a sky full of clouds.

 

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In a clear, bright, deep blue sky. In spun-sugar clouds–puffed up and sprinkled about.

I see you, Lord.

I wish I could touch them.

I wish I could touch You.

I wish I could rub Your goodness between my fingers over and over again, wispy softness.

I wish I could time your unfailing love as it rolls across the sky after me, pacing closer and closer.

I wish I could feel your beauty creep over me, shady and cool cover from blazing days.

I’ll rest right here. That you spin those clouds into place day by day. That you push the dappled, streaky blue of the sky around like thick paint. That the love of Someone who makes pink-tinged and orange-tipped and purple-bottomed three dimensional air is worth looking for. Worth living from.

In a clear, bright, deep blue sky. In spun-sugar clouds–puffed up and sprinkled about.

I see you, Lord.

when i wander.

israelite

Sometimes I am an Israelite: travel weary and dust-smudged.

I stand at the edge of something promised: a land where God has drawn the boundaries. He’s taken the nubby charcoal pencil from my hand and He’s marked out all that He has for me. He’s laid it all out, promised that if I live the really kind of living there–tucked in close to Him–I’ll know freedom.

I’ll have rest. Everything about me will be defined by who He is, what He’s done for me, how precious He holds me–like a mother eagle bearing  her own baby between her wide, wide wings just until little wings are strong enough to be stirred up. I will be different, enough to tell. But I won’t have to be worked to the weary bone to be valued. I won’t have to serve a master that only takes, barks, consumes and leaves starving. I won’t be bound with heavy burdens. Instead I’ll walk alongside a King who invites, hitches His strength to my frailty, waits for me, fills me. I’ll have His love written on my heart and living will grow from who He is. I’ll do and be out of His I AM.

I’ll have rest.

Except.

Sometimes I am an Israelite and I see the path holds difficulty, the kind that dwarfs my person-sized abilities. I look with my small eyes. I look with world eyes. With my small, world seeing eyes the difficulty grows bigger than my God. And then I can’t. I can’t see His love. I can’t see His promise. I can’t see His rest. I can’t see He’s bigger. And with me. And He keeps me.

So I wander.

I forget. I forget that all I have to do to live rest is to rest. Rest my eyes on His ableness. Rest my heart in His favor on me. Rest my weakness against His power–lean in, on. Rest my fears within His hands.

Sometimes I am an Israelite and I tire of wandering. I come to the end of myself and my abilities and my small eyes. I start to see clearly. I believe rest.

So I step in.

a continual feast.

On a quiet morning drive to church, I peek up into the rearview mirror and find two almond-round eyes staring back at me. They are caramel. They are honey. They are the rich, deep color of a cup of undiluted tea. I smile at them because I know what is coming. Below those eyes full of wild and wonderful, a toothy grin spreads wider than the mirror can hold. It’s already tinged with the crookedness of life lived full.

On a warm spring evening, we drive up and down brick-cobbled streets trying to squeeze in for a night’s dinner out. Blocks away, we park and tumble out into the green air of Spring on the horizon. Later, we walk out into the most beautiful sunset over the staggered lines of old factories. We take the slow steps back up and through the spring breeze and fall into our car after a full and well-lived day. My girl slips her hand in mine.

On a barely blue night, my oldest and I stay up to read together. We read about life and change and feelings and being. After a joke and a goofy look, we lose ourselves in belly laughs. The kind with tears that wet dry, world-weary eyes with joy-balm. The kind that bubble up for minutes on end and disrupt any attempt to move on. He laughs like Woody the Woodpecker. I haven’t heard it full and abandoned in too long, it feels.

On a post-time change afternoon, the sunlight cuts through our kitchen in strands  so concentrated I want to try to scoop them up. It’s the kind of bright and shiny that heals winter-cold bones. I dice vegetables and watch fragrant steam rise up out of my favorite red dutch oven. Our house is full of joy set to beat driven music. I cut and stir in time, bouyed by the variety of God’s beauty in this world.

Every morning lately, I’ve landed in the same spot in my Bible–Proverbs 15:15. It’s true that when I look at my world through the lens of what I don’t have–of what is heavy for my carrying arms, of what is hard and asks much of me, of what might always be a no, of what is outlined with loss–my table seems scattered with crumbs and tinged with a lack of hope. Scarcity looms.

But.

When I look at my world through the lens of what has already been crafted into my life, there’s not enough room on my table for all of the goodness that drips off like grapes all heavy. It takes looking, yes, seeing clearly. It also takes picking moments up and rubbing them so that I become familiar. It takes letting every goodness-scent roll over me. It takes a quiet attention to the soft down beat and the whistling up beat of each moment.

Until.

Even when loss and pain and uncertainty walk woven into my life, I open my eyes and see a feast all piled up and spilling over and forever-full.

And I know Who has prepared it for me.

loving the creative.

I share my home with a creative mind.

Sometimes it looks like opening up the freezer and finding a glass that was half full of water–now frozen. The because? Maybe it’s wanting to see how fast the water will freeze or having some grand plan for a little block of ice or just wondering.

Sometimes it looks like plunging my hands into a sink of dishes to find paintbrushes at the bottom. I find out they’re covered in an oil-based paint AFTER I start rubbing them with soap and hot water. Everything is covered in a film of bright pink and bold blue.

Sometimes it looks like discovering the beginning of an eighth Harry Potter novel squirreled away in a bedroom. I smile because this particular fledgeling author hasn’t even finished the series yet.

I’ve tenderly held a heart that believed that Narnia really was through our wardrobe; that fairies come when you build them a house. I’ve battled the balance between realism and imagination and I still don’t know all of the answers.

Sometimes it looks like a mess and I’m frustrated.

Sometimes it feels like my heart can’t hold all of the joy.

 

counting.

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Leaving Edisto Island looks like this: first, you drive past the one grocery store and hardware store,  then the bookstore and pink building that used to hold a gift shop and the house with the mattress swing in the front yard. After that, you reach the gas station and the barbecue place and a little ways down the road you drive between two white, old, moss laden churches. Right before you drive over what we like to call the big bridge, you pass Geechee Boys where you can pick strawberries in the spring and sit in their big red rocking chair. Once you drive over the big bridge, mostly marshes carry you right on up to the four-way stop in Hollywood, South Carolina.

I’ve been counting all of those landmarks backwards and forwards every summer since second grade, when we first spent a summer week on that slow island. It’s and-then-some now since my parents made a home on the backside of the island. It’s the part where the ocean is really the sound and you can see dolphins just about any old time.

We counted the leaving landmarks on Labor Day. We had rushed down for an afternoon, spend the night, pile in the car, drive back quick type of visit. We were smushed into the van with tires rolling back home. I could smell coconut swirling up from the back and my skin was still a bit greasy, hot and pink-tinged. Everyone was grainy, sandy and moping back toward real life.

I was caught up in that moment–bemoaning falling back into the rush of the everyday–when I noticed the first yellow flip and flutter on the side of the road. We were in the salty, sour, marshy part of the trip and it seemed like just a trick of sunlight on a weedy leaf. I saw it again. The soft and quick beating of tiny yellow wings: sulphur butterflies. I saw another one and another one until I decided I might as well go on ahead and count them.

I was well into the twenties when Tom called me back to the present with a question about school or sports or some other obligation type thing.

“I’ve counted twenty-seven butterflies since we crossed the big bridge,” I answered.

“28.” He jumped right in.

And then we were all together: five people watching every tall, straggle of a bush looking for that drip of God’s yellow paint fluttering up and over. A few were orange. A few were monarchs. Most were the purest, lightest, brightest yellow–straight from a loving Artist’s hands. We counted down backroads all the way up to the edge of the highway, the place where we joined the rest of the world on I-95 and bustled on.

110. We counted one hundred and ten butterflies that day.

Some memories come ready-made, already taking shape against a white screen with blinking letters. Others fight against being shaped and bound with words. This is one of those memories. I’ve wanted to write it down since that day, that moment–already trying to tie it down. This one strained against being turned into a lesson to be tucked away for later.

For one hour on a late summer afternoon, my theology was absolutely my reality. My eyes watched and waited and hoped for something small but beautiful. Every moment we spotted yellow wings on a green background, we rejoiced like crazy. We added up in beautiful awe.

God chose a small and insignificant people to call His very own possession. He chose a small and young man to call the king of His very own people. He chose to reach out to us in the smallest yet greatest of ways: His own Son, wrapped in baby skin, laying in lowly hay.

Who am I not to esteem the small and count it every single time?

in the smallest of ways.

On a lark, I found myself with just my spunky little lady this weekend. Tom had a basketball tournament to tote some children to and at the last minute my boys decided to tag along (I’m still amazed that we are in the stage of parenting where we can decide to do things last minute and my children can go on work-ish trips. Dear young moms everywhere, this happens.).

We decided to make it a day where no sporting event of any kind was watched on television. I don’t mind it so much, but my girl has strong aversions. She’s got a long life ahead of her at home. Sunday afternoon football is something we DO complete with picking sides, fist bumping, boy yells and a little wrestling thrown in just because.

I had a grand plan of going to cheer on a friend and then strolling our city’s farmer’s market for lunch. Then, my car wouldn’t start and by the time our neighbor came over to help and we determined it was the battery, we needed to adjust. Instead, we got the car fixed and decided to spend the rest of the day at home–something we both love as introverts and homebodies.

She painted tiny pinecones and I didn’t even say no when she wanted to mix up purple paint and got blue all over the kitchen. We made chocolate cupcakes and watched a favorite movie and went for a bike ride (after arguing over who could operate the tire pump better). She looked at me as we looped around the traffic circle one more time and rasped in her low voice, “Can you believe we have the whole day together?”

I want to be a mother who knows her children. And I want them to know that I know them. I want to notice what they love and show up where they want to be and be willing to be uncomfortable for them. I want to guide them, yes, and challenge them and teach them but I want them to know that all of that grows out of the fact that I know them and I love them always and anyway.

That kind of mothering can be stewarded in a million different ways. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the fact that I might be doing too little and I might be doing too much. My motherhood doesn’t look exactly the same. But. This weekend was a reminder that being who I am and letting her be who she is and doing it together can happen in the smallest of ways and it’s good and enough.

 

what i learned in 2014

 

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I can’t seem to figure out how to start this post. I started clickety-clacking away a few days ago because I wanted to join in community and share what I learned in 2014. It felt right to put words to some of the things I’ve been leaning into.

Except I’ve had a hard time getting the words to come. It’s probably a good bit of rustiness as I’ve let things lie quiet here for most of the second half of the year. It’s this, too: I’ve been doing some reluctant agreeing with God about some of my cowardly habits in my life like half-loving and coast-cruising.

I’ve had to swallow down the truth that avoiding doesn’t actually make things go away. That peace at any cost isn’t always the best answer. That hiding doesn’t bring healing. I’ve been learning that the hard work of truth is always the way to freedom.

It’s been remarkably undramatic on the outside but all swirly-twirly on the inside. I’ve stood on lines and told God that I plain didn’t want to. And then His Spirit has swept across my brain with good, healing, true, promises and reminders.

I’ve never been very aspirational. The heart things I really and truly and consistently wanted I have: a husband who loves me as persistently as a strong ox and three baffling plus wonderful children. Still, I don’t think Jesus meant that abundant life would come in hunkering down in the safe places. I think He meant hunkering down in THE safe place with the doors flung wide open for any to enter.

Here’s what I learned in 2014: Jesus is making something of me.

He is. The great creating Savior who is the beginning of all good things and who is full of room for all of His beloved ones, is making something-I don’t know what-out of wayward me. And it’s not a thing to be hidden away or guarded or fluffed all around by comfort. It’s not a thing to stand stalwart in one place. It’s a wild and wonderful thing. It’s a moving thing.

It’s a good and hopeful thing.

And the end is not in me. It’s in Him.

a tree most like us.

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A handful of years ago we started a Christmas tradition that has become a favorite of mine. We didn’t start it because we were feeling fun or festive or nostalgic. We started it because we found out that my husband’s van needed new tires and brakes and a slew of other things that totaled up to double its worth.

Bunny trail: for five years my husband and I both drove mini vans. I married a man who will drive a mini van day in and day out. To meetings and guy type things and anywhere that four wheels will take him. He even took it hunting and once strapped a deer to the top and drove it home. He drives a different car now, but I’ll never ever forget how he didn’t bat one eyelash at driving that garnet colored thing everywhere. It’s good for me that I married a man who has the kind of faith that overflows contentment. I battle a strivey heart. He doesn’t.

It was the last year we owned that van that the repair bills loomed over our whole Christmas. So, when we walked through the Christmas tree lot, every price felt like too much. That year we decided we would buy the least expensive tree we could find and be done with it. It was a decision that was easier for him than for me as I favor trees with tops that brush the ceiling and spread their green, spindly arms wide. It’s embarrassing, but I was doing battle with my strivey heart.

It was a fine Christmas. We still watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer over and over again. We still made hot chocolate. We still strung twinkle lights everywhere. We still sang carols. We still searched for the just the right ways to say I love you. It was what it always has been and always will be: a season about a Baby wrapped up in our skin just to be close us, just to draw us close to a loving Father.

And this is our game now. We always, always look for the saddest, most lop-sided, shortest, wonkiest tree on the lot. We look for the tree that looks the most like our hearts: here, broken, healing, strivey, messy, wonderful and completely upside down.

 

just listening.

Lately, I’ve been circling around Joshua 6. The Israelites were at Jericho, one of the very strong and fortified cities that had rooted fear in the hearts of their fathers. Forty years before they had been afraid and it had formed a no in their mouths. They refused to go in to a good land that was the delivery on a promise.

Grace looked like 40 years and a new generation. It was an impossible-seeming thing to fell Jericho. But God had begun their redemption with impossible-seeming acts and He had kept proving that there was no thing impossible for Him. So He felled that city and He did it in a way that could only point to Him. There wasn’t a great army. There wasn’t a stealthy battle plan. There wasn’t even a traditional attack.

God told the Israelites to do this: walk around the city one time a day for six days. They were to follow the priests and the ark of the covenant (the sign of God’s presence). The priests blew horns but the Israelites were to be silent. On the seventh day, they were to walk around seven times. The priests blew horns but the Israelites were to be silent–until the seventh trip around the city. Then? Then they could shout with joy and watch what God would do.

Silence is scarce in my life. My eyes, my ears, my mind: they always have some voice running underneath. Always. I’ve been longing for seven long, good walks around my life full of listening with my words, my eyes, my ears and my heart. That’s where I’ve been. Just listening. Just trying to cast my eyes upon the Lord and His work.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the urgency of right now. There are things I can say and there’s a place to say them, whether it’s here or in my home or in my community. It’s easier than I’ve ever known to make commentary. It’s also easy to let all of that–my things to say and all the things that are said to me–crowd out God’s voice.

It doesn’t have to look like this. You can listen and speak. You can. And that’s good and sometimes best.

But sometimes It does look like this. And sometimes it’s best for your heart this way. Just to be quiet and listen for Him with everything that is in you. Just to say no to the urgency of right now and notice. Notice things like: the light on your dining room table or how your husband knows how to make you belly laugh right when you are determined that you won’t laugh one bit or how your favorite tree is just about to blaze up in yellow glory.  It feels right to let those things rest all over you for awhile before they take the shape of little black, blinking letters on a white screen.

I didn’t think I’d be away from here so long. And I’m not sure I’m back yet either.

I’m just listening.

new but good.

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The best thing about being a middle school mama so far is the extra alone time I get with my oldest every day. After the two niblets go to school (and they are two peas in a pod: look alike, laugh alike, and my little wild one is about to catch up with his sister in height), I get thirty minutes with just our big guy. I have loved it. He talks and I try to listen. Sometimes we just sit in the same room and do our thing.

We’re close enough to walk to his new school. This has been a sweet gift, too, as he was ready for some independence. Yesterday, I was able to leave a little early and meet him further into his walk home than normal. We chatted a bit about his fantasy football team, his science quiz and all the other things. I love who he is becoming.

The truth is that I felt a little heartbroken at the end of last school year. I felt so sad that we were already through with elementary school and the safety of young childhood. I worried that I hadn’t held that time precious enough. I am so comfortable with those younger years and I felt at a loss for how to navigate the pre-teen years. It has not been without some bumps; we are definitely outside of the safe (and he would probably say too small) cocoon of the elementary years.

But.

It has also been delightful.