Category Archives: worship

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 .}


Women, Listen Up: Where Is God Moving Next? {An Abstraction on Listen}




sit in front of her in the old linoleum-floor bathroom, squatted low on a stool, and think how this is the way it ought to be, I, made low, serving the least of these, and wonder why I can’t do it more often. I zip up her footie pajama, and push my face into her hair. I’m drunk with her still-fresh from heaven, fresh from night time bath tub scent. She lures me in with it, and I know this is the very best moment of my day, and maybe I’m a fortune teller because I can see it’s also perhaps the best minute of my life, excepting only the second she slipped out, warm and wet, the doctor needing me to hold her in for safety’s sake, me begging to let her go, to have a chance in this world. Yes, her chance. Me and God, co-conspirators, creating life together.

Yes, do you see it friends? How beautiful a chance at life is?

I warm up a leftover quesadilla for myself and we lie on the couch together, and though she’s eaten earlier, she snuggles up to me, Mama, you gonna eat all o’ dat? 

Yes. I inhale an intoxicating bite and she asks Is that yummy?

Yes, baby. You want Mama to share? She nods. I’ll share with you, baby, okay?

Because you love me. Forking a scrumptious bite of my small dinner into her waiting tiny mouth, I melt into a million dissolved pieces, like chocolate on a stove. Oh yes, baby I do. 

Moments. Some days are so chock full of these that make us love and be loved, that it makes me listen more intently. It hushes me and makes me wonder where I went wrong in those days that felt love-less. I know He’s here, always, but sometimes, I get to feel the glory-weight, and it’s His hand upon my heart, upon my moments, blessing me fully. Fully here, fully human.

I wander outside in the cold stillness of dark, and inhale and exhale. I remember to look up, because this is what listening to the stillness does to me, and I’m surprised to see a star-lit sky after many days of shrouded, blanketed veil. Through her bare-naked branches, reaching up to Him, scrony, dry and thirsty–a little like the way I feel–the half moon winks down at me from her throne in the expansive universe. I feel so small, like the not quite awakened buds on tree’s branches that speckle across her glowing orb. Dogs bark in the neighborhood nearby, a train rattles in the distance, but all feels still and holy. I just notice, listen and breathe. I pay close attention. This is how I pray, silently.

In the grocery store on Saturday, I’m a little bit of a mess, and I do my best to be calm, energetic daughter by my side, asking for candy and other things I can’t afford.

A dear family friend sees me, comes over, and asks how we’re doing, asks about my tiny Lilly who was a shrunken newborn, mal-nourished, the bones in her forehead protruding and my milk the only thing her stomach could take, but it wasn’t enough. I tell her she’s great, about to go to preschool this fall–she’s almost five, and her birthday comes late. She tells me her daughter, one of my best friends, has a fibroid tumor the doctors just found. Is there a worry for cancer, I ask. Says she isn’t sure. And I tell her I know, how I know, when life is a heavy weight, how it can suffocate, and it’s impossible to even pick up the phone to call a friend. She asks me to pray–I say I will. She’s had so many problems–she doesn’t need anymore –I’m thinking of four years ago, when her only child, only three days old, died, and how then and only then, did she get to hold her in her loving mother arms–and I break.

The tears stream down my crumpled face, and her mother catches me in her arms. I love her so much I whisper into her shoulder. Thank you for being a good friend to my daughter, she tells me, holds me close. I feel the weight of glory, God so close, Emmanuel.

I think of that embrace later, when I walk into the house, putting away toilet paper. My lips don’t move at all. But my heart beats with this desperate plea–God, be with her, she needs you now. She needs your healing hands in a most powerful way. 

This is how I worship. I know no other way. Because the dancing, the raising of hands {though you can find me lifting them from time to time because I can’t help myself}, the conjuring of His presence–they just don’t cut it. I hope you don’t mind me saying, they don’t work for me anymore.

No, I listen instead.

So, on bright, clear Sunday morning, I call this new friend God’s given. She’s an old friend, and a new friend. New, because we’ve bonded more recently, and these relationships online–this community He’s given? Miracle being worked out–Him working all things together for good, because I love him, because He loves me.

She says so tell me what’s going on, what you’re thinkin’. She jumps right into the frying pan with me, right in the middle of the sticky stuff, the very messy, screwed-up stuff no one really wants to hear–my kinda girl. I tell her I’m having faith God will complete the good work He began, and I’m holding on hard, to grace. That’s all I can do. She cries with me, laughs so hard with me, and prophesies His goodness, the love He has for me, over me.

We talk about listening. I tell her what the Spirit is saying. And how do we know what the Spirit is saying–when it’s Him speaking? He comes to me in a cave, and asks me what I’m doing. It makes me pay attention, makes me take notice, makes me think.

You’ve heard from God. And it’s that one statement I can’t get out of my head–no, two statements.

You are capable–from every side, you’re being told you aren’t capable, but you so are.

I listen. Hard. With the phone up to my ear, so hot, my soul is hungry for living bread, and she breaks it open with me, piping hot, shows me where freedom is and where to plant my feet. This step here, then that one there. See, friend? See how God wants you to not only be delivered, but also free?

I don’t have much {beautiful laugh}, but I have this: stories, stories that you and I share. Her southern accent, so dripping sweet and soft, sings sweet peace over me like a lullaby.

Women, listen up: Let’s be this kind of friend to one another? The kind that can listen to the pain. And be okay with it. Laugh with me. Cry with me. Don’t balk when you see something brassy or bold. No, call it what it is–the way God did in the beginning–call out the good in me. Can we do this for one another?

Listen. Yes, let’s listen. To the stars, to the spirit, to the trees, to the pain, to the beauty, the glory and the mess, the screwed-upness, and the words that aren’t being said. Perk up your ears, soldier-sister. Where is God moving next?

Just Listen with me.

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

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


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

Today’s prompt is Listen. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Sunday, the 16th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 17th, the prompt will be SERVE .}

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.}

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}

A Woman of Grit and Glory::Calling the Art and the Music Forth {An Abstraction on the Piano}

I can see the piano gleaming in sunlight coming through the window off to the right and one just to the left, the old air conditioning unit jutting out of it’s breezy opening.

Her little house was so old, the tiles in the bathroom looked ancient to me. In my fuzzy memory, they were a faded color of pepto-bismol pink, and the carpet, an old brown color, trodden on by work boots and cowboy boots many a day. There were old frames holding family pictures hanging up above the couch, and newer ones of grandchildren. There were dusty photo albums and magazines, a very simple table with a vinyl tablecloth in the kitchen. It was a small, cozy house, windows just in spots to let lots of light in.

Every time I visited her, I was so drawn to that piano, the keys and old hymns calling to me, a part of my ancestry. I felt the history that was in my bones when I sat on that bench and was brave enough to let my fingers land on the white and black.

She would come and sit beside me. She had probably been knitting something, reading a magazine, or cleaning up the dishes. But she would drop that for music, and she was a born teacher.

Which is no surprise, given that she travelled around, doing tent revivals, preaching God’s word. This is where I come from; this is in my bones.

She laid her hands on top of my hands, showed me how to touch the keys, how to find the music.

Music was in our blood.

Music and God, and the art of letting Him make us.

She was a woman with much illness and grief in her life. If she could be here now, she’d tell you that her life was a hard road, but God saw her through. God never forsook her.

And no matter what she went through, no matter the mental illness that plagued and made the days hard, no matter the young three- year-old that died in her arms, no matter the man that was hard to live with**, she kept going. She just kept moving forward.

I would think all of that would break a woman, and I’m sure there were broken places she never told anyone about. It was a whisper she prayed to God in the shower, complained to Him as she cooked, as she worked, as she scrubbed, broken whispers, words coming out fragmented, like so much worship.

I know it would have broken me.

But she worked in the garden mercilessly, and she canned food to provide for her family during winter, and she stayed up late in the night with a teenage son who had a lot of questions about relationships and women and life. And she got up early with a smile and a Rise and shine and give God the glory!, and she never faltered, never fainted.

She. just. kept. going.

I only knew the music of her life as a small child, and only through very small windows of time, and oh, I have often wished mightily that I could have witnessed, watched intently, listened to the song of her everyday life, her rise and her fall.

I have often thought of her on bad days, when the depression gets the best of me, wondered what she would tell me if she were here. Wondered if she would pat my knee, tell me it’s all going to be just fine, just. keep. going.

Just keep trusting and leaning in. Keep making music with my life.

I remember her beautiful voice, how she knew the notes to the familiar hymns so well, and to hear her sing them was breathtaking, because you knew when you heard her sing, that it was gospel to her, it was truth, and she believed. Nothing could take that away.

I want to have that kind of grit and glory in my life. What a strong woman. I only pray the memory of her makes me half the woman she was.

She battled pancreatic cancer for years and years, but for a long time, the doctors didn’t know what her symptoms meant. When they found the cancer, it was too late, and all they could do was let it eat away at her body.

It did eat away at the song of her; she no longer had the vibrancy she once did.

She also had a stroke, and she grew thin, and she shuffled when she walked.

I remember her coming down to the house one day, shuffling up to my door. She had come to see her great grand-kids, and I was shampooing carpets. My couch was blocking the doorway. She asked for a picture of them, which I quickly got and handed to her.

My insides churn and I cringe that I didn’t stubbornly move that heft of couch out of the way for this woman whittling away, that I didn’t pour sweet tea and stop my scrubbing, my cleaning.

That’s a memory I’d like to forget–put out of my mind forever.

We could get lost in the grief of regret, or we can let God turn our regrets into redemption, our grief into growth and change.

I was there to see her final breaths, the rise and fall of her, and I recall how my father said what an awful thing cancer was because it stole the beautiful glow from his mother’s face. It took the vibrant red glow from her cheeks, her skin ashen, her once plump figure now just a hollowed-out reminder, and it was difficult to recognize her without her music.

The joy and beauty in her face, her smile, the way she always fixed her hair, and the way she loved–she made art with her life, she made music. It was a pleasant sound in God’s ear.

We all stood around her bed in the hospital room with its shiny, cold linoleum and bare, stark walls and with a huge lump in my throat, we sang the old hymns. She was so frail beneath the white sheets.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

The piano, her piano, sits now in my foyer with the morning sun shining in on it, and my girls have learned to play notes on it. Notes I taught them. I see the little artist budding in them, and I hear the thrumming of God’s heartbeat, saying Don’t squelch it; honor it, nurture it, teach them to glorify me.

For years, I didn’t touch it. Maybe because it reminded me of all of the man-made, man-centered worship, and how something so holy as the inner sanctuary can be desecrated right in God’s sight as his children gather together. I didn’t know how to reconcile this, and my fingers couldn’t remember how to make the music.

I forgot how to be brave, how to be a woman of grit and glory.

But all of the music that’s in my bones, all the art that’s stirring in my blood, all of the morning song that I’ve stuffed down deep–He’s calling it forth.

Every time I walk by the piano and glimpse the hymnal book, I feel Him calling me to worship. And every time I gather enough courage to sit on that bench, and play a song, I can feel her there. And I hear the chorus rising, of long-ago tent revivals when people cried out desperately for God’s touch, and I hear the music played in a grandmother’s living room on a golden afternoon, the light slanted, her hands showing me the way.

**Important**Please read** By sharing this story, I am not advocating the idea that a wife should stay in an abusive, or unhappy marriage. I am sharing a story of one woman who did the best she could, in a time when divorce was unacceptable in her society. Today, women have better choices. I support women’s liberation from abuse, sex slavery, sexual harassment, etc.  
**If you are in an abusive situation, please seek the help of a professional


Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out–be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. 

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

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


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

**Because of what I shared * here,I sometimes have to take social media breaks. However, I am committed to answering comments and visiting those who link up here! I hope you feel a sense of community and right at home when you are here. But sometimes, just a quiet place to reflect, pray, dream is what we need. So if you’re quietly reading, that’s great. If you would like to un-lurk, and leave me a comment, I would love to meet you!! . 


I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 


{This post shared with AnnJen, Laura, Heather, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

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

Gulping From the Cup {On God Using Community to Heal Us From Bad Community}

I sat there on the plane, next to him, not knowing who he was, my arms waving in circles, exclaiming wildly with too-hoarse voice, and this is what he heard me say, as our plane backed out of the terminal at the Omaha Airport.

Why are we so afraid to say ‘I’m a writer, to say that what I do, what I create–is good’? I just really think God has so much grace for us that we’ve yet to grasp or tap into. There is so much freedom in God. Why are we afraid to accept and own that freedom? We wear this heavy cloak of guilt and shame for who we are, and we think that’s humility. But God doesn’t want us going around to everyone apologizing, ‘I’m not good enough’. 

It’s like God’s saying dance wild in my freedom, in a field of wild flowers.

And I’m on the edge of the field, dipping my toes into soft wet clover, and timidly testing it out. I’m wild with fear, wondering what huge thing is going to come across that field at me.

We think the shame of ourselves and our fear, our timidity, makes us more holy. But Jesus said blessed are the meek, not the timid. When we are meek, it means we know our might and our power to crush, to control, to correct, but we hold it back with gentle force in respect.

The true humility God wants us to wear says ‘I’m redeemed’, I’m God’s and because of His bloody and bruised sacrifice, my heart is bowed low and because He says I’m beloved, my head is held high.

And yet, we wear that heavy cloak anyway. It’s weighing us down. It’s a cloak of shame, of fear, of unworthiness, of “I’m not good enough”, of a humility that isn’t true.

Why do we keep putting it back on?

I walk over and hang it on the coat rack, thinking I’ve really laid it down, but God wants me to get rid of the coat rack, because everytime I walk out that door, I pick it up. And I just keep wearing it, over and over. And I think it fits so pretty and so snug, but Father-God who knit my pieces together, says “No, daughter, this shame-cloak is not made for you.”

I feel Him gently pull it off, His mighty strength holding back the darkness that tears at my soul, and with the weight off of what didn’t belong to me, I feel so free.

And I’m longingly looking to Him with adoration.

I look at him, in that tight small space, and he looks at me, asks me to share. I look away, maybe for a way out, but I know, in an instant, without thinking, it’s really God asking me to share, because He’d been doing it all weekend.

I tell him, timidly, laying my life in someone else’s hands, wondering what they will do with it.

I tell of why I can’t go to church, why worship is hard for me, what being a pastor’s daughter did to me, and how people in the Body of Christ pushing me away once they encountered the real me–how that all made me jaded.

He said he admired me, people like me, he said, who have more than they deserve dumped on them and yet they keep loving anyway.

This made me balk and want to hide somewhere. I had never heard these words from other Christians in the body before, and if I had, I had brushed them off, thinking surely they weren’t real.

There were so many others, ones who looked me straight in the eye, when I said I had no idea what I was doing, and said You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re in a very good place.

Ones who looked me in the eye, said they were just an email away, told me to let them know if I needed prayer for any reason. Ones who looked me in the eye, said, I’m here for you.

There were others who looked at me, said, Yes, you do, when I said I don’t do community well, that I don’t do relationships with women well.

And the truth is, I don’t. My heart is black when it comes to community–I run from it with a fierce determination, afraid for my life, a deer being hunted, panicking, heart thumping loudly.

But that’s my truth, not God’s truth. And these women–and men? They spoke God’s truth to me. They looked at my heart, not at all the things I did or said wrong, stumbling around, but they looked at the potential, at what God has placed in me. And they saw something good there. They championed my heart and my dreams.

They said no to the lie and yes to God has made me and said it was good.

There was one who looked into my eyes as I began to tell her how much I respected her work, how she had a passion for encouraging women, and how I avoided those forums, because community is hard for me. I told her how God had begun to set that free in me this weekend, something I never thought would happen. The tears poured and the ugly-cry came in spite of me, and I apologized, said, I just wanted to snap a picture–I didn’t mean to do this!

She shook her beautiful auburn hair, No, these are the things that I want to hear from you, from women, because these are the things I work for, these are the important stories, they are the things that encourage me, to know that God heals, that God redeems.

There was the one who had me at hello, before ever meeting her in real life, and because of her daring, wonderful, crazy vision to invite some writers and bloggers to Nebraska, now I can dream too.

I can’t forget the precious woman I affectionately call “roomie”, who is in all my dreams and waking thoughts, who has my heart, and she had it before she ever stepped out of that car, sunglasses over her baby blues at the airport. She was the one who said God saved my roommate for me until I was ready.

Ready to step out on that shaky limb, ready to say yes to God, ready to have faith, to believe in my dreams.

I watched all of them, the ones I rubbed shoulders and hearts with. I marveled at them, listened to their heart, how they lean in towards people, how their gentle eyes see into souls, how they went right past small talk and asked the important questions, the ones that made me shake in my cowgirl boots, the kinds of questions that let you really know someone intimately.

There were sacred moments, uncensored, organic conversation in front of a fireplace, everyone gathered and leaning in, really seeing, really listening, and not judging.

Those moments changed me forever. As one friend put it so well, it was most probably a turning point in my story. I know it in my soul deep, even though my mind says be watchful, be careful, you can’t trust–God’s spirit was made strong in me through that moment and now the spirit knows something powerful in me–that God’s people are beautiful. And because of faith, I can trust.

What gorgeous souls they all were and still are. Meeting them in real life was beautiful and did more for me than they could ever imagine. This stone-cold, black heart, so afraid of people, of relationship, of church–it was broken right open and poured out in spite of me.

One lovely woman of God, she shepherded us, led us right up to the Shepherd’s feet. She led my weary, wary, jaded and undecided heart. She made me feel his rod and staff, and oh they are good. Knowing Him in that way had seemed out of my grasp for so long and then came the beautiful liturgical rhythm of her sermons, the worship songs, and then her prayers, an oasis in my desert.

Her radiant confidence in a wonderful Savior moved me and how can I possibly explain the sacredness of that moment when she broke the bread and held up the cup for us to come, all tearing a piece off–I had to tear it hard– Christ’s body ripping and being broken for me.

I drank from the cup, all of us drinking from the same, and I felt unworthy, unclean, and unsure all of us drawing from the same well, and in swallowing that red drink down, I willingly swallowed down community, all of us one and the same, unclean but made clean in Him, all of us pieces torn hard, made whole as a part of a Larger Whole, unworthy, but called Son and Daughter and given not a cloak of shame, but a robe of righteousness to wear, a ring, and a feast, and an inheritance of the largest kingdom this world has ever known.

We are hidden on high with Him.



Then there was one who stood before us and she worshipped. There was no song, or guitar, or piano, or dancing. She worshipped with her heart, with her words, with the call that she urged us all with. This is what she said:

“Whether you’ve been the big “somebody”, or have believed that you’re a nobody, you’ve got a role in the Christ-body, and that means everybody. 

 
You’ve been bullied by fear, discouragement, comparison, unbelief, and a hundred other ‘Not Enoughs’. 


We’ve had Enough of the ‘Not Enoughs’. 


Jesus is not intimidated…He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant. And He’s been known to roll certain stones away.”–Jennifer Lee

Tears rolled down my face, as I held the rock in my hand that bore the words fear and unbelief on them, the rock she said that her and her precious daughter would take down to the lake and throw in.

I had never forgotten the prayer she had prayed for me all that time long ago, and as she talked, I felt her worshipping, and that was the first time I worshipped that weekend, that I had let myself at all in a really long time. I let it all go, and the warm ran down cheeks onto collarbones. And it just ran, like a life-giving well, bubbling up and out, running down and out and up to God.

I watched one walk down the aisle with our Pastor, lay their stones in the basket together. Those stones that carry our “Not Enoughs”.  I saw hugs and tears and prayers, and the pain and grief and love was tangible in that place.

There was something so palpable in the room as I sat there and listened to that gorgeous courier carrying God’s message, I could almost reach out and touch it, and she was an angel, God using her to place his hand on my heart, to touch the pain searing there.

I left branded a new woman, all of these lives seared onto mine.

Yes, I have people now. After all the tearing, I’m apart of a Body now, and I’m gulping from that cup.

                                                      photo credit: used w/ permission by the lovely Laura Boggess

“The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us. And I’ve learned the beautiful truth and the tragic truth that God uses community to heal us from bad community.”–Mary Demuth


This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Shelly & Duane for Wonderstruck, Emily, & Jen & Heather for the EO

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

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

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

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

Come if you can, and you said, ‘I AM’

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

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

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

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

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

No pretense.

Just real.

Talking to God like He’s a friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In that child’s face.”

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Gratitude: {1076-1082}

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

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

Looking forward to a positive change for our family

Making up with Husband and how wonderful it is

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

True Worship & Fearing Change: An Abstraction on Table {Day 12}

An abstraction on a Table: A prompt by Amber Haines….

Beautiful wood that is so old, it’s called antique, which sounds such fragile a word. Of course, its purpose was a place to serve meals, but to a kid, it can be a fort, a castle, or the carpet underneath a forest floor, legs rising tall as trees. All of us grandchildren used to play under its delicately routed and carved legs and underbelly.

It cast such dark shadows that hid me and no one could find me. Underneath there, I was a queen or a damsel in distress, tracing the curved lines and crevices in hopes of escape from my soft-carpeted prison.

From underneath my hiding place, I could spot, just dimly lit in soft, heavy-curtained afternoon light up on the buffet table, the old iridescent blue set of bowls, one holding old-fashioned candies of all flavors. Absolutely fascinating and irresistible to a child. It was my sole mission to play underneath the table long enough so that my Granny wouldn’t notice when I snuck quickly out, tip-toed to the blue bowl to grab a candy.

All of the precious memories of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Sunday dinners were made here.

The best memories were the Sundays when Granny had Chicken and Dumplins or blackberry cobbler waiting on me, my favorites.

Years and years later, after this little girl had grown up, the table became a sort of gift from my grandparents, who had no place to put it in their new apartment.

They had given up their home to a son, and it was eventually sold, a sad time for us all as the memories went with it.

Now the table sits in my high-ceilinged home, not on carpet, but on old, brightly polished pine floors. It’s a deep mahogany and makes the mood dark. It needs a fresh coat of white paint, slapped on heavy and thick with love, which would make the whole room lovely.

Then some of those grooves, crevices, the caving-in places I tried to escape as a child will fade into the background, and the past will be the past.

But then I worry about change–it’s been the way it is for so long. My heart stops a bit to think of the eternal consequence of marring such a priceless item with paint.

Now, where it sits, it’s a place of gathering, it seems to magnetically draw us all together.

No matter the chaos going on around the home– paper cut-outs being thrown awry, sisters chasing one another–screaming, me fussing at a daughter to just finish the sweeping already, and oh my aching head–when we all sit down at the table, candles lit, and we slide into our familiar places, something just feels right and it’s home.

It feels familiar and yet uncomfortable as children begin to bang, and to argue and to wail, to complain about the food.

High-pitched yelling and wailing is like nails on the chalkboard of my nerves. The banging and the water glass knocking over is more than I can handle. I shift in my seat, look for a way out, want to escape.

But here, in this familiar safe place, we all do the necessary thing. We gather. We are community. Every day, no matter what. We need the safe rhythm, the consistency.

Husband prays for us to love one another better as we hold hands, and this convicts me.

And these, these children and this husband around my table, they are my people, my church.

We are the body broken, and we worship with quieted spirits that want to bolt, and we do the hard work of staying.

We raise glasses to mouths and swallow down water and offer words of love where there has been grating of nerves and this is our true worship.

Linking up with Amber

Also 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 change, or fear of the everyday change, the always fluid problems that come our way, like wailing and arguing at the supper table? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these anxieties? 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 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.

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

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…


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