31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #9: Pondering These Things In My Heart

I leap like a deer over roots protruding up, high, landing on toes, muscles flexing strong, carrying me as legs bound and wind through bare trunks. Leaves yellow, red, and brown make nature’s carpet and make dirt and the obvious way hidden from the eye and each time I land I have to trust, eye watching the ground for rocks and roots, crevices and sharp turns, my feet following. The leaves, they whisper a soft spring give underfoot and they break from trees, parachuting down, falling like snow, all around me, the gentle hush and rush of them dancing in wind far and near. I hear it here and there, not really sure of the beginning. Large, palmish leaves form a thick landing in a curve and earth crumbles as feet pound and the loose grainy pieces of soil slide down the ravine only inches from my dangerously narrow winding path.

My friend calls from behind, searching for me, asking which path I’ve taken–it all pure grace that she trudges along, follows me–the seasoned runner–as I string her–the newbie–along on this hard trail.

I call out to her and her back is to me, standing on the bridge that takes her south of me. She doesn’t see me, and I yell it loud, laughter in my voice, teasing her a bit, “Hey! Lost woman! I’m here!” She turns when she hears my voice, chuckles and pants to catch up, now on the right path.

And I think about how this is how God calls to us when we are lost.

When we are standing in the middle of the woods with leaves obscuring the path and a crossroads giving us many options to go north, south, east and west–and if we listen–and we are acquainted with His voice and know it well– then we will follow the right path, we will know the way because we hear His voice.

And when I’m with her, I feel like I’ve been with God. And that’s the way it ought to be. And she’s been more than a friend to me.

Later we settle in at our bookstore table for two by the window with coffee and bibles, my purple bible with my name and her black one with her name. People quietly mill around and stand in line for hot drinks in windy November.

And we read about the birth of Jesus in Luke, and we talk about Mary–how when everyone went out to tell others about the birth, how she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

While we sip hot coffee, I tell her how my life has been like this–a quiet season with few friends and very little fellowship–how I’ve felt alone–and how I can relate to Mary, who kept to herself and pondered these things quietly.

I tell my friend how I can relate to Mary and maybe I know how she must have felt–that this was a time for quietness and reflection, a time for learning and soaking up God’s words.

And my friend, she is writing in her bible, all along the edge, in a circular pattern, the ink going all the way around the page.

This has hit her square in the heart too.

And in that moment I am so grateful for my friend, the one who has been on her knees for me and has fought off my enemies, it all pure grace that she follows me, that she wants to be where I am, that we are here together on this narrow path we trod as He calls to us from everywhere and leads us Home.

Gratitude:

#381 a loyal friend to fellowship with, catch up with, and love on God with

#382 friends and mentors who keep writing, keep checking on me, praying for me, just being there for me–pure grace!

#383 a day with my entire family shooting pictures at the lake–all of us candidly posing in nature–the light mood and fellowship, the conversation and laughter on the trip home

#384 a friend who is consistent and dependable, who meets with me in rain or cold to run!

#385 my grandfather’s huffing and puffing as we turn around in the Ryan’s parking lot, looking for a place to eat–seeing his bear-growling in his car as he follows us, “I tell you what–are they ever going to stop and eat somewhere?! What’s wrong with Ryan’s?!?!”

#386 all of us laughing and mimicking what he is probably saying because we know him so well and then all of us laughing about it with him when we finally gather to eat

#387 a beautiful Saturday and warm weather to take pictures in and enjoy God’s creation

#388 the warmth of sunshine and that i feel it–the way it warms me through

#389 that God gave the lens in my eyes that help me see the world in color the way i see it–the special way He formed the pigment of flowers, birds, fish, the coral on the ocean reef and the lens of my eyes with which to experience it

#390 another date night with Husband sharing wings and baby back ribs (obviously his pick)–i’m so grateful for the time together and a grandmother who is always willing to watch the children for just a couple hours

#391 looking forward to Thanksgiving, allowing God to cultivate this restless heart and turn it into a content, peaceful, grateful heart

#392 How when we drop Bella off at Granny’s to stay the night, she encircles my neck in her chubby arms and says in her four-year-old-lisp, “Mama, I will misth you,” her dimples shining at me, begging to be kissed

#393 love-arguments that bring us closer together

#394 that moment of deep connection after we’ve derailed that brings everything in the universe back into alignment

#395 Husband who so tenderly takes time to play with the children and when they sing-song to him, “Daddy, will you swing me?”, he does.

#396 how Husband goes to the appointment with me and sits through it all–even the really tough questions

#397 trusting in Husband’s tender shepharding of me when he says I’m not ready

#398 this season of quiet, of rest, of little fellowship and lonliness, of treasuring these things and pondering them in my heart and God’s great mercy and grace in it all–how our family has grown and how Husband and i are bonded and woven tightly

Joining with Ann at Multitude Monday–Join us there for more counting graces and opening eyes to see His beauty?

Joining also at L.L. Barkat’s place–maybe you would like to join me there for some quiet poetry and reflection?

On In Around button

and at Jen’s for Soli De Gloria:

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31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #8: Faith With Works Is Pure Grace!

I pour over all the faces of children, a sea of them, hoping to get a glimpse of him.

He is our sponsored Compassion child, and his name is Rohan.

We had supported him four years ago through a children’s ministry, and then when our pastor left the church and moved back to California, we also left and began a new journey. The children’s ministry was halted, and so the support for Rohan also discontinued.

I have thought of him once in a while, but with so many mouths to feed ourselves on one income, and almost losing our home twice, we had not given much thought to supporting Rohan or any other child. Until now.

Ann Voskamp’s writing and speaking and going to Equador for Compassion children–children who are orphaned, or whose parents are barely able to feed their children and the children work instead of attending school or church–this has really touched me and sparked something within.

I also read about the poor, sweet, mal-nourished babies and children on Katie’s blog, about the men with alchohol addictions and the mothers who need someone how to teach them how to love and take care of their babies, need someone to teach them about Jesus and His redemptive, saving grace.

When I know that it is all about God, His glory and not mine, the suffering that He went through for me and for every child of His on this earth, how can my response be to do nothing?

My only right response to the suffering on that sacred tree must be to reach out–not just vertically, but horizontally.

This is something I’ve known for a while now, but it is really starting to sink into my heart, pounded in by the nails on that heavy beamed cross.

So after not being able to find my sponsored child, Rohan, I called the Compassion people and asked where he was. They told me that his family has moved to an area where there is not a Compassion program. My heart almost stopped beating in my chest. This was worse than I was expecting–I was hoping to hear that he was continuing to receive support.

But then the voice on the other end told me something I didn’t know. He said that Rohan’s family moving is good news–this means that they have probably moved where there is better work for the parents, or more family for a better support system for the children. My heart sang at this news.

As I hung up the phone, I thought about our other sponsored child in Africa. We picked her picture up at a concert this past summer. She seemed to speak to me, look straight through me with her beautiful eyes, pain peering out.

Her name is Deliphine and she is the same age as Ivy. The kind folks that took down our information said that we would receive something in the mail soon to begin our sponsorship.

Nothing ever came. This sweet African girl is still waiting on us. After months of battling illness, and feeling my way around in a fibromyalgia fog, I found clarity of mind enough and I found her–the packet we brought home with us sitting on top of the fridge all this time.

Something has been stirring within, deeply, deeply stirring. I feel God waking me from my slumber. I want to call and find out if we can re-start the sponsorship process for this precious girl.

I want to do more with the grace that has been given me, more with the blood that has been shed for me than just sit here.

If faith without works is dead, then I have been faithless. But He is faithful. He keeps pursuing me, and He keeps pursuing you, and He is pursuing and loving all of His creation, and He is using even me.

I want to go, be poured out as an offering, to be laid out, bare, roots surging straight deep to the well of God and the gospel of His grace and naked branches stretching out and reaching them, all of His children and straight up to the Heavens in worship.

Please join me at Ann’s for more reflections on faith:

And if you would like to follow here as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week…read their stories?

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

and also at Emily’s for Imperfect Prose Thursday:

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #6: Endurance

It’s Sunday evening and we are running alongside one another, Lorna and I. She says to me, “How far are we going to run?”

“A pretty long ways,” I hesitantly tell her. “Well, how far is that?” she asks.

“Four miles,” I say, thinking how my feet fall in rhythm with hers.

“FOUR miles?!” she pants it out incredulous.

After several minutes, she stops to take a walk break, and I slow down for her. I tell her to take a deep breath, look at the beautiful sunset, the moon sort of sitting in the sky, and pick up her pace.

After about a fourth of a mile, she needs another break, and I tell her she can just as soon as we get around this curve.

“When are we going to run fast?” she questions me, just a tad impatient.

“We aren’t. This is a test of your endurance, not your speed. This is a test to see how long you can last.”

“Oh.” She thinks for a moment.

“Well, what’s the answer?”

“You tell me. Show me what you can do.”

She sighs a muffled groan and we keep on in rhythmic stride. Pink and orange sunset hangs low over wheat fields silent in winter’s first cold gales and the sun dips to kiss the trees. We run past cows grazing and she points out a baby calf to me.

On the way home we break into a fast run and she beats me to the house, my daughter with the long legs and the inquisitive mind, my daughter who doesn’t like children’s movies anymore, who reads my One Thousand Gifts book, and who is becoming a woman way too fast–

my daughter with whom I am so grateful to be sharing these moments with.

Gratitude:

#365 Bella, grabbing Lilly and enfolding her in a tight embrace, and wrapping arm around her ears when the train comes so she won’t be afraid–how they care for one another

#366 how Lilly is so submissive and leans into her big sister until the train passes

#367 time carved out to breathe–driving to meet a friend to run–feeling alive and how I tell her the thing that is really important–how much I am grateful for her

#368 another date with Husband–him taking such good care of me–getting me out of the house–sharing a sandwich and getting coffee–him sitting next to me, shielding me

#369 Husband calling everyone over without me knowing because I am sad

#370 Sunday lunch around the table the way it should be–steaming hot greens, chicken, brown rice, cornbread and rolls–everyone helping their plate and passing the butter

#371 good, rich time spent with family–hearing their voices and laughter ring off the walls of my home–all of us smiling and giggling at Lilly’s antics and sharing the best sour cream and pear coffee cake with espresso in my grandmother’s china.

#372 sitting on my porch swing with my mother and talking like old friends

#373 a Sunday evening run with my daughter that’s big enough to keep up with me

#374 the beautiful sunset I take in as I run, God’s creation, that I’m seeing it all and appreciating it all for it’s simple beauty

#375 God’s amazing love and shepharding care for me

#376 that I felt like picking flowers in the backyard and arranging them in vases for the kitchen–a sign I’m getting better

#377 the branches with red and golden leaves that I took straight inside and put in a tall vase on our dining table after Husband plucked them down for me

#378 how when I am sad, but don’t show it or say it, but Husband knows anyway–that’s love

#379 how God is branching me out and making me reach out farther and higher in worship and love toward His children

#380 this recipe to Pumkin Latte cupcakes pictured here–how it makes the house feel and smell like fall! And little chubby hands reaching for yummy goodness!

Join me at Ann’s today for counting pure graces and gifts from the Father:

at L.L.’s place, Seedling In Stone:

On In Around button

at Jenn’s for Soli De Gloria:

and also, join me here as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week!

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #5: Grounded

I’ve yelled at my daughter, but my anger does not burn so deep that I do not notice the bowed head, the nervous dancing of eyes, the chin tilted up slightly, strong, so that she doesn’t cry. I let the moment pass quietly.

We all go out to the backyard, all of us swinging, Bella in my lap, I am like a child again, wind in my hair, and I look over at her next to me, wildly pushing, pumping the swing back and forth, and in the gentle rhythm of our afternoon, I say, “You know Mama always loves you, don’t you, Ivy? I’m sorry for getting angry and yelling, but you know when Mama does that, I don’t stop loving you, right?” She nods a silent yes, eyes big with wonder, her a sponge soaking up all of my words, my. every. word. my every nuance, my every expression. And here, flying in air, sun shining on my head, I am grounded.

They are all gone for a whole three days to their Papa and Meme’s, and I am going crazy, here in this tall ceilinged, shiny pine-floored house. I don’t know what to do, here all empty, and me all empty. If I talked, it would echo, but I don’t murmur a word, because no one would hear. Husband gone to work, I feel lost in the quiet of this place, floating with no gravity in space. When they all finally rush in, eyes huge, searching for me, face flushed with excitement, I hug them fiercely, soft cold cheek pressed to mine–and there it is–I’m grounded right here in a place called now.

I am sitting at the computer writing, stacks of paper all around, flecks of dust floating in light streaming through window, and my little one comes to me, reaches her chubby arms up in the air, just wanting me. I pick her up, smile at her, her wet oval mischievous grin so contagious, her soft baby cheeks so inviting. I pull her close, smell her hair, kiss the golden halo of her. She holds me tightly, doesn’t want to let go. She pulls back, her blue-orbed eyes staring at me, and awe-struck she touches my eye lashes, fingers my eyebrows, pets the hair framing my face. I marvel at her gentleness and meekness–how she harnesses all of that relentless energy toward the stillness of the moment. And she is too small to know this, but she grounds me.

I hear my eldest daughter yell at her little sister, and my skin crawls, and my heart aches. I tell her to go to the corner, and I tell her that she should not, even if she hears me yell, do the same to her sisters. I talk to Husband for a moment. “Did I explain that correctly?”, me submissive to His leading. He glances at me as he is putting away the groceries. “Well, yeah, the best way that you can, I suppose.” But conviction makes me go to her, and I’m pulled by this weight of responsibility God has given, these gifts. I ask her if she understands what she did wrong, and she nods yes, and I tell her that Mama messes up all the time too, and I yell, because of the sin in my heart, and that is why Jesus came as a sacrifice, and He makes all things right. I ask her if she wants to pray to Jesus about it. She looks at me, eyes so large and luminous like the moon outside, and says “Not right now.” I nod, knowing that she is embarrassed. Oh, pride begins so young. I tell her that I need help too, so why don’t we pray together. So she bows her head as I hold her in this redemptive embrace, Christ holding us in His shed blood , and God over it all, His soverign plan for me and my daughter playing out, here, in this place called now. And I doubt she will ever really know how this Mama is grounded.

I come in late after a run, and Bella hears me and gets up out of the bed, peeks around the corner at me, and I tell her to give me a hug and get back in bed. Littlest one hears my voice, and begins to cry out from her crib. Having been put to bed without me, I know that she won’t quiet down and go to sleep without seeing me first. All I want to do is shower, eat and sit quietly with Husband for a few minutes before getting to bed, but I hear her cry for her mama, and I don’t want to disappoint her. I know she needs me, so I take her up out of the crib, her reaching out little hands for me, and sit with her in the rocker, nuzzle her, and she snuggles close, and we rock in the dark. She relaxes into me and me into her. And because she needed me, I get this: just this quiet moment, this moment so priceless, this moment when I feel so grounded and so here in this place called now.

And I wonder if they will ever know how much they teach me.

Gratitude List:

#358 laundry piled high giving me plenty to do

#359 the way remembering the cross helps me serve my family

#360 me being able to sit at table and help girls with schoolwork–seeing God’s gradual healing in my life, even in hard days

#361 a whole day spent with Husband, going to see Courageous, and how we choke out tears, a meal taken together, coffee, and browzing the Christian bookstore–a whole day! pure grace!

#362 how Christ made Himself nothing, even to the point of death on a cross, and if I’m made low, it really is okay because He’s already done it. So can I.

#363 how we go shopping together, and he gets whatever I need for a holiday with the girls

#364 how when he calls me and says he has to work late, i reassure him that we are fine, we have already made the pumpkin spice bread, squash bowl dip and and other treats, and that the girls will have a good time dressing up and handing out candy and drinks to the neighborhood kids. how i serve my family and he doesn’t have to feel guilty for not being there. for the grace pouring over me, just drowning me. it abounds.

my four yr old wanted to be a spider–we had plenty of webbing left over, so we decorated the entrance for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters–i loved seeing the girls serve with such joy each child that came to our home


If you are looking for the ending to “What Does My Faith Rest Upon?”, it will be posted today or tomorrow. As Ann says, thank you for grace.

Please join me at Ann’s for counting pure grace on this journey:

Also, linking up with Seedling In Stone for On, In and Around Mondays