True Vine Challenge: Loving Others (Even Our Enemies) Starts with Abiding

Did you read the story of Antoinette Tuff this week? The story of what one newscaster called “Amazing Grace under pressure?” Tuff, an elementary school bookkeeper, prayed for an armed gunman, told him she loved him, and through the word of her testimony (not loving her life unto the death), was able to convince him to surrender to police.

There are so many, many parts of this story that I love, but do you know what keeps coming back to me?

I’m absolutely certain it started with abiding

When Jesus said, “Love one another the way I  loved you,” it was smack dab in the middle of John 15. When we abide in Him, and He in us, we can do all things. Even love an armed gunman.

This is my command, "Love one another as I loved you."

PS: I don’t know Antoinette Tuff, but I’d love to talk to her, meet her, and hear of her own journey with the True Vine.

Resurrecting the True Vine Challenge today. Won’t you join me? Share your own story of abiding by including your URL in the linkup, or leave a comment below. Or both.

True Vine Challenge



Posted in True Vine Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Though You Pass Through the (Pissy) Waters

I cleaned the laundry room today.

For just a moment, let those words settle in because you won’t hear them very often.

Sadly, I forgot to take disgusting before pictures (and you know I’m not afraid to show you grossness).

It all started because Archie was bleeding, though we never figured out what happened, and he seems no worse for the wear.

We wiped up a small trail of blood droplets in the family room that led into the laundry room. While I stooped over the floor, damp paper towel in hand, I figured I should wipe up the splatters of laundry detergent that had been in front of the washing machine for weeks. Maybe longer.

That led me to vacuum the rug, then the floor, and even the wasteland under the laundry sink. There was so much gross stuff under there that I had to empty the laundry canister and detangle strands of hair and thread and I-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-what-else.

Blech!

Then I decided it was finally time to fish out the stray khaki sock hiding in the corner under my grandma’s oak table. I don’t recall how long the sock has been there, but suffice it to say, the solo accessory was covered in dust bunnies equal to or greater than the size of Peter’s feet.

The end result, however, was worth it.

I feel a sense of calm and order, which, oddly, I both crave and struggle against.

But really? It’s good. photo 3

Clothes are clean and folded in baskets on the laundry table, ready to be put away. Or not.

photo 2

I had a similar feeling of calm and order in March 2011, right before Peter and I left for a weekend retreat. We farmed the kids to friends and went away for the weekend, passing the meter reader in our yard as we drove away without a care in the world.

That was the weekend the water shut-off valve in the very same laundry room – broke.

Now. Let THOSE words settle in for a moment.

The shut off valve, the one that is supposed to keep water from bursting forth everywhere? Yes, that one. It broke. While we were out of town. For an entire weekend.

We returned home that Sunday evening to a basement that had 30,000 gallons of water pass through it.

Even then, I knew God’s purpose was greater than what we could see. 

It would take months before we could see. MONTHS of living in the midst of chaos.

And maybe today, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The chaos of life is overwhelming. It’s Sunday and you’re looking at the week ahead wondering how in the world…

How in the world am I going to get through this treatment?
How in the world am I going to make it through the uncertainty and stress of my husband’s illness?
How in the world will I make it when he (or she) just walked out the door for someone else?
How in the world am I going to make it another month without a job?
How in the world will I pay the bills?
How in the world can I help my child catch up to grade level in reading or math?
How in the world will I beat this eating disorder? this addiction?
How in the world will I find a job after being incarcerated?
How in the world will I lead this family? This church? This Fortune 500 company?
How in the world will I write this book?

The truth is, when life is hardest and we’re at our weakest? That’s when God is most near. He is there, with you. With me.

He ABIDES with us!

Today, as I reflected on that flood and all that God has done in our home and family since that time, I rejoice, remembering the words of Isaiah:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.” – Isaiah 43:2

(While reviewing the post before editing, I clicked on the link and see that my wise friend Ann Voskamp shared that same verse with me in the comments. How cool is God like that?)

Interestingly, the word for “waters” is “mayim” and get ready…It means water, of course, but it also means URINE. And even more interestingly, it can mean “refreshment.”

Don’t ask me. Weird, I know. But here’s the thing.

When life is pissy? God says, “I will be with you.”

And God knows I don’t understand it, but somehow, He turns those pissy times of our lives into times of refreshment.

Because of the flood in our basement, we were able to completely remodel the downstairs (thanks to insurance) and make it into a place for OIKOS. We’ve hosted Young Life and Worship Team dinners and Life Group. We’ve had going away parties and slumber parties and family movie nights.

When we were in the middle of those pissy months? With water mitigation and jackhammers and contractors?

Hard.

But this much is true. Through it all, God has been with us.

And that’s the word of encouragement I have for you today as well. When the flood waters of life come your way, know that God will be with you.

Is with you. Always.

*
Maybe you have a friend who could use this encouragement? Feel free to right click on the picture below, copy the URL, then paste it into your Facebook or Twitter feed and share.

Isaiah 43:2

Posted in Oikos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where I Out Myself As a Napper

(I’m writing over at The High Calling today. Here’s a  quick preview:)

A few years ago I had three surgeries within an 18-month time frame, followed by a fourth surgery a year later.

During each of my pre-surgery appointments, I talked with nurses about what I could and couldn’t do following surgery. Rest was always on the list of do’s. In fact, I distinctly remember the nurses encouraging me to nap.

“Don’t be surprised if you continue to be tired six months or even up to a year after your surgery,” they advised.  “It’s OK to nap if you get tired.”

So I did.

Resting my eyes

During those weeks of recovery I began granting myself permission to rest. In the days immediately after being released from the hospital, my body was still recovering from anesthesia. I dozed in the morning, napped in the afternoon, and headed to bed before prime time.

Gradually I weaned myself of the morning catnap, but when I hit the wall by mid-afternoon, I didn’t feel guilty indulging in a lengthy slumber. At least not in the first few weeks.

At the end of six weeks, I went back to work, surprised by how my body still craved rest. I was lucky though. I worked from home, so I had the flexibility to occasionally steal forty winks.

But flexibility does not necessarily equal freedom. My protestant work ethic nagged at me. Taunted me. What do you mean you want to take a siesta? You’re not going to be productive? How lazy!Despite admonition from trained healthcare professionals, I second-guessed the wisdom of letting my body fully recuperate.

Months later, when I thought everything should be back to normal, I continued napping. I just felt guilty doing so.

Then something clicked.

Resting my eyes

Read the full post today at The High Calling. It’s part of a larger series on REST.

You may remember, that REST (MENO) is one of the words used for ABIDE. Apparently, I‘ve written a fair amount of posts about REST. 

Funny how it all ties together, isn’t it?

Posted in Faith, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

When Beauty for Ashes Looks A Lot Like Serving Domino’s Pepperoni Pizza in Jail

Roger told me the news last week, just before I went to the jail for the session on Employment Matters. I didn’t tell the ladies at first. Instead, throughout class I told them, “We can trust God!”

I reminded them that He cares for us and loves to give good gifts to His children.

Throughout the night I paraphrased Isaiah 22:22, saying “God opens doors no man can shut, and closes doors no man can open.”

And I knew it was true. I was sitting on news that would blow them away. I could barely keep it inside.

Finally, at the end of class, I repeated,

“God opens doors no man can close and closes doors no man can open.”

I continued.

“Roger called me tonight and told me some great news.”

I paused for effect, then continued, “Major Espinoza has approved for us to have a pizza party to celebrate your graduation.”

A pizza party.

In jail.

Two of the women
Burst.
Into.
Tears.

Every one of them beamed! Smiles broadened their faces, some for the first time in weeks.

I’ve beamed too, for a whole week. Every time I thought of what  God is doing in the jail, I could scarcely contain myself.

Through Interfaith Outreach Association’s Life Skills Program, male and female inmates commit to making positive changes in their lives. For 8 weeks they delve into material that many of them have never considered before: Goal Setting, Principles & Values, Time Management, Money Management, Family & Communication, Anger & Attitudes, Employment Matters and Community Resources.

They’ve opened themselves up to receive encouragement from  selfless volunteers. They’ve completed  homework, which in and of itself is a huge accomplishment for some who read well below high school levels.

Earlier this week as I thought about tonight’s graduation, I  wanted to bless the ladies with beauty. I thought of the giant marigolds in our front yard and the flower arrangements I’d contributed as decorations to recent shower at church.

flowers

I reasonably assumed I wouldn’t be allowed to bring fresh flowers into the jail.

“What can I do? What can I take?”

I settled on the idea of using pretty paper plates, colorful napkins and bright plastic cups. This afternoon I pulled everything together to pack up.

beauty for ashesSomething was missing.

I found myself wishing I could use “real” tablecloths.

Still not satisfied, I thought, “if only I had ten pretty placemats that matched the place settings.”

Then I remembered I had a book of 80’s floral fabric swatches, a yard sale find from a few months ago. I borrowed some pinking sheers from my neighbor, cut out more than a dozen varied pieces of fabric, and rolled them up by twos. I placed them into a pretty floral gift bag with a Bible verse about “hope” elegantly written in script lettering.

I figured, if I have to use a tote bag, might as well make it a pretty one.

Next, I tucked the paper products into the bag, followed by a couple of tall kitchen garbage bags. (We’d be responsible to take out all the trash when we were finished.)

I used a pretty, floral die-cut notepad to make a dozen scripture cards.

“He gives
BEAUTY
for ashes!”
Isaiah 61:3

I tucked those into the “Hope” bag as well.

Just after 7PM we carried six boxes of Domino’s hot pepperoni pizzas through the maze of corridors in the Lynchburg Jail. Buzzers sounded as steel doors clunked open. When we walked through the last door into the classroom, the women were already seated around the table. Some of them verbally expressed their astonishment, others sat quietly with hands over their mouths.

Linda served the pizza, Debbie poured the soft drinks and I passed out the placements and the Scripture cards.

“You’re gonna make me cry.”

“This is so beautiful!”

“Thank you!”

They were all so grateful.

So.

Grateful.

I read the “beauty for ashes” passage from Isaiah 61, the one that also includes setting captives free. Those words always choke me up! Then I read the 23rd Psalm. I  challenged the ladies to think differently about the phrases “He preparest a table before me,” and, “my cup runneth over.”

Several times I repeated for emphasis,

“Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

These ladies had a chance to taste and see that the Lord is good! I can’t help but think that maybe this is part of what Paul meant in 1 Cor. 2:9 when he said, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can know what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

**
Tonight would not have been possible without:

  • The selfless leadership of Roger Paul, my friend, colleague and mentor. God used him to prepare the way.
  • Domino’s pizza, who donated six pepperoni pizzas. They were hot and delicious and enjoyed by all.
  • Major Espinoza and Mr. Trent of the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center and the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, respectively. May the blessing of their “yes,” return to them one thousand fold!
  • The volunteers who served tonight, and each week. Dee, Melinda, Betsy, Debbie, Linda and so many more.
  • Thank you also to James, Levi and Danner from WSET for covering tonight’s event. (Watch the video below.)

WSET.com – ABC13

If you’d like to know more about Interfaith Outreach Association’s Life Skills Program, helping to set the captives free, leave me a comment here, or @me on Twitter. Don’t be surprised to hear me say that I am the one who is blessed!

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Archie: My Loyal Companion

I’m writing about Archie and loyalty over at The High Calling today. Here’s a preview:

Archie and his monkey baby

Several years ago my husband, Peter, broached the topic of getting a dog. He had grown up with indoor dogs and thought our family could benefit from a canine addition. I was not so sure.

When I was a little girl, my father raised hunting dogs. At various times we had beagles and blue tick hounds, but I never played with them. They lived in a fenced-in pen with a wooden-framed wire door that stayed latched.

For the most part, my father cared for the dogs, but sometimes I had to feed them. I scraped long strips of leftover hardened grits into metal bowls of dry dog food and traipsed through the grass to the edge of the backyard.

When I walked into the pen, I held the bowls high. They jumped up on me and their sharp toenails often scratched my skinny bare legs. Looking back, I’m not sure if they wanted food or attention. Maybe they were starving for both?

I was careful to watch where I stepped. It’s no wonder those dogs stunk!

When the whole ordeal was finished, I latched the gate properly and went about my little girl business.

Those old hunting dogs were all I could think of when Peter suggested we get a dog.

Click over to The High Calling to read the rest of my post on loyalty:

And enjoy this video: God Made a Dog

Posted in Oikos | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

It’s OK to Be Sad

I sat on the yellow sofa and explained why I was there. In just a few weeks, he’s moving from Virginia to Indiana to live with his dad.

I’ve known since the end of May, but now that it’s almost time, reality is sinking in.

The, “I’m good,”s and the “It’s OK,”s and even the “Boys need their dads.”s are all true, but they are only half the story.

The other half is this mom is incredibly sad.

I’m really good at being positive and upbeat. I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of person. I’d much rather be happy than not, and I truly believe that God uses all of our stuff for our good and His glory. I’ve seen His faithfulness over and over.

Being sad isn’t my top pick of emotions.

(Did I mention this is really sad?) 

Being angry might be my second choice. So Monday night I picked a fight with Peter on our seventh anniversary. The next night I started another argument. Of course, I did this subconsciously. I didn’t have a clue that that’s what I was doing.

Yesterday morning while it was still dark, we broke the ice with difficult words. Initially we addressed the surface issues then Peter, Discerning One that he is, asked deeper, more thought provoking questions. He’s good (and sometimes annoyingly right) that way.

You should go see Susan. (As in, Susan Wilson, LPC. Counselor Extraordinaire.)

Which is how I ended up on the yellow sofa today at lunchtime (thanks to a cancellation), tissue in hand. Tears streamed down my face, but I successfully kept the ugly cry at bay.

Susan’s helped me process so much of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today was no different.

“It IS sad,” she empathized in the voice that both calms and disarms.

In a series of small explorations, God brought so many things to mind but for now, these are the three biggies:

  • I’m going to miss my boy.
  • I’ll always be his mama.
  • It’s OK to be sad.

Oh, and a fourth thing? Sometimes the ugly cry is good and necessary.

When Morgan was a little boy, he and I went on a date that he planned. He wantedMcDonald’s for dinner, then he wanted to peruse the toy store. We chose the McDonald’s at the mall due to its proximity to the smaller toy store, which  had some much-desired but now forgotten toy that wasn’t available at Toys R Us.

As we drove to the mall, I explained that when a man takes a lady to a restaurant, he pulls her chair out for her. We ordered our dinner at the counter: a happy meal for him, double cheeseburger for me. Morgan picked the table (not a booth) and before we sat down, that sweet little boy pulled my chair out from under the table, waited for me to be seated, then slid me back in with charm and finesse.

I suspect we may have held hands as we strolled through the mall after dinner. He was little then and wasn’t embarrassed by the thought of it, or what his peers might say.

On the way home, we stopped by Applebee’s for dessert. He held the door open for me as we entered the restaurant. The hostess seated us in a booth and we shared conversation and chocolatey goodness.

When we reached the parking lot, Morgan insisted on opening my car door for me. He waited for me to get in and buckled, then he closed the door for me.

I’ll never, ever, as long as I live, forget what happened next.

That sweet little fella opened the back door of my green Chevy Malibu, climbed into his booster seat, clicked the seatbelt and closed the door behind him.

Next time, instead of McDonald’s, I’m pretty sure he’ll ask for Chinese. I’ll let you know about the hand holding.

photo

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

What Do You Say When the Cat’s Got Your Tongue?

Just a quick post to ponder out loud..what do you say when the cat’s got your tongue? Or more likely, when the enemy steals my story?

There’s a lump in my throat today as I think about writing – here or there, or in a one-day-far-far-in-the-future book.

The words are nowhere to be found. No. Where.

Every time I think I have something to say, it feels like yesterday’s news, or worse. Insignificant.

When did I lose the ability to string together coherent words another person could comprehend?

Sally Breen says, “Comparison is death!”

I know she’s right.

But that enemy of my soul reminds me I’m not poetic like Ann nor brilliant like Jennifer nor captivating like Deidra. I’m not scholarly like Karen, nor humorous like Dena. I’m not heartfelt like Emily nor vulnerable like Lisa-Jo. Nor disciplined like Rachel or Tricia.

Not. Not. Not.

I cannot seem to find my voice. Or my stride. Or time.

Time for what? I say.

Oh. Friends. Would you pray? I’m not even sure what the struggle is. Pray that I see how to win this battle because it is just that. I know. I just don’t have a clue how to get from A to Z C B.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

True Vine Challenge: When You Need Your Father

Just before noon last Thursday, my phone buzzed, alerting me of a text.

“I think I do want to move to Indiana. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and there’s nothing horribly wrong…”

I hold my breathe.

My heart skips more than a beat.

Just hours before, my post about that very same boy went live at The High Calling. The last line?

“I still think I have plenty of time.”

How can time stand still and race in the very same moment?

I’m not sure, but it does, and it’s eery. Surreal.

The truth is, I’m actually the one who suggested it to him some weeks before Spring Break. Maybe more than a month before, and have been thinking about it even months before then.

Teenage boys need their biological fathers.

Peter is a great step-dad, but it’s not the same.

Initially, Morgan was resistant to the idea. He didn’t want to move away from friends, or from his sister. Life in Indiana would be a cavernous unknown. In recent weeks, however, the idea has taken root.

Thus the text.

Despite the fact that it was my suggestion to him, and I honestly believe it is in his best interest, that text rocked my world.

What can ever prepare you to release a child?

All I can think about is Abraham and Isaac, and while there is no lapping flame, it still feels very much like a sacrifice that requires trust. I look in the thicket and see no ram.

The Spirit reminds me, My heart safely trusts Him. I ask for more faith, greater ability to trust.

In the deepest part of me, I know that my Father loves my son far more than I do. I know that God will work all things together for his good and for God’s own glory. I claim every single verse I’ve ever underlined and highlighted in my Bible.

I cry tears in the middle of the night and nestle snug into the side of the man who reassures me. I cry more tears at the end of the Spring Band Concert as I think of the performances I’ll miss. I cry at random times throughout the day – at the kitchen sink, while doing laundry or when I’m driving to pick him up from school.

I push back the hard lump that rises in the middle of my throat.

I’ve kissed boo boos, wiped tears, and turned on lights in the middle of the night to remove shadows that look like monsters. I’ve prayed with him nearly every night we’ve shared the same roof. Asked God to bring him into his destiny, to protect the plans and purposes He has for Morgan.

I bought the Dangerous Book for Boys long ago, but I don’t know how to help him become the man that God desires for him to be.

Teenage boys need their fathers.

A few weeks ago on the way to church I noticed a tree beside the ball field. Something about it struck me so I snapped what I hoped would be a decent photo and forgot about it.

Until now.

I pull out my phone and open the camera roll. The tree is split right down the middle.

Run to the Father

I realize teenage boys aren’t the only ones who need their fathers.

So are moms whose hearts are split open.

And families whose lives are ripped apart – whether by divorce or from tornadoes. Those who’ve heard pathology reports and those who’ve shoveled dirt onto graves, well before they were ready to do so.

And really, all of us are in need, aren’t we? Our hearts are ripped apart by circumstances or sin, or both.

For the first time in more than a week, I’m still long enough to listen. I hear words of hope, superimpose them on an image.

When the sky darkens and your heart splits open, run to the Father!

It sounds a lot like abiding, doesn’t it?

True Vine Challenge_Thumbnail Badge at OikosLiving

And linking up with Sandy for the first time in a while, because I so need to be Still. And with Shelly because I’m in need of Sabbath!

Still Saturday


Posted in True Vine Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments