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Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

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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I 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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(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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