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green beansc

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

After walking through A Great Challenge, in the middle of an everyday ordinary moment, when rinsing out the upteenth glass of chocolate milk, filling the dog’s water bowl, or clearing away the clutter on the kitchen table –  that is when the courage, strength and resilience dissolve, leaving me nothing with which to hold myself together. Maybe it’s just God’s timing, telling me that it is in the everyday ordinary where it is safe to let go, to let the frayed edges recognize they are frayed so they can then mend, the tiredness rest, the bedraggled soul refresh.

No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Mending time is where I need to give myself space for healing to wholeness. The Everyday Ordinary can be a re-set space, where the hum of routine soothes, even familiar acts of organizing the forks, knives and spoons, of rummaging through the socks for mates. . . of measuring ingredients for the green beans. Routine allows thoughts and emotions to simmer, to steam up and release in the mending space of. . .  the everyday ordinary.

I cook maybe like some men fish. I imagine fishing centers one into an everyday, ordinary hum of a routine, a kind of going home where the right now can be poured through the sieve of memories of those who mentored, teaching things about fishing that were more than fishing, to better process what needs processing – and, by remembering, ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly – or the aftermath of a challenge.

Cooking is that kind if processing for me – connecting to the past – to the future and to the right now. Cooking allows a particular kind of busyness that allows the spiritual and emotional effects of challenges to safely bubble to the surface, letting me face issues at first indirectly, then directly.

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My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Sunday I made a pot of green beans, just the way Aunt Joyce showed me not quite 36 years ago when I married. She doesn’t remember anymore, how to make her green beans. Dementia steals the good stuff: the stories, the good conversations, even the recipes. She is 3 1/2 hours away – and I miss our conversations about the nothing going on or about the challenges, the quirky stories and the recipe sharing – and so I make her green beans, the everyday, ordinary, home-cooked but not garden-fresh green beans (I fail at cooking fresh green beans) because in the challenges I miss being with these women who taught me to be resilient enough to overcome the challenge. That Never-Give-Up Spirit is a Pass-It-Down Thing – and it’s something I want to pass down to those God gave me – and to show them how to never-give-up with God beside me! Cooking in the kitchen reminds me of them, which reminds me of the things they taught me, which always leads me to inviting God into whatever has led me to stirring, mixing or whipping up an idea of something that tastes like savory or sweet, feels like a warm hug, conjures joy – whatever the needs in the everyday ordinary.

Cooking Aunty Joyce’s green beans makes me feel less alone in the challenge. Making my mom’s caramel icing or chocolate fudge or creamed spinach, though she’s eight hours away, makes me feel the same way, like she’s right there, encouraging me.  Fry Chicken – well, that’s time with Grandmother – nobody could fry chicken like she could – or make a Charlotte Russe. When I cook, sometimes all the women who poured into me, are there – and, though I’d rather they all be there still, sitting in my kitchen pouring into me, I remember the lessons they taught me, and it encourages me.

Sometimes, the fried chicken is more than fried chicken, the caramel icing is more than caramel icing – and the green beans are more than green beans. Sometimes God uses the recipe to do a healing, shalom kind-of-work within me.

Cooking takes me back to the kitchen where I grew up – filled with Grandmother and Mom, and then later to Aunt Joyce’s kitchen, filled with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce – and I miss those kitchen moments of long-ago home, and this sadness has indirectly created a release valve of today’s challenges walked through -where the courage, strength and resilience can dissolve making space for mending, resting and refreshing – and it started with those never-ending glasses of chocolate milk that needed cleaning out, followed by the green beans that needed making, my mind a rabbit warren full of memories, and a soul desperately trying to rest in its creator but not quite knowing how to achieve it on my own.

Maybe the kitchen isn’t your refreshing, soul-mending space. I’d love to know 1) what you busy yourself with to ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly, and 2) the mentors who poured into you as you grew into your soul-mending space.

Aunt Joyce doesn’t remember the recipe anymore, but I do – and my grandson loves them by the plate full, my husband by the heaping big spoon full.  The boys?  I’m not sure they really care about green beans. Me? They taste best right out of the pot!

 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 10 The Message

Aunt Joyce’s Green Beans
(I’d never measured for green beans before, but I did for this. I’m sure if you love them as much as I do (and my husband and grandson), you’ll soon get into pouring and mixing without needing to measure.)

Green Beans (50 oz can), drain,  rinse and pour them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, turn on medium heat.
Add the following:
1/2 the juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon. summer savory
2 tablespoon bacon drippings (or vegetable oil for a healthier choice)
2 bouillon cubes
1/2 a regular onion, quartered (quartered so those who don’t like onions but respect the flavoring they add can easily remove before serving)
salt/pepper to taste

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then simmer on low for hours, maybe all day. Some think green beans are best when cooked all day and served the next. I tend to agree. Like a good marriage, the longer some things simmer together, the more they blend into something delightfully more savory.

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” ~ Saint Augustine

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February 26, 2018: The snow trees came at winter’s beginning – and I’ve been waiting for the snow trees to come again, but they haven’t. The snow holidays have been too few, though there was a flu holiday, which is not the same at all. The crocuses and daffodils have made an appearance, the Bradford Pear buds are on the edge of blossoming. Easter egg green grass, robin’s egg blue skies, the barometer herald Spring coming, but there are still 23 more days of winter. There are 23 more days of nature’s mischievous, impish, sly ways. In Five Windows by D. E Stevenson, the shepherd and the minister’s son talk about whether March borrows days from April, or whether April borrows days from March: “We get April days in March, and then they’ve got to be paid back; so we get March days in April.” I may get my snow holiday yet, but back porch living is starting to look much more appealing than fireside living, but whatever kind of living, it seemed time to pull  out, “When Winter is Late” – in a kind of tattle tale way to warn all my Spring-happy friends to beware of winter jumping out at them when they least expect it – but like all tattle tales – nobody wants to really heed what’s being said, but I just wanted to say it anyway because sometimes I just cannot help being a little mischievous, too!

January 19, 2015: Winter is playing it’s games right now. The sun shines like Springtime. There’s no frost on the windshield in the mornings – and I find myself thinking of tomato and chard seeds . . . . but I’m waiting. The more it feels like Spring, closer comes the snow . . . . and I love snow flakes and snow days . . . . and so I wait with expectation of God’s grace in coming changes, like weather patterns, seasons and how time fills the daily.

January 30, 2013: I felt like I needed to say this again – for many reasons, inside and outside reasons.

January 3, 2013: The boys, they have been moaning – moaning over weather channels calling for snow and snow not coming. Tonight, the boys kept looking at the weather radar – hoping. Too big to put ice cubes down the toilet – they just plain, old-fashioned hoped, with a dose of moaning for garnish!

At 11 p.m., when my husband and I were locking up, turning lights down, he called me to look out the door: The Snow Trees had come. I danced. I twirled. I trotted upstairs, to shake each boy gently awake, point out their windows, announcing the arrival of The Snow Trees – and wrapped in their sleepiness, they had now joyful greeting for the snow trees.

Feb 1, 2013 – They didn’t even remember me announcing: The Snow Trees have Come! – but they were so happy they had come!
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Winter 2012

Winter is late.
The snow hasn’t come yet.
I am
waiting.

The Daffodils and lilies arrive
too early
not suspecting
Mother Nature trickery
in mercury messaged
invitation
and stems climb out
of  warm brown covers
turning their hope
to an unreliable sun
so vulnerable, so unprepared
for Winter coming late

Even Dogwood Blossoms
are deceived
with sun signs and
mercury tricks

Wouldn’t at least
the dogwood
know
with the story of our Savior
imprinted on the fibers
of its design,
that signs and seasons
are unreliable
time clocks
for announcing
jobs and tasks,
like blooming and snow fall,
seed time and salvation

Unlike winter
God is never
late

Unlike rising mercury in January
God does not deceive or lead
falsely

God is never
surprised
about disappointments and troubles
we find ourselves
in
He is never
late
to redeem us from
our rushings into places
not ready for us

or maybe
places and tasks
we are not
yet
ready for

Only we
are surprised,
disappointed,
our budding faith
nipped
by trusting sun signs
and mercury
instead of God Words
God Whisperings

God always plans
Time to grow
into
His plans
for our lives
seed time
and harvesting.

“He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 7-8)

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webwormwater

tent worms nest
in apple tree leaves
in limbs raised
reaching skyward
as if to heaven
leaves rustling in the
still quiet
green raiment devoured
without a sound

bagworms dangle from
family fur shrubs landscape
by porch steps, garage doors
under windowsills
leeching nutrients
until pine needles devoured
limbs browned
the high and low siphoned away
peace, joy stripped

how, some ask, in the devouring
and leeching – how can
God be good
or true
– to let us endure
hard times, challenging times
hurting fearful times
that pull and drain
threatening the root and heart
of us

how could there be any good
in a righteous man dying
a hammer and nail driven
death on a cross?

but there was
good
God’s kind of good
in the unfairness of Christ’s death:
salvation for all mankind
The great I am is
the hope message
in the challenge
in the high and low
likely and unlikely places
like tent worms give hope
to a hungry sparrow

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28)

(a repost today – because I am savoring this cool autumn weather – and the photo and message warmed me where I am! Shalom, friends)

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

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

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

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

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

Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

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

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

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

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

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

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

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

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

  My life is not my own.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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(Still remembering and celebrating 33 years of marriage)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“And now, God, do it again
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
so those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
so those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing,

with arm loads of blessing”
~Psalm 126: 5-6.

 

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4thjc_edited-1As you prepare for Independence Day, think about the story-telling that needs to be told around the celebration table, the stories of God in our history, God in our country’s founding – and the courageous men and women who crossed over to places like Plymouth Plantation (come by for that history and who grew children who fought for a freedom the world had not seen before, a freedom born out of faith (if you doubt that, read Chapter 2 of Common Sense). The 4th of July is not only about setting off fireworks to celebrate freedom, but about telling the freedom stories.

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you”(Deuteronomy 32:7 NIV).

If you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.” In this quote, Billy Graham simply states a truth we all know: stories help us comprehend and internalize life lessons in ways that can change our hearts.  Jesus knew he could reach people through stories.  He used parables to teach his followers complex spiritual dynamics through simple illustrations.  Stories play a vital role in many aspects of our culture: Aesop’s fables teach moral lessons; Fairy Tales exalt the virtues of good over evil; legends celebrate nobleness, self-sacrifice, and good deeds, but history tells the story of our past and our future.

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Matthew 13:34 NIV)

The Story of a Nation

“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)

The stories of our country’s foundation teach us about the courageous men and women who were moved by God to create a country where religious freedom could reign in the hearts of its citizens.  By following the Psalmist’s instructions, we can pass on our history to future generations and encourage them to secure our freedom. When someone asked Benjamin Franklin if we had a republic or a monarchy, he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” When we tell the stories of our nation and its spiritual heritage, we can, indeed, keep the republic our ancestor’s designed.

 independenceday2Main Characters

“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the LORD brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery” (Exodus 13:14).

Dynamic main characters build good stories.  The main characters in the story of our country were men who took risks, envisioned the impossible, and in the face of fear, accomplished their mission. In 1828, the definition of education included the belief that, “a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties” (http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education). However, in 1828, parents never imagined freedom’s faith foundation would suffer omission or re-construction in its children’s history books. As story keepers of our history, we need to re-acquaint ourselves with the men who preached freedom from churches, the men who formed our Constitution, and the men who fought on the battlefield for the freedom endowed by our Creator.

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Thomas Jefferson

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”Benjamin Franklin, On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766

The Setting

A story’s setting gives the readers both time and place. The setting provides the readers with essential information which allows them to better understand the characters and their motivations. In essence, the Declaration of Independence is the setting for our country’s story.  If we read it one point at a time, not just as a communication to the King of England, but as a complaint written to the three branches of our government, this historical document becomes an empowering document. If we know the legal documentation of our history and freedom, then we can pass on the knowledge to our children, and they can keep the flame of freedom burning brightly. Let’s read the Declaration and re-discover the timelessness of it.

Supporting Characters

independenceday2All good stories contain supporting characters. They help the reader to have a more vivid understanding of the main characters. The beliefs of our Founding Fathers and our historical documents are important, but they have more meaning when we understand where they came from. We can trace back the family tree of ideas in the letters, correspondence, and public record of the debates, sermons, speeches and conversations that led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the constitution and inspired the march to freedom. We can read each one separately or read them as a whole, but most importantly, we want to share the stories and talk about what they mean.

 “God well knew what a world of degenerate, ambitious and revengeful creatures this is – as He knew that innocence could not be protected, property and liberty secured, nor the lives of mankind preserved from the lawless hands of ambition, avarice and tyranny without the use of the sword – as He knew this would be the only method to preserve mankind from universal slavery” (Rev. Samuel Davies, 1755).

“Let us then. . .remember with reverential gratitude to our Supreme Benefactor all the wonderful things He has done for us in our miraculous deliverance from a second Egypt—another ‘house of bondage’ and thou shalt show thy son on this day. (Elias Boudinot, July 4th, 1793, member of the Continental Congress)

Story telling is an educational tool as powerful as the sword. Jesus used parables to pierce his followers’ hearts and minds. God instructs us to tell our children the stories of him and his ways. Therefore, when we tell our children about God’s role in our nation’s foundation, we know we are building the future. Only by teaching our children to be our nation’s story keepers can we ensure our freedom and our faith will flourish.

“Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation” (Joel 1:3, NLT)

 Boudinot, Elias. “Oration.” Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.

David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.

Davis, Samuel. “Oration”. Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.

David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.

Ellis Sandoz, editor. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol 1 (1730-1788) and

     Vol. 2 (1789-1805). The On-line Library of Liberty. 2011 (free-on-line historical sermons that shaped our constitution))

     http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1878

A Treasury of Primary Documents.

http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/primarysources.html (contains sermons that helped shape our Constitution)

Two Treatises of Government. John Locke. The Law’s of Nature and Nature’s God. 2003. 5 June

      2011.  http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/ (this allows you to read Locke’s work free on-line; however, it is readily available at any bookstore or possibly even library.

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I love rain storms. Rain storms are the pause button to my schedule. Maybe it’s baseball or football that keeps you busy – it’s soccer for me. When the rain comes, my schedule comes to a grinding halt.

“I’m bored. What can we do?” the boys always ask.

“Fill the emptiness,” I answer.

“With what?” they persist.

“With big and little thoughts,” I think. “Press in to the quietness. Let its peace be like a soothing balm rubbed into the cracked and worn feet of my soul, soothing my walk, giving me rest.”

“’This is the resting place, let the weary rest’”; and, “’This is the place of repose’”–but they would not listen” (Isaiah 28:12).

“It is important to learn how to handle nothing-ness,” I answer. I go into a great story about back in the day when I was their age, only 3 TV channels existed. On a rainy day we built card houses, watched NASCAR races, played cards or board games. . . read books. On sunny days, porch wall jump-offs, sidewalk roller skating, tree climbing, daisy chain construction, bee catching.

We never uttered the words, “I am bored.” If we gave them a mouth-full of whine, they gave us an afternoon full of chores. We wisely kept our complaints to ourselves.

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature” (Albert Einstein).

Where do you go when nothing-ness comes? Where is your Pausing Place? Pausing Places – a place to sit and let nothingness wash through, like clear water in a rushing stream – clearing away the debris of my soul, clearing away for freshness and new growth.

My back porch, during a rain storm – that is one of my pausing places. Sometimes it is my kitchen when no one is home – and I can throw myself into the cooking and think about life without interruptions – while making something wonderful for my boys.

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no condition”
(Amelia E. Barr).

Other times, it is wrapping myself in a blanket, curling up with a good book and my knitting. I would read a bit, knit a bit. That happened the other day. My son flung himself across the end of my bed – and just looked at me.

“There’s nothing to do,” he said, baleful eyes woefully wooing me to create “something” for him out of nothing.

“I’m having a great time,” I said. “I’m loving this. I’m sorry there is nothing you want to do – but there is plenty you can do. But – I am not going to let your frustration mar my nothing-to-do-time.

He sighed.

“One of the most important things you need to learn is how to find peace and joy in the nothingness of a day,” I gently coaxed.

He wallowed a bit more, making sure I knew he was frustrated. I wouldn’t be baited. I sent him on his way.

Filling each moment with him-centered activities does not prepare him to live a fully enriched life. If they do not learn to embrace the quiet times, in the stopping times later, they might fill those moments with harmful activities – just to fill the nothingness.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

One of the most important skills in life is to learn how to embrace those pauses. My boys, well, they need to learn how to make something out of nothing. Their day is so chocked full of activities they become bewildered when they face, what they think, is the Great Monster Nothingness – which I have discovered to be a great friend.

Learning to turn nothing into blessing – what a great life-skill. Bring on those rainy days!

 

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swing32016c_edited-1One morning, when the sun spilled through the front window’s of my grandmother’s house – something happened between the drinking of hot cocoa at her kitchen table and my sockless feet pushing off the porch floor propelling me high and low on my grandmother’s swing.

My “Can-I-stay-here-forever” wish which every child asks when it’s time to leave their grandparent’s house – and which should always be answered with a gentle, hug-filled, “No” – garnered a yes. My mother said, “Yes” over the phone, in the morning light slipping boldly across the upstairs hallway as Grandmother and I made beds. Yes, because of a broken marriage.

Radical divorce – 1967 radical. Radical divorce giving a yes to askings that should always receive no.

Radical divorce planted a seed dream in my heart – a dream to grow up and have a “normal” family – to become what I perceived was an everyman life – 2 parents loving each other, raising children in security, love and faith who grow with support to reach their dreams, butterfly-kiss families.

Radical meaning “favoring or tending to produce extreme or fundamental changes in political, economic, or social conditions, institutions, habits of mind; someone who demands substantial or extreme changes in the existing system.”

Divorce radicalized family, an extreme fundamental cultural exchange that left me uncomfortable.

As I grew, this everyman dream (born age 5) competed with my writing dream (born age 6).

God was in this everyman dream of mine – conventional, traditional – rooted all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, to Adam and Eve.

Faith inside the Garden of Eden was Normal. Faith outside the Garden of Eden is Radical.

peonybud_edited-1The Soul is always trying to get back to the Father; Only in Him does the soul find rest, recognize the normal state God created him/her for. The soul wants to be found, wants to be at home, wants to be accepted at His family table. The soul yearns for God-normal and God-ordinary.

Yet, we live faith outside Eden. Faith outside Eden is radical.

As I grew in living and grew in faith, I met other children of the Father . One young man had scripture tattooed over his arms, legs, back, chest.  He wanted to capture the attention of the outsider, he said. Radical reaching.

My maid-of-honor’s sister’s family were missionaries in Africa, entering war-torn regions, losing a son to asthma in a place where medical help wasn’t readily available. He’d grown up in Africa, wanted to go back and minister, a washing-feet kind of ministry. Radical reaching.
This everyman dream to love and be loved in marriage until we’re each 100.
This everyman dream to raise children with parenting arms that don’t pull apart.
This everyman dream to raise to wholeness, not brokenness.
This everyman dream to raise sons with a rhema/alive knowledge of the Father’s healing, mercy, strength and love.

I have been struggling with my everyman dream lately – that trying to live God-ordinary is not enough.

Suddenly, faith had become radical, and I was asking God for an ordinary dream.

Had my non-radical dreams been like a balloon weight keeping me from soaring high? Had I dreamed too small, too low? Limited God’s purpose for my life?

And that, my friend, was a deception of a radical snake that entered a normal garden that was Eden at one time. The devil was playing semantic games with my faith.

One noon-time, my oldest son walked up the porch steps, prowled around the kitchen for lunch while I sat in the rocking chair grading college essays. He had popped over from the university.

“Do you know,” he said. “We’re a peculiar family. Not all families are like us.”

“Ummm – yeah – we’re called to be a peculiar people,” I countered, deliberately mis-translating his intent. Apparently, he had just discovered not all families were like ours. I don’t know whether he found out other parents didn’t give their kids Payne’s Common Sense and stockings full of C.S. Lewis before Narnia was made into blockbuster movies. I don’t know if he found out other families didn’t talk about the Senate, the House, the Legislative Branch and decisions affecting our families. Maybe not all families believe in laying on of hands for healing. The conversation never went down that road.

“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)

Maybe we are a peculiar family. If peculiarity meant different, not the status quo defined in the media – well, maybe my everyman dream was more radical then I realized.

If being radical is a son praying for a friend in the school bathroom

If being radical is reaching out hands to hold while praying God’s peace in a hard challenge for a friend or a stranger

If being radical is a son hanging out with atheists to show them the heart of a child of God

If being radical is praying for broken boys when they have no one else that does

If being radical is standing in faith and overcoming instead of hope and joy being destroyed

If being radical shows sons stopping a bully and ministering to the bullied

If being radical is praying for a friend in Wal-Mart’s parking lot

If being radical is raising sons who pray that God show them the bride He intends for them

If being radical is praying for a baby to turn and believing God does

. . . .Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

“How can you stand to come here everyday,” a fellow worker moaned.

“It’s a good job. There are worse jobs. Maybe I don’t use all my gifts, all myself but it’s a good job,” I answered. “I believe in blooming where I’m planted.”

“I don’t want to bloom here,” she laughed.

Yet, even in the hard ground, even the ground we see as uncomfortable, we are to reach for Him, find His blessings and in the reaching and finding, we bloom where we are planted.

 Radical: “Implanted by nature; In botany, proceeding immediately from the root; pertaining to the root or origin; original, fundamental; as a radical truth” (Noah Webster, 1828 dictionary).

Blooming where I am planted is radical living, radical faith when the root is the Father – and that root is where normal lives.

Maybe there is something radical about the ordinary everyman dream – something beautifully radical growing and blooming. Something that shouldn’t be diminished or discounted. Something that maybe doesn’t soar but blooms riotously.

Maybe an everyman dream produces radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

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windows_edited-1c_edited-1To a beautiful friend,
before you can trust God’s plans, you need to understand who you are to the one to whom you belong. Really understand it. Really believe it. . . because when you believe it, you can trust it. Whose you are is the most important part of who you are.

I am the great-granddaughter of a former football player who married Mayme, a farmer and his wife whose faith reaches down to me today.

. . . . the granddaughter of Mary Edna and Theodore who loved through a lifetime
of challenges and made home safe

. . . . the daughter of a father who walked out and a mother who never gave up
on her dreams for us

I am a green-eyed girl married to a brown-eyed boy
mama, mother, memaw to Christian, Ben, Barrett, Cameron and Caleb
. . . . Ava and Norah’s Muddy
. . . . Sadie and Miss Kitty’s opener of the door and filler of the bowl

I am the the family remembrancer
though I misplace my keys, my glasses and my schedule
. . . . a literalist looking at life through faith lenses
. . . . a writer, knitter, cook and gardener by determination not perfectionism

I am a writing instructor
teaching about speech parts, organization and support,
in stories, definitions, reasons, hoping they see
they are more than what they realize

I am a dreamer who believes
all things are possible when God is invited
through the gate of my heart
. . . . a teller of corny jokes with bad timing
living with the after-effects of foot-in-mouth disease
redeemed from miss-it moments by an amazing grace
. . . . sufferer of disappointments, dilemmas, the capricious nature
of man-made plans
. . . . a faith girl learning to live hands-off and hands-up

I am a drinker of wild apple ginger tea with honey
. . . . a collector of back-yard violets in white pottery creamer and summertime zinnias in mason jars
. . . . a reader of love letters tucked in blessings of red cardinals, snowflakes and spring storm rivulets in tree-root paths

I am trying to live an ordinary everyman dream that just might produce radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

I am loved by the one who led me to the water, who washed me
clean in the ankle deep, waist deep, soul deep waters
I am pursued and pulled in to the inner circle of his home
I am given the seat of a valued daughter at his table
I am protected by his angels
I am his beloved daughter

I can live with who I am – and find joy in it –
because of whose I am . . . .

I am designed by the creator
of all that exists
.. . . .the dearness of violets, wild apple ginger tea, the quirky humor, the literalist, these 5 boys, my brown-eyed sweetheart, that my mama didn’t give up – that’s not by chance. That’s by design
. . . . a design to be more than what I see
in the mirror or what you see in me
. . . .designed to belong to Him
I am not my own because I cannot be complete,
graceful, content without Him.

I belong . . . to him.

I am his.

“I know this because an angel from the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me last night” (Acts 27:23)

 

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

“Jump a Fence

Climb a Tree

Homespun, he is Free”

from Blackberry Roland, by Blue Cotton Memory

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

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

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

These boys to men seem designed to avoid gates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that gate relationship consist of?”

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

Or are you just fence jumping?”

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

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

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

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

Going through the gate? Or fence jumping?

(updated, September 9, 2015)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, in many hearts, Hope was cast out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus let go . . . for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letting Go of my to be His laborer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letting go of my

To wrap God’s love around His

All because Jesus let go first for me.

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

“How many of you have parents who make under $10,000 a year. . . because if your parents make under $10,000 a year – that’s poverty! Raise your hands if your parents make under $10,000 a year,” the counselor said in my marriage class my senior year of high school.

This school counselor really wanted students to raise their hands. Some girls in my marriage class did. I didn’t.

I knew we didn’t have a lot of money – but I had never considered myself “poverty.”

My mom, grandmother and I talked about it at dinner that night. Like me, they were a bit shocked. They didn’t consider themselves poverty, either.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things.

I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My grandmother and mother sewed beautiful, hand-made clothes. My grandmother could go down to the department stores, see a dress, come home and make it.

They made Christmas sparkle – from the family bible in the hallway turned to Luke’s story of Christmas to the hand-made Christmas balls made of pins, ribbon,  beads and old brooches and they tucked them into the backyard greenery slipped onto the mantles to the tree to the dining room table to the candies, cakes and feasting.

Poverty was a state of mind, a condition of the spirit – I learned that my senior year of high school. Crippling poverty is a life walked out without faith, hope and obedience to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God’s plan for our lives is not limited by the condition of our pocket book. He tells us that over and over in little stories building up to the greatest story of all: the Son of God born a man to save us all.

When God’s plan to redeem us finally manifested itself, it was through a poor Jewish girl, living in the land of her ancestors – a land now owned and occupied by a people who did not recognize the God of her ancestors.

God sent an angel to a poor Jewish girl, rich in faith.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich in faith.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:26-34)

Mary, whose ancestors who had been land-rich and powerful: Sarah’s Abraham, Rachel’s Isaac, Leah’s Jacob, Ruth’s Boaz, Rahab’s Joshua, Bathesheba’s David, – Mary whose financial and circumstances were the antithesis of her ancestors financial and power circumstances – a young girl who had less to give God than anyone else on her family tree  could only give herself and her faith.

“And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).

Poverty? A young girl who believed to the point of obedience to a holy God,– a young girl so obedient to what she believed, so faith-rich that God manifested His saving grace through her.

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).

God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich only in faith – who was willing everything, including her reputation, to face stoning, public rejection in order to be obedient to God.

God doesn’t define us by an annual salary. He doesn’t define us by our failures or insecurities. He defines us by our faith in Him, our reaching for Him, our Hope in Him.

Mary – a frayed thread in a Holy Genealogy, whose life is not defined by her financial circumstance but her faith circumstance – she didn’t live with a poverty mentality, a have-not mentality.

She didn’t give the angel a list of I-can’t-do’s and I-don’t-haves.

Somehow by releasing her autonomy to become a servant of the Lord, she lived a have-mentality.

Her willingness to “let it be to me according to your word” showed she didn’t consider herself a have-not-what-I-need-to-get-through-this-challenge – but an assurance that through Him, she was a have-more-than-enough-to-walk-this-challenge mentality.

Our culture has set a deceptive identification trap – defining each of us by our income, race, sex, even our sin. When we define ourselves by anything other than our relationship to God, our obedience to God – we limit ourselves by taking the focus off of how He sees us, His plans for us, what He can do for us.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

That’s the story of this tapestry – isn’t it? That nothing is impossible with God. That out of the frayed threads of ourselves, if we just believe in Him, love Him, seek Him out – the threads of ourselves can weave a redemption story, a hope and faith story.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

How do you define yourself?

 

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!
The young woman walked into the church, slid into the pew to as the crowd sang, “There’s no God like Jehovah!”

The Geneology of Salvation Walking

Uncomfortable, not quite sure about God or Jehovah or Shaddai – or whatever name church threw out – but  wanting to be there for a reason she couldn’t quite identify, when she sat down, she laid her iPhone face up. Muted, it rang, lit up and a photo appeared, an inappropriate photo – one her mother wouldn’t want her to have.

The neighbor in the pew looked down as it lit up, eyes wide, looked at her, then turned away.

 A few minutes later, the young women slid out, feeling judged, feeling maybe this wasn’t the place for her, maybe there was just too much wrong for it to be made right.

Maybe the woman who turned away wasn’t judging. Maybe it was a good excuse for the young woman to not face Him today.

I used to be that woman judging. I wanted turn my back on sin. I didn’t understand that when I gave my life to Him that meant reaching past the sin into someone’s soul, reaching to find what God loves about them and helping them pull that out of themselves.

It’s the Christmas season, celebrating our Savior’s birth – He who was without sin.

You know – we’re really never cleaned up, pure – it was Jesus sacrifice that covers our sins so He can see us. The son of God made man, slapped with a genealogy that would cause some parents turn away a request from him for their daughter’s hand in marriage: “I worry about the curses that man would bring to my daughter’s life.”

When you read the Christmas story, do you skip over the genealogy? I do. I want the manger, the angels singing, the shepherds, the near-death escape to Egypt. Ancient kings, wealthy men, slaves, shepherds, small town men and women of no great consequence with names I cannot pronounce – they just got in the way of the Christmas story.

Growing up, my grandmother placed the family bible in the entry way, open to the geneology of the Christmas story, a gold and ruby crucifix laying across the page. Every year, I skimmed – wanting to get to the gift of Christmas – of Salvation walking on earth. I always focused on the end-product of salvation – not realizing that, yes, I want my soul cleaned up, strengthened and living Jesus-in-me – salvation in me isn’t true unless I also reach out to the sinner next to me.

In the skipping and jumping to the Salvation walking, I missed so much – so much of  the genealogy, a genealogy of the sins, the curses, all the faith stories, miracle stories and everything inbetween. I realized, though, that I need the genealogy stories. The stories are a testimony of God’s love for the sinner.

Because God loves the sinner. He  not only loves them, He pursues them – the unloved, the rebel, the sinner – an outcast because of the sinner’s choices or choices of others. Then He leads them home, brings the outcast into His inner circle. Then Yahweh, Shaddai, God – He restores!

This geneology isn’t always pretty – just like mine.

The geneology isn’t always faithful – just like mine.

For those who have the courage to try to find Him, like sitting in a pew letting your sin show itself, oh, He is life-changing – the history shows His love, His commitment imperfect people trying to love Him.

Trusting an imperfect people to give birth to Salvation Walking. To parent Salvation Walking.

There are messages to a mother, a wife, a daughter and a daughter-in-law, a neighbor, a stranger, a young woman looking – the love letters of  Yahweh for His very broken children.

Each wife, each mother of the men listed in the genealogy are frayed threads redeemed by His grace, His determination, His powerful love and forgiveness.

Frayed threads – each of them
Just like the frayed thread I am.

“Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people” (Genesis 50:20)

Please join me this week as I trace Jesus’ geneology through the mothers and wives. Trace with me what each woman contributed to Jesus’ family history – which becomes each of our history when we become children of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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pinkdogwoodThe boys, from the biggest to the smallest, roll their eyes, sigh: “You’ve told this story before, Mom.”

. . . and I tell it again, whether it’s the story of the day they were born, that 97 one earned on his Sophomore research paper, that I’d coached him through on a Mother’s Day in 2009 – when he did not want to give the detail, use the 3-step-method-of citation, put topic statements on all his inside-paragraphs

or the mystery of the missing turtle head

or the “You’re a cake” lecture

or how one 5 year old brother tried to evangelize his 3 year old brother one evening when he didn’t want to say his bed-time prayers

or how the oldest brother prayed for a baby brother for 3 years – and in the sixth grade, wrote about how when God answers prayers, He answers them abundantly

“I know the story, Mom,” each moans as I tell it for the gazillionth time.

But sometimes, we need to hear the stories, over and over and over . . . until the truth in the story, the soul of the story sinks in. It’s like that with our stories – and His stories.

Because He’s told the story since the beginning of creation

Through all creation.

“Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?” (Isaiah 40:21)

How the earth is reborn in the spring, grows, drops seeds to the earth, and dies for 3 months under the harsh cold – and rises again on a spring day.

How the moon grows to its fullness, wanes and disappears, to be reborn.

The story in the petals of a dogwood of a crucifixion to save us all

Since the beginning of time

Creation has told the story of rebirth, of being made new

Of giving ourselves away like the seeds circled within the fading petals of a sunflower

whitedogwood

 He tells the story over and over and over

The story is being told all around

Since the first day of creation

it flies, burrows,

creeps and runs

nests and sits

erupts, sheds and falls

feeds, heals and refreshes

Because sometimes for a story to sink in

Like a seed into the soil

To reach deep and take root

The story from creation to salvation

the crucifixion to the resurrection

is told told over and over

In every possible way.

The whole earth isn’t just full of His glory

it tells the stories of His glory

over

and over

and over. . . . as many tellings and re-tellings and it takes. . . until the truth of the story, the soul of the story sinks in.

My stories might not be as good as His stories – but I hope those stories tell of His glory. I hope that one day, my boys will really hear what I am saying – and see that I am pointing the way to Him.

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory”
(Isaiah 6:3)

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Holy Friday

 

A Day that leaves me WordLess

A Day that leaves me Waiting

Outside the Tomb

empty like a mother standing in the dark anguished

Waiting

like a child huddled in a corridor listening for storm sirens to stop

waiting

Like the bud on a SpringTree

Waiting

a holy waiting of hope reborn

resurrected

Waiting

for a new paternity and brotherhood

finalized in the rolling of a stone

bigger than me

Even though I know Jesus came out of the Tomb

Every year

I

wait

Because I want to understand the magnitude

of what He did for me

so many years ago

the agonizing

death

on the

Cross

for me

my husband

my children

for all of us

 

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springredbud_edited-1“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Spring, like morning reaching red-bud blossom tops, has come. After grey sky days spraying mists, spilling water from clouds too full, the sun came out, splashing colors across my world.

The dove sat on the electric lines, the robins, sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, tanagers, jays and blue birds are opening up nests, calling across the yard to each other – and the cat, Miss Kitty, stretches in the sunshine, watching, welcoming.

Sadie sniffs the moles waking up, moving under the grass – digging a golf course in our back yard.

The peonies purple stalks, lavender spider’s knots, volunteer pansies, irises and lilies are stretching upward, past the almost spent buttercups.

Like winter promises spring, storms promise blue skies, challenges promise refreshing. Saturday, as the rain washed clean my schedule, I thought how beautiful the Sunday skies would be – washed clean through to blue and white.

Challenges do that, from gentle mistings to torrential power-washings designed to wash or break off what doesn’t belong, potentially revealing more of who He designed us to be – one stormy challenge at a time.

After spending so many months introspective, inward, inside, wrapped in blankets, hibernating from the cold winter,  I’m ready, ready to give up my wish for snow (it always missed us). I’m like that with challenges sometimes – they become so familiar that I’m not always ready to let go when it’s time.

It’s time now to let this winter go. I’m throwing open my doors and windows, cleaning off the porch, scratching away dead leaf quilts that covered flower beds.

Spring has woken with a joy-comes-in-the-morning vibrance. I am eager to greet it – aren’t you?

 

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well2014c

“And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.” (Genesis 26:18)

I can go to Muddy’s farm, though she’s not there anymore. I can walk through the field where the house once stood, where the white stone milk barn is overgrown with growing, climbing, twining things.

I can walk the path Muddy’s children, my grandmother and 3 uncles walked, where my mother and her 3 sisters and brother walked,  where my brother, cousins crossed the swinging bridge.

MuddycreekccI remember Muddy when chickens and roosters strutted in the drive, and the water behind her house where Brashears Creek meets the Buck Creek. My boys have been there, skimmed slate rocks across  the surface. That day, the water sparkled like diamonds under the blue sky and sunshine, as if to say, we’ve missed the sounds of feet like yours, murmurs like yours – won’t you stay like the children long ago stayed, shrieking, laughing, splashing, cooling in the summer heat, dragging toes through our sparkle?

Muddy’s creek wasn’t just a pretty sparkly. It refreshed, pushed back, nurtured – cooling fevers, quenching thirst, washed away the daily.  It’s banks could tell a story of provision for real needs, real refreshing – real life. Sometimes it forgot its place, over-stepped it boundaries and crept in un-invited into Muddy’s home.

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Proverbs 37:25).

Muddy's Milk Barn

Muddy’s Milk Barn

Muddy’s farm, where she and Claude walked out their faith, marked passages in prayer books that held journey significance.

where children were born and grandchildren summered.

where after cooking noon supper, Muddy would take her bible or her prayer book, sit up in her bed and read until time for dinner preparation.

where the harvest, the milk barn cows, eggs and chicks helped fill plates at her daughter’s, Mary Edna’s kitchen table in the city, when food was rationed during the war.

The farm’s been reclaimed by nature. Fire burned Muddy’s house down long ago – before I knew I wanted to visit it, to listen for her, think of the living that walked the wood floors or chose the wall paper – who watched her daughter move to the city, two sons marry and farm down the road and further down the road a piece – to the son who lived beyond her, who died one winter morning trying to help a cow birth a calf.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22).
University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

University of Kentucky 1998 Football Team, The Immortals, Player, Claude Wills

The builders of the house and the barn are gone, as are the aprons, the cake pans, the box of candy beside Muddy’s chair the day I remember winding my way to her, cows needing to be milked, the voices calling to supper, the radio, Claude’s leather University of Kentucky football helmet from their 1898 team, The Immortals. It’s all gone – but they left behind something nature couldn’t reclaim.

They left soul wells of living water that Muddy and Claude probably inherited from their forefathers. Their soul wells are my inheritance, available for me to open, to drink deeply from and be filled. Those soul wells reach down to nurture still today, just like they did during World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, through the 50s.

Life’s challenges may try to fill up those wells built for my aunts, uncles, cousins – my brother and I, our children – but they’re there, just waiting to be cleared, opened up for refreshing.

The names of that well are the same as Muddy’s:  Savior, Redeemer, Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah-Shalom, Jehovah RaphaJehovah-Raah, I Am.

I re-dig those wells for my house – my husband digs them with me  for our sons, their wives, our grandchildren – and great-grandchildren,  – on down – leaving a rich inheritance. The wells we leave might be neglected, might be forgotten by some – but for a heart hungry for the great I Am – they will be there to be re-dug, to nourish, refresh and fill to over-flowing for the heart thirsty, a heart willing to find a Father God who loves us more than we can wrap our hearts and brains around.

The children of the righteous need never go begging. They have been provided for. Sometimes, they just need to go to the well, re-dig it, and drink deeply from the Holy waters.

muddy55c*Note: I know it was Mary Eva (Muddy to her grandchildren- Mayme to her friends) and Claude’s farm – not just Muddy’s. I wish I knew more of Claude’s story, but I bet his story is passed down from his sons to his grandsons, the shared work, man’s responsibility and leadership of the household – the hard digging of the wells. I approached this from the matriarch’s perspective that has been handed down over kitchen table preparations, where women gather and share their history. In this house-full of boys, there’s no one really to pass my history down to – thank you for sitting down to the table with me, dicing up some celery, maybe peeling some potatoes, sharing a cup of coffee or tea.  We all need to share our stories.

See a Root’s Inheritance here.
See Names of God used here

Tell Me a Story

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icetreebuds“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt 6:26)

Sunday morning, as the winter storm blew towards us, I loaded the car from a visit to my aunt’s. Robins chirped over the backyard fence, maybe they were just calling hello in their own grocery-store rush. Two geese, racing in tandem, honked back and forth, racing? playing tag? Were they taking advantage of the calm before the storm – or preparing?

careless in the care of God

The ice didn’t come until I was home in my own nest, with my own chicks, wrapped in my own feathers. Most people are tired of this old snow. Me? We really haven’t had any. I keep telling people, Moses is standing at our western county line. When the snow clouds come, he parts them like the Red Sea.

I love snow – but it only dusts. Last night, though, water fell wrapping everything in a sheet of ice.

Diamond glitter is deceptive, dangerous – and it encased my world – red buds, dog wood buds, even the bird nests.

The birds, though, hopped around, on one foot then another across the icy grass. No complaining about the cold. No complaining about nests in the ice trees.

living the daily, even the ice-storm-kind-of-daily free and unfettered

icenestI woke early, wanting to find God’s love letter in it. Stepping out my door, the birch creaking with the icy burden, limbs snapping to the ground. An icy mist filmed my face.

wanting to connect with God, to answer His call with the uniqueness of my own voice He put within me – to let that voice connect with Him before I left to work where I am planted, where the job description allows only a portion of who I am

these birds not tied to a job description – me striving not to be

and I need to soar in the knowledge – the living, flying, spirit-filled knowledge – that He counts me more important

more important than these birds – careless in the care of God

Give your cares to me, He says, as I meet Him – let my kingdom  be your nest for shelter, nurturing, protecting and refreshing – where you can soar, fly, race, sing, swap word-songs at fence-post gatherings

So many people avoid God – thinking living for Him is limiting, oppressive or confining. It’s not, though. God is liberating. God’s Kingdom works in direct contrast with the world. It’s an Opposite Day kind of thing.

“Opposite Day, when slow means fast, when pink means blue, huggable means squirmmy, when sacrifice means gain.

The universe has order – God made it so – how our blood flows, how my grandmother’s coffee cake bakes, how cells divide, how coffee brews – it is all orderly process. Yet, what He wants from us is sometimes like an Opposite Day Paradigm.

To give ourselves up – our dreams, our hearts, our time, our identity, our dignity – to beggar ourselves until we’re empty with nothing left to give – that is the great deception.

. . . . God’s Opposite Day Paradigm take Sacrifice and turns it into gain. (The Sacrifice of Opposite Day Things)

Liberate your soul! Give yourself to Him – and become careless in the care of God!

icetreenest

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

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

 

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IMG_9410There was a lot of imperfect going on at the Blue Cotton House for Christmas.

I don’t think the perfect gift was in anyone’s stocking – or wrapped in paper. The house kept falling into disorder. We didn’t read The Night Before Christmas – but from Sunday through Wednesday – there were smiles and laughter, hugs hello and good-bye.

The truffles didn’t get rolled and sprinkled until yesterday (3 days after Christmas). Some still need to be dipped in chocolate – and the majeskas? Well, they just didn’t get made.

IMG_9433It was a patchwork Christmas – one son leaving for California with the sunrise Christmas Eve. The oldest making it for Muffaletta Christmas Eve, parting ways for Christmas Eve service – and then there were 3. No mad-cap gift prep because the youngest is 13.

I’m graceless at new things – like 3 home on Christmas Day and no little ones, this moving out of raising boys-to-men to the mom’s role in the life of little-men-to-growing men. The Christmas Tree and table decorations, and traditions like turkey on Christmas Night and muffalettas on Christmas Eve, the music, the movies, the hanging of the “First Christmas” with my husband on the tree – it anchors me in the ever-changing dynamic of celebrating life with 5 sons growing.

Andrea Bocelli’s “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Adeste Fidelis” allowed me to feel what the shepherds must have felt when the angels appeared to them that night long ago.

Our church read the Christmas story – and gave some background information. Did you realize that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah as high priest was the only church leader who could have given the verdict for Mary to be stoned if Joseph so chose to go that path. Not a coincidence that Zechariah was struck mute, giving him time to understand what God wanted him to do.

My big little guy, all 13 years old, not believing in Santa but believing in our Savior, he wanted me to make my Christmas casserole of hard-boiled eggs, chips, bacon and my cheese sauce. “No onions, Mom,” he asked.

Santa didn’t get a letter from the boy’s this year. The boys have always done one, passing the writer role down from the oldest to, well, the 4th son wrote it last year and the 5th wouldn’t write one on principle.

“I don’t want anything,” the 15 year old said.

The 18 year old wanted clothes – not grunge-looking clothes but clothes that showed a maturing, to go with his short hair cut.

IMG_9366Christmas Morning woke to a quiet. No early risers discovering what Santa brought – just a 13 year old discovering mid-morning a stocking full of coal – because only believers get presents from Santa – non-believers get coal.

“It pays to be bad,” the 3rd said. “You can get a good price for coal.”

There were smiles, new pants that fit just right, and sweaters for swag. There was It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man who Came for Dinner, Christmas in Connecticut, A Christmas Carol, and Ben Hur

and harness bells on the door.

Remote controlled helipoters instead of nerf guns

Merry Christmas phone calls to loved ones far away

Letter B gift exchanges – which is why there is a BIG Darth Vader under the tree

and my grandfather’s ornaments, my grandmother’s Christmas balls and my mother’s wreath because I don’t just like things, I like the story behind them.

IMG_9381Turkey, oyster dressing, a friend’s squash and cranberry casserole, savory green beans, egg nog and unfinished truffle balls – shared with friends and 3 of 5 sons.

It was an imperfect Christmas made perfect through the birth of a savior over 2000 years ago

when angels sang to a bunch of shepherds, shepherds who were so low they weren’t even allowed to go into the temple once a year to present their perfect sacrifice to atone for their sins – so they could be brought into the inner circle of God’s family.

Yet, according to our Christmas Eve service, these shepherds the angels visited were the select shepherds who raised the lambs, raised them without blemish, without brokenness, watched over them so they would be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.

The angels appeared first to the most lost – and  dropped into their lap the most important news scoop since creation – Glad Tidings, an angelic message, the Inside Story of the greatest story Ever Told – through this baby in a manger, God and sinner reconciled.

IMG_9445How imperfectly awesome is that – Angels announcing to the lowest left-out of God’s children that a savior was born to save them, to wash their sins away that weren’t allowed to be washed away in the daily or yearly – because He would bring the temple to them, and there, in the fields, outcasts by their own, they would in a few years, have the opportunity to have God in them, Salvation in them – and they, too, would be washed white as snow because of the perfect sacrifice of a Savior, born in a manger.

Maybe that’s why I love the shepherd story the best, that the angels sing a message from God – and the shepherds carry it in their hearts to their community:

“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the Newborn King”

and like the shepherds, I want to take the message to those that cross my path, even if it’s a path that takes me out of our way, even if is to people who think I am not worthy of the message, even if I’ve settled down to an evening under the stars, I want to rouse myself from my comfortable place to live the amazing joy of sharing something so awesome, just like the shepherds.

Between you and me? I want to not just do it, but feel the way those shepherds must have felt.

Christmas Day came for the outcasts, for the broken and the orphaned. Christmas Day came all for each imperfect me and you and everyone.

Wishing you an imperfectly beautiful Christmas Day every day this year!

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Looking down on a sinner never brought him/her to salvation. So glad Jesus came down here, sat with us in our messy sin and showed us who we were to the Father and how the Father sees us. So glad He invited me in all my sin to His table, into His home, into His family. Instead of looking down on me, this sinner, He came alongside me, was patient with me ’til I reached out my hand and He pulled me into Salvation .

It took me a long time, though, to extend that kind of love to others. It took loving someone more than I love myself. It took mothering a prodigal – to have a heart for the lost.

To not throw them out, lock the door and hide the key.

“”Really? What! You will keep me? You do not drive me forth? A convict! You call me sir! You do not address me as thou? `Get out of here, you dog!’ is what people always say to me. I felt sure that you would expel me, so I told you at once who I am,'” said Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable. Turned away from every door – because no one wanted to associate with someone with a sinner – a convicted sinner.

. . . . . “‘Monsieur le Cure,’ said the man, ‘you are good; you do not despise me. You receive me into your house. You light your candles for me. Yet I have not concealed from you whence I come and that I am an unfortunate man.’

The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. ‘You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew.’

The man opened his eyes in astonishment.

‘Really? You knew what I was called?’

‘Yes,’ replied the Bishop, ‘you are called my brother'” (Victor Hugo, Les Miserable)

doorgreen3No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation. Calling him brother – or maybe calling someone sister, daughter, or son – pulling them like you mean it into the family of the one true God!

Brother/Sister is about investing yourself in real, intentional relationship.

“Your friendship was a miracle-wonder,
    love far exceeding anything I’ve known—
    or ever hope to know” (2 Samuel 1:26b)

A brotherhood, like the bishop extended Valjean is a relationship work-out – like the Marines:

“The Marine Corps keeps recruits together through boot camp, and then keeps the same group of Marines together through combat training and schools, and then finally once the new Marines hit the fleet, they are all in the same unit, always reinforcing the cohesion, esprit de corps and brotherhood being together. This plays a significant role as warriors go into combat and look to their right and left and actually know the Marine next to them very well. A vital role in developing the One Team One Fight mentality is developing the teamwork and the Marine brotherhood”(Semper Fidelis)

No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation. What kind of mission are you willing to go on to save one brother? Are you willing to jump down in that mud and pull him out? Let his sin-stained feet cross the threshold of home?

And, if he steals your silver candlesticks, and the police drag him before you  – will you, like the bishop not only say the candlesticks were a gift – and tell him he forgot the silver forks and knives – realizing love in the face of sin can change a man’s destiny:

“‘Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.’

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:—

‘Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.'”(Les Miserable)

The bishop saw in Valjean what God saw in him – and enabling Valjean to see something more than the sin of themselves- a glimmer of what God saw in him.

doorred2No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation: Seeing the sinner as God sees him, loving the sinner as God loves him, not giving up on Him like God’s not giving up on him – that’s what brings a sinner to salvation.

There’s a huge mission field out there – right in our back yards – of young men and women (note: – 13, not the age of 25 is when a boy becomes  man and is responsible for  his soul) – who need to be loved like the Bishop loved Valjean.

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:6-8)

That’s what Christ’s coming is all about – that’s the greatest gift of all – the Son of God come down to call us brother or sister, give us Salvation and bring us home with Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you from?” they’d ask.

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

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

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

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

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

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Cor 4: 16-18)
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Thanksgiving – so much more than a turkey!

There is so much more to Thanksgiving than the turkey, the football – even the family gathered around the table. Thanksgiving is about recognizing the roots from which America grew. Not just the patriotic, freedom-fighting roots – though they are as inherently necessary to recognize. It is the faith seed carried over the ocean in uncomfortable, danger-laden ships, planted in soil with hungry cold hands because of a vision of living God faith uninhibited by political agenda.

“The Lord is the Help of My Life”  – William Bradford

The first Pilgrims came to American so they could worship The God of Abraham, read The Gospel of Love and  experience the second Baptism without being drowned in a wine barrel, be burned alive boarded up in your own home, or have your entrails slowly pulled out of you in the town square as government officials attempted to turn you away from practicing your faith in the way you chose. At that time, the government determined how you practiced your faith – and if you disagreed, well, the government became disagreeable.

They came to America to be able to speak God’s name in the town square in the court house, on the public streets, in the school houses – to live and voice their belief without fear of persecution.

That faith seed would grow roots that would reach into our constitution: Article 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

(As a matter of fact, public schools were created to teach children to read so they could read the bible)

In America, these early Plymouth settlers discovered the rationing of socialism and the plenty of capitalism through the work of their own hands – not their neighbors. They broke the glass ceiling of class restriction – like the cranberries we eat on Thanksgiving that float to the top in the harvest when water rushes through the cranberry fields, so does hard work, effort, talent – all based on individual gumption – not religion, not class, not government.

“He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream”

Today, the Thanksgiving Holiday is full of irony – a House and Senate have left Washington D.C. to celebrate a holiday founded on the success of Capitalism and faith in God, yet daily they work to strip God out of the very places Pilgrims sought to freely worship their God – the city streets, the court houses, the schools – they wanted God in every part of their lives, their community, and their government.

Some leadership have gone so far today as to remove a cross from outside a base chapel in Afghanistan .  This symbol of faith and hope sustains many of our military soldiers protecting not only us but these leaders.

Just like the flag bearers of old gave the hope, the courage to fight on in difficult situations to their the military men it represented, so too does the symbol of our faith. When these flag bearers fell, so too did the fighting soldiers’ morale, hope and survival statistics. These soldiers live in casualty-real situations, putting their life on the life for an America created and built with hands seeking God.

Yet daily, these government officials attempt to strip the foundations of Capitalism and reduce Americans to the once starving, frustrated, dying, struggling Pilgrims who started out in socialism – who died in socialism – hungry and frustrated.  Until the American Spirit at Plymouth through a capitalist contract  replaced the socialist creed to break the bonds of servitude unleashing individual potential resulting in the American Dream.

While Socialism binds the hands of flourishing enterprise, smothers the seeds of creativity from which inventions spring, and suffocates the very breath of freedom, Capitalism frees the hands of enterprise, allows individual creativity the independence to invent, and  gives freedom breath to speak without recourse.

How ironic that today our government officials celebrate an event so diametrically opposed to their actions. How ironic is it that protestors are calling for a return to the socialism that brought Plymouth settler’s to their knees.

How sad that they celebrate Thanksgiving while chopping at the root of its very creation.

These people calling themselves the 99% are missing a very important factor. A missionary man preached at our church a few weeks ago. He asked, “Do you have an in-door toilet? Do you have running water? Do you have electricity?. . . .If you do, you are in the top 10% of the world.”

Yes, the 99% are in the top 10% of the world.

The top 10% because of faith in God and capitalism.

William Bradford’s biography is sitting on my desk right now.  My sons know the history of our country, but not through classroom textbooks because the full, real history of the birth of our country not taught. Because God is not allowed in the story telling in today’s public school classroom.

Today as you thank God for His blessings, as you pull your family close, spend additional time discussing the start of our country, how we became that top 10%, what enabled us to achieve clean water, medicines that heal and prevent, homes with so much comfort, electricity and internet, a washer and dryer, an abundance of food to keep and share.

And pray for those soldiers whose crosses are being pulled down, who are fighting to keep America safe, to keep America free, to keep God in America.

Graft you, your family to the deep root of faith from which America grew.

~ Written, Thanksgiving 2010
~Revised, Thanksgiving 2011
~Revised again, Thanksgiving 2012

Other related posts:

Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting Tebowing and other such Religious Behavior

Words Make a Difference

The 10 Cannots of Freedom

To Save a City

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whiteflowerUn tout petit peu de français
– but enough to recognize the French lady sitting across the table from me calling her son a “couchon” when he wolfed down the truffles I’d made for our afternoon play date. I’d had French in high school, college and graduate school – enough to find a good restaurant one weekend in France with my husband – but not qualified for everyday talking.

Ich spreche noch weniger Deutsch
– You would have taken 2 semesters of German, too, if you’d taken the German culture class I did in college. Dr Ursel Boyd – inspired us with her stories of her grandmother marching out of the church when Hitler’s people tried to commandeer God – you would have taken German, too. Sadly, German 2 did me in. If a girl like me reads the ends of books first, then how could I ever survive speaking a language where, in many instances, you have to wait until the end of the sentence for the verb.

Speaking in The Spirit – with  utterings or groanings that only the Holy Spirit can understand. One day, the Holy Spirit gave me the translation the translation:
That my son’s mouth would be loosened
That his ears would be opened
And when he turned to him
his mind would be freed

God wasn’t surprised with the challenges that would unfold as my son grew. He gave me a heads up on His plan. I have held on to that message for 21 years – stood on it during some pretty challenging times. God knew I needed to prepare myself ( click here and here for the story).

Messages from God are available in all languages. You can find the Gospel of Love in Thai, Swahili, in Chinese, Hindi – all languages – even Holy Spirit languages –
Spoken, signed, read with fingertips on Braille.

We read with our hearts
We read with our eyes what the body language says
We read with our ears – not just words but what the tone says

booksflowersWe read rack magazines, shelved books, ipod news alerts
Thank you notes, heart messages from our children’s art, sweetheart letters and notes from our husbands,

But Shaddai – He is not confined to a book though His book’s message is imprinted everywhere – for free – His writes love letters to you, to me, to my sons, to my daughter-in-line, my mother, my aunt, my granddaughter – He has love letters written to us in the stars and fish, the sea and sand, the roots and blooms, in a spider’s web and a rain drop.
Love letters and messages
All around us
All available for each of us to read and if we do read, we should share – like the loaves and the fishes,

Thank you, Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience and 1,000 Gifts – for showing me how to read– these gifts, these blessings – these messages of His love.

An Arab student one time told me his mother didn’t read. I cannot comprehend not reading – a recipe, The Secret Garden, the prodigal story, a manual on how to use a snake to clear a sink pipe, The Christmas Story, the Wall Street Journal over a cup of coffee, The Brave Cowboy, the U.S. Constitution, or an escape-hatch story like Miss Buncle Married or Pride and Prejudice – or the contrast of Grace over Law, of Salvation, Redemption and forgiveness in the Les Miserable by Hugo.

I cannot comprehend being illiterate.

Seeing my dismay, the student said, “Oh, she still has a full life.”

Her fullness seemed limited to me – like having wings but not knowing you can soar.

Yet, 100 years ago – how many of our parents read? Yet still had full lives? How many since B.C. became A.D. – how many have been illiterate of reading and understanding the Word of God with their own eyes? How many souls relied on others to read His messages – the message of adoption from Abraham, Jacob’s hope in a God-made Ladder, that even prostitutes like Rahab who take risks for God can find true love in a man like Joshua, that bullies like Saul can become Paul’s of the world, that Jesus came so no one could ever come between the individual and God again – not a priest, not a king – no one.

Yet,  I have lived most of my life, illiterate of the His messages to me in the daily.

Thank you for teaching me to read the  message of the cardinal darting out before me on the way home.

The message in the dove call from the roof top – answering back to the call my husband and son send from curved hands, lips and air.

Or the message I found when I freed myself from my work desk to stand under the portico during a torrential down pour, as thunder grumbled to my left – and to my right miniature water rivulets riffled and bubbled through mulch and grass– and the green and the bark deepened richly and the streets glistened like ice.

Or on the way home, so tired, so tangled by how many times Murphy’s Law can jump into my day. It rained – buckets – and the sun shined through the downpour, shined so brightly the rain looked like crystals – and it blew toward my windshield like bits of snow – a rain blizzard.

Or the gift in a cupcake container, once filled with chocolate ganache cupcakes topped with sugared chocolate mint – carried through my back door, returned with a smile and kitchen counter conversations.

poppysOr in the orange poppies grown too tall pulled out revealing perennials wanting more space.

And zinnias that bloom regardless of the weathery moods.

All of these are messages to be read – messages He gives us during the daily. . .
Messages that tell us He loves us, champions us, knows our struggles, knows our hearts desires – and knows how hard it is to live in the wait of a prayer sent out.

And messages that teach us – like the barren creek that rarely flows with water, the path to the blueberry patch, beach birds enacting a madrigal – and the blueberries deep within the bush.

They’re all like letters in an envelope – just waiting to be read.

Have you read much lately? These daily messages from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Each message can be translated into all soul languages.

Guess what the message was I found in the blueberries?

Other messages, gifts and love letters this week – 1067-1072 above

    1. Celebrating 30 years of marriage with my husband
    2. 30 roses for 30 years
    3. My Freshman trying not to smile as I conjugated  each verb he used one on the way to soccer practice.
    4. Listening to my two sons recite in Latin, “I Love. You Love. He, She, It Loves. We Love. You Love. They Love.”
    5. When my 7th grader explained singular and plural, first second and third person.
    6. My boys pulling out classical literature in the first 2 weeks of school, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Narnia and Gilgamesh.
    7. That God answered my prayer to move my husband’s heart if we needed to make education changes –
    8. and we were able to enroll them in a Classical Latin School where we no longer feel the need to supplement just support
    9. baby girl greeting me with a fist-bump I taught her – and remembering her pup-pup beanie puppy at our house
    10. the older I get the longer I need to celebrate my birthday (just a few days before my anniversary) – taking the time to savor the relationships the Father has given me – who have become family to my family.
    11. tree frogs in the dark
    12. laughter from my sons’ friends on the porch
    13. rain the slows the schedule, providing an inside refreshing
    14. butterflies in the sunshine
    15. the feeling of home all weekend long

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238-wideI’ve been raising 5 boys to men with my husband – not in our hometowns but in a town He sent us to.

This new hometown is my boys’ hometown – and in the raising of these boys, I have become “hometown-locked” – for now. No spend-the-nights at the grandparents. No weekends on our own. When bones get broken or sickness comes – it’s just my husband and I – and “stay-at-home” mom is even more stay-at-home.

A mission team came to our church once, talking about their African orphanage for babies abandoned because they had aids – and how they needed people to hold them, to rock them.

That was something I could do, rock babies, hold babies needing loving.

I had boys-to men to raise – and God, He told me to stay hometown locked – to grow upward. He did the math for me, too – to show it wasn’t a wasted staying. 5 boys x 5 friends x 10 years (because friends move in and out of the sphere) – 250 – to stay and minister to the 250 that came through the door of my house.

My son, though, he went to Uganda – to minister to those displaced in the bitter battles.

Kitchen Counter ministry – that’s where the Father put me – and then, in 2009 –He encouraged me to start a blog – to use this dream of mine I’d had since I was 6 – to write – for Him.

I still can’t go on mission trips out-of-town. I’m still raising some of these boys to men – but my writing through Cause Publication in conjunction with Jars of Clay’s Blood:Water Mission – can help fundraise to provide moms and dads and children in Africa with clean water.

Couch Rebels is a story collection by people who have stepped out of their comfort zone to minister the love of Jesus Christ – some in Haiti – or on the other side of a forsythia bush, some in a hospital waiting room, or at the end of a job termination experience.

No – I can’t go to Africa right now. I can’t go to Haiti right now.

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

I think Graham meant a real story, a faith-quaking story that caused something inside to grow and reach higher.

Through Couch Rebels, I might be able to do that – in order to help to change someone’s life in Africa.

The $9.99  sale of one Kindle ebook will provide 3 people with clean water for a year

Won’t you click over – and purchase one book, regardless of whether my story makes it to the finals or not?

To learn more about what’s going on, click here

The writers and stories haven’t been chosen yet, though submissions have been accepted and closed.

You can still read and vote.

I have included a liste of writers dear to my heart who have made it past phase 1 and 2 also – please stop by and support them.

Brandee Shafer, The Empty Chair

Beck Gambill, Sarah’s Song

Karin Hume – Poverty and Paradise

Laura Rath – Trusting God – With Me

Amy Sullivan – On Destitute Teens and Barbies

Kim Hall – Coming Through the Dark Valley of Unemployment

Jennifer Camp Johnson – Obedience and Adventure Go Hand in Hand 

Jill Richardson – His Princess of Egypt

Melissa Aldrich – When You Want to Go, But You’re Called to Stay

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Growing up, riding the yellow school bus to school, I loved those dark mornings, passing houses, seeing a warm glow coming from a few windows – and I would imagine families in there, families with a mom, a dad and children. I was. . .

on the outside looking in.

Growing up in my grandmother’s house – with my mom, my brother and I, a special occasion house that became everyday home, a home with very fond memories, where my grandmother taught me to play bridge, to make my own amusement and to stand up for what I believe. I knew if I could stand up to her when we disagreed about important things to me – then I could stand up to anybody. But I was not hers. I was not my grandfather’s. “You don’t know what it’s like to lose your mother,” my mom said at her funeral. . . . But it felt like I had. . . . a heart can have more than one person mother-love you, can’t it? I was . . .

on the outside looking in.

My dad lived 15 minutes away. I didn’t see him much until I learned to drive. I took him a book of my poems, my heart and soul. When I went back a few weeks later, I asked him how he liked them. “I didn’t read them. The print was too small,” he said, his glasses beside him. I didn’t feel imprinted on the inside of his heart. I was . . .

on the outside looking in.

Going to Catholic school, when I took my First Communion – I gave my life to the Lord. If you can’t find God in your church, maybe it’s because you don’t need Him or aren’t looking for Him.  This broken little girl found him. I so needed. . . and sometimes found solace praying in church during recess, learned how to pray from books about Christians on fire for Jesus, like St. Teresa of Lisieux who taught me how to pray – but I couldn’t understand how Jesus could love me like He loved Peter, James and John. I was . . .

on the outside looking in.

I didn’t realize I was on the outside looking in. It was my life. Being on the inside was not my experience.

But I know I wanted a life outside of dysfunction.

I made a lot of not choices – not going out just to have a good time, not throwing away my innocence, not partying – the risks were just too great. If I wanted to climb out of dysfunction, then I had to choose a lot of  not going to. . .

I prayed that God would show me the right man so my children would never feel they were on the outside looking in as they drove to school. So my children would know they were imprinted on their father’s heart.

Behavior choices weren’t enough, though. Behavior choices didn’t fix brokenness. Works don’t heal. Knowing who I am to the Father – that heals wounds, fixes brokenness – that was the missing key to opening the door to the inside.

I don’t remember when I finally realize that Jesus loves me as much as Peter, James and John. I was about 35 years old – but it was a liberating day, a soaring day – my ignorance had kept me out of the inner circle of my Father – not something someone else had done – just my lack of knowledge. While good choices can make a good life, good choices didn’t put me on the inside – only God’s great love for me pulled me from the outside into His inner circle. I am His. I am . . .

2doors2_edited-1on the inside

I am imprinted on His heart.
My poems are not scripted too small for Him to read.
He has a room for me with a warm glow in the morning in His house.
I am His daughter, His beloved daughter.

In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye”
(Deut. 32:10)

While people might set me on the outside, the Father wants me inside His house, His family. He calls me with urgency inside, grasps me with His unconditional-love grip, wraps my raw hurts with His Holy Spirit comfort. I am on the inside circle of the Father’s family – and He wants me there – on the inside. . . .

looking out

looking out to pull others in
because His children weren’t created for the outside
we are not created to keep people out
to make them feel outsiders

I never want anyone to feel like they are on the outside looking in

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.  2-3But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him” (1 John 3:1-2)

Keeping out those that cross our path, that we’ve been called to relationship with, whether it is in the church, in a family, in a community, well, then, we aren’t loving as Christ loved us, if we make our siblings in Christ, our brothers and sisters in Christ, stand on the outside of our love, our friendship, our hearts. That also goes for those siblings who think they’re orphans, who don’t know they’re the Fathers – the Father wants us to pull them into His inner circle, too.

Loving your neighbor is an inside job.

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cupboard“You have too many,” my husband says about my coffee cups, suggesting. “Put some in a yard sale.”

Some Fiesta, some Bybee, some Starbucks, some 29+ years of marriage cups – stacked, chipped, cracked, whole, overflowing in my cupboard.

Yet, at the end of the day, that cupboard is almost bare.

I’ve tried efficiency – encouraging the boys to use one cup a day. Yet, at the end of the day, my counters are littered with cups. Yes – most times it is a mis-management issue.

Other time’s it’s a hospitality issue. Hospitality in real messy living.

You see, when you cross my threshold, front or back – you become a part of my family.

“When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul” (Max Beerbohm)

Like when the snow trees come and the neighborhood kids take a hot chocolate break at the counter.

Or when the boys friends come over – when they’re little their mom’s bring them, when they drive – they come by anytime – dinner time, after dinner-time, just in time for a cool cup of water. My boys bring home friends – who quickly learn, by the second or 3rd visit, where the spoons, the cups, the water, the soup ladle is

Or when friends come for dinner, to knit a few rows, for playdates

They learn where the spoons are to stir some sweetness into a steaming cup of Orange Dulce tea, where the cups are for a splash of water from the fridge dispenser, where the bowls are to ladle soup – and are invited back for refills.

cupboard2Hospitality doesn’t just pull the cups out of the cupboard. Hospitality invites real relationship.

“Hospitality sitting with gladness” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Not just serving, not just breaking bread.  It’s pulling you into the family, into an intimacy that knows where to find the spoons, the bowls and the cups.

The Toscano soup or Country Ham and Corn Chowder, maybe the Tortilini Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup

Granola bars in the cookie jars, cupcakes or cookies on the counter

A cup of coffee, hot cocoa, lemonade, or Orange Dulce tea

There’s a catch, though. There’s a sign above the back porch door warning: Sit Long Talk Much

Talk much real words

“Hospitality should have no other nature than love” (Henriette Mears)

“How are you doing?” – and I mean it. How. are. you. doing?

The most disappointing thing I learned in college? When an instructor told the class that people don’t expect an answer; they don’t care.

Yet, we are called to care. . . called to be genuine. . . called to mean the words we use. . . .

“How are you doing?” – and I mean it. How. are. you. doing?

Tell me.

whether you’re 10, 14, 18, 21, a new mama, a mom of teens, or a grandparent – whether you’re broken, soaring, feeling cross-eyed, blessed, challenged or blessed in the challenge.

How. are. you. doing?

cupboard4Sometimes, someone needs the asking, needs the door opened, needs someone who really means it and means to listen, means to care.

If in the telling, there is need, then there is prayer. Either together, right then – or just me, heart-praying.

How. are. you. doing?

Let me tell you a secret. I want my sons’ friends parents to live real hospitality. I want them asking the same question with real caring – an additional voice creating a chorus of pure care, pure realness, pure hospitality potentially changing a life for God’s good.

Hungry? Thirsty? World-Weary?

Pull a cup or bowl out of the cupboard and fill up on some real hospitality.

We have cups and bowls enough!

Pull what you need out of the cupboard.

Fill up on real hospitality – and tell me how you’re doing.

The hosts “ brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,[g] 29 honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness” (2 Samuel 17: 28-29)

 

 

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