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fallhydrangea_edited-1As for man, his days are as grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth”  (Psalm 103: 15)

 

One of my son’s was talking about his college classes. His U.S. History teacher he said, “She’s really old – like 50 or 60.”

I arched an eye-brow, “Really old? 50?”

There’s sadistic enjoyment in sometimes helping your children shove their feet in their mouths a little further – just so they realize it’s there. They don’t consider me really, really old – but they really don’t consider me 52. Strong as an ox? indomitable? They think I am. I guess when you’re raising boys to be strong men, they expect their mothers and fathers to be as strong as the standard they set.

Walking through my yard after picking some tomatoes from the garden, watching butterflies on the zinnias that finally bloomed, my eyes fell on my hydrangea blossom – and I thought – I want to grow old like that.

I want to grow old like a blue hydrangea.
Budding green flowerheads in summertime’s morning sun
White tender soul petals emerge, opening
roots reaching for a holy spirit water source
for an unquenchable thirst
in the harshness of a summertime life
day by day as year by year
iron will infuses light baby
to cerulean blue tender still
vibrant, intense full of life blue
for a season, for a span
until petals toughen like paper hide
in an afternoon shade the blossom fades
into grace of more than just
antique greens, grandma rose pinks and dusty blues
its life redeemed into something worth keeping
reedeemed and gathered up before winter’s frost,
stored into darkness to dry for days
as sweet reminders of hope
in the midst of someone else’s winter.

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Cure

Criticism Prevention?

There’s no cure, recipe or how-to book created can prevent criticism – deserved or un-deserved.

You can’t prevent your children, your spouse, your family members, your friends – and even you from catching criticism.

You can only learn how to live through it.

What needs to be done?

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

Have you ever done that? Tried to prevent your children from receiving criticism? Eating dinner at someone’s house – and your child won’t eat what’s served? A toddling 2 year old wanting to touch all the knickknacks on great Aunt Ruth’s coffee table? A teenager wanting to wear grunge to church or school?

A criticism preventative doesn’t exist.

“How can she live like that,” my mom’s friend asked her when they’d dropped in town for a pop-up visit.

I was a young, married, full-time college student, working 20 hours a week at a local newspaper – and Finals Week was closing in – meaning 10+ page research papers were due, projects had to be complete, and exam preparation.

My apartment living room had been literally covered in projects – the couch, the chairs, the kitchen table, the coffee table. Paper carpeted the floor in organized chaos.

I don’t know if we went to lunch or whether I cooked it. All I know is that by the time they arrived, the carpet was cleared – and the piles – yes, there were still piles – but they were tidier.

For the next 20+ years, if someone came to visit, they could find drawers reorganized, laundry folded and put away, the kitchen sparkling – and no piles lurking.

That day, long ago, I needed some grace. Instead, I put on a shield of perfectionism The shield protected me from criticism and judgementalism that labeled me not enough – I thought. One hand held the shield, the other held the not-enough club.

I would beat myself with for not being perfect enough. The sad irony is that I probably beat myself up much more than anyone else ever did.

This spilled over into my parenting. This time, I was a human shield. I didn’t want little hands getting smacked for touching knickknacks. I didn’t want someone else telling my boys how rude they were to not eat someone’s hard-cooked meal. People did, you know – fuss at them for being too little to know better. I know I just didn’t want them made to feel like they weren’t enough.

I don’t say I protected any of us well, living like that, living perfect for all the wrong reasons. Living to intercept and stop criticism isn’t really living.

The more I understand how God designed me, the more I have been able to lower the shield.

The more I have lowered the shield, the greater role I have given Shaddai – the God of more than enough – in my life.

“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done(2 Cor 9:8)

Did you read that? Ready for anything and everything. . . . for what needs to be done.

Only what needs to be done

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

Criticism prevention is not something that needs to be done. As a matter of fact – it has as much chance of being achieved as having everyone in the world see me as God sees me.

Only what needs to be done

I only need to do what God has called me to do. I don’t have to also do what God has called you to do.

I don’t have to have an immaculate house because someone who drops by can’t live like that.

What needs to be done – not prevented, blocked or misdirected.

God didn’t design me – or you – to be a strategic defense initiative to stop in-coming missiles. God tells me, “I’ve got it.”

“They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.'” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame” (Isaiah 45:24)

What needs to be done?

What needs to be done . . .
The baby needs loving
And the boy needs a band-aid
Tummies need some yellow, green and orange
A glass of milk and chewable protein
bluesy teens need hugging
skin sweating, heart beating ideas
that need hearing needing
a mom to just listen
My husband needs time for unwinding
Some problems need solving and some just need
Time to untangle

What needs to be done
Is the coming together
In the mess, this beautiful mess
Even in paper stacks under chair legs
a sink piled-high with dishes
Laundry that needs folding
Socks that need matching
Tea that needs pouring
While stories take time
In the telling
In the mess, this mess
Made beautiful
When things of God grow
like grace and faith
peace and joy,
kindness, goodness faithfulness
and waiting with hope

What needs to be done
is one-on-one time with the one
who shields us
and takes the beating stick away from us
one-on-one time full of prayers
for all we’re called to reach and love,
and invitations, daily, minute, second
invitations to Shaddai – who is more than enough
who surrounds us
lives in us
and he never says, “How can I live in a place like that”
By living in us
We become the best place of all.

I’m not trying to live this life perfect anymore. I’m trying to live it God’s more-than-enough way.

If you want to break the strangle-hold perfect has over your life, check out The Cure for the Perfect Life by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.  Maybe you just need encouragement to let go of perfectionism and be who you were designed to be. I’m pretty excited about their book  – 1) because it encourages me to change bad habits in such warm, funny, real supporting ways, and 2) I’m a contributing writer. I’ve been doing the happy dance over here.

A quote from my contribution:

“Coax a child out of the doldrums, you make him happy for a moment. Teach a child to find his own, you’ve given him the tools to be happy for a lifetime.”

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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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thumb_COLOURBOX4566481

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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blackboard2cA vintage frame hangs on my office window –it frames a living canvas of purple and yellow pansies, a mighty oak with its green leaves in the summer and sticks in the winter – the occasional squirrel, a light stream of cars shuttling past. One day about 8 squirrels galloped past – I expected to see a T-Rex following after them.

It reminds me to look, to see beauty, to see His gifts, Him with me.

prom_edited-1cAt prom, dates and friends, moms and dads who helped decorate, cook and serve, held the black frame, smiling sweet and funny faces, a living canvas of young men and women about to soar, expectation in their faces – and the frame held good moments, moments filled with smiles.

A long time ago, my mama sat on my bed, coaching me through picking up my room. My 4-year-old  self was steamed. I can’t recall the mean thoughts, but I was thinking mean thoughts about my mama.

On the other side of the door frame, she said, “God knows what you’re thinking.”

I stepped through the closet door frame, into the dark back of the little closet, next to the stove Santa had brought – and mean thoughts simmered up like steam. God couldn’t know what I was thinking hidden in the dark back of a closet.

“He knows what you’re thinking in the closet, too,” she said smoothly.

The mean thoughts stopped. I just stood there in the darkness, something inside growing. I remember thinking, “WOW! He knows what I’m thinking.here. hiding.in.this.closet – WOW!”

The steam and anger evaporated. That interaction between my mother and I, through the closet-door frame that separated light from dark, from hidden to found.

I met God in the back of that closet. I’d sat in church every Sunday, probably in my mother’s arms first – yet, it wasn’t until that moment that I met God face to face.

It wasn’t until that moment that God framed me – it was my choice – to allow Him to frame me. God’s kind of framing is that way – a choice.

It’s not a restricting frame, a limiting frame – God doesn’t work in worldly perimeters.  World perimeters limit. God perimeters are liberating.

Ever since then,I have framed my life in that relationship, sometimes, imperfectly so, the living canvas of my life is framed in Him.

Constantly in motion, constantly holding me together, constantly showing He values me, loves me, to embrace me, to wrap me in the frame that is Him.

I am so glad He revealed the power if Him to me in the frame of the closet when I was a little girl.

So glad He framed me!

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16)

cornholeStill Counting Blessings

Much blessing this week – little and big blessings, little and big moments – it wasn’t a week for words, though words like “I present to you the graduating class of 2013” were important. The little blessings were eloquent

  1. Cardinals racing out in front of my car when stressful moments threatened – saying to me, “He is with you. He goes before you, behind you and beside you” – the stress would ebb – and I would smile, slow down.
  2. Friends in this community praying – really praying – for my requests – The M.O.M. Initiative and other sweet friends – you exemplify how God wants women/moms/wives to support each other – through encouragement and prayer through the tough times. Simply Beautiful and Up-lifting.
  3. I’ve made about 100 cupcakes in the last month – but when I saw 2 Kentucky Silk Pies in the freezer at my Tennessee grocery store – it was like God saying, “Take it easy. Savor the moment.  These pies equal your cupcakes” – and I did – and everyone loved them – and it was like someone did it just for me!
  4. Sweet Tea with Lemonade
  5. Grandbaby girl and my sons on the sidelines at the soccer field on the march to state for my senior’s team. My youngest was just that age when her daddy, my oldest, was playing on that soccer field his Freshman year of high school. The sun setting on this soccer field, on a Spring evening in May, during a good game with family and these moms I’ve sat with for years – it was sweet blessing! (The boys won district, region – but lost graduation night in sectionals – the game that would have put them in state).
  6. My sweet MIL coming to visit for the week, folding laundry, cheering her grandson’s team on, sitting with us on the porch – and being in the kitchen with me – I love that time, that doing together – and she so blessed me.
  7. My mom coming to my son’s graduation, spending time with my son, managing my puppy in the chaos of celebration, sitting on the porch with me in the evenings – I loved that!
  8. My husband finishing up my Mother’s Day Present/Project – when the chalkboard spray just didn’t work, Friday night he rolled the canned paint, so I could do my chalkboard art for graduation
  9. Nanny cutting out, Mom sewing 4-squares to make 8 stars and stripes corn hole bags – and me filling them up with corn – Team Blue Cotton – all for graduation celebration on Saturday
  10. Sunshine on Saturday – on the way to graduation – I spotted a few blue spots in the rain clouds. I said to my husband, “I wish those blue clouds wold take over the sky for the rest of the day (We had an 80% chance of rain forecast) – those blue skies – they did take over -right at the end of graduation – just in time for graduation pictures until the end of the soccer game.
  11. My 4th sons collar-bone healing
  12. A friend reminding me that He inhabits my praise, that He evaporates the unquiet that way – that He fixes the things that tear at our hearts
  13. Coffee made in the morning when my MIL visits – I never manage to do it when it’s just me.
  14. Sweet tea mixed with lemonade
  15. smiles – from each boy at any moment
  16. Puppy Moments that just make you smile
  17. all those bushes we transplanted last year – that looked hopeless and were reminders of “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – are greening up and blooming riotously this year.
  18. My oldest son saying, “You gave a great graduation party, mom” – and I replied, “A graduation party is only as good as the family and friends you have.”
  • sadialvin

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Paddling together in the ocean, each in a 48-inch color-whirl inner-tube, not too far from shore but away from the busyness of children playing – we floated. My husband kept me anchored, ensuring I didn’t bob off into international waters. While everyone else played, we saw dolphins jumping high out of the water.

Looking down into the water, I was startled to see 3 pairs of eyes looking at me – eyes belonging to 3 grey-sand-colored looking fish trimmed in yellow. Other fish nipped at my heals dipped in the water. Minutes later, little bee-like stings caused me to yank those heals out of the water.

Oddly, nothing stung my human anchor. Except for the little stings, our late morning paddles in the ocean were a treasure.

The last morning, though, my husband had a business call to take, so I pulled myself out into the ocean, past the busyness of play, beyond the sandbar, past a fisherman, and another studying the waters net in hand. I looked down – and there was my little grey-looking fish friend, trimmed in yellow, seemingly escorting me. As I settled into my last holiday ocean bob, the stings started gain but were much more intense, circling ankle and all over my feet. This time, it didn’t stop.

There I was bobbing out in the ocean, feet pulled to the top of the inner tube – which was really challenging because that’s where much of the rest of me was.

I asked the man with the net, “What’s stinging me?”

“Jelly fish,” he answsered. “They’ve been here all week, but today they’re worse.” He walked over to show me one he’d just caught. “There’s one with a 4-foot diameter behind the gate,” he said.

There, in the little net, was a jelly-fish, resembling a clear round lunch-baggy filled with water .

I could have frumped out of the ocean, my reverie interrupted, bewailed the stinging and the unfairness of it all – I do love bobbing about in the ocean on an inner-tube. I could have whined that my knight in shining armor wasn’t there to protect me.

I didn’t, though those jelly fish changed my routine, changed the course of my day and sent me off doing other things.

I’m starting to understand that sometimes life’s little stings, like little mother pinches urging to “get a move on” are designed to move us from one place to another – not necessarily physically but spiritually.

I shouldn’t be surprised that when God does a new thing in our lives (Isaiah 43:18-21) – that these new things are often preceded by emotional or physical discomfort – think of childbirth.

Think of how different the life of the rich young man if he hadn’t walked away from the sting of exchanging worldly riches for eternal life.

Saul experienced a stinging prelude to change before he was transformed to Paul.

The crippled man was willing to accept the sting of a potential fall by attempting to stand in faith.

The woman with the issue of blood risked the sting of rejection to be healed.

The apostles risked the sting of their family’s judgement about their responsibilities in making the seismic decision to leave their nets(jobs) and follow Jesus.

Esther experienced the sting of change, moving from her community to the palace, not realizing the change would save her community.

Naomi and Ruth’s stinging loss of their spouses, propelled them on a journey that not only would find them both fulfilled but become part of the geneology that would fulfill God’s plan of salvation.

Mary risked the sting of stoning when she told the angel, “Yes.”

It is in the aftermath of the sting, that change manifests – and it is the behavior in that aftermath that affects not just the journey of that change but result of that change.

Think of how the sting of infertility brought Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah closer to the Father, though sometimes their choices complicated the journey to the sting’s intended result.

Think how different the sting of responsibility would have been for Samson had his choices in the journey been different. Yes, Samson fulfilled God’s plan for his life – though his choices affected the journey to fulfill that plan.

That day as I bobbed on the ocean in the midst of a school of jelly fish,  the Father was trying to tell me something – to tell me sometimes in order to create His changes, to shepherd us in His direction, to move us closer to His plan’s path, that sometimes I need to change. Those changes might be inside heart-changes or out-side changes.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

That day in the ocean, instead of fussing about physical fish-stings, I knew I needed to look for the message – and once I translated the message, I readied myself for upcoming change.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16))

There have been changes, both relatively immediate and on the horizon. I am praying for guidance on these journey changes – hoping that my choices do not negatively affect that journey.

Maybe one day, I will not need the sting to make the changes God wants in my life. However, right now, I would rather have them to shepherd me to God-change than to remain un-changed, un-shaped, un-transformed.

808) laundry folded
809) reading The Hobbit with my youngest son
810) who went off to read it by himself and returned totally amused and detailing the introduction of each dwarf and hood color – all this from a little boy who does not like chapter books.
811) when a day stretches and there is more than enough time for all things big and small
812) an answered prayer unfolding
813) the hope in that answered prayer of a future restored
814) peace, rising up in my home, an ahhhh, soaking-kind of peace
815) the energy to make my special hot chocolate and surprise the boys
816) smiles, one by one, son by son
817) squirrels scampering across the outside of my window
818) clear blue skies on a Saturday morning – touching flaming yellows, red and orange leaves to bring joy in a 3 hour ride
819) the marching band playing in the afternoons when I leave work
820) every day with my husband, his strength, faithfulness and sense of humor
821) holding grandbaby girl for 10 minutes
822) listening to my mom talk about how God protected her when she fell leaving church
823) leaves that swirled, dipped and danced, in a teasing wind on my ride home from work
824) tomatoe still from my garden on a grilled hamburger
825) zinnias still blooming
826) people that live kindness in so many different ways that touch my life each week – a smile walking down a hallway, a knitted gift, a hug at church, grandfather words for my sons from a dear friend at church

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harvesttableThe pewter tulip bell that used to hang beside my grandmother’s front door, it fell to the ground the other day beside my back door.

The flag bracket for the flags that herald the seasons and moods of home beside my garage door – it fell to the ground, too.

When the rains came yesterday, we put buckets on the floor to catch the evidence of a family room roof leak.

These growing up challenges my boys to men face, there are broken things there, too  – I’m supposed to be teaching them how to fix them – and sometimes, the lesson is a mess all around.

My kitchen table, instead of looking how I know it can look, is mini-piles of many messes. It’s more than a dinner table. It’s a work table, a business desk, an art table, a celebration table, a lecture table, a prayer table – and I just can’t seem to make it what I want – a neat, tidy, polished harvest table with 3 white pottery cups filled with zinnias.

There is so much evidence of the outside-of-myself brokenness.

For a moment tonight, a long moment, beyond a pause, a lie tried to slip into my mind – and, if it were to slip into my mind, it would try to drip into my heart where it would try to crowd out all hope.

The lie? Oh, it’s an old lie – like ants in the summer sneaking from the outside in, the lie tries to sneak in when I least feel equipped to handle it.

Standing in the kitchen among the near-last clippings of zinnias in mason jars, pottery cups and vases, and a green tin bucket of tomatoes that needed to be cooked, the lie, it crept in, uninvited, unwanted.

I wrapped myself in a quilt and crept out to the porch. In the darkness, I wished for a real-live, on-earth dad who would have made me feel awesome about myself, who would have fought for me, hugged those old lies away.

The Father, though, He didn’t leave me out there alone. He came and sat beside me, reminding me, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me” (Isaiah 45:4)

Though you do not know me, like I know you, He says.

I don’t know how to fix the bell or the flag bracket. I can’t fix the roof or patch the ceiling. That kitchen table with its mess – what do you do with the mess?  I can’t even fix my children’s growing up challenges. All the things I really, really want to do – I seem to be coming up empty of what it takes.

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9)

I sat there, blinking at the star, listening to the neighbor’s dog and the katydids, wrapping the quilt tighter in the crisp coolness.

“I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isaiah 45:5), He reminds me.

“Listen to me – Listen Close, ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isaiah 45:5)” – His word pursues me, reaching out to pull me close.

You are equipped, He tells me – nothing you are going through is a surprise to me. Nothing your children are going through is a surprise to me. I made them. I made you – and I equipped each of you for each journey, each challenge.

You are not fatherless, success-less, you are worthy of first-class dreams that I put inside you – that is why those dreams are there – because I put those dreams inside you before you were born.

I knew the challenges the boys would face. I made sure you were equipped to handle them – I knew about them before you were born. I knew you wouldn’t give up on them – I put that inside you to – that not-give-up-ness.

You just don’t always know my plan for your life. You have to trust me. I don’t reject you. I chose you. I named you. One day, you will hear me say the name I gave you – and you will love it! I gave you the best equipage available in the universe to handle the precious responsibility I gave you – you lack nothing; you have the best of everything.

Don’t believe the deceiver’s lies. Know me more. Trust me better.

And, the Father, he sat beside me, watched the star in the sky with me as I let that hope drip into my heart.

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leadme“I was gonna blog but when I looked at all the blogs, everyone is either an English teacher or has a Masters in English,” a friend said over lunch.

My friend is an artisan, knitting, quilting, creating beautiful things with a grace I don’t have. There are so many gifts that I don’t have, that I cannot master. Her gifts are not my gifts – sometimes I feel like a failure because I cannot sing, quilt, play an instrument, have an everything-in-its-place home.

I pointed out all the cooking, crafting and home decorating blogs – where their passion is not about words but talents, giftings – if she blogged her gifts, it would be filled with awesome things.

Things, gifts that I don’t have.

I don’t have. I don’t have. I don’t have.

If I focus on the don’t haves, I can’t see the have.

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, found me sitting in a pew, watching beautiful gifts praising our Lord: voices singing, instruments playing, feet dancing – and, a man signing “Behold the King” – I don’t know sign language – but I could see the words, see this man singing with his hands, praising, worshipping in a language with no voice that spoke more eloquently than a great orator.

weddingchairscFor years, I have sat in awe, listening to our worship singers, from our college ministry to our adult ministry – and have been awed by their uninhibited use of voice and sound, beating myself up because I don’t have what they have. I so wanted to worship my Lord that beautifully, with immersion and abandon – but I have not the voice.

Watching our college and youth dance team – young men and women, worshipping our Lord with bones, muscles and liberation, no inhibition – grace and passion for our Lord unleashed in worship – it just WOWS me, their gift, their passion for our Lord.- but I have not the graceful feet and hands.

Musicians – guitars, drums, horns, pianos, percussion, strings – that skill honed to worship our Lord, developed and used in tribute, in worship – but I have not the skill.

They bring to God gifts of worship. They give something of themselves weekly, daily to Him in a way that I cannot.

Too much of my life has been the focus of what I don’t have, what I cannot do, not because of time or money, but because I do not have that gifting.

I used to feel inadequate, defective . . . until God uncovered my gift, dug it out from the overgrown garden of life in which it lost itself, and transplanted it in Him, where it needed to be to grow – and I learned how my gift dances, sings and plays – just in a different way.

We each have a gift.
That dances graceful
Uninhibited, with abandon
Boasting of our Lord

With our gifts,
Our hearts sing ballads of God’s mercy, hope and love
Uninhibited, with abandon

With our gifts,
We master our individual instrument of praise,
Uninhibited, with abandon.

With words,
I dance worship

With words,
I sing the ballad He gave me

With words,
I play an instrument of praise

Maybe you
teach, heal, comfort, assist, serve
in schools, restaurants, hospitals, day-cares, nurseries, Wal-Mart, offices
dancing worship,
singing the ballad He gave you
playing an instrument of praise
uninhibited, with abandon
full of God’s mighty grace

We each have a gift
Are you dancing yours?

Sometimes, my voice is not beautiful. Sometimes my words stumble and miss a step. Sometimes I race ahead of the great Conductor.

So many different God-gifts – yet, in each exists a potential kinship in the passion, the concentration, the letting go of self-consciousness to God-consciousness, of receiving that gift and giving it all back to Him.

“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Cor 12:4-7, The Message)

What gift do you dance, sing and play gracefully, beautifully, worshipfully?

302) God providing friends for my sons so that when one falls, there is another there to help him up.
303) Friendships that help roots grow into home and community.
304) Watching a son negotiate hurts in friendship with faith and honor.
305) A coachable son on and off the field.
306) An orange carrot, yellow mango juice smoothie, homemade
307) Orange Dulce Tea in the morning as my computer boots up.
308) A flank steak, baked potato, spinach salad for an easy dinner, easy smiles.
309) Finding special gifts at just-right prices
310) A Friday night dinner date with take-out at home.
311) A birthday lunch with lots of laughing tears!
312) Whipping up Chocolate celebration cupcakes with a chocolate ganache topping for a friend’s birthday.
313) Spending time with unconditional-love kind of people
314) 7:45 a.m. phone calls to my mom
315) My guy helping me get my yard just the way I want it, even though my dream for this is not his dream.
316) After 2 summers away, thinning out our garden overgrowth and coming away with multiplied blessings: “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” (Song of Solomon 2:12):
317) 2 butterfly bushes
318) 6 groupings of lilies: “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5) – I want my sons to grow like that!
319) a knockout rose bush
320) an extra yellow flowering bush whose name I cannot remember
321) a place to finally plant purple, pink, yellow, red zinnias
322) Cardinals showing up in un-expected places as though God saying, “I have not forgotten you – I sent these birds to remind you.”
323) Finding joy in other’s gifts during our church’s Easter Celebration.
324) Watching my littlest guy stuff Easter Eggs with chocolate covered marshmallows and chocolate eggs. Seeing his love of responsibility and approach to problem solving when some eggs didn’t fit.
325) Baby girl giggling and laughing baby laughs and giggles when I talk to her.
326) Bed-time routines that include prayer, laughter, hugs and questions.
327) Right now, I feel peace, contentment, a lull in the challenge machine. I realize it is not permanent, but a sweet refreshing in the now, a sweet gift from the Father and His Son!
328) Living Resurrection – letting the story of my savior falling 3 times, wearing a crown of thorns, nails hammered into hands and feet, giving His soul up to the Father – and rising on the 3rd day, making himself available to those who sought him out, to comfort them, give them hope. Letting that story seep down into my soul again and again, still not able to grasp all of it. God’s love humbles me when I really try to wrap my mind around it,and since I cannot successfully wrap my mind around it, He graciously wraps His love around me!

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I don’t really have a story right now. After I drop the boys off at school, I go to a job that I asked God for. I have a window view onto trees, shrubs and sunshine. No teaching, just processing information and tucking it away in a computer. Being a part of a team, too – I like that. My job is a blessing, the answer to a prayer. Sometimes, answered prayers come at a cost, a sacrifice.

Blackberry tea in an “I love you Forever Cup”, Pecans in one candy jar and mini-Cadbury eggs in other.  Got pictures of my boys, their art – and Maddie MacMath’s of Sweet Tea and Me, God Art Calendar and Scripture on my computer. I’m making a mini-nest.

Mothering is a little different. Homemaking is reorganizing itself. The time for writing – well, it’s like my energy and hours need stretchy pants at the end of a day because there’s just not enough room – or, maybe I am learning how much time waste existed in my day.

It is an intentional sacrificing, this job, a dying of the old ways to make room for the new ways.

I told God today I missed being able to write all morning. I missed the way stories and thoughts of Him would settle like clouds fallen on a mountain top for me to catch and pull substance from.

I miss the emptiness He would fill with ideas and thoughts.

Border-line to a self-pity decline born out of confusion, he whispered to me, this sacrifice, this giving up of the old ways – it’s part of His plan for my life. To trust Him.

“I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps”(Jeremiah 10:23).

He told me today, not to worry about the stories – they will come. That for now I am to sacrifice, to die to self.

It is through this sacrifice, this dying to self where rebirth and new growth happen.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)

I still look for Him, everywhere.  Everyday, I bring my Father with me to work – sometimes He’s there right beside me. Sometimes He’s right outside my window. In the corridor. On a sidewalk. Yesterday, I prayed for someone at work, took her hands and prayed strength and faith over her challenge. Maybe that’s why I am there – because He needs to be there.

This dying to self is really the only way to live – it just requires some adjustment. I’m glad He knows that.


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feetwaterc16_edited-1“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty [the Aramaic text says “Almighty God”], who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb” (Genesis 49:25) Joseph’s Blessing

Spring Break in winter doesn’t make sense – but here it is Spring Break, and we are taking another trip back to the Great Smokey Mountains.The boys have been anxious that I would submit them to another 4 hour trip to Cades Cove. They’re dreaming of slick tracks, car racing, spin outs and game places – and living in the cabin’s hot tub, if at all possible.

It was one of those mornings where I woke up ready for the day, instead of feeling like I was already behind. I read a bit of Ann’s 1,000 Gifts and A Beautiful Mess. Which inspired me – to not only include a hiking trip to a waterfall, but a  Blessing Lesson.

A Beautiful Mess said,”There is no relationship between pleasure seeking and happiness.”
From there, I shared Ann’s message from Luke 17 – where Jesus healed 10 lepers and only one came back to praise Him and thank Him. Jesus said, “Your faith has made you whole.”

Ann explained, “Our very saving is associated with our gratitude. . . . And the Leper’s faith was a faith that said, “thank you.”

God healed all 10 – but only one was made whole – inside and out. If their illness had created broken attitudes, broken tempers, resentment, hopelessness, knowing how to immerse themselves back into society, to stop living the outcast and live belonging – all healed – only one made whole because he lived thankfulness.

We talked about recognizing the blessings – not just the big ones. My boys know the big blessings of God in their lives – stories of healing, protecting and holding. Recognizing the little blessings of God in our lives, they are just as important.

So we went to our hike, to our waterfall – where part of me wanted an oxygen tank, maybe a helicopter to just carry me to that mountain top, a leg-wearing journey where I felt my physical weakness – and it was so worth it – hopefully, all of us gathered blessings.

The blessings I found were Love Letters from Shaddai, God of the Mountains.

Love Letters were written on the landscapes.

The high mountain trails warned me today’s journey might be hard and wear on me physically – but that it would be worth it. I asked for it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to take the boys. Do you have dreams? Things you want to do? Today, symbolized the journey of those dreams, those things I want to do. His love letter told me to keep going; it would be worth it.

He left me a letter in a big tree, its root-ball pulled from the ground. He wanted me to know that if I have strong roots in Him, I will not be overturned.

Tree Seeds, all over the path, held another love letter from Shaddai. Each seed was a message that He created me to grow strong, bloom and pass those seeds on to others. I am awed by the amount of seeds. Do our lives produce seed like that – everywhere, for anyone who comes across our path – an abundance, a more than enough – like this tree – does He expect that of us? Are there that many opportunities for us?

Another tree fallen down left me sad. He had a letter for me there, too. Shaddai told me nothing is wasted. Not even brokenness. Not even death. Someone had carved steps out of the tree, making a foot-wide step-bridge to help others reach the waterfall.

Shaddai, He said He placed stepping stones along the path, some challenged, some awkwardly placed, some easy to step on – but all His stepping stones provide a path to a Holy Spirit immersion.

So many roots, all reaching for the water. The roots, they work diligently toward that source – become stronger because of it. Shaddai, He wants me to be like that – to work my way, rooted in Him, filled with His Holy Spirit Source. He knows I cannot sustain myself, I need His Holy Spirit source like a tree needs water.

All day, we worked toward the waterfall.

All day long, I kept seeing water, symbolizing the  Holy Spirit. Everywhere I found  love letters on post-it notes from Shaddai: in the water trickling over footpaths, in playful streams, in dangerous, swift currents – and in the mighty waterfall.

“Was it worth it,” I asked one couple, as I desperately wanted a water bottle and an oxygen tank.

“Yes,” said the young husband.
“No,” said the young mother. “I expected it to be bigger.”

We passed another couple, an elderly couple – which brought us up short. How did they manage to get here? I was ready for a helicopter ride out.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

“Yes, it was worth it. It always is,” He answered, his wife, holding 2 light walking staffs, nodded in agreement.

Our boys had reach the falls about 30 minutes before we did.

“You need help, mom” one asked as he watched me maneuver the slippery path, the uneven rocks and roots. He must have been pretty worried about me.

You know how people say that when a new mother holds her newborn child in her arms, that the labor of minutes before – “All is forgotten” in the holding of the child?

In reaching the waterfall, all was forgotten – the soreness, the need for oxygen and water.

My boys seemed a bit surprised to see their mom manage her way out to the big rock.  In return, I am always surprised about how little they know about me, how one-dimensional their view of me isl. I have no idea what theythought when I took off my shoes and socks to immerse my feet in the soul-piercing cold water.

I looked at the waterfall, at the pool below the fall, and the clear, bubbling water so clear you could see to the bottom – and I thought, I don’t want a Holy Spirit Trickle across the footpath of my journey. I want to immerse myself in a Holy Spirit Waterfall. I want to be that brave and courageous to live Holy Spirit like that!

 

Today, I climbed the mountains and found love letters from Shaddai.

Gifts 245- 257

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