Looking Back - The Year of Courage

My word for 2012 was courage.

It's just like me that the first time I write about my word for 2012 is also the last day of 2012.

I am good at making plans. Not so good at remembering them. I had plenty of plans to write about courage this past year. And here I am, looking back at my plans and laughing, because plans to write about something don't amount to a hill of beans compared to actually living it.

And actually living courage is, well, sometimes not a lot of fun. But it sure makes a difference.

Here's Princess Me being courageous and taking a silly picture... because I am a daughter of the King!

I expect that what requires courage for me is different from what requires courage for you. It does not take courage for me to drive across country with my kids and no other adult. But I have friends who can't imagine it.

Courage for me looked like...

- inviting total strangers to share a room with me at a conference. And making two lovely new friends.

- running my first retreat for my bible study ladies and doing it my way, not the way I thought others would have said I "should" do it. I wrote the retreat, hosted, cooked the food, and led it. I was nervous, wondering if some of my ideas were silly. But I did it anyway. It was one of the most intense projects I have undertaken - exhausting and incredibly rewarding.

- running. As in actually running with my feet. I did a couch to 5K program in the spring and it was unfun and I felt so silly, but I did it.

- not giving up on a writing commitment that I felt thoroughly unqualified for, only to find that I was qualified in ways I had not realized

- pitching ideas to a group unlike any that had been suggested before. Being an introverted right-brained person in a left-brained group can be terrifying. I usually keep my mouth shut. My ideas were embraced... a good lesson for me to be who God made me to be

- taking the crazy wild idea of a website for girls and making it solid enough to pitch to my husband. Going out on a limb and converting that idea to a family project that required a major chunk of our homeschooling efforts for the fall. Not giving up in November when everything seemed to be falling apart and even my husband had begun to question whether or not I could see it through to fruition. And finally telling the whole world about it (so scary!!)

- taking photos my way, and allowing others' ideas of the "right" way to float gently about without feeling them as criticism.

Those are some of last year's acts of courage that come to mind. Really, they all just required courage to be who God made me to be. Which seems silly, doesn't it? Shouldn't that be easy?

But those were not the only places I had to live courage.

In the moments when I just did not want to keep going, when it all seemed too much, too hard, too endless... I had to choose courage.

When I had to gently speak a hard truth to a difficult person... I had to choose courage.

When I felt I had failed and knew I must tell someone who it affected... I had to choose courage.

When the odds were against me and things truly were unfair, but I wanted to end well... I had to choose courage.

And when I looked up courage in the bible? Mostly I found it relating to times of believers girding one another up by sharing their testimonies.

For the first time this year I noticed that "courage" is part of "encourage." I have long known that one of my strongest spiritual callings is to encourage others. I hadn't thought of it as giving others courage, but it makes sense. And perhaps I fall into this naturally because I am so needy for it myself.

I know my word for 2013. I've known it for two months. And it is going to require I take courage along for the ride next year too. I already have some glimmers of projects I am called to next year, and some of it I don't want to do. Waaaaay too far out of my comfort zone.

Which seems to be where God most likes to guide me. And bless me.

Tomorrow... says the girl who is good at making plans and not so good at remembering them...  I will tell you my crazy word for 2013.

What about you? Did you have a word for 2012?


Little Lights Shine Bright, Even on a Threadbare Tree

It sits crammed in the corner of a room that has no extra space.

Wall and bookshelves show in the wide gaping spaces between its spindly arms. Homemade ornaments bob when we pass by, a mere breeze causing whole branches to shake.

The golden star perching aloft bows toward the ground, its weight just too much for a tender stem to bear.

This is our Christmas tree, and it's much like all the trees we've brought into our home since moving out to the Texas countryside.

My husband and I are New Englanders, people who grew up with lush firs and pines. People used to snow at Christmas.

Our children are Texans. On our homestead there are two Christmas tree candidates. Tall loblolly pines, precious trees we'd never cut, especially now that fire has ripped life from so many of them. And eastern red cedars, about the closest thing you can find to a weed tree. So each year the kids and my husband hunt the fields for a cedar tree that is small enough to fit in the house. And each year they drag in a spindly wonder.

I love our bedraggled tree.  The ornaments that cover it each bring a memory. Kids can't reach everywhere, and I don't worry about the thick clumps of ornaments or the bare places. The lights are strung haphazardly... our arms resisting the scratch of the needles, we throw them hither and thither.

I love our tree because it as far from perfect as I am.

It fits, in this house all stuffed with books and yarn and papers and half drunk cups of tea. It sparkles like the eyes of my children. There's no pretending of perfection, no symmetry to provide an unrealistic counterpoint to our haphazard journey through this life.

When the windows are dark and the lights low, the tree twinkles a cheery goodnight. When I rise long before dawn, the tree glimmers as I wrap in a blanket on the couch and settle the Word on my lap.

All those little lights... little disorganized lights on a threadbare tree... they still shine.

You are the light of the world... let your light shine...
Matthew 5:14, 16

Merry Christmas friends. This word girl hasn't the words to express the deep joy I have known in writing here and elsewhere, in meeting so many of you both online and in person, and in experiencing the fellowship of sisters... daughters of the One True King. You are one of God's tender gifts to me.

I finish 2012 with a deep sense of fulfillment and God's provision. I am so grateful.

Thank you for shining bright and beautiful in my life.


When the Darkness Tries to Overwhelm

We did something crazy this week and launched a website.

Right in the middle of the frenzy of December we did it.

It was scary and dangerous and risky to pour ourselves for months into a little dream and not know what would come. But when we opened wide the doors on Monday there was dancing and there were squeals as person after person responded with such kindness and encouragement.

I am not being metaphorical about the squeals. Or the dancing.

And we chitter chattered and bubbled both at home and online and it was so bright and shiny everywhere.

Then yesterday morning all fell heavy.

The darkness fell as I read about tiny people, beloved by family and God, ripped from this world.

I couldn't do anything but fall silent and fall on my knees. To feel the fingers of ice, the specter of hopelessness.

I stilled my online words. I grabbed the faces here with all their messy hair, and kissed cheeks. I looked into bright eyes and found my own eyes bright with tears.

Then in the afternoon we went to the zoo. The zoo, of all places.

It was a birthday party that took us there, in the gray December fog, with drizzle threatening. A tiny zoo in the middle of the Texas nowhere, filled with rescued and endangered animals. Our host, the birthday boy, had wanted to see the lions.

We were expected, our small party of homeschoolers, and had the zoo to ourselves. The owner had held off feeding the big cats so we could watch.

The time came, and the lion was ready. Past ready. Meal time is usually in the morning.

The low growl of a lion waiting for food send chills up your arms. You want to step far back from the double fence, to grab your babies and cower.

The zoo owner stepped between the fences with a bucket of raw chicken and made the lion show off by raising the chicken above his head so it had to stand on two back paws. While the lion feverishly crunched through bones, the zookeeper educated us.

He told us how male lions have the hardest life of all animals. How fights are to the death. How they eat people.

The lion was slinking again, low growl saying "more, more."  The keeper raised another chicken leg to the fence and it was snatched in a flash.

The zookeeper continued, telling grisly tales that did not seem birthday party fare. Then more growling, more chicken.

And as I listened to the mingle of growls and crunching and horror stories, I heard quiet but strong in my heart:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  - 1 Peter 5:8

Like a roaring lion.

We can not be blamed for looking at lions and feeling fear. Nor can we mamas avoid the sharp knife of terror for our own babies that is mingled with the devastating grief we feel to our core for the mamas who have lost little ones.

We have an enemy.

To dismiss this is to live a delusion.

It is right to recognize danger.

But we who belong to God must also know this truth: Perfect love casts out fear.

As a tornado of death and lions and bright beginnings and Christmas swirls through my mind, simple words take over.



I remember what Jesus said...

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

And wouldn't the lion that prowls and brings trouble want us to cower, to hide? Wouldn't he want to chase us into dark corners, to hold close what is dear, to squeeze eyes and not look?

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5 

That which is evil must have light shone upon it. We must shine that light.

You are the light of the world... Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14, 16

The slinking lion darkness and evil is all about, yet we can choose to look to the light. To not cower, to not squeeze eyes. To set our faces firm toward God and be lights in this world.

We are only lights because of Him. All we do is reflect. But we must choose to be open to reflecting. To be alert, to stand firm, to shine back His glory.

Little eyes are watching how we choose. If we speak despairing words little ears hear. If we make fearful choices little hearts wonder.

I am determined to choose love.

I have this one living hope...

Shine, mamas, shine His light in you. Be alert. Stand firm. And shine.

candle photo copyright

When You Long to Capture Light

my daughter's impersonation of me... using her air camera

I've been on the back side of a camera so much lately I'm beginning to feel it is a part of me.  This little family is cooking up something wild and crazy and it involves photos. Thousands of photos. 

When the camera's set down, I sit at my computer and watch the screen as picture after picture loads in from the tiny rectangle I've stuck in a slot.

They make me so happy, those photo words. They each tell a part of a story. A story in pictures.

Did you know that you learn about life, about yourself, when you see what you've caught through a lens?

I sit there, as shot after shot loads... ten, twenty or more of each little idea. They are all different, every last one. Even if I have kept the angle, the composition, the settings, each one is unique. Each has a minutely different focus.

It still surprises me.

I ponder how many times I have hesitated to write about the "very same thing" someone else has written about. But what slightly different composition, what tilted angle, what brighter exposure might my words bring? Not because of my brilliance or insight but merely because each one who writes is unique. Just as each photo is unique.

The photos keep loading in.

And I think about light.

I think how photography is all about light, beautiful light. About the way it slants just so at the morning and evening golden hours... the way you can miss that evening hour and it goes all red and glowy... the way a certain tilt of the head can pull the face into perfect light but a turning brings a stark shadow.

I see how the whole world around is a trampoline of light. All green bouncing in my kitchen with its mint walls, pink and soft in my girl's room, shadowy in the cherry wood floored living room. All those colors pour into my photos even if the walls and floor aren't seen... colors carried on a stream of bounced light.

I marvel at this, what Jesus Himself said...
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  ~ Matthew 5:14-16 ~
It is too much to understand when I feel all shadowy and rumpled that I am light. Jesus being light... yes, this I understand (John 8:12). But me?

Oh that I would be a little stream of light to carry the bouncing colors of Life to the lenses of those around me! That I might catch and reflect His glory!

The photos appear one after another in empty squares... a steady checkering of the open iPhoto window.

Then I laugh at the screen, because I see that of all the ways I like to take photos, pulled in tight and close up is my very favorite.

And it's how I like to read God's Word... peeling apart this Greek word and that Hebrew word, following the trail of them throughout the scriptures. A microscope focused by my need to understand... a quest to grasp the ineffable.

And it's how I like to be with my people... all snuggled in, arms and legs draping, hair mingled and sweet words whispered. In close and tight, deeply known and deeply knowing.

Today's pictures are all in, thousands of little squares each capturing a moment.

It's a small life I live.

A series of moments.

A small beautiful light-filled life, with tiny perfect details that come from the hand of the One True King.

On Subduing Wild Ideas and Making Something Alive

Of late I notice when I get a few days away from this space I get antsy.

It's kind of a new thing. When I go for long writing breaks this doesn't happen, but lately I have been writing and writing and writing, just not as much here. And I miss writing here.

There are things afoot. Crazy dreams being dreamed and actually acted upon, which is something for this family of wild wonderers and deep thinkers. We think a lot, read a ton, talk quite a bit, start all sorts of things. But the day-in day-out keep-at-it-tude (oh I like that)... it is, well, hard.

It's hard to keep slogging through the details, the WORK of making dreams happen. Of giving wings to ideas.

I'll be straight with you. I am not a very self-disciplined person. I'm thinking you've figured that out by my posting schedule here, yes? In fact, I have a serious life-skills issue... I do not know how to gauge time. I have learned to use a timer liberally and am always always shocked when a five minute timer goes off. Five minutes is, oh, two minutes in my world.

Yes, I am always late.

And I am a screech-into-the-last-minute deadline meet-er too. Bleh.

If I might linger in self-analysis for a moment, I'd say that there are two main forces at work with my last minutitis. The first is perfectionism, my never-ending nemesis. I don't finish because there is always "just one more thing" to get right.

The other is that I get interrupted just about constantly (only two major interruptions so far on this post), so I don't even want to start. Which is also called perfectionism.

I was absolutely serious when I wrote about not making excuses. That's not what I am doing here.

What I am fascinated by is the possibility that I might be able to harness these facets of myself... my floating about in time, the effectiveness of timers and deadlines, the reality that perfectionism hinders my starting and my stopping... and make something actually come of them.

I started this blog because I knew I had to write. Had to write, like I had to breathe. Not because I have anything wonderful or new to say, but because that was what I was made to do.

I make elaborate meals because it's part of who I am to play with food and want to give people I love something beautiful and delicious... I don't question whether I am being arrogant in doing that.

But writing? How many times have I not broken the white page because of whispers... "Who are you to write? What makes you think you are special? Who really cares what you think anyway?"


Just another pile of excuses. Fear and perfectionism wrapped up in a nasty box.

{and there was interruption number three}

My husband... he makes music. Amazing and beautiful music. It's what he was made to do. I can be very objective about that. I see the beauty and joy his music brings into the world, I see how making it makes him more himself.

In writing words and music, he and I both understand that our inspiration comes from God, that our gifts come from God, but that we have a role that is essential... if we don't act, something that is real and beautiful just won't happen.

In a way it's like love. Our culture is so confused, thinking love is some romantic feeling, when in fact love, LOVE, is a verb... it's a doing, it's a choice, it's a keep-on-doing-even-when-it's-hard.

These creative pursuits, music and writing, they aren't just some vague thing that sort of happens, they are a doing, a choice, a keep-on-doing-even-when-it's-hard.

God is THE creator, but we participate by being little co-creators as we subdue the wild ideas, the whispy guitar riffs, the perfect first lines, and mold them into something alive.

I'm working on subduing myself too. Wanting to take dominion over my tendency to leave cupboard doors open or work on five things at once. Harnessing my magnetic attraction to "just quickly checking my email" and all things chocolate. Oh I have a long way to go.

Maybe someday I'll be molded into something really alive!


P.S. Just to underscore the insanity-that-is-me, I will now share that I spent over an hour moving text around on a photo of a flower. So that I'd have a photo for this post. Good grief. Pray for my family.

photo credit

Voice: The Only Song in Key
{Five Minute Friday}

It's Five Minute Friday again... write for five minutes, five minutes only, about one idea.
One thought, one word, the same prompt for all.
"No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real." - Lisa Jo Baker
This week's word: VOICE

I was in third grade when I started singing in church choir.

It was ninth grade when I pulled out of choir and took voice lessons. Stakes went up, things got more serious. I floundered. Stopped.

By college, I was afraid. Afraid to sing. The notes warbled out tremulously. Flats, sharps. Embarassment after disaster after ear anguish.

I was 23 when I sat on a bed with an open hymnal and sang Amazing Grace to no one but God and heard something lovely. It stopped me cold.

Tried again, still lovely. Then tried a popular song and it was another disaster.

My voice was only sweet when I was singing to Him.

This mysterious change deepened and five years later I realized that I loved to sing. Loved it with a burst in my chest and tears in my eyes.

The voice... the song... it's His. When I've tried to use this voice He gave me for things that weren't of Him, I have flailed.

I seem to have but one choice. So I use my voice for Him. The words... the Word... The Word Incarnate... they are the only truth that doesn't falter or waver.

The only song in key.


No More Excuses


I hear the whine in the base of my skull.

It used to be a constant clamor, so for the dampening of volume, I am grateful.

Still, it persists...

A stream of excuses, reasons why I can't do the things I ought to, reasons why I get a pass "just this once."

After all, don't I have so much on my plate? Everyone tells me I do. Doesn't it make sense that I just can't do it all?

That plate, it sure overflows. Like I went to an all you-can-eat restaurant and scooped and scooped. Like I thought I was filling a platter instead of a plate.

Like I have issues with portion control.

In truth I'm a child in this way. I need my Heavenly Father to fill my plate. I am rebellious in the way that I load it high. I am coming to understand this.

Is it fear? Fear that some day there won't be a portion for me? Or is it gluttony... pride that wants more so that I can be more?

Either way, it is rebellion.

So no. No excuses of too much on my plate.

I choose.

I choose what's on that plate, I choose to grab the spoon and plop it on.

And I choose what I do with it all. Sometimes, I let it sit there and turn into a moldy rotting mess.

Excuses of being too tired? Poor time management.

Excuses that things are hard? They're hard for everyone.

Excuses that other people impede me? Other people are the whole point.

Excuses based on their sin? It's just like mine.

No more excuses. I make the choice, I do it or I don't. I own the result.

No more excuses.


photo credit

Eyes Open: LOOK
{Five Minute Friday}

Every Friday hundreds around the globe take the challenge... write for five minutes, five minutes only, about one idea. One thought, one word, the same prompt for all. It's called Five Minute Friday.

"No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real." - Lisa Jo Baker

It pushes me right out of my comfort zone.

This week's word: LOOK.


It all seems so messy, this life.

The books and papers, the dirt and sweat.

I stifle a whimper of panic at the endlessness of it. Like an avalanche, the more that comes... the more that comes.

Then from nowhere, a glimmer of beauty.

It happens every day. In the middle of the scrubbing about to eke out a life, it sparkles.


The tear-stained small face, full of rage at his size... beautiful.

The dirty floor, long-ago needing swept... cherry wood glows real like the tree from which it came... beautiful.

The tired man, falling in the door after long hours of toil for us, his eyes twinkle as they fall on small faces... beautiful.

It's everywhere, this beauty.

I just have to look.

Choosing love and finding beauty....

The Only True Confidence

I struggle with confidence.

I often pray, "Lord I trust You completely. I know You won't lead me astray. But I doubt myself terribly. Will I understand You correctly?"

I have trouble stepping out and making decisions.

Yesterday I forced myself to make a decision in a situation in which I am in leadership. My first inclination was to put the decision to a group vote, but I realized that it was appropriate for me to make the decision myself. And cowardly of me not to do so.

The thing about being a leader is that when the decision is wrong, you are the one who bears the responsibility. I don't want to be wrong.

But fear of being wrong is like any other spirit of fear. Not from God.

And a shocking truth hit me.

If I can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace... to the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth... if I can draw near to Him with confidence, why on earth should I lack confidence interacting with humans?

And oh this comfort:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. - Hebrews 4:15
I can be confident that He lavishes grace and mercy on me. Not because I am good or right, but because of Jesus (Heb 4:14).

In fact, there is hidden pride in that lack of confidence I showed yesterday. I don't want to be wrong. I don't want to mess up.

Me, me, me.

My life is an endless exercise in letting go of myself and gripping on to Jesus.


Tabletop Truths ~ Placemat Review {and giveaway}

I had the fun opportunity to review this adorable Spiritual Armor placemat and am talking about it today over at Build A Menu. The company that makes this placemat and others, Tabletop Truths, is run by two moms with hearts for children and the Lord.

Our hope and prayer is that as you use these mats to adorn your tabletops they will also adorn your family's hearts with the truths of Jesus Christ!  - Lisa and Sara

Isn't that awesome?

Go read more about them at Build A Menu and enter for a chance to win a Thanksgiving placemat or a Nativity placemat!


Do You Want to Be a Better Mother?

Our daughter is beginning to think about her future, about what her life will be like as an adult. She has been talking a lot about being a mother. As women around us have babies, and she is allowed the wiggly excitement of caring for them, she is wondering what it will be like to have her own.
It was long past her bedtime when I sat on the bed. Her sweet young voice fretted in the dark. Can you teach me Mama? I know I can’t be perfect, but can you train me to be a good mother? I stroked her long brown hair and silently prayed for God’s wisdom for this tender girl.
Together we cook, we clean, we talk developmental psychology and parenting philosophy. But in the end there is only one essential for preparing to be a mother, and for improving as a mother if you already are one.

My new blogging friend Heather has generously opened her home on the web to me today, so I can share this one essential with her readers (and you!)

To read How to Become a Better Mother wing your way to Fit Homeschool Mom....


Dear Me... {a letter to my 14 year old self}

Dear Patti,

Because this is what you worry about most, let me start here: You're normal. You're normal because like everyone else you're wildly unique. You can stop worrying that you're not enough.

You're 14 years old and the world sure seems big and filled with feeling. Right now you and your family are living in New Zealand while your dad takes a sabbatical leave from his university in the U.S. You don't know it, but all that self-educating you're doing, spending a whole semester doing your schoolwork in hotels and apartments and RV's... that's called homeschooling. It's going to be a big part of your life some day.

There are things you think you want. You'll be surprised by how they come.

There are things you think you don't want. You'll be surprised by how much joy they bring.

Let go a little. You're going to be growing into yourself for a long time.

The braces come off soon. Glasses you're stuck with forever, but good news: when you turn 16 you'll get to wear contact lenses! You're always going to be a little awkward. It will make you more compassionate. Eventually you'll realize that you just feel prettier and more yourself in skirts. You're also going to go on an unexpected journey with God that will lead you to start wearing a head covering. This will give you loads of opportunity to practice not worrying what people think about you.

I know that right now your focus is on your education. You think you need to do amazingly well in high school so you can get into a prestigious university. I know it's hard to think past that.

But there will be a moment in Woolworth's in the Ala Moana shopping center, January 1984, when you'll be staring at a big bin of flip-flops, and it will strike you... you'll turn to Dad and say, "But if I'm a doctor, how am I going to be home to raise a family?" That moment is when a new thought will creep in. When you'll start to realize that you can't have everything you want or be anyone you want, even though the posters at your old elementary school shouted "Kids Are People Too!"

And the one thing you've always wanted, before you wanted to be a vet or a computer programmer or a pediatrician or a teacher or an author - or even a wife - was to be a mom.

So when you think that all through, how you'll go to high school for 4 years, then college for 4 years, then med school for 4 years, then internship and residency, and how you'll be looking at your 30's for starting a family and still not being home all day, you'll realize... that's not worth it for me. I can't be the doctor I want to be and be the mom I want to be.

That will be the beginning of your choice. It is a good choice.

It's okay to go to college. You'll do that. And it's okay that you won't find your calling there.

This God thing you're going through right now, the one that seems to be growing... in a few years kids at school will make fun of you for it, and a few years after that you'll ditch the whole thing and run around searching searching everywhere for something. It will take time, years, and you will be very very stupid, but eventually you'll fall into the arms of Grace when you finally crack a bible and start to really read.

You know how it feels like God is real right now? You're right.

Your fascination with gender roles will persist, you'll even write a ridiculously-titled anthropology honors thesis at your university. You could probably edit that title a bit.

But all that pondering will lead you to places you don't expect, and you'll go from thinking women have to do it all, to understanding that there is a difference between value and role, and that living out a traditional female role does not equal being of less value.  You'll go from thinking that God must really be female, to wanting to know Truth as it is, not as how you think seems cool.

Those career dreams? You won't be a vet, but you'll live on your own little farm. You won't be a computer programmer, but in a decade the world will be overswept by this thing called the Internet, and you'll teach yourself HTML and PHP because you'll want to have your own website. You won't be a pediatrician, but you'll doctor many a childish scrape and tend many fevered head. Your knowledge base of natural remedies will grow by leaps and bounds. You won't teach in an elementary school, but you will educate each of your children at home.

Your dreams will come true, just not in the way you expect. 

You'll fall in love with a tie-wearing pizza cook with a guitar in his hand, and he'll be The One. You'll marry under the trees and wing off on adventures inside and out.

And your dream of being an author... well sweetie, you and I are still working that one out. That is the one it seems we were meant to do in a deeper and wider way and even though I'm 29 years older than you, I'm still scared to rip it all back.  You and I need to be brave.

You may be a lousy thesis-title editor, but you are a pretty vicious self-editor, and you will continue to battle that. You'll battle it in your writing, and you'll battle it in your relationships. The problem you have with people-pleasing is deeply rooted. God has noticed this and He is going to give you plenty of chance to work on it (see above).

But little girl, be encouraged... you've already figured out the basics...

People are more important than things.

There's a lot of hurt in the world and you, yes you, really can make a difference.

The sense you have that there is something big and wild and wonderful flowing beneath and throughout it all... yes... and it's God.

And Patti, you feel like you are living in a story because you are. It's the most important story you'll write. Share the pen with God and play your role with joy.

 Joining writers around the globe today penning letters to our teenaged selves.
Thank you Emily for the inspiration.


Hamburg says: Good Night!
photo credit

I can't get my mind wrapped around it.



Undeserved kindness

A gift unearned.


Hard as I try, the claws of must-prove dig deep into my soul... I have to prove my worth, prove my value to the world... to Him... to myself.

So when I read this week about standing firm in grace I stop hard. I am to choose to stay there? Stay in this gift?

Then I read that not only do I receive this grace, but I receive it in fullest measure... pressed down shaken together pouring out?

Oh I know about being pressed, yes, pressed but not crushed.

But pressed down grace? Fullest measure grace?


I can't do anything about this one.  I can't actually get grace.

I just have to receive it, let it pour down and in and over me.

This charis grace, all wrapped up with chara joy.  And I learn that quite literally chairo, rejoice, means "to delight in grace."


In my search for joy, this new truth:
"Joy" means to delight in His abundantly full grace.

Amazed and  overwhelmed by grace,
Five Minute Friday

What Love Looks Like

Sign earlier this year in front of a local church in the fire zone

The sky is the same.

The way the light slants, the brittle dry trees, even a strong hot wind last week. All the same.

Funny what your body remembers.

My eyes scan the horizon, my nose sniffs for smoke. I wonder about tall narrow cloud formations.

When a helicopter flew low over the house yesterday I was on my feet and at the window watching for a water bucket swinging beneath.

One year ago the fire started. The fire that took 1700 homes. You can't really call today the anniversary of the fire because it lasted for a month. But it started one year ago.

Here's the raw truth: there's a part of me that wants to write a lament. For the past year I have loved on countless people in our little community who experienced utter devastation. I'm not really emergency room material... I get so involved emotionally with people. I internalize, make it my own. There has been much suffering here.

Yes, there is a lament that threatens.


I will not sing that here.

Because stronger and sweeter than the low moan of loss and suffering is the pure melody of love that has wrapped like a soft bandage around the past 366 days.

Deeper and truer is the response of the faithful who lost it all but knew that they had not lost what was most important... Jesus.

So today I honor that. I remember the love and the hope. The new life that was promised, and that has been made good on.

Love? It walks. It has hands. It feeds and shelters and brings gifts.

This is what love looks like....

Loving hands ready to feed

Hand made biscuits... it was the loaves and fishes that first morning

Standing room only for breakfast

Our bed for four nights, in our friend's living room

Sweet and newly born... a precious distraction filled with promise

A shared table covered with laptops and phones... our source of up-to-the-minute info on those we love

People just put things out on their front lawns

Flying and flying and flying with buckets of water

Love = flying straight into a fire


My friend with a hand-crocheted blanket sent from New Mexico

Building shelves for the Book Barn in a donated building

Making lunch for Book Barn volunteers

One family drove 2 hours in 2 SUVs filled with books for the Book Barn

Donated books from all over the country. Complete strangers mailed countless boxes to us.

School supplies donated to the Book Barn (and this was just in the first few days)

The Book Barn for homeschooling families who lost their homes

The sign outside Timberline Fellowship today - Sept 4, 2012

Because what we do, we children of the King, is find the joy in our loss. We look with hopeful eyes and see the blessing of hands that love.

We are never without Him. Even though tested by fire.

The woman in charge of choosing which message to put on the Timberline sign lost her home in the fire.  She shared her testimony at Do Not Depart in May.  It's a must-read.

This Sunday her story was the front page article in the Austin, TX newspaper.  Jesus on the front page, friends.

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