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

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

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

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

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

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

December 20th, Christmas  time

. . . a mistake just realized. . . .

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

There’d been a mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

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

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

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

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

and All is Well. . . Even Though Devotional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who did not stand between you and danger,

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

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

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

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

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

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

Who never said, “I love you,”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 26, 2018: The snow trees came at winter’s beginning – and I’ve been waiting for the snow trees to come again, but they haven’t. The snow holidays have been too few, though there was a flu holiday, which is not the same at all. The crocuses and daffodils have made an appearance, the Bradford Pear buds are on the edge of blossoming. Easter egg green grass, robin’s egg blue skies, the barometer herald Spring coming, but there are still 23 more days of winter. There are 23 more days of nature’s mischievous, impish, sly ways. In Five Windows by D. E Stevenson, the shepherd and the minister’s son talk about whether March borrows days from April, or whether April borrows days from March: “We get April days in March, and then they’ve got to be paid back; so we get March days in April.” I may get my snow holiday yet, but back porch living is starting to look much more appealing than fireside living, but whatever kind of living, it seemed time to pull  out, “When Winter is Late” – in a kind of tattle tale way to warn all my Spring-happy friends to beware of winter jumping out at them when they least expect it – but like all tattle tales – nobody wants to really heed what’s being said, but I just wanted to say it anyway because sometimes I just cannot help being a little mischievous, too!

January 19, 2015: Winter is playing it’s games right now. The sun shines like Springtime. There’s no frost on the windshield in the mornings – and I find myself thinking of tomato and chard seeds . . . . but I’m waiting. The more it feels like Spring, closer comes the snow . . . . and I love snow flakes and snow days . . . . and so I wait with expectation of God’s grace in coming changes, like weather patterns, seasons and how time fills the daily.

January 30, 2013: I felt like I needed to say this again – for many reasons, inside and outside reasons.

January 3, 2013: The boys, they have been moaning – moaning over weather channels calling for snow and snow not coming. Tonight, the boys kept looking at the weather radar – hoping. Too big to put ice cubes down the toilet – they just plain, old-fashioned hoped, with a dose of moaning for garnish!

At 11 p.m., when my husband and I were locking up, turning lights down, he called me to look out the door: The Snow Trees had come. I danced. I twirled. I trotted upstairs, to shake each boy gently awake, point out their windows, announcing the arrival of The Snow Trees – and wrapped in their sleepiness, they had now joyful greeting for the snow trees.

Feb 1, 2013 – They didn’t even remember me announcing: The Snow Trees have Come! – but they were so happy they had come!
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Winter 2012

Winter is late.
The snow hasn’t come yet.
I am
waiting.

The Daffodils and lilies arrive
too early
not suspecting
Mother Nature trickery
in mercury messaged
invitation
and stems climb out
of  warm brown covers
turning their hope
to an unreliable sun
so vulnerable, so unprepared
for Winter coming late

Even Dogwood Blossoms
are deceived
with sun signs and
mercury tricks

Wouldn’t at least
the dogwood
know
with the story of our Savior
imprinted on the fibers
of its design,
that signs and seasons
are unreliable
time clocks
for announcing
jobs and tasks,
like blooming and snow fall,
seed time and salvation

Unlike winter
God is never
late

Unlike rising mercury in January
God does not deceive or lead
falsely

God is never
surprised
about disappointments and troubles
we find ourselves
in
He is never
late
to redeem us from
our rushings into places
not ready for us

or maybe
places and tasks
we are not
yet
ready for

Only we
are surprised,
disappointed,
our budding faith
nipped
by trusting sun signs
and mercury
instead of God Words
God Whisperings

God always plans
Time to grow
into
His plans
for our lives
seed time
and harvesting.

“He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 7-8)

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

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

Photo of Chateau Chambord, taken June 2017

 

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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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(The little foxes don’t stop tearing at us, do they! I wrote this in 2012 – and they haven’t stopped trying to ruin. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes the difference, why the vine of whom I am doesn’t break, doesn’t ruin. Challenges don’t go away, but faith, God and the Holy Spirit – they make the difference in how I live through those challenges. I wanted to remind myself today about letting the Holy Spirit wash over me and through me, cleaning me out and filling me up with things of Him.)

The little foxes had torn at the vines of my heart, nipping, trying to ruin the vines, to break the roots. Those little foxes, I am familiar with them. I recognize them for what they are, and though I know them, am prepared to deter them, they weary me. Yesterday evening found me battle fatigued, bruised, smudged by the dirty tactics, needing a Holy Spirit Rain to wash out these little foxes.

As I stepped outside into the Tennessee heat, the hotness touched me tangibly as though I had slipped on a fine kid merino shrug. My husband joined me to watch the sunset with its pinks, oranges hedged with billowing whiteness. Dark clouds encroached. Sunsets delight us both, drawing us close, this shared sensibility that restores much.

Lightening grew, grumbling bouncing in the North, sliding south. My jaded faith doubted it would dip our way. Usually, our rain was a southerly rain. We walked outside, talking about our crowded hydrangea, dwarfed rose bush, untangling the morning glory from the overgrown butterfly bush. Our garden had changed – and we needed to tackle those changes.

We stopped briefly, looking at the growth behind a burning bush. Surprised, my husband said, “Grape Vine.” His Dad grew grape vines – it was as though he somehow crept into our garden and planted it. But he couldn’t have, though. Another change, a sorrow change for us, during our journey, the loss of my father-in-law. Yet, there was a sweet reminder, wrapped around our bird feeder.

As the lightening bullied its way closer, we retreated inside – and inside, lightning cracked, silencing the katydids and tree frogs.  Lightening is bold where we live.

As bedtime arrived, so did the buckets of rain. “Come and smell it,” I called to the boys, the 2 little guys. The littlest showed up, giving me his 10-year-old incredulous-look followed by the “My-mom-is-nuts” look, but he stood with me sniffing the sweet scent of rain washing the dusty worn air of hotness. He decided to sleep on the floor of his room. “It would be safer,” he reasoned with 10-year-old logic.

I joined my husband on the porch, my pausing place, my favorite place to sit, to knit, to read, to grade essays when I taught, to listen, to watch, to be. . .  and the rain poured, in sheets, wave after wave of sheets.

I thought of an afternoon rain 23 years ago, during a heavy summer drought that stymied my cucumbers for my bread and butter pickles. That afternoon, it rained a downpour – and my first born, freshly 2, danced with me outside, in the rain, faces pressed upward, mouths wide open.

Today, in the darkness, my driveway shimmered like a pond, the water shifting in the breeze, in the pummeling sheets. And the lightening – it wasn’t just jagged bolts. It was like watching God draw in the sky with a thin pen over and over and over.

I thought of the Holy Spirit, the unsung member of the Trinity – and I wanted it to wash through my soul, like rainwater washed the dust, the heat from the air.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23)

I wanted to be filled, filled like Peter with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, filled so much he never faltered again in his mission.

Sitting in my rocking chair, pushed toward the edge of porch, the rain misted over my legs and arms, cooling, chilling – and I laughed – relishing the moment, the blessing, the washing away.

The rain moved south, and I sighed, wanting more. Like an encore, the clouds backed up, pouring a double portion over our patch of living.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me like that, to fill me with crucifixion courage, overflowing with mountain-moving faith, drawing me closer to the Father, to hear His words to me, His comfort, His power to vanquish the little foxes.

“You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly”
(9a).

I am not alone, Father. You care for me, your creation, sending me living water, The Holy Spirit, to grow me more than I think I am, that I am not what the little foxes taunt; I am precious to you, valuable to you, like land that overflows abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(9b).

You provide nourishment for my spirit, The Word and The Holy Spirit, enabling me to fight off spirit colds, weaknesses and tormenting situations that wear me out like the dusty, hotness of a relentless summer day. Empower my will to seek Your Holy Spirit Provision; let it not be the little foxes nipping and tearing at me that send me running to you. I want to be stronger than that, more faithful than that.

“You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops” (Psalm 65: 9-10).

Holy Spirit, rain on me, filling the hidden places, the high and lows of my soul, softening the soil of my spirit, allowing the gifts my Father planted before I was born to grow, producing abundant fruit, and sharing the seed of that fruit with others – and if that fruit is not taken as given, let it not become a wily fox to my vine.

Let the rain come. Let it come softly or in a downpour – and let me be like an eager child who runs outside, mouth wide open, to receive the living water, a Holy Spirit Rain.

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” (St. Augustine).

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4thjc_edited-1As you prepare for Independence Day, think about the story-telling that needs to be told around the celebration table, the stories of God in our history, God in our country’s founding – and the courageous men and women who crossed over to places like Plymouth Plantation (come by for that history and who grew children who fought for a freedom the world had not seen before, a freedom born out of faith (if you doubt that, read Chapter 2 of Common Sense). The 4th of July is not only about setting off fireworks to celebrate freedom, but about telling the freedom stories.

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you”(Deuteronomy 32:7 NIV).

If you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.” In this quote, Billy Graham simply states a truth we all know: stories help us comprehend and internalize life lessons in ways that can change our hearts.  Jesus knew he could reach people through stories.  He used parables to teach his followers complex spiritual dynamics through simple illustrations.  Stories play a vital role in many aspects of our culture: Aesop’s fables teach moral lessons; Fairy Tales exalt the virtues of good over evil; legends celebrate nobleness, self-sacrifice, and good deeds, but history tells the story of our past and our future.

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Matthew 13:34 NIV)

The Story of a Nation

“For I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” (Psalm 78: 2-5, NLT)

The stories of our country’s foundation teach us about the courageous men and women who were moved by God to create a country where religious freedom could reign in the hearts of its citizens.  By following the Psalmist’s instructions, we can pass on our history to future generations and encourage them to secure our freedom. When someone asked Benjamin Franklin if we had a republic or a monarchy, he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” When we tell the stories of our nation and its spiritual heritage, we can, indeed, keep the republic our ancestor’s designed.

 independenceday2Main Characters

“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the LORD brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery” (Exodus 13:14).

Dynamic main characters build good stories.  The main characters in the story of our country were men who took risks, envisioned the impossible, and in the face of fear, accomplished their mission. In 1828, the definition of education included the belief that, “a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties” (http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education). However, in 1828, parents never imagined freedom’s faith foundation would suffer omission or re-construction in its children’s history books. As story keepers of our history, we need to re-acquaint ourselves with the men who preached freedom from churches, the men who formed our Constitution, and the men who fought on the battlefield for the freedom endowed by our Creator.

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Thomas Jefferson

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”Benjamin Franklin, On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766

The Setting

A story’s setting gives the readers both time and place. The setting provides the readers with essential information which allows them to better understand the characters and their motivations. In essence, the Declaration of Independence is the setting for our country’s story.  If we read it one point at a time, not just as a communication to the King of England, but as a complaint written to the three branches of our government, this historical document becomes an empowering document. If we know the legal documentation of our history and freedom, then we can pass on the knowledge to our children, and they can keep the flame of freedom burning brightly. Let’s read the Declaration and re-discover the timelessness of it.

Supporting Characters

independenceday2All good stories contain supporting characters. They help the reader to have a more vivid understanding of the main characters. The beliefs of our Founding Fathers and our historical documents are important, but they have more meaning when we understand where they came from. We can trace back the family tree of ideas in the letters, correspondence, and public record of the debates, sermons, speeches and conversations that led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the constitution and inspired the march to freedom. We can read each one separately or read them as a whole, but most importantly, we want to share the stories and talk about what they mean.

 “God well knew what a world of degenerate, ambitious and revengeful creatures this is – as He knew that innocence could not be protected, property and liberty secured, nor the lives of mankind preserved from the lawless hands of ambition, avarice and tyranny without the use of the sword – as He knew this would be the only method to preserve mankind from universal slavery” (Rev. Samuel Davies, 1755).

“Let us then. . .remember with reverential gratitude to our Supreme Benefactor all the wonderful things He has done for us in our miraculous deliverance from a second Egypt—another ‘house of bondage’ and thou shalt show thy son on this day. (Elias Boudinot, July 4th, 1793, member of the Continental Congress)

Story telling is an educational tool as powerful as the sword. Jesus used parables to pierce his followers’ hearts and minds. God instructs us to tell our children the stories of him and his ways. Therefore, when we tell our children about God’s role in our nation’s foundation, we know we are building the future. Only by teaching our children to be our nation’s story keepers can we ensure our freedom and our faith will flourish.

“Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation” (Joel 1:3, NLT)

 Boudinot, Elias. “Oration.” Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.

David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.

Davis, Samuel. “Oration”. Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.

David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.

Ellis Sandoz, editor. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol 1 (1730-1788) and

     Vol. 2 (1789-1805). The On-line Library of Liberty. 2011 (free-on-line historical sermons that shaped our constitution))

     http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1878

A Treasury of Primary Documents.

http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/primarysources.html (contains sermons that helped shape our Constitution)

Two Treatises of Government. John Locke. The Law’s of Nature and Nature’s God. 2003. 5 June

      2011.  http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/ (this allows you to read Locke’s work free on-line; however, it is readily available at any bookstore or possibly even library.

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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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swing32016c_edited-1One morning, when the sun spilled through the front window’s of my grandmother’s house – something happened between the drinking of hot cocoa at her kitchen table and my sockless feet pushing off the porch floor propelling me high and low on my grandmother’s swing.

My “Can-I-stay-here-forever” wish which every child asks when it’s time to leave their grandparent’s house – and which should always be answered with a gentle, hug-filled, “No” – garnered a yes. My mother said, “Yes” over the phone, in the morning light slipping boldly across the upstairs hallway as Grandmother and I made beds. Yes, because of a broken marriage.

Radical divorce – 1967 radical. Radical divorce giving a yes to askings that should always receive no.

Radical divorce planted a seed dream in my heart – a dream to grow up and have a “normal” family – to become what I perceived was an everyman life – 2 parents loving each other, raising children in security, love and faith who grow with support to reach their dreams, butterfly-kiss families.

Radical meaning “favoring or tending to produce extreme or fundamental changes in political, economic, or social conditions, institutions, habits of mind; someone who demands substantial or extreme changes in the existing system.”

Divorce radicalized family, an extreme fundamental cultural exchange that left me uncomfortable.

As I grew, this everyman dream (born age 5) competed with my writing dream (born age 6).

God was in this everyman dream of mine – conventional, traditional – rooted all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, to Adam and Eve.

Faith inside the Garden of Eden was Normal. Faith outside the Garden of Eden is Radical.

peonybud_edited-1The Soul is always trying to get back to the Father; Only in Him does the soul find rest, recognize the normal state God created him/her for. The soul wants to be found, wants to be at home, wants to be accepted at His family table. The soul yearns for God-normal and God-ordinary.

Yet, we live faith outside Eden. Faith outside Eden is radical.

As I grew in living and grew in faith, I met other children of the Father . One young man had scripture tattooed over his arms, legs, back, chest.  He wanted to capture the attention of the outsider, he said. Radical reaching.

My maid-of-honor’s sister’s family were missionaries in Africa, entering war-torn regions, losing a son to asthma in a place where medical help wasn’t readily available. He’d grown up in Africa, wanted to go back and minister, a washing-feet kind of ministry. Radical reaching.
This everyman dream to love and be loved in marriage until we’re each 100.
This everyman dream to raise children with parenting arms that don’t pull apart.
This everyman dream to raise to wholeness, not brokenness.
This everyman dream to raise sons with a rhema/alive knowledge of the Father’s healing, mercy, strength and love.

I have been struggling with my everyman dream lately – that trying to live God-ordinary is not enough.

Suddenly, faith had become radical, and I was asking God for an ordinary dream.

Had my non-radical dreams been like a balloon weight keeping me from soaring high? Had I dreamed too small, too low? Limited God’s purpose for my life?

And that, my friend, was a deception of a radical snake that entered a normal garden that was Eden at one time. The devil was playing semantic games with my faith.

One noon-time, my oldest son walked up the porch steps, prowled around the kitchen for lunch while I sat in the rocking chair grading college essays. He had popped over from the university.

“Do you know,” he said. “We’re a peculiar family. Not all families are like us.”

“Ummm – yeah – we’re called to be a peculiar people,” I countered, deliberately mis-translating his intent. Apparently, he had just discovered not all families were like ours. I don’t know whether he found out other parents didn’t give their kids Payne’s Common Sense and stockings full of C.S. Lewis before Narnia was made into blockbuster movies. I don’t know if he found out other families didn’t talk about the Senate, the House, the Legislative Branch and decisions affecting our families. Maybe not all families believe in laying on of hands for healing. The conversation never went down that road.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)

Maybe we are a peculiar family. If peculiarity meant different, not the status quo defined in the media – well, maybe my everyman dream was more radical then I realized.

If being radical is a son praying for a friend in the school bathroom

If being radical is reaching out hands to hold while praying God’s peace in a hard challenge for a friend or a stranger

If being radical is a son hanging out with atheists to show them the heart of a child of God

If being radical is praying for broken boys when they have no one else that does

If being radical is standing in faith and overcoming instead of hope and joy being destroyed

If being radical shows sons stopping a bully and ministering to the bullied

If being radical is praying for a friend in Wal-Mart’s parking lot

If being radical is raising sons who pray that God show them the bride He intends for them

If being radical is praying for a baby to turn and believing God does

. . . .Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

“How can you stand to come here everyday,” a fellow worker moaned.

“It’s a good job. There are worse jobs. Maybe I don’t use all my gifts, all myself but it’s a good job,” I answered. “I believe in blooming where I’m planted.”

“I don’t want to bloom here,” she laughed.

Yet, even in the hard ground, even the ground we see as uncomfortable, we are to reach for Him, find His blessings and in the reaching and finding, we bloom where we are planted.

 Radical: “Implanted by nature; In botany, proceeding immediately from the root; pertaining to the root or origin; original, fundamental; as a radical truth” (Noah Webster, 1828 dictionary).

Blooming where I am planted is radical living, radical faith when the root is the Father – and that root is where normal lives.

Maybe there is something radical about the ordinary everyman dream – something beautifully radical growing and blooming. Something that shouldn’t be diminished or discounted. Something that maybe doesn’t soar but blooms riotously.

Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus tells them,

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

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

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

Meet me in Galilee
he said – and tell our friends

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

Meet me in Galilee
there is so much more

Meet me in Galilee
it’s just the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Messages designed before
Adam and Even
these messages a loving God wrote
for you and me
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“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28)

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

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

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

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

 

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God loves us in all our messiness – and in the messiness of our children – regardless of size, state of heart and quality of choices. Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means,’I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 13). Mothering is sometimes mercy’s school, is it not? Breaking our hearts, lancing out the poison of judgementalism – and refilling it with love, hope and faith for not just the easy to love, but the hard to love, readying our hands to reach out and greet in friendship those we beforehand would have been content to keep on the outside of our faith walk.

In saying all that, I thought that maybe someone needs this story today, just like I needed it in 2009.

The Mother of the Prodigal

Masks are for hiding, deceiving, concealing, and protecting. They hide shame, hurt and wrongs – the wrongs we have done and the wrongs done to us.

We never hear her voice or her story; but if we could, I bet the mother in the story of the prodigal son could tell us a lot about masks – and about throwing them down (Luke 15:11-32).

Married to a man, a Godly man, a respected man, a man who provided abundantly, there was no need for a mask. Imagine the marriage blessings.  A man searching to be close to God found himself a wife desiring to please the Father.  Then God blessed them with their first child – a son.  Such blessing!

The ability to bear sons established her position in the community. She was then blessed with a second son – double the blessing – double the rejoicing.  Her confidence grew. She stood firmly on the promises of God that were sung before her sons were born. Each son was designed for heaven, equipped for the challenges they each would face (Psalm 139:13-16).

I bet she cried when the second son was born – cried tears of joy.  Her first son, always pleasing the father, a parenting-made-easy child, was probably very practical, lacking compassion maybe, but so easy to shepherd into manhood. He probably always won at Alquerque or Chatrang (checkers or chess) because he understood cause and effect.

Within her women’s prayer group, the mother was respected for raising such a noble son.  He probably brought great joy to her heart – and laughter unfettered by frustration. Maybe sometimes she judged other mother’s whose sons were not so obedient, who did not always do their father’s bidding or speak respectfully to their mothers. Maybe they were lax.

Fearless defined the second son. He was poor competition at Alquerque or Chatrang because he was not programmed for cause and effect methodology – he thought in the “Now.”  Passionate about his pursuits and compassionate towards others, he probably shared his allowance with his peers who “needed” or the blind man sitting at the well.  He was filled with talent – a risk-taker.  However, his passion lacked cause and effect self-control. His mother started feeling uncomfortable.

His father encouraged him to save his money, but he just felt criticized, beaten down.  His happy-go-lucky face turned sullen. He sassed his mother. She picked up the mask, uncomfortable with it, but peer fear of judgment was even more uncomfortable.

The first born, working hard to make the right choices, resented his brother’s behavior, and that resentment turned to anger.  The joy within the household that thrived just a few short years earlier evaporated.  Tension hung like high humidity.

Rules were not for this second son, or so he thought. Studying was a waste of time. Seeking God – yeah, sure he believed, but he treated God like he treated his father and mother. The older he got, sullenness grew into contempt – he felt restricted and confined. He was blinded to blessings, to love, to wisdom.

Do not blame his parents, citing carelessness or lack of discipline. His father punished him all sorts of ways to get through to him.  He talked to him gently, calmly, reasoning with him about the choices available to him.  Sometimes it is hard to make the smartest “man” in the room admit someone else knows better.

Long ago, his mother dropped to her knees, praying and seeking God’s guidance and God’s mercy. She longed for laborers to be sent across her son’s path to draw him back – to restore the blessing in her son’s life and in his actions. Sometimes she prayed to God, begging Him to show her how to love her second born. God would warm her heart, restore her strength, and give her hope.

These struggles were kept behind the family doors, until one day it spilled outside those doors – cracking the façade – the mask behind which hope struggled.

The women’s prayer group heard him back-talk his mother one day in that sullen tone.  She pasted a smile on her face, turning back to the group of women. The mask cracked.  How would these women react if they knew her struggles, her perceived failures?  A mother’s motto is always, “I can fix it.” However, she was realizing that she could not fix it – only God could fix it.

It was lonely behind that mask. Self-judgment and fear were her constant companions. She feared that if the mask crumbled even the modicum of community support with the women might fall away too. How she needed the support of women and mothers to lift her up when she fell down. But they did not know she was falling down, that she needed help.  The mask blinds the community and the individual.

Then one day, still a teenager, her son boldly told his father he wanted to leave: “Give me my inheritance.”  He was tired of the rules, tired of the expectations his family put on him, tired of controlling himself. He was a man after all – according to Jewish tradition. He was responsible for his soul; and if he was responsible for his soul, then surely he could be responsible for his inheritance. But he was neglecting his soul.

His father gave it to him, and the world welcomed him. His laughter had once brought such joy and his passion for life had brought such amazement to his family. But later everything turned into concern, and he left.  “I’m never coming back,” he said. “I don’t care what you say.”

Broken-hearted, his parents watched him leave.  The entire town knew about it.  The mask crumbled.

If you were part of this mother’s community, what would you have done?  What did she need? Throughout all the years she struggled, she needed women who would lift her up in prayer. How would you have responded?  Do you wear a mask because you fear judgment from other mothers, other peers, other family members?

Dysfunction is so prevalent within the Bible that you must conclude that God does not expect every family to be without challenges. However, challenges can provoke masks and isolation from true help and true mercy.  You cannot recognize the women God has placed in your path to help you unless you remove the mask.

Removing the mask, surprisingly, makes it easier to love, easier to face the challenges, and easier to rejoice when that prodigal turns his life around. Remove the mask and trust that God will surround you with other women who will speak hope, faith, encouragement not only in you but the in the son gone astray.

No mother wants to hear her son condemned by her peers. She wants to hear him lifted up in the hope of prayer. Are you willing to not only take off the mask, but to lift other struggling mothers up? Encourage mothers whose children might have to learn cause and effect the hard way – pray until her son returns home, willing to be the man God created him to be.

After all, Jesus knew the story of the prodigal son. He knew his struggles, his challenges, his failures – and He knew that the path home was paved with faith.

If you have faith that God will take care of your children, have faith enough to take off the mask. Taking off the mask is a step of faith.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” – (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)

A Mother and her Masks: the Story of the Mother of the Prodigal was first published in 2010 Sanctified Together, a monthly e-magazine for women.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1048 – studying with another son for a vocabulary test

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

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

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

1050 – classical music that infuses my home with a tranquility

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

1052 – Clotted Cream with homemade scones

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

1054 – colored pencils and a journaling bible.

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

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

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

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

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

1060 – Peaceful sleep despite an pop-up challenge

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

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

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

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

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Dickens_edited-1Either deep within, wedged like a too chubby Santa in a too skinny chimney, or fall out the top – every stocking should find within itself a book.

Nothing says, “I love you” like either a heart-shaped piece of spinach on a sandwich or the gift of a book.

Books, like love, aren’t always received the way we hope – but sometimes, if we don’t give up – one day, we will discover that the gift was picked up, was absorbed – and hit its mark in the way we intended.

I was helping my oldest son pack up his books when he moved his wife and daughter across town to a new place. I found so many of the books I’d given him – Toqueville’s Democracy in America, Jefferson’s Federalists Papers, Payne’s Common Sense – I’d even found my copy of Hugo’s Les Miserable. 

“Did you every read these?”

He told me he’d read them all in college.

Tolkien, Lewis, Spradlin’s Youngest Templar series, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, Stephen Ambrose’s books, a huge tome on Merlin, Aesop’s Fables, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (great for developing logic skills), an 1800 book on ethics for children, Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane – maybe even little black leather journals for their own stories.

A few weeks ago, three of my boys were helping me make an elephantine move. We were moving the upstairs office to a refinished space in the basement. The 20 year old pulled down the framed Lion poster, turned it over and started taking it apart. He saw my astonished look – because, really, a why-are-you-taking-apart-my-picture look?

“Just wait,” he said, with a smug grin on his face. Layer by layer, he pulled the backing apart until he’d found what he wanted: a hostage contract with my signature of agreement from a long ago time when they were much littler. It was a note stating they’d taken hostage Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane, which would I would never see again if I didn’t agree to never, ever, ever read it to them again. If I agreed, the book would be returned unharmed.

Right around that time in October, that same son was carrying around my very old paperback copy of Oliver Twist – and he was 3/4 of the way through it. I saw him sitting on the porch reading it. . . for enjoyment. Later that day, Oliver Twist sat quietly on my kitchen table like . . . like an old friend glad to be out and about.

Sometimes books become a part of another’s story – in unplanned for, unconventional ways.

This Christmas, one of my boys will find an old, red-and-tan backed Zane Grey book. Another is getting Toqueville’s Democracy in America – and I’m still turning over in my head what to get the others. One by one, I will find the perfect book that fits just right in each stocking !

I’m thinking about what to put in my Daughter-in-Laws stockings – maybe Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God – a book that beautifully encourages us to take time out of our day to go on a date with God. He’s just waiting to steal away with us – and in the stealing away with God, there’s always blessing.

Or  Deidra Riggs’ Every Little Thing – those little things that seem unimportant and ordinary might be how we see ourselves or our life in the daily. Deidra encourages us to see that every little thing has greater impact than we realize. What an encouraging mind-set as we review the end of 2015 and step into 2016.

Maybe Michelle DeRusha’s 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, that she included Therese of Lisieux went straight to my heart. I read her auto-biography in the 5th grade. It was through the outpouring of her heart and her relationship with our Savior that taught me the intimacy and realness of prayer. The women she lists are ordinary, everyday women who through their faithfulness in Christ became women of valor – one day at a time.

I met Laura, Deidra, and Michelle at the Jumping Tandem Retreat this year. It was a blessing to finally get to meet face-to-face women I have been blogging with for quite a few years – ordinary, everyday women living their faith one day at a time – becoming those women of valor Michelle talks about.

I haven’t met Mark Batterson’s, but his book The Circle Maker is another I recommend. It’s a book about praying for those we know and don’t know who are struggling – and even lost. It’s a book that doesn’t slam the door on the lost we come across in the daily – or maybe even across the Christmas table. It’s about not giving up on them – and battle for them through prayer.

My granddaughter’s? I think I’m going classical (Wait Till the Moon is Full and Wynken, Blynken and Nod) with something new and delightful- my friend, Amy Sullivan’s book, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World: Book One: Gladys Aylward. Sullivan tells Gladys’ story, and in the telling, encourages all of us – little girls and grown up girls, to be who God designed us to be – not Wonder Girl – just God’s Girl – doing ordinary things through love that leave an extraordinary impact. Congratulations Amy on your dream finding its jacket. I am so happy to have it on my shelf!

A book has so much ability to be more than a book.

What is Santa leaving in your stockings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, it was better to look to the horizon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(I feel like telling a story again. If you haven’t heard it, grab a cup of just-right coffee, sit a spell and read a bit).

When Hope Grace was born, great expectations were cast forth, hearts leaping in expectation. Much was expected of Hope.

Her sister Faith Grace took to teaching her the facts of their Father and his Kingdom, and her other sister Charity Grace taught her about love.

You could find them in the cottage’s orchard: Hope looking to the goodness of God, grew strong, standing on the shoulders of her sister Faith, hands reaching to grasp hold of her other sister, Charity dangling upside down in the fruit tree.

These 3 Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity were born powerful, beautiful, full of potential, and were never seen one without the other.  They set about their Father’s business, ministering to their people. Their community welcomed them, knew them well, some more intimately than others.

Together, they cared for people who faced big and little challenges. No person was too insignificant, no problem too little for their ministering hands and feet. One reason was because of their Father who provided unlimited resources. The people knew their Father, the King, through the Graces.

But as the days grew in number, and as Faith, Hope and Charity went out into the world, the world snapped and snarled at them, wearing away at them, trying to diminish them, to topple them.

Hope wobbled, on the shoulders of Faith, threatening to let go of Charity.

Year after Year, the community who had relied on the 3 Graces, started taking them for granted, stopped visiting with them, refused welcome in their homes. Some no longer believed in the Father because they couldn’t see Him.

Where Faith had strengthened them with the promises of their Father through hard times, people now wanted evidence. They no longer wanted to believe without seeing first. The words of the Father held nothing for them, and so Faith faded.

As their belief in the Faith waned, so, too, did their Hope wane.

Hope’s belief in the provision and protection of her Father during life’s challenges was discredited by some people who said things like, “I hope the water comes for the green beans, the potatoes and the wheat, but I don’t believe it” they’d say in a hope-isn’t-really-real way, scoffing.

Some would say, “I’d like to hope his fever will break and all will be well – but, well, that isn’t how I believe.”

Sometimes, they would slander Hope saying, “Hope? If you believe in fairies – but that isn’t real life – they have no Father that can help me.”

And, in many hearts, Hope was cast out.

Without Faith and Hope, the spontaneous goodness of Charity’s unconditional love and kindness was no longer trusted – and they stopped inviting her into their homes, tried to put a price on her, to sell her.

Though many cast aside Faith, Hope and Charity – the 3 Graces did not leave them or abandon them.

They continually returned, calling to the people in the streets, knocking on doors, whispering on the night winds.

Faith would call out, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

For you see, Faith, Hope and Charity are “not frail and perishable” but live “perennially” (O.E.D., 1 Peter 1:3). Rejection is just a starting place.

Charity’s heart so loved the world, that she could not give up pursuing The Father’s people.

Ever steadfast and determined, many invited them back into the cottage of their hearts, sat with them to know them. Faith taught truth about the Father and what He wanted to do in their lives. Hope focused their minds and hearts on the goodness of God, and Charity showed God’s abundant love and the need to share that love with others.

When the rains didn’t come, or sickness fell, or financial famine came, Faith said, “The Father will take care of you. He said so” reminding them with His words:

 ”The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(Psalm 65: 9b).

And Hope showed them how to trust, to wait with hearts leaping in expectation:

“May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope” (Romans 15: 13)

Charity loved them with the Father’s love, showing them how to love during challenges:

“Love[Charity] never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up” (1 Cor. 13:7)

If you look closely into the garden of a neighbor’s cottage, you might just see the 3 Graces: Hope standing on the shoulders of Faith, hands reaching up to grasp Charity’s bounty and pass it down.

Maybe you have discredited Hope, Faith and Charity. Said you don’t believe them about their Father. Maybe you need a heart-to-heart with the 3 Graces. Invite them into the cottage of your heart to live perennially.

Maybe they are already in the cottage garden of your heart, Hope standing on the shoulders of walking Faith. Hope encouraging your Faith to keep on walking, keep on standing, to not give up, Faith keeping hope grounded in truth, while hope reachings toward a comforting, God filled with His kind of loving Charity.

I Believe
I trust
My heart leaps in expectation
of His Great love

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Wife of my son, daughter of our family,

Today you become officially the #1 woman in in my son’s  life.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Just as your father gives you to my son today, so I give my son to you, with a glad heart and much love.

For years, I prayed that God would protect and bless the girls my boys would marry.  I prayed in faith that God would bring daughter-in-laws who had a heart for our family, our strengths and weaknesses included.

When God blesses, He blesses abundantly.  I prayed for children.  He gave me 5 sons.  I prayed for a good husband.  He sent me the best.  I prayed for my sons to be healed at various times.  They are healthy and whole.  God is faithful to His promises. He brought you, the abundant answer to prayer.

Samuel’s father, Elkanah, provides the prototype for what I consider a most wonderful husband!  It is from his relationship with Hannah that I pray my hope and faith for your marriage.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray that my son will be the Elkanah to your Hannah.

I pray that my son favors you above all others, giving you double portions, seeking out why you cry, why you will not eat, why you are down-hearted—that he sees your genuine heart, kindness, and heart’s desires—through the hills and valleys of your life.

I pray that you value each other as Elkanah valued Hannah.  He wanted to mean more to her than 10 sons.  Sons defined the value of a woman during that time.  If she couldn’t produce sons, she had no value, no esteem in the community.  What the world says is valuable is not what is important.  Elkanah values her heart, her companionship, who she is—not her position in the community, her job, or where she comes from.  He values what’s on the inside.

I pray that each of you pour your soul out to the Lord, praying and sharing God’s word in your life with each other, that your house be full of children who bring you much joy, that your children return there to find comfort, rest and spiritual refreshment.

I pray that you put God above all the desires of your heart because then you will be blessed beyond measure.

We are so glad you’ve come!

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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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If anyone’s ever tried to trick you out of your redemption, tried to throw you back under the curse, made you feel like you’re not good enough to sit at God’s table – read this, friend. Read it and live redeemed.

God doesn’t half redeem us, partially save us, find us one quart short of worthiness. He is a God who loves abundantly, whose love overflows into us until we overflow His love to others.

His son covered our sin completely, not partially, so we could enter the Father’s throne room as favored children. Live favored. Live redeemed. Live loved!

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With God’s arrival comes love

love came helpless in a manger, with only an earthly father’s wisdom and a new mother’s arms, probably shaking under just the shawl of this new mother-hood responsibility alone

and love one day was unexpectedly left behind on family trip – and love showed itself to strangers, teaching them, hardly yet a man(10 or 12) but still God’s love offering, teaching them about the God who sent him until found by chagrined parents not quite what to do with such a love child.

and love sent a message to a man with a donkey and colt, who answered by sending along his donkey and colt for love to enter Jerusalem. Love worked his way to Jerusalem – and the people saw, the people who had waited and watched threw coats and olive branches to pave loves way. Love entered Jerusalem amidst welcome, song and recognition:”“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Matthew 21:9)

with God’s arrival comes generous redemption

God’s love walked the love offering walk, like a perfect lamb chosen and led, the final sacrifice, the final atonement for humanity gone wrong in sin. Love arrived to pay the unpayable debt in full, redeeming each of us from a debtor’s prison soul-deep in sin,
so that you and me could come home with Him,
returning a runaway humanity, a prodigal people
home to a loving Father, Brother and a Holy Spirit.

wait and watch no more, friends,
He’s come
He’s redeemed
grab hold of his hand
and let him pull you out
of hurt, pain, exclusion,
rejection, that not-good-enough
feeling, brokenness

let Him pull you out with his unfailing love
unfailing love that didn’t sell you and me out
on mountain-top temptations
and cross-top death torture
He didn’t let us down by coming
down
so much was His love and determination
to free us
and take us home,
to the front porch steps where the Father doesn’t just wait
but will run out to welcome us
to pull us into a
a God-sized bear-hug
. . . love didn’t just tells us so
love showed us so

“Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7, NIV)
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My second granddaughter was born early last week. It’s a time of celebration in our family. I wrote this prayer when her sister was born, this prayer for my granddaughter. I’m praying it – with much rejoicing and cheering again. For Ava and Norah:  “A Seed Bag, Water Bucket and Harvest Basket” was written for my granddaughter to share at a Blessing Shower. I wanted to share it with you in celebration.
Open your heart and hear
Sweet little girl
The voice of the Father
calling to
the Harvest Field
far and near.

Gather you
your water bucket,
seed bags
and harvest basket
gather and carry them
to the field,
Ripe
for harvest,

Little feet walking between
the furrows
Toes digging in,
breaking through the soul
With a laborer’s prayers

Little hands growing,
Working in opened-handed sowing,
releasing
Faith,
Hope,
and Love
seeds


Pouring out God’s
Holy Spirit Water
Sometimes awkward, sometimes grace-filled
sometimes rushing like a river
othertimes like the slow drip off a leaf
your water bucket pouring God
into thirsty seeds

Little feet at home in the field
Sometimes falling
But lifted up
By labor-field companions.
Little girl,
Raise your voice, growing praise
Singing, praying, encouraging
Bringing down a Holy Spirit Rain
To Miracle Grow the Harvest

Fill the Father’s baskets
Fill them to over-flowing
Neglect not a seed planted,
A vine reaching, a soul crying
To be gathered into the Harvest basket.

Little girl
With a bare, open-handed spirit,
Praising a Loving God
Calling your brothers and sisters
To the Harvest Field

Don’t forget to
Sit in the shade
Drinking your fill of living water
Finding refreshment, peace and contentment
At the feet of the Father who
created you,
Fitted you
For carrying your water bucket, seed bag and harvest basket.

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Springbloom_edited-1“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19).

Shaddai promised a new thing – something that would burst out! However, His children couldn’t see this new thing. They could only see barren branches like a tree at the winter’s end. Sometimes we can’t even see this new thing. We can’t take our eyes off the empty branches of a broken winter of ourselves.

Shaddai, though,  promised a new thing:

The God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
They lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles: (Isaiah 43:16-17)

That’s what Israel expected – God delivering them like He did Israel out of slavery – God saving Israel and destroying their enemies, those who kept them in bondage, treated them poorly. They expected God to do something grande like the parting of the Red Sea, the swallowing destruction of Egypt’s power and glory. They would be insiders to the world’s success.

They expected a king like Solomon, like King David to lead them into prosperity and security – grande chariots, rich vineyards, wealth and security, power and glory. God would still be in the temple, behind the curtain, the law still the only way to Him.

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history” (Isaiah 43: 18)

Oh, this is hard. The hardest lesson in letting go of me and letting God is the realization that my expectations of what God can do, how He can lift me out, or even be present in my life are limited by my knowledge – by what I know, by even what the experts know.

Shaddai, the great I Am, the creator, the God who sees us, who provides, –  said He was going to do a new thing –

. . . and, He did – He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make a way for us – every you and me – straight into the throne room as children of God – and the temple veil was rent in half – God was no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant – but was released to be with us right where we are.

The God who walked with Adam and Eve in the evenings, the same God who sat outside Abraham’s tent and star-gazed with Him, the God who loved Jacob enough to wrestle with him made a way for us to have that same intimacy.

Springtime reminds us of this new thing, year after year – in the death of winter and resurrection of life in Spring. Look around and rejoice – at the new thing God did – for you and for me!

This week as we walk the story of Christ’s death and resurrection look around you – this redemption story was designed before even man was created. The story itself is imprinted in nature.
“Be alert, be present.
I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out!
Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19).

Don’t you?

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

“How many of you have parents who make under $10,000 a year. . . because if your parents make under $10,000 a year – that’s poverty! Raise your hands if your parents make under $10,000 a year,” the counselor said in my marriage class my senior year of high school.

This school counselor really wanted students to raise their hands. Some girls in my marriage class did. I didn’t.

I knew we didn’t have a lot of money – but I had never considered myself “poverty.”

My mom, grandmother and I talked about it at dinner that night. Like me, they were a bit shocked. They didn’t consider themselves poverty, either.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things.

I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My grandmother and mother sewed beautiful, hand-made clothes. My grandmother could go down to the department stores, see a dress, come home and make it.

They made Christmas sparkle – from the family bible in the hallway turned to Luke’s story of Christmas to the hand-made Christmas balls made of pins, ribbon,  beads and old brooches and they tucked them into the backyard greenery slipped onto the mantles to the tree to the dining room table to the candies, cakes and feasting.

Poverty was a state of mind, a condition of the spirit – I learned that my senior year of high school. Crippling poverty is a life walked out without faith, hope and obedience to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God’s plan for our lives is not limited by the condition of our pocket book. He tells us that over and over in little stories building up to the greatest story of all: the Son of God born a man to save us all.

When God’s plan to redeem us finally manifested itself, it was through a poor Jewish girl, living in the land of her ancestors – a land now owned and occupied by a people who did not recognize the God of her ancestors.

God sent an angel to a poor Jewish girl, rich in faith.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich in faith.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:26-34)

Mary, whose ancestors who had been land-rich and powerful: Sarah’s Abraham, Rachel’s Isaac, Leah’s Jacob, Ruth’s Boaz, Rahab’s Joshua, Bathesheba’s David, – Mary whose financial and circumstances were the antithesis of her ancestors financial and power circumstances – a young girl who had less to give God than anyone else on her family tree  could only give herself and her faith.

“And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).

Poverty? A young girl who believed to the point of obedience to a holy God,– a young girl so obedient to what she believed, so faith-rich that God manifested His saving grace through her.

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).

God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich only in faith – who was willing everything, including her reputation, to face stoning, public rejection in order to be obedient to God.

God doesn’t define us by an annual salary. He doesn’t define us by our failures or insecurities. He defines us by our faith in Him, our reaching for Him, our Hope in Him.

Mary – a frayed thread in a Holy Genealogy, whose life is not defined by her financial circumstance but her faith circumstance – she didn’t live with a poverty mentality, a have-not mentality.

She didn’t give the angel a list of I-can’t-do’s and I-don’t-haves.

Somehow by releasing her autonomy to become a servant of the Lord, she lived a have-mentality.

Her willingness to “let it be to me according to your word” showed she didn’t consider herself a have-not-what-I-need-to-get-through-this-challenge – but an assurance that through Him, she was a have-more-than-enough-to-walk-this-challenge mentality.

Our culture has set a deceptive identification trap – defining each of us by our income, race, sex, even our sin. When we define ourselves by anything other than our relationship to God, our obedience to God – we limit ourselves by taking the focus off of how He sees us, His plans for us, what He can do for us.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

That’s the story of this tapestry – isn’t it? That nothing is impossible with God. That out of the frayed threads of ourselves, if we just believe in Him, love Him, seek Him out – the threads of ourselves can weave a redemption story, a hope and faith story.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

How do you define yourself?

 

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

wowcreek3c

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

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

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

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

An elephant now shoved in the back of the closet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If God has more for me, I want it.”

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

It tore down the last vestiges of my resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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snowcosmo22_edited-1Everything is a double-edged sword: every season, every food-source,  every personality, every moment. No moment is ever empty of possibilities. I see. . . .

Cat creeping out of the cotton field south bound birds catching thermals circle, circle, circling high and low under cumulus clouds over soccer fields of youth reaching for dreams

snowzinnia44_edited-1a cloud falling in a field, not spilling into the road growing-up eyes roll, roll rolling at this mom’s child-like observations “He knows,” I say – “How I love clouds falling, spilling over everything – and He did that just for me” and the growing-up eyes stop rolling resigned and we all drive on into the day by day as trees orange and redden

snowpink1_edited-1until a snow surprise covers pink zinnias and orange cosmos until an afternoon sunshine melts the cold leaving the flaming orange edges maple leaves brittle rustle, rustle, rustling loudly in a blustery wind to the beat of roof-top meltings drip, drip, dripping an unexpected autumn beat with spring-feeling

soccersnow_edited-2

boy-to-man growing wrestle,wrestle, wrestling with inside and outside things asking how you hear God over your own voice seeing the struggle to find Him for heart-t0-heart moments just Him and God so many seemingly empty moments full of possibilities designed for a wealth of joy What do you see?

 “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8).

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It’s just not Halloween without this post!
oldwomaninshoeI used to think moms with just sons were pretty scary, until I became one of those moms.
When you’re a mom with 5 sons, no matter how big, those boys gotta think you can still take them down-no matter who’s around.

You gotta be able to call their bluff.

One day, one of my sons walked through the kitchen on his way to his room buck naked after showering in my shower.  At the same time, the oldest one strolled into the kitchen in his boxers.  I’d had it. I was tired of all this male non-challent nakedness. There was a girl in the house after-all, even if she was just “Mom.”

I started un-buttoning my pants.  I said, “Well, if you can do it, I can, too.”  They high-tailed it out of the kitchen. I didn’t see a naked butt for about 6 months. I must have been pretty Scary-Mommy! (BTW, I only started unbuttoning my pants.  That’s all it took)

It gets pretty scary in the house when I do my “Mad Mad Madam Mim” immitation from The Sword and The Stone or the Lady in the Portrait from Harry Potter when she can just break a glass “Just with My Voice.” The threat to do those immitations in front of their friends pretty much makes them toe the line.

Then, I get pretty SCARY MOMMY when I create visual lectures on relationships and stuff, like “You’re a Cake” and “Hubba Bubba” and “Are you Man Enough?”  And then I share them over S’Mores and Pizza when they bring  BFFS over or I get a chance to hang around their “girl” friends at soccer games or church. It’s so scary, they almost like it.

witchcatA truly SCARY MOMMY makes sure Santa stuffs stockings for the older sons with things like Payne’s Common Sense, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America or C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. However, for every Scary Mommy high moment, there is an equal Scary Mommy low moment, like when I reviewed every Def Leppard song with my son who disagreed that every Def Leppard song is about sex.  We were trying to eliminate the sin-with-a-good-beat music choices.  All Scary Mommy had to do was raise an eyebrow.  My son conceded victory, but Scary Mommy was rather red-faced. Def Leppart no longer blared at the house.

I am probably SCARY MOMMY when I lose my temper, my keys, and when I drive (not quite all at the same time).

SCARY MOMMY loves enough to risk pride, respect, and affection in order to be the mom my son’s need me to be. SCARY MOMMY can be meaner, but SCARY MOMMY gives Volcano kisses that slobber all over their cheeks, bear hugs that can lift the biggest one of them all off the ground, and say, “I’m sorry. I really missed it” when I handle mommy-ness wrong.

SCARY MOMMY has a pretty scary sense of humor.  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, you need to visualize that before you can truly appreciate the SCARY MOMMY humor.

momboysbarn.jpgThe boys would really think I was SCARY MOMMY if they knew what I was like without God in my life giving me the strength, the courage, the inspiration, the never-give-up-ness to believe in their innate goodness when it’s on sabitacal, to believe they are walking in God’s plan for their lives when it seems like every plan has been thrown away, to believe they have generous hearts when they are tight-fisted with their brothers, and to love passionately and unconditionally even when they don’t want to love me back.  SCARY MOMMY drops to her knees in prayer when life is scarier than she is!

SCARY MOMMY? Bring it on! Sometimes I just plain scare myself!

See also Socialism or Capitalism: Trick or Treat or Halloween is. . .

Wishing you a day of celebrating family!

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treefog2

“Stop. . . Mom. . . we’re not 5 anymore,” said a boy growing up.

Can one really be too old to be excited about a cloud falling from the sky and splatting itself all over your home on a mountain?

I guess 16 is a stuffy age where falling clouds spilling everywhere are replaced with more grown up words like fog.

There’s something about raising children that wrings the stuffiness out of you – and fills it with an appreciation for

. . . .for pulling good things out of the daily like the the relief felt in a thorn pulled from the tender pad of a foot and the more-than-whimsy of things like mists and fogs.

Stuffiness can’t find God in the in the coolness of a milk-box morning, an imperfect parenting moment, a turtle dove calling on a roof ridge, a holy spirit message in a summer storm, the broken rebel’s anger, the steeping of tea leaves, salting chicken soup, the prodigal’s imperfect walk homeward, the routine of dinner dishes – the every day ordinary where an extraordinary God meets us.

He doesn’t just meet us in the parting-of-a-dead-sea-moment or a lame-man-walking moment but in the everyday comfortable and uncomfortable moments of an ordinary man’s ordinary day.

In the ordinary of our day, God spills his grace over us in our imperfect living – like a cloud falling from the sky, spilling over my little mountain.

Driving up the hill homeward into the mist always makes me feel like I’m entering a shield of protection (not when I’m on the interstate, only when I’m homeward bound).

That cloud fallen down reminds me of God’s protection – how He paid the price to offer me that protection.

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Isaiah 44:22).

In a world where up seems down and right is viewed wrong, I need a place of refuge. He’s created a safe haven, a sanctuary where I can go – and in the midst of all this non-stop pouring rain in saturated Tennessee red clay, I needed that reminder that when I am in Him, I am there.

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by” (Psalm 57:1)

What a gracious God we have, a real-knight-in-shining armor – who has the power to bestow sanctuary right where we are when we are with Him, who desires to conceal us from the things we were not created for.

“He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver” (Isaiah 49:2).

“A weapon even keener than a sword, smoothed and polished, so as to make it pierce the deeper, and kept hid in God’s quiver until the time came when it could be launched with most effect against the hearts of ungodly men” (Pulpit Commentary).

There’s much more to the ordinary things in the daily and things like clouds falling from the sky to spill over a mountain home – so much more!


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tea1_edited-1
. . . . because sometimes I don’t want
to explain when its inevitable words won’t . . .

because sometimes only ice cream will do
or I let me mind fall into a cool soft pillow just because. . .

because sometimes I need to give. . .
a hug

or maybe because someone needs one and they don’t realize. . . .

fresh chocolate mint leaves in a cup of morning sweet orange spice
because it changes the sensory of my surroundings

because a decision was the right decision in that moment

some dreams won’t let go not matter how hard I try
because they were woven into the very fiber of my soul

and now I have a pair of brown eyes and four paws
who just wants the furrow above her eyes scratched
because a bunch of boys gave me a lot of becauses that
went straight to my heart . . .

because he still says he’ll love me forever, he’ll love me for always

because some moments feel like tears for no apparent reason
and another bursts into graceless feet doing the happy dance

because Grandma Moses said, “Life is what you make it,
always has been,
always will be”

because love, faith and hope won’t allow me to give up

because two of my boys were story-bearers during a discussion at school
of how I had their daddy’s and my wedding band melted together for me to wear
because he worked with equipment and liked having 10 fingers
and I like wearing his ring
and they thought it was cool

and pink, yellow and orange zinnias are
beautiful and resilient

because sometimes it’s something just between me
and that still small voice

“And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice” (1Kings 19:12)

tea5_edited-2

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