INDEED!

Today was such an odd Easter for me.

I LOVE holidays.  I don’t want to say I live for a special occasion, but I kinda do.  And Easter.  WELL.  As a follower of Christ, there is NO BETTER DAY!  Victory!! Triumph!!  Death is defeated!!! THIS DAY!  A welling up in my spirit happens every Easter and there is joy beyond compare.

So, the fact that I woke up in a hospital on a plastic couch to the sound of oxygen and the never ending beeps of the never ending machines and a night staff who didn’t seem to notice that the Savior of the whole wide world was being celebrated literally all over the whole wide world….

I gathered my belongings.  I sipped coffee and chatted with my dad.  We shared some tender moments, prayed together, and I walked out of the room.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I turned down the hall.  I hated leaving him.  And I hated not being home with my boys.  Feeling so torn and absolutely overwhelmed by the sense of needing to be in two places at once, I headed home.

As I was driving towards the blinding sun on the interstate in almost no traffic, I started thinking about the body of Christ who were gathering this morning.  I drove by church after church after church with parking lots full.  I began to imagine the joy and could almost feel the sentiment of triumph as I passed through the countryside.  I thought about how in every church today, every single one, the message is the same on this day.  And that welling up in my spirit came over me as I said aloud….

Christ is risen, He is risen INDEED!

Dare I say that today, there is simply unity in the Body?  From Presbyterians to Pentecostals, to Quakers and Catholics, Methodists and Baptists…the same message rings out…

CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!!

Although I spent the morning alone, I didn’t feel alone at all.  Indeed.  I passed by all those churches and felt like a part of each one.  I sensed a great solidarity and camaraderie and belonging to something so much greater than myself. From the little country church in the valley to the big church on the hill, I am your sister and together we have some Good News to share!

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CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Indeed. In truth. In reality. Whether I have on my Easter dress or not.  Whether I am driving in my minivan or am surrounded by the Body or am in a hospital room or wherever.  It is still true, it is INDEED reality, that:

‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ Luke 24:1-6

Indeed He is!  And He reigns victorious. And today the cares of this world, the being pulled in too many directions, the distractions, the pain, the suffering, the ordinary all fall away for a time….to simply proclaim:

CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!!!!

Happy Easter dear brothers and sisters.  It was a joy sharing this day with you all….

 

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GROWING

Michael and I were sitting on the couch having a conversation.  All the kids were home.  And we were having a conversation.  Zachary was in the room with us.  All of a sudden we heard from downstairs,

“Moooooooooooooom!!!!!!  Someone clogged the toilet with SOOOOOO MUCH toilet paper!!”

Zachary stopped what he was doing, looked intently at both of us (somehow), and confessed,
“It was me……..accidentally” (which is an incredibly overused word in our home).

You know that feeling when you find an unexpected $5….nay, a $20 bill in your old coat pocket? This was exactly like that.

Michael and I locked eyes.  Michael’s voice lifted an octave, “Zachary!! Did you wipe your own bottom????!??!?!?!?”

“Yes…” he replied tentatively.

“That is awesome!!!!” we both replied, holding hands and skipping.  Fairy dust fluttered through the air.  Angelic music and confetti filled the room simultaneously.  I remember trumpets.  I’m not sure that even learning to read gets so festive a celebration in our home.

Do you know what this means?  We are henceforth relieved of bathroom duty!!!  We have been in that business for the past 2,976 days.  What will we do with all the extra time, you ask? Write a book. Invent something.  Solve cancer.  The possibilities seem endless.

These days, I say to my kids,  “Kids, get in the car.”  And they do it.  Buckle and all.

They walk.

They walk upstairs.

They cut food.

They brush teeth.

They put on shoes.

They shower.

They zip, button, tie, unlock, lock, open, shut, close, turn off, turn on, cook…..things.

They’re growing up.  We seem to have entered into a new phase of parenting, almost suddenly.  Because my body was used as a jungle gym, a feeding system, a pillow, a home, and a carrier, I spent the first 8 years feeling drained and exhausted.  Meeting the basic physical needs of my kids was an all consuming, all encompassing, incredibly rewarding existence.

And now we have moved into the emotionally challenging phase.  There are constant arguments, explanations, exhortations, cautions, information, directions, discussions, and form completions.

Side note: Filling out forms may not be hard and emotional for some of you ultra-organized types who love to fill in a box, sign, seal, and deliver something.  But for me…it’s pure torture.  OH….with the ‘primary email address, secondary email…’  x 3 boys x 2 schools x 3 sports/season + the doctor’s office + the dentist.  How many places could I possibly have to put my email address???  You know you won’t use it!!  Next season/year/vaccination, you’ll print off a piece of paper and ask me to fill out a form!  PLEASE…take the email OFF OF THE FORM, PROGRAM IT IN YOUR COMPUTER and just email me (CHOOSE EITHER MY PRIMARY OR SECONDARY) for crying out loud!! Keep my records ELECTRONICALLY!  Why is paper even still a thing???

As they grow, we are navigating friendships, wrestling with theology, expecting self-control, and nurturing empathy.  These are difficult concepts and we stumble through most of it.  But in a very real and tangible way, our kids are growing and maturing.  Their little beings embody little minds that have the most amazing, complex thoughts.  They make predictions, assumptions, oppositions and decisions.  They don’t always make the right ones.  But when they make an automatic right decision, after having been wrong so many times before, it amazes me.

Our kids do not have independent access to any electronic device.  We have to enter the password each time they play.  The other day Nolan asked me to play his iPod.  I agreed and he handed it to me.  He immediately turned his head so I could enter the password secretly.  There have been so many times when he tried teasingly to peek, or indiscreetly tried to figure it out.  But this time, he just turned his head away.  This is a small thing, but I almost cried.

I wonder if our heavenly Father is as pleased whenever we deny the flesh?

‘But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.’ Gal. 5:16-25.

When patience blossoms instead of outbursts of anger, peace instead of jealousy, kindness instead of selfish rivalries, goodness instead of hostility, self control instead of sexual immorality, and love instead of murder, we truly are living by the Spirit.  Just as my kids are growing and maturing in front of my very eyes, so should I be ever growing in the Lord.  Ever seeking to put away childish things and grasp for solid food in place of milk (Heb 5:12).  May my thirst for Him be as for water in a desert land.  May my pursuits all lead to knowing Him more intimately and making Him known to others. May I never be complacent in my walk with him, but growing all the more in His grace and knowledge (2 Pet 3:18). Amen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to retrieve a Monopoly hotel from an unflushed toilet.

They’ve still got some growing to do.

And so do I.

CAPTIVE

I sat in the cold, stone room for what seemed like ages anticipating their arrival.  Curiosity and nerves were competing for first place in my typical over-emotional state.  Being a ‘feeler’ can be exhausting.  It’s difficult to explain what a typical daily emotional roller coaster a ‘feeler’ must ride.  I can go from crying tears of injustice to laughing hysterically at situational ironies in a matter of minutes. There has been no greater invention in recent years than the emoji, which helps solidify every single text I send. Without it, my text recipients are left to wonder my true feelings.

The room was cold.  It was silent.  Eerily silent.  I was curious. Or nervous.  And then a sound of a low steady hum slowly emerged from the silence.

The prisoners were coming.

My mom and I, and an inter-denominational makeshift congregation, were in the bowels of Raleigh Central (maximum security) Prison awaiting the arrival of the convicted felons and those men who had chosen to minister to them.  This was the closing ceremony of a 3-day spiritual renewal experience for the prisoners.  Michael was a volunteering minister.  I came to support Michael.

I fully expected to be consumed by discernment, the prickly hairs on my neck to stand on end as I met the roughest of the rough.  The vilest of offenders.  The rapists.  The murderers.  The thugs and thieves.  I fully expected that I would be accosted and undressed by their vicious eyes.  I expected to be disgusted and nauseated at the thoughts of what had put them behind those bars and barbed wire.  I fully expected that.

The soft hum was gaining volume.

It was a song.  A familiar one.

Finally, it grew to decipherable lyrics…

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and God’s grace.
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings,
I see glory on each face. 
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

Their deep, modulated voices created so pleasing a sound that it shattered my expectations and I was filled with conviction.  As the voices became louder, it was evident that their echoes filled the prison walls from end to end.  Tears flooded my eyes and I wept at my pride.  They continued to sing upon entering the room, and though I tried, I could not distinguish between the captive and the free.  Instantaneously the barriers created by past mistakes and current condition were vanished, and I can’t articulate in mere words the serenity that was in that place.  We were one.  One Body. A royal priesthood.  Surely, the Lord was in that place.

One by one, the men gave their testimonies.

One by one they shared how they had experienced God that weekend.  One by one they shed tears of repentance.  And tears of grace, received.

A young man stood to share.  His calculated gate was evident as he took his place at the mic.  His hair, in dreads to his shoulders, covered his brow.  He hung his head.  After what seemed like an eternity, he lifted his head to speak.  I’ll never forget that face.  Seven years later, I can still see it as vividly as a photograph in my mind.  His cheeks were round, his eyes – soft and round and brown, not cold. Warm. Innocent.  It was the face of a child.  Your child. My child. I was immediately drawn to him.  My maternal instincts flared so abruptly, I nearly approached him to sweep his hair from his eyes.   I showed incredible restraint and stayed seated.

“My whole life’s been hard,” he began, as his voice cracked.  He had to pause and wipe a tear from his bright, right, brown eye.

I had to compose myself as well, in order to collect the puddle that had become of my body on the cinderblock floor.

I saw his life.  I saw my life.  I saw my mother gently tucking me into a warm bed and kissing my forehead.  I saw him alone and cold and unattended.  I saw my dad walk beside my bicycle as I learned to peddle on my own, giving instruction all along the way.  I saw him walking the streets, alone, figuring out life as he passed through it.  I saw my mother dropping me off at the front door of the school.  I saw him being schooled on the street.

I saw exactly how he came to be where he was.

That day I was given a new set of eyes through which to see the people God created.  The lost, hurt, broken, prideful, rejected, outcast, forgotten ones.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

The need for my own repentance overcame me, and I had to seek forgiveness for my hardened, judgmental heart.  I thought I had gone there to let my little light shine.  And when the blazing fire of Christ entered the room through song, I realized it was I who had been captive.  That I needed to be set free.  Free from the bondage of judgment and pride and self-righteousness.  Free to love fiercely, mercifully, and unconditionally just as He has loved me.

That day changed me.  That day I gained the audacity to believe that Jesus could make all things new, even a wretched, captive, sinner like me.

GENEROSITY

If you know my children, you know that my oldest child is spirited. Lively. Animated. At times his impulsivity overrides his conscious and he can be intrusive. Parenting him can be difficult. We both like to be in charge, and there are hard days. And subsequently, he has taught me infinite lessons about mothering, about patience, about expectations, about pride, about life.

And for every single ounce of energy that is in his body, there is every bit as much a generous spirit. It’s a side of him that most don’t see. We spend hours picking out gifts for him to give cousins/teachers/friends. This Christmas season, his generous spirit blessed me so much, moved me to tears, and convicted me of my overwhelmingly selfish nature.

This summer, I felt God speaking to my spirit to give more freely my time, energy, and resources. I like to keep those things for myself, thank you very much. But in prayer, in scripture, in my times of quiet, ‘giving yourself’ just kept surfacing. Like Romans 1 all over my spirit. Like the Parable of the Good Samaritan all up in my face.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

About eight months ago I met a representative of World Relief at a community prayer breakfast. I was there for eggs and sausage, he was there trying to engage the church to stand for the vulnerable. I mean…. I took his card and put it in my console, where I promptly forgot about it. And then in preparing for a sociology lecture several months later, something in my notes about poverty reminded me about this organization, which, in their words:

We believe God has equipped the church – the most diverse social network on the planet – to be at the center of these stories, leveraging time, energy and resources to join the vulnerable in their time of need. We practice principles of transformational development to empower local churches in the United States and around the world so they can serve the vulnerable in their communities. With initiatives in education, health, child development, agriculture, food security, anti-trafficking, immigrant services, micro-enterprise, disaster response and refugee resettlement, we work holistically with the local church to stand for the sick, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.’

So after scouring their website, drooling over them being Jesus, and trying to reconcile the stirring in my spirit, I decided to pitch the idea to my Sunday School class about getting involved with refugee resettlement. They were all over it. Like willing to give up days off, money, stuff, time, and just whatever. These people are legit. So we went through the orientation and the background checks. The day we went to finalize everything we received notice that our family would be here in 12 days. We had to furnish an apartment from scratch and come up with $1000. And we had exactly zero dollars, zero pieces of furniture, and zero time. It was the week of Thanksgiving.

I wish I could put the entire text thread from our class on here. They were rock stars. Some would send “I’ll take care of a couch.” Others would make Snoop Dogg references (Melissa Partin). Others would give lengthy descriptions of what they would send (also Melissa Partin). Long text short…we had a fully furnished apartment within 3 days, except a dining room table and dresser. So I put out a request on Facebook. And then we had a table, and a dresser, and a car, and another car, and then someone randomly gave me $100 ‘for whatever’…. it went on like that. Some kids even gave up their DS. I eventually had to refer people out….because we were full to overflowing…

Nolan, upon seeing that their son had no toys, began donating his own. Every time we have gone to visit the family, Nolan has brought something from his own room to give to them. Every day, he has asked to spend time with him. He has helped their son with his English homework. He has generously and genuinely given of himself, and never complained. He considers it joy. His generous spirit is a constant reminder to me to let go of that to which I cling so tightly. My space. My things. My time. My money. My energy. Myself.

‘Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.’

That line grips me. Sears my spirit. Is etched in my soul and is propelling me to a kind of service that goes further than standing on the serving side of a soup kitchen line, the table serving as the great chasm between us and them. Soup lines are wonderful. Needed. But if there is no supping together when the dinner is served, I think we have missed the point. I think the kind of giving the Bible speaks of is…all of it. A living sacrifice. The kind that is uncomfortable, inconvenient, costly, and selfless. The kind that honestly enters into the lives of those around us. The kind that reforms and reshapes us in the process.

When Nolan gave their son his prized guitar, his smile was more than I could bear. Nolan’s smile. He was so incredibly genuine in his generosity. The lump in my throat was so huge, I couldn’t speak. Lord, that I could be that generous. Lord, that I could give that freely. Lord, that I would be a living sacrifice, holding nothing back from you. Lord, that my heart would be like that of a child, that I might enter your kingdom (Matthew 18:3).

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And a little child shall lead them…

RUN

When I made my ’40 before 40′ bucket list, it must have been a warm day.  Warm, but not hot.  Productive, but not busy.  And I must have felt good and optimistic and happy and energetic and rested.  ‘Delirium’ is the only thing I can figure, because I included on number 16, “Run a 5k”.

I haven’t run since 8th grade gym class.  But ‘the heart’ and all that.  So, I’ve made a small, minuscule really, effort at working out since I entered my thirties.  My husband loves this.  He’s one of those brute animals who is a glutton for punishment.  He still wears his shirt from high school wrestling that says ‘no pain no gain’.  And he means it.  He likes to tear into a new workout routine and push his body to its limits, then enjoy the sore muscles as a physical reminder of his victory over the threshold of mediocrity.  This is who I chose as my ‘trainer’ for the 5k.  Because, 1) he’s free  2) he’s smokin’ hot, and 3) he’s free.  This is how our training sessions went:

Michael: You’re doing good, Babe. One more set.

Me: I hate you.

Michael: Almost there.

Me: You’re a liar.

Michael: You’ve got this.

Me: I hate this.

The adorable title “Jingle All the Way 5K” was 100% of why I chose it as my inaugural race.  Unfortunately, as the name implies, this race was in December.  And the eve of December 7th came in cold and rainy.

Me: It might rain tomorrow. Too bad about the 5k.

Michael: They’ll still have it.

Me: You think we should run in the rain????

Michael: You’ll either be wet from rain or sweat.  What’s the difference?

(You see what I live with?  I tried another route.)

Me: I don’t feel good.  Work, kids, dinner.  Hard week.  Don’t feel like running that thing tomorrow.

Michael: Don’t run it then.

(I mean, can you believe him?  Ugh. No way was I backing out after that.)

Me: Oh, I’m doing it alright.

Michael: It’s whatever you want to do.

Wait…

I was up at 4 a.m. Nervous.  We arrived to the race site to falling temperatures.  After a brief warm up, instructions about ‘follow the signs’ and yada yada yada, the race began.  It began on an incline.  At the top of the hill, there came over my body a strange hot sensation that radiated throughout.  I quickly identified the sensation as pain.  Oh no, I thought.  This isn’t going to work.  I’m in pain!  I hurt!  There are so many more deliberate steps I have to take!  Crisis! CRISIS!!  No one else seemed bothered.  Michael was out in front, and I was wondering why in the world I thought I could do this.

But I kept going.

The burning sensation gave way to warmth and I began to focus on the paved road that lay ahead of me.  Just keep doing this, I thought.  My best friend told me to plan out my next vacation during the hard parts of the run.  I tried, “I think we’ll go to…” and then my mind just went to “this stinks.  Why am I running?  My body hurts. I’m thirsty.”  Apparently, there are no complex thoughts that can go through my prefrontal cortex when my body is being subjected to such torture.  But little by little, I made my way around the loop. And mile 2 went by so incredibly fast, I can’t even account for it really.  Except I was so thirsty by the end of mile 2 that I allowed myself to walk 10 paces to take a sip of water.  As I neared to the finish line, I picked up a little bit of speed.  This wasn’t even horrible.  No wonder no one thought running a 5K was a big deal.  I can totally do this. I’m not as out of shape as I thought!  Seeing the finish line ahead, I couldn’t see Michael.  Where could he be?  He should have been done way before me.  Familiar faces were lining the finish cheering and smiling!  ‘You’re almost there!’, they shouted.  ‘Just one more time around the loop!’ they said.

Wait. WHATT???????  One more time? Around the WHOLE loop?  I’M ONLY HALF WAY DONE?????????????

I died inside.  And a little on the outside.  Halfway????  I told my body it was over! I told my poor unassuming legs that if they could just kick it in high gear across that chalk line, I’d let them rest.  I was so devastated.  That whole ‘yada yada yada’ must have actually been ‘And then you do it again. For a total of 2 times around the loop.’

I did not stop.  But I did walk for a bit.  I just kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other.  Finally, I thought just pick up your legs in a quick, jogging motion, over and over and over.

The first step was the hardest.

I knew once my body began, I would be able to finish.  So I started running.  And I kept running.  I ran past the now familiar signs.  I kept running. I was all but Forest Gump.  I was doing this thing, no matter what.  And I kept on.  I ran and ran and ran.

And when I was still quite a ways from finishing, I saw Michael jogging towards me.  He had won the race, and ran back to find me.  He came at the perfect time.  I needed some encouragement.  He stayed with me.  He ran with me, even after he had finished.  He ran the whole rest of that race by my side. He was so encouraging that he teetered closely to annoyingly so, but I would never ever say that in a million years. (Honey, God bless your sweet soul.)

I have heard real runners speak of a runner’s ‘high’.  Some kind of euphoria they experience during a run. That did not happen to me.  I got runner’s ‘cramps’ and runner’s ‘sore everything’, but no feeling of intense pleasure from this sport.  And when I found out I was only half way through, I felt like giving up, like giving in.  Instead, however, I picked up my feet.  I made a decision.  I kept going.  And no sooner did I get discouraged than did my handsome trainer come to my side.

Friends, this Christmas season, I am mindful of those who feel like giving up.  I am burdened by those who feel like all hope is gone.  If this is you, dear reader, pick up your feet.  Keep going.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

And if you see someone who needs your courage, your strength, your cheer…run with them.  Stand with them. Fall with them.  For we are called to encourage one another and build each other up, through trials of all kinds.  This season is so painful for so many.  In the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer, do not neglect those among us who suffer in despair.

The true meaning of Christmas is hope amid desperation.  Spread that.  Give hope.

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THANKS

When I was young, one of my favorite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I was a serious child.  I identified with Alexander on somewhat of a regular basis, as he and I both had two brothers.  So I anticipated the worst, pretty much all the time.  I remained cautious and pensive.

Last Wednesday I had a bad day.  I was finally on my way to the grocery, since we were out of all sensible food (kids wouldn’t eat canned black beans for breakfast), when I got a call from the school that Josiah had thrown up in the classroom and needed picked up.  I can’t tell you how much that ripped my heart out.  Josiah is my most private child.  He’s my pensive, cautious one.  To have thrown up in front of his peers must have added considerable insult to injury.  This was my sentiment as I walked into the nurse’s office, where he was laying so pitifully on the plastic cot.  She told him to stand up and walk because he was certainly too big to be carried.  I tried my very best not to glare at her as I responded as nicely as I could, “he most certainly is not”, then scooped up my 6-year old baby boy and carried him to his seat in our van.  On our way home he threw up two more times, into his sweatshirt, causing Zachary to dry heave beside him, and Nolan to lecture all of us on the importance of immediately using hand sanitizer.

There were spills, schedule rearranging, extra laundry, extra worry, extra cleaning. Just…..extra.

You’ve probably survived much darker days than this one.  This may have been the day you started chemotherapy.  Or the day your child started chemotherapy.  This may have been the day you had to walk away from the cemetery, leaving behind a piece of you.  This may have been the day you have had to endure the darkness of divorce, or deception, or dependence.  This may very well have been your terrible, horrible, no good, very, bad day.

I’ve had some dark days.  Days when the bottom fell out.  Days when my typical exaggerated anxiousness was legitimate fear that drove me to action.  Days when the world was so obviously the world.

But as I laid my head down last Wednesday (on the couch, right next to my sick, feverish baby), all I could say in my prayers was “Thank You.”

Thanks.

Thanks.

Give thanks in all circumstances…

How could I say anything else?  I could I be anything but grateful?

I effortlessly walked over to the sink and poured my son a glass of clean water from our working faucet.  I sauntered over to the medicine cabinet and grabbed the thermometer, tylenol, and cooling cloth.  I sat with him and tended to him all evening, while my husband managed the other children.  I stayed by his side and let him rest in our heated home, on our clean sheets.

Thank you.

Thank You, Father.

Even on days that seem so long.  Even on days when hope seems gone.  Even on days like yesterday, when the cold relentless rain fell for hours and hours on end reminding us of the coldness and relentlessness of the world.  Even on days when the hope is gone…

This year two of my ‘sisters’ walked through the darkness of miscarriage.  I was a blubbering mess for weeks after each one.  I cannot express to you how connected I felt to those particular babies.  And because geography can be so cruel, I was unable to stand physically beside them through it.  So, I wept inexplicably and at inappropriate times, just releasing my grief onto whomever asked me how my day was. (Sorry, Aldi checkout lady.)

During those dark times, my sisters blew me away.  They so bravely and rightly “chose joy” and proclaimed “the goodness of God,” as they put it.  IN their hour of darkness.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thes. 5:18

Tomorrow has been set aside for a day of Thanksgiving.  Most of you have cheated and been grateful all November long.  (I’ve enjoyed your daily posts on Facebook.)   I want in on that.  I want to cheat all year long.  I want to express authentic gratitude from the depths of my soul as a rule, as a way of living, a way of thinking, a way of being.  I want to give thanks in all circumstances.  Not just the great times, the good times, or the even the dark times.  But in the mundane times too.

Like today.  My cup runneth over sharing conversation with my brother over a cup of coffee and nacho dip rather than over the phone.  Be still my heart as I watch my nephew devour an un-iced cupcake (y’all…I fed him one when no one was looking…sorry! but you didn’t see his face! he reallllllly wanted it. I’m probably not ever going to be able to resist that, just so you know. I am my mother’s daughter….) Could any more joy flood my soul as I tuck my children into bed, or see my husband return home safely from work, or feed my family from our plenty?

Thank You, Father!

Thanks.

Thank You!

I identify less with Alexander now.  I will have bad days, of that I am sure.  I may even have some terrible, horrible, no good, very, bad ones.  On even those days, instead of wishing I could move to Australia (that only makes sense if you’ve read the book) let my heartcry be the 100th Psalm:

‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.’

Amen.

AUTUMN


I knew I was getting older the last time I went to Forever21 and the sales associate asked me if I was lost and then called me ‘ma’am’.  I quickly darted out of the store, pretending like I had wandered in by mistake.

Then, I heard on K-Love that women who dye their hair blond look older.  I immediately quit dying my hair.  I decided to find out what my natural color was, since no one really knows.  That was about six months ago.  I’ve been really obnoxious about it too.   “I’m going natural,” I keep telling people.  “I’m going to quit spending so much money on my vain attempt at looking young and give to the poor.”

So, I’ve been working the ombre style until Michael changed the 3 out of 4 burnt-out light bulbs in our bathroom.  I was so thankful until I looked in the mirror and noticed millions of white hair attached to MY HEAD!!!!  Ok, not millions. But definitely more than two, which might as well be millions.  PLUS, less than 12 hours later, Michael and I were driving down the road in the daylight and I made the egregious mistake of looking at myself in the mirror…..and I noticed a wrinkle where I’ve been smiling too much.

Obviously, I

1. had a nervous breakdown.

2. apologized to the poor.

3. scheduled a hair appointment.

4. stopped smiling. Ever.

Wrinkles and grey hair?  What in the youthful world is happening to me???

Am I growing up? So much evidence suggests ‘no’!  In my profession, I am still a teeny tiny infant.  As a mother, I have little bitty children.  I’m not yet responsible for a turkey at Thanksgiving.  I still have slumber parties with my friends.  I even know how to hashtag….

But. I guess I have a ‘profession’. I am a mother. I do make the dressing for Thanksgiving, and the world has to be realigned and meticulously organized and prepared for a slumber party to actually happen.

Maybe I am growing up?

We have had the most gloriously spectacular autumn here in North Carolina.  The trees have been the most brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and fire orange that I ever remember seeing.  My super smart science friend says it’s because we had a relatively dry September and some frosted but not frozen mornings.  I’ve nearly run off the road staring at/Instagramming them with my (hip) (smart) (i)Phone….because I’m young like that. Michael reminded me as I was admiring them on a family outing, that the the chlorophyl has been keeping them green since spring, and that just now their true colors are beginning to show.  That as they come into autumn, they are really coming into their fullness, into the pinnacle of their magnificence, into the truth of what they were created to be.

mapleleavesturning

And then I remembered my grandmother talking about the autumn of her life.  She shared about what a full and beautiful season it was.  And then she shared about how she knew it was slipping away and how she was easing into the winter season.  She talked about the peace she had as she braced for the winter.  She didn’t fear it, she embraced it.

Before the sun finally sets, the frost begins to squeeze the color from the blue of autumn’s skies and the brilliant colors of spring and summer turn from scarlet red to softer hues of gold.  As age begins to wrinkle our skin and greys our hair, we look forward to living our final chapters.  As we join the vast caravan that marches toward the west, we shall first behold the winter “sunrise” which brings with it tiny hints of lovely pastel shades.  When winter sunrise begins to paint its dawn upon our lives, we shall not fear what lies ahead. 

She was so wise.

Our culture would have us to believe that the summer of our life is to be preserved at all costs, and, by the way, at all costs is the precise and only motivation.  While I am still far from shopping in the “Ladies” section at Belk (sorry, but the only way I am buying a sweater with a turkey  embroidered on it is if I wear it as a joke), I am coming to the realization that there is real value in each season of life.  Could it be that ever so softly, ever so slightly, my autumn is creeping upon me?

Besides the physical calamities I am enduring, I’ve noticed other changes too.  Ten years ago if you had asked me to give you a 10 year plan, I would have gladly blurted out my pretty little plan tied with a pretty little bow.  I have learned the value of being open to God’s plan. I have learned the value of sitting at the beautiful feet of my elders.  I am learning the value of saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with my priorities.  I am learning that some things matter, and other things, simply…..don’t.  I am learning that I have so much to learn.   Maybe, ever so slightly, ever so gently, my true colors are beginning to show.  Maybe, despite my initial repulsion, I can find beauty there.  Maybe, as I come into my own, I can even embrace it….the way my Grandmother embraced her winter.

We will quietly stand and behold the majesty and wonder of a sunrise that will lead us beneath the open sky, under its glorious arch to walk among God’s creation and all His peaceful works.  ….together we can share the calm that dawning brings and welcome release from relentless busyness.  Between the winter sunrise and sunset, we know that Jesus will be with us. 

Because the wisdom of her words, which she shared through her wrinkled lips, made her more stunning and more beautiful than any attempt at holding onto the evidence of her youth.

Wasn’t she beautiful?

photo-15

Frances, easing into winter

(Quotes by Frances Pierce, from her autobiography Why Not Us?, the chapter entitled “Winter Sunrise”)

(Image of Photographic Oil Portrait by Gaye Frances Willard. For more information on photographic oils, click http://www.portraitartistnc.com/GWbrush.html)