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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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There’s a new type of shaming in our country today. No – it’s not body shaming, gender shaming or race shaming. It’s belief shaming – not just religious belief shaming, but political belief shaming.

Shaming is done by someone with one set of beliefs to someone with a different set of beliefs. It’s done to elicit changes in thought and behavior. It is done to shame into silence. It is intolerance; it is bullying.

“A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which  or modesty prompts us to conceal” ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary.

Disagreements handled with generosity of spirit are good for our country. It sharpens our vigilance. It holds in check for healthy balance. It has the ability to stimulate goodness becoming better and enables love to be all-encompassing.

Group think is never healthy – in a company or in a country.

Recently, someone in my nest was belief-shamed: politic-shamed. My husband and I were there while he handled it with grace, kindness and firmness. Because he believed we needed healthy borders and was a Trump supporter, he was labeled a racist, a hater and ignorant by someone older and in authority over parts of his life.

Differences in how individuals think about scientific theory, literary interpretation, grammar usage, history, and politics doesn’t leave one side a lover and the other a hater, one side brilliant, the other side stupid beyond belief. Those are false arguments designed to shame into silence. Those arguments in themselves are intolerant.

“It is clear that the individual who persecutes [shames] a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster[bully]” ~Voltaire.  Tolerance makes room for a different opinion, breeding respect. It is not just generosity of spirit – it is the American spirit.

“Children learn at an early age the principle of the limitation of individual liberty. It can usually be fixed in the mind by the epigrammatic statement, “My right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins” ~ Walter B. Hill, 1902,  Chancellor of the University of Georgia at a meeting of the National Educational Association.

Yes, I support capitalism over socialism. Yes, I support healthy borders and the enforcement of laws. Yes, I support legal immigration. I support free speech and the right to bear arms.

I unabashedly love my country and how it has grown to encompass freedom for all men. Yes, I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I love America and the potential it affords its people.

The growth of our country is similar to the growth of the individual soul – the individual soul may fail in its efforts to love perfectly, but the individual soul keeps its eyes on the one who created it, picks itself up and keeps trying. Not only is the growth of our country’s soul similar to the individual’s souls growth, but America’s figurative soul is a reflection of the soul of its people.

It is full of people with generosity of spirit, a love-thy-neighbor kind of love – and passionate differences of opinion.

During this election season, let’s not politic/belief shame. Let’s not diminish a person’s intellectual ability. Let’s not doubt the moral state of their souls. Let us choose love – maybe an exasperated love, but still love.

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may” ~ John Wesley

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bluecottonboys_editedccUnconditional Love, True Love, lives in a real world, with real challenges and other real emotions. It is incredibly beautiful Unconditional Love. But it takes lots of strength, courage and faith. A little humbleness, too. A little taking the back seat sometimes and a lot of never giving up! Unconditional Love is all encompassing. It loves your husband, your children, your friends, God – even strangers. I would not want to live without it.

Even when someone does something expressly against your wishes, like dump the chicken noodle soup down the side of the sink without the garbage disposal, does not wear their seat belt when driving without you, or gets a tattoo, Unconditional Love loves.

Unconditional Love sees your child (whether little, teen or grown), spouse or parent through God’s Eyes.
If you cannot see it now – ask Him!
He will show you through His Eyes!
It is life changing . . .
Changing how you think,
the words you use,
the feeling in your heart,
the expressions on your face!
It is a liberating love.

Kind of like God handing me His glasses with Hope and Faith Lenses
letting me see
what God sees
and
it
changed
everything

Unconditional Love knows how I love is not determined by success or failure
Recognizing that sometimes failure is the biggest step to success,
resulting in my needing to step back,
take my hands-off
hold the tears inside
staunch the fear that tries to rush out with a mental and emotional tourniquet
choke off words that do not need or are not ready to be said
believing that failure is sometimes the gas to the engine of success

How do you  know when you are loving unconditionally? Unconditional Love is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love anyway – then you are loving unconditionally.

PPPPSSSSsssssssttttt. . . . Unconditional Love – the God-kind of Unconditional Love is not reserved just for your very favorite people. It is a type of love that is like a Spring Rain, showering on everyone who comes into contact with you.

Unconditional Love is found in a Mary Poppins-Bag-kind-of-heart that is deep enough to fill with love for as many people, not as it can hold because the Mary Poppins bag is bottomless, but for as many people as you choose to love. It is priceless!

Unconditional Love grows, and groWS, and gROWS and GROWS
over days, with months, years
in sunshine and storms
if we let it
if we don’t hoard it
Then it grows, re-seeds, spreads like buttercups in a field
Unconditional Love is a choice.
Choose Unconditional Love

(Once upon a time, I wrote about 30-something unconditional love rules in the waiting of the journey of a prayer sent out. I finally took those 30 unconditional love rules, whittled them down to 10 – and created an introduction on the definition of Unconditional Love from the shavings of those 30 rules.  This post is that definition. I did this for my boys because I thought maybe one day they would value the message that sustained me during a challenging time. The guiding mission statement for Blue Cotton Memory is the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men. Very subtly it also includes another personal mission – to show my boys how to grow old loving the Lord. They aren’t interested in the heart thoughts of their mother right now – but, maybe, one day, they will be – and one copy of this, tucked on my bookshelf, will be pulled out to encourage in the waiting of a prayer sent out.)

 

 

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

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

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

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

“Did you every read these?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Santa leaving in your stockings?

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WWWBFAllfurrowcc_edited-1“You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth”
(Psalm 65: 9-11)

 This last year, I’ve had the privilege to speak at schools about my children’s books. Bicycling with Ava provided an opportunity to talk about the gifts we each have: not just gifts of writing or drawing, but the gifts of putting numbers together, theorizing science, fixing things or nurturing people, standing up for others, encouraging or teaching.

I talked about how the writer and illustrator sometimes work together to trick readers into learning by counting cattails on a creek bed and goose feathers for pillows, learning colors through red, yellow, green and blue sheep. They learned new words for fun, too.  As Ava struggles to make a decision on which hat to pick to hide her suddenly orange nose, she purses her lips, furrows her brow, and scowls. Did you know that a lip-purse + a furrowed brow = a scowl? My favorite children’s books are the ones that invite interaction in an unstated way. I wanted my books to me like that, too. LIke life, the details in the illustrations were not their by coincidence. There was a plan and purpose to the detail.

These Kindergarteners through 4th graders and I talked etymology, though they didn’t realize they were learning about word origins and history. For example, we talked about furrows on their grandparents’ farms, nestled next to mounds where seeds are planted. The furrows can be paths or narrow grooves, so big rains don’t wash away seeds or roots. Furrows, though, just aren’t in gardens and fields. Furrows can be on our brows when smiles turn upside down because of sadness, frustration, heavy or unpleasant thoughts. Try it – furrow your brown, making the space between your eyebrows crinkle and wrinkle. Now look at your neighbor and furrow your brow at them. Did you? Kindergarteners through 4th graders did – and had fun being tricked into learning something new.

Furrows are deep places – on our faces and in our hearts. Sometimes without the low places, the storm waters wouldn’t have places to go – and we would find ourselves washed away because of it.

Soil, furrows and hearts are a lot like you and me. When the soil is saturated, the furrow’s deepness provides an outlet, so as not to permanently damage the plant – or maybe the soul of you and me.

There’s been a steady stream of highs and lows this year. I used to think that when I mastered life, a steady, humming-along-the-highway kind-of-living would result.  If I were only good enough, pure enough, Godly enough . . . . I would be able to manage the daily into just humming along. Right?

Sadly – because I wish I’d realized much sooner before I’d invested so much energy and time into a project destined to fail – there’s error in that kind of thinking – error born out of inappropriate expectations.

If I’d never furrowed my brow, I’d never have reached deep to realize my need for God. I wasn’t designed for a self-fueled humming-along-the-highway kind-of-living. I was designed to need God – to be filled up by God.

The inappropriate expectation is being replaced, awkwardly at first, becoming more dexterous day-by-day, to the expectation that, yes, there is joy in the highs, but there something just as valuable in the lows, something souly nurturing in the steady drizzle, sometimes torrential downfall of the challenges in the daily.

I might have been designed for heaven, but without challenges that fall like a soft rain, I don’t know that I would realize that. You see, experience is the best teacher I know.

Maybe I needed a Hannah-unconditionally-loved-by-Elkanah marriage,

or a Jacob-wrestling confrontation in which to surrender,

a Doubting Thomas faith failure humbled and won through Salvation standing before him – hands open, wounds revealed,

a mother-of-the-prodigal revelation waiting in faith for her son’s homeward walk,

a faith-is-the-substance-hoped for woman-with-the-issue-of-blood journey,

a crippled man standing-on-his-faith encounter

Billy Graham said if you want to change someone’s life, tell a story – share the experience of your faith. The experience that changes lives is found in the hard and soft of our challenges.

The soft and hard rains of this year have indeed softened the hard edge of the mound, softening into the dip of the furrow and because of it, I move with more grace from the highs into the lows and back up again.

Through the soft raindrops like challenges, from the mounds to the furrows and the muddy mess of of it all – because challenges just leaves degrees of muddy messes, I have discovered goodness in both – a soul-preserving nutrient that without both, my growth would be limited or stunted. The challenge without him leaves me shivering to the bone in a cold rain. The challenge with him, seeps inside this softened soul or runs off into the furrows, leaving my roots stronger, my growth more than I imagined possible.

A little sweet with the sour.

A little low with the high.

A bit of raindrop to soften the soul

and out of that, the blessings grow.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and I’m glad you haven’t forgotten your way here. This has been a year of big changes – leaving a 3-year-old job and launching 4 children’s books, a son marrying a beautiful inside-and-out girl, another son and sweet daughter-in-law’s second baby girl, one son steadying his step, a new high-schooler, a junior who is taking more college classes than high school classes, me teaching again since 2009 and, while loving teaching students how to strengthen their writing – and maybe discover wonderful things about themselves in the process, I am left wondering if God didn’t want me to walk through the classroom just one last time before walking through a door to a different way to fill my daily. All this has been drizzled with big and little challenges, expected and unexpected. To someone who likes a fairly regimented daily with time planned for the unexpected, I’m finding that every hour possibly contains unplanned tasks and adventures – meaning I’ve thrown the schedule out the window and am possibly free-falling into something unplanned and unexpected at any moment. I’m not quite sure I’m managing this with grace yet, but, at least, I’m not screaming (mostly figuratively) in terror at the chaos anymore. Right here at Blue Cotton Memory, it’s one of the places I come to just sit with God, talk over what’s going on, and tighten my grip on his hand, reminding myself that he is right here beside me, right now.

Dear Father,

During this Christmas season, I pray that we feel your Holy Spirit wash over us, mingling with the challenges that fall like rain, settling to softening the hard planes of our soul ridges. I pray that we see these challenges as softeners that make hearts more tender, understanding deeply dimensional, and grow a love taller, with beautiful blooms that re-seed in the mounds and furrows all around us, and that maybe, just maybe, some of those seeds just might be carried in a Holy Spirit rain down the furrowed path into a place that needs your kind of love seed – and that more will be blessed by the growth in us than we ever imagined. Thank you sending us a savior, your son, to show us the amazing grace that can come out of a hard challenge.

Amen

(Illustration by Lynda Farrington Wilson in the January release of Where the Wild Winds Blow Fall and Winter).

 

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bicyclegreen_edited-1removing training wheels

he types his essay
on heroes and anti-heroes
defining the noble, the ignoble
the brave, questing search
of the soul of a man
wrestling down, pinning
the argument of his
ideas

“read it,” he wants,
only half-way done
but in this letting go
of both our hands
he needs to trust his
argument, his support
the heart of his ideas
for now
until the roughness of it
is sketched in

the review wait
until further progress
frustrates independence growing
unused to hands-off processes that
stretches new-found
self-ownership and the evaluation
of it
by other minds and other hearts
who neither held his hands and nor let go
to walk, fall, and pull himself up
to try again until
he got it
on his own

like bicycle riding
solo
for the first time
with the training wheels of
independence
removed
revealing the sheer terror
of hands-off
for both of us
until his feet pressed into the pedals
his hands wrapped control around
handle bars
his inside boy balanced his outside boy
and he flew down the side walk

heart jumping, I stood
at the letting-go point
hands gripped at my side
words held back so they
wouldn’t get in the way
as he wobbled, teetering
from failure to success
in the newness of confidence
emerging
from owning the journey
two-wheeled independence

today he writes,
and I find busyness
in a letting-go moment
hands gripping the dish clothe,
wiping the counter
words held back so they won’t
get in the way
of his words, his ideas
of heroes and anti-heroes,
examples and arguments
of an essay written
comparing the souls of men

this slow removal
of the training wheels of
Independence
of a mama’s hands
letting go
to allow him to own
his success, his failures
his  picking himself up to try
again
and in that picking up gain
more than success
is
courage-soaked mother
who loves enough
to let go

Won’t you settle in, join me with a cup of spiced ginger plum tea, join me with Karen at Tuesdays at Ten? The writing prompt is . . . Letting go.

 

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I think the most challenging part of being a mom of sons-only – is I don’t have a daughter to pass the stories down to – and women are designed to be story-tellers, keepers of the family faith story. We are designed to  pass the God in us down. Brandee at Smooth Stones asked me a few weeks ago to stop by her place (figuratively), have a cup of tea (figuratively) and pass some encouragement down as her first-born enters high school. She has doubly blessed me!  If you need  some encouragement as you raise your teens, please join us!

Dear Brandee, Your son’s just started high school. I can just see that first day. He’s all ready to go out the door, catch the school bus: back-pack stuffed with school supplies, water bottles, – not lunch because he wants to try their lunch, to see if it’s different. . . better. His back pack isn’t heavy, yet. There’s room for books, but not as much room as he’ll realize he needs.

You probably watched him walk to the bus, like independence on training-wheels, that walk up to a doorway to a new era.

You’re more left behind than ever. You can’t walk him out, stand with him like you did in the primary years. You can’t just pop into school to see the teacher at the end of the day to pick up nuggets and morsels of what’s really going on.

Hands-off time has begun – kind of like on the cooking competitions you see on t.v.  when that buzzer rings, hands fly off – and up.

He pulls himself up through those bus doors that will take him to a school where everything is possible – booze, drugs, PDA, friends who lift up and those who pull down, teachers who encourage and discourage, believers, non-believers – it’s all in there

. . . . . and you just let him go. . . .

When you just let him go, remember the other back pack – the one you can’t see – that soul back pack that you started filling the day he was born . . . . Read the Rest Here (Click)

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One upon a time, long ago, where blue grass grew in Main Street America, and front porch swings were a safe place to watch life go by, I packed my bags, folded up my new cobalt blue comforter with Dogwood Rose colored flowers to go out in the world and, if not meet my destiny, then hunt it down like a terrior unleashed who finds the world so big that sometimes it is hard to figure which way to go.

My comforter was there through my college career, wrapped around me as I studied, worked on projects, or just needed a comfort moment.  In a college dorm room, bedding is the primary décor statement (wall décor second).  My Cobalt blue comforter with its Dogwood Rose colored flowers symbolized my boldness – no weak, thinned out blue pastel or wall flower pink – no – I was going to shape my future to my dreams – Cobalt blue spoke strength, determination, adventure.

Three years later, I stepped further into my future.  My spirit gentled.  My new comforter was Shabby Chic White with faint slashes of tea green and misty rose.  My fading Cobalt Blue comforter, now Carolina Blue found itself folded over a chair for cuddling on the couch or naps.

Until my son was born. The blue seemed to brighten with a renewed vitality. Thrown on the floor, it provided a soft place to fall. As morning wore on, sleepiness pulling both of us, we’d wrap the blue around and fall into the snuggly Kingdom of Nap.

When he turned 2, I decorated his Big Boy Room.  He picked out a Snoopy Quilt with a blue background for his Big Boy Bed.  During nap time one afternoon, when he was just 3, he dragged his blanket into my room, setting it on my bed.  “I think you should have this blanket, Mom.  It’s so much nicer.  I’ll let you have it,” he said as he slowly inched my fading into stone washed Corn Silk blue blanket over his shoulders and backed out of the room. “I’ll just take this one since you won’t be needing it now that you have my nice Snoopy blanket.”

And there began a back and forth, a sneak and take for a few years until it just stayed in his room, wrapped around him during sleep, snuggly time, movie time, and, yes, even spend the night time.  Time faded the blanket to periwinkle.  Not all the seams were there. That blanket went with him to college, all faded and full of memories. The pink had washed to a leached out white.

One day, he brought The Girl home, the girl who would be his wife.  They set a date.  Then, one Christmas, six months before the wedding, he came home with his blanket and left it behind. The faded blue blanket just lay there. . . . .

 Until one day, my 3rd son picked it up, wrapped it around himself, and wandered off with it to snuggle into sleep, watch a movie, or read, even on overnight sleepovers – terribly faded, terribly worn, terribly loved –

(I had to wrestle it away to take a picture).

More on the journey of the blue cotton blanket: Change Comes Quietly

and The Blanket Thief Strikes Again

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babybird2_edited-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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grass

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

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

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

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

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snowice_edited-1

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

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

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

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

soccersnow_edited-2

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

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

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

You gotta be able to call their bluff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCARY MOMMY has a pretty scary sense of humor.  When one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.  Now readers, you need to visualize that before you can truly appreciate the SCARY MOMMY humor.

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

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

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

Wishing you a day of celebrating family!

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treefog2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Living life waiting to exhale is no way to live.

I’m still learning.

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

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

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

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

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

One cannot live God’s plan holding their breath.

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

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

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

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

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

and I exhale, “Have mercy on me. . .”

. . . . and He does.

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

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

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

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

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

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

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

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

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cosmoI stood watering my garden under the stars, in the dark. I’m a literalist. It took me awhile to understand that when the Foxfire books suggested to plant under a full moon – it didn’t mean at night under a full moon.

I stood, thinking, squinting to see my flowers in the dark, after my son’s soccer camp. My zinnias looked more organized, more in a row in the dark. It must be the dark – because I’d poured the seeds of them in my hands and released them to flutter and fall into the back of my flower bed – behind the lavender, the day lilies, purple spikes and evening primroses.

I moved next to water the cosmos behind the irises. Squinting harder, watching the water fall where I knew they were – because, like the zinnias, I’d released them. Like the zinnias, when they’d grown a bit, I’d separated them. I couldn’t see them in the dark – even the big cosmos that should have been right there.

I’d guessed it was just too dark to see when my husband wandered through the yard to where I was standing. Plant, flower and vegetable watering time seem to be our time, a walk-in-the-garden kind of time.

“Caleb weeded your garden today,” he said, laughing in his easy going way. He went on to tell me how when he’d come out to check on Caleb’s progress, the garden was emptied of all my zinnias. Nobody had even realized the cosmos was in the weed – or that there’d been cosmos in the garden.

Kindness pulled the weeds – or maybe a touch of kindness with a touch of dad-said-I-have-too – but love had planted the zinnias right back.

zinnia2The even rows under the star-light – and the patch of black empty of growing cosmos – it all became clear. I could have grabbed hold of anger and frustration – because zinnias in tiny cups, flower bowls and mason jars all over the house are one of my dearest summer-time joys. It’s hard when the work of my hands comes to nothing.

I’d learned long ago, when my first born had broken a old china tea-cup my grandmother had given me one Christmas morning, wrapped at the foot of my bed – I learned to let go of the replaceable and grab hold of the irreplaceable.

It’s a choice what we keep and what we let go. Under the stars, I chose to grab hold of an intangible gift – just the kind of moment I needed – seeds planted, roots grown and little sprigs pulled out – only to be re-planted because they knew how much I enjoyed my zinnias – all wrapped up one of those stories I’ll love telling when I’m 90.

Stop (5 minutes)

It’s a blackberry-sweet tea kind of week. Won’t you pull up a chair, pour yourself a tall glass – and join me with Lisa-Jo at her place to write about. . . release? It just takes 5 minutes.

 

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Knight in Shining Armor kind of brave – it’s a God kind of brave – a willingness to sacrifice all – life, pride, reputation, arms and legs, dreams, financial possibilities, comfort, popularity – in order to save someone else.

A God-kind of brave – that we read about from the book of Martyrs – a record of bravery of men, women and children risking all for the second Baptism – for having a copy of the Gospel of Love.

A God-kind of brave that comes to another country to pursue religious liberty – a Jesus-kind-of religion that doesn’t oppress or limit – but frees from bondage, heals wounds and finds joy.

A young boy following his passion for a sport – who shares the Gospel of Love in black grease paint oncheekbones, who risks popularity, riches, a dream job – in order to share the Gospel of Love, a knight-in-shining armor kind of brave – a Tim Tebow kind of brave.

I want my boys who juggle the soccer ball on toes passionate for a game to be passionate for their Savior, to be passionate for a neighbor they don’t know – willing to risk all – so others can know the bottomless, unquenchable love of a mighty God.

That kind of brave.

“Sometimes you’re too poor to have ethics,” the university commencement speaker said – a person of high-rank in the Tennessee primary and secondary education system.

Yet – isn’t that when it counts – when what’s really inside matters? When life isn’t easy – that’s what you see what a man is made of.

This mother’s heart wants to raise these 5 sons from brave boys into brave men:

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy” (Pinocchio)

A real boy, a real man where things like ethics, morality, bravery and courage, unconditional love are like invisible ink –

Unconditional Love [bravery, morality, ethics) is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love {bravery, morality, ethics}is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally{are ethical, brave, moral}? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love {be brave, ethical, adhere to moral principles} anyway – then you are loving unconditionally {brave, ethical, morally upstanding}. ~ Blue Cotton Memory, Unconditional Love Rule 2

If you’ve been around my blog for a long time, you’ve probably heard me quote St. Augustine from City of God who said that the only difference between a pagan and a Christian – is not the things they face because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Seeing Tim Tebow walk out his faith in the midst of cultural challenges that seek strip him of his dream, his job, his cultural standing, even that faith itself – is a testimony of that faith. His ethics count now more than ever. His faith in the midst of adversity is a testimony to that faith – and it takes a brave man, a courageous man, a Daniel-in-the-Lion’s-Den kind of man.

The soldiers who are being discouraged from mentioning their faith in our military are those kind of men – men who would risk a court martial to pray over a wounded soldier or share the knowledge of a God who loves, who saves, who promises eternal life with that loving  – that is noble bravery at its best.

Our faith is being challenged – and we need brave men and women who will stand in the fiery furnace of cultural condemnation – and be a beacon for our boys and girls, our men and women.

A Tim-Tebow-kind-of Brave

~ Congress Shall Make No Law Concerning Tebowing and Other Religious Behavior

~Words Make a Difference

~A Horrifying, Mortifying Commencement Speech

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One of my sons came home from church awhile back talking about the anti-Christ and End-Time Signs.

I just asked, “Well, son, if you believe it, are you going with the first load(believers raptured) or coming along later (unbelievers remaining who suffer but are given the chance to believe)?”

It is not the end-time signs that are really important. Relationship with the Father is what is important.

“Yeah, I believe in God,” my son said.

And I thought, yes, even the devil believes.

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19)

Does your belief order your actions? The words from your mouth? Are you cognizant of the contract of belief – a contract similar to a knight who has pledged his sword, his life, his loyalty, his riches to his Lord? Is it that kind of belief?

“I promise on my faith that I will in the future be faithful to the lord, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.” (Medieval Life and Times Information)

A verbal oathe, was a contract between a vassal and his liege Lord. A binding contract that outlined specific duties between that vassal and his Lord.

“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman” (2 Chronicles 15: 12-13

This “Liege Fielty” is  “a promise of -absolute- service and obedience to the Crown of his Kingdom, or to an individual person. The Crown, or the individual person, in turn promises to defend that liegeman’s “rights and privleges,” and in general to be an honorable Lord to that vassal. One swears this kind of fealty -once.” (White Bard, The Feudal Contract)

Baptism is  our soul signature to that contract,  more than just confirming we believe. It is the validation of our contract, publicly speaking in a binding way, that we do not just believe that Jesus is the Son of God who rose from the dead on the 3rd day. We are acknowledging we chose to live our lives in service to our Lord.

Yet, to enter into the service of our Lord is to become an intimate part of the family, rich in inheritance. Becoming a vassal, yet a son or daughter of our Lord at the same time. The word marvel comes to mind when I try to grasp the generosity of our Lord.

“If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived” (1 John 2:4-6)

All my sons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. So, too, does the devil. Belief alone does not make you a child of God. It is what you do with that belief. It can get you thrown out of Heaven or embraced in the Father’s arms as part of His family. I believe, the kind that saves,  is a knightly- kind-of-thing, requiring faithfulness, action and relationship. Do you have it?

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Edmund_blair_leighton_accoladeA soul that doesn’t recognize that a relationship with Yahweh is as important to his development as his physical DNA, cannot grow into the man they were designed to be.

Before God was stripped out of our schools, off library bookshelves, community meetings, commencement addresses, curriculum, or our government, school shootings, from Columbine to the UC- Santa Barbara killings weren’t a thread in the tapestry of our history.

Please join me over at The Mom Initiative today for the rest of my post, for why our boys need to know they are God-Designed.

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03-08-2009 04;28;20PMMy grandmother, Mary Edna, taught me  about strength. One bright sunny morning, she moved from grandmother to something closer and more powerful.

The sun was pouring through the big upstairs windows at her house. Spending the night at grandmother and grandfather’s house, drinking hot chocolate for breakfast-that was the life-except that morning, grandmother accidently put coffee in my milk instead of cocoa.

“Can I live here forever?” I asked. I asked it every time. We were upstairs straightening the beds when the phone rang, you know the 1968 phone ring. Grandmother answered, handing me the phone to talk to my mom.

“Can I live here forever?” I remember asking into the phone.

My mother said, “Yes.”

Wow! Talk about getting what you wish for! It left me speechless. I remember wandering downstairs, onto the front porch, swinging. The milkman came, leaving two bottles of milk in the milk box.

Mom, my brother, and I moved in a few weeks later. Morning hot chocolates stopped. We weren’t just grandchildren anymore. We were something. . . more.

There were times when I wondered how my grandfather could love such a woman. The older I got, the more I understood. You need strength to push through tough times. You need strength to make meager times rich. You need strength to have hope.

She could be sharp, judgmental, and an adherent to Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette. Despite that, she made me feel beautiful on the inside. That’s what mattered most to me—that’s where I wanted to be beautiful.

I learned as I grew into a young woman the need to stand up for what I believed. If I didn’t, she could just roll right over me.

It terrified me to stand up to her. She could wield the look. Most people would just give up if she gave you the look. Deep inside, I knew I couldn’t give up. If I did, I would lose . . . .me. So I would stand up to her. . . and when there was nothing left to do, then I would just stand.

She respected that.

I learned that if I could stand up to her, I could stand up to anybody or for anything. A lot of shoe quaking is involved in the standing up to a seemingly greater than oneself. Sweaty palms, too, often followed sometimes by light-headed-ness, probably due to a lack of oxygen. Sometimes life requires moments like this, the standing-up-for-something-inside-of-ourselves moments. Moments where you can’t afford to stand down.

One day after my first son was born, we gathered in the family room, my grandmother, aunt, mom, and I. Everyone was enjoying the baby. I got up and turned the corner to the kitchen when I hit on a chair my very sensitive part of the shin, that funnybone part that when knocked just the right when in the moment of busyness has nothing funny about it, just exquisite pain.

I cursed. Then I inwardly cursed again when the family room went stone quiet. I never cursed. At least, not until I started driving, and then only when I was driving. Then I got married, and the battle increased. Then I had a baby. However, these women in my family respected how I struggled never to curse.

I had a reputation that with the split-second shin hit was about to be torn to shreds. The silence screamed condemnation. I took a deep breath, and stuck my head around the corner, ready to take the lashing. There are times where it only takes one incident to destroy one’s reputation.

Scan6_2_0039_039Everyone was looking at grandmother, the great matriarch, waiting for the verdict, the censure. My character failure would be recalled again and again. Just like the one time I opened a Christmas present early and rewrapped it. A criminal just can’t keep a secret; they have to brag. Stupid me! You’d think I had done it every Christmas.

My grandmother looked them square in the eye, and said, “My mother always said there was a time and place to curse. I believe you just found it.”

The conversation turned. Not a word was ever said about the incident again. She had secured my dignity.

I miss her every day! I used the strength she instilled in me every day. With a house full of sons to raise, they can’t ever see you sweat! Toppling into a weepy puddle is just not an option—at least not in front of them.

It is hard balancing the two, a stick that won’t be broken and a gentle hand filled with compassion. I fail often; however, I cannot afford to give up. That dog-gone strength I built from standing up to her just won’t let me.

God replaced the loss of a father with a great gift—my grandmother who taught me to be strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Four Horses of Maturity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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pinkdogwoodThe boys, from the biggest to the smallest, roll their eyes, sigh: “You’ve told this story before, Mom.”

. . . and I tell it again, whether it’s the story of the day they were born, that 97 one earned on his Sophomore research paper, that I’d coached him through on a Mother’s Day in 2009 – when he did not want to give the detail, use the 3-step-method-of citation, put topic statements on all his inside-paragraphs

or the mystery of the missing turtle head

or the “You’re a cake” lecture

or how one 5 year old brother tried to evangelize his 3 year old brother one evening when he didn’t want to say his bed-time prayers

or how the oldest brother prayed for a baby brother for 3 years – and in the sixth grade, wrote about how when God answers prayers, He answers them abundantly

“I know the story, Mom,” each moans as I tell it for the gazillionth time.

But sometimes, we need to hear the stories, over and over and over . . . until the truth in the story, the soul of the story sinks in. It’s like that with our stories – and His stories.

Because He’s told the story since the beginning of creation

Through all creation.

“Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?” (Isaiah 40:21)

How the earth is reborn in the spring, grows, drops seeds to the earth, and dies for 3 months under the harsh cold – and rises again on a spring day.

How the moon grows to its fullness, wanes and disappears, to be reborn.

The story in the petals of a dogwood of a crucifixion to save us all

Since the beginning of time

Creation has told the story of rebirth, of being made new

Of giving ourselves away like the seeds circled within the fading petals of a sunflower

whitedogwood

 He tells the story over and over and over

The story is being told all around

Since the first day of creation

it flies, burrows,

creeps and runs

nests and sits

erupts, sheds and falls

feeds, heals and refreshes

Because sometimes for a story to sink in

Like a seed into the soil

To reach deep and take root

The story from creation to salvation

the crucifixion to the resurrection

is told told over and over

In every possible way.

The whole earth isn’t just full of His glory

it tells the stories of His glory

over

and over

and over. . . . as many tellings and re-tellings and it takes. . . until the truth of the story, the soul of the story sinks in.

My stories might not be as good as His stories – but I hope those stories tell of His glory. I hope that one day, my boys will really hear what I am saying – and see that I am pointing the way to Him.

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory”
(Isaiah 6:3)

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When I was young and read one Nancy Drew book a day, The Secret Garden made me believe something whole and beautiful can come from loss and brokenness, and a Candle in Her Room broke my heart: words and the world they created became close friends

 . . . . and so I write

When I was bursting independence, I wrote newspaper print on the how prenatal care reduced infant mortality from 25% to 2%, interviewed Mitch McConnell on his run for the Kentucky state senate, visited haunted houses and old men sitting on town square benches – I collected stories

 . . . .  And so I write

Living hours away from grandmother’s front porch swing, I wrote about little boys growing to someone I loved who only remembered the first son and the little boy with the great big frown. Dementia had stolen her stories, so I sent her mine because even 5 minute stories are worth 5 minutes of joy.

 . . . . and so I write

“Why are you shouting at me, Mom,” this fresh teen said as I came into the kitchen. I wiped the shout from my face, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t shouting. Was my face still shouting at your brother?” Communication is a large part body language and small part word choice and tone. My son couldn’t hear tone. We needed to learn more about body language and context. CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder) taught me much about communication – and how graceless with it I can be. Because body language isn’t there to detract from the message – and tone can be better controlled than in real-time, verbal communication, lectures started coming via letters.

 . . . . and so I write

27 years of living with these 5 boys to men, raising them in a world dominated by male communication: humor, frustrating, dreams, challenges, late night

Stop (I couldn’t stop there)

heart spills when everyone’s asleep and I’ve been up grading papers – coaching independence with training wheels  – and then they cross a threshold into the men’s club – and this woman’s history, the story-keeper of family faith, challenges overcome, and miracles has no one to pass it down to, a one-woman club because there’s no one to join.

“God created a “Pass it Down” mechanism within each of us, the need for our life, experience and learning to be given away. It is something as necessary to us as water is to life” ~ My Life is Not My Own

Here, at blue cotton memory is a mother’s inheritance for a daughter available for any daughter needing a mother’s inheritance.
 . . . . and so I write

I think God knew I would need a place to tell the stories of God in our family – his miracles, his comfort, his provision, his love, comfort and saving:

I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done. ~ Psalm 78: 2-4

. . . . and so I write

I’ve been in a hot chocolate mood this week – with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. The boys call it Mama’s Special Hot Chocolate that I only make on snow days. Grab a cup, let it warm you as it goes down – and include 5 minutes of your heart  on the word. . . Write – and join Lisa-Jo’s gracious hospitality for Five-Minute Friday.

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birdwings23c“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because
they have perfect faith,
for to have faith is to have wings.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird

Praying today that you and I , believereally, really believe that He’s got the it in our lives taken care of. Praying that we trust Him enough – that when we do struggle with believing, we run to Him, into His thrown room – no knocking, just running with abandon and need,

. . . just like my boys did long ago when they believed Copper, the dog, had chomped off the over-night turtle guest’s head . They came running in, wailing, distraught that the unthinkable had happened.

I hope, if you and I have unthinkable moments, we shove past the guards, straight into His work room – and throw ourselves into His arms for comfort.  He can fix it so much better than anyone else.

My boys didn’t think anything could be done. They grieved. Poor Copper was placed in the figurative dog house. I suggested we wait a while and set the turtle aside. They drifted out of the kitchen, not understanding, not believing – it just seemed so impossible.

God – this Father of ours, He’s not too busy with someone or something more important. He’s also not surprised – about anything. He’s already drafted the plan. While we’re there – in His work room, )’cause isn’t that really what His throne room is) – He drops everything for you and me.  He’ll take us for a walk, like He did in the twilight with Adam and Even in Eden – and He’ll dry our tears. Later, He will let us crawl up in His chair so instead of getting worn out and giving up we can rest to soar.

God knows we struggle with really, really believing that He’s got it. He knows we struggle sometimes with believing miracles are supposed to be everyday possibilities, even though Jesus came and showed us miracles weren’t meant to be every-now-and-then happenings.

He doesn’t chide us about our inconsistent really, really believing. He doesn’t hold back until we’ve believed 3 times and proved we’re good believers.

“And Jesus said to a father who wanted his son healed, ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’“(Mark 9:23-24).

I do believe; help my unbelief

Be honest! He already knows anyhow – He knows every struggle. He’s detail-oriented like that. Just straight out ask Him, “Help my unbelief.”

and He will

He will help your unbelief. He will help you spread your faith wings and soar!

“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind” (Isaiah 40:31)

Note: Click here to discover The Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head

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knitIt’s tangerine rosemary tea in my grandmother’s tea-cup on a holiday afternoon
as the sun slants through the front windows
And I lasso time to write
My heart

It’s snowflakes on the first day
Back to work after the holiday
Snowflakes cover the road
Covering my windshield
And my black ballet slippers
Leave a path across the grocery parking lot
For club soda, vanilla bean ice cream
And chocolate syrup
Because my littlest one found the recipe
In an old book
Though I knew the recipe from an old memory
Saucey boy thought he’d discovered something I didn’t
know
And I lassoed time
Because he threw down the gauntlet
To make soda memories

It’s, “Mama can you make my sandwich
‘cause it would just taste that much better?”
Or, “Mom, can you bring by the stapler?”
“Read my essay – did I do the cites right?”
expressing appropriate appreciation in the dry
humor of a miniature snowman
and how repentance grows out of hard lessons learned,
grows into tears, hugs and walking tall
And I lasso time out of the jaws of not enough
of me to go around

It’s the no in healthy boundaries
And faith in the journey of a prayer sent out
It’s decisions not for popularity
But for love
and letting go so that independence with training wheels
can work
For standing when sometimes I’d rather
retreat to “Stars and Butterflies” and “The Militia Marching In”
And I lasso time for grace
because I asked God for these boys and this job
and He grew my heart and the will to fight
for moments with tangerine rosemary tea,
chocolate sodas, the dry humor of a miniature snowman
and an answered prayer come home

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Thanksgiving – so much more than a turkey!

There is so much more to Thanksgiving than the turkey, the football – even the family gathered around the table. Thanksgiving is about recognizing the roots from which America grew. Not just the patriotic, freedom-fighting roots – though they are as inherently necessary to recognize. It is the faith seed carried over the ocean in uncomfortable, danger-laden ships, planted in soil with hungry cold hands because of a vision of living God faith uninhibited by political agenda.

“The Lord is the Help of My Life”  – William Bradford

The first Pilgrims came to American so they could worship The God of Abraham, read The Gospel of Love and  experience the second Baptism without being drowned in a wine barrel, be burned alive boarded up in your own home, or have your entrails slowly pulled out of you in the town square as government officials attempted to turn you away from practicing your faith in the way you chose. At that time, the government determined how you practiced your faith – and if you disagreed, well, the government became disagreeable.

They came to America to be able to speak God’s name in the town square in the court house, on the public streets, in the school houses – to live and voice their belief without fear of persecution.

That faith seed would grow roots that would reach into our constitution: Article 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

(As a matter of fact, public schools were created to teach children to read so they could read the bible)

In America, these early Plymouth settlers discovered the rationing of socialism and the plenty of capitalism through the work of their own hands – not their neighbors. They broke the glass ceiling of class restriction – like the cranberries we eat on Thanksgiving that float to the top in the harvest when water rushes through the cranberry fields, so does hard work, effort, talent – all based on individual gumption – not religion, not class, not government.

“He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream”

Today, the Thanksgiving Holiday is full of irony – a House and Senate have left Washington D.C. to celebrate a holiday founded on the success of Capitalism and faith in God, yet daily they work to strip God out of the very places Pilgrims sought to freely worship their God – the city streets, the court houses, the schools – they wanted God in every part of their lives, their community, and their government.

Some leadership have gone so far today as to remove a cross from outside a base chapel in Afghanistan .  This symbol of faith and hope sustains many of our military soldiers protecting not only us but these leaders.

Just like the flag bearers of old gave the hope, the courage to fight on in difficult situations to their the military men it represented, so too does the symbol of our faith. When these flag bearers fell, so too did the fighting soldiers’ morale, hope and survival statistics. These soldiers live in casualty-real situations, putting their life on the life for an America created and built with hands seeking God.

Yet daily, these government officials attempt to strip the foundations of Capitalism and reduce Americans to the once starving, frustrated, dying, struggling Pilgrims who started out in socialism – who died in socialism – hungry and frustrated.  Until the American Spirit at Plymouth through a capitalist contract  replaced the socialist creed to break the bonds of servitude unleashing individual potential resulting in the American Dream.

While Socialism binds the hands of flourishing enterprise, smothers the seeds of creativity from which inventions spring, and suffocates the very breath of freedom, Capitalism frees the hands of enterprise, allows individual creativity the independence to invent, and  gives freedom breath to speak without recourse.

How ironic that today our government officials celebrate an event so diametrically opposed to their actions. How ironic is it that protestors are calling for a return to the socialism that brought Plymouth settler’s to their knees.

How sad that they celebrate Thanksgiving while chopping at the root of its very creation.

These people calling themselves the 99% are missing a very important factor. A missionary man preached at our church a few weeks ago. He asked, “Do you have an in-door toilet? Do you have running water? Do you have electricity?. . . .If you do, you are in the top 10% of the world.”

Yes, the 99% are in the top 10% of the world.

The top 10% because of faith in God and capitalism.

William Bradford’s biography is sitting on my desk right now.  My sons know the history of our country, but not through classroom textbooks because the full, real history of the birth of our country not taught. Because God is not allowed in the story telling in today’s public school classroom.

Today as you thank God for His blessings, as you pull your family close, spend additional time discussing the start of our country, how we became that top 10%, what enabled us to achieve clean water, medicines that heal and prevent, homes with so much comfort, electricity and internet, a washer and dryer, an abundance of food to keep and share.

And pray for those soldiers whose crosses are being pulled down, who are fighting to keep America safe, to keep America free, to keep God in America.

Graft you, your family to the deep root of faith from which America grew.

~ Written, Thanksgiving 2010
~Revised, Thanksgiving 2011
~Revised again, Thanksgiving 2012

Other related posts:

Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting Tebowing and other such Religious Behavior

Words Make a Difference

The 10 Cannots of Freedom

To Save a City

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IMG_8875A few years ago when our house sold, we were going to put a bid on a house that night in town. After teaching, I was talking to my aunt, driving by that house – and it had a pending sign. I was so disappointed, I bought a turkey. That was on a Tuesday. By Friday, I had picked up the oysters, the dressing, chocolate chips and pecans – everything for a big dinner. No Big Dinner announcement was every made – it just evolved.

Early Saturday morning, I stuffed the turkey into the oven, started the oysters, directed the boys to move the harvest table outside.  Suddenly, it was a Blue Cotton Merry Thanksgaween (if it sounds familiar – we commandeered the name from an air-travel commercial) – and everyone had to dig into the costume chests. One came dressed with purple hair and a Frodo Baggins jacket on a stick pony, one was a knight, a basketball player, I arrived with cat ears and whiskers. I can’t remember all the costumes – except we were an imperfect, rag-tag group finding joy despite life’s imperfections.

This little Blue Cotton imperfect holiday has evolved. It’s not every year. It’s not one specific day – though it is always in the Fall – it is always family, unconventional – and merry.

Sometimes feast days are needed – and feast days always have family.

So we dress up imperfectly, build an imperfect feast, sit down to the imperfectly set table – and find blessing in this imperfect coming together.

This year, I delegated.

One son was in charge of games, another tree decorations. The two youngest – cookies and icing.

One son and his lovely girlfriend were in charge of decorating eggs. Friday night was spent in the kitchen with them coloring eggs. Husband and sons scoffed at our turmeric, paprika, blueberry and beet egg coloring – as they drilled holes to drain other eggs, use magic markers and lights for their creations. In this house full of boys, it was a gift, plain and simple – to have my son’s girlfriend there, just as excited about using spices and fruit to color eggs.

eggdyespicesThis out-of-the-box holiday allowed my husband and I to take an in-the-box activity – to produce two fun results.

IMG_8860Artsy girl meets Tech boy

IMG_8903Some joined in with the costumes. Some didn’t. Some said next year everyone had to dress the part they were reading. We covered every holiday.

My youngest read “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

“Mild He lays his glory by

born that we no more may die

born to raise us from the earth

born to give us second birth”

IMG_8892Another read Common Sense quotes from Thomas Payne

“To bring the matter to one point, Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us? Whoever says, No, to this question, is an independent, for independence means no more than this, whether we shall make our own law, or, whether the king, the greatest enemy which this continent hath, or can have, shall tell us there shall be no laws but such as I like.”

IMG_8918My husband read from a Charles Spurgeon Easter sermon:

“Five hundred or a thousand persons who had seen him at different times, declared that they did see him, and that he rose from the dead; the fact of his death having been attested beforehand. How, then, dare any man say that the Christian religion is not true, when we know for a certainty that Christ died and rose again from the dead? And knowing that, who shall deny the divinity of the Savior? Who shall say that he is not mighty to save? Our faith has a solid basis, for it hat all these witnesses on which to rest, and the more sure witness of the Holy Spirit witnessing in our hearts.” (“We Know Jesus Rose from the Dead, Because the Spirit Tells us So”)

IMG_8882Three read Edgar Allen Poe famous scary poem:

“One upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door –

only this and nothing more” (“The Raven”).

IMG_8874One son was to read the Declaration of Independence but instead he performed a disappearing act for us with it – which somehow seemed symbolicly intuitive in today’s political climate.

IMG_8921In the imperfect daily, God gifts us with His blessings and His grace – from seeing trees sway back, sway forth in the wind, lifting their limbs high to him Him, their sound a song of praise

to squirrels digging holes, burying nutty pleasures for winter want

to a marriage that allows room for each of our gifts to find a place to grow tall, like 2 trees, side-by-side, intertwined into one.

to loving family enough to pull them into home, to break bread, share lofty ideas and silliness, to create imperfect opportunities out of imperfect love that somehow becomes something imperfectly beautiful.

The tree didn’t appear. We gave up on the cookies – and it was o.k. I pulled some homemade blueberry crunch muffins out of the freezer, made homemade pumpkin ice cream, watched grandbaby girl get in and out of the little yellow and orange car with her pup-pup,  organize the wooden men in the wooden school bus – and be a gecko to her papaw’s Land Shark.

IMG_8922Sipped hot spiced apple cider (without whipped cream because one son used it all on his waffles the day before) while watching all my boys to men play basketball and soccer under the imperfect, chilled, gray skies.

Oh, how God blesses us in the imperfect of ourselves, our situation and the daily – sometimes the blessing is just there waiting for us to look – like with trees and squirrels. Sometimes we have to invite the opportunity for the blessing to be – like in Big Dinners or Merry Thanksgaween inventions – and if we let the imperfect moments come quietly, don’t let the desire for worldly perfect chase blessing away -grace comes along with an armload of spirit fruit:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

pumpkins

After I watched grandbaby girl hug her uncles – all big and small of them, hug them good-bye,  I turned to clean up this beautiful, imperfect mess we all made.

“I’ve learned recently to love imperfection a lot because it shines such a big light on God’s grace. And if someone has grace for you that’s when you feel their love the most and they see you for who you are and they love you anyway.”
― Lacey Mosley

(I used beet juice with lemon juice to dye the eggs a pinkish/reddish color. I used the directions for the other colors from here)

1088 – 1108 – Still counting blessing with Ann at a Holy Experience.

IMG_8870

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buscard

The word laundry – just the word itself creates a fight-or-flight result. A sock of panic, a fold of overwhelming – and just lots of mis-matched feelings. The word laundry flashes subliminal socks, ankle, calf, leg socks. No toe socks, girly socks – just stinky, gotta where them in the yard, sweat-stained socks.

When I calm my pulse and my breathing returns to normal, the laundry story unfolds.

My grandmother tripped my grandfather on the way to a fire – that’s the romantic story of how Mary Edna and Theodore Carlin met. Country girl with a city heart followed him to the big city and grew a family. At one point, he was the proprietor of a dry cleaning. When I knew him, he was a newspaper man delivering newspapers throughout Louisville when the sun came up – to newspaper boys who took them house to house.

I remember grandmother sending laundry out – and tablecloths returning swathed in flimsy plastic, pressed perfectly, like a wedding dress from a hanger.

When we moved in with my grandmother, once a week we sent the laundry out. Mom worked. It was an old house – no room for a washer and dryer. My brother and I wore uniforms to school, so we didn’t rack up a bunch of clothes.

I didn’t learn how to do laundry until I went to college – and then I married. Now, I have more laundry than I know what to do with.

Laundry taught me about one son’s love language. A hard worker, every now and then he’d ask me to wash a shirt – one shirt for school the next day. I learned to stop making learning laundry a life lesson for these one-shirt requests. It was his way of asking for a love language hug – and I learned to hug him that way.

Another son climbed up on a stool to do laundry – He wasn’t big enough to reach without. A load or a shirt at a time, he wanted his clothes clean. He was a quality time love language – not an acts of service. He didn’t want or need laundry hugs from me.

Socks pop up all over the floor of my house, like mushrooms in a manure patch. The boys to men just drop them – everywhere.

When I married and had children – I didn’t think of sock challenges. I thought of noble things like reading classical books of adventure and Aesop’s fable, finger art, museums, faith, fighting for right.

Not socks, the seemingly impossible task of herding all these unorganized pieces of white into pairs – for 7 pairs of feet.

socks45I could try to pin the act of matching socks to things like a mother’s sacrifice, even holiness and grace – that in the daily with things like socks, shirts and the unmentionables. There’s no holiness or grace in the socks. Matching socks isn’t fun. Laundry isn’t fun.

I’ve become more sensitive to the word, “fun” – my youngest sons bemoaning, “It’s not fun.”

Fun – “FUN, n. Sport; vulgar merriment. A low word.(Sport: To divert; to make merry; Vulgar: Mean; rustic; rude; low; unrefined)

Fun has become the measure of life – or it often seems that way. Many words devolve – meaning become more negative – like the word cheap. It used to mean good quality at a low price. Now it means poor quality – whatever the price.

Fun, though, has become a desired commodity. Friday Fun, Bucket Lists of fun, vacation for fun – it seems the goal is to live for fun.

I don’t think anywhere in the bible is fun mentioned as the sole purpose for doing anything. Peace – yes. Contentment – yes. Doing our Best as a gift to God, even work – and much of made of joy.

“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (Ecc 8:15)

The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines joy:
“The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune,the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits.

Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good”(Webster)

Fun is all about what you are doing. Fun is conditional, though. It does not extend to everything you do.
Joy is the condition of the spirit. It is unconditional. It extends to everything you do – little and big –  big – like earning the first pay-check, saving a life, the birth of a child – or little like matching socks and folding laundry.

A few of my boys are grown up, taking care of business, realizing that finding joy in the daily, in the mundane like sock matching, grows something stronger inside than living for fun.

Living fun is like trying to catch fireflies in a field while living joy is like a steady fire that keeps you warm despite the cold and dark seasons.

No – there’s nothing holy about laundry and socks.
The holiness is what’s going on between us and God while we’re doing it.
“My soul shall be joyful in my God”(Is.61).

 

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