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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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

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.

Norfolk pine Christmas tree

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.

 

Happy Birthing Day Momma!

No one tells you when your belly swells thick with life, that before the sun slips out of sight and skin sears torn by a ruddy wrinkled babe all covered in vernix, you are being delivered.

That at your child’s birth it’s you who is being born.

And you will never be the same.

And this process of birthing will never cease.

Because no one says how much her tears will be yours and in her flailing to figure out what this whole thing is being a child, you’ll crawl bloody kneed to the Father in desperation of how to be her mother.

And there are no directions come in this bundle all sugar and spice, but that is exactly what keeps you humbled low. And in that uncomfortable place of humility a quiet confidence is born in Abba Father holding the whole world in His hands, stooping low to listen, to comfort, to make you know the one He formed bit by bit, limb by limb in the holy quiet of your womb.

And no one says that in this dance of parenthood you’ll step on toes and trip each other up, but that’s not the end. The band plays on because of forever mercy that gives you both second chances. A do-over. 

It will be messy but oh so beautiful as the ugly duckling becomes a swan.

And it’s all sheer grace!

All this birthing and being delivered from self and control and petty pride. Then in the still darkness you wake knowing you would lay your life down for this one born of you.

All this come from the day of her birth.

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All Is Grace

There’s times when you know you’ve grown.

Like the time you were strong enough to say no to that extra slice of cake (I’m still working on it) or yes to truth telling when a lump in the throat is sure to hold you back. But you know you’ve really grown when you stare your deepest darkest fear square in the face and the monster that was hairy and green with fiery eyes and horns growing clean out of its head is simply a girl…your girl…retching in the parking lot of a gas station. And you find yourself not shaking a bit or breathing hard to stay present, but stooping to push soiled hair from a tear stained face whispering it’s going to be ok only this time meaning it instead of wishing it. And in this out of body moment you grasp for the first time that ALL the crazy good and bad sum up the adventure of life.

And we only get to live it once.

I’m usually the one picking the red m&m’s out of the bunch instead of swallowing them all down together.

I turn to glance out the window and there they are. All lined up on the sill, healing in these bottles. It hits home, it really is all grace. We’re all sick as dogs and I’m giddy with joy.

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Amazing the freedom when fear’s set free. And I can’t believe it’s taken me a lifetime for it to sink in and take root.

Drink.It.In!

Embrace each moment for what it is. This ugly turned beautiful with pure lavish grace all joy for the taking.

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Season’s Change and Root Beer Floats

The drive home is long and everywhere there are subtle signs the season is changing.

A few leaves here and there turned color, and I’m holding on with all I’ve got and I’m not ready to let go. Not ready to say goodbye to days spent under the sun with watermelons in hand and swim bags packed at the door.  Hours lingering long over coffee with dear ones. Camping out under brilliant stars only to eat breakfast near a crackling fire with cousins’ laughter spilling from fields.  I’m not ready to leave the familiar, the safe, the comfortable. Because in less than 48 hours we jump into the unknown: new schedules, new teachers, new friends and me and him empty nesters with all our birds flown out into this crazy wobbling spinning world and this heart is trembling.

I unpack bags of dirty laundry, nurse a sick child on the couch (how is it someone always ends up ill from too much fun) and think about the rhythm of nature and how it teaches us about letting go, about surrender.  For I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I’d be content to set up camp and stay put. But with each season comes the call to abandon all we know, and embrace moving out of our comfort zone believing there is beauty to behold.

Wide eyed and bushy tailed they wake the day.  Nervous excitement filling the air we tie shoes, pack lunches, and whisk to the corner little man holding tight to this hand of mine. I study every line and detail, how tiny it was and still is clasped in this hand of mine starting to show the years. It’s then the bus glides around the corner and I let go…this hand opening to all that is ahead. Unfolding, releasing in order to be filled. And in that leap from the known to the unknown there is faith that the God who got us here will take us there and that sure as rain there will always be root beer floats at the end of every first day of school.

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Take Your Bow

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The days are getting shorter, evenings brisker.

And there she towers.

The doorway sentinel she stands out this awkwardly beautiful lady in yellow amidst a row of ordinary town houses neatly adorned in bushes. For weeks neighbors wondered what on earth was growing as she stretched taller towards the light nearly a story and a half tall. And I stood back in amazement.  Who would have thought?

It was a few months back when Hope Girl brought it to me in a decorated cup for Mother’s Day. She’d potted it at school all ready to be popped in the ground and I didn’t want to burst her bubble that perhaps it might not sprout (after all my luck at gardening has been quite slim as a married woman) so we dug a hole anyways, tucked the seed away in a nice bed of dirt and forgot about it.

But someone else hadn’t…

She sprouted right up and never stopped reaching for the sun and I have never been more aware of how little faith I have.

How many times have I been given a seed of hope only to bury it under a sea of worry and forgetfulness?

The morning sprints to the front door, daily reports on how our sun lady was faring became moments of joy in the mundane. And the day she blossomed! What a celebration. It was as if she had been cheered open. And it wasn’t an immediate opening, but a petal at a time unfurling and no amount of begging or pleading could rush her. In the fullness of time she would be all there…just like we the believers in this messy process of blooming that can’t be hurried or forced but requires patience and grace lavished and a good watering of the Word and above all LOVE. Love for each other, for ourselves for the amazing God who loved us first and holds all our fragile frail together. It’s easier to take the road of judgement withering spirits instead of suffering long as the growing transforms.

And then at the height of all her beauty she took a bow.

A bow to our wildly wonderful God. Giver of all growth and good things beautiful. The stage for a season hers the glory His forever.

We Are Family

The fever spikes, hot tears spilling from her pain wracked body drenching the pillow beneath.

“She’s not going to make the drive” he whispers to me.

Instinctively I know this too, but I push forward with plan A because there is no plan B in the works for a sick kid and a mom left alone at home without a vehicle and a husband away for work.

Somewhere between packing the van to drop him off and five minutes left before departure I surrender.  “Take the van and go honey. We’ll figure this out somehow” I mumble breathing a prayer.

Sometimes all one can do is believe these wordless sighs become prayers. That HE takes our groans and turns them into beautiful petitions carried straight to the throne room.

I pick up the phone frantic and I know just who to call.  There are those friends like family who risk anything, and all it takes is courage to ask. She assures me there is nothing we can’t figure out together.  That there’s a car free to use for the doc this morning and kids and groceries and visits to the pharmacy will all work out one way or the other.

We make it to the doc and stumble through blood draws, throat swabs, urine samples and there I am thankful for all the years of health struggles because I know what it is like and I whisper words of encouragement to this girl right growing up before my eyes through needles and pokes and prods.

The strep we thought it was comes back negative and everything suddenly becomes complicated with a follow up appointment and more tests as we wait and see what 48 hours will bring and this momma is right weary on a Monday morning before noon.

The rest of the week is a blur with fevers, pain and words like “appendicitis”, “CT scans”, and “make sure she drinks that smoothie two hours before you arrive at the hospital so the contrast will work”.

In the middle of all this THEY showed up.  The family of God tangibly present with meals, cars, kid sitting, hugs in the middle of emotional melt downs in front yards, texts, prayers…

It’s easy to say you’re part of a family, but until it functions like one, you can’t know for sure. Until you’ve bared your soul and they’ve opened hands and hearts you’ll never know. How can one begin to trust unless family bonds have been tested and found true?

The tech comes in at the hospital waiting room to tell this hungry and tired mom and daughter that all is well.  We hug and celebrate over Macdonalds singing long and loud to the radio all the way home.

Then there’s this guy who calls to say “keep the car an extra day…and take the kids berry picking just because…”.

I hang up smiling.

It’s then I know. We ARE family. A family that’s bigger than blood lines and geographic locations and maiden names and homes of origin.

It takes a family and we belong.  This heart beats all joy.

For Days When You’d Rather Walk Away

The morning was new and one could smell it in the air, grass still wet with pearls of dew. Summer bounty was calling our name, berries sweet and ripe. Metal pails clinked as we marched along hearts bursting with excitement, the wood filled with song birds and crickets, dragonfly wings shimmering light. Around the bend and up a hill there they were, a sea of black and red.

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One eaten one kept the pails slowly filled but excitement quickly turned to tears as thorns tore through flesh leaving berry battle wounds. I gathered my brood to comfort, mind drifting back to the little girl in gingham under a high noon sun leaning through prickly vines to beauty waiting all glistening black, and her wincing as the barbs gripped skin and cloth.

It’s hard to push through pain to the prize waiting. Sometimes it’s easier to just walk away, but for every thorn there is sweetness and I tell these ones I’ve carried and coached and cried over that pies and jams won’t happen if we’re afraid of scratches and scrapes. And that if you’re right stayed on the goal, it won’t hurt nearly as much.

We dig back in, timid and gingerly they work. But I know, and I can taste it, all this sweetness come from thorns.

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Best blackberry pie recipe ever! (crust even better made in a food processor).