Category Archives: Belonging

On Awakening To Where Church Is

 

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

None of us have really talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Violeta* said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

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

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

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

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. Joseph–
maybe he is Jesus to us today.
                            

                                                                 *names changed to protect people in the story                                                                             edited re-post from archives 

                                                                              
This post linked up with She Loves Magazine’s Awake: A Synchroblog.

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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

On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}

 




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

maybe he is Jesus to us today.

 

















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

 
The pure light of the two of them together…

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

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

 
 
 
Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

  On In Around button



   
       

On How Community Loves {Bed Hair and All}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have been Jesus with skin on to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still counting with Ann in gratitude to Father…

Gratitude:

#758 blue jay bathing in bird bath in front yard

#759 me and girls stopping to watch from the window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#771 seeing them pull back into the driveway

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

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

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

Joining with sweet Ann and others in community…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Fumbling Toward Destruction {Edited Edition}

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

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

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

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

I scratched at the wounds and let them bleed out.

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

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

Shared with precious Emily and others in community at….

sweet Ann in community at…
L.L…. On In Around button Laura… and Jen…

Jennifer…

Shanda…

and Michelle…

Belonging

It is evening and we’ve had an argument…I have been crying on his chest…showing the weakness that I hate to show, but it is the weakness that, in spite of me, softens him. I am weary from life, and all that seeks to destroy me, wear me down, and take me under. We are moving around, speaking to one another, trudging forward through the thick mud around our feet, desperately needing a change, but knowing that this is what change feels like–it is the uncomfortableness of moving forward when it is really hard. Then he comes and tells me while I’m in the shower, that my eldest daughter has asked that I wear my black special occasion dress, and that she is preparing something for us. I ask, “Why?” He says, “I’m not sure what is going on, but she says she is doing something for us, and she wants us to get dressed.”

This takes me out of my comfort zone–I don’t feel like getting dressed up in my fancy black dress–I feel like resting–it’s been a rough day. I want to hide, because it is hard to feel that I belong. But I summon the courage to get dressed up and go to the dining room.

She tells her Daddy, “Don’t forget what you are supposed to do, Daddy.” He pulls out the chair for me, and I sit down. I feel like I am in an alternate universe, not really sure what is happening.

I hear Nora Jones’ soft, bluesy voice wafting in from the kitchen. I smile, knowing what she is up to, but there is no way that I could be prepared for what is to come.

They come in, bringing our dinner plates, and serving us–she has even dressed her sisters up for the occasion. I am in awe. And when she sets down the very humble little meal she has prepared in front of me, I do my best to let her see that I appreciate it. My children are daily teaching me lessons that no sermon could ever teach.

And then the dessert–such a wild, imaginative thing that only a child could dream up. I know that she has been watching some cooking shows, and trying her hand with creativity, and I am amazed that she soaks everthing around her up like a sponge. Noone has told her yet that she “can’t”. As she sets the plate in front of me, I know that it is just the plastic plate belonging to her little sister–not normally a plate fit for a dining table, but it doesn’t matter. I try to stay in the moment and feel this queenliness that she wants to make me feel.

But I am so humbled, and it is though at the moment my paradigm is shifting, and everything seems to be sliding. And I know that I am having to try too hard…what a wretch I am, that I can’t feel the happiness in this moment. And then she says, “Okay, are you finished with your plates?” and clears them away. “Now”, she says, “it is time for the dance”, eyeing her Father. So he takes my hand and leads me to the kitchen.

My head is spinning–I am not sure what to think. It has been years since this…dancing, closeness, this intimacy, and it is hard…I feel the air closing in around me. I feel the bittersweetness and insecurity of a new pattern that is not normal to our relationship. And I know he feels it too. I hear him say, “Been a long time since we’ve done this, huh? I can hardly find my voice, but when I do, I think I sound like a croaky, silly adolescent, unsure of myself and not wanting to let myself fully into the desire of the thing. I answer and stumble around, “Yes, it’s been..um..10 years.” I think about Lorna, and why she is doing this for us. Does she feel the tension, the stress?

As he holds me close, I begin to melt and everything all wound up tight begins to unravel, in a very, very good way–the way that only he can make things unravel for me. This is where my peace is–I have had to be away from him before, and I know that there is no peace in that. This is where I belong. And should I apologize for saying this and not giving God credit for my peace? I don’t think so–I believe that He ordained that I would feel only truly whole when I give myself over to another–completely giving and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to feel complete in another’s arms. Here is where and how I come to God.

The more we dance, the looser and freer we are. The more free we are, the more the joy deep inside wells up. I stop worrying about Lorna. One day she will have to know about the stresses and arguments, down days and sadness of life. All I can do, being human, is to show her how to deal with those things when they come. Maybe if I’m looking at Him, whom i belong to, while she is looking at me, then everything will be alright.

And then my little girl takes me back twenty-something years ago to when I was a little girl, dancing on Daddy’s feet. And it makes me smile pure joy.

My gratitude:

#157 a day of swimming 1/2 mile in the lake–getting stronger

#158 fighting fears

#159 girls swinging on ropes–advice from a friend to let go more often

#160 my three littlest girls learning to swim

#161 Bella, apprehensive to get in the water, jumping in and swimming like a fish after a few minutes

#162 Bella’s 4th birthday party–while feeling the sadness of her daddy being at work, knowing that he and I are united for our daughter’s day

#163 This hardship has taught us to be a team–and the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of the labor of all of these years

#164 another woman’s wisdom and encouragement and I can listen because I know she has walked this road too

#165 friends that keep calling and writing

#166 that only my husband can love me the way he does

#167 a movie with just me and my girls, some popcorn and coke, and a screen bigger than life

#168 Bella, as I was trying to leave her with her Granny, when asked if she was sure she could stay awake for the entire movie, replying (with her cute lisp and nodding enthusiastically) “yesth.”

#169 Lilly running unsteadily and determinedly up to her sisters, grabbing them, folding into them in a hug

#170 eldest daughter, growing up so fast, so aware of the way things are in the world, creating a romantic moment for her stressed, burned out parents

#171 the grace to accept in humility this moment that my daughter gives, even though I feel undeserving, and what I really want to do is hide

#172 that God’s love brings me out into the open–all of my fears, failures, and insecurities want to retreat into isolation and darkness, but His love brings all things into the light and He refines me with fire.

#173 He uses my children to teach me

#174 because of this, I see a path by which i can learn to truly love, cherish, and respect them for the individuals they are

#175 husband’s texts and messages–checking on me, his love always there to catch me on a bad day

#176 having an upset stomach after an argument and a night stayed away from home and husband because it was too late to drive, and then the feeling of urgency to get home to his arms

#177 knowing that this is where i belong

#178 when i don’t understand the body of Christ, when my perspective is jaded, when people hurt and disappoint me, my husband that God gave to me is always there as the head, receiving direct shepharding for me from the Shephard and i can’t stray too far away from truth–and this truth amazes me.