Friday, March 30, 2012

gift... 5 minute Friday

...joining in with Lisa Jo and her 5 Minute Friday community, again... that place in the bloggy world where we write for five minutes flat on a one-word common topic.  We write because we are writers, not because we want to impress one another.  We write without correction, and then we read each other's thoughts... and I'm always impressed.   

Care to join in?  Today's word... gift.


I write a lot about gifts.  I keep a list of my grace gifts, I blog about gifts... I even wrote a novel about gifts.  I love gifts.  

I'm learning, though, that I'm a bit of a gift snob.  I like the good gifts... no, actually LOVE the good gifts.  I pick and choose... I don't LOVE, in fact, I don't even LIKE the not so good gifts.   I whine and complain about those.  

They are gifts though... the gifts of heartache and shame that cause me to run to the Throne of Grace... the gifts of pain and discomfort that cause me to rely not on my strength, but on His... the gifts of disappointment and discouragement that remind me this world is not my home.

I started a list of gifts a few years ago.  For a long time, the list only consisted of the "good gifts" that I found in each new day.  Gifts such as... a beautiful sunrise, a flower from my girl, a word of thanks from the man-cub, a note on my bathroom mirror from the woman-child.  All good gifts, and my heart was thankful.

Somewhere over that time... He has taken my heart on a life field trip to see the good in all of it... to see that He is the Redeemer and He can take an achy heart and cause it to praise Him... to understand that it is He that makes beauty from ashes, and makes all things new.

I love gifts and listing gifts.  I love, even more, that my Savior isn't finished with me yet.  He's teaching me new things... He's teaching me to count it all on my list of gifts because He is my Redeemer.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

how to roast a peep...

you might have a large pile 
of spring sticks and limbs 
that cause you to wonder...
what to do with these?

you might have a mountain
of landscaping stones from years ago
that cause you to wonder..
what to do with these?

you might have a flock of spring peeps
and a curious mind
that cause you to wonder...
what would happen if I 
combined those two with these?

so, you find a good spot
and sink your shovel
and dig and dig and dig

and dig and dig 
and dig 
some more
while someone else moves stones

heavy, heavy stones
one at a time
in the warm spring sunshine

together, the two of you
with giggles and laughs
work side by side

to build an accidentally
egg shaped 
fire pit for all to enjoy

you add the big pile of sticks
a few at a time
then a match
or two... or six...
and voila!

next you choose your favorite peep
from the flock
to be the lucky one

carefully, you spear it gently
and slowly roast over the fire
spinning it round and round
on your own rotisserie 

you watch the sugar coating
snap and pop
and smell the caramelization
you watch your lucky peep
 turn golden brown

when you are done 
you have a roasted peep
crunchy outside, melted inside...
its what happens
when you combine
a pile of sticks,
a mountain of old landscape stones
and a flock of peeps...
with some curious kids

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

to Uganda... with chocolate

There is something amazing about counting gifts together in this world wide community called the blogosphere.

From my little corner lot, I typically blog early in the morning.  Two kids off to school, one still sleeping... a cup of coffee and my computer in my lap and I'm off to explore worlds otherwise unknown to me.  I click on thumbnails and observe.  I read and I learn.  I sit at the feet of those wiser than I and glean.  There is community in this Body of Christ across the miles.

Somewhere in that gratitude community, I found Kelly... or maybe Kelly found me.  I'm not sure.  I just know that my heart smiles when I see her pictures and read her words posted on Hand in Hand with the Hallahans, from Uganda, East Africa.  I see her life, her struggles, her victories and her defeats.  I can read and I can pray for her, simply because we are part of the same Body... His Body.

Monday, I read Kelly's ongoing list...

I read and I laugh because I know that just two days before my man came home with "some chocolate chips for baking."  Some?!?  Like a dozen bags?  Yes, we were baking for a bake sale but it takes a lot of baking to go through a dozen bags of chocolate chips.   So, I stowed them in the freezer and forgot about them for a few hours, until Kelly's gratitude list prompted the memory of the frozen chips.

What do you do with "some chocolate chips for baking" when you read of a friend in East Africa who sees chocolate chips as a luxury?  You thank God for your husband's foresight and you thaw some chips and box them right up.  Then you and your not-so-little-one giggle as you wonder what shape the chocolate chips will be in when they reach their destination.  

You know, though, that whatever they look like when they arrive, they will be appreciated because you've sent them with love.

And, you pray and thank God for your new international penpals and the privilege it is to be part of a gratitude community world wide.

*** I so had high hopes of this post.  I was going to post beautiful pictures of Ellen packing a box full of chocolate chips.  I was going to take a picture of her taping the box closed and a picture of her at the post office.  Yep... I surely was.... until we got home from the post office and I realized that a box was on its way to Uganda and I completely forgot to document it with photographs.  Oh well... imagine with me, won't you?!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

when grace gestates...

But I have learned in my life
that grace often gestates, like an unborn child.
And when the expectant mother grabs the hospital-prepared
suitcase and screams, "Let's go!" then you'd better go.
All Is Grace
Brennan Manning

I love this!  What a beautiful word picture of the way Grace often floods my heart, soul, and life with grace.  It gestates and it comes NOW!

Life is disappointing... it's what I do with the disappointment that makes all the difference in the world.  Yesterday, I reverted to a 30 year old habit of dealing with disappointment... journaling.  Writing.  Recording in words the hurt, the confusion, the pain.  I wrote for myself and recorded it in cyberspace as a small sacrifice of praising in the storm.    I wrote, I confessed, I praised, and then I walked away... and grace came.

In those after moments of surrendering it all and letting go, Grace came and expanded in that vacant space like a billowing endless cloud.  Every tiny crevice of my scarred soul was emptied of me and my disappointments and filled with Grace.  A day of endless gifts...

... a slow morning to work through my heart issues
... a new book, by an old man, to lead me in this search that All Is Grace
... a phone call and laughter filled with 25 years of friendship
... a new prayer journal and a grace filled lunch with my kindred spirit

... a peace that flooded every moment
... joy 
... loose jeans
... heart rest from battling a war that was already won

... a great morning of catching up on some math work with a happy heart
... good occupational therapy time for Eric
... the chance to pick up 16 pizzas and 90+ popsicles and feed the children at the youth club
... 40 minutes, by myself, in the waning sunlight to work on a new campfire pit

I wonder how many times Grace is waiting... wanting to gestate... wanting to birth out of me the wonder of new grace and I am the one who forbids it.  My white-knuckled grip to my self-righteousness doesn't leave room for grace to gestate.  Instead of surrendering to the birth moment, I push it away and helplessly cling to the poison that fills my heart.  

... today I am, again, grateful for Grace and the grace that gestates like an unborn baby.  Thank you, Brennan Manning, for these words in the twilight of your life.


linking up today with...

Monday, March 26, 2012

when life disappoints...

I have a unsettling way of clinging to expectations.  I have some expectations of how people in my world around me will be/act/do, more expectations for myself and how I will be/act/do... and the most expectations for my God.  I have great expectations for God and what He will be/act/do for me.

This is one of those times when I hate looking at the heart mirror and seeing the reflection.  It's not so lovely... in fact, it's kinda ugly.

That ugly came out in an epic ugly cry the other night.  Deep sobs that cause your entire head to fill up so full that the only way to breathe is to gasp deep mouthfuls of oxygen between the tears.  It was truly that pathetic.

Six years ago, nine days before I turned 37, I had to have a complete hysterectomy.  Trust me... this was not a life expectation for me.  Instead, this journey has been one full of heartache, shame, hot flashes, extreme weight gain, and pain.  In two hours, my body went from one hormone extreme to the other and has never recuperated.  The alternative, though, was to bleed to death.   I only had a choice between the lesser of two evils.

I have fiercely clung, for six years, to the expectation that if I just be/act/do enough, God will restore me to my pre-surgery body... with more energy, less heat, less pain, more confidence, etc., etc.   If I just did enough, He would allow exercise to take the weight off, instead of just being something I endure.  The longer I let this expectation grow, the more fiercely I held on...

...until last week.  In His severe mercy, He is removing my death grip on this expectation.  

His expectations are not mine and my expectations only serve to get in the way of His good and pleasing work in my life.  

THIS... today... this is my life.  There is nothing He has not allowed and if I will only let go, all could be used for His glory.  

Though I despise this large, earthly tent that walks around with aching joints and hot flashes, it is the temple He has chosen, and questioning the "why?" of that only serves to feed the fire of disappointment, self-pity, and personal loathing.  It does nothing to further His Kingdom.

In the midst of the ugly cry and the "it's not fair! routine" the other night... the sweet, still whisper of "Count."

"but, I don't want to.  I can count, and it changes nothing.  It's still not fair."

"Count gifts because when life disappoints, I make beauty from ashes."

So, I count...

... for the man who held me through the night
... for the fact that in 18 years he's never left
... for laughter and remembering 
... for faithfulness
... for this man who gave his word when he said "for better, for worse"

... for a day with the four I love the most
... for laughter as the mancub continues, and continues, and continues to fill his growing body
... for new birthday books
... for lunch out

... for the surprises
... and the smiles that deliver surprises
... for friends who listen and laugh
... for children who love

... for the greenest March ever!
... for the bird's songs
... and the night peepers answers

... for the knowledge that His Word is Truth
... for the way He woes
... for the ways He loves
... for the eternity of His promises


care to join in with the gratitude community at Ann's today and count the gifts in your life?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

birthday gifts... and a birthday winner

these were the blossoms
after the storm last night...
the storm that has been brewing
in my heart, deep within
came out in gale force winds
in the wee hours
suffice it to say...
 I am not aging well

so this morning...
this huge gift
a reminder of the huge ways
he loves me
because he thinks more is always better
and I love him for it

eighteen years together,
boundaries, property lines, and fences
have blurred beyond recognition,
a birthday for me 
and gifts for both of us
new running shoes for him
and books for me...
we are both happy

and tonight
a cookout and homemade ice cream 
shared with the love and laughter
of friends...

everyday is a gift
and it doesn't get any better than this!

unless, of course, it's winning...
you've won the giveaway
and you're right
books are the best gift, anytime!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

these are a few of my favorite things...

Just a few of my favorite things lately...

Ellen's Resurrection center piece...
she made this at our homeschool cooperative last week
and we've watched the grass grow
I love this!
(apparently her teacher found it on pinterest, 
I can't tell you where...)

rain and thunderstorms...
I have a love affair with these!

my totally fake spring birds nests
I have two thanks to KMart

sushi for supper...
who knew?
I've always said I hate sushi
and I loved what Chad ordered

but, I loved my 
macadamia crusted sea bass better...
Noa Noa for dinner,
there's nothing better!

and these four
who ran/walked a 5K this morning
while I delivered goodies to a bake sale
and then made it to the finish line
to cheer them on...
of everything... they are my favorite!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

courage, creativity... and giants

I'm learning courage, and how to be brave... at all but 43 years old, I have much to learn.  

I'm not good at the whole being brave thing.  I'd rather stick my head in the sand blissfully than to stick it out courageously.   Most days, I'd rather hide within these walls with these four I love the most and just be.  For years, I blissfully lived this way... until, a stirring began and flamed into a fire in my heart.  A fire to be a writer. 

Then I read, and Emily says, "create art that matters."  She's talked for so long about creating art and being brave and stepping out courageously that I believe her.  I read and I think I can do these things... creativity and courage.

I listen to Ann... the one who has inspired me much.  She tells me to get out of my comfort zone.... because when you have experienced Grace, you cannot not tell.

I read, I listen, I hear, I see... and, yet... I fear the giants...

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to 
which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! 
Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, 
and the cities are fortified and very large.
Numbers 13:27-18

I wander into our local Christian bookstore, yesterday, on a quest for birthday gifts.  I stand and wait while she rings up gift cards and take a deep breath...
" you ever stock independently published books by local authors?"
a sweet smile, a query to the manager followed by a gracious "no."  and then a whisper... 
"is this a book you have written?"
I slipped her a business card with title and link and notice Jen and her new release staring at me.

I fear these giants... the ones whose books stare back at me while I quietly slip a mere business card with a link to an eBook.   

I smile dejectedly, trying to hide.  Ellen skips out of the store and into the sunshine with her smoothie and her smile.  Me?  I just try to escape. 

My enemy pounces...
...who do you think you are?
...this land is inhabited by incredible giants, go home.
...give up

Through the chatter of my girl and the sunshine on my face, I hear the whisper...

The first lesson in learning how to be brave?... 
stop listening to the father of lies

I am the Way,
and the Life

seek Truth

be strong and courageous
for I am on your side.


giveaway still open for 2 more days!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

His loving mercy

I can't help but love the days when my God changes up my plans and gifts me with reminders of His tender mercy.

I woke, this morning, to another "no" in the quest of promoting this book.  Another incredibly gracious "no, thanks, but we wish you the best."  

In this journey, I find myself so very thankful for the mercy of my God who has been incredibly kind and merciful to this tender heart.

This morning's gift came just 10 minutes later in the form of a phone call from my long time friend and Emily's guidance counselor.  Two times a month, Carmen organizes the entire school into community service teams and relies on parents to help drive.  Ellen and I often drive to a nursing home with a great group of boys.  Today, though, the phone call and the plea to cover for someone else... and go to a farm.

"Take Ellen!  She'll love it!" she said.  "And, you can sit and read a book, if you want."  

"I'm in!"  

Ellen helped get a pony brushed and ready for a pony party this weekend.  I think she loved every single minute of it.

...and me?  Well... I didn't read a book... instead, I sat at a picnic table on a most gorgeous March morning and wrote.

The gift of time to work on a sequel.  Time to do what I love to do...

...all because of His loving mercy and the gifts He bestows day after day.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

it's my birthday... giveaway and another freebie

Well... it's really NOT my birthday... just yet.  Soon.  Very soon... as in Sunday, soon..., in honor of yet another year of age and all that hoopla that goes with it, I've decided, after 3 years of blogging, to offer my first EVER giveway!  

...this is a wall art sticker that my almost 13 year old gave me for Christmas this year.  I love it!  It hangs above my tub and reminds me daily that everyday is a gift.

I like this wall art sticker so much, that I went, after Christmas, and purchased one to give away.  I have been waiting for the perfect time to do a giveaway and realized that a birthday deserves a gift, right?  

Between now... and my birthday {Sunday}...  I'm hosting my first ever blogger giveaway.  And, on Sunday, I will have Emme help me randomly draw one winner for their own wall art reminder that EVERYDAY IS A GIFT!

You can get one entry for...
... leaving me a comment here telling me your favorite gift
... following this blog
... leaving me a message on facebook

and for a bonus entry worth 2!! ...

...incidentally, today truly is the birthday of my blogging friend, Heidi.  Not only do we share the same name but Heidi is just five days older than I am.  Click over and wish her a very happy day and earn 2 entries for the giveaway {just come back here and leave a comment letting me know that you did}. 


and for all... another freebie... the first five chapters of The Secret of Counting Gifts... enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

gifts and giving... and a freebie for you!

It's late... but it's still Monday... still the day I have chosen to be my "counting day."  I join in with the gratitude community at Ann's to count the grace gifts that the Great Gifter bestows upon me... without prejudice to my failures, my unfaithfulness, my blemishes.

... and my forgetfulness.  My soul forgets much!  So often, I think "this, THIS is a gift!" only to forget in the next moment.  I forget and never remember again.... I list those I remember, lest I forget.

... for a friend who listens without judgement
... for accountability
... for "so, what are you going to do about it?"
... for open windows in an empty parking lot on March 19
... for the bugs that kept flying in the open windows

... for the color of new green
... for sunrises and sunsets
... for new friends who generously share their front row seat to the sun setting
... for following the signs of a bonfire and surprise visits
... for adventure

... for mid-morning texts "can I take you out to lunch today?"
... for a marriage that has weathered much
... for quiet conversations amid the noise of life
... for a man who knows what I don't say
... for the ways he answers without words

... for children who love me, who love him, who love each other
... for those who say "he's such a good kid!"
... for others who say, "she ministered to me today!"
... for the compliment of "I love that girl!" 
... for family laughs and family fun

... for the quiet whisper tonight "how long will you listen to his lies?"
... for the taste of freedom
... for redemption
... for resurrection
... and new life in HIM!

.... He is faithful and gifts and gives and gifts some more.  More than I could ever ask or imagine.  He is that good... all the time!


For your family's Redemption Celebration... a free gift for you and fun for your family...

HIStory Eggs!  A Redemption Celebration for the entire family... 12 lessons of redemption from the first sin to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Explanation, instructions and template can be found here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

You Are Already Amazing... a DaySpring review

Sometimes you can judge a book from its cover... 
or at least in the mind of an 8 year-old.  

It was Ellen who opened the box with the latest book for me to review inside, and it was Ellen who said, "I like this book!"  without having read a single word.  

Sometimes you get pulled into a book from its cover and its title.

...and, sometimes, you open that book with it's engaging title
 and amazing cover,
 and you realize you are sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee.

Holley Gerth is that friend, and You Are Already Amazing is that book.

With sweet words and deep understanding, Holley addresses the issue most of us women face... a hard time accepting that we truly are amazing.  We tend to see ourselves as less than someone else through comparing ourselves to others and who we think they are.  We often see ourselves as less than them as we change diapers, clean toilets, and tackle the endless mountain of laundry facing us.

Not only does Holley tell us that we are amazing because of Who created us, she reminds us that He has an unique plan for each of us.  We are not called to be anything other than what He has equipped us to be.

Using her experience as a personal coach, Holley gives thought provoking questions to help each of us understand our strengths, weaknesses, and our unique gifts.  Understanding who we are is the key to discovering what makes us amazing.

At the end of her book, Holley has also included discussion questions for individuals and groups to study deeper... to go a little further.

Sometimes you realize that there is some wisdom in an 8 year-olds words, when she says "I like this book!"

You Are Already Amazing is available through major retailers or through DaySpring, as well as an entire new collection of coordinating gifts.

***disclaimer... I received this free book through my affiliation with DaySpring, I received no other compensation.