Friday, May 30, 2014

Nothing




A challenge from Lisa-Jo Baker's blog: This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not. 

For five minutes flat. 

Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect. 

Today's word NOTHING.  Yikes, here I GO:
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2014/05/five-minute-friday-nothing/#sthash.AyBq6YF3.dpuf
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2014/05/five-minute-friday-nothing/#sthash.AyBq6YF3.dpuf
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2014/05/five-minute-friday-nothing/#sthash.AyBq6YF3.dpuf
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2014/05/five-minute-friday-nothing/#sthash.AyBq6YF3.dpuf
This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.
For five minutes flat.
Here’s how the game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2014/05/five-minute-friday-nothing/#sthash.kKOe7ckz.dpuf



We bring our nothing
He brings His everything
We have nothing to offer
Dirty, filthy, broken
Exchanged for beauty
We are nobodies
Nothing bodies
Called beloved
Empty hands
Open palms
Empty souls
Traded for glory
His everything
Our nothing
Our worthlessness
His worthiness

Sometimes I still feel I have nothing to offer.  A lie.  Gal 2:20.  Our righteousness in Him.  He is everything when we feel like we have nothing.  He is in us.  That's all we have to offer.  Him in us.  Praise the Father.  

When I feel empty, I know there is more.  He fills.  Barren soil watered through His word.  He calls nobodies somebodies (Rom, Hosea).  We are everything when we rest and claim His worth in us.

So bring your nothing, because you are everything with Christ.  Hold Him tight.  Open hands.  Open heart.  Fresh heartbeat of glory. 


Five Minute Friday
 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Runaway

runaway ~m singleton

Wisps of hair come loose from her braid and flutter in the salty air.  Moonbeams dance across the water.  She catches sight of a dolphin peak above a crest of a wave, slicing through midnight foil.

This is her space.  Her quiet away from life.  Her toes skim the hard packed sand as the sea crashes upon her ankles and knees.  Her focus is the pier that resembles a skeleton against the gray backdrop, where land meets sky.

She digs her toes deeper in the sand and ponders-- tries to remember.

She brushes hair from her cheek and fingers the deep scar on her forehead.  Her face has become numb, like her soul.

Her expensive dress and diamonds encircling her neck mean nothing.  She feels nauseous as memories start to surface.

Snatching the jewels loose, she hurls them as far as she can into the twilit surf.

She looks left towards the pier.  That's her anchor.  Her spot of rest for the night.  She turns left, not looking back.

Her pace quickens and she runs, sprints.  Her ballgown and plaited hair flowing behind her.  Hope springing in her steps.  

She knows she's not going back now.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

On the Edge




He rides, leaving left arm 
Dangling as other steers.
Not as grown as he thinks
As he leads down bike trail--
Releasing him a little.
Man-sized army green watch
Tells me he's on the edge--
Space between boy and man.
He can't be eleven.
On brink of puberty,
Toeing the line of man--
Proud to show armpit hairs.
Should I rejoice or cry?
My firstborn turning old,
Born red-faced, spiked black hair
Screamed loud into this world.
Now he's quiet, passionate--
Sharp-wit, humor, fierce will.
Amuses us with stories
He pens by his own hand.
Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling--
Spark his imagination,
Creating in his head.
Mixture of serious,
Solemn, adventurous,
Crazy, humorous, kind.
All bursting at the seam.
Our precious boy-wrapped man.
We love you sweet, sweet one.

 




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rambling and Reclining

~m singleton
 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him...Leaning back against Jesus... (John 13:22,25)

 
At 41-years old, I am still discovering things about myself that I never knew.

I am a visual person.

I am a deep feeler.

I live inside my head and heart.

No wonder I struggle.

I process things slowly and often feel like the girl that doesn't get the joke, or the meanings of conversations.

Because I'm deeply entrenched in my own emotions and those of everyone else.

And I'm studying the fly on the ceiling, the temperature of the room, the crooked picture on the wall, and the annoying racket of the construction workers 2 miles away. 

And that smell.  What is that smell anyway?

Some people call this ADD.

I think that's pretty accurate.

My emotions are constantly present and I can quickly fly off the handle and injure the people I live with.  Or my feelings can be hurt easily if I'm not resting in the Father.

Oh how my family knows this well.

Ok, so that was the rambling part.  Now on to the reclining part.

One of the most transforming times of my life was while reading Abba's Child by Brennan Manning.

There is a chapter when Manning describes John's encounter with Jesus at the Last Supper.  It was a pivotal moment in John's life-- he feels so comfortable around Christ that he reclines back with his head against Jesus' chest.  Do you know what he heard?

  the heartbeat of Jesus

That vivid depiction stirred something deep within my own heart when I read it...revealing my own longing for that kind of intimacy with my Savior.

What would it feel like to rub shoulders with Him?  Experience the warmth of his body so near?  Touch Him?  Hear Him breathing?   Smell Him?   Sit so close to hear His heartbeat?

Oftentimes when my head hits my pillow at night, I think of lying my head on His chest.  Listening for his heartbeat.

Not because I'm overly-spiritual.

But because I'm overly needy.

Because this scatter-brained, ADD, emotional girl is crazy.

This morning, I had a mental image of a pumpkin.  Strange, I know. 

I mean, after I had the image of me reclining against the heartbeat of Jesus, a pumpkin popped into my head.

Because I am praying for Him to carve out the fleshy, stringy, stench of my flesh.

The seeds of bitterness and rottenness.

I want to be carved empty and filled whole with Him.

Keeping it real, yesterday I was cussed by one of my children on the beach in a fight.  

Surrounded by beauty of waves and sand and sin washed over us like the tide.

I also went to bed yelling and not speaking to my husband.

It didn't end there, thankfully.

There was beauty in repentance, consequences, forgiveness.

But I'm tired of my mouth, my heart, my actions.  The sins of the people I live with.

The stench of my words and rottenness of my heart is often suffocating.

I know I have a new heart.  I know I'm a new creation, but the flesh is so ugly.  

The truth of Romans 7 is in my face 24/7.

I daily push others aside for my own interests, shut down voices of people I dearly love-- so my own rights can be forced upon them.
 
This thing called grace.  Newness of life.  It really is undeserved.  Amazing.

Carve me empty Lord so you can pour in
Hands lifted, soul clings, tears stream
He holds, as my head rests on His chest
His heartbeat, His presence, my only hope

  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (Rom 7:25)

 





 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Not Unseen

photo credit:  peace, love, and equality
 
She holds her heart close
Rock hard tight it stays
Secure clutch, no one knows
Locked and key thrown away

She tries to speak out
Her voice doesn't matter
Even when she shouts
All that's heard is chatter

Eyes don't see or hear
Blank stares all around
Wrap tighter with fear
Soul cry the only sound

She sinks deeper down
Holds tight to despair
To breathe is to drown
Does anyone care?

There is One greater
One who is unseen
A whisper sweeter
A true rock to lean

Never forgotten
He sees and hears all
Desires and heart dreams
Hope is on the brink 


FACTS:*

80-90% of children aging out of foster care will become trafficked or choose a life of crime.

Average years in prostitution: 11 years

Percent younger than age 18 at entry: 42 %

72% of all rescued women and children are from the Alabama area

With every rescue about 98% have been through the Birmingham area at least once whether they are from here are not.

40% of Human trafficking is happening in the Southeast

87% would leave prostitution if they had a way out

There is HOPE.  Please visit The Wellhouse for information how to make a difference on human trafficking!  Please watch below video to hear from a rescued victim.








Monday, May 19, 2014

Hitting the Wall

photo credit:  www.notanotherphd.com
 
Sometimes we 'hit the wall' in our run toward God.  Sometimes we stumble over a rough place in our journey...Though difficult, [these times] can actually be a time of transition to a new level of prayer. [1]
 

The longer I'm a Christian, the more I wrestle with God-- hit the wall.  How is that possible?  

Is it my sin? 

Or is it because I'm sinking into a deeper relationship with Him?

Could it be because I am more comfortable with being in His presence and more assured of my standing-- and this is moving me to a new freedom to argue with Him?  Question Him?  

Some would say my wrestling is because of a lack of surrender and because of sin.  Most of the time it is.  I know I'm passionate and argumentative.  So why wouldn't that also extend to my relationship with the Father?

Often I'm furiously fighting with Him in my desire to stay hardened in sin patterns, unbelief, and trusting lies instead of truth-- living and believing old ways.  Doubting His ways are better (Isa 55:8).  Doubting I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).  

Walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4)

I don't like to surrender.  

To let go of my comforts and ways of coping.  

However, J. David Muyskens says:  We let go-- not because we want to but because of God's deep work in us.  The Spirit brings us to a profound communion with God.[2]

Surrender is His deep work in us.  

The more I discuss my life with Him, the more I am hopefully surrendering to Him, but it is often a back and forth-- give up and then take back.

As a living sacrifice, I am often crawling down from the altar in an attempt to take my life back into my own hands-- it's a constant process-- laying down in surrender, jumping off the altar to live life on my own-- a dance with the Father.  

God's best for us is often what we consider to be the worst for us.  

Christ walked a dark road of suffering and hardship.  He was questioned and misunderstood by others.  

His dearest friends betrayed him.  God allowed Christ to be in fellowship with Judas.  

Yet, the Father allowed it all-- the betrayals, the laying down of life, spilling of blood, for a greater good.  Our good.  Our only true hope.

This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived.  He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. (1Peter 2:21 the Msg)

Hitting the wall is often when we are in dark places-- gut-wrenching shadow lands of an aching soul.  

These pathways often don't seem like pathways at all-- more like dead ends or dark caves with no exit.  

Stumbling in the dark can often feel like God is silent, absent.

 The scandal of God's silence in the most heartbreaking hours of our journey is perceived in retrospect as veiled, tender Presence and a passage into pure trust that is not at the mercy of the response it receives. [3]

Can I believe my heartbreaking hours are places where He is tenderly present?  

I think of Jacob wrestling with God.  A relationship with the Father often involves a wrestling match of sorts...through our dark times -- anger, trials, fears, despair, sin, depression, vulnerabilities.  

Jacob wrestled all night (Gen 32:22-32), God touched his hip and placed it out of socket (leaving Jacob with a lifetime limp), and yet Jacob courageously asked God for a blessing.  

By God's grace, Jacob was an overcomer and was renamed Israel  (likely meaning a man who wrestles with God).  God could have wiped him out instantly.  Killed him.  Yet, in His mercy, He spared his life,

If we live long enough, our lives will also be marked with all kinds of limps-- we will bear scars like Jacob.  

We will be wounded like our Beloved.  

Deep grief can have a blinding quality, and it can easily seem at such a time that God is nowhere to be found.  We cannot trace his hand in the dark.  We discover, later around the bend, that he has been there all along.  [4]
 
If we have placed our trust in Christ, we can be confident He is always with us-- holding us.    Even when it doesn't feel that way-- our Redeemer is holding us through the times of joy, through the times of sorrow, and through the times of sin.
There is always hope.  And I hope for what is to come (Rom 8:18-25).

Hope captivates me today through the gentle lapping of turquoise waves on a powdery white Florida beach.  Coffee steams in front of me, as I stare up in wonder at a half moon.  His kindness.

He is calling me to deeper waters-- deeper trust.  Only by His grace.










[1] [2] J. David Muyskens, Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God, (Upper Room 2007), 87.
[3] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, (Harper Collins 2009)
[4] Paula Rinehart, Strong Women, Soft Hearts,  (Thomas Nelson 2005), 83.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Invisible

photo credit:  sheissafe.org


Chestnut hair cascades down, lingers at her waist
Little girl gone astray, wilderness dark
All hope resembles gray mist, empty faith
She crawls on bruised knees through terrain stark

Sleeps among ruins that quickly become home
Ravaged trees, broken landscape, crushed soul
Surrounded by vultures, child's heart profoundly alone
Promised fairy-tale evaporates into death of any control

She hears faraway tinkling music-- familiar and sweet
It wraps her like a blanket, covers her like a friend
She rises to the sound of beauty-- stained dress, filthy feet
Bewildered, unsure-- is this the beginning or the end? 


Please visit the The Wellhouse to find out ways to help locally.  Watch the video below.  This is a major issue in our city and communities.

FACTS:*

Human trafficking in the U.S. is 1/2 of the global problem

It is the fastest growing crime in the U.S.

18 billion dollar industry in the United States (39 billion dollars globally)

Average age of entry 12-14 years old 

70% of children rescued nationwide are from Alabama




*all statistics from The Wellhouse



Wild Grace


photo credit:  Alan Matthews Photography


Chirping and buzzing wings-- melodies upon gentle breeze
She lies on her back, face dappled with sunlight

Golden beams spill down through bent limbs of oak tree
Yellow dog sprawls across cool dirt, summer's delight
Brilliant eyes like grandma's peer up, lips curve and spread
She soaks in the admiration this mama has for her child
My ballerina has a tomboy dwelling in her head
Toes scurry up twisted limbs-- recipe of dainty and wild
Innocent and free, worry hasn't yet carved a place
Bravery etched in her bones, she grasps flaxen rope of swing
Honey-spun hair swirls-- grace stretches across shady space
All courage and giggles, a treasure my heart to sing
Far off echo of dog bark, daughter continues to soar
Head tilts back, eyes close, bathing in lazy day
May she forever know life as a wild mysterious love
Forever outstretched arms, promise from above



 

photo credit:  Alan Matthews photography

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Joy in a Painful World

photo credit:  drozblog


Pain free living.  

Isn't that what we all want?  

My current favorite t-shirt is inscribed with the words:

Denial is my happy place

It's my most-loved shirt because I functioned pretty well for a long time living in denial.  It's an easy place to live-- free from authenticity and truth.

I have a propensity to slip back into denial easily, so I proudly shirt it up (anyone remember that line from the movie Date Night?).

Don't we all want to live a Mickey Mouse life that is without pain, jam-packed with laughter and adventurous activities?

I know I do.  

Nothing is wrong with enjoying life.  In fact, I want to enjoy life to the fullest!  I just spent four days at the beach and I leave next week for ten more days.  A taste of heaven.

speaking of joy - one of these crazy horse people may or may not be me :)


The problem comes when we fill our life with activities (or anything else) to numb ourselves and live apart from God.  A daily struggle- moment by moment.

As Christians, we know we are called to more than living happy lives.  We are called to joy-- in knowing and serving Him.  Glorifying Him.  

My heart stirs with a mixture of irony, humor, and rest-- in the fact that my middle name is Joy.

Joy for me has come through knowing Him more deeply through the barren places-- the agonizing spaces of my soul.  

The places where I've wondered where He is.  

The places where I'm numb and unable to cry or pray.

The places overspilling with anguish.

The places where I rage in anger at God.

The places where tears freely flow as my heart asks Him why?

Somehow in those places of pain, numbness, anger, and despair, He has entered.  I can't explain it.  I only know it has happened.  He has done something deeper within my soul.

And I want more of it.  More of Him.

Larry Crabb puts it this way:  I realize that only in the experience of emptiness does God's Spirit confront us with the choice either to fill ourselves or to abandon ourselves to a God who leaves us empty for a long time and promises fullness later.  I have come to believe that suffering is necessary to awaken our desire for God and to develop confidence in His desire for us.[1]

I know He has given believers a new heart that intensely aches to know more of Him (Jer 24:7).  Somehow knowing Him more often occurs through events of loss and pain.

A friend told me today he was heading to the physical therapist for torture.  The massaging and working out of knots would initially result in more intense pain.  But it would lead to relief and rest for his muscles as the days go by.  He is embracing the therapeutic pain in order for his body to experience a temporary place of rest and healing.

Because outwardly we are all wasting away.  It is not in vain-- inwardly we are being renewed.  (2 Cor 4:16-18) 

We crack open our bibles and see lives torn apart and in anguish.  And those same people are impacted by an intimate relationship with the Father.  It is mysterious.

And I place my hope in what is to come...

I know my fairytale ending is in fact true.  It's just not going to happen in this life.  He is preparing a place for me.  (John 14:2-3)

As I held my wailing daughter a few weeks ago, her rigid body fighting against mine, I tried to maneuver to reach her foot and remove splintered wood from her toe.

It seemed so simple to me-  give me the toe and you will be pain free- with new freedom to romp and climb barefoot in the yard.

Instead, she wept and went haywire for what felt like hours. She soaked in warm water and then more tears and screaming.  

It took forever to reach a place where she let me get that stinkin' splinter out.  Through the pain, she eventually experienced joy and freedom, smiling in relief as I finally convinced her to let me use the tweezers to pull it out. 

My children are passionate like me.  What do I expect?

The same week, I received a call from my childrens' homeschool co-op to come pick up my distraught son.  The teacher said it appeared as if he had a rock embedded under the heel of his foot.

For the love, how many feet injuries can my kids have in one week?

I knew this one wouldn't be easy.  This boy is my most passionate when it comes to pain.

It turned out that he had a huge blood blister under his foot from swinging barefoot and hitting it on concrete.  It needed to be drained. {insert dry heaving mama... I.wanted.to.barf.  I can not believe I pursued nursing school.}

As a licensed foster parent, we have spent hours being educated on the ways to connect with our bio and foster children.  All those multitude of ways to love and deeply connect are ingrained my head, but I often lose my mind.

In the heat of the moment, I frequently become a mad woman, nothing close to resembling the Karyn Purvis model of trust-based parenting we have come to recognize as the most nurturing way to parent. (By the way, all parents should check out these resources because they are amazing).

Later that week, my face hot with shame, I confessed to our counselor how I physically laid on top of my son to puncture his skin with a sharp needle.  For his own good, of course-- the whole blood blister and foot thing.

After hours of praying, talking, promises of candy, he persisted down the path of incessant crying, limping, and freaking out.  I finally lost all sense of rational thought, and propelled my body upon him, after an intense game of cat-and-mouse around the den.  Mama of the year.

I know what is best in my head and heart, but I often go to a crazy place of control as a mom.

And my only true rest comes through repentance and truth (Isa 30:15).  Because I'm not defined by my crazy (Rom 8:9).  And I am not condemned by my actions  (Rom 8:1).

These stories of my children make me think about our Heavenly Father and how He chooses what is best for us.

How hard is it to believe this is true and good during the pain of our lives? 

The times when He seems silent and we are wailing in the midst of horrible losses?

The times when our hearts bleed from the splintered shards and raw blisters of life?

How do we keep from losing faith during suffering?

Like my children, I have full-blown tantrums and fits during times of pain.  I can't think rationally.  I can quickly go down a trail of crazy thinking and roller coasters of emotions.  (By the way this happens regularly without any pain in my life.  Any place I feel out of control can send me down this crazy trail).  Control. freak.

Although my attempts of caring for my childrens' wounds were not entirely full of tenderness, they were grace moments-- opportunities for repentance-- a pathway for all of us to delve deeper into relationship with the Only One who is wholly tender and kind.  A moment of mercy for this mama to re-connect and love my children, by His grace.

I beg the Father for my children to know Him intimately.  

I long for more of Him and less of me.

As for the middle name - Joy- that I've always hated?  I am embracing more of the joy in living in a fallen world.  Accepting more of who I am.

May we all live more authentic and joy-filled lives, reminding each other of WHO we are and WHOSE we are.

Because mamas need lots of grace.

We all do.
 
He is our Only Hope.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength
(Isa 30:15)

 




[1]  Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams, (Waterbrook Press, 2012), 131.