Trampled Roses

TR

I was there the day it happened, and my heart was rent with grief

As my precious rose lay battered, crushed of petal, torn of leaf

And I cried for all my children who have drained that bitter cup

As their pleas for mercy echoed and their anguish floated up

Please believe me, dearest daughter, this was never my intent

For such pain to be made perfect my Son’s precious blood was spent

There is nothing where you’re standing that can wholly heal your heart

But believe me when I tell you we won’t always be apart

The memories and scents that haunt your dreams and cloud your days

Will one day dissipate and you will truly know my ways

But for now I have a gift for you that just your heart can see

It’s a picture I have drawn of two embracing, you and me

The image I will leave with you while you must walk your sod

And you will be my darling girl and I will be your God

So hold it close and don’t forget one truth that never died:

Evil will not always boast what Love has crucified

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When your voice seems pale in comparison

wildflower

They are ever so lovely, those voices crooning from behind microphones, bellowing from bodies wrapped in spandex and sequins and sometimes very little at all. Their words are music and their presence seems to grip the hearts of hearers with an ease that makes you cringe when you think of how small your voice sounds in your own ears, how unappealing your message feels even deep within your own heart.

I’ve felt that way, too.

I’ve watched them dance and sing and speak and win fans in a five-minute performance when most days for me it feels like climbing a mile-high mountain getting one blog post written or sharing my own story or facing a tiny crowd to sing a borrowed song.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter. I can’t command an audience like that, so what’s the point?

Then there are days like yesterday when a woman I hadn’t seen in months walks up to me and places her hand on my shoulder and says, “I read your blog. I follow your life through your words, and I want you to know that I read your story and it’s like I know you, feel your heart, understand your story. When you write, I can see who you really are and it makes me want to share who I am, too.”

And suddenly there’s a ray of hope that breaks through the cloud of comparison.

Because really, I wouldn’t want to dress like those performers or dance the way they do. That isn’t me. That may be their stories, but it isn’t mine. And maybe it isn’t their story at all—maybe in reality it is a façade to cover what they’d rather the watching world not see.

I don’t want a façade. I want the world to see the real me.

And maybe that is what this whole thing is really about: me realizing that I don’t need to worry about how fancy or strikingly-clad or brightly lit my story is. Because it is simply mine.

And how amazing is it that I have the opportunity every single day to put myself out there, to show the real me without glitz or fanfare, to open myself up to everyday people who couldn’t relate to those Hollywood stars if they tried and who need a much more real and believable hand to hold on this journey.

I’m no prize-winning blue rose, but a tiny wildflower can bloom beautiful in a field of dry weeds.

Maybe the fact that I’m no celebrity makes me much more valuable to the millions out there who are anything but famous. People just like me. Maybe this little star doesn’t have to be blindingly brilliant to twinkle a smile in a hurting heart.

Perhaps in the end, it is the ordinary story that becomes extraordinary in its telling.

I’m willing to shine. Are you?

~  *  ~

 

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

Peace in the face of fear

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It was just past 6am when the call came. “Mama, I’m okay, but I was in an accident.”

My surroundings panned back, lengthening like a movie scene as I struggled to find my voice. “Is it serious? What happened? Where are you?” Questions popped like shots from a flare gun.

“It’s pretty serious. The traffic is never backed up or stopped on this road, but this morning it was. It all happened so fast. I got out right away to check on the lady I hit and tried to keep her calm till the ambulance came. I think she will be okay.”

I found out where he was and jumped into the car, my mind still wrapped in a fog. In the midst of the blur, phrases from the call kept floating forward. He’d been driving his future father-in-law’s car, and as I pulled up to the scene I could tell it was totaled. I felt sick. He was talking to an officer when I arrived but quickly came over and put his arms around me. I was wrecked but in emergency mama mode and my baby needed me strong.

It was two weeks till his wedding, and I fought to stop the flow of what-ifs. It was surreal that he walked away from the accident uninjured. His account of the accident playing over in my head was nearly more than I could stand. He’s 20, but he will always be my baby boy.

I’ve rarely known fear like that. Really, I don’t think there is anything like the fear a mother feels for the safety of her children. I generally stay in a constant stream-of-dialogue prayer, and let me tell you that morning God and I had quite the conversation. The fear of a mama for her babies is the kind that grips and doesn’t let go, squeezes the breath right out and threatens to smother any hope or reason.

But when the God of Peace lives deep within the soul of a mama, it changes everything.

Scripture says that we don’t “grieve like those who have no hope.” (I Thess. 4:13) That verse has always made me think well beyond grief and mourning, has made me realize that we don’t do anything like those who have no hope. Not with the Creator of the Universe in the driver’s seat.

We don’t live like those who have no hope.
We don’t stress like those who have no hope.
We don’t fear like those who have no hope.

There’s no peace like God’s peace, that unwordable calm that settles deep and assures the heart that no matter what happens God will never lose control.

My sweet boy and his beautiful wife have been married for just over five months, and the same God who settles my soul watches over our newlyweds with a protectiveness like no other. I will always worry, because I am a mama. But fear will not hold me long, because my hope rests in the One Whose perfect love casts out all fear.

It is a hope that drives everything I do.
And I pray this hope for you.

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Life through the lens of before and after

throughthelens

Recently while cleaning my studio I came across a group of photos taken several years ago while preparing for housework. I’m a sucker for before/after photos, and these particular shots must have presented quite a contrast considering the disheveled mess that leapt from each image.

I couldn’t help but muse that the “after” shots were not included in the bunch, although in my mind’s eye I recalled how clean and well-organized everything looked after all that work, how pleased I was with the end result. Interestingly, I don’t recall ever printing those images of “after”.

I couldn’t put down the photos but kept looking through one after another, recalling items shown and the memories attached to each one. I saw our now-grown-up offspring as children playing and singing and rushing from room to room silly and serious and full of life.

And it hit me that I didn’t need the after pictures to see the beauty. It was right there, staring back from piles of dirty dishes and messy bins and wrinkled clothing.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved having a clean house. But I didn’t have to look past the before to know that the after would come.

Sometimes life feels like one big before picture, messy and chaotic and overwhelming. Kids are loud and dinner is late and the batting glove got left in the pants through the wash cycle again. There’s no sugar for the sweet tea and the dog ate the VBS craft and the battery in the ten-year-old car is dead, Jim.

Gazing out from that before picture can feel pretty dismal.

But here in the after, where the kids are all grown up and the house is tidy and all is quiet save for the sound machine set to “rain”, it looks very different.

It’s pretty, and organized, and shiny. But I miss the mess.

I miss sticky fingers and waking at 5am on Christmas morning to make sure the kids didn’t wake before us. I miss the rush of ballgames and dance classes and drama team rehearsals. I miss piling us all into the old Toyota hatchback and watching little fingers poking from beneath the bathroom door.

I miss the before.

I like the after plenty, and it brings its own brand of chaos. But gazing at those photos of piles and mess and chores needing attention reminded me of how much I miss the days of before. It makes me sad for every moment I wished away, and maybe a few where I just didn’t stay present enough.

And slowly it dawns that today is tomorrow’s before. The photos I snap today will be snapped up in afters tomorrow and I will miss this, too.

And I ponder these things in my heart, all these befores happening right here and now and realize that I will want pictures of this to hold in my hands one day—pictures of this beautiful mess with all the memories these moments have created.

And I gratefully vow to stay present in the right now.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

This girl looking back on the dads in her life

lookingbacksketch

I was 12 when the call came that Daddy was dead. I would spend the following days in a fog, only half aware of my surroundings as I went through the motions of visitation, funeral, burial, and well-wishes from family and friends. I didn’t know it then, but the full impact of the loss would take me a lifetime to realize.

One would think a girl who only had her daddy for 12 years wouldn’t have much memory of him, or at least wouldn’t have learned much from him to carry through the rest of her life. In this case, one would be wrong.

Daddy taught me more lessons in those few years than many are privileged to learn in a lifetime. Respect, kindness, and die-hard love was knit into me and nurtured by both parents from the moment I was born. My early years were a tumultuous mix of confusing events that tore my parents apart, but that didn’t keep them from loving me with everything they had and teaching me worlds about life.

Father’s Day is always a bittersweet day for me as I feel the weight of Daddy’s loss but at the same time celebrate the most amazing man I’ve ever known, my husband and the father of my children, Steve. There aren’t enough words and there isn’t nearly enough time to describe the depth of love I feel for this man, how he inspires me with every word and action every day, how he shows our sons how to “dad”. He is our family’s hero.

I also celebrate another man who has been pivotal in my life. I call Steve’s dad Papa, and I guess you could say he kind of became my dad when I was 15. He called me a “drowned rat” the first time he saw me, and then sometime shortly thereafter I became his “Little Girl” and have remained thus ever since.

Papa and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. In the beginning he scared the daylights out of me with his dry humor that I never knew quite how to take. I wound up crying much of the time, and I didn’t know then how much that must have bewildered him. Eventually I caught on, though, and started giving it right back to him, and that’s when our bond really began to grow.

Looking back over the father figures in my life, I have much for which to be grateful. And I am, beyond what these words can describe. Each of these amazing men has in his own way pointed me to the Father who makes all things new and loves beyond imagination.

I am truly blessed, and I’m thankful for every moment I’ve had with them, every lesson learned, every laugh and tear, every memory made. This is my focus on Father’s Day, this gratitude and not what could have been.

I can’t be anything but grateful when I smile over what is.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

Why we must keep telling our story

tellourstory

“See, healing comes through story.” Our youth pastor, the speaker for the weekend, halted his pacing back and forth across the stage to let his words sink in. “People aren’t moved until they hear the Story. So share your story!”

I thought about that for a long time after he had moved on to other points. The truth of his statement resonated with my spirit like it was born there, and I’ve pondered those things in my heart ever since. Share my story? Which one?

I could open up about childhood abuse, talk about the way I lived for years believing I had caused my father’s death, recall the times I almost died, share the words that were spoken to me that pierced my heart and set the stage for a lifelong fear of rejection. What good would that do?

But then I remember that those things aren’t the end of my story. They aren’t even the middle. They were only the beginning, and much has happened since then. Much that has changed the course of my life and set it toward much clearer skies.

Perhaps the story our youth pastor means for me to tell is what God has done with the life of a girl beset by so many obstacles at such a young age. It isn’t the hell I’ve walked through in shiny white Easter shoes that people need to hear about. It’s the healing that has come because Jesus is very much alive and God is always good.

My story isn’t over. I can tell it from the beginning, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I start in the middle and work up to the present. Wherever I start and stop, God is there. And it can be pretty hard to explain how God was there the day my childhood innocence was ripped away or when my daddy was lowered into the earth and I thought it was my fault.

It’s hard to explain because I don’t fully understand it, either. But I believe with my whole heart that God truly is good, and that He is always for me. He is the author of my story beginning to end, and only He fully knows the reasons behind what has been allowed to befall me. I can remain stuck in that little blue dress with the white lace collar, or I can trade it for something much more fitting for a girl heading for Heaven.

So I tell my story, which is really hundreds of small ones all held together by time, me walking through each one in its moment but never alone. I tell it in pieces as chances come, and always with the focus being a redemption I am hard pressed to word. Always with my eyes on the God who created me and who alone holds the right to allow what He wills.

I can’t make it all make sense, but I can tell it. And I can always, always end it with hope.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

The church it was never meant to be

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The Church. A place of love and joy and peace. A sanctuary of safety. A haven where the flock gathers and works together and loves one another with the love of Jesus and builds one another up and spurs one another on and helps one another grow.

At least that’s the idea.

Sadly, this is not always the case. In fact, there’s a lot going on in churches across the nation that Jesus would never have endorsed—or tolerated.

Three different times this week this topic has surfaced among people I’ve watched suffer deep and damaging church abuse. One of those people is a friend who has been a mentor for nearly 30 years. His ministry has been his life since before I met him, and a few months ago it was cut blindingly short by a dagger of deception so sinister he and his family are still reeling. The fallout has been severe, not only for him but for all who know and love him—and this man of God has an innumerably wide reach. Put simply, what was done to him is unconscionable. The fact that it was done in the name of God makes it even more despicable.

But are these the things we dare not write about or speak out loud? Are these the things we sweep under the vestibule rug and pretend never happened, all in the name of not further harming the Church’s reputation? Is this healthy? Is this beneficial? Is this right?

Where is the line—for certainly there is one, is there not—between diplomacy and deception? Can we call out the practices that are harming God’s people and sending them running away from Him as fast as their weakened legs will carry them?

Perhaps the more accurate question is how can we not?

What if we started believing we have not only the right but the responsibility to call out sinful treatment of God’s people in the Church? What if we started understanding that such vigilance when done in genuine love is not destructive but healing and growth-inducing?

What if we stopped tolerating hatefulness and abuse and selfishness and greed going on in the name of church and stood up and said, “Enough”? Wouldn’t Jesus have done so? Didn’t He call out things people were doing and call them wrong out loud?

We don’t have to use a hammer. If the pen is mightier than the sword, can our words be prayerfully woven and used to effect positive change within the Church? How many lives might be made more lovely? How many lives might ultimately be saved?

Can we continue on in silence while abused believers limp around on shattered stained glass and carry those slivers out the door with them perhaps never to return?

Who will save His children if not us? Isn’t it time we speak out?

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

When we whisper thanks into the whirlwind

familyrosgrad1-e

She graduated from high school on Friday and turned 18 on Saturday, then on Sunday spirited me out for a surprise Mother’s Day lunch at Piccadilly because she knew it was where my mother and I always went. She’s my baby-girl-become-woman, my soul friend who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.

I said goodbye to 25 years of homeschooling and 32 years of parenting children and turned hopeful eyes toward the years ahead as a mother of five adults. I am sad, and I am excited, and I am wistful.

Mostly, I am grateful.

Milestones are like that, if we can briefly sidestep the chaos and cacophony to be thankful for the beauty and meaning of the moment.

Friday I rushed around picking up the last of the party goods and made a rare purchase: a new blouse for me to wear to her ceremony. I smiled, recalling how often she has said things like, “Mom, buy it already! You never get anything new!” So I bought it already, and wore it happily. By evening I was running on pure adrenaline, grinning, snapping pictures like a madwoman, and cheering for my baby.

She crossed the stage like a supermodel in her shiny white cap and gown and pale pink tassel, never missing a step. Happiness was painted all over her face, surrounded by adoring family and friends and her sweetheart by her side. I thought my heart would burst.

I spent Saturday cooking while she and friends celebrated at the beach. I had asked for a list of her favorite foods, and I was determined to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My feet protested the extra work as I bounced from kitchen island to stove to sink and back again, but my heart was busy pondering it all while my hands kneaded dough and braided Stromboli.

Events like these give us perfect opportunities to think deeply and breathe gratitude, even among the noise and hard work and achy limbs. I whispered thanks for a million little things I kept recalling as I worked, frequently gazing across to the “18” she’d formed in photos on the front door and marveling at the growth of our sweet little baby who is now a beautiful young woman. I couldn’t have felt prouder.

Mother’s Day dawned with church and then my surprise Mother-Daughter lunch followed up by a stop at Barnes and Noble to browse books and sip Frappuccinos—two of my favorite things. The grandparents and the boys and their families joined us in the evening for the wildest game of Apples to Apples in family history. More moments to ponder in my heart.

Today I spend reliving it all through photos and recalled memories. We will talk often of these things in the days to come, thanking God for such a wonderful whirlwind weekend. My body is sore but my heart is full, and I struggle to word this gratitude I feel.

I pray this same grateful, hopeful joy for you.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

This weaving of words knit deep in our hearts

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It was around 1993 when I established a writer’s group I called Wordweavers. I found out a year or so ago that the name has since been copyrighted by someone else, so sadly I can only refer to my own “Wordweavers” outside of that official name. My mission was to provide a group where writers of all ages would be encouraged and equipped to discover the creative writer within.

I conducted a survey at the beginning of the first Wordweavers workshop, asking each writer for his or her impressions on the topic of creative writing. The responses were varied, but very informative:

“I loved creative writing when I was younger, but my high school English teacher edited my papers to death and my love for creative writing drowned in an ocean of red ink.”

“I would write letters more often if they didn’t seem so boring.”

“I’ve written a couple of poems, but I’m afraid to show them to anyone.”

“I think my writing is pretty good, but I’m too shy to let anyone see it.”

“I just want to write something people will actually read.”

“I have plenty of writing and no way to share it with anyone. But deep down I’d love to see my writing in print someday.”

“I’ve written from my heart all my life, filled 23 journals with my thoughts and experiences, and I need to know how to turn that into a life story.”

I’ve watched writers from seven to seventy catch the spark that ignited a brightly burning desire to write creatively. Some of the writings have brought us to tears. Some have simply left us all sitting with our jaws on the table. Some have made us laugh till our sides hurt.  But all have encouraged writers to write.

One ten-year-old girl, when given the word ‘wish’, wrote: “I wish I could travel to Mars, so I could dance along the red moon without dying.”  We all sat speechless as those few words captured our imaginations and gave us a glimpse into this young writer’s heart and mind.

One woman wrote a poem to the baby she had not yet been able to conceive, even after longing for a child for several years. Her poem touched our hearts and gave us a tangible view of her empty arms and yet-unfulfilled dreams. A short time later, barely able to speak through her tears, she shared her poem at a Mother’s Day banquet. She finished the reading to a standing ovation from a roomful of friends, symbolically celebrating the imminent birth of her sweet baby boy.

Whatever was written, we all celebrated together. That was the goal—the celebration of words and those who wove them, and the hope that the weaving inspired. That remains my goal, and I don’t see that ever changing.

And you, my friend—what is your story? What words to you long to weave that wait patiently for their moment to come? Dare you to start weaving.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

How sadness always hints of hope

hintsofhope

Daddy sang sad songs to me in the car. I was four and then five, and I begged him to sing them one after another as I cried in the seat beside him. There was no safety belt save for his arm that shot lightning-fast across my mid-section if he sensed danger. In spite of his oft-inebriated state, I felt safe.

I never really questioned why I loved those sad songs until I was much older, and then only really as curiosity was piqued thinking back over those days of just him and me in a little blue VW Bug. The songs were terrible, really, but I couldn’t seem to hear them enough. For a long time I never fully understood why.

One song was about a dying girl telling her parents to give away all her toys and things, but to please put her little shoes away. Another was called “Little Angel with a Dirty Face”, a father singing to his daughter about how her mother had gone to Heaven when she was born. They were just awful, but I wanted to hear them over and over.

I’ve thought a lot about why as a tiny little girl I wanted to continually hear these songs that made me sob in the passenger’s seat, surely unable to fully process the deeper themes and meanings behind the lyrics. Over time I began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t the sadness I wanted to steep myself in, but the implication of hope when the healing came.

I’ve always believed healing would come.  

Seven years later as a confused pre-teen I stood by a coffin staring into daddy’s face, peaceful and silent. No more sad songs, no more laughter, no more twinkling blue eyes as he dunk-tapped the ice in his jelly glass of sweet tea. No more just him and me.

Years later I would watch my baby daughter lowered into the earth in a little white box, then later my brother, and later still I would sit by a bedside holding my mother’s hand as color drained from her face and her sweet spirit floated up.

And in all this loss, all this singing of sad songs and tears that came with each note, the hope has never been far behind. It’s because I know my hope doesn’t rest here in this place, doesn’t come from this temporal life even as beautiful as it is.

My hope comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. Somewhere deep down I’ve always known that, even long before I knew who the Lord is. I had to know, or I can’t imagine I would have wanted to hear those tear-jerkers again and again. To me, they weren’t just sad songs; they were reminders of a hope that lives beyond what we can see here.

I think I’ve always seen sadness this way. My heart must have always received it as a reminder that when I hope in Him, sadness will always turn to joy.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post