about beauty.

thereisbeauty

Like a sucker punch to the gut, I am now the parent of a 6th grader, 4th grader and 1st grader. Real talk? I am feeling an ache over the passage of time. There are no more babies. Soon, my youngest will lose his snaggle-toothed smile and soft childhood belly. Nubbin fingers aren’t meant to last forever. I can still hear the way the pleather on the hospital sofa bed crinkled as Tom tossed and turned the night we held our first child in our arms. I can still see bright pink and green curtains we hung in our girl’s nursery, the ones with the huge, white grosgain bows. I can still feel the soft in and out of my wild youngest’s fresh breathing.

I know the difficulty that is in the years behind me. But I know better than ever the beauty, too.

I spent a good chunk of last summer studying Psalm 16. David penned one of my favorite verses in this beautiful Psalm and I just wanted to know how he could say with surety that the lines around his life were in beautiful places. I still do.  As I studied, I settled on a simple statement: There is beauty here. It wouldn’t have been easy for David to say. When David wrote Psalm 16, he was either cornered by Saul’s army or nursing the wound of hearing no to one of his good and beautiful dreams–to build a temple for his God. He was either done for or done in. About to be destroyed or about to be overcome with disappointment. And he said: Surely, there is beauty here. I’ve learned, am still learning, that it was in the believing and then the looking. He knew his God. He knew his God’s goodness. He knew what good really means. So, he looked and he saw. He saw beautiful things.

God is shifting the boundary lines in our family. These heart houses that are living in my tiny corner of His kingdom are walking in wider spaces. It’s beautiful and I’m not afraid of who they are becoming. Still, I’m sort of standing at the edge looking back over the things that have passed through, a good place but not one for lingering. I’ve walked the lines enough to know that there is going to be some narrow living in this time. I’ve learned to believe with everything in me that the most imperfect and dazzling beauty grows in the narrow places.

There is beauty here. In the narrow place. In the wide place. In the exhausting place. In the restoring place. There is beauty here. I’m holding this banner high over me–especially this summer–as I ask God to make my eyes beauty-sensitive and my heart love-motivated. I don’t want to stand at the edge of the past or at the forefront of the future, fear filled and fighting to avoid or go back. I want to be present today, right here in the lines God is drawing and shifting around me.

I’m going to be reminding myself everyday that there is beauty here. I’m going to be training my eyes on the moments that are just full and bursting with Him, even the ones that feel a bit sandpapery. And I’m going to keep track of them. I’m doing it for me but I’d love to invite you along ,too. I’ll be using #surelybeauty on instagram. Either way, I hope that in the thick of today you’ll stop and remind yourself that there IS beauty right here.

beautiful us.

beautifulus

Deep, deep down I have hidden away and held onto moments where the way I was made felt not the same. That time in middle school when I overheard a friend at the pool make an offhand comment about the way I looked. That older woman in church with the drawn-on eyebrows who always gave me wide-eyed, knowing looks when I ate a second oreo at the fellowship table after service. That boy in college who told me very clearly where I fell on the scale of beautiful. That teacher who made me feel small because I was too scattered, too disheveled, too much stacked against me to guarantee I could be made into anything.

We all have them, I think: moments where someone’s words meet our fears and our hearts twist lies into cobbled together, shabby looking pretend-truth. We hold onto them. We follow these lies swallowed as truth.  We run hard after them, wanting to dig our way out of shame, fear, guilt. We want to be just the same but our fear cries that we never will.

I have spent much of my life in this empty-ended relationship with how I was made. I have lived afraid of hearing that who I am on the outside is all there is. I have lived desperately working just to prove that I’m trying. I have swallowed words like those summer words born on middle school lips over and over again. I’ve lived afraid to even talk about it.

Now, I have a girl of my own and I’m just plain tired of this dysfunctional relationship. Shame doesn’t change anything deep down, really. It just makes for more hiding. Guilt itself doesn’t restore, and fear is an empty carriage with no driver, running wildly down bumpy streets. I want to know and believe the truth about how I was made, how we were made. When the time comes, I want to be able to grab my girl by the face and look into her coffee-spilled-out eyes and tell her something I believe, something I believe so much that it has actually changed me.

Because the truth is that not one of us is just the same. There are places where God desires and designs sameness: one Savior, one mind, one body of believers, one mission. When He made us? Sameness wasn’t a way to evaluate our value. In fact, He made us in the way of the Hebrew word raqam. We have been skillfully wrought. You and I have been made like beautiful, intricate embroidery. We were made to be varied and beautiful splashes of stitches that come together in His vision for our life. I like to think that He bent His strong and broad Maker shoulders over each of us and patiently pulled, knotted, criss-crossed the threads He dreamt of into place. He knows color and beauty in ways we don’t and He chose purple and green and bright yellow and the deepest pink you could dream up.

He made us tall. He made us short. He made us skinnier than a minute. He made us round and full. He made us bold and bright. He made us gentle and pastel. He made us full of emotional swaths and hard lines. He made us orderly and neat-rowed. He made us wild and messy. He made us a beautiful, intricate embroidery.

He made us in His image. And He is not a one-dimensional God. He is judgement and mercy. He is the law and grace. He is holy and approachable. If He wanted sameness walking around this dirt and water-covered earth, He would have made it so. Instead, He made us varied. He made us different. That is our value: we are not just the same. He is a creator God and every single thread of us reflects His power and ability to create beyond anything we could dream. We reflect His skillful ability to make beauty out of a broken mess of a thing. No thing is too broken to be made beautiful.

The standard is not others. It isn’t numbers or faces and bodies photo-reeled in front of us. This is the way of the world, to make systems and formulas and numbers in order to add up value. But, we don’t need a formula to calculate who we are or what we are worth. We need a Person. We need Christ. This is God’s vision for us, that we be moving in our varied and threaded nature toward being more like Him–like the One who asked, “Will you be made well, made whole?”. What if wholeness is walking fully aware of our stitched nature as He made it? What if wholeness is putting our hands to loving others instead of picking away at these beautiful patterns that He designed? What if wholeness is living free from the formulas and schemes and desperate grasping to feel valuable? What if it’s just believing God and acting like it?

What if it’s this:

Beautiful us. Beautiful Him.

no matter.

sunnyday

On a humid, thick aired day in the South, the sun is your enemy; the way it beats down punishingly and singes you all around the edges. Your skin breathes hot and your nose is always pinky tender from hours spent outside.

But in the winter? When the new year has brought more grey days-rainy deluged days that weigh you down soggy? A sunny day is hope. A sunny day is grace. A sunny day is a promise.

It’s the way shards of light cut lines across a swept wood floor: how each plank shines and shimmers. It’s the blinding glint off of years old wavy glass panes: how you have to squint out of your kitchen window as the light pours over your backyard fence.  It’s the way you hear an out of place bird song, one always saved for Spring. It’s the way you feel connected: how you hear child shouts lilt over boundary lines, all scooping up the last few minutes of daylight.

A sunny day is a memory stone. Once, the world was overcome by its sin. Once, it drowned in the waves of its selfishness: greed, imperfection, comparison, hatred, disobedience, pride. Once, the world really was in over its head and there was no way out except a boat full of four legged things and one family.

And a sunny day is a delivery on a promise. Never again will we be overcome with sin. Never again will our pride-bent hearts have to be our destruction. Never again will our imperfection have to be our undoing.

So. No matter how many days we have been out to sea, lilting and hoping and squinting for the shoreline? No matter how many months we’ve felt the rain pummel our red-rimmed, tired eyes? No matter how many puffs of air gather round and make the sky and our future seem vague?

A sunny day will come.

what my dreams say about my heart.

twinklelightseason

On Sunday I opened up a magazine and put my feet up. I flipped through page after page until my eyes lighted on a candy bright Christmas tree.

It’s just barely turned fall here. And the city lights are already strung: wreaths and angels and candy canes and snowflakes (my girl’s favorite) hang from street lights. I’m fine with this because I know that in just over two months all of this merriment will be gone and I’ll feel a bit empty and wistful knowing that a whole year stretches out before the season of twinkle lights comes my way again. But when I was looking at that red and green, pine-needled tree, I was really thinking about my recurring dreams.

I’m in high school and I don’t have anywhere to sit in the lunchroom. Also? I forgot my lunch and I don’t have any cash.

I’m on a trip and I lost my hotel key. Also? I forgot my room number.

Everyone’s waiting and I end up being hours late. Also? I can’t find my hair dryer.

It’s Christmas and I’ve forgotten to water the tree. Also? It’s already Easter and I forgot to take the tree down.

My dreams say some things about my heart: I’m so afraid of being lost. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I dread being unprepared and looking weak. I’m really bad at remembering to water the tree. And? I just want a seat at the table.

My life is filled with tell-tale signs: I run ahead and make plans that I think will always get me where I want to go. I try my very hardest to be the best friend/mother/wife/daughter so that no one will ever know my imperfection. I make lists and check them all off one by one. I say yes too much because I’m afraid I’ll miss my chance.

If there were a way to speak into my dreams, to change my heart, I’d say this:

Lost people get found.

Disappointment makes room for grace.

Weakness showcases Strength.

There is a table always set by the King and we are invited.

And so I will say these things, these Truth things over and over and over again and I pray that they’ll prick dream deep.

What do you need to hear dream deep?

hope not in selective remembering.

291db44e804811e297bf22000a1f9263_7

I have a confession to  make. Sometimes I feel awful wistful for when my children were smaller.

It seems silly. We’ve reached the physically easy stage. The heart stuff? It’s difficult and unsure. But everyone can walk and talk and fix their own breakfast. They all sleep through the night. They initiate funny and insightful conversations. They are becoming themselves and it is a joy to watch.

But. We’ve chosen public school and that means rushing out each morning. Everyone is old enough to do some sort of after school event and that means more rushing and being away from home, even though this fall we’ve chosen to only sign our oldest up for afternoon activities to make room for transition for everyone else.

I remember how when they were little the day was stretched before me wide and open. We were together. We did sweet things to pass the time and my schedule was simpler. Somehow I am wishing for that.

I sat down yesterday with my head and my heart. I took a good long look at all of my remembering. It was a sweet season. It was also hard. I was forgetting that. I took a look at this season. It is hard. It is also sweet. I asked the Lord to help me step out from under the burden of my rosy cheeked selective remembering. I asked Him to open my eyes to real and rock solid goodness right here and now.

Somehow we hope in the past don’t we? We build these versions of ourselves that we feel sure we used to be. We feel sure we were better, stronger, sweeter and more lovely. If we could just rebuild that. But we were still broken, messy and needy. We can’t go back. Today. Today there is something good flowing down from God, covered in His character. That goodness, that bestness, covers whatever the season is today.

I’m praying I’ll hope present today.

This post is part of a 31 day series.  You can find a link to each day right here. Find other 31 Dayers at The Nester’s.

buttonfinal

in the process.

boats

They’re cemented in my brain: long afternoons spent helping to glue pictures to timelines, proofread creative writing, sprinkle glitter on poster-sized bar charts.

Some of my children love the creative process. Their eyes light up at the anticipation of drawing, clipping, glueing and painting. They love to dream big. They don’t fear being wrong. I’ve found that the hardest part about having a child with a strong creative vision is helping them fit that-when needed-into the context of an assignment.

Some of my children loathe the creative process. Give them finite equations. Give them objective truths. They squirm at the idea of an open ended assignment. The most important thing is the formula. They just want to get the right answer. The hardest part with this type of child? Getting started. They feel overwhelmed at all of the choices and they struggle to enjoy all the stops and starts of creating your way toward an answer.

And I struggle with this, this worshipping the product over the process. Even in my creativity, I reach a point where I just want to be done already. But I also want it to look good.

I want it to be beautiful, successful, rewarding, happy, just how I always wanted it and I want it to overwhelm all the hard things it took to get there. The process? I’m done. Just hurry up already God. I get it. Move on. Even thirty minutes ago, I wondered aloud to my husband: “Why does he have to do it THIS way?” I want things to be right but I also want them to align with my self-driven vision.

I hope in the product (on my terms) more than the process.

Here’s something true: God is in control of the product.

All of our days were written in His book of life before we were ever born.

He appointed good works for us before we were ever born.

He is at work in us to do as He pleases.

Jesus called it finished.

It is God who completes the good work He begins in us.

God is in control of the product. Not me.

So I want to take my eyes off the product for a little while. I can trust Him with that. Instead, I’m going to choose to hope in the process. It is not wasted. God is doing something in the process. He’s creating life in me. He’s transforming me. He knows where He’s going and it is a good place. But so is this. I will hope in that.

What about you? Are you process or product?

This post is part of a 31 day series.  You can find a link to each day right here. Find other 31 Dayers at The Nester’s.

buttonfinal

hope misplaced.

0f169b00c95f11e2bf1c22000aa8008f_7

For two years our youngest small person attended a sweet and small neighborhood preschool. It was a change from what we chose for our older two but it was good for us. This preschool was at the kind of church where the director is also the 4 year old teacher and the weeder of plant beds and the manner of the pumpkin patch. It’s the kind of church I grew up in and when I first visited it felt like coming home.

I have not shared this story with many people and so it is even scarier to publish than my story about that dumb college boy who declared me less than a 10 on the appearance scale. Last August found us really evaluating where our money was going. After weeks of praying and gnashing of teeth and trying to be intentional a day arrived where preschool was on the chopping block. I will not ever forget the afternoon when I walked down the tea olive scented portico, tears streaming down my face, to tell that preschool director-slash-teacher-slash-plant maintainer-slash-pumpkin patch manner that we would not return for the school year. Every cement clad step echoed a deeper stab in my heart. I choked and blubbered my way through one of the hardest and most humbling goodbyes I’ve ever had to make.

Well. Maybe you can guess. The next day that sweet heart called me and she ministered grace to me and we talked through all of our worries and we figured out a way for my niblet to be part of  that school. It is one of the most humbling gifts I’ve ever been given.

One of the things that teacher slash everything else loves is caramel cake and when the end of the year loomed sweet and heavy over us I decided that I would make her one. I’ve never made a caramel cake. I was determined. I set about all of the complicated steps because I really wanted to give her something she loved. With thirty minutes left in the morning, I had a mess of layers and dripping icing and tilting cake. I called it, scrambling through town and eventually buying her a huge fern.

I felt so confident that this thing I was doing would be good. Instead it was a mess and a disappointment and I gave her that fern with all kinds of apologies in my heart.

Paul insists that hope does not disappoint. That we can confidently expect good. That when we hope we will not be shamed by the outcome. So why does my heart sometimes feel like that tottering mess of caramel dripped cake?

Maybe it’s the not the what but the where. Where do I place my hope? I’m feeling more and more sure that we are misplacing hope. It’s meant to be settled squarely on the Lord and His promise keeping ways. So. I want to go there.

Let’s debunk all of the broken cisterns we hope will fill us up. Meet me here tomorrow? We’ll dig in.

This post is part of a 31 day series.  You can find a link to each day right here. Find other 31 Dayers at The Nester’s.

buttonfinal

hope defined: but He uses made things.

sunsetyes

Here’s how I’m writing this series: it’s what I need. That’s it. I need a dose of hope in a few areas of my life and so I’m leaning in to that.

Those places in my life where the waiting seems to take forever and the hopes get dingier by the minute and I’m not sure where the road ahead even starts? I know you have those places, too. I call them my no, not yet, maybe nevers. It’s easy for me to live under the burden of them, natural even.

But God is good and even when our no, not yet, maybe nevers loom large, He still peppers our days with yeses. I pray for the eyes to see the yes sprinkled throughout my days. Yes moments are little but they whisper loud. Yes, He is still good. Yes, He loves us. Yes, He is majestic. Yes, He is sovereign. Yes, He knows us very personally.

The hope isn’t in the made things but sometimes He uses them. A pink sunset over a wind whipped ocean is a yes. The way a five year old sings off key at the top of his lungs is a yes. A tea olive’s sweet drifting scent is a yes.

For this month, I’ll take the weekends to share my yeses. I hope you’ll join in, too, and share your small but lovely reminders that God is still God and still good and the source of all hope. We’ll start tomorrow.

This post is part of a 31 day series.  You can find a link to each day right here. Find other 31 Dayers at The Nester’s.

buttonfinal

take hope.

intropic

For three years now I’ve waffled about doing 31 days. I hem and haw and eventually give in at the last minute.

This year is no different. First, I wrote about joy. Last year, I wrote about home-something that’s still brewing and growing in me.

I’m so interested in hope right now. What is it really? At its roots? And why does it seem elusive in seasons and in corners? It’s something that has everything to do with being settled and I’m suspecting that this is the piece that I need to wiggle into that puzzle.

So this is my journey for the next thirty-one days. I want to discover hope anew. Study it. Mostly, surrender to it. Because the truth is that I often want hope to come on my terms but God wants something better.

I hope you’ll join me. You’ll find a link to each of the 31 days right here.

Day One.

Day Two.

Day Three.

Day Four.

Day Five.

Day Six.

Day Seven.

Day Eight.

Day Nine.

Day Ten.

Day Eleven.

Day Twelve.

Day Thirteen.

Day Fourteen.

Day Fifteen.

Day Sixteen.

Day Seventeen.

Day Eighteen.

Day Nineteen.

Day Twenty.

Day Twenty-One.

Day Twenty-Two.

Day Twenty-Three.

Day Twenty-Four.

buttonfinal

a short list of yeses.

intention

On a Sunday night I scroll through the Publix sale items listed online. My planner and a journal and my Bible and my Bible Study and one of my favorite books surround me. I have two sharpened pencils and I’ve filled out my calendar on my phone down to the fifteen minutes it will probably take me to unload the groceries tomorrow morning.

Monday’s freshness is creeping in at the edges of my weekend. I used to dread Monday, the signal of lazy mornings and hours unscheduled coming to an end. She has become something more to me now. Monday, with her fresh sunrise, is unsaddled by the dinner I burnt on Wednesday or the way I lost a bit of my temper during homework time on Tuesday at 3:45. Monday is stretched out all squeaky clean and full of energy that will fade in pieces as the week presses on. I’m falling in love with her.

It’s been four weeks since school started and the pieces of my day changed shape. And that’s exactly what I’ve decided to view this new season as: a table full of wonky shaped pieces that fit together somehow. All of the sides have changed in some way. I’ve left the pieces all sprawled out on the table for a bit, just trying to get to know them. It’s true that I don’t often think in straight lines and that means that I sometimes struggle with the forethought of intention. I’m not a strategizer. I’m more the mush it all together and see if something sticks type.

I’ve wasted time. I’ve rested. I’ve worked my fingers hard. I’ve painted my bathroom white. I’ve gotten caught up on laundry only to fall behind again in the span of two days. I’ve cleaned out the freezer and seen it filled up again by my hunter-gatherer husband. And I’ve just let the pieces sit spread edge to edge as I’ve waited to fully see what I want to say yes to this year while I’ve tried to quiet my little hamster wheel where I go to think about outside expectations.

Last week, I made a list. I’m going to list it here because this is the kind of thing I always want to hear from other people. These are my yeses, the things I want to protect week to week by saying no to other good but not best things.

1. Teaching. I’ll keep offering classes through the Influence Network and lead some writerly types in a workshop at their conference. And! Four weeks ago I began a new and sweet season with teaching. I’ll be teaching some college women on Sunday mornings. We’re studying Galatians. Which is coinciding with some swimming in the deep end of Grace for me. Honestly, this little yes is just as much about learning and studying and I love it very much.

2. Writing. Sometimes I have big dreams here. Sometimes I chicken out. Sometimes I just want to get two posts up a week on this little blog but that seems impossible. This yes is taking a good bit of creativity in my routine as I figure out how to change some long standing rhythms. I want to invite the life-giving of words on paper into my daily life consistently. And I want to challenge myself. You are welcome for the vagary.

3. Community. There’s so much I could say here but the bottom line is I need to be around my people. They pepper so many corners of my life and I want to be knowing them this year. This yes will take wisdom as I figure out just how much community this introvert can balance.

4. Keeping my home. I’m the least inclined in this direction. I love to make a home. I avoid keeping it orderly with fervor. But my family people need some order and peace and I want to give that to them. This is a yes that will call on any discipline hidden away in my heart. My goal is to pursue a quietness and comfort that covers all of us sweetly.

5. My health. I’m taking more of a whole body approach here including bed times and washing my face and exercise. I’ll share more on Thursday! Jessi has her whole ladies post up today!

These are my yeses. I won’t be very good at color coding them or alotting specific times that will never change. I’ll probably let a few days slip by with my calendar empty (I went three weeks this summer without even opening it). My hope is that they will begin to form a rhythm in my heart that will continue despite the amount of regiment I stick to.

EDIT: And just because I’m curious, what are your yeses? I’d love to know!