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

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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.

Whisper of Hope

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“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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When You Can’t Feel Anything

I’m unpacking lunch boxes, handing out after school snacks and listening with all ears tuned to little people chatter about their day, when out of the blue her call comes through.

Her…the one who’s journeyed deep waters with me.  Who wasn’t afraid of rampaging texts as I worked honestly through the latest crisis at hand.

The one who stood firm in faith as funds emptied and we waited for jobs to come through.

The one who always said confidently “Jesus goes with you” as we’d up and pack for another “even though I walk through the valley” travel.

And all this mostly through text and email.  The encouraging steady heart of a friend reassuring she was there through it all.

Not tiring.

Not wearying that the battles re-occurred and bloodied everyone in the process.

She was and is and will be there.

We chatted small talk when a catch in my throat caught as she revealed her true reason for calling: to cheer on one who was battle weary.

The words were few, but something in her quiet resolute heart opened a window of my soul giving permission to feel.

To feel how hard it’s been.

To count the cost.

To shed tears of loss.

To remember that in all the getting it wrong, my Father’s heart is always warmed by faithfulness.  By our picking-back-up-agains to follow into unknown seas.

And for the first time in months, tears flowed and didn’t stop long into the moonless night.

Who knew?

Tears.

The ticket out of survival mode.

Softening a heart preparing it for spring planting.

 

God With Skin

Gazing at our tree tonight smoothie in hand, wearing pjs that have become my new fashion statement, and I’m soaking it all in.

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Because THIS was celebrated a mere few days ago!

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And oh how quickly I forget.advent wreath with 24 candles

I love these notes and these words because they ground us by taking us on a journey back to the Middle Ages where saints ever since and before agree with one voice that our King has come! This God who was read about and who’s fame spread across the earth actually came. Came into our space, our world, and put on skin so we could know himSo we might be able to see his face for the first time.

And the world will never be the same. Your life and my life and the lives of our friends and families don’t have to remain stuck in the murky dark of sin.  There is hope! So much glorious hope for all our tomorrows and the missteps and tripping downs. Because with Jesus it’s not about our performance. It’s about basking in his presence. Him, our light our hope our salvation…our Christmas miracle. The best gift!

Don’t lose the beauty as we slip beyond glitzy holidays into the new year. Capture it.  Hold it close to your heart and whisper it to yourself in the dark.  The light of the world has dawned!

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten”
by Aurelius C. Prudentius, 413, cento
Translated by John. M. Neale, 1818-1866
and Henry W. Baker, 1821-1977

Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

Christmas Miracle

I’ve missed you.

Really I have.

And it’s not because of lists long or decked halls that has kept me away.

Truth be told it’s been in the tremblings to breathe in and exhale slow…between rounds of strep, pneumonia, tonsillitis, my little man’s surgery and a few colds later that I’ve thought of you through tears under starry nights.

And I promised I’d write. I really did.  And I knew you’d understand this unraveling of strength as reserves relinquished to the never ending urgent needs only white coats in hospitals understand.

But I’m here, I am. And we survived tattered and I never felt more cared for than I have in these the weakest of days. And never did I learn more than then that it really is ok to ask for prayers a zillion times over for the same thing.

Because one time or another we’ve all been there.  Or we’ll all get there.

The place where we need a Christmas miracle.

Maybe it happens so often around this time of year in all our scurrying around to make ready for the King about to enter this fragile frail world, that our little “Bethlehems” become broken. And us in our searching for an inn with vacancies to rest our weary souls, stumble upon a stable instead.

Something quite different than our wildest dreams and yet more than enough is found there. For we realize the God-size hole in all of us can only be filled by the babe in a manger.

In the middle of all this circus craziness, I paid bills to find we had just enough for the month.  Nothing more and nothing less.  I whispered it softly into my just-slumbering-about-to-graduate-husband’s ear how it was time for a miracle.

And then it happened.

THE WEEK he finished school, a call came in for a job he’d casually thrown in an application for “just in case.”  And to this girl’s giddy amazement he’s found work just in time. For it’s at the desperate edges of our lives when we most need a miracle that God delights to meet us.

In all our ninth hours, God shows up.

Emanuel is truly God with us.

Our Christmas miracle. And I can’t stop singing “O Come O Come Emanuel” because somehow I sense this is only the beginning.

 

Expectant Waiting

We pull out the wreath like we did the year before and the year before that. And with it comes a sense of expectancy. A sense of knowing that something big is about to happen. That something miraculous is coming! And we wait a day at a time, a candle lit at a time. A reminder that every minute inches us closer…expectancy building and us being enlarged in the waiting.

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And in the middle of all this expectant waiting we hear a knock.

“Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total reality he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor , as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you makes demands on you….Christ is knocking. It’s still not Christmas, but it’s also still not the great last Advent, the last coming of Christ…The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is a season of waiting for the last Advent, for a time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.~God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Join me will you? In this waiting, in this longing for Christ’s coming and let’s ponder truth each day of Advent preparing hearts for His arrival.image