For Those Who Refuse To Live Shallow


Life’s been a little hard. A little rocky. Lord? Oh, Lord?

I spoke with my mom on the phone. We talked about the hardness of life, and she said these words I’ll never forget 

“Baby, you keep in God’s Word. You stay in God’s Word, no matter what.”

“I will, Mom. I do, Mom.”

Keep doing that thing, she’d meant. Love the Lord with all … your all … can’t-get-enough-all. 

I’ll stay in God’s World  Word. As I wrote my mom’s comment, I accidentally typed “world” instead of “word” … is there a difference? 

Running out of Wal-Mart, Wally World, that evening, I noticed this …



I stopped for a double-take. A tiny purplish petunia grew in the crevice between the cement curb and the parking lot. How beautiful.

Bloom right where you’re planted.

But then I immediately thought of Matthew 13the parable of the sower.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed …. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Mt 13:3,6

How sad.



And I knew this precious flower didn’t stand a chance. Regardless of Wal-Mart’s success, this little thing didn’t stand a chance. Doomed. First of all, it’s an annual, and in Texas, for sure, that means it only gets one chance at this life. One chance. Then it withers away, ne’er to return. Second of all, there was no where for its roots to grow, to grow down deep. What roots? It bloomed in shallow soil.

Here today. Gone tomorrow. All its precious seeds will blow away.

What does shallow even mean? Lacking depth … depth of anything, I suppose. 

Oh, Lord, how I long for depth … depth of you.

Shallow is safe. Depth is downright dangerous. 

Shallow seems pretty. Depth seems dirty.

The shallow isn’t pretty very long … like sitting prim and proper, wearing white shorts, wearing sandals to a race. 

The dirty is pretty for always … like

The one standing by their child through every vial of blood drawn.
The one traveling overseas to meet their child for the first time.
The one remaining through every chemo drip.
The one staying up all night with a sick baby.
The one cleaning up throw-up, spit-up.
The one pulling every loose tooth.
The one digging out splinters from every tiny finger.
The one changing those soiled diapers.
The one feeding the child who can’t feed themselves.
The one pushing the child who can’t walk.
The one mending their child’s broken heart.
The one guiding their child to appropriate dress through strong opposition.
The one shielding a child through bullying.
The one lifting up the child who failed.
The one hugging the child who didn’t make the team.
The one preparing their child to leave home.
The one releasing their child to the armed services.
The one helping their child overcome obstacles.
The one swallowing their child’s diagnosis.
The one leaning over their child’s casket.
The one wiping away every tear cried.
The one praying over their child.
The one offering …

In Jesus’ name.

The scary, the dirty, the beautiful.

Our kids remember everything we invest in them and everything we don’t.

On the surface …

I’d rather be doing this or that. Sometimes I want those white shorts, with white sandals, sitting prim and proper on some white sand.

But down deep …

I don’t want a shallow pretty. 



I want my hands and my heart to get dirty.

I want my kids to remember an investment, in them, in others, in God.

Remember when Mama did that? or My mama never did that.

I want to be a sower. I want to be a Mama-did.

I want to bloom deep and wide where I’m planted.

Walk me out, Father. Walk me out to dangerous territory, your dangerous territory. I want to reside in your world in this world. Take me out to the dirty work. Because that’s where my roots will grow. Grow down deep. In good soil. Thrive. Really live. Last for eternity.

We only get one chance at this life. 

One chance.



**

What can you add to the dirty, dangerous, beautiful list? For your kids, your family, your friends, your animals? And how have you grown from the experience?



God Loves You Enough to Frame You


There was nothing particularly special about this day except that … I had to take my daughter to a dental appointment, to a periodontist, for an evaluation of tissue grafting. Her braces have shifted her teeth, which is a good thing, but the gum line for one front tooth has dropped down … and it looks like the one next to it might end up with the same problem. 

For goodness sakethe problems.

We had to drive through the big city of Mesquite, Texas, and up to Richardson. I’m a small town girl, but glory hallelujah, we made it. By accident, of course. And by accident, we ended up walking into the back of the building, and the first door we came to was our needed door. Another accident and another glory hallelujah.

Sitting in that waiting room, all alone with my two girls, I looked up to the wall and saw this huge frame. I almost laughed out loud when I saw the displaya rug. A small rug. Not new or old … just a little bold. Bright green and fuchsia pink. A little frayed around the edges. Maybe there was something special about it … like maybe it belonged to his grandmother or his mother or someone the dentist loved.


I said to the lady behind the counter, “Ms. Kelly, what is the story behind that rug?” Did you really just ask that? Out loud? To someone you just met? Yes, I did.

“It’s a funny thing,” said Ms. Kelly. “There’s nothing special about that rug. You’d think it had belonged to his grandmother or something. You’d think it had sentimental value.”

“That’s what I thought,” I said, with my grandmother’s kitchen rug placed in my mind.

“But it doesn’t. The doctor and his wife, well, they like to antique shop. And well, they just found this rug, and they decided to frame it,” Ms. Kelly added.

“Well, you know, that’s really what makes it so special,” I said. “There’s nothing special about it at all. It’s just an ordinary rug. But someone found it. Someone loved it enough to frame it.”

And that’s why I love God so much. Because I’m just ordinary. I’m not young or old. I’m not even bold. I’m a little frayed. There is not one special, unique thing about me. Not to my eyes. 

But not to God’s eyes. He loved me enough to make me, to find me, to reach down to me …

It’s like He daily frames my face in His hands and says, “You are special to me. I love you. I want you. I love you, and I want you with all your problems. I know what you’ve done and what you haven’t done.” 

He straightens the frame just a little and eyes me. “Look at me. Look at me. I’m the door you need.”


And just like thatour ordinary becomes extraordinary. How could it not?

And just like that, we become guilty of being special. Of being wanted. Of being loved.

~~~


“He sends from heaven and saves merebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulnessPsalm 57:3. 

Call me crazy, but I like to think of God’s hands as “love and faithfulness” reaching down to save. Amen? Can you envision it?

And because sometimes I just need to talk to you face to face … I love you …


If you hear that hammering in the background … that is our neighbor’s home being rebuilt. Glory! It burned to the ground last September. 

**

Do ever feel ordinary? How has God shown you how extraordinary you are? Has He shown you in a unique way how special you are to Him? How much He loves you? I wish you’d share your stories with me.






When Your Heart Longs for a 5-Star



The book starts slow. Not what I’d expected. My lips stretch with a yawn. Maybe this book is a 3-star.

In a world that craves action, I close my eyes, slip down into the covers, and sleep overcomes me.

Rejection.



For the moment.

The next night, I see the book on the bedside table. The simple glance begins to grow my heart’s curiosity. Maybe I should give it another chance. I reach out and take hold. 

The speed increases slowly, along with my heart-rate. The characters and hope spring alive. I can’t put the book down. It has my heart wrapped around its shortest page. My heart is so happy as I read “The End” … I can’t wait to rate it a 5-star and tell the author how wonderful it is. 

That bookthose wordswill remain in my heart forevermore, and I’ll share it with others. I want everyone to know how much it meant to me, what it did for me, how it helped me, how it grew me, maybe how much it made me laugh or cry. It ends up being the best book I’ve ever read. 



O Soul Within, do you see the reflection of your life in that mirror? Not everyone has a Pollyanna beginning. And yeah, it’s okay to mourn the lossthe loss of sound mind, good judgement, wisdom, blessing. 

But just because you started out a 3-star doesn’t mean you are destined to end there. God will never reject you for that slow start. Don’t give up on yourself. The expanse of sky is immeasurable. Because our God is brilliant. Those stars are right before you. Sometimes you have to wait for the clouds to part. But they’re there. Dangling there. Reach out and take hold of the remainder. Pluck them right out, claim them, and cling to them. The 5-star belongs to you. 

God has plans for you to end well. Even after despair, in the midst of despair, you will remember. He’s taught you well. You can be the best He has to use. The best He has to offer. You can spring alive with hope.

Be the one your Heavenly Father just can’t put down. Be the one wrapped around His tiniest finger. Be the one that makes His chest puff with heavenly pride. Be the one that He can’t wait to use, can’t wait to share … His prize pupil. Be the one He can count on to help others, to show others we can rise above. 

Your Heavenly Father has faith in you. He’s the God of second chances. The God of heavenly glances. And He uses our 3-star as a heavenly staircase to reach our 5. He uses it. He wastes not so you can want not. Can you envision the climb? One step after another … put one foot in front of the other … higher and higher … stepping through the darkness of the 3 and into the bright light of the 5, where you can see … really see …

See what He’s done for you, through you, in spite of you.

For this new year, new you.

Reach out and take hold of His gentle fingers, beckoning you …

Be the one.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

***


Do you ever feel stuck as a 3-star? Does it loom over you? Do you receive daily reminders? What helps you reach that 5-star? And aren’t you thankful God sticks it out with us?


When Christmas Ornaments Become Holiday Baubles


The doors swing open wide, and I head into the post office, with the cool breeze trailing, to mail off my latest article. With no waiting line, it’s going to be a good day. Yes! I just feel it.

“Do you need stamps today?” the lady asks.


Do I need…? “Yes, I do.”


“What kind?” She displays several … gingerbread houses, ornaments.


“I’ll take the Christmas ornaments,” I cheerily say, with a smile. They’re cute
red, green, and blue dangly things. And with all the Hallmark Christmas love movies my daughter’s been recording and forcing upon me, Christmas is definitely in the air surrounding my merry heart.



The lady corrects me. “They’re Holiday Baubles,” she sternly says, without a smile.

I’m not quick on my toes. And suddenly I’m reduced to wondering if I’ve been calling them the wrong name all along. Like I’ve done something wrong. I walk out, my soul deflated. Confused.

The more I think about it, sitting in the car and gripping the steering wheel till my knuckles whiten, the more saddened and confused I feel. The bitter mixture stirs and stirs in my heart and gut, pleading for Rolaids. Some type of relief. Some type of salvation.


I look closer …




When I arrive home, I look up the word “bauble” in the dictionary. I’m 40+ years old, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that word before. Okay, so maybe I’m not as worldly as others. But I think I know what a Christmas ornament looks like.

“Bauble” is actually a Middle English word, from Old French. Even The Free Dictionary on-line gets it right by stating this:


1. showy toy or trinket of little value; trifle
2. small, usually spherical ornament made of coloured or decorated material which is hung from the branches of a Christmas tree. Usual US name: Christmas ornament
3. (Historical Terms) (formerly) a mock staff of office carried by a court jester


Most might say not to make a big deal about it. It’s just stamps. Lady, it’s just stamps. Come on. Get Real.

And nothing is wrong with the word “holiday” or “bauble” … 

But I’ve been corrected. That’s the heart of the issue. 

You won’t say Christmas, you’ll say holiday.

And it hurt my heart. Her words, attitude, hurt my heart. Yeah, O Soul Within, it hurts, and the pain is real. It’s one thing to be imposed upon … sanctions imposed on our hearts … we tend to expect impositions these days …

Don’t you love Jesus. Don’t you pray. Don’t you trust Him. Don’t you tell anyone if you do. And don’t you share Him. Don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And if you’re asked, you better deny … if you want to live.

But in the Bible Belt? It hurts to see the belt loosening. And it appears to have definitely been loosened a notch or two. And still the weight above that belt is lopping over onto people, individuals, hearts …

The very omission reduces Christmas to a mere trinket of little value; trifle. It mocks everything God did for usthe miraculous Luke 2 wonder of the world, Jesus, the Son, virgin birth, becoming the God-man. It says that Christsurrendering everything to come to this earth, sacrificing more than we’ll ever know, to exchange Heaven for us, to be born in a lowly manger, to live for us, to fight for us, to die for us … for our sinmeans nothing. The miracle is trifle. 


It smugly yet naively says, “What miracle?”


The very act says that “Christmas” is not worth mentioning


A first class love means nothing.



The miracle of Christmas reduces from a God-man Day to a mere man-made day. 


With the chaos and violencehardships, needthat woefully weave the frayed fragments of our world, when empty eyes and empty hearts and empty stomachs are desperate for salvation, reaching out with empty hands … there has never been more a time to keep Christ in Christmas. To keep Christmas in Christmas. To look for the miracles. 


O Soul Within, some things are black and white. What will you allow to forever stick on your heart’s wall? Be careful what you let stick on your heart’s wall.




O Soul Within, you may feel powerless. But remember God’s power and what you can do 

~Remember to pray.

~Remember what you really needJesus’ first class love. Forever.

~Remember Christ in Christmas, keep Him there, let truth nestle into your heart forever and ever. 


~Remember to impart Him to your children.

~Remember that you have it right. Don’t get used to the wrong. Getting used to the wrong doesn’t make it right.  


~And as long as you have a voice, O Soul Within, remember to say, with every Christ-given privilege and right …

Merry Christmas.

This video has ministered to my heart all week long … I hope it ministers to you, as well …



*How do you safeguard your heart from subtle changes and stealth arrows continually thrown? Can you add to the list? What do you say? What do you remind your self?


You Get What You Get


When I was a little girl, I wanted a horse more than anything. But because we didn’t live in the country, owning a horse just wasn’t a possibility. My grandmother who lived two hours away had a horse, Charlie Horse, and I think to ease my heart, she’d tell me that the horse was mine.

But I didn’t let that stop me from riding. No. I took advantage of the opportunities surrounding me … and my ride turned into a gallop around the entire yard. 

Barefoot.

Completely content. Joyous. Unashamed.



A good friend always told her boys, “You get what you get.” That meant … you’ll eat your supper. You’ll wear that shirt. You’ll play that game. You get what you get.

That so applies to life. We don’t always get what we want, do we?

What do you want?

What do I want? What are my heart’s desires?

Peace, love, purpose, life.

~And a wealth of adjectives, behind and before, to accompany every one of those nouns, some that only God knows.

Sometimes, we just … get what we get. It’s up to us to evaluate the surrounding opportunities and decide what we’ll pass on to our children, family, friends. In this short time we have. 

Our sweet baby at 18 months, after six months of chemotherapy … her hair finally coming in. And she can finally walk!


What are the surrounding opportunities?

A child’s tiny hand to hold.
A baby’s dress to fold.
A teenager turning bold.
A kid’s self-esteem to mold.
A pup needing aid from cold.
A spouse to value as gold.
A story waiting to be told.

Take it and ride. Gallop around the yard. Gallop around the pasture.

Gallop with abandon.


Completely content. Joyous. Unashamed.

Barefoot.

Feel God’s loving breath in your face.
Feel His hands hem you in behind … and before.
Feel His hand laid upon you.

You get what you get.

Yeah, I’ll take that.

~This song has blessed me all week long.
May it bless you,
beautiful thing.

Why I’m Not Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

My grandmother rested in her grand poster bed sandwiched between my sister and me, in that home up on the hill in Texas, bordered in brick, with the windows raised high, the breeze blowing in, unafraid.

Pink and blue hydrangeas bordered the front of her home, and the cows and baby calves grazed the pasture borders, while her Border Collie, Rex, slept on the porch and my Pa-Paw snored the roof off in the bordering room.

The giggles subsided.

A hush fell over the room.

“But this little pig built his house of brick.

And the big bad wolf came. He knocked on the door and said, ‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in.’

‘No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.’

‘Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.’

And the wolf huffed and puffed but could not blow his house down.”


The end. Sigh.

I’d pull the patchwork quilt, hand stitched by my grandmother, up under my chin with my tiny ivory hands and smile. She taught me to love stories. She taught me to love Jesus. I went to sleep knowing the one who built their house with brick, on a solid foundation, could rest in peace. No matter what comes.

When the big bad wolf comes … the one who says, “You don’t believe like me, so you die. The one who says, “You don’t look like me, so you die.” The one who says, “You don’t dress like me, so you die.” The one who lines up rows of Christians, or Israelites, or anyone different and beheads them, making a statement to the world, “You aren’t like me, so you die.”

What can we do? We can sadly watch those who built their houses of straw and wood fall prey. Eternal prey. We can watch those choose to place shackles on their feet. Eternal shackles. And we can pray for them.

But how can we withstand?

By knowing and trusting that sometimes the standing is in the bending of the knee. And sometimes the standing is in the falling. But most importantly …

1. Know your enemy.

We can watch the enemy continually try to imitate Jesus, saying, “I am the only way, the only truth, and the only way that you will live.” And we can be the wiser.

The only mistake the enemy makes in his masquerade is that he forces his way. And that’s how we know the enemy. That’s what makes him recognizable.

2. Know your hero.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one  comes to the Father except through me.'”John 14:6

Jesus, our hero, never forces His way … He’s a gentleman and, since the Garden of Eden, has always given us a choice. Free will. He will not hold a gun or a knife to our heads and force His way upon us.

But how can we build our house of brick?

We believe.

We choose to believe …

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:16

And we remember …

“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”1 John 4:4 

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”Philippians 1:21




Ready


The little lights were burning. Christmas Day had arrived, and even though my girls are teens now, we have a small birthday party for Jesus to start the morning. We want to ready our hearts for Him.

In simplicity, refrigerated Ding Dongs for cake, able to withstand the candle’s heat.

Having gotten up extra early, I was ready. Hair done. Make-up on. A person who loves to take photos and make photo albums continually thinks of these things. Since the girls were small, they never belted out into the living room Christmas morning. No, I went to them, woke them up, got them ready … for pictures.

That could be a Texas thing, a photographer’s thing, an uptight person’s thing, a problematic thingdon’t look too deeply into that thing.

But those photo albums have to be nice. Memories, you know! We must be ready.

Camera ready. Batteries charged.

Waiting. Everyone ready?

No. Waiting on Dad now. The girls are waiting on the stairs. The candles are burning lower and lower, refusing to wait.

I’m going to have to blow them out.

Out.

The end of Christmas always leaves me a little down and out. It always means my girls will be a year older in the following months. And you know I’m grateful for that, grateful for each blessed year with them. I had the risk of losing one, I know gratitude. But they are growing up. They aren’t little anymore. Time doesn’t wait. 

And you get that gut-wrenching, questioning feeling … what will I do with myself? I don’t even know my next steps, Lord.

And you shuffle through the piles, the paper, the options, the questions, the mess, the fire …

And you beg God for your future direction. How to handle this game of Life?


And we best be ready.

On.

Because Jesus’ light never goes out. In His faithfulness, He always delivers. For today.

That’s a glory and a hallelujah!



~A thank you to Wendy Mac for her “little light” inspiration.