Category Archives: god

Our wordless walk.

 

Today I saw a beautiful photo on my Instagram feed.

An open journal set on a table, and upon the crisp white page was written the word,

“Grace”

In enviously beautiful penmanship, the kind with long tails and swirls at the ends of the letter.

The journal was placed upon a table set up outdoors. On the table you can see a strategically placed cup of coffee and a pen next to the mug, mindlessly left there by the artist. You could see the back ground. The blurred image of palm trees and blue skies.

No argument from me that it is a lovely image.

My reaction though, was not what the artist had hoped. Something inside me was, disappointed.

It is no difficult task to sit in a tropical setting, drinking a latte while you have the leisure to create a beautiful scripted image about God’s grace.The ease and peace of the moment doesn’t reduce the truth of God’s grace. His grace is life changing. And amazing. And real. Which is why the picture is so powerful.

I love pictures that are like the one I described. Where the girl is strolling in the knee high grass, golden locks tossed messily by the wind. The words of Grace written happily across the sun streaked sky. Where she leans in the shade against a strong tree. Her bare toes curled in the cool green grass. A verse about the peace of our Father Creator written in the canopy of dark green leaves. Photos like this represent the hope of our creator. His blessings. His peace. His amazing grace.

These images appeal to our wants. We want that. Of course we do!  The sun. The blue sky. The crispy empty white page with error free art effortlessly drawn upon it. The refreshing atmosphere. Feet kicked up. We look at that photo and we think, yea, THATS grace.

But there are times when I see these images and… my heart sinks.

Because this is not the grace I know right now. This is not the grace we always see.

Where is the photo of  his princess crying in her car at the red light on her way to work? Her unspoken prayers caught in her throat that is in synchronized twist with her heart. Is his grace not in that moment, as she waits for the light to change?

Where is the photo of the daughter of God staring at a stranger in a bathroom mirror spotted with tooth paste splatters? She looks at the unfamiliar face of someone she no longer recognizes anymore, someone she fears will be forever a failure. Is her heavenly dad’s hope not in there with her as she rests her hands on the sink?

Does grace and hope and peace and love always look like the first photos?

Or is it possible, that he exists in these other moments as well?

Is our faith as valid when our hearts feel hopeless?

Is our love for our maker just as known by our Heavenly Dad when we are feeling unloved?

Are our prayers still important when they are filled with questions?

Does he still hear our heart when it’s cries fall silent?

There is a deep assurance that rests within me that tells me that my faith is just as real now as it is when the days are sunny. My heavenly Dad still sees my heart, hears my cries and is moved with compassion for me.

He knows us comprehensively.Every shadow we walk though, he is there.. Every inch of this part of the path that is clouded by the gray skies that we might find ourselves walking tonight? He is here. And not only is he present in this place with us. He sees all our fears and doubts and darkness and he is overcome with love for us.

When our walk with our God becomes wordless, feel him take your hand and knowingly give you a squeeze. He isn’t going anywhere.

This is my photo of grace.

 

 

 

 

 

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An empty tank.

An empty glass.

An empty bank account.

Anytime you hear of empty… you think… people think ….. well…. nothing good.

Empty can cause fear. Empty can cause pain…..

But empty…. happens. All the time. To alot of people. To everyone, I think.

It easy to focus on the difficult parts of experiencing empty.

But as we encounter these times in life, we need to force ourselves to find the good in these moments.

Pain and circumstance can be a tutor in life. If you allow it.

Wherever there is emptiness there is a capacity to recieve.

This is God’s great chance to work.

God doesnt do his best work in the luxury jet of the televangelist. Or in the padded pews of a stuffy church. But… in our brokenness. In our right now neediness.

God delights in our weakness. His strength is made perfect inside of our weakness. Its in these moments of emptiness that he shines brightest.

So, if you have an empty glass right now… an empty tank… an empty bank account….

an empty heart.

Think of this? as your moment…right now?… is your moment.

God’s grace is NOW… right at this moment.

God’s grace isnt for your yesterday. His grace isnt for your last year. It isnt for your past at all. There is no grace for your past.

But, for where you are at this moment?

There’s grace.

Emptiness

What if?

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What is it about the click of the keypad I find so…. satisfying? As if somehow my thoughts have more significance when there are in front of my eyes versus whirling in a soup in my busy brain?

I suppose the speed that I can type is a much more manageable speed to process my thoughts,  than the speed my thoughts normally come: fast and furious, a whirling dervish of cerebral activity.

So, here I sit, and with every click and tap of the letters on my laptop and with every hit of the space bar, my thoughts are measured out… bit by bit.  Portioned serving sizes of my meandering brain… that I can manage to consume without too much waste.

I have been saying (to myself) for quite some time now I am goin to pick up this blog again.

To write again.

To write more.

To write.

I love the outlet of laying my thoughts out. Seeing them in front of me. The sharing of myself… with the giant void of the internet. Hitting the “Publish” button, and WHOOSH… the sense of letting them go. (Ah… now that? Feels good.)

But I worry…. that when faced with the reality of recoding the gooey innards of my grey matter?… the words may possiblly end up being more cynical and negative than I would like.

I have a charming duality to my persona:

I love to see the best in others. Yet often see the worst in myself.

I hold on to hope of great and wonderful things. Yet fear the future will cruely deal harsh realities.

I love to laugh. But sometimes, with laughter still hanging in the air, doubt creeps in.

There is nothing that holds my heart more than the love I have for God, and his goodness. Yet there are days when the silence comes easier than prayers.

And what if… when given the opportunity to leave an imprint in words… they are not the hopeful, inspiring kind? What if they are the doubt-filled version? The cynical point of view? Of a sarcastic tone?

Would those words be as significant?

I know each point of our lives holds meaning. The doubt filled moments can bring as much clarity (eventually) as the ones that are happy.

So, if you promise to keep in mind my heart… I will promise to always deal honestly with my fantastically, wonderful struggle that is my joyous and peaceful, frustrating and overwhelming life.

Deal?

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Resist the temptation to run from struggles.

This evening, it is raining. There’s something about the rain. It makes you reflect. At least… it makes ME reflect. The sound of the slap of rain against my roof draws me out of whatever I am doing.  I HAVE to go to it… stand in the door and watch it. Open a window and feel the air that carries the coolness of the water on it. It washes me over. Refreshes me.

As cheesy as it sounds, its true… I shut my eyes against the night…. and FEEL it. I BREATHE it.

Water is life.

And all at once I am aware of the weight of the things pressing against me. For a moment, I feel the heaviness of the tasks of life. While simultaneously feeling the hope that surely lies in my future. (I am, as always, a complicated woman. I am… an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, dipped in confusing sauce. I am, an acquired taste.)

I have had an eventful year since I have visited my blog.

I will not list all the changes me and my family have underwent. But it probably is not all that different from your own last year and the changes and challenges YOU have experienced: Tears surely have been shed. Limits were most definitely pushed. Joy was discovered. Peace was pursued.

And struggles were encountered.

And  the struggles beat against your body like a relentless ocean. This ocean is your life, your personality, your career, your weaknesses, you finances, your flaws, your uncertain future. And this ocean? Never gives up. Never lets up. Taking your breathe. Slapping your skin. Stinging at your eyes. Making you weary.

You brace yourself against the waves. Knee deep in the swirling foamy water…  you tighten your body’s muscles to hold your ground. You have the desire to fight. To stand. You must.

Then you realize… you are standing against an ocean. A massive body of water. The ocean will never run out of salty ammunition. It replenishes itself with unrelenting stamina. You realize… the ocean will never stop.

You know you lack the strength to stand there much longer. The sandy foundation moving under your feet. It is a battle that will only prove your human ability is finite.

Then all of a sudden, the salt water starts to taste a little bitter.

A familiar haze of weariness comes over you… as you get the fantastic idea…

to run.

Run away from the work. Run away from this body of water that taunts you with its perpetual existence. To run from the struggle it takes to stand in those waves.

Will peace come from retreat?

No.

It will not. As hard as the struggle is to stand, there is no peace in running. Retreating and giving up is a wasted decision. It is wasted, because no matter how weak you think you are. No matter how tired you feel yourself to be at the moment. No matter how much you doubt your abilities…. you will return to this ocean. You will return to these waves.

Because water… is life.

The ocean is ours.

Not ours to master. But ours just the same.

Here is our choice. To run away from our struggles. Or to turn and face them… walk into them… and float above them.

Did you know what you can float on these waves? You might have to wade out a little deeper. You might have to fight the flow a little harder for a distance. You might even swallow your fair share of salty water perhaps. BUT... but, my friends,  once you’ve walked the proper distance into this body of water…and you lay back into these same powerful waves?… arms out… in surrender? In trust of the laws of nature our marvelous creator has? You will float.

And here’s a little science for you: it is easier to float in an ocean. The salt in the water causes it to be heavier than fresh water. And your floating will come easier.

Those powerful waves that shook your foundation before?  That power is still there under you. The same things that would have smacked you in the face? The same things that would have stung your eyes and taken your breath away…. those things?… now carry you.

A dear friend is always telling me (quite often in fact, she is tireless in her advice) … the TRUE struggle in life? Is learning to rest and not fight so much.

Cuz, what does fighting the ocean of struggles REALLY benefit you? All you will get is stinging nostrils filled with salt water and a tired and weary you.

Rest today, my friends. Let’s both rest. Let the waves come. Wash past us.

And whatever you do…

Resist the temptation to run from those struggles.

Resist the temp…

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Mixed Well.

I like most all things creative, a well written poem, a play doh sculpture, a sidewalk chalk drawing, an engaging book, a thought provoking photograph, an artfully decorated cake, well, the list could continue on and on. The ability to thoughtfully create something is one of the greatest gifts we as a race have been given by our loving creator.

There is so no way I could describe the feeling I have when I find myself applying the my creative giftedness to a canvas or paper. I dont get the opportunity to do it much. But when I can… there is something about those moments. I get giddy with anticpation. I find my thoughts racing. My mood actually is lifted. I get lost in what I am doing. And it’s not because I am so very skilled. There are many, many artists out there whose skill far exceeds my own. (My daughter is one of those people.)

But just beacuse I so enjoy it.

I was thinking recently how we are all made in God’s image.

You. Me. Your spouse. Your parents.Your siblings.  All made in God’s image.

God is a wonderous creator. He delighted in creating us.

It says in Psalms 139:15 that we were skillfully made..  When you look up the word skillfully (in Hebrew: raqam) it literally means to “to variegate; to mix colors”… Isn’t that beautiful?

I saw something interesting in that definition.

I like to paint whenever I can find the extra time. I grab a styrafoam plate off the top of my fridge, and the shoe box of paints. I squirt a quarter size amount of blue, red, yellow, brown, white and black… I use the primary colors to create whatever color I need.

A dusty blue for the sky. A muddied green for grassy leaves. And often times I run out of the mixed color I created.

Then I have to try to recreate that shade… I know for the dusty blue I used blue, a bit of white and a bit of brown. But try as I might, I cannot duplicate that shade. I can get close, but a exact.

God created us that way… a mixed color. Not to be duplicated. Never to be recreated.

Only once in all of creation will he mix a colorful you.

Only once will the world see the work of art that is you.

So, I say, let your colors shout! Let them be loud!

Figure out what the tone of your mix is… and turn up the volume!!

All in a day’s work.

The night has snuffed out the last of the light. The snow is falling, we are all in preparation for bed. Jammies on. Teeth brushed. But there is one ingredient missing. Do you know what it is? What’s that? A story? Well, yes, a story. It just so happens I know one.

Here’s one to as you snuggle up on this cold January night.

“Once upon a time there were  three men, all working towards building the same structure. A back breaking job, chipping rock to form the wall that would surround a new building. It was hot. The progress was slow. And so they worked, day by day.

A stranger happens by, noticing the pile of rubble and wondered to the first worker, “What are you doing?” The worker, agitated by the interruption, doesn’t even look up from his labor. He responds gruffly with, “What does it look like I’m doing, I’m breaking rocks!”

The wandering stranger moves on down the sidewalk a bit and asks the second worker, “What are you doing?” The second worker responds, leaning heavily on his hammer,  in a tired worn voice, “I’m chipping stone for this stupid fence.”

The stranger goes a bit further and sees the third worker, busy stacking the rock, and asks him, “What are you doing?” The worker looks up, wipes the sweat from his brow, smiles, and with a sweeping gesture toward the location of the new building says, “I’m building a cathedral, and it will be magnificent!”

Three laborers. All doing the same job. All received the same pay. Each with a different view of his work.

I have to admit that my view isn’t so positive most of the time. A lot of the time I’m just face down in the sticky ceramic tile. Or the stained berber carpeting. Or the piles of smelly laundry.

In the midst of all the cooking, cleaning, teaching, and mothering, I can feel very much like the first laborer. I can be bitter and indifferent. I feel the slow progress of my daily work. Sometimes being a wife and mother can feel like such a thankless job. I never seem to accomplish anything, and the work is seemingly endless. It taunts me daily. I tell myself, “No one really appreciates me.”

Sometimes I find myself in the work boots of the second contractor. Tired and worn. Stretched to what I feel is my limit. Empty of self. I inwardly sigh at the constant requests of my children. The expectations of my husband. I tire at the pull of the requirments and responsibilites. And secretly I wonder, “Will what I do here make any difference?”

But, oh….

Oh God, I want to be like the third worker. I want to see the bigger picture. To see my daily life as you see it. To see the importance of my service. To have abundant joy and take pride in what I’m called to do. I want to see that the work that I’m doing here is much bigger than even I can imagine.

That I have in my power, the ability to change this environment from tedious to tremendous. For you and your purposes. Teach me how to make doing dishes a holy service. Cleaning laundry as a worship. Making my house a place of imperfect magnificence.

Today, they are mess makers. Snack sneakers. Dish dirtiers. Fight pickers. Clingy cryers. Fussin Nellies. Eye rollers. Grumblers. May God help me to see past that. When I inwardly sigh at my days and I stop to I wipe my brow, remind me to choose to smile, look at my girls and say, “I am building a cathedral. One day I will stand and see four magnificent God serving women.”

Mystical Love.

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Friday afternoon, with vans filled to bursting with sleeping bags, work gloves, preteen gals, moms, snacks a plenty and one grandpa we hit the road.

It was a four hour trip to our destination, The Hannah House in Athens, Ohio. The Hannah House was our home for 2 nights.

We hung out and talked with people who were under the heavy weight of poverty. Who struggled with addictions. Who were disabled. We shoveled gardens. Built compost bins. Prepared meals. Played bingo. Raked leaves. Gathered limbs. Sorted canned goods.

Of of the volunteers there said something I thought was very insightful.

“Loving God and loving others are somehow mystically intertwined. Where one cannot tell where loving God stops and loving others begins.”

Last weekend we served. We worshiped. We loved.

Reese Joslyn.

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My youngest turned three last week.

When I was little I remember how time used to drag by. Each Christmas and birthday took eons to get here. A trip to the Champion Hills Department store was the longest drive when i was young. When my parents gave me an extra 15 minutes of playtime, it felt like freedom.

Now that I am.. ahem… older, time whizzes past. My wedding, then a baby, then another, then another, then another. Christmas, then birthday after birthday. Crawling then walking. Cooing then talking. Diapers then big girl pants. Gray hairs then wrinkles.

Where does the time go? Why does it feel so much faster?

I think Reese has all the answers. At the ripe age of three she contains the wisdom of all the ages:

1. Live right now. Taste. Feel. Breathe. Be. When you are young all that matters is right now. As you age you become acutely aware of time and of it’s passing.

2. Don’t be self concious. Get messy. Get sticky. Get dirty. Be naked. (I am not just talking literally here.) It’s hard to enjoy a 2 pound sucker when you are worried about getting your face sticky. You can always wash it off later.

3. Be grateful. For what you have right now. For what you feel right now. Appreciate it fully. Revel in what you have. Cuz life tastes so much sweeter when you do.

Thank you, Reese Josyln. My enthusiastic cascade of laughter. May you always help me to see things through your eyes. Pure and perfect.

What is Church?

A place to climb the ladder of spirituality?

An exclusive club of do-good-ers?

An gathering place for the elite of God?

A social hub of chatter and gossip?

What is it to you?

What is it to others?

A building where acceptance is elusive.

Where love is conditional.

Where worthiness can’t be earned.

We are the body of Christ.

We are the church.

And on so many levels,

we are failing.

I love.

Chipotle Burrito Bol. Chicken. Black Beans. Fresh Salsa. Cheese. Eaten with nachos, not a fork.

The sound of the girls giggling in bed at night. Even when they should be sleeping.

Cool grass under my bare feet. The kind thats soft, not pokey.

Spring peepers, the chirp of kill deer, and fire flies.

Being so inspired it’s physically hard to contain.

Bonfires. The way they make my hair and clothes smell the day after.

A Stewart’s Orange and Cream Soda.

A puppy’s sweet breath.

When someone else cleans my kitchen.

Baking cookies or decorating cakes.

How my Dad is my biggest fan.

How my God saw fit to bless me so.