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Exhale

5-minute-friday-1 Exhale.
I’ve been chewing on this word.

The claustrophobic, chest-bursting pain of capturing breath and locking the prison door. Nowhere to let it go. No room to set it free. 

This has, in many ways, been my last year… grasping for any chance to breathe in deeply… 

and then to let it out again. 

“I can’t breathe” has slipped into my thoughts and out of my mouth more than once. 

And I wish, that just as this has been a figurative reflection on my state of mind… that there was also a figurative inhaler to help me out. 

How shallow my wishes are.

How God longs to draw me into a room with the purest of oxygen and hold me through the deep gulps of His life-giving breath… while I’d settle for an inhaler. 

Do you ever just wonder how, exactly, to answer that call? What does it look like to step into God’s embrace and breathe? I know it’s what I need. I beg for it. Flatten myself into the earth before Him. Pleading for respite. For healing. For grace. And I wait.

And wait.

And wait. 

Am I doing it wrong? Is there more to surrender then letting it all go? 

Hand lifted, “take it!” I cry. 

And He does. In His time. In His way. While I continue to scan the horizon for His relief forces, to come in and sweep away the trouble, whether it’s mine or another’s.

Searching the hills, slowly dying in the mud of the battle field. 

Waiting. Gasping. 

Defeated… can’t. breathe.

Then it’s there. That long, slow, life-sustaining exhale. 

I feel it. 

And I look up- and He’s there. Smiling. Been there. Pulling me to Him.

To that place where breathing comes on the tide of the sea, in sweet rolls and waves that rock and shush and fill the soul with peace.

 

Release- FMF

5-minute-friday-1 Release.

Who knew that one precious word would cost so much?

Reveal that depths of love that go deeper than any romance flick or novel or dreamed up idea… except for that one kind… the kind that gives its life for a friend.

The one that lets go.

Or is the one let go.

Sometimes, I confess, that I release my hold because it’s easier. Convenient. Painful… and opening fingers twisted round sends the pain away under the guise of love and nobility… but really, it’s just easier than holding on.

Other times, I find my own self, my everything, wrapped up in some longing, debilitated by my inability to control the outcome… to force them to like me, or to force them to publish me, or to force anything. 

And in the quite moments where truth finds a way and whispers, I see that the way to what I want is by letting go. Letting go of my pseudo-control. Letting go of the constant drain on my focus, attention, and energy. Letting go of the obsession… and letting it be what it may be.

It’s then, usually, that it comes to me. Once I’ve opened palms up, tears streaming down, that I feel the rush of peace and security… those things that I’m really after, that I try to fill or numb with all the lies of my culture.

Because the friend may choose to like me, or the Publisher my story, or the supporter our mission… and those are good.

But they can’t make me whole.

My wholeness comes from open hands, trusting the One who loves me with an intentionality I could never muster on my own accord for anyone or anything. With purpose. With joy.

Releasing to the One who can be trusted with everything.

 

5-minute-friday-1 I’ve noticed lately how my hands are looking older.

I’m not that old.

But they’ve lost some of their smoothness. They seem more cracked and wrinkled and worn then I remember…

I suppose they look great for all the work they’ve done… not just the tasks of daily living or being a writer, but of mother, wife, friend, counselor.

Human.

They’ve carried heavy loads. They’ve rocked babies. They’ve packed boxes and sent them across the world. They’ve created. They’ve clapped like thunder and sat silently folded. They’ve held water, cupped, and made music with grass in just the right spot.

They’ve been busy.

They’ve rarely complained.

They are just the kind of hand that I want to be.

Extensions of God’s love and mercy and grace.

Perhaps looking a little worn, a little cracked… but with a legacy of good use.

To be raised up in music and worship, to be offered, surrendered, to the one Sovereign.

To create God’s art.

To carry the burdens of His creation, to do the practical tasks of daily life, and to live miraculous.

To receive messages from the Brain and just act without question.

Without complaint.

Able to hold on tight… or let go.

To touch.

Many hands have molded and shaped me. Their fingerprints are everywhere. I’m covered in the handiwork of those who noticed, who invested, who were willing. There are some scars. Some damage.

But they heal.

And they add to the beauty that is me.

The scar in my fingerprint that shows up with every scan.

And tells a story.

A story of survival. Of hope. Of courage.

And makes me uniquely me.

Maybe I’m a scarred and worn hand… weary from persevering to victory, and scarred from battles fought and won.

But may I be a hand who has served her Master well.

 

Mess- FMF

5-minute-friday-1 Oh, it’s a mess alright.

Sometimes my heart feels like that one stubborn knot in Hannah’s hair that, no matter how many times we smooth it out, has some kind of hair-memory and knots back up again.

We get used to the knots, don’t we? We decide that life is just messy… that’s how it is, always has been, always will be, and we settle for a nest of knots.

Because it really does feel like a constant doing and undoing of useless work… spending all of this energy on something that will never change.

It. Just. Is.

Resolved.

We leave the knot to its own demise… which usually appears as though someone has put some “miracle grow” for hair right on it.

It’s incredible.

But something in me says there’s more. To not give up. To keep spraying the “detangler” all over my heart and life. To keep taking the brush to the knots and working them out. To keep on with the maintenance of cleaning things up, creating order among the chaos, putting shoes on the shelf and jackets on the hook and toys in their bin.

To keep on with the heart check-ins and the thought evaluations and soul upkeep.

Maybe it’s OCD.

I like to think it’s a small piece of my God-designed wiring, a piece that reflects His image, to keep on trying to make better that which seems hopeless. To keep inspiring change where it can happen. To endure and persevere until something beautiful blooms from the ashes.

This process, this desire, in itself is messy. It’s daunting. It’s often discouraging… but that glimmer of hope keeps me pressing forward, believing that there is good in here somewhere.

And there is.

 

turkish bowlI recently went to Turkey for a work conference. Along my travels there, I discovered some beautiful, inexpensive hand-painted bowls.

I bought a couple (hoping to give them to friends back home) and packed them up in my luggage.

I got home to find one of them in three difference pieces. I got out my super glue and forged it back together.

The thing about glue is, as amazing as it is, whatever you are gluing is just never the same.

It’s not as strong.

It’s frame is weakened and it carries a greater risk of breaking again.

It’s not as beautiful.

There’s most often a line… a glued-together crack, that reminds you that it has been glued back together. Chipped.

Damaged goods.

It’s certainly no longer suitable as a gift.

It’s value has decreased and it is clearly flawed… I can’t give that to a friend.

I realize how often I see myself as that cracked-and-glued-back-together bowl. How it must seem so obvious to the world that I am chinked. How my cracks must be glaring. How my scars must scream, “I am not as valuable, not as purposeful, not as strong as before I was broken!”

And boy, have I been broken.

Broken to the core of my existence. A mess. And not even a beautiful one.

Glued back together by grace and mercy and compassion… by the tender hand of a Dad whose love never fails.

My bowl is just a bowl. It is still beautiful to me. Others may not even notice the line that divides or the paint that’s been chipped off.

I chose to glue it because I saw value in it.

Not monetary value. Value from the hands that formed it, painted it, sold it. Value in the time spent over its details. Value in the memory it draws upon… the market scene, the Roman ruins surrounding me, the way the sellers lavished my kids with free gifts.

Maybe it’s more than a bowl.

And maybe we are more than our cracks and chinks and glued-together brokenness.

Perhaps our value is found in the hands that formed us… the time spent over our details, and yes, even in the painstaking restoration and healing that winds its way through our fibers like super glue… bringing our pieces back into one. A vessel containing a great treasure… a treasure far greater than we can actually bear to hold… but ours to hold because we have been broken and restored.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

5-minute-friday-1I’ve missed quite a few of the most recent Five-Minute-Fridays… but here on the brink of a ten-day business excursion, where I will likely have little to no internet, I give it my all.

Then I pack.

GO.

Writer.

This is a name I wear. A banner that flies above my soul. It cries to be seen, to be heard. It bears the insignia of a King, who chose this to be the gift He’d give His daughter.

And she wears it with pride.

And sometimes shame.

Because life is full and its demands often pull her, like the outgoing swell of a tide, away from this calling.

But not just calling… this purpose.

This means of surviving.

This outpouring of thought and word and expression that only becomes understood in print.

That stays a muddled mess in the head until birthed into something that can be read.

Being a writer in not only a great honor… but it may also be a curse.

Any good thing, left untamed and un-ridden and undisciplined, yet bearing some supernatural urge to be bear on, can begin to feel like a curse. Or at the very least, a deep, constant pressure to create without an outlet to do so. A penning up of swirling, twirling energy that screams for release. An internal tornado with nowhere to go but round and round and round.

And then the kids ask for breakfast. Or help with homework. Or just time to be spent together. And meals need to be made, groceries need to be bought, rooms need to be cleaned, showers need to be taken… and the day is over and another day has passed. All important things.

And this banner still flies, waving victorious in an unseen world.

(Ironically enough, within the five minutes I have to write this, two of my children just burst through the door with all of their excitement about our trip, full of requests for Mommy to get this or do that…)

And it’s still waving.

Because no matter the season of life, or the choices I make, or the amount of children bursting through the door…

I am a writer.

There are quite a few days when, sitting in my counseling office, I feel like I’ve just witnessed a movement of God.

And I’m sitting on the sidelines, witnessing a powerfully holy moment… a moment I am so privileged to see, and almost embarrassed to witness. Because the moment is so tender and intimate between this person and their Jesus that I can’t even breathe, for fear that my small movement will break the sanctity. I live for those moments.

I’m living this right now with the community center in Maubane, South Africa.

I’m running to keep up with the amazingly generous and compassionate hands of a loving Savior.

In ONE DAY the community garden was funded.

One day.

$10,000

I blinked and I missed it. And now we are full on into Phase 2…  community kitchen and welcome center. I’m gasping across the finish line of phase one… only to find that at this moment, $10,363 has already been raised for Phase 2. Hello?!

A sacred moment where God moves faster than you can keep up, extending grace and showering mercy on everyone who enters into the story. I imagine even folks on the sidelines are testifying to how radical this is.

That leaves us with only $29, 637 to go to complete the already government and tribe approved center. This will give 400 people

A base of operations – for the 20-30 volunteers who serve the weekly church meetings that currently take place under an open air shelter that was donated by a local church in Pretoria. What started as 15 kids has now grown to 250-300 children and 100 adults every Sunday for the last three years.
Hygienic Food Preparation – every second Sunday the volunteer group, Take Action, provides food and drinks to the community. But no running water, no kitchen, no bathrooms make it challenging to serve so large a group of people.

Sanitation – this portion of the community center will include male and female restrooms (5 stalls each).

Facilities for the caretaker who will farm the vegetable garden and provide security and maintenance for the community center site.

Conference Room – for launching economic empowerment with training classes in job skills, early childhood development and HIV/AIDS training for the community.

Safe storage for all the tables, chairs and equipment that serves the church and is currently stored in Pastor Norman’s house.

Right now they meet here: 3Ci+Maubane066

And meals and trainings and services happen here:

Maubane

 

How’s that for your next work retreat? Your office pow-wow?

I wish I could just plagiarize Lisa-Jo’s entire post for today… but I’ll just let you go read it for yourself. It’s amazing.

I am putting my money where my mouth is. I’m not just asking you to help these people… I’m doing it too. I’ve done it.

And I have an excuse not to.

I’m a missionary who relies entirely on the kind and generous support of others…

to buy groceries,

to go to the doctor,

to pay for internet to write these posts,

to buy shoes for my kids,

to drink clean water.

It all comes from others. And we need it. We do. Every dollar.

But God provides those dollars and I’m trusting Him to provide for our every need… while letting Him use our funding to provide for those in South Africa.

I’m sure you have excuses too.

Good ones.

Will you join me in a leap of faith? A bound over a canyon? A hop of hope? Belief that God can take what He’s given you (because everything you have is His anyway) and multiply its blessing over others… and never miss a beat in providing for you?

Are you ready?

Check out the generous offer HERE from Money Saving Mom when you make a donation.

You can also buy a beautiful personalized necklace HERE and a part of your donation will go to the community center.

Don’t sit silently- if you can’t help, spread the word!

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