18 December 2014

Mudpies for Cake

I made mudpies as a child.  After a rain (which was often in Virginia) a neighbor girl and I would use sticks to stir up the smoothest mud hole.  Then we would carefully place rocks around the perimeter as decorations.  And typically there was moss available, from the tree in my yard, that we could harvest and add to the concoction.   Sometimes grass or bark would find it's way in as well.  All depends on what was available and how crafty we were feeling.  Mudpies.  The original playdough.

I was recently reminded of this pastime as I was praying to God for help with some old wounds.  Pain from my past was revealed and I didn't know what to do with the hurt.  So I asked God what I needed to do.  He told me to bring it to Him.  Then I saw the picture.  {Being visual means God often gives me pictures to help me understand Him + I.}

Little me, a lovely drippy mudpie in hand, placing it into the hands of God.

Eww gross!  was my first thought.  Why would I EVER consider this a good idea?  Why would I give the King a mudpie?  It isn't a usual gift, it isn't costly, nothing even close to pretty.  And of course it's terribly messy.  Why would He ask me to do that?  I didn't understand the image.

But as I have been pondering this for a few days I think mudpie is a great image.  God asks us to give Him our past, pain, failures, and questions.  When you think of it, everything we have to offer is earthly.  It's all dirt.  It's nasty compared to His glory.  It's sinful and dark.  He is vastly far above mud, no matter how well you dress it up.    

Although childishly simple and earthly dirty, He receives the mudpie with great delight.  As our Father, He is thrilled to have us offer Him ourselves and loves being invited to the mudpie party.  And what is best is that  He can transform our mess to beauty.

God offered me birthday cake.

I am not sure what it will be for you, but for me, the King offered me birthday cake in exchange for mudpies.  A yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting complete with sprinkles and candles.  It has to be birthday cake because that symbolizes full on celebration.  And that is what God does.  God celebrates each of us wholly and individually.  Always.  He celebrates us with His love, His delight,  and His acceptance + joy.  For me the image of birthday cake speaks of each of these.  Birthday cake can also connect to the ideas of growing and maturing.  A product of giving your dirt to God.  Birthday cake is one of my favorites and God knew that.

Mudpies for Cake.  A beautiful exchange.  

01 October 2014

Wrestling With A Dream

I find myself stuck.  One foot in a dream and another in my reality.  I am balanced in the middle and cannot seem to move forward or backward.

Behind me is the dream I have owned since childhood.  The picturesque life I believed I would have.  The job, family, house, and lifestyle that is serene, vivid, and joyful.  This dream was sculpted over time by media, observing other's lives, and my wild imagination.  It has been chiseled for so long that it is set like concrete in my head.  It's a beautiful work.

But, the problem is that it won't budge.  It's engraved.

Ahead of me is reality.  My life has fragments from my dream, but it is not the life I thought I'd be living.  The location isn't right.  My family wasn't drawn according to plan.  My identity has been shifted and skewed in ways I didn't expect.  Reality isn't nearly as lovely nor is it as easy as I prepared for it to be.

Most importantly.... reality doesn't match my dream.

This is a problem.  I try to let go of this childhood dream and try to embrace the truth of today, but it doesn't seem to work.  Instead I find my heart collects discontentment, disappointment, and distrust.  I am not sure how to release a dream well.  I do not know how to forgo expectations and in it's place hold hope.  I have yet to be able to be flexible, keeping the future in an open hand.  It just doesn't click for me.

Others can do it.  I know it's possible.  I read about it in their books.   They inspire me to try it again.  So I do my best to release this backwards dream.  But it's not too much further down the road that I find I'm back where I started clenching what's behind and begrudging the look of what's ahead.

One day I hope to find myself, with joy gazing onward toward tomorrow, with both feet planted happily in my reality of life.  One day I hope to be able to, with honest understanding of what is best for me and trust in God's plan, walk away from these childish backwards dreams of what life ought to be like.  One day I would like to walk in freedom, no longer shackled in between the "should be" and the "is".

24 September 2014


I was in the closet last week trying to get dressed for bible study.  Translation: I wanted to look cute but comfy.  Unfortunately, I have a hurt heel and can only wear sneakers or hiking sandals.  Otherwise I choose to walk all day in pain.  I finally settled that I could wear my cute-ish black flats, IF I first ran to the Mart of Wal to get a shoe insert.  Once the shoe choice was complete I was now free to dress myself accordingly.

That is when I faced another, slightly deeper, challenge.  Clothes.  Having some unexpected weight gain this summer, currently 80% of my clothes are tight.  I am in a season where I feel chubby most days.  Although I've never been "skinny" but, I typically possess less of myself.  Naturally, having "nothing to wear" I began to do what any mature woman would do.  I threw a fit.

Why this morning?... Why can't I seem to make jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt cute?.... Why can't I loose weight faster?.... Why can't I have more money to buy cute shoes with arch support?... On and on I dramatically went until this gem came stumbling out of my mouth... Why can't I just have one decent outfit that will hide me?

Whoa? What?  Apparently I want to hide and not face the truth.  Two thoughts immediately  emerged from this complaint: 1.The self-insights from my closet are amazingly deeper than I expected and 2.Accepting truth is hard.

It seems as though I don't want to see truth.  I want to dismiss it.  Walk away like it isn't standing naked in my closet (and having a fit).  But if I choose to walk away from truth, then it appears my only option left is to believe lies.  Since truth is black and white, if you're avoiding, dismissing, running, or hiding from truth, then you're keeping company with lies.  

I don't want lies.  But neither do I want truth. 
I don't think I get to invent a middle option.
So I am left with a choice.

It takes boldness and courage and humility to believe and accept truth.  It isn't easy and it can be downright ugly at times.  Occasionally there may even include some throwing of fits.  But I believe that accepting truth will work better in the long run than compromising with lies.  I believe lies will steer you wrong 100% of the time.  But truth.... well truth can set you free.  And that is a much better gift than cute clothes.

16 September 2014

Recovery Mode

Post the "Unwanted News" I find I am in recovery mode.  Dealing with fallout, processing this new reality, grieving the loss of a dream, and accepting this new (unwanted) season of winter.

How to recover from a storm?

I tend to manage the physical aspects (if any) first, and then work on my heart.  This time around I am learning that I am a lousy manager for myself.  I don't take care of myself well because I'm impatient.  I want my body to mirror someone else's life.  I want my emotions to move in fast forward.

I want it all to be gone.  The experiences, the pain, and the loss to all melt into the past and be forgotten.  I don't want the slow process of working through sadness on a daily basis.  No one WANTS that.  Slow processing feels slightly akin to torture.  Emotionally you are regurgitating your grief hour by hour.  Mentally you are running out of stamina for the journey.  You are worn down physically as well.  Spiritually you are out of fresh perspectives that make reliving the pain worth it.  

All you have is a pile of ashes and not one iota of an idea of what to do with this mess.  Everything, inside and out, just sits there like dammed up water.  Both held in place slowly leaking out (often at random and inconvenient times).

No one wants this, but this is the journey of sorrow.  This is the suffering, pain, grief, hurts that we humans all carry.  Sometimes acute, other times cold, typically calloused over until they are numb.  We all carry pain and we all walk through times of deep sorrow.  

I believe that it is important on this journey to remember that I, you, and y'all are not alone.

You may FEEL alone.  You may LOOK alone.  You may even THINK you're alone.  But you aren't.  This is what I tell myself often: "you are not the first person in history to experience this pain"  Doesn't really help my heart, but it does put my struggles into a better perspective.  I am not alone in this world, and also that I am never alone in Christ.

HE IS WITH ME.  Every step of this season of recovery is marked with His footsteps and mine.  With every step I take, God is beside, behind, in front of, beneath, and above me.  He constantly surrounds me with His mercy and grace.  And those are things I need desperately while in recovery mode.

05 August 2014

Unwanted News

I have recently received some unwanted news.  The kind where you attend the appointment expecting the typical protocol and instead you get concerns and unanswered questions.  You expected what everyone would expect from this meeting, but you are handed news that suddenly sets you apart from everyone else. The results aren't what you want.  The reading isn't clear.  The progress isn't on track. Typical becomes atypical.  Expectations are dashed to pieces.  As you walkout of the office and to your car, sorrow buckles in next to you for the drive home. 

It's a good thing you always keep a box of tissues in the car.  You cry out for help, understanding, and ultimately for rescue.  You believe there is One mighty and great who can eliminate this disaster.  There is a God that can make all things right.  Good wins (eventually) and hearts get mended (in time).  It is to Him you pray, beg, and plead for the circumstances to change.  It is to Him, your friend, that you make your appeal.  

And after your emotions rage, you begin to remember truth, He is sovereign.  He is strong, but He is also working for your whole good.  He can heal, but that may not be in His plan.  He can rescue/deliver, but what would we learn in the process?

As I grieve the unwanted news I try to consistently remember the word "theology".  Theology is what gets you through the hard days.  It's what carries you when your emotions are unsteady and untrustworthy.  It's what you pour into your heart when the waters are calm, knowing you will be surviving on it during the next storm.  

Often theology can be seen as a cheap band-aid placed on a gaping wound.  It can sound so heartless and cold.  It can be a filler when you don't know what to say.  It can be used poorly toward those in tough places.  I used to find it both irritating and incomprehensible.  Often asking, why would people say that?  or this means nothing to me right now!

 But to those who have laid a foundation of proper theology down deep in their hearts, it is life.  There is hope and joy in being pointed toward unwavering truths of who God is and what He promises His children.  It is like a familiar sweatshirt or blanket.  It didn't used to be.  But I have been changed.  Now when I am redirected, even in grief, back to truth, now it comforts my heart and brings peace.

Unwanted news is still unwanted.  But I can see now that I am able to (eventually + slowly) take it in and balance it's heaviness with the weight of His glory and the ease of His yoke.  

29 July 2014

Post and Panel

The Pastor at my church recently talked of life as a fence (starting at 21 minutes).  There are turning points, milestones, and those are like the posts of a fence.  Few and far between.  After every post comes a season of walking out that choice, or waiting, or the beginning of a new adventure.  These are the panels.  He said our lives are a series of post, panel, post, panel, post, etc.  We move from one major decision to the in-between to the next overwhelming circumstance to the waiting and so on.  Ups and downs.  Starts and stops.  Post, panel, post, panel, post...

Recently I had an experience that I haven't walked through in several years.  Watching the scene unfold was watching a post be placed in my life.  Milestone.  Turning point.  A day you always remember.  I was in shock and filled with joy.  To watch myself walk this road again, it was like a dream, only better.

I have spent many moments since pondering my last post.  Years ago, when the previous post was driven into the ground, who was I then?  Who am I now as I watch the new post settle into place?  What have a learned these past few years?  How have I grown?  Am I more mature?  More settled?  More bold?  If the panel had never existed, if there was post after post, what would I have missed?  How has my view of God widened/deepened?  Am I rooted?  Was I rooted back then?

I agree with Pastor, we only get a few moments in life to look back and accurately see our journey.  To have a mountain-top perspective on our lives is rare.  But when it comes, as it did for me a few weeks ago, I want to be ready. I want a dazzling view. I want to see a more whole me.  I want to see changes for good.  I want to be assured that my work is worth it.  I want to know that I am not the same today as I was yesterday.  

I am grateful for a opportunity to be encouraged by this perspective and experience.  I know they are both special and profound.  I can only pray that when my next post comes, the view behind me will be just as stunning.

16 July 2014

Me Too

Relocation means making new friends.  Obviously.  Another shocker.....this is neither an easy nor natural task for me.  I am challenged daily to engage in that awkward surface level conversation with strangers.  Even though I find it all very draining, this is how you begin again.  Thankfully I have found wonderful people and that helps ease the awkwardness.  

As I re-learn friendship establishing techniques, I have been frequently reminded of the most powerful words in the relationship dictionary.  These words are: "ME TOO".  

As people share their lives, experiences, opinions, and beliefs, a simple Me Too helps create a foundation of common ground.  Me Too tells them you're not only hearing but understanding.  Me Too means that their story is safe with you because it's your story as well.  Me Too invites familiarity into the conversation and exiles judgement.  Speaking Me Too plants seeds for growing a friendship.

As often as I can, I try to use my Me Too tool in conversation.  Typically there is something that is relate-able if I am willing to listen intently.  Joining in with another on their journey is one of the richest and deepest connections we have to others.  If you are bold enough to step out of your story and join in with them.  Although I often search for the Me Too moments, the risk of saying those two words is enormous.  Even silencing at times.

It takes courage to expose your self with Me Too.  It takes a willingness to be put out there.  Me Too isn't easy, but it is worth it.  Worth the awkward pause in conversation.  Worth the leap into the unknown.  Worth it.

02 June 2014

Daddy Focused

I am watching my son shadow my Husband.  

My 3.5 year old is typically found hovering around my husband.  He's talked about nonstop.  My son tells me things like, "When I get big like daddy..." or "One day when I'm a daddy I will do ...." or "I have to go to work like daddy."   They even have matching USMC shirts that they wear most Saturdays.  If daddy has a hammer, son has his hammer.  If daddy goes running, son runs too.  Daddy works out back, son is there "working" right next to him.

My son loves his father.
My son wants to be just like his daddy.

As I watch this [healthy] obsession grow I am constantly struck by how little I mimic my son.  We are told to be child like in the 18th chapter of Matthew.  Yet the older I get the more I find myself unlike children.

I don't long for time with my heavenly Father.  I don't usually talk about him incessantly.  I don't picture myself being an imitation of Him.  I'm not nearly as captivated by Him as I could be.  Not anywhere near the intensity that my son has for his daddy.

As I watch my son shadow my Husband I am reminded of my own heart's desires and contentment being pulled away from my heavenly Father.  My focus turns only toward the tangible.  Worry slowly creeps into my thinking.  The troubles I see pull me from God's presence.  Prayers slow to a trickle and become both powerless and lifeless.  The destructive habit of intense naval gazing severs seeing the eternal.  Hopelessness sets in deep.     

All of this because I stop child-like adoration of my God.  My Father becomes uninteresting and distant and slow.  I loose my focus, zeal, and love dwindles.

As I watch my son shadow my Husband I pray earnestly for the same kind of heart toward my Father.  I want to be like Him.  I want to mimic Him.  I want Him to be the focus of the day.  I want Him to be all of my world.

25 February 2014

Anonymous + Winter

I am re-reading Anonymous for the {maybe?} third time.  I believe it is essential to the season I am walking through.  With our recent change of location has come an instant "Winter" for my soul.  Nearly everything that was a "leaf" to me, everything that comforted and nourished my soul, has been left behind.  Places I treasured are no longer easily accessible.  People I counted on to help fortify my days and weeks are now long distance.  Surroundings, relationships, and history have all been removed.  My branches are bare and I am in deep Winter.  Soul hibernation.

Chole speaks in Anonymous of the beauty and significance of Winter seasons.  She talks of roots growing deeper and stronger.  She says bare seasons hold value in our lives for shaping us.  Winter forges in us a core of perseverance, integrity, reliance on God, humility, and self-discipline.  She writes as though she hopes everyone will be able to experience Winter.  She's nearly enthusiastic about Winter.  

I can not say that I share her adoration of Winter.  The hard times, the loneliness, the stretching, the thinning, and the loss is so very painful.  However, I can say that I believe Chole is spot on.  When all is removed and your foundation is exposed...oh dear me...there is much exposed.  Only in the stillness of Winter can you see your shallow and misplaced roots.  

Winter brings a rebuilding of the soul, pruning of non-essentials, reordering of priorities, a rebirth of deep longings, and intensified passions.  I believe that Winter is reducing my frivolous baggage I have accumulated and is enlarging my heart to accept more of the eternal.  My heart is being tenderized as it relinquishes this bulky baggage.  

When  I've released comparison, I have picking up courage.  
As I've mourned the loss of dreams, I have found a renewed compassion. 
When I choose to walk away from what the culture demands of me, I gain freedom.  
As I give voice to truth, I slay lies about not having value.

Every exchange is making my heart healthier, solidifying my faith, teaching me to how to war against the sin and weights that easily tangle me up.  Oh Winter.  Bittersweet Winter.  Although I find Winter to be unfun...I take heart that after Winter comes the Spring.  

{am I ever looking forward to Spring!}

04 February 2014

Woman at the Well

I've been reading the Bible passage about the Women at the well and Jesus transforming interaction with her and her town.

This passage grips me.  I read it daily for a week, I try to read something else, I return, I cry each time.  The account is deeply moving.  Jesus, tired from traveling, sits at a well one evening.  A woman comes to draw water.  Their conversation is breathtakingly beautiful.

She's an outcast.  So is He.
She knows a religion.  A religion He's beginning to deconstruct.
She can see with her eyes, but not her heart.  He sees everything.
She has made choices that damage.  He is her healer.
She pulls the race card.  He blows it all away.
She's honest.  So is He.
She's reserving judgement on His claims.  He is patient with her unbelief.
She is thirsty.  He has living water.

All of these, and more, are speaking to my heart.  A woman that I never saw as someone I could learn from, is teaching me much.  I'm not a woman who's divorced 5 times, nor am I an outcast in a small town.  But, like her, I too plant myself firmly in man-made ways and miss the fresh work of God that is stirring right in front of me.  

God was in front of her.  He was face to face with her.  He spoke life to her.  But she was too distracted with cultural expectations to SEE anything else, even the Messiah.  This woman must have been greatly damaged by her community's unloving ways.  

Too fragile to boldly proclaim God's arrival in her town. 
Too broken to know acceptance.
Too trampled on to have her testimony believed.  
Too scorned to be vulnerable with her Redeemer.

I am seeing her with fresh eyes.  My heart breaks for her story.  I am learning lots about seeing and listening for God in all of my day.  And I am learning about letting go of religious ways and embracing the abiding presence of Christ.

14 January 2014

Thoughts on Upheaval

In December my family and I relocated.  We went from Virginia to Colorado.  Needless to say it has been quiet the time of change.  Virginia and Colorado are not very similar.  We only know 2 people here, my In Laws.  We are restarting from scratch. Whole new life, location, and future.

Can I just say that it is hard!  Transition is tough and un-fun and stress-filled.  I am grateful to the family and friends that are praying with us, sustaining us with their digital presence, and cheering us forward in what God has for us.  So very grateful to our community.

Hindsight being 20/20, here are a few thoughts for those about to enter a season of upheaval:
  • Pour all you have, and a little more, into friendships now. We all need community [which is deathly slow to build]. Keep up with those that are your core friendships. Keep them close. Because transition will have you leaning heavily on those who know you to support you. You will need them dearly so make sure they are around.
  • Start praying for church, home, and friendships now. It's never too early to start making those requests known to God. I firmly believe our year of prayer has made this time smoother.
  • Change is hard!!!!!! I can't say this enough. Some days are easier than others. Overall it is tough and the enemy wants you to fail at it (or at least feel like a failure at it). It's not easy and nothing will be simple. It is a challenge. 
  • Give yourself grace. Tell yourself often that it will improve by this time next year. 
  • Don't rush yourself into making life just like it was. And yet seek a rhythm to maintain consistency of days.
  • Get a really good haircut just before you leave, it will be the last thing on your to-do list after moving.
  • Pay for activities (I hate to say this since I am against paying for organized chaos). Get the kids out of the house and into fun (swim, gym, music, whatever). It will help make friendships, get you out of the house (unpacking can be crazy-inducing), and provide the much needed energy burn.
  • Save money, because it's expensive.
  • Save money to return. To help with the change, go back home. I am planning to return once a year.  I need to go back and see people face to face. It won't help me feel planted, but it will help my heart feel grounded.
  • Talk often of the change and the challenges as a family. 
  • Pack your beds + bedding last, that way you can make sure you have a real bed to sleep in the very first night in your home. Coffee maker is also a good last thing to pack.
  • Have prayer support. Hefty prayer is helpful. People you can reach out to when you are down/low and can speak truth to your heart to uplift your spirit and encourage your steps towards God.  This is essential.