Category Archives: everything made new

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

 

{An Abstraction on Rust}

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is Rust. GO!


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

Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer

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Concrete Words: New Beginnings {An Abstraction on Soil}

Standing right there in the middle of the cold vegetables and fruits come right up out of the soft ground, he sent the text.

Tons of spider lilies in back like Jesus sprinkled his blood over our new beginnings. I know we have a long road but I liked the scene.



I cried on my Granny’s soft shoulder, a pillow for many sorrows over seventy-seven years, and then wiped my eyes and picked out some salad for an easy supper.

Sometimes marriage is like that, a long road to healing. Sometimes when we clasp hands and slide on matching shiny rings, crying for the hope that is to come, we don’t know we are broken and depraved and that there is darkness lurking in our hearts–darkness that Jesus means to overcome in us.

We don’t see how the hard ground must be tilled and tilled and rained on and battered by storms until seeds begin to take root and grow, the weeds plucked out.

We had argued about directions on the way there, and arrived so late that we thought we would not be able to even get into our cabin. The old guy waiting up for us by one small oil lamp light amongst a foresty-dark farm, said the cabin was a 30 minute drive away. Oh. We were thinking a little walk down the old pine boards and we could lie down on the antique frame together, fluffy old quilts a welcoming respite after a 7 hour drive, and fire crackling bedside.

We stood on the hard wooden floors, and waited as the bearded man retrieved his go-to direction sheet, the lamp’s light dancing a glow across handmade chairs and tables made only the way mountain-men can craft, their wood carved, not flattened through a planer, their edges left as nature intended. They were rough and beautiful. Hard and appealing, needing a sanding but still catching the beholder’s gaze with their uniqueness.

Old trinkets were scattered around, a wooden clock with a coo-coo bird, soft cushions, and beautiful pine. Already I felt a little at home.

But we were not home–not yet. After saying goodbye to the old man, we drove 30 more minutes, which turned into an hour, winding through dark, country mountain roads with poorly written directions and too tired to keep our tempers in check.

We finally found the drive, and the tires slowly creaked over gravel like even they were tired. The mountain trees we wound our way through, they beckoned and bowed over us, angels bowed before His glory and all of creation, even they in awe of His created beings.

A fire was kindled and started in that hearth and in that bed, and that heart-shaped tub.

My husband, he surprised me by getting up before me the next morning with the camera and capturing the light splayed in across a stunning display of antique tea pots, china and oil lamp placed so delicately and thoughtfully by someone on pine. God’s light shown through the small breakfast nook, the windows almost blinding and my feet shod in his peace, the path set before me with his illuminated word.

I had laid under the heavy quilts, a weight keeping me sleepy, while he brought coffee up the pocket sized winding stairs. They were handwrought, sharply-cusped and we had joked that there was no way any elderly person should rent this cabin and there should be a disclaimer. He walked over to the hem of me, fire thoughtfully hovering and fading a few feet away, laid the cup in my weary, heavy-lidded boned self, and I drank in the warm hazelnut deep like I’d never get another drop.

I can’t quite remember, but I think maybe he walked away with a contented sigh.

We had breakfast in a gloriously lit room, more pine than I’ve ever seen in one place in my entire life, and I could not help myself but take shots of everything, with people all around–the piano, the light underneath on gleaming gold petals, and the morning sun smiling in on couples murmuring perhaps little sweet nothings to one another.

We walked up the mountain together, started out on a hike too great for us, and my husband, he grabbed a stick for bears, but in my mind, nothing was too big for me to handle.

I guess I’m naively stubborn like that.

There is a fire in my bones, something that drives me, a passion, like a warrior Indian princess. There is Cherokee blood in me after all, my daddy says, coming down from his grandmother’s long raven hair, even in her old age.

Something about that mountain dared me to climb it, and my soul cried out You’re nothing! I want to be up there with you on the top, to shrink back from nothing and to see everything and to feel the icy-cold wind of freedom on my face!  

We trekked through bountiful fallen gold and orange, and then we slushed through snow, and it came to a point where he asked me to turn around because we were having to jump tiny creeks that only had rocks to leap onto. But in my heart, I could not turn back–I so loved jumping the rocks, the tiny waterfalls, and I dragged him along with me, squeezing through large boulders and snow, almost getting our feet trapped, feet that were not shod and prepared for this mission.

Every hiker that came down from the mountain looked at us like we were loony, but I truly believe I could have climbed to the top with only my Indian princess animal skins on (and fur boots made of buffalo of course).

We argued some of the way, and he nearly lost it for me pulling him so high up the mountain.

He said, honey, it is getting dark soon; all the hikers are coming down–the bears will be out and there will be no one to call to for help. The snow will only get worse from here and we are already drenched. Let’s head on back, please?

I looked up at the top of the mountain and it called to me. But so did my husband.

So I made the right choice.

And through great courage and discipline and solidarity of mind, I turned around and listened to the wisdom of reason, though my spirit wanted to soar free.

Courage can take many different forms. Sometimes it means just listening to reason when I don’t want to, and giving into something and compromising when everything inside is screaming NO!

Sometimes it is allowing God to prick the hard ground of our hearts and till up soil, to call up a friend when it’s been a while and say I’ve been thinking of you, and though things have happened, my love for you has never changed.

It may be confronting that great, big mountain of fear in our lives and trekking up the steep, smashing boulders when all we want to do is turn around and go back down.

Or it could be going around a mountain that’s not meant for us to tackle, and God says there’s a better way, perhaps a harder way, in the deep places where the evil things lurk and we must get our swords out, fight and pray.

Maybe it’s as simple as plucking up some of that hard ground of our hearts with His truth, and asking a friend for forgiveness, or going over to a neighbor to help or ask for help when we’ve been wounded.

Maybe it’s in admitting we need help to someone we trust. And healing comes. And when those we trust betray us, we release it to Him who was broken completely and totally into and is our Comforter, and we just keep loving, and healing comes.

There are always new beginnings for our woundedness and there is nothing God can’t tackle, but we have to let Him give us the grace to allow Him to do it in that hard soil.

Then, maybe we will look out and see the red burst into bloom, scattered bloody all around shooting forth, up and out toward the sky, grace, forgiveness, freedom, joy, peace, righteousness, goodness, love, forbearance, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

There are always new beginnings…in Him. And we are saturated in it.

 Now let’s have some fun with Concrete Words! (Please keep writing centered around the prompt:SOIL Thanks!)

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.

Embracing Plucked Daffodils {And Resurrection Life}

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 cloudiness and rain in my life. It has been a long time coming–this spring rejuvenating joyousness–this resurrection!

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 the joy-creating and peace-creating moments. My emotions stand hard and stubborn as brick, and they are not easily destroyed 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.

It was life cocooned up in an earthen grave, like that catepillar the girls placed in the grace garden, just like that Resurrection Man whose body was wrapped and laid in a cold tomb.

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 living fully the resurrection. 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, that cold earthen grave where my heart is wrapped up. 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–to learn grace. 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–oh, the lessons I learn from her about how to live out this life that springs forth from painful grave, me just dust returning to dust one day.
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– when they are {mischeviously}, blithely having carefree, airy and sun-happy fun–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, reaching her with a warm enveloping smile and letting her know that I will always give her what is mine?

In putting away Easter and Lent, and seeing the sin that so easily creeps back in–the exhaustion and the anxiety that tries to take over like a dark cloak–maybe what I’m really seeing clearly is that to live this resurrection–to carry Easter with me I must not hold tight, but let go.

Is it really things that bring beauty, like flowers, or is it the God-breathed moments with my daughter,  The Word Himself gently shooting shafts of light through the darkness of our hearts together?

For aren’t we all just groping along, bling, trying to find the way? Aren’t we weary sojourners looking for home? Isn’t this earth full of so much darkness and death, threatening to swallow us up, taking us down to the depths of the grave?

If that is true, then aren’t these God-given moments of truth all we really have–to behold with awe and let our breath be taken with beauty, to just stand on holy ground speechless?

This letting go and living fully the resurrection life is apart of grace, a reflection of the Father’s love. This is how He meant it to be. He never meant for me to give anything or live anything that He hasn’t already lived and freely given me.

This is grace:–not only mercy and pardon, but a beautiful gift laid at my feet for the taking, laid at the feet of the undeserving, a beautiful gift paid for with His life.

I don’t do this life so gracefully–more like a child with fist clenched tight, really, but this grace part He is so generously and gently teaching.

I’m opening fist and learning and accepting His grace, all the gifts laid at my feet, and my daughter–I let her pluck the daffodil from my open hand, and she and I, we are dancing–sometimes quiet and stilled, sometimes blasting out the stereo–just dancing like crazy in this God-breathed life of grace.

*an edited post from archives

Shared with Ann in community at…

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…

Good-Bye To Winter {Five-Minute Friday}

On Fridays, we link up with Lisa-Jo at the gypsy-mama and we write for only five minutes with a one-word prompt, without worrying if it’s perfect–no backtracking, over-thinking, or editing. In Lisa-Jo’s words, we throw caution to the wind–in my words–FUN! Maybe you would like to join us? Click on her button at the bottom…So here goes…

Prompt: Good-bye.

GO.

Good bye to winter, that season that always brings cold through my soul.
Good bye to old ways and old habits, old days that were no good to me, but God knew
God knew something greater was forming
Good bye to despondency and guilt, depression and darkness
Good bye to the lull and the void
Good bye to days of nothingness and feeling worthless
God knows I am worth something–He knew me and formed me, knitted me
Good bye to the pain of bearing children that I feel inadequate to raise into little ladies into godly women
God knew that He would give me grace enough
Good bye to all those days that wore me down, drug me down with the weight of them and carried me to the depths
God knew that He would save me
Good bye to the days of not being strong enough to teach, shape, learn, listen, mold, love, cherish, honor, celebrate
Good bye to the babies that they were
God knew they would grow up and He would give me more than enough wisdom

STOP.

A Mama Makes Attempts At Holy Week {Preparing for Easter}

To celebrate Easter, I do something this year I have never done before. I do Lent.

For Lent, I throw off, disentangle, make lighter. I throw off writing, emails, twitter and television–because that’s what Lent is–a quiet time of reflection, of giving up things that get in the way, of turning to the Saviour and looking Him full in the face, only to fully be reminded of our sin and just how much we need him–how much we really need Easter.

I have to ask myself–can Easter really be celebrated any other way? Can we really pack and cram all of the reflection, revelation, soul-enriching, awareness of our sin and need for a Saviour, thanksgiving and rejoicing for His life, death and resurrection into just one day? Really? Because that’s how I was raised to celebrate it–the church I grew up in never encouraged families to take more time than Easter Sunday to reflect and celebrate.

So here I am, doing Lent, leading my family quietly {maybe not so quietly?}, Husband so thankful that I have found the resources and made the effort for everyone, teaching them what I have learned.

But while I try to do Lent, while I teach children God’s ways, I utterly fail.

He comes home and finds me in the kitchen, spewing words, trying to prepare a special Christian passover meal for all of us. I am the most disorganized person I know–even though I read the ideas and recipes days before, and marinated the lamb overnight, I had taken on too much for such a huge feast in one evening–my accursed genes follow me forever.

It is the worst feeling in the world–as things begin to fall apart, it feels as if the girl that had it all together left my body and some other girl took over–some of our worst flaws we are so helpless over. As Paul said, “What I don’t want to do, I do, and what I want to do, I dont do.”

Candles lit, worship music playing, I talk through gritted teeth and tell children to just cooperate as we all prepare together. Even the best of Christian activities and the most quiet, stilling music cannot save us.

Only God–only Him on that cross can do that for me and only His presence here will save us.

Husband reminds me to instruct them politely. I nod that he’s right, and tell him that he doesn’t know what I went through with children today who wouldn’t obey and do their work and I feel like a failing Mama.

When I get all wound tight inside I can’t seem to stop, and I keep going–I tell him that I figured out why it’s so hard for me to instruct, teach, have conversations–why it wears me out so much–I’m an introvert, and my natural bent is to let someone learn on their own, without my input. I want to be alone, doing my own thing. Eldest daughter pipes up with, “Then why in the world did you decide to homeschool us?”

Oh, I wish I had stopped. This tongue of death–sometimes I wish I could cut it off. At this moment, my emotions couldn’t be any worse–I have hit rock bottom.

Here I am, consumed with the sins of discontentment, strife, impatience and ingratitude, and I see exactly why I need Easter–why I need His resurrection life so desperately.

Here I am, feeling like a failure, feeling like a victim, and I forget to have a grateful heart for what God has done.

I forget that just a few nights before, during our Lent devotion, Lorna had said she had a question. She was worried about dying and going to heaven, for an infinite amount of time, not know what would happen or what her life would be like there.

And Husband says, “Lorna, you’re right–it is a little scary, because heaven is a place we don’t know much of, it’s a place we’ve never been to and don’t understand the way there, what the journey will be like…

“You know when you were born, you were just a little baby, and you came into this big world, and you were crying and it was scary, but it was great and you were here in this new place, just looking around in wonder?” She nods.

“That’s what heaven is like–it is going to be amazing and wonderful. It is something that we don’t understand on this side of it–but this side is only one part of life–when you get there, you will have a whole new life and then you will understand.”

She told her daddy she gets it now, him at the head of the table, all of us listening to one another and learning.

How could I forget such beauty? How does my heart so easily fester and callous up?

It is late when the feast is finally ready, and we all take our seats.

In preparing the meal in such haste and fury, I am not prepared for what it will do to my heart when my youngest in angel voice shyly asks the first question: “Why are we eating unleavened bread?”

I answer, “We eat Matzah to remind us that the Israelites did not have time for yeast to rise because they had to be ready to move when God said. For us as Christians, it reminds us to live lightly, always ready to go when the call comes…like a thief in the night, Jesus is going to return and we will all go home. We eat matzah because tonight we remember Jesus…bread without yeast, to remember Jesus who was without sin.”

Eldest looks straight into my eyes as I talk, and I feel the weight of God’s glory all around us–her eyes so alive with His resurrection.

When Husband takes the bread, tears it right into, and I tell the girls, say it in unison and they do: “Because He was broken for us,” something just tears my heart wide open.

My second oldest asks her question, and I didn’t tell her to, but she addresses her Dad–“Daddy, why are we eating bitter herbs?” –her voice so reverent, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I think I do. He explains about the bitterness of sins and my heart begins to bleed out.

When eldest daughter asks her question, “Why tonight do we dip our herbs twice?” Husband explains that our fathers wept salty tears {he dips the herb into the salty water}they dipped hyssop branches into the blood of the Passover lamb and marked their doorposts that the Angel of Death would pass over.

For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

I watch Husband’s hands dipping the herbs into hope, telling us that we can wipe our tears because now we have new life in Christ–He has rebirthed us–and after all the whirlwind of my sin, my desires and my passions, my heart is finally stilled.

But it is really after the last question has been asked that it fully sinks in.

It is when he serves the lamb that my heart slows, the blood stops racing, and I close eyes and just listen as he reads:

“As the Jews needed the blood of the lamb on their doorpost for the angel of death to pass over them, so we need the blood of the lamb on our hearts for the angel of death to pass over our souls. And we have a lamb…as John the Baptist proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And he was a voluntary sacrificial lamb for Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18)

“What does that mean? It means that Jesus planned His own sacrifice. It means that Jesus intentionally planted the tree from which His cross would be carved…willingly placed the iron ore in the heart of the earth from which the nails would be cast…voluntarily placed his Judas in the womb of a woman…set in motion the political machinery that would send Pilate to Jerusalem…the ropes used to tie His hands and the soldiers used to lead Him were unnecessary. Had they not been there, had there been no trial, no Pilate, no crowd, the very same crucifixion would have occurred. Had Jesus been forced to nail Himself to the Cross, He would have done it. For it was not the soldiers who killed Him, nor the screams of the mob. It was His devotion to us.” (~Max Lucado, God Came Near, pg. 79-81)

I just nod, eyes closed, it’s all I can do. I just relent and let Him completely take over.

Little Lilly lifts her glass to clink it against our’s as we toast the celebration of His new life, a shy, excited little smile on her face. Husband and I look at one another, the twinkle of hope in our eye.

I wonder why we don’t do Lent–this thing that was so hard starting out–all year long.

{For dessert: “New Life”}

John Piper, a man I believe to be doctrinally sound, on Lent: ““Lent” means spring. But it’s more like winter—the last blast of cold before the warm green is here to stay. It reminds us of the flint-faced Christ moving to Jerusalem. O how we need the discipline of Lent!! Break a bad habit before Good Friday! Life is too short to coast. Brake! Stand on the hood. Look! Over there! Don’t say you can’t. We don’t allow that word at our house (Matthew 19:26).”

“Lent or no Lent, not doing some things you feel like doing is the daily pattern for the disciples of Jesus. Yes, daily. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).”

From the Desiring God blog: So, How Was Your Easter?–“How can we be Easter people–24/7, 365 days of the year?”…

**A few ideas we are creating around here and some ramblings this week for Easter…thank you in advance, friends, for grace…

{I’m always conservative with Easter baskets and lean more toward Christian celebration than American tradition–if you would like to do this, too–} this year, a Christian book on Easter–one for the little ones and HERE is one for older ones. and for teens?  this study by Adam Hamilton has excellent reviews or this book by Strobel— {or you can order their own copy of Devotions for Lent–my girls love theirs–a small devotion booklet–go here to order–w/ Amazon 1-day or 2-day shipping, you could have it by Fri.–I’m also lightly sprinkling in some pastel chocolate eggs, a chocolate cross, a stuffed bunny or lamb with ribbon and hand-written bible verse around the neck. You may also place some plastic eggs filled with scripture or you may opt for natural brown hen’s eggs with ribbon and a hole-punched scripture attached {this could be a treasure hunt–you could put the scripture reference only and have your little one look them up and read together}? You could also use a filler and place moss found in your yard on top and tuck in some Lilly of the Valley here and there… A sterling silver cross necklace would make a wonderful gift for a tween or teen. The main thing is keeping it simple and centered on Who we are celebrating…

We have made our Grace Garden {go HERE to see Ann’s ideas}, and it turned out beautiful–I would like to encourage you to make your own–we had so much fun!–on Friday night, the girls will make catepillars out of wax, wrap in a leaf and tuck under the moss atop our stone tomb and then we will make our butterfly and it will sit atop our Grace Garden on Sunday morning! The girls are so intrigued with a caterpillar’s transformation right now, so this works perfect for us!

You can go HERE, Desiring God blog, to read Noel Piper {John Piper’s wife} on Lent and Holy Week–for further inspiration

You can go HERE, to Ann Voskamp’s site to get ideas and free printouts for your own Christian Passover meal…

You can go HERE if you are interested in Lent devotions for the rest of this holy week–in preparation for Easter–maybe you would like to print it out to be ready for next year?

Shared with sweet Ann and others at….

Jennifer….

kd…

”JourneyTowardsEpiphany”

Tracy…

and Shanda…

A Warm Shout of Thanks And Love To Ann! {A Testimony of 1,000 Gifts}

In cold February when I first heard of Ann, it was through the trailer to her book–they showed the video at my little church. I only heard her voice and her poetry, and that was all I needed to hear. I was floored by her words, them digging up my soul from the grave and screaming, “Awaken!” They moved me, the think, muddy waters of me, and they soaked the parched ground of my spirit. And something else began to trickle–love.

My heart began to bleed and I began to weep tears and it began to stream into rivers of life.

At the time I was in school full-time online, while being a mommy to four and a wife to one amazing man. I had suffered with post-partum depression, anxiety and migraines after the birth of my fourth child. Being in school compounded this, and stress took over my body.

I began having fibromyalgia symptoms (a stress disorder) and the illness took an ugly turn, getting worse and worse. The insomnia worsened and I began to have paranoia. The anxiety episodes came to the point I could no longer attend church.

I was not able to take care of my children the way I desperately wanted to mother them, just desperately wanting to cradle them, to read to them, bake with them, to read devotions to them. The illness has at times had me isolated and closed off to my family–even to my sweet baby, for which I felt awfully guilty. I had to quit school because the stress and the illness came to the point that I was having severe pain and could not continue.

This was around the time I began reading Ann’s blog, A Holy ExperienceI was on a path of my own and God showed me I was headed the wrong direction. He showed me that my desires to raise my girls were placed there by Him, and that I did not have to give that up in order to pursue school and a career so that my family would not starve. He showed me that I was pursuing things out of fear and that I had to trust Him for His will for me and my family–even though I thought that I was pursuing these things for the love of my family and to help my husband.

My heart had hardened to my family and all the dreams of motherhood I really longed for–I had to bury all of these hopes and dreams in pursuit of a career–it is not so easy to switch paths–it takes a softening and pounding of the heart, a tenderizing of tough, calloused meat. So now, here I am. I began reading One Thousand Gifts and bathed myself in and drank in the words of deep communion and gratefulness to God.

This book changed my heart and life forever!

I continued reading the words on her blog. The first post I ever read was about a horn she hung on a wall to remind herself to be happy and to share joy with others.

Her joy intrigued me–I wanted to know more–the Farmer she called him, outside in the yard and her in the house, him laughing and her smiling, him honking at her from the truck. Yes, I wanted this joy.

I also read the one about when the Farmer came to put gas in her van on the snow-packed country road, and it impacted me, the way she didn’t expect him to do these things, but she humbly recognized them as gifts. I needed this.

And she wrote this: “…he’s drawn it all close, and smiled when she’s created and nodded for her to go and said no to any performing and yes to just being.” I knew this was the way my Husband loved me too, and I knew we were headed down this Christ-love marriage road and I saw hope on the horizon.

I read the post called How To Fall In Love All Over Again In 4 Minutes A Day–a profound post–the intimacy between them–the way he tells her to believe him when he tells her she is beautiful–like Christ and the church–I had to know more.

These posts touched me deeply. There have been times that Husband and I have read together, tears streaming down faces. It is because of Ann’s writing–because of her family and the way they live–that we now read the bible at supper each night. This is a remarkable, sweet, sweet change for our family–oh the mercies and grace of God!

As these writings began to bring not only lasting change to my heart, but to my family’s as well, I also began counting my own gifts. I began naming them. You can see my first list here.

This naming, there was a mystery to it–a naming of gifts given that otherwise would go completely unnoticed, unaccounted for, and without having given thanks for.

It was in this continual giving of thanks everyday–not only in counting the beautiful gifts, but in counting the hard eucharisteos–eucharisteo meaning hard thanks, the kind of thanks to God that comes in hard trials and circumstances that we didn’t want to come our way–that my heart really began to change.

The book opened up new doors for me to go through that I had never thought of before, never known they existed. But the habit of writing down my thanks to God for gifts made the walking through doors possible. And the more I write it down, the easier it is to walk through the doors of freedom into joy.

This has been healing to me, has brought me through and I can finally see the other side–all this light to dance in like crazy!

Starting today, I will be tweeting my three gifts a day as a part of the Joy Dare. I have been taking part in the Joy Dare, but am behind in doing it everyday, so I would like to tweet it everyday to keep me accountable to keeping up with it. I believe this will be another turning point for me. To follow my Joy-Dare tweets, just click on the little link in the side-bar!

Would you like to take part in the JOY DARE? Click HERE to read about it with gorgeous free printable from Ann!

Gratitude:
3 gifts that were surprises…unexpected grace!…
#563 red Valentine heart full of chocolates from my Sweetheart
#564 a phone call from a very close friend and the prayer that changed everything–healing!
#565 Granny and Granddaddy bringing pizza, drinks and ice cream for everyone–such givers

3 times you heard laughter today…
#566 my older girls being silly, and the way she puts her hand to her mouth and giggles, eyes lighting up like jewels
#567 when she shared her life with me as we ran and we laughed freely
#568 Husband and I laughing together at silly things–commercials, our own antics and movie-quoting

3 gifts found in working…
#569 the beauty of the yard when it’s cleaned up and raked
#570 that home really can be a safe haven of peace and this is the reward of my efforts
#571 a breeze blowing in through kitchen window I had a hard time raising

3 hard eucharisteos…
#572 waiting so long for our vehicle, cooped up all winter, not able to attend any homeschooling outings, knowing God is working the finances out for the right timing
#573 the hard work of relationships–the beauty that unfolds in my toiling and giving and in others for me
#574 losing friendships that once had their moment of shining brilliance, lost as to why this has to be, and so thankful for the ones who are loyal to me through all of my flaws

3 gifts found behind a door today…
#575 Granny and Granddaddy driving out for a visit because they miss their great-grandbabies and watching them for just a couple hours while Daddy and Mama get out for a little breather–the bond that can’t keep family away
#576 when I’m typing, little one peeking around the door every so slowly, her inquisitive two-year old eyes
#577 a door opening for my Father in the form of a job with the state, teaching, after 30+ years of self-employment–the first time in his life he will have insurance and retirement–comfort for his aging body

3 ways I feel the love of God…
#578 Husband’s tireless taking care of me and the girls everyday. His endless giving.
#579 A friend shining beautiful for Jesus calling to tell me that God said I am to write a book–I whisper this thanks hesitantly
#580 A friend only just met online offering schooling books for us to use for free! Extravagant grace! Thanks through tears!

a gift in losing something, in finding something, in making something…
#581 losing my pride, taking a love-risk and reaching out when I’ve been hurt
#582 finding the cover to my camera lens–Praise God!–this is the way I love to record my gifts!
#583 making Valentine’s treats with the girls–oh delightful fun!

**All of us passing illness around here…using tissue like it was air and sipping hot tea. I will do my best to answer your kind comments and hopefully I will be able to write more later this week. If not, I will see you, friends, next week! Getting sick, though I never get sick, maybe God’s way of slowing me down?

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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Join me at Ann’s for a Joy Dare, and counting our gifts and graces from God?