Category Archives: Parenting

Dream With Audaciousness, Daughter {An Abstraction on Hands}



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Kingdom has come, here on earth.

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


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

Today’s prompt is HandsGO!


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


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Because That’s What I Taught Them…{& In Which I Announce Concrete Words Writer & Give Link-Love}



When the leaves start to lose their chlorophyll as the sun gets less bright, my girls will get on that huge orange bus that always comes like a freight train and grass blowing and tossed in it’s wake. They’ll travel to new places unknown, take on new adventures. Things might look scary to them, from way down there where they are, looking up at adults with sticks and rulers and older, teenage girls kissing a boyfriend in the hallway.

I had my chance to teach them and in a bittersweet turn, it’s come to an end. I hope I taught them well. I hope that respect and quietness and reverence they have about them stays with them always. I don’t plan to give up my role as teacher. I hope the lessons I’ve placed deep in their hearts makes them rise tall and blossom and I want to see them fly.

I know if my little one gets shoved down into the dirt on the playground, she’ll cry, dust herself off, and yell at them to “STOP!”. I’m not afraid, because I know my girl. She’s tough. The stuff she’s made of is what has made me go to bed crying some nights.

I know if my nine year old gets held back a grade, or made fun of for her smallness if she moves on ahead, that she’ll laugh that contagious giggle, and tell them it just makes her quicker and cuter. I know she’ll have an endless amount of comebacks, because she’s dealt them out at home often. She has no problem making her mind known, and letting her confidence shine.

I know if my oldest girl walks shakily onto the high school campus and is overwhelmed by all the classes and work, and has nightmares about not being able to find her classroom, that the strength and solidity I see in her will see her through. She will navigate tough, unknown waters with sureness and capability.

I know, I just know that if they fall, they will get back up, dust themselves off, and try again.

Because that’s what I’ve taught them.

Honestly, I think this was more like 8 minutes–schooling the girls so intensely has my brain literally running at the speed of a sloth. At 5 minutes, I think I had, like, a total of 3 words.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the #FiveMinuteFriday Community. We write for five minutes flat, with no extreme editing, no worrying about perfect grammar, no worrying if our words sound just right.

“Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”–Lisa-Jo Baker

The one-word prompt this week: FALL.

 Five Minute Friday

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:

Janel Andrews at Pour Cette Temps for the Afternoon–absolute stunning write. Janel hit the Concrete word nail on the head!

***Don’t forget that lovely Ashley Larkin will be guest-posting here, this Monday, June 10th at sixinthesticks for our prompt, the Morning! Give it your best shot and show me what ya got! Ashley will be picking her favorite post linked-up and will announce it on social media and possibly also on her blog next Friday!! Don’t miss this–Y’all please come by and give Ashley some lovin’! {Also, Ruth Povey will be taking Concrete Words on July 1st–mark your calendars!}

Here, y’all, just some randomness for your weekend, some laughter and link-love to inspire that I wanted to share with you and which I’ve been compiling over the last couple weeks…. {Have a lovely weekend, friends…}

Thought it’d be fun to share..what I wore Monday…my favorite necklace, a “Faith” necklace {And I’m not a faith-necklace-wearing-girl, but Kashoan made me into one} made by Kraftykash –GO! Check out her cool stuff.

A very funny Southern woman that had me chuckling–laughter is medicine to the mind, body, and soul….

This 1,000 gifts video and this article about a 14 year old boy with an amazing talent, shared by Ann Voskamp–well. worth. taking a look. It’s these kinds of creations of beauty, of pulsing life that keep me going when I only see darkness on this fallen earth…

This blog post by Preston Yancey–I see a new trend amongst writers, and it’s refreshing. Makes me sigh relief–that we could just keep the one thing the most important thing–the gospel, not a different or new one that we’ve heard, but the true one…

This one is amazing by Ann Voskamp…women need this one–then scroll down to the free print-outs–I’m printing these out, folding them with love, thinking of those I’ll send them to, with a sigh of contentment in my heart…maybe reaching out to someone is what you need to heal those broken places, too?

This one by Duane Scott–I’m A Christian and I Drink Starbucks–so do I , Duane, so do I. Love his heart.

Amazing write by Amanda Hill–Be Still, My Soul  –“And the silks, oh the silks. Without a harness at all, these incredible species of human beings climbed and bowed and swayed and made love to dangling ribbons from the sky…”

This Five Minute Friday write by Alia Hagenbach that made tears well up, because we’ve all been there, in some way or form…

This blog post by Jen Hatmaker–one of the absolute best blog posts I’ve ever read, possibly. Definitely on my top ten. You will laugh. Hard. And it will be good for the soul in so many beautiful ways. I promise that–especially if you’re a mom.

This good one by Lisa-Jo Baker–this one hit me in the gut–I’ve done this, and I know love isn’t about me, how good (or bad) my home looks, I’d love to throw my arms open wide and welcome friends into the chaos….

An important article on drowning as we all take our families to the pools and beaches this season…Your kids will not make a sound if they drown; read this to know what to look for…

Slices {An Abstraction on the Afternoon} & an Announcement About Concrete Words

It’s slippery wet as the skin is peeled off and drops to the ground. I bite right into the lushness and it’s like an aquifer. The water gushes and runs down my hands and their arms and the fiber-strings pull apart juicy sweet in between my teeth. A giggle bubbles up and I look at her and smile. Its strong tropic taste is nostalgic of a poisonous fruit, like a root you may have pulled up out of the ground in the Amazon jungle in the middle of nowhere, famished and ravishing its succulent oasis found inside there. It’s a little like this for us too, with beans and rice littering most of our days, scattered out over hot, baked-in, tongue-sticking-to-your-mouth humid afternoons.

It smells slightly toxic and pleasantly curative all at once, like a flower, like an infectious weed. They all beg for more, even the tiniest one. “Li-bit, Ma-ma? Li-bit?” We sit around the old woven, tangled hammock under our Sand Plum.

I voraciously gnaw at it until there isn’t much left and can’t stop greedily suckling in the profane lush that was hiding under all that green skin. I only now realize how undernourished I was, how thirsty. The more I bite and squeeze and pull, the more I want.

The sun’s rays call to me, gently pull on my skin like sirens. The little ones, they all run off, leave me in my ravenous hunger. The fruit is so fertile with life, and I suck it dry, a crescent all used up.

My sundress caves into the valley of me as I walk and I think blissfully of Husband returning in a few hours, how I’ll take him into my arms and love him.

The little one comes back and wants the last couple bites. I hand it over and she wanders the yard, grinding at the core of the fruit for the last of it’s yield, slurping what goodness is left to be had. I tip a cup over her hands and wash all the sticky off her hands and arms. She looks at me with big eyes and gallops off.

I lay on the lawn chair writing, with the sun on my back until the shadows creep over and I’ve drank in enough deep breaths and it’s time to go inside.

The afternoon is meted out in slices of fruit pared and placed in tiny, chubby hands waiting, and their small clothes folded in neat stacks side by side on the couch.

I call out to them, “I love you, all of you, my sweet children.” They don’t say anything, but I know they hear it.

In the space of this time, last drops of sunlight filtering in, it seems the day could last forever and the stacks of clothes beckon me to put them away.


212 from Nacole Simmons on Vimeo.
Gratitude: {1119-1135} warm days :: sweet fruit :: watching my girls swim at practice :: the chlorine, the restful sound of splashing :: having a sweet little friend of Ivy’s overnight :: cutting her hair and how adorable it turned out :: having her brothers stay to play :: seven kids in a house with just me :: going to see a civil war re-enactment :: assorted doughnuts :: working outside in my flowerbeds–the first time I’ve had this much energy in a long time :: a beautiful Memorial day celebration :: grilling out and time with family :: my grandmother’s hands making food in my kitchen :: Pina Coladas :: a spontaneous trip to town to get school review books for the girls

{This post shared with AnnLaura, Jen, Jennifer for #TellHisStoryImperfect Prose, the EO and Michelle} 

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

***Dear readers, this will be the last Concrete Words post that I will write for this summer. My husband and I have decided to send the girls back to public school this fall, so that I can rest and recover from chronic illness, and this Mama has a ton to do to get them ready for a test in July. I will have a couple of guest writers to host–the sweet Ashley Larkin has agreed to host it here at sixinthesticks on June 10th, and the ever-dedicated to Concrete Words Ruth Povey will be taking it on July 1st. I hope you will come back here for that! I have had so much fun with Concrete Words since Amber Haines said sixinthesticks will be it’s home for good. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! We will hit the ground running again with #concretewords when school begins in August. 
     
**************


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

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

Today’s prompt is the Afternoon


The prompt for June 10th is the Morning .{I’ll highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

Guess what didn’t get done when the internet was off here all weekend? A highlighted Concrete Words post! My choice is:

Ruth Povey at learning {one day at a time}–The Cup

and Kelli Woodford, our guest writer last week, chose:
Karin Deaver at Come Along the Way–The Cup

Can y’all give Ruth and Karin some lovin’ and share their posts? Be sure to connect with the hashtag #concretewords!

Now let’s have fun with concrete words!

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. This has been the hardest year 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?

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 a lot of us, who struggle with insecurity more than we do feeling great about ourselves and our talents,

maybe we just need to be told we. are. amazing.

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 today.

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 down, but 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. 






{This post shared with The Weekend Brew}

In Which I Highlight Concrete Words Posts and Give You the Best ‘Round the Net


A few weekend links of some of the best of what I’ve read ’round the ‘ol net {and some to make you laugh too–hope you enjoy! ~

Kelly Chripczuk– Spring Snow (Remain here, Stay)

Emily Freeman–Why I Want to Subscribe to Your Blog (And Why I Hope You’ll Subscribe to Mine)

Tara Pohlkotte–Reflection

Kelli Woodford–The Morning After

Ann Voskamp–How Hurting Women Can Help One Another Heal 

The Actual Pastor–To Parents of Small Children–Let me be the one who says it out loud

Kid Snippets: Math Class (Imagined by kids)

Beth Moore: The Hairbrush Story  

Dove Experiment Aims to change the Way You See Yourself –This. This! A thousand times this–if you watch or read nothing else this week–this one here!! 


Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Sink. I will be out of town at the Jumping Tandem Retreat–the lovely Kimberly Coyle will be hosting for me. Please watch her blog for a #concretewords post! {Something new–I’ll still be highlighting a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer(s) I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords are:

Ruth Povey, at learning {one day at a time} for her piece, Worship.
Kelly Chripczuk at A Field of Wild Flowers for her piece, Making Straight the Crooked    


I’m off to the Jumping Tandem Retreat, y’all! Pray for this introverted country girl? First time flying alone, and I’m so excited/terrified/giddy/ nervous about this amazing writer’s retreat, the people I’ll meet and the refreshing encouragement and courage I’ll come back with!! 

Linking with…

and Sandra for Still Saturday…

A Proclamation: The Banner I Wave Over Us Is Love {Five Minute Friday}

In this moment of kids slamming doors and screaming too loud,
of one sister calling out Mama, she hurt me, of another running across
the top cushions of the new couch,
I don’t yell back,
I look in their angel faces
I give them gentle, firm instruction
I stay here with them,
day after day
in the grueling every day
struggle for relationship work of it all
I relish in the joy of their childhood
and when their eyes flicker happiness,
it reflects in mine.
In these moments of anger
and arguments
of wanting to run, of desperately needing my own space,
I stay here with him,
I look him in the eye, tell him I love him.
I show him I’m willing to do the hard work
I’m not afraid of the humble work
It’s a banner I wave over us,
It’s a banner of love
It’s a proclamation here and now,
I will love fierce, and nothing you do will change that
I’ll stay here and I’ll love on
for the always and forever
Our souls eternally entangled in God’s great grace
It’s a blood covenant I make
when I leak out, my love runs red
I’m stretched and torn
And I will keep giving, keep loving
In these moments when sickness is at our doorstep, and invades
for these years
and the darkness tries incessantly to encroach upon us
Husband labors for me, he toils
He watches over me fierce and strong,
my rock
He doesn’t give in, and when I’m all over the place
he is never-changing, firm and solid
reflecting heaven
and the banner over me is Love.
for the always and for forever
It’s eternal
and has nothing to do with feelings
or with me, or I or mine
It’s never changing, always believing the best,
always hoping and never stopping.
We never stop being here.
Eternally.
Together.

**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 HERE.

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer(s) I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords are:

Maryleigh of Blue Cotton Memory for her piece, Soul Stories in Dust Jackets
Kelli Woodford of Chronicles of Grace for her piece, The Rising 

Five Minute Friday

True Revival: The Long-Lasting Kind {And A Call to Concrete Words}



So last year I wrote this, and I’ve been thinking hard on it, how I’ve failed at lent this year, how it’s been non-existent for me, how a diagnosis back in the fall, a diagnosis no one wants to receive, has taken over my life like some dark cloud, a dark, foreboding heavy cloak that weighs me down, seeming like a foreshadowing of what is to come. This illness, it seems to have sapped all the strength right out of me.

It lays on us thick, making the dredging through everyday feel like it’s impossible to force laughter to gurgle up and out. I sit in the cold stillness, sweater wrapped round my body, lambswool blanket my comforting security, and I watch them play, watch them laugh, and some days when they seem tired and docile, I worry about them.

Sometimes it seems like my long-legged girl has forgotten how to smile, and I wonder if she mirrors me.

My tall Lorna has such a strong heart, and there has been a few mornings she has woke her Mama up and brought hot tea. When she does these things for me, I see such a nurturing mother in her, already at almost twelve, and I feel confident and sure for all the future children tucked away quiet in her womb.

Their schooling seems to fall through my hands like too many grains of sand, and I feel the weight of what I cannot carry in this frail body I despise. I tell myself tomorrow will be different, and tomorrow comes and I struggle and they struggle sometimes too and the days blur, and every homeschooling mama knows this hardship.

It’s been three and a half years now, and this illness in my body feels like a mountain I can find no way around, no way over, no way through.

The doctor tells me we will send Lorna to Jackson University to a neurologist for the sudden passing out and seizures that’s happened twice, and I’m glad to have some answers soon, at the same time overwhelmed at all the work that lays before me with long trips to the doctor.

I talk to Husband about possibly putting them back in public school, because I am not handling the weight well, and my heart is in my throat as I say the words. We talk about it, in low tones, and it seems impossible, because one daughter learns differently and needs to be at home, and all the reasons that we decided to homeschool in the first place are what make this decision so hard. Homeschooling is a whole other, strange, wonderful, miraculous animal, and if you believe in it’s principles, then it’s painstaking to think of your child thrown back into the system, labeled “behind”, simply because they learn differently.

Once in a while at night, I drink more than one glass of wine, and I feel heavy, relaxed, and some crazy days it’s the only thing that calms the raging storm inside. Husband lays back on the couch and watches a movie with me, red deliciousness in hand, kids all finally quiet and sleepy for the day, until we hear squeals and screaming and fighting, and we yell “Don’t make me come in there!”

I kiss heads, feel the softness of my lips against their cool, sweet cheeks, and tell them goodnight, feeling the tug to do more, wanting to read with them, but knowing my body can’t handle anymore that day.

Ivy looks at me with questioning eyes as I lean on the counter, “You know Mama, you could just go lay down and take a nap…”

But my heart aches, and I stare at her thinking, and I blink it back, Oh, child, I don’t want you to worry about me. 

The words are stuck inside, a silent scream that I can’t get out: “If only God had not given me this bitter cup to drink!”

My friend tells me that maybe I need to take some time off, some time away from everything, if that’s what it takes to get better, whatever I need to do for myself and for my family.

I swallow down the bitter taste of truth coming from my friend. It’s a painful lump lodged there in my throat. I shake my head and shake it off. Leave them? I couldn’t do that. Sometimes a mother doesn’t know how to do what’s best for her, because all the synapses of her soul only know how to fire off and execute what’s best for her children.

I call Husband and tell him I’m not feeling well, and to bring me some Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, my favorite, or Chocolate Fudge Brownie. He brings the brownie kind. Seriously, Ben & Jerry’s when I’m supposed to be on a detox. And Lent? I honestly have hardly thought about it. I feel like a failure as I swallow down the cold, chocolaty goodness. But the chocolate sludge feels so good going down and makes me forget for a moment the trudging.

And so what more can I tell you, now that I’ve spilled my guts, let you see my soul?

We find the grace in the little triumphs and we find joy in sun-warmed afternoons. I try to remember how to laugh. I try to be brave.

I try to keep smiling when I see my girls looking at me, so intuitively, their eyes questioning, watching me.

We washed dishes today, my eleven-year old and I, and we sang loud to Journey (well, I did–she just stared at me like I was nuts), and we danced and I tickled her with soapy hands until she fell on the ground in a laughing heap.

The girls come to me now, all red-cheeked clamor, “Mama!! Lilly just said ‘Let me go’! I was holding her upside down and she said it! She said it, Mama! A whole sentence!” And it’s better than a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, revival church service.

We cheer for her, clap our hands, and we have a little church right here in our own hearts, in our own home, for these words were a long time coming from my little Lilly. It’s a broken hallelujah reverberating in my heart.

And it feels a little like real Victory, and the bitter cup, a way to learn what truest healing is.

It feels a little like true Revival, the long-lasting kind, the kind that lasts longer than a three hour church service in the altar, it’s the kind that gives children joy even while watching their Mama struggle with illness, the kind that makes Mamas stand up with the strength to continue in the face of adversity.

My friend wrote this at her place, and she asked “Where are the messy, gritty, stories of the still-lost?” I wrote some messy stories, stories that were very hard to publish, here, and here, and here, stories that show a grateful-for-grace-me.

And I will keep writing them, even though my temptation is to write helpful things, to give you 10 steps to a better you–I’m not going to do that. I just want to share my stories, and help you find yourself in them. I want to help you and I, and all of us find ourselves in need of grace.

“We need the blistered cry of honest voices laughing together with tears in our eyes (a desperate prayer, yes?) at how the Light always sneaks up behind us, even when the black is at its inkiest. We need to learn to trace grace’s fingerprint on the horizon, while still walking in the dark.”–Kelli Woodford

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Let’s not cast any stone. Let’s help walk one another home. (adapted from my friend, Tara’s favorite quote: “We’re all just walking each other home”–Ram Dass)

**Please read: Friends, because of this illness, we have some decisions facing us concerning the girls’ education, where we should live {I need to be closer to family who can help, and the girls need more options for their education}, and we are also considering getting someone to help me at home during the week. Please pray as I battle this and as we make these prayerful, very serious decisions for our family?

Friends, on Monday, blushing fire-red cheeks and all, I will be taking Amber Haines’ Concrete Words, and running with it–well, she’s asked me to, probably only ’cause I was the only one who jumped at it. And I’m so honored! She is no longer doing it–at least for now. We will gather here, every Monday, at my place. Since this will be my first week hosting #concretewords, I am using Amber’s words to describe what we do in this community. We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. I have had fun with this, and I hope you will join in and write your own, or drop by to read! Please help spread {since I’m not near as big as Amber ;)} the word via twitter and facebook, and don’t forget to use the hashtag, #concretewords.

Because of what I shared hereI cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs–although 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! Oh friend, I’m so glad you understand, and thank you for so much grace!  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 Emily…

Lean Into the Light, Pictures From A Nutcracker Birthday {and Gratitude}

My little Lilly,

this light that came into our life as a complete surprise, you bring joy in the dark places of me and how could I have known? Because if you’d never come, I’d have gone on with life as usual, towing the three kids, never knowing there was supposed to be a fourth one, the one to plow up the bad soil of me and make my innards sing, light bursting through the fragments of my heart.

We celebrated the third year of your fresh, young life and yes, I wanted it to be an affair to remember–I admit I did–a beautiful celebration of the day you were born.

I regret that well, I may or may not have been a little too involved in the baking and preparation. But I’m a creative being, and I want to celebrate you and God and goodness and His holiness and this creation and all the wonderful brightness there is in your smile and your laughter and the sun and the warmth I feel when we’re together.

How long do I really have, how many times will the hands go ’round the face of time before it ceases its race and I find myself bored, you having flown off?

When will time just run out?

I have a secret to whisper to you, baby girl–I. am. afraid.

Afraid you’ll grow and I’ll miss it. I’m afraid it’ll happen while I’m folding clothes, while I’m running, gardening, or pursuing any number of things that make me happy.

And God forbid I should miss you while I tap away at my computer, or talk to people through screens.

But the truth is, all of that will happen. You’ll grow while I put shirts in the drawers, while I talk to my aging grandmother on the phone, and yes, even while I write.

And the real nugget here, dear girl? You need me to do all of those things–even the things that make me sing-on-the-mountaintop-happy.

You need me to be an example to you of how life is lived.

Mothering is such a delicate balance of living a life of example before you of what a woman should be and throwing example out of the window for an impromptu game of tickles and giggles underneath bed sheets in mornings softest rays of light.

And darling, how I love running around in the grass chasing you, the sun shining down upon us.

How I love when time slows down as I watch the light dance in your pale wheat locks. As time slows, all I can see is light around you, on you, in you, it’s in every part of you and it is you. The light.

And only you could do that for me, girl.

How I love lying in our hammock in the summer barefooted, you piled in with your sisters while I read to you in low tones ’til it’s late afternoon and our eyelids droop and threaten to close.

And in the winter you are the only shaft of light in the dungeon of dark, rainy cold that creeps into this old home through holes and cracks. The way you bounce around the house, your halo blonde waving as you run in your tutu, you remind me that good still exists in life.

I admit I am afraid, child.

I know I will miss you once you are gone. I fear walking around in circles, trying to figuring out what’s missing and knowing all too well what is wrong, my hands with nothing to do, my heart bursting to give and all I can hear is the silence and the clock echoing on the wall.

I know the day will come.

And for now, sweet, sweet Lilly, I want to pull you close and whisper in your ear, how that really, we don’t have to fear.

I want to tell you this secret, sweet child. Listen close. Love conquers fear. The wild, forgiving seventy-times-seven, going the extra mile, makes no sense kind of love.

The love that turns the other cheek, the love that washes over with grace and counts no wrongs and leaves wide open spaces to be ourselves, and believes the best always no matter what, even when mistakes are made, and doesn’t want what God hasn’t given and doesn’t worry about tomorrow–that love drives out all fear.

And so, little one, I have told you the best secret of all. I have told you the only truth you ever really need to know.

And now you know the whole story. So lean in close to me, and let’s be fearless together.

Let’s lean into our Father. Lean into the light, child, always into the Light.

Starting up counting gratitude here once again:….#1037-1048
For writing again…
For finding my voice…
For chimes singing a wind song for me…
For being quiet enough to hear…
Hearing my little Lilly say so many words…
How they fill up the silence with glory…
How she  teaches me to listen…
For Husband encouraging me to come outside in the sunshine
Walking around the deadened, rain-soaked yard, looking at all things that were once alive that are now dormant and cracked
Really seeing the state of things for what they are
Hoping for spring
Hope itself

                              Pictures from Lilly’s Nutcracker themed third birthday party:

Linking with Ann in the gratitude community…..

Laura…

and Emily…

Silence–When You Fear What’s Not Normal {Day 11}



We go to speech therapy, and she won’t look at the lady making exaggerated O’s with her lips.

She won’t even look at me, my baby girl who is almost three and doesn’t say “Mama”.

I watch my hopes fall apart right in front of me as she refuses to acknowledge anyone in the room, pretends she can’t hear, frowns, focuses on the farm animals, whooshes them up in the air, silently, back down without a word, a sound.

Everything crumbles and I feel so empty. I hear not the sound the room is filled with–children coaxing, playing with their sister, the therapist talking and engaging Lilly, little farm gates opening and shutting, cows bumping up ladders–I hear the sheer volume of voicelessness. It feels the room and crushes me under the weight of it.

I really thought she would walk in, be pleased to meet her therapist, like normal children who engage their world do, and we would begin learning words.

This mama-heart aches as I watch my baby silently refuse the world all around her. I’m just a spectator in her
speechless world.

Somewhere along the way– between sitting on the foam mat, playing with horses and cows, and displaying sounds like candy in a jar we hope she’ll stick her hand in, and picking her up and carrying her out, soundlessly kicking my belly and thighs with her feet– it stuns like a tazer, that something is wrong. Horribly, can’t grasp air, mouth moving but no sound coming out nightmare wrong.

In my nightmare, I am mute, and in this real world, she is the one with the restraints on her mouth like a corset too tight, cutting off oxygen. And I can’t figure out what I did wrong, but I know it’s something I did very, very wrong along the way.

My heart thuds in my chest like a heavy gong and begins to move into my throat, to reverberate loudly, the beating of a drum in the dark, in the deep, that dread coming for me. It moves up, closer, tighter and squeezes, slowly cinching, until tiny bones bend and snap.

That dread, thudding, as I say it to myself: Is she autistic? Dear God. Has she just decided out of pure stubborness to be mute? Has something traumatic caused her to not articulate, to back far away into a corner, the musical notes of her voice disappearing? 

Because the ma-ma’s and waving, her calling bye-bye–it’s all disappeared, blown away somewhere on  the wind of all things in life that are lost, un-cared for, suppressed, inhibited, carelessly pushed down.

And what have I done to cause this? 

Was it the hours and hours spent isolating myself, shutting myself away from my family when I was sick? 

Was it all the times I let her go to bed without a story? Should I have read to her more? Loved her more? Held her, rocked her, talked to her more, looked straight in her eyes every. single. day, said I love you? 

Have I let her get lost in a sea of siblings, feeling she doesn’t have a place, a voice?

As she lies in my arms, I hold her, and I pray.

I weep as I pray, and it comes out in broken whispers. Tears stream and I come to Him completely broken and in need.

Oh Jesus, let my baby talk.
Let her begin to talk.
Father, wrap us up in your love.
Restore what has been lost.
Restore what has been stolen.
Take this illness that has plagued her and I, and with those stripes you took for her and for me,
I pray healing over us.
Touch my little Lilly, Father, with your healing hands, those scarred hands.
Loose her mouth, Lord, set her free.

It’s broken hallelujahs around here, and as I wrap my arms around her in the dark, in this dreaded deep, I feel God wrap ’round us and hold us right where we are.

Forgive me for being sappy, friends, but two beautiful songs I’d like to share with you, would you like to listen and worship for a minute, in this quiet, in this deep, in this dread, in this place of broken hallelujah, worship anyway with me?……
And humbly asking for prayer, to be guarded with angels and His blood here on the doorpost, as the prowling lion seeks to devour. I feel His teeth sinking in as illness tries to suck me back down, as my Lilly struggles to talk, as she vomits off and on for the past few months and we can’t figure out why, as Husband and I walk through the hard places and ask God for healing in relationship….

This I found through Ms. Holly: Gorgeous, friends….

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 what doesn’t feel normal, when your life is turned upside down, friend? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these doubts, these concerns? 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 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?   

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

And also linking up with Ann, Emily, Duane, Jennifer 

When You Miss Him & Fear of Religious Forms {Day 6}

My pen stalls and it’s stuck to the page, doesn’t want to let any words go. That pen, so stubborn, tattle-telling on my heart.

How does one write about how to have joy in the everyday when joy is so obviously elusive?

Maybe it’s been my heart that has been neglectful of what’s important–resentful of that “great secret” of Christians?

It is easy to avoid the truth and resent reality and so hard to face the stark consequences of every second, every minute, every day. My sin flavors every moment that ticks on that clock, mocking me. 

All I see on those hands are chains that bind, moments wasted, fretted away, moments squelched by my yelling, or my complacency, my apathy, my selfishness, my ingratitude. And there are more ways than one to quench the Holy Spirit.

I always wondered as a child, what does “quenching” mean? What am I doing to the Holy Spirit when I argue with my sister, disobey my parents, talk in church, don’t raise my hands and worship? Not take Him seriously enough? Am I ringing Him out, squeezing Him, hurting Him, making him sad?

As an adult, I get more curious and less assuming that what others tell me is correct.

I look up the meaning, and I find out that “quench” means to put out the light or fire of, to cool suddenly by immersion, to bring to an end, to decrease.

I ponder on this as I wipe tables, and I tell girls to make home clean and good-smelling for Daddy and then when he walks in the door, suddenly I am this sinful wretch, and I disrespect him with my tone when I don’t like his words.

In an unexpected turn, my blind eyes are opened, and I know no home that holds the heavy stench of hateful words can be made good-smelling by candles. 

No amount of Better Home will change this fact, either.

And when children’s hearts nurture their mother’s bad habits of disrespecting their father, in tone, in words, or just in a look– their bodies having been nourished with only healthy, organic foods holds no water.

And when a heart is tarnished with rebellion, no home can shine joy no matter how back-breakingly polished the old floors. 

Really–what good does it do for me to tell my children to make home cheerful and comfortable for Daddy when they see me tear down my home? 

What good is all my polishing, all my scrubbing, all my generosity for guests–if the smile is weakly and fragilely affixed, the one Anchor not holding me, because my gaze is not affixed on Him.

A smile can break so easily and a moment of laughter in this home can be fine china in the pounding wake of my destructive ingratitude. 

And I want to cup it so carefully, and the tighter I try to grasp at it, hoping to save it, it crumbles there like ashes in an unquenchable fire of negativity.

And I’ve learned that quenching the Holy Spirit of God has less to do with whether or not I raise my hands in worship, whether that man steps outside the service for a cigarette, that woman taps on her cell during preaching, or whether I can bring myself to the altar.

It has much less to do with religious forms and much, more to do with the everyday, more with my heart moment by moment.

I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is doing his work in that man’s heart who is holding the cigarette, and He is speaking to the woman’s heart who is holding the cell, though I can’t hear the holy conversation, and I bear more fruit when I am quiet in worship than when I am distracted by a form. 

One thing I’ve learned through a life-time of being in church, is that it’s possible the man who steps outside the service? It’s possible he has more humility than the man inside, praying ’til he’s the last in the building.

It’s why Jesus said it’s hard for the rich to enter heaven–they have no need of it. And when we rely on religious forms, and we think we have it all together, and we believe our prayers inside are better than the man’s outside, well, we are like the rich man who doesn’t need God. 

We think we know God, but we’re working with a hologram, a phantom, and don’t even realize it.

And I’ve come to resent religious forms, “how-to” books, 10 step devotionals–I want only real, only face-plant, I can’t do this without you God, I don’t need 10 steps–

I just need you, a holy God to come near.

And in my resenting, hard-heart ways? God has brought me full-circle.

Quenching the Holy Spirit is about every second, every minute, every hour and every day in the small things. It’s when I make this hallowed ground hell for my family. It’s when I yell at them and then smile for the guests driving up in the yard. It’s when I neglect the sacred moments of snuggling and reading in the dark for the computer. It’s when I isolate, fetal-position curled-up, and I lock myself away, and my family is begging me to come out, chubby hands reaching up, just needing so much love.

And it’s hard to let go of this fear of religious forms, and make this sacred time with God–learn how to get back to joy– but when I learn to reach out, how to let go of all my fears of being used-up and slain, and I lie down and read that book with them instead of something I want to do and it’s when I let go of my fear of religious forms and sing worship, hands in warms suds, it’s when I have gratitude for this moment and I break free in laughter about the baby climbing up and chomping down half a bag of marsh-mellows, that I let the Holy Spirit blaze ’round here.

And when I don’t let worship be tainted–worship I’ve witnessed being made profane–this freedom of me and God walking, Him whispering to me that I’m Beloved, it takes over in absolute joy.

I watch her, little feet pounding across pine floors, so much sunshine in her hair, and through this lens of gratitude, who couldn’t see joy?

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

Also linking with: Ann , Jennifer, & Duane

Do you struggle with fear of religious forms, friend? Does it hold you hostage–keep you from an intimate relationship with Him? 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…



This is Day 6 of 31 days of Fear. Since I started my Day 1 a little late, my “31 Days” will not have 31 posts. 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? You can find the entire 31 Day collective here 









Friends, meet my friend, Jennifer. 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 Jennifer’s site for a giveaway–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!