Category Archives: beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family–through addiction, disagreements and irreparable fall-outs– has been their mission field, quietly and consistently, unconditionally. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                          *an edited re-post

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, and Heather

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

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


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Bend. GO!


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

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

Advertisements

Women, Listen Up: Where Is God Moving Next? {An Abstraction on Listen}




sit in front of her in the old linoleum-floor bathroom, squatted low on a stool, and think how this is the way it ought to be, I, made low, serving the least of these, and wonder why I can’t do it more often. I zip up her footie pajama, and push my face into her hair. I’m drunk with her still-fresh from heaven, fresh from night time bath tub scent. She lures me in with it, and I know this is the very best moment of my day, and maybe I’m a fortune teller because I can see it’s also perhaps the best minute of my life, excepting only the second she slipped out, warm and wet, the doctor needing me to hold her in for safety’s sake, me begging to let her go, to have a chance in this world. Yes, her chance. Me and God, co-conspirators, creating life together.

Yes, do you see it friends? How beautiful a chance at life is?

I warm up a leftover quesadilla for myself and we lie on the couch together, and though she’s eaten earlier, she snuggles up to me, Mama, you gonna eat all o’ dat? 

Yes. I inhale an intoxicating bite and she asks Is that yummy?

Yes, baby. You want Mama to share? She nods. I’ll share with you, baby, okay?

Because you love me. Forking a scrumptious bite of my small dinner into her waiting tiny mouth, I melt into a million dissolved pieces, like chocolate on a stove. Oh yes, baby I do. 

Moments. Some days are so chock full of these that make us love and be loved, that it makes me listen more intently. It hushes me and makes me wonder where I went wrong in those days that felt love-less. I know He’s here, always, but sometimes, I get to feel the glory-weight, and it’s His hand upon my heart, upon my moments, blessing me fully. Fully here, fully human.

I wander outside in the cold stillness of dark, and inhale and exhale. I remember to look up, because this is what listening to the stillness does to me, and I’m surprised to see a star-lit sky after many days of shrouded, blanketed veil. Through her bare-naked branches, reaching up to Him, scrony, dry and thirsty–a little like the way I feel–the half moon winks down at me from her throne in the expansive universe. I feel so small, like the not quite awakened buds on tree’s branches that speckle across her glowing orb. Dogs bark in the neighborhood nearby, a train rattles in the distance, but all feels still and holy. I just notice, listen and breathe. I pay close attention. This is how I pray, silently.

In the grocery store on Saturday, I’m a little bit of a mess, and I do my best to be calm, energetic daughter by my side, asking for candy and other things I can’t afford.

A dear family friend sees me, comes over, and asks how we’re doing, asks about my tiny Lilly who was a shrunken newborn, mal-nourished, the bones in her forehead protruding and my milk the only thing her stomach could take, but it wasn’t enough. I tell her she’s great, about to go to preschool this fall–she’s almost five, and her birthday comes late. She tells me her daughter, one of my best friends, has a fibroid tumor the doctors just found. Is there a worry for cancer, I ask. Says she isn’t sure. And I tell her I know, how I know, when life is a heavy weight, how it can suffocate, and it’s impossible to even pick up the phone to call a friend. She asks me to pray–I say I will. She’s had so many problems–she doesn’t need anymore –I’m thinking of four years ago, when her only child, only three days old, died, and how then and only then, did she get to hold her in her loving mother arms–and I break.

The tears stream down my crumpled face, and her mother catches me in her arms. I love her so much I whisper into her shoulder. Thank you for being a good friend to my daughter, she tells me, holds me close. I feel the weight of glory, God so close, Emmanuel.

I think of that embrace later, when I walk into the house, putting away toilet paper. My lips don’t move at all. But my heart beats with this desperate plea–God, be with her, she needs you now. She needs your healing hands in a most powerful way. 

This is how I worship. I know no other way. Because the dancing, the raising of hands {though you can find me lifting them from time to time because I can’t help myself}, the conjuring of His presence–they just don’t cut it. I hope you don’t mind me saying, they don’t work for me anymore.

No, I listen instead.

So, on bright, clear Sunday morning, I call this new friend God’s given. She’s an old friend, and a new friend. New, because we’ve bonded more recently, and these relationships online–this community He’s given? Miracle being worked out–Him working all things together for good, because I love him, because He loves me.

She says so tell me what’s going on, what you’re thinkin’. She jumps right into the frying pan with me, right in the middle of the sticky stuff, the very messy, screwed-up stuff no one really wants to hear–my kinda girl. I tell her I’m having faith God will complete the good work He began, and I’m holding on hard, to grace. That’s all I can do. She cries with me, laughs so hard with me, and prophesies His goodness, the love He has for me, over me.

We talk about listening. I tell her what the Spirit is saying. And how do we know what the Spirit is saying–when it’s Him speaking? He comes to me in a cave, and asks me what I’m doing. It makes me pay attention, makes me take notice, makes me think.

You’ve heard from God. And it’s that one statement I can’t get out of my head–no, two statements.

You are capable–from every side, you’re being told you aren’t capable, but you so are.

I listen. Hard. With the phone up to my ear, so hot, my soul is hungry for living bread, and she breaks it open with me, piping hot, shows me where freedom is and where to plant my feet. This step here, then that one there. See, friend? See how God wants you to not only be delivered, but also free?

I don’t have much {beautiful laugh}, but I have this: stories, stories that you and I share. Her southern accent, so dripping sweet and soft, sings sweet peace over me like a lullaby.

Women, listen up: Let’s be this kind of friend to one another? The kind that can listen to the pain. And be okay with it. Laugh with me. Cry with me. Don’t balk when you see something brassy or bold. No, call it what it is–the way God did in the beginning–call out the good in me. Can we do this for one another?

Listen. Yes, let’s listen. To the stars, to the spirit, to the trees, to the pain, to the beauty, the glory and the mess, the screwed-upness, and the words that aren’t being said. Perk up your ears, soldier-sister. Where is God moving next?

Just Listen with me.

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

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


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Listen. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 16th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 17th, the prompt will be SERVE .}

When We Don’t Like What’s Reflected In Glass {An Abstraction on the Frame}

I pass by and catch a reflection of myself and don’t like what I see. I jerk head away quickly.

Others tell me I’m beautiful but I only believe it if I’m dressed up, face made-up, all my flaws hidden, or at least I think they are.

In the glass, while little ones run around and slam doors in the background, I stand on the pine floor and look. I see ragged skin, age spots, and a scarred face from too much acne in older age.

I see worry in my brow, stress in my sagging cheeks, lines that go down around my mouth.

Why don’t I see what everyone else sees? The thing is, we don’t see ourselves rightly. We are looking at ourselves with a biased opinion, with a closed mind, we’ve already judged ourselves before we even take a look in the mirror.

I walk in a room, in my jeans and cowboy boots, my blonde hair straight, and I dressed nicely, wore pearls so I would make a great first impression, but I look down, don’t engage others’ eyes, for fear of having to make conversation, extend my hand too many times. I could have stayed in my hotel room and that would have been easier.

The first thing I see upon driving up are the horses and small gated arenas at the bottom of the hill, the antiquish looking buildings that seemed fun to explore. I think of touching the horses’ silky noses, rubbing my hand along their shiny, smooth coats, standing up on the iron gate, walking around in dirt.

But I don’t get to walk down there, and the frame shifts uneasy and I can’t catch my balance. Others stand around in their nice outfits and scarves, crowded together, they talk candidly and communicate effective words that carry across short, warm wavelengths. They are socially ept, graceful. They give off vibes that make others feel comfortable around them. They laugh that I totally get you laugh. But I hold back, fearful to say much, because I’ve been accused of being too bold and forthright, too brash and opinionated, obnoxious.

When I saw myself through someone else’s lens for the first time, it was like being born backwards or being thrown into an unquenchable fire. I peeled my skin back and exposed it to freezing air.

Those years ago, I was thrown into an arena where people saw me through a negative lens. They thought their mission in God was to be sure others around them were rid of all pride.

And so I was sanded down, harshly, rubbed fiercely. I was acutely aware of myself for the first time. My face blushed a profane shade of red, and I was in the center, in the light, all hot and slithering with no way out.

I was too aware and in hell. But here I am in this new place, with new people of grace that make me see I’m someone of worth, that there is indeed something good there in my heart and they call it out,

call it real,

call it me.

I still struggle, after all these years, after all the bullying in school years, when I perceive someone is judging me or intentionally hurting me, slam goes the door of my heart. The mean side of me says they should be careful not to get their fingers caught in the door.

But then I remember grace. The frame shifts again, turns, spins, a kaleidoscope of pain and I want to be free.

And I’m ready to shirk that devil off my back.

After all, we should take into account that when others insult us or point out negative things about ourselves–as if we didn’t already know–those hurtful stings are coming from depraved, flawed people, not from God, but He uses it to weed the ugly out of our hearts, the black selfishness that we harbor there.

When the frame shifts back, off-kilter, falls off the shelf of that dark corner of my humanity, and God holds it just right, crooked, not at all the way I would have seen–

I can see what He sees–a beautiful daughter of grace. Only grace and always grace, the only thing holding me and you and this world gone awry, gone distorted.

I walk over in old jeans that fit just right, wisps of hair fall on my cheeks as I set the frame back on the shelf, my heart open to what God wants to show me next.

Okay, I’m sharing this pic for two reasons: to show you I’m brave enough to just be me, and to celebrate the launching of Emily Wierenga’s book, Mom In the Mirror, coming out today!

Gratitude {1095-1108}: for lovely spring :: blue jays and red cardinals swooping in my yard, from tree to fence and back again :: for days in the sun with my girls :: for moments they remind me to be a kid again :: my sister and her friend coming to visit from Colorado :: having a beautiful, clean, shiny home :: speckles and sloshes of paint smattered across the floor :: buckets of mop water :: rugs fresh out of the washer :: sunlight in my little’s hair :: spending time with sister and her friend, drinking beers and eating homemade salsa :: a fun evening with family at a restaurant for my birthday :: a glorious mother’s day with a 2 hour long nap

“Brave” photo courtesy of Jennifer Camp {Thanks, friend!!} {This post shared with Ann, Laura, Michelle, Jen Heather for the EO, Emily for A Love Dare

 *************

***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has a lot of commitments and will no longer be doing it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! ***


What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too. When you share this post on twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords.

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

Next week, our Concrete Words Guest Writer is Kelli Woodford and the prompt is The Cup.{I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


Lasso Tomorrow {An Abstraction on the Moon & Concrete Words Link-Up }

                                                                                       Photo credit
I watch her, so full in glow right over the tree line.
Sometimes she is just a haunting sliver,
sometimes round in her beautiful girth,
sometimes heralded with a smattering of twinkling stars–
but she always startles me with her lonely gaze, how she stands proud
and straight, how she claims the night-sky hers,
dares anyone to come close.
She takes up her space up there
I put thumb and index finger right over her,
she’s so small
I open and close and I can just see her,
so tiny, fitting in the inch between my pinched fingers
And yet she glows so bright she lights up the whole world.
I am in awe at her Creator
Sometimes she looms above me as I run round the lake
and I beg her for more time as she lowers upon my head
and rippling, still black water
Sometimes she slinks shy behind the trees,
or she proudly shines high in the sky
And sometimes it’s like that with me–
my head is downcast and I have to look up
to find the light.
I look up and see her, just behind talls trees,
their bare-naked, skinny arms reaching up high toward her,
pointing The Way for me toward Something Bigger
The white beautiful pregnant full orb of her shines like a beacon
in the night and she whispers
Hush, child, slow down, she says to me.
Take in all the beauty around you, let it seize you, grip you, leave you 
flushed in it’s tightened embrace
I hear her, Hush….
I see the way through the darkness, because she promises to
always shine on for me, to never go out,
she is my way home, and her constant never-changing
sings the praises of The One who is always the same
and does not change,
a lighthouse signaling to all ships chartering their course
in the night on open sea,
to all ships who’ve lost their way
in black velvet waters specked here and there with stars.
I will never be lost and I will always be home–
this I’m promised.
I watch her, her bosom so full as if she might nurse the whole world,
and I wonder could I ride the moon,
could I lasso her and tame her, break her, ride her into the next world?
I place my thumb up in front of my face, block her out, wiggle my thumb,
she’s there, then she’s gone.
What would it be like to walk on her? Would it be possible
to bring her down here, to me?
How does she stay up there night after night?
Does she ever fall from the sky, forget to shine, forget to point the way
for those who need it, for us wanderers?–
No, she stays night after night, millenniums old,
hung with the tippy tip of God’s little finger.
And I feel old too, like her, the shining coming from within,
nothing I have but with what I’ve been given
I feel her reflection now, her quietness, her hush.
I know and understand now what she means.
There is a time to work and to rest.
Rest, child now, rest. 
Lasso tomorrow.

Gratitude: {#1067-1075}…. Continuing to give thanks, even when the heart doesn’t feel it…

For a husband who listens, even if he has to work at it–working at it is love…
for children’s laughter that sounds like worship, my joy in them making the moment complete
Hands in God’s dirt
Sunshine on our faces
Red Cardinals and blue jays swooping through the yard
That I can call my Mama when I’m in trouble, when I need someone to calm me down…
For children who make my life complete and full, busy, giving me purpose…
For friends who love unconditionally
For birthdays and haircuts and airplane tickets (!!) –a line borrowed from my friend, Kelli

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

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, we “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out a story, a memory, a feeling, a belief, and make me feel what you felt, describe the scene around you, the textures, the emotions, the tastes, smells, the light. Tell me what you touch, see, hear–this is concrete words. It’s a way to describe the invisible things that are around us, (that we may take for granted) in every day life. The prompt is not the concrete word–the concrete words are what you use to place us there in your story.  

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


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is Worship. {This week I’m starting something new–I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!

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


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


{This post shared with Ann, Jen, Laura, HeatherEmily, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!) **When linking, please check out the one-word prompt first! Thanks!** 


Spread Wide {Five Minute Friday}

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

GO.

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

STOP.

{This week’s prompt was wide}.

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

Five Minute Friday

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



>





Embracing Plucked Daffodils {And Resurrection Life}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was life cocooned up in an earthen grave, like that catepillar the girls placed in the grace garden, just like that Resurrection Man whose body was wrapped and laid in a cold tomb.

In the front yard, where he is raking strong and ferocious, we meander and follow him, walking and looking, taking in beauty, holding hands, snapping our happy day in freeze-frames.
 Then it happens: I hear him say, “No, Bella, you know Mama doesn’t want you to do that”. It is always Mama that doesn’t want the children to run and frollick and make mischief, always Mama that has a hard time with letting go and living fully the resurrection. And in an instant I see that Bella has plucked all my lovely daffodils from the front garden, the only sign of life in this deadness, the only beauty that I loved, and before I think, I say sternly, “NO, Bella!” and now her tiny shoulders droop, her joyous flower-possessing countenance falls, and straightaway, she is a mess, and so am I.

 I go to her, drawn like the pull of heartache, and kneel down beside her. I say, “It is okay, Bella. You can have Mama’s flowers“. And these words are hard for me to say, and they are pulled out like weeds stuck in the hard winter ground, that cold earthen grave where my heart is wrapped up. I hurt, I am torn, and my anger dissolving, I know that I must let go. I know that this is good for me and for her–to learn grace. I hug her and keep saying it over and over, and of course, in Bella’s usual style, she has to punish me just a bit. She can’t move past it right away, and oh, she is MY child; she definitely came from my womb, this child that has it hard letting go.
And suddenly I realize that it is not I that is supposed to be teaching her in this moment, but it is she that is teaching me, and she is teaching me well–oh, the lessons I learn from her about how to live out this life that springs forth from painful grave, me just dust returning to dust one day.
I am a broken Mama, throwing myself against the stubborness of this child, and breaking over and over and over.

God knows that this is what this sinful, hard heart of mine needs. WHY is my first reaction– when they are {mischeviously}, blithely having carefree, airy and sun-happy fun–to sternly correct and break littles’ spirits?

Couldn’t I, being fully aware of her possessing my prize, just have let my laugh carry on the wind, reaching her with a warm enveloping smile and letting her know that I will always give her what is mine?

In putting away Easter and Lent, and seeing the sin that so easily creeps back in–the exhaustion and the anxiety that tries to take over like a dark cloak–maybe what I’m really seeing clearly is that to live this resurrection–to carry Easter with me I must not hold tight, but let go.

Is it really things that bring beauty, like flowers, or is it the God-breathed moments with my daughter,  The Word Himself gently shooting shafts of light through the darkness of our hearts together?

For aren’t we all just groping along, bling, trying to find the way? Aren’t we weary sojourners looking for home? Isn’t this earth full of so much darkness and death, threatening to swallow us up, taking us down to the depths of the grave?

If that is true, then aren’t these God-given moments of truth all we really have–to behold with awe and let our breath be taken with beauty, to just stand on holy ground speechless?

This letting go and living fully the resurrection life is apart of grace, a reflection of the Father’s love. This is how He meant it to be. He never meant for me to give anything or live anything that He hasn’t already lived and freely given me.

This is grace:–not only mercy and pardon, but a beautiful gift laid at my feet for the taking, laid at the feet of the undeserving, a beautiful gift paid for with His life.

I don’t do this life so gracefully–more like a child with fist clenched tight, really, but this grace part He is so generously and gently teaching.

I’m opening fist and learning and accepting His grace, all the gifts laid at my feet, and my daughter–I let her pluck the daffodil from my open hand, and she and I, we are dancing–sometimes quiet and stilled, sometimes blasting out the stereo–just dancing like crazy in this God-breathed life of grace.

*an edited post from archives

Shared with Ann in community at…

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…