Category Archives: working out your own salvation

Jesus Brings The Sabbath To Me In Some Unnamed Field {An Abstraction on Altar}



On Saturday morning, from where I sit, on the white wooden-planked porch of our nearly one hundred year old home, it surely looks like the Sabbath. Little pots sit around here and there, one of them an antique rusty old kettle. Through the slatted railing, azalea bushes creep up, shooting up haphazard, their trim much overdue. The earth is baptized in sunlight, the ground is drenched with grace like rain, the yellow and white daffodils have begun to peek out, reminding me there are new beginnings and His mercies fall fresh every morning. Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming forth to carry me home… –it wafts beautifully from my neighbor’s home across the street.

It’s reminiscent of rides with my grandfather as a child, and listening to my grandmother’s gorgeous voice at her old piano, the warm, ambient glow of afternoon light filtering in through the window.

Worship happens anytime my heart opens to acknowledge God, and an altar is anywhere I choose to remember, and Sabbath can be kept on a porch swing, friends, sun-drenched in Heaven’s light, bathed in grace, the words of an old hymn finding their way to me on the breeze. Are these things coincidental?

I don’t believe so.

God made all that is in the earth and everything he made was for man, and he gave Jacob a dream in an unknown place. It happened out of nowhere, in a place of nowhere, and yet Jacob knew surely God had been there. He awoke, and felt the air still stirring with his presence.

And when I, sitting on my porch swing, by the over-turned flower pot, dry wintered soil spilled out, hear those soul-awakening words, is it by chance?

Or, have I met God, and is this place, indeed an altar?

What if I decided to not be so busy today that I couldn’t appreciate the sunshine I’m baptized in? What if I purposed to not blindly go about the responsibilities of life, and not be able to see the daffodils blooming for what it really is–seeds of hope and restoration and a reminder of God’s good mercy to me after a harsh winter?

What if I listened intentionally to the breeze, to my neighbor calling a friendly Good morning and the whir of bike spokes and giggles as the children play–and call it what it is–the Divine Here With Me.

What if I pay close attention to the moments now, and see God in all of it, instead of waiting for a church service on Sunday morning, rushing through the preacher’s sermon, struggling to listen, because my belly is empty and the words even emptier to my well-worn, preached-out ears?

What if I chose to be confident that Jesus brings the Sabbath to me, wherever I am, as he did with the disciples in some unnamed field?

I believe in a God of mercy, one who doesn’t keep time the same way we do. And so why should it bother him if for a time in my life, it is a season of healing? Should I be surprised that he said, if one man chooses this day to set aside as holy, and another man, a different day, neither is wrong, and both have good reasons?

God is not so weak that He can’t handle my woundedness and the time it takes for me to heal. I know He has it under control, and that my soul will not somehow wander off the narrow path and accidentally jump onto the pathway to hell. He holds me in His hands, and none can pluck me out.

I am grateful that God is a wild man, for whom time, and space, mathematical equations, science and modern theology does not matter in the face of his grandness and durability. And none of the things that we think are so important can dictate to him.

He goes His own way. And I follow. I am curious about this mysterious God, and I have more questions than answers. So, like a child intrigued, I follow Him to see what He will do next, what he will show me next.

Where and when He moves, there is a quiet stirring, and I want to listen for it. To know when He is here, when and where I’ve met God, on a Saturday, in a field, the sage brush waving praises to Him–

in the gentle lull of a song escaping through the windows of my neighbor, a welcoming entreaty to come inside and commune–

in a grocery store, in a clerk’s weary eyes, as I beg a smile–

and this wild God, He’s also present as my lover and I lie down and I tell him he’s the only one I have ever wanted and will ever want–that he is the only man I want to touch me.

I feel the peace cover us like a thick winter blanket. Night’s dew falls on the daffodils as he gently lays me back on the pillow, and my long hair splays out. The daffodils will bud even more tomorrow, they will spread, ever so gently, spreading wide open, a reminder of His promises that He would never leave.

And these places, they are the altars where He meets me.

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Altar (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

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


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

Today’s prompt is Altar. GO!



**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 23rd, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 24th, the prompt will be Bend .}


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Bold Enough to Declare It {An Abstraction on Serve}





Last week I wrote about my friend and that conversation–well, when I sat down to write, my intention was to write about listening, and did not know it would go that direction. But that’s what our listening does–it takes us in a direction different from what we expect. It takes us deeper, over, under, and there is really no way of knowing where we will end up next and how we will meet God and this is exciting to me, not because of a feeling, necessarily, but because of a truer knowing about joy and peace. God, out of the box–me, wild and free, and I’m learning He is a very wild God. He won’t be tamed.

God is working His freedom in me, and I don’t know where to start, or to end, and I settle on just staying somewhere in the middle of it all, where Spirit is speaking and shaping.

I step into the shower and try to listen to the Spirit. I had told her, I need to step away, to try to hear God. 

When circumstances are dire, and we don’t know what will happen to our marriage, or what will happen when vices feel they are taking over, or when we feel stuck, we need to hear God. And sometimes our need is rooted in fear. Maybe He’s saying just be still. Listen. Maybe you are here, too.

Maybe there is a vice, maybe there is a stronghold, some bondage in your life you want to be free from? They all look different for each of us. They come in many forms, don’t they? Legalism, bigotry, alcoholism, drug addiction, pain, abuse, chronic illness, a marriage that is falling apart, generational curses, cancer, or maybe we are just on the outside, looking in the stained-glass windows, wondering where the real Christians are. The audacious Jesus-followers, who love black skin, white skin, red skin, yellow skin, who put mud on the eyes of the blind, and revel in them becoming whole, who love the gays and the straights, the outcast and the upper crust. Because yes, even they need God, too, and who are we to tell God’s Spirit how to move?

When He moves, I want to move with Him.

Jesus bent low to wash the feet of those who felt undeserving. I’m starting to believe bending low is what He’s called me to, and to me this means bending over a bathtub when my back is breaking to wash littles’ bodies.

I let the water from the shower-head pour over me, on full-force, hard. It feels like a cleansing, all the cold and the ache of the day slides off, down to the drain.

Some things can’t be said out loud. I wish I could tell you, and in the sister-Mennonite fashion I experienced at a retreat a couple years back, you could say, “We hear your story, sister. We acknowledge your pain, and we celebrate your healing.”

But as I said, some things should not be uttered. Not yet. Maybe not ever? When God moves, I want to move with Him.

But I do know this: We are all human, with real struggles, aren’t we? And we all struggle with pain, and we all struggle with bitterness, and we all struggle to serve. I know I do.

Saturday I go on a bike ride with my daughter to the store, because the van is in the shop, and with my hot pink hoodie covering my head, we ride much further than we plan to, and with the sun on our backs, and the cold slicing at our hands on handlebars, the earth and wind licks our faces and hair. And we are soaring. We sing. She tells me about her favorite song. It’s about worship and bowing, that God is God.

The bag from the store swishes against the tire’s tread, and spokes whir. I think about how close God is. She tells me she doesn’t understand what eternity means in heaven, like why we will spend so long there, forever. Will it be boring? And Mama, you know how the generations just keep going on and on–women have babies, and then those babies have babies, and those babies have babies–and then we just all go to heaven–I don’t get it.

I tell her the only thing I know– Well, we’re here for His glory –to make His glory known in the earth– and it really isn’t about us–it’s about God, y’know? What I forget to tell her, caught up in the burn of quadriceps, is that God wants us to be happy, here, in this moment. I will tell her later–there is time. Mental note.

When you talk about listening and serving, don’t expect God to just let you talk about it. He will want you to act. His Spirit will lure you, He is good at this. And, I am tired of just talking.

So Sunday, I’m standing outside, drinking my morning cup of coffee, stroking my huge, black baby of adult male cat, and I think of my sweet neighbor, who gave him to me, and good things come out of her home. I look up, and see her husband, Mr. Joseph*, standing in the yard. I feel pulled, so I go over. And no, the fact that he is black doesn’t keep me from doing so. They are my friends.

Mr. Joseph* and I, I swear we preach to one another, standing there in the yard, Sunday morning sun beaming down on us, his cigar in hand. He says he accidentally drank too much the night before, and so he isn’t going to church. We talk about a lot of things–how we meet God right where we are, and it’s not necessarily within four walls. I tell him I’m not going to church either, and he isn’t alone.

He tells me how his grandfather was a pastor, and his grandmother always told him and his seven siblings, if you gonna come in late on Saturday night and lay your head on my pillow, you best be ready to get up and go to church on Sunday morning. He tells me that color doesn’t matter–he can get just as much from a white preacher as he can a black one. I tell him I agree.

And did I tell you we are in the deep South–in Mississippi? 

The girls play on the playground on Sunday evening, and there is a raucous, a drumming noise as they run and play–all the children, black and white and Mexican too. But the clamor and chaos is a pleasant, beautiful sound. They don’t fight, don’t run over one another, they don’t bully or chide, or make fun. They are playing a game of tag. And it makes me smile. They all place their hands on home base, to pick the first one to be “It”. All their little chubby hands, so innocent, black and white, intertwined, and I exhale–think how grand would it be if adults did this too?

Yeah, everything in God’s earth speak to me, and listening is teaching me to create an altar to worship right where I am.

I go outside late at night, and walk in the dark, the earth sinking under my feet, water bubbling up in its place, and the trees are bare and stark against a late-night sky with surprisingly mauvy-pink glow. I like to think God has drawn a curtain of prayer over me. Jesus is always interceding. I feel as blanketed and peaceful as a sleeping babe. Yes, He speaks to me here.

I just need to be bold enough to declare it.

                                                             *names changed to protect people in the story

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Serve (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

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


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

Today’s prompt is Serve. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 23rd, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 24th, the prompt will be Slippers .}


Free As I Want To Be {An Abstraction on Dirt}



Saturday I put my dukes up to this tough cold that’s attacked my body to bravely step out of the house into the sunshine. I stepped out and let air, and sky and trees and warm coffee and the arms of a faithful friend wrap ’round me. I wore my tee that says “Wild and Free” and soaring birds dangled from my ears. It made me wonder, if saying it out loud like that makes me free? As free as I want to be. I bounced out of the house in tennis shoes, my hair lopping along on top of my head. For some reason, that made me feel lighter.

We walked around the lake, and man did it ever feel good, like shaking cob-webs off that you’ve let set up for too long, peering out at you from the corner. Our sneakers crunched on the black pavement, and she showed me where her toes were trying to poke out the sides. It’s time for new shoes, she said. When I got upset, she intuitively knew it, and reached across the table and held my hand. And when it was time to say goodbye, she pulled me to her tight, chest to chest, only the way sisters can, and she said she prays over me, grace. I felt it. Tears formed, and I exhaled.

The kids run all over the expansive yard we have here, and it makes me think I’m glad we moved here, although there are reasons I wished we lived in a nicer place. A place where the foundation wasn’t in danger. But these kids, they don’t care if it’s snow, mud, or black dirt, they run and explore the entirety of this place, and scoop up the black soil that grows everything around here with their flip flops as they swing back and forth.

Sunday I pushed them and as they shot up into the air, and squealed, and I caught a glimpse of a smile from the edge of their profiles, I thought about that. How so many who lived here before us, they pushed down the grass with tennis shoes, and threw leaves into the air, made tracks in the snow, planted flowers in spring. I can almost hear the squeals of all the children.

I’m only here for a little while. It’s not for me to decide. I don’t want to deal with eternity–but I must–it’s there whether I like it or not–this great, looming question.

This, here, it’s all temporary. This dirt I trod, the rain washes it away, refreshes it for tomorrow. The ones that come after, they won’t really remember me, eventually. And there is nothing to be done about it, but surrender.

Surrender to the fact I’m dust. Surrender to Him in trust.

I talk to a friend about listening to your life. She says she doesn’t have any answers. She says You know I was going to say that, right? I tell her I think I forgot how to listen, because life became too much, and I turned my face away from it, didn’t want to hear.

But there can be beauty in hearing, even in the pain, yes, beauty in accepting the pain, and receiving grace when we listen. I told her I was going to practice this.

Let me know how your listening goes, she tells me, and gives me a wink.

I came wailing into this world, red-faced baby, a rare birthmark on my arm all the doctors wanted to see. But really, nothing special to define my life. Thirty four years have flown by. Thirty four more will do the same. In the larger scheme of this great big spinning orb, who am I and what do I leave behind? And who will know I’ve been here when I’m gone?

The thing is, my life is very small. I am just a speck here, amongst billions of others, and billions of others have lived and will live. And really, all I can do is just ask Him to make my speck in this huge universe a blessing in some way, for Him to have honor.

Yes, if we truly understand ourselves, and God, even a little, then we understand the mystery of our infinite smallness and His infinite greatness.

She starts to sit down in the seat of the swing for me to push her, and then she says, Oh Mama, it’s dirty! How I gonna sit on that? So I grab a large, soft, hollow stick lying on the ground and scratch at the cakey brown spot until it’s sanded and smoothed away, and she happily plops down.

I swing her, and watch her hair fly. I see their heart-shaped bums in the seat, how they are so tiny, their world so big, their bodies small and limited, but their spirits limitless. They are unafraid. I see them smile into the sky. I surrender, then, too. I look to the sky, to Father, who helps me with my unbelief.

I’m free. Just as free as I want to be.

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


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

Today’s prompt is Dirt. GO!


**{This link up will run until Sunday, the 9th, 11:59 am., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 9th, the prompt will be announced .}

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



                                                                                                                            photo credit

Two weeks ago I watched as the endorsements deadline for my first book came and went. I watched the deadline pass, knowing seven authors hadn’t responded.


Endorsements are the pithy accolades that appear in the opening pages and on the front and back covers of a book. Two months ago I learned from my publisher that it’s the author’s responsibility to ask other writers if they might be willing to take a look at the book and write an endorsement. The emails I dutifully typed to more than a dozen authors were among the most awkward I have ever written, because when it comes right down to it, asking for an endorsement for your book is asking for praise, and asking for praise places you in a position of vulnerability and weakness. Not my favorite place.

I waited. And I cried tears of relief and joy as I read some of the early endorsements that came in. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars. People like my book, they like it, they really like it!

Until, that is, the endorsements stopped coming, and the deadline passed.

They’re busy, I told myself. They have their own deadlines, their own jobs, their own families to feed and socks to match and dry cleaning to retrieve. It’s not all about you.

Rationally, intellectually, I knew this was true. But emotionally I tumbled fast, head over heels down the slippery slope in a blur of self-pity and sorrow.


                                                                                                                photo credit 

I had always assumed that once I passed a “certain point” – landed an agent or sold a book or achieved a certain number of readers or blog subscribers – I would miraculously be able to let it all go. I assumed the insecurities would diminish, comparisons would fade away, envy would subside. I assumed I would reach a point of satisfaction, of enough.


But that hasn’t been the case for me. Because there is always the next thing.

The week the deadline passed and the endorsements didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight. The following week, when the endorsements still didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight.

“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”(James 4:4, 4:8)

I needed to read these words again and again, to hammer them into my mind and heart. I needed to awaken every morning and read these same words because I knew I was losing the battle, succumbing to temptation, letting my desire for worldly achievement win. And I knew I couldn’t save myself.

Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings home from Trader Joe’s.

Nothing, that is, but God.

The Bible isn’t a quick fix for me. That’s why I have to read it every day. That’s why I have to read the same verses for fourteen days straight. My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding , repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one verse, one word, one syllable at a time.

I received one more eleventh-hour endorsement for the book on the morning it was scheduled to go to press. The remaining endorsements never came. And I won’t tell you it didn’t hurt; I won’t tell you it wasn’t a crushing blow. But I will tell you this: I came closer to God in those weeks of waiting. His truth was hard; it stung. But as I came closer to God, he pulled me closer to him. And then he shored me up and gently pushed me back out again, armed with new courage and fresh strength.      






A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014. She hangs out here on facebook and twitter.



Hey–isn’t Michelle awesome? I *so* love her honesty, y’all. Do you struggle with this as a writer? Or just in life in general? Let’s discuss this in the comments! 

**This is a series–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 what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of February (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}












       

The Many Faces of Christmas {An Abstraction on Truth}



I tread lightly and whisper it softly, breath warming frost nipped air gathering on the tip of my nose, that we misunderstood Jesus. You may have seen this facebook status, in which I finally let loose convictions, and then I decided to allow God to use my fingertips to say what’s in the heart, here, in this journal that I am so grateful you stop by and read.

We misunderstood when he said to preach the gospel, because the gospel is pure, needs no added modern cliches, nor does it need our version of the truth added to it.

He only called us to love, and His gospel is beautiful if we just stick to it, steadfast and unflinching. Love is the hardest of all.

Our opinions come easy, and He’s asked us to lay them down and carry his cross.

I stand in a line in the cold to get some toys my girls asked for on sale. I wiggle my legs back and forth, trying to stay warm, my jeans and boots betraying me. I keep wondering if I rub the fabric briskly together, would it help, but then I’d look like an idiot, my legs and knees knocking ferociously together. So I wiggle my legs, looking as dignified as I can manage. And I shiver head to toe, all the emotion quivering inside of me. I’m so mixed up with questions, and ask myself what I’m doing in this line. Should toys be important at Christmas?

Should I let my six year old believe that Santa is bringing them on Christmas morning, as she desires to?

Advent can be a slippery thing. I want to hold it firmly in my grasp, make it work for me. But it wafts in and out of my days, elusive. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I can’t seem to figure out how I’m supposed to be going about this month.

Here’s the really hard question: does it truly matter how we celebrate Christmas?

I walk through the doors of Wal Mart, and after shopping for six, I don’t have much left, but with burning cheeks, I drop some change into the red metal box, and tell the gentleman it isn’t much but it’s all I’ve got. He takes his ear buds out and pulls them from around his bundled up garb and he tells me he doesn’t need my dollar bills; it’s the pennies and nickles and dimes that make the difference for people who had a fire destroy their home and need the basics, or for little children who don’t have coats or toys for Christmas. I peer right past his black skin, look into his eyes, and see gentleness there. There are hard lines in his face, but they only tell a story of experience because there is a lot of care in the crevices.

He tells me that he stands there for hours, and he sees people walk by and smirk his direction, as if they’re agitated someone is asking them for money. He tells me we shouldn’t judge someone in need, because we never know when *we* will be that person, and we will need help. We exchange a couple of stories, wish one another a merry christmas, and then we are off to stuff the back of the SUV full of food.

                                                                    photo credit

The gentleman, he continues to silently shake his bell. He doesn’t say a word, just keeps doing what he believes is right.

Does Christ need us to shout his name at Christmas? Keep the Christ in Christmas. Keep the Christ in Christmas, we say. 

I think of him silent when he turns over the tables in the temple, silent when he stands before Pilot.

I’m at my friend, Diane Bailey’s blog today. Please follow me over there for the rest of this Christmas story?

                                                               photo credit

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 Truth


**{This link up will run for more than 7 days, until after Christmas, giving you plenty of time to write while you are shopping, cooking, enjoying the holiday with family. I will be taking a long break and will read your stories and highlight one of them on social media on Monday, the 30th. On the 30th, the prompt will be Fire.}

For When You’re Feeling Hopeless {and Smoking Doesn’t Mean You’re Going to Hell}



She tells herself to walk outside to get her mind off of things and knows her feet will get wet, but she wants to see her spider lilies that have shot up through the ground with all the hard rain.

The spider lilies they are nostalgic for her, bringing up things within that once were and always will be. They make her want fall to last forever, a season of change, a beautiful relaxed part of her soul that only comes out when the time is right.

The red webbed fingers, they point and speak to her–she knows, winter is coming. It is bittersweet because she knows that life can’t last forever, and yet, there is such beauty here. Neither can the dead things last forever, and she is dead, if she is seeing it clearly.

This world, it is a dark glass, and only on that one day will she see things for what they really are. Then the veil will be pulled back but for now, she wanders and thinks on the life and the dead things, how the life will go down to the deep and lie dormant. It must be given a chance to rest and re-seed and grow in harsh cold. Then and only then can life and hope come forth from the bitter ground.

She know in the dark chambers of her heart where only whispers are held and secrets are kept that spider lilies, so delicate and holding such beauty, don’t last forever–they are but a blink, a momentary fore-shadowing of things to come. She wanders through their sprinkled wet path, blowing smoke along the way, thinking of how she shouldn’t smoke, that it’s been 13 years, but the demons they come back and they come back with a vengeance when she isn’t paying attention. She thinks of how we all have a vice, and God’s grace comes to her on the cool breeze of fall air.

Then like a wakening dream she remembers vividly the man and wife she bumped into. She sees the way the man sat down with a smile and said this is good to talk, we need to, we need to let some stuff out, and how she said, with a knowing look, well, bring it, get it out. She sees the wife, how she fidgeted with every little thing, how she nervously glanced here and there, would not look her in the eyes. And how the man, he told her they were in town for a ceremonial ordinance at someone’s property who lived nearby and she cries out yes! I believe in the Sabbath whole-heartedly and love dearly God’s sacred communion and the sacraments. But then how her heart sank to her stomach as he told her, when she talked of grace, that he believed in the law.

She noticed the woman’s cast-down eyes, the speaking to herself under her breath, the head hung low, apologizing to someone unseen. And in her very heartbeat, she can hear the man saying that yes, we are saved by faith, but that is conditional upon our obedience to God’s law, and she hears it resounding in her ear like a drum, the beating of her own heart, and God’s heart, gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. gu-gome. Can you hear it too?

Because she did, as she listened to him, her heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster, but she knew that only God could speak grace to his heart and only God could lift that woman’s head. She told him how she believed in eternal security, how that she knew she could never be plucked out of God’s hand for any reason. And she told him of her uncle who for most of his life was addicted to drugs and because of the law she never believed he was saved, but that at 30 years old, she finally realized that because he had given his heart to Christ and loved him early on in life, that he was indeed written upon God’s hand forever, and we are not to know the condition of his heart, only God can. The only way to know we are really not in God’s hands is to completely deny him, she tells him.

She walks by the weeds grown up in her beautiful beds she worked so fervently on those summers ago, and she knows that weeds, they can sneak up on us when we are not looking and they can choke out a life. They can try to snuff out, but God’s grace is mightier than anything any old demon, no matter how powerful, can throw upon us. We all have our weeds, untended, neglected, and we all have moments in our lives of hard-heart ground. It’s bitter ground, that hangs its head low, and doesn’t even want to look up at God, doesn’t want to pray, doesn’t want to listen to what we must do to be saved.

And the man, he looked her in the eyes and challenged her and said, what about when a man blasphemes against the holy spirit, the unpardonable sin? Do you believe in that? She looks him in the eye and smiles and says, I believe that is the unpardonable sin, denying him.

She walks around and around the lilies and the weeds, thinking of that last challenge, when he said with fire in his eyes, what about when a man shakes his fist at God and says, I hate God?

Actions on the outside and truth in the heart can be two totally different things, she says. Only God knows if the man believes it in his heart or not. 

The man looks stunned, woman sitting with her eyes cast down, and he says to his sister, Yes, possibly it’s a phase and God will bring him back–that’s an idea to think on….

She walks gently over the grass and steps back inside, and she doesn’t forget the man and wife and the heaviness she felt around them. She thinks on them, says a silent prayer, thinks about her own heart, and its vices.

She reads the 23rd Psalm, the 1st Psalm, God’s promises to her, and she picks up Nehemiah where she left off…

The heading in her bible reads, A List of Exiles Who Returned…and the list is long with many descendants of God’s people. And she recalls the scripture His hand had led her heart to…

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name…” Neh. 1:8-11

She thinks on the men who hung on a cross next to Jesus, who did not deserve a pardon and how one begged to go to Paradise with him that day, and Jesus’ words swell her heart wide open and bursting with peace. Because to this man, that never had a moment to prove his worth or obedience, Jesus simply said to a thief worthy only of death and condemnation dying next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Such is God’s way with the heart of a man, and she turns it over and over in her mind, a Rubik’s cube, asking questions of her own with answers that are not yet to be seen.

For it is not their due season, but she knows that at the right time, when winter is over, the fruit will come. It will burst forth like a baby slipping out all wet and wailing and beautiful from its mother’s womb.

She crawls into bed next to her baby and sings amazing grace slowly and softly, letting her voice lilt over the words in peaceful praise and thanksgiving for her name upon His hand.

If you’re interested in further research into this topic, a great wise pastor here:

John Piper answers the question can a person be a Christian and drink or smoke:

John Piper preaches on law and grace–powerful!

Disclosure: I am not endorsing Mark Driscoll’s preaching by posting this, but I love what he has to say here, because it’s biblical and shocking to those of us who judge Christians to “look” and “act” a certain way:

{Context here is that Samuel was sent by God to anoint Israel’s next king, and he assumed it must be Eliab, according to his appearance.}
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37

Related: Seasons

Announcement: #concretewords is back on Monday, Sept 30 or 31st!! It’s a possibility I could be gone because my anniversary falls on the 29th, so have your submission ready and I’ll have the link-up live either Monday or Tues! Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been a rough several months, and things are still on the mend, but I’m finally ready to write.

Concrete Words prompt: SOIL!

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

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




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

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


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


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

ABOUT ASHLEY LARKIN

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

Gratitude: {1136-1153}….

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

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

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

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


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

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

Today’s prompt is the Morning


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


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

Of Things Unseen {An Abstraction on the Cup}

I cannot say how pleased I am to have Kelli Woodford, my dear friend, here today to guest-write for Concrete Words. Her quiet, searching heart stirs me deep. I hope her words move you as much as they do me. And please, be sure to show her some lovin’ for her words here. 





The styrofoam is warm in my hands. It imprints on my fingertips, a liquid story of contents unseen. 

Steam rises like prayers, fogging out the world as I draw the cup close, closer to my lips. I inhale the fluid decadence. Wishing I could ingest it just as slowly, as tangibly, as it escapes–wafting upward, upward. Always the scent lingering somewhere on the edges of time. I close my eyes. 

A chair skids loud across the flecked tile floor. It wakes me from my drifting. 

To the left, three men sit at a table set for four. One is slick bald. He looks like a preacher to me. Oh, not a preacher-comb-the-hair-over, wear-a-tie, King-Jimmy-in-hand preacher, but one of these cool guy preachers. The kind that sport those trendy, dark-rimmed glasses and the baldness without looking older than 40. 

I run the top of my middle finger along the rim of my cup. Circling, circling. My coffee is still too hot to drink, but I’ve nothing to do but sit with it and with my imagination. A mind at play among the rising fog. 

Their conversation is too low for me to make out, and I’m glad I don’t hear it. I think I’d rather invent it. Bits and pieces, that’s all we know, I wonder if he’s saying. As a preacher, I have a responsibility to proclaim what I believe, but God help me if I don’t spend just as much time with my hand clapped over my mouth, aghast at what great folly it is to ever speak with absolute certainty about God Almighty. He is not a tame Lion. No, no…

My imagination runs wild with the hope of what it would be to hear a preacher admit his finite understanding of God. To say what he knows as freely and gently as if whispered over a casket–instead of boisterous and aggressive, as if a little too used to the amplification of a microphone and stage lights. To give respect to the Mystery of all that defies explanation, instead of putting Eternity in a systematic box. But I know it’s just my experience talking. He’s leaning forward now, toward the others. Whatever he’s saying, it’s clear that he means it with all his heart. 

Velvet fingers, mine, stir serendipity into the coffee, sugar melting, sweet and silent. 

And I sense an opening. It’s deep in me. 

Something creaks as mercies widen, unseen changes afoot. 

I raise my cup and lock eyes with the dark-rimmed stranger over yawning styrofoam. His lips and mine receive the contents poured into our respective open spaces. The misty prayers that rise with this touch to my face are less selfish somehow, and more generous. I see his nerves. They play the surface of his face like a guitar solo. He doesn’t see me, I know now. He is looking at them, at himself. He feels the weight of this responsibility. For he holds something heavier in his hand than the cup from which he sips. 

And he deserves, not my contempt, but my compassion. It might not be wine of the covenant, but I feel the solidarity of our drink in tandem. I feel the words spoken in my narrowed places, now more open that empathy has done her work:

Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you … do this in remembrance. 

I whisper back, the echoes of another prayer uttered long ago, 

and the sound ricochets inside my cup, which now runneth over. 

That we may be one, Lord Jesus, 

that we may be one. 



12-12-2013.JPG
ABOUT KELLI WOODFORD
Kelli hopes never to recover from the mighty mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace. 



****************
Gratitude: {1109-1118}…
yellow and purple irises blooming in the yard :: how grown up my 12-year-old is–her intuition and quiet nature that are a gift to me :: my little one lying in bed with me in early morning and nuzzling up against my face with her cheek :: shafts of light across the couch :: beauty of early morning sun :: a cozy blanket and warm coffee :: my bible :: the comforting sound of clean, running water :: the cute sneezes of a certain 3-year-old

{This post shared with Ann, Laura, and Michelle} 

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

***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has said she can no longer do it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. 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!! 
     
**************


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 Cup

**Starting next week, Concrete Words will be going live every Sunday evening, sometime between 7 and 10 pm. I cannot promise an exact time, as my weekends are very spontaneous and I’m a little bit of a roving rebel.
The prompt next week is the Afternoon.{I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


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!**

*********
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

All Ramblin Roads Lead Home {An Abstraction on the Road}

There are ramblin roads that run over into the deep, wild blue yonder somewhere, the soft washed-out denim stretching out too taut over an expanse above me, going on and on across fields forever in the distance and how do we know where roads lead?

I’m somewhat of a roving rebel, my heart twisted in knots. I’m a tattoo wearing, face-pierced non-conformist. But it’s all in my head. So far I’ve been afraid. Can you see me? Can you see me hurting? I don’t mean to kick and scream while God is carrying me, angry child, but life’s experiences have made me hard and tough and my heart wounded and painful to the touch underneath. I’m still stubborn, unwilling to break quite all the way.

I’m always afraid of what I can’t see comin’ and I tend to hide out in my own little corner of the world, knees up to my chin, bare feet sort of turned in, tears running down my cheeks, glistening as they fall.

But the other side of me loves being the dare devil. A seventeen year old me liked the idea of cutting class for Mardi-Gra and smoking a cigarette even though it was bad for my body. Sometimes I still feel seventeen.

My sister and I walk into a beauty store after a workout and my tennis shoes squeak on the tile floor. I scan all of the colors, pick up a few–eggplant, smoky grey, and teal–roll their cold glass round in my hand. I tell her I’m buying black fingernail polish because I’m feeling the need to be rebellious. She laughs at my straight-shooting.

I love daring to be brave, climbing and running hills, throwing myself against elements and earth.

I love those trails that run deep into woods and make me take in breath sharp, my feet right on the edge  where it goes straight down, dirt crumbling from underneath my rubber tread, and falling far below.

When I’m alone like this, I am ready to tackle anything. But with people, I’m stumbling to find my way.

I never in a million years would have thought that by taking a plane and my friends taking roads and planes from all across the country to meet in one central point, that my life could be changed.

Oh, but it was.

All of us weary travellers, either by car, on long highways or because of the baggage we’ve carried with us through life, we came together. Some of us more jaded because of experience, some of us more rebel without a cause, some of bible-carrying fierce warriors pushing back darkness, some of us more quieted by age. {I bet you guessed which category I see myself in}.

In that place I was refreshed by seeing another weary traveller’s silhouette, the reflection of my pain caught in their eyes, in a spark of a moment, in a pouring out of a soul.

I knew I wasn’t alone, travelling on roads which I knew not where they led.

Because when you’re in the company of others, the light pouring in from a window, illuminating their face and hair, fire crackling in a fireplace, so much Son in a room, in so many different faces, you realize something and it’s a life-changing moment in your story.

You realize this: that we are all travelling different roads and God has given us all different paths to take. Jesus said narrow is the gate, but he meant the way by which we enter, which is He, The Word made flesh.

When Jesus stepped into skin, pulled it on taut, he became the gate for us.

He never meant for our stories, our journey along the road to look the same, and all of us together as a collective are showing the many facets of a great, expansive God. You are the face of God, and I am the face of God, and we two are completely different.

All of us are coming to that one gate, and our roads and paths are hard and soft places, sediment rocks falling far below where we tread, some of us trudging through muddy swamp that tries to engulf us. There are highs and lows, some of us tend to stay in valleys more than mountains, some of us sure of our beliefs and some of us doubting Thomases, and we intersect one another along our journey, sometimes meeting for a beautiful, but brief moment as we glimpse into one another’s lives and we do the stuff that makes us brave.

Even though it is scary to go out on that limb and pull you in, and say walk with me, somehow I know all the roads lead home, and we’re helping walk one another there.

Gratitude: {#1083-1094}

Friends, my tribe, my people–whatever you want to call it–I have it now amongst the body::A weekend to breath, without social media, out in the open country::little girls in cowgirl boots::Ivy exclaiming when he said he was finally going to the barn, her hands over her chest “Oh, I hoped with all my heart you would say that!!”::My littlest cowgirl in piggy tails::Sunshine and warmth::A beautiful fire under a starry sky on a chilly night::Peanut m&m’s::Talks with my mother, feeling like maybe we’re friends and not knowing when or how this happened::Playing I-spy with my girls and family–no one being able to guess mine::Husband watching baby girl go down the slide and playing ball with girls after months of having to work so hard

Friends, I am also at Bibledude.net today, where they are featuring my first story ever to be published with an online magazine! Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. I hope you’ll come over and hang out? I’ll pour the bubbly (cider, juice) or even sweet tea, and meet you in the comments.

***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me was and is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has a lot of commitments and will no longer be doing it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. 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!! ***


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. When you share this post on twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords.

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

Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Frame {I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

Which road do you think you’re on? In what way does the road before you seem mysterious and hidden? How do you discern that others cross your path, on their own journey, but heading the same direction all the same? How are you trusting God when the path seems unsure? Tell me in the comments! 

{This post shared with Laura, Ann, Jen, Heather for the EO, Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Emily at IP}