Quick Reminder!

This is a quick reminder that I have moved! please hop on over to dancingonthedash.com for future posts and updates an announcement and the chance to win a beautiful gift from a beautiful agency. Blessings!

Time for a Cool Change….

bird-silhouette-hiThis is my last post at this address! Because I’ve MOVED! My husband secretly bought me my very own self-hosted site as a surprise for my birthday (last December) and we’ve been sorting it out ever since. 

And TODAY is the BIG MOVING DAY!

You have 2 options:

1. Maybe you’re like me and you get WAY too many things in your inbox and you don’t have time to read them. And I might be on that short list of things to delete. That’s ok. No feelings hurt or harm done… I GET it. This isn’t “good bye” it might be a “see you later”.. or something like that. But at least come over and see where I live now!

Email Follow

2. BUT if you want to keep hearing from me, pop on over to

dancingonthedash.com and  re-subscribe. AND if you do, there’s a special surprise announcement which applies to You!


Either way, thank you for your support in these last (almost) two years as I’ve sorted out who I am and Whose I am. That’s really where I intend to live from and I really hope you’ll join me there because, well… I’ve grown to appreciate your company.

DWS_1144Blessings!

Lorretta @ dancingonthedash.com

Baby Jesus in July

Cool Mint waterHot, hot HOT!

It’s hot. And muggy. And it’s Georgia in July so DUH, it’s supposed to be hot. And muggy.

I live in a farming community about 2 hours from the coast. It’s hot but it’s been worse. Truth is, despite today’s heat index of 99, so far this has been a mild summer.

Truly, we don’t have it nearly as bad as the folks out West. Pray for them…it’s bad.

Here, after several years of drought and scorching heat, we’ve had nearly a month of daily rain with more on the way. A hurricane maybe. So far, I’ve heard very little complaining. The farmers are thankful and I am too.

I also live in a 1920-era, solid frame house with hardwood floors and 11-foot ceilings. #BLESSED.  It’s not fully updated but we do have indoor plumbing and central AC! Praise Him!

However, we’re careful to keep the thermostat on 80 for fear of causing a shift in weather patterns from all that cooled air escaping through our poorly fitting doors, ridiculously thin windows and meager insulation. We’ll fix that. Someday. Maybe.

Ah the life of the “self-unemployed” artist! But I digress….must be the heat because because today I’m supposed to be sharing one of my family’s Christmas traditions! Say what?!?

Yup, it’s Christmas in July!

1017345_10200919278840759_325606932_n

 

My sweet friend, Katharine Barrett, has invited me to join in a month-long look at some Christmas traditions and ideas she’s sharing on her darling site, Just A Thought.

I first introduced Katharine last November (when we were actually preparing for Christmas) as she released her marvelous Advent devotional guide, Walking to Bethlehem.

walking book cover 3If you don’t know about Advent, this is something to consider. It’s such a historically holy and sprit-centering way to focus heart and mind in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s a journey…to Bethlehem.

Advent became part of our family’s celebration when our children were young and we’d been attending a church which taught and celebrated the tradition.

Neither of us came from a very strong Christian background. and as children, Christmas had been for us what it tends to be for most of the world still today: a Santa-spiked gorge-fest of materialism and mayhem.

We were trying to establish a Christian home so we invited this tradition into our celebration along with a few others over the years. The Advent book we used with our children then, is a wonderful story called “Jotham’s Journey“..so much thrill and adventure leading up to the birth of our savior,  Jesus Christ! I wholly recommend this book!

I confess, we didn’t do ANYTHING flawlessly but we did strive to be intentional. And as Advent helped us make the journey to Christmas Day, Christmas morning brought another little memory-maker we’ve enjoyed through the years.

Like many families, we read aloud account of Jesus’ birth and pray before diving into the presents however, somewhere along the way, we added a little “twist” to the practice which has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Advent Wreath 2012Early in the season, one of the first things we do is assemble the advent wreath and arrange our crèche (manger scene).  This is done at least a week BEFORE the tree and any other decorations so we have time to fix our focus (as much as possible) on WHY we are celebrating.

As the pieces are arranged, we intentionally do not put the baby Jesus in there with the others. He is held in a secret
location… until Christmas
-6morning.

NOT because we believe or teach Jesus has not come until then…no, but because on that morning, after we pray, we open our stockings and there…in one of them is the “baby Jesus” figure. The person who received the figure places  it with the others in the crèche and also reads aloud the account of His birth. Yes, it’s precious.

rLIegOver the years, each of  our children has had their moment (not always with great joy but always with great reverence and responsibility) to receive -9“baby Jesus” in their stocking. The best days were when they were young enough to REALLY want that privilege –especially as they first learned to read and could hold a bible of their very own.

Ian's Christmas List


I know each of them did this but I could only find one “Christmas wish list”
where my youngest wrote out his wishes. There, you see it, last but not least (maybe?) he prints. “babbe Jesus in my stocking”.  My heart still flutters reading this today.

-8Our children are nearly grown and I have no idea what they’ll hold onto as they begin families of their own but I’m hopeful we’ve given them some solid ground to build upon.

We’re not there yet, but the grandbabies I trust, will eventually come. I hope these are some of the traditions they’ll grow up with too — somehow I think they will.

And when they get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I like to think there will be hugs and kisses, plates of cookies and laughter and little presents waiting for them.

Most of all, I look forward to the shared joy of listening to one of them read aloud the account of their Saviors birth because that year, it was their turn to “get baby Jesus in their stocking”.

After all,  it’s a family tradition. That’s the beautiful thing– it’s never to late to start.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

This month I hope you stop over the Katharine’s place to learn more about Advent and towards the end of the month she’ll have a little present for those who do.

A few of our other friends will be helping her celebrate this month as well. Join us will you?

July 17th,  Baking with Nancy at Words From The Homefront
July 24th  Creative Crafty stuff with Lani at All This Crazy Grace
July 31st   Organization with Debi at Under The Date Palm Tree

Linking arms with Jennifer too:

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ain’t NOBODY got time for that!

Restored Creation

I read a great article this past week addressing the question of heaven and who’s going there. The answer was surprising:

“Those who can stand it.”

Those who can stand what the love of God really means and what grace really looks like, who then receive, redistribute and strive to live in it.

It gave me a lot to think about. Can I stand it? Surely not on my own.

Because real love and real grace are messy;
there’s nothing tidy about them at all.

I used to believe I could come reasonably close to grasping how deep and wide is the love of Christ but the longer I live, the more I see how each and every time I think I’m getting close, I flat out miss it. 

I need real love. I need real grace.
In order to give it, I need it in all it’s messy glory.

I miss it with my family, my neighbor, the person in the pew and the girl in the mirror… I just fall short. Of course, God’s word tells me why. Even now, in my state of consciously developing salvation, I’m still a sinner. A sinner struggling down the path in the company of other sinners.

it’s not easy to stand firm and stand strong when it seems the winds of culture are blowing in at hurricane force packing the punch of an F-5 tornado.

Sometimes it’s no easier when everything seems to be going my way and I get stuck in the molasses swamp of complacency and self-satisfaction.

Complete Awareness

But make no mistake: struggling
is not a sin.

Giving in, giving up or giving away– THAT is the problem and it’s why we’re in the mess we’re in today.

The battle raging all around is not a new one. God’s word assures me there’s nothing new under the sun so even as I click open my browser to scan the headlines and status updates, it’s just the same story repeated in diverse fashion: Good v. Evil.

While the battle is the same, the battlefield over the years has slowly, but intentionally, crept into areas and ideas we may have once thought were sacred and untouchable. Not anymore.

This is the ultimate battle for allegiance staged
on the age old ground of definitions.

It began in the garden of Eden. Remember? God created and gave form and substance to everything we know and see. He defined it all at creation….as small, as big, as deep and as shallow as you can get. God created and defined all emotions and relationships. God defined and then set the boundaries.

Enter Satan and with one question he plants the seed of doubt:

“Did God really say?”

A single hint of suspicion sets the stage for confusion, resulting in a rebellion that’s had us scrambling ever since. SIN.

Have you seen it in children? Rules and boundaries are set. Almost IMMEDIATELY, They want to see how far they can go, if rule “x” applies to circumstance “Y” and… WHY?  Testing. Defining.

I don’t have to look as far away as my children to see evidences of this behavior in my own life – times when I pushed boundaries and definitions simply to get my way or attempt to justify a choice I selfishly wished to make or a lifestyle I wanted to have.

People. That’s just sinful nature and
no legislative act can change this fact.

Courts are attempting to redefine what’s already been defined for us so society can do what it wants to do. As if the man-made can nullify the God-breathed. This is sinful rebellion.

Arguments are encased and encrusted with imitation knock-offs of the family jewels,  “Love and Justice”, while forgetting these two precious realities are also, only defined by God. Defined in ways far more glorious and valuable than the cheap and tawdry definitions trying to take their place.

We forget that the God IS the very definition of love anchored in the bedrock of justice. Not mushy, gushy Hallmark sentimentalities. God’s love is self-denying and substitutionary; an unwavering sacrifice yoked with an unwavering justice.

How then, shall we live?

I fully believe we must stand and give an answer when challenged but must not get bogged down there. To do so is to be drawn off course or distracted by the smokescreen of a defeated enemy standing on the sidelines enjoying the show while he can.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

One of Jesus’ hardest teachings is found in Luke 9:60:

“Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Our call is to “Go ye therefore” and live the answer out loud!

 

God has already defined for all time, our job is to represent here and now…for such a time as this and to live fully INTO the definitions we’ve been given.

To love rightly and well, to love hard and sacrificially.
To be Life-giving, Life-supporting and Life-affirming.
To BE Truth and Love; not simply speak it.

No doubt the stakes are high and the fire is getting hotter. Jesus said these would be some of the signs of the times. But don’t get blown off course. Be moved and be motivated, firmly anchored and remembering:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

DO it.
LOVE it.
WALK it.

Yes they will know we are Christians by our Love.

Complete love Gospel

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Sometimes, I Love here:

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Real-ology 101

Reason for the Hope

It’s that time of the year…

~   when temperatures soar and the days lengthen, ripen, sweeten and swell with the heaviness of the season’s fruit. Slip-n-slides, sprinklers and swimming pools fill with flinging and flailing, splashing and laughter.

It’s summertime and for many of us, the month of June also ushers in the 3rd largest celebration on the church calendar: Vacation Bible School!

I love me some VBS!

I don’t know if it was a Backyard Bible Club or a Vacation Bible School–but I clearly recall at least one childhood summer making yarn and stick “God’s eyes” and slurping drippy popsicles while watching the flannel-graph come to life before my very eyes! Whether or not I understood it was about Jesus…well, that’s a different story.

But you know as well as I do;
precious seeds were being sown.

Now, as a Christ-following adult, I look forward to this week as much as possible. I mean, let’s face it; it’s hard work to have this much energetic fun day after day for one week solid!

So when the sign up sheet comes around, once again I prayerfully accept the blessing of teaching the rising 7th grade group. For some reason, this used to be hardest slot to fill but honestly; these kids are my favorite. No lie.

At our church, this is the last stop before Youth Group in the Fall so these kids come to the table already feeling like they’ve earned their wings. Most likely, their parents MADE them come this week and they are certain they’re way too mature for VBS. So yeah; it can be a challenge.

It’s one I heartily accept. The best part about this group is: I don’t have to treat them like babies. While they, like me, still love to play (and should), they’re willing to shoot straight and open up… most of the time.  So I shoot straight with them too.

Yeah, there’s a theme and a book full of games but I check that mess at the door. We pass out bibles and for 40 precious minutes, read the Scripture for the day and talk.

Right from the start I know one thing about these kids: the world they inhabit and are inheriting is vastly more complex than it was when I was their age.  It’s terrifying if you think about it. The playground taunts no longer get left behind as bullying and bad news chase them down across a 4G network.

Then there’s the problem of real. What’s real anymore?

Photoshop, “reality” T.V., auto-tune and Youtube have blurred the lines so that it’s deathly difficult to discern what the truth is about anything anymore.

So before we start reading the story from the Bible…there’s an honest question I have to ask:

How can we know it’s true?

Oh well, you know;  “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so..” but today, the fiercest place of attack is whether or not the Bible is true and can we trust anything it says. So it’s important to take the time to simply show them yes, it is.

Some of these kids have been in church since they were only a sparkle in their Daddy’s eye. They cut their teeth on goldfish crackers and apple juice. They know the stories, they know the ‘right’ answers…but do they know the Savior? Can they trust His Word?

Obviously, one week of five 40-minute lessons is not enough time to make a watertight case but it’s plenty of time to offer a simple apologetic lesson on who to trust, what to trust and why we can trust in God and His Word.

If we can’t trust it then, why are we there?

This world is a storm and they need to know there’s a solid place to anchor their faith so they can begin to own and understand what they believe. I tell them the same thing I’ve told my own children:

” It’s not enough for you to say you believe simply because I do. God is not going to ask you for my (your parent’s) credentials. But here is how you can believe and why.”

It’s a privileged moment.

Only then can we spend the time in our lessons, free to learn about fear and faith, those God uses, how and why because we are anchoring in the solid bedrock of absolute Truth.

We learn the reason those lessons and stories have been preserved in the Bible is not only for the sake of learning about individuals, their journey of faith and a time ANCHORED in history…but also because God has given us this  pattern of faith to follow and this is where it leads.

We learn the 12 of us gathered are there by His invitation; it’s no accident. God is speaking and calling us by name because there’s work to be done by us for Him… at any age.

They talk. They listen. They are silent.

They sniffle a bit as I read from Crazy Love, about Brooke Bronkowski, the 14-year-old girl who saved her baby sitting money to buy Bibles for her unsaved friends and started a bible study at school before her death.  Two hundred more people attending her funeral prayed to receive Christ and received one of those bibles.

They watch in awe as, on the final day, I play the Lifehouse video “Everything”, (which gives me chills every time) because they see although the darkness of this world will try to drag them down, their Jesus will fight for them and WIN!

They see, they hear, they begin to understand how, even and especially now, they can believe too.

This is a sacred work.

The Smallest things become great

The week is over and we’ve gone our separate ways. I pray the work in their hearts will continue and they’ll never forget.

For me, I know I won’t forget how one young lady pulled me aside sharing how God is talking to her and asked some very important questions before going home. The eagerness in her eyes told me everything.

She believes.

We prayed and suddenly she grabbed me in the tightest little hug and with Her face buried in my chest, between tears she said, “Thank you…oh thank you. This means SO much.”

Oh. my. yes.
I love me some VBS.

**********************

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the holiest hush

We are tenantsI’ve been quieted…hushed even as I’ve taken in the weight of world events both public and private these past few weeks. Stunned speechless but not at all silenced in my soul. It’s been loud in there

I’m a Christian and though my hope is anchored, I need to be honest:

I struggle.

Here, in my heart I’m all mixed up with the extremes of mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It’s graduation season…it’s tornado season and many seasons in between. The words of Ecclesiastes 3 ring loud and clear:

“to everything there is a season
and a time for every matter under heaven.”

For birthing and dying, planting and plucking,
For killing and healing, breaking down and building up,
For loving and hating, weeping and laughing
For mourning and dancing, scattering and gathering
For embracing and pushing away, searching and giving up
For keeping and throwing away
For tearing and mending…

For love, hate, war and peace…and importantly,
a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

I’ve seen them all in the past few weeks…
and maybe so have you.

Who does these things better than God? Who better than God knows the appropriate times and measures for each to happen? He alone possesses the why of it all. Sometimes we might get to know a smidge of the why, but more often it’s better that we don’t.

And yet we’re so Broken nestsurprised and angered, because for some reason when the bottom drops out and the sky caves in, we reckon this is not how the story is supposed to go. Even though it’s exactly how God has shown us the story goes.

Because it’s terrifying.

If someone points this out, there’s an uproar from every direction as if, they’ve behaved inappropriately and accused our beloved God of molesting his creation because, after all, a loving God would never allow…. would He?

He would. He does. He has.
And He will again.
Why
?

I don’t know exactly. But I do know there’s more to it than we can see and understand on the surface.

I do know that there is a measure of God’s holiness we tend to ignore which exists in exact equal proportion to the love of God we want to claim and profess.

The fact is, without God’s holiness, His love means nothing.
We don’t like to think about that at all.

And I believe the issue is not to be centered upon whether God caused ______________ or allowed ____________.

The issue for us is what good can be born there?

Because there is a greater goodness far better than what we can see and tend focus our lives, energies and hearts upon. Something better than our little kingdoms filled with the bigger barns we build so big and wide so often on shifting sands. I often forget. Do you?

Because there is a greater Kingdom and the purpose of all things is to help us refocus and to keep teaching us how to set our hearts on building there, by sacrificially serving others here. I can be so selfish. Are you?

Because we can’t build in both.

We know it and we feel it. The tension is something we live with every day. And there are days I just want to ignore it and act like it doesn’t matter.

Then it rains.

Broken Egg

It rains on both the just and the unjust…. the tsunami, the hurricane, the tornado, the fire, the bomb, the monster, the suicide, the divorce, the diagnosis comes without warning and our little kingdoms and misplaced securities are revealed for what they are, blown to bits and washed away.

Never without purpose… not ever lightly, no. There’s always a groaning– a tearing. A pain-filled rending from on high that rocks the world and shakes it’s foundations so that ONLY what is everlasting and unshakable will stand.

And it does stand….have you seen it?

Just past the violent wind, the earthquake and the fire….when the “noise” stops and there’s a holy hush and God speaks.  He says:

“Return to Me.”

I’m just thankful He’s still speaking.
I am grateful He is near.

Then God fills the voids in ways we never could have recognized or allowed otherwise. And we, His Body, are invited to rise up and enter in to bring aid and comfort to the broken so God’s love can finally be experienced.

The stories of bravery, sacrifice, miracle and thanksgiving rise to the surface and God’s presence is felt and He can finally be spoken of aloud.

The Gospel rushes in with chainsaws, blankets, clean water, a listening ear and real hope so God can truly be seen, heard and maybe finally received for a salvation and a Kingdom so much greater than anything that was lost.

Afterwards things will never be the same because they are not supposed to be…they must be different. 

And in these moments, we must strive to be different too…
even though it hurts now. Feeds on Christ

As we come alongside, help pick up the pieces we must serve and love others and live by example from the hope we profess because we know this world really is not our home, it really is all about something more and honestly? The best is yet to come. Do you believe it? I do.

Even while I struggle.

************************** Some fellow strugglers can be found here:

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Mother of the Year, Runner Up; 21 Years and Counting…

Letter I

am rounding the final bends of active motherhood with only 4 more years to go before I shift into a more passive role.  I will NEVER stop being their mother but my relationship with them will and must change.

Perhaps, like me, you started the journey with stars in your eyes and a heart bursting with hopeful expectation.

Those early newborn days were the dawn of a whole new world for me.  I held my child, fell so deeply in love, trusting with all my heart that all in order to be a good mother I must generously apply the best of what I knew (worldly pop-psych), and then do opposite of all my parents had done so wrong.

I was a great preschool teacher and babysitter; creative and so much fun– so I would be a great mother too, right? Easy breezy!

And, (if you’re done snorting and laughing now….) you know that NOTHING could be further from the truth…..

Lawd, there were days, the voice of Gone With the Wind’s “Prissy” rang clear in my mind: “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

It scared. me. to. death.

Because what none of us is prepared to factor into the equation is the same parent problem God deals with all the time: free will.

About the time I’d get one factor under semi “control”…something else would spring loose and cause internal panic and external chaos.

Did I mention I was terrified? Yeah.

Once I realized how hard…how daily and how endless the challenge was going to be and how ill-equipped I really was, well then, I was terrified of doing it wrong and ..don’t miss  this….VERY concerned about what other mothers were thinking about me.  Because, of course, they were getting it “right” and nobody invited me to that information meeting.

I honestly believed I was one of the few who felt this way.
I honestly believed I dare not tell anyone how I felt.

I had no idea what to do about colic, night terrors, imaginary friends, tantrums, picky eating, obsessive-compulsive nighttime rituals, home  school, dating, college, FAFSA…gah!

And you know what they say in the “big leagues”; you’re only as good as your last “at bat”. Y’all, I  couldn’t get it right long enough to cover the distance. I’d be chuggin’ along, juggling responsibilities, chainsaws and feral cats … doing fine until that ONE moment…strike three.

My running joke was “There goes Mother of the Year– again! Dang…I was SO close!”

Truthfully, God has grown and raised me, drawing me closer to Him through this experience than I knew possible.  I’m convinced, motherhood, like other relationships, is designed by God supremely for that reason. The other benefits are just icing on the cake.

So, I learned how to calm colicky babies, pray through night terrors, set an extra place for imaginary friends, redirect tantrums, puree veggies into the mac-n-cheese and how to patiently endure the night time routine…a thing of the past I miss so much.

I read, played, got dirty, painted, yelled, cried, laughed, learned, taught, fought, failed, yelled and cried some more…and said I’m sorry….a lot.

I’m amazed. Yes, by what God has done, but also….by YOU. These communities out here in the blogosphere and in(RL) making themselves accountable and available to one another.

I’m amazed when I see mothers out here sharing and loving in community, leaning on one another for advice and that extra sniff of hope which allows us put two feet back on the lego-strewn floor and try again.

Today, mine are 21, 18 and 14. I’m blown away by the hand of God on our lives and evidenced through theirs. Oh the gracious grace.  I see also, I didn’t do as badly as I thought either. Wanna know some secrets I learned?

  1. Have a humble and teachable spirit; start over 24-7-365 if necessary.
  2. Bunt, switch hit, steal a base…whatever….just stay in the game.
  3. Find community, be honest, learn and grow.

And oh Mommas…don’t judge one another; mercy one another, walk side by side and share, share, share. Not only the “pretty” stuff, share the “poopy” stuff too because…well, it’s the fertilizer of life and we need it all to really grow.

There. You are hereby crowned “Mother of the Year” and I leave you with this poem hung on my wall and in my heart for 21 years:

I tried to teach

thankstomom-copy1

This article was originally posted at girlgrowsup.com on May11th as part of her “Thanks to Motherhood series. I wanted to share it again here. Go give my girlfriend a visit too! She’s PRESH!

stumbling blocks and altars

Rough Paths of Righteousness

It feels good to sit here now….the outside air has cleared my head and sorted my heart in just the right ways and the press of rough work and gravity against my soul have settled me into a quiet and peaceable place.

I can still feel the phantom weight of the 3lb hammer in my hand. A tingling buzzes along my arm from the pounding of the board and brick against the ground I’ve been shaping into a path. Dirt and dust still clings to my skin and nostrils. It feels good and alive.

I’m building in my herb garden. A path…a prayer bench…a place of quiet repose in the presence of God and any or all of my 6 cats!

Prayer Bench

It’s been a 3….4, (I don’t know five?) year passion of mine to turn this patch of sour dirt outside my kitchen door into a savory herb garden. The patio, the path, the prayer bench — these were afterthoughts. 

Truth be told, as time spent with this dirt unveiled the story within me, those things just invited themselves into the project. Art is like that.

I started bricking it when I was Brick and patioangry. I mean, the “tearing-up-the-ground” and “pounding-on-the-earth-with-heavy-tools”  kind of angry… when I needed a place to refocus my heart, destroy the lies and rebuild in truth. Brick by brick.

The brick is reclaimed from a scruffy patch of woods behind our house…discarded, forgotten and half-buried in a tangle of roots and vines, left there from a structure torn down long ago.

Somehow, along with each brick I redeem from that dirty, tangled mess, I’ve redeemed a piece myself in the process. It’s been a wholly and holy therapeutic endeavor… rough and raw..edgy and beautiful.

Like my life.

I do this because it’s in my creative DNA but also, I do this… because it’s something my mother did as well. Watching her from an early age, I learned how to turn a desolate piece of dirt into a slice of paradise. No matter where my mother found herself, she left NO stone unturned and very little unpainted in her path!

I’ve been thinking a lot about her as I go along with my heavy hammer, brick and dirt.

She’d like it, I think.

This Sunday is, of course Mother’s day but this Saturday would have been her 68th birthday.  It’s hard to believe she’s been gone for almost 10 years. Ten years and I’m only beginning to know how to grieve.

Floral collage

My mother was a hard woman who’d had a hard life, difficult to please and very private. I confess, I feared her more than I was able to love her and I really didn’t understand her. But I’m starting to…now almost 10 years later..

I see why she pounded the earth too.

I’ve spent the past 3 months guiding a group of beautiful women… breaking free and learning how to tear down strongholds, sort the precious from the worthless and rebuild with the good.  And many of the things I used to carry around in anger, confusion and darkness against my mother and myself, have melted away in the healing light of God’s love and truth.

What remains is precious….refined and beautiful. So while these thoughts and memories hurt, they heal at the same time.  Put in the correct place and position, these things are valuable. I can finally look at them straight on.

My one regret is that I was really very unsuccessful at sharing my relationship and love for Jesus with her. In fact, I’d go as far as to confess that I was probably her greatest stumbling block.

I hate that.

I realize it now and it breaks my heart.  I fear  I was often more interested and invested in speaking the TRUTH of the Gospel over her life but not so good being the LOVE of the Gospel when it really mattered. I’m afraid that I didn’t really know how.

The truth is; I didn’t know how to LIVE with my mother…
and I certainly didn’t know how to help her die.


Fear will do that.

But there were dozens of grace-laced moments I can cling to and this is something I know I must absolutely trust to the hands of God. Freedom has always been His ultimate plan. I can….I must rest there.

So I’m re-building, using those stumbling blocks–the ones I laid in ignorance and those placed in my path by others…. the beautiful, the broken, the rough, worn and discarded

and I’m building an altar.

It’s an altar of remembrance…not for me or my mother, but of God’s faithfulness “thus far”. He’s been faithful to see me through the triumphs and the tragedies and when I’ve stumbled and fallen; He was right there to hear my repentant cries and set me on my feet again.

And while this garden I’m building really isn’t for her, or about her, I have some of her things which are precious to remember: a rusty wagon and coffee pot, a beautiful amaryllis, an angel statue and this plaque that reads, “Old Gardeners never die, they just spade away.”

That pretty well sums up my mother.

Old Gardeners

As I work, no doubt there are precious pieces of her present and working through me with every swing of the hammer and with each brick I place on the tar papered dirt path. 

Honestly, I think she’d be proud…and if she was here I like to believe she’d be rebuilding too…both of us; side by side.

*********** linking up with Nacole’s Concrete Words at SixIntheSticks and these other beautiful places I am privileged to walk from time to time:

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where story is born


Form and Substance

 

 

 

Where is story born?

I tend to believe that stories are an eternity in and of themselves, spoken into existence at the beginning of time when God, the original Author  said,

“Let there be”.

Stories just are. And they’ve always been.

And a writer begins when the Author of the Story comes near and whispers your name into every line…when HIS eternal story becomes your story too, and you just know it’s the way He’s going to speak to and through you for the rest of your life.

At least, this is my story. I know it’s different for everybody.

In one way or another I’ve always been a writer.  I didn’t know it was God speaking to me in the midst of those stormy years.  I realize it now and see how He sent some wonderful people my way to add to and encourage the story in me along the way.

There was Mrs. Gardener, my sixth grade teacher. 

Life was hell at home, period. School was not only my great escape, it was my lifeline; an oasis and the one place I could safely shine.  Mrs. Gardener managed to bring out the shiniest bits of me every time. I didn’t have many friends but was absolutely certain she was my friend and that was good enough.

My memory is sketchy (it was about a hundred years ago!), but I vaguely recall once all my regular class work done, she’d let me choose a “story starter” from the file box on her desk. I loved that thing!

I’m sure I wrote just gobs of fantastical 6th-grade nonsense but Mrs. Gardner made me feel as if I was one of the greatest writers ever to cross her threshold, often sharing my work with the class.

She gave my story a voice.

I know now she also must have known what kind of story that little ragamuffin was really living outside her classroom. I’m certain. Because one day, she asked me to stay after class. Nervously, I waited at my desk until the other kids left all the while wondering, what had I done wrong?

As the last student filed out, Mrs. Gardner called me over to her desk and handed me a flat box. She seemed a bit nervous herself. I can’t recall what she said except, maybe, ” I thought you might like this.”

A sweater. A beautiful salmon pink sweater just my size…

a treasure.

I’d never had anything that nice … I’d have to hide it in order to keep it. Stunned, I probably wore that thing slap out before the year was done!

Ultimately, the gift Mrs Gardner gave me that year was so much bigger than a sweater box. She looked deeper and she saw me.  Mrs. Gardner encouraged the writer in me, gave me wings and guided me to see through the lens of imagination to a place beyond my circumstances . Best of all, 

she added “hope” to my story.

Fast forward a few years to high school. Different town. Foster home. New school. And the story goes on.

Enter Dr. Gary Kerley, my English teacher. Insecure and lonely, I’d gone through a lot to get to this chapter of my story and was less likely to trust and share it with anyone. My voice was nearly mute with only a whisper of hope left.

Apparently, it was enough.

First day impressions: A short and round bespectacled man with a very wry and very dry sense of humor: THIS was Dr. Kerley! Just inside the classroom door,  a Far Side calendar turned to this cartoon (I’d never seen these before) and I just about wet. my. pants! Ermehgersh! 

boneless-chicken-ranch-far-side-247x300

Walking into his classroom that day in the middle of the school year wasn’t as challenging as it could have been. By this time, I could hold my own.

The challenge was in writing for Dr. Kerley and it wasn’t long before he had me digging deeper than I’d ever dug before. He encouraged me to carry the weight of a heavier story and to write from that place.

somehow he made me want to go there every time.

And oh oh OH….the dreaded term paper with all the necessary accoutrements.

GAH! How I hated those things until, once upon a time, THIS happened: 

Term Paper

It was E.M. Forrester’s “A Passage To India” Geez Louise! And yeah, as you can see, it was late (remember…I HATED writing these things!)

But those words:

“You got the gift!” He said.

My life changed right there. My story was born anew and I have never been the same. #truestory.

I’ve been taking this trip down memory lane partially out of gratitude for these (and others) who helped shaped the writer and woman I’ve become…to say thankyou to them but also to say thank you to ALL the “Mrs. Gardener’s” and “Dr. Kerley’s” out there today.

You know some of them…they touched your life too. You are one of them…touching the life of another and breathing new hope into their story today.

I see it happening all over the place as we take the time to step into each others stories; helping to sort or carry the heavier bits because we understand what difficult business life can be.

My friends..the Author births this story IN us,
in order to bring the HIS story to life through us.
It was never meant for us alone.

So, we choose to listen. We choose to see. We give ears to the stories of others and sometimes,

we help to give their story a voice.

I saw it HERE this past week…in the life of a precious Sister who took the time to be a “Mrs. Gardner”in the life of one of her students. Wonderful.

I saw it HERE through the eyes of a precious Brother who listened with his heart and gave voice to the story of another who’s earth story is about to come to a close.

And HERE , HERE and HERE   where stories are invited and shared for all to see so that healing can be wrought as we place our writing on the altar before the Author. It’s a beautiful thing.

And you…. What’s your story? Tell me, I’d LOVE to know.

PW-you-are-a-writer-writing-contest

{Author’s note: I am re-posting this as part of a contest found HERE sharing posts of when we KNEW the truth about being a writer. Hop on over!}

 

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well-seasoned

Calvin-on-the-Purpose-of-Writing

For a brief  eight months I lived in Louisiana with my birth Father and his family. During this time, I was introduced to some of the best food I’ve ever eaten made by some of the best cooks I’ve ever met. I mean it was

DELICIOUS.

There, my sweet Aunt Della taught me a few things and although I am by no means an “accomplished” Cajun cook, I’m proud to say I can turn out a decent jambalaya and gumbo and I can surely make a roux!

Aunt Della taught me about the Cajun “holy trinity”: bell pepper, onion and celery…the three main ingredients found in nearly EVERY dish on the Cajun’s menu. Contrary to popular belief, while some recipes are known to have some “kick”, good Cajun food is not always spicy….it’s simply well-seasoned, balanced and flavorful.

Seasoning is the key issue.

I’ve spent time thinking about seasoning these last few weeks as I’ve wrestled with and have begun to unravel answers to one of life’s pivotal questions:

Who am I?

Probably much like you, it’s a question I’ve been trying to answer for most of my life. I have a whole host of words I could use in response:

  • Woman
  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Friend…

 the “no-brainers”; easy to recognize, easy to proclaim and easy to “own”. But it goes deeper still. I am also:

  • Teacher
  • Missionary
  • Writer
  • Artist
  • Editor
  • Musician
  • Thinker…

Sometimes weightier, these are my highlights– by no means comprehensive in describing the person I’m learning to be or these gifts I’m discovering how to lean into.

So…uh…excuse me Lorretta, what’s the point?

(Hang with me….I promise there’s something more going on than some sort of psycho-self-reveal)

See, I’ve pondered this for a while especially since I’ve stepped out into the wide open range of the blogosphere and have been traveling it’s inroads and outer circles now for over a year.

There’s a lot of talk in these places from people I hang out with about mission, purpose, size, shape and reach. We talk about our readership and influence and seeking to discover our “niche” and audience.

So, I feel it’s important to be clear about my purpose for writing here. I think at this point, I owe it to my readers and to myself to state what it is I’m doing and why I will keep on doing it…and for Whom.

See, there’s a HUGE overlay for all those words and titles I used to describe myself.

I am a Christ follower.

 I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me but it’s worth stating again because you need to know this is much more than a simple, surface adjective or modifier placed upon my life and work.

It’s important because it might be easy to assume I could write about whatever’s on my heart and mind–express my opinion and perhaps throw in a little “Jesus seaaoning” to balance out the “flavor” while attempting to make what I have to say a little more palatable…sound a little more “spiritual”.

No.

It’s something I need to be careful and acutely aware of at all times.
Cuz we don’t need more “Lorretta” in this world; we need Jesus.

{Oh God, I pray, help me to never abuse these great gifts in this way.}

I am aware that if each one of those words and titles, gifts, talents and purposes were to be stripped away, at my core and on my surface…

all I am… only…ever… is HIS.

 I will and must always write from this place and this awareness God has birthed in me. It’s the overflow and the natural byproduct of my deep conviction and all-encompassing world view.

I will write about God and what He has done in my life and what I see Him doing all around me in the lives of others because

It’s where my identity begins and ends.
It’s where I live because it’s who I am.
It’s how I see the world He loves.

And the words written here are, I pray, from the Me you’d discover anywhere we’d meet.

These words from Colossians 4:5-6 challenge and inspire me:

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

This is one place and space I must make the most of
EVERY opportunity God affords me.

I’ll hold NOTHING back from Him if it means He can get the glory and another can learn more about this great God I serve. If my pain, my mistakes, my joys, embarrassments and triumphs can be used to guide another along the path to knowing Jesus better as I go, then

my greatest joy and service is that His MESSAGE would be found in and through my MESS.

It’s time.

  • So yes, I will continue to share stories and insights.
  • I will go as God leads and lead as God guides.
  • I will seek to share the saving Gospel and shine the Light of Jesus into the darkest corners of this part of the universe.


My prayer for you is that as you join me, with the Spirit’s help, we will together taste and see that the Lord is GOOD and my words here will be flavor-FULL of Jesus, balanced and well-seasoned with grace and mercy.

By His First Work

It’s my calling and mission.
It’s who I KNOW I am.
Do you KNOW? I really want you to…so let’s find out together.

{Some of the wonderful, beautiful folks I “click” with can be found here}

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