Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

keithsbabybraceletc

If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time

. . . a mistake just realized. . . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. My husband had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, modjeskas  and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. A genetic issue, our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical, the opening the size of a needle.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

stairwellc
During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide

and All is Well. . . Even Though Devotional)

lakeleafc

 

Read Full Post »

pasta

“‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’And she answered, ‘All is well’” ~ 2 Kings 4:26.

72 days into 2019 – 7 days of doctor visits, pre-surgery testing, 2 surgeries, 3 hospital stays totalling 14 days. There has not been much Everyday Ordinary. . . . , but there have been miracles, stunning displays of God’s timing, and God with us . . . . and such a story to tell – of what God has done for my husband,  for the desires of my heart, for my family, but the telling of that is not for today (but soon – and if you didn’t know, it’s o.k. because only a handful did because we focused on God throughout the journey). Today is for the Blessing of the Everyday Ordinary.

My youngest, the saucy one, he’s a senior this year. His soccer season started about a week ago. Home is mama cooking, as he calls it, “The good stuff.” I remember baking my granola bars two weeks ago. I’d even made my Chicken Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese – was it about 10 days ago? Even a Chicken Piccata. But there wasn’t any consistency. No Everyday Ordinary.

He’d tell you I hadn’t been cooking at all. He even used my Instagram account to prove I hadn’t been cooking: “Where’s the pictures, Mom?”

Moving out of A Time of Great Challenge back into The Everyday Ordinary, God knew I’d need some help with the transition.

The youngest, somewhere in 2019, woke up wanting to eat Banana Pudding. Maybe it’s his taste buds maturing. Maybe it’s because it’s his dad’s favorite. Regardless of the reason, just because he asked, I bought all the ingredients, but I just couldn’t seem to get the timing right.

“Today Mom?” he’d ask.
“No, not today,” I answered, eyeing him. “Someone ate the vanilla wafers.”

“Now Mom?” he asked another time.
“No, someone at the bananas.”

“Banana Pudding, Mom?” a third time.
“Milks all gone.”

He wasn’t used to this kind of project fail from his mom, so he determined I needed coaching,  his own special, saucy brand of coaching – a lot of verbal sauce with a hug thrown in to get me to cross the finish line – really, to help me cross over into Everyday Ordinary – and I couldn’t resist his entreaties, so I promised, “Tomorrow” – and yesterday I did. He even offered to help me so he could learn.

When I tried to get by with just one box of instant vanilla pudding (because that’s how my husband’s mama made it – so that’s the way I make it), he made sure I pushed through and used both boxes: “No slackin’ Mom.”  A few layers later, my husband walked through the kitchen, checked out my progress, “Yes,” I answered before he even asked. “Meringue on top just like your mom made.”

Whew! I was being hen-pecked in my kitchen. . . . I loved every minute of it, every minute of this special brand of Everyday Ordinary that is Home to all of us at the Blue Cotton House. Apparently, they needed the Everyday Ordinary I’d cultivated for over 36 years just as much as I did.

When I set the Banana Pudding on the counter, if I had doubted that I was back in Everyday Ordinary, I knew, when, instead of admiring how beautiful it looked, the youngest asked, “What’s for dinner?”

I was ahead of him this time because I’d been planning on putting a new spin on an old favorite recipe.

Monday I had cooked my Muddy Cheese Steaks with green beans and salad, yesterday was grilled ham and cheese because of an away soccer game, but last night – last night we experienced the grace, the extravagant beauty of finally moving into the Everyday Ordinary, where we sat around the counter eating, talking, friends coming in, sharing a bowl, followed by a mile walk in a early spring trying to blow winter out.

God knows! He know sometimes we need being sauced back into shape, sometimes we need someone cooking “the good stuff,” and sometimes, we need the “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” that allows God to work his miracles in our lives, and we need the rhythm of The Everyday Ordinary, with its God-designed blessings and grace,  to come home to after the challenge has been redeemed.

Chicken, Pancetta, Lemon and Garlic Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Package Capellini Angel Hair Pasta Nests
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 cup whipping cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat butter and Olive Oil over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic and diced pancetta, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes until aromatic. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the cream and heat through. Season with salt to taste.

While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta according to directions.

Layer with pasta nest, chicken and sauce, pepper and sprinkle with parmesan.

* * *

One of the scriptures my husband would recite each time before he went under anesthesia and when he came out:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” ~ Numbers 6: 24-26
bananapudding

Read Full Post »

green beansc

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

After walking through A Great Challenge, in the middle of an everyday ordinary moment, when rinsing out the upteenth glass of chocolate milk, filling the dog’s water bowl, or clearing away the clutter on the kitchen table –  that is when the courage, strength and resilience dissolve, leaving me nothing with which to hold myself together. Maybe it’s just God’s timing, telling me that it is in the everyday ordinary where it is safe to let go, to let the frayed edges recognize they are frayed so they can then mend, the tiredness rest, the bedraggled soul refresh.

No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Mending time is where I need to give myself space for healing to wholeness. The Everyday Ordinary can be a re-set space, where the hum of routine soothes, even familiar acts of organizing the forks, knives and spoons, of rummaging through the socks for mates. . . of measuring ingredients for the green beans. Routine allows thoughts and emotions to simmer, to steam up and release in the mending space of. . .  the everyday ordinary.

I cook maybe like some men fish. I imagine fishing centers one into an everyday, ordinary hum of a routine, a kind of going home where the right now can be poured through the sieve of memories of those who mentored, teaching things about fishing that were more than fishing, to better process what needs processing – and, by remembering, ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly – or the aftermath of a challenge.

Cooking is that kind if processing for me – connecting to the past – to the future and to the right now. Cooking allows a particular kind of busyness that allows the spiritual and emotional effects of challenges to safely bubble to the surface, letting me face issues at first indirectly, then directly.

auntjoycekitchen (2)c

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Sunday I made a pot of green beans, just the way Aunt Joyce showed me not quite 36 years ago when I married. She doesn’t remember anymore, how to make her green beans. Dementia steals the good stuff: the stories, the good conversations, even the recipes. She is 3 1/2 hours away – and I miss our conversations about the nothing going on or about the challenges, the quirky stories and the recipe sharing – and so I make her green beans, the everyday, ordinary, home-cooked but not garden-fresh green beans (I fail at cooking fresh green beans) because in the challenges I miss being with these women who taught me to be resilient enough to overcome the challenge. That Never-Give-Up Spirit is a Pass-It-Down Thing – and it’s something I want to pass down to those God gave me – and to show them how to never-give-up with God beside me! Cooking in the kitchen reminds me of them, which reminds me of the things they taught me, which always leads me to inviting God into whatever has led me to stirring, mixing or whipping up an idea of something that tastes like savory or sweet, feels like a warm hug, conjures joy – whatever the needs in the everyday ordinary.

Cooking Aunty Joyce’s green beans makes me feel less alone in the challenge. Making my mom’s caramel icing or chocolate fudge or creamed spinach, though she’s eight hours away, makes me feel the same way, like she’s right there, encouraging me.  Fry Chicken – well, that’s time with Grandmother – nobody could fry chicken like she could – or make a Charlotte Russe. When I cook, sometimes all the women who poured into me, are there – and, though I’d rather they all be there still, sitting in my kitchen pouring into me, I remember the lessons they taught me, and it encourages me.

Sometimes, the fried chicken is more than fried chicken, the caramel icing is more than caramel icing – and the green beans are more than green beans. Sometimes God uses the recipe to do a healing, shalom kind-of-work within me.

Cooking takes me back to the kitchen where I grew up – filled with Grandmother and Mom, and then later to Aunt Joyce’s kitchen, filled with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce – and I miss those kitchen moments of long-ago home, and this sadness has indirectly created a release valve of today’s challenges walked through -where the courage, strength and resilience can dissolve making space for mending, resting and refreshing – and it started with those never-ending glasses of chocolate milk that needed cleaning out, followed by the green beans that needed making, my mind a rabbit warren full of memories, and a soul desperately trying to rest in its creator but not quite knowing how to achieve it on my own.

Maybe the kitchen isn’t your refreshing, soul-mending space. I’d love to know 1) what you busy yourself with to ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly, and 2) the mentors who poured into you as you grew into your soul-mending space.

Aunt Joyce doesn’t remember the recipe anymore, but I do – and my grandson loves them by the plate full, my husband by the heaping big spoon full.  The boys?  I’m not sure they really care about green beans. Me? They taste best right out of the pot!

 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 10 The Message

Aunt Joyce’s Green Beans
(I’d never measured for green beans before, but I did for this. I’m sure if you love them as much as I do (and my husband and grandson), you’ll soon get into pouring and mixing without needing to measure.)

Green Beans (50 oz can), drain,  rinse and pour them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, turn on medium heat.
Add the following:
1/2 the juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon. summer savory
2 tablespoon bacon drippings (or vegetable oil for a healthier choice)
2 bouillon cubes
1/2 a regular onion, quartered (quartered so those who don’t like onions but respect the flavoring they add can easily remove before serving)
salt/pepper to taste

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then simmer on low for hours, maybe all day. Some think green beans are best when cooked all day and served the next. I tend to agree. Like a good marriage, the longer some things simmer together, the more they blend into something delightfully more savory.

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” ~ Saint Augustine

ajmomc

Read Full Post »

Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. I rejoice that my son’s have the father I never did – and I realize more keenly what I missed and wonder what I would have been like had I a father like they have. This post is for all the fatherless daughters, whether because their fathers were physically absent or emotionally absent, this is for you.

For these daughters whose father never said, “You are mine, a gift from God, to cherish and protect,”

or wrapped you in his arms to hug away your wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others,

If your father did not  provide security or chase away the night terrors,

or missed seeing you receive your award because he was standing outside smoking a cigarette,

If you missed those Father Words, telling you you were beautiful, filled with awesome gifts – well, every daughter should have a father who thinks she is beautiful.

If your father did not carefully help your mother choose your name and rejoice on the day you were born and every birthday afterwards,

Who did not stand between you and danger,

Who received your shabby chic gifts with careless disregard, saying your handwriting too small to read your stories,

Who never treated you like a princess, or the world’s greatest softball pitcher, or the next Jane Austen because your dreams just never entered his mind.

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

Who never said, “I believe in you” when the world did not,

Who left it up to someone else to teach you how to drive a stick shift with manly patience,

Who did not rejoice in your marriage or was there to hold your child in his arms when he was born, to be a doting grandpa who would say, “Don’t talk that way to my daughter, boy.”

Who never said, “I love you,”

If you had an earthly father who did not father you, I encourage you to ask our creator, our Father, our God to fill that empty void, to open your eyes to the true daughter-ship that you have in Him, your rightful place in His family. Brokenness through rejection is NOT God’s plan for you.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matt 9:22)

God will be that Father you never had. He gave you great gifts that unfurl within you at just the right time He created you beautiful (Psalm 139).

He rejoiced the day you were born and on the first day you sought Him out – “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)

He knows the needs you have before you ask him (Matt 6:8) He wants to know what is going on in your life. He wants to hear every rambling word, every detail, every thought written in your heart no matter how small.

He not only takes care of the night terrors but the life terrors as well “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4)

He is a father who not only provides but is like the father who stops by and fixes your sink when your husband’s out of town, who checks in on you when one of the kids are sick. “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1)

Stop swinging your arms like a small child fighting someone bigger. You waste your energy. Let Him stand between you and danger. He wants to fight your battles. It is like He is telling you, “Step back, little one. Take deep breaths. Stop shaking. Wipe your nose on your sleeve. Be still. I’ll take care of this for you” (Exodus 14:14).

The first thing I want to do when my spirit soars is to throw my arms around his neck for a massive father-daughter hug that I have spent my life reaching for, believing for. He wants it for me; He wants it for you, too!

Dear Father, I thank you that you called me away from a spirit of brokenness and rejection. Father, there are days here that I miss the tangibleness of an earthly father who loves me, but I pray that you will open my eyes to the relationship you offer me. Open my eyes to how you help me through the day. Help me to overcome what I do not feel or see – but have by faith and hope. I want a father/daughter relationship abundantly alive and real. Replace emptiness with Father Words and Father Memories. Help me to live that. Thank you Jesus your great sacrifice so that your father could be mine, too!

Read Full Post »

chateauchambordddcc“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God didn’t design our lives with a good-enough-to-get-by plan. His blueprint designs are pressed-down, shaken together and running-over kind-of-designs.  I don’t know about you, but my expectations are always short-sighted compared to his. I’d rather walk out God-sized dreams than my-sized dreams. Wouldn’t you?

Photo of Chateau Chambord, taken June 2017

 

Read Full Post »

bluecottonboys_editedcc

The Joy Bearer being Tossed into the Ocean

To Barrett on the Occasion of your 21st Birthday,

I’ve always said since you were a little boy when I gave you and your brothers spirit-filled names that we should have named you Joyful Barrett Bucher. God saw fit to give you an extra measure of the Joy of the Lord, equipping you to be a Joy Bearer.

Being a Joy Bearer doesn’t mean you always feel joyful. Just like an Everyman, you might struggle to always choose joy. Sometimes you might balk and rebel against choosing to find the joy God leaves for us in the messiness of everyday living. . . . but just like building muscles, I pray that you will train yourself to choose joy for yourself.

There is a difference between choosing joy and being a joy-bearer, though. Choosing Joy is about your internal happiness. Being a Joy Bearer is about carrying joy into another’s circumstances.

You are a God-designed Joy Bearer. You have a gift for bringing joy into any room, any moment, any situation – and you bring it in all different ways. You bring joy with a word, an expression,  an act of compassion, encouragement, service or insight. Sometimes it can be called comic relief – though it is not an entertainer-kind-of-thing. It can be called unconditional love, hero to the rescue, faith for healing, beautiful timing that redeems a conversation, or simply a hug. It looks and feels like God’s grace being inserted into a moment  or situation.

Today you are 21. Your life is your story now. You hold the pen and eraser. You are its editor. Dad and I are now secondary characters in your story. It’s a hands-off, hands-up time, meaning the greatest impact we can have on your story now is through prayer.

My prayer for you is that you continue to be a Joy Bearer as you grow into independence. Yes, The Joy of the Lord is your Strength ( Nehemiah 8:10 ).

This strength can only be built in his presence – and, as you spend time in his presence, you will hear his guidance: “You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Faith is maintained through real, intentional relationship with the one who created you. Maintain that belief that God designed (Psalm 149) you to be exactly who you are even when others don’t see what God sees or know what God knows about you, even when you don’t see it or feel it.

There will be those who don’t believe – from teachers to peers, to strangers to even family – but as long as you know God knows- and hold on to that knowledge, you will fulfill your God-designed life, and a lifetime of people will be blessed by you, the Joy Bearer.

While the Joy-Bearer carries God’s joy into other’s lives, he doesn’t leave the joy-bearer a solitaire individual. God has people – and those people are the friendships and mentors who see you as he does. You will find them in likely and unlikely places, expected, but most often, unexpected. If you can’t see them or find them, ask him and he will reveal them to you.

I have so many stories of your Joy-Bearing moments in our family. One of my most treasured memories is the time you sneaked up behind me in the kitchen – you were the only one who could sneak up behind me – and gave me a hug. I consider that moment my greatest mothering failure.I was cooking and fraught over a different mothering situation when you sneaked up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and gave me a Bear Hug. I shook off that hug saying, “Not right now.” I regret that shaking off and not just allowing myself to enjoy the complete hug. I regret how it possibly made you feel. You haven’t sneaked up to give me a hug since then. You were a Joy Bearer bringing joy into a space and to a heart that needed it. I learned a lot from that moment. I learned to let go of the messiness and accept joy, accept love when offered. Sadly, in that moment, for you, Joy-Bearing proved itself not always comfortable.

The lesson in that for you is to never under-estimate the impact of giving a joyful gift. You might not see the impact in the moment of giving. As a matter of fact, it might be shaken off. However, like a mustard seed, it can grow into something bigger and more  beautifully life-changing than you intended, estimated or imagined. Today that mother-fail moment is a treasured moment because it taught me to love better, to find, accept and choose joy in a fraught-filled moment. Being a Joy-Bearer might not always be comfortable, but I don’t think any act of kindness returns empty. Sometimes it takes time – and that is a faith and hope thing.

You have blessed our family for 21 years as a Joy Bearer. Like all of us, you will have moments of living life all wrong and moments of shining rightness. From the wrong to the rightness and in-between, choose not only to be a Joy Bearer but a Joy Chooser, redeeming the messiness of everyday living into the God-designed life he intended for you.

“You always show me the path of life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will make me happy forever at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11)

We love you. Happy 21st Birthday! Praying you have blessing, joy and sweet surprises as you write your story!

Love Mom and Dad

Below are some of my very favorite posts about the Joy-Bearer in our family:
The Center of the Brotherhood and Commemorative Poem
Lemonade Joy
Not Everybody Can Whistle; Not Everybody Can Wink
The Freshness After the Storm
Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head
The Owl and the Puppy Dog
Mother Words

barrett

Read Full Post »

flag“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend” ~ Thomas Jefferson

The mission statement for my blog is “the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men.”   I’ve talked about bullyingbelief intimidation,  and the demonization of our young men. This isn’t a political post so much as it is about teaching my sons to stand up for what they believe in an environment that increasingly tries to silence their voices. Today, I want to talk about not just the dangers of silencing our beliefs (not just political but our faith-in-God beliefs), but silencing our beliefs due to oppression and suppression, and yes, how that looks in an election climate.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.

A young college student stood at the back of the crowd, talking to some friends a few nights ago. Coolness wafted through a wall of humidity just before a storm front came through. A band played a set of Merle Haggard favorites in our small town amphitheater.

Some children danced with luminescents, grandparents, parents, young mothers and fathers sat in their folding chairs just enjoying a summer evening. It was a sweet evening in America.

The young man, though,  kept pulling his grey Indian-cotton short sleeved shirt close, as if to hide his t-shirt. I was standing, fidgeting. Maybe if I’d been snuggled down into those comfy sports chairs, I might not have noticed his t-shirt. But I did – and it looked like a Trump-for-President t-shirt.

It saddened me that he was trying to hide it.

As we turned to leave, I stepped a few feet closer and asked about his Trump-for President t-shirt – congratulating him on wearing it. I thought courage should be encouraged.

He said, “Yeah – it’s a Trump  for President t-shirt, but I’m wearing this shirt over it because I don’t want to incite anything.”

I told him about the t-shirt one of my sons gave me for my birthday and about how I was concerned to wear it out, even grocery shopping – concerned even to put a sign in my yard.

He said he had a magnetic Trump-for-President bumper sticker for his car because he was a student at the college. Magnetic, so he could take it off because he didn’t want anyone damaging his vehicle because of his presidential choice. I imagine he also didn’t want his college GPA negatively affected, either.

We talked for a few more minutes – and I left, saddened for both of us. Saddened about the fear and cost of freedom of expression and speech, even in our small town.

This fear-inspired hiding of a t-shirt is the result of A Little Tyranny. A Little Tyranny is made up of little persecutions, like a scratch on your car, a lower grade, intellectual condescension in the form of patronizing disdain, name calling, all of which is in contrast to A Big Tyranny, which negatively affects physical safety, the ability to keep ones job because of different points of view over constitutional beliefs, and ultimately, individual freedom. Little Tyrannies risk growing into Big Tyrannies.

Tyranny has trickled down to small-town America – and it is sad. It is sad that an American boy about to vote in his first presidential election feels the need for caution – caution, not because these beliefs do not belong or deserve to be broadcast, a caution developed from reading about, watching those who have acted nation-wide to shut down through fists, blocking streets, venues, shouting down speech to close down the freedom to gather peacefully for an exchange of ideas, for an exchange of speech, for an exchange of freedom they might not agree with.

Our revolutionary forefathers fought battles so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this. The greatest generation gave up much of themselves so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this.

Tyranny is an exercise of power over others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice. It is associated with cruelty and oppression. It can be harsh, unjustly cruel, oppressive. It seeks to take away the voice, the beliefs . . . the rights of each citizen.

Followers of tyranny use tactics of intimidation, physical and intellectual bullying, oppression and violence to silence opinions different from their own. It does not scoot over to make room for anyone thinking differently.

The enabling of tyranny is evident in the “safe spaces” created for college students because different opinions scare them. This type of intellectual enabling of students, a type of encouraged self-imprisonment, atrophies intellectual development, resulting in a myopic understanding of the world, their country, their state and even their neighbors. If differing opinions can’t be faced, how can students and citizens understand the objective history of differing opinions, why people have those differing opinions, why differing opinions existing together provide a healthy environment where freedom grows. If students and citizens don’t understand, then they cannot respect differences – and if differences cannot be respected, intolerance develops. Intolerance then leads to tyranny.

 “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Followers of tyranny make no room for opposition. Those followers will shut it down any way they can – and when an existing government fails to protect the freedoms like those in our Constitution, then the environment will have been created out of which will grow persecuting intolerance – like Mao’s intolerance, Stalin’s intolerance, Hitler’s intolerance, Castro’s intolerance – all who imprisoned, tortured and eradicated millions and millions of people who didn’t agree.

I’ve always told my sons – and my college students, you need three reasons to believe something. In this election season, I have my three reasons for why I’m voting for Donald Trump.

  1. Non-persecuted Christianity can only exist under the umbrella of Capitalism. The umbrella of socialism/communism makes no room for Christianity. Where freedom for Capitalism exists, freedom for non-persecuted Christianity exists.
  2. Trump’s daughter is Jewish, and as such, will support Israel. “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I also believe that God has a history of using unlikely men to lead his people out of oppression into a fully redeemed relationship with him (read Judges).
  3. Trumps supporters/followers don’t resort to tyranny in order to shut down the freedom to express differing opinions. If a candidate’s followers make no room in a political debate for differing opinions, most likely that candidate will make no room, if elected, for ideological, religious or personal differences either – and what was once individual bullying will become government-endorsed bullying to ensure differing opinions won’t exist to challenge their use of power.

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter” ~George Washington, first U.S. president

The America I know does not persecute its citizens into silence. The America I know does not persecute its people into hiding their beliefs. The America I know was created so that no one would ever need to build priest holes to hide their religious leaders or freedom fighters.

“Let us not give up in freedom what we would never give up  in persecution” ~ Nik Ripkin, The Insanity of God

Tyranny in a free country gives birth to government sanctioned persecution that seeks to silence differing opinions permanently.

My father-in-law used to say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying over what your actions are telling me.”

If you can tell much about a man by whom he surrounds himself, then surely you can tell much about a political candidate by who his followers are. If one man’s followers seek to shut down another person’s beliefs through fists, destruction and bullying, and the second man’s followers don’t persecute those who believe differently, though they disagree, I would choose the second man every time. The second man will uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved,” ~ Father Benjamin Franklin

 

 

Read Full Post »

raintreecc

Sometimes we can’t see where God is taking us
because we cannot see past where we are ~ Blue Cotton Memory

When I first started blogging in 2009, my niece sent me a message that blog posts are supposed to be short. For the life of me, I couldn’t do short. I am a sit-long-talk-much person. Story-telling is not a short thing – at least not for me. However, since I was hospitalized with pneumonia at the end of February, something inside changed.

The words didn’t come until a two weeks ago, so I most often posted some of my very favorite posts. I knew God wasn’t calling me to quit; he was just calling me to quiet as I readjusted to inside-and-outside God-shaping changes. On the outside, these changes aren’t even recognizable – it’s been an inside job affecting the outward structure of my day and weaving old and new responsibilities family, business and God has give me.

During this non-writing time, I didn’t freak out. God’s been training me for quite a few years, preparing me to handle moments like this. It was more like God took me on a side-road journey – and I was tucked into the side car. Words weren’t required on this side-road trip. I trusted that the quiet, where the words didn’t come, was his plan and that they would return in his time, so I did what I thought he wanted me to do – I focused on living – and those living the daily with me. I steeped in the story, my place in that story and all the characters moving through it. Or maybe I was living it like someone standing in a field, arms stretched out wide, just letting it blow through me – watching it come, feeling it hit me, and letting it go.

My photography came back first – and I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook with brief blurbs. Something curious happened. Members of  my sons’ soccer team discovered my Instagram account. From what my boys said, “Whose mom has an Instagram account? With their grandma name?” Their teammates started reading those blurbs out loud to the team in the playful way young men like to rib each other – except this turned out a bit differently. What they were reading out loud to the team was scriptures and encouraging quotes. After that, I decided to become more consistent with those photos and quotes. I even started creating “homemade” quotes when I couldn’t find what my heart was trying to say. Word (on the street) has it some are still reading my posts. Word (God’s) has it that God works like that in unlikely ways. Some of those young men still read those blurbs today.

This side-road trip is over. He’s merged me back onto the main journey road. The words have finally come back – the sit-long-and-talk-much story telling will be here on Mondays- but the bite-sized photoblurbs won’t be leaving either, but on Fridays, I will be posting one from my week on Blue Cotton Memory (The will be only one to two sentences).

Read Full Post »

There’s a new type of shaming in our country today. No – it’s not body shaming, gender shaming or race shaming. It’s belief shaming – not just religious belief shaming, but political belief shaming.

Shaming is done by someone with one set of beliefs to someone with a different set of beliefs. It’s done to elicit changes in thought and behavior. It is done to shame into silence. It is intolerance; it is bullying.

“A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which  or modesty prompts us to conceal” ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary.

Disagreements handled with generosity of spirit are good for our country. It sharpens our vigilance. It holds in check for healthy balance. It has the ability to stimulate goodness becoming better and enables love to be all-encompassing.

Group think is never healthy – in a company or in a country.

Recently, someone in my nest was belief-shamed: politic-shamed. My husband and I were there while he handled it with grace, kindness and firmness. Because he believed we needed healthy borders and was a Trump supporter, he was labeled a racist, a hater and ignorant by someone older and in authority over parts of his life.

Differences in how individuals think about scientific theory, literary interpretation, grammar usage, history, and politics doesn’t leave one side a lover and the other a hater, one side brilliant, the other side stupid beyond belief. Those are false arguments designed to shame into silence. Those arguments in themselves are intolerant.

“It is clear that the individual who persecutes [shames] a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster[bully]” ~Voltaire.  Tolerance makes room for a different opinion, breeding respect. It is not just generosity of spirit – it is the American spirit.

“Children learn at an early age the principle of the limitation of individual liberty. It can usually be fixed in the mind by the epigrammatic statement, “My right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins” ~ Walter B. Hill, 1902,  Chancellor of the University of Georgia at a meeting of the National Educational Association.

Yes, I support capitalism over socialism. Yes, I support healthy borders and the enforcement of laws. Yes, I support legal immigration. I support free speech and the right to bear arms.

I unabashedly love my country and how it has grown to encompass freedom for all men. Yes, I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I love America and the potential it affords its people.

The growth of our country is similar to the growth of the individual soul – the individual soul may fail in its efforts to love perfectly, but the individual soul keeps its eyes on the one who created it, picks itself up and keeps trying. Not only is the growth of our country’s soul similar to the individual’s souls growth, but America’s figurative soul is a reflection of the soul of its people.

It is full of people with generosity of spirit, a love-thy-neighbor kind of love – and passionate differences of opinion.

During this election season, let’s not politic/belief shame. Let’s not diminish a person’s intellectual ability. Let’s not doubt the moral state of their souls. Let us choose love – maybe an exasperated love, but still love.

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may” ~ John Wesley

flag_edited-2

 

Read Full Post »

gardenliliesSome of my best thinking happens in my garden. Today’s thought?

God created man and put him to live in a garden. Ever since falling out of the garden, mankind has tried to recreate that garden in their own backyards, maybe wondering if they did, that God in the evenings would come walk through that garden with them, and the world be made right again.

Read Full Post »

alley2_edited-2

I admit it. I read book endings first. If I don’t, then I rush through the story, details, the words. When I know the ending, I slow down, savor the details – wait with grace for the story to unfold. . . . because I am assured the ending.

“Don’t pray for God to give you patience,” people say.

I say bring it on.

Patience is the living between right now and Christmas morning,

. . .or between right now and the first slow sip of a chocolate soda, just a hand-reach away or a block away.

It’s everything in-between praying that God’s angels encamp about us during the day, letting others know about the love of Jesus with our words and actions, all the details in the daily, and everyone’s shoes kicked off by the back door, feet standing around the counter, waiting for dinner.

Patience is what I fill my mind with from the beginning of a three mile walk to its end, how I chose to live in every waiting moment – every until

. . . like chosing to wait for that first kiss, the wait from the asking, “Will you marry me,” to the ,”I do”, to the delivery of every child, or the long wait to see a child or loved one on the other side of heaven, to the timer buzzing the chocolate chip muffins are ready, to even a child-growing’s salvation, or for a fever to break .

It’s how we live grace, faith and hope in the journey of a prayer sent to Shaddai; Patience is the wait for a prayer’s fulfillment. How we live that wait changes everything. . .

Patience is not just waiting with grace, but living faith in that wait with grace, thinking, speaking, battling the doubt in our minds to live hope like we believe it.

Patience how we live in the time it takes for God to redeem the big and little happenings in the daily of our lives.

Patience is head-time thinking in in-between moments like walking out the door to walk Sadie, our golden retriever, through the water puddles and wet chill to when we burst through the back door.

Patience is how-to live all the in-between times, the big and little, tough and easy, and the seemingly empty moments that need filling.

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (2 Peter 3:9)

Read Full Post »

4thjc_edited-1
(I am still tying up loose ends in this upside-down season I’m in, but the words came and now is a good time for them)

There are a lot of things I disagree with right now, especially the intolerance and condescension for differing opinions – in the communities we walk in, on college campuses, in movies, news outlets, even social media.

St. Augustine’s City of God was commissioned to be written to persuade a falling Roman Empire that Christians made good citizens. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles that Christians do, indeed, make good citizens.

Christians may fail in their quest to be good citizens, but I believe after they fail, they pick themselves up and try harder to love their neighbors better. National and personal history show the success of those efforts.

Just like the scripture enables growth in our God-designed journey, so, too, does our Constitution enable growth of our country’s God-designed journey.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams)

The morals Adam’s talks about are Judeo-Christian morals. These morals are founded on the principles of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

When intolerance shouts down a political candidate or shoots up a gay bar, killing over 50 people, not only are the Christian principles of America’s foundation trampled on, but the foundation of our souls are trampled, too. It puts the very nature of our country in jeopardy.

Today, I’d just like to steep a bit in what this Christian love is that is foundational to our nation, its communities, and ourselves – a reminder of the saving, redeeming nature of God’s kind of love – and how it has the ability to make the good citizens St. Augustine extols.

“Love is patient,”

“Patience is not just waiting with grace, but living faith in that wait with grace, thinking, speaking, battling the doubt in our minds to live hope like we believe it” ~Bluecottonmemory

Love doesn’t give up on the lost. Love doesn’t condemn the lost to hell. That’s God’s job. Love loves. Love might need to be hands off and hands up in prayer, but love doesn’t give up on a prayer sent out for a lost life to be saved, no matter the frustration, hurt, or the ugliness of the sin.

“love is kind” – no matter the differences – whether you’re a Trump or Clinton supporter, whatever your religious beliefs, whether you’re a meat-eater or vegetarian, whether you’re a bottle-feeding mom or nursing mom, whether you believe in climate change or don’t, regardless of what sports team you pull for or the challenges you face.

“It does not envy” – love doesn’t “wish” it were somebody else, wearing somebody else’s shoes, with somebody else’s paycheck, living somebody else’s “luck,” focusing on perceived unfairness in a fallen world. Love learns to love the heart it lives in, so it can love others better, learns to find the beauty in the ashes of itself, and in the finding of the beauty in the ashes, discovers envy cannot exist in God’s soul garden. Then one day, the soul loves itself, content with its own shoes, its own paycheck, living with its own blessing, focusing on God’s grace in a redeemed world.

“it does not boast” – love doesn’t exalt themselves above God or look down upon the people they walk by in the daily. Love doesn’t say, “I am better than you” or “I am more worthy than you.” Instead of exalting oneself, love wants everyone to become part of God’s family as a favored child – each of us with all the benefits of a son or daughter of the king. Love doesn’t hoard God’s blessings or concern itself with portion sizes. Love brings everyone home to meet the Father.

it is not proud – A holier-than-thou attitude doesn’t make room for God’s kind of love. Love does not dig its heel with contempt into the misfortunes of others. Love reaches out a hand and lifts them up.

It does not dishonor others – love does not shame, embarrass, belittle, beat-up, shout-down, shoot-up a group of people just because they don’t agree with you, think the same, or even behave the same.  Even Christians who believe some behaviors are indeed sin in our Judeo-Christian heritage realize a sinner was never brought to real relationship with Christ through shameful and dishonorable treatment. Christ came with life-changing love and real relationship; the love in us should treat others the same way.

it is not self-seeking – love doesn’t want to win a popularity contest; love isn’t motivated out of a quest for authority and position. Love is motivated only by unconditional, selfless, sacrificial care and determined affection for others.

it is not easily angered – today we live in a culture of anger formed of intolerance for mistakes, failures, differences and immaturity. If people don’t meet our self-defined expectations of behavior and performance, society feels as though it has a right to lash out in physically and verbally destructive behavior. Easy anger makes no room for forgiveness.

it keeps no record of wrongs – love forgives, redeems from a broken past, and lets salvation doe its job reshaping the soul into its intended creation.  Love celebrates the reborn soul in the ups and downs of its journey.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth – Love’s character and conduct does not behave or rejoice with a get-even mentality. Love’s character and conduct don’t cheer when someone who seems to have it all falls into misfortune. Love finds peace when truth is revealed, even when it changes the narrative of the story.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love isn’t a bully, beating up others, silencing with fists, sticks or guns. Love, as a matter of fact, stops the bully at his own risk.

Love trusts the Father, always hoping in His plan, persevering because of it.

“Love never fails” (1 Cor 13: 4-8a) – Choosing love is a never-fail choice. As God is love, choosing God is a never-fail choice. If someone doesn’t choose God, then it is even more important that we show God’s love through our words and actions.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Love doesn’t shout down or shoot down – it lays down its life to save another.

45hcc16_edited-2

 

Read Full Post »

Don’t know why, but really missing my grandmother today. She wasn’t a Nanna, Nanny, MeeMaw, Granny – or even a Muddy like her mother and me (my grandmother name), she was a no nonsense, witty repartee-loving Grandmother. She taught me, by standing up to her over the important things, how to stand up to everyone else in the world. She wasn’t a huggy grandmother, but she made me feel beautiful on the inside. Would love to sit at the kitchen table with her right now. So I’m sharing one of my very favorite stories about her with you. Isn’t that what you do when you miss people? What to talk about them?

Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

Sunday Morning, Winter – 1981

I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen, Sunday morning sun pouring through the large latticed windows, spilling onto the table – a winter sun that did nothing to warm the chill that always seeped through the old house. Turning pages of print with one hand, I ate the coveted center of the baked pan of Pillsbury cinnamon roles with the other.

Bite by bite, page by page I read through the funnies, the features and paused a few turns into the fashion section – 1981 newspaper fashion pages resembled haute couture fashion magazines.

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

The page turning paused, the cinnamon roll returned to the plate. True love arrested my attention –  a navy, thin-pleated, an inch higher than tea-length soft, durable navy wool, accordion skirt.

The pleats looked sharp enough to cause a paper cut – yet soft enough for grace.

Think 1940s. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly – elegance personified in this navy blue confection.

Have I mentioned my favorite color was navy blue?

I called my grandmother and mother over to look. It was just too beautiful not to share. My grandmother appreciated beautiful clothes – she had the gift – the ability to go downtown to the department stores, look at dresses for her 4 daughters, come home and re-create them. She appreciated elegance, grace in the silks, the cottons, linens, organzas and wools.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things. Not having a lot of money just meant $200 dollar skirts were things you didn’t buy – at least not full price – not until 70% off.

This pause finally gave way to  the well-oiled machine of Sunday morning routine. We all went out different doors – old houses allow that.

My grandmother disappeared out the kitchen door to the back porch – not a back porch by today’s standards – rather a storage stuck on to a house. Old houses grew rambly like that. It had all started 200 years ago when a French man built 2 rooms separated by a dog trot. Those two rooms, like a married couple, grew into a family of rooms.  The entry hall had once been the dog trot, my brother’s room had once been a porch off one of those rooms . The family room had once been a porch until in the 1950s when grandmother and grandfather added on a dining room and kitchen, tagging on a storage porch off the back. Porches were like quick-change artists of architectural expansion, becoming kitchens, family rooms, bathrooms, even storage closets.

The back porch taught me the meaning of haste – I hurried through – always.  If I didn’t wear shoes, I tip-toed rapidly across its pebbled concrete floor. I guess you could almost compare it to the dark forest full of creepy things in fairy-tales that the princess must walk through in order find happily ever after.

Bags of clothes and moth balls lined one section. Tools, a cedar chest, a lawn mower, my bicycle with its white wicker basket and dusty items filled the other section. Every Fall, we sorted summer cottons into those clothes bags and every spring, we stored away wool and winter. Why? To preserve and protect from hearty moth appetites – and, because the rooms in rambly old houses provided little to no storage.

That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it.

About 30 minutes before we left for church, we all gathered in the kitchen. Mom, Grandmother, Aunt Joyce – they all sat around the kitchen table waiting. Aunt Joyce drove us to church every week. When I entered the kitchen, my grandmother stepped into the dining room, carrying something blue back to the kitchen.

“Try it on,” she said, holding up a navy, one-inch from tea-length, accordion-pleated, navy wool skirt in mint condition – exactly like the one in the newspaper. The waist – oh, it was tiny – 26 or 28 inches. It had been my aunt’s – sometime after the war and before her marriage in the late 1950s  – and in 1981, I would get to wear it.

It fit me.

I twirled. I laughed. I felt graceful, elegant.  That skirt, with its pleats creased enough for paper cuts moved with grace, no stiffness, no roughness – just soft grace – maybe back then I couldn’t be confident in who I thought I was – but I could wear something that symbolized who I thought I was – on the inside.

Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal.  Only 3 articles of clothing ever “spoke” to me –  a dress I wore when I was about 6, the dress I wore to my son’s wedding – and this skirt.

I wore it to a few senior year events. Girls schools are wonderful for providing events for their students – and, when we put winter away, the skirt was zipped back into my grandmother’s moth-ball-filled clothes bag.

The other day, I was thinking about Grandmother’s Magic clothes bag. How I never really knew what was in those bags –even though I was  handed clothes Mom and Grandmother pulled out every spring and fall since I was 6.

I’d never reached into those bags, zipping and unzipping.  A lot of reasons stopped me – even though those bags held my clothes, too – I didn’t think I had a right to it. Fear edged me out. Content ignorance, a soft boundary wall as effective as a prison wall, kept me out. No real curiosity, no recognition of need – maybe, just maybe, the comfortableness of allowing someone else to be in control of it – maybe that was it, too.

gmcoatA few years later, on a way to a Christmas dance with the guy I would marry, Mom, Grandmother and I debated which coat or wrap to wear. Nothing suited – nothing topped it off without looking awkward.

Grandmother never announced. Never said, “HHHHmmmmm – let me think.” This bridge-playing lady always kept the cards close to her vest. As Mom and I stood there debating the issue, Grandmother just took herself off – unbeknownst  to us – once again into the back porch, to reach into the clothes bag.

Minutes later, she walked back in, shaking out  a black tea-length wool coat with gold embroidery.

We had lived with my grandmother for 15 years by then. I was only just beginning to realize the hidden treasures within my grandmother, what really was there, what she stored away for us for when the want or need arrived, stored away in moth balls or in the strength of her soul.

When my grandmother died, I wondered what had happened to that bag of clothes, the hidden things on the back porch. I guess someone emptied them out – and what a loss, that emptying out can be.

That winter day, though, in 1981, when the weak sun spilled over the kitchen table – that day, she pulled something out of a back-porch clothes bag that was the catalyst for a soul reveal.

“That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it.”

Disclaimer: Grandmother, if she knew I had turned this story into an allegory would probably have admonished me to “Stop that Silly Talk.”

Characters in the allegory of Grandmother’s Clothes Bag
Grandmother – Everyman
Granddaughter – Everyman
Navy, Accordion-Pleated Wool Skirt – A blessing shared
The Clothes Bag – The Bible
The Content of the Clothes Bag – Things of God
Moth Balls – The Holy Spirit

There’s a time when I moved from a child’s relationship to the Father, to an adult’s relationship to the Father. Where, as a child, I loved Him with abandon. Growing up led to self-consciousness, gracelessness from uncomfortable awareness, and learning to take the reigns of spiritual responsibility in hand.Growing up meant sifting through what I had been taught, becoming intentional in what I believed.

That meant I was alone responsible for that relationship. The training wheels were off. I was alone responsible for the reaching.

I didn’t do well early on, when those training wheels were off. My relationship with Him wobbled.

Like I hurried through Grandmother’s back porch, past the clothes bag, so I hurried past Him.

Self-consciousness, lack of confidence in who I was caused me to hurry past things that intimidated me through my ignorance – not just of the things of God but who I was to Him.

Faux gracefully, I enacted the ritual of sorting through winter and spring into the clothes bag – but I didn’t dig into that clothes bag. I stood in the kitchen and handed out.

I didn’t not know Him intimately. I could not truly catalog was what in His word. I needed to spend time with Him, with His word, to see what was there – not just the gospel, but Ruth, Jeremiah, Isaiah – all the one’s I skipped over, ignored.

I needed to spend time with Him, like my grandmother spent time maintaining the clothes bag, lined with those moth balls.

I couldn’t really help anyone. I couldn’t really even help myself – not until I delved into the contents of His word, His Holy Spirit – Him.

The Father wanted me to stop rushing past Him, open up His word and listen, really listen, catalog in my heart its content, wear it, walk it, know it – to continually wrap His word in His Holy Spirit.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

One day, sitting in the car outside my husband’s work, waiting – which is something newleyweds still in college with just one car do a lot – the Father met me there. I asked the Father, “I want that relationship I had with you as a child. Teach me how to get there.”

He did. . . it was a journey, though – not an overnight arrival.

I learned to not rush past His word like I rushed over cool, pebbled-concrete floors. I dug into His word, like my grandmother dug into her clothes bag, cataloging, nurturing so that one day I could share what is within His word, within relationship with Him.

When grandmother saw a need – she went to the clothes bag and drew a blessing out – a blessing that caused a soul-reveal. I needed to learn to live that kind of relationship with Him.

I needed to believe what the word said about that relationship, about the hope, the healing, the speaking, the praying, the Holy Spirit, the believing without seeing.

 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”(Hebrews 11:6)

When I dug into His word, when I believed His word – I discovered who I was to Him – his beloved daughter.

I discovered a Father who wanted to become the shade in the glaring, uncomfortable heat of challenges, who wanted to shelter me beneath the feathers of His wing, who wanted to bind my wounds scarless, who wanted to shelter me in the storm – that He saves me when I cry out, like a Knight in Shining Armor:

“He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then GOD thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.
But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but GOD stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”

(Psalm 18: 10-15, The Message)

One day long ago, grandmother pulled a skirt out of her clothes bag. As the years unfolded, that moment became an allegory of faith. Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal – and the truism made me a beloved daughter of the King, who willing jumped on His horse and moved heaven and earth to protect shelter . . . . save.

Because I learned not to hasten away from the things of God, I find blessings He leaves me, messages He leaves me in the ordinary of a day:

like the squirrel nest high in the barren oak, sways in the thin-limbed top, twigs, old leaves woven together, how does it protect against the bitter wind? And, I marvel – because it does.
or my mother-in-laws hands, folding laundry, teaching me to slip-stitch quilt binding, making banana pudding, hugging babies and boys

nine sherbet-colored bandanas bought in 2009 quilted, backed, binded and tied with raspberry, lime green, citrus orange, flamingo pink and lemon yellow embroidery thread.

red chili sauce in Thais Gopaw – taste buds delighting after days of illness

robin’s egg blue skies outside my work window

a lunch date with my husband, just the two of us

Italian chamber music diminishing chaos

the story of grace changing lives, redeeming from the law in a Les Miserable story and song

a two hour morning delay from an ice storm that never came, giving me time to love the boys with homemade chocolate chip granola bars and hamburger, elk and deer-meat chili.

(I’m in a tying-up-loose-ends season right now – and will be returning with fresh, new soon. Please stop by as I share some of my very favorite posts through the month of June)

(for a history on my grandmother’s house, you might want to read “if grandmother’s trees could tell stories”)

 

Read Full Post »

dogwoodwinter_edited-1
“Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life!
Don’t be frightened like that.
Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee,
and that I’ll meet them there”
(Matthew 28:10)

A little over a month ago, I was hospitalized for bi-lateral pneumonia. I’d been misdiagnosed for over a week. There are only a few times in my life, when I look back, where remembrance is misted in darkness and pain. The first was the week after the crash c-section when my 4th son was born (which caused me to work closely with the doctor when the 5th was born regarding pain management) – and the second was the 6 days before I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

Most of those 5 days were spent on the couch. I couldn’t breath without coughing, and, since I couldn’t breath without coughing, I couldn’t talk.

The day before I went into the hospital, my youngest son said, “Just one word, Mom – say just one word, and I’ll snuggle on the couch with you for two minutes. Two Minutes!”

I sat there on the couch, knowing what that one word would cost me physically, not wanting to say that one word, but wanting a hug from my son so much more than the pain and discomfort.

I finally got that one word out. I don’t remember what it was. I just remember my saucy son saying, “Oh, Dude! I didn’t see that coming.”

Then I wanted to laugh. He tried to back out of the agreement. Fortune smiled on him; Because I couldn’t talk, the lecture on the importance of keeping an agreement was left unspoken.

My husband, who has said before that if I’m not talking, I must be in distress, was wanting the sign language to stop. He missed the words, too.

That they missed the words surprised me – warmed me, too.

When I was admitted to the hospital, I had a high fever, 3/4 of my lungs were filled, and my blood pressure was 85/45. My family practitioner said that I would have been in ICU if I’d been admitted 2 days later.

I was only in for 2 days, but it took me two weeks to rebuild strength to walk around the block once. It took me 4 weeks to pull out my camera. It’s taken 6 weeks for the words to come, though there’s so many things I’ve wanted to share and say.

It’s soccer season for my two youngest – and so, instead of writing, I’ve been rebuilding strength, finding home under the mess that accumulated in all this, and stepping fully back into all those roles within my family – but always looking for the blessings – even when I was sick, on the couch. I was looking for those love letters God sends in the daily.

The Easter season was unstructured – and I found my Holy Week starting Easter Weekend – and lasting through the next week. We spent long Easter weekend in a cabin, with 5 out of 4 sons and our newest daughter-in-law. She cooked the most delicious French Toast for breakfast!

I went on a 4 mile hike that day – and the boys – well, they were tag-teaming walking behind me, like they thought they were going to lose me. There’s nothing more irritating than someone who thinks you can’t do something, so I found myself somewhat warmly bemused.

moss22016_edited-1
I had my camera with me – and kept encouraging them to go on, telling them that I enjoyed just taking photos and doing this hike at my own pace – but they had none of that! I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of collies – and I was the one sheep they were in charge of! I guess this is one way sons hug.

Later we drove to Clingman’s Dome – a 6,643 foot elevation. No sunshine. Just a heavy, wet mist, like the clouds had fallen out of the sky onto the mountain and spilled everywhere. The boys and my husband walked the half a mile to the lookout. I took 5 steps – and felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest – so I stayed back, took photos – and discovered the blessing in the chilled mist. There are the beautiful things in sweet blessings to be vintaged in the overcast moments, even in unlikely things like moss and algae growing on a tree.

mossgatlin163_edited-1

At the cabin, in a swing, I listened to the voices of children playing at other cabins I couldn’t see, listened to the buzz of plump bumblebees looking to bore holes, clouds like smoke on the mountains, the hollow knock knock knock of the wood pecker, cardinal calls, tree frogs emerging to sing their night-time jazz, and steeped myself in the resurrection story.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna (Joanna, wife of Chuza, a steward in Herod’s household, who had been healed by Jesus), Salome (the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, possible the sister of Mary) – these women set out early Sunday morning to Christ’s tomb. Instead of finding hopelessness and death, they find resurrection hope.

Jesus tells them,

Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life!
Don’t be frightened like that.
Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee,
and that I’ll meet them there” (Matthew 28:10).

“Meet me in Galilee” was like a song I couldn’t get out of my head.

Meet me in Galilee
those who came to the tomb were told.

Meet me in Galilee
he said – and tell our friends

Meet me in Galilee
Don’t despair – all is not lost – it’s all been won

Meet me in Galilee
there is so much more

Meet me in Galilee
it’s just the beginning.

Meet me in Galilee is where he is,
and anytime I draw close, he is there.

He meets me in the overcast moments, whether I’m bent over coughing my insides out, whether I’m shivering on the side of a soccer field, or too weak to climb higher on a misty mountain.

He meets me in the wait of a prayer sent out, in a good-news moment, in the freeze of a teen grump, even the pile of unmatched socks.

He meets me in my gracelessness, when I’m steeped in a give-up minute, when I’ve lost my direction (not my faith – just the direction).

Not only does he meet me, but he encourages me that there is so much more in this journey – so much more to this living with him in it that will amaze me, humble me, fire me up with his love for me, a love that needs to be shared and given to others.

Meet me in Galilee, he says. Friend, won’t you meet him in Galilee, too.

yellowdaffy_edited-1

 

Read Full Post »

snowcuppa_edited-1

Christ’s nails and crown
in dogwood petals can be found

Yahweh in treetops tall and fallen twigs
Holy Praise in limbs raised high
in forest, cowpaths, roadside, and gardens
beneath a God-designed sky

In rain come down, washing away
dirt and grime, a Holy Spirit Baptism
immersing. seeping deep to grow
roots to bloom and in the blooming
reseed

Doves on a wire, robins and sparrows
amidst mocking birds and jays
twigs, leaves and feathers in nests,
calling, sunrise to sundown
“Precious! Precious! Are you to Elohim”
precious down to a every whisker and tendril

Water dripping into cisterns, barrels and birdbaths
just like tears and their stories
collected in God-made
bottles and books
drip drip dripping and in the dripping remind
to not forget
that He doesn’t

Seeds and Seasons,
winter and fall, death, dying, darkness and challenge
spring and summer, rebirth, reseeding, hope and faith
That sometimes, like hydrangeas replanted,
we don’t see the saving evidence in the wait
of a prayer sent out
taking a longer turn of time than we’d like

tulipcup_edited-1Even the bitter cold of a winter ice storm
breaking electric lines
removing security’s warmth
followed by snow
covering roads unable to bring help in
or allowing initiative to find a way out
because sometime God wants us in our helplessness
to trust Him
let Him

A bitter cold where even left-overs
like the brittle samara house of a tulip poplar
resembling a golden chalice, the Holy Grail,
holds redemption’s message
reminding of salvation walking
sitting down, breaking bread
passing around the cup
of the new covenant
born out of the pure sacrifice
of God made man
pouring out his life
in saving grace
for every man, woman
every boy and girl
a cuppa salvation
offered to every
you and me

Messages designed before
Adam and Even
these messages a loving God wrote
for you and me
dogwood_edited-1

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28)

“He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you'” (Luke 22: 20).

Salvation – “the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness. This is the great salvation” – 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own (2 Cor 5: 14-15)

Thanks to Jennifer Dukes Lee who wrote about the Yahwehs all around!It as enriched my walk about time!

 

Read Full Post »

bluecottonboys_editedccUnconditional Love, True Love, lives in a real world, with real challenges and other real emotions. It is incredibly beautiful Unconditional Love. But it takes lots of strength, courage and faith. A little humbleness, too. A little taking the back seat sometimes and a lot of never giving up! Unconditional Love is all encompassing. It loves your husband, your children, your friends, God – even strangers. I would not want to live without it.

Even when someone does something expressly against your wishes, like dump the chicken noodle soup down the side of the sink without the garbage disposal, does not wear their seat belt when driving without you, or gets a tattoo, Unconditional Love loves.

Unconditional Love sees your child (whether little, teen or grown), spouse or parent through God’s Eyes.
If you cannot see it now – ask Him!
He will show you through His Eyes!
It is life changing . . .
Changing how you think,
the words you use,
the feeling in your heart,
the expressions on your face!
It is a liberating love.

Kind of like God handing me His glasses with Hope and Faith Lenses
letting me see
what God sees
and
it
changed
everything

Unconditional Love knows how I love is not determined by success or failure
Recognizing that sometimes failure is the biggest step to success,
resulting in my needing to step back,
take my hands-off
hold the tears inside
staunch the fear that tries to rush out with a mental and emotional tourniquet
choke off words that do not need or are not ready to be said
believing that failure is sometimes the gas to the engine of success

How do you  know when you are loving unconditionally? Unconditional Love is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love anyway – then you are loving unconditionally.

PPPPSSSSsssssssttttt. . . . Unconditional Love – the God-kind of Unconditional Love is not reserved just for your very favorite people. It is a type of love that is like a Spring Rain, showering on everyone who comes into contact with you.

Unconditional Love is found in a Mary Poppins-Bag-kind-of-heart that is deep enough to fill with love for as many people, not as it can hold because the Mary Poppins bag is bottomless, but for as many people as you choose to love. It is priceless!

Unconditional Love grows, and groWS, and gROWS and GROWS
over days, with months, years
in sunshine and storms
if we let it
if we don’t hoard it
Then it grows, re-seeds, spreads like buttercups in a field
Unconditional Love is a choice.
Choose Unconditional Love

(Once upon a time, I wrote about 30-something unconditional love rules in the waiting of the journey of a prayer sent out. I finally took those 30 unconditional love rules, whittled them down to 10 – and created an introduction on the definition of Unconditional Love from the shavings of those 30 rules.  This post is that definition. I did this for my boys because I thought maybe one day they would value the message that sustained me during a challenging time. The guiding mission statement for Blue Cotton Memory is the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men. Very subtly it also includes another personal mission – to show my boys how to grow old loving the Lord. They aren’t interested in the heart thoughts of their mother right now – but, maybe, one day, they will be – and one copy of this, tucked on my bookshelf, will be pulled out to encourage in the waiting of a prayer sent out.)

 

 

Read Full Post »

tea5_edited-2There was a time when I didn’t have 5 sons, Cleo kitty # 6 or Sadie
A time when I wasn’t in charge of morning wake-ups and breakfast,
Clean clothes and matching socks
Or schedules.
. . . . a time when I’d not known a mother-son wedding dance, or received a marriage a proposal from a 4-year-old who couldn’t imagine living without me, or that star-gazing would mean so much still after 33 years

There was a time when the days crawled
like forever from one to the next.
Birthdays and Christmas took an eternity
to come.

. . . . a time I could fit into the WWII pea-coat my 17 year old wears now
and I slipped city bus-ride dimes and school lunch money into the sleeve pocket

There was a time, one winter, when the big snow came
and everything in the daily shut down, except the
small grocer and grandmother sent me along with my best friend
from across the street
to pick up some items to make dinner
better

after checking with the last of the Main Street residents
too old to get out safely
my friend and I, set out on our errand
sliding down the middle of Main Street, USA
on two feet
the icy world packed in a snow globe silence
until broken by
unabashed teenage exuberance singing
outrageously
“love is higher than a mountain”
on the icy street
empty of cars and everyday living
but for us

There was a time when . . . . I thought my dreams were just about me
and I flew without wings in my night-dreams
my soul-dreams just shadows of things
to come
because dreams are only as big as experience and knowledge allows
and nay-sayers are Magpies trying to carry off treasures that don’t
belong to them

. . . a time when I didn’t see how it was all a God-design
tucked full of blessing and love-letters
from the one whose I am
where faith grows wings
for daily living and dreams
amidst sock matching and scheduled
chaos

tea1_edited-1

I’m beginning to journal God’s gifts again. It grounds me, encourages me to look for the blessings He leaves me in the daily, to open the love-letters in them he sends. It changes my day, anchors me and keeps me steady and focused on whose I am. Won’t you join me?

1046 – Cardinals on the window sill, reminding me of home, its goodness and how God’s got the day. My husband got a bird-feeder for Christmas. There used to be only one cardinal – now we have a yard full.

1047 – my son’s friends coming in and out of the house. This weekend, after an indoor soccer tournament. They’d named their team the Waffles, so Keith and I made them waffles to celebrate their win.

1048 – studying with another son for a vocabulary test

1048 – the ability to work with another son to make product and get an order out

1049 – taking more responsibility in our family business – and being able to do it. I understand learning new things are “scary,” but I’m getting past the scary part into the skill comfort part.

1050 – the wrapping up of an odd assortment of challenges in a pop-corn challenge kind-of-year

1050 – classical music that infuses my home with a tranquility

1051 – Saturday morning breakfast at our house with my grandgirlies (Thank you for the term, Elizabeth) and their parents.

1052 – Clotted Cream with homemade scones

1053 – D.E. Stevenson books – and time to read them

1054 – colored pencils and a journaling bible.

1055 – a MIL adventure day with my newly married son’s MIL. She is such a beautiful encourager!

1056 – after a long spell of not writing – and just savoring the daily – and the difference of what I am doing today compared to last year – the freedom to just savor, accept the emptiness of writing ideas – and the confidence in knowing that God will give when the time is right – so many learning how to live waiting for God without pressures and expectations I am tempted to put on myself

1056 – Orchid Vanilla tea with a friend in the middle of a busy day

1058 – a one hour surprise visit from an out-of-town friend who is a beautiful part of the family story-telling thread of boys being born, growing, sickness and weddings.

1059 – Take-out barbecue for dinner at the end of a busy, good day.

1060 – Peaceful sleep despite an pop-up challenge

1061 – a phone call from a son, after seeing a car accident and worrying it was me

1062 – hot water in the morning for a cup of tea

1063 – birthday celebrations for my husband, lovely daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and my mother.

1064 – a picture of 3 of my 5 favorite sons in a joyful moment

3boys1_edited-1

Read Full Post »

windows_edited-1c_edited-1To a beautiful friend,
before you can trust God’s plans, you need to understand who you are to the one to whom you belong. Really understand it. Really believe it. . . because when you believe it, you can trust it. Whose you are is the most important part of who you are.

I am the great-granddaughter of a former football player who married Mayme, a farmer and his wife whose faith reaches down to me today.

. . . . the granddaughter of Mary Edna and Theodore who loved through a lifetime
of challenges and made home safe

. . . . the daughter of a father who walked out and a mother who never gave up
on her dreams for us

I am a green-eyed girl married to a brown-eyed boy
mama, mother, memaw to Christian, Ben, Barrett, Cameron and Caleb
. . . . Ava and Norah’s Muddy
. . . . Sadie and Miss Kitty’s opener of the door and filler of the bowl

I am the the family remembrancer
though I misplace my keys, my glasses and my schedule
. . . . a literalist looking at life through faith lenses
. . . . a writer, knitter, cook and gardener by determination not perfectionism

I am a writing instructor
teaching about speech parts, organization and support,
in stories, definitions, reasons, hoping they see
they are more than what they realize

I am a dreamer who believes
all things are possible when God is invited
through the gate of my heart
. . . . a teller of corny jokes with bad timing
living with the after-effects of foot-in-mouth disease
redeemed from miss-it moments by an amazing grace
. . . . sufferer of disappointments, dilemmas, the capricious nature
of man-made plans
. . . . a faith girl learning to live hands-off and hands-up

I am a drinker of wild apple ginger tea with honey
. . . . a collector of back-yard violets in white pottery creamer and summertime zinnias in mason jars
. . . . a reader of love letters tucked in blessings of red cardinals, snowflakes and spring storm rivulets in tree-root paths

I am trying to live an ordinary everyman dream that just might produce radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

I am loved by the one who led me to the water, who washed me
clean in the ankle deep, waist deep, soul deep waters
I am pursued and pulled in to the inner circle of his home
I am given the seat of a valued daughter at his table
I am protected by his angels
I am his beloved daughter

I can live with who I am – and find joy in it –
because of whose I am . . . .

I am designed by the creator
of all that exists
.. . . .the dearness of violets, wild apple ginger tea, the quirky humor, the literalist, these 5 boys, my brown-eyed sweetheart, that my mama didn’t give up – that’s not by chance. That’s by design
. . . . a design to be more than what I see
in the mirror or what you see in me
. . . .designed to belong to Him
I am not my own because I cannot be complete,
graceful, content without Him.

I belong . . . to him.

I am his.

“I know this because an angel from the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me last night” (Acts 27:23)

 

Read Full Post »

Christmastreethinking1_edited-2

The coffee cake, breakfast casserole, the ornaments nestled into the tree, Santa on the door, my grandparents bible turned to Luke 2 – Christmas traditions of remembrance, traditions of hope.

Despite the traditions un-boxed after Thanksgiving each year, real life happens. Good intentions move their way through December less gracefully than I hope or intend.

Slouchy hats knitted, Christmas candy made – and the feast – when you live away from extended family, Holiday-making is a one-mom job leaving the Martha and Mary within me wrestling – as I fill canisters that make life taste a little sweeter, wrap lights around trees to make life sparkle more, play music that evokes the joy and meaning of the season.

The man-made part of Christmas is exhausting.

One of my boys, slightly affronted, amused and exasperated at the same time – when I called him by his brother’s name instead of his own, stood in the entry hall, “Mom, don’t you know which one I am?”

(Don’t all good mothers do this?) I thought, “On some days, I’m the Easter Bunny. Another day, the Tooth Fairy. Today? Santa Clause? If I can’t keep track of who I am, how can I keep track of who you are?”

. . . . and, I think I might possibly have said that out-loud. Then, like any good mom, I felt a dose of guilt because I just might have crushed his 17-year-old belief in Santa – or was that my 15-year-old’s belief. . .

I’m not even quite sure he heard me because he didn’t respond – either through shock, or just because he’s a teenager – and, well, teenagers are notorious for not hearing their mama’s words- unless you really don’t want them to.

While unwrapping gifts Christmas morning and evening, all gifts came with a disclaimer – the enclosed gift just may not be yours – be prepared to swap – only because 1) name tags didn’t stick and 2) the dog chewed up some bows with name tags attached.

Christmas Eve found me searching for a Christmas Service to attend that had 1) the Christmas Story, and 2) Traditional Christmas songs that told the Christmas Story. The boys warily eyed my choices. Historically, some of my choices have been more misses than hits. They haven’t let me forget a mid-night service of Gregorian chants, among other unusual experiences.

When I decided on an 11 p.m. service, though, there was hardly a peep.

My newly married son and his sweet wife were spending the night with us, along with their two boys – Brooks and Junior, 2 golden retrievers. This son kept asking, “11 p.m.? We’re really going at 11 p.m. I’m usually in bed asleep by 7.”

He didn’t have to go, I told him. It was O.K. if he didn’t go – and I said that seriously, without any hint or intent of sorrowful guilt-tripping.

It meant more to me that he wanted than going to make me happy.

I think he really wanted to go; he just didn’t want to admit it. Maybe, just maybe, it was as important to him as it was to me.

Together, most of my boys, my husband and I, greeted Christmas morning at mid-night, steeped in the story of the birth of our Savior – from the Angels singing Gloria to the shepherds in the field, to the manger, to the silent, holy night when the son of God became man all because of a love and faithfulness deeper and truer any of us can grab hold of.

Every Christmas, that’s what I do, what I want my family to do – grab hold of this truth, try to understand it even more throughout the year.

Real life needs this.

The colorful bows, shiny green, red and candy-cane paper, Risk, Pick-up Sticks, Rocket Balloons, a Red Radio Flyer wagon, chess sets, pocket watches, soccer cleats, blue soccer pants, and sugared pecans – cannot drown out the simple quiet message of the meaning of Christmas.

My soul yearns to hear it, pull it in deep and live it better the next 365 days.

Inside the pocket watch we gave a son, Romans 15:13 was engraved.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” 

Real life needs this – every day of every year!

Christmtascoffeecake_edited-3

 

Read Full Post »

yarngreen_edited-1

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Mohair is a beautiful yarn – on its own or double stranded. Mohair is gentle, delicate, warm – and thin. I’ve had days lately where I’ve felt like a thin strand of mohair – come upon a knot.

Spinning my own yarn; walking my own story.

Sometimes this yarn I spin is like bulky wool. Knots that happen are easy enough to unravel, to work out.

There’s no undoing a knot in mohair, though.

My story has stretched me thin lately, mohair thin – and the knots, they’re beyond anything I can do.

In myself, I’m mohair thin.

I was designed to be double-stranded with God.

Spinning my own yarn; walking my own story

God can . . . unravel the mohair knots in my story, unravel and leave my heart llama warm – and I can pull my yarn on into the next stitch of this story I’m working.

This last week, God unraveled a nest of knots.

Knot – A car-load of people I love learned that
God makes a way in a traffic jam, even when
there’s no logical way out

Knot – Someone in authority wasn’t willing to open a can of worms
until someone else was
relief and solution spilled out

Knot – Someone saw truth and stood up for it

knit, slip a stitch 
knot, knot, knot 
knit two together, pearl
knot, knot, knot

This week found hands on shoulders in a circle
young and old
praying for God to unravel
the knots
either we make, others make
or just-happen knots

There’s no wrong-side of a knot
when we take it to God

Spinning my yarn; walking my story

the sweet aroma of praise
in a hard moment hallelujah
for the lord God almighty reigns
and his name is like honey on my lips
water to my soul
a lamp unto my feet
the knot unraveler
who can
in a world of cannots

 

yarnmohair_edited-1

 

 

Read Full Post »

Herron12015_edited-1“If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all” Isaiah 7:9b

A few weeks ago, my husband and I got up early to hike to the waterfalls. I took my camera – and my sweet husband is so patient with that. My camera makes me slow down and see what God has for me – the blessings He leaves for me in the daily.

I stood across from this herron for a while – well, I literally stalked the herron. When I turned away to take other pictures, he seemed so disappointed to have lost his audience that he flourished his plummage for me. It was as though he wanted to recapture my attention – and he did.

The trip to the falls gave me a twinge of guilt, though. So does coffee with friends. So does the cardinal darting in front of me. How can I enjoy the blessing God leaves for me when the world is set with fires?

I’ve been silent on my blog about what’s going on in the world lately – silent on the shootings going on in communities, silent on the lack of honesty/integrity/God-principles in government, silent on words being redefined – words like marriage and is, and silent on the horror of babies brutally killed and dismembered in what God designed to be the safest place of all – a mother’s womb.

I’ve always wondered how the German people remained silent in a country systematically murdering its Jewish population. Maybe it was the threat that they would be murdered, too – but that doesn’t make silence right – silence for self-preservation at the expense of others.

There’s a lot of judging, a lot of tossing around about privilege – who has it, who doesn’t – and the stench of it – because that is the intent of the label – to make one feel like they stink somehow, that they are tainted, not good-enough, their faith and Jesus in them not good enough.

I’ve wondered what I am to do in the midst of so much going wrong. I vote for those whose who stay they are going to restore – and they don’t. I volunteer.  My husband and I shepherd our family to love all people, pray for those who struggle, to stand up for their beliefs and protect the hurting. I try to Jesus-love those who cross my path – because I realize that those are the ones God gave me to encourage. I even try to expand that path into out of the way places.

I don’t know how to address all this. I don’t know how to fix all this. I’m tempted to try to put all the fires out – running from one fire to another, throwing on debate, ideology and fight like water. Running around in circles trying to put out all the fires is ineffective, though. You know how it is – when you try to do everything, you end up achieving nothing, to a chorus of people telling you that you’re doing it all wrong?

All I can do is all I’m called to do: To love the Lord God with all my heart, mind and soul. To love my neighbor as myself – and to stand firm in faith to the one who created me.

I stand firm in who I am to Him:

I am the daughter to His father.

I am the sister my brother died for.

I am the lost sheep the shepherd left all others to search for.

I am the beloved bride.

With great position comes great responsibilities – this being a daughter of the King is not a cushion-sitting, hand-waving-from-a-balcony kind-of-job. It’s hands-on, heart-to-heart kind-of-job that can be both uncomfortable and liberating.

Go find my sheep, he says – and I go.

Love your neighbor – and I try to find a way, whether it is through words or actions.

To those shaken by the storms, I am to bring them to him, to tuck them beneath the warmth and security of His wing.

Sometimes, I am to just stand with another as they wait for the eagles to lift them out of their battle.

I must always be ready to share the living water, like a glass over-flowing, with I meet on the daily path.

Love makes a feast out of want, sits with the sinners and tells about how much God loves them, cleans out the temple in righteous anger, champions those who cannot fight for themselves.

As He has counted the hairs on my head, so am I to know and care for others, to value them as He values me. – even those living as orphans who don’t realize their father is looking for them.

No – I don’t know how to fix the heart-breaking wrongs going on today. All I can do is to stand firm in faith – of his promises, his commission, and who we both are to him.

Firm faith prevents us from running around like a chicken with its head off. Firm faith gives direction when the world shouts, “Fire.” Firm faith gives peace of who we are to Him in a world that accuses us of being who we aren’t.

As the world, the nation, our communities struggle today with right and wrong, with justice and injustice  – as people argue and point fingers, accusing you of being someone you aren’t, receive the blessings God leaves in the daily – welcome them, rejoice in them and stand firm in who you are – stand firm and love – it’s never wrong. It never fails. It brings hope a world catching fire.

Read Full Post »

babybird2_edited-1

Three little birds, hungry to be filled, desirous to be deeply, abidingly satisfied.

I’ve spent a lifetime feeling like those three little birds.

Maybe it is as Charles Dickens so beautifully put it, “It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” No wonder I feel as though I’ve been sprinkled with Pixie Dust after holding a newborn, or hugged tight by a three-year-old, or been given a marriage proposal by a 5-year-old. Such fresh love from God in these little ones. So fresh from the arms of God, they’re born into the world with it – and it spreads through contact.

The older we grow away from that freshness from God, the more we yearn for it, hunger for it. We become like those little birds, hungry to be filled – but not filled with mother’s milk or oatmeal and blueberries. We grow hungry to be filled with God’s kind of love – the kind of love we were fresh from when we were born. It’s an unconditional kind-of-love, selfless, loyal, a seeing-love that sees us as He designed us, see understanding of who we are, gently shepherding, always forgiving, always loving.

Long ago, when were were little, just like those three little birds, we were so fresh from God that it never entered our minds, our hearts or our souls that the world wouldn’t love us like God does. Sadly, no human ever can. Not our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our spouse, our very best friends, our ministers or priests, the bus riders, the 10 mile runners, our grandmas or grandpas, the barrista who knows you like mint in your mocha, even the lady who prays for you without your knowing – no one, no matter how intentional, loves us like God loves.

The infant of ourselves grows to toddle, to become sturdy children who grow into the dark ages of the teen years, bursting forth into independence whether ready or not, until one day we’re raising toddlers of our own – all of us have been there or are there – no matter how far away we grow from our fresh beginnings, there exists a hunger to be filled. Nothing of the world can fill that hunger – only God can.

“I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psalms 81:10).

We can still live as though fresh from God. Open our mouths wide, he says – and He will fill it – our hearts, our minds, our souls – like three little birds expecting, knowing, trusting to be filled, surrounded with love. We were designed by love, and, sadly, frustratingly, born into a world fallen that loves imperfectly, conditionally, at times gracelessly, or sometimes loves not at all.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat” (Mother Teresa).

We can be loved, even love others, but the desire to be loved can only be completely filled by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I wish I could love my children like that, my husband, too – and all those God gives me. I am like the world, though – consistent only in its failure to love perfectly.

Like three little birds, mouths wide open in expectation, so new from God, His love is still fresh on them.

I want to feel that fresh love. I want to know it. I want to be filled inside out with it.

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good? ( Psalm 107:9).

I’m praying today that God fill me with that so-fresh-from-God kind of love. I pray that He fill me so that it spills over onto others, activating joy, love and hope – and that it creates a chain-reaction – and that we all know and feel that so-fresh-from-God kind of love!

Norah215_edited-1

http://www.barbieswihart.com/     The Weekend Brew
http://faith.5minutesformom.com/     Faith ‘N Friends
http://sandraheskaking.com/     Still Saturday
http://seespeakhearmama.com/     Give Me Grace
http://www.janiscox.com/        Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/     Spiritual Sundays
On Monday:
http://lauraboggess.com/  PlayDates with God
http://www.solideogloriasisterhood.com/   Soli Deo Gloria Connections
http://www.blessedbutstressed.com/   Inspire Me Mondays
http://darlingdownsdiaries.com/     Good Morning Mondays
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://whatjoyismine.net/     Monday Musings
http://www.shelivesfree.com/blog     Make a Difference Mondays
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
On Tuesday:
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://cornerstoneconfessions.com  Titus 2 Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://www.juanamikels.com/ Wednesday Prayer Girls
http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/ Three-Word Wednesday
http://www.w2wministries.org/ Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
http://jenniferdukeslee.com/ Tell His Story
http://meredithbernard.com/ W2W Wednesdays
http://www.rosilindjukic.com/ A Little R & R
http://womenwithintention.com/ Women with Intention
On Thursday:
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.gracedsimplicity.com/ Hearts for Home
http://www.faithbarista.com/ Beloved Brews
http://tsuzanneeller.com Live Free Thursdays
http://www.prairiedusttrail.com After My Coffee

Read Full Post »

tomatoes_edited-1“Open up, heavens, and rain.
    Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness!
Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation;
    sprout right living.
    I, God, generate all this.
But doom to you who fight your Maker—
    you’re a pot at odds with the potter!
Does clay talk back to the potter:
    ‘What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!’
Would a sperm say to a father,
    ‘Who gave you permission to use me to make a baby?’
Or a fetus to a mother,
    ‘Why have you cooped me up in this belly?’” (Isaiah 45:8-10)

It’s raining, a long, summer-morning slow-drench kind-of-rain. Thunder cracks and rumbles to the north. Soothing quiet, except for the soft pat-a-tat of rain against the windows, and the noise like a rushing wind, only it’s the soft percussion of rain against pear tree leaves, maple leaves, cherry tree leaves.

The rain, it refreshes my soul. When it’s not raining, I miss the snow – because life slows down, the rush is sifted out of the schedule, leaving the good stuff like my husband and boys, friends piling in, crock-pot promises and something in the oven that needs a chocolate ganache – and stillness.

Right now, though, I need to savor the green of garden tomatoes and chard, cucumbers, corn and fresh onions, a bacon and tomato sandwich, my summer gazpacho, to savor the drowsy wake up of boys working summer jobs for gas money, movies and responsibility to savor the long walks at sunsets with my golden retriever wanting to make friends with road-side frogs.

Even in the midst of a world gone up-side down, God pours blessings like rain over tomato vines . . . . That’s the hard part, though: a world gone-up-side down. A world where babies. lives are bartered for cash over lunch, part by part – as if standing at the butcher counter haggling over parts and costs – yet, it’s  not cow liver and pigs toes the bartering is about; the bartering and haggling are over babies designed by God.

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government” (Thomas Jefferson).

How is this government-sanctioned murder any different than Hitler systematically murdering the Jewish people? The only difference is that Hitler confiscated the financial riches of a grown-up population, and our government sells the organs and limbs of the most dependent and powerless of humanity – so powerless that government took away its rights before it hat the chance to take one breath in order to cry out for help.

This horrific act is so diametrically opposed to the purpose and foundation of our country, a country beckons the helpless:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(Emma Lazarus, Statue of Liberty, “Collossus”)

Don’t unborn babies yearn to breathe free, too? Isn’t freedom and liberty – and all its promises of being created equal – aren’t these promises for unborn babies, too? Don’t unborn babies deserve our protection from such hideous violations to their bodies?

Lila Terhune in her book Cross Pollination pointed out that before every great move of God, babies were murdered en masse – before the children of Israel were delivered from slavery, before Israel and the world were delivered from the law into grace.

There’s a disquiet in my soul at the terrible wrong being done – and in the soft pour of the rain, in the quiet of my home, with all my boys – and all their organs and limbs in-tact – there’s the faint sound of the drum-beat of heaven preparing for battle. Can you feel it, deep inside?. . . to where you can almost hear it?

Praying today that the hands that guide the transducers probes in these abortion clinics hear that drum-beat of heaven along-side the heart-beat of God’s children in the womb. I pray their hands shake in fear of an angry Father-God over those who harm a single hair on the head of any of his children. This, after-all, isn’t a powerless Father – He is the God-of-Angel-Armies.

I pray that the Holy Spirit enter these rooms and change hearts so that these little hearts and souls will fulfill God’s designed plan for their lives – so the little heart in the womb will one day sit in a home watching a summer rain fall over their tomatoes, savor the taste of a bacon and tomato sandwich, while little arms of their own children wrap around them for protection in the rumble and thunder of a summer storm, take walks under a moon that resembles the curve of a raccoon’s whisker, confident that his or her country protects the weak in an America stands for and with God to protect all His children.

I pray, too, that God shows me how to help this happen.

Read Full Post »

babybird_edited-1Three little birds, hungry, waiting, crying out in a voice nothing like a song. Their noise reminds me of the saying, “so hungry my stomach is gnawing my backbone.”

Unforgiveness is much like the hunger of those three little birds. The difference is that unforgiveness induces a deep, unrelenting, insatiable soul hunger. It’s not easily satisfied. Like those baby birds waits, so to waits the soul owner. The soul owner waits for the offender to come fetch their forgiveness.

Much like the hospitable hostess at the front door, a package on the door-side table wrapped and re-wrapped, waiting for the offender to come knock on the door, handing you a dish of I’m-sorries. After studying their I’m-sorries, the gift of forgiveness is then handed out.

Call this exchange a two-way street, or spiritual etiquette dance between two people. Each presents the prerequisite forgiveness requirements (the I’m-sorries and I-forgive).  Relationship is restored – Correct? The hunger caused by unforgiveness-waiting has been satisfied. Right?

That’s what I call the 7X7X7 forgiveness dance. Your brother slights, shows up at your doorstep and asks your forgiveness (Matt 18:22). No matter how many the slights or failings, you really, really forgive – his slight as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Forgiveness-by-the-book. Everyone does what they’re supposed to do.

There’s another forgiveness dance, though. One when everyone doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. The main partner doesn’t show up to do his part. Your forgiveness gift languishes on the receiving table. You can’t give it unless they show up to receive, so hunger gnaws at your stomach until you feel it scratching at your backbone. Your daily song sounds unsatisfied like the baby birds waiting.

It’s hard – this forgiveness when nobody wants it– big and little wounds made intentionally or unintentionally. A daddy walks out, or maybe it’s a spouse. Bullies in the bathroom. Lapses in the kitchen. Wrongs in the workplace. Breaches in the family room. Unintended slights. Infractions in the neighborhood, school, roadways. Even on a desert island.

Unforgiveness like hunger gnaws, distracting from every goodness. It dams up peace like a stream until there’s nothing but a trickle left, then dryness – and you find yourself parched of it.  It stands between you in a hug, a kind word, a hand reached out for fellowship. It’s creates a haze, diffusing the joy God leaves in your daily.

Forgiveness waiting to be given becomes a parasite to the soul, leaching the nutrients properties of salvation: the burden should be lighter. Forgiveness waiting weakens the soul, burdens it.

This waiting to extend forgiveness, waiting for the right conditions, the 7X7X7 forgiveness dance is starving your soul.

On the cross, in the midst of the greatest betrayal of all, stinging from the thorns and whip lashes, lips bitter from the tainted wine, Jesus forgave even before anyone asked to be forgiven.

His friends, his church, his government walked out on him, denied him, tortured him, killed him.

We need to forgive just like that: pre-emptively, whole-heartedly, still desiring to save each offender, each sinner.

First, we have to winnow the true hurts from the pride hurts. Pride hurts, like someone not treating you as you feel your position deserves. That could be anyone from a mom whose kid didn’t get a starting position on the football team, to not being included in a social event, to not being included in a group lunch invite.

There’s the little offenses, like the man who cut you off on the highway, fast-food getting your order wrong for the umpteenth time, misjudgment of those who don’t know you, unfairness and injustice in the daily. Those really are the easy ones. They’re really the practice ones that help us with the big ones.

The big forgivenesses – sometimes we have to recognize just how deep the hurts are to forgive – to truly understand just what the cost to ourselves was – in order to fully forgive – not nickel and dime forgiveness – but full-cost forgiveness.

I learned about full-cost forgiveness with my dad who had left my mom when I was 4. Sadly, he never benefited from the forgiveness gift I had for him. I forgave him long before he died. It was like a gift he had but never bothered to open.

God helped me through that – from the point where I asked for His help to the giving of forgiveness to also learning how to not take it back.

Forgiveness is an abiding thing. When He abides in us and us in Him, forgiveness becomes easier to give.

An  unforgiving heart hungers for I’m-sorries from the very human, fallible man. It hungers wrongly. A forgiving heart hungers for the ministrations of a very loving Father-God who heals the hurts, fill the soul up with good things that satisfy.

Are you waiting on some I’m-sorries?  Are you tired of the gnawing hunger of waiting for people to collect them? Maybe you should go ahead and forgive right now, just like Jesus did. Forgiveness isn’t given because someone deserves it. It’s given because Jesus forgave us, and we don’t deserve it.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)

Read Full Post »

waves2ccm_edited-3Last year on the beach, as I looked for the God messages, the love letters he sends, I couldn’t take my eyes off the broken seashells, the waves that ran sliding upon the beach only to be pulled back before boundaries placed by God were overrun. The broken shards were broken souls lost without God:

“Each piece represented a broken soul
a broken soul desperate to be saved
though the soul didn’t know
it needed saving
didn’t know it could be made whole” (Like Broken Shells on a Beach)

This year, I looked out at the beach, looking with expectation, just like the crippled man begging at the Gate Beautiful looked in expectation at Peter and John – and received more than he thought possible (Acts 3:5). I looked out at the beach – a different beach, past the waves that didn’t just rush in, but bullied their way into shore, in a dangerous-rip-tide kind of bullying.

I’m learning that when I live in expectation of God, my expectation is an invitation to the one who always loves me – and He never fails. He always comes.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope [expectation] is from him” (Psalm 62:5)

I waited with confidence; He’s told me I can – wait with confidence (Hebrews 11:1, Psalm 27:14)). Confidence in God isn’t arrogance; Confidence in God is trusting God like a little child trusts in the goodness and provision of his parents.

I waited, and He met me, at the balcony.

“Look to the horizon,” He told me. I wasn’t to focus on the bullying waves. Not on the sparkling, pretty water sprays. Not on the water trying so desperately to climb up the beach, like one imprisoned seeking freedom at all costs, only to be pulled back.

For three days, our group (about 40) rarely went in the ocean, it was so dangerous. Two of my nephews saved a woman caught in the rip-tide. They barely made it out themselves. They remembered when they were spent of all within themselves to lay back a float. It was not a good time for anyone to be immersing themselves in what was right in front of us.

No, it was better to look to the horizon.

wow5cspray_edited-2

“Look to the horizon,” He’d said – before the Supreme Court rulings, before the Charleston, S.C. shootings.

Look up, look out – fix my eyes on Him, on His ways, on the hope of Him.

Like the focal point of a laboring woman during birth, so, too, must we choose a focal point during the big and little challenges that are like contractions to our souls, contractions designed to give new life.

It’s our choice, determining our own focal point. The pain of the daily can be big enough that I want to close my eyes and block out the focal point – but that’s my choice. I chose my focal point to be El Shaddai who can handle any situation and Jehovah-Shamah –  on the horizon – even if I don’t see Him, I believe He is both on the horizon and with me at the same time – and I am determined to keep my eyes open and focused on Him.

“David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Acts 2:25)

Like the city under siege who receives word that salvation will arrive on the horizon at dawn, with an army of 10,000 come to save, hope burns fiercely in my soul that He saves. The world may fall apart, but He saves those who are His.

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25: 15)

Focusing on the snares in the daily, whether they be in our home towns or in another’s – doesn’t release us from the snares designed to bring us down either individually or as a group. It’s when we take our eyes off the snares and look to Him that we are redeemed from those snares. Even when the snares are thrown off and destroyed, if we keep focused on Him still, the snares will not be remade.

wowave2cc_edited-1

Look to the horizon with expectation! What do you expect?

“Do not be afraid—I will save you.
I have called you by name—you are mine.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you;
your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through fire, you will not be burned;
the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the holy God of Israel, who saves you. (Psalm 43: 1-3a)

umbrella_edited-1

Read Full Post »

This is the Story Behind the Poem “Lead Me to the Water,” my previous post.

wowcreek3c

“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”
They said, “We have not.”
(Acts 19:2)

I know the Father. I know the Son – but the Holy Spirit for a long time was the elephant in the room. You know what that is – the elephant in the room nobody talks about, ignores, avoids, doesn’t make eye contact, pretends it’s not there but everyone knows it’s there. Except nobody quite knows what to do with it, how to approach it.

I used the excuse that it was something for extra special people like David, Saul, Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus – but not for regular, everyday Christian’s like me.

I describe the Holy Spirit in The Power of One as “often the wedding gift most often left unopened. When it is opened, it is a gift no one ever quite knows how to use, so it is shoved to the back of a closet.”

An elephant now shoved in the back of the closet.

“What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” John 6: 62-63 (The Message)

I used to be like that with the Holy Spirit. I was a resister.

My pride was part of the problem with this elephant-in-the-room Holy Spirit. Kind of like when someone says, “You know, don’t you?” – and your cheeks flame red because you really don’t know so you just say you do.

Or maybe because your church didn’t really talk about it. I reasoned if my church didn’t teach me about it, then surely there was not more to it – for me at least.

I fell into a trap on that one. Relying on someone else to feed me scripture and knowledge of the trinity.

You know why public schools were created? So that every citizen could read their bible, so that no one would ever be able to take away their salvation by omission of knowledge. Being able to read the bible gave every citizen control over the destiny of their soul.

I was ignorant (not stupid, just un-educated) about the Holy Spirit – so I ignored him. Ignorance does that about things.

That elephant in the room that is the Holy Spirit? It goes everywhere with you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall
and your right hand shall hold me”
(Psalm 139: 7-10)

Ignorance doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit from trying to get your attention, though. One day, I started going to a church that taught about the Holy Spirit.

That first Sunday, I experienced fight or flight during praise and worship, an out-loud type of praise and worship. Someone told me later, “When you’re in the presence of the Holy Spirit and you don’t know what it is – you can feel that way.”

After praise and worship I sat down. I didn’t leave because there were people on both sides of me, closing off any graceful means of escape. Sitting there, searching for a way out, oh, the sweetest thing happened. Something whispered in my spirit, ‘I am so glad you came. I have been waiting for you” – and peace infused me.

A few weeks later, I brought the whole family (back when we only had 3 sons – LOL).

This is where God took my hand to
“lead me through the water,
through the water ankle-deep” (Lead me to the Water).

This church taught about the Holy Spirit. It was not an elephant in the room. They encouraged reading about it – not just taking their word for it.

I will admit – I was scared to jump into that Holy Spirit river that I saw people dancing in, speaking in tongues in, living challenges – living 24/7 in that Holy Spirit River – but something in my marrow wanted me to jump.

I read about it, cracked open the door of my mind, but not wanting to be gullible. Until one day, I got a call from my brother. Our dad was in a nursing home – 56 years old and dying. I hadn’t seen him for over a decade. He had never seen my sons. We were expecting a little girl then.

God, my Father, “he took my hand to lead me
Lead me through the water
Through the knee-deep water” (Lead Me to the Water).

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives” (Galatians 5:25).

I pulled the Holy Spirit out of the back of that closet, let the spirit lead me through the nursing home hallways, into his room. I prayed that God would give me the right words, that maybe he would be saved, that there would be restoration and relationship.

The Holy Spirit surrounded me, protected me, comforted me – during the few weeks I visited with this man, my father, who was more interested in what take-out food I could bring him than in me.

The week he died, so did the little girl I was carrying, at 4 ½ months, her heart stopped beating the same day as his funeral. My heart broke in so many pieces, in so many ways.

I’ll be honest here. A tough honest. I didn’t believe I could be whole – but a daughter, well, maybe she would be whole, not broken through a father’s abandonment – and I wanted a front row seat on that.

But, God, He took my hand and he whispered, “I want you whole – you don’t need a front row seat on anybody’s life to do that.”

And once again,
“He led me
Led me through the water,
Through the waist deep water” (Lead Me to the Water)

I grabbed on tight, wanting Father God to be enough, to fill that huge gaping hole of growing up without a father. I grabbed on tight, knowing my little girl was in heaven. There was a lot of holding on tight there – believing in things I didn’t see but still feeling hurt, empty, abandoned.

Until one night in a Sunday School group, we talked about the Holy Spirit. Someone said, ‘If God has more for me, I want it.”

If God has more for me, I want it.”

Let me say that again, “If God has more for me, I want it.”

It tore down the last vestiges of my resistance.

I took His hand
For Him to lead me
Lead me
to immerse myself
in the river
in the over-my-head river water (Lead Me to the Water)

I dove in from the top of my soul to the very tips of its toes. When I dove in, healing began.

The Holy Spirit nursed me to wholeness, sat beside me the entire time, held my hand and coached me, told me not to feel sorry for myself, reminded me who I was to the Father.

The Holy Spirit – it’s not just for special Christians. It’s for everyday Christians like you and me.

The Holy Spirit is no longer the elephant in the room of my life. Ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep – until I was ready to go all out – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit led me there. God knew it was a journey – a journey there for each of us. I am so glad He loved me enough to lead me to the Holy Spirit water!

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught” (John 14: 26-27)


355) White trimmed in blue irises, yellow trimmed in purple irises, stark white irisis from my aunt’s flower beds
356) Yellow evening primroses that close up in the late afternoon, also from my aunt’s yard
357) Bergament, mint and a rain tree from a cousin
358) Coming home, planting them – some deep, some shallow  and seeing perennial thoughts, from my grandmother (spider’s knot), lilies, from drive and dig outings with a friend on roadsides before the county mowed them over, and these plantings from a cousin and aunt.
359) Cardinals outside my window, stepping about for a spell in the evening, long enough for me to take pictures.
360) My little guy and I making Normandy Pies for a relay for life bake sale. Listening to him do the math to double the recipe. Whoever bought it, bought something filled not only with tasty things but stirred and cared for with joy.
361) Bed-time Q&As that never cease to warm my heart.
362) Cool weather for blanket wrapping – aren’t there days when the inside just yearns to be wrapped in a blanket but it’s too warm on the outside for that kind of comfort?
363) Schedules that work themselves out.
364) Smiles, seeing each of my sons smile, calm, relaxed able to let that joy slip out.
365) A mango, tangerine carrot smoothie over lunch with my daughter-law and grandbaby girl.
366) God quick-stitching the daily wear and tear on my spirit for quick healing
367) Standing on the soccer sidelines with other moms and friendship growing.
368) Soccer season winding down. I am always so excited when it begins and so excited when it ends!
369) A son growing into his legs, all 29-34 (blue jean size – LOL) inches of him, able to out-run anyone – reaching bloom time at just the right time!
370) The sweet aroma of grace-filled confidence when bloom-time happens.
371) My husband and boys working at the Family Plant Sale, Relay for life – helping the family raise money for cancer, so they and their children won’t have to face it (half the boys were there; half were here for school soccer tournaments)
372) My husband coming home after being away a week at his hometown, working on the Relay for Life Plant sale.
373) Sweet potato vines, purple trimmed in green flowers, blue and yellow flowers, Martha Washington geraniums – all for my pots.
374) Tortillini soup made on Sunday for Monday.
375) Blueberries picked in July for blueberry crunch in April.
376) The sound of children laughing in our neighborhood
377) Water balloon fights
378) Watching the littlest throw a water balloon corsage at his 6 ft. 3 brother, and then take off running.
379) Watching those legs on that 6 ft 3 in brother chase down his littlest brother with the left-over water balloon corsage.
380) Watching both of them laugh over it all.
381) Believing that all things work for good to those who love him (Romans 8:28)

Read Full Post »

Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

“That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it”~ My Grandmother’s Clothes Bag

Disclaimer: Grandmother, if she knew I had turned this story into an allegory would probably have admonished me to “Stop that Silly Talk.”

Characters in the allegory of Grandmother’s Clothes Bag
Grandmother – Everyman
Granddaughter – Everyman
Navy, Accordion-Pleated Wool Skirt – A blessing shared
The Clothes Bag – The Bible
The Content of the Clothes Bag – Things of God
Moth Balls – The Holy Spirit

There’s a time when I moved from a child’s relationship to the Father, to an adult’s relationship to the Father. Where, as a child, I loved Him with abandon. Growing up led to self-consciousness, gracelessness from uncomfortable awareness, and learning to take the reigns of spiritual responsibility in hand.Growing up meant sifting through what I had been taught, becoming intentional in what I believed.

That meant I was alone responsible for that relationship. The training wheels were off. I was alone responsible for the reaching.

I didn’t do well early on, when those training wheels were off. My relationship wobbled with Him wobbled.

Like I hurried through Grandmother’s back porch, past the clothes bag, so I hurried past Him.

Self-consciousness, lack of confidence in who I was caused me to hurry past things that intimidated me through my ignorance – not just of the things of God but who I was to Him.

Faux gracefully, I enacted the ritual of sorting through winter and spring into the clothes bag – but I didn’t dig into that clothes bag. I stood in the kitchen and handed out.

I didn’t not know Him intimately. I could not truly catalog was what in His word. I needed to spend time with Him, with His word, to see what was there – not just the gospel, but Ruth, Jeremiah, Isaiah – all the one’s I skipped over, ignored.

I needed to spend time with Him, like my grandmother spent time maintaining the clothes bag, lined with those moth balls.

I couldn’t really help anyone. I couldn’t really even help myself – not until I delved into the contents of His word, His Holy Spirit – Him.

The Father wanted me to stop rushing past Him, open up His word and listen, really listen, catalog in my heart its content, wear it, walk it, know it – to continually wrap His word in His Holy Spirit.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

One day, sitting in the car outside my husband’s work, waiting – which is something newleyweds still in college with just one car do a lot – the Father met me there. I asked the Father, “I want that relationship I had with you as a child. Teach me how to get there.”

He did. . . it was a journey, though – not an overnight arrival.

I learned to not rush past His word like I rushed over cool, pebbled-concrete floors. I dug into His word, like my grandmother dug into her clothes bag, cataloging, nurturing so that one day I could share what is within His word, within relationship with Him.

When grandmother saw a need – she went to the clothes bag and drew a blessing out – a blessing that caused a soul-reveal. I needed to learn to live that kind of relationship with Him.

I needed to believe what the word said about that relationship, about the hope, the healing, the speaking, the praying, the Holy Spirit, the believing without seeing.

 

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”(Hebrews 11:6)

When I dug into His word, when I believed His word – I discovered who I was to Him – his beloved daughter.

I discovered a Father who wanted to become the shade in the glaring, uncomfortable heat of challenges, who wanted to shelter me beneath the feathers of His wing, who wanted to bind my wounds scarless, who wanted to shelter me in the storm – that He saves me when I cry out, like a Knight in Shining Armor:

“He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then GOD thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.
16-19 But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but GOD stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”

(Psalm 18: 10-15, The Message)

One day long ago, grandmother pulled a skirt out of her clothes bag. As the years unfolded, that moment became an allegory of faith. Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal – and the truism made me a beloved daughter of the King, who willing jumped on His horse and moved heaven and earth to protect shelter . . . . save.

Because I learned not to hasten away from the things of God, I find blessings He leaves me, messages He leaves me in the ordinary of a day:

964) The squirrel nest high in the barren oak, sways in the thin-limbed top, twigs, old leaves woven together, how does it protect against the bitter wind? And, I marvel – because it does.
965) My mother-in-laws hands, folding laundry, teaching me to slip-stitch quilt binding, making banana pudding, hugging babies and boys

966) Nine sherbet-colored bandanas bought in 2009 quilted, backed, binded and tied with raspberry, lime green, citrus orange, flamingo pink and lemon yellow embroidery thread.
967) Red chili sauce in Thais Gopaw – taste buds delighting after days of illness
968) Robin’s egg blue skies outside my work window
969) Lunch date with my husband, just the two of us
970) Italian chamber music on my iPod nano diminishing chaos
971) The story of grace changing lives, redeeming from the law, in movie theatres around the world, sung in spiritual songs of Les Miserable (the book beautiful, too)
972) Two hour morning delay from an ice storm that never came, giving me time to love the boys with homemade chocolate chip granola bars and hamburger, elk and deer-meat chili.

Read Full Post »

cat

 “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Genesis 1: 3-5).

Challenges threatened the potential of my last Monday – like a lion stalks its prey or thunder and lightening shake up your world.

An entrepreneur’s wife is an entrepreneur, too. That means lots of new tasks, organizational needs, doing all sorts of jobs outside of my skill area – and learning new skills – like putting out figurative fires, stepping in to fill a gap – and needing to know the answers to all the questions. Last Monday found me in new situations where I didn’t  have the answers – and people looking at me for them.

Entrepreneur’s are business starters – sometimes that means you both work outside your business until your business grows big enough to sustain you both. Sometimes that outside job uses your skill-set – and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t – well, that’s just one of the things you do when you’re helping someone you love build a dream – a dream that teaches our sons how to work, handle responsibility, time management – and how business works. That’s where you learn about blooming where you’re planted.

Monday was a topsy-turvy, chaos-induced, challenge-filled day. I kept my challenges to myself, but all around, people were putting down  Monday – the “bad” child of the 7 days. “What good can come of a Monday?” people said.

I could have easily fallen into the trap – of speaking hopelessness on my day, beating down its potential and opportunity for grace and over-coming. I had examples enough to beat Monday up a bit. I didn’t, though. I’m not comfortable with cool, hip, in-the-know cliches. I just can’t make myself bash Monday like kids bash an uncool kid to seem popular.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Mark 11:23)

windowsunrise_edited-1Rise and Shine!

Monday Morning Sunrise is at the window sill.

God didn’t say, “Monday’s are going to be awful days.” No! On the first day – a Monday – God created light – and saw that it was good.

It’s not just one day in a week. It’s 52 Mondays in a year. That’s 2, 704 Mondays in my life or about 7 1/2 years – if you’re 52 years old.

Isn’t how you begin a race the most crucial time of that race? I don’t want to ruin the opportunity for each week on day one by speaking faithful assurance of it’s failure.  I have a choice:

Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21)

In the midst of the chaos of my challenge – I spoke faith over last Monday – just like I do every other day and every other challenge.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:23)

I tell my boys, “What you speak is what you get.”

What you believe about your Monday will come to pass.

Sadly, when Monday is treated like an ill-favored child – the day is thrust back into spiritual darkness.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18)

reddoorRise and Shine! Monday morning sunrise is on your door-step!

Give thanks because it is not our circumstances that define our lives, but the attitude with which we live those circumstances that define our lives.

The first day God created was a Monday – and it was good! One day does not have an edge over another. One day is not greater than another. There are no throw-away days.

There are 7 days in a week. Each day has equal potential for goodness.

I spoke faith over my Monday, praising God for his blessings and mercy – and my Monday was redeemed. Redeem yours.

Rise and Shine! Monday is upon you! The first day – and God said it was good!

I pray that your Monday be filled with God’s grace and mercy, despite the circumstances each hour brings.

I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.

 I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

 Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.

God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.

Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.

When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.

God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.

Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.

Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but God-seekers are full of God.

Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.

Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?

Guard your tongue from profanity,
and no more lying through your teeth.

Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!

God keeps an eye on his friends,
his ears pick up every moan and groan.

God won’t put up with rebels;
he’ll cull them from the pack.

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, God is there every time.

He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
not even a finger gets broken.

The wicked commit slow suicide;
they waste their lives hating the good.

God pays for each slave’s freedom;
no one who runs to him loses out.

(Psalm 34)

Read Full Post »

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)

bday35c

rain tree seeds

Read Full Post »

lemonmeringue_edited-1

“Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“Don’t worry about cooking. Just rest and enjoy,” my husband encouraged, as I stuffed mason jars and lemon curd into a cooler on wheels, to be packed in the back of my van. All that was missing was my kitchen sink!

He wanted me to take a vacation. Vacation: a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation (dictionary.com)

I didn’t want a vacation – I wanted a Holiday!

Holiday: festive, joyous, celebrating important values steeped in faith and family with opportunities for rest, pleasure allowing the inner-man to soar(blue cotton memory definition).

IMG_0958When we arrived at the beach, we set up our umbrella city. All together there were 34 of our family – some vacationing – some on a holiday. We celebrated family – from great-grandmothers to great-grandbabies. Afternoon soccer with cousins from 39 to 5 – lines drawn in the sand for good-time rivalry. Some of the boys practiced their Italian and Portuguese (for soccer aficionados- that’s the falling-on-the-ground-faking-injury skills).

This coming Umbrella City gathering was a fluid thing.  Great and small, old and young -moved from beach to pool to lazy river – group and individual time. Some shopped, napped, read books, lunched, cooked, watched World Cup soccer, dined all the while coming and going, sitting a spell, going, coming back, going. . . just like waves on the beach.

What am I saying here? Everyone took the opportunity to soar, to let their interests gallop through the duration of the holiday.

umbrellacity2014c2

All the intrinsic things God placed in me, make me who I am, bring me immeasurable joy, that I sometimes have trouble fitting into the busy daily – they soared over the holiday.  I took photos, spent time with family, wrote, read books, looked for God letters,  bobbed on inner-tubes in the ocean- and made Mason Jar Summertime Pies – because one of my very favorite nieces asked.

I chose to live holiday over 5 days off then vacationing any day! When something is just so wonderfully delicious – food or just life, it should be shared. Below is the recipe for my Mason Jar Summertime Pies! Wishing you a little holiminute, holihour or holi in your day! Praying that today you taste and see the Lord is good, whether it is tasting a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonaise and pepper, Mason Jar Summertime Pies, a hug savored by the soul, a moment that fills you up with Him, joy spilled everywhere – I pray that you catch those moments, your eyes not bigger than your souls – and see, really see, God’s goodness!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! “ (Psalm 34:8)

Lemon Curd
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool.

Crust
1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker cumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons into bottom of 8 oz mason jars, hollowing out the middle.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool then add Lemon Curd.

Meringue
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Top the Mason jars with swirls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(This works great with chocolate pudding, too. I cheated and used Jello Cook and Serve).

 

lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen

 

Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »