Category Archives: confession

For When You Just Need Life to Rise Up From the Decay

 

{An Abstraction on Rust}

 

**I am SO pleased to welcome our first writer from our #concretewords team today, my very dear and one of my best friends, Tammy Hendricksmeyer. Tammy makes me laugh on hard days, even when she isn’t aware I need to laugh. She calls me up when I’m facing a difficult trial and need encouragement. She threw me a lifeline and literally helped pull me up out of the recluse cynical-girl-without-community hole I was in.

She offered me a place that I could call a community home, with friends around, and with one of the warmest hearts I’ve ever known, she welcomed me in to be a writer there. She even allowed me to brainstorm with her for this new project she’d welcomed me to be apart of, Outside the City Gate. She called out talents she saw in me. She’s a gem of a person. I know you’re going to like her. And she just happens to be a great writer, too.

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The double gates greet me, their loose security swinging from a silver chain. Gravel crunches under the tires for a full-stop. I must enter, but first I need to unwrap thick links like a honeysuckle vine clinging to a fence. It’s only a minute or two, yet the pause is long enough to notice the Blue Heron flying from its perch not too far from my untangling.

Once I’ve freed the silver shackles, I’m ready to begin again, to continue my trek for home. Our driveway is a long one. There is a temptation to speed down its length and make up the distance in time, as if the sand is slipping too quickly in an invisible hour glass. But the bumps, the turns, the old cattle guard, they require me to slow my pace.

Some days, a pair of buzzards perch high up in a dead tree about the spot where the car dips down as the road lowers. They look down as if I’m an ant. But they do not own this place.

The straightest spot of the driveway is where the rust sits. Lots of abandoned metal greet any guests who venture here. There is much of it before there is any beauty. There are vacant places, or in-the-middle-of-repairing buildings, and metal skins of by-gone days. There’s even an old pink house from some turn of the century date that’s now lost among a rubble from years of neglect, but it stands tall enough for you to notice it too.

Rust clings here. Many places of the spreading disease corrode my view of redemption. And if I think too long on it, my face blushes hot of how such wastelands are seen before anybody arrives to Knockout Roses displaying splendor or where red brick stands on an old hay field.

But as I consider the word, I turn it over in my mind.

On the one hand, there is need for attention, for care, for tending and the decay tells me this has been too long in coming. Here, where the copper colored stains begin to crust corners of my life, I see where neglect has taken a toll. In the ugly mess, there is a story being told. On any given day, I must drive past the disease before suddenly meeting the wide open porches of redemption and grace. If only I could drive past all my guests’ wastelands too. Would compassion not rise from the rust?

Just one glimpse could change a lot, like a feed bin bowled over when knocked off its pedestals.

Weakened by plight, the metal lays on it’s side. Once a sturdy place for food, now has become part of scrap waiting to be carried off. It’s top facing the road at a perfect angle for a picture. So I snapped one, then more. The cylinder lid half open, as if murmuring a dying breath or word to me. Age now wrinkles in waves of reddish brittle coating. Food for thought has gone from the stomach to the heart. Although chicken pellets no longer fill it’s hollow belly, I’m nourished by what I can learn. Like a story behind every gravestone of a buried life, wisdom is born from what has died. A story is a mustard seed waiting to be more. Maybe then, the copper hues would share their wisdom that sprouted from adversity and death.

But rust can also be my thorn. The appearance of it like evidence poking my side with frailties and the danger of a soul left unchecked. Age has proven a place of revealing the deep hidden things, eating their way to the surface. Clearly, I see them now. But I lug them off for the heap, one by one, even as the corroding appendages humble me. It is here I am dependent most on the redemptive work of grace and mercy, for I must guard against condemnation and shame which attempt to smother the process of Truth.

For whatever the muse, I notice the rust. Some days with a bit of force and a handful of camera, I cherish speckled and hole-y pieces scattered among our fray. Occasionally, my hubby finds a small token buried under layers of Texas clay and sand. We dust it off the best we can and give it a place of prominence inside our house where redemption continues to churn. We salvage. We rescue. We search for copper-covered jewels to pull from mines of neglect and disrepair.

Perhaps my life is prone to it. I am in need of embracing gratefulness with ambition, of remembering this is tale of caution which reminds me of frailties. Among the fallen places where decay is marking a trail, is a Person who is pulling me from the miry clay. Dare I imagine Him standing over me, admiring my sidelong posture having been knocked off my pedestal?”

Would He not whisper, even in my coppery array, “Now that is pure beauty of a treasure, right there?” Much in the same way, I captured the bin. Even if I fail to understand, rust is telling a story, and on any given day, is telling mine too.

 

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Tammy is a writer, collaborator, and encourager of big dreams, who also has learned that inter-personal relationships can both wreck you and build you up.  She’s a renaissance woman who’s scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, spent the night in a castle, but surprisingly finds herself now living on a farm in tim-buck-two, Texas. This poet at heart homeschools for now, throws her head back when laughing, talks her family into hair-brained photographs, and occasionally drives an ol’ John Deere tractor. She’s a visionary over here but spills her guts here.

 

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

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. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is Rust. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Sunday at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer

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Take Hold Of the Promise {An Abstraction on Bloom}, An Announcement and A Giveaway!!

**Trigger warning: This post talks about marriage and contains the words divorce and separation–if those are hard things for you to read about because of a fresh wound or experience, please consider that before you read. All my love and warm wishes your way….

I meet him at the door, his arms heavy with groceries and other leftovers from a long commute. He stares at me, puzzled by the look on my face. What is it? he asks.

Just–what a weary day, huh?

He exhales. Yes, a knowing in his eyes. We exchange a somber look of understanding.

I give him as much of a hug as I can with all the stuff in between us, and kids yelling with delight– Daddy! and I walk into the kitchen and begin unpacking everything. I smile to myself secretly —

He got all the things I like, the things that aren’t important to him, but are important to me–and he remembered. I feel so loved by this–this thoughtfulness.

I wasn’t always so easily pleased. There have been times early on in our marriage that I had to have things my way, because I was so afraid of being taken advantage of. The root of fear was so violent inside–God is slowly whittling that away. It took me several years to learn that love gives, and when love gives and is not afraid, there is this most odd dynamic that doesn’t make sense to us humans–we are fulfilled. And that kind of love only grows stronger. It has made my man love and protect and care for me even more–which is what I always wanted anyway.

Love always, always wins. Every time.

Four years ago I became very sick. Last year I was hospitalized for anorexia and other health issues. I was flailing, barely surviving. I was alive, but it felt like all of me was dead. When I got sick, I shut down. I disconnected emotionally from everyone in my life–even my sweet family. My mama said it was my body trying to preserve itself. Every day was a hard battle just to live. I’d lost the will.

There were times my husband had to take pills from my hands. We’ve been through a lot together in almost fourteen years– from a job that separated us early in the first year of marriage, through grieving over the loss of two babies, to dealing with addiction and illness together, even enduring the spiritual wilderness together and surviving marital separation.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve seen and done it all as a couple. But I know that life, and God, has so much more in store for us still. The days will be long, and the years will be short.

It has been a long journey, and there is still some mountain left to climb, but today I feel blessed.

I know what it feels like to want to live. I know what it feels like to fight tooth and nail to rise early in the morning to care for my children. I know what if feels like to carry around a heavy burden of fear that it will all end in divorce, only for God to speak a promise to me–

Every good thing I begin, I bring to completion.

And I have stood back and watched Him heal and make my marriage stronger than it’s ever been. I had begun to doubt that I loved this man, thinking God had somehow made a mistake with my life. And then a miracle happened.

He opened my heart wide to compassion and forgiveness and grace, and I know something for sure, as sure as I know my heart beats and there is breath in my lungs–

I absolutely love this man more than the day I married him.

I am on my way. I’m carrying on. I have a vision He gave. I’m being healed little by little every day. Even though in the last weeks I have not felt Him, have not heard Him speaking, He reminds me about the dreams– He’s been speaking to me through dreams–and it just took some time to see it.

He is always here. Emmanuel. What a loving Father He is, to get my attention in so many different ways. And being the proud Father He is, who wants the best for me, when I call on Him in absolute desperation, He is not angry or condemning that I didn’t come til now. Like the Good Father that he is, he is always happy to see me. This is a choice that I make, but He initiates, He prods. How lost I would be without that if it was all up to me.

And every day is a choice to keep moving in the right direction, to be awake to Him, to have my eyes open, to see Him in my life all around me–in the breath I breathe, in the pulsing heartbeat of child’s purple veins in her neck as she sleeps, in the wind, and sun, and rainy dark afternoon–

in bedtime kisses and stories, in make-shift gifts a four-year-old wraps up in a UPS box and presents to Daddy, in flowers brought in to me by chubby hands and placed on the sill in the light, in folded warm towels on top of the drier, in worship music soothing my soul as I clean, and rock and roll our beat as we roll down the highway toward the gym.

It’s a new day. I proclaim it. Sisters, listen up: Take hold of that promise.

Bloom.

——————————————————————————————————-

Lying there in the dark, he is asleep but something makes me come to a full stop. I’m so amazed at the marvelous miracle of love, that I reach up and gently trace the outline of wrinkles around his eyes, drop gentle kisses all over. I stare at him, and I am shocked at the overwhelming love that I feel for this flawed human being lying next to me. I love him, I love him, I LOVE him!

The tidal wave of realization and emotion washes over me. Memories, all the hard ones and all the good ones– 15 years– they all crash into one moment of mysterious miracle that only God could have performed.

And, I think, lying there– this must be what it feels like, not selfish love– the kind that drives us to look for someone to do life with and to make our own, no– selfless love– the kind that withstands all and keeps going and finds something deeper, surer.

I think–this must be what it’s like to bloom wide open into all I was designed to be.

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, Jennifer, Emily, 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 Bloom (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 Bloom. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Thursday, the 17th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be Path.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: Kelli Woodford and I invited you here today for the wrap-up of the series and a link-up, but she had to go out of town this week for Faith & Writer’s Festival–lucky girl! So, we ask you to forgive us for postponing, and in the place of the link-up, we’re doing a giveaway! AND you are invited back here next week, on Wednesday, the 16th, when 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!!


GIVEAWAY TIME!! WOOT! To win this book, just leave a comment and share this post on facebook or twitter! That’s all!! A winner will be chosen randomly.

What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language? 


A passion to follow Jesus. 

Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ.

Kisses from Katie invites readers on a journey of radical love down the red dirt roads of Uganda. You’ll laugh and cry with Katie as she follows Jesus into the impossible and finds joy and beauty beneath the dust. Katie and her children delight in saying yes to the people God places in front of them and challenge readers to do the same, changing the world one person at a time.

Rooted in a Tangible Grace {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging:: A Series}




It’s ten o’clock in the morning and I’m still in my pajamas. (That is one part confession and two parts bragging.) There’s clean laundry on the dresser. It has been sitting there all week. I am getting used to it. I think I might actually come to like it there. Kind of a relaxed decorating scheme. The same pervasive ornamentation dons the kitchen. Except in there, it speaks to me in the language of crumbs rather than cloth. Unswept bits of last night’s bread and stew, cheerios as far as the eye can see, and an apple core in the corner – just shy of the garbage can.
I plead with you: are these not somehow beautiful … ? Ah, to cultivate the eye of the beholder.
Because “laziness” is not always what it seems. My children are sick. We have been sitting on the plump blue couch keeping each other warm in more ways than one. Fevered bodies make for workable furnaces and fuzzy blankets with satin trim bring us comfort of the lasting kind. One boy has animals on his pajamas. He is angular under the thin fabric and it hangs loose around his shoulders and chicken legs. He loves dinosaurs more than life itself, I think. He also has the longest eyelashes the world has ever seen. The Boy Who Is Made of Skin, Bones, and Eyelashes. Yep.
The other boy is his antithesis. A soft, round belly protrudes gently between the spaceship on his pajama shirt and the top of his diaper. His fingers are still dimpled and his hair crumples in every direction when he gets up in the morning from the crazy nocturnal circus this kid performs in his crib. Oh, and appearance isn’t the only way in which he resembles a teddy bear. His warm forehead pressed against my shoulder is a sensation I could get used to, but pray I never will. Because I don’t want to take these daily graces for granted. He is the one who spontaneously kisses me. Like all the time. The one with sticky lips who likes his face so close I can taste his tears. It’s not just his fever that warms me, as I said.
************
Y’know, writing is not always about the big issues. Oh, I have written about them. (Some of themanyway.) And I believe there’s a place for that. But I also believe in writing as a lens. A tool. A way to practice living intentionally. Or better yet: A way to come home to our own ambivalent selves and the messy lives that ache with fever and rattle with clutter, and there see intentionally what is the holy, hidden heart of it all.
The words I tapped out above are not clever or pointed. They do not argue for a higher perspective or a deeper love. They neither deconstruct debates nor purport them. They have no side to offer, no club to join, no cause to uphold. They simply rejoice in what is. I once read that journalism is that which is devoured quickly and then disposed of, while literature is that which one returns to over and again, being filled anew each time. And without putting on airs, may I say that I know which description I’d like my words to resemble? I will read above words like these again not because I must glean information from them, but because I feel the existential truth in them. It is good for my soul to remember the way these days bump and sway and lay themselves out under my feet, so I can walk one step at a time. This is how I remember my size. And my need. I come to terms with – no, I make friends with – the limitations of my experience.
I will return to words like these because they remind me that I have not only been loved, but I have loved. And by reading of this mild interchange, I still smell the soggy Cheerios on spaceship pajamas and I taste the salt from his tears on my lips. Through these physical descriptions, I am rooted in a tangible grace that holds place for me on the darkest days. Days when I forget that love is more satisfying than being right. Days when present emptiness threatens to steal what once was. Grasping days. For the darkness obscures what I knew so securely in the light and sometimes I find hope emerge brightest by looking behind — at the having-been-ness of these moments. Which can never be taken away.
I have loved, therefore I have lived. Full stop.
I will also return to them because they remind me that life is indeed a holy experience. Even in the ordinary. Even in the necessary. Even in the ugly. Tears stand unshed, hemmed in by eyelash sentinels. Jaws set and arms sometimes cross. I’ve desecrated these most human of all places by their exile, instead of hallowing them by a full-frontal embrace. There is a tendency to divorce writing well from living well and I’m as prone to it as anyone. But present tense words written simply in the tone of observation bring me back. Their power, at least in part, is that they must be written one. at. a. time. They quietly usher in wholeness. They remind me that good writing doesn’t fragment us from our earthenware lives in these bodies, as if holiness is made of only starshine, but rather propels us back into the humdrum – to roll up our sleeves and catch snowflakes on our tongues and tickle baby toes – and to do it with open eyes.

To illuminate our blindness and wake the sleeping beholder in us all.

Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can read more of her tantalizing words here, at her blog, where she chronicles grace in everyday life, or find her hanging out here on Twitter and Facebook.  

This is a series on writing–here are the other posts in this series:

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha

For When You’re Feeling Hopeless {and Smoking Doesn’t Mean You’re Going to Hell}



She tells herself to walk outside to get her mind off of things and knows her feet will get wet, but she wants to see her spider lilies that have shot up through the ground with all the hard rain.

The spider lilies they are nostalgic for her, bringing up things within that once were and always will be. They make her want fall to last forever, a season of change, a beautiful relaxed part of her soul that only comes out when the time is right.

The red webbed fingers, they point and speak to her–she knows, winter is coming. It is bittersweet because she knows that life can’t last forever, and yet, there is such beauty here. Neither can the dead things last forever, and she is dead, if she is seeing it clearly.

This world, it is a dark glass, and only on that one day will she see things for what they really are. Then the veil will be pulled back but for now, she wanders and thinks on the life and the dead things, how the life will go down to the deep and lie dormant. It must be given a chance to rest and re-seed and grow in harsh cold. Then and only then can life and hope come forth from the bitter ground.

She know in the dark chambers of her heart where only whispers are held and secrets are kept that spider lilies, so delicate and holding such beauty, don’t last forever–they are but a blink, a momentary fore-shadowing of things to come. She wanders through their sprinkled wet path, blowing smoke along the way, thinking of how she shouldn’t smoke, that it’s been 13 years, but the demons they come back and they come back with a vengeance when she isn’t paying attention. She thinks of how we all have a vice, and God’s grace comes to her on the cool breeze of fall air.

Then like a wakening dream she remembers vividly the man and wife she bumped into. She sees the way the man sat down with a smile and said this is good to talk, we need to, we need to let some stuff out, and how she said, with a knowing look, well, bring it, get it out. She sees the wife, how she fidgeted with every little thing, how she nervously glanced here and there, would not look her in the eyes. And how the man, he told her they were in town for a ceremonial ordinance at someone’s property who lived nearby and she cries out yes! I believe in the Sabbath whole-heartedly and love dearly God’s sacred communion and the sacraments. But then how her heart sank to her stomach as he told her, when she talked of grace, that he believed in the law.

She noticed the woman’s cast-down eyes, the speaking to herself under her breath, the head hung low, apologizing to someone unseen. And in her very heartbeat, she can hear the man saying that yes, we are saved by faith, but that is conditional upon our obedience to God’s law, and she hears it resounding in her ear like a drum, the beating of her own heart, and God’s heart, gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. Can you hear it too?

Because she did, as she listened to him, her heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster, but she knew that only God could speak grace to his heart and only God could lift that woman’s head. She told him how she believed in eternal security, how that she knew she could never be plucked out of God’s hand for any reason. And she told him of her uncle who for most of his life was addicted to drugs and because of the law she never believed he was saved, but that at 30 years old, she finally realized that because he had given his heart to Christ and loved him early on in life, that he was indeed written upon God’s hand forever, and we are not to know the condition of his heart, only God can. The only way to know we are really not in God’s hands is to completely deny him, she tells him.

She walks by the weeds grown up in her beautiful beds she worked so fervently on those summers ago, and she knows that weeds, they can sneak up on us when we are not looking and they can choke out a life. They can try to snuff out, but God’s grace is mightier than anything any old demon, no matter how powerful, can throw upon us. We all have our weeds, untended, neglected, and we all have moments in our lives of hard-heart ground. It’s bitter ground, that hangs its head low, and doesn’t even want to look up at God, doesn’t want to pray, doesn’t want to listen to what we must do to be saved.

And the man, he looked her in the eyes and challenged her and said, what about when a man blasphemes against the holy spirit, the unpardonable sin? Do you believe in that? She looks him in the eye and smiles and says, I believe that is the unpardonable sin, denying him.

She walks around and around the lilies and the weeds, thinking of that last challenge, when he said with fire in his eyes, what about when a man shakes his fist at God and says, I hate God?

Actions on the outside and truth in the heart can be two totally different things, she says. Only God knows if the man believes it in his heart or not. 

The man looks stunned, woman sitting with her eyes cast down, and he says to his sister, Yes, possibly it’s a phase and God will bring him back–that’s an idea to think on….

She walks gently over the grass and steps back inside, and she doesn’t forget the man and wife and the heaviness she felt around them. She thinks on them, says a silent prayer, thinks about her own heart, and its vices.

She reads the 23rd Psalm, the 1st Psalm, God’s promises to her, and she picks up Nehemiah where she left off…

The heading in her bible reads, A List of Exiles Who Returned…and the list is long with many descendants of God’s people. And she recalls the scripture His hand had led her heart to…

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name…” Neh. 1:8-11

She thinks on the men who hung on a cross next to Jesus, who did not deserve a pardon and how one begged to go to Paradise with him that day, and Jesus’ words swell her heart wide open and bursting with peace. Because to this man, that never had a moment to prove his worth or obedience, Jesus simply said to a thief worthy only of death and condemnation dying next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Such is God’s way with the heart of a man, and she turns it over and over in her mind, a Rubik’s cube, asking questions of her own with answers that are not yet to be seen.

For it is not their due season, but she knows that at the right time, when winter is over, the fruit will come. It will burst forth like a baby slipping out all wet and wailing and beautiful from its mother’s womb.

She crawls into bed next to her baby and sings amazing grace slowly and softly, letting her voice lilt over the words in peaceful praise and thanksgiving for her name upon His hand.

If you’re interested in further research into this topic, a great wise pastor here:

John Piper answers the question can a person be a Christian and drink or smoke:

John Piper preaches on law and grace–powerful!

Disclosure: I am not endorsing Mark Driscoll’s preaching by posting this, but I love what he has to say here, because it’s biblical and shocking to those of us who judge Christians to “look” and “act” a certain way:

{Context here is that Samuel was sent by God to anoint Israel’s next king, and he assumed it must be Eliab, according to his appearance.}
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37

Related: Seasons

Announcement: #concretewords is back on Monday, Sept 30 or 31st!! It’s a possibility I could be gone because my anniversary falls on the 29th, so have your submission ready and I’ll have the link-up live either Monday or Tues! Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been a rough several months, and things are still on the mend, but I’m finally ready to write.

Concrete Words prompt: SOIL!

For When The Noise Drowns You Out and You’ve Made an Idol of Your Writing {Again}

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”–Mother Theresa

I can get so lost in how low the number of readers are or so preoccupied with my own worries and fears–you know the ones–

What would this side think of my writing, what would folks of this belief think, what if I lose readers if I write what I really feel, can I be vulnerable, how honest should I be, and one of the worst questions that plagues my mind at times: What is the point of writing when there are so many more that say it better and reach many more than I do?

And then I think this writing thing of mine will never go anywhere. I get disappointed, an unhealthy self-pity and hedonism sets in, and then anger holds my heart in its tight grip. In searching for myself and my happiness as a writer, as an artist, and co-creator with God, I forget the God that imparts the poetry and breathes life into my weary bones. I start to think it’s all about me.

And then, suddenly, like a slow dawning, an awakening, my eyes are opened, and I see myself thinking about myself too much–in one flash of a moment, my mind is completely clear, I have His mind, and I can see myself through his lens.

I have wrestled with this writing thing, oh, how I’ve wrestled. There were entire days I just stayed in my pajamas, barely ate, and wasn’t present with my kids because I was so engrossed in my writing, and I was steeped in unhealthy habits that had been rutted out during three years of ill health.

I felt so guilty for my need to create, to have something of my own, and I’ve struggled to find balance between the nurture of art and relationship. I’ve felt at times that God’s greatest calling for me was raising my girls and oh yes, it is, and who will be there for them if not I? But then, my heart screams back, why did God make me with this wild desire to create? 

A young woman at a retreat a couple months ago asked me why I started writing, started blogging. My tongue got heavy in my mouth and in slow-motion, I said to her, “I don’t really know, is the real answer” I went on to tell her who and what had inspired me, but the true thing about it all, was, I really didn’t know, and I still don’t.

I wrote a couple of pretty good posts after that, and people related well and they got way more attention than I possibly ever thought, and I was grateful.

But then the tide changed. 


{Friends, I’m at Bibledude today. Would you follow me over there for the rest of this story? I would love for you to tell me in the comments there how you’ve struggled in writing. If you have a question, please ask. Let’s wrestle this thing out together. } (((Thank you))) 

**Don’t forget, Ruth Povey will be leading the charge and guest-hosting Concrete Words Monday, July 1st. Come link up on our prompt, the Tainted.

This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory Emily for Imperfect ProseMichelle DeRusha

True Revival: The Long-Lasting Kind {And A Call to Concrete Words}



So last year I wrote this, and I’ve been thinking hard on it, how I’ve failed at lent this year, how it’s been non-existent for me, how a diagnosis back in the fall, a diagnosis no one wants to receive, has taken over my life like some dark cloud, a dark, foreboding heavy cloak that weighs me down, seeming like a foreshadowing of what is to come. This illness, it seems to have sapped all the strength right out of me.

It lays on us thick, making the dredging through everyday feel like it’s impossible to force laughter to gurgle up and out. I sit in the cold stillness, sweater wrapped round my body, lambswool blanket my comforting security, and I watch them play, watch them laugh, and some days when they seem tired and docile, I worry about them.

Sometimes it seems like my long-legged girl has forgotten how to smile, and I wonder if she mirrors me.

My tall Lorna has such a strong heart, and there has been a few mornings she has woke her Mama up and brought hot tea. When she does these things for me, I see such a nurturing mother in her, already at almost twelve, and I feel confident and sure for all the future children tucked away quiet in her womb.

Their schooling seems to fall through my hands like too many grains of sand, and I feel the weight of what I cannot carry in this frail body I despise. I tell myself tomorrow will be different, and tomorrow comes and I struggle and they struggle sometimes too and the days blur, and every homeschooling mama knows this hardship.

It’s been three and a half years now, and this illness in my body feels like a mountain I can find no way around, no way over, no way through.

The doctor tells me we will send Lorna to Jackson University to a neurologist for the sudden passing out and seizures that’s happened twice, and I’m glad to have some answers soon, at the same time overwhelmed at all the work that lays before me with long trips to the doctor.

I talk to Husband about possibly putting them back in public school, because I am not handling the weight well, and my heart is in my throat as I say the words. We talk about it, in low tones, and it seems impossible, because one daughter learns differently and needs to be at home, and all the reasons that we decided to homeschool in the first place are what make this decision so hard. Homeschooling is a whole other, strange, wonderful, miraculous animal, and if you believe in it’s principles, then it’s painstaking to think of your child thrown back into the system, labeled “behind”, simply because they learn differently.

Once in a while at night, I drink more than one glass of wine, and I feel heavy, relaxed, and some crazy days it’s the only thing that calms the raging storm inside. Husband lays back on the couch and watches a movie with me, red deliciousness in hand, kids all finally quiet and sleepy for the day, until we hear squeals and screaming and fighting, and we yell “Don’t make me come in there!”

I kiss heads, feel the softness of my lips against their cool, sweet cheeks, and tell them goodnight, feeling the tug to do more, wanting to read with them, but knowing my body can’t handle anymore that day.

Ivy looks at me with questioning eyes as I lean on the counter, “You know Mama, you could just go lay down and take a nap…”

But my heart aches, and I stare at her thinking, and I blink it back, Oh, child, I don’t want you to worry about me. 

The words are stuck inside, a silent scream that I can’t get out: “If only God had not given me this bitter cup to drink!”

My friend tells me that maybe I need to take some time off, some time away from everything, if that’s what it takes to get better, whatever I need to do for myself and for my family.

I swallow down the bitter taste of truth coming from my friend. It’s a painful lump lodged there in my throat. I shake my head and shake it off. Leave them? I couldn’t do that. Sometimes a mother doesn’t know how to do what’s best for her, because all the synapses of her soul only know how to fire off and execute what’s best for her children.

I call Husband and tell him I’m not feeling well, and to bring me some Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, my favorite, or Chocolate Fudge Brownie. He brings the brownie kind. Seriously, Ben & Jerry’s when I’m supposed to be on a detox. And Lent? I honestly have hardly thought about it. I feel like a failure as I swallow down the cold, chocolaty goodness. But the chocolate sludge feels so good going down and makes me forget for a moment the trudging.

And so what more can I tell you, now that I’ve spilled my guts, let you see my soul?

We find the grace in the little triumphs and we find joy in sun-warmed afternoons. I try to remember how to laugh. I try to be brave.

I try to keep smiling when I see my girls looking at me, so intuitively, their eyes questioning, watching me.

We washed dishes today, my eleven-year old and I, and we sang loud to Journey (well, I did–she just stared at me like I was nuts), and we danced and I tickled her with soapy hands until she fell on the ground in a laughing heap.

The girls come to me now, all red-cheeked clamor, “Mama!! Lilly just said ‘Let me go’! I was holding her upside down and she said it! She said it, Mama! A whole sentence!” And it’s better than a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, revival church service.

We cheer for her, clap our hands, and we have a little church right here in our own hearts, in our own home, for these words were a long time coming from my little Lilly. It’s a broken hallelujah reverberating in my heart.

And it feels a little like real Victory, and the bitter cup, a way to learn what truest healing is.

It feels a little like true Revival, the long-lasting kind, the kind that lasts longer than a three hour church service in the altar, it’s the kind that gives children joy even while watching their Mama struggle with illness, the kind that makes Mamas stand up with the strength to continue in the face of adversity.

My friend wrote this at her place, and she asked “Where are the messy, gritty, stories of the still-lost?” I wrote some messy stories, stories that were very hard to publish, here, and here, and here, stories that show a grateful-for-grace-me.

And I will keep writing them, even though my temptation is to write helpful things, to give you 10 steps to a better you–I’m not going to do that. I just want to share my stories, and help you find yourself in them. I want to help you and I, and all of us find ourselves in need of grace.

“We need the blistered cry of honest voices laughing together with tears in our eyes (a desperate prayer, yes?) at how the Light always sneaks up behind us, even when the black is at its inkiest. We need to learn to trace grace’s fingerprint on the horizon, while still walking in the dark.”–Kelli Woodford

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Let’s not cast any stone. Let’s help walk one another home. (adapted from my friend, Tara’s favorite quote: “We’re all just walking each other home”–Ram Dass)

**Please read: Friends, because of this illness, we have some decisions facing us concerning the girls’ education, where we should live {I need to be closer to family who can help, and the girls need more options for their education}, and we are also considering getting someone to help me at home during the week. Please pray as I battle this and as we make these prayerful, very serious decisions for our family?

Friends, on Monday, blushing fire-red cheeks and all, I will be taking Amber Haines’ Concrete Words, and running with it–well, she’s asked me to, probably only ’cause I was the only one who jumped at it. And I’m so honored! She is no longer doing it–at least for now. We will gather here, every Monday, at my place. Since this will be my first week hosting #concretewords, I am using Amber’s words to describe what we do in this community. We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. I have had fun with this, and I hope you will join in and write your own, or drop by to read! Please help spread {since I’m not near as big as Amber ;)} the word via twitter and facebook, and don’t forget to use the hashtag, #concretewords.

Because of what I shared hereI cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs–although I would love for you to feel a sense of community when you are here, and I hope you do feel right at home–I just think–though we all search for so much interaction and approval from others, that sometimes, maybe in some seasons, sometimes very long seasons, just a quiet place 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! Oh friend, I’m so glad you understand, and thank you for so much grace!  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 Emily…

When You Just Want To Be A Better Mother– How We’re Saved Everyday

I turn over, bury head underneath covers against morning light, trying to sleep away the fogginess from staying up too late the night before. I finally tumble out of bed, equilibrium rolling and room’s floor shifting. The unlevel wooden floors of this ‘ole house don’t help much.

My hair a ratted nest, I grab my water and chamomile tea cup and head for the kitchen and freshly brewed coffee, hoping for one of those heart cookies Husband left for us this morning.

Upon entering a little too sunshine lit living room, Ivy informs me that the little ones ate all the cookies and left none for anyone else. So the first duty of the day before I can even brew a cup of coffee is to discipline my little ones.

My wee one asks, “Out, Mama?” and I call back, with a warm smile, “Yes, cutie pie, you can get out.” “Yay!” she cries, and so the day begins. I cozy up on the couch and drink coffee, find the recipe for Lorna, mourning that I didn’t prepare and buy ingredients ahead of time for us to do our normal tradition of baking sweets together, all of us hens in the kitchen, clucking happily away.

That won’t be this year, because I botched it up. I have no one to blame but myself. I know there is only a vapor, a moment of time to create memories with these girls, and then they’re gone. Teaching them to bake, sew, and do fractions, how to find the right man–I only have a blink for those things and then they’ll be off, teaching their daughters.

I go into the kitchen, awake now, and tell Lorna I want to make the pancakes, all of us together. It’s Valentines Day, after all, I tell her. I am seized with new hope and get out the heart-shaped cookie cutter, place it on the griddle. I pour in the chia seeds and flax seeds, because I’ve been wanting us to eat better, but have lacked the energy. Zeal settles upon me and all of the sudden everything must be perfect. We are going to make heart-shaped pancakes, and it’s going to be awesome. Ivy will wash while I ladle thick batter onto sizzling heat, Lorna will measure out the dry ingredients, then Ivy and Bella will both come and stand on the stool and ladle the last of the batter into the hearts. And we’ll do it all with smiles.

Then the coffee kicks into over-drive, because in an instant I go from happy zeal to irritated and my face and body is hot all over. My blood pressure feels elevated, heart beating way too hard and fast in my chest. I fuss too loud at Ivy, underfoot, not obeying my request to wash and she walks away lips trembling. One tiny is yelling my name at the top of her voice over and over, the other tiny is provoking her, loudly sing-song-ing “Wah-wah-Wah-wah”, and the pancakes are burning. I can’t find my Wise Words For Moms discipline and training chart, I ruffle through the tray on the fridge and it goes crashing to the floor, contents spilling. Lilly is standing right below me now, crying, clinging, the pancakes threaten to turn black, sizzling fiercely, eldest daughter watches me with big hawk eyes, and I’m much too keenly aware of the impression my actions are making on her as the clock ticks on the oven. Everything begins to close in too tight around me, and I turn around and shout at Bella to just. shut. up!

Lilly begins to wail and snub and I realize she thinks I’m yelling at her. I sink down to the floor, look at the tear running down her little face, and grab her, fold her into my safety and nurture. I begin to cry with her, and she pulls back, looks at me. I sign that I’m sorry, rub my chest with my fist. “I’m sorry,” I sob. Tears run. She sees the sadness on my face and her lips turn down and tremble. Her eyes have huge questions in them. I call to all my girls–come here, come to me.

I tell them Mama is sorry that I got aggravated and angry and sinned. I tell them the bible says do not sin in our anger, which means that while it may be completely natural to get irritated or angry at times with someone, what’s important is what we do with that anger. We are to love them in our anger and not sin against them. Mama sinned, I say. I yelled, I disciplined you in anger and that was wrong. I look each one in the eyes and tell them. I tell them Mama needs Jesus.

I crumble over and my body racks with sobs in confession, so good for the soul, so good for their little souls.

I fall forward because really, when I make lips tremble that I swore to protect, who can save me then? I let the repentance wash over.

It feels like a powerfully good strong cleansing.

I tell them of Christ’s pilgrimage to earth and to the cross. He wasn’t of this world, and if He’s a pilgrim, so am I, human but also spirit.

I tell how that he comes into Mama’s heart and takes away all the sin because of that cross, and how it makes me a better Mama, and all the things that I can’t do on my own? I can do them because of Him. I look straight into Lorna’s eyes.

Even Christ crumbled, even his body fell forward in agony, head bowed, the grief racking his body as he begged His Father for another way. He was torn between spirit and flesh. He was human.

And there I sit, feeling so human, looking straight into her big green eyes, taking me in, every bit of me. I direct it to her because I know she cries when she is in trouble, not because she has been found out, but because she is frustrated with herself for sinning. And so I tell her the secret that Christ knew, that Paul knew, that I know now– “You know how when you want to do good, the right thing, instead you do the wrong thing anyway?” She nods.

“Well, that’s what happens when Mama sins, too. I want so badly to be a good mother and to do the right thing. You understand that, right? But Jesus is the only one who can help me with that, because in my own sinful nature, left to my own evil heart, I would choose wrong every time.”

She nods again.

Lilly points at herself, her lip tucked downward and trembling. I know what she wants to say and can’t.

“Are you sad?” She nods, “Yeah”.

She points at me, her lip still down, her eyes speaking a thousand emotions. Oh the way children can see into a soul.

“Mama is sad too?” She nods yes. I hug her tight, tell her I’m okay and I hold all of them close. I promise them a great rest of the day and it is.

Jesus is love and He is God with us, saving us over and over and over again. Every day.

Valentine Heart Streamer Window Treatment

Source: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/02/weekends-are-for-love-books-on-marriage/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29

Some of the things we worked creatively on this year: 

Buttermilk Heart shaped pancakes made from scratch with whole wheat flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, blackberries, blueberries, with honey butter, pure maple syrup, and cinnamon.

Strawberry cake with cream cheese icing, red sprinkles and strawberries.

Red velvet cupcakes with fluffy white frosting, melted 100% cacao, shaved 100% cacao, topped with a strawberry!

Arts and crafts from last year:

*Edited re-post from the archives

Linking with Imperfect Prose: