Category Archives: reflection

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

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




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

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


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


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

ABOUT ASHLEY LARKIN

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

Gratitude: {1136-1153}….

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

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

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

***Dear readers,  I will not be writing much here at the blog this summer, save a couple of posts for BibleDude once a month.  My husband and I have decided to send the girls back to public school this fall, so that I can rest and recover from chronic illness, and this Mama has a ton to do to get them ready for a test in July. I will have guest writers to host–the lovely and ever-dedicated to Concrete Words Ruth Povey will be taking it on July 1st. I hope you will come back here for that! I have had so much fun with Concrete Words since Amber Haines said sixinthesticks will be it’s home for good. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! We will hit the ground running again with #concretewords when school begins in August. 
     
**************


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

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

Today’s prompt is the Morning


The prompt for July 1st…to be announced soon–please check back. {Ashley will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


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

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…

How Worship Is In The Broken Things {An Abstraction on Worship}

 Sunlight streaming so soft through the windows, and here I am in cut-off jean shorts and t-shirt, hands in soapy water, the suds are like large clouds I want to lay down in. Summer time comes through the blinds and the air-conditioning tries to keep up.

My hands scrubbing and scouring the blackened pots, it’s like I’m close to God because I’m a made-in-His-image-girl and I feel closest to His heart in the serving and the pouring of water on hands, on feet.

The water trickles and rinses off all the drought, all the dirt and scum. The worship music wafts on soap bubbles in the kitchen, and she croons and I listen to the story-song about a little girl who fell off her bike and hurt her knee, about a little girl needing Him desperately.

Come if you can, and you said, ‘I AM’

It breaks me, right there, staring at suds, and the intricate detail of iridescent colors, the warmth of the sink and the work making me feel alive. I’m singing along with her and the tears begin to fall, washing away the scum of my heart, and I’m a vessel broken, open, spilled, washed out for His use.

She sings about a little girl’s wedding day, about babies crying too much at 2 am, and I don’t know why, but there is a palpable presence in the room and I know Whose it is.

Come if you can, and you said ‘I AM’….

I’m broken, reminded what a sinner I am, because He comes to me when I least deserve it, when I’m really needy, and the most desperate.

And in that moment, right there, those four little words–Come if you can–they give voice to what lies deep, to the fear and doubt and this is real worship, to say what’s really in the heart.

No pretense.

Just real.

Talking to God like He’s a friend.

I’m convinced that He doesn’t care about altar dances late into the night, and endless prayers for hours for healing for the sick as much as He cares about one broken Come if you can.

Because it’s in the broken places that He’s nearest. That’s where He is really God. That’s where He’s strongest in us, when we’re weakest. That’s where we worship.

It’s a broken hallelujah He’s interested in, the broken hallelujah I offer up in the middle of the night, holding my baby, moonlight waxing the pine floor, rocking chair creaking. In a t-shirt and bare feet, with hair all haphazard and a bird’s nest in the very back where I’ve been lying, I rock her, and beg God in whispers so fragmented they are barely words and I cry.

When I go to church I don’t raise my hands and I’m the one sitting in a crowd standing because I have grown weary of shows and I refuse to follow a mere form. I’m no longer convicted of raising a hand being worship, and I’m almost sure completely that if I just close my mouth and listen, more worship takes place in my heart somehow.

The rebel in me is not a crowd-follower, but a Christ-follower.

My father sat in a pew once, arms crossed while my husband and I stood and worshipped. My three year-old child played under the pew. He leaned over to me later, said in my ear, “You know where I see the glory of God, if ever I’ve seen it anywhere?”

“In that child’s face.”

At the time, I thought he had absolutely lost his mind, and wasn’t altogether sure he wasn’t blaspheming.

But, somehow, being brought up Pentecostal and Charismatic, I am tired from the years that I felt I had to earn my salvation, had to work hard to enter the holy of holies, and I now see at thirty four what my father saw at forty-seven. What a crazy blessing.

To know that Jesus came to crush Satan’s head so I no longer need to work to be near God.

On this beautiful Sunday, I go outside bare-footed and swing my little ones on their wooden swing-set, lay out in the sun in my black bathing suit, hair tied up on top of my head, and slather on the coconut-infused oil while listenin’ to country music. It smells of tropics and I’m dreamin of a beach somewhere with eyes closed. My girls explore outside, getting their hands in the black dirt, so close to God, His good Earth in their fingernails, down in their skin, the sunshine strengthening our minds and spirits, and their laughter and my joy in them is worship to me and the flushed glow of their faces reminds me of glory and I feel like I’m in the Holy of Holies when I see her flying high up in the air, or I yell a little too loud, and I get to share the gospel with them because Mama messed up. Again.

I’m that battle-weary Christian, a little soul-jaded, who lets her hand slip tentatively up toward heaven in the sanctuary because it’s impossible not to when they sing those lines, that truth that makes my soul croon, makes me sway to a heavenly choir, leaning, ear tuned for that rhapsody, yearning for pearly gates.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect peace
A great high Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hand
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 



“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”

“The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). 

Gratitude: {1076-1082}

A friend who is willing to trade services and help me out by tutoring my girls

Getting to cut hair for my friend’s family and how spiffy they say they feel

Looking forward to a positive change for our family

Making up with Husband and how wonderful it is

The love Eddie and I make and how right it is and how it wraps us up in so much goodness

Giving husband a haircut and he beams proud like a new man

Packing for Jumping Tandem! Woo-hoo….(Scared and excited–pray for this introverted country girl?)

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

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, we “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place: fire smoke in the air, an old, tattered wooden swing, black rich dirt underneath bare feet, a woodpecker hammering at a birch. Go here to learn more of what Amber meant for us to do with concrete words when this all began. This will help your writing–I promise! 

A few simple guidelines:  1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others 
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or 
                                             sponsored posts 
                                         5. Consider sharing via social media to help get word out!
                                         6. Please leave a comment–I love getting to know you!
**Today’s prompt is Worship


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 highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!

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


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


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

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