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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Women’

Stairs at Historic Locust Grove, not the house I am talking about

“Can I just sit in the stairwell?” I asked the owner of “The French Hen” – this antique store that had once been my home.

I am sure she hated those stairs; everyone did. At least everyone who didn’t grow up running up and down them a million times a day. They were old, tall and steep, the stairs of this house that grew when the dog-trot turned into a hallway once-upon-a-time ago.

I remember falling down them when they were occasional to me, little feet in tights slipping on old polished wood to fly out and . . . thunk-bump! on the slim cushion of my littleness. Tears would spring to my eyes even before my mind recovered its sense.

Yet, here I was, years later, sitting on those 200+ year-old-steps, hoping for what I am not sure. Maybe for my grandmother to walk past, the harness bells once on the front door to jingle, to pull off my grandfather’s work boots one more time, to catch bees in jars or slurp honey-suckle from the backyard vine.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” (Ecc. 7:10)

Better Days? They weren’t. I know that. I don’t want to go back. I never want to go back. God has brought me so far.

Despite life’s challenges, each year, each day is sweeter and sweeter – holistically so much better.

Redemption – given and taken – is a life improver. Faith means knowing there is sunshine behind the clouds. Hope means knowing God has goodness in store – no matter today’s salty tears. God’s love means that His love heals, wrapping around me warming away the cold soul-chills of brokenness.

He has led me to something so[ul] better best.

“In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling” (Exodus 15: 13-14).

So I sat in the stairwell, not because life here was better. Homesick maybe. Missing people I loved. Missing grandfather’s azaleas – or how he would hide on the ledge at the top of the stairs to scare the hee-bee-gee-bees out of us when we went up for bedtime, grandmother’s fried chicken, lazy summer afternoons on the front porch, life B.C. (before children). Standing in front of the big fireplace during the winter of ’77 and turning, turning, turning like a good roast over a fire pit – but I was in front – and it was an old house with floor furnace, a gas stove and this fireplace.

After my parents divorce, 5-year-old me climbing into my grandfather’s lap and falling half asleep. My grandmother came in asking him to do something. She hushed and walked softly away, letting my grandfather hold me until I was slept out. I understood Father-God love through my grandfather’s love.

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Num 11:5).

No, this is not like the Children of Israel being scared, not understanding the future and missing what was comfortable, what was familiar, not bondage to my past.

Stairway at Historic Locust Grove

It is a vintage thing.

Vintage whole cloth memory is not what brought me to the stairwell. What brings me to the stairwell is looking at my past fully and gathering the blessings left there.

Vintage: (verb) to gather or harvest (grapes)[blessings] for wine-making [remembrances] (1828 Noah Webster Dictionary)

To vintage my past, to sort through and let go of the bad and to press the good into my heart.(BCM sentence example of Webster verb definition of vintage)

To vintage (verb) is a joy-catching thing, catching things of God.(BCM definition)

Joy-catching moments like when God and I talked between the azaleas and forsythia. Where I asked Him to make me special to Him. Friday night steaks, my mother’s sewing machine where she made my navy blue prom dress with navy Bill Blass lace (a client where she worked had a son who worked for Bill Blass. He told his son that we couldn’t find pretty enough navy blue lace – and he sent beautiful blue lace to his father – free of charge), where I learned Saul became Paul, the feel twilight grass under my feet in the Spring, learning to trust God as I walked upstairs to bed in pitch black darkness, trusting that He wouldn’t let anything get me, where I learned love can be soft, tough, and graceless and that for love to endure and reach to all family roots one must love with forgiveness, the cardinal outside my window in the Oak tree in the sweet coolness of a summer morning after grandmother turned off the window fan.

I want to catch those blessings God left for me – more precious than the teacup my grandmother left on the wooden box at the foot of my bed one Christmas morning.

Some moments, memories, details you catch – and they are immeasurable, like dust particles floating in the sunlight. It is just a matter of looking for them in just the right light.

Some moments need to be discarded like memories of feeling like a second-hand child, seeing myself as the goose girl when I was a princess all along.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2)

I sat there that day in the stairwell remembering flying down those stairs on the way to living, climbing them to rest. I sat there, waiting. Waiting for what, I don’t know – but, something in my heart needed. . . something.

Sighing, I pulled myself up. Stairwells are not for sitting. Stairwells are passageways for living. The only thing left worth keeping are the joy-catching moments, the blessings.

Maybe that is why I went – to vintage – to gather the memory of those blessings, the worthwhile pieces out of the whole cloth.

I thanked the lady when I left and walked out.

This isn’t a Lot story. This is a blessing thing, a vintage thing, collecting all the sweet gifts God left me in the backyard, in the kitchen, on the front porch, in the stairwell of where I came from.

In the gathering, I discover how this Father that is God has been intentional in my life, been present for every event, big and little – and that it is never too late to gather the blessing, the joy!

They are still there. Gather them. Vintage them.

168) a menagerie of stuffed bears in whimsical arrangement in a yard, reminding me of how when I look for the blessings, I find unusual, out-of-the-box things

169) A group of red cardinals and their less colorful mates dealing with an afternoon frustration of a mockingbird.
170) Taco soup, an orange juice cake and chicken salad made by a sweet co-worker on the first day of my new job
171) My grandmother’s coffee cake going with me to work that first day
172) Generosity of spirit from my trainer and other team members who say, “It takes a year to learn it all. Be patient with yourself.” And I wish I lived life like that in every area.
173) A window view at my desk
174) Heart doctors taking care of my mom over 16 hours away
175) Praying friends
176) Brothers helping a brother move with good humor on a Saturday morning
177) Green spinach, yellow eggs, beige artichokes and brown sausage in a white pottery pie pan lined with a puff pastry baking into a weeks breakfast
178) A friend walking a couple of miles with me
179) Snowflakes, bunches of them, so many I couldn’t see my neighbor’s house
180) Strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple and grapes in a trifle bowl for a baby shower
181) “I’ll give you a hug for some pineapple,” a son asked. I readily agreed.
182) Leftovers
183) My candy jar filled with mini Cadbury eggs on my home desk.
184) A matching one on my work desk filled with M&Ms (so wish people would eat them so I could fill it with Cadbury Eggs)
185) Mini Cadbury Eggs in 1 lb bags
186) Boys who help with the dishes on their assigned nights
187) Bedtime hugs and discussions – not taking them for granted.
188) Cornering my teen in the kitchen and flinging a hug on him.
189) Being able to take lunch early on Fridays so I can spend time with my Friday morning knitting group
190) How all my aunts pull close when one of their sisters needs them
191) A Tide Stick removing a very frustrating situation, allowing nothing permanent to remain literally and figuratively
192) That long distance has changed so it is no longer an occasional thing and I can talk to my mother in the hospital at any time.
193) Yellow Post-it Notes for Prayer requests on my bathroom mirror, helping me to keep my promises.
194) My son graduates from his AIT training this week from the reserves. He asked me to help him with his resume because he knows he has a mom who can do that. So glad God put layers and layers of things inside each of us, enabling us to minister in ways unimaginable to our children.
195) Learning to intentionally vintage God’s blessings all around.

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My Vintage Lane at Etsy.com

The milk box, at my grandmother’s house when I was just a visitor, just a grandchild, before my parent’s divorce and I moved in becoming something not quite a grandchild and not quite a daughter, before the great change, the milk box sat on her front porch. Not by the door for all to see – but against the red-brick porch wall between the green swing and the steps. Always shaded, always protected from the elements.

On those sweet occasions when I would spend the night with my grandmother and grandfather, some early mornings found me already swinging, waiting for the milk man to bring two or three glass milk jars with paper seals, jars sweating coolness. Some mornings the milk man came when I was still sleeping. When I woke, I’d run down, open the lid to the milk box and gather those white, glistening bottles and take them to the kitchen.

Before the great change, Grandmother made hot chocolate for me in the mornings. After the great change, she poured me an everyday glass of milk. Living with my grandparents, along with my mother and brother, became every day living, not special occasion living.

I can still feel the cool grey concrete under my feet, the sound of the milk box lid dropping – and the coolness of the milk.

Blessings are like that. Except God brings them to our doorstep, placing them in often likely places, like a milk box. Like that little girl, sometimes I meet Him there – at the steps of the blessing – and sometimes I arrive after He has left – and I must look for the blessing.

I am learning to find the blessings in the midst of the big and little challenges of every day living. Won’t you join me, join the search for the blessings the Father leaves us, each individual us? Join me at Ann’s 1,000 Gifts with a community of women seeking to live blessing?

80) A good morning Hallelujah to wake up my faith and greet my Father. Some days this moment is  in the shower. Sometimes in the morning school ride; other times just in the footsteps of waking everyone else.

81) not getting my shoes wet in the buckets and mists of rain
82) anger receding after untangling myself, like from a sticky cobweb
83) scriptures sent from Nan at LBDDiaries asking God for His words to come out of my mouth during a job interview
84) Friends sending notes of prayer promises
85) red tomatoes, red onions which are really purple and green romaine hearts chopped into a salad
86) Psalm 35:1 – wanting my Father to contend against those who come against me, for His justice to prevail but for forgiveness to be meted out.
87) a husband who champions me
88) a husband who cares when I cry, like Hannah’s husband cared about her tears.
89) That God collects each of my tears (Psalm 56:8)
90) That I love enough, open my heart enough to risk hurt, risk tears
91) a blue and white Bybee Pottery bowl filled with rice
92) My sons asking for more and being able to ladle out more. . . more rice, more time, more love, more attention
93) for zinc – and the all day energy I’ve never had before, the lifted brain fog, and the me I recognize
94) morning drives to school listening
95) one son leading  us in The Lord’s Prayer
96) another son leading  us in Psalm 23
97) the teen choosing a Proverb
98) time and discipline enough to pray before they pile out of the car that angels encamp about them, that they show others the love of Jesus through their words or actions, that they seek relationship with the Father throughout the day – and that the morning prayer is not the only time spent with Him.
99) blue after days of gray
100) a sunset like I’ve never seen, a foil-pressed sky reflecting gold, fuchsias, yellows, like a fiery furnace, with rectangles and waves emitting different pigments- and I remember thinking that maybe Jesus will return “riding on a cloud, shining like the sun” – like that – not just white brightness and white billowing clouds – but riding on Clouds of shiny Gold and Pinks and Yellows to Purples.
101) my scale showing 9 lbs lost due to self-discipline
102) True Directions. Words do mean something.
103) Narcissus Paperwhite candles
104) Quiet time in my office on Saturday, my only companion the Father, who I asked to come help with a story, not because I was struggling but because I didn’t want to do it without Him
105) Sunday lunch at Olive Garden
106) a bottomless bowl of salad
107) a carafe of coffee and cup to go
108) a waitress who took such good care of us
109) boy humor – and the stamina to handle it and a husband who reminds me “this is normal.”
110) Sunlight pouring through the front windows of my house and falling light through my bedroom window
111) a clothe full of dust
112) moments of joy-filled hope – for no apparent reason than for the moment, nothing is trying to steal it
113) doggedly trying to live forgiveness, to stop pulling the scab off hurt, recognizing that living forgiveness does not always staunch hurt
114) a bracelet a friend gave me before the journey over 2 years ago – a symbol of unconditional, God-love – because that is how she lives.
115) For milk box memories. I never want to go back but I like remembering the good things, the blessing things God always showed me in a broken time – like the honeysuckle in the backyard, grandfather’s white azaleas, fried bologna sandwiches, front porch living – the little blessings are where the beautiful things were.

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I held one child in my arms, year after year — he grew — and month after month, I grieved. 48 months, 48 “No’s.” Desolation snowballed into a downward spiral that drained me physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Secondary infertility was my diagnosis: the inability to conceive after the first child. Sarah, Rebekkah, Elizabeth, Rachael, Hannah, the barren woman — they became my soul sisters. I understood their cry — and I rejoiced in their answered prayers. I sat at their feet, looking for behavior solutions in their stories.

Sarah and Abraham encouraged accountability in their relationship — story after story of each enabling the other’s weakness drove that home. That the only time Isaac is shown taking his problems directly to God was when he asked God for Rebekkah to conceive shows the mighty power of a praying husband. Hannah unabashedly spilled her heart out in front of everyone, so passionate was she in emptying it for her God. Elizabeth, having grown reconciled to her barrenness, showed us how to rejoice in God’s surprises. Rachael cried out for a child to make her look good. Leah wanted to win her husband’s love by giving him sons — and found God’s mighty, fulfilling love. And, the barren woman’s house was filled, probably because she opened herself up to love more others than she could ever possibly conceive.

I mined these stories for clues to solve my problem. Because God had not given me what I asked for, I assumed it was a conditional behavior issue. God was waiting for me to behave a certain way before He would grant my request. I was like the mouse trying to find the magic button that releases the cheese — and none of the buttons I pushed released my cheese.

To compound that, I was an obsessive thinker, constantly searching for solutions. Obsessive thinking starts on the outside — can I work harder, eat healthier, study more, be skinnier, find a new theory, a new treatment — all the solutions are outside based. Outside solution failure turns the obsessive thinker inside — maybe I am not good enough, do not pray enough, believe enough, or am not important enough to God.

But God does not work like that. God does not love conditionally. I am not the mouse to his cheese. God wants a heart connection. Those bible stories? Meaningless without a God relationship. I knew what I thought I wanted, but without relationship with my Father, I could not know what He wanted for me. I had to take my mind off the plot and seek to know the author.

“Commit your way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.” (Psalm 25: 5, New Advent Bible)

A Christian friend, who was more intimate with God at that time, during a particular moment of emotional crisis advised me, “Ask Him to take the desire away if having another child is not His will.” I had to take everything off the table, so to speak — my dream, my desire.

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

And, I did — I asked my Father to take the desire away — if this dream was not His dream for my life. Like Abraham’s willingness to give up Isaac, I needed to be more committed to His plan for my life, than my plan, my desire, my dream. Though at that time I did not realize how much He loved me, who I really was to Him, I gave Him my heart’s desire.

And He gave it back — abundantly.

There have been big dreams and little dreams in my life — that I have asked God to help me fulfill. Sometimes my plan is not His plan — and I let go. Sometimes, His plan unfolds in His time, not my time — so there is a lot of waiting. Sometimes, I just need more experience so that I have what it takes to handle what I have asked for.

“The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you.”(Genesis 22:15-17)

When a big dream bursts into a heart’s desire, instead of dashing off to grasp it — I whisper to my Father, “If it’s not what you want, please take away the desire to do it.”

And, He does.

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This blue-skied New Years Eve morning, the cardinal outside my window greeted me with a familiar call. The same call I used to hear outside the window at my grandmother’s house on those fresh summer mornings when my dreams and hopes were young and limited. When I was just a girl.

Cardinal Nest near my Door

The cardinal has always symbolized God’s comfort to me. At various moments in my life, the cardinal has darted from the roadside greenery to soar ahead of me. I can tell you today what I was thinking at those moments, the challenges that simmered within – and the Father’s comfort that seared into my heart, coaxing a smile and hope surged.

Too often lately, immersed in the big challenges, I have neglected to turn my eyes to the little blessings. That has nagged at me this year. At times, I have felt clumsy about spotting the blessings woven through my day.

I can rattle off the big blessings: God holding one son in the palm of His hand on the day he was born, saving his life; the answer to a prayer – our second son; the diagnosis for a son’s stomach ailment; my husband – these are all some of the BIG blessings, some very miraculous.

But, you know, it is in the everyday living, the mundane living where our spirits are shaped, where thankfulness springs up. Not that I am ungrateful or unthankful. Too often I spout thanks, with a sweeping arm and an unseeing eye – not taking the time to truly savor, not truly receiving the full blessing of God’s little gifts.

Being worn out with challenges, sometimes when just making it to the end of the day still holding on to my faith, hope and love is a huge achievement – worn out with the challenges, I fail to see the detail in what God has set at my doorstep.

My Father, He’s been chiding me about not seeing the sweet things He leaves for me, telling me to take better care of my heart and open my eyes to these things He has provided to comfort me whether it’s within the challenges, the refreshing or the walking.

My father doesn’t just give one-dimensionally. He doesn’t just give the BIG gifts.
He leaves little packages of blessing hidden in the shrubs,
tucked in my mailbox,
in a blustery wind wrapping around me,
in the fingers of my 11-year-old son making art to welcome his very first niece,
in the smile of my son eating my hot wings across the blue cotton counter as I cook dozens more,
in the neighbor children laughing and playing outside my door,
in all the wonderful places my cat finds to nap and soak up restfulness,
in the lemons sitting on my counter for my water,
in little and big boys wrapped in warm blankets
in Chocolate Celebrate cupcakes topped with Chocolate Ganache a friend asked me to make.

He wants me to seek those little blessings He drops off in my day,
see them, then pause and soak in their
color, their sound, their smell, their touch
a heartbeat wrapped in skin wrapped in a t-shirt
wrapped in a blanket
to savor
these Father gifts
little and big,
big and little.

This year is not The  Year of the Great Challenge, though there may be challenges. Nor is it The Year of Standing, though there are times when that might be all I can do. While it is not The Year of Refreshing, there will be moments of refreshing – and this last year,  The Year of Walking – I so needed that – but this year, this year is The Year of Seeing and Savoring the Little Blessings – and in the seeing and savoring living Thankfulness, living joy.

When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94: 19)

This year, I will savor these blessings, these consolations to cheer my soul. I will not neglect them, these gifts from the Father.

Wishing you a Happy 2012,
filled
with the joy of the Lord
Soaked
in His Saving Grace and
Wrung out
among the lives you touch

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Christina and Alisa have just released Sanctified Together’s  November publication. The theme – Life’s Lessons – encourages others through storytelling.

Instead of forgetting the wondrous things God has done in our lives, we need to shout them from the mountain tops (i.e. homes, blogs, churches, neighborhoods, work place, etc.” (Christina and Alisa, Sanctified Together).

God needs us to be story tellers, whether one-on-one or to a group.

“For I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” (Psalm 78: 2-5, NLT).

Even if it’s not your gift. Even if you’re uncomfortable. When God whispers, “Tell them what I’ve done for you, about my faithfulness – so that they can know I am the most excellent Father, that I am all-sufficient to all their needs, that I am the best comforter, that I am the master designer of their destiny, that I am the sanctifier who makes them pure and holy, that I am the whole-maker who will heal their wounds both self-inflicted and inflicted, I am the way back home”. . . tell them what He has done for you, big and little, little and big.

When someone asks, “Why do you believe?”

All the theology, all the logic in the world won’t persuade them our Father is a mighty God . . . but your story will . . .

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

If you need a little encouragement or a lot of encouragement to your Monday, please stop by and visit all the guest story tellers of our mighty and wondrous Father at Sanctified Together: Life Lessons. I am one of those storytellers. Maybe afterwards, you’ll stop back by and tell me one of your stories!

Cry Ye Sarahs Unto the Lord

I held one child in my arms, year after year — he grew — and month after month, I grieved. 48 months, 48 “No’s.” Desolation snowballed into a downward spiral that drained me physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Secondary infertility was my diagnosis: the inability to conceive after the first child. Sarah, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Rachael, Hannah, the barren woman — they became my soul sisters. I understood their cry — and I rejoiced in their answered prayers. I sat at their feet, looking for behavior solutions in their stories.

Sarah and Abraham encouraged accountability in their relationship — story after story of each enabling the other’s weakness drove that home. That the only time Isaac is shown taking his problems directly to God was when he asked God for Rebekah to conceive shows the mighty power of a praying husband. Hannah unabashedly spilled her heart out in front of everyone, so passionate was she in emptying it for her God. Elizabeth, having grown reconciled to her barrenness, showed us how to rejoice in God’s surprises. Rachael cried out for a child to make her look good. Leah wanted to win her husband’s love by giving him sons — and found God’s mighty, fulfilling love. And, the barren woman’s house was filled, probably because she opened herself up to love more others than she could ever possibly conceive. Click here to read the rest of the article: Cry Ye Sarahs Unto the Lord

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Grow where you are planted. Minister where your roots reach.

Don’t wait to go to China, to Uganda, to some other place than where you are.

Minister now, where you are planted. With a story, your story. Of what He has done for you.

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples”  (Psalm 96:3).

Among the nations is also right where you are.

Some people might have a street corner. Some people might have a campus step. Some people might have a classroom podium or a sandy spot on a beach. My campus step, my street corner, my podium – is my kitchen counter. 5 boys x however many people they bring through my house – that is my mission field.

Trickle-down Faith-a-nomics.

I see my ministry grow where the boys bring people through the house. When you come through my door, you get good food and real conversation – across-the counter-conversation. Maybe my stories of what God has done for me will water a seed planted – and that seed planted will grow roots that will go to the nations – right in my town or across the world.

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

You don’t have to go to far away places. You don’t have to lead a ministry team. It is about living your ministry that God fitted you for, planned you for, placed you – where you are.

Live Ministry – giving service, care, aid, comfort to the those who don’t know they are the long-lost children of God or to God’s children who are hurting or maybe even need to be budged to grow.

Instead of trying to weed myself out of where I am planted, I have come to understand God planted me there for a reason. This understanding drastically changed the expectations I had created of where I thought I ought to be.

Like a shade plant transplanted from the afternoon sun into a cool, shade spot,

or a desert plant removed from the long, drawn-out shadowed  corner of a house nestled next to a butterfly bush and placed in a dry rocky area to thrive,

I have thrived, bloomed riotously (I so love that word).

“Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9: 38).

The harvest is from where you stand to as far as your heart can pray. Yes, pray for laborers but realize that you are a laborer of the harvest  and your field to harvest is where you are right now.

I need to tell those stories of what He has done from where I am, whether it is my kitchen counter or a podium in a church in Africa. It is just as important a work, loving God’s children here, pulling strangers into the family of God here. . . in my kitchen as it is in another country.

My counter, my root spot, my lofty podium is behind my kitchen counter.

Where’s yours?

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“Marco!” called one of the boys in the pool, eyes closed, searching.
“Polo!” one of the other boys, eyes open, evading.
Calling to find their friend in a game. So summertime, so blue skies and so filled with smiles.

“Mom,” a scared teen calls out. He’d been watching a scary movie. “Was that you?” he asks. “Scratching on the window?”
“At Mid-Night? In the dark? Outside?” I ask incredulous, yet sucking in oxygen from sneaking outside, scratching on the window and running back in, jumping into bed. “You gotta be kidding.”
“Mom! Seriously. Was that you?” he persists, seeking me for truth.
“Yes,” I said, laughing – well, laughing for the next 2 weeks.

“Mom,” one of the boys calls, waiting for me to answer, so they know where I am, where to find me.
“I’m here,” I answer, knowing that where I am isn’t really important – it is just being with me they are looking for. They’ll follow my answering voice and wind their way to me.
Searching me out, just wanting to be where I am.

Calling out in order to be with. . . maybe for comfort, maybe for an answer, maybe for encouragement, maybe for a need, maybe just to be . . . with.

“God?” I call out, and I listen to locate to just be. . . with.

“I’m here,” He answers, and I follow into His presence.

I need to call my Father like that, like my boys call to me. Not because I want something. Just because I want to find Him, know He is there or just be with Him.

He tells me: Call to me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33: 3a).

Like the days I would call to my grandmother from inside the house. “I’m here,” she would call back. I would follow her voice, to fold myself into the porch swing beside her and we would sit, just be, watching the traffic on Main Street, USA, admiring the Magnolia blossoms, talking about a pinch of this, a heap of that. Sometimes, a story slipped out, a piece of history, something special I didn’t know.

Being with God is like that, but more.

Just the two of us, me not needing anything in particular. Just sitting, listening, talking back and forth – Him more talking, me more listening – or maybe I should say, me trying not to talk as much, learning to listen more.

“I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own” (Jeremiah 33:3).

I have been missing out, doing all the talking, asking, crying, wobbling. He has things to tell me, if only I would quiet my mind, close my mouth and open my ears – marvelous and wondrous things to tell me. Things I can’t figure out on my own.

I think I am ready for that kind of relationship – the just “being” part of a relationship, the ear of the relationship.

I like the sound of that.

SSSShhhhhhhh!

I’m listening.

I want to send a special thanks to my friend Kerry at A Lamp, a Light and a Writer, who posted a Facebook note about learning to be a good listener. You know you’ve only been listening to God with half an ear when you start hearing a message from many different places, turning it into a chorus you just cannot turn off – Kerry was a voice in that chorus encouraging me to become a better listener. Her message wasn’t directed at me – but God spoke to me in that message.  Like I told Kerry, I think I am moving out of The Year of Refreshing into The Year of Listening. Stop by and visit her blog. You’ll be blessed.

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There’s lots of baby name talk going around the family. Everyone keeps asking, “Have they picked a name yet?”

I suggested Suzy Belle after my great-great grandmother. Just to see their expressions. Priceless!

Someone told my son and his lovely wife, “When you see the baby, you’ll know her name.”

That is so sweet, in a Utopian kind of world. After all, when Rachel gave birth to her second son, she tried to name him, Benoni, “‘Son of my Sorrow” – which Dad changed to “Son of My Right Hand.”

Waiting till the last minute can have tricky results – I know – that’s how I got my name. I couldn’t leave the hospital after I was born until I had a name – My dad wanted to name me after an old girl friend and my mom just was having none of that. Finally, an exasperated nun said, “Her first name is Mary” and my quickly threw my second name behind that. She still can’t decide on my name, calling me anything from “Laura Leigh” to Mary Leigh to “Leslie Leigh.” Needless to say, I have never been very fond of my name.

My husband and I spent 9 months birthing the names of our sons. Those names are rooted in meaning, steeped in Biblical history, and reach back to people who loved and nurtured, who meant good things to us.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

A name full of faith and hope reminding that we are “children of promise” (Galatians 4:28).

Besides their birth names, my sons have spirit names reminding me of the good things God put within them: Perceiver of Truth, Faithful, Joyful, The Fire and Power of the Holy Spirit, Love.

One blue sky day a few weeks ago, my thoughts were turning all these things over in my head, and something whispered inside me, “God has a name for you.”

If He did all the following:

“For you  formed my inward parts;
   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
   my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
   the days that were formed for me,
   when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139: 13-16).

How could He have done all this and not have a name for me?

God knew
I’d like Polka Dot goloshes
God Knew
I’d like to mix my pottery with my china.
God Knew
I’d be terrible at keeping secretes.
God knew
I’d love coffee shops and cats.
God knew
Injustice would torment me.
God knew
Orange Dulce Tea would be my favorite
and that I’d be opinionated.
God knew
I would not be a perfectionist
and that I would struggle with its effects.
God knew it all because He put it in me
and He knows I can overcome anything
He has called me to overcome
because He also put that within me
God knew I would spend a life-time
discovering His plans for my life
and how those plans would touch other people,
pulling others into the God’s family circle.

No, I don’t think God would have done all that, loved me so much and not named me. He’s not that kind of Dad.

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1).

Sometimes, God names outloud for history to hear: From Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, from Jacob to Israel and Saul to Paul, John, Jesus.

It took me a long time to realize that God, the Father, who planned for me, loved me as much as Peter, James and John. I am not an outsider to the His family circle; I am pulled in, hugged and loved – and named.

One day, in a face-to-face time, I will hear Him call me, hear His name for me. I bet it is beautiful, full of meaning, full of love.

He’s already named baby girl, too!

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Blueberry picking – it was something I wanted to do. The boys balked – maybe because it was a melting hot July day or because they didn’t care about blueberries.

But blueberry picking we went. The farther away from town we ventured (a whole 6 miles), the more distrusting they became – like I would drop them off in the middle of nowhere for a family of grizzly’s to devour them.

Off the paved road, onto a gravel road, moving to seeming nothingness I drove;.

When we arrived, they were almost glad to pour out of the van, out of the air-conditioning into the hotness. As I handed out buckets the blueberry lady handed out advice, “Find the paths that lead into the blueberry bushes. There’s not much on the outside bushes. The good ones are deeper in.”

For a moment, I followed her advice a bit like my boys would follow mine. I saw the blueberries hanging on the peripheral bushes,  and thought, “Wow! What was she talking about? These look mighty fine to me.”

I picked like that for a little while, my mind ping-ponging back and forth between the blueberries my fingers reached for and the blueberry ladies words.

Reminding me of a time someone shared a closer relationship with Jesus with me that I brushed off with a smile –The Hope of a Seed planted in Faith.

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

I had great hopes for my blueberries, what I would make with them, expectations of a bit of Spring Time in a winter storm. In the quiet of the blueberry patch, with the occasional murmur of voices from more than just our group of pickers, the silence sounded different than town silence. The birds in their 10 a.m. routine called back and forth – there were more of them than us. My mind kept returning to the blueberry lady’s words and my blueberry expectations. Could there really be better blueberries?

The voice of seeds planted murmur to your heart if you are truly seeking that relationship. Those seeds don’t give up.

“Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”(Psalm 63:1)

Sweat rolled down my back, and I wondered how long before the boys would be clamoring for a drink. In an instant, I decided that if there were better blueberries, I wanted them. Taking the blueberry lady’s guiding words, I moved away from my outside bush, ready to try to step onto a path that took me deeper. It wasn’t much of a path. I had to push a bunch of blueberry branches out of my way, pushing to see if the berries deeper in the path were really that different. Would my expectations be redefined?

Curiosity got the best of me. Curiosity about more of God. Was there more? Was there better? Did I really know the best God had to offer? Or was it just the best of what I knew? Easy to get to, easy to see. I was willing to see if I knew it all – willing to admit I didn’t know it all, part of me secretly wanting there to be more of God.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”(James 4:8).

I shoved my fears aside, tic fears, chigger fears, creepy-crawly fears – The deeper I moved, the more surrounded by a Holy silence, heralding something wonderful to be revealed. Blueberry picking deeper in the patch, I pulled the outside of the bush aside, and delved even deeper – and found the most beautiful of the blueberries. My ignorance almost kept me from the best.

As I picked those blueberries, I thought how like our relationship with God this is. At first, we are satisfied with the exterior relationship but as the relationship grows from God to follower, Savior to saved, Father to daughter, Groom to bride – the intimacy grows as we draw nearer and nearer.

“I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
My lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63: 2-4)

I popped outside the blueberry deepness and called to the boys, showing them what they would find if they went deeper into the blueberry patch.

I don’t think they really appreciated it – not today, not at this moment – but that is my job, to show them how to delve deeper into blueberry things, into God things.

Sometimes my boys respond to me like I did to someone sharing a closer relationship to God with me, when I brushed them off with a smile. But she pointed the way, just like I point the way – to a deeper relationship. And those words just sink in, in a Faith and Hope way, like seeds, that will whisper to them, murmur to the, “Draw closer. There is more. More than your knowledge knows.”

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
For you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63: 6-8)

A faith seed planted, resting and growing in the Hope that it would lead me into intimacy with Him. I heard the murmurings of Hope and Faith, and I pressed in, drew closer, sought Him in places I wasn’t sure existed and reached out to Him.

In that blueberry path, that hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, leaping in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God though we may not know that more truly is.

In that Hope, we humble our selves when we realize we do not know it all – but are willing to get uncomfortable just to redefine our expectations of our relationship with the Father.

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In that blueberry path, on a hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, causing Hope to leap in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God, though we may not know what that more truly is.

“Living in Him” reminds me of when I so loved my husband that we married and we moved in together – and when I don’t see him, eat with him, walk with him, talk with him multiple times daily, I miss him, get a little wigged out because that kind of commitment is the grafting together of two people into one, changing who they were before.

Yet, though my husband completes me, it is not as powerful a grafting, as being grafted into our Lord and living in Him.

According  Leonard Hertz in his article, Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees,  “Fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting.”

There is a difference in the fruit we produce when grafted into a relationship with the Father. We can only bear the true fruit from the Father by being grafted into Him. Being good alone, then, just won’t work. The fruit is not quite the same. Only when we are grafted in to that intimate relationship can we truly bear the fruit of God.

Hertz also said, “Grafting is useful, however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar. It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for top-working an established tree to one or more different cultivars.” Through this grafting “in Him” a spirit crippled and abused can be repaired, healed, made whole.

God wants me to have that kind of “Living-in-Him” type of relationship, to be grafted into Him – and that is the only way to produce God’s true cultivar, fruit selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by being grafted into Him:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

What is love without God? What is joy without God? What is peace, forebearance, kindness, without God? Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – without God?

They are different fruit cultivar without God.

Maybe, if I can find that kind of message in a blueberry patch, just maybe, I can introduce that kind of relationship to my sons, and just maybe one day, maybe they will have a blueberry patch moment, other than a whining, complaining, are-we-done-yet moment. Just like the tree-farmer passes to his child the craft of grafting, fruit trees and harvesting, so, too, do I want to pass to my sons the knowledge of being grafted into an awesome God.

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I am having a Simply Saturday moment where I am just letting everything go, and that rocking chair on my porch looks too good to ignore. There’s a pork butt simmering in the crock pot for Barbecue later and a steaming cup of Orange Dolce tea beside me. It is the first day of the Fall Holiday, a two-week break. I think it is a knitting, reading, and a simply do-nothing Saturday kind-of-day. But I wanted to share with you something warm to my heart.

I received a letter from my son in basic training where he is learning to adapt to a constantly changing environment where things often do not go as planned, where he is learning to love the burn of a workout caused by someone else’s mistakes, where he told me to tell his brother to stop goofing off in high school and take his education seriously, where he finds his feet taking him to Sunday church.

I am having a “faith is a substance-hope-for” moment where “the evidence of things not seen” are peeking out. I want to leave you with one of my very favorite posts that I recently updated with content and photos. If you are having a hard-to-believe moment or season, stop by and be encouraged: Believing Impossible Things.

May you be filled to the brim with Joy-Catching moments on this Simply Do-Nothing Saturday.

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Unconditional Love cries – because sometimes it just has to. . .

God knew we would need to cry. He created tear ducts, after all. Sometimes great joy and great sorrow so threaten to burst the seams of our mortality that without these tear ducts, we would explode.

He knew there would be times of weeping, even wailing – in darkened closets so our children don’t hear or within the arms of our loved ones. He tells us so (Ecc. 3:4).

He knew there would be days our souls would scratch with the emotional sackcloth of grief, humbleness, and, yes, even repentence. He said so (Psalm 30:11).

I am not talking about crying over the big things like death, just the living and growing things, as simple as word and action challenges with our children.

For you and for me, we cry – sometimes over the same things. Sometimes it is the straw that breaks the camels back that starts a torrent of tears. That straw for me might leave you incredulous, “You’re crying over that?” The straw that breaks you might lead me to look askance, “You’re crying over that?” That realization humbles me – different catalysts might cause that breaking point where our heart angst moves those tears inside out.

But I bet the underlying reason for all those tears – is a mother’s love.

Because mothering is not always easy. Mothering hurts – and unlike childbirth, there are no pain medications offered for day-to-day mothering to help minimize or control the pain.

Except for these tear ducts.

In the last few years, there has been something new mixed in with my tears. Prayer. Scripture. Murmurings of faith. Instead of turning my grief, my hurt, my over-whelmedness inside, I turn it out  – my prayers spoken in tandem with those tears,  “Lord Jesus, Have Mercy on Me. . . .Greater is He that’s in me than He that’s in the World. . . The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer. . . Deliver me. . . Deliver my child. . . Be with me. . . . Be with my child. . . .”

Because if my spirit is so grieved, then how must my child feel? be? need? I cry because there is a need – something that affects not only their now but their tomorrow. And inside me, maybe it’s the helplessness, the over-whelmingness, the solution blindness, the hurt, the frustration, the cross-eyed exasperation – and the straw that broke the camel’s back – it bubbles up like a shaken soda pop – and overflows into the messiness of a wailing soul evidenced by these tears that slip through those ducts that God made just for such an outpouring of need. . . for Him.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8)

Unconditional Love cries to release the pain in our mother hearts. Those tears are not all about us but also for the one we cry for, cry out of love for. When we cry out of love, not selfishness, I think, God honors those tears, that unconditional love that fill us to the brim so that it overflows through out tear ducts.

Sowing love through tears. Sowing prayer through tears. Sowing hope and faith through tears.

Yesterday, I cried over a straw-that-broke-the-camels-back reason. And God collected those tears in His bottle, recorded the story of each tear – and the prayer, the faith, the hope prayed with each tear – those tears will be answered with songs of joy, each wail will have the opportunity to turn into a song to which we dance with joy.

God was prepared for those tears. He was waiting to collect them. He wants our hearts to love like that.

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Today, my artist celebrates his elevenses birthday.

Considering that this son often comments when he wants to eat at irregular intervals and I remind him we recently ate, “Yes, that was first breakfast. But what about second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, first supper, second supper.”

When my oldest son came home from college one day and commented, “You know, Mom, we’re a peculiar family” – well, he might have been thinking about moments like that, where Tolkien takes over our conversations.

It is possible he was thinking, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I know that when he said that, I was thinking 1 Peter 2:9. My oldest son’s expression was bemused, wryly so. I opted for the most postive translation.

Caleb's Art

But back to my elevenses son, apparently born into a “peculiar” family, the heart of the brotherhood (not to be confused with the Center of the Brotherhood). When he was born, my joyful son asked, “What’s his spirit name, Mom?”

“Peace?” I asked, hopeful, frazzled at the wrestling and arguing between the 2nd and 3rd one at that time.

“No, Mama,” he said, 5 years old, leaning into the baby of the brotherhood. “He’s LLLOOOooovvvvve.”

And, he has been. He is our human resource guy – the one everyone loves, the one who manages to reach into the hearts of each brother without getting into their bubbles.

Outside the brotherhood, he is an artist, a guitar player, a soccer player, a basketball shooter, a wanderer into his own space, a prayer warrior when his friends hurt, a seeker of solitude with a saucy sense of humor.

His art delights me. He’ll go into his room, or sit at the kitchen table, drawing for hours, gifting me with them – and I am humbled by his giving, by his art, by his heart.

Sometimes he draws cartoon story lines. He drew 3 pictures for my office, which I cherish.

This elevenses boy, in this peculiar family, brings things outside that God put inside before he was fully formed. God gave him a heart for drawing, for making music, for building things – and God’s generosity humbles me more because these gifts He gave my son overflow and touch me, this mother’s heart that so struggles to be the mother I am called to be.

Caleb Art

My prayer for this elevenses son who expresses himself with the workmanship of his hands instead of words, I pray for your mind that guides your hands, that you seek to do the work of God, the work He gave them the gift to do, that your mind gives your hands honorable things to do.

I pray that your mind stay good and true, striving to learn more. . . more of the good things in life, the true things in life – and that your hands create testimonies of faith, hope and joy from your brand of peculiar humor and insight into life.

I pray for those hands that work with artist tools: hammers, pens, pencils, things that cut, things that create – that the heart of God is shown through that work. I pray your hands are blessed with strength, courage, follow through, attention to detail, care, comfort and health, evidence of the wear and tear of nobleness.

I pray that your hands reach for God in love, in praise, in worship, in thanksgiving and in times of reaching from the tops and bottoms of life, even 5th grade life.

I pray that your eyes discover the beauty of God around you – in the green eyes of a cat, to windowsill raindrop patterns, a blue sky, the cinnamon sprinkle of freckles, sidewalk rectangles, friendship smiles, bicycle spokes, the sound of wind in a fast run, castles on a hill, even the pentagons and hexagons of a soccer ball sitting on tufts of green grass, in turtles crossing roadways – that in your art, you meet God.

I pray that as your gift grows, your art praises God, calls to people in darkness, calling them into His marvelous light, in an elevenses way, a teen way, a young man way – a growing with you way.

I pray that your heart continue to find contentment in the gifts God put within you and that God send laborers across your path to help you unfold His plan in your life, to develop the gifts He gave you, and to encourage you in your journey to become the boy to man God created you to be.

Happy Birthday beloved, peculiar son nested amongst a peculiar family. I am so blessed God gave you to us.

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When my boys come to me for  boo-boo prayers, migraine prayers, and over-coming fear prayers, I know we are going in the right direction.

When my oldest son called from the Christian camp he worked at asking me to call the sweet, older ladies at church who are such prayer warriors to pray for a camper’s mom battling cancer, I knew we going in the right direction.

When my rebellious son allowed me to lay hands on him and pray before he went to basic training . . . . and he cried – I knew  we were going in the right direction.

When they come home
and tell me they have prayed for someone else,
I know I took them
where they needed to go.

All the challenging in-between moments that wear me down are just trip-wires in the path, designed to bring down my mission.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 156:5).

I might lose my balance, trip, even fall – but I pull myself up. Graceless, awkward, wobbly, but I keep on going.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

I will not give up. . . on my children. . .

be strong and do not give up” (2 Chronicles: 15:7).

. . . or on myself.

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We went blueberry picking, my boys and I. It was late July, just when the summer heat decided the show itself. We went after the first day of school, a 2 hour day, looking for Hidden Springs Farm beside Hidden Springs Creek.

We drove 6 miles outside of town, winding through curvy roads, past a burned-out store, turning onto a road that spent itself into a one-lane gravel trail that made me wonder how they got to town in the winter.

We turned right onto a road that skirted a huge, dried-out creek-bed called Hidden Springs, moving closer and closer to the blueberry farm, an isolated place where someone could lose the outside world.

“Is there ever any water in the creek?” I asked the blueberry lady, as I handed out buckets to 3 boys and one, very sweet girl friend of The Teen.

In some seasons, it rushes with water, she said.

Hidden Springs Creek was empty. Silent.

“I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory” (Ezekiel 43:2))

No roar. No rushing waters. Just emptiness.

I’d had a dream once, where my family picnicked beside a dried-out creek bed. In my dream, I asked whether it ever flooded– and the guide (for some reason there was a guide) said, “Oh, sometimes it rushes in, over-spilling the creek bank, flooding the family home, washing everything clean.” In my dream, we were talking about the Holy Spirit –that the Holy Spirit had once flowed through my family.

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

That creek bed, that rushed with water in seasons, it made me thirsty. I felt the dry, dusty, cracked river-bed in my boys – and I wanted that rain, that Holy Spirit Rain for them, too. I wanted that season to be now.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41: :17).

I thought how cool it would be it would be if  Hidden Springs Creek produced a flash flood of Spirit-filled water – kind of like the water that rushed, morphing into horse-shaped rapids in The Lord of the Rings. Something visual. Something Tangible. Something with a Wow-Factor that washes away any doubts.

But the Holy Spirit, it isn’t contained to river beds, creek beds and oceans.

There is a spring in each of us, a Holy Spirit spring – flowing, gushing with Living Water. For so many of us, though, it is a Hidden Spring. Because we don’t understand, we dam up that living stream available to us. We don’t let it wash through our life.

I’m like that with a lot of things. I didn’t use my kitchen Aid Mixer for years because I really didn’t understand what it could do for me. There are programs on my computer I don’t use because I don’t understand. I avoid what I do not understand.

Until, one day, someone said in a Sunday School class where we were talking about the Holy Spirit, “If God has more for me, I want it.”

That resonated. That loosened the foundation of the dam I’d built.

Paul prayed for people like me, who didn’t quite get the Holy Spirit. He prayed this prayer:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1: 17-21).

I asked God – is this real? This Holy Spirit Power? The same power you used to raise Jesus from the dead? That’s available for me? In the tool box you gave me when I became your child?

Is it for me? Little me in the big world? The same Holy Spirit Power that fell on the day of Pentecost? That rose Jesus from the dead?

“but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14)

And, if it is for me, can I not only have it. . . but show me how to turn it on in my life, so that the dry, cracked banks of my own Hidden Springs can rush to over-flowering with the Holy Spirit, cleansing me, filling me with energy, conviction, refreshing, helping me pray. . . and yes, praying in the spirit, if that is indeed real, too, for me, too.

I want some of that Living Water Jesus offered; I want that comforter He sent. But I don’t just want it. I want to use it. I want it to flow – not be dammed up behind my lack of understanding, traditions, a watered-down faith. I want my faith watered-up, flash-flooding, over-flowing, covering me, my family, my home.

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 want those Hidden Springs loosed in me. What about you?

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Last week, I stood at the stove, praying for my second son who was in his 2nd week of Army Reserves Basic Training. Standing there, stirring and turning dinner, my mind worn out by other sick children and pressing issues, I tried to recall scripture.  I needed help. The mother within never ceases to search for comfort and strength and ways to encourage!

I sent out a request for scripture, to pray over a son in the military or training for the military. I was humbled by the generosity of so many women. Thanks Ladies – all of you, who sent me scripture when I asked – scripture that I can pray over my son during his 10 weeks of Basic Training. You so blessed me, with your scriptures and your comfort words that encouraged.

As I entered these scritpures, I realized what I wanted to say, how during the breaking of old ways and building of new during this 10 weeks – it made me realize what kind of man I hope comes out of the rebuilding – and it is a man like the centurion in Luke 7 – and between all your scriptures, your encouragement and a bit of dissension – my heart settled and I found what the mother within me was looking for.

Woven throughout in purple is my mama’s prayer adapted from Luke 7: 1-10.

The collage is now a mini-poster for my refrigerator – and saved as the background for my computer – and these scriptures are at my finger tips at all times.

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The Dinner table, well, really, any dining table I have noticed is a family demilitarized zone. Even Kitchen Counter eating, with all its charm is not a demilitarized zone. The dinner table, whether it is at home, in a restaurant, at lunch or dinner, neutralizes home-grown hostilities to build relationships.

Not pistol-packing hostilities. Just household, growing-up, parent-child, brother-to-brother, even husband-to-wife hostilities. Hostilities born out of differing expectations, simmer frustrations caused by non-household interactions, personal space invasions, authority issues, sometimes just breathing issues, unfulfilled needs, not-belonging issues from the out-side come in – all kinds of living issues – all living together, heading toward the dinner table.

There’s an un-spoken armistice or peace treaty at the table. Issues are left outside the demilitarized zone – kind of like leaving your gun at the sheriff’s office when entering town. Sometimes the need to disarm over a hidden issue occurs but is easily handled.  Behavior changes in this neutral zone we call the dinner table as we sit down, passing ketchup, A-1, or Worcestershire Sauce, salad dressing, green beans, meat, salt and bread.

Rules and authority are recognized at the dinner table, sometimes nudgingly but never begrudgingly. For example, no eating until prayer is said.

One night, the Dad was out of town on business. The second son, he was the oldest man at the table – so the dinner prayer fell to him. He balked the first time I asked him to say the dinner prayer, not wanting to lead this way. The second time I asked, he bowed his head and prayed over dinner. He even blessed the hands that prepared the food. It was a blessing moment, a giving and receiving moment.

Followed by laughter. All factions find common ground over the breaking of bread, the passing of seasonings and sauces.

“Why do we have to sit down to eat?” is a common question.

“So that if you’re ever invited to the President’s house for dinner, you’ll know how to behave,” I always answer.

We don’t always sit down to table for dinner. Sometimes it is just a kitchen-en-counter meal.

There is something about sitting down to a table and eating, sitting across from each other, facing each other. Learning to sit long and talk much over dinner.

“Can I be excused?” one asks, not particularly liking the evenings fare, wanting to be some other place.

“Even if you do not eat, you need to sit, talk and share about your day,” I answer.

Then there are Big Dinner days. “Big Dinner tomorrow night,” I’ll announce. At Big Dinner, there is big food and big talking – politics, faith, everyday living, story telling, joking, silliness and serious. The same as regular dinner table living but bigger. Everybody is expected at Big Dinner. The little guys squirm, not wanting to sit long and talk much.

I remember sitting long and talking much – it is a soul marinating time, a seasoning time where things go down deep inside that maybe you don’t quite understand. . .yet. Maybe the patience isn’t there yet to fully grasp the fellowship, of politics that affects you indirectly, of stories of people you don’t know, when the spotlight is not just on you, where things go over your head because when you’re little things do that.

Sometimes the dining table is in a restaurant. Recently, I had a lunch date with my two oldest sons. For my second son, it was a symbol of adulthood – to go to lunch while his other brothers were at school. At graduation, he crossed over to a different way of living. On that day, lunch was a sending-off lunch, commemorating the second son leaving for basic training for the Army Reserves.

We ate at our favorite Cajun restaurant, where my oldest son’s rehearsal dinner was, where the family celebrated the second son’s 16 birthday, and so many of my birthdays. Watching my sons talk, laugh, I saw the dinner table do what it is best at: providing a theater for relationship building. 

Two totally different young men with totally different approaches to life when not at the dinner table, today finding commonness, compassion and outreach to reach other. Relationship building was the main course. Amnesty from the demilitarized zone left the table with them, a peace accord not spoken reached through the breaking of bread.

Sitting at the dinner table, sitting long and talking much, Big Dinner or little dinner, passing salt and sauces, building relationships, leaving conflict outside the demilitarized zone, little ones learning so much – it is a good thing, living in the demilitarized zone that is the dinner table!

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Mark 8:8)

 

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As we drove through town, just the two of us, me and my third son, a junior, we talked – about new friends and old friends. The early morning coolness blew though the windows, my hair tickling my cheeks. Sans little brothers, the quiet was perfect soil to grow meaningful words. Those words grew without coaxing – one of those true moments.

“They called me Jesus,” he said, this son who has a joy-of-the-Lord spirit, talking about his friends from where we lived the last 2 years. “‘Cause I always wore sandals.”

And because he believed when they didn’t.

My older boys love sandals – even in the cold months. Chacos are their favorite, usually hand-me-down Chacos from the oldest son, Old Navy flip-flops will do in a pinch.

“Most of them were atheists. One was a Jew. I still pray for them. I pray they’ll be saved.”

Despite their unbelief – He told them about that belief anyway, in words and actions, in their presence and in prayer.

We talked a little more, our talk winding around. I’m not sure where these next words came out of in that conversation, where I was listening more than talking.

“Yeah. I fell away for a time,” and as that sunk into my heart, he said, “But I came back.”

He saw I wanted to say something, and he interrupted, “I came back, mom. We don’t need to talk about it.”

Both he and his brother fell away for a time, after Papaw died. After our minister stood Hospice Compassion Care room and prayed for a miracle, a miracle for this man who was dying with cancer, who had played tennis just 2 months ago, this man adored by 12 grandsons.

I just wanted to reach over, grab his neck and hug the stuffing out of my son. If I tried, he’d just say, “10 and 2, Mom. 10 and 2,” reminders to keep my hands on the steering wheel. He’s always reminding me ’cause I’m either talking with my hands or trying to tickle a rib in the passenger seat.

That falling away – I remember fearing when I was little falling away. How can you be 8 or 10 or 16 or 25 – and think, “Is there enough good stuff in me to be faithful to God for a life-time?” Remember how forever it took just to get to Christmas each year?

At 19, I battled faithfulness. I had prayed for someone since I was a little girl, that God would lift her out of her struggles. I had a tantrum and ignored God for awhile. But He kept whispering to me, gently calling me – and one day I heard, “I placed the opportunities. It was up to her to use them.” I saw the truth, and turned back, wondering if I could be as faithful to God as He was to me. If I could live a lifetime of faithfulness.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Let me be long-lived, Oh Lord, like the palm tree and the cedar in Lebanon. And like the Cedar, let me grow to my full potential, and like a cedar chest, let me keep away things that would eat at what is within me, keeping me whole and full, full of things of You.

They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
Let my faith roots be deeply buried in your house, Oh Lord. Let me bear hardships in faith, brave challenges without letting go, believe in the evidence of things not seen. Let me not just endure but thrive, grow, riotously blossom, reseed, and grow in your courts.

They still bear fruit in old age
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
Let me show my children how to grow old, loving you Lord. Let my faith stories declare your faithfulness, your enduring love, your mighty strength. Let your Holy Spirit pull up into me, like water pulls up in a tree, replenishing the sap of my faith – and, at the right time, the healthy time, let it spill from inside out, these stories telling of your faithfullness, your love.

he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psalm 92:12-15).
You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. You are not a God who abuses, not a power-hungry God who wants us to dance for your amusement like a marionette on a string, but a noble, worthy God who loves unconditionally, who is better than I can imagine, who wants us to love you because we want to. I might shake. I might fall in a heap at your feet. But you do not. And when all the pieces of me crumble on You my rock, you breathe life back into me like you did to the dry bones in the valley(Ezekial 37) – and I will stand again, strong, tall, enduring, like the Cedars of Lebanon.

If the LORD had not been my help,
   my soul would soon have lived in the land of  silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
   your steadfast love, O LORD,  held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
   your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:17-19)

Thank you, Father. You knew I would struggle. You knew it would take me a long time to understand that your kind of Faith is indeed a lifetime faith, an enduring faith. Thank you for not only catching me when I fall, but thank you for catching my sons when they fall. Thank you for being more enduring, more faithful, more understanding than we are. Thank you for replenishing my spirit, my faith, me with YOU. Thank you for moments in the car with my son when I see an enduring faith growing in him, a heart to call your children who don’t know they can be your children to you, who knew you enough to walk back to you when his heart hurt and he didn’t understand. The more I walk this life with you Father, the more I understand love and the more I love you real, Father. Thank you for giving me time to grow your kind of love inside me!

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5 stools standing at counter
5 boys to men, sitting on the stools
Day after day, Year after Year
climbing to sliding to sit
telling me hopes and fears

one little boyman bakin’ some brownies
while I sit watching his direction
5 little boymen sittin’ on the stool
eatin’ some treats after school

One little boy man slips away
Brings home a girl to meet his mama.
She slides on the stool until they slip away
to a bride and groom wedding day

5 stools, standing at the counter,
4 boys to men climb day after day
One climbs off to enlist in the red, white and blue
so that we have freedom to say
whatever we say while standing at the counter
or sitting on the stool

5 stools standing at the counter,
2 go to play while one stays
to eat and talk in a growing up way
2 come back with 4 neighbor kids
askin’ for ‘smores and hot chocolate on a snowy day

5 stools standing at the counter
one by one they’re growing away
2 boys to men eating mama’s rolls and carrot sticks
When the kitchen door opens they both jump down
And help baby girl to her place on the stool,
little voice sayin, “want some, too! Gra’ma. Me, too!”

5 stools standing at the counter
Big and little feet, little and big
climbing to slide
for mama’s faith, love and salty dishes
passed over the counter top, garnished with the words:
“Come on in and tell me ‘bout your day”

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My husband said quietly, “If you’re still talking about it, you haven’t forgiven it.” Forgiveness deletes stories.

I realized these hurts that I carry around were like cheap trophies boasting of no great win. War wounds continually picked at couldn’t heal, wounds not of nobleness and courage but of weakness and loss.  Not a fireside story of inspiration. Why did I keep telling the hurt stories? The injustice stories?

. . . because I wanted resolution, restoration, justice

But forgiveness is not about resolution. It is about letting go, and that means to stop talking about it – unless it is a redemption story, a ministry story, a where-God-took-me-after-forgiveness story to teach others about forgiveness.

God shows us how to forgive. He shows us forgiveness throws sins into unretrievable places.

  • He ” throw(s) them into the depths of the ocean!” (Micah 7:19)
  • as far as the east is from the west, “ (Psalms 103:12)
  • behind your back (Isaiah 38:17)

He WANTS to “remember(s) your sins NO MORE” (Isaiah 43:25). He does not retell how you have slighted Him. He sent His son to build that bridge of forgiveness to Him. He built it on the cross: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Today, I walked away from the offense, the hurt. Crossed the bridge of forgiveness into a place of blessing, green pastures, milk and honey, shade, streams of living water, peace. The hurt stories and the injustice tales couldn’t follow me across that bridge – and I couldn’t carry them across. If I wanted to get to that place on the other side, I had to drop, fling or just set those stories and tales down.

Across the bridge of forgiveness, God will heal me, strengthen me – and the stories I tell will change, transformed by my forgiveness, my setting down.

Are you still talking about it?

Do you need to hit the delete button of your story collection?

Messy Marriage

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springnestI didn’t want to talk about forgiveness – because how do you forgive when there is no resolution to the slights, the hurts, whether unintentional or not, whether carelessly, thoughtlessly given or not, but God would not let me walk away from this – because there are people God calls us to NOT walk away from. 

A storm whipped through during suppertime Saturday night. Power lines, big trees, limbs covered major and minor roads. In the morning, the boys picked up branches and twigs, lots of twigs – the kinds of twigs birds build nests out of, nests that are often hard to find, like nests of unforgiveness:

A maple twig of criticism, an apple blossom spray of disbelief, a sycamore’s shoot of confidence betrayed

and my nest of unforgiveness grows

and, because they seem so little, so harmless, so repetitive, I keep them

a hickory switch of rejection, unlove word-sprays from a dogwood, the laurel switch of deception

and my nest grows

a little birch of embarrassment, a cherry twig of dishonesty, an oak sprig of exclusion

and the plumage of my soul wears thin

Living forgiveness is not a one time action, a one time letting go. It is an over and over again thing – by people who should know better and people who don’t – our children, our spouses, the links and limbs of family, friends close and far, an inconsiderate college student who cuts in front of a 9-month pregnant mama’s parking space, souls we don’t know but brush up against in the wear and tear of daily living. Some hurts pierce and the deliverer doesn’t even realize their release.

“Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven”
(Matt. 18:21-23)

These hurtings, these twigs that pierce my heart and build a nest, from careless, unconscious cause-effect. I pick them up, not realizing the nest I am building, this nest of my unforgiveness.

And, then I remember who I am, who my Father is, how I do not have to live, that this nest I have built – I need to let go, so that when I see my brother or sister out of the corner of my eye or the edge of my mind, I don’t see the twig, spray or switch I picked up. I see the heart of another brother or sister in Christ, or maybe a brother or sister in waiting.

Forgiveness forgets, not just God’s forgiveness, but mine, too

like God forgives my cause-effect living

“And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins” (Psalm 103:12)

He keeps my wrong-doings as far away from me as possible, so that when He looks at me – He does not see my sin from the corner of His eyes or on the edge of His memory.  My sin was burned up in the living sacrifice of Jesus.

Like the worn mythological phoenix and her next of twigs, consumed in fire and reborn,

Let, O Lord, my forgiveness given,

fiercely ignite this nest of twigs,

both me and my nest of hurts,  burning, consumed in this redemptive fire

until I emerge from the ash heap of hurts

rebirthed through fresh forgiveness given

refreshed, cleansed, the plumage of my soul radiant

Recognizing that forgiving is not a one time thing

forgiveness is not resolution but rebirth through forgiveness

When the next storm blows through my life

leaving twigs, strewn about, and unable to help myself,

I once again bend to gather and rebuild an unforgiving nest of my heart,

My heart pinches, is pricked by these twigs, sprays and switches

Waiting for me to light the fire of forgiveness.

Hopefully, confidently, I will learn to forgive more quickly, to see the twig in my hand before I put it to the nest, or not bend to pick up but walk on by, but God knows what wounds me, what hurts me, that I am fallible, sin-prone and my mind is not like His.

Like the cycle of the Phoenix and her nest, I choose to ignite forgiveness and emerge renewed, unhurt. Unlike the Phoenix, Forgiveness is real and powerful – and is never used up.

Messy Marriage

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Why can my words not communicate as eloquently
as the wordless lilies of the field
of the power of God and His Faithfulness
that reseeds itself in season

The lilies don’t speak words as I walk by
no rhetoric, no lecture, no cadence
a visual, tangible wordless message from God
blooming in season

showing me the power of not saying
but the power of praying
riotously, abundantly, colorfully
silently, Holy Spirit powerfully
like a field of lilies
witness of God in their season

 

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

My oldest son refused to touch anything with onions for a long time. He says the only reason he eats green beans now is because I made him clean his plate – and he now concedes that some dishes require onions. His taste buds have evolved, matured.

Every one of my boys rejected a side-dish at some point when they were little, gagging. Sometimes the gag-reflex needed encouragement to allow the dish to stay down, like “hold your nose, take a drink of your milk and swallow.” Those are signs of immature taste-bud development – which is really quite normal.

With diligence, though, they have learned to clean their plates. That taste-bud friendly food is preferable but we must learn to eat un-favorite foods. Life just doesn’t always dish up favorite living – so we need to learn to swallow through.

Taste buds mature. I don’t remember an oyster before I graduated from high school, but they had been at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner since before I could walk. Take cabbage, for example. Couldn’t stand the stuff until I turned 40. Beets must start tasting great around 55. Eggplant, though, eggplant was given the green light by my taste buds in my early to mid 20s – my aunt started making eggplant parmesan during the summer. Oh, my – it was amazing – still is. Totally makes me feel loved.

My birthday is this week – 49. I don’t mind telling you. I embrace each new year, each new opportunity to grow, to find new sweetness in new places, to develop more of a taste for God’s things.

In graduate school, a friend worked with Campus Ministries, coaxing and encouraging me to taste scripture, to let it go deep inside, pushing plates and dishes of evangelization in front of me. Yet, she didn’t have the authority to make me swallow. I thought I was full enough. Besides, what she pushed in front of me, well it tasted different, not familiar – like those green beans my son talked about.

I am thankful that God sent someone to ” feed me with the food that is needful for me” (Proverbs 30:8), someone to introduce my spirit buds to other things from God, things that if I would just put inside me, let my spirit digest, would heal my wounds, grow my endurance, to expand my short-sighted vision of what a relationship with the Father really entails. I didn’t see then that I was a daughter of the King, a favored child. My spirit mal-nourishment had me feeling like a forgotten child, a left-behind child, a crumbs-from-the-table child.

“and you give them their food in due season” (Psalm 145:15).

Pride inflammed the ulcerated lining to my soul, stunting my spiritual growth. I was like my son who came in the kitchen the other night, hungry. But not hungry for what I had to give him. God was patient. He knew I was hungry for His word, and with each ensuing season, He fed me a modified diet, building my strength, building my faith with different soul foods, until one day, in the midst of a heart-trial, I believed enough to reach for scripture, to swallow that scripture and to live it.

He still offers up dishes that I balk over – initially. But the gag reflex is gone. New dishes are new opportunities for fresh growth. New dishes are welcome, though there are still days I stand in front of the refrigerator and can’t see anything I want. But nourishment is not always about want, but need.

Each year, each challenge, each lesson, each new awareness of the utensils (tools) God teaches me to use, develops a diverse palate for God’s ever-expanding 5-Star menu. Instead of shoving away what He puts in front of me, I open my mouth wide open with a hospitality attitude for the things of God, a willingness to believe that there is not a meager menu set for my life but a feast, full of good things, new and different things – things that are like Eggplant Parmesan to my soul.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

No, I do not lie about my age. I am thankful for each year that God has redeemed me from the bondage of dysfunction, rejection and pride. I celebrate each year, with a mouth-wide-open attitude, knowing God is going to fill it with blessing, growing me further away from the darkness into the light, growing me closer to Him, developing the taste buds, the palate of my soul.

Oh, and the next time you share a God-dish, either with seed-planting or evangelizing dish, do not be dis-heartened when your heart-giving of God’s things is pushed away – or even gagged at. You may have gotten more down them than you realized.

 “The eyes of all look to you, “Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5)

Eggplant Parmesan for the Soul

2 medium eggplants, cut into ¼ to ½ in round slices
All purpose flour for dredging seasoned with pepper
Olive Oil, as needed. (If using a non-stick pan, wipe pan out between frying.

4 to 5 large tomatoes
3 to 4 garlic cloves
Onion
¼ to ½ cup white wine (optional)
Salt to taste

The day before blanche tomatoes, peel to simmer until juice is gone. Saute onions and garlic in Olive oil over medium heat. Add to tomatoes, simmering uncovered over medium to low heat until sauce thickens.  (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using).

Peel and slice eggplants, dredging in seasoned flour until lightly browned on each side.

Line dish with fried eggplant.

Top with tomato sauce.

Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Repeat. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

Eggplant Parmesan for the Soul, a dish for the maturing taste buds.

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I imagine the turtle that my son picked up was scared, frustrated and feeling helpless. Journey interrupted – private space invaded. If he could talk maybe he would have said, “Mom, he’s touching my shell.” If he could think, was he tallying just how far out of his planned journey this exhibition would place him? Half way across the street – halfway there – and now this.

I don’t think he trusted us. I rather imagine he had no faith in our intentions, as he was held there mid-air, legs dangling out of his shell. He had no concept of believing impossible things. Just instinctive fear.

I am so glad that unlike the turtle God filled us with the ability to believe – to believe in impossible things.

By John Tenniel

“There’s no use trying,” she said: “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

– Lewis Carroll, Through a Looking Glass

 What are 6 things you need to believe?

Impossible Things

Can you believe it for 30 minutes today?

Thank God for doing the impossible?

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me”
(Philippians 4:13)

Do you need to practice?

I do!

Today, before breakfast

I am going to believe

6 impossible things are not impossible

because through Him, all things are possible

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
(Matt. 19:26)

All things are possible –

  1. I thank God believing that He provides even in a failing economy.
  2. I believe in the dreams He has put on my husband’s heart, I believe in the brick-by-brick building of that dream.
  3. I believe, not in past behavior patterns of a son becoming a man – I believe in God’s faithfulness and love to pursue each person He created, just as the Shepherd pursues each lost lamb.
  4. I believe that the son who does not like to keep calendars of due dates for school projects will become organized and through organization become responsible for his grades.
  5. I believe that I will have abundant energy to respond with grace to each son today.
  6. I believe that my day will be punctuated with joy, laughter and blessing – both given and received.
  7. I believe that one day I will understand how God wants me to fill my days, use my gifts and fulfill His plan for my life – and through that understanding have peace about myself.

 As I walk through each day, I will believe, though I don’t see, walking, holding tightly to a faith that is “the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

And, while I am walking seeing the unseen, I will whisper the words Jesus whispered to Jarius who’s daughter, though dead, through Jesus believed she could yet live again:

 “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36)

 

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E-Mom at Marriage Monday has invited me into this MIL fray. It’s a Monday, if you’re feely scrappy for a good fight – you won’t find one here. But maybe you’ll find some encouragement to make your week a little sweeter. Stop by her place for an elephant-in-the-room discussion of the MIL.

Nanny's Peonies

Miss Manners suggests that one veer away from such highly charged subjects as sex, religion and politics.  The blogahood definitely has  no fear of addressing either in seriousness or humor those said subjects.  However, there is one subject rarely mentioned, that carries an elephant-in-the-room-esque quality – everybody recognizes it but nobody mentions it – The Mother-in-Law.

I have a gripe about The Mother-in-Law – from the view of the mother of 5 sons, and, now officially The Mother in Law to a delightful daughter-in-law whom loves my son to distraction, I have some street credibility, some skin in the game – Oops! I’ve been around my boys just way too much.

A few months ago, a mother of sons was rolling her eyes about her mother-in-law who was coming to visit. And, maybe I should not have, but I just could not help myself.  I pointed out that she had sons – about 3 of them. And, well, hhhhmmmm, did she want her sons to grow up and marry daughter-in-laws who talk about her like that?

Her eyes got big like saucers and she paused, answering, “I had not thought of that.”

Wearing Grey at the Wedding

The MILOS (Mother-in-law-of-Sons) starts at a disadvantage – she is the one everyone tells to shut up and wear grey at the wedding.  In what other job or social event does someone say, “You are not valuable or important enough to be noticed.”  The mother some mothers love cursing with the following line: “A daughter is a daughter all her life but a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Yes – I will hang up on you if you call and tell me that. If you write it in a comment, I will delete it. That is speaking a curse over any mother’s life. It’s akin to kicking puppies who only want to love you.

Historically, the son did not disengage himself from his family. This attitude is really a post- WWII attitude. From biblical time to WWII, the daughter left her husband’s family and was grafted into his family, leaving hers behind. Even when widowed, the first legal step was to remarry into the husband’s family. Returning home was the last choice.

Why anyone would gleefully tell another mother, “Hey, mom, you’ve poured your life blood into this person but you are on the outside of the family circle now – you are not even part of the family – only under duress” – well, that just boggles my love-your-neighbor-as-yourself little Christian woman mind.

Rock star mom fades. Snuggle time disappears. The quality of hugs even changes. They hug someone else.  Snuggle with someone else.  See stars in their eyes over someone else – The Girl. (Hint, make sure your daughter-in-law knows you are joking when you say you want to be the mother just like in Love You Forever – who will take her ladder, climb it, crawl through the window, just so you can rock your son when he’s all grown up, saying, “I will love you for always.  I will love you forever.” – it’s a great book for children who cannot imagine life without mom, but it a book that has the potential to freak out your daughter-in-law – LOL).

Nanny's Iris and The Apple Tree that must be climbed by every child

A heart is big enough to love completely as many people as one desires to love.  That is one of the lessons I have learned as a daughter-in-law.  I will admit that when I married my magnificent husband, that I wanted to hang out with my family, celebrate with my family and let my son spend more time with my family.

I was young, growing inside me things like true confidence in myself, unconditional love, generosity of spirit, self-less-ness, wifely things, and, when my first son was born, motherly things. Luckily for me, we lived in my in-law’s home town.  Because of that, I had to spend more time with the “in-laws“. Just because they were the closer family.  Not necessarily because I wanted to, though I liked his parents.

And, I was so blessed because of it. It takes time and effort to build relationships. Time and effort on both sides. Effort is a reach. reaCH. REACH action by BOTH sides. Relationship cannot be built without BOTH sides reaching toward friendship, chosing love. The MIL/DIL relationship is one of those Unconditional Love Relationships where both sides choose love.

My mother-in-law and I are like night and day.  One thing we have in common is we have a heart for people.  How we go about having a heart for people is different.  She has shaken her head in exasperation over me, I’m sure.  Like the time I called and asked, “How many legs are on a tick?” One, I really wanted to know because, lucky me, I found one.  And, second, because I wanted to connect – and it was a conversation opener.

According to the Don and Katie Fortune’s book on developing spiritual gifts, my mother-in-law’s spiritual gift is compassion.  Mine is the gift of exhortation.  And, according to the book, the compassion person avoids the exhortation person like a person allergic to poison ivy.  And, poor thing, she got me for a daughter-in-law.

However, when my 4th son was born via a crash c-section, resulting in a very healthy baby boy and days of excruciating pain for me – there is one memory that remains indelibly seared on my heart that epitomizes the beauty of my mother-in-law.

The last thing I had heard before they knocked me out was, “I don’t have a heartbeat.” They were talking about my son. When I cam to, the pain was overwhelming.  Crash C-Sections hurt. My husband was concerned because I hadn’t asked to hold our son.  I was still laying on my side, barely conscious.  I wanted to hold my little miracle when my mind cleared – but, I was also a mom with a mission.  My other little guys were going to Day Camp the next day for archery, swimming, shooting, canoeing.  I did not have lunch stuff – delivery was unexpectedly early. My mother-in-law rested her hand against my cheek, just rubbing my cheek gently, like my 4th son loves for me to do.

She didn’t have to say anything; she just comforted me without words, unconditionally loving me. And, she listened to her nutty daughter-in-law rattle off a list of things needed for lunch at camp, what they needed to take, but, most of all, she just loved me in her quiet way. But it was like she understood the pain I was battling and it was so hard to talk.

We both have made effort, in our own different ways. We might not go shopping together, but she’s going to help me make my first quilt. I am so excited she is going to teach me to quilt.  She has made my sons amazing quilts, quilts made with love they wrap about themselves. A child can never have too many people love them in any love language with any Spiritual Gift. Diversity equals embracing and seeing the beauty in differences – even embracing those MIL and DIL differences.

We might look at how to celebrate birthday’s differently, but we celebrate together. She is a Christmas decor minimalist; I create traditional Dickens extravaganza decor. She plants her tomatoes one way, me another.

She’s a cornbread dressing-kind of cook, and I’m Italian Herbs and Spices-dressing-kind-of-cook. She’s a go-with-the-flow kind of lady while I am into time-management. However, we both love flowers.  And we both love her son.

Love requires sharing – and we share. It also requires not looking for offenses, not inviting the little foxes in to chew the legs off that family table. It also requires a forgiving heart – because, well, people are just people, communication is not perfect.

However, I think we both invite each other into the family circle. We each have a welcoming seat at the family table. We accept and because we accept we belong and in that belonging love grows.

Being a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law is all about embracing the differences. Loving despite the differences.  But, most importantly, it is about choosing to love, forging a relationship one conversation at a time.  Keep in mind, one day you will be one!

By the way, a tick has 8 legs!

(If you have time, please stop by and read “Prayer for My Son’s Wife.”)

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momboysbarnRaising Boys to Men has moments of glory and moments of unabashed obscurity.

For some reason, God put the mama (and Dad) in charge of filling these boys with humbleness, loyalty, honesty, courage, a hard-work ethic,  resourcefulness and caring-ness – and independence without sassing, breaking the rules, or not telling us where they are going. Like any big job, there are stages – and as a mom, each of these stages has particular job requirements, benefits, and challenges.

The newest stages to each of us individually usually require an adjustment period.  It has been the same with the last stage with my oldest son who recently married. However, an insightful post from the blogahood has helped me with that adjustment. Let me start from the beginning, so you can get a feel for the last great challenge in the relationships with our sons. As Mamas of these boys to men, our relationships go through various stages, but one things stays the same – prayer.

Survival Mom – Face it, for the first 3.5 years of their life, our sons cannot survive without us.  We feed them, change them, potty train, teach them how to walk, to talk – all the basic fundamentals.  Our reward?  Great big slurpy kisses, hugs, and unconditional adoration.  Survival mommy rules the world and prays that God show her how to rule his little world.  Prayers for healing, strength, insight, patience, solutions, and, oh, that God places a hedge of protection around his future and that this future wife have a heart for us – all while our future DILs are still in diapers!

Rock Star Mom – ages 3.5 to 7 – They love us, adore us, and want to marry us. Life without mom? Unimaginable. We create art projects, find books to inspire, set play dates to develop friendships, and teach them to swim, swing a bat, throw a football, play an instrument, sing songs, and to love Jesus. Full-time,  instructor-mommies training our little guys for the next step of independence though they so desperately do not want to leave us. Separated from mom? Appalling!  Huge Tears! Wailing! They want their mama! And their mama prays for guidance, for their life, for their struggles, for healing, for solutions, that they succeed in school, make good friends, embrace honesty,  for good character (in each of us), and, yep, for their future wife.

Fading Star Mom – 7 to 12 – That mom-son love is still there, but it comes and goes, like watching a star on cloudy night.  The pull to independence starts, realization that mom is not perfect – and maybe a little uncool – leads to testing, questioning, and developing their own tastes, likes, and dislikes.  They go into school without looking back, or trying not to look back.  However, they still love mom-son time.  They love it when you make hot chocolate on a snowy sledding day!  They’ll still snuggle, cuddle up while you read a roaring good book, and tell you absolutely everything that happened at school.  However, they really love hanging out with Dad now. It’s an equal-love world developing in the house. They want to pick their own books to read, which movies to see, and don’t wake you up in the middle of the night to climb in bed with you. And we pray – for Godly friends who help lift them up when they fall down, for wisedom, discernment in how to handle the bully in the bathroom, honest, self-discipline for spelling words,  insight, favor with God, solutions for challenges, and, yes, for their wife.

Underground Foundation  Mom – 13 to 19 – Stealth support – that is how I define it. The quest for independence steps up, but tricycle-style independence becomes the mainstay. We finance it, we attend it, we transport it, support it – Sports, music, extra-curricular activities – here they come. My husband and I have sold pork butts, stood with athletic teams outside Wal-Mart to raise money for the entire team, pancake breakfasts, sat through music practices, lessons, and recitals.  We let them drive our cars (I need therapy after this), learn how to cook, choose friends, develop a social calendar, when and how to say, “NO,” all the while reminding them to find God throughout the day.

We drove them home from soccer games where they seethed anger at their performance (whether they won or lost). We helped them pick their tux out for prom. We helped cook beautiful dinners for two proms where we along with other parents served  the attendees and then sat down to eat after they left. I stayed up all night on Project Graduation working so my son had a great night, a safe night. We reigned in poor choices, encouraged good choices – and prayed – for safety, wisdom, laborers to come across their paths to bring them closer to God, insight into God’s calling on their lives – and for their future wives.

Occasional Mom – 19 to 22 –  At least, that is how it seems on the outside with the  Independence-with-Training wheels stage.  Off to college, off to find their future and take it. Success or failure, it is all up to them, but at least they have a soft place to fall – home – and a mom and dad who are there to lift up, encourage, and pray – for good choices, insight into their future, a good work ethic, Godly friends who help lift them up when they fall – and, yes, their future wives.

Confused Mom – Post-College – All independent, out in the world (but hopefully not of the world), seeking and finding their wife, building a life of their own, as it should be.  The book, I’ll love you forever, “I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, you’re mommy I’ll be” – is so true – however, I do not think my daughter-in-law would appreciate me climbing in through her window every night, rocking my son,and singing that line to him.  I think it would freak her out.  It is a book that has so much potential, but really misses it there in an “Everybody-Loves-Raymond-kind-of-way.” There’s more to this mothering-job than climbing in his window at night when your son is all grown up.

There are times I felt like Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings when she says, “I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

So what was my Role? What was my mommy-job in this phase?  Mommy-ness doesn’t just stop because  they get married.

Then, last week, I read Lidj’s post “Alabaster Jar,”  from Crown of Glory where she wrote:

  “As a mother, I am called to be the “family remembrancer,”

the one who remembers,

the one who points out the signposts.

I am also the gatekeeper,

 the watchman who stands guard,

 the priest who intercedes,

and who holds the cup of God’s healing oil.

May I be found faithful”(Crown of Beauty, 35-37))

I am no longer Confused Mom. My role is two-fold.  Foremost, it is about prayer.  It was all along – Intercessory prayer, vigilant prayer, healing prayer. Secondly, my role is to witness – to remember, to tell the stories of how God moved in our family, protected us, healed us, gave us life, sustenance,  of God’s faithfulness to His promises – and still does! As Lidj prayed, “May I be found faithful.” My role for the son who has grown up and moved out?  Prayer Mom who tells stories – I can do that! I will so have this stage down by the time by youngest one gets married!  Thanks Lidj!

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I have learned that it is not philosophical arguments that persuade about faith, about God. It is our own stories of how God moved in our lives, what He and only He has done for us. It is those stories that change lives, that moves someone to take a chance on relationship with The Father. This is one of my faith stories.

Twelve years ago, I lost a little girl half way through my pregnancy. Her heart stopped beating at 4 ½ months. Because of my history of infertility (I was unable to have children after our first son was born), tests were run to determine the cause. Our little girl was a Trisomy 16 baby. It was amazing she had survived as long as she did. The doctor told us that they usually self-abort early in the pregnancy. Our little girl held on for quite a while.

Needless, to say, our hearts were broken. Our 3 sons so wanted a little sister. We called her Gracie. She’s in heaven now – and one day, I’ll get to hold her and tell her how much I love her.

After we lost Gracie,  the book, Faith Study, by Kenneth Hagan got into my hands. It changed my life. It changed my mothering. It changed the words I spoke.

“…Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he [says] shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he [says]”— Mark 11:23

I started speaking Faith. Speaking the promises of God! Speaking followed by believing behavior that the mountain has been moved, that the problem has been solved.

Every healing in Jesus ministry was followed by an act of faith by the person “healed.” The blind man had to open his eyes, the crippled man, stand, the leper had to go to the church leaders and announce his healing.

Even before I conceived my 4th son, I would say, “Thank you God for this whole healthy child.” It was a battle ground, my mind was, but I spoke my faith. Every time fear would creep in, I would speak my faith—I would stand on the promises found in the bible.

Two weeks before my son was born, on a Monday, one of the minister’s at my church called. He asked how I was doing. I spoke my faith, “I’m doing great.” He had been praying for me, so he called.

Tuesday of that week, I meet with the older women at my church for their weekly coffee. These women were a joy, so generous with my desire to know what it was like to grow old with your spouse. My parents had divorced, and I had so many questions. I wanted appropriate expectations of my marriage. That morning, they prayed for me and my baby. These lovely women surrounded me, laid hands on me, praying. One of the prayers stood out, the prayer that I would have a Spirit-filled delivery. That stuck in my mind. I just couldn’t imagine praise, prayer, and the Holy Spirit in the deliver room. Can you?

Wednesday night, after I delivered my boys to their classes at church, I made my way to our church bookstore. On the way, a lady came from around the corner. She called my name, so happy to see me. It was as though she had known me all my life. She told me she had been praying for me that morning. I had never seen her before, but I felt so hugged.

A lot of times in so many nooks and crannies, you have to be somebody special, somebody who’s somebody, to have people reach out to you. I was amazed at the generosity of this lady. All I could say was, “thank you,” as she turned to go into the sanctuary.

As I walked to the bookstore, the words, “Something’s going to happen,” went through my mind.

Something did happen. At the hospital, the doctor was checking me when the umbilical cord came out in his hand.

“Stat C-section,” he said to the nurse, still in bed with me, trying to keep the baby off the cord. My epidural was wearing off. I was flat on my back in the bed. My husband helped the nurse, pushing the bed to delivery.

The hallways were so cluttered. My KISA (Knight In Shining Armor) tried to ram the bed through the hallway, but it was so cluttered, we couldn’t move. The doctor’s legs kept flinging up until I finally grabbed them, holding them down so we wouldn’t fall off the bed.

All I remember thinking on that ride? I can’t go home with empty arms again.

The doctor’s wife called. He was supposed to be at a funeral. She wanted to talk to him. How unsettling to call and find out your husband cannot come to the phone because he is in bed with a patient (it makes a better joke after the crisis is over).

We finally got through to the delivery room where we waited. . . .waited because the nurse failed to say,,”Stat C-Section” when she paged the anesthetist.”

My husband doesn’t like me to tell this part, but it’s so important to the story. While we’re waiting for the anesthetist, my husband’s leaning over me at the head of the bed—Praying. His tears are falling into my eyes. I just keep saying, “Jesus,” only “Jesus.” Nothing more, because He knew what I needed.

When the anesthetist finally arrived, I asked him to just knock me out. Some of you know that when they knock you out, it’s like you wake up immediately, you’re at the end of the story. I always read the end of a story first!

He couldn’t. He couldn’t knock me out until they started cutting. The drugs couldn’t get the baby. There my husband stood, and the whole ER crew, nobody in sterile clothing, no sterile gloves. My husband, my sensitive, giving husband, told me later that the one thing that bothered him was the nurse crying.

“I don’t have a heart beat,” was the last thing I heard before they knocked me out. It was 16 minutes after the cord prolapsed.

scbwbabycamI woke up to a lot of pain. I didn’t know what to expect. However, I heard my father-in-law joking about my snoring, and I heard little baby sounds.

My son was born healthy and whole. When they went in to find him, he wasn’t where they thought he was. They thought they were holding him off the cord. He was held up high—by the hand of God.

When I asked about the survival rate, the nurses told me that Cord Prolapse babies don’t usually make it and when they do, they are brain damaged. The cord prolapse deliveries before and after me didn’t make it.

When my minister came in to see me, I asked him about what God had put in heart when he prayed. He answered, “About the safety of the baby.”

The prayer of those little ladies? Yeah, it was a Spirit-Filled Delivery!

The lady who said she was praying for me? I believed she was part of the Wednesday morning prayer group. I assumed they had a pregnancy lady prayer list, and I was on it. She wasn’t part of a prayer group. They didn’t have a list. I never found her to thank her. I spent 18 months looking for her to thank her. She doesn’t exist. She was sent by God to let me know He had the situation taken care of.

Brain damage? It’s like he’s been given an extra measure of so many things. His nick-name is, “The Fire and the Power of the Holy Spirit.” He wants to take care of people. He prays for people. When he was 5, He tried evangelizing his younger brother. He has a work ethic that is so totally self-motivated to do his best.

I didn’t go home with empty arms. Speaking Faith—the promises of God—moved my mountain. It can move yours!

 

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