Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Circle of Women

I wasn’t going to write today. I was going to rest, recharge and let my blog lay fallow for a few days. But then I read this post and my heart stretched open in thanks.  She writes to the women who have been hurt  by women and how we, yes we, close ourselves off and try to become invisible until one or two safe souls decide to love us and suddenly we blossom. As a girl, I too had been so hurt by other girls that by the time I entered college I purposely or instinctively, I don’t know which, developed a loving circle of friends who did not know each other. My friends rarely if ever met, the only thing they had in common was me: a rimless bicycle wheel with me at the hub.  See, I had learned that women in groups were dangerous. They eat their own.

Four years ago I entered a tranqil room with misty green walls, a church nursery with no babies in sight. For a year a group of women sat in a circle emblazoned with late afternoon sun and shared our hearts. Wounded sisters whispered fears, entrapping failures, shame filled secrets, hissing lies and eventually tender new hopes. We wrapped each other in warm acceptance, gentle love-spoken truths, fierce loyalty and uncompromising encouragement. Their love changed me. And my love for them changed me. Even now I can pick up the phone, as I did Saturday, and choke out “Help. I’m drowning in my own emotions and I can’t see a way out.” and they are there. They have my back but don’t spare my ego. They are priceless. And I pick up their calls.

The love I received from them allowed me to open up and trust the God whom I had worshipped and served but did not truly believe could or would heal my broken heart or protect me. I learned to trust Him and receive his healing in this sacred circle of trust.

His love allows me to cherish those college spokes still connected to me in a whole new way, focused on giving not getting or keeping. It welcomes new women into my life as friends, in a posture of openness. Love gives me the sweet joy of encouraging a few precious women who are just now stepping into their own new sacred circles of trust. It gives me the courage to reach out and embrace, pray for, and love on you, women and men, friends I only know through your words and pictures afloat in the blogosphere. This love, like rushing water even compels me to accept, shield with forgiveness those whose own wounds lead them to lash out. I cannot heal. I will not hang out to be abused. But I will allow love to rush out and soothe rather than dam the flow, turning fresh love into stagnant pools of resentment. And so much of this I learned from Him in them.

If you have time, I highly suggest reading Ann’s post today. I bear witness to the truth of her words.
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Linking up with Em and friends

Monday, April 25, 2011

Scenes from Easter

The finale to my Late to Lent series.

Easter was lovely. It was definitely more than another Sunday with special music and decorations. See, I didn’t get to hear the special music and just peeked at the decorations. I didn’t even get to hear the teaching and yet I‘m full.

But first let me back up to yesterday’s terrible, no good, very bad day. I wrote that post and then, well, the day got worse. I know hard to believe. But it did. Without going into all of the minutiae I’ll say that I have no idea what time I finally went to sleep because I couldn’t stop crying. I know I seem to be crying a lot lately, but crying myself (not) to sleep is rare and generally reserved for more tragic blows. I was so desperate and so tired that I did something I haven’t risked in over two months. I asked Jesus to please speak to me; I needed a concrete comforting thought and a picture. I’ve heard Him once in a while in these last couple of months, but I haven’t actually sought Him out like that. I’ve had my reasons and they’re a big part of why I had to give up anger at God for Lent. Then in the middle of this restless tear filled night, He was there. Scraps of Matthew 11:28-30 drifted through my head along with a picture so clear and instructive that I got up and took out my colored pencils to draw it. This all may sound weird but to me I broke through a wall that had been up around my heart for months; a wall whose purpose was to keep God out or at least contained. And even though I was still sad and shed a few more tears, I slept.

And I woke up feeling like complete and utter crap, at least physically. I was shaking I was so tired (and I’m sure had completely exhausted my adrenal gland.) So I prayed and did the only sensible thing, I went back to bed. After another hour’s slumber I was able to get up and go to church. We had three services today. (Am I boring you? I’m afraid this might be the most boring post ever but I’m too tired to edit. Sorry.) I was teaching 3 & 4 year olds in the third so I planned on attending the second. But it didn’t work out that way. I pretty much just taught the class. Even in that I saw mercy. I didn’t get my Easter commitment until Thursday, after I had devised a menu and a plan. I’d serve/attend in the first two services and then run home and start cooking. When I saw I was scheduled to teach in the third I tried to change it which did not work. On the way to church this morning I marveled at how much kinder and smarter God is than me. No way could I have done either of the earlier services. I’m not even sure I could have safely driven to church. So days before my sucky Dead Saturday, He provided for me.

The kids rocked. My 3 & 4 year olds were hilarious and so high energy. After reading the story to my gaggle of pastel colored Easter Ducklings, I reviewed with the cheerleading jeopardy method which means this entire conversation happens at a small yell. Visualize pom poms.
me: Jesus is…

Easter ducklings: God…

me: And He did what on the cross?

Easter ducklings: died

me: And they put his body into a…

Easter ducklings: tomb

me: And what thing as tall as this room did they put in front of the tomb?

Easter ducklings: a stone

And here is where it get’s interesting.

me: And when they went to the tomb what was in there?

Easter ducklings: Jesus

me: Uhhm, when the stone was rolled away, what was in there? (flapping wings)

Easter ducklings: angels

me: And where was Jesus?

Easter ducklings: gone

me: And why was He gone?

Easter duckling 1: 'Cause the angels took His body away

me: Nooo, why was He gone?

Easter duckling 2: 'Cause He wasn’t dead, they lied.

me: Interesting answer but, no, why was Jesus gone? Because He was a…..

Easter ducklings: LIVE
So I may have needed to review a little more about the actual essential point of Easter but we came a ways from their original answer to “What is Easter all about?”…candy and toys.

After church was probably the best part of my day. I got to spend time with a prodigal child who dropped into her old home to find out what kind of welcome she would receive if she returned. I don’t know what she’ll decide in the next days or months but it was deeply satisfying to spend time with her, listening, encouraging, challenging and praying. I’ve missed my friend.

Finally the rest of the day was spent as I had originally hoped, with my family. It's the last Easter we will all spend together as Grams is moving in just a few weeks. That’s kind of hard to write, but my feelings about this are another post. Suffice to say I enjoyed time with them, especially when my Grams began to tell touching stories of the early days of our family.

So I’m at the end of this particular pilgrimage and the finale was not all bells and whistles. I didn’t explode with happiness or blossom overnight. But I’ve found some things deeper and more lasting. Mercy to cover someone who has unapologetically wounded me with my own acceptance and forgiveness. Grace that provides for my needs before they are needs. Faith to reach out and ask God to speak to me even when I’m afraid that I can’t rightly discern His voice. Hope that even though I see goodbyes ahead, there will also be hellos. Self-control to consistently practice a fast. Truthful eyes that see my own desperate need for the alive Savior. And joy in the journey.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Late to Lent Extra: Dead Saturday Sucked

So it turned out that I had a little more to share. Lost? Directions here.

I planned to finish this series up with Easter. And I still will. But I need to add this extra post. Yesterday when I was writing I was so full. It was like the pinnacle of my Lent. I wrote both of those days in one sitting because I just had so much on my heart. I was marinating in God's love and lovin' it. Then something happened later on that day which got me a little hurt and then a little bit more codependent (people pleasing.) You know, by late last night I’m trying to pull out my emotional tools to sort this out when some completely unrelated pain and resentments, which have been quietly simmering away decided to erupt. So I took some time to pray. I finished reading Imperfect Prose and many of the posts totally addressed these issues but I still woke up Not Happy. It didn’t take long for Not Happy to turn into Utter Meltdown. I’d like to say I was just celebrating Dead Saturday (if Good Friday and Easter have
names, I think Saturday should too) with the disciples, huddled in a corner, crying, lashing out and overwhelmed. But yeah, there was nothing really holy about this. And it just sucked. I’m better now, I journaled, I talked to an accountability partner, I’ve addressed directly the two simplest problems and I’ve taken Excedrin. Tantrums give me migraines. Law of Consequences I’m sure, but they suck, too. (I know. I’m saying suck a lot tonight.) I realize that I have some deep seated resentment against someone close that I need to address, first with me and God and then when the time is right directly with them. Also a lot of things in my family are going to change in the next year and I thought I was all good with that, and it turns out I’m not. So, yippee, more stuff to process. The very worst part of today isn’t all of that though; it’s how I treated my Mom. I vented to her. I mean my entire meltdown was with (which feels like at) her. By the time I was almost done she was just sitting quietly slumped over. I felt awful then. It’s so hard to share this but I want to be honest with you guys about this entire Lent journey. And officially today is still Day 40 of Lent. My venting hurt her. I’ve apologized but it’s still the worst part of a sucky day. So I’m going to enter Easter Sunday having gone through a long and tiring journey of confronting and processing my anger at God, the high of being blown away by the immensity of His love for me and the raw ugly truth of how much sin I still revel in. I need the resurrection because my old stuff is not only dead, it is stinky dead: decaying rats in the ceiling dead. I’m so glad tomorrow is Easter because I urgently need to celebrate an alive Savior and the promise of new life in me.
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Late to Lent: Days 39-40

Last one, can you believe it?  They all hang out together here.

Day Thirty-nine
I feel as if this whole journey has been drawing me to this day. I’ve even been looking forward to this, the celebration of the crucifixion. Writing random notes all week under the heading Day Thirty-nine. Why? Why am I drawn so adamantly here? In what other context would I anticipate remembering, even celebrating murder? For in one sense that’s what I celebrate, a murder. But then there is the voice of the One I love saying He could call down a legion of angels if need be. He did not lose His authority with His humanity. He chose. That truth’s so large I’m not sure I can really take it in. So today I’m just going to share some of my scattered impressions at the cross.

Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. John 19:25 MSG At the foot of the cross stood His mother. I have always thought of the agony of that from Mary’s point of view. It’s only this year that I see mercy and grace even here. In mere hours Jesus’ Father, God, who has always been in relationship with Him, turns away from the Son shrouded in sin. But grace is given to the Bringer of grace. Jesus is not left orphaned. His mother watches, longing to comfort. When I hurt I want my mama. God gave Jesus His mama in that moment. So I wonder if it was comforting to have her there. Or was it more painful to watch her pain? And for Mary, God gave her sister. Have you ever noticed that? Jesus aunt, his mother’s sister, stood at the foot of the cross, as close as they could get to Him, and wept. Sister comforting sister, mother trying to comfort son, and son providing protection for mother, as He asks John to care for her. Even in utter devastation God reveals himself as relentlessly relational.

Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 MSG A few years ago I heard a pastor talk about this verse in such a fresh way that I will never look at it the same way again. The bible says that sins are removed, washed away because of Jesus’ blood. At this point He had been tortured to a bloody pulp. He wasn’t even recognizable as a man when they nailed Him up high. Before the wood was done rocking in its base the red life was soaking into the grain, mercy dripping down. And Jesus did not want to wait for death. Forgiveness, this was the point. He anxiously anticipated the pay off being released. Father, my blood is flowing, release the forgiveness. Let the flood of amazing grace drench them now! To see Jesus in agony anxious to love, to forgive, to make this all worthwhile wrenches my own heart with love in return.

At three o'clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Mark 15:34 MSG This is the moment when the fabric of the universe was torn asunder. The ever living, ever-loving God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit: broken. And Jesus was abandoned to die. Yes, there was a plan. But Jesus was 100% God and 100% human. I can only imagine that in this moment He didn’t feel a plan, just the harrowing pain of rejection and abandonment. God retreated from the Son; turned His weeping back and walked away. No connection, no comfort, no love just empty darkness. In the echoing void Jesus had to throw those words, “It is finished… Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,” based on faith alone. He no longer had any sense of connection to God or proof that the relationship would be restored. Jesus had to blindly obey in faith. So every rejection I have felt, every lonely moment, every betrayal, every abandonment by those I thought would protect me, He has been there. When I have felt abandoned by God, He was. The whys and the how could You's, He has been there. The obedience in the dark with only a chosen belief that God is all that He says He is in the bible with no supporting evidence, Jesus did that too.

Truly, how could I stay angry when faced with such towering love?

Day Forty
Today is the day that Jesus’ body lay silent, broken and unmoving in the dark. His soul already laying claim to the keys of death and hell, his body just lay; even in death, observing the Sabbath. So on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Genesis 2:2 But his friends were also in the dark, hiding. The disciples had all run to ground. And can you imagine their fear of discovery, Will they kill me next? Their deep and consuming grief, He’s dead, they just murdered Him. He’s gone. Their confusion, This wasn’t how the Messiah thing was supposed to work! And so they cowered, in back rooms, dusty closets, obscure guest quarters, scattered across Jerusalem, perhaps in twos or threes. Can you see them huddled around banked fires, whispering? Do you think they began, even then, to tell each other the stories of what Jesus had done, what they had seen with their own eyes as they tried to put their shattered hopes back together piece by piece?

As we wait today, quiet in memory of all that was so seemingly lost; will you hunker down with me in a darkened room and listen to a story? This is really a Good Friday story, but truthfully, I can’t imagine that their own Good Friday story left the disciples minds for a moment that Sabbath day.

My story begins with the shrill ring of a phone early in the morning. I bury my face deeper into the pillows, resentful of this intrusion into my final high school spring break. Suddenly my bedroom door opens and one of my parents walks in, kicking aside the clothes that always piled up on the floor. Funny, I don’t remember if it was my mom or dad, probably my mom. “That was a social worker, “she whispers, her eyes urgent, her voice strangled, “your brother has been in an accident. We have to leave now for Palm Springs. They said he hit his head.” I jump out of bed tears already stinging my eyes and walk out to the dining room where my dad is getting ready to leave. His face is grey, etched with worry. The doorbell rings.

Our neighbors from down the street stand on the doorstep, tense and hurried. They offer to carpool to the hospital over an hour away. They’ve already spoken to their own son, the driver. DBB was thrown, he said, out of a window. No seatbelt. Panic rises; threatening to cut off my airways as in the background I hear the angry expletive fly with a fist slamming against a table. I know that I am not the only one overtaken by terror. With an “I love you” and “We’ll call as soon as we get there.” my parents are gone and I am left alone in the suddenly silent house to wait.

Hours go by. I have made the difficult and necessary calls to kin. And now I wait, sure that they’ll just pick him up from the ER waiting room, bandaged and chagrined. The shrill ring again pierces the silence and the voice I long to hear, my mom, says, “It’s ok. He’s on a respirator and they’re taking him for a CAT scan and MRI now; they don’t think his back is broken. But they want to be sure

They don’t think his back is broken. The words hang in the air like icy daggers aimed at my heart. I have only one brother and at 16 months apart, irish twins, the scars and the passion between us is immeasurable. I’m the big sister. It has always been my job to protect him, and now they don’t know if his back is broken!

Later my mother calls again. He is in the ICU resting in a medically-induced coma; another body laying at rest, but this one breathing, with help. My dad won’t leave his side. "There is no spinal injury," she says, rejoicing, "but they don’t know yet how much reconstructive surgery he will need on his face."

Again my air is snatched away. I slump on the family room floor, staring up at his school picture. I like his face, the straight nose, the strong cheekbones, the roguish, teasing blue eyes. This is my brother’s face. I like it just the way it is.

What baffles me is that every time she calls my mom sounds as if she is relaying good news. And with each announcement my sense of danger grows. I didn’t walk into the hospital 100 miles away with them. I did not see their boy lying inert, clothes torn and bloodied, asphalt ground into gashes and long burns. I did not beg the Lord at my son’s bedside “Lord you gave Your Son, let me keep mine.” My shock did not flood in. My pain arrived in waves, with each shrill ring of the phone.

There’s more to this story: parts too long to share here. Mercy after mercy. After flying through the back window of a rolling SUV, my brother had no permanent injuries. Not even one broken bone. And then there’s this testimony from the other two guys in the car: DBB was thrown out on the first roll, the car barrel rolling toward him to crush him when for no apparent reason (an angel or maybe even the hand of God) the SUV turned to roll in another direction, missing him completely. That year we celebrated Easter with my brother being released from the ICU. I spent the day in the hospital talking with my swollen, orange brillo-pad headed, beautiful brother. Resurrection of hope all over again.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 37-38

And I'm walking, and I'm walking (hummed to the tune "Just Keep Swimming.")   Walk with me here.

Day Thirty-Seven
One of the books I have been reading is this little wonder. This week’s reading is about hope, a virtue I desperately need and equally mistrust. What I read this morning reminded me again how thankful I am that I don’t walk alone and that many sojourners throughout history have been willing to share their insights and struggles from the road. So I truly cannot think of anything more profound to share with you than what I read today.

God must bring us to a point-I cannot tell you how it will be, but he will do it-where, through a deep and dark experience, our natural power is touched and fundamentally weakened, so that we no longer dare trust ourselves. He has had to deal with some of us very strangely, and take us through difficult and painful ways, in order to get us there. …But then at last it is that he can begin to use us…We would like to have death and resurrection put together within one hour of each other. We cannot face the thought that God will keep us aside for so long a time; we cannot bear to wait. And of course I cannot tell you how long he will take, but in principle I think it is quite safe to say this, that there will be a definite period when he will keep you there….All is in darkness, but it is only for a night. It must indeed be a full night, but that is all. Afterwards you will find that everything is given back to you in glorious resurrection; and nothing can measure the difference between what was before and what now is!
Watchman Nee
p. 38, Devotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible
Glorious hope!

Day Thirty-eight
I’m all abuzz tonight, distracted. I temped today in the same office where I spent years working, the same office I was laid off from in complete peace. But as always, old problems linger and worn out baggage tumbles down trying to trip me. I’m finding it hard to be still, inside, where it counts. I close my eyes and hear Him whisper,

Come. Disrobe and leave it all behind, the worry, the fixing, the trying to control, the managing. Allow me to clothe you in peace, in hope and in joy. My shirts are soft, my slippers fluffy, my pants silky and breathable, and everything I offer is crystal white; it is the only color I have to give. Wear my pajamas, tonight.

Calmed with His love.  So I don’t think I’ll write anything more just now. I’m going to change my pjs, curl up and rest.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 35-36

I'm almost at the end of this journey.  If you want to see if I've changed at all you could read here.

Day Thirty-five

some days I feel so empty I'm afraid of being swallowed whole

it's not the food I'm forgoing in the evenings

it is the dwindling bank account

it is the unfulfilled giving commitments

it is the abandoned dog crate outside the kitchen window

it is the blank in the fill in the blank Profession:__________

it is the silence in ears that ache to be called mommy

it is the arms tightly wrapped around a cold pillow in an empty bed each night

some days I feel so empty I'm afraid of being swallowed whole

and then I see the mountains

so impossibly green in my arid land

with dusky sunlight and shadows frolicking in the crevices, playing tag

my heart opens hungrily

drawing the beauty in with ragged breaths

exhaling praise with parched lips

I swell with the bounty You have prepared for my eyes

the words You tenderly hand feed my soul

and for today,

for today it is enough

329. It is always today and You will always be enough.

Day Thirty-Six
Do you know of any writers who soften your heart? The ones who wielding words disrobe their souls so plainly that you would blush but for the awe and the kinship it engenders. Intimacy, openness and searching, always seeking to glimpse His face; these are rare and precious gifts. I have a few who do that for me and tonight I am so appreciative. Thankful that to really fulfill my Lenten task, to not only give up anger against God but to follow Christ, I can not walk alone. Alone my heart empties, dries up and hardens. I get worn out by the doing and the waiting and the thinking and the feeling and the life. But then I halt, reach out, open a book, pull up a blog, pick up the phone and I bathe in the love, truth, seeking: refreshed by the mere company of my fellow sojourners.

That may be a reason for this journal, to remind me that this walk is not alone. I am accountable to you who take the time to read. My commitment to meet with you every day has kept me real and present in this walk. If I took a day off, decided to let Lent go, what could I tell you? There is not a whole lot of room to fake it. And yet on those days when I think, “What on earth am I going to write about?” you are there: in your own blogs, in the pages of books long and lovingly labored over, sitting across in a meeting, side by side in a service, in an email, in a comment.

One of the joys of dying and coming to life again in Christ is that the resurrection involves becoming family. His Spirit, now living in me and in you, binds us heart to heart. That family, locking arms and walking, seeking to worship and give and love and share and expand, that’s the Church. And today I see that I can not follow alone. I have to do Lent, this journal and life with the Church, or I will not be able to do it all.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT
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locking arms with Em' and friends today

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 33-34

So there's a whole lot of other posts kind of like this one.  They hang out here.
Day Thirty-three

I’m not even sure how to discern what is going on in my heart today. It feels a bit torn up, like a wet lawn that has been driven over by careless cars. I simply need You. And I want to want You as much as I need You. I’m tired of trying to figure things out with so little information. Forgive me for all of the times when I want what You can do for me more than I want You. I don’t know how to fix that. I don’t think I can. Please do it for me.
I have to confess that I  don’t believe Philippians 4:11-13 at all. I’m not content. I don’t know how to live in every situation. And I believe Christ can do everything, but not in me. Like I’m the one great exception. I’m sorry. Forgive this pride in disguise. You have spent so much time listening to me prattle on about my dreams but are they Yours too? Is what I want what You want for me? If it's not I ask you to strip them away. But please be gentle. My heart is very small and tender. And it needs dreams. So if you take the ones I have now away, please give me new ones. Let me dream with You. Since you created me, You know; I was born to dream.  Father, You know what is on my plate today. I’m feeling so foggy about the rehearsal this afternoon. Help me to serve well. I’m just filling in, but I want to be prepared and I haven’t been disciplined at all on this so far.  Thank you for the sunshine and the green out my window. It’s so pretty. As is the birdsong being warbled next door. This really is a lovely place to live, I’m sorry I am so ungrateful at times.
 And You have even given me the time to rest I begged for and yet I chafe in that too, wanting what’s next, fearing being left out, fearing being judged or misunderstood. I hear the ugly hiss that I’m defective and a loser, and I'm afraid it might be right. I know you hate this hiss. Please let my ears hear your songs. Drown out the hiss. I want to hear You. Thank you for loving me even when I am such a
difficult child. You are so loyal. Even when You are telling me that I’m messing up, I know it is because You love me and You want good for me. And You are so much bigger than anything I can imagine. I know You see all the beginning and the ends and how they fit together. I want to rest in You. Please hold my hand today as I walk. I’ll try to lean close enough to hear Your whispered instructions because I love you.

your songbird

Day Thirty-four
Tonight I’m feeling poured out. Between stuff I’m doing at church, preparing for the stuff I’m doing at church and helping my Grams to pack, it’s kind of crazy. And I’m feeling poured out when in fact I’m mid pour. I have two more jam packed days to go. You know I’ve been writing those words often lately:
 empty, dry, parched, poured out. I wonder if it isn’t meetings and rehearsals and chores for Grams. I wonder if dried up and emptied out is exactly where I am supposed to be in this journey. Is this moment part of the withering that has to happen before death and a harvest of new life?   And isn’t that what Lent is celebrating? This time of fasting and repentance, what does it really mean to me…now?  In laying down my anger I am choosing to allow His perspective (which I don’t actually see but have to take on faith) trump mine. I am dying to my right to be mad because none of it, of life, is going the way I dreamt and planned. I am letting my heart winter over, settle down, submit, believing that spring is coming with fresh verdant shoots of life. By fasting this week I see how powerfully loud my body is and how difficult it is to obey. I’m reminded not only of all that Jesus gave up but that His sacrifice can feed me. Wow, that sounds so mystical and obtuse. How it actually works is that my tummy rumbling in the evening, craving a snack, is a reminder to tell Jesus, “I depend on you. Thanks for being there. I’m hungry. Please be here for me now.” And that too is a sort of dying. My physical cravings dying to a larger soul plan.  Even this journal has been a death of sorts. I haven’t been able to be easy, breezy free-wheelin’ on my blog; posting whatever took my fancy, whenever I want. I’ve had to be disciplined, write almost every day, and put off other posts if I only have time to work on one.  So I guess I’m feeling a bit crumbly at this point, worn thin and frayed at the edges. I can’t help but believe that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, tired of the “law” so to speak and ready for a little grace and freedom. But lean in close so I can whisper a secret.  Easter is coming.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

So Kind

You are all so sweet to wish me well in my new home but I did feel the need to clarify that I am not moving. I'm helping my Grams to pack.  She's moving back to her home state of Tennessee after 62 years.  I'll scoop up all of your love anyways, with grateful, open arms.  And I'll pass it on to her. You guys are the best.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 31-32

Three-quarters of the the way through my first Lent, can you believe it?  Check out the beginning here.

Day Thirty-one
I am soooo tired. It’s 9:25 pm (early for me,) I'm struggling to stay awake and only now getting to this journal. I tried reading through this week’s Imperfect Prose, hoping something would inspire me to write but by link 18 my brain shut down and I had no words to comment to a perfectly great post. (Sorry Lori, I’ll return tomorrow when I’m fresher.) That’s pretty much the point when I know to put the blogs away to peruse another day. My day was good and I even took time to start the Gospel of Luke over gluten-free pancakes this morning before rushing out of the house. But as soon as breakfast was done I, finally virus free, took off to my Grams’ house again. I realize most days I process the Lenten season with words on a page, thoughts in my mind, emotions in my heart, and an incredibly slow laptop. But today I celebrated with my hands, wrapping that weird (and unbelievably handy) green packing plastic around precious photos and art,

taping boxes, sloppily writing F-R-A-G-I-L-E over and over again;

with worshiping knees bent on carpet wrestling glass shelves and puzzling frames into boxes with towels for cushioning. A newly learned praise chorus harmony part, needed by next Sunday, hummed through my lips as I offer my oblations in a small suburban living room quickly being stripped of its sweet personality.

And you know what, it’s all good.

Day Thirty-two
For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

I find it in the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts, this verse that trips me. With eyes suddenly blinded I cannot find my way past it, so I close the book. Why does this verse slice so deep, separating bone from marrow? I read the Twilight books this last year and a bit of fan fiction (keep your guffaws to yourself, please.) Somehow these stories go deep, taking up lodging in me and I wondered why. Protection. There were many times growing up when I did not feel safe, times when I wasn’t safe. So I did what I could to guard myself in my own small way. I became a warrior or I recruited others and asked them to do the impossible task of keeping my heart secure. I tried broken methods in a broken world and they were just broken. This image calls to me, the mighty warrior, the brawny hero looking at me with eyes of adoration calming my fears, luxuriating in my presence with singing. It soothes my heart, even now.

Delight, the word brings me back many years, to early in my time with Stinkerbell. I heard Him whisper, I take delight in you, the same way you delight in her. To some of you that may sound silly, but I understood; He was speaking my language. Then last week I was driving when out of nowhere the loss of her just t-boned me, as grief will and I began to weep. That polka-dotty dog adored me from the moment we met, years before I owned her. For twelve years her eyes lit up when I entered the room. She thought it was always worthwhile to leave a good nap to cuddle with me. She hated watching me cry and would do her best to clean up the tears with rough kisses. And she would have died to protect me. “Lord,” I wailed, “no one will ever again love me the way she did.” And then He said it again, only inverting the idea this time. You are loved that way now. Her love is a mere reflection of my love for you. 

And I saw a picture of the moon, the glorious moon which sends thrills down my spine, bathing the night in ethereal light. This beautiful orb, the subject of poets is only a rock hung in the sky. Moonlight a weak image of the strong, ferocious, life-giving light from the sun. Stinkerbell’s brave and beautiful love for me was a mere nightlight to point me back to the source of overwhelming love, still and always mine.

There is more I think, churning in my heart over this verse, but I don’t have words yet to ascribe to the feelings and thoughts there. Cindy at 12 Tribes wrote on it a few months ago and I loved that post enough to print. For now I’m simply going to swaddle my soul  in these words and listen closely for His song.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 29-30

you probably know the drill, but if not, you can catch up here

Day Twenty-nine
Empty, I feel dried up and depleted tonight. It’s probably what I’ve been feeding myself. I mean today wasn’t a bad day but like most Mondays, I got up and rushed out the door a little sleepy after staying up late to read fluffy fantasy novels. After babysitting, I ran errands for a couple of hours, ate lunch while checking out a few blogs and then spent the next three hours make a boatload of mushroom soup and compound herb butter. (Note to self, always, always halve soup recipes.) Did I really just give you a play by play of my boring Monday? Told you I was kind of empty. Notice I didn’t really have a quiet time in there? That’s what I mean about feeling dry because I wasn’t nourishing myself today. I prayed a little on the run, had some worship music on with the kids and while driving, but otherwise it has kind of been mental junk food, which is all fine and good in its place but I can’t live a whole day on it. I am going to go read in a little bit, maybe finish Mark, but I think this is what I am supposed to write about on day twenty-nine. I need to confess to you so that I do not forget that if I don’t plug in each day, I go empty. I can’t skip my soul rations and expect to have anything to share. I believe it was in A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place that I heard Beth Moore say “Bread of Heaven, served fresh daily.” I fasted the wrong thing today.

Day Thirty
It’s another odds and ends ADHD sort of day. After yesterday’s barrenness I begin my morning with a time of devotion, of setting aside my agenda to focus on a little soul food. Ann wrote about service being the natural and right result of eucharisteo thankfulness. And I reflect on how often this last week my service to my family, the day to day contributions of living with other people, has been miserly measured, compared, complained about and grudgingly given often with some sort of demand in return for services rendered. It seems that there is no end to rough edges in my character longing to be smoothed out. But there is a healthy truth in that awareness. When I rightly see myself, without self-loathing or self-righteousness, I am more graciously able to accept those around me and cognizant of our constant, unfailing need for God.

Moving on I finish reading the Gospel of Mark, finally. For such a short Gospel it seemed to take me a while to complete. I’m reading in the Message and after a lifetime of hearing these verses I relish the fresh perspective the translation offers.

Jesus told them, "You're all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it's my fault. Mark 14:27a MSG This verse rings in my heart. I know this feeling, like all is crashing around me when I was depending on Him to keep it up and to build it in the first place. Abandoned by God. That is such a hard place. I haven’t considered that the disciples felt this abandonment. It’s so easy to be calloused reading these accounts several thousand years later. I mean Jesus told them point blank that He would be killed and then rise again in 3 days. But living that, it would seem so impossible, or as if there was a poetic spiritual truth in those words that they must not understand. He couldn’t actually mean killed as in dead and raised as in alive again. So they felt their world falling apart and it was Jesus’ fault and today my heart goes out to join them.

He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." Mark 14:37-38 MSG Ahhh Peter, how I love that man. So nice to see me represented as a disciple. Part of me is eager, ready for anything in God but another part is a lazy dog sleepin’. Yep, I think that is pretty darn accurate.

Four beatings! Jesus endured four beatings before being killed. Mark 14:46, 65 and Mark 15: 15-20 MSG My heart hurts for Him. Can you just imagine knowing Him walking here on earth? That gentle strength, wholly kind and wholly masculine, in the flesh. And they beat Him and mocked Him. All of Hell lined up to finally take their shot at God foolishly becoming vulnerable, mortal man; all of Hell working through us. Then at nine in the morning He is nailed to the cross. I ‘m struck by the wood; a carpenter killed on rough hewn wood. I don’t think I ever noticed that it took six hours for Him to die. Six hours of agony, of burning searing pain, of ragged, elusive breath and all this after a night of betrayal, rejection, humiliation and beatings. Six hours seems so long to me. And yet it was short to Pilate. Mark 15:44 MSG The monstrosity of man, of us. And Jesus hung dying for six hours subjecting Himself to our devastating cruelity to rescue us, the brutal, from our own brutality. It is more than I can take in on a bright, sunny Tuesday morning.

And then at the end of Mark, Jesus sat down beside God in the place of Honor. Mark 16:19 MSG He sat down because the work was done, finished, the victory His and through Him mine. And the words to the new song I will perform on Sunday slowly rise to the forefront of my mind:

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Monday, April 11, 2011


Or is it bi-winning?  Sorry, couldn't resist. (note to self: It is not funny to laugh at overpaid celebs with mental issues. It is not funny to laugh at overpaid celebs with mental issues.) Thanks everyone for your well wishes.  I really want to send all of you this awesome cd but, sigh, no can do. So without further ado...

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 27-28

to start at the beginning

Day Twenty-Seven

Sinuses on fire
Icky icky ick
Colds suck
Kicking myself for not being able to meet the day’s obligations


Slowed down by Divine allowance
In His care even now
Cherishing my health through the temporary diminishing
Knowing this too shall pass


in other news

the blue,

the green

and the white are back.

My favorite colors


across the world.

Day Twenty-eight

All eyes; this journey which I frankly thought would be about my mouth, has been all about my eyes. How do I see life, how do I see Him, how do I see me. I sit in my favorite chair, the old reclining love seat in the open, airy living room, the one with a view to my distressed white Drexel Heritage chairs (still in process), the roses and grapevine in our garden and the glorious mountains beyond. Hair, still dripping, tied up in clips; I pull out the tools of my morning warfare. First, I record a quick gift that I received a few days ago but only saw this morning: a phone call to Target customer service, an operator beaten by words with a pounding headache answering, a chance to make amends in absentia to all of the customer service reps I have self-centeredly bullied when life was not going my way, forgiveness received and the joy of her headache healed. I go to open Ann’s book but keep finding my Bible in my hands. This happens several times before I notice; here in the Word must be where I’m supposed to start. I have been reading through the Gospels but the book covered in the soft teal print-a banner gone wrong recycled by a church in Cambodia, then sold to my BFF who gave it to me-falls open to the heading Moses Blesses Israel on the Plains of Moab. And I halt to stare, really paying attention now.

I may have shared here, or it may have been in comments on some other blog, maybe even yours, that since graduating college over ten years ago my life has been a journey through the wilderness. That’s not to say it has been all bad, or heartbreaking or a perfect graveyard of buried hopes, though I have thought that a time or two. It has simply been wilderness: slightly barren, wild and unpredictable, traveling, never quite reaching a place to establish or build, full of fears and flaws faced and always this sense of having to follow Him closely because on my own I am completely lost. The first Sunday of the year I sang on the worship team. We had just rocked Desert Song when my pastor asked what season are you in. I asked the Lord the same question. To my eyes the wilderness all looks kind of the same. I don’t have the ability to pick up the subtle landmarks. In response I saw the children of Israel camped at some sort of oasis on the edge of the Promised Land. I went home and began reading that the last stop before leaving the wilderness was the Plains of Moab. And this, He said, is where I am now camped.  So while I don’t usually prescribe to the falling open bible study plan, today I begin to read. And I stumble over this verse, tripping headlong, trying to jump ahead but it has firmly caught me.
Moses called all Israel together and said, You’ve seen with your own eyes everything that God did in Egypt to Pharaoh, and his servants, and to the land itself-the massive trials to which you were eyewitnesses, the great signs and miracle-wonders. But God didn’t give you an understanding heart or perceptive eyes or attentive ears until right now, this very day. Deuteronomy 29: 2-4 MSG
But God didn’t give. God didn’t. These perceptive eyes I am trying to develop, even they are a gift from Him. I can not manufacture this although I can refuse. It is His Spirit working within me, deeply and gently. Ephesians 3:20 MSG Then I read Ann and weep as she describes the world she sees through God-given eyes, the stark beauty of the shared humanity between a farmer’s wife and a homeless recovering crack addict. Those eyes to see more of who He is will also allow me to see Him in those it is easiest to not see at all. These eyes, these I want. These I need.
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