Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

beachboyscc_edited-2

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat-the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself is truly hidden”
(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory).

Your neighbor – in the car line,
the slow poke in front of you on a late morning
an unsaved brother
or school mate
the stranger in your neighborhood
the parent on your soccer team who
is really quiet
a political opposite
the friend inside your circle
the acquaintance whose circle you know
nothing of
the fella who lives seemingly all wrong
and the girl who lives seemingly too always right
the workplace neighbor
who doesn’t understand you
and the mother-in-law God gave you
the barista who makes your coffee
the server who spills
soup into your lap
the teacher who doesn’t understand
your child
alongside the one who does
the coach who doesn’t see
what you see
and the one who manages to inspire
beyond your child’s confidence
the easy and the
hard
your mother and father
the siblings
the “I do” man
for better for worse
in the good times and the hard hauls
through to the other side
and the children growing
and, yes, the pizza delivery man
alongside the driver of the
ice cream truck

all designed to be, next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor in the daily of your God-designed life, the holiest object presented to your senses!

“Jesus said, ‘The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these’” (Mark 12:31).

Love your neighbor means to love those God gives you through birth and marriage, those next door, around the block, along the daily by-ways, hallways, cow paths and concrete paths you set your feet on.

This intentional loving is not an instant thing, an over-night thing. Grasping how God loves is something we grow into, one love-choice step at a time.

It’s your choice, this loving – those you asked for and those you didn’t.

Grow it, nurture it – believe it!

*************************************************************************

Read Full Post »

weddingbreakfastc_edited-2

When my first son married, I sent a question to the parents and grandparents asking, “When you said, “I do,” what is something you ended up doing, something you’d never imagined, that brought you great joy. I turned the answers to those questions in, “What are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life” (Poem 1). To listen to Frank Sinatra sing the song that inspired this project, click here. My second son married this week with family coming from all over the country – from California, New Jersey, Kentucky – and inbetween – to celebrate. I did the same project with them. Let me tell you, I fell in love with my daughter-in-laws family when I read their answers. This is their poem:

What are you Doing for the rest of your life? Poem II

What are you doing for the rest of your life, Beautiful,” he asked.
“Spending it with you,” she smiled, smiling his favorite smile

Dreams, Expectations, and Love
reshape, re-form
as the rest of your life unfolds

Papaw laughed, saying, “We didn’t know nothing when we got married”
but their house filled up,
creating their own love equation:
1girl + 1 boy + a set of twins
equals 12 grandsons
Who thought a house
could hold so much love?

“Packing and unpacking the good-stuff
about 20 times over 45 years,” mused Papa Bill.

“Savoring the slow grow
from Switzerland to Cape Cod,
France to the New Mexican Mountains,
the slow grow of a life-time of family,
Grandpa Leo, like a story-teller said,
when one day a precious granddaughter
chased butterflies through wildflower
fields
and, in the watching,
I saw the most beautiful
flower
of them all.

“I learned that miracles come in threes
A lifetime is full of blessing,”
explained Granny.
“That love shares
toothpaste
and dreams
growing
so much bigger than your imagination
daily, weekly, yearly
there is always more love
and the idealistic star-gazer matured
understanding.”

“A house on the water filled with grand
children
who ever thought visits could mean so much?”
Queried Grandma Doris
“Weekends, vacations, any time
kayaking, fishing, water skiing and big
waterfront bonfires with those I love so much
roasting marshmallows and listening
and loving every moment

How does I do  make scraps for love story pieces?
Somehow, it does – and out of it comes
garden tulips, little Dutch girls
and farmer boys, soccer balls and
all things Papaw from trucks, tractors
and Apple Tree Swings quilted
and wrapped tight around
so many little shoulders
like hugs and love,” explained Nanny.

“My happiest Days?
A Mama’s Trinity:
babies born,
college graduation,
and weddings,”
misty-eyed Grandmama wistful explained.

His mama gladly
put girly, girl dreams aside
to find joy in boys and their toys:
Whoever thought snuggle-buggles and Nerf-Gun Wars could bring so much joy
Learning to hug
in all the love languages,
the huggable language of each son!
Challenging each other to love
To God’s beard and back

“Who knew?” his daddy said.
“Wiffle ball,  sock wars,
and Friday Three Stooge
Night
could be so much fun,
or watching soccer
under the moon and the sun,
while walking out with each son
the plumb line of dream building”

“Hide-N-Seek
in the dark,
boys sitting on kitchen counter-tops
telling stories big and little,
little and big
and laughing,  a joy unanticipated over 35 years ago,”
his Aunt Sherry said added.

“Rooms filled
with yellow paper
birthday
Stars,” her mama said determinedly,
“every year,
every birthday.”

Who knew how important creating
an environment that grew
a strain of independence
in a three-year-old breakfast-maker
artist, speaker, singer?” said her father.
“Who knew how important that would
become to me, to be an encourager of
independence for you to be
you
following a path all your own
forged with your will,
designed with your brain
out of your own heart
which led you to a volley ball court in Tennessee
where a boy lived who loves you true

What are you doing for the rest of your life?
You really haven’t a clue
about the wonderful details and moments inside the plan
God has in store for you!
Big and Little
Little and Big

I never imagined a son would make me feel so tiny!

I never imagined a son would make me feel so tiny!

(To see the first What are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life, please click here.)

Read Full Post »

flowrjar2I am so glad God
Loves
with immeasurable capacity
More than just
his Son
Who didn’t just love James and John
Plus 10
But loved each of us
Who hadn’t even been born
Yet
With equal, immeasurable capacity
The Father and His son knew
Love might be washed in a Holy
Spirit baptism
and not be
diluted
Not diminished

Like the Zarephath widow
With only a handful of flour
remaining
in a jar
A bit of oil
And a prophet promise
The flour jar didn’t empty
didn’t exhaust itself
spend itself out
Because the promise of God
Left more than enough
always more than enough
for the daily

Wouldn’t a God who wouldn’t
empty a jar
Not empty a heart
Of love
But refill to overflowing
every time
It spent itself
On one of us?

And aren’t each of us
One of His?
If God would send His son
To spend Himself
On each of us to come
The jar of meal runs not out
The oil bottle empties not
So trust your heart
To love more than enough
For all He sends you
To love
The easy and the hard
The ones you want
And the ones you don’t

For God so loved the world
He sent
His only begotten son
to teach us about
love choices
so then how can we love the world
when we cannot love
those He gives us
through birth,
marriage,
backyard mazes
classroom halls
church steps
grocery aisles

how can we love the world
unless our heart
loves like
the widow’s jar
that empties
not




Read Full Post »

barndoors_edited-1The other day, I did a radio interview for my new book release. It was my second radio interview, but I still had little confidence in my ability to sound coherent.  The only confidence I carried into that booth with me was that I could survive the 10 minute span. It’s the same technique I used to get through 5 labor and deliveries – thinking that in 24 hours it would be over.

Friends and family were so encouraging. When I told them I was shaking in my shoes, one said, “I can’t imagine you being nervous about anything.”

When I first started teaching college students, I wasn’t much older than they were. I had mutiny nightmares for weeks. However, I walked into that classroom acting like I knew what I was doing. Eventually, I did.

Motherhood was like that. I had to persuade a newborn, a 3 month old, a 5-year-old, a pre-teen – eventually a teen that I knew what I was doing. Sadly, once they went to college, I think they saw through me.

Confidence in me? Not an ounce for what I can do – but I am Fearlessly Confident.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with the quality of my scones, lemon-curd or chocolate-ganache filled cupcakes or the quality of the photographs I take or words written or stories I tell.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with commas, semi-colons, colons, verb tenses, vocabulary or grammar rules, writing structures or transitions.

There’s no Fearless Confidence in how I mother these 5 sons.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with sock matching, laundry folding or delivery to the right boy’s room.

Fearless Confidence doesn’t mean I respond to driver’s in the on-coming lane crossing the yellow line any better.

It doesn’t mean I think you’ll love my children’s books, that I always shepherd correctly – or even always love rightly.

Offers to help can turn out all wrong – so no Fearless Confidence there, either.

I can try to share grace-filled words that are heard/received with the opposite intent.

Fearless confidence has nothing to do with how I do anything.

It has everything to do with whose I am.

Through the Fall, up through December, my husband had been encouraging me to show the world the same fearless confidence I show him, my boys or my community.

“Talk to ‘em like you do me,” he’d say.

“But the world isn’t you,” I’d respond. “There’s no place for that kind of confidence there.”

It can be a restricting thing when the “world” says, “Leave who you are at home.”

barnstairs_edited-1Being boxed up can cause self-atrophy of who we are God-designed to be.

Atrophy:

  1. gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to under-use or neglect
  2. (of body tissue or an organ) waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.

Sometimes, the world we walk in is uncomfortable with Fearless Confidence. In the uncomfortableness of Fearless Confidence we hide it, only taking who we are out – every once in a while, in the safe places.

It is not how we were designed to live our God-designed journey. Even if we are believing it inside – in our hearts and minds – we are designed to be who we are  outside, too – on the sidewalks, highways and hallways of this life we walk. If we don’t, who we are designed to be weakens, shrivels up, unable to stretch fully into God’s design.

One day, between Christmas and New Years, I happened upon Elizabeth’s blog, Just following Jesus, about her one word of the year-endurance (she does a beautiful job showing the grace, beauty and faith of endurance – stop by and read her post).

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

My soul caught on, not just the words Fearless Confidence – but the admonishment to not fling it away. Fearless Confidence caught like mohair yarn snagged on barn-door wood – it caught at me and wouldn’t let me be.

“That’s your words for the year,” the one who created me whispered quiet.

“Oh, no – not that word – not Fearless Confidence – the world – it doesn’t want that,” I told Him. The world can be mean-spirited when it doesn’t want things. A self-atrophied spirit can fight for others, but rarely feels up for a fight for self.

“This is  going to be hard. It will be really – really uncomfortable,” my heart whispered right back.

. . . . and for a few days, we both just let it sit between us. God knows that sometimes I need time to turn things over. He had faith in me that I’d come around – and come around faster than I used to.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned about God, His directives and His timing – is that when He tells me something – it doesn’t mean I was supposed to have had it done yesterday – that I’m somehow late because I should have known and then I trip all over myself in graceless haste because I believe I’m already behind.

I’ve learned that when He tells me I’m to do something, He prepares me for it, has created a time frame for it to not just get it done but time to also ready for it – and that time frame is before me. I am not late because He is not late.

. . . . and for a few days, the words Fearless Confidence sat between us. He knew I would need time to absorb . . . time for me to take a deep breath . . . .and step into this new year where together He would teach me how to walk, talk and be Fearlessly Confident in a world that wanted none of it.

Fearless Confidence? “Oh, they just think too much of themselves,” some people say.

“They just think they’re better than anybody else.”

Someone else’s Fearless Confidence can be intimidating.

Eleanor Roosevelt, in This is My Story, said, ““No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

But they can try. . .

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages,” said Virginia Woolf.

. . . . thus encouraging us to walk into their cages and lock ourselves up.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” Henry David Thoreau admonished. “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

I have no fearless confidence in the life I imagined – but I do have fearless confidence in the life He designed for me, the dreams He’s placed in me, and the journey He’s given me – because He’s given them. My dreams are just shadows to God’s plans.

barnbudc_edited-1I can have fearless confidence in who I am through Him because He tells me so:

He tells me that He designed me, put all these dreams and things in me, planned every day of my life. I am not who I am by whimsical happenstance. I am who I am because I am God-designed, God-loved. In that, I have fearless confidence.

My stories and words may not be welcomed by everyone – but they are welcomed by those who were designed to receive them.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)

Does this Fearless Confidence mean I’m soul-cleaner, holier, smarter, more worthy of going up to God – ’cause He’s the big cheese, you know – and, well, I hear He hangs with Mother Teresa, Peter, James and John?

No – it just means that I know that He’s my dad – and, he manages to make all of us feel like his favorites. Because He’s my Dad, I know I’m always welcome – even when I get myself into those messes I manage to contrive. He doesn’t tell me to come back when I’m cleaned up.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

God doesn’t create an inner-circle that leaves any of His children out. He makes room at His table for all of us. He always has time for me and you – even when He’s in the middle of something big. . . . even when He’s talking to someone the world thinks is more important than everyday ordinary men and women like you and me.

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6).

The Fearless Confidence in Hebrews 10: 35 – is about fearless confidence in who I am to the great I Am, to Shaddai, to Jehovah-Raah – the Lord is my Shepherd, to Jehovah Rapha – the Lord my healer, to Jehovah Jireh – my provider, to Jehovah Shalom – my peace, to not just carry the banner of Jehovah-Nissi – but to walk with fearless confidence under His banner.

He designed my days before I was born – he is not surprised when I find myself in the middle of a self-designed mess.

He knit me together inside and out – gave me spiritual gifts, love languages – and a skill set designed just for me.

He sent His son to die on the cross, so that I could be called His child, His daughter – a daughter of the King – who can run into His throne room, fling myself into His arms and laugh with joy or cry for mercy – or even just talk.

He loves me beautiful – even when I don’t feel it. He designed each of us to be loved beautiful.

So when I walk into a library and ask if I can come read my books, I’m fearlessly confident – not that they will say, “Yes” – but fearlessly confident I am His beloved daughter.

When I’m invited to read to a classroom of students, I am His beloved daughter. That morning on the radio, I really just had to show up and be who He designed me to be right then and there – not who I am going to be in 10 years or 19 days.

Even after 32 years of marriage, and, yes, fearless confidence in the love my husband has for me and the love I have for him, I don’t have confidence that I do marriage perfect – but I have Fearless Confidence that God and His love works it beautiful right.

No matter who I work for, whether it’s inside the family or outside the family – I am His beloved daughter.

I am not confident in my mothering skills, but I am Fearless Confidence that God has the saving plan – for me, my husband, my boys, my daughter-in-law and DIL-to-be, my granddaughter – and one coming soon.

It has taken me awhile to work through this word – to walk in the world with this Fearless Confidence, to not just live it in the safe places. Let me tell you, it changed everything. It redeemed the challenges. God moved in ways that just had me standing still on the sidelines, watching God move. All I could say was, “Well-played, God! Well-played!”

“Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).

Be still in the Fearless Confidence of who God is and who you are to God! If you don’t know, don’t feel it – who you are to God, ask Him to show you, to help you understand – and He will. Those dreams you have? He knows all about them and wants to help you with them.

He wants you to be Fearlessly Confident that you are His, designed-beautiful, designed for joy, designed for good things.

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

( I realize that my Word for the Year is really 2 words – but that’s what He gave me. My word doesn’t always start in January – usually, just when He gives it to me. It’s like enrolling in a class for whatever duration He designs it to be where we study. My last word was Shalom)

Read Full Post »

grass

low bends the frozen reed, like a heart unmoved
by a mother’s plea
faith, let it break not beneath the weight, she cries
bent over the Mercy Seat

thawed and bruised, like a heart wounded to waking
by a mother’s plea
faith, let it break not to loss, she cries
bent over her Father’s feet

thin and reedy it faces the sun, reaching
by its own heart’s plea
break this heart open to love thee well
a mother’s child cries at the Mercy Seat

A bruised reed he will not break, (Isaiah 42:3)

icegrass2c_edited-2

Read Full Post »

pretzelscc_edited-4

Four seed packets of zinnias, 3 seeds per pellet in seed trays – I’m planning ahead for zinnia blooms in May. Thyme, Sage, Italian Parsley, Tarragon, Marjoram, Sage and Basil – 3 seeds per tray, too. They’re all sprouting, except for the Old German’s in their tray. They’re holding out.

I can count on seed-time and harvest. I can trust in my planning – and I love planning. Planning averts failure; ergo planning creates success – right?

I read book endings first, so I know how the plot unfolds as I go. I love planning vacations, holidays and the daily – all planned with buffer time for the unexpected. I plan contingency plans for the contingency plans.

I try to pre-destine the daily not accounting for the free-will asserting itself – or nature’s plans, or even God’s plans. The only thing I am sure of in this planning is that my plan is predestined to not go as planned.

I didn’t plan for one boy throwing up at 4:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning – or the nasty bug flowing and ebbing over the next 5 days.  I didn’t plan for another boy catching the same bug 48 hours later, two days behind the other. Is chaos a plan?

Challenges have shown up un-invited into what should have been a seamless year, with a fall-out that affecting my boys in unplanned ways.

I didn’t plan for that.

Life throwing up unplanned, unpleasant things? “Not in my plans!” I assert, not considering I am man, fallible man. How can imperfect humanity create a perfect plan?

My plans are but pencil sketches on onion paper to God’s plans. He’s planned for every intersection crossing with other plans, like my husband’s, my boyss and everyone else’s whose path I cross in the daily. His contingencies out-contingency mine.

5-Minute Stop

I’m a terrible passenger (just ask my boys who are now have their licenses) in this God-designed journey.  Still gasping at some of the curves. Still saying, “Do you see that?” Still trying to slam on my air brakes. Sometimes my breath just gets caught in my chest, and I wonder if I’ll survive – but I am learning to let God drive this ride.

So when the boys throw up, and cry, “I’m hungry . . . . I don’t want Italian ices anymore” – and I stand firm on the soft, liquid diet until tummies settle down, I’m learning to embrace the plan change – and find God in it – not the sickness – but the silver lining of it.

When the boys come home,worn out, not 100%, frustrated with the make-up exams and unexpected, unplanned for chaos in the daily, and spill frustration like a sticky soda canknocked over into the day. . . . I settle into God – and after I settle into God, I make chocolate dipped pretzels with KitKat and M&M dust – because some days need extra-special, unplanned cooking – and unplanned time with God.

“We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
    but God’s purpose prevails” (Proverbs 19:21)

Read Full Post »

crocnightA few weeks ago, Bicycling with Ava was released. A Crocodile under the Bed, displayed alongside – hasn’t had grandmother’s come bursting through doors saying, “I’ve got to have that for my granddaughter. Her name’s Ava” – but Croc has slightly out-sold Ava. . . and, well, it’s done something incredibly surprising and beautiful.

For every person who has walked by my table (at art festivals), reached out to look at the books, grandma’s and friends interested in Ava – they’ve got to hear about how A Crocodile Under the Bed is for ages 5 to 105 – because everyone has a crocodile under the bed.

The crocodile symbolizes the challenges. Challenges don’t go away. They just change. Five-year-old challenges are much different from the ones faced at 16, 22, 30, 41, 51, 65, 73+. Those challenges might be different, but I think all challenges, regardless of age, have the potential to steal our peace, hurt our hearts and, generally tie us in all kinds of emotional knots.

page1Parenting is full of challenges our children face: educational, health, relationship, choice challenges. If you’re like me, sometimes you don’t know the answer. Even specialists have trouble identifying issues and solutions.

. . . and the people who walk by my table, I get the opportunity to tell them how Crocodile Under the Bed is a story about giving those challenges over to God–how we’re called by God to both prepare for battle but to rest in peace at the same time. . . . how, sometimes, only God can get rid of the crocodiles under our beds.

I won’t lie to you – selling my books has been a blast. I’m scheduling art and craft festivals to sell them at in 2015. It’s a venue that has so far been successful. It also allows the opportunity for real conversation, whether people buy or not – real conversation about a God who wants to get rid of the crocodiles under the bed – and that is the best part of it all – the best part of all!

Do you have a crocodile under the bed? Do you need to be reminded to ask God to get rid of that crocodile under the bed? Do you know that God loves you enough to wrestle those crocodiles for you?

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears”

Crocodile Under the Bed INTERIOR.inddTo order click here: A Crocodile Under the Bed

Read Full Post »

Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

“That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it”~ My Grandmother’s Clothes Bag

Disclaimer: Grandmother, if she knew I had turned this story into an allegory would probably have admonished me to “Stop that Silly Talk.”

Characters in the allegory of Grandmother’s Clothes Bag
Grandmother – Everyman
Granddaughter – Everyman
Navy, Accordion-Pleated Wool Skirt – A blessing shared
The Clothes Bag – The Bible
The Content of the Clothes Bag – Things of God
Moth Balls – The Holy Spirit

There’s a time when I moved from a child’s relationship to the Father, to an adult’s relationship to the Father. Where, as a child, I loved Him with abandon. Growing up led to self-consciousness, gracelessness from uncomfortable awareness, and learning to take the reigns of spiritual responsibility in hand.Growing up meant sifting through what I had been taught, becoming intentional in what I believed.

That meant I was alone responsible for that relationship. The training wheels were off. I was alone responsible for the reaching.

I didn’t do well early on, when those training wheels were off. My relationship wobbled with Him wobbled.

Like I hurried through Grandmother’s back porch, past the clothes bag, so I hurried past Him.

Self-consciousness, lack of confidence in who I was caused me to hurry past things that intimidated me through my ignorance – not just of the things of God but who I was to Him.

Faux gracefully, I enacted the ritual of sorting through winter and spring into the clothes bag – but I didn’t dig into that clothes bag. I stood in the kitchen and handed out.

I didn’t not know Him intimately. I could not truly catalog was what in His word. I needed to spend time with Him, with His word, to see what was there – not just the gospel, but Ruth, Jeremiah, Isaiah – all the one’s I skipped over, ignored.

I needed to spend time with Him, like my grandmother spent time maintaining the clothes bag, lined with those moth balls.

I couldn’t really help anyone. I couldn’t really even help myself – not until I delved into the contents of His word, His Holy Spirit – Him.

The Father wanted me to stop rushing past Him, open up His word and listen, really listen, catalog in my heart its content, wear it, walk it, know it – to continually wrap His word in His Holy Spirit.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

One day, sitting in the car outside my husband’s work, waiting – which is something newleyweds still in college with just one car do a lot – the Father met me there. I asked the Father, “I want that relationship I had with you as a child. Teach me how to get there.”

He did. . . it was a journey, though – not an overnight arrival.

I learned to not rush past His word like I rushed over cool, pebbled-concrete floors. I dug into His word, like my grandmother dug into her clothes bag, cataloging, nurturing so that one day I could share what is within His word, within relationship with Him.

When grandmother saw a need – she went to the clothes bag and drew a blessing out – a blessing that caused a soul-reveal. I needed to learn to live that kind of relationship with Him.

I needed to believe what the word said about that relationship, about the hope, the healing, the speaking, the praying, the Holy Spirit, the believing without seeing.

 

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”(Hebrews 11:6)

When I dug into His word, when I believed His word – I discovered who I was to Him – his beloved daughter.

I discovered a Father who wanted to become the shade in the glaring, uncomfortable heat of challenges, who wanted to shelter me beneath the feathers of His wing, who wanted to bind my wounds scarless, who wanted to shelter me in the storm – that He saves me when I cry out, like a Knight in Shining Armor:

“He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then GOD thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.
16-19 But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but GOD stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”

(Psalm 18: 10-15, The Message)

One day long ago, grandmother pulled a skirt out of her clothes bag. As the years unfolded, that moment became an allegory of faith. Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal – and the truism made me a beloved daughter of the King, who willing jumped on His horse and moved heaven and earth to protect shelter . . . . save.

Because I learned not to hasten away from the things of God, I find blessings He leaves me, messages He leaves me in the ordinary of a day:

964) The squirrel nest high in the barren oak, sways in the thin-limbed top, twigs, old leaves woven together, how does it protect against the bitter wind? And, I marvel – because it does.
965) My mother-in-laws hands, folding laundry, teaching me to slip-stitch quilt binding, making banana pudding, hugging babies and boys

966) Nine sherbet-colored bandanas bought in 2009 quilted, backed, binded and tied with raspberry, lime green, citrus orange, flamingo pink and lemon yellow embroidery thread.
967) Red chili sauce in Thais Gopaw – taste buds delighting after days of illness
968) Robin’s egg blue skies outside my work window
969) Lunch date with my husband, just the two of us
970) Italian chamber music on my iPod nano diminishing chaos
971) The story of grace changing lives, redeeming from the law, in movie theatres around the world, sung in spiritual songs of Les Miserable (the book beautiful, too)
972) Two hour morning delay from an ice storm that never came, giving me time to love the boys with homemade chocolate chip granola bars and hamburger, elk and deer-meat chili.

Read Full Post »

Untitled-1Age 6 – something inside Double Dog Dared me to write a book – and I did. I priced it at 5 cents – but there weren’t any takers. A dream emerged, though, through the writer.  Stories, poems, 7th grade  Shakespearean Sonnets, school newspapers, lay-out, editing.

I was learning to be a writer – and I planned a life of writing. Dream Plans drawn up are limited by experience and knowledge.

In graduate school, two guys sat across from me, trying to persuade me that the creative writing program wasn’t for me. The graduate school adviser echoed their arguments a few days later.

I looked them straight in the eye, and said, “Charles Dickens had lived a lifetime by my age (24). His life experience wrote his books. I have a lot of living still to do.”

I dared to stand up to a dream nobody else believed in.

In my graduate thesis, I quoted Charles Dickens. Somebody had written him a letter asking him to look over their manuscript, to tell them whether they had any creative ability whatsoever.

Dickens replied, “For all I know, the land is yours by right.”

Dreams are often slide-tackled by others who don’t know the plans for God-Dreams planted inside us before we were born.

God-dreams might crumple in a slide-tackle, but they rise back up. They’re unshakable. God-dreams just won’t seem to let you let go. . . .

(The chairman of the department told me after my thesis defense that the dean of the graduate school said it was the best creative thesis she had read)

“We plan the way we want to live, (Proverbs 16: 9a, The Message)
 

All those years ago, the graduate student could only put that dream emerging into context of what I knew. There’s a huge difference between what I know – and what God knows – about how God-dreams are used.

Only God could make my dream livable, though. I was learning that. It’s been a lifelong lesson.

 Stop

knittingava“We plan the way we want to live,
    but only God makes us able to live it” (Proverbs 16:9, The Message)

3 children later, I dared to give this dream to God – this very dream that I thought had roots only back to 6 years old. I gave it to Him, willing to not pick it back up. I wanted to show Him I loved Him more than a dream. It was the biggest love offering I had to give.

. . . and He gave it back.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all” (Proverbs 3: 5-7.5)

There wasn’t anything like blogging back in graduate school. Yeah, print Writer’s Markets existed. I wrote for a newspaper – and had a blast doing it. In college, I never dreamed of being a mom to 5 sons, or falling in love with children’s books.

Sitting around my grandmother’s dining room table, my first-born sitting in the high chair beside his great-grandmother – probably one of the last feasts she hosted – she leaned toward my son, 80-year-old green eyes sparkling, she recited to him “Wynken, Blinken and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe, off into a sea of crystal light into a sea of dew. . . .” – and I fell in love with children’s books right there, all grown up, watching the interaction of the two in the lyrics of a book recited from memory.

She must have read that book over and over and over to my mom, my aunts and uncle. . . .

Over the next 27 years, I fell in love with children’s books, like Margaret Wise Brown’s Wait Till the Moon is Full, or Joan Walsh Anglund‘s The Brave Little Cowboy, Ben Schecter’s When Will the Snow Trees Grow – and so many, many more.

CrocmomDuring those years, I wrote a drawer-full of stories. Then I started blogging – encouraging posts and a few stories.

In November, two of my stories are being launched, Bicycling with Ava and A Crocodile Under the Bed. Four more follow next year with 3 planned for the year after. Linda Farrington Wilson illustrated them – and that has been a God-gift for this God-dream.

My dream has a dust jacket . . . just. . . .wow. . . thank you, God!

Dare to dream, friends! Dare to God-dream! There’s no telling where God will take you and what that dream will do!

(Stop by Kate’s five-minute Friday – and bring your five minutes of brave to write on the word. . . . Dare. . . . )

Read Full Post »

treefog2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read Full Post »

Brothers Holding Hands?

hands3cWhen brother’s grow up,

this is how they hold hands.

brothershands

Read Full Post »

Cure

Criticism Prevention?

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

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

You can only learn how to live through it.

What needs to be done?

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

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

A criticism preventative doesn’t exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only what needs to be done

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

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

Only what needs to be done

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

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

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

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

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

What needs to be done?

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

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

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

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

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

A quote from my contribution:

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

Read Full Post »

redtruckrightcc

First Gear

In his daddy’s red and white truck, this boy and I

studied earth science and college notes

Leaning against each other, my feet dangling out the window

In the Kentucky Sunshine.

Driving down small town roads

At a red stop light

He says, “I think I’m beginning to love you. What do you think?”

Looking straight ahead, down the 4 lane road, I answer,

“I wasn’t going to think about it until you said something.”

The red light changed yellow to green

and we moved on down the road

Shift, Second Gear

A few years later, our red-Ford truck climbs up

snow covered graveled driveway

Our little guy between us, enjoying

the adventure, no fear with

back wheels slipping and sliding

But he gets us home

A home tucked next to his grandfather’s farm

A red Ford truck soon to be traded in for a mini-van

big enough to hold a basketball team

worth of boys

trading outside stuff

For important inside stuff

Shift 3rd Gear

Our driveway moved

To another state, this boy-filled mini-van full

brown eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes all

Eager for nanny hugs and papaw rides

In the red and white truck for

Candy and Coke Store moments,

For farm rides through

Rutted tracks made by tractors and trucks

To the daffodil fields, grave stones

tobacco and hay fields, over creek beds

looking for tree nuts, walking sticks

or just sitting and waiting in Papaw’s

red and white truck

redtruckbar_edited-1Shift, Fourth Gear

Teen boy wants to drive

to make life his own and daddy buys

a $500 project where hands that held mine

remove emblems, chrome and trim

motor sanding, hand sanding

sand rust harsh then fine

bondo-fill gaps,

sand more, preparing for

Viper Red

new hands at spray-gun control

daddy’s voice coaching

encouraging

even results

and they dig deeper

beneath the exterior to the heart

inspecting hoses, belts transmissions and motors

bleeding lines, filling tanks

with just the right stuff

A Viper Red Project

“It will mean more to him this way”

says his daddy. “He’ll take better care”

Readying him for the long ride

down the road

Fourth Gear

Maybe one day our mini-van will empty out

each boy driving into life

with something that means more

and he’ll take better care

and while they shift their gears

from first, second to third

just maybe me and that boy

that took me out in his daddy’s red and white truck

will find time to go down a lonely dirt road

lean against each other with my toes out the window

no more studying, no more sanding

just knowing we love this long drive together

This son, with the truck project, when he was a Freshman, he and another boy riding with me in my mini-van talked trucks. The other boy talked about his powerful Chevy truck with detailed auto language. He snorted derisively on my son’s Ford, sitting the driveway, waiting to be sanded, waiting for Viper Red to give it new life. My son looked at him saying, “My Ford truck is so powerful, Zeus called to see if I could drive over and haul the sun few hundred miles north.” I just gotta love a boy that thinks like that!

truckinterior_edited-1

Read Full Post »

birthday10“Old people are respectable in spite of themselves” (1934 movie, Patsy Patterson, Lady by Choice). I don’t know if that’s true, but it made me smile the day after my birthday.

I celebrated with what I call “Big Dinner.” When I tell the boys we’re having “Big Dinner” – it’s not a cook-out, or kitchen island eating. It’s dinner at the big table, decked out, me cooking (who else cooks when you have 5 sons – just mom)- and it is a sit-long-talk-much, eat slow, linger kind-of-dinner.

Around the big table, the conversation between these boys-to-men happens in its own time, punctuated by humor and laughter, politics and faith. Saturday was like that.

Go out? Not a chance! Where else can my granddaughter pour me a cuppa tea from a Mrs. Potts’ tea set, let me sit with her while she tucks in for a nap ten times the only doll I’ve ever had a chance to buy in 28 years, let my mom visiting from states away work her brand of magic on my floral arrangement and set the table, and enjoy talking to my daughter-in-law-to-be while she helped me with the dishes.

While setting the dishes out, I saw my 6 ft 4 son, sit at the little table and let his 2 1/2 year old niece pour him tea.

I didn’t want restaurant-rushing. I wanted intentional savoring of those God’s given me. Maybe when we seek God in the every-moment – maybe that’s how we somehow become respectable – in spite of ourselves.

I know that faith and hope cannot be based on feelings – or 5 sensory detail – but I believe that we can choose to find God in the midst of the 5 sensory detail. By choosing to find God in it, good, bad and in-between moments have the ability to be filled by God’s grace, have the ability to become something more than they are. It’s not easy – this God-choosing. It takes being intentional and vigilant, determined in our faith and hope to be present right here, right now. Maybe that is the greatest gift of growing older.

Living fully, intentionally
right now
in the 5 sensory living
in a God’s grace revelation that redeems
or the inhale of a Lord Jesus Christ
exhale Have-mercy-on-me moment

No what-ifs invited
No looking back
No looking forward
Just looking the moment in the eye
And challenging it to
Bring the God-in-it-on
Knowing He’s got my back
He’s got the plan
He’s available in each
moment

so I soak it in
right now
soul-eyes wide open seeing
my sweet heart’s eyes crinkle when he smiles
The freckles on my boy’s nose that tell of moments in sunshine
red blooms in a weed bed
seeing words in red, spoken for me
choosing to see goodness
in the midst of a challenge

Sadie2Hands and feet feeling
summer-time hotness, toes in the grass, hands pulling blueberries
still reaching to hold hands after 31 years of I do
dirt from the floor stuck to sensitive feet
evidence of a dog shedding love everywhere
and boys mowing, kicking a soccer ball,
grass and wet from the brothers coming in
after playing soccer in the rain
on a celebration day
choosing the love interpretation of an any-moment
like goodness of a hug not yet given
rather than the gritty dirt under my feet

hearing a son reach out, speaking life
in his very own brand of saucy humor
while hearing so much in the 15-year-old’s controlled silence
not anger, not manipulation – just so much control
hearing I love you in a boy cleaning my kitchen
for my birthday
laughter from the outside of a conversation
between 5 boys being brothers
the turtle dove’s reedy call from roof top perches
the sound of peace and hope in a rare silence
instead of fear and trouble borrowing
hearing instead God’s whispers, God’s words.

bday4ctasting raspberry tea as it travels down my throat
cooling a heated moment
chocolate-orange squares comforting
in a long afternoon of choosing to bloom
where I am planted
sweat in a weed-pulling moment under a hot summer sun
communion bread pulling me back
to the roots of who I am
when I’ve forgotten or feel
forgotten

the smell of rain in the cumulonimbus creeping up behind the trees
tomatoes and cucumbers pulled from the vine
dill and sage, lavender and thyme
on fingertips and counter top dishes
Learning how to savor, keep and store summertime smells
for days needing warm savory reminders
when metallic smells herald ahead
of a white blanket chill

Being fully present
No day-dreaming
No dissing the daily

finding His take in
5 sensory living
of  right now
There’s always something worth keeping
In the present – no matter how it feels

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)

bday35c

rain tree seeds

Read Full Post »

grandfather199My grandfather wound his way before he died of cancer, wound his way to the children’s orphanage’s gym where Mass was celebrated, this man raised Baptist – wound his way to find a chair as women in white leotards danced praise down the aisle, praise to Yahweh.

This hippie church we called it, housed in an orphanage gym while it built a glass church in the woods – He found God there, before God called him home. I’d been in the sixth grade.

During the great war, he worked at a munitions factory counties away– until his daughter was born at my great-grandmother’s farm. He quit his job then, when jobs were hard to find, missing his wife and new-born daughter – quit to be with them. His life was like that – impulsive – but loving big – big enough it spilled down into the hearts of his children and grandchildren.

grandmotherMy grandmother, at 94, her bones spent, dementia stealing the timeline of her stories, asked me one day, “Who’s baby is that?”

“Mine,” I answered.

“Who are you,” she asked – this fierce woman who made room for us when my parents divorced, who instilled that same fierceness in me, the same fight, the not-give-up-ness, this woman who made me feel beautiful inside, who sent me cards with violets because she knew I loved violets, who along with my mother and aunt, went to church every Sunday, who made sure we knew God.

Neither of them ever gave up.

Neither, for a moment, gave up on each other, on their children, on the daily. Grandfather might have bruises  under his thumb-nail bed through car-door-slamming frustration

. . . .but he never lost his smile.

“Damn it, don’t die on me now,” my uncle’s wife cried on the way home from taking my grandfather to a cancer treatment.

“I won’t,” my grandfather quipped, ever the one for a good joke and a smile. My aunt had been talking to her car as she tried to pull onto the freeway.

No, he never lost his special sense of joy-timing.

Grandmother’s strength never failed.

grandfather23Between his smiling and her never-failing, they both finished their races.  In the process – they both trained me – to not give up, to finish, to find the joy in the living of what God started before they were even born.

. . . .so when the daily doesn’t go like I want,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

when my boys choose experience as the shepherd, instead of wise advise,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

Scan6_2_0039_039When those around me don’t see what God sees in me and heart-dust storms are kicked up because of it,

After slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

When up is down, and right is wrong – and sure steps seem all slippery and life becomes a caricature of an Alice in Wonderland nonsensical scene,

I won’t give up – because these two people, who wound their own way to God, and pulled me along in their own way, showed me how to not haphazardly live joy and strength –but to choose to carry it all the way to the very last breath.

To love God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, either in the daily or in a life span – takes strength – and when love is involved must take joy. I want to end this story of mine not giving up on God but spilling the joy of my love of Him over onto my children and grandchildren. I want to be like in the daily right up to the end.

Joy spilled from love overflowing, faith overflowing – so that maybe when life deals them a harsh hand in the daily or the decade – these children and grandchildren will choose God’s kind of strength and joy.

Oh, yes, Let me be singing of His mighty love when the evening comes!

“From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3)

Read Full Post »

floridatrees14It is hard when our children learn to deal with the diverse responses of relationships in the classroom. They have their close friends who have their back, then more peripheral friends, and, lastly, conflict peers.

Some of my sons are water-off-a-duck’s back with social conflict. No ruffly feathers here. Some take it to heart and have trouble shaking the continual attempt to establish a pecking-order by conflict peers.

“They don’t like me mom,” one son said of a particular group of boys. Let me qualify that he has awesome friends. When the bully in the bathroom threatened peers in the bathroom, regardless of whether they were his close friends or peers, he had no problem telling the bully to move on.

“Dude, you’re too small to beat him up,”  he told the bully in the bathroom. Instead of a fight ensuing, people laughed and everybody left. The bully in the bathroom was momentarily deflated.

Another time, my son was explaining classroom dynamics with a group of trouble-makers. My son explained, “When they ask me to help with their homework, they’re nice. But then they turn mean again.”

How do you explain to a boy growing into a man that with confidence comes responsibility. Confidence shouldn’t be used for beating down, but for leading into faith. Confidence doesn’t just happen: God put it there for a reason.

“Every time you help, you plant a Jesus seed,” I responded.

He looked at me.

dogwoodlimbs“We all have different bloom times. To a lot of these kids, you have it all. You do great in school, on the soccer field. You have good friends. They don’t see how hard you work at home to do well in school. They just see a confident, well-liked kid. Apparently they respect and trust you to help them.”

He was still paying attention, so I continued, “Maybe right now they don’t feel as great about themselves. Maybe they don’t see the gifts inside them that they see in you – and they feel inadequate.”

“What’s inadequate?” he asked, trying to grab hold of what I was saying.

“If you go to the store and they ring up 22 dollars but you only have 20 – you have inadequate funding,” I explained. “Everybody’s bloom time is different. Gift recognition and development sometimes takes others pointing out your strengths. Right now – these kids see can’t see their strengths. Sometimes it’s easier to see another’s strengths than your own.”

I could identify with the late bloomers – not the bullying part, but not being able to see the good things within. I’d been a late bloomer in school.

This conversation occurred in one of the last bed-time chronicles before my boy outgrew them. I tried to encourage that with great gifts comes great responsibility- and that means your response to these challenges needs to be more intentional and responsible.

IMG_5763_edited-4Last year, I encouraged the boys to find 3 people to pray for every day – not just the easy people, but the bully, the kid who gets on your nerves, the student who tries their best to be unnoticed.  They didn’t do it everyday, but a seed was planted.

We’re starting this year with the same message – but being more intentional, recognizing the mission field they walk through every day, understanding how God doesn’t want a one lost.

God calls us to take risks with the talents He gives us. In the story of the man with the talents, he gave one $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000. Two men took risks of their talents and doubled their investment. One just hid his, fearing failure.

Christ commissioned us to go out into the nations and save souls for Him (Matthew 28: 19-20), to tell others about His father. God has equipped each of us for this task, equipped us like the man equipped his servants with the talents. Early bloomers, late bloomers – each is called to enter the mission field. Our first mission field is our family, the second our schools, then our community – and then the world.

“‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’”Matthew 25: 28-30).

God calls us to be risk-takers. Yes, go out on a limb – take God-risks.   I don’t know if there’s a right age to reach others for Christ; however, our children need to be encouraged to not judge and condemn those who struggle with good choices – but to go out on a limb, be kind, plant a seed: be willing to sit down, really talk, really share, really listen. Don’t use the limb to beat others down. Use it as a leverage to lift them up.

nesttree1

Read Full Post »

Lipp2_edited-1Ummmm, I need some help here. Do you see me? Hand raised, face red, embarrassed because my by-the-book parenting skills just don’t always produce the results discussed.

Asking for help? Don’t want to do it (ask for help that is) . . . because asking for help equals failure, inadequacy – just plain not measuring up. Doesn’t it?

I used to think so. How terribly wrong I was.

You and I, we were designed to need help. If we didn’t – need help – would we turn to God? Not just turn to God, lift one eye-brow and acknowledge Him – but drop on our knees, drop the very soul of ourselves at His feet and say, “i need YOU.”

God designed us in His image – just like He reaches out to us, we each are designed to reach out. . . . to all His children – the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the lovable, the unlovable, the hurting and even those who seem so whole, so put together.

I must admit, with my first-born, I didn’t need as much help. I did all the things the parenting books suggested – from love to discipline, to chores to Christ, to loving your neighbor, to teaching about tithing and healing and praying. We successfully launched him into college – and into independence. “Thanks for the independence with training wheels,” he said one day before he graduated. This parenting gig seemed so easy.

I realize now that it wasn’t so much of what we did, but how God designed him: coachable, logical, born-an-old-man. I think Isaac might have been like that to Abraham. I mean, what son or daughter would just hop on top of a sacrificial alter because their dad said it was the right thing to do?

If you’ve had a nest-full of coachable, easy to shepherd, minimal problem kids – you really don’t need to read further. If your nest has been diverse – different personalities, different levels of coachability, differently designed and wired – so that all those parenting books suddenly don’t apply – then Kathi Lipp’s book i need some help here! might be just the read you need.

Have you ever felt like you’re raising a rebel like Samson, a thief and runner like Jacob, someone who run’s from God’s plan like Jonah, the prodigal even – then you probably need some encouragement – someone who won’t condemn your child’s brokenness, blame it on your supposed secret sin, someone who will pray God’s plan with you over your child (regardless of the age) – someone who recognizes that Godly parents have children who struggle – with life – whether it is due to choices, health issues – or outside issues that affect their inner soul.

Kathi points out: “This is the road no one wants to travel the road of having a child that is struggling. But there are priceless treasures along the way if you allow God to work in your life and your child’s (Kathi Lipp).

She also says, “I was not a perfect mom, but I was the mom God chose for them, and therefore I was the perfect mom them” (Lipp).

In the process of raising these children, God refines us. “Once your heart has been broken for your kids, God can use that brokenness to woo you to be the kind of parent he needs you to be,” Kathi explains.

My goal as a parent was to raise whole, healthy children – physically and spiritually. I didn’t want to break them, scathe them, wound them. Yet because of sin, we are all born broken. Because of my brokenness, I cannot be a perfect parent: I cannot fix everything that breaks.

I cannot make everything o.k.

God can, though.

Kathi encourages us in i need some help here! to set healthy boundaries and expectations – not just on our children, but ourselves: when our children are overwhelmed, troubled, different, sick makes poor choices, run away from God, lacks character, struggles and feels left out.

You are not alone. God doesn’t want you or me to be isolated as our children struggle. He doesn’t want us hiding behind shame.  He wants us to encourage each other by our faith in Him. Kathi’s book does just that. You can find more about Kathi over at her place: Kathi Lipp- Your Life. On Purpose.

Read Full Post »

hydrangea2012c

The blue hydrangeas,
They grew and grew and grew
Spilling across doorways and sidewalks paths –

They were ready
For a journey
hydrangeatransplatecAnd so we transplanted them around the corner,
Under the kitchen table
window. The blue hydrangeas sulked
In the newness
Wouldn’t show themselves for more seasons
than seemed
seemly.

We hoped in things we didn’t see
Watered with faith for roots
planted true

“Give it time,” my husband spoke
Beside me

“4 more weeks,” suggested the nursery man
Before it was time to give up

Until one day, just before reaching for the shovel
Just before giving up
a chopped chive-size
piece of green
stuck on what seemed
a dead stick

hydrangea 2013ccThe piece of green grew slow
Was joined by more pieces
Of green
Until it a few seasons later,
It stretched stalks of green
Just growing
Growing
Not ready
not ready yet to bloom
hydrangea2014c_edited-1Until just the right
season
When roots reach deep and the stalks
Multiplied
reach high
Little clusterbuds of no color
One day
Open blue
blooms

summerhydrangea14
You know, if we’d left that hydrangea bush by the garage door, it would have been limited, unable to reach its full potential. By transplanting it, giving it more room to grow and become, it will be more than it ever could have before. It’s been a tough transplant/journey for my hydrangea – but I live in faith of something I don’t see – that it will grow bigger, bloom more, have a greater impact – kind of like God’s plan for me and mine!

hydrangeac_edited-2More on blooming where you’re planted:

Ordinary Dreams of an Every Man

The Year of Living Shalom

Read Full Post »

sparklewater2

Challenges come that pierce the marrow of the bones of me. The vitality, the strength of myself seeps out. Like one losing too much blood, I find myself dazed, confused, wounded. For a moment, or is it  hours, I turn in circles, spending myself – until I call His name and He is there, Jehovah Shammah:

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out”

Like the shells broken in the surf, He knows all the pieces of me to put me back together. I am awed that He reaches from the sky to the sea to pull me out. Out of all those shell pieces – only He knows the pattern of who I am, how I am designed to be. There are no missing pieces of me that He cannot find. Yes – He pulls me out

“Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,”

On our recent trip to the beach, my husband and I enjoyed a few hours each day bobbing around in the ocean, each with our own inner tubes. It all seemed so delightful until a wave crashed me and my nose into tubes_edited-3my husband’s brawny arm, resulting in a nose bleed, sore nose, lost glasses – and a lot of wobbly. My foot landed on my glasses only for the next wave to haul me up and forward – and pull the shades out right from under me.  It took me about 30 minutes to rally back – and tease my husband about popping me in the nose.

There are days that feel just like that – beat up and missing something- but instead of ocean waves and my husband’s brawny arm, it’s when nobody seems to like you. Those days when my boys don’t like me, when the driver behind me is impatient, when hospitality isn’t extended but hurt is, when everything just seems to go wrong. It’s like Chaos showed up on my day-step, like unplanned waves, show up, , shoving, crashing, stirring the pot. Chaos is like an uninvited guest who turns everything upside down,  instigating shenanigans designed to beat-up your heart.

God reaches down into the ocean of all that, tosses chaos out – and in the midst of the broken shell I am, He is right there, helping me find all the pieces of myself

“but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”
(2 Samuel 22: 17-20)

He sticks by me, stands me up, dusts me off, on a wide-open field. A wide open field – a place of nurturing goodness given. Yes – I am still surprised to be loved like that! It’s in those drowning moments where the evidence of His love never fails to surprise me – not in a faithless way but in a whispered wow kind-of-way.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk each day this week, wowed to my soul toes as I face these challenges, my heart wide-open to His possibilities.

lillies

Read Full Post »

gespachocc13Saturday, I jumped in my canoe and paddled to my garden for dill. The day before, during a lull in the rain, I’d spotted my youngest one, sitting on the raised garden edges, slipping his hand into the tomatoes, chard and peppers to pinch off a few leaves of chocolate-mint and stuff it between his cheek and gum.

On Saturday’s in the summer, I make my Life-Gets-Sweeter Every Day Gazpacho – and so I’d come for dill.

The first thing I ever cooked was a prune cake in the 7th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I knew how to make Divinity, a meringue cookie, cakes, dips – and cucumber’s with vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
½ cup sour cream,
salt and pepper to taste

It was a beginning this learning how to make life a bit nicer, sweeter

cucumbers

Another day, a few years later, all starry-eyed and in love with my new husband,  cucumbers nestled on a plate next to summertime tomatoes. Separate – but so close. Sometimes they both found themselves on the same fork – at the same time. Oh my! Summer Delicious!

Life’s sweetness didn’t just stop growing there. A few more years, time enough for a little boy to grow up and say, “I Do” to his sweet heart, a subtle step was taken in my life, not a leap, just a step when tomatoes fell into the cucumbers, all in a single container in order to take a bit of outside summer with me to lunch when I’d started part-time job editing for an on-line gardening company. As I said in my previous post, God never meant work to be a place where I stop finding His kind of sweet living.

dillAs sons 2 and 3 tumbled into the teen years, challenging us, stretching us – a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of living – I was determined not to let my life be defined by the heart-ache in the challenge.

The bigger the challenge in the daily (see post here), the more I burrowed into Him, like St Teresa of Avila in her book Interior Castles describes – I was wandering through the 6 crystal castles, weaving my way closer and closer to the 7th castle -where He welcomed me at its steps,welcoming me with a chalice of living water,  wrapping me in His arms pulling me into His shining castle – and finding His peace – His amazing comfort – and suddenly, even in the challenge – life felt sweeter – 6 sensory sweeter – the 6th sense being a spiritual sweetness.

Just because I’ve been in the interior castle – doesn’t mean I stop wandering back out to exterior castles.

Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I’ve yet tasted all the sweetness He has created for me – for you.

Christ in his mercy leads me to the interior castle; my imperfect humanity finds me sometimes wandering all over the place, in the interior castle, through the rooms of the exterior castles.

Day by day, season by season, life marches onward –  2 more boy stepping toward independence, 2 others on deck. Challenges flow and ebb – moments of blessing crash against a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen moments – and life became a bit sweeter:

Honey and Cream corn, until the white corn showed itself, found it’s way into my container with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oh My! – the result was heartier – so much more of something than a side dish yet not a main course, not a hot soup – and as my mind reached out to place this concoction of summertime – gazpacho came into my vocabulary.

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

The daily has changed some out our house – only 2 fully in the nest – another half way in, one a fly by – and one fully in his own nest. The challenges are different. The stretching is different. The sweetness is there – available for the taking . Jjust like always , the choice is there to grab bitterness or sweetness.

Over Independence Day celebrations, friend sat around our table – and I passed some of this Gazpacho for them to test-taste – to see if they thought it was as delightful as I thought – had the recipe finally “arrived” – or was I just, well, nuts in the taste buds.

My friends sampled it, taste-tested it, asked for a bowl of it.

“Add an apple,” one said.

And I did. . . .add an apple, a red delicious apple.

the dish became more . . . hearty, rounded, complete – sweeter not as in sugar but as in so terribly nice.

Kind of like life – if we let it, don’t give up on it, keep adding good things to it, it just gets sweeter and sweeter, heartier, more filling, better for you. . . . in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-evidence-of-things-not-seen- kind of way.

The more I hold on to things of Him, as we come and go, sit and stand –
The more I trust He is not surprised by teen challenges and boys-to-men dealing with growing up responsibilities
The more I see His love letters in the daily
And know He is beside me everywhere I want and don’t want to be
That He’s got my back
The sweetness into everyday rises like a fragrance
out of any situation, complex things
things that bring tears
that tear at the heart
simple things like blueberries
little boy hugs and gazpacho
It’s there
waiting to be chosen
this attitude of life getting sweeter daily

Today’s Summer Gazpacho Recipe

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and add the following:

Ripe Tomato cut into bite-sized pieces (or, when not in season, use the cherry tomatoes sliced in half)

Fresh, sliced off-the-cobb corn (one to two ears), precooked in butter and cooled (leftovers in the summer are great. Frozen corn in the winter. Not canned corn)

(Optional: Add a tablespoon of honey or an apple sliced about the same size as the tomato).

Serve fresh or refrigerate to allow the flavors and juices to blend.

Read Full Post »

hydrangeac_edited-2

Summertime at the pool growing up consisted of diving, racing and breath-holding. Diving, I wasn’t so good at diving, but the backstroke and breath-holding – I could give anyone a run for their money.

Breath-holding in competition might not be such a bad thing, but living breath-holding, well, it just about sucked all the good things in life right out of it.

I was living through challenges like I was holding my breath under water, pausing all living but the challenge. I assured myself I would breathe again when the challenge was resolved and tidily put behind me. Only then would I break through the surface into the figurative sunshine to gulp the fresh, summertime air.

It’s lonely there, under the water, counting the seconds till I felt my lungs would burst. It’s also isolating counting the seconds, focusing every thought on the right-now challenge.

Living life waiting to exhale is no way to live.

I’m still learning.

Some were sweet lessons like nine months of learning to live in  the wait of each son born.

Some learning to exhale lessons were a mixture of sweet and soul-sweat: 12 years for each boy to graduate high school – and learning to breathe through each individual academic, social and behavorial challenge – big and little, little and big.

The hard challenges, though, the hands-off challenges of parenting, where independence claims our children, where some are designed to learn through experience – or as one son described this independence-on-training wheels to no-training wheels:

“I took my independence on scoop at a time. He took it in one truck load.”

I cannot live my life holding my breath or watch my sons live their lives holding my breath.

One cannot live God’s plan holding their breath.

Faith means exhaling, to continue breathing while something as simple as a pot works on boiling or a child growing lives free-will.

I once shared office space with a professor who taught Tolkien. Waiting for students to come see us during office hours, we talked literature, students – and life.

“Breathe in, ‘Lord Jesus Christ,'” he coached. “Breathe out,’Have mercy on me.'”

. . . . and so I breath in “Lord Jesus Christ:

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4)

and I exhale, “Have mercy on me. . .”

. . . . and He does.

Most days, I’m a fighter – and so I fight to live life exhaling. In the midst of a challenge, I find Him in a cup of Kiwi Lime Ginger tea, sink deep into my grandfather’s chair

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

– and maybe read a bit or knit, rearrange my garden – cut some lavender, hydrangea and bergamont,

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

cook some lemon curd or summertime gazpacho – and invite God to join me in all of it, steeping His goodness into my life.

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

I give Him the challenge – and right there the answer is assured, though I don’t know sometimes what the answer will look like. I can stop counting the minutes until resolution. I can exhale.

“But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8)

Read Full Post »

lemonmeringue_edited-1

“Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“Don’t worry about cooking. Just rest and enjoy,” my husband encouraged, as I stuffed mason jars and lemon curd into a cooler on wheels, to be packed in the back of my van. All that was missing was my kitchen sink!

He wanted me to take a vacation. Vacation: a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation (dictionary.com)

I didn’t want a vacation – I wanted a Holiday!

Holiday: festive, joyous, celebrating important values steeped in faith and family with opportunities for rest, pleasure allowing the inner-man to soar(blue cotton memory definition).

IMG_0958When we arrived at the beach, we set up our umbrella city. All together there were 34 of our family – some vacationing – some on a holiday. We celebrated family – from great-grandmothers to great-grandbabies. Afternoon soccer with cousins from 39 to 5 – lines drawn in the sand for good-time rivalry. Some of the boys practiced their Italian and Portuguese (for soccer aficionados- that’s the falling-on-the-ground-faking-injury skills).

This coming Umbrella City gathering was a fluid thing.  Great and small, old and young -moved from beach to pool to lazy river – group and individual time. Some shopped, napped, read books, lunched, cooked, watched World Cup soccer, dined all the while coming and going, sitting a spell, going, coming back, going. . . just like waves on the beach.

What am I saying here? Everyone took the opportunity to soar, to let their interests gallop through the duration of the holiday.

umbrellacity2014c2

All the intrinsic things God placed in me, make me who I am, bring me immeasurable joy, that I sometimes have trouble fitting into the busy daily – they soared over the holiday.  I took photos, spent time with family, wrote, read books, looked for God letters,  bobbed on inner-tubes in the ocean- and made Mason Jar Summertime Pies – because one of my very favorite nieces asked.

I chose to live holiday over 5 days off then vacationing any day! When something is just so wonderfully delicious – food or just life, it should be shared. Below is the recipe for my Mason Jar Summertime Pies! Wishing you a little holiminute, holihour or holi in your day! Praying that today you taste and see the Lord is good, whether it is tasting a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonaise and pepper, Mason Jar Summertime Pies, a hug savored by the soul, a moment that fills you up with Him, joy spilled everywhere – I pray that you catch those moments, your eyes not bigger than your souls – and see, really see, God’s goodness!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! “ (Psalm 34:8)

Lemon Curd
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool.

Crust
1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker cumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons into bottom of 8 oz mason jars, hollowing out the middle.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool then add Lemon Curd.

Meringue
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Top the Mason jars with swirls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(This works great with chocolate pudding, too. I cheated and used Jello Cook and Serve).

 

lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen

 

Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

Read Full Post »

littlebird

Sanderling

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago when the mothers, soldiers, kings and towns and tent-men didn’t realize just how big the world is, but possessed a better understanding of just how big God is – a king lived in the desert with his family, going to and fro over the sands as this big-mighty, world-creating God asked.

He was a good king, listening to his creator and his creator was a good creator, giving good advice, always loving his children. Like a good parent, this creator taught his children much, including how to pray, provide, love and fight in order to protect what He had given them.

One day as he walked with the king, the king ordered him to take his soldiers, go hundreds of miles into the desert and fight a people that denigrated Him and His children. This father and husband gathered his soldiers and led them into victorious battle.

Riding back into their tent kingdom, they met silence. No livestock, no children, no wives. Everything had been stolen while they had rode to victory under God’s banner.

These men who had raised sword arms in victory, who until that moment gladly, proudly risked life and limb – all of themselves – to serve this king who served their God – dropped their loyalty like a dirty shirt. They rent their hearts for the loss of their wives and children. They railed against the king, surrounded him, killing-threats lacing the air, grabbing stones in fists to kill the one who had led them to countless victories, abundant provision, a honor-filled self-image.

The king slipped from their blood-thirsty grasps and ran to God.

lotsabirds

Laughing Gull

Where he dropped to his knees, meeting his God right there – in the midst of huge loss – for what man cannot but drop to his knees at the loss of a good wife and a quiver full of children?

He beseeched God, reminding Him, “I went only to battle because you said, ‘Go’” – not for glory, not for gain – and as a result, I have lost all. . . . all. . .”

God seeing his faithfulness – to go when He said go, a man willing to risk all for Him and in the midst of the greatest loss of all who didn’t turn his back on Him – lifted him up, gave him the plan to redeem that which was lost.

The King trusting His God-Redeemer – went back to His men, took those strong enough, and led them again into battle and redeemed the heart of who they were:

“Nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or large, sons or daughters, spoil, or anything that they had taken for themselves—David brought back everything” (1 Samuel 30:19).

This mothering and fathering business is much like David’s business in leading his people – we are both trying to lead our family in a God-centered way – and that means letting God lead. When God says, “Go,” or “Do” – we go or do. Sometimes our children don’t grasp our decisions are God-designed. Sometimes the going and doing life God’s way sends us into battles we hadn’t foreseen.

Just as David’s children and spouse – and those of his soldiers – suffered when captured, so, too, does our family suffer when God sends us on journeys. He’s not surprised. He’s not taken off-guard. God is ever vigilant.

Just like David, when God tells us, “Go”  or “Do”- whether it’s a move to another state, a change of schools for our children, a different church or simple changes in the daily like changing our conversations, building a raised garden bed, or taking time to talk to someone when our kids would rather we hurry up . . .

Our community might think we’re doing it all wrong – just like David’s thought – when their hands were itching to stone him. Our community might judge us poorly. Sometimes when God tells us, “Go” or “Do,” it doesn’t make sense to those around us. Sometimes I need to better understand that God’s directives for others are theirs not mine. They don’t need mine or your grace and support – but how much better the journey through the challenges if they have it. Yes, our self-image might suffer in the community – but, guess what? It doesn’t suffer with God.

When God says, “Go”, or “Do” – go with confidence for your family. The battle has already been won – it just needs walking through.

When God tells us , “Go” or “Do” – not a one will be lost because of it . . . not a one. . . .

Read Full Post »

I’m Challenging each of you to a Love Dare – Last week I wrote about the blessing found in choosing to love my in-laws. I’ve noticed that every time I write about in-law relationships – it gets awfully quiet. I’m getting ready to do a couple of articles on how when we honor and reach out to our husband’s family how that allows him to grow into the man he was designed to be. My love dare? Dare to love like you were born to them – like they are your favorites, love like you’d love your children on a bad attitude day. Just in case you missed the hard part of loving an in-law and turning the hard into blessing. I’m writing this to create awareness about the importance of our husband’s position in his family.

 

The Umbrella City my husband's family creates at the beach - 34 - and not everyone could come!

The Umbrella City my husband’s family creates at the beach – 34 – and not everyone could come!

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep”(Psalm 127: 3-5)

Over 3o years ago, God gave me a priceless wedding present – my husband’s family. This gift – if I chose accept it, embrace it – had the ability to enrich my marriage, my motherhood, my life in ways that at 21 I possessed neither the maturity, life experience, heart-size, or selfless-ness to fully value.

Beside a dirt tennis court and picnic tables – that’s where I first met a good portion of my husband’s family when we were dating. Coming from a matriarchal family (due to deaths and divorce), it was a daunting first meeting – not his mother and father, not his sister and brother-in-law – no – it was the future nephews – all 4 from 1 to 81/2.

I knew nothing about boys: boy jokes, boy antics – boys growing, uninhibited, undaunted in a consistent out-pouring of unconditional love.

My husband loved them – and so I determined I would, too. True Love – or rather, unconditional love does that.

I think one of the great misconceptions of in-law-relationships is that a good in-law relationship won’t be hard or uncomfortable: hurt shouldn’t ever exist.

Why would we expect no relationship bruising from our spouse’s family if it occurs in the family that raised us (remember the growing-into-independence years)? Shouldn’t the same grace and forgiveness, the working through tough moments that leave us scratched, bruised and worn – working through them to forgiveness – shouldn’t that same grace and forgiveness be extended to the new members of this new family.

It’s not just working through challenges in building relationship with this new family, it’s learning to appreciate and value the differences. Just as parents and teens stretch to appreciate and value the differences in each other, so will spouses and in-laws stretch to appreciate each other.

If you accept the marriage gift – God creates something amazing and beautiful. Yes- you and your husband are 2 who become one. Yes, you both leave your family and cleave to each other – but, remember how God works in an Opposite Day Paradigm? You and your spouse  are a single family unit that flourishes best when that single unite fits with others to create a whole family – whole, as in complete – yet ever-expanding.

A heart grows by loving those God gives us. He gave us our birth, or in some instances, an adopted family, our spouse and children – and our spouse’s family, our brother and sister-in-laws. Love is a choice. When we chose to love those God gave us, our hearts grow, eventually uninhibited, undaunted and unconditional.

When this small-town city girl married country boy – we each brought different ways of thinking and doing things into both our families. I don’t doubt my husband’s family shook their head in exasperation but they scooted, stretched and made room for me – just as I stretched an scooted to make room for them.

Some people say, “You don’t know my in-laws. . . . my mother-in-law wants nothing to do with me . . . .they make choices I don’t agree with. . . . “

Nobody ever said love was easy. It’s a choice. It’s rolled together with Faith and Hope. It’s not giving up.

umbrellaIn the story of the Talents, the master gave his servants, 5, 2 and 1 talents according to their abilities. The servants with the 5 and 2 talents worked with what the master had given them, who said, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Shaddai gave you and me our first family – the family that raised us. Then, through marriage He gave expanded our family – to include not only our children but our husband’s family.

How can we go out and save the world if we cannot love what He has given us? How can we maintain the endurance to love and save both the easy and hard in our neighborhoods, towns, country and world if we don’t possess the endurance to not give up on those He gave us through birth/adoption and marriage?

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?;And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt 18:14)

My family – all of them – will probably be the first to tell you I don’t always love well or gracefully. I don’t always have the right words – or even the right dishes for a family event – those 4 boys all grown up now won’t let me forget the stuffed-eggplant I brought to a cook-out. However, I like to think I don’t give up reaching.

This week, I’m at the beach with my husband’s family. Those 4 boys that scared me to death? Some of them have children my boy’s age. There’s 34 of us – from Nanny down to the newest, Maddie. Nanny’s here. My husband’s sister, 7 grandsons from 39 to 13, 7 great-grandchildren, in-laws with daughter-in-laws.

I fell in love with my husband – and then I chose to fall in love with his family. Somewhere between 31 years ago and today – that choice became something real and deep. God’s wedding gift has enriched me beyond measure – all because I never gave up!

It’s not just a southern thing; It’s a Christian, too. A Christian doesn’t try to hide their crazy family members – we take them to the beach, let them crazy run-around and show them off  because something special happens when we’re around them. In this choosing-to-love, Christian-kind-of-thing, when we do it God’s way, we not only do we start seeing others how God sees them but maybe we just start loving Gods-kind-of-way.

tubes_edited-3

Read Full Post »

garlic2

The lady at the farmer’s market had a table filled with rosemary and thyme to plant, lettuces for salad, white onion flowers and pinkish-purple garlic flowers.

“The petals can be used, too,” she said, offering a blossom for me to pinch one off to taste.

The flavor was more subtle, softer. I was sold.

They found their way onto Sunday morning sunny-side eggs with parmesan. Later in the week, it added flavor to steamed chard with asiago cheese and shrimp. Even later, it found its way into dill dip.

The bloom doesn’t wither like a dahlia – the garlic flower is durable, seemingly determined to last in the daily, the character of it adding something to this happily-ever-after.

St. Augustine said that the only difference between the pagan and the Christian is not the challenges they face – because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying (Romans 12:12)

Living out our hope in God means we need to live hope like we believe it.

The secret to happily-ever-after? It’s a choice – an attitude choice – as simple as choosing 5 tiny petals to sprinkle over a sunny-side up egg.

Fairy-tales contain wonderful life lessons – of choices in the challenges that result in a happily-ever-after. I bet because they discovered the importance of choices – that when new challenges came up, they had the durable character to continue making the choices – choices that create happily-ever-after in the daily.

. . . . choices like forgiveness in a broken moment, to love despite the harshness of an argument, to not give up – ever, to search out, find and open the love letters sent to us in the daily

. . . . love letters written in the coo of a turtle dove on a roof-top, the call of a cardinal or perseverance of a red-bird hopping through the garden searching for worms

. . . . in the warmth of water after the water-heater broke and was replaced, in the sounds of raindrops on a porch roof and blue hydrangeas blooming that we thought lost after the great challenge a few years ago

. . . . in the giggles of a granddaughter chattering about happy birthdays – cakes, candles, red strawberries in a bowl, lit candles and her daddy and uncles celebrating birthdays

‘. . . . happily-ever-after in the after-birthday party mess comes in choosing to focus on the smiles, the happiness in a previous moment – the brotherhood in its more perfect form

. . . . the hope in the wait of a prayer sent out, in moments where we feel unseen, in the cracking-moments of our heart – the happily-ever-after is there just waiting to be chosen.

The heroine in all of us need a place to grow some peace, some joy that we can pull from, like a garlic flower – to change our attitude in not only how we live the daily but how we see the daily.

He has left attitude-changes all around us. It is our choice to use them to create a happily-ever-after.

A flower, even a garlic flower, stuck in a glass of water – is like staking a claim to hope, claiming victory in faith.

It’s in the seemingly insignificant of the daily that the happily-ever-after grows. It’s not an arriving thing. It’s an ever-growing thing – this choosing how we see the moments in our day. Maybe happily-ever-after is as simple as attitude choice? As simple as pulling petals from a garlic flower to sprinkle on a sunny-side-up egg.

I want it to be said that I lived happily ever after – not because every moment was perfect – but because I chose to see it that way.

Read Full Post »

handsrobotics“Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts
For which we’re about to receive . . . Amen”

Every night since I remember sitting at the dinner table, those words blessed our supper – grandmother’s fried chicken or taco chicken casserole – or maybe a Friday night steak or some baby beef liver, mama’s mashed potatoes and gravy – she could make a gravy for anything, or Aunt Joyce’s salad dressing.

When I married, and our son was born, the words to the blessing changed.

“For what we’re about to receive,
May the Lord make us truly thankful”

I think I lifted it from The Sound of Music – but the words seemed right at home at my table.

For a few years, my first-born added the words, at every meal, no matter who was there, “and Jesus, send me a baby brother.”

A few years later, and quite a few baby brothers later, the second son, he would take over the dinner prayer, beaming in the spotlight – praying long and creatively over dinner.

As each boy entered into the teen years – the man growing years, they retreated from the spotlight, grateful for a daddy who led the prayer.

One dinner, a while back, maybe it was Thanksgiving at my aunts –my husband sat at the head of the table, started the prayer, looked at me, and smiling, I held up my hands, wiggled my fingers,
And he prayed,

“For what we’re about to receive
May the Lord make us truly thankful.
Thank you for being a God of second chances
And bless the hands that prepared dinner.”

When all of us gather for Big Dinner – that’s when I cook big, the table setting has the good stuff, the glasses all match, maybe the leaf placemates are out– and all the boys, my daughter-in-law, my DIL-to-be and sweet little Ava Grace come – we circle round in the kitchen, heads bow – and if anyone’s stolen a bite – they stop in the midst of getting rid of the evidence – quiet their hands, feet and mouths –

. . . and thank God for the blessings.

My husband  smiles up at me at the end, as he asks God to bless the hands they prepared the meal.

(This is where I’m supposed to stop – the 5 minute mark – but we all know I can’t!)

The other night, though, one of the boys to men the biggest brother of them all prayed for so long ago- he led the dinner prayer . At the end, he did something none of the brothers have done before: he blessed the hands that prepared the dinner.

My heart just melted into a thank you prayer, not a preening prayer – but a thank you of the glimpse God gave me of something carefully planted in these boyd-to-men hearts that sometimes grow knots that take a prayer-journey time to untangle.
hands

Bless the hands Father – not for big and little dinners.

not just the cucumber carver’s hands or the dish-washing hands – but bless the hands holding onto little ones learning to walk, that move over key-boards filing reports of work accomplished, goals met, money spent and saved that keep other hands productive, able to provide homes, transportation, 3 square meals a day, warmth in the winter, blankets to wrap in.

Bless the hands, Father, that lift each other up when another falls down,
hands holding hands crossing to the other side,
Hands that wipe tears, and pull into hugs.

Hands that gently, firmly correct behavior, alphabet letters, and open red, yellow, blue and green paint bottles for finger swirls.

Bless the hands that drop plates, misplace keys, iron imperfectly

Hands that turn pages, tuck blankets, wipe down counters, fold laundry, push lawn mowers, weed-eat

Hands new to a steering wheel, that hide yawns and laughter, pour milk, make coffee, careful enough to erase math mistakes for correct answers

Bless the hands that reach to family,
pick up turtles
Hands that reach to community
catch hopping frogs
Hands reaching to a world uncomfortable, unfamiliar
trying to feed a baby bird lost from its nest

Bless the hands Father of each of us, in all that we turn them to – big and little things, little and big – that it might give glory to you!

Let the work of our hands worship you.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecc 9:10a)
And do it with all your heart – as though doing it for God (Col 3:23)

babybird

Pull up a chair, settle in have a cup of Key Lime Ginger tea with a spoonful of honey and head over to Lisa-Jo’s and share your own post on the word. . . Hands . . on this not-yet-raining  Five-Minute Friday. Find out what other hands had to write.

Read Full Post »

boxes2

My two-year-old granddaughter walked across the yard beside me with a plate of strawberries. Maneuvering over Sadie, our golden retriever’s inconvenient mole-holes and balancing a plate of rolling strawberries, Ava was in danger of either losing her dignity or her strawberries.

“Can I carry them?” I asked, being careful of her heart and her confidence.

Concentrating on her journey, she confidently answered, “No.”

A few more steps later, she let me carry the plate of strawberries. Carefree, unburdened, she made it across the yard without falling into evidence of Sadie’s favorite pass-time – digging a few inches into the ground, stuffing her nose into the dirt, huffing air out of her nose hoping for evidence of a bona-fide mole.

Ava, like me, wants to do it herself.

Words like “Let it go,”
“Get over it,”
“You might as well forget about it”

Those are hard words to wrap my mind around. I’m not talking about forgiveness. I’m talking about giving-up something important, something heart important, something not quite tangible.

How do you let it go, get over it, forget when you live in hope, like the journey of a prayer sent out?

How do you live in the middle of that prayer-journey-in-the-wait – because in the wait – hurt still happens, the challenge still exists.

I’m an obsessive thinker. That doesn’t mean I think well, just obsessively.

Obsessive thinking works well for my writing. It works well for problem-solving, too – for things like math, reading, finding the perfect white cake recipe, how to teach our golden-retriever Sadie to stay, stomach pain for a son that took 5 years to get a correct diagnosis(severe esophagitus), another son who kept getting directions wrong because he heard 2 out of 3 words correctly (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), how to draw Benjamin Bunny on a chalk board.

I am a problem-solver, a solution-seeker, an information gatherer.

Obsessive thinking doesn’t work well for heart-challenges that I don’t have the ability to change. For example, I cannot persuade someone who doesn’t like me, who has their heart set on not liking me – to change their mind.

Sometimes I cannot change a parent, child or friend’s decision, even though I know that decision may hurt them in the long run.

I cannot make someone believe God is real, though I can tell them what He means to me.

“Give it to God,” – I hear it over and over again – in sermons, in posts, in encouragement, in grocery aisles.

Like Ava, God is walking beside me. “Give it to me,” He says, as I maneuver through the figurative mole-holes life brings.

It’s hard for an obsessive thinker to give thoughts over to God. It’s hard for the problem-solver, the solution-seeker in me to “give up.”

God’s been personally training me this Spring – on giving my challenges to Him.

When thoughts start creeping in for heart-hurts I cannot change, I look at the 2 scriptures on my desk:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side.

  1.     I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.
    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).
  2. “Be Still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I take a deep breath, trusting the prayer and visualizing the challenge as a boxed gift, wrapped with a beautiful bow. I take a deep breath and picture myself handing that gift-wrapped box to Him.

Through the rest of the day, I repeatedly grab it back, only to return it to Him – and this goes on and on – shoving it in His hands, snatching it back.

Except each day, I let Him keep it longer. It gets easier to let Him keep it. Just last week, I grabbed it back, ruefully smiled at Him – and before it had totally left His hands, took my hands off. He didn’t “tsk tsk” me, didn’t taunt me with “No Takesy Backsie’s” –  My soul felt like He smiled encouragement.

Giving it to Him doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It doesn’t mean hope has died. It just means He’s walking beside me taking care of it better than I can.  Like Ava – it’s much easier to get across the yard with sturdier hands carrying the important stuff.

He doesn’t tell me I need to be stronger, better, smarter, more lovable, find the solution myself. He just asks me to trust Him.

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin” (Psalm 55:22).

I’ve learned in the past 5 years that hope and faith are the wings of prayer – and love is the heart-beat of that prayer. The answer to that prayer might not be what I was expecting – it might not even be answered in my lifetime – but it will be the perfect answer.

I’ve learned that the real living that refines us into who God designed us to be is in the daily living of the wait of a prayer sent out – and the daily living should be in the assurance of a prayer answered – in God’s time.

If I am assured, I need to live joy-catching all the other things going on in the daily that He gives me – like the smile of a 16 year old surprised 3 weeks before his birthday, in the yellow of an evening primrose replanted from my aunt’s garden, in the good-morning phone call to my mother, in the happy snort of Sadie’s nose underground, in a little girl walking beside me with a plate full of strawberries.

God is teaching me this dance, this living carefree before Him – He is most careful with me (1 Peter 5:7b) – in this giving to Him and taking back.

Read Full Post »

momandme

I remember sitting on the back stoop, in the harsh yellow sun, holding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tears running down my face. “She hates me. She’s trying to kill me,” I thought as the sandwich stuck to the roof of my mouth and my 4 year old self thought I would choke from it. My brother sat beside me, swallowing contentedly, bite after bite.

A tongue thrust will do that to a child – but we didn’t know about tongue thrusts back then.

Another day, the neighborhood children ran through the house, playing a game of hide and seek. Being the youngest, I was always “it” – not having the gift for hiding. As I stood in the kitchen, not it, my mom lifted me high, to the top of the refrigerator. I sat there, a momentary princess of my universe, undetected, until I couldn’t hold back my laughter any more.

That was before the divorce, before open brokenness changed my life. We moved to grandmother’s house where I would share a room with my mother until I went off to college.

Where my mother worked hard, made hard choices, went with us to mass every Sunday and sent us to Catholic school Monday through Friday. Where God met me in the classrooms, in the corridors – in weekday Mss for 2nd through 8th grade. Where I met a God who loved me in my brokenness, though I didn’t know it then.

I wanted to go to the local high school – where the boys were, where my friends were. But my mom held firm, my mom who was often the good-cop to my grandmother’s bad-cop – I went to the Catholic girls school.

Where I learned I could be smart enough if I worked hard enough. Where teachers taught me how to do Alg I, II and Trig – where I learned to free my voice outside of my house, where I found a place for my writing, where God met me in the classroom, in the corridors.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

IMG_4890Statistics say that children of divorce are more likely to do drugs, not graduate from high school, have multiple marriages. My brother and I graduated college and have been married 29, 28 years. My mama worked minimum wage jobs in hardware stores, department stores, bathroom design stores, cutlery stores.

I never realized we were poverty until my senior year of high school (see story here). My mother taught me being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things. I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My mom may have given me a peanut butter sandwich to eat on a gray stoop in the harsh sun of a summer day – and, just maybe I hadn’t been designed to eat that sandwich. My littlest had a tongue thrust where he chewed from the back to the front instead of the front to the back. Peanut butter sandwiches are sticky wicket affairs for him, too.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

Thank you, Mom!

On a side note, did you realize that public schools were created to teach the public to read so they could read their bibles and, thus, be in control of their salvation, not at the whim of a minister or a manipulating government. I realize that all children can take God into the classroom with them; yet, it is the ones who do not have knowledge of God at home who have been sacrificed through legislation – broken children walking hallways denied knowledge of God by the very institution that was created to teach them.

EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties. ~ Noah Webster 1828 Dictonary.


Read Full Post »

The first week of May always leaves me homesick for my growing-up home.
horse4cYou can take the girl out of Louisville but you cannot take Louisville at of the girl!. It is Derby week – and Derby Week has a double special place in my heart. Yeah – it is about balloon races, boat races, and, of course, horse races. But most important for me is a time of family.

You see, we always celebrated my grandfather’s birthday on Derby Day – which meant a house full of family, lots of laughter and people of all ages spilling out all the doors, from the front porch entrance to the backyard, blooming with grandfather’s white azaleas, white and pink dogwood trees, honeysuckle. He built a make-shift tree house for us in the Rain tree. In the very back of the yard were 3 pine trees he planted. The middle pine tree was my favorite hide-away – I could climb it and read – and no one would bother me.

Derby morning, our house was a hive of activity. I would be sent up the street to cut fresh mint from Aunt Joyce’s yard for the Mint Julips. There would be dips and chips – not something we had often in the routine of regular living. And, there would be a little bowl full of  newspaper cutting slips with the horses names. Put a dollar in and draw a horse name out – I was so excited the year my horse, Majestic Prince, won – and I so wanted to draw his name. It was a lucky day – yes, I will say, it was a lucky day lined with blessing!

When we got older and my grandfather passed away, it was less festive, but still celebrated. One special year, the summer I got married, before my junior year in college, my grandmother invited my friends for dinner after spending a day at the in-field at Churchill Downs. The day was beautiful, until the skies literally poured rain on us as we were leaving. But my grandmother – well, she was amazing. All bedraggled from the rain – about ten of us, were seated at her dining room table, on her needle-point-covered chairs, and served a meal fit for anyone on Million’s Row – Leg of Lamb with her homemade mint sauce and homemade chili sauce plus all the fixin’s. I don’t remember the dessert.  I know there was one – there was always a dessert, Caramel Cake or the Chocolate Celebration Cake, sometimes Charlotte Russe!

The laughter that night was memorable, especially over the lamb. One of my sweet friends loves animals and just couldn’t quite bring herself to take a bite of that used-to-be fluffy little lamb. She made a valiant effort, but every time she tried to take a bit, everyone “baa-ed.” She gracefully gave up.

My grandmother, who in high school wanted me to pick my friends from some other place – and we battled about that – leaned over and whispered, “You have such good friends.”

People come from around the world to watch the Kentucky Derby – and to them it’s just a race. When you have roots in the blue grass, though, the Kentucky Derby is so much more than the big hats, mint juleps and fast horses.

The Four Horses of Maturity

racetrack2cc
There is a race within each of my sons – I call it The Four Horses of Maturity participating in the Race of Life – more specifically, the most important race of an individual’s life. The Four Horses of Maturity are named Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual.

When the gates open, Physical Maturity bolts, a thrilling surge for the lead, over-powering muscle, yet without caution, without strategy to pace, without limit recognition.

After an anxious route to the starting gate, Emotional Maturity gains, passing a spent Physical Maturity, nipping it on the flank as it moves to pass. Emotions raging, uncontrolled, Emotional Maturity behaves erratically. Emotional Maturity explodes forward without reason. Hard to handle, easily spooked, seemingly confused about being ahead, possibly thinking the race won, unsure of what to do. . . .

greyhorseUntil Intellectual Maturity edges up, having executed a fairly smooth trip to move into the lead. Reason reigns, using logic and reason to keep Emotional Maturity and Physical Maturity in check, not allowing them a chance to gain. Intellectual Maturity blocks the advancement of Spiritual Maturity.

Down the stretch they come, Emotional Maturity and Physical Maturity trying to regain, bumping Intellectual maturity in the turn. But Spiritual Maturity, after swerving out a bit toward the first turn, continues along the outside, rallies when sharply roused on the second turn to make a way between Physical and Emotional Maturity. Physical Maturity suddenly lost momentum.

Intellectual Maturity continues along the inside in a brilliant move to take over the lead on the stretch turn, rallies gamely and gives way grudgingly as Spiritual Maturity finds a way, pulling from within amazing feats to find an opening on the inside, slips past, making a stirring dash to the finish line, winning with confidence.

Read Full Post »

well2014c

“And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.” (Genesis 26:18)

I can go to Muddy’s farm, though she’s not there anymore. I can walk through the field where the house once stood, where the white stone milk barn is overgrown with growing, climbing, twining things.

I can walk the path Muddy’s children, my grandmother and 3 uncles walked, where my mother and her 3 sisters and brother walked,  where my brother, cousins crossed the swinging bridge.

MuddycreekccI remember Muddy when chickens and roosters strutted in the drive, and the water behind her house where Brashears Creek meets the Buck Creek. My boys have been there, skimmed slate rocks across  the surface. That day, the water sparkled like diamonds under the blue sky and sunshine, as if to say, we’ve missed the sounds of feet like yours, murmurs like yours – won’t you stay like the children long ago stayed, shrieking, laughing, splashing, cooling in the summer heat, dragging toes through our sparkle?

Muddy’s creek wasn’t just a pretty sparkly. It refreshed, pushed back, nurtured – cooling fevers, quenching thirst, washed away the daily.  It’s banks could tell a story of provision for real needs, real refreshing – real life. Sometimes it forgot its place, over-stepped it boundaries and crept in un-invited into Muddy’s home.

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Proverbs 37:25).

Muddy's Milk Barn

Muddy’s Milk Barn

Muddy’s farm, where she and Claude walked out their faith, marked passages in prayer books that held journey significance.

where children were born and grandchildren summered.

where after cooking noon supper, Muddy would take her bible or her prayer book, sit up in her bed and read until time for dinner preparation.

where the harvest, the milk barn cows, eggs and chicks helped fill plates at her daughter’s, Mary Edna’s kitchen table in the city, when food was rationed during the war.

The farm’s been reclaimed by nature. Fire burned Muddy’s house down long ago – before I knew I wanted to visit it, to listen for her, think of the living that walked the wood floors or chose the wall paper – who watched her daughter move to the city, two sons marry and farm down the road and further down the road a piece – to the son who lived beyond her, who died one winter morning trying to help a cow birth a calf.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22).
University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

The builders of the house and the barn are gone, as are the aprons, the cake pans, the box of candy beside Muddy’s chair the day I remember winding my way to her, cows needing to be milked, the voices calling to supper, the radio, Claude’s leather University of Kentucky football helmet from their 1898 team, The Immortals. It’s all gone – but they left behind something nature couldn’t reclaim.

They left soul wells of living water that Muddy and Claude probably inherited from their forefathers. Their soul wells are my inheritance, available for me to open, to drink deeply from and be filled. Those soul wells reach down to nurture still today, just like they did during World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, through the 50s.

Life’s challenges may try to fill up those wells built for my aunts, uncles, cousins – my brother and I, our children – but they’re there, just waiting to be cleared, opened up for refreshing.

The names of that well are the same as Muddy’s:  Savior, Redeemer, Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah-Shalom, Jehovah RaphaJehovah-Raah, I Am.

I re-dig those wells for my house – my husband digs them with me  for our sons, their wives, our grandchildren – and great-grandchildren,  – on down – leaving a rich inheritance. The wells we leave might be neglected, might be forgotten by some – but for a heart hungry for the great I Am – they will be there to be re-dug, to nourish, refresh and fill to over-flowing for the heart thirsty, a heart willing to find a Father God who loves us more than we can wrap our hearts and brains around.

The children of the righteous need never go begging. They have been provided for. Sometimes, they just need to go to the well, re-dig it, and drink deeply from the Holy waters.

muddy55c*Note: I know it was Mary Eva (Muddy to her grandchildren- Mayme to her friends) and Claude’s farm – not just Muddy’s. I wish I knew more of Claude’s story, but I bet his story is passed down from his sons to his grandsons, the shared work, man’s responsibility and leadership of the household – the hard digging of the wells. I approached this from the matriarch’s perspective that has been handed down over kitchen table preparations, where women gather and share their history. In this house-full of boys, there’s no one really to pass my history down to – thank you for sitting down to the table with me, dicing up some celery, maybe peeling some potatoes, sharing a cup of coffee or tea.  We all need to share our stories.

See a Root’s Inheritance here.
See Names of God used here

Tell Me a Story

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »