Category Archives: desert-wandering

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***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 lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, 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 .}

 

 

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Don’t Give Me Man’s Religion; Just Give Me Jesus {An Abstraction on Path}

 

From my perch on the lazy swing, my mom and I watch them play in a hill of red dirt. We smile at one another at how carefree and winsome they are, pushing the red around, not a thought to how caked on it is, how hard it will be to wash off, and how happy they are, just to scratch their hands in dirt and carve paths.

One of my little ones, my six year old, she comes to me and says Mama, you need to come look at something I made. In my new blingy sandals and silk tank, I’m not dressed for playing in dirt, I tell her.

You don’t have to get in it–just come look, her red-lipped mouth moves and I follow its beautiful dance , looking in huge greenish-hazel eyes, her pale brows and milky white skin glowing in the sun. Her adorable lisp just makes me want to giggle . I get up and walk over, following her as she runs, her long golden hair ripping in the wind and caressing her waist.

 

Can you see her?

 

She shows me the miniature road and cave she carved at the tip-top of the sienna-red hill. I grin back at her beaming, proud face. Such an angel.

Sundays in my family are more relaxed nowadays. It used to be come in early on Saturday evening, and get up early on Sunday morning to run around like a chicken with your head cut off to to make it to church early to practice for worship and to teach Sunday School–back when my dad was the pastor. And my parents had to sacrifice a lot of time with my sister and I to make that bustling church life happen.

Now, though, things are slower. We take our time getting up on Sunday morning, and we fellowship over cream soda, chips, and good-smelling turkey feta spinach burgers that make your mouth salivate, the aroma wafting from the kitchen out onto the porch. The outdoor furniture is a communion table of sorts, the swing slowly rocking back and forth– making me a little sleepy– my pew. I smile at three little heads chomping on burgers, their legs tucked under the bar my dad built for them to eat at. We laugh and enjoy simple things.

These are the things that matter–not the rushing, not the pushing, not the running around like crazy to impress and serve. Sometimes serving is in the slowness, the taking time to be with one another. This kind of serving, this kind of love speaks to my soul best. This is where and how I am awake to God. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to carve out my own path with God. What it means to really be awake to life, and Him all around.

This is the first year that it’s April and we haven’t bought flowers or a hammock for the backyard for relaxing and reading. But it’s also the first year that’s been so full of promise. Flowers can go a long way in brightening one’s day, and I certainly recommend gardening for the blues, for the cloudy seasons, but not even pansies and violets, no matter their austere beauty and symbolic joy, can force a change in a desperate time. They, for all their smiles, cannot make the wind blow in a different direction. And they, for all the hope they ensue, cannot keep winter’s last freeze at bay.

In the evenings, in our home, wine is poured and Nora Jones or Allison Krauss croons soft and lulls our heartbeats to a slower pace. Conversation is the meatier portion, as hello-hugs are exchanged and we chop bell peppers and herbs, and talk about our day. There is much love, everyone gathered around, but there are also a lot of sleepy-filled days when we are tired, and we can hardly put one foot in front of the other. We are in what one author coined, The Tired Years. 

Some days we bicker. Some days we all just need our space. Some days the kids scream words at one another that make my insides ache and I think I’ve gone very wrong somewhere along the way. Some days I can’t see the redemption in it all. 

But I see hope just around the bend, and that is a very good feeling.

Isn’t hope like that? A little shrouded, always hiding just beyond our fears and uncertainty, but still shining her light through the cracks of our insecurity?

I often feel restless these days. Like something better is waiting for me just down the road, perhaps slightly obstructed from view, and the Spirit is nudging me to keep pressing forward.

There is no hope or redemption in staying in this place of comfort, my cynicism and pain an excuse to doubt and not step out on that limb of vulnerability He’s called me to.

He’s called me to be brave– I know this. Last year, I wrote here about fear in a 30 day series. It was difficult and painful to visit and re-visit sordid wounds hidden deep within that are happily put away and forgotten. It is no surprise to me that he is whispering now, as I listen, and become awake to Him, the word– brave. Be brave, my love.

In my practice of this new bravery I’m waking up to Him, seeing Him, being aware of Him in all kinds of ways in which I wasn’t before. Everyday seems like an exercise in freedom. The more I learn, the more I realize I’ve been in bondage, and that He came to set me free. He did not die so that I could live a caged-up life.

He has laid out the road before me, and it is marked with steps of courage. Each step is lit with His goodness and audacious love.

Really–let me ask you–does it matter what others think of my dress, or my hair, or my tattoos, my writing, or my home? Should I live my life, in a tight little box, conformed to a religious formula? You know the one I mean–the one that says Christians dress this way, fix their hair like this, only wear this amount of jewelry, don’t drink this or only eat that, and it’s okay if you had a tattoo pre-Jesus, but not after.

Didn’t Paul tell us that if we were going to hold ourselves to the law of circumcision, that we must hold ourselves to the entire law–every letter–every jot and tittle? So let’s be about grace, then.

Let’s not forget the important parts of the law–the ones Jesus said to hold onto– love your neighbor as yourself, and love the Lord your God with all your heart. But for me, I have decided to take Him literally when he said that I no longer need to follow all of the law and that man does not rule over me with his made up version of religion. And this is Him giving life to me.

So, yeah, hope~

The path is laid with hope and the road is stretched before me, and who knows where it will lead with God, the Wild Man, showing me that there are no holds barred, no cage, no do’s and don’ts — only Love, brave and bold, leading into new freedom. A slave to the world no longer. Christ my Redeemer. People my passion. Heaven my goal.

The race is set. Don’t mind me if I zig and zag all over the place, in my own unique pattern, a roving rebel. I’m focused on the prize, over hill and over mountain, through valley and through storm.

 

 

***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. Please write along with us, using                                                                                 the prompt.

Today’s prompt is Path. 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 Rust .}

photo credit: Kelli Woodford

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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!

Slices {An Abstraction on the Afternoon} & an Announcement About Concrete Words

It’s slippery wet as the skin is peeled off and drops to the ground. I bite right into the lushness and it’s like an aquifer. The water gushes and runs down my hands and their arms and the fiber-strings pull apart juicy sweet in between my teeth. A giggle bubbles up and I look at her and smile. Its strong tropic taste is nostalgic of a poisonous fruit, like a root you may have pulled up out of the ground in the Amazon jungle in the middle of nowhere, famished and ravishing its succulent oasis found inside there. It’s a little like this for us too, with beans and rice littering most of our days, scattered out over hot, baked-in, tongue-sticking-to-your-mouth humid afternoons.

It smells slightly toxic and pleasantly curative all at once, like a flower, like an infectious weed. They all beg for more, even the tiniest one. “Li-bit, Ma-ma? Li-bit?” We sit around the old woven, tangled hammock under our Sand Plum.

I voraciously gnaw at it until there isn’t much left and can’t stop greedily suckling in the profane lush that was hiding under all that green skin. I only now realize how undernourished I was, how thirsty. The more I bite and squeeze and pull, the more I want.

The sun’s rays call to me, gently pull on my skin like sirens. The little ones, they all run off, leave me in my ravenous hunger. The fruit is so fertile with life, and I suck it dry, a crescent all used up.

My sundress caves into the valley of me as I walk and I think blissfully of Husband returning in a few hours, how I’ll take him into my arms and love him.

The little one comes back and wants the last couple bites. I hand it over and she wanders the yard, grinding at the core of the fruit for the last of it’s yield, slurping what goodness is left to be had. I tip a cup over her hands and wash all the sticky off her hands and arms. She looks at me with big eyes and gallops off.

I lay on the lawn chair writing, with the sun on my back until the shadows creep over and I’ve drank in enough deep breaths and it’s time to go inside.

The afternoon is meted out in slices of fruit pared and placed in tiny, chubby hands waiting, and their small clothes folded in neat stacks side by side on the couch.

I call out to them, “I love you, all of you, my sweet children.” They don’t say anything, but I know they hear it.

In the space of this time, last drops of sunlight filtering in, it seems the day could last forever and the stacks of clothes beckon me to put them away.


212 from Nacole Simmons on Vimeo.
Gratitude: {1119-1135} warm days :: sweet fruit :: watching my girls swim at practice :: the chlorine, the restful sound of splashing :: having a sweet little friend of Ivy’s overnight :: cutting her hair and how adorable it turned out :: having her brothers stay to play :: seven kids in a house with just me :: going to see a civil war re-enactment :: assorted doughnuts :: working outside in my flowerbeds–the first time I’ve had this much energy in a long time :: a beautiful Memorial day celebration :: grilling out and time with family :: my grandmother’s hands making food in my kitchen :: Pina Coladas :: a spontaneous trip to town to get school review books for the girls

{This post shared with AnnLaura, Jen, Jennifer for #TellHisStoryImperfect Prose, the EO and Michelle} 

*************

***Dear readers, this will be the last Concrete Words post that I will write for this summer. My husband and I have decided to send the girls back to public school this fall, so that I can rest and recover from chronic illness, and this Mama has a ton to do to get them ready for a test in July. I will have a couple of guest writers to host–the sweet Ashley Larkin has agreed to host it here at sixinthesticks on June 10th, and the ever-dedicated to Concrete Words Ruth Povey will be taking it on July 1st. I hope you will come back here for that! I have had so much fun with Concrete Words since Amber Haines said sixinthesticks will be it’s home for good. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! We will hit the ground running again with #concretewords when school begins in August. 
     
**************


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–
                                             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 the Afternoon


The prompt for June 10th is the Morning .{I’ll highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

Guess what didn’t get done when the internet was off here all weekend? A highlighted Concrete Words post! My choice is:

Ruth Povey at learning {one day at a time}–The Cup

and Kelli Woodford, our guest writer last week, chose:
Karin Deaver at Come Along the Way–The Cup

Can y’all give Ruth and Karin some lovin’ and share their posts? Be sure to connect with the hashtag #concretewords!

Now let’s have fun with concrete words!

All Ramblin Roads Lead Home {An Abstraction on the Road}

There are ramblin roads that run over into the deep, wild blue yonder somewhere, the soft washed-out denim stretching out too taut over an expanse above me, going on and on across fields forever in the distance and how do we know where roads lead?

I’m somewhat of a roving rebel, my heart twisted in knots. I’m a tattoo wearing, face-pierced non-conformist. But it’s all in my head. So far I’ve been afraid. Can you see me? Can you see me hurting? I don’t mean to kick and scream while God is carrying me, angry child, but life’s experiences have made me hard and tough and my heart wounded and painful to the touch underneath. I’m still stubborn, unwilling to break quite all the way.

I’m always afraid of what I can’t see comin’ and I tend to hide out in my own little corner of the world, knees up to my chin, bare feet sort of turned in, tears running down my cheeks, glistening as they fall.

But the other side of me loves being the dare devil. A seventeen year old me liked the idea of cutting class for Mardi-Gra and smoking a cigarette even though it was bad for my body. Sometimes I still feel seventeen.

My sister and I walk into a beauty store after a workout and my tennis shoes squeak on the tile floor. I scan all of the colors, pick up a few–eggplant, smoky grey, and teal–roll their cold glass round in my hand. I tell her I’m buying black fingernail polish because I’m feeling the need to be rebellious. She laughs at my straight-shooting.

I love daring to be brave, climbing and running hills, throwing myself against elements and earth.

I love those trails that run deep into woods and make me take in breath sharp, my feet right on the edge  where it goes straight down, dirt crumbling from underneath my rubber tread, and falling far below.

When I’m alone like this, I am ready to tackle anything. But with people, I’m stumbling to find my way.

I never in a million years would have thought that by taking a plane and my friends taking roads and planes from all across the country to meet in one central point, that my life could be changed.

Oh, but it was.

All of us weary travellers, either by car, on long highways or because of the baggage we’ve carried with us through life, we came together. Some of us more jaded because of experience, some of us more rebel without a cause, some of bible-carrying fierce warriors pushing back darkness, some of us more quieted by age. {I bet you guessed which category I see myself in}.

In that place I was refreshed by seeing another weary traveller’s silhouette, the reflection of my pain caught in their eyes, in a spark of a moment, in a pouring out of a soul.

I knew I wasn’t alone, travelling on roads which I knew not where they led.

Because when you’re in the company of others, the light pouring in from a window, illuminating their face and hair, fire crackling in a fireplace, so much Son in a room, in so many different faces, you realize something and it’s a life-changing moment in your story.

You realize this: that we are all travelling different roads and God has given us all different paths to take. Jesus said narrow is the gate, but he meant the way by which we enter, which is He, The Word made flesh.

When Jesus stepped into skin, pulled it on taut, he became the gate for us.

He never meant for our stories, our journey along the road to look the same, and all of us together as a collective are showing the many facets of a great, expansive God. You are the face of God, and I am the face of God, and we two are completely different.

All of us are coming to that one gate, and our roads and paths are hard and soft places, sediment rocks falling far below where we tread, some of us trudging through muddy swamp that tries to engulf us. There are highs and lows, some of us tend to stay in valleys more than mountains, some of us sure of our beliefs and some of us doubting Thomases, and we intersect one another along our journey, sometimes meeting for a beautiful, but brief moment as we glimpse into one another’s lives and we do the stuff that makes us brave.

Even though it is scary to go out on that limb and pull you in, and say walk with me, somehow I know all the roads lead home, and we’re helping walk one another there.

Gratitude: {#1083-1094}

Friends, my tribe, my people–whatever you want to call it–I have it now amongst the body::A weekend to breath, without social media, out in the open country::little girls in cowgirl boots::Ivy exclaiming when he said he was finally going to the barn, her hands over her chest “Oh, I hoped with all my heart you would say that!!”::My littlest cowgirl in piggy tails::Sunshine and warmth::A beautiful fire under a starry sky on a chilly night::Peanut m&m’s::Talks with my mother, feeling like maybe we’re friends and not knowing when or how this happened::Playing I-spy with my girls and family–no one being able to guess mine::Husband watching baby girl go down the slide and playing ball with girls after months of having to work so hard

Friends, I am also at Bibledude.net today, where they are featuring my first story ever to be published with an online magazine! Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. I hope you’ll come over and hang out? I’ll pour the bubbly (cider, juice) or even sweet tea, and meet you in the comments.

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


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

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

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

Which road do you think you’re on? In what way does the road before you seem mysterious and hidden? How do you discern that others cross your path, on their own journey, but heading the same direction all the same? How are you trusting God when the path seems unsure? Tell me in the comments! 

{This post shared with Laura, Ann, Jen, Heather for the EO, Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Emily at IP}






Gulping From the Cup {On God Using Community to Heal Us From Bad Community}

I sat there on the plane, next to him, not knowing who he was, my arms waving in circles, exclaiming wildly with too-hoarse voice, and this is what he heard me say, as our plane backed out of the terminal at the Omaha Airport.

Why are we so afraid to say ‘I’m a writer, to say that what I do, what I create–is good’? I just really think God has so much grace for us that we’ve yet to grasp or tap into. There is so much freedom in God. Why are we afraid to accept and own that freedom? We wear this heavy cloak of guilt and shame for who we are, and we think that’s humility. But God doesn’t want us going around to everyone apologizing, ‘I’m not good enough’. 

It’s like God’s saying dance wild in my freedom, in a field of wild flowers.

And I’m on the edge of the field, dipping my toes into soft wet clover, and timidly testing it out. I’m wild with fear, wondering what huge thing is going to come across that field at me.

We think the shame of ourselves and our fear, our timidity, makes us more holy. But Jesus said blessed are the meek, not the timid. When we are meek, it means we know our might and our power to crush, to control, to correct, but we hold it back with gentle force in respect.

The true humility God wants us to wear says ‘I’m redeemed’, I’m God’s and because of His bloody and bruised sacrifice, my heart is bowed low and because He says I’m beloved, my head is held high.

And yet, we wear that heavy cloak anyway. It’s weighing us down. It’s a cloak of shame, of fear, of unworthiness, of “I’m not good enough”, of a humility that isn’t true.

Why do we keep putting it back on?

I walk over and hang it on the coat rack, thinking I’ve really laid it down, but God wants me to get rid of the coat rack, because everytime I walk out that door, I pick it up. And I just keep wearing it, over and over. And I think it fits so pretty and so snug, but Father-God who knit my pieces together, says “No, daughter, this shame-cloak is not made for you.”

I feel Him gently pull it off, His mighty strength holding back the darkness that tears at my soul, and with the weight off of what didn’t belong to me, I feel so free.

And I’m longingly looking to Him with adoration.

I look at him, in that tight small space, and he looks at me, asks me to share. I look away, maybe for a way out, but I know, in an instant, without thinking, it’s really God asking me to share, because He’d been doing it all weekend.

I tell him, timidly, laying my life in someone else’s hands, wondering what they will do with it.

I tell of why I can’t go to church, why worship is hard for me, what being a pastor’s daughter did to me, and how people in the Body of Christ pushing me away once they encountered the real me–how that all made me jaded.

He said he admired me, people like me, he said, who have more than they deserve dumped on them and yet they keep loving anyway.

This made me balk and want to hide somewhere. I had never heard these words from other Christians in the body before, and if I had, I had brushed them off, thinking surely they weren’t real.

There were so many others, ones who looked me straight in the eye, when I said I had no idea what I was doing, and said You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re in a very good place.

Ones who looked me in the eye, said they were just an email away, told me to let them know if I needed prayer for any reason. Ones who looked me in the eye, said, I’m here for you.

There were others who looked at me, said, Yes, you do, when I said I don’t do community well, that I don’t do relationships with women well.

And the truth is, I don’t. My heart is black when it comes to community–I run from it with a fierce determination, afraid for my life, a deer being hunted, panicking, heart thumping loudly.

But that’s my truth, not God’s truth. And these women–and men? They spoke God’s truth to me. They looked at my heart, not at all the things I did or said wrong, stumbling around, but they looked at the potential, at what God has placed in me. And they saw something good there. They championed my heart and my dreams.

They said no to the lie and yes to God has made me and said it was good.

There was one who looked into my eyes as I began to tell her how much I respected her work, how she had a passion for encouraging women, and how I avoided those forums, because community is hard for me. I told her how God had begun to set that free in me this weekend, something I never thought would happen. The tears poured and the ugly-cry came in spite of me, and I apologized, said, I just wanted to snap a picture–I didn’t mean to do this!

She shook her beautiful auburn hair, No, these are the things that I want to hear from you, from women, because these are the things I work for, these are the important stories, they are the things that encourage me, to know that God heals, that God redeems.

There was the one who had me at hello, before ever meeting her in real life, and because of her daring, wonderful, crazy vision to invite some writers and bloggers to Nebraska, now I can dream too.

I can’t forget the precious woman I affectionately call “roomie”, who is in all my dreams and waking thoughts, who has my heart, and she had it before she ever stepped out of that car, sunglasses over her baby blues at the airport. She was the one who said God saved my roommate for me until I was ready.

Ready to step out on that shaky limb, ready to say yes to God, ready to have faith, to believe in my dreams.

I watched all of them, the ones I rubbed shoulders and hearts with. I marveled at them, listened to their heart, how they lean in towards people, how their gentle eyes see into souls, how they went right past small talk and asked the important questions, the ones that made me shake in my cowgirl boots, the kinds of questions that let you really know someone intimately.

There were sacred moments, uncensored, organic conversation in front of a fireplace, everyone gathered and leaning in, really seeing, really listening, and not judging.

Those moments changed me forever. As one friend put it so well, it was most probably a turning point in my story. I know it in my soul deep, even though my mind says be watchful, be careful, you can’t trust–God’s spirit was made strong in me through that moment and now the spirit knows something powerful in me–that God’s people are beautiful. And because of faith, I can trust.

What gorgeous souls they all were and still are. Meeting them in real life was beautiful and did more for me than they could ever imagine. This stone-cold, black heart, so afraid of people, of relationship, of church–it was broken right open and poured out in spite of me.

One lovely woman of God, she shepherded us, led us right up to the Shepherd’s feet. She led my weary, wary, jaded and undecided heart. She made me feel his rod and staff, and oh they are good. Knowing Him in that way had seemed out of my grasp for so long and then came the beautiful liturgical rhythm of her sermons, the worship songs, and then her prayers, an oasis in my desert.

Her radiant confidence in a wonderful Savior moved me and how can I possibly explain the sacredness of that moment when she broke the bread and held up the cup for us to come, all tearing a piece off–I had to tear it hard– Christ’s body ripping and being broken for me.

I drank from the cup, all of us drinking from the same, and I felt unworthy, unclean, and unsure all of us drawing from the same well, and in swallowing that red drink down, I willingly swallowed down community, all of us one and the same, unclean but made clean in Him, all of us pieces torn hard, made whole as a part of a Larger Whole, unworthy, but called Son and Daughter and given not a cloak of shame, but a robe of righteousness to wear, a ring, and a feast, and an inheritance of the largest kingdom this world has ever known.

We are hidden on high with Him.



Then there was one who stood before us and she worshipped. There was no song, or guitar, or piano, or dancing. She worshipped with her heart, with her words, with the call that she urged us all with. This is what she said:

“Whether you’ve been the big “somebody”, or have believed that you’re a nobody, you’ve got a role in the Christ-body, and that means everybody. 

 
You’ve been bullied by fear, discouragement, comparison, unbelief, and a hundred other ‘Not Enoughs’. 


We’ve had Enough of the ‘Not Enoughs’. 


Jesus is not intimidated…He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant. And He’s been known to roll certain stones away.”–Jennifer Lee

Tears rolled down my face, as I held the rock in my hand that bore the words fear and unbelief on them, the rock she said that her and her precious daughter would take down to the lake and throw in.

I had never forgotten the prayer she had prayed for me all that time long ago, and as she talked, I felt her worshipping, and that was the first time I worshipped that weekend, that I had let myself at all in a really long time. I let it all go, and the warm ran down cheeks onto collarbones. And it just ran, like a life-giving well, bubbling up and out, running down and out and up to God.

I watched one walk down the aisle with our Pastor, lay their stones in the basket together. Those stones that carry our “Not Enoughs”.  I saw hugs and tears and prayers, and the pain and grief and love was tangible in that place.

There was something so palpable in the room as I sat there and listened to that gorgeous courier carrying God’s message, I could almost reach out and touch it, and she was an angel, God using her to place his hand on my heart, to touch the pain searing there.

I left branded a new woman, all of these lives seared onto mine.

Yes, I have people now. After all the tearing, I’m apart of a Body now, and I’m gulping from that cup.

                                                      photo credit: used w/ permission by the lovely Laura Boggess

“The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us. And I’ve learned the beautiful truth and the tragic truth that God uses community to heal us from bad community.”–Mary Demuth


This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Shelly & Duane for Wonderstruck, Emily, & Jen & Heather for the EO

On Letting Go, Daffodils, and the Narrow Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the front yard, where he is raking strong and ferocious, we meander and follow him, walking and looking, taking in beauty, holding hands, snapping our happy day in freeze-frames.

 Then it happens: I hear him say, “No, Bella, you know Mama doesn’t want you to do that”. It is always Mama that doesn’t want the children to run and frollick and make mischief, always Mama that has a hard time with letting go. And in an instant I see that Bella has plucked all my lovely daffodils from the front garden, the only sign of life in this deadness, the only beauty that I loved, and before I think, I say sternly, “NO, Bella!” and now her tiny shoulders droop, her joyous flower-possessing countenance falls, and straightaway, she is a mess, and so am I.

 I go to her, drawn like the pull of heartache, and kneel down beside her. I say, “It is okay, Bella. You can have Mama’s flowers”. And these words are hard for me to say, and they are pulled out like weeds stuck in the hard winter ground. I hurt, I am torn, and my anger dissolving, I know that I must let go. I know that this is good for me and for her. I hug her and keep saying it over and over, and of course, in Bella’s usual style, she has to punish me just a bit. She can’t move past it right away, and oh, she is MY child; she definitely came from my womb, this child that has it hard letting go.
And suddenly I realize that it is not I that is supposed to be teaching her in this moment, but it is she that is teaching me, and she is teaching me well.
 I am a broken Mama, throwing myself against the stubborness of this child, and breaking over and over and over. God knows that this is what this sinful, hard heart of mine needs. 

WHY is my first reaction to sternly correct and break littles’ spirits? Couldn’t I, being fully aware of her possessing my prize, just have let my laugh carry on the wind, reach her with a warm enveloping smile and let her know that I will always, always give her what is mine?

I will never, ever forbid her to come close and I will always, only embrace her fully, mistakes and all.

Isn’t this what the Father has done for me? Yes, He gave it all.

I want to shed this cloak of doubt and fear and despondency and turn face full to the sun, grab my child’s hand and show her that things here don’t matter.

I want to run over and wildly pluck a flower, tuck it behind her ear and whisper it on the gentle spring breeze, “You are free to love, child, free as your Father in Heaven has loved you and made you free.”

I imagine she turns to me, smiles, her eyes alight, and she looks up at me like maybe I’m God and it just makes me want to always, only walk towards that narrow gate.

I take her hand and lead her there.



“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” 
Matthew 7:13-15; New King James
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.”
Matthew 7:13-15; The Message
**edited re-post from the archives
This post shared with Ann, Jennifer, for #TellHisStory, and Beth at Messy Marriage, where she writes real, raw, and redemptive.

The Birthing of A Voice

My voice is somewhere in the deep, somewhere lost,
Somewhere silent.
I pray for words and no words come.
My voice, lost, it lets me know
It echoes from corridors and secret passageways of the heart
Tells me my heart is not still
And yes, my heart is weary, thumps too loudly, drumming in my ear
It paces, roams, back and forth, wary of the fight
Sometimes the cloud is too thick
The weight of glory too massive
Does that mean God is nearer?
Is He heavy on me like a lover?
When everything is pressing,
should I just know that He presses in close,
whispers sweet nothings in my ear?
Oh, to hear,
the deaf ear opened
I’m mute, dumb, and walk around blind
Is God near, calling?
Because I don’t hear Him
Is the church spotless and vigilant?
Because I don’t see her
I see nothing but decay
I need Jesus
His hands,
His touch
Messiah come
I groan with expectation
I howl in birth pains
I moan in quiet travail with all creation
so softly and inwardly no one knows
All this death and religion’s tepid, heavy cloak make me lie still
laid out, legs and arms splayed straight, air so tight, this box made just for me
It’s sealed all the way round
The howling wind sweeps through the cold place, and I scream but nothing comes out
And no one hears
I pant, gasp, pain shooting through spinal cavities
Eyes widen like a wild animal, afraid
I’m not sure what’s happening
And just when I begin to lose hope no one is there
The worst pains come and my hips spread some more
I can’t breathe and I’ve almost given up the ghost
And there it is, the voice lost brought up
to the surface, pressing through the birth canal,
gasping for air, wet-tissued passageways burning
howling and screaming in silent pain
blood vessels’ fragile wall breaking,
the red everywhere.
And I’m a bloodied mess
That red richness that speaks a better word
Covering me.


What Are You Running From? {31 Days of Fear–Day 1}

I soar down the wooded trail, sand, wet dirt and gravel beneath rubber-shod feet, leaves barely canopying green above me and I wipe skin-itching rain from my cheek, and see water gun-slinging outward from arms in motion at my side and I’m amazed that this is me beating the dirt and gravel in the ground and this is my sweat, rain, hard-won tears and blood running together, being flung off. I smell her–earth, all fresh and alive, just the way she was made to be.

She had asked it, my friend who knows me better than she should, “What are you running FROM, Nacole?”

Why do I run along the trails and the hills, struggling for air? To. just. breathe?

I throw myself against the elements–run the entire four and a half miles in the pouring rain, leap over protruding roots that stand in my way, daring me to try them, and when I sail past, my heart swells and I smile on the inside–what is that all about? Why does this adrenaline surge beckon to me?

What am I running from?

Fear.

Fear of  not being good enough, not measuring up, fear of sinking back into that dark black hole of depression, the depths from which I’m afraid no one will be able to pull me.

Fear of being fat because old habits die hard, and yes, I’m running from the fear self-loathing brings, from the fear of feeling like a failure and from defeat, from just barely being able to make it through the dailies, from not being able to hold onto relationships dear to me and seeing them slip through my fingertips like all this sand.

I’m running from the fear that I’m different, that I’m the only me, and there is no manual–no one left instructions on how to be me–and I wonder if I’ll do it all wrong, that I’ll lie on my deathbed wishing it’d all been different and I could go back. And what I know now is that then I won’t be able to and I only get one chance to not screw it up.

Yes, running from the fear of my genes, what’s in the DNA that I can’t control–this fragile, passionate nature easily provoked, this timid yet fiercely loving heart, this hippy free spirit with the inability to follow a clock, this illness that has gripped–my father said my grandmother had all that too.

And I run from the fear of the religious types who try to wrestle me into a box. Just like they tried to wrestle Jesus into a box, but he wasn’t having it. He knew His purpose. I think I’m finally finding mine.

I pant harder and my quads kick into high gear as I run-climb the monstrous grainy hill on my toes. The rain pounds my face, and I lean into it, thrust myself forward, grimace and climb and work through the pain. Quads pulling, exerting, muscles flexing, toe, toe, toe, on my toes as earth and gravel rolls and groans underneath.

This is me saying to the pelting rain, you’ll not bend and break my bow today–I’ll fight with my last breath and I rather enjoy the feel of you on my face, because God has ushered you forth and destined you to take your best shot. So take it. Because in the midst of the relentless, beating storm when I’m weakest, He will cause His spirit in me to rise up strong and conquer you.

Fear.

And I figured out that, yes, I may be running from something, but more than that–I’m running toward something. Maybe He knew it would be that way all along.

What am I running toward? Not the Jesus inside the box, the one they fancy dress all up.

No, I’m running toward the real one, the Jesus outside the box.

                                                                              *Edited re-post from archives


…I feel Him speaking to me gently, Come away with me.. this is the whole album live…listen to the first song or just leave
it on play while you write or clean house… ~smile~

Do you struggle with fear? Have things you run from? How does God heal you, console you, shephard you? I’d love for you to share your answers and thoughts below, friends… I hope you’ll also be along for this adventurous ride–I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here.

                                                                                         
Only a few days late, I’ve decided to do 31 days–this is my second time ever doing this. Since I’m starting my Day 1 a little late, my “31 Days” will not have 31 posts. I have chosen to do this one on FEAR, because it seems to be something I keep wrestling with over and over, something that keeps me in chains, pins me down, won’t let me free. I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far. Couldn’t we all use some freedom from those fear-chains that bind? I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me? You can find the entire 31 Day collective here<—hover with mouse to highlight and click 




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



Orphans At The Gate–{What To Do When You Are Wandering and Failing}

I’m good at ignoring reality, bad at serving others’ needs, even my own. It’s my naturally introverted personality. I really need to engage quietly with my world–bathe in sunlight, pause at a meandering brook, revel in children’s laughter, bathtime’s bubbles and bedtime’s wandering stories.

But sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I go too deep inside, so deep it’s unhealthy. I forget to eat. Hours pass while thinking and writing, and we haven’t done homeschooling and I marathon-race to catch up to time, my old nemesis.

I go so deep, I don’t do what’s best for me and my family. I don’t run because I just can’t bring myself to walk. out. that. door.

 I don’t go to church because the lights are too bright and people’s handshakes make my fragile soul quake. The sheer thought of the sea of faces makes my stomach lurch. Slamming doors, blaring toy horns, and the sibling screams and fighting make insides churn.

And I grow weary of growing things–flowers always so dry in this heat, children that won’t relent, thirsty for me–and I’m thirsty myself. They always need me, pull at every corner of me. I’ve given way more of myself away than I would’ve ever dreamt possible when this all began. And yet, I know that God, the Master Gardener–he never grows weary and so I pray for some of his strength, seek His face like a blind woman, feeling the grooves and crevices with her hands, desperate for some spark of recognition, some slight remembering.

It comes out in a whispered hush when I first get out of bed in the morning and Satan whispers his first words of defeat to me for the day. I hear him–“You’re such a failure, an idiot–you should just crawl back in bed.” I hate that I do this ugly self-talk, and my soul cries and it just comes out gently hushed–in barely audible groans–“God, help. Help me through this day.”

I want to find a well that runs deep, an oasis in this desert. God, He’s still gardening, though my eyes see darkly and I can’t make out the fruits–He’s preparing something like paradise. Oh, I’ve searched so hard and so long, so desperately I’ve drank blood from the camel’s side, letting it substitute when God offers real drink in this parched land.

And my eyes widen in horror at what I’ve allowed my children to drink in lieu of God’s pure goodness and sweet righteousness.

How?! How, I ask God, can I give them drink, these children looking at me, thirsting, when I am parched myself?

How do I die to self some more, because really–I get it–I think that’s what you’re asking of me–asking me to forge on, to travel through this pilgrim land searching for the Promised Land, only a cloud to follow, the holy heaviness of you pointing the way.

My eyes are hazed over with the fog of you, You all mystery, and my limbs are weary with the weight of promise and the burden of this place called Now. I groan and ache with the reality of it.

And I sojourn with others weary–I see it in their eyes, hear it in their words, read the pain in their face as they stand there and tell me that they had lost all hope. Yet, I know You’ve promised so much more–and all you ask of me is to trust that I will some day hold the promise in my palm.

For now, it is elusive this side of Heaven and Your perfect Presence, and the only real joy here, now, is getting to know You, tasting of you, yearning for you more and more until my heart’s cry is only “More of you! More of you! Christ, come! Come, and save! Part those skies and ride in like thunder, swift, mighty, fire in your eyes, take me, Beloved!”

But here I stay and while I wait, orphaned, here–in this Now–I wander under-prepared and oh so inadequate and I just beat on Your chest, God, like a confused, angry child and beg, “Why?” My heart hardens and I struggle in my own sin-stench. I have been the desert-wanderer, the chosen child, grafted into your family vine–I’ve been that one, given so much grace and refusing to see–refusing to open my mouth and eat the manna.

My stomach lurches and groans with pains and yet I refuse to see the manna you’ve provided as good. 

I don’t do what’s good for me. I go deep inside and hide in caverns of sin and recesses of bitterness and grievance. What I would see if I came out of my cave, is you standing there, gently holding out your hand, offering life–real life.

And the whole time I’m refusing what’s good for me, You’re saying “Something better is coming, child, if you will just eat–just open your mouth.”

I swallow down the goodness of you, and I’m a stubborn child, surprised at the sweetness and delight of it. I want to be there with my children–swallow down all that goodness–open mouth wide.

I dont want to miss the moments that were designed for me to comfort, to soothe, to affirm. I don’t want to miss any opportunity because of my lack, because I’m inadequate to behold the beauty with abandon, because im shunning all the noise and racket and pounding feet that make up the song of life.

With so many things calling all around for my attention, so reckless, holding me, dangling there in their throat-choking grasp, God just keeps planting me firmly on the ground, keeps showing me that the most authentic, most deserving and most precious community is right here at home.

They are my sojourners.

I flail around in bitterness and the cold left by absence of fellowship. I grieve and what for when God has put me here with them to nurture and to talk with, to read for hours in the hammock with and play music with and read the bible with, to worship with as we bake cookies and scrub dirty counters, to explore nature with, to run through the hills and go on a life-adventure with.

The whole wide world–and the wide web–can make it seem as though what mothers do in their homes isn’t important–that the little, quiet, sacred community we’re building isn’t holy work. It all seems to scream that we need to be doing some ministry to the poor, or we need to be involved in a local church, or serving in community in some way.

The deceptiveness of culture has slowly trickled down into the church and told women that just being a mother and wife isn’t enough. But that’s a lie from the roaring hell-lion.

Oh, how the roaming lion wants to decieve us to think that the work we’re doing–the work of a mother–isn’t holy and sacred–he does not want us to think that just loving them is enough.

I know that if I’m serving in the context that God has placed me in, I will touch the lives I’m meant to touch, regardless of my church affiliation, my community and ministry involvement, or my blog numbers.

I am only human–and God knows–He designed me this way. A standard that tells me I have to constantly be reaching higher depletes me of the air and life that I could give where He has called me to give–and mostly, that is at home.

I really think this could be my oasis–the deep well of laughter and bedtime giggles and stories and living like Jesus is in the room.

This could be my strength to never stopthe eternal value of four lives that have been discipled for Christ–literally led to Christ’s feet at the cross and transformed, radically changed and devoted to His cause.

We can do that–you can do that–I can do that–that’s the burden God placed in us mothers.  When else will we get the chance to disciple so intensely? To put our mark on someone, to leave a legacy?

We have such an amazingly golden opportunity here with our children.

When else will this godly call, this priceless hour pass by again?

We must seize it with all the gusto we can muster and that takes putting off of some earthly things, some voices that call wild in the wind and vie for our attention and ask to carry us and toss us around with every new doctrine and opinion.

So I won’t crawl back into bed. Not today. I will stand with my children, Husband by my side, us all just orphans at the gate. And I will remember that. I will remember that as I mother them–they are orphans–they are His–and they are waiting for His return just as ardently, expectantly, desperately as I am.

While they wait, while I wait, I will mother these gifts well, with my dying breath, I will be a real mother to them–a mother worn for the journey–and they won’t have to journey or wander alone.

I will journey with them, and at the end, place them back into His hands.

Gratitude: {#956-976}……..

#956…a lunch in the park…women talking, children playing…

#957…the warmth of sunlight…

#958…hard eucharisteo…learning to hang in there when these social events aren’t easy for me…

#959…my sweet Bella flourishing in the classroom with her Mama after not doing so well in the other classroom…

#960…a director who gives me the week off when energy is flagging and anxiety takes over…the practical care of a sister in Christ…

#961…having the week to clear my mind, rest, renewal…

#962…patching up disagreements, how best friends can scrub you like sand-paper and make you Christ-smooth

#963…chasing butterflies, dragonflies in the backyard with my girls…

#964…watching my strong girls swim their hearts out for the team…

#965…hard eucharisteo…pounding headache and nausea, the noise of the crowd too much–giving it to God and learning to be a {somewhat} patient mama through it all, loving on my children…

#966…going out to celebrate with the girls for their first meet out of town–Husband meeting us when he got off work..

#967…watching birds, squirrels in the backyard…

#968…not going anywhere, napping in the hammock on a Sunday afternoon; Sabbath rest…

#969…my Bella asking if she is still the new girl next week, reassuring her that no, she is not the “new girl” after the first week.

#970…taking care of my sweet Bella-girl, how she lets me bathe her face with a cool cloth to bring down fever, how she sits up and tries to spoon in the ice cream, submissively puts the thermometer under her tongue, lets me hold her…

#971…Lorna making oranges for Bella, bringing them to her bed…

#972…Ivy’s concerned “Bella, are you hot?”

#973…Spider lillies splashing the whole backyard in red…

A gift cool, warm, sun-soaked…
#974…the end of my daughter’s nose…
#975…hot shower
#976…feeling the warmth of sun on my bare skin and then the first of tiniest drops of rain….

Still counting and linking up with sweet Ann and others… On In Around button