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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

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
#TeaAndWord#TestimonyTuesday#TellHisStory, #Glimpses,#LMMLinkup

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“The more one judges, the less one loves” ~Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them” ~ Mother Teresa 

(I’ve worked on this since the azaleas bloomed. It was wanting finishing before the snow trees come. So the zinnias and tomatoj plants are pulled up and the burning bushes trimmed back, and the morning glories are untangled and summertime is pulled out of the gardens, I sat down to finish my rambling azalea story poem.).

shadows on an azalea blossom

Innocent azaleas dressed in white sidle
next to antebellum snowballs,
whose only job is to separate its charges
from a soldierly column of raucous
purple-bearded irises.
blue African daisies daintily sway
to a cool wind in the shadow of grandmother’s
Spider’s Wort and evening primroses that daily close
their shops after afternoon tea time.

from my porch all I see
are the best of themselves
wearing the prettiest colors
basking leisurely in a spring
sun

from my porch, I sit tangled
in spider webs and outside dust,
disorganized leavings of boys
in a rush, and the mess
of my own imperfection.
the view from this mess I’m sitting in,
is of all those living in my garden looking like
they’ve got it made, looking like
they’re living a garden variety
dream.

from my porch, I could think
how unjust
their advantage
a free privilege
to be created so effortlessly
lovely, so effortlessly
graceful, so effortlessly
blessed.

I could think it
unseemly
to be given more
abundant beauty
than others.
I could think it
unsporting
my toiling
the weeding, the feeding, the loosening
of soil for optimum growth,
for they don’t appear
to really do anything
except live their daily in
a fairy tale existience
while I live a messy chaos
and cobwebs existence on my
porch.

I could think simmering thoughts
that whistle and steam
hot enough to burn
others if not handled with care,
releasing it’s-not-fair mosquita rants that reach
to my fingertips that itch
to tear my garden neighbors
out – all root, stem and purple,
yellow, and pink petals of them.
I sat there, watching,
all the while whistling, steaming, itching
Until one morning, I stepped
off
my porch

I moved, drawing close
close, close enough to capture
their garden glamour with
my camera.
closer, closer, close I moved
near to know,
really know them
better
to know them better.

I drew close and saw
petal skins creased
and shadows that marred.
I drew close and found
truth conflicting with
my self-inflicted
myopic perception
I saw because I spent
time seeking intentional
truth
where they live.
I saw that my porch view
gulled me into unfair
judgement
or had my own jealousy
seduced me there.

All the garden flowers, not just
the azaleas,
had their own shadows to deal
with, marring their daily with heated
challenges, potentially spoiling
the impact of their God-designed
story.
I wondered whether other
flowers talked among themselves,
if when the winds blew them
close enough, they saw
the shadows, too.

Did they come close, close
closer to betray confidence for
morning glory
spreading knowledge gleaned
of secret sufferings throughout
the garden like pollen
on a blustery day
or did they keep confidences safe
in comforting friendship
protecting, lifting up in a hard wind
or a down pour?

I thought back to
earlier on my porch
to the envious song humming from
my mind to my heart,
a deceptive humming of an envy song
an envy song that spread like morning glories
that creep up vining around unwary branches until bursting
into conquering purple blossoms, declaring victory
while destroying those who extetnded
hopsitality

I didn’t realize. . .
I didn’t know
until I drew close
close, closer still
not only to know my garden neighbors better
but to love not for glory but for love’s sake.
it was there my envy song changed into a
a redemption song of salvation, of blessing,
of a soul saving love song

“In judging of others, a man laboreth in vain, often erreth and easily sinneth; but in judging and examining himself, he always laboreth fruitfully” ~ Thomas a Kempis     

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Giving Up on Perfect, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

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“And now, God, do it again
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
so those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
so those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing,

with arm loads of blessing”
~Psalm 126: 5-6.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus tells them,

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

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

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

Meet me in Galilee
he said – and tell our friends

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

Meet me in Galilee
there is so much more

Meet me in Galilee
it’s just the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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