Monday, April 30, 2012

Duped and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.  oh! and we now have a mission statement -- check out the SDG page!
Also, SDG retreat registration is live!!
I opened the bag of fresh, new strawberries.  Ruby red and smelling delicious, I took the knife to cut off the top and as soon as knife met strawberry I knew something was wrong.

What should have felt firm felt mushy.  I slice through and the ugly truth reveals itself:

This strawberry had rotted from the inside out.  I had been duped.
How many things in our lives look good from the outside, but when we dig beyond that thin outer layer, all you find is rottenness?
Do you have something red that is really brown?
Do you have something that looks like life, but it's really death in disguise?

I do.

A few days ago, Abby was home sick after a night of throwing up every 15 minutes for about 7 hours straight.  The day was spent frantically trying to serve, clean, play, and finish up loose ends everywhere.

This frantic is the color brown.  From the outside, it looked red.  I was doing what any good mama would do, but the whole time, trying to do so many things at once, trying to live into so many roles, trying to fill so many expectations (especially the ones I hold for myself), I felt rotten to the core.

There was no joy.

The frantic life filled with lots of obligations, nurturings, and adventure may look red on the outside, but for this girl, it only leads to decay.  It's not how I'm built.  It's not how God made me to operate.  For me, the frantic life leads to pride, self-reliance, and a self-worth that is built on the opinions of other people.

If that's not rotten brown, I don't know what is.
I've gotten better at cutting back, saving my energy and nutrients for the prize fruits, but I still have a hard time being fully present in whatever the moment may hold, looking for the little gifts that sustain, that serve to be love notes dropped down from Heaven.  I tend to see what wasn't accomplished instead of what was.

To live into red, it's the daily habit of choosing to engage in what He gives me, whether I like it at first sight or not.  It's savoring the moment and not wasting the second.  It's about being intentional in relationships, in writing, in rest.

And so I pray that what is rotten will be cast out and that red will overtake, that life would flourish and flourish abundantly.  I pray that we would have eyes to see, really see, what births life and what leads to demise.  And I pray that we would cling to the Life Giver every second of every day.  

My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty,
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.
Psalm 131: 1-3

SDG Community Builder:  1) Here at SDG, we have small groups!  If you would like more information, please click here.  If you would like to join a small group, please leave me a note in the comments.  2) If you are new, please write "I'm New!" as your caption so that we might come and get to know you, welcoming you into the fold.  3)  Let's pray for abundant and "red" life for each other this week!  4) I just realized that I forgot one t-shirt, which means I need to make another order.  If you would like a Soli Deo Gloria shirt ($27, including shipping -- it's a fundraiser for the retreat), send me an email at

Saturday, April 28, 2012

You Know You're A Blogger When...

your daughter finishes an impromptu art project and you try to come up with a blog post so you can use the pictures.
A tiger hiding in the forest

A Texas Longhorn, just for Mommy
a cross
The whole assortment of painted magnolia leaves!
I couldn't come up with anything to write about these expertly painted leaves (by my 6 year old) except to have a little fun and ask you...

How do you know you're a blogger?


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Announcement and Invitation

No, I'm not getting married and inviting you to my wedding (my daughter points out that I've already done this.  One man is clearly all I can handle.)
And no, I am definitely not pregnant.

But, I am announcing a new series here at Finding Heaven and I am inviting you to be a part of it.

The idea came to me in the shower (of course) while I was lamenting all the things I'm not, all the things I didn't get done today, all the words that I said and shouldn't have.  You see, in the process of all this whining, a single word flashed up on that shower wall inside my head:

And then I thought, I really need to break this tape.

It's a tape (seems like I should say playlist on my iPod, but that just doesn't seem to have the same effect) that I seem to slip in anytime I start to feel less than.  One little disappointment and I wind up buried under heaps of never-measure-ups.  But I don't want to apply grossly broad adjectives to one tiny section of my life, especially when there are things like grace and forgiveness that are clearly within my reach.

I want to break the tape and find a new song.

What about you?  Is there a word that flashes in your mind that you know is a not an adequate descriptor of you or your life and yet you imbibe it like there is nothing else left to drink?

I'm sure many of us have the same words and we could all use drinks from the Living Water to refresh our souls, flood our hearts, and keep those barren, desolate places at bay.

So here lies the invitation:  Will you play your new song for us, the one which you have recorded on top of that ugly word that tries to sear and pierce your heart so that we might know a new song, too?

In plain English:  Will you tell us the word or the lie that you so often have repeated to yourself and then tell us how God has replaced that word with new words, full of truth?

I will be running these stories beginning the first Wednesday of May and then each Wednesday after that until all our stories have been told.  The series name?  Break the Tape

Wanna declare your truth?  Lead our choir in a new song?  Drop me a line in the comments or send me an email.  Can't wait to chat.

(Also, silent auction still going on here!  Will you check it out?)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the word that struck my heart today

photo source
You never know what word will strike your heart on any given day.

Sometimes, its a word of pain, a sharp barb to your heart.

And sometimes, it's a word of immense support and love and you realize that God has used this word to to lift a huge, heavy burden from your shoulders.

My friend Cindy called me in the middle of trying to set up the SDG Retreat registration form.  It was a welcome interruption, to say the least.

After we finish our conversation, she asked if she could pray for me.  And while her prayer was filled with an abundance of incredible words of encouragement and love, the one word that had me soaring was this:


She was asking God to be a co-laborer with me and at the sound of that simple word, I had this beautiful thought:

I am not working alone.

My to-do list that He has given me did not come with the expectation that I would check off each item by the strength and will of my own power.  He is not standing idly by to see whether I will perform up to a certain standard.  He is not one to sit on the throne and crack whip.

No, instead, He is in the trenches with me, helping me to churn up the soil, plant the seeds.  He reminds me when to water and when to weed.  And when the weight of keeping the garden growing takes its toll, He tells me to relax in the shade and I swear I see Him taking over completely.

And it's not just a lofty analogy.  Today at my computer, staring at the unintelligible language of Form Desk, my eyes glazed over and I thought I would never be able to figure out how to make the calculations work.  I almost gave up, but as a last ditch effort, I simply said, I cannot do this by myself.

And suddenly, I wasn't doing it by myself.  My head cleared and I was able to accomplish something that normally sends me to tears.  And I wonder how many times in life, I just assume that I'm rowing this boat all by myself and I end up wallowing in my own muck instead of just calling out to the One who makes the waves?

He co-labors with us, no matter what the job, equipping us at every turn, if only we would ask.

So many people have stepped up to be co-laborers with me in the process of raising money for the SDG Retreat.  Andrea has graciously donated three items from her Etsy shop for a silent auction that will run from now until Sunday.  All proceeds will go toward lowering the cost of the retreat for all attendees.  It would bless me incredibly if you would share these auction details with those you know on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  And, think MOTHER'S Day!!  If you would like to bid on one of the items, please tell me which item you are bidding on and your bid.  I will try to keep the post updated with the current bids, but you can check the comments to be sure!

Item #1: Large Hot/Cold "Cheery" Pit Pack
A beautiful, yet practical gift for Mom this Mother's Day or any other occasion (one that is eco-friendly and versatile too!)... "Cheery Packs" (which measure approximately 17" x 4" when fully opened) are filled with dried cherry pits and can be heated or chilled to provide soothing relief for aching muscles, aching heads, or, when warmed, are an antidote to cold toes. In the summer, gain relief from the heat by placing a chilled Cheery Pack on your neck.  If you win this item, you will get to choose your favorite pack from among the 25+ packs Andrea has on hand (not all are listed in her shop)

Retail price: $15
Starting bid: $10

Item #2:  Set of 3 custom reversible headbands for girls, teens, and ladies

A unique pairing of fabrics + a custom fit = a reversible headband that's made for you.

When you order this reversible headband, you will receive a hair accessory which reflects your personal style. Or, if it's a gift, the style of the woman or girl who will wear it. Each headband is made from 100% cotton fabric and uses 1/2" wide knit elastic. 

Retail price for set: $21
Starting bid: $15

Item #3:  Custom reversible apron for child, teen, or lady                                                               

Sizes available:        
12 mos - 4T (small)
5T - 12 years (medium)

When you win this item, Andrea will work with you to find a custom pairing of fabrics for your reversible apron. Please visit the shop page on Andrea's blog to see apron samples.
Retail price range: $15-$25
Starting bid: $12/kids, $20/ladies
In addition, Andrea will donate 10% of any order placed through the shop page on her blog ( or her etsy shop ( now through 5 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 28 to help lower the SDG retreat cost. She has several aprons and many Cheery Packs for sale that are unlisted in addition to any custom orders you wish to place. If your order is intended as a gift for Mother's Day, please let her know.

Auction closes Saturday evening, April 28 at midnight, PDT!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Irrational Thoughts, Small Groups, and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.  oh! and we now have a mission statement -- check out the SDG page!
We have a tree that stands tall in our backyard that our neighbors gave us.  We hired a company to transplant it from their backyard to ours and then we all just crossed our fingers and hope it would survive the brutal Texas summers.  One never knows if the established tree will do well in a new environment and for awhile we weren't sure if it was going to make it.  It's a Red Oak tree, which means it loses its leaves in the fall and stands barren all winter.  When spring rolls around, it's always one of the last to show its buds.  Every spring, I hold my breath, wondering if has any life left inside it.

Every year, it becomes nature's manifestation to me of hope on a tree.  

I feel like that tree in the dead of winter.  Although He knows that life courses through my veins, I stand there looking at myself, wondering if I have the strength to bloom.

It's not that I'm tired or overwhelmed with the scope of my life.  In actuality, I am overjoyed about the SDG small groups, the retreat, my new class next fall.  I've been more intentional about my parenting and fostering a relationship with my kids (um, well, except for this morning).  It's more that my heart and mind seem to have flashed back in time and these old behaviors and irrational thoughts that I thought I had left in the dust years and months ago have taken over the truth that I KNOW is alive and active in my heart.

I've started unplugging the toaster again.
I've started driving and then had to turn around to make sure my front door was locked.
I've become a militant dictator about our budget.
I've been super controlling about the amount/types of food my children eat.

The root of all this is fear, which drives me absolutely insane because the last decade of my life has been all about the CASTING OUT OF FEAR.

If I continue on this path, I will be making decisions while standing on shifting sand.  I will operate out of the desperate need to control, shackling myself in the bondage of over-planning and self-reliance.  Every gift will taste bitter because I will be looking for what came before and after, weighing myself on merits and obligations and lack.

I imagine God's heart, soft as a white down pillow and I desire to press in.  To be enfolded into His endless love, grace, and mercy.  To lay this fear, this irrationality, this idea of self-sufficiency at the foot of the cross.  To look up, at Hope on a tree, and realize that I am no longer bound, but that I am free.
"But I am trusting in You, O LORD,
saying 'You are my God!'
My future is in Your hands.
Rescue from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let Your favor shine down upon Your servant.
In Your unfailing love, rescue me."
Psalm 31: 14-16, NLT
the tree today
SDG Community Builder:  1) If you have signed up to be in a Soli Deo Gloria Small Group (click here for more info), you should receive an email from your small group leader very soon.  If you have received it, please start visiting the other ladies in your group.  But also, feel free to visit other sweet sisters, too!  2) If you are new, please write "I'm New!" as your caption so that we might come and get to know you, welcoming you into the fold.  3) If you are not in a small group and would like to be, please leave me a note in the comments.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Julia, the Crawfish: A Critter Invasion

I'm just going to apologize right now.  I know.  It's a scary picture.  But do you know what is even scarier?

This thing lives in my house in a little plastic container.  Furthermore, my youngest carries it around with her wherever she goes.

She's been asking for a crawfish for a pet for about 3 weeks now.  I blame my neighbor's daughter.  Actually, I should just blame my neighbor.  But, alas, how was she to know that a crawfish could survive in a small tub of water, with only grass and roly polies to eat for 3 WEEKS?

I confess -- I secretly hoped that my husband would *forget* to keep a crawfish out for his darling daughter and that they would all go into the huge vat of boiling water.

He didn't forget.

He didn't forget because he knew the desires of his little girl's heart.

And this simple act of indulging Hannah with something that pleased her beyond measure reminds me of how my Heavenly Father loves to give good gifts to His daughters, too.  This act reminds me that He knows my heart.  This act reminds me that He wants me to be overwhelmed by His lavish love.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture
Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm  37: 3-4, NIV

Whatever is good and perfect comes from our God our Father, who created all the lights in the Heavens.  He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James 1: 17, NLT


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

could it be enough?

photo source
There is an opportunity on the horizon, but I'm unsure if it's mine for the taking.

And it's kinda expensive.

And then there is the litany of questions that pass through my mind, a mixture of good reasoning and voices I should not listen to --

Why should you deserve to go to this?
Is this just your pride talking?
Do you think you could really ask Craig to take more days off?  Would you have to find someone else to watch your kids?
It's expensive.
It's expensive.
It's expensive.

But I tell you this -- I sat down with Craig last night and I laid it all out.  And I asked him to just tell me what to do.


I don't normally engage in this type of behavior.  I don't really like anyone telling me what to do.  Even God, sometimes.  I'm sure you might be able to relate to that. Right??

But in a season where I feel in charge of a lot -- teaching a class, organizing small groups for Soli Deo Gloria, planning a retreat, parenting -- sometimes I lose the ability to filter through everything and discern clearly without a whole lotta other junk.

So we sit on the couch, we hold hands, and we pray out loud.  The prayer ends and I ask, expectantly, "Did you hear anything?"

photo source
And he says, "Well, I don't see any red flags."  And I thrust the bible at him and I say, "Ask God for a scripture!" (you can see here, I can be a bit demanding at times).  He closes his eyes for a moment and then thumbs through the Bible, looking for a verse.

I see he's in Matthew and I just say over and over - "Lord, whatever You want, I will do.  This thing is in my hands, but my hands are open to receive or give away."

He flips to Matthew 10 and puts the Bible under my nose.  "Read the heading," he says.

I read.

"Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles"

But that's not good enough for me, friends.  And so I ask Craig, "Do you really think this means YES?  I mean, it's not very specific."

He looks at me (you may know the look from your own husband).  "Jen, the exact answer you are looking for is not going to be in the Bible.  I asked Him if you should go and He gave me a section of the Gospel about being sent out."

But I still find myself resisting -- is this word enough?  Is the direction and leadership of my husband enough?  Has God given me what I have asked for -- direction and sheltering from my husband -- and now I have said, "It's not enough?"

I think about the phrases that have been lingering in my head the last few days from different blog posts I've read lately --

relax and have fun
the single spark
simply this.  Go.  Choose. Walk by faith.  Don't stand, doubt, waffle...

I asked my friend, Cindy, to pray.  She responds that she's praying, but she hasn't gotten a clear answer.  My first thought?

Maybe she's not supposed to.

Because maybe I'm just supposed to trust my husband.

And listen to His voice, that gentle whisper that wells in me...

to choose,
to relax,
to have fun,
to revel in a gift,
to not have strings attached,
to not have to earn,
but just to enjoy.

And with this, I will say...


Linking with Tracey for Winsome Wednesday, Jennifer for God Bumps, and Emily for Imperfect Prose.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hank, the Incompetent Dog Walker, and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.  oh! and we now have a mission statement -- check out the SDG page!
He looks pretty pitiful, yes?  All four paws bandaged up because he got out of his new collar, which I fastened incorrectly, and headed through the woods after a deer as we walked to pick up the kids from school.  He bounded through quite a few cacti and through the Texas underbrush which tore up his paws pretty badly.  And, even though it was only 82 degrees, somehow he got heat stroke, too. I guess running full throttle for 10-15 minutes will do that to a dog, or at least, this dog.

Through the whole experience, I had to rely on a lot of neighbors -- some of whom I didn't know.  3 people helped to chase after him. One lady gave me her car, which when Hank finally ran out of gas, I put him in, not knowing yet that he was bleeding all over the place.  Another friend held onto Hank and gave me a bottle of water so I could clean the blood off the seats and floorboards (using the beach towel I found in her front seat, of course).  Did I mention I didn't even know the car owner's name?  And that this was a BMW?  Paul (the one holding Hank) also called Jason (Craig's best friend and our vet who just happened to be off work that day) because I didn't have my phone with me.  Meanwhile, my other friend had to go get my kids and when she got back, helped me scrub down the car with some baby wipes she had tucked in her car.  As we cleaned, we had to reassure all the small children that hovered over Hank that he would indeed be okay.  And then my children started crying.  It was an ordeal.

I felt terrible because Jason had already spent the morning helping Craig fix a dead battery in his car, which still had to be towed to a mechanic.  This was also the second (yes, second) time that Hank had gotten away from me due to my inability to improperly secure and/or hold a leash.  (I mean really, how hard is walking a dog??)

I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet.

Unable to control my tears, I broke down in the car (Craig came and got us after Jason hauled Hank off to the animal hospital).  Over and over and over again, I called myself and idiot in front of my kids (which I never do).  I heaped the blame of an accident onto myself.  I thought about how everyone must think that I am the most incompetent person in the neighborhood.  I called myself a burden and I sunk under the weight of how much everyone had to do for me.

All in all, I kinda went left, ya know?

And the whole experience really shed light on quite a few things:

1.  God provided in amazing ways.  I am just astounded at how He totally handed to me what I needed at the exact moment I needed it.  And all because of a dog.

2.  I care much more about what people think of me than I was (am?) willing to admit.  I mean, as many of you know, I can get obsessed with numbers and scales and competition, but this shed light on how deep my need is for people to think that I am capable.

3.  After I accepted all the help, my next instinct was to figure out how I could repay all these people.  What could I buy them?  What could I say?  A simple "thank you" couldn't be good enough...could it?  I felt so indebted...and I realized just how uncomfortable this made me.

These last two things -- all about PRIDE.  It's another layer uncovered.  Which is hard because I feel like I am always dealing with pride.  But, on the other hand, hooray that there is now space for light to come in and reveal.  Hooray that I am another step closer to being free.  Who really wants to walk around feeling scared that someone else might think they are stupid?  Who really wants to walk around with a mental tally sheet, trying to figure out who owes who and by what deadline?

It's all chains and He is the bondage breaker, the One who ushers in freedom.  And I want to be free.  Don't you?
"Rise up from the dust, O Jerusalem.
Sit in a place of honor.
Remove the chains of slavery from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion."  Isaiah 52:2
SDG Community Builder:  1)  In effort to make sure everyone feels loved here, will you please visit the 2 people ahead of you and leave a comment for them?  (If you are numero uno or dos, come back and visit the last person in the link up).  2) If you are new, type in "I'm New!" as your caption so that we might give you some extra linky love.  3)  Exciting new development in the SDG world -- we are going to be creating small groups so that our community can retain its intimate feel and so that we can grow deeply with each other.  More info to come next week.

(oh!  And guess who I got to have lunch with last Thursday?  The amazingly beautiful and wonderful Courtney from AWIP!!  She's so genuine and fun and all around awesome!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

when you get what you ask for

photo source
 "But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  "No!" they said.  "We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us, and to go out before us and fight our battles."  1 Samuel 8: 21-22
It didn't turn out so great -- this king thing.  On down the line, there were a lot more kings that lead the people astray than led them closer to the LORD.  The LORD knew the best thing was for the people to allow Him to let Him rule over them, but He decided to let them have the consequences of their own choices.

How many times have I begged and pleaded with God to let me have my own way because clearly, to be like everyone else seems like such the good thing sometimes?  How many times have I turned to the protection and leadership of man instead of the protection and leadership of God?  How many times have I begged and pleaded (perhaps even stomped my foot a few times) for something and God let me have it just so I could experience what that path really felt like?

I want to be in a place spiritually where I am careful what I ask for.  I want to put away my stubborn state of mind and submit to what He wants for me instead of demanding my own way.  I want to look to Him for my ultimate security and His idea of what it means to live a successful and full life.

What about you?  Have you ever pleaded with God for something and then, after He has given it to you, you have realized that it wasn't what you wanted after all?

P.S. Normally I would inject a personal story into this post but I ran a 10 mile race today in humid, warm weather and I just want to go to bed now.  :)

Linking with the lovely Michelle at Graceful.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

longing for fruit

Sometimes the fruits are so hard to see.
They remain hidden, blending into the background,
easy to be missed if I don't look for them
with intention.

Today, I must be intentional.
I must cling to the hope that there is fruit,
that the hard work will bring new life,
that the tilling and the toiling,
the fertilizing and the weeding,
will bring growth and harvest.

And not just in my garden,
but in the hearts of my children.

Linking with Still Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Ultimate Blog Party - Hello, New Friends!

My name is Jen and I am so much better at introductions when people are asking  me questions.  But if you are new to Finding Heaven, I do want to tell you a bit about me so that we might get to be friends in this big blogging world.

My passion in life is community, which is surprising since I am an introvert.  I love to write and I (still get nervous when I) speak/teach but if you asked me my title, I'd say I'm a community builder.  I love Jesus and I love to see how He moves within the Bible study that I teach at my church and the online community that He has given me here at Finding Heaven called Soli Deo Gloria. Check out the link and then consider this your personal invitation to join us Monday evenings - Wednesday late night for the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood party.  In addition to the link-up, we also pray for each other.  If you are interested in being a part of our prayer request family, just let me know in the comments.  The exciting new thing is that we are about to have Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood small groups, but no one knows yet so there aren't any details.  Stay tuned... 

Quick Jen facts (& some corresponding posts if you have a few moments):

1.  I love to run.  I can't say that I love marathons, but somehow I've run 2 anyway...and still survived (barely).
2.  I've struggled in my life with food addiction, eating too much to fill a void that which food can never fill. And then there's that shopping thing...
3. I read Charlie and Lola books to my kids in a really bad British accent.
4.  We recently rescued a German Shorthaired Pointer and I'm still mourning the loss of clean floors.  But he is really cute.
5.  My grandmother died two years ago Easter Sunday and I've spent a lot of time grieving out loud here simply because I feel like our culture says grief must end within a time period of two weeks or so.  So, I tried to be authentic with my own so that people wouldn't feel alone. 
6.  I'm currently hooked on Hanging with Friends on my iPhone.  Ever since they put in that little star challenge thing, I feel like I. Must. Play. More.  Clearly, you might surmise I'm a little competitive...
7.  Speaking of iPhones, God taught me a big lesson with mine.
8.  I'm planning a retreat (never done this before) in Austin, Texas.  Wanna come?
9. Blogger's random spacing and my inability to read HTML makes me absolutely crazy.

Can't wait to get to know YOU better!

Monday, April 9, 2012

when the Easter lily doesn't bloom and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
my lilies that have not yet bloomed
I stood in church on Easter Sunday, my hands lifted, my mouth responding in praise.  My feet tapped to the beat and I smiled wide at my children as they engaged in the grand party honoring Jesus rising from the dead.  I hear my littlest say, "Alleluia" and I hear in everyone's voice that same word reverberating.  It's good to say this again.

And yet, this nagging guilt over something tugged at my heart and I could feel it inhibiting my worship.  I would feel my heart swell and then quickly deflate as my thoughts turned the previous offense.  I heard the tape recorder in my mind saying:

He will not accept your praise.
You are not worthy.
How could you have done such a thing.

And then, I snap out of this trance of guilt-mired phrases and I hear clearly:

If you do not accept my forgiveness, what was the point of this day, of this death, of this miracle?

And I grasp hold of this Voice that speaks truth and I remember my humble plea for forgiveness, and I let the answer return to my heart -- the resounding Yes! You are forgiven, my child.  This is why I came to this earth, so that you might be free from condemnation.

I write this for those of you who may have had your joy stolen on Easter morning because of guilt from days past.  I write this for those of you who may be waiting for Easter to bloom inside of you.  I write this to say:

You are forgiven.
Jesus paid the price.
You can walk freely to Him and He will say, I love you.  Enough to die and rise again.
photo source
SDG Community Builder:  1)  In effort to make sure everyone feels loved here, will you please visit the 2 people ahead of you and leave a comment for them?  (If you are numero uno or dos, come back and visit the last person in the link up).  2) If you are new, type in "I'm New!" as your caption so that we might give you some extra linky love.  3)  See below for the finished shirts and let me know if you would like one.  I'm placing another shirt order on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

when the bush doesn't talk, but screams

I've been trying to be intentional about my thought processes this week, this Holy Week.  I've tried to slow down and give pause.  I've found myself identifying more with the crowd instead of Mary, which pains my heart deeply, and yet, I know there is grace.

The crowd wasn't satisfied with how Jesus was coming to fulfill the prophecy.  They hung Him on a cross because they didn't get what they wanted.  Today, for whatever reason, I have not been satisfied, I have not been content with the gifts that God has given me.  I've been busy looking at other people.  I've been wondering, "Why haven't You?"  And yet, here I am sitting in a space for which I have asked and I'm asking when He is going to move me again.  I may not be physically crucifying Him, but I am nailing Him to the cross again with my words of malcontent.

All today, my eyes keep finding this rose bush that I have in my backyard.  It is dripping with blooms, abundant and full in ways that it has never been before.  It has suffered through the worst drought and yet, here it is in all its glory, blooming.

See the abundance, He whispers.  Take in the abundance, the bush screams at me.

It's a pace of slow and I want to go fast.
It's a time of watering deep and I just want a sip from the hose.
It's a time of uprooting those things that I've clung to for too long and I just want to lop off the head.

I want to be different, but really, this just makes me the same as everybody else.

And my heart is heavy, but I can turn this way or that way.  I can drip with discontent or I can gush joy.  I can lament the sad state of my heart or I can revel in the state of His.  I can make this all about me, or I can make it all about Him.

And so, today, I turn.  And I will see.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

the 2nd year without her

April 3.  Easter Sunday.

Two years ago, they fell on the same day, the day my grandmother finally surrendered, leaving all she had done in this world behind, and went to Heaven to be with Jesus.

I thought it was nice of Him to share His day with her.

I am blessed that I was able to spend 32 years of my life with her.  I am blessed that our relationship was not impacted by the miles that physically separated us.  I am blessed that I can still hear her voice and when all elements line up together, I can still smell her scent.

I am blessed that I get to overhear my youngest tell her friend in a random conversation that her great-grandmother made the best monkey bread.  Then, a few days later, I am blessed again when I hear her telling her friend that her great-grandmother, even though she is no longer alive, can still see her.  Then I get to chuckle to myself as she explains to her friend that God gives her special glasses that enable her to see through the invisible wall that separates our worlds.

Last night, I got to see her in my dream.  Such a rare treat, but I think God must know that I'm really missing her as I prepare myself for His resurrection.  Holy Week two years ago, I grieved in anticipation of her death from cancer alongside of preparing to envision my Savior on His cross.

Hearing the Passion on Sunday and remembering the thin skin that clung to her bones, I repeat to myself that death really stinks.  And I start to get in a funk, I begin to get sad, and I start making monkey bread in her memory.  And this week, I don't wash away the return of grief.  I let myself miss her freely.  I breath in the memories.  I look at old pictures.  I answer the hard questions that crop up from my daughter every year, "Why did she have to die?"  I write on my blog the same things I've written for the last two years about her, but sometimes I just need another catharsis.

But on Sunday, I'll raise my hands in praise because my Savior has risen and this act of dying on the cross and rising again means that my grannie is in Heaven.  She is free from cancer, from hurt, from the burdens this world heaped upon her back.

Death still stinks, but Jesus has overcome death.  And so, I praise Him.

If you so desire, you can scroll down memory lane with me...