Friday, July 30, 2010

Welcome Surprise

I got home from work just in time to tidy up the mess, clear the stray dishes from the sink to the dishwasher, and get elbow-deep into cooking supper. And that's when it happened. It took me by surprise, and I usually don't like surprises.

A desire to journal my gratitude began to swell in me as I read of others who did the same. I, too, wanted to be aware of, not innocuous to, all the small yet significant ways God was speaking his grace to me. So I started looking, noticing, recording and counting.

But today was different. Today, the gratitude found me. I had to stop grating cheese to write down the blessings that fell over me like many exquisite feathers from a broken pillow. And I had to write to keep up, so as not to miss a single tickle from the down.

The feather-graces give me wings and flight, to a loftier place, a higher perspective, above the daily din and half-baked dinner, and the day's worries that weigh down so. I can see how this could be addictive, and how I'd want to always fly, and never stop counting, looking, finding, or, best yet, being found.


151. hummingbirds stealing nectar from my backyard

152. finishing books

153. cousins that live close and are close friends

154. neighbors that hire your children when they're away

155. crockpot macaroni and cheese

156. purple fountain grass and million bells that don't wither in 103 degree July


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157. back to back youth camp and kids camp

158. one week alone time with Reagan

159. prayer

160. back to school shopping

161. kids who like to do my text-messaging and load my mp3 player for me

162. new music to listen to

163. being healthy to earn a paycheck

164. glimpses of maturity and graciousness in my daughter

165. kissing my teen's and pre-teens' cheeks, and they like it, and admit it, and kiss back

166. my kids filling my home with the music they make


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167. my kids filling my sink with the dishes they dirty and consoling myself with, "savor it, someday they'll not be here to..."

168. anticipating company -- half the fun

169. opportunities to believe without seeing and the challenge of that

170. bare feet on cool green grass

171. that there is something cool right now

172. full moon shining through tree leaf frame on our back deck


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173. surprises...sometimes

174. being found

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That He Would Even Speak...Again

The sands continue to fall. The mythological golden thread shimmers in the sunlight, gleaming before the sheers that ever so slowly are descending upon it. So slowly, in fact, we don't notice that the blades come ever closer to cut and drain lifeblood.

We're comfortable with sand falling. It's all we know -- this life, this passage of time. Can we see beyond the transparent window of the hourglass? This vapor that won't last? The one that is described for us, even still, with the passing of time - here today, gone tomorrow? We are hard pressed to separate ourselves from time, the hourglass that traps us in quicksand.

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But the sand will stop falling. What then? What of before? Is this all there is? Sand falling, suspended in time and space, without meaning, no anchor to a larger purpose?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1)

And sand began to fall.

And man, too, began to fall.

And man no longer heard what God said.

We smear the luminous hourglass with ourselves. The sin is selfish and proud. We see a masterpiece because it is our very own creation. We hang it between us and Creator and look for fulfillment.

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But it is mud and blocks our view of God.

It's dark now. We see only sand and each other. We are imprisoned on this spinning sphere of time and space God meant to be a dwelling place. We wiggle our toes down deep in the sand, make a go of it. The sand falls hypnotic; we succumb and are engrossed. We settle.

And it is so. We see all that we have made, and behold, it is very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the eighth day. And sand falls for a lifetime.

But there was something else in the beginning. Before the quicksand, the falling. Before our mud.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. (John 1)

God spoke his rescue. He doesn't whoosh in like a superhero, all glitz and flash. He comes to our imprisonment and He only speaks. After all we have done . . . he speaks his grace and truth. And his merciful Word cuts to the marrow of bone. Do we dare listen?

We re-created his world, made for ourselves darkness, called it good. We cut ourselves off, needing none other than self. Did it boldly, proudly. Needy, yet so stubborn.

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Even still, God speaks. That He even would a second time is unimaginable. Too much to ask.

But he is the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. He speaks, and if we will but listen, we learn He is able to keep us from falling. The true Creator speaks light and life. All we must do is listen. And we must, because there is so much more beyond the hourglass.

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I am linking today's post in community with others who also chronicle their walk with Him.

holy experience

Photo Credits: My son, Adrian

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Learning Resurrection Life


Mr. John and Mrs. Barbara pour grape juice into plastic communion cups. They wash the silver cup holders and bread plates, fill them with wafers, and they starch crisp white table linens that enshroud the meal. It's been their duty as long as I can remember. Mrs. Barbara's never let the shaky Parkinson's disease stand in the way of her aim when she shoots her 64 ounce bottle of juice at her one ounce target.

Other than a vague knowledge of their communion table preparation, I'd never given it a second thought. But this time Mrs. Barbara was spinning through chemotherapy cycles when the communion cycle spun to the top of the church calendar. I wondered if she was up to the task. And for the first time ever, I was envious of the duties. What an intimate act of service it must be to the church and Lord Jesus to prepare the communion meal. I now was longing to do this act. To prepare for death.

I remember preparing for death; I've done it before. I was bent in half in my closet swimming through the blurry salt water crowding my eyes, and the mess of shoes looking for black. Without thought, I said to Mike, "Bring a suit in case there's a funeral." The words didn't seem real in my mouth, but ricocheted hard in my ear.

The next day, another blow hit its mark hard: burial clothes, too, were needed. Mike and I volunteered to make the hour drive to Jeff's apartment to retrieve one of his suits and a tie. His white shirt needed to be ironed, a task I desperately wanted to do for my brother. When we got back to Mom's I offered to iron, but Mom said she wanted to do it.

A mother's love trumps a sister's, so I acquiesced and sat opposite her on the couch, watching the iron's heat coax wrinkles from the cotton and a shirt stand proxy for a son when a mother poured out her last loving service to her firstborn. No words are fit for this occasion, so we were left to our own thoughts. I don't remember what I was thinking then, but now I am struck by how desperate we both were to serve him, some way, with any act of kindness we could find. We needed to declare tangibly our love for him, to demonstrate it one last time. In the face of death.

In Sunday school today, we watched Paul build a logical case for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 that would rival any defense attorney's closing arguments. It was an air-tight case, brilliantly argued. His conclusion crescendoed with an ardent plea to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

As we took communion a short time later, thoughts of resurrection life lingered. Mrs. Barbara was beaming under her hat, holding her communion cup steady. Her duties to the Lord's table complete, she looked peaceful and well-satisfied, perhaps because of the added effort it took this time around. It's the contentment that comes with loving acts of service.

When Jesus humbled himself to become flesh, he was donning burial clothes. The flesh and blood he took upon himself to identify with us, are the same burial clothes we now put on to commune with Him. We drink and we bite down and we die. And He breaks the hold of death to live the resurrection life. It's lavish and extravagant. Jesus, too, commits a last act of service to declare his love. In the face of death. And I remember the desperation to serve my brother with a last loving service.

I feel compelled to live my resurrection life with this same desperation for my Lord. I pray it be reckless abandon in the face of death from this moment on. And lavish, like Jesus's. I offer myself a dead but living sacrifice on the alter, a spiritual service that the writer of Romans deems an act of worship. I learn that love, at its core, demonstrates itself as service, obedience. It is not obligation. It is love. Desperate and extravagant, it is love that will not be denied.

Photo Credit: my son, Adrian

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Indulging In Breaking My Word

What do you do when the summer gets by you without a little getaway?

When there are no vacation plans in the near future?

When school shopping looms large and summer bible studies wind down?

When it's hot and you've done all the hiding in the AC you can do?

Answer: You make a mad dash for the coast, even if it's only for 24 hours.

You pack your kids and your dog.

You're not deterred by a blow-out and discover defective tires and have to replace all four and a dead battery, too.

You get there just in time to enjoy a sandy sunset and smell the salt.

You make marvelous memories. You pass the camera around and get creative.

When you return, your daughter creates a sweet video to capture your flight. And she doesn't want you to post it yet because she wants it on her blog instead, but you can't help yourself.

Because you love it all. The beach. The beauty. The breeze. The blessings.


Myrtle Beach Getaway from Dawn Gonzalez on Vimeo.

Maybe you could encourage Reagan to forgive me when you visit her place to get her take on it.

mamma goodness thinks (dot) blogspot (dot) com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Summer Fun"

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Photo Friday - "Summer Fun"
Blueberries picked by a friend and lovingly given to ME -- ME! I can't wait to cook them up for cheesecake topping. Nothing says summer like blueberries. Thanks, Valerie -- I'll bring you a piece of cheesecake!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Up Close

Sometimes life is better viewed from a distant perspective. Putting things in context brings meaning, shapes the atmosphere.

Lately I've been more interested in the close up - the unexpected beauty created by details that often goes unnoticed.

The shadow one casts just from simply being there, still, constant, beautiful is a silhouette of grace.


The one that supports and holds things up is a quiet strength that's as beautiful as what's really on display.


The instrument is a beautiful work of art in itself, but then it is touched by fingers that breathe life, and a whole new masterpiece is created.



May life be beautiful in the mundane, the practical and the obvious. In every place we look to find it and in those places we miss.

From His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. ~John 1:16

This week's counted graces include:

135 ~ self inflicted French manicure (not too shabby after much practice)
136 ~ impromptu overnight company
137 ~ family movie night, including the dog
138 ~ slipping into fresh, clean sheets
139 ~ birdsong symphony to wake up to
140 ~ haircuts
141 ~ that what I call interruptions to my plans God calls His will
142 ~ the blessing of lifelong friendship, even if it has always been long distance
143 ~ audiobooks
144 ~ Cherry Lane, Canterwood Road, Canal Place Circle and Overbrook Drive keeping the real estate industry hobbling along
145 ~ what's needed and God's provision
146 ~ a summer of missionary stories and family prayer for those who volunteer for hostile frontlines of areas unreached and unreceptive to the gospel
147 ~ kids who break car windows and friends willing to help fix them
148 ~ a surprise gift of folded laundry - priceless, literally and figuratively
149 ~ teaching my kids that even being bored is a luxury; always be grateful, never complaining
150 ~ Christmas music in July

This is a 1000 Gifts post as well as a link to High Calling Blogs Photo Play of thirds.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pure Vanity

Ok, this is so not like me, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

I got a haircut and color today. So I thought about doing a before and after, except I didn't think about it until after...

So here's a before from not too long ago:




And here's the after from today:



This is what I was goin' for:



Ok, I don't have as much hair as she does, and mine's a little longer, but not too far off, huh?

So nice to be my natural color again . . . even if my natural color is now gray and this beautiful brown came out of a box.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty,
I feel pretty, and witty, and gay...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hugs

When I was a little girl, my father used to tell me he had a surprise for me. By the time he got home, I had worked myself into a lather wondering what it could possibly be. It always turned out to be a hug and a kiss, announced like a true salesman, performed like a showman, that left me feeling deflated . . . and maybe a little guilty over my revealed greed for wanting something better.

The other morning, only half awake, Reagan came down the stairs and straight into my arms. She sleep-mumbled into my chest, "You give good hugs, Mom."

"Yeah, hugs are good," my reply came deep from my own satisfaction. And a few really special ones come to mind.

It was just after our wedding and reception. Mike and I had retreated to respective dressing rooms to shed our wedding garb and emerged in the adjoining hallway at the same time, our first moments alone as man and wife. Mike had a card for me that spoke the true feelings he was afraid he wouldn't otherwise have the wherewithal to speak on such an occasion as his wedding day. I was empty-handed, only able to receive, with no gift of my own to give but myself. That hug, alone on the blue carpet of the church foyer, was the best hug I had ever known in my twenty years. Wrapped in the love of youth, enraptured with one another, our future bright before us. It was blissful magic. Achingly satisfying.

Many years later, Derrick was one of the last to enter the funeral home. There wasn't much of a line anymore, only the heavy hum of attempted conversation stilted with shock and grief. The man who had been the boy next door for fifteen years walked straight up to me and wordlessly wrapped me in his arms. Derrick knew. He was orphaned at nineteen. It had been eight years since he lost his father to leukemia two weeks after we graduated from high school together, and his mother one short year later to pneumonia and a broken heart. With his hug, Derrick embraced every broken piece of me and all my utter devastation when we had to put Jeff in the grave. It was the most comforting hug in a night full of them.

Time passed, and our church family no longer wanted Mike as their pastor. He anguished over the pot beginning to let off steam, knowing the boiling over was soon to come. We were anxious to circumvent the natural progression of things, but were wisely advised to let it happen. It needed to happen. The night that it did, I felt peace. I remember chuckling to myself, in the silence of counting votes, wondering if they would allow him time to vacate his office. It was ugly and sad. The tally was taken, the desires made known. And God sealed his will for our lives in that count - we were outnumbered by God's seven, perfect and complete. Boiling over is messy and sensational and hurtful and scary.

Garland was a church member who retreated to Mike's office with us. He was very sorry about it all, and he fumbled around not knowing what to do or say at a time like this, when what belongs safe inside has spilled over into the fire and is burned. When he hugged me I felt safe and protected for a strange moment. Garland was a new christian and not our closest friend, but God used him that night to help me know His strength, His comfort, and that I am secure in Him. In an instant fear melted, and God is in the mess.

Yep, Reagan, hugs are good indeed. I'm glad you learned that at such a tender age. It has taken me much longer.



He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
~Psalm 91:4


When we are bursting with youth's hope, when we are crushed by life's tragedy, when we are tempered by failure's sear. Always, there is rest under His wing.



Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, discussing the spiritual practice of rest.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lessons for Life

She was at the computer playing a video game when I walked in. The other one was across the street at a friends house. So it goes in the summertime, when school work has been laid aside, brains begin to collect dust, and children's bodies sweat in July.

"We're busy, and can't play." It was lame, and they all knew it. Reagan was at Jill's house precicely for that reason. (The name has been changed to protect some of the guilty). They were busy, and playing - it was true. But Noelle wasn't and wanted to be.

She took her rejection to the computer and did her best to ignore it and learn how to live defeated. The next three hours turned ugly, and I couldn't be prouder.

I was cooking dinner listening to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (just love my audiobooks!) when Noelle came in wanting to talk. By now Reagan and Jill had made their way to our house and were upstairs having envious fun. Noelle saw that I was engrossed in my book and the food, and said, "Never mind, it's kind of a long story."

I shrugged, said, "Okay," and turned the volume up. Rejected again, this time, by Mom. (Name not changed to protect anyone this time.) In my defense, I had no idea what her story was about, because she didn't seem upset at all.

She eventually found her way back to me, though, and said, "When are you gonna be through? I really want to tell you my story." So we sat down a the breakfast bar.

Earlier, while chatting on the computer with Jill, Noelle had begun to do some rejecting herself. She was rejecting defeat and had decided to fight. She lobbed a bit of judgment and attack in Jill's direction. It didn't make her feel any better though.

When her story ended, I pointed out a few things that Noelle did, too, that were a bit like what she was accusing Jill of. An embarrassed smile crawled over her face and she slinked off the kitchen bar stool and left in silence.

A bit later, Noelle was hesitating at the stairs that lead to her ex-sister and ex-friend with a paper in her hand.

"What's going on, Noelle?" I asked, trying to prepare myself for who-knows-what, and wishing I had a little wisdom about now.

Noelle shows me her letter she wrote to Jill and Reagan asking forgiveness for the nasties she'd said. It went on to express more fairly her hurt feelings. She teared up while she read it to me. With a hug and a "I think you should give it to 'em," from Mom, up the stairs she went - tears and all.

Watching from the eyes in the back of my head that every Momma has, I saw her retreat to the garage. A few minutes later Reagan and Jill went out after her. I heard some raised voices volleying back and forth, and wondered if I'd have to referee. I began half-asking God for wisdom now 'cause I'm not good at this tedious kid bickering-stuff.

As it turned out, they're a threesome again, singing along to Guitar Hero, and there's some real goodness going on up there. And I'm proud of 'em. Not because they had a fight and made up. And not because they didn't need a referee.

I'm proud because Noelle didn't play the victim or feel sorry for herself.

She asked for forgiveness of her own fault before she pointed out Reagan and Jill's.

She didn't settle for defeat. She raised her voice and fought the fight, because relationships are worth it.

She learned a life lesson today, and so did I. God answers even half-asked prayers and spoke wisdom to me through my little girl.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer Reading List

Summer is escaping me quickly, and I haven't plowed through near enough pages yet. Right now I'm half way through Randy Alcorn's Heaven, a thought-provoking delve into what Heaven is like. It is making a lasting impression even as I consider serving the Lord in the here and now.

Next on the list is Radical, David Platt's book that Mike highly recommends. I think it will be the culmination of several things that have caused Mike and me to change courses economically and materially. With a study two years ago about living a more generous life, and then a run-through of Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsay last year, I think Radical will be quite the final act in this life drama.

I downloaded the ebook by Angie Smith, I Will Carry You. I'm anxious to read that one as well. I've never sat before a computer screen to read an entire book before. I can do it for hours blog-hopping, but something seems amiss here. I need ink I can smell on a page I can dog-ear all kept with a binding fresh for bending backwards.

Also on the list is Screwtape Letters, a classic by C. S. Lewis I've never read.(Did he write anything that didn't become a classic?) I always want to devote summers to the classics, but I've yet to succeed. A summer of Austen, Brontë, and Dickens sounds delicious.

And with Tozer's The Pursuit of God as the monthly free download at audiobooks, I just might have a reading list to last me through December. I love to read, but it's a slow go for me. I live jealous of friends who devour a whole novel in two days.

And with all these heavy-lifters, surely I need something lighter to end with. Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Just Because . . .


. . . it's summer . . .



. . . and it's hot . . .




. . . and the grass needs watering . . .



.


. . . and so do kids.




Just beause . . .




. . . they're sisters . . .




. . . and friends . . .




. . . and they're kids.




Because water is refreshing . . .




. . . and play is too.




Just because there are smiles . . .





. . . and laughter . . .




. . . and some things never get old.







God On the Spot

How good are you at testimony-telling? I think I am getting worse.

I love to hear about how He's worked in situations and comes through in the eleventh hour. It's easy to tell these stories when they have God written all over them and they ended with happily ever after. God the hero, his servant the rescued damsel in distress. We're reading missionary stories each night after dinner this summer. They're ripe with God's miraculous Hand scribbling his unmistakable signature over desperate and dangerous times.

They become testimonies after God moves. But what are they before, when they're in the making?

I've already told the fish tale God is leading me to, even though I don't yet have my riding off into the sunset. I've proclaimed, and with a megaphone, that the corner of this design boasts God's signature. And now I wait to see, and I go obeying . . . and I waver.

It is I who now scribbles with shaky hand; writing FAITH across the doubt, reframing my point of view. I tell of the testimony premature, in the midst of the test part. Is this faith? Is it irresponsible? And I swallow the lump and be brave to ask, "Have I put God on the spot?"

I have even more questions, always in need of more answers. Have I overstepped? Presumed? Put God in a predicament? Do I even dare ask?

And God answers. With His good gifts. In His grace. All love for his unsure girl, the one who struggles with faith.

"I am always on the spot. I put Myself there when I employ hands and feet of clay. Use the dust of the earth for what's holy. With every command, I am on the spot.

Will you obey?

Will you heed?

Trust?

Rest?

Will you radiate My glory?

When you do, I sign my Name on the masterpiece that is you . . . because it is Me."



So I rest. And there is peace. Just as soon as I move out of the spotlight. It is reserved for Another. It is God who is on the spot.

Friday, July 2, 2010

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