Sunday, December 30, 2012

When You Want to Celebrate a Life

Sharing grace moments and pictures from the epic week of birthday celebration earlier this month.  Absolutely the best birthday ever.  And it only took me three decades to figure out how to really celebrate a life.  Thank you to all who helped me celebrate and to every single one of you who has been apart of my journey.  It's been a wild ride so far but God's been faithful through it all.  Here's to all the years still to come!


MONDAY
2052.  First day of the birthday week!
2053.  Waffles and bacon for breakfast
2054.  Flock of birds taking flight over the grocery store parking lot, then settling right back down on the roof again
2055.  Lunch date with the best-est of best friends
2056.  Her paying my way unexpectedly
2057.  Cup of chowder so full of good things I can barely fit the spoon in
2058.  Afternoon spent chatting about life, yarn projects in hand
2059.  Wrestling the knotted yarn while we wrestle the events of a week
2060.  Beautiful ruffled, sparkling, purple scarf she gives to me


2061.  Her smiling big and saying it's perfectly *me*
2063.  Me smiling happy whenever I look down, see all this joy wrapped around my neck
2063.  Driving home to the Toby Mac Christmas CD, because sometimes I really do like it loud
2064.  Pear cinnamon cider before bed


TUESDAY
2065.  Second day of the birthday week!
2066.  Plenty of work to start off the week
2067.  Tea and crochet date with another friend
2068.  Me left standing outside when the buzzer fails to buzz me in
2069.  Friend hurrying down the hall to open the door for me
2070.  How warm and cozy her place feels as soon as I walk in the door
2071.  Steeping our tea and settling in for a chat at the table
2072.  Her surprising me with a gift--I have the best of friends!
2073.  Her artwork adorning the packaging, me marveling at the beauty


2074.  Knitted scarf inside the bag--in purple, of course!


2075.  Her sweetness and generosity, the true gift
2076.  Us pulling out yarn and patterns and crochet hooks
2077.  Both of us laboring long to learn how to crochet a snowflake
2078.  Laughing, making mistakes, trying again, both of us successful at last
2079.  Geraldine the Cat talking away while she wander the house
2080.  Discovering cookies in the cookie jar right before I leave for home
2081.  That "pig chef" cookie jar and my friend translating the French for me--"cookies," of course!
2082.  Goodbye hugs and talk of "next time"
2083.  How the last page of the second gratitude journal sneaks up on me
2084.  Knowing that there is no end to the Grace, to the Love, to the God Who holds this life together.
2085.  How the second thousand has taught me this:  If I want to live, really live, I've got to keep counting for always
2086.  For change and growth and figuring things out--no matter how long or how hard the path to get there.

WEDNESDAY
2087.  Third day of the birthday week!
2088.  Too much work--even this is a gift
2089.  Strength to work extra when the hours are hard
2090.  Dinner date with the ones I've named Second Parents
2091.  Trading shoes for slippers as soon as I get to their house
2092.  Sitting by the Christmas tree while we wait for dinner to finish
2093.  Having to ask if their tree is real because it looks so natural and beautiful (it's not real!)
2094.  Homemade chicken and veggie lasagna!
2095.  The unceremonious way my Second Mom dishes up the food, us all laughing out loud
2096.  My Second Dad praying blessings over me and asking for my kitty's healing
2097.  After-dinner tea
2098.  My Second Mom hurrying me to open my gift because she can't wait any more
2099.  Handmade earrings with little silver teapots dangling at the ends--LOVE


2100.  Generous gift of Teavana gift card--because you can never really have enough tea.
2101.  My Second Mom lighting candles on the cake, my Second Dad telling her how she should do it.
2102.  Me just watching them both and laughing
2103.  Blowing out all the candles with one breath
2104.  Sneaking another piece of cake because the first one is so good
2105.  After-dessert tea
2106.  The three of us in the kitchen, me on the floor with Barney the Cat, my Second Dad sitting on the counter, and my Second Mom the only one of us in a chair
2107.  Settling back into the living room with our tea, watching the cats eye the Christmas tree
2108.  Barney climbing the tree twice--and knocking it over twice
2109.  Only one ornament breaking from the fiasco, my Second Mom shaking her finger at the naughty cat
2110.  My Second Mom sending me home with a plate full of cake
2111.  Goodbye hugs and talk of "why don't we do this more often?"
2112.  The gift of having Second Parents
2113.  The way they've loved me strong for these last two decades of a life.

THURSDAY
2114.  Better day of work than the one before
2115.  Quick nap in the afternoon to rest up for a full evening ahead
2116.  Mom walking across the parking lot to meet me, reindeer antlers perched on her head
2117.  Wandering the gift shop at Swanson's Nursery with Mom and Cousin, cup of chai in hand
2118.  Trying on hats and marveling over all the beauty here in one building
2119.  Two reindeer and a camel named Curly



2120.  How the camel doesn't bother to stand up to eat, just lies there and buries his head in food, grabbing mouthfuls to chew
2121.  Blitzen the Reindeer bellowing at me when I try to talk his picture
2122.  Walking into the Christmas tree building, that wave of evergreen scent washing right over us
2123.  Wandering rows of trees, breathing deep and running hands over branches
2124.  Cousin driving the three of us to dinner, me listening to Christmas music in the backseat
2125.  That parking spot waiting for us right across the street from the restaurant, us hardly daring to believe we can park there
2126.  Peeling off all our layers, settling in for dinner, and pondering the menu
2127.  Us all deciding on chowder--it *is* a chowder house after all--and the waitress answering all our questions so cheerfully.
2128.  Sipping tea and telling stories across the table while we wait for our food
2129.  My sampler plate arriving at last--all five kinds of chowder!


2130.  Tasting chowders one at a time, deciding on a favorite and then changing my mind
2131.  That basket of bread that keeps getting refilled
2132.  Mom dropping her glasses in her soup--really?!--and us all laughing while she tries to wipe them clean
2133.  Leaving the restaurant happy and full--but still walking around the corner to the cupcake place.
2134.  Picking out the snickerdoodle cupcake because it's got the tiniest heart nestled right on top and I can't pass it by


2135.  The three of us settled on the couch in the corner, sampling cupcakes and sipping eggnog steamers
2136.  Taking the heart off the cupcake and setting it atop the eggnog foam
2137.  How the heart gets swallowed right up and we all joke that I've lost my heart
2138.  Last sip of eggnog revealing my heart right there on the bottom of the cup


2139.  How God's teaching me again and again that what feels like loss and heartache (a lost heart) might just reveal the greatest beauty of all
2140.  Climbing back in the car for the last event of the night.
2141.  Cousin driving us to a neighborhood we've never seen, all these houses decked out in lights
2142.  Driving up one street and down another real slow, pointing out all the beauty
2143.  That one house towards the end, three enormous letters filling the front window:  J O Y
2144.  How the Joy Dare of 2012 is completed right here in the midst of this week filled to the brim with Joy
2145.  The way God keep teaching as long as I keep counting.
2146.  Day 4 of the birthday week coming to an end, me so full of happiness and hope.

FRIDAY
2147.  Day 5 of the birthday week and that funny email I get from a friend, her asking me to bring doilies with me to our lunch date
2148.  Me digging through Mom's bins in the basement after work, in search of doilies
2149.  Welcome hugs at my friend's house, her telling me that the doilies are for a "project"
2150.  Homemade chicken curry pot pie coming out of the oven
2151.  Us enjoying a cup of tea before lunch
2152.  Sitting down to a delicious meal, Baby Cora "talking" to us while we eat
2153.  My friend revealing the mysterious project at last and me a little giddy with excitement
2154.  Rolling out porcelain clay until it's smooth and flat
2155.  Pressing pieces of crocheted lace right into the porcelain, us thinking we know what it's going to look like in the end


2156.  Holding our breath a bit while we peel up the lace, reveal beauty we never saw coming


2157.  How we're both learning it right here that the beauty of lace is only revealed after it's been pressed down hard into the ground


2158.  Life lessons learned in the kitchen beside a sister-friend, us marveling and pondering together
2159.  Heading out to our next adventure, Baby Cora in tow
2160.  Making good time on the roads and finding a parking place nearby
2161.  Walking up the path to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens with all these glorious lights on display, us already oohing and ahhing over the beauty


2162.  Wandering a whole garden made of lights on a cold, cold evening in December
2163.  Us taking turns guessing the types of flowers, ever single bloom made out of lights


2164.  How beauty can light up a whole night of darkness
2165.  Warming up with a cup of hot cider held in the hands
2166.  Going through the garden a second time, because really, how could once be enough?
2167.  Heading back to the house for hot soup and cake
2168.  Friend and her husband singing happy birthday to me, that one candle flickering bright and Baby Cora just watching us all
2169.  Early Christmas present opened, those home-canned peaches and that jar of chai mix weighing the bag right down
2170.  My beautiful curly-haired friend and her new baby and her incredibly kind husband--and me welcomed right into this life

SATURDAY
2171.  Day 6 of the birthday week--my actual birthday here at last!
2172.  Mom the first to wish me happy birthday, her hair still asunder from sleep
2173.  Enough work to fill the whole shift--on a Saturday.  Gift, Gift, Gift!
2174.  Dad and me pouring over the Snappy Dragon menu, picking out the birthday dinner (takeout Chinese!)
2175.  Dad making cranberry-apple cobbler and the way it fills the whole house with this delicious scent


2176.  All these friends writing birthday messages on my Facebook wall, me having a hard time keeping up
2177.  That package that comes in the mail and me completely taken by surprise
2178.  Butterfly wrapping paper adorning the gift inside, a telltale sign of the one who sent it
2179.  Tearing off the paper because I can't wait any longer, book of crochet patterns nestled inside
2180.  For friends I've never met
2181.  And how they become dear companions on the long road, no matter how many miles separate us
2182.  For the God Who lets us find each other in the most unlikely ways and binds our hearts in the way only He can
2183.  Sitting down to the birthday dinner, Chinese takeout covering the table
2184.  Good food and family to share it with
2185.  Movie night at home to finish off the birthday week
2186.  Blowing out candles after the traditional off-tune, out-of-sync rendition of Happy Birthday by my family



2187.  Eating cobbler and ice cream, fighting off the kitties who want to lick the bowl
2188.  Handmade scarves from Mom, in purple of course
2189.  That enormous package that appears on the table at the end of the night, covered in purple pansies
2190.  New griddle that will actually *cook* pancakes, not just burn them or leave them pale
2191.  For 31 years
2192.  For finally figuring out how to celebrate life in a way that honors the person God's created me to be
2193.  God never giving up on me, always stretching and pulling and turning me right into something else--someone else--the someone He always knew I could be
2194.  For growth
2195.  But mostly for God

Monday, December 24, 2012

If You're Looking for Joy


It's a Monday morning in December when I wake up weary.

There's a list of things that need doing and that list stretches clear around the corner, right past all hope of reaching an end, and I think I might just give up before I even get up.

It's two days after my 31st birthday and I've just done what I haven't done before in all my years--I've celebrated the life He's given me in six different ways, on six different days, all in the same week of December leading right up to my birthday.

And, oh, the joy that's found me in this one week of celebration?

There are no words for that.

But I'm sitting here in the wake of all these festive days and this broken body of mine's telling me what I've been afraid of from the start.

I'm not strong enough to live that kind of joy.

And there's this one piece of a heart that thinks it might just be true.

But I'm not convinced and I get out of bed regardless and I start to think maybe what's really true is this:

Maybe the joyful life doesn't come easy.

Maybe it comes at a cost.

And maybe that's exactly how it should be.

I think back to that day in January when I wholeheartedly took up the dare to find joy in 2012--to count another thousand pieces of His Grace and let Him fill up a whole life with joy.  And I might've been foolish enough to believe the second thousand would be easier than the first, but oh, could I have ever been more wrong about anything at all?

This year, the one I named Home, it's named itself Loss and I've given up more times than I can count and I've grieved and I've wondered and maybe I've even shaken an angry fist at the sky.

And that journal meant for catching Grace, it's sat closed and silent for months without end.

But then there's a day in the middle of October when the Death Angel passes by and my dad nearly dies and I count gift number 1710 that night:  My dad didn't die today.

And I'm more than a little paralyzed by that one enormous Mercy and nothing finds its way into the journal for long weeks after.  But there comes a day in November when I realize there are only seven weeks left and I'm 407 gifts short and maybe there's no real hope of finishing what I've started but don't I want to give it everything I've got?  Don't I want to find Joy after all, at the end of a year that's ripped me clean open and carved me right out and left me wounded and wondering what God's really doing in all this?

Oh, yes.

YES.

That day in November, it's the one on which I finally make the choice to find Joy.   I make a permanent home for my journal on the dresser beside my bed and I lay it open and I leave the pen right there on the page and I start counting like I've never counted before.

Because I might've thought counting 1117 gifts in 2011 would've taught me how to really give thanks, how to find God in all the days of a life, how to live joy.  But it's another 593 gifts before I figure it out that there isn't any figuring it out.

There's only the choice to keep living the daily thanksgiving and let God teach and change and grow us as He will.

And what He's teaching me through the second thousand gifts?

That Joy's this force of God and it doesn't settle for a place on the shelf.  No, it requires the emptying out and the making way and the carving of a space in the soul and it doesn't come easy and it doesn't come cheap.

But our redemption's been paid for with the blood of a Son and why do I keep thinking that the abundant life in Christ can be bought with anything less than sacrifice and letting go and falling right into the mystery of God and His ways and all this crazy life we're struggling to understand?

It's a night in December when I'm in the backseat of a car and we're driving up one street and down another, just three women marveling over strings of lights adorning trees and houses and windows and fences.  And we're just about to call it a night when there's this one house that catches my eye across the road.  There are lights strung all across the eves but what I can't take my eyes off?  Three giant letters emblazoned on the living room window.

J.  O.  Y.

I sit in my bed late that night and I count the thousandth gift for 2012 and I feel it deep, how Joy really has come and it's making a place in me.  And I wonder, for just one moment, what happens now.

But I already know.

I pick up the pen and I keep counting.

And I let God figure out the rest.



All 512 gifts from the last few weeks are a bit too much to catch up on, so for today, on the eve of celebrating the birth of Joy Himself, just a whispered Thank You to the One Who has filled another year with Himself and taught me that Joy's a hard-fought battle that might just cost us everything we've got.  But, oh, it's worth it, Friends!  *He* is worth it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

When You're Feeling Ragged and Worn Through


I learn to knit because I am afraid.

It's a day in early January and I've put off the learning for 13 months and I've finally decided that the only way to be brave is to choose to be brave.

Because I'm this woman born under a cloud of terror, and I'm still figuring it out, how to really live when you're afraid of failing, afraid of rejection, afraid of being who you are.  Maybe the only thing I've figured out is this--there's no once-for-all cure for the broken place of a soul, only the daily choice to keep fighting for the life God has for us.

And maybe this, too--that Fear doesn't go away when you hide it in the closet.

No, the only way to send Fear packing its bags is to pull it right out into The Light, look it square in the eye, and do the very thing that Fear's declared we can't.



So I pick up the needles and I teach myself to knit and purl, cast on and bind off.  Because the path of a courageous life, it's made up of a million little steps into a million little fears.  And maybe no one understands how learning to knit can teach a soul to live.

Maybe I don't understand it either.

But God's this crazy pursuer Who pries open the eyes of the blind, and me, I'm the blind one more often than I'm not.

Is it any real mystery, then, that I've no idea what He's doing when I meet a woman in February who will show me how knitting can change a life?



Bernadette and I, we meet in the most impossible way--me clicking randomly and her writing soul poetry on a page of the big wide world.  I'm captured and I'm held from that first happenstance reading of her words, and we exchange comments and emails and prayers.

Mostly, we exchange hearts.

And we both know it without one bit of uncertainty that God's behind all this Grace, and how can we doubt the extravagance of His love when He's given us both a soul sister we never knew we had?

Yes.  We might be 817 miles apart and we might have spent a few decades without knowing who we were missing.  But we know it now.  We are sisters who've been found at last.


It's a day in July when I decide there's only one way to send my love across all those state lines.  So I pick out the loveliest yarn, soft and delicate and perfectly blue, and I pick up my needles and I do the impossible.

I learn to knit lace.

It's only my third time knitting and everyone thinks I'm a bit out of my mind and I do have to rip it out at least a dozen times in that first week.

But I keep at it for five long months and every stitch becomes this labor in love, knitting yarn into beauty with patience and prayer and mostly just this straight-up stubborn persistence.  And it really is the most beautiful thing I've ever created.


But I'm still this woman oblivious to what God's about to do and it's not until I wrap up my love and send this blue lace across 817 miles that I see what He's been trying to tell me all this time.

Because Bernadette, she holds my love in her hands and she writes the poetry of us and she points me straight to this:  It's the holes in the lace that let all the light shine through.

It's the holes in the lace that make it beautiful.



I'm this foolish woman who learns to knit because she is tired of being afraid.  And God, He's the patient One Who bides His time and waits quietly to reveal this one thing:

I might feel ragged and worn through, all the struggles of a life chipping away at the beauty of a soul.  But I think maybe I'm really these endless tangled threads, and the needles of adversity and loss, they bore clean through me.  I might be left with all these aching empty spaces, but God, He's the One holding the needles and He's knitting me into lace.

And when I'm held up to the Light, the beauty of what He's done might just bring us all to our knees.


Yes.  This year's been about letting go, about loss, about leaning hard into God when everything else is being stripped away.

But maybe underneath all that it's really been about this--God emptying me out in the most beautiful way, His pattern emerging from all the heartache, and me becoming lace, knit together in the hands of a good God.


Yes.  I think it's really true.  All of us, we're being made into lace, knit together in the hands of the good God.

And He makes all things beautiful in their time.



~~~~~~~~~~~~
Project Details
Pattern:  "Red Pepper" by Tanja Pessina, Free Download on Ravelry.com 
Yarn:  Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace (100% Baby Alpaca), Color 1432 Sapphire Heather
Needles:  Size 7

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When You've Been Spared


It's a Friday evening in October when the life drains right out of my father.

I'm across town, standing in line with friends, and my dad, he's crouched in the corner of a parking garage, trying to stop the dying.

I'm buying boots and trying on dresses and he's crawling across the concrete floor in search of a car.

I'm living and he's dying and I want to know how all the ordinary life keeps right on going when all the while, someone you love is being ripped straight out of the world.

Yes.  My dad's alone and he's about to die.

But he lives.

There's only one reason my dad makes it to safety, finds a way to live.  And that reason has a name.  Because the Great I Am, He never leaves my dad and He chooses to deliver.  And His mercy, it pours out on us all.

It's a few hours later when I hear the news that I've nearly lost a father on this ordinary day.  I'm blindsided and there's this ache in my chest and I can hardly stand to breathe.  Because sometimes the weight of Mercy, it's more than any of us can bear.

To be spared when we don't even know our need for it?  Yes.  This is Grace and God and a mercy like no other.

I write these words in the gratitude journal that night:  #1710.  My dad didn't die today.

And when I realize the significance of these five words, I'm laid low.  Because this one thing I've just given thanks for?  It's been true every day of my life--and every day of my dad's life before I was even born.  But it's gift number 1710 because I'm this broken woman still trying to understand what life's really all about.

Maybe I read it before, how the question shouldn't be "why all this suffering and loss?" but rather "why all this Good and Grace and God?"  But how could I have really known what it meant until now?  Until I'm standing here in the days after my dad nearly dies and there's no mistaking how every day is Gift.  Every day is Grace.

Every day is God.

We haven't been promised tomorrow--but how many times has He given it anyway?  We're not entitled to even a single day with the people we love--yet how many countless days has He so generously bestowed regardless?

For weeks on end, I've been listening to just one song on repeat.  Because I'm this woman with a beauty-hungry soul, always listening for Truth hovering in a melody, and lately, I'm this woman with an aching heart and a great big hole in need of Him.  And I remember that first time I heard this song and how I didn't really hear it at all until the last line had been sung and that one word still hung in the air while I reeled long.

And I haven't stopped listening to it since.

Because my body really is tired from trying to bring Him here.  And my brow really is furrowed deep from trying to see things clear.  And this whole year?  The one I named Home?  It really has been about just one thing:  Turning my back to the blackest night and letting go, falling right into all the things I don't understand, all of Him I don't understand, and waiting for the mystery to rise up and meet me.

And, oh, the waiting's been hard and heavy and full of deep loss.  And there've been all these days when I didn't know how I could hold on until He showed up.

But it's a Friday evening in October when God shows up where I didn't know I needed Him, in a deserted parking garage in the middle of downtown.  And God stops the bleeding and the dying and He breathes air into lungs and moves muscles that haven't any strength and He gives me back my father when He doesn't have to.

And all this letting go and all this falling and all this waiting for God?  It's not over yet.  But how can I doubt for one second that He's still here, that He's working and I'm not forgotten and there's enough Grace to light up all these dark days?

The Death Angel's passed by and God's shielded us with His own hand, His own blood across the doorpost, and we've been spared.

We've been spared.

In the wake of this mercy, the gratitude journal lies silent.  Because what really comes next after those five words, my dad didn't die today?

Maybe I'm still figuring that out.  Maybe I'm a little bit afraid of the day when those five words are no longer true.  And maybe I'm just breathing in and out, letting go of what I don't understand and holding onto Him and Hope, giving thanks again and again for this one gift that's come from His hand.

And that very last line of the song that's carried me for weeks?

I'll wait for the mystery to rise up and lead me Home.

I'm still weary and wondering.  I'm still letting go of what's not mine to keep and falling into the mysterious dark of God and Grace and Growth.  And I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting.

But I know it now that God's rising up and I'm not crashing into anything but The Rock and He *will* meet me.

And He will lead me Home.

Yes.

The letting go, it's leading me Home.



Today, only this--a thousand gifts in one:  #1710. My dad didn't die today.


And if you'd like to hear the song that's been the soundtrack of my days these last weeks:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When You've Been Reborn and You Want to Say Thanks



Dear Nathan,

I've heard it said that when you lose someone you love, there's this one thing you can't quite understand:  How the whole world keeps turning as if nothing at all has changed, as if your heart's not shattered on the floor, all this life draining right out.

But it wasn't like that for me.

When you left us that evening in late September, the world shifted clean off its axis, everything known and familiar gone and me just grasping about in the emptiness of what used to be.  There was only this I needed to know:  How the world could ever start turning again.  How all of us could ever start living again.  How anything at all could ever be the same again.

But maybe the real truth is this:  I didn't want anything to be the same again.

I said it once before, how you were the beginning of the end for me--the end of who I was and who I was going to be.  But I think what I should have said was this:

I chose to let you be the beginning of the end.

Yes.

I chose to grieve long and hard for you--a choice that hasn't always been understood.  A choice that's cost me more than I can say.

But it was the right choice.

Because saying Yes to the grieving, it's really saying Yes to God.  Yes to being torn down and someday rebuilt.  Yes to being wrenched out of God and someday reborn into Him.  Yes to becoming the woman of God He's always meant for me to be.

Because sometimes the world needs to stop turning before we realize what's been true for a lifetime--that we don't know who we are.  That we don't know Who God is.  That we don't have any idea what we're supposed to be doing here on this great big spinning earth.

Yes.  Sometimes we have to grieve in order to find God.


The first two years after your leaving, this new world and this new me and this God I was discovering--it felt all wrong, as if none of this was ever meant to be.  But it was the third year when the One True God found me and He gave me a new name.  He called me Loved.

And for the first time in my life, I believed Him.

Maybe that's the moment when the earth started turning again, when I started living again.  But I was right about one thing.

Nothing at all is the same as it was before you left us.

And that's exactly as it should be.

Because the woman I was and the life I called mine and the home I made for myself?  They weren't what He wanted for me.  Just pieces of a broken soul who wanted to be loved more than she wanted to breathe.

You drew your last breath that Autumn night, and 2 years 9 months and 14 days later, I drew my first.  Because all those unloved decades that came before?  They were more like dying than living.

But the first year of being alive, of settling into being loved?  It's been full of loss and struggle and a whole heap of aching days.  It's not what I expected.  Not what I hoped for.  And it's left me wrestling for weeks with what I should say to mark the fourth years since you left us.

But today I'm starting to understand that being reborn into Him, it's this life-altering moment of brilliance.  Of awakening.  Of hope unquenchable.  But the growing up?  The making of a life in Him?  The building of a home on nothing else besides Him?  This is what living is all about.

And maybe this year's been more about tearing down than rebuilding.  More about pulling up the old life by the roots than planting seeds for the new one.  More about leaving the home of what used to be than settling into the Home of What Is and Will Be.

But that one moment of waking up into Him, of being born into Love?  It tells me that new life is coming.  And everything that came before--before your life ended and mine began, before God stopped the world from turning and rewrote the story for us all?

There's no going back.

And, oh, for that I am grateful.

It's been four years since you left us behind.  Maybe the hard, breaking days have outnumbered all the rest, but I wouldn't give any of them back.  Because the only way I know to honor the life that's been laid in the ground is to use every last day I'm given to honor Our God with the woman I am becoming.

I keep flailing and failing and falling right down in the mud.  But He keeps picking me up, nudging me forward.  And I keep choosing to believe.  To hope.  To bury myself down into Him until the only thing springing up from the soil is a life that points all eyes to the One Who calls me Loved.  The One Who calls us both Loved.

Maybe this one day in September is the one on which I remember you with my words.  But all the other days in between?  They're the ones on which I remember you with my life.

Happy Home-Going Day, Nathan.  You are loved.  You are missed.  And we can't wait for the day we see you again.

With deep love and great hope,

Courtney



In memory of Nathan R. Neahring, July 7, 1990 ~ September 27, 2008

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When You've Been Held and You Want to Say Thanks

For coming out of the dark
and finding Love holding out a hand.
For sister-friends and brother-friends--
the ones who pray and hope and
send Fear packing its bags.
For the choice to believe
when all seems lost.
For the One Who isn't lost
even when we are.
For the last week of Summer
and the way it lingers warm.
For watering the garden at sunset
and finding one cluster of jasmine still in bloom.
For Fall coming in with a chilling grey
and those spiced cookies baking up in the oven.
For Psalm 27
and the way it holds me up
when the burdens push me down.
Yes.
For being held up
but mostly for the One Who holds.


 

and a few snapshots of joy from the week...










Giving thanks in words and pictures for the God Who holds when everything else gives way.  #1660 - #1682 of the Joy Dare.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If You're In Need of Grace

It's the middle of a church service, my fingers dancing over piano keys and my voice ringing out loud.  Yes, it's right then when I'm struck by the words I'm singing, this well-worn song always taking me by surprise.

Maybe because I've know this song for a lifetime and maybe because I learned it decades before I ever knew Grace, before I ever understood what it meant to be a woman born into Grace.

Crazy isn't it, how we can sing what's entitled Amazing Grace and still be taken aback when we realize it's about Grace?

But tonight it's the third time through when I feel the tears stinging in the back of my eyes and I hear Him saying this one's for me.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.  Twas Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me Home.

I've already come through shame and grief and chronic illness and oh-so-much loss.  I've already come through doubt and fear and regret and more mistakes than I can ever count up.  Yes, I've already come through three decades of life that have hurt more than they haven't.

And it's Grace Who's brought me all this way, saved my life in a million ways, given me a new start every single day.

But the thing I really needed to hear?

It'll be Grace leading me Home.

I named this year Home and just when I'm certain that this year's named itself Loss, He spins me right around again and says there's more happening here than I can see or feel or know.  That someway, somehow I really am coming Home to Him through all this grief and fear and a whole mess of struggle.

And I wonder now why I ever thought it'd be any different?  Didn't I know that there's no easy path to making a Home in Christ, that mostly there's the ripping out and the tearing down and the feeling like God's walked clear out of this life?

Because who can make a new home when the old one's still standing tall, when we're still standing tall?

Yes.  That's really it, isn't it?  It's ourselves we've got to give up when we've decided that He's the only Home we want to be in.  And, oh, the breaking down of who we are and who we've been and everything we thought we wanted?  It feels like the whole world's crashed right down and there's no Grace in sight--no God in sight.

But I've already figured it out, that we choose what we believe, and that choice we make, it can send up straight into despair or it can lead us right into Him.

I'm choosing to believe that God's not gone and there's Grace to be found if I'll only look hard enough.

But maybe when I'm looking for Grace, I'm really the one who's found.  Because Grace is the One taking me Home.

Yes.  I'm going Home.  And Grace is leading me right to Him.



Capturing drops of grace with a camera phone and a journal....

1618.  My desktop buddy, sleeping right in front of me while I work the hours away


1619.  Amaryllis blooms in August


1620.  Walking into a room and finding Annabelle in her happy pose


1621.  Root beer float ice cream sandwiches!


1622.  Summer haircut


1623.  Chai and marshmallows in a strawberry-covered mug


1624.  When the cats sleep side by side, give up their quarrels in favor of sunbathing


1625.  That accidentally heart-shaped scone, one side all ragged like me


1626.  Happy new curtains in bright green
1627.  The mom who sews them


1628.  Open windows all summer long
1629.  Buddy Cat making his home in one of them


1630.  That one bright spot in the sky and how it looks like a heart to me
1631.  The way I keep seeing hearts because I'm looking for Him


1632.  Breakfast food for lunch--fried eggs and potatoes!


1633.  Wearing sandals for three straight months--best NW summer in years


1634.  Those crisscrossing tan lines that make me laugh every time I look down


1635.  Pile of inspiration from the Library shelves
1636.  Musing over stitch patterns and dreaming up things to make


1637.  Week of "staycation"--housemates out of town and all this peace and quiet to enjoy
1638.  Celebrating the occasion with a piece of piece every. single. night.


1639.  The turning of the calendar page, new month full of fresh starts


1640.  Postcard coming unexpectedly from across the world
1641.  Friend who thinks of me even though we've never met, wants me to see all the beauty
1642.  The way it feels like God's dropped an  "I love you" in the mail


1643.  How the long hours turn into 5 feet of blue lace
1644.  The excitement over nearing the end of a complicated project
1645.  Imaging the joy in a friend's face when she finally holds this gift right up next to her cheek


1646.  First pumpkin spice steamer of the season
1647.  And that piece of berry coffeecake that brings a little sweetness to a hard day
1648.  The best of friends sitting by my side while we sip and stitch and hold this life close


1649.  The last piece of blackberry dessert
1650.  Childhood memories of eating this very thing every summer


1651.  Crochet baby blanket being given as a gift at long last


1652.  Baby Cora coming into the world safe and healthy, only 11 days late


1653.  Listening to this song on repeat, because when it feels like God's missing in action, sometimes you just have to sing the truth loud and drown everything else out