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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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