Let’s Drop our Stones, OK?

stonepicmonkey

I mostly blog about my kids, things God is teaching me, good books, and normally warm and fuzzy stories that always have a happy ending. But, my heart hurts today. And I’ve been challenged to write where it hurts. I don’t want comments or responses telling me that it’s going to all be okay. I know it will, but for now, for today, I just want to feel it. To write where it hurts.

Do you remember that old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”? I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Edith Creech saying that many times over the course of 9 months to a group of 6 and 7 year olds.

Kids can be mean to each other. So can adults.

Kids say things without thinking them through. So do adults.

Kids don’t usually have a filter. Neither do some adults.

Kids say mean things to each other because they don’t understand the other kids. So do adults.

When kids say mean things, it hurts. When adults say mean things, it hurts, too. I know because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve said mean things that I later regretted saying. I am grateful that others have given me grace. Even as I typed this today, I emailed a friend to apologize for words I said years ago. Grace given, grace received. 

I’ve been the recipient of mean things. It hurts just as much as an adult as it did when I was a kindergartener and got called boy names by two classmates on the playground the entire year because I had short hair. Or when I was called fat back because I was over weight or “big-boned” as child. The wounds may heal, but the scars remain. 

Kids said all of the things above to me. But what do you do when adults play the same games? How do you respond? What makes us as adults judge and hurt other adults? Other crayons in the same box. Other players on the same team. We are all in this together. When one of our family members falls down, we don’t stomp on them and chant negative things over them. 

We help them. We offer to meet with them over coffee to understand them better. We love them even if they are not just like us or believe the same things as us.

WE LOVE THEM. RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR GREAT BIG MESS.

Love. Grace. Mercy. Understanding. Respect.

Not hate. Not judgement. Not condemnation.

Truth in love.

There is a time for right and wrong. There is a time for black and white. But all the time is the time for love. If you can’t reach out in love and understanding first, no one will ever listen to your rules later.

Start with love. Extend grace. Offer peace. Drop our stones…those of us who have no sin in our lives can keep holding on to them. But, I pray. Oh how I pray we can all drop our stones and choose to love.

Beautiful things often start with broken jagged pieces. My heart is heavy today, but not broken. I am whole in Him. He makes all things new in His time. 

Lord God, help us to see others the way You see them. Help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Help us to love others first. To offer grace, peace, gentleness, and understanding before we get out our red pens. You have written that love is the greatest out of faith, hope, and love. As we walk in community with each other, help us to walk in humility and share truth in love.  There is a time for everything. May we begin with the greatest of these things: LOVE!

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthian 13:12-13

 

When you Feel Like Dancing in the Rain

It trickles down my cheek and lands on my shoulder. Finding its way down as I lift my hands high.

The heavens open up and it continues to fall down like rain, gentle, yet refreshing. I stand still. Soaking it all in. I look down and it is puddling at my feet. It found its way down my back between my shoulder blades. Tickling me even though I was fully aware I was being swept away by grace.

 

It’s different this time.

Palpable.

Maybe it’s because I am different this time.

The tempest washed away the chaff, the excess. Through it all, He remained. Steady. Present. Patient.

His faithfulness wooed me. Astonished me. Captivated me.

Even in all my questioning, I was not running away. Just the opposite. I was clinging to bare threads. Clinging to the simple Truth I did know but didn’t believe. He loves me. He really, really loves me. And even when I chose to abandon Him, He remained.

This one simple truth sustained me. Like manna, it nourished me.

And today, I am dancing. Praising. Singing in the rain. His mercy rains down. It cleanses me. Invigorates me. Renews me.

He never abandoned me in my misery. He was by my side the entire time even when I refused to look at Him. His grace beckoned to me every single time.

He remained good when life was bad. He wept with me.

He chose me. He pursued me. I alternated between anger and apathy as I held him at a distance. He never stopped loving me. I said yes after many, many rejections. It was not instantaneous. It was a slow and painful process. I would say yes and then slam the door in His face. Broken and frustrated, I lifted my hands in anger towards Him, not praise. I wanted to know why, when, how, who. He whispered to me “be patient, be still, you will know what you need to know when you need to know it”. This angered me at first, but in time I pondered, talked to Him, journaled a lot, and just sat still.

Slowly, the ice around my heart began to melt. He never forced me, never threatened me, and never left me. Ever. Not even on my darkest nights when I wanted nothing to do with Him. As I sat with Him, I got to know Him. The more I got to know Him, the more I could see His hand at work in my life. God is for me. He wants the absolute best for me. And you. I don’t know where you are on your journey, but I do know that He loves you right where you are.

I know there will be more storms, but I also know that He will never stop loving me. People used to tell me that He loved me, just like I am telling you right now. But I didn’t believe them.

I challenge you to sit with Him. Rest in His presence. Ask Him questions, listen to Him. Don’t listen to me. Listen to God.

I am praying for you, even now as I am dancing in the rain, with hands lifted high in praise. He is my dance partner and I am enjoying the dance…because of the rain.

What if I fail?

A year ago, I would have told you that you were crazy. I considered it, prayed about it, and decided to keep doing what we were doing. I don’t really know why, because it wasn’t working. I mean, it wasn’t really broken, but it wasn’t working either.

What do you do when you are praying about something and you don’t get clear answers? No writing in neon marker on the wall?

12 months ago, I was worried about what people would think. What would they say? Who would talk about us and whisper things about us?

I was afraid of what might happen if I stepped out in faith and followed that inkling in my spirit. What if I had it all wrong? What if I screwed up? I am fairly stubborn and determined. But I can’t guarantee a successful outcome.

Out of frustration, I starting questioning lots of things: what is success? Who is my judge? What does it matter what they say or think?

I was listening to all the other whispers and they muted out the other whisper that was not so pushy or persistent. It was always there in the back of my mind, but it didn’t try to shove its way to the front. Very patient and gracious. But also forgettable when the other whispers were using a megaphone.

But, that little whisper started to grow wings and it got more confident as I started to listen longer and deeper. I asked different questions:

What if we succeed, whatever that means?

What is most important/best for our family?

If I don’t do this, will I regret it?

Do I trust that God is big enough to catch us if we mess up? Or said differently, do I believe in His grace?

And then it hit me. I had my answer. I didn’t trust Him or His grace. I thought I had to have all the right answers and to be able to have an answer for all those whispers. But I don’t.

His whisper is the only one that will ever, ever matter. And in His grace, He gave me more than whispers to help me make a decision. But it all started with a whisper. An inkling. A curiosity about something.

I was afraid of failing. Afraid of letting go and trusting the process. I can’t know what the future holds. But I know today what He wants for me. And I don’t want to ever look back and wonder “what if?”.

And you may ask what does grace and success look like for us today?

Lying on our backs reading “Eight Keys” together. Crying and laughing because it is that good!

Listening to their laughter drift into the kitchen from the backyard “playground”.

Eating lunch together and holding hands to pray and list our gratitudes.

Working on adjectives and describing each member of our family with funny descriptors.

Using poprocks that we can’t eat to do a science experiment with.

Learning about our 5 senses and taking an investigative field trip around the Branch Ranch.

I may fail by some standards, but I won’t regret falling into the deep abyss known as grace.

“I’ve had to learn through experiences not to be afraid to fail. You don’t know what the future holds for you. You can hope your dreams come true, but you have to be fearless. I don’t want to look back and think, What if?” — Nastia Lukin, U.S. Olympic gymnast

 

raw, unedited people

I love ’em. Really, deep down love ’em. I don’t  have to “read” them to figure out where I stand with them either.

I also love them because they don’t really care what people think about them. At all.

They’re passionate even if you think they’re wrong. And you never have to guess what they’re thinking or what’s on their mind. They will tell you with sincerity of heart and no duality of focus.

They never have wedgies because they don’t ride the fence. Either they fall off into the deep lush green grass only to discover they landed face first in a pile of *&%# or they land on both feet, running to tell the next person what they think.

I would much rather listen to someone who tells it like it is as opposed to someone whose words are slippery. So slippery they slither away before you can run and get the hoe from the shed.

And I wonder why the words slither away like a snake? Do they know that duplicity will never win in the end? Maybe they know that the truth would really set them free to be raw and unedited. So they run. Because they are afraid to be true to themselves because of what other people might think or say. People pleasers constantly prop people up only to later realize that their props were made of cardboard:

“For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.” Henri Nouwen

It is easier to live in hiding, double minded in all your ways than it is to look in the mirror and face the truth. A double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways (James 1:8). Double minded means saying one thing today and doing another thing tomorrow. When you live one way in front of certain friends and another way with another set of friends.

What I want to tell you is that you can stop hiding. You will never be good enough. And you will never please everybody. We need you to be YOU. Warts, wrinkles, bad breath and all.

And I pray that you choose to stop propping people up. Stop hiding behind all the right clichés and bleached white teeth. Be real with yourself. Reclaim your true identity in Him and start living full and free.

But most of all, I pray that you fall face forward off the fence into a massive pile of GRACE!! Unlimited, unmerited, pure as snow: grace. Come one, come all kind of grace. Grace that can’t be propped up or outsinned. You can never, ever do anything to keep grace and mercy from pursuing you. I don’t care how fast or far you run.

And, my friend, you can be raw and unedited with God. I encourage you to start there, stay there with Him. He is big enough for you and all that comes with you. And ask Him to show you who you can be your real self with as you try it on for size. Not the self that has to dodge hand grenades and water balloons. Not the self that has to avoid certain people. Your free self. The one who has a wedgie and would really like to get off the fence.

82 in a 65

Let me begin by making a confession. I was speeding. But, I was not going 82 in a 65.

However, when you are pulled over on I-40 by a police officer with full bright blue lights blazing, you may need to change your underwear.

I was taking my oldest to her 7-year-old well care check. A happy occasion with both of my kids in the backseat. I had my cruise set on 72 (yes, I know 72 in a 65 is still speeding). We were not running late, all the more reason to set my cruise on 65 instead of 72. Creature of habit am I.

Next thing I know, I am being followed by a Raleigh police officer. He followed me for about a mile before he turned on his lights. I eased over into the far right lane and slowly came to a stop on the side of the road.

I broke the news to my kids that I had been stopped by a police officer and fully expected my youngest to freak out. However, he did not do as I expected. He did the opposite. He didn’t speak for the next 5 minutes. I think he was in as much shock as I was.

I got my license ready and put my window down as the officer approached my car.

“Hello, sir.”

“Hi, mam. Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, sir. I don’t.”

“Well, mam, I clocked you going 82 in a 65. You do know what the speed limit is don’t you?”

{I was honestly in shock. 82 in a 65?? I never ever go over 72 or 73 on I-40. I always set my cruise so that I won’t go 82 or more.}

“Yes, sir. 65 and I have had my cruise set on 72 since we left the Clayton bypass. I never set my cruise any higher than 72 or 73. I have never had a speeding ticket.”

{He was listening intently and being very respectful as I pleaded my case. I, however, was still in shock.}

“Yes, mam, I understand that, but I clocked you going 82.”

“Sir, I am sorry, but I was not driving 82. What was I driving when you were following behind me?”

“You were going 72 when I got behind you, but before that I clocked you going 82. And you do understand that 72 is still speeding. The speed limit is 65.”

“Yes, sir. You are right. I confess to driving 72 in a 65. I respect you and your position, but I promise you I was not at any time going 82. There was a black Matrix that flew by me in the left lane just before you got behind me. Maybe you clocked him by accident and thought it was me.”

{I am not beneath begging, but I KNEW that I had not been driving 82 miles an hour down I-40. I did and do confess to speeding by driving 72 in a 65.}

“Well, mam, I thank you for being so respectful and on the 1% chance that my equipment malfunctioned, I am going to let you go today. But, please promise me that you will set your cruise on 65, especially with those two precious kids in the backseat. And when an officer gets behind you, out of respect, drive the speed limit.”

“Yes, sir. You have my promise. Thank you for your concern for my family.”

I shook his hand and slowly merged back into traffic, with my cruise set on 65 all the way to Cary.

grace. GrAcE. GRACE!!!

Undeserved, unmerited, grace.

The respectful and understanding Raleigh police officer could have very easily written me a ticket for going 82 in a 65 or even 72 in a 65. Although, I wasn’t going 82 miles an hour, I was still speeding and breaking the law by driving 72 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone.

When I pulled back onto I-40 and headed west to US-1, God whispered to me: “Grace.” That is all. One word.

Sometimes one word is all it takes to change your day. Your life.

I desperately need His grace. Every day. And, I will never forget how God used a Raleigh police officer to remind me of His grace. And to remind me to slow down.

This happened on August 20th, one day after my spiritual birthday of 25 years. Talk about grace.

As an 11-year-old, I first realized that something was missing. And even though my decision to ask Jesus into my heart was more fear based than anything else {an 11-year-old will do anything to avoid the gates of hell}, 25 years later I am more in love with Him than ever before.

His grace has done more than saved me from hell…it has transformed me. And it can transform you.

All because of grace.

“I comprehend you in all your complexity; I understand you with absolute accuracy; no detail of your life is hidden from Me. Yet you need not be afraid of My intimate awareness, because I view you through eyes of grace. Were I to look at you otherwise — through eyes of the law rather than grace — it could be terrifying to you. That’s why you desperately need My grace — and why you need to see yourself, as well as others, with different eyes.” Sarah Young, Jesus Lives

(Photo credit — Wiki Commons)

What is that like for you??

It’s only Wednesday. And so far, the canvas this week is painting is nothing short of spectacular. I can hardly believe what has been unfolding before my eyes. The colors and layers and depth created by the Painter’s brush strokes have left me in awe of the larger Story.

The Story that you and I live every day. The Story that calls us to so much more than things and money and instant gratification.

Every story has certain components that make it worth reading, hearing, and living. For me, the most important part of any story is simple. The characters make it worth reading, hearing, and living.

Speaking of characters, I met 3 amazing protagonists this week. 3 ladies who have impacted my life in ways that I would have never imagined. And the interesting thing is that I didn’t seek them out. They landed in front of me. And offered their stories of hope, redemption, and amazing grace.

Let me introduce them to you:

She is approaching 70 years old. One would think that she would be enjoying retirement. Loving on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And she is doing just that. 24 hours a day. One of her great-grandchildren who is 5 years old has lived with her since he was 18 months old because no one else would take him in. What would possess this senior citizen who could sleep in, travel, and live it up make such a huge sacrifice?

She is young. Too young, with beautiful children. And, she was handed a horrible diagnosis. One that would require daily medication for the rest of her life. The side effects are tolerable only because without the medicine, she would not be able to function. In the prime of her life, she discovered that life as she had imagined it would not be. There would be a new normal with different expectations of herself and others. What gives her the energy to deal with the side effects of the medicine and not give up?

Another young lady. With a mere toddler. She coded twice and was thought to have permanent brain damage. And is only alive today because of the miraculous power of Jesus. She has defied all medical wisdom and almost 3 years later with a heart from a donor, she lives. She LIVES! And the medication she takes also takes from her, but she chooses not to dwell there. She chooses to think and dwell on all that God has given her. Not what He allowed to happen to her. How does she endure each and every day?

Their stories are so similar, yet vastly different. We all have a story to share and we want to tell it. Whether we want to admit it or not.

So, what are the answers to the questions above? What would possess a great-grandmother to be a mother to her great-grandson? What gives someone with a chronic disease the energy to not give up? How does a heart-transplant survivor endure and thrive?

One word: love. LOVE! The most powerful motivator we will ever know.  It motivated me to nurse my children round the clock for over a year even though I must.have.sleep. It motivates dads and moms all over the world to work hard and sacrifice so their children can prosper.

It motivated Jesus to bear His cross. Because He loved His Father. And me and you.

And, when we share our stories, He can be glorified. When we hide due to shame or fear, who gets the glory?

I am honestly in shock over the power of these ladies’ stories. I met them in three different places and did not know them until this week. We talked, we shared, and I simply listened to them and asked, “what is that like for you?”

And, I want to ask you the same thing. What is _______ like for you? What is your story? What is YOUR story? You don’t have to make it up. It already is.

 

My hiding place

He ran away before I could say anything. I didn’t scream or grab him by the arm. He didn’t give me time to react. He just ran. And hid.

When I found him, his fig leaves had Buzz and Woody designs on them and his head was buried under T-Rex and Bullseye.

He had stopped crying, but when his eyes met mine, he burst into another round of sobs and crocodile tears. I didn’t say anything, yet again. But I did grab him and squeeze him tight into my bosom. The same bosom that nursed him and gave him life when he was a tiny infant. Flesh of my flesh and bones of my bones.

As his little body heaved and cried, my heart broke. He felt such guilt. And the red shards that decorated the kitchen floor left a gaping wound in his soul.

He couldn’t talk just yet, so I held him a bit longer. Lord knows I will hold his heart for a lifetime. The sobs got quieter and his breathing became more rhythmic as I rocked him like he was that tiny infant once again.

He pulled back and his eyes met mine again, but this time, he spoke between sobs, “mommy…I am so sorry…I didn’t mean…to break your glass.”

“Baby, I know. It was an accident. I know you didn’t mean to break it.”

“Mommy, are you mad?” he said as his eyes left mine and focused on the necklace around my neck. The same neck that his little fingers clung to.

“No, I’m not mad.”

“Mommy, are you sad?”

“No, buddy, I’m not sad. It was just a vase. We can buy another one. Are you okay?”

“No, I am sad because I hurt you. You really liked that glass.” His eyes met mine once again. Blue as the deepest ocean. Proof positive that there is a Creator creating beautiful everyday.

“You’re right. I did, but it’s okay. We can get another one. Mommy loves you more than that vase and I am thankful that you didn’t get hurt or cut by the glass.”

I know he heard me, but his mind was focused on something else. The shimmer in his eyes revealed the unspoken. The windows to his intimate and intricate soul. And they can reveal what the heart is pondering in some ways better than the spoken word.

“Mommy, where did you buy that glass?”

“I don’t remember, but we can look for another one if that would make you feel better.”

“Yes. I want to do that.”

“Do you feel better now?”

“Yes, mommy. Can we go get your vase now?” His words gave way like a tidal wave to reveal the unspoken desire of his heart. To make it well with his soul…and mine.

I picked him up and squeezed him tight. His heart broken because he broke my vase. My heart softened and stretched. More deep healing continues to take place. My 4-year old has yet again been my teacher.

Our little slugger

Oh, I’ve messed up many, many times as a parent. My heart was pierced this time before I could yell or throw more darts at Sean’s heart. The damage was done. He was wounded deeply because he hurt one of the most important people in his life. His deep pain and reaction to run and hide caused me to stop in my tracks. Nothing I could possibly say in the moment would have helped the situation. His heart had been shattered in many more pieces than my vase. His very soul ached. So he did what we all do when life hurts and our souls ache. He hid.

How many times…oh Lord, how many times have I hidden from God because I felt inadequate, less than, not enough?

We all have hiding places. Those places, things, and people that we run to when we feel like we don’t measure up. I am learning {slowly} that there is Someone I can run to. He never yells or grabs me by the arm. I never feel inadequate when I am in His presence. I am more than enough to Him. He wants me to run to Him. Find shelter and safety in Him. My strong tower.

I am running in the right direction. And it feels good, whole, and full of grace.

Are you hiding? What do your fig leaves look like? If you have a tendency to run, like me, make sure that your finish line is in Him.

Much love and grace to you, dear friends!