Boots and Bells

I’m still not sure why I bought them. Probably because the sweet shop owner told me they looked good on me. It was an impulse buy, and they’ve hung in my closet for weeks now. Out of desperation because the weekend antics kept me from doing the laundry, I put them on.

I looked in the mirror and thought, Someone will probably think I’m too old for these.

I won’t forget that morning in the bathroom when I was considering some social media news and shrugged. That’s a middle aged thing. I glanced in the mirror and it hit me like a tidal wave. Wait a second. Middle aged? Exactly what year do you become middle aged? I did the calculations in my head. Oh! My! Goodness! That’s me. I’m middle aged!

All my life I’ve heard about reaching middle age, and it didn’t sound like something to look forward to. It seemed as if some internal ticking time bomb would explode and leave all kinds of destruction in its wake. Complete with hot flashes, and racked nerves, and lest we forget the dreaded mid-life crisis.

That morning in the bathroom middle age was just another season. I didn’t really feel different or ready to explode in some way. Although a few years back I did buy a Jeep so maybe that was due to my middle age. I’ll admit I look at the future at times and wonder if I’ve already lived the best years, but this is not new for me either.

So it seems middle age has crept in with little fanfare until this morning. Standing in the mirror looking at my newly purchased bell bottom jeans, I struggle. Am I too old for these? At what age is trendy not allowed? What will others think? Will they laugh and comment I’m not acting my age? 

I sigh loud and put on my boots. No question about what to wear on my feet. In my world boots go with any outfit and any occasion. As I head out the door I giggle, my morning fashion is the outward sign of my inward struggle.

Boots and Bells

This, friends is the middle aged dilemma. Knowing who we are, and embracing who we are becoming. It’s a letting go of what’s been and trusting God’s work in this moment, this season. It’s falling leaves on tender green grass and bells with boots.

Its giving thanks in it all. For when we do, the light inside shines bright for all to see.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!

–Matthew 5:16, The Message

 

 

 

Weekend Remnants

It’s opening weekend here in Texas. As sunlight creeps over places near and far, the migration begins. Like ducks cupping their wings for a landing, they begin to arrive. Clacking trucks bring nephews and cousins, sons and friends as if I’ve been blowing a boy call for all to hear. Some travel hundreds of miles and others cross our small town to take over my home.

Young men go in and out trailing all things camo along their path. There are guns to clean, decoys to organize, and tires to kick. Out on the back deck one of the oldest is teaching another to blow a duck call. “This is how we call in the timber of Arkansas,” I hear him say.

And don’t forget the dogs. There’s Leroy and Deetz and July. Because all hunters come with their duck retrieving dogs in tow, and they’re not just dogs. They’re family.

I’m the odd ball out on this one. The lone survivor never bitten by this waterfowl bug. I have no desire to rise before the rooster crows and wade through frigid water. No need to fill the sky with the quacking tunes of a call in hopes the birds will like what the hear. And much to my husband’s chagrin, camo will never be fashion for me.

I used to dread it. Just last year I lay flat on my face in the shop exclaiming to my friend, “When will this season be over!” Because this loooooonnnnnnnggggggg season of duck hunting is messy, and I’m usually the one cleaning up after they have their fun.

I sweep the house as the last truck clatters away and smile at the remnant pile on my kitchen floor.

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I stoop low to push the pile into the pan and notice I’m smiling. Somewhere along the journey of this year I let go of dreading the extra work this season causes me, and found a way to embrace the excitement in the air.

I drop remants in the trash and give thanks. For boys becoming young men, the music of duck calls, camouflage, laughter, coverations about the difficulty of adulting, trucks, boats, warm goodbye hugs, and dare I say it.

… even the smell.

Nope. Not Today!

My college days were steeped in math to prepare me for teaching. Even though I don’t teach formally now I often help out those who need some one-on-one. I work through the quiz review with my son’s friend, and he mentions synthetic division.

Synthetic division… what?

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I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this before, but a quick on-line tutorial helps. We move on to Decartes Rule of Signs, and I take a moment to figure it out.

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I teach. He works the problems. And when he gets the final problem correct he exclaims, “You should’ve home schooled us. Think about how smart we would be!”

Long after he’s gone and the youngest has headed off to bed, I think about his words. I could’ve homeschooled them. Maybe I should have. Maybe the youngest wouldn’t struggle as much. Maybe I should’ve. Maybe I could’ve…

I attempt to drop off to sleep as the thoughts linger. Oh how easy it is to get caught up in this game of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. One single statement sends me looking back over my mess ups, and missteps. My failures seem to expand in size. Before I know it I’m playing a game I never wanted to play.

And honestly, it is a game of arrogance and pride. Because no matter what choice I made then, there is no way to know the outcome. This game is based on my strength, my talent, my ability. A faithless game I’ll never win.

I breathe deep and let go…

Nope. Not today Satan. I won’t play this game today.

Instead I’ll give thanks. For public schools and private schools and homeschools. For the master’s degree, the trade school completion and highschool graduation. Because giving thanks for each leads me to focus on the One who has already obtained the victory.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

–1John 5:4-5

Table for Two

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been cooking lately. It’s been months to be exact. I would like to tell you I just don’t have the time. Or I’m tired of the recipes I’ve always used. But the truth is I’ve found a table set for two is just too hard.

I’ve watched friends journey through this season with grace and love. I marvel now at their tenacity and endurance. I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know a quiet house can be too loud. Or how my heart would skip a beat when one of the kids called just to talk. No warning could have prepared for me for this transition.

It’s not a bad change. I know that in my mind, but my heart has been slow to catch up. Calling out “dinner’s ready” doesn’t have the appeal it once had. No rush to the table to see what I’ve prepared or fussing over who gets to go first. No giggling, or crying, or spilled milk.

And what do I do to cope? I stop cooking. My hubby picked up the slack without much fuss. When the youngest is home we gather at the table, but the evenings he’s busy it just doesn’t feel worth it.

The quiet of a table set for two used to be something special. A date night out or much needed respite from the busy of raising three kids. But now I’m just not sure what to do with it.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try a meal kit company. I thought it might inspire me with new recipes, and make the process of cooking easier. No planning, no grocery stores, no trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of food I’m used to cooking. Just the delivery of a box with everything I need to cook a meal for two.

I tote the box home and open it. I follow the directions and prepare the meal. As I set the table for two,  I recognize what I’ve tried to avoid with my not cooking season.

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A tear slips quietly down, and I sigh. This almost empty nest thing is a hard letting go. It takes time to adjust. Time to breath deep and allow the change to have its way. Time to let tears fall and remember those things you loved about a full house. Time to embrace the new rhythm in your heart and home.

I light the candle and call out, “Dinner’s ready!”

And I give thanks for the ones those empty chairs represent, and the one who sits across from me. I give thanks for my table set for two.

Wanting

He pops in and out of our house during the week. He’s always welcome, always has been since the day he was born.

He talks and I listen.

“One day I want to be able to shred a guitar.”

Evidently shred is a good thing. To be able to completely master playing the instrument.

“I want a career that makes lots of money.”

“I want to be ready to live on my own, but honestly I’m not sure if I’m THAT responsible.”

I sit and listen as he strums background music to the football game. He’s only been playing about a year. Taught himself chords and tabs and strumming. I grin. He’s not even aware of how much better he is today. How his playing has transformed over the last few months.

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I’ve been where he is. Wanting to be a better guitar player, better singer, better teacher, better mother, better wife, better follower of Jesus. Wanting… wanting… wanting to be better than I am, to be something other than who I am.

I snap the picture. Sock feet, head down, fingers practicing on my guitar and I let go. Nothing wrong with ambition I guess. Until it takes over and steals your ability to be grateful for what you have, who you are in the moment.

And I give thanks. For this moment, for this kid, for who He is in this season… and who I am too.

Which Comes First?

Remember yesterday? There I was laying on my back hoping for a picture of falling leaves. In the waiting and watching I wondered, Does the tree let go of the leaf or does the leaf let go of the tree? A sort of which comes first, the chicken or… the egg?

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In the letting go of a perfect picture, I pondered the thought. Remembered Solomon’s words.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

It’s not so much about which is which, but more about timing. The leaf must be ready, the tree must be ready, and a breeze helps ever so much. I notice there’s nothing forced about it.

It’s the same with me. When I force an issue, determine to let go of something without the Spirit’s breeze, without being ready, true healing and transformation rarely happens. And there’s nothing I can do to control the timing, nothing I can do to speed up the process. Not. One. Thing.

Long ago I might have been frustrated with this idea. But not today. Today it feels like freedom. Yes! Letting go of controling my own transformation and the timing of it frees me to be.

Be me.

Be His.

And so I give thanks! Thanks for the freedom that comes when I allow God to heal and transform in His time and His way.

Grateful in the Letting Go

Four days into November and I’m laying under a tree hoping to get the perfect picture of falling leaves for this blog post. The sun warms my chilled skin as the gentle breeze blows. I hold my breath and look through the screen of my phone with anticipation.  I watch. I wait. I acknowledge my husband’s comment that I might be a bit off.  My hound nudges me with his cool wet nose. Still, I keep watching… keep waiting. And just when I think this might be it.

Nothing. Zilch. Not one single leaf lets go.

I hear the email words again.

In autumn, trees let go of their leaves, plants their flowers, and we let go of bird song and water play and butterflies on the wing. Fall is the season of letting go. In the inner landscape of our hearts perhaps it is a time for forgiveness, the letting go of past hurts and misunderstandings, of anger and resentment. Perhaps it’s a time of letting go of our expectations …

This is the season I become more intentional in my gratitude practice. As I look up at the not falling leaves I consider the things I must let go of in order to give thanks. Hurts, hangups, unforgiveness… resentment, could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. And most importantly my expectations. The surrender of outcomes I conjure up at every turn.

I’m like a leaf hanging on for dear life in the tree top. Refusing to let go and allow the Spirit’s breeze to lead me in the falling. November’s devotion begins to take new shape.

Letting go in order to give thanks. Because I can make a day long list of things to be thankful for but what I truly desire is to live gratitude. To walk each day in a state of gratefulness.

So it begins here on the blog. Join me if you will. A month of images to depict the letting go to give thanks, to live gratitiude.

 

 

 

**Friends of Silence Newsletter
**Photo by Mazhar Zandsalimi on Unsplash

Rest in the Storm

Light dawns on the last year of a decade. It’s my birthday, the day I turn 49. My friend smiles and asks, “How does it feel to not be planning a wedding?” I shrug my shoulders and grin, “I haven’t thought about it.”

I take steps on holy ground and her question returns,  How DO I feel about it? How do I really feel about her wedding come and gone, or the middle one hundreds of miles away? How do I feel about an almost empty nest, a grandmother who doesn’t remember me or the fact that next year I’ll be 50?  

I watch geese land softly on still water and reflect over a year’s time. Has it really only been a year? Because it feels more like a lifetime.

Some years fly by as if they are a moment, but not this year. No, this year creeps slowly as if it has no place to go. A cloud rolling, wind roaring, lightning flashing, thunder crashing kind of year. A year full of unexpected, catch me by surprise storms.

I can identify with the discples on the day they follow Jesus into the boat. I wonder if they are hoping for rest. They watch as Jesus settles down and drifts off to sleep. All seems quiet on the water as gentle lapping rocks the boat. No crowds around. No healing requests to hear. No religious leaders to escape. Just the disciples and the sleeping Jesus.

I can almost hear them heave a collective sigh of relief, but it won’t last long. For a storm is brewing in the distance, and before they can find a comfortable place to rest ripples of water turn into crashing waves, thunder booms, and winds roar.

All the while, the Savior sleeps.

Panic rises. The disciples scurry, trying to keep the boat afloat. Finally when all their efforts are failing and drowning looms in the near future they wake the sleeping Shepherd. “Lord, save us! Don’t you care? We’re going to drown!”

What happens next gives me reason to pause, even wrestle, because Jesus’ response seems harsh. “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” I am a bit discouraged. After all, aren’t we suppposed to take our fear to Jesus. Don’t we sing, “I must tell Jesus, all of my trials…?” Isn’t Jesus the one who we should turn to during the storm?

Why, oh why Lord, did you respond that way? Was it the jolting way they woke you up? Were you frustrated with yet another request? How were they supposed to relax in the midst of the storm, and more importantly… how should I?

Funny thing about this stormy year of mine not once did I question if Jesus was in my boat. But there were times I responded so much like the disciples. I scurried around in panic mode hoping to calm the storm. I bounced from bow to stern attempting to fix the broken caused by windy conditions. I chose to allow fear to rule and reign in me, and I made many attempts to keep my boat on course… my course.

Jesus didn’t rebuke the discples for waking him from his peaceful slumber. He was simply pointing out the obvious. They trusted their own resources and expertise and strength before waking Him. They allowed fear to focus their attention on drowning before rousing the very one who could keep them afloat.

I stand gazing at the tall white cross out there on its little island. And I get it.  If I wait for a stormless year, then rest will never come. True rest comes when I let go of all the scurrying and fixing and fearing. Rest comes when I choose to sit right down beside the Savior and breathe deep trusting

He knows the storms are raging,

He knows where my tossed boat will end up,

and He alone has the power to calm every storm.

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 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Gazing

Dad built a beautiful house on the lake when we were young. He loved to fish, I didn’t. But there were nights when I climbed into the boat with him and while he was fishing he would point to the constellations. “Look, there’s the Big Dipper. See the Little Dipper next to it. That faint white mist is the Milky Way.”

Something about a dark sky and the twinkle of lights drew me in, it still does.

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From my viewpoint two stars shine brightest. I notice the faint blinking light of a plane. The white flash of a comet’s streak. A satellite keeps its slow steady pace across the dark expanse.  Like arrows, stars point me to the bigger picture, the enormity of God, and the wonder of His creativity. It’s awe inspiring and magical.

I leave my patio chair for a second cup of coffee when a rustling draws my attention to the yard. Hard running feet halt my steps. What was that? Eyes straining to see, ears perked to attention, I move through a mental check list. A person’s feet… no. Rabbit… too heavy. Hog… don’t think so. I wish I could see, but there’s no light.

For all the wonder of star gazing, I’m unsettled by the thought that millions of stars hanging over my head provide no light to see.

Oh how I’m prone to forget this. Prone to dream of far off places. Prone to trust when I get there all will be well, all will be good, all will be enough. Gazing on the wonder of God’s creation is not the problem. Trusting some far off twinkle in deep darkness to reveal my enough is where the trouble lies.

I hear Isaiah’s words.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Sun’s first light creeps over the horizon and one by one the stars disappear.  My science teacher’s instruction from long ago comes to mind. “The stars don’t go out. They keep shining even during the day. The sun is the closest star to us, and it provides the light we need. We cannot exist without the sun.”

If I’m honest, really honest, I fail to give the life giving Light my full attention here in this moment, in this place. Dreams of the future nor regrets of the past won’t light my way to living enough. No, the only place enough unfolds in me is the here and now.

This place, this season is where I am, where the Light is and I must remember to be present, to bask in the warmth. Embracing the Light of the present is where all is well, all is good, and I. Am. Enough.

 

 

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Water Walking… is it worth the risk?

It’s before crack of dawn early and I sit on the deck watching stars twinkle. The air feels pregnant as it quietly waits to birth a new day. A lone spider silently spins. The distant howl of a coyote calls, and I wonder, Did I really mean what I said? 

Because now  the middle one is miles away, and I am second guessing myself. Did I encourage in the right direction? What if I was wrong? It would have been safer to keep him close to home.

As silent questions float upward, I’m reminded of Peter drifting with the others in the dark before dawn. Waves knock hard against the boat’s side when something catches his attention. Is my mind playing tricks on me? It must be a ghost because flesh and bone can’t walk on water. Hey guys, are you seeing what I’m seeing? Fear rises to terror among the twelve and all the while Peter watches and waits.

In my mind it was a split second decision. Not much time to really think it through.

Lord, if it’s you. Tell me to come to you on the water.

Matthew 14:28, ESV

Jesus calls out yes and without a second guess Peter climbs over the side and does the physically impossible. Who does that? What rational human being leaves the safety of a boat to do what can’t be done?

I imagine the eleven watching to see what might happen. Has he lost his mind? The water’s too rough, too dangerous. If he makes it to Jesus, I’m going next. He should have thought this through a bit more. I don’t care who walks on water I’m not leaving this boat. 

Twelve men were in the boat. Only one was willing to step out and try the impossible. Only one was willing to take the risk. Only one experienced water walking.

Wait. Isn’t this supposed to be a story about losing focus? About the way we sink deep when we take our eyes off the Savior? Yes. Yes. and yes.

Some may focus on a man who failed. Others may see the the wisdom of staying safe in the boat. But for me, in this moment, I see courage. I see faith. I see a man taking a risk, sinking deep, cry for help, a hand reaching down, the joining of fingers, and saving grace.

Peter experienced Jesus in a way only the walking and sinking could provide.  I wonder if years later, when the church leading got tough, if he remembered it? If when he felt cool water touch his feet, he smiled. Maybe the memory of clutching tight to the Savior’s hand was all he needed to keep going when waters were rough.

Light creeps slow through the tree above my chair. The whip-poor-will sings out his final song. And I breath deep, yes. Yes, I really did mean what I said.

IMG_8070Take the risk. If you fail… then you fail.  Get out of the boat, get your feet wet, take a few steps, sink deep, cry out for help. He’ll be there. You’ll see. He’ll be there. 

 

When you think about it, Jesus being there is the whole point. God only knows what it will take for you to cling tight to the notion all success and failure are meant to move us to this point.

Oh friends, let me ask you. Is God calling you take a risk? Is the Spirit stirring you to something new, different, far from your comfort zone?

He’ll not leave you nor forsake you. He’ll not hold your failure against you nor shame you when you don’t get it all right. All the future you need to know is wrapped in this truth. He’ll be there to reach out and save you.

He’ll be there… you’ll see. He. Will. Be. There.

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
–Matthew 14:31-32, The Message