When they tell you to “just wait” and you are still just waiting

I was inspired by a post at Busy Homeschool Mom to write about things we were told about our children–prophesies of sorts spoken over them by probably-well-intentioned people who perhaps just wanted to sound wise. Or maybe that is what they knew and couldn’t imagine outside it. I’d like to think they were trying to be helpful, although I am an optimist by nature and tend to believe people have good motives.

Sadly, I’m sure there were a few who really did just want to tear us down.

“You are too strict with the boys. They listen to you now, but just wait till they are older. Once they are out of your house they will go crazy.”

They are now 32, 27, 22 (next month) and 20 (next week), and I’m still waiting for the immature, erratic behavior. The I-hate-you-for-over-restricting-me wildness they predicted. They adore one another and us, and are mature and responsible. Three are married and two are dads, and one is engaged (as of two days ago!). I’m happy to continue to wait for the madness.

“Just wait. She’ll rebel, all right. You lucked out with the boys. Girls are different.”

She’ll be 18 in May, and she is one of the most level-headed, sensible, wise, drama-free girls I have ever known. She is my heartbeat and my best girlfriend. She’s making me wait a very long time for her to become a wild child. I’m okay with that.

The truth is, nobody knew what they were talking about. We weren’t there yet so we couldn’t say with assurance that they would be all right. In my weaker moments I let myself wonder if I could just be that naive and if I could just be deluding myself. My heart knew the truth. Our children were not rebels waiting to happen.

As the years passed and these milestones of mayhem failed to happen as predicted, I began to relax more and more. I even developed humorous answers to such predictions. Eventually they stopped coming at all–especially as they kept growing up, one by one, to be wonderful.

Today, what I tell parents is to expect the very best of their children. Raise them like you expect them to be amazing people. Odds are, that is exactly what they will do.

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If only importing blog posts was a sport

computerhandI’d be a gold medalist, I think.

I think I’ve imported about 140 posts from other blog sites, and moved another 40 or so over here one by one. Are we having fun yet?

Please be patient with me while I update categories. This is going to take a little while. Of course, if you’d just like to browse for things you haven’t seen yet, be my guest. 😉

I have already added the new category “Write Where It Hurts” for all of the posts I migrated over from there.

I will be adding additional categories for posts made in response to Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts.

Don’t let any of this confuse you. All I’m really trying to do is bring as many posts as possible so I can share them all from one central hub. Hopefully as the dust settles, all this will smooth right out.

THANK YOU for hanging with me!

Living in a love that is always safe

stevelisavalday1980cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12b

My husband Steve and I are often asked, in one form or another, “How is it that you have stayed so close in your marriage?” It is a question we take seriously, and to which we respond with hearts humbled by the asking. We know we don’t have it all together. We also know that with God and the bond we share because of Him, we can get through anything.

A friend recently wrote asking me how we have weathered the storms of life for the past 32 years without having it damage our relationship. The answer is actually rather simple.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3a)

Bringing that home to the practical, when we got married, we became one flesh. We take that seriously. What happens in our life happens to us, not between us. I am his safe place, and he is mine. Whatever life dishes out, we always know we are not alone.

We are a permanently-woven chord of three strands: God, husband, wife. And we are not easily broken.

I don’t get to make the call on my own body without his okay, and the same applies to him. We respect one another completely and recognize that we each belong to the other. That simple principle affects everything we say and do. Everything.

We don’t argue, because who argues with him/herself? Don’t misunderstand—it doesn’t mean we never disagree. We are one flesh figuratively, but in reality we are still two individual souls woven together, with two separate wills that must work in harmony.

A secondary principle that accompanies “one flesh” is that I am 100% for him, and he is 100% for me. Translated, we are both covered, always.

We are human, and we falter sometimes. In moments of humanness I am selfish. But the beautiful thing is that I’m covered, because he is for me. And the same applies with the shoe on the other foot (although I will say he is selfish less often). The point is if our focus is always off self and on the other, it will always be a game-changer.

Knowing God and Steve are for me always impacts my response to hardship. It doesn’t occur to me to blame either of them because I dwell in their love.

Life can be hard. When it is, I don’t have to run to God because He is already right there with me, dwelling with me always in Spirit. And because of the way He designed marriage, I have a soul-mate into whose arms I know I can always find shelter. Because we are for each other, neither of us has far to run to find safety.

God dwells with us as we live out the purpose of His plan for marriage. We aren’t perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

I invite you to love selflessly and dwell in safety. Always.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

How to be the leading lady of your own life

leadinglady“You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God’s sake!”
–Iris Simpkins, “The Holiday”

My favorite movie of all time is “The Holiday”. Call it my “guilty pleasure”, if you will, since it does contain a few themes, words, and phrases that aren’t exactly on the Most Wholesome list. I think there are three main reasons why it’s such a favorite. First, the characters: The four main actors are at their most charming in this movie, in my opinion. And dear, sweet Arthur—my favorite of all—is simply delightful. Second, it’s the overarching theme that true love wins in the end.

The main reason I love the movie so much, though, is bit of a paradox: I do want to be the Leading Lady of my own life. But the twist is that I don’t want it to be for my own fame. I just happen to believe those two goals go together like…well, like Iris and Miles, Amanda and Graham.

Because I wasn’t just put on this earth to be my own. I was created to bring glory to the One who knit me together.

I admit I haven’t always had a clear view of what it means to be the Leading Lady. When I was younger I thought it meant being able to recite the alphabet all the way through without missing any letters, or rattling off the days of the week or months of the year for all of my dad’s friends. After Daddy’s death, as I grew older and watched Mama struggle through one relationship after another I thought it meant being fiercely independent and never needing a man for anything.

When Jesus found me and moved into my heart, everything changed. Independence and personal power no longer held the same appeal. I met and married a young man who loved Jesus, too, and suddenly the need to control my environment and those around me melted away. I still had a few feisty edges to smooth off, but that came in time.

And it left me to redefine what it looked like being a Leading Lady who lives to please her husband and her God. To live humbly, always ready to offer out grace and yet still be a star.

As I age, I’m starting to recognize the star quality that’s been buried deep within me all this time. I’ll never earn an Oscar, never have my name carved into the Walk of Fame, never be lauded for my show-stopping abilities on stage or big screen. I’ll shine, but with a different kind of brilliance.

If I am only ever a star to my husband and family, if I am only ever famous within my tight circle of friends, if I am only ever awarded as a “good and faithful servant” of the God who saved me, I will be content.

Sitting here at a tiny desk in our little yellow cottage, I am a Leading Lady for God’s sake.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

Hello! I love you. Won’t you tell me your name?

helloiloveyouMy thoughts have historically not been happy ones upon hearing the line from the old Doors song, “Hello, I love you”. It was merely a disappointing reminder of how deep into depravity our world has sunk, that a guy would see no problem with walking up to a stranger and telling her he “loves her”, and then as a “by the way” ask for her name. Please.

Looking at words from a different angle can change everything.

A few years ago at a family reunion in south Alabama my father-in-law was surprised by a little girl of maybe four who appeared out of nowhere and wrapped her tiny arms around his legs. He chuckled, thinking she would soon realize she had the wrong relative and make a run for it. When she looked up grinning wide, he asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

Her grin never faded as her wee voice drawled, “No, sir, but I love you.”

He hugged her and told her he loved her, too, told her which great-uncle he was, then watched as she skipped off to play with cousins.

When he came over to tell us what had happened, he was still smiling and shaking his head. I won’t ever forget the import of that little angel’s words, nor their immediate and lasting effect on my heart.

I don’t know you, but I love you.
I don’t have to know you to love you.
All I have to know is that you exist to know that I love you.

I wonder what would happen if we could all just wrap our arms around people everywhere and freely and innocently and simply love.

Hello.
I love you.
Won’t you tell me your name?

Because I truly want to know you. I want you to know me. Most importantly, I want to introduce you to the Lover of your Soul. He is the reason I can reach out to a perfect stranger whose name I don’t yet know and genuinely say, “I love you”, knowing He calls me to give love freely because that is what He did—and does—for me.

I want to love you in spite of your hang-ups, past the poor choices you may have made, beyond your flaws and weaknesses and what others think of you. Or what you think of yourself. Because isn’t that the hardest part?

That’s how freely and marvelously I’ve been loved.

We don’t love that way on our own. We’ve been wired to love, but this life can be unfair and it can harden us and make us forget why we are here. We were born to give Him glory, and what better way to glorify Him than to love in His name?

Here I am, wrapping my arms tight. Because I may not know exactly who you are, but I know we are related. And I know I truly do love you.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

When God gives you a word anyway

givesawordI didn’t ask for a word this year. Not that I dislike the idea: In 2011 I “simplified”, and in 2012 God was “stirring”. But I decided that this year I was simply going to spend more time in prayer and the Word and not ask for a theme word for the year.

God had other ideas.

I was browsing Pinterest far too late last night and the word “repurpose” kept popping up. Well, being the fan I am of DIY and repurposing things from one use to another, of course the idea appeals. But by the twentieth time it popped up I had begun to grow suspicious. And that’s when God whispered, “You know this isn’t just about repurposing things, right?”

I pondered that for a moment and let it sink in. Not just about things. Okay. What else? Over the next hour or so God revealed truths that made it clear why He has given me the word “repurpose” for 2013, like it or not.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about refuting the lies of the Enemy of our Souls, about not buying in and allowing those falsehoods to trump God’s promises in my life. I guess you could say I’ve already been mulling over the idea of diffusing what the Enemy intends for evil and allowing the truth of God to prevail and keep me focused on the good He intends. I just hadn’t thought about it in terms of re-purposing. Until last night.

There is much in this life that needs re-purposing  Things we see and hear in the media and on the internet, things well-meaning friends and family members say, things that just seemingly come from some random place deep in our own heads. The origin of all these things is the same, and He hates us with a fierceness we can’t comprehend. But as sinister as his hatred is, it can’t compare to the bold and beautiful love of God, a love that compelled Him to lay down His life for us.

When we allow God to re-purpose destructive thoughts, when we “take every thought captive to Christ” (II Cor. 10:5), we fend off the weapons of the Enemy one more time, accept one less scar from his hateful hand. Every single time we shake our heads and refuse to fear, refuse to hate, refuse to be jealous, refuse to believe we are unlovable, refuse to return evil for evil, we defeat him one more time.

And with each win, we don’t just give God one more victorious notch in His Heavenly belt. We grow just a little bit closer to His heart and become a little more adept at warding off the lies the next time they show up. Because in this life, trouble will show up.

Ironically, my favorite number is 13, a notion I re-purposed a long time ago.

So in 2013, I am re-purposing.  I am allowing the Lover of my Soul to bring healing where Satan offers pain. I’d love your company along the way.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

When you know it’s all right to reach for His hand

priusIt’s the last day of 2012. The very last day. I hope it’s okay that I am breathing a sigh of relief that this year is over and 2013 is less than one giant sleep for mankind away.

My favorite number is 13. It’s a number held by many in disdain or fear, and maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved it: the rebel in me peeking through or something like that. Besides, it’s our wedding anniversary date.

Yesterday at church the speaker said, “Everyone turn to the person next to you and say, “2013 is YOUR year!” Murmurs spread throughout the spacious auditorium as attendees chuckled their greetings to friends and strangers alike. Deep down I was praying the statement would prove true for me. For us.

This has been a tough year in many ways, but the truth is that rather than being a bad year I would say it’s been a year of transition. The year before was particularly difficult, to the tune of over $3,000. in car repair costs, so it makes sense to be grateful for the improvement this past year has been. And I am.

Transition. About mid-year we balanced our household budget for the first time in many years. The peace of mind and removal of stress-weight from our shoulders can’t be quantified. We still had to struggle for a while longer while we worked through vehicle issues, but just before Christmas we were blessed with the opportunity to purchase a beautiful car. As a result, we will drive into 2013 without the fear of constant car repairs looming over our heads.

I want to say that through the struggle I held my head up and sang praises and winked heavenward with whispers of, “God, I know you’ve got this.” While ultimately that’s pretty characteristic of my relationship with God, I confess I haven’t always been so demonstrably faith-filled. Not that I lost faith, mind you, but I did cry out to God on occasion and beg Him to remind me that it was all going to be okay.

And it is okay. It’s also okay to rush into God’s arms and ask for reassurance when we need it. I doubt our momentary panic and insecurity will surprise the One who knit us together and sustains our every breath. He’s not astonished by our humanness, He who sent His only Son as a tiny human to be one of us for a time. His Son cried out, and so can we.

Have you worried that maybe He wouldn’t be happy with you if you questioned Him? If you reached up hoping for a gentle squeeze of your hand just to “be sure of Him”? If you wept your confusion and fear into His chest and begged Him to hold you close?

Never hesitate to run to Him, friend. He chases hard after His children, and He is waiting. Right now, on this final day of a hard year. Go ahead. Reach up.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

More ways to leave a legacy of words

legacywords2My daughter and I have kept a dialogue journal since January of 2003. Early entries show her talking about her friends and signing off with “Love, You’re Dear Doter, Rosie”. I cherish her words, right down to the last misspelling and roughly formed letter. Reading back over the entries I watch her writing improve, both in penmanship and construction, and I smile at the memories each invokes.

Time marches on like a focused soldier, but it cannot steal the words we have taken the time to write down.

I have learned a valuable lesson in the encouragement of writing within our family: There is no measurable value one could place on printed memories. It’s why I have taught creative writing first in our home school; then in schools, cooperatives, and bookstores; then worldwide online.

One of my most intentional goals in this life is to leave a legacy of words. Through words, stories breathe and live on. And in some way, we live on through them.

I hold our little denim journal, turning it over in my hands and reminiscing about the places we’ve hidden it for one another to find. Under pillows, on desks, leaning against vanity mirrors, in the folds of blankets. I imagine her delight and recall my own at finding it and knowing it was my turn to write. It is a turn I have joyfully taken for the past eleven years, and will continue to take for as long as the pages of our little journal hold out—and perhaps beyond.

Words between Rosie and me have held much shared laughter over the years. I remember chuckling and then dashing for my camera when I caught the first glimpse of the picture attached to this post. It was the perfect scene to capture, and we still giggle about it together.

I wonder, my friend, how you might also make words a beautiful part of the freezing of your moments. I want you to know this same joy.

Perhaps you could start a tradition of leaving sticky-notes in strategic places for your loved ones to find, notes of encouragement and love and silliness.

You could do what I did when our eldest was in kindergarten: I adapted familiar nursery rhymes by rewording them to fit our family and the current circumstances. He is now 32, and still has the scrapbook containing all the notes from that year.

We have a magnetic white board on our refrigerator, a dry erase marker attached by a cord. Right now it houses a note thanking my husband for mowing the lawn, a message thanking my family for being my best friends, and a “Baby, you lookin’ good!”

Immense possibilities burst forth when you wind words to weave love.

Might I invite you, even now, to begin creatively dreaming up ways to word your heart? Remember, you are not alone in this. We are a team. We are family.

Here’s to moments worded and memories captured, for all of us.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

When you are fiercely protective

LplusSI’m a nice lady, but I can be a fiercely protective wife, mama, and friend.

This has gotten me into trouble. Once it necessitated my 16-year-old sitting me down to tell me that as much as he appreciated my being in his corner, I simply couldn’t ask things of people beyond their capabilities, and that I needed to leave them to God to continue to grow and perfect. I told him to shut up. Well, not exactly like that, but I did sulk for a bit at having been spiritually schooled by my teenager. Truth is, deep down I was fiercely proud of him. He has grown up to be protective of those he loves, too, all under God’s big plan, and he’s probably better at it than I. But maybe I’ll do in a pinch.

It pierced my heart to watch another son’s brave but tender heart be shattered by a girl. My protectiveness took the form of speaking truth a lot of people didn’t want told. In the end I zipped it up and sealed it shut because I was asked not to share it. It wasn’t fair that my son bore the brunt of something that wasn’t his fault, but God laid His calming hand over my heart and reminded me that this was ultimately for our son’s good. I now see what He meant. I was trying to protect him, but God was protecting him for something–someone–who would love and value him the way he deserves. I will always be grateful for that.

I was reminded a few days ago how quickly I can come to my husband’s defense when someone called his character into question. I had to walk away and pray me some Jesus intervention so I didn’t put the holy smack-down on some folk. Don’t be talking mess about my man.

I am wildly protective of the right to life for the pre-born, and the right to continued quality life for the elderly. I am unswervingly protective of all who have special challenges in life. They are among my favorite people on the planet. Since childhood I have been a champion for the underdog.

Some of the worst beatings I’ve ever suffered came as a result of me standing up for someone else. In 4th grade I stood up for my little friend Robin, and was nearly killed by the neighborhood bully for my troubles. That same year I stood up for another friend against a school bully and was promptly stuffed underneath the merry-go-round. I challenged another bully in 7th grade. I had a tendency to forget I was so small.

One thing I will always protect (because love always protects) is my family, and by extension the institution of family. It is my heart to preserve God’s plan for marriage, parenting, and family, so it is an area of ministry where “I feel God’s pleasure”.

I pray daily for the wisdom to protect well. Are you a protector, too?

 

 

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When groans are all you’ve got

allyouvegot“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Rom. 8:26, 27

There are just those moments when I’ve got nothing. No words, no cohesive thoughts, no reasoning ability. Just groans. Moments like these.

I’m glad there’s the Holy Spirit waiting in the wings to speak on my behalf. Seems the Spirit is the only way to make sense of chaos and confusion, misunderstanding and meltdown.

Because words, they just seem empty tonight.

I’ve been trying for a few days to word it without much success. I tried again tonight but all that came out was the hurt. Writing where it hurts isn’t much fun right now. Sometimes writing is like that. We ache, but we keep writing. We write on, knowing the story won’t go away just because we hurt.

And isn’t it the stories that hurt us most that most need telling? The ones we weep over, the ones that punch us in the gut and leave us spitting blood and wondering what just happened? The ones that offer us no other option but to cry out to God?

It’s okay to pray in print. It’s actually rather healing to pour our heart-cries onto the pages of our journals. Where else can we beg like children and scream out the whys and force the ugly questions out through gritted teeth so we can see how we feel?

It’s also okay to write down what you think God is saying in answer. I invite you to try this, perhaps using a different color pen when you feel it’s God responding. I will warn you, though: this can be a little bit unnerving. The first time I did this type of journaling and went back and read it later, I freaked out. I had no recollection of writing the God parts. True story.

It helps to read and re-read the “conversation” between you and God later. It’s amazing how He speaks directly to our hearts through our pens and goes right to the core of what is troubling us. It’s like reading a love-letter from him that I wrote myself but can’t remember writing. To be truthful, it’s a little bit addictive.

Are you up for it? And let me know how it goes, if you don’t mind. I’ve gotten some pretty amazing feedback on this writing exercise from workshop participants. You might just form a habit of journal-keeping and prayer intertwined that is so fulfilling you never want to stop.

 

 

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