Monday, July 10, 2017

LIVLUVD

But because of His Great LOVE for us, 
God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, 
even while we were dead in transgressions- 
Eph. 2:4,5

Out for a six mile run in the civil war battlefield one sunny morning, 
I was almost home 
when I saw a car with a license plate that read 
LIVLUVD.
 It reminded me of a movie I had recently seen 
where the main character was grieving the death of his six year old daughter.
 Some time after her passing, he began writing letters. 
Letters to Love, Time, and Death. 
These were described as 'three abstractions' that are always with us;
 part of who we are. 
Interesting.


It is quite natural for us to think 
life begins with love, 
ends with death, 
and time is everything in between. 

 love+death+time=life 

Love is our friend, 
death is our enemy, 
and time....
well,
 we just don't know....
what to do with time. 

The message on the license plate is a good one. 
Makes me stop and think:
 LIVLUVD.
 Live LOVED.
Before our life began, 
before love,
 we have this life line, 
this cord, 
that feeds us, and comforts, and sustains. 
And when time is up, nature takes its course. 
Space is crowded, walls are thin, painful contractions 
deliver into the hands that cut the cord. 
Separated.
Death begins. 

Think about this for a minute.
 From the moment we are born, we are dead in our transgressions. 
Separated from life. Separated from God. 
And we spend our life striving to become more alive. 
Reaching for that cord. 
The cord that supplies the life blood. The scarlet cord of hope. 
Rahab dropped it from a window- 
giving hope to all who are separated- 
the scarlet cord that gave lifeblood to generations after her 
until the cord reached Jesus Christ, 
descendant of a prostitute, 
the Son of God, 
who bled his own lifeblood to be our life line. 
We reach for the cord-
 the bloodline of Jesus-
 and we find the way to life. 
New life. New love. 
And life begins.


We are delivered into arms that hold. 
And then there is breath. Oxygen filling lungs. 
Love filling hearts. Love begins. 
Days go quickly, trying to slow time down.
 Live for today.
 Enjoy the moment. 
There was a song I heard a few years ago. A beautiful song.
 Gentle sounds of the piano keys soothed my heart 
and I had to stop. 
To sit still and let the notes
 comfort my aching, closed up, broken heart 
that could barely beat anymore. 
As I listened, 
I became vulnerable, 
not expecting the words that came next. 
Their beautiful sound penetrated deep, 
ripping my very being into pieces as they said to me-
 'tell your heart to beat again'. 
Reminding me-
'you don't live there anymore'. 
But I didn't want to let go. 
Time had stopped.
I could feel myself breathing, but didn't feel alive. 
I knew then, it's not death 
that takes our breath away, it's life. 
To tell our heart to beat 
when life threatens to take our time- 
or is it time that threatens to take our life?-
I knew I needed the strength
of the arms that hold me,
the arms of LOVE.

We spend our life learning to love.
 Looking for love. Looking for God. 
God is love.
This is how God showed His LOVE among us: 
He sent His one and only Son into the world
that we might live through him. 
1 Jn. 4:9
And in the end, 
time begins.
If we have found love, we have found God. 
We leave this world 
for eternity, 
time, 
with no beginning and no end. 


So, when we stop to think
about how to LIVLUVD
could it be  
time is first, 
then life begins- 
with death, 
and we remain dead,
separated from LOVE 
until we become alive in Christ,
 alive in LOVE, 
and when we find LOVE, 
we are alive 
for eternity.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so Great is His LOVE 
for those who fear Him....
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 
the wind blows over it and it is gone, 
and its place remembers it no more. 
But....
from everlasting to everlasting 
the Lord's LOVE is with those who fear Him.  
Ps. 103:11-17


Friday, June 30, 2017

A Planting of the Lord; for the Display of His Splendor

May 8, 2017. Scrolling through my inbox this morning I found it.
 5:15 am and I can't see without my glasses. Raindrops falling on the sky lights. Waiting for coffee, dripping to fill the empty pot.
 I tap the word 'edit' in the top right corner and begin to delete, selecting 32 messages that i don't even bother to open. 
This one says, "For When You're Just Surviving-Remember This". 
I had forgotten all about it. But there it was, post marked at 5am on May the 8th, my birthday, with a message that read 'just for you, for today.' I almost missed it- but it really was for me-and I remember now. The story was for me. When I needed it most.

The original blog post was written by Rachel Anne Ridge. Here is her post that I first saw a few years ago:
(I'll continue MY STORY when you get to the end.)

for when you're just surviving



I planted it more than a decade ago.

A lavender plant in a four-inch pot that held a tiny dream.
I was so hopeful back then. We'd moved to the country from our suburban neighborhood, and I imagined that someday I'd have a beautiful lavender farm on this place.
I could just see it: row after row of fragrant purple mounds that would be part of our new life and business.
But first, I'd see how well lavender would grow in the hardscrabble ground. I knew it wouldn't be easy. People told me it didn't have a chance. I chopped a hole in the rocky soil and set it in anyway.
"Go, little baby," I urged it. 

And then life got tough.

The economy tanked.
We had to work hard to make ends meet, all while trying to finish raising our family in the whirlwind of high school and activities. The stress made my chest hurt at times. My husband and both lost sleep. We were exhausted, spent.
I abandoned the lavender farm dream, and went into survival mode.
The little plant was nearly forgotten in the years that followed, but somehow it hung on through blistering heat, record-setting drought, ice storms, and finally, torrential rains.
Every now and then I'd pass by it on the path, and see the small mound of silvery green foliage and marvel at its tenacity. Though alive, its growth was stunted by both the elements and my lack of care.

Not once did it flower.

It just survived.

It was like all of its strength was used up to simply stay alive, and there wasn't a single drop left over for something as frivolous as a bloom.

I understood, only too well.

Sometimes, just staying alive is the best you can do.


Surviving is victory.
 It is victory enough.

Then the other morning, Tom pulled me outside. "You'll never believe it!" his eyes danced with a secret. 
Our footsteps hurriedly crunched down the path on the hard ground. He brought me to a standstill in front of the lavender and pointed with a flourish. 
"Take a look at this."

''Aaaaaahhhhh!" 

My breath escaped in an awestruck sigh.
Fresh purple blooms floated above the green mound like a tiara. The warm breeze made them dance, tethered on their stems lest they frolic away.


lavender

I sank down in front of it and slowly rubbed the colorful florets between my fingers. The distinctive scent immediately permeated the air and lingered on my skin, and I had to smile.

For When You're Waiting


Baby, you survived.
You made it.
Just look at you.

FullSizeRender-5

The ground around you is nothing but rock that doesn't hold water.
And yet you found a way to put down roots.
The drought nearly killed you, but you clung to life anyway.
The harsh elements seemed to stunt your growth, but braving them made you resilient.
You didn't let neglect stop you. 
You just kept going.
Year after year.

FullSizeRender-3
And even when no one gave you any hope of surviving...
you did it anyway.

IMG_0595


You are strong.
You are brave.
And you are spectacular.

FullSizeRender-4

Sometimes, just surviving whatever it is you're going through is victory enough.
You've got to just hang in there. Keep on going. 
Cling to life.
Hold tight.
Because there will come a day when your roots will hit water, and your leaves will open, and you'll send up new shoots that are made to hold flowers like banners.


The sun will come out...and you. will. blossom.
Your day will come.


Maybe it's already here.
It's the day when "just surviving" is over, and your flowered tiara will float above you in a fragrant testimony to all that you've weathered.
Victory, my friend.

Remember this:
You will survive.
And you will bloom.

 FullSizeRender-6
The desert and parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.....
they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
Isa. 35:1-2


Oh, the strength I found in those words: You will survive, and you will bloom!

Steve and I were in Cape Cod, celebrating the first anniversary of our honeymoon and took a little bike ride to Cape Cod Lavender Farm. Such a cute little place nestled in the woods at the end of the dirt trail. Rows of beautiful lavender cascading across a sunny field. Dried and tied in clusters hanging inside the tiny old shack. Soaps, lotions, bath salts and tea for sale. I tell the friendly girl at the register about the story. The story about surviving.

We took our treasures with us. Wrapping them carefully in brown paper as we began our journey home. Down the winding path, pedaling across the small New England town back to the Inn. I had my own story to tell. My own story of surviving.

It has been six years since losing Fritz. Back then I didn't think I could survive his death, nor did I want to. I wanted to spread myself out over the place where they laid him and sink down into the ground with him. The six years that he was sick were long and painful-
but not nearly long enough. 
The disease had a way of changing our perspective on time. It was a progressive disease- which meant the only way to measure progress was to measure his decline. We couldn't look forward, only back. Yet we knew, with the passing of time, time was growing short. We held on to every drop of every day, hoping for more time together.  Six years.

Months and years passed. I lay there under the cold and dark. Seasons passed. There was pruning; hard painful pruning. Winter frost. 
Drenching rains that were sure to drown me. 
Somewhere down in the hard, rocky soil my toes began to find water for my thirsty soul. 
One day the sun began to shine, warming my tender, fragile heart.

It makes me think of those I love-
 living your own story- 
trying to survive. 
Lying on the cold, hard ground, wishing you could sink down into the dirt- 
to hold their hand and hear them speak- 
once again.
Those who feel the painful cutting of the pruning shears- 
taking you in a new direction 
you never planned to go. 
Those who wait for winter's wind and cold to pass, the bitter pain of frostbite, 
feelings of loneliness
 taking tender shoots right off.
Those I love who struggle to survive because at first,
you don't even want to survive.
And then you know, 
you want this pain to end, but you don't want it all to come to an end. 
Like the butterfly, growing wings,
it is only in the struggle to survive that we become strong enough to survive.

My sweet smelling lavender treasures came home with me.  I found another lavender farm out in Harrisonburg, and another in Leesburg. A beautiful drive in the country to discover more treasure. I bought two. And planted them in my front yard. 
And today, one little 4" seedling has a beautiful purple crown.
This one survived.
Six long years later-
my heart blooms, once again.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buried Treasure

June 25, 2011
Isaiah 40:31
Buried deep where no one can see. Covered over with six feet of earth. Grass grows. Birds come to sit. Quietly hidden, deep within. Painful times one can hardly bear, laid to rest. Lying still. Jewels tucked inside. Terribly beautiful jewels. The pain is so raw, I cannot bear it. The emotions so strong, it is frightening. Loneliness, heartbreak and fear. My feet are planted. I cannot move. But if I don't, the pain will consume me. Tomorrow threatens to come.

No one truly sees. The world does not know. The world lies. But God does not lie. From the bottom of the sea, inside the belly of a whale, Jonah prayed. "In my distress I called to the LORD and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry."
One way or another, I will walk among the living. So I close the door to my heart. Put joy on the outside.

Gather the treasures. The ones that sparkle and the ones that tear me in two. The ones that bring laughter and the ones that bring tears. And when the tears come, gather them too. Don't try to stop them. Let them fall. Feel the pain and lay that too in beside the grief. Grief that doesn't end with the passing of time. Rather the passing of time allows the grief to become part of who I am. Tucked in along with peace and strength. They grow together.

Five years. The world says the time for grief has passed. That I can't grieve and find new happiness at the same time. The world lies. Time is ripped from my hands as days are ripped from the calendar. Pages fly. A day, a week, a year. Time flies. Five is so long and twenty five is way too short. Twenty five years of love and joy, hopes and dreams, success and failure. Twenty five years does not 'nicely fit' into the time the world allows for grief.

So it goes in the box. The treasure chest. Buried. Only to be opened when a memory invites itself. Driving across town, traffic is stopped for a hearst and the procession of loved ones that follow close behind. Suddenly, unexpected, and uninvited. It comes like a waterfall. The weight is heavy. Crushing. It takes me to my knees and I feel it again. I am there in the middle of this ocean and I can't even breathe. I feel it-all of it. I choose to feel it and not push it away. Because that's all that is left. Let it come, remember till it hurts- and never forget.

I know now what I didn't know then. The pain of remembering keeps him alive. I wipe my face. I am OK. I close the lid once again. I bury the treasure deep in my heart. And I realize the pain of remembering keeps me alive.
God sees my heart. He sees the depth of my pain. He hears. He knows. He comes close to my broken heart and heals it. And He promises, "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who summons you by name."  Is.45:3



Friday, May 8, 2015

Tribute to Fritz

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 
Proverbs 4:18.

Is it OK if I just ramble a little bit this morning? Today is my birthday and I have so much to celebrate! I am so thankful for all God has shown me and the path that He has lead me down. Heart aches and all. 
Last night I got a facebook message from a sweet young lady who became part of our family as a teenager. She was always one of the kids' favorite babysitters and attended every youth group event and mission trip we ever took. When Kathryn was in kindergarten we were planning a party for her 6th birthday. Guess who was tops on the guest list....Keri (who was 18 at the time). Now the two of them share an alma mater as graduates of Radford University.
Keri is now married with two girls of her own and is a school teacher at Farmington Elementary School in Culpeper. This is the same school where Fritz taught for several years before going into youth ministry. (Same school where Fritz taught Nancy's son Brian when he was in the 6th grade. And the same school where Sharon taught before leaving teaching to pursue another path.)
So when Keri sent me a link to the newspaper article that featured her story of becoming 'teacher of the year' my heart leaped for joy. And I was so blessed to read her words giving tribute to Fritz. His birthday falls on Mother's Day this year. I can't wait to share this story with his mom and dad who will certainly be blessed as well. They knew Keri like a grand-daughter. 
His life lives on, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
We continue down the path of life even when its hard, knowing we can place our hope and trust in the Light of world and we will not walk in darkness but in the light of life. 
Let your eyes look straight ahead, 
fix your gaze directly before you. 
Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.


Proverbs 4:25,26

Sunday, April 27, 2014

God's Love Reaches

Ann Voscamp once said in her book 1000 Gifts, 'Why all this running?' Of course that question got my attention. She didn't literally mean running. She meant running around. Running from. Running to. She was asking herself where is satisfaction in life- why always running for more, for better? What do you run from? Who do you run to? My mind immediately went to all the miles my legs have logged. Why do I do it?
Because I can.
But mostly because that is when I hear God speak to me.
More and more so in recent years I spend much of my time alone. Not by choice. My challenge in this season of my life is to not allow loneliness into my head. God has called me into this place of being alone, but it is the devil who invites loneliness to come along. I am learning the way to victory in this struggle is in giving thanks, all the time, for all things. One of the ways I am learning this 'eucharisteo' thanks is through the running.
The sun has warmed the air of spring. New life is coloring the world around me as winter waves goodbye. I am excited to run and become part of the landscape- to see and hear, to smell, to breathe deep- and thank God who does all this. So I run through neighborhood streets, past Tulips and Daffodils, past dogs barking from backyards, across the highway lined with fields, fences and tall grass. Geese flying home. Deer grazing by the edge of the woods. I turn at the brown sign announcing the entrance to the Civil War Battlefield. The road is narrow and peaceful, winding down and around and up again. Deeper into the woods, across the creek. Only the sound of the breeze blowing in the tops of the trees.
I am alone...but loneliness did not come with me. I pray-"God will you speak to my heart? And help me to listen so I will hear you. And help me to look so I will see you." I look for Honeysuckle. It is tangled and twisted along the side of the road. Fragrance is bottled behind the blooms that have not yet burst. White Dogwood blossoms are sprinkled along the road and far into the woods. No wonder they are named the state flower of Virginia.  A long time ago the wood of the Dogwood tree grew straight, strong and tall but as the legend goes, their trunk is now gnarled and twisted. Some say the Dogwood was used to make the cross that Jesus hung on. Who knows if that is true but it is interesting to think of the symbolism associated with the Dogwood Tree. If you look closely at the pure white flower you can't help notice it is shaped like a cross, with a crown in the center. At the ends of the cross beam, where the nails would have held Jesus' hands, are small holes in the petals, with a drop of red dripping. Almost looks like it tore, by mistake, and then you realize every single blossom is like that, torn. Dripping. Every single one. No mistake.
It's perfect. God's simple design in the flower of a tree to symbolize the beauty of the King reaching out to me. To the world. Good Friday has passed. Resurrection Day has passed. God has a story to tell.
The blossoms are high in the trees. It's difficult for me to see the detail of the flowers as they reach for the sun. My eyes follow the small branches, winding around and through oaks and maples and weeds, looking for the trunk of the tree.The branches are long, they bend and twist. The trunk of the tree is nestled in the leaves, far away from the edge of the road, among much bigger trees. The trunk is firmly planted, roots growing deep into the ground, giving life to those beautiful blossoms that have grown toward the sun. Blossoms that have grown toward the SON. God's love reaches me.
I see it clear. From the dark place, deep in the woods, into the light. His love reaches. His love IS THE LIGHT. The white blossom at the end of the long branch tells the story of the One who is the Light of the World. It tells of the vine and the branches. The one who does not remain in the vine bears no fruit. We, like the blossoms of the Dogwood have a story to tell.
God's love reaches for me. I see Him. I hear Him. His voice is the only sound. He reaches me and I am not alone. God reaches through the trees in the forest. He reaches into dark places in our life. He reaches across oceans. Across time. Across hurts and failures and cross words. He reaches into brokenness. And brings healing. Beauty. Light. New Life.
I find a branch that is hanging low. I pinch off a twig with two day old blossoms. I carry it with me as I run all the way home. I place it in the vase on the table, empty ready to fill.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Looking Through the Window

   I sat down yesterday morning to think about this naming of gifts. So simple, yet so full. So much harder than I thought it would be. It's really not hard, I just make it hard. I don't want to name the simple, I want to name the miraculous, but I don't see it. I look around the room and try to name gifts. Things? Gifts from others? People? The quiet? Nothing seems like gift until I begin to name. Then all is gift. It seems silly to write down the things right in front of me. I try to name something meaningful and significant and I end up trying to remember yesterday's gifts and God tells me, "No, learn to name the gift of right now. And do it right now." I think I shouldn't bother with the every day stuff that happens over and over. The simple. And then I know, it is in this simple naming- everyday, all day, right now, that I will find the miracle. Somehow the miracle of the unexpected is right here- in the right now. The grace-joy-thanks miracle. It is this learning eucharisteo that brings the miracle.
      I was filling with excitement as I felt His Spirit teaching me, showing me His endless stream of grace, busily scribbling in my thanks journal, naming scriptures, looking for the unexpected in the simple, in the expected. In the every day. Trying to focus on the right -now. Today, not on yesterday. I kept looking. My thanks journal fills with thoughts, some are my own, a scripture, a song, a daily grace to capture feelings, memories, phone calls from loved ones, time spent with friends. There was a scripture on my mind from the day before. I knew it was yesterday's gift but I began writing it down in my thanks journal anyway. The verse simply said, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God.....". Then I saw another, "It is good for our heart to be strengthened by grace....". And then another, "Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise."
       The sky is still dark. I know it will begin to change soon and so I glance up from my notebook. All is black. Stillness. Inside and out. I thank Him. My author friends Sara Young and Ann Voskamp share thoughts, and I write, naming gifts. Every few minutes I look up again to see if the sky has changed. From my seat, I can look through the window and the dark sky looks back at me. Another scripture comes to mind, "The light shines in the darkness but the darkness does not overcome it." and I keep looking. Waiting, I write some more. Read some more. Just a hint of light showing through. When I watch, nothing changes, but if I look away for a minute, then I see it, growing brighter filling the sky. Breaking of day- like breaking bread. I give thanks for the filling, for my daily bread, broken for me.
        My thoughts were interrupted and, just for a minute, I left the room. When I returned to my chair I looked out the window again. Now I am moved to tears at what I see! It is the unexpected in the expected! In the everyday, in the right now! Joy filled my heart as I witnessed the miracle. The sky was on fire, spilling red across the horizon. It was magnificent! I kept looking, fixing my gaze on it, steady, hoping to spear it through with my eyes. To capture it. But it lasts only for a moment. A miracle of God's love for me. I write it down. Day break. I say thank you.
        Kristin is coming home from California today. Leaving at midnight and flying all night, arriving on the east coast in the morning. I give thanks. I continue reading where I left off. Ann is on her way to Paris to meet a friend. She is naming gifts. The man sitting next to her in the airport plays a gently melody that calms her fears. When she boards the plane the window seat is empty. She is thankful she can at least look out the window. After a long night of flying over the ocean, she rubs the sleep out of her eyes. When she looks out the window she sees it. The miracle- breathtaking breaking of day. Day break. Red sun rising. She names the gift, "sunrise bleeding love up over all the world." I am speechless!! This is crazy love! Endless stream of grace. I close my books. Sit quiet. Amazed by grace. Filled with daily bread. I say thank you.
          But God....is not done yet. I thank Him for MY window seat. I thank Him for sunrise, bleeding love, for breaking of day. I pray for safety for Kristin, flying from west coast to east, arriving at the break of day. She sends a picture along with the message announcing her safe arrival. She is sitting in the window seat looking through the window and she captures a picture, a beautiful picture....of the sunrise. Day break. Amazing how God shows us His grace....every day.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Remember

Today
there is disconnect
and loneliness.
Sadness
that is not expressed
with words.
Thoughts
are our closest friend.
Memories
that haunt us
also comfort us.
Pull back
while hanging on
tightly.
A child's game
of Tug of War
but so much more.
Hang on tight
while letting go.
A time for healing
....but for who?
Peel fingers
off the past
while gripping tight
to here and now.
A glimpse
across the room
and our eyes meet.
I am you.
You are me.
I feel.
I love.
I lost.
As you have too.
Our worlds collide
in that lonely place.
I am with you
and you with me.
You have been
here before.
Each time
you stand tall
with Grace.
Strength.
I learn from you.
For a second
I see into
your eyes.
Your heart.
But only
for a moment.
To look longer
is too painful.
To never see
is to never understand.
To hold your gaze
brings me
into your world
and you
into mine.
To let go
of your gaze
is to let go
of the moment
let go
of the life.
Still bound
but finally free.
Released from the chains
bound by love.
Always.
Love Always.