December 24, 2012

When roses bloom in winter {a re-post}

I've been struggling with words these days ... can't find words to fill this space. They just don't come readily like before and I'm trying to be patient. I wanted desperately to write, here, after last week and all that happened in Connecticut. But I had to write it all down for myself, in ink and on my own paper pages instead. Those words will likely stay there. Because last week was all too close for any of us- and I had to do some private dealing, just me and my Jesus.

But the events marked me and they marked all of us. And those dear little faces on the cover of People magazine mingled and messed with my Christmas joy. I can't shake the thoughts of their mamas. I have struggled to stay out of the emotional weeds. Still, Christmas is here and I believe in the Incarnation now more than ever ... this God who became flesh, born to save us all from everything we can't bear.

Below is a re-post from one year ago and, oddly enough, I think it works for today.
Have a truly blessed Christmas, friends. I hope to be back soon.

I nearly complain when I walk out the front door a few mornings ago.

This weather is so very bizarre and it is difficult to feel Christmas-y when the temperature hovers at 65. I suppose I don't really mind. How can I mind bike riding without coats and street play as if it were spring? I know the cold will come soon enough-- it always does. Somewhere, right now, there is a chill in the air and it will move this way in time, follow those black birds that descend in flocks and tell of colder days to come.

I see it that morning, out of the corner of my eye ... that thorny vine that is wily and misshapen. I don't know how to trim a rose bush and so it just does it's own crazy thing. It is mid-December and for months it has been nothing but a brown, thorny eyesore. I would have snipped it away long ago if I had known where to find the sheers.

But this week it is blooming roses.

Red and pink ones and I find it mysterious. I snap a picture. The next morning I read over here about how Christmas can be hard and all "upside down." The women respond candid and brave. I cry as I read ... pray for women I don't even know, women who will be alone or sad or stretched this Christmas. And who hasn't known pain? Aching loss?

I read and Christmas feels a bit more sacred, more necessary. It is about more than peace and waiting and anticipating. It is about deep need.

Need for light when the lights seem to be out ... or are just beginning to flicker. Need for hope that answers the ache. Hope that dispels the dark.

Because there are people who are hurting at Christmas.

And I think on another mama that I do know. It is ten months now, home without her girl. This will be her first Christmas with an empty chair and she posts on Facebook, tells of the memories that keep taking her breath away. At the funeral last year, they said their goodbyes amidst a sea of pink flowers and pink balloons for a girl who was just six. Her and that sweet aroma of pink ... mingling and lightening the air.

Dispelling the heaviness of a goodbye.

Her mama weighs heavy on my mind.

A few short hours from here another family keeps vigil, with thousands of others who have come alongside. And a dear friend's friend is dying. He won't likely make it to Christmas and his beautiful, strong wife informed the masses late last night, bid friends to come. Come now.

Come say goodbye at Christmas.

I watch a community plea for prayer and I pray too. I have tried so hard to make this season about the waiting and the knowing that He is coming, the anticipation of this arrival. God with us. It has been peaceful around here, just as I had hoped but I wonder if, in my pursuit to flee the Christmas Craze, have I missed something?

Have I forgotten that He is hope and light, the One who causes light to shine in dark places.
And  didn't He come in the middle of the night?

And the weather has been strange and Christmas is coming in with the cold. I am thinking of mothers, lovers, and a little girl who will kiss her dad goodbye on Christmas. 

Today we walk through Trader Joe's and the aisles are filled with shoppers buying gingerbread coffee and cinnamon cheese. We pick up peppermint taffy and I see them there to the right. In a sea of red and green poinsettias ... a small tin of pink roses. My heart speeds up and I tell my girl to look. Look! And we know who they are for. We know where we have to go next.

Later we leave roses on a doorstep, come home to taffy, and dad is off work early. He plays Christmas music and dances with his girls in the kitchen. I can't catch my breath and I mark the moment in my memory before I step out of the room. Thankful. Heavy.

Because I am still thinking of roses and I need to get away for just a minute. I shuffle through more Christmas music, favorites that mark the season, and I hear it-- this old hymn.

I have never listened well to these words but my ears are tuned today. A flower bright .... when half spent was the night. A savior  foretold, to show God's love. A babe, whose sweetness so filled the air that kings and shepherds came to see. Dispelling darkness everywhere and lightening every load.

It is the eve of Christmas Eve and I am thinking on a rose. I am waiting for a light that shines in the dark ... for a hope that enters gladly into the night.

Come, Lord Jesus.


Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

November 3, 2012

Running into the fear {Allume 2012 and why I'll keep writing}

Last year we stumbled onto a new favorite place. We walked downhill, carried a baby boy. Answered the invitation of falling water, its far-off roar. We followed its trail between rocks and under leaves showing their first signs of fall. And last year I forgot my camera and I shook my head all the while. Needing desperately to bottle that place, cup all its goodness at the foot of the falls. 

On our last day up north, we packed the van tight and settled in for the nine hours south. And my man knew we would meet D.C. traffic right at rush hour. He also knows me well. So he pulled off the road anyway and handed me my lens. Told me to be careful, told me to hurry.

He said, "go do what makes you you."

And I said sorry too many times even though he wasn't angry, told him I would hurry. I left the whole crew on the side of the road and ran into the woods, down the trail and over sopping leaves. I followed the sound all on my own, and the descent out of sunlight- into water- was a bit unnerving. For a minute I forgot the goal, wanted to turn back.

Because the trek into new places feels safer among a crowd. Other voices cushion the quiet; other bodies temper the nerves.

And at the foot of the falls I found myself alone and silent. The waterfall was deafening and I was fine. I was afraid. I wanted to hurry away. I wanted to stay.

And I heard His roar but I saw His beauty. I felt my own heartbeat. 

And when the call of God and the pulse of your own blood meet up in one place- well that's how you know.

I was made for this place.

Because it's how we all started ... the heartbeat of the Maker in our ears, us wrapped safe in a place all our own. So is it really any wonder that we would feel right at home ... and a little afraid too.

Following Him into that space when He calls.

That was last year and just a few weeks ago we made our annual trek again. This time my boy ran down into woods as fast as his feet would carry him. He navigated rocks and crags in his little gray Crocs and we were certain we would sew up a chin by day's end.

But his squeals echoed what we all know when we stumble into the Maker.

This is where I belong.

And when He is nearby, even unfamiliar land isn't so strange and so how do you deny someone running headlong into God. Me, I've been wrapped up in fear too long- not wanting to run. Saying sorry too often for "doing what makes me me."

But last weekend, I spent three days at Allume. I drove north again for the second time this month. This time I went alone. I was afraid.

When I cried, called myself an impostor, my husband looked right into my eyes, said it plain through the iPhone.

"You belong. You are loved. Go be who you are."

And walking into a crowd of women (or four hundred) can feel like running right into the woods. Finding a friendly face ... an empty seat at a table ... can be downright terrifying.

Following His invitation into the unknown can be both inspiring and just scary enough to hide out forever.

Believe me, I tried. (And really, it was this girl who saved the day. Fiercely courageous and for whatever reason, knocking on my door.)

Because my hotel room was just cozy and quiet enough to lounge unnoticed for seventy-two hours.

Only this: I had run off to follow an invitation. A call into an adventure that makes my heart beat loud. I had driven all that way to meet up with word women. Women who love words-

women who love the Word.

Women who have heard an invitation too, to be who they are by putting pens to paper and fingers to keys. Women who meet up with God in the writing down, where they whisper like me:

Ooh, I know this place.

I wanted to hide away. But they had come too. Hearts pounding, inspired, and perhaps a bit afraid like me.

And it's ironic really- how I ran away to learn how to do.
But I came home knowing who to be.

Because this writing life isn't really so much about the words, but about the girl jotting them down.
And it's not so much about who critiques them ... but why she bothers to write them at all.

At a conference, literally, filled with virtual connections- I found out about community and fear and courage. Reconciliation and understanding and how words can break down barriers and unify His people. For our sake. And for the sake of the church. And sure, the converse is true, but why wouldn't we, the Word lovers, use them for good.

I discovered that writing heals and authentic words matter; that the words make no difference if they haven't first been lived, wrestled; that words never take precedence over people- how Jesus was all about relationship and proximity. How we are called to live well in the here and now, with the people He's given us. Right in front of us. And how maybe, just maybe, we might gain a credible voice to share with the more.

And it was dearest Ann who said it soft and straight: the only way to write well is to go lower all the time, writing on lives in the quiet. And if we spend our days seeking word applause, people applause, well ... Heaven's applause may be silent.

I discovered that every time we put words out into the open, we invite others in. We add to our fold and how this tending is no small thing. We are changed in the reaching out ... they are changed as they enter in. 

I discovered how to be content- how my small and nervous words may really be big and courageous enough. How we don't decide our venue or our audience. We merely run ahead through the fear. Answer a call.

And my, how we get to watch Him work.     

Last month on our drive north, with the family altogether, we missed the leaves changing color. It wasn't quite time.

But today the leaves are changing. And so am I.

I'm home and I'm sure of it, this call to authentic words. I was there and afraid but now? I'm ready to find a space, right here in the quiet, with all of the words and all of the women who have been grounded by them.

Because of Him.

Grateful for the invitation. Grateful for women who heard the roar and followed the whisper.  This time, the all-alone was worthwhile.

Sometimes it's in the all-alone that He calls loudest. 
Sometimes it's in the all-alone that we discover our part matters. So can you hear Him ...

He's calling you  too.

"Come on now, girl. Come do what makes you you. Come and be who you are."

For the glory of His name. And for the benefit of us all.

October 22, 2012

Here's to good, imperfect days

Here's to fall days and flailing a bit, in the best kind of ways. To finding some new freedom and doing away with fear all over again. Here's to running barefoot in public, laughing too loud and skipping nap time. Letting your hair fly. Giving up the worry. 
Here's to regrouping quickly, managing less, praising more. Here's to getting down on her level, seeing the view from her eyes. Here's to saying "sorry" first, choosing grace, making his favorite meal. Here's to catching all things good right in front of you ... just today. And believing that tomorow will take care of itself.  

Here's to reminding myself that this life is a collection of moments. And the best days are the real days with the beautiful and the difficult all wrapped into one. Because even the best days are high jacked by real life; the rough spots and places still unpaved. We mess up, fumble through and regroup. We stop, turn back and start again.

Here's to learning all the time and realizing: who wants to live perfect when its the imperfect that makes us lovely? We take one step forward and a gillion steps back. We shake our heads, stay bent on grace-needy knees. We glance upward and acknowledge the only One who doesn't need refining. The only One who sees perfect when He sees the ones He made.

Here's to the moments before our barefoot soccer match when I argued with my husband under a poplar. Here's to just moments later, when the kids had a collective meltdown in the van. And the parts I remember?

The grass on my feet and how fast she can run and his all-boy belly laugh and, later, saying sorry in the kitchen. Swaying to the just-right song ... just moments before the bedtime frenzy.

It was a good day.

So, here's to YOU and high fives all around for journeying on, for keeping your head up, for praising when it's tough. For embracing all of this life- and all that He offers. For catching the sacred in the midst of the daily and for letting Him grow you up ... one baby step, one not-so-perfect day at a time. 

Happy Monday! And peace, friends.

October 19, 2012

When you want to stay dressed

So here's the deal, friends. I've been out.

Out of words. Out of steam. Out of touch. Just plain out.

And I have this crazy friend who is more like a lifeline and a year ago we decided to "do this thing until it becomes a thing." We didn't have any big plans really; we just knew it was time to get busy being brave. Stop lingering in the back row, start giving what we had. I had stories to tell. She had words to speak over women. And we had quite a year together- doing that thing- whatever it was.

She is one stage ahead in life, with big kids in big-kid school. She does life first, then coaches from a distance. She encourages me to love my man with a thumbs-up, teaches me to spur my children on toward cleaner teeth.

And for whatever reason, for all these years, she has taken on this friendship. Calling, speaking bold encouragement right through the phone and over the distance. Praying me into and home from work, and driving north on 95 to share some weekend courage.  

The other day she proposed something crazy (the way she does) and I protested (the the way I do). While chatting in my ear, she brought me up to speed on her latest Wednesday. And her Wednesdays are all wrapped up in her "doing her thing" and she stands up brave in front of women and she is as real as they come.

She calls it being naked and we talk about that a lot.

Not about being naked, but about how it feels to put honest words out there. How the words can't be taken back. How being brave can leave you a little over-exposed. We talk about how the wanting to hide can overwhelm, how the self-critic whispers in the aftermath, how it's a fight every single time to not cover up thick ... decide right then and there:

"Next time I'll show less skin."

And while she chatted in my ear from another state, I drove and listened and I made two wrong turns before pulling over altogether. Because she asks tough questions and tells straight truths. She requires my full attention. So I parked in the bookstore lot and turned off the engine. I spent the better part of my free afternoon with my car in park.

I cried and told her how I just don't have anything to say these days. She didn't bite. I told her again.
I told her I can't be a good mom and write too. I told her I'm too tired.

And then I told her one more thing and it fell out of my mouth like a brick.
I told her I don't like being naked anymore, that I don't know how to write words that aren't see-through. That, right about now? It all feels too risky.

"What if I can't do it anymore?"

"What if I can't keep writing the real?"

"Because I do have things to say. I just don't want to say them." And my chatty friend said, "Mmm hmm."

I hung up after crying some more, wandered into that bookstore and bought an empty Moleskin.  
It's still empty and the irony is this: I've self-talked myself right out of words. 

And so I guess I have to write about being afraid or else I just may never write again.

And her brilliant plan, the one I protested, was that I write every day in October. Just like last year. And naturally, I froze up afraid this week ... and the week before that ... spoke that whole line again about not having any words. But I've been chewing on my lower lip over here, watching October come and go. We've camped and we've picked pumpkins, plucked apples in a mountain orchard.

All without words.

But my friend called again last night, always right on time. She reminded me gently that we are stewards of words, not keepers. Borrowers of our gifts, not hoarders. And when we manage them  too closely, we can snuff them right out. And instead of slimming down in the sharing, we fatten up on all things self-indulgent. Fear, insecurity, pride ... All the while, we suffocate while others search about for gifts we have - and won't offer. Words, time, compassion, joy.

And I imagine Wednesday mornings with all of those ladies in Florida, poised and ready with my friend nowhere to be found -- hiding out somewhere with words she won't share.

This would never happen, because my friend is fiercely brave. But if it did? What a shame to miss out on her, in her shoes and her bangles. Her sharp, no-frills, no-fear truth that cuts right to the heart in a most ironic and tender way.

Listening to her, I'm certain of this. Her wealth to share with the world? It's truth and grace all wrapped up in words. Every time she stands up, she speaks it. And women drink her in,

because it is the truth that women really want to hear.

And my friend will tell me it is costly. And in the same breath she will tell me it is the only way.
Last night she said, "You have got to speak up. You don't get to stay quiet after you say 'yes' to a gift. You risk everything now. You risk everything to share what you have."

Because what she is really saying is this: "What is your other option?" 

And I know the answer to this one.

I think I'm living it right now. And from where I stand, I'm wondering if feeling a bit naked is really so bad after all. I'm thinking this stifling cover-up is way worse.

I'm thinking that not risking is the risk.

And maybe this is the way. Being keenly aware of our bare spots, we give what we have anyway. And in the crazy risking, we shrink rightly into Him ... into and under the One who covers all.

So, here's to starting again. Here's to putting words on paper. Here's to remembering how to undress, and how to put on God. Taking off the fear, the pride, the whatever ... and dressing in the only other way I know.

Wrapped tight in truth and grace,

and hoping that's all you see.

Wondering, friends. What is your gift to give away? And is it worth the risk?

August 28, 2012

Playing catch-up

I'm all out of words these days and it's just enough to make me batty. Because it's in the words, and it's in the getting them down, that I make sense of life all around me.

So when there aren't any? I'm all clouded up, in a fog. 

But I think maybe I'm missing all of these faces and I think I'm ready to talk. The end of summer is pressing in and we've done well here. Tanned little bodies and a backyard full of bats, balls, butterfly nets, bug jars. In the everyday hours, my feet waded in the river and my knees bounced a boy at the pool. We ran in too-tall grass out back, swatted at monster mosquitoes. We blew endless bubbles and I lost, over and over, to a four year-old at Old Maid. She laughed hysterically every time, fell over backward, when I pulled that old hag from her hand. We blended smoothies and I tricked them right before their eyes, tossing in handfuls of spinach, avocados. We traveled and summer-camped, watched Gabby and co. flip for Gold.

Life, this summer, was good. Mind and body, we were all in. My heart, however, has been keeping it's own time ... trying hard to catch up.

When I got off that plane all jet-lagged and beaded-up, a friend said I didn't have to have any answers. He said, "When people ask what the trip meant to you? Tell them, 'I'll let you know in three years.'" And I laughed nervous and thought, "Well that would be really rude." But the truth is?

I might have to tell you in three years.

On the surface, our team touched down and we served long days, long lines. We pushed through and then re-boarded a plane. It was quick and methodical. But I've spent my life pouring over statistics and books and relief organizations: praying that Jesus would feed his hungry, fill hearts and bellies, stop the brutality, ease the oppression. I waited for the time to go and see, touch, look someone in the eyes. Just. Learn. Something. And while I was there, I was all there: body, mind and spirit.

Hands and feet, finally.

And now? I'm looking at little faces in my kitchen and we're flipping pancakes. And all the while, those other faces hang in my mind. Lovely faces. And while I'm listening to my girl explain why koalas sleep all day, I'm hearing Mandela Beatrice in Uganda. How she waited all night at age six, the same age as my girl. How her parents never came home. How it was the LRA and an ambush. How she longs for a mother to rub lotion on her back, buy her a bar of soap. How she sang right then and there: "I'll never leave my Lord"... then asked me to pray everyday for her future.

I'm thinking of a fifteen year old with a daughter turning one. An orphan- turned- mother and who really needs all of the details? I told her she was a wonderful mama, the way she bounced and sang to her girl, blew raspberries on her tummy.

I'm remembering Bweyale, a resettlement camp, and the metal fence dividing the Compassion school children in green from the refugee children in rags. The two women who smiled like the sun-  peaceful eyes, warm words, beautiful English. They held my hands and told how they walked from Sudan. Walked. How they fled from war. Lost children along the way.

They spoke of how it won't matter if there is peace some day. They won't go north again.

So I'm here and life is good, more than good. I'm just in a bit of limbo, in the healthiest sort of way.  I'm not angry or despondent or detached. My heart just got home a bit later than my feet and that old fire in my bones is raging. I'm restless and trusting God who is here and there. Trusting I didn't spark the fire on my own.
I'm thinking on those faces and all of the joy, beauty amidst strife, across an ocean and I'm resisting the urge to frantically DO. I'm choosing to cool off and quiet down by staying close to the One who knows and sends and preserves life. I'd like to get back on a plane or earn a new degree. I'd like to hold up a megaphone.  

But just for today: I'm trusting that He knows how often they cross my mind. I'm trusting that they don't ever leave His. I'm reading and learning and telling. I'm waiting quiet, praying with zeal like it all depends on me ... knowing full well that it does not. 

And I'm remembering all of the faithful who are scattered over this planet- loving, serving, risking, reconciling, advocating, chronicling, innovating for change. I'm remembering that God is not absent, nor is He silent. He is present in all ways, in all places, at all times. He is visible. He is tangible ...

in His people.

August 14, 2012

For the hungry heart

I learned, as a girl, to believe in the promises of God- learned how to trust. My mom spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over us and I scribbled the same reminder in the front flap of all my journals:

Hope against hope, I trust in You.

And sometimes it can feel downright insane to trust in what you can't see - when life just seems all wrong. Sometimes, trusting in "what will be" is the only way through.  

As a high school senior I couldn't see beyond the next twenty-four hours. I wanted to believe in the promises of God when all went haywire. I wanted to believe He had a plan, maybe even a back-up too. I had messed up and I needed to know that all would be well.

Because from where I stood, the  locusts were feeding on my days and on my future. I needed to know He would buy back what time was devouring. 

When I was seventeen I walked New York City with a youth pastor who served up grace and truth like no one I've met since. We had walked the streets of Quito just one year before and our conversation was still going. He fearlessly led our group of teens to the city. We slept in rows and our sleeping bags overlapped on the second floor of a men's homeless shelter.

For ten days we called The Bowery Mission "home". By day we served up steaming plates and then washed them again. We painted walls and stairwells, gave out sandwiches and soap on the Midnight Run.
Each day, the men filed into Bowery chapel pews, always a precursor to a hot, free meal. And for some reason they invited us to lead worship ... us white kids from white suburbia.

We did our trembling best.

But really, they led us and when we looked out into their faces, all we really knew was that we didn't know a thing.

Because those men walked in off the streets and they were glad to open their mouths for praise before they ever opened them for food. They bellowed six simple words that soared up to the heights, cut right to my core. The men meant what they sang. And I felt hollow.

It is well with my soul.

I stared straight ahead and my eyes welled up. I tried to sing but that sound of their words ... it plunged into deep places. And I envied them.

I needed it to be well with my soul too.  

We walked up and down Bowery Street in July heat and the city smelled of concrete and rubber, exhaust and stale urine. My eyes blurred and stung while I cried on the inside for some soul healing.
All the while, I couldn't eat. Not at The Bowery, not anywhere. Not for a good year before and not for several after. Not well, at least. Never letting myself get full ... my hungry heart starving right out in the open.

by LuciaM

Each night, bakery trucks rolled up to the curb and we met them outside, assembly-line ready. The pastries, breads, donuts and bagels hauled in from all over the city, just twelve hours stale and unsold. The men who were hungry for a sweeter life fed on the city's finest treats. And those sweet smells crazed me and the youth pastor watched real close, watched me pine away and pass them along the line, right under my nose. He wondered with grief while I denied myself anything good at all.

But the men were thankful. They fed their mouths and filled their guts with the bounty. It was the city's goodness and they swallowed it down as if it were God's.

And it was. 

It's strange now, how my memories of that time aren't so much about homeless men ...
but of hungry me.

That pastor walked me through Central Park and through The Met. We looked at art and I told him how my life seemed to be turning out all wrong, one grey/green sloppy brush-stroke at a time. I forgot about hope and a future. I was disappearing into shadows, my self melting into my mistakes. He offered plain bagels and he pulled out his bible right there in the middle of the city.
He said how sorry he was, acknowledged the hunger. And he offered me Jesus.  

It has been sixteen years since I slept hungry in New York City. But a few weeks ago, I drove down Bowery Street.

On the way to a birthday surprise with friends, the street sign caught my eye and the moment snuck right up. And I hadn't been back since my heart has been well. Suddenly there we were, away from home and on city streets.

And can't Jesus prove a promise kept at any moment He chooses?

Because for the better part of July, we'd been living in a cabin in the woods. We' been working for friends who said "come." I played camp nurse while my family played hard.  

We lived simple on our friends' Pocono property where kids pulled in by the busload all summer long. Weighed down by heavy living, they stepped out of New York City concrete and into God's creation. They came hungry and hoping, unable to name the deeper need. They sang by campfires, slept in cabins. They prayed to crazy rhythms I still can't find and, at Fort Plenty, they ate their fill.

They came to me with belly aches and tears and it wasn't a nurse they really needed.
Because I can recognize Homesick and Hungry when I see it.

And for a few sweet weeks, we sat back and watched their souls fill right up.

For each of the seven days they came, they took in mounds of love, heaps of encouragement. They drank down God's promises over broken lives.

Promises that are hard to conceive of ... near crazy to believe.
They sat in a chapel where the praise went up and the light streamed in. They heard about a plan and they imagined a future. They listened and believed as others spoon fed the hope.

And I didn't catch the irony until we drove Bowery Street that night, the four of us together. Our closest friends for all these years, all this time ... this camp. They work for The Bowery.

So when we took a night off to celebrate, we made our way toward their headquarters, toward the city. We sat on hot concrete and we talked of time and change and friendship. I held my husband's hand while we marveled over our children who slept back at camp, how our God knew long ago about their plans for a hope and future. How He knew about our plan.

How He knew about mine.

We laughed hard and sang loud in the backseat. We ate cannolis and gelato, shared cappuccino. I was filled with all things good and my God made sure the moment wasn't lost on me. My husband and the others kept right on talking while my eyes stung quiet in the backseat. I took it all in: the heat and the smells and all the bounty that's been mine since then. This time, when the sweet smell of grace passed under my nose, I inhaled it long.

I received all the good and I whispered "thank you" from a satisfied place.

Later that night, we drove from Little Italy and back towardcamp. I brushed remnants of city sweets from my teeth, washed July sweat from my skin. Our drive past Bowery Street had been inconsequential for the others. I didn't fill them in. But for me? It was the sweetest celebration of the night:

a celebration of a God who keeps promises,
a God who fills empty spaces,
a God who is always enough.

It has been sixteen years since I was hungry in New York City.

And I'm not hungry anymore.
It is well with my soul. 

Thankful today for Rich and Suzy- for showing Jesus in radical ways, for celebrating life so well. Grateful to Dave S. who walked and talked with Truth and Grace. And humbled for the privilege to serve among the all-stars of Mont Lawn Camp. Thanks for loving His kids, every single day. 

August 3, 2012

Come in close for the filling

My girl climbed into our bed this morning and she wrapped her arms around my waist, pressed her little legs against mine. She brushed the bottoms of her feet up and down along my shin and calf, patted the small of my back with her teeny palm. Connecting with every limb. 

She whispered "good morning" and "I just love you, mama." Then she flip-flopped to her other side- scooched backward even closer and right into my curve. And it doesn't seem so long ago that I cradled her here every second ... all wrapped and growing in multiplying mother-love. This morning she whispered like a little pal while she inched closer, her spine meeting my chest.

Determined for togetherness.

Then she reached behind her, grabbed my dangling arm, and pulled it right over her waist. Enveloped.

My girl wore me like a blanket.

And just the night before I asked her a "would you rather ...?" It's their silly question-asking game and it's our way to get a pulse from time to time. She replied, "Oh, a hug. A hug. I would rather have a hug!" Because I'm always wondering how to best fill these little folks. And this one? She is a time and touch girl. Even more, she knows when her "love-tank" is running low.

We haven't done the communal sleep thing here, not in all six of our kid years. "This is our special place," we have always said. Sometimes, though, this wee one finds her way into our warm, close space. She seeks out proximity, the filling up that comes from contact.

We are under sheets and her wispy hair mingles on my pillow. Her back rises and falls with my belly. She is all wrapped up and hidden and when she comes in close this way? I can practically hear her little heart filling up to the brim.

'Cause I am a touch girl too, and when my Todd hugs me tight I giggle and make the same sound every time: "bloop, bloop, bloop" like a bubble rising to the surface ... it's my tank filling to the top. And he knows when I'm out of steam and when to embrace well.

My girl sat up with new purpose this morning, flung off the sheets and spun to meet me. She kissed my nose the Eskimo way and said it plain: "Now that is the best way to start the day."

She hopped out and she was off. Dressed-up in mom love and ready to go. I didn't rise as quickly and I wondered ... how do I keep inviting her, all of them, into this space? Not our bed, per se, but into closeness, into safety for the filling.

How do I stay filled up, invite them into the overflow? Because there are days when I just don't got it. There are days when even my husband doesn't come in for a hug. No ... these days it looks more like a backing away slowly.

But really? We weren't meant to fill. We were meant to spill.

And when the tank is on empty ... we don't invite in. We repel.

So how do I give good mother-love when I've simply got nothing at all?  And how, in these school days coming, these growing years passing ... how in the world do I (we) stay filled?

How do I teach them to put on God? To wear Him like a blanket. How do we all wrap up, live in, a Father embrace? How do we find him at the start of a day and then hold on, tucked inside and under?

Isn't it the closeness that fills us up and isn't it in the together-space that we grow? Secure, sure, safe.
Isn't He always inviting us into an embrace? Waiting to fill us right up and over?

I'm thinking on curriculum and a school year, what can feel like chronic fatigue, small groups, and how to go out into the world right here in my town. I'm wondering how to serve three children and a man and how to keep heart tanks brimming. I get tired.

And I've got to have something to spill. I've got to have some togetherness.

This morning I started with a fresh reminder from a girl of four who whispered it right and well-- right into my morning rising:

Just come in close and put on God.

Wear Him like a blanket today, right now, every moment. Wrap up in His sure covering.
And in the quiet space of sure love, get filled up.

Then ... go and spill over.

Yes, I am certain. This is the best way, the only way, to start a day.

"But as for me, it is good to be near God." Psalm 73:28

We do a lot of love-tank assessing around here. You can read more about Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages here. And perhaps we can begin chatting again, you and me? I know it's been a while.(I've missed you!!) Want to talk about how to put on God? How do you start your day, friends?

July 11, 2012

Home away from home ...

So ... we packed up for nearly twenty days and I forgot to let you know.

We shoved bikes and baby dolls and bits of each room into bulging bags. We pulled out and went north to make a home away from home, to be with friends who feel like home in so many ways.

They called and asked, "Will you come?" And well, in the midst of our Year of Finding Home, somehow leaving for all of July seemed a logical decision ...

I'll tell you what we've been up to in a day or two. A few hints? I've got a walkie talkie and the kids have a nanny. We meet up each night at six to "drop that beat."

And these friends of ours? Each time we're together, our little family gets another lesson in loving well.

June 23, 2012

'Cause maybe you needed this too ...

I know you. I know your heart. I made it.

I know your struggles, your deepest desires, your most honest thoughts.
I know how you sometimes wonder 'why.'

But I am weaving, child. 
And waiting can feel like a death, like you are missing an entire portion of yourself ...
a whole part of your person.

I am stoking a fire. I am always in process.

Child, stop moping. Stop mourning. Stop flashing ahead.
I can't take you there until you are faithfully and obediently here.

Be holy, as I am holy. Be excellent. Persevere.
Allow me to weave and grow you, grow the others I will entrust to your care.

Show me, by faith, that you can trust.
Show me, by grace, that you can be trusted.

You say you feel fragile?
Then break wide open into me.

You say you feel tired?
Then fall hard into this net of mercy.

You say you are disappearing slowly?
Then fade right into the shadow of these wings.

You say the walls are closing in?
Then run headlong into my freedom.

Stop criticizing who you are.
Stop confusing what is good.
Stop controlling how you are perceived.
Stop clarifying what is already clear.

I won't leave you to yourself.
I won't let you fall apart.
I won't forget that I called you.
I won't give away your place at the table.

Stop looking back, stop glancing ahead. And for goodness sake, stop flailing.

Live now, by faith, in joy.

I want to see you smile.
I want to give good gifts.
I want to be your helper.
I want to show you extravagant love.
I want  you to be brave, courageous.

I want you to use your gifts ... for my glory.
This is reasonable worship.

Do you see it?
I want to make you more like me.

This life of yours is yours alone to hand over.
I know how costly this can be.
But lay it down anyway.

Then lay it down again. And then again.

Give it away here and now.
Stop preserving, stop holding back.
Stop saving up your energy.

Live loved.
Love others well.
Spend yourself on their behalf.
Open up your hands.
Only "do the next thing."

Receive my love.
Then let it spill over.

Whatever I give, you give it too.
Mercy. Pardon. Refreshment.

Keep walking straight ahead.
Don't slow down. This is the way, walk in it.

Stop calculating, orchestrating, solving.
Stop adding me up.

I am mystery.

And my puzzle is made of a million intricate pieces ...
all different shades of the same color called Grace.

I am the beginning.
I am the end.

And you?
You fit beautifully into my story.

You bring me joy.
I am singing over you.

So relax your shoulders.
Exhale that stagnate air.
Do only what I've given you ... today.

Look for me.
Thank me often.

And then wait in joyful hope.

'Cause I've got this.