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barnhouse

My husband and I were driving to town when we passed a white clapboard house nestled under big shade trees. Standing tall and sturdy next to the house, just the right amount of space to the left was a big, old barn. It reminded me of a knight standing ready to protect his lady.

A For Sale sign was in the yard.

“Your house is for sale,” my husband said. He knows how much I love old houses. This one was a red tin-roofed, two-story with a balcony above the front porch. A house with a porch – a real porch, wide enough for a swing and chairs. It had lots of windows, too. A house with lots of windows looks like a house where its inhabitants chose happiness. It seems like it would be filled with stories of people who loved life fully, both inside and out.

A house with a barn, or a barn with a house, would know of barn owls, chipmunks, barn cats and sparrows, goats, chickens, dogs, and cows. Maybe lambs, too. Wheel barrows, water troughs, muck rakes, forks, hammers and crowbars wouldn’t gather dust or get lost from lack of use. A weather vane, too – on top of the barn, along with a barometer. I wonder if that would be more reliable than television weather forecasters and radar.

Words and phrases like seed-time, reaping a harvest and storehouse would be common place. Plowing, gathering, threshing and winnowing, knowing how to collect wood for and how to build a fire – well, those would be every day living things, every day working out the physical examples of God’s spiritual principles. I think that would help his spiritual message plant somewhere deep in our souls.

About four weeks ago, they  tore down that white clapboard farmhouse that had stood beside its barn for longer than a lifetime – to make way for a new neighborhood. Bulldozers and gravel trucks bellowed freely now between where the house had been and the barn stood, its life companion gone. I pulled in and took a photo of the barn before they tore it down, too. What good is an empty barn in a field replaced with yards and houses? A few days later, it was bulldozed down. They didn’t take it apart to rebuild somewhere else. A heap of brokenness, someone burned it up a few days ago. It saddens me.

It saddens me, just like it saddens me that my great-grandmother and grandfather’s farmhouse burned down after my Uncle Jim died. The milk barn is overgrown with weeds and viney things that wouldn’t have been allowed to grow near either the house or the barn. The barn roof is falling in. Sometimes, I want to go back, to feel the stories, to sit on the porch steps worn with the footprints of those whose story set up mine, whose faith stories have become a storehouse of blessing, a rich spiritual inheritance that point to relationship with God. But the porch, along with the house, are no longer there for sitting and remembering.

The stories are being forgotten – and the buildings aren’t there to retell them. These stories, they’re the love and faith stories, these farmhouses and barns. If the walls could talk, they would tell over-coming stories, forgiveness stories, being born and born again stories, funny stories, loss and crying stories, cat and mouse stories, laughing stories, every day ordinary stories, growing up stories, feast and famine stories.

barnhouse848484dcThe farmhouse remembers the children’s bedtimes and where the jam, apples, butter and potatoes were stored. It knows what Christmas smelled like and what the cooling breeze in summer hotness felt like.  It knows the sound of big and little feet on the floorboards and which steps creak in the stairwell. It knows the goodnight stories and songs, and the sound of little ones breathing in sleep and the bigger ones sawing in sleep. It knows the challenges that spilled over, disrupting its peace, shaking its hope and faith.  It knows how the hard was softened, and that love which never gives up lasts a lifetime. The farmhouse, while a hive of activity, is where the place of refreshing lives, where the broken can be made whole.  It is where God’s word is read and then walked out to the barn, to the neighbors, and into town.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather,
a barn and his farmhouse,
a farmhouse and her barn,

It’s a love story of give and take, provision and comfort,

of small town entrepreneurs in charge of their own destiny

where a full barn allows a house to become a home full of heart.

the barn is like the spirit of a man, the farmhouse the spirit of the woman

a symbiotic kind-of-love

He braves the harsh elements to fill the barn with the stuff comfort and security are made from. From the storehouses of barn he brings – and from the heart of the house, she gives. . . .

He gives her the grain – and she gives back bread.

He gives her the wool – and she gives back scarves, hats, sweaters and socks.

He gives her the cotton – and she stitches together crazy quilts for the bitter cold times.

He tears and she mends.

He gives honor and love; and she gives it right back.

He gives her trust to be who she is, and she gives him respect to be who he is.

He invites God into every dusty corner of the barn of himself,
and she invites God into every corner of the farmhouse of herself.

He gives her children, and she gives him a legacy,
but together they give their children an inheritance of blessing.

Each gives the other purpose; one without the other are incomplete.

Side by side,
storm after storm,
quiet after quiet,
year after year
the farmhouse and her barn
the barn and his farmhouse

They just might fade from memory, may even be exchanged for a different kind of living. The inheritance, though, it runs deep into the very fiber of a God-designed DNA. While the barn might be torn down, along with the farmhouse, and the faith and love stories forgotten, God redeems the faith, hope and love in story – he has the floor plan to rebuild what was forgotten, to redeem those who belong to the story.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather
who built something more
than a barn and a farmhouse

“Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
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: 1-6

**None of the farmhouses pictured belong to the barns in the photographs. The first barn above is the one I discuss. The first house is one that was torn down a few years ago.

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A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” ~ Proverbs 13:22a

 

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zinniacrown
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” ~ Galatians 6:9

I was in the garden with my half-hearted tomato plants, the whole-hearted cucumbers, gracefully quiet chard sitting quietly between the two, admiring the turtle-paced eggplant slowly but surely contributing enough – and coming to terms that one may be enough.

The chocolate mint is sneaking its way back in, but, then, it is a good place to be – this back yard garden. The bees and butterflies agree, but they don’t notice the chocolate mint. They’re much more interesting in the zinnias.

The zinnias at each end of the raised beds sway in the breeze, smile up at the sun, burst into yellows, pinks, reds, oranges – and a lot of whites his year. The zinnias despite their raucous petals, rays, discs and stigmas and, seemingly, breezy behavior – they always teach me something. Or maybe it’s really God teaching me through the zinnias.

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I’ve been thinking about this circle of life, this growing older, roles changing as needs change of both my children and older family members. In the process, I’ve been thinking about what 75, 85, 95 will look like on me. Not the petal part of aging, but the seed-planting part and harvest part – how the condition of the soul shows itself – either in waspish and testy ways, cheery and good-humored, bitterness or sweet savory, lost or found.

When my petals have fallen away, and all that remains of me as I sit on my front porch wrapped in a blue sweater are a few soul seeds left to be brushed or blown off, I want those soul seeds to be
joy-of-the-lord seeds
faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of seeds
gentle seeds of God’s amazing love that go
soul deep
encouraging, spirit-lifting,
hands-raised high seeds
helping my neighbor seeds
holistic generosity of spirit seeds
delivered with hands and heart wide-open
so that when all is said and done,
all has been spent that could be spent
but for the crown no one noticed
in the days of petals and youth
the crown of whose I am.

Cultivating a cheerful heart given to smiling and laughing, a hope-and-faith heart, a daughter-of-the-king heart – I need to diligently cultivate that now. So, if you see me driving down the road with a crazy smile on my face, I’m practicing for 90!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” ~ Psalm 126:5-6

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

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

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

They do this every year! Every single year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like a tide’s ebb and flow

Just like seed-time and harvest

Just like springtime weather in January

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

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

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

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

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

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

winteroak2

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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“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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harvestbasket1

“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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raintreecc

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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