Sunday, December 22, 2013

the present you can open right now

Creativity is not about me.  It is not about you.  
It is not us somehow acting like little gods, creating on our own the same way God creates.  
The most we can hope for is to respond appropriately and creatively to who God is and what he means.   
Creativity is a response.

It was the first time I ever really saw the sun rise.  

I've seen sunrises but that big ball of fire we orbit is so blinding that our eyes can never really hold it.  Watching most sunrises is really just watching the space around it painted and brightened in indescribable shades.  
It's always beautiful...
but this particular day was different.  

From my chair in the hotel dining room, I watched the actual sun as it crept upward.  

There was a thin veil of fog that hung like a voile curtain between us.  It was just enough protection for my eyes to lock onto that climbing orb completely.  I fixed my gaze and watched it move slowly into position.  As it moved the curtain thinned and my eyes had to shift their focus onto the scene that was being painted all around the light.  Once again, the source of the light itself became more than my eyes could hold.
For a moment I had seen it's edges completely and tracked it's miniscule movements and then suddenly it burst into something more than I could take in.  As my field of vision widened I saw the sky brightening from gray to blue.  I saw the dark shadows on the sand disappear and I saw the waves...oh the waves...

Friday, December 20, 2013

the day i bumped into a secret service agent

This morning I knelt down to snap this picture because I had to capture it...snapdragons in December.
When I stood and turned to walk back into our hotel I nearly bumped right into a secret service agent.  OK...I don't know if he was really a secret service agent but he was wearing a suit and had one of those earpiece thingys and he looked really serious like he was using some kind of metal detector in his head to scan me for weapons.  

Behind him there were other secret service agents and a couple of big SUV's with U.S. government plates.  I tried to look at the whole scene without looking at the whole scene - know what I mean?  I didn't want to be 'that person' but I was curious.

Monday, December 16, 2013

with us

You will be experienced as a blessing - to the extent you have first experienced yourself as blessed.

When you set feet on holy ground the words don't come easy.  


For two weeks I have been sitting on a story that seems more like a work of art than a series of events.  It's hard to paint that kind of picture with paltry words.  
Today I finally decided it's better to tell a good story inadequately than to never tell it at all...

We were at my in-laws lake house when I got the text.

Friday, December 13, 2013

how to get close to christmas

One year ago tragedy shook our nation and left us all with more questions than answers.  Today I remember those families directly impacted and whisper prayers of hope and healing for them.  We all have tragedies that color they way we experience this season...and so I'm whispering those same prayers for you.  We each carry our own personal heartaches as we step closer and closer to the cradle of our Savior.  I hope as these winter days roll on you will set your tragedies down and allow your fingers the freedom to reach out and touch Christmas...

{The following is a repost from December 2012}

When I picked her up from school today she danced to the car...hair flying.  She was singing a new song...it's always a new song with her...usually about princesses or Jesus or something that she's recently learned.  The girl can set anything to music.

I was thankful.  Thankful that today is just another sweet day for her.  Thankful that school still feels happy and safe.  Thankful that, in her innocence, she doesn't carry the weight of the world.  I'm taking her lead.  I'm singing a new song.

Now we are home and I see her by the tree with all the pieces of our multiple nativity sets lined up.  She plays with them every day.  Sometimes she takes down ornaments and uses them too.  

I overhear her saying things like 'Christ Jesus' and 'three kings' and 'the star of Bethlehem'.  Even if she doesn't completely understand every detail of that first Christmas, I am grateful that the words and the stories are familiar to her.  Hearing those words cross her four-year-old lips gives me a peace that her spirit is already connecting with the eternal.  Since i never know what tomorrow holds that's what i wish for...eternity tucked in her heart.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

if you're ready to be ready for christmas

He was created of a mother whom He created.  He was carried by hands that He formed.  He cried in the manger in wordless infancy.  He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.
::Augustine

How do you prepare for someone like that?

In our home we've learned not to measure our readiness for Christmas by how many lights have been hung or how many gifts have been wrapped.  On the 25th of December, we could possess no more than a brittle branch of a tree that stands without a thing to offer underneath as long as we'd made the preparations of the heart.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

all you need for a bright and beautiful thanksgiving

Tonight we danced by the tree.
I don't like to rush this week of thanks but we were all ready for the twinkling lights.  

The kids spent the afternoon examining each ornament and placing them in just the right spot.  Even the handmade ones with crumpled edges and holes and cracks...especially those...were lovingly hung. 

Since both kids are less than 4 feet tall you can imagine what the finished product looks like.  I managed to get a few shiny things placed up top but I didn't have the heart to move theirs around for the sake of an evenly-ornamented tree.  

Tonight when we turned off every light in the house the glowing tree looked perfect.  
Oliver stared as a soft grin stretched across his face - What do you 'fink' mommy? Isn't it beautiful?
Even when things are messy and uneven and have holes poked clear through them, the right light has a way of making it all beautiful.  So we take what we've been given and hold it in our hands like a treasure and find the perfect spot to put it on display.  We take extra time and care with the broken and battered pieces because we know they have a story to tell.  As difficult as it may be to look at them in their imperfect form we begin to see them as perhaps the most important part.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

something

'Are you a blogger too?,' he said.

'Yes,' I replied with a grin.

'I thought so.  You seem like the kind of person who has something to say.'

I laughed at his comment knowing that my husband would get a kick out of it.
He knows better than anyone how I just can't seem to keep the words from spilling out.
And so the conversation continued between me and the couple I was seated with at The Barn.  It was one of my favorite parts of the day.
And it wasn't because they just sat there and listened to all of my fumbling words and stories.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

having your dreams handed back to you

Two months ago I was so disappointed.
There was this event I really wanted to attend.  I even set a reminder on my calendar to buy tickets the day they went on sale.  I never do that.  But this event seemed important for me.

Then...something super weird happened.  The day I was expecting to receive an email about how to purchase advance tickets one of my email accounts stopped syncing up to my phone.  I was out all day and didn't realize what had happened until I got home and got on-line and found out the tickets were all gone.
Sold out.

I was so disappointed, 
but then...

Monday, November 18, 2013

one conversation that could move you from fear to freedom

You don't really know me.

I remember saying those exact words to my husband when we first began dating.
Every time he would pay me a compliment...
Every time he would talk about how much he enjoyed being with me...
Every time he brought up the possibility of us making a long-term commitment to each other...


I said those words aloud...

You don't really know me

...and the unspoken ones in my heart...

Because if you did you wouldn't really love me.

Statements like these are evidence of something deadly that has taken up residence deep inside your heart.  They are evidence that your mind has been tricked into believing a lie about who you are and how little you are worth.  These statements reveal the painful power of...

Friday, November 15, 2013

when you are slowly dying inside

I am guessing you may be as tired of hearing about the big 'D' as we are of talking about it.
{BTW - if you haven't been around here lately I'm not referring to 'Dallas' or 'Divorce' but to the Diabetes Diagnosis}

This new life we are living still doesn't feel completely familiar to me, but it is slowly becoming who we are now...day by day.  So let's move forward together, shall we?
This morning, for the first time in weeks, I tiptoed downstairs before the rest of the family woke and did something besides searching the internet for low-carb recipes and suggestions for extending honeymoon periods.  I cracked back open the book I started right before our world got flipped upside down.

Within the first paragraph Emily lifted my face up, looked me right in the eyes, and said...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the One who makes me blush

He didn't use a magic wand.
No spells were cast.
Jesus' presence was enough.

And though the power belonged to Him alone...he invited others in.
He invites us in...
  to be part of the miracle.
Just like that faithful servant who carried that pitcher of dirty water to his master {who happened to be expecting wine}, 
  in our simple obedience his glory is revealed...faith is born.

In a moment...a miracle can happen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

the eternal weight we carry together

Last summer I studied and spoke on the amazing story of Esther.

There is a famous line within the story that has resurfaced for me these past two weeks...
   for such a time as this
As we have faced the reality of Lucy's recent diagnosis I have been blown away by all the people and situations that have been put into place for such a time as this.  
There are countless ways that a strong support system was being built up underneath us long before we knew we would ever need one.

One such strong place is my friend Mary.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

the one who takes his time

My brother said he was taking his sweet time when they were collecting eggs the other day.
He always takes his sweet time.
He reminds me that time really can be sweet if i don't hurry it into something bitter.
With each egg he picked up there was examining to be done.
  Hurry up, Oliver.  We've got more to do.

And still his pace continued.

Finally, in a tone that only Uncle Robert could get away with, he asked...
  Boy, do you even know what 'hurry up' means?!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

how to find the good in every story

31 days comes to an end today and you may have noticed I missed a few of them here at the end.  Sometimes the writing of stories must wait as we shift all of our energy into the living of them.
When I set out to tell the stories of others this month I had no idea a new one would be written in my own life.

The shock of having a child diagnosed with a chronic illness has worn off.  Now I find myself facing the reality that my story going forward will be very different than I could have ever imagined.  
Her story will be different, too.

Monday, October 28, 2013

held by your hands

This whirlwind week has left me with many words to share and not enough energy to share them.
For now I am pushing aside the dirty dishes left on the table and ignoring the piles and crumbs that surround me to say this one thing that can't wait any longer...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

when you're away from home

She crept up beside my bed.
   I had a bad dream mommy.

Normally I would have walked her back to bed and rubbed her back and kissed all the scary thoughts away.  But last night I pulled back the covers and she climbed in beside me.  

I knew what the day ahead would hold and all I wanted to do was hold her.  
In hindsight it was God's kindness and mercy that led us to put all the pieces together once she was tucked in bed last night...before the nod of a doctor's head made it official today.  An observant mama and Google make a pretty good team when it comes to medical diagnoses.  As much as I hoped I was dead wrong, I knew in my heart I was completely right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

connections

Maybe you don't see the connections yet 
but just because you don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there.
{Queen Tara in Epic}

Friday, October 18, 2013

the stories of steinbeck


I don't remember exactly when I began reading Steinbeck.
I do remember my dad passing the books along to me one by one.  I drank each one dry and then moved on to the next.
Tortilla Flat
Cannery Row
East of Eden

After this one I stopped.  It remains one of the most profound books I have ever read.  A classic story of good and evil crafted into a work of art.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

courage to walk a new path :: angie's story


I met her in a mutual friend's kitchen three years ago.  I prepped the vegetables for dinner and she told me she was a writer.  As I listened to her story, the courage in her voice crept into my timid writer heart and I began to see clearly this calling we both share.  When I think about that time when I finally began to take my writing seriously, I think of Angie.  I shared a few words on her blog last year and I'm thrilled that you get to hear from her over here today.  
Here's a #31days guest post by the courageous Angie Mizzell.
~~~

I had just completed my freshman year of college when my maternal grandmother got the diagnosis:
Cancer.
Everywhere. 
Three weeks later, she was gone.  Her death was a sucker punch.  
It was too soon. 
Too unexpected. 
She was too young. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

when life isn't tied up with a pretty bow :: rebecca's story

The story of my friend Rebecca - whose faith is deep and wide.


even in the midst of the deepest pain there are windows to God's hope...

Monday, October 14, 2013

a story of mourning and gladness

Joey had just walked out of the back door and into the woods to go hunting with my brother and cousin.  With my Uncle Ed's death hanging heavy over us everyone needed a little distraction...a chance for something besides grief to sprout up.  
In a matter of weeks we went from being told my uncle had prostate cancer to making funeral arrangements.  
Sometimes it feels like straight line winds have wiped out the world around you and left you standing out in the rubble wondering what just happened.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

the gift you can open any day of the year

So I met this man right as I was about to leave Harris Teeter and we wound up talking for almost 2 hours! You are not going to believe his story...

My sister shook her head and smiled...
  how does that always happen to you?
I'm sure she was thinking back to the time I sat next to that guy on the subway who was
a chef on his way to a job interview
and was super nervous
and had just moved to NYC with his girlfriend
and didn't yet know his way around
and was hoping he didn't get lost
and, by the way, he went to the same culinary school as our brother...how cool is that?

I collected all of that information over the course of 3 stops on the yellow line.

I'm a story collector.

Friday, October 11, 2013

never alone :: the story of a life redeemed

On windy days the sapling outside of her bedroom made a familiar scraping sound against the metal of the single-wide she called home.  When her mother locked her in her room there was no escaping the eerie sound.  She just cowered and endured it.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

language of the heart


i have been
blown away.
inspired.
broken.
humbled.
brought to tears.
filled with hope.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

the opening chapter :: lucy's story



These words were written by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in babylon a looooong time ago.  If you've spent much time reading the Bible you know that the stories often have a funny way of applying directly to the time and place in which we live today.  This is why the Bible is my favorite storybook.

When they were sent to Babylon, the rebellious Jewish exiles may have felt devastated.  They collectively wept at the prospect of being slaves to this foreign nation.  They were essentially leaving the security of their homeland, where they originally had a strong connection with one another and with God, and being dumped in the midst of a people whose culture and values were drastically different from their own.  Not fun.
I'm sure there were times when these people wanted to shout - 'Hey!  There's been a mistake here!  Take me back to my other life!'  but...
that season was no accident...it wasn't bad luck.  
It was part of the plan...God's plan.  
One commentary says it this way...
When you find yourself in the midst of  suffering and hardship, don't think his plans for you have changed.  God uses all things for the ultimate good of those who love him.  You might not understand his purpose in all things, but he promises to be working for your good.  (Wiersbe)

~~~
Fast forward a couple thousand years...
a rebellious 15 year old girl finds herself 'on the run'.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

what we shared at the swings :: katie's story

We pushed their little bodies back up into the air each time they returned to us.  
back and forth
back and forth

Our conversation moved that way too.  
Surrounded by slides and swings and laughing children we fell into the easy conversation that mothers share.  I hadn't seen Katie since the end of last school year so there were plenty of topics to fill the space between us.

Suddenly a benign conversation about Vacation Bible School was interrupted by her offer...
to share a story.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

make some light


Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.
{The Tale of Despereaux}
Despereaux Tilling was a mouse born with a small body and unusually large ears.  He loved books, music, and light.  He wasn't like the other mice...he was something more.  But sometimes being different can leave you misunderstood.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

tea olives :: aunt linda's story

I will never smell a tea olive tree without thinking of my Aunt Linda.
The older I get the more I experience death...but that doesn't make it any easier.

Friday, October 4, 2013

when your detour becomes your road :: laura's story

Songs tell some of the most beautiful stories.
This summer I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite storytelling songwriters.  As she shared her heart through her music there was one song in particular that left a room full of 500+ grown women in tears.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

golden bowls :: Jill's story


Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
Revelation 5:8
Almost four years ago my best friend was advised that her pregnancy should be terminated.  When her water broke at only 20 weeks the doctors believed that the baby girl she carried would not survive.

I remember sitting on the edge of her hospital bed holding her hands tight as we wept together.  Through the tears I cried out to God in a way I had never cried out before.  I pleaded for that fragile life my friend carried in her womb.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

your amazing story

About a year ago I saw a commercial for a certain cable network and this is what some idiot marketing genius decided was a great way to promote the network...

The story you could be watching is better than the one you're in!

What???  Are you kidding me???

Monday, September 30, 2013

31 days to share stories

there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
{maya angelou}

i devour books.
i love a good movie.
stories captivate me.

how about you?
what are your favorite stories?

i may obsess over the adventures of tris and four 
and i may be drawn into the tale of a dragon named toothless,
but my favorite stories are the real life ones.  
the ones that i hear over coffee or while pushing kids on swings or when flying across the country.  

your stories inspire me.

and that, my friends, will be my focus during our 31 days together this year.  #31days #wwsharestories

Sunday, September 29, 2013

what i learned in september

next week my 31 days begins...that's a lot of writing.

so let's keep this post short and sweet, shall we?  

Friday, September 27, 2013

the little things


wishing you a weekend full of little things...
and the time you need to really gaze at them and hold them in your hands and feel the simultaneous weight and lightness that they bring to your soul.

{and don't forget that next week we'll begin this year's 31 days.  come back monday to find out what my 31 days will be about this year!  i think you're gonna like it.}

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

when you are tired of waiting and asking 'why?'

one look can say a thousand words.

i hope i never forget the look on marc's face the day he married kasey.
last friday i boarded a plane bound for dallas.  i was on my way to witness the answer to a prayer i've been praying for years.  a prayer not for myself, but for a precious friend.

sometimes our lives don't turn out exactly the way they looked when we closed our eyes and dreamt of them.  for my friend kasey the years kept ticking away and her friends kept walking the aisle and still she found herself without a husband.

have you ever really wanted something?

Monday, September 16, 2013

when you feel left out

did you know that i have a mountain named after me?

well...it's really more of a hill 
and i'm the one who named it but still...it's kind of a big deal.
last night lucy was already bathed and ready for bed.  she had walked outside for a minute to see what the boys were doing and walked back in with tears.  apparently she had been excluded from something really special {or so she said}.  she felt left out.

Friday, September 13, 2013

far more {linda's story}

so i got this text from my friend linda last week...
i shared some of linda's story with you last year.  it was one of my most popular posts ever.  if you go take a look i think you'll see why.

linda's dream of being a mommy has been sitting on the shelf of her heart for years.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

stop cleaning your house!

i swept the floor 15 minutes prior to this picture being taken...
and then they ate dinner and i wondered - why on earth did i sweep the floor right before dinner?

anybody with me?

people often ask me how i do everything that i do.  i laugh.
the people who ask that question don't know me very well and have never been to my house {or in my car}.  if they had, they would know the answer.

if you really want to know how i accomplish so many things in a day here's my answer...

Friday, September 6, 2013

how to get your fight back

earlier this week i wrote a raw unedited post that i wasn't sure i should publish.

i'm glad i did.


judging from the amount of texts, emails, and comments i received...that post resonated with many of you.  that tells me something...two things actually.


#1 - we are not alone in our struggles {thank you, jesus}.

and #2 - you all probably need encouragement and inspiration as much as i do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

the late-night post i probably shouldn't publish

It's nearly 11pm and I am exhausted.  I should be in bed but I have this problem...  
there are days when my body can barely make it up the stairs but my mind keeps barreling forward and I can't find the brakes.

Do you ever have days like those?  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

things i learned in august {the divergent post}

she must have looked back at me a dozen times as she climbed the platforms up to the top.  every time our eyes met i gave her a thumbs up and smiled a brave smile...even though i felt my stomach tying into knots on the inside.  when she reached the top of the slide i thought she had changed her mind...
mommy - i'm so afraid.
i thought to myself - me too, baby.
but instead i said - listen for my voice. i will call up to you from the bottom.
i stuck my head into the tube at the bottom and said in the most assured voice i could muster - i'm right here waiting on you.
when i pulled my head up i saw her smiling at the top and then heard the thud of her hopping in for the ride of her little life.
when her body hit the water i held my breath too.
she popped up with a goggle-faced grin and yelled - that was awesome!  then she doggy paddled her way over to my outstretched leg.
i wasn't even wearing my bathing suit at the pool that day.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

stop and taste the crabapples

here's a fun fact for you...
it takes me half as much time as it takes my husband to mow the grass.
i'm not trying to brag.  i'm just stating a fact, but...

Friday, August 23, 2013

how to really make an impact in this world

yesterday was my husband's birthday.  
he's the most special man i know, so i wanted the day to reflect that.  
he serves and sacrifices for me all year long, so i wanted to serve him.
he appreciates a clean house, so i wanted at least part of it to be presentable {by this i mean no half-used watercolors and dirty clothes on the table where i was serving dinner}.

i think i succeeded on all accounts.  
he even told me the salmon i made was the best he ever had {score!}.

Monday, August 19, 2013

we refuse {what it means to be an esther generation}

an average jewish girl, adopted by her cousin following the death of her parents...
of all the dreams she may have held in her heart, being the queen of persia probably wasn't one of them.  or maybe it was.  
maybe the promise of royalty had been whispered to her by the One who would eventually give her favor with the king.  but even then it would have been difficult for her to actually believe.


i heard this song on the radio as i drove to church to deliver the message on esther this week.  as i sang along to the familiar words i realized this could have been esther's anthem.
it could be ours.

she refused...
to make excuses.
to say empty prayers.
to turn her back.
to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God had called her to do herself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

the haiti we saw with our own eyes

the showers are cold in haiti.
this was probably one of lucy's least favorite parts of the trip.  like her mama she takes her showers steamy hot.
but despite the cold showers and the absence of t.v.'s lucy still cried real tears last night when she told me...
mommy, i wasn't ready to leave.

i never could have imagined how haiti would wrap her arms around my girl and hug her tight.  everywhere we went the people responded to her with with love and warmth.  they ran gentle fingers through her hair and looked deep in her eyes.  they laughed with joy at the sight of her and pleaded for her attention.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

why i'm taking my 5 year old to haiti


dear lucy,

the last time you boarded a plane it was to visit 'the happiest place on earth'.  
you had your first glimpse at larger than life mice with big plastic grins.  
you strolled the perfectly swept streets, past the perfectly manicured lawns, listening to perfectly delightful music that played like a theme song to your perfect life.  
when the sun beat down heavy we escaped into cool buildings where neatly dressed people smiled warmly and offered you an ice cream bar with chocolate ears.  you gobbled it up until only a stick remained.  
you tasted adventure on those whirling rides as the wind swept through your tiny curls.  
but there was one you asked to board again...and again...

you slid onto that bench next to me as the boat rocked gently in the water.  your eyes were wide with wonder as we lurched forward and fell into the current of the river that would take us around the world.

it's a world of laughter,
a world of tears.
it's a world of hopes,
and a world of fears...

Friday, August 9, 2013

behind a closed door {my wish for you this weekend}


mama writers write wherever and whenever we can.  
when inspiration strikes we are lucky if we are in a position to snatch it up and get it down into words.  

sometimes our hands are holding sippy cups under faucets and tissues over noses and ladles in pots.  we are so busy holding everything together that we can’t let go long enough to put palms up and catch the fleeting thoughts before they are blown away beyond arm’s length.  
this morning the words came rushing and so i ushered the kids downstairs to daddy and slipped my laptop under my arm and came racing back upstairs to close the door behind me...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

could this really be one of the hardest things i've ever done?



i want to confess that i have not been sharing all of my words with you.  {deep breath}
i've been keeping some on the side for a book i am writing. {big gulp}

writing hundreds of words for a blog post can lead to a shift in the way you think.  
writing thousands of words for the chapters of a book can lead to a shift in the way you live. 

over the past month i have felt a shift.

it was as if someone kept whispering this little suggestion in my ear.  
i'm embarrassed to say that for weeks i wrestled with whether or not i could actually follow-through with the suggestion.  the wrestling and my inability to give an immediate 'yes' was an affirmation that a change really did need to take place.  so...here goes...

Monday, August 5, 2013

when you get a pit in your stomach

Have you ever had that awful feeling way down deep?

I call it a 'pit in my stomach' but it's really more like a wild, reckless tornado that twists inside of me destroying any semblance of safety or peacefulness.  It rearranges every thought and emotion that once seemed strong until they are left like broken pieces in a pile on the ground of my soul.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

how to face the demands of this day

today i have a very proud moment i would like to share with you, my dear friends...

my laundry is no longer to the point of overflowing all over onto the floor.   

at this very moment all of the dirty clothes in my house fit down in the FOUR bags hanging in my bedroom closet {plus the TWO plastic hampers in the hall}...
ta-dah!  
i did it!  

what?  you're not impressed?

i have never claimed to be the perfect homemaker {God bless my patient grace-filled recovering-neat-freak husband}.  
on the contrary,