Category Archives: Sabbath rest

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} 

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***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. 
     
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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!

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For Your Weekend: A Little Madeleine L’Engle, A Little Photography, A Little Link Love

I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”
            ― Madeleine L’Engle

I‘ve been wondering lately, about childhood and why I write about it so much when I’m given a prompt or a 5 minute time-limit. It’s where my mind naturally goes. I’ve also been thinking about how hard writing has been lately for me, and for many I know. With all the noise, and loud voices raising to be heard above it, I wonder about still and quiet, child-like faith and wonder, happiness in simple things, and I wonder about happiness itself and how important it is to God.

I think I’ve about come to the conclusion it’s extremely important to Him.

Warmest wishes of love and happiness as you remember how to be a kid again this weekend, friends.

Need a little push?

I. dare. you.

So, run outside like a wild woman (or man) and swing with your kids, make fires out of brush and sticks and roast marshmallows and get sticky, sing songs, dance to old blues and jazz, lie in the hammock and read and smooth back their hair ’til you fall asleep, have conversations with little ones that stir wonder in them, chase them around the yard, and dare your daughter to see if she can out-run you with her long legs.

What do you think about Madeleine L’Engle’s quote? Tell me in the comments how you relate/don’t relate? Or meet me over here and let’s discuss there! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nacole-Simmons-Writer/504842422877296?ref=hl

And just to prove that I walk the walk, not just talk the talk, here ya go:

Jump-roping challenge during the Easter games my Lorna set up

The girls and I playing on the trampoline in late afternoon, us a rag-tag bunch

Me about to do some amazing award-winning gymnastics move. No, not really. 

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:
Ashley Larkin of Drawing Near–The Frame —this made me breathless, made me feel like I could fly–please give Ashley some lovin’ and share her post! (Remember to use the hashtag #concretewords!)
**Also, Kelli Woodford will be our guest writer for Concrete Words Monday, and our prompt is the Cup!**

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Some lovely reading & laughter for the weekend?

All the best links for me this week:

On voice in a noisy world…getting back to basics in writing..

Sarah Bessey —In Which I’ve Got A Song to Sing

Alia Hagenbach: Small grace

Ashleigh Baker– Simple Stories [An Invitation to Old-Fashioned Blogging]

Sarah Bessey —In Which (love looks like) an Unsteady Mother’s Day and an Anniversary at Wal-Mart

Seth Haines —Lyricism, Church Infighting, and The Creed–I keep coming back to this over and over…

Jennifer Camp– Waking Up–The Path to Experiencing and Creating Art–this deeply encouraged me.

At Bibledude:..
Cara Sexton– On Crumpled Bills and Broken Souls

Because we all need laughter in our lives:
Diane Bailey– The Exit Is Part of the Arrival  
Amanda Johnston Hill–Things I Tell My Six-Year-Old–have you been to Amanda’s site? If not, you should visit often. I’m in love with it. She seasons life with humor, wit, and fierce love.
This hilarious video– Pumpcast

Bending {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**edited re-post from the archives

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

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

Some Joy For Your Saturday! {Laughter Cures Fear Day 14}

Go outside, soak in the sunshine, and enjoy Sabbath rest…

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household…..She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”–Proverbs 31:21;25

I found this on Ann Voskamp’s site, and it was too genius not to share with you. The girls and I watched and this really is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. We laughed ’til our sides ached and the tears rolled… Maybe this can lighten your Saturday with joy? We’re all sick with a bug around here, and I tell you, this was just what I needed, as I stare longingly at the beautiful sunshine out my window….

You can find more laughter here {and free joy printables for the fridge, for around the home, to remind us of the importance of joy–I will be posting these so I will see my real reflection in them –see Christ– every time I look up} at Ann’s site….So worth the watch!

I’m taking a break from writing this weekend and resting, enjoying movies, taking care of littles as their tummies ache, looking in eyes and saying I love you, and maybe we’ll get a chance to run around outside in all this sunshine when the tummy aches are over….  Hopefully I will see you back here Monday for more posts in a 31 Day series on Fear.

You can find and read the entire 31 Day collective here.

Fear of Commitment and Guatemala {31 Days of Fear–Day 3}

Almost exactly a year ago, I said I want to do something with this grace given me, that my only right response to the suffering on that sacred tree is to reach out, not only vertically, but horizontally.

I have also asked God why do we keep being up-rooted, and why do we want to run from steely sharp steeples, but want to run into the arms of God and homeless people and little children–orphans who just need someone to hold them, them sitting all alone, no human hand to ever contact them?

So why am I still sitting here?

I want to confront fears of failure head on, the fear that I will not really be able to make a difference. I want to confront the fear of commitment–what will happen if I step out and commit myself to something, when I already feel so burdened with my own family, and my body feels weak.

I want to confront the fears born of selfishness that scream what if your husband’s hours are cut again like they were before and you six were barely able to eat and pay the house mortgage? Remember that–what that felt like? Remember when you were humiliated when others brought food because they knew you were doing without? You don’t want to ever go through that again. Never. Satan whispers death-blows, tickles my ear with his fork-tongue, coaxes me into languor and dormancy. I will face these fears.

I don’t want to continue doing nothing.

So I will do something.

And I still want to go, to be his hands and feet. I long to be poured out. But God has revealed just a small part of His will for me–that He has me here, pouring out to these, my children, and He wants me joy-filled in that. Yet, this desire stirs deep, deep within my soul. And I know, eventually, I will answer it. I do not know when–only God knows.

My friend, Michele at A Life Surrendered, has said some of the same things, has wrestled with this growing, aching need to go and be the hands of feet of Jesus. You can read about some of her questions and prayers, her groanings and worship to God, her experience in Guatemala, here at her blog.

I wanted to share this video so that you can see where she went, under a burden to minister to the sick, to feed the hungry. This video is beautiful and heartbreaking and achingly redemptive. This is something I believe in and will be giving to–Hope of Life, who works with World Help–the financial need to continue to rescue and nurture these children back to life is great–but each little bit we share and give helps a child survive. I hope you’ll visit Michele’s page here and consider giving.

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

Do you struggle with this kind of fear, friend? What has God whispered to your heart about it? 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 3 of 31 days of Fear. Since I’m starting 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 <—hover with mouse to highlight and click 

This post also linked with:

On Awakening To Where Church Is

 

In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.


He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.


My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. Joseph*, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.


He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.


Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.


From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. Joseph was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, ain’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

None of us have really talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Violeta* said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. Joseph is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. Joseph–
maybe he is Jesus to us today.
                            

                                                                 *names changed to protect people in the story                                                                             edited re-post from archives 

                                                                              
This post linked up with She Loves Magazine’s Awake: A Synchroblog.

On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}

 




In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.

He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.

My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. James, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.

He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.

Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.

From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. James was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. One minute I wasn’t there, and the next I was right up on him, he said. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, aren’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

They haven’t talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Viola said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. James is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. James–

maybe he is Jesus to us today.

 

















Gratitude in Pictures and Lazy Summer Days all running together…{#931-955}…:

 
The pure light of the two of them together…

 
Sisters laughing….the laughter in a home being medicine…

 
Older sister spinning little sister and the way she adores her…
 
 
Mid-summer backyard fun…

 
 
 
Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection…

 
My babies trying their hands at sparklers, their curious, joyous faces lighting my life….
 
 
How she will always take anything from Mama’s hand…

 
The perfect summer treat–ice cream in a cone {with raspberries and blueberries and dipped in baker’s melting candy and red crystals!}
 
Letting the ice cream run down because we can…
 
 
Taking in the wonder of nature…

 
That I can remember her like this…
 
 
Watching them play in the rain…

 
 
 
Old friends visiting….
 
 
 
The goodness of God’s bounty offered us every day…
 
 
Light caught on wood…

 
The wonder of color…how it captivates me…
 
 
Thank you notes written to Daddy for working so hard for us, an idea I got here, from Alicia, who I like to call friend–so thankful for her encouragement {that could be 2 thank-you’s!}…and it couldn’t have come at a better time for this Husband working 7 day weeks, the days so long…
 
 
Family in the backyard when Husband is home unusually early, the makings for popcorn popped on the grill, and pizza
 
 
Hearing their laughter, squeals; Hard Eucharisteo: calming their yells and crying…
 
 
How she carries her hippo and blanket with her everywhere she goes…
 
 
Caramel popcorn popped the old-fashioned way, the beauty of creating… 
 
 
Fudge adds the sweet finish…
 
Please come back tomorrow for the recipe for my Old-fashioned caramel-fudge popcorn! And maybe a story in the works….
 

**Friends,
your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; cleaning up potty-training messes or apple cores lost in the recesses of un-folded clothes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much…. if time permits, I will come by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my gratefulness.

Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…


 

  On In Around button



   
       

In Which I’m Real, Tell Why I Quietly Write {& Plead for Grace}

I settle a little one down whose cries awakened Husband, and I sob to him at 2 am that I feel like I’m being crushed. Panic racing through my mind–all the buzzing screens, clicks, words, conversations–play and re-play in blazing fast-forward like a bad trip.

When I lay my head on his chest, and he wraps arm ’round, it feels like being rocked.

I rock out the sobbing cry, snubbing and stammering out the fury of emotions held inside for weeks and months. I can’t breathe, I tell him, can’t sleep, and how I thought as I lie there that it would be better if all this was ended. It comes out in rythmic force. I constantly feel. as if the bottom. is about to. fall out. from beneath me. Hands flail in the dark and hot lava pours down flaming red, puffy cheeks. The Shadows don’t let him see, but Husband, he knows me. He asks if I always feel this way. I nod, murmur a quiet yes, the waves of terror all starting to subside as his understanding and caring begin to sweep over.

The social anxiety, insomnia, and depression here since Lilly was born, I google agorophobia and, yeah, I bashfully admit to myself, the symptoms are there. I didn’t know there was possibly a name for the feeling I get when I can’t keep up with the world.

I don’t know if this is the right name, but for me, learning that there is a name out there for this sort of thing? This helps explains the innate, powerful urge for quiet, why I run from social media in an age when “everyone” is constantly engaged, why entering the grocery store and going to church feels like I’m lying on a bed of nails. It explains the blurring mind-racing and sobbing at 2 am. My mind, my body just can’t keep up.

But maybe I’m not supposed to keep up. Maybe I’m not built that way–all this tweeting and sharing comments with the world? I’d like to softly whisper it, and send it out on the summer breeze: I don’t know that I’m God-built to be in constant contact, with distractions too many for me to keep my head from spinning.

Maybe that’s the good news here? That God already knows what we can handle? He did create the Sabbath–so He intelligently calculated rest into the equation of time, apart of our daily routine. He worked and rested–so I should work and rest. And rest–that can take on quite a different face for all of us. For some, this means never entering the full force of social circles that overpower and leave us weak.

Lying in his arms, I tell him I’m weak, that there are so many things I want to do–grow a garden with my girls, learn to knit with that kit my Mama bought me four years ago, read that stack of books, be a loving mama to these four kids, educate these four kids, just go out in the sunshine with them–and not enough physical strength to man-up to all the work everyday.

How many things do I have to pare back, pull away so there is room to breathe?

I serve on no committees, run no charities, bake no fresh bread. I’m just a mom who has a huge pile of laundry, a grocery list I’m afraid to go to the store with, and everything where it shouldn’t be–a few apple cores lying around in laundry baskets and books lying with their white-paged corners pushed just far enough, yes, smudged right there in the grape jelly on the kitchen counter.

And admist the chaos, I’m just a simple girl with a love for simple things: running, flowers, sunshine in my children’s hair.

I really want to say this out loud: I need these simple things–these God-gifts–to feel connected, to feel that I belong, to feel that I’m okay in this whole wide universe. 

When all around me and underneath me feels like it’s falling apart, I just want to know that I’m simply held, that it’s enough for me to just be and that God gets glory through that.

So maybe this really is the important thing to know: there are just seasons of simple. Seasons when all God is calling us to do is the very basic. And in some seasons the tasks of sleeping, eating, getting exercise and taking care of our families can even be a challenge. Every. single. day.

I’m not built to do it all. None of us are. Sometimes I just have to scale back on expectations, peel back committments so I can scale up these mountain walls and peel back these shadows to see–peel back this thick, dark cloud of burden, behind which lies the stage where real life is played out. Where food and Word is enjoyed by the whole family at mealtime, water satisfies children’s parched throats, and I look on lovingly, every bone in my body that cries out for heaven satiated in this small moment of God’s glory felt as I rock my child, yellow silky whisps brushing my cheek in these shadows. And it’s right here in these fleeting heartbeats that I know that I can’t be everything to everyone, but I can do this, right now, here in the quiet where no one sees.

It’s like Husband so wisely keeps telling me: “You aren’t a writer who happens to be a mother. You are a mother who just happens to be a writer.”

I will scale up that mountain, ask God to help me peel back that cloud, and shout out from it’s very top: God has made me free in His gospel of grace, and though these weary bones cry out for Heaven in this worldly tug-of-war, He has made me the way I am to cause me to turn to Him in praise! He makes me see His excellence in making me and I turn to His arms for comfort and rest. There I am free, really, really free, in His understanding Father-arms.

And in the shadows, God, He knows me.

Just a few of my Grace-Gifts from the past month, counting in thankfulness to God still:

one lone bright yellow maple leaf on the ground of the woods

hiatus leaving me refreshed and healed from so much anxiety

girls’ giggles

Husband working hard on schoolroom

messes in floors made by baby girls, all of us having work and a purpose, and buckets and mops making floors shiny

a weekend alone at home–just the two of us–and a day out of town having fun together

Husband grilling salmon and eating outside in the middle of the week

jumping up spontaneously on the trampoline to enjoy being with my girls and getting a workout at the same time!

kitchen table top gleaming beautifully

the way a wash rag feels in my hand as I make beautiful

a surprise visit from a dear friend

time to sit and write a letter to a close friend

time alone to run free in the woods

how he needs me, how I need him

**Please read–Friends, I write this post with a trembling heart, not knowing how it will be received. Because of what I expressed here, I will not be able to 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 with God is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. I thought of taking the comment section off completely, but I would like to give you the opportunity to share if you like. I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. You all really do add such depth to the journey here…Also, 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! I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here.  

joining with Ann for counting gifts….. and also for Walk With Him Wednesday… Shared with Emily…

Bending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude:

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

#631 planting flowers with my girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#650 ckicken and dumplings and pear salad

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

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

#653 A Granny and Granddaddy that love me so wild

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

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

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

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

Shared with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Sunday

slow creaking, creaking of the oak swing…sun playing brightly, children riding, laughing, spokes whirring, hair flying, country song playing, crooning memory lane, and he is telling us about our life, telling…paintbrush coating up and down, up and down, breeze blowing through trees, leaves’ hush settling me, settling, rousing my senses, awakening the dead man from his grave on Sunday morning, bringing worship forth in the morning. i call out to children, “watch your sister, stay close, watch her while you are playing, precious children, while you are playing.” man and wife chug by in Sunday best, driving, driving on the Sabbath. we wave, glad they are going, glad we are staying, mind at ease, us doing the Sabbath rest. setting fried chicken on table, all gathering, gathering ’round, and thankful for this filling, for this filling. after all the painting, and preparing for winter’s chill, husband looks at me, says he is tired from all the preparing, all the preparing. there is always more to do, he says. laying suspended together, laying under the trees, the wind stirs, stirring the leaves, and i tell him, “stay with me please”. i need to rest, i say, and i can always fall asleep laying on him, listening to the drumming beat. me lying with him, blanket comes parachuting over us, daughter smiling, enveloping, i see the laugh in her eye, and i lean into him where i feel safe on Sunday afternoon, littles playing in the distance on Sunday afternoon. the children come and waken us with their banter, and i say “children go away, children go play, i was napping, napping.” Daughter cries softly…her pants won’t stay up she says, and husband is shaking, shaking. opening eyes, i ask why and he starts, eyes twinkling and creasing, and it comes, the deep, baratone depths of it, ringing out, ringing out. we lay and shake together, the ringing carrying on the wind, on the wind. littlest one comes, having wakened from her rest on Sunday afternoon, and she comes out to me in the golden afternoon, the gold splayed by light dancing on leaves, the leaves shaking, shaking. we will stay, they say, until winter’s first frost. daughter calls, “Mama, can you play?” and we toss the spinning orb and it slices the air, spinning, us doing cartwheels while he is saucing and grilling. he joins us in our spinning dance and night’s falling shoos us inside, falling, falling on us. babies bathing and towels wrapping, water dripping as they find pajamas, a story and slumber, we hurdle towards sleep as fast as we can. we climb to the peak and then children finally sleeping, heads on pillows sleeping, we fall towards rest with sweet cream and strawberries, huddling in the silence, cuddling. we watch our sad indian story and then eyelashes fluttering closed, his arm wrapping around me warmth, fluttering, eyelashes flutter and then finally close on Sunday.





Gratitude:

#286 Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk brought to me by husband after a bad day

#287 husband watching with me on the couch just to give me some calm after a day of not being able to breathe and he calms the raging waters within like Jesus saying “peace be still”

#288 crisp, cool mornings–inhaling fresh air

#289 Sunday afternoon nap in hammock with husband

#290 Sabbath–rest

#291 friend texting me, asking to meet to run

#292 not a crowd, but a few faithful, loyal friends

#293 husband’s announcement–“I’m going to finish the kitchen floor and countertops to cheer you up” and him marching off to the shed for supplies and tools

#294 us all walking the plank over shiny wet floor to get to food

#295 my husband, my hero

#296 a father who comes when i need him

#297 a van that finally cranked and took me to an appointment

#298 my father, my hero

#299 how Bella calls to her sisters, “Mama’s home!” and rushes out to meet me

#300 husband telling children to play outside until he gets home so Mama can have quiet

#301 finding energy and organization of thoughts enough after these months to serve my home again–and the resulting clean neatness and sanity

#302 a quiet, simple life

#303 contentment

#304 kindness of strangers

#305 opening myself up to be completely led and the resulting joy and satisfaction

#306 the Shephard of my soul makes me to lie down in green pastures

#307 the way husband fills bellies with the word and wraps us in the warmth of his constant care and protection

#308 reading this story and this post as well on our 11th wedding anniversary together

#309 this video i found on a friend’s blog about a lady who asks the question–what am i living for when i’m dying? powerful.