How Could I Ask For More?

So the trees were all there dancing in the breeze.  Rustling their leaves above the noises of kids playing well below their branches while the moon looked on and the sun fell.

I stood still.  Scared any movement would frighten this moment away.  I struggle living in the moment.  But the moment had me wrapped up in its tangles and I was in no rush to break free.

Our Lenten gratitude ribbons danced on the gate in their blues and greens and pinks and yellows and inspired little bit to her own free-form, wind-blown dance.

I felt such utter gratitude, in the deepest marrow of my bones, as I breathed it all in.

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Grateful for little tee-ball players rounding their first bases of the season.

Grateful for snatches of real conversation held with friends so dear to me over the melee of children’s banter.

Grateful for a church committed to the neighbors on their street and the ones all the way over in Kenya.

Grateful for a husband home safely smelling of the land and sporting three day stubble.

Grateful for the first swim of the spring and the pink cheeks reflecting hours soaking up the sun.

Grateful for children who listened and obeyed and laughed and played and helped and worked and slept and swam and ate and danced and prayed.

Grateful for even the bloodied lip because it meant we were alive and dirty and playing and falling down and getting back up to do it all over again.

 

A song played on college radio two decades ago, and it ran on repeat in my head tonight.  It’s all I could think.  It’s all I can say…

There’s nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand
Kissing mama’s face goodnight and holding daddy’s hand
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?

Loss and Life

 

tulipsYesterday was sad.

Sad and happy.

Dark and light.

I’d been praying for this one friend.  Every morning believing for big miracles.  You see, for all my childhood up close and personal with divorce, I haven’t seen a lot of it in adulthood.  Not up close with those dearest to me.  And her news this weekend of packing her things had me down on the floor.  Heart rending with hers.

Then another dear one to me facing death up close and personal again.

I then I read about this momma who has led a brave, press into Jesus, fight against C lost her battle.  In lieu of flowers you can help support the four littles she had to leave.

And I swing wildly at the skies and cry on Bray’s chest and beg the God of all mercy to pull back a little of that veil between there and here so I can understand or put words to the heartbreak and questions and gulf of sorrow.

I kept moving.  It was Sunday and I had life and I was grateful, so we planted.  I took the eldest and we bought these boxwood plants and filled up the empty bed at the front of my house that now welcomes neighbors over.  He picked out happy yellow and white blooms to settle in front of our tree.  We dug holes and I was muddy earth from head to toe.

I took the youngest to the grocery and we bought food we could grill outside and picked out big beautiful fruit.  He asked to buy flowers to set in a vase on our beat up kitchen table, and I said, sure, because we should do that today and not wait until we’ve saved more money.

We all five sat outside and ate our juicy burgers and thanked our God for the life He has allowed us to live that involves new growth and messy faces.  We tied our Lenten thankfulness ribbons around the gate with simple offerings of gratitude that nearly leveled me all over again.

I read these words out of the pages of my Bible early this morning, these words of a prophet speaking life over a broken community commanding them to “Be Strong!”   He says:

This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’  This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.  I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2)

I don’t understand why and I haven’t seen past that veil, but I know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28) and I will trust that and say thank you for every spot of dirt and tulip bloom I have.

The Construction Site

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This is a picture just outside my office.  I’m working in a brand new office building this year.  A new campus.  It’s lovely.

Well, parts of it are.  The gym is finished and amazing.  The main food court is completed and serving a global explosion of cuisine.  Most of my building is done, but on my walk to the front door each day I pass ten feet tall safety fences and PPE-required signs while men in hardhats make sure I don’t cross the barrier to the unfinished.

This muddy mucky construction mess is my view for a few more months.  Even as I walk out of a break room with freshly ground coffee and into a conference room with state of the art technology.

It’s unfinished.

I sat staring out at the scaffolding and thought how much it resembled my life.

There are really pretty parts of my life.  I have a good faithful husband and three healthy kids.  (They’re the tricked out conference room.)  I have a great job I enjoy and work with people who have become personal friends.  (They’re the freshly ground coffee.)  I get to write books and blogs and kind people have me come and encourage audiences of women to lead well and hang in there.  (That’s the new building.)

But it seems there’s muddy mucky scaffolding over other areas still raw and undone and into which you should not wander without full personal protective equipment.

Areas like unloading the worst of myself on my husband and kids even though they love me more than anyone.  Areas like lacking self-control about what I spend or what I eat or what words I choose to use.  Areas like offering up judgment instead of mercy and inflexibility instead of forgiveness and selfishness over service.

Yuck.

Even surveying all that mud and debris and piles of unfinished material, I hope.

I still hope.

Unveiled Faces

I serve a II Corinthians 3 God that offers hope of transformation day-by-day.  A transformation that leads to ever-increasing glory; His glory:

Such confidence we have through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God…For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold… Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

We know that the construction at long last will be done.  The scaffolding comes down.  The fences are packed away.  The dirt is replaced with lush grass and trees.  The roar of power tools is replaced with birdsong.

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Every day I walk to work and see the progress.  And every morning I wake and see a new thing He is doing in me and know there is progress.  It’s slow, but it’s worth the wait.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

On Bones, and Wood, Down Here At The Farm

He picked up the bone muddied with wear, “Is this wood?”

“No buddy, that’s from a cow, probably his leg.  But it sort of looks like wood after being out all this time in the weather.”

“I sure wouldn’t want wood in my body, mom.”  I agreed and we wandered through a conversation about historical artificial legs made from wood.

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The wind whipped our faces, a reminder that the day wasn’t as harmless as the sky led us to believe.

Our feet crunched on the gravel road as we picked our way back from the hay barn to the main farmhouse.  As boys are prone to do, he discovered another interesting artifact largely obscured by the clover.  He held it up proudly for my inspection.

“Set that down.  It’s sharp and rusty metal, we don’t want to have to go in for a tetanus shot.”

It’s rare this time, just he and I.  One brother was feeding cattle with daddy on the tractor.  Sister was settled into grandmother’s art studio over the hay.  We talked about the time daddy had to get a tetanus shot in the emergency room and about where we might find the crayons to make a picture and about all the clovers that peppered the cold acreage.

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The children had danced in all day with fistfuls of clover flowers which began to overfill the little glass we used for a vase.

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Grandfather happened by on the four-wheeler, and as his offer was a ride to feed the cattle, I lost out and found myself making the last leg of the journey alone.

There was a bi-plane in the distance.  Wind you could hear blowing through the trees.  A cow mooing.

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Alone feels good here.  Restorative.

I had a call on Friday that unsettled me.  I sat with the unknown and found tears leaking out late into the night.  I thought I’d be more scared of the quiet, but here I stood craving it.

I heard his refrain, “I wouldn’t want wood in my body.”  I imagined I wouldn’t either though I’ve certainly settled for a heart of stone, head full of nonsense and eating trash.  But wood?

I imagined those men of old, losing a leg to war or disease, and grateful for the wooden part fashioned to help them balance and walk.  And I could hear Jesus saying to those listening to Him speak, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” (Mark 8:34)  I wonder if there’s not some balance that worn old cross would give my life if I took up that wood and followed Him wherever He set out each morning?  I wonder if the longer I took up that cross if my bones might begin to look more like wood too?  If someone wandering by might look over and say, “is this wood?,” and I could reply with eyes dancing, “Yes, yes it’s the cross.”

I don’t know about a body full of wood, but a body relying on the old wood of the cross might be exactly what we should crave.

Lent To Me

I grew up in churches but not in ones that emphasized Lent.  I really don’t remember hearing it taught until maybe sometime in law school.  Even for years after that it never really impacted me (maybe because there was no Facebook with everyone posting about what they were giving up!).  I’d grown up with Good Friday and Easter Sunday but not paying that much attention to the 40 days before.

Recently, I’ve paid more attention.  But never more than this year.  You see, I’m up early this morning writing this post and spending time praying over what these next 40 days would reveal.  I’m a big fan of those Biblical 40 day periods.  I’ve even written a 40 day marriage preparatory devotional that might see the light of day one of these days.  I love how God uses that time period to transform.  To grow.  To commission.

The 40 day period that comes to mind during this start of the 40 day Lenten season is the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before He began His ministry.  You can read about it in Matthew 4, but we see that it is a hard season filled not only with prayer and fasting but also with some pretty hard tests, tests maybe some of us can even relate to (tests of pride, tests of physical will power, tests of even proving yourself).

I read this yesterday on a blog I don’t even know how I found, and it struck a nerve, “Friends, Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue: we are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way. The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from our dead-end devices. We turn away from the false, and we turn to the True. We turn our face, attention, interest, energy, and all our will towards the face of God.  Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our heart, sears our conscience, and darkens our mind. Our eyes and words turn haughty. We compare and despair and bemoan. We are easily offended, greedy for affirmation and self-justification. We seek our will be to done, grumbling and blaming when it isn’t. Sin hides God’s true image from the world that he loves. We desperately need a time of focused heart examination because sin – whose property is always to destroy and separate – will steadily suck our spirits dry to the bone.  The point of Lent, then, is not to give up chocolate or Cabernet or chips, but to give up sin!”

That’s a tall order.  But one I decided to place.

Rarely are we offered a season where we are given the opportunity to clean out our souls like we spring clean our houses.  We have been given 40 days to look at all the clutter and all the things that so easily entangle us and keep us from running the race that He has set out for us (Hebrews 12).

During a season where the church universal mourns the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians, we should also mourn how we, in a nation that affords us every freedom, have become lukewarm and unaffected by our faith.  There’s nothing worse (Rev. 3:16).  We’re unaffected and unmoved and that should become unacceptable during this season of searching our souls.

I am giving some things up starting today.  I’m also beginning some new things.  I pray for the discipline to continue through this season faithful to my commitments.

Kristin Schell wrote a beautiful post on Lent and what it is and offers up some great resources to if you want to dig deeper this season.