Monday, May 13, 2013
Lemon and cherry tulips stood in vases tall when I walked into the kitchen, gifts from my man and my look-alike man-child too. "We biked to the store since you had the car," they breathed heavily, grinning, hair tousled by the gusty wind.
"Can we play a game of Speed Scrabble together?" my socialite son asked, dumping plastic tiles across the scuffed table top.
Four year old Daniel had carefully guarded a smushed cupcake and hand-print flower art-piece since nine am Sunday School. Pushing it into my hand now, he offered it to me.
"But Daniel, this is your special cupcake. Are you sure?"
"Mmhmm," he nodded, "It hurts my feelings, and I don't want it anymore."
The red frosting licked off, a chocolate cupcake peeked through inside the zip-lock bag. He must have meant that he didn't want any more of it. I grinned and thanked him. He smiled, and rocked back and forth proudly.
"Mom, can I serve you?" she asked, my willowy daughter, shiny hair bobbing at her chin and catching the light.
"Wow, thank you. That feels odd," I admitted. "Thank you. What do you have in mind?"
Her handwritten card offered babysitting as we took a nap, and then a hand massage and manicure. Later that afternoon, I followed her out to the back yard where towels marked off a lounging area in the grass. Nail polish, moisturizing coconut oil, and manicure items were arrayed nearby. Shyly, I sank back into terrycloth, closed my eyes, sought out the bird calls amidst the sound of passing cars, and slipped into peace.
"I love you so much, Mom," she stated quietly, grinning self-consciously.
"I love you too, Morgan. I am so thankful to be your mom. I'm so sorry for the times I don't do a nice job at it." We talked more.
Silence fell from a pure blue sky. The wind and robins blew, and passing cars hummed.
"God, make me worthy. Make me how they see me, help me to be the best mom I can be, reflecting you." Prayers dripped from a humble heart, seeking Him. Gratitude counted gift after gift, increasing my eye to see, and learning to name them anew.
To be the mom they see --to be the mom they need-- drives me to prayer, humility, joy, and to my Father's heart.
Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose, and Ann at A Holy Experience.
Monday, May 6, 2013
It's the doing it that's hard.
Not the dreaming it -- that comes easy.
It's the stepping up, picking up pen, shutting down facebook or the streaming movie, and setting aside the laundry expectations. Picking up pen or pulling close the keyboard, I type keystrokes, then words. Sentences follow, haltingly.
Twilight falls, blushing in the darkness before slipping quietly out of sight. Waiting for inspiration, for an intelligent-feeling brain, only leads to more time passing. Days trickle by, waiting for inspiration, and I remember the words of Jeff Goins and others to write, simply write. Show up to the keyboard, and do the time, do the work, the great ones say. Write. Every day, write.
I've been researching the ancient book of Nehemiah, a Jewish political exile in Iraq, who returns to his homeland. After a clandestine horseback ride through the city, following the line of collapsed walls, squeezing through on foot when the ruins were too extreme, he returned to speak to the people. In a broken-down world, surrounded by the rubble of their ancient lives and city, he calls the people to action, knowing that God can rebuild lives and situations. We can do this, he urges his people.
It was the doing it that was the hard part for him too. Dreaming it up after time in prayer was easy. It was the stepping up, grabbing architect plans, masonry tools, and a bullhorn that was the hard part. It was the day two and three, and forty-seven, that were the hard parts.
But he stepped up. They stepped up, grabbing mallets, stones from the rubble, and mortar. And as twilight blushed into darkness, they kept working, strapping on swords when needed, and toiling into starlight hours.
I love hearing from you. What do you need encouragement to step up and start this week? (Those in email can click here to join the conversation.)
Linking with Emily at the Love Dare.
Photo courtesy of Dvortygirl, Creative Commons, Flickr.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
They are the verses I whisper to myself while plunging hands into soapy dishwater, staring out the window. The verses I speak out across the front lawn, past the robins, the blue jays, and into the bushes--lilacs with slow signs of growth--while absentmindedly scrubbing plates and bowls. The verses I write across journal pages, tape to bathroom walls that curl up in hot steam, and tell myself often.
I call them to mind whenever I forget, or music grabs me, and the lies start.
Because all sin, really, is about lies. The lies we tell ourselves vary, but the themes are the same: this will fulfill that need; this is justified; this will be harmless; this has no effect.
So, in cadence, I stop, grab the truth and speak them to my heart.
"You were taught, Jen, with regards to your former way of life
to put off the old self
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires..."
(--Jen, don't be deceived... every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows." If it's not coming down from above, it's not yours, and you are being deceived and corrupted, my girl.)
"To be made new in the attitude of your mind..."
(Made new, grabbed truth. Legitimate answers to legitimate needs, dropped down by the Father of heavenly lights, but not deceiving myself. Retraining my mind, retraining my heart, my responses, my reactions.)
"To be made new in the attitude of your mind,
To put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
(Putting on a new self --not simply pulling on a new outfit to hide the old-- but a brand new start, created by a master Designer.)
"Created to be like God, in true righteousness and holiness."
These verses run through my mind. I grab them when sin habits creep in, or lies trickle into my consciousness. These are the verses I whisper to myself while plunging hands into soapy dishwater staring out the window. The verses I speak out across the front lawn, past the robins, the blue jays, and into the bushes.
My mom? Just this weekend, we whirred along suburban streets to carpool teens. Alone in the car, our talk turned to verses that were grabbing our attention lately. In gentle measured tones, my mom spoke words of truth from ancient Roman prisoners. Words inked on parchment to tiny churches in Ephesus and Greek Thessalonika fell into my car in cadence.The words spoke truth into our relationships, families, coworkers, and marriages. And the breath in me caught, as I shifted and changed highway lanes.
"You too?" I breathed. "Me too! I have verses that run through my mind that I grab and speak aloud..."
We recited the words that spoke truth and focus to us, eyes squinting at times to see them in our mind. I made a mental note to find hers and write them out, adding them to these.
I have these verses that run through my mind.
You probably have them too.
What are yours in this season?
Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose and Scribing the Journey.
Photo credit here.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Her husband recovering from a kidney transplant and in the throes of frequent doctor visits, my friend flashed an email through space. She needed someone to attend a band concert with two of her children and to video-record the music.
"While I can't be you, I would be happy to drive ___ and ___ to the concert and to record their band pieces," replied another woman, warmly.
Suppers slip on to their kitchen table on busy nights. Children jump into approved cars for quick hospital visits, and an email army stands ready to help.
Need to see God? I see him in women whipping up extra suppers and in grandmas wrangling seat-belts.
Need to see God today? I see him through a brother-in-law's generous living-donor kidney and a stitched up side. I see God's work in early hospital releases, lowered chances of infection, and in mylar helium balloons from a women's Bible study with the note: "You cause us to be astounded in our God! Thank you." The balloons bob in a yellow stucco dining room, as kids study and a shaved dog wags tail.
Need to see God? He's in kitchens, and carpools, and trips to the store for groceries.
And the joy? It flows over and down.
Linking with Ann at A Holy Experience and Emily at Imperfect Prose.
Monday, April 22, 2013
"Do you see me?" "Am I visible, beautiful, interesting?"
This inner longing to be known, to be seen, to be captivating --we all wrestle with it, teens and adults alike, some days.
And so I purposefully reach out, speaking their names aloud as I see them, pass them in bus aisles, and sit beside them, across from cheeseburgers and sweet southern teas.
Speaking a teen's name aloud to them, looking them deep in the eyes, asking questions and listening hard, I strive to show them they are seen, cared for, valuable. And they have value, not because I see them or another person sees them, but because they were created by an Artist God who loves them and delights in them.
Saturday night in our hotel room, halfway through a weekend-long youth retreat, ten of us senior high girls and leaders gathered round. On beds, cots, couches, and carpeted floors, we curled up cross-legged.
"Have you seen the sketch-artist Dove experiment that has been blitzing facebook this week?" I asked my girls.
In the experiment, women in a waiting room were told two things: 1.) they were here to talk to a sketch artist, and 2.) to be friendly with the women around them, getting to know them. As their turn with the sketch artist arrived, the women entered another room and were asked to describe themselves to the sketch artist behind the curtain. Haltingly, shyly, the women listed their own features. "A rounder face, stubby chin, turned up nose..." and a picture formed from the words they uttered. Afterwards, almost as an afterthought, the sketch artist asked each woman to describe someone by name they had met from the lobby. In glowing warm words, each woman spoke of their new friend's eyes, cheerful smile, cute nose and dimples, and flowing hair. Dismissed, the women left the room.
In a gripping finale, the women were invited back into the artist's gallery to see two portraits hanging side by side for each of them. On the left was the artist's rendering of the woman describing herself. Each woman's insecurities amplified the features they were shyest about. Noses or chins were exaggerated, disproportionate.
Hanging to the right, however, was a second portrait, drawn from descriptions by friendly new acquaintances in the lobby. Suddenly, tears fell and silence dropped as women saw their own beauty through the eyes of others. A truer, gentler picture emerged for each woman through the eyes of strangers in the waiting room.
My girls and I, we sat curled up and crossed-legged on couches, cots, and carpeted floors, as I told this story. And then with torn notebook paper and pens, we scribbled until our hands hurt, sketching images of beauty for the women beside us, telling them how we really saw them. Written words traced beauty in them; drawing a line around kind eyes, generous spirits, and fierce loyalty towards others; highlighting the skills and talents we saw in them. Our words erased the imperfections they hung onto --exaggerated in their minds-- and drafted sincere beauty.
Silence fell afterwards, once papers circled the room to arrive back at their owners. Each young woman read looping lines that traced her value and beauty from the new friends in the room.
Have YOU seen this newest Dove video, "Real Beauty Sketches"? Take a moment to watch this now. It's worth the three minutes, I promise you. Share it with your friends and families, will you?
Then, pick up a pen and perhaps trace some words of beauty to someone around you too? Let them know they are made by an Artist God who delights in them.
Linking with Ann at A Holy Experience Emily at Imperfect Prose on a Dare to Love the Mom in the Mirror.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
A cheese danish tantalizes me from a wrapped paper bag, while Komodo Dragon coffee and cream scald my throat deliciously. Warmth steals through my hand and body. The danish waits, however, while I resolve a relationship issue.
Tapping thumbs into a red and black cell phone, I text, "Hi, love, sorry. I did it right today when I worked at not criticizing. I messed up when... Will you forgive me?"
He responds gently and we start anew. With a click, the screen is cleared, and I proceed to my danish and books, feeling peaceful and relaxed.
Resentments in relationships can accumulate too easily, building up walls, brick by brick. In this new season of relationship, we're striving to stay soft-hearted, to be quick to apologize, and quick to forgive.
Do you have someone you need to talk to today? Leave the coffee, the danish, and grab a phone or a pen.
Linking with Duane at Scribing the Journey and Emily of Imperfect Prose.
Monday, April 8, 2013
"Hey, you can pick up more candy, if you want," I suggested, handing him a plastic baggie. Intent on his mini bag of M&M's though, he was satisfied, and simply wanted to eat them. I gathered some candy pieces for him to enjoy later with his siblings, but his actions had captured my attention.
|Credit to Nature Mapping Foundation.org|
On the walk home from our friend's house, I pushed his green stroller through wet streets, and pointed out bird calls to him. "That's a red-winged blackbird," I said, as I squatted down to point out the bird in the branches above. Vivid crimson and yellow flashed on the wings of a black bird.
|Credit to Mother-Daughter Press|
It takes time to see these birds, and to train our eyes to watch for them. I am a novice at bird-watching but six or seven birds catch my attention, and I listen for their calls, or stop to watch their splashes of color in our trees.
Walking home from the pinata party this afternoon, I thought I was the one training Daniel's eyes to stop, see, and savor. As he quietly munched M&M's, hunched over in the green stroller, though, I realized that he was teaching me. Grabbing a bag of M&M's, he turned away from the pile of candy, and was satisfied, stopping to savor what he had.
I'm training my eyes. It's been a year and a half journey to stop, see, and savor God's gifts. These joy lists, these gratitude journals, this process of counting His gifts, bring joy and perspective. Statistics show that counting gifts, one by one, brings greater happiness, greater energy and attentiveness, greater joy, greater emotional health, closer relationships and happiness in life, and who doesn't need that?! They rekindle in me a love for my God, and a love for my husband and family.
(Thanks to Ann Voskamp at a Holy Experience for her statistics above. Check out her post here on "15 Happy Ways to Teach Kids to be Grateful.")
I link with Ann today to count gifts..-preschool hugs and bird watching
-seeing beauty and new variety in the hues of brown along the highway
-the joy of meeting new women at Moms-Next this morning, in my session on Talking to Our Kids and Teens about Sex and Sexuality, and the joy of sharing together.
-being able to speak with women, and it feeling like worship between me and my God
-pinata lessons from my four year old
Have you seen these older posts?
-Conspiring Teens Plot Joy (Want their Secret?)
-Five Seconds Away from Joy, Better Health and Peace of Mind
Pick up pen or keyboard, friend, and join me. Who doesn't need more joy and energy?