Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Music: The Memory Keeper

I'm the girl who can never remember names of artists or song titles or lyrics. I'm always, "You know that one band with that song that goes kind of like this..."

I'm the girl who tapped her foot on stage at her first trumpet recital for ten awkward minutes to find an internal beat before ever blowing a signal note.

I'm the girl who likes music. But I'm not a music girl.

In high school I miraculously landed one of the leads in the school musical, but only because I auditioned for the role of Oklahoma's Ado Annie, a quirky character who could get away with singing completely off key.

In college I figured out that a guy liked me because he complimented me on what a great singer I was after we sat together in a worship service.

To say I can't sing is an understatement. I could easily become Simon Cowell's new "favorite" worst singer in the world should I ever try out for American Idol.

But despite my lack of natural talent, I can't deny that music moves me.

Music is art. It's a language of the heart. It has a way of capturing, stirring, expressing emotions unlike words spoken staccato, alone.
Music is a memory keeper. It awakens sights and smells and feelings of days or years gone by. It brings you back to significant moments with one swell of chorus sung.

I can't hear the classic melody of Amazing Grace without thinking of my dad and remembering the feel of the plush stadium-like seats the day we memorialized his life and the tears that ran down my cheeks as that song soared through the sanctuary at the close of his service.


If I'm in store and hear the melodic voice of James Taylor come on over the speakers, it's like I'm back in our old kitchen on California Avenue, singing Sweet Baby James and setting the table while my mom makes dinner.

If I'm surfing channels on the radio and catch a chord of "You've got a peaceful, easy feeling," I'm transported to the backseat of a tan 1980's Honda Accord next to my childhood best friend while her cool older brother drives us to school and lectures us about trying harder in sports and staying away from the wrong crowd of boys.

Music. It's a gift.

For the singer, songwriter, dancer, instrument player, yes! But it's also a gift for the rhythmically challenged, tone deaf, popular artist clueless girl who soaks in the sounds and belts out the notes when nobody's around to notice or complain.

I unwrap the gift on Sunday mornings when I use my voice to praise the Good Lord.

I unwrap the gift each evening when I press play on iTunes and let instrumental wonders seep into my heart and weave through my prayers while my hands scrub dinner dishes.

I unwrap the gift every afternoon and night when I sing bedtime songs at the bedside of three little boys, ushering them into sleep with harmonies of hope, lyrics of God's love, peace, and protection.

But perhaps my greatest unwrapping was when I was eighteen years old and God used music to wrap me in His love.

It was my senior year. While my friends were agonizing over SAT scores, college visits, and prom dates, my heart was in agony over the date I'd lose my home. The repercussion of my parents' divorce was almost a decade in the making. Now that I was no longer a minor, they would finally sell our family home and part financial ways.

I had long known this day was coming. But now it loomed like a huge storm cloud, ready to pour after graduation day.

I was sad and angry and depressed. Their divorce was final eight years prior but selling the house reopened wounds that had never really healed. I didn't know how to sort through what I felt. I didn't want to talk about it with my parents, and the pain of divorce wasn't exactly a hot topic among my teenage friends over Friday night pizza.

My faith was young but genuine and somehow God met me in that broken place through the most unexpected way.


He put a song in my heart.

He helped me pen lyrics to give voice to my hurt and answered me in refrains of hope and truth.

This was my song...

Home for My Heart

For sixteen years I made this house my home
And now the day has come; I feel so all alone
The day has come and we must move away
The only day I've ever felt the need to stay
The sign on the front says sold
To tear it down I'd give a lifetime's gold
Thing will never be the same

As I look upon these walls that my great grandfather built
I see lasting childhood memories as they begin to wilt
The laughter love and kisses, the echos of divorce
The piercing sound of silence
My tears of grief run their course
And I fear that the sixteen years of memories I made
When packed away in boxes will begin to fade

But I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm graduating high school, opportunity's knocking loud
"How excited you must be," they say. "And how very proud"
But my excitement has now dulled, my pride has now paled
And the perfect vision of my dreams has sadly been derailed
And I yearn for the comfort and security of routine
To feel your arms around me, Lord, is all I need

And I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm tired of the anger, I'm tired of the pain
Lord, free me from this agony and wash me clean with rain
And let me see the sun of all tomorrow's bright
Cleanse me of my bitterness and a heart of spite
Let me show my thankfulness and let me shout my praise
To God, my provider, for the home where I was raised

Because I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
And I don't want place my heart where the world thinks I should
I just want to place my heart in You, Father
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
And I will to give my heart to you

I belted out this song in front of a panel of teachers for my senior project. (If I had a recording of it I'd share the off-key wonder with you.) 

With tears in my teenage eyes, I thanked God for the gift of music, for the gift of His love.

It's been 14 years since I wrote those lyrics. But sometimes still, if I find myself alone in the car, I turn off the radio and turn on the music God wrote in me. In a whisper or roar, I allow the memory keeper to speak to my heart again as I sing to the One who will always be my true home.

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Sharing with Jennifer, Holley, and Elise. Inspired by this week's "How I...Community" prompt: Music.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making Space for Him to Bloom

I'm craving my own space, my quiet, my time to think, breathe. Find reprieve.

I'm missing what's been mine for the last five and a half years -- my midday security, sanity -- that's now slipping through my fingers.

I'm craving the ability to make things not change.

(I've never been good with change.)

Yes, I should be grateful for half a decade of nap-time solace (which means two years of mastering three boys' concurrent afternoon sleep.) And I am. I am SO thankful because I know it's been a gift to meet a need...

My need for a little uninterrupted time for me.

Write, read, pray, sleep. Work, clean, call, or weep. Ponder, wonder, dream, or sweep. Whatever the time is, it's alone time. Just me.

And I guess what's making me feel all angry and anxious is that I still have that need. But the means to meeting it must change, and I can't yet see how or when the replacement gift will come.

But the gift before me now is a little boy in tan shorts and a red plaid shirt, whacking away like a backyard golf pro.

He's beautiful and strong and sweet. He's stubborn and way too much like me.

I know I can't keep him small forever. I know he's meant to blossom, grow.

But today my son's sprouting (which I know will bear fruit, beauty) is a painful part of the process for his mama, who needs to make more space in her life, her heart, for him to stay awake and bloom.

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I'm joining Lisa-Jo and her beautiful friends to just write for five minutes, without over-thinking, double-checking, or worrying about getting it right. Today's word is Bloom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What If You Chose Rest?

What if you just rested?

What if you closed the computer and powered down the phone? What if you turned off the music or the podcast or the great preacher on TV? What if you put away the iPad and hid the remote control?

What if you didn't post, tweet, share, favorite, comment, like, or link up?

What if you exchanged the noise out, noise in, for quiet? For more of Him.

What if you just stopped? Chose rest.


What if you laughed over little boys in backyard buckets or ran through the sprinklers?

What if you walked with family in a place with no wires and looked for signs that Yahweh is looking for you?

What if you captured the day's last light and marveled over the Artist's evening masterpiece?

Would the world whiz on without you? Would the busy buzz on beyond you? Would you be lost, passed up, or forgotten? Would you miss out on God's best because you chose to rest?

Or would you find new life, new meaning, a new way of connecting over jigsaw puzzles and white lacquered dominoes?

Would you discover that you can actually find refreshment for your soul without refreshing your browser? That you can hear the message your heart needs without receiving another text?

Would you uncover that you're not overlooked or left out when you unplug your devices, but that you're actually seen and known best when you plug into relationship? Plug into living present?

Your blog and Facebook, Twitter feed and Pinterest board all serve a purpose. But do they sometimes keep you from living life on purpose? Do the voices you hear there sometimes drown out the Voice you need to hear everywhere?

What if doing more wasn't the answer? What if being still was. Listening. To Him. Resting. In Him.

What if your longing for the bigger picture, the larger story, could be fulfilled by slowing down enough to notice the smallest of creation?

What if it's in the still and quiet and "unproductive" rest that you gain the wisdom to see, gain the strength to believe, gain the power to power it all back up for a greater purpose?

What if you chose to rest?

What if I did?  For more of Him. Less of me.


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Sharing with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Holley at Coffee for Your Heart.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Working for Free, But Wanting Someone to See

My work day begins the moment I rise, often before the sun ever does, and doesn't end until my head hits the pillow when it's dark again. I'm also on call through the night, every single night, and I always work weekends. Holidays, too.

I've been doing this round the clock job for more than five and a half years.

You know what it is.

I'm a mother.

I'm a life-grower, love-giver, boo-boo healer, meal maker, taxi driver, house cleaner, butt wiper, fort fixer, puzzle doer, wrestling referee-er, mama to three little boys. I dole out hugs and kisses and snacks by the hundreds. I lift up prayers for grace, mercy, and strength by the thousands.

I'm a mother.

And it won't surprise you the slightest when I tell you I don't get paid for it at all.

It won't shock you a smidge when I tell you it's the best and hardest and most important job I've ever done.

You'll knowingly nod when I suggest that it's the most rewarding, fulfilling, heart-wrenching, joy-giving job that perhaps the good Lord ever made.

And while I think I would become the most popular woman on the planet if I could figure out how to give every mom a fair wage for the blood, sweat, and tears she pours out over a lifetime of raising her children, I think I can also speak for mothers the world over when I say that it is our privilege to do this job for free.

Yes, I've reconciled to the fact that not all meaningful, necessary work is paid. I don't bemoan not getting a monthly check for my motherly service. God has called us to work for Him and not for man. I'm at peace with the reassurance that my reward waits for me in heaven.

Or am I?

Because money is not the only way of getting paid. I'm fine to work without the hope of dollars, but am I content without the payment of praise?

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," Colossians 3:23 says.

And that's where the "working for free" rub comes in for me.

If I'm really honest with myself, I struggle with working without expecting affirmation in return. Without wanting kudos for my days and nights of service.

The endless dishes, diaper changes, and grocery shopping. The countless questions answered for the world's most curious three year old. The way I fashioned blankets and couch cushions into a monstrous monster-truck ramp for the racing delight of three miniature drivers. I want recognition for it all.

I want someone to see. See the effort and patience. See the way I die to self every day for the sake of loving someone else.

Even as I write these words I know. I know that someone sees. I know that the One who's opinion matters sees. I know deep that God's approval is the only one I really need.

But there's the flesh in me that fights.

The part of me that wants to download on my husband when he walks through the door about every parenting struggle, triumph, and completed chore he missed while at work. I want to post witty Facebook updates about the awesome or appalling mom-moment I faced to receive one (or better yet twenty) virtual pats on the back for surviving this mom job another day.

Is sharing with my husband wrong? Of course not.

Is building community and exchanging motherhood stories bad? Not at all.

But my motives need to be kept in check.

I find the same is true for my writing.

It is my joy to write. It makes me come alive. I see the world through literary descriptions. I soak in my surroundings with similes streaming through my mind. Writing brings me clarity and understanding. It's how I learn the lessons, how I see God move. 

So I write for me. I write for the gift God gave.

Sure, it'd be nice if one day my writing led to a financial blessing for my family. But I work at it for free because it's my calling.

Yet there are days I do it as if for men. Days I write what God has stirred in me but then wait for words that man approves of me.

I know this isn't how God intended me to work.

I'm reading Jennifer Dukes Lee's book Love Idol. Her words hug my heart with whispers of understanding and invitations of freer living. She writes,
"When you and I no longer rely on praise or approval for our performance, we find new freedom: We can enjoy affirmation without craving it. Because it has lost its grip on us."
It's a process and slowly I am growing.

Day by day I remind myself of God's unchanging love and approval of me. I remind myself that he delights in the silly made up songs I sing to my boys and is proud of the way I patiently disciplined a particular disobedience. God smiles when I give words to the heart stirrings, the struggles, and the wonder.

He sees me when I mother. He sees me when I write.

I'm learning to let His seeing of my work be not just payment enough, but approval abundant.

*     *     *

I'm linking up with The High Calling this week as we wrestle with and rejoice over what "working for free" really means.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Does God Really Listen?

Listen, my precious daughter,
Do you know how much I love you?
Do you know how beloved I see you?
Do you believe how deeply I know you?
Do you believe how clearly I hear you?

Your cries, your questions, 
your curiosities, your concerns,
I hear them all.
It is my delight to hear you call.

When you pour out your heart,
whether in praise or confession,
confusion or profession,
whether with confidence or feeling condemnation,
I'm listening.

I'm listening when you're worried,
I'm listening when you're whining.
I'm listening when you're content
and when you're stressed and pining.
I'm listening when your joy is full
and when your peace is perfect.
I'm listening when you're scared and nervous
because your path seems uncertain.

I'm always listening.

Not because I'm looking for your failures
or scouting out your faults.
I'm not planning my rebuttal
or rehearsing my defense and righteous laws.
I'm never preoccupied with what you might say next.
My focus is never anywhere else but in the present.
With you.

I'm just listening.

I'm listening because I love you.
Because I care for you.
Because I delight in you.
Because I'm committed to you.

I listen because I need you to know that I am with you,
for you.
That I see you--
not just what you do but who you are.
(I have always known you;
who you were then, 
who you are now,
who you are becoming.
It is my joy to see you.)

Sure, I could take a spectator's seat in the nosebleed section.
I could watch you from afar in the stands.

But I don't ever want to be far from you.
I want to be near, standing with you.
Walking beside you.
Listening to your heart.

And if you share with me,
there's nothing you can say 
that will ever change the way 
I feel about you.

But what you share may
very well change the way
you feel about me.

So pour out your heart to me, precious one!
Sing, shout, whisper, wail.
My ears are tuned to your cries.
Your voice is my joy when you call.

So speak, sweet child.

Then take a turn,



Your Listening God

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The Good Lord stirred this letter in my heart in response to the prompt "How I...Listen" at Elise's inspiring new"How I...Community." If you haven't read this girl, you need to. 

I'm also blessed to link up with wonderful heart sisters, Jennifer and Holly.

Friday, July 4, 2014

How to Savor and Celebrate Summer

I bark orders in Costco to "Stay by ME!" and answer too harshly at home to the boy who is SO hungry and needs one more snack.

I bemoan the brotherly bickering and strain my ears to discern whether the crying is fake or real from three rooms away.

These summer days are hot and long. Yet they are slipping by.

I flip on the TV too often.

I tune out their questions too much.

I forget to savor each blessing.

I forget to celebrate each moment.

But I'm learning that wishing I had done yesterday differently doesn't make for more full living today.

You savor by savoring. You celebrate by celebrating!

So here's a Hip Hip Hooray for a borrowed blowup pool and boys with sun-kissed skin slipping down a crocodile slide!

Here's a Three Cheers for picnic lunches on the living room rug and a Yeehaw for little boys stealing special sips out of my special coffee mug.

Here's a Yowza and Yahoo for sword fights in their skivvies; strong arms and legs, minds and hearts fighting courageous battles from the tender age of two.

Here's a Holy Prayer of Thanks for brothers who love each other even when they fight, brothers whose smiles and hugs, sing song voices and crazy noises make their mama's heart burst with gratitude and love.

I can't conjure more joy for the crabby moments of yesterday. But I can commit to slowing down and giving thanks today.

I can savor, I can celebrate
When I exhale the could-haves of then
And breathe in the sweetness of now. 

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I'm writing with Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday community, where we don't worry about getting it right. We just write. Today's prompt is Exhale.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From Desperate Prayers to Abundantly Blessed: God Gift Friendships

I don't even feel like I'm that same girl anymore.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that I was once her. That I spent two years lifting aching prayers for God to give me just one real friend to do life with. That I was that desperate mom always pushing my double stroller alone, always scanning the park playground and library bookshelves for a friendly face to connect with.

Making friends usually wasn't hard for me. I've always had quality women in my life. Women who I love and admire. Women who know my story and I know theirs. But because of life stage or geography, they had been pushed to the periphery.

Now, I needed someone in my inner circle.

I needed a friend who I could make last minute plans with when fresh air and adult conversation were my saving grace to get through the day as mama to three littles. I needed a friend who I didn't have to schedule four months out with to share my heart or drive 45 minutes to see.

I needed a day-in-day-out friend to walk through the ins and outs of motherhood together.

I just needed someone to do life with.

Writing this calls up memory tears from that deep place of longing that was once so real and searing. I cry for that floundering mom I use to be. For that Becky who yearned for meaningful friendships but didn't know how to find them in a new town with two (then three) little boys in tow. For that precious mom who just needed to know she wasn't alone.

And then there are more tears for the ways God has answered those longing-filled prayers.

Answered them abundantly. Answered them with so many beautiful women, soul sisters, do-life-with friends.

Now my heart aches with the blessing. It actually hurts for how deep and wide God's love is for me. How lavishly he has poured out compassion, joy, grace, through unexpected friendships.

I prayed for one.

God provided many...

Desiree: My tell it like it is, purposefully doesn't clean before I bring over my crazy boy crew, brings me coffee creamer and chocolate, faithful friend.  
I'm so thankful God brought us to the same moms group table and knitted our hearts together through miles of sidewalk and countless coffee cups. There's no one I'd rather start my week with. I love you.

Audra: My laugh with, cry with, come as you are, loves me in my strengths and in my mess, soul sister friend.  
I'm so thankful God sat us next to each other on a Sunday morning and gave me the courage to ask for your number. I can't imagine these past three years without you. I love you.

Mindy: My encourager, believer, cheerleader, truth speaker, serves me with dreams and time and words, all is grace friend.  
I'm so thankful God used a writing conference across the country to introduce me to my best friend down the street. You are a divine gift from God to me. I love you.

Elise: Who I have never met face to face, who came into my life from across the web, who I feel like I've known forever, whose heart speaks the same language as mine, my kindred spirit friend.  
I'm so thankful God wove our paths together for such a time as this. Your friendship is from the Lord, a  heavenly answer to a prayer that I thought had already been fulfilled. I love you.

And many more who have been, or continue to be, or are now becoming significant women in my life and friends on the journey. (I hope you know who you are and how much you also mean to me.)

These gorgeous gals are my prayer and play date friends. My call and text, coffee and cookies friends. These women love my kids, which blesses me more than words can hold.

They point me to Jesus, show me how to live by the Spirit, and help me become more of who God created me to be. 

These God-gift friends are pictures of beautiful mess grace. Soul beautiful. Authentic. Nonjudgmental. They are with me and for me. We share cooking tips and vacation books, hugs and tears and knowing looks.

These are my sisters.

My people.

Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing my cries and answering my prayers. Not meagerly but lavishly. Your Word says that every good and perfect gift is from above. These women are your good and perfect gifts to me. My heart overflows with joy and gratitude for the work you have done. Blessed be your name! Amen.

"Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." 
 -John 16:24


How has God met you in a time of waiting or answered desperate prayers in your life? I'd love to praise Him with you!

Are you in a place of longing for authentic community or a friend to do life with? I'd love to pray for you.


Linking up with Jennifer, Holley, and Barbie. Click over to these beautiful communities to read more encouraging stories.

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Read more about my journey and the power of friendship:

 Five Minute Friday: Encouragement

 A Generation of Esthers

Five Minute Friday: She

Faith Steps