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Hope and Stay

Sometimes discontent and discouragement come barging in through all your long-closed (or so you thought), barricaded doors and they tear you down and they beat you up and your bruises affect the way you love. And you wonder how these not-so-very-nice guests ever came in at all til you realize that you secretly invited them in. And of course, they eagerly and voraciously took you up on your whispered invitation.

 

Light the candles, wipe the counters, fill up every corner of your house with vicarious worship via Pandora. Some days you have to fight the discontent, the ugly, ungrateful, peering-over-the-fence heart with every dusty weapon you can possibly pull out from your arsenal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

It can’t go on like this. It has to stop.

 

Just to be still in all He’s given. In all He’s giving. In all this right-here, around-me beauty.

#729 matches aflame

#730 flickering light, reflecting in the dirty panes

#731 mulled cider, pumpkin spice

#732 golden leaf, fluttering in the cold wind, clinging to the life it knows

#733 letting go

#734 The solid Rock on which I can stand

#735 my neediness and how He can fill it, if I just wait and seek

#736 two little girls pretend-fighting over whose mama I am

#737 clean tubs

#738 sweet, though unnecessary, thank-you notes

#739 truth-filled lyrics

#740 not getting everything I want, when I want it

#741 waiting for his leading

#742 that He knows how to live the in-between

#743 new words

#744 honesty and forgiveness

#745 a reflection, realizing what I’ve been

#746 a Helper, to restore

#747 surrounded family

#748 learning to truly love

#749 that I have One I can follow

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When You Know You’re Not Enough

This will be a bit cliché. But it’s something I have to do. And I question how to write something like this without sounding self-absorbed. Narcissistic. Like a navel-gazer. But then, maybe I am all of those things and that’s my problem.

 

But aren’t there days as women where we just feel like we can’t get our acts together? Maybe weeks of this. Months. Maybe lifetimes. I feel my feet, trudging through just the dailiness and I can’t move fast enough, can’t find satisfaction. Like Eve, always wishing for more than I’ve been given, while watching others seemingly running miles around me.

 

And I lash out at myself, all inside mind you, but the words tear deep and I believe the tongue-forked lies and the wounded beliefs bleed out onto all the ones I hold sacred.

 

If I just was more organized.

 

If I was just a better planner.

 

If I was just a better lover of God.

 

If I was just a better Christian.

 

If I was just neater.

 

If I was just a better wife.

 

If I was just a more patient mom.

 

If I was just skinnier.

 

Or more fit.

 

Or prettier.

 

Or . . .

If I was just.

And I know.

It’s plainly evident.

I’m not enough.

I know I’m not the only one. Don’t we all do this? We compare our children. We compare ourselves. We compare our homes, our husbands, our bodies, our abilities, our  achievements. Everything.

The problem is, we compare them to one another instead of to the Most Perfect. The problem is, we compare them to one another rather than to our former selves. Because hasn’t each one of us been fearfully and wonderfully made? And hasn’t each one of us a Wonderful Worker, completing His work in us?

A friend of mine recently posted an Anti-List. Things she’s not that she’s come to embrace about herself. That my friends, is some sort of freedom. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past few months as well. Maybe it’s part of growing up . . . realizing that God has made us certain people and learning that it’s okay that we’re  not like so-and-so or so-and-so.  Maybe it’s part of the letting go of our hunger for power – not in the ruling sense of the word, but in control sense of the word – giving thanks to God for who He’s made us, instead of shaking our fists, wondering why He didn’t make us the way we think He should have made us.

So I come to another Thanking Milestone. It’s time to thank Him for making me. I gulp.

Because when I know I’m not enough, that I don’t measure up, I can either dwell on my inadequacies, or I can thank Him for His grace in even creating me and for His continued work in me.

So I look up, eyes to the August sky.

#649 these arms . . . no defined muscles, but strong enough to lift my children to high slides, or hug my husband tight

#650 these lips . . . nothing special, but made for smiling and laughing and saying “I love you” and giving kisses goodnight

#651 these hands . . . covered in inherited great-grandmother’s veins, but able to bring Chopin or Debussy right into our living room

#652 this waist . . . larger than on my wedding day, but stretched by life and often surrounded by my husband’s arms

#653 this mousey hair . . . hmmm . . . well, it covers my head and keeps me warm??? 🙂

#654 these spider veins . . . broken capillaries from all those hours, running on the hospital floor

#655 my lack of neatness . . . it keeps my trying and keeps me humble

#656 my lack of patience . . . it keeps me calling on Jesus

#657 my lack of achievements . . . this keeps me standing on the Solid Rock

#658 my lack of being the kind of wife I want to be . . . keeps me digging deeper, giving up more of myself, leaning on Him to fill my gaps

#659 my lack of being a good planner . . . keeps me flexible while trying to learn to use my time better

#660 my lack of being organized  . . . keeps me thinking on how He is a God of order

#661 my words of “if I were just” . . . compel me to re-focus on Him, His continuing good work

#662 that He is not finished with me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

#663 beach-like breezes in the mountains on an August evening

#664 green swing, swaying, lonely in the breeze

#665 feeding the pond-fish

#666 rocking chairs and lullabies

#667 little voices singing with me

#668 spontaneous dates

#669 a wonderful babysitter

#670 a girls’ day coffee

#671 seeing old friends

#672 that weddings and babies keep us coming together

#673 peaceful Sundays

#674 a good mystery

#675 a sister with long, golden curls . . . still Goldilocks after all these years and how I just. love. her.

#676 a husband who thinks I’m cute in the early morning . . . that he’s just crazy enough

#677 the continued rescue

#678 a job well done

#679 get-aways with friends

#680 5 pairs of eyes, all glued to the screen

#681 minivans to fit us all

#682 summer

#683 Thankfulness. It frees the soul.

Why I Thought I’d Failed the Counting

If you’re a regular around here, you know that my Multitude Mondays have been a little . . . ummm . . . lacking. I haven’t even been able to put my finger on why, but I just. couldn’t. do. it. I couldn’t formally count. I’ve found little things to be oh, so thankful for over this course of thanking-silence, but I just couldn’t come to this space and actually number them one by one. I thought I had failed the counting.

 

Looking back over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I’d failed. But it WAS that I was being ungrateful. While there have been AMAZING blessings in our lives over the last few months (and I’ve been extremely thankful for those), I was silently resentful toward God because of my perception that He’s been holding out on me. You see there’s something I’ve wanted for a long, long time.

 

Our own home. You’ve heard me speak of it before.  This quest to stop renting, to buy our own house, one where we could settle and make our own home . . . life . . . became my greatest want. I lived and breathed it.

 

I could think of hardly anything else. And although, yes, I can’t deny it, I’ve grown weary of our, ahem, vintage bathrooms and linoleum parquet, it hasn’t been so much the house that I’ve been so desperate for. It was the feeling of certainty. The assurance that we were free to plant good, solid, long-reaching family roots. Yes, for me, but even more so for our daughters.

 

And while I knew in my head that a house could never provide true security or certainty, inside my heart was pinned to the floor with the suffocating, relentless, false weight that we had to have this house to make us a truly rooted family.

 

We’ve been working toward it. We’ve looked at enough houses that I feel pretty bad for our realtor. 🙂 I have every zip code in the area memorized. If you showed me a picture of a house anywhere in our hometown (in our price range), I could probably quote you the listing price (Isn’t that pathetic?! I’m thinking maybe I should become a realtor?). But we just weren’t finding the one.

 

Then, Jonathan and I jointly decided to make a large family purchase and much of our savings needed to be put toward it. We decided this together. I watched him write the check.

 

But, I grieved. Because I knew, this was putting our home on hold. Just on hold, mind you. I guess a friend was right in dubbing it the “death of a vision” because for a few days, I was in tears. I had a hard time functioning.

 

But I am so thankful. That God wrestled me to the ground and one by one, released my fingers’ death grip on my self-made idol. He pulled my hip and rescued me from my false footing…. And in pleading with him to “bless me” with what I thought I wanted or needed to provide our security, He blessed me with something else . . .

 

Release from a misplaced passion.

 

A freeing demolition of my self-elevated idol.

 

Because it was an idol. When He didn’t seem to be giving me what I wanted, or thought we needed, I doubted His goodness. Even more than doubting His goodness, I doubted His good work in me. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, or if He wasn’t pleased with me or if I didn’t deserve a home.

 

Writing this even now feels so silly. So American. So often, I’ve reminisced over shacks I’ve touched in Peru. Dirt floors. Children drinking water in which I could see things floating. Women begging on street corners, holding borrowed babies, hoping to make a dollar or two. And here I’ve been in a nice home, in truly the best neighborhood I could ever imagine, and in a beautiful community — all gifts the Lord has freely given me — and I’ve wanted to throw it all away.

 

For something I could call mine.

 

Do I still want that house? You bet. But in the meantime, He’s teaching me to trust Him. To be content, right where He has me. To be used. Right. where. He. has. me. And He gently opens my eyes to the truth that I can’t be truly thankful for the “smaller” gifts He gives . . . the birds chirping in the trees, little pitter-pats down our long hallway, mocha frappuccinnos . . . if I’m also resentful that He hasn’t given me something greater. And neither can I be truly thankful for the greater gifts, if I’m flippant in my gratefulness for the smaller. He says to give thanks in everything. Yes, and now I know why. Because there is no distinction in what He’s given or what He’s not given. He gives good gifts. And what He withholds is also His goodness.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I have tasted Him. In this refuge.

 

Again . . . taking up the count . . .

#614 His withholdings.

#615 Because He is a good Father and knows how to give good gifts to His children.

#616 What He gives is good.

#617 What He doesn’t give is good.

#618 That He rescues me from myself.

#619 That He loves, even me.

 

Giving thanks in all

Never Extinguished

Has something in your life been in the grave so long that the stench has become your normal surroundings?

 

The stench is so part of your life that you think there’s no changing it?

 

The stench is so rampant that it hadn’t even occurred to you that it could ever be eradicated?

 

What’s dead is dead and apathy has chained you strong and you lay dying among the stench?

 

An addiction? A disorder? Fear? Anxiety? The pain of relationships severed?

 

Let me tell you something.

 

Jesus is all about what’s dead coming alive.

 

The ugly-normal transforming into the extraordinary-beautiful.

 

Pleasing aromas.

 

Those He called “asleep” gasping for breath and wakening to a ravenous hunger.

 

He only need speak the word, and the odorous darkness is pierced by even one light aflame, wax gracefully dripping.

The light shines through the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it. 

(John 1:5)

Did you catch that? The darkness can never extinguish it.

So, even though there are some things in our lives where hope has scattered to the darkest, furthest corners  . . . where we’re sure that things will always be the way they’ll be, or that someone we love will never change, or that we are who we just are,

There is One who is not content with lackluster life. 

There is One who does not conform to mere mediocre.

There is One who always overcomes the seeming finality.


He has lit my fire.

His Willing Waiting

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Do you ever wonder where you are? You know where HE is. That He never leaves, never forsakes, but do you ever wonder if you’ve wandered a bit? Maybe been a Gomer and given your love to something else? Not even another entity, but a mere searching for something you think may fill you? The job promotion you’ve always wanted. Marrying the man of your dreams. Having a child. A home. A relationship restored. Or maybe your mind’s even simply been a little obsessed over those new curtains you’ve been saving up for, or the new 6-burner industrial gas stove your “kitchen’s” just itching to have.

 

And something or someone unknowingly wakes you up from the your heart’s wanderings and you suddenly realize just how little you’ve been living. You see their life. Their passion for Someone and something bigger than themselves. And while you’ve been pining and chasing after that certain dream or desire, you’ve neglected the here. The now. The HIM.

 

Oh, you’ve marched on, bathing kids and cooking suppers and doing laundry and working those long, soul-tiring days. But your mind and heart . . . oh, it has been on a wandering. A looking. A peering. And all the while, a real, soul-quenching Filling has been just watching you, just waiting, willing you to turn your heart . . . back . . . your First Love waits.

 

He wants to enlarge these hearts of ours. Widen their myopic horizons and give us His life-sustaining view. If we seek, we will find. If we lose our lives, they will ironically be saved. If we give, He will shake and press and make room for more. Because what we reap, we will sow. And if we thirst, He satisfies.

 

I thirst. My face turns. And I blush that there He is. His eyes watching. Willing me to turn my wandering heart. He humbles me with His patience and how can I not thank?

 

#586 That He is there and His promises are true

#587 little birthday seeds in Firefly’s hands, waiting to be sown

#588 a cool, summery breeze

#589 little songs, made up by little hearts and voices

#590 unexpected turns

#591 strawberry cake and candy flowers

#592 sweet birthday get-togethers

#593 cool water running over toes in August-like heat

#594 carousel rides and little girls in bathing suits

#595 that my should-have-been-a-boyscout sister had an extra shirt after a swimmie diaper malfunctioned (not mine, in case you were wondering) 🙂

#596 even him, just waiting for me, for my heart to slow

#597 pink lemonade and chaco tans

#598 tiger lily blooms

#599 a wonderful community and wonderful neighbors and wonderful wonderfulness 🙂

#600 SIX HUNDRED!!!!!

#601 determined independence and little sandals being put on by her own little hands

#602 just the waiting, the searching, the learning of myself

#603 that he likes to hear my thoughts, the thoughts I used to be so afraid to share

#604 pink and turquoise balloons

#605 iphone auto-correction

#606 sweet friends and their hearts for Haiti and orphans and nannies

#607 hose water, trickling

#608 giggles, giggles, giggles

#609 crying through Fancy Nancy

#610 that we are never alone

#611 that He can light fire where there is no tinder

#612 make-shift black out curtains and sleeping in just a little

#613 that there are more gifts than I could ever count

 

The Beauty-Seekers

Looking to Morning

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I am not what I should be.

I have not been what I want to be.

I murmur and complain.

I tear down and I berate.

I try to muster up energy.

Try to get through the day.

Just try to make it ’til bedtime.

But this is not how I’ve been called to live.

This is not how I give life.

I plead with Him.

For Him to speak love through my lips.

Lift UP in my correction.

Bring sweetness in our togetherness.

Bring joy in our daily living of life.

For me to capture all the moments I feel slipping.

Slipping through these hands . . . these memories.

The little one singing “Jesus Loves Me” and

“The Rain in Spain.”

My firstborn, so excited about her approaching birthday that she skips through the produce aisle, much to my frustration.

The sand in the bottom of the tub and all over the kitchen floor.

All the pink and the love of cold bedsheets and stuffed animals.

The way they want to show me EVERYTHING.

What a gift that they would run to show me?

And how often I don’t even look, but still murmur,

“Mmhmm . . . that’s great.”

Sometimes, the hardest, most tiring of days, are the days I just wish I could go and live all over.

Because it’s usually on those days

that I’ve missed it.

Focused on what doesn’t matter,

or what interests

ME,

or simply just focused on

all

that constantly

needs

done.

And I just wish I could press “rewind.”

This day.

And yes, my muscles are sore.

But I wish I’d pushed a few more swings.

And yes, my brain is tired,

but I wish I’d read more than one book.

And yes, the room is clean,

 but I soiled her sweet heart in between all my griping and hurrying.

Renew my heart.

Pour the oil of gladness in this ungrateful mama’s heart.

That I may fill up the hearts of these little ones.

Firefly turns four this weekend.

I’m not ready for this.

I want to live this day over.

His mercies are new every morning.

A Stretched Canvas

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It was last Christmas, near my birthday, and a good friend sent me a link to check out and asked if I’d like to do “it” for my birthday present.

Intrigued, I clicked the link. A PAINTING party? “Maybe Anne doesn’t know me as well as I thought,” I smirked. You see, stick figures challenge me. Literally. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. Give me Debussy or Chopin and the emotion comes through, but a blank piece of paper? A CANVAS? That would *definitely* be challenging. But I could tell my friend really wanted to give this gift to me. Something for us to do together. We could bring a drink. Wine? Yes, wine. Surely, we could just giggle and paint and have fun.

Hesitatingly, I said yes. Online, I chose our class. Our city’s skyline. The day came and I was a tad bit nervous, but I told myself that the painting was going on a wall. No matter what.

“We can always hang it in the closet!” Anne said when I confessed to her my personal pep talk. Yes, she has a way of making me laugh and keeping me humble all at the same time. 🙂

So the night came. I step into the building and art is everywhere. We grab aprons. Our paints. The whole class sits at our personal easels and a lady stands up in front and guides us through the painting. She makes us laugh. Anne and I exchange glances and smothered giggles and we just do it.

"I thought this was a Paint-by-Number!"

We sponge on gold and scrape on orange. This was fun. This was something I had never done before. I honestly had not painted a picture since I had held little, paint-filled cups all in a perfect row and followed a number chart. Probably back when my age was in the single digits.

So we kept going. Laughing. Cringing every now and then as we made a mistake, occasionally looking around, in awe at the other painters. Clearly, some of them were real artists. Some would pass my painting and sweetly say, “Oh, that’s really good!” Yes, it was merely sweet, Southern charm. But I’ll take whatever I can get, bless my heart.

So, I learned something that night. Friends can stretch you like a canvas. Even in a simple, girls’ night out. A friend by your side gives you courage to do things that you would never do on your own. And even in the widening of your horizons, the discomfort of trying something new, she can make you laugh and mix the rather ordinary palette of your life and create a beautiful gift of a night.

And yes. It’s hanging on my wall. Sometimes, I walk by and laugh at its ridiculousness. Sometimes, I stare at it and can’t believe I actually *painted* something – anything!

I want to go back. And I think I might look for other ways to stretch my canvas.

What is something you have done that you never thought you’d do?