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Oh, lovely day

Feb

15

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 | 4 comments

i.

Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.

 

I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.

 

Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.

 

There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.

 

For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.

 

Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.

 

So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.

 

Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close. 

 

I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.

 

The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders.  But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.

 

ii.

If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.

 

Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.

 

I thought about Sarah often throughout the day, all of it a testament to her strength and resolve. Teary moments threatened a few times, but I banished them quickly. There’s a time for all that, but not during the Valentine Tea. In a gesture to bind together old tradition with new, I read the intro from Emilie Barnes, “An Invitation to Tea.” It perfectly expresses the heart of our Tea, and Sarah had always included it.

 

I wish I had taken more pictures, but here’s the thing about that: I haven’t figured out how to be fully present and live behind a camera. It’s one or the other but not both. The more accurate thought is I wish I had more pictures, but my mind’s eye still sees each precious face and my soul remembers every connection.

And, this, to me, is where Body Life is so beautiful–I don’t think we ever necessarily talked about God but we flat out lived it. Not to pat ourselves on the back – good googlie-mooglie, heaven forbid that! – but sometimes we need to recognize that living the gospel IS preaching the gospel, and all at once this little tea party tradition sparked something new in my heart, and I’m curious if it will smolder to ashes or blaze into fire.

 

Time tells that kind of thing. If it’s the real deal it’ll burn.

 

iii.

 

Can you scooch over here and let me admit something? I’m not quite sure how to say it, and I sincerely, truly, really really hope you hear me….

 

I’m worried some people who find their way to these words will feel their eyes turning green. Maybe they’ll wish they could’ve been there or feel void in their own lives, or maybe they’ll compare home or friends or gifts, or, I don’t know what, but click away from the page feeling less than or lonely.

 

If that’s you, darling…and I say this gently but firmly: stop it.

 

That’s the enemy of your heart talking, and I promise, his is a convincing voice. Don’t believe the lies.

 

I’ve felt the angst of all that. I’ve swum those dark waters.

 

I have wasted years wanting things never intended for me.

 

Wasted. Years.

 

I loathe a victim mentality. What I hadn’t realized was me envying or coveting what someone else had was me playing the victim. Blech. The wallow is an ugly thing and accomplishes the work of your enemy by distracting you from the Lord has for you.

 

For you.

 

Be the one to BE the one. Ask a neighbor to come over and serve her leftovers for lunch; she cares more about time together than what it is you’re serving. Get a group of people together to go see a movie and dessert after. Stop wanting what other people have and create community by gathering together the people who are already around you.

 

Bloom where you’re planted. If you can’t be with the ones you “love,” love the ones you’re with. Okay…so now I’m resorting to song titles and clichés, but if the shoe fits wear it. (I’ll stop now…. ~ smile ~ )

 

Give from your void.

 

Give.

 

We could mine the spiritual dimensions of all this til the end of time – thoughts on contentment and joy and satisfaction and a million other things, but I’ll leave it at give to give and not give to get. I’m convinced that giving to give (glory to God, blessing to others…) brings greater gain than giving to get could ever accomplish.

 

The Valentine Tea Party is about giving who I am and what I have, which gives glory to God. The gain to me is an abundant satisfaction in learning that me being me is more than enough. It’s what the Lord has been trying to teach me for a long, long while. He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of, you know, creating me, if I didn’t matter to this world.

 

The same applies to you.

 

Click away knowing that who you are is more than enough, and get busy discovering who and what it is that God is prompting in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Runs Through Your Mind When You Wake Up At Night?

Jan

28

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 | 1 comment

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

As We Think, So We Do

For years I’ve battled insomnia, trouble with both going to and staying asleep. Over the past six months I’ve seriously addressed it every way I know how–medically, physically, holistically, alternatively, and spiritually (prayers welcome), and while my sleep quality has improved slightly, it’s still an issue. It’s not a question of whether or not I’ll wake up between Bedtime and Rise and Shine, it’s how many times will I awaken.
On good nights I’m able to fall back to sleep relatively quickly, but the roughest nights have me tossing and turning for hours (yes, I know I should get up for a change of scenery, but apparently knowing what I should do doesn’t necessarily translate into doing it–a whole ‘nother post for another time.).

When I’m wide awake at two in the morning it usually goes like this:

  1. Relax and try to keep the dream you were just dreaming going, to fool yourself into thinking you’re still asleep.
  2. Get mad because you can’t even remember the dream, but you know it was a good one and you want to know how it ends.
  3. Become increasingly irritated that you’re awake.
  4. Decide to take advantage of being awake by praying for every person on your prayer list, and even a few more who come to mind…

and it is right about there my mind begins to wander off track (anyone relate…?).

Recently I’ve been convicted about the direction my thoughts were taking. A new series I discovered on Netflix offered a steady diet of…

 

Click here to continue reading As We Think, So We Do over at {in}courage today.
I think most of us can relate…

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Culinary Catastrophes (Why They’re Actually Good)

Jan

10

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 | 2 comments

 

It occurred to me recently how there’s value in our mess-ups: they’ll often sear memory, and in the best of times they can point us to something magnificent.

 

Mess-ups…mistakes are hard to forget. The more public, the more memorable.

On a spiritual level, mistakes and failed effort point me back to my need for Christ. It’s really that simple. He already is what I will never be – perfect; and He has already accomplished what is impossible for me despite my best effort (all of us) – reconciled me to God.

My mess-ups (my sin) reveal my inadequacies in every area of my life, and because God has set eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11a) – because He has set eternity in my heart, I want to be right with Him. If I were already perfect, why would I need the atoning, redeeming, complete work of Christ on the cross and beyond?

I have zero aspirations for perfection, but increasingly, I’m drawn to the perfection of Jesus. His ways were not ordinary and His model of perfection wasn’t tidy; he certainly didn’t behave the way a King would be expected. But He never wavered in His purpose while on earth, to serve and love and lead us in the way to light and life.

Beyond a spiritual, deeper consideration of mess-ups, can we agree that on a superficial level oopsies are awesome?

 

Isn’t this why we love America’s Funniest Home Videos, why we can’t get enough of our favorite TV show’s outtakes and blooper reels, why videos go viral?

 

When we blow it, we make fantastic memories. 

 
 
Because I love to cook and bake, some of my more memorable mess-ups occurred in the kitchen:

Like the time I made a peach pie for a friend going through chemo and I added salt to the pie dough. My flour was stored in a canister on the counter (not in a bag) and I didn’t realize it was self rising and already had salt. I had made two pies – one for my friend and one for us – so I realized the mistake with the first bite. I still remember Dan’s congenial thank you note: “…and thank you for the slightly saline peach pie….”  Trust me, there was nothing “slightly saline” about it. No doubt he appreciated the effort, and my “oops” made it all the more memorable.

And the time at Thanksgiving when most all my husband’s side of the family traveled hours to our home. To keep things simple, and because there were lots of cooks in our kitchen that day, I planned on using the glaze packet that came with our store-bought spiral ham (typically, I made my own glaze). However, apparently I couldn’t read that day, and I set our microwave for minutes instead of the seconds it recommended. We heard a small explosion coming from our laundry room (where the microwave lived), and the glaze had exploded inside, “baking” onto the oven’s interior. There was no cleaning or wiping or scraping off the sweet resin. We had to buy a new microwave.

 

But my worst “culinary catastrophe” happened years ago at a supper club with friends. I hope you’ll read The Dessert Disaster, a story I shared at Grace Table.

I doubly hope you’ll tell me about your own kitchen disaster.
Or, if you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear your stories
of how a personal mistake or mess-up pointed you to God.
DO comment here or there!!

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Our Beautiful Beginning

Dec

29

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 | 1 comment

 

I want to push you, gently but sure.

Not in the way that bruises knees and pride but in the way a mama bird nudges her lovies out of the nest. She knows they’re capable of doing so much more, that they only need a little encouragement. Mama knows they’ll soon find out she wasn’t being mean after all, that she just wanted them to experience Great Things, Wide Open Spaces . . . and what they were designed to do.

And it hits me, that in this nudging, mothers share a kinship with God (though mamas push and God “pulls”). Isn’t it when we seek God and walk in obedience that we discover our calling and begin to live with passion and purpose?

It slays me to know I’m created in the image of God; I can barely think on it. I don’t think it’s possible to comprehend fully all it means.

If we’re called to be imitators of Christ, to look like the One whose image we bear, what does that mean? What are the first qualities that come to your mind? To love lavishly and without condition? To forgive freely even when you’ve been wronged? To serve sacrificially and to consider others’ preferences above your own?

There’s another attribute of God I’d like us to consider together: creativity.

Your potential to create.

God’s creative nature is revealed from the moment we open a Bible.

 

“In the beginning God created . . .” (Genesis 1:1)

Then, a few verses later, He describes the creation of man: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . ” and then how He fulfills it: “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God . . .” (Genesis 1:26-27). 

Because we’re created in the image of God Himself, we’re inherently creative. 

 

Our Beautiful Beginning continues at {in}courage.
I hope you’ll add your thoughts to the comment thread–
I can hear bravery and boldness stirring…. 🙂

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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 | 4 comments

God_is_at_work_even_when_you_cant_see_him_RobinDance

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —

“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”

I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.

It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.

Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.

I’ve hated it.

But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose

Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.

 

And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.

Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.

———-

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.

What . . . you, too? 🙂

It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:

  • The temptation to teach more than we know.
  • The capacity to mislead.
  • The capacity to be misled.
  • The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.

And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.

———-

It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.

Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: 

Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage.
It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of us….

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