Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

bradfordpearwinterinstac. . . and the bradford pear blossom survived
the bitter winter storm to bloom
more beautifully
than she thought possible. . . .


Journaling as I progress though The One Year Chronological Bible:

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another” ~ Isaiah 48: 10-11.

“Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob'” ~ Isaiah 48:20b

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” ~ Isaiah 49:23b

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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”

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”

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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I admit it. I read book endings first. If I don’t, then I rush through the story, details, the words. When I know the ending, I slow down, savor the details – wait with grace for the story to unfold. . . . because I am assured the ending.

“Don’t pray for God to give you patience,” people say.

I say bring it on.

Patience is the living between right now and Christmas morning,

. . .or between right now and the first slow sip of a chocolate soda, just a hand-reach away or a block away.

It’s everything in-between praying that God’s angels encamp about us during the day, letting others know about the love of Jesus with our words and actions, all the details in the daily, and everyone’s shoes kicked off by the back door, feet standing around the counter, waiting for dinner.

Patience is what I fill my mind with from the beginning of a three mile walk to its end, how I chose to live in every waiting moment – every until

. . . like chosing to wait for that first kiss, the wait from the asking, “Will you marry me,” to the ,”I do”, to the delivery of every child, or the long wait to see a child or loved one on the other side of heaven, to the timer buzzing the chocolate chip muffins are ready, to even a child-growing’s salvation, or for a fever to break .

It’s how we live grace, faith and hope in the journey of a prayer sent to Shaddai; Patience is the wait for a prayer’s fulfillment. How we live that wait changes everything. . .

Patience is not just waiting with grace, but living faith in that wait with grace, thinking, speaking, battling the doubt in our minds to live hope like we believe it.

Patience how we live in the time it takes for God to redeem the big and little happenings in the daily of our lives.

Patience is head-time thinking in in-between moments like walking out the door to walk Sadie, our golden retriever, through the water puddles and wet chill to when we burst through the back door.

Patience is how-to live all the in-between times, the big and little, tough and easy, and the seemingly empty moments that need filling.

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (2 Peter 3:9)

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feedsheepccc“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter – you and me, too.

“Yes”, Peter answered.

Jesus told Peter – and you and me – “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my sheep. . . . Feed my Sheep” (John 21: 15-19)

Last year, my family chose to sponsor through Compassion International an 11 year old boy in Haiti. He is one of those lambs that need feeding, literally and spiritually. My support allows for others to spiritually mother and father this boy – and it allows those spiritual parenting hands to fill bowls and make soul-contact that I cannot because I am so far away.

Christians are a faith people commissioned to take the gospel to the world, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to feed God’s lambs. Yet, as we minister to the great needs of those around the world, it is equally important to not neglect the mission fields in our own communities, from backyards to school yards to church yards – all filled with children and young adults who cry out to be fed and shepherded. 

It is a daunting mission-field, filled with the churched and un-churched – wearing rebellion, disinterest, eschewing group-think and God-think, daring others to look beneath the tattoos and piercings, the black clothes and saggy pants – daring you to find the beauty beneath because they have trouble finding it themselves.

“There are teens with bigger problems,” someone once told me about a churched teen, setting on a rebellion path.

“It’s all in the parenting,” someone else said about an un-churched teen not interested in God the Father because maybe he’s never experience a Shaddai-kind of father.

“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers[mothers] willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up” (1 Cor 4:15).

I’m going to tell you straight up – I think it’s easy to send letters and financial support to a little boy in Haiti who needs. It’s not so easy to walk into the neighborhood mission field, where souls not only wear wrappings to discourage, daring you to come closer, but who fluently push back in your own language – who maybe through that pushing back allow you to feel as uncomfortable and graceless as they feel in this big old world.

When our children – yours and mine do this – we push right back, we reach right in, both physically and spiritually. But there are children – regardless of the age – who might not have a parent who is able, for various reasons, to fight that spiritual battle, to stand in the gap, to weather the ugly storm and fight for them.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. . . . “Feed my lambs”. . . “Shepherd my sheep”. . . “Feed my sheep.”

Not just my lambs . . . all the lambs: the lambs He puts in our path between our kitchen counter and the school desks our kids sit in or the sports field we walk on or the pew we sit in. It’s not just a one time feeding, a one time foray. It is a continual going back, our footsteps creating a path of familiarity.

“The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Spiritual mothers and fathers care enough to slog through spiritual poverty and hunger, through a minefield of emotions that our country’s children seem to battle, so many inside things that tear at them – these spiritual mothers and fathers slog through to carry soul keys to help youth and adults unlock who they are in Christ.

Are you a spiritual mother or father in your community? Are you willing to reach through uncomfortable barriers? To be challenged? To shepherd through real relationship?

Spiritual Parents do that – love children beyond their own, fight for them, push back, get uncomfortable, don’t give up in the ugliness of the challenge.

You don’t have to buy a plane ticket. You don’t have to take foster classes – though both are good. You just need to make your hearts available from your kitchen counter into the school rooms, the sports fields, the church pews and in-between. God will bring them – if you will love them.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. . . . “feed my lambs. . . shepherd my sheep. . . feed my sheep.”


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


“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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. . . . 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)


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 “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Genesis 1: 3-5).

Challenges threatened the potential of my last Monday – like a lion stalks its prey or thunder and lightening shake up your world.

An entrepreneur’s wife is an entrepreneur, too. That means lots of new tasks, organizational needs, doing all sorts of jobs outside of my skill area – and learning new skills – like putting out figurative fires, stepping in to fill a gap – and needing to know the answers to all the questions. Last Monday found me in new situations where I didn’t  have the answers – and people looking at me for them.

Entrepreneur’s are business starters – sometimes that means you both work outside your business until your business grows big enough to sustain you both. Sometimes that outside job uses your skill-set – and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t – well, that’s just one of the things you do when you’re helping someone you love build a dream – a dream that teaches our sons how to work, handle responsibility, time management – and how business works. That’s where you learn about blooming where you’re planted.

Monday was a topsy-turvy, chaos-induced, challenge-filled day. I kept my challenges to myself, but all around, people were putting down  Monday – the “bad” child of the 7 days. “What good can come of a Monday?” people said.

I could have easily fallen into the trap – of speaking hopelessness on my day, beating down its potential and opportunity for grace and over-coming. I had examples enough to beat Monday up a bit. I didn’t, though. I’m not comfortable with cool, hip, in-the-know cliches. I just can’t make myself bash Monday like kids bash an uncool kid to seem popular.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Mark 11:23)

windowsunrise_edited-1Rise and Shine!

Monday Morning Sunrise is at the window sill.

God didn’t say, “Monday’s are going to be awful days.” No! On the first day – a Monday – God created light – and saw that it was good.

It’s not just one day in a week. It’s 52 Mondays in a year. That’s 2, 704 Mondays in my life or about 7 1/2 years – if you’re 52 years old.

Isn’t how you begin a race the most crucial time of that race? I don’t want to ruin the opportunity for each week on day one by speaking faithful assurance of it’s failure.  I have a choice:

Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21)

In the midst of the chaos of my challenge – I spoke faith over last Monday – just like I do every other day and every other challenge.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:23)

I tell my boys, “What you speak is what you get.”

What you believe about your Monday will come to pass.

Sadly, when Monday is treated like an ill-favored child – the day is thrust back into spiritual darkness.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18)

reddoorRise and Shine! Monday morning sunrise is on your door-step!

Give thanks because it is not our circumstances that define our lives, but the attitude with which we live those circumstances that define our lives.

The first day God created was a Monday – and it was good! One day does not have an edge over another. One day is not greater than another. There are no throw-away days.

There are 7 days in a week. Each day has equal potential for goodness.

I spoke faith over my Monday, praising God for his blessings and mercy – and my Monday was redeemed. Redeem yours.

Rise and Shine! Monday is upon you! The first day – and God said it was good!

I pray that your Monday be filled with God’s grace and mercy, despite the circumstances each hour brings.

I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.

 I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

 Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.

God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.

Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.

When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.

God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.

Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.

Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but God-seekers are full of God.

Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.

Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?

Guard your tongue from profanity,
and no more lying through your teeth.

Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!

God keeps an eye on his friends,
his ears pick up every moan and groan.

God won’t put up with rebels;
he’ll cull them from the pack.

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, God is there every time.

He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
not even a finger gets broken.

The wicked commit slow suicide;
they waste their lives hating the good.

God pays for each slave’s freedom;
no one who runs to him loses out.

(Psalm 34)

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Sometimes, you need to live a quote – and by living the quote, you can smell the basil, the rosemary, lavender and thyme from the garden on your fingertips

and you can savor a half-dozen pairs of hands reaching for out-of-the-oven warm chocolate-chip muffins

or a smile thrown my way by one of my growing-up boys

or sitting, just sitting, with my aunt on a rainy day

or an early morning call with my mom

or brown smudge on my retriever’s nose from digging mole holes

or an encouraging note from a friend

and feeling the love from those God gave you – over a bowl of curry chicken, or a cup of honey-infused lemon sorbetti tea

the first-person story of a son pushing himself over a challenge to be who he thought he was

a to-do-nothing time with my husband – no outside challenges invited or allowed to crash in

and the first, second and third person story of my boys helping my husband build a dream

Yes, sometimes, you have to live a quote, in order to see yourself as God sees you, to be who God designed you to be – and know it. Sometimes you have to live a quote to let go of things we were not designed to carry.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered,
forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies,
succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you,
be honest and frank anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous,
be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow,
do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough,
give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God,
It was never between you and them anyway” (Mother Teresa)

Sometimes you have to teach yourself to recognize that what you do, how you live, the decisions you make, what’s really in your heart – how your children, your parents, your neighbors and everyone you walk by in the daily – their interpretation doesn’t matter a hill of beans – it’s only what’s between you and God in the living of it that matters.

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grandmamosesMy fourth son, he turned 15 – so I gave him the card –

The Grandma Moses card – the one with the vintage automobile on the front

there’s one for each of the brothers – each of my boys -and I give it to them when they turn 15.

Grandma Moses tells them,

“Life is what you make it,

always has been,

always will be”

I wrote to my son,

Not everyone starts out their first day held in the hands of a loving God like you did – and in that holding he gave you an extra measure of something wonder – a boldness for things of God.

As you know by now, there are moments of blessing, moments of challenge and those in-between moments where a lot of living happens – sometimes moments you call “boring” – but in all those moments you have a choice

a choice to love

a choice to find goodness

a choice to be kind

a choice to forgive

a choice to walk out your faith and hope in God when you might not see evidence of his favor.

Life is not about the challenge; it is about the choice

and the choices are what defines your life

Grandma Moses gave us some good advice. Live it well,

Happy 15th birthday!


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Jumping into puddles
On the street, parking lot
On the sidewalk , on soccer field
Jumping into puddles
cloud made
Of my own making
or hand-made by others
My feet, they step in them
And spash
Residue patterns
All around
And the puddle soaks into
My shoes, through the material
Designed to protect
From outside elements
And the splash soaks
To my feet – and I feel it
Up to my heart, to my mind
These puddle splashes
From life walks, steps and jumps
And I miss
When after-effects of puddle jumping
Didn’t stain the soul
Of my heart.

I love watching my boys jump – when they play video games, when they head soccer balls, when they jump in puddles. Their carefree innocence and exuberance, bottomless energy bursting into jumps and runs – and they don’t think of things like shoe stains – until the stink from shoe shedding makes everyone turn and glare – and they don’t think of things like running out of jumps – like I do now after 3. I think my soul – it jumps and runs – and it wants to not just splash through a Holy Spirit puddle – it wants to swim in it – and when life gets really, really uncomfortable – from my soul feet to my soul heart – to my mind – I have these Holy Spirit Golashes that’s supposed to keep out the bad stuff from seeping inside and soaking into places it doesn’t need to be. I can’t jump as high as I used to – but my soul can – with a Holy Spirit like golashes. Ijust need to remind myself – that I can – jump – high – with Him.

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Right now, I’m just collecting blessings in the everyday living. I’m in the middle of about 4 post drafts – but for right now, I am just supposed to collect the moments. I think the Father wants me to collect for a bit – and analyze the collection at the right time. For so long, I have needed to hyper-focus on the little things He left for me – so I could better manage the big things without being so over-whelmed.

For now, I am leaving you with blessings I collected this week, gifts from Him vintaged that turned my days to joy, days that became filled with “the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor 2:14b)

The Magical Qualities of Pecan Dust

880) vanilla bean, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and allspice simmering in a crock pot, filling the house with warm, wholesome aroma
881) Boys seeing the ingredients, knowing what those ingredients mean – and seeing their smiles reach up to their eyes and down to their stomachs.

882) 4 Normandy pies made with my little guy growing (recipe, click here)
883) That the ever-changing schedule faithfully works its way out.
884) A few days where all the things I want to do, that makes me feel like I’m herding cats, overwhelming me and I only manage to catch one of those to-do things – a few days where I managed to herd those cats, not feel over-whelmed, where time seemed to expand
885) and I managed the weed-eater to trim the ivy, the ornamental grass gift,
886) and planted red and white pansies in my mail-box planter
887) trimming the never-give-up ivy away from the address and the box-opening
888) big fluffy winter blankets and bed-spreads washed in huge washers at the laundry-mat, cleaned and bleached for winter sleeping, a sweet freshness to inhale

The Spirit Curing Qualities of Chocolate

889) chicken and dressing casserole with water chestnuts, celery and onion
890) an entire weekday and evening with my husband
891) courage to meet new people and find the joy in the meeting
892) sharing a Reuben Sandwich at Friday lunch with my husband
893) That the phone call to my mom after a bunch of tests, telling her the doctor wanted to see her Monday, not in 3 weeks – was communication gone bad – the cancer wasn’t back – she was given a clean bill of health
894) re-discovering my home office after I managed to not let the mess overwhelm – and I tackled it, piece by piece.
895) Little yellow leaves lining the path to my work office – looking like the yellow brick road. Then I wondered what kind of yellow – and I thought of squash-yellow, corn-silk yellow, pineapple yellow, pepper yellow, lemon yellow – and decided I was glad the writers settled for the Yellow Brick Road – because anything else would have been messy. However, the ground was simply yellow beautiful.
896) A knitted hat almost finished – and a bunch more to go
897) my sons wanting me to help them with their Works-Cited page
898) working with these sons, pointing out the importance of each period, comma, capitalization, structural order – and nary a complaint because they wanted to do a good job. If you don’t have a Harbrace, check out Purdue OWL for examples, samples and explanations (click here)

899) A son changing his own car breaks
900) God with me – when the moments are easy and when they’re hard.
901) Excitement about celebrating Thanksgiving – celebrating His blessings
902) The turned corner in the journey of the answer to prayers.
903) Excitement about the up-coming season to celebrate the Messiah coming, teaching my sons that sometimes the day is only good because of the sweet scent through finding Christ in our day that rises to God.

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

Chocolate + Pecan Dust = A Sweet Aroma

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I think there are people who love exclusively – in an excluding way – who are uncomfortable with throwing the doors of their community wide open. I don’t understand how by loving fewer, one can love better.  Love is also not a selective thing, a pick-and-choose-thing.

If it is the Father’s and His Son’s kind of love it grows smaller if it is hoarded and shared with a man-chosen select few. God’s kind of love is a Widow’s flour jar-kind-of-love.

God sent Elijah across the path of a widow, a widow gathering sticks, getting ready to die with her son of starvation.

Elijah wasn’t in her family, in her exclusive love-and-care circle.

Yet, there he was at the city gate, asking her for a bit of water. Asking her to minister to him. (I King 17:10)

I’m sure she put down her sticks, frustrated that her task was interrupted, that her plan was somewhat hijacked.

After handing him a bit of water, she probably bent down to begin gathering the sticks, preparing still yet to die with her son.

Then, he interrupted her gain, “Can I have a morsel of bread?”(1 King 17:11)

She probably slowly set the sticks back down, straightened, irritation more about her situation than the man interrupting her course of action – and he wanted more from her? Something she didn’t think she had enough to give?

“And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (1 Kings 17:12).

Here she was a widow, with no one to provide, with only one person to care for – and today they were going to die – and here was someone wanting more? There wouldn’t be enough for her and her son if she shared what she had with him.

If she divided it up, it would make the portion for those she cared about smaller – not bigger.

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”(1 King 17: 13-14)

I don’t know if the widow knew this man was “somebody.” Whoever he was, he presumed upon her time and energies, asking and asking for her to do for him. And she did.  . . . do for him.

Instead of hoarding her flour and oil, she shared. In the sharing, it was neither spent nor emptied.

Love is like that.

When we share it, there is more than enough to share with all who cross our path.

Jesus tried to get that across to the disciples when He fed the multitude with 5 loaves of bread and 3 fishes.

“This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (Matt 14:15)

They enjoyed being Jesus disciples, probably enjoyed the attention – but they were not keen on offering hospitality, seeing to the needs of those who were not in their exclusive group.

Jesus wanted them, though, taught them to give of themselves, to genuinely care about those following them around.

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”(Matt 14:16)

Then Jesus showed them how something little is neither as insufficient as it seems. It is only restricted by limits we set about who to include.

You give them something to eat.

It is a come-as-you-are thing, a God-placed-you-in-my-path-for-purpose thing – whether it is a family path, a work-place path, a school path, a grocery-store path, a cross-country path, a coffee-shop path, a neighborhood path, a lunch-time path.

Those on your path belong to Him. Because they belong to Him, they also belong to me, to you.

You might even think you don’t like them – but He has given them to you – to give a morsel of bread, a bit of water – which really symbolizes your time, your effort, yourself.

There are so many hearts abandoned, peeking through soul windows, trying to find a moment of heart home: love, support, encouragement, spiritual mother and fathering, a Samaritan crossing over boundary lines to bind wounds, to hold steady as faith-strength is built.

I am so grateful for those who loved me inclusively, who I didn’t belong to biologically but through adoption in Christ. They saw the orphan of my spirit and brought me to adoption. They didn’t close the soul-windows of their hearts against me. They saw me peering through those windows and opened the doors of themselves to me.

Through their genuine care, their genuine interest wounds were bound and healed, faith strengthened – and I learned to throw open the soul windows to my spirit. I have learned to love, not perfectly, sometimes gracelessly but recognizing that love is like the widow’s flour jar – it never runs out or leaves too little for me to give my husband and my children.

Who has the Father placed in your path?

Open wide the windows and doors to your Soul House, share the flour jar of love that never empties.

For parallel stories, read about Elisha with the widow and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4).

Beauty in His Grip Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We just returned from vacation – week of refreshing, of contented family time, an aaaaAAAAHHHH soaking R&R – to return to unexpected challenges, challenges I thought long taken care of. Is it a life lesson – that every refreshing moment is followed by a challenge? It is moments like these, that the blessings outside myself soothe my soul – but I am left wondering why? Why cannot I be consistently strong inside?

Why exists the need to find the blessings outside of ourselves?

Why sometimes cannot my soul provide the song that lifts, instead of the cardinals, the robins, the fluttery creatures that nest in the pear and oak trees?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit rest as easily as a cat upon a favorite cushion when storms brew about?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit bloom beauty like the orange, deep fuschias and yellow zinnias in my garden?

Or my spirit give off the sweet aroma of the roses, the fresh cut grass or a fistful of violets, lemon balm and lavender?

Why sometimes cannot I reseed myself, burrow deeply into the black earth or red clay for winter – and just be comforted that now is not the time to bloom but to grow roots, to grow strong – and not feel behind, out of place or insufficient?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit find not only fulfillment in those moments when everything goes right, like the burst of dazzling bloom, but why must my heart struggle when, the new stage is a journey is like when the petals fade to replace the seed that falls – and it all starts back over again, the growth to bloom, why do I feel like I’ve failed because I couldn’t maintain the bloom – when the whole process, the falling, burrowing and regrowing are just as important, just as vital, just as fulfilling.

Why sometimes cannot my spirit weave things hoped for when all I am hangs by a thread of hope, why can I not innately weave something beautiful out of the thread it hangs by but must be reminded by the web of a spider’s thread in a forgotten corner that much can be made of that thread?

Why sometimes must I be reminded of the charity of all these, reminded through the blessings outside myself?

These blessings outside myself are the half-time rallying cries, illustrated disquisitions, a chorus of communiqués, love letters from the Father reminding me not to give up in those faltering moments when life happens in unpleasant, unwanted, unplanned for ways – and that is why I search them out, count them thank Him for giving me them.

In these outside-myself blessings, He tells me,
“Remember when I opened up the hollow place in Lehi for Samson – and water came out to rebuild his strength and revive him? (Judges 15:10) – so also I do with you with the bird song, the squirrels outside your window, the spider webs – these are messages and gifts I send to give you strength and revive you in midst of the challenge.”
“‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you”

(Isaiah 41: 9b-10)

These outside-myself blessings remind me of His firm grip, that He holds me steady, that help is on the way. He reminds me that through Him, I can.


790) spending time with 4 of 5 sons without outside distractions
791) quiet mornings, watching the ocean, reading the book of Joshua
792) little grey fish trimmed in yellow following my innertube
793) Time bobbing about the ocean and the lazy river with my husband
794) dolphins flying out of the ocean and diving back in
795) Time to get lost in a book that’s been sitting on my bedside table for months
796) my mom joining us for a few days
797) Sun-rise on the beach, watching with my husband the dark pink sun spilling across the grey sky
798) Leaving the white shores and the lazy river – crossed through the Misty Mountains and made our way to our Homely House – and, yes, I was reading The Hobbit the entire way home!
799) A chirp-fest from my backyard birds, as though they were rushing to tell me all the things that happened while we were on Holiday
800) Pink, orange, fuschia, burnt red zinnias still blooming
801) A Blustery Happy Windsday on Sunday, Winnie the Pooh’s birthday – so appropriate
802) The clouds closer to my patch of living, as if I could reach out and touch them
803) The hope of rain coming
804) That when challenges seemingly enlarge, knowing my God is bigger
805) Chili and chicken noodle soups on the stove
806) Brownies the boys baked
807) God coaxing me to let go of things that need let-going

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It’s the end of the week – and I’m tired. It’s the blessings, the love notes and messages from the Father that brought me smiles this week – like leaves still green swirling like confetti under a canopy of trees on my way home. Remembering last weeks blessings, vintaging them – sometimes those memories are the sweetness  that turned the sour, bland and tasteless moments of a day into hope and faith moments creased with a smile. Wishing you much blessing through the weekend, much refreshing, and the uncovering of many gifts from the Father!

634) In the hurly burly of an up-coming overwhelming schedule, a bird singing as I walked across the parking lot in the early morning sun. It was a song of peace, quiet joy in a yellow and blue sky morning.
635) yellow dress cookies with burnt orange and goldenrod yellow ribbons – made with love for a beautiful young lady, inside and out, who chose me to be her mom for a weekend, when she was little and I was much younger

636)Love and a repentant heart in a little boy wrapping his arms around me for forgiveness already given.
637) Amonia in a bucket that cleans all the dirt from real living off my kitchen floors.
638) My husband’s smile
639) A 30 hour trip celebrating 29 years of marriage
640) finding a buck-eye under a tree, hour 2 of our 30 hour celebration, a symbol of good luck, of blessing for our short journey

641) a handful of acorns, God reminding me that there are gifts that grow from seeds to trees if I just look around under my feet, up to the stars and everywhere in between.
642) a turtle dove, lighting on a white fence on our walk to dinner. Turtle doves are my husband’s favorite bird. As he mimicked the turtle dove call, she turned toward him for a photo.
643) time to just sit under the stars on a cool evening
644) knitting a few rows in a still few moments
645) a morning walk among the animals at Shaker Town – and birds flying to land on a fence, in a row, seeming playful, carefree – just like my heart felt – and God letting my surroundings echo that feeling
646) each son’s smile and the different places those smiles come from
647) coming home sick one day from work and being wrapped in the silence of a still house, every once and a while as soothing as a cool cloth on a fevered brow.
648) Messages for my heart found in un-looked for places

649) my cat who is a constant reminder of all the places to relax and stretch out

650) Smiles from a son while I coach him through a senior paper
651) Pizza on Friday night
652) My mother-in-law coming for a visit
653) Drinking coffee with my MIL in the late afternoons
654) The sounds of 4 boys playing cards, murmuring voices and grandbaby girl laughing

655)Yellow, Orange, Fuschia zinnias
656) Red tomatoes, green cucumbers, white corn and onions stirred together into my cold cucumber chowder
657) Pancakes on Sunday after church
658)Home at the end of every day

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Words go on consequence journeys, just like actions do. This week, the word “No” went on a journey – from our home, to defining a weekend for one son, to church on Sunday morning, to Sunday lunch. It went on a journey growing and becoming much more than it started out to be.

“No!” My little guy said, 7 a.m. Thursday morning. It was picture day at school. I’d asked him to wear a light blue and white checked shirt, button down with khaki shorts. He wasn’t balking at the shorts. He balked at the shirt.

Typically, I don’t make a big deal over clothes – well, except for Sunday morning. All I want on Sunday mornings is khaki casual and a nice shirt (like that blue and white checked, button-down shirt). You’d think I was asking them to wear pink boas and tap shoes to church!

I digress, though. It was 7 a.m., and I had a “No,” not-gonna-wear-it response trying to stare me down. Here was my littlest, almost 12, already exhibiting verbal fronds of teen rebellion –  7 a.m. on picture-day Thursday. This was the first picture day I had remembered before the photo in a couple of years. I wanted a couple of nice, shiny, smiling, smartly-dressed sons in a photo.

It was 7 a.m. I needed a cup of coffee. I didn’t need rebellion.

After a few intense moments, he agreed under duress. He did wear the shirt. He did look terribly nice. When he and his brother got out of the van for school, I thought, “Shouldn’t they look like that everyday – without a verbal war?”

Some of you might say, ‘You shouldn’t fight over what they wear.” I agree to an extent. However, they need to know how to dress appropriately for appropriate occasions, like weddings, funerals, graduations, Sundays, job seeking, and, well, picture day.

My little guy, he suffered for a few days.  He had to tell his dad later that night what he’d done – and he was grounded from t.v., video games. As he was walking out his punishment, he uttered these awful words, “What is there to do without t.v. and games?”  Did I say he was my saucy one? Who smiles while yanking my chain?

I told him we may turn off the t.v. after words like that. I suggested he read, create a little art, play his guitar, find his friends in the neighborhood.

He did – all of it, peppered with a few moaned words, “I’ll never tell you no again.”

Some of my sons obey easier than others. I call it being more “coachable.”

Today, the minister preached on believing God. He talked about how Eve didn’t really believe God when he said, “Don’t eat of the Tree” – because she did eat of the tree. She didn’t really believe He meant it – or she wouldn’t have eaten the apple. She didn’t trust what God said enough to obey – and she created a heap of a problem.

The Israelites had a problem believing, trusting, and obeying, too.

“But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him” (Deut 9:23)

When God tells you to do something, we are to trust him and do it. That’s a hard lesson to learn – even harder to learn if you cannot do it with your down-here, earthly father (and mother).

With a house full of boys to men, “No” opportunities happen more than I like – some verbally, some behaviorly – not just on school picture day.

During the sermon, I passed the following note down to another teen. Yes, I am that mom!

 “If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”

He sent a typical teen note back, trying to out-smart my note. I penned back, “Don’t out smart your common sense”(Song, “Love Like Crazy”) .

Later, over Sunday lunch at Cracker Barrel, we discussed Neil Armstrong, booms and earthquakes in California – and how if you cannot trust and obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God.

The parent relationship is the training ground for the child’s God relationship.

Each son, since we’re down to just 3 – each has signed up to do the dishes 2 nights a week. Each son knows his day. Each son hears us remind. Each son makes a choice to obey or not.

If they disobey, the brother doing the dishes the next night has a bigger load. The relationship experiences conflict. Chaos evolves.

When children don’t obey, problems pile up, seemingly little problems like dirty dishes. Like saying “No” to a parent might result in down-time, relaxation activities being taken away and one moment turns into 3 uncomfortable days.

 “If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”(Blue Cotton Memory)

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”(The Message, Romans 10:14)

 Holding my sons to accountability, to hear, to obey – even at 7 a.m. in the morning on picture day – it is not a comfortable thing. Sometimes, it makes me want to slam the door to a room. Sometimes, it makes me want to go into a quiet place and cry. Because some things are not as simple as shirts on picture day. Some children are not as easily coached.

If we are to teach them how to listen to the Father, hear what He tells them – and, obey it, then we need to teach them how to listen to us, hear what we say, and obey.

If you neither trust or nor obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God?

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What I want to do this weekend. . .

As I climb homeward up my little mountain,
I want the world to fall away
just for a little while
just for a few days

And I want to fling open the doors of my home, this cottage
and well-being spill outward to cover me
His kind of well-being:
good cheer, coziness,
exhilaration, repose,
sufficiency, in-side my soul warmth
I want to soak in it, like a long, warm bath
in an over-large tub
I form light and create darkness,
    I make well-being and create calamity,
    I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45: 7)

I want my home,
my shabby chic cottage,
yes, I like to think of my home
as a cottage, or maybe the Pumpkin House
with its orange brick,
but I want home, whatever I call it
to welcome with the following
to-do list:

Do slip into comfy clothes and flip-flops
I did that after I took my son to get his allergy shots and grocery shopping for the weekend after work. I have a basket of flip-flops by my back door! Lavender, pink, blue, black – flip-flop living in color
Do pull out the scissors
to trim garden zinnias
into everywhere bouquets
I was so tempted to just sit down, but my list convinced me I would be disappointed – so I pulled out my scissors, lopped off bunches of zinnias and made a jar, a vase, a glass and 3 mini pottery cups of zinnias. I know life sometimes happens to detour my plans. I’m glad I did it then because lots of life happened on Saturday, like a snowball gaining momentum.
Do sip on sweet tea and ice
watch the backyard antics of birds
and listen
listen to the laughter and shrieks
of the boys
and their neighborhood friends
I made a frozen frappe with a store mix, grabbed my book, my knitting and my computer. There was the laughing and later I wondered what I was thinking about wanting the shrieking but that just made me enjoy it more – my list reminded me how much I really do enjoy the boys joy though the hoola-baloo noise wears thin – it’s what it symbolizes – boy joy – that makes it so worth it!</strong

Do curl up with a book,
and 30 minutes later knit a few rows
Reading yes – visited blog friends, read a few chapters but no knitting yet. The weekend isn’t done yet!

Do listen for Him to call your name, His special name for you
I need to slow the busy-ness so I can listen better. My husband changed my breaks, fixed my auto air-conditioning while I cooked and froze some of the Farmer’s Market corn, prepared dinner for a bunch of boys who decided not to really eat and cleaned gum out of the dryer that, ahem, my sweet soldier son accidently left in when he washed his fatigues. Blue gum is just not cool in the dryer! I think I need some listening time

“I call you by your name,
     I name you, though you do not know me” (Isaiah 45: 4)
I thought about what He has named me. How I cannot wait to hear that name – to learn what it means, how He sees me, knowing that it will be more perfect than I can ever imagine.<strong

Do take an evening walk with your sweet-heart
and rise early
for your Farmer’s Market date
gathering chard for dinner
and tomatoes for canning
and sweet onions for taste and smell
The Farmer’s Market didn’t have onions – Sniff! But there is chard in my fridge and tomatoes ready for canning. My Farmer’s Market date happened in a summer rain! We grabbed breakfast at Chick-Filet and I thought we should have a kiss-in, my husband and I – but I thought the teens working would just go, “EEEEEwwwwwww” No evening walk yet – it’s been raining.</strong

Do visit the blueberry patch
because come January you will be disappointed
if you don’t
The rain held off my blueberry picking on the weekend but I called a friend to go with me after work. We drove to where the pavement ends, God’s amazing, untouched country begins to the Blueberry patch – only to find it was closed for the summer due to drought, intense heat and frost. The hidden blessing at Hidden Springs Farm was just being able to hang out with a friend and catch up!

Do go on a mother-son outing. . .
because he needs it and so do you
I was tired. I wanted to call it a day on Saturday – but we had our shopping date. He got what he needed, giving me a hearty thank you. Sometimes what each son figures he needs to reach a comfort level, like 3 pairs of shorts, solves all the little foxes kind of thing, freeing them to focus on the big things

Do write but don’t fret if it doesn’t come together – He will tell you  what to add, what to leave out, how to finish up.
It is His after all.
Feeling ready to revise-tackle of a draft called, “The Mother-in-Law Chronicles” – a series on sons, mother-in-laws and the daughter-in-laws in biblical history – hope you will come by for it starting August 13.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
     I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5-6)
That He not only has a name for me but He equips me – that just wows me. He has provided everything I need for every challenge – my equipment backpack may have different things in it than yours – but He has not forgotten anything for this journey I am on. It makes me want to take a peek – and see what’s in there – but I’ve figured it is a reveal-as-you-grow basis.

Do dress as your shabby chic self when you renew your wedding vows Sunday, in front of all those sons, repeating vows taken 29 years ago, reaffirming as we enter a new place in our journey, full of surprises, new beginnings – recognizing that there has been no more perfect time to renew those vows than as we launch into so much new, as so many prayers show the beginnings of their answers. Lavender and blue jeans – or blue skirt and ruffles – dress for the joy of it!

Dressed in a teal blue skirt, a birthday gift from my aunt, wore matching earrings I wore at my oldest son’s rehearsal dinner, a blue hydrangea bougquet, tricked out feet in shoes I bought at the beach a few years ago – something old, something new, nothing borrowed, lots of blue, teal blue that is. Pink toe-nails with heart-art was the fashion icing on the ensemble. It never ceases to amaze me how something like that can make a difference – but it does.

All my boys were there. I told my husband I was more nervous than when we got married – nervous the boys would burst into a wrestling match behind us.

I think we knew more about what those vows meant today. I thought that if we’d known of the challenges – not so much the individual hugeness but the cumulative hugeness – if we’d have set forth on our marriage journey with such joyful hope and can-do-ness. Maybe it is a good thing, for youth sometimes to think they are invincible, know everything – because it gets them out of the gate and on that journey path.

I teared up – I’m not allowed to tell you, ahem, if my husband teared up – but, this love 29 years later, is an enduring love that continues to unfold, revealing all sorts of sweet surprises. Pledging faithfulness – and knowing that it is true, that is special, too!

Do celebrate the marriage that flourishes within the pumpkin house or the shabby chic house – celebrate the blessings that have grown, those blessings with legs and those blessings tangible and intangible. Celebrate God’s enduring love that makes love true.

Do read all the love letters the Father leaves you this weekend – He will provide so many opportunities to do so!

Shower, O heavens, from above,
    and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
    let the earth cause them both to sprout;
    I the Lord have created it” (Isaiah 45: 8)

Let this to-do list bear fruit in big and little things – and in the moments of to-doing – I pray there are seed planting moments of salvation and righteousness, moments sprouting things of Him that are more than just doing at-home living things – and, oh, how I want some at home living things just like this for the next few days.


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School starts today – a senior, 8th grader and 6th grader – 3 still in the nest, 2 out – a snug balance that will change come next May.

I’m not quite ready for this school year, but I am being swept into it regardless of whether I am ready or not. Maybe next week I will be ready. Besides, who says I have to be ready at the beginning of everything?

At least the boys to men will go to school with haircuts – starting out neat and trim. Nice haircuts that seem to say, “I’m ready,” whether you really are or not.

But we’re really not.
And that’s o.k.

I’m making white cupcakes from scratch, filled with strawberry jam, topped with a chocolate ganache and pink, yellow and lavender fondant daisies for a wedding shower for my nephew and his sweet fiance this weekend. Even in that, I’m not quite ready.

And that’s o.k..

There are lots of changes, good changes, answered prayer changes – feeling like it’s a blizzard of answered prayer – and I can’t see ahead of it. I can only see as far as the tips of my toes, which really means, where I am right now.

This girl, here, the one typing – I’m used to seeing ahead of everything, even if I really can’t see: planning contingencies, even planning back-up alternatives for the contingencies – but God wants me to stand in the midst of this blizzard of answered prayer and just soak, not so much say right now.

One never quite knows where an answered prayer will take one – except that it will be ultimately lead its way into something good, something refreshing.

I’m not ready because I cannot see everything out in front of me

but I’m on the journey, even if it means I can’t see what’s beyond right now except the prayers answered – not the cause/effect, just the blessing of those answers

I am trusting Him, that these answered prayers will translate themselves to me eventually, that readiness will unfold itself.

“This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,

Thank you Father for making a safe, solid path through the challenges, through the unknown, even through answered prayers that lead to places unanticipated.

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:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.

Thank you for taking us forward, every closer to you. Thank you for leading us through the mine-field of challenges that reveal our measure of grace only to provide the opportunity to grow that measure of grace into something more. My history, the family history – it has already happened. I need to let go to let us grow into what He has planned. Event though much history is good, answered prayers start new chapters, leaving the old chapters behind.

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.

I’m not ready of myself, Father – but if you are designing the plan, the schedule, the itinerary, if you are building the road, no matter where you building the road, I want to be there with you, to watch your plan explode! Not just watch, but to work with you! Oh, yes, to work with you, even though you don’t need my help! I just have to be willing, game, alert, present.

Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me” (Isaiah 43:16-21)

Thank you, Father, for this blizzard of answered prayer. Thank you for always being faithful to your promises. Thank you for pursuing each of my sons, each member of my family with more love and determination than I can fathom. Thank you for opening doors that lead to other doors that lead us to where you want us to be. Thank you for sending me a husband who leads our family with unconditional love, wisdom founded in you, and a hopeful, joyful, never-give-up heart. Thank you for a support system that knows my heart, loves me where I am and cheers me on for where you take me. Thank you for giving me peace, to let me know that not everything has to be done perfectly on-the-world’s schedule – or even a school year schedule – and that it is o.k. sometimes to not be ready for things like school.

No, I’m not ready for school today, or for the shower Saturday, or soccer practice 3 days a weeks, dinner tomorrow night or tomorrow’s 6:25 wake up call for boys.

He just wants me to be ready to praise Him, to love Him, to just simply follow Him one minute, one hour, one day, one event at a time.

In the following, I will find myself ready at the right time, know how it all unfolds because He created the plans – and each contingency of each contingency.

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My son, when he was little, had trouble settling down for bed. It wasn’t so much energy oozing externally, propelling him from bed. It was all about how to still his mind to sleep.

It was the thinking, the ideas needing to be expressed – from his eyes, to his mouth to his fingertips to his feet – and not knowing how to still it all.

“Your fingers need to go to sleep, too,” I’d say, sitting with him, – and he’d still his fingers. One by one, he’d try to still thoughts and expression – kind of like turning the house lights off one-by-one. He wasn’t even 5 years old.

Learning how to still it all isn’t just a 5-year-old thing .

I know how he feels. Except it’s not always a stilling for sleepy-time things – a stilling of fingers and toes.

My self-perception is affected by thoughts that need stilling. To-do list thoughts, How-to, How-to-achieve-things-like-dreams thoughts, creeping-in-sly-fearful thoughts, less-than-my-better-self thoughts.

When I think of God, His plans for my life – I think of action, doing, achieving, always feeling behind the plan instead of ahead of the plan – never just where I need to be in the unfolding of the plan.

Motion – never stopping, never stilling – for fear I’ll end up to far behind to catch up.

All types of motion are required for real, living relationship with God.

Sometimes with God, I am to just stand, in a withstand way.

Sometimes, He carries me.

Sometimes, I am to read love letters He left outside my door, in a nature walk, in the journey to a waterfall, in a thunder storm.

Sometimes, we walk, heads bent together, arms linked

Other times, it has been like sitting on a porch swing, quiet, no talking, nothing happening but just being together – being still together.

That was this week.

Being still was a tough lesson for me last week. For a time, it left me confused, empty, insecure, sadly forlorn.

Instead of me soothing my children to still themselves, He kept admonishing me to still myself.

He sat with me on a porch, in the mountains, during a storm that blew dust particles from trees  into my face before spraying me with a misty coolness.

I wanted to read a love letter, to find a message from Him, but He just said,
“Be still. Just be with me. You can read the letter later. It will keep.”

Sitting in a chair, casting and reeling because I couldn’t do much else, in a little pond in a little cabin where cleaning and cooking were off-limits for my surgery recovery, I tried to build a post out of it all.

Be still. Just be with me.Everything else will keep, He said.

I couldn’t swim in the pond, couldn’t go rowing in the boat because of my stitches, so I watched my boys, took pictures and sat on the sidelines. I kept trying to find meaning for a message

But He just said, “Be still. Just be with Me. Everything else will keep.”

Sometimes I need to live out the “being” – let everything unfold – let it swirl down inside and “be” a part of it, even if it is just sitting.

Sometimes just to be with Him, recognize that He is sitting with me, beside me – that He wants to have relationship like that – like on a porch swing late in the afternoon when no words are needed, and we just watch together, just be still together.

I don’t think He created  Adam and Eve for Big thoughts, Big tasks, Big achievements. Sometimes He calls us to those – the Father, also wants to walk with us in the cool of the day and spend time with us (Genesis 3:8).

“Be Still,” He says – fingers, toes, and, yes, my mind.

“And Know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10)

He doesn’t want us to just know He is God – He wants us to know Him – even in the stillness of just being.

When He wants us to be still, everything else will keep.

Still joining Ann Voskap at A Holy Experience learning how to see the gifts God leaves me daily – it has been like a training camp this counting to 1,000 gifts – filled with blessing!
580) Prayers from friends in the blogahood and the neighborhood.
581) No pain
582) the ability to stretch
583) little guys who still give hugs
584) the ability to recuperate without pressure
585) pink, yellow and orange zinnias with bergamot blossoms in Mason Jars
586) uninterrupted time with my husband
587) waking my little guys up at the cabin to go fishing, counting ribs to get their muscles moving, their voices woke up, and shrieks of laughter filling my ears
588) a blue gill I caught with the wrong bait and a bobbin – it matched my glasses. We released it
589) my husband putting the worm on my hook – for some reason, it was easier a long, long time ago when squirmy wasn’t as yucky
590) watching the boys play in the pond, one in an inner-tube, one on noodles, another rowing
591) knowing that sometimes the figurative dragging to an experience is a moms job – knowing what the result can be when they get there – and see it all come about
592) peace that I did not have to be doing, achieving or even being productive as I recovered
593) air-conditioning and plenty of hose water for my tomatoes, zucchini, squash and zinnias
594) the blessing of healing
595) Sons who find our home comforting, a place to replenish, refresh
596) Sharing Sunday dinner, even if it is leftovers
597) Answered prayers unfurling
598) Evening walks with my husband, water, finding watermelons growing, red tomatoes, a rain tree flourishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of choice are you making with your emptiness?

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

Treating Boys as Knights in Training

Delayed Adulthood Devastates our Sons



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

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

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

Things, gifts that I don’t have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With words,
I dance worship

With words,
I sing the ballad He gave me

With words,
I play an instrument of praise

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

We each have a gift
Are you dancing yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!(Jude 1:20).

Arms outstretched and open, that’s how I want to be with God – like a child standing before my Father, arms outstretched and open, wanting to be lifted, held – and knowing  it, owning it that the Father will pick me up, hold me close, carry me, protect me, comfort me.

Praying in the Holy Spirit, though, that lifts straight into the center of God’s love, into the Father’s arms.

Arms outstretched anticipates, believes. Bold. Confident. Assurance of being wanted, loved, valued: Is my daddy going to pick me up? No doubt – especially when that daddy is Father God.

Arms outstretched  believes whole-heartedly – and it is my job to either say, pray and lay that foundation in my son’s lives, regardless of age.

Last week, a lot of foundation work went on at many structure levels.  It was a prayer-results-emerging week, too. Not a gut-wrenching, take-me-to-my-knees week.  It was one of those weeks where the stone-laying went smoothly. Where everything seemed to go just right. Progress was made.

Progress because of a lot of behind the scenes building through praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping centered on God’s love and not giving up. Living arms-outstretched, reaching, so ready for His mercy – that’s how last week happened.

Only with arms outstretched, hoping, believing, expecting can we received the blessings, the answered prayers.

Still joining with Ann in my journey to 1,000 gifts. Each day, there are gifts, some so simply, they could be easily over-looked. Some just roll over you like like a an army – you can’t miss it. Vintaging my week? Love Letters from God? So many treasures of His love!

278) My acorn turned 17 (See Growing Up My Acorn)
279) the same night another son played a middle school soccer game
280) This acorn, he came, hung out, laughed and tormented the littlest brother
281) hung out with friends on the lacrosse field, old and new friends
282) and he smiled, genuine smiles, feeling-at-home smiles that were, though he didn’t know it, answer-to-prayer smiles.
283) His biggest brother, sweet wife and baby girl came to dinner at our favorite celebration restaurant,
284) I got to hold baby girl all through dinner, her Papaw did, too
285) Dinner had our favorite dishes, silly smiles, feeling that family feeling that is just blessing, a gift from God, those moments you pray happen, except we were missing one
286) missing the one who has made better-man choices all year long, better-man choices that take him fishing, better-man choices that are answered prayers.
287) A carrot juice smoothie with a friend over lunch
288) My littlest guy, winning the sub-region 4-H Science Fair in Electricity. He came home from school in January wanting to do his project over Series and Parallel Circuits – and hounded us. Self-motivation is a blessing from God – and he has that.
289) Report cards that show healthy work ethics.
290) Knowing that prayer can change things that need to be changed.
291) Pansies in my flower boxes really blooming from Fall plantings – reminding that faith is believing in things that seem unbelievable.
292) Sitting around the chiminea with friends until a thunderstorm rolls in with lightening and hail, but we have a Holy Cow cake and a Kentucky basketball game to take its place.
293) Sleeping until 9 a.m. on Saturday morning
294) The red cardinals, still nesting in my yard, still singing their songs. Even at 1 a.m. There’s such an abundance – that it’s like God, instead of dropping confetti in my life to say, “Your faithfulness brought you home,” he filled my yard with cardinals instead.
295) My minister did a sermon on 1 Samuel 30: – where after David left home to do what God wanted him to do, when he returned, his family and the  family of all his mighty soldiers had been taken. David grieved – the situation tore his heart. His men felt it was David’s fault and thought about stoning him – but David took it to God, believed in God’s plan – and ultimately retrieved not only his family but all the soldier’s families. This story so blessed me, reminding me that the journey God sent us on 2 1/2 years ago, where at times I felt like I was losing my sons, my home because the challenges were so hard – that because we took that journey because God told us to, that during the challenges we never lost faith, we continued leading our young men in the ways of God along with much  praying, that He not only brought us safely home, but not one of our sons will be lost through the challenges because of our faith, our never taking our hearts off Him. It was like God whispering to me, “Like David, you will not lose one. Not one!” My God is a mighty God who lays stepping stones to my life that I cannot always fathom but I can take each step in faith and trust. Thank you, Father!
296) Faith that growing pains are just that – evidence of growing opportunities.
297) Blackberry Currant tea in an “I love you this much” cup at my desk at work.
298) Living encouragement, the power of positive thinking, and always looking for confetti moments – the desire for everyday living to never get old.
299) Finding a diet dr. pepper hid behind a book and another under a straw hat – and sharing one with my littlest guy.
300) That I don’t give up on bed-time tuck-in moments.
301) Morning prayer on the way to school: one leading the Lords’s prayer, one the 23rd psalm and the teen picking a proverb, and me praying, asking each boy to find 3 people to pray for each day

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Launching into independence “feels” perilous. Two of my sons have launched into independence differently: one gradually, one immediate.

As one son described it: “I loaded my truck 2 scoops at a time. He took the load all at once.”

Nervous? Frustrated? Sad? Scared? Freaking out? Some people might suggest these feelings mean a diagnosis and pill are needed, maybe they’re not ready, maybe they don’t have what it takes. While sometimes these reasons maybe be viable, most often they are just growing-independence-becoming -responsible pains.

I think all parents want to eliminate stress, hurt, failure and fear from their children’s lives. However, keeping children in a bubble, un-stressed, ill-equipped for responsibility is doing them a disservice. Learning how to handle being uncomfortable, how to face the unnerving challenge of living independence should be essential parenting.

Blue Cotton Dad says, “I would be concerned if someone newly on their own wasn’t [stressed out, frustrated, scared]. This means they’re engaged. They’re thinking about what they need to do.”

However they leave the nest, it is important to let them build their wing strength to eventually soar. It is hard to be a hands-off safety net. In this growing into responsibility and independence, my prayers can go where I cannot. When Change Comes is a prayer for these sons growing into men, facing challenges that separate the men from the boys.

When Change Comes

When changes comes
seemingly unasked, unwanted, uncomfortable
you might be surprised
but God isn’t

When change comes
so does frustration, fear, sadness,
humility, deflated confidence
because change brings new things
new challenges, tasks, heart-issues
new things bring out the gracelessness
of who we are without Him

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character. Hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

When change comes,
in the fine print of the change
is a note from God saying,
“You are ready for this next level.
You are equipped for this. You need to walk this path to collect
things important for the rest of your story.
Trust me.”

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5: 3-5)

When change comes,
you will first cry out, “Help me”
until one day, you will realize help is
a journey, a short story journey
in the midst of the anthology of your life
and you ask, “Be with me”
and He is with you, even on the days
when you can do nothing more than stand,
in the night terrors when all you can do is breath in
“Lord Jesus Christ,”
and breath out, “Have Mercy on Me.”

“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

When change comes,
it heralds God calling you to greater
where faith, hope and love become
more real than your skin
where God becomes more than 3 letters
in a book

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 32:2)

When change comes,
and the world questions you
it is your faith that shields
you from the arrows that would pierce
your dignity,
while you grow into God becoming
more than you ever knew

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way”(James 1:2-4)

When you come upon change
remember change is the next stepping stone
closer to God.
He placed each stone there before
you were born
so you would know how to find your way
back home
the path is true
the end
is assured

“When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it” (2 Cor. 3:7).

196) Standing between my boys, our hands raised in prayer, blessing our week
197) Walking during my lunch break, talking to my mom before surgery to clear an 80% blockage in her right carotid artery
198) News that my mom’s heart is healthy as a horse
199) Friends calling on God in their prayers to battle for my mom, to make miracles and healing for my mom
200) “What’s that?” my mom asked about the sound. “The blustery wind” and I thought about the trees above me. Were they praising God and was their praise going up to God and the sweet blessing of it falling on the students and me walking beneath it, like cherry blossoms in the spring?
201) The next day after surgery, my mom’s speech flowing more freely than it hand in a long time. It is amazing what 100% blood flow to your brain can accomplish.
202) robin egg blue, butter yellow, heavy-whipping-cream white, baby girl pink – all in the bags of mini-Cadbury eggs!
203) A candle jar turned into a candy jar that hollars to my sons who come for a handful. We’re working on 3 – I told them this was the not-gluttony jar. The discussion that followed made me smile.
204) pictures to my cell phone from my husband when my son graduated from AIT Thursday.
205) My soldier son walking through the door, asking if he could do laundry.
206) The energy to cook his favorite meal, Cajun shrimp and pasta, as I learn to get the hang of all day working.
207) Praying with a son before he leaves the house to face living independent
208) a squirrel foraging beneath a shrub beside the door entrance to work
209) a black umbrella with blue, green and red polka dots
210) baby showers and animal print blankets
211) A sweet friend and husband surprising us on our porch Fat Tuesday to celebrate friendship. God knew we needed to come out of our box! Just further proof that God sends beautiful gifts of friendship.
212) my little guy saying bedtime prayers and including his baby niece like she’s been part of the “God Bless” list forever.
213) peace beyond understanding
214) fluffy pillows and my white down comforter
215) That how I feel is not what determines the outcome, that it is my faith in my Father that determines the outcome!
216) My husband’s joyfulness, his humor and his smile – through it, I am able to see life more beautiful, more joyful.
217) Orange Dulce tea
218) Sunday afternoon when the sun was shining springtime, and the oldest son of them all stopped by, and in all the talking, each brother walked through, hugging, talking, teasing, and it felt like family when it’s good
219) Clean, white sunshine, falling from the blue sky into my house.

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Forgiveness tastes salty. Sometimes, unconditional love tastes salty, too. The only thing I know to do when hurt comes, not offense, just hurt – is to call on the Father, maybe sometimes in a Knight in Shining Armor kind of way to save the damsel in me. Because sometimes when hurt comes, love and forgiveness are overwhelmed and need saving, He is the only one who can do it.

Prayer for when Love and Forgiveness feel Overwhelmed by Hurt

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
‘I am your salvation!’”
(Psalm 35: 1-3)

Father, yes, contend against those who contend against me. Champion this damsel in distress. Let me feel your protection from the fight, the battle – you are my salvation. You are the only Knight in Shining Armour who can win this battle. But let your spear and javelin be the spear and javelin of truth that pierces hearts, lancing untruth, prejudice, negativism and applying the healing balm of your spirit.

“Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them”
(Psalm 35: 4-6).

Father, if there is shame or dishonor, let it be only in the recognition of the truth and love of my heart. When turned back, let it be with peace and rejoicing in truth. Do no let them become like chaff before the wind, let not the angel of the Lord drive them away. Let their way become sure-footed, truth-footed, God-footed, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them for salvation, not destruction. Let your love and forgiveness be meted out by a heart embracing truth and love.

“For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!”
(Psalm 35: 7-8)

The evidence is before you Father, the nets hid, a pit dug – all without merit. Yet, let not destruction come, let not traps ensare into destruction. Let Salvation ensare, captured by your saving grace. Let truth and love permeate  souls Father. Let redemption be found through your ways.

“Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,
exulting in his salvation.
All my bones shall say,
“O Lord, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

(Psalm 35: 9-10)

My soul rejoices in you Oh, Lord, exulting in your salvation. All my bones, from my toes upward cry out, “O Lord, who is like you” for you deliver me from situations too strong for me, from situations that seek to rob me, from situations I cannot comprehend.

“Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft”
(Psalm 35: 11-12)

 I try to love Father – in words, actions and thoughts. But my words, actions and thoughts are mis-interepreted, mis-used or lost in translation.  My soul is bereft: beggared, destitute, left without, impoverished, disinherited, barren, cast off, without breath.

“But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning”
(Psalm 35: 13-14)

Oh, father, I can only love the way I know how. Is there more? Is there a better way? I have tried every love language, tried to love your way, through you, sometimes graceless like a dancer with wounded feet, but always full-hearted, a no-holds barred loving.

“But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth”
(Psalm 35: 15-16)

At each wrong foot unintentionally placed, at each word imperfectly chosen, at each moment awkwardly loved – offense was taken, resulting in retribution that tore at me, constantly. Not forgiven or overlooked, like spilled milk at a feast where it is cleaned up and camaraderie continues – but my gracelessness, my imperfection stays center stage, judged, ridiculed, continual bruising and scratching of my heart, no moving forward, no loving forward, hurt that nips and pulls at my soul. Who cares but you, Oh Father, about these wounds? Who but you can heal them?

“How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, ‘Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it'”
(Psalm 35: 19-21)

If there is something barring you from interceding on my behalf, open my eyes to it Lord. Is there a reason I am to walk through this Father? Please rescue from this destructive hurt. You have told me I am precious to you, a favored daughter. Rescue me,  Father. I will tell the story of my Knight in Shining Armour who rode out of heaven to lift me up, who saved me, healed blindness, healed embittered hearts, healed wounds – and restored.

Let restoration be true Father. Not a 6-year-old, “I’m sorry” to escape punishment – but real heart changes. Let there be change, deep soul-change: restoration where love flourishes, words embrace, peace flows from a Holy Spirit stream of heart – oh, Father, let us embrace each other inside the circle of your family with loving intent.

“You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
Let them not say in their hearts,
‘Aha, our heart’s desire!’
Let them not say, ‘We have swallowed him up'”
(Psalm 35: 22-25)

Rescue me Father. You know the truth. Champion me, Lord. Ride to my rescue. Be. With.  Me. – be with this heart that strives imperfectly to live your cause, to live as your daughter, to love all your children. Vindicate. Exonerate. Defend me, Oh, Lord. You have said I am your daughter, a daughter of the King, the creator, the great I Am. You have pursued me, told me I belong to you, that every hair on my head is counted, that every tear is collected. In your mighty love for me Father, that is too much for me to comprehend, to big for me to fathom, in your mighty love father, rescue me, redeem me, restore me, save me from this battle.

“Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:26-28)

As I try to live love and forgiveness, Father, I ask for shame and dishonour to not be brought against those who hurt me. I ask that shame and dishonour be replaced with forgiveness and redemption, that hearts are changed, that souls are changed – and that love prevails. Thank you Father for surrounding me with those who encourage me, who know the righteousness of my heart, my intents. I thank you that they rejoice with me that you delight in the welfare of me, your servant, your daughter – and I will tell the story, the continual story of your Hero to my damsel in distress.

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This week last year, my granddaughter was born. In celebration and remembrance of blessing born into our lives, I am reposting 2 of the posts from her coming. Wishing each of you blessings this week!
“If she doesn’t turn in an hour, we’ll have to do a c-section,” my son explained to us, 2 sets of grandparents-in-waiting, a great grandmother, and a gaggle of friends.

He was exhausted – labor had been long, even before they’d come to the hospital.

So we circled around him and prayed. He returned to his wife.

Her mother and I both took a walk, separately. We didn’t say anything – but we were both praying. I wound my way to the chapel and knelt – the bible was open to Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!” (Psalm 20: 1-2)

And I prayed for baby girl, for an uncomplicated, safe entrance into the world. For our Lord to protect her in this moment of trouble. To send help and support to her and her mother and father.

“May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!” (3)

And, I thought of their faith, trying to set their feet towards their Lord, seeking Him in each step of their relationship, honoring each other and the Father.

Then St. Augustine’s words came to mind: both the pagan and the Christian face the same challenges – the only difference is how they handle those challenges (City of God, St. Augustine, Chapter 8).

For a moment, I almost faltered. The same challenges . . . . 2 people wanting a natural birth, 2 people getting a c-section – and how they handle the disappointment of not having the natural birth.

. . . . . the only difference is how they handle those challenges as though the challenge wins in some way, the challenge rolls on and over us and we just have to deal with it, no overcoming the challenge, just dealing with the aftermath of the challenge.

God made me back up

the only difference is how they handle those challenges

The unbeliever has not God

The believer has God

who has the power, desire and love to either lift the challenge or lift the challenged out . . . .

“May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!”(4,5)

Babygirl’s other grandmother-in-waiting and I met in our walking, reached out, hand-to-hand, praying, setting up our banners in His name, praying that He grant these parent’s their heart’s desire.

And babygirl turned, turned and was pushed into the world, healthy, whole with thick, dark hair an inch long.

Standing, lining the hallway outside the waiting area, grandmothers and grandfather’s-in-waiting, fraunts and fruncles, a great grandmother, their cell phones beeped, and opened, revealing a picture of baby girl – and joyful shouts were heard from the corridor to the delivery room. Joy over her deliverance because of Him.

God is never late. Maybe sometimes He is uninvited, but never late.

The Little Blessings fell like snowflakes in the midst of the Big Blessing this week:

27) hiding places, like the space behind book-shelve books where you can tuck a few diet dr. peppers.
28) words like, “All is forgotten” said by my son when he walked through the doors to tell us about the delivery.
30) a salted caramel mocha from Starbucks to take to the hospital
31) Poetry by John Keats read in the waiting
32) a bible turned to Psalms 20
33) listening to my littlest’s bedtime prayers, asking God to bless baby girl
34) a husband who made the boy’s school lunch when I went to the hospital at 6 a.m. because that’s when my son and daughter-in-law went.
35) opening my phone to see a picture of a beautiful, newborn babygirl.
36) homemade pepperoni roles for after school
37) my mother-in-law teaching me to cut out material for a quilt.
38) fiskas rotary cutters that make my sewing skill look better than it really is.
39) sharing a quilt on the couch while watching a movie with the little guy.
40) making coffee every morning for my sweet mother-in-law while she was here – I usually don’t manage to achieve that
41) homemade bread turned into pepperoni rolls for after school
42) a texted picture showing us the wait was over
43) sitting in a hospital lobby because the waiting room had been turned to a nursery. Waiting not alone.
44) a clean, straight laundry room, compliments of my mother-in-law who came for the week to meet baby girl.
45) buckets of rain morphing into snow on a late afternoon
46) that nature isn’t always girly flowers, that God created nature to do things for boys, too, like making an ice-like stalactite that broke in the shape of a gun.
47) directions are true and the quilt pieces do fit together
48) antibiotics and meds healing my soldier son of double pneumonia
49) a friend who turned to me after church, took my hands and prayed that a Holy Spirit bubble would encase my son when he entered his mold-infested barracks, protecting his lungs, keeping them free from contamination.
50) 2 new lemons on my counter for my water
51) ingredients for a Taco Soup recipe
52) thawed out pumpkin for chocolate chip pumpkin bread
53) hot chocolate cups filled with my special Hot Chocolate
54) waiting, not wigging out, believing that God is never late for what we need.
55) a bouquet of flowers for becoming a grandmother, from a friend I bumped into at the grocery store.

“Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor.”(City of God, St. Augustine, Chapter 8)

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If you were a neighbor, I might drop by with this

or this

or even this

I have long since decided that instead of bringing by pies, cupcakes and cookies, friends in the blogahood give awards. What a sweet, southern kind of thing! What deliciously wonderful gifts! And, just like my mama taught me, the neighborly gifts are returned. Yes, they take a little time to prepare. Good things usually do. But it is part of what keeps the community cohesive, friendly and feeling like home.

Amy at Sunshine Sentiments stopped by and gave me The Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you Amy for your hospitality! Your thoughtfulness blessed me at a time when I really needed blessing!

And, like any good thing, there are, sigh, rules!

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic!
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.
And, like any good southerner,
when you stop by,
your’re served a story or two with your slice of pie
washed down with a nice glass of iced tea or a scalding hot cup of coffee.
Seven Things to Share About Myself:

1. Once a year, at Christmas, my husband and I go on a shopping date where we lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Over a Club Sandwich, a cup of coffee and fries, we read the Wall Street Journal, talk and take our time. It’s one of my very favorite times of the year.

2. When I was little, one of my favorite reading places was on a limb in a pine tree.
3. All our animals are named after literary characters. Dickens (Charles), Cozette (Les Miserable), Cleo (Cleopatra), Figaro (Pinocchio), Copper (Fox and Hound), Nana (Peter Pan) – the name of the dog we had for 3 weeks, that my teen “bought for free” from a lady at the hospital? Layla – Eric Clapton’s song. Sadly, it looks like the history of our literary names for pets are devolving from classical to pop culture. Sigh. . .
4. Suspense torments me. I read the ends of books first. However, raising my sons, I am learning not only to have faith in the endings but to find peace and joy in the unfolding journey. I guess that is patience – learning to find joy and contentment in each chapter of the waiting – and that it is in the waiting where the most important living is.
5.  I am so loving my sons right now by doing a Family Read and Discussion of Ethics: An Early American Handbook, a reprint of an 1890 original. The first chapter was Truth; we’re in the middle of Obedience now. We add scripture stories to drive the points home. Everybody reads. It has been a real eye-opener to the boys, has made them squirm and confront real truth and real obedience. They classify levels of each ethic, providing exceptional down-to-earth examples. I recommend it as a must-have for the family library. My boys would concur that sometimes love is not comfortable! LOL
6. When I was little, one Sunday morning, I found a bag of change. It was tucked down in the back of my grandmother’s white Lazy Boy. I was so excited. I thought God had just put it right there for me to find. I now had a jangly bag of change to give God during offering. I stuffed it in my winter coat pocket, and waited. Anticipation welled up during Mass. When the offering basket went by me, I pulled my bag of change out of my coat pocket and plopped it in the basket. The heads of my mom, my aunt, my grandmother and my brother all turn toward me – kind of like the wave but with heads – all surprised, all assessing, one stewing. Believing in fairy tales and miracles didn’t persuade my brother that I was innocent of putting his money stash in the offering. I think he’s still miffed about it today. I felt guilty for years, until I realized that the $14+ dollars I had to spend to fix my bicycle he took apart a few years later when he decided he wanted to be an engineer and couldn’t quite put back together probably evened our unintentional sins out.
7. I Love Cherry Cordial M&Ms.
Please stop by and visit some of my new and old friends in the blogahood that I’m passing this award along to. You will be blessed!
Nacole at Sixinthesticks
Brandee at Smooth Stones
Happy Girl at Being Happy
Andrea at Multiple Mama
Lisa at Lisa Notes

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Grow where you are planted. Minister where your roots reach.

Don’t wait to go to China, to Uganda, to some other place than where you are.

Minister now, where you are planted. With a story, your story. Of what He has done for you.

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples”  (Psalm 96:3).

Among the nations is also right where you are.

Some people might have a street corner. Some people might have a campus step. Some people might have a classroom podium or a sandy spot on a beach. My campus step, my street corner, my podium – is my kitchen counter. 5 boys x however many people they bring through my house – that is my mission field.

Trickle-down Faith-a-nomics.

I see my ministry grow where the boys bring people through the house. When you come through my door, you get good food and real conversation – across-the counter-conversation. Maybe my stories of what God has done for me will water a seed planted – and that seed planted will grow roots that will go to the nations – right in my town or across the world.

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

You don’t have to go to far away places. You don’t have to lead a ministry team. It is about living your ministry that God fitted you for, planned you for, placed you – where you are.

Live Ministry – giving service, care, aid, comfort to the those who don’t know they are the long-lost children of God or to God’s children who are hurting or maybe even need to be budged to grow.

Instead of trying to weed myself out of where I am planted, I have come to understand God planted me there for a reason. This understanding drastically changed the expectations I had created of where I thought I ought to be.

Like a shade plant transplanted from the afternoon sun into a cool, shade spot,

or a desert plant removed from the long, drawn-out shadowed  corner of a house nestled next to a butterfly bush and placed in a dry rocky area to thrive,

I have thrived, bloomed riotously (I so love that word).

“Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9: 38).

The harvest is from where you stand to as far as your heart can pray. Yes, pray for laborers but realize that you are a laborer of the harvest  and your field to harvest is where you are right now.

I need to tell those stories of what He has done from where I am, whether it is my kitchen counter or a podium in a church in Africa. It is just as important a work, loving God’s children here, pulling strangers into the family of God here. . . in my kitchen as it is in another country.

My counter, my root spot, my lofty podium is behind my kitchen counter.

Where’s yours?

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Wearing the Shades of Judgementalism reduces vision into surrounding harvest fields.

The Shades of Judgmentalism provide deceptive comfortable vision while filtering and blocking undesirable truth.

The Shades of Judgementalism diminish not only the brightness of the light of your Salvation but the ability to reflect Salvation’s light onto the surrounding harvest fields.

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4: 35b)

The whispers of judgement are designed to deflect a ministry call God wants you to make with the person you are judging. Maybe it is just a call to pray. Maybe it is a call to approach, to smile. It is always a call to brotherhood or sisterhood in the family of God. The next time you feel that judgement rile up inside you, tear off those Shades of Judgementalism and look your mission field straight in the eye.

What kind of shades are you wearing?

Tomorrow, I will see my second son who will be graduating Thursday from Basic Training – lots of thoughts going on in my heart and mind. Can’t wait to embrace this son who has been rebuilt into a man. To see where my hearts and prayers have been please stop by and read my heart: https://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/breaking-and-rebuilding/ – and pray for me, that this mama, whose job is now to just love and pray for this son, speaks the right words and find joy and blessing in his journey of growing toward the Father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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