A Stirring {An Abstraction on Spirit}

When I close my eyes, and picture sunlight, I’m a girl again, riding horseback, playing games amongst the pines.

The whoosh of the wind in my hair as I run her down the hill again and again elates me and makes me feel like an Indian princess in the beautiful frontier before it was invaded and cut down and colonized. I feel her pride, her strong spirit, and together we soar like the eagle. The hooves drum in the ground, dirt flies up against my thighs, and I feel the beating of wings, of my heart, of the animal’s might beneath me, the sinews of her stretching taught and powerful, her beauty preaches to me, talks to me of God. We are one, the beast and I, the Indian girl and I, as I lean over the saddle horn, give into her great prowess, my body rolling in rhythm with hers, copulating, us fused together, I can smell the scent of her thick glorious hair.

I grab her mane, the dry thickness of it so coarse it’s like ropes dredging me up out of water, and I hold onto her for dear life, because I have control but it’s because she lets me, so meek in all her raw power. I let out a yell, “Yee-haw! Yee-yee-yee!!” I’m strong. I’m fierce, unstoppable.

My mind rolls back and over those better days, swinging from large old oak, the wooden plank under  my young bottom, I don’t even feel it, me all light and weightless, swinging out over the hill, it dropping off beneath, like I’m flying, sun blinding, I close my eyes, tip head back and laugh wild.

I capture them like this now, when I watch them run and play, spirits soaring, and the light in their hair–it speaks to me. Speaks to me different, not in words, but lightens me, makes me exhale. Something inside is stronger and brighter and breathes easier.

God captures me like this. He watches as I rise, sunlight in my hair all askew, as I pitter-patter barefoot in yoga pants, warm sweater wrapped round my cold body. I wonder if God sees as He watches, how that when the horse tried to kill me, it made me afraid and I stopped riding, if He sees my weakness, my fear, my pitiful life and begs like a baby screaming for milk for me to to not be afraid, to ride again, to soar again. I walk across wooden, sun-soaked warm floor and God made the warmth for me. And He speaks to me there. He’s in the morning light pouring in on the pine.

I walk outside, tip head back, close eyes, blinded by light through the Sand Plum, and I walk toward the children. Baby girl calls, “Mama, play!” And right here and now, I get to be brave.

I shake off my fear and I love fierce, climb onto the trampoline and tickle, giggle, squeal, and laugh and jump the afternoon away, and I know this is how I learn to get back on the horse, how to not let spirit die.


Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out about Concrete Words! Be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. Please use the “Share” feature at the bottom of this post–thanks!  

What this link-up is about: Since this is my first week hosting #concretewords, I am using lovely Amber Haines’ words to describe what we do here. We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means use the prompt to write out a story, a memory, a feeling and make me feel what you felt, describe the scene around you, the textures, the emotions, the tastes, smells, the light. Tell me what you touch, see, hear…

A few simple guidelines:  1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others 
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or 
                                             sponsored posts 
                                         5. Consider sharing via social media to help get word out!
Today’s prompt is Spirit. (You can link up anything you have written 
past or present that applies to writing out spirit–the invisible–with concrete words)

Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Truck.

**Because of what I shared * here,I cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs, but I will do my best to visit those who link up here. I would love for you to feel a sense of community when you are here, and I hope you do feel right at home–I just think–though we all search for so much interaction and approval from others, that sometimes, maybe in some seasons, sometimes very long seasons, just a quiet place is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. 


I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. I’d like you to know that when I see you here, my heart just leaps out of my chest to connect with you–to let you know I hear you! Oh friend, I’m so glad you understand, and thank you for so much grace!  And while you leave such sweet words here, I am probably somewhere cleaning a precious 3-year-old baby girls’ messes, listening to an eleven year old playwrite’s brave words, or teaching my crew. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 


{This post shared with JenLaura, Heather, Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!)

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True Revival: The Long-Lasting Kind {And A Call to Concrete Words}



So last year I wrote this, and I’ve been thinking hard on it, how I’ve failed at lent this year, how it’s been non-existent for me, how a diagnosis back in the fall, a diagnosis no one wants to receive, has taken over my life like some dark cloud, a dark, foreboding heavy cloak that weighs me down, seeming like a foreshadowing of what is to come. This illness, it seems to have sapped all the strength right out of me.

It lays on us thick, making the dredging through everyday feel like it’s impossible to force laughter to gurgle up and out. I sit in the cold stillness, sweater wrapped round my body, lambswool blanket my comforting security, and I watch them play, watch them laugh, and some days when they seem tired and docile, I worry about them.

Sometimes it seems like my long-legged girl has forgotten how to smile, and I wonder if she mirrors me.

My tall Lorna has such a strong heart, and there has been a few mornings she has woke her Mama up and brought hot tea. When she does these things for me, I see such a nurturing mother in her, already at almost twelve, and I feel confident and sure for all the future children tucked away quiet in her womb.

Their schooling seems to fall through my hands like too many grains of sand, and I feel the weight of what I cannot carry in this frail body I despise. I tell myself tomorrow will be different, and tomorrow comes and I struggle and they struggle sometimes too and the days blur, and every homeschooling mama knows this hardship.

It’s been three and a half years now, and this illness in my body feels like a mountain I can find no way around, no way over, no way through.

The doctor tells me we will send Lorna to Jackson University to a neurologist for the sudden passing out and seizures that’s happened twice, and I’m glad to have some answers soon, at the same time overwhelmed at all the work that lays before me with long trips to the doctor.

I talk to Husband about possibly putting them back in public school, because I am not handling the weight well, and my heart is in my throat as I say the words. We talk about it, in low tones, and it seems impossible, because one daughter learns differently and needs to be at home, and all the reasons that we decided to homeschool in the first place are what make this decision so hard. Homeschooling is a whole other, strange, wonderful, miraculous animal, and if you believe in it’s principles, then it’s painstaking to think of your child thrown back into the system, labeled “behind”, simply because they learn differently.

Once in a while at night, I drink more than one glass of wine, and I feel heavy, relaxed, and some crazy days it’s the only thing that calms the raging storm inside. Husband lays back on the couch and watches a movie with me, red deliciousness in hand, kids all finally quiet and sleepy for the day, until we hear squeals and screaming and fighting, and we yell “Don’t make me come in there!”

I kiss heads, feel the softness of my lips against their cool, sweet cheeks, and tell them goodnight, feeling the tug to do more, wanting to read with them, but knowing my body can’t handle anymore that day.

Ivy looks at me with questioning eyes as I lean on the counter, “You know Mama, you could just go lay down and take a nap…”

But my heart aches, and I stare at her thinking, and I blink it back, Oh, child, I don’t want you to worry about me. 

The words are stuck inside, a silent scream that I can’t get out: “If only God had not given me this bitter cup to drink!”

My friend tells me that maybe I need to take some time off, some time away from everything, if that’s what it takes to get better, whatever I need to do for myself and for my family.

I swallow down the bitter taste of truth coming from my friend. It’s a painful lump lodged there in my throat. I shake my head and shake it off. Leave them? I couldn’t do that. Sometimes a mother doesn’t know how to do what’s best for her, because all the synapses of her soul only know how to fire off and execute what’s best for her children.

I call Husband and tell him I’m not feeling well, and to bring me some Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, my favorite, or Chocolate Fudge Brownie. He brings the brownie kind. Seriously, Ben & Jerry’s when I’m supposed to be on a detox. And Lent? I honestly have hardly thought about it. I feel like a failure as I swallow down the cold, chocolaty goodness. But the chocolate sludge feels so good going down and makes me forget for a moment the trudging.

And so what more can I tell you, now that I’ve spilled my guts, let you see my soul?

We find the grace in the little triumphs and we find joy in sun-warmed afternoons. I try to remember how to laugh. I try to be brave.

I try to keep smiling when I see my girls looking at me, so intuitively, their eyes questioning, watching me.

We washed dishes today, my eleven-year old and I, and we sang loud to Journey (well, I did–she just stared at me like I was nuts), and we danced and I tickled her with soapy hands until she fell on the ground in a laughing heap.

The girls come to me now, all red-cheeked clamor, “Mama!! Lilly just said ‘Let me go’! I was holding her upside down and she said it! She said it, Mama! A whole sentence!” And it’s better than a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, revival church service.

We cheer for her, clap our hands, and we have a little church right here in our own hearts, in our own home, for these words were a long time coming from my little Lilly. It’s a broken hallelujah reverberating in my heart.

And it feels a little like real Victory, and the bitter cup, a way to learn what truest healing is.

It feels a little like true Revival, the long-lasting kind, the kind that lasts longer than a three hour church service in the altar, it’s the kind that gives children joy even while watching their Mama struggle with illness, the kind that makes Mamas stand up with the strength to continue in the face of adversity.

My friend wrote this at her place, and she asked “Where are the messy, gritty, stories of the still-lost?” I wrote some messy stories, stories that were very hard to publish, here, and here, and here, stories that show a grateful-for-grace-me.

And I will keep writing them, even though my temptation is to write helpful things, to give you 10 steps to a better you–I’m not going to do that. I just want to share my stories, and help you find yourself in them. I want to help you and I, and all of us find ourselves in need of grace.

“We need the blistered cry of honest voices laughing together with tears in our eyes (a desperate prayer, yes?) at how the Light always sneaks up behind us, even when the black is at its inkiest. We need to learn to trace grace’s fingerprint on the horizon, while still walking in the dark.”–Kelli Woodford

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Let’s not cast any stone. Let’s help walk one another home. (adapted from my friend, Tara’s favorite quote: “We’re all just walking each other home”–Ram Dass)

**Please read: Friends, because of this illness, we have some decisions facing us concerning the girls’ education, where we should live {I need to be closer to family who can help, and the girls need more options for their education}, and we are also considering getting someone to help me at home during the week. Please pray as I battle this and as we make these prayerful, very serious decisions for our family?

Friends, on Monday, blushing fire-red cheeks and all, I will be taking Amber Haines’ Concrete Words, and running with it–well, she’s asked me to, probably only ’cause I was the only one who jumped at it. And I’m so honored! She is no longer doing it–at least for now. We will gather here, every Monday, at my place. Since this will be my first week hosting #concretewords, I am using Amber’s words to describe what we do in this community. We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. I have had fun with this, and I hope you will join in and write your own, or drop by to read! Please help spread {since I’m not near as big as Amber ;)} the word via twitter and facebook, and don’t forget to use the hashtag, #concretewords.

Because of what I shared hereI cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs–although I would love for you to feel a sense of community when you are here, and I hope you do feel right at home–I just think–though we all search for so much interaction and approval from others, that sometimes, maybe in some seasons, sometimes very long seasons, just a quiet place is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. 

I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. I’d like you to know that when I see you here, my heart just leaps out of my chest to connect with you–to let you know I hear you! Oh friend, I’m so glad you understand, and thank you for so much grace!  And while you leave such sweet words here, I am probably somewhere cleaning a precious 3-year-old baby girls’ messes, listening to an eleven year old playwrite’s brave words, or teaching my crew. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 

This post shared with Emily…

The Rhythm of Rest {The Way of A Child}


I lie down in a grassy field, roll down it’s hills, and the rolling it could go on for days
for a child carefree
The sun melts me, revives me, sets me free
I love it’s light on my face
I squeal and scream and I hear the muffled squealing of her next to me
That the lumps and bumps mush up against hips and backs doesn’t matter
I don’t feel the thorns, just the rolling, the excited tremor
like waves, lapping against my legs, my face
the warmth of the orange orb on my face
I feel it always in summer time
How free I am
I relax in it’s rest,
Free fall into it’s arms and drift off,
like ripples gently pirouetting on a lake
I watch them keep rhythm
And the steadiness, it drums, and I hear the music all around
It’s humming me to sleep
The birds call as I pick spider lilies on the hillside,
I take them into my mother, with a smile and she mirrors me,
twinkles, and she gives them water, places them on the sill
I run back outside in a whoosh,
roll down the hill again. laughing.

How free she looks, friends. Can you see it, feel it? I want to be just like my kids when I grow up.

On Fridays, I link up with Lisa-Jo’s community of flash mob writers to write for five minutes, no back-tacking, no editing, just for the fun of it, to remember why I love writing, to not worry if every i is dotted and every t is crossed, to write like I mean it and leave it that way. Honestly, I’ve never had more fun–if you’d like to join in, or read more, look for Lisa-Jo’s button below and click.

“This is where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and sharing ’em over here.”–Lisa Jo

Today’s word prompt was REST.

Five Minute Friday

On Letting Go, Daffodils, and the Narrow Way

I am cold, hurting, sad and despondent and he says, “get dressed and come outside with me–it’s such a nice, warm day”. Something inside me jumps at the thought of being in the sunshine after so much grey rain in my life. It has been a long time coming–this spring rejuvenating joy!

As I throw my clothes on, not caring if my hair hasn’t been washed {i’m going to the sunlight}, girls all dressed and I step outside, this change is hard. Hard because my emotions don’t feel it. But I’ve been here before, and I know that the emotions are not always in sync with what my heart and soul {God’s Spirit speaking?} are saying is vital, purposeful, helpful, and joy-creating. Human emotions don’t so easily give way to joy and peace-creating moments. My emotions stand hard and stubborn as brick, and they are not easily dissolved and replaced with God’s love, gentleness, patience, and hope.

Hope is a funny thing….it’s like stepping outside to the sun’s blinding when I’ve been hibernating inside my comfort place, my isolation for too long. It all feels raw, open, it hurts and blinds and in the same breath feels like warmth to the soul, the soul slowly waking, and the Son telling me time to get up.

He turns on the radio, and says, “You ARE ready–wow! Let’s go!” And my heart is so easily led because it craves it and needs it. My heart craves, this heart that is only for him. And it is this that God is trying to show me–yes, my heart craves, and it is truly HIM that I crave, that my heart yearns to follow.

In the sunlight, always the blinding light, I am so thankful that He gives spring….and I see it. I see that the leaves, the brown, black and grey, the dead things must come for life to come forth. All of the wretched things, the things I hate the most, the things that seem so evil to me–cloudy days that offer no hope, rain that never gives any light or warmth, no life or beauty to be found, all of the loneliness and disappointment, the anguish, the desperate pleas for help, and the trudging through of the feet–all of these must be so that HOPE can come.

So that LIFE can push really hard, can push hard and long against the surface, so hard until it seems I will give way, and when I think that my weary heart and soul can take no more, there it is! Life to be felt, touched, all warmth and sun and the SON comes in strong, like a team of wild stallions beating back ocean waves, and He calms me with His steady hand, touches me, ME who doesn’t deserve anything, feeling like a silly child for asking, for reaching out, and He gently cradles me like summer sun, blinding the eyes and letting lids drift off asleep.

And then I see, I see the brown leaves, {so happy to be picking up those brown leaves, everyone pitching in, the warm sun our helper}, and I know what they have covered up this whole time–it has been life growing underneath.

In the front yard, where he is raking strong and ferocious, we meander and follow him, walking and looking, taking in beauty, holding hands, snapping our happy day in freeze-frames.

 Then it happens: I hear him say, “No, Bella, you know Mama doesn’t want you to do that”. It is always Mama that doesn’t want the children to run and frollick and make mischief, always Mama that has a hard time with letting go. And in an instant I see that Bella has plucked all my lovely daffodils from the front garden, the only sign of life in this deadness, the only beauty that I loved, and before I think, I say sternly, “NO, Bella!” and now her tiny shoulders droop, her joyous flower-possessing countenance falls, and straightaway, she is a mess, and so am I.

 I go to her, drawn like the pull of heartache, and kneel down beside her. I say, “It is okay, Bella. You can have Mama’s flowers”. And these words are hard for me to say, and they are pulled out like weeds stuck in the hard winter ground. I hurt, I am torn, and my anger dissolving, I know that I must let go. I know that this is good for me and for her. I hug her and keep saying it over and over, and of course, in Bella’s usual style, she has to punish me just a bit. She can’t move past it right away, and oh, she is MY child; she definitely came from my womb, this child that has it hard letting go.
And suddenly I realize that it is not I that is supposed to be teaching her in this moment, but it is she that is teaching me, and she is teaching me well.
 I am a broken Mama, throwing myself against the stubborness of this child, and breaking over and over and over. God knows that this is what this sinful, hard heart of mine needs. 

WHY is my first reaction to sternly correct and break littles’ spirits? Couldn’t I, being fully aware of her possessing my prize, just have let my laugh carry on the wind, reach her with a warm enveloping smile and let her know that I will always, always give her what is mine?

I will never, ever forbid her to come close and I will always, only embrace her fully, mistakes and all.

Isn’t this what the Father has done for me? Yes, He gave it all.

I want to shed this cloak of doubt and fear and despondency and turn face full to the sun, grab my child’s hand and show her that things here don’t matter.

I want to run over and wildly pluck a flower, tuck it behind her ear and whisper it on the gentle spring breeze, “You are free to love, child, free as your Father in Heaven has loved you and made you free.”

I imagine she turns to me, smiles, her eyes alight, and she looks up at me like maybe I’m God and it just makes me want to always, only walk towards that narrow gate.

I take her hand and lead her there.



“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” 
Matthew 7:13-15; New King James
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.”
Matthew 7:13-15; The Message
**edited re-post from the archives
This post shared with Ann, Jennifer, for #TellHisStory, and Beth at Messy Marriage, where she writes real, raw, and redemptive.

The Birthing of A Voice

My voice is somewhere in the deep, somewhere lost,
Somewhere silent.
I pray for words and no words come.
My voice, lost, it lets me know
It echoes from corridors and secret passageways of the heart
Tells me my heart is not still
And yes, my heart is weary, thumps too loudly, drumming in my ear
It paces, roams, back and forth, wary of the fight
Sometimes the cloud is too thick
The weight of glory too massive
Does that mean God is nearer?
Is He heavy on me like a lover?
When everything is pressing,
should I just know that He presses in close,
whispers sweet nothings in my ear?
Oh, to hear,
the deaf ear opened
I’m mute, dumb, and walk around blind
Is God near, calling?
Because I don’t hear Him
Is the church spotless and vigilant?
Because I don’t see her
I see nothing but decay
I need Jesus
His hands,
His touch
Messiah come
I groan with expectation
I howl in birth pains
I moan in quiet travail with all creation
so softly and inwardly no one knows
All this death and religion’s tepid, heavy cloak make me lie still
laid out, legs and arms splayed straight, air so tight, this box made just for me
It’s sealed all the way round
The howling wind sweeps through the cold place, and I scream but nothing comes out
And no one hears
I pant, gasp, pain shooting through spinal cavities
Eyes widen like a wild animal, afraid
I’m not sure what’s happening
And just when I begin to lose hope no one is there
The worst pains come and my hips spread some more
I can’t breathe and I’ve almost given up the ghost
And there it is, the voice lost brought up
to the surface, pressing through the birth canal,
gasping for air, wet-tissued passageways burning
howling and screaming in silent pain
blood vessels’ fragile wall breaking,
the red everywhere.
And I’m a bloodied mess
That red richness that speaks a better word
Covering me.


A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints & Spiritual Midwives}

I sit here, in my pajamas, staring at a computer screen, at Sarah’s call for us to celebrate International Women’s Day, and my mind goes back in time. When it comes to women who have blazed a trail before and taught me what they know, there is really only one woman who comes to mind. She was my pastor’s wife, and we were close, probably much closer than she knew, because I clung to her in my heart as a child does.

She became my spiritual mother, she nurtured me, she took time with me, talked me through hurtful issues in my marriage, depression, and an inability to gain any semblance of control of my life for the happiness of my family. She taught me to be strong, to be the kind of woman who when her feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan says “Oh no! She’s up!”, she taught me to go to my word first thing in the morning, to cling to Christ, to look to Him to fill an insatiable appetite, to plan my day so that my family is fulfilled and nurtured on earthly bread and the nourishment of the Word.

I watched her worship, her expressions wild with adoration and like she was right before the throne and I watched her love and I watched her hold her tongue when that was not her nature, I watched her strong and protective, her support of her husband powerful, I watched her back not break and I watched her have humility enough to ask me if she looked appropriate when I told her she looked cute in her new jeans. She was real, and she was bold, and she was grace. For the first time I learned those things could co-exist. In fact, they should.

She has really been my spiritual midwife.

She birthed the girl you know now, the one set free from legalism, the one who knows to look up to Christ at my first breath, the one who talks to my kids about the gospel and Christ’s bleeding out when I’ve failed them and fallen far short of being the mom I want to be.

She was the first to place a book into my hands on parenting and to teach me how to look to books as a mentor, to gain wisdom from them, to seek out God’s wisdom, to desire growth and revelation.

Before I met her, I was confused and lost in a sea of pride and legalism but then my marriage began to strengthen and I began on a journey to learning what being a godly woman really means. And looking back on how young and foolish I was, she was so very gentle with me.

There have been a few other women who have been spiritual midwives. One is my neighbor, an eighty-eight year old widow lady, Mrs. Olive, a sweet ‘lil ‘ole woman who seems fragile upon first glance. She is slightly bent over and her hands are a little gnarled and shake from a stroke and she can barely talk, her communication having returned to that of a toddler. But to stop there and not see more would be sorely underestimating this strong woman. The permanent bend in her back is from so much stooping and serving, the gnarled, shaking hands have penned many beautiful letters to friends and family in calligraphy, a forgotten art form. And her lack of voice? She doesn’t let it stop her from telling me and my girls she loves us, placing her hands over her heart, tears in her eyes.

I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around. She told me that she was never free until the day he died, and how she is still married and celebrates her anniversary with him, even in his death. She  lost two adult sons, and another two babies when they were very tiny, and life was full of much trial and pain.

It was really the little things that Mrs. Olive did that taught me so much, changed my theology, sort of turned my world upside down.

She would put her trash out on Tuesdays and write a thank you note to the men that came round that said “Happy Thanksgiving!”

I’d notice when I’d walk over, how she brought out a plate of food to the mailman, every day.

It had never crossed my mind to be generous to these people in my life–I didn’t grow up that way. She touched everyone she had contact with. She didn’t hide inside her home, hoping no one would come knocking. She walked outside with a smile, offered food and warmth and love.

She doesn’t live across the street anymore; she is older now, and lives with her daughter, but I remember weeks when we barely had food, and she would show up on our stoop, her steps unsure, walker in hand, holding out a box of fruit and snacks. She rarely made a cake without sending some over.

Now, because of Mrs. Olive, we try to do the same and love those around us, those who normally might go unseen, unnoticed.

My Granny is another person I greatly respect and admire, a woman who has taught me dignity, respect, graciousness, trust, integrity. She has taught me about love and about servant hood. This is another woman whose strength I look up to and hope to emulate. She prays for her family and has bent over backward many times for all of us.

When I have an appointment, she calls to check in on me so that she can keep the children. She takes care of me. I’m amazed at her ability to care for so many in her life, to cook for, to serve, to bend for, to love.

She has been through much in her life, in her marriage, with her children and in her young life as a child. She still cries at times, at seventy-six, when we talk about the abuse she received from the woman who raised her. That kind of pain never really goes away, not even at her age. But what I see is a woman who has risen above her circumstances and has loved well. So well.

My Mama is another person whom I learned from, from the way she worshiped in the house to how she always had supper on the table for us early in the evening, to how she made sure we had baths every night and rolled our hair for Sunday morning. I remember these routines and rhythms that made me feel secure and held me and I want to give the same to my girls.

I remember my mother very rarely fought with my dad in front of us. This memory guides me when life is full of suffering and confusion and I’m tempted to swerve over into selfishness. It helps me to plant my hands firmly back on the wheel, knowing how I benefited from this as a small child.

Because my mentors have taught me to search out wisdom, I have sought and found that wisdom in resources such as Carolyn Mahaney’s cds, Sally Clarkson’s books and blog, and Ann Voskamp’s blog. Ann has no idea that she has mentored me, but oh she has and it has meant more than she’ll ever know. It was because of her I started writing again after 15-plus years.

Ro Elliot from Tuning My Heart has helped guide me through depression and this blogging world we all write amongst, and there have been other women who have helped steer me along the way, or helped me see through a different lens, or have just been sisters to me and sojourners along my journey. Some of those are L.L. Barkat, Emily Wierenga, Shelley Miller, Elizabeth Marshall, Amber Haines, Kelli Woodford, Nancy Franson, Cora and Susan who have shored me up and poured into me at pivotal moments, Tara Pohlkotte, Holly Grantham, and then there’s Michele Ault, who came along side and helped with homeschooling when I was completely new at it. I’m forever grateful to her for helping me wade through the mess that was my unorganized, confused Mama-self.

All of these beautiful brave women I am so grateful for. I admire the strength, courage, integrity and grace with which they live out their lives and bang on their keyboards.

And you, awesome readers, amazing beautiful you, yes, *you*, you have encouraged and lifted me up, held my arms up when they were tired. There were times I know I would not have continued writing without you. You. Are. Amazing. Wonderful. Spectacular. Loving. Gracious. I’m thankful to God for you.

I have other mentors and friends who’ve walked with me on this earth–I’ve learned from all of them and I’m a blend of a better woman only because of them, a blend of what I pray is a little bit of forgiveness, a dash of wisdom, a generous sprinkle of hope, a smidgen of purity and soberness, and a profane amount of kindness, love, and grace. I’m woven together, and the pieces of me are tattered edges of these women, scraps of themselves they’ve given away, spun here now into a tapestry that I hope glorifies God and gives the earth beauty. And I don’t take it for granted, this heirloom tapestry spun with toil and pain and sacrifice. Neither do I fold it up, lay it down on the end of some bed in a room where it’s rarely seen, for pure beauty’s sake, for looks, no, for this beautiful weave is used everyday in the exhausting, glorifying, body-breaking, bending, serving, hands-lifted-high, heart-poured-out work of being woman.

The women that have been this to me, that have given and have become a part of this woven fabric  are my very good friends Danae, April, Kerry, Joanie, and Markey, and Ro, and I celebrate their love, devotion, honesty, bravery, fearlessness, and the fierce grace and nurturing they lavish on everyone in their lives, including me. I cherish their prayers, their letters, their gifts of time, of things of monetary value, their shoring up and harboring me when I was lost in a storm of suffering, and most of all, I cherish their vulnerable hearts laid out before me. I love you–you ought to know that. And today, I celebrate beautiful you, all of you women so beautiful.

Related: Bending, a story I wrote about my grandmother (and grandfather), the one spiritual midwife that has always been there, and will until she leaves this world. I love you, Granny.

“I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me….’Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!’ She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes.”…….  Click here to read more…

Gratitude: #1049-1066

3 gifts that changed today: Getting to run alone at the lake for the first time in months

Being able to spend a day all to myself, going to the coffee shop to read and write

Reaching out to a new friend, inviting her to meet and her pleasant yes!

Going over to a friend’s house in a heap of a mess and her talking me through it

Keeping four kids for a friend so she and her husband can have time together–the blessing of caring for others

Eight kids under one roof–ahhh!

A special night out under the stars, a bonfire, hot dogs, marshmallows

Telling boys “No, don’t put your feet in the fire, please!” and “Put that back in the fire and don’t pick up anymore planks of wood that are on fire!”

The way a boy took up with my little Lilly, playing with her and how she cozied up to him on the couch to watch a movie

A boy telling me he can take a shower in 2, when asked if he can take one in five, and his beaming smile when I tell him job well done, a shower in two minutes flat!

Husband helping him wash the thick shampoo off under the faucet that was left in his hurry

How my little Lilly looks like a tiny, weightless bunny as she boing-boings on our trampoline, her feet so high in the air

Lilly saying “Back!” which means she wants Daddy to carry her up on his shoulders

Husband carrying Lilly all around the yard on his shoulders while the kids play

Their squeals of “Daddy!” when he walks in the door

Aged asagio cheese, chocolate, and red wine

My yard blooming spring

Feeling better, feeling hope

This post shared with Sarah Bessey‘s International Women’s Day synchroblog, Ann, Laura, Heather,

Bending {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}

I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaeleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.

Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she’s slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coifed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

“Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!” She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it’s my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn’t come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can’t bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.

The old wood, full of family history–it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man’s {or hurried woman’s} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby’s dress, and I see a woman’s tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me–clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle and over sweet tea–has the sugar been added?–where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy’s tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: “What do you want now?!” We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy’s complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds–I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawerthe place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family has been their mission field–how they never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42–how they have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid.

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, “Who is this from?” He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife’s cheeks.

A little shyly–“Me.” I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, “2007…” his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God’s graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft blue t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he’s so great. But I know it’s hit it’s mark–right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced–I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing in the corner, that he won’t let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.

I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgits some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny’s high thread-count sheets, shadow’s cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart’s cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me, this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it’s mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.

**edited re-post from the archives

Shared with Sarah Bessey at her International Women’s Day synchroblog, where we’re writing about Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives…

Related: A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}…“I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around…” Click here to read more…

The Real Christ In A Cruel World {In Which I Say What I Really Feel About the Church}


                                                                                                                            

Oh my soul aches in a cruel world where children are shot while learning ABC’s, blood splattered across the chalkboard, soaking their beautiful wide-ruled blue lined pages, their little feet barely reaching the floor, so much light this world lost when their innocent souls left, so much work their brilliant minds could have done, so much ache left in the aftermath.

 My heart is crushed in a backwards reality where gays are shunned as yesterday’s trash, and pastors who seek fame and distort truth are glorified. But Jesus drew a line in the sand for a harlot, no better than trash to those religious leaders, and dared them to cast the first stone. And the truth distorters? He called them vipers.

 I’m weary because when I was not a girl, not yet a woman, I stood in the church foyer of my daddy’s church and was called a whore by a woman I loved because I attended the one party I was invited to, in a friendless town, and a boy tried to take advantage of me that night, called to me in whispers from the hallway in the dark, luring me like a sex predator lures an innocent child. Rumors flew and what’s a preacher’s daughter to do? We’re supposed to be perfect.

 I quake with loneliness because I feel the isolation of those who are not welcome in my southern white churches. I’d like to stand on top of the podium and declare that Jesus wants all the sick, all the hurting, every color, all of his brothers and sisters, all of God’s children and the same breath that’s in me, God breathed into them.

 A cold wind blows through my soul because when I was 19 years old, a woman secretly recorded a conversation she and her husband had with my parents in her home, and she worked hard against them, carrying her banner of what she perceived as justice until she turned everyone away from the church, calling all the members away unto herself, and my dad had no one to support him, and the last member left in the pews–one sweet, but very feisty old widow woman–she brought us cans from the food pantry. I was paranoid and convinced there were cameras in my bedroom and the nightmares came every night. We were literally starved out–physically and spiritually–and we left the church and left the town, our hearts in our stomachs, our spirits grieved and hearts hard and for me the hellish dreams continued for years, every. single. night.

 I shudder at witnessing the guts and gore of pastors leaving even now. I squinch my eyes up because I do not want to watch as respected leaders whom we loved and whom loved us hate their pastor in their hearts as they hand out food to the poor, and teach sweet, impressionable children as they spew words of malice out behind their shepherd’s back, toil and sweat toward his demise, and ultimately the devastation of his household. I do not want to know about their schemes in the dark, their hellish pranks and private meetings, do not want to behold such horrors, all vivid bloody gore to me.

 I grieve for the dark-skinned women who came to my door, those sweet women, donned in their Sunday best. They are so dignified and humble, and loving, and they stand in the cold to talk to me. I grieve not because maybe they’re a cult as I was taught growing up–it’s just the opposite. I grieve because I have this painful, wonderful, awful revelation that my whole life I’ve been wrong and I’ve missed it. The church has missed it. These women stood on my stoop, the numbing cold not bothering their warm hearts as they continued to encourage me, long after I’d told them I felt we had found a church home. They told me it was commendable, what I was doing with my girls, teaching them at home, teaching them the scriptures, instilling values in them. I felt admiration from these women. They commended me. ME. It had been such a hard, questioning week and I told them that, how I was glad they came because I needed to hear that, and their beautiful eyes lit up. They told of how they visit some people who tell them if they hadn’t come that day, they would’ve committed suicide. “I admire you,” I said, “for doing what you do. It’s a brave thing, to get out and reach out the way you do.” They offered me books for the girls and I gave them some money for the ink, even though I knew that I wouldn’t agree with the theology in the pages and we might not read it. That didn’t matter. It would have been like saying no to a hot plate a a sweet ‘lil ‘ole widow neighbor cooked as a gift because stroganoff isn’t my favorite. And Jesus shocked them all when he said that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and no one ever expected that the despised and foolish things of the world would confound the wise and sometimes I find that my doubt is turned right inside out and I am on the other end, the “wise” one being schooled by these “foolish” ‘lil ‘ole women the world has looked down upon.

I shiver as arctic gales sweep right through me, and it’s sweeping right through the church. Do you feel it? And I weep and I dry my tears and tell myself to be strong, to not let my heart get smashed again. I take a good long look at the world, through red-brimmed eyes and with tears that won’t even fall anymore, my hard heart sees all the missed opportunities the church has had, that I have had. I see the poor that Mother Theresa consecrated her life to, I see the millions of children starving and dying in the dumps. I see the millions of babies that have been killed in America in the past thirty years by abortion, I see a gay community that feels hated by the church, I see depressed women wasting away in beds, never stepping outside their doors, afraid and quaking, from a life of abuse and they make it known that no one is welcome and I have been all of these and then some because I’m a sinner and I’m in need too.

And I’ve come to despise change because of what change did to my family when I was young and what it still does to those who give their lives. I don’t know how to continue believing, when I, being a thirty-something, in a deep depression, reached out to women in the church, and shared my secret in hopes they’d gather ’round and shore me up, and I was shunned instead, my leper sores glaringly ugly in the church lights.

Shunned like the gays, shunned like the druggies, shunned like my black sisters and brothers, shunned like Jesus.

Oh, for all that is holy, grace is not just for me, the me who grew up in church, the preacher’s daughter, it’s not just for the straights, the whites, the upper class, the lovable ones, the ones who do life the “right” way. Oh can you see it, friend? Can I?

Jesus came for the sick. Let’s be about our Father’s business.

And when my dark-skinned friend comes back to drop off that church invitation as she promised, I’m going to invite her into my heated living room, and with a glory hallelujah in my heart, have hot tea with her on my couch and talk with her like I would any of the other women in my circle, and I will tell her I’m a Christian, and do not intend to convert, but that I hope we can still be sisters in this kingdom work.

Only God knows her heart.

Only God knows mine. He wants all of us, friends, all of us sinners.

There’s no need to fear.

Let’s open our hearts, you and I.

And be about His work.

** painting by my husband, Eddie


**Shaking in my boots, being vulnerable about some of my deepest secrets, the hurting places, hitting publish here, friends. Oh my, I love writing, and my it is sometimes so hard to hit that button. Here goes–I hope it blesses?

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