Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Minute Friday :: Open

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Open ::

When I think of opening myself, opening my heart, opening my soul, opening the possibilities within and without and opening the dreams and hopes too easy to bury…

I think of birth.

I think of what it is to open wide the unknown and to find the only way to experience new life.  If all remains closed and there is no room to grow then we become dead in little ways that spread a thousand places.

But in the opening we experience new life.  We open most the deep and vulnerable. the hurt and raw. the weak and weary. and we open not knowing what it will bring and knowing that there is no guarantee of being protected from…anything.

But we also know that it is either open or shrivel up and keep what’s ours protecting it from what it cannot be protected from anyway and losing it most likely because it, because they all, want to live.

So we open ourselves and we open the journey of our kids to a faithful God and give Him free reign over us all.  It is only our heart that opens for He already holds it all, but when WE open we open our eyes to His strength and vision apportioned for all of our needs.

Open is what we long for in every moment of fear and doubt because it was a long time ago that we realized we didn’t want to live any other way.

So, here we go!


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Thoughts on Home :: Anchoring the Unknown {part 3~the future}

more beauty...clouds&sunsets 040If I had written this post a week ago it would have held more certainty and the coming together of this journey with Home in 2011.

But, today, right here, right now, there’s more of the unknown that is hanging around this heart and soul and its mirrored right through a thousand parts of me.

There’s the unknown of the place, I mean that physical space, that I will call ‘home’ a year from now.  We’ve been praying for a while for the right place to make our new home when we move overseas.  I’ve prayed for a place that we can stay for a while {I mean, please, at least 2 years, but hopefully 10!} mostly for the sake of my dear little ones who want to take that deep breath with us.  Could they have a string of Christmases in the same physical place? 

But I do not know how that prayer will be answered.

I’ve prayed for all of the relationships that will enter our lives.  For the teachers, classmates, language tutors, flower, fruit & vegetable stand owners, neighbors, friends and well, many more that dot a city. And while we have some amazing friends already there, there are so many empty spaces yet to be filled. 

And there’s the unknown that is cutting through me most deeply.  How will those we leave behindmore beauty...clouds&sunsets 050 be a year and more from now?  There are many things that encourage and there are the things that have just surfaced in the last few days that have broken this heart of mine to a degree that I cannot remember since the death of my mom.  In some ways, even more so…

And I do not know what journey those I deeply love will face.  And though my heart be with them and the prayers I pray be given for them, I will be so limited an ocean away.  And this is the unknown that threatens to undermine every truth embraced about Home.

I would have scripted a coming together of some very big pieces in my family that would send me off graced with a great peace.  But, that is not what He who holds it all has chosen to give.

And as I think about this journey Home that has defined this year, I can only surrender what aches.  The shouting reality of the exiles we are is what meets me today.  The pain of displacement, disunity, depravity touching us all has struck a chord so deep within and all I can do is let go of my understanding, controlling, fixing…

The Home that anchors my future is made of promises.  As I seek to teach my son, I know a promise is something that is yet to be, but it is special because we trust in the One who promises.

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And so I round out this series on Home in the place my God has designed for me.  The pain that is shooting through allows all that questions to rise right up and, as with anything that is true, defines itself as the light piercing the dark.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  He sees the tears that bear the hope of a Savior and so I’m drawn into Him all the more for the pain of exile and the sure promise He.is.with.me.  Here.  He wraps up all of the angst with the ever-vision of Him as the One who never changes always holding the full promise of Home.  And every place that lies in the shadow of the unknown draws in the full air of Him and feels the tingling strength of this Living Anchor. 

{I’m rounding out 2011 with a weekly series:: Thoughts on Home.  Home was my word for 2011 and the choice was full of irony and searching.  I am sharing that story here along with the priceless lessons I have gained.  Go here to read the introduction to the series and here to read Part 1 ~ the Past and here to read Part 2~the Present}

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SoliDeoGloria


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Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Home :: How the Pieces Become Whole {part 2~the present}

sunset, souderton parade, around the house 081And so it is that home finds me now.  As I walk in these days where all that is static and mine in the material is being released and yet the vision beckons.  What will you do with me now?  I hear her say in the gentle voice of a friend with a touch of mirth letting in on a surprise that’s coming.

And this present journey has been just that. A secret kept from she who fully plants her heart in a home that can be touched and tasted and decorated and dusted, yet revealed to those who are willing to dream beyond what is and look to what comes on the other side.

And that, my friends, is worth every bit of a long and tiring journey.

You see, the secret is that all that we ever love of home is truly never lost.  The pieces of my life, my home, form the deepest fibers of my being.  They have borne the grief of losing all that I thought they were and have shown themselves made of the eternal.

Nearly ten years ago, when my mother went Home to Jesus, I lost every physical sense of home that I had depended upon for so long.  I spent time running away from what I misjudged it to be only to find in the end, that it was unbearable to lose such a mother, such a home, such a place of formisunset, souderton parade, around the house 101ng and belonging that can never be re-created in its constant, abiding, extending-from-the- womb, carrying-so-the-woman-be-formed-in-me love.

And as I have grieved the fragments of memory and the pieces so far from whole that remain in my four siblings and father and me, I have learned what Home is.

By stopping the running when it hurts the most to stay, I have come to know what I could not know anywhere else.  By allowing the questions and the angst and the sadness of what is gone to reach the deep places, I have learned a coming Home to the only Love that is really present in all of our moments.

And I have learned to know the love of the Abba Father God in a way that makes the eternal touches of my mother’s love more present than they have ever been.  It is a mystery given to those who grieve in hope.  It is an acceptance of the in-part that guides our longing to be fully known.  And it is a living with some part of us here in time and space and another that begs for and is met with glimpses of eternity.

And when the Divine sieve reveals the true pieces of home, it is how those fragments that remain become a whole.  Bound by the mortar of the in-between, we allow the Spirit to make us whole through the realities of the here and now transfixed by the heavenly joys to come, and we rise resilient, full of the secret joy of Home. 

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So when I look at the sunset over this ridge where just a few miles north lies my mother’s grave, I see not what is gone, but what I possess within of a Love that defines all that I am.  A love that honors that mother and a love that has the strength to come home still and be present with what I’ve lost even as I am formed by the hope of all I have yet to find.

{I’m rounding out 2011 with a weekly series:: Thoughts on Home.  Home was my word for 2011 and the choice was full of irony and searching.  I am sharing that story here along with the priceless lessons I have gained.  Go here to read the introduction to the series and here to read Part 1 ~ the Past}

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SoliDeoGloria

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Five Minute Friday :: Connected

 

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Go ::

Like the string of lights around a tree, so we are in Him.

Connected as the light of the world flows through us.

But I think about the lights we would have growing up and when one light went out the whole strand didn’t work right anymore.

Sometimes it is this way with us too?

Sometimes when my light goes out, I have a hard time seeing anyone else’s lightThanksgiving, Christmas tree 154 because it is hard to see the light when you are not living in it.

But, the truth is that the true light which enlightens everything has come into the world and is preparing us and this world to come back again.

And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

And it is in this hope that we connect as this string of lights around the tree of Calvary.

And it is in this promise that we stretch the world over to light it for Him. because of Him. and that all might know Him.

And when we stretch and when our string of lights becomes this living thing with no limit in length, then there is no way to measure how much of this world can be changed.

The darkness is not any darker than when He came, for its Source is the same.

But the light is not any different either and so as you believe and I believe in He who is what He says He is we join together to light up one another into a flame that nothing can put out.

Stop.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

clarifying advent

ad·vent n.

1. The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important…more beauty...clouds&sunsets 001

Pursuing the diamond in the ruff, the needle in the haystack, the pearl of great price.

Learning what it is to seek first the Kingdom when it is upside down and covered in the gray.

Stilling, quieting, deepening when all is frenzy-filled and hustle and bustle and biggest busy.

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But can the pursuing and the seeking co-exist with the still and the quiet?

Can His coming be met with both the inner life and the outer fulfillment?

Can I live so shockingly counter-cultural that a bright stream of clarity guides?

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I know so little of Advent.  It is a newer practice for me and I am a sojourning woman in great need of this stable heartbeat of Grace.

The drum, drum, drum of the Little Drummer boy his story told in Veggie Tale style as I snuggle wet-head toddlers in footie sleepers points me to His coming.

The lights on houses all more beauty...clouds&sunsets 012simple and white beam soft reminders within.

The wrapping paper tree in our makeshift home of transition with its felt Jesse Tree Ornaments and string of lights put up with duct tape that keep falling down and a four year-old who starts to see a little and a two year-old who draws flowers as we read…it all focuses us in its imperfect yet true.

And the living, the living, the living.  The learning together to say ‘yes’ to Him though the way be rough and long and I want to cry inside for all that I long to see but is yet to come and the knowing, oh, the knowing that this is the way to Advent. 

His coming in the obscure and improbable and absurd.  His coming in all that defies the conventional.  His coming in the weak and helpless.  His coming in the dark with a singular light to guide.  His coming is my longing and this Advent clarifies the pearl, the kingdom, the quiet for it finds us in the living as though His coming is everything.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thoughts on Home :: Releasing the Dark, Embracing the Light {part 1~the past}

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A steeple, a church, a house that is no more and a glorious sunset.

This picture holds a thousand words and more.

The steeple is a fairly new and beautiful addition to this church.  I know because this church is the one that my family attended during all of my growing up years.  Before I went to college, it was the only church that I really knew for its ins and outs of living.

The left of the picture, where the bare trees are, is the space where the house we lived in as a family for 10 years used to be.  It is no more.  It was torn down earlier this year.

And the sunset, ah that sunset.  It is the gift of those years.  When things were hard and days stretched too close to hopeless for those we loved, my sisters and I would cross the driveway of the church and its front lawn to a slope on just the other side and we would sit and sing praises to God and marvel at the glory of Him and what He always paints.  Day in and day out.  Never ceasing.

And this whole mix represents a big chunk of ‘home’ for me.  The church, as any, it was not perfect and at times I was angry because of all of the turmoil that surrounded it in my family. 

My father felt obligated and ‘indebted’ because the church allowed us to live in this house for minimal rent after we left our farm just 2 miles down the road.  We were broke and in great debt and truly, it was this home or???

My mother was broken down just like the house and living in the church’s place, well, it was her last choice.  The situation {and the house} deteriorated over the years and my mom just stopped going to church.  More than being about the church, it was about a sadness, a cloud that covered my family, especially my parents, for some long dark years.

When we had to leave our farm, my father lost his life-long dream, my mother lost all of the blood, sweat & tears she had poured into helping him fulfill that dream and my four siblings and I {along with our parents} lost  this home where we all labored and loved to build our life together. 

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We gained all of the outward signs of failure.  Debt. Sickness. Depression. and a Run-down house. We were each broken in so many ways.

For a while, I wore a pretty significant chip on my shoulder. A splintering wood block of shame and resentment and pride.  In my eyes, we were the poorest of all of my friends and classmates, but nobody knew. Our hard financial times were a secret to many and my parents were too proud to ask for help and too grief-ridden to know how to make any of this mess better.

I can say now, though, that it takes some work to remember these days, these years, this stretch of time filled with so much pain. 

How is that?

Because I’ve learned to let go of all of it.

I have released the hard and painful into the hands of He who writes my story.  My parents’ story.  My entire family’s story.  In relinquishing the rights to what was dark, I have received it all back in the form of light and new life.  There is not a thing that happens that cannot be redeemed.  I can say from deep places once given to shame and fear sunset, souderton parade, around the house 087that I believe this, oh yes, I do.

And so, what of home?  Just like in the picture it is not the broken down house that represents broken lives, encased and secret, that can be seen.  No.  That home is gone and with it, for me, all that will not last forever about that home.  About home itself.

Home is rather like what can be seen.  The steeple and the sunset.  It is in the steeple that exalts the cross and a Savior who absorbed the darkness of all time and now sits at the right hand of God on High.  The Glory is his because my story is His.  And the sunset, yes, the sunset.  For all of those years it sealed the days in promise.  Though there was great sadness He was daily painting the reminders of all that He gives, namely, His matchless Beauty, to heal the world.  to heal me. to draw me wholly to His bosom that allows me to see clearly what or who Home, enduring and sure, truly is.

{I’m rounding out 2011 with a weekly series:: Thoughts on Home.  Home was my word for 2011 and the choice was full of irony and searching.  I am sharing that story here along with the priceless lessons I have gained.  Go here to read the introduction to the series.}

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Thank You God of My Story ::

  • For the chance to remember
  • For the extra time here at ‘home’ to do that
  • For the hard, dark years
  • For the failures and all they brought
  • For a home, though broken down, it was a roof and over our heads
  • That it is no more and my mother is in her Perfect Home Forever
  • That You never, ever leave or forsake
  • For the sunset glory that was as beautiful a spot as I’ve ever had
  • For a steeple and its cross raised high to You
  • For these days and staying longer here…waiting and living
    • That in the waiting we have gotten to be with our two nephews and niece
    • For how I am ‘Mama Abby’ or ‘Mommy Abby’ or ‘Auntie Mommy’ because these are my twin’s kids
    • For how sweet niece loves that I sound like and remind so of her mama
    • For the chance their mommy and daddy have to be away together
    • For little O and his one-of-a-kind brain…so much fun and so many laughs!
    • For being mistaken SO many times for my twin at her son’s school and her church…it is still so funny…Smile
    • For singing Christmas carols together
    • For packing up 5 kids 6 and younger in a van…
    • For love, cousin love, and auntie/uncle love and just family love!
  • For getting closer to going {85%!} …for the waiting that is full of this season of Advent
  • For trusting You more and more…You will never disappoint
  • For lessons weaving deep and no time wasted
  • For the journey always leading to the BEST…coming, yet to come!!!

#1665-1688

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five Minute Friday :: Color

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Go::

And it is You, always you, the one Who paints the story.

I see it in the glistening eyes of a son whose heart is in my hands and how I want to wrap it in a warm red and gold and fullest of all beauty bright, resilient and forever.

I see it in the sunshine smile and the twinkling bright, clear eyes of my baby girl.  And how I want to ride that life within her onto brilliant blue plains of sky and over all of the rainbows that promise she is of a generation blessed and she is His.

I see it in the love shining eternal and so all of the blood of Him who covers in grace from the eyes, the loving eyes, of my beloved.  my life partner.  He pierces me with the kindest, coolest, clearest blue of love that is as deep as the oceans vastness and into me it sinks to heal a thousand raging fires in me.

And I see it through them all in the Grace which paints in sunrises of the glorious hues rising to high gold and brightest yellow and setting to the purple of royalty to crown each day with Your faithfulness…

And I see it and I see it and though the rain comes in its gray dullness it could never conceal what lies below…the eternal Roy G Biv or Your undying vibrance.

Stop::

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Nourished by the Gospel {at Jen’s Place Today}

Today I have the great privilege of sharing over at my friend Jen’s place, Finding Heaven.  She is doing a Thursday series on nourishment and is asking others to share about how they are nourished.

For me, that answer is simple :: By drinking in the truth of the Gospel, the good news, for every bit of me and all of my moment’s and days.

Join me at Jen’s? and let’s drink together ‘the Simple, Sweet and Pure Drink’.

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Thought Provoking Thursday


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on Home :: A Reflective Look at 2011 {an introduction}

 

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Home.  That is my word for 2011.  For those of you who have followed our story, you know that I picked it because I needed to learn what ‘home’ was outside of a settled physical place because well, I would not have one for the majority of the year.

I remember picking this word and just looking at this great beyond of transition that was so overwhelming I would wake up in the mornings or after an afternoon nap and just say, ‘is this really happening?’ 

The year began with the preliminary stages of packing up our house in Florida.  That quickly escalated into our transition out of life and ministry in Orlando and into eating breathing packing or travelling to raise support or me packing and my husband travelling and many friends helping!

Then came that night in early June when we said goodbye to the home and life that had been the only one our kids had known or we had known as a family. We packed the things we wanted to keep and send overseas into a truck where they were then transported to Newark, NJ and are in storage until we know when we will be in Hungary can send them!

Next, we travelled with our van full of the rest of our worldly possessions and headed across the country to Colorado for our overseas training.  We had a wonderful temporary home there and an even more amazing community but it went so quickly and soon we were packing up again.

We took a week and travelled back to our home in Pennsylvania stopping in Nebraska, Illinois,sunset, souderton parade, around the house 022 Ohio and Western Pennsylvania before we rolled into our hometown north of Philadelphia.  We moved in with some friends and that was our ‘housing plan’ hoping that we would soon be moving overseas.

However, in the perfect timing of God we are at four months and counting here in PA.  We moved three times in two months or five times in four months and I felt like ALL of my energy was spent simply trying to stay sane;}

But, I am learning that there has been oh, so much more!  And it really does center around what Home really is and how I have been changed through meditating on this word in a year like this.

I am going to spend the Tuesdays in December reflecting on what I have learned about Home.  And I am going to invite you into some scenes of my life, my story, through pictures I took during what has become one of the most stable things in my life :: a daily walk. 

As I snapped the pictures, I was amazed that this place so close to the physical homes I grew up in provided a set of images that tell my story so well. 

For example, the rustic barn picture above reminds me of where my story began, on a farm, a dairy farm, to be exact.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will tell you that I began these months at ‘home’ lamenting that none of my family lives here and really dreading being in a place that seemed to hold so little of home anymore.

However, in that grief of what I’ve lost, of what I have kept losing in this fragmented year of transition with more to come, I’ve found the elements of home that can never be taken away.

I hope you will join me in this series and perhaps reflect yourself on this word ‘home’ that is so central to all of our lives.

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SoliDeoGloria


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Five Minute Friday :: Tired…

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Go ::

Aren’t we all just…tired?  It is a madly spinning planet and all of the currents of this world woosh over us and sweep us in, too, too much.

I know it is true for me.

I am tired.  Tired of proving to everyone that I imagine is asking {but isn’t it just that intense self-critic?} that I am a good, mom, wife, missionary, writer, friend, sister, daughter…

oh my, could I go on for the list?!

And then I stop in crystal clear instants and I remember that this is the current of this spinning, yet oh-so-fading world.  Not the opinion of any who are mortal and who live for what is seen will ever matter or stick of bear the weight of all that I am made for.

I rest again, then, full in the air of Him, of eternity.  He wraps me up in all completed and all I need is but to worship Him.  All I need is but to rest in His fullness and that I am His beloved daughter like I sing over my own every night and nap when I put her to sleep.  consecrated. princess. beloved.

And there is no tired where eagle’s wings are mounted and I rise above the din of what is oh so shrouded and the vapor of here and I rise above the stars to the heart of the One who reaches through the cosmos and reminds of a completed work and a victory forever…

and then, no, I am not tired, I am alive and ready to live.

StopPrincess

I am loving this WHOLE album by Sovereign Grace Music, ‘Risen’…but with this post and Lisa-Jo’s post,  thought of this song, ‘Hail the Day’ especially the beginning of the second verse ::

“Though He dwells beyond the stars

His Redeemed are on His heart

Even now He intercedes

Jesus cares for all our needs”

Ahhhh…yes, He does!

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