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Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. I rejoice that my son’s have the father I never did – and I realize more keenly what I missed and wonder what I would have been like had I a father like they have. This post is for all the fatherless daughters, whether because their fathers were physically absent or emotionally absent, this is for you.

For these daughters whose father never said, “You are mine, a gift from God, to cherish and protect,”

or wrapped you in his arms to hug away your wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others,

If your father did not  provide security or chase away the night terrors,

or missed seeing you receive your award because he was standing outside smoking a cigarette,

If you missed those Father Words, telling you you were beautiful, filled with awesome gifts – well, every daughter should have a father who thinks she is beautiful.

If your father did not carefully help your mother choose your name and rejoice on the day you were born and every birthday afterwards,

Who did not stand between you and danger,

Who received your shabby chic gifts with careless disregard, saying your handwriting too small to read your stories,

Who never treated you like a princess, or the world’s greatest softball pitcher, or the next Jane Austen because your dreams just never entered his mind.

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

Who never said, “I believe in you” when the world did not,

Who left it up to someone else to teach you how to drive a stick shift with manly patience,

Who did not rejoice in your marriage or was there to hold your child in his arms when he was born, to be a doting grandpa who would say, “Don’t talk that way to my daughter, boy.”

Who never said, “I love you,”

If you had an earthly father who did not father you, I encourage you to ask our creator, our Father, our God to fill that empty void, to open your eyes to the true daughter-ship that you have in Him, your rightful place in His family. Brokenness through rejection is NOT God’s plan for you.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matt 9:22)

God will be that Father you never had. He gave you great gifts that unfurl within you at just the right time He created you beautiful (Psalm 139).

He rejoiced the day you were born and on the first day you sought Him out – “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)

He knows the needs you have before you ask him (Matt 6:8) He wants to know what is going on in your life. He wants to hear every rambling word, every detail, every thought written in your heart no matter how small.

He not only takes care of the night terrors but the life terrors as well “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4)

He is a father who not only provides but is like the father who stops by and fixes your sink when your husband’s out of town, who checks in on you when one of the kids are sick. “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1)

Stop swinging your arms like a small child fighting someone bigger. You waste your energy. Let Him stand between you and danger. He wants to fight your battles. It is like He is telling you, “Step back, little one. Be take deep breaths. Stop shaking. Wipe your nose on your sleeve. Be still. I’ll take care of this for you” (Exodus 14:14).

The first thing I want to do when my spirit soars is to throw my arms around his neck for a massive father-daughter hug that I have spent my life reaching for, believing for.

Dear Father, I thank you that you called me away from a spirit of brokenness and rejection. Father, there are days here that I miss the tangibleness of an earthly father who loves me, but I pray that you will open my eyes to the relationship you offer me. Open my eyes to how you help me through the day. Help me to overcome what I do not feel or see – but have by faith and hope. I want a father/daughter relationship abundantly alive and real. Replace emptiness with Father Words and Father Memories. Help me to live that. Thank you Jesus your great sacrifice so that your father could be mine, too!

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

Grandmother's House

Grandmother’s House

Sunday Morning, Winter – 1981

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

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

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

Skirt from Style Agency at Etsy

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

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

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

Have I mentioned my favorite color was navy blue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It fit me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Psalm 18: 10-15, The Message)

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

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

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

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

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

robin’s egg blue skies outside my work window

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

Italian chamber music diminishing chaos

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

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

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

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

 

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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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