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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Women’

wreath22I was born in the early 60s, but I grew up in an earlier generation. I grew up in my grandparent’s house, with a grandmother and grandfather who were pre-teens during the first world war – and were raising pre-teens to babies in the second world war. My neighbors were spinsters, widows and couples who grew up during the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m from a different world – and maybe, well, it’s because I was raised steeped in another generation.

MaryEdna3My grandmother wore sheer elbow length gloves during her First Communion because her skin was too dark. She had gone to live with her grandmother for a year before her First Communion to take the classes necessary receive the sacrament. The mumps didn’t stop her – apparently, nothing stopped you from the sacred ritual.  Especially, if you left home for a year to live with your grandmother to be prepared for it. A rare photo, of Mary Edna, in her gown, is probably the only photo of any of her family bearing a striking jaw line – courtesy of the mumps.

Women who grew up in the early 1900s, experienced the great wars and the Depression met in multiples of 4 around bridge tables where every few months, Charlotte Rousse and tomato aspic were served on the best dishes, where recipes were held close and rarely shared because community was small – and a stellar dish would become synonymous with the one who made it. When my brother and I would come tearing in from school on those illustrious bridge days, we  were expected to make bridge table rounds, speaking to each group, answering questions from women, who were mostly generous with their kind words. I always left the rooms smiling. Grandmotherly women laid their cards on the table so much more neatly and kindly than did our own peers. Maybe that’s why, today, I have always been more comfortable with older women than my own peers.

It’s from this community – of community bridge partners and neighbors from an older generation – that I gained an insight and perspective into so many different layers of living – a Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down kind-of-experience, where I learned my life is not my own – and my soul hands were open to catch the blessing they poured out.

Stop:  5 Minutes of Writing. Just 5 Minutes – unless you just cannot stop yourself.  Won’t you join me over at Kate’s Place for 5 Minute Friday? Sit down, pull over a cup of Wild Apple Ginger Tea, and see what everybody else is writing about the word . . . “Neighbor” Maybe you can join in – it’s just 5 minutes. Come enjoy the fun! (My 5 minutes ends here, but I wanted to share the following story about neighbors who never sat at grandmother’s bridge tables, but were constant neighbors until their deaths. What follows is one of those experiences.

Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

“Don’t do what I did,” Laura May, my 80-year-old-neighbor said to me when I was 18, getting ready to graduate from high school. She had called my grandmother to send me over to sit with her. She thought she was dying and didn’t want to be alone. I was terrified.

Over 13 years, I sat on her front porch a few times, overcoming shyness to visit. One 6-year-old morning, peering through backyard hedges, I was caught, spell-bound, watching an argument unfold between  Laura May and her widowed sister – about boundaries, inside work (Ms. Schindler) and outside work(Laura May). They were refined little ladies. Laura May in her neat dress, with her stockings rolled down around her ankles mowed with an old-fashioned push mower. I tried it once in later years, totally depleted and exhausted at the effort, not able to match her stamina. That morning, I watched them bicker, totally enthralled. . . until they noticed me in the bloomed-out forsythia. They stopped immediately, calling out a friendly, southern, “Mornin’ Maryleigh.” I muttered a “Good Morning” and ran.

I grew past bee catching and porch-wall climbing as seasons turned, Ms. Schindler died and Laura May was left alone in her parent’s Victorian house with blue and white tiled fireplaces, ornate trim, and black walnut woodwork. In the winter, the bare forsythia allowed her to watch us eat in the kitchen. As a teen, in the summer, the stairwell window allowed her to sit, watching all the coming and going, teen antics with my friends, still picking violets, surprise parties, dates, proms – and me mowing our yard.

Until one day, she was dying and afraid. And she wanted me to sit with her.

In her down-stairs sitting room turned bedroom, she told me her story, a “My-life-is-not-my-own” story that needed passing down. A young man turned away because she was expected to take care of her parents. A life turned away – no children, no husband – because her parents chose a different path for her. Oh, how she regretted that. She did not want me to make that same mistake; she feared I would stay home and take care of my divorced mother and grandmother. She wanted me to live life overflowing.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

Nobody owns me. Nobody owned her. Nobody owns my sons. But God calls us to live life fully in a “My-life-is-not-my-own” way, where we pour out all that is within us into someone else to help them grow and grow strong, to strengthen their wings to one day fly and in flying soar, and in that soaring, see – that their life is not their own.

She missed that chance to teach someone to grow, to fly, to soar. She wanted to ensure that I did not miss it, too. In that moment, her life was not her own – she gave a part of it to me.

 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25)

festivalarticleAllowing others to pour their story into our lives is just as important as pouring our stories into others’ lives. Those stories are God’s stories, God’s messages, God’s encouragement. “Sit Long. Talk Much” is a sign over my porch door. It reminds me to share what God put in me.

Esther’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Mary’s life was not her own. Ruth’s life was not her own. Sarah’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Neither was Saul’s.

My son, the answer to a 4 year prayer, he graduates in May. Freedom is all he has talked about for at least 4 years – freedom to live his life his way, make his choices, live his dreams, determine what values to re-seed, which to prune or pull out. “It’s my life,” whispered, shouted, cried out in his thirst for freedom, for control.

I remember that feeling, thinking, “It’s my life.” I can do what I want, be what I want, live what I want, wear what I want, eat what I want. Suddenly, one day though, truth makes a lie of those words. My life is no longer my own. It never really was. . . . my life that is. I gave my life to God – and He wants me to give it away to others – to my family, my children – and His children, both little and big He puts in my path. My dreams are just a shadow of God’s plan for my life.

Just yesterday, I was at the KY State Archery Tournament. I was handed 2 bows, a back pack, a cell phone and an iPod. My life was not my own. Yet – what I was able to give, strengthened my son and gave him the opportunity to try his wings.

Another son brought home a puppy that someone was “selling for free.” My life is even less my own. I so wanted to put up a “No Trespassing” sign. My son walks the dog at 6:30 a.m., 7:15 a.m., multiple times after school and before bed. He wants to go on Spring Break to Florida. I gave him a choice – either use the money to go to the beach or use the money to get the puppy her shots and spade. His life, he is learning, is no longer his own.

Or the little boyin the grocery store who asked me, “Do you think I’m going to Hell?” My life is not my own or he wouldn’t have jumped on my cart and then walked with me, wanting to go home with me. ”You can got to heaven if you want to,” I answered.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

God created a “Pass it Down” mechanism within each of us, the need for our life, experience and learning to be given away. It is something as necessary to us as water is to life. Laura May felt that need for her life not to be her own, to pass parts of it down.

 God put gifts within us to give, graciously, freely, wantingly. Not hoarding, not guarding, not begrudgingly.

  My life is not my own.

How blessed I have been by people who lived that way! I so want to pass it on to my friends, my family and God’s family . . . .and I so want my sons to pass it on – this beautiful, inside-out concept that My life is not My own.

 “Give and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6:38)

 

 

 

 

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(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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(The little foxes don’t stop tearing at us, do they! I wrote this in 2012 – and they haven’t stopped trying to ruin. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes the difference, why the vine of whom I am doesn’t break, doesn’t ruin. Challenges don’t go away, but faith, God and the Holy Spirit – they make the difference in how I live through those challenges. I wanted to remind myself today about letting the Holy Spirit wash over me and through me, cleaning me out and filling me up with things of Him.)

The little foxes had torn at the vines of my heart, nipping, trying to ruin the vines, to break the roots. Those little foxes, I am familiar with them. I recognize them for what they are, and though I know them, am prepared to deter them, they weary me. Yesterday evening found me battle fatigued, bruised, smudged by the dirty tactics, needing a Holy Spirit Rain to wash out these little foxes.

As I stepped outside into the Tennessee heat, the hotness touched me tangibly as though I had slipped on a fine kid merino shrug. My husband joined me to watch the sunset with its pinks, oranges hedged with billowing whiteness. Dark clouds encroached. Sunsets delight us both, drawing us close, this shared sensibility that restores much.

Lightening grew, grumbling bouncing in the North, sliding south. My jaded faith doubted it would dip our way. Usually, our rain was a southerly rain. We walked outside, talking about our crowded hydrangea, dwarfed rose bush, untangling the morning glory from the overgrown butterfly bush. Our garden had changed – and we needed to tackle those changes.

We stopped briefly, looking at the growth behind a burning bush. Surprised, my husband said, “Grape Vine.” His Dad grew grape vines – it was as though he somehow crept into our garden and planted it. But he couldn’t have, though. Another change, a sorrow change for us, during our journey, the loss of my father-in-law. Yet, there was a sweet reminder, wrapped around our bird feeder.

As the lightening bullied its way closer, we retreated inside – and inside, lightning cracked, silencing the katydids and tree frogs.  Lightening is bold where we live.

As bedtime arrived, so did the buckets of rain. “Come and smell it,” I called to the boys, the 2 little guys. The littlest showed up, giving me his 10-year-old incredulous-look followed by the “My-mom-is-nuts” look, but he stood with me sniffing the sweet scent of rain washing the dusty worn air of hotness. He decided to sleep on the floor of his room. “It would be safer,” he reasoned with 10-year-old logic.

I joined my husband on the porch, my pausing place, my favorite place to sit, to knit, to read, to grade essays when I taught, to listen, to watch, to be. . .  and the rain poured, in sheets, wave after wave of sheets.

I thought of an afternoon rain 23 years ago, during a heavy summer drought that stymied my cucumbers for my bread and butter pickles. That afternoon, it rained a downpour – and my first born, freshly 2, danced with me outside, in the rain, faces pressed upward, mouths wide open.

Today, in the darkness, my driveway shimmered like a pond, the water shifting in the breeze, in the pummeling sheets. And the lightening – it wasn’t just jagged bolts. It was like watching God draw in the sky with a thin pen over and over and over.

I thought of the Holy Spirit, the unsung member of the Trinity – and I wanted it to wash through my soul, like rainwater washed the dust, the heat from the air.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23)

I wanted to be filled, filled like Peter with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, filled so much he never faltered again in his mission.

Sitting in my rocking chair, pushed toward the edge of porch, the rain misted over my legs and arms, cooling, chilling – and I laughed – relishing the moment, the blessing, the washing away.

The rain moved south, and I sighed, wanting more. Like an encore, the clouds backed up, pouring a double portion over our patch of living.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me like that, to fill me with crucifixion courage, overflowing with mountain-moving faith, drawing me closer to the Father, to hear His words to me, His comfort, His power to vanquish the little foxes.

“You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly”
(9a).

I am not alone, Father. You care for me, your creation, sending me living water, The Holy Spirit, to grow me more than I think I am, that I am not what the little foxes taunt; I am precious to you, valuable to you, like land that overflows abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(9b).

You provide nourishment for my spirit, The Word and The Holy Spirit, enabling me to fight off spirit colds, weaknesses and tormenting situations that wear me out like the dusty, hotness of a relentless summer day. Empower my will to seek Your Holy Spirit Provision; let it not be the little foxes nipping and tearing at me that send me running to you. I want to be stronger than that, more faithful than that.

“You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops” (Psalm 65: 9-10).

Holy Spirit, rain on me, filling the hidden places, the high and lows of my soul, softening the soil of my spirit, allowing the gifts my Father planted before I was born to grow, producing abundant fruit, and sharing the seed of that fruit with others – and if that fruit is not taken as given, let it not become a wily fox to my vine.

Let the rain come. Let it come softly or in a downpour – and let me be like an eager child who runs outside, mouth wide open, to receive the living water, a Holy Spirit Rain.

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” (St. Augustine).

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(I feel like telling a story again. If you haven’t heard it, grab a cup of just-right coffee, sit a spell and read a bit).

When Hope Grace was born, great expectations were cast forth, hearts leaping in expectation. Much was expected of Hope.

Her sister Faith Grace took to teaching her the facts of their Father and his Kingdom, and her other sister Charity Grace taught her about love.

You could find them in the cottage’s orchard: Hope looking to the goodness of God, grew strong, standing on the shoulders of her sister Faith, hands reaching to grasp hold of her other sister, Charity dangling upside down in the fruit tree.

These 3 Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity were born powerful, beautiful, full of potential, and were never seen one without the other.  They set about their Father’s business, ministering to their people. Their community welcomed them, knew them well, some more intimately than others.

Together, they cared for people who faced big and little challenges. No person was too insignificant, no problem too little for their ministering hands and feet. One reason was because of their Father who provided unlimited resources. The people knew their Father, the King, through the Graces.

But as the days grew in number, and as Faith, Hope and Charity went out into the world, the world snapped and snarled at them, wearing away at them, trying to diminish them, to topple them.

Hope wobbled, on the shoulders of Faith, threatening to let go of Charity.

Year after Year, the community who had relied on the 3 Graces, started taking them for granted, stopped visiting with them, refused welcome in their homes. Some no longer believed in the Father because they couldn’t see Him.

Where Faith had strengthened them with the promises of their Father through hard times, people now wanted evidence. They no longer wanted to believe without seeing first. The words of the Father held nothing for them, and so Faith faded.

As their belief in the Faith waned, so, too, did their Hope wane.

Hope’s belief in the provision and protection of her Father during life’s challenges was discredited by some people who said things like, “I hope the water comes for the green beans, the potatoes and the wheat, but I don’t believe it” they’d say in a hope-isn’t-really-real way, scoffing.

Some would say, “I’d like to hope his fever will break and all will be well – but, well, that isn’t how I believe.”

Sometimes, they would slander Hope saying, “Hope? If you believe in fairies – but that isn’t real life – they have no Father that can help me.”

And, in many hearts, Hope was cast out.

Without Faith and Hope, the spontaneous goodness of Charity’s unconditional love and kindness was no longer trusted – and they stopped inviting her into their homes, tried to put a price on her, to sell her.

Though many cast aside Faith, Hope and Charity – the 3 Graces did not leave them or abandon them.

They continually returned, calling to the people in the streets, knocking on doors, whispering on the night winds.

Faith would call out, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

For you see, Faith, Hope and Charity are “not frail and perishable” but live “perennially” (O.E.D., 1 Peter 1:3). Rejection is just a starting place.

Charity’s heart so loved the world, that she could not give up pursuing The Father’s people.

Ever steadfast and determined, many invited them back into the cottage of their hearts, sat with them to know them. Faith taught truth about the Father and what He wanted to do in their lives. Hope focused their minds and hearts on the goodness of God, and Charity showed God’s abundant love and the need to share that love with others.

When the rains didn’t come, or sickness fell, or financial famine came, Faith said, “The Father will take care of you. He said so” reminding them with His words:

 ”The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(Psalm 65: 9b).

And Hope showed them how to trust, to wait with hearts leaping in expectation:

“May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope” (Romans 15: 13)

Charity loved them with the Father’s love, showing them how to love during challenges:

“Love[Charity] never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up” (1 Cor. 13:7)

If you look closely into the garden of a neighbor’s cottage, you might just see the 3 Graces: Hope standing on the shoulders of Faith, hands reaching up to grasp Charity’s bounty and pass it down.

Maybe you have discredited Hope, Faith and Charity. Said you don’t believe them about their Father. Maybe you need a heart-to-heart with the 3 Graces. Invite them into the cottage of your heart to live perennially.

Maybe they are already in the cottage garden of your heart, Hope standing on the shoulders of walking Faith. Hope encouraging your Faith to keep on walking, keep on standing, to not give up, Faith keeping hope grounded in truth, while hope reachings toward a comforting, God filled with His kind of loving Charity.

I Believe
I trust
My heart leaps in expectation
of His Great love

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I drive my boys nuts telling them stories they’ve heard and heard – and I thought, well, I want to tell this story again. I want somebody to hear it – because it meant so much to me to live it. That’s what friends do! Right? Listen to the same story over and over because they know their friend needed to tell it, needed to be reminded. Wrapping you in a big, heart-felt thank you for listening (reading) it again – if you’ve heard (read) it before.

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Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”
(Luke 22:42)

Jesus let go . . . to do His Father’s work

He let go so that the Father, whose arms were open wide, could wrap them around more of His children.

Jesus opened his arms wide on the cross, to suffer a mother’s terrifying, heart-wrenching nightmare, so a world of me’s could find their way into the wide open embrace of His father.

Jesus let go . . . for me

“Love your neighbor as I have loved you,” (John 13:34)

Loving our neighbors somehow seems a little distant. Maybe because neighbors today do not know your mama, your granddaddy, your great-aunt Ruby. There’s no history, no connection . . . no real-time cause to create a love effect.

. . . but it’s a choice – this loving. Chose to live it this way; Love people like you love your children: fiercely, uncompromisingly, self-sacrificingly.

I hold my children, encircled in the love of my heart, wrapping that love around them like hugging arms. Yeah, sometimes that love might feel like a vice-grip to them. Maybe I’ll learn to love more gently, but I need to love them the best I can – and in the loving of them, I need to stretch this heart, to let others inside, wrapping that love around them like God does, like Jesus did, arms wide open, ready, waiting.

Letting go means loving more, like being broken in Him makes us whole.

Are you ready, willing to give that father love or mother love, or even daughter/son love to those outside your home, both those easy and uneasy to love?

5 sons. 1 daughter-in-law. 1 husband. 1 scardy cat. That makes 8 different ways for me to communicate. 8 different schedules. 8 different moods. 8 different needs. 8 different responses.  There are 5 love languages that need mastering and 7 Spiritual Gifts to interpret.

Prayer for 8. Dinner for 6. Clean socks for 5.

I can get absorbed in my family. In my reactions to my family. Into the mysteries of my family. My. My. My. My.

 “If anyone would come after me, they must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24)

Yes, sometimes, I need to let go of my to embrace His . . .His children, His love, His spirit, His word, His Fatherness, His schedule.

Letting Go of my to be His laborer

Today, in the grocery store with my cart  filled with Mama Rosa’s cheese pizzas for my littlest guy, I hummed, focused on feeding the my’s in my life. Shrieking noises wafted over the aisles. My cart and I continued on. High-pitched squeals moved closer, not happy squeals – out-of-control squeals. Chicken to make soup for my biggest teen. Futile mother shouts encroached. Salsa for my Joyful one, mechanical pencils for my fire-and-power son. Running feet closed in, noise moving  passionately invading my reverie. Pelegrino for my thirst.

As I was just reaching for enchilada sauce, a little boy appeared with the shrieking voice. You know the kind of sound – the sound a little 4 year old makes when he thinks he is playing a game of tag and keeps slipping from your touch, evading. At least, I think he was 4.

Racing down the aisle, weaving between customers, he stopped in front of  my cart. Grabbing hold, he stepped to stand on the end, just like my boys did when they were little, wanting to ride. But he was not my boy.

I could just see the headlines, “Boy flips cart, critically injured.” Or maybe, “Woman accused of imminent child-theft” all because he was suddenly wanting to ride my cart.

Treading carefully – because he wasn’t mine to scold, I told him he needed to step off the cart. He did. I kept looking for his mother, expecting her to call him. Nothing. In a quandary, I calmly pushed the cart forward.  He decided to go with me like he was my boy.

“You need to go back to your mom. You shouldn’t be here with me,” I suggested.

“Do you think I’m going to hell?” he asked, making eye contact, stopped still in front of me.

My world stopped. Letting Go of my concerns, I looked at him squarely in the eye. Wanting to say so much, wanting to say it so right, but only having grocery-store aisle time. I finally said, looking back at him straight in the eye, “You can go to heaven if you want to.”

“Can I go home with you?” he asked. If my spirit had arms, which in this case, I think it did, well those spirit arms pulled him into my heart, into the circle of my family. Prayer for 9 now. Still 5 pairs of socks for matching, but prayer for 9.

That little boy, standing in front of my cart, in sudden stillness, revealed his brokenness, revealed a cry to be made whole – at little years old.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me,
and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19: 13-14)

His mother and grandmother came around the corner then. He took off, lots of noise, lots of energy followed by lots of parental hollering.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)

Letting go of my thoughts, my reverie, my concerns, my challenges. I prayed. That God would send laborers across this little boy’s path. That his eyes would be opened to the truth – that he is a child of God. That heaven is his for the asking. That angels would encamp about him and protect him. That healthy boundaries would be set for him. No matter how much little boys balk at having healthy boundaries set, they cry out for someone to love them enough to set them.

Letting go of my

To wrap God’s love around His

All because Jesus let go first for me.

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My second granddaughter was born early last week. It’s a time of celebration in our family. I wrote this prayer when her sister was born, this prayer for my granddaughter. I’m praying it – with much rejoicing and cheering again. For Ava and Norah:  “A Seed Bag, Water Bucket and Harvest Basket” was written for my granddaughter to share at a Blessing Shower. I wanted to share it with you in celebration.
Open your heart and hear
Sweet little girl
The voice of the Father
calling to
the Harvest Field
far and near.

Gather you
your water bucket,
seed bags
and harvest basket
gather and carry them
to the field,
Ripe
for harvest,

Little feet walking between
the furrows
Toes digging in,
breaking through the soul
With a laborer’s prayers

Little hands growing,
Working in opened-handed sowing,
releasing
Faith,
Hope,
and Love
seeds


Pouring out God’s
Holy Spirit Water
Sometimes awkward, sometimes grace-filled
sometimes rushing like a river
othertimes like the slow drip off a leaf
your water bucket pouring God
into thirsty seeds

Little feet at home in the field
Sometimes falling
But lifted up
By labor-field companions.
Little girl,
Raise your voice, growing praise
Singing, praying, encouraging
Bringing down a Holy Spirit Rain
To Miracle Grow the Harvest

Fill the Father’s baskets
Fill them to over-flowing
Neglect not a seed planted,
A vine reaching, a soul crying
To be gathered into the Harvest basket.

Little girl
With a bare, open-handed spirit,
Praising a Loving God
Calling your brothers and sisters
To the Harvest Field

Don’t forget to
Sit in the shade
Drinking your fill of living water
Finding refreshment, peace and contentment
At the feet of the Father who
created you,
Fitted you
For carrying your water bucket, seed bag and harvest basket.

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barndoors_edited-1The other day, I did a radio interview for my new book release. It was my second radio interview, but I still had little confidence in my ability to sound coherent.  The only confidence I carried into that booth with me was that I could survive the 10 minute span. It’s the same technique I used to get through 5 labor and deliveries – thinking that in 24 hours it would be over.

Friends and family were so encouraging. When I told them I was shaking in my shoes, one said, “I can’t imagine you being nervous about anything.”

When I first started teaching college students, I wasn’t much older than they were. I had mutiny nightmares for weeks. However, I walked into that classroom acting like I knew what I was doing. Eventually, I did.

Motherhood was like that. I had to persuade a newborn, a 3 month old, a 5-year-old, a pre-teen – eventually a teen that I knew what I was doing. Sadly, once they went to college, I think they saw through me.

Confidence in me? Not an ounce for what I can do – but I am Fearlessly Confident.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with the quality of my scones, lemon-curd or chocolate-ganache filled cupcakes or the quality of the photographs I take or words written or stories I tell.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with commas, semi-colons, colons, verb tenses, vocabulary or grammar rules, writing structures or transitions.

There’s no Fearless Confidence in how I mother these 5 sons.

Fearless Confidence has nothing to do with sock matching, laundry folding or delivery to the right boy’s room.

Fearless Confidence doesn’t mean I respond to driver’s in the on-coming lane crossing the yellow line any better.

It doesn’t mean I think you’ll love my children’s books, that I always shepherd correctly – or even always love rightly.

Offers to help can turn out all wrong – so no Fearless Confidence there, either.

I can try to share grace-filled words that are heard/received with the opposite intent.

Fearless confidence has nothing to do with how I do anything.

It has everything to do with whose I am.

Through the Fall, up through December, my husband had been encouraging me to show the world the same fearless confidence I show him, my boys or my community.

“Talk to ‘em like you do me,” he’d say.

“But the world isn’t you,” I’d respond. “There’s no place for that kind of confidence there.”

It can be a restricting thing when the “world” says, “Leave who you are at home.”

barnstairs_edited-1Being boxed up can cause self-atrophy of who we are God-designed to be.

Atrophy:

  1. gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to under-use or neglect
  2. (of body tissue or an organ) waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.

Sometimes, the world we walk in is uncomfortable with Fearless Confidence. In the uncomfortableness of Fearless Confidence we hide it, only taking who we are out – every once in a while, in the safe places.

It is not how we were designed to live our God-designed journey. Even if we are believing it inside – in our hearts and minds – we are designed to be who we are  outside, too – on the sidewalks, highways and hallways of this life we walk. If we don’t, who we are designed to be weakens, shrivels up, unable to stretch fully into God’s design.

One day, between Christmas and New Years, I happened upon Elizabeth’s blog, Just following Jesus, about her one word of the year-endurance (she does a beautiful job showing the grace, beauty and faith of endurance – stop by and read her post).

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

My soul caught on, not just the words Fearless Confidence – but the admonishment to not fling it away. Fearless Confidence caught like mohair yarn snagged on barn-door wood – it caught at me and wouldn’t let me be.

“That’s your words for the year,” the one who created me whispered quiet.

“Oh, no – not that word – not Fearless Confidence – the world – it doesn’t want that,” I told Him. The world can be mean-spirited when it doesn’t want things. A self-atrophied spirit can fight for others, but rarely feels up for a fight for self.

“This is  going to be hard. It will be really – really uncomfortable,” my heart whispered right back.

. . . . and for a few days, we both just let it sit between us. God knows that sometimes I need time to turn things over. He had faith in me that I’d come around – and come around faster than I used to.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned about God, His directives and His timing – is that when He tells me something – it doesn’t mean I was supposed to have had it done yesterday – that I’m somehow late because I should have known and then I trip all over myself in graceless haste because I believe I’m already behind.

I’ve learned that when He tells me I’m to do something, He prepares me for it, has created a time frame for it to not just get it done but time to also ready for it – and that time frame is before me. I am not late because He is not late.

. . . . and for a few days, the words Fearless Confidence sat between us. He knew I would need time to absorb . . . time for me to take a deep breath . . . .and step into this new year where together He would teach me how to walk, talk and be Fearlessly Confident in a world that wanted none of it.

Fearless Confidence? “Oh, they just think too much of themselves,” some people say.

“They just think they’re better than anybody else.”

Someone else’s Fearless Confidence can be intimidating.

Eleanor Roosevelt, in This is My Story, said, ““No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

But they can try. . .

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages,” said Virginia Woolf.

. . . . thus encouraging us to walk into their cages and lock ourselves up.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” Henry David Thoreau admonished. “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

I have no fearless confidence in the life I imagined – but I do have fearless confidence in the life He designed for me, the dreams He’s placed in me, and the journey He’s given me – because He’s given them. My dreams are just shadows to God’s plans.

barnbudc_edited-1I can have fearless confidence in who I am through Him because He tells me so:

He tells me that He designed me, put all these dreams and things in me, planned every day of my life. I am not who I am by whimsical happenstance. I am who I am because I am God-designed, God-loved. In that, I have fearless confidence.

My stories and words may not be welcomed by everyone – but they are welcomed by those who were designed to receive them.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)

Does this Fearless Confidence mean I’m soul-cleaner, holier, smarter, more worthy of going up to God – ’cause He’s the big cheese, you know – and, well, I hear He hangs with Mother Teresa, Peter, James and John?

No – it just means that I know that He’s my dad – and, he manages to make all of us feel like his favorites. Because He’s my Dad, I know I’m always welcome – even when I get myself into those messes I manage to contrive. He doesn’t tell me to come back when I’m cleaned up.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

God doesn’t create an inner-circle that leaves any of His children out. He makes room at His table for all of us. He always has time for me and you – even when He’s in the middle of something big. . . . even when He’s talking to someone the world thinks is more important than everyday ordinary men and women like you and me.

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6).

The Fearless Confidence in Hebrews 10: 35 – is about fearless confidence in who I am to the great I Am, to Shaddai, to Jehovah-Raah – the Lord is my Shepherd, to Jehovah Rapha – the Lord my healer, to Jehovah Jireh – my provider, to Jehovah Shalom – my peace, to not just carry the banner of Jehovah-Nissi – but to walk with fearless confidence under His banner.

He designed my days before I was born – he is not surprised when I find myself in the middle of a self-designed mess.

He knit me together inside and out – gave me spiritual gifts, love languages – and a skill set designed just for me.

He sent His son to die on the cross, so that I could be called His child, His daughter – a daughter of the King – who can run into His throne room, fling myself into His arms and laugh with joy or cry for mercy – or even just talk.

He loves me beautiful – even when I don’t feel it. He designed each of us to be loved beautiful.

So when I walk into a library and ask if I can come read my books, I’m fearlessly confident – not that they will say, “Yes” – but fearlessly confident I am His beloved daughter.

When I’m invited to read to a classroom of students, I am His beloved daughter. That morning on the radio, I really just had to show up and be who He designed me to be right then and there – not who I am going to be in 10 years or 19 days.

Even after 32 years of marriage, and, yes, fearless confidence in the love my husband has for me and the love I have for him, I don’t have confidence that I do marriage perfect – but I have Fearless Confidence that God and His love works it beautiful right.

No matter who I work for, whether it’s inside the family or outside the family – I am His beloved daughter.

I am not confident in my mothering skills, but I am Fearless Confidence that God has the saving plan – for me, my husband, my boys, my daughter-in-law and DIL-to-be, my granddaughter – and one coming soon.

It has taken me awhile to work through this word – to walk in the world with this Fearless Confidence, to not just live it in the safe places. Let me tell you, it changed everything. It redeemed the challenges. God moved in ways that just had me standing still on the sidelines, watching God move. All I could say was, “Well-played, God! Well-played!”

“Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).

Be still in the Fearless Confidence of who God is and who you are to God! If you don’t know, don’t feel it – who you are to God, ask Him to show you, to help you understand – and He will. Those dreams you have? He knows all about them and wants to help you with them.

He wants you to be Fearlessly Confident that you are His, designed-beautiful, designed for joy, designed for good things.

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away, and enjoy to the full, what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

( I realize that my Word for the Year is really 2 words – but that’s what He gave me. My word doesn’t always start in January – usually, just when He gives it to me. It’s like enrolling in a class for whatever duration He designs it to be where we study. My last word was Shalom)

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salt2c_edited-2
I’ve been filling the salt shakers
– pepper shakers, too.
Wiping off finger prints
and dusty build-up,
Crazy Gluing bunny ears,
digging into cabinets
match-making pairs
lost to each other,
finding peace that one snow-woman shaker
found in a what-not box
given when my mother moved to warmth
and wholeness
cannot be reunited with her pepper
snow man

I’ve been filling salt shakers
after the tearing
of growing where I was planted
for a season in uncomfortable
soil
because He called me to it
to be planted there
until right timing
His big and little hands of timing
pull the roots of myself loose
shake out the soil
and carrying me
to a new place where
I am to grow where He plants me.

As He pulls me,
shakes me,
moves me
to a different way to live
the daily
I’ve been left wordless
silent
awed by His faithfulness
His plan
His protection
in this journey
to this place where
filling salt shakers
is so much more than
filling salt shakers

Salt: seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. Salt symbolizes permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.

“a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecc 3:7)

Store after the poem coming up. Be patient with me. I’m not used to silence. When my 5th son was born, the anesthetist, after the planned C-Section, said if I was in distress to let him know and he would, “take me out.” A few minutes after my son was born, I became quieter and quieter. My husband told the anesthetist, “She must be in distress. She’s not talking.”

I think I’ve been living a situation where God was definitely in the driver’s seat. It was a harrowing time, a heart-bruising time. I held on to Him, kept focused on Him. I still don’t have a lot of words. It’s a time for mending, a time for silence – but there will be a time when the words come – and I cannot wait. Right now, I’m going to immerse myself in this time of silence, in doing things like filling salt shakers, crazy gluing broken things, baking chocolate chip cookies and finding the carpet beneath the laundry, shoes and backpacks, walking Sadie – and, one day soon, following an idea down a rabbit hole to its conclusion.

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This winter's Narcissus Paperwhites - which bloomed right before Christmas!

This winter’s Narcissus Paperwhites – which bloomed right before Christmas!

I sauteed chicken in butter, a bit of oil, minced garlic cloves, summer savory, and the juice of a lemon tonight – and served it over a bowl of spaghetti, sprinkled with Romano cheese. I made it up as I went along. The boys, those left at home, raced for refills – not against each other, but their stomachs.

It was the best I’d made, they’d said.

They each wanted more – and I made sure there was more than enough. I’ve missed being able to cook like that, to create simple dishes that grow smiles. Not in a Martha-kind of way, but a Mary-kind of way.

The Christmas holiday was a flu-filled holiday, from beginning to end. Despite the Tamiflu, it caught me Christmas Eve – 101+ degree fever. The married son, his expectant wife and my granddaughter took a rain check for Muffaletta Christmas Eve. At Mid-night, my husband and I finished setting out the gifts and filling the stockings – and he prayed for me, prayed healing for me. There’s blessing in that – the prayer of a husband for his wife.

I grabbed hold of that prayer, the promise of Christmas Eve of a Savior born in a manger, come to save us and heal us.

“I believe. I believe. I believe,” I prayed all night long.

Christmas morning, I woke, feeling energetic, strong – and able to fix my grandmother’s Christmas Breakfast Casserole for my youngest. It’s his very favorite – so much his very favorite that all he wanted for his birthday was Christmas Breakfast.

Christmas Dinner was the Muffaletta’s we were supposed to have Christmas Eve.

It was unlike any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. That evening, my temperature went back up.

The entire holiday was like that – fevers, flu, tiredness, like mis-matched pieces to a puzzle. The unexpected Christmas gift was not so much the flu. It was change.

I felt it all around, change, like a seed before it emerges through the soil, into the brave, above-ground world, the faith of that seed to trust it’s creator that it is prepared for what is on the other side of the dark divide.

. . . a seed before it emerges . . .

. . . . that’s where I am, right now . . .

Life is full of those kinds of moments – of change emerging, both big and little, both event and daily.

Right now, it’s as though I’m at an empasse in an everyday Martha-Living with an opportunity to emerge into another way of living, an everyday Mary-Living.

“The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her”(Luke 10: 41-42).

I wonder how Martha felt? Was it too much of a change, to give up works for grace? To trust that everything would take care of itself in the right time, without “fussing far too much and getting worked up over nothing”? – that brushed with grace, Muffalettas for Christmas Dinner instead of the traditional huge spread fulfill heart-needs?

When God is in the change,
more than enough results.
When God orchestrates the change,
works are exchanged for grace
like a seed before the moment of an emerge
. . . . a change offered for grace . . .
still in the darkness,
holding out hope and faith hands
for Him to pull me through right!

(Last year’s Narcissus Paperwhites never emerged to bloom. This year, all tree of them bloomed. I took it as a letter of encouragement from a loving Father!)

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This is the Story Behind the Poem “Lead Me to the Water,” my previous post.

wowcreek3c

“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”
They said, “We have not.”
(Acts 19:2)

I know the Father. I know the Son – but the Holy Spirit for a long time was the elephant in the room. You know what that is – the elephant in the room nobody talks about, ignores, avoids, doesn’t make eye contact, pretends it’s not there but everyone knows it’s there. Except nobody quite knows what to do with it, how to approach it.

I used the excuse that it was something for extra special people like David, Saul, Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus – but not for regular, everyday Christian’s like me.

I describe the Holy Spirit in The Power of One as “often the wedding gift most often left unopened. When it is opened, it is a gift no one ever quite knows how to use, so it is shoved to the back of a closet.”

An elephant now shoved in the back of the closet.

“What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” John 6: 62-63 (The Message)

I used to be like that with the Holy Spirit. I was a resister.

My pride was part of the problem with this elephant-in-the-room Holy Spirit. Kind of like when someone says, “You know, don’t you?” – and your cheeks flame red because you really don’t know so you just say you do.

Or maybe because your church didn’t really talk about it. I reasoned if my church didn’t teach me about it, then surely there was not more to it – for me at least.

I fell into a trap on that one. Relying on someone else to feed me scripture and knowledge of the trinity.

You know why public schools were created? So that every citizen could read their bible, so that no one would ever be able to take away their salvation by omission of knowledge. Being able to read the bible gave every citizen control over the destiny of their soul.

I was ignorant (not stupid, just un-educated) about the Holy Spirit – so I ignored him. Ignorance does that about things.

That elephant in the room that is the Holy Spirit? It goes everywhere with you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall
and your right hand shall hold me”
(Psalm 139: 7-10)

Ignorance doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit from trying to get your attention, though. One day, I started going to a church that taught about the Holy Spirit.

That first Sunday, I experienced fight or flight during praise and worship, an out-loud type of praise and worship. Someone told me later, “When you’re in the presence of the Holy Spirit and you don’t know what it is – you can feel that way.”

After praise and worship I sat down. I didn’t leave because there were people on both sides of me, closing off any graceful means of escape. Sitting there, searching for a way out, oh, the sweetest thing happened. Something whispered in my spirit, ‘I am so glad you came. I have been waiting for you” – and peace infused me.

A few weeks later, I brought the whole family (back when we only had 3 sons – LOL).

This is where God took my hand to
“lead me through the water,
through the water ankle-deep” (Lead me to the Water).

This church taught about the Holy Spirit. It was not an elephant in the room. They encouraged reading about it – not just taking their word for it.

I will admit – I was scared to jump into that Holy Spirit river that I saw people dancing in, speaking in tongues in, living challenges – living 24/7 in that Holy Spirit River – but something in my marrow wanted me to jump.

I read about it, cracked open the door of my mind, but not wanting to be gullible. Until one day, I got a call from my brother. Our dad was in a nursing home – 56 years old and dying. I hadn’t seen him for over a decade. He had never seen my sons. We were expecting a little girl then.

God, my Father, “he took my hand to lead me
Lead me through the water
Through the knee-deep water” (Lead Me to the Water).

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives” (Galatians 5:25).

I pulled the Holy Spirit out of the back of that closet, let the spirit lead me through the nursing home hallways, into his room. I prayed that God would give me the right words, that maybe he would be saved, that there would be restoration and relationship.

The Holy Spirit surrounded me, protected me, comforted me – during the few weeks I visited with this man, my father, who was more interested in what take-out food I could bring him than in me.

The week he died, so did the little girl I was carrying, at 4 ½ months, her heart stopped beating the same day as his funeral. My heart broke in so many pieces, in so many ways.

I’ll be honest here. A tough honest. I didn’t believe I could be whole – but a daughter, well, maybe she would be whole, not broken through a father’s abandonment – and I wanted a front row seat on that.

But, God, He took my hand and he whispered, “I want you whole – you don’t need a front row seat on anybody’s life to do that.”

And once again,
“He led me
Led me through the water,
Through the waist deep water” (Lead Me to the Water)

I grabbed on tight, wanting Father God to be enough, to fill that huge gaping hole of growing up without a father. I grabbed on tight, knowing my little girl was in heaven. There was a lot of holding on tight there – believing in things I didn’t see but still feeling hurt, empty, abandoned.

Until one night in a Sunday School group, we talked about the Holy Spirit. Someone said, ‘If God has more for me, I want it.”

If God has more for me, I want it.”

Let me say that again, “If God has more for me, I want it.”

It tore down the last vestiges of my resistance.

I took His hand
For Him to lead me
Lead me
to immerse myself
in the river
in the over-my-head river water (Lead Me to the Water)

I dove in from the top of my soul to the very tips of its toes. When I dove in, healing began.

The Holy Spirit nursed me to wholeness, sat beside me the entire time, held my hand and coached me, told me not to feel sorry for myself, reminded me who I was to the Father.

The Holy Spirit – it’s not just for special Christians. It’s for everyday Christians like you and me.

The Holy Spirit is no longer the elephant in the room of my life. Ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep – until I was ready to go all out – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit led me there. God knew it was a journey – a journey there for each of us. I am so glad He loved me enough to lead me to the Holy Spirit water!

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught” (John 14: 26-27)


355) White trimmed in blue irises, yellow trimmed in purple irises, stark white irisis from my aunt’s flower beds
356) Yellow evening primroses that close up in the late afternoon, also from my aunt’s yard
357) Bergament, mint and a rain tree from a cousin
358) Coming home, planting them – some deep, some shallow  and seeing perennial thoughts, from my grandmother (spider’s knot), lilies, from drive and dig outings with a friend on roadsides before the county mowed them over, and these plantings from a cousin and aunt.
359) Cardinals outside my window, stepping about for a spell in the evening, long enough for me to take pictures.
360) My little guy and I making Normandy Pies for a relay for life bake sale. Listening to him do the math to double the recipe. Whoever bought it, bought something filled not only with tasty things but stirred and cared for with joy.
361) Bed-time Q&As that never cease to warm my heart.
362) Cool weather for blanket wrapping – aren’t there days when the inside just yearns to be wrapped in a blanket but it’s too warm on the outside for that kind of comfort?
363) Schedules that work themselves out.
364) Smiles, seeing each of my sons smile, calm, relaxed able to let that joy slip out.
365) A mango, tangerine carrot smoothie over lunch with my daughter-law and grandbaby girl.
366) God quick-stitching the daily wear and tear on my spirit for quick healing
367) Standing on the soccer sidelines with other moms and friendship growing.
368) Soccer season winding down. I am always so excited when it begins and so excited when it ends!
369) A son growing into his legs, all 29-34 (blue jean size – LOL) inches of him, able to out-run anyone – reaching bloom time at just the right time!
370) The sweet aroma of grace-filled confidence when bloom-time happens.
371) My husband and boys working at the Family Plant Sale, Relay for life – helping the family raise money for cancer, so they and their children won’t have to face it (half the boys were there; half were here for school soccer tournaments)
372) My husband coming home after being away a week at his hometown, working on the Relay for Life Plant sale.
373) Sweet potato vines, purple trimmed in green flowers, blue and yellow flowers, Martha Washington geraniums – all for my pots.
374) Tortillini soup made on Sunday for Monday.
375) Blueberries picked in July for blueberry crunch in April.
376) The sound of children laughing in our neighborhood
377) Water balloon fights
378) Watching the littlest throw a water balloon corsage at his 6 ft. 3 brother, and then take off running.
379) Watching those legs on that 6 ft 3 in brother chase down his littlest brother with the left-over water balloon corsage.
380) Watching both of them laugh over it all.
381) Believing that all things work for good to those who love him (Romans 8:28)

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tea1_edited-1
. . . . because sometimes I don’t want
to explain when its inevitable words won’t . . .

because sometimes only ice cream will do
or I let me mind fall into a cool soft pillow just because. . .

because sometimes I need to give. . .
a hug

or maybe because someone needs one and they don’t realize. . . .

fresh chocolate mint leaves in a cup of morning sweet orange spice
because it changes the sensory of my surroundings

because a decision was the right decision in that moment

some dreams won’t let go not matter how hard I try
because they were woven into the very fiber of my soul

and now I have a pair of brown eyes and four paws
who just wants the furrow above her eyes scratched
because a bunch of boys gave me a lot of becauses that
went straight to my heart . . .

because he still says he’ll love me forever, he’ll love me for always

because some moments feel like tears for no apparent reason
and another bursts into graceless feet doing the happy dance

because Grandma Moses said, “Life is what you make it,
always has been,
always will be”

because love, faith and hope won’t allow me to give up

because two of my boys were story-bearers during a discussion at school
of how I had their daddy’s and my wedding band melted together for me to wear
because he worked with equipment and liked having 10 fingers
and I like wearing his ring
and they thought it was cool

and pink, yellow and orange zinnias are
beautiful and resilient

because sometimes it’s something just between me
and that still small voice

“And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice” (1Kings 19:12)

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There are moments when my husband dazzles me, moments when the sun just dog-gone shines brighter because he walked in the room. When I feel slimed by the world, it all washes away with one word, one smile from him.  It’s as though someone sprinkled me with. . . pixie dust.

“All the world [marriage] needs is faith and trust. . . and a little pixie dust” (Peter Pan)

An enchanted marriage? Where there is more to our marriage then two people? More than the strength in our 2 pairs of hands, 2 pairs of feet. Where my guy doesn’t ride a horse – and I don’t have hair as long or as sturdy as a rope ladder – but we survive the challenges that threaten us, yet still retain that dazzle, that enchantment, that love. Retain it despite life’s roughness, imperfection, graceless moments, conflict and self.

I’ve always heard about marriage turning two into one – at every single wedding: “Did he not make them one” (Malachi 2:15).

Yeah – there’s a heap of him and an armful of me (Granny’s measurements) – but it is a secret ingredient that mixes us into one, breaks down the individual ingredients for marriage one-ness – one-ness God’s way. We are a mixture with many things dissolved between us: sweetness, saltiness, spice.  According to Chem4Kids some mixtures are better combined “than any of the metals would be alone.”

But nobody every told me about the other ingredient, the secret ingredient, the more-than-pixie dust ingredient, the not-talked-about part of this transformation into one. I never heard the second part of Malachi 2:15:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:15)

The Father gives an amazing wedding gift: A portion of the Holy Spirit. The same powerful gift He gave on the day of Pentecost, the gift that enabled Peter the courage to never deny Christ again, the power to overcome adversity, for love to grow big enough that to lay down one’s life for another, faithfulness that never turned away, wisdom to say the right word at the right time, insight to love completely and unconditionally, grace for forgiveness.

I love how The Message translation says Malachi 2:15:  His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage.”

“The smallest details of marriage” – How small can you think? As small as a tear drop? As small as the penny in the bottom of your purse when that’s all you have?  As small as the alone-time with your husband when everybody’s need is so big?  As small as the letting out of the cat at 4 a.m.? As small as the lining of your kitchen drawers? Or the sliver of soap in the shower? As small as the energy left at the end of the day? As small as your confidence in the face of a mighty challenge? As small as your affection in a moment of big anger?

Sadly, this is often the wedding gift most often left unopened. When it is opened, it is a gift no one ever quite knows how to use, so it is shoved to the back of a closet.

It is a gift most successfull when used by both  husband and the wife –  in equal measure. Like cooking, familiarity, skill increases with use. Like spices, the more you use them, the more you understand just how powerful each is. The Holy Spirit is to marriage what yeast is to flour. It enables your relationship to be more than it was. It is the ingredient that dissolves two into one with the strength to maintain that mixture of oneness.

It is a gift that requires interaction. It won’t act until activated – until you mix it into your relationship through prayer, through asking. The Holy Spirit is like a spice in your cupboard. You might have it, but it cannot do anything until you pull it out and mix it in.

It is a gift that requires belief. When both believe  “the Holy Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage.”  The power of 2 married believers (Matt. 18:20) + the Holy Spirit = a blessed marriage.

I tell my sons to pray, ask God to show you the girl He made for you, to pray about it – and to both have God in your marriage. If the Trinity is in it, you can face and overcome anything, your oneness intact.

That special something in your marriage? Not a sprinkle of Pixie Dust. Not that old black magic. Just a powerful portion of the Holy Spirit.  Pull it out of the pantry of your soul and use today! Embrace the Power of One.

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sparklewater2

Challenges come that pierce the marrow of the bones of me. The vitality, the strength of myself seeps out. Like one losing too much blood, I find myself dazed, confused, wounded. For a moment, or is it  hours, I turn in circles, spending myself – until I call His name and He is there, Jehovah Shammah:

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out”

Like the shells broken in the surf, He knows all the pieces of me to put me back together. I am awed that He reaches from the sky to the sea to pull me out. Out of all those shell pieces – only He knows the pattern of who I am, how I am designed to be. There are no missing pieces of me that He cannot find. Yes – He pulls me out

“Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,”

On our recent trip to the beach, my husband and I enjoyed a few hours each day bobbing around in the ocean, each with our own inner tubes. It all seemed so delightful until a wave crashed me and my nose into tubes_edited-3my husband’s brawny arm, resulting in a nose bleed, sore nose, lost glasses – and a lot of wobbly. My foot landed on my glasses only for the next wave to haul me up and forward – and pull the shades out right from under me.  It took me about 30 minutes to rally back – and tease my husband about popping me in the nose.

There are days that feel just like that – beat up and missing something- but instead of ocean waves and my husband’s brawny arm, it’s when nobody seems to like you. Those days when my boys don’t like me, when the driver behind me is impatient, when hospitality isn’t extended but hurt is, when everything just seems to go wrong. It’s like Chaos showed up on my day-step, like unplanned waves, show up, , shoving, crashing, stirring the pot. Chaos is like an uninvited guest who turns everything upside down,  instigating shenanigans designed to beat-up your heart.

God reaches down into the ocean of all that, tosses chaos out – and in the midst of the broken shell I am, He is right there, helping me find all the pieces of myself

“but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”
(2 Samuel 22: 17-20)

He sticks by me, stands me up, dusts me off, on a wide-open field. A wide open field – a place of nurturing goodness given. Yes – I am still surprised to be loved like that! It’s in those drowning moments where the evidence of His love never fails to surprise me – not in a faithless way but in a whispered wow kind-of-way.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk each day this week, wowed to my soul toes as I face these challenges, my heart wide-open to His possibilities.

lillies

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gespachocc13Saturday, I jumped in my canoe and paddled to my garden for dill. The day before, during a lull in the rain, I’d spotted my youngest one, sitting on the raised garden edges, slipping his hand into the tomatoes, chard and peppers to pinch off a few leaves of chocolate-mint and stuff it between his cheek and gum.

On Saturday’s in the summer, I make my Life-Gets-Sweeter Every Day Gazpacho – and so I’d come for dill.

The first thing I ever cooked was a prune cake in the 7th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I knew how to make Divinity, a meringue cookie, cakes, dips – and cucumber’s with vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
½ cup sour cream,
salt and pepper to taste

It was a beginning this learning how to make life a bit nicer, sweeter

cucumbers

Another day, a few years later, all starry-eyed and in love with my new husband,  cucumbers nestled on a plate next to summertime tomatoes. Separate – but so close. Sometimes they both found themselves on the same fork – at the same time. Oh my! Summer Delicious!

Life’s sweetness didn’t just stop growing there. A few more years, time enough for a little boy to grow up and say, “I Do” to his sweet heart, a subtle step was taken in my life, not a leap, just a step when tomatoes fell into the cucumbers, all in a single container in order to take a bit of outside summer with me to lunch when I’d started part-time job editing for an on-line gardening company. As I said in my previous post, God never meant work to be a place where I stop finding His kind of sweet living.

dillAs sons 2 and 3 tumbled into the teen years, challenging us, stretching us – a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of living – I was determined not to let my life be defined by the heart-ache in the challenge.

The bigger the challenge in the daily (see post here), the more I burrowed into Him, like St Teresa of Avila in her book Interior Castles describes – I was wandering through the 6 crystal castles, weaving my way closer and closer to the 7th castle -where He welcomed me at its steps,welcoming me with a chalice of living water,  wrapping me in His arms pulling me into His shining castle – and finding His peace – His amazing comfort – and suddenly, even in the challenge – life felt sweeter – 6 sensory sweeter – the 6th sense being a spiritual sweetness.

Just because I’ve been in the interior castle – doesn’t mean I stop wandering back out to exterior castles.

Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I’ve yet tasted all the sweetness He has created for me – for you.

Christ in his mercy leads me to the interior castle; my imperfect humanity finds me sometimes wandering all over the place, in the interior castle, through the rooms of the exterior castles.

Day by day, season by season, life marches onward –  2 more boy stepping toward independence, 2 others on deck. Challenges flow and ebb – moments of blessing crash against a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen moments – and life became a bit sweeter:

Honey and Cream corn, until the white corn showed itself, found it’s way into my container with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oh My! – the result was heartier – so much more of something than a side dish yet not a main course, not a hot soup – and as my mind reached out to place this concoction of summertime – gazpacho came into my vocabulary.

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

The daily has changed some out our house – only 2 fully in the nest – another half way in, one a fly by – and one fully in his own nest. The challenges are different. The stretching is different. The sweetness is there – available for the taking . Jjust like always , the choice is there to grab bitterness or sweetness.

Over Independence Day celebrations, friend sat around our table – and I passed some of this Gazpacho for them to test-taste – to see if they thought it was as delightful as I thought – had the recipe finally “arrived” – or was I just, well, nuts in the taste buds.

My friends sampled it, taste-tested it, asked for a bowl of it.

“Add an apple,” one said.

And I did. . . .add an apple, a red delicious apple.

the dish became more . . . hearty, rounded, complete – sweeter not as in sugar but as in so terribly nice.

Kind of like life – if we let it, don’t give up on it, keep adding good things to it, it just gets sweeter and sweeter, heartier, more filling, better for you. . . . in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-evidence-of-things-not-seen- kind of way.

The more I hold on to things of Him, as we come and go, sit and stand –
The more I trust He is not surprised by teen challenges and boys-to-men dealing with growing up responsibilities
The more I see His love letters in the daily
And know He is beside me everywhere I want and don’t want to be
That He’s got my back
The sweetness into everyday rises like a fragrance
out of any situation, complex things
things that bring tears
that tear at the heart
simple things like blueberries
little boy hugs and gazpacho
It’s there
waiting to be chosen
this attitude of life getting sweeter daily

Today’s Summer Gazpacho Recipe

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and add the following:

Ripe Tomato cut into bite-sized pieces (or, when not in season, use the cherry tomatoes sliced in half)

Fresh, sliced off-the-cobb corn (one to two ears), precooked in butter and cooled (leftovers in the summer are great. Frozen corn in the winter. Not canned corn)

(Optional: Add a tablespoon of honey or an apple sliced about the same size as the tomato).

Serve fresh or refrigerate to allow the flavors and juices to blend.

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garlic2

The lady at the farmer’s market had a table filled with rosemary and thyme to plant, lettuces for salad, white onion flowers and pinkish-purple garlic flowers.

“The petals can be used, too,” she said, offering a blossom for me to pinch one off to taste.

The flavor was more subtle, softer. I was sold.

They found their way onto Sunday morning sunny-side eggs with parmesan. Later in the week, it added flavor to steamed chard with asiago cheese and shrimp. Even later, it found its way into dill dip.

The bloom doesn’t wither like a dahlia – the garlic flower is durable, seemingly determined to last in the daily, the character of it adding something to this happily-ever-after.

St. Augustine said that the only difference between the pagan and the Christian is not the challenges they face – because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying (Romans 12:12)

Living out our hope in God means we need to live hope like we believe it.

The secret to happily-ever-after? It’s a choice – an attitude choice – as simple as choosing 5 tiny petals to sprinkle over a sunny-side up egg.

Fairy-tales contain wonderful life lessons – of choices in the challenges that result in a happily-ever-after. I bet because they discovered the importance of choices – that when new challenges came up, they had the durable character to continue making the choices – choices that create happily-ever-after in the daily.

. . . . choices like forgiveness in a broken moment, to love despite the harshness of an argument, to not give up – ever, to search out, find and open the love letters sent to us in the daily

. . . . love letters written in the coo of a turtle dove on a roof-top, the call of a cardinal or perseverance of a red-bird hopping through the garden searching for worms

. . . . in the warmth of water after the water-heater broke and was replaced, in the sounds of raindrops on a porch roof and blue hydrangeas blooming that we thought lost after the great challenge a few years ago

. . . . in the giggles of a granddaughter chattering about happy birthdays – cakes, candles, red strawberries in a bowl, lit candles and her daddy and uncles celebrating birthdays

‘. . . . happily-ever-after in the after-birthday party mess comes in choosing to focus on the smiles, the happiness in a previous moment – the brotherhood in its more perfect form

. . . . the hope in the wait of a prayer sent out, in moments where we feel unseen, in the cracking-moments of our heart – the happily-ever-after is there just waiting to be chosen.

The heroine in all of us need a place to grow some peace, some joy that we can pull from, like a garlic flower – to change our attitude in not only how we live the daily but how we see the daily.

He has left attitude-changes all around us. It is our choice to use them to create a happily-ever-after.

A flower, even a garlic flower, stuck in a glass of water – is like staking a claim to hope, claiming victory in faith.

It’s in the seemingly insignificant of the daily that the happily-ever-after grows. It’s not an arriving thing. It’s an ever-growing thing – this choosing how we see the moments in our day. Maybe happily-ever-after is as simple as attitude choice? As simple as pulling petals from a garlic flower to sprinkle on a sunny-side-up egg.

I want it to be said that I lived happily ever after – not because every moment was perfect – but because I chose to see it that way.

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I love stories – how they take me out of my brokenness into hope stories. Literature from the 1800s to the early 1900s was always my favorite – goodness pevails more often than not – stories end on hope and faith walked out more often than not. 20th-21st century literature isn’t that way – more often than not ignobleness wins, hope fails – and it just bottoms my heart out. We weren’t created for for hopelessness and faithfulness.

That’s why the hope and faith story is so important.

duckspond

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

Fairy tales- I love them. My favorite is the Goose Girl. Fairy tales gave me hope growing up – that goodness prevailed, that I was not alone in my suffering – whether that suffering was caused by others or myself.

The Grim’s Brothers are not faint-hearted stories. They were required reading by me this summer for my youngest who doesn’t like reading. He was drawn in to the short and long stories, the guts and gore, the mind-puzzlers, the noble and ignoble. There is much in them for boys – but – there is much in them for us.

These fairty tale stories. I’ve decided many of them, like the Goose Girl – are about how God never abandons us or forgets us.

A few years ago, in The Goose Girl Unveiled, I wrote (I hope you don’t consider this cheating – but I really wanted to include it):

All fairy tale princess in the Kingdom face grievous challenges. Many have fathers, the king, or if they are no longer alive, they provide protectors who leave no stone un-turned, no effort exhausted. The princess is never forgotten nor is the pursuit lessoned to reclaim His child.

The Prince, much like the princess’s honorable father, often saves her, whisking her from the grip of torment, isolation, a false-sense of abandonment. The tormenters are destroyed – and she is returned to her rightful place in The Kingdom.

A true princess loses not her nobleness during these fierce challenges. She cries sometimes, feels saddened, feels lost. But she still acts nobly.

God is like that. He provides. He leaves no stone unturned. He never gives up. The fairy tale princesses are always provided for and their futures are secured. We really are not any different from those Grimm’s Brother Girls! We just think about ourselves differently – and that is what needs to be changed. Do you see yourself as God sees you?

We have our own fairy tale stories that need telling, stories of soul blood and guts, heart-break, injustice – but it is in the saving, the Knight in Shining Armor who is our Savior – for that we finish the story – read all the way to the end – worth enduring the suffering – because in the end, we are saved by the most perfect, faithful man who ever lived.

Some people might wish you’d just shut up.  There are people like that.

But we’re called to tell our stories. Where philosophy, logic and history fail – real life stories of a real life KISA can encourage hope and faith.

Are you telling your Fairy Tale Story? It just might change someone’s life.

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Livin’ the dream? Or are you making room for your dream in the everyday living? Or is the everyday living squeezing out your dream?

When the everyday living isn’t always comfortable, controllable and bears no resemblance to the dream – are you living – really living?

Are you living life all day long? Or do you stop when you clock in for the daily grind and start when you clock out?

Whose time clock are you living life on?

splashLast week, as I was tubing – a day where I squeezed some dream into the daily, – I was tubing with my youngest – and I have decided that there ought to be an Olympic Wrestling event while tubing – well, my youngest, the saucy, industrial artist tried with all his 12 year old might to. . . push me off the tube. Mama’s still got game, though.

Everyday life, the daily life is kind of like that – but without the big grin – it wants nothing better than to push the dream off the daily.

In those moments where the dream is center stage – it’s easy to live faith and hope – to live grace – It’s easy to vintage the blessing – and savor every moment, every detail and sigh from the tips of your soul, “Thank you, God.”

My words, my out-reach, my attitude, my face smiles.

It’s easy to sing:

”So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all

So I’ll stand
My soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours”
~Hillsong United, The Stand

Arms high and heart abandoned. . . . All I am is yours

All I am is yours – and fully in the livin’ the dream moments

But maybe more importantly, in the daily moments where sometimes nothing of the dream fits in or shows itself –

maybe arms high and heart abandoned – All I am is Yours – needs to be in the daily – desperately needs to be in the daily

Whether it is in the car line, the lunch line, the office or kitchen, or cleaning up messes somebody else made, maybe even dog messes – when you’re not where you want to be, when no one will give you a chance or a raise or maybe even a job – or maybe you have a job and just want to be home.

But you’re where God has you right now
in the daily where it doesn’t feel like the dream
Doesn’t look like the dream
Maybe it doesn’t even sound like the dream

If “All I am is Yours”
I need to stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all” – I need to do it in the daily

centerhill12kI need to look for Him, reach for Him
Live the daily – every second – the good, the bad, the ugly of the daily
And find Him in it
And when I find Him
My words, my attitude, my out-reach, my face smiles

If I live arms high and heart abandoned
the clock doesn’t determine when the good life starts and ends
9 to 5 and 5 to 9 possess equal value

And the daily becomes not a grind
but becomes sacred and holy
So much more sacred and holy
Than maybe even the dream moments

and from the tips of my soul, I whisper,

“Thank you, God.”

Still counting God’s blessing with Ann at a Holy Experience – it helps me find holiness in the daily.

  1. that God gave man the idea to create antibiotics – so when a brown recluse bit my 18 year old at a friend’s house – he would be o.k.
  2. post-it notes that remind me to pray
  3. a co-worker who makes coffee every morning (we both bring the coffee;she makes it)
  4. face-splitting, ear-to-ear smiles of 3 of my boys the day before the 4th
  5. the rain holding back for a day – for a much needed dream moment
  6. the spirit to hoist myself on that tube behind the pontoon
  7. and not give up
  8. my 18 year old, coming into our room that night, saying, “Thank you for taking me out there today.”
  9. quiet, beautiful quiet
  10. friends around the dinner table, celebration freedom and friendship
  11. tasty dishes friends bring to dinner
  12. squirrels outside my work window
  13. rain, reigning us all in, keeping us close
  14. sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee watching the rain
  15. listening to the birds in the lull
  16. watching my littlest sitting on the raised garden bed, pinching a bit of chocolate mint to chew on
  17. listening to my littlest mimic turtle dove calls outside
  18. farmer’s market Saturday mornings with my husband
  19. life-just-gets-sweet gespacho
  20. zinnias blooming
  21. praise and worship on Sunday morning
  22. blueberry picking on Sunday and the message those blueberries gave me

The Father, He gives us so much around us – the zinnias, the blueberries, tables to sit around with friends – thank-yous -there is so much in the daily – so many blessings He gives us throughout each day – oh, how I want to live arms high and heart abandoned – until all I am is His – every part of my every day.

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desserts2cSometimes I can’t love ’em right
though my heart is full of love
not a taking love
just a giving love

a love bursting
and here I am
wanting to love ’em right
and I can’t
sometimes
no matter how hard I try
no matter the intent

“Love suffers long and is kind” (I Cor 13: 4)

I’ve baked celebration cakes
taken dinners
written poems
asked questions
encouraged
prayed psalms
sometimes even hugs
can’t love ’em right

“love is never envious or arrogant with pride. Nor is she conceited” ( 1 Cor 13:4)

whether it’s with a teen in a stage
a church family member
a kid’s mom my kid wants to play with
a random person
someone who belongs to you
through biology
or belongs to you ’cause
Jesus said so

” [Love]does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5)

sometimes I can’t love ’em right
and all the love languages in the world
can’t break
the language barrier
but God knows
who He gave me to love

“[Love} finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the
truth
” (1 Cor 13:6)

sometimes when I can’t love ’em right
it’s for a reason
He knows
the pain of unrequited love
that God’s true love
isn’t inactive in the waiting
doesn’t stop existing
though it lives unseen
uncovered
over-looked
not sought-out
like a wrapped gift
given and unopened

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through
every circumstance”
(1 Cor 13:7)

He knows
that sometimes it feels like
I can’t love ’em right
but God’s kind of love never fails (1 Cor 13:8)

IMG_7514

Father’s Day weekend was filled with a few moments where I managed to love some of ’em right – not all of them, but some of them. One son wanted muffalettas for his birthday, chocolate celebration cake for another birthday boy, and creme brulee for my husband- and, well, it was just a sweet easy day. No – sometimes, I can’t love ’em right – not the way they want, maybe not even always the way they truly need, or in a way I know how to love.

I am not omniscient – though my boys at times thought I was

I only know what knowledge I have reached for and grasped – or what God has revealed

“but love makes up for all wrongs, trangressions, offenses, sins” (Proverbs 10:12)

The more I learn about God’s kind of love, the less judgemental, the less exclusive I become – the more I realize how imperfect I do love

and because I realize how imperfectly I love –

the greater the determintaion not to give up trying

and forgiving,

not just others but myself

learning

there is not always an immediate return

maybe not ever

on love

The only thing I can do is love my best

hands-on or hands-off

through prayer, creme brulee or muffaletta’s and oreo icing, hugs, talks, time or a filled-up gas tank

or maybe a no to gas-tank fill-ups, groundings and lectures

the only thing I can do is love my best

even if they think I don’t love ’em right.

meringuefruit

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robin2ccMy senior’s graduation over, out-of-town family packed up and returned home, photo video for the soccer team done, I was at the end of myself.

Some children you cheer over the finish line, some you drag – both fighting for independence in their own ways. 3 down 2 to go.

I wandered through the house retrieving knitting projects set aside mid-winter, stuffing them in an overnight bag with clothes for the weekend, my pillows, my camera and computer. . . and I left. . .

Needing to empty myself of the stress, to recalibrate, to find within myself the fire and desire to continue this mothering journey with zest, joy, fire, energy and vision.

I drove 4  hours to my aunt’s house where she met me at the gate, and we just wrapped each other in a big hug – we hadn’t seen each other since December.

We sat on her porch

where we drank coffee in the morning

where I walked Zoe, her fluffy bundle 2 miles each morning in the park across the street

where we lunched

and watched robins and listened to cardinal calls in what seemed like a sanctuary in the middle of what was long ago small town America.

where I pulled out one of those knitting projects, ¾ of the way complete, saw a mistake and a way to make it better, because boxy vests don’t wear well on apple-shaped people – and I pulled out the stitches to begin anew

As I pulled out 15 inches of stitches, Aunt Joyce, she rolled the evidence of my mistakes into a colorful yarn ball.

This getaway was like a sieve, allowing the unwanted inside material to fall through slots big enough to let the bad out – small enough to keep the good in, separating the dross from the gold, the wheat from the chaff.

We hunted through nurseries on busy intersections and dirt roads, found yellow and blue baptisia. We dug some holes and planted new, dug up some old, yellow evening primroses – enough to take home for one or two abundant spots.

Bought angel stars from our favorite bakery

smelled perfume in a shop

And we sat

just sat together

graveyardThe morning before I left, we visited the grave yard, where grandmother and grandfather are buried, and her husband – and the ladies who played bridge weekly with my grandmother – and remembered the year it snowed on Memorial Day at Long Run Park where we were picnicing for Grandmother’s birthday – that was about 46 years go, maybe 47 – when my cousin and I had been whisked into the back of somebody’s car, given a plate of fried chicken, green beans and bread and told to hurry and eat – while the aunts, uncles and cousins and siblings had to face the surprising blizzard – my cousin and I sat carefully guarded from the harsh elements.

Another aunt invited us by; she’d been working in her garden, thinning out perennials – and had some for me.

I tried to say thank you, but she just waved me away, “If you say thank you for plants given, they won’t survive.”

Aunt Joyce mused as I pulled out of her drive about how my car looked like a flower shop.

Not rushed, or should I say, not letting the chaos rush me – I took time for hugs. On the way through the county where my grandmother came from, I stopped by to give another sweet aunt a hug.

In the quiet, the spending time, the walking, the coffee, the planting – I looked for at first Shaddai, the Mighty One of Jacob – I needed some quality time with Him.

And He was there, Jehovah Shamma – just as He was there in the low, dark part of the challenges, in the emotional cyclone that can sometimes by part of raising boys to men – Jehovah Shamma – He was there in my drive, in the walking – everywhere I turned, I looked and He was there – there with me – just waiting for me to step out of the cyclone and find Him under the walking trees, in the night breeze coming through the window, as I drank coffee in the morning, in the steps of the robin.

I went to Jehovah-Raah, asking Him to not just be The Lord My Shepherd, but to be the The Lord My Shepherd to my new graduate.

I found Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that Heals physically, emotionally and spiritually – and He breathed His Holy Spirit into this spent soul

Breathing new life

Re-calibrated

For the next part of this journey

lavendarwedding6cJehovah Jireh, He reminded 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 for the next 6 years of this journey – and the journey after that. I didn’t just ask for me, though, I asked for sweet friends who need His provision, too – because I am not alone with my struggles. By my own hurting, I understand better the hurting of others, the need for others to reach with me in prayer – and I want to reach for them, too – reach for Jehovah Jireh for them, too – no one likes to battle alone, or retreat from battle to regain strength alone, either – that’s why armies are not made of one – we need to battle on together, helping each other with things like lunches, sitting together, praying for each other.

And He reminds me that He is Jehovah-Shalom, He is my peace,  my word this year– to live in it, immerse in it – breathe it in and out – until it is no longer a this-year word but an everyday, every minute word.

I came home with peace – a Shalom-kind of peace – with a Holy Spirit fire kindling my life zest, energy, and joy for this new journey stage.

I came home to these 2 boys still in the nest, a husband I love with all my heart, like a warrior flying the banner of my Lord high, the banner of my Lord Jehovah Nissi – a daughter of the King ready to charge into battle once again.

I am so glad I live under His banner.

(Still Counting His gifts with Ann – in the above are 1019 – 1034)

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bestill
Be Still
Stormless, hushed, undisturbed
Be Still
Satisfied, unruffled, peaceful
Be Still
Untroubled, composed, soothed

“Be Still” – He told me Sunday morning – Sunday morning after a week of big and little challenges. Some challenges were mine; some were second-hand, belonging to those that are mine.

The fixer in me twitched inside, stymied – wanting to take care of it now. Yet, not all challenges are right-now fixes. Some are journey fixes. Some are not even mine to fix.

Be Still

How do you do that? It’s like trying to stop my feet from rubbing together when I sleep. How does the fixer in me still itself? How?

Yet He tells me to be still.

Like I would tell my boys when they were little and the night terrors came, or their stomachs ached or life pulled sobs out of them. They trusted that I would make everything o.k. or show them how. Their hearts would stop racing, until finally they were relaxing against me, resting, being still.

Being still is a faith action. Being still speaks, “I give it to you; I trust you.”

My boys knew they could come to me. They trusted me. They knew me.

Oh, this mothering has taught me so much about the Father – about how I need trust Him and in the trusting Be Still and know [He is] God (Psalm 41:10)

To Know – realize, experience, recognize, understand, anticipate, believe

bestill22

I can be still because I know He is God, God who wants to be my Father, who wants to become the shade in the glaring, uncomfortable heat of challenges, who wants to shelter me beneath the feathers of His wing, who wants to bind my wounds scarless, who wants to shelter me in the storm – that He saves me when I cry out, like a Knight in Shining Armor.

When the big and little challenges come, first or second-hand, whether they are my own night terrors, stomach aches or life pulls sobs out of me, I know He is God, my Father – and my heart stops racing, the fixer in me lets go – and with Him, I can be still.

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Right now, I’m just collecting blessings in the everyday living. I’m in the middle of about 4 post drafts – but for right now, I am just supposed to collect the moments. I think the Father wants me to collect for a bit – and analyze the collection at the right time. For so long, I have needed to hyper-focus on the little things He left for me – so I could better manage the big things without being so over-whelmed.

For now, I am leaving you with blessings I collected this week, gifts from Him vintaged that turned my days to joy, days that became filled with “the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor 2:14b)

The Magical Qualities of Pecan Dust

880) vanilla bean, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and allspice simmering in a crock pot, filling the house with warm, wholesome aroma
881) Boys seeing the ingredients, knowing what those ingredients mean – and seeing their smiles reach up to their eyes and down to their stomachs.

882) 4 Normandy pies made with my little guy growing (recipe, click here)
883) That the ever-changing schedule faithfully works its way out.
884) A few days where all the things I want to do, that makes me feel like I’m herding cats, overwhelming me and I only manage to catch one of those to-do things – a few days where I managed to herd those cats, not feel over-whelmed, where time seemed to expand
885) and I managed the weed-eater to trim the ivy, the ornamental grass gift,
886) and planted red and white pansies in my mail-box planter
887) trimming the never-give-up ivy away from the address and the box-opening
888) big fluffy winter blankets and bed-spreads washed in huge washers at the laundry-mat, cleaned and bleached for winter sleeping, a sweet freshness to inhale

The Spirit Curing Qualities of Chocolate

889) chicken and dressing casserole with water chestnuts, celery and onion
890) an entire weekday and evening with my husband
891) courage to meet new people and find the joy in the meeting
892) sharing a Reuben Sandwich at Friday lunch with my husband
893) That the phone call to my mom after a bunch of tests, telling her the doctor wanted to see her Monday, not in 3 weeks – was communication gone bad – the cancer wasn’t back – she was given a clean bill of health
894) re-discovering my home office after I managed to not let the mess overwhelm – and I tackled it, piece by piece.
895) Little yellow leaves lining the path to my work office – looking like the yellow brick road. Then I wondered what kind of yellow – and I thought of squash-yellow, corn-silk yellow, pineapple yellow, pepper yellow, lemon yellow – and decided I was glad the writers settled for the Yellow Brick Road – because anything else would have been messy. However, the ground was simply yellow beautiful.
896) A knitted hat almost finished – and a bunch more to go
897) my sons wanting me to help them with their Works-Cited page
898) working with these sons, pointing out the importance of each period, comma, capitalization, structural order – and nary a complaint because they wanted to do a good job. If you don’t have a Harbrace, check out Purdue OWL for examples, samples and explanations (click here)

899) A son changing his own car breaks
900) God with me – when the moments are easy and when they’re hard.
901) Excitement about celebrating Thanksgiving – celebrating His blessings
902) The turned corner in the journey of the answer to prayers.
903) Excitement about the up-coming season to celebrate the Messiah coming, teaching my sons that sometimes the day is only good because of the sweet scent through finding Christ in our day that rises to God.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Cor 2:14-15, The Message)

Chocolate + Pecan Dust = A Sweet Aroma

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“For you meet him with the blessings of goodness”(Psalm 21:3a)

To meet: To come together, approaching in opposite or different directions; to come face to face; as, to meet a man in the road.

To come together in any place

I took a walk as the sun set a few days ago – a flaming fuscia, tangerine and lemon sunset that fell across neighborhood leaves sparking a metalic hue, and in the falling, the sunshine fell into a sprinkler.

He met me there, in my walk, bringing me the beauty of the sunset. God met me there, not to solve a big problem, not to save me from distress – just to meet me there and walk together.

blessings of goodness

As I walked into work, beneath oak trees, squirrel nests and the sharp cool of a Fall morning – I saw acorns lying beneath leaves, under the edges of greenery.

He met me there – and as a reminder of our meeting, His blessings, I picked up 5 acorns, symbolizing the 5 sons He gave me.

blessings of goodness

Pear Tree Seeds

Sometimes, things like folding laundry, making cupcakes, lighting candles, knitting a few rows, the bed-time chronicles – it all overwhelmes me – and I muster all that is within me to do those things with people who are so important to me – and I wonder how I can – but He meets me there, walks with me each step, fills my heart with grace to love the way I want but often fall short.

This week, I met Him in the act of making and decorating cupcakes with my littlest, the blessing of watching my boys to men play a game of chess, of smiles spreading across faces that have smiled too little for too long.

blessings of goodness

I meet Him in the morning prayer, one son leading us in the Lord’s Prayer, another the 23rd Psalm, the other in sharing a proverb, and me leading in a thanksgiving prayer and asking that we let others see the love of Jesus either through our words or actions.

blessings of goodness

I meet Him when I open my front door to greet costumed children Trick or Treating , when I sit across the table from friends sharing celebration cupcakes and cider, watching my husband read to grand-baby girl.

Blessings of goodness

I meet Him when everyday jobs overwhelm. He meets me in a swirl of leaves or squirrels foraging, climbing and jumping outside my window.

blessings of goodness

I met Him when I choose to bloom where I am planted, even when where I am feels like the dormant stage of blooming in a cold frost.

We come together in any place. He is there, waiting for me to look and see Him -to look hard, to catch His eye, to seek His face and know He is looking for me – not trying to avoid me because I don’t do living just right, or that I talk too much, or forget words, or say right things all wrong.

Sometimes we come from opposite directions.

We meet more often now. I am learning to just look.

It never fails that when I do look, I meet Him.

No matter the gracelessness of a moment, hour or day, when I decide to meet Him, He is there with blessings of goodness that change the tenor, the texture, treatment of that moment, hour or day.

“For you meet him with the blessings of goodness”(Psalm 21:3a)

Where are the places you have met Him this week?

I8 gifts were listed above in my journey to 1,000 gifts

844) My son going around the neighborhood 4 times, each time in a different costume from our costume chest which has grown over 26 years: in the bumblebee costume, a ninja, a warrior on a horse, and a ghost – all with a joyful attitude
845) neighbors who love my boys and who kids I love, too – it is awesome to have neighbors like that
846) 5 boys home at once on a trick-or-treat night
847) Sons growing up and working hard
848) That God is wherever I am
849) My husband taking me to one of our favorite lunch places on a very trying day
850) A neighbor giving us 3 large pampas-type grass clusters for our yard. I’ve always wanted ornamental grass like this – and it was such an unexpected gift.
851) You know those 15 burning bush root-balls that I carefully nurtured? Wanting a hedge for privacy on our property line? It seems, each time the boys mowed, we lost one. Lowe’s had sturdy ones about  2 feet high for $3 a piece – I don’t think my boys will run those over. For once, I got someplace before the good deal was sold out.
852) Looking at all the bushes we transplanted and struggled – seeing they are now sturdy and strong – ready for take off next year. That was God reminding me that I am sturdy and strong now- ready to take off at the right time.
853) A song at church, one of my very favorite that has a special place in my heart, used as a kind-of lullaby when the boys were little – and the phrase, “The Year of Jubilee” stood out to me – that the Year of Jubilee was coming – and it was a message that filled my heart
854) Making a new recipe – one I created myself – “Buffalo Chicken Soup.” My son who loves my Hot Wings asked, “Why not just make Hot Wings?” Then he tasted my soup, trying give too much away, he conceded, “This is your best soup.”
855) My 4th son, taller than me today. Door-frame measurements confirmed. While I am sure he will be insufferable for awhile, lots of puns to fall short – so happy he is so happy!
856) Answered prayers unfolding!

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I think there are people who love exclusively – in an excluding way – who are uncomfortable with throwing the doors of their community wide open. I don’t understand how by loving fewer, one can love better.  Love is also not a selective thing, a pick-and-choose-thing.

If it is the Father’s and His Son’s kind of love it grows smaller if it is hoarded and shared with a man-chosen select few. God’s kind of love is a Widow’s flour jar-kind-of-love.

God sent Elijah across the path of a widow, a widow gathering sticks, getting ready to die with her son of starvation.

Elijah wasn’t in her family, in her exclusive love-and-care circle.

Yet, there he was at the city gate, asking her for a bit of water. Asking her to minister to him. (I King 17:10)

I’m sure she put down her sticks, frustrated that her task was interrupted, that her plan was somewhat hijacked.

After handing him a bit of water, she probably bent down to begin gathering the sticks, preparing still yet to die with her son.

Then, he interrupted her gain, “Can I have a morsel of bread?”(1 King 17:11)

She probably slowly set the sticks back down, straightened, irritation more about her situation than the man interrupting her course of action – and he wanted more from her? Something she didn’t think she had enough to give?

“And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (1 Kings 17:12).

Here she was a widow, with no one to provide, with only one person to care for – and today they were going to die – and here was someone wanting more? There wouldn’t be enough for her and her son if she shared what she had with him.

If she divided it up, it would make the portion for those she cared about smaller – not bigger.

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”(1 King 17: 13-14)

I don’t know if the widow knew this man was “somebody.” Whoever he was, he presumed upon her time and energies, asking and asking for her to do for him. And she did.  . . . do for him.

Instead of hoarding her flour and oil, she shared. In the sharing, it was neither spent nor emptied.

Love is like that.

When we share it, there is more than enough to share with all who cross our path.

Jesus tried to get that across to the disciples when He fed the multitude with 5 loaves of bread and 3 fishes.

“This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (Matt 14:15)

They enjoyed being Jesus disciples, probably enjoyed the attention – but they were not keen on offering hospitality, seeing to the needs of those who were not in their exclusive group.

Jesus wanted them, though, taught them to give of themselves, to genuinely care about those following them around.

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”(Matt 14:16)

Then Jesus showed them how something little is neither as insufficient as it seems. It is only restricted by limits we set about who to include.

You give them something to eat.

It is a come-as-you-are thing, a God-placed-you-in-my-path-for-purpose thing – whether it is a family path, a work-place path, a school path, a grocery-store path, a cross-country path, a coffee-shop path, a neighborhood path, a lunch-time path.

Those on your path belong to Him. Because they belong to Him, they also belong to me, to you.

You might even think you don’t like them – but He has given them to you – to give a morsel of bread, a bit of water – which really symbolizes your time, your effort, yourself.

There are so many hearts abandoned, peeking through soul windows, trying to find a moment of heart home: love, support, encouragement, spiritual mother and fathering, a Samaritan crossing over boundary lines to bind wounds, to hold steady as faith-strength is built.

I am so grateful for those who loved me inclusively, who I didn’t belong to biologically but through adoption in Christ. They saw the orphan of my spirit and brought me to adoption. They didn’t close the soul-windows of their hearts against me. They saw me peering through those windows and opened the doors of themselves to me.

Through their genuine care, their genuine interest wounds were bound and healed, faith strengthened – and I learned to throw open the soul windows to my spirit. I have learned to love, not perfectly, sometimes gracelessly but recognizing that love is like the widow’s flour jar – it never runs out or leaves too little for me to give my husband and my children.

Who has the Father placed in your path?

Open wide the windows and doors to your Soul House, share the flour jar of love that never empties.

For parallel stories, read about Elisha with the widow and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4).

Beauty in His Grip Button

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Paddling together in the ocean, each in a 48-inch color-whirl inner-tube, not too far from shore but away from the busyness of children playing – we floated. My husband kept me anchored, ensuring I didn’t bob off into international waters. While everyone else played, we saw dolphins jumping high out of the water.

Looking down into the water, I was startled to see 3 pairs of eyes looking at me – eyes belonging to 3 grey-sand-colored looking fish trimmed in yellow. Other fish nipped at my heals dipped in the water. Minutes later, little bee-like stings caused me to yank those heals out of the water.

Oddly, nothing stung my human anchor. Except for the little stings, our late morning paddles in the ocean were a treasure.

The last morning, though, my husband had a business call to take, so I pulled myself out into the ocean, past the busyness of play, beyond the sandbar, past a fisherman, and another studying the waters net in hand. I looked down – and there was my little grey-looking fish friend, trimmed in yellow, seemingly escorting me. As I settled into my last holiday ocean bob, the stings started gain but were much more intense, circling ankle and all over my feet. This time, it didn’t stop.

There I was bobbing out in the ocean, feet pulled to the top of the inner tube – which was really challenging because that’s where much of the rest of me was.

I asked the man with the net, “What’s stinging me?”

“Jelly fish,” he answsered. “They’ve been here all week, but today they’re worse.” He walked over to show me one he’d just caught. “There’s one with a 4-foot diameter behind the gate,” he said.

There, in the little net, was a jelly-fish, resembling a clear round lunch-baggy filled with water .

I could have frumped out of the ocean, my reverie interrupted, bewailed the stinging and the unfairness of it all – I do love bobbing about in the ocean on an inner-tube. I could have whined that my knight in shining armor wasn’t there to protect me.

I didn’t, though those jelly fish changed my routine, changed the course of my day and sent me off doing other things.

I’m starting to understand that sometimes life’s little stings, like little mother pinches urging to “get a move on” are designed to move us from one place to another – not necessarily physically but spiritually.

I shouldn’t be surprised that when God does a new thing in our lives (Isaiah 43:18-21) – that these new things are often preceded by emotional or physical discomfort – think of childbirth.

Think of how different the life of the rich young man if he hadn’t walked away from the sting of exchanging worldly riches for eternal life.

Saul experienced a stinging prelude to change before he was transformed to Paul.

The crippled man was willing to accept the sting of a potential fall by attempting to stand in faith.

The woman with the issue of blood risked the sting of rejection to be healed.

The apostles risked the sting of their family’s judgement about their responsibilities in making the seismic decision to leave their nets(jobs) and follow Jesus.

Esther experienced the sting of change, moving from her community to the palace, not realizing the change would save her community.

Naomi and Ruth’s stinging loss of their spouses, propelled them on a journey that not only would find them both fulfilled but become part of the geneology that would fulfill God’s plan of salvation.

Mary risked the sting of stoning when she told the angel, “Yes.”

It is in the aftermath of the sting, that change manifests – and it is the behavior in that aftermath that affects not just the journey of that change but result of that change.

Think of how the sting of infertility brought Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah closer to the Father, though sometimes their choices complicated the journey to the sting’s intended result.

Think how different the sting of responsibility would have been for Samson had his choices in the journey been different. Yes, Samson fulfilled God’s plan for his life – though his choices affected the journey to fulfill that plan.

That day as I bobbed on the ocean in the midst of a school of jelly fish,  the Father was trying to tell me something – to tell me sometimes in order to create His changes, to shepherd us in His direction, to move us closer to His plan’s path, that sometimes I need to change. Those changes might be inside heart-changes or out-side changes.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

That day in the ocean, instead of fussing about physical fish-stings, I knew I needed to look for the message – and once I translated the message, I readied myself for upcoming change.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16))

There have been changes, both relatively immediate and on the horizon. I am praying for guidance on these journey changes – hoping that my choices do not negatively affect that journey.

Maybe one day, I will not need the sting to make the changes God wants in my life. However, right now, I would rather have them to shepherd me to God-change than to remain un-changed, un-shaped, un-transformed.

808) laundry folded
809) reading The Hobbit with my youngest son
810) who went off to read it by himself and returned totally amused and detailing the introduction of each dwarf and hood color – all this from a little boy who does not like chapter books.
811) when a day stretches and there is more than enough time for all things big and small
812) an answered prayer unfolding
813) the hope in that answered prayer of a future restored
814) peace, rising up in my home, an ahhhh, soaking-kind of peace
815) the energy to make my special hot chocolate and surprise the boys
816) smiles, one by one, son by son
817) squirrels scampering across the outside of my window
818) clear blue skies on a Saturday morning – touching flaming yellows, red and orange leaves to bring joy in a 3 hour ride
819) the marching band playing in the afternoons when I leave work
820) every day with my husband, his strength, faithfulness and sense of humor
821) holding grandbaby girl for 10 minutes
822) listening to my mom talk about how God protected her when she fell leaving church
823) leaves that swirled, dipped and danced, in a teasing wind on my ride home from work
824) tomatoe still from my garden on a grilled hamburger
825) zinnias still blooming
826) people that live kindness in so many different ways that touch my life each week – a smile walking down a hallway, a knitted gift, a hug at church, grandfather words for my sons from a dear friend at church

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We just returned from vacation – week of refreshing, of contented family time, an aaaaAAAAHHHH soaking R&R – to return to unexpected challenges, challenges I thought long taken care of. Is it a life lesson – that every refreshing moment is followed by a challenge? It is moments like these, that the blessings outside myself soothe my soul – but I am left wondering why? Why cannot I be consistently strong inside?

Why exists the need to find the blessings outside of ourselves?

Why sometimes cannot my soul provide the song that lifts, instead of the cardinals, the robins, the fluttery creatures that nest in the pear and oak trees?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit rest as easily as a cat upon a favorite cushion when storms brew about?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit bloom beauty like the orange, deep fuschias and yellow zinnias in my garden?

Or my spirit give off the sweet aroma of the roses, the fresh cut grass or a fistful of violets, lemon balm and lavender?

Why sometimes cannot I reseed myself, burrow deeply into the black earth or red clay for winter – and just be comforted that now is not the time to bloom but to grow roots, to grow strong – and not feel behind, out of place or insufficient?

Why sometimes cannot my spirit find not only fulfillment in those moments when everything goes right, like the burst of dazzling bloom, but why must my heart struggle when, the new stage is a journey is like when the petals fade to replace the seed that falls – and it all starts back over again, the growth to bloom, why do I feel like I’ve failed because I couldn’t maintain the bloom – when the whole process, the falling, burrowing and regrowing are just as important, just as vital, just as fulfilling.

Why sometimes cannot my spirit weave things hoped for when all I am hangs by a thread of hope, why can I not innately weave something beautiful out of the thread it hangs by but must be reminded by the web of a spider’s thread in a forgotten corner that much can be made of that thread?

Why sometimes must I be reminded of the charity of all these, reminded through the blessings outside myself?

These blessings outside myself are the half-time rallying cries, illustrated disquisitions, a chorus of communiqués, love letters from the Father reminding me not to give up in those faltering moments when life happens in unpleasant, unwanted, unplanned for ways – and that is why I search them out, count them thank Him for giving me them.

In these outside-myself blessings, He tells me,
“Remember when I opened up the hollow place in Lehi for Samson – and water came out to rebuild his strength and revive him? (Judges 15:10) – so also I do with you with the bird song, the squirrels outside your window, the spider webs – these are messages and gifts I send to give you strength and revive you in midst of the challenge.”
“‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you”

(Isaiah 41: 9b-10)

These outside-myself blessings remind me of His firm grip, that He holds me steady, that help is on the way. He reminds me that through Him, I can.

Blessings:

790) spending time with 4 of 5 sons without outside distractions
791) quiet mornings, watching the ocean, reading the book of Joshua
792) little grey fish trimmed in yellow following my innertube
793) Time bobbing about the ocean and the lazy river with my husband
794) dolphins flying out of the ocean and diving back in
795) Time to get lost in a book that’s been sitting on my bedside table for months
796) my mom joining us for a few days
797) Sun-rise on the beach, watching with my husband the dark pink sun spilling across the grey sky
798) Leaving the white shores and the lazy river – crossed through the Misty Mountains and made our way to our Homely House – and, yes, I was reading The Hobbit the entire way home!
799) A chirp-fest from my backyard birds, as though they were rushing to tell me all the things that happened while we were on Holiday
800) Pink, orange, fuschia, burnt red zinnias still blooming
801) A Blustery Happy Windsday on Sunday, Winnie the Pooh’s birthday – so appropriate
802) The clouds closer to my patch of living, as if I could reach out and touch them
803) The hope of rain coming
804) That when challenges seemingly enlarge, knowing my God is bigger
805) Chili and chicken noodle soups on the stove
806) Brownies the boys baked
807) God coaxing me to let go of things that need let-going

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When my littlest came home with his poetry prose in paragraph formation, we had to edit the content into standard, complete-sentence prose. The poetry was edited out. It saddened me because so many penny words were added, fading the imagery, leaching the strength of action – and, well, just diminishing the over-all effect.

A kind of “you-had-to-be-there” resulted in the retelling.

Poetry evokes – sometimes more can be said with incomplete sentences. Not in a court of law, not when contractual things need to be established – but sometimes with pulling something valuable out of a day, a moment – that something trumps the other 23 hours, the other 1,429 minutes in a day.

I remember reading e.e. cummins in the 8th grade. He threw language rules out the window and made art. The entire class chimed in, “So we don’t have to use correct grammar rules. Here’s a grown-up who didn’t and made good.”

Our teacher loosened our grasp on that hope: “When you know grammar like e.e. cummins, you can write like e.e. cummins.”

e.e. cummins manipulated language – and its rules to re-create moments, like “riding through the woods on a snowy evening” – so you could feel it from the inside of your soul out – no “you-had-to-be-there” excuses because he took you there.

My son’s unintentional poetry lost something in the translation to intentional prose. Sometimes, to capture the essence of a moment, a weekend, a blessing – it comes out better in poetry, without penny articles, verbs and nouns.

Yet, also like e.e. cummins had to become skilled in the knowledge of  language arts in order to write poetry that reveals a moment from the inside of your soul out, you and I – we need to become skilled in the knowledge of God’s true, hands-on love for us  in order to recognize blessing that has the power to change our lives from the inside of our souls out.

Are you ready to live like poetry? Allowing a moment of blessing, regardless of size and importance, – a squirrel running across your window pane, a fleeting hug, a genuine smile, a cup of cider – are you willing to let that moment, that gift from the Father, define your day, your week, a year, a lifetime?

The coolness on your cheek from a breeze rustling out of the trees as the hand of God touching your cheek? And, in a second, the recognition of it changes everything – from the inside of your soul out.

Have I lived a life of blessing? Every minute counted from beginning to end, –  refreshing moments, just-right moments, forgiving moments, revelation moments, soul-inside-out moments would seem miniscule in comparison to all the penny-word moments.

However, those fragmented moments like poetry, whittling the prose of it all into poetry,  if I were to just pull them out, those moments would say I am richly blessed. Maybe they would say my life filled with blessing, reads like poetry.

747) Lumina white, Jack-Be-Little Orange, Jarrahdale green and Rouge vif D’Etampes – “Red Life of the Times” pumpkins, pulled from the flat-bed of a truck to my door steps, heralding a new season
748) ladling out homemade chicken noodle soup with bow-tie pasta to woodland stories of Blue Stones and Acorns for currency, brotherhood and neighborhood friendships creating a world of their own in the woods. Practicing democracy in leadership elections under God’s canopy and choosing blue stone and acorns for currency. Blue Stone turned memory stone in a friendship has lived lifting up when hearts are down – a living poetry experience

749) Nests emptied of backyard baby birds. No more cat birds screeching and squawking at my cat on the steps, on the porch, under the car, under the tree staring up. Chirping, solo songs and choruses, merry autumn sounds of troubles left behind.
750) Squirrel cheeks filled with winter nuts, filling the storehouses in tree nests, repetitive forays onto the grounds, storing security for e.e. cummins-kind-of-snowy evening
751) A to-do list reminding me of the things I want to do – and each one checked off, one-by-one.
752) Determination to complete actions and tasks that change the hue of everyday living – when making myself light a candle, knit one row, read one chapter of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – one small action at a time is a brush stroke that paints my life. I can either choose through inaction how my life will look – an empty canvas – or I can choose through action. I chose to act – even though the brush strokes and colors don’t always turn out how I intend.

753) A friend blessing me with kind, un-looked for words
754) The energy to make Saturday what I wanted it to be: filled with homemade chicken-noodle soup, tortilini soup, cheesy bread, store-bought orange-icing cupcakes, pop-eye bread, simmering apple cider – boys saying, “Who’s coming for dinner” – and I just say, “You! All for you!”
755) A kitchen filled with chard, peppers and tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market
756) A squirrel running outside my window at work, through my shabby-chic picture frame
757) 15 minutes with God in a mid-morning break; 15 minutes with God in a mid-afternoon break. We two sitting together on a bench
758) Energy at the end of a workday to live fully through the most valuable parts.
759) Demands for bed-time tuck-ins
760) The Bed-Time Chronicles
761) An orange carrot juice, red beet and mango smoothie – that I stuck to the determination to include it in my day, making it at 6:45 a.m.
762) Frogs hopping on the road side during an evening walk
763) All the boys’ work turned in at the end of a quarter – punctuated by a Friday beginning a 2 week Holiday for the boys.
764) Open windows, cool morning air, the sound of the air-conditioning shutting down, yielding to Autumn’s superior coolness

765) Post-it-Notes reminding me to pray
766) That joyful euphoric feeling like flying when a problem’s potential solution makes itself known in the loudness of the problem, in an un-looked for area.
767) I heard that there are 21 million people who cannot read in America – and am so blessed that my mom secured the best possible education for my brother and me.
768) That I have the desire to read – the bible, fun literature, books to my children, legal documents – and historical documents like Common Sense by Thomas Paine – so that it will not be through ignorance that my freedoms are taken away.
769) The anticipation of good things –  like next week’s beach Holiday.
770) Pulling close the poetry moments out of the day that say more about my day than what the whole of the day says.
771) Hot Apple Cider on a lazy afternoon on my porch
772) Seeing the sun-rise in pink and yellow streaks Sunday morning
773) Watching my boys enjoy a bottomless bowl of pasta after church Sunday while I enjoyed a bottomless cup of steamy coffee
774) Sitting beside my husband on the porch, watching the moon, pulling the blanket close.

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For a bit of time during the last few weeks, I felt much like a tin water bucket left out in the rain, where each soft drip eventually wears away the outward coating, rusting and thinning the inner foundation, until it finally the soft drip has worn a hole. I don’t know why, but there is something about poetry, how it captures the groanings of the soul so much better than prose. As the challenges drip, wearing the thin skin covering my soul, I wrote poetry.

fuscias, oranges yellows and purples
flowering for me,
Blessings from the Father
But I have no heart for flowers today
No heart for the downpour of the rain
Greening my grass
No taste for the Worchestshire and lemon
Mixing with the pork
No taste for the chocolate hidden in the drawer
No heart to hear
The cricket choir, or the turtle dove
calling

My mother’s heart it grieves
For struggling sons
struggling independence training
struggling to find their place
in the race

How do you have the heart for
God’s love letters
Or blessings left along the path
Except to know He sits beside me
And if I believe hard enough
He holds me hand, catches the tears
That flow inside, letting me fall apart
For a few minutes
Until He puts me back together
Dries my eyes
And tells me not to give up
On His children
He loves so much.

Do you ever have days like that, where you just fall apart, just cannot fathom how you will handle tomorrow’s schedule? When you really want those answered prayers now because the challenges are growing, grOWing and GROWING? Those moments where it takes effort to just stop, where you just want to go crawl into bed and sleep the stress away but what you really need to do sit on the porch with the Father? No bird song blessings – just you, the Father – and a bunch of quiet? I have those moments. . . .

When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up” (Psalm 94:19)

725) Well, the Father, He sent me to the dr for an abscess – the results were increased energy level, no pain.
726) Making myself knit a few rows, even though I had to back lots of stitches out – because I just couldn’t get it right. Making myself find the sweet moments in just the knitting – I needed that.
727) Sitting on the porch, wrapped with a quilt, watching the stars, listening to the katydids, letting the stress evaporate.
728) The baby turning 12 in the midst of a few good friends, ice cream pizza, gummy worms and lots of noise – from after school until 10 p.m.
729) A red beet, yellow pineapple and honey fruit smoothie for a 7 a.m. ride to a soccer game.
730) That I made myself make that smoothie even though it would have been easier to have given up and let the chaos steal something delightful.
731) Trees swaying under a blue sky in a 6:30 a.m. autumn breeze on a Sunday soccer tournament morning.
732) 3 white geese, mouths wide open, reaching for bread crumbs
733) an impossible schedule, parceled out into a manageable size
734) not the moment of my son scoring the first goal at our tournament, when he usually plays defense. Not that his coordination and foundational strength have kicked in from years with a stomach problem – and now he can literally out-run any other teams offense – from behind. But that after half time, after he had scored, he took his usual second-string bench seat – and the coach said, “What are you doing?”  He answered, “Sitting on the bench.” The coach said, ‘Get out there; we need you.” There’s a whole post in there about never giving up, no matter how bad the challenge – never give up the hope or the dream. Don’t we all feel like sometimes we’re bench sitters, not first-string players – and serving God, well, we want to do a first-string job. My son, he needed a moment like that, a moment of over-coming.
735) the other son, being the youngest and littlest, the first time being a bench-sitter – shoulders set, mind set – to take up the challenge to get off that bench and not letting the challenge make him feel it is a permanent place.
736) Somehow in the chaos of this weekend, of all the schedules – there were moments of comfortable peace just hanging out with the boys.
737) The birds are quieter now. I guess their chicks have left the nest. They keep their voices down now. Today, though, when I took a break for sit with the Father, to find Him – I heard the birds singing a sweet autumn song – and I heard it right after I read this:
738) “You hear those little goldfinches chatting in the undertones without ever stopping? –Bird voices. –Talk to Me like that, ceaselessly, sotto voice. –Soul Voices” (Evelyn Brown, He and I)
739) A student-worker wearing a t-shirt, ‘Ask Me My Story” – and someone did. He gave hist testimony – how awesome is that!
740) That happened right after I read this: “Look at the stained glass windows. Some are in the shadow and have kept all their colors to themselves. Others have surrendered to the sun and are completely lost in its light” (Evelyn Brown, He and I).
741) An answer to a prayer unfolding, relief from a son – trying to wait with grace in the unfolding of it.
742) A soldier reservist son, finishing up a job – and finding a civilian one to get him set-up for taking college classes.
743) A candle lit – a message to the chaos that I will not let it control the atmosphere and mood of where I am


744) Windows, in my office, in my kitchen, outside my bedroom window – letting me see the blessings of God all around me, constantly moving, constantly there – even when the challenges bring me low, He stops in the midst with me – and we sit together, the Father and I.

745) “Our day. . . when I shall work in you more than you work” (Brown, Evelyn, He and I)

746) The soft drip of the challenge . . .and I can no longer hold it all together in this rusted mess – so He holds it together for me.

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My son, when he was little, had trouble settling down for bed. It wasn’t so much energy oozing externally, propelling him from bed. It was all about how to still his mind to sleep.

It was the thinking, the ideas needing to be expressed – from his eyes, to his mouth to his fingertips to his feet – and not knowing how to still it all.

“Your fingers need to go to sleep, too,” I’d say, sitting with him, – and he’d still his fingers. One by one, he’d try to still thoughts and expression – kind of like turning the house lights off one-by-one. He wasn’t even 5 years old.

Learning how to still it all isn’t just a 5-year-old thing .

I know how he feels. Except it’s not always a stilling for sleepy-time things – a stilling of fingers and toes.

My self-perception is affected by thoughts that need stilling. To-do list thoughts, How-to, How-to-achieve-things-like-dreams thoughts, creeping-in-sly-fearful thoughts, less-than-my-better-self thoughts.

When I think of God, His plans for my life – I think of action, doing, achieving, always feeling behind the plan instead of ahead of the plan – never just where I need to be in the unfolding of the plan.

Motion – never stopping, never stilling – for fear I’ll end up to far behind to catch up.

All types of motion are required for real, living relationship with God.

Sometimes with God, I am to just stand, in a withstand way.

Sometimes, He carries me.

Sometimes, I am to read love letters He left outside my door, in a nature walk, in the journey to a waterfall, in a thunder storm.

Sometimes, we walk, heads bent together, arms linked

Other times, it has been like sitting on a porch swing, quiet, no talking, nothing happening but just being together – being still together.

That was this week.

Being still was a tough lesson for me last week. For a time, it left me confused, empty, insecure, sadly forlorn.

Instead of me soothing my children to still themselves, He kept admonishing me to still myself.

He sat with me on a porch, in the mountains, during a storm that blew dust particles from trees  into my face before spraying me with a misty coolness.

I wanted to read a love letter, to find a message from Him, but He just said,
“Be still. Just be with me. You can read the letter later. It will keep.”

Sitting in a chair, casting and reeling because I couldn’t do much else, in a little pond in a little cabin where cleaning and cooking were off-limits for my surgery recovery, I tried to build a post out of it all.

Be still. Just be with me.Everything else will keep, He said.

I couldn’t swim in the pond, couldn’t go rowing in the boat because of my stitches, so I watched my boys, took pictures and sat on the sidelines. I kept trying to find meaning for a message

But He just said, “Be still. Just be with Me. Everything else will keep.”

Sometimes I need to live out the “being” – let everything unfold – let it swirl down inside and “be” a part of it, even if it is just sitting.

Sometimes just to be with Him, recognize that He is sitting with me, beside me – that He wants to have relationship like that – like on a porch swing late in the afternoon when no words are needed, and we just watch together, just be still together.

I don’t think He created  Adam and Eve for Big thoughts, Big tasks, Big achievements. Sometimes He calls us to those – the Father, also wants to walk with us in the cool of the day and spend time with us (Genesis 3:8).

“Be Still,” He says – fingers, toes, and, yes, my mind.

“And Know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10)

He doesn’t want us to just know He is God – He wants us to know Him – even in the stillness of just being.

When He wants us to be still, everything else will keep.


Still joining Ann Voskap at A Holy Experience learning how to see the gifts God leaves me daily – it has been like a training camp this counting to 1,000 gifts – filled with blessing!
580) Prayers from friends in the blogahood and the neighborhood.
581) No pain
582) the ability to stretch
583) little guys who still give hugs
584) the ability to recuperate without pressure
585) pink, yellow and orange zinnias with bergamot blossoms in Mason Jars
586) uninterrupted time with my husband
587) waking my little guys up at the cabin to go fishing, counting ribs to get their muscles moving, their voices woke up, and shrieks of laughter filling my ears
588) a blue gill I caught with the wrong bait and a bobbin – it matched my glasses. We released it
589) my husband putting the worm on my hook – for some reason, it was easier a long, long time ago when squirmy wasn’t as yucky
590) watching the boys play in the pond, one in an inner-tube, one on noodles, another rowing
591) knowing that sometimes the figurative dragging to an experience is a moms job – knowing what the result can be when they get there – and see it all come about
592) peace that I did not have to be doing, achieving or even being productive as I recovered
593) air-conditioning and plenty of hose water for my tomatoes, zucchini, squash and zinnias
594) the blessing of healing
595) Sons who find our home comforting, a place to replenish, refresh
596) Sharing Sunday dinner, even if it is leftovers
597) Answered prayers unfurling
598) Evening walks with my husband, water, finding watermelons growing, red tomatoes, a rain tree flourishing.

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leadme“I was gonna blog but when I looked at all the blogs, everyone is either an English teacher or has a Masters in English,” a friend said over lunch.

My friend is an artisan, knitting, quilting, creating beautiful things with a grace I don’t have. There are so many gifts that I don’t have, that I cannot master. Her gifts are not my gifts – sometimes I feel like a failure because I cannot sing, quilt, play an instrument, have an everything-in-its-place home.

I pointed out all the cooking, crafting and home decorating blogs – where their passion is not about words but talents, giftings – if she blogged her gifts, it would be filled with awesome things.

Things, gifts that I don’t have.

I don’t have. I don’t have. I don’t have.

If I focus on the don’t haves, I can’t see the have.

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, found me sitting in a pew, watching beautiful gifts praising our Lord: voices singing, instruments playing, feet dancing – and, a man signing “Behold the King” – I don’t know sign language – but I could see the words, see this man singing with his hands, praising, worshipping in a language with no voice that spoke more eloquently than a great orator.

weddingchairscFor years, I have sat in awe, listening to our worship singers, from our college ministry to our adult ministry – and have been awed by their uninhibited use of voice and sound, beating myself up because I don’t have what they have. I so wanted to worship my Lord that beautifully, with immersion and abandon – but I have not the voice.

Watching our college and youth dance team – young men and women, worshipping our Lord with bones, muscles and liberation, no inhibition – grace and passion for our Lord unleashed in worship – it just WOWS me, their gift, their passion for our Lord.- but I have not the graceful feet and hands.

Musicians – guitars, drums, horns, pianos, percussion, strings – that skill honed to worship our Lord, developed and used in tribute, in worship – but I have not the skill.

They bring to God gifts of worship. They give something of themselves weekly, daily to Him in a way that I cannot.

Too much of my life has been the focus of what I don’t have, what I cannot do, not because of time or money, but because I do not have that gifting.

I used to feel inadequate, defective . . . until God uncovered my gift, dug it out from the overgrown garden of life in which it lost itself, and transplanted it in Him, where it needed to be to grow – and I learned how my gift dances, sings and plays – just in a different way.

We each have a gift.
That dances graceful
Uninhibited, with abandon
Boasting of our Lord

With our gifts,
Our hearts sing ballads of God’s mercy, hope and love
Uninhibited, with abandon

With our gifts,
We master our individual instrument of praise,
Uninhibited, with abandon.

With words,
I dance worship

With words,
I sing the ballad He gave me

With words,
I play an instrument of praise

Maybe you
teach, heal, comfort, assist, serve
in schools, restaurants, hospitals, day-cares, nurseries, Wal-Mart, offices
dancing worship,
singing the ballad He gave you
playing an instrument of praise
uninhibited, with abandon
full of God’s mighty grace

We each have a gift
Are you dancing yours?

Sometimes, my voice is not beautiful. Sometimes my words stumble and miss a step. Sometimes I race ahead of the great Conductor.

So many different God-gifts – yet, in each exists a potential kinship in the passion, the concentration, the letting go of self-consciousness to God-consciousness, of receiving that gift and giving it all back to Him.

“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Cor 12:4-7, The Message)

What gift do you dance, sing and play gracefully, beautifully, worshipfully?

302) God providing friends for my sons so that when one falls, there is another there to help him up.
303) Friendships that help roots grow into home and community.
304) Watching a son negotiate hurts in friendship with faith and honor.
305) A coachable son on and off the field.
306) An orange carrot, yellow mango juice smoothie, homemade
307) Orange Dulce Tea in the morning as my computer boots up.
308) A flank steak, baked potato, spinach salad for an easy dinner, easy smiles.
309) Finding special gifts at just-right prices
310) A Friday night dinner date with take-out at home.
311) A birthday lunch with lots of laughing tears!
312) Whipping up Chocolate celebration cupcakes with a chocolate ganache topping for a friend’s birthday.
313) Spending time with unconditional-love kind of people
314) 7:45 a.m. phone calls to my mom
315) My guy helping me get my yard just the way I want it, even though my dream for this is not his dream.
316) After 2 summers away, thinning out our garden overgrowth and coming away with multiplied blessings: “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” (Song of Solomon 2:12):
317) 2 butterfly bushes
318) 6 groupings of lilies: “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5) – I want my sons to grow like that!
319) a knockout rose bush
320) an extra yellow flowering bush whose name I cannot remember
321) a place to finally plant purple, pink, yellow, red zinnias
322) Cardinals showing up in un-expected places as though God saying, “I have not forgotten you – I sent these birds to remind you.”
323) Finding joy in other’s gifts during our church’s Easter Celebration.
324) Watching my littlest guy stuff Easter Eggs with chocolate covered marshmallows and chocolate eggs. Seeing his love of responsibility and approach to problem solving when some eggs didn’t fit.
325) Baby girl giggling and laughing baby laughs and giggles when I talk to her.
326) Bed-time routines that include prayer, laughter, hugs and questions.
327) Right now, I feel peace, contentment, a lull in the challenge machine. I realize it is not permanent, but a sweet refreshing in the now, a sweet gift from the Father and His Son!
328) Living Resurrection – letting the story of my savior falling 3 times, wearing a crown of thorns, nails hammered into hands and feet, giving His soul up to the Father – and rising on the 3rd day, making himself available to those who sought him out, to comfort them, give them hope. Letting that story seep down into my soul again and again, still not able to grasp all of it. God’s love humbles me when I really try to wrap my mind around it,and since I cannot successfully wrap my mind around it, He graciously wraps His love around me!

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feetwaterc16_edited-1“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty [the Aramaic text says “Almighty God”], who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb” (Genesis 49:25) Joseph’s Blessing

Spring Break in winter doesn’t make sense – but here it is Spring Break, and we are taking another trip back to the Great Smokey Mountains.The boys have been anxious that I would submit them to another 4 hour trip to Cades Cove. They’re dreaming of slick tracks, car racing, spin outs and game places – and living in the cabin’s hot tub, if at all possible.

It was one of those mornings where I woke up ready for the day, instead of feeling like I was already behind. I read a bit of Ann’s 1,000 Gifts and A Beautiful Mess. Which inspired me – to not only include a hiking trip to a waterfall, but a  Blessing Lesson.

A Beautiful Mess said,”There is no relationship between pleasure seeking and happiness.”
From there, I shared Ann’s message from Luke 17 – where Jesus healed 10 lepers and only one came back to praise Him and thank Him. Jesus said, “Your faith has made you whole.”

Ann explained, “Our very saving is associated with our gratitude. . . . And the Leper’s faith was a faith that said, “thank you.”

God healed all 10 – but only one was made whole – inside and out. If their illness had created broken attitudes, broken tempers, resentment, hopelessness, knowing how to immerse themselves back into society, to stop living the outcast and live belonging – all healed – only one made whole because he lived thankfulness.

We talked about recognizing the blessings – not just the big ones. My boys know the big blessings of God in their lives – stories of healing, protecting and holding. Recognizing the little blessings of God in our lives, they are just as important.

So we went to our hike, to our waterfall – where part of me wanted an oxygen tank, maybe a helicopter to just carry me to that mountain top, a leg-wearing journey where I felt my physical weakness – and it was so worth it – hopefully, all of us gathered blessings.

The blessings I found were Love Letters from Shaddai, God of the Mountains.

Love Letters were written on the landscapes.

The high mountain trails warned me today’s journey might be hard and wear on me physically – but that it would be worth it. I asked for it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to take the boys. Do you have dreams? Things you want to do? Today, symbolized the journey of those dreams, those things I want to do. His love letter told me to keep going; it would be worth it.

He left me a letter in a big tree, its root-ball pulled from the ground. He wanted me to know that if I have strong roots in Him, I will not be overturned.

Tree Seeds, all over the path, held another love letter from Shaddai. Each seed was a message that He created me to grow strong, bloom and pass those seeds on to others. I am awed by the amount of seeds. Do our lives produce seed like that – everywhere, for anyone who comes across our path – an abundance, a more than enough – like this tree – does He expect that of us? Are there that many opportunities for us?

Another tree fallen down left me sad. He had a letter for me there, too. Shaddai told me nothing is wasted. Not even brokenness. Not even death. Someone had carved steps out of the tree, making a foot-wide step-bridge to help others reach the waterfall.

Shaddai, He said He placed stepping stones along the path, some challenged, some awkwardly placed, some easy to step on – but all His stepping stones provide a path to a Holy Spirit immersion.

So many roots, all reaching for the water. The roots, they work diligently toward that source – become stronger because of it. Shaddai, He wants me to be like that – to work my way, rooted in Him, filled with His Holy Spirit Source. He knows I cannot sustain myself, I need His Holy Spirit source like a tree needs water.

All day, we worked toward the waterfall.

All day long, I kept seeing water, symbolizing the  Holy Spirit. Everywhere I found  love letters on post-it notes from Shaddai: in the water trickling over footpaths, in playful streams, in dangerous, swift currents – and in the mighty waterfall.

“Was it worth it,” I asked one couple, as I desperately wanted a water bottle and an oxygen tank.

“Yes,” said the young husband.
“No,” said the young mother. “I expected it to be bigger.”

We passed another couple, an elderly couple – which brought us up short. How did they manage to get here? I was ready for a helicopter ride out.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

“Yes, it was worth it. It always is,” He answered, his wife, holding 2 light walking staffs, nodded in agreement.

Our boys had reach the falls about 30 minutes before we did.

“You need help, mom” one asked as he watched me maneuver the slippery path, the uneven rocks and roots. He must have been pretty worried about me.

You know how people say that when a new mother holds her newborn child in her arms, that the labor of minutes before – “All is forgotten” in the holding of the child?

In reaching the waterfall, all was forgotten – the soreness, the need for oxygen and water.

My boys seemed a bit surprised to see their mom manage her way out to the big rock.  In return, I am always surprised about how little they know about me, how one-dimensional their view of me isl. I have no idea what theythought when I took off my shoes and socks to immerse my feet in the soul-piercing cold water.

I looked at the waterfall, at the pool below the fall, and the clear, bubbling water so clear you could see to the bottom – and I thought, I don’t want a Holy Spirit Trickle across the footpath of my journey. I want to immerse myself in a Holy Spirit Waterfall. I want to be that brave and courageous to live Holy Spirit like that!

 

Today, I climbed the mountains and found love letters from Shaddai.

Gifts 245- 257

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