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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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