Category Archives: friendship

Women, Listen Up: Where Is God Moving Next? {An Abstraction on Listen}




sit in front of her in the old linoleum-floor bathroom, squatted low on a stool, and think how this is the way it ought to be, I, made low, serving the least of these, and wonder why I can’t do it more often. I zip up her footie pajama, and push my face into her hair. I’m drunk with her still-fresh from heaven, fresh from night time bath tub scent. She lures me in with it, and I know this is the very best moment of my day, and maybe I’m a fortune teller because I can see it’s also perhaps the best minute of my life, excepting only the second she slipped out, warm and wet, the doctor needing me to hold her in for safety’s sake, me begging to let her go, to have a chance in this world. Yes, her chance. Me and God, co-conspirators, creating life together.

Yes, do you see it friends? How beautiful a chance at life is?

I warm up a leftover quesadilla for myself and we lie on the couch together, and though she’s eaten earlier, she snuggles up to me, Mama, you gonna eat all o’ dat? 

Yes. I inhale an intoxicating bite and she asks Is that yummy?

Yes, baby. You want Mama to share? She nods. I’ll share with you, baby, okay?

Because you love me. Forking a scrumptious bite of my small dinner into her waiting tiny mouth, I melt into a million dissolved pieces, like chocolate on a stove. Oh yes, baby I do. 

Moments. Some days are so chock full of these that make us love and be loved, that it makes me listen more intently. It hushes me and makes me wonder where I went wrong in those days that felt love-less. I know He’s here, always, but sometimes, I get to feel the glory-weight, and it’s His hand upon my heart, upon my moments, blessing me fully. Fully here, fully human.

I wander outside in the cold stillness of dark, and inhale and exhale. I remember to look up, because this is what listening to the stillness does to me, and I’m surprised to see a star-lit sky after many days of shrouded, blanketed veil. Through her bare-naked branches, reaching up to Him, scrony, dry and thirsty–a little like the way I feel–the half moon winks down at me from her throne in the expansive universe. I feel so small, like the not quite awakened buds on tree’s branches that speckle across her glowing orb. Dogs bark in the neighborhood nearby, a train rattles in the distance, but all feels still and holy. I just notice, listen and breathe. I pay close attention. This is how I pray, silently.

In the grocery store on Saturday, I’m a little bit of a mess, and I do my best to be calm, energetic daughter by my side, asking for candy and other things I can’t afford.

A dear family friend sees me, comes over, and asks how we’re doing, asks about my tiny Lilly who was a shrunken newborn, mal-nourished, the bones in her forehead protruding and my milk the only thing her stomach could take, but it wasn’t enough. I tell her she’s great, about to go to preschool this fall–she’s almost five, and her birthday comes late. She tells me her daughter, one of my best friends, has a fibroid tumor the doctors just found. Is there a worry for cancer, I ask. Says she isn’t sure. And I tell her I know, how I know, when life is a heavy weight, how it can suffocate, and it’s impossible to even pick up the phone to call a friend. She asks me to pray–I say I will. She’s had so many problems–she doesn’t need anymore –I’m thinking of four years ago, when her only child, only three days old, died, and how then and only then, did she get to hold her in her loving mother arms–and I break.

The tears stream down my crumpled face, and her mother catches me in her arms. I love her so much I whisper into her shoulder. Thank you for being a good friend to my daughter, she tells me, holds me close. I feel the weight of glory, God so close, Emmanuel.

I think of that embrace later, when I walk into the house, putting away toilet paper. My lips don’t move at all. But my heart beats with this desperate plea–God, be with her, she needs you now. She needs your healing hands in a most powerful way. 

This is how I worship. I know no other way. Because the dancing, the raising of hands {though you can find me lifting them from time to time because I can’t help myself}, the conjuring of His presence–they just don’t cut it. I hope you don’t mind me saying, they don’t work for me anymore.

No, I listen instead.

So, on bright, clear Sunday morning, I call this new friend God’s given. She’s an old friend, and a new friend. New, because we’ve bonded more recently, and these relationships online–this community He’s given? Miracle being worked out–Him working all things together for good, because I love him, because He loves me.

She says so tell me what’s going on, what you’re thinkin’. She jumps right into the frying pan with me, right in the middle of the sticky stuff, the very messy, screwed-up stuff no one really wants to hear–my kinda girl. I tell her I’m having faith God will complete the good work He began, and I’m holding on hard, to grace. That’s all I can do. She cries with me, laughs so hard with me, and prophesies His goodness, the love He has for me, over me.

We talk about listening. I tell her what the Spirit is saying. And how do we know what the Spirit is saying–when it’s Him speaking? He comes to me in a cave, and asks me what I’m doing. It makes me pay attention, makes me take notice, makes me think.

You’ve heard from God. And it’s that one statement I can’t get out of my head–no, two statements.

You are capable–from every side, you’re being told you aren’t capable, but you so are.

I listen. Hard. With the phone up to my ear, so hot, my soul is hungry for living bread, and she breaks it open with me, piping hot, shows me where freedom is and where to plant my feet. This step here, then that one there. See, friend? See how God wants you to not only be delivered, but also free?

I don’t have much {beautiful laugh}, but I have this: stories, stories that you and I share. Her southern accent, so dripping sweet and soft, sings sweet peace over me like a lullaby.

Women, listen up: Let’s be this kind of friend to one another? The kind that can listen to the pain. And be okay with it. Laugh with me. Cry with me. Don’t balk when you see something brassy or bold. No, call it what it is–the way God did in the beginning–call out the good in me. Can we do this for one another?

Listen. Yes, let’s listen. To the stars, to the spirit, to the trees, to the pain, to the beauty, the glory and the mess, the screwed-upness, and the words that aren’t being said. Perk up your ears, soldier-sister. Where is God moving next?

Just Listen with me.

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Serve, but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listentoyourlife 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 Listen. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 16th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 17th, the prompt will be SERVE .}

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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 .}

A Hand in Your Own {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


                                                                                                 photo credit


“Some good words from my pastors this morning,” I smirk as I enter the room where my husband is sleeping. The word “pastors” is slurred into paaaastuers and I’m facetious at best. Not exactly sarcastic, but then, what do I know of the response he’ll muster? This one who I’ve watched wear the title and then discard it (and all its clinging tendrils) when it ceased to fit properly.

He opens one sleepy eye.

But the silence sits on me hard. And I pause. “No. There’s something wrong about that,” I shake my head and squint at the flecked gold knob on the closet door, bending down to untie the knots in my running shoes. He knows I’m not referring to preaching ministers at a church when I say “pastors,” he knows I mean the men and women whose writing I read online and the ensuing conversations which I have come to cherish as part of my spiritual food on a near-daily basis. The threaded laces are stubborn beneath my fingers, but pulling on them somehow loosens me in all the right ways. Suddenly, there’s lightning, “I bet they wouldn’t like me to call them that …”


“They’d rather me call them ‘friends.’ “

I slide the closet shut around the words. His work boots oppose me, sticking their toes toward the cracks, but a shove does the trick, and she’s closed. I turn around and lean against it. Letting the words that just escaped my lips saturate my soul.

********

Maybe I’m the only one who has been wounded by the power-plays so common among the leadership of the church and the name-dropping and the ladder-climbing. Maybe I am alone here, still feeling the prick of loss when followers of the Servant-King use position as a means of personal gain. Those who, instead of gently guiding their flock, are fleecing them blind for the allegiance they give. For the control that is surrendered … Maybe. But I doubt it.

And internet writing is a messy, tricky thing. We bring our own back-story and half-healed scars to every piece we read. I can’t say that many out in the great cloud of witnesses called the blogosphere have been “pastors” to me in any holy sense of the word, but here and there in a thousand private messages and a million blog comments and a handful of face-to-face meetings, are a good number of those who I would consider to be “friends.” And since we’re all straddling the overlap between writing and faith – a place brimful with its own brand of power-plays and name-dropping and ladder-climbing – I’d say that’s not such a little thing.

In fact, the writers I love to read are men and women who write their posts and sing their songs and live their art not for the respect they can earn or the title they can solicit or the money with which they can fill their pockets. They have a heart to walk alongside. They are knowable, relate-able. They tell their stories with dirt under their nails and southern drawls dripping heavy from their honest, unedited lips. They write from the deep and the burdened places we all know – and they write it real. As real as a hand in your own.

Somehow they seem to grasp intuitively that the greatest gift they can give to the world has a whole lot more to do with sharing the specifics (even the gritty ones) of their personal stories than by quoting the worn-out platitudes or theological moral-isms by which they might exalt themselves over their readers.

No. If that’s what “pastor” means, they are never that to me.

I repeatedly watch them take the low road. They don’t live for the pedestals or the red carpets. They’d just as likely hug your neck and share a beer as shake your hand and hold your baby. They’re not untouchable. They’re not perfect. And – by far the most rare – they’re not afraid to come out of hiding and let you know it.

**********

And the shower steams hot. While I let muscles relax in the aftermath of my run, I remember my own limitedness and the finite experience of life within this skin. But I also feel the plea for human connection that rises up within my own story, asking to be made known. Why is it easier to give someone a formula to fix their aching heart than it is to get down into it with them and feel ALL THE FEELINGS alongside? I can’t say I know. But that is what makes a writer – a professional – cross the bridge into becoming a friend. The telling of the secrets that we think are only our own is the exact reason why I’ve come to relate deeply to so many whose breath I’ve never smelled and whose tears I’ve never wiped, who live worlds away from this mid-western farmhouse.

We are wired for connection, not only perfunctory answers.

For bearing each other’s burdens and holding close the broken, not for sanitary scripturized cliches.

Because love is always more satisfying than being right – hard as it is to believe sometimes.

It’s true for all of us: the gift of our lives to this world community is not given in spite of our humanness – as if that takes away from the poignancy of the message – but because of it. Because of the Babel places where we try to climb to God on steps of our own making and our Damascus roads where we are blind to all but the frightening light of a hairy paradigm-shift. Because of our willingness to accept ourselves and the dirt under our nails and the ins and outs of our messy narratives.

( … which might sound a lot like a tiny little mystery known as the Incarnation, if we listen long enough.)

There is a beautiful one-piece garment that transcends the in spite of’s and because of’s and waits with bated breath for the way redemption will shine through cracks in the one who dares to bare the soul: Whole.

And here I want to turn to you, dear reader, dear writer, dear friend, 

I want to say that in the kind of moxie that it takes for YOU to tell your tales and tell them real, I find my own story. Your secrets are mine. Your fallings and failures and glories. It’s there that I finger the edges of making peace with myself and an expansive hope comes just into view right next to a love that tears down walls. If beauty bursting through is true for you, couldn’t it also be true for me … ?

All of us belong to each other in this very way. Oh, how the world needs your wild.

Because this is the kind of courage that gives birth to a deeply personal bravery; this is not only the discovery of our humanness – but the necessary making friends with it; this is the kind of being known that inspires the greatest and least alike to call vulnerability out on her dare; to surrender all the ways we try so hard to impress everyone around us with our words and our art …

And to live as friends.



“I have called you friends … Now, go and do likewise.”
-Jesus of Nazareth






Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can catch her hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, or see more of her astounding words at her blog, chronicles of grace






This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, I’m going to have a link-up for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. What are the issues we face and deal with? This is not a place for maligning anyone in our writing and link-up or to debate in the comments. No mentions, please, of other blogs, quotes from other blogs, etc. These are the requirements for the link-up. Please keep this theme and discussion in mind, and think of how you’d  like to begin writing your own story, or journey of blogging. I’d love to hear it! I’ll choose one story to be featured here the following week, and on social media! 

Quieted By Her Love {Five Minute Friday}

She runs with me through the woods, our hair flying, stopping for one another when we’ve lost our breath.

We never leave one another behind. We always walk beside.

She cups my face when life throws it’s worst curve balls, she looks in my eyes, her eyes reflecting my storm in them, and grieving with me, she prays.

She doesn’t give advice while my shoulders shudder and the tears pour.

She aches to hold me.

She can stand in my kitchen with me and giggle as we pour rum into fruity drinks.

She sends a card in the mail that says I was just thinking of you, and I’m not sure why you’re silent, but I want you to know, my loyalty and my love has never wavered.

When I confess I have felt jealousy because I feel beneath, and I have railed against the bitter cup of chronic illness God’s given, and I plead for her forgiveness, she just says, my dear, there is nothing to forgive.

You have my heart always. You have my heart.

She tells me before we get to Nebraska that even if I misbehave, she will still be my friend.

She stills all my quaking, calms all my fears with her grace.

The inner voice, the lion seeking to squelch and kill, it is quieted by her love.

It is quieted by her love.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the Five-Minute Friday Community. Here are Lisa-Jo’s words:

 “We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST every Friday.

And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”

The one-word prompt this week was FRIEND.

Five Minute Friday

Now it’s time for the #concretewords highlight of the week! WOOT! {Kimberly Coyle hosted this week for me while I was out of town, and we had some technical stuff go haywire–I only ended up with one entry because the linky didn’t work–thanks for hanging with us!}

IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU WOULD STILL LIKE TO ADD YOUR LINK–LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS AND I’LL ADD IT HERE AND ALSO ANNOUNCE IT ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER! 

Ruth Povey, for The Sink. Ruth writes beautiful and brave here–captivating and evocative.

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,

Together {Five Minute Friday}

Every Friday, we link up with Lisa-Jo of the gypsy mama, and in her words–“we write like we used to run when we were kids. On Fridays we write with gusto, unselfconscious and flat out.” –we write for five minutes only with a one-word prompt– no editing, no back-tracking, and no worrying if it’s perfect!If you enjoy this at all, and would like to see more writing with gusto, click on her button at the bottom and read others’ posts!

Together:

GO.

I’m scared to put fingertips to keyboard and tap out “together” because I don’t understand together like I would like to.

But I do want to get this together, this community, this caring, this relationship. I want to learn it in the synapses, in the heart strings, for the endings to get the message that Jesus came for relationship with me so that I could reach out to others.

This woman, the cancer-survivor champion, she chases after me, and she causes me to reach arms out and up to God. She pours deeply into my soul.

The Life-Surrendered mama, she invests her time richly in me, makes me a better homeschooling, loving, godly mama.

The filipino girl, she makes me soar with the wings she gives with her life-breathed encouragement.

And there’s this Tennessee woman, the Tuning Her Heart woman, who looks into me and sees something of value.

And then there’s the quirky Californian-Asian girl whose love knows no bounds and always sticks by me when I’m at my craziest, and messiest and she loves me more for it.

Maybe I do understand together. They have come and wrapped arms ’round and made me understand.

STOP.

Friends, I would LOVE for you to leave your thoughts–your comments are so precious, and minister to my soul–I am probably in a corner of my home somewhere cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, picking up sticky banana peels off my couch, sorting through laundry and apple cores, doing a Jillian Michael’s workout with eldest daughter, helping my second grader with grammar, or packing all four girls to go off with their grandparents’ for the weekend {yay!} ….I am sorry that I cannot answer every comment, but please let me know you were here, so I can stop by your place and leave some encouragement for you!