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bible2leo

What if . . . if we treated Facebook as Faithbook.

Billy Graham says, “If  you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.”

Hope would rather I find encouragement to not give up, to give my challenges to God, to believe that God saves from the encouragement of another’s faith story walked out or the blessing redeemed in the daily.

Facebook is full of Faith Stories. Let me tell you what I see on Faithbook:
~ I see mothers of children with health challenges not just asking for prayer for healing but walking in the faith and hope of a healing God.

~ I see friends lifting each other up when they’re down, both in prayer and deeds.

~ I see  people suffer heart-breaking loss choosing to go forward with God rather than without God.

~ I see mothers of prodigals who live daily -in faith, in hope, in a glass not just half full but overflowing attitude – and I see friends not bashing their friend’s children’s waywardness, but believing along side them, trying to see their children as God sees them, too.

~ I see overcoming stories – women overcoming eating disorders, bad relationships, rebuilding the broken in their souls with the help of a Savior who does not let them down.

There are stories of times of laughing and crying, mourning and dancing . We cannot forget the laughing and the dancing, the blessing and overcoming. Faithbook is full of celebration, too.

I see blessings counted – to 1,000 and beyond. Faithbook wouldn’t need to justify giving or receiving blessing. Just as Salvation cannot be earned, neither can blessing. Both come from the gracious, unconditional love of the Father.

I see stories that honor mothers and fathers – and in the honoring, I understand more clearly what kind of father God is.

I see big and little moments in life celebrated. In the midst of a world in turmoil, I see grace given and received, for big and little things.

I read about the enduring love a wife has for her husband, and the enduring love a husband has for his wife.

I see people who define their lives, not by the challenges they face or the size of their savings account, but by the God-redeeming moments, again, both big and little.

There’s a lot of big and little in Faithbook. The Big is just, well – big, like weddings, graduations, births and birthdays and prayers answered. Don’t be deceived by the days and moments of the small things, though. It’s in the small things where the most important part of living takes place. In the wait of prayers sent out, of zinnia seeds being planted, of dishes being cooked up and cleaned, where bedtimes stories are, socks need to be matched and school lessons are worked through,  and where rain falls in a summer hot moment – all this and more happen in the days of small things. The days of the small things are sometimes the sweetest.

What if . . . we treated Facebook like Faithbook – telling our faith stories to encourage one another, to the lost and the found.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” ~Ecc. 7:20.

What if . . . every time we clicked  to “friend” someone, we treated them as someone God gave us to lift up, to encourage, to bring closer to Christ, creating a kind of contract in our hearts that says, “O.K. God, I’ve got them.”

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6). Could Facebook  as Faithbook be a Holy Spirit watering hole? A seed bag for God’s children to plant God things in others’ lives?

Jesus didn’t come for the righteous; he came for the sinners – for you and me and everyone else out there missing it in big and little ways.  Could Faithbook also be for people who haven’t experienced the crazy-amazing love this Father God has for them? Could Faithbook give them a taste what God is doing in other lives, and by tasting, draw closer to him, until one day, they fall in the the arms of the Father who has loved them since before they were born?

Mark Zuckerberg might think  he’s controlling information with the hopes of shepherding our decisions toward what he supports. Yet, with every FaithBook story, every scripture, every praise for blessing found, every two or three standing in agreement for God to move, the power of God changes lives. Zuckerberg doesn’t realize that when God’s on the loose in something – man is powerless against God’s work.

Instead of relinquishing the field that is Facebook, let us claim it for Christ!

Nobody’s life is perfect. Every day has challenges. There are seasons of refreshing and seasons of just plain hard. Faith would rather I shout about God’s amazing love both in the refreshing and the hard, from both high and low places.

There are no better stories – than the God stories in our lives.

“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” ~ I Peter 4:11

bibleleonardo

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/

God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/

http://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival

https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
Raising Samuels Social Butterfly Sunday with Kelly at Raising Samuels
Family Joy Blog Link-up Party at Thinking Outside the Pot
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk
http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays

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feet2

(Still remembering and celebrating 33 years of marriage)

There’s nothing worse than being young…. and being the last picked.

When you have buck-teeth, wear high-top shoes because you have flat feet- before high top shoes are cool and your dad doesn’t live with you because he got tired of it – you feel like you come in last –every time.

When you can’t find the phonics lesson on the worksheet in second grade and math doesn’t make sense – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your thesis director in graduate school dumps you because he feels you have no creative ability and you make careless mistakes – you feel like you come in last – every time.

When your kid, who you’ve poured all within you, prayers, squats for discipline, encouragement – everything you always thought a good, loving parent was supposed to do says, “You’ve set me up to be a failure. Deuces” – you feel like you just came in last.

When you gain some weight and can’t fit into your favorite clothes, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve come in last.

When the publisher says, “We love it. Send us all you have” for your children’s book – and they get bought by a bigger publisher (Random House) who says, “We don’t know how to draw wind” – I went from first place to rock bottom last.

This morning, my 15 year old drove down the mountain. A fresh driver, careening a bit to the right edges – and my struggle with auto-terror won over my desire to be supportive-encouraging mom – and I gasped, “Jesus Help Us.” As my son careened and steadied, I both encouraged and flipped-out – and I felt like I’d come in last.

There’s a lot of last-place moments in my life. Situations that seem to whisper, even shout, “Failure. Loser.” They don’t define me though – those last place moments.

They are just moments that set up God’s greatness.

Jesus told us, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt 20:16)

We see that with Rahab, Naomi, David, Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus – so many people in last place, due to their own choices – though maybe those  seemingly bad choices were all that was  available, still they were brought to blessing by God.

Sometimes you can’t get first-place positioning without having last place experience.

Braces got rid of my buck teeth, my feet slipped into a little blue cotton sandal, and in the midst of it all, I found a Father who championed me against the mockers- and I bask in God’s favor.

I couldn’t find the phonics lesson, but I read and read and read (my defense mechanism against people on school buses making fun of the little buck-tooth girl in high-top shoes) – and it wasn’t too long in second grade I was moved to the advanced reading class – and I basked in God’s favor, the little girl who’d found Him in a closet and talked to Him in her back yard.

The Dean of the Graduate school called the English Department, telling them, “Best creative thesis I’ve read,” followed by Honorable Mention in the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor society’s creative publication the same semester. Charles Dickens responded to a man’s request to view his manuscript to determine if he had creative ability. Dickens replied, “For all I know, the land is yours by right” – More than the land being mine by right – I basked in God’s favor.

The book publisher, the irate son of my prayers, the closet full of too-tight clothes – and the inability to always control my terror  – He knows the desires of my heart, the love in my heart. He knows my weaknesses, my failures, my miss-its – He knows my heart’s intent, its integrity – and, though the humanity of myself fails – Jesus intercedes in my behalf – and I bask in God’s favor.

33 years ago, in a field outside the mule-barn at a college social, two young men picked football teams. Two girls remained to be picked – the last picks for each team. I was one of those two – and the red-headed young man picked me – last. Then picked me for a life-time. I bask in God’s favor.

It is an opposite day paradigm – the business of being last.

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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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Don’t know why, but really missing my grandmother today. She wasn’t a Nanna, Nanny, MeeMaw, Granny – or even a Muddy like her mother and me (my grandmother name), she was a no nonsense, witty repartee-loving Grandmother. She taught me, by standing up to her over the important things, how to stand up to everyone else in the world. She wasn’t a huggy grandmother, but she made me feel beautiful on the inside. Would love to sit at the kitchen table with her right now. So I’m sharing one of my very favorite stories about her with you. Isn’t that what you do when you miss people? What to talk about them?

Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

Sunday Morning, Winter – 1981

I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen, Sunday morning sun pouring through the large latticed windows, spilling onto the table – a winter sun that did nothing to warm the chill that always seeped through the old house. Turning pages of print with one hand, I ate the coveted center of the baked pan of Pillsbury cinnamon roles with the other.

Bite by bite, page by page I read through the funnies, the features and paused a few turns into the fashion section – 1981 newspaper fashion pages resembled haute couture fashion magazines.

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

The page turning paused, the cinnamon roll returned to the plate. True love arrested my attention –  a navy, thin-pleated, an inch higher than tea-length soft, durable navy wool, accordion skirt.

The pleats looked sharp enough to cause a paper cut – yet soft enough for grace.

Think 1940s. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly – elegance personified in this navy blue confection.

Have I mentioned my favorite color was navy blue?

I called my grandmother and mother over to look. It was just too beautiful not to share. My grandmother appreciated beautiful clothes – she had the gift – the ability to go downtown to the department stores, look at dresses for her 4 daughters, come home and re-create them. She appreciated elegance, grace in the silks, the cottons, linens, organzas and wools.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things. Not having a lot of money just meant $200 dollar skirts were things you didn’t buy – at least not full price – not until 70% off.

This pause finally gave way to  the well-oiled machine of Sunday morning routine. We all went out different doors – old houses allow that.

My grandmother disappeared out the kitchen door to the back porch – not a back porch by today’s standards – rather a storage stuck on to a house. Old houses grew rambly like that. It had all started 200 years ago when a French man built 2 rooms separated by a dog trot. Those two rooms, like a married couple, grew into a family of rooms.  The entry hall had once been the dog trot, my brother’s room had once been a porch off one of those rooms . The family room had once been a porch until in the 1950s when grandmother and grandfather added on a dining room and kitchen, tagging on a storage porch off the back. Porches were like quick-change artists of architectural expansion, becoming kitchens, family rooms, bathrooms, even storage closets.

The back porch taught me the meaning of haste – I hurried through – always.  If I didn’t wear shoes, I tip-toed rapidly across its pebbled concrete floor. I guess you could almost compare it to the dark forest full of creepy things in fairy-tales that the princess must walk through in order find happily ever after.

Bags of clothes and moth balls lined one section. Tools, a cedar chest, a lawn mower, my bicycle with its white wicker basket and dusty items filled the other section. Every Fall, we sorted summer cottons into those clothes bags and every spring, we stored away wool and winter. Why? To preserve and protect from hearty moth appetites – and, because the rooms in rambly old houses provided little to no storage.

That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it.

About 30 minutes before we left for church, we all gathered in the kitchen. Mom, Grandmother, Aunt Joyce – they all sat around the kitchen table waiting. Aunt Joyce drove us to church every week. When I entered the kitchen, my grandmother stepped into the dining room, carrying something blue back to the kitchen.

“Try it on,” she said, holding up a navy, one-inch from tea-length, accordion-pleated, navy wool skirt in mint condition – exactly like the one in the newspaper. The waist – oh, it was tiny – 26 or 28 inches. It had been my aunt’s – sometime after the war and before her marriage in the late 1950s  – and in 1981, I would get to wear it.

It fit me.

I twirled. I laughed. I felt graceful, elegant.  That skirt, with its pleats creased enough for paper cuts moved with grace, no stiffness, no roughness – just soft grace – maybe back then I couldn’t be confident in who I thought I was – but I could wear something that symbolized who I thought I was – on the inside.

Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal.  Only 3 articles of clothing ever “spoke” to me –  a dress I wore when I was about 6, the dress I wore to my son’s wedding – and this skirt.

I wore it to a few senior year events. Girls schools are wonderful for providing events for their students – and, when we put winter away, the skirt was zipped back into my grandmother’s moth-ball-filled clothes bag.

The other day, I was thinking about Grandmother’s Magic clothes bag. How I never really knew what was in those bags –even though I was  handed clothes Mom and Grandmother pulled out every spring and fall since I was 6.

I’d never reached into those bags, zipping and unzipping.  A lot of reasons stopped me – even though those bags held my clothes, too – I didn’t think I had a right to it. Fear edged me out. Content ignorance, a soft boundary wall as effective as a prison wall, kept me out. No real curiosity, no recognition of need – maybe, just maybe, the comfortableness of allowing someone else to be in control of it – maybe that was it, too.

gmcoatA few years later, on a way to a Christmas dance with the guy I would marry, Mom, Grandmother and I debated which coat or wrap to wear. Nothing suited – nothing topped it off without looking awkward.

Grandmother never announced. Never said, “HHHHmmmmm – let me think.” This bridge-playing lady always kept the cards close to her vest. As Mom and I stood there debating the issue, Grandmother just took herself off – unbeknownst  to us – once again into the back porch, to reach into the clothes bag.

Minutes later, she walked back in, shaking out  a black tea-length wool coat with gold embroidery.

We had lived with my grandmother for 15 years by then. I was only just beginning to realize the hidden treasures within my grandmother, what really was there, what she stored away for us for when the want or need arrived, stored away in moth balls or in the strength of her soul.

When my grandmother died, I wondered what had happened to that bag of clothes, the hidden things on the back porch. I guess someone emptied them out – and what a loss, that emptying out can be.

That winter day, though, in 1981, when the weak sun spilled over the kitchen table – that day, she pulled something out of a back-porch clothes bag that was the catalyst for a soul reveal.

“That Grandmother stepped out there on a Sunday morning wasn’t surprising – she never rushed over the cool floors. She wasn’t fearful of what she would find – she knew what was there. It was cataloged in her mind – and she made use of it.”

Disclaimer: Grandmother, if she knew I had turned this story into an allegory would probably have admonished me to “Stop that Silly Talk.”

Characters in the allegory of Grandmother’s Clothes Bag
Grandmother – Everyman
Granddaughter – Everyman
Navy, Accordion-Pleated Wool Skirt – A blessing shared
The Clothes Bag – The Bible
The Content of the Clothes Bag – Things of God
Moth Balls – The Holy Spirit

There’s a time when I moved from a child’s relationship to the Father, to an adult’s relationship to the Father. Where, as a child, I loved Him with abandon. Growing up led to self-consciousness, gracelessness from uncomfortable awareness, and learning to take the reigns of spiritual responsibility in hand.Growing up meant sifting through what I had been taught, becoming intentional in what I believed.

That meant I was alone responsible for that relationship. The training wheels were off. I was alone responsible for the reaching.

I didn’t do well early on, when those training wheels were off. My relationship with Him wobbled.

Like I hurried through Grandmother’s back porch, past the clothes bag, so I hurried past Him.

Self-consciousness, lack of confidence in who I was caused me to hurry past things that intimidated me through my ignorance – not just of the things of God but who I was to Him.

Faux gracefully, I enacted the ritual of sorting through winter and spring into the clothes bag – but I didn’t dig into that clothes bag. I stood in the kitchen and handed out.

I didn’t not know Him intimately. I could not truly catalog was what in His word. I needed to spend time with Him, with His word, to see what was there – not just the gospel, but Ruth, Jeremiah, Isaiah – all the one’s I skipped over, ignored.

I needed to spend time with Him, like my grandmother spent time maintaining the clothes bag, lined with those moth balls.

I couldn’t really help anyone. I couldn’t really even help myself – not until I delved into the contents of His word, His Holy Spirit – Him.

The Father wanted me to stop rushing past Him, open up His word and listen, really listen, catalog in my heart its content, wear it, walk it, know it – to continually wrap His word in His Holy Spirit.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

One day, sitting in the car outside my husband’s work, waiting – which is something newleyweds still in college with just one car do a lot – the Father met me there. I asked the Father, “I want that relationship I had with you as a child. Teach me how to get there.”

He did. . . it was a journey, though – not an overnight arrival.

I learned to not rush past His word like I rushed over cool, pebbled-concrete floors. I dug into His word, like my grandmother dug into her clothes bag, cataloging, nurturing so that one day I could share what is within His word, within relationship with Him.

When grandmother saw a need – she went to the clothes bag and drew a blessing out – a blessing that caused a soul-reveal. I needed to learn to live that kind of relationship with Him.

I needed to believe what the word said about that relationship, about the hope, the healing, the speaking, the praying, the Holy Spirit, the believing without seeing.

 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”(Hebrews 11:6)

When I dug into His word, when I believed His word – I discovered who I was to Him – his beloved daughter.

I discovered a Father who wanted to become the shade in the glaring, uncomfortable heat of challenges, who wanted to shelter me beneath the feathers of His wing, who wanted to bind my wounds scarless, who wanted to shelter me in the storm – that He saves me when I cry out, like a Knight in Shining Armor:

“He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then GOD thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.
But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but GOD stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”

(Psalm 18: 10-15, The Message)

One day long ago, grandmother pulled a skirt out of her clothes bag. As the years unfolded, that moment became an allegory of faith. Like a fable is to a truism – was that skirt to a soul reveal – and the truism made me a beloved daughter of the King, who willing jumped on His horse and moved heaven and earth to protect shelter . . . . save.

Because I learned not to hasten away from the things of God, I find blessings He leaves me, messages He leaves me in the ordinary of a day:

like the squirrel nest high in the barren oak, sways in the thin-limbed top, twigs, old leaves woven together, how does it protect against the bitter wind? And, I marvel – because it does.
or my mother-in-laws hands, folding laundry, teaching me to slip-stitch quilt binding, making banana pudding, hugging babies and boys

nine sherbet-colored bandanas bought in 2009 quilted, backed, binded and tied with raspberry, lime green, citrus orange, flamingo pink and lemon yellow embroidery thread.

red chili sauce in Thais Gopaw – taste buds delighting after days of illness

robin’s egg blue skies outside my work window

a lunch date with my husband, just the two of us

Italian chamber music diminishing chaos

the story of grace changing lives, redeeming from the law in a Les Miserable story and song

a two hour morning delay from an ice storm that never came, giving me time to love the boys with homemade chocolate chip granola bars and hamburger, elk and deer-meat chili.

(I’m in a tying-up-loose-ends season right now – and will be returning with fresh, new soon. Please stop by as I share some of my very favorite posts through the month of June)

(for a history on my grandmother’s house, you might want to read “if grandmother’s trees could tell stories”)

 

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whitehouse215_edited-1(Today just felt like retelling a story that brings joy to my heart. I’m still here – I’m just in a quiet season right now, where the words are few. It’s like I’m steeping in something new. I can’t put words to it, but I know at the right time, He will give me the words.)

The little years seem like once-upon-a-time ago – but it was once upon a time in the little years, when a little boy wanted to run away. He didn’t like his new room in the new house built in the woods near the creek. He missed his raspberry sorbet room with the blue and white ticking in the suburbs. The joyful little boy had misplaced his joy in the move and wanted to run away, back to the suburbs  – so he did.

His bigger brother still little came running into the kitchen while their mama stirred a pot of something good, holding a littlest on her hip.

“Mama, he’s run away,” said the bigger brother.

“Let me know when he goes past Ms. Judy’s mailbox,” she said, stirring the pot, soothing the baby.

“But, Mama,” he stammered, unbelieving (because, he just knew, that if it was him, he’d go beyond the mailbox).

“Just let me know when he goes past Ms. Judy’s mailbox,” said the mama.

Every 5 minutes, the bigger brother came back, flummoxed why his mama hadn’t flown outside to save his brother.

“Where is he?” she asked.

“At Ms. Judy’s mailbox.”

The little boy who’d misplaced his joy never went beyond the mailbox. His mama knew he wouldn’t. However, she knew the one who so worried about him, she knew that if he took it into his head to run away, he’d be down the road, onto the highway and halfway to where-ever he wanted to go before anybody knew.

That night, when the moon came out, the boys were tucked into their beds all snug, bedtime stories read, songs sung and prayers said – and all the hearts and minds that lived in the new little house in the woods near the creek slept in peace.

A few years later, when the little boys grew long legs that stretched for independence – the bigger one did leave home before he was really ready. The little brother who’d once misplaced his joy cried at his leaving and blamed his mama, not understanding. The bigger brother, he went past the mailbox about 4 times, and 4 times his mama found him, brought him back, knowing he wasn’t ready yet. Until one time, he packed all that was important to him and left, right after graduation.

The mama, she didn’t go get him. She stirred over the pots in the kitchen, matched socks, shook out the rugs. At night, she tucked the littlest ones in bed – because there were more little ones then. She read bedtime stories, sang songs and said bed-time prayers – and all the hearts and minds that lived in the growing older house in the woods tried to sleep in peace.

While the mama stirred those pots, though, she prayed. God knew what her son needed. She asked that God help her. Then she asked that God stand with her. Then she asked that God would help her let go and let Him help her son.

Some time later, her son walked through the back door of the growing older house on the edge of the woods, realizing that where he had been was not where he needed to be. As he grew stronger, he prepared to leave again, this time with a proper packing and a proper farewell, on a journey that took him closer to God and closer to God’s plan for His life.

As all the littles grew, the joyful one misplaced his joy again, misplaced who he was to God and to the family. One day, he packed his treasures, a table and a bed – and moved to a place he didn’t need to be.

The older brother, who’d so worried about him all those many years ago, who’d say, ‘Mama – aren’t you going to fetch him home,” who thought he’d go past Ms Judy’s mailbox, had found his bearings and in the finding made a home near the little house in the woods – he came to his mother, worrying, “Tell him to come home, Mom. He doesn’t need to be there.”

His mother stood in the kitchen, stirring a pot of something good, looked up at him, this boy who towered over her now, gave him a wry smile that contained sadness for the one who’d left and joy for the one who’d returned, saying, “Remember when you left? Telling you that you needed to come home only made you stay longer. The less I say, the sooner he will be home.”

The brother who’d lost his joy for a while, misplaced who he was to God and his family – one day, he remembered, and in the remembering, came home to the growing old house at the edge of the woods with his treasures, his table, and a bed.

In the growing older house in the woods by the creek, he grew stronger, reclaimed a bit of his joy and who He was to God and his family. Refreshed, he started hearing the call of the Father – until one day, he properly packed a bag, received a proper farewell, and set out on a journey past Ms. Judy’s mailbox on a God-designed journey just for him.

The Story after the Story

Some children launch by the book – and other children launch by, well, the other book – the one we don’t want to buy, the story we don’t want to read. It’s the hard story. It’s the story full of heart-aches so deep you know your soul has toes – it’s that deep.  It’s also a faith story, a story of redemption. It’s the dirt, grit and grime of the story that nobody wants to touch. A lot of people might want to talk about it – but they don’t want to touch it – with their hearts, with their prayer, with their faith.

It’s the dirt of rebellion, the grit of selfishness and the grime of sin that Salvation leaned down into, grabbed it by the filthy arms and pulled it up, took it on a journey, journeying along, and in the journeying along, washed the stains, the filth, the grit away. Salvation fixed the brokenness, both deserved and undeserved – until, somewhere in the journey, a new man was born again.

Sometimes, this happens because a mama somewhere loved enough to let go – and let God.

Think of Hannah who took an itty bitty Samuel to the temple, and let go of his hand – and let God.

Think of Manoah’s wife had to let go of a rebellious son – and let God redeem him.

and Jochebed who let go of the bulrush basket holding her son – and let God.

or Rebekah who stirred up a mess and sent Jacob away from home, who let go – and let God.

Today, I want to pray for those mama’s, whose children are taking the hard way. I want to pray that God bring them a peace beyond understanding that He’s got this. This is His job now – what He does best – work His saving grace in places we cannot.

I pray that in the letting go, you don’t feel as if you given up, quit before the job is done, didn’t love enough. I pray that you see that you love enough to let God, that you didn’t quit – just that your task is complete. For now, you’ve done what you’re supposed to do. Now it’s time to let God.

I pray that you realize the greatest love we can give someone is to sometimes let them go – even into uncomfortable situations.  I pray that when you wrestle with trusting God that His determination to save your child is greater than the devil’s determination to destroy your child – I pray that you tell God you’re struggling with this trusting and believing because sometimes the right-now really hurts, really doesn’t look like it can come about right. He won’t get mad or be disappointed. He’ll love on you, comfort you. I pray that you ask Him to stand with you, to hold you close – because He is the kind of God that can save another while holding you, too.

I pray that you have dreams of salvation coming instead of nightmares. I pray that you find God messages in the daily, of God’s sweet encouragement that He has joy planned for you – and for the ones you love. I pray that He give you glimpses of who He created your child to be.

I pray that He surround you with people who believe that God’s got this – and I pray that He will surround you and your child with people who pray faith, pray love, pray hope until both you and your child are stirred in it, simmering in it, suffused with it, like a pot of good things on a loving mama’s stove-top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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winterbirdtreecc_edited-1Growing up, I was told that my uncle believed cursing was a lack of vocabulary. I heard it so often, a word seed was planted.

A few years later, sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table, one of my aunt’s oldest daughters home from college the guest of honor, talked to us about her adventure. I was in middle school. She was so beautifully grown up – and I didn’t understand half the words she said. I asked her how she knew all those words – and the vocabulary seed was watered.

It is interesting, how little sentences here and little sentences there, leave an impression, light a fire that drives to excel. As a result, I worked hard, read a lot of classical literature to grow my word stock.

One afternoon, at my grandmother’s house along with my mother, Aunt Joyce, and my first-born who was just learning to sit up, a language mishap occurred. I failed, faltered – and, well, I put my wordsmith reputation on the line.

I’d just got up to go around the corner to the kitchen. There was a little hallway with a telephone desk between the family room and kitchen. Going around the corner, my very not-so-funny bone smacked into the desk – and a very lack-of-vocabulary word flew out of my mouth.

Dead silence replaced the chattering in the family room. I think the blood rushed from my head. I felt dizzy, but knew I needed to face this head on – but not before I peaked around the corner.

My mother and Aunt Joyce sat there, looking at my grandmother, waiting for her verdict. My son sat totally content, not understanding the expected set-down, a reputation-ruining set down. After all, to this group of esteemed women with memories like elephants, if you opened one present early on Christmas and re-wrapped it – and they found out, well, then, you were labeled an early-sneaky-present-opener for the rest of your life.

All eyes were on my grandmother, the matriarchal woman who taught me that if you could stand up to her, you could stand up to anyone. She had what I call “the power of the eye” – where with one look, her green eyes could slay you on the spot.

As the silence stretched, my reputation hung in the family room like an outdoor laundry line hung with ones intimate private unmentionables.

“My mother always said there was a time and a place to curse, and, I believe, you just found it,” she finally said.

Graceful redemption! The chattering picked up, the incident left behind. The lack of vocabulary incident was never mentioned again – while my Christmas-present snafu is bantered about all the time.

I’ve told you these little vignettes about vocabulary, to well, talk about vocabulary – particularly the over-used and potentially definition devolving word – love.

Love should never be diminished – the act or the definition.

It’s true – I might “love” your hair-style, your shoes, your photo you posted in your blog, your cake – even the ideas expressed in an article you wrote. Sadly, the use of love in this way is evidence of my laziness, the vocabulary slacker in me, the wordsmith on holiday. If I weren’t such a literalist, I would be able to write a funny, tongue-in-cheek post about it, but because I’m a literalist – I can’t even fathom how to do that.

As a result, I wrote an “I love” not-quite-a-poem about all the things I love – stretching those wordsmith muscles in a much needed way.

I love
admire, applaud, respect
Jane Austen, Margaret Wise Brown, Charles Dickens,
Jesse Stuart, Tolkien, Frances Hodgson Burnett,
Robert Browning, Joan Walsh Anglund,
and Sam McBratney

I love
Relish, savor, indulge in
orchard vanilla black tea
white hydrangeas – blue and green, too
yellow spring jonquils
fluffy pillows and goose feather blankets

I love
cultivate, treasure, drink in
quiet time looking out my bedroom window
simply watching the burnt red of Dogwood
tree leaves where birds that stay
through the winter stop by for
berry picking

I love
admire, cotton to, still smitten with
my forever man who told me he loved me
over 33 years ago at the red stop light
in his daddy’s red and white truck
at the corner of Lancaster Road and the Eastern By-Pass

I love
Delight in, luxuriate, breath deeply
vanilla and lavender
cloves and oranges, too
making me smile in the easy and hard
moments of the daily

I love
Cherish, marvel, hold dear, safe guard
newborn smells and how
they fit against your heart,
lean against your shoulder
trusting without questioning
like God wants us
to trust him

I love
revel in, feast on, count the awe
the stories – funny moments, sacred sharings,
bed-time chronicles and wedding proposals
hubba-bubba, you’re a cake, and are you man-enough
kitchen counter lectures
loving to God’s beard and back
the journey of prayers sent out come home,
miracles and moments done right

I love
fight for, don’t give up on, believe in God’s plan
my sons beyond the stink
of Sweaty soccer cleats and socks
the quest for becoming their own man
and the uncomfortableness of holding my belief set
under the microscope of independence to
determine the truth and merit of a daddy and mama’s
faith and reasons
before claiming it for
themselves

I love
Esteem, glorify, honor, worship, adore, marvel
Shaddai, the might one of Jacob,
Jehovah Shamma, just as He was there in the low, dark part of the challenges, in the emotional cyclone that can sometimes be a part of raising boys to men
Jehovah-Raah,  The Lord My Shepherd, encouraging to love better, forgive better, be his child better
Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that Heals physically, emotionally and spiritually – and He breathed His Holy Spirit into this spent soul
Jehovah Jireh, who reminds me that He will provide, not just the outside stuff needed for growing a family, but the inside stuff I need – like the manna He provided for the Israelites – that He gave them more than enough everyday – His storehouse is open for me – already equipped for everything I need
and in this grace-filled love affair where I learn what true, pure, real God-designed love is . . .

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13: 4-8)

(Note: a well-developed vocabulary does not immunize against foot-in-mouth disease – which is a whole different post)

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