Wipe Your “But” & Say Your Prayers

Two nights ago I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. This is not unusual. As I laid there, I had a waterbed moment. You remember the waterbed, right? Fall into one and it’s delightful, at first. Then, strangely, it transforms, and the fluffy rolling turns thick and heavy, like quick sand. The more you squirm the more it pulls you down. When you determine you want to get out, prepare to fight. It’s a strenuous exercise. That’s how my mind works on nights like these. It rolls over a thought, fine at first, but soon the thought is replaced by a worry and whoosh, waterbed moment.

I’ll be candid. I was worrying about my oldest chickling. It’s a regular thing for us parents; to worry, to obsess, to fight fears with swords. But something happened this past year that sent this mama’s worrymometer skyrocketing into the red zone. And ever since, sleeplessness is my pal. Here’s the scoop: the chickling spread her wings and flew the coop. This is great, you might say, the natural order of things. Except, it wasn’t that great for me. She left before I hoped. All the things I dreamed we would share during her final year at home were suddenly gone. She left before the smoke dissipated from the candles on her 18th birthday cake. That was 10 months ago.

All year long I’ve been peeking between two fingers at parents of chicklings ruffling their feathers. I’ve watched them prepping to reach the blessed Day of Pinnacle and send their precious cherubs into the world. I’ve watched many put their basket (baby) in the water and send them off. Although I hoped to put my basket in at the same time, that’s not how it worked out.

This is a tiny glimpse of my story this year. I wonder about your story this year. At some point, now or later, our hopes get dashed. Although my deferred hope might look different than yours I’m certain the feeling is pretty mutual. It hurts. Maybe you’ve found yourself peeking between two fingers too.  We all have unfulfilled longings:

The happy marriage

The healthy body.

The successful business.

The popular person.

The beautiful new baby.

The privileged countryman.

We tend to peek at the world through our lens of hope. We desire. We dream. We pray. And when our hearts ache with longing we peek with wonder as we wait for the passing, the healing, the fulfillment.

Perhaps someday I’ll draft a fancy blog post title like Five Lessons I Learned on Parenting a Prodigal. Maybe not. All I really know, for today, is that this little midnight story is one I should share.

So, it’s the middle of the night and I’m laying in bed worrying. I’m talking to God. This is not unusual. It’s conversational. I keep rewording my worry in new and different ways. It feels as though I’m shouting into the Grand Canyon and I can hear my voice echo, reverberating against the Rock. It’s not very quiet in my head. And I find myself responding to each echo with “But what if…”

But what if…

But what if…

But what if…

I’ve created a chorus in the canyon. A crescendo. Then clear as a Sunday morning church bell I hear God say, “Wipe your but.”

Huh?

I stop thrashing in my waterbed. Everything stills. Wipe: Get rid of, remove it, cleanse and dispose.

Oh.

I roll over in bed. The bathroom’s night light filters into my room through the darkness. I stare at the particles of light that fall like dust upon the fixtures in my room. Everything looks different, darkly. I see my shadowy lamp and the light transforms the image…these birds…and the Voice reminds me,

“Look at the birds, see how I take care of them…you’re worth way more!” 

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The reminder is a promise. And I think I understand what I’m supposed to do. Stop worrying. Keep praying. Recycle each and every “But what if…” with a promise. It’s an exchange, of sorts. As I lay there I begin to think of other promises:

For I know the plans I have for your chickling, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans of hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)

Seek God first and then he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased)

You are chosen and belong. (1 Peter 2:9 paraphrased)

This I know: I am not a daughter with out hope. My God sees all, knows all, and loves more fully than I can comprehend. Heart sickness may hurt for a while. But “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I believe it. Do you?

So, for today: Relinquish the worry. Replace with a promise. Wipe your “but” & say your prayers.



Book Lovers: My Top Reads for Summer

I’m on a summer reading adventure. This season it’s all about Memoir, for me. Here’s my stack, recently checked out from the library. If you need me, I’ll be reading (among other things).

 

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Memoirs I’m Reading

 

Summer is a wonderful haven for book lovers. But no two readers are alike. So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. First, my fiction list. These are a sampling of novels that stole my heart in some way, shape or form. Among this list you’ll find romance, historical, triller, biblical (yes, it’s a thing), and young adult.

 

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My Fave Fiction Titles

 

And now, here’s a stack of some non-fiction loves. Some are newer than others. Each have inspired me during different seasons of life. I hope you find one that meets you in your place, too.

 

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My Inspiring Non-Fiction Picks

 

Aside from reading, I’ll be writing. I’m spending time on crafting something new. So, I’m going to give this blog space a little vaca break…for the summer.

Love to you, enjoy a good book. xo



Fooled by hope. Let go & live!

First, there is hope.

The pain lasted only twenty-four hours; slow and steady, beginning with a dull ache, increasing with time towards a series of sharp, breathless exchanges. I pushed hard for nine minutes. Only nine. Then, there was love. A bundle of new life; not my own, swaddled, purposely placed upon my chest, flesh upon flesh. My own; but not my own.

Visions of glory cyclone like a wand of colorful ribbons. In the beginning I can only imagine glory to glory to glory for this flesh upon my flesh. The years drop like rain, passing quickly. I’ve seen other visions through the years too; from the corner of my eye some come darkly. And when they do I draw my sword, I swoop, and I slay. For that is what I must do, my duty to keep the love alive.

A million little hopes have lolled in my mind, through the years, with these little loves. Oh, small “h” hope, I’ve learned so much from you. What shall I tell the wise world about you? Things I now know: That you are an imposter, fooling around. That you are but a leaky cistern. That your un-fulfillment hurts like hell. That though I’ve rather enjoyed looking to you for oh-so-many-things, you are now becoming dead to me. Small “h” hope cannot hold my love, no more.

 

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Then, there is Hope.

That’s right. Two kinds: One is proper, the other is not. Both are like mirrors reflecting light, but neither are the same. One is everlasting, the other is not. Capital “H” Hope is living and active and without end. It is Rock solid trust in an honest God. A house unmovable where disappoint and disillusion and cultural approval shall not enter. Capital “H” Hope is for holy things; set apart from the temporal, circumstantial, and systemic flow.

Man alive; coming to terms, defining these Hope filled and hope fueled worlds have cost me something greatly. Pain galore. But I am grateful. Because now I know. I look down and see my feet, dry. I’ve crossed over Jordan, the cut -it burns- so I’ll wait… and heal. Hallelujah. The Promise is still alive, I see it glimmer on the horizon. The manna is gone. It’s only produce from here on out. Stepping out and moving on, keeping Hope alive.**[Joshua 3 – 5]

Take it from little me, I pray you’ll see…

Let go of dashed hopes – set them free.

Choose the bigger Hope – and live.  



Open Letter to the Woman Hearing Voices

Dear Sweet Starbucks Lady,

I accidentally overheard your conversation with a friend at Starbucks: the one about your marriage. I didn’t want to listen, but there was so much trouble quaking from your voice that the fingers of my spirit wouldn’t uncurl themselves from your tiny square table. I successfully looked away. But my ears did not. It seemed there was trouble in Candy Land. He was no longer the person you’d married oh-so-long-ago. The children infused distance. The job cultivated tired bones. Oh, and the money too. He was no longer the same person. You are trying, though. The both of you: counseling, is what you said.

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Still, I was listening without looking.

Then your voice shifted to low tones, just as your chair shifted against the floor. You told your friend that you’ve been hearing voices: A word, actually. This one word: Divorce. At first, it was just playing in your head like a record stuck on the same song. But then, the other day you said you heard it quite audibly. Loud. Distinct. Real. Two times you said you heard the words, “Divorce. Divorce.”

I am now listening and looking.

I watched you inch closer to your friend, you shake your head and your eyes slant in confusion. You said, “I’m not making this $*!T up!”

I felt the current of something mystical fill the air. And my stomach flips. I want to pull up a chair and tell you that you’re not crazy. Despite your friend’s advice to consider the prompting of this pushy word and move toward embracing divorce, I might lovingly encourage you to consider a few other thoughts:

  • Is the voice speaking life or death?
  • What seeds will be produced by the outcome of listening to the voice?
  • Can the Living Word back up this counsel?

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I want to encourage you, sweet Starbucks lady, that you are not alone. We all live in this world that is both physical and spiritual. And in the invisible realm there are forces of light and forces of darkness. Always at work in our lives because they have a plan. One is to bring death and destruction and confusion. The other is to bring life and fruit and freedom. If you’re feeling confused about the voice, just look at the fruit it will produce.

I pray that you will open your eyes and gain clarity, turn your head towards God and really gaze, then, listen for His voice to lead you.

Peace and Blessings,

Your Fellow Coffee Drinker

[Note: I know first hand the death of divorce. It is from this painful past that I lovingly write this letter.]



Choose Joy

Her name is Natalie Joy.

When I first met her this weekend at the Winsome Retreat in Pennsylvania I observed the most delightful woman. Smiling. Bright spirited. Joy filled. I thought to myself, surely, her name suits her well.

But later on she shared her story with me and I learned that life for Natalie has not always been filled with joy. She’s suffered a great deal, in fact, when a marriage she loved for many years ended in divorce. Natalie describes this painful season with a quake in her voice, still searching for all the right words to wrap around this hallowed ground.

It is ground, I believe, because the most raw moments in life feel so much like dirt; barren and black. And yet we know that it is only from the barren and black earth that a seed can grow.

New life emerges if the conditions are right.

The conditions, though, are often like a season of drought under the hot, sweltering sun. We know what is needed. Cleansing Rain. But the fiery trial is unrelenting, leaving us withered and tired. Where O’ where is the rain?

“I’ve discovered that when everything is taken away, when nothing is left but the core of who you are, that’s when you have to make a choice. I can either hide inside and let the fear of getting stuck by lightning paralyze me, or I can stand out in the rain to be washed free of everything but the comfort of a God who would never let me fall. I choose every day to be washed free.” -Sara Frankl

We find the rain in Isaiah 54 when the “barren” woman is encouraged to sing. We feel her pain because her barrenness is like ours. It’s every unmet longing and unanswered prayer. It’s every choking circumstance and dreadful disease. It’s every betrayal linked to our deepest fear. To sing while still and yet barren is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.

“Sing, O barren woman…” -Isaiah 54:1

We find the rain in John 11 when Jesus who is deeply troubled and moved in spirit rolls the stone away and calls his dead friend Lazarus to come out.

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” -Jesus

But not everyone who sees believes. For it is written that some scoff Jesus for allowing death and suffering (vs. 37) while others decide to see its purpose through the lens of abiding love (vs. 36). And the same is true for you and me: to see and believe in Love while the sting still and yet burns is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.

Barrenness knows of its need. Stones keep from proceeding. What response will we choose while we wait for the miracle?

When Natalie looked down at the divorce decree she stared at the empty box awaiting an inky name. She says she knew in that moment that she needed to choose a new name: Joy. It was the only way to begin again. The conditions were right.

Dear friends, may you sing your heart out despite the barrenness. Take off the grave clothes and believe. And may you always remember to…choosejoy

Amen.

(Side Note: Needing to define your joy and clarify your purpose? Check out Natalie’s business here.)