Thursday, October 31, 2013

20 Days

I'm eleven days short of my goal.
 It's okay, though, because this month was full.
In October, I have:
-watched the world turn from green to
brown and yellow and red and orange;
-finished a multi-year commitment nothing to show for it but tears;
-felt my heart be heavy, light, and heavy again;
-excercised too little and ate too much
 (Though, as much as I need my 5 a.m. routine back, an afternoon walk in open air saved my sanity more than once.);
-lost, won, and lost again at Mom of the Year
-finally started reading One Thousand Gifts, proving again that late by some standards can be exactly on time by others;
-focused and followed,
 which was, after all, the point.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 27:Your Nearness

DD#2 and I stayed home from church today, 
both of us battling fall sinus headaches that simply won't quit.
Secretly I was glad--because I am battling a heartache that simply won't quit, either.
I need courage--
the courage to be excited about the future.
My best friend and my husband were talking of these things last night, 
and I heard in their voices a growing excitement about what God was doing,
 their turmoil tempered by a secret joy,
 an anticipation of the goodness of God.
With my head on the pillow last night, I thought--
I am not excited for the new. 
 I am grieving the old.
So this morning, DD#2 and I  talked,
 and I probably gave a teen too much information.
In the end, it was a good conversation.
She told me I was brave.
I will do a lot of hard things for my child to see me be brave.
So I will have courage.
The courage to be, one day, excited about the future
 because the future is Jesus.
At the end of things, He's what I want--
and I want the courage to really mean it.
Right now, I want to know He's near--
that His nearness is my good.
Not clever solutions or easy decisions.
His nearness.

Psalm 73:28

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God myrefuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Sometimes focus

is a matter of seeing what's in front of you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24: Blogging Imitates Life

I'm multi-tasking again.
That's always dangerous for me.  (Note to self: wipe chicken salad off computer screen before anyone else sees it.)
I remember when I discovered that about myself--the moment it dawned on me that I can't do many things well simultaneously.
It was freeing, really.
I learned am learning when to keep and when to jettison activity, at least to the point I can control it.
All this is not to say that I am dropping out of 31 Days, even if it will be 20 Somethingish Days instead.
I say to let myself breathe and be happy that I've blogged more this month than I have in a long time.
Most days I've actually had something to say!
Today I say only that things are busy, in good ways, and things are busy, in not-so-good ways, 
and I haven't much choice on what to throw away.
Some days I've followed well through the mess.
Other days, not so much.
Lately I'm clinging to the small but significant blessing that I've been able to call a halt to the chaos in time to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
And all the middle-aged women said, "Amen."
The Lord has sent sleep and song to sustain me.
He sends love songs to me, and I sing them back to Him.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 21: An Open Letter to My Student

Dear Student,
  Just so you know,  I really do believe what I do is important.  It does matter, in the long run, that you can string five words together into a logical, grammatically-correct thought;
 it's a skill that's infinitely satisfying and useful. 
 I think the books we read together are worth your time.
 I want you to hear the elegant language, laugh in all the right places, think deep thoughts about theme.
  Don't tell anyone,
 but it's my sneaky way to interject 
 some things about life and people and sorrow and hope
 that maybe, just maybe, you'll remember one day.
   But here's what I know
 every day.
  I know that you need a lot more than a book and an expository essay to make it through life.
I know that lots of things about your life stink, that you have no good reason to trust adults,
 that you desparately want boundaries, even if you pretend you don't.
I know that all the character ed, "positive interventions", and success awards in the world won't heal your heart,
give you purpose,
save your life.
Every day I know that I can give you commas and sentence structures and vocabulary words,
 but I can't give you the One you need.
You don't need another anti-bullying campaign or cyber-manners course.
You need Jesus,
just like I need Jesus.
What I can do is pray for you.
When I grade your paper or monitor the hallway,
 or even when I wish the bell would ring (and you do, too),
 I can lift you up before my Father, 
and ask that His mercy, grace, and love
 become your greatest life lessons.
Your Teacher

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Days 19-20: I Would Be the One You Find

Did I tell you?
I covered the basement door with chalkboard paint. I've loved all the chalkboard accent walls floating around the web, but lacking a suitable wall in my house, I opted for the door.
It sat, black and blank, for a few months.
Then a song captured my heart, and I wanted to keep the lyrics in front of my face so they stayed in my thinking.

Shane and Shane have a new album called, "Bring Your Nothing".  It's got some heavy theology and some neat music.  My very favorite song from it is "The One You Find", which is one song from the album that you won't find on youtube.
It's based on 2 Chronicles 16:9:

Your eyes are searching the earth
The Groom’s eyes are searching for her
You’re looking for hearts’ eyes 
To see what You’re worth
The treasure of the universe
Find me in this holy thirst

And I will love You
And I will love You
And I will love You
That I would be the one You’d find

Your eyes are burning with fire
The Groom’s eyes they burn with desire
For a lover who’s waiting for the Love of her life 
That I would I would be the one You’d find 
O God Who’s merciful and kind 

Find me here
Find me now
Find me when I can’t find myself

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 18: Small Good Things

Today was a day of big driving and big, looming decisions.  Because DD#1 and I just.don' college anymore (she had an interview/application today--eek!), I'm just going to think about the small good things that God sprinkled through our day.
Fog clearing into a gorgeous day.
Leaves. On mountains. That's all I have to say.
12 Bones BBQ.  Although truth be told, we voted to just have doubles of the corn pudding or jalepeno grits next and skip the meat.
Lunch and a long conversation with my mom.
A five-minute micro-nap on her bed that she insisted I take--because she's still my mother.
A shoe-shopping score.
A cloud show where God just showed off big time.  I kept asking DD#1 to take pictures on her phone. Mocha-orange frappacino and an Oreo-peanut butter-dark chocolate thingy. Epic.
Hot showers.
It was a good day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16: Deep Breath

Another computer-napping left me postless yesterday--again.   In an effort to not lose my focus (or my blogging mojo),  I'm offering a deep breath of gratitude.
1.  This sunshine

2.  Clouds 
3.  Turning leaves and cooler temperatures
4.  A chocolate cheesecake sitting in my freezer
5.  Decaf
6.  Friends who've rolled with it through these tumultuous weeks months
7.  Worship music
8.  A new Beth Moore devotional
9.  The book of Mark
10. A day off Friday to drive DD#1 to a college interview
11. Crockpots
12. A word fitly spoken
13. Prayer for the will of God, the glory of God
There, a baker's dozen of blessings; like tea and cookies, they are a pause that refreshes in this midweek.
What's in your "deep breath" this week?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14: Monday Melody

Teen with huge book project due dibs the computer yesterday, so maybe we should consider this "As many days as possible".  It's the best I can do; roll with it if you will!
I woke up this dark Monday with an old hymn on my heart, one I haven't heard in years.  I used to sing it to my girls as a lullaby, and it came unbidden to my memory as I pray for a week more full of love and joy in Christ than this past one.

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

Today I want to feast on the riches of His grace.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Days 11 and 12: Wake-up Call

This week hasn't been steller.  
My attitude hasn't been steller either.
Yet, God has a few ways--very effective ways--of waking me up when I am sucked into the cesspool of the Pity Party.
Like, for example, reading this post not five minutes after telling Him that no comments meant I had no platform and maybe I was a failure at blogging just like lots of other things.
Ouch in a good way.
It's not, of course, that one day He might close down this blog.  He's redirected me quite a few times, some still painful.
If He's God--which He is--
and if He's Lord--which He is--
and if He's full of lovingkindness and mercy--which He is--
then submitting to Him will be 
a) what He deserves
and b) the best thing I've ever done.
It will be for my good.
It will be for His glory,
 which is the whole point of existance, yours and mine, anyway.
I had a pastor once who said, "God's will is what I would want if I had all of the facts."
Amen to that.
So after a week that I've let discouragement lead the way and I've licked my wounds at the expense of people right in front of me who need me to testify to a glorious God they don't know, today I say, Lord, forgive me.
Lord, teach me.
Lord, You have the right to rule and reign in my life and do whatever You please in the people and situations I'm in.
You know best.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Days 8,9,and 10:The Grandest Patience in the Universe

If we get all technical here, it'll be 29 days of following and focusing.  Sorry about that.
Tuesday, after a long season of emotional meetings, I came home lonely and a little hollow.
I opted for decaf and a chapter of Agatha Christie instead of this blog.  True confessions.
Yesterday I wept with a friend.
Midnight rolled around and my eyes were still open, but my heart was all over the place and too frazzled for coherent blogging.
So go the boulders.
In this series of unlovely days, I ran across a quote Monday morning that walked with me and sang as a chorus in my head.
George Matheson wrote
For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5, RV).

There are times when things look very dark to me
--so dark that I have to wait even for hope
It is bad enough to wait in hope.
 A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, 
but to wait for hope,
 to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair;
 to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence
--that is the grandest patience in the universe. 
It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There is no patience so hard as that which endures, "as seeing him who is invisible"; it is the waiting for hope.
Thou hast made waiting beautiful; 
Thou has made patience divine. 
Thou hast taught us that the Father's will may be received just because it is His will.
 Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.
Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane.
 Give me the power to wait for hope itself, 
to look out from the casement where there are no stars. 
Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, 
to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, "To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still."
  I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope. --George Matheson

To wait even for hope, and yet not allow any inferior substitute to walk in the place of the Lord's presence--
Girlfriend, that's focus.
I need me some of that.
I want to offer the vacant place in my heart to Christ alone for the filling.
Meanwhile I ask Him for the grandest patience in the universe.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7: Broken

I learned this song yesterday.  It just about covers things theologically when it comes to who God is and who I am.  
I like that about it.
Now for it to be true in the reality of my life.
"Lord, I just want you.  Even when I forget I said it, remind me of it.
I'm on the record.
I just want you."
Yesterday I heard someone pray that, and I loved it.
I love the rawness, the honesty,
the frailty.
the commitment.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 6: How to Follow

Today our sermon was on this principle,
 that I can no more follow Christ in my own strength 
than I could reconcile myself to God in my own righteousness.
Oh, that the Church would understand,
that I would understand,
that I am nothing without Him.
I bring nothing to the table,
I bring nothing for the journey,
but He can and will do it in me 
when I submit to the perfect will 
of the One Who loved me
and gave Himself for me.
Still following,
Linking here and here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 5: Following and Followed

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am having a lousy day.  It didn't start well, and I have been a grumpy brat for several hours now.  
I'm trying to get over it, 
and I don't want to be disingenuous, even in print. 
Though you'd never know that I was a rotten witness for a Jesus follower this morning
 (and more or less every hour since noon, too), 
I would know it, and that would bother me.
Life is hard, so some days following is hard.  
Today it was hard because I let fear rule my thinking, 
and when I am afraid, I get angry.  
Then the anger turned into pure frustration
 and why-can't-people-just-cooperate-with-me, 
and that just morphed into plain old selfishness.  
Some days I don't follow well because I'd rather lead.
That never goes well, just for the record.

Following is a concept we're familiar with in the blogging world, such as it is.
Back in the early days of this little blog,
 I'll admit watching that "follower" number rise was great fun to me,
 and perhaps a bit more important than it should have been.  
Then it stopped going up,
 and the 4 or 5 comments become 1-2 comments, maybe, 
and I've gotten less and less sure of the purpose and direction of this blog.
Writing without an identified audience is weird.
As a writing teacher, I find this to be the worst part of instruction.  
Our required writing prompts have no authentic audience, 
and the kids respond by writing rambling, meaningless papers with no other purpose than a passing (or not) grade.  
Sometimes this blog feels like it has no audience, 
and my posts seem rambling and meaningless to me.
I've been praying about blogging,
 and I know that this 31 day experiment is a trust exercise, 
a place where I'm waiting on the Lord to give me words,
 and in turn, I write to Him, 
my Audience of One.  
That way, if anyone follows me,
 they're headed in the right direction, towards Jesus.  
I want to follow well and lead well, 
regardless of whether there's anyone behind me or not.
Be blessed,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4: The Habit of Focus

Experts say it takes 21 days to form a habit.  A few years ago, I finally got into the habit of daily exercise.  Every weekday morning, I was up at 5:00 and walking with Leslie Sansome or silently grumbling at Jillian Michael, or struggling to keep up with super-fit Pilates instructors.  
I developed some muscle.
I was fairly strong for a woman my age, thankyouverymuch.
It worked because I stopped thinking that I'd exercise three days a week.  I made up my mind to exercise every weekday.
Then this spring and summer, things started piling up around here. 
Insomnia raised its ugly head,  and other situations began to keep me up well past my carefully-protected bedtime.  
The bus schedule changed, and I had to be out the door 15 minutes earlier than before.
In exercise land, 15 minutes is tantamount to eternity.
Slowly, my habit has dissolved into hit-or-miss, maybe this morning, maybe tomorrow afternoon, maybe next week.
It's frustrating-
and--truth be told, paralyzing.
Inertia breeds inertia.
Focusing on Jesus follows much the same pattern, doesn't it?
A busy day here, a missed opportunity there.
15 minutes more of sleep, Internet, kitchen cleaning.
Where did the time go?
Bottom line--relationships take time and discipline 
and the word we hate in our clock-and-convenience-driven culture--
Sometimes I've been more committed to my exercise schedule than my time with my Father, 
and I lose focus.
My relationship with Christ grows and my focus stays true when
 I stop thinking I'll talk with Him later or read His Word tomorrow.  
It works when I listen to His call to be with Him every day.
Then I can develop some muscle.
In Him, I can be strong.
Be blessed,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Calling

After reading JD Greear's book Gospel, I've been rereading Matthew.  It's a simple book.  It's a profound book. While I'm no where close to the depths and heights and limits of this gospel, somefew truths leap out at me:
   When Jesus called people, they dropped everything and followed.
    He knew His identity, and He made it clear to others.  He expected them to see what was revealed before them.
   He had no patience with religious people who didn't recognize Him and didn't love God.
   Questioning His authority was a big thing for His enemies.  It still is.
   He leveled with His disciples. He told them the cost of following.
 He told them what to expect as missionaries.  
He told them to expect His death.
   He answered questions with the real question.
   When the weak and brokenhearted called out to Him, 
He answered with compassion.
   He always responded to belief.
    When all is said and done, He'll be revealed in His glory, 
and I will be on my face, 
and I'll hear His voice tell me not to be afraid.  '
   When my head is lifted,
 He'll still be there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 2: A Long Obedience

Her face and hands are crinkled tissue,
 webbed with lines. 
 Her shoulders are thin and small,
 and when my arms encircle them,
 I am reminded of my girls when they were younger.   
She has been on my heart for months, 
yet in typical 21st century fashion, 
"busyness" snatched my best intentions. 
 Over Saturday coffee, I make up my mind to visit her.  
I bring her zinnias, 
stand on a precarious kitchen chair to change her lightbulb, 
read to her from Psalms.  
We talk of old photographs and love stories.
She laughs, 
prays for a Holy Ghost revival.
She testifies of a long obedience, a persistent following.
Can one be shamed by her neglect and refreshed in her spirit all at once?
It was my favorite Saturday in a long time.
Be blessed,

A Theme Song

  To follow a teacher was to become like him.  
I heard someone say once that he wanted to follow after Jesus so closely that his clothes were covered by the dust from Christ's feet.  
Think of it.
Not dirty from sin,
not thick with the grim of the world,
but  marked by nearness,
affected  and visibly changed because of proximity.
To be like Him.
Be blessed,