our God-designed journey, equipping us to go forward not only better equipped, but in closer relationship to the one who created us and loves us so.

You can pick up Dolly’s book, 7 Days of Soul Care here and connect with her at her blog, Soul Stops here.

(I received an Advanced Reader Copy but I was not paid to write this review. This is my honest review of a book written by a sweet friend of mine)

 

stormybeach

Radical Christianity doesn’t intercede because sin is so ugly; Radical Christianity intercedes because it knows there is something beautiful to redeem beneath the sin.

Radical Christianity doesn’t beat the sin out; Radical Christianity loves the sin out.

Radical Christianity believes nothing is too big or too broken for our God to restore.

Radical Christianity doesn’t give lip-service to negative-Nancy platitudes; Radical Christianity speaks faith and hope words that empower to stand in the gap, interceding through the Holy Spirit.

Radical Christianity intercedes not just  for our friends, our family, our church. Radical Christianity intercedes for our schools, our cities and our country, regardless of political beliefs.

Reading the news for the past few months leaves me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in a way I never imagined feeling in America. I’ve felt disquieted before – and have learned that disquieted feeling is a call to prayer, for intercession.

Abraham interceded boldly for Sodom. God has stopped by, talked with Abraham, told him of his plans for S&G. The Great I AM was going to see for himself it it was all true, to walk among the people before he destroyed the two cities.

The men set out for Sodom, but Abraham stood in God’s path, blocking his way” (Genesis 18: 22).

If I’d been a by-stander, I think I would have stepped back – waiting for a lighting bolt or other smiting material. Abraham stood in God’s path – stood – as if Abraham could stop God.

But that’s the kind of relationship they had – they talked to each other, broke bread together, sat under the stars together – Abraham cooked for him.

. . . . and God didn’t smite him because Abraham dared approach the creator of the world so.

Abraham confronted him, ‘Are you serious? Are you planning on getting rid of the good people right along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent people left in the city; will you lump the good with the bad and get rid of the lot? Wouldn’t you spare the city for the sake of those fifty innocents? I can’t believe you’d do that, kill off the good and the bad alike as if there were no difference between them. Doesn’t the Judge of all the Earth judge with justice?'”(Genesis 18: 23-25)

Abraham stood in God’s path and interceded – boldly – and God didn’t say, “How dare you talk to me that way.” Instead, God engaged, encouraged Abraham’s intercession.

I believe right now we need to be interceding the same way, going boldly to God just like Abraham. Jesus bore our sins and died for us so that we could come before God like Abraham.  His death and resurrection grafted us into that family, those promises, that same relationship opportunity.

I believe there are many righteous men and women in our nation. I believe there is a heart for the great I Am .

Abraham didn’t say things like, “Yes, Sodom’s going to Hell in a hand-basket.”  Instead, Abraham begged for Sodom, 50, 40, 30, 20, down to 10 faithful men (Genesis 18: 26-33). He interceded. He ASKED boldly, daringly. Abraham interceded with hope and faith, not finger pointing and sin cataloging. He didn’t bash Sodom as sin-city. Rather, he focused on the righteous man.

When I wrote much of this a few years ago, I asked you to intercede, to pray for our country, for God to move in our country, to save it – for the righteous men and women who pray with you, who minister to you in the grocery store, in the pulpit, in the blogahood – even the righteous boys and girls whom you have taught to pray, to walk in faith, to trust in the great I Am who says “I AM” able to save a country, yes – for even one righteous man.

Today I am asking again.

I do not doubt that we have 1, 50, 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,00 – even 1 million righteous men, women and children in our country.

Let us become interceders for our country like Abraham was for Sodom. Right now, I think we have much hope. Abraham’s story tells us we do.

I pray that you wake up to a faith-filled morning, where God reminds that for 50 righteous, he would save a city

Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

and if there weren’t 50 righteous, he would save a city for 45 righteous men and women:

Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

The great I AM, who created the universe, the intricacies of the reproduction system, amoebas, humor, tear ducts, love – He was willing to be talked down to finding only 40 righteous men out of an entire city.

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

How much He must have wanted to save all those men, women and children – Even for only 30 righteous men and women would he save a city.

He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”

For 20 righteous men and women, he would save an entire city.

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (Genesis 18: 28-32)

Even for as little as 10 – and He filled me with hope – because our country still has righteous men and women who love the Lord our God with all their hearts and minds and souls.

Abraham didn’t talk God down to “if there were just one righteous man” – maybe he thought he was asking too much, had pushed God too far.

Sometimes we decide what God will do before we even ask. Sometimes fear stops us from saying what we really want to ask.

Abraham didn’t ask if he would save a city for one righteous man. He stopped at 10.

But God was willing to save a city – even one righteous man – just one. Are you willing to ask – to believe – be the one when others fail?

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city”(Jeremiah 5:1)

Are you willing to stand in the gap on behalf of our country, to build up a protective wall of faith?

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30)

50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 1 – don’t despair – for even one faithful man, He would save a city, a country.

Today, let us love the Lord with all our hearts, our souls and our minds – and let us intercede for our nation.