Category Archives: counting

Lean Into the Light, Pictures From A Nutcracker Birthday {and Gratitude}

My little Lilly,

this light that came into our life as a complete surprise, you bring joy in the dark places of me and how could I have known? Because if you’d never come, I’d have gone on with life as usual, towing the three kids, never knowing there was supposed to be a fourth one, the one to plow up the bad soil of me and make my innards sing, light bursting through the fragments of my heart.

We celebrated the third year of your fresh, young life and yes, I wanted it to be an affair to remember–I admit I did–a beautiful celebration of the day you were born.

I regret that well, I may or may not have been a little too involved in the baking and preparation. But I’m a creative being, and I want to celebrate you and God and goodness and His holiness and this creation and all the wonderful brightness there is in your smile and your laughter and the sun and the warmth I feel when we’re together.

How long do I really have, how many times will the hands go ’round the face of time before it ceases its race and I find myself bored, you having flown off?

When will time just run out?

I have a secret to whisper to you, baby girl–I. am. afraid.

Afraid you’ll grow and I’ll miss it. I’m afraid it’ll happen while I’m folding clothes, while I’m running, gardening, or pursuing any number of things that make me happy.

And God forbid I should miss you while I tap away at my computer, or talk to people through screens.

But the truth is, all of that will happen. You’ll grow while I put shirts in the drawers, while I talk to my aging grandmother on the phone, and yes, even while I write.

And the real nugget here, dear girl? You need me to do all of those things–even the things that make me sing-on-the-mountaintop-happy.

You need me to be an example to you of how life is lived.

Mothering is such a delicate balance of living a life of example before you of what a woman should be and throwing example out of the window for an impromptu game of tickles and giggles underneath bed sheets in mornings softest rays of light.

And darling, how I love running around in the grass chasing you, the sun shining down upon us.

How I love when time slows down as I watch the light dance in your pale wheat locks. As time slows, all I can see is light around you, on you, in you, it’s in every part of you and it is you. The light.

And only you could do that for me, girl.

How I love lying in our hammock in the summer barefooted, you piled in with your sisters while I read to you in low tones ’til it’s late afternoon and our eyelids droop and threaten to close.

And in the winter you are the only shaft of light in the dungeon of dark, rainy cold that creeps into this old home through holes and cracks. The way you bounce around the house, your halo blonde waving as you run in your tutu, you remind me that good still exists in life.

I admit I am afraid, child.

I know I will miss you once you are gone. I fear walking around in circles, trying to figuring out what’s missing and knowing all too well what is wrong, my hands with nothing to do, my heart bursting to give and all I can hear is the silence and the clock echoing on the wall.

I know the day will come.

And for now, sweet, sweet Lilly, I want to pull you close and whisper in your ear, how that really, we don’t have to fear.

I want to tell you this secret, sweet child. Listen close. Love conquers fear. The wild, forgiving seventy-times-seven, going the extra mile, makes no sense kind of love.

The love that turns the other cheek, the love that washes over with grace and counts no wrongs and leaves wide open spaces to be ourselves, and believes the best always no matter what, even when mistakes are made, and doesn’t want what God hasn’t given and doesn’t worry about tomorrow–that love drives out all fear.

And so, little one, I have told you the best secret of all. I have told you the only truth you ever really need to know.

And now you know the whole story. So lean in close to me, and let’s be fearless together.

Let’s lean into our Father. Lean into the light, child, always into the Light.

Starting up counting gratitude here once again:….#1037-1048
For writing again…
For finding my voice…
For chimes singing a wind song for me…
For being quiet enough to hear…
Hearing my little Lilly say so many words…
How they fill up the silence with glory…
How she  teaches me to listen…
For Husband encouraging me to come outside in the sunshine
Walking around the deadened, rain-soaked yard, looking at all things that were once alive that are now dormant and cracked
Really seeing the state of things for what they are
Hoping for spring
Hope itself

                              Pictures from Lilly’s Nutcracker themed third birthday party:

Linking with Ann in the gratitude community…..

Laura…

and Emily…

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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



   
       

When No One Sees But God {And Gratitude In Pictures}

Quietly, soft worship lullabies playing in the background, I write scripture on the board for my girls to copy.

Before I can finish a sentence, one already needs me for a math question, and I move around and hover, serving their needs, quieting this one that blurts out words that cut, instructing another one how to find and keep up with her pencil, and helping yet another little one settle down with crayons so her older sisters can focus on the tasks at hand.

And no one sees this–it is just a grace that enevelops and I know His presence consumes.

There is no need for approval from man when you are right in the lap of the Father.

.


 

Fellowship and growing in the word with the body of Christ are things we’ve wanted. But it has been elusive and just isn’t something God has allowed at this point in our lives for some reason. It’s been a long season.

And if I’m being honest, I’m envious of others who have that. But I’m not alone in my aloneness. I know others have these same questions, these same lonely feelings, these same burnings and groanings. We are in a season right now, not in growing in the word, or revelation, but in our deeds, serving, our behavior, attitudes, and sins and idols of the heart.

 












This is not a work of our own hands, our own will–only grace can do this work–only His spirit and sometimes the Spirit groans and travails within our souls in words that are hard to describe, hard to verbalize or even secretly etch out onto paper.










I hesitantly, very timidly try to tap it out here, not knowing if I can even understand it myself, or if I can rightly convey these groanings.

 
 

Sometimes the Spirit within is longing for heaven, for something altogether different, something eternal, and all those fleshly things–they churn hard within, the mind and weak nature not knowing what to do with those things. And so the Spirit groans. I ache.

The temptation is to fill it with things that won’t suffice. And I forget and in my earthly skin, I fill and fill and still, I’m empty, this body of death holding nothing but decay for me.

 

Like a woman birthing and wild with pain, God is weeding so much out and doing such a pulling, tearing, hard work. Everyday we become more and more like what he wants us to be. Are we finally becoming in our home as we want to be? With no one watching, no one knowing, not even family–because in our isolation no one sees–no one except us and God.

He is the only one that sees. and that is what makes it so hard and it is also what makes it so real and rewarding. There is no body of other believers seeing our works, our good attitudes and servanthood–and cheering us on– no pastor encouraging us and saying “well done”, not even really any family visiting to take part in the fruits God may have lavished upon our home.

 
 

 
 

The girls and I talk about the scripture scribbled in bright colors across a white board in morning light–how Jesus said we shouldn’t do things to be seen by men, to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to do it for our Father in Heaven, that He who is not seen may see our good works and reward us in Heaven. He warned that those who do good works for men to see have already received their reward in full and will receive none in heaven.

This convicts me and lets me know I’m on the right path and where I have erred.

Right before Husband gets home, we stop everything and clean up and wipe counters, put dishes in dishwasher and light candles. He walks in from seven grueling 16 1/2 hour days and says he forgot the prize at the store, but the girls ask if they still get to do their presentation tonight of what they’re learning for their Daddy. He says, Of course, I want you to do it for me, and I will bring your prize home from work tomorrow!

We have dinner together at the table because we all desire togetherness, and when it’s neglected, we wander blindly and falter, and can’t find any sure thing. And we gravitate back towards what holds us like glue–truth–the sanctity of this holy moment of togetherness, of giving thanks. This is a miracle–a true miracle of grace.

It is so much easier to fullfill our fleshly desires than to be selfless and loving and to sit with one another and to talk, and discipline kids when they dont want to sit or eat, and listen to stories and give and share. We read the bible at the table each night, but it isnt always pleasant. I find it difficult to sit still, to just be with them, to take in all the noise, to be gentle and patient, put simply–to love. And I ache.

I ache for all the moments I miss because I’m selfish and yet I can’t seem to discipline my body and my mind to just still while He sings over me, to just be all here, right now, wherever and however He has asked it of me. It is hard, and awkward, and brings up sin out of all of us–just maybe this is the very purpose.

We all clap and cheer and holler like a bunch of sillies hell-bent on love for each precious grace-daughter as she stands up and recites her memory work. There are smiles all around as my three daughters bow and their Daddy laughs deep baratone. Run off and brush your teeth, I tell them.

They all scurry away to bed and just for a moment I forget the ache.

I sit in the nursery rocker while Husband sleeps and the house moans, the girls sleepy heads all in beds and the quiet I have longed for all day is finally here. I rock my toddler baby girl, and as I sing about God’s greatness, the God-head three in one, Father, Spirit and Son, the Lion and the Lamb, the soft tones of Isabella’s favorite worship song waft over to her bed a few feet away, the “God Song”, she calls it and I haven’t been at all perfect this day–actually I’ve been a downright wretch of a sinner–and somehow His grace just envelops and none of it matters.

There is only us and God watching from above. It is very lonely but oh so hallowed, sacred and holy. So quiet, more reflecting his heart than anything I’ve ever known. More peace in our home abounds than ever before.

Oh yeah, there are times screams pierce and words cut deep, but I know He has us. I know His presence consumes everything.

I know I’m safe in His lap and okay just being me, the child He’s rocking so tightly.

Gratitude in pictures:

 
#917…A Daddy and a daughter growing fast
 
 
#918…Two sisters who love one another…
 
 
#919… Laughter…

 
#920…her hair ablaze with light…
 
 
#921…  a shaft of light…
 
 
#922… Lilly pretending to be a puppy at the table…
 
 
 
#923… Innocence of a child…

 
#924 Baby girl pulling Daddy on to jump too…
 
 
#925… Little one who insists her Mama jump with her!
 
 
926…her beauty…
 
 
#927…her humor…
 
 
#928…them wrapped up in sun…perfection to this Mama’s eyes…
 
 
#929… her wisps, her lashes, her cheeks…
 
 
#930…sunset on the beach, another season ending, another season full of opportunity on the way…
 

**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; teaching a Classical Conversations lesson, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words,  my gratefulness.
Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…

 

*Photos in post: Lorna and Ivy sketching Leif the Lucky…
All four girls very busy…
Lorna working on her history sketch…
Solemn Isabella …
Reading in the hammock…
Husband reading bible…
Toys on nursery floor…
Shaft of light on wooden floor…
Girls hovered over a lizard…
Heads huddled up…
Ants in tree bark on a nature walk…
Lilly napping…
Playing with a balloon…
The Lord’s Prayer…
Playing with favorite ponies…
Girls fingerpainting…
Masterpiece…
Early American History–Individuality…
Bella’s art…
Lilly’s art…
Family around the table on a day Husband was home…

Linking with L.L…

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







 

Missing Jesus {And Gratitude}

Ivy dancing in the morning light, golden waves triveting around her shouldersher child-reverent face, turned up to the light, arms spread wide, and I think how she must be worshiping right before the throne.

The song plays…

 “So how can I thank you, What can I bring?

What can these poor hands lay at the feet of the King?

I’ll sing you a love song

It’s all that I have

To tell you I’m grateful for holding my life in your hands.”

She doesn’t know I’m watching and then she catches a glimpse of me and I smile warm, heart right proud and the oil of my approving love, it pours over her head and saturates her head to toe, cleansing out so much uncertainty.

She smiles shy. My soul sees hers. “You are precious.”

She turns down the music, looks at me. “Really?”

“Yes, you sure are.”

She smiles and continues to spin, this whole world, the morning sun and my heart spinning with her. These old wood floors and 100 year old walls creak and groan in honor of the Creator.

I can literally feel the weight of His glory come down like a thick cloud, a good cloud, like the haze of sweltering sun in a 17 year old girl’s free summer on the beach.

I am brimming over now.

Peace descends and in the fury of her innocence,  I am turned inside out and my heart swells, all the cracked, stony places soaking up the grace.

Because I’m thinking, “When was the last time I spun around like that, arms thrown wide open in abandon, face and heart lifted up to God?

When did I last forget about time and this space of all that must be done now, this moment with all the worries it holds and just breathed in and out?

Just breathed in and out the God-grace, the living waters that quench my aging and weary parched throat.

When did I last become like a child and turn face up to Heaven, to the light, in wild hope and trust?

When did I last have that child-faith that doesn’t question the One, the only Father who takes care of the child?”

And I heard God say through my daughter—that I don’t hunger near enough.

He has awakened me to it, though–really stirred life within–told me I am His own–His beloved–He is wooing me–the God of all creation. He loves, He loves, He LOVES me! He tells me when I wake in the morning to the sunrise softly glinting through curtains, “This is for you! It’s all for YOU!”

His pursuit of me makes me hunger more for Him. And this revealing of my lack? It is Him lavishing love so thick.  And I want to love that thick.

Oh, that I could abandon everything, leave behind myself just to follow hard after him.

That my words with my girls would be tender, that He would love them through me, that the truth in my ways would speak of Him, that I would find myself rocking and soothing the orphan babe who has no human touch– no one to hold her, that wisdom would be on my lips.

That I would show them grace because we dance to Elvis Jailhouse Rock , Black-Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow, or Toby Mac, and we laugh, and wine is on the table, and we pray for God to help us love one another and take care of one another better, and our evenings aren’t filled with sitcoms or internet gaming and socializing, but we are playing love-games at the supper table and running and swimming and living life, and reading that we are God’s princesses at bedtime. We read how that when we’ve been the prodigal, our Father King, He always embraces us with tears in his eyes and overwhelming love and puts a ring on our finger and a crown on our head and there is no shame in the presence of Daddy-King.

And as my daughter twirls in light, I have this growing, gnawing ache.

I miss Jesus.

Gratitude: #902-916

Through giving thanks for the small, everyday things and snapping shots and noticing these brief moments captured in my lens– a frame of light caught in her hair, angling the camera to get a different view of the sun streaming through leaves, running through my backyard, awe-inspired–to get a shot of a hawk–I have learned something extremely valuable in life: through thanksgiving and awe, praise and glory-giving back to God for His creation, for all His gifts, is where I find joy, this elusive gift I have sought for half my life-span.

#902 trip to Destin with just my mom and sister…bonding time…

#903 girl talk with my sister about real-life issues…

#904 hard eucharisteo…one of the hardest talks I’ve ever had to have and probably ever will–with my mother—all of us working through difficult emotional spaces

#905 relaxing on the beach…listening to waves…

#906 napping on my beach blanket…all of us quiet…

#907 “What happens in Destin, stays in Destin”—a little saying coined by my mom…~smile~

#908 sunburns and fighting through physical pain and being grateful for today, a good attitude and laughter our medicine

#909 Bella’s argument: “It’s. Not. My. Birthday yet!!” when we would tell her happy birthday. Apparently it isn’t really a birthday until there’s a party?

#910 Her five-year-old-lisping into the phone to her daddy that she had a great birthday and had a cake—a chocolate one, and everybody enjoyed themselves at her birthday.

#911 My eleven year old daughter who isn’t very affectionate, crawling into my lap or hugging me and nodding up and down when I ask if she needs Mama love. Melts my heart.

#912 Hard eucharisteo…confronting issues and growing in Christ with sisters, in grace and love—seeing the fruits of this in me and others…

#913 My director calling just to encourage me and to tell me not to be nervous…

#914 How I, usually so unprepared, up ‘til 2 am, somehow arrived more-than-enough prepared and I for once felt what it was to be a leader…the grace of God growing these skills in me I didn’t know I had inside…Him pulling these out—me being brave and following him…

#915 My amazement at the confidence He has given…

#916 Learning that humility isn’t a heavy cloak of being less than that we wear, but it is an action, a serving, a loving, a confident knowing who I am in Christ, forging ahead in the path made straight for me, using the talents He calls forth from within, abandoning the things I hold onto so tightly—fear, distrust, pride, selfishness, woundedness and I answer His call, unaffected by others’ criticisms or praises. Giving praise to God that this is finally. becoming. truth for me and reality I can see as I walk out my daily life!!!

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably making vegan pad thai or whole-wheat cookies with my girls, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love  you!  Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.

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


and linking with L.L…and others below…click on links to read these amazing sites!

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Loving You Recklessly {and Gratitude}

Oh, sometimes it just sweeps over me so violently–how I love you, my man, more than life itself. Our life together is all I know now, all I can really feel in the marrow of me. The memories of these years–the struggling, the bonding, the falling apart and coming back together, all the nights and days knowing your powerful love–in the sunshine on our faces as we work and play and in the night as we love with the moon glowing upon us–it’s all I really know deep in my soul.

You have taken me on such a wild, breathtaking love journey. I go on and on about intimacy and weigh down the air with words, but you have taught me the hard work of love every. single. day.

Every time you wash the dishes, try to help me get on track with a schedule, when you jump in without saying a word to help make up for my inadequacies–you teach.

How you are quiet in faithful trust, how you hold your tongue when I’m angry and I say too much–and you just stand there, looking at me, eyes an anchor when I look into them and me drowning in this sea of emotion–you let the grace just pour over us in waves.

When you patiently, quietly show the girls the way to do something right and responsible, and you laugh softly at their mistakes and you don’t harshly correct–you are love in motion. And I want to be this–this love in motion I see in you. That I get to be a recipiant– I am one blessed woman.

And honestly? I just don’t know why you keep putting up with me. I have a hard time staying within the grocery budget, I’m not a great housekeeper–I leave dishes piled high until after the kids and I have had fun outdoors, and I fail at keeping time–can never help us arrive anywhere punctually.

Grace is this thing that I’m always hoping for, and always surprised to receive.

And for all the times that I’ve held you to your debts, and forgot to forgive, I pray that grace comes on the wings of a dove, carrying the gospel message. And for all the baggage that may be stacked high between us, I pray that His justification and righteousness would come on the backs of wild stallions, their hooves pounding in the Christ-blood, and rescue us from our sin-wreckage.

Because I am just this wife that fails over and over again. I really cannot be the woman that you need, and then you bend over my bedside in still-dark morning and as I take in the smell of your cologne and sweet breath, feel the hot against my neck, you whisper into my ear affirming words, words of love and devotion. You always do this when we’ve had a hard night and disagreed.

You always come on powerful wings of grace and anchor me back to Love.

Gratitude:

3 gifts from my Heavenly Father…

#815 grace, grace, grace…How He loves, in spite of me

#816 how He picks me up and gently rocks me, soothes me, lets me know its going to be alright and hides me in the shadow of His wing–Psalm 17:8 “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

#817 how He leads me so faithfully always in the right direction, my steps sure

#818 how Eddie and I hold hands as a team, and we require obedience and responsibility from the children

#819 how Eddie leads us all in godliness and keeps us all on course with work ethic–yielding all to please our Father

#820 his phrase–“You have to work hard if you want to play hard”

#821 how we all know there is reward at the end of our work

#822 how Lorna says to me in the middle of couch being scrubbed down, “Mama, I feel good about the house being clean” and the pink glow on her pretty face.

3 difficult gifts…

#823 hormones taking over my body, I’ve yelled, and Lorna hugs me and tells me she forgives me.

#824 Husband and I, neither of us able to sleep, staying up all night with little one while she is in a night terror–all of our efforts unable to cure her inconsolable crying

#825 me and the girls missing the free theatre play because baby girl is throwing up–thankful little one is ok
 

#826 getting up earlier with purpose

#827 watering flowers in the hot, early morning sun

#828 peeking through the crack to watch them play, lost in child wonder

3 gifts I became today in serving…

#829 chauffeur

#830 neighborhood mom–foregoing my run for a playdate at our house–game of Bocee in the backyard and turkey and tofu lasagna for supper

#831 friend–dancing silly and making my daughter and her friend laugh

#832 folding clothes with my girls

#833 birds singing as we do schoolwork outside

#834 finding a bird’s nest in our little backyard tree

#835 teaching my little one to write her numbers

#836 her sweet dimpled grin, her and I both so proud when she writes her name

#837 lying in the hammock, all of us tangled up, reading Little House On the Prairie

a gift bent, beautiful, loved…

#838 bright yellow sunflowers brought to me by our neighbor, starting to wilt

#839 a tray brought to me by eldest daughter with fried eggs as eyes, toast with jam for a mouth, and bits of bacon for eyebrows and mustache –just because she knows her Mama has a hard time getting up in the morning and she enjoys serving

#840 Lilly’s soft blue hippo in her arms in our bed, her limbs splayed out, the hippo’s limbs hanging limply for the wear

#841 the girls and I climbing a tree to see newborn baby Brown Thrashers

#842 how devotedly and tirelessly the mama Brown Thrasher watches over and incubates her nest

#843 how in one fell swoop, the father appears from nowhere, sqwaking and thrashing his wings, threatening our young cat who has climbed right up to the nest

#844 his text to me sent out of the blue, sweet words of affirmation for no reason…

**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 helping construct a science project, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, playing tag, having a glass of wine with Husband, or just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. I love this community of grace-filled people! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.






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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Old habits die hard.

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

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

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

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

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

I was so empty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Prayer: 

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

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

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

Gratitude:

#720 daughters and me doing exercise together everyday

#721 that they ask to do things with me

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

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

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

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

#726 an unspoken hard eucharisteo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shared with Ann in community at…

Emily…

L.L…
On In Around button

and Laura…




Jen…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

Resurrecting A Marriage {Ponderings of Easter}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude:

#689 e-mails from beautiful sisters

#690 for mentors

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

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

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

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

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

#696 our run through the trails later

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

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

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

#700 Bella writing her ABC’s and her name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shared with Ann in community at…

and Laura…

L.L…
On In Around button

Emily…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

Bending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude:

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

#631 planting flowers with my girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#650 ckicken and dumplings and pear salad

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

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

#653 A Granny and Granddaddy that love me so wild

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

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

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

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

Shared with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to give my life for my Savior King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put me to service, or put me to suffering.

Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers

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

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


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

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

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

Gratitude:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#619 Knowing she’s only this small once

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

#621 Our home, a roof over our head

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

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

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

#625 Ordering books, all kinds of lovely books!

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

#627 Staying home for Sabbath rest

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

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

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

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

Shared in community with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…