everyday story: thursday night basketball.

4e7c935a668411e28abf22000a1f9bf5_7Thursday nights are for basketball.

Our girl pulls on cotton socks with pandas at the toes and everyone tumbles into nylon shorts and oversized t shirts. We fall out the door trying to beat the stop and start of rush hour traffic.

In my bag I have a ziploc full of popped popcorn-salty and earthy and still a little warm, some jagged-cut time flash cards, coloring supplies jammed in tight, my book and a neon pencil with a waxy yellow tip.

We shuffle through cold mid-winter air into the gymnasium with it’s spit-shined floors and humming lights. I begin two hours of sitting on ramrod wooden bleachers with my back against a cold cement wall.

I correspond. Spend twenty minutes speed catching up with a college friend. Go over the time flashcards with our girl in pink. Read my book.

All the while there is a thrum running underneath. A search for good story. Within the cacophony of basketballs bouncing and shoes squeaking across waxy floors,  over and over again my heart is grasping for something more.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

I look up and across the gym our five year old boy is sprawled out on his belly, legs kicked up at a perfect angle. He’s chosen oversized basketball shorts, a bright and true red shirt and his black cowboy boots. Only a few inches of his knees, still round with childhood, show between the hem of his shorts and the curve of his boots. He is laughing, his nubbin fingers the perfect resting place for his round and full and rose-red cheeks.

This is the story my heart needs to be told. How in just that quick moment there is peace and freedom and joy. I flutter-float across that gym floor and scoop up that shiny and smooth rock, stuff it in my pocket.

It’s an everyday kind of story.

for when you wish.

wishes2It’s a bright and beautiful King Day afternoon. I’m in the kitchen trying to find the right water temperature for dishes. The hot water runs over my hands bringing up pink skin.  The tinkling of a full sink begins.

I look out the wavy glass of the window on our backyard. The boys are playing baseball. The dog is stealing the ball.

“GroooverrrrrRRR!” Big smile.

And then huge, hard, cold punch to the chest. I wish. For so many things but mostly that some of the hard things would be taken away. And now my tears are plinking on the edge of the cold counter top. One. Two. Three.

Tumbling, tumbling and my thoughts follow all full of Haven’t-I-been-good-enoughs and Isn’t-it-time-to-move-ons and This-is-not-so-beautifuls. All of the sudden my kitchen is filled with the stale air of why. In my experience, why almost never brings fresh wind.

But then something rustles through the clapboard shambles of my mind: this is just buffing. It must be from Him. Nothing so fresh could come from me right now.

This? Is just buffing. All of these things that rub my skin so raw and pinky tender are revealing something so beautiful: Christ in me. And words can’t begin to scratch out how much I need to see Him in all the bits and pieces of my life. To encounter Him and His grace and His enough over and over again: the thrum, thrum, thrum of this buffing.

When I was eighteen and beginning a faith walk unlike anything before, I was looking for a Lord to spit-shine me up real good. Make me acceptable, liked. Show me how to have a good life. It was how I needed to come to Him and I’m so glad for His grace.

Just now-almost eighteen years later-I am beginning to see that it is less about being shiny and good and more about being closer and closer to a Savior. It is the only way through.

This buffing hurts but it is beautiful.

about the dog.

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It’s a classic story, really. We were never going to get a dog. But then it was a Monday afternoon and we were sitting around the dining room table with the afternoon light spilling through the our wide, old windows.

Let’s make a Christmas list.

They hemmed and hawed over a few small things.

What they really want is a dog. I said that to my husband.

And two weeks later there we were meeting Grover at an animal shelter.

It was a surprise, the kind we didn’t let slip until we were on the way to get him.

This dog. He’s still very much a puppy. He’s old enough to sleep through the night and be house-trained. But he’s still very much a puppy.

He’s big and doesn’t know it. He’s goofy. He’s adorable. He loves to be petted. We all love him. Very much.

He’s also got a bit of rascal in him.

I am learning that my own special brand of trying-to-get-everything-perfect-right-this-very-moment-or-else-it-is-a-failure crazy extends to this corner of my life, too.

Apparently God is not above using a dog to minister His grace to me.

just draw near.

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There is One Voice that matters most.

If you want to know what God has to say about you–your life, your future, your past, your dreams, your failures and your successes, His Word is available and powerful and full of truth.

All you need to do is draw near.

I’ve been hard at work planning for my class through The Influence Network THIS THURSDAY night. My brain is a bit of mush but in the best way possible.

You can register here. Or just pray with me.

I’m so thankful for all of you.

a beauty revolution.

New Film Premiere – I Like Adoption. from ILikeGiving.com on Vimeo.

Yesterday a dear friend linked to this video on facebook. I hope you’ll take the six minutes to watch this.

Because this story? It’s a story of beauty rabble rousers. My heart ripped when the mama of this beautiful family calls us victims of our culture because we believe that beauty means being perfect and being the same. Because it is true.

All my life I’ve disbelieved beauty in my frame and I’ve struggled to find beauty in my home and my disappointments. But what if all the things I thought disqualified me are the very building blocks of beauty in my life?

What if, like this family’s son, we could put quotation marks around the things that we believe have made life mis-formed so that we can believe we-our lives-are well-formed? And what if our lives spoke that beautiful truth over others, not just words but really lived out?

Let’s call a lie a lie. Beauty is not defined by this world, this culture. Let’s be beauty rabble rousers.

make room for beauty this year.

Here’s how I want to start 2013. It’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you.

I have a beautiful place to live, to be.

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Here’s why. It’s not because of all the things in it: the old and creaky tables that tell stories or the crisp and new white chairs my mama got me for my birthday. It isn’t those things or the pictures on the wall or the well used hardwoods or the shiny banister on the stairs. No, none of those things make right now beautiful. It’s not because my husband has the perfect job (he doesn’t) or my children always, always smile sweet and compliant-like (they don’t). It’s not because every little thing my straining heart has ever chased after is finally slipping into my grip (it’s not).

Right now? It’s beautiful because I chose to believe it is. That’s it.  Imperfection doesn’t negate beauty. Rough spots don’t disallow beauty. Bitterness can’t wash it away. Bathrooms with wall paper falling off in big, fat sheets don’t erase beauty. Pain can’t rob my right now of the beauty that is there. Raisin like, wrinkly dreams on the back burner can’t chase beauty away.

Beauty is a fact. It’s part of God’s currency in this world. He is original beauty. He created it. He owns it. He bestows it. It is always present. Always.

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The way to make beauty in your life? Is to believe that it is already there. Right there in the midst of all the things you never really did want and the halfway done things that make you throw your hands up in the air and the hope that is so much like a wisp that it trails right through your fingers. Right there, beauty is shimmer shining and glinting and if you wet your dry and scratchy disappointment eyes with the balm of belief you will see it.

Choosing comes first. Decide for it. Decide to believe in the God of beauty. And then? Like a baby hearing his mama for the first time, you’ll know the tinkling of tiny beauty bells. And then? You’ll put your hand alongside the Beauty Maker’s and He’ll make lovely things through you.

Whether it’s the walls that make a home for your heart or the skin that wraps your tender soul up or the fences that mark out what your life looks like right now, let 2013 be the year you decide for beauty. You’ll waver. You’ll fight. You’ll want to give up. Don’t.

new things for your new year.

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At 21 I loaded up my parents’ garnet mini van with most of everything I owned in the world. Tom was there. We had just uttered I-love-yous a few weeks before and here I was taking my timid and searching heart off to Roanoke, Virginia. I was going to live in the city and love on the city. For a whole year.

That year brought heartache and heart-swelling and some very humbling stretching. Tom and I broke up. I despaired. People challenged my heart in good ways. We started a youth ministry. We started a neighborhood church. I drove right into poverty for young hearts. Really, God did all these things.

It was a wild and precious season and it still follows me.

Everyday I had many minutes to spend in prayer, reading the Word, worshiping. Feasting like that? It started something in me. You don’t want to settle for tiny, crumbly pieces that have fallen off the table when you’ve feasted. I’ve had my seasons where life has made coming to the table more difficult, where I’ve been complacent or frustrated or fist-shaking or sleep deprived. But somehow God always brings me back in His grace.

A handful of years ago, I got tired of the in between. I’ve been a good Christian girl and sought out Bible study after Bible study. I love the growth that’s been wrought in me there. But what happens in that time after one ends and before another one begins? I felt ill-equipped and overwhelmed.

But God has said that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. And so I started a quest to just dive into His Word for myself. I love it and my heart is for everyone to know this God-given confidence.

I’ve used too, too many words to tell you that I will be teaching a class this month on studying the Bible through the Influence Network, which launches today. It will be easy and accessible and-I hope-challenging and you can take it in your jammies. It’s mostly more of a conversation about the obstacles of time and belief and how we can overcome both of those through God’s gracious gifting. It’s for anyone. Any.One. I’m not some expert. I’m just a girl who has a heart to know and live by what God has said about me, my life, this world, Himself.

You can head right over here to read more details and register if you’d like. There is a small cost to take the class and/or join the Influence Network.  All together, a little bit of your Christmas money would cover this easily. Plus! there are some really wonderful and awesome classes being offered in January.

If you’d like to tell others about it (which I’d be so grateful for), there are a few things you can do. First, I have finally created a facebook page for this blog. You can like it here and share this post from my wall. If you’d like to tweet, you could copy and paste this little ditty:

studying God’s Word. a conversation and class by @sweetwaterellie: http://tinyurl.com/av3mny9 @InfluenceNet

I’d really like for y’all to be a part of this new thing. So, would you share with me about your successes and failures with digging in to the Word?