April 2, 2015 is Autism Awareness Day. Don't forget to Light It Up Blue! #LIUB

Friday, April 24, 2015

{Covered}: When Shame Hits You in the Gut

When summer comes around, our gargantuan kitty, Smokey gets sheared like a sheep. Being partly Maine Coon leaves him with a winter coat that is wholly inappropriate for Florida weather. Add to that hairballs (sorry for the visual) and the constant need to be combed, it's easier to just shave it off.

This year, we shaved him a little early. At first, he seemed, well, embarrassedsuch a regal kitty reduced to the likeness of a shivering chihuahua. 

But after awhile he must have gotten used to lightness of it and weaved himself in and out of my legs, begging to be petted. I think he rather liked being free of an extra few pounds of fur.

Don't we all have that "sheared" feeling sometimes? We hold onto those positive labels people give us and when they're stripped away, we feel bare, embarrassed and struck with shame.




These are only a few compliments that can boost our self-esteem. Then, boom! One negative remark and we don't know what to believe anymore.

There's that time I wore a blue jumper and a white shirt with puffed sleeves underneath. And, I get compared to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz . Mind you, I was a grown woman on her way inside of church, not roaming the neighborhood trick-or-treating with my kids. I'm sure the person didn't mean any harm in his poorly chosen joke, but for the rest of the service I wanted to rush back home and change.

But, this week, when I'd returned from a women's retreat for my church, something must have changed. I was reminded of who I am in Christ and having this perspective made a world of difference. 

"Are you pregnant?" a young woman asked me as I was hunched over a table, trying to read something.

Shaking my head, I instinctively covered my belly. "No. I have four children, but I'm all done having kids." I didn't know who was more embarrassed. Her or me. She excused herself and left me there. Shame had punched me right in the gut. True, my abs were not what they used to be, but did I look pregnant to other people? I slumped down in my chair.

It didn't take long for me to realize what I was doing. Wallowing. I sat up straight. That 's not me. No matter what I look like to others, my confidence does not come from the outside. It comes from the inside.

Placing my hands on the table, I smiled. The curious young lady meant no harm. And, I didn't need to cover myself, because I was already covered.

We cover ourselves when we feel weak, vulnerable, bare. But, when we trust in Christ's unfailing love for us, we can remember, we're already covered. And ultimately, free. We no longer have to be bound by others' compliments or critiques. Because that does not define who we are.

We are the bride of Christ, wrapped in His robe of righteousness.

While on the cross, He was covered with our sin. Because of His sacrifice, we are covered with His righteousness.

There is no need to hold onto shame. Because, isn't that what we do sometimes? We agree with the initial feeling and wallow in it. But, we don't have to.

We can rest in confidence that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. 

No matter what is said about us that fact will never change.

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

"Jesus, Messiah" by Chris Tomlin

Friday, April 3, 2015

Three Days...

Christ came

 That we might have life.

He died that we might live

Not for ourselves

Any longer

But that we would give

Our lives back to Him

As an offering

A pleasing sacrifice

Made holy and pure

By the blood of the lamb

Who came to take

The sins of the world

Upon Himself

On the cross.

His resurrection power

Breaks through

The hardest

Stone heart.

The light of His glory

Shines in the darkness

Of the world

And His light 

Shines bright in us.

"In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:4,5

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Embracing Autism: A Poem

Hidden away
Unable to connect.
Expression hindered
and self oppressed.

Arms flapping wildly
To sense the body.
Faulty wiring
Gone awry.

Trapped in a maze
Of twisted vines
No beginning 
And no end.

Sticky cobwebs
Never swept away.
Unused branches
Never pruned.
Muted senses

Blocked the process
Of new connections
And old removed.

This tangled mess
Axons misfired
Dendrites misplaced
Encompassing the soul
Cocooned within.

Once upon a time,
On the right track
Cooing, babbling
Speaking child
Set off course.

An injury
Of some sort.
From without
Triggered within.

The immune system
Engaged war
With the one
It was sworn
To protect.

And sensitivities
The hurt.

White matter
And grey
Forced to survive
The wrong way.

The result: autism.

But for this child
Given to me
A bright highlight 
Following grief

My baby.

Read to
 In the mirror

How can I free you?

When I am trapped?

Love is the key
To open the way
In my own soul

To embrace
A new dream
And let
 The old one go.

Monday, March 30, 2015

He Knew Me: An Easter Allegory

He knew me. I mean really knew me. Knew everything that I had done or failed to do. Yet, I found myself wrapped in His warm embrace. I closed my eyes and rested, being filled up with His love.
He covered my tattered rags with His woolen robe, the color of blood. I breathed in his scent. Fresh and woodsy. And my skin had changed. It was clean. Cleaner than if I’d bathed in a cool mountain spring.

I glanced up, but he was already a distance away. His skin was covered in what used to cover me, a thick oily substance, black as tar.

His stride was determined. He didn’t turn back. A cedar tree blocked my view. And, then he was gone.

I scanned the horizon. But, all I could see were the trees that surrounded this lonely valley.

Then I spotted him. Climbing up a mountain. At the top stood a lone tree with two branches, one on each side. I rubbed my eyes. No, it wasn’t a tree. And, those weren't branches. It was a cross.

Dark clouds rolled in and covered the valley. Lightening crashed. I jumped a little and pulled the robe on tighter.

He was gone again. Oh, no. He was somehow fastened to the cross. Streams of red flowed down from his outstretched hands and feet.

I heard Him cry out. Then, fall limp. No. Don’t die. I. love. You.

The sky went black.

Thick darkness covered the valley.

I huddled against a nearby rock, trembling and weeping. Exhaustion overtook me.

When I awoke, there was a light. But, not the sun. It came from within the mountain. A circle of light, as from a cave. Or tomb.

A silhouette. His. He was alive. I cried, but not from sorrow. Joy. My Savior. My King. Please come back. Please take me home.

The sun peeked over the horizon. But, He was no longer there. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone.

A voice. Not outside but within. Deep in my heart. “You’ll never be alone again. I will come back. Soon. Remember. You are mine. And, you have work to do.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

When Plans Fail: {Treasures of the Heart}

Who doesn't like a nice  steaming cup of green tea, the perfect way to de-stress and relax on a trying day?

Yeah that was what I was thinking at the time, when I put the kettle on. 

It was a particularly trying day. One of those days where my body is on autopilot. Knowing where things should be and collecting them to make a hot cup of tea for Bright Girl and me, English style. With a spot of milk. And, a drizzle of honey.

The teacup was hot in my hands, so I blew a little to cool it. When I took a sip, something wasn't right. It tasted strange. I placed my cup on the table to cool some more and went into the kitchen.

Have you ever noticed how a carton of half & half is the same size and shape as a carton of egg whites?

When I went to put away the milk and honey, lo and behold, it was not milk, but eggs that I'd grabbed from the refrigerator and poured into my tea.

"Don't drink the tea," I bellowed from the kitchen.

"Why not?" Bright Girl held her teacup near her lips, about to sip.

I held up the egg whites. "I thought this was milk."

"Aw, mom."

My sentiments exactly. I was looking forward to my cup of tea.

You know the old saying, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? 

So, it didn't kill me to drink a few teaspoons of raw egg. If anything, a little protein might have been good for me. But, it was not what I was expecting.

A ruined cup of tea is a little disappointment in the mighty sea of life's unexpected outcomes to be sure.

But, something even more unexpected then eggy tea happened. 

I laughed.

My daughter lifted an eyebrow, trying to remain seriously disappointed herself, but couldn't help but break out into a grin.

That was so unlike me. 

When things don't go right, I tend to quietly fume or spend the rest of the day spiraling into mournful preoccupation with all the imperfections of living.

But, joy?

Why joy?

Because I was looking forward to the memories.

This would one day be a funny story in the collection of this mama's many cooking blunders.

We can have joy when we know something good will come out of the bad.

But, we have to be willing to let go of our expectations. 

Sometimes, we have to let our dreams die so new ones can live.

die vb. 1. decease, perish, expire, go, pass away 2. decrease, diminish, fade, sink, decline, wither, wane, fail ant. flourish, grow.

All disappointments are little deaths. Even when our dreams come true, it's never quite how we imagined.

But, there is hope.

If we believe the Lord can create life out of the darkness of our little deaths, then we can have joy.

It is hope that gives joy in all circumstances. Maybe not right away, but it will come. As a gift. From the Giver of all things good and right and true.

All the bad, wrong, messed things in life will one day be made right.

And it will be glorious.

Our precious memories of living out the love and light of Christ are treasures. We can hold on to them in hope, so when the darkness comes, nothing can put out their flame.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  (Luke 2:19)

"Blessed Be the Name"--Tree63

Thursday, March 26, 2015

F.R.O.G. Week

Another summer day and my little brothers and I were bored with nothing to do. Being twelve and the one responsible for taking care of them, I knew it was up to me to figure it out.

I grabbed the knob of the front door. "Let's go exploring."

So we set off barefoot into the unknown reaches of our neighborhood, searching for new worlds and undiscovered life.

At the end of our street, there was a ditch, full to the brim with summer rains. Little ripples on the water indicated that there was life beneath the surface. Squinting into its murky depths, we all said in unison, "Tadpoles!"

There is something fascinating about any creature that goes through the process of metamorphosis, be it frogs or butterflies. We hurried home and grabbed as many jars as we could find, along with a little green aquarium net to "go fishing."

We dusted off the cobwebs that inhabited our empty aquarium that lay outside in the car port and carried it to my room. Setting it on the window seat that overlooked the front yard, we then poured the contents of all the jars inside. The tadpoles swished around the bottom, their little gills breathing in and out.

A few weeks went by and the tadpoles were sprouting limbs and their tails began to shrink. Then, one day, the tadpoles went missing.

As I stared into the lifeless water, something cold and wet plopped on my foot. I swiped at it and felt, whatever it was, jump off me. Scanning the floor to see where it went, I spotted several tiny green frogs resting on the carpet, their beady eyes blinking.

I gulped. Watching tadpoles was one thing, but I could not stand frogs. They were slimy and gave you warts. And they were somewhere in my room. I shivered at the thought.

Over the course of several days, my brothers and I had the joy waking up to the cacophony of frogs in our house and having them smack onto our legs as we walked along the carpet. We eventually found them all and relocated them to their natural habitat in the ditch. But, I'll never forget the summer when our house became a haven for frogs.

So far, this year, speeding by as it is, I've been reminded of my experience with the frogs. Memories are there for a reason. And, when a memory is combined with present circumstances and our faith, it takes on a whole new meaning and purpose.

This week has been a frog week. It seems like everywhere I look, I see one.

First, our gargantuan cat, Smokey or "Furball" as Billy likes to call him, found a little doll sized frog chair and has been batting it around the house. It has become his new favorite toy.

When I read the book we borrowed from the library to Little Bit, an illustration of a frog with tadpoles jumped out at me.

My daughter decided to draw a frog from her doodle book for art.

And a frog she wanted for a friend found its way to her shoulder at the zoo souvenir shop.

The latest episode of Kids React to Food...my children's favorite youtube show, had fried frog legs as a dish. Actually, I tried them as a child. Tasted like...you guessed it. Chicken.

My youngest is potty training and picked a frog sticker as a reward for remembering to use her little green potty instead of filling up her pull-up.

In searching for next year's curriculum for my children, I spotted some cute frog stickers.

And a frog dissection kit.

And there's more. More frogs that keep popping up in my life.

The Lord was teaching me something. But, for awhile, I didn't get it.

I don't know about you, but I have found that life is sometimes hard. Really hard. Everything is going good and you almost think, could life get any better than this?

Then the trial comes. And you can't avoid them.

Something is undone, without a redemption story that you know of this side of heaven. And it hurts. Life hurts. We want the pain to stop. To find that quick fix. But, life is not a hack. The blessedness of being undone is that we have to fully rely on the Lord.

It is then that we learn that He is always enough.

This world is not our home.

So what does that have to do with frogs?

I mentioned to the ladies in my Bible study group just about the stickers with a frog on it, nothing more, but I had remembered it wrong.

"What does Fully Rely On Him have to do with frogs?" Frogs are cute and all, but I thought the phrase didn't quite match up.

Everyone responded with amused smiles.

One friend spoke up, "I think the stickers must have said Fully Rely On God."

I mouthed the words then put my hand over my eyes. "F.R.O.G. Fully Rely On God. Oh, I get it."

Yeah, I'm a slow learner sometimes. But, with this. Learning to fully rely on God in everything, I don't want to be slow. I want to be quick to turn to Him in everything.

Because sometimes life just hurts and you can't fix it. All you can do is lean on Jesus and He will give you peace.

I want His peace in my heart all the time.

When I forget that I'm not alone and that God is always with me, I stress myself out. I worry. I fret. But, I don't need to. He's got me. And He is there for me 24/7.

I think I know exactly where I want to take the kids for a fun spring break treat tomorrow...

May we live our moments, days, weeks, months, years and very lives, Fully Relying on God. For He saved us by taking on the weight of our sin on the cross. We can trust in Him always.

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31,32)

"Far Country" by Andrew Peterson

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Words of Life

A few years back, I tried asking one of my children to give up watching T.V. with me
for Lent

I don't think she got it.

By the time Easter came, she was just glad it was over. Still, I wanted our family to be a little slice of the church. To do Lent together as we do life together. 

Then by the grace of God, the idea came to me. What if, this year, we all gave up something that really needs to be given up and add something we all know we need to add.

We all have something in common, living in a house of strong personalities. We raise our voices a little too much. Add to that strong emotions and a loud voice becomes yelling.

Something subtracted, something added...hmmm...

How about subtracting the yelling and adding the praying for self and for the one(s) trying our patience. 

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down.

We need each other's words. The good ones. The true ones. The holy ones.

"1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2)

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the mysterious Trinity, worked together in perfect unity to build up our world before filling it with life.

"1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was 
hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." (Genesis 1:1-3) 

In the beginning, the holy hovering words of God shot out across the world. Creating. Shedding Light. Giving Life.

Words build up, stone by stone, line by line, precept by precept.

Christ isn’t expecting churches, whether in your home or under a steeple, to be perfect. 

He alone is perfect.

Yet, He offers us grace. Because He took the nails for us, His blood washes away our sin. 

When we believe, the ever-grabbing-for-more part of us, loosens its grip on its little stake in life and turns to grasp the nail-marked hand of the One who ever-loves-us-eternally. 

We can lean on Him because we need His help. We must come to Him in weakness and rely on His strength to free us from words that hurt to speak words that heal.

May we be grace-carriers. Broken, yet bright beacons of His shining glory, loving and serving the ones He came to save.

This is how we glorify and lift up Christ. And speak words of light, love, and grace. 

"Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is 
the Son of God." 
(1 John 5:5)

Jason Gray--"Remind Me Who I Am"