Be-YOU-tiful

Perhaps the best way to say I’m back is to say you’re beautiful.

Yes you.

The you all beaten back and wind knocking the sails out of ‘ya beautiful.

The you that did the right thing….and then with one turn around did the thing you wished not.

The you that is learning how to let go and let God.

And there is no one in the whole entire universe like you.

And there never will be.

Did you know that no one can shine quite like you?

That without YOU no one can BE you.

That you take the breath away with his beauty?

And all this beauty because you’re His bride.

 

This happening in the kitchen today…

I almost didn’t.

But then I did.

I just couldn’t say no.  After all we bought the cookie cutters just for these recipes and Christmas only comes once a year.  So instead of ten…twelve….twenty different kinds we are making two. Two of our favorites.

Just in time for Grandma’s arrival.

Now let it snow…..might be wishful thinking with weather in the 60’s but a girl can wish can’t she now?

https://allinthesojourn.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/christmas-gingerbread/

https://allinthesojourn.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/counting-down-to-christmas-with-cookies/

Broken Beauty

I remember that Sunday morning meeting when she dragged her ragged soul in all beaten back and bruised by words. Her heart bleeding tears as she stood there barely standing.

Barely breathing.

But it was when she stretched out her trembling hands to receive a body broken and bled for her that a lump caught in my throat and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. Humility and weakness at the presence of the table and it took me back.

Way back.

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To a strong buff man who in the eyes of his four year old daughter could do anything, pulling me close and whispering words of salvation to a pig-tailed girl in gingham before I could even begin to comprehend what it meant.  And he’d show me by taking it how real it could be. How much we needed it. How it was never to be taken for granted this grace spilling our cups full.  And I drank it in…every word. And swallowed it down how much I loved Jesus.

But sometimes it takes the bottom of the bucket falling out a few times before one realizes just how much Jesus loves me.

Today we weary ones filed in and the band sang out:

“You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone…You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
So I could stand and sing
I am child of God…”

And the word we try to pack up neatly in a box and slam the closet door fast so we don’t have to stare it hard in the eye was breathed out loud and it clean grabbed the breath right out of me. Because behind every white lie, and every broken heart is fear. It’s what keeps us awake at night and gnaws on us as we push hard through the day and it’s a slave driver that has no mercy swallowing us up in depths of despair.

And I sing louder beating back fear with truth because I know that I know that I know….

“I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God”

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I toss it all…and the need to be put together…at the feet of of the One who paid my ransom and I stand up to walk broken. Right down the aisle up to the table where brokenness is declared beauty; weakness–strength. Tears mingled with bread and the cup and in front of all these witnesses I pronounce in receiving You are enough. You are enough for this season of unknown.  You are enough for my weakness. You are enough for me not being enough. You are enough when I may not have enough. You Are. Not You Were or You Will Be. Your name is…

I AM.

And sometimes? Just sometimes you need to swallow it all down with one ample helping of this yumminess while remembering there is no striving, no striving…only holding fast…holding tight…to what you’ve already been given.  Stand firm in grace friend!

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This treasure found here in this delightful kitchen: http://www.lynnskitchenadventures.com/2013/02/gluten-free-chocolate-chip-banana-bars.html

Tribute To Mom

Dear Mom,

You taught me everything I need to know to make picnics fit for Kings and Queens and that a blanket spread is a feast prepared even if it was of simple fare, love added all the richness needed.

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You showed a listening ear is always the best gift, especially to the least of these laden low with heavy burdens.

You lived “home is where the heart is” and investing ones life in the small and mundane yields returns beyond measure.

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You taught grey hair worn white is a crown of glory and nothing a woman need be ashamed of.

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You said there’s always room at the table for one more mouth and entertaining strangers may be really feeding angels unaware and doing all this to the least of these is as doing it unto Jesus.

imageYou gave me the thrill of broken earth dew soaked beneath my toes and Tennyson and Dickens late into the night.  And when all else fails, a bowl of homemade ice cream topped high with hot fudge goodness or strawberry shortcake after a long day of berry picking will cure all that ails you.

imageimageYou showed me work could be play and being a team makes heavy loads light. And in those moments when all around seemed to crumble, you were there showing strength comes not in standing but in getting down low on knees.

And it was you at the end of the day when we were blessed who taught we don’t get-to-keep, we get-to-give and there in that moment you reached deep into pockets emptying to fill.image

And so today whether you realize it or not, so much of who I am and who your grandchildren will be is all because of the love poured out day in and day out when knees were bloodied from daily battle and you kept right on charging ahead and caring for us in spite of or because of.

And for that I say thank you mom.  Well done! Well played! Well lived!

I know I have big shoes to fill…

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But somehow I think you’ve given me everything I need (with an overflowing portion of grace from above.)

xoxo

Your Jo

Hope For The Dark Days

This written exactly one year ago, and me…perhaps you too?….needing reminders that there is hope! We just rearranged our living area for spring and brought back up this chalkboard with words of life scrawled line by line out in the open where we can all see it clear as day.  And a gentle nudge from this friend to you to write your own? For you? For your brood? After all…we need a map to know where we are going.

They shout and rail against each other these three of the same seed. The “she did” and “he didn’t” hurl through the air and I wince as doors slam and feet stomp hard and all this before day has dawned. I pull covers tighter and hope beyond hope that it ceases before I have to be the one to crawl out of my cozy cocoon and halt it. How are we to live in peace when even flesh and blood tear each other word by word with actions louder than megaphones? This mother’s heart is laid clean open, fractured fragile, and I wonder what will be the glue to piece it back together. Another war of words begin and I join tit for tat because sometimes when you are hurting all you know to do is hurt back and I am in this moment that one I hoped to never be.  It’s there in all this broken jumbled mess, I run. Run from shame and failure and not getting it right day after day after day gone by. How does one go from stellar mom to stellar failure in one sure blow?

We muddle through the day…barely…and I chop vegetables and tears mix with meal prep and I am brought low for there is nothing like a day gone south to remind that in all this striving and struggling to be..to live…I cannot do this. My frail body can’t begin to muster the strength, the right living I need to teach my children how to love for I am failing at every turn drenched in selfishness and my own desire to not be inconvenienced by the needs of others.

I find myself whispering Romans…this book that has become like a dear friend of mine since lent…and there He cuts through to the heart of it all and I begin to feel life filling these veins again. There is hope and a promise that I can’t but HE can in me because I am in Him and He is making me…US…new! Husband comes in to the wafting smells of shepherds pie and I think how much we need our Shepherd right now.  These frazzled sheep needing someone to lead them to cool waters and green pastures, spreading a table in front of the enemy who would seek to destroy through lies and says instead have no fear for I have overcome so you can have victory here and now.

It’s then I grab chalk and write words that speak life to the dead, words that we can’t escape because they are forefront in the room visible to all where we break bread because God knows that if we don’t write it on the door posts of our home, if we don’t tie them to our hands or carry them with us we will forget and isn’t forgetting the first step to forfeiting peace? We must talk about them from the moment our feet hit the ground running for oatmeal to the last second we are kissing wearied brows before bed for these words are truth that pierces darkness and if we do not pause to renew the mind, it will whither dry.

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This brood of ours gathers solemn over dinner and we begin to read it together, this manifesto, our new family motto:

 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12

Food fills the belly, chatter commences and hope is dawning in the heart of this Mom.

Home Church Like You’ve Never Seen

I’ve written about this several times already.

How embracing the seasons of our lives is as vital as breathing. Because I believe from experience they prepare us for the next to come. Just as winter prepares the earth for spring, and spring for summer, summer for fall and fall for winter, so the barren seasons of life prepare for seasons of plenty. And regardless of how painful, there is joy springing out of surprising places that can be missed if one doesn’t look for it. Like the tiny violet blooming near rocks on the banks of a trickling brook.

The latest season for us has been the inability to attend church regularly. A new job for my man with crazy hours all week and weekends, and the unpredictability of my health has ended up in home church more than not. And for those of you who know us, know this is not normal nor what our heart desires. Living away from family makes one realize you need a family close who cares for you, believes for you when you can’t, and carries you when you are too weak for one more step, and we have always been provided that in the vibrant and living body of Christ. I know this won’t be forever, but for now we are embracing the messy beautiful. image image imageAnd  the glorious profound moment of watching your children live worship, lead worship, even prepare for worship, takes this Momma’s breath away. These holy moments lived out in our living room are something to treasure. Something that cements their faith as they initiate and participate. imageSo dearest believers on the brink of despair….there are seasons in our lives that look different from any we’ve had before. But where two or more are gathered, there Jesus is. There the spirit moves and breathes and does His amazing work. image imageStop fighting.

Stop striving.

Embrace the here. The now.

After all, it’s all we have. image

When You Feel You Failed At Lent

Sometimes the journey of Lent isn’t wrapped up nice in a devotional with morning coffee.

Sometimes it’s about living it.

About allowing your knees to get bloodied as you crawl broken to the cross just as you are.

About realizing surrender is self denial.  That everything you can’t control is what makes Him in charge.

Because “earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.”

And that my friend is why we wait for Easter.

And why it’s OK when our Lent looks nothing like a neat packaged up meditational series of moments.  Perhaps those moments upon moments gasping for mercy….grasping for grace really are what journeying to the cross looks like.

A death to self…the reaching towards resurrection.

Whisper of Hope

purple finch

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. ~Emily Dickinson
“It” came again.  The thing of whispers and tears. Of scramblings to reschedule and stockpiling of beds with pillows and potion bottles of healing.
And then the bottom fell out.
Tears cried a river and all hope vanished while the sun set to rain. Cool towels soothed swollen eyes and the day ended a bleak lament.
And then it dawned.
And a quiet strength was found. Not one of warriors or heros, but one who’d faced a black hole and came out again.
And all of this was too amazing over coffee when out of the corner of her eye two purple finches perched on her third story window swelling their breasts to sing without a care in the world. Then off they flew into the sunrise.
These sweet messengers of hope and new tomorrows.
After breakfast coffee I open this from a friend:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
And I think there just might be hope planted in the day for me.

Bitter or Better

People ask me how I am feeling.

I know in essence that’s asking if the pneumonia is gone, or if I have more energy and if dinner is happening easier along with packing morning lunches and hurrying little feet off to school.

But the question I really want to answer is not how I’m feeling but what I’m feeling.

It’s strange how this shell of a body can heal while still leaving one shell shocked.  How you can be better and yet not anywhere near recovered.  How you’re out of bed blissfully baking brownies but still wanting to crawl under covers to hide from daylight. How this being beat back time and time again has left scars and scabs that will take a journey before arriving whole.

blog 2I’m reading this beautiful book called Mourning Into Dancing by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and I have found a friend between the pages.  He says “we die a hundred times before we die; and all the little endings on the way are like a slowly growing echo of the final Bang! before that bang takes place.”

She crawls up at my feet all smiles, her spilling the contents of the day, when in a blink the mood changes and we hold hands into uncharted water and I know deep in my heart we are stepping onto holy ground.  That some great awakening is about to unveil.

She talks about her outbursts, this one born of my own flesh in more ways than one. That no-one really knows it, but it’s not because she’s mad at her brother or the homework that she pitches a fit. It’s that she wishes she had a mom who was well enough to come to all the school parties and lunches.  That when she’s hiding under her bed crying, it’s because she’s sad I spend some weeks with more time in bed and at the docs than anywhere else.  That deep in her heart, sometimes…just sometimes, she wished she had a mom like everyone else.

And I’m her witness nodding at all the pauses.

But it’s what comes next that brings a flood of tears, because hearing that your precious eight year old girl who’s discovered grief so young…to hear that she crawls out from under warm blankets to kneel beside her bed and pray for me while all the rest of us are sleeping…well there are no words. Only tears mingled with hers that this is hard. That this is never what I would have chosen for any of us. But that there is a daily choice to choose bitter or better.

I see god blogAnd in the choice to be better there will be grief, and so much of it! Because my dear friend, no matter what you’ve been told about big girls don’t cry, or tears show you weak and weakness is something to run from at all costs, you’re going to have to come to terms with before the sun sets that

…grief is not the enemy.  It hurts, to be sure. But it is the hurt of healing.  Grief is the grace of God within us, the natural process of recovery for those who have suffered death, exactly as the slash in my arm, with scabs and pain and itchings, healed.  Grief is itself the knitting of wounded souls, the conjoining again of brokenness. ~Walter Wangerin Jr.

It’s hard work this shedding of tears as our old self sheds. But somehow, somehow I’m convinced that perhaps to the surprise of us all, joy comes in the mourning.

And I’m tasting it. In all this sadness, grace carries light.

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Rest

You too? Stumbling with a far too heavy burden that’s inverting the camel’s back? Packing the lie there’s no rest for the weary?

Listen! Through trembling branches dusted white and down shafts of slanting light in woodlands, Someone is whispering.  Someone is calling.

Come into rest. Cease from striving. 

It is finished.

His arms are bigger. They hold all we frantically grasp to control. Rest in the presence of your Shepherd today. He has this. He has you.

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