June 28, 2012

Twenty Years

Yesterday my man and I celebrated our anniversary.  Our twentieth anniversary.  Twenty years.  I can hardly believe we've been married that long.  How quickly time has slipped past us.  The years of sharing life together have flown by at record speed.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I first gave him my heart.  I was a young, starry-eyed girl of sixteen and completely smitten.  We were juniors in high school and he asked me to the prom and what was really only meant to be a date to the dance, turned into the rest of our lives.

Looking back, I realize how very young we were when we fell in love.  Barely even old enough to know what love was.  We were just kids.  And now, here we are in our forties, still crazy-in-love, with two kids of our own.  Season after season and year after year, we've grown up together and covered a lot of ground.  Twenty years is a lot of time to learn how to love someone well.

Our love for each other and our commitment to us has been tested and tried in the fires of life.  We've fought and made peace.  We've ached and found healing.  We've cried and laughed more.  We've wrestled, only to grow.  We've lost and won big.  And by the grace of God, though many marriages have fallen apart around us, ours has miraculously grown stronger and deeper.  Truer and richer.  Refined by the flames instead of destroyed by them.  Truly the work of our great and loving and generous God.

Happy Anniversary, my Love.  There is no one I would rather be sharing this life with than you. You have my heart and I know I have yours as well.  I look forward, with great hope and anticipation, to the next twenty plus years of our life together and I imagine them to be our best years yet.


June 15, 2012

Just Write

Standing at the laundry closet folding the warm, soft-scented clothes as I pull them out of the dryer, I'm going through the motions of an ordinary, almost daily task, but as I work, my mind and heart are somewhere else.  I'm lost in thought and deep in a conversation with Jesus about my writing.  It sounds a bit like this...

"Jesus, I want to write.  I'm ready to write.  Not just privately in my journal, but out there wherever there may be.  Words and sentences continually take shape and play about in my mind while I'm simply doing life... while I'm cleaning house and cooking dinner, spending time with family and friends, or just reading a book and sitting by the pool.  Even in my sleep, I'm stringing words together and writing out my story.

There is so much treasured up in my heart and mind that calls out for a voice.   Thoughts from my journey and what I've come to know of you rise up to the surface and spill out over the edge, filling page after unwritten page.  Though writing for an audience other than my journal is risky and vulnerable, I don't fear it.  I'm not hiding.  I'm ready.  So what do you have for me, Jesus?  What does it look like for me to be a writer?  Where would you have me offer my heart?"

And as I continue to fold the clothes, staying with those questions, I sense him saying warmly with a big smile on his face as if he's been looking forward to this conversation and preparing me for it...

"What are you waiting for?  You don't need an invitation and you don't need permission.  You already have both.  Just do it.  Go for it!  Just write."

And so I did...

and this blog came to be.


June 12, 2012

On Being Nice

I saw her at the pool yesterday.  I smiled.  She smiled.  I said hello.  She said hello.  I asked her how she was.  She said she was fine and asked me how I was.  I said I was doing well.  And that was it.  The conversation didn't go any further.  I don't really know her all that well and it even took me a minute to remember her name, but normally I would have asked more questions, tried to create more conversation and been more friendly.  Why wasn't I more engaging?  Why didn't I smile more and offer more?  Why wasn't I sweeter, kinder, warmer and nicer?

I've never found her to be a warm person, open to friendship.  I've passed her in the aisles at the grocery store and turned to say hello, only to  have her quickly look the other way as if she didn't see me.  She seems to wear a sign that says, "Stay back.  I don't want to know you."  I can't see her sign, it's invisible of course, but I know it's there and that's partly why I didn't engage her more at the pool.  Why would I pursue someone who is so very guarded and unfriendly?  Why would I put my heart out there only for it to be trampled on and dismissed?

There's another reason though why I didn't reach out to her more and it wasn't because I was guarding my heart or afraid of her rejection and dismissal, it's because Jesus is setting me free from having to be sweet and friendly and nice.  All the time.  Constantly.  Every waking moment.  Though there is a genuine warmth and love about me,  I am very aware that I have often used those gifts for the wrong reasons throughout my life.  They have helped me get my needs met apart from Christ... the need to be loved and the need for people to be happy with me, to like me.  I have been the classic people pleaser.

But I don't need to use those gifts for the wrong reasons any more.  I know who I am.  I know my worth.  I know that every need I have is met in Christ.  I don't need people to like me and be happy with me.  I don't need to be nice all the time to win their approval and acceptance.  Of course, I want those things, they are certainly welcome, but I don't need them.  I am free.  I am loved.  I am secure.

How wonderful it was to come home from the pool feeling strong and confident and free.  How good it was to just be and not need to be anything else.


June 11, 2012

Listening to Love

I'm sitting amongst a quiet, captivated audience at the Fillmore Concert Hall listening to my daughter sing.  She is confident and comfortable at the piano and in front of the crowd.  Her hands move gracefully along the keyboard as her fingers instinctively play the keys.  Her voice, a rapidly maturing instrument with budding layers of both sugar and soul, travels fluidly throughout the auditorium.  She woos the crowd, draws them in and holds them captive in the palm of her hand.

Her father and I sit stunned.  We stare at her in awe and listen attentively as pride and love wash over us.  I reach over and touch his arm and he looks at me and we smile.  Our eyes, rimmed with tears, communicate what words don't... she's amazing and she's ours and is this really the same girl who sometimes acts fifteen going on five but is now performing like she's fifteen going on twenty-five?  We shake our heads and laugh and bask in the beauty of this talented girl God has given us.

As I listen to her sing, savoring every lyric and sound, other voices beg for my attention.  Fear, worry and doubt knock on the door of my mind.  I hear their knock and dismiss it because I know better than to let those voices in.  But if I were to open the door, if I were to welcome them in, they would frantically greet me like this...

"How will she ever make it in the world of music?  She'll be eaten alive!  Is she strong enough?  Mature enough?  Are her values intact?  Is her heart captured by Jesus?   Will she hold fast to her faith or will she be corrupted by the world and abandon it?  Does she really have a future in the music industry?  Will she make it or be a starving artist?  Do you even want her to make it?  Fame and fortune aren't everything!  What if she sings at dark, smoky, seedy clubs?  Shouldn't she only sing christian music?  Isn't that safer?  Who will guide and manage her career?  Who could you possibly trust?  You don't know anything about the music industry!  What if people take advantage of her and use her gifts for their own gain?"

What if?  What if?  What if?  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  On and on those voices would go if I let them, if I would listen.  But I'm not listening.  I won't listen.  I'm listening to Love instead.  Perfect Love.  The kind of love that casts out fear instead of welcoming it in.  Love that says...

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, 
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  
Joshua 1:9

"Don't worry about anything instead pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."  
Philippians 4:6

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  They are plans for peace and not for disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope."  
Jeremiah 29:11

And in listening to Love, I can confidently say with peace and trust and hope, "Sing on, Sweetheart...  Run in your glory and soar...  You are safe.  You are seen.  You are held.  God has you in the palm of his hand and your Daddy and I have your back.  You are free to be all you were ever intended to be and I can't wait to see what your future holds.  Sing on!"


June 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time: A Story About Grace

Once upon a time, there was a vibrant, young girl with big brown eyes, who was very curious.  She was a bit, or maybe a lot, mischievous and had a tendency to get into things.  Her father often said to her in anger and frustration when curiosity got the best of her, "Stop messing!  You're always messing!"  She wasn't quite sure what "messing" meant, but it felt like it meant she was always causing problems and making life hard and inconvenient for those around her.

One day, curiosity told her it would be fun to play a game, so she looked for one way up high on the top shelf of a closet where the games were stored.  Though she probably should have gotten a step stool to help her reach the shelf, she instead stood tall on her little tiptoes, reaching and reaching with her long, slender arms to find the game she wanted.  Unfortunately, in her clumsy efforts to do so, she bumped her mother's iron that was also stored on the shelf and the iron fell to the wood parquet floor and broke.


When her mother found out what she had done, she was more than furious.  She wasn't concerned that the iron could have fallen on her daughter and hurt her, nor was she happy and relieved that it had not fallen on the girl and she was unharmed.  What did concern her though was that the iron was broken and the girl would have to replace it.  She would pay for it.  In essence, she had been "messing" once again, and this time, she would learn her lesson.

Fast forward many, many years and that mess-making, vibrant, young girl is now a grown woman with a daughter of her own.  She is a delightful girl... beautiful and curious and creative and just like her mother, she also has a tendency to find herself in the middle of messes.  Things are often being forgotten or lost or broken.

And this is where grace and redemption enter the story...

Where a mother has the choice to turn her own wounds on their head, to stop the cycle of fear and control and respond freely and lavishly with the grace she didn't receive, but deserved when she was a girl.  She can change the tides.  She can right the wrong.  She can offer grace and love and forgiveness instead of anger, judgement and punishment.  All because of Jesus.  Because she has tasted his sweet redemption and come to know his boundless grace and extravagant love.  Because she has come to know him as her very life.

"Oh Jesus, may I be that mother.  Each and every day.  May your grace so consume and engulf me that it overflows in abundance to my beautiful, curious, innocent daughter who sometimes makes messes but is always worthy of grace.  And as that grace flows, may you use it to continually wash over my heart and heal the hurts of the young girl in me." 

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