19 December 2013

The Beauty I See

The more I walk this earth the more I find that my heart NEEDS beautiful things.  I know it's Christmas time and you read that sentence and think platinum, cashmere, or diamonds.  Although they can be lovely, my heart craves homemade/handmade beauty.
It's the difference between a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby and the one I have down the hall. The professional tree holds colors that are coordinated, shimmering eye candy ornaments, a variety of sophisticated textures, and well spaced twinkling lights.  My tree holds every color you can imagine, ornaments in clumps [because my 3 year old put them on], our lights are prelit, and no topper because we don't have one.  And did I mention that it's only a towering 3' tall?   

My tree is homemade, it's a Charlie Brown tree, and it holds beauty.  I love that there is significance and joy and beauty nearby my this season.  I need it.  My heart needs it now, here, in this season of celebration and change.
Another way that I am bringing homemade beauty into my daily life is photography.  I love to capture the moment.  Document the sun angle on the grass.  Find a pattern in the tree bark and leaves.  Freeze my son jumping, running, or sliding at the park.  I am working to see photography as meditative.  Contemplative.  Soul nourishment.  I keep these images before me in the form of seasonal desktop backgrounds.  It takes less than 15 minutes to make and it daily feeds my need for beauty.  These images speak to me about seasons, family, memories, and nature.  All things that I need all the time.

21 November 2013

War + Spirit

Recently I watched the 238th USMC Birthday message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  This year marks the anniversary of several major campaigns.  To honor these anniversaries, the message contained interviews with veterans as well as video footage from these wars.  I was moved.

Generally heroism, courage, and sacrificial service move me to tears instantly. However, these tears weren't about any of those things.  This time I was moved by the relentless physical demands, the "to-the-death" intensity, and the lack of refuge.  War wasn't spoken of as easy, pretty, predictable, nor thrilling.  

No manners.  
No compromise.  
Nothing was sacred.   
I found the descriptions from these vets to be challenging to my current view of the spiritual life.  The Bible describes the enemy as a lion prowling around actively searching to destroy each of us.  And it also speaks of the Christian life as a continual war.  As I heard these grandfathers recount their experiences, I found a disconnect between my perspective/expectations and what my Bible teaches regarding war.  

See, I feel like I should get weekends off from fighting.  I should get passes for easy days and extra help on harder days.  I should be able to choose what trials I walk through.  I should get a say in the matter of deciding my future.  I shouldn't have to wear a helmet if I've just done my hair or put on combat boots when it's clearly flip-flop weather.  

I want easy.
I want comfort.
I want to be able to pick and choose.

The reality of battle reminds me that I can have none of this.  I am enlisted into an Army.  I am not in command.  I have to submit to the orders of another.  I have to go where I am lead.  And I have to be ready to battle at any moment.

I am called to be ready, available, and equipped.  Not picky, wimpy, or even trying to abandon.

Realities of war are sinking into my heart and reshaping my vision into some real BGP.

18 October 2013


I currently live in a tree-dense area.  Lots of trees, old trees, leafy trees, piney trees, hearty trees, and tree up-shoots everywhere.  Finding a tree-less space is, dare I say, impossible?  I like them lots.  They are an absolute favorite of mine.  Hands down.  One of the best features of where I live.

I was pondering my tree-love this morning.  I realized that my draw towards trees is because of our similarities. 

We both grow.  
We both need food + sunshine.  
We weather storms and seasons alike.  
We all bear fruit.  
We come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, varieties.  
We all have roots and seeds.  

Some stand alone, others in groups.  
Some have leaves, others needles.  
Some change with seasons, others remain the same.  
Some are near water, others are far from it.  
Some grow fast, others slow.  
Some are strong, others collapse during their first storm.  
Some have visible scars, others have hidden decay.
Some get to hold birds, others hold Christmas lights.
Some provide shade, others produce fruit.

See?  Since trees were created first, I'll say it this way: we are so much like trees!

Today a tree taught me about transplanting.  My family is looking to cut our roots and transplant our tree out west.  Whole different environment, culture, and state.  Big {welcome} changes that we are working through as best we can.   

As I pondered transplanting I thought about the process trees go through.  After transplant they are fragile, somewhat dormant, and unsteady until they can re-establish themselves.  They need time to get new roots down deep.  They need water and sun to help them have strength for the work they now need to accomplish.  Flowers and fruit are secondary to getting roots down.  They need time, quiet, and care.

I feel as though the transitional journey a tree takes testifies of what's to come for us.  We will transplant our family and then enter a new season of slow, anonymous, and quiet.  I think it may be somewhat nice that our move aligns with the winter season.  Isn't it just amazing how God plans and orders our days?

24 September 2013

Unchanged (Ezekiel 33)

We gather each week at a large boxy church.  We attend a Saturday night service, in a room with basketball hoops and a baptism tank, because this is the smallest of the 5 gatherings.  About 300 people is our average.  We sit in squishy chairs facing one platform.  Our fearless leader speaks to us for about 30 minutes from his heart and the Word.  We have four or five songs to sing, communion monthly, and tithe weekly.  We greet each other, we commune in the foyer, and we park our cars [and our behinds] in "our spots".  

We hear a message full of truth, faith, and purpose.  Come Tuesday morning, most of us, have trouble remembering the message title, let alone the three alliterated points.  We hear but it doesn't change us.  

Soaking words are heard with our ears but barely captured into the depths of our hearts.

“Now, son of man, your people are talking about you near the city walls and in the doorways of their houses. One person speaks to another, each saying to his brother, ‘Come and hear what the message is that comes from the Lord! ’ 
31 So My people come to you in crowds, sit in front of you, and hear your words, but they don’t obey them. Although they express love with their mouths, their hearts pursue dishonest profit.
32 Yes, to them you are like a singer of love songs who has a beautiful voice and plays skillfully on an instrument. They hear your words, but they don’t obey them. 
33 Yet when it comes— and it will definitely come — then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

This was spoken, by God, of the Captives in Babylon.  God's people were sitting in front of Ezekiel and listening regularly to his words.  His truthful, purposeful and God-given words of warning, teaching, correction, and instructing.  And then they returned to work, family, and life and Ezekiel's words evaporated from their minds. 

Never able to flow from the mind to the heart. 
Never planting a seed.  
Never bearing fruit.

This picture of Israel is way too similar to my church, the Church, and our hearts today.  I find that I need to be diligent to tune my ears to hear the WORD of the LORD from the pulpit.  We sit there so often that it too easily becomes habit and we quickly lose the holy.  I need these words to chisel this stoney heart.

There is so much more from this passage, but today I'm meditating on obedience.  Being a dooer.  Proactive.  Responsible. Faithful.

29 August 2013

A woman's highest calling

Isaiah 54.1
Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth;
burst into song and shout,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the forsaken one will be more
than the children of the married woman,”
says the Lord.

I was out running the other morning and I was wrestling with my deep longing for another child.  I was digging into my expectations about why I want many children.  I dug into my past experiences, the role models I had, and what the culture taught me.  About halfway down the big hill it came to the surface.  

The Church has taught me that being a mom is the most holy of all callings a woman can take on.

I know this is not true.  I know that the calling of woman is broad and diverse.  But my heart tells me that my worth, per Church doctrine, is seen in child bearing and child rearing.  That is my highest calling.  That is where I need to be focused most intensely.

I have been working through my brain, heart, and life trying to reprogram this lie.  But for some reason, I just can't seem to drop this phrase "woman's highest calling." It seems to be accurate because it is old.  I've always seen this esteemed and this has always been portrayed as truth.

But then... I read Isaiah 54.1 last night.  Rejoice barren woman...um...excuse me?  How is barrenness a happy state?  When a doctor sits down to explain why you can't get pregnant or how your body is broken beyond repair, singing and shouts of joy don't just fall out of your heart.  At least this isn't my experience.  And what exactly does it mean for the children of an infertile woman will be more?  More what?  More as in twins/triplets, more as in achievements and skills, or more as in daily life of dirty laundry and dishes??

I completely admit that I do not understand the fullness of this verse.  

However I do understand that this verse is telling me that motherhood isn't my heart's highest aspiration or my souls ultimate calling.  I believe it is saying that the Church reordered some of it's values.  Also I firmly believe that as a woman my "highest calling" should be something more akin to this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

22 August 2013

Life is Pain

You know that movie line from "The Princess Bride" where Westley {the man in black} snaps at Buttercup, "Life is pain, highness!  Anyone who says differently is selling something."  We laugh as we watch the scene {mostly because she goes tumbling down that hill after him} but that statement is true.

Life is pain.

What pain are you given? What do you do with it? Who do you share it with? How does it transform you?  All of these questions matter.  How we walk through pain matters.

A few years ago, after offering up a whole pint of blood, a cold doctor gave me a label.  He informed me that I'm completely healthy except that there was this one thing about my genes and how they duplicate.  Not life-threatening, but it does carry at least one heavy implication.  One that has caused much pain.  A wound that has been re-opened recently.

I thought that all this pain was finished.  I had completely closed the door on every appointment and test and tissue from that dark time.  I has found my spring and walked out of that winter never looking back.  But then, earlier this week, I found myself in a new office, with a different doctor, talking about the same issues and the trouble it causes. 

Hear that creaking sound?  That door that I slammed shut, locked, saved the key, and promptly ran away from....THAT DOOR...well, it seems to have been re-opened.

Interestingly, this room smells oddly familiar...oddly clinical.  Old pain really is never completely forgotten, I guess.  Defensive habits aren't replaced as quickly as I'd like to believe. Fitting back into the emotional-basket-case, the world-is-trying-to-hurt-my-feelings, and this life-is-too-hard mold is easier than I anticipated.

But here's the deal, I don't want to be there this time.  I don't want to walk with a bleeding heart hidden under a fake smile.  I don't want to be in the trenches of depression, fear, and anxiety for months on end.  I don't want to be constantly on the verge of tears.  I don't want to be a victim of life-pain.

Life-pain is what I have.  I can make the choices.  Although my path isn't new, I've walked here before, I believe my journey on it can look different than last time.  I believe there are healthier ways to manage and grow in difficult seasons than Frosty's and grudges.  Today, I'm looking for some of those ways to begin to walk new through old pain.

06 August 2013

Affection Aversion

I was driving home from visiting a friend.  I was overflowing with the gratitude of having a REAL friend.  I was rejoicing in God's work in her life. I was praying for her needs.  I was seeing her heart and it was encouraging.  My heart was full.

My son wanted a sip of my drink.  I handed him the orange-topped water bottle.  After passing the cup, I began to stroke his bare leg.  [He'd wet through his pants during his nap so he was only in undies and a shirt.  A typical summer day uniform.]  He pulled his leg back.  I followed his movement and continued to let my full heart leak out in loving my son.  He pulled his legs up even further....into his car seat....away from my reach.

It hurt my heart.  My gut reaction was this, "Why does he withdrawal from me when I am trying to love on him?"

Then I went to God.  God makes us all with different affection tolerances.  He happens to have a slight aversion to being cuddles, hugged, loved on.  It pains me sometimes that this is his make up.  

The parallels between God and I are glaring.  

How often does God reach out to love me and I withdrawal?
How often do I refuse love?
How often do I not receive His outpouring?

As a Mom, it breaks my heart to see him not receive my love.  As a Christian, it crushes me to see my refuse my Father.

Q: But how do I learn to receive HIS love?

31 July 2013

Real Authority

This morning I read in Jeremiah:
"Are you a king because you excel in cedar?
Didn’t your father eat and drink and administer justice and righteousness?
Then it went well with him."
Catch that? Jeremiah was challenging the Kings position as defined by his possessions. Sounds like a dangerous place to be [for both prophet and king].

Relying on your material wealth to define your role in this world is sort of normal. The son set his identity-foundation on the inheritance of his father: money, recognition, power, and cedar trees. Unfortunately, his father managed his role better than his son.

Oh, that I would not be so foolish.

Is it true that the rich rule? Yes. The world appears to operate that way. If you have, you lead.

But what is TRUTH? God gives us our identity. He gives us our authority. And none of that has anything to do with possessions [or cedar trees]. God works in ways the world can not understand or value.

God gives us authority to be His representatives and steward His gifts and to call on His name. God-given authority. How we see ourselves matters.