Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Water is rushing past every view from my home.  If I want to see waterfalls splashing onto rocks and hear the calming sound of a babbling brook I need only stand on the back porch.  The front door will lead me to the simple view of a small river running down one street and then turning the right angle onto another.  The view from my chair, which is the place I am in as I write, leads my eyes to the widest view.  Staring out my favorite window reveals a delta like picture where the small rivers from the separate parts of our yard and the neighbor's behind us all converge to spread out and after flowing 50 feet or so form the twin lakes that the next door neighbor now posseses.

We are in no danger from where we sit, which is something not to be taken for granted.  There are many people across town who live by overflowing rivers and streams that have swelled well past capacity.  In our small community, roads are being closed, crawl spaces are being filled, and foundations are holding their breath as water creeps closer.  The entire southeast and midwest have been experiencing torrential downpour for what seems like weeks leaving yards, belongings, days and moods soggy at best and life threatening at worst.  

Filling yet another rainy day inside is easy for boys who are finally home from Christmas travels and anxious to play with all the new goodies and gadgets they had to quickly leave behind after morning opening was done.  For me, my initial plans to pack up, clean and organize before the new year hits changed instead to holing up in my comfy spot to download pictures, stare out the window and think about the ground that just doesn't seem to be able to soak up anything else.  

I never claimed to be an exciting person, but quiet and consistent are lovable characteristics too, or so I'm told.

If you follow our May Days, you may be familiar with my oxymoronical thankful rant.  A few weeks have gone by and in that time my music loving husband and I were sitting in a car when he asked me to sit and listen to a new song by one of my personal favs, Sara Groves.  She has a knack for writing songs that will surely be on the soundtrack of my life.  I sat, as commanded, listening intently about hearts that are built on floodplains.  The head of the nail was indeed hit.

No matter what pictures we conjure up in our heads, deep down we know nobody has it altogether, but there are those who it seems are constantly knee deep in their own troubles, helping others out of theirs, or at least walking and wading along side. Their actions and hearts keep them living in a floodplain, a place in the midst of where frequent, overwhelming, past capacity experiences occur.  It's not as if the individuals are sitting and waiting for danger to come to live out heroic dreams or hoping for the other shoe to drop so to speak because life with drama is so much more exciting.  The truth comes somewhere in the bridge, because it brings us to our knees.  

Somehow we convince ourselves, I convince myself, that troubles come from punishment alone.  As if there is a giant tit for tat system that must remain tied at all times.  When truly it comes just because this is not our true home, and God apologizes not at all for reminding us through a variety of things where we are created to be and long for, a lesson that tends to be the ending point of all my questioning.  Counting it all joy comes from being intimate with your creator and savior, being on your knees in lament and thankfulness alike.  Being drawn closer through conversation and sharing. As a child of God lessons learned are not so much because of what we see, experience, and learn but what we are shown, brought through, and taught.  Semantics maybe, but Truth for sure.

Living a life of faith in Christ is not a paved road to paradise as Christian learned frequently in the classic Pilgrim's Progress.  It's a rocky, curvy, covered with roots, dangers, and sometimes human-eating trolls road.  Kyle Idleman warned us that "following Jesus will cost us always costs us something" when he was questioning a Christ follower's true commitment in Not A Fan.  And Jesus himself was more than a little upfront when in the gospels he told that rich young ruler that eternal life would come from giving up all he had to follow Him.  (Mark 10, Matthew 19, Luke 18)

Try as I might to store up pretty treasures on earth and to race as fast as I can to higher ground, it's not where my heart is calling me to go, it's not where God is commanding me to go.  When I look inside it's very similar to the view outside my window.  This stretch of grass that looks as if it can't handle one more thing poured upon it, will in fact soak in the storm, soften from the experience, and grow greener full of faith that when the next thing comes it will be no different.  Although I make no promises that there won't be some angry stomping in the puddles, I rejoice because I have Truth that brings Hope.  My heart is not my own, it was purchased long ago, and for now it's residence is the floodplains on the earth until I'm called Home.

Some hearts are built on a floodplain
Keeping one eye on the sky for rain
You work for the ground that gets washed away
When you live closer

Closer to the life and the ebb and flow
Closer to the edge of I don’t know
Closer to that’s the way it goes
Some hearts are built on a floodplain

And it’s easy to sigh on a high bluff
Look down and ask when you’ve had enough
Will you have the sense to come on up
Or will you stay closer

Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees
Some hearts live here

Oh the river it rushes to madness
And the water it spreads like sadness
And there’s no high ground
And there’s no high ground
Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees

Closer to the life and the ebb and flow
Closer to the edge of I don’t know
Closer to Lord please send a boat
Some hearts are built here

Thursday, December 24, 2015

merry christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host
praising God and saying
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they heard it wondered at those things where were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-18, KJV

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

is it real?

I am apprehensive to mention something so incredibly present day.  Should I refer to something that is so current that years from now when my children are bored and have nothing else to read besides the words their mama needed to get out of her soul will they instead be completely confused because they have zero point of reference?  I compare it to the sitcoms I love but know would make me laugh harder if I had any clue of the who or what they were speaking about.  However, a line spoken made me think and while the person it came from will doubtfully be remembered 50 years past unlike other memorable characters, the thoughts he brought can be remembered even if the source never will.

Recently I saw a movie.  It was not the epic, twenty years in the making, block buster we just got home from, instead it's another current favorite, the fourth part of a trilogy (yeah, it makes little sense but that's the trend nowadays) featuring a courageous woman, two men who love her, and thousands who will follow her anywhere.  One of the men is damaged, brainwashed by evil, and struggling to make sense of what should be a world and people he understands.  Unable to discern correctly what is going on around him he is constantly bouncing back and forth within his mind of who the real enemy is and causing grave damage to people he should be trusting.  There comes a pivotal moment of complete brokenness and transparency when he shares this struggle with those around him.  In this moment a friend extends a piece of advice, when encountered by a dark thought don't give into it, instead ask the question "is it real?"

I remembered this line from the book, and was anxiously awaiting it sitting besides my sister-in-law in the theater.  The emotion it was delivered with far surpassed the emotion I had constructed while reading, and my imagination flies. In that exchange of words was an outstretched hand that produced peace.  A moment of healing.  A moment that began a road to redemption of a heart that was still buried inside.  A moment where words were uttered that give us aid in our own times of battle and doubt.

Just like this fictional boy in his fictional mind, we are encountered with dark thoughts that lie to us and try to convince us of things that are not.  In these moments we are forced to try to make sense of the swirling contradictions within our minds.  

I, with very little effort, can invent grand schemes in my head.  If Zach is late obviously there's been  a tragic car accident.  If one of the boys sleeps later than usual I am tempted to go check their breathing.  If a friend has to cancel plans or doesn't call me back part of me wonders if I did something wrong.   The suggestions come full force at times but usually slowly and secretly and systematically as if on a calendar.  Lies are whispered in my ear, past hurts are brought glaringly back to the surface, and roadblocks are put up at methodical precision.  I can not begin to count the number of times I have found myself falling into a pit of desperation at the fear that I am not truly loved, that the people in my life need me more than they actually want me, and that I am quite possibly superfluous.

Like all of us who struggle with something, I would just convince myself that I was alone in my thoughts, or crazy or just hypersensitive and needed to buck up.   Lie upon lie upon lie.  But then comes that milestone day, that day that we can mark in a calendar as the day that we become brave enough to speak our thoughts out loud or God grants us the ability to hear someone else's brave confessions and in seconds peace is felt.  Thankfully I am loved beyond measure, even when I've convinced myself otherwise, and I was able to hear the honest words of another person as he shared his ability to convince himself that he too means nothing, was nothing and there, in fact I felt peace.  It was not because I was miraculously healed of all doubts ready to only hold myself in the highest regard,  It was simply that I finally understood that while there may be some sin of mine behind the doubt, because all our actions and thoughts are riddled with it, the words inducing my conflict, like his, were not real, they were not from Truth.  It merely, and sadly, comes from walking in this broken world.  This world full of false images, false situations, false struggles hidden behind false smiles.

I'm not saying the answer to the question is it real? will never be yes.  But until you stop and search your heart, until you stop letting the words you feel consume you and start asking questions in return, until you take that moment to say out loud the words swimming in your head causing destruction to yourself for sure and to the others around you as well, you will be stuck in a place that God does not desire you to be, a place that is the opposite of abiding in the protective wings of a Savior.  Our minds can wander of our own inclination, and our minds can be twisted through the plans of another, but a mind steadfast on God will be in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).  So like my sweet Connor who during a bad dream hides under his blanket saying over and over it's not real, I will lift my voice to others asking for Truth and resting in Truth and giving the same in return, those first words of Hope that come from resting in the only One who is indeed always real.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

far from finished

Have patience.  Be still.  Remember all is a process.  Plans do not mean immediate completion.

Though the first two items I repeat somewhat hourly to a boy or two in my life, the whole of it, the patience, the stillness, the remembering, the reminder, is a mantra for myself.  Words repeated daily to keep my spirit focused and my flesh in check.

Journeys are historically not my favorite.  I am a finish line girl for sure.  Check it off and move on to the next thing.  There is a reason Mary Poppins was a role model in my early days and still is for that matter, and it is not because I desire to be practically perfect in every way, well it's not JUST because of that.  Mary Poppins was a doer, a planner, a packer, a cleaner, a beautiful, musical, loving, but to point lady who could snap her fingers and be done.

I recently read a list of character traits that describe other type Aers like myself, and my sweet Mary. It's good to see written in black and white an itemized list of things you can relate to, things that make you amen and high five the others who feel the same feels.  Especially when on that list is how much you love itemized lists! Misery may indeed love company, but we all feel a extra coziness when we find our kindred spirits. The ones you can make out of the blue statements to that are immediately understood and don't require words of explanation.  Dear old C. S. Lewis said “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ." Emblazoned in my mind are those conversations where friendship dug its roots in because connections were made over the deepest and silliest of things.

My desire is to dream and plan, to pray for the Spirit to direct me and show me how He wants me to proceed.  When you pray for paths to be directed and listen to the dreams that arise you feel joy as ideas come flowing into your mind and onto the pages of your journals.  The difficulty for me is in realizing that saying and accomplishing are entirely different things.  Not a far step away from the voice of encouragement is a less than encouraging voice demanding that I hurry up and accomplish all the things.  There's your job now go and do it.  Alongside is the fear that if I don't in fact get it all done I have failed and should give up trying any further lest I just fail again.  It is a daily, yes daily, struggle for me to ignore those lies and wait.  To ponder before producing.  To give grace to myself as I have been given.  To remember that seeds do not grow into oaks overnight.  They are watered, protected, pruned and left to grow at the appropriate pace until one day you look over and beauty shades ground around you.

However, in the past couple years I have been learning to appreciate the process.  To soak in the scenery and not just wish for it to whiz by faster so that I can get where I'm going and be done with it.  I expect this to be somewhat of a lifelong learning process as hardwires are hard to replace and default modes are the easiest thing to slip back into.  So while my lists of hopes and desires may seem as if they are sitting dormant, I am reminded that Spring does come and without the season of preparation nothing can grow.  So I praise my God for patience and stillness and promise of Hope that He is the one who began the work and He will be the one to complete it in me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

for when you dream

I am most assuredly a planner, but in my heart I am also, most assuredly, a dreamer.  It is very common, I feel, for a planner to shift to dreamer and back again on a fairly steady basis.  Dreams are in fact plans at their inception.  Though lofty they may be, a dream is a plan you have for your future.  You are wishing and pondering over something you desire to become or accomplish, which presently isn't in existence, but maybe, possibly, hopefully might could come to fruition in the future.

There is one major dilemma when mixing a planner and a least in this dual-card-holding girl's life.  The type A responsible and realistic opinion inside you likes to come to the surface, push its glasses to the tip of its nose, stare down and calmly (or erratically depending on your temperament) explain why, in fact, that dream you so lovingly dream can not and will not ever become a reality.  The reasons line up, because they are obviously presented with bullet points and color coded for organization and effect, so you take your dreams and you do your best to push them down, while assuming that's the right thing to do, and you look at what's in front of you for accomplishing the task at hand.

A middle ground can always be argued.  No, I can not let my life be ruled by emotions, constantly switching back and forth from thought to thought, and idea to idea, with no grasp of the reality of what being a responsible adult means in the world around me, or without the effort of concentrating and dedicating myself to a single task at a time.  Oh but on the other side, to ignore part of myself, part of the person God created me to be, is a dangerous, yes dangerous, place to be.

While teaching children's church this past Sunday we were discussing the story of Zachariah and how that Godly priest was left mute for months because he couldn't quite believe that God was in fact going to do what the angel said He was going to do.  Oh that familiar pride and unbelief that plagues us all.  The phrase "too good to be true" was chatted about, and how we all hear things that sound great but don't quite measure up.  Then we talked about God and His promises, and that we can believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that anything and everything He says is true.  Next in the sequence of teaching this truth to young minds came the conversation of how God speaks to us.  The bible was first on the list (right after the inevitable answer of "Jesus" that is blurted out to every question asked in church ever in the history of Sunday school).  Then a sweet voice answered "God also puts things in your heart".  Let the little children come to Him indeed!

While Disney is not the gospel, the gospel is in fact everywhere. So when Cinderella sings "a dream is a wish your heart makes" with the birds and mice in the top of her tower, the Holy Spirit is the first person that comes to mind when I hum that tune to myself, as I'm doing now.  Living inside me is the third person of the Trinity.  Living inside me is the very Spirit of Jesus.  Living inside me is a loving guide that shouts at times, but more often whispers reminders of the person I am and the way I should go.  So to push down those dreams that continually come up, is to ignore the voice inside me which directs my heart, directs my life, and asks me to repent of my naysaying ways, and instead trust that the lofty and impossible is exactly what He does.  If I already knew how to accomplish all the things, what is my faith for anyway?

God in all His omnipotent glory will call us all to impossible things. Not just scary, "please let me scream no and run away like a kid" things.  For example, killing giants like David or moving your entire family to a land that you don't know how to get to like Abraham, or speaking to a king and risking your life like Esther were huge and scary things.  Yes, God gave them victory, and if He calls us to those things He will be the one fighting the battle through us and YES we can do it with Him. But the huge and scary is not all He does, and I tend to fear so much that that is the type of thing He will always ask me to do, so I hide and ignore all His requests without really listening, assuming it will be too scary to even think about facing.

My God is a loving God who works in a million and a half different ways in the lives of us all. Along with the Davids, Abrahams and Esthers are Elizabeths, Marys and Solomons.  God places dreams in you and I as well.  Big, huge, beautiful dreams. Yes they can still be scary, just not in that 'grab a sword and head into battle' way.  We are creatures of structure and comfort, and anytime you are brought out of your comfort zone you shake a little in the fear of the unknown, the butterflies of excitement and doubt all mixed together inside. Jumping for joy and anticipation while being sick from the suspense are familiar feelings for me and I'm sure I'm not alone.  Listen to the things in your heart.  Don't push down the dream that doesn't seem to go away.  God is speaking to you through His Spirit.  He is guiding you in the ways that He wants you, specifically you, to shine His light in this dark world.  No bushel hiding allowed.

He's taken me through scary hard places before and I've got the inward scars to prove it.  He will take me to those places again in this life, I'm sure, and I'll dread the onset and fight it along the way. But I pray I will quickly remember His familiar comfort like I did in the past, and have full view of the place I'm in now and submit to His journey.  Some of you have already gone through this and know exactly what I'm talking about, or are going there now and are in the midst of the tumultuous emotions between fear and security.  For those who may not have been there yet, I quite possibly just freaked you out and now you're running in the opposite direction or are in your bed with covers pulled high :)

I could spend hours sharing why you should come out from hiding, but for now I'll pass along the words the angel of the Lord shares over and over again as he appears to others just like us, "Do not fear, do not be afraid."  Listen to that still small voice, and dream.