Category Archives: family heritage

A Gentle Life, A Legacy of Love {An Abstraction on Bend}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family–through addiction, disagreements and irreparable fall-outs– has been their mission field, quietly and consistently, unconditionally. 

They never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42. They have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid– because I wonder–

Do they know? Do they know what they’ve done? They’ve left a legacy of God-honoring, a life gently-lived with love. They’ve given til it hurts.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                          *an edited re-post

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it–Let’s not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let’s not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let’s see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bend (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

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


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

Today’s prompt is Bend. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Sunday, the 6th at 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 and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! On the 7th, the prompt will be Bloom.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: You are invited to come back here for the continuing writing series, in which I’ll have an amazing guest-writer here this coming Wednesday! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you’d like to write and get your stories ready! We’ll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!
*

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Dream With Audaciousness, Daughter {An Abstraction on Hands}



Driving on the interstate in the dark, we’re speeding toward the huge bookstore chain in our little clunker of a van, better known as my husband’s work van. I would prefer a small, local bookstore, but they’re the only ones open late at night for a spontaneous, must-have-this-book-tomorrow trip. I’ve got a hankerin’ for some coffee shop goodies; this little expedition needs to be worth it.

She is small in the passenger seat next to me, her face hidden in the shadows as we bumble along, the old van making strange noises I just ignore.

We pull into the parking space, and I throw on some lip gloss. She explains, with a little laugh, when I look at her, I’m sorry, but I look horrible, as she quickly dabs on mascara.

I wonder where she heard that? I watch her with a smile, thinking how quickly she’s grown, and did I do everything right, and should she really be wearing mascara at this age, and oh my god, she’s so beautiful. 

We walk into the store, and they don’t even have the book we drove the twenty minutes for, and sometimes I feel like an idiot of a mother who gets everything wrong, and sometimes I have my shining moments of glory, because tonight I get to be her hero.

Earlier back at the house, I’d called her, and she’d slowly come toward me, letting out a deep sigh and an umph, and I gently corrected her because I could tell she was in a bad mood. But the gentle correction pulled out the real problem. Her lips crumpled, and with tears in her eyes, she told me she had just realized we had forgotten to get the literature book she had to have for school the next day.

Tears running down her face, I told her I would take her to get what she needed. I heaved myself up off the couch, shuffled into the kitchen in my slippers to let husband know, and after sliding back into the same clothes and pulling on the riding boots I’d just taken off after returning home from town moments before, we were off. Just us women becoming.

In the bookstore, the smell of coffee is strong, and the warmth of the books all around, feeling like friends, they envelop me. We don’t get to walk out with the book, but all is not lost, because we sit down at a tiny round table by the window to dip grasshopper mint biscotti into a chocolate caramel de-caff latte, and then pick up a Harry Potter movie to watch together on the way out, and we climb into the van with talk of ordering that book on Amazon.

On the way home, spiraling there in this chaotic sort of way, weary to get into bed, it must have been Nelson Mendela’s book she’d asked about in the store that got her thinking. She says to me hey Mama, what about that letter I got about the summer trip to Europe, the one where we go and get experience and help people–am I still doing that? 

Because I think I’d like to be a missionary. And I think it’d be good for me to get the experience. It’s good life-experience, you know?

The world seems to just stop spinning, and the old wheels of the van’s still turning at lightening speeds, but my heart stands still and my breath catches.

I reach over, slide my hand into hers, hold on tight, and tell her Wow, those are some amazing thoughts you’re having. I breathe shallow, wait a few beats, then– and I totally respect that, so very much, Lorna. I wish I could see her face, shrouded by the blackness of night. I can feel her smile.

She goes on in her hurried talk as if she’s blurting it out before she loses her nerve. I want to marry a man with money, so that we can build a business, and go to Africa. 

A rich man, huh? I look at her out of the corner of my eye, a sly grin playing on the edge of my mouth, and she glances at me, the smile jumping over and dancing on her profile in the dark. I wish for light, but it’s almost better this way, whispering secrets of our hearts to one another in the velvety-black of sky and stars whizzing by. I think it makes her braver.


I will build a hospital, she says, and give each family all the medicine and help they need to be healthy. I want to travel from town to town on the whole continent of Africa, building houses, hospitals, schools, and wells for the people so they’ll have clean water. 

I grin from ear to ear and in spite of life’s hardships that make me forget how to laugh, and remembering too often my failings as a mother, not sure if I’m getting it right, my heart fills with such hope at her words.

Those words make me know that just maybe I haven’t messed up as badly as I think.

There is nothing better on this earth than a child. Purity. Innocence. Beauty. Wildness. Courage and bravery. Audaciousness. Unconditional love. Curiosity and appreciation for the world around them.

In that moment, holding her hand in the grey van, as it squeals its way toward home, I feel God’s glory. Yes, He is right here with  me, in the form of a child. I see Him in her face, in her brave words, in her giving heart, in her fierce care for others to have clean water, strangers to her, living on the other side of the world.

She makes me see how we’re all holding hands, how God looks down and sees us all at once, and seas and distance and race and time and prestige and position and money and power and good deeds mean nothing to Him. He sees all of us, his children. He could scoop us all up with his mighty hand. We are much closer to one another than we think, much more connected than we believe.

We slide out of our seats once we’ve pulled up in the driveway, and I start up the steps, only noticing the footsteps right in front of me. But my daughter, she’s looking all around her, and says Woah, Mama, the stars! I can see all of them, so beautiful!  

I look up, really seeing for the first time. This is what she does for me. Glory. They burst, and glow at me, saying something. We’re all connected across the miles. I can see the big dipper! she points it out.

And those in Africa tonight, so can they. So can they, dear child. Dream with audaciousness, and with all courage God’s given, daughter.

His Kingdom has come, here on earth.

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 Haine’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 HandsGO!


**{This link up will run until Sunday, the 2nd, 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted. I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On Monday, Feb. 3rd, the prompt will be *Dirt*.}


The Many Faces of Christmas {An Abstraction on Truth}



I tread lightly and whisper it softly, breath warming frost nipped air gathering on the tip of my nose, that we misunderstood Jesus. You may have seen this facebook status, in which I finally let loose convictions, and then I decided to allow God to use my fingertips to say what’s in the heart, here, in this journal that I am so grateful you stop by and read.

We misunderstood when he said to preach the gospel, because the gospel is pure, needs no added modern cliches, nor does it need our version of the truth added to it.

He only called us to love, and His gospel is beautiful if we just stick to it, steadfast and unflinching. Love is the hardest of all.

Our opinions come easy, and He’s asked us to lay them down and carry his cross.

I stand in a line in the cold to get some toys my girls asked for on sale. I wiggle my legs back and forth, trying to stay warm, my jeans and boots betraying me. I keep wondering if I rub the fabric briskly together, would it help, but then I’d look like an idiot, my legs and knees knocking ferociously together. So I wiggle my legs, looking as dignified as I can manage. And I shiver head to toe, all the emotion quivering inside of me. I’m so mixed up with questions, and ask myself what I’m doing in this line. Should toys be important at Christmas?

Should I let my six year old believe that Santa is bringing them on Christmas morning, as she desires to?

Advent can be a slippery thing. I want to hold it firmly in my grasp, make it work for me. But it wafts in and out of my days, elusive. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I can’t seem to figure out how I’m supposed to be going about this month.

Here’s the really hard question: does it truly matter how we celebrate Christmas?

I walk through the doors of Wal Mart, and after shopping for six, I don’t have much left, but with burning cheeks, I drop some change into the red metal box, and tell the gentleman it isn’t much but it’s all I’ve got. He takes his ear buds out and pulls them from around his bundled up garb and he tells me he doesn’t need my dollar bills; it’s the pennies and nickles and dimes that make the difference for people who had a fire destroy their home and need the basics, or for little children who don’t have coats or toys for Christmas. I peer right past his black skin, look into his eyes, and see gentleness there. There are hard lines in his face, but they only tell a story of experience because there is a lot of care in the crevices.

He tells me that he stands there for hours, and he sees people walk by and smirk his direction, as if they’re agitated someone is asking them for money. He tells me we shouldn’t judge someone in need, because we never know when *we* will be that person, and we will need help. We exchange a couple of stories, wish one another a merry christmas, and then we are off to stuff the back of the SUV full of food.

                                                                    photo credit

The gentleman, he continues to silently shake his bell. He doesn’t say a word, just keeps doing what he believes is right.

Does Christ need us to shout his name at Christmas? Keep the Christ in Christmas. Keep the Christ in Christmas, we say. 

I think of him silent when he turns over the tables in the temple, silent when he stands before Pilot.

I’m at my friend, Diane Bailey’s blog today. Please follow me over there for the rest of this Christmas story?

                                                               photo credit

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 Truth


**{This link up will run for more than 7 days, until after Christmas, giving you plenty of time to write while you are shopping, cooking, enjoying the holiday with family. I will be taking a long break and will read your stories and highlight one of them on social media on Monday, the 30th. On the 30th, the prompt will be Fire.}

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!** 

Cowgirl Manure-Princesses Get A Seat Next to Daddy {An Abstraction on the Truck}

I can hear Daddy tromping quietly as he can through the house, and my young ears are tuned into my father’s leaving even in slumber. Sunlight rays hit my blonde locks, and all of the sudden I know it’s morning. I know what’s coming, and I’ve caught him before he can make his getaway before the rooster’s crow, so I rub sleep out of my eyes and throw the covers back hard.

“Daddy, I’m coming with you!”

He’s shoving his brown, weathered boots on, lacing them.

“I’m leaving now; I don’t have time.”

“Please, Daddy! I can get dressed real quick, I promise!”

My little sister is chiming in now, too; she’s three years younger, only about three or four, her dark chocolate hair all disheveled, looking adorable falling around milky chubby cheeks.

He ruffles around for his wallet, looks for keys.

“Alright, alright, if you can be dressed in five minutes, you can go, but that truck is pulling out, whether you’re dressed or not!”

A thrill runs through me and I fly to my room, throw on jeans and a t-shirt, frantically look for my socks and shoes.

I know what this means as I dash around: I get to ride in the truck with my Daddy, and feel the hum underneath my bottom, feel the lunge and pull as he changes the gears between my legs, eat ice cream sandwiches with him, drink coke, and play in dirt and hay in sunshine and chase cats in barns.

I run outside and climb up into his pickup truck, which is nothing more than an old blue Chevy-style cab with a white work truck body which holds all his tools. And I love riding in Daddy’s truck, because it smells like him, like gasoline, and horses, and sun and sweat. There’s horse hair and dirt and grit and I’m a little cowgirl so I don’t care. We pull up into this winding gravel drive, out in the country, trees heralding our coming, waving at us along the drive, and my body tingles with excitement to see what kind of place this will be.

He pulls around to the barn, and it’s huge, and I love that because that means lots of horses, and a large tack room to explore, and probably cats and maybe, if I’m lucky, even kittens. But then I look out of my window and on the other side of the truck, I can see a huge open field with bales of hay.

Daddy lets us roam free while he shoes the horses, and my sister and I run down a little path from the barn, downhill into the open field, summer sunshine on our face, and we run toward the bales of hay, and I’m thinking I will climb on top and jump from one to the other. They look small and close together from the top of the hill. We get closer and climb and climb with all our might and then see that jumping over to the other one isn’t gonna happen. We have our fun with the hay until we’re bored with it; the scent of it reminds me of a hundred summers. We run back uphill to a large mound of “dirt” we saw.

We play and play ’til our hearts content in that pile and get as mucky and grimy as we like. Daddy tells us later it was really manure. Tiny cowgirls are like that, see, we’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

We trod earth and make our mark and nothing is too big in this open field of life and no hay bale is too high in our mind’s eye. Nothing can stop us or stand in our way, and if it tries we’ll give it a kick in the pants with our cute, worn-in cowgirl boot.

We stomp this ground, make it our own, and climb the mucky manure mounds to get to the ones we love, to save them, we would climb over a thousand of them, and we do our native-dance that tells the story of how our hearts are tied to this land. It rips out of us in an unbridled, involuntary way, because it’s nothing we control–it’s the way we were born. It’s where we were born.

I’ve made this land mine for the day, though it belonged to someone else, and it’s made me. It’s become apart of me, the red earth, the thick scent of it in my bones, the sunshine warm on me and it’s all I ever wanted, to run free in a field, to be one with the dust from which I come.

When it’s time to go, after Daddy’s packed up all the tools, and we’ve petted all the horses in their stalls, been brave enough to rub their soft, silky mouths, we jump back up into the truck. I ride by Daddy. You know, Father doesn’t care if little girls roll in manure, there is always a seat by Him. He stops and lets me pick out a Mississippi Mud ice cream sandwich, my favorite. I feel Daddy changing the gears between my knees, moving them in rhythm, I’m anticipating the next gear change. I hear it grinding up and he pushes, clicks it into place again and now I can relax my small, bony knees.

I watch Daddy’s big, strong, calloused hands, his fingers so thick, his fingernails bruised and pieces of nail missing, and I know it’s from all the hard work, the toiling to make a way for us.

My sister licks her ice cream beside me. The hot southern summer sun beats down, the wind blows hard in the windows as we fly down the highway, and I feel like a princess next to Daddy, a cowgirl manure-princess.

Gratitude: {even when it’s hard–especially when it’s hard}

all of my family being in church together, three generations–grandparents, parents, and my family…

my mother asking me to sit with them on one long pew, though I would prefer to be unseen in the balcony, I make her happy, and it’s not that bad…

Easter dinner at my house with my family…

conversation with my Daddy about things important in life…

sunshine in the girls’ hair; I never tire of this…

Easter games in the rain made up by my creative daughter….

a rainy afternoon and egg hunt in the house, chocolate “Life” flowerpot cakes for dessert…

our beautiful grace garden and the beautiful little butterflies the girls and I made…

the tiny, miniature clothespins holding them together, reminding me of the frailty of life…

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 use the prompt to write out a story, a memory, a feeling 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…

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 Truck


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Moon.

**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 AnnJen, LauraHeather, Emily, 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!** 

A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints & Spiritual Midwives}

I sit here, in my pajamas, staring at a computer screen, at Sarah’s call for us to celebrate International Women’s Day, and my mind goes back in time. When it comes to women who have blazed a trail before and taught me what they know, there is really only one woman who comes to mind. She was my pastor’s wife, and we were close, probably much closer than she knew, because I clung to her in my heart as a child does.

She became my spiritual mother, she nurtured me, she took time with me, talked me through hurtful issues in my marriage, depression, and an inability to gain any semblance of control of my life for the happiness of my family. She taught me to be strong, to be the kind of woman who when her feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan says “Oh no! She’s up!”, she taught me to go to my word first thing in the morning, to cling to Christ, to look to Him to fill an insatiable appetite, to plan my day so that my family is fulfilled and nurtured on earthly bread and the nourishment of the Word.

I watched her worship, her expressions wild with adoration and like she was right before the throne and I watched her love and I watched her hold her tongue when that was not her nature, I watched her strong and protective, her support of her husband powerful, I watched her back not break and I watched her have humility enough to ask me if she looked appropriate when I told her she looked cute in her new jeans. She was real, and she was bold, and she was grace. For the first time I learned those things could co-exist. In fact, they should.

She has really been my spiritual midwife.

She birthed the girl you know now, the one set free from legalism, the one who knows to look up to Christ at my first breath, the one who talks to my kids about the gospel and Christ’s bleeding out when I’ve failed them and fallen far short of being the mom I want to be.

She was the first to place a book into my hands on parenting and to teach me how to look to books as a mentor, to gain wisdom from them, to seek out God’s wisdom, to desire growth and revelation.

Before I met her, I was confused and lost in a sea of pride and legalism but then my marriage began to strengthen and I began on a journey to learning what being a godly woman really means. And looking back on how young and foolish I was, she was so very gentle with me.

There have been a few other women who have been spiritual midwives. One is my neighbor, an eighty-eight year old widow lady, Mrs. Olive, a sweet ‘lil ‘ole woman who seems fragile upon first glance. She is slightly bent over and her hands are a little gnarled and shake from a stroke and she can barely talk, her communication having returned to that of a toddler. But to stop there and not see more would be sorely underestimating this strong woman. The permanent bend in her back is from so much stooping and serving, the gnarled, shaking hands have penned many beautiful letters to friends and family in calligraphy, a forgotten art form. And her lack of voice? She doesn’t let it stop her from telling me and my girls she loves us, placing her hands over her heart, tears in her eyes.

I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around. She told me that she was never free until the day he died, and how she is still married and celebrates her anniversary with him, even in his death. She  lost two adult sons, and another two babies when they were very tiny, and life was full of much trial and pain.

It was really the little things that Mrs. Olive did that taught me so much, changed my theology, sort of turned my world upside down.

She would put her trash out on Tuesdays and write a thank you note to the men that came round that said “Happy Thanksgiving!”

I’d notice when I’d walk over, how she brought out a plate of food to the mailman, every day.

It had never crossed my mind to be generous to these people in my life–I didn’t grow up that way. She touched everyone she had contact with. She didn’t hide inside her home, hoping no one would come knocking. She walked outside with a smile, offered food and warmth and love.

She doesn’t live across the street anymore; she is older now, and lives with her daughter, but I remember weeks when we barely had food, and she would show up on our stoop, her steps unsure, walker in hand, holding out a box of fruit and snacks. She rarely made a cake without sending some over.

Now, because of Mrs. Olive, we try to do the same and love those around us, those who normally might go unseen, unnoticed.

My Granny is another person I greatly respect and admire, a woman who has taught me dignity, respect, graciousness, trust, integrity. She has taught me about love and about servant hood. This is another woman whose strength I look up to and hope to emulate. She prays for her family and has bent over backward many times for all of us.

When I have an appointment, she calls to check in on me so that she can keep the children. She takes care of me. I’m amazed at her ability to care for so many in her life, to cook for, to serve, to bend for, to love.

She has been through much in her life, in her marriage, with her children and in her young life as a child. She still cries at times, at seventy-six, when we talk about the abuse she received from the woman who raised her. That kind of pain never really goes away, not even at her age. But what I see is a woman who has risen above her circumstances and has loved well. So well.

My Mama is another person whom I learned from, from the way she worshiped in the house to how she always had supper on the table for us early in the evening, to how she made sure we had baths every night and rolled our hair for Sunday morning. I remember these routines and rhythms that made me feel secure and held me and I want to give the same to my girls.

I remember my mother very rarely fought with my dad in front of us. This memory guides me when life is full of suffering and confusion and I’m tempted to swerve over into selfishness. It helps me to plant my hands firmly back on the wheel, knowing how I benefited from this as a small child.

Because my mentors have taught me to search out wisdom, I have sought and found that wisdom in resources such as Carolyn Mahaney’s cds, Sally Clarkson’s books and blog, and Ann Voskamp’s blog. Ann has no idea that she has mentored me, but oh she has and it has meant more than she’ll ever know. It was because of her I started writing again after 15-plus years.

Ro Elliot from Tuning My Heart has helped guide me through depression and this blogging world we all write amongst, and there have been other women who have helped steer me along the way, or helped me see through a different lens, or have just been sisters to me and sojourners along my journey. Some of those are L.L. Barkat, Emily Wierenga, Shelley Miller, Elizabeth Marshall, Amber Haines, Kelli Woodford, Nancy Franson, Cora and Susan who have shored me up and poured into me at pivotal moments, Tara Pohlkotte, Holly Grantham, and then there’s Michele Ault, who came along side and helped with homeschooling when I was completely new at it. I’m forever grateful to her for helping me wade through the mess that was my unorganized, confused Mama-self.

All of these beautiful brave women I am so grateful for. I admire the strength, courage, integrity and grace with which they live out their lives and bang on their keyboards.

And you, awesome readers, amazing beautiful you, yes, *you*, you have encouraged and lifted me up, held my arms up when they were tired. There were times I know I would not have continued writing without you. You. Are. Amazing. Wonderful. Spectacular. Loving. Gracious. I’m thankful to God for you.

I have other mentors and friends who’ve walked with me on this earth–I’ve learned from all of them and I’m a blend of a better woman only because of them, a blend of what I pray is a little bit of forgiveness, a dash of wisdom, a generous sprinkle of hope, a smidgen of purity and soberness, and a profane amount of kindness, love, and grace. I’m woven together, and the pieces of me are tattered edges of these women, scraps of themselves they’ve given away, spun here now into a tapestry that I hope glorifies God and gives the earth beauty. And I don’t take it for granted, this heirloom tapestry spun with toil and pain and sacrifice. Neither do I fold it up, lay it down on the end of some bed in a room where it’s rarely seen, for pure beauty’s sake, for looks, no, for this beautiful weave is used everyday in the exhausting, glorifying, body-breaking, bending, serving, hands-lifted-high, heart-poured-out work of being woman.

The women that have been this to me, that have given and have become a part of this woven fabric  are my very good friends Danae, April, Kerry, Joanie, and Markey, and Ro, and I celebrate their love, devotion, honesty, bravery, fearlessness, and the fierce grace and nurturing they lavish on everyone in their lives, including me. I cherish their prayers, their letters, their gifts of time, of things of monetary value, their shoring up and harboring me when I was lost in a storm of suffering, and most of all, I cherish their vulnerable hearts laid out before me. I love you–you ought to know that. And today, I celebrate beautiful you, all of you women so beautiful.

Related: Bending, a story I wrote about my grandmother (and grandfather), the one spiritual midwife that has always been there, and will until she leaves this world. I love you, Granny.

“I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me….’Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!’ She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes.”…….  Click here to read more…

Gratitude: #1049-1066

3 gifts that changed today: Getting to run alone at the lake for the first time in months

Being able to spend a day all to myself, going to the coffee shop to read and write

Reaching out to a new friend, inviting her to meet and her pleasant yes!

Going over to a friend’s house in a heap of a mess and her talking me through it

Keeping four kids for a friend so she and her husband can have time together–the blessing of caring for others

Eight kids under one roof–ahhh!

A special night out under the stars, a bonfire, hot dogs, marshmallows

Telling boys “No, don’t put your feet in the fire, please!” and “Put that back in the fire and don’t pick up anymore planks of wood that are on fire!”

The way a boy took up with my little Lilly, playing with her and how she cozied up to him on the couch to watch a movie

A boy telling me he can take a shower in 2, when asked if he can take one in five, and his beaming smile when I tell him job well done, a shower in two minutes flat!

Husband helping him wash the thick shampoo off under the faucet that was left in his hurry

How my little Lilly looks like a tiny, weightless bunny as she boing-boings on our trampoline, her feet so high in the air

Lilly saying “Back!” which means she wants Daddy to carry her up on his shoulders

Husband carrying Lilly all around the yard on his shoulders while the kids play

Their squeals of “Daddy!” when he walks in the door

Aged asagio cheese, chocolate, and red wine

My yard blooming spring

Feeling better, feeling hope

This post shared with Sarah Bessey‘s International Women’s Day synchroblog, Ann, Laura, Heather,

Bending {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**edited re-post from the archives

Shared with Sarah Bessey at her International Women’s Day synchroblog, where we’re writing about Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives…

Related: A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}…“I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around…” Click here to read more…

True Worship & Fearing Change: An Abstraction on Table {Day 12}

An abstraction on a Table: A prompt by Amber Haines….

Beautiful wood that is so old, it’s called antique, which sounds such fragile a word. Of course, its purpose was a place to serve meals, but to a kid, it can be a fort, a castle, or the carpet underneath a forest floor, legs rising tall as trees. All of us grandchildren used to play under its delicately routed and carved legs and underbelly.

It cast such dark shadows that hid me and no one could find me. Underneath there, I was a queen or a damsel in distress, tracing the curved lines and crevices in hopes of escape from my soft-carpeted prison.

From underneath my hiding place, I could spot, just dimly lit in soft, heavy-curtained afternoon light up on the buffet table, the old iridescent blue set of bowls, one holding old-fashioned candies of all flavors. Absolutely fascinating and irresistible to a child. It was my sole mission to play underneath the table long enough so that my Granny wouldn’t notice when I snuck quickly out, tip-toed to the blue bowl to grab a candy.

All of the precious memories of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Sunday dinners were made here.

The best memories were the Sundays when Granny had Chicken and Dumplins or blackberry cobbler waiting on me, my favorites.

Years and years later, after this little girl had grown up, the table became a sort of gift from my grandparents, who had no place to put it in their new apartment.

They had given up their home to a son, and it was eventually sold, a sad time for us all as the memories went with it.

Now the table sits in my high-ceilinged home, not on carpet, but on old, brightly polished pine floors. It’s a deep mahogany and makes the mood dark. It needs a fresh coat of white paint, slapped on heavy and thick with love, which would make the whole room lovely.

Then some of those grooves, crevices, the caving-in places I tried to escape as a child will fade into the background, and the past will be the past.

But then I worry about change–it’s been the way it is for so long. My heart stops a bit to think of the eternal consequence of marring such a priceless item with paint.

Now, where it sits, it’s a place of gathering, it seems to magnetically draw us all together.

No matter the chaos going on around the home– paper cut-outs being thrown awry, sisters chasing one another–screaming, me fussing at a daughter to just finish the sweeping already, and oh my aching head–when we all sit down at the table, candles lit, and we slide into our familiar places, something just feels right and it’s home.

It feels familiar and yet uncomfortable as children begin to bang, and to argue and to wail, to complain about the food.

High-pitched yelling and wailing is like nails on the chalkboard of my nerves. The banging and the water glass knocking over is more than I can handle. I shift in my seat, look for a way out, want to escape.

But here, in this familiar safe place, we all do the necessary thing. We gather. We are community. Every day, no matter what. We need the safe rhythm, the consistency.

Husband prays for us to love one another better as we hold hands, and this convicts me.

And these, these children and this husband around my table, they are my people, my church.

We are the body broken, and we worship with quieted spirits that want to bolt, and we do the hard work of staying.

We raise glasses to mouths and swallow down water and offer words of love where there has been grating of nerves and this is our true worship.

Linking up with Amber

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

Do you struggle with fear of change, or fear of the everyday change, the always fluid problems that come our way, like wailing and arguing at the supper table? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these anxieties? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. 

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo

My Mother–A Strong Woman {1,000 Moms Project}

My mother– A strong woman with much grit and determination to rise with each dawn with joy. I watched how she threw herself against the elements, fought a losing battle with her weak feminine body, and won. She moved mountains and nothing stood in her way, and she taught the earth that she was its ruler. I watched and learned. When the earth fought back with a blow hard as stone, she pushed harder. She was wet with sweat. She toiled. She did things that she never whispered into my little ears. Some things are too complicated for a child to grasp. Mothers intuitively know that and cover little ears. They protect. They guard fierce with their lives.

A mother swells with anticipation, births with great pains a life, and then sees that she will nearly be killed in the work of raising it. And lay down her life, mine did. Dark depression and chronic illness hit after we were born. A woman doesn’t ask for these changes–they just come. My mother didn’t know it–at 19–that birthing us would turn her inside out, make her hate herself, make her come face-to-face with demons she didn’t know were there, make her want to quit on living, on us.

I’m grateful to her that she never quit on us. And, in the true essence of mother, she did the oh-so-hard work of changing. She beat her body and willed her flesh to honor God. The edges of her became frayed and torn and worn out from all the love given, all the giving up of new clothes so that we could wear the nicest boutique things, all the driving back and forth to school and singing to us crazy and laughing it off when we were embarrassed. Her lap and breasts endured many elbow pokes and prods, all the hard rubbing that wore her thin, and still, she continued to give.

I remember her hunched over, digging up earth, showing me how to break it up deep, water and nourish. I remember her rolling my hair up every Saturday night, the way she played worship music in the house while she cleaned, can still hear her loud, boisterous singing. Oh, how she taught me to live out loud with no regrets. I remember the peace that reigned and how even the hard, sinful things were redeemed because of her obedience and perseverance. Every. single. day.

I remember her saying she was sorry, the way she held me when I’d been in trouble and how calming my cheek against her chest was, lying side by side for a nap and love in her eyes, telling me to go to sleep when I stared at her wide-eyed–that was her pushing through with patience. And asking me to pray for her, us all crumpled there at the top of the stairs, that she wouldn’t yell at us anymore–that taught me a broken heart before God, an obedience to the Holy Spirit and the love of a mother-heart.

I remember her pink women’s devotional bible, her hand-crafted beauties she decorated the house pretty with, how she let me keep a kitten in the laundry room until he was old enough, how everything was always magically clean, how supper was always, always, always on the table before dark, and our piano-playing, our singing, our creating–she always, always said it was good, even when Daddy wouldn’t be there ’til midnight, her serving alone such a treasure. At 15, she took me to buy a new outfit because a boy was coming to see me, her only just 15 when she met my Daddy. I remember my junior year and her eyes twinkling proudly when she watched me come out of the boutique dressing room in an emerald prom dress, bought on Daddy’s small pastor’s salary. I’m sure I don’t know what it all cost her–because she never told me.

And when she prayed with us before school, for God to send a friend, for God to break depression off of me when I was in the clutches of the enemy, she really did move mountains with her faith, break generational curses, tell earth to stand back and let God move. She pioneered a godly family with my dad, she forged ahead out into the unknown, Christianity new to her. And like all mothers, she was afraid and wasn’t at the same time, because she had Love on her side.

Linking with Ann for the 1,000 Moms project–a warm *thank you* to Ann for asking us to do this–this exercise of faith and remembering and giving thanks has been beautiful! For every person who honors their mother by sharing what most important gift she gave them, either on facebook, twitter, or in a post–Ann’s family is giving a donation of a much needed gift to a mother and baby in Haiti throught the Child Survival Program. If sharing on facebook, find Ann and share on her page–if sharing on twitter–use the hashtag #1000gifts #moms so Ann will see your tweet! You can read about Ann’s project by clicking on the button below–and view more posts to moms!

1000 Moms Project

Bending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude:

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

#631 planting flowers with my girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#650 ckicken and dumplings and pear salad

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

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

#653 A Granny and Granddaddy that love me so wild

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

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

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

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

Shared with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…