counting.

counting

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?

what i learned in 2014

 

photo-31

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.

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.

what sunrise brings.

morningwalk

I woke up early like forever and always, but I didn’t use my time well (also like forever and always). I left late.

I couldn’t get the weight room door unlocked at Tom’s work. My best intentions seemed to be wisping away from my morning grasp.

I gave up and walked home in a huff, wrapped in the hot anger of frustration.

I snapped Grover’s leash on, wrangled the door open and stomped down the front steps. The air was already thick and hot in preparation for a ninety-four degree day.

Except! Except for the most contradictory and stubborn cool breeze that picked this morning to blow through.

We walked. I prayed for a changed heart, for a pleasant countenance to meet my small people as they bounded down the steps when I returned.

When we were almost home, I saw sunrise. I chased it a block past my house, something I can’t seem to help. We stood there for a handful of minutes on the corner by the church and the streetlight. Grover’s tail swished through summer-ready grass.

The felt burden of my forever and always is heavy with failure and frustration. But this? This is His. Forever and Always. Light and lovely. Pink-tinged with hope. Blue-swathed with faithfulness. Breeze-lifted with newness. Bright and beautiful.

for when you don’t know.

hiddenthings

Four years ago, my husband and I spent night after night kneeled over one of our children. We were begging God to give us wisdom, peace, guidance and insight. We were begging Him to work miracles in that little heart sleeping soundly. I still remember the afternoon in the preschool breezeway where I had to wrestle that little heart and body into our van. I can see so vividly the look on that other mama’s face as I forced one of my other children into her arms with I-need-help filling up the corners of my eyes. I hope I can be her for other mamas, just there and steady and gentle. I’ve never seen her again.

There are other moments just like that one, moments where I felt sad and angry and hurt. It was a sandpaper season. I had been unsure as a parent before but never so overwhelmed with feeling totally out of answers for how to steward my child’s heart. I felt lost. In over my head. Ill-equipped for my calling. My weaknesses and fears about my own heart ballooned and pushed peace out.

I needed a mast to hold fast to, steady and solid. I found it in a memory verse for Bible Study. We were studying Daniel; how he resolved to stay true to his belief, how God gave him insight no one else could grasp. I stumbled on a few words in the second chapter about how God is the one who reveals the things that are deep down and hidden away.

I clung to two verses like I never had before. I went to God over and over again and reminded myself that He knew and He was trustworthy. I confessed that I was afraid of what I couldn’t see and declared that I would believe that He could see what I couldn’t. I asked Him to show me how to love a little heart right then and there and how to shepherd a fierce and big spirit for not yet. And I resolved to believe on Him whether He chose to reveal the deep and hidden things or not.

God knows and He is trustworthy. There are things so deep-rooted and packed away: things that feel unreachable, unknowable, unsolvable. He knows and He is the One who can show us the way. Everything truth and light and real dwells with Him. Even if He doesn’t show us all the answers, God is the way through to the light. We have only to lean on Him.

We still have moments that seem like a mystery. I still wonder at how to be what my children need from me, pray joy and contentment over them. I know life will bring many more not-knowing moments. But. Salvation is from the Lord and I see, too, how He takes a little heart and makes it new. Emotions still run wild here and there but repentance is quick to lap up behind these days and I know where that comes from.

And I still cling to His Word, especially Daniel’s beautiful prayer.

tending day.

sunday

It’s midday on a Tuesday but it feels to me like Monday, since I lost mine to appointments and practices and hither, thither and yon. It’s not how my week usually ebbs and flows but this is life.

I’ve just cleaned the living areas of our house and I’m sitting down to a homemade chai with the hope that I’ll be able to cobble together a grocery list. My washing machine is working her hardest and whooshiest from the back of my house. I found a rotten potato in the kitchen, which explains the funny smell we’ve all been searching to end. The dining room table is clear for a few hours.

It’s my tending day. I tend and I think about yesterday, about how five o’clock came and I felt worn out and done in but the dinner still needed to be made. About how I slipped my rings off my fingers and plunged my hands into a bowl full of ground turkey, stirring up dinner. About how I felt the weight of hard questions with harder answers, hard questions with invisible answers and the uncertainty in between all of that. About how just when I was thinking with my feeler and about to topple over the steep edge of worry, God’s presence in me whispered a spring time bloom of a truth across my heart and mind. It tripped across not in words but in heart truths that can’t be captured by our language. I think about how He reminded me: He is God, good, for me, with me, Sovereign. If He goes with me? I can go anywhere. And He wants all my feeler-thought things because He wants me. I think about how dependance has become so much more meaningful to me than arriving.

It’s my tending day. I think, too, about how my children minister His sweetness and laughter to me. I think about Sunday morning, how I sat on the couch as the sun began to flood our den through the windows. About how I watched my eleven year old fit himself into a box and play spaceship and I don’t know how many more remembers I’ll have of a moment like that. About how my girl looked so precious in her new polka dot dress that I thought I might burst into a million bright-burning stars. About how my youngest can still fold up into my lap and put his warm cheek right next to mine, his nubbin fingers wrapped around my forearm.

It’s my tending day. And God tends my heart. He reminds me that worries and unanswered questions aren’t all of my story. He reminds me that He’s written both the raw and the resplendent into my life. I don’t always live in that tension well, but He’s written it that way just the same.

about waiting and work.

springknees

afternoontent

breeze

butternutsoup

newpainting

It’s the first day of Spring and we’ve had two full weeks of school with no snow, ice, freezing temperatures, fevers, sandpaper throats or hacking coughs. In so many ways, I am feeling swept up in new life. It’s how God made creation to mirror the way He regenerates our hearts and lives as we dip and surge through heart valleys and mountaintops. It’s sunshine and even the bitter smell of a Bradford Pear.

Sometimes I do feel wont to cringe that it is almost April and I don’t have a clearer vision of what my life is supposed to look like in this vast new season: a season where my boundaries are not marked out by naps, diapers, preschool drop offs and pick ups or feeding schedules. I don’t really trust myself with time management and, to be honest, I’ve battled the fear that everyone else is working harder than I am. Even as I verbalize that I see myself with a third baby nestled in my arms and wild wisps of hair framing my sleepless face. Younger me wants to take today me by the shoulders and give me a good shake.

I have tried to run ahead and build some things into my life that make me feel accomplished, covering over the best I can that fear. But God is faithful and Christ is enough. He doesn’t need my abilities and accomplishments. I am learning what it means to walk out the truth that Paul wrote about.

“We through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” | Galatians 5:5

Instead of scrambling ahead and trying to pull accomplishment and worth and an answer toward myself, I am learning heart-deep how to wait on Christ, the ONLY hope of my righteousness. I cannot pull righteousness or right living or inspired living to myself. Only Christ can work this in me. He rescued me in His timing. He will return in His timing. He does His good work in me in His timing. So, I wait for my only hope of righteousness to draw lines around any next thing for my life.

In the waiting, I see that the best gift I can give to Him and His body and my craft is be totally present in my own little neighborhood of His kingdom. I am beginning to accept that the gift I can give right now is to come back over and over again with love for my people, to pray that they would know head high and toe deep that they are Known and Loved. So, I focus on being totally present in the lives God has placed within my little spot of land-inheritance. And I stuff each of these moments pocket-deep, my stones of remembrance.

This right here is these things.

It is boys and muddy spring knees. It is how six year olds sing, “How Great Is Our God,” in their own key and at the top of their lungs over and over again while I cook dinner. It is learning that pre-teen emotions come and go faster than my own;  learning to be less carried by my own emotion and more rigging-like–something to cling to and find footing.

It is mothering a girl and facing all the expectations I carried along the way. It is understanding that God creates his children as He sees fit and not always in line with how I dreamed them up because He likes to do things upside down most times. And that is righter than right. It is learning who my God dreamed my girl to be and how I can love her well, her creative and wild and strong spirit with the windows always down and fingertips in the breeze.

It is looking for things that are true truth and not false truth, the kind that puffs up with promises but leaves me empty all the time. It is shifting from focusing on weight to focusing on wellness. It is taking another 30 days to eat well and whole (and not writing about it here because I am weary of talking about food) and to discover how food really affects my body. It is the smell of roasting winter squashes with garlic and onions and how your tummy rumbles the whole time they’re in the oven.

This is waiting. Watching. Cementing. Believing that God is my only hope and that His plan is good no matter how much I know of it.

a letter: hope.

clippings

quince

A letter to my self a year and a half ago.

I know. Right now, you are drawing lines in the sand. You’ve reached the end of how far you’ll go. You’ve surrendered as much as you’re willing. In a stand-off with God, you’re declaring you won’t go any further until He changes something, anything. Everywhere you look, you see a no from Him. The maybe nevers weigh so heavy on you. What you want is a good thing and your heart is pinky tender from the sandpaper of hurt feelings.

A year and a half later, you still won’t have what you want. That longing will go unmet.

But. You will have more, and you’ll see it on a spring-laden weekend in March. In the over and over again of asking God, you will begin to see with different eyes. The no and the fear of maybe never will still be there, stinging from time. But yeses will be louder. You will learn to hope in God and not what He can do for you, what you think He should do for you.

You’ll read this:

“FOR GOD IS SHEER BEAUTY, ALL-GENEROUS IN LOVE, LOYAL ALWAYS AND EVER” (PSALM 100:5).

His beauty will call up your hope as He casts the sun high in the sky and makes it’s warm rays stronger than the last grip of winter. You’ll be boueyed high on a quince bush laden with buds and the snow-petaled ground under a blush-blooming camellia.

His generosity will call up your hope as you jump to the rap on your door on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll watch little legs toddle around your yard, and that will give way to your other kind of neighbors–long on life and big on spirit. You’ll tromp through their backyard and feel a little pink-cheeked as you walk under their laundry strung overhead. You’ll feel His love course strong as you stand by the street and watch knowing hands guide your girl’s as she plants her tiny cabbage plant.

His loyalty will run strong on a Sunday when you open the curtains wide and let the light cast shadows across your bed. You’ll feel just a touch of that always and forever as you lay beside your girl and read. You’ll never want to forget they way she lays belly down and legs bent upwards, ankles crossed. How she holds her chin in her hand will call up a strong and end-of-the-world-fierce love in you for her. He is loyal to you, to you becoming whole in Him, however it might smart. And you will know that as you feel how hard you will fight for your girl course through you.

Right now? You are looking in the wrong place for hope. You are looking in the wrong place, but you will learn heart-deep that hope is the thing that lives inside you especially when there is still sandpaper in your life. You will learn that hope isn’t much about a when or why or how. Hope is about a Who. And He will be faithful to teach you that over the next 18 months.

about fear and comparison.

comparison

I’m at Starbucks on this sunshiney day and I’m still thinking about fear, about how much I depend on it to motivate me. And it does. It can easily drive my heart and take advantage of my insecurities until I’ve made a mess of my feelings-holder and my day.

I’m afraid I don’t stack up, so I serve lists in my day and look for validation there. I end the day defeated and trying to find marrow in a dry place.

I’m afraid someone else won’t do it just right, so I hover. I rob others of joy and myself of the truth of my weakness.

I’m afraid I’ve made all the wrong decisions as a parent, so I walk around with my heart sinking into my stomach and keeping me unsettled and unfocused. I miss opportunities to just move into my people anyway.

I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough friend, mother, wife and child. I’m afraid that a season isn’t just a season. I’m afraid that God’s good thing for others means there isn’t enough for me, even though my brain knows His goodness, His largeness, His beauty.

So, I look around. I watch what happens in other people’s lives. I store away all the ways that they are better, that their life is better, that they have better good things.

I compare.

But, that’s not how God made me to live.

I believe that God’s love for me is the death of comparison. I believe it. And I’m teaching a class on the truth about comparison and the freedom God wants for us tomorrow night. I’m inviting you. Thursday, February 20th. 9 pm (Eastern). The Influence Network (you don’t have to be a member to take the class). Sign up right here.

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I wanted to mention that it is my joy to be a part of The Influence Conference again this year. In a turn that only God could design, I’ll be speaking this year. He has already begun to till up my heart soil about this weekend and what His words through me will be.

It’s going to be a sweet weekend of community with a list of speakers that you will want to hear from. There’s a place for you. Tickets are on sale right now. I hope you’ll consider joining this community of women who long for God-bent hearts.

saboteurs.

sabotage

When we are afraid that we aren’t good enough, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When we are afraid we’ll fail again, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When we look around and see that others do it better, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When the way looks unclear, vague and overwhelming, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

John wrote this truth: that Perfect Love tosses fear to the side. There is one Perfect Love: found on a Cross, in an empty grave, alive again. Christ tosses fear aside like garbage. It is not precious to Him. We are. We are, and it isn’t possible for us to walk in Perfect Love and fear.

What if fear is the greatest weapon against us? What if Love is the greatest form of sabotage? What if we take up arms and strike down every fearful thought with the truth? What if our world becomes gloriously ruined because we choose to believe that we are Loved?

Let’s be saboteurs.