Category Archives: faith

In Which I Tell You That You Are Amazing On Mother’s Day

{because you need to believe it}



I wasn’t going to write anything for Mother’s Day.

I look away, down, anywhere but straight ahead, scroll past, ignore the posts, try not to read stories that remind me too much of my failings as a mother and how I don’t measure up. I try to stop the hemorrhaging, plug up the giant mother-sized hole bleeding out from so much pain and guilt. The past two years have been the hardest years yet for me as a mother.

Mother’s Day could just be another day, and I would be fine with that, I tell myself.

It would be easier than facing the guilty feelings for all I haven’t done right, for the ways I put myself down, tell myself I’m not enough.

Isn’t that usually the way with mothers? And guilt and anger over what we deserve or don’t deserve always lend to shame. It’s a vicious cycle.

Honestly, I’ve had enough of feeling not good enough. I’ve had enough of the lies and the fears and the torment in my belly that keeps me awake at night, crying into my pillow when no one sees.

I’ve all but decided that constantly shoving in a diet of filthy rags in the sight of God mentality is not good for my happiness, or my spiritual growth.

I sort of think that for some of us, who struggle with pride, maybe it’s good for us to remember that we cannot do things on our own but we need God.

But for others of us, who struggle with insecurity more than we do feeling great about ourselves and our talents,

maybe we just need to be told weareamazing.

Me.

You. Yes, you. Beautiful, tear-streaked face, hair in knots, pajama-wearing, you.

This is for all of us. For those of us who don’t feel beautiful or appreciated or enough in anyone’s eyes.

For the women and mothers that can feel a little neglected as they bend, break, wipe up vomit and then try to cuddle up to their man and feel sexy.

It’s not easy, is it? I know.

Depression can bring you down to such an ugly place, and postpartum can do a mom in, and sometimes I wonder why the world has to be the way it is, why Eve had to take that fruit off of that tree, why I have to be so much like her.

I know what you’re thinking right now–this is wrong. How can we say we aren’t filthy rags in the sight of God, because the bible clearly states in scripture that we are.

Oh, yes, I know. Believe me, I know, because I grieved and I lamented, and I lived in a perpetual state of my “I’m not good enough” theology for years. Yes, that’s how the story begins.

But it isn’t how it ends.

That’s the beauty of the blood-stained, wrecked, holy, scandalous gospel.

We were, we are and always will be filthy rags. In and of ourselves.

But listen to this and listen close. Grasp it, and once you do, never let go:

Christ came and changed all of that. Forever, for you and I. We are no longer prisoners to our filthy rags, we don’t have to walk around in sack and ash-cloth, mourning our bane existence in the presence of a Holy, angry God. He poured out grace thick when the blood coursed warm out of his body and ran cold. 

He gave you freedom, like a slave set free and told he can leave his master’s land. Forever. Free to make his own choices, free to live without worry and fear.

We’re not a slave to the law, to our dirty sinful hearts, or even to our fears, but if we are a slave, we are a slave only to grace. We are married to freedom now.

We’ve been bought with a blood that is tied to no strings, our ransom has been paid, and we’ve been let go.

Do you see it? Grasp it? Know it deep in your marrow?

He loves you. He loves me. He loves the whole messed up lot of us.

And that is why I know, know, know that he doesn’t want us mothers feeling guilty on this Mother’s Day weekend. Do you hope for a card and think, maybe once again this year, it will be forgotten? That is just being human.

Do you get disappointed? Maybe slightly angry, even? GREAT! That means you’re human! Jesus understands when we’re angry, yes? All he asks, is that we don’t sin in that anger. We give grace, we forgive, we try to understand, we try, once again, to live selflessly. And we patiently ask that next year, they might try to remember a card, or a letter. Something that would help you remember they love and appreciate you, because you need to hear it. Sometimes, admitting what we need from others is the hardest thing of all. Because then we open our hearts fully. And we shouldn’t feel guilty for needing, because God made us this way!

He doesn’t want us strapping the law to our backs, lamenting our sin, totin’ a sign that says “I’m not good enough”, waving a guilt banner in people’s faces and pulling them into our religious nightmare because the ones who carry the law heavy need someone to help them bear it. And we all drag one another down.

The gospel, this one life He’s given us to live, the whole of creation and reason for existence is about way more than just filthy rags, sinners in the hand of an angry God, and lamenting that there is no good in us, and only He is the reason at all that we can do anything good, mother half-well, be a serving lover to our husbands, or live with any decent purpose at all.

No, let’s not box up a Holy God, a limitless God to such finite ideas. Let’s stop believing the lie that we can only be nothing in ourselves and maybe half-worth something for the kingdom of heaven if we grit our teeth, bear the law hard, and submit to a God who rules over us.

He is the mighty Creator, and it doesn’t serve Him well or do His wonders justice for us to wear heavy cloaks of humility that weigh us downbut it boasts His power and waves a banner of glory when we are happy in who He made us. 

I give you permission right now to stop believing the lie, to shirk off the heavy cloak of shame, to wash off the foul stench of fear and guilt and begin rejoicing in who God has made you.

Because God? He rejoices over you. He spins happy and He watches you take in sacred breaths in early morning light, and He smiles down on you, Beloved Daughter, as you hug your daughter or son, as you cry and as you yell, and as you bravely say sorry and rise again each morning even though the days are hard and wear you thin.

God gets it–He knows you. He knows how hard you struggle and He catches each tear, and your intercessor, Christ, He prays for you to the Father as He sees you fall to your knees in exasperation once again, no words on your lips, groans the only thing escaping.

He loves you, daughter, infinitely and wondrously.

He sees your struggle, your pain.

He sees the beauty in your heart, the desires that are deeply hidden and entombed there.

He sees the potential of what He made you to be, and He sees who you are now, right where you are, just how you are–weak, fragile, each breath you breathe a sacred one,

And He says it. is. good. 





                                                        *an edited re-post from archives

{This post shared with The Weekend Brew}

This is what I’m asking for on Mother’s Day weekend–as a family, we will give to this project! I’m a little excited!! You can go here (ß– click on the highlighted word) to give just a $5 donation to the Esther Initiative, a project that Ann is apart of to bring hope to girls and women all over the world. It is a project to empower women, something I think you’d be proud to be apart of, as am I. Isn’t this a perfect gift—right here at Mother’s Day weekend, when we’re celebrating women, and birth, and life itself? Will you give with me? I’m asking my husband to make this my gift. Let’s stand together. Let’s make our voice heard. Let’s let our sisters across the sea and right here at home hear our roar—we care and we will not stop, until this stops. We give you our yes, Father. Use me, Jesus, to sit beside someone in chains. 


You can learn more at that link above, about the project– and you can go here, to my post from yesterday, to learn how YOU can help in small ways that matter, and also share some ideas you may have! 

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Rambling Vignettes of Listening {An Abstraction on Slippers}




I walk to the bathroom in my slippers at 6 pm, when my back feels like it will break, and bend over the bathtub anyway. Water and giggles splash me awake. I gently coerse them to their feet for a slathering of soap and the wash rag slides over their little bodies, and it’s like a good cleansing of my soul.

I do these things over and over—heat up the pajamas over the free-standing oil heater, slide them on, zip them up, then roughly towel-dry their heads and comb through wet hair. These rituals are quieting and peaceful, the heater a make-shift altar, the stool a pew, and the careful zipping and closure of buttons a concrete theology of the only kind that makes any sense to me—love. The theology that puts clothes on bare backs, brings a glass of water to the lips of the thirsty, washes the dirt of the unclean, and wraps arms round the filthy, looks into their eyes and accepts them the way they are.
Still in my pink and white furry slippers, plaid pajama pants, and stained Aeropostale hoodie, I dump can after can of tomatoes, beans, chilis and olives into a stock-pot large enough to feed a family of six for two nights. The soup simmers and warms the kitchen and my heart.
It’s difficult to pull myself away from the computer with all my adult friends, who make me feel so validated, and to ring my hands in prayer, in these rote routines that are never-ending. As soon as I wash and fold the clothes,  they are in the dirty pile again. I don’t get to leave home much, so it’s hard to stop “involving myself” in adult things. But living in this gentle, patient way requires that I turn off the noise and listen to my little people. And what I hear is beautiful in the silence, in the waiting, in the serving.
I practice the discipline of going outside, even when it’s cold. I don’t let myself be overcome with angst and melancholy. I look at the stars, and wait, because God speaks to me there.
I practice cutting off a conversation I’d really like to have on messenger, and walk outside because I can hear the giggles wafting in through my window from the trampoline, and don’t fancy myself too dignified to jump up on the trampoline and play silly games.
These are my altars, they are my sanctuaries, they are my church, my holy place.
This weekend I went on a bike ride with my daughter again to the store. This time it was the six year old. She is so fearless and brave. Not once did she say, Mama wait, or Mama I can’t keep up, or Don’t leave me. She cheerfully stayed behind, or sped on ahead, a huge proud grin spread wide across her face, and I, warily aware of cars that might come our way any moment, constantly tried to hold her back, or pull her up with me. Her bravery makes me come to a stop, and really take a look at my own courage, or lack thereof.
We all went to the playground on Sunday, and there was lots of sunshine there, as if it was waiting for us. It had not been beaming as brightly before.
Their smiles when I took pictures of them soaring on the swings found me in my stalled faith and depressed mood, and startled me awake and once again, I found a reason to believe.





I’ve struggled in my relationship with God, because I am afraid when I step out onto that limb in shaky belief, that He will leave me hanging, that I’ll be left alone, in jadedness and hurt.
For about a week, I could not hear Him at all, I thought. It seemed my heart was overwhelmed, confused, muddled. I worried, I doubted. I walked outside late one night, bundled up, and everything was still and my heart felt dead along with all the winter barrenness buried deep under the cold, wet ground. All the life had been beat down by freezing rain and all felt numb and desolate.
I let the sterile sleepiness overtake me for a moment. I felt abandoned. Then I surrendered, and looked up and the stars jolted me with their twinkling, their stark loveliness. I knew He was waiting. I said out loud, which is rare for me, Talk to me, GodWhat do I do with this?
And you know what? He didn’t leave me hanging. No friend, He comes on wings of love. He said to me, crystal clear, You are worrying over things you have no business worrying over. I am going to take care of it. Trust me, and stop worrying.
And he spoke something with limpid lucidity—grace.  And—love.
Yes, Father, I know. I see. I hear. And just like that, my fear was dissolved. In His hands, picking me up off that shaky limb.
I may have a relationship with Him now, all on my own, without someone else telling me what that should look like. Seriously. This is not blowing smoke, y’ know? No, for the first time, I mean it.
I thought I meant it long ago,  and I think in some ways I did. But– and here’s the really honest part– I was following someone else’s leading. I was doing it because I felt I had to– the advent, the lent, the praying, the homemaking (making cookies, folding clothes, and all the things). It was never enough unless I was doing IT ALL. I thought I was finding God in that. And in a way, I did. But maybe it was only a glimpse. I limited him, boxed him in, not in the ways I always had, but in a different way. I just gave him a new box.
Now, I’m listening. I’m not making idols, not play-acting, not doing Lent just because I’m thinking how much content it will offer my writing. I’m listening to the Spirit. I used to HATE it when people said that. Because I’m a rebel, and spiritual talk felt so superficial to me.
Oh, what I was missing out on, and then again, I wasn’t missing anything. Because I’ve travelled this roving path, like a gypsy desperately seeking the spark of life, and I’m listening. He is in the pain, the mess, the times I have too much to drink and go to bed drowsy, He’s in the words that aren’t being said when I’m talking to a friend, and I have to listen  for them, because then I get to hear HIM.

He is in the beauty, He is in the homework I don’t want to do with kids. He is in that beautiful dimpled smile my girl gives me, so proud of herself, when she reads her kindergarten reader.
I don’t care about prayer rituals. I don’t care about church services. I don’t care if my blog sounds dignified or if a lot of people read, or if I EVER write a book. Because these altars, on this sacred ground of wet bath-time tile floor? They teach me something a church service never could.
I want to listen, and I want to learn to be brave, and to be who He made me to be. And I don’t want to miss one precious moment. Oh, and believe me, I miss plenty.
But there’s the beauty in the mess, right there. I get to start all over the very second I pull myself away from my selfishness. Full Stop. Grace.


I guess I’m just talking about being set free.

To be free, we have to strip down bare, shirk of all that entangles. The noise, the comparisons, the selfishness, and the bitterness too–let’s throw them off. Those things keep you from listening, they keep you from freedom, and they keep you from creating the way He meant for me and for you to do. I know, because for a time when I allowed those things to consume, I just could  not write. My ears were stopped up, and I was caged inside the prison I had constructed for myself. 

Now I will embrace fearlessness. 

The courage I find in a bike ride teaches me to be brave enough to step out on the shaky limb, to believe and to say it out loud, that He speaks to me when I take notice, and that it’s in the red-winged bird’s flight, the rock song playing on the radio as we all bump along down the highway and it’s in the text messages a friend sends, holding fast with me in prayer and trust before God that His promise was never that things would be easy, but that He would finish all good things He has begun. 

He has spoken. I hear Him. 
What do you hear Him saying?




***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Serve (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

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


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Slippers. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Monday, the 10th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 10th, the prompt will be Altar .}


Free As I Want To Be {An Abstraction on Dirt}



Saturday I put my dukes up to this tough cold that’s attacked my body to bravely step out of the house into the sunshine. I stepped out and let air, and sky and trees and warm coffee and the arms of a faithful friend wrap ’round me. I wore my tee that says “Wild and Free” and soaring birds dangled from my ears. It made me wonder, if saying it out loud like that makes me free? As free as I want to be. I bounced out of the house in tennis shoes, my hair lopping along on top of my head. For some reason, that made me feel lighter.

We walked around the lake, and man did it ever feel good, like shaking cob-webs off that you’ve let set up for too long, peering out at you from the corner. Our sneakers crunched on the black pavement, and she showed me where her toes were trying to poke out the sides. It’s time for new shoes, she said. When I got upset, she intuitively knew it, and reached across the table and held my hand. And when it was time to say goodbye, she pulled me to her tight, chest to chest, only the way sisters can, and she said she prays over me, grace. I felt it. Tears formed, and I exhaled.

The kids run all over the expansive yard we have here, and it makes me think I’m glad we moved here, although there are reasons I wished we lived in a nicer place. A place where the foundation wasn’t in danger. But these kids, they don’t care if it’s snow, mud, or black dirt, they run and explore the entirety of this place, and scoop up the black soil that grows everything around here with their flip flops as they swing back and forth.

Sunday I pushed them and as they shot up into the air, and squealed, and I caught a glimpse of a smile from the edge of their profiles, I thought about that. How so many who lived here before us, they pushed down the grass with tennis shoes, and threw leaves into the air, made tracks in the snow, planted flowers in spring. I can almost hear the squeals of all the children.

I’m only here for a little while. It’s not for me to decide. I don’t want to deal with eternity–but I must–it’s there whether I like it or not–this great, looming question.

This, here, it’s all temporary. This dirt I trod, the rain washes it away, refreshes it for tomorrow. The ones that come after, they won’t really remember me, eventually. And there is nothing to be done about it, but surrender.

Surrender to the fact I’m dust. Surrender to Him in trust.

I talk to a friend about listening to your life. She says she doesn’t have any answers. She says You know I was going to say that, right? I tell her I think I forgot how to listen, because life became too much, and I turned my face away from it, didn’t want to hear.

But there can be beauty in hearing, even in the pain, yes, beauty in accepting the pain, and receiving grace when we listen. I told her I was going to practice this.

Let me know how your listening goes, she tells me, and gives me a wink.

I came wailing into this world, red-faced baby, a rare birthmark on my arm all the doctors wanted to see. But really, nothing special to define my life. Thirty four years have flown by. Thirty four more will do the same. In the larger scheme of this great big spinning orb, who am I and what do I leave behind? And who will know I’ve been here when I’m gone?

The thing is, my life is very small. I am just a speck here, amongst billions of others, and billions of others have lived and will live. And really, all I can do is just ask Him to make my speck in this huge universe a blessing in some way, for Him to have honor.

Yes, if we truly understand ourselves, and God, even a little, then we understand the mystery of our infinite smallness and His infinite greatness.

She starts to sit down in the seat of the swing for me to push her, and then she says, Oh Mama, it’s dirty! How I gonna sit on that? So I grab a large, soft, hollow stick lying on the ground and scratch at the cakey brown spot until it’s sanded and smoothed away, and she happily plops down.

I swing her, and watch her hair fly. I see their heart-shaped bums in the seat, how they are so tiny, their world so big, their bodies small and limited, but their spirits limitless. They are unafraid. I see them smile into the sky. I surrender, then, too. I look to the sky, to Father, who helps me with my unbelief.

I’m free. Just as free as I want to be.

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


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Dirt. GO!


**{This link up will run until Sunday, the 9th, 11:59 am., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 9th, the prompt will be announced .}

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

I just could. not. feel. my faith.

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

I pondered. And I tried to be reverent.

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

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

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

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

Until… Until God.

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

He showed me Hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you see it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When You Need A Cure {An Abstraction on Come}

The visit–it woke me. And her question in that letter that traveled several thousand miles to get to me? Pierced the heart.

It was a joy to read your last blog post…I rejoice with you at the depth and tenderness of our Father’s care for your soul in this. I know the fruit of His Spirit in you was hard-borne, but it is so beautiful, and its sweetness has His aroma dripping from it. How have you been growing and testing the sweetness of His care for you since writing your last post? 

That poignant question.

I’m not the same I was this time last year. And I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. It feels bad.

We had made a pact that next Christmas would be different, standing there in the middle of the kitchen, cans lining the shelf, oatmeal, bag of sugar left opened, the grains scattered out, and two bags of rice because we forgot we already bought one. And the cabinets with no doors that bother me so badly, they an eye-sore, give away what’s obvious and wants to be hidden. The food stares back at us.

All of my choices face me. Pumpkin. Maple. Spicy chili mix. Oats. Corn. Green beans. Dark cocoa.

And children in the slums today, their only choices are garbage or rotten garbage.

We said we wanted it to be different, without all the hustle and stress of picking out gifts last minute, and long lists that don’t really satisfy the soul. We wanted it to be about more than just the sweet soft melt-in-your-mouth peppermint sticks filling our Christmas sugar bowl, the beautiful Nutcracker soldiers standing guard by the tree, or even toys and lovely stockings filled to the brim from Santa.

We said we wanted a Christmas overflowing with a different kind of joy –we would choose gifts from the magazine instead, a goat or a pack of seeds that would be planted and meet daily needs somewhere across the ocean for years to come, not for someone with a long Christmas list, but for a family who just needs to eat.

And the tall girl, the first born who came into the world wailing for months straight and sweetly suckling at my breast, the one I smile at and softly stroke her forehead as I tell her I didn’t mind how much she screamed–I just nursed her again– and her face illuminates like Christmas balls on a prickly pine tree at my admittance–

she had given us the magazine, put it on the counter by her daddy’s things, next to his keys, worn leather wallet, and hat, to remind us of our choices.

Choices at Christmas time. How they can entangle.

I’ve been dead and I just. need. to. wake. up.

I get up out of bed to answer the door, and there stands my friend, dark hair and her eyes asking, and her husband just there behind her, and my first thought is how my hair is a rat’s nest and I didn’t shower the night before, and haven’t brushed my teeth yet, and my life is chaotic and….the room spins a little… How can I invite them into all this mess? Surely they’ll be embarrassed to see? And me–ashamed.

But they give a big smile and warm hug, say they stopped by from their trip back home just to pray for me and talk for a few minutes.

He anoints my head with the oil, and it’s like a soothing salve. The care of Christ’s body is healing to the soul. They pray with me and we talk about forgiveness and grace. I feel God’s presence so strongly when they leave. I know I’ve entered in, talked and walked with God. I easily forget.

I’m a lost Israeli daughter. Always forgetting. Always hoping. Always looking to the horizon, aching for a hope, shuffling my feet in the dirt again, dust veiling my eyes.

What will save me next? The newest book out on Amazon? I find nothing to cheer or comfort me in their thin, wanting pages.

Calling up my friend and talking about my struggles? Venting? That relieves the moment, but what
will keep me secure and grounded, not today, but tomorrow and every day?

Christmas cheer leaves me feeling empty without the Savior.

I keep thinking that there must be some answer and I feel stupidly ridiculous for needing a cure, but it just. won’t. go. away.

This need to do something other than just sit here, in this dead skin, moving my limbs through rote tasks every day as if grace is not real, as if sacred breath was not breathed into my body by a Holy God, and crackers and cheese and orange juice with children around my kitchen island are not Christ’s body and the new wine.

As if every day that I wake up is not a miracle.

The man, he said he had tried everything there is to try on earth, and he found life meaningless.

And the longer I live, the more I see that I’m just searching through a fog of fleeting moments, one vapor disappearing, and my eyes are drawn to yet another. This is not real. This is not the answer, these fleeting things that do not satisfy the soul.

A book, new music, a conference, a new activity, presents under the tree in shiny paper, even people being changed by our words–all of it is meaningless without Christ. Because without Him, it’s just a fleeting happiness, a vapor that is gone in the wake of another high.

The kids–they have a long list. The tree was too bare the past few Christmases, they said, prickly cold branches with nothing underneath to warm it’s girth, to fill the laughing belly. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. And I have a long list too–of failures. They wrap around me, knot up and as far as I can see, there are all the things I do wrong. And I keep tripping over them everyday.

Entangled.

It seems I’m stumbling and heading straight into Christmas–the momentum is unstoppable and a crash is inevitable. No planning, no thoughtful meditation, no change-the-world-ideas.

There’s just me, and all this failing.

I stand at the sink in front of that little blue canvas that reads– Dare to make that difference ~ take that step ~ follow that dream ~  and I think of all those failings. As I scrub, my mind is working fast and hard, reminding me, and then something hits me in the face. Pop–and wakes me up. Stunned, I peer closer, really seeing, and notice what I hadn’t before. All the bubbles, floating up, all around, and they’re landing on me, tiny iridescent orbs dancing, teasing, mesmerizing. But I hadn’t even seen it before. And I wonder, Is this what Ann was talking about? I look at the little blue canvas and just smile to myself like a big dork.

I need Him to come. Yes, though I don’t want to admit it, because I’d like it to be easier–He is still the answer. There isn’t some easier way to the deepest satisfaction of a full life. I have to give my whole heart.

He’s a bit mysterious and it requires me to soften my heart. His Otherness requires just a bit of effort on my part–faith. But oh, how I need Him to come. And maybe, just maybe He will do the softening and changing.

So, being the lost daughter that I am, I’m desperately looking up, and with all my Jewish and Greek family, all of the bloodline and the ones grafted in, of past and present, I hope.

Oh, Emmanuel come. Here, now.

And while I’m hoping and asking that He will come, friends, I can no longer just sit here in this deadness and pretend there’s no miracle and ba-hum-bug my way through Christmas. So…in an effort to let the Creator to do something through me, I’m using my creativity and posting a photo of me (hopefully a fashionable one) in a dress every day to help free women and girls (and boys too) from sex trafficking and slavery. The project is called Dressember and you can go here to find out more, or go here to sponsor me and help me raise funds to offer Christ’s freedom to these in need of rescue. I’ll be writing more about my experiences and struggles with this very soon, so be on the look-out for a post on that! I owe it to my friend, Deidra, for igniting the desire to do this. If you’re interested in the jute bag in the picture, they’re made by Free Set, a fair trade company who gives jobs to women who’ve been rescued from the sex trade. If you’re interested in “picking out gifts” for a family in need, you can go to Compassion International’s website or World Hope’s gift catalog . Ann Voskamp and friends of mine work with all of these organizations mentioned in this post, and they’re legit.

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

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Come


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

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!)

Cookie Dough In the Morning {Guest Host for Concrete Words–An Abstraction on the Morning}

Y’all I am tickled pink to have Ashley Larkin guest-host here today at sixinthesticks for #concretewords! She is not only an amazing writer, and so very generous and gracious, but I call her friend after meeting her at #jtreat in real life. You will love her writing. You will fall in love with her, like I have. Please make Ashely welcome in this space, and love on her–share her writing and encourage one another in the comments in the link-ups! Ashley is the host this week, which means she’ll be reading link-ups and choosing one to highlight either on her blog Friday, or via social media! Don’t miss out on this one!




It is early Saturday morning, and the kitchen calls. Not only the French Press, which I will approach like prayer, but the stainless steel mixing bowl, chilled in the fridge and mounded with chocolate chip cookie dough. Perhaps two batches worth, ready for raw eating. 

Sunlight streams through the sheer white curtains of our bedroom, alighting on blue walls that draw my sleepy imagination from dough to the flutter of bird wings. I blink long and slow, my lashes replicating the waking of winged ones outside who make their call, tweet-tweet-crank ta-ta-ta-ta-ta.
Glory be, it’s a new day
Soon I am at the counter, taking butter knife to block of dough like a determined sculptor with her chisel. Creating mounds of chilled butter, sugar, egg, flour and chocolate that I pop into my mouth, alongside coffee made just right by a long splash of half and half.
Later in the morning, my eleven-year-old daughter and I, dressed still in jammie pants and tank tops, take our scoops and talk about foods that might await us in heaven.
Always I’ve envisioned crab, crusty bread with butter, the freshest of mangoes, chocolate, nectarines, berries, pears and lush green salads, though this morning we wonder for the first time if maybe the clouds are made of cookie dough. This being heaven, after all.
And I am wondering more and more if mornings might not be meant for imagining.
Of bird wings and heavenly banquet tables, of a day’s possibilities. The sameness of sun rising and feet put to floor, yet each day holding a different mix of journeys and bowls and mysteries that we can’t fully know upon first blinks.
Several weeks ago, my friend and I walked and talked in the early morning until she stopped short, “Look at that,” she said, pointing to a plastic elephant with a broken trunk perched on the edge of a job site dumpster.


We laughed at the absurdity of it and snapped some photos and wondered how it came to be, and my friend observed that you often see things early in the morning you would scarcely see in the fullness of day.
When the impossibilities have been cleaned up a bit.
When the burdens of the day have set into bones.
I wonder how often I have missed the joy of that thing which doesn’t belong, those ridiculous elephants just around the corner because I’m too focused on the tasks and heaviness of day. How often I have embarked on morning tinged dread worry, rather than on the ground of possibility and hope, of new tales unrolling.
It’s all foolishness, really — this daily calling what is not as if it were, this naming true and delighting in what the world marks stupid. This bestowing forgiveness and proclaiming life from death and giving when you’re needy and knowing joy when your heart aches and carrying the burden of forgotten ones and telling the truth about yourself.
And this cookie dough before breakfast and this pachyderm among garbage might be, too, a little slice of grace and holy imagination that rise new with the morning and calls of the birds.


***I should take a moment here. Some dear readers may worry about my wisdom in eating the raw dough which I love so! I hear you. I must say that I know the dangers of raw egg, but I can’t seem to choose otherwise. I am an Eater of the Dough and one who lives a little dangerously, and apparently I am drawing my children down the same questionable path, just as my mother before me.

ABOUT ASHLEY LARKIN

Ashley Larkin, wife to Michael and mama of three shining daughters, writes about living fully awake several times each week at her blog, Draw Near. You can receive updates on Facebook and connect with Ashley on Twitter at @AshleyMLarkin.

Gratitude: {1136-1153}….

Making new friends while my children swim at practice :: Conversation, breeze and splashing, storm coming up :: a spontaneous conversation with a friend at her house, how we delve in without hesitation :: Ivy winning 1st place in backstroke, the first time she’s ever won something :: how it feels to see her confidence grow :: spontaneous frozen yogurt with dear friends :: spur of the moment piling up of four more kids in my SUV {for a total of eight kids} for a spend the night at my house because they begged and their mom needed a break :: serving the “least” of these :: lots of pizza, breadsticks, and cinnamon sticks :: seeing the fruits of my friend’s hard work in her obedient, respectful, loving children :: church on Sunday morning, all eight kids lined up like ducklings behind mother :: breeze, small sprinkling of rain on the veranda, the smell of chicken and smoke rising :: Children playing in costumes, my little Lilly supergirl :: Kirov chasing the ball, little ones throwing :: chicken on the grill and pasta around my friend’s table :: long goodbyes and a future guest-room named “mine” by my friend– well before a move actually takes place–a sign of a long-lasting friendship :: a two-hour long Sunday afternoon nap which cures anything

{This post shared with AnnLauraJenJennifer for #TellHisStoryImperfect Prose, the EO and Michelle} 

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

***Dear readers,  I will not be writing much here at the blog this summer, save a couple of posts for BibleDude once a month.  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 guest writers to host–the lovely and 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–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is the Morning


The prompt for July 1st…to be announced soon–please check back. {Ashley will 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!}


Now let’s have some fun with Concrete words! {Please be sure you’ve used the prompt before linking}

A Woman of Grit and Glory::Calling the Art and the Music Forth {An Abstraction on the Piano}

I can see the piano gleaming in sunlight coming through the window off to the right and one just to the left, the old air conditioning unit jutting out of it’s breezy opening.

Her little house was so old, the tiles in the bathroom looked ancient to me. In my fuzzy memory, they were a faded color of pepto-bismol pink, and the carpet, an old brown color, trodden on by work boots and cowboy boots many a day. There were old frames holding family pictures hanging up above the couch, and newer ones of grandchildren. There were dusty photo albums and magazines, a very simple table with a vinyl tablecloth in the kitchen. It was a small, cozy house, windows just in spots to let lots of light in.

Every time I visited her, I was so drawn to that piano, the keys and old hymns calling to me, a part of my ancestry. I felt the history that was in my bones when I sat on that bench and was brave enough to let my fingers land on the white and black.

She would come and sit beside me. She had probably been knitting something, reading a magazine, or cleaning up the dishes. But she would drop that for music, and she was a born teacher.

Which is no surprise, given that she travelled around, doing tent revivals, preaching God’s word. This is where I come from; this is in my bones.

She laid her hands on top of my hands, showed me how to touch the keys, how to find the music.

Music was in our blood.

Music and God, and the art of letting Him make us.

She was a woman with much illness and grief in her life. If she could be here now, she’d tell you that her life was a hard road, but God saw her through. God never forsook her.

And no matter what she went through, no matter the mental illness that plagued and made the days hard, no matter the young three- year-old that died in her arms, no matter the man that was hard to live with**, she kept going. She just kept moving forward.

I would think all of that would break a woman, and I’m sure there were broken places she never told anyone about. It was a whisper she prayed to God in the shower, complained to Him as she cooked, as she worked, as she scrubbed, broken whispers, words coming out fragmented, like so much worship.

I know it would have broken me.

But she worked in the garden mercilessly, and she canned food to provide for her family during winter, and she stayed up late in the night with a teenage son who had a lot of questions about relationships and women and life. And she got up early with a smile and a Rise and shine and give God the glory!, and she never faltered, never fainted.

She. just. kept. going.

I only knew the music of her life as a small child, and only through very small windows of time, and oh, I have often wished mightily that I could have witnessed, watched intently, listened to the song of her everyday life, her rise and her fall.

I have often thought of her on bad days, when the depression gets the best of me, wondered what she would tell me if she were here. Wondered if she would pat my knee, tell me it’s all going to be just fine, just. keep. going.

Just keep trusting and leaning in. Keep making music with my life.

I remember her beautiful voice, how she knew the notes to the familiar hymns so well, and to hear her sing them was breathtaking, because you knew when you heard her sing, that it was gospel to her, it was truth, and she believed. Nothing could take that away.

I want to have that kind of grit and glory in my life. What a strong woman. I only pray the memory of her makes me half the woman she was.

She battled pancreatic cancer for years and years, but for a long time, the doctors didn’t know what her symptoms meant. When they found the cancer, it was too late, and all they could do was let it eat away at her body.

It did eat away at the song of her; she no longer had the vibrancy she once did.

She also had a stroke, and she grew thin, and she shuffled when she walked.

I remember her coming down to the house one day, shuffling up to my door. She had come to see her great grand-kids, and I was shampooing carpets. My couch was blocking the doorway. She asked for a picture of them, which I quickly got and handed to her.

My insides churn and I cringe that I didn’t stubbornly move that heft of couch out of the way for this woman whittling away, that I didn’t pour sweet tea and stop my scrubbing, my cleaning.

That’s a memory I’d like to forget–put out of my mind forever.

We could get lost in the grief of regret, or we can let God turn our regrets into redemption, our grief into growth and change.

I was there to see her final breaths, the rise and fall of her, and I recall how my father said what an awful thing cancer was because it stole the beautiful glow from his mother’s face. It took the vibrant red glow from her cheeks, her skin ashen, her once plump figure now just a hollowed-out reminder, and it was difficult to recognize her without her music.

The joy and beauty in her face, her smile, the way she always fixed her hair, and the way she loved–she made art with her life, she made music. It was a pleasant sound in God’s ear.

We all stood around her bed in the hospital room with its shiny, cold linoleum and bare, stark walls and with a huge lump in my throat, we sang the old hymns. She was so frail beneath the white sheets.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

The piano, her piano, sits now in my foyer with the morning sun shining in on it, and my girls have learned to play notes on it. Notes I taught them. I see the little artist budding in them, and I hear the thrumming of God’s heartbeat, saying Don’t squelch it; honor it, nurture it, teach them to glorify me.

For years, I didn’t touch it. Maybe because it reminded me of all of the man-made, man-centered worship, and how something so holy as the inner sanctuary can be desecrated right in God’s sight as his children gather together. I didn’t know how to reconcile this, and my fingers couldn’t remember how to make the music.

I forgot how to be brave, how to be a woman of grit and glory.

But all of the music that’s in my bones, all the art that’s stirring in my blood, all of the morning song that I’ve stuffed down deep–He’s calling it forth.

Every time I walk by the piano and glimpse the hymnal book, I feel Him calling me to worship. And every time I gather enough courage to sit on that bench, and play a song, I can feel her there. And I hear the chorus rising, of long-ago tent revivals when people cried out desperately for God’s touch, and I hear the music played in a grandmother’s living room on a golden afternoon, the light slanted, her hands showing me the way.

**Important**Please read** By sharing this story, I am not advocating the idea that a wife should stay in an abusive, or unhappy marriage. I am sharing a story of one woman who did the best she could, in a time when divorce was unacceptable in her society. Today, women have better choices. I support women’s liberation from abuse, sex slavery, sexual harassment, etc.  
**If you are in an abusive situation, please seek the help of a professional


Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out–be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. 

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, 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: fire smoke in the air, an old, tattered wooden swing, black rich dirt underneath bare feet, a woodpecker hammering at a birch. Go here to learn more of what Amber meant for us to do with concrete words when this all began. This will help your writing–I promise! 

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 Piano


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Road. {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!

**Because of what I shared * here,I sometimes have to take social media breaks. However, I am committed to answering comments and visiting those who link up here! I hope you feel a sense of community and right at home when you are here. But sometimes, just a quiet place to reflect, pray, dream is what we need. So if you’re quietly reading, that’s great. If you would like to un-lurk, and leave me a comment, I would love to meet you!! . 


I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 


{This post shared with AnnJen, Laura, Heather, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!) **When linking, please check out the one-word prompt first! Thanks!** 

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

Lasso Tomorrow {An Abstraction on the Moon & Concrete Words Link-Up }

                                                                                       Photo credit
I watch her, so full in glow right over the tree line.
Sometimes she is just a haunting sliver,
sometimes round in her beautiful girth,
sometimes heralded with a smattering of twinkling stars–
but she always startles me with her lonely gaze, how she stands proud
and straight, how she claims the night-sky hers,
dares anyone to come close.
She takes up her space up there
I put thumb and index finger right over her,
she’s so small
I open and close and I can just see her,
so tiny, fitting in the inch between my pinched fingers
And yet she glows so bright she lights up the whole world.
I am in awe at her Creator
Sometimes she looms above me as I run round the lake
and I beg her for more time as she lowers upon my head
and rippling, still black water
Sometimes she slinks shy behind the trees,
or she proudly shines high in the sky
And sometimes it’s like that with me–
my head is downcast and I have to look up
to find the light.
I look up and see her, just behind talls trees,
their bare-naked, skinny arms reaching up high toward her,
pointing The Way for me toward Something Bigger
The white beautiful pregnant full orb of her shines like a beacon
in the night and she whispers
Hush, child, slow down, she says to me.
Take in all the beauty around you, let it seize you, grip you, leave you 
flushed in it’s tightened embrace
I hear her, Hush….
I see the way through the darkness, because she promises to
always shine on for me, to never go out,
she is my way home, and her constant never-changing
sings the praises of The One who is always the same
and does not change,
a lighthouse signaling to all ships chartering their course
in the night on open sea,
to all ships who’ve lost their way
in black velvet waters specked here and there with stars.
I will never be lost and I will always be home–
this I’m promised.
I watch her, her bosom so full as if she might nurse the whole world,
and I wonder could I ride the moon,
could I lasso her and tame her, break her, ride her into the next world?
I place my thumb up in front of my face, block her out, wiggle my thumb,
she’s there, then she’s gone.
What would it be like to walk on her? Would it be possible
to bring her down here, to me?
How does she stay up there night after night?
Does she ever fall from the sky, forget to shine, forget to point the way
for those who need it, for us wanderers?–
No, she stays night after night, millenniums old,
hung with the tippy tip of God’s little finger.
And I feel old too, like her, the shining coming from within,
nothing I have but with what I’ve been given
I feel her reflection now, her quietness, her hush.
I know and understand now what she means.
There is a time to work and to rest.
Rest, child now, rest. 
Lasso tomorrow.

Gratitude: {#1067-1075}…. Continuing to give thanks, even when the heart doesn’t feel it…

For a husband who listens, even if he has to work at it–working at it is love…
for children’s laughter that sounds like worship, my joy in them making the moment complete
Hands in God’s dirt
Sunshine on our faces
Red Cardinals and blue jays swooping through the yard
That I can call my Mama when I’m in trouble, when I need someone to calm me down…
For children who make my life complete and full, busy, giving me purpose…
For friends who love unconditionally
For birthdays and haircuts and airplane tickets (!!) –a line borrowed from my friend, Kelli

Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out about Concrete Words! Be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. Please use the “Share” feature at the bottom of this post–thanks!  

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, 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 a story, a memory, a feeling, a belief, and make me feel what you felt, describe the scene around you, the textures, the emotions, the tastes, smells, the light. Tell me what you touch, see, hear–this is concrete words. It’s a way to describe the invisible things that are around us, (that we may take for granted) in every day life. The prompt is not the concrete word–the concrete words are what you use to place us there in your story.  

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!
**Today’s prompt is the Moon


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is Worship. {This week I’m starting something new–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!

**Because of what I shared * here,I cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs, but I will do my best to visit those who link up here! I would love for you to feel a sense of community when you are here, and I hope you do feel right at home–I just think–though we all search for so much interaction and approval from others, that sometimes, maybe in some seasons, sometimes very long seasons, just a quiet place is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. 


I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. I’d like you to know that when I see you here, my heart just leaps out of my chest to connect with you–to let you know I hear you! And while you leave such sweet words here, I am probably somewhere cleaning a precious 3-year-old baby girls’ messes, listening to an eleven year old playwrite’s brave words, or teaching my crew. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 


{This post shared with Ann, Jen, Laura, HeatherEmily, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!) **When linking, please check out the one-word prompt first! Thanks!**