A Lesson in Place: where all shall be well

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I have this little spot by our sunroom window that I love.

I pulled our outdoor table inside, covered it in my favorite red table cloth, and christened it a blessed place.

That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately– place.

Place in life, place in seasons, physical places too– my home, the heart and effort that I choose to pour into it.

My friend Seth wrote this piece the other day– please read it, so you’ll understand.

This is not just Seth’s struggle.

We’re all muddled in our brains and hearts.

We’re all longing for the quiet, whether we know how to get there or not.

But what Seth and John Ray reminded me of was the simple and kind fact of the matter:

We’ve got to at least seek the quiet place if we ever hope to find it.

And when we do find it, we’re swept into a new current, an unbreached reality of grace and full living, and we wonder,

How could I have ever said no to this?

But we’re all so good at falling, at straying, at wandering.

We’re all so mesmerized by the noise, the great din of a world swirling with all that is semi-fulfilling.

So for now, I’m here at the table.

For now, I’m in it, and I see God, and I acknowledge that He sees me, and I am with Julian of Norwich in quietly breathing,

All is well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

That’s the place of peace, that’s this table, this candle, this kalanchoe flower blooming to remind me that I’m alive, right now.

And tomorrow is tomorrow, and I can trust that Jesus covers all tenses, and therefore, He covers me.

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May our quiet places draw us back.

May the voices that call out for peace and real truth call us into uncharted waters of grace, of life,

so that we may say it in our deepest parts:

All is well.

All shall be well.

Amen.

Forgetting Lent (we are christened)

The other night, we all gathered into our room, chairs in a circle, chalkboard covered in quote-scribbles, eyes a little glossed over from the weight of the day still dragging behind us.

But we gathered in still, and we spent ten minutes in quiet contemplation.

Ten minutes in silence, nothing but our body shifting and light scribbling sounding off the walls and windows.

In that quiet, God spoke, the way that He often does when we stop our voices and let everything settle down, into the holy part of that moment, of that space in time.

He called me christened, and while I’ve heard it time and again, I didn’t really know, couldn’t really remember what it was for.

So I asked Google, and Google told me:

christen: give to (someone or something) a name that reflects a notable quality or characteristic.

I knew the names of my boys while they were still rolling around in my womb. I knew Isaiah was Isaiah, and I knew Eliot was Jon Eliot.

And I know I have a name, I know I am called something by people who love me, but being christened means that there’s a name deeper in me, embedded into my being, into my heart and soul, that marks my path and my breath.

It’s a holy name, called in the quiet parts, called out in spaces like the one the other night, the one where I got quiet and listened.

We’re still in the Lenten season, even though I feel like I abandoned it weeks ago, forgetting what it’s all for. It seems we just wait for Easter to come along, and then we all nonchalantly exclaim, “Oh, right! He’s risen.”

But there is a journey from here to there, a path we’re walking, a death we’re mourning, a life we’re stepping flesh and blood into.

So we must keep reminding ourselves of Lent.

Because everything here is so quick, so saturated and full and bustling and brightly lit, that we forget what we’ve decided in the quiet of the heart, we forget the name we’re called by.

We forget that we’re beloved.

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We made airplane wings out of cardboard a few weeks ago, and the boys flew around the apartment, flew to continents and sight words, flew to every outer wall of their imagination. They flew and I’d call their names and they’d come flying back home to me.

And here we are, each one of us, soaring and stopping and moving, back and forth, over and under. Sometimes it’s the delight of the travel, and sometimes we can barely remember to breathe.

But we’re christened.

We’re called back home again, again and again and again, into the embrace of the Father, into the embrace of the Lenten King whose every ounce of being breathes life into us.

So remind us again, Jesus.

Let us see into who You were then, in those momentous days leading up to Your glory-death and glory-resurrection.

And let us see into who You are today, the words You’re speaking into us and the fresh breath that’s sifting through our faculties–

give us the purest of who you are, the truest parts of Your heart.

We remember today that Lent is for remembering, and we yearn for the yearning that Lent creates in our broken places.

You, our Lord, are holy.

You, our Lord, somehow make us so.

Hallelujah and Amen, for Lent and all its fullness, for the grace and promise of flight.

BLOG: a love story

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Whoever first said that they felt like a small fish in a big pond, was probably a writer.

Or a dancer.

An architect.

A father.

A garbage collector.

A pilot.

It’s really what we all are– little someones in a big sea of everyone-better-than-we-are.

So, I’m a little blog in the big blogosphere, a little shadow, hidden away.

I started this blog three years ago when Eliot was just a few months old. I knew I needed a space that would let me process who I was slowly becoming.

And here I am today, still becoming, and still hoping that I’m not just a shadow.

It’s a fierce lie, isn’t it?

It’s such a big leap to believe that someone, somewhere, might want to hear our voice, read our words, believe that we share something between us.

And if that’s even possible, it means that God is a truly creative genius– a truly generous advocate for community, and for each one of His children, every one of us inside our self-discouraging skin.

But where would we be without those gifts? Without the voice, the word, the vision, the jump?

No less worthy, but perhaps less adventured.

Less tethered.

More covered and safe, less realized about who we are called to be.

My love story with this world here, these typed words that root themselves in my journals and travel away to you–

It’s been a journey I’d never take back.

And I think if I hadn’t jumped, decided to plunge into this big Blogosphere Sea, I wouldn’t know myself as much today–

I wouldn’t know me the way God is asking me to.

The scary and wonderful thing about dreaming and adventure is that it calls us to look into ourselves and acknowledge that we’re not going to be the same on the other side.

And if we’re honest, it’s probably the most vulnerable we’ll ever be, and that’s probably why it’s so good.

It’s not always about our bravery.

But it’s always about trust.

And with the coming spring, we’ve got a thing or two to learn about blooming into the next season, hearts fully open.

A Father & Two Sons

When Travis wants the boys to really hear what he’s saying, he says, “Hands on my face.”

Eliot and Isaiah take their little palms and press them against his cheeks and they look right into each other’s eyes as if to say, I see you, and you see me.

It ends tantrums, it stills hearts and reminds both father and son that “all shall be well.”

There is a story about a father and his two boys.

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Photo by Becca Taylor

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Photo by Becca Taylor

When things go badly, he waits. And when things get shaken even more, when one son returns home, he pulls that youngest boy to his heart.

“Hands on my face,” he says.

And when the oldest throws his tantrum, when he fights for his rights, the father beckons him in, too.

“Look in my eyes,” he whispers.

It doesn’t end all hurt or cease all tantrums, but it’s the active love of seeing and hearing, of being a constant to two wavering and learning little hearts.

When I watch Travis place their hands on his face, I’m watching the holy act of reconciliation, a practice that generations of fathers and sons, lost and found, broken and more broken, have entered into out of love for one another’s humanity.

And I’m being pulled back again, back like those sons, back into His beckoning.

“Hands on my face,” He says.

“Look in my eyes,” He says.

And again and again ’til Kingdom come.

Out From Under The Covers: a lesson in surrender

There’s just this strange and uncomfortable ebb and flow that happens in life, that happens in our brokenness towards Jesus. I spend weeks sort of avoiding Him, trapping myself under the covers and pretending that I’ve got nothing to do for the day, pretending that there’s no life to be lived outside of that fabric igloo.

Then, hopefully, after some time, things begin to chip away. I peek through a hole to see who’s on the outside, I stick my nose out against the cool air to breathe, and all at once the blanket is off and I’m with Him again and it’s time to dream.

My mom bought me this book while my parents were visiting us this week. It’s the journey of a couple who travels around England for a few months, just because “It will be fun,” they said.

We itch and yearn to see the world, but that’s not what finally brought me out from under darkness.

People need to dream. People need to hope for good future things.

And it’s not enough for me to just sit around, hoping without any upward, lifted trust.  It’s not enough unless I ask for the open doors and then wait and see what happens.

After my parents left, I opened up my big teal journal and began again. I breathed in the cold, rainy Georgia air and surrendered.

I’m dreaming things, I’m hoping things and asking for more to pour out of me in my surrenders. It’s that whole ask, seek, knock idea, right? I think Jesus meant every word.

I’m leading this little community group on Wednesday nights right now, and I’m so happily surprised every time someone opens up to share. Last week we pondered a Brennan Manning quote and we remembered our past, and we celebrated the gifts that have poured forth as a result of our experiences. We shared so well, we ran out of time, and my heart was just bursting, because I knew that meant something holy happened.

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I’ve been been stuck more in the ebb than in the flow lately, stuck in the retreat instead of in the moving forward. It’s not just about our past, about getting over something and moving on. It’s actually about remembering who we are, recognizing that there’s not much movement under the blanket, not much but musty air and simmering guilt.

So we remember to breathe life in– the spring air, the mountain crisp, the wispy wind– all of it. And we surrender to each other and to God so much that we run out of time, because we just can’t get it all out, can’t experience enough holiness in one day.

And we say Hallelujah that He is patient with us in our coming and in our going.

Let’s give ourselves to surrender today. Read, write, share, release.
And tell me if you don’t find something holy in that scarce place, something holy in yourself.

The Terror of the Kitchen: lessons in accepting the mess

FullSizeRender (34)I’ve been grappling with my kitchen lately. Maybe the boys are both in growth spurts, and that’s why they’re dirtying every dish until they’re piled all around the place.

So I’ve been trying to clear the clutter, to lessen what’s taking up space. I’m pinning organization ideas on Pinterest and I’m staring down my countertops, but I’m not winning the battle.

But then I looked in a book that I bought from a library book sale in Missouri last summer before we moved to Georgia.

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It’s called New Country Kitchens, and it rests between Jan Karon and Martha Stewart, two of my favorites. It has pictures of homes with big hearths and hanging dried herbs; with space for family and friends, even in all the collecting dust.

I’ve been looking at these blogs of spotless kitchens, women who claim that clean countertops, totally bare spaces with no sign of any foods and barely any utensils, is the ticket to a successful kitchen experience.

But I’ve found that I’m not looking for a sterile room without signs of life, without soot.

What we have is open shelves full of mason jars and spices in our old green bread box.

What we have are cookbooks lining shelves and big baskets to store all those snacks. We have a dish rack to dry the never-ending flow of plates and pots and pans, and we have a refrigerator covered in toddler artwork.

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We live out of necessity. Out of the pleasure of having a family space that brings evidence of being alive and well, cluttered mess and all.

I think I’m going to open up that book a few times a week, just to remind myself to relax and keep cooking, because life never stops, messes never cease, clean up is never easy, and I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

Lenten Glory: spring is coming

I think during Lent, the universe knows what she’s doing.

Buds take their time opening, rain drops bring gloomy skies and sustenance to dried out ground roots, and the air changes her scent.

But it’s a slow transformation, because the journey from Jesus-as-man to Jesus-as-dead to Jesus-as-risen-King-glorified, well, that took a while, too.

It was seven years ago in March that Travis proposed, and our new love beckoned us into spring, deeper into the heart of the Father and into His steps for us. We rejoiced then, as we waited and watched those flowers around us bloom, and into marriage, into having children, every Lent and every spring since then brings us back to the throne again and again.

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Photo by Drew Kimble

Even my boys ache for the spring. Even they know that something is coming, some promising glory to cast out their shame and despair.

We’ve got a fireplace full of soot and ashes. And soon, we’ll scoop them out and dispose of them forever, our own sort of cleansing after the fire of winter dies down.

I’ve felt a little heavy-hearted lately, for a few reasons I know of and a few I don’t quite understand.

But maybe it’s my own heart’s slow gravitation toward her Master, toward her risen King, and in the meantime, she waits quietly and mourns that she’s not quite whole.

Maybe my boys need to hear the birds sing and watch crocuses bloom, so they can celebrate with the kind ripening of Lent-turned-Easter.

The universe invites us to join her in the quiet rhythm as we clean out our own homes, as we crack open windows and stare outside a while longer.

This is the Lenten glory of all creation, as, hand in hand, we baptize ourselves in the spring showers of endless grace, in preparation for more glory to come.

Hallelujah.

A Dangerous Reminder (all sins forgiven)

At the dinner table, I told Eliot to eat his couscous, reminding him to think about the way he misbehaved the night before at dinner.

If you’re single or married without kids, snow days can be the perfect excuse to sleep in or have a movie marathon.

And with little boys, it can still be a blast– if there’s actually snow to play in– but all we’ve gotten so far is rain and sleet, and two stir-crazy toddlers.

So at the table, Eliot ate his food slowly, and though I was trying to use this reminder as a tool to help him realize his wrong, to be kind, it back-fired in my heart.

Immediately I thought, Oh, thank you God, that you don’t remind me of my sins from the night before the second I come to You.

As parents, we’re still learning how to love correctly, aren’t we?

Oh, wait, as human beings in general we’re learning that, because we’re all pretty broken, if we just confess it.

One afternoon, I caught sight and sound of Eliot standing at the love seat, singing “Yes, Jesus loves me!” and at the kitchen sink I thought Does he know it? Because I’m the one who shows him who Jesus is and how He loves.

Eli and I both failed in this, but my heart and the kind Spirit of God have pinched at a lot of nerves to remind me that I need to love instead of remind. I need to snuggle him close and laugh at the characters in our storybooks, and make up new stories that reflect the life we’re given– life that is called by grace and kindness, by peace and patience.

That’s the world I want for us, may God help me along the way.

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A Miracle for Kelly Gissendaner

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Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted.” -C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Today is the last resort.

Tonight, Kelly Gissendaner faces lethal injection, the reality of an early death, a reality that snatches miracle away from her prayer-clutched hands.

Last night, hundreds gathered on Emory’s campus to remember her, to pray, to try to be part of the miracle. Today, we continue to light our candles and pray. We continue to seek.

I imagine when you’re face to face with death, your senses are fully alert. You know every smell, every sight of every person who passes by you. You feel every tear’s weight upon your cheek, and the air seems to speak in whispers, gathering the voices of everyone you’ve ever loved right to your side. But shadows hover, and there is a heaviness, even in lifting head and hands to the glory of the goodness of God.

But then the miracle intercedes. Then all the walls that you thought were tightly held up come swiftly crashing, and all dangers evaporate on the breath of the wind.

Today we pray for the interceding miracle, for justice to work, for Kingdom to come, for grace to cover and clean again and again.

Today is our last resort, and today, Kelly, we pray for you to be our miracle.

We rejoice in your life of lost and found, of broken and redeemed, in all of your deepest places.

And when we see your face, hear your name, touch our own children, we remember you, and we pray with David:

 Generous in love—God, give grace!
    Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
    soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
    my sins are staring me down.

You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
    it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
    whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
    in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
    Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

We all need the miracle, the sun’s light bursting through darkened brown canopy.

Be our miracle, Kelly.

Amen.

#KellyOnMyMind

The Child’s Magic: a surrender

Children have an extremely beautiful power in their bones. It begins in their hearts, reaches forward through their bloodstream, and somehow travels to their crescent-moon smiles and glitzing eyes.

It is their ability to bring joy to the darkest places, to create hope and fullness in the most trivial moments.

They find life in cookies and milk, in pretend tea parties and cheese sticks, in stacking blocks and bouncing balloons.

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They watch birds and marvel at the misplaced leaf that’s fallen from the oak tree.

And the true magic, I think, is how my boys find my beauty when all I feel that I’m giving them is my angriest heart, my most impatient command, my constant stress over their boy messes.

And yet, they rejoice, creating joy out of worry, curious life out of void boredom.

And they pull it out of me, my heartiest laugh, my surrender to that same magic, that let’s-believe-in-Santa-and-dream-dreams kind of surrender.

It is their gift to us, their presence in all of our hum-drum and bah humbug.

They bring us miracle daily– may we be patient enough to stoop down and see it.