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beachbirdccThe world may ruffle your feathers, but the Lord gives peace to your soul.

“And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
~Philippians 4:7.

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tent worms nest
in apple tree leaves
in limbs raised
reaching skyward
as if to heaven
leaves rustling in the
still quiet
green raiment devoured
without a sound

bagworms dangle from
family fur shrubs landscape
by porch steps, garage doors
under windowsills
leeching nutrients
until pine needles devoured
limbs browned
the high and low siphoned away
peace, joy stripped

how, some ask, in the devouring
and leeching – how can
God be good
or true
– to let us endure
hard times, challenging times
hurting fearful times
that pull and drain
threatening the root and heart
of us

how could there be any good
in a righteous man dying
a hammer and nail driven
death on a cross?

but there was
good
God’s kind of good
in the unfairness of Christ’s death:
salvation for all mankind
The great I am is
the hope message
in the challenge
in the high and low
likely and unlikely places
like tent worms give hope
to a hungry sparrow

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28)

(a repost today – because I am savoring this cool autumn weather – and the photo and message warmed me where I am! Shalom, friends)

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butterfly17acLet me draw a deep breath here! (I love punny things). My boys would think it sounds like a lecture coming – and maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.

I could say I’m inspired, but semantics just won’t let me. To be inspired is a holy thing:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17).

The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines inspiration to “infuse or suggest ideas or monitions supernaturally; to communicate divine instructions to the mind. In this manner, we suppose the prophets to have been inspired, and the Scriptures to have been composed under divine influence or direction.”

The world says inspiration is “to infuse ideas or the poetic spirit.” It’s just like the world to take a holy word and sieve God out of it.

I think I’m going to leave the inspiration thing with God, not a piece of art, a well-worn favorite book, a famous singer, or chocolate cake.

Now, to “spur on” – I am semantically comfortable with “spurring.” Spurred on is something I can dig into.

We all have daily spurs: responsibilities, hunger, relationships.

Maybe a cup  of coffee or the thought of a cup of Tupelo Honey Fig or Vanilla Orchard tea spurs me out of bed. More often, it’s the school morning alarm – and the responsibilities of getting my boys up for school spurs me to get my day started.

My taste buds spur me to make bacon and tomato or fried bologna sandwiches.

Just this week, making my family happy spurred me to make a pot of Tortellini Soup. About two weeks ago, the thought of bringing a smile to my aunt spurred me make the Chocolate Malt Cake she’d wanted. The thought of my brand new grandson spurs me to finish knitting his baby blanket before it gets cold.

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Inspiration seems pristine, coming from a shining place where goodness is. Spurring, though, prompts lessons from hard places, a moral compass, and want.

For example, my parents divorce spurred me to treat relationships carefully and ask God to guide me in relationship decisions.

Watching my mom work hard on minimum wage jobs to raise my brother and I spurred both of us to work hard and study hard because stability and security were something we wanted in our future.

Spurring caused me to seek God. If I seek him, call to him, drawn near to him, let him become my God, he draws near to me, lets me find him, answers me and show me great and might things I do not know,  becomes my strength, my defense – my salvation. His breathes (inspires) into my life, and it changes everything. Mighty and Wise is my God from whom my inspiration comes.

Knowing what life is like without God in it spurs me to teach my boys to live life with God in it. When I bring God into the big and little challenges, he breathes inspiration that comes out as wisdom.

One of my sons doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

“Passionately pursue God, and you will find yourselves pursuing something you are passion about,” I say.

Hard truth – what spurs me to God where inspires my decisions, choices, actions and words doesn’t necessarily spur my boys. Those lectures? They don’t feel them on the receiving end like I do on the giving end. They haven’t experienced my hard places. My soul spurs are not theirs.

As a mom, I used to think I could spur my boys into God’s plan for their lives. I can’t. I can show them the way to God. I can provide the tools for every need and success. I can pray for them. However, I cannot spur their soul to seek God.

Another hard truth – until want spurs them – want for a job to provide their daily, want for a solution to a problem they own, want for a forever girl, want for a dream, want for God – until they have experienced a want that stirs up self-motivation, they won’t be spurred to God. If they aren’t spurred to God, they miss out on his inspiration.

These life spurs – yes, they spurred me to God. . . . until I have learned to go to him even when not spurred.

Knowing God leaves blessing for me in the daily spurs me to intentionally look for God – and I find him on the warehouse dock to watch gaggle of geese flying southward, or I find him in the zinnia garden with the butterflies, or rejoicing in the hydrangea blossoms from a bush that by faith, prayer  and attention made it through a hard transplant.

Often, it is the humanness of ourselves that initially spurs – and it is my faith that sends me to him where he breathes hope, wisdom and love into the soul of myself.

Soul spurs – that’s what they are, that spur us to relationship with our divine designer from whom our inspiration comes. What has spurred you to God? What inspiration did he give you?

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After-thought: “If I work to inspire people, then I take my focus off of loving people. However, I think if I do my best to just love those God gives me, then God takes care of the inspiring. That takes a big burden off of me and gives it to the one who can handle it”

 

 

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flowergardenthere’s no lasting comfort in my wild apple ginger tea and honey,
or my Muddy Cakes, chocolate chip pancakes or scones.
none in the seed packets I so determinedly spilled out over my garden in springtime cool dazzle
or the brandywine’s ripening just red right
No lasting comfort the summer gazpacho made with my garden cucumbers and tomatoes and the farmer’s market onions and corn.
No comfort at all,
no lasting comfort, that is
in the hydrangeas that bloom blue
bloom riotously after we’d almost lost the dear beauty
in a hard challenge when we ourselves had been transplanted.
no comfort in the chocolate mint and lavender, the oregano and thyme
no, there’s no lasting comfort in them except for a fleeting pleasure,
a seasonal indulgence to satisfy a flighty temporal
but for the priceless notes and stories my Savior left in them
To remind me he is both seed time and harvest
loss and new beginnings
the potion for my healing
the faith in the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen
the refreshing in the chocolate mint, the soothing in the lavender,
and the savory of the trinity
the trust that the planting will yield
something God-worthwhile
if I but plant and tend to the God in it
no there’s no lasting comfort in these things
by themselves they are vanity
but let God into it,
and each becomes a salvation story
a lasting comfort

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It’s January in Tennessee – the winds have one moment blown a smackerel of cold and snow and another moment rain and mildness. Mild warmth in January is over-bearing, so the heat is off, the windows cracked open to let in a little coolness. I woke to the Robins and Cardinals chirping backyard chats. These backyard residents always remind me of Jimmy Stewart’s Rear Window living.  This morning, these flighty neighbors called back and forth to each other as if . . . it were Spring.

Spring? In January! Even the Bradford Pear buds are emerging.

They do this every year! Every single year!

Instead of falling in with them (nature duped into thinking Spring is here; me anxious I’ve missed the snow), this morning I said to myself, “Spring weather in a Tennessee January? It’s just a stage.”

I didn’t say it out loud. After all, the birds and buds wouldn’t have listened to me. So I just left them to fall for it all over again..

Year in, Year out – you’d think they’d learn and not be fooled – Two weeks of Spring weather during January in Tennessee is just a stage. Misbehavior? Sass? Mischievousness? Unhealthy boundaries? Rebellion? Lack of Discipline? Weather behavior run amuck?

It’s all happened before. Springtime in a Tennessee January is as predictable a stage, as a 10-year-old with the blues, a 12 year old pushing buttons, a 16-to-19-year-old with no smiles for the camera, and a 21-year-old who figuratively come home.

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done will be done again” (Ecc. 1: 9)

“I’ve never had a truly happy day in my life,” my first-born said when he was 10. I knew better – I had videos and photos testifying to happy days. However, I thought I’d failed, that somewhere I’d totally, irrevocably ruined his life despite trying to hard to be a good mom.

The second son was so dramatic, his blues much deeper and louder, that I didn’t recognize the pattern. However, when my third son, the joy-of-the-Lord son turned blue at 10 – I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “It’s just a stage,” I exhaled.

It’s liberating, to say, “It’s a stage” – for both of us. It means it’s o.k. to be blue. It’s o.k. for seasons to be uncomfortable. I wonder if sometimes our greatest fear is that we’re made all wrong, irrevocably broken, “unfixable.” It’s liberating for him to realize he’s a regular boy just as it’s good for me to realize I’m a regular mom. Each stage is designed with a beginning, a progression, an end and an ever-after.

Twelve is a dicey stage. It’s a button-pushing stage. One day, the 4th son came in, saying about the 5th one, the 12 year old, “I’m going to kill him. Really, Mom. If he doesn’t stop, I’m  going to haul off and hit him.” The button-pushing stage can be wearisome – not due to lack of excitement, but for the repetitious nature of cause-effect in the stage.

Three sons ago, I would have panicked. Don’t kind, loving moms who love, discipline and pray for their children have obedient, happy-go-lucky children who adore being together? All hugs and love! Right? A mischief of boys doesn’t work like that – training to be a knight in shining armor is filled with wrestling, challenges, showmanship – learning how to lead and follow. These stages have been humbling, sending me closer to the Father, looking to find that place of comfort under his wing the bible talks about.

“It’s a stage,” I told this son who was terribly tired of his brother in this stage – but he didn’t know it was a stage. “You did the same thing to your brothers. He’ll grow out of it.”

The pressure seemed to just fall off of him. “Well,” he said, turning away. “Then I deserved everything I got when I was his age.”

Interestingly, once the boys seems to understand the behavior was part of a stage, their vengeance tempered. The cause/effect of this button-pushing staged seemed more survivable.

Maybe by recognizing there are stages, we are better able to understand where we are isn’t permanent, that where this stage leads is to something God-better. Uncomfortable? In a hard challenge? In a hard winter before a reviving spring?

Just like a tide’s ebb and flow

Just like seed-time and harvest

Just like springtime weather in January

It’s not a surprise – to God. Maybe to us, but not to God. It’s not the precursor to a fail, to a world-gone-wrong season. Sometimes a stage is a new season, a new life-appropriate challenge we haven’t yet experienced yet – and, like all new things, live the beginning of it awkwardly, inconfused and frustration.

“There is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything about which is said,
‘Look! This is new!”?
It was already here long ago,
    in the ages long before us” (Ecc. 1:10)

I’m in a new-to-me stage. It’s like the first time I experienced the 10-year-old blues, the 12-year-old button pushing – and all those other stages I experienced as the mom in the relationship. It’s new territory, a new adventure – but now I’m tempted to be excited that God is adding a dimension to my story. Maybe it’s more of a rueful excitement that recognizes the awkwardness, moments of self-doubt, frustration, even the failure – all sorts of growing-pains, the kind that sharpens and softens the soul.

This time, this stage, I know that after every hard challenge, there is a period of refreshing. That because of Christ, after every crucifixion moment comes resurrection.

This Spring weather in Tennessee is just a stage. I’m in good company, with these red birds, cardinals and Bradford Pear buds, learning how to live these stages God designed.

“The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns”
(Ecc. 1: 6)

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Treating Boys as Knights in Training
When the Knight Pledges His Life to His Lord
Raising boys as Knights in Training
Six Mom-Stages of Raising Boys to Men

 

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Sometimes we can’t see where God is taking us
because we cannot see past where we are ~ Blue Cotton Memory

When I first started blogging in 2009, my niece sent me a message that blog posts are supposed to be short. For the life of me, I couldn’t do short. I am a sit-long-talk-much person. Story-telling is not a short thing – at least not for me. However, since I was hospitalized with pneumonia at the end of February, something inside changed.

The words didn’t come until a two weeks ago, so I most often posted some of my very favorite posts. I knew God wasn’t calling me to quit; he was just calling me to quiet as I readjusted to inside-and-outside God-shaping changes. On the outside, these changes aren’t even recognizable – it’s been an inside job affecting the outward structure of my day and weaving old and new responsibilities family, business and God has give me.

During this non-writing time, I didn’t freak out. God’s been training me for quite a few years, preparing me to handle moments like this. It was more like God took me on a side-road journey – and I was tucked into the side car. Words weren’t required on this side-road trip. I trusted that the quiet, where the words didn’t come, was his plan and that they would return in his time, so I did what I thought he wanted me to do – I focused on living – and those living the daily with me. I steeped in the story, my place in that story and all the characters moving through it. Or maybe I was living it like someone standing in a field, arms stretched out wide, just letting it blow through me – watching it come, feeling it hit me, and letting it go.

My photography came back first – and I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook with brief blurbs. Something curious happened. Members of  my sons’ soccer team discovered my Instagram account. From what my boys said, “Whose mom has an Instagram account? With their grandma name?” Their teammates started reading those blurbs out loud to the team in the playful way young men like to rib each other – except this turned out a bit differently. What they were reading out loud to the team was scriptures and encouraging quotes. After that, I decided to become more consistent with those photos and quotes. I even started creating “homemade” quotes when I couldn’t find what my heart was trying to say. Word (on the street) has it some are still reading my posts. Word (God’s) has it that God works like that in unlikely ways. Some of those young men still read those blurbs today.

This side-road trip is over. He’s merged me back onto the main journey road. The words have finally come back – the sit-long-and-talk-much story telling will be here on Mondays- but the bite-sized photoblurbs won’t be leaving either, but on Fridays, I will be posting one from my week on Blue Cotton Memory (The will be only one to two sentences).

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gardenliliesSome of my best thinking happens in my garden. Today’s thought?

God created man and put him to live in a garden. Ever since falling out of the garden, mankind has tried to recreate that garden in their own backyards, maybe wondering if they did, that God in the evenings would come walk through that garden with them, and the world be made right again.

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“Through the heartfelt mercies
[forgiveness, compassion, favor, blessing]
of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace” (Luke 1: 78-79)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus tells them,

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

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

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

Meet me in Galilee
he said – and tell our friends

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

Meet me in Galilee
there is so much more

Meet me in Galilee
it’s just the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A butterfly fluttering through where I am can change how I see the landscape around me – and how I feel about me in that landscape. If I let it, it contains the ability to turn any frown inside or out, upside down! Butterflies are joy-personified, God-designed gifts to spark our hearts to joy – whether in a season of refreshing or in the wait of a prayer sent out.

You know how every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings? Maybe butterflies and prayers are kind of like that. Every time a butterfly crosses your landscape, a prayer has been sent to the Father for you.

I’ve seen a lot of butterflies since 2009 when I started my blog – or maybe I started noticing the butterflies, looking for them, recognizing them as God-gifts. These butterflies today remind me of those women I’ve met through blogging and those who I walk with in the daily, who reached out in prayer when I so needed it.Those prayers still resonate today – a God-kind of butterfly effect.

I know we grow from glory to glory, challenge by challenge – but sometimes God lets us savor the goodness of prayers answered, dreams walked out and the sweetness of a good rain or a cool summer breeze. In the savoring, I’ve felt the need to thank those who sent those prayers to God in the middle of hard moments  – because we all have hard. Maybe we experience different kinds of hard, maybe the same – but we all have hard moments, challenges that take us to the end of ourselves – yet, so many of you took the time out of their hard, nursing wounds not yet healed, in the wait of your own prayers sent out, in the midst of your own dream making.

Thank you for each prayer – for me, for my boys – for situations beyond my personal experience.

Not only did you pray, but
you sent notes of encouragement, of hope,
of personal over-coming stories that taught, that reminded
that God is in the business of over-coming
not just for you but me, too.

A friend of a teenager asked me the other day about the hard of raising our children – how not to break into a million pieces or run-away. I was able to answer because of women who took time out of their hard, of their own shattering. I am better able to Jesus-love, to encourage, to help another grab hold of the same hope you helped me hold on to in a hard time. Thank you for being like the butterfly that has the ability to change how I see the hope and faith in the landscape.

You took the time
to encourage another dreamer while seeking out yours
to point the way I hadn’t realized existed.
You were dream guardians in a world of can’ts, shouldn’ts, not-for-you-kind of attitudes.

Because of women who took time in the midst of their own dream-weaving either by skyping with real to-do things (like finding an illustrator), or telling me, “You can do this,” or someone sharing encouragement, “my children loved this story” – or maybe you wrote about this dream-thing God wove into the very fiber of ourselves, or maybe you prayed. Because someone took the time out of their own dream-in-progress to encourage another, thank you for being like the butterfly that has the ability to change how I saw my landscape.

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There’s been a lot of beautiful this summer – a wedding, a family holiday, the 5 stools in my kitchen filled with sitting long and talking much, and a birthday this past week that looked like and felt like celebration and love, and my wedding anniversary (32 years). Someone asked, “How’d you do it. I can only manage the 4-year-kind.”

I think the answer is faith in the prayer, like those butterflies fluttering across my landscape.  Faith that God hears those prayers, understands better than I do how those prayers fit into his design – Faith has the ability to change how I see the landscape – both my prayers and those interceding for me.

Thank you, if you’ve been one of those encouragers, one of those who prayed – for sending those butterflies my way. Each one did, indeed, change the landscape of my life in a butterfly-kind-of-beautiful way!

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Three little birds, hungry to be filled, desirous to be deeply, abidingly satisfied.

I’ve spent a lifetime feeling like those three little birds.

Maybe it is as Charles Dickens so beautifully put it, “It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” No wonder I feel as though I’ve been sprinkled with Pixie Dust after holding a newborn, or hugged tight by a three-year-old, or been given a marriage proposal by a 5-year-old. Such fresh love from God in these little ones. So fresh from the arms of God, they’re born into the world with it – and it spreads through contact.

The older we grow away from that freshness from God, the more we yearn for it, hunger for it. We become like those little birds, hungry to be filled – but not filled with mother’s milk or oatmeal and blueberries. We grow hungry to be filled with God’s kind of love – the kind of love we were fresh from when we were born. It’s an unconditional kind-of-love, selfless, loyal, a seeing-love that sees us as He designed us, see understanding of who we are, gently shepherding, always forgiving, always loving.

Long ago, when were were little, just like those three little birds, we were so fresh from God that it never entered our minds, our hearts or our souls that the world wouldn’t love us like God does. Sadly, no human ever can. Not our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our spouse, our very best friends, our ministers or priests, the bus riders, the 10 mile runners, our grandmas or grandpas, the barrista who knows you like mint in your mocha, even the lady who prays for you without your knowing – no one, no matter how intentional, loves us like God loves.

The infant of ourselves grows to toddle, to become sturdy children who grow into the dark ages of the teen years, bursting forth into independence whether ready or not, until one day we’re raising toddlers of our own – all of us have been there or are there – no matter how far away we grow from our fresh beginnings, there exists a hunger to be filled. Nothing of the world can fill that hunger – only God can.

“I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psalms 81:10).

We can still live as though fresh from God. Open our mouths wide, he says – and He will fill it – our hearts, our minds, our souls – like three little birds expecting, knowing, trusting to be filled, surrounded with love. We were designed by love, and, sadly, frustratingly, born into a world fallen that loves imperfectly, conditionally, at times gracelessly, or sometimes loves not at all.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat” (Mother Teresa).

We can be loved, even love others, but the desire to be loved can only be completely filled by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I wish I could love my children like that, my husband, too – and all those God gives me. I am like the world, though – consistent only in its failure to love perfectly.

Like three little birds, mouths wide open in expectation, so new from God, His love is still fresh on them.

I want to feel that fresh love. I want to know it. I want to be filled inside out with it.

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good? ( Psalm 107:9).

I’m praying today that God fill me with that so-fresh-from-God kind of love. I pray that He fill me so that it spills over onto others, activating joy, love and hope – and that it creates a chain-reaction – and that we all know and feel that so-fresh-from-God kind of love!

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http://www.barbieswihart.com/     The Weekend Brew
http://faith.5minutesformom.com/     Faith ‘N Friends
http://sandraheskaking.com/     Still Saturday
http://seespeakhearmama.com/     Give Me Grace
http://www.janiscox.com/        Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/     Spiritual Sundays
On Monday:
http://lauraboggess.com/  PlayDates with God
http://www.solideogloriasisterhood.com/   Soli Deo Gloria Connections
http://www.blessedbutstressed.com/   Inspire Me Mondays
http://darlingdownsdiaries.com/     Good Morning Mondays
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://whatjoyismine.net/     Monday Musings
http://www.shelivesfree.com/blog     Make a Difference Mondays
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
On Tuesday:
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://cornerstoneconfessions.com  Titus 2 Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://www.juanamikels.com/ Wednesday Prayer Girls
http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/ Three-Word Wednesday
http://www.w2wministries.org/ Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
http://jenniferdukeslee.com/ Tell His Story
http://meredithbernard.com/ W2W Wednesdays
http://www.rosilindjukic.com/ A Little R & R
http://womenwithintention.com/ Women with Intention
On Thursday:
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.gracedsimplicity.com/ Hearts for Home
http://www.faithbarista.com/ Beloved Brews
http://tsuzanneeller.com Live Free Thursdays
http://www.prairiedusttrail.com After My Coffee

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babybird_edited-1Three little birds, hungry, waiting, crying out in a voice nothing like a song. Their noise reminds me of the saying, “so hungry my stomach is gnawing my backbone.”

Unforgiveness is much like the hunger of those three little birds. The difference is that unforgiveness induces a deep, unrelenting, insatiable soul hunger. It’s not easily satisfied. Like those baby birds waits, so to waits the soul owner. The soul owner waits for the offender to come fetch their forgiveness.

Much like the hospitable hostess at the front door, a package on the door-side table wrapped and re-wrapped, waiting for the offender to come knock on the door, handing you a dish of I’m-sorries. After studying their I’m-sorries, the gift of forgiveness is then handed out.

Call this exchange a two-way street, or spiritual etiquette dance between two people. Each presents the prerequisite forgiveness requirements (the I’m-sorries and I-forgive).  Relationship is restored – Correct? The hunger caused by unforgiveness-waiting has been satisfied. Right?

That’s what I call the 7X7X7 forgiveness dance. Your brother slights, shows up at your doorstep and asks your forgiveness (Matt 18:22). No matter how many the slights or failings, you really, really forgive – his slight as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Forgiveness-by-the-book. Everyone does what they’re supposed to do.

There’s another forgiveness dance, though. One when everyone doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. The main partner doesn’t show up to do his part. Your forgiveness gift languishes on the receiving table. You can’t give it unless they show up to receive, so hunger gnaws at your stomach until you feel it scratching at your backbone. Your daily song sounds unsatisfied like the baby birds waiting.

It’s hard – this forgiveness when nobody wants it– big and little wounds made intentionally or unintentionally. A daddy walks out, or maybe it’s a spouse. Bullies in the bathroom. Lapses in the kitchen. Wrongs in the workplace. Breaches in the family room. Unintended slights. Infractions in the neighborhood, school, roadways. Even on a desert island.

Unforgiveness like hunger gnaws, distracting from every goodness. It dams up peace like a stream until there’s nothing but a trickle left, then dryness – and you find yourself parched of it.  It stands between you in a hug, a kind word, a hand reached out for fellowship. It’s creates a haze, diffusing the joy God leaves in your daily.

Forgiveness waiting to be given becomes a parasite to the soul, leaching the nutrients properties of salvation: the burden should be lighter. Forgiveness waiting weakens the soul, burdens it.

This waiting to extend forgiveness, waiting for the right conditions, the 7X7X7 forgiveness dance is starving your soul.

On the cross, in the midst of the greatest betrayal of all, stinging from the thorns and whip lashes, lips bitter from the tainted wine, Jesus forgave even before anyone asked to be forgiven.

His friends, his church, his government walked out on him, denied him, tortured him, killed him.

We need to forgive just like that: pre-emptively, whole-heartedly, still desiring to save each offender, each sinner.

First, we have to winnow the true hurts from the pride hurts. Pride hurts, like someone not treating you as you feel your position deserves. That could be anyone from a mom whose kid didn’t get a starting position on the football team, to not being included in a social event, to not being included in a group lunch invite.

There’s the little offenses, like the man who cut you off on the highway, fast-food getting your order wrong for the umpteenth time, misjudgment of those who don’t know you, unfairness and injustice in the daily. Those really are the easy ones. They’re really the practice ones that help us with the big ones.

The big forgivenesses – sometimes we have to recognize just how deep the hurts are to forgive – to truly understand just what the cost to ourselves was – in order to fully forgive – not nickel and dime forgiveness – but full-cost forgiveness.

I learned about full-cost forgiveness with my dad who had left my mom when I was 4. Sadly, he never benefited from the forgiveness gift I had for him. I forgave him long before he died. It was like a gift he had but never bothered to open.

God helped me through that – from the point where I asked for His help to the giving of forgiveness to also learning how to not take it back.

Forgiveness is an abiding thing. When He abides in us and us in Him, forgiveness becomes easier to give.

An  unforgiving heart hungers for I’m-sorries from the very human, fallible man. It hungers wrongly. A forgiving heart hungers for the ministrations of a very loving Father-God who heals the hurts, fill the soul up with good things that satisfy.

Are you waiting on some I’m-sorries?  Are you tired of the gnawing hunger of waiting for people to collect them? Maybe you should go ahead and forgive right now, just like Jesus did. Forgiveness isn’t given because someone deserves it. It’s given because Jesus forgave us, and we don’t deserve it.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)

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butterflybushc2ccdd_edited-1“When you work from faith, either you will step forward onto something solid, or you will be given wings” (Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

Wordless for about 4 weeks, except for these words: “I’m doing a new thing in you” – waves and waves of new things, pushing me through new door after new door.

I’ve separated spider’s knots, transplanted a peony into a sunnier place, gone deep into Samson’s story, sat long and listened much to my two home-boys and their friends, been Surprised by Oxford – and in the surprise fallen in love with the imprint of our Lord in the classics more than when I was in graduate school.

“The mind is its own place, and can make
a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n” (John Milton, Paradise Lost).

How did I miss what Milton was saying when I was 22/23 years old? – that what you speak and what you think are what you get?

How is it I didn’t recognize how much faith and understanding was in Milton’s heart? Was it that I didn’t really pay attention to what the words were saying – what the words really meant? -or was I so busy being appalled by professors diminishing the faith of classical writers that I missed the faith of what they were really saying?

“‘Many of the Romantics knew  much of Milton by heart – how can you study these writers if you do not know what was in their hearts as they themselves wrote?’ Then he added, thoughtfully, ‘ While you are at it, I also suggest that you memorize the first few chapters of Genesis. So you know what was in Milton’s heart, too'” (Weber).

Some 30 years later, I find myself wanting go back – and learn anew, learn better and deeper.

In between being surprised by this delightful book, I’m still processing Deidre Rigg’s Jumping Tandem retreat, meeting  face-to-face blogging friends who have encouraged me heart-to-heart for the last few years. Attending the retreat was a stretching process in itself – stretching myself to walk outside my comfort zone – through the airport, so many states away from my family where I found warmth, caring and encouragement every step of the way. I remembered the 20-something in me, young, married – traveling with my husband to a glass-class in Holland, the fearlessly confident me who boarded a train for a day-trip to Belgium to visit a Carmelite cloister while my husband learned about glass-making. I remembered visiting historic places – undaunted about traveling to unknown places alone. 28 years of mothering these 5 sons – and two still at home, while it stretched others parts of me, left other parts of me un-worked. That weekend, I was stretched – and it was good.

I went on an afternoon photography walk with Laura Boggess, sat long and talked much with Brandee Shafer, Car-pooled from the airport with Dolly Lee, Amanda Hill, Tammy Belau. Maybe it’s the mothering in me – having carted around so many kids in my car so many years, so many rich conversations – but car-pooling with these women made me feel right at home.

I hung out with Elizabeth Stewart, Marilyn Yocum from my hometown, Linda Gibbs, Diane Bailey – and Christy Mac-Rodriguez, who didn’t really believe my luggage would arrive by 3 a.m., but sat with my on the porch in those awesome rockers and talked to me until mid-night.

I don’t think anyone really believe my luggage would show up any time soon – but after listening to Joel Olsteen on the radio for about 7 to 9 hours worth of driving to Louisville to read my books to elementary school children, visiting with my aunt – and flying out of Louisville because there weren’t any available in Nashville – I was optimistic, hopeful, full of faith – and at 2:55 a.m. that Friday night, after flight cancellations and new flights booked – the luggage arrived!

Lisha Epperson was part of this stretching. I was hesitant to walk through the doors of her dance session at the Jumping Tandem retreat, yet, it was the one session I knew I would deeply regret missing if I did not. Maybe it’s this fearless confidence I’m working on this year – listening to God’s promptings of what He wants me to do – and so I did – even though I hadn’t danced since I was seven. At seven, though, I didn’t realize I could dance for God.

I took my 52-year-old, apple-shaped, out-of-shape self – and reached way down deep inside to pull out the little girl who once loved to dance until someone told her dance classes had stolen her grace, and how someone had once told the girl developing in me “what’s up front” is what really counts – not the brain, not the heart, not the humor, not the me, just the physically endowed, girl-quality of mammary glands – and so I grew bent over, trying to hide the superficial, so wanting to be valued for the inside-stuff because that was where the most important part of me was.

I took my 52-year-old self a few weeks ago – into praise dancing with you Lisha– and danced for God – reaching high, bending low – stretching to awakeness. Lisha led us all in gentle, God-lifting encouragement, creating an environment that allowed me to retrieve something I’d misplaced long ago – and I was able to stretch deep, pull it back to me, and with ballerina hands turning, arms rising, palms outward, giving, reaching to offer whatever I have to offer to a loving Father, Lisha taught me, also, palms turning heart-ward to pull close what He gives . Lisha brought grace to brokenness – and that brokenness became grace – maybe not to the world’s eyes, but to His eyes.

After the last prayer, the last hug, I climbed on a plane to my hometown, then drove about 4 hours to where home is now – and without skipping a beat, stepped right back into a daily I’ve done for almost 29 years.

When I picked up the boys from school, the older of the two immediately had an allergic reaction – either to Mother Nature, a virus – or me. (Am I the only one who sees the humor from the coincidence in that? Surely, that kind of humor is not what finally-over-the-edge looks like?) It took 5 days for him to totally recover. Homecomings are never glitche-free, no matter how love-filled they are.

I am home, living in the regular of the daily – but there’s a thread of something new going on – a thread tangled Gd-intentionally up in this fearless confidence lesson He’s working on with me this year.

I’m not quite the same person who boarded the plane, though I’m living in the daily “same.”

There’s been no radical, immediate transformation. Just something happening breath by breath, as He draws me closer to where He’s leading me, showing me where the stones are, building faith for wings.

I suspect, though, what’s going on is all about the wings – and the faith required to use them!

“When you work from faith, either you will step forward onto something solid, or you will be given wings”(Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

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

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

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

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With God’s arrival comes love

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

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

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

with God’s arrival comes generous redemption

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

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

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

“Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7, NIV)
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dogwood2015c_edited-1I know that weariness – when I cannot see how the answer to the prayer will ever work its way – but I do know that it is in the wait of that prayer sent out where we grow closer to Him, where we really come to know Him face-to-face . . . . because sometimes that is what it takes to make us look Him in the face – to build that intimacy, that relationship. Sometimes, that prayer sent out isn’t about us. Sometimes it is about someone we love, someone God gave us either through the happenstance of birth or path-crossing.

snow2015c_edited-2The wait of a prayer sent out – sometimes it’s the hardest place to be. It feels sometimes like those bitter cold ice storms that came encasing every branch and hope bud – but instead of an ice storm and a tree – it’s uncontrollable challenges that are like the ice – and it feels as though the very soul of us are encased, frozen, stalled like those tree branches and limbs.

Though the branches and limbs are encased in a bitter winter, the faith and hope roots – the reach deep.

Despite the startling discomfort of the winter of a challenge – in the wait of a prayer sent out, it’s the place where our souls have the ability to become who they were designed to be! It is a place where God-beautiful things grow!

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“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life” (James 1:12, The Message)

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

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

Shaddai, though,  promised a new thing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t you?

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When I just had one son, God gave me two stories. Back then, we lived on a little farm, at the top of a rolling hill. The sunsets and sunrises flamed and dipped beautiful. The wind, on the top of that rolling hill, could be your gentlest friend, comforting on a hot summer day. On other days, it was a wonder it didn’t roll the hay bales across fields – the currents were so strong. It was a pushy, hurrying friend then. In the Spring, the Buttercups always looked like they could touch the sky.

These two stories grew on the top of that hill. When I wrote Where the Wild Winds Blow, I loved the Father, but I didn’t realize I was a beloved daughter of The King. I didn’t realize that He would make whole my brokenness, or that all my quirky ways were designed by Him. I especially did not understand that He created a life plan that would unfold each day, each step closer to Him – and that plan meant that being a southerly mama was part of being holistically me, along with the writer, the wife, the homemaker, the teacher.

beachwalk22cc_edited-1Where the Wild Winds Blow was originally one story, but it has been broken into two – about Spring/Summer and Winter/Fall. The other story, well, it was a God message to me -coming to you for back to school – but for now – it’s Spring. It’s time for part of the first story to make friends – I’d like to introduce you to Where the Wild Wind Blows Spring and Summer.

A little boywind goes to work with his mother, a southerly, motherly wind – to not only find out what she does, but what a Spring Time and Summer Shine wind does. After their day together, talking about “big and Little things, little and Big, the little boy wind asks, “Mama, must we forever roll the rain bales and tug the shade?”

Below are some phrases from the text that have become more enriched, more meaningful to me in the last 24 years. It’s not so much the story behind the story, but the story after the story.

“We feel and are felt
with our big and Little things
Little and big”

The Purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5)

Springtime, Summershine, Coldly Winter Weeks, the Fall Corner

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecc. 3:1)

tiny seeds that slept and burrowed deep

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5: 7-12)

Homeward they blew, talking
About big and Little things, little and Big

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2: 1-6)

rolling great skeins

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)

hearing a different melody . . . .coaxing the sun to shine

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16)

finishing jobs, beginning jobs

“The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8)

We feel and are felt
with our big and Little things
Little and big

 Dreams unfold in God’s time. Dreams are often like prayers sent out – the most important part of living happens in the wait of a prayer sent out – just like the most important part of living happens in wait of a dream unfolding. Celebrate with me a 24-year-old dream in a new stage of this journey, and click here to enter to win a copy of Where the Wild Winds Blow Spring and Summer.

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“I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory” (1 Peter 1:7)

These snowstorms have challenged the people of our county. Its boundaries climb up toward the Cumberland Plateau.  Often school is cancelled because snow falls on up the mountain, while roads and yards are clear in the mid and western county ends. Nine days ago, the ice came – from west to east – and in-between – houses were without electricity. The interstate was shut down at one point. The road up our little part of the mountain was closed.

We were fortunate – somehow, our little in-between space didn’t lose electricity. The propane man filled our tank at 6 p.m. before the ice storm came. (We had ordered it a few days before, and it had run out 2 p.m. the day he came). We experienced moments of cracking, popping and flickering systems – but no outages. Our birch split down the middle from the top halfway down. The coyotes came close, too, yipping, showing themselves around the edges of home.

A state of emergency was declared in the eastern county town. It looked like a war zone – power poles and lines down, trees split, roofs on buildings leaking, caving in – interstate and main roads shut off. I’ve heard resourceful stories of women cooking dinner on warming plates, sleeping under seven blankets to keep warm. One family drove over an hour away to buy a generator, so they could have a bit of light, heat – and a stove to cook on and be home.

One friend described the night after the ice came – loud popping, cracking – and trees just falling, crashing to the ground loud in the quiet, icy, white dark.

Another described her husband going in to work. Because the electricity was out, the sump-pump didn’t work – and water created havoc in a storage room while roofs leaked and awnings crashed due to the weight of the ice and rapid water melting.

snowicetree_edited-1Just as a bit of thaw and melt came, so did another round of wintery weather. This time, it was snow – fluffy, build-a-snow-man kind of snow.

The road up to our mountain shut down again. On Friday, the eastern end of the county still didn’t have electricity, though from my house, to the court house, to the university to the west end of the county, the snow had melted, back streets just had ice remnants in shady areas.

Listening to the telling of it, of the can-do, the taking-in-stride – the hope and faith of lives choosing to live full instead of empty – these women of our county exhibited not just the American spirit – but the grace of Christ evident in their walk and talk.

These women found it – the treasure in the storm. God put it there – that treasure.

Ann Voskamp said in One Thousand Gifts, “Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

Besides resourcefulness and grace, I heard stories of family being stuck together by this ice – and making the most of it. We were one of those families.  One of the treasures in the midst of these storms was time – all the time to love and not be rushed.

One son and his fiance brought their two puppies and stayed for the few days they didn’t have electricity.  We had Zuppa Toscana soup on the stove, warm scones – and hot chocolate (blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, carrots and broccoli, too – but not in the hot chocolate), coffee or Swiss Apple Tea with honey. This boy and his sweet fiance – they still managed to get out in the icy ice and snowy cold to go to work. When I popped into the coffee shop where another son works, his manager told me my son was one of the few who managed to make it in for every shift when others couldn’t. It was a sweet thing, to be able to savor these boys grown into men, taking care of business in the midst of these storms.

We made it down the mountain for a pancake breakfast with friends. We passed phones around taking the 5 Love Language Test. I discovered that the youngest, whose love language had always been a mystery to me, was a Quality Time/Physical Touch love language, while my 16 year old was the same (Physical Touch not a surprise, but Quality Time took me by surprise). The Quality Time diagnosis explained the feeling of relief I felt from the boys since I stopped working outside the family.

There’s been a lot of, “I just want you to know I’m using my quality time to . . . . ” – and a lot more smiles from these boys. I have a God-designed excuse now to give hugs, rub arms, scratch backs, too.

The youngest, he asked, “Mama, wanna make me some Hot Chocolate?”

“For a snow man,” I countered. Smirking, he brought me a miniature snowman.

Smirking, I handed him a cup of Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate. What he really wanted was my special hot chocolate. Payment? – a snowman with a hat, scarf, carrot nose, arms and eyes.

There are pitfalls to negotiating with your children, but it does teach both of us that words do mean something.

He crafted a snowman with strawberry eyes, a carrot nose, scarf and fedora – and I poured him a cup of my special hot chocolate.

One night, he used his quality time and surprised me with a clean kitchen. What a beautiful hug! This son also proved that one out of five sons knows that a clean kitchen means an empty sink.

On the way to school in the mornings, one boy leads in The Lords Prayer and the other in the Psalm 23. Around the time of my last day of work, the words, “He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3),” stuck to me – like ice on the mountain this last week.

There was restoration to this soul of mine during last 9 days. Maybe some of the popping and cracking I heard was part of that restoration process. Gills Exposition of the Bible likens this process as follows: “he fetches it back again, relieves, refreshes, and comforts with the discoveries of his love, with the promises of his word, and with the consolations of his Spirit, and such like reviving cordials.”

God sent something precious in these storms, despite the devastation, the challenges, the hardships. He included incredibly valuable treasures for each of us within the storm. Did you find yours?

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So many are ready to be done with the snow and ice. Eyes are already set on a Spring that isn’t ready to receive. Yet, the snow comes from the Father, bringing gifts – if we’d but open them, find the grace embed, read the messages designed within them. Set your eyes on what He has brought you now, gifts of extravagant love.

snow2015c_edited-2“He orders the snow, ‘Blanket the earth!’
and the rain, ‘Soak the whole countryside!’

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“No one can escape the weather—it’s there.
And no one can escape from God.
Wild animals take shelter,
crawling into their dens,”

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“When blizzards roar out of the north
and freezing rain crusts the land.
It’s God’s breath that forms the ice,
it’s God’s breath that turns lakes and rivers solid.”

icegrass2c_edited-2
“And yes, it’s God who fills clouds with rainwater
and hurls lightning from them every which way.”

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“He puts them through their paces—first this way, then that—
commands them to do what he says all over the world.”

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“Whether for discipline or grace or extravagant love,
he makes sure they make their mark” (Job 37:6-13).

snow201519c_edited-1(I see a crown here – don’t you? – a leafy crown tipped in snow diamonds)

Maybe you’re praying for Spring to be early. Consider that often, the most important living happens in the wait of a prayer sent out.

God brought it, and I met it, welcomed it (though I’m not comfortable driving in it). I bundled up and set out, camera in hand – and made myself look for what He’d brought me. I inhaled crisp, invigorating air (i.e. gasping cold air). I walked carefully over the white crunchy snow-covered ice to a wooded area (i.e. slippery) and found stories and art: the remnants of a fort made by a band of brothers a few winters past,  a nest at the base of a tree, lined with leaves, broken trees covered in snow blankets. When I bent low, wondering what God had brought me, I found a leafy crown tipped with snow diamonds. God’s designs were everywhere – and ever changing.

If I hadn’t determined to look, I wouldn’t have found them. God’s extravagant love is available, even in the snow and ice, even in the uncomfortable places! Are you determined to find them in all seasons and all weather?

snowdiamonds2_edited-1

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cloudybeach

The rains had come, blocking the blue sky. I love the rain, how it slows down life, to a back-porch-sitting kind of speed. With equal measure, I love the blue skies, especially after the rains have washed them blue – all shades of blue, baby blue, cerulean, cobalt.

Driving home one night, I struggled. Laid it all out there to God – a heart wounded, torn and confused. This transforming from Glory to Glory (2 Cor 3:18), from strength to strength (Psalm 74:7) can be a hard thing. Some days, I’m better at it than others.

Driving up the mountain, to home – I looked up at the back side of the storms moving eastward, still dark, heavy with rain, threatening – not a back-porch-sitting kind of rain.

 

cloudybarn

My son asked me a few days ago, how you know it’s God’s voice. He has some big decisions to make – with sound arguments on both sides of the decisions. A mother’s heart can fill up with pride and break at the same time as our children make decisions, whether it’s the easy-to-shepherd child or the hard-to-shepherd child.

“When you’re looking for an answer, it’s doesn’t come with a Volcano. The earth doesn’t shake to alert you. When He talks to you, it’s in a still, small voice ,” I answered, showing him 1 Kings 19:12). “The more you talk to Him, the more you recognize it.”

Then we talked about wanting to hang out with God, just like you want to hang out with your friends. Learning to hear his voice comes comes with real relationship, not just morning and bed-time prayers. Though I can encourage relationship development with the God who designed him, I cannot force that relationship to exist.

They have to want that relationship, arrange the meeting.  Maybe it’s the type of parenting we do today, so involved, so coaching that our children don’t have the opportunity to initiate – from initiating work ethic at home to develop sports skills to initiating a relationship with God. Yes, God pursues. God’s there – but in order for him to work in our lives, in order to hear that still voice, we have to take that first step – “Draw close to me and I will draw close to you,” he says, “(James 4:8).

“I won’t lie to you,” I said. “There are times when I walk, it’s like God’s looped his arm through mine, and we talk – not necessarily about big things. The more you talk to Him, the more it’s like that . . . Go for a walk with Him. . . often.”

I told him about the time I came home and found his older brother between college classes, just lying on the floor. “I’m soaking,” he said, just listening, waiting, drawing close to hear God.

cloudccloudsThat day I was driving up the mountain home, I saw a bunch of grey, angry thunderheads. I was praying about a challenge, a challenge I really couldn’t control.

cloud1452– and then I saw a blue-sky opening – and in that still, small voice,  God said to me, “Look beyond the clouds to the blue sky.”

. . . and I did . . . I do . . . have faith that just like the blue sky is right there beyond the clouds, so to is God’s plan assured, though the clouds might try to block it!

Praying that this week, when the clouds threaten our peace and our hearts that we look beyond the clouds to the blue sky – and if we can’t see the blue sky for the greyness of the clouds, that we have faith it’s there, hope in a God who never abandons nor forsakes us, who never drops the thread of the plan, though we might drop it or tangle it all up. Praying that if the only way to go from Glory to Glory is challenge by challenge – that we never stop believing He is there, ready to save us, ready to help us make the easy and hard decision.

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This winter's Narcissus Paperwhites - which bloomed right before Christmas!

This winter’s Narcissus Paperwhites – which bloomed right before Christmas!

I sauteed chicken in butter, a bit of oil, minced garlic cloves, summer savory, and the juice of a lemon tonight – and served it over a bowl of spaghetti, sprinkled with Romano cheese. I made it up as I went along. The boys, those left at home, raced for refills – not against each other, but their stomachs.

It was the best I’d made, they’d said.

They each wanted more – and I made sure there was more than enough. I’ve missed being able to cook like that, to create simple dishes that grow smiles. Not in a Martha-kind of way, but a Mary-kind of way.

The Christmas holiday was a flu-filled holiday, from beginning to end. Despite the Tamiflu, it caught me Christmas Eve – 101+ degree fever. The married son, his expectant wife and my granddaughter took a rain check for Muffaletta Christmas Eve. At Mid-night, my husband and I finished setting out the gifts and filling the stockings – and he prayed for me, prayed healing for me. There’s blessing in that – the prayer of a husband for his wife.

I grabbed hold of that prayer, the promise of Christmas Eve of a Savior born in a manger, come to save us and heal us.

“I believe. I believe. I believe,” I prayed all night long.

Christmas morning, I woke, feeling energetic, strong – and able to fix my grandmother’s Christmas Breakfast Casserole for my youngest. It’s his very favorite – so much his very favorite that all he wanted for his birthday was Christmas Breakfast.

Christmas Dinner was the Muffaletta’s we were supposed to have Christmas Eve.

It was unlike any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. That evening, my temperature went back up.

The entire holiday was like that – fevers, flu, tiredness, like mis-matched pieces to a puzzle. The unexpected Christmas gift was not so much the flu. It was change.

I felt it all around, change, like a seed before it emerges through the soil, into the brave, above-ground world, the faith of that seed to trust it’s creator that it is prepared for what is on the other side of the dark divide.

. . . a seed before it emerges . . .

. . . . that’s where I am, right now . . .

Life is full of those kinds of moments – of change emerging, both big and little, both event and daily.

Right now, it’s as though I’m at an empasse in an everyday Martha-Living with an opportunity to emerge into another way of living, an everyday Mary-Living.

“The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her”(Luke 10: 41-42).

I wonder how Martha felt? Was it too much of a change, to give up works for grace? To trust that everything would take care of itself in the right time, without “fussing far too much and getting worked up over nothing”? – that brushed with grace, Muffalettas for Christmas Dinner instead of the traditional huge spread fulfill heart-needs?

When God is in the change,
more than enough results.
When God orchestrates the change,
works are exchanged for grace
like a seed before the moment of an emerge
. . . . a change offered for grace . . .
still in the darkness,
holding out hope and faith hands
for Him to pull me through right!

(Last year’s Narcissus Paperwhites never emerged to bloom. This year, all tree of them bloomed. I took it as a letter of encouragement from a loving Father!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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fallhydrangea_edited-1As for man, his days are as grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth”  (Psalm 103: 15)

 

One of my son’s was talking about his college classes. His U.S. History teacher he said, “She’s really old – like 50 or 60.”

I arched an eye-brow, “Really old? 50?”

There’s sadistic enjoyment in sometimes helping your children shove their feet in their mouths a little further – just so they realize it’s there. They don’t consider me really, really old – but they really don’t consider me 52. Strong as an ox? indomitable? They think I am. I guess when you’re raising boys to be strong men, they expect their mothers and fathers to be as strong as the standard they set.

Walking through my yard after picking some tomatoes from the garden, watching butterflies on the zinnias that finally bloomed, my eyes fell on my hydrangea blossom – and I thought – I want to grow old like that.

I want to grow old like a blue hydrangea.
Budding green flowerheads in summertime’s morning sun
White tender soul petals emerge, opening
roots reaching for a holy spirit water source
for an unquenchable thirst
in the harshness of a summertime life
day by day as year by year
iron will infuses light baby
to cerulean blue tender still
vibrant, intense full of life blue
for a season, for a span
until petals toughen like paper hide
in an afternoon shade the blossom fades
into grace of more than just
antique greens, grandma rose pinks and dusty blues
its life redeemed into something worth keeping
reedeemed and gathered up before winter’s frost,
stored into darkness to dry for days
as sweet reminders of hope
in the midst of someone else’s winter.

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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)

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rain tree seeds

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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

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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

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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.

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brokenshells82“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

Myrtle beach differs from the Gulf beaches: No Sandpipers, Rock Doves, Sanderlings, Laughing Gulls seen putting on morality plays at Myrtle Beach. . . .

No unbroken Sailor’s Ears, Heart Cockles, Spiny Jewel Boxes, Jingles and Butterfly Wings, Slippers and Scallops, Turkey or Sea Wings with which to decorate sand castles or fill jars.

However, Myrtle Beach this holiday was filled other things (34 of us this year), umbrella tents, grandparents, great-grandchildren and everyone in-between. The Gulf Beach is usually quieter, more intimate – with just the immediate family, those living in the nest – and that has dwindled from 5 to 3.

A Holiday for me, for me – whether it is a week, a day – or even a Holiminute – involves reading – reading a book over a sandwich at lunch, reading in-between conversation lines – or reading the love letters God leaves all around me – in the trees at home lifting their limbs up in praise, a cardinal darting out reminding me God’s with me, a pop-up rainstorm creating rivulets from tree roots to sidewalks outside my work window. I have learned to anticipate God’s messages in the daily, to expect them. God’s messages might not contain the answer to a prayer. It might not “fix” a challenge. God’s messages are often fellowship, part of an ongoing dialog, relationship-growing, a hug, encouragement – it is becoming what defines my day.

He is a faithful messenger – in the big and little messages.

brokenshells22cI looked for shells – but there were few whole ones to find. I looked for birds – but they had no interest in our beach with our umbrella city. I paddled in the ocean, watched it’s surface morning and night – trying to find His message.

The ocean clammed up – I couldn’t seem to pierce its cover to read its depths – yet, it called me – with its ever-changing shades from brilliant azure blue to blue cotton to white grey-sky-reflections all.

I’d sit at night on the porch, listening to the unrelenting wave crashes, watching white clouds in a black sky march silently like armies marching in-land under the cover of darkness, feet wrapped in clothe to silence their movement. When I woke, they’d slipped away.

Was this letter, the message in the sea too deep for me? Did it contain too big a message? It’s as though He wanted me to really want this message, like a child asking over and over to do the dishes the first time – because it was a task with responsibility and sacrifice.

I kept asking, waiting with expectation. The last day on the beach, He revealed the message. It wasn’t a cheer-leading message full of encouragement and, “You go, girl.”

The message about brought me to my knees.

The waves kept pushing shell pieces to the water’s edge– big and little shell pieces. Nobody wanted them. Most beachcombers had ceased to even search for there was so little hope of collecting whole shells. They only wanted the easy to find whole-shells. The waves, though,  kept pulling and hurling them into the beach – some shells recognizable, most not.

and there were so many pieces. . . .

brokenshells4c

Each piece represented a broken soul
a broken soul desperate to be saved
though the soul didn’t know
it needed saving
didn’t know it could be made whole

The water, that Holy Spirit water,
kept tossing them on the beach
and when they’d slide back,
the water nudged them forward again,
sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully,
as if saying to those on the beach,
Hurry! Hurry! Come help save them”
as would cry the Captain of the Titanic
if he could have pulled his passengers ashore
one hand pushing shoreward, the other hand reaching
to save more
counting on the beachcombers
to revive and breathe life
into those which he strives
to save

Yet how does the broken fragments
of a soul
who doesn’t recognize
the force of the Holy Spirit
how do they know
this pushing to save is
a good thing, a better thing
because they don’t know, they slide back
because there’s no one to pick them up
because the beachcombers only see
Brokenness
Unredeemable brokenness

And God was saying, these broken pieces and parts of shells – all these represent the broken in the world, the broken a step away from you, in your community, in the world. I keep bringing them up for you to see, He says, for the world to see but my children just walk right by them, judging them beyond redemption, beyond wholeness – on your own shores.

I am overwhelmed
millions of shell slivers
shards, chips and chunks
how can I ever find all the right pieces
for them
if I cannot even find all the right pieces
for me

Unredeemable broken mess
if the fixing were left to me
that’s what it looks like
feels like
so many. . . so many broken to pieces

My soul-combing child, He said,
you just need to reach out
to pick them up
let your story be a letter
of introduction
show-casing my credentials
my credentials as
God Elohim, mighty and strong, who created you, is able to save you
Almighty God El Shaddai who wants to be all-sufficient to ALL your needs
Adonai, a worthy master over your destiny
who as Jehovah-Jireh foresees every challenge you will face, every choice, whether good or bad, and provides a way back home
where as Jehovah-Rophe  welcomes you,
wraps you in both his arms and heals your wounds,
both self-inflicted and inflicted by others
and as you heal in the shadow of His presence
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh will sanctify you, make you pure and whole in His sight
until, finally, you find peace in the presence of Jehovah-Shalom
the answer to a prayer fulfilled, made whole,
perfected with the mighty strength He put within you

just let the Holy Spirit push them to you
pick them up
all my soulcombers
pick them up
introduce them to me,
even if you think they ought to already
know me,
even if you think they don’t deserve
to know me
introduce me – that’s all I need you to do
introduce me-
so that I can make them whole

brokenshells1cI’m praying, friends, for God to show me how to live this message. I just know that the need to continue reaching in our communities is so important. So many don’t know God as a dear friend, a loving father, a knight in shining armor. So many want to save the easy to save – but God is calling me – to save the hard to save, the rebels, the ones that seems so broken and worthless – like the broken chips and shell shards on the beach. Won’t you pray with me, for our communities to make real connections, one-one-one story sharing connections where God-filled relationships are established, not fly-by relationships? Where introductions are made that build lasting relationships – because I think these youth and young adults want real relationship, need real relationship.

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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. . . .

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