On Awakening To Where Church Is

 

In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.


He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.


My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. Joseph*, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.


He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.


Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.


From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. Joseph was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, ain’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

None of us have really talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Violeta* said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. Joseph is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. Joseph–
maybe he is Jesus to us today.
                            

                                                                 *names changed to protect people in the story                                                                             edited re-post from archives 

                                                                              
This post linked up with She Loves Magazine’s Awake: A Synchroblog.

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So I Stopped Eating: Guest Post by Emily Wierenga {And Book Giveaway & Gratitude!}

Welcome, lovely readers–all of you–friends–yes, beautiful you–to a guest post by my friend Emily Wierenga, one of the most loving, gracious, generous writers and bloggers I have met in this blogging realm. She asked me to write on anorexia for her over at her Chasing Silhouettes site, coaxed me through the process–a process which was difficult as it brought up old wounds from the past–and cheered me on–being Jesus’ hands, pulling my talent to the surface, bringing glory to God. She probably didn’t realize she was doing all of that–Emily just loves because it’s in her heart–not because of any notion of “Christian duty”–I love the soul that is Emily. Can you tell? You will like her, too. I promise. It’s because of writers like her that I have had the courage to strip naked of fear and wear brave fierce. Please take a moment to read her story, to browse the links and consider buying (or pre-ordering) her book, and don’t forget to leave a comment telling me about a loved one who is dealing with an eating disorder, or your own battle with an eating disorder and why you would like to win the book–or why or how you would like to win to use it as a resource–in your church, in your school, etc! I am excited to share her book with you! The release date is September 25th, 2012. Won’t you join me in celebrating with her and getting the message out? Share on facebook, twitter–use the links at the bottom of this post! Thanks!

So I stopped eating
By Emily Wierenga


We were moving, for the tenth time in seven years, and I’d seen a bad word on the side of the grocery store wall (but had no one to ask about it) and Mum didn’t tell me I was beautiful and I couldn’t go to public school and Dad was never home, so I stopped eating.

I chewed pencil, tasting lead. Our heads were bent over textbooks, together at the kitchen table, and Mum’s back was turned, while she rolled dough on the counter, and I wanted her to look at me, tell me she loved me, over and over, give me a mirror and trace my cheeks and help me believe I was worth something, but she didn’t know how, having never known it herself, and so I broke my pencil pressing it into prose and tried to find myself in the lines of the page.

I heard the sounds of girls going to school, ran to the door, and saw they were wearing pink backpacks and I wanted to run with them, but my legs were too fat; no one likes a fat preacher’s kid. Besides, we were home-schooled in case we should move again. Also, I had cried when I’d gone to kindergarten, so Mum had brought me home, ordered books, and vowed to teach me. That kind of thing was supposed to tell me she loved me, but I didn’t feel it. Because, to me, love was words and gifts. So I sat down to do my math and tried to forget.

I tried to forget the way Dad laughed with strangers in their pews, listened to them, as if their stories were more important than mine. And the way he closed the door to his study and sighed when I knocked, timid to ask him a question. I tried to forget the way he spanked me not knowing what I’d done wrong, only that Mum told him to because she was too angry to do it herself, and scared of that anger. It didn’t hurt me anymore, not even when he used his belt, because I refused to let it.

A neighbor saw me on the carpet, toy-playing, seven-year-old oblivion, and said, “What a big girl,” and I carried those words around like a bird in a cage, until one day the bird got loose and I stopped eating. Soon I would run on thin legs with the girls next-door.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mom dished up for me. I refused the spreads on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself. And it felt good, like the ribs on my fingers, as I practiced my counting.
I was nine and I felt 109. Mom let me go to school again, but I wasn’t allowed to do English class, because the books were too risqué, and she still didn’t say I was beautiful. The days were long and I was tired and no one could hear me, so I starved harder and the teachers couldn’t see me, so I shrunk my words making them smaller, smaller, until the teachers were forced to pull down their glasses and study the prose I’d made, the winning prose, and I aced class and I flunked recess.


 At night, I dreamt of food. Mum found me, hunting for chocolates in my bedspread. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but then I was worried I’d eat real chocolates, because my guard would be let down with the soft of her touch, so I stopped hugging her for two years. My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

God didn’t care. He made me recite names each night before bed and I couldn’t go to sleep without reciting, because then people would die, and I wanted to die but I didn’t know it until the day everyone tried to force me to eat and I refused it all, and now it was clear to the world and maybe to God too: I was in control.

It was supper and we were seated and Mum was dishing, dishing, dishing and the macaroni and cheese piled orange and white as she handed them, plates plunking against old wood table, and I’d already decided, it tasted like straw, even before I took a bite.

Tonight, I would eat only half, and she’d threaten me with no dessert and I’d tell her point blank, that’s fine. Maybe it would make her worn sweaters unravel and her straight-lined school schedule smear and maybe then she’d take me into her arms and tell me she was sorry.

Sorry for praying that prayer when I was in her womb, the one I learned of later on, the one she said with good intentions not knowing how it would hurt me, the prayer which uttered God, don’t make my baby beautiful, in case she becomes vain. (I can see Mum’s hands trembling on her abdomen in the night as she offered her baby like Hannah did with Samuel, and it makes me love her, yet, despise).

In my own dark nights I worked to reverse that prayer. I’d train as though for war, to see food as nothing but a trap. I’d lie there feeling ribs, measuring wrists, planning the next day’s meals. And if there was to be a party somewhere, soon, I’d eat less in preparation, allowing myself the freedom to snack for then no one would know the difference.

By day, I’d peer into the mirror as if into my soul and imagine myself skinnier, beautiful. I’d creak onto the toilet seat after bath, spend half an hour turning this way and that, analyzing naked bones. Sucking in and pulling skin and strategizing how to become invisible.
Salvation came through imagination.

 The apple grew a face which mocked me, and so I didn’t finish it, for every time I defeated the food, I gained points against Mum, and maybe God, and I was winning. The food had nothing on me. Sometimes I’d trick it, making the piece of bread think it would fill me up then rip it into halves and eat only one, and there was a thrill in leaving food on the plate, as though I could disappoint it. Even the raisins in the tapioca seemed to stare holes, and I would push it away, feigning fullness.

But food was everywhere, and it never slept. It would beat me in my dreams—the cakes, the pies, the sandwiches. In my mind there would be a buffet, high-calorie. I’d gorge, drool, and crumbs would spill over into daytime and I’d wake feeling bloated, spend the next day getting back at food by eating less.

I’d suck in my cheeks in the mirror; I’d suck them in for photos and I’d try not to talk so I could suck them in day-long. It was tiring, this looking like a model, but I was determined to be beautiful. I would weigh myself every time I ate, every time I went to the bathroom; I’d take off my shoes, my socks, my pants, just to see the numbers drop.

And I wept through the pain, wept behind closed doors with my arms wrapped tight, but I couldn’t stop.

                                             


                      (Repost; originally appeared at The High Calling, November 2010)
                                                                                       (**photo added) 


                                                                                                                                        





Emily Wierenga is a wife, mother or four boys (two of whom are hers), artist, and author of ‘ChasingSilhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder’ (Ampelon, 2012) available hereFor more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com.. 

you can:
Pre-Order
here.
View Endorsements
here.
Read Sample Chapters
here.

and i’m wondering… will you help me?

i know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. would you help me get the word out about this?

will you pre-order a copy for your church library? your school library? for the family down the street?

and will you share about this book on fB and twitter? and pray? yes, please pray.

i am also happy to do guest posts/ profile pieces for your blogs to help get word out, too.

(thank you)

Purchase Emily Wierenga’s new book Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder within the first four weeks after its September 25, 2012 release date and receive a special invitation to watch an online forum on eating disorders with bestselling author Dr. Gregory L. JantzFindingBalance CEO Constance Rhodes and author Emily Wierenga. Readers must email a scanned receipt, a picture of them with the book or tell us when and where they purchased the book to events@ampelonpublishing.com, and they will be logged in to receive a special invitation to watch the event. They may also submit questions for the panel to answer, some of which will be selected and answered during the forum.



Thank you, sweet Emily, for gracing my blog today with your story and your heart. Friends, I am on a blogging and social-media break this week–sometimes I must pull back–a short hiatus–I always know when it’s time. {You can read here to find out more about this and why most of the time I quietly write here at the blog and the comment box stays hushed.} I am thankful that Emily was willing to help me out with a guest-post today and I’m so *grateful* she put voice to the feelings, thoughts, and actions I had as a young girl dealing with anorexia-bulemia–things I was trapped in and didn’t know how to speak of, she has made palpable here, helped me find my voice after all these years, and she will help so many others find their’s through her book. Even though I can’t answer every comment, we want to hear your story–we want to hear your voice. Speak. We hear you.  *If you don’t want to be entered into the giveaway, just let me know in your comment–but still feel free to tell us your story or your thoughts! 


 


Friends, please watch this beautiful video; you will be blessed! I promise–such redemption!! 


**Don’t forget to comment for the book giveaway! **The giveaway is over on Friday, September 28 @ midnight. I will email the winner this weekend! If you don’t want to be entered into the giveaway, just tell me in the comments–but please feel free to tell us your thoughts, to tell your story, or to just give Emily encouragement! 


Still counting gifts from a merciful God…….{Gratitude # 977-996}

3 gifts ugly-beautiful…
…Not getting to run, but being able to take my girls to Swim Awards Ceremony…
Having to miss CC because two children are sick–one with a fever; all of us taking a break…
…Bella’s fever so high; her sweetness as I take care of her…

A gift folded, fixed, freckled…
…Lorna making quinoa and beans for everyone for lunch…
…my daughter folded into me in the dark, all this exhaling…
…a lone, freckled orange-red butterfly fluttering happily by…

3 gifts in conversations…
…Husband listening to my heart…
…Lilly finally going to speech therapy and signing more words…
…my girls’ whispered ‘i love you’s’…

3 gifts in salvation…
…unmerited grace…
…unmerited favor–I’m a daughter of the King! I’m beloved!…
….the security of the believer…I’m sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption and nothing can take that away…

A gift rattling, receding, reclaiming…
…spiritual sickness rattling against these cages…
…all the unnecessary, all the “fluff”, all the “should’s” and “should-not’s” being pushed back into wide-open grace…
…seeing by faith God’s faithfulness, goodness, and fruitfulness in my life–looking for it intentionally…

3 gifts quiet…
…the moon glowing over tree line in the black of night…
…my soul, watching the fullness of everything, not partaking in debates so easily sparked around me, quietly observing and seeing His truth in everything…
…soft worship lullabies and sweet, quiet children that work as I get my classroom ready…

the grace for another week…

for these migraines and this anxiety I know He will heal…






On In Around button



       

Spread Wide {Five Minute Friday}

Around here on Friday, I try to play along with the Five Minute Friday group at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. We let our words fly out of the cage and soar–just for five minutes, without fear of what flies out of hearts through fingertips onto keyboards, no editing, no back-tracking. no worrying if it’s perfect, just from a one-word prompt. Come play along too? Here we gooo……

GO.

She wanders out to soak in the sun beneath an oak,
in the dappled light that traces her skin and makes her feel alive.
She notices the Spider Lilly, just one lone lilly in all it’s beauty
and splendor, tall and strong, defiant right there in the open
It screams red color and life and it’s independence to her
And she knows she’s like the flower, too.
She knows she’s been one lone reed,
She knows she’s even been defiant in her aloneness
Unwilling to break, to bend, to meld into their box,
to cower in their corners they try to back her into.
She knows the rejection the flower must feel
But she looks again and sees how the lilly opens wide
to the air, the breeze, the sun and God above.
She notices it’s spreading and taking in, it’s unfolding
and yes, even it’s love, it’s giving
Shining it’s beauty so brilliant, just there for others to behold
And she knows that like the flower, she must find her way to spread
wide and give and receive.

STOP.

{This week’s prompt was wide}.

Would you like to come play along, to write words and release them from their prison, let them soar? Sheer JOY!!

Five Minute Friday

Orphans At The Gate–{What To Do When You Are Wandering and Failing}

I’m good at ignoring reality, bad at serving others’ needs, even my own. It’s my naturally introverted personality. I really need to engage quietly with my world–bathe in sunlight, pause at a meandering brook, revel in children’s laughter, bathtime’s bubbles and bedtime’s wandering stories.

But sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I go too deep inside, so deep it’s unhealthy. I forget to eat. Hours pass while thinking and writing, and we haven’t done homeschooling and I marathon-race to catch up to time, my old nemesis.

I go so deep, I don’t do what’s best for me and my family. I don’t run because I just can’t bring myself to walk. out. that. door.

 I don’t go to church because the lights are too bright and people’s handshakes make my fragile soul quake. The sheer thought of the sea of faces makes my stomach lurch. Slamming doors, blaring toy horns, and the sibling screams and fighting make insides churn.

And I grow weary of growing things–flowers always so dry in this heat, children that won’t relent, thirsty for me–and I’m thirsty myself. They always need me, pull at every corner of me. I’ve given way more of myself away than I would’ve ever dreamt possible when this all began. And yet, I know that God, the Master Gardener–he never grows weary and so I pray for some of his strength, seek His face like a blind woman, feeling the grooves and crevices with her hands, desperate for some spark of recognition, some slight remembering.

It comes out in a whispered hush when I first get out of bed in the morning and Satan whispers his first words of defeat to me for the day. I hear him–“You’re such a failure, an idiot–you should just crawl back in bed.” I hate that I do this ugly self-talk, and my soul cries and it just comes out gently hushed–in barely audible groans–“God, help. Help me through this day.”

I want to find a well that runs deep, an oasis in this desert. God, He’s still gardening, though my eyes see darkly and I can’t make out the fruits–He’s preparing something like paradise. Oh, I’ve searched so hard and so long, so desperately I’ve drank blood from the camel’s side, letting it substitute when God offers real drink in this parched land.

And my eyes widen in horror at what I’ve allowed my children to drink in lieu of God’s pure goodness and sweet righteousness.

How?! How, I ask God, can I give them drink, these children looking at me, thirsting, when I am parched myself?

How do I die to self some more, because really–I get it–I think that’s what you’re asking of me–asking me to forge on, to travel through this pilgrim land searching for the Promised Land, only a cloud to follow, the holy heaviness of you pointing the way.

My eyes are hazed over with the fog of you, You all mystery, and my limbs are weary with the weight of promise and the burden of this place called Now. I groan and ache with the reality of it.

And I sojourn with others weary–I see it in their eyes, hear it in their words, read the pain in their face as they stand there and tell me that they had lost all hope. Yet, I know You’ve promised so much more–and all you ask of me is to trust that I will some day hold the promise in my palm.

For now, it is elusive this side of Heaven and Your perfect Presence, and the only real joy here, now, is getting to know You, tasting of you, yearning for you more and more until my heart’s cry is only “More of you! More of you! Christ, come! Come, and save! Part those skies and ride in like thunder, swift, mighty, fire in your eyes, take me, Beloved!”

But here I stay and while I wait, orphaned, here–in this Now–I wander under-prepared and oh so inadequate and I just beat on Your chest, God, like a confused, angry child and beg, “Why?” My heart hardens and I struggle in my own sin-stench. I have been the desert-wanderer, the chosen child, grafted into your family vine–I’ve been that one, given so much grace and refusing to see–refusing to open my mouth and eat the manna.

My stomach lurches and groans with pains and yet I refuse to see the manna you’ve provided as good. 

I don’t do what’s good for me. I go deep inside and hide in caverns of sin and recesses of bitterness and grievance. What I would see if I came out of my cave, is you standing there, gently holding out your hand, offering life–real life.

And the whole time I’m refusing what’s good for me, You’re saying “Something better is coming, child, if you will just eat–just open your mouth.”

I swallow down the goodness of you, and I’m a stubborn child, surprised at the sweetness and delight of it. I want to be there with my children–swallow down all that goodness–open mouth wide.

I dont want to miss the moments that were designed for me to comfort, to soothe, to affirm. I don’t want to miss any opportunity because of my lack, because I’m inadequate to behold the beauty with abandon, because im shunning all the noise and racket and pounding feet that make up the song of life.

With so many things calling all around for my attention, so reckless, holding me, dangling there in their throat-choking grasp, God just keeps planting me firmly on the ground, keeps showing me that the most authentic, most deserving and most precious community is right here at home.

They are my sojourners.

I flail around in bitterness and the cold left by absence of fellowship. I grieve and what for when God has put me here with them to nurture and to talk with, to read for hours in the hammock with and play music with and read the bible with, to worship with as we bake cookies and scrub dirty counters, to explore nature with, to run through the hills and go on a life-adventure with.

The whole wide world–and the wide web–can make it seem as though what mothers do in their homes isn’t important–that the little, quiet, sacred community we’re building isn’t holy work. It all seems to scream that we need to be doing some ministry to the poor, or we need to be involved in a local church, or serving in community in some way.

The deceptiveness of culture has slowly trickled down into the church and told women that just being a mother and wife isn’t enough. But that’s a lie from the roaring hell-lion.

Oh, how the roaming lion wants to decieve us to think that the work we’re doing–the work of a mother–isn’t holy and sacred–he does not want us to think that just loving them is enough.

I know that if I’m serving in the context that God has placed me in, I will touch the lives I’m meant to touch, regardless of my church affiliation, my community and ministry involvement, or my blog numbers.

I am only human–and God knows–He designed me this way. A standard that tells me I have to constantly be reaching higher depletes me of the air and life that I could give where He has called me to give–and mostly, that is at home.

I really think this could be my oasis–the deep well of laughter and bedtime giggles and stories and living like Jesus is in the room.

This could be my strength to never stopthe eternal value of four lives that have been discipled for Christ–literally led to Christ’s feet at the cross and transformed, radically changed and devoted to His cause.

We can do that–you can do that–I can do that–that’s the burden God placed in us mothers.  When else will we get the chance to disciple so intensely? To put our mark on someone, to leave a legacy?

We have such an amazingly golden opportunity here with our children.

When else will this godly call, this priceless hour pass by again?

We must seize it with all the gusto we can muster and that takes putting off of some earthly things, some voices that call wild in the wind and vie for our attention and ask to carry us and toss us around with every new doctrine and opinion.

So I won’t crawl back into bed. Not today. I will stand with my children, Husband by my side, us all just orphans at the gate. And I will remember that. I will remember that as I mother them–they are orphans–they are His–and they are waiting for His return just as ardently, expectantly, desperately as I am.

While they wait, while I wait, I will mother these gifts well, with my dying breath, I will be a real mother to them–a mother worn for the journey–and they won’t have to journey or wander alone.

I will journey with them, and at the end, place them back into His hands.

Gratitude: {#956-976}……..

#956…a lunch in the park…women talking, children playing…

#957…the warmth of sunlight…

#958…hard eucharisteo…learning to hang in there when these social events aren’t easy for me…

#959…my sweet Bella flourishing in the classroom with her Mama after not doing so well in the other classroom…

#960…a director who gives me the week off when energy is flagging and anxiety takes over…the practical care of a sister in Christ…

#961…having the week to clear my mind, rest, renewal…

#962…patching up disagreements, how best friends can scrub you like sand-paper and make you Christ-smooth

#963…chasing butterflies, dragonflies in the backyard with my girls…

#964…watching my strong girls swim their hearts out for the team…

#965…hard eucharisteo…pounding headache and nausea, the noise of the crowd too much–giving it to God and learning to be a {somewhat} patient mama through it all, loving on my children…

#966…going out to celebrate with the girls for their first meet out of town–Husband meeting us when he got off work..

#967…watching birds, squirrels in the backyard…

#968…not going anywhere, napping in the hammock on a Sunday afternoon; Sabbath rest…

#969…my Bella asking if she is still the new girl next week, reassuring her that no, she is not the “new girl” after the first week.

#970…taking care of my sweet Bella-girl, how she lets me bathe her face with a cool cloth to bring down fever, how she sits up and tries to spoon in the ice cream, submissively puts the thermometer under her tongue, lets me hold her…

#971…Lorna making oranges for Bella, bringing them to her bed…

#972…Ivy’s concerned “Bella, are you hot?”

#973…Spider lillies splashing the whole backyard in red…

A gift cool, warm, sun-soaked…
#974…the end of my daughter’s nose…
#975…hot shower
#976…feeling the warmth of sun on my bare skin and then the first of tiniest drops of rain….

Still counting and linking up with sweet Ann and others… On In Around button

Exposed: When You Are Way Off Focus {Five Minute Friday}

Around here on Friday, I try to play along with the Five Minute Friday group at Lisa-Jo’s Baker’s blog. We write with abandon–just for five minutes, without fear of what flies out of hearts through fingertips onto keyboards, no editing, no back-tracking. no worrying if it’s perfect, just from a one-word prompt. Come play along too? Here we gooo……
 
 
 
 
 
 

GO.

I have been way off. My mind and my heart battle the Jesus that I hear whisper and the world that weighs heavy.

These kids look at me, and I see it in their eyes–their Mama thirst–their need for someone to show them the way. They need someone to blanket them from the cold, to love on them through thick and thin–they need someone to be selfless, to not lose sight of the real goal here.

I can see way down deep into their souls when I look into those child-wide eyes. They look at me with questions that I don’t have the answers to, and I feel so out of place, like naked in a highschool hallway, lockers’ metal cold and mocking, laughter bouncing off.

I feel completely exposed, completely naked. Seen, for who I really am. I don’t have it all together.

No, my child, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how I’m going to navigate through this and get us to the other side of glory, but I know the One who does have the answers.

And I’m counting on Him, child. I’m counting on Him.

STOP.

This week’s word was FOCUS.

You can join us here….if you’d like to take the dare to write with abandon, that is….

Five Minute Friday

On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}

 




In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.

He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.

My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. James, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.

He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.

Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.

From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. James was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. One minute I wasn’t there, and the next I was right up on him, he said. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, aren’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

They haven’t talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Viola said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. James is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. James–

maybe he is Jesus to us today.

 

















Gratitude in Pictures and Lazy Summer Days all running together…{#931-955}…:

 
The pure light of the two of them together…

 
Sisters laughing….the laughter in a home being medicine…

 
Older sister spinning little sister and the way she adores her…
 
 
Mid-summer backyard fun…

 
 
 
Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection…

 
My babies trying their hands at sparklers, their curious, joyous faces lighting my life….
 
 
How she will always take anything from Mama’s hand…

 
The perfect summer treat–ice cream in a cone {with raspberries and blueberries and dipped in baker’s melting candy and red crystals!}
 
Letting the ice cream run down because we can…
 
 
Taking in the wonder of nature…

 
That I can remember her like this…
 
 
Watching them play in the rain…

 
 
 
Old friends visiting….
 
 
 
The goodness of God’s bounty offered us every day…
 
 
Light caught on wood…

 
The wonder of color…how it captivates me…
 
 
Thank you notes written to Daddy for working so hard for us, an idea I got here, from Alicia, who I like to call friend–so thankful for her encouragement {that could be 2 thank-you’s!}…and it couldn’t have come at a better time for this Husband working 7 day weeks, the days so long…
 
 
Family in the backyard when Husband is home unusually early, the makings for popcorn popped on the grill, and pizza
 
 
Hearing their laughter, squeals; Hard Eucharisteo: calming their yells and crying…
 
 
How she carries her hippo and blanket with her everywhere she goes…
 
 
Caramel popcorn popped the old-fashioned way, the beauty of creating… 
 
 
Fudge adds the sweet finish…
 
Please come back tomorrow for the recipe for my Old-fashioned caramel-fudge popcorn! And maybe a story in the works….
 

**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 wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; cleaning up potty-training messes or apple cores lost in the recesses of un-folded clothes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much…. if time permits, I will come by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my gratefulness.

Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…


 

  On In Around button



   
       

Graceful: A Summer Captured {Five Minute Friday}

Graceful like the long flowing sundress I’m wearing, and the hot summer breeze that takes my breath away.

Like so much butter pecan ice cream piled high, root beer poured in and how we all just slow down for a moment and watch as it froths up in the breeze of the kitchen fan, summer a damp sheen on our skin. Husband watches too, a proud satisfied smile, his reward.

It’s how we take a root beer float to a little girl down the street, how we just walk right up and they aren’t expecting it, and her grin spreading wide and captivating me.

 
 

We shovel dirt, breaking in brazen sun, beads of sweat rolling down the small of my back.

It takes work to make things beautiful. I am thankful for the warm days to bathe in.

A little one takes a break, face red, she lies across the pool slide. We plant lillies, their orange manes roaring up a hello at me.

We put our meat on a stick right down into a flame, and marshmellows over a fire taste yummy and  gooey and sticky on little hands.

 
 
 
 

We play dress-up and have fabulous plays, we chase lizards and frogs, and the smell of hay and fresh-cut grass catches us by surprise, traveling inside and filling our heads with the grainy, earthy aroma.

                                                          

 

It’s the simple things that are filled with so much grace.

It’s in how I take a blanket out and it parachutes down softly hitting the ground, covering so gently underneath dappled, cool light.

We find a flat spot for steaming green tea made cool by frozen cubes plunked in. I cut into the dripping yellow running over the stiff white with the steely, hard edge of a fork.

We lengthen and stretch out our day, give it a rhythm of words called out and problems added up and subtracted and the answer is one graceful summer.

***It took a little longer than 5 minutes to write this–but I had so much fun with it; I didn’t worry about how my writing sounded, as the rules go–just what came to mind and heart– and wanted to share our summer in colors beautiful and express what’s on my heart as it comes to a close and fall ushers in…….. {The pictures took longer than 5 minutes as well ~chuckle~} I hope the other 5-Minute Friday Girls will forgive me! I will be back on the 5 Minute Friday link-up with a true 5 min. write soon–they are so much fun!!

Linking up with Lisa-Jo where we try out an exercise of writing only for five minutes, releasing and not regretting whatever flies out of it’s cage in that five minutes! Pure joy! Join us?
Five Minute Friday

When All the Shoulds Threaten To Choke Out Life {And 9 Ways to Cultivate Healthy Habits}

She wanders out to her chair in the dappled light, warmth filtered through the leaves of a shade tree above, and she just sits, defeated. All the needs weighing, all the ‘you should do more’s’ pressing in, threatening to choke. The thoughts come furious. “You should text that person a thank you; you should finish those gifts and send them; you should write those birthday thank you’s with the girls; you should be getting up earlier, spending more time with them; you should be teaching piano to them; you should be a better wife; you should be more committed to being a better writer, artist, pianist, and you know you should get more sleep, and you should get in there and get today’s stuff done or the clock is going to leave you right behind or drag you down with it” and on and on the kaleidoscope turns, mixing all the colors ‘til she feels sick.
She tells God she is at the end of her rope, that she needs him to take over. She prays he will calm her beating-through-her-throat-heart. And she tells him that all the hard work she’s been doing to teach the girls better, more godly habits—all the scriptures copied and quoted—all the toiling and it’s really her that needs correction and discipline.
I’m the one who needs teaching, Father,” she whispers.
“I’m the one with the bad habits and the hard heart.”
And right there, there it is. What she knew was coming and didn’t want to face. She breaks and weeps. It comes out in a child-like sob. And the glory of Him arrests her and captivates for a moment, and she knows what must be done—a throwing off, a putting off of that heavy cloak of bondage she’s been wearing, and a putting on of the royal robe He’s offered her.
She knows that it’s all too fleeting, that her heart isn’t so consistently pliable, and she wonders if the prayer is all in vain, if this moment of intimacy between her and her God will be forgotten in the forward, furious momentum of life.
Her thoughts are scattered by a child yelling out the door to the backyard, calling her name, the one given that means “I need you”.
She thinks to herself how she is always so easily distracted, so many voices calling her name.
So she makes a feeble attempt.
“God don’t let me get so distracted by all the work, all I try so hard at, that I forget you.
Please give me peace, more than that—be peace through me—reign in me.”
She lifts her face up to the dappled light, and closes her eyes, tries to breathe. And God’s breath is breathed upon her, a lover’s kiss. She hears the birds’ chorus song all around, the beautiful lilting and descending of beautiful melodies, and she can imagine weathered fingers playfully, oh-so-lightly touching keys side by side, the notes in and out, in and out.
She opens her eyes and goes to mother the little one calling.
 
How to nurture good habits…. {What God is teaching me…for the sake of the children and my sanity…}:

1.       The healthy habit of prayer–Pray and ask for help—He will give it. Asking him to give creative ideas.

2.       The healthy habit of time-outs–Moms need time-outs. When everything is overwhelming, and the clock is ticking and the world spinning with all that needs to get done, sitting the kids down with a book, some sentences to write, or a movie and going outside to breathe, close eyes.

3.       The healthy habit of community–Being open to the ideas of others, not hesitating to put new things into practice, new changes that bring healing, wholeness, and healthy rhythms.

4.       The healthy habit of safe rhythms–Creating safe rhythms—supper, bath time and bedtime at approximately the same time every day. Not adding so much to the schedule that you feel your head is going to pop off—if we can’t keep up, the kids sure can’t and we are a better mom when we are at peace.

5.       The healthy habit of sleep—{this should have been first!}–Everyone in this home needs proper rest—else we can’t function as a godly, loving family! Doing whatever it takes to get everyone in bed—if that means a warm, lavender bath for me or for everyone, melantonin and sleepytime tea for me and sometimes for the oldest girls too {insomnia is a common problem in the tween years and beyond}….

6.       The healthy habit of proper nutrition—When we are all getting raw, natural foods that contain vitamins and nutrients that we need, we feel better physically and mentally, we cope with stress better, and there are less melt-downs and more productivity and godly attitudes and we don’t hit those depressing, severe lows that sugar and nutrition-void foods bring.  

7.       The healthy habit of correcting in love—I am learning that “Yelling at a flower doesn’t make it bloom”—Oh, how true that quote is. Cultivating the habit of patience with children and husband. Having the children to copy down scripture and house rules and referring to these scriptures and house rules often when they need discipline—this makes Mama calm and peaceful, offering a go-to alternative to yelling out of frustration, and it comforts me to know that I’m instilling something lasting and eternal in them that will nurture maturity in godliness far beyond this moment of mis-deeds.

8.       The healthy habit of work and rising early—Around here, we have a famous Mr. Simmons saying that goes “If you want to play hard, you have to work hard.” I can’t say enough about rising early in the am, and its positive effects on mental clarity, attitude, energy, positive outlook, productivity—I could go on and on… As a person who dealt with deep depression in the past, I can vouch that the simple habits of going to bed early and rising early make or break our mental state.

9.       The healthy habit of exercise—exercise is important around here. I run several times a week, and the girls and I do videos at home together—they enjoy it and little one tries to copy-cat and do headstands while we are doing Downward Dog. Did you know exercise creates endorphins and releases them in your brain, causing natural happiness?—God gave this to us—He created exercise to do this. His word says it is good for us to be productive. Again, when dealing with depression or a good/bad frame of mind, exercise is key.

My prayer as I share this is that it will encourage you and spur you on toward love and good deeds. –Hebrews 10:34
 
 
Linking up today at A Holy Experience with Ann for Walk With Him Wednesdays….{the WWHW graphic isn’t working}

holy experience

When No One Sees But God {And Gratitude In Pictures}

Quietly, soft worship lullabies playing in the background, I write scripture on the board for my girls to copy.

Before I can finish a sentence, one already needs me for a math question, and I move around and hover, serving their needs, quieting this one that blurts out words that cut, instructing another one how to find and keep up with her pencil, and helping yet another little one settle down with crayons so her older sisters can focus on the tasks at hand.

And no one sees this–it is just a grace that enevelops and I know His presence consumes.

There is no need for approval from man when you are right in the lap of the Father.

.


 

Fellowship and growing in the word with the body of Christ are things we’ve wanted. But it has been elusive and just isn’t something God has allowed at this point in our lives for some reason. It’s been a long season.

And if I’m being honest, I’m envious of others who have that. But I’m not alone in my aloneness. I know others have these same questions, these same lonely feelings, these same burnings and groanings. We are in a season right now, not in growing in the word, or revelation, but in our deeds, serving, our behavior, attitudes, and sins and idols of the heart.

 












This is not a work of our own hands, our own will–only grace can do this work–only His spirit and sometimes the Spirit groans and travails within our souls in words that are hard to describe, hard to verbalize or even secretly etch out onto paper.










I hesitantly, very timidly try to tap it out here, not knowing if I can even understand it myself, or if I can rightly convey these groanings.

 
 

Sometimes the Spirit within is longing for heaven, for something altogether different, something eternal, and all those fleshly things–they churn hard within, the mind and weak nature not knowing what to do with those things. And so the Spirit groans. I ache.

The temptation is to fill it with things that won’t suffice. And I forget and in my earthly skin, I fill and fill and still, I’m empty, this body of death holding nothing but decay for me.

 

Like a woman birthing and wild with pain, God is weeding so much out and doing such a pulling, tearing, hard work. Everyday we become more and more like what he wants us to be. Are we finally becoming in our home as we want to be? With no one watching, no one knowing, not even family–because in our isolation no one sees–no one except us and God.

He is the only one that sees. and that is what makes it so hard and it is also what makes it so real and rewarding. There is no body of other believers seeing our works, our good attitudes and servanthood–and cheering us on– no pastor encouraging us and saying “well done”, not even really any family visiting to take part in the fruits God may have lavished upon our home.

 
 

 
 

The girls and I talk about the scripture scribbled in bright colors across a white board in morning light–how Jesus said we shouldn’t do things to be seen by men, to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to do it for our Father in Heaven, that He who is not seen may see our good works and reward us in Heaven. He warned that those who do good works for men to see have already received their reward in full and will receive none in heaven.

This convicts me and lets me know I’m on the right path and where I have erred.

Right before Husband gets home, we stop everything and clean up and wipe counters, put dishes in dishwasher and light candles. He walks in from seven grueling 16 1/2 hour days and says he forgot the prize at the store, but the girls ask if they still get to do their presentation tonight of what they’re learning for their Daddy. He says, Of course, I want you to do it for me, and I will bring your prize home from work tomorrow!

We have dinner together at the table because we all desire togetherness, and when it’s neglected, we wander blindly and falter, and can’t find any sure thing. And we gravitate back towards what holds us like glue–truth–the sanctity of this holy moment of togetherness, of giving thanks. This is a miracle–a true miracle of grace.

It is so much easier to fullfill our fleshly desires than to be selfless and loving and to sit with one another and to talk, and discipline kids when they dont want to sit or eat, and listen to stories and give and share. We read the bible at the table each night, but it isnt always pleasant. I find it difficult to sit still, to just be with them, to take in all the noise, to be gentle and patient, put simply–to love. And I ache.

I ache for all the moments I miss because I’m selfish and yet I can’t seem to discipline my body and my mind to just still while He sings over me, to just be all here, right now, wherever and however He has asked it of me. It is hard, and awkward, and brings up sin out of all of us–just maybe this is the very purpose.

We all clap and cheer and holler like a bunch of sillies hell-bent on love for each precious grace-daughter as she stands up and recites her memory work. There are smiles all around as my three daughters bow and their Daddy laughs deep baratone. Run off and brush your teeth, I tell them.

They all scurry away to bed and just for a moment I forget the ache.

I sit in the nursery rocker while Husband sleeps and the house moans, the girls sleepy heads all in beds and the quiet I have longed for all day is finally here. I rock my toddler baby girl, and as I sing about God’s greatness, the God-head three in one, Father, Spirit and Son, the Lion and the Lamb, the soft tones of Isabella’s favorite worship song waft over to her bed a few feet away, the “God Song”, she calls it and I haven’t been at all perfect this day–actually I’ve been a downright wretch of a sinner–and somehow His grace just envelops and none of it matters.

There is only us and God watching from above. It is very lonely but oh so hallowed, sacred and holy. So quiet, more reflecting his heart than anything I’ve ever known. More peace in our home abounds than ever before.

Oh yeah, there are times screams pierce and words cut deep, but I know He has us. I know His presence consumes everything.

I know I’m safe in His lap and okay just being me, the child He’s rocking so tightly.

Gratitude in pictures:

 
#917…A Daddy and a daughter growing fast
 
 
#918…Two sisters who love one another…
 
 
#919… Laughter…

 
#920…her hair ablaze with light…
 
 
#921…  a shaft of light…
 
 
#922… Lilly pretending to be a puppy at the table…
 
 
 
#923… Innocence of a child…

 
#924 Baby girl pulling Daddy on to jump too…
 
 
#925… Little one who insists her Mama jump with her!
 
 
926…her beauty…
 
 
#927…her humor…
 
 
#928…them wrapped up in sun…perfection to this Mama’s eyes…
 
 
#929… her wisps, her lashes, her cheeks…
 
 
#930…sunset on the beach, another season ending, another season full of opportunity on the way…
 

**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 wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; teaching a Classical Conversations lesson, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words,  my gratefulness.
Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…

 

*Photos in post: Lorna and Ivy sketching Leif the Lucky…
All four girls very busy…
Lorna working on her history sketch…
Solemn Isabella …
Reading in the hammock…
Husband reading bible…
Toys on nursery floor…
Shaft of light on wooden floor…
Girls hovered over a lizard…
Heads huddled up…
Ants in tree bark on a nature walk…
Lilly napping…
Playing with a balloon…
The Lord’s Prayer…
Playing with favorite ponies…
Girls fingerpainting…
Masterpiece…
Early American History–Individuality…
Bella’s art…
Lilly’s art…
Family around the table on a day Husband was home…

Linking with L.L…

On In Around button

 
Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…