Friday, August 2, 2013

a toast to the sprint

At times, I wanna be somewhere else.... but I'm here.  I'm glad to be here, don't get me wrong.....I feel gratefulness inside just bursting to break free like steam from a whistling teapot.  The past few years have seemed to be overrun with potholes that continue to pop my tires just when I've seemed to manage a steady pace.... but lately I've been able to dodge them and I'm finding rest in enjoying the ride.  I'm able to lift my eyes from the road a bit to feel the wind on my face and the warmth of the sun.
I am fond of this little nook I've found lately- the season... the stillness inside.
....but I've also just got this urge to SPRINT!
Okay, so let me explain something: sometimes I get the urge to actually do a literal sprint.... yea, like I get overwhelmed with the desire for a mad dash.... and I do it!  It usually happens to me when I'm by myself....(bahaha- thank God!).... because how weird is the random sprinting girl, right!? 

No, no.. I'm not sure if you get it?

Like I'll be walking all normal and then... BOOM!  A Nike-style, "just do it," full-on SPRINT takes over!  There is probably some theoretical explanation for this in the American Psychological Association's Manual of disorders, but for now, I shall be content with labeling it a "quirk" of my very own :-)  It doesn't carry with it the benefits of normal sprinting... like I can't term myself, "a runner".... I don't do this often enough for my quadriceps to be out-of-this-world muscular.... I don't have scheduled "sprint times," that I faithfully carry out every morning at 6 a.m. after I've made breakfast, read the paper, and fed the (imaginary) dog in one big swoop of productive charm (insert smile... and a tooth sparkle).  I don't foresee myself living out dreams of sprinting beside beautiful brown people from Africa as they take the gold every four years.  No, this thing is not like a "cool quirk" or a "productive" one.  Some people try and pretend that their ability to be unbelievably self-disciplined is like some sort of "weird quirk" about them!  Please.  Ya know, like those people who say they have this "weird thing" where they "just have to" like... floss their teeth everyday... you know those people?... the ones who act like its not the dream of everyone else in the world to have a so-called quirk that turns out to be so very useful and purposeful.  Yea, I'm not one who has all them "type A" quirks that make me ridiculously awesome at life.... I'm more of a "type B" kinda gal who needs to get her quirky sprint on at unpredictable times.  It's cool though... I'm embracing it. I mean, I'm tellin' you about it right now aren't I? Ain't no shame in this game. 

I wonder what God thinks about this sprinting deal.  See, I haven't shared this one important detail concerning the sprinting... it is usually inspired by some exciting thought or grateful praise on the inside that's just gotta come out... sorta like kids rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning in pj's as they anticipate their desired gift under the tree. Its that kind of feeling that takes over. So yea, this is way cute when a 5-year old is excited about his new G.I. Joe action figure.... but it's "inappropriate" for a 28 year old girl to get THAT overcome with an emotion that she just HAS TO, "sprint it out" for a sec!

Ya know something, though?  I think He likes these things that are done in the secret, silly place.  My name means "childlike/youthful" and I know that spark is in me somewhere.... it was woven into my design and so He must enjoy it!  He must be goin, "go ahead and sprint girl!" I've believed lies that have held me back a lot in the past and I'm ready for permission to SPRINT forward into a freer more faith-filled future. 

When I first became a believer, I had this sweet anticipation brewing on the inside... it was clear and unadulterated by the bitterness and unbelief that can come with the bruises and burns from the struggle we're strugglin'.  I remember hearing the simple truths of the Gospel and wanting to RUN full-speed into an abandoned life, believing this lovely Jesus at His Word, and leaving everything behind to surrender to His leading. It ain't been roses though.... shoot... its been a bit more like prickler bushes... but I've learned that joy always comes in the morning.... even the flowers testify as they open in brave faith to the new mercies that are waiting to be received.  He's been encouraging me all along, I'm sure.... Its just been too noisy for me to hear Him...."go ahead and sprint girl"
I think I shall :-)

I'd like to propose a toast:

Here's to the scars of yesterday to remind us how far we've come.
Here's to the budding of future Springs, and to the Winters that make them so kind.
Here's to the hope deferred, sick heart.... and the longing-fulfilled that heals it.
Here's to the walk forward in faith, and the look backward in gratitude.
Here's to the One who is a friend that sticks closer than a brother... and the sprint until we meet Him face to face. 

What's that you say?  Oh, you're sad I haven't been blogging lately?  Yes, truly sorry about that... I was in China....
Oh, what's that you say?  Why was I in China?  Well... there is this tall, white Chinese guy whose guitar I have.... its a long story :-)

Here's to that guy too...

With crazy love,
Julie Eileen

Friday, June 28, 2013

dusty tunes on ancient paths

There's something about an old hymn.  The sound of it seemingly familiar- even as your ears meet its melody for the first time.  Something in its depth calls to the deep in me.  Its more than sonnet language....more than a thee or a thou sprinkled here and there... more than the indescribable nostalgic bliss that can accompany such songs.  Its both a comfort and a challenge to let music and lyric take you back to the trail of worship that was blazed long before our feet touched down on the path... forerun by saints who are now in glory.  Oh the joy of a hymn that can lead one there... I want to nestle into the tattered curl of its pages and stay for a while. I want to let the words- exhaled from scripture- settle on down into my bones... to light up the dark places within and cause faith to spring up from old wells. 

I find there to be a woven theme through the lyrics in the hymns of old... and that is their ability to capture the sense of awe toward an unseen God.  Well, of course Julie.. that is the nature of a song of worship... true, but do you ever feel like we ...modern folk... could stand to take a page from the old hymnal and learn a little about the dying art of reverence? There's something about these dusty tunes... that speak of ancient paths... the good old way.  They can move the soul to heights that lie unreached in the present day I think.  I'm not trying to disregard the revelation and depth in a modern day worship song- I think I'm just trying to grant due affection to an old friend.  The hymn that's lost its mojo in the church these days.  The depth of a lyric, a resounding melody... stripped bare before an invisible, living God...void of all the bells and whistles present in the Millennium we wake up in.  Simply awe inspiring. 

I like old things.  I always felt I was born in too modern an era to suit my "old soul."  We grew up in a house of old things... and old people. Mom and Dad received free antique furniture from every Great Grand that went before us.  Our Great Granny lived with us for the first 5 years of my life....the last years of hers.  I have fond memories of walking her up the stairs to bed at night... both of us heavy-eyed and in full nightgown attire. I was her little shadow. Toward the end of her days, Granny lived on a diet of blackberry brandy and prunes... so Mom gave me sips of brandy, and coaxed me into believing that prunes were candy... (I still think of them as a treat... so weird). Great Granny and I were pals.  Because one circles back around to childlike simplicity at the end of life, the 90 years that separated us didn't seem to much matter.  Oh Granny.  You hold a sweet place in my heart.  I'm sure you were lovely when you were young... but I only knew you old... and I adored you old. 

History has always excited me too.  Maybe because perspective can widen our eyes to see things more fully... enabling us to long for Eden past and Eternity as it approaches.  To remember the city to which we call home.  To remember it's Builder and Maker... our Builder and Maker... and to groan and long to be with Him.  To gaze, wide-eyed, into forever as things are made right.  An old hymn can do this to me... in a measure.  It can evoke thoughts and feelings I seem to have known before... like a deja vus of sorts.  It can point my eyes toward the One who was, is, and ever shall be. The Rock of ages to which we cling.

I didn't grow up knowing hymns... so in college my lovely southern sisters enlightened me, and from then on, I could never get enough.  The Tarleton girls and I would sit on the rocking chairs, overlooking old Milledgeville, and harmonize the night away.... one of my favorite things on the planet.  They'd always sing those old hymns up-to-tempo.... as they'd learned them in their country Methodist church growing up... but I begged that we could slow each one down and let the harmonies ring out (Yes, Daddy... this is all due to the barbershop tags that flow through my very veins because of you :-)  ....Being from the gene pool of a long line of Barbershop singers, its always seemed to me, an injustice, for one to cut a harmony short without letting it complete its magical work of resounding. Hah. Poor Beth and Amy Tarleton... what sacrifices you both made to sing with me in slow motion... sweet girls. 

Here are the lyrics to one of my newly acquainted old friends.... its one of the very best I've ever heard.... This hymn came to me by way of a dear one :)
... and goodness... if you've read this far... for the treat of being stirred in your soul.... read the hymn :)

He is worthy of all honor and praise.... and He inhabits the praises of His people.
with great love,

In the Secret of His Presence

In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to the secret place I go,
To the secret place I go.

When my soul is faint and thirsty, ’neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Savior rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter what He says when thus we meet,
What He says when thus we meet.

Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens! and my drooping soul He cheers:
Do you think He ne’er reproves me? What a false Friend He would be,
If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see,
Of the sins which He must see.

Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face,
Of the Master in your face.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

from the back door

this isn't going to be clear.  like a story or a tale. not like my usual blogging.  I'm not even going to bother with correct punctuation....well maybe I will for some of it...when my pinkie feels like reaching over to the "shift" key...and when Reverence calls for it... and when autocorrect takes over  :-)

these will just be ramblings.  so at the risk of being misunderstood (yea so might wanna skip this blog...I promise in the next...I won't be abstract...I'll maybe even throw in a chemistry equation...just for logical fun) we go.

I feel so tired. like a mess. but such peace too. strange how they can live together.  peace and a an old married couple named Marge and Wilbur... (nice job with the shift key pinkie...way to look alive)

I guess its like calm in a storm. but the winds don't seem strong right now, and the boat isn't rocking. its more like after a storm.  like when the water is murky and debris is scattered. 

in this moment im astounded. baffled by this God. who dips His toes into the murky waters...and in a moment you can see to the bottom.  wondrous. 

im filled up with awe by the gallons. at His mysterious ways. how He likes to surprise us at the back door. He comes around back because He comes all the time....He's no no need for the doorbell.  i remember times when He seemed like a no-show. through the cycles of seasons. years even. what were You doing then?  felt like you were in China or somewhere the only way i could meet with You would be to start digging 'til I got to the other side of the globe. oh, is that just a myth?

i know You were near.  because You don't lie.  and You say You don't leave.  maybe You were in the tree house out back...watching over....ever present.  but i like You at the back door.  i like You familiar.  amaze me always ok?  i guess i mean- take my blinders i might stay amazed.  soften my heart so i might be tender. noticing You in the breeze. watching You sway through tall grass. seeing you rustle the leaves.  beholding You in another's eye.  do away with this plank in my own....its really getting annoying. wash it away with tears. filter it out through the cross. that my eyes would be clean. clear of debris from the storm.  from the ship that went down. 

ever present. even when i thought of digging to China to find You. You would've just sat there and let me sweat wouldn't You? grinning down from the tree house out back. You got a sense of humor for sure. humor is in the clay.. and You are the Potter... where else would it come from? funny how we don't know You're funny... we don't even know "funny" I'm sure.  we don't even really know the "good medicine" it is when You tell a joke. You probably cure cancer with a joke. You've got jokes for days.... eternities.

im almost at the end of this thing but gosh i could go on forever. and You'd be worthy still.  praise leaves me breathless. mindless. if not for this body of death....I would go on adoring you, God.  if not for this temporal frame... I would forget sleep.  but here i sit. In the tired messy peace.  and that'll have to do for now.... until glory takes over.  You just wait though.... I'll show You Potter... i'll show You praise You deserve... but now it would just be zeal. because the truth is... only You give me strength to lift a voice or a hand. only You give me might to give to You.  What in the world Lord?  I guess that's just it.  You're so out of this world. so other than. reason fails. words fail. everything fails to speak You.

I guess I should retire now. Pinkie is tired from all of the reaching and its a wee hour.  You're incredible You know that?  I can only ask that you give me a dream so we can keep this going.... this adoration. wow. this really is all up to you isn't it.  I can't even will myself to praise You in sleep.  that too lies in Your hands.  cause you're holding the globe.... so my digging wouldn't have worked anyway huh? I guess all I can do is abide here. and let You let me praise You. 

love you more than words. more than milk from the farm.  and no one even really gets that but You.

See you at the back door,
Julie Eileen

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Lets go for a drive Jack"

I went to Target today.  To get TWO things.  Neither of them were clothing items.  I've been striving to simplify my life and needed to make sure that I did NOT get clothes.....but the craziest thing happened: as the sliding doors opened, somebody grabbed me, picked me up, and threw me clear across the store to the clothing department and I was like, "Hey! That was SUPER rude!" I kept yelling at them... ya know, saying how you can't just do stuff like that to people....(as I picked up some really cute pants and a few shirts.)  I mean that's how it is right... you walk in with fierce resolve... and then "someone" screws it up... or you screw it up :-/ ....but I didn't!  I didn't end up wasting money on clothes I don't need.  I looked at the pile in my hand and thought, "what the crap am I doing!?" Absolutely nothing in my hand was a necessity (and sadly...I probably have similar varieties of all of it in my closet already) I put every last item back.... and as I walked away, I gave a defiant look of strength to the sucker who had thrown me over there in the first place...
When I finally got the things I needed, on my way back up to the front of the store to pay, I fist bumped the clothes on the rack ...ya know, to show that we can be civil even if we can't be friends...
As I got in line, the Cashier was having a conversation with the Customer in front of me, which she then transferred to me.  She was telling me that she'd always been a "Daddy's girl," but had lost her Father in 2003.... that he'd given her his car and now- every time she gets in it to go somewhere- she says, "Let's go for a drive Jack." Who was this woman who shared such pearls with passersby who, soon before this moment, had so shallowly been thinking only of clothing? Her vulnerability was refreshing and it warmed me.  She had kind, sad eyes and I smiled at her and expressed my sorrow that she had lost her Daddy- to which she responded that her Mother had died of cancer and she had lost her sister too.  Checkout was over.  The next person had taken my place and was geared up and ready for transaction.....of money, not conversation... but the Cashier and I were still interacting and as I went to take the receipt, she placed her hand on mine and said, "Thank you honey."  I felt helpless...and rushed.  I felt sad that we are so often rushed out of connecting, even just for a few moments, with another human being.  The truth?  My people-pleasing of the hurried Customer behind me might have snuffed out a greater response... that the Cashier was worthy of.  It's not like I even know what I should have or could have done differently, the moment just didn't feel adequate... and it just got me thinking.  What are we in such a hurry for?  What is more important than the moment we are in?  Another thing about it hit me too... the ugly thought I had that the lady just might share this kind of thing with every customer.  That maybe she is just, "needy."  Maybe so....but who isn't?  I just wonder how much of the rhythm of our day is created by our lack of ability to hear a different beat?  Unfortunately, a lot of times, we tend to shame or ridicule those who march to the beat of a different drummer in life.  Brave souls who would actually take a moment to engage with the homeless man... or sit and talk with the odd person on the bench at the park.  I thought about how much of my energy is expended on the internal chaos that acts as a distraction to the beauty offered in the surrounding world. 

Took a walk with Mom this evening.  My lovely, steady, practical Momma (who I have never actually called, "Momma..." but it felt poetic in the sentence ;-)  I've cherished the times with her- especially lately.  If I haven't told you that out loud, Mom, I hope you read this and know it now.  A bird flew in front of us and my Mom commented on how pretty it was. Normally, our walks aren't like this....normally Mom is staring at the concrete sidewalk and speed walking....while I use my breath to keep up and to remind her to slow the pace....about every five minutes :-) But today was a different walk and Mom noticed the bird.  I told her about some specific people that I know who always just seem to take a moment to notice birds.  I told Mom about Janet- who goes with her husband yearly to upstate NY and they bird watch.  She is a connoisseur... seriously.  She knows every tweet distinctively and it always amazes me.  She could have invented twitter... ;-)

My friend Kathy is also a moment snatcher.  We will be walking along the canal trail and she will extend her arm in front of me, as to motion a pause- as she gets her phone's camera ready to capture something.... and then my eyes are opened to the flock of geese that are taking flight right before us by the hundreds it seems.... how could I have missed that before!? Or there are many times that she will stop, mid-sentence, to gush over a dog that's passing or to smell a daffodil.  It never fails to bring dimples to my face :-)  I adore that quality in people.  As we walked this same trail, my friend Haley made a comment that, I think, sums up what snatching a moment has the ability to be.  She was talking about all of the plants around us.... and how it was amazing what God created.  When I looked around to see what she was specifically referring to, I noticed how they were so crowded and wildly reaching a manner of praise it seemed. The world is full of beauty because God is beautiful.  We sometimes don't see the beauty in the world because we fail to take the moment.  Maybe we miss it in Him too for the same reason? 

Jesus was the ultimate moment snatcher....that's probably why I love it when I hear that note played in so many people that I know.  I'm thankful for those who call attention to the precious things that surround us. It is an evident light of the God that's within us.....and greater is He. 

Much Love,


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keepin' the love on

A few months ago, my friend Christine introduced me to the idea of, "keepin' the love on."  The thought behind the phrase is: not to withhold love toward those around you, no matter what you may be feeling or the state of your own heart.  It can be so easy to turn the love off in response to the circumstantial lows of everyday fallen living, but real love "keeps the light on for ya..." like Motel 6... ;-)

I was reminded of this concept the other day as I realized just how much I fail to, in fact, keep it on.

Love, (True affection for God and Man), rises to take its place above faith and hope as the greatest among these.  However, love is probably the most overused word, whose true meaning has been compromised more than that of any other.

Love... actual love.... like the bearing up under all things kind of love, is rare to witness upon the earth.... yet it is the very example that was portrayed when God's son stepped onto the planet, living 33 years in human skin to display heaven's splendor for us who were made from the dirt.  Love is to be our greatest lesson if we would surrender ourselves to its teaching.  It is so costly though.... that's the usual deal, right?  The worthy things are costly, otherwise: everyone would be doing them...
Man, some things in the Word can seem really broad and hard to understand... churches split over foggy doctrines and people part over disagreements about the seemingly gray areas of gospel living... many things are just so difficult to come to truth about.  What is crazy about all of this though... is that we forfeit huge opportunities to learn love (the greatest thing... the one thing that we can take with us into eternity)... and we choose the opinions and thoughts of our own finite brains over the chance to discover how to love our neighbor.

True Love is easy to distinguish because it goes against the grain and strikes an un-strummed chord within us.  Like Salmon do, love swims upstream and beckons the attention of the schools who are swimming the other direction as they go with the flow.  I sometimes wonder how this story might have panned out differently if Adam would have laid His life down for Eve and, "taken the fall," for her instead of blaming her for the whole apple deal.... would that have been enough love to cover a multitude of sins?  I guess we'll never know... because Adam didn't do that, Jesus did.  He took the fall for all of us.  He, who did no wrong, took on our wrong... so that we could be made right.... amazing. 

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  That sentence alone should evoke something on the inside of us who believe.  However, it somehow becomes so easy to remain unmoved by such miraculous wonders... yet Tom Cruise can arouse our adventurous side and Julia Roberts can bring us to tears while we eat popcorn and drink soda and leave a movie theater... changed? Meanwhile... God wrote and walked out an unbelievably adventurous and miraculous story... and put us smack dab in the middle of it... and we're bored...

Maybe our hearts are a little hard?  Maybe we've let our outward circumstances dictate our inward stance?  We lose our faith because the deaf guy that we prayed for still can't hear.... we feel hurt by the church, and life, and people, so we clam up and withhold love and hurt more people.... and all the while, we came into this whole relationship inspired to love when we understood that He first loved us...  We were love struck by the man on the cross who... while we were yet sinning.... laid down His life for us.... and greater love has no one than this... that a man would lay His life down for His friends.   God became a man and walked around on the very dirt that He once blew breath into to create the first of our kind... and then the Father allowed that dirt to crush His Son.  It is too much to consider.... and Tom Cruise could never do it justice on the big screen. 

The divine will of God will come to pass... and then prophecy will be no longer.....tongues will cease.... knowledge will be superseded by Truth..... and all that will be left to posses is love.  What if we laid it all down for the sake of learning love instead of trying to strive to gain what we can't take with us anyway?  The other day I was at my Grandparent's house and my (eighty-something years young) Pop-Pop couldn't find where he had put his new ipad that he'd gotten as a present.  He was really anxious about it and I said, "Pop-Pop, don't let it stress you out.... you can't take it with you when you go anyway."  His response was so witty... and true.  He said, "Yea, you're right Jul... you never see a U-Haul following a hearse to the graveyard..." :-)

I'm not under the false impression that loving unconditionally is easy.... or that I've ever even really been successful at it for more than like 5 minutes... haha...  I'm not saying that keepin' the love on when you don't even feel loved will just be all warm and fuzzy.... it probably won't.... but love does not demand its own way.  I believe it is worth it though.  The worthy things are always costly... and if this life is all about learning love and knowing God... then when it's all said and done, we will count everything else as dung anyway compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. 

With love,


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Opposite Day

There have been more than a few times in my life when something difficult happened and I thought, "wow, Lord, I really didn't need that."  My Dad actually said this to me recently and the thought took on a shouting echo in the hollow spaces of my head. 

I've been thinking a lot about Character lately... about how we attain it... about the road it takes to posses it... and its not a walk in the park, but more like a walk in a sewage ditch.... not a bed of roses, but more like a blanket of thorns.  Unfortunately, the path to Character has no shortcut and the ground is uneven.  Its hard to keep your footing.  Its painful.  It tears your skin and draws blood. 

The first stop on the journey? 

Suffering. This part sucks... lets just be real.  It doesn't last forever but its the stage where you go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning and as the light touches your eyes- revealing their first few blinks- your heart gets a signal from your brain that calls to remembrance the reality of your difficult season.  I always hate that feeling.  Sleep carries such sweet denial... and the moment when denial gets shoved out of the way by the abrupt sting of reality.... yea, that moment bites. This is when you wish the blinking had never started, but that instead, maybe your brain could have signaled your eyes first to tell them that today would be a good day to stay closed....but this is not how we were designed I guess.  The light comes in, the signals are sent out, and that is that. 

The only way to make our way through this part? 

Perseverance. Well, perseverance and Oreos.  Okay, no- just perseverance.  Its the next natural progression.  In this stage, you consider your choices.  Do I stay in bed and beg for sleep's comforting anesthetic to return... or is it time to get up slowly, walk to the door, and allow your fingers to test their courage as they reach for the handle and turn...?  We must give credit to the small decisions that we make in perseverance, because they do not go unnoticed by heaven.  Someone may look at the tiny choices you make to advance forward in the fight and not recognize the victory because they cannot see the battle within.  God sees the battle though.  God made Himself well-acquainted with the battle of humanity when he chose to make His entrance into this life through the birth canal of a virgin girl.  What?  is that too intense?  Well take it up with Him then... not me.  Would you expect anything less though from a God/Man who would later choose to leave this life with sharp metal pegging Him to wood as a hammer pounds repeatedly?  I'm not being dramatic... its just what happened.  One cannot pay such a heavy price, carry such a burdensome load.... without excruciating pain and sacrifice... its simply not possible.  So we persevere with the strength of the guy who did that instead of flexing our own wimpy biceps in a haughty attempt that is predestined to leave us face down on the floor before we even take the second step out of bed.  This stage takes a really long time.  None of this really comes to fruition over night, but perseverance is especially time consuming.  Endurance is key and Gatorade just doesn't do the trick.  Part of successful perseverance is to draw our energy from His well and not our own.  I think its in this stage that our faith becomes real.  Its no longer ethereal but you can now almost taste it.... you recognize that its becoming tangible.

So when the crap hits the fan we think, Wow I really didn't need that...but we did. we SO did.  After I get over the immediate reaction (which is: "Oh really, James... consider it joy?  Why don't I punch you in the face and you can show me all the joy you are considering!!)... I take a minute- and then I actually do consider it joy... because it means I'm on the road- I'm on the road to Character and I can't wait until perseverance finishes its work so that I may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  Because this is what its all about, right?  Being sanctified into the character of Jesus? If its hard to look at it this way, just consider everyday to be "opposite day"....because basically that is what living out the gospel is.... one big opposite day.  Someone strikes your cheek?... well, just give them the other too. Have an enemy?.... let your belly just fill up with love butterflies for them (yea that doesn't really happen... its more like swallowing knives to love them, but I guess just pretend the knives are butterflies?) Opposite Day.

The icing on the cake is that Character produces hope... but this hope is not like any other hope.  No, this hope "does not disappoint."  Its the only kind of hope that doesn't end in our shame for having believed in it in the first place.  That sounds like music to my hope deferred ears :-)

I'll come in for a landing with a little wisdom from my husband, Graham Cooke (OK...he is not my husband, that was just a test to see if you are a faithful reader of my blog... if you are not, *see previous blog ;-)  Graham says that it is stupid that we ask for the presence of God... because He is already here.  What we should actually do is practice this presence... to "Practice the presence we believe is present."  My idea of the best way to do this is to take every thought captive and body slam that sucka down to submit to the knowledge of God.  Uh Uh Lie... I don't think so!  It's Opposite Day Playah, so you can put me on trial and try to bring me down all day long and I'm just gonna consider it a big fat joy fest...

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And this hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" -Romans 5:3-5

So don't be afraid if life makes you take a stroll in a sewage ditch... and just go with it and curl on up to that fire with a thorny blanket... its good for your Character.

We were never promised that we would not suffer... but we do not suffer alone.  We have a High Priest who can sympathize... in every way.  He truly is so very faithful.

Trying to make every day Opposite Day,
~Mrs. Graham Cooke

P.S. Graham Cooke's actual wife, if you ever read my blogs... hopefully you have a sense of humor...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Julie "I lean" Doggendorf

I've been listening to a guy named Graham Cooke because he is basically my friend Kathy's other husband... I mean he's not reeeeaaaally, and she might be mad that I said that... but it shows her appreciation for what he has to say... and what kind of man he is.  My friend Kathy is happily married... to one man... she is not a sister-wife... don't worry.  She has always told me about Graham Cooke and she let me borrow a teaching of his.... way too long ago to admit, and I am just now listening to it... and now he is my husband too... no, but I now understand her esteem :-)

I love to listen to people speak of Jesus.  I don't just like sermons all the time, but I like when people communicate Jesus as they see Him through their eyes... and in truth of course. 

There is something so refreshing about being renewed with the love of God.  To remember such a simple truth... that He loves us.  Its an everyday thought but a rare belief. I taste it all the time but I can't always drink it down. Sometimes though, I get it for a second and I cry.  I love to cry because of love. 
Sometimes I feel like old cheese... gross I know... I do though sometimes, like I've been aged by the cares of this shadow life... its only a breath.... here and gone in a moment.... yet it has great capabilities to wound us.  I wish I could remember, say like on a Tuesday at 3pm while in the grocery store... that life is so short.  That no matter what comes our way in the shadow, there is the hope of eternity just waiting to be pondered.  Maybe that would make me stop for a moment amongst the one million cereal choices and remember Jesus.  I want to remember in the moments that feel meaningless- that there is actually so much to glean because God did an amazing thing and that gives meaning to even the moments that are hidden in the isles of mundane grocery shopping.  I want to remember in the moments where conscious thoughts seem to evaporate from our minds as we turn down the same streets in our cars like robots in the routine of our everyday.... that this moment is actually extraordinary.... because God did an extraordinary thing.  But oh how easily we forget... and we let the cereal isle overtake us; our routine leaves us thoughtless... and all of these things muddy the moments that have the potential to be crystal clear snippets of praise.  Sure, life is not always adventurous, and sometimes the event of the day is deciding between Captain Crunch and Cocoa Pebbles, but we are actually, simultaneously seated with Christ in heavenly places too... we just don't grasp it... and its hard to grasp it under the florescent light of the grocery store while Cinnamon Toast Crunch is flirting with your heart.  I want to spend my moments in grace and truth... whether in the grocery store or deep in worship.  I want to age well with God.  Some things get better with age.... like wine.... and I'd like to be wine instead of old cheese.  Could I be wine Lord? Let every wrinkle come with wisdom please.... 'cause if not, then I will just be stinky, old cheese. When my hair goes gray and crows land their feet on the outer corners of my eyes.... let it not be for naught Lord, but if it must come, let it be accompanied by the wisdom of Solomon.

I'm glad I'm not 17.  I mean... 28 can be really hard sometimes... but I'm not 17.  I remember 17. So epic and gut-wrenching.  The thought of getting older is avoided and believed to be tragic in our culture... and I admit I hate it too sometimes, but the beautiful wisdom that comes with age and another year of life-lived is priceless.  Something that would have absolutely killed me at 17 is only a bump in the road these days.  Imagine when I'm 70... sigh.. I'll have this life thing in the bag... no problem.  I know that's probably not true... but I won't be 28... and I'll remember 28 and think, "I'm glad I'm not 28..."  The actual truth is that I'm not all that much greater than I was at 17, but I've learned to lean a little harder.  With every passing year, I find that I'm leaning just a little more on Jesus as life throws me curves and twists and sometimes punches me in the face.  I get tired and can't stand up as straight as I did before, but its a lovely thing to know I can lean..... that He can take the weight of some of these burdens I'm toting around. Graham Cooke says the cross is light.  We are to take on His yoke... because it is light and easy.  How nice.  Why do we make it seem so heavy?  He did all of the heavy lifting for us and now our burden is light.  He took in the milk and all of the soda cans out of the car from the grocery trip and left us only the chips to carry.  So nice.  I hate taking in groceries from the car... hate it so much, but I don't mind carrying the airy bag of chips.... I can handle that. For real though, life is too short to take on burdens that have already been carried and the moments are too few to waste.

Thank you God... for being extraordinary... and for doing extraordinary things.  You are what makes life worth living.  You are more than reason enough to lift our gaze and You are worth every snippet of our praise.  Thanks for your shoulder to lean on.... and thanks for carrying in the milk.

Julie Eileen

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the God who wrestles

Growing up with three older brothers, I became well acquainted with wrestling.  When we were kids, it was the height of the (fake) pro wrestling phenomenon... the glory days of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and "Diamond cutter"Dallas Page.... wow, and I'm slightly embarrassed that I remember them so clearly...hah
Those of you who were avid fans during that time will probably remember, "Sting."  He was always in black and his symbol was a scorpion.  I remember in middle school, I wore one of my brother's black Sting shirts to school with a huge white scorpion on the front.... hardcore.... I was pretty much the bravest, coolest chick at Fayette Middle that day ;-)

So I was thinking about how Jacob wrestled with God... I mean I'm sure it was a little different.... like God probably didn't rip his shirt like Hogan and slam a steal chair onto Jacob's head for crowd appeal.... but He totally did leave him limping with a wrenched hip.

We mustn't test the Lord our God.... but I guess we can sure as heck wrestle with Him.  There is something that pleases the heart of God when we refuse to give up, like Jacob did, "until He blesses us."  I think its faith- I mean faith does please God, and Jacob had to have faith that the struggle would produce a blessing when he made the decision that he wasn't going to let go.  God says that He blessed Jacob because he "struggled with God and with humans and has overcome." Such bravery- to fight til' you overcome! I'd like to be so brave...

The only thing is, I was never a good wrestler....  My version would be to just cling to my brother's legs to try and stop them from progressing in the fight.... to try to impair the obvious advantage they had in strength and height!  And I haven't come up with any creative moves since then.... That's where I am now- I've wrapped myself around the shins of the King because I gotta believe He will bless me. I gotta believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  I'm not looking for Him to bless me with a Jag or a Mercedes, or some high-end shoes made from crocodile skins.... I just want Him to bless me with His Presence.  Like Moses said before the exodus, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here."  Thats how I feel.  I want Him to go before me; to take me by the hand and lead me- to hem me in before and behind.  I want His will- and if I have to put on my brother's old Sting shirt and wrestle to get it- then so be it.  I don't even know what it is to be honest- I don't know what His will is for my life.  I do know this though, He has plans to prosper us... to give us a hope and a future... and while I don't always know the next step of faith to take in His will, I do know that the plan of the enemy is evident.... as I cling to the Lord, the enemy latches on to my legs... trying to trip me up and steal the grip I have on the Almighty.  I'm furiously shaking him off though- because nothing is worth me loosing this grip I have on Jesus.  The sight of His face is all I will need, to know that this has all been... more than worth the struggle.

Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob.... the God who wrestles.  Blessed are those who hope in Him... He remains Faithful forever.

With love and sweet wrestling moves,

Friday, February 22, 2013

the dimmer switch, Abbey, and the Native Americans

If you know me well, you've probably heard me quote this as an answer when answers just won't come, "We see as in a mirror, dimly"

We do... its true.  One day, though, we won't have to squint by candlelight anymore, but with clarity, all things will be revealed. (...chuckle...) It makes me think of the other  night in the kitchen, the lights were set at a "mood" level as my (extremely practical) Mother proclaimed, "wow this is an annoying level of light isn't it!?" It was like juuuust bright enough to get around without tripping, but dim enough to cause early- onset forehead wrinkles because of the squint-fest.  I'm all about dim lighting... but she's right... it can totally be annoying, especially at times when clarity is required.  Sure its nice to sometimes sit down to a meal out at a restaurant with an ambiance of candlelight... but who wants to like... do their taxes in this kind of lighting... or like try to find their car keys? Its frustrating!

And so it is with life... its like things are constantly set on the dang dimmer switch... and all while I'm trying to see clearly to figure out my (ahem) destiny here, LORD.  No matter how hard I try to "CLAP ON(clap clap) CLAP OFF (clap clap)"... things just ain't gettin' any brighter.  Its cool how that book, The Purpose Driven Life, awakened a lot of people to the idea that maybe there is a reason we are all here... that we are not just wandering aimlessly through a dimly lit corn maze of an existence!  At the same time though, I sometimes feel like we have now been sent on a quest where purpose must be found in every tiny matter.  Especially for purpose-seekers like myself.  I want to live a life on purpose, but sometimes it can seem like we are trying to know the end from the beginning... because we are afraid to just... trust. Sometimes I try to make myself believe that when I leave the house late because I can't find my keys or something.... it must be because God is protecting me by helping me avoid an accident or something... usually though, I just thoughtlessly laid my keys somewhere and now I can't find them.  We don't know every thing's purpose yet.  This is the point of the dim lighting though, right?  That we might rely on Someone... who has a better view... to help lead us along.

My girlfriends and I just had to say goodbye to our dear friend, Abbey, this morning because she is moving to Texas.  There are so few twenty-somethings in our area that we are not shy about snatching one up when they find themselves somehow displaced in our town ;-) Abbey is one of those girls who just fit into our group of friends so naturally.  We only got to really know her for about 6 months, but she was like the cheese added to our broccoli chicken casserole or something- she rounded out the flavor and we are going to miss her so much.  She was newly married and lived in the northeast for 4 months without really having a community of friends... and one could ask a lot of "why's" here.  Why would the Lord bring her here and then take her away so quickly?  Why (when me and my friends were waiting like Piranhas as we prayed for community) didn't we meet her sooner?... so we could've had 10 months instead of only 6?.... None of it makes sense.  All we can do is be thankful for the gift of time we were blessed to have with her, love her, and let her go into this new season that God is leading her into.  There is not really anything in this life that we can hold onto, we can only hold out our hands to receive a gift that the Lord wants to give, and then leave our hands open to offer it right back to Him to let Him freely do with it what He desires.  It's not a game that He's playing with us.  He just sees the completed picture and we are doing this 1,000 piece puzzle by the light of the dimmer switch...

I heard this quote one time in reference to what we can do with all of the unknowns - "Lord, I submit this to the mystery of Your will."  I love that- its a good one to keep in the back pocket to snack on in times of confusion.

We see as in a mirror, dimly... but someday we will see clearly.  I so often just wish the Lord would turn the lights up already.  Instead though... there is trust that is being built.  When I don't have the capability of having the overhead lighting that He has, I must learn to take Him at His word.  It's like I'm being herded along by a good Shepherd or something... His rod and His staff... they comfort me.
This isn't a new struggle, eh?  I mean... remember: hey... eat this apple (or more accurately, some other kind of exotic garden of Eden fruit variety... surely organic ;-) Eat this... and it will all make sense... you'll know it all... and you'll understand it all.  Funny how the oldest lie remains to be the toughest to fight off, huh?  This lie should've been on that show Myth Busters a long time ago... but we are all still getting Punked by it...

The Good news?  The Lord is like the Native Americans.  uh... okay? Yea. You know how you learned in school as a kid, that the Native Americans- when they had hunted and caught an animal- they used every part of it... nothing went to waste.  As does our Maker... use everything.  No test or trial or unknown will go to waste, but instead can and will be used for His glory.

Longing for the day when we see clearly.  When we know as we are fully known and love as we are fully loved.

Much love,


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Groud-breaking science: The Extreme Gene

This is not a scientific fact... yet, but I have this theory about a gene that is passed down which makes one go to the extreme scenario in their brain.  I have inherited such a gene.  I'm not sure from whom, but way back in my family history somewhere, I'm convinced that there is a witty, down-to-earth somebody who is like-able and chill on the outside.... while their brain marches to a techno beat of a drum in their head as they ponder the calamities that are at bay.... thanks a lot Great-great-great grand-somebody :-/

I think some of my brothers might have the gene too... but of course their gene is not infused with girl brain, and is therefore- not as intense.  My brother Jeff is seriously one of the funniest people on the face of the planet.... like a cross between Jim Carrey and Steve Carell or something.  His extreme gene is more subtle and seems to appear most often when he is half-asleep and though the stories make for a bounty of hearty laughs later- while they are happening, he is 100% serious in the moment- truly believing that what is happening in his head is actually occurring in real life.  One time when him and my sister-in-law Gentry were visiting, she was telling us about how his nighttime antics don't even phase her anymore.  She told us that the previous night,  Jeff woke up absolutely freaking out- throwing the blanket off the bed because it was definitely ON FIRE.  Gentry said that she sleepily explained that the blanket was, in fact, not in flames as she pulled it back on and dosed off.  Jeff also told us about one time when all of the oxygen had somehow been quickly leached from the bedroom and he was yelling for Gentry to follow him out to safety!  This one is a favorite of mine because I can just so easily imagine him gasping for breath as he is adamantly coercing his wife to TRUST HIM.... if she wants to get out of there alive..... TRUST HIM.  My brother Matt can tend to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist himself... and Andrew?  Well, I guess he is pretty normal... the most logical of us all- unless of course he is just hiding the evidence of the gene in his own life...hmmm
I promise, my brothers are not crazy... I'm just using their stories to prepare your palate for mine... well, and so I don't feel completely alone in my weirdness... 

****Aww... a pause to say Happy Valentine's day: I just glanced out the window and our neighbor's husband was putting a valentine in our mailbox (His wife usually sends him on errands delivering goodies to lucky neighbors such as ourselves)... aww I feel the love today in the 55+ ;-) ****

So I have lots of those half-asleep stories myself, but my gene shows itself while I'm fully awake... while my brain is at its peak, with strong capability of debunking such spiraling thoughts... yet they are so terribly difficult to shake. Its not like I walk around paranoid or anything- I don't think that the C.I.A. is out to get me or that aliens are trying to take over my body. I actually think that I, a lot of times, can have a lack of healthy fear.. and it can sometimes get me into dangerous situations... like getting lost in the woods at night with barely any battery left on my cell phone and no flash light... or venturing down my Mom's old street in Philly... which is now definitely a common hangout for those involved in drug trade or gang violence.

I'm telling you though, these thoughts happen, maybe once a day- they are nonsensical, and most certainly an outcome of the gene..."trust me" ;-)

Okay here's one:  So the other night, I was on the phone with a friend.  I was in bed and I had a little box fan running down by the bottom of my bed.  It started to make a funny noise, like something was stuck in it... my immediate thought?  Mouse Foot.  SERIOUSLY!? Yes.  The very first thought that entered my mind was that a mouse must have gotten its foot caught in my box fan.... clearly, the only explanation for a rickety sound in one's very old box fan.  I haven't even ever SEEN a mouse in this house... but this was no time for deductive reasoning or process of elimination!  This was serious!  First of all, how the heck am I going to get this mouse's foot out of my box fan without him biting me and giving me rabies... and second of all, how can I sleep now, knowing that this mouse probably has a wife, kids, and other kinfolk roaming around somewhere within the walls :-/

Then there is that storm that occasionally comes along, whose thunder seems different from any old ordinary thunder, and I think, "oh man, this is it.... Jesus is returning." .... or a plane that is a lit-tle too loud as it flies over the house... is probably headed straight for my bedroom.  Hah, I know this is funny, but not funny.... and slightly irreverent- but I really do think these things- and I force myself to imagine that God just thinks its... endearing :-)

So I could ponder how much of it is nature (my extreme gene) and how much is nurture (just the crazy junk that's happened in my life)... and I'm not sure if the chicken or the egg came first...
Because yea, okaaaay, so soooooometimes I think my fan is making noise because a mouse's foot is stuck in it.... but this is not completely far fetched... I lived in a house by myself once where critters (we think Squirrels) took over the attic and ran around constantly chewing wires and making my lights go out.  And I remember, growing up in Georgia, that the thunder used to be so strong that it would sometimes shake the house (my brothers can attest to this?) so okaaaay maybe its not so crazy that I assume that, when it happens now, it must be the return of the Lord...

Wow... probably the weirdest Valentine's day blog you've read today....

Bringing you love and ground-breaking scientific theories,

Friday, February 8, 2013

rabbits on trails

I recently read through all of my unfinished blog posts....and decided to combine some of them here as they would most certainly never be shared otherwise....let the rabbit trails begin:

 Making for a better story later:

How does one begin...after such a long silence? Well with a spontaneous poem, naturally :-)

I've been gone a long while....
but I hope to make you smile....
by writing this rhyme...
at just the right time....
when you need a free laugh....
or a little brown calf....
well, I don't have a cow....
but I'd like one somehow...
I'd call her "Miss May"...
and she'd graze and eat hay....
the milk would be raw....
and it'd make us grow tall...
and my husband who farms...
would make fig jam in jars...
'cause men are from mars...  (My Mom wrote the last sentence- she's so creative ;-)

I've been thinking of changing the name of my blog site. This idea has been pin-balling around in my head and maybe its time for a change. Whats that you say? Oh, I know, I WILL take so much work to track down ALL of my followers and tell them where they can find me at my new ip address...yet the idea rolls on.... This one phrase keeps popping into my mind at moments when life feels meaningless or the idea of purpose seems to have been lost in yesterdays.  When I get discouraged about what kind of life I'm living, what kind of story I'm telling, I encourage myself and say, "Julie, don't worry, this is all making for a better story later."  So I'm thinking of changing my site to "making for a better story later."  We'll see.  I am turning 28 soon and I'd like to revive my "late twenties," with something exciting..... so maybe I just WILL buy a cow ;-)

 The guy from art class: 

I haven't been writing.  I have this love/hate relationship with my blog.  It's sorta like an ex-boyfriend that you still have feelings for... he keeps coming up in your mind but, ugh....its painful in the pit of your stomach to let yourself go there...  here I am though- back again, because I think it is good for me to write.  I gotta get some of this mess out of my head! 

So this random thought came to my mind today.  I remembered someone. This kid who shared a table with me in one of my high school art classes. Let's call him.... Joe. He was a bit nerdy.... wasn't the prom king or one of the "in-crowd" and I honestly didn't really know much about him....except that he was so very kind and we had to stare into one another's eyes for quite a long time for our project to sketch the face of your fellow student.  When I remembered him, I saw that he had written something so sweet in my yearbook about how much our friendship meant to him......"our friendship?"  It's amazing how something that you don't even know you are doing can effect someones heart.  Sure, I was a nice girl in high school but if I had it to do over again, I would have totally been best friends with Joe and he probably could have taught me things I unfortunately had to learn the hard way.... I'm sure he had a deep well of wisdom in his head.... especially because he wasn't preoccupied with chasing girls or being the best at football.  He was just.... genuine.  Anyway, you never know how much the slightest bit of kindness might mean to someone.... and you never know how the dorky kid from high school might teach you great lessons someday when you're 28.

Cheese Whiz and cubes from China:

I haven't been sleeping :-/ unfortunate issue I have much of the time. BUT instead of just counting the sheep that jump across the back of my eyelids, I'm gonna blog it out. The thoughts are numerous and the night drags I shan't waste it! Blog on sister, blog on...
Yesterday I unfortunately partook of some "cheese product." Now, this is not normal for me. I like genuine cheese, especially from a farm around the corner. Why, when bonified cheese is just a short drive away, where I can stare the very cow in the face from whom this cheese originates, would I consume the alternative product that slyly goes by "cheese," as it makes fools out of us 'mericans who have come to believe that the consistency of cheese must resemble that of rubber cement? We no longer have need for you, cows! You heifers just take your milk elsewhere...we are all set here with our maltodextrin and yellow # 5....and we are juuuuuuust fine. If I have a cow someday...which would be a dream (who even says stuff like that?)... I would name her yellow # 5 just for the irony of it. I would milk her, make cheese, and put "yellow # 5" on the label, and only the brave and witty would buy it :-)

I sit here on my bed, and as I take a big whiff through my nose....I smell change on the horizon.  Well, change and bone broth. No, bone broth is not some type of fancy analogy for something, I'm just literally cooking it downstairs and it smells lovely. They should make a candle scent for "bone broth." Nay, people should just make more bone broth....AND people should say, "nay" more often. Come to think of it, attitudes like, "they should just make a candle scent from that," have probably contributed to why people have stopped making bone broth.....convenience. Why would people take the time to make bone broth when you can buy it at the grocery store in a convenient cube...and why make blueberry muffins when Yankee Candle has that very scent, all you need is a match! Don't worry, this isn't going to be a blog about food, and I'm not going to try to encourage everyone to go watch a documentary on why chickens should roam free and cows should eat grass (but I do know a few good ones if you need some recommendations ;-) I will end with a telling quote from my Dad at dinner. I was talking about how I had read that we don't make bone broth in America much anymore, whereas in most other countries, they still use it to make savory sauces and tasty soups. I told them that I had read that we export much of our chicken parts to China and they make bone broth out of them....and my Dad responded, "yea and it probably comes back to us in those cubes."I thought this to be hilarious and probably so true- and of course- it got me thinking...

As He giveth and taketh:

Something happens when you see worship that is seemingly out of context. I once heard a story about a woman who was on her honeymoon, and while her and her new husband were doing some kind of deep sea diving, tragically, he drowned. The woman said that she was so completely stunned and inconsolably broken, all she could do was lift her hands in worship and desperation.  Wow. What a way to spend a moment.
Can't help but think of the moments I've wasted. Time wasted in fear or anger...even now, I can feel them rallying to take me down.  I can only pray that God would gain glory from the moments I have left.

 Some days i think it will crush me:

The benefit of being a deep feeler? You feel joy...deeply. The price? You feel everything else... deeply. There was a movie out called Timothy Green or something....about a boy born from a garden to parents who had desperately prayed for a child. I haven't seen it but, being the feeler that I am, I was touched by merely catching the preview on TV. I don't cry at everything on television.... usually its only when I feel connected to the character or situation...BUT I found myself sobbing at a re-run of Grey's Anatomy last week and now I'm starting to worry a bit...especially since it was the second time I've watched the episode....and when this one character dies in the plane crash after another character declares his love for her....oh man- I felt like I was loosing my sister or something! I know, I know...probably none of you know what I'm talking about because you would not stoop so low as to watch that debaucherous show.... let us pause a moment, while Jesus draws a line in the sand to distract you from my sin ;-) I need something to happen and you know how I can tell?  I cry at Grey's Anatomy.  If this show seriously has the ability to evoke emotion from the depths of my soul....I'm in trouble. It is a beautiful thing to be able to feel, though.... at least its a sign that I'm still alive and kickin'.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Can I get some butter with this Manna?

As time keeps on healing.... open wounds are scarring over and the twinge in my chest eases just a little more.  The feeling of getting to the "other side" after a long, hard season rivals only the taste of an amazing cheesecake or how I imagine it will feel someday when I'm accompanied by something borrowed and blue as I make my way down an isle on my Dad's arm as we..... step.....together....step together.....(hopefully, gracefully and without tripping ;-)

I often hear those in the Christian world compare a truly sanctifying time as being in the "desert." Some seasons can only be equated to a place with dry, cracked ground where all you do is sweat and toil, while experiencing constant cotton-mouth because of the lack of dasani! Oh to be on the other side of this type of season....sigh...and to learn to be grateful for the manna He provided along the way.

God's provision can be (and usually is) so different from what we would have planned it to be.  I'm learning this as we speak.  This was my type of plan for my 28th year of life: to be a successful, loving wife and mother (or at least with a bun in the oven ;-) ...maybe having a job that I love and a God that I feel led by and loved by and can therefore pour out that love to the broken..... probably living in the warm southeast somewhere, or in a third-world country loving Orphans or something......
.....and yet this is my manna in my 28th year of life: to have moved into a 55-and-older neighborhood in the northeast (where goosebumps have permantly taken up residence on my arms) .... My finger is ring-less and my oven... bun-less, as I face the things my heart has cowered away from for years.  I'm letting God heal the broken places as I eat this bread that floats down in ways that I, in all of my own wisdom ...would have never chosen for myself.  Instead of being amazed at the bread that's falling, I find myself unsatisfied, asking things like, "uh, yo Pops, could I at least get some butter for this manna-stuff!?" 

Perspective is a marvelous thing to grab hold of... yet it's easy for our wandering eyes to lose sight of it amongst the mirage of temptations that appear in a desert season to distract us from the daily bread.  The lack of shade, yet abundance of bland bread usually bring out a human's inner-Kindergartner as we get our pout face on....unless of course, you have successfully slid through the "suffering and perseverance" part of the growth process, and have comfortably emerged wearing "Character and Hope ;-)" For most of us, perspective tends to bear it's fruit once you reach an oasis or the top of a mountain where you can gaze upon the beauty of the journey you wrestled with to get here. It's much more challenging to let thy sweet words of gratitude well up inside and roll off the tongue, when the only nourishment in sight are these sky-falling-wafers that literally translate to mean, "WHAT is it!?"

It's hard to find joy in a dry place, but its there and the desert won't last forever..... forty years might be a possibility... but not forever ;-)  Often times, the waters of joy begin to seep up toward the surface and fill the cracks once we give ourselves to gratefulness and open our eyes to the miracle of manna that surrounds us.... that helpless toddler that tries your patience, that spouse who sanctifies your spirit, that job that brings home the bacon, those encouraging words from a faithful friend.... but of course, none of it fills up your belly and satisfies your soul like the bread of life.

As I type this, the snow falls outside my window, its reflection like glitter under the street lamp... and this scripture comes to mind from Isaiah 55:

As the rain and the snow 
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth 
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Jesus.... our Manna... living water.... the bread of life.... who came down from heaven to be broken for us so that we might never again hunger or thirst.

So...Manna.....WHAT is it, you ask?  It's wonder bread, (but not the stuff you grew up eating in your school lunch with the crust cut off), and it's falling from heaven!  Enough said, right!? :-)

Much, much love,


Monday, January 28, 2013

scars to prove it.

I was reading a review of a movie about faith the other day. I didn't watch the movie so I can't really comment on it, but people seemed to give it positive reviews....things like, "it is so refreshing to see a faith-based film that is not cheesy...." Yea, makes sense. I thought that comment sounded nice and it made me want to give the movie a try. The following review, however, had a phrase that lay stuck to my brain like a burnt cookie to an ungreased pan: "this is a great movie because it’s not slamming God in your face." I mean, I totally get that.... I understand what the person was trying to communicate; it just rubbed one of my arm hairs the wrong way... and then all of the other tendrils followed suit. I've heard things (and probably said things) similar to this before.... phrases like, "yea it was great, they didn't shove God down your throat." I'm a little stunned, to be honest. I'm stunned at the ease with which we open our mouths to form words and noise that make the Creator of the universe out to be someone who could possibly be, "shoved down a throat"....or "slammed in a face...." -as if we were big enough to encompass Him to even be able to do the shoving. The thought that we would see ourselves fit to take on the task of making Him palatable for the masses.... trying to prove Him to the onlookers that are the very work of His hands. I'm stunned at the pride of such a thought- at the darkness of my own irreverent heart. And the burnt cookie isn't budging....

My faith hasn't come easy to me. I don't have a specific "moment of salvation"- I don't remember getting baptized and emerging to see blurry white doves flying over me as the water was blinked from my eyes. There was no halo.... and I didn't feel even the slightest feathery brush of an angel's wing on my skin. No. For me, it has always been a struggle to just believe. Believing, for me, was as easy as breathing.... and I grew up with asthma.... a convenient word picture for my faith story: wheezing. If I could just get a deep breath in, I would be able to calm the unrest inside and release carbon dioxide as a gift to the nearest plant... but this has not been my journey. Mine has been, and continues to be, more like asking Jesus to let me put my fingers through the wounds on His hands. I don't just gotta "see it to believe it"..... I gotta feel it too. I often wonder what the ratio is of pride to mere wonder that's inside of me. I know that I have a skeptical side... which is not always a bad thing, but I also know it can be a gateway drug that often leads to pure unbelief. My lifeline in this struggle? That God is merciful. That He is full of grace and compassion, and in response to my need to investigate, He extends His Holey hand to allow my little fingers to touch the wounds as my eyes lift their gaze to His face in awestruck bewilderment. Can you imagine what "doubting Thomas" did after Jesus actually let him do this!? I would imagine he probably fell to the floor in adoration.... and in thanksgiving... that Jesus didn't deny him that desire- though He had every right to.

So.... It would be an honor to be slammed in the face with the One true God.... with pure holiness and majesty.... go ahead.... slam it in my face.... and let His goodness pass before me. If there was a movie that could succeed in doing this- it would be most welcomed :-)

Though He was God and "no one could take His life from Him," He sacrificed it voluntarily. He actually did let Himself be shoved and slammed. He wore skin and placed Himself in the hands of His creation, to be spit upon.... beaten and bruised... with scars to prove it. The humility of it all! It's UNthinkable. There has GOT to be a reason for this! You may be reading this and you may not believe, but you have to admit.... there has to be some sort of reason for this kind of act. Or maybe you think it just never happened. That's fair- I've been there too. In fact, I would say that doubt is a thorn I find myself repeatedly plucking from my side. It's Okay though, because you know what? He is the bigger man here. So much so that He would be so big as to stoop so low to kneel down and let me touch the wound so that I can take in that deep breath of faith. I grew out of my asthma... I can only hope that one can grow out of doubt as well :-)

We must decrease. Though our own hearts deceive us, and an enemy prowls to devour our very souls, we must fight to have Him increase. To have Him increase in us until we are brimming with a Spirit, Holy- as He is Holy.

With love,


A Man's Promise

I wouldn't be able to do this justice from my keyboard.... so just click and watch:

Much love,


Sunday, January 13, 2013

somewhere between my green skirt and holey jeans

Oh man...I need to write.  I just had a time of speaking in which my volume was higher than normal and my heart rate was elevated (a more ladylike way of saying that I just yelled for a while).  I obviously need to process. Oh how these situations make me wish I was an introvert that could sneakily process my own crazy thoughts in my own safe head without the need to externalize them into the unsafe world where I leave the conversation feeling vulnerable and drained.  Oh to be an introvert....I think in my glorified body in heaven I might be an's hopin' :-)

As it is, this is the way God knit me a scarf that needs to process its feelings out loud.  The scripture talks a lot about the difference between fools and those who are deemed wise, and it often boils down to this (oversimplified) fact: Fools vent their anger....but wise people quietly hold it back.  Sigh....sounds so nice and dainty.....and so very difficult to carry out.  I'm working on it though- maybe I'll start wearing heels and pearls and carrying one of those fancy fans around the house to remind me to be dainty.  I'm not trying to poke fun at the scripture here....and I know I'm exaggerating...God is not claiming that a wise lady = a quiet girl who carries a fan and faithfully works on her etiquette.  I do so long to be wise and virtuous though.  I want to listen MORE than I talk and I want to THINK a whole lot before I release words into the wild where they escape the ability to be reigned back in.  As it is with most things in life, this too, is a process.  I'm tired.  This being human stuff.....the learning and sucks sometimes....ahem, I mean it is a bit of a challenge (she says daintily in an English accent as she sips her tea without slurping ;-)

I will clarify that, though this post is sprinkled with silliness, I'm actually speaking on something much deeper than mere girlieness.  It's an unspeakable kind of presence that I want to exibit when I walk into a room...that can only be described as...exuding the nature of Christ.  I know some "southern belles" that, (bless their hearts ;-), can walk into a room appearing so sweet and kind-natured....and it's not this that I'm speaking of.  I know some "northern gals" that, (insert northern pun here), can walk into a room with a kind of jarring confidence.....and it's not this that I'm speaking of either.  I'm talking about somewhere between my green skirt and my holey jeans. Huh?  I have this green skirt that, when I wear it, it makes me feel like a lady and a little more reverent.....and then I have a favorite pair of ripped jeans that make me feel comfortable and relaxed.  This place I'm talking about lies somewhere between the two.....where I can just be both....where I can be all He created me to be and I feel valued and loved because He has allowed breath in my lungs for another day.  Beauty really does not come from outward adornment.....uh oh...and what is the next part of that verse!? "....rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." ....oh man....there is that quiet theme again ;-) God, have mercy on the extroverts.

I've seen some people go on "speech fasts" before, where they decide not to speak for a certain period of time so as to gain a spiritual insight they may not have gained if they were talking.  Now, I've mainly seen this result in much frustration from the surrounding people who are tired of feeling "ignored" by their speech fasting friend.  I'm sure that there is value in this practice sometimes though....maybe?  On second thought, it does make me laugh a little to think of one of the disciples asking Jesus a question, in which His response would be to hand them a piece of paper with the note, "I am on a speech fast." Just doesn't seem like something He would do. Oh my.....we are trying though, aren't we...we are trying to take on the nature of His character...and I do think that even our desire to do so must bring Him joy. 

The thing is, Jesus just knew when to speak and when to keep silent.  He had no problem standing up against injustice and idolatry, while also having the capacity to keep silent like a lamb being led to the slaughter. Oh to be fully God and fully exude both qualities of an extravert and an introvert.....seems so much "easier" to go through life being fully God.... but I know I could not drink the cup that Jesus drank....and this is why we bless His name.  because we don't know what we are doing. because we were in desperate need for someone to take our place....someone who could handle it.....someone who walks into the room and has that unspeakable presence.  Please make me more like you God....and yes, I know that means being quiet and gentle when it is my nature to yell against would be easier to accomplish if I could just learn it by wearing heels and pearls and practicing etiquette...but I desire transformation in the inmost parts.   Teach me your ways, oh God.

With Love,