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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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

wowcreek3c

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

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

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

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

An elephant now shoved in the back of the closet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If God has more for me, I want it.”

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

It tore down the last vestiges of my resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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treefog2

“Stop. . . Mom. . . we’re not 5 anymore,” said a boy growing up.

Can one really be too old to be excited about a cloud falling from the sky and splatting itself all over your home on a mountain?

I guess 16 is a stuffy age where falling clouds spilling everywhere are replaced with more grown up words like fog.

There’s something about raising children that wrings the stuffiness out of you – and fills it with an appreciation for

. . . .for pulling good things out of the daily like the the relief felt in a thorn pulled from the tender pad of a foot and the more-than-whimsy of things like mists and fogs.

Stuffiness can’t find God in the in the coolness of a milk-box morning, an imperfect parenting moment, a turtle dove calling on a roof ridge, a holy spirit message in a summer storm, the broken rebel’s anger, the steeping of tea leaves, salting chicken soup, the prodigal’s imperfect walk homeward, the routine of dinner dishes – the every day ordinary where an extraordinary God meets us.

He doesn’t just meet us in the parting-of-a-dead-sea-moment or a lame-man-walking moment but in the everyday comfortable and uncomfortable moments of an ordinary man’s ordinary day.

In the ordinary of our day, God spills his grace over us in our imperfect living – like a cloud falling from the sky, spilling over my little mountain.

Driving up the hill homeward into the mist always makes me feel like I’m entering a shield of protection (not when I’m on the interstate, only when I’m homeward bound).

That cloud fallen down reminds me of God’s protection – how He paid the price to offer me that protection.

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Isaiah 44:22).

In a world where up seems down and right is viewed wrong, I need a place of refuge. He’s created a safe haven, a sanctuary where I can go – and in the midst of all this non-stop pouring rain in saturated Tennessee red clay, I needed that reminder that when I am in Him, I am there.

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by” (Psalm 57:1)

What a gracious God we have, a real-knight-in-shining armor – who has the power to bestow sanctuary right where we are when we are with Him, who desires to conceal us from the things we were not created for.

“He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver” (Isaiah 49:2).

“A weapon even keener than a sword, smoothed and polished, so as to make it pierce the deeper, and kept hid in God’s quiver until the time came when it could be launched with most effect against the hearts of ungodly men” (Pulpit Commentary).

There’s much more to the ordinary things in the daily and things like clouds falling from the sky to spill over a mountain home – so much more!


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

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

because sometimes I need to give. . .
a hug

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

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

because a decision was the right decision in that moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and pink, yellow and orange zinnias are
beautiful and resilient

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

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

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zinnias

In late May, my husband armed my youngest with a spade, charging him with the knightly duty of uprooting insurgent roots in the garden. Like any knight worth his shield, helmet and, ummm, spade, he took to the task with vigilance.

Not a green leaf or its root remained.

Three packets worth of zinnias and 3 packets of cosmos , the promise of so much summer color and charm, were heaped in a wilted pile.

Realizing the error of this zealous knight-in-training, my husband worked with him to save as many zinnias as possible – and I loved that, that my son replanted as many zinnia seeds as he could – that’s a keeper story that goes straight to my heart – and that my husband showed him how, doing it with him.

Life is like that sometimes – the work of my hands – and your hands, too- is like seeds planted. Sometimes the results grow, blossom and reap a harvest – just like seed packet directions promise.

Sometimes, though, unexpected happenings interfere with what I perceive is normal cause-effect of my actions and expectations.

Sometimes my hopes and dreams feel as if they’ve been pulled out of mylife, like those zinnia seeds in my flower bed.

. . . . and maybe they have been. . . . but if I love what those zinnia seeds stand for – then maybe. . . . just maybe. . . . I need to replant new seeds – of the same thing I’ve done over and over – and let hope and faith in a Holy Spirit rain nourish the repetitive planting of those seed dreams..

Disgruntled? Cross-eyed with frustration? Tempted to cry, “Unfair?” – You bet!

I’m learning that while seed packages have seed-time and harvest directions with 30 to 60 day results – God’s plans don’t always have such a quick turn-around – ’cause He’s growing something bigger in us than a squash, a pepper, a cosmos and a zinnia.

Dreams He planted in you and me,  before we were born do have a seed-time and harvest – but it’s all on God’s time. Just like I didn’t want to give up on my zinnias; He doesn’t want me to give up on those dreams -even if I have to do things over and over and over – and over, over, over and over some more.

Maybe my zinnia basket in August wasn’t as full as I hoped it would be – but how dear the flowers of those zinnia seeds replanted.

I could have just given up. After all, it took till almost Fall for them to bloom – the summer almost done.

. . . but I didn’t give up. . . on the dream.  I replanted, though I had to wait longer than I wanted or expected.

The zinnias brought the joy I anticipated – just like I know the dream He planted will.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)

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butterflybushc2ccdd_edited-1

Sometimes, you need to live a quote – and by living the quote, you can smell the basil, the rosemary, lavender and thyme from the garden on your fingertips

and you can savor a half-dozen pairs of hands reaching for out-of-the-oven warm chocolate-chip muffins

or a smile thrown my way by one of my growing-up boys

or sitting, just sitting, with my aunt on a rainy day

or an early morning call with my mom

or brown smudge on my retriever’s nose from digging mole holes

or an encouraging note from a friend

and feeling the love from those God gave you – over a bowl of curry chicken, or a cup of honey-infused lemon sorbetti tea

the first-person story of a son pushing himself over a challenge to be who he thought he was

a to-do-nothing time with my husband – no outside challenges invited or allowed to crash in

and the first, second and third person story of my boys helping my husband build a dream

Yes, sometimes, you have to live a quote, in order to see yourself as God sees you, to be who God designed you to be – and know it. Sometimes you have to live a quote to let go of things we were not designed to carry.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered,
forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies,
succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you,
be honest and frank anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous,
be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow,
do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough,
give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God,
It was never between you and them anyway” (Mother Teresa)

Sometimes you have to teach yourself to recognize that what you do, how you live, the decisions you make, what’s really in your heart – how your children, your parents, your neighbors and everyone you walk by in the daily – their interpretation doesn’t matter a hill of beans – it’s only what’s between you and God in the living of it that matters.

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grandfather199My grandfather wound his way before he died of cancer, wound his way to the children’s orphanage’s gym where Mass was celebrated, this man raised Baptist – wound his way to find a chair as women in white leotards danced praise down the aisle, praise to Yahweh.

This hippie church we called it, housed in an orphanage gym while it built a glass church in the woods – He found God there, before God called him home. I’d been in the sixth grade.

During the great war, he worked at a munitions factory counties away– until his daughter was born at my great-grandmother’s farm. He quit his job then, when jobs were hard to find, missing his wife and new-born daughter – quit to be with them. His life was like that – impulsive – but loving big – big enough it spilled down into the hearts of his children and grandchildren.

grandmotherMy grandmother, at 94, her bones spent, dementia stealing the timeline of her stories, asked me one day, “Who’s baby is that?”

“Mine,” I answered.

“Who are you,” she asked – this fierce woman who made room for us when my parents divorced, who instilled that same fierceness in me, the same fight, the not-give-up-ness, this woman who made me feel beautiful inside, who sent me cards with violets because she knew I loved violets, who along with my mother and aunt, went to church every Sunday, who made sure we knew God.

Neither of them ever gave up.

Neither, for a moment, gave up on each other, on their children, on the daily. Grandfather might have bruises  under his thumb-nail bed through car-door-slamming frustration

. . . .but he never lost his smile.

“Damn it, don’t die on me now,” my uncle’s wife cried on the way home from taking my grandfather to a cancer treatment.

“I won’t,” my grandfather quipped, ever the one for a good joke and a smile. My aunt had been talking to her car as she tried to pull onto the freeway.

No, he never lost his special sense of joy-timing.

Grandmother’s strength never failed.

grandfather23Between his smiling and her never-failing, they both finished their races.  In the process – they both trained me – to not give up, to finish, to find the joy in the living of what God started before they were even born.

. . . .so when the daily doesn’t go like I want,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

when my boys choose experience as the shepherd, instead of wise advise,

after slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

Scan6_2_0039_039When those around me don’t see what God sees in me and heart-dust storms are kicked up because of it,

After slamming the door – and carrying the bruise of it, I’ll find the joy to be found in it like my grandfather – and have the strength to get through it, like my grandmother.

When up is down, and right is wrong – and sure steps seem all slippery and life becomes a caricature of an Alice in Wonderland nonsensical scene,

I won’t give up – because these two people, who wound their own way to God, and pulled me along in their own way, showed me how to not haphazardly live joy and strength –but to choose to carry it all the way to the very last breath.

To love God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, either in the daily or in a life span – takes strength – and when love is involved must take joy. I want to end this story of mine not giving up on God but spilling the joy of my love of Him over onto my children and grandchildren. I want to be like in the daily right up to the end.

Joy spilled from love overflowing, faith overflowing – so that maybe when life deals them a harsh hand in the daily or the decade – these children and grandchildren will choose God’s kind of strength and joy.

Oh, yes, Let me be singing of His mighty love when the evening comes!

“From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3)

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hydrangea2012c

The blue hydrangeas,
They grew and grew and grew
Spilling across doorways and sidewalks paths –

They were ready
For a journey
hydrangeatransplatecAnd so we transplanted them around the corner,
Under the kitchen table
window. The blue hydrangeas sulked
In the newness
Wouldn’t show themselves for more seasons
than seemed
seemly.

We hoped in things we didn’t see
Watered with faith for roots
planted true

“Give it time,” my husband spoke
Beside me

“4 more weeks,” suggested the nursery man
Before it was time to give up

Until one day, just before reaching for the shovel
Just before giving up
a chopped chive-size
piece of green
stuck on what seemed
a dead stick

hydrangea 2013ccThe piece of green grew slow
Was joined by more pieces
Of green
Until it a few seasons later,
It stretched stalks of green
Just growing
Growing
Not ready
not ready yet to bloom
hydrangea2014c_edited-1Until just the right
season
When roots reach deep and the stalks
Multiplied
reach high
Little clusterbuds of no color
One day
Open blue
blooms

summerhydrangea14
You know, if we’d left that hydrangea bush by the garage door, it would have been limited, unable to reach its full potential. By transplanting it, giving it more room to grow and become, it will be more than it ever could have before. It’s been a tough transplant/journey for my hydrangea – but I live in faith of something I don’t see – that it will grow bigger, bloom more, have a greater impact – kind of like God’s plan for me and mine!

hydrangeac_edited-2More on blooming where you’re planted:

Ordinary Dreams of an Every Man

The Year of Living Shalom

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

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

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

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

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

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

cucumbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

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

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

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

“Add an apple,” one said.

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

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

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

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

Today’s Summer Gazpacho Recipe

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

Mix all together and add the following:

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

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

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

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

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Summertime at the pool growing up consisted of diving, racing and breath-holding. Diving, I wasn’t so good at diving, but the backstroke and breath-holding – I could give anyone a run for their money.

Breath-holding in competition might not be such a bad thing, but living breath-holding, well, it just about sucked all the good things in life right out of it.

I was living through challenges like I was holding my breath under water, pausing all living but the challenge. I assured myself I would breathe again when the challenge was resolved and tidily put behind me. Only then would I break through the surface into the figurative sunshine to gulp the fresh, summertime air.

It’s lonely there, under the water, counting the seconds till I felt my lungs would burst. It’s also isolating counting the seconds, focusing every thought on the right-now challenge.

Living life waiting to exhale is no way to live.

I’m still learning.

Some were sweet lessons like nine months of learning to live in  the wait of each son born.

Some learning to exhale lessons were a mixture of sweet and soul-sweat: 12 years for each boy to graduate high school – and learning to breathe through each individual academic, social and behavorial challenge – big and little, little and big.

The hard challenges, though, the hands-off challenges of parenting, where independence claims our children, where some are designed to learn through experience – or as one son described this independence-on-training wheels to no-training wheels:

“I took my independence on scoop at a time. He took it in one truck load.”

I cannot live my life holding my breath or watch my sons live their lives holding my breath.

One cannot live God’s plan holding their breath.

Faith means exhaling, to continue breathing while something as simple as a pot works on boiling or a child growing lives free-will.

I once shared office space with a professor who taught Tolkien. Waiting for students to come see us during office hours, we talked literature, students – and life.

“Breathe in, ‘Lord Jesus Christ,'” he coached. “Breathe out,’Have mercy on me.'”

. . . . and so I breath in “Lord Jesus Christ:

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4)

and I exhale, “Have mercy on me. . .”

. . . . and He does.

Most days, I’m a fighter – and so I fight to live life exhaling. In the midst of a challenge, I find Him in a cup of Kiwi Lime Ginger tea, sink deep into my grandfather’s chair

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

– and maybe read a bit or knit, rearrange my garden – cut some lavender, hydrangea and bergamont,

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

cook some lemon curd or summertime gazpacho – and invite God to join me in all of it, steeping His goodness into my life.

breathing in, “Lord Jesus Christ”

breathing out, “Have mercy on me.”

I give Him the challenge – and right there the answer is assured, though I don’t know sometimes what the answer will look like. I can stop counting the minutes until resolution. I can exhale.

“But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8)

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brokenshells82“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

Myrtle beach differs from the Gulf beaches: No Sandpipers, Rock Doves, Sanderlings, Laughing Gulls seen putting on morality plays at Myrtle Beach. . . .

No unbroken Sailor’s Ears, Heart Cockles, Spiny Jewel Boxes, Jingles and Butterfly Wings, Slippers and Scallops, Turkey or Sea Wings with which to decorate sand castles or fill jars.

However, Myrtle Beach this holiday was filled other things (34 of us this year), umbrella tents, grandparents, great-grandchildren and everyone in-between. The Gulf Beach is usually quieter, more intimate – with just the immediate family, those living in the nest – and that has dwindled from 5 to 3.

A Holiday for me, for me – whether it is a week, a day – or even a Holiminute – involves reading – reading a book over a sandwich at lunch, reading in-between conversation lines – or reading the love letters God leaves all around me – in the trees at home lifting their limbs up in praise, a cardinal darting out reminding me God’s with me, a pop-up rainstorm creating rivulets from tree roots to sidewalks outside my work window. I have learned to anticipate God’s messages in the daily, to expect them. God’s messages might not contain the answer to a prayer. It might not “fix” a challenge. God’s messages are often fellowship, part of an ongoing dialog, relationship-growing, a hug, encouragement – it is becoming what defines my day.

He is a faithful messenger – in the big and little messages.

brokenshells22cI looked for shells – but there were few whole ones to find. I looked for birds – but they had no interest in our beach with our umbrella city. I paddled in the ocean, watched it’s surface morning and night – trying to find His message.

The ocean clammed up – I couldn’t seem to pierce its cover to read its depths – yet, it called me – with its ever-changing shades from brilliant azure blue to blue cotton to white grey-sky-reflections all.

I’d sit at night on the porch, listening to the unrelenting wave crashes, watching white clouds in a black sky march silently like armies marching in-land under the cover of darkness, feet wrapped in clothe to silence their movement. When I woke, they’d slipped away.

Was this letter, the message in the sea too deep for me? Did it contain too big a message? It’s as though He wanted me to really want this message, like a child asking over and over to do the dishes the first time – because it was a task with responsibility and sacrifice.

I kept asking, waiting with expectation. The last day on the beach, He revealed the message. It wasn’t a cheer-leading message full of encouragement and, “You go, girl.”

The message about brought me to my knees.

The waves kept pushing shell pieces to the water’s edge– big and little shell pieces. Nobody wanted them. Most beachcombers had ceased to even search for there was so little hope of collecting whole shells. They only wanted the easy to find whole-shells. The waves, though,  kept pulling and hurling them into the beach – some shells recognizable, most not.

and there were so many pieces. . . .

brokenshells4c

Each piece represented a broken soul
a broken soul desperate to be saved
though the soul didn’t know
it needed saving
didn’t know it could be made whole

The water, that Holy Spirit water,
kept tossing them on the beach
and when they’d slide back,
the water nudged them forward again,
sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully,
as if saying to those on the beach,
Hurry! Hurry! Come help save them”
as would cry the Captain of the Titanic
if he could have pulled his passengers ashore
one hand pushing shoreward, the other hand reaching
to save more
counting on the beachcombers
to revive and breathe life
into those which he strives
to save

Yet how does the broken fragments
of a soul
who doesn’t recognize
the force of the Holy Spirit
how do they know
this pushing to save is
a good thing, a better thing
because they don’t know, they slide back
because there’s no one to pick them up
because the beachcombers only see
Brokenness
Unredeemable brokenness

And God was saying, these broken pieces and parts of shells – all these represent the broken in the world, the broken a step away from you, in your community, in the world. I keep bringing them up for you to see, He says, for the world to see but my children just walk right by them, judging them beyond redemption, beyond wholeness – on your own shores.

I am overwhelmed
millions of shell slivers
shards, chips and chunks
how can I ever find all the right pieces
for them
if I cannot even find all the right pieces
for me

Unredeemable broken mess
if the fixing were left to me
that’s what it looks like
feels like
so many. . . so many broken to pieces

My soul-combing child, He said,
you just need to reach out
to pick them up
let your story be a letter
of introduction
show-casing my credentials
my credentials as
God Elohim, mighty and strong, who created you, is able to save you
Almighty God El Shaddai who wants to be all-sufficient to ALL your needs
Adonai, a worthy master over your destiny
who as Jehovah-Jireh foresees every challenge you will face, every choice, whether good or bad, and provides a way back home
where as Jehovah-Rophe  welcomes you,
wraps you in both his arms and heals your wounds,
both self-inflicted and inflicted by others
and as you heal in the shadow of His presence
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh will sanctify you, make you pure and whole in His sight
until, finally, you find peace in the presence of Jehovah-Shalom
the answer to a prayer fulfilled, made whole,
perfected with the mighty strength He put within you

just let the Holy Spirit push them to you
pick them up
all my soulcombers
pick them up
introduce them to me,
even if you think they ought to already
know me,
even if you think they don’t deserve
to know me
introduce me – that’s all I need you to do
introduce me-
so that I can make them whole

brokenshells1cI’m praying, friends, for God to show me how to live this message. I just know that the need to continue reaching in our communities is so important. So many don’t know God as a dear friend, a loving father, a knight in shining armor. So many want to save the easy to save – but God is calling me – to save the hard to save, the rebels, the ones that seems so broken and worthless – like the broken chips and shell shards on the beach. Won’t you pray with me, for our communities to make real connections, one-one-one story sharing connections where God-filled relationships are established, not fly-by relationships? Where introductions are made that build lasting relationships – because I think these youth and young adults want real relationship, need real relationship.

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Knight in Shining Armor kind of brave – it’s a God kind of brave – a willingness to sacrifice all – life, pride, reputation, arms and legs, dreams, financial possibilities, comfort, popularity – in order to save someone else.

A God-kind of brave – that we read about from the book of Martyrs – a record of bravery of men, women and children risking all for the second Baptism – for having a copy of the Gospel of Love.

A God-kind of brave that comes to another country to pursue religious liberty – a Jesus-kind-of religion that doesn’t oppress or limit – but frees from bondage, heals wounds and finds joy.

A young boy following his passion for a sport – who shares the Gospel of Love in black grease paint oncheekbones, who risks popularity, riches, a dream job – in order to share the Gospel of Love, a knight-in-shining armor kind of brave – a Tim Tebow kind of brave.

I want my boys who juggle the soccer ball on toes passionate for a game to be passionate for their Savior, to be passionate for a neighbor they don’t know – willing to risk all – so others can know the bottomless, unquenchable love of a mighty God.

That kind of brave.

“Sometimes you’re too poor to have ethics,” the university commencement speaker said – a person of high-rank in the Tennessee primary and secondary education system.

Yet – isn’t that when it counts – when what’s really inside matters? When life isn’t easy – that’s what you see what a man is made of.

This mother’s heart wants to raise these 5 sons from brave boys into brave men:

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy” (Pinocchio)

A real boy, a real man where things like ethics, morality, bravery and courage, unconditional love are like invisible ink –

Unconditional Love [bravery, morality, ethics) is like invisible ink. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love {bravery, morality, ethics}is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally{are ethical, brave, moral}? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love {be brave, ethical, adhere to moral principles} anyway – then you are loving unconditionally {brave, ethical, morally upstanding}. ~ Blue Cotton Memory, Unconditional Love Rule 2

If you’ve been around my blog for a long time, you’ve probably heard me quote St. Augustine from City of God who said that the only difference between a pagan and a Christian – is not the things they face because they both face the same challenges – but how they face those challenges.

Seeing Tim Tebow walk out his faith in the midst of cultural challenges that seek strip him of his dream, his job, his cultural standing, even that faith itself – is a testimony of that faith. His ethics count now more than ever. His faith in the midst of adversity is a testimony to that faith – and it takes a brave man, a courageous man, a Daniel-in-the-Lion’s-Den kind of man.

The soldiers who are being discouraged from mentioning their faith in our military are those kind of men – men who would risk a court martial to pray over a wounded soldier or share the knowledge of a God who loves, who saves, who promises eternal life with that loving  – that is noble bravery at its best.

Our faith is being challenged – and we need brave men and women who will stand in the fiery furnace of cultural condemnation – and be a beacon for our boys and girls, our men and women.

A Tim-Tebow-kind-of Brave

~ Congress Shall Make No Law Concerning Tebowing and Other Religious Behavior

~Words Make a Difference

~A Horrifying, Mortifying Commencement Speech

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momandme

I remember sitting on the back stoop, in the harsh yellow sun, holding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tears running down my face. “She hates me. She’s trying to kill me,” I thought as the sandwich stuck to the roof of my mouth and my 4 year old self thought I would choke from it. My brother sat beside me, swallowing contentedly, bite after bite.

A tongue thrust will do that to a child – but we didn’t know about tongue thrusts back then.

Another day, the neighborhood children ran through the house, playing a game of hide and seek. Being the youngest, I was always “it” – not having the gift for hiding. As I stood in the kitchen, not it, my mom lifted me high, to the top of the refrigerator. I sat there, a momentary princess of my universe, undetected, until I couldn’t hold back my laughter any more.

That was before the divorce, before open brokenness changed my life. We moved to grandmother’s house where I would share a room with my mother until I went off to college.

Where my mother worked hard, made hard choices, went with us to mass every Sunday and sent us to Catholic school Monday through Friday. Where God met me in the classrooms, in the corridors – in weekday Mss for 2nd through 8th grade. Where I met a God who loved me in my brokenness, though I didn’t know it then.

I wanted to go to the local high school – where the boys were, where my friends were. But my mom held firm, my mom who was often the good-cop to my grandmother’s bad-cop – I went to the Catholic girls school.

Where I learned I could be smart enough if I worked hard enough. Where teachers taught me how to do Alg I, II and Trig – where I learned to free my voice outside of my house, where I found a place for my writing, where God met me in the classroom, in the corridors.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

IMG_4890Statistics say that children of divorce are more likely to do drugs, not graduate from high school, have multiple marriages. My brother and I graduated college and have been married 29, 28 years. My mama worked minimum wage jobs in hardware stores, department stores, bathroom design stores, cutlery stores.

I never realized we were poverty until my senior year of high school (see story here). My mother taught me 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 mom may have given me a peanut butter sandwich to eat on a gray stoop in the harsh sun of a summer day – and, just maybe I hadn’t been designed to eat that sandwich. My littlest had a tongue thrust where he chewed from the back to the front instead of the front to the back. Peanut butter sandwiches are sticky wicket affairs for him, too.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

Thank you, Mom!

On a side note, did you realize that public schools were created to teach the public to read so they could read their bibles and, thus, be in control of their salvation, not at the whim of a minister or a manipulating government. I realize that all children can take God into the classroom with them; yet, it is the ones who do not have knowledge of God at home who have been sacrificed through legislation – broken children walking hallways denied knowledge of God by the very institution that was created to teach them.

EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties. ~ Noah Webster 1828 Dictonary.


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The first week of May always leaves me homesick for my growing-up home.
horse4cYou can take the girl out of Louisville but you cannot take Louisville at of the girl!. It is Derby week – and Derby Week has a double special place in my heart. Yeah – it is about balloon races, boat races, and, of course, horse races. But most important for me is a time of family.

You see, we always celebrated my grandfather’s birthday on Derby Day – which meant a house full of family, lots of laughter and people of all ages spilling out all the doors, from the front porch entrance to the backyard, blooming with grandfather’s white azaleas, white and pink dogwood trees, honeysuckle. He built a make-shift tree house for us in the Rain tree. In the very back of the yard were 3 pine trees he planted. The middle pine tree was my favorite hide-away – I could climb it and read – and no one would bother me.

Derby morning, our house was a hive of activity. I would be sent up the street to cut fresh mint from Aunt Joyce’s yard for the Mint Julips. There would be dips and chips – not something we had often in the routine of regular living. And, there would be a little bowl full of  newspaper cutting slips with the horses names. Put a dollar in and draw a horse name out – I was so excited the year my horse, Majestic Prince, won – and I so wanted to draw his name. It was a lucky day – yes, I will say, it was a lucky day lined with blessing!

When we got older and my grandfather passed away, it was less festive, but still celebrated. One special year, the summer I got married, before my junior year in college, my grandmother invited my friends for dinner after spending a day at the in-field at Churchill Downs. The day was beautiful, until the skies literally poured rain on us as we were leaving. But my grandmother – well, she was amazing. All bedraggled from the rain – about ten of us, were seated at her dining room table, on her needle-point-covered chairs, and served a meal fit for anyone on Million’s Row – Leg of Lamb with her homemade mint sauce and homemade chili sauce plus all the fixin’s. I don’t remember the dessert.  I know there was one – there was always a dessert, Caramel Cake or the Chocolate Celebration Cake, sometimes Charlotte Russe!

The laughter that night was memorable, especially over the lamb. One of my sweet friends loves animals and just couldn’t quite bring herself to take a bite of that used-to-be fluffy little lamb. She made a valiant effort, but every time she tried to take a bit, everyone “baa-ed.” She gracefully gave up.

My grandmother, who in high school wanted me to pick my friends from some other place – and we battled about that – leaned over and whispered, “You have such good friends.”

People come from around the world to watch the Kentucky Derby – and to them it’s just a race. When you have roots in the blue grass, though, the Kentucky Derby is so much more than the big hats, mint juleps and fast horses.

The Four Horses of Maturity

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There is a race within each of my sons – I call it The Four Horses of Maturity participating in the Race of Life – more specifically, the most important race of an individual’s life. The Four Horses of Maturity are named Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual.

When the gates open, Physical Maturity bolts, a thrilling surge for the lead, over-powering muscle, yet without caution, without strategy to pace, without limit recognition.

After an anxious route to the starting gate, Emotional Maturity gains, passing a spent Physical Maturity, nipping it on the flank as it moves to pass. Emotions raging, uncontrolled, Emotional Maturity behaves erratically. Emotional Maturity explodes forward without reason. Hard to handle, easily spooked, seemingly confused about being ahead, possibly thinking the race won, unsure of what to do. . . .

greyhorseUntil Intellectual Maturity edges up, having executed a fairly smooth trip to move into the lead. Reason reigns, using logic and reason to keep Emotional Maturity and Physical Maturity in check, not allowing them a chance to gain. Intellectual Maturity blocks the advancement of Spiritual Maturity.

Down the stretch they come, Emotional Maturity and Physical Maturity trying to regain, bumping Intellectual maturity in the turn. But Spiritual Maturity, after swerving out a bit toward the first turn, continues along the outside, rallies when sharply roused on the second turn to make a way between Physical and Emotional Maturity. Physical Maturity suddenly lost momentum.

Intellectual Maturity continues along the inside in a brilliant move to take over the lead on the stretch turn, rallies gamely and gives way grudgingly as Spiritual Maturity finds a way, pulling from within amazing feats to find an opening on the inside, slips past, making a stirring dash to the finish line, winning with confidence.

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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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spiderweb
“It behooveth him to wax, but me to be made less” (John 3:30, Wycliffe Translation)

A storm brewed one summer night, tearing at the trees, pink flower petals – and the weaver web. All the parts – all six hands and feet of  that tiny spider were intent on making the silk thread stick  – stick to  brick pillars and porch eaves dripping water  – arms and legs weaving and darning simultaneously.

Just like this mother in me – with these boys – stocking shelves and hearts with nobleness books on heroes, freedom and faith, loving forever to God’s beard and back to plate-fulls of carrots and broccoli with dipping sauce to make it go down – to bed-time chronicles, God stories and prayers tucked in and lectured out on how to live this faith thing that is the most important part of the spinning and weaving and releasing of ourselves into our children.

Hands-on shoe-tying and shirt buttoning instructing,  math problem and oil level checks, to  true friendship discernment and loving hearts that need saving, challenge confrontation and over-coming training – and learning not to give up o confront challenges to overcome – sometimes 2 arms, 2 legs and one heart work as determinedly as the spider with the web – though maybe not as gracefully, as fluidly

like a spider mending and weaving on a stormy evening.

like a mother and a father giving out all that is within us until one day they stand tall above us, tall enough inside and out to leave . . .

to search out their own eaves and pillars on which to stick their faith and life mission where they become small and He becomes bigger – and the work of their life reflects His glory.

I don’t know if I explained that well – how our life’s work, that He designed us for – , that’s the story they will read, the song they will hear, the web a canvas to the artist. It is our family, that web – and the work and faith of our hands and hearts, what we put into the raising of them – that will say the most about us – and suddenly it is so much bigger than just me – these children and grandchildren – and in the weaving, the mending, the praying and faith of it are what people see, not me but the results of the life I lived, of the faith and love I lived.

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knitIt’s tangerine rosemary tea in my grandmother’s tea-cup on a holiday afternoon
as the sun slants through the front windows
And I lasso time to write
My heart

It’s snowflakes on the first day
Back to work after the holiday
Snowflakes cover the road
Covering my windshield
And my black ballet slippers
Leave a path across the grocery parking lot
For club soda, vanilla bean ice cream
And chocolate syrup
Because my littlest one found the recipe
In an old book
Though I knew the recipe from an old memory
Saucey boy thought he’d discovered something I didn’t
know
And I lassoed time
Because he threw down the gauntlet
To make soda memories

It’s, “Mama can you make my sandwich
‘cause it would just taste that much better?”
Or, “Mom, can you bring by the stapler?”
“Read my essay – did I do the cites right?”
expressing appropriate appreciation in the dry
humor of a miniature snowman
and how repentance grows out of hard lessons learned,
grows into tears, hugs and walking tall
And I lasso time out of the jaws of not enough
of me to go around

It’s the no in healthy boundaries
And faith in the journey of a prayer sent out
It’s decisions not for popularity
But for love
and letting go so that independence with training wheels
can work
For standing when sometimes I’d rather
retreat to “Stars and Butterflies” and “The Militia Marching In”
And I lasso time for grace
because I asked God for these boys and this job
and He grew my heart and the will to fight
for moments with tangerine rosemary tea,
chocolate sodas, the dry humor of a miniature snowman
and an answered prayer come home

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windowf13Some might see this window as restrictive, kind of like the windows at the zoo or the aquarium  – like the real living is on the other side, or some might see this window as dirty, infested with creepy critters.

I love my window. It’s as though while I sit beside it daily, Shaddai stops by, leans against it and spends times with me, encourages me – rain or shine. The weather doesn’t stop him.

Sometimes He brings the squirrels with Him, or we watch the rain-drops racing down the pane – or He sends a spider to decorate a one-of-a-kind design just for me, for Halloween.

The slight spills in, the tree leaves in view reach upward, dancing in the wind and people walk through my frame in hope for a future – daily they do this – hope on parade, you could say.

This window, it is a symbol of His provision and protection, too.

windowc12You see, sometimes I struggle with where I am – and all I have to do is look out that window – and He reminds me that He hasn’t forgotten me – everything is all on His schedule. He’s got it.

How do you see where you are, the window you look through as you live life?

What do you see? Or maybe I should say, “How do you see?”

Perspective is everything. It is the difference between joy, hope and love.

Perspective changes everything, too.

The three wise men didn’t just see a star – they saw the way to Jesus

Caleb and Joshua didn’t see impossibility – they saw possibility.

Jesus didn’t just see a blind man, a prostitute, a fisherman – He saw straight to their soul and loved them, loved them enough to heal them, give them living water, make them fishers of men.

What do you see in the daily, looking out your windows, in the bite of the challenge or the comfort of a hug?

What do you see and How do you see it?

“We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment” (Col 1: 16-17)

Do you see His purpose? His perspective? His plan? His love?

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see” (Hebrews 11: 1-3)

windowccWhen we see the world His way it changes how we see everything

I can see the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the shivering, the sick, the imprisoned

whether it is the pan-handler scamming me out of a $20  on a roadside

or someone imprisoned in their own pain that makes them sullen and ill-tempered,

whether it is someone who judges you unfairly or doesn’t give you a chance

those inside pretty and inside ugly, hungry to see God, to believe but they cannot see it, they’re blind to it.

Someone who thirsts for someone to care – real care, real sticking to a relationship, faithfulness in the right now

someone heart-sick through pent-up unforgiveness that bursts forth like a huge sneeze, spreading its germ all around – needing someone to risk the contagion to bring the chicken soup for the soul.

someone soul shivering for removing the mask, revealing it all

a homeless person who has an address but no community, no-one to sit with over a cup of coffee, no one to share their burdens – and we need to share our challenges – just to let it out sometimes – with someone who understands and sees the odd-ball humor swirling in the midst of it – and laughs with you.

When we see Him, we see the hurting whether it is physically hurting or inside-hurting – and He shows us how to respond, how to love.

Persepctive opens our eyes, not only to possibilities but to need – need that sometimes shows itself in uncomfortable ways.

God-perspective gives us vision to see the need, to see a glass half-full, to see hope, to see that maybe beneath someone shouting hurt is a person hurting

and with the seeing of these needs is the call to engage – in prayer, in reaching, in pulling that person into the family of God. Seeing is the prelude to grace action.

When you sit at your window in the daily, what do you see?
curd4c13_edited-1

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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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He’d pulled a knife on my son, in the 7th grade hallway. Pulled it and said he was going to stab him in the back and kill him next week. This boy ran away shortly after that. He was a habitual runaway. He’d run. Come back. Start the threats over again. This cycle continued through the year. This boy was screaming for someone to take care of him, to make him go to school, to scoop his emotional self up and put him back together each day. Youth rail at boundaries – yet cry out for shepherding.

I prayed for this runaway who had threatened my son – prayed for him like I prayed for my son.

I never imagined, though, my children would consider running – ever. I thought love, healthy boundaries, discipline, encouragement, knowledge of a loving God – I thought that would immunize them to a run-away heart.

Please click over to Cause/Pub ‘s Couch Rebel Project for the rest of the story – this story of a silent epidemic in our communities and churches – just click here.

Thank you, Beck, Amy and Karin for all your encouragement to do this!

238-wideCausePub has teamed up with Blood:Water Mission to fund-raise to clean water in Africa.

For every book sold, Blood:Water Mission, will be able to provide three people with clean water for one year. Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against HIV/AIDS and the water crisis in Africa. Blod: Water Mission was founded in 2005 by the multi-platinum GRAMMY Award-winning band, Jars of Clay. Crowd Publishing for Impact is teaming with Blood: Water Mission to sell 15,000 copies of Couch Rebels . The sales from this publication will allowthem to impact 45,000 lives with clean water for a year.

What’s in the book Couch Rebels? That is to be determined now by you. They have asked for writers/bloggers to contribute about an experience that placed them outside their comfort zone. They review submissions to determine phase one of what articles/posts/stories go in the book. If your writer is accepted, you enter phase 2 where readers vote (not just click like but vote) to determine whether your article will be included in the published project.

There’s still a few more days for you to include yours – please do CausePub is accepting stories until 7/2.

Please – stop by and check mine out. Yes, I’m doing the happy dance that I made it past Phase one for 2 writing projects. If you are encouraged, please hit vote.

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treeseeds

New growth comes after the harsh, bitter winter –

with its biting frosts and stinging ice

New growth – without it, hope and faith are stunted

survival, potential threatened

New growth heralding strength, survival, life extending,

growing taller, reaching higher

New growth testifying vibrant health inside and out

becoming more

so much more

than the beginning every imagined

New growth worth living the winter

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8)

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Jumping into puddles
On the street, parking lot
On the sidewalk , on soccer field
Jumping into puddles
cloud made
Of my own making
or hand-made by others
My feet, they step in them
And spash
Residue patterns
All around
And the puddle soaks into
My shoes, through the material
Designed to protect
From outside elements
And the splash soaks
To my feet – and I feel it
Up to my heart, to my mind
These puddle splashes
From life walks, steps and jumps
And I miss
When after-effects of puddle jumping
Didn’t stain the soul
Of my heart.

I love watching my boys jump – when they play video games, when they head soccer balls, when they jump in puddles. Their carefree innocence and exuberance, bottomless energy bursting into jumps and runs – and they don’t think of things like shoe stains – until the stink from shoe shedding makes everyone turn and glare – and they don’t think of things like running out of jumps – like I do now after 3. I think my soul – it jumps and runs – and it wants to not just splash through a Holy Spirit puddle – it wants to swim in it – and when life gets really, really uncomfortable – from my soul feet to my soul heart – to my mind – I have these Holy Spirit Golashes that’s supposed to keep out the bad stuff from seeping inside and soaking into places it doesn’t need to be. I can’t jump as high as I used to – but my soul can – with a Holy Spirit like golashes. Ijust need to remind myself – that I can – jump – high – with Him.

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Lunging from his stance, the young football player – himself a kicker and defensive end –lunged toward the football before it could be kicked into an afterpoint.

The opposing kicker’s leg touched ball, rising upward impacting the player in red’s helmet, knocking it off, leg soaring to drop a double blow on the now bare head on the way down to rest position.

This player in red was my son, a sophomore player. It took a couple of weeks, an inability to remember classroom content, an anxiety attack before a doctor trained to identify and treat concussions diagnosed his concussion.

Initially, they thought he’d miss the rest of the school year. They sent him to bed for 2 weeks – no t.v., no video games, no computer – no media. Just rest.

It was the best sleep he ever had, he said later.

It took him at least a month to make up the work he did for those two weeks of school with the concussion + the two weeks of school sleeping the concussion to healing.

Remembering was like a kick in the head.

A few weeks ago, he said, “I don’t remember much from before the concussion.”

My heart dropped to my toes.

Not remember much before your sophomore year, before rebellion kicks in – all the sweet memories, the innocent times, all the love we had to give – living without those memories must be bleak. Dark. Lonely – not remembering the love before the rebellion of youth.

Being the problem solver, the fixer – I decided to create a 30 days of memories. Then, knowing me like I know me – I knew it would take a few months for this to steep in my mind – this vintaging of memories.

As the 30 Days of Memory Project (see – now it’s in caps so it’s almost official, almost at kick off now) – I thought how hard it must be, without a concussion, for a prodigal walking home to wade through the hard memories to find and pull close the sweet rememberings.

How many leave good memories un-vintaged because of the shame of rebellious memories, the hurt-inflicted-on-others memories? You pass those, in the walk back, taking ownership – before you walk far enough back to the good stuff.

Remembering the good-stuff, though, needs to be done. If he can’t do it right now, on his own, whether the concussion or the prodigal path stands in the way, I can help.

I can sort through and pull out the blessing rememberings. They were a gift to him – from God and his family.

Sometimes it takes others to help vintage the good rememberings.

The prodigals walk home retraces the steps that led him away. The retracing, the return is a coming face-to-face with regretful behavior, regretful memories. In remembering the regretful comes true repentance. With true repentance comes forgiveness, with forgiveness comes refreshing.

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,”(Acts 3:19).

He will blot out your sin.

The blotting out of the sin will reveal the history of blessing.

It’s time to vintage the blessing memories.

True forgiveness does that – blots out the dark memories – sheds light on the blessing memories.

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cbfall2011c2c

I wanted to write about cool pillows, blue cotton blankets, orange dulce tea and wrapped up in a good book. No stress. No gracelessness. Just rest. A Holiday-kind of rest where nothing from the outside nibbles away at the inside.

That kind of rest is not today. Not right now.

Somehow, when the children were littler – even if fevers spiked and cheeks flushed, if brothers squabbled and food spilled – I could usher in rest in afternoon naps or evening bedtimes – rest re-setting everyone’s hearts. I was graceful at that. Temper tantrums and Mid-night wakes? Graceful! Where little hearts unburdened themselves trusting I could help them sort it out – wanting me to help sort to rightness. Graceful!

The teen years – where sleeps don’t re-set hearts, where I cannot site the source for every word, every thought they bring home, where boys-to-men hearts don’t unburden themselves, hide themselves, where home is a cage – and they don’t want to be there, where maybe they don’t quite love themselves like we do – oh, I am graceless here. graceless in rejection. graceless watching my boy-to-man facing challenges God did not design him to face.

graceless
and all I have is faith

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty father,
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

While challenges scratch
Not just at this heart
That loves
That prays
The breathes in
Jesus Christ
Breathes out
Have mercy
Challenges that scratch
This mother’s heart
And scratch
This mother’s child

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty Father
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

It is there that my faith
My hope
My trust
I believe
That He meets
My child
To lead him out
Of the challenge
Into the light
Into His plan
Into Salvation
Into Redemption
And living water

To rest my head against
The heart of the great I Am
the holy shepherd
is to breath life
into this faith, this hope,
this unconditional love He taught me
how to love
how to trust Him
that this is the only way
to walk this mother’s walk

I am not a perfect mom. I am a mom not good enough. I don’t give up, though. I don’t stop trying. I don’t stop loving. I don’t stop believing in Him.

I am resting my head against Shaddai, against His promise that to me, to you, to each of my sons – that He will be like the shepherd who pursues, searches and FINDS the lost sheep – my lost sheep – your lost sheep:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue” (Luke 15:4-7).

We all struggle. Each of our children face challenges. I’ve been here before. Prayers sent out a few years ago for one son returned this week, returned answered – only to brush up against prayers sent out for another son.

Bitter sweet. How can a heart rejoice and grieve at the same time? Yet, mine does.

I rest in the faith that the Holy Spirit will breathe a fire into the embers of faith planted deep, and that Holy Spirit fire will consume and burn away things not of the Father – revealing a life restored, the journey of a prayer answered returning home.


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windowc12

I remember school bus riding, 7:15 am., dark winter, my forehead pressed against the cool pane, watching windows spill butter gold light outside. I imagined ordinary families behind those windows – mothers and fathers living in wholeness along with their children.

I dreamed an ordinary everyman dream – because my family was broken.

Tonight, I’m wrapped in a bandana quilt I made, listening to my sons, a big and little one talk, laugh – about big and little things. Yellow butter light spills outside my windows. My husband snores on the couch. It’s been a week of the littlest guy wrapped in a blanket, commandering the thermometer, sticking it in his arm pit, and announcing, “100.08” – and me later coaxing him to live with a sore throat nothing will ease.

There’s been hurt hearts, angry moments, laughter, snuggles, ice cream while we watched the season premier of Duck Dynasty, morning prayers, hugs, homework, wholeness.

My husband brought me GoPow from my favorite Thai restaurant because I felt poorly – and he hugged me when I got home.

I am living this ordinary, everyman dream I grabbed hold of on school bus rides long ago.

Thank you, God!

Arwen in Lord of the Rings said, “I choose a Mortal Life” – and her life changed forever.

Dreams walked out come with much responsibility, tough choices, requiring a never-give-up-ness, a heart capable of growing 10X its size, faithfulness in love, water-drop tears along with way, fierceness, – and, in the ordinary everyman dream – God.

Do not be deceived that ordinary means boring, one-dimensional, empty.

Ordinary is as simple and beautiful as light slipping across a windowsill – from outside to inside or inside to outside.

I chose an ordinary life.

I am living my dream.

A few weeks ago, I talked more about ordinary, everyman dreams.   If I were to put 3 posts in a box to be passed down to my children’s children – this would be one of the 3: Ordinary Dreams of an Everyman, click here to read.

 

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quilt11

Whirligig
A basket of scraps
That is what I am
A piece of me here
A piece of me there
Like flying geese scattered
Everyone pulling pieces from
This basket of scraps

Beggar’s Block
Like vines at the window
Crayon and Pencil Children want a piece of me
The Laundry Room wants a piece of me
My man wants a piece of me
The checkbook, too, reaches and grabs
My Mother’s Dream wants a piece of me
The Devil at the Window wants a piece of me
Grabbing pieces,
From this basket of scraps

Broken Dishes
All pulling pieces
To fit their design
Disregarding color schemes
pattern lines
quantity
risking crazy quilt and broken path randomness
from leftovers
in this basket of scraps

Star of Hope
God’s Eyes see me
Not like mis-matched cups and saucers
Or un-coordinated color swatches
Not as a basket of scraps
Or Party Star Pieces
The Master Designer quilts me whole
into
A Peace Quilt
To wrap around
His children
Quilting me whole
Out of a Basket of Scraps

My very first quilt - a blue cotton quilt

My very first quilt – a blue cotton quilt


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updated February 24, 2013

lemonade
A few years ago, when one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.

Now readers,

stop a minute.

Visualize

A hairless bear shivering with cold

I was right!

There really is nothing sadder in the world

than a hairless bear

shivering with cold

if you group all the sadder-in-the-world things that are truly freaky, scary funny

but not truly sad

like

a newborn baby who needs its stomach, which is pushed up into its lung area, put back

or the loss of life, homes, andjobs in Manilla after tropical cyclones wreaked havoc,

or the loneliness and hopelessness without God

lemonsAfter I’d dropped the two youngest brothers off at school, this bear teen and I set off to the high school. He didn’t look happy – and I’d always said growing up his first name should have been Joyful. He wasn’t joyful now.

I dove into my unabashed Q&A – there is something to be said for being one eye more awake than your children in the morning. Yes, only one eye more awake and driving. My Qs resulted in As that bemoaned sitting through classes with students who really didn’t want to be there, who spent their class time just irritating other students or whining.

“Choose Joy,” I said.

“You just can’t make joy,” he answered, only one eye awake.

“Joy is a choice,” I persisted. “It’s like lemons. What do you do when life gives you lemons? Make Lemonade.”

“Bam!” I thought! Grand slam. I was wide awake then. Kind of proud of myself.

“I don’t like lemonade,” he said, sliding his eyes toward me, his lips quirking in a quiet gotcha-smile.

When he got out of the car, reached back in to pull out his backpack, I smiled, “Make some lemonade today!”

Because each of my sons needs to learn that contentment, happiness, joy – requires choice to find the good in hard situations, when life just plain stinks, when it feels prayers aren’t answered and friends aren’t true. Sometimes only through sheer determination, keen look-out – can we make joy where none really exists.

I cried out to God to show me – and I have found joy in a flock of crows, in squirrels nests, in a quirky smile trying to be held back, in 5 acorns on a path.

St. Augustine said that the only difference between the pagan and the Christian, who suffer the same challenges, the only difference is how they handle those challenges. Because we have a God who loves, He provides an opportunity to turn those lemons into lemonade joy.

Choose Joy.

Make Joy.

I texted this son later, “What’s the saddest sight in the world?”

“Your cooking,” he texted back.

 “The Joy of the Lord is our Strength” (Neh 8:10)

That joy and laughter strengthen!  God is so detail-oriented that He not only invented awe-inspiring joy, but tiny pockets of joy, release-valve joy, decreasing pressure and stress  – the invention of unusual places to find moments of laughter that cause joyfulness to bubble up inside, bubbling into a smile, a funny, joyful moment- an indecisive squirrel in the middle of the road, a headless turtle, or a collie carrying the neighbor’s Christmas wreathes – and – yes, even in a hairless bear shivering with cold.

“Life is what you make it; Always has been. Always will be” (Grandma Moses)

Make Lemonade out of Lemons!

Make Lemonade Joy!

I pray you find joy and laughter today, not just in the sentimental, but in the unexpected. I pray that you make lemonade joy out of lemons. What are some unusual places you have found a burst of laughter and a spot of joy? What’s your recipe for Lemonade Joy?

Since a post on Lemonade Joy would be incomplete without some real lemonade, I thought I’d include my recipe. It’s a recipe that tastes better when shared:

6 Lemons
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Quart Water
Grenade
Crushed Ice
Lemon Slices and Blood Orange Slices

lemonade

 


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flowerWishing the Storm would Blow through
Windows creaking,
whistling around the eaves, moaning
pressure
bringing chaos to order
head hurting with barometric
pressure changes

Wishing the Storm would Blow through
and I move to the porch,
and listen to the rain
the Holy Spirit Rain in the storm
sitting on a green rocking chair
I sing under my breath
“Holy, Holy
Are you Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are Holy”

I ask Him to meet me there
in the storm
Ask Him for that Holy Spirit rain
puddling around home
to come inside
me
to come inside
and give me peace
in the chaos of the storm
and He does
the pressure in my head
subsiding
turning my chaos
into His peace
and it changed
everything

1021) Squirrels come out of their nests, running past my window
1022) Past the yellow and purple panies
1023) Cardinals nesting in my trees
1024) Backyard Birds darting past as I plant zinnia seeds, hopes of yellows, oranges, fuschias
1025) volunteer Chard, carrots and zinnias – that good things return despite nature and off-chances
1026) sweet moms turned friends sitting together on soccer fields
1027) a son finding his zone and playing well
1028) Changes and choices in education opportunities for my boys – reducing stress in a system that is now more concerned with test scores than grades
1029) a new puppy, Sadie Rose, falling asleep on my toes
1030) My senior reminding me to choose joy when everything is going wrong – knowing my words given out and handed back are indeed planted
1031) A husband who knows my strengths and weaknesses and helps me out when I’m having tough moments
1032) Smiles from my boys – all kinds of smiles
1033) Buttermilk cupcakes filled with a chocolate ganache and topped with caramel icing for friends of my sons who are beautiful gifts from a loving God.
1034) A don’t-give-up spirit despite things like Google-Map mistakes making us an hour late for a soccer game (meaning we arrived when the game began), a don’t-give-up spirit for when chaos surges in, exhausting me – and I still make those 48 cupcakes for a prom dinner next weekend, and for really important things like not giving up when I don’t see the evidence of God’s plans – I still believe in it!
1035) Opportunities over the kitchen table to let a son’s friend know God is not surprised – God has a plan.

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barefeet

Mothering lays bare my soul, all raw and real to these arms, legs and toes with a soul born skin-bare. Life bare they grew, loved and wrapped little arms around my neck, unconditional trust to grow who God created them to be, some days barely graceful, some days barely adequate – and the memory of the imperfection bared is no longer than a sleep.

Imperfect me laid bare to little toes and legs that grow up into teen toes and legs with little tolerance, little forgiveness for a barely good-enough mom who misses it, missteps the daily dance with those toes and legs. And I am bared, in this teen reveal, the true brokenness of imperfect me. In the bareness of the reveal these legs and toes remember past the daily sleeps, remember and dress imperfect me in my own gracelessness.

The bare necessity of a mother’s life? It’s not the coffee, the hugs, the candles lit that symbolize hope for a peaceful moment. Not, it is hope and faith that here I am bare, alone, judged by these legs and toes – that they will one day take their soul fingers and peel away the imperfect memories, laying bare to the startling unconditional, hope-filled love that never gave up on either of us.

Once I got beyond the thought of how my boys used to, pre-10 unabashedly walk bare-naked through the house without any inhibitions  – well, such is a boys-only house – I realized that bare is a word that should come with “forgiveness required.”

While we can dress up our bareness when we leave the house –  but home and these boys and my husband and I – home is real, where we are all laid bare. It’s where tempers like a teapot give off steam. It’s where comfort is available like blankets folded, waiting to wrap around. It is a place where unexpected humor shows itself. It’s where daily wounds get tended and exacerbated. As a mother, it’s the place where I am more harshly judged than anywhere else.

Home is a bare-it all place where God is the foundation and forgiveness, faith and love frame it, cannot stand without it. When you enter or leave, please take some love and forgiveness with you.

 

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