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

I was in the garden with my half-hearted tomato plants, the whole-hearted cucumbers, gracefully quiet chard sitting quietly between the two, admiring the turtle-paced eggplant slowly but surely contributing enough – and coming to terms that one may be enough.

The chocolate mint is sneaking its way back in, but, then, it is a good place to be – this back yard garden. The bees and butterflies agree, but they don’t notice the chocolate mint. They’re much more interesting in the zinnias.

The zinnias at each end of the raised beds sway in the breeze, smile up at the sun, burst into yellows, pinks, reds, oranges – and a lot of whites his year. The zinnias despite their raucous petals, rays, discs and stigmas and, seemingly, breezy behavior – they always teach me something. Or maybe it’s really God teaching me through the zinnias.

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I’ve been thinking about this circle of life, this growing older, roles changing as needs change of both my children and older family members. In the process, I’ve been thinking about what 75, 85, 95 will look like on me. Not the petal part of aging, but the seed-planting part and harvest part – how the condition of the soul shows itself – either in waspish and testy ways, cheery and good-humored, bitterness or sweet savory, lost or found.

When my petals have fallen away, and all that remains of me as I sit on my front porch wrapped in a blue sweater are a few soul seeds left to be brushed or blown off, I want those soul seeds to be
joy-of-the-lord seeds
faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of seeds
gentle seeds of God’s amazing love that go
soul deep
encouraging, spirit-lifting,
hands-raised high seeds
helping my neighbor seeds
holistic generosity of spirit seeds
delivered with hands and heart wide-open
so that when all is said and done,
all has been spent that could be spent
but for the crown no one noticed
in the days of petals and youth
the crown of whose I am.

Cultivating a cheerful heart given to smiling and laughing, a hope-and-faith heart, a daughter-of-the-king heart – I need to diligently cultivate that now. So, if you see me driving down the road with a crazy smile on my face, I’m practicing for 90!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” ~ Psalm 126:5-6

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When the words don’t come, it puts me at a loss. That the words don’t come doesn’t necessarily herald a hard season. Sometimes it heralds a season to be savored. A season to just pause and take it all it – the sweet and the sour, the high and low,  the tough and the tender.

It’s been a year! Not a 2017 kind of year. Just a 365 days kind of year. This time last year, walking was terribly painful – after pneumonia and surgery – my muscles thought it was time to curl up and stop. Thanks to yoga, muscle stretching and time, I am myself again – which means I am still not an Olympian, but I can get the job done and then some!

These 365 days have been full of loss, birth and the in-between stuff.  I haven’t known how to write about it. God stayed my hand from writing, so I just watched and soaked. . . soaked up family during the loss of my aunt – the oldest of the sisters –  in September and my mother-in-law in early November . . . soaked up my 4th son’s final soccer season and graduation . . . soaked up a crazy-wonderful holiday full of laughter and adventure . . . still soaking up my first grandson that came over a week ago.

Soaking meant an lot of watching, a lot of listening and a lot of quiet, like watching one son face challenges to gain something more than he imagined – not what he wanted to gain – but something more valuable in the long run.

The daily living in between the mourning and the celebrations was the mortar that bound the bricks and stones of my soul house together during this year of extreme highs and lows.

No, I didn’t journal the tender or write through the tough. I took a lot of photos that helped me process – and I cooked through – and shared the fruits of both with family and friends.

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There were stews, and soups, pasta and chicken, fried chicken and gravy, grilled cheeses, bacon and cheese pastries, and garlic butter biscuits.

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There were scones, chocolate chip cookies, garlic buttered biscuit, and all types of Muddy Cakes: Muddy Cakes for birthdays – friends and family. Muddy Cakes for celebrations. Muddy  Cakes just to love others when I wasn’t sure what else God wanted me to do (Muddy is my grandma name – so I started calling them Muddy Cakes).

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Someone said, “You need to open a bakery.”

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No – they’re not for sale. They’re for love and friendship.

Toward the end of the school year, the boys had had enough cake.  I detected a potential revolution ahead.

The  youngest, he said to me, “You’re slipping, Mom. You used to cook the most amazing breakfasts. Remember those granola bars you used to make with the stuff with the man with the white hair?”

“You mean Quaker Oats?”

“You only have two more years, Mom. You need to push through.”

I pushed through, finishing the school year with granola bars made with the oatmeal that has the man with the white hair. I made eggs and bacon on toast with ketchup. I did it all – and then bought some Lucky Charms to give me a brief rest.

Maybe this pushing through made me remember other recipes from other times – tasty memories. This Spring, in the middle of soccer season, I remembered the Thousand Island dressing I’d made in high school for school lunches. It was a tasty memory that started a craving. Timing was somehow right, too. I found myself rummaging through Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that I received when I married. It had the recipe for a salad dressing from my grandmother’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (not so new I guess) that I’d used in high school. About 35+ years later, I wanted to see if it was good now as it was then.

I modified mine a bit, probably just like I did all those years ago – the spices, pantry items and fridge contents aren’t all that different. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. I mixed and stirred – and tasted.

Thousand Island

I cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup relish and 1/4 cup ketchup (not chili sauce)
2 finely choppped hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons each finely chopped: green peppers, celery, and onion (I spun mine in a food processor)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
If  you think it’s too thick, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk

It was – as good now as it was then.

Then, during our family holiday in France, yes –  France! I’ve always wanted to do a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley! And we didn’t because, well, I said I wasn’t an Olympian. ! We drove – through the Loire Valley, up past William the Conquerors place over to Normandy’s Utah and Omaha beaches and on to Paris. There was still miles and miles of walking a day.  I got the job done and then some!

Three of our sons went with us to France. After 48 hours, they missed my cooking.

“Mom,” they each said.” You could open a restaurant here, and it would be packed every day.” To them, I was the best cook in France. I tried to explain that the French would be just as miserable with my cooking. McDonald’s was greeted by these guys as a long lost friend after three to four days.

The most gorgeous art work was in the patisseries – Delectable! Divine! Delicous! Besides the patisserie offerings – one cafe’s buttermilk dressing on a salad made me want to make a Mason jar of it when I got home.

This newly discovered appreciation of my cooking increased my value in their estimation. When we walked – and we walked a lot, I found myself hedged in before and behind me. Losing me seemed a real possibility. Of course, the time in Chambord Chateau their dad offered them 5 Euros to whoever could find me first might have had something to do with it. They weren’t taking any chances of losing me again.

I found unlooked for treasures in France. Maybe these young men did, too.

I’d tried one of the buttermilk dressing packets months ago, but it just didn’t dazzle me like the recipe at the little French Cafe. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Dressing. I didn’t veer much from her recipe.

Buttermilk Dressing

3/4 C. Buttermilk (I used whole Buttermilk)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)(I used a garlic press)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (I used celery seed)

I made it when I got home – and it was a good thing! Martha’s tasted like the little French cafe’s buttermilk dressing that was so very delightful. I will admit that I just might have possibly fell in love with shallots!

My youngest, he tasted my Buttermilk Dressing – and liked it. “Not for salads,” he said. “Great for dipping. It needs to be thicker or salads – so just pick that up at the grocery story”

However, he’s keeping me busy keeping the mason jar full. I have trouble keeping this one for more than 3 days. It goes fast.

There’s a bit of chard in my little patch of garden. The cucumbers are ready. The tomatoes are taking their time. The grocery provides the broccoli – my youngest’s favorite. Carrots, onions and other items Peter Rabbit would appreciate come from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t want to grow everything, I enjoy my Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings too much.

Then there’s Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing. I make it year round (you can find the recipe here). Aunt Joyce started making it my freshman year of college.  It reminds me of all those nightly dinners with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce. I miss a kitchen filled with these women. I guess that’s the price you pay when your husband says “You’re a pioneer woman” when his company wanted him to move to Detroit and he found a different job in this little town in Tennessee about 26 years ago. We both left our families, packed up our red Ford truck, our first little boy and set up house in this sweet town. It’s our boys’ hometown now. All 5 of them. Except they’re not boys anymore. Not really even boys to men. They’re men – even the 16 year old. If you treat them like men, instead of boys, they tend to act like how you treat them.

Good recipes, like these salad dressing recipes, are reminders of the good things from where I came from and where I’ve been.

Someone messaged me wondering how I managed to do everything I do. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t do – or do well. The dishes get stacked up, the socks left unmatched, this and that piles us. I plan for a Monday stew to last through Wednesday (Is that cheating?). There are dayswhen I feel like I’m being whirled in a lettuce spinner.  It takes me 3 hours to create a spotless kitchen that takes someone else 30 minutes. There are days when I need either to have taken more seriously conversations with my sons – and other days when I need to have been less serious.

“Mom, do I need a sign on my head that says, ‘Sarcasm?” the 4th one, the one with the humor so dry it is self-combustible asked.

“Ummmmm, Yes! Can you take care of that?” I say, really hoping that one day he will have one for me. It isn’t encouraging when your mom laughs at the wrong time or takes jokes seriously resulting in unwanted lectures.

This has been a year where doing what I love for the ones I love has also meant doing something things I love rarely, like writing.

In a soaking year, when the words don’t come, and loved stories ended, other stories wove themselves while all I could do was watch, love, and cheer – cooking was one of the few things I could do.

It feels like a new season is beginning. Something different is in the air. The words finally came. I knew God would send them when He was ready for me to have them.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a Muddy Cake! It has been an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of post – but it felt right to do it this way.

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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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http://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
https://susanbmead.com// Dance with Jesus Friday
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
Word of God Speak with Janice Cox
Raising Samuels Social Butterfly Sunday with Kelly at Raising Samuels
Family Joy Blog Link-up Party at Thinking Outside the Pot

http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/     Three-Word Wednesday
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday

http://arabahjoy.com
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End
http://letuswalkworthy.com/blog/ Let Us Walk Worthy
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays

Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk

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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” ~ George Eliot, Adam Bede.

The oldest son walked in first, into the hospital room that Saturday in late February. I’d been admitted just long enough to have IVs placed. The antibiotics hadn’t even been started yet. I was septic with double pneumonia. My husband had gone home to bring back what I’d need for a stay. The second son and his wife came with my two youngest about 30 minutes later, followed by the 3rd son. I couldn’t talk; it wasn’t worth the effort, but, like any time all the boys gather, there is more entertainment to be found in the listening than by trying to add my 2 cents worth. It was an unanticipated gathering where love doesn’t need to invite, love just comes.

2016 was a year of unanticipated gatherings. I call them grace gatherings.

Gatherings: fellowship, belonging, inside the circle, storytelling, listening, laughter, tears, highs and lows, memory-making, engaging authentic caring, maybe just a just-holding-hands, sharing, quiet or loud, praying, believing, forgiving, hoping, choosing love, a just-being-there kind of gathering.

You see, there are the on-the-calendar gatherings with cakes and candles and a year added to someone’s count. There are holiday gatherings with feasting, thanksgiving, sparklers and fireworks. There are Soli Deo Gloria gatherings reminding us of God’s love and faithfulness in the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His son. There are back porch gatherings, kitchen counter gatherings, breaking bread or sharing a cup of tea gatherings. People arrive either through formal invites or the casual, southern-styled, the-door’s-always-open invitation to stop by, sit long and talk much over a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.

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Ben and Katrina’s June, 2015 Wedding

Then there are the big-moment, still-planned gatherings like weddings and graduations with suits, ties and starched shirts. Or planned family gatherings in flip-flops, sand with a dab of beach soccer. Last summer,  35+ members of my husband’s family gathered at the beach. We’ve done this since 2009. This was the first year all my boys (with their family) have been together like this since 2008. It was a memory-making gathering.

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Family, June 2016

. . . and then there are the unwanted gatherings where grace just brings you to stand with others in the hard moments when illness threatens or death comes . . . . unwanted gatherings redeemed by grace.

Grace:
1. 
Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Twice this year, Grace gathered and lined up, gave hugs, shared stories that touched our hearts and brought smiles.

Grace always makes time to love.

Those memories we’d all gathered?  Memory stories overflowed with more than enough grace to pour on aching, loss-sore hearts. Nanny had sowed enough love to bring grace to every one of our hearts when she went home to heaven in November. Those memories we’d gathered? Whether 6 or 66, we each had within us a lifetime of memories gathered to pull out when we miss her, to pull out to comfort in her absence.

It’s hard when a beloved character in your story leaves your story. It’s like when Beth dies in Little Women. The gatherings are never the same kind of sweet as when she was there, and it leaves the reader poignantly homesick for earlier chapters, even though the story continues on, fulfilling the designed hope for each character remaining in the story.

Yes, I would have preferred only the birthday sparkle and back-porch kind of gatherings in 2016. Who wouldn’t? But I find myself humbled by a loving God who instills in the hard gatherings grace that redeems through His unfailing love, a love so big that not only does he seek a one-on-one gathering with each of us, but manages to give each of us what we need in the table-packed, porch-packed, house-packed, beach-packed easy or hard gatherings.

2016 was a Grace-in-the-Gatherings kind of year. I don’t know God’s design for 2017. I do know there will be birthday gatherings with cakes and sparkle. When Spring comes, the back porch will open up again and sweet tea and lemonade will taste mighty fine with those who come to sit long and talk much. My 4th son graduates in May, a new grandchild will come in July. The one thing I can rely on is my reliable  Father-God who always shows up, whether I’m alone or in an easy or hard gathering – and brings His abundant grace to share with all who come.

Praying grace in your gatherings in 2017!

“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship” ~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith.

 nannylegacy

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Giving Up on Perfect, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday

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IMG_8028Thoughts on the day before my birthday (note: It is a dangerous thing – giving a mom time to string thoughts together – much like green beans climbing a pole):

“What’s on your bucket list to do before you die,” the dj said over the radio.
I don’t put much store in bucket lists. If I can’t satisfy my spirit within the daily – bucket list activities won’t touch the deep in me.

A bicycle trip through the Loire Valley?
Sit on the field where the Battle of Hastings changed the course of history?
Live in a cabin in Vermont through a snowy winter?

I imagine those who didn’t survive the Holocaust, soldiers who didn’t come home from war, children who didn’t survive childhood diseases – I imagine bucket list activities would be what fructose is to honey – the honey being the potential of the daily.

. . . before I die. . . I want. . .
 ~ my heart to still have that forever love for my husband, to still be holding hands, still seeing the reason we said yes 30 years ago Tuesday – still smiling and not giving up on each other
 ~ both my husband and I to have shown our sons how to grow old loving the Lord – in the refreshing times and in the challenging times.
 ~ to see each of them showing others the love of Jesus Christ – intentionally
 ~ forgiveness for shrugged-off hugs and imperfect mothering
 ~ to have encouraged those the Father sends across my path – whole-hearted, hands reaching – and not to have missed a one He sent my way
 ~not only my porch door always opening for friends and family – but I want home to welcome, refresh and comfort – and I want them to come – always.
 ~ always have granola bars in the cookie jar, cupcakes on the counter, or ice cream in the freezer with a cup of coffee, ginger tea or lemonade with lemons and orange slices – ready to share
 ~ daily remember how long ago I wondered how I could be faithful to Yahweh for a lifetime – and today I marvel at how I can’t let go He has so grafted me into Him.

Living in the daily can be a soul-deep experience, a priceless experience.

The literalist in me struggles with things like bucket lists – and faith sleeves. Literalists make poor cheer-leaders but wonderful encouragers.

butterflybush3ccWhen I turned from the radio, I read an article where one of my very favorite Lord of the Rings actors talked about his faith and how he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve – which left me wondering – Well? Where do you wear it?

Jesus wore his faith on his sleeve – all the way to the cross.

Not in a religious way – and by religious I  mean a Pharisee-and- Sadducee-way of following God – the old testament way – a by-the-rules way – where the rules are more important than anything else.

I’ve thought about this  because one time, one of my teens told me I was too religious. If all you see is religion, then you are not seeing the relationship.

Jesus wore his faith on his sleeve in a relationship way.

He didn’t use church language like Brother Peter and Sister Martha or vocabulary that shows you are an insider. I doubt he talked in a cadence that identified Him as a preacher. He didn’t confine his out-reach to the temple. He took it to the streets – the hillsides and town squares, to leaders and outcasts.

He came to us as an Everyman – the Son of God born an Everyman – who spoke with an Everyman vocabulary of penny and nickle words. Did you realize the classics were written in penny and nickle words? With His Everyman vocabulary, he told us about a loving Father who hadn’t forgotten us.

He told us that He was our brother come to pull us into the family of God – that He wanted us to help Him pull others into that family – and that meant wearing our faith on our sleeve

Faith wearing doesn’t win popularity contests with the world, though.

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15: 19-20)

Living the gospel, living Christ’s message isn’t religious. It is relationship – with Him, with the one who sent Him, with the Holy Spirit

Wear it on your feet, in your eyes, on your hands. Wear it in your actions, your words – even wear it on your sleeve.

Beware – Faith on Sleeves isn’t safe.

Matthew wore his faith so openly, he was killed by a sword wound.
Mark was dragged by horses through the streets until he died
Luke was hanged
Peter died upside on a cross
James was thrown over a hundred feet from a temple because he wore his faith on his sleeve.
Stephen was stoned
Paul was beaten, flogged, stoned and then beheaded
Bartholomew was whipped to death
Thomas was stabbed with a spear
Matthias was stoned and beheaded

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”
—2 Corinthians 12:10

butterfly62I don’t want to wear religion on my sleeve. I want to wear Christ-faith on my sleeve – relationship with Him on my sleeve – regardless of the consequences.

The Father one day long ago invited me on a journey, a journey that took me away from religion and into relationship with Him. He let me come at my own pace, didn’t grow impatient with my literal and graceless ways. Some days He walked with me. Some days He stood with me. Other times, we just sit and talk about things like bucket lists and faith sleeves.

It is a journey in the daily that needs faith sleeves.

– a literalists thoughts that meandered and climbed the day before my birthday.

IMG_7998

 

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Shalom is not Peace like a lazy river

Shalom is not Peace like a lazy river

When I was young, quite young, I prayed for Peace on Earth – that maybe in a single second, all the world would stop fighting, hating, irritating – and in that great single moment of perfect agreeableness, we would be transposed to heaven.

Peace today is a rain storm that brings a halt to all outdoor sports schedules. Peace is a balanced checkbook, a job with insurance, boys not ratcheting up good-natured interaction into a wrestling match into a fist fight. Peace is an absence of the bully in the bathroom. Peace is a clean kitchen, homework done, laundry folded, no-hiccup thing.

. . . . and that is a fearful deception – that peace is a day, a life of simply humming sweetly along without irritations, conflict, challenges.
A fructose kind of peace empty true sustaining value.
In my early twenties, I remember watching a series on the Holocaust, where Jewish characters greeted and left saying, “Shalom.”
I liked the sound of that word – but it wasn’t my word. You know how sometimes you want to do something, try something so much on the inside but you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable – you’re not quite sure you have the right to it – and so the idea stops right there.
Yet, on the inside, you desperately wish you had?
I didn’t think Shalom was for me.
It is, though – Shalom for you and me
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Shalom. (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus was born and died so that we might have Shalom – not the fructose-kind of shalom – but the meaty, substantial shalom that nourishes the soul.
“For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend shalom to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream” (Isaiah 66:12)

Shalom is peace in the midst of a raging river

Shalom is peace in the midst of a raging river

Somewhere in each year, God gives me a Year of concept. There has been the Year of Refreshing, Standing, Walking, Little Blessings. It doesn’t always start on January 1. In early November, I entered The Year of Shalom.

Not a 60s,hippie, laissez faire-indifference to good and bad, not Hakuna Matata – a problem free existence. This Shalom isn’t peace resulting in perfectly balanced checkbooks, children never fighting, schedules that make don’t make time-contortionists out of us, never having situations that give us pause, frustration-free, never a batch of burnt cupcakes and having shiny, clean kitchen floors.

This Shalom like a calm core in the midst of a cyclone.

Life is sticky floors, bullies in bathrooms, minimized grocery lists, car-door dents.
Shalom despite circumstances.
Shalom because of Him.
Shalom in Him.

“Shalom I leave with you. My shalom I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful” (Hebrew Names Version: John 14:27)

In the midst of worldliness, of things going wrong around us Shalom assures completeness, even though that book isn’t published,  provision – even in famine circumstances, contentment – even in a rough and tumble brotherhood, even in a bloom-where-don’t-want-to-be-planted place, relationships prospering parallel to relationships faltering, wholeness, the security found beneath His wings in an insecure world.

Peace in us that isn’t contigent on what is outside us.

Shalom, He whispers to me, soothing me,
wrapped up in my blankets,
watching the darkness outside
my window
“lie down in my Shalom and sleep” (Psalm 4:8) –
let me protect
you,
stand guard
over you,
let me have the planning of tomorrow, He says.
He knocks on my doors and windows,
Let me in He calls
Allow my shalom to dwell
within your walls(Psalm 122:7)
When He is within my walls,
the alligators under the beds
He chases out.
“My little gentile daughter,
come swim in my Shalom,
Shalom that flows like a river
washing away the mud of worry,
the grime of imperfection,
the wornness of the muscles of yourself
trying to do my job,
immerse yourself into the flowing stream
of My Holy Spirit –
there my Shalom covers you
from head to toe
inside out(Isaiah 66:12)
I will make a covenant between me and you, He tells me, a covenant of Shalom – where your challenges that beset like evil beasts
will be chased out
of your mind,
chased out
of your words,
chased out
of your attitude,
my shalom deflects attacks
of those who come to hurt.
I will encamp about
your mind, your body, the walls of your house
and you will dwell in safety
in the wildness of the world,
you will be safe enough to sleep
in the woods for the coyotes,
the snakes, the spiders will be gone
won’t be able to hurt” (Ezekiel 34:25)
“Oh, daughter, greatly beloved,
Shalom I give to you
Use it
Live it
Grow strong in it
Speak it
Share it
Shalom”

This year, I am called to live Shalom, talk it, share it – even to the places where I needs must bloom-where-I-do-not-want-to-be-planted – shalom in the center of chaos, of challenges, of life not always happening how I want it o happen.

Shalom, my friends!

“YHWH bless you and keep you.
YHWH make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
YHWH lift up His face upon you and give you SHALOM.
In the name of Yeshua haMashiyach SAR SHALOM – the Prince of Peace” (Numbers 6:24-26)

The Year of Living Shalom

The Year of Living Shalom

“And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: Shalom be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (Daniel 10:19).

2012 – The Year of the Little Blessings

2011 – Entering the Year of Walking

2010 – The Year of Refreshing

2009- The Year of Standing

933) grandbaby girl scooting to me, wanting me to pick her up
934) tiny fingers pointing
935) little sounds trying to become words
936) baby girl returning scrunchy faces with her uncle, much to her parents dismay
937) tea with friends over the holidays, knitting
938) friends who share our Christmas table
939) nerf guns in Christmas stockings
940) just-right gifts
941) Christmas Eve muffalettas, a new tradition that finally made Christmas Eve seem well-put together
942) delivered boxes on the porch
943) That though time seems to be careening away – God tucks in time to savor.
944) Toscano Soup added to my soup selection.
945) My husband when I need it is like a wing that provides shelter

 

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leadme“I was gonna blog but when I looked at all the blogs, everyone is either an English teacher or has a Masters in English,” a friend said over lunch.

My friend is an artisan, knitting, quilting, creating beautiful things with a grace I don’t have. There are so many gifts that I don’t have, that I cannot master. Her gifts are not my gifts – sometimes I feel like a failure because I cannot sing, quilt, play an instrument, have an everything-in-its-place home.

I pointed out all the cooking, crafting and home decorating blogs – where their passion is not about words but talents, giftings – if she blogged her gifts, it would be filled with awesome things.

Things, gifts that I don’t have.

I don’t have. I don’t have. I don’t have.

If I focus on the don’t haves, I can’t see the have.

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, found me sitting in a pew, watching beautiful gifts praising our Lord: voices singing, instruments playing, feet dancing – and, a man signing “Behold the King” – I don’t know sign language – but I could see the words, see this man singing with his hands, praising, worshipping in a language with no voice that spoke more eloquently than a great orator.

weddingchairscFor years, I have sat in awe, listening to our worship singers, from our college ministry to our adult ministry – and have been awed by their uninhibited use of voice and sound, beating myself up because I don’t have what they have. I so wanted to worship my Lord that beautifully, with immersion and abandon – but I have not the voice.

Watching our college and youth dance team – young men and women, worshipping our Lord with bones, muscles and liberation, no inhibition – grace and passion for our Lord unleashed in worship – it just WOWS me, their gift, their passion for our Lord.- but I have not the graceful feet and hands.

Musicians – guitars, drums, horns, pianos, percussion, strings – that skill honed to worship our Lord, developed and used in tribute, in worship – but I have not the skill.

They bring to God gifts of worship. They give something of themselves weekly, daily to Him in a way that I cannot.

Too much of my life has been the focus of what I don’t have, what I cannot do, not because of time or money, but because I do not have that gifting.

I used to feel inadequate, defective . . . until God uncovered my gift, dug it out from the overgrown garden of life in which it lost itself, and transplanted it in Him, where it needed to be to grow – and I learned how my gift dances, sings and plays – just in a different way.

We each have a gift.
That dances graceful
Uninhibited, with abandon
Boasting of our Lord

With our gifts,
Our hearts sing ballads of God’s mercy, hope and love
Uninhibited, with abandon

With our gifts,
We master our individual instrument of praise,
Uninhibited, with abandon.

With words,
I dance worship

With words,
I sing the ballad He gave me

With words,
I play an instrument of praise

Maybe you
teach, heal, comfort, assist, serve
in schools, restaurants, hospitals, day-cares, nurseries, Wal-Mart, offices
dancing worship,
singing the ballad He gave you
playing an instrument of praise
uninhibited, with abandon
full of God’s mighty grace

We each have a gift
Are you dancing yours?

Sometimes, my voice is not beautiful. Sometimes my words stumble and miss a step. Sometimes I race ahead of the great Conductor.

So many different God-gifts – yet, in each exists a potential kinship in the passion, the concentration, the letting go of self-consciousness to God-consciousness, of receiving that gift and giving it all back to Him.

“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Cor 12:4-7, The Message)

What gift do you dance, sing and play gracefully, beautifully, worshipfully?

302) God providing friends for my sons so that when one falls, there is another there to help him up.
303) Friendships that help roots grow into home and community.
304) Watching a son negotiate hurts in friendship with faith and honor.
305) A coachable son on and off the field.
306) An orange carrot, yellow mango juice smoothie, homemade
307) Orange Dulce Tea in the morning as my computer boots up.
308) A flank steak, baked potato, spinach salad for an easy dinner, easy smiles.
309) Finding special gifts at just-right prices
310) A Friday night dinner date with take-out at home.
311) A birthday lunch with lots of laughing tears!
312) Whipping up Chocolate celebration cupcakes with a chocolate ganache topping for a friend’s birthday.
313) Spending time with unconditional-love kind of people
314) 7:45 a.m. phone calls to my mom
315) My guy helping me get my yard just the way I want it, even though my dream for this is not his dream.
316) After 2 summers away, thinning out our garden overgrowth and coming away with multiplied blessings: “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” (Song of Solomon 2:12):
317) 2 butterfly bushes
318) 6 groupings of lilies: “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5) – I want my sons to grow like that!
319) a knockout rose bush
320) an extra yellow flowering bush whose name I cannot remember
321) a place to finally plant purple, pink, yellow, red zinnias
322) Cardinals showing up in un-expected places as though God saying, “I have not forgotten you – I sent these birds to remind you.”
323) Finding joy in other’s gifts during our church’s Easter Celebration.
324) Watching my littlest guy stuff Easter Eggs with chocolate covered marshmallows and chocolate eggs. Seeing his love of responsibility and approach to problem solving when some eggs didn’t fit.
325) Baby girl giggling and laughing baby laughs and giggles when I talk to her.
326) Bed-time routines that include prayer, laughter, hugs and questions.
327) Right now, I feel peace, contentment, a lull in the challenge machine. I realize it is not permanent, but a sweet refreshing in the now, a sweet gift from the Father and His Son!
328) Living Resurrection – letting the story of my savior falling 3 times, wearing a crown of thorns, nails hammered into hands and feet, giving His soul up to the Father – and rising on the 3rd day, making himself available to those who sought him out, to comfort them, give them hope. Letting that story seep down into my soul again and again, still not able to grasp all of it. God’s love humbles me when I really try to wrap my mind around it,and since I cannot successfully wrap my mind around it, He graciously wraps His love around me!

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