Category Archives: 1000 gifts

Lean Into the Light, Pictures From A Nutcracker Birthday {and Gratitude}

My little Lilly,

this light that came into our life as a complete surprise, you bring joy in the dark places of me and how could I have known? Because if you’d never come, I’d have gone on with life as usual, towing the three kids, never knowing there was supposed to be a fourth one, the one to plow up the bad soil of me and make my innards sing, light bursting through the fragments of my heart.

We celebrated the third year of your fresh, young life and yes, I wanted it to be an affair to remember–I admit I did–a beautiful celebration of the day you were born.

I regret that well, I may or may not have been a little too involved in the baking and preparation. But I’m a creative being, and I want to celebrate you and God and goodness and His holiness and this creation and all the wonderful brightness there is in your smile and your laughter and the sun and the warmth I feel when we’re together.

How long do I really have, how many times will the hands go ’round the face of time before it ceases its race and I find myself bored, you having flown off?

When will time just run out?

I have a secret to whisper to you, baby girl–I. am. afraid.

Afraid you’ll grow and I’ll miss it. I’m afraid it’ll happen while I’m folding clothes, while I’m running, gardening, or pursuing any number of things that make me happy.

And God forbid I should miss you while I tap away at my computer, or talk to people through screens.

But the truth is, all of that will happen. You’ll grow while I put shirts in the drawers, while I talk to my aging grandmother on the phone, and yes, even while I write.

And the real nugget here, dear girl? You need me to do all of those things–even the things that make me sing-on-the-mountaintop-happy.

You need me to be an example to you of how life is lived.

Mothering is such a delicate balance of living a life of example before you of what a woman should be and throwing example out of the window for an impromptu game of tickles and giggles underneath bed sheets in mornings softest rays of light.

And darling, how I love running around in the grass chasing you, the sun shining down upon us.

How I love when time slows down as I watch the light dance in your pale wheat locks. As time slows, all I can see is light around you, on you, in you, it’s in every part of you and it is you. The light.

And only you could do that for me, girl.

How I love lying in our hammock in the summer barefooted, you piled in with your sisters while I read to you in low tones ’til it’s late afternoon and our eyelids droop and threaten to close.

And in the winter you are the only shaft of light in the dungeon of dark, rainy cold that creeps into this old home through holes and cracks. The way you bounce around the house, your halo blonde waving as you run in your tutu, you remind me that good still exists in life.

I admit I am afraid, child.

I know I will miss you once you are gone. I fear walking around in circles, trying to figuring out what’s missing and knowing all too well what is wrong, my hands with nothing to do, my heart bursting to give and all I can hear is the silence and the clock echoing on the wall.

I know the day will come.

And for now, sweet, sweet Lilly, I want to pull you close and whisper in your ear, how that really, we don’t have to fear.

I want to tell you this secret, sweet child. Listen close. Love conquers fear. The wild, forgiving seventy-times-seven, going the extra mile, makes no sense kind of love.

The love that turns the other cheek, the love that washes over with grace and counts no wrongs and leaves wide open spaces to be ourselves, and believes the best always no matter what, even when mistakes are made, and doesn’t want what God hasn’t given and doesn’t worry about tomorrow–that love drives out all fear.

And so, little one, I have told you the best secret of all. I have told you the only truth you ever really need to know.

And now you know the whole story. So lean in close to me, and let’s be fearless together.

Let’s lean into our Father. Lean into the light, child, always into the Light.

Starting up counting gratitude here once again:….#1037-1048
For writing again…
For finding my voice…
For chimes singing a wind song for me…
For being quiet enough to hear…
Hearing my little Lilly say so many words…
How they fill up the silence with glory…
How she  teaches me to listen…
For Husband encouraging me to come outside in the sunshine
Walking around the deadened, rain-soaked yard, looking at all things that were once alive that are now dormant and cracked
Really seeing the state of things for what they are
Hoping for spring
Hope itself

                              Pictures from Lilly’s Nutcracker themed third birthday party:

Linking with Ann in the gratitude community…..

Laura…

and Emily…

Advertisements

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

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

So I stopped eating
By Emily Wierenga


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                             


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


                                                                                                                                        





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

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

and i’m wondering… will you help me?

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

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

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

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

(thank you)

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



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


 


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the grace for another week…

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






On In Around button



       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are my sojourners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude: {#956-976}……..

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

#957…the warmth of sunlight…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#967…watching birds, squirrels in the backyard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}

 




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

maybe he is Jesus to us today.

 

















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

 
The pure light of the two of them together…

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

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

 
 
 
Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

  On In Around button



   
       

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

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

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

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

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

.


 

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

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

 












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










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

 
 

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

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

 

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

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

 
 

 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude in pictures:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Linking with L.L…

On In Around button

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







 

Missing Jesus {And Gratitude}

Ivy dancing in the morning light, golden waves triveting around her shouldersher child-reverent face, turned up to the light, arms spread wide, and I think how she must be worshiping right before the throne.

The song plays…

 “So how can I thank you, What can I bring?

What can these poor hands lay at the feet of the King?

I’ll sing you a love song

It’s all that I have

To tell you I’m grateful for holding my life in your hands.”

She doesn’t know I’m watching and then she catches a glimpse of me and I smile warm, heart right proud and the oil of my approving love, it pours over her head and saturates her head to toe, cleansing out so much uncertainty.

She smiles shy. My soul sees hers. “You are precious.”

She turns down the music, looks at me. “Really?”

“Yes, you sure are.”

She smiles and continues to spin, this whole world, the morning sun and my heart spinning with her. These old wood floors and 100 year old walls creak and groan in honor of the Creator.

I can literally feel the weight of His glory come down like a thick cloud, a good cloud, like the haze of sweltering sun in a 17 year old girl’s free summer on the beach.

I am brimming over now.

Peace descends and in the fury of her innocence,  I am turned inside out and my heart swells, all the cracked, stony places soaking up the grace.

Because I’m thinking, “When was the last time I spun around like that, arms thrown wide open in abandon, face and heart lifted up to God?

When did I last forget about time and this space of all that must be done now, this moment with all the worries it holds and just breathed in and out?

Just breathed in and out the God-grace, the living waters that quench my aging and weary parched throat.

When did I last become like a child and turn face up to Heaven, to the light, in wild hope and trust?

When did I last have that child-faith that doesn’t question the One, the only Father who takes care of the child?”

And I heard God say through my daughter—that I don’t hunger near enough.

He has awakened me to it, though–really stirred life within–told me I am His own–His beloved–He is wooing me–the God of all creation. He loves, He loves, He LOVES me! He tells me when I wake in the morning to the sunrise softly glinting through curtains, “This is for you! It’s all for YOU!”

His pursuit of me makes me hunger more for Him. And this revealing of my lack? It is Him lavishing love so thick.  And I want to love that thick.

Oh, that I could abandon everything, leave behind myself just to follow hard after him.

That my words with my girls would be tender, that He would love them through me, that the truth in my ways would speak of Him, that I would find myself rocking and soothing the orphan babe who has no human touch– no one to hold her, that wisdom would be on my lips.

That I would show them grace because we dance to Elvis Jailhouse Rock , Black-Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow, or Toby Mac, and we laugh, and wine is on the table, and we pray for God to help us love one another and take care of one another better, and our evenings aren’t filled with sitcoms or internet gaming and socializing, but we are playing love-games at the supper table and running and swimming and living life, and reading that we are God’s princesses at bedtime. We read how that when we’ve been the prodigal, our Father King, He always embraces us with tears in his eyes and overwhelming love and puts a ring on our finger and a crown on our head and there is no shame in the presence of Daddy-King.

And as my daughter twirls in light, I have this growing, gnawing ache.

I miss Jesus.

Gratitude: #902-916

Through giving thanks for the small, everyday things and snapping shots and noticing these brief moments captured in my lens– a frame of light caught in her hair, angling the camera to get a different view of the sun streaming through leaves, running through my backyard, awe-inspired–to get a shot of a hawk–I have learned something extremely valuable in life: through thanksgiving and awe, praise and glory-giving back to God for His creation, for all His gifts, is where I find joy, this elusive gift I have sought for half my life-span.

#902 trip to Destin with just my mom and sister…bonding time…

#903 girl talk with my sister about real-life issues…

#904 hard eucharisteo…one of the hardest talks I’ve ever had to have and probably ever will–with my mother—all of us working through difficult emotional spaces

#905 relaxing on the beach…listening to waves…

#906 napping on my beach blanket…all of us quiet…

#907 “What happens in Destin, stays in Destin”—a little saying coined by my mom…~smile~

#908 sunburns and fighting through physical pain and being grateful for today, a good attitude and laughter our medicine

#909 Bella’s argument: “It’s. Not. My. Birthday yet!!” when we would tell her happy birthday. Apparently it isn’t really a birthday until there’s a party?

#910 Her five-year-old-lisping into the phone to her daddy that she had a great birthday and had a cake—a chocolate one, and everybody enjoyed themselves at her birthday.

#911 My eleven year old daughter who isn’t very affectionate, crawling into my lap or hugging me and nodding up and down when I ask if she needs Mama love. Melts my heart.

#912 Hard eucharisteo…confronting issues and growing in Christ with sisters, in grace and love—seeing the fruits of this in me and others…

#913 My director calling just to encourage me and to tell me not to be nervous…

#914 How I, usually so unprepared, up ‘til 2 am, somehow arrived more-than-enough prepared and I for once felt what it was to be a leader…the grace of God growing these skills in me I didn’t know I had inside…Him pulling these out—me being brave and following him…

#915 My amazement at the confidence He has given…

#916 Learning that humility isn’t a heavy cloak of being less than that we wear, but it is an action, a serving, a loving, a confident knowing who I am in Christ, forging ahead in the path made straight for me, using the talents He calls forth from within, abandoning the things I hold onto so tightly—fear, distrust, pride, selfishness, woundedness and I answer His call, unaffected by others’ criticisms or praises. Giving praise to God that this is finally. becoming. truth for me and reality I can see as I walk out my daily life!!!

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably making vegan pad thai or whole-wheat cookies with my girls, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love  you!  Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.

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


and linking with L.L…and others below…click on links to read these amazing sites!

On In Around button



>





Loving You Recklessly {and Gratitude}

Oh, sometimes it just sweeps over me so violently–how I love you, my man, more than life itself. Our life together is all I know now, all I can really feel in the marrow of me. The memories of these years–the struggling, the bonding, the falling apart and coming back together, all the nights and days knowing your powerful love–in the sunshine on our faces as we work and play and in the night as we love with the moon glowing upon us–it’s all I really know deep in my soul.

You have taken me on such a wild, breathtaking love journey. I go on and on about intimacy and weigh down the air with words, but you have taught me the hard work of love every. single. day.

Every time you wash the dishes, try to help me get on track with a schedule, when you jump in without saying a word to help make up for my inadequacies–you teach.

How you are quiet in faithful trust, how you hold your tongue when I’m angry and I say too much–and you just stand there, looking at me, eyes an anchor when I look into them and me drowning in this sea of emotion–you let the grace just pour over us in waves.

When you patiently, quietly show the girls the way to do something right and responsible, and you laugh softly at their mistakes and you don’t harshly correct–you are love in motion. And I want to be this–this love in motion I see in you. That I get to be a recipiant– I am one blessed woman.

And honestly? I just don’t know why you keep putting up with me. I have a hard time staying within the grocery budget, I’m not a great housekeeper–I leave dishes piled high until after the kids and I have had fun outdoors, and I fail at keeping time–can never help us arrive anywhere punctually.

Grace is this thing that I’m always hoping for, and always surprised to receive.

And for all the times that I’ve held you to your debts, and forgot to forgive, I pray that grace comes on the wings of a dove, carrying the gospel message. And for all the baggage that may be stacked high between us, I pray that His justification and righteousness would come on the backs of wild stallions, their hooves pounding in the Christ-blood, and rescue us from our sin-wreckage.

Because I am just this wife that fails over and over again. I really cannot be the woman that you need, and then you bend over my bedside in still-dark morning and as I take in the smell of your cologne and sweet breath, feel the hot against my neck, you whisper into my ear affirming words, words of love and devotion. You always do this when we’ve had a hard night and disagreed.

You always come on powerful wings of grace and anchor me back to Love.

Gratitude:

3 gifts from my Heavenly Father…

#815 grace, grace, grace…How He loves, in spite of me

#816 how He picks me up and gently rocks me, soothes me, lets me know its going to be alright and hides me in the shadow of His wing–Psalm 17:8 “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

#817 how He leads me so faithfully always in the right direction, my steps sure

#818 how Eddie and I hold hands as a team, and we require obedience and responsibility from the children

#819 how Eddie leads us all in godliness and keeps us all on course with work ethic–yielding all to please our Father

#820 his phrase–“You have to work hard if you want to play hard”

#821 how we all know there is reward at the end of our work

#822 how Lorna says to me in the middle of couch being scrubbed down, “Mama, I feel good about the house being clean” and the pink glow on her pretty face.

3 difficult gifts…

#823 hormones taking over my body, I’ve yelled, and Lorna hugs me and tells me she forgives me.

#824 Husband and I, neither of us able to sleep, staying up all night with little one while she is in a night terror–all of our efforts unable to cure her inconsolable crying

#825 me and the girls missing the free theatre play because baby girl is throwing up–thankful little one is ok
 

#826 getting up earlier with purpose

#827 watering flowers in the hot, early morning sun

#828 peeking through the crack to watch them play, lost in child wonder

3 gifts I became today in serving…

#829 chauffeur

#830 neighborhood mom–foregoing my run for a playdate at our house–game of Bocee in the backyard and turkey and tofu lasagna for supper

#831 friend–dancing silly and making my daughter and her friend laugh

#832 folding clothes with my girls

#833 birds singing as we do schoolwork outside

#834 finding a bird’s nest in our little backyard tree

#835 teaching my little one to write her numbers

#836 her sweet dimpled grin, her and I both so proud when she writes her name

#837 lying in the hammock, all of us tangled up, reading Little House On the Prairie

a gift bent, beautiful, loved…

#838 bright yellow sunflowers brought to me by our neighbor, starting to wilt

#839 a tray brought to me by eldest daughter with fried eggs as eyes, toast with jam for a mouth, and bits of bacon for eyebrows and mustache –just because she knows her Mama has a hard time getting up in the morning and she enjoys serving

#840 Lilly’s soft blue hippo in her arms in our bed, her limbs splayed out, the hippo’s limbs hanging limply for the wear

#841 the girls and I climbing a tree to see newborn baby Brown Thrashers

#842 how devotedly and tirelessly the mama Brown Thrasher watches over and incubates her nest

#843 how in one fell swoop, the father appears from nowhere, sqwaking and thrashing his wings, threatening our young cat who has climbed right up to the nest

#844 his text to me sent out of the blue, sweet words of affirmation for no reason…

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably helping construct a science project, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, playing tag, having a glass of wine with Husband, or just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. I love this community of grace-filled people! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.






On In Around button




In Which I’m Real, Tell Why I Quietly Write {& Plead for Grace}

I settle a little one down whose cries awakened Husband, and I sob to him at 2 am that I feel like I’m being crushed. Panic racing through my mind–all the buzzing screens, clicks, words, conversations–play and re-play in blazing fast-forward like a bad trip.

When I lay my head on his chest, and he wraps arm ’round, it feels like being rocked.

I rock out the sobbing cry, snubbing and stammering out the fury of emotions held inside for weeks and months. I can’t breathe, I tell him, can’t sleep, and how I thought as I lie there that it would be better if all this was ended. It comes out in rythmic force. I constantly feel. as if the bottom. is about to. fall out. from beneath me. Hands flail in the dark and hot lava pours down flaming red, puffy cheeks. The Shadows don’t let him see, but Husband, he knows me. He asks if I always feel this way. I nod, murmur a quiet yes, the waves of terror all starting to subside as his understanding and caring begin to sweep over.

The social anxiety, insomnia, and depression here since Lilly was born, I google agorophobia and, yeah, I bashfully admit to myself, the symptoms are there. I didn’t know there was possibly a name for the feeling I get when I can’t keep up with the world.

I don’t know if this is the right name, but for me, learning that there is a name out there for this sort of thing? This helps explains the innate, powerful urge for quiet, why I run from social media in an age when “everyone” is constantly engaged, why entering the grocery store and going to church feels like I’m lying on a bed of nails. It explains the blurring mind-racing and sobbing at 2 am. My mind, my body just can’t keep up.

But maybe I’m not supposed to keep up. Maybe I’m not built that way–all this tweeting and sharing comments with the world? I’d like to softly whisper it, and send it out on the summer breeze: I don’t know that I’m God-built to be in constant contact, with distractions too many for me to keep my head from spinning.

Maybe that’s the good news here? That God already knows what we can handle? He did create the Sabbath–so He intelligently calculated rest into the equation of time, apart of our daily routine. He worked and rested–so I should work and rest. And rest–that can take on quite a different face for all of us. For some, this means never entering the full force of social circles that overpower and leave us weak.

Lying in his arms, I tell him I’m weak, that there are so many things I want to do–grow a garden with my girls, learn to knit with that kit my Mama bought me four years ago, read that stack of books, be a loving mama to these four kids, educate these four kids, just go out in the sunshine with them–and not enough physical strength to man-up to all the work everyday.

How many things do I have to pare back, pull away so there is room to breathe?

I serve on no committees, run no charities, bake no fresh bread. I’m just a mom who has a huge pile of laundry, a grocery list I’m afraid to go to the store with, and everything where it shouldn’t be–a few apple cores lying around in laundry baskets and books lying with their white-paged corners pushed just far enough, yes, smudged right there in the grape jelly on the kitchen counter.

And admist the chaos, I’m just a simple girl with a love for simple things: running, flowers, sunshine in my children’s hair.

I really want to say this out loud: I need these simple things–these God-gifts–to feel connected, to feel that I belong, to feel that I’m okay in this whole wide universe. 

When all around me and underneath me feels like it’s falling apart, I just want to know that I’m simply held, that it’s enough for me to just be and that God gets glory through that.

So maybe this really is the important thing to know: there are just seasons of simple. Seasons when all God is calling us to do is the very basic. And in some seasons the tasks of sleeping, eating, getting exercise and taking care of our families can even be a challenge. Every. single. day.

I’m not built to do it all. None of us are. Sometimes I just have to scale back on expectations, peel back committments so I can scale up these mountain walls and peel back these shadows to see–peel back this thick, dark cloud of burden, behind which lies the stage where real life is played out. Where food and Word is enjoyed by the whole family at mealtime, water satisfies children’s parched throats, and I look on lovingly, every bone in my body that cries out for heaven satiated in this small moment of God’s glory felt as I rock my child, yellow silky whisps brushing my cheek in these shadows. And it’s right here in these fleeting heartbeats that I know that I can’t be everything to everyone, but I can do this, right now, here in the quiet where no one sees.

It’s like Husband so wisely keeps telling me: “You aren’t a writer who happens to be a mother. You are a mother who just happens to be a writer.”

I will scale up that mountain, ask God to help me peel back that cloud, and shout out from it’s very top: God has made me free in His gospel of grace, and though these weary bones cry out for Heaven in this worldly tug-of-war, He has made me the way I am to cause me to turn to Him in praise! He makes me see His excellence in making me and I turn to His arms for comfort and rest. There I am free, really, really free, in His understanding Father-arms.

And in the shadows, God, He knows me.

Just a few of my Grace-Gifts from the past month, counting in thankfulness to God still:

one lone bright yellow maple leaf on the ground of the woods

hiatus leaving me refreshed and healed from so much anxiety

girls’ giggles

Husband working hard on schoolroom

messes in floors made by baby girls, all of us having work and a purpose, and buckets and mops making floors shiny

a weekend alone at home–just the two of us–and a day out of town having fun together

Husband grilling salmon and eating outside in the middle of the week

jumping up spontaneously on the trampoline to enjoy being with my girls and getting a workout at the same time!

kitchen table top gleaming beautifully

the way a wash rag feels in my hand as I make beautiful

a surprise visit from a dear friend

time to sit and write a letter to a close friend

time alone to run free in the woods

how he needs me, how I need him

**Please read–Friends, I write this post with a trembling heart, not knowing how it will be received. Because of what I expressed here, I will not be able to 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 with God is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. I thought of taking the comment section off completely, but I would like to give you the opportunity to share if you like. I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. You all really do add such depth to the journey here…Also, 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! I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here.  

joining with Ann for counting gifts….. and also for Walk With Him Wednesday… Shared with Emily…

On How Community Loves {Bed Hair and All}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have been Jesus with skin on to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still counting with Ann in gratitude to Father…

Gratitude:

#758 blue jay bathing in bird bath in front yard

#759 me and girls stopping to watch from the window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#771 seeing them pull back into the driveway

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

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

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

Joining with sweet Ann and others in community…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Fumbling Toward Destruction

You can go here to get the beginning to this story….which will help you understand the second part better….

So I began stumbling down this dark path, numb and despondent me, groping along as if blind. And somewhere around the age of 12 or 13, I began to have an aversion to eating. Greasy hamburgers made my stomach turn, and when placed in front of me, I begrudgingly ate a few small bites, and then threw it up.

I was so dislocated from everyone else. They were all enjoying the meal together and talking and laughing but it was like I was on the outside of a dark glass, looking in, unable to join in, this depressed bubble impermeable. I did not like mealtime–I spent my time closed off in the bathroom–isolated, all alone. Paranoia consumed me. When anyone made a comment about how little or how much I ate, the paranoia wrestled me to the ground and strangled me. I suffocated under the weight of this monster. I couldn’t breathe.

The only comfort to me was the only thing familiar–me–just the way I’d always been. The little girl me was scared and didn’t want to change, didn’t want hips, extra fat, things I didn’t recognize–I was losing me. Maybe I was trying to control a life that felt a little like it was on a runaway train. Maybe this was the way I reacted to the negative things said about me–I self-inflicted pain.

I scratched at the wounds and let them bleed out.

{I’m over at Chasing Silhouettes, Emily’s (of Imperfect Prose) eating disorder blog, if you would like to follow me there for the rest of the story? Just hover and click on the link there. I’ll be there, waiting with a warm smile, ready to continue the conversation, friends. I can’t promise tea and hors d’oeuvres, but you are welcome to bring along chocolate, or coffee, or vise of your choice…..Sharing with trembling, friends…}

WAIT! Just one more thing before you go? I am excited about this free ebook, Giving Up Normal: Surburban Girl Meets the Streets from my friend, Alene–not because I’ve read it already–it’s only recently been made available–but because I just love her heart and I know the message and reading her heart is going to be awesome! PLUS–It’s FREE! Who couldn’t be excited about that?! Please follow the link just above to get your free copy–or just show some love to this sweet, God-adventurous, generous woman!

Also, counting God’s graces, His perfect gifts in my life along with Ann…if you would like to stay for a minute to read, or come back here after the story?….

Gratitude:

#734 me and girls reading Little Women on blanket spread in green grass, dappled with late afternoon light

#735 us all having a science lesson from Jeannie Albright’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy    about God’s creation in backyard while husband mows

#736 picnic supper on front porch with candles

#737 going out in the middle of the day to jump in sunshine with my girls

#738 the sunlight in their hair

#739 exercising with my oldest girls

#740 taking all four of my girls to town to meet Meme–that I have a way to get us there

#741 that I’m well enough to get out and do things on my own–glory to God

#742 Husband and I having the entire weekend to ourselves

#743 going out to eat mexican on a Friday night and how Husband is happy with price and quickness of service

#744 how in getting older, eating out is about all we can stand, and we want to be back home, with wine and a movie

#745 me and Husband huddled on swing in a cold-front spring morning, blanket shared wrapped ’round us, drinking coffee and listening to birds, talking about dreams without interruption

#746 spending Saturday cleaning and organizing our office area together for me and the girls to have a place to homeschool

#747 Husband sacrificing what he would like to do on a Saturday for our needs–what a man

#748 when all the work has worn me down, and I have forgotten the fact I’m hungry, Husband popping his head in to say let’s get out for awhile, get dressed, and takes me to my favorite restaurant

#749 knowing how noise and crowds get to me, him asking me do i want a booth, if i want him to sit next to me, always concerned about me

#750 Lorna’s response when she comes home, “I missed you a little bit.”

#751 wonderful Sunday morning service

#752 a few ladies telling me that they do want to do the {in}courage beach bash after all–my elation after i had given up on the idea–and a few are all we need

#753 coming home to roast filling the house

#754 beautiful sunshine and me running out to the trampoline like a little kid to jump with my girls

#755 all six of us jumping together on a Sunday afternoon

#756 being asked to share my story

#757 that God is using it to expand my territory, to open up my heart and make me go out on a limb to grab someone hurting

This was a hard story to write, friends, and I stripped bare and laid it out, but if there is something more–something I may have forgotten in my quest to get it written–to the story you would like to hear about, would you mention it in the comments, or send me an email?

Shared with sweet Ann and others in community at…

Emily…

L.L….
On In Around button

Laura…





and Jen…

Jennifer…

Shanda…

and Michelle…