Category Archives: suffering

Join Me In Sending The Plague Back To Hell


                    #BringBackOurGirls





In the golden bright sun, cross-legged on my porch swing, I read Ann Voskamp’s post on my phone, the swing lazily drifting back and forth. The words startled me. Because I thought I would read about girls from Nigeria. 234 girls still missing. Girls that were studying in a school to become doctors and lawyers in a place where getting an education can get you killed. I thought I’d read about these brave ones, these heroes.

Instead, I saw myself in her words.

I saw myself in the words, mistreated, dismissed, misunderstood and misplaced.

Yes, that’s been me. I am that Nigerian girl. She is me. Woman.

I’ve had boys spread things about me at school, calling me a “trick”, because I didn’t know how to say no to a boy who kissed me. I had been invited to his house for a super bowl party, and I didn’t know how to say no without wounding his ego, disrespecting the generous invitation. He grabbed me before I processed how I could retreat. I was on his turf, and he knew it. This is the conundrum so many women face. We are submissive by nature and it’s taken advantage of and then we are the ones blamed.

When will this stop?

Ann talks about a four year old little girl that was taken from her home in the village, and they searched, and found her in the jungle. She had been raped, lying there, crying. I know horror stories like these.

I lived them.

I hear of these girls on the other side of the world, how they are mangled, beaten to death, raped, taken from over and over. And over again. No right to human decency. No value. They don’t know what it’s like to feel they mean something. That they are something of worth.

I was out with some girlfriends in college, having a drink, dancing. I rode with a boy who promised to take me to a friend’s house. He told me he had to stop by a friend’s of his and pick up something first. But he kept driving, and city lights began to fade. We were headed in the wrong direction. My heart pounded in my chest, then my throat. I asked over and over, as trees began to get thicker, why are you driving so far away from town? Where are we going? The night got darker, the country without city lights, and I implored, pulse hammering, Can you please turn around and take me back? We’re not doing what you said–you promised to take me to my friend’s house. 

He told me no, to be quiet, that we were almost there.

We ended up out in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. The road was long and winding, with trees so thick and tall and wild, taking us away from the interstate. He pulled up in the drive. There was a log cabin. I refused to get out. Said I would wait there until he took me to my friend’s house. He demanded I get out of the truck, pulled me inside the house, where unspeakable things were playing on the big screen television, several couples gathered around. He continued to pull me up the stairs, and I could not walk, the drink making me heavy and foggy, not really knowing what was happening. So he dragged me. To the bed.

Later I asked him, once again, to please just take me home, to my friend’s house, now. But he refused, said he was sleepy, so I had to stay the night, in the bed with my rapist. I never made it to my friend’s house until the next morning. I didn’t even have time for a shower.

I drove straight to church, in a purple dress I had packed. And I was late. My parents were furious.

I sat down in the pew, on the front row, feeling every bit like the whore he had made me into as my father began to preach his Sunday morning sermon. I felt so dirty. And I didn’t know it then, but Jesus was right beside me. Because in a room long ago? I’ve written about that day when He made himself scandalous in a room full of religious leaders by allowing a known whore to kneel at his feet, to touch his feet with her hands and with her hair, a moment so intimate it seems inappropriate, sinful even. Was this woman trying to evoke desire? But Jesus saw her. He really saw her soul when he looked in her eyes, and when she kneeled at his feet, her perfume and her hair, an offering of the truest worship. He welcomed her intimate worship fully. And it was holy and good.

I have more stories, and not all of them were just one-time, unpleasant encounters. Some of them were long-term relationships where boundaries were crossed against my will. My face was grabbed forcefully. I was coerced and used, trying to say no, but my voice wasn’t heard. It was silenced. I was caged.

I hear these stories, stories unlike mine, and yet the same– stories of women being trafficked, even in our own backyard here in America, and it makes me cringe, makes me want to turn away, makes me want to shrink back in terror.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that as civilized as we are in this day, that young girl’s and women’s bodies are still being shackled for the entertainment of men, that they are being shot for getting an education, that they are being beaten to death for finding love elsewhere when there is none at home.

The foulness of it, the stench of bodies used and bruised and mutilated– it fills my nostrils and I am disgusted and angered. I want to do something–but they are so far away. I am an American stay-at-home-wife, with very little gas in my car, and no cash in my wallet at the moment.

So the question–what can I do?

What. Can. I. Do? THAT is the question

No more excuses. No more I’m barely keeping my own head above water, so how can I help someone else? 

Because do you see? If I don’t do something, then I’m inviting it to my back door as well. I’m welcoming abuse in to be lashed out on my girls, too. Because those girls over there and around our country? They are my girls. They are your girls.

The brave, beautiful ones in dark skin, and all the colors of God’s glorious rainbow, shining all around the world, they. are. real.

Let’s not buy the lie that because they aren’t here and we can’t see them, that they aren’t real and there is nothing we can do.

That is false, straight from the Greatest Liar himself. His lies are hellish, and keep all our girls in chains.

A very wise man said this~

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~Martin Luther King

If I sit back in comfort here and do nothing about what is going on there, then what I’m really saying? Is that it doesn’t touch me. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t move me enough to initiate action.

I’m complacent. Apathetic. The very opposite of love.

The thing is? It does touch me. This is not a problem just across expansive waters. This is not a problem we can fix by installing a well in Africa. This is not something we have figured out, because it’s in our own neighborhoods, our churches, our sporting events, the back seats of our daughters’ boyfriends’ cars, and in the alleys where young college students walk home from work.

We’d like to think we have it under control, but we haven’t gained the monopoly to a resolution for this epidemic that is turning into a landslide, because it’s. still. happening. We don’t have the patent on the solution to this problem, we haven’t commandeered this ship, because the problem is right here, all around us. It’s very close, as close as the hairs on the back of your neck when a man lets out a wolf-whistle and a snide remark as you pass him in the stair-well. And it’s also world-wide.

It’s all of us women. It’s you, it’s me, it’s Nigeria and it’s Nepal. It’s the extremist Islam countries, and it’s anywhere else we’ve been taught women are not human, that they are less-than, not equal. That they are a thing to be used, and not a soul that has eternal value. To God, that soul has so much value, it should make us quake in our shoes. But we’ve grown desensitized.

You may have heard this phrase (I have unfortunately been on the receiving end of it), a course joke, uttered in mixed circles–it goes something a little like this:

 This kind of thinking is like a dark plague, a disease that slowly, deceptively trickles in over time. You don’t notice the adverse symptoms all at once. It’s a slow decay.

This belief system is what has caused our world to be what it is: a world where women are forgotten, misused, abused, treated as trash to be taken out back.

I am a housewife, a preacher’s daughter. I have a white picket fence, and I live in a fairly safe neighborhood. I drive a nice SUV, carry pepper spray in my purse, and have conveniences at my disposal everyday. There is a policeman just about on every street corner willing to risk his life for my safety. It is a fine palace we live in, called the grand US of A. And these stories–they still happened to me. How much more, those who aren’t safe, those girls out there, living on the edge of the jungle, where government soldiers are afraid of extremist groups–how much more do they need our help?

I am only a housewife. And yet, I am so much more. I can do something. There is no end to the lasting ripple effect that will go out and out and out, if only I am brave.

I may not have much, by some standards, but let’s pull together our not-much, let’s be brave, and let’s stop this disease.

Let’s tell this plague it can go back to hell.

Let’s Bring Our Girls Home.

Linking with friends, Emily, Kelli, and Jennifer

You can go here (ß– click on the highlighted word) to give just a $5 donation to the Esther Initiative, a project that Ann is apart of to bring hope to girls and women all over the world. It is a project to empower women, something I think you’d be proud to be apart of, as am I. Isn’t this a perfect gift—right here at Mother’s Day weekend, when we’re celebrating women, and birth, and life itself? Will you give with me? I’m asking my husband to make this my gift. Let’s stand together. Let’s make our voice heard. Let’s let our sisters across the sea and right here at home hear our roar—we care and we will not stop, until this stops. We give you our yes, Father. Use me, Jesus, to sit beside someone in chains. 

What else can we do? Here is a small start: (baby steps, right?) 

1. Use this hashtag on social media–facebook and twitter. #BringBackOurGirls The story of the missing Nigerian girls wasn’t being covered until some angered women began using this hashtag on social media and making some noise. 

2. If you’re a blogger, write about it. 

3. Here is a link where you can sign the official Whitehouse petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/work-un-and-nigerian-government-bring-home-girls-kidnapped-boko-haram/fFcLj7s2  
 It seems the U.S. is springing into action, but the Nigerian government hasn’t shown much interest, due to the extremist groups– so this petition on the official US Whitehouse website is important. 

4. I’m considering finding a #BringBackOurGirls pic and making it my profile picture. Would you consider that, too? 

5. If you have any ideas, would you put it in the comments? Thanks! (If someone would like to make a picture for us to use for profiles, that’d be awesome. I’m no good at that!)

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On Vulnerability and Boundaries


{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging}



I am pleased to introduce you to our guest poster today, my friend, internet pastor, and mentor, Diana Trautwein. I am honored she agreed to write for us and share with us her wisdom in this writing series~ 

In the fall of 2006, I got a new boss. He arrived on the scene after two years of searching, two years marked by upheaval in my life, personally and professionally.  I had been working as an Associate Pastor, part-time, for almost ten years by then, and I was deeply relieved to welcome him and to learn to work with him and for him.
One of the first things he asked me to do was start a blog. Yes, you read that right. My boss, the senior pastor, asked me to begin writing my heart on a blog. He already had one, and used it for brief reflections on life and ministry, very rarely for anything personal.
But I’m not wired in the same way, and when I was invited to write, I chose to get pretty vulnerable, pretty quickly. And I loved it. I was careful, especially when trying to write out the difficulties that always attend a new working relationship. I tried to make it about me, and what I was thinking/feeling. And, for the most part, I found my way to a pretty good balance. I posted infrequently, about once or twice a month for that first year. I learned to import photos, and often chose to write about my family, especially my grandkids.
But in July of 2007, something hard happened. Our son-in-law was in the midst of a long and very difficult dying, suffering from the after-effects of intensive radiation to his head and neck when he was a teenager. Our daughter was trying to finish a masters’ degree in special education, so that she could go to work after fifteen years as a homemaker. Her husband was on full disability at that point, and they desperately needed medical insurance. Her program required a 10-week internship at a hospital 400 miles north of her home and she worked like a champ to make everything happen. Some weeks, her husband was well enough to go with her, but some weeks, he needed to be closer to home.
We housed her husband and two younger sons (the eldest was working at a camp on Catalina Island that summer) for one of those closer-to-home weeks. And that experience was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever walked through. Watching someone you love suffer — and watching how that suffering impinges on the lives of two young people — well, it was hard, sad, painful. . . there are no words.
But I tried to find them anyhow. I wrote a post, not using names, about watching this particular kind of suffering. I finished it late one night, posted it and went to bed. At 7:00 the next morning, I went in and removed it, feeling unsettled about writing something so deeply personal.
The post was up for less than twelve hours.
But in that time, someone close to him found it and was deeply wounded by it. I was crushed —   repentant, sorrowful, so sorry for causing pain and for further complicating my daughter’s life. My heroic girl was already exhausted and overwhelmed and my post made everything worse.
I crossed a line, one that I deeply regret.
My blog was silent for nearly two years after that. Even though my boss read that piece and was deeply appreciative and affirming about it, I could no longer find either the words or the courage to write them down in that space. I felt ashamed, and that shame forced me into silence, a silence that lasted a long time.
At the beginning of 2009, I tentatively returned to my site to write about my son-in-law’s beautiful memorial service. For the next couple of years, I used the blog almost exclusively to post public prayers and sermons, very seldom delving into anything personal.
Until I retired.
And something inside me opened and hasn’t shown signs of closing anytime soon. I believe that openness came from two things: 1.) a deliberate, prayerful attempt to move away from shame and to believe in forgiveness; and 2.) a delightful spaciousness in my schedule.
So, in January of 2011, I began writing in earnest – usually 2-3 times a week, and almost always about very personal things. During the months that I stepped away from the blog, I had learned about myself, about life, about writing. Most importantly I had learned this: tell stories about what I’m learning and how I’m learning it. TELL MY STORIES, not someone else’s.
Sifting that out can sometimes be tricky. I’m walking through the end of my mom’s life now, and I write about that frequently. But she knows I’m writing about it (when she can remember), and I always try to talk about her beauty, her warmth, her goodness, in addition to the harder stuff. I do not write about my grandchildren, except to proclaim how marvelous they are, never about where I’m worried or concerned for them. I write honestly about my marriage, but I don’t write about some of the deeply personal things that are just for us.

And I pray every time my fingers hit these keys, asking for wisdom, discretion, truth. I also trust: I trust that God hears and answers those prayers, I trust that if I overstep at any point, some kind soul will tell me, I trust that what I do with these words comes as a direct result of God’s call on my life to write my stories down.




A retired-part-time-pastor-learning-to-be-a-spiritual-director with a family Diana adores, she senses an increasingly urgent call to write-her-life-down, to preserve her sanity and create some space to breathe. You can find her here, at her blog, Just Wondering–where she tells the stories God is writing in her life. She can also be found tweetering here on Twitter
linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate
{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford’s series: Brave Words? 
                 It’sback again! This is going to be delicious. Please stop over there 
                                      today and give her trembling, brave heart some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing–Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}

Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

When You Need A Cure {An Abstraction on Come}

The visit–it woke me. And her question in that letter that traveled several thousand miles to get to me? Pierced the heart.

It was a joy to read your last blog post…I rejoice with you at the depth and tenderness of our Father’s care for your soul in this. I know the fruit of His Spirit in you was hard-borne, but it is so beautiful, and its sweetness has His aroma dripping from it. How have you been growing and testing the sweetness of His care for you since writing your last post? 

That poignant question.

I’m not the same I was this time last year. And I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. It feels bad.

We had made a pact that next Christmas would be different, standing there in the middle of the kitchen, cans lining the shelf, oatmeal, bag of sugar left opened, the grains scattered out, and two bags of rice because we forgot we already bought one. And the cabinets with no doors that bother me so badly, they an eye-sore, give away what’s obvious and wants to be hidden. The food stares back at us.

All of my choices face me. Pumpkin. Maple. Spicy chili mix. Oats. Corn. Green beans. Dark cocoa.

And children in the slums today, their only choices are garbage or rotten garbage.

We said we wanted it to be different, without all the hustle and stress of picking out gifts last minute, and long lists that don’t really satisfy the soul. We wanted it to be about more than just the sweet soft melt-in-your-mouth peppermint sticks filling our Christmas sugar bowl, the beautiful Nutcracker soldiers standing guard by the tree, or even toys and lovely stockings filled to the brim from Santa.

We said we wanted a Christmas overflowing with a different kind of joy –we would choose gifts from the magazine instead, a goat or a pack of seeds that would be planted and meet daily needs somewhere across the ocean for years to come, not for someone with a long Christmas list, but for a family who just needs to eat.

And the tall girl, the first born who came into the world wailing for months straight and sweetly suckling at my breast, the one I smile at and softly stroke her forehead as I tell her I didn’t mind how much she screamed–I just nursed her again– and her face illuminates like Christmas balls on a prickly pine tree at my admittance–

she had given us the magazine, put it on the counter by her daddy’s things, next to his keys, worn leather wallet, and hat, to remind us of our choices.

Choices at Christmas time. How they can entangle.

I’ve been dead and I just. need. to. wake. up.

I get up out of bed to answer the door, and there stands my friend, dark hair and her eyes asking, and her husband just there behind her, and my first thought is how my hair is a rat’s nest and I didn’t shower the night before, and haven’t brushed my teeth yet, and my life is chaotic and….the room spins a little… How can I invite them into all this mess? Surely they’ll be embarrassed to see? And me–ashamed.

But they give a big smile and warm hug, say they stopped by from their trip back home just to pray for me and talk for a few minutes.

He anoints my head with the oil, and it’s like a soothing salve. The care of Christ’s body is healing to the soul. They pray with me and we talk about forgiveness and grace. I feel God’s presence so strongly when they leave. I know I’ve entered in, talked and walked with God. I easily forget.

I’m a lost Israeli daughter. Always forgetting. Always hoping. Always looking to the horizon, aching for a hope, shuffling my feet in the dirt again, dust veiling my eyes.

What will save me next? The newest book out on Amazon? I find nothing to cheer or comfort me in their thin, wanting pages.

Calling up my friend and talking about my struggles? Venting? That relieves the moment, but what
will keep me secure and grounded, not today, but tomorrow and every day?

Christmas cheer leaves me feeling empty without the Savior.

I keep thinking that there must be some answer and I feel stupidly ridiculous for needing a cure, but it just. won’t. go. away.

This need to do something other than just sit here, in this dead skin, moving my limbs through rote tasks every day as if grace is not real, as if sacred breath was not breathed into my body by a Holy God, and crackers and cheese and orange juice with children around my kitchen island are not Christ’s body and the new wine.

As if every day that I wake up is not a miracle.

The man, he said he had tried everything there is to try on earth, and he found life meaningless.

And the longer I live, the more I see that I’m just searching through a fog of fleeting moments, one vapor disappearing, and my eyes are drawn to yet another. This is not real. This is not the answer, these fleeting things that do not satisfy the soul.

A book, new music, a conference, a new activity, presents under the tree in shiny paper, even people being changed by our words–all of it is meaningless without Christ. Because without Him, it’s just a fleeting happiness, a vapor that is gone in the wake of another high.

The kids–they have a long list. The tree was too bare the past few Christmases, they said, prickly cold branches with nothing underneath to warm it’s girth, to fill the laughing belly. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. And I have a long list too–of failures. They wrap around me, knot up and as far as I can see, there are all the things I do wrong. And I keep tripping over them everyday.

Entangled.

It seems I’m stumbling and heading straight into Christmas–the momentum is unstoppable and a crash is inevitable. No planning, no thoughtful meditation, no change-the-world-ideas.

There’s just me, and all this failing.

I stand at the sink in front of that little blue canvas that reads– Dare to make that difference ~ take that step ~ follow that dream ~  and I think of all those failings. As I scrub, my mind is working fast and hard, reminding me, and then something hits me in the face. Pop–and wakes me up. Stunned, I peer closer, really seeing, and notice what I hadn’t before. All the bubbles, floating up, all around, and they’re landing on me, tiny iridescent orbs dancing, teasing, mesmerizing. But I hadn’t even seen it before. And I wonder, Is this what Ann was talking about? I look at the little blue canvas and just smile to myself like a big dork.

I need Him to come. Yes, though I don’t want to admit it, because I’d like it to be easier–He is still the answer. There isn’t some easier way to the deepest satisfaction of a full life. I have to give my whole heart.

He’s a bit mysterious and it requires me to soften my heart. His Otherness requires just a bit of effort on my part–faith. But oh, how I need Him to come. And maybe, just maybe He will do the softening and changing.

So, being the lost daughter that I am, I’m desperately looking up, and with all my Jewish and Greek family, all of the bloodline and the ones grafted in, of past and present, I hope.

Oh, Emmanuel come. Here, now.

And while I’m hoping and asking that He will come, friends, I can no longer just sit here in this deadness and pretend there’s no miracle and ba-hum-bug my way through Christmas. So…in an effort to let the Creator to do something through me, I’m using my creativity and posting a photo of me (hopefully a fashionable one) in a dress every day to help free women and girls (and boys too) from sex trafficking and slavery. The project is called Dressember and you can go here to find out more, or go here to sponsor me and help me raise funds to offer Christ’s freedom to these in need of rescue. I’ll be writing more about my experiences and struggles with this very soon, so be on the look-out for a post on that! I owe it to my friend, Deidra, for igniting the desire to do this. If you’re interested in the jute bag in the picture, they’re made by Free Set, a fair trade company who gives jobs to women who’ve been rescued from the sex trade. If you’re interested in “picking out gifts” for a family in need, you can go to Compassion International’s website or World Hope’s gift catalog . Ann Voskamp and friends of mine work with all of these organizations mentioned in this post, and they’re legit.

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

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

Today’s prompt is Come


{I will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

Concrete Words: New Beginnings {An Abstraction on Soil}

Standing right there in the middle of the cold vegetables and fruits come right up out of the soft ground, he sent the text.

Tons of spider lilies in back like Jesus sprinkled his blood over our new beginnings. I know we have a long road but I liked the scene.



I cried on my Granny’s soft shoulder, a pillow for many sorrows over seventy-seven years, and then wiped my eyes and picked out some salad for an easy supper.

Sometimes marriage is like that, a long road to healing. Sometimes when we clasp hands and slide on matching shiny rings, crying for the hope that is to come, we don’t know we are broken and depraved and that there is darkness lurking in our hearts–darkness that Jesus means to overcome in us.

We don’t see how the hard ground must be tilled and tilled and rained on and battered by storms until seeds begin to take root and grow, the weeds plucked out.

We had argued about directions on the way there, and arrived so late that we thought we would not be able to even get into our cabin. The old guy waiting up for us by one small oil lamp light amongst a foresty-dark farm, said the cabin was a 30 minute drive away. Oh. We were thinking a little walk down the old pine boards and we could lie down on the antique frame together, fluffy old quilts a welcoming respite after a 7 hour drive, and fire crackling bedside.

We stood on the hard wooden floors, and waited as the bearded man retrieved his go-to direction sheet, the lamp’s light dancing a glow across handmade chairs and tables made only the way mountain-men can craft, their wood carved, not flattened through a planer, their edges left as nature intended. They were rough and beautiful. Hard and appealing, needing a sanding but still catching the beholder’s gaze with their uniqueness.

Old trinkets were scattered around, a wooden clock with a coo-coo bird, soft cushions, and beautiful pine. Already I felt a little at home.

But we were not home–not yet. After saying goodbye to the old man, we drove 30 more minutes, which turned into an hour, winding through dark, country mountain roads with poorly written directions and too tired to keep our tempers in check.

We finally found the drive, and the tires slowly creaked over gravel like even they were tired. The mountain trees we wound our way through, they beckoned and bowed over us, angels bowed before His glory and all of creation, even they in awe of His created beings.

A fire was kindled and started in that hearth and in that bed, and that heart-shaped tub.

My husband, he surprised me by getting up before me the next morning with the camera and capturing the light splayed in across a stunning display of antique tea pots, china and oil lamp placed so delicately and thoughtfully by someone on pine. God’s light shown through the small breakfast nook, the windows almost blinding and my feet shod in his peace, the path set before me with his illuminated word.

I had laid under the heavy quilts, a weight keeping me sleepy, while he brought coffee up the pocket sized winding stairs. They were handwrought, sharply-cusped and we had joked that there was no way any elderly person should rent this cabin and there should be a disclaimer. He walked over to the hem of me, fire thoughtfully hovering and fading a few feet away, laid the cup in my weary, heavy-lidded boned self, and I drank in the warm hazelnut deep like I’d never get another drop.

I can’t quite remember, but I think maybe he walked away with a contented sigh.

We had breakfast in a gloriously lit room, more pine than I’ve ever seen in one place in my entire life, and I could not help myself but take shots of everything, with people all around–the piano, the light underneath on gleaming gold petals, and the morning sun smiling in on couples murmuring perhaps little sweet nothings to one another.

We walked up the mountain together, started out on a hike too great for us, and my husband, he grabbed a stick for bears, but in my mind, nothing was too big for me to handle.

I guess I’m naively stubborn like that.

There is a fire in my bones, something that drives me, a passion, like a warrior Indian princess. There is Cherokee blood in me after all, my daddy says, coming down from his grandmother’s long raven hair, even in her old age.

Something about that mountain dared me to climb it, and my soul cried out You’re nothing! I want to be up there with you on the top, to shrink back from nothing and to see everything and to feel the icy-cold wind of freedom on my face!  

We trekked through bountiful fallen gold and orange, and then we slushed through snow, and it came to a point where he asked me to turn around because we were having to jump tiny creeks that only had rocks to leap onto. But in my heart, I could not turn back–I so loved jumping the rocks, the tiny waterfalls, and I dragged him along with me, squeezing through large boulders and snow, almost getting our feet trapped, feet that were not shod and prepared for this mission.

Every hiker that came down from the mountain looked at us like we were loony, but I truly believe I could have climbed to the top with only my Indian princess animal skins on (and fur boots made of buffalo of course).

We argued some of the way, and he nearly lost it for me pulling him so high up the mountain.

He said, honey, it is getting dark soon; all the hikers are coming down–the bears will be out and there will be no one to call to for help. The snow will only get worse from here and we are already drenched. Let’s head on back, please?

I looked up at the top of the mountain and it called to me. But so did my husband.

So I made the right choice.

And through great courage and discipline and solidarity of mind, I turned around and listened to the wisdom of reason, though my spirit wanted to soar free.

Courage can take many different forms. Sometimes it means just listening to reason when I don’t want to, and giving into something and compromising when everything inside is screaming NO!

Sometimes it is allowing God to prick the hard ground of our hearts and till up soil, to call up a friend when it’s been a while and say I’ve been thinking of you, and though things have happened, my love for you has never changed.

It may be confronting that great, big mountain of fear in our lives and trekking up the steep, smashing boulders when all we want to do is turn around and go back down.

Or it could be going around a mountain that’s not meant for us to tackle, and God says there’s a better way, perhaps a harder way, in the deep places where the evil things lurk and we must get our swords out, fight and pray.

Maybe it’s as simple as plucking up some of that hard ground of our hearts with His truth, and asking a friend for forgiveness, or going over to a neighbor to help or ask for help when we’ve been wounded.

Maybe it’s in admitting we need help to someone we trust. And healing comes. And when those we trust betray us, we release it to Him who was broken completely and totally into and is our Comforter, and we just keep loving, and healing comes.

There are always new beginnings for our woundedness and there is nothing God can’t tackle, but we have to let Him give us the grace to allow Him to do it in that hard soil.

Then, maybe we will look out and see the red burst into bloom, scattered bloody all around shooting forth, up and out toward the sky, grace, forgiveness, freedom, joy, peace, righteousness, goodness, love, forbearance, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

There are always new beginnings…in Him. And we are saturated in it.

 Now let’s have some fun with Concrete Words! (Please keep writing centered around the prompt:SOIL Thanks!)

Tainted: Concrete Words {Guest-Host}

 I’d love for y’all to welcome the ever-lovely Ruth Povey, whom I call friend, to this space today. I am indebted to her for her loyalty, her support, cheerleading, and excitement over Concrete Words and my writing. She’s been a true source of encouragement. Y’all give her some lovin’ for her vulnerable heart poured out here and share her words!

                                                   photo credit 

I can see her, fourteen and shirt cut too low, flirting outrageous.  Longing for some affirmation, drawing it out of them the only way she’s ever known. From toddling age, she learned her worth lies in sex and now fourteen and contaminated, her worth lies in tatters.  Love’s understanding tainted by lust, shows a little more skin.  As if their wandering eyes might justify her.

And hardened, the tears never come, so frustrated she cuts her wrists through with a blade. Punctured, she bleeds and the pressure releases.

She’s grown up in church and been filled with knowledge of the God who judges harshly, the distant Jesus with his thorny crown.Condemned, she’ll never measure up to the Sunday School Girls, so she hides in the hallway and melts into walls.

***
A decade on and the songs kept calling to me, singing me home and into the church. And tears came one day as I mouthed broken lyrics, telling how he loves me. A dam collapsed as I suddenly knew it – that he’d bled out to purify me – and week in, week out this heart cried, grateful.

They taught on Isaiah, stood before the throne and how he’d called out:

I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.

Yet I have seen the King!

Isaiah 6:5

Yet I have seen the king – my spirit was quickened and I read about seraphim who cleansed lips with burning coals and asked who would be a messenger for the Lord?  Isaiah, though he’d thought himself filthy, he’d responded all the same:

Here I am. Send me.

Isaiah 6:8

When mud clings to your soul and love has left you choking. When your worth is scattered, filthy rags about your feet – know this. You are loved with a pure love – the daughter of The King. 
I could tell you I’d felt that truth wash right through, cleansing my inside out, but I’d be telling you lies.  I wish I could say how I walk now, daily holding on to this.  I forget to, so often.  It’s a glimmer of understanding, fanned flaming some days and I hope that one day it’ll consume me.

***

It began with a response:



Here I am – I whispered it first and I sang it out, hopeful: Send me.



ABOUT RUTH POVEY: 

I’m Christian, mummy of two, wife to one, SAHM, and registered nurse. Once upon a time I was a teen mum too and my beautiful daughter is now nine years old. I love notebooks to near inappropriate levels, as well as music and buttery toast. My life has been by no means white-picket fenced but I’m working on my future, one scribbled-down page at a time.      
 Author Website  :      follow on facebook

This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory Emily for Imperfect ProseMichelle DeRusha

***Friends, this is the only Concrete Words post for July. I’m still on break, but will be guest-posting on the 19th of this month (more on that later), and I will also still be writing for Bibledude, so don’t miss out on those. I’ll be back the first week of August for Concrete Words! We will get right back on that horse and have fun doing it! Writing like we can fly, like balloons floating free to the sky, ever, ever higher. I love you all and thanks for sticking with me! Happy summer to you. May you be filled with grace, sunshine, love, rest, the exhileration of adventure, and deep, deep exhales, my friend.

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 Tainted


{Ruth will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit her place, or her facebook page (link above) 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}

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 

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:

Fear Won’t Stop You {31 Days of Fear–Day #2}

Day 2 of 31 Days of Fear…I ask for grace for this posting from the archives, but I’m working on something, and I plan to take a break over the weekends–weekend posts will be short but sweet–I hope you come back to take a look, to taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus in the midst of my fears.

I set out, screen door slamming behind, metal vibrating and hear the crunch-crunch-crunch, wet, grainy- smooth underneath my running shoes and I can barely get a good breath in.

As I pound along the road, tightened ribs begin to separate and lungs expand and I suck in the oxygen deep like a milk-starved baby.

I throw my head back and look to the pink and purple sunset sky above and just run like that wild like a child.

And it’s like in this inhaling, I’m breathing in God and the quietness settles heavy on me and a chorus rises, a symphony swells. And I can hear it all–the frogs in the marsh, birds call off to the east and the west, all around and crickets chirp in the grass my feet breeze past below. And it swells and rises up to meet me, lifts me up in it’s crescendoing.

I run past a white-tail deer, leaping and bounding away from me and then the rushing water of the river underneath the bridge. I turn and go back, climb up on the rail, all childish giddiness, peering down into the water, listening to her quiet rhythm, and the flood waters rising, they touch me with their hush.

I run past fields turned marsh with standing flood waters where cows once grazed.

And God said to me, “All these flood waters? They are neck-high because you are drowning in my grace. And that weight that makes you feel you can’t breathe? That’s my glory. Daughter, your drowning is not without purpose–you’re sinking in me.”

I let out a cry and it comes out hard in pants as I run.

And God said, “Daughter, do you see the burning bush? And do you see the thundering mountain? I look up and see two dark clouds in the sky, one like a burning bush and one like a mountain.

“Sometimes, child, life’s flames have felt too hot, the fire has seemed unquenchable and raging, but what you couldn’t see in the consuming fire, was that it was me burning into you. And the mountain has thundered and shaken you. There has been a quaking and everything has toppled down, nothing has felt stable and now life is turned upside down, but sometimes that is the way I move, thundering and shaking. And it’s been me all along. Though you searched hard, I’ve been right with you the whole time.

And God said, “Those trees you see that look as if they are about to slide under the sucking current–what you can’t see is that underneath the water, the roots go deep and strong because they’ve been hit over and over and over by the storm and they know how to hold on.”

Then God shows me a giant black hand in the sky and it’s pointing to a huge black cloud that resembles a storm and covers a vast area of land. “This is how you’ve been guided all along,” He whispers.

And God says, “Daughter, the whole time you felt I was nowhere to be found, even that I had forsaken you and you thought you were sinking, child–I was holding you up. And you see that joy on your face, do you feel that fierce love you have that covers over an offense? Do you sense new level of grace, that new-found freedom that makes you strong of heart, being firm in who you are in me, yet you are able to be Christ’s scarred hands and feet to those who drive the nails in your own hands and feet?–That’s my mark on you, daughter, because in the midst of the strorm, when I passed by as a cloud so intimately near, I left my imprint on you. Do you know you have my imprint? You bear my image, my name, my glory, my power, my resurrection life and there is no end to what you can do, child? Did you know?”

“Yes, I’ve left my imprint on you.

You. look. like. me.”

The bats, they swoop low overhead, and look for prey in the night. The night-song rises and speaks to me. I hear God say, “Daughter, it’s here in this night, in this groping-along darkness that you’ll find your courage, your strength.

And fear won’t stop you.”

Faith swells and I’m swollen pregnant with this promise here in the dark.

                                                                              *Edited post from the archives

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

Do you struggle with 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 post also linked with:

Orphans At The Gate–{What To Do When You Are Wandering and Failing}

I’m good at ignoring reality, bad at serving others’ needs, even my own. It’s my naturally introverted personality. I really need to engage quietly with my world–bathe in sunlight, pause at a meandering brook, revel in children’s laughter, bathtime’s bubbles and bedtime’s wandering stories.

But sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I go too deep inside, so deep it’s unhealthy. I forget to eat. Hours pass while thinking and writing, and we haven’t done homeschooling and I marathon-race to catch up to time, my old nemesis.

I go so deep, I don’t do what’s best for me and my family. I don’t run because I just can’t bring myself to walk. out. that. door.

 I don’t go to church because the lights are too bright and people’s handshakes make my fragile soul quake. The sheer thought of the sea of faces makes my stomach lurch. Slamming doors, blaring toy horns, and the sibling screams and fighting make insides churn.

And I grow weary of growing things–flowers always so dry in this heat, children that won’t relent, thirsty for me–and I’m thirsty myself. They always need me, pull at every corner of me. I’ve given way more of myself away than I would’ve ever dreamt possible when this all began. And yet, I know that God, the Master Gardener–he never grows weary and so I pray for some of his strength, seek His face like a blind woman, feeling the grooves and crevices with her hands, desperate for some spark of recognition, some slight remembering.

It comes out in a whispered hush when I first get out of bed in the morning and Satan whispers his first words of defeat to me for the day. I hear him–“You’re such a failure, an idiot–you should just crawl back in bed.” I hate that I do this ugly self-talk, and my soul cries and it just comes out gently hushed–in barely audible groans–“God, help. Help me through this day.”

I want to find a well that runs deep, an oasis in this desert. God, He’s still gardening, though my eyes see darkly and I can’t make out the fruits–He’s preparing something like paradise. Oh, I’ve searched so hard and so long, so desperately I’ve drank blood from the camel’s side, letting it substitute when God offers real drink in this parched land.

And my eyes widen in horror at what I’ve allowed my children to drink in lieu of God’s pure goodness and sweet righteousness.

How?! How, I ask God, can I give them drink, these children looking at me, thirsting, when I am parched myself?

How do I die to self some more, because really–I get it–I think that’s what you’re asking of me–asking me to forge on, to travel through this pilgrim land searching for the Promised Land, only a cloud to follow, the holy heaviness of you pointing the way.

My eyes are hazed over with the fog of you, You all mystery, and my limbs are weary with the weight of promise and the burden of this place called Now. I groan and ache with the reality of it.

And I sojourn with others weary–I see it in their eyes, hear it in their words, read the pain in their face as they stand there and tell me that they had lost all hope. Yet, I know You’ve promised so much more–and all you ask of me is to trust that I will some day hold the promise in my palm.

For now, it is elusive this side of Heaven and Your perfect Presence, and the only real joy here, now, is getting to know You, tasting of you, yearning for you more and more until my heart’s cry is only “More of you! More of you! Christ, come! Come, and save! Part those skies and ride in like thunder, swift, mighty, fire in your eyes, take me, Beloved!”

But here I stay and while I wait, orphaned, here–in this Now–I wander under-prepared and oh so inadequate and I just beat on Your chest, God, like a confused, angry child and beg, “Why?” My heart hardens and I struggle in my own sin-stench. I have been the desert-wanderer, the chosen child, grafted into your family vine–I’ve been that one, given so much grace and refusing to see–refusing to open my mouth and eat the manna.

My stomach lurches and groans with pains and yet I refuse to see the manna you’ve provided as good. 

I don’t do what’s good for me. I go deep inside and hide in caverns of sin and recesses of bitterness and grievance. What I would see if I came out of my cave, is you standing there, gently holding out your hand, offering life–real life.

And the whole time I’m refusing what’s good for me, You’re saying “Something better is coming, child, if you will just eat–just open your mouth.”

I swallow down the goodness of you, and I’m a stubborn child, surprised at the sweetness and delight of it. I want to be there with my children–swallow down all that goodness–open mouth wide.

I dont want to miss the moments that were designed for me to comfort, to soothe, to affirm. I don’t want to miss any opportunity because of my lack, because I’m inadequate to behold the beauty with abandon, because im shunning all the noise and racket and pounding feet that make up the song of life.

With so many things calling all around for my attention, so reckless, holding me, dangling there in their throat-choking grasp, God just keeps planting me firmly on the ground, keeps showing me that the most authentic, most deserving and most precious community is right here at home.

They are my sojourners.

I flail around in bitterness and the cold left by absence of fellowship. I grieve and what for when God has put me here with them to nurture and to talk with, to read for hours in the hammock with and play music with and read the bible with, to worship with as we bake cookies and scrub dirty counters, to explore nature with, to run through the hills and go on a life-adventure with.

The whole wide world–and the wide web–can make it seem as though what mothers do in their homes isn’t important–that the little, quiet, sacred community we’re building isn’t holy work. It all seems to scream that we need to be doing some ministry to the poor, or we need to be involved in a local church, or serving in community in some way.

The deceptiveness of culture has slowly trickled down into the church and told women that just being a mother and wife isn’t enough. But that’s a lie from the roaring hell-lion.

Oh, how the roaming lion wants to decieve us to think that the work we’re doing–the work of a mother–isn’t holy and sacred–he does not want us to think that just loving them is enough.

I know that if I’m serving in the context that God has placed me in, I will touch the lives I’m meant to touch, regardless of my church affiliation, my community and ministry involvement, or my blog numbers.

I am only human–and God knows–He designed me this way. A standard that tells me I have to constantly be reaching higher depletes me of the air and life that I could give where He has called me to give–and mostly, that is at home.

I really think this could be my oasis–the deep well of laughter and bedtime giggles and stories and living like Jesus is in the room.

This could be my strength to never stopthe eternal value of four lives that have been discipled for Christ–literally led to Christ’s feet at the cross and transformed, radically changed and devoted to His cause.

We can do that–you can do that–I can do that–that’s the burden God placed in us mothers.  When else will we get the chance to disciple so intensely? To put our mark on someone, to leave a legacy?

We have such an amazingly golden opportunity here with our children.

When else will this godly call, this priceless hour pass by again?

We must seize it with all the gusto we can muster and that takes putting off of some earthly things, some voices that call wild in the wind and vie for our attention and ask to carry us and toss us around with every new doctrine and opinion.

So I won’t crawl back into bed. Not today. I will stand with my children, Husband by my side, us all just orphans at the gate. And I will remember that. I will remember that as I mother them–they are orphans–they are His–and they are waiting for His return just as ardently, expectantly, desperately as I am.

While they wait, while I wait, I will mother these gifts well, with my dying breath, I will be a real mother to them–a mother worn for the journey–and they won’t have to journey or wander alone.

I will journey with them, and at the end, place them back into His hands.

Gratitude: {#956-976}……..

#956…a lunch in the park…women talking, children playing…

#957…the warmth of sunlight…

#958…hard eucharisteo…learning to hang in there when these social events aren’t easy for me…

#959…my sweet Bella flourishing in the classroom with her Mama after not doing so well in the other classroom…

#960…a director who gives me the week off when energy is flagging and anxiety takes over…the practical care of a sister in Christ…

#961…having the week to clear my mind, rest, renewal…

#962…patching up disagreements, how best friends can scrub you like sand-paper and make you Christ-smooth

#963…chasing butterflies, dragonflies in the backyard with my girls…

#964…watching my strong girls swim their hearts out for the team…

#965…hard eucharisteo…pounding headache and nausea, the noise of the crowd too much–giving it to God and learning to be a {somewhat} patient mama through it all, loving on my children…

#966…going out to celebrate with the girls for their first meet out of town–Husband meeting us when he got off work..

#967…watching birds, squirrels in the backyard…

#968…not going anywhere, napping in the hammock on a Sunday afternoon; Sabbath rest…

#969…my Bella asking if she is still the new girl next week, reassuring her that no, she is not the “new girl” after the first week.

#970…taking care of my sweet Bella-girl, how she lets me bathe her face with a cool cloth to bring down fever, how she sits up and tries to spoon in the ice cream, submissively puts the thermometer under her tongue, lets me hold her…

#971…Lorna making oranges for Bella, bringing them to her bed…

#972…Ivy’s concerned “Bella, are you hot?”

#973…Spider lillies splashing the whole backyard in red…

A gift cool, warm, sun-soaked…
#974…the end of my daughter’s nose…
#975…hot shower
#976…feeling the warmth of sun on my bare skin and then the first of tiniest drops of rain….

Still counting and linking up with sweet Ann and others… On In Around button

When No One Sees But God {And Gratitude In Pictures}

Quietly, soft worship lullabies playing in the background, I write scripture on the board for my girls to copy.

Before I can finish a sentence, one already needs me for a math question, and I move around and hover, serving their needs, quieting this one that blurts out words that cut, instructing another one how to find and keep up with her pencil, and helping yet another little one settle down with crayons so her older sisters can focus on the tasks at hand.

And no one sees this–it is just a grace that enevelops and I know His presence consumes.

There is no need for approval from man when you are right in the lap of the Father.

.


 

Fellowship and growing in the word with the body of Christ are things we’ve wanted. But it has been elusive and just isn’t something God has allowed at this point in our lives for some reason. It’s been a long season.

And if I’m being honest, I’m envious of others who have that. But I’m not alone in my aloneness. I know others have these same questions, these same lonely feelings, these same burnings and groanings. We are in a season right now, not in growing in the word, or revelation, but in our deeds, serving, our behavior, attitudes, and sins and idols of the heart.

 












This is not a work of our own hands, our own will–only grace can do this work–only His spirit and sometimes the Spirit groans and travails within our souls in words that are hard to describe, hard to verbalize or even secretly etch out onto paper.










I hesitantly, very timidly try to tap it out here, not knowing if I can even understand it myself, or if I can rightly convey these groanings.

 
 

Sometimes the Spirit within is longing for heaven, for something altogether different, something eternal, and all those fleshly things–they churn hard within, the mind and weak nature not knowing what to do with those things. And so the Spirit groans. I ache.

The temptation is to fill it with things that won’t suffice. And I forget and in my earthly skin, I fill and fill and still, I’m empty, this body of death holding nothing but decay for me.

 

Like a woman birthing and wild with pain, God is weeding so much out and doing such a pulling, tearing, hard work. Everyday we become more and more like what he wants us to be. Are we finally becoming in our home as we want to be? With no one watching, no one knowing, not even family–because in our isolation no one sees–no one except us and God.

He is the only one that sees. and that is what makes it so hard and it is also what makes it so real and rewarding. There is no body of other believers seeing our works, our good attitudes and servanthood–and cheering us on– no pastor encouraging us and saying “well done”, not even really any family visiting to take part in the fruits God may have lavished upon our home.

 
 

 
 

The girls and I talk about the scripture scribbled in bright colors across a white board in morning light–how Jesus said we shouldn’t do things to be seen by men, to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to do it for our Father in Heaven, that He who is not seen may see our good works and reward us in Heaven. He warned that those who do good works for men to see have already received their reward in full and will receive none in heaven.

This convicts me and lets me know I’m on the right path and where I have erred.

Right before Husband gets home, we stop everything and clean up and wipe counters, put dishes in dishwasher and light candles. He walks in from seven grueling 16 1/2 hour days and says he forgot the prize at the store, but the girls ask if they still get to do their presentation tonight of what they’re learning for their Daddy. He says, Of course, I want you to do it for me, and I will bring your prize home from work tomorrow!

We have dinner together at the table because we all desire togetherness, and when it’s neglected, we wander blindly and falter, and can’t find any sure thing. And we gravitate back towards what holds us like glue–truth–the sanctity of this holy moment of togetherness, of giving thanks. This is a miracle–a true miracle of grace.

It is so much easier to fullfill our fleshly desires than to be selfless and loving and to sit with one another and to talk, and discipline kids when they dont want to sit or eat, and listen to stories and give and share. We read the bible at the table each night, but it isnt always pleasant. I find it difficult to sit still, to just be with them, to take in all the noise, to be gentle and patient, put simply–to love. And I ache.

I ache for all the moments I miss because I’m selfish and yet I can’t seem to discipline my body and my mind to just still while He sings over me, to just be all here, right now, wherever and however He has asked it of me. It is hard, and awkward, and brings up sin out of all of us–just maybe this is the very purpose.

We all clap and cheer and holler like a bunch of sillies hell-bent on love for each precious grace-daughter as she stands up and recites her memory work. There are smiles all around as my three daughters bow and their Daddy laughs deep baratone. Run off and brush your teeth, I tell them.

They all scurry away to bed and just for a moment I forget the ache.

I sit in the nursery rocker while Husband sleeps and the house moans, the girls sleepy heads all in beds and the quiet I have longed for all day is finally here. I rock my toddler baby girl, and as I sing about God’s greatness, the God-head three in one, Father, Spirit and Son, the Lion and the Lamb, the soft tones of Isabella’s favorite worship song waft over to her bed a few feet away, the “God Song”, she calls it and I haven’t been at all perfect this day–actually I’ve been a downright wretch of a sinner–and somehow His grace just envelops and none of it matters.

There is only us and God watching from above. It is very lonely but oh so hallowed, sacred and holy. So quiet, more reflecting his heart than anything I’ve ever known. More peace in our home abounds than ever before.

Oh yeah, there are times screams pierce and words cut deep, but I know He has us. I know His presence consumes everything.

I know I’m safe in His lap and okay just being me, the child He’s rocking so tightly.

Gratitude in pictures:

 
#917…A Daddy and a daughter growing fast
 
 
#918…Two sisters who love one another…
 
 
#919… Laughter…

 
#920…her hair ablaze with light…
 
 
#921…  a shaft of light…
 
 
#922… Lilly pretending to be a puppy at the table…
 
 
 
#923… Innocence of a child…

 
#924 Baby girl pulling Daddy on to jump too…
 
 
#925… Little one who insists her Mama jump with her!
 
 
926…her beauty…
 
 
#927…her humor…
 
 
#928…them wrapped up in sun…perfection to this Mama’s eyes…
 
 
#929… her wisps, her lashes, her cheeks…
 
 
#930…sunset on the beach, another season ending, another season full of opportunity on the way…
 

**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; teaching a Classical Conversations lesson, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, 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….

** 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…

 

*Photos in post: Lorna and Ivy sketching Leif the Lucky…
All four girls very busy…
Lorna working on her history sketch…
Solemn Isabella …
Reading in the hammock…
Husband reading bible…
Toys on nursery floor…
Shaft of light on wooden floor…
Girls hovered over a lizard…
Heads huddled up…
Ants in tree bark on a nature walk…
Lilly napping…
Playing with a balloon…
The Lord’s Prayer…
Playing with favorite ponies…
Girls fingerpainting…
Masterpiece…
Early American History–Individuality…
Bella’s art…
Lilly’s art…
Family around the table on a day Husband was home…

Linking with L.L…

On In Around button

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