Category Archives: change

For When You’re Cynical and Can’t Find Faith for a New Year {And a few blog posts I love}



The north wind blows hard down south, coming in and seeming to pick me right up off the ground. It whips all around, and I can’t tell from whence it came.

It’s like that with the Holy Spirit, how He whispers quietly, What are you doing?, and it makes me pay attention.

I’m not always sure where He came from, when or how he suddenly showed up, if He was always there, and I just didn’t notice, or if it’s really me talking to myself crazy, and I’m not hearing right.

The New Year can blow in hard, and it can seem this big impossible thing to tackle, this mountain that can’t possibly be moved by this iron shovel in my determined hand, much less a mustard seed.

One thing I’ve learned in all my short thirty four years, is that I can’t make hard lines for myself in the sand, stout immovable resolutions that don’t leave room for me to mess up, for him to pick me up gently with grace, or for Him to whisper quietly when I’m going the wrong way.

Christmas came and went, and I was so confused and dismayed and unsure at what my convictions were or where my faith was at all. Faith can seem so small next to the grandeur of Christmas and the Christ child. And Christmas magnifies what we are feeling.

I just could. not. feel. my faith.

And so I just gave into it. When the Holy Spirit whispered gently on the frost bitten chilly breeze, What are you doing?, I just listened.

I pondered. And I tried to be reverent.

I thought about storing the treasure of Him up in my heart. But my heart was conflicted, sore, split right open, calloused and cold to hide the blood pumping soft and warm underneath.

I gave myself over because it’s all you can do when you don’t know the way, and you aren’t sure in your human depravity who it is speaking, whispering, nudging. All you can do, is place that mustard seed in His hands, and say Here, this is all I’ve got. Do something with it, Father.

So 2013 was hard, and in the same cynical fashion, I allowed myself to keep snowballing, thinking the new year is going to be even harder, and Who cares if the numbers change, because it all still feels the same to me, and I’ll just mess this up too.

One continuous cracked, fragile failure after another turned avalanche, and the momentum seemed it would take me under.

Until… Until God.

Until I listened long enough and pondered enough that I knew, I just knew He was telling me You’re not made for this, no, I have created you for *this*, this thing here, see this thing? How beautiful, how right you are for it, and you know, daughter, you have worth too?

He showed me Hope.

And He kept whispering to me that it’s okay to embrace who he made me, my talents, my skills, all of the silly, wonderful, quirky, crazy, amazing things that he wrapped up all in one person and called it beautiful.

He just kept whispering and I just kept listening until I believed it.

I would turn away, afraid to believe, afraid it was all a lie, and a trap just to hurt me again, like in the past when I believed I could do something and went out on a limb, only to be ridiculed and humiliated by those who should love me the most, His own. My own brothers and sisters.

And therein lies my greatest faith struggle and my greatest setback to all the dreams He’s called me to realize.

But even though we turn away, He always gently cups our face, and pulls us back, and he gently whispers again, a lover wooing his bride, coaxing her to just give into love.

He just kept whispering it, you know? Like the beat of a bleeding heart, a drum that thrums over and over and over again, and with every beat of his heart, I found mine as I continued to listen to his pulse for life, and for me, and for all of creation.

If we listen quietly, long enough, we can hear it.

It’s all around us, the thrumming, drumming, pulsing beat of his heart for us. 

It’s grace raining down, and it’s a father picking up a child when they’ve fallen from their bike, and it’s the light in a newborn’s face. It’s the sacredness in a family holding hands around the table, and it’s the breathtaking holy in mom and dad and kids all laughing like heck because there’s only one life to not botch up, and it’s the gentleness in the cashier’s face at the quick stop, it’s in the kindness of the stranger behind you who pays for the difference when you’ve gone over.

Can you see it?

The rough callouses of his hard working hands, and her old, wrinkled, clasped hands, as she fervently prays.

It’s in the special need child’s understanding grin and affectionate hug, it’s in the hospital staff’s genuine care during a very difficult stay, it’s in a body of believer’s just being there when times are tough, it’s in a child’s first acceptance of Christ.

The father’s smile when he wakes from heart surgery, the trusting conversation between men of different races, the mutual respect between heterosexual and gay friends, it’s the baby dedication when an entire body vows in unison to assist the parents in raising children who love God,

the rise and fall of lovers, the searching and exploring of hands and lips.

It’s in bubbles blown, fragile iridescent orbs popping in summer breeze, and gold light spun out across the floor and the piano’s gleaming pedals, calling you to play, and it’s in your child’s voice, luring you toward the trampoline and their cheers and giggles when you mount and begin to jump and enjoy life,

the warmth of hot chocolate going down and it’s in the steam of a hot bath and the cool of fresh water from the arcing spout of a hose in the middle of July.

It’s in the howling wind, and the night sky banged out with a zillion stars combusting so many light years away, but shining in brilliance here and now, in this quiet moment, and it’s in the mocking jay’s echoing song, and in the leaves that fall, and in a coral pink sunset that he paints across the sky if we’ll only notice. It’s in pines that sway tall and swirl with pleasant earthy scent, it’s in the soft, snowy buds that flurry and fly off the wild plum tree in spring, it’s in the warm, giving hug of a child, and it’s in your daughter’s prophetic encouragement, Don’t worry, Mama, when I have babies, I’m sure you will be the first to hold them, upon sensing your sadness at the baby growing up so fast.

And in all this, God is whispering, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. I’m in the innocence of a newborn babe’s face, I’m in the Catholic priest’s quiet, disciplined communion, and I’m in the African American’s wild, freedom dance.

He’s telling us with each pulse, each beat, in this throbbing, thrumming, quiet sort of constant love All of this is for you, can you feel me here amongst you, do you see my creation, know my grandeur and glory, recognize me as Father?

He peels back the thick crust from my eyes, and He gives hope. He lets me know I was made for more than this doubting, this believing I’m nothing, this unfeeling life, numbed to faith.

He gives hope, and I see him. I grab on with a fierce grip, let him pull me back up. I hold on tightly, though the cold wind of doubt blows hard right through me.

Open your heart to really see, open your eyes to wonder… the right way for us to gain perspective in the middle of doubt and cynicism… His thrumming, constant love for us all around, heard around the world, if we listen. He loves us, we have a hope, a reason to hold on, to believe…

Some posts I’ve enjoyed lately, some new things I’ve happened upon. Check them out.

Outside the City Gate {even lepers have a colony} I love, love, love this. *And* it happens to be headed up by some amazing, head on their shoulders, down to earth, friends of mine, Kelli Woodford, Diane Bailey, and also Tammy Hendricksmeyer, who I know through writing as well.

From Chains to Keys an amazing write by my friend, Kelli Woodford. You must read this, if you ever felt the things of the past haunting you.

My One Word 365: Dwell Alia does it again. She blows me away with her writing, and her heart.

She Loves Magazine: Manifesto: Let Us Be Women Who Love This is beautiful.

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For When You’re Feeling Small {An Abstraction on Yield for Concrete Words}

I don’t count myself very big. I’m all of 5’3, slender hands and small, narrow feet that shoes flop all over the place on unless I get just the right, snug fit. I’ve lost more weight, making my frame smaller, and my clothes a little loose, and I like the feeling, sort of how it feels to be lost in the back of a crowd, where no one can see. 

I know I should eat, but it’s hard. A lot of things that are good for me are very hard. They require yielding and effort on my part. 




On a beautiful, cold and crisp October morning, hundreds of women were driving and flying and carpooling to South Carolina from all over two countries to the Allume writer’s conference and me? I had to stay at home. Again. 

The ache of being left behind can feel very lonely. I was so looking forward to the glory of God there, the meat I would be fed with, the renewal I would receive, the direction I needed to push my weary bones on ahead, an animal’s ears perked up and ready for action by call of the Farmer’s familiar, gravelly voice. 


But my children were sick, and there was a different call from the one I was expecting. Perhaps I had not allowed myself to hear the familiar voice in a while, and forgot the sound. I’m an animal out of practice in wearing a harness, bit and reigns. My back has been bare and I have loved the feeling of roaming wild, hair whipping, lashing me in the face. He lets me feel the sting of my carelessness. 

And I could just almost hear the faint sound… God speaking to me in a different way, because who can deny what’s so obviously staring them down? He had placed them right in front of me. 


The children. The pine floors needing washing. Laundry needing to be folded, dirty dishes, and oatmeal cookie ingredients sitting in the cabinet to nurture a child’s belly and heart. 




Home. He had placed home right in front of me. 

It sounds cliche, but my small life is what I need, it’s what He’s given, and why run after things that seem greater? Why try to be a superstar? 


Oh, believe me, I don’t write to be known…. it never was about that. And honestly, most days, I want to closed down the blog, hide away and not be known at all. Because I am small and I know it. It would be easier to disappear than to keep offering up these meager, stray crumbs. 


No, I write because I can’t help myself. But a book? Being an author? Yeah, that’d be nice… and don’t we all have dreams and aspirations, and when I see others doing great and mighty works for God, I admit, I lose my wits for a moment and wonder how I could pursue that better, how I could get a book, or go on a missions trip. I’ve wanted to for years, before I started writing, and yet even though that desire is God-given, maybe it’s not the time. It seems God would have me stay. 


Why is staying so hard? 


Why is feeling small so heartbreaking? 


Why do I have this split personality that doesn’t want to be seen, but wants someone to approve, to see me and say who I am and what I bring to the table is good? 


This is a human condition and none of us can escape it. Needing and striving for approval here on this earth becomes sin in us because it consumes, and we forget to even look up and recognize the Father’s voice, to ask Him what He thinks. 


The beauty of sacrifice can be a beautiful thing when we yield. My yielding has come slowly and painfully. I can be a bulldog when I dig in hard and am determined to get something done. I show teeth when someone tells me I’m trying too hard, that it’s not working and I should just quit. It just makes me tighten my grip.


This comes from a hard grit I have deep inside that gets me through the hard times and the things I think I can’t do. But  God knows just how to pull the things from my heart that He needs to get from me. The tender things, the ripened fruit in due season. He is the Great Tiller I believe. 


He watches over the soil of my heart, like only a Good Farmer can. And like the Gentle Father He is, He patiently waits til I’m ready, tends me, constantly sees after me, and when I have fruit to give, be it ever so small and pitiful, he looks on it lovingly because what I can’t see is that in His eyes it is great and beautiful and powerful. 


And then in the way only His miraculous hands can, He touches it and it multiplies, producing the most bountiful gorgeous sweet goodness one hundred times over. I’m so blessed to call Him Father, so blessed to be staying home with my sweet, sick children who need me, though my first inclination is to run far away and take a vacation. I’m trusting He knows what I really need beyond what I can see. I’m holding his hand, trusting and taking every little gift that comes disguised, wrapped up looking like heartache, failure or disappointment, and receiving it as blessing from His hand, one thousand and more overflowing. Ten thousand blessings besides.


I trust Him, the Great Farmer of my heart, and I tilt my head slightly, ear listening for that familiar sound. 


I think the Whisper is saying to do the really hard things. I eat. I go to the grocery store. I cook nutritious meals. I check homework, scrub kitchen counters, bathe little ones, fold clothes, hold my tongue when I’m angry, love them when they drive me crazy. I talk to my children about house rules. I put my foot firmly down on the pine floors and take ground back when they run over me. 


And with my foot firmly in place, it feels like home. We are grounded.


We are cupped. And whole, and feel a little closer to heaven. It’s completely enough. 


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 Yield


{I will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

In the Trenches {& 15 Best Links of the Week & A Fun Weekend Challenge}

I stay up too late, trying to catch some quiet, relished moments, and then need extra sleep in the morning because my body can’t function on little rest.

When I walk in and face the children, it feels like they have one over on me, like I just can’t keep up.

Always running to keep up and I’m so weary. Chronic illness for three and a half years, and the battle is getting harder, just when I thought I could see the top of the mountain, hoping I could start climbing down the other side. It was only a thick cloud hiding the ever-towering mountain from my weary eyes.

I don’t feel very brave. But some say being brave is about getting in the fight, and not sitting on the sidelines. Some say it’s not brave unless you’re afraid.

And I’m very afraid. I think of their precious faces, and I pray will all my heart that He would heal this illness so that I can wake each morning feeling like a conqueror.

I heard someone say recently, that if we felt like conquerors, if there were no battle to keep us in the trenches, we would never learn humility.

I guess the bravest of us really are in the trenches, learning the ropes that are ever-changing, climbing high with all our might, just to get to the top and realize there is a long way to go.

And with God, He sees all that lies ahead, and He keeps us going when we feel like giving up the race, and falling to the sidelines, becoming a spectator.

I feel His thrumming in my chest, when I lie awake, when all the house is quiet, and He says, stay in it, child. Don’t give up, beloved. There is work to be done yet. Until then, rest. But don’t ever give up or give in.

Keep going, put one foot in front of the other and do the next good thing.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the #FiveMinuteFriday Community. We write for five minutes flat, with no extreme editing, no worrying about perfect grammar, no worrying if our words sound just right. “Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”–Lisa-Jo Baker

The one-word prompt this week: BRAVE.

 Five Minute Friday

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:

Janel Andrews for Piano #1–in Poetic Form —I absolutely loved reading this. Gorgeous. Janel is totally new to Concrete Words–let’s encourage her!

*********
Some lovely reading, some creativity, some beauty for the weekend?

All the best links for me this week: {And stay tuned or scroll down for your weekend challenge!! FUN!}

This story–only Amber Haines can say the words caddywhompus, webbernets, and talk about flowers and Kingdom come in a way that makes me want to know God like a child again all in one post. This girl is amazing. 
This post by Lisa-Jo. Seriously. If you’re a mother, you need this one. This weekend. Read this and breathe. 
THIS by Seth Haines–if you read one thing on this list–this. I believe in God the Father, Almighty maker of heaven, maker of earth. Beautiful video at the end of Rich Mullins. 
This one by Deidra Riggs–yes, yes, yes.  
This video based on one of Lisa-Jo’s post. All of us mothers need to watch this a couple times, y’all. At least. 
This post by Ann Voskamp— this blessed me, got down under my skin in all the right ways… for the days when life is unbearably moving too fast, and you aren’t sure how to hold on…. just remember a sheen of grace covers everything…
This post by my friend, Holly, at A Lifetime of Days— absolutely glorious. For when you need a change, and things are stale. 
Some beauty to capture and open the brain to possibility…beautiful places all over the world 
Some creativity for the weekend–a wall that happily heralds summer… I will definitely be doing this… I’ll get some white frames on the cheap… This is so easy–just some leaves and spray-paint!
This video on making tiny gardens is interesting and may inspire a hobby this summer? I would recycle things around the house for my own tiny garden–broken clay pots & pieces, stones & rocks to make paths, marbles for garden globes….

For the Writers:
This post from Margaret Feinberg :things we all need to know, whether we write on a blog, or writing a book
Laura Boggess writes an informative post to help us avoid the snags of bad style
Mary Demuth’s 25 Very Best Blog Practices–this helped me. Some of it I already knew–but it’s good to have it re-confirmed. My guess is it will be beneficial to you, too. 
Your weekend challenge from Moi: Go out into your swampy, snowy, icicle-y yard {whichever applies to your region} and find some beauty–take your camera with you and snap something. I’m doing this, too! Just for kicks: Link pics in comments here all weekend.  The rest of your challenge is below…. Happy weekend, friends! 
Tell me in the comments: What were your favorite links this week? How do you struggle to be brave? 

True Worship & Fearing Change: An Abstraction on Table {Day 12}

An abstraction on a Table: A prompt by Amber Haines….

Beautiful wood that is so old, it’s called antique, which sounds such fragile a word. Of course, its purpose was a place to serve meals, but to a kid, it can be a fort, a castle, or the carpet underneath a forest floor, legs rising tall as trees. All of us grandchildren used to play under its delicately routed and carved legs and underbelly.

It cast such dark shadows that hid me and no one could find me. Underneath there, I was a queen or a damsel in distress, tracing the curved lines and crevices in hopes of escape from my soft-carpeted prison.

From underneath my hiding place, I could spot, just dimly lit in soft, heavy-curtained afternoon light up on the buffet table, the old iridescent blue set of bowls, one holding old-fashioned candies of all flavors. Absolutely fascinating and irresistible to a child. It was my sole mission to play underneath the table long enough so that my Granny wouldn’t notice when I snuck quickly out, tip-toed to the blue bowl to grab a candy.

All of the precious memories of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Sunday dinners were made here.

The best memories were the Sundays when Granny had Chicken and Dumplins or blackberry cobbler waiting on me, my favorites.

Years and years later, after this little girl had grown up, the table became a sort of gift from my grandparents, who had no place to put it in their new apartment.

They had given up their home to a son, and it was eventually sold, a sad time for us all as the memories went with it.

Now the table sits in my high-ceilinged home, not on carpet, but on old, brightly polished pine floors. It’s a deep mahogany and makes the mood dark. It needs a fresh coat of white paint, slapped on heavy and thick with love, which would make the whole room lovely.

Then some of those grooves, crevices, the caving-in places I tried to escape as a child will fade into the background, and the past will be the past.

But then I worry about change–it’s been the way it is for so long. My heart stops a bit to think of the eternal consequence of marring such a priceless item with paint.

Now, where it sits, it’s a place of gathering, it seems to magnetically draw us all together.

No matter the chaos going on around the home– paper cut-outs being thrown awry, sisters chasing one another–screaming, me fussing at a daughter to just finish the sweeping already, and oh my aching head–when we all sit down at the table, candles lit, and we slide into our familiar places, something just feels right and it’s home.

It feels familiar and yet uncomfortable as children begin to bang, and to argue and to wail, to complain about the food.

High-pitched yelling and wailing is like nails on the chalkboard of my nerves. The banging and the water glass knocking over is more than I can handle. I shift in my seat, look for a way out, want to escape.

But here, in this familiar safe place, we all do the necessary thing. We gather. We are community. Every day, no matter what. We need the safe rhythm, the consistency.

Husband prays for us to love one another better as we hold hands, and this convicts me.

And these, these children and this husband around my table, they are my people, my church.

We are the body broken, and we worship with quieted spirits that want to bolt, and we do the hard work of staying.

We raise glasses to mouths and swallow down water and offer words of love where there has been grating of nerves and this is our true worship.

Linking up with Amber

Also linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear of change, or fear of the everyday change, the always fluid problems that come our way, like wailing and arguing at the supper table? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these anxieties? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. 

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo