Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Being Called Out

Her hands shook almost imperceptibly. She'd stood in my office doorway for just a second and in my busyness, I hadn't noticed the Bible she held. "What's up? Do you need me for something?"

"How are you today?" She had asked me. I was busy, working on a task that always seems to make or break my day and she knew I could be volitile. I mumbled something innocuous and tried to smile through my teeth without making it a grimace.

"I need to show you something... I mean, I'd like you to read something that God has been asking me to show you." Her small hands held the Bible open and offered it up to me, open to Isaiah 58:9-11. My eyes struggle these days to read small print, but I squinted my way through it as I took the book in my own hands. I realize now that I never looked up at her.

The words didn't jump off the page at me. Instead they crept into my heart with purpose, determination and conviction.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

I admit I didn't read all of it with comprehension... But I was struck immediately by one phrase: If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness... ahem. There it was: the conviction that I had dreaded would come.

When you pray for God to reveal the source of a problem you are facing and He comes back at you with, "The problem is your attitude," it is hard to take. I want to explain, to justify the appropriateness of my actions. I want to make God understand that I have reason to feel as I do. Trouble is, God doesn't care about my own filthy justifications. God cares about my heart. God cares about growing me. God cares that I am humble and attentive and compassionate to others before I tend to myself. Here He was, pointing out that I was none of those things. God was holding up a mirror and I didn't like what I saw.

I read the passage and thanked her, finally looking up and meeting her eyes. I acknowledged my culpability in the situation. I told her I needed to hear it, and I wrote down the verse so I could later meditate on it. She breathed an audible sigh and confessed that she had stood outside my door arguing with God about showing me the passage. I tried not to cringe about what that says about my approachability. Instead, I marveled at the obedience involved.

That is what God is asking of me. It doesn't matter if I understand the plan, if I feel comfortable with the direction He is taking me. What matters is whether or not I am obedient to His direction. Listening when I would rather talk, moving when I would rather stay put, speaking up when it might be misunderstood - These are the things my God is asking me for. Obedience, brokenness and compassion. Obedience doesn't look like complaints, brokenness doesn't point fingers of blame and compassion isn't self-aggrandizing.

I thank God for that woman's tiny hands pointing to a verse I needed to see. I thank God she was willing to forego her fear of my temper and stand up for God's momentary mission for her, and ultimately for me. Praise the Lord He refuses to let me wallow in my own sense of righteousness and justification. I am truly blessed to be loved by One who refuses to let me stay where I am.

I endeavor to walk into my day knowing that complaints and blaming are not the path God desires for me. I recognize that my God is bigger than my problems and I strive to treat Him as The Master Planner. My role is to walk in obedience and today that feels like freedom!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Desperate Conversations

Photo courtesy of Gail Pniak

"Are you there? God? I really hope you are there... I am desperate for someone to talk to. "

Speak, Child. I am always listening. You Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, Ps 10:17

"This is hard, Lord... This thing you asked me to do. It's really hard!"

Yes. I will give you the strength to do it. The lord gives strength to his people; Ps 29:11

"But God! You don't know what you are asking me here... It hurts to do this thing! I suck at it! I can't keep doing it all wrong and have your purpose be served. There has to be some other way!"

You are the vessel I have chosen. I chose you before the beginning of time for this role. I still choose you. Keep going. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Eph 1:4

"Lord, you are not listening to me! I can't do this all by myself, I am too weak and sickly to keep going!"

You are not by yourself. I am here. I will not leave you in this. You can do it. You will do it. I will give you strength. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deu 31:6

"I feel so alone and abandoned, Lord. No one is here for me and no one wants to help. They all say the same thing... They all say to keep praying."

It's good advice, to pray. Keep your eyes on me. Like a firefighter rescuing a child from a burning home, keep your eyes fixed firmly in mine and I will guide you out of the flames. 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. 2 Cor 4:18

"Lord, I am tired..."

I will give you moments of rest to rejuvenate. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:28

"I am so unworthy. I can't possibly have enough faith to keep going."

All of you are unworthy of my love. I don't love you because you deserve it, I love you because I AM. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom 3:23

"If only I could see your plan for just a moment, just a second... Then I could understand and keep going. Then I would know why!"

My ways are not your ways. Even if I opened the Book, it would not encourage you. You could not comprehend the entire tapestry for the one small strand that is you. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Is 55:9

"Can't it be just a little easier? Why does it always have to be so hard?"

If it were easier, if I allowed you comfort, would you be on your knees with me right now? I determine the difficulty based on my knowledge, not on your comfort. Growth is painful and you are growing... For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1Pet 2:19

"Lord, how can I go on in such fear and desperate circumstances? I am only human... Surely, there is another person more qualified than me..."

Do not be discouraged. Even one far greater than the angels asked to be relieved of His duty. My will, not yours. Remember that. Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luk 22:42

"This is hard, God. I hope it's worth it."

I gave you my promise. There will be great reward. Just keep going. Eyes up! Knees bent! Hands open wide for all the bounty that will come... For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11

Monday, August 13, 2012


Someday I will learn. Apparently, that day is not today. Apparently, today I am learning other lessons. Lessons like surrender, trust, patience, self-care. In my great big hurry to have impact, punch and significance, I am reduced to laying flat on my back. I am impacting only my mattress, punching my frustrated fists into thin air and feeling vastly insignificant.

It does nothing for ones ego when trying to "press on" leaves your best friend telling you, "You look like s*@#! Go to bed already!" That is not the tally-ho I expect to hear, although it is precisely what I need to hear. I need to hear that my half-measure is not good enough, my limping ego is not effective, my job not so critical that I should waste my last drop of energy on it this second.

I know what happened now. I can see it plain as day. I relaxed... I allowed my body that little hint of let down. But instead of a slow dawning of relief, it swung the door wide and plowed me over like so many brides in a discount bridal store basement. The thing is, I never should have been standing in the doorway to start with. I don't quite recall exactly how I got there, although I am sure it was filled with good intentions. There was a job to do, a need to be met and I figured I was available, so... After forty-some years of trying to be everyone's everything I am figuring out that I am not very good at it. Go figure!

Irony, you are a harsh little wench! You would be the one chuckling in the background as I lay here reading about being "wrecked" and tackling the fears of my true "quest." I can hear you asking me if I feel "wrecked" enough, if I have climbed any trees lately... I envision you rolling about on the ground, holding your belly as you guffaw openly at my silliness. It's ok. I too can laugh at my trading one set of worries for another.

The deal is, I will leave my imprint regardless of how I look today because I will persevere. I will keep at the dream that increases in its looming terror because I possess resolve. I want this more than I want anything else. I will not be denied my heart's desire or forego my obedience to God. I will relish the learning curve, the lessons I am given and I will use them to defeat sloth and stagnation, fear and worry. I am trading my broken self for a vessel filled to the brim. For when I am weak, He is my strength.

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Do You See What He Sees?

I am a trouble maker. I am messy and fallen and all over the place emotionally. I am known to drop a cuss word, be mean-spirited, judgmental and vain. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister and I am a horrendous housekeeper. I am most of all a real life person.

I am a Christian.

I don't fit into the stark white, soft pillowed, hymns gently playing mold of Christian women I grew up thinking I should be. I am loud and I am colorful in bright hues of purple, orange and red. I am salty and spicy and full of things that are shocking and unwieldy. I embrace the youthful, loud and raucous. I enjoy singing off key at the top of my lungs, I dance exuberantly and let my kids see me cry.

I am a Christian.

I am not a Christ-follower because I am perfect, I am His because I am forgiven. I very rarely get it right. I am not His because I am worthy, or righteous or knowledgeable. It isn't about the things I do, it is about how much I love Jesus, how much I need Him, how much I desire to be His. I will never be perfected until I am seated with Him in Heaven. Until then, I will continue to live my life out loud, to shout out my joy and my angst, to dance in the streets and celebrate my freedom.

I am a Christian.

I will not ask you to follow me. I am not worthy of your adoration. I am just a person who loves knowing that God loves me more than anything in this world. Yup, He loves me best. He loves you best too... But I prefer to dwell on me. I will never be rid of my selfishness, though I try to keep it controlled. I refuse to hide my bruises, my scars and my ugliness because I know that if I did you might get the wrong idea. I want you to look at me in all of my brokenness and know that I am an example of how encompassing is God's love. He will not wait for me to wash, He will not leave if I am late. God loves me even before I love Him back. The truth is, if He can love me, He surely wants to love you too!

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Coaching

photo Rueters/Rob Schumacher

She sat there, older but still recognizable, recounting the story that was so vivid to her you could see the reliving of it in her eyes as she spoke. Her legs were crossed, hands clasped in her lap. She looked very proper. She spoke confidently, though her voice sounded light with youthful helium tones. She had been a part of Olympic history and there are few that can say they don't know who she is. Kerri Strug had indelibly imprinted herself into the annals of time because she gave the 1996 Women's gymnastic team all she had that day and more. She did it in such a way that you couldn't help but love her for it. Watching the footage still brings tears to my eyes...

Hearing Keri talk about her experience that fateful, career-ending night touched something deep within me. She said, "When Bela says 'You can doo eet,' there is no questioning his judgement. You just do it! He says you can, so you believe it and you do it." (Paraphrased by moi...)

Oh, to be young again and to have that kind of faith in a coach, in ourselves, in anything! To be able to shrug off the failures and the heart break and the pains and say, "I will do it because God says I can!" Too much time, too much pain, too much world has shoved its way into my face for me to believe like that again, I thought to myself. And then God dropped the hammer...

I don't have to be young, inexperienced or unwounded to react that way. The fact is, God is still standing on my sidelines and shouting out encouragements, "Good job! Keep going! Stay straight, you can do it!" I just turned up my know-it-all-iPod, stuck the buds in my ears and figured I have to do this alone. Hogwash! God didn't leave me, He isn't hoping I will fail so that He can say He told me so. God is waving His arms, jumping up and down and trying to get through to me that He is still here, that He is still invested, that He wants to see me up on His podium, accepting His medals. God wants to see me win!

Wins will not be handed to me willy nilly as that isn't how God works most of the time. I have to step up, do my part. I have to train and practice and believe. I have to believe that if God is giving me a challenge, He is also equipping me with what it will take to complete the job. I don't get to question
Him on every decision, every turn in the path, every bump in the road. What would Bela Karolyi say if you constantly asked him "why?" (I shudder at the thought.) Good coaches expect you to take what they are saying at face value. They expect you to trust them because they know more about the situation than you do. What's more, they expect that trust to be the entire explanation. You do it because they said you can, you should, you will - because they said so.

That trust could easily be synonymous with Faith. Believing when your entire body is telling you it isn't possible. Believing when none of it makes sense. Believing when it isn't comfortable or safe or "smart." You see, faith isn't about reacting to what you see, rather faith is acting on what you know. Faith is about trusting that God is who He says He is, that He loves you and wants for you what He says He wants, and that He will never leave you or forsake you.

Do I have that kind of faith in my heavenly coach? Honestly, not always. Should I? Of course. That isn't the point. The point is that God is always here, always cheering me on, always providing the path for His glory to be shouted from the rooftops. God is selfish that way. He wants His kids to win so that He can look down on our little mop heads, wrap us in a huge Bela bear-hug and tell us, "I nuuuu you could dooo eeet!" After all the medals and the fan fare, that's what those girls craved most, the approval of their coach. No matter how hard he was, how much it cost, they wanted to do well for him. Me too! Well, not for Karolyi but for God... I want to climb into His lap and get wrapped in His arms and hear Him tell me, "Well done..." A medal would be nice too, but I'm thinking I won't push it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another little snippet...

From: My Grandmothers Pearls, a fictional work by Stacey Brown

Tawny yawned loudly as she stretched before her desk in the morning light. It was Sunday and she was determined to make the best of her morning by getting her resume updated and ready to hand out on Monday morning. She had made a quick trip to the coffee shop on the street rather than attempt another disastrous brew of her own before stopping at Molly's for her wallet and now she was determined to get to work.
She sat down at the large desk and began opening files on her laptop computer. There were other files as well in the large drawers of the antique desk and before long, she was swimming in paperwork, newspaper and ad copy examples. In her quickness to reach for a file folder, Tay spilled the remains of her paper coffee cup, barely missing the open keyboard of her computer.
"Ahh!" she yelled into the quiet of the early afternoon as she dashed to the kitchen for a roll of paper towels. Shaking coffee droplets from the mess and alternately daubing up the wet she started as she shoved a box onto the floor with a loud thump. "What the..." She stooped below the desk to find the box her mother had left her spilled partially open, her grandmother's pearls hanging precariously out of one side. To her dismay, it looked as if the strand had been broken, only a sad yellowing string trailing off in the mess she'd created with the spilled liquid.
"No, no, no," she muttered desperately as she grabbed at the box, pulling it to her. It was suspiciously heavier than it should be and she recalled her earlier impression that it must have held more than just the necklace. Sitting in the floor, Tay opened the weathered box from her grandmother for the first time.
Inside she was shocked to find the necklace, obviously broken and missing pearls, was paired with a worn leather journal. She put the box containing the necklace in her lap and held the book in her hands. It was bound by dark oiled leather and had obviously been through years of wear and tear. It was held closed with a leather thong and in between the thong and the cover was a piece of stationary, Tawny's name printed meticulously in her Nana's hand. She looked again at the broken strand of pearls and scanned the litter below her desk for the remaining beads.
The wet paper and dirtied towels blocked her view and she began to gather them as far as she could reach, finding nothing of the stray beads that had to have fallen from the box when she carelessly knocked it to the ground. And then it hit her. How could it have broken? It was in the box, not pulled from a neck or otherwise traumatized. It should not be broken at all.
Tay pulled the strand from the box and examined the unfinished end closer. There was an almost imperceptible knot in the end, holding the finely drilled pearl in place. No beads lay in the box bottom and no clasp was in sight. The strand seemed eerily unfinished. She turned to the worn journal again and slid the note from beneath the thong.

Dearest Tay,
You can stop fretting immediately! The strand is not a finished strand and you have not broken or ruined anything. I have left you this simple strand as my gift to you.
You are the most like me of any of this crazy family and I have cherished you for years. Independent and willful, your joi de vive has always inspired me to live each of my days to the fullest, even to the end.
As you are reading this now, you know that I have passed. As I write this now, I know you were not at my funeral nor at the reading of my last will and testament. I do not hold it against you, I would have done the same, given certain circumstances. But dear Tay, it is time for you to grow up. Time for you to take stock of all you have and all you are. There are people in your life that truly love you and want the best for you, even though they may be bothersome in their delivery. Try to understand your mother, she means well and loves you more than you will ever know even if she doesn't seem to know you as well as I did. Forgive your father his failings as well. He desires only those things to make you comfortable and forgot that a girl needs her Daddy most of all. I know he never meant to disappoint you. I only wish he had showed you his heart as well as his industrious drive.
My journal should be in this package with the strand. It was started years ago, too many to count it seems now. Before you roll those beautiful green eyes of yours, it is not a mundane accounting of my days, nor a collection of odd secret family recipes. It is an explanation of sorts. The strand is a part of the book, keep them together as you read it. They will explain each other, if you are patient enough to read it all.
Even now I miss you, Tay Dear. Always in motion, you are a tornado of "doing." I sit here alone, writing to you in hopes that I am not too late. I know that it may be years before you even open this box. Whatever has caused you to pause, know I am grateful you are reading this. It is my last love letter to you and it is my deepest hope that you can take my life story and find love and peace enough to continue the strand.
With deepest love, warmest hugs and one small kiss,


Tay sat in stunned silence, tears forming in her eyes, clouding the pristine print of her Nana. A tiny droplet fell onto the hand made stationary, causing a blot in the ink to spread slowly. Tay sniffed, quickly wiping her face and blotted at the droplet with a piece of the paper towel she still held. She hadn't realized how much she missed that wiry old woman until just now, sitting beneath her desk in the floor of her lonely apartment. It made her heart hurt so much it was hard to breathe. She shifted the contents of the box to one side as she wept openly, careful not to smudge any more of the precious letter.
She cursed her selfishness for not going to say goodbye one last time. She had been so despondent when she learned of Nana's illness that she'd not gone to see her in the hospital. She had been so afraid that someone would ask her to speak for her Nana that she had not gone to the funeral. Now it seemed so glaringly selfish and hurtful and there was nothing she could do to rectify it. It was done. There was no more.
No more phone calls, no more hugs, no more laughter shared, no more glances shared and eyes rolled at one of her mother's ridiculous events. No more. How she longed for the feel of her Nana's strong wiry arms wrapped around her shoulders... What she would give for just one more hour! Her unfinished resume forgotten, Tay crawled to the window, the box clutched tightly to her chest, and wrapped the quilt around her shoulders. It was the closest thing to her grandmother's hug she would ever feel again and she cried herself to sleep in it as she dreamed of the lilting laughter and warm smile of one gone from this world.

Tay had been staring at the worn leather book for long minutes now. She had awoken, spent from her emotions to gaze into the night skies outside the window bay. Tawny was still wrapped in the quilt as she fingered the tough leather thong, turning it over and over to reveal the shiny slickness had turned it almost perfectly round, worn from ages of untying and retying. Wrapped in her Nana's quilt like a hug from beyond and holding the journal she felt as if she held her Nana's smooth soft freckled hand.
Something kept her from opening that volume just yet. There was a desire filling her to hear, at least in her own ears, the voice of her Grandmother and still she knew that it would break her into tiny shards, like shattered crystal on Saltillo tile. The thought of that much emotion pouring through her like water through a broken pail was beyond antithetical. Was she strong enough to read the diary? Was she worthy of such a gift after her selfish, abhorrent behavior toward her own flesh and blood?
She reread the letter. "But Dear Tay, it is time for you to grow up." The words stung her again and again. She knew she had led an incredibly sheltered and privileged life. Like her Nana, she had often bucked traditions and expectations, and like so many before her in Southern society, she had embarrassed her family with her outbursts. Tay had railed at the confines wealth put upon her. She hadn't asked to be born into it, she just was. She could no more change it than she could change the bow of her strong legs or the odd way her pinky toe twisted outward defiantly. She counted it just as much a deformity as the other quirks in her physical existence, and just as misunderstood.
Tawny slid from beneath the blanket and walked slowly to the kitchen still holding the tome close to her chest. Her resume long forgotten, she opened the refrigerator and surveyed the contents with disinterest. She knew she needed to eat, but her mouth tasted of sawdust and stale sleep. There was a half gallon of orange juice and a partially drunk bottle of Sprite in the door and setting the journal on the countertop, she poured herself a Mom-mosa. It was what her mother called the brunch favorite of Tawny's when she was a child. The fizz from the soda tickled her nose as she sipped slowly, not lowering the glass as she swallowed and breathed foggy breath back into the glass.
The journal stared back at her expectantly as she sipped and breathed, sipped and breathed. It was as if it was daring her to look inside, to find out the answers to all of her problems, to truly come to terms with Tawny. It was not a light undertaking. It was frightening. It was time.
Just like that, Tay snatched up the book and headed back into the living room of her home. She avoided the window seat this time, but did stop long enough to retrieve the quilt. Her body sank into the large leather couch as it pushed the air out of the cushions with a hiss. She set the glass on a coaster and began untying the thong, "Ready or not, Nana, here I come..."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


It's a simple principle of physics: A body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Like most things in my life, the simpler the concept, the more trouble I have wrapping my mind around how to apply it. Today was no different!
See, I freed up my mind and my schedule so that I could write more. I off-loaded some of my responsibilities, put my guilt and my fears to bed (for the moment at least), and sat at my desk in my studio (built just for this day, I might add) and I choked. I froze. All of my expectations and desires and fears and hopes came crashing in on me at once and suddenly I lost my momentum. I did that thing that most creatives do and once I didn't have any more excuses I realized I DIDN'T HAVE ANY MORE EXCUSES! If I did what I loved and I absolutely sucked at it, it was going to be all on me.
I freaked out when I starting really thinking about what it meant to get the desire of my heart. I wondered if I had heard God right. I mean, maybe He meant to deliver someone else's dream and I got it in my in-box instead. I had been praying for this day, wanting it desperately and POW, God had granted me the means to make it so. GOD had given me what I most desired! Instead of feeling relieved, elated and grateful, I was looking around suspiciously for the catch. When would the other shoe drop? When would the proverbial rug be yanked from beneath my feet and all of what I had hoped for go tumbling out of reach? I had come to terms with the need to work hard for things, but this was just too easy. Surely God had made a mistake and someone would show up at the door to oust me for the imposter I am. I am no writer, I don't have a degree or anything special to say. Lucky me, that isn't what God thinks of the situation. Lucky me, I am not the one judging talent here. Lucky me, God hands me exactly what to say, when He wants it said!
Although I had pinpointed my problem, I still struggled with the inertia. Like a kid learning to ride a bike that's a smidge too big, I fought to get going. I knew I had been handed something so amazing and inspiring, yet I still couldn't move in a way that felt meaningful, relaxed, ME...
So instead, I read. I read a post by this guy here, and I read a post by these peeps here and I took a deep breath. I realized that with some things that have happened recently (which I promise to tell you later, but just can't right now - sorry!) I had put too much pressure on what I was doing. Like this gal here, I decided getting more serious is not what I need. Getting more relaxed is. Being me is what got me here. Being unshackled, out of the box, a bit irreverent, and most of all honest about who I am and who I am not is how I started and it is how I am being led to finish.
So it is time to relax, to continue writing on that book I showed you a teeny-pie-slice of here, to blog like no one is reading and put on cyber-paper those things that God is speaking into my heart. Getting out of my head and into God's word through the Bible, other followers and some reliable friends and family, I am sure this leg of my journey will culminate in some fantastic moments! Thanks so much for tagging along, the trip is always better with company!