4.16.2014

Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}




I am delighted to have my friend, Kelli Woodford, at the blog today, who has collaborated with me on this post. We are both sharing our voices and stories with you today of how we met. This is a bold move, we know--and we hope you enjoy it. 

More than that, we hope you can see one golden, grace-bathed thread through the entire thing--how God opens our eyes to see the souls beneath human skin, broken and beautiful skin we all share-- and that you will maybe walk away with a renewed sense of sisterhood/brotherhood and what it means to be at the table together. Much love to our readers and thank you for being with us on the writing series journey~ 


The airport bustled as I pulled the car curbside. Flipping down the visor, I checked my hair and applied chapstick. The radio station desperately needed adjusting and oh for the love, where could that water bottle have gone? And it was there, hand jammed under the passenger's seat with great angst written across my brow, that I recognized it: Fidgeting, yes, I was fidgeting.

Because nervousness? It always drives me to do.

She texted from inside the building. Only a few moments and we would meet for the first time. Only a few moments till the hopes and dreams of the person we had known through words on screens and a smattering of facebook photos would shake hands with stark reality. We would stand before one another in the flesh - for better or worse - in all our devastating human nakedness. Without the comfort of photoshop's charms or a hearty following behind us. Without smartly punctuated witticisms or cleverly sculpted reputations. We would brush skin and hear joints pop and perhaps waft the warmth of the other's signature scent. I wrapped my coat around me against the wind, took a deep breath, and let my feet find the pavement. Brave feet, I thought, keep walking.

I looked up at the sound of my name.

She was prettier than I expected her to be. Slender and blond. Her idyllic smile rivaled Denzel's for shine and luster, teeth straight as a manicured picket fence. Intimidation crept up my neck and flushed my cheeks with scarlet. We chatted about her flight and about the weather. We sneakily studied one another's faces when we thought it wouldn't be noticed. I listened to the slow, thick drawl of the south on her tongue, and I imagine she heard the nasal whine so common to midwesterners in my voice. It was strange and wonderful, this stark reality. It was a bit like stepping into Narnia, finding more than you ever thought possible inside a wardrobe in the spare room.

Because aren't we, all of us, more than screens can ever tell?

The weekend unfolded in gentle, halting exhale. Moments both sacred and scared laced our days. We revealed parts of our lives to each other, but not without a good bit of trembling. Intimidation faded like a fall flower in the honest light of brokenness shared. And then it came time for goodbyes. We parted alongside the very same curb where I'd exhorted my audacious feet. This time, there was a knowing in our voices. We didn't hear the differences that took up so much space at first. We only heard the heart. For you see, we had taken time to listen.

And perhaps that is what many internet relationships need - this listening. Because it's so easy to see a photoshopped profile picture and make assumptions, isn't it? So easy to comfortably settle into a one-dimensional assessment of an individual instead of pushing deeper, believing for more, digging into the back of the wardrobe?

Now, I realize it's not always possible to quell these misgivings by face-to-face meetings. I get it. But this mining for gold no matter what rubble lies on the surface - this is more than that. It’s a perspective. This is what it means to invite all to the table. This is where we feel the hand in our own. This is what it means to honor not only the stories that we uniquely represent, but even the opinions and convictions that result from the narrative being scripted. This is respecting each other's process. And it is how community can form, even in as unlikely a place as these screens permit.

  
~by Kelli Woodford

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When she stepped out of the car at the airport, her big baby blues startled me. They were much more exquisite in real life than in any picture. I had never before seen eyes like that.

As we began trying to load my luggage into the car, I looked down and noticed dainty feet in the cutest flats. How hip, I thought. I should've brought shoes like that. I also noticed her energy and her determination to help. She wasn't the stander-by type. She was hands-on. I liked her already, because I'm the type who's always a little lost, needing help.

I had come that weekend, with so much hesitation. I don't handle large social crowds well, and I refused to be sick and have an anxiety attack while I was there. I knew I'd be okay with her by my side, because though we only knew one another through a screen, something in me trusted her. She had such unassuming grace.

Oh, how I tried to be strong, but all the grace in the world could not keep the inevitable powerful attack at bay. We walked into a bustling lunch room, bloggers and writers chatting, the noise blinding me, and I felt so disconnected, that I didn't belong. A couple of friends tried to talk to me, but I didn't want to be the center of attention. I went outside to cry and to call my husband.

When I came back in, she met me in the hallway and asked how she could help. Did I need my food brought outside to me? I wiped my eyes, gathered all of my courage and strength, and told her I'd walk back in with her so she could finish her lunch. Then we went back to the hotel so I could swallow down the calm my body so desperately needed and she and I just took a break.

I did not want her or anyone to have to care for me in that way, but my human brokenness left me with no choice. She saw me--fully human and fully broken, the pieces scattered everywhere.

And those pieces scattered over that weekend, were the fragments that bonded us forever, like a quilt made with love, from many left over scraps. The Master Sewer, He wove us together over those days and nights. We sat in her car until the wee hours of the morning sharing stories too sacred to mention here. We laughed hysterically over teenage adventures and how we sometimes still feel like we're at that age of angst, and yet, we're more fully ourselves. We cried. We listened intently. We were on holy ground. But to get to that place of holy? We had to be brave, oh, so brave. We had to let all pretenses go.

May I suggest something to you? Perhaps this is a concrete and poignant example of what it is to pull up a chair at the table with others, let the facades go, let our presumptions go of what we expect others to be, and try to see ourselves through their lens? Perhaps there really is another soul, right there next to us, hidden and disguised beneath pretty clothes and fashionable shoes, just begging to be loved, not with piety, but with true warmth, the kind that prays for you in the middle of the night, the kind that would leave a conference to take you to the hospital if need be, knowing this is the reason they were there that weekend--to meet another soul, broken, right where they are, to care for them, as Jesus would.

At the table, together.



And might I suggest something else? That we are not ordained by God to decide who gets to be at the table? Because it's not just for believers, for those with a strong faith in God, the ones sure of themselves and their calling and purpose. It isn't just for the ones mentally well, the ones who do social circles just right, and always know the right thing to say.

But perhaps instead, God has designed the table so that the atheist can pull up a chair beside us, that we can sup together, to share battle-worn life-stories, to really see one another-- a beautiful, mysterious creation--yes, one very beautiful face of God.

And perhaps it is for the awkward ones, too-- the ones who say all the wrong things at the table that leave people gasping and uncomfortable. Jesus made everyone gasp. They were uncomfortable in his presence. And so, I have become more comfortable with my awkward self, and I feel more at home around ones who say the wrong things. They have a place amongst us, too.

And perhaps the chair next to us is just as much for the homosexual who is confused, or determined in their lifestyle. Maybe just maybe-- have we considered that God loves them no less than us, and in our separation we have shown a poor example of that? And maybe they are not as lost as we think-- perhaps they are trying to find their way--floundering and very human like the rest of us. And perhaps, if we weren't so uncomfortable around them, and pulled out a chair, said sit here, we would find they have some battle-worn stories too. And we would find another human being just begging to be loved, a soul crying for help. Isn't that what Jesus was all about? Isn't it why He came?

And just maybe, when we look around at our table, and see no one different from us outwardly, we should re-think that. Because yes, there are many different faces of God, and he has made some lovely skin to stretch taut over sisters and brothers all around us. When we plan our bible studies, and our place-settings, might I suggest we think of the black neighbor down the street, or the Asian sister who greets us with a smile everyday at our local fill-up station, maybe the Mexican sister or brother who attends our homeschool functions, but we notice they are always quiet?

Let's not isolate ourselves from the ones who need our brave words, our bold love, our audacious grace-- the most.

And let's remember--they need it no more or no less, than we do. Let's make this a table that is wide and large--let's make room for everyone.

Don't hide your love. Don't hide your words. Forget about trying to please the masses with your words and your art. Forget about writing what you think is the politically correct or religiously correct term.

Write it real and write it true. That is what we want to hear. We are weary of sugar-coated religious platitudes.

Sister and brothers, listen up: Tell us YOUR story. Give us something real, brave, bold. God has designed you to make a mark. Let your light burn brightly, and light up the dark sky. Just let the words fall out, friend.

There is room at the table for broken, brave, beautiful you.

~by Nacole Simmons

Please watch the video-- how beautiful --what encouragement--Y'all --I want to SEE YOU BE BRAVE!












Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences "home" so much as when she is with her best friend--who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with thier seven blue-eyed children. You can read more of her tantalizing words here at her blog, where she chronicles grace in everyday life, or find her hanging our here on Twitter  and Facebook . 






linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate


**This here is the wrap-up of a series on writing--the last week! Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discussKelli and I will choose one *amazing* story on Tuesday morning, the 22nd, {the link-up is available until 8 am Tues} from the link-up below to feature on both of our blogs next week, on Wednesday, the 23rd!! And we'll share on social media, too. So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? What has your own writing/blogging journey looked like? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! If you're featured, be prepared to provide a photo and a short author bio!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}



--Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries --a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity --a guest post from Lisha Epperson


**Announcing the winner from the book giveaway last week! Beth Stiff, you've been hand-picked. Kelli chose a number between 1 and 3-- and your # was chosen!! WOOT! Please leave a comment or message me with your address, friend!


4.10.2014

Take Hold Of the Promise {An Abstraction on Bloom}, An Announcement and A Giveaway!!



**Trigger warning: This post talks about marriage and contains the words divorce and separation--if those are hard things for you to read about because of a fresh wound or experience, please consider that before you read. All my love and warm wishes your way....


I meet him at the door, his arms heavy with groceries and other leftovers from a long commute. He stares at me, puzzled by the look on my face. What is it? he asks.

Just--what a weary day, huh?

He exhales. Yes, a knowing in his eyes. We exchange a somber look of understanding.

I give him as much of a hug as I can with all the stuff in between us, and kids yelling with delight-- Daddy! and I walk into the kitchen and begin unpacking everything. I smile to myself secretly --

He got all the things I like, the things that aren't important to him, but are important to me--and he remembered. I feel so loved by this--this thoughtfulness.

I wasn't always so easily pleased. There have been times early on in our marriage that I had to have things my way, because I was so afraid of being taken advantage of. The root of fear was so violent inside--God is slowly whittling that away. It took me several years to learn that love gives, and when love gives and is not afraid, there is this most odd dynamic that doesn't make sense to us humans--we are fulfilled. And that kind of love only grows stronger. It has made my man love and protect and care for me even more--which is what I always wanted anyway.

Love always, always wins. Every time.

Four years ago I became very sick. Last year I was hospitalized for anorexia and other health issues. I was flailing, barely surviving. I was alive, but it felt like all of me was dead. When I got sick, I shut down. I disconnected emotionally from everyone in my life--even my sweet family. My mama said it was my body trying to preserve itself. Every day was a hard battle just to live. I'd lost the will.

There were times my husband had to take pills from my hands. We've been through a lot together in almost fourteen years-- from a job that separated us early in the first year of marriage, through grieving over the loss of two babies, to dealing with addiction and illness together, even enduring the spiritual wilderness together and surviving marital separation.

Sometimes I feel like we've seen and done it all as a couple. But I know that life, and God, has so much more in store for us still. The days will be long, and the years will be short.

It has been a long journey, and there is still some mountain left to climb, but today I feel blessed.

I know what it feels like to want to live. I know what it feels like to fight tooth and nail to rise early in the morning to care for my children. I know what if feels like to carry around a heavy burden of fear that it will all end in divorce, only for God to speak a promise to me--

Every good thing I begin, I bring to completion.

And I have stood back and watched Him heal and make my marriage stronger than it's ever been. I had begun to doubt that I loved this man, thinking God had somehow made a mistake with my life. And then a miracle happened.

He opened my heart wide to compassion and forgiveness and grace, and I know something for sure, as sure as I know my heart beats and there is breath in my lungs--

I absolutely love this man more than the day I married him.

I am on my way. I'm carrying on. I have a vision He gave. I'm being healed little by little every day. Even though in the last weeks I have not felt Him, have not heard Him speaking, He reminds me about the dreams-- He's been speaking to me through dreams--and it just took some time to see it.

He is always here. Emmanuel. What a loving Father He is, to get my attention in so many different ways. And being the proud Father He is, who wants the best for me, when I call on Him in absolute desperation, He is not angry or condemning that I didn't come til now. Like the Good Father that he is, he is always happy to see me. This is a choice that I make, but He initiates, He prods. How lost I would be without that if it was all up to me.

And every day is a choice to keep moving in the right direction, to be awake to Him, to have my eyes open, to see Him in my life all around me--in the breath I breathe, in the pulsing heartbeat of child's purple veins in her neck as she sleeps, in the wind, and sun, and rainy dark afternoon--

in bedtime kisses and stories, in make-shift gifts a four-year-old wraps up in a UPS box and presents to Daddy, in flowers brought in to me by chubby hands and placed on the sill in the light, in folded warm towels on top of the drier, in worship music soothing my soul as I clean, and rock and roll our beat as we roll down the highway toward the gym.

It's a new day. I proclaim it. Sisters, listen up: Take hold of that promise.

Bloom.

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Lying there in the dark, he is asleep but something makes me come to a full stop. I'm so amazed at the marvelous miracle of love, that I reach up and gently trace the outline of wrinkles around his eyes, drop gentle kisses all over. I stare at him, and I am shocked at the overwhelming love that I feel for this flawed human being lying next to me. I love him, I love him, I LOVE him!

The tidal wave of realization and emotion washes over me. Memories, all the hard ones and all the good ones-- 15 years-- they all crash into one moment of mysterious miracle that only God could have performed.

And, I think, lying there-- this must be what it feels like, not selfish love-- the kind that drives us to look for someone to do life with and to make our own, no-- selfless love-- the kind that withstands all and keeps going and finds something deeper, surer.

I think--this must be what it's like to bloom wide open into all I was designed to be.






linking with friends, MichelleLaura, Jennifer, Emily, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let's explore the practice of Awakening to God--this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain... Here you will find God. THEN write about it--Let's not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let's not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let's see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bloom (next week's is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We'll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends--invite them?
What this link-up is about: We "write out spirit" by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going "what in the world is a concrete word?!"--this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what's around us--concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber's take on this. It was very helpful to me--I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words--
                                             and the prompt--Please no entries with how-to's, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords--
                                               please share so others can join!

Today's prompt is Bloom. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Thursday, the 17th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be Path.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: Kelli Woodford and I invited you here today for the wrap-up of the series and a link-up, but she had to go out of town this week for Faith & Writer's Festival--lucky girl! So, we ask you to forgive us for postponing, and in the place of the link-up, we're doing a giveaway! AND you are invited back here next week, on Wednesday, the 16th, when Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you'd like to write and get your stories ready! We'll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!


GIVEAWAY TIME!! WOOT! To win this book, just leave a comment and share this post on facebook or twitter! That's all!! A winner will be chosen randomly.


What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language? 

A passion to follow Jesus. 

Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ.

Kisses from Katie invites readers on a journey of radical love down the red dirt roads of Uganda. You’ll laugh and cry with Katie as she follows Jesus into the impossible and finds joy and beauty beneath the dust. Katie and her children delight in saying yes to the people God places in front of them and challenge readers to do the same, changing the world one person at a time.

4.03.2014

Walking with Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling and diversity

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}



I am so very pleased to introduce to you my new friend, and who I can tell will be a forever-friend, Lisha Epperson. We’ve already gotten the hard stuff out of the way—this is a woman whom I already admire for her courage, her heart, and how she shows that she is so very human. She is audacious in her words here, and they challenge and inspire me. 

Mine and Lisha’s heart beat for the same thing: real change. We ache for it. Please listen to her story with a wide-open heart, and show her some love in the comments. I have gotten to know Lisha and I know where she is coming from here—from love, the kind that Jesus poured out and you couldn’t help but be changed. That is what is present here today. I pray we are all challenged and changed by her words.





                          
                                                                photo credit--Flickr CC gollygforce 

I call myself an accidental writer.
Suffocating in my minivan one summer, the summer my youngest turned 1, midlife motherhood wrecked and wrung me….left me stranded in the loneliest season of my life. God whispered the idea. “Write” he said, an unexpected answer to my desperate question. As I watched my mommy friends dash off for coffee again, without me, I wondered.. “How can I make this time useful? What can I do?”
I’d drop off the tweens and find my self stuck – in sandmans’ land with the littlest Lovelies. Fiddling around on Facebook led to twinklings on Twitter and the next thing you know…I had a blog.
A year in, and I’m still in love, still excited by the shaping of words like so many dancers in the beautiful synchronicity of choreography. But for a while fear was part of the journey…and expectation and comparison, and doubt. The initial rush and sweaty palms developed into a rapidly beating heart. I got scared.
That first post was thrilling in that jumping tandem way. I took the leap with God and felt confident of his presence. Sending my words out in cyberspace was a blast. But I lacked focus . I walked the unfamiliar halls of the blogging world glancing back at every sound. To break through the web of cries and catcalls for attention I had to hear His heartbeat. Respond only…to echoes of His voice.
So I developed a mantra…
1,2,3 Jesus. I count and let his name escape my lips. My rhythmical ritual, my soft silent prayer before posting. Every word is important and every offering good in a God way. I’m at a point in this relationship where what I thought was a fling feels like forever. It’s bigger and more important and I pray for the confidence commitment brings.
I’m still trying to find my voice. And beyond encouragement, struggle to write anything tangibly resourceful. I don’t know if I have a niche and wonder how one monetizes a ministry of words. Is it possible I’ve stumbled into my calling? In literally oceans of talent have I found my wave?
And then there’s this…I wonder if it’s too late and if there’s room.  Christians haven’t escaped the polarized packaged perfection of the typical Western experience. By and large, it’s the same old, same old. With few exceptions it’s segregated…by age and race. The subtle maybe even subliminal message for women my age and ethnicity is “prepare for landing” or “this” is not for you. The words may never be spoken…but they’re implied. When I walk into a room of 500 and see only a handful of people of color…I feel it. It’s what I think when I see a conference line up features only one face of color or platforms only thirty somethings.
As for race, Dr. King highlighted the sad fact of our separation as Christians. And too much of its broken truth is part of our online world today. Our continued division perpetuates the worlds narrative about people of color and the value of older women. We have to intentionally do better. Everything about our walk with Christ has to be intentional…especially if our goal is unification of the body.
And who’s doing the planning anyway? And is there really only room for one? One woman of color? One fabulously silver saint? It’s hard to say this because I know there’s grace for growth on all sides but it’s something we have to address. These words, from Holly Gerth and Brene Brown, inspired me to to push the envelope a little bit further today. Maybe cause a conversation. Incite a beautiful revolution. Take a stab at true diversity.


Fear will always tell you to keep quiet.
But love will always ask you to speak up.
And we need your story.
– Holly Gerth
Is there anything braver than asking for what we need and owning our story? I don’t think so.  - Brene Brown
And so I pose the question. I prayerfully voice my concerns as a new blogger. I’m taking in the landscape and I’m looking for level ground. Ground we’ve worn down with love…together. And I want to see me…standing…with you. Because this experience has birthed new sisters and I’m grateful for open doors and opportunities. I love ya’ll.
Still….Every woman of color might not express it but I know she’s thinking it. And every woman over 45 wonders if she’ll be the oldest woman in the conference hall. Our eyes meet between sessions and we laugh nervously about which of us is the oldest. Or we share a knowing glance or nod of solidarity. Your story, my story is part of the universal canvas. We can’t do this walk…in love….in the name of Christ…without each other.

sixinthestixlove


I want to attend Christian conferences for women. We may be in different seasons but we all benefit when we stretch and shift our minds to accommodate the perspective of another. Lets not perpetuate the problem by pushing ourselves into corners with our “own” clubs.
Here’s the deal.. honestly, it hurts to attend events where the only other faces of color are onscreen….when slides from a missions trip are run. I want to attend a Christian conference. If I’m “the only” , and others are "the only" where they are, then we need to all ask ourselves this question: is this true community? And without true community, I can’t receive the breadth of Christ’s provision…which is offered for all.
I’m a Titus 2 woman circling the sun in brown skin. I’m living the concrete beauty of a human experience. My life is full. Things you have to live to know? I know. But for me age is only a number and I understand the universality of many experiences. Is there a limit or line to cross to know the split wide Red Sea drama of motherhood, or the soul crush of NO in answer to your greatest wish. Or to know waiting.
No. Does He have a word for everyone but people of color? Middle-aged mamas/women?Did He not pour out his love, creativity, compassion, grace, peace, wisdom on all?
God is on the move. We’re living in an amazing era with an unprecedented capacity to reach people for Christ. We can’t limit him by caging his plans with barriers based on our minuscule vision of what He Can Do. A myopic gathering will not serve the nations and I can’t sit back and let this wave of goodness wash over without engaging in the beauty of its baptism. I should be in the water. I can show you what it looks like to believe because faith taught me to swim.
So we write anyway, don’t we? Because He says so and pray this experience of platforms and tweets is indeed a sacred offering. A place to wash the feet of others as he strips us bare. Every blogger I’ve connected with shares a story of the breakdown before birth. The breakthrough happens after an avalanche of truth. We won’t make it without authenticity. Because this is holy hard work and we don’t want to just be the next one. We have to be called of The One.
I told a friend whats happening to me online is a mirroring of what God is doing in my life spiritually. Its a holy integration of life and faith, head and heart. This journey takes place in real time. It’s holy and holistic.
Above all else we have to be found in his presence…before the throne and digging in hard. Planting feet, soul, heart…deep. Listening. Wholly immersed and grounded in His magnificent all inclusive plan. This is the forever I’ve been searching for. It’s eternal. An offering of words for such a time as this… I’ll keep writing. Will you?
p.s. Deidra Riggs did a fabulous job of highlighting conferences that are making an effort to do the hard work of diversity.  You can read that here.







View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allumeheadshots

Lisha Epperson writes the stories of her life on the couch, in the car or at the kitchen table. Scratching out bits and pieces of grace while homeschooling 4 of the 5 children she affectionately calls the Lovelies. ….. you’ll usually find her with a  cold cup of coffee nearby, dreaming about the beautiful choreography of words. It isn’t easy to carve out a modern Christian lifestyle in NYC but that’s what she’s doing. Lisha is passionate about marriage, motherhood, nutrition and her Christian faith. She makes room for her journey through infertility and adoption and shares a warrior song about this experience as an encouragement to women at www.lishaepperson.com  God has opened doors for her to participate in loving dialogue on race in the Christian community. She hopes you’ll join her in those discussions. In other travels, Lisha                                                                 was a ballet dancer and clothing designer.







linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford's series: Brave Words? 
                 It'sback again! And I wrote there yesterday, in case you missed it! This whole series is delicious. Please stop over there today and give her some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing--Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, to wrap up the series, Kelli Woodford and I are writing a collaborated post, and hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs! So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}



--Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries --a guest post from Diana Trautwein

3.31.2014

A Gentle Life, A Legacy of Love {An Abstraction on Bend}



I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it's high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.



Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she's slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coiffed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

"Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!" She nods--I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it's my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn't come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can't bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.



The old wood, full of family history--it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man's {or hurried woman's} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby's dress, and I see a woman's tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me--clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle over sweet tea--has the sugar been added?--where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy's tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: "What do you want now?!" We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy's complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin' for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds--I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawer--the place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words--loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say--how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their lives--that they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family--through addiction, disagreements and irreparable fall-outs-- has been their mission field, quietly and consistently, unconditionally. 

They never stop giving even after they've given all--they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42. They have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid-- because I wonder--

Do they know? Do they know what they've done? They've left a legacy of God-honoring, a life gently-lived with love. They've given til it hurts.   

"You have heard it said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." --Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, "Who is this from?" He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife's cheeks.

A little shyly--"Me." I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, "2007..." his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God's graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft, worn t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he's so great. But I know it's hit it's mark--right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced--I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing slightly just there in the corner, that he won't let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.


I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgets some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny's high thread-count sheets, shadow's cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart's cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me-- this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it's mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.



                                                                          *an edited re-post





linking with friends, MichelleLaura, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let's explore the practice of Awakening to God--this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain... Here you will find God. THEN write about it--Let's not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let's not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let's see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bend (next week's is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We'll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends--invite them?
What this link-up is about: We "write out spirit" by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going "what in the world is a concrete word?!"--this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what's around us--concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber's take on this. It was very helpful to me--I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words--
                                             and the prompt--Please no entries with how-to's, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords--
                                               please share so others can join!

Today's prompt is Bend. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Sunday, the 6th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! On the 7th, the prompt will be Bloom.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: You are invited to come back here for the continuing writing series, in which I'll have an amazing guest-writer here this coming Wednesday! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you'd like to write and get your stories ready! We'll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!
*

3.26.2014

On Vulnerability and Boundaries


{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging}



I am pleased to introduce you to our guest poster today, my friend, internet pastor, and mentor, Diana Trautwein. I am honored she agreed to write for us and share with us her wisdom in this writing series~ 







In the fall of 2006, I got a new boss. He arrived on the scene after two years of searching, two years marked by upheaval in my life, personally and professionally.  I had been working as an Associate Pastor, part-time, for almost ten years by then, and I was deeply relieved to welcome him and to learn to work with him and for him.

One of the first things he asked me to do was start a blog. Yes, you read that right. My boss, the senior pastor, asked me to begin writing my heart on a blog. He already had one, and used it for brief reflections on life and ministry, very rarely for anything personal.

But I’m not wired in the same way, and when I was invited to write, I chose to get pretty vulnerable, pretty quickly. And I loved it. I was careful, especially when trying to write out the difficulties that always attend a new working relationship. I tried to make it about me, and what I was thinking/feeling. And, for the most part, I found my way to a pretty good balance. I posted infrequently, about once or twice a month for that first year. I learned to import photos, and often chose to write about my family, especially my grandkids.

But in July of 2007, something hard happened. Our son-in-law was in the midst of a long and very difficult dying, suffering from the after-effects of intensive radiation to his head and neck when he was a teenager. Our daughter was trying to finish a masters’ degree in special education, so that she could go to work after fifteen years as a homemaker. Her husband was on full disability at that point, and they desperately needed medical insurance. Her program required a 10-week internship at a hospital 400 miles north of her home and she worked like a champ to make everything happen. Some weeks, her husband was well enough to go with her, but some weeks, he needed to be closer to home.

We housed her husband and two younger sons (the eldest was working at a camp on Catalina Island that summer) for one of those closer-to-home weeks. And that experience was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever walked through. Watching someone you love suffer -- and watching how that suffering impinges on the lives of two young people -- well, it was hard, sad, painful. . . there are no words.

But I tried to find them anyhow. I wrote a post, not using names, about watching this particular kind of suffering. I finished it late one night, posted it and went to bed. At 7:00 the next morning, I went in and removed it, feeling unsettled about writing something so deeply personal.

The post was up for less than twelve hours.

But in that time, someone close to him found it and was deeply wounded by it. I was crushed --   repentant, sorrowful, so sorry for causing pain and for further complicating my daughter’s life. My heroic girl was already exhausted and overwhelmed and my post made everything worse.

I crossed a line, one that I deeply regret.

My blog was silent for nearly two years after that. Even though my boss read that piece and was deeply appreciative and affirming about it, I could no longer find either the words or the courage to write them down in that space. I felt ashamed, and that shame forced me into silence, a silence that lasted a long time.

At the beginning of 2009, I tentatively returned to my site to write about my son-in-law’s beautiful memorial service. For the next couple of years, I used the blog almost exclusively to post public prayers and sermons, very seldom delving into anything personal.

Until I retired.

And something inside me opened and hasn’t shown signs of closing anytime soon. I believe that openness came from two things: 1.) a deliberate, prayerful attempt to move away from shame and to believe in forgiveness; and 2.) a delightful spaciousness in my schedule.

So, in January of 2011, I began writing in earnest - usually 2-3 times a week, and almost always about very personal things. During the months that I stepped away from the blog, I had learned about myself, about life, about writing. Most importantly I had learned this: tell stories about what I’m learning and how I’m learning it. TELL MY STORIES, not someone else’s.

Sifting that out can sometimes be tricky. I’m walking through the end of my mom’s life now, and I write about that frequently. But she knows I’m writing about it (when she can remember), and I always try to talk about her beauty, her warmth, her goodness, in addition to the harder stuff. I do not write about my grandchildren, except to proclaim how marvelous they are, never about where I’m worried or concerned for them. I write honestly about my marriage, but I don’t write about some of the deeply personal things that are just for us.


And I pray every time my fingers hit these keys, asking for wisdom, discretion, truth. I also trust: I trust that God hears and answers those prayers, I trust that if I overstep at any point, some kind soul will tell me, I trust that what I do with these words comes as a direct result of God’s call on my life to write my stories down.





A retired-part-time-pastor-learning-to-be-a-spiritual-director with a family Diana adores, she senses an increasingly urgent call to write-her-life-down, to preserve her sanity and create some space to breathe. You can find her here, at her blog, Just Wondering--where she tells the stories God is writing in her life. She can also be found tweetering here on Twitter









linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford's series: Brave Words? 
                 It'sback again! This is going to be delicious. Please stop over there 
                                      today and give her trembling, brave heart some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing--Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you'll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}



--Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

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