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Archive for the ‘Christian Parenting’ Category

wreath22I was born in the early 60s, but I grew up in an earlier generation. I grew up in my grandparent’s house, with a grandmother and grandfather who were pre-teens during the first world war – and were raising pre-teens to babies in the second world war. My neighbors were spinsters, widows and couples who grew up during the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m from a different world – and maybe, well, it’s because I was raised steeped in another generation.

MaryEdna3My grandmother wore sheer elbow length gloves during her First Communion because her skin was too dark. She had gone to live with her grandmother for a year before her First Communion to take the classes necessary receive the sacrament. The mumps didn’t stop her – apparently, nothing stopped you from the sacred ritual.  Especially, if you left home for a year to live with your grandmother to be prepared for it. A rare photo, of Mary Edna, in her gown, is probably the only photo of any of her family bearing a striking jaw line – courtesy of the mumps.

Women who grew up in the early 1900s, experienced the great wars and the Depression met in multiples of 4 around bridge tables where every few months, Charlotte Rousse and tomato aspic were served on the best dishes, where recipes were held close and rarely shared because community was small – and a stellar dish would become synonymous with the one who made it. When my brother and I would come tearing in from school on those illustrious bridge days, we  were expected to make bridge table rounds, speaking to each group, answering questions from women, who were mostly generous with their kind words. I always left the rooms smiling. Grandmotherly women laid their cards on the table so much more neatly and kindly than did our own peers. Maybe that’s why, today, I have always been more comfortable with older women than my own peers.

It’s from this community – of community bridge partners and neighbors from an older generation – that I gained an insight and perspective into so many different layers of living – a Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down kind-of-experience, where I learned my life is not my own – and my soul hands were open to catch the blessing they poured out.

Stop:  5 Minutes of Writing. Just 5 Minutes – unless you just cannot stop yourself.  Won’t you join me over at Kate’s Place for 5 Minute Friday? Sit down, pull over a cup of Wild Apple Ginger Tea, and see what everybody else is writing about the word . . . “Neighbor” Maybe you can join in – it’s just 5 minutes. Come enjoy the fun! (My 5 minutes ends here, but I wanted to share the following story about neighbors who never sat at grandmother’s bridge tables, but were constant neighbors until their deaths. What follows is one of those experiences.

Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

“Don’t do what I did,” Laura May, my 80-year-old-neighbor said to me when I was 18, getting ready to graduate from high school. She had called my grandmother to send me over to sit with her. She thought she was dying and didn’t want to be alone. I was terrified.

Over 13 years, I sat on her front porch a few times, overcoming shyness to visit. One 6-year-old morning, peering through backyard hedges, I was caught, spell-bound, watching an argument unfold between  Laura May and her widowed sister – about boundaries, inside work (Ms. Schindler) and outside work(Laura May). They were refined little ladies. Laura May in her neat dress, with her stockings rolled down around her ankles mowed with an old-fashioned push mower. I tried it once in later years, totally depleted and exhausted at the effort, not able to match her stamina. That morning, I watched them bicker, totally enthralled. . . until they noticed me in the bloomed-out forsythia. They stopped immediately, calling out a friendly, southern, “Mornin’ Maryleigh.” I muttered a “Good Morning” and ran.

I grew past bee catching and porch-wall climbing as seasons turned, Ms. Schindler died and Laura May was left alone in her parent’s Victorian house with blue and white tiled fireplaces, ornate trim, and black walnut woodwork. In the winter, the bare forsythia allowed her to watch us eat in the kitchen. As a teen, in the summer, the stairwell window allowed her to sit, watching all the coming and going, teen antics with my friends, still picking violets, surprise parties, dates, proms – and me mowing our yard.

Until one day, she was dying and afraid. And she wanted me to sit with her.

In her down-stairs sitting room turned bedroom, she told me her story, a “My-life-is-not-my-own” story that needed passing down. A young man turned away because she was expected to take care of her parents. A life turned away – no children, no husband – because her parents chose a different path for her. Oh, how she regretted that. She did not want me to make that same mistake; she feared I would stay home and take care of my divorced mother and grandmother. She wanted me to live life overflowing.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

Nobody owns me. Nobody owned her. Nobody owns my sons. But God calls us to live life fully in a “My-life-is-not-my-own” way, where we pour out all that is within us into someone else to help them grow and grow strong, to strengthen their wings to one day fly and in flying soar, and in that soaring, see – that their life is not their own.

She missed that chance to teach someone to grow, to fly, to soar. She wanted to ensure that I did not miss it, too. In that moment, her life was not her own – she gave a part of it to me.

 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25)

festivalarticleAllowing others to pour their story into our lives is just as important as pouring our stories into others’ lives. Those stories are God’s stories, God’s messages, God’s encouragement. “Sit Long. Talk Much” is a sign over my porch door. It reminds me to share what God put in me.

Esther’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Mary’s life was not her own. Ruth’s life was not her own. Sarah’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Neither was Saul’s.

My son, the answer to a 4 year prayer, he graduates in May. Freedom is all he has talked about for at least 4 years – freedom to live his life his way, make his choices, live his dreams, determine what values to re-seed, which to prune or pull out. “It’s my life,” whispered, shouted, cried out in his thirst for freedom, for control.

I remember that feeling, thinking, “It’s my life.” I can do what I want, be what I want, live what I want, wear what I want, eat what I want. Suddenly, one day though, truth makes a lie of those words. My life is no longer my own. It never really was. . . . my life that is. I gave my life to God – and He wants me to give it away to others – to my family, my children – and His children, both little and big He puts in my path. My dreams are just a shadow of God’s plan for my life.

Just yesterday, I was at the KY State Archery Tournament. I was handed 2 bows, a back pack, a cell phone and an iPod. My life was not my own. Yet – what I was able to give, strengthened my son and gave him the opportunity to try his wings.

Another son brought home a puppy that someone was “selling for free.” My life is even less my own. I so wanted to put up a “No Trespassing” sign. My son walks the dog at 6:30 a.m., 7:15 a.m., multiple times after school and before bed. He wants to go on Spring Break to Florida. I gave him a choice – either use the money to go to the beach or use the money to get the puppy her shots and spade. His life, he is learning, is no longer his own.

Or the little boyin the grocery store who asked me, “Do you think I’m going to Hell?” My life is not my own or he wouldn’t have jumped on my cart and then walked with me, wanting to go home with me. ”You can got to heaven if you want to,” I answered.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

God created a “Pass it Down” mechanism within each of us, the need for our life, experience and learning to be given away. It is something as necessary to us as water is to life. Laura May felt that need for her life not to be her own, to pass parts of it down.

 God put gifts within us to give, graciously, freely, wantingly. Not hoarding, not guarding, not begrudgingly.

  My life is not my own.

How blessed I have been by people who lived that way! I so want to pass it on to my friends, my family and God’s family . . . .and I so want my sons to pass it on – this beautiful, inside-out concept that My life is not My own.

 “Give and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6:38)

 

 

 

 

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butterfly17acLet me draw a deep breath here! (I love punny things). My boys would think it sounds like a lecture coming – and maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.

I could say I’m inspired, but semantics just won’t let me. To be inspired is a holy thing:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17).

The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines inspiration to “infuse or suggest ideas or monitions supernaturally; to communicate divine instructions to the mind. In this manner, we suppose the prophets to have been inspired, and the Scriptures to have been composed under divine influence or direction.”

The world says inspiration is “to infuse ideas or the poetic spirit.” It’s just like the world to take a holy word and sieve God out of it.

I think I’m going to leave the inspiration thing with God, not a piece of art, a well-worn favorite book, a famous singer, or chocolate cake.

Now, to “spur on” – I am semantically comfortable with “spurring.” Spurred on is something I can dig into.

We all have daily spurs: responsibilities, hunger, relationships.

Maybe a cup  of coffee or the thought of a cup of Tupelo Honey Fig or Vanilla Orchard tea spurs me out of bed. More often, it’s the school morning alarm – and the responsibilities of getting my boys up for school spurs me to get my day started.

My taste buds spur me to make bacon and tomato or fried bologna sandwiches.

Just this week, making my family happy spurred me to make a pot of Tortellini Soup. About two weeks ago, the thought of bringing a smile to my aunt spurred me make the Chocolate Malt Cake she’d wanted. The thought of my brand new grandson spurs me to finish knitting his baby blanket before it gets cold.

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Inspiration seems pristine, coming from a shining place where goodness is. Spurring, though, prompts lessons from hard places, a moral compass, and want.

For example, my parents divorce spurred me to treat relationships carefully and ask God to guide me in relationship decisions.

Watching my mom work hard on minimum wage jobs to raise my brother and I spurred both of us to work hard and study hard because stability and security were something we wanted in our future.

Spurring caused me to seek God. If I seek him, call to him, drawn near to him, let him become my God, he draws near to me, lets me find him, answers me and show me great and might things I do not know,  becomes my strength, my defense – my salvation. His breathes (inspires) into my life, and it changes everything. Mighty and Wise is my God from whom my inspiration comes.

Knowing what life is like without God in it spurs me to teach my boys to live life with God in it. When I bring God into the big and little challenges, he breathes inspiration that comes out as wisdom.

One of my sons doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

“Passionately pursue God, and you will find yourselves pursuing something you are passion about,” I say.

Hard truth – what spurs me to God where inspires my decisions, choices, actions and words doesn’t necessarily spur my boys. Those lectures? They don’t feel them on the receiving end like I do on the giving end. They haven’t experienced my hard places. My soul spurs are not theirs.

As a mom, I used to think I could spur my boys into God’s plan for their lives. I can’t. I can show them the way to God. I can provide the tools for every need and success. I can pray for them. However, I cannot spur their soul to seek God.

Another hard truth – until want spurs them – want for a job to provide their daily, want for a solution to a problem they own, want for a forever girl, want for a dream, want for God – until they have experienced a want that stirs up self-motivation, they won’t be spurred to God. If they aren’t spurred to God, they miss out on his inspiration.

These life spurs – yes, they spurred me to God. . . . until I have learned to go to him even when not spurred.

Knowing God leaves blessing for me in the daily spurs me to intentionally look for God – and I find him on the warehouse dock to watch gaggle of geese flying southward, or I find him in the zinnia garden with the butterflies, or rejoicing in the hydrangea blossoms from a bush that by faith, prayer  and attention made it through a hard transplant.

Often, it is the humanness of ourselves that initially spurs – and it is my faith that sends me to him where he breathes hope, wisdom and love into the soul of myself.

Soul spurs – that’s what they are, that spur us to relationship with our divine designer from whom our inspiration comes. What has spurred you to God? What inspiration did he give you?

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After-thought: “If I work to inspire people, then I take my focus off of loving people. However, I think if I do my best to just love those God gives me, then God takes care of the inspiring. That takes a big burden off of me and gives it to the one who can handle it”

 

 

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I love rain storms. Rain storms are the pause button to my schedule. Maybe it’s baseball or football that keeps you busy – it’s soccer for me. When the rain comes, my schedule comes to a grinding halt.

“I’m bored. What can we do?” the boys always ask.

“Fill the emptiness,” I answer.

“With what?” they persist.

“With big and little thoughts,” I think. “Press in to the quietness. Let its peace be like a soothing balm rubbed into the cracked and worn feet of my soul, soothing my walk, giving me rest.”

“’This is the resting place, let the weary rest’”; and, “’This is the place of repose’”–but they would not listen” (Isaiah 28:12).

“It is important to learn how to handle nothing-ness,” I answer. I go into a great story about back in the day when I was their age, only 3 TV channels existed. On a rainy day we built card houses, watched NASCAR races, played cards or board games. . . read books. On sunny days, porch wall jump-offs, sidewalk roller skating, tree climbing, daisy chain construction, bee catching.

We never uttered the words, “I am bored.” If we gave them a mouth-full of whine, they gave us an afternoon full of chores. We wisely kept our complaints to ourselves.

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature” (Albert Einstein).

Where do you go when nothing-ness comes? Where is your Pausing Place? Pausing Places – a place to sit and let nothingness wash through, like clear water in a rushing stream – clearing away the debris of my soul, clearing away for freshness and new growth.

My back porch, during a rain storm – that is one of my pausing places. Sometimes it is my kitchen when no one is home – and I can throw myself into the cooking and think about life without interruptions – while making something wonderful for my boys.

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no condition”
(Amelia E. Barr).

Other times, it is wrapping myself in a blanket, curling up with a good book and my knitting. I would read a bit, knit a bit. That happened the other day. My son flung himself across the end of my bed – and just looked at me.

“There’s nothing to do,” he said, baleful eyes woefully wooing me to create “something” for him out of nothing.

“I’m having a great time,” I said. “I’m loving this. I’m sorry there is nothing you want to do – but there is plenty you can do. But – I am not going to let your frustration mar my nothing-to-do-time.

He sighed.

“One of the most important things you need to learn is how to find peace and joy in the nothingness of a day,” I gently coaxed.

He wallowed a bit more, making sure I knew he was frustrated. I wouldn’t be baited. I sent him on his way.

Filling each moment with him-centered activities does not prepare him to live a fully enriched life. If they do not learn to embrace the quiet times, in the stopping times later, they might fill those moments with harmful activities – just to fill the nothingness.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

One of the most important skills in life is to learn how to embrace those pauses. My boys, well, they need to learn how to make something out of nothing. Their day is so chocked full of activities they become bewildered when they face, what they think, is the Great Monster Nothingness – which I have discovered to be a great friend.

Learning to turn nothing into blessing – what a great life-skill. Bring on those rainy days!

 

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I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture ~ John 10:9

“Jump a Fence

Climb a Tree

Homespun, he is Free”

from Blackberry Roland, by Blue Cotton Memory

From little feet puddle jumping to  muscles and cleats sliding through mud and rain-soaked tackle, these boys of mine don’t always choose the neat, tidy paths and gateways.

God placed within their tiny hearts before they were born – a desire for freedom, a frontier-kind of spirit that would lead them out of bondage, through a parting sea – and into a new land, a land where the banner of Shaddai flies high for all to see, where children are taught with their first steps that Jehovah-Rohi shepherds them through the gate, hand-in-hand with the Savior.

Through the gate – it sounds so simple. Forging new paths, to discover new ideas – like Ford with automobiles or Charles Best who discovered insulin – or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon – fence jumping sure seems a quicker way to get there. Their toes almost itch to jump fences – from the time they learn to walk.

These boys to men seem designed to avoid gates.

I see it in their desire to debate – just for the sake of debate – chewing (sometimes it seems like gnawing) their logical teeth on challenging authority or the status quo.

How many times have I said, “Don’t outsmart your common sense.”

The oldest, he taught them all the longest word in the dictionary: Antidisestablishmentarianism – and, to him, it meant not taking establishment ideas at face value. At first glance, the gate looks like establishment ideas.

Some shun the gate because their parents walked through. The gate seems to have always been there. It seems so ordinary, so every day, so already done. These boys to men don’t just go through the gate because it’s there – it often seems like a life motto they’ve worn emblazoned inside.

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“I am the Gate for the Sheep,” Jesus tells us (John 10:7)

These boys to men – they gotta have Him – there’s no other way – no other way to be delivered from all that life will throw at them – from the liars, cheats, and thieves who aim to steal more than their wallets, identity or cell phones.

The gate isn’t religion. It isn’t rules. It isn’t an activity list of things we do. The gate is relationship. Relationship releases the gate latch – relationship with the one who designed you, the one who died to save you.

Real relationship. You cannot get there by fence jumping (fulfilling the bucket-list of Christian-expected behavior but not relationship) – or digging under it.

I imagine that if you wanted to spend time with Him debating – I imagine He would welcome that as the beginning of relationship. You might not be through the gate – but at least you’re at the gate with Him.

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A few years ago, I hosted a an unofficial small group with some parents of teens, friends of my sons still at home – and we read Sticky Faith together, trying to figure out how to get these boys to men who have walked through that gate when they were little – to continue living through the gate – in His pasture where they live “saved from sin, the dominion of it, the guilt and condemning power of it, and at last from the being of it; and from the law, its curse and condemnation, and from wrath to come, and from every evil, and every enemy”(Gill’s Exposition, Bible Hub).

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Some were frontier parenting – this was their first foray into the teen years. Others, like us, had older children who entered through the gate or were fence jumpers or tried digging under it, trying any way to avoid the actual relationship required to go through the gate.  We needed fresh eyes to break battle-fatigue habits, to re-equip, re-adjust, re-train for the next 6 years.

Sitting across the table, breaking bread – (getting ready for them to start the teen book while we went over the parent’s book) – learning ways to intentionally open the clogged conversational arteries with our children, how our spiritual gifts communicate with each other (not part of the book, but part of what we are doing) – and how to encourage real relationship with the one who created them, who loves them – who died to save them.

One of the things I loved about this group is that it included some of their inner circle of friends. As one teen filled a bowl of soup, a parent asked,”Who influences you most now – your parents or your peers?”

We were not looking for a right answer – We were looking for his answer.

“My peers,” he answered. Another answered, “My parents.” Each gave valid reasons, truthful reasons.

Maybe by pulling them to the table, bowl by bowl – with friend’s parents who they tease includes their “favorite mom” – maybe, just maybe we can mentor faith that sticks: real, life relationship faith.

How can we as parents encourage relationship building of these sons with their Savior? Real relationship building – We asked our sons to define what it meant to be a Christian?

Sometimes there was a disconnect between the logos “right” answer and the rhema (the aliveness) of their answer in their every day. They knew the right answer but their actions weren’t always in tandem with the right answer. Both were still fusing together.

Over the bowls of soup, I also wanted to ask, “Who is influencing your gate relationship with Christ?”

“What does that gate relationship consist of?”

What does it mean to pass through the gate to the pasture?

Or are you just fence jumping?”

Today, about 2 years later, those mentoring relationships are making a positive difference. Other moms and dads interacting, having real conversation – not scared-to-intrude conversation have created peers who reflect that interaction into their peer relationships.

I’ve seen hard decisions made by these young men who prayed first and put self second.

I’ve seen young iron sharpening young iron because of real relationships with other moms and dads showed them how in breaking-bread, over-the-counter real conversation.

They’re pausing at the temptation to fence jump – and instead making the decision to hang out at the gate, take ownership of that relationship found there. In the ownership, they’re discovering it’s not an establishment relationship. It’s a real, personal, one-on-one relationship – a grafting together kind of relationship.

Going through the gate? Or fence jumping?

(updated, September 9, 2015)

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All gate photos except for last were taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Fall 2013

 

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I think the most challenging part of being a mom of sons-only – is I don’t have a daughter to pass the stories down to – and women are designed to be story-tellers, keepers of the family faith story. We are designed to  pass the God in us down. Brandee at Smooth Stones asked me a few weeks ago to stop by her place (figuratively), have a cup of tea (figuratively) and pass some encouragement down as her first-born enters high school. She has doubly blessed me!  If you need  some encouragement as you raise your teens, please join us!

Dear Brandee, Your son’s just started high school. I can just see that first day. He’s all ready to go out the door, catch the school bus: back-pack stuffed with school supplies, water bottles, – not lunch because he wants to try their lunch, to see if it’s different. . . better. His back pack isn’t heavy, yet. There’s room for books, but not as much room as he’ll realize he needs.

You probably watched him walk to the bus, like independence on training-wheels, that walk up to a doorway to a new era.

You’re more left behind than ever. You can’t walk him out, stand with him like you did in the primary years. You can’t just pop into school to see the teacher at the end of the day to pick up nuggets and morsels of what’s really going on.

Hands-off time has begun – kind of like on the cooking competitions you see on t.v.  when that buzzer rings, hands fly off – and up.

He pulls himself up through those bus doors that will take him to a school where everything is possible – booze, drugs, PDA, friends who lift up and those who pull down, teachers who encourage and discourage, believers, non-believers – it’s all in there

. . . . . and you just let him go. . . .

When you just let him go, remember the other back pack – the one you can’t see – that soul back pack that you started filling the day he was born . . . . Read the Rest Here (Click)

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I drive my boys nuts telling them stories they’ve heard and heard – and I thought, well, I want to tell this story again. I want somebody to hear it – because it meant so much to me to live it. That’s what friends do! Right? Listen to the same story over and over because they know their friend needed to tell it, needed to be reminded. Wrapping you in a big, heart-felt thank you for listening (reading) it again – if you’ve heard (read) it before.

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Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”
(Luke 22:42)

Jesus let go . . . to do His Father’s work

He let go so that the Father, whose arms were open wide, could wrap them around more of His children.

Jesus opened his arms wide on the cross, to suffer a mother’s terrifying, heart-wrenching nightmare, so a world of me’s could find their way into the wide open embrace of His father.

Jesus let go . . . for me

“Love your neighbor as I have loved you,” (John 13:34)

Loving our neighbors somehow seems a little distant. Maybe because neighbors today do not know your mama, your granddaddy, your great-aunt Ruby. There’s no history, no connection . . . no real-time cause to create a love effect.

. . . but it’s a choice – this loving. Chose to live it this way; Love people like you love your children: fiercely, uncompromisingly, self-sacrificingly.

I hold my children, encircled in the love of my heart, wrapping that love around them like hugging arms. Yeah, sometimes that love might feel like a vice-grip to them. Maybe I’ll learn to love more gently, but I need to love them the best I can – and in the loving of them, I need to stretch this heart, to let others inside, wrapping that love around them like God does, like Jesus did, arms wide open, ready, waiting.

Letting go means loving more, like being broken in Him makes us whole.

Are you ready, willing to give that father love or mother love, or even daughter/son love to those outside your home, both those easy and uneasy to love?

5 sons. 1 daughter-in-law. 1 husband. 1 scardy cat. That makes 8 different ways for me to communicate. 8 different schedules. 8 different moods. 8 different needs. 8 different responses.  There are 5 love languages that need mastering and 7 Spiritual Gifts to interpret.

Prayer for 8. Dinner for 6. Clean socks for 5.

I can get absorbed in my family. In my reactions to my family. Into the mysteries of my family. My. My. My. My.

 “If anyone would come after me, they must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24)

Yes, sometimes, I need to let go of my to embrace His . . .His children, His love, His spirit, His word, His Fatherness, His schedule.

Letting Go of my to be His laborer

Today, in the grocery store with my cart  filled with Mama Rosa’s cheese pizzas for my littlest guy, I hummed, focused on feeding the my’s in my life. Shrieking noises wafted over the aisles. My cart and I continued on. High-pitched squeals moved closer, not happy squeals – out-of-control squeals. Chicken to make soup for my biggest teen. Futile mother shouts encroached. Salsa for my Joyful one, mechanical pencils for my fire-and-power son. Running feet closed in, noise moving  passionately invading my reverie. Pelegrino for my thirst.

As I was just reaching for enchilada sauce, a little boy appeared with the shrieking voice. You know the kind of sound – the sound a little 4 year old makes when he thinks he is playing a game of tag and keeps slipping from your touch, evading. At least, I think he was 4.

Racing down the aisle, weaving between customers, he stopped in front of  my cart. Grabbing hold, he stepped to stand on the end, just like my boys did when they were little, wanting to ride. But he was not my boy.

I could just see the headlines, “Boy flips cart, critically injured.” Or maybe, “Woman accused of imminent child-theft” all because he was suddenly wanting to ride my cart.

Treading carefully – because he wasn’t mine to scold, I told him he needed to step off the cart. He did. I kept looking for his mother, expecting her to call him. Nothing. In a quandary, I calmly pushed the cart forward.  He decided to go with me like he was my boy.

“You need to go back to your mom. You shouldn’t be here with me,” I suggested.

“Do you think I’m going to hell?” he asked, making eye contact, stopped still in front of me.

My world stopped. Letting Go of my concerns, I looked at him squarely in the eye. Wanting to say so much, wanting to say it so right, but only having grocery-store aisle time. I finally said, looking back at him straight in the eye, “You can go to heaven if you want to.”

“Can I go home with you?” he asked. If my spirit had arms, which in this case, I think it did, well those spirit arms pulled him into my heart, into the circle of my family. Prayer for 9 now. Still 5 pairs of socks for matching, but prayer for 9.

That little boy, standing in front of my cart, in sudden stillness, revealed his brokenness, revealed a cry to be made whole – at little years old.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me,
and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19: 13-14)

His mother and grandmother came around the corner then. He took off, lots of noise, lots of energy followed by lots of parental hollering.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)

Letting go of my thoughts, my reverie, my concerns, my challenges. I prayed. That God would send laborers across this little boy’s path. That his eyes would be opened to the truth – that he is a child of God. That heaven is his for the asking. That angels would encamp about him and protect him. That healthy boundaries would be set for him. No matter how much little boys balk at having healthy boundaries set, they cry out for someone to love them enough to set them.

Letting go of my

To wrap God’s love around His

All because Jesus let go first for me.

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Lipp2_edited-1Ummmm, I need some help here. Do you see me? Hand raised, face red, embarrassed because my by-the-book parenting skills just don’t always produce the results discussed.

Asking for help? Don’t want to do it (ask for help that is) . . . because asking for help equals failure, inadequacy – just plain not measuring up. Doesn’t it?

I used to think so. How terribly wrong I was.

You and I, we were designed to need help. If we didn’t – need help – would we turn to God? Not just turn to God, lift one eye-brow and acknowledge Him – but drop on our knees, drop the very soul of ourselves at His feet and say, “i need YOU.”

God designed us in His image – just like He reaches out to us, we each are designed to reach out. . . . to all His children – the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the lovable, the unlovable, the hurting and even those who seem so whole, so put together.

I must admit, with my first-born, I didn’t need as much help. I did all the things the parenting books suggested – from love to discipline, to chores to Christ, to loving your neighbor, to teaching about tithing and healing and praying. We successfully launched him into college – and into independence. “Thanks for the independence with training wheels,” he said one day before he graduated. This parenting gig seemed so easy.

I realize now that it wasn’t so much of what we did, but how God designed him: coachable, logical, born-an-old-man. I think Isaac might have been like that to Abraham. I mean, what son or daughter would just hop on top of a sacrificial alter because their dad said it was the right thing to do?

If you’ve had a nest-full of coachable, easy to shepherd, minimal problem kids – you really don’t need to read further. If your nest has been diverse – different personalities, different levels of coachability, differently designed and wired – so that all those parenting books suddenly don’t apply – then Kathi Lipp’s book i need some help here! might be just the read you need.

Have you ever felt like you’re raising a rebel like Samson, a thief and runner like Jacob, someone who run’s from God’s plan like Jonah, the prodigal even – then you probably need some encouragement – someone who won’t condemn your child’s brokenness, blame it on your supposed secret sin, someone who will pray God’s plan with you over your child (regardless of the age) – someone who recognizes that Godly parents have children who struggle – with life – whether it is due to choices, health issues – or outside issues that affect their inner soul.

Kathi points out: “This is the road no one wants to travel the road of having a child that is struggling. But there are priceless treasures along the way if you allow God to work in your life and your child’s (Kathi Lipp).

She also says, “I was not a perfect mom, but I was the mom God chose for them, and therefore I was the perfect mom them” (Lipp).

In the process of raising these children, God refines us. “Once your heart has been broken for your kids, God can use that brokenness to woo you to be the kind of parent he needs you to be,” Kathi explains.

My goal as a parent was to raise whole, healthy children – physically and spiritually. I didn’t want to break them, scathe them, wound them. Yet because of sin, we are all born broken. Because of my brokenness, I cannot be a perfect parent: I cannot fix everything that breaks.

I cannot make everything o.k.

God can, though.

Kathi encourages us in i need some help here! to set healthy boundaries and expectations – not just on our children, but ourselves: when our children are overwhelmed, troubled, different, sick makes poor choices, run away from God, lacks character, struggles and feels left out.

You are not alone. God doesn’t want you or me to be isolated as our children struggle. He doesn’t want us hiding behind shame.  He wants us to encourage each other by our faith in Him. Kathi’s book does just that. You can find more about Kathi over at her place: Kathi Lipp- Your Life. On Purpose.

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Edmund_blair_leighton_accoladeA soul that doesn’t recognize that a relationship with Yahweh is as important to his development as his physical DNA, cannot grow into the man they were designed to be.

Before God was stripped out of our schools, off library bookshelves, community meetings, commencement addresses, curriculum, or our government, school shootings, from Columbine to the UC- Santa Barbara killings weren’t a thread in the tapestry of our history.

Please join me over at The Mom Initiative today for the rest of my post, for why our boys need to know they are God-Designed.

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writingwindowStart

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

 . . . . and so I write

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

 . . . .  And so I write

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

 . . . . and so I write

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

 . . . . and so I write

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

Stop (I couldn’t stop there)

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

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

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

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

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

. . . . and so I write

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

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He’d pulled a knife on my son, in the 7th grade hallway. Pulled it and said he was going to stab him in the back and kill him next week. This boy ran away shortly after that. He was a habitual runaway. He’d run. Come back. Start the threats over again. This cycle continued through the year. This boy was screaming for someone to take care of him, to make him go to school, to scoop his emotional self up and put him back together each day. Youth rail at boundaries – yet cry out for shepherding.

I prayed for this runaway who had threatened my son – prayed for him like I prayed for my son.

I never imagined, though, my children would consider running – ever. I thought love, healthy boundaries, discipline, encouragement, knowledge of a loving God – I thought that would immunize them to a run-away heart.

Please click over to Cause/Pub ‘s Couch Rebel Project for the rest of the story – this story of a silent epidemic in our communities and churches – just click here.

Thank you, Beck, Amy and Karin for all your encouragement to do this!

238-wideCausePub has teamed up with Blood:Water Mission to fund-raise to clean water in Africa.

For every book sold, Blood:Water Mission, will be able to provide three people with clean water for one year. Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against HIV/AIDS and the water crisis in Africa. Blod: Water Mission was founded in 2005 by the multi-platinum GRAMMY Award-winning band, Jars of Clay. Crowd Publishing for Impact is teaming with Blood: Water Mission to sell 15,000 copies of Couch Rebels . The sales from this publication will allowthem to impact 45,000 lives with clean water for a year.

What’s in the book Couch Rebels? That is to be determined now by you. They have asked for writers/bloggers to contribute about an experience that placed them outside their comfort zone. They review submissions to determine phase one of what articles/posts/stories go in the book. If your writer is accepted, you enter phase 2 where readers vote (not just click like but vote) to determine whether your article will be included in the published project.

There’s still a few more days for you to include yours – please do CausePub is accepting stories until 7/2.

Please – stop by and check mine out. Yes, I’m doing the happy dance that I made it past Phase one for 2 writing projects. If you are encouraged, please hit vote.

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treeseeds

New growth comes after the harsh, bitter winter –

with its biting frosts and stinging ice

New growth – without it, hope and faith are stunted

survival, potential threatened

New growth heralding strength, survival, life extending,

growing taller, reaching higher

New growth testifying vibrant health inside and out

becoming more

so much more

than the beginning every imagined

New growth worth living the winter

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8)

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cbfall2011c2c

I wanted to write about cool pillows, blue cotton blankets, orange dulce tea and wrapped up in a good book. No stress. No gracelessness. Just rest. A Holiday-kind of rest where nothing from the outside nibbles away at the inside.

That kind of rest is not today. Not right now.

Somehow, when the children were littler – even if fevers spiked and cheeks flushed, if brothers squabbled and food spilled – I could usher in rest in afternoon naps or evening bedtimes – rest re-setting everyone’s hearts. I was graceful at that. Temper tantrums and Mid-night wakes? Graceful! Where little hearts unburdened themselves trusting I could help them sort it out – wanting me to help sort to rightness. Graceful!

The teen years – where sleeps don’t re-set hearts, where I cannot site the source for every word, every thought they bring home, where boys-to-men hearts don’t unburden themselves, hide themselves, where home is a cage – and they don’t want to be there, where maybe they don’t quite love themselves like we do – oh, I am graceless here. graceless in rejection. graceless watching my boy-to-man facing challenges God did not design him to face.

graceless
and all I have is faith

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty father,
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

While challenges scratch
Not just at this heart
That loves
That prays
The breathes in
Jesus Christ
Breathes out
Have mercy
Challenges that scratch
This mother’s heart
And scratch
This mother’s child

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty Father
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

It is there that my faith
My hope
My trust
I believe
That He meets
My child
To lead him out
Of the challenge
Into the light
Into His plan
Into Salvation
Into Redemption
And living water

To rest my head against
The heart of the great I Am
the holy shepherd
is to breath life
into this faith, this hope,
this unconditional love He taught me
how to love
how to trust Him
that this is the only way
to walk this mother’s walk

I am not a perfect mom. I am a mom not good enough. I don’t give up, though. I don’t stop trying. I don’t stop loving. I don’t stop believing in Him.

I am resting my head against Shaddai, against His promise that to me, to you, to each of my sons – that He will be like the shepherd who pursues, searches and FINDS the lost sheep – my lost sheep – your lost sheep:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue” (Luke 15:4-7).

We all struggle. Each of our children face challenges. I’ve been here before. Prayers sent out a few years ago for one son returned this week, returned answered – only to brush up against prayers sent out for another son.

Bitter sweet. How can a heart rejoice and grieve at the same time? Yet, mine does.

I rest in the faith that the Holy Spirit will breathe a fire into the embers of faith planted deep, and that Holy Spirit fire will consume and burn away things not of the Father – revealing a life restored, the journey of a prayer answered returning home.


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updated February 24, 2013

lemonade
A few years ago, when one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.

Now readers,

stop a minute.

Visualize

A hairless bear shivering with cold

I was right!

There really is nothing sadder in the world

than a hairless bear

shivering with cold

if you group all the sadder-in-the-world things that are truly freaky, scary funny

but not truly sad

like

a newborn baby who needs its stomach, which is pushed up into its lung area, put back

or the loss of life, homes, andjobs in Manilla after tropical cyclones wreaked havoc,

or the loneliness and hopelessness without God

lemonsAfter I’d dropped the two youngest brothers off at school, this bear teen and I set off to the high school. He didn’t look happy – and I’d always said growing up his first name should have been Joyful. He wasn’t joyful now.

I dove into my unabashed Q&A – there is something to be said for being one eye more awake than your children in the morning. Yes, only one eye more awake and driving. My Qs resulted in As that bemoaned sitting through classes with students who really didn’t want to be there, who spent their class time just irritating other students or whining.

“Choose Joy,” I said.

“You just can’t make joy,” he answered, only one eye awake.

“Joy is a choice,” I persisted. “It’s like lemons. What do you do when life gives you lemons? Make Lemonade.”

“Bam!” I thought! Grand slam. I was wide awake then. Kind of proud of myself.

“I don’t like lemonade,” he said, sliding his eyes toward me, his lips quirking in a quiet gotcha-smile.

When he got out of the car, reached back in to pull out his backpack, I smiled, “Make some lemonade today!”

Because each of my sons needs to learn that contentment, happiness, joy – requires choice to find the good in hard situations, when life just plain stinks, when it feels prayers aren’t answered and friends aren’t true. Sometimes only through sheer determination, keen look-out – can we make joy where none really exists.

I cried out to God to show me – and I have found joy in a flock of crows, in squirrels nests, in a quirky smile trying to be held back, in 5 acorns on a path.

St. Augustine said that the only difference between the pagan and the Christian, who suffer the same challenges, the only difference is how they handle those challenges. Because we have a God who loves, He provides an opportunity to turn those lemons into lemonade joy.

Choose Joy.

Make Joy.

I texted this son later, “What’s the saddest sight in the world?”

“Your cooking,” he texted back.

 “The Joy of the Lord is our Strength” (Neh 8:10)

That joy and laughter strengthen!  God is so detail-oriented that He not only invented awe-inspiring joy, but tiny pockets of joy, release-valve joy, decreasing pressure and stress  – the invention of unusual places to find moments of laughter that cause joyfulness to bubble up inside, bubbling into a smile, a funny, joyful moment- an indecisive squirrel in the middle of the road, a headless turtle, or a collie carrying the neighbor’s Christmas wreathes – and – yes, even in a hairless bear shivering with cold.

“Life is what you make it; Always has been. Always will be” (Grandma Moses)

Make Lemonade out of Lemons!

Make Lemonade Joy!

I pray you find joy and laughter today, not just in the sentimental, but in the unexpected. I pray that you make lemonade joy out of lemons. What are some unusual places you have found a burst of laughter and a spot of joy? What’s your recipe for Lemonade Joy?

Since a post on Lemonade Joy would be incomplete without some real lemonade, I thought I’d include my recipe. It’s a recipe that tastes better when shared:

6 Lemons
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Quart Water
Grenade
Crushed Ice
Lemon Slices and Blood Orange Slices

lemonade

 


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sunrisebIt would take an unsearching and illiterate  heart to not find and read the messages of God in the everyday of the mountains – from the hard cover front of sunrise to the hard cover back of  moon-down.

I would know. Until last year, I was unsearching and illiterate in finding and reading the love letters of Shaddai.  Then I took Ann Voskamp’s challenge at a Holy Experience to find and read the gifts – these love letters –  a big God gives a little me daily. Too many have I missed throughout the years – because I could not read what I did not know I had.  It changed my life – its attitude, its peace-factor. The content of the love letters in these gifts left me content.

We took off for the mountains this weekend – and I pulled my night-owl self up at 5:40 on a Spring Forward morning to watch the sun rise.

For a long time, I sat with my coffee – lost in the dark expanse. A hope and faith time. I have learned, though, that He meets me when I wait for Him.

Black darkness faded, slowly, so slowly revealing iron-clouds shielding unpolished silver.

sunrisebc

In the slate of sunrise, my hope faltered – “Is this all? No riotous color carnival?”

A cardinal chattered merrily, going about it’s morning business – and I waited, committed to greeting sun-rise – and finding blessing whatever the colors. Shaddai, like a good father brings his children gifts after being away – Shaddai brings gifts – always – a cardinal chattering, an empty water pump, squirrel nests – and they all contain letters, messages from Him to me.

Mountain top edges and a before unseen, unused one-lane road below me in the forests are exposed. I peer hard to make out the road. There is a letter from Him to me in that hitherto unseen road.

The slates of run-rise lightened, the rising light revealed a fierce man swimming in cloud currents, right arm raised to pull the next stroke, left arm pulled through the clouds, stretched to the thigh – swimming his race, from sun up to moon-down – face fierce in its determination – another letter from Him to me in those clouds.

Light pink suffused upward from the mountain tops then deepening to shades of blush and purples.

sunrisebcc

Pink mists rose like Hope and Faith to greet a loving Father

Mountain tops rejoicing in flaming silver and purples.

I met Him there, in the silent, color combustion of morning waking. I waited, despite wavering surety. I hoped despite what I didn’t see. Sometimes I have to wait to find.  This once illiterate heart found His gifts and read them.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8)

After a year of counting the Father’s blessings, the love letters of encouragement He sends me, I think it’s time to teach these boys to men how to find and read the gifts, the blessings He sends us from sun-rise to moon-down.

It is attitude changing.

Relationship building between this God- Father and I. I see Him more everywhere, Him with me, me with Him.

These boys, they need that real relationship, that God-with-me/me-with-God relationship. Not just a morning-and-evening praying relationship – but one that sees Him everywhere all day long – sun rise and moon down long.

In the darkness of the challenges, those gifts, those blessings – contain messages of encouragement and revelation.

It may be one of the most important reading skills to develop.

Dear Father,

I pray that my sons’ hearts look for, find and read the messages in the gifts you have for them throughout the day. I pray their hearts grow in faith, love, trust and relationship with you – that not a gift from you is left un-found, a message unread – whether it is something as simple as a cardinal swooping ahead of them on a road, the smell of sweet grass on a soccer field, cirrus clouds in a robin’s egg blue sky or something more serious. I pray that you will open their hearts and their minds to become not only literate, not only fluent but voracious readers of your messages. I pray these messages change their attitudes to hope and faith attitudes, enabling them to find joy, contentment and peace in the midst of challenges – to give hope in seemingly hopeless situations. Waken them each morning, Father, waken them to listen like one being taught. Open their eyes and unstop their ears to the sound and sight of you. I pray they experience you walking beside them, boy-man to God, that they turn their head and smile broadly at what you two share together. Your word says, “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace” (Isaiah 54:13) I believe that Father. I trust in that. I thank you that because Jesus died for my sins, I am your daughter and, as such, can petition you directly in regards to my sons. Because I am your daughter, you will teach my sons and great will be their peace.

(Gifts 985-990 listed in the post above)

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birdfencec2

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.(Acts 2:17)

Everywhere, piles of clothes – in the entry hall, in the bedrooms – everywhere little piles needing to be picked up, organized, cleaned.

Bending over, I grabbed up one pile. It stopped me cold. I stood, then bent closer. A bird’s nest, with 3 robin’s blue eggs just sat there, revealed in the uncovering.

I moved to another pile, one by the door, picked up the laundry – and a baby bird scuttled out of the nest, curving around me, twiggy legs and feet scampering out the opened front door.

Every pile revealed a bird’s nest, filled with eggs or chicks.

I hadn’t dreamed in a long time – but that night I dreamed of all those laundry piles, hazy darkness, the nests, the blue eggs, the yellow chicks, – dreamed before my surgery.

Some dreams are hope-revealed messages

I remember spending the night at my grandmother’s house, in the process of it becoming my house during the divorce. I dreamed my brother and I were trick-or-treating with neighborhood kids. It was a dark Halloween. We traveled all the way around the block. On returning, I wanted to run across the yard to my home, but these neighborhood friends suddenly turned into ghoulish villains holding me back, my fingers digging, tearing into my front-yard grass. My grandmother woke a sobbing me up.

Some dreams say what you cannot put into words

birdwings23cOne dream happened when one son was 5. I stored it in my heart, shared it with my husband – it was a story message from God telling me He would save my son. I revealed it to this son when he said, “I want to come home. I want to find God.”

Another dream I had, in amazing 3-dimensional detail, about a family homestead, showing how the Holy Spirit had flooded its rustic stone walls and floors, washing it clean of debri, a power washing. “It used to flood all the time,” said a guide in the dream. “It hasn’t for years now.” The Father was letting me know it was time, time for another flooding of the Holy Spirit waters through my family. It encouraged me to met the Holy Spirit, to invite it to wash through my family, to clean it of piled-up debri.

My husband had a recurring dream of an son endangered. This was a son with a stomach problem – and once we had him scoped, the problem identified – the dreams stopped. Our son was safe.

Some dreams are God-reveal dreams of  impending journeys, challenge along the journey, a heads-up-somethings-going-on dream. Sometimes, God wants us to know He will take care of it. Other times, He wants us to take care of it. Either way . . . . “Trust me,” He says.

birdbeach2cListening to my sons’ dreams, teaching them how to handle them is a mom job that is sometimes difficult, sometimes overwhelming – and sometimes it just  WOWs me.

One son, he used to struggle with night-terrors – or maybe they were pre-night terrors.

We established a bed-time routine designed to over-come those fears that come at night.

We read books designed to take his mind off whatever fears that provoked. Sang songs that ushered him past the bed-time jitters into beginning sleep. We prayed.

Nothing seemed to work – until one night we pulled out stories of men who faced fear in the bible and chose to trust God’s in the face of fearful things.

We talked about Joshua and Caleb who trusted God when everybody else chose fear:
“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (Numbers 14: 6-10)

“The Lord is with us; do not fear them”

Today, this son reads at bedtime – after we have our dwindling bed-time chronicles of the day. I guess at 14, things like bed-time chronicles with mom dwindle.

We talked about those dreams, though, one night.

“Do you have bad dreams?” I asked.

“No,” he said, settling in.

“What do you dream about?”

“Heaven” he said.

I sat there, just totally wowed. Heaven sounded better than nests of robin’s eggs.

“I just start thinking about what heaven’s like and I fall asleep thinking about it. Sometimes it becomes a dream.”

Some dreams are just sweet gifts from God.

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day (Habakkuk 2:3)

Dreams for an appointed time. Dreams that tell of a journey designed to fulfill not destroy. The journey of the message or revelation cannot be hurried. Wait expectantly because God has assured it. He doesn’t send empty messages. The unfolding journey of a God-dream will fulfill itself right on time.

The hope in that sustains this mother’s heart, this daughter of the Father’s heart. It gives me great hope!

Have you read your God-sent dreams, read His promises? His messages?

A Crocodile Under the Bed is about a heads-up dream

The Bed-Time Chronicles: Empty Inside Feelings, click here

birdlbessings

974) The sheltering wing my husband offers in the midst of challenge
975) Early morning phone calls with my mom, filled with Florida to Tennessee weather comparison and her words of prayer and faith
976) The angel my mom said that appeared when she was having an asthma attack on the roadside, who showed her how to use her inhaler, who saved her life
977) hearts reaching for forgiveness
978) my son saying he doesn’t read my comments on his Facebook posts. The next day, I posted on his page, “Since you don’t read my comments, you won’t get the $20 gift card to your favorite restaurant” – 3 minutes later, my phone was ringing about the gift card. “You have a gift card for me,” he asked. “This was just a test. I see you do read my comments,” I said laughing. I laughed the rest of the day. I’m still smiling when I think of it.
979) lunch with a son (the same one who thought I had a gift card for him – LOL), who said that after a concussion his sophomore year of high school, he didn’t remember things from before, leaving me wanting to write a 31 day memory post for him, to remind him of how much he was loved, remind him of the sweet times – and give them as a gift to him
980) Driving with my permit driver. Instead of an anxiety attack, with hyper-ventilating – I gave him the words, “Well done, son! Well done!)
981) Toscana soup in the crock pot with green Swiss Chard
982) Friendship that grasps my hands, praying with me over piled-up challenges that over-whelmed
983) A table full of friends and spouses who are like family, gathered to support and encourage one of the group that will have surgery
984) Squirrels and their nests in tree tippy-tops – kind of like God winking at me, smiling and saying “Be brave, like that little fellow.”

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bluecottonchristmasccjThe best gifts this year came in conversations, questions, and answers, laughter, smiles, family and home. The simple stuff, in a prayer’s answer revealing the journey of the answer one word, one step at a time.

Seemingly mundane, wasteful conversation, like riddles, questions and answers sometimes reveal something beautiful, something valuable, telling through playful words and kitchen conversations.

Christmas time is full of questions – “What do you want for Christmas?”- and turning that answer into something needful and fulfilling

santaSaucy 12 year-olds, wiggling eyebrows, sporting a face-splitting grin asking, “Is Santa really real, Mom?”

All the brothers watching, knowing the answer to that riddle – waiting to hear if some things change.

Some answers don’t change.

The Hobbit has spurred the little buys into riddle competitions – more savy Q&A sessions – pulling me into jousting riddle matches – luckily the loser isn’t eaten.

“What comes into town on Friday, stays 2 days and leaves on Saturday?” (1)one boy asked on a mom-son outing.

“What rides into battle wearing a fur coat and sits down to the victory dinner with a bowl full of oats?”(2) I asked when it was my turn.

“What crawls on the ground and hates salt?” (3)he asked.

“What’s thin skin has a green parlor, then blushes red while it goes out on a limb for people who care enough to reach out to it?”(4) I lob back.

“What turns left when it goes out of a cave?”(5) he countered.

“What goes fully dressed in the heat of the summer, is naked in the winter – and hosts friends whether dressed or not?” (6)I returned.

“What occurs once in a millenium, twice in a moment and never in a thousand years?”(7) he said, smirking in confidence.

“What is utterly necessary, has two separate tasks, one which covers dinner and the other which builds strength?” (8)I volleyed.

The back and forth continued: “What has 2 legs, struts with confidence and runs at the first sight of danger?”(9)

“What sleeps in the hay, hangs on a tree, walks out of a cave and rides on a cloud?” (10)

“What’s in my pocket? (11)” he said, raising his eye-brow, thinking he’d put this match away..

“A riddle should have clues and two lines. I never thought Bilbo’s question was a true riddle,” I countered  – and a discussion ensued on what qualifies as a riddle.

christmastree8cParenting is filled with Q&A sessions – where the riddle sometimes is not in the question but in the answer.

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” I ask, throwing that line out like a fishing pole baited to catch something unawares. The older boys now see it as the fishing expedition it is. The younger ones still get a deer-in-the-head-light look that says, “How does she know?”

The other day, one son sat at the counter, telling me about a girl he had asked out.

“What am I going to ask,” I said, as I cleaned up after dinner.

His brother walked behind me, not a part of the Q&A, not part of the questioning riddles and answers, he walked behind me with an arm full of laundry, and gave his brother the answer, “Does she love, Jesus?”

Instead of eye-rolling, “mom” exclamations sighed out, irritation about being reminded of their faith in an area where maybe they don’t want that faith-accountability – they both took in stride, as if the moment would have missed the question, as if they expected the question and wanted it to be there.

Ironically, the question I was going to ask was whether he had finally asked about her college major. I didn’t correct them. I liked their answer to the riddle better!

They gave me a gift in their answer, something this mother heart holds close.

Riddles and their answers require knowledge of subject matter and thought processes common to both individuals. Whether my boys agree with the information that has been planted in them, whether they yet fully embrace the magnitude of rama(alive in their lives) knowledge of trust and faith in the Father, sometimes those faith, belief and value things show themselves – like in Riddle, Question and Answer sessions.

Answers
1) A Horse named Saturday
2) A horse
3) Slug
4) apple
5) bat
6) trees
7) the letter M
8) milk
9) a chicken
10) Jesus
11) Answer totally at the mercy of the pocket, clues not forthcoming.

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“For you meet him with the blessings of goodness”(Psalm 21:3a)

To meet: To come together, approaching in opposite or different directions; to come face to face; as, to meet a man in the road.

To come together in any place

I took a walk as the sun set a few days ago – a flaming fuscia, tangerine and lemon sunset that fell across neighborhood leaves sparking a metalic hue, and in the falling, the sunshine fell into a sprinkler.

He met me there, in my walk, bringing me the beauty of the sunset. God met me there, not to solve a big problem, not to save me from distress – just to meet me there and walk together.

blessings of goodness

As I walked into work, beneath oak trees, squirrel nests and the sharp cool of a Fall morning – I saw acorns lying beneath leaves, under the edges of greenery.

He met me there – and as a reminder of our meeting, His blessings, I picked up 5 acorns, symbolizing the 5 sons He gave me.

blessings of goodness

Pear Tree Seeds

Sometimes, things like folding laundry, making cupcakes, lighting candles, knitting a few rows, the bed-time chronicles – it all overwhelmes me – and I muster all that is within me to do those things with people who are so important to me – and I wonder how I can – but He meets me there, walks with me each step, fills my heart with grace to love the way I want but often fall short.

This week, I met Him in the act of making and decorating cupcakes with my littlest, the blessing of watching my boys to men play a game of chess, of smiles spreading across faces that have smiled too little for too long.

blessings of goodness

I meet Him in the morning prayer, one son leading us in the Lord’s Prayer, another the 23rd Psalm, the other in sharing a proverb, and me leading in a thanksgiving prayer and asking that we let others see the love of Jesus either through our words or actions.

blessings of goodness

I meet Him when I open my front door to greet costumed children Trick or Treating , when I sit across the table from friends sharing celebration cupcakes and cider, watching my husband read to grand-baby girl.

Blessings of goodness

I meet Him when everyday jobs overwhelm. He meets me in a swirl of leaves or squirrels foraging, climbing and jumping outside my window.

blessings of goodness

I met Him when I choose to bloom where I am planted, even when where I am feels like the dormant stage of blooming in a cold frost.

We come together in any place. He is there, waiting for me to look and see Him -to look hard, to catch His eye, to seek His face and know He is looking for me – not trying to avoid me because I don’t do living just right, or that I talk too much, or forget words, or say right things all wrong.

Sometimes we come from opposite directions.

We meet more often now. I am learning to just look.

It never fails that when I do look, I meet Him.

No matter the gracelessness of a moment, hour or day, when I decide to meet Him, He is there with blessings of goodness that change the tenor, the texture, treatment of that moment, hour or day.

“For you meet him with the blessings of goodness”(Psalm 21:3a)

Where are the places you have met Him this week?

I8 gifts were listed above in my journey to 1,000 gifts

844) My son going around the neighborhood 4 times, each time in a different costume from our costume chest which has grown over 26 years: in the bumblebee costume, a ninja, a warrior on a horse, and a ghost – all with a joyful attitude
845) neighbors who love my boys and who kids I love, too – it is awesome to have neighbors like that
846) 5 boys home at once on a trick-or-treat night
847) Sons growing up and working hard
848) That God is wherever I am
849) My husband taking me to one of our favorite lunch places on a very trying day
850) A neighbor giving us 3 large pampas-type grass clusters for our yard. I’ve always wanted ornamental grass like this – and it was such an unexpected gift.
851) You know those 15 burning bush root-balls that I carefully nurtured? Wanting a hedge for privacy on our property line? It seems, each time the boys mowed, we lost one. Lowe’s had sturdy ones about  2 feet high for $3 a piece – I don’t think my boys will run those over. For once, I got someplace before the good deal was sold out.
852) Looking at all the bushes we transplanted and struggled – seeing they are now sturdy and strong – ready for take off next year. That was God reminding me that I am sturdy and strong now- ready to take off at the right time.
853) A song at church, one of my very favorite that has a special place in my heart, used as a kind-of lullaby when the boys were little – and the phrase, “The Year of Jubilee” stood out to me – that the Year of Jubilee was coming – and it was a message that filled my heart
854) Making a new recipe – one I created myself – “Buffalo Chicken Soup.” My son who loves my Hot Wings asked, “Why not just make Hot Wings?” Then he tasted my soup, trying give too much away, he conceded, “This is your best soup.”
855) My 4th son, taller than me today. Door-frame measurements confirmed. While I am sure he will be insufferable for awhile, lots of puns to fall short – so happy he is so happy!
856) Answered prayers unfolding!

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Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work” (James 5:7)
Waiting – I was never very good at that. Learning to cook – that taught me much about timing – and that sometimes you just cannot jump to the end. The middle part, the rising part – it all fails without that.

My tomatoes and zinnia’s are like that, too – the inbetween the seed-planting and harvesting – the waiting inbetween, well – you really cannot rush it.

Parenting is like that, too. There comes a waiting inbetween, where you know you planted all the right seeds in the right ways – 4 square-kind-of-planting. Some seeds, though, require longer in-between, some shorter – but the waiting – for the harvest – oh, sometimes that is hard.

Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong” (James 5:8).

The Father, He wants us to be patient like the Father.

Patient: Persevering; constant in pursuit or exertion; calmly diligent” (Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary)

Not giving up hope

:. . . .waiting or expecting with calmness or without discontent” ((Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary)

How are you expecting? “Are you waiting without discontent? That in-between place can get mighty uncomfortable. You might not like the present state of the inbetween. Are you finger-drumming, surly-spirited, glass-half-empty, sack-clothe moaning waiting through the in-between?

Living in the inbetween – where there is no evidence of a good harvest, no evidence of the good things you planted – oh, that is hard.

How are you going to spend all that inbetween? Are you speaking hope? Walking faith? Smelling like Christ?

“Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Cor 2:15)

Maybe how you spend the inbetween time is like the Miracle Grow to your tomatoes and zinnias?

Maybe it is how we live in the inbetween that is really the important part – the hope and faith living.

“The Master could arrive at any time. Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner” (James 5:8-9)

Sometimes, there is a need to share the challenges.

I’ve had recipes fail. My garden struggled this year. The potting shed of raising children sometimes looks more like the corn fields through Kentucky this year.

I know what I planted, though. I know the resilience of God’s plan.

Sometimes I just need friends to listen to the tale, to encourage through prayer, to see the hope of God’s plan for harvest , not to complain, not to commiserate, not to grind up the seed through a faithless pestle of words that just tear up, not hope-up.

“Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God” (James 5:10)

God shows us over and over again in the bible – stories of hope fulfilled, God’s promises ful-filled, and in Hebrews 11 – we learn of hope continued to the other side for things promised but not seen here, today, right now. Those stories are God saying that our challenges are no surprise to Him, that He is our Champion – that He will bring us through – we just need to learn to believe Him in the in-between.

What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail“(James 5:7-11)

He cares about every detail planted in the potting shed of my life, my children’s life. He is faithful to the hope and faith in Him I planted in each of my sons.

He wants me to live the in-between as though matters have been taken care of, as though the harvest is assured – and so my words and the words of those around me will be hope and faith words, cheering words, sometimes through tears and pain – but words of assurance of a harvest bountiful, complete. They will have a sweet aroma.

Last night, I saw gaggles and gaggles of geese flying, celebrated a wedding in the midst of precious family, and as I walked grandbaby girl around, I found more acorns. Instead of 5, I picked up 7 – 7 seeds symbolizing 7 hope and faith potting-shed projects.

The acorns remind to live like I believe in the inbetween.

701) The moment, when frustration in the challenge overwhelms and I give it to God, firmly placing it all in His capable hands, trusting Him, knowing He is not surprised and He can handle the challenge much better than I can.
702) Italian Chamber music that soothes frayed nerves
703) Coffee in the morning with Italian Sweet Cream
704) I shabby chiced an old picture frame and put it on my ground-floor window at work – and every once in a while, I find blessing in what passes through my frame – students rushing to class, an evolving garden, rain spilling onto everything, a squirrel not quite hopping, not quite leaping but a leisurely in-between.
705) Coolness, the autumn kind. I know God is beside me all the time, but I always feel Him more – the clouds pull closer to where I am, the blue seems cheerier, somewhat relieved, and the coolness, it touches my cheek – and it all feels like God walking beside me.
706) Being together with all my boys for a wedding
707) Watching my soldier son walk the grandmother of the groom down the aisle, seeing his slow, comfortable smile spread across his face.
708) 4 pairs of shoes to find instead of 6, 4 belts, 4 pressured shirts and pants, 4 ties – all instead of 6 – God whispering, things are moving along as they ought.
709) Shoes outgrown and shoes still to fill – the blessing of hand-me-downs – a kind of experience that reminds me I can handle the challenges that come in those size shoes – because God has shown me He can handle it.
710) Sharing wedding tables with friend’s mothers who are now friends, too.
711) A grandfather’s prayer for his grandson marrying, filled with hope and faith
712) The blessing of beautiful places to celebrate important moments
713) Hugs from people you love.
714) Gaggles of geese, at least 7, flying across the evening sky as I carried grand-baby girl – and we both watched in delight.
715) 7 acorns on the ground, symbolizing these boys of mine, a daughter-in-law and now a granddaughter.
716) Lidia’s message at her blog, Crown of Beauty, about being an ambassador of love in the midst of unlovely situations.
717) Post-it notes reminding me of prayer requests
718) The energy that comes with feeling better
719) Sitting over a dinner table with my mother one evening – time to talk, time to laugh, time to be together
720) Sitting over a breakfast table with my aunt one morning, time to talk, time to laugh, time to be together
721) Just knowing that sometimes people are cheering you on, have got your back – and know your heart is worthy of that kind of support.
722) The littlest one, getting ready to turn 12 on the first day of fall, wanting me to sing him to sleep.
723) Knowing that sometimes, someone asking me to make a sandwich or fill up a plate, sometimes it is just someone really asking for an Acts of Service love language hug – and which it doesn’t sound like a hug or feel like a hug – it can be translated into a hug.
724) Getting ready for tomorrow, if I think of all the schedules, all the things that want to stress me out – and the list starts piling up, the Father, He tells me to set the pile down – to just step into tomorrow – to take the week just one day, or a half a day or a quarter day at a time, to not give up, to respond in love, hold on to Him and He will take me through to the end of it all.

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The morning starts off with prayer and hope – one leading us in the 23rd psalm, another leading the Lord’s Prayer, and the teen choosing a proverb. I finish off with prayer:

Praising God for either the rain that prepares the crops, or the sun that helps the crops grow, for our home, for our provision – for warm blankets and comfortable beds.

 I ask that our angels encamp about us, protecting us, keeping us from harm.

 I pray that as we come and go between classes, tasks, jobs and activities that we reach for relationship with the Father beyond this moment

 That we let others know about the love of Jesus either through our words or actions. That we find 3 people to pray for either outwardly or inwardly – maybe a bully, maybe the bullied – but someone who needs a bit of the Father in their lives.

 And. . . .I pray that their school work will be their best, a praise offering to God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23)

 Our morning prayer sounds like utopian parenting, doesn’t it. For the duration of that prayer – all is right and hopeful in the world – a perfect moment.

If only the prayer were walked out as easily as spoken.

My teen and I, after the little guys were dropped off, talked about work as praise – because school work just is not always a priority. Right now, he really doesn’t see how reading The Secret Life of Bees, writing an essay or learning the rudiments of statistics will help him in real life (do not get me going about the feminization of education). From my college teaching experience, unless boys see a true need for a skill, they don’t respect it, want it, work for it.

But God wants our work to be as praise for him. . . .

 How do you get a teen to buy into that?

I tried again – I am all for repetitious seed planting into these boys of mine.

“Grow where you are planted. God didn’t drop you in  Uganda where a war-torn people live in huts with a trench for a bathroom beside an outside wall, where little boys are given a gun to kill their parents in order to live. Little boys in Uganda would rather have been dropped where you are,” I urge.

Sleepy blinking is my response. I push on, though, not deterred.

“God dropped you here .  Not somewhere else you’d rather be, doing something else you’d rather be doing. You need to make the best of where you are, the situation you are in – which means going to school, graduating and fitting yourself for useful employment. Not just going to school – but doing your best,” awesome point I’ m thinking that should propel my son into school ready to be the student he is capable of being.

Sleepy blinking. A sigh that really says, “Here we go again” – that’s all the response from my one-on-one, early morning cheerleading.

Instead of backing off, I dig in deeper – I can’t really figure out if that’s counter-productive. Maybe it is. All I know is that I don’t want to give up on someone I love so much.

“Are you a Christian?” I ask. That gets a response.

“Of course ,” he answers, his eyes too tired to roll backwards in his head, so he just shuts them.

“Are you a picking and choosing Christian – meaning you are going to pick and choose what the bible says about being a Christian? Because He wants us to do our best where we are – and for you, that means school.”

He climbs out of the van not so much excited about going to school as to getting away from his mother.

“Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval” (Genesis 4: 3-4)

It is so difficult to use a Cain and Able quote because, well, my boys automatically jump to the fratricide part. Yet, there is so much beyond that to be learned.

Offerings were a new thing, a second-generation thing – each brother brought one, completed the assignment, so to speak. One earned a gleaming report. The other needed work. God, ever the teacher, talked to Cain, encouraged him to do better next time:

“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?If you do well, will you not be accepted?And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it'”(Genesis 4: 5-7)

You must rule over it – meaning take responsibility of your abilities, gifts and responsibilities – do your best! Do your best, God seems to be telling Cain – and I will bless you, praise you, like I praised Able. “Next time, do better,” God coaches to Cain. Even Cain had to practice, to learn – to turn in Praise Work to God.

Do your best, whether it is making hats, doing school work, folding laundry, working in a job that isn’t your dream job

Ever since my first historic trip to Pleasant Hill as a teen with my family, the idea of work a praise gift to God has been a seed growing.

 Shakers … go about their duties in cheerful, happy helpful temper, feeling that “Labor is worship and prayer.” (Leonard, Shaker Manifesto 1871, for quote source, click here)

The results of each Shaker task was a praise offering to the Father:  spinning, weaving, sewing, making baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, furniture, growing and harvesting for sale medicinal herbs, garden seeds, apple-sauce, and knitted garments, using the latest scientific methods for farming  and living. In 1835, they had cold showers in bathhouses with water pumped from the Kentucky River.

“Hands to work, hearts to God,”  (Mother Ann Lee).
The work of the hands reflecting the heart to God.

Farm Deacon’s Shop, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrate our 29th anniversary at The Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Thirty hours of together time – celebrating 29 years of marriage – a little bit of history, a lot of good food, quietness in a beautiful place, staying in a historic building all to ourselves – holistically delightful!

To make a chair, with such perfection, such skill, the best you had within you – a worthy chair on which an Angel of God could sit – that was the goal of each Shaker chair maker (Tour Guide, Pleasant Hill, August 2012)

I bet even the Chair Master, when he was an apprentice, had homework. If he had never tried, never improved, never turned in his homework or day work, he would never have become the Chair Master – creating a chair so perfect it was fit for angels.

“God, the master workman, who has made the smallest insect with as much care as the mammoth elephant, sets us the example of good work.  Imitation is the sincerest praise.”  (Shaker Manifesto).

I’ve been re-seeding, watering, trying to grow that idea and instill it in my boys.  Simple Gifts has a bed-time lullaby in our house for over 27 years:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
(Simple Gifts, Shaker Song)

Doing my best as a parent, is that not praise to God also? Not giving up on encouraging these boys “to come down where [they] ought to be.” Sometimes, praise is not easy – especially when you are praising for something you do not see the evidence of.

Shaping, crafting for the company of angels and God – that kind of skill starts in the heart, works its way to the hands and the feet – even if the work of the hands and feet are classroom assignments and teaching moments in a car on the way to school at 7:15 a.m.

Maybe the morning and private prayer time ought to include that God give us each the desire to over-rule the power that would have us sullenly turn away from encouragement, that our desire to do our best flame higher and stronger than the desire to not do where we are planted our best.

Sometimes, a math sheet can be so much more than homework – it can be an I-Love-You Praise gift worthy of angels and God – if it is labored over for God.

For more information on Shaker History, click here and here.

For the Trinity of Success, click here

659) Post-it notes for prayer requests stuck on my desk and bathroom mirror that remind me to pray
660) Paine au chocolates for my daughter-in-law – because my son said she’d like them
661) baklava for my son – because he likes it – and he asked for it.
662) leaves swirling like confetti in dappled sunlight on a quiet street on my way home from work
663) A quiet weekend morning, on the porch with a cup of coffee, listening to a blue jay
664) zinnias that rebloom sherbet colors all summer long
665) a bushel of tomatoes from my garden
666) time to knit 4 rows of a project
667) boys reading in the weekend morning – no t.v., no music, just a silent kind of industriousness that sighs contentment
668) the courage to buy a pink and purple booster seat for baby girl to sit at the table – on the clearance rack – with a mini-booster-seat for a tiny baby doll. My littlest, almost 12, assembled it, secured it – and grandbaby girl and her stuffed animal enjoyed dinner
669) Hearing the following words: “In college I went to the used book store to get some classics to read, like Shakespeare, ‘Much Ado about Nothing. I used to buy books there all the time until the owner offered me a massage.” – Not the massage part, though that definitely adds a little something to the story – but that I instilled a love for reading things like Shakespeare.
670) Previous discussion morphing into a discussion of Chaucer (thank you, “A Knight’s Tale” – and the devolving and evolving of words).
671) Saturday Morning date at the Farmer’s Market
672) Chard, honey, parsley, cucumbers, eggplant and dill at the Farmer’s Market
673) Watch grandbaby girl have one-on-one time with her 14-year-old uncle
674) Sons meeting rising to meet life challenges
675) Sons who still hug
676) Living a hectic schedule one hour at a time – thank you God for helping me through this week – with a schedule that challenged my peace
677) meeting with friends over dinner – friends who laugh with you and don’t mind you being yourself
678) a friend from church, seeing my husband in the grocery store, battling a cold – and she prayed for him
679) Phone calls my mom and aunt every morning  – when I married, long-distance calling was too expensive – now, I can call every day. What an awesome blessing! I love that.
680) weekday morning prayer, no matter how put out any one person is – the littlest leading the Lord’s Prayer, the next leading the 23 Psalm – and seeing my senior’s hands automatically reaching for the bible I leave in the car to find a Proverb – without me reminding.
681) watching green things and blooming things outside my window
682) rain, in sheets, in mists, rumbling and rolling thunder across the sky, lights out as the rain from the hurricane blows its way to Tennessee.
683) sitting with the lights off in the house, on our porch, listening to the boys and husband talk of big and little things, little and big – in the way that boys do – so endearing, so serious, sometimes so silly – all more beautiful in the quiet
684) sitting around the big table, dinner finished, a coffee cup in my hand, listening to the talking, trying to get a word in somewhere – wondering how does a mom’s voice stay relevant when men talk about their world, grateful for Shakespeare and Chaucer moments – yes, it was a double blessing, worthy of a gazillion times ( which reminds me of a 5 minute discussion of dictionaries and the word ginormous).
685) Comfort that during tomorrow and Wednesday and through all the rest of the week, He has blessings along my path to remind me that He is with me, that He never abandons nor forsakes me.

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Do you have a mission statement? A life mission statement?

Isaiah had a mission statement (this is just one of his):
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1)

Moses’ Mission Statement:
Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt… .when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain”(Exodus 3:10-12)

Jonah’s Mission Statement that scared him straight into the belly of a whale before he lived it out:
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me”(Jonah 1:2)

Rebekkah’s Mission statement, requiring her to leave to make her home in a different community. She didn’t quite know about what the going would be like but she went anyway:
“‘I will go,’ she said.
So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
‘Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
the cities of their enemies.’”(Genesis 58-60)

Ruth’s mission statement of loyalty to her Mother-in-Law. Through honoring her deceased husband’s mother, Ruth was immeasurably blessed by living out the following mission statement:
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Mary’s Mission Statement of simple obedience in an unthinkable situation that she spent the rest of her life living out:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38)

A Mission Statement to make our Savior our #1 priority when He calls us to listen:
“He had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”(Luke 38:39-42)

Mission statements lead some to the mighty task of approaching kings for a people’s freedom or the simple act of honoring a mother-in-law, or marrying and leaving your family, or just raising a child born with God’s purpose – Seemingly Big and small Mission Statements – small mission statements resulting in Big things later, on down the road, maybe generations down the road.

I have a blog mission statement – the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men. Every post lines up under that statement. Even my poetry about flowers blooming lines up to my mission statement – because flowers blooming is about my faith growing in the midst of my boys’ growing-up challenges – and hope in God’s seed, bloom and harvest time for faith things like boys growing into true strong men.

From the time I was about 6, I started collecting strands of mission statements. My first strand was to become a writer of great books. By the time I graduated from high school, I wanted to be the female Charles Dickens, not even quite realizing that he was a political writer striving to encourage changes in children’s rights, education and social reforms to benefit his countrymen. There was a nobility, though, in his writing, a goodness-prevails in a hope and faith way.

Around  age 11, after my mom’s second divorce, I collected another mission statement strand – relying on God to show me who I was to marry.

Another mission statement strand was to get an education so I would be able to get a good job and take care of myself in case my husband ever walked out on me. I lived a lot of fear growing up. I had not yet learned to live faith.

Those mission-statement strands were all-about-me-mission statements. I didn’t know that God had a plan for my life (Psalm 139). I didn’t know that I was a precious daughter to Him, even though I had given my life to Him. I didn’t even know that my salvation was assured.

After my marriage (yes, God was faithful to my request – He blessed me with an awesome husband who loves me, quirks, weaknesses, failures, off-kilter humor – the whole package), then after my first son, God sent me on a journey that led to a deeper relationship with Him.

It wasn’t until my second son was born, when like Hannah, I realized that I needed to give all my sons to God, not to hoard them for me but to free them to Him – that I needed to live my life parenting like that.

That is when I sought out the older women in the church who knew the old ways, the old paths. Because of so many things in my life I didn’t know how to have a marriage grow old loving the Lord, how to watch my children grow up and out loving the Lord, how to grow into me loving the Lord, how to pray, live, speak faith in my home that spilled outside its walls into the community I walked.

momboysbarn.jpgMy life mission statement  emerged: “Please, God, let my husband and I show our sons how to grow old loving the Lord.”

In today’s culture – that is a precious, holy gift. – My husband and I unified in our faith, growing our sons. That became my mission in life.

The last couple of years has been tough, filled with rough challenges. One of those challenges was complete exhaustion and pain. I thought I had pulled a muscle in my side about 1 ½ years ago. The pain worsened, the exhaustion built. I couldn’t see how I could possibly handle a college classroom full of students due to mental fogginess much less teens straining toward independence.

A lot of times, my husband and I take separate vehicles when we go places – and often, I follow him back up the mountain to home. I usually love a challenge, even something silly like getting home first, but I just didn’t have the heart or energy for it anymore.

Increasingly, every time I climbed that mountain, the idea kept going through my mind that I was literally and figuratively falling behind – falling behind them all – my husband, the boys – unable to keep up with where they were going.

Depleted. Utterly depleted. Maybe, I thought, my husband and I wouldn’t live to 100 – that’s what we joke about. Maybe, well, maybe my timeline was significantly shorter.

That’s where, a few weeks ago, when doctors were kind of yanking me out of my comfort zone with indecision, alluding to things more serious than a pesky, diseased gallbladder – and I was just too plan exhausted to put up a fight. It made me understand why people have health-care advocates – people who fight for you when you’re just too muddled with feeling poorly to grasp it all and swing back.

I didn’t have it in me to fight to 100.

While driving up the mountain, God kind of poked me in my side and whispered, “What’s your life Mission Statement?”

“To show my children how to grow old loving the lord,” I answered.

“And that means showing them how to grow old, facing health challenges, still loving the Lord. Your children need you. Stick to your mission statement.”

I was glad God was there to be my health-care advocate that day. He reminded me of the plans He has for me – that it was not happenstance that led to my mission statement. He planted it there long ago – and I grew into it.

Sometimes, faith requires editing our thoughts and words. I needed to edit my thought process – and make sure my content stuck to my mission statement.

I needed a good editor for my thoughts even after my surgery. More alluding to the “C” word. More tests being run to make sure what they saw wasn’t the “C” word. It was almost like, “If you give a mouse a cookie” but instead it was “If you give a doctor a peak at your insides, he will want to look at something else and that will lead to something else. . .”

It was a haunting experience. I felt like I was being hounded by fear and my mortality, like it was trying to catch me and pull me down – but I kept focused on the hand of faith that kept me shielded.

The gallbladder came out a few weeks ago, all the additional test results came back Thursday – and the results are that I am healthy and whole.

My soldier son and the two little guys were in the kitchen, eyes popped out, trying not to laugh, watching me do the dance of joy in the kitchen – not very graceful but full of joy, full of energy, full of the ability to keep up with living. My husband, he wasn’t surprised. He was smiling, glad that I had the energy, the joy, the presence of mind, the everything that makes me endearingly me, even the graceless dancing – He was glad to see me back to myself.

Sunday, after church, we had separate cars. I was leading the way up the mountain, my husband behind me with 2 of the boys. I had it in me to win but I eased off the gas. They passed me in the passing lane.

My husband and the two boys, they were smirking and laughing because they beat me – after I’d been ahead.

“I let them pass me,” I said to my 14 year old son who was with me. “See how happy they are thinking they beat me? We needed to let them win so they could have that joy. Otherwise, they would have been surly and glum, their egos dashed.”

“What about me, Mom,” he said. “What about my ego?” Shaking his head he followed his brothers in the house.

The Faith, Love and Politics of Raising boys to men is just a strand. It is both my husband and I raising these boys to love the Lord – that is the mission statement all other strands twine into.

What’s your mission statement? Does it sustain you in the midst of personal challenge? Does it help keep you focused? Do you believe it?

599) That God loved me enough to create a purpose for me
600) Test results showing 1)healthy results and 2) problems no longer existing
601) Abundant energy my first week back at work
602) Not needing naps anymore
603) The dance of joy
604) A Saturday Morning date at the Farmer’s Market with my husband
605) red tomatoes from my garden
606) sons who find coming home a refreshing thing, a haven thing
607) a soldier son earning a promotion
608) rain all week long, big rain and little rain
609) a cloud falling on my mountain
610) Hope and Faith in a new stage to an unfolding journey

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After school conversations are like emotional popcorn in a bag. Opening that popcorn bag of emotion is hazardous:steam released may burn.

I guess that is the result of stuffing all your emotions inside all day long, wanting to let pent-up ideas and frustrations rush out your mouth from your mind – like popcorn in a bag. Handled with care, those conversations contain a savory and thoroughly enjoyable potential.

“I’m sure I got all of them right,” my son said about the BIG English Test. “Except for maybe 3.”

It reminded me of another son who “bought a dog for free from a lady at the hospital.”

You can’t buy a dog for free – and you can’t get them all right if you miss 3.

A rousing linguistic debate ensued punctuated with lots of smiles and just plan fun.

Some conversations are like popcorn – or maybe more like the dross to the silver of the day. It is the other conversations, where the dross of the day has been sloughed off and the pure silver reveals itself.

“Select dross from silver so that a pure item may come forth” (Proverbs 25:4).

Our bedtime, tuck-in conversations are the opposite of after-school emotional pop-corn conversation. They are not so one-sided, not so confrontational, they don’t run over you, like steam rushing out of a pop-corn bag – and words are carefully chosen for exact meaning – it is where the pure silver reveals itself.

It starts out with simple questions about each teacher, the lunch menu, lunch table buddies, whether he garnered more freckles today and came home with the same amount of fingers and toes he left with.

“Real questions, Mom,” he sighs, more than dross, wanting silver.

“Did you pray for 3 people today,” I asked.

“Two,” he answered. The humor leaves us. The heart reveals itself. “I feel empty inside, here,” he said, pointing to deep inside. “Like God’s not there anymore.”

My mother heart catches. It has been a tough month for my boys who have lived their faith in crisis (click here).

“When you feel empty like that, God’s calling you to spend time with Him. That’s the only way to fill that emptiness,” I explained. “Satan uses that feeling to make you feel like God doesn’t care, that He’s really not there. Don’t be tricked. Some people try to fill it with drugs, causing trouble at school, being a bully -a new girl friend every week. The only thing that can fill that emptiness is spending time with God.”

Earlier that evening, he’d been looking for his bible. “That’s why I was looking for my bible,” he explained.

We talked about the difference between being little and grown up. As we grow, God calls us to a more intentional relationship with Him. He turns 14 soon – we talked about how at age 13, according to Judeo-Christian history, he is a man – and what God wants out of a relationship with a man.

Yes, believe like a child – but God also wants an intentional relationship – a sitting at the dinner table relationship over a cup of coffee instead of running off to play as soon as your tummy is full.

We prayed together, that He would seek this Father God out before he went to sleep. In the seeking, I prayed he would listen and hear what God had to say to Him.

Prayed that “the Lord will guide him; that He will satisfy my son’s needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen his frame. That he will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail(paraphrased,Isaiah 58:11).

That feeling of emptiness he expressed told me my little guy is not so little.

Those bed-time conversations call me to accountability. Ironically, during the next few days, I battled that feeling of emptiness, that alone-ness, too – like I was being herded into empty isolation. I pulled out my bible, the scriptures in my heart, and went visiting for quality, one-on-one time with my Father. He cleared out that feeling of isolation, emptiness, mended those boundaries designed to keep the stealer of peace out.

I tried to linger with Him, like I would with a friend over a cup of coffee.

Everyday living continued on, as well as our bedtime routine.

I asked about teachers, lunch buddies, the menu – and that empty feeling.

He bounded up from his blankets, “It’s gone. I’m just happy.”

Faith like a child, growing intentional – the pure silver of the soul revealing itself.

What kind of choice are you making with your emptiness?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Treating Boys as Knights in Training

Delayed Adulthood Devastates our Sons

 

 

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runawayshoesJacob, he followed the guileful advice of someone he trusted.
He knew better
but having practiced his own kind of trickery
Further goading into unscrupulous actions did not require much stretch
And so he deceived, betrayed, cheated those he belonged to
In the family circle

When the seeds of his actions grew too tall
He ran
Again on the advice of someone he trusted
Someone who should never have counseled
Such chicanery

He ran
Into the desert
Because he couldn’t see how to fix the problems on his own
He couldn’t fathom forgiveness
Because cheaters are sometimes the least forgiving

In the darkness of his run
God showed him a ladder
A ladder to Him
Climbing to forgiveness
to restoration
to relationship
This ladder that climbed both ways
built by a Father who loved so much
He was willing to climb down from
His Kingdom throne
to save a runaway

But still the runaway, he ran,
ran into the camp of a fellow deceiver
Where he learned deception, betrayal, cheating
Hurts
Muddies dreams
Creates problems in the victim’s life, too

Understanding dawning,
he approached the ladder of the dessert
The ladder to Him
To forgiveness
To restoration
That climbed both ways
Facing the ladder, he reached hands newly calloused
With honesty, honor, hope
to grabbed hold of the first rung,
planted a foot to climb
upward

He packed for home
On his way, God met him
Wrestled with him
And God found him finally strong enough
to overcome the past,

This man determined to be good
The selfish man who had run
Who couldn’t see beyond his wants
His chicanery
His coveting ways that led him to take
What was not his
He returned home
To take responsibility for his actions
To repent to those he cheated, tricked, betrayed
He returned home to be embraced
Forgiven
His account wiped clean
To relationship righted
All because of the ladder to Him
To forgiveness
To restoration
That climbed both ways

I bet Jacob wanted to return sooner, make things right sooner. He didn’t because he probably didn’t really believe that forgiveness was for him. He knew his track record. He knew what he had done.

Until one day, he finally realized that he trusted God enough to go home. Trusted that the ladder of restoration, of forgiveness God built was true. It was so unbelievable – unbelievable but true.

The run-away returned home in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen way to the see first-hand the proof that God builds miraculous ladders that climb both ways.

He learned that like God climbing down that ladder to us first, sometimes we have to climb those ladders to others, first. To say I’m sorry. To say, “Can I come home?” To say, “I want a relationship with you, like we were meant to have.” To say, “The past is nothing. It is now that counts – from today forward.” To say, “I am willing to pay the price I owe for the wrong I have committed.”

Because of that ladder that climbs both ways, God’s plan for each life can be fulfilled – beautifully, wholly, completely.

To the run-away – grab hold of the ladder’s rung – grab hold and pull yourself home. The Father, the great Yahweh, will come down and help you.

Like Jacob, you will be met, welcomed, embraced, forgiven, your hope renewed.

If you’ve ever had a child run, whether it is from your room, from your home for a day, 3 days, 21 days, weeks for months, the story of Jacob is a story you grab onto as evidence of the Hope and Faith we have in the Father. This story of loss, redemption and restoration tells us God was prepared for run-aways. He pursues them. He built a ladder for them.

The coming home – it is not about the parent heart finding peace – it is all about the runaway being safe, found. Not just relationship restored – because sometimes that is a journey. There is the physical coming home – but the desire for the emotional and spiritual coming home, the desire for whole choices and not brokenness. It is what the parent hopes for through faith.

We’ve been praying for Annie to be found this last week. She ran away. She hasn’t been found yet.

It made me remember another run-away – who packed up 2 backpacks full of possession, stealthily left, walked through fields, under fences, ripping and tearing at his bags and his clothes – to a friend who picked him up on the other side of a forest he didn’t know, filled with coyotes, snakes and other unseen things. He came face to face with truth in the darkness of the forest.

Our hearts grieved that we would have a child who would run away. He was given a choice – a choice to be respectful or leave. He left.

It was only hours – but those were awful hours. Hours filled with grief that someone we loved so completely, worked so hard to fill with good things and God things – would run away.

It happened 3 times. He was dealing with inside things, authority things. Each run-away has inside things they battle. The return home doesn’t mean the run-away’s battles are over, that inside brokenness, either by things others have done or things they themselves have done, isn’t instantly made whole. There’s a journey to a run-away’s wholeness, even to our wholeness.

Jacob’s run-away story shows us that.

Our run-away with 2 back-packs filled with possessions?  He’s on that journey to wholeness. He’s now making good man choices. He’s got a hand on that ladder, a foot raised to climb up. He’s wrestling with God – but that means he’s got his hands on God and God has his hands on him.

Jacob’s run-away journey didn’t stop when he reached family, Laban. His run-away journey didn’t end with the hand grasping the ladder. The run-away journey ended when he stopped wrestling with God, even though he was on his way home. When he stopped wrestling with God, he trusted God – trusted God to help him overcome his past.

348) I got to see the gift’s God put in Annie when she was little, being a mother-hen at Mother’s Day Out, taking care of her friend who welled up with tears every time his mama left him there. That gift of serving and loving others gives me a glimpse into the beautiful gifts inside Annie, hidden beneath these teen challenges she is facing – and the glimpsing into how God sees her gives me hope.
349) Remembering how tightly I held on to God’s mercies a few years ago, holding tight to my faith, training myself to see this precious son how God sees him – not seeing but living believing – and today my belief sees this son, a better man, a good man on that journey on Jacob’s ladder. Thank you, Father, that you
350) protected my son
351) you never ceased pursuing my son
352) faith is real
353) even when we don’t understand in the now, you will lead us through to the great reveal and until then, I want to live, breathe, walk and talk hope and belief in what I don’t see – even if it’s through tears
354) Nothing is a surprise to God!

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“Can we go to Marble Slab?” my passionately logical 13 year old asks as I cook dinner.

Later, as I work in my office, he slides up to the side of my desk, “Can we go to Marble Slab?”

At bedtime, “When are you taking me to Marble Slab; you said you would,” he grouses, accusingly.

I have learned not to pin-point an exact time, with this son. I have learned the art of political evasion – because if I do not do what I said I would do when I said I would do it, he gets put out.

I told him we would go to Marble Slab one day before school when the time was right. I told him why we needed to put it off – but the truth did not matter. School was starting, there were supplies, shoes and cleats to buy, lunch accounts to fill, and fees to pay.

He didn’t want to see that truth. He just knew that I took his little brother to Marble Slab while he was at camp  – so he asked to even life out. He expects it – because his brother had it.

That is not a good reason to fulfill a request. Sometimes, walking through age 13 is like walking barefoot in the dark over Legos spilled along the path.

I want my children to ask. But asking with an entitlement attitude, an evening-up attitude is not the way to do it. Being sullen will not get my son what he wants.

I wish I could handle being the recipient of  asking like God handles it. God wants us to ask. He encourages the asking – even asking over and over again. Unlike me, God has a bottomless energy supply to engage with the asker.

Yet, asking followed by foot tapping impatience, with expectations for the request to be handed over right now – that might be how we go to Mom, but that is not how we go to God. Asking is not just a question for God. Asking to God is not “gimme” communication. Asking God is the opening of a dialogue – and a willingness to hear what he has to say about what you are asking.

Ask and it shall be given you,

Seek, and ye shall find

Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Luke 11:9-10, KJV)

Asking God is about opening a dialogue, seeking the truth, a willingness to find truth – to look not just in the obvious places but in the hidden, under-the-cushion-kind-of-places, and once finding it knocking as much as it takes to open the door to get it.

Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Asking God is not a simple yes or no micro-dialogue.

Asking God is inter-active, requiring faith and action on our side.

Asking God says, “I am interested in the journey to the answer.”

What are you asking for? Are you ready for the journey to the answer?

 

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A few Marches ago, we planted Hollies, Crepe Myrtles – and long-awaited Leland Cyprus trees. My teen sons helped us move these huge trees with huge rootballs, bemoaning the whims of moms but kind of proud of their strength.

I’m sure they loved being physically stronger than mom. It made them walk a bit taller.

My husband, well, he didn’t really want the trees, but he helped me plant my dream.

I spent days basking in their beauty, anticipating their towering growth. Kind of like raising sons – you know their potential. It is just a matter of helping them grow there.

[Growing in grace]they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap (of spiritual vitality) and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment] (Psalm 92:14)

It wasn’t 2 weeks later when the edge of spring revealed it’s two-faced nature – and brought a snow storm, filled with some ice – and ravaged the work of my dreams.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7)

We lost one Japanese Maple. The other, I wouldn’t let my husband tear out – we cut it back to the root and hoped.

My Leland Cyprus’s, so new to their new home, roots not quite deep enough or burrowed in enough were bruised with the onslaught. They really weren’t prepared for the unexpected.

As Spring slunk out of town like a seedy criminal, taking advantage of townsfolk shock– Famine and Drought rode into town.

The Japanese Maple with the deep roots and recently cut-back limbs – it flourished in these hard times.

One Leland Cyprus, though, it suffered, while it’s sister Cyprus flourished. Half it’s branches turned brown.

Twice daily, I pulled out my hose and left it to water for 30 minutes, pulling off the dead leaves, whispering encouragement, whispering hope.

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”(James 5:7)

Our Tree this WinterToday that Cyprus, a bit smaller than it’s sibling tree, sways with abandon in the blustery Winds of Spring time, standing confident in the two-faced nature of Spring time. . . because its root system is deep.

It no longer needs me.

“Behold, [I will liken you] to Assyria, a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and with forestlike shade and of high stature, with its top among the thick boughs (even among the clouds]. The waters nourished it; the deep made it grow tall; its rivers ran round about its planting, sending out its streams to all the trees of the forest [the other nations]” (Ezekiel 31: 3-4)

Last night, my littlest guy, he climbed the larger tree, upward, laid in its boughs and hollered to us, as we planted 15 burning bush and 3 forsythia rootballs.

With laughing eyes, we both looked at our son, finding joy in what we planted, nurtured and sustained in hope and faith. Raising boys and trees – similar journey’s, both facing challenges – both showing the redeeming love of a mighty, compassionate, healing God.

This week needed a moment just like that! Thank you Father!

“For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11)

BTW – if it snows in the next 10 days, can I start predicting snow by my tree planting? I’m thinking so!

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A few days later, life going on with an additional heart-beat to our family, I stand behind my kitchen counter, reaching to this amazing heavenly Father again. Challenges don’t stop rolling just because a prayer was answered, especially with a house full of boys to men growing into independence.

I see the challenge, like a barreling stone, bigger than me. I don’t chastise myself that I didn’t see it sooner, or solve the rolling of it sooner. It is what it is. Don’t think I’m flippant or irresponsible. I used to beat myself up for not knowing things before I knew them – until God took the baseball bat I was beating myself up with out of my figurative hands.

Life just burps up challenges from likely and unlikely places.

But God isn’t just interested in turning baby girl for a safe delivery (see previous post) – He’s interested in a teen boy struggling to find his place in a new school, though we had only moved away 2 years before returning.

God is not surprised by any of these challenges. He’s just waiting for us to turn these challenges over to him.

This teen son with an innate joyful spirit is not feeling joyful lately. Once I asked, “Have you prayed about it?”

He responded, “God knows what I need.”

“But God’s not like your mama who bursts into your problems unasked. God’s not like that. He waits for your invitation,” I answered.

“Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
O Lord, save the king!
May he answer us when we call” (Psalm 20: 6-9).

And so I ask and I pray, interceding through prayer, asking our Father, once again, trusting in His name, that He knows what is needed in this challenge and has already set the answer rolling from His throne, the saving might of His right hand moving to protect one of His beloved children, whether it is turning a head, pointing to an opportunity, turning an attitude, or holding us to stand. It only waits for the asking.

I am awed that He, God, the King, Emmanuel, Jehovah, I am – wants me to ask

Father, I didn’t have a parent who knew how to intercede, that they could come to you in prayer for their children in their growing-up struggles. I found you at 7, held on tight and didn’t let go. But even I didn’t know I could come to you for help, that you were there to pick me up, comfort me  – for the big and Little things, little and Big- though I reached out for you I didn’t realize I was the King’s daughter because of Jesus.

But I know now, Father, – who I am to you and who my son is to you. I know that you want me to come to you – to intercede for this son who is struggling, who feels isolated, no connections, no place here – no real home – and I intercede, stand in the gap for him, beseech you to bring him friendships that will lift him up when he is down – and open his eyes to see that friendship, that in this next 1.5 years until he graduates – that home is restored in his heart, that he recognize comfort, belonging and warmth here.

You know what he needs, Lord. You know what is really going on in his heart – and, as the daughter of the King, your daughter – not the fatherless orphan I was growing up – I ask you to work in my son’s life, restoring that which was lost.

The challenges – do they ever really stop? Have they ever really stopped – big and Little, little and Big? If you chronicled all those challenges from today backwards – what would you find?

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (Corinthians 3:18).

Maybe we are transformed from glory to glory challenge by challenge.

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“Dead branches, Mom?” my joyful son asked. “Really?”

Then the 3 youngest sons tossed around a dialogue orchestrated to love me in a tormenting kind of way that boys do so gracefully.

Yes, dead branches. But these dead branches have infused a new life, a new spirit into our Christmas.  Hanging from each branch is the History of God’s plan.

Creation,  Adam and Eve, the Fall of Man, Noah.

I almost allowed my imperfect desire to do things perfectly to cause me to miss something wonderful.

Abraham,  Isaac, Jacob, Joseph

Early last week, I stumbled across Elizabeth at Just Following Jesus and her post entitled, “A Jesse Branch . . . an Advent Idea.” I’d never had a Jesse Tree before or used an Advent Calendar – lots of reasons. By the time the semester ended and my students essays were graded and recorded – well, we were already into December. Advent had started before I was ready. Having a huge age difference between 5 sons seemingly limited the art projects to just the little ones – nullifying the family-ness of the project. Then, one day, my boys had outgrown Jesse Tree activities – and I thought in my imperfection, I missed it.

Moses, Samuel, Jesse, David

Elizabeth’s Jesse Branch encouraged me to act in my imperfection – and, by the end of last week, I had a Jesse Branch, an unconventional Jesse Branch.

Solomon, Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist

We can’t manage one a day since we started late – and instead of being behind – we have been blessed in the catching up.

Jesus is Wisdom, Jesus is Lord

The first night, the now 5 of us shared the reading of the first 4, hanging the tags and coordinating scripture on a branch. The next day was frazzling and the day after something special happened.

Jesus is the Flower of Jesse

The oldest son stopped by, and I pulled 4 out – one for each of the boys to read. And each shared a story of  Jesus’ family tree, a bit of Christmas written into the afternoon.

Jesus is the Key of David

A few hours later, my husband arrived home with our soldier son, having spent 12 hours traveling to pick him up and bring him home for “Christmas Exodus.” Before this broken and rebuilt son left the house to see his sweetheart, I pulled father and son over to the Jesse Branch, handing each a tag and scripture. Before this son left, he added to the story of Christmas, then hung the tags and scripture on those dead branches.

Jesus is the Radiant Dawn

Allowing God’s story to find a way despite my imperfections, despite not doing it “by the book.”

Jesus is King of the Gentiles

My imperfections allowed all my children, big and small, to breath, speak, and hear Scriptures written on tags telling a story. More than ornaments on a tree. The Living Word – hung on dead branches.

Jesus is Emmanuel

While the ornaments on my Christmas Tree are limited to my family story – these tags on these dead branches tell the most important family story of this Christmas Season – the family story I was adopted into.

Jesus is Light of the World

The tags and scriptures on these dead branches tell of God’s plan to save me, to save my husband, to save each of my sons, to save baby girl due New Years Eve – these tags and scriptures are the plot out-line and promises of that plan lived out.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8)

I was willing to try despite my imperfection. In the trying I found blessing – and that blessing spilled over to my sons.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians: 14-15).

Live Christmas out of the box!

Thank you, Elizabeth!

Jesse Branch Scriptures:

1) Creation: Gen. 1:1-31; 2:1-4

2) Adam and Eve: Gen. 2:7-9, 18-24

3) Fall of Man: Gen. 3:1-7 and 23-24

4) Noah: Gen. 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22

5)  Abraham: Gen. 12:1-3

6) Isaac: Gen. 22:1-14

7) Jacob: Gen. 25:1-34; 28:10-15

8) Joseph: Gen. 37:23-28; 45:3-15

9) Moses: Ex. 2:1-10

10) Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:1-18

11) Jesse: 1 Sam. 16:1-13

12) David: 1 Sam. 17:12-51

13) Solomon: 1 Kings 3:5-14, 16-28

14) Joseph: Matt. 1:18-25

15) Mary: Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38

16) John the Baptist: Mark 1:1-8

17) Jesus is Wisdom: Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus in old Bibles) 24:2; Wisdom 8:1

18) Jesus is Lord: Ex. 3:2; 20:1

19) Jesus is Flower of Jesse: Isaiah 11:1-3

20) Jesus is Key of David: Isaiah 22:22

21) Jesus is the Radiant Dawn: Psalm 19:6-7

22) Jesus is King of the Gentiles: Psalm 2:7-8; Ephesians 2:14-20

23) Jesus is Emmanuel: Isaiah 7:14; 33:22

24) Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14

 

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“I’m almost holding my breath in anticipation, reminding myself that a journey is one step at a time”
~Blue Cotton Memory, Journal Notes before son’s military graduation.

As my son prepared for basic training graduation, I prepared my heart for meeting this young man, broken and rebuilt through military training.

How was I to greet this soldier, this young man, this son? How was the mother in me to respond? How did my role need to change? Was I to be released from the hard-core mothering?

As Manager of Small and Large Product Development of Blue Cotton Industries, I have had 5 product development-to-launch responsibilities. One product had already been successfully launched and, as a Blue Cotton insider, took over after-market responsibilities.

This second product had taken considerable team effort. Launch ability test results were about to be discovered – which would determine my future role.

The day-to-day responsibility-for-the-outcome  had included maintenance, operations, and support training, fulfillment of education services, and instructor activities, plus praying, encouraging and loving? Many of these responsibilities would be eliminated or phased out if product launch was successful.

If successful, I would no longer be responsible for collecting and analyzing job performance data against product release requirements. No more comparing individual knowledge and skills with job standards and arranging further training to meet launch requirements.

During this 10 week military training of this Blue Cotton Product, I had received one phone call  and 3 letters; letters with words like “changed man,” “facing my fears,” “going to church” were balm to my worn, cracked heart, worn through prayer, my inner voice murmuring Faith, Hope and Love some days until raw and hoarse. I wonder if my inside prayers ever sound worn and hoarse to God?

“Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on me, you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40)

“Are you here?” he texted from the meeting field from a friend’s phone because he didn’t have one.

“5 more minutes,” I texted back.

I prayed days and weeks before this meeting that God would prepare my heart, inoculate against unrealistic expectations, be the mother I needed to be for this meeting, this unveiling of the new man.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4: 11-13)/

In this reunion, the mother met her son, a man carrying the mantle of his own destiny, fully independent, contentment in his eyes, his soft manner of talking in the stories told of a self-control, a humbleness, a hope for his future. The rebellious boy had been broken down and rebuilt into a responsible man.

In this meeting were welcomed hugs. Photos with something previously rare and almost extinct,  a genuine, freely-given smile – a smile not filtered with ulterior motives. Just the smile of a man who has overcome to become someone he is proud to be.

We went to the PX, a small mall with a food court, where he bought his own work clothes, signed up for his own phone plan, and bought an iphone.

“Are you more confident?” I asked, knowing his achievements – earning a spot on a elite shooting squad, earning a sharpshooter badge, becoming a flag bearer because his Sgt. told his dad, “He’s the most squared soldier in the platoon.”

“Nahhh! Probably less,” he answered, no cocky bravado, no smartest-man-in-the-room attitude. The realization that you do not know it all is the beginning of wisdom.

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given us us” (Romans 5: 2b-5).

He wasn’t used to crowds. I guess 10 weeks of isolation does that to you, so we took along a fellow private who didn’t have family that day to pick up Subway and took it to a playground on base. The playground was quiet and allowed the younger brothers to work off energy while we talked.

His friend had become a citizen that day. This only child of a one-child-only Chinese policy wished he’d had siblings. I think he even wished it after spending the day with our crew.

“They called our barracks the Taj Mahal,” our son said. Taj Mahal because they were so clean, so opposite of his bathroom at home. Everybody used ours because they didn’t want to put a toe in his, but in his barracks, he mopped voluntarily to work off frustration – and other times he would mop because he was told to – at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. – even if wake-up call was at 3:30 a.m.

During the quiet talking, the stories of challenges faced – the gas chamber, life saving classes that teach you how to save a battle buddy’s life, 3 weeks of casualty-risk activities, I realized that this Blue Cotton Product, this son, had launched himself successfully. He was battle-ready to take on management of one of my 5 most precious products – himself.

In that moment, I released my son. He was ready. He had successfully taken over after-launch responsibilities.

God was right there beside me, in this letting go, knowing I loved my son so much that I wanted to let go just right.

This soldier-son handed his brother, the second youngest, the rule-monger with whom he’d butted heads for working hard, for his self-control – he pulled from his pocket prayer beads from church. “I thought you’d like these,” he said. I think a lot of the past was forgotten in that moment – a reaching out and receiving time.

Was he running home hard to God? The prodigal returning at a run, to fling his arms around the Father?

God whispered to my heart, “He’s coming. He’s turned. Coming to me is a journey – one-step-at-a-time. You wouldn’t expect a 7th grader to do doctoral-level work. There is saving in the journey – at the beginning and the end and in-between.”

I nodded – I’m still in the journey, one step at a time, I’m working my way there, too.

God meets both of us where we are in the journey – the PVT. Christian(figurative) is just as saved as those further in the journey – the  Sergeant, Colonel or General – all  just as important to God, just as loved, just pursued by God – as the newly enlisted, newly [re-]committed Christian.

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49: 15).

With God right beside me, rejoicing right with me, I was able “to find sweet contentment in those one steps at a time, to open-heartedly meet him where he is” (Blue Cotton Journal, before graduation).

Someone might say, “Well, he’s 19 – he was already in charge of his life; it didn’t matter if you released him or not.

I don’t think a mother feels her job is complete until her child grown is able to be self-sufficient, making good soul choices, hands solidly on the steering wheel of his future. The letting go of that developmental responsibility, whether it is a mother’s or not, is really what we mother for. There is peace in a job completed, amazing peace in the release – and rejoicing in their readiness.

The time had come to hand over the reigns of leadership and management of one of Blue Cotton’s God-Designed Products – to someone so ready to take the product to places I never could.

Thank you, Father, for being with both of us. Thank you, Father, that you are faithful to the promises you whispered in my heart, wrote in your Word. Thank you that you love my son more than I do.

Thanks to everyone who sent me scriptures that encouraged, blessed and sustained me in this journey! Scriptures used in this post are ones many of my friends in the blogahood sent to encourage me as I prayed and waited in this phase of the journey. They so blessed my heart . I created a scripture collage with them – and each time I turned on my computer (screen saver), opened my fridge – Scriptures of Hope and Faith helped me pray those promises of God. I also created a Prayer for My Soldier Son that I prayed over him. There are places I can no longer go – but my prayers can go anywhere.

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My son’s graduation from basic training left me feeling like a caterpillar in a cocoon, just soaking up the nutrients where I am, not quite ready to emerge from this cocoon that is my family.

The journey to this graduation moment, my son, marching squared, bearing the Bravo Company flag with a sharpshooter badge on his chest – the journey to get here often felt like the memory of crossing my great-grandmother’s swinging bridge.

The journey to this graduation moment reminded me of the time my 6 or 7 year old self  plucked up enough courage to cross  that bridge up high, a swinging bridge with loose rope railing, slated inconsistently.

I made it half-way before a teen cousin preying upon my fear hurtled across, his thumping feet causing that bridge to swing, to bounce raucously.

Crouched down in fear, paralyzed, I stared at the wide empty slots

where the missing slates should be,

not knowing how he would pass

without me falling off.

shaking fear, tears fell

I don’t remember how I made it to the other side, to safety.

All I know is that I didn’t turn back.

I didn’t give up.

Somehow, one-step at a time, I journeyed forward and reached safety, knee-wobbly relief, peace, contentment.

Like that little girl who reached the safety of solid ground ,

today, I can’t figure out if I feel like a caterpillar in a cocoon

or fragrant tea leaves steeping until just right

or an expectant mother nesting before birth

or a narcicuss paperwhite bulb waiting in the cool sun to bloom

or a question waiting for its answer

I just know that right now, I have pulled the blanket

of my family around myself

and burrowed, feet reaching to touch the toes of my children and husband

wanting the warm joy of my Lord to seep down into my soul

and raise up authentic laughter and smiles

that this faith journey, of seeing slates in empty slots,

has led to to the substance of things hoped for

walked out on a parade ground one cool November morning.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

 

 

 

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Blueberry picking – it was something I wanted to do. The boys balked – maybe because it was a melting hot July day or because they didn’t care about blueberries.

But blueberry picking we went. The farther away from town we ventured (a whole 6 miles), the more distrusting they became – like I would drop them off in the middle of nowhere for a family of grizzly’s to devour them.

Off the paved road, onto a gravel road, moving to seeming nothingness I drove;.

When we arrived, they were almost glad to pour out of the van, out of the air-conditioning into the hotness. As I handed out buckets the blueberry lady handed out advice, “Find the paths that lead into the blueberry bushes. There’s not much on the outside bushes. The good ones are deeper in.”

For a moment, I followed her advice a bit like my boys would follow mine. I saw the blueberries hanging on the peripheral bushes,  and thought, “Wow! What was she talking about? These look mighty fine to me.”

I picked like that for a little while, my mind ping-ponging back and forth between the blueberries my fingers reached for and the blueberry ladies words.

Reminding me of a time someone shared a closer relationship with Jesus with me that I brushed off with a smile –The Hope of a Seed planted in Faith.

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

I had great hopes for my blueberries, what I would make with them, expectations of a bit of Spring Time in a winter storm. In the quiet of the blueberry patch, with the occasional murmur of voices from more than just our group of pickers, the silence sounded different than town silence. The birds in their 10 a.m. routine called back and forth – there were more of them than us. My mind kept returning to the blueberry lady’s words and my blueberry expectations. Could there really be better blueberries?

The voice of seeds planted murmur to your heart if you are truly seeking that relationship. Those seeds don’t give up.

“Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”(Psalm 63:1)

Sweat rolled down my back, and I wondered how long before the boys would be clamoring for a drink. In an instant, I decided that if there were better blueberries, I wanted them. Taking the blueberry lady’s guiding words, I moved away from my outside bush, ready to try to step onto a path that took me deeper. It wasn’t much of a path. I had to push a bunch of blueberry branches out of my way, pushing to see if the berries deeper in the path were really that different. Would my expectations be redefined?

Curiosity got the best of me. Curiosity about more of God. Was there more? Was there better? Did I really know the best God had to offer? Or was it just the best of what I knew? Easy to get to, easy to see. I was willing to see if I knew it all – willing to admit I didn’t know it all, part of me secretly wanting there to be more of God.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”(James 4:8).

I shoved my fears aside, tic fears, chigger fears, creepy-crawly fears – The deeper I moved, the more surrounded by a Holy silence, heralding something wonderful to be revealed. Blueberry picking deeper in the patch, I pulled the outside of the bush aside, and delved even deeper – and found the most beautiful of the blueberries. My ignorance almost kept me from the best.

As I picked those blueberries, I thought how like our relationship with God this is. At first, we are satisfied with the exterior relationship but as the relationship grows from God to follower, Savior to saved, Father to daughter, Groom to bride – the intimacy grows as we draw nearer and nearer.

“I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
My lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63: 2-4)

I popped outside the blueberry deepness and called to the boys, showing them what they would find if they went deeper into the blueberry patch.

I don’t think they really appreciated it – not today, not at this moment – but that is my job, to show them how to delve deeper into blueberry things, into God things.

Sometimes my boys respond to me like I did to someone sharing a closer relationship to God with me, when I brushed them off with a smile. But she pointed the way, just like I point the way – to a deeper relationship. And those words just sink in, in a Faith and Hope way, like seeds, that will whisper to them, murmur to the, “Draw closer. There is more. More than your knowledge knows.”

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
For you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63: 6-8)

A faith seed planted, resting and growing in the Hope that it would lead me into intimacy with Him. I heard the murmurings of Hope and Faith, and I pressed in, drew closer, sought Him in places I wasn’t sure existed and reached out to Him.

In that blueberry path, that hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, leaping in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God though we may not know that more truly is.

In that Hope, we humble our selves when we realize we do not know it all – but are willing to get uncomfortable just to redefine our expectations of our relationship with the Father.

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In that blueberry path, on a hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, causing Hope to leap in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God, though we may not know what that more truly is.

“Living in Him” reminds me of when I so loved my husband that we married and we moved in together – and when I don’t see him, eat with him, walk with him, talk with him multiple times daily, I miss him, get a little wigged out because that kind of commitment is the grafting together of two people into one, changing who they were before.

Yet, though my husband completes me, it is not as powerful a grafting, as being grafted into our Lord and living in Him.

According  Leonard Hertz in his article, Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees,  “Fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting.”

There is a difference in the fruit we produce when grafted into a relationship with the Father. We can only bear the true fruit from the Father by being grafted into Him. Being good alone, then, just won’t work. The fruit is not quite the same. Only when we are grafted in to that intimate relationship can we truly bear the fruit of God.

Hertz also said, “Grafting is useful, however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar. It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for top-working an established tree to one or more different cultivars.” Through this grafting “in Him” a spirit crippled and abused can be repaired, healed, made whole.

God wants me to have that kind of “Living-in-Him” type of relationship, to be grafted into Him – and that is the only way to produce God’s true cultivar, fruit selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by being grafted into Him:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

What is love without God? What is joy without God? What is peace, forebearance, kindness, without God? Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – without God?

They are different fruit cultivar without God.

Maybe, if I can find that kind of message in a blueberry patch, just maybe, I can introduce that kind of relationship to my sons, and just maybe one day, maybe they will have a blueberry patch moment, other than a whining, complaining, are-we-done-yet moment. Just like the tree-farmer passes to his child the craft of grafting, fruit trees and harvesting, so, too, do I want to pass to my sons the knowledge of being grafted into an awesome God.

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