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I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture ~ John 10:9

“Jump a Fence

Climb a Tree

Homespun, he is Free”

from Blackberry Roland, by Blue Cotton Memory

From little feet puddle jumping to  muscles and cleats sliding through mud and rain-soaked tackle, these boys of mine don’t always choose the neat, tidy paths and gateways.

God placed within their tiny hearts before they were born – a desire for freedom, a frontier-kind of spirit that would lead them out of bondage, through a parting sea – and into a new land, a land where the banner of Shaddai flies high for all to see, where children are taught with their first steps that Jehovah-Rohi shepherds them through the gate, hand-in-hand with the Savior.

Through the gate – it sounds so simple. Forging new paths, to discover new ideas – like Ford with automobiles or Charles Best who discovered insulin – or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon – fence jumping sure seems a quicker way to get there. Their toes almost itch to jump fences – from the time they learn to walk.

These boys to men seem designed to avoid gates.

I see it in their desire to debate – just for the sake of debate – chewing (sometimes it seems like gnawing) their logical teeth on challenging authority or the status quo.

How many times have I said, “Don’t outsmart your common sense.”

The oldest, he taught them all the longest word in the dictionary: Antidisestablishmentarianism – and, to him, it meant not taking establishment ideas at face value. At first glance, the gate looks like establishment ideas.

Some shun the gate because their parents walked through. The gate seems to have always been there. It seems so ordinary, so every day, so already done. These boys to men don’t just go through the gate because it’s there – it often seems like a life motto they’ve worn emblazened inside.

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“I am the Gate for the Sheep,” Jesus tells us (John 10:7)

These boys to men – they gotta have Him – there’s no other way – no other way to be delivered from all that life will throw at them – from the liars, cheats, and thieves who aim to steal more than their wallets, identity or cell phones.

The gate isn’t religion. It isn’t rules. It isn’t an activity list of things we do. The gate is relationship. Relationship is the releases the gate latch – relationship with the one who designed you, the one who died to save you.

Real relationship. You cannot get there by fence jumping (fulfilling the bucket-list of Christian-expected behavior but not relationship) – or digging under it.

I imagine that if you wanted to spend time with Him debating – I imagine He would welcome that as the beginning of relationship. You might not be through the gate – but at least you’re at the gate with Him.

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A few years ago, I hosted a an unofficial small group with some parents of teens, friends of my sons still at home – and we read Sticky Faith together, trying to figure out how to get these boys to men who have walked through that gate when they were little – to continue living through the gate – in His pasture where they live “saved from sin, the dominion of it, the guilt and condemning power of it, and at last from the being of it; and from the law, its curse and condemnation, and from wrath to come, and from every evil, and every enemy”(Gill’s Exposition, Bible Hub).

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Some were frontier parenting – this was their first foray into the teen years. Others, like us, had older children who entered through the gate or were fence jumpers or tried digging under it, trying any way to avoid the actual relationship required to go through the gate.  We needed fresh eyes to break battle-fatigue habits, to re-equip, re-adjust, re-train for the next 6 years.

Sitting across the table, breaking bread – (getting ready for them to start the teen book while we went over the parent’s book) – learning ways to intentionally open the clogged conversational arteries with our children, how our spiritual gifts communicate with each other (not part of the book, but part of what we are doing) – and how to encourage real relationship with the one who created them, who loves them – who died to save them.

One of the things I loved about this group is that it included some of their inner circle of friends. As one teen filled a bowl of soup, a parent asked,”Who influences you most now – your parents or your peers?”

We were not looking a right answer – We were looking for his answer.

“My peers,” he answered. Another answered, “My parents.” Each gave valid reasons, truthful reasons.

Maybe by pulling them to the table, bowl by bowl – with friend’s parents who they tease includes their “favorite mom” – maybe, just maybe we can mentor faith that sticks: real, life relationship faith.

How can we as parents encourage relationship building of these sons with their Savior? Real relationship building – We asked our sons to define what it meant to be a Christian?

Sometimes their was a disconnect between the logos “right” answer and the rhema (the aliveness) of their answer in their every day. They knew the right answer but their actions weren’t always in tandem with the right answer. Both were still fusing together.

Over the bowls of soup, I also wanted to ask, “Who is influencing your gate relationship with Christ?”

“What does that gate relationship consist of?”

What does it mean to pass through the gate to the pasture?

Or are you just fence jumping.

Today, about 2 years later, those mentoring relationships are making a positive difference. Other moms and dads interacting, having real conversation – not scared-to-intrude conversation have created peers who reflect that interaction into their peer relationships.

I’ve seen hard decisions made by these young men who prayed first and put self second.

I’ve seen young iron sharpening young iron because of real relationships with other moms and dads showed them how in breaking-bread, over-the-counter real conversation.

They’re pausing at the temptation to fence jump – and instead making the decision to hang out at the gate, take ownership of that relationship found there. In the ownership, they’re discovering it’s not an establishment relationship. It’s a real, personal, one-on-one relationship – a grafting together kind of relationship.

Going through the gate? Or fence jumping?

(updated, September 9, 2015)

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All gate photos except for last were taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Fall 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen

 

Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The message about brought me to my knees.

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

and there were so many pieces. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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snowroad“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road”(Luke 24:32)

dirt, gravel, sand or asphalt
a thoroughfare
drag
bridle path
cow path
a beaten path
footpath
or bicycle path
in the lowlands
high lands
or mid lands
heat covered
puddled
or iced
He approaches us
on our own Emmaus road
solitaire
“What are you thinking about?” He asks, intruding
in my alone
a twosome or a klatch – He joins in,
like He belongs
“What are you talking about?”
sometimes I make room
and pull Him in to the community,
whether I am bumper to bumper
in Christmas traffic
and car-line pick ups
and He listens
really listens to me
spill my passions
over routine laps in the daily
or cruising down an empty highway
“Tell me more,” He asks
unsure at first of His sincerity
because I’m just a small fry
broken and torn
no hint of coolness
no mantle of importance
but He wooes me
like I’m somebody
worth listening to
and, finally, I believe,
yes,
He really does want to hear
what I think and why
and I do, spill inside out
He listens until I’ve put it all out there
and then
He starts telling me
big and little things, little and big
until suddenly it’s time to go
to push the pedal of the daily
and I whisper, “Stay. Come home with us.
Be with us in the breaking of the bread
and open our hearts and eyes
and I mean it
even in my kitchen mess
and after-school emotional pop-corn
fills the vehicle
I want Him to join us
on this Emmaus Road journey
where He opens our eyes and hearts
on the road
do you hear that?
on the road
while we’re going about the journey
in the daily
on the road
are heart and soul opportunities
to burn
in a Holy Spirit Fire
with Him
Stay
Stay with me Lord
every step, every mile
of my day

 

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cw13-4Sometimes I think I talk/write too much in my Blue Cotton bloggy home about challenges and giving up. Yet, that’s what motherhood, marriage and child of the One True God is all about – Not giving up – not a walking-out-kind-of-giving-up but a giving up of quality, engaged, intentional relationship reaching and living – not going to give up on that.

We climbed in our car, drove through the still-green mountains, the tree-leaves teasing us with just a yellow and orange flame leaf glimpses of change about to come.

We drove on, when some moments, one or all of us just wanted to turn back. Some journeys are like that: sitting waiting while Dad had a business meeting – the two boys skin just twitching to explode energy, like black-birds cawing-cawing complaints – the boys sounded about a historical holiday trip, a burst tire on a dark interstate, semi-trucks blowing by, shaking us – our boys learning to be men – unpacking the trunk, helping with the wheel – and me praying on the roadside God’s protection – travel day plans run amuck.

Part of me so wanted to just pack up. Would this even work? Be worth while? Sometimes I see the plan – know it will be successful – but the raw nerves saw away at my confidence – and I blink. Yes – I blink just ready to settle, to give up, pack it in. The everyday – sometimes it feels like a flat tire on an inter-state, while life around me explodes – and nobody lets up – including myself.

God gave me two things that have always pulled me through: 1)Faith – and 2)something inside that just won’t let me give up.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes not giving up can get just plain ugly. I wish not-giving-up acted like a smooth, rushing creek or river. It’s so much prettier. Instead not-giving-up reminds me of learning  to drive a stick-shift car: lots of starts and stallings, jerks and gracelessness.

That early Autumn holiday – it gave us about 36 hours of blessing – and history and heart moments.

We disengaged ourselves from the daily – and immersed ourselves in colonial history. Our home? The Market Square Kitchen in Colonial Williamsburg.
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I loved my digs:
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The boys perked up when they saw their place upstairs – all to their own:
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We saw Fife and Drums playing our country’s quest for freedom. How melodious is the music of freedom:
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We learned more about the Constitution – and people’s response through re-enactment characters who also took the time to talk to those of us passing through.

“Where are you from?” they’d ask.

“Tennessee by way of Kentucky,” we’d answer. Puzzled, they’d try to figure where that was. There was no Tennessee or Ketncuky in 1775. Finally, through good-hearted determination – we realized we were from Virginia by way of the Carolinas.

Through-enactment we saw more easily that freedom is a journey – and how far we’ve come in that journey
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A Governor’s Palace Re-enactment Tour guide told stories of a government that used the show of power as a means of controlling the people:
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and the importance of the people to arm themselves against ruffians and a government who errs in its perception of its relationship with the people
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that medicine was home-grown, not always reliable and had far to go

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Crime and Punishment would make a rousing dinner-table discussion: what kind of crime merits what kind of punishment? I wonder that if Colonial Williamsburg sold stocks along with maps, books and reproduction clothing – would there be one in every backyard? Just for fun and photos, of course. Seriously, though, when is too early to discuss the crime and punishment of a society – and the history of a culture’s crime and punishment?

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And that I still would want to own a bookstore. We took home with us the Game of Life: Colonial Time – a book on etiquette, a map and a deck of cards.
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I saw re-enforced one of my theories – in a sticky-faith manner – that when people intentionally connect with our youth, they become engaged and enjoy where they are(story to come).
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We didn’t settle for a window-shopping experience
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We went inside, asked questions, listened, me wanting to learn – and wanting my boys to learn not just history but something more:
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The inside maze of my mind, my heart – this parenting, the daily – it’s all about not giving up, pushing through to the goal – isn’t it?cw13-13

These boys moaned, balked and begged – and then said, “This wasn’t so bad after all.”
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I’m supposed to be “above all that” – you know what I mean. I’m supposed to be so noble, selfless and strong that I don’t need to hear it. But I’m not so noble as I need to be – nor selfless and strong. I needed to hear, “It wasn’t so bad.” I’m terribly glad I didn’t give up – and not just over the big things like holiday trips – but the little things in the daily – like homework, Saturday morning muffins when I’d rather be in bed, when the dog chews up grandbaby girl’s pup-pup, when unplanned moments shred the schedule – I’m not giving up. Glad to know this mama’s still got game!

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Cor 4: 16-18)
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cw13-16Sometimes, the worst place to live is in my head. You know how you avoid those dangerous streets, take another route – and find yourself in bigger danger? Well, there are days it’s like Fagan and his gang are trying to steal the peace in my head – and the sad thing is it’s like I’m Oliver – and I’m picking my own pocket, stealing from my own patch.

I’m facing a challenge right now, trying not to lose any ground. It doesn’t really matter the challenge, between you and me. Challenges can’t be compared. How He made us, planned for us, all that He stuffed inside us – we’re like snowflakes – all unique and one-of-a-kind. What pushes my buttons might not push your buttons. Because of that – judgement and quantifying need to just be set aside.

It’s not that you haven’t walked in my shoes – and I haven’t walked in yours. That’s just one dimension of the walk. It’s how we each were designed to walk. That’s why you might go from point A to point B to Point C while I travel from point D to point B to point G to point A to point C.

Maybe that’s why all snowflakes don’t fall the same way.

cw13-15I’m standing my ground, swatting at distractions like flies in a summertime kitchen while I’m canning – swatting and focusing on Him.

Focusing like a pitcher in a little league game focuses on signals from his coach. Waiting for the go-ahead.

It’s hard, this not running ahead on the spur of emotion. I feel Him standing there beside me, staying me with His hand, telling me to wait. He knows the perfect moment.

Most importantly, He knows what I am waiting for.

What I am seeing and feeling right now isn’t what He is seeing – though He knows my feelings – knows the battle being raged in this mind of mine, that risks becoming a run-down trap without Him.

No – right now is not where I wanted or planned to be. Yet, it is where I am in His plan – and while I’m standing here – He puts His arm around my shoulder, saying, “Look at the blessings I bring you. Think on them. Focus on what I give you today – and tomorrow, when it is right – you will see how it has all worked out for your good.”

“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. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together” (Philippians 4:8-9)

In the middle of broken washing machines and boys learning to hand-wash shirts and pants, and Thanksgiving coming and I’m living behind on time, when thoughts finally are released to chase themselves down a rabbit warren of ideas – the boys come tumbling in bickering, needing help, needing a mom who is engaged and not lost in idea rabbit warrens – in the middle of all this – I need to be intentional in looking for these Father gifts He leaves me – gifts from the King to His daughter.

This week, I am finding them – intentionally, engaged –
as I sit on the opposite side of the counter talking to one son make a Normandy Pie for a school pie-baking contest
or watch a son read directions for homemade ice cream for his Mocha Mud pie – and we end up sharing. He gets the bowl; I get the paddle
tallying up the Freshman’s spiritual gift test – and seeing I did know him after all
Reading results from the Stanford Test, which was the country used until sometime in 2000, to test general knowledge – not tests over textbook content – and seeing my sons shine brightly.
sitting over chili and chicken noodle soup with friends talking about Sticky Faith, Spiritual Gifts and communication for our growing teens
a new washer and dryer, team-folded clothes
A splash of peppermint sweet cream in a blue and white coffee cup
a corn-beef sandwich with Havarty cheese on pumpernickel bread
snow flurries
a son learning to understand himself
grandbaby girl calling out to her Papaw
standing in the midst of these tall boys, trying to get a Christmas photo, their humor bouncing off and swirling around.
A friend willing to come push the camera button
my littlest, so like his daddy, whose robotics team came in 3rd place and is going to state – his first year and he handled his responsibilities coolly, smoothly, wonderfully.
A friend who has gone out of her way to care for me
My Mother-in-Law looking so good and sounding so strong after we almost lost her about 2 weeks ago
Watching my husband’s humor – with me and others – bring a big smile to my face
Nice people in the market place
God protecting my husband when he had another flat tire, this time during the snowburst, on the interstate, after dark (again).
Sons who enjoy coming home
Planning Thanksgiving with my family
Red cranberries, cinnamon sticks and cloves
Lavender Vanilla candles
Sweet people who don’t make me feel graceless in the daily
This Father that helps me when this mind like a house becomes run-down and falling apart.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit” (Isaiah 26:3)

cw13-14All photos taken by Blue Cotton Memory in Colonial Williamsburg, Fall 2013 – all houses/buildings which I would love to live in!

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sunrisebIt would take an unsearching and illiterate  heart to not find and read the messages of God in the everyday of the mountains – from the hard cover front of sunrise to the hard cover back of  moon-down.

I would know. Until last year, I was unsearching and illiterate in finding and reading the love letters of Shaddai.  Then I took Ann Voskamp’s challenge at a Holy Experience to find and read the gifts – these love letters –  a big God gives a little me daily. Too many have I missed throughout the years – because I could not read what I did not know I had.  It changed my life – its attitude, its peace-factor. The content of the love letters in these gifts left me content.

We took off for the mountains this weekend – and I pulled my night-owl self up at 5:40 on a Spring Forward morning to watch the sun rise.

For a long time, I sat with my coffee – lost in the dark expanse. A hope and faith time. I have learned, though, that He meets me when I wait for Him.

Black darkness faded, slowly, so slowly revealing iron-clouds shielding unpolished silver.

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In the slate of sunrise, my hope faltered – “Is this all? No riotous color carnival?”

A cardinal chattered merrily, going about it’s morning business – and I waited, committed to greeting sun-rise – and finding blessing whatever the colors. Shaddai, like a good father brings his children gifts after being away – Shaddai brings gifts – always – a cardinal chattering, an empty water pump, squirrel nests – and they all contain letters, messages from Him to me.

Mountain top edges and a before unseen, unused one-lane road below me in the forests are exposed. I peer hard to make out the road. There is a letter from Him to me in that hitherto unseen road.

The slates of run-rise lightened, the rising light revealed a fierce man swimming in cloud currents, right arm raised to pull the next stroke, left arm pulled through the clouds, stretched to the thigh – swimming his race, from sun up to moon-down – face fierce in its determination – another letter from Him to me in those clouds.

Light pink suffused upward from the mountain tops then deepening to shades of blush and purples.

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Pink mists rose like Hope and Faith to greet a loving Father

Mountain tops rejoicing in flaming silver and purples.

I met Him there, in the silent, color combustion of morning waking. I waited, despite wavering surety. I hoped despite what I didn’t see. Sometimes I have to wait to find.  This once illiterate heart found His gifts and read them.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8)

After a year of counting the Father’s blessings, the love letters of encouragement He sends me, I think it’s time to teach these boys to men how to find and read the gifts, the blessings He sends us from sun-rise to moon-down.

It is attitude changing.

Relationship building between this God- Father and I. I see Him more everywhere, Him with me, me with Him.

These boys, they need that real relationship, that God-with-me/me-with-God relationship. Not just a morning-and-evening praying relationship – but one that sees Him everywhere all day long – sun rise and moon down long.

In the darkness of the challenges, those gifts, those blessings – contain messages of encouragement and revelation.

It may be one of the most important reading skills to develop.

Dear Father,

I pray that my sons’ hearts look for, find and read the messages in the gifts you have for them throughout the day. I pray their hearts grow in faith, love, trust and relationship with you – that not a gift from you is left un-found, a message unread – whether it is something as simple as a cardinal swooping ahead of them on a road, the smell of sweet grass on a soccer field, cirrus clouds in a robin’s egg blue sky or something more serious. I pray that you will open their hearts and their minds to become not only literate, not only fluent but voracious readers of your messages. I pray these messages change their attitudes to hope and faith attitudes, enabling them to find joy, contentment and peace in the midst of challenges – to give hope in seemingly hopeless situations. Waken them each morning, Father, waken them to listen like one being taught. Open their eyes and unstop their ears to the sound and sight of you. I pray they experience you walking beside them, boy-man to God, that they turn their head and smile broadly at what you two share together. Your word says, “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace” (Isaiah 54:13) I believe that Father. I trust in that. I thank you that because Jesus died for my sins, I am your daughter and, as such, can petition you directly in regards to my sons. Because I am your daughter, you will teach my sons and great will be their peace.

(Gifts 985-990 listed in the post above)

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