Category Archives: 1000 gifts

A Girl Lost In Smoke and Mirrors {What Does God Say About Beauty?}

{There are many things on my heart to say this morning, many things I long to convey, to pour out, but God has placed this on my heart for now and has surprised me by opening the door for me to share something that has laid dormant for so long, that I am really baffled as to how best to share it….Please bring some grace along with you, friends, as you read…I will need it….much love…}

I don’t like this woman that stares back at me in the mirror. This once-young body has been ravaged by the throes of motherhood–all those babies I grew and breastfed–and left a shell of skin that I don’t recognize.

The once glowing, young face has been replaced by wrinkly skin that doesn’t snap back into place when I smile or frown–the lines stay. The glow of youth now just ashen and sagging, my green having seen some pain through the years, peeking out. They’ve learned to not sparkle so much, their fierceness quieted by the hard lessons and harsh words.

My skin constantly breaks out, seemingly with no cure, and the scars bear the evidence that where beauty once so brilliant shown, now time has obviously marched right across my face and staked territory.

“Honey, time marches on, and eventually you realize it’s marchin’ across your face.”
                                                                 -Truvy–Steel Magnolias

I feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis and back in highschool all at the same time.

I’ve found it hard to come to grips with this, to like the skin I’m in, to be comfortable in it, and more than that, to believe what God says about me–that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.

I remember Husband’s words that women in today’s culture seek to be sexy, but the most beautiful woman is a confident woman–a woman who can wear old jeans, pull her hair back in a pony-tail and laugh, and be happy with herself and her God.

I know he’s right–I do, but I don’t feel confident and I don’t feel so wonderfully made when this body is decaying and falling apart.


Old habits die hard.

Growing up, I was always, always complimented on my outward beauty. It was the only thing I got noticed for, and was completely unaware why. I tried hard to fit in, to be apart, took a stab at jokes, tried to find a tight space in conversation to slip in a clever remark.

But I was made fun of and laughed at–this girl who looked out windows, closed eyes in blinding sun and day-dreamed too much and didn’t get the dirty jokes–told that I was a dumb-blonde, that I was so out of it and air-headed.

I knew that they were joking, just having fun, but I was the butt of the joke, and it didn’t feel like fun to me–I was the one who was paying the price for their fun. I felt deflated–worthless–nothing of value in my heart and mind. I’d look back out the window again and drift off some place where it didn’t hurt as bad to be me.

As I grew taller and began to take shape–my face becoming that of a woman, my beauty was all anyone was interested in–I had nothing else to offer. I felt stupidly clumsy, falling all over myself in front of people, not knowing what to say. It was just easier to shut off and not be interested in meeting new people. I didn’t understand this extreme social status game, me this bookish girl all in my own dream world, shyly preferring characters in stories to real people and the pain they inflicted.

Books were my closest friends. I would come home and run to the comfort of my bed where I would fling myself down and read for hours. I would look out the window at the dogwood and think of the nails that Jesus took for me, but unfortunately I did not know the grace that man came to give.

I was so empty.

This is where I took a turn down a long, dark path. This was just the beginning….

Dear, kind friends, this is only the beginning of the story–I apologize for leaving you hanging, but Emily {of Imperfect Prose} has asked me to share my anorexia story and I will be sharing that over at her eating disorder site next Monday. Please come back and read of my journey? It would be such an extravagant grace to have you back here then and if you would like, to follow me to her place to get the full story….

A little glimpse of the beauty to come and some encouragement for you today: …..

 This is what God says about my beauty, about this frail, human body:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days you have ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” Psalms 139:13-18

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction in on her tongue. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”–Proverbs 31:25,26,30 

 Prayer: 

God, I want real beauty. I want to be a servant with the worn spots of motherhood on me. Let me wear the work apron in place of fine jewels and instead of being obsessed with lashes lavished with makeup and with curling, let me have eyes that are a place of found grace when my kids have fallen into sin, not lingerie-store pushed up and out, but a soft breast for little ones to fall asleep on, and not a perfect hour-glass figure, but a wife and mother that prays on the hour for You to come love them through me, and not a mother who checks herself in the mirror, mumbling insults in front of little ears….

{please come back for the rest next Mon? I will share details from my eating-disorder journey and encouragement on what God says about a woman’s body vs. what our culture says–I promise it is freeing! He gives more grace, friends! Always more grace!}

Sharing with a trembling heart…hitting publish with shaky hands, and as Emily says, letting Jesus write through me…and counting, this week again, through all the hard times, with Ann…..

Gratitude:

#720 daughters and me doing exercise together everyday

#721 that they ask to do things with me

#722 Bella’s pleading 4-yr-old-lisp request: “Pleasth, Mama, can I go with you? Pleasth??” and how even though I want time alone, I can’t resist.

#723 me and Bella smelling the flowers together in the garden center at her prompting

#724 me taking girls out for the day to get my hair done–first time in a year {!} and to take the girls to a skating party–surviving social anxiety

#725 our whole family serving at our church this week–way out of our comfort zonethe beauty of giving versus receiving

#726 an unspoken hard eucharisteo

#727 sun in face, looking up at trees above, light dappled through leaves, tears brimming over, heart heavy and conversation just between my Father and me

#728 an impromtu supper picnic at the lake with friends–conversation, laughter, love, support

#729 my friend’s wisdom and loving encouragement…how she grounds me

#730 our family making. it. early. for Sunday service!!

#731 a dear woman at church asking me to sit with her and discuss homeschooling–her husband divulging his concerns for his 12 yr old daughter–the wild grace that I could have anything to offer this family–only God, only God
#732 that with all my shortcomings, that maybe God can still use me

#733 the opportunity to share my story–something I wasn’t even aware that I needed to do until I was asked–that it will be healing for me and hopefully for others…

Friends, I would LOVE for you to leave your thoughts–your comments are so precious, and minister to my soul–I am probably in a corner of my home somewhere cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, sorting through laundry, helping my second grader sound out words, or talking with wonderful Husband over wine….I am sorry that I cannot answer every comment, but please let me know you were here, so I can stop by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

Shared with Ann in community at…

Emily…

L.L…
On In Around button

and Laura…




Jen…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

Resurrecting A Marriage {Ponderings of Easter}

The kids are at the grandparents for the weekend and we are getting ready to leave and Husband tells me matter-of-factly that it’s not a date, asks me why I’m wearing heels. Heels click loudly on hardwood and ring through the house and I am embarrassed at my obviousness. My heart is crushed, because in my little-girl-grown-up-heart, I had so hoped he would notice, say I was pretty, look at me longingly, put his hand just there on the small of my back as he led me to the car.

Instead, an hour later, it all comes out of me hot and rushed and a little too loud how that I don’t feel loved.

Why is it that God made me that way–with a particular love-language that my husband doesn’t understand?

I look up to Father, to the One who can fill this deep, vast void in me, this canyon of waters that rushes wild and snares anything that comes along in it’s thrashing.

I look to the One who knows the ache and understands the pain of rejection.

I look to the One who gets me, who points my sin out to me gently one by one, so I’m not overwhelmed, and seeing my ugly, loves me anyway–unconditionally.

I look up and I say to Him, “Father, you know my heart. You know my heart, Father. You know my heart.”

And He does. He knows that I love my husband passionately, that I would go to hell and back for that man, that my children are my crown of glory, that I would go down to the depths before I would let one blonde hair on their halo-heads be touched by evil. God understands, because His Son is His crown, whom He loves, in whom He is pleased, and I am a co-heir with him, and I am God’s beloved, His beautiful jeweled crown.

He knows that I spend hours reading, thinking, trying to learn new ways to make home happy and peaceful and safe and a place that everyone wants to be. He knows that I search frantically for the way. He knows that on my own I am helpless in the ways of homemaking and the ways of God.

He knows that I am a screw-up. He knows that just the moment that I write a beautiful story about mothering, and hit publish, then I grind my teeth and yell at my children, and their happy chin botches up and their lip turns down and quivers and the eyes look at me, deep pools of hurt.

He knows that I forget to be grateful, I forget to do the simple act of telling Him thanks, that this home has more harsh words–words that break– than I want it to.

He knows that I run in a vicious cycle of try hard, fail, give up and try hard again, as the Pastor said on Easter Sunday. He knows I try hard at Lent and celebrating Easter and I am deficient.

He knows that Easter draws close, I close up and want to withdraw, because as his death becomes more and more real, as the thing draws heavy upon me, my human emotions and expressions simply cannot do Him justice. And I’m rendered useless in His presence.

He is the only One that really sees my heart, sees my tears, mourns with me, catches my tears and keeps each one in a bottle. He never forgets one tear that escapes the soul-windows, them leaking out pain.

Husband and I walk hand in hand into a local restaurant dating back to the 1840’s and when we sit down and after the waiter has left, he touches my knee, looks me in the eye, and he already has me.

Those soft blue eyes with such care in them, I just get lost and want to leap right in like a wild woman. He says he is sorry, and that’s all I really need to hear. And the conversation continues and we talk about the artists splayed on the brick wall, and we are a little taken with the place, and I convince him to share some World Famous Black Bottom Pie.

What I really have a hard time swallowing down, though, as we sit there and I look at him, is that I have been ungrateful. I know that I pushed until I got what I wanted–time, closeness, and it’s just the two of us in all the world if I can just get five uninterrupted moments to stare into those eyes.

But I long for the day when I serve him so well that I have abundant grace to pour out when he is in a dry season and he can’t readily give me those moments–I long to be this woman full of grace, wisdom on my lips.

God, burn me, Refiner’s fire, from the inside out–start with my mouth–and just take over and consume–love through me, serve through me.

Later when we are finally alone in the dark, and he reaches over and lays his hand on me as I lie still, lets it slide down, I feel the kindling of the moment, tiny sparks that take over and consume.

And I am this–bride waiting with candle burning brightly, always waiting for her bridegroom when he chooses to come for her.

I weep inside over who I’ve been, for when I have fallen asleep and let my wick go out, when I have missed the glory of God, quenched the Holy Spirit with the crushing words of my mouth.

I weep only on the inside and I open up completely to him, this man that has such power over me, let the grace pour over me as the love between us is made.

My heart, through my husband, is revealed to me and drawn back to God, who holds me and is the only One who can fill this scary, raving mad unquenchable void in me.

Gratitude:

#689 e-mails from beautiful sisters

#690 for mentors

#691 illness leaving our home finally, Satan’s lies defeated

#692 my best friend coming to my home for a spontaneous visit

#693 the grace of her sitting on my porch swing, pouring our hearts out

#694 the way she dotes on my girls–how she does this everytime she sees them–the thousand, countless ways she is thoughtful toward me

#695 how they call her Auntie April, because she is that to them

#696 our run through the trails later

#697 how we can say anything to one another, how we kackle silly and share unabashadly what God is showing us about our sinful hearts

#698 hours outside in the sun picnicing, Husband coming home and playing badmitton until twilight pushes us all inside

#699 how Bella runs up to her Daddy in the drive and asks him to come play–how he can’t say no

#700 Bella writing her ABC’s and her name

#701 her dimpled grin–how her whole face lights up like the heavens when she shows me so proud–how i could fall into those deep ravines of cuteness and get lost right there at the corner of her mouth

#702 how I wonder if the glory of God can be summed up in the face of this child

#703 Ivy’s loving hugs that make me feel wrapped up in a warm blanket

#704 Ivy coming and telling me she clasps her hands together and prays to Jesus in her head, and she hears Him talking to her

#705 Lorna’s “I Am From” poem–that she’s a poet at heart like her Mama

#706 that I was able after a two-year battle with illness, to take babies to doctor and store–still can’t believe I’m better–glory to Him

#707 After Bella’s shots, her concern when the nurse places Lilly on the table, and she says to my Granny upon stepping out of the room: “I bet Lilly is crying.”

#708 an incredible few weeks of Lent and how God has lavishly blessed our time together as a family

#709 how He took us from being lost in exhaustion and t.v. to re-focusing our efforts toward our family goals–His grace to be at the supper table, enjoying God together

#710 an amazing Easter service, indescribable worship to an even more indescribable God, communion and the confession of sins at the altar, loving prayer woman-to-woman and man-to-man, the gospel like i have never seen it presented

#711 how in my failures, God meets me and when my human emotions fall short of expressing and celebrating His beauty, how He is still glorified through me, not because of me, but because He is God

#712 that the story of the cross and His blood shed never gets old–a fresh revelation of His gospel and grace all over again

#713 that God almighty Himself would wrestle with me, would reveal Himself to me, over and over, in spite of myself

#714 that His blood speaks a better word than all the empty claims I’ve heard upon this Earth, speaks righteousness for me and stands in my defense–lines from a favorite song

#715 a beautiful day of Easter celebration with family, that I was able to pull off a gorgeous dinner, with all their help, in spite of my organization handicap–how we all worked together, talked, laughed

#716 the beautiful grace of my parents washing up the dishes side-by-side before they left

#717 my Husband, how even though I’m his help-meet, he is also my helper in life–how he is there for me always in every circumstance and we are a team

#718 Husband’s remark as we fall asleep, a beautiful day, a job well done, everyone was proud, he says–I don’t understand this, but accept the grace anyway

#719 this song that broke me during Easter service–one of my favorites… and here is the video–it is  not for the faint of heart, but is a real depiction of our Lord and the blood He spilled for us…the blood I praise Him for…

{I actually have two videos for you…if you only have time for one, definitely–choose the second–I watched this at church Sunday and have never heard the gospel presented quite like this–it will rock your world}

Friends, your comments mean so much to me–please leave your thoughts so that I can drop by at your place to leave some encouragement for you. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably in some corner of my home sorting through laundry in danger of mildewing, and I hope to visit with you as soon as I get the chance! Thank you in advance for grace, friends! I love this community of grace-filled people!

Shared with Ann in community at…

and Laura…

L.L…
On In Around button

Emily…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

Bending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude:

#630 picnic and badmitton in backyard orchestrated by oldest daughter–cold fried chicken, carrots and turkey sandwiches

#631 planting flowers with my girls

#632 a teaching moment–explaining a bit of horticulture to the girls–how you always know the best soil to plant anything in–dark and full of earthworms

#633 Ivy’s reaction: “What are earthworms?” and the lesson continues…

#634 Ivy’s attempt at repeating what she’s learned–“There are neutrons in the ground? What if the earthworms eat it all up nad there’s none left for the flowers?”

#635 washing down porch and thinking of my Mama–how she loved everything clean and enjoyed working, how I’m like her, dirty and wet in my flip-flops

#636 a weekend trip–just the six of us–to the science center, and enjoying precious, peaceful moments, how I was able to handle keeping the children calm, digging into serving, that I’m better and Husband had a helper

#637 powerful flare-up of chronic illness while on our trip–not being able to fully enjoy this glimpse of a time away–coming home with a cloud hanging over us–hard eucharisteo–thanking Him for healing anyway because all things are in His time and Sovereign God knows…

#638 seeing God’s healing in ways I wouldn’t have expected or wanted: in withdrawing, in slowing down, in saying no to more demands and yes to more of what He’s already put right in front of me–my family

#639 little Lilly’s hands exploring and fingering my skin as she lies next to me, how her silky hands soothe me and how my baby’s touch is so therapeutic

#640 me and Ivy going shopping for flowers, a girl’s day just for the two of us, and how much fun it was to be together

#641 me and the girls making a grace garden together…

#642 Husband coming outside after sending the girls for me twice, mildly frustrated, waving the spatula and asking for help with children gone wild while he’s trying to cook…oh, the joys of a large family…may as well give thanks and bask in the beautiful–not the grueling and ugly–work of it…

#643 Lorna wanting to stay outside and clean up, washing soil off of brick steps while I go into the house to help Husband with children

#644 new slate tiles on kitchen counters after several years of no countertops

#645 blogging friend, Michele, that helps me with homeschooling, helps guide me, who even considers hopping a flight to give me a hug and sit with me while we sort through curriculum choices, how she is a complete God-send

#646 Ro, her special friendship to me, how God dropped this special friend and mentor into my lap~~extravagant grace!

#647 this blogging community, grace-filled people, for Ann, who brought us all together…how this community has been the body of Christ to me and I love them passionately, how God has poured into me through them and lavished His love upon me…

#648 An exhausting Sunday morning service, exhausting because I cried out desperately to God at the altar…at the end of all the pouring out, greeting people, treading deep waters, going where it is uncomfortable for me to go, and encouraging others, there is nothing of me left and all of Him…this I desperately seek You for Lord, more of You, more love to You, and less of me…

#649 a beautiful Sabbath, full of warm weather and bright sun upon skin

#650 ckicken and dumplings and pear salad

#651 the way the children run into Granny and Granddaddy, excited to be there with them…

#652 how little Lilly throws herself into Granddaddy’s lap and loves to rock with him

#653 A Granny and Granddaddy that love me so wild

#654 watching Husband quick on his feet, running and playing hard football on vacant field with our church men

#655 us all coming home bone tired, dumping children in beds, and time alone with Husband

#656 a beautiful woman’s words as she prayed for me at the altar, “Father, your Word is marrow to our bones and nourishment to our navel. Like a little baby being formed in the womb, we don’t know what’s happening to us, Lord, but we know You are doing something.”

A glorious song, maybe one of the most beautiful ever written…take a look, I promise it won’t be a waste of time…soak in His glory, friend…I cannot get enough of this song…

Shared with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

My Heart’s Cry to Heaven {and A Blogger’s Prayer}

I lay in our high four-poster bed, and everything is swirling around. I can’t sleep, eyes hurting and heavy in mid-afternoon–the anxiety threatens to break me–and I moan and let the tears stream, let them break open past the lump in throat, let the trapped burn escape.

I bury my head in feather pillow, the soft brown cotton catching the wet, the words and voices circulating in my head relentless. Husband hears, comes and holds me and talks to me. I tell him it’s happening again, and oh, the frustration of it.

How did I get here again? I have no idea. Why am I so weak?

I don’t want to be drowned in a sea of confusion, a hopeless tossing of words, phrases, voices, too many voices, and screens, too many screens buzzing, my constant typing on the black keys, lined up in a  shiny plastic row. They click at me and give me no history, no story.

When I look at the screen, there is no one there. Just words, just letters, advertisements and lights making my brain forget how to sleep. When I step away from the click-clicking of the keyboard, I can still hear it, the humming, the whirring, running, on and on it goes.

I walk across pine floors and I forget to notice the gorgeous light. I’ve forgotten the beauty of a story told on paper, bound and handed down between covers, the words kept for safe-keeping to be whispered quietly only between me and the Lord in the morning light.

When it all boils down and I’m left with the bottom , the pit of myself and mankind–what really matters?

There are too many voices, too many deadlines, too much rush and hurry, too many demands to meet, too much worry, too much reaching for me, hands grasping.

Where is God’s voice in all of that? Because I can’t hear it.

My heart is fragile and weak, it is easily swayed, weighed down with the cares of this world, and I am quickly overwhelmed and taken like a tsunami crashing over me.

I want to give my life for my Savior King.

If there is to be a tsunami, Oh Lord, wash over me, overtake me like the consuming mighty ocean, it’s waters heavy and drenching, bending me, and burn me up with Your three times hotter holy flame. Consume me in the fires of your love that cannot be quenched.

Hold my hand as you stand in the flames with me. Here I want to powerfully, wrecklessly be lost in You. Here in Your deep lake of fire, I will swim and pray that You will come rescue me. Completely take me, wash me clean, relentlessly pouring and crashing over and over and over me.

My heart is weak, and I need you, oh, desperately how I need you. If there are to be swirling thoughts and voices that won’t stop, Lord that it would be your voice circulating, permeating the synapses. Let me awake with Your holy voice calling my name relentless.

Let me not be able to get away from it, let me not escape You, when I rise with the sun, at mid-morning and again when I prepare lunch, when I sit outside in your creation while children run free and when I sit to consume the bread you’ve given and when I light the Lenten candle, when I lay head on pillow at night.

Lord, pursue me, Hound of Heaven, come hot and heavy after me, my thoughts haunted by you, my every waking moment pricked with awareness of you and my sleeping moments laid upon your pillow of grace, covered and cloaked in the blanket of Your wings.

Father, pursue me between the pages of books, descend upon me heavy as I teach my children Your ways, wash over me, bending me beneath the weight of Your glory as I bend to correct them, consume me with Your presence in the red letters of Jesus’ words as I read in soft, early light, prick my heart with your holiness as I prepare meals, as I meditate on You, and follow hard after me as I serve Husband’s needs, and never stop chasing me as I tap out words, only let the words pour pure as You separate the gold from the trash in Your holy fire.

And Father, teach me the meaning of these words, words that sweet Ann spoke:

“All art is a call to come to an altar, to come lay down and die to self. So be it. He is enough.”

         {An excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s prayer, called A Blogger’s Prayer}:

“I am no longer my own blogger, but Thine.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.

Put me to service, or put me to suffering.

Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers

Let me post for thee or be put aside for thee,

Lifted high, only for thee, or brought low, all for thee.”


          Go HERE to read the full Blogger’s Prayer and get your own “Upside Down Blogger” button.

{An absolutely gorgeous song of worship–Savior King–you don’t want to miss this! Worth the few minutes to watch. A God-glorifying display of corporate worship–watch a few times and let God fill you up, just wash over and over and over you, friend!!}

{A little dose of honesty and testimony? I had no idea what to write this morning, I wasn’t even going to join in the counting this week due to exhaustion–I prayed and asked God to guide me and to use what I write to bring Him glory only…and this story and prayer poured out of me. I saw the Blogger’s Prayer as I had never seen before! All for HIS glory!!}

Gratitude:

#608 A work day at the church and a couple hours spent there during a rare day date

#609 How it brought us closer–horizontally and vertically–gave us joy to serve

#610 How Husband said he was glad I convinced him to go even though he was tired–how we push one another constantly toward God and others–the beauty and glory of marriage God has blessed

#611 How this pushing toward God and loving others fulfills the two greatest commandments–and I wonder if maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking to one another through us? Oh, the beautiful mystery

#612 How Ivy runs to the door everytime, just at the last second when I’m heading down steps, even more than once, for a kiss and to say “bye, Mama. I love you.”

#613 These sweet memories I will hold in my heart forever

#614 An email from a lovely friend telling me to not even write back, just to see the silver lining of all of us being sick, gather up my girls wrapped in blankets, watch movies, and drink something hot–and that is just what I did and will do more often when we aren’t sick

#615 Lovely emails, warm comments from friends that make the heart toasty inside

#616 Ivy asking if she can pray for Lilly when she is sick, my nod, and her going over to her, laying hands and asking for God to heal

#617 Our new vehicle, finally here! Now I can take the girls to free classes, on field trips with the group, and to the doctor!

#618 How Lilly won’t talk, just “Mmm, mmm”‘s at us constantly and we laugh happy over our baby

#619 Knowing she’s only this small once

#620 Knowing deep-down that God will take care of her, that she will eventually talk–if you are reading this, would you pray?

#621 Our home, a roof over our head

#622 Me learning to really make it home, a peaceful, safe place, not just a place of no rest for the weary

#623 Ivy’s prayer at the supper table–her thanking God for everyone in her sweet voice–Mama, Daddy, sisters, and everything we’ve been given–a long list–this reminder from an angel child

#624 Being blessed financially so that we will soon be able to finish our kitchen–{I will finally have cabinets!}, make some badly-needed home repairs, close in and build the school room (!!), and buy all schooling needs–all praise to God!

#625 Ordering books, all kinds of lovely books!

#626 Husband and I sitting huddled on swing, warm blanket wrapped around us, drinking coffee in early morning–the only thing our voices and the song of the birds

#627 Staying home for Sabbath rest

#628 The medicine of a good clean comedy, Husband and I laughing together hard

#629 Surrendering to the season God has called forth in my life–staying in while the pollen stirs–trying to get well–writing less, just listening quietly to Him–oh, this is hard. Might you pray for me,
friends?

And how perfect it is–writing about feeling overwhelmed–and Ann has a beautiful Joy-In-A-Box over at her place today–a gift to cheer someone in need of joy, to cheer you in the giving, for the overwhelmed ones…

Join the JOY DARE with us? Click here to learn more…

Shared in community with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Little Ballerinas

Papers scattered, computer on my lap, soft couch cushion underneath, I look at the little faux fire blazing and type away, lost in a sea of cyber-words. Four year old Bella’s large blue-orbed eyes find mine, grounding me, and she asks, “Mama, will you come play ballerina with me?” My legs crossed indian-style, a smile playing on my lips at her angel cuteness, I tell her yes, in just a minute.

When I finish writing to a friend, I walk into their room, toys strewn about, pine floor barely peeking through. “I’m ready to play ballerina now. What should I do?”

“You be the teacher, Mama. Yes, you have to wear a ballerina outfit like us, a teacher-ballerina outfit.” Excitement lifts them up on their toes, and their voices jump decibals higher. I laugh at them, and tell them the first thing to do is to pick up all the toys so we have room to dance, and I will be back.

So feeling extremely silly, I go find tights, a slip-skirt, and black leotard-like top. Their eyes shine when they see me and when I turn and twirl into their room, clapping my hands and calling, “Okay, class, line up” in a sing-song soprano, they little-girl giggle and I see them really looking at me, in a new light. Their innocence betrays them and their fresh God-image faces reflect rapturous joy and that I must be doing something right.

I put in Handel’s Messiah and I have them to plie’ and do stretches on the bar and I spin and teach them a dance. They go leaping through the air. The early morning sun’s rays catch them in all their beauty–just in this one moment, this moment that will never return.

I have never felt sillier nor have I ever felt more free.

I go over to the player at their request and we play “Musical Ballet”. When I stop the music, they are frozen in their lifts and little girl twirls, and this is a perfectly freeze-framed moment for a mama.

Time really does seem to stop. 

They hold hands, all four of them, and they go ’round and ’round in the neverending circle of sunrise’s gleaming hope, it streaming across their faces. The shadows fall but I don’t see the shadows–I only see their souls radiating and shining light, and it makes them so alive.

It bedazzles me and I’m enthralled because I don’t know how it happened, but I am caught up in the way a dimple beams at me, the way a soft cheek captures warmth right there, the way Lorna’s wavy golden locks waterfall over her small framed shoulders, glinting light glorious.

In our crazy kid-energy afforded by play, I sat on the little woven rug in front of the dollhouse and helped them shine it new, and glued down miniature furniture so tiny hands could not break it–a love-project put off for many months.

When we were finished, my daughters were so proud and I was proud too, to call myself Mama.

We tasted contentment’s sweet milk and it delighted us and we drank in the nourishment at joy’s swelled hope.

We danced wild, laughing, letting the morning carry us smoothly along right through freedom’s doors into wide-open joy.

Gratitude:

#584 How when I ask Bella to help Lilly into her boot, she says, “I can’t–I promise, because I’m just a little girl.”

#585 How Bella furrows her brow at me, “Mama, Ivy slapped me on my ankle,” holding up her elbow, and I absent-mindedly lift up the elbow of my sink-water drenched shirt, she says, “No, Mama, not your ankle, MY ankle!”

3 ugly-beautifuls gifts…
#586 taking care of sick children
#587 with Hubs sick, eldest daughter helps
#588 germy, dirty house now sparkling

3 gifts from the past–that help me trust the future…
#589 relationships in church body mended–stepping out on a limb trusting Him to catch me
#590 hurts in family past getting some healing
#591 my favorite book, old and tattered, given by my Grandma, being the first read-aloud the girls and i do together, taking turns

a gift dull, a gift shimmering, a gift cleaned…
#592 antique table given by Granny showing wear and marks from children as I snap a picture of little hands grabbing cinnamon rolls
#593 beautiful floral designed diamond engagement ring given by Husband
#594 knit blanket washed and couch scrubbed, floors shiny for sister to come over to watch nieces while me and Husband go on day-date

3 gifts at 3 p.m…
#595 warm, soft breezy day,
#596 blanket on the porch w kids piled up & popcorn,
#597 me on the swing writing my thanks

#598 Ivy’s reverent whisper of conviction as she stares out to the yard,”It’s a beautiful day today.”

3 gifts green…glorious signs of Spring!
#599 thick clover in the backyard

#600 shoots of life coming up in pots

#601 tiny buds on my favorite spring tree blooming

3 gifts wore…
#602 turquoise studded silver bracelet given by Granny
#603 soft, comfy scarf given by sister
#604 gorgeous shirt gifted to Husband that looks smashing on him!

3 gifts hard to give thanks for…
#605 making it on very little these past few weeks until our finances get worked out–being creative with making money stretch
#606 muddy, swampy back yard, rain making green life come up, me and girls sloshing around in rainboots and clogs
#607 nice, huge pile of tree limbs from tree that fell in yard to make a bonfire–smores makings bought, weinies, drinks, and wood too wet to burn–so we take our smores inside to the stove and happily eat up

If you would like to join the JOY DARE? click here for more info, a beautiful camera giveaway, and a gorgeous free printable from Ann…

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A Warm Shout of Thanks And Love To Ann! {A Testimony of 1,000 Gifts}

In cold February when I first heard of Ann, it was through the trailer to her book–they showed the video at my little church. I only heard her voice and her poetry, and that was all I needed to hear. I was floored by her words, them digging up my soul from the grave and screaming, “Awaken!” They moved me, the think, muddy waters of me, and they soaked the parched ground of my spirit. And something else began to trickle–love.

My heart began to bleed and I began to weep tears and it began to stream into rivers of life.

At the time I was in school full-time online, while being a mommy to four and a wife to one amazing man. I had suffered with post-partum depression, anxiety and migraines after the birth of my fourth child. Being in school compounded this, and stress took over my body.

I began having fibromyalgia symptoms (a stress disorder) and the illness took an ugly turn, getting worse and worse. The insomnia worsened and I began to have paranoia. The anxiety episodes came to the point I could no longer attend church.

I was not able to take care of my children the way I desperately wanted to mother them, just desperately wanting to cradle them, to read to them, bake with them, to read devotions to them. The illness has at times had me isolated and closed off to my family–even to my sweet baby, for which I felt awfully guilty. I had to quit school because the stress and the illness came to the point that I was having severe pain and could not continue.

This was around the time I began reading Ann’s blog, A Holy ExperienceI was on a path of my own and God showed me I was headed the wrong direction. He showed me that my desires to raise my girls were placed there by Him, and that I did not have to give that up in order to pursue school and a career so that my family would not starve. He showed me that I was pursuing things out of fear and that I had to trust Him for His will for me and my family–even though I thought that I was pursuing these things for the love of my family and to help my husband.

My heart had hardened to my family and all the dreams of motherhood I really longed for–I had to bury all of these hopes and dreams in pursuit of a career–it is not so easy to switch paths–it takes a softening and pounding of the heart, a tenderizing of tough, calloused meat. So now, here I am. I began reading One Thousand Gifts and bathed myself in and drank in the words of deep communion and gratefulness to God.

This book changed my heart and life forever!

I continued reading the words on her blog. The first post I ever read was about a horn she hung on a wall to remind herself to be happy and to share joy with others.

Her joy intrigued me–I wanted to know more–the Farmer she called him, outside in the yard and her in the house, him laughing and her smiling, him honking at her from the truck. Yes, I wanted this joy.

I also read the one about when the Farmer came to put gas in her van on the snow-packed country road, and it impacted me, the way she didn’t expect him to do these things, but she humbly recognized them as gifts. I needed this.

And she wrote this: “…he’s drawn it all close, and smiled when she’s created and nodded for her to go and said no to any performing and yes to just being.” I knew this was the way my Husband loved me too, and I knew we were headed down this Christ-love marriage road and I saw hope on the horizon.

I read the post called How To Fall In Love All Over Again In 4 Minutes A Day–a profound post–the intimacy between them–the way he tells her to believe him when he tells her she is beautiful–like Christ and the church–I had to know more.

These posts touched me deeply. There have been times that Husband and I have read together, tears streaming down faces. It is because of Ann’s writing–because of her family and the way they live–that we now read the bible at supper each night. This is a remarkable, sweet, sweet change for our family–oh the mercies and grace of God!

As these writings began to bring not only lasting change to my heart, but to my family’s as well, I also began counting my own gifts. I began naming them. You can see my first list here.

This naming, there was a mystery to it–a naming of gifts given that otherwise would go completely unnoticed, unaccounted for, and without having given thanks for.

It was in this continual giving of thanks everyday–not only in counting the beautiful gifts, but in counting the hard eucharisteos–eucharisteo meaning hard thanks, the kind of thanks to God that comes in hard trials and circumstances that we didn’t want to come our way–that my heart really began to change.

The book opened up new doors for me to go through that I had never thought of before, never known they existed. But the habit of writing down my thanks to God for gifts made the walking through doors possible. And the more I write it down, the easier it is to walk through the doors of freedom into joy.

This has been healing to me, has brought me through and I can finally see the other side–all this light to dance in like crazy!

Starting today, I will be tweeting my three gifts a day as a part of the Joy Dare. I have been taking part in the Joy Dare, but am behind in doing it everyday, so I would like to tweet it everyday to keep me accountable to keeping up with it. I believe this will be another turning point for me. To follow my Joy-Dare tweets, just click on the little link in the side-bar!

Would you like to take part in the JOY DARE? Click HERE to read about it with gorgeous free printable from Ann!

Gratitude:
3 gifts that were surprises…unexpected grace!…
#563 red Valentine heart full of chocolates from my Sweetheart
#564 a phone call from a very close friend and the prayer that changed everything–healing!
#565 Granny and Granddaddy bringing pizza, drinks and ice cream for everyone–such givers

3 times you heard laughter today…
#566 my older girls being silly, and the way she puts her hand to her mouth and giggles, eyes lighting up like jewels
#567 when she shared her life with me as we ran and we laughed freely
#568 Husband and I laughing together at silly things–commercials, our own antics and movie-quoting

3 gifts found in working…
#569 the beauty of the yard when it’s cleaned up and raked
#570 that home really can be a safe haven of peace and this is the reward of my efforts
#571 a breeze blowing in through kitchen window I had a hard time raising

3 hard eucharisteos…
#572 waiting so long for our vehicle, cooped up all winter, not able to attend any homeschooling outings, knowing God is working the finances out for the right timing
#573 the hard work of relationships–the beauty that unfolds in my toiling and giving and in others for me
#574 losing friendships that once had their moment of shining brilliance, lost as to why this has to be, and so thankful for the ones who are loyal to me through all of my flaws

3 gifts found behind a door today…
#575 Granny and Granddaddy driving out for a visit because they miss their great-grandbabies and watching them for just a couple hours while Daddy and Mama get out for a little breather–the bond that can’t keep family away
#576 when I’m typing, little one peeking around the door every so slowly, her inquisitive two-year old eyes
#577 a door opening for my Father in the form of a job with the state, teaching, after 30+ years of self-employment–the first time in his life he will have insurance and retirement–comfort for his aging body

3 ways I feel the love of God…
#578 Husband’s tireless taking care of me and the girls everyday. His endless giving.
#579 A friend shining beautiful for Jesus calling to tell me that God said I am to write a book–I whisper this thanks hesitantly
#580 A friend only just met online offering schooling books for us to use for free! Extravagant grace! Thanks through tears!

a gift in losing something, in finding something, in making something…
#581 losing my pride, taking a love-risk and reaching out when I’ve been hurt
#582 finding the cover to my camera lens–Praise God!–this is the way I love to record my gifts!
#583 making Valentine’s treats with the girls–oh delightful fun!

**All of us passing illness around here…using tissue like it was air and sipping hot tea. I will do my best to answer your kind comments and hopefully I will be able to write more later this week. If not, I will see you, friends, next week! Getting sick, though I never get sick, maybe God’s way of slowing me down?

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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Join me at Ann’s for a Joy Dare, and counting our gifts and graces from God?

To All Homes Trying To Stay AFloat–A Call To Love {Ideas for The Weekend}

To all  homes trying to stay afloat, to all lonely, worn and frazzled mothers looking for a lifeline, and the floundering ones like us who search for how to do what’s really important with our time, looking for the lighthouse that guides the way home, this is a call to love, a cry for joy in pursuit of Him… 


Around here it’s Saturday morning breakfast around the table and it’s little hands grabbing cinnamon rolls and laughter.

Around here we do weekends of everyone helping out in the yard and the sun and working hard is what gets the energy flowing…






In this sacred place we watch kids in rainboots jump and splash in water puddles and it’s picnics under the shade tree….



It’s remembering weekends of horse-riding with Daddy as a little girl and Papa taking my little girls and teaching them to ride.

On this holy ground we play tag, all six of us and it’s bonfires and late nights watching movies…

Around here we do pizza night and Husband paints on canvas and it’s little girls listening as Daddy teaches art…

Here it’s church on Sunday morning, clothes laid out the night before, and a Southern homemade lunch at Granny’s, and sometimes it’s staying home to just do Sabbath rest …

Around here it’s moving past lost time and broken opportunities and it’s accepting the gift of now and the grace of the unfolding of each new day’s promise…

I pray your weekend is full of gifts and His grace…

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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In the Middle of A Winter Season…

In the middle of winter’s bleak grayness and dark, the sun withholding, snuggling on the couch with my girls trying to stay warm, bundled up with hand-crotched quilts made with love, I day dream of escape.

As they run around and around the house screaming, me trying to keep them calm and failing, the world outside too dreary for them to enjoy and my head suffering the consequences, I look at pictures of places warm and carefree and I wish desperately.

I’m caught up in this negative frame of mind that says it will never get better, I’ll never have a moment’s peace, these children here since the day we got married–this sleepless chaos all I know.

I am in deep love with all my babies, but with each new baby, came more responsibility, more weight on our marriage, nights sitting up feeding and rocking, nights and nights of Mama not sleeping for years on end, and with noone to keep them, a small break to refresh myself rarely possible.

With each new little one came more depression and more anxiety, and though those around me said they were amazed at how I held up, I must have hid it well because what they couldn’t see was that I was breaking down inside little by little.

On the outside, I was brave and smiling, but on the inside I was a broken, hollow shell, cracked and afraid of failure.

With it all came more grating of myself and less and less chance of breaking free in flight, of pursuing the solitude that I wantingly crave, of getting normal sleep and feeling sane.

The days became like sandpaper against my selfish desires and dreams and my wishing on stars, hoping for the mountain air, reaching for beaches white and seas of sparkling jade became just candles blown out with the secret longing, only curls of smoke left in the wake of duty.

There have been times I thought that my flesh would get so torn with exhaustion and the fight to keep going that my body would go down to the deep. I have longed for Heaven and it’s wiping of tears, of sorrows and toiling no more.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this God began to whisper to my heart…”My dear child, you are not alone. I suffered too. Now you suffer with me, you drink of my cup, and this is how you know me deeply.”

                                   
                                         {old pictures of the girls playing in the snow}

And the more time that eroded self, the more their screaming demands washed down the dirt-packed high expectations of my needs, and did a cleansing of the heart and soul, running down and pooling at His feet, at the base of the cross, the louder I could hear Him uttering,

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”–Jesus, John 6:53-58

So in the middle of this unceasingly busy world of mine without rest and little comfort, if the cup and the bread are symbolic of my suffering with Christ, of my proclaiming His death, then everyday I am drinking down and I am partaking of the bread of suffering.

Every day that I stay here and I don’t escape and I bend low, this serving-place becomes hallowed, and the edges of me are scraped and sanded raw and I bleed and I gape open, arms stretched out, hands pierced just as my Christ was holed straight through, the obvious scars I can’t deny.

I am in deepest fellowship with Him, when I know Him intimately in His suffering.

And I know that I won’t do it perfect–I will forget, and my tongue will lash out at little ones when I am bone-tired and my mind can’t keep up with the whirl-wind.

But I press on, and moment by moment, I let Him teach me how to suffer with Him. I keep my heart soft and I remember to drink down fully of His cup and to ravish the bread of His body, because this is the only way to die to this flesh that I’m in. 

My little one comes up to me and I bend low and I stretch out arms and take her in, the edges of me becoming softer, my love for her bleeding out.

Some quotes to meditate on if you have time to read–they are very rich and stimulating to thought:

          “Suffering is getting what you do not want while wanting what you do not get.”–JI Packer

“There is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial”–CH Spurgeon

“All the children of God are destined to be conformed to Christ. The more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ: Philippians 3:10 – 10 ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 – 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.’ “–John Calvin

“He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly. For they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross, evil and the evil of a deed, good. God can only be found in suffering and the cross.”–Martin Luther

“If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love.” –John Stott What Christ Thinks of the Church: An Exposition of Revelation 1 – 3 (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2003) 35

“I’ve never heard anyone say the really deep lessons of life have come in times of ease and comfort. But, I have heard many saints say every significant advance I’ve ever made in grasping in the depth of God’s love and growing deep with Him, have come through suffering.” –John Piper

“None of us can come to the highest maturity witout enduring the summer heat of trials:
As the sycamore fig does not ripen unless it is bruised
As the corn does not leave the husk without threshing
As the wheat makes no fine flour unless it is ground
so we are of little use until we are afflicted!” –Kimber Kauffman, pastor College Park Baptist Church, Indpls IN

“Programs, systems and methods sit well in the ivory towers of monasteries or in the wooden arms of icons. Head knowledge comes from the pages of a theology text. But the invitation to know God – truly know Him – is always an invitation to suffer. Not to suffer alone, but to suffer with Him.” –Joni Eareckson Tada

Gratitude: {since I’ve been out of the blogging community, a culmination of the past few weeks}….

a gift found at 11:30, 2:30 p, at 6:30 p…

#535 hearing my father preaching for the first time in many years
#536 all of us eating chips and dip, cookies for Sunday lunch and curling up on the couch
#537 Husband putting the children in bed while I’m lying on the couch with a migraine, him quietly telling them to leave Mama alone

#538 Lorna blending berries for my juice fast

#539 girls running around the house, squealing with delight and the thrill of their Daddy hiding and jumping out to catch them

3 gifts overheard today, all gifts…

#540 Lorna talking to her horse as she leads her to the pasture, “You should be ashamed of yourself that you step in your own poop.”
#541 Ivy’s synopsis: “Mama, don’t think of it as a green swamp; just think of it as a candyland!” –on my green juice
#542 Lorna’s “I can’t tell you, Mama, because it’s a surprise.” and her running off excited in her planning.

3 gifts found in writing…

#543 this scripture: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom. 4:16
#544 this gift listed a while back: “husband’s forgiveness in my failings reflecting God’s goodness”…yes
#545 just this post–oh the beautiful and poignant poetry Ann pulls out of her heart here!

#546 Bella’s excited announcement: “Mama, when I told Lilly ‘That’s a rag,’ she said, ‘Oh’!”

#547 When I go to pick up Lilly to change her, Bella’s four-year-old observation, “I think she smells like poopy!”

#548 When I start changing Lilly, how Bella tells me confidently, “I can do the buttons.” then “See? I can do it.” Her need to be seen as a respected individual.

#549 light from lampost rippling across the lake at night

#550 running in silence, the stillness all around me, the dark falling down, taking in deep breaths that I didn’t even realize I needed

3 gifts found when bent down…

#551 my baby’s sugary-soft cheeks
#552 beautiful white and yellow daffodils peeking out at me from deadend grass, radiant in winter

#553 heavenly laughter that makes me soar as i am bent over my baby, bodies close in taking care of her,  tickles and kisses

one gift stitched, one hammered, one woven…

#554 beautiful hand-stitched quilt of Sunbonnet Sue handed down
#555 Husband’s canvases nailed up high on wood, him painting away, happy
#556 the way our family days all weave together, tightly, God holding us together, all the messy and all the beautiful, securely held in grace

3 gifts found outside…

#557 me taking pictures of daffodils on a warm day…signs of spring coming…while Lilly runs atop stones and Husband and I laugh at her determination and tiny cuteness

#558 girls bringing me vase of miniature daffodils they picked in woods for Valentine’s Day
#559 proud blue jay flitting across the yard in his splendor

a gift broken, a gift fixed, a gift thrifted…

#560 my heart, broken and contrite before God, going on faith and out on a limb, and loving with wild abandon
#561 putting fears aside and loving, in spite of possible rejection, and a woman teary-eyed telling me she loves me–this repaired relationship and how this brought long-awaited healing for me in the body of Christ–extravagant grace!
#562 running shoes loaned to me by a friend

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Join me at Ann’s for a beautiful story on stress and more thank-you’s to God?…..

Also sharing with L.L….

On In Around button

Laura @ Playdates With God…

and Jenn….

The Synapses of My Heart {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living Day#17}



I rock Lilly, holding her close in the dark, I lay my cheek on her silky hair, sing her a lullaby. I lay her down and step just a few feet away to tuck in a little one, snuggle her in with Monkey tightly.

And then as I am about to leave, Lilly cries, and I know that cry–she is frustrated. Her blanket is twisted wrong, so I go back to her to soothe.

I wrap her in her puppy blanket the way a Mama knows how.

I shut the door, but pause and peek through the crack, watch my four year old falling asleep, her lying there all perfect angelic creature, the wheat crown of her poking up out of covers.

Something in me grows very quiet and still and sad andI wonder how I will remember all this.

I want to remember it just like this with the wooden train and dolls strewn about over pine floors, the woven rugs, the squeaky rocking chair wih it’s handmade pink crocheted blanket thrown over the back, and their golden little heads lying in dreams, their tiny hands clutching lovies.

I want to remember Bella’s voice just as it rings with sweetness now, that little lisp and those deep dimples and I want to remember Lilly’s giggles sounding like Heaven..

I let the wonder and glory just settle right down all around me.

Even the angels are in awe of God’s children, how we are made in the image of His diety, how He loved us to the earth and back, how He adores us and spins wildly over us.

This extends far below the surface of me and I am in hushed admiration too, reverence anchoring me, pausing here in the darkness, in the silence, imprinting this moment upon the synapses of my heart.

Gratitude:


3 gifts found in Christ…
#502 freedom, my chains gone
#503 amazing grace pouring over me
#504 the cross that redeemed me back to God, that gives me strength every day

#505 the way Ivy and Bella lie on yoga mats when Lorna and I are done exercising, and Ivy says, “Look Mama, I’m doing my yoga!” always wanting my approval, needing my nod and smile that says she is okay in this world

2 things blue…
#506 A young Mary and baby Jesus painted in shades of blue on Husband’s canvas
#507 my baby girls blue eyes squinting and laughing at me with so much mischievousness

#508 how I go in there to teach them the downward dog and the cobra and the little one–in her diaper–grunts at me to show her too, her head and hands sprawled on the floor, bum sticking straight up in the air

one grace borrowed, one found, one inherited…
#509 the long-awaited, very much needed vehicle that is coming through Husband’s work
#510 daughter finding her father’s weight bar hidden behind the stack of VCR tapes and his smile and thank you.
#511 my ability to do anything well with my hands, the precise line I can stroke with paint like my Daddy

#512 when we are reading Stepping Heavenward at bedtime, and I explain that when Katherine was upset at her Aunty’s injustice, it meant she felt her Aunty was being unfair, and Lorna says, “Yeah, I know how that feels.”

a gift before 9 am, gift before noon, a gift after dark…
#513 Husband making coffee for me, waking to the glorious smell of cinnamon buns, eggs and sausage
#514 a talk with my Pastor letting him know in this season of our lives we won’t be at church every week, and the grace he extended, taking the pressure off
#515 Husband and I in our room creating together, conversation as we drift off to sleep

#516 Lorna’s perceptiveness when I say Lilly is a sweet baby, “Well, she isn’t always sweet; sometimes she’s sour.”

#517 Bella coming to me with her request: “Mama, can you fix the game? I’m too little.”

3 gifts that might never have been…
#518 my wonderful Husband, so thankful that God held us together strong through the years
#519 our new church body, how much we are growing, learning, grateful we made the move and decided to stay…maybe we are finally home
#520 Husband allowing me to homeschool…though it has it’s trudging trials, in the end I will one day see all the benefits…this I know

#521 When Bella pops in my bed at 7:15 am, and asks to play a game and I answer her that she will have to wait until I get up, how she catches me off gaurd and says, “No, when you get up, you’ll need a story, and you’ll read th bible again and again and again.”

#522 How Bella says “Wakey, wakey” in a sing-song voice to get me up.

3 graces found in your friends…
#523 my best friend driving to my house before noon to workout and have lunch together
#524 the miraculous wonder of a friendship broken and wounded being restored in Christ through grace and forgiveness
#525 my running buddy being gracious when my body is in pain on a bad day

#526 How when I tickle Bella all over, she yells, “I love you! I love you! I love you!” between giggles

#527 Ivy running inside to tell me of a great mystery she has solved, “Mama! I know who is shutting the mailbox so hard–it’s the mailman! And there are more yellow flowers out there–lots of them!” The way she forces me to see there are gifts right in front of me all the time.

a song heard, a soft word, where i saw light…
#528 everyone singing “How Great Is Our God” in corporate body worship, how it reminds me of us all singing in Heaven, and if we have someone to sing it with, how it makes the faith more real
#529 Husband’s “I’m sorry” and how it releases me and lets me exhale

#530 light streaming in through window, in shafts across a book on bedside table

#531 when we’re working outside and I get covered in ants and yell out to everyone that only sweet Ivy came to help, Lorna says, “Well, you’re an adult and they’re only little ants.”

#532 how when I tell Lorna that since I was covered in them, I couldn’t see them to get them off, Ivy pipes up with, “You have a point, Mama.” and then, “You know, I was born to care about people.”

an old thing seen new…
#533 Husband’s face, the same one I’ve seen for 11 years, and yet sometimes when I look at him, it’s for the first time and I fall in love all over again

#534 how when we are sitting at the breakfast table and I’m trying to read something beautiful to them and everyone is scuffling around, getting up, not listening, I shoot a frustrated glance at Husband, and say some exasperated words, and Ivy says, “You know we can all apologize sometimes.” And my heart is pierced straight through. Out of the mouths of babes.

Gazelle-Sprinting

It is late afternoon. My daughter and I have already done our exercise for the day and now we are outside in the warm Southern winter sun, it glancing only briefly from behind the clouds and trees, the orange orb caressing the back of our heads in heated strokes.

I’m relaxing in my hammock under the maple with it’s bare limbs meandering upward and jagged, and I’m doing some thinking and writing. I’m enjoying my writing, but I feel a little restless and slightly off-kilter.

Then the girls come up to me, panting and ask me to play tag, blinking their request at me, their eyes full of uncertainty and it anchors me.

I look back at them and I feel energized because I’ve been practicing. I’ve worked out hard and I’m ready for anything they ask me to do.

I jump up and their faces shine excitement and the world shifts back into place.

I chase my daughter who is almost as tall as me, and she chases me all the way around our house, under the shade tree and around the perimeter of our large yard. I stay ahead of her, leaping over fallen branches, acorns crunching underneath my shoes, and this is no small feat, since my long-legged girl sprints like a gazelle.

When their father gets home and finds us in the backyard, he is easily coaxed by his little girls to join in the game.









I watch him dodge this way and that, pretending to run fast for the little one while she chases after him, and as I stand there and watch, my face flushed with the thrill of it all, I remember why I married him.

I flush with something else.

A powerful love.

It wells up inside and makes me aware of what’s between us.

The children pull him to the ground and fall on him in laughter.

It rings out and all around and envelopes us.

We all carry the high spirits inside to face the work that awaits.



Gratitude:

3 ways i glimpsed the startling grace of God…

#476 when i talked about being afraid, all the women one by one around the table, admitting they were just as fearful

#477 women opening up and being honest, how freeing it is

#478 husband telling me he will take the children to church so I can rest and have the night off

one thing i wore, one thing i gave away…

#479 a purple and red hand-sewn flower headband

#480 clothes waiting to go to a teenage girl

3 ways i witnessed happiness…

#481 Sunday worship service melting all of my hard exterior of pain

#482 having a new running partner–that I wasn’t too afraid to ask–pure grace!

#483 the comfort of Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s–like going back to my childhood

one gift that made me laugh, made me pray, made me quiet…

#484 this post…oh how it made me laugh out loud! you must read!

485. my blogging friends, little Kelly in the children’s hospital with lukemia, God waking me in the middle of the night

#486 a friend tells me i’m a beautiful person, on the inside…makes me a little speechless

3 gifts from God’s Word…

#487 this verse: “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land…Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:11-13

#488 the Psalms that quiet my soul

#489 Romans 8:28 through the end of the chapter–our family portion of scripture

a grace in the kitchen, in the weather, that might never have been…

#490 kitchen countertops, slow-going, but being finished

#491 nice, warm weather in January for me and the girls to play outside in

#492 our little Lilly Claire, our last, our surprise baby

3 gifts i saw only when i got close-up…

#493 the fanning of Ivy’s long eyelashes, the green flash

#494 the adorable soft pink of my cat, Pumpkin’s nose

#495 Lilly’s stubby toes, her lifting them up to me, wanting me to pick out the fuzz in between them

one thing in the sky, from my memory, one ugly-beautiful…

#496 a bold blue jay and Bella’s “Look, Mama! A blue bird!”, pointing her little finger up

#497 all the work-days, and lazy-days, all the days of hanging suspended in the hammock, of gardening and planting and transplanting flowers, of putting wine bottles in earth for borders, all the days of swinging on the porch and watching the kids play, of bright summer sun shared by us all

#498 laundry and watching Little Women with my girls…giving me an opportunity to get my hands dirty and serve, to make me softer around the edges, a sweet moment shared with my girls

one grace wrinkled, one smoothed, one unfolded…

#499 rain on the window, how it makes my vision a little warped, a hard washing and cleansing

#500 how Husband can soothe me….you can read about it here…

#501 Ivy and Bella’s small hands unfolding to me with a beautiful gift…dandelions for me to make a wish



…you will be blessed to follow me over and read these blogs…

Shared with Ann…

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L.L…

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and Jen…

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