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“Give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good;
His loving devotion endures forever”
~ Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my song” ~ Exodus 15:2.

My husband received a call the other day about unclaimed money – apparently, there’s some out there, and we ought to go claim it. Yet, what about the unclaimed goodness God has left for us since the day we were born? God has left and continue to leave his goodness in every day of our lives. This isn’t about prosperity. It’s about the goodness God leaves us in the daily, how he lavishes his love on us, letting us know he is there, wooing us into relationship with him. There are years and years of unclaimed gifts because I didn’t know – years I spent not understanding how he is present in every moment of my day, how he leaves reminders of his great love for me . . . in what seems like the everyday ordinary. Maybe I cannot vintage all the goodness He left me in the past, but I can certainly claim the goodness he has left me today and in the future.

I’m in the middle of a challenge right now – and I find myself needing to keep close to the one who knows my heart – who designed it and understands it better than I do, so right now – and maybe throughout the summer, I’m going to be journaling God’s goodness He leaves me along the path of each day’s journey. Maybe you will join me with your own journals of his goodness and leave a link in the comment section.

You are good, Father, my strength and my song
two red birds chasing each other, flying
ahead of me
God invited to the table
a little boy snuggling close, trusting,
falling into nap
ice cream joy
the quiet with God before the busy sets in
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

morning footsteps in the kitchen, sharing coffee and the needs
for the day ahead
courage to push the clamor of tasks back to give attention to the call of my soul
golden-retriever comfort
the soothing repetition of layering, brushing melted butter,
layering, brushing pastry sheets
for baklava
in a space not hurried by the clock,
the methodical layering, brushing, layering, sprinkling walnuts slowing
my harried heart
the layering, brushing, sprinkling training me in healthy barrier setting
so God joy and peace in the little things
aren’t rushed away
before being savored
little arms hugging in excited, happy welcome
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

vanilla drops in ice water
hearts that don’t let misunderstanding stop the conversation or break the connection
chocolate kisses, sour-patch kids and jelly beans in candy jars
remembering good memories
self-less prayers for others
for God-designed plans fulfilled,
insight into choices,
needs met for the day’s challenges,
for success to rise out of failures
and desire fanned to draw closer to God –
self-less prayer not to make me breathe easier
worry less
but for others to live their God-designed plan
because their story is their story
not mine
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

the bantering of my boys
cooking behind the kitchen counter and watching . . .
one son opening books to study,
another sitting down to take an on-line quiz,
a group sitting around the table talking,
the plastic glasses taken out of the cabinet,
filled with water, one stirring chocolate into his milk,
shoes kicked off and left in the middle of the floor,
“What’s to eat?”
daughter-in-laws who break the boundaries to become daughters
Sadie, our golden, running for her stuffed bunny when someone walks through the back doors.
chocolate ganache over white butter cream.
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

Thank you Father, for your goodness, for your enduring devotion.

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

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Have you ever. . .
done something God wanted you to do – and thought you couldn’t? . . . but did because it really wasn’t about your ability but His ability? Because you trusted him to help you do it?

Have you ever. . .
done something you thought God wanted you to do – and, too late you realized God didn’t ask you do to that. . . . you just jumped into it, thinking it sounded like a God-thing and didn’t ask him if that was Him telling you?

My list for doing something God wanted me to do and I thought I couldn’t but trusted him – well, that list is much shorter than all the things I rushed into just assuming that because I thought they sounded good, they must be God-inspired. (I have pages and pages of pages of these. I’m never really comfortable recalling them. These “have-you-evers” never ended the way I anticipated them ending, resulting in bruised pride,shame at overstepping into a place God had not called me to be, and a humbled spirit).

Have you ever. . .
called out for a storm to calm itself, asked a mountain to be move . . . or sat on the edge of a diving board, and wondered if you could walk on water?
. . . wondered if your faith was big enough. . . to walk on water . . . because, if your faith was big enough – you’d be able to – right? After all, apparently for a few short minutes, Peter did – before his faith shook and he started to sink.

More than once, I’ve sat on the edge of a diving board and thought about this. One summer evening, I sat on my mother and father-in-laws diving board a long, long time ago and thought, staring at this beautiful blue between the house and the barn . . . could my faith be strong enough, sure enough – for a few short moments?

I believed then and I believe now that miracles weren’t just for the 12 and the 70. Holy Spirit power hasn’t been watered down or thinned out with wear and tear. That summer evening I sat there wanting the love for my savior and my faith to be big enough . . . to walk on water. . . .

Have you done that? Sat there and wondered?

I finally screwed up my courage, pulled myself up to stand, and took that one step, hoping for a few short moments, my faith would be big enough, sure enough . . . . one step and I sank straight down to the bottom of the pool.

Was it because my faith and love for my savior weren’t big enough, true enough?

beach3c_edited-1Summertime with its pools, beaches and water play didn’t cause this “walking on water” memory to resurface. I gave one of my sons The One Year Chronological Bible for Christmas a few years ago. He read and completed it through his senior year of high school. When he finished last summer, I thought I ought to do the same thing – so I borrowed his. I should finish by my birthday in August. It has opened my eyes to so many things I’ve missed before – and given me such a better understanding not only of historical context but of so much more. Summertime just coincided with where I am in this one year bible reading experience.

After Jesus fed the 5,000 men (besides all those women and children), he sent the disciples ahead in a boat to the other side while he took some quiet time in the mountains to pray. While he was praying, the disciples didn’t get very far in their journey because the waves and wind slowed their progress. Between 3 and 6 a.m. in the morning, the disciples saw him walking toward them on the water.
The scripture says they were “terrified” when they saw him. I imagine they were worn out, too – having rowed and rowed and seemingly gotten nowhere fast. Jesus seeing their fear and exhaustion encouraged them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).

I imagine their courage was not only bolstered, but the awe and adrenaline from seeing such a miracle woke and revitalized them.

Then Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28).

Let’s break this down – this is where I missed it – have missed it most of my life until this week. Peter didn’t bolt out of the boat in excitement. Neither Jesus didn’t expect any of those in the boat to climb out and walk to him as a testament of their faith. A pool, a river, lake or ocean depth is not itself a pass/fail test of our faith. Jesus doesn’t mock us, saying, “If you really, really, truly  believed, you’d be able to walk on water to me.” No! That’s not Jesus. That’s Satan baiting us to do things we are not called to do.

The want to walk out to Jesus rose up within Peter first. After that “want to do” rose up, Peter did two things.

First, Peter asked if this “want to do” came from Jesus.

Next, Peter asked for permission: “Command me to Jesus.”

And Jesus did! Jesus told Peter, “Come.” (Matthew 14:29).

You know – that walking on the pool water thing never worked for me. Not because I didn’t have faith enough – but because that wasn’t something God called me to do. He called Peter to do that: put the desire in him to go to Jesus like that – and before Peter acted, he checked with Jesus first.

Walking on water? That’s Peter’s faith story. Not yours and mine. We are not called to do everything in everyone’s story. We are called to walk out our story, not our story plus everyone else’s story.

The next time a “want to do” rises within me to do something for Christ, I need to ask:
“Lord, is this you putting the desire to do this within me?”
If he tells me, “Yes,” then I need to ask, “Command me, Lord (Matthew 14:29) – and I will do this thing you’ve asked me because I don’t want to do anything out of my own selfish desires, pride, ego and wants. I only want to do it if Jesus wants me to do it.”

And, you know what? Maybe in the beginning what he’s asked you to do feels as impossible as walking on water. Maybe what he’s asked you to do calls for a big step of faith. Maybe it’s offering to pray for a stranger in the middle of the cucumbers and peppers in the grocery store. Maybe it’s telling a group of women the story of why you believe. Maybe it’s enrolling in college or signing up for a Mission trip. Maybe it’s saying “I do” on a perfect day – and stepping into a 75 year journey where all the days aren’t perfect. Maybe it’s living  day-in-day-out faith, hope and love in a hard challenge – and choosing joy when nothing feels like joy. Maybe making a dream come alive.

In the beginning, the adrenaline of the call stirs to action where God says, “Yes. I want you to do this thing.” That adrenaline carries us, further than imagined, just like Peter:
“So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29).

However, the struggle to maintain that faith when we discover ourselves out of our depth, we just might respond just like Peter: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink” (Matthew 14:30a).

When Peter began to sink, he didn’t give up. He also didn’t even attempt Peter-made solutions to save himself. Some might have been cheering him on while others on the sidelines might have been asking, “Who does he think he is – walking on water? Who in their right mind thinks they can walk on water?” Some might even say he got a little above himself. Some might think he needs to be committed for such upside down thoughts.

Peter didn’t listen to scientists who said people can’t walk on water. He didn’t listen to the naysayers. He didn’t listen to people who thought he wasn’t good enough to walk on water.

Jesus had given him the go-ahead: “Come.” Come he did – but on the way, doubt set in. Instead of just thinking he had to save himself on his own, he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 13:30). . . .
Just like the woman with the issue of blood who reached out in faithful assurance.
Just like the centurion who understood authority and by understanding authority, understood Jesus could heal his servant.
Just like the friends who brought their friend to be healed, lowered him through the roof into Jesus’ presence where he received his healing.
Just like all the people he healed throughout his ministry, including the man who said, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

“Lord, save me” (Matthew 13:30), Peter cried out. . . with blessed assurance because Jesus wouldn’t have put that desire in Peter if Jesus didn’t have a plan to fulfill that request.  Jesus never gives us a task to complete without the plan to succeed at that task. Jesus never sets those who love him up for failure.

Sometimes when I get into what Jesus wants me to do, I start second-guessing myself, doubting what He’s asked me to do. In those moments, I’m a Peter, too, though I wasn’t called to do the same things Peter did. Because Peter’s story is Peter’s and mine is mine – each of our stories – yours, mine, Peter’s – are God designed – but each different.

When I feel like I’m sinking, I just need to called out, “Lord, save me.”
And he does – just like he did for Peter. Though our stories are different – and the how’s and what we’re called to do – Jesus’ faithfulness, the unconditional love is the same.

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”(Matthew 14:31-33).

I don’t think I’m going to be sitting on any diving boards contemplating whether my faith and love in my savior is big enough to walk on water any time soon. Nanny and Papaw’s pool has long been filled in. If I find myself on sitting on the edge of a diving board, I think Jesus and I will talk about the things he has stirred me up to do, that I asked him permission to do – and the things he has said, “Yes” to do. Instead of a fail moment,, where I sink, what a beautiful rejoicing moment my savior and I will have. Maybe I don’t even have to sit on the edge of a diving board to have that conversation.

Yet, I believe that Jesus confirmed the desire for me to walk on water – and he commanded me to do so, I do believe I wouldn’t then sink to the bottom!

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Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

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freebird

Truth – it’s a tough word. Sometimes tough to live. Even tougher when your truth isn’t believed. Tougher still when these children we birthed, filled with the best we know how to give, our cool hands on fevered-foreheads, our lips praying, choosing books to inspire, trying to love it right – and then one day, they catch us failing at it – and, suddenly, they doubt the truth of our love. Maybe it’s part of growing up – this doubting the genuineness of this love we have, the self-less-ness of it.

For me, that’s been the hardest part of this mothering. The cascade effect of the doubt those God gave me to love. I think if I wasn’t dancing this dance with God – my ability to love would be so crippled, grace walked out with two left feet until grace was no longer recognized.

Love – it’s a pretty hard gig
This mother kind of love
This neighbhor kind of love
This wife kind of love

This love it seeps, spills, drains, sometimes freely
Sometimes like a sink clogged
This love, like fresh water, just wants to nourish
To fill, heal, refresh

truth is,
sometimes God gives us hearts to love
those who
don’t believe it, don’t trust it
who say it’s not truth
who say  it’s manipulation, full of mistakes,
all wrong,
judged
defective

this love, like dancing,
when uninhibited, whirls, slows,
twirls Grace ’til someone judges the dance
as artifice, graceless
and,suddenly,
grace steps become second-guessed,
awkward, unsure,
and doubt begins about
this grace
the worthiness in this love I’ve been
dancing
is it . . .
good enough
true enough
in need of fixing

missteps turn to stumbling
and in that stumbling
I call out to the Father
because I never meant
this love I pour out
to be ugly, graceless, untrusted

as I cry out, I find him
already there,
pulling me into
a Father-Daughter dance
telling me
He knows the truth of my heart
that one day
the my heart’s truth will be revealed
for those who need to see
the truth in the love
poured out
danced out
loved out

doubt maybe the works of love,
he tells me,
but never the grace of it
because a heart that loves not to gain
but to just love
is never graceless
always truth
there’s freedom
in that kind of love.

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maryleighdance3355

3rd grade, hand raised high in excitement. I knew the answer. Finally, I knew the answer to something. Held back in first grade, taller than everyone else, bullied by a mean girl – I risked raising that hand out of a protective barrier I’d stuffed myself into for hiding.

Father Stewart was visiting our religion class – to talk about grace. He asked us to tell him what it was.

You know how it was – hand not shyly raised, but reaching, fingers wiggling – and he called on me for the answer – this grace-filled answer:

“How you move, like a ballerina,” – there – I’d risked it – a sure-fire, right answer

struck down

He swatted his hand toward me, “No” he grumbled out, as though I’d done something wrong – and turned away.

I sat there – mortified. Not just at having the wrong answer – which my mother and grandmother had taught me was the right answer. They loved graceful things. Shy outside home, that little girl grace was slowly growing into growing girl awkwardness.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15)

mldanceIt took me a long time, until girl growing out of awkwardness risked hand-raising, fingers wiggling out-of-the home question-answering.

Yet, without knowing what grace was – God poured it all over me – when I met him in my grandmother’s back yard, climbing trees, on the school bus when other kids made fun of my teeth, cowering under bed-time covers in the dark, old house sure something was going to get me, at bed-time prayers when I needed – and He was there – meeting me – loving my graceless self and giving me His

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10)

twirl4and when I’d grown, walked some away from Him, and came back, asking, “Show me how to love you like when I was little,” – He did, pouring that same grace all over me, embracing me – and calling me His own – always loving, gently encouraging, even when I got the answers wrong.

That 3rd grade day in religion class, my ears burned too much to hear what he said about grace. God knew. God wasn’t surprised – by my answer, by my embarrassment and momentary hearing loss – He knew how this little girl heart and mind worked. As I sought out relationship with Him, he opened my ears, my eyes and my heart to His kind of grace – so that I understood what I was receiving from Him.  He doesn’t just give us one chance to get it. Some people, like me, need a lot of repetition.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 4-9)

(Photo above is from my one year in ballet – which I loved – but not the photo! LOL – and the last photo is from my oldest son’s wedding – the Mother/Son Dance when he asked, “Ready to Twirl.” My feet might be graceless in dancing – but my heart – oh, it was dancing beautiful grace!!! (See Ready to Twirl).

 

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swing3cc13c
Friends from my grown-up life express disbelief that I was painfully shy when I was little. My mom doesn’t believe it either – but I was – lots of reasons but those reasons aren’t for today – and that’s not me today. That is so not me today that my boys have learned the art of shepherding me out of church, a restaurant, a grocery store. There’s a lot of collie in those boys (LOL). There’s a lot of reach in me.

We are each designed to reach according to our love languages and gifts. When we reach according to our God-designed reach-way – it can be a beautiful, fulfilling thing – but not just a one-way reaching, a one-way fulfilling. When we reach God’s way – it is a holistic reach – where all shes involved are blessed – and it might have a ripple effect – like wave on the ocean.

We are God-designed to reach – just like He reaches to us. The value of she might even be determined through reaching.

My grandmother, she taught me about strength in the daily and the beauty of sitting in the quiet together on the front porch swing – and how to make coffee cake.

My mama, she taught me about the view from the high places – and the value of hard work, sacrifice and kindness, that poverty is a state of mind – and how to make truffles and majeskas

Aunt Shirley taught me  that every family needs a keeper of the stories, that cousins are awesome – and how to make meringue shells.

Aunt Joyce taught me about cooking, the importance of routine, how to make mashed potatoes, salad dressing, how hot chocolate changes a morning – and generosity of spirit

Alva taught me how to make ginger snaps and post-it notes for prayer requests on bathroom mirrors

Joan taught me how to crack my heart wide open to be a spiritual mom: “We so need to be needed,” said this 70 something woman.

The Tuesday Morning Prime Timer’s women’s coffee group that met at Hardees or McDonalds – they all taught me that you never arrive in Utopia, that you still get mad at your husband and that they are needed – who else had the time to lay believing hands on me, pray that the Holy Spirit be in the delivery of my 4th son – who almost died that day and was held in the hand of God

Laura-May in her rolled down stockings taught me about the innate need to pass our God messages and God love down – that we were designed for that.

My sweet mother-in-law – she taught me about unconditional love, how the compassion gift works beautifully, how to quilt and how to never give up reaching in this mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship – sweet blessings are found in the reaching.

My grandmother-in-law, June, taught me about canning summertime and growing to share violets

About 15 years ago – Gracie taught me that God makes whole the broken. She taught me about speaking faith to move mountains – I didn’t know that. . . didn’t know about praying for these babies growing inside me – until Gracie. She taught me about heaven – and the hope of it, the tangible of it. She taught me that when God has a plan, even too low trisomy babies who are never seen can hang on to be seen – Gracie who at 4 months in-utero, whose heart stopped beating, my little girl gone to God in the high places – taught me that love doesn’t have to see or hold now or today.  She taught me how God turns my mourning into dancing.  Because of what she taught me, I believe. I. believe. . . . that’s how I learned how to call on the name of Jesus when doctors and nurses are calling S.T.A.T. c-section – and chaos ensures and I hear “I don’t have a heart-beat” – and then Cam was born, healthy and whole, against all odds, with APGARS of 9 both times – when most kids don’t make it. Don’t survive it – especially after 16 minutes. She taught me the power of the name of Jesus can save – and it makes a difference in my life everyday.

Every she poured grace into me, poured hope into me. The value of she is immeasurable.

Yet, just like a cup of coffee or glass of sweet tea – I cannot have it if I don’t reach for it.

Every she pour into me because I reached out. Sometimes it takes a lot of reaching to grab hold of the one God sends. A lot of reaching sometimes means a lot of rejection.

If I hadn’t spied through the forsythia at Laura May, hadn’t ventured to her front porch for an evening hello

If I hadn’t sought out my aunts and in the seeking and reaching found relationship

If I hadn’t reached for conversation with the older lady sitting beside me in a volunteer group

Or sought an invitation to the Prime Time Ladies Tuesday mornings – and showed up to listen

If I hadn’t sought to spend time with my husband’s family, sought out his mother and grandmother to pull his traditions into ours

If I hadn’t reached for God when we lost Gracie – and continue reaching today

I wouldn’t have been poured into with such blessing, such over-flowing

This reaching, pouring and receiving – God created us for it. Think of Christ’s geneology and the passing down of His word – a geneology of reaching, pouring and receiving.

If you haven’t been poured into – reach

If you need to be needed, need to pour – reach

You might catch a lot of thin air, experience some rejection – but God has someone who needs you and who you need.

We were created for it.

The Value of she is found in the reaching.

 

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pennchurchdoorcc“Come,” he says. . . “Come. . .” An act as simple as turning a door knob, yet like the knob opens the door to something new, unseen, different from where you are standing – so does this invitation from Christ: “Come. . . .”

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” ~ Matthew 11: 28-30

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desertcarcThe engine of progress begins with a soul inspired. A soul inspired begins with a relationship with God. A relationship with God begins with a conversation, a talk and listen, and an “I-believe-Lord.-Help-my-unbelief” kind of growing trust. It’s Monday. Monday is a good day to begin being inspired.

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