Friday, March 20, 2015

Real



The challenge from Kate's blog is to write for 5 minutes flat with no editing. The word today is REAL.

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Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. (Romans 12:9-13) MSG


Oh how I wasted years living like artificial flowers in graveyard urns. Fake.

But, really, was it wasted?

He uses everything for good.

To spin round and gaze over the shoulder of time to the little girl lost and floundering--she did not know.

Now I know love. For He first loved me.

Real love. The turning round and remembering the barrenness of that girl's heart is the lighting of the flame of gratitude.

For real love. Real salvation. Real sacrifice. Real rescue.

Once was lost but now am found

This girl can open arms and give thanks for years without. Because my heart is new, my arms full of a love that is eternally real.

There is freedom to be real about who I am and who I was.

A new creature immersed in real grace.






 
 

Friday, March 13, 2015

For the Days We Feel Crushed by Motherhood


(As featured on Mom Babble)


This calling of motherhood is hard. For years, I dreamed, begged, pleaded for children. I imagined days twirling through green fields between mountains–The Sound of Music experience. Other dreams included casually strolling the mall with a quiet, sleeping baby, braiding a daughter’s hair, throwing the football with a son. For this, I deeply longed.

Books told me it would be hard, being a mama. Oh yes, I pridefully and knowingly nodded my head, reading all the right parenting books to master this thing called motherhood, years before I was pregnant. It was if I was studying for a PhD. I thought I would be prepared, you know. My heart wasn’t the sterile coldness of words on the pages of the books I read, but brimming with yearning for a family.

Well it happened.  Eight years after our wedding, we conceived and birthed three children within three years.  It was often crushing and suffocating, and not the picture I imagined– the life of newborn feedings, sleep deprivation, toddler tantrums, and isolation from friends. God’s grace seeped in, and I began to soak up the daily rhythm and adjust to sleeplessness, baggy sweatshirts smeared with the things of babies, and body odor (my own). Obviously, motherhood was far from my pretty picture of frolicking through grassy meadows, but I was grateful to be living my dream. 

Still, some days, I seemed to lose myself, and who I was. Anger could sink in fierce, as I craved peace and control. As a homeschooling mama, it has been a constant challenge to carve out quiet moments for myself.  Each day I enter high weeds of pandemonium. Cleaning breakfast dishes and juggling math word problems is mentally draining for me.

In the midst of schoolwork, it often feels like I'm juggling wild tigers, claws ripping my flesh, as I balance different ages and stages, and each child’s individual needs. It is fascinating the amount of havoc that sneaks into a room the moment I exit to help another child. Not surprisingly, I typically do not return to perfectly behaved children working on assignments.

On a particular day last spring, I stepped away for five minutes while my daughter was instructed to complete a handwriting assignment and my son was told to work on math. 

When I reappeared, the atmosphere had shifted from a schoolhouse to a surreal comedy sitcom.  My daughter was standing with her weight shifted to one foot, her head tilted with a play phone to her ear, as she was an adventurer who had to take a phone call.  To her credit, it was a very animated pretend conversation, jammed with expression and hand gestures.  So absorbed in her conversation, she was oblivious to my presence.

Her brother was just a few paces away, submerged in his own world, as columns of numbers lay bare on the table.  Somehow, he unearthed a rope and tied his foot to his school chair, his body flung over the couch.




These moments often send me reeling into control and anger.  By God’s grace, on this particular day, I laughed.  Hard.  I was sinking deeply into their insanity.  My son informed me he was a dog tied up.  How about tying your body to the table and finish those mathematical digits?

A series of events later in the morning involved three soaking wet children in a bathtub, while I was in the kitchen multi-tasking.  The bare feet, bodies submerged up to their knees in water, and the soaking wet bathroom floor, sent me to that crazy place.  I was undone.  Windows were open, and I'm sure neighbors heard my freak-out.  The faces of my children certainly registered the state of my heart towards them.
 
One child fled the house wounded by my words. Slammed the front door, rattling the foundation. I peered out the kitchen window to see him barefoot in the front yard, forcefully stomping dandelions with both feet. 

Through the bright springtime grass and knee-high weeds, I chased him around the house, in an attempt to repent for my outburst.  He ran jumped over our six-foot wooden fence, scaling it like Spider Man.

In a last ditch effort for fear that he might truly run away, I jerked open the front door and bellowed loud that I was going to dial 911, because I had a runaway child.

Thankfully, that boy came back when he heard the authorities might get involved. Sure, he’s only nine, but you know. He came inside and we had a sweet moment together.  Because God enters into our chaos. He is bigger.

I went back to re-warming lunch for everyone and felt a presence approach near my elbow.  A little voice shyly inquired, face downcast.  Asked if I’d have lunch outside in the sunshine. On the patchwork quilt, alone with him. And I said yes.

I was reminded that day, and many days since, that I don't have to do it right. On the hard days, when I feel crushed beneath the weight of motherhood, sin entangling my ankles, in the weeds of piercing noises from children, and my body flailing underneath craziness, I can choose to remember that I already have Someone who’s done it perfectly for me. The One crushed for me.

So, I laid on that patchwork quilt and rested with my boy while he ate his lunch. Sunlight spilling on our upturned faces. Yard thick with clover, wild onion, and crushed dandelions. Under twisted limbs of oak with hints of spring– bright green leaves unraveling overhead, pink azaleas in full bloom behind us, and yellow dust covering everything, he smiled a sly smile to have me all to himself.

Because our days are about the resurrected life.

Empty tomb.

New life.

New hearts.

Tastes of heaven in the mess.

Hope in the storm.

Grace in the moment. 

Joy in the crazy.

Laughter through the tears.

Because He is risen.








Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Plunging into the Darkness


The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.[1]

(As featured on Soli Deo Glorio Sisterhood)

I sat in the dust-covered room rummaging through vivid kaleidoscopic quilt toppers, my fingers rubbing the differing textures of the hand-stitched hexagon cotton shapes. They were carefully folded and set aside to one day complete, to be made into the whole. The day never came for her frail hands to piece the frayed edges into their variegated glory.

I visited their white wood plank home for over twenty years. Decades of summers were spent stopping by for a quick visit so they could see how tall we’d grown and sway on the metal mint green rocker on the concrete porch. Other times we’d gather pecans from underneath the cool overhang of giant trees, along the perimeter of their backyard. Usually, there was either a homemade five-layer cake or apple turnovers, which needed tasting. For certain, there was cornbread, with crisp brown edges that smelled of bacon lard. Piles of recipes were stashed away in her kitchen, but the very best ones were stored in her head.

This time, the visit to their small, unairconditioned home was different. The house had sat empty for some time, and I was no longer a little girl, but a college student. My great-grandparents were occupying a room across town in an assisted living home, giving the staff a run for their money. My great-grandmother was feisty, up until her dying day—quick-witted and funny. As a girl, I tried to slip past her love pats that left red marks, and were often followed by a little pinch or bite to the bare flesh of my arm. I have no idea why she did this, but it was her way of showing love. A painful way. I guess I might have some of that same spunk if I’d survived all she had, perhaps I’d bite my kids to show my fierce love. But probably not.

Those weekends spent sifting into years gone by– old black and white photos, bonnets, knick-knacks, bedding, dishware, and furniture– was awkward. It’s the fate of us all, isn’t it– a younger generation marching into our home like an army of ants to forage through personal belongings? The combing through of the entirety of someone’s life, stacking and piling what to sell and what to keep. Estate sales on the weekends to raise money to pay for assisted living.

We sorted pale peach Depression glassware, musty books, Naughahyde furniture, a Hope chest, and years of dishware. Someone wrote a phone number on a torn piece of paper and handed it to me—the number of an elderly woman in small clapboard house in rural Alabama. Weeks later, I perused the aisles of a fabric store, purchasing quilting batting, and eventually settling on a tan calico cotton for the backside. It was made whole years ago, that quilt—the topper stitched by my great-grandmother, the rest made complete by a stranger. To glimpse my children wrapped up tight like burritos in the hand-stitched beauty of their great-great grandmother brings joy to my heart.



In their early nineties, it was no surprise for them to walk into the arms of Jesus. It’s the younger ones that claw at my gut and rip my heart. I’ve seen three of my best friends from childhood go to the grave, much too young. My baby brother was in his early twenties, and my childhood friends were my first cousins on my mama’s side, both in their thirties. It seems too much to bear, a family losing so many sons. My parents losing one, my uncle losing two.

I was thirteen when my brother was born and have memories carved deep of rocking that bundled baby in the heirloom chunky brown rocker, his fawn-colored hair gently brushing my cheek with the rhythm. My heart is etched with a three-year old blond-haired brother on his birthday, small hands covering his eyes as he made a wish, three flames glimmering on the chocolate cake in the dark. And I forever carry with me the belly-aching laughter of family vacations, scouting deer and bear in Tennessee, snowball fights, and walking the streets of Chicago, where we glimpsed blue sky and rows of freshly tilled clouds between skyscrapers.

And my soul aches for my two cousins. As children, we navigated shadowed forest trails with four-wheelers and bare feet, ran amongst rows of corn, beans, potatoes, and melons that we picked straight from twisted vines. We’d bury our faces in the raw red pulp and black seeds of watermelons, the hot summer day ending with sticky faces, lightning bugs, and the serenade of crickets and cicadas. We’d ride bikes fast in thunderstorms, racing the sky—black clouds and pelting rain chasing us.

And yet we can’t outrun grief in this life. It’s inevitable, but hard, how life still goes on after death—the globe revolves, the sun still rises. The sepulchral cavity of the heart and mind awakens to the memory of a loved one gone–the blush of daybreak still comes, waxing pinks and oranges, the lilt of birds still serenade the day, and squirrels scamper from limb to limb, bristling tails and skirting the yard for food. It’s surreal—this cycle of life and death. Watching the normal world go on while we grieve.

In the face of loss, the normal life can feel wrong. Instead, it seems as if the ticking clock should halt, the clouds and sun blacken to honor our loss. As time goes on, memories can fade, just like ink on a newspaper page left in the sun, washed white. The brain may turns gears, rewind the days and years like the backwards leafing of pages in a book, endeavoring to recall the tone of their laughter, the outline of their face, the texture of their hair. I’m surprised by the things I remember, but more often than not, I’m undone by the things I’ve forgotten.

That antithetical space between the first screeching squalls of bundled babe and that of the last gasping breath before going to the grave is an odd place. Some people say to move forward; yet, how can a person go on living the same when life has been shot through like a paper target, riddled with bullet holes? How can we advance into living wholly if we don’t gaze over our shoulder and grieve what was? There is no time limit for grief, and the walk into the dark pain is, in fact, necessary if we are to move forward. Our tender God welcomes our wrestling (think of Jacob). And, like David, our God is open to our lamenting. David cries out in Psalm 31:9 (ESV) “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”[2] That yawning, grasping, and aching doesn’t go unnoticed by our God. How grateful I am for a God who is well acquainted with sorrow, our bibles ringing out with the tremendous loss of His only son, as well as the heartache in the lives of His people throughout all time.

On this side of heaven, His promise of hope and peace can often feel ephemeral, when I forget His goodness–that first sin from the Garden can wrap my heart like a twisted vine, the sin of not remembering. As believers, we can grasp tightly to the promise that our last breath will usher us into the outstretched arms of the One who spins the earth on its axis.

The trusting and plunging into the darkness is not a waste, as it can lead to healing and a deeper walk with the Father. Even the times when the darkness seems to swallow us whole, we must remember He is with us and for us. Falling into His arms is sometimes the only movement we can muster, a daily free fall weeping and wailing into the arms of the One and Only Healer.

Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, said it beautifully: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” [3] Oh, how difficult it can be sit and trust in those dark corners of our hearts. Yet, one day, in another life, the shattered and frayed ends of our lives will be made perfectly whole. By His immeasurable grace.
 







  1. Jerry L. Sittser, “A Grace Diguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss,” (Zondervan, 2004)
  2. S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed,” (Harper Collins, 1961) 3.
  3. Corrie Ten Boom, “The Hiding Place,” (Chosen Books, 2006).

{photo credit}

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fellowship of Hope


(Honored to write on incourage today.  Such an amazing, 
authentic online community of women.  Grateful to have a tiny part.)



In the deepest part of my soul lies a dichotomy. Scar tissue gaping from fresh wounds in the same place where beauty is emerging. Pain mixed with kindness.

Isn’t that where grace flows? Splintered wood, spilt blood, love poured out.

Years of my life have been soiled with an injured heart turning inward to a dark cloak of isolation, self-pity.

But something is shifting in the layers of pumping flesh — a metamorphosis is taking place as my cocoon of fear and shame has burst open. A flutter, as the Father gently guides me to press into discomfort, risking vulnerability in... read more here