she lengthens {words that build}

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“…this not making a name for yourself-that’s really hard,” Zoe says, lightly biting her bottom lip, tapping the page with an extended finger.  Her hair falls loosely over her ears in sun-lit sections.  She rests her chin on one tender knee, peering down at the Book in her lap.  Her chair spins, but she interrupts its drift to carefully lift a coffee mug to her lips.

And so daughter becomes sister, too.  I watch her and gather up the gifts–the glimpse of both the girl she is and the woman she becomes, the turn of God’s sculpting hand, the glimmer of Spirit. She lengthens.

“Yes, it is.”  The thin paper rattles beneath my fingers.  “And what’s the trouble with it?”

Her blue eyes capture me, and I smile.  Even when Zoe was a baby, those eyes gave whole speeches and swallowed up the world.  I can tell that something rests there, held in her soul, something she’s waited to say.  “Well, we’re supposed to care about God’s name, and not our own so much.  And I’m not going to build any towers up to Heaven so that everyone will think I’m amazing, but I will sometimes say things I shouldn’t–or listen when I shouldn’t.  She spins, and all I see is the high back of her chair.  “…But that’s really not any different.”

I close my eyes, just briefly, feeling the weight of the mug in my hand–the warmth, the steam on my chin, allowing Zoe’s thoughts to sink.  Words ripped, garbled, fractured, jagged—yes, these are the natural consequence of Babel, and also maybe its historic shadow.  In my mind, I can see the ancient people wounded, uncomprehending, unable to collaborate and connect.  But so often I have read and missed this, that our broken communication is born of the same dead seed: the reckless, pridefully disobedient desire to make a name for ourselves.

And so, we live scattered.

“It’s hard.  Sometimes I say things—especially when I feel hurt or frustrated—before I even think about what I’m doing.”

I look up, meeting her eyes, and still, I see a wealth of words she waits to say to me.  Suddenly I realize that this is not just a personal confession.  She’s witnessed something in me, a shadow.  If I were able to reach right into her, I could grasp it with my fingers.

“I know.  I do the same thing,” I confess, giving her permission to notice my weakness, to say what’s on her mind.  I smile, acknowledging the truth.  “I’ve always wanted other people to think the best of me.  Sometimes that means I say things I shouldn’t or don’t say things I should—maybe to protect myself, but especially to influence other people’s opinions of me.”

She nods, thoughtfully, watching me carefully as she sips her coffee, and then she casually drops a few details into the space between us, enough to sketch lines for me around a specific observation.  She absorbs so much of me.  As my daughter, she inherits my best and also my worst.  She has watched me build my towers, has listened to me make my boasts, has heard the ruin of my words, and all because of a historic sin: I want to make a name for myself.  Self-righteousness is living so that others think the best of me, but true righteousness is living so that others think the best of Him.  It’s a repentance I embrace, a transformation He’s still working in me.

“You’re right.  I want so much to honor God with what I say, but sometimes I get it all wrong.”

Confession frees souls—mine and hers.  She stops still, holding my gaze steadily, offering aloud the specific ways she also struggles with words, the way she wants to be, the growing she desperately desires.  And so, she honors God living and with us, laying her own pride on the altar.  She exchanges her own name for His.  She lengthens.  Because the real building words are words that confess not how great we are but how much we need Him.  And with these mama-hands, I gather up yet another gift, the evidence of something blooming—life-fruit only tended and gleaned by the work of God’s Spirit.

“I want you to help me with this,” I say, reaching to touch her on the knee.  “I give you permission—when you hear me say things I shouldn’t say or when you know I’m participating in a conversation that dishonors God–I give you permission to tell me, to ask me if I’ve thought it through.”

“I want you to do that for me too,” she says slowly, thoughtfully nodding.  “I think we can do better at this together than we do separately.”

And I know she’s right.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  She makes me wonder what could be if we sisters all agreed to be accountable to each other in our conversations.

“What if we come up with a signal—maybe this—” I offer, making an easy gesture with my hand, “and whenever we need to remind each other of our desire to put God first–not make a name for ourselves—we do that, in any situation?”

Zoe grins, suddenly giddy.  “Yes!  Let’s do that.”  Her eyes gleam, empty now of every heavy, hidden thing.  She spins wildly in her chair, and I gather myself to find supper and finish the day.  But as I move to get up, she suddenly stops, pressing both feet into the floor, capturing me once again with her eyes.

“Mom?”  She reaches for me, and I gather her in my arms, speaking into her shoulder.

“Yeah?”

“This has been good.  Really, really good.”

7.31 blog

counting

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In the morning, the rain comes, and I do what I have determined to do more and more these days:  I stop to see, to gather up the feeling of the breeze lifting my hair away from my cheeks.  I spy a plump cardinal hiding just inside the gardenias bobbing gently by the steps, an elegant and stately bit of love-red sheltered from the glittering, wet casacade.  The rain falls gently, almost without sound—-a washing of soul-nourishing peace.

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreeement.   Word gathers, like raindrops in my palm.

A spider web in my window—cottony, ugly thing I should have swept away with my broom long ago—becomes a celestial road, glinting.  It is an offering, a gift, an extravagant trade for all of the impossible, broken, heavy things I have only just whispered skyward, my breath coming hard, the sweat dripping from my fingers.  I ventured out between the storms to run, shedding myself in the valley between bruised and swollen clouds, in that tender space where every color deepens and all creation holds its breath in anticipation.  So now I stand hearing, simply receiving Grace-gathered, Grace sweetly dripping from my arms.  Prayer is, after all, a conversation.  I will not cease to be moved by the way God redeems my perspective, the way–right in front of me, just there—He refashions what I would have disminished, discarded, making it something unimaginably beautiful.  It’s as though He turns my head gently with His hands, urging me to look again.

And that’s when something echoes—gathered words from a book–another gift:

‘We’re all blessed and we’re all blighted… Every day each one of us does our sums.  The question is, what do we count?'(~Louise Penny)

This.  Another whisper, barely spoken.  I count this-the gathering of beauty, the truth that God cares in detail, that He always works powerfully for good, that He is the repurposing artist from which all creativity has come.  God still sees beauty in all the blenching things–the ones moving me to shrink into Him for shelter.  He always sees potential where I see disrepair.  I’m grateful that in His fingers, mud becomes a healing salve, that He uses even the mud to restore my sight.

So in the morning the rain comes, and I turn my mother bones toward the door, ready now to see my children—not with these weary, crumbling, limited eyes but by the grace that glimpses God-glory rising.  They represent some of His best work—and right before me, just there—He shows me His limitless power, His vast and extravangant creativity.  I walk into the huddle of them, the treasure of His gentle questions still glistening light on my skin:

How will you see today?  What will you count?

7.24 blog

I love everyone

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I love everyone.

Riley rainbow-writes the words on her hand in letters that look faded against her skin, some big, some small, some crooked where the pens slip into the valleys between her fingers.  It’s a God thing to write love into surfaces, into souls, into the tissue of our hands, but for her the art expresses who she is, not something she’s trying to remember to be.  I stumble into the kitchen at daybreak, half-blind, and this is how I find her, pressing one hand flat against the counter top, spreading the fingers wide.  Her blonde hair shines, dangling like gold-spun ribbons over her work.  She pauses just to tuck the errant strands behind her ears.

She is, by nature, impartially loving.  And by everyone, she means everyone, even the people she doesn’t know yet.  And she says it that way–I don’t know them yet–as though she’s clear on the fact that maybe someday she will, and certainly she wants to. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I already know enough people.  But that’s not God speaking through me.  The truth is that everyone is loved by God and therefore worth our attention, our time, our knowing.  The truth is, that should change how I see everyone.

Intently, she colors in her self-styled tattoo, this expression of her soul robed in God-promise, the covenant reminder God chose for love that preserves life.  I can see that she’s eating breakfast too, chewing so slowly no one would know except for the breakfast sandwich on the plate, the rough outline of a bite.  It will take her an hour to eat the one sandwich, if she can finish it at all.  As the school year winds to a close, her anxiety coils, an ugly enemy she fights to overcome.

I love everyone.

She’ll focus now, on that. She’s as innocent as a dove, but not as shrewd as a snake.  So the shrewd is something I am teaching her, though of all teachings, I despise that one most.  Until the snake enticed us to think that knowing evil was better than never knowing it at all, we had no need for shrewd.  But in this world, people who love everyone suffer more than anyone.  That is, after all, the way of the cross.  I’m afraid for her because she’s that way. And yet, God wants me to be more like my daughter—not so shrewd as to have lost my innocence.  He wants me to focus intensely on loving others, even when I’m sick-to-my-stomach afraid.

“Trouble eating today?” I ask, setting the bacon pan on the burner, twisting the knob in my fingers.

“Mmmhmm,” she says, picking up her purple pen to smooth out the lines on the “l.”  She looks up at me, careful to acknowledge my question.  “Yea, I guess so,” she says quietly, but her eyes say, Please, don’t focus there.  And that’s when I realize that for her, this is more than just an art project.

I’ve seen this before, the way the kids write memos on their own skin, but usually it’s something like science test or a phone number or some other scattered detail.  This is different.  In the face of her fear, she chooses to create art about something real, something that matters, right on her own skin.  She chooses to redirect her own attention.  Chuckle if you want to, but for her, this is no joke.  She’s afraid to eat, afraid of the noise, afraid of the day, but she chooses to focus on loving others—on loving everyone.  She chooses to focus on beauty that lasts.  Love never fails.

I love everyone.

She looks away from my scrutiny and back to her markers, scanning the rainbow line for options.  Orange.  A bright ‘o’, stretching wide like the reach of her arms, the eternal circle of an embrace.  She is singularly focused, working her own attention away from fear.  She is intentional about the choice to look out into the lives of others.

It’s a simple gesture, but one that cuts right through my morning stumble.  I gather up the intensity of her effort, her vibrant creativity, her strategy, and count it the first gift of the day.

1. Perfect love casts out fear.  

This activity is not just the reflection of a state of being but an intentional, active choice to reach beyond, and watching her, I understand.  The choice must be felt skin-deep because that’s where her anxiety has taken up it’s position for attack, simmering right in those fair trembling hands, right below the surface of her skin.

She teaches me, simply, courageously, how to take captive my thoughts and make them obedient.

Deut6.8

real joy

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So, I’ve been hurting over something we do to each other.  I say we because I’m guilty too, we because we’re in this together, we because it takes all of us to change our culture.

minizing others

In my life, the repetitive strategy of the enemy often looks like this, just with different supporting details:

Flashback nearly twelve years, and he says this: Please, don’t have the baby in the car.

That’s what he says, because he knows me, because he can see the way I grip the car door with my hand, the way my knuckles whiten with the pressure.  His voice is grave.  He’s seen into the heart of me; he knows the sheen of hurt in my eyes.  But this baby coming is my smile, she’s the light cracking through the storm clouds now flooding the road.  The wipers smack fast, sloshing rivers away, and he strains to see.  Waves of body-splitting pain sear through my abdomen and back.  It hurts so much I can’t even breathe, much less speak, but joy wraps me up, just the same.  I’m in labor, that’s a fact, and labor hurts tremendously.  It feels like being torn apart from the inside, or at least how we barely imagine such an atrocity would feel.  Still, I can’t stop smiling.  I know God is using this pain to accomplish something glorious.  Today, I will see Him bring forth new life.  So, that’s what I say out loud, that last part.  The rest of it hardly feels worth the words.

And Kevin smiles at me, from across the seat, and for a moment we both break free of the urgency.  “I know,” he says quietly.  “Isn’t it great?”

Tell me, how can we know scripture and discount a believing woman for her smile?

See, I honestly want to do this thing the way God has told me.  I want to share the facts about my life without complaining.  I want to give thanks in all circumstances.  I want to say what is mutually beneficial for all, the things that build, and all while being completely open about my own struggles.  I want to be transparent about my weakness while being completely clear about the tremendous awe I feel everyday over what God has accomplished.  I want to tell the truth about the hope that I have and be ready to give a reason for it.  I want to be joyful always.  I want to do everything with love.  I want to live by faith.  I want to offer others as much grace and mercy and compassion and forgiveness as God has continually offered me.  I want to fix my eyes on what is unseen, because what is seen is only temporary.  I want to live for a greater glory.  This thing is 1000% real for me, more real than any present detail.  But ever since I became a warrior for joy and a truly yielded Christian, one thing has continually discouraged me:  Together, we fail to respect that it’s hard to live this way.  It’s hard to follow Christ.  These are not the elements of “fluffy” thinking.

It has been my experience that as God succeeds in bearing this fruit in me, other people—often other Christians—minimize the difficult facts about my life.  They interrupt my testimony with the assertion that obviously I haven’t suffered as much difficulty as they, as though we were meant to wear hardship as some sort of badge.  If I want to wear His righteousness instead, if I want to point to His victory, well, then I don’t really know difficulty.  And listen, more and more I’m okay with minimizing me.  But please, let’s not minimize what He’s accomplished in me—in you.  I’m honestly in awe of His power to transform this soul, and it’s dishonoring to make less of what He’s done.

Flashback 12 years, and Kevin counts the minutes between contractions and times the space at just three.  She’s our third child—only in this moment we don’t even know she’s a she, though I suspect, and we both know we don’t have a lot of time to spare.  I have an appointment scheduled today anyway, so I call ahead to tell them I am in labor.  I tell them the fact, right out loud, but the receptionist doesn’t believe me. She immediately discounts both my experience and the pain I feel.  Yes, well, just come on in and we’ll check you out at your appointment, she says. I sound so pleasant, grateful, happy, that she assumes I am overreacting a bit about the labor.

Tell me, how can we understand the truth about our future and discount a believing soul who still knows how to laugh?

I stand at the reception desk in the doctor’s office, holding on to the counter with one hand, because I know that if I let go, I will fall down.

Sign in please, the receptionist says, glancing only briefly away from her computer screen to acknowledge me.  Her monitor-lit cheeks move up and down, up and down.  She’s chewing gum while she works, and the smell of spearmint turns my already vulnerable tummy.

Okay, but–well, I called ahead?  I’m in labor?  I can almost feel the light in my face when I say it—the joy—the exhiliration that overwhelms the agony sweeping over me as I reach up to cling to the molding at the edge of the reception window.  Another one of those, and I’ll not be able to stand at all.

The nurse looks at me momentarily, scanning my face.  She offers me a slight smile, setting aside my testimony.  They’ll be with you shortly.  Just have a seat.

Tell me, how can we believe ourselves observant enough to understand at a glance the suffering of another soul?

Kevin loops his arm around me.  Just hold on to me now, ok? Slowly, we find our way to two chairs against the wall, though patience for us comes in shorter supply with every gripping pain.  I run my hand hard against the rough tweed beneath my thigh.  The minutes gather with the ripping strength of each contraction, until at last, just before Kevin makes his way again to the desk to insist, a nurse opens an adjacent door and calls my name.  She watches me carefully, taking her time with preliminary questions, until Kevin says, Listen, she’s in labor, and finally she looks beyond her suppositions and sees—the way my words catch in my throat, the way I dig my fingers into Kevin’s palm.

Let me just get the doctor, she says.

And when the doctor comes, she discovers that I am just moments away from delivery. I’m not even certain they’ll be able to get me upstairs before it happens.  The doctor peels off her exam gloves and searches my face.  You’re about to have this baby, she says, incredulously. Why are you still smiling?

See, there’s something all mixed up about the way we measure each other’s difficulty by the pain we wear on our faces and the things we say out loud.  Tell me, why is it that unless I live in defeat the ones who should understand my joy most of all minimize the reality of my journey? This is a horrible problem for a People who have been called to joy; who have been commanded to gratitude; who have been told: Rejoice.

Because I’m about to hold my baby in my arms, I say, and I know I’m beaming.  It’s as though I can feel the light shooting out of my eyes, my smile, my fingertips. Because he–or she–is coming.  And I want to say, but don’t because a contraction catches my breath and I have to dig my fingers into Kevin’s arm, that every time the pain threatens to knock me to my knees, I feel this verse roll through me:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I have, since the contractions began, worked to focus on the joy coming beyond the pain.  The choice to fight for joy is not a choice that erases present suffering.  It’s a choice to do the hard work of reframing current events into their true and larger context.  But there’s no time for explaining this.  The doctor leads me to a wheelchair sitting empty in the hallway, and pushes me herself until she’s seen me safely to the labor and delivery floor.  She needs to be in a room as soon as possible, the doctor says, turning on her heel to go back to her patients.  But the receptionist looks at me and immediately discounts even the doctor’s urgency about the situation.  She asks me for my name, my social security number, by insurance card, slowly typing data—click, click, click—to avoid breaking her long, carefully sculpted fingernails.  I grip the arm of the wheelchair, and Kevin shoots forward.  “Excuse me, he says, urgently, “she is going to have this baby in the hallway if you don’t hurry.”  And his tone clearly flusters the receptionist, who believes us rude and impatient.  She pushes back from her desk, muttering something about how she “will have to get this information as soon as possible.”

I know I’m young, but in my forty-something years I’ve learned that there are no charmed lives.  Every life is difficult.   Every person suffers through waves of pain.  And If despite the heavy we all carry daily, despite the difficulty we all suffer right here, right now for which we see no immediate solution, we can live real joy in the midst of heartache, that’s something we should respect and celebrate in each other.  God has given us a magnificent, overcoming gift:  an inheritance that never spoils or fades, a hope that remains securely held.  We can smile over that great joy when we have no other reason to smile.  We can laugh at the days to come, but only because absolutely no difficulty could ever tarnish what God has done for us.  We can live abundant life even so because we know He comes.  Very soon, we will get to see Him.

This particular day, I marvel that despite the clear facts, no one seems to believe that I’m about to have a baby.  Even the attending doctor expects to whisk in and whisk on out for a while.  He snaps his exam gloves in place, takes one look at the state of things, and flies into a fluster, calling for nurses and the bassinet.  And within a few, painful, body-ripping moments, I hold my baby girl against my own skin.  And I cry, for the fulfillment of real joy.

Here’s the truth, and I think it’s one we’d do well to honor in each other:  Real joy is hard fought, sliced and carved deep.  It’s a heartwrenching, tear-drenched fight.  It isn’t that a joy-filled, resplendent person has not breathed their way through pain, but that God has done what He promised to do and birthed something better in them.  Something lasting and brand new and unvanquishable fills up their open spaces.  So don’t be fooled by the enemy into spewing along with him that a person who still knows how to smile, who remembers how to laugh, hasn’t hurt as much as one who wears life like grave chains.  This surrendering isn’t a flower-decked devotional thought.

It’s war.  

Every day.  

So let’s not minimize what God has accomplished.

*~*

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves… For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all (Romans 8:18-24).

for the birds

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I confess that when she comes to get me, I do not want to get up.

I just picked up my book—Dorothea Frank’s Plantation, and I have precious few moments to mind-leap on down to the Lowcountry and shut out the world.  Every time this author punctuates a sentence with the word yanh, I smell the marshes and hear the coastal voices, their smooth inflections running thick as the humidity through my bones.  The warm breeze tickles the underside of my porch-propped legs.  Dressing seemed to take forever.  I kept staring at my face in the mirror and wanting to cry.  I didn’t look sick, I–Mid-sentence, I hear her call, even as she runs beckoning across the light-glittered street.

Mom, Mom, MOM!!  Come see.

Confession: I don’t want to see.  And I left my shoes inside.  I shift my gaze to the sun-baked road, wondering how quickly I can hot-foot it over there to see and get back to a little not seeing.  Oh Lord, thank you for the grace of children.

Zoe’s hair flies behind in her in brassy ribbons.  Her skin looks warm even from a few yards away, as though it has swallowed up the sunshine in giant, soul-nourishing gulps.  She hurries toward me, reaching for my reluctance, casting glances behind her as she runs.  Across the street, I see her friend, bent over looking, pressing her hands flat against her knees.

Mom!  It’s baby birds.  Oh Mom, you have to see.  Their nest fell—oh, they’re so…so…so adorable!

She lets go of the words and they fly away on the breeze, soaring up and away, still free. I hold the last sentence I read in my hands.  I don’t look sick, I—I what? Ms. Frank’s character can’t bear to look, and I don’t want to see, but I put my book down on the weathered wood table beside me.  I throw a glance at Kevin, but he’s still reading, likely willing his tired limbs invisible to imploring children.

Come on, she says, and her blue eyes shine.

I ignore the sharp heat of the pavement, remembering something my dad used to say when we scampered across black-hot summer sand and our breathing came up jagged: It’s good for you.  It’ll toughen up your feet.  I don’t know if it ever really toughened up my feet, but all that oooh oooh ooh oooh running did teach me that I can survive, even when the ground feels like fire, even when I’m helpless-dumped right out of my comfort zone.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.

Zoe talks while we walk, looking over her shoulder at me, and I take in her long legs.  The last few years have brought grace.  A certain insightfulness has lately crept into her expressions.

When we reach the grass across the street, my daughter points, her finger lancing the air, drawing my eyes toward the mulch at the base of a Crepe Myrtle tree heavy with blooms.  There, she says.  Two gawky baby birds, not even barely fledged, huddle helpless.  They’re hungry.  That much I know without knowing much at all, because their beaks gape open silently, yearning up, wide gulfs hard-outlined.  Their open mouths look impossibly prominent, a bottomless emptiness.  At first, it’s everything I can see of them.  Taking it in, I sigh.  I feel like those birds sometimes, like one big yearning cavern over a whole mess of needy-vulnerable.  The birds’ eyes aren’t even open yet.  They can’t see, maybe don’t even know to want to.  They’re just hungry.

Aren’t they so sweet, Zoe says, giving the last word tender weight.

I look again, because all I see so far of the baby birds are those gaping holes, those gimme gimme mouths.  I see desperate need, and nothing sweet about it.  But that’s how it is.  Don’t you ever feel like the neediness of this heat-soaked place is just too much to bear?  When we feel weak and needy ourselves, everyone else’s hunger looks absolutely bottomless.  I don’t even know what to do for myself.  How am I supposed to know what to do for you? But maybe that’s a problem of perspective.  These baby birds are not strong enough to feed each other, not able enough to find food, not even old enough to see.  Neither one of them can really do a single thing to change the situation for the other.  So they just huddle together.  They combine their warmth against trembling because it’s all they know to do.  Something about the shape of those hungry baby birds, tucked side by side on the mulch, touches me.  It occurs to me that at least they have each other, even if they have little to offer apart from nearness.  And I wonder if maybe sometimes, when hungry together is the limit of our strength, could it be enough just to huddle close?

I’ll go get them some food, Zoe’s friend says.  She sees hungry too, clearly.  We have some bird seed, she calls, already going, and Zoe calls after her.  Wait.  I don’t think they can–but her friend has already disappeared inside.  The effort is beautiful, even so.  Trying, even imperfectly, is worth our appreciation.  The breeze gently lifts the wisps of feathers just beginning to grow on the birds’ baby bodies.  Mostly, they’re still naked.  Their skin looks gray, like a storm, except in places where bone protrudes and flesh stretches.  They’re hardly beautiful yet.  But whatever they are, they’re that together.

My neighbor’s daughter—our friend—drops a bag of seed on the ground beside the tree and bends again toward the birds to look more closely.  I notice the nest, empty on the ground beside where it must have tumbled, light in the wind, after the fall tossed the babies out.  Sometimes it happens that way.  In just one gust, we’re trembling vulnerable in the middle of a helpless we could not have imagined.

I am telling the girls not to touch the babies when my friend, our neighbor, joins us beside the tree.  No, don’t touch them, she agrees, because both of us have read—maybe even a long, long time ago—that if you touch baby birds their mothers will abandon them.  They can smell that you have tainted their young with your fingers.  Moments later, we discover this to be an untruth when my friend’s sister arrives, unfolds from the car, and corrects our misconceptions. We are false prophets, blind guides.  No, her sister says, bending down to retrieve the nest, scooping one of the birds up in her hand, birds don’t have a good sense of smell.  But if you leave them laying in the mulch, they’ll die.  This truth only leaves me gathering up another, carefully, settling it safe: There are so many things we just don’t know.  Ours is always a problem of perspective.  In our story, we are all the babies—not the life-redeeming, hands-lifting, back-home settling Savior, not the life-changing Wind, and not the life-giving mama bird.  You and me, we should lean into each other—not on our own understanding.  We should let that be enough.

Carefully, my friend’s sister lifts the nest and places it back in the tree where it was, following the evidence of sticks and matted leaves. Now hopefully, she says, pressing her words into the tree with her movements, the mama bird will come feed her babies.

And all I can do is smile as the breeze lifts my hair.  Oh, she will.  I know she will.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?

help me

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Help.  I write the word in plum today, and in the curve of the e, the marker squeaks against the whiteboard.  Help really isn’t the right word.  It’s as inadequate as the word serve for describing what we do for God.  Learn would be the better verb if this schedule were truly about accuracy, but from my son’s perspective, help will do.  I’m training a soul first, a body second, and attitude supercedes activity.

Morning chores
BREAKFAST
Help Mom clean the kitchen

I smile, thinking back to brassy pictures of me as a child, standing on a stool at the sink with dish towel in hand, little-girl sleeves rolled up to the elbows.  Back then, I had the theory that my parents asked me to help so that they would have less work to do. Because of my forced labor, their lives were easier.  They got to relax (—ummm, when?).  I often lived as a selfish, resentful servant:  Why can’t they just do their own work? I sulked, especially when I had to go back and do again some task I had only half-heartedly completed the first time.  I clinched the bathroom brush in my Comet-smelling fingers and scrubbed out angst. Why don’t I get to do what I want to do?—scrub, scrub, scrub– Don’t they care (pause here for a dramatic sob) that I need some free time?  I’d let the brush thud against the pasty surface for punctuation.  And how many times, now, have I given thanks that my parents did the hard thing and taught me—not just the skills but so many other soul-deep things with them—against my will?  Of course, a child never appreciates the free time she actually does have whilst she is in the throws of unwanted helping.  Talk about perspective and attitude: While I was helping, mine often reeked of I don’t want to.  I’m so thankful that they persisted right through my bad attitudes and ungratefulness, that they didn’t just placate my immaturity and give me what I thought I wanted.

But let’s be honest: In truth, this problem isn’t unique to childhood.  Sometimes I am still a selfish, resentful servant.  And I still very often get all mixed up on the facts.  Sometimes I still lose my sense of gratitude, and sometimes my attitude still stinks.  And yet, God’s mercy and grace-filled persistance with me never fails.  He does the hard thing.  Always.

Of course, it took being a parent myself to realize that from the parental perspective Help Mom really means everything takes longer and Mom feels bone-tired at the end of the day from all the repetitive teaching, because it really means Mom will teach you how and Mom will insist that you don’t just do but do well, and God will teach Mom–again–that attitude supercedes activity, that grace forgives imperfection, that building and loving and touching a child means more than just about clearly everything on a “to do” list.  Mom trains a child and God trains a Mom.

Help Mom with the laundry.

The words sound so mundane, but they make me smile wide as the marker squeaks through the sweeping curves of the letters.  Confession:  my purposes aren’t all functionality.  When Adam “helps” me around the house, I get to spend precious time with him.  His participation in my work makes me happy.  I write those ordinary words, and I hear the way Adam giggles when we sort the laundry, when I roll in some speech lessons and ask him to identify each piece before we toss it in the appropriate hamper.  Sometimes he adds in a description I haven’t even requested, like “oohgggg, purple shiiRT,” and his words soar up and explode in a chirp of laughter.  He’s giddy over my notice and congratulations—delighted with his own accomplishment–and meanwhile, I realize that I’m standing in front of a basket of dirty clothes thinking thoughts far flung from stale drudgery. I love being with my son

So maybe God’s purposes are similar in asking us to join Him in His work: one part growing, stretching, sculpting the vessel and another just the joy of spending time with us held securely and purposefully in His hands.  Listen soul, it’s true that He delights in us.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always getting that confused, losing track of the most joyful priorities.  Like my son, I suppose I still have quite a lot to learn.

This week, Adam has learned to dry the dishes carefully when he unloads the dishwasher and to rinse the dirty ones well when he loads them.  I have watched him discover value in his own strength for observing the finest gradient of detail while slowly sweeping the towel across the shiny surfaces of coffee mugs, gathering water droplets from thin spaces where porcelain handles join cups in hairline seams.  Visual acuity is not a light ability, and that’s a truth familiar to me, but beautifully new to my son. When we vacuum the living room together, Adam lays flat on the floor, carefully guiding the unclamped hose underneath the sofa.  His upper torso disappears beneath as he chases every crumb, scrutinizing the carpet from an inch above.  I watch the vacuum cleaner jerk and skid behind him as he drags his long body behind a fluff of down driven out of dark-hiding by his movements.  This effort he makes naturally, drawn by the blend of his own compulsions and personal strengths.  So, after a few moments delighting, I have to remind him to stand and move the machine itself back and forth in motions that cover the larger area more quickly.  He excels at the details but loses track of the bigger picture.  Soul first, then body.  As we uncover strengths, we also find new ways to grow.

“Adam, have you done your morning chores yet?” I ask, standing back from the white board to consider the order of the day.  It’s my job to take the largest view, to think of all of the details Adam might not appreciate, to make sure he’s ready to do the right things at the right time.  At this point, he’s not ready for that responsibility, and if I gave him control of the schedule, he would write in activities that feed obsessions and steal his words, isolating him further from the rest of us.  Sometimes, when I resist the sovereignty of God, it’s because I fail to trust that His control–His careful providence, leadership, training, and guidance–His larger view—actually protects me from falling into immature patterns of activity that would only feed my weaknesses and insecurity and make me vulnerable to choices that would alienate me from Him.

Adam looks up from Riley’s notebook of stories.  For the last half hour, he has been reading what she has written and sauntering into the kitchen to mention certain details, just a word or two with no context for interpretation.  Still, it’s clear that the time we’ve spent working together has brought us closer and made this initiation more natural for him.  He’s trying to talk to me, and that matters.  This week, Adam has learned to say, “Now it’s time to sweep the floor,” instead of just “broom,” and after four days, he’s very nearly able to distinguish a fitted sheet from a flat.  Very soon, Adam will not only be able to change his sheets without any help from me, he will also be able to ask someone else for what he needs or explain what he intends to do, and that matters.   That matters more than nearly everything else on my “to do” list.

Snowing,” Adam says, looking up, tapping Riley’s story with his finger.  “Snowing.”

“Snowing?  It’s snowing in Riley’s story?”

“Yes.  Cooking hamburgers.”

“Someone’s cooking hamburgers?”

“Yes.”

“While it’s snowing?”  In Riley’s stories, such a thing is entirely within the realm of possibility.

“Yes.”

“Who?  Who’s cooking hamburgers?”

“Outside.”

“That’s where.  Adam, who?  Who is cooking hamburgers?”

He looks back at the paper, tapping insistently with his finger.  “Snowing.  Hamburgers.” He’s trying.  If not for our week, our working together, he would not be talking to me at all.  He would be staring at a video screen with his headphones on, lost to me.  Oh Mamas, Mom trains the child and God trains the Mom.  We can’t give up, and we can’t let anyone tell us that the foundation-building, the rooting we’re doing—that spending time–is something mundane.  We’re trying—dead tapping the Page with our fingers, and that matters.

“Adam, have you done your morning chores?”

He walks over to me, where I stand with the marker in my hand, and looks at the whiteboard.  I’ve made it all the way to LUNCH, but not past.

“Schedule,” he says, even as he turns to begin his chores.  From the stairwell, I hear him say, “yet,” and I want to sweep him up in my arms for the effort.  But you haven’t finished my schedule yet, that’s what he means to say, and I understand, and I think, He’s still talking to me.  And he doesn’t understand why right now, but he’s still obeying right away.  And I realize that I don’t have to understand why right now to obey right away either, that I can start obeying while I’m still telling my God I don’t get His timing.  I can join Him in His work and I can let Him set the course and choose the time, and I can learn to trust while I obey and while I talk to Him and while He teaches me.

I turn back to the whiteboard for Adam, determined to finish while my son blind-begins, and I realize God’s determined to finish too, that He knows the finish while we’re just blind-beginning to obey, while our awkward faith is just a seed.  And I think maybe the schedule He’s writing for me looks something like this:

Wake up!
Spend Time with Me
Help me Build and Love and Touch the Souls I came to Save

And I think maybe I should get busy.

related

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I recognize the symbol immediately–the faded rainbow lines tattooed onto the back of her neck, the needle-pieced, needle-etched shape of just one part of a global puzzle.  The top edge of her taffy-pink scrubs hides most of the word beneath, but I can barely make out the upper third of the black script letter ‘A.’ It doesn’t matter.  Autism is a part of me too, and it might as well be written there on the back of my neck, too–in that spot where I collect my stress, on the tender skin at the base of my get-it-done ponytail, right above where the baby hair just won’t be tamed.

I sit in a padded chair, open-palmed, one arm vulnerably upturned to expose the veins—the life running through, while with her back to me she types details into a computer, click click.  Before I saw the tattoo, she and I moved under the unforgiving office-grade flourescents as complete strangers.  I walked into the room just another patient needing bloodwork, and she just another medical professional working her way down a list of walk-ins.  We shared very little up till then, only a cloaked exchange.  We were virtually invisible to each other.

“I like your tattoo,” I say, because God likes to insist that I use my words.  How else will He ever convince us we were meant to care about each other? It is, after all, the reason I insist the same from my own children. “That’s the autism symbol, isn’t it?”

“Thank you,” she says slowly, turning toward me.  “Yes, I have a son-“She lets it hang there, quiet and exposed, like the thick blue vein running the length of my arm, and for the first time, she lets her soft brown eyes rest on my face.

“I have two children with autism,” I offer, which is the easiest way to tell her that there are a thousand things she doesn’t have to explain to me, that I understand, that we speak the same language.  In a few words, I sketch my children’s faces for her, giving them life and voice, though I suspect she caught a glimpse of them in my eyes before I ever spoke.  “How old is your son?”

“Twelve,” she says, “and getting ready for middle school, and—well, you know how it is with changes.”

“I do.”  I tell her about the day this week when I sent Riley to school in tears because I couldn’t find my keys and a carpool friend had to drive instead of me, how it broke my heart that the switch had been so difficult for her.  “She struggles with so much anxiety anyway, I hated to see her upset like that right before school.  After my girls left, I had a good cry over it.”  She nods, holding onto my eyes, and then–

“One, two, three,” the autism mama says, sliding the needle into my arm. I barely notice any pain.  I glance at the wall and then back at her face.  I don’t care to watch.

“My son has behaviors because he’s afraid,” she says, “and lately, there’s been so many changes.”  She tells me about waves of mama-ache, of mama-wandering through the mama-maze, of her own heart literally breaking down right in the middle.  “It’s alot,” she says, and I can feel the heavy on her back, the tense-weight collecting right there in the curl of the Autism ‘A’ script-twined into the muscles of her neck. It’s my turn to nod, to hold on to her eyes, to let her see I know.  “It took me a long time to recover, to get my strength again.  And now they put him in this middle school, and see, he has a behavior plan too, and I don’t know, I just hope it’s a place that can manage both things.”  I know she means his education and the behavior plan—two things that should complement but don’t always.

I want to tell her about Dynamic, but I know I can’t.  Not yet.  To mention what might have been to an autism mama right as she wonders out loud Can I trust these people with my child? would only be a cruelty. I nod, listening, knowing the complexity of that puzzle.  Educating our exceptional children tops the list in significance and difficulty.  Their vibrant uniqueness, their abilities, don’t fit into the mainstream mold.

“I’m praying this school will be the right place,” she says tentatively, pulling off her gloves, tossing them away.  “I just don’t know. But God does.”  She watches me, waiting.

“Yes, He does,” I admit easily, and I can see that she anticipated this response, that this too she had felt or maybe found in my eyes.  “And don’t you find that He uses your son to teach you so much?”

Spirit rushes, and her hand flies down, smacking against the laminate countertop.  “YES,” she says, and then the gratitude spreads across her face, a smile that reaches her eyes.  “God is first in my life,” she says solidly, “but I cannot imagine who I would be without my son.  I have learned so much from him.  So much.”  What she feels is too much for the words, and this too I understand.

For a moment, we just grin at each other, two strangers suddenly not strangers at all, but sisters.  Mama-sisters.  In some way, we are all related.  We just have to want to know how.

“You know,” she says to me, relaxing against the edge of the counter, and me leaning forward against the faint-guard on my chair, “the other day my son told me he thought maybe God should give Him a different family.”  Her voice trembles, and I find her grief within the modulation of the sound. “And I said, ‘Why, honey?’ And he said, ‘Because I can’t speak your language.’  She lets that soak, looking up at the ceiling and then back at me, shaking her head.  The sentiment becomes a swell.  I have often felt–and said right out loud—that living with Adam is like doing life every single day with a foreign exchange student.  I watch him trying to grasp the language, trying to understand the customs.  I watch him navigate the isolation autism threatens, even as I reach for him.

She continues– “We’re bi-lingual, but when my son was diagnosed, they told us we could only talk to him in English because, you know, he couldn’t talk at all then.  They said we would confuse him.”  Suddenly her words fall easily, and I know she has stopped measuring them carefully for me.  “But our other sons, we wanted them to still know, you know, so we kept speaking both languages to them.  Now, my autistic son, he feels left out, because he hears us and he wants to have that too.  I don’t know if that was the right thing.  I just don’t know.”

I feel her words well past the hearing, and what echoes is something written: God forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.  It’s a merciful truth, a pleading because He understands, not a condemnation. It’s okay that we don’t know.  And none of us really do.  We just do a lot of pretending. But she has me wondering what would happen if, recognizing understanding in each other, we could admit to that truth and offer each other that mercy.  The only real certainty is trusting in Him.

I am still, watching her tuck back strands of hair that won’t stay collected.  Her eyes flash.  “But I say to him, ‘No. How could you say that?  We are your family, and we all speak this language together,’ because I want him to see that even though we have differences, we have so much the same, you know?” Twelve years, and autism has taught her that communication is broader, more various, than words.  She sees what I see, that she and her son speak more languages with each other than his literal mind will yet allow him to comprehend.  Despite the graces drawing them together, he still sees the space.

I nod, smiling, expanding her thought.  “Yes.we.do.” And she smiles back at me, because it only took us a few sentences to discover the languages we have in common.

She laughs suddenly, throwing her hands in the air.  “I’m sorry, I’m telling you my whole life,” she says, and the sound of her voice is full.

“No apologies. It’s good to–”

“—to talk to someone who understands.” She finishes the sentence with me, crossing the room to give me a hug—a mama-sister-girlfriend-strong hug, even though I’ve only just learned her name.  Because that tattoo, we both wear it fading and stretched across our necks, and for a moment, our Father lifts us both beyond the space of strangers to the very precious truth that we’re His, together.

colors of the mind

six letters

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I wish I had thought to take a picture of them, sitting there with me.  Me, all hulled out and bare—wearing my soft pants and no makeup, because with them I can.  And them—six of my close friends–using their smartphones (of all things) and their words and their hands that can’t be still in the face of injustice–to put me back together.  I’m sure they hardly knew how well they held me.

phone wine

In the evening, we gather around a table to plan a time to get away together, but before we even get to that they reach for me and they want to know what’s happening now with the kids, with our school.  So I tell them, looking around the table and gathering in all our mama-tired faces, all our stretched thin places.  They feel worn, just like me.  Now, maybe more than ever, I’m aware that we each have our own knots fraying loose at the edges.  We all have so much we don’t know how and desperately little margin for all our caring about it.  But maybe that’s what makes it possible for us to offer each other grace.  Oh, we have our brittle moments, when our voices sound a bit too far removed, but it always comes back to this—this sitting around a table reaching into each other’s lives.

So I put down the truth I carry and spread it out in front of me on the table, right there beside a plate of crackers and a block of cheese.  These friends of mine, they listen to me talk about how my heart is broken for so many hurting families. I tell them about how I have cried, listening to parents speak of their pain, of children mistreated and discarded and dismissed before and thriving now, finally.  The words pour out, as though just the one question—So, what’s happened?—serves as my heart-stent.  I sit bare, telling my soft-pants-and-no-makeup friends the ripping stories of these others, feeling all emptied but wishing I could change things.  This openness is maybe our best gift to each other, that tonight we are unmasked and trusting.  The rush ebbs, and I fall silent.

“What if,” one of my friends says, filling the open space,”what if we all write a letter to the governor.  I mean, what if tonight or tomorrow he gets six letters all at once?”  It’s as if I’ve fallen, and she offers me her hand, her iron-laced courage.

“Let’s do it now,” another friend says, lending her spontaneity, her bright-lit belief in possibility.  “Get your phones.  Let’s do it right now.”

And they do.

Right then.  While we’re sitting at the table.  It’s neither a mean to nor a maybe, but a right now gift.

And they make me laugh, throwing out sentences they’d like to write and then smoothing them out collaboratively.  I watch them build scaffolding under my dangling feet, sentence upon sentence, for support. They remind me that we are all stronger together, and that this is why the enemy of our souls works so hard to divide us.

As a current educator in the private sector, I am appalled that North Carolina handled these children and their education in such a careless manner…and… Children at this school have been given a safe environment to learn and to thrive.  I have heard stories from parents there about the remarkable and wonderful changes this school has made in their children’s lives…and…If the State Board considers Dynamic a “risk” for financial  reasons, I can tell you that these parents of this small school have more dedication and drive to see this school succeed, not only for their own children, but for those that would come behind them in the future.  Six separate letters from six beautifully different friends.  Six willing to sign their names to a fight for justice.  Six uniquely offering me the gifts they have when I feel most vulnerable.  Six reaching for me while I fight for faith.

So I sit–emptied and bringing nothing, but slowly filling.  I watch my friends furiously typing, reading back lines and paragraphs, exchanging ideas, and I am actually stunned that they are helping this way, that they can’t sit still or feel satisfied with wishing out loud that things were different.  What a terrible lie we all believe—despite so much contradictory evidence—when we believe God has left us to fight alone.  These are not the first letters my friends have written in support of our school.  All along they—and many others—have stood beside us, insisting on something better.  Shared strength brought to action builds shelter for the least of these, and societies change.  And in an evening, God uses six friends to gather in my fraying edges and pour their gifts right into the emptiest parts of me, supplying me for this journey that feels like too much for me.

And suddenly, watching and listening to them, I smile over this silly thing that comes to me:  It takes six letters to spell friend.

mountain moving {let’s talk about what is}

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I really don’t know what to say anymore, she says to me, and I understand, because when you say everything true and it doesn’t seem to make a difference you finally run out of words.  They drain and fall away, leaving only echoes like bits of fluttering ash.  And in the aftermath of a wordy, difficult week, I feel it too–that deep, hollow ache left behind.

But maybe that’s okay, because God’s words never fade, and His hope-building promises sustain.  He sees.  He hears.  He is.

In the background, I hear my friend’s son, repeating the way to school, and I smile.  Turn right, he says.  Turn.  Going to school.  His tone alludes to a depth unreflected in the brevity of his words.  He is both insistent and certain, and every so often she stops mid-sentence to acknowledge his sentiment so that he can stop repeating the same phrases.  The gift, for me, is that my friend doesn’t need to explain or follow any sort of silly decorum when she talks to me, because I have an exceptional son too.  Our children teach us; they shape us into something better.

Today, this is the heavy weighing down our conversation: The State Board of Education voted to revoke the charter of the first year school our sons attend, and we find the decision terrible, misguided, even cruel.  As a community, we have fought the entire school year against a predisposed idea, a looming can’t, against a lack of faith in possibility that, in exceptional education, has become the acceptance of a failing beauracracy.  As exceptional needs parents, we’re all familiar with this persistent negativity.  We fight insistently, repetitively, against a barren view.

Turn. Turn right.  Go to school.  My friend’s son’s words seem like an echo of something significant.

For years, we’ve all endured endless evaluations of our children that focus on what they can’t or will never be able to do, and from the outset of this endeavor, we were told that what we want to do for our children cannot be accomplished.  So for an entire school year, we have shouted about what is happening, and in the end, the only thing the governing bodies care about is whether or not our methods fit into their limited perspective on possibility.

My friend sighs, frustrated, and again, I understand.  This is perhaps the greatest gift of the past year:  In the midst of great difficulty, we’ve found a whole army of friends who understand.  

Exceptional needs parents survive mountains of unanticipated and often overwhelming struggle by blazing new paths and building tunnels.  We work on solutions.  We cannot simply stand still and point at the mountain.  Instead, with a little faith, we move the terrible thing standing in our way.  Together, we find a way.  Together, we are strong.

Lately I’ve run all out of patience for negative paradigms unshifted by truth, for the sort of blindness that makes us all hold on to our cinder block walls so hard our knuckles turn white.  We must be careful.  We must have the faith to venture into open spaces, to make new paths.  Our moving God has told us to go and fill, to grow and bear fruit.  He’s never been powerfully invested in paralysis, except to heal it.  And by His enduring Word—the Word that never returns emptyHe has obliterated impossibility.  So, we must be careful not to pick up that miserable refrain, nor to let it creep like a settling toxin into the fabric of our living.  Our speech must fill and re-fill with what is, and our thoughts with everything excellent.  These are the words that change the world, that root and establish our children, that strengthen and build our community.

Maybe it seems irrelevant to some, what a year building a community means to a group of exceptional needs parents advocating–no longer alone but together–for their children, but honestly I think the gifts we’ve gathered are meant to be universally shared.  Weary of hearing what isn’t and what won’t be, we have chosen to focus together on something better.  So here’s just some of what is, what has been gained and accomplished and built over the past year; here’s some of the excellent truth our children have offered us: 

  • Despite the challenges that always threaten to limit them, our rare children have taught us to see.  They have shown us that reality is far greater than what can be evaluated on the surface of things.
  • A community unified behind a single purpose becomes a formidable force for change.  We have discovered the weakness of individual comparison, the inherent beauty of diversity, and the strength bound up in mutually pursued progress.
  • We have experienced first hand that those who truly care about the blessing and benefit of all will gladly sacrifice selfish interests, even unto the exhaustion of personal resources.  I don’t know a better reflection of Truth.
  • In a community that lives above us and them and other, notice, friendship, and inclusion elevate and transform experience.  A new normal redeems the past.  The strong no longer bully the weak.  The popular no longer mock the insignificant.  Instead, such extreme categories disappear in favor of a superior sentiment: If today I am more readily able, I will help you along.  Tomorrow, you will be the one helping me.
  • It’s okay–even best—to learn and grow in a way that is uniquely yours.
  • And, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, creativity and resourcefulness vibrantly offer us limitless possibility.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

So, this is what we do, to find strength again at the end of a depleted week:  We set aside our sighs and we talk about what is and what can be.  We speak again of possibility.

legacy

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I like doing this with you, she says, and I look away from the wild roses just beyond us in the yard, their bold red beauty twisting madly toward the limitless sky, jutting elegantly through the slats.  Their freedom completely captures me, that and the way they’ve doubled in size, the way they reach in the humid heat and gather raindrops like diamonds in the palm.  Stunning, I keep thinking, but God says good, just good.  

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God made everything so complex, she said, gesturing to the ribbon curl of a leaf dangling over the edge of the flowerpot on the table between us and then beyond, to the roses, the lemon-yellow Finch bobbing on the edge of the feeder.  And now she draws me back.  I like doing this with you.  It makes me feel better.

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I look at her, sitting across from me with The Book open across her legs, those sun-gold cheeks that make her eyes seem even more blue, her brassy hair divided into two low pig tails that have long since escaped the boundary of her shoulders.  She’s my own wild rose, and I see the whole wide sky reflected in her eyes.

all kinds of beautiful

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I don’t know, but I think maybe I will treasure up the sight of her like that for some time. It makes me wonder if my mom still thinks of the way I looked those days and nights years and years ago, when we sat next to each other and she rooted and tended and pruned, guiding my tender reach.  I know I can still see her, sitting there with those big red-framed reading glasses on the end of her nose, pushing past tired to teach me, drawing a soft olive finger across the thin page, asking me what I think it means, how it will matter in my life.  Eternal moments these, the kind that become not just memory but part of the fabric of a soul.  I know now that those hours were the best my mother gave me, the most rare and beautiful.  Of all her gifts, this one still sustains me most.  And just this afternoon, when we sneak away to the quiet of the porch, I tell my own daughter the same thing my mother told me:

On the days when gray clouds stretch across the sky like steel, when life feels heavy and thick like bars—On those days, nothing and no one abides like God.

Nothing roots a daughter strong for woman- and sister- and mother-hood like learning how to reach for God, how to listen, how to hold the wealth of Him in the palms when everything else seems to slip through your fingers.

So, we start simple.  Just 1,2,3 Grow.  Just the same three steps my mother taught me, and she wants to begin at the beginning, so we start right there—at speaking power and speaking being and Trinity-creating life.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

You know, it says “our image,” she says, and I see the glint of it in her eyes.  That’s because they were all there—Father, Son, Spirit—ALL of them, right from the beginning.  Her finger glides, and I watch her—soul-beautiful and lit with Light, and all I I think is the one word: Stunning.

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