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.

what I learned in march.

Today, I’m going to share a random list of things I learned this month. It’s a lovely idea my friend, Emily, has been posting about for a while now.

So. Things I learned in March:

I LEARNED AGAIN THAT ONE HOUR AND CHANGE IS NOTHING BETWEEN FRIENDS.

nester

I am absolutely privileged to call this lady my friend. Last week, I made the drive up to her house where I sat on her couch, loved on her dog and asked him to mentor Grover, paged through her new book that comes out on APRIL 29th (You will want to read it!), took pictures of her pond and flowering branches, poured out my heart and ate fudge pie that Edie had left the day before (Winning.). I have much more to say about this but the more I wrote the more I realized that it was becoming a blog post of its own. Bottom line: friendships grow in lovely and unexpected places and stopping time for a moment to nurture them is better than great. That canvas print is by my dear friend Jessi’s design shop, Naptime Diaries.

I LEARNED THAT YOU CAN USE A DRY-ERASE MARKER ON YOUR WASHING MACHINE.

Here’s why that’s important: maybe you saved up your birthday money and went shopping for an army green jacket you’ve wanted forever. Maybe you found the loveliest jacket–the last one on the rack–that was army green and a motorcycle jacket. Maybe it was a steal and you felt extra proud. Maybe you felt big city wearing it. Maybe you wore it practically everyday. Maybe you left it slung across the back of a kitchen chair, as you would OBVIOUSLY do when you want to take care of something well. Maybe your son spilled Chick-Fil-A sauce on it. Maybe you thought, “It’s okAY. I can wash it and air dry it.” Maybe you forgot about it and ran it through the dryer. Maybe it’s your nine-year-old daughter’s very chic, big city, motorcycle jacket now.

And that is why we should all follow my very wise (and dear) friend Caroline’s advice and use a dry erase marker on the washer lid to remind ourselves of what is in the washer but can’t go in the dryer.

I LEARNED THAT CHILDREN REALLY DO GROW UP AND OUT.

hbdmd

Our girl’s nine-year-old birthday this week was just the loveliest day. We tricked her into thinking she wasn’t getting the very thing she has been wanting for months when it was wrapped up all along. The moment she realized it was intended for her? Etched in my mind and heart forever. In the midst of my trying to wrangle all the things just so, she very sweetly suggested that I didn’t have to “do ALL OF that” for her. I wanted to. I wanted it to be sweet. And not every day is like that. Not even. It was a sweet reminder that God is shaping my children and He has a vision for their hearts. I just have to bring my human attempts at stewarding them to Him.

I LEARNED AGAIN THAT COLORS ARE MY THING.

free

My friend gave me that bright, floral painting. I love it. The end.

I’m linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.

saturday.

saturday1

is for special short people breakfasts like cinnamon roll scones. and for au natural scones since you are out of confectioner’s sugar and you haven’t tasted the goodness of cream cheese in too, too long.

is for the 7:30 AM rule: in your room, quietly being you, until the rest of the world wakes up.

is for watching first t-ball games of the season.

is for reading old favorites and new adventures.

*Amazon links are affiliate links.

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.

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.

from the inside out.

photo-20

Every August of my childhood, my Mama would take me to the mall for the big back to school shopping trip. It was a trip that I both anticipated giddily and dreaded heartily. I prepared diligently for these mall days, saving up Seventeen magazines and curling the edges of the pages with use. I planned who I might become that year, feeling the mantle and opportunity of a fresh start. I could be someone totally new.

I can still walk through the summer of 1993. I had tattered the edges of a magazine spread thin. In that fall world, girls my age stood in the midst of fog-covered New England looking landscapes. The leaves were bright swaths of God’s hand: yellow, red, orange. There were plaid kilts and knee high socks and long legs. It was serene and dignified and I wanted to be pasted right in: opportunity.

Reality: No matter how I tried on countless skirt after skirt or perfectly pale blue and crisp oxford, I was still me. It was still a 100 degree summer with 90 percent humidity. Sweat still pricked at my temples and I was still just five foot two. The leaves wouldn’t change until November and I would still be shy, unsure and uncertain. The clothes never changed me. Frustration, defeat and tears followed.

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal to write hard and clear. I set my feet to trudge down a path of bullet points and summaries and premises. I’ve circled around and around a gift from God, a story of His transforming work in my heart. Every step I took, more and more of the light of that story snuffed out until I wasn’t even sure I could keep pressing buttons and making little black letters appear on a screen.

Something has changed. In the mirror of a kitchen-spent Saturday evening, I saw the truth of how God made me on purpose in every way. Right there, as I baked chocolate chip cookies and my people watched Wonder Woman reruns, I saw the truth of what I have been doing. God desires truth from the inside out even when it comes in the reflection of an everyday night. Especially then.

I’ve been trying on sweaters that swallow me with defeat. I’ve been walking in shoes so tight that another step seemed impossible. I forgot who I was and I thought the clothes would change me. The truth is this: God made me on purpose in every way and I am a storyteller. I still have stories to tell, stories to tell of how He is pricking down deep. My goal hasn’t changed: I want to write without fear. I am determined to tell this story of His goodness and love to anyone who will listen. But I’ll do it on purpose in every way.

I don’t know. I think that we have to do this sometimes: walk around in sweaters that swallow us whole so that we can see what we truly are. I wouldn’t even call it wasted time despite how frustrating and dead-end living it might feel. In the end, this is Christ’s way: holding all things together in a forward-moving pitch.

Truth from the inside out.

Truth that changes the how and the why and the when.

Truth. I’m in. Are you?

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.

about sailboats and a home tour.

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One of the things I have a hard time writing about here is the fact that I am an annoying and incurable nester. I love to love our home and live in it. I love to shuffle everything around and reimagine and reuse. After four years of living here I think we are getting closer to using every inch well. Somehow, though, I never feel comfortable with that voice in my writing.

Today, I have the sweet privilege of sharing my home (or at least the downstairs portion) at Life Made Lovely. Heather is one of my favorite bloggers. Her faith story is truly a miraculous telling of how God meets us in our deepest loss and walks with us. Every week she shares a real home that is filled with real people. It is my joy to be featured there this week. I hope you’ll pop over there!

As I was putting together all the little bits and pieces, I found myself really wanting to tell the story of my sailboat painting. In the end, I decided to leave it out because I had already been wordy enough. It seemed like just the right sort of thing to share with y’all.

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I hit repeat one more time. It’s a song: a beautiful guitar-driven mash of words about being on a journey. It’s Ben Rector’s “Sailboat” and it has attached itself to my heart. A song about a journey, yes, but not the beginning or the end. It’s a song about the middle: about going somewhere but not being there yet, about the inglorious day after day of not there yet. Somehow listening to it honors a truth–an anthem–beating its way through my heart. Life is full of beginnings and ends, yes, but it is full of so many middles. I want to honor my middles instead of only worshipping beginnings and ends. There is much in the middle to learn, sing, enjoy.

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It’s the weekend before Christmas and Tom has given me a Saturday afternoon to run about. I drive five miles across town. I drive past the neighborhood where my Grandpa lived all of my childhood, with it’s metal-toyed playground. I meet my college roommate at Atlanta Bread Company. Just like every year it’s almost Christmas and it’s a balmy 80 degrees. We sit outside in the breeze and drink hot coffee. We have one hour to talk about everything and nothing. It’s a gift. On the way home, I pop in to my favorite thrifty antique store. I’m looking for cheap oil paintings, mostly landscapes or portraits. I scan all the same booths that usually have art and I turn the corner to go home. My eyes light on two sailboats caught in green and blue waves. It’s too much to spend on myself days before Christmas so I settle for a portrait study of a woman with bouffant hair in sepia tones.

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It’s the day after our Christmas festivities. All the family are gone. We’ve settled in to watch The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My six year old is in heaven. He is Reep! He is Peter! He is Caspian! He swashes imaginary swords and tumbles around the den. In no time, we’re watching Reepicheep cross over and through tall waves into Aslan’s land. I am a mess of tears with Lucy and Edmund as they say goodbye for a long time. I think about Christ. About how faithful He is. About how He is in the middles with me. I remember how they got there: through a painting of a Narnian sailboat.

Later, I lay my head on the pillow and pull our heavy down comforter up over my chin. I’m thinking about that sailboat painting in the antique store. I get up and count my Christmas spending money. There’s enough and I go to sleep vowing I will drive over the bridge to buy my painting in the morning. I wake up praying, hoping it is still there.

It is. I buy it and smile all the way home. I thank God that He speaks to us in all kinds of ways. Later, I hang my sailboat painting right there in our bedroom.

I look at it everyday. And everyday I thank God for beginnings, ends and, most especially, middles.