My Mother–A Strong Woman {1,000 Moms Project}

My mother– A strong woman with much grit and determination to rise with each dawn with joy. I watched how she threw herself against the elements, fought a losing battle with her weak feminine body, and won. She moved mountains and nothing stood in her way, and she taught the earth that she was its ruler. I watched and learned. When the earth fought back with a blow hard as stone, she pushed harder. She was wet with sweat. She toiled. She did things that she never whispered into my little ears. Some things are too complicated for a child to grasp. Mothers intuitively know that and cover little ears. They protect. They guard fierce with their lives.

A mother swells with anticipation, births with great pains a life, and then sees that she will nearly be killed in the work of raising it. And lay down her life, mine did. Dark depression and chronic illness hit after we were born. A woman doesn’t ask for these changes–they just come. My mother didn’t know it–at 19–that birthing us would turn her inside out, make her hate herself, make her come face-to-face with demons she didn’t know were there, make her want to quit on living, on us.

I’m grateful to her that she never quit on us. And, in the true essence of mother, she did the oh-so-hard work of changing. She beat her body and willed her flesh to honor God. The edges of her became frayed and torn and worn out from all the love given, all the giving up of new clothes so that we could wear the nicest boutique things, all the driving back and forth to school and singing to us crazy and laughing it off when we were embarrassed. Her lap and breasts endured many elbow pokes and prods, all the hard rubbing that wore her thin, and still, she continued to give.

I remember her hunched over, digging up earth, showing me how to break it up deep, water and nourish. I remember her rolling my hair up every Saturday night, the way she played worship music in the house while she cleaned, can still hear her loud, boisterous singing. Oh, how she taught me to live out loud with no regrets. I remember the peace that reigned and how even the hard, sinful things were redeemed because of her obedience and perseverance. Every. single. day.

I remember her saying she was sorry, the way she held me when I’d been in trouble and how calming my cheek against her chest was, lying side by side for a nap and love in her eyes, telling me to go to sleep when I stared at her wide-eyed–that was her pushing through with patience. And asking me to pray for her, us all crumpled there at the top of the stairs, that she wouldn’t yell at us anymore–that taught me a broken heart before God, an obedience to the Holy Spirit and the love of a mother-heart.

I remember her pink women’s devotional bible, her hand-crafted beauties she decorated the house pretty with, how she let me keep a kitten in the laundry room until he was old enough, how everything was always magically clean, how supper was always, always, always on the table before dark, and our piano-playing, our singing, our creating–she always, always said it was good, even when Daddy wouldn’t be there ’til midnight, her serving alone such a treasure. At 15, she took me to buy a new outfit because a boy was coming to see me, her only just 15 when she met my Daddy. I remember my junior year and her eyes twinkling proudly when she watched me come out of the boutique dressing room in an emerald prom dress, bought on Daddy’s small pastor’s salary. I’m sure I don’t know what it all cost her–because she never told me.

And when she prayed with us before school, for God to send a friend, for God to break depression off of me when I was in the clutches of the enemy, she really did move mountains with her faith, break generational curses, tell earth to stand back and let God move. She pioneered a godly family with my dad, she forged ahead out into the unknown, Christianity new to her. And like all mothers, she was afraid and wasn’t at the same time, because she had Love on her side.

Linking with Ann for the 1,000 Moms project–a warm *thank you* to Ann for asking us to do this–this exercise of faith and remembering and giving thanks has been beautiful! For every person who honors their mother by sharing what most important gift she gave them, either on facebook, twitter, or in a post–Ann’s family is giving a donation of a much needed gift to a mother and baby in Haiti throught the Child Survival Program. If sharing on facebook, find Ann and share on her page–if sharing on twitter–use the hashtag #1000gifts #moms so Ann will see your tweet! You can read about Ann’s project by clicking on the button below–and view more posts to moms!

1000 Moms Project

On How Community Loves {Bed Hair and All}

My life has been a little jumbled up lately. You ever feel a little jumbled, like bed-hair, walking-into-the-kitchen-at-7-in-the-morning-can’t-see-straight-can’t-decide-what-to-do-first-where’s-the-coffee-nobody-talk-to-me-jumbled? Well, I certainly do, only, I am extra crabby because I can’t have coffee–I have to drink green tea.

In those times, I sure am glad my family takes me just the way I am, bed-hair and all. And that I have a community of sisters that takes me just as I am as well, no matter how jumbled up I may look or feel.

I must admit that community or sisterhood is not something I’ve always been able to turn to, to trust in, to run to.

There have been times in my life I had no one. And there have been times in my life that I intentionally cut myself off to numb the pain. I simply didn’t want to be able to feel enough to be able to be hurt like that again.

I refused to be grafted in–didn’t want to feel the stitching pain of being threaded and woven into the tapestry of God’s people. You know, the most beautiful pieces of art are a lot of work and involve a great amount of pain, like birthing pains.

“And our God is a love body and He hates amputations and He sutures our wounds together with the silver threads of community.” –Ann Voskamp

So, when I stepped out on a limb and said I would host for an {in}courage get-together, it was like that–birthing a child. I have carried this promise of faithfulness, this hope of redemption, this promise of His body and His children being made whole and healed in Him.

“We are all connected by the God who *is* community! –{in}Courage {Lisa-Jo}

Putting that invitation out to all who would come, not knowing who would accept–this was hard, scraping the old wounds of me and eliciting anxious panting and pain and before I knew what I had done, I was in the very throes of birthing relationship.

“God never asked me if I could, He used me because He knew that I trusted that HE would”.–{in}Courager

Eldest daughter and I had cut antique pink roses from the wild vine and placed in tea cups and pots and I had lit candles and my house was sparkling clean {but I promise it is rarely like that!}. The air smelled deliciously of eggplant frying and bosc pears simmering in mulled cider spice, when Cheryl walked in the door.

We immediately embraced and she exclaimed at least she had gotten a shower before she came, and ran her fingers through her hair, and I fluffed my still-wet hair, threw my hands up in the air and we laughed at our make-up-less selves.

“Being real will cost us being perceived as perfect, but will always be worth the investment.”–Lisa-Jo

As I got the food ready and placed on plates, poured pomegranate cranberry juice with crushed ice in glasses, we talked like old friends. It didn’t take long and we were sharing stories from our lives.

Before she left, she thanked me for having her because she never gets to leave her house, and she didn’t want to watch a webcast about community alone. I agreed with her as we hugged good-bye. Because, really, isn’t that the cry of all of our hearts?

That we can’t do this alone? Really, down in the bare bones of me, this is what I’m crying for: real communion.

I agreed, yes, that we all plaintively cry out for community, and it doesn’t matter who or where or when, just that it happens.

It’s indescribable how the women in my life have touched me forever, left fingerpints of God on me–they are Jesus loving me.

“I need someone with skin on.” –Deidra Riggs

As I’ve opened myself up, like wound opening up to be washed and cleaned, these Jesus-women have poured in the healing waters and rubbed in the balm in those hurting, cracked, festering places.

“In this place, we kneel down beside you. In this place, we reach out our hands. In this place, can you hear us whisper?You have been hurt. We can see the pain in your eyes —- We offer you a promise of friendship. In the places of sisters and sinners and souls-made-saints, we make safe circles around women and together we watch each other’s backs and together we bend down when one hunches over in pain and together we pick up the shards of the hearts all shattered, the Jesus-women making this healing mosaic of grace.” –Ann Voskamp

And while I so appreciate all the wonderful friendships I’ve made online, it is so good to have those friends in real life–{in}RL.

It’s a little like going home–I just heave a great big sigh and smile through tears at their words–they are my closest confidants and the ones that have always been there, cheering me on, praying me through, and the ones I know will never leave, whether I write a great story or not.

And it’s because of them that I have learned to navigate these unchartered waters of the blogging world with even the smallest amount of graciousness. They have taught me to be a better woman.

They have been Jesus with skin on to me.

But these blogging friends? Oh, they’ve spurred me on to greatness and godliness. They’ve taught grace, generosity, and practical caring.

If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have much of a prayer life. What I have learned about prayer through them has been life-altering. I’ve seen the way Ann asks to take the hurting woman’s hand through the screen and pray for her right then.

I know the way that my close friend, Ro, the Tennessee woman, has dropped a prayer in the inbox just for my eyes, and how I read through tears, just nodding, and how she makes me feel she is so near when she tells me the picture is there where she meets with Jesus and prays for me.

I can still hear my good friend and mentor, Mary Leigh, that Southern lady softly laughing–I imagine–saying, “I’ll pray for you, and you pray for me too, okay?” She makes me feel like I’m sitting on her front porch, rocking in her favorite rocking chair, us sharing the view of a Tennessee twilight sky.

The words of a poem written by precious Cora, stanzas for me still play in my mind, words as if they were from Father God Himself straight to my heart, and they play over and over of how she said she was here to walk this road with me, whether I ever wrote back or not!

“This is where we, as women, can give one another grace.”–Lisa-Jo

“Learn to love each other’s ‘no’ as much as each other’s ‘yes’.”–Holly Gerth

I have been touched for eternity by womens’ prayers that have been sent through comments, emails, and even through gifts. I find myself *praying* for people, right then and there. I find myself reaching through the screen, asking if I can take a hand and pray.

I find myself accidentally, happily, and so, so gratefully finding community.  

A few quotes about what community means that I just loved and wanted to share:

“It’s an expression that you trust me and that I trust you”–Bonnie Gray

“It’s a safe place to cry the ugly cry. It’s just a safe place to be your real, true self.”–Deidra Riggs

“Community is not worrying about the platform of me, and my story, and what I’m all about–but being interested in the stories of others. It took coming home to a place like {in}courage where I could meet women who were really good at sharing their unfine moments with the world.”–Lisa-Jo

*Thank you for so much grace, friends, as I giddily, just a little timidly, admit I’m seeking community and give honor to those women who have been such a godly influence in my life. *ALL* of you are so beautiful and so kind, friends. Each one of you are so special and beloved of the Father!

Still counting with Ann in gratitude to Father…


#758 blue jay bathing in bird bath in front yard

#759 me and girls stopping to watch from the window

#760 spontaneous picnic with the girls outside on a blanket under the shade tree

#761 a science lesson outside and Ivy’s excitement as she jumps up exclaiming about how we are probably sticking straight out off the round earth, but because of gravity, it feels like we are standing right up

#762 ugly-beautiful: me and the girls transplanting so many plants in the yard–me cutting myself on briars and falling into a tree-like sharp-edged bush bum first and biting back bad words, yelling out in frustration at the girls and getting a lesson in patience

#763 how we stop and take the time to look at earthworms, lizards, spiders they find–us just breathing in the moment

#764 ugly-beautiful: in the midst of my bad temper, I thank God that at least we are all outside enjoying His creation together, breathing fresh air, feeling sun on skin….that even in my sin, He redeems all…

 #765 those moments when I get to talk to the girls about how many beautiful gifts the Father gives through His creation–the sun, stars, a cool breeze, a bird’s song….

 #766 reading for an entire hour in the hammock and all of us getting sleepy, all intertwined there together

#767 {in}courage ladies’ sweet commentary on community this weekend…how inspiring and how much it blessed me, ministered to me, and changed my heart, spurred me on to being Jesus to His children…because “If I’m not doing the thing He created me to do, then nobody’s doing it!“–Deidra Riggs–my new mantra

#768 Cheryl coming to my home–so glad that I summoned the courage to invite her, and so, so glad she accepted

#769 being able to minister, in some small way, to women, to pray with them for their specific needs in the place they hurt the most

#770 during my {in}courage night, husband taking children and seeing that my grandparents weren’t at home, treating them to supper and a toy at the store

#771 seeing them pull back into the driveway

#772 that I’ve learned all of this wisdom about community from these {in}courage women that say up front they are just human–that we are all, very humanly, in this together–its changed me forever

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably in some corner of my home sorting through laundry in danger of mildewing, cleaning potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a science lesson with the children, or just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. I love this community of grace-filled people!

**Also, I am taking a hiatus–a writing break–a very necessary one–not an easy decision on my part. I took a little short one, but this will be a longer one. I have one more post that I am working on and I invite you to come back and read more about why I feel the need to take a hiatus–a little bit more about me, chronic illness, priorities, and what God is calling me to. Won’t you come back? I would love for all of my blogging friends to know why when they see that I’m not around these parts. Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.

Joining with sweet Ann and others in community…


and Michelle…