Category Archives: freedom

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

 

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

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

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

 

Can you see her?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah, hope~

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

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

 

 

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

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


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. Please write along with us, using                                                                                 the prompt.

Today’s prompt is Path. GO!


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

photo credit: Kelli Woodford

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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! 

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 .}

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!}

For When You’re Feeling Hopeless {and Smoking Doesn’t Mean You’re Going to Hell}



She tells herself to walk outside to get her mind off of things and knows her feet will get wet, but she wants to see her spider lilies that have shot up through the ground with all the hard rain.

The spider lilies they are nostalgic for her, bringing up things within that once were and always will be. They make her want fall to last forever, a season of change, a beautiful relaxed part of her soul that only comes out when the time is right.

The red webbed fingers, they point and speak to her–she knows, winter is coming. It is bittersweet because she knows that life can’t last forever, and yet, there is such beauty here. Neither can the dead things last forever, and she is dead, if she is seeing it clearly.

This world, it is a dark glass, and only on that one day will she see things for what they really are. Then the veil will be pulled back but for now, she wanders and thinks on the life and the dead things, how the life will go down to the deep and lie dormant. It must be given a chance to rest and re-seed and grow in harsh cold. Then and only then can life and hope come forth from the bitter ground.

She know in the dark chambers of her heart where only whispers are held and secrets are kept that spider lilies, so delicate and holding such beauty, don’t last forever–they are but a blink, a momentary fore-shadowing of things to come. She wanders through their sprinkled wet path, blowing smoke along the way, thinking of how she shouldn’t smoke, that it’s been 13 years, but the demons they come back and they come back with a vengeance when she isn’t paying attention. She thinks of how we all have a vice, and God’s grace comes to her on the cool breeze of fall air.

Then like a wakening dream she remembers vividly the man and wife she bumped into. She sees the way the man sat down with a smile and said this is good to talk, we need to, we need to let some stuff out, and how she said, with a knowing look, well, bring it, get it out. She sees the wife, how she fidgeted with every little thing, how she nervously glanced here and there, would not look her in the eyes. And how the man, he told her they were in town for a ceremonial ordinance at someone’s property who lived nearby and she cries out yes! I believe in the Sabbath whole-heartedly and love dearly God’s sacred communion and the sacraments. But then how her heart sank to her stomach as he told her, when she talked of grace, that he believed in the law.

She noticed the woman’s cast-down eyes, the speaking to herself under her breath, the head hung low, apologizing to someone unseen. And in her very heartbeat, she can hear the man saying that yes, we are saved by faith, but that is conditional upon our obedience to God’s law, and she hears it resounding in her ear like a drum, the beating of her own heart, and God’s heart, gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. Can you hear it too?

Because she did, as she listened to him, her heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster, but she knew that only God could speak grace to his heart and only God could lift that woman’s head. She told him how she believed in eternal security, how that she knew she could never be plucked out of God’s hand for any reason. And she told him of her uncle who for most of his life was addicted to drugs and because of the law she never believed he was saved, but that at 30 years old, she finally realized that because he had given his heart to Christ and loved him early on in life, that he was indeed written upon God’s hand forever, and we are not to know the condition of his heart, only God can. The only way to know we are really not in God’s hands is to completely deny him, she tells him.

She walks by the weeds grown up in her beautiful beds she worked so fervently on those summers ago, and she knows that weeds, they can sneak up on us when we are not looking and they can choke out a life. They can try to snuff out, but God’s grace is mightier than anything any old demon, no matter how powerful, can throw upon us. We all have our weeds, untended, neglected, and we all have moments in our lives of hard-heart ground. It’s bitter ground, that hangs its head low, and doesn’t even want to look up at God, doesn’t want to pray, doesn’t want to listen to what we must do to be saved.

And the man, he looked her in the eyes and challenged her and said, what about when a man blasphemes against the holy spirit, the unpardonable sin? Do you believe in that? She looks him in the eye and smiles and says, I believe that is the unpardonable sin, denying him.

She walks around and around the lilies and the weeds, thinking of that last challenge, when he said with fire in his eyes, what about when a man shakes his fist at God and says, I hate God?

Actions on the outside and truth in the heart can be two totally different things, she says. Only God knows if the man believes it in his heart or not. 

The man looks stunned, woman sitting with her eyes cast down, and he says to his sister, Yes, possibly it’s a phase and God will bring him back–that’s an idea to think on….

She walks gently over the grass and steps back inside, and she doesn’t forget the man and wife and the heaviness she felt around them. She thinks on them, says a silent prayer, thinks about her own heart, and its vices.

She reads the 23rd Psalm, the 1st Psalm, God’s promises to her, and she picks up Nehemiah where she left off…

The heading in her bible reads, A List of Exiles Who Returned…and the list is long with many descendants of God’s people. And she recalls the scripture His hand had led her heart to…

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name…” Neh. 1:8-11

She thinks on the men who hung on a cross next to Jesus, who did not deserve a pardon and how one begged to go to Paradise with him that day, and Jesus’ words swell her heart wide open and bursting with peace. Because to this man, that never had a moment to prove his worth or obedience, Jesus simply said to a thief worthy only of death and condemnation dying next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Such is God’s way with the heart of a man, and she turns it over and over in her mind, a Rubik’s cube, asking questions of her own with answers that are not yet to be seen.

For it is not their due season, but she knows that at the right time, when winter is over, the fruit will come. It will burst forth like a baby slipping out all wet and wailing and beautiful from its mother’s womb.

She crawls into bed next to her baby and sings amazing grace slowly and softly, letting her voice lilt over the words in peaceful praise and thanksgiving for her name upon His hand.

If you’re interested in further research into this topic, a great wise pastor here:

John Piper answers the question can a person be a Christian and drink or smoke:

John Piper preaches on law and grace–powerful!

Disclosure: I am not endorsing Mark Driscoll’s preaching by posting this, but I love what he has to say here, because it’s biblical and shocking to those of us who judge Christians to “look” and “act” a certain way:

{Context here is that Samuel was sent by God to anoint Israel’s next king, and he assumed it must be Eliab, according to his appearance.}
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37

Related: Seasons

Announcement: #concretewords is back on Monday, Sept 30 or 31st!! It’s a possibility I could be gone because my anniversary falls on the 29th, so have your submission ready and I’ll have the link-up live either Monday or Tues! Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been a rough several months, and things are still on the mend, but I’m finally ready to write.

Concrete Words prompt: SOIL!

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

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!** 

The Real Christ In A Cruel World {In Which I Say What I Really Feel About the Church}


                                                                                                                            

Oh my soul aches in a cruel world where children are shot while learning ABC’s, blood splattered across the chalkboard, soaking their beautiful wide-ruled blue lined pages, their little feet barely reaching the floor, so much light this world lost when their innocent souls left, so much work their brilliant minds could have done, so much ache left in the aftermath.

 My heart is crushed in a backwards reality where gays are shunned as yesterday’s trash, and pastors who seek fame and distort truth are glorified. But Jesus drew a line in the sand for a harlot, no better than trash to those religious leaders, and dared them to cast the first stone. And the truth distorters? He called them vipers.

 I’m weary because when I was not a girl, not yet a woman, I stood in the church foyer of my daddy’s church and was called a whore by a woman I loved because I attended the one party I was invited to, in a friendless town, and a boy tried to take advantage of me that night, called to me in whispers from the hallway in the dark, luring me like a sex predator lures an innocent child. Rumors flew and what’s a preacher’s daughter to do? We’re supposed to be perfect.

 I quake with loneliness because I feel the isolation of those who are not welcome in my southern white churches. I’d like to stand on top of the podium and declare that Jesus wants all the sick, all the hurting, every color, all of his brothers and sisters, all of God’s children and the same breath that’s in me, God breathed into them.

 A cold wind blows through my soul because when I was 19 years old, a woman secretly recorded a conversation she and her husband had with my parents in her home, and she worked hard against them, carrying her banner of what she perceived as justice until she turned everyone away from the church, calling all the members away unto herself, and my dad had no one to support him, and the last member left in the pews–one sweet, but very feisty old widow woman–she brought us cans from the food pantry. I was paranoid and convinced there were cameras in my bedroom and the nightmares came every night. We were literally starved out–physically and spiritually–and we left the church and left the town, our hearts in our stomachs, our spirits grieved and hearts hard and for me the hellish dreams continued for years, every. single. night.

 I shudder at witnessing the guts and gore of pastors leaving even now. I squinch my eyes up because I do not want to watch as respected leaders whom we loved and whom loved us hate their pastor in their hearts as they hand out food to the poor, and teach sweet, impressionable children as they spew words of malice out behind their shepherd’s back, toil and sweat toward his demise, and ultimately the devastation of his household. I do not want to know about their schemes in the dark, their hellish pranks and private meetings, do not want to behold such horrors, all vivid bloody gore to me.

 I grieve for the dark-skinned women who came to my door, those sweet women, donned in their Sunday best. They are so dignified and humble, and loving, and they stand in the cold to talk to me. I grieve not because maybe they’re a cult as I was taught growing up–it’s just the opposite. I grieve because I have this painful, wonderful, awful revelation that my whole life I’ve been wrong and I’ve missed it. The church has missed it. These women stood on my stoop, the numbing cold not bothering their warm hearts as they continued to encourage me, long after I’d told them I felt we had found a church home. They told me it was commendable, what I was doing with my girls, teaching them at home, teaching them the scriptures, instilling values in them. I felt admiration from these women. They commended me. ME. It had been such a hard, questioning week and I told them that, how I was glad they came because I needed to hear that, and their beautiful eyes lit up. They told of how they visit some people who tell them if they hadn’t come that day, they would’ve committed suicide. “I admire you,” I said, “for doing what you do. It’s a brave thing, to get out and reach out the way you do.” They offered me books for the girls and I gave them some money for the ink, even though I knew that I wouldn’t agree with the theology in the pages and we might not read it. That didn’t matter. It would have been like saying no to a hot plate a a sweet ‘lil ‘ole widow neighbor cooked as a gift because stroganoff isn’t my favorite. And Jesus shocked them all when he said that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and no one ever expected that the despised and foolish things of the world would confound the wise and sometimes I find that my doubt is turned right inside out and I am on the other end, the “wise” one being schooled by these “foolish” ‘lil ‘ole women the world has looked down upon.

I shiver as arctic gales sweep right through me, and it’s sweeping right through the church. Do you feel it? And I weep and I dry my tears and tell myself to be strong, to not let my heart get smashed again. I take a good long look at the world, through red-brimmed eyes and with tears that won’t even fall anymore, my hard heart sees all the missed opportunities the church has had, that I have had. I see the poor that Mother Theresa consecrated her life to, I see the millions of children starving and dying in the dumps. I see the millions of babies that have been killed in America in the past thirty years by abortion, I see a gay community that feels hated by the church, I see depressed women wasting away in beds, never stepping outside their doors, afraid and quaking, from a life of abuse and they make it known that no one is welcome and I have been all of these and then some because I’m a sinner and I’m in need too.

And I’ve come to despise change because of what change did to my family when I was young and what it still does to those who give their lives. I don’t know how to continue believing, when I, being a thirty-something, in a deep depression, reached out to women in the church, and shared my secret in hopes they’d gather ’round and shore me up, and I was shunned instead, my leper sores glaringly ugly in the church lights.

Shunned like the gays, shunned like the druggies, shunned like my black sisters and brothers, shunned like Jesus.

Oh, for all that is holy, grace is not just for me, the me who grew up in church, the preacher’s daughter, it’s not just for the straights, the whites, the upper class, the lovable ones, the ones who do life the “right” way. Oh can you see it, friend? Can I?

Jesus came for the sick. Let’s be about our Father’s business.

And when my dark-skinned friend comes back to drop off that church invitation as she promised, I’m going to invite her into my heated living room, and with a glory hallelujah in my heart, have hot tea with her on my couch and talk with her like I would any of the other women in my circle, and I will tell her I’m a Christian, and do not intend to convert, but that I hope we can still be sisters in this kingdom work.

Only God knows her heart.

Only God knows mine. He wants all of us, friends, all of us sinners.

There’s no need to fear.

Let’s open our hearts, you and I.

And be about His work.

** painting by my husband, Eddie


**Shaking in my boots, being vulnerable about some of my deepest secrets, the hurting places, hitting publish here, friends. Oh my, I love writing, and my it is sometimes so hard to hit that button. Here goes–I hope it blesses?

Linking up with…

An Abstraction on the Chain {Fear Day 22}




We were arguing late at night, standing there on cold wood floors, moonlight streaming in, and all I want is to touch his face, for him to trace the lines of mine, and for us to hold each other close in our big four-poster bed with the windows all around, and I said some awful things. Love can make you do the truly abhorrent when you’re lonely.

I said the “H” word–that four letter one that lets him know how I feel. I wounded and scarred up our home, the sacred, the holy. “I hate that you are so distant, that you never touch me, if you want to know the truth, I hate you when you make me feel this way!”

I wrecked everything, hurt him in my thirst for more. So we go to bed holding one another and when I turn over, the chain pulls him toward me and he scoots in close. I wake and touch feet to shiny pine, shuffle out of my bedroom in yoga pants and black flip-flops, feeling rested and slightly askew, step around a little pile of trash someone forgot to discard, and first thing I go and make sprite for my baby, hug my eldest who has been sick in the night.

She looks at me, her all spindly and hair disheveled and curled in fractured sunlight bouncing off, and I see pain in her eyes, and I wonder how much of the argument she heard on her end of the house. With all my babies’ stomachs churning for the past week and running back and forth to the toilet even in black quiet when I can’t hear, I pray it stops somehow. That this would be the end of this torment.

Depression has been hanging over me, a buzzard circling overhead, waiting for the right moment, that moment when life ceases.

I see the chains that bind. I see all the fears that keep me captive, make me a lunatic starving mad for affection in the middle of the night.

I’m linked, soul-bound to this man I said “Yes” to when he whispered in my ear so softly, as we both leaned in close, so unsure, right there on my parents’ couch, “Will you marry me?”‘ Just a quiet hush, nothing more, almost a question, him needing my response to fully form his asking and let it hang free in the air.

I see that I’m afraid of losing him. I’m afraid he’ll go so far away that he’ll never return.

It can feel like that–when a man is distant, like he actually left physically. I ache and groan and grieve and misery spews out of my mouth in words that should never be uttered.

And there is only one way I know to put an end to all things vile. And that’s what I do first thing, what the misery pushes me toward, and like an old song being played I know the steps to, I get out my bible and read a whole psalm.

I read through the first several verses alone and then I open right up, let breath flow out of me, and read the entirety of God’s goodness to them. They fall back to sleep, all my sick littles, while I herald the good news. They are lulled by His grace and peace, settling down over them, covering, a down comforter, weighted and weightless.

I feel satiated and I know this is how to break the chains that have made me a prisoner and I’m a prisoner of my own making. I have chosen in my hurt to not forgive. I have forgotten to look up always, and every morning when I’m ravenous, to the One who satisfies, but especially during times of distance, of pain and suffering.

I feel it right there–how my spirit babe within grows strong at the nourishing breast of the Word. It’s like a huge, tiny miracle right there on our old soft, beige couch in morning light spilling in through high, cathedral-like windows, and I’m offering my prayer, my confession right there, His body taken in my mouth.

I go ’round doling out little medicine cups of Sprite and Pedialyte, lovingly slapping cold rags on heads, tucking blankets firmly around aching bodies, kissing foreheads and hot cheeks, just prayin’ I don’t contract another round of it, and slathering Vaseline thick on cracking lips that whisper could they just have water? And I give my running-around-the-house two year old who is all better a big kiss on her baby-squishy soft cheek, just begs me nuzzle in close.

I look out the window and see them there, large black birds littering the yard, their thick, gangly red necks pecking at my children’s toys, wings beating loud, fighting for territory. I frown at their hunkering, and I don’t know why they are there, like they’re just waiting for death.

I’m not sure if it’s our illness, this misery, this decaying of life–of love–they sense, but I prance outside like a woman with fight in me and a broom and I shew those vultures away. It feels a little silly at first, but at my voice, they immediately beat away, all this blackness fleeing in morning light through the maples, and I feel loosed.

I see how powerful my voice is, how I can call on Jesus for us, for my own depravity. I swallow down the huge, tiny miracle that God has sustained me and when he walks in the door, I won’t resent him. I will love him.

Whoa, sharing all of this, with quaking and trembling, asking God to undo these chains, loosen these fears in the confession…        
**This post shared with Husband’s permission, and I hope you will join me, friends, as I continue to write on marriage this week. God is leading my heart there, whispering to me, wooing me….

Still counting gifts in gratitude to my Father… {1,020-1036}.. This is good for the soul, no?

For fears relieved, for Lilly trying so hard to say a word for me, how her voice sounds so tiny, for all of us being so sick and getting the rest we need, for making up in the night, for snuggling, the way they all gather and lay on me when I lie down, how good it feels to nurture their little hearts, for Ivy cleaning my bedroom and laundry room without being asked just to cheer me up, for a break from routine and just long rest, watching movies together, cuddling, folding clothes, for Husband bringing home chicken noodle soup, sprite, and crackers for days in a row, for all of us learning to take care of one another, for God’s freedom, for the power He’s placed within and knowing I can access it–call upon Jesus’ name…

Linking with Amber, Ann, EmilyLaura, Jen, LL, and Heather for Just Write

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 him leaving, of marriage not turning out quite like you thought? Of this love not playing out, not feeling the way you imagined it should feel, not fulfilling you the way you imagined it would? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these fears in your marriage? 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’ve jumped from Day 12 to Day 22 because I want to finish this series at the end of the month & this gal started late}

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

On Voice And Fear of Being Uniquely Me {Day 7}

Photo credit

“It’s harder than you think. It’s not enough to be good. You have to be great…You’d better love it. (Otherwise, quit now.)”–Jeff Goins, writer

This world moves a little too fast for me–blogging, writing, tweeting–it all seems to blur straight past me, and I’m a straggler, weary to keep up.

Every day there are more stories that are important to read, tweeted writing advice I should pay attention to. I open them so I don’t forget and they never get read.

I wonder, amongst so much good advice, so much rich story-telling, so many beautiful voices on the web and in great books, what IS my voice? How do I find this elusive thing?

If I find it, does it have a place amongst such beauty, depth, richness, and efficiency moving forward, me left standing in the wake of all that momentum?

I read this on Amber Haine’s site and it left me reeling a little. Thank God for writers like Amber, who really write what we’re all thinking. Stories are great, and must be told, must be written, handed down. I believe in this.

But telling the truth? This is priceless,

and I’m a just-starting-out-writer who is so grateful for people like her, who make me pause, make me ponder and reflect, draw up out of me what’s really clawing at the surface, fighting to get out. The problem is that I keep stuffing it back down.

But that voice that keeps asking me what is your voice, Nacole? Where is it? 

That voice is very important, and it just may be that it’s the very voice I’m looking for—the one I’ve been stuffing down, shoving a sock in, telling it to hush so I can do this grown-up business.

The whole time I’ve been on this quest to find my voice–even when I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing–and all along, that holy grail, has been trying to claw it’s way out of an early grave, buried alive.

I’ve been squelching it out of fear. How much of what God created me to be have I silenced and buried deep because I was afraid to be me, out loud, with no apologies?

I’m thinking about voice, as seasons change and things are hard for me, and I sometimes feel I’ve committed to too much, and I stand braced against the gale winds–

and I think, maybe voice is about just that–maybe it’s letting go of the fear and inviting whatever will come, maybe it’s not being willing to change who I am for anybody, not a jot or a tittle.

Maybe it’s just being uniquely me. Here is where I choose to take the road less traveled by and I let go of my fear of being “me” all wrong.

There is no right or wrong way of being me, because God created me the only one.

What freedom.

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 being uniquely you, friend? Does it hold you hostage? What’s your story? How has God redeemed it? 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…


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


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here.  I have chosen to do this one on FEAR, because it seems to be something I keep wrestling with over and over, something that keeps me in chains, pins me down, won’t let me free. I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

Couldn’t we all use some freedom from those fear-chains that bind? I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   







Friends, meet my friend, Jennifer Lee. She is so lovely and down-to-earth, a farmer’s wife in Iowa. I just love her, and you will too. If you would so kindly click here and go over to my friend, Jennifer’s site for a GIVEAWAY!You can enter until the 14th! Her sweet daughter, Lydia, is having a jewelry party to raise money for a school playground for children in Haiti. We know these children and families have been affected by much suffering after the earthquake. This jewelry is hand-made by our sisters in Haiti–Jennifer has been there, met them, hung out with them in their homes–and this is Jennifer’s project. By buying one of these beautiful necklaces, you will be helping a Haitian woman work to feed her family, AND you will be helping raise money for children to have a place to play! She is also giving away some jewelry, so hurry on over and share on facebook, twitter, etc for your spot in the giveaway! I’m definitely buying one–I hope you do, too!