A Gentle Life, A Legacy of Love {An Abstraction on Bend}

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.

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 coiffed 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 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–through addiction, disagreements and irreparable fall-outs– has been their mission field, quietly and consistently, unconditionally. 

They never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42. They have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid– because I wonder–

Do they know? Do they know what they’ve done? They’ve left a legacy of God-honoring, a life gently-lived with love. They’ve given til it hurts.   

“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, worn 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 slightly just there 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 fidgets 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.

                                                                          *an edited re-post

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it–Let’s not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let’s not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let’s see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bend (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

What this link-up is about: 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 (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


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–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Bend. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Sunday, the 6th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! On the 7th, the prompt will be Bloom.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: You are invited to come back here for the continuing writing series, in which I’ll have an amazing guest-writer here this coming Wednesday! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you’d like to write and get your stories ready! We’ll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!
*

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On Vulnerability and Boundaries


{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging}



I am pleased to introduce you to our guest poster today, my friend, internet pastor, and mentor, Diana Trautwein. I am honored she agreed to write for us and share with us her wisdom in this writing series~ 

In the fall of 2006, I got a new boss. He arrived on the scene after two years of searching, two years marked by upheaval in my life, personally and professionally.  I had been working as an Associate Pastor, part-time, for almost ten years by then, and I was deeply relieved to welcome him and to learn to work with him and for him.
One of the first things he asked me to do was start a blog. Yes, you read that right. My boss, the senior pastor, asked me to begin writing my heart on a blog. He already had one, and used it for brief reflections on life and ministry, very rarely for anything personal.
But I’m not wired in the same way, and when I was invited to write, I chose to get pretty vulnerable, pretty quickly. And I loved it. I was careful, especially when trying to write out the difficulties that always attend a new working relationship. I tried to make it about me, and what I was thinking/feeling. And, for the most part, I found my way to a pretty good balance. I posted infrequently, about once or twice a month for that first year. I learned to import photos, and often chose to write about my family, especially my grandkids.
But in July of 2007, something hard happened. Our son-in-law was in the midst of a long and very difficult dying, suffering from the after-effects of intensive radiation to his head and neck when he was a teenager. Our daughter was trying to finish a masters’ degree in special education, so that she could go to work after fifteen years as a homemaker. Her husband was on full disability at that point, and they desperately needed medical insurance. Her program required a 10-week internship at a hospital 400 miles north of her home and she worked like a champ to make everything happen. Some weeks, her husband was well enough to go with her, but some weeks, he needed to be closer to home.
We housed her husband and two younger sons (the eldest was working at a camp on Catalina Island that summer) for one of those closer-to-home weeks. And that experience was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever walked through. Watching someone you love suffer — and watching how that suffering impinges on the lives of two young people — well, it was hard, sad, painful. . . there are no words.
But I tried to find them anyhow. I wrote a post, not using names, about watching this particular kind of suffering. I finished it late one night, posted it and went to bed. At 7:00 the next morning, I went in and removed it, feeling unsettled about writing something so deeply personal.
The post was up for less than twelve hours.
But in that time, someone close to him found it and was deeply wounded by it. I was crushed —   repentant, sorrowful, so sorry for causing pain and for further complicating my daughter’s life. My heroic girl was already exhausted and overwhelmed and my post made everything worse.
I crossed a line, one that I deeply regret.
My blog was silent for nearly two years after that. Even though my boss read that piece and was deeply appreciative and affirming about it, I could no longer find either the words or the courage to write them down in that space. I felt ashamed, and that shame forced me into silence, a silence that lasted a long time.
At the beginning of 2009, I tentatively returned to my site to write about my son-in-law’s beautiful memorial service. For the next couple of years, I used the blog almost exclusively to post public prayers and sermons, very seldom delving into anything personal.
Until I retired.
And something inside me opened and hasn’t shown signs of closing anytime soon. I believe that openness came from two things: 1.) a deliberate, prayerful attempt to move away from shame and to believe in forgiveness; and 2.) a delightful spaciousness in my schedule.
So, in January of 2011, I began writing in earnest – usually 2-3 times a week, and almost always about very personal things. During the months that I stepped away from the blog, I had learned about myself, about life, about writing. Most importantly I had learned this: tell stories about what I’m learning and how I’m learning it. TELL MY STORIES, not someone else’s.
Sifting that out can sometimes be tricky. I’m walking through the end of my mom’s life now, and I write about that frequently. But she knows I’m writing about it (when she can remember), and I always try to talk about her beauty, her warmth, her goodness, in addition to the harder stuff. I do not write about my grandchildren, except to proclaim how marvelous they are, never about where I’m worried or concerned for them. I write honestly about my marriage, but I don’t write about some of the deeply personal things that are just for us.

And I pray every time my fingers hit these keys, asking for wisdom, discretion, truth. I also trust: I trust that God hears and answers those prayers, I trust that if I overstep at any point, some kind soul will tell me, I trust that what I do with these words comes as a direct result of God’s call on my life to write my stories down.




A retired-part-time-pastor-learning-to-be-a-spiritual-director with a family Diana adores, she senses an increasingly urgent call to write-her-life-down, to preserve her sanity and create some space to breathe. You can find her here, at her blog, Just Wondering–where she tells the stories God is writing in her life. She can also be found tweetering here on Twitter
linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate
{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford’s series: Brave Words? 
                 It’sback again! This is going to be delicious. Please stop over there 
                                      today and give her trembling, brave heart some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing–Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}

Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

Jesus Brings The Sabbath To Me In Some Unnamed Field {An Abstraction on Altar}



On Saturday morning, from where I sit, on the white wooden-planked porch of our nearly one hundred year old home, it surely looks like the Sabbath. Little pots sit around here and there, one of them an antique rusty old kettle. Through the slatted railing, azalea bushes creep up, shooting up haphazard, their trim much overdue. The earth is baptized in sunlight, the ground is drenched with grace like rain, the yellow and white daffodils have begun to peek out, reminding me there are new beginnings and His mercies fall fresh every morning. Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming forth to carry me home… –it wafts beautifully from my neighbor’s home across the street.

It’s reminiscent of rides with my grandfather as a child, and listening to my grandmother’s gorgeous voice at her old piano, the warm, ambient glow of afternoon light filtering in through the window.

Worship happens anytime my heart opens to acknowledge God, and an altar is anywhere I choose to remember, and Sabbath can be kept on a porch swing, friends, sun-drenched in Heaven’s light, bathed in grace, the words of an old hymn finding their way to me on the breeze. Are these things coincidental?

I don’t believe so.

God made all that is in the earth and everything he made was for man, and he gave Jacob a dream in an unknown place. It happened out of nowhere, in a place of nowhere, and yet Jacob knew surely God had been there. He awoke, and felt the air still stirring with his presence.

And when I, sitting on my porch swing, by the over-turned flower pot, dry wintered soil spilled out, hear those soul-awakening words, is it by chance?

Or, have I met God, and is this place, indeed an altar?

What if I decided to not be so busy today that I couldn’t appreciate the sunshine I’m baptized in? What if I purposed to not blindly go about the responsibilities of life, and not be able to see the daffodils blooming for what it really is–seeds of hope and restoration and a reminder of God’s good mercy to me after a harsh winter?

What if I listened intentionally to the breeze, to my neighbor calling a friendly Good morning and the whir of bike spokes and giggles as the children play–and call it what it is–the Divine Here With Me.

What if I pay close attention to the moments now, and see God in all of it, instead of waiting for a church service on Sunday morning, rushing through the preacher’s sermon, struggling to listen, because my belly is empty and the words even emptier to my well-worn, preached-out ears?

What if I chose to be confident that Jesus brings the Sabbath to me, wherever I am, as he did with the disciples in some unnamed field?

I believe in a God of mercy, one who doesn’t keep time the same way we do. And so why should it bother him if for a time in my life, it is a season of healing? Should I be surprised that he said, if one man chooses this day to set aside as holy, and another man, a different day, neither is wrong, and both have good reasons?

God is not so weak that He can’t handle my woundedness and the time it takes for me to heal. I know He has it under control, and that my soul will not somehow wander off the narrow path and accidentally jump onto the pathway to hell. He holds me in His hands, and none can pluck me out.

I am grateful that God is a wild man, for whom time, and space, mathematical equations, science and modern theology does not matter in the face of his grandness and durability. And none of the things that we think are so important can dictate to him.

He goes His own way. And I follow. I am curious about this mysterious God, and I have more questions than answers. So, like a child intrigued, I follow Him to see what He will do next, what he will show me next.

Where and when He moves, there is a quiet stirring, and I want to listen for it. To know when He is here, when and where I’ve met God, on a Saturday, in a field, the sage brush waving praises to Him–

in the gentle lull of a song escaping through the windows of my neighbor, a welcoming entreaty to come inside and commune–

in a grocery store, in a clerk’s weary eyes, as I beg a smile–

and this wild God, He’s also present as my lover and I lie down and I tell him he’s the only one I have ever wanted and will ever want–that he is the only man I want to touch me.

I feel the peace cover us like a thick winter blanket. Night’s dew falls on the daffodils as he gently lays me back on the pillow, and my long hair splays out. The daffodils will bud even more tomorrow, they will spread, ever so gently, spreading wide open, a reminder of His promises that He would never leave.

And these places, they are the altars where He meets me.

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Altar (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

What this link-up is about: 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 (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


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–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Altar. GO!



**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 23rd, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 24th, the prompt will be Bend .}


In the End, Three Things Remain

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


                                                                             photo credit 
                                                                    


This quote appeared on my Pinterest feed a couple of weeks ago and, like a chill breeze that steals in under the warped door frame, it has descended down deep into my marrow. For you see, I have been awash in brackish thoughts of late.

With a few exceptions, I have taken a step back from my online presence the last six months. Five months ago, I gave birth to my third son. Three months ago, my mother began another round of chemotherapy. My withdrawal from the non-stop traffic of the internet was both a conscious and inevitable choice. I do not regret my decision but I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit that, ever since, I have been at battle with doubt and envy.

My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning.

Writing, for me, has always felt like an intimate dinner party, hemmed in by golden light and the clink of dishes, measured in the crumbs stolen away on fingertips and the slow warmth from poured wine. There are the moments of sure knowing just as there are the heavy silences that come from the unknowing. But always, there is the table– worn and steady, wide and open.

But my attempts to translate that way of being to the online world feel antiquated and stilted, at best.

It feels like sidling up to a busy counter with a bustling lunch crowd. Bread is broken and laughter distilled, yes, but the din of conversation is confusing to this ambivert who simultaneously wants to try new dishes and run out the door, hands pressed over her ears.

I want to join in, truly I do, but sometimes it seems that in order to he heard anymore you just have to keep talking. And if you aren’t talking, others start walking.

That reality is the crack through which doubt and envy seep in, staining fabric already worn a bit thin. It’s also the tender spot struck silent by the quote above.

The last few months I have watched those whose words I love and champion take wing and fly and it has been glorious for the grand knowing of the gift that is to the world. But it has also been gut-wrenching. For as genuinely as I have exalted in their successes, I have also stood silent in the space that has opened up between us, tasting the char left in their wake. It has been difficult not to feel left behind.

To admit this feels anathema to all that I believe is good about the world of writing and blogging. I have become connected to an online community of writers (hereand hereand here, just to name a few) that, most assuredly, is a profound gift in my life. I have been encouraged and uplifted, loved and cherished, prayed for and buoyed by dozens of folks I’ve never met in real life. My identity as a writer, woman, spiritual being and friend, has been shaped immeasurably by my connections online. This is as true as the day is long.

So feeling jealous of others’ success–others who have lavished me with love and support, again and again–is a tell tale sign that something significant is amiss. I’ve lost my center, it seems, if it has become more about me and less about revelation and glory.

Since reading that quote from Buddha I’ve been meditating on the implications of what it would mean to fully embrace its truth. And I’ve been asking myself some hard questions.

What if I decided, right here and right now, to let go of the desires for applause and acclaim?

What if I decided, instead, to release my words to the world in an effort to sow love in greater measure? What if I chose to string together word upon word as a discipline in gentleness? And what if—what if—I honed my craft for the sheer love of art and I let that, and that alone, reveal the path meant for me?

I’m not sure how the answers to those questions will fair in a parley with the platform and influence jockeys. They might not even get an audience.

But I’m trying to be one that doesn’t care about all of that. For, in the end, there’s no greater platform than love, gentleness and grace.



Selah.






A classical piece {only the first piece in the video–the rest, you can listen to, if you enjoy doing so}, hand-picked by Holly, something she relates to–she says this is where her writer muse lives, in between the sad notes. What a beautiful soul she is. 







Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country. You can find more of her astoundingly gorgeous words here on her blog, A Lifetime of Days,  or you can find her twittering here, and                                            facebooking here




**This is a series on writing–Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}
Here are the other posts in this series:

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons


Rambling Vignettes of Listening {An Abstraction on Slippers}




I walk to the bathroom in my slippers at 6 pm, when my back feels like it will break, and bend over the bathtub anyway. Water and giggles splash me awake. I gently coerse them to their feet for a slathering of soap and the wash rag slides over their little bodies, and it’s like a good cleansing of my soul.

I do these things over and over—heat up the pajamas over the free-standing oil heater, slide them on, zip them up, then roughly towel-dry their heads and comb through wet hair. These rituals are quieting and peaceful, the heater a make-shift altar, the stool a pew, and the careful zipping and closure of buttons a concrete theology of the only kind that makes any sense to me—love. The theology that puts clothes on bare backs, brings a glass of water to the lips of the thirsty, washes the dirt of the unclean, and wraps arms round the filthy, looks into their eyes and accepts them the way they are.
Still in my pink and white furry slippers, plaid pajama pants, and stained Aeropostale hoodie, I dump can after can of tomatoes, beans, chilis and olives into a stock-pot large enough to feed a family of six for two nights. The soup simmers and warms the kitchen and my heart.
It’s difficult to pull myself away from the computer with all my adult friends, who make me feel so validated, and to ring my hands in prayer, in these rote routines that are never-ending. As soon as I wash and fold the clothes,  they are in the dirty pile again. I don’t get to leave home much, so it’s hard to stop “involving myself” in adult things. But living in this gentle, patient way requires that I turn off the noise and listen to my little people. And what I hear is beautiful in the silence, in the waiting, in the serving.
I practice the discipline of going outside, even when it’s cold. I don’t let myself be overcome with angst and melancholy. I look at the stars, and wait, because God speaks to me there.
I practice cutting off a conversation I’d really like to have on messenger, and walk outside because I can hear the giggles wafting in through my window from the trampoline, and don’t fancy myself too dignified to jump up on the trampoline and play silly games.
These are my altars, they are my sanctuaries, they are my church, my holy place.
This weekend I went on a bike ride with my daughter again to the store. This time it was the six year old. She is so fearless and brave. Not once did she say, Mama wait, or Mama I can’t keep up, or Don’t leave me. She cheerfully stayed behind, or sped on ahead, a huge proud grin spread wide across her face, and I, warily aware of cars that might come our way any moment, constantly tried to hold her back, or pull her up with me. Her bravery makes me come to a stop, and really take a look at my own courage, or lack thereof.
We all went to the playground on Sunday, and there was lots of sunshine there, as if it was waiting for us. It had not been beaming as brightly before.
Their smiles when I took pictures of them soaring on the swings found me in my stalled faith and depressed mood, and startled me awake and once again, I found a reason to believe.





I’ve struggled in my relationship with God, because I am afraid when I step out onto that limb in shaky belief, that He will leave me hanging, that I’ll be left alone, in jadedness and hurt.
For about a week, I could not hear Him at all, I thought. It seemed my heart was overwhelmed, confused, muddled. I worried, I doubted. I walked outside late one night, bundled up, and everything was still and my heart felt dead along with all the winter barrenness buried deep under the cold, wet ground. All the life had been beat down by freezing rain and all felt numb and desolate.
I let the sterile sleepiness overtake me for a moment. I felt abandoned. Then I surrendered, and looked up and the stars jolted me with their twinkling, their stark loveliness. I knew He was waiting. I said out loud, which is rare for me, Talk to me, GodWhat do I do with this?
And you know what? He didn’t leave me hanging. No friend, He comes on wings of love. He said to me, crystal clear, You are worrying over things you have no business worrying over. I am going to take care of it. Trust me, and stop worrying.
And he spoke something with limpid lucidity—grace.  And—love.
Yes, Father, I know. I see. I hear. And just like that, my fear was dissolved. In His hands, picking me up off that shaky limb.
I may have a relationship with Him now, all on my own, without someone else telling me what that should look like. Seriously. This is not blowing smoke, y’ know? No, for the first time, I mean it.
I thought I meant it long ago,  and I think in some ways I did. But– and here’s the really honest part– I was following someone else’s leading. I was doing it because I felt I had to– the advent, the lent, the praying, the homemaking (making cookies, folding clothes, and all the things). It was never enough unless I was doing IT ALL. I thought I was finding God in that. And in a way, I did. But maybe it was only a glimpse. I limited him, boxed him in, not in the ways I always had, but in a different way. I just gave him a new box.
Now, I’m listening. I’m not making idols, not play-acting, not doing Lent just because I’m thinking how much content it will offer my writing. I’m listening to the Spirit. I used to HATE it when people said that. Because I’m a rebel, and spiritual talk felt so superficial to me.
Oh, what I was missing out on, and then again, I wasn’t missing anything. Because I’ve travelled this roving path, like a gypsy desperately seeking the spark of life, and I’m listening. He is in the pain, the mess, the times I have too much to drink and go to bed drowsy, He’s in the words that aren’t being said when I’m talking to a friend, and I have to listen  for them, because then I get to hear HIM.

He is in the beauty, He is in the homework I don’t want to do with kids. He is in that beautiful dimpled smile my girl gives me, so proud of herself, when she reads her kindergarten reader.
I don’t care about prayer rituals. I don’t care about church services. I don’t care if my blog sounds dignified or if a lot of people read, or if I EVER write a book. Because these altars, on this sacred ground of wet bath-time tile floor? They teach me something a church service never could.
I want to listen, and I want to learn to be brave, and to be who He made me to be. And I don’t want to miss one precious moment. Oh, and believe me, I miss plenty.
But there’s the beauty in the mess, right there. I get to start all over the very second I pull myself away from my selfishness. Full Stop. Grace.


I guess I’m just talking about being set free.

To be free, we have to strip down bare, shirk of all that entangles. The noise, the comparisons, the selfishness, and the bitterness too–let’s throw them off. Those things keep you from listening, they keep you from freedom, and they keep you from creating the way He meant for me and for you to do. I know, because for a time when I allowed those things to consume, I just could  not write. My ears were stopped up, and I was caged inside the prison I had constructed for myself. 

Now I will embrace fearlessness. 

The courage I find in a bike ride teaches me to be brave enough to step out on the shaky limb, to believe and to say it out loud, that He speaks to me when I take notice, and that it’s in the red-winged bird’s flight, the rock song playing on the radio as we all bump along down the highway and it’s in the text messages a friend sends, holding fast with me in prayer and trust before God that His promise was never that things would be easy, but that He would finish all good things He has begun. 

He has spoken. I hear Him. 
What do you hear Him saying?




***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Serve (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

What this link-up is about: 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 (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


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–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Slippers. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Monday, the 10th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 10th, the prompt will be Altar .}