Be Still

Early morning and I am the only soul awake.

It’s uncharacteristically quiet in a house that usually vibrates with voices, movement, music and life.

I breathe deep.

I feel Him stirring my heart to pray.

But when I close my eyes and open my hands to receive, no words come at all.

I wait.

I am still.

And that’s when I realize that’s the purpose this morning.  To sit and be still in Him.

It’s so hard for me to open up my heart and my hands and to just be still and quiet.  A small part of me always wonders…”Is the offering I bring going to be enough for Him?”

But it is, because what He wants is me.

My sacrifice of praise this morning is to just be still in His presence.

Psalm 131

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131 Listen!

I have calmed and quieted my soul.

I have been still in the Presence of the One who holds it all together.  I do not do enough of this. No, I’m the one running hysterical into the throne room, throwing herself at His feet and begging for this, that or the other thing.  Or, I’m the one with the short bullet line prayers- where are my keys?  Help this person with this.  Heal so and so. I love you and I’m thankful and I’ll spend more time with you later.

How much more would my life change if I took these moments to just BE with Him?  To not try and solve My World’s problems, to not just beg for miracles and provision, to not just put Him off for times that are convenient for me.  How much more would my life change? He renews me as I sit in silence.  He sharpens me.  He fills my heart with His goodness.

These moments go by so quickly and little ones are stirring…big girls are rising…the phone rings, the dog barks.

The moment of stillness passes so quickly but its residue lingers.

Baby Birds

Outside of our door, there is life so fragile.

In the boxwood by the driveway, a mother bird has made her nest.  And in that nest, she has layed some tiny little eggs.  Lila is fascinated by them.

On Sunday, the little eggs hatched and now there are tiny little birds…just tiny little  buds of new life.

I worry endlessly about these little birds.

Will the mother abandon them?  It’s a high traffic area there.  Kids running by, Caroline barking her head off, cars coming and going.  And we’re all so interested in the babies.  We have to constrain ourselves to checking on them only once a day.  Will they be hurt?  Will some well meaning child try to “help” them or move them?  Will some force I can’t control come along and hurt them?  A bigger animal, some weather situation like wind or too much rain?

They are so fragile, so tiny, so helpless.  I look at them and think of human hearts…how easily they are broken, how fragile and tender.

I ask the Lord to protect our baby birds.

He gently reminds me of this:  “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

He knows of our baby birds.  He knows their destiny.  He knows the plans He has for them.

The truth is, that mother bird is unfazed by our comings and goings.  She isn’t stressed about outside influences.  She isn’t anxious about weather.  She just sits on her nest and regards us with her shiny black eye.  She stands her ground, doesn’t leave her babies, but just sits on her nest….We have only really seen those fragile little buds of new life a couple of times…because that mother bird is doing her job.  She is not worried.  

Her confidence is in the Lord’s provision.  She does her part and she knows He will do His.

And then He gently reminds me of this:  “Are you not of more value than they?”

Matthew 6:26 pierces my soul and I ask the Lord to write it on my heart.  To keep it strong and fresh in my consciousness.

Because I’m not like that mother bird.  I don’t just do my part and believe He’ll do His.  I don’t dwell in the confidence that He’ll come through for me.  I worry and I stress and I strive.

I’m aware of truth.

He is able.
He is good.
He loves me.
He has a plan for me.

And I know that I am more to Him than the birds of the air.  I know that He loves me with a whole and perfect love that I can not even understand.  I know that He is with me.

But I lack the confidence to not worry.

I’m asking for that confidence today.  The confidence of Matthew 6:26.

To set aside my worries and trust the One who has promised to keep me.

Important Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s really important in life and what I’m really living for.

Lots of things are important, lots of things are urgent…we must work, take care of the house, care for the children, get dinner cooked, finish the laundry, drive this one here and that one there.  We must walk the dog, pick up kids from preschool, clean the bathroom, do the homework, get to the doctor’s appointments, pick up the groceries.  At the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and I wonder sometimes aloud–

Did I do what was important today?  Did I do what I enjoy doing today?

Because doing what I want to do, what is enjoyable, is a whole other thing.  We want to watch a movie, check Facebook, play Draw Something or Words With Friends, we want to nap, eat Reese’s cups, visit with friends, linger over one more cup of coffee.  We want to paint our nails or color our hair or read a magazine.  We want to sit in the sun with eyes closed.  There are so many things we want to do that don’t necessarily fit in with the urgent.

The days fly by and all I’m doing is rushing around and trying to Get Through The Day.  

And I want more than that.  I want more than just getting through the day.

I say to John all the time, “It’s another marathon week.” because we have one jillion things planned, scheduled and that urgently needed to be attended to.

But what really matters most?

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that my inner me is under major reconstruction.  God is really weeding some crap out of my heart and making me better.

This has been a painful and glorious process.

Since Paw has gone on to the Lord, my heart and my prayers have been fixed on the heritage she’s passed down to us.  The heritage of faith and family.  On Easter Sunday, my heart almost broke with love for my family, not just my immediate family but aunts, uncles, cousins.  I saw unique beauty in each one, I saw Paw in us all.  Memories and moments and quirks and strengths and weaknesses of  60 odd people coming together in the most beautiful tapestry that Paw began with her own two hands years and years ago.  This is Important.  This is Vital.  This family is full of love and life and laughter.  This family is a good, good gift.  And what better way to honor our Paw than to keep it close.  Deep inside, I hear a cry, “Do not take this good gift for granted.”

Here is the children singing their hearts out to the Lord in honor of Paw on Easter.

All the kids in attendance!

We watched “the Passion of the Christ” on Sunday and I keep seeing Jesus, beaten and bloodied and just made of love and mercy.  I want to burn the images into my eyes and on my heart and I don’t want to forget how I feel right now.  Because seeing that…remembering Him in that way…it makes all the worries that I worry over, all the stressors that I stress over, all the strivings that I strive for…it makes those things seem almost ridiculous.  And while I’m not saying that I should just stop washing the dishes and doing the laundry and only ever read the Bible and I’m not saying that I should never laugh at “Raising Hope” again…I am saying that all the things that make me crazy (or crazier) throughout the day are just almost nothing.

I’m saying that I must examine my life and get rid of the things that hinder love.

And that’s a tall order and it carries enormous implications.

But when I think of Jesus on the cross…when I think of Paw and her faithful, love filled life…I know it’s the next step.  He died for my sins and my pain.  He died for love.  And He didn’t just take too many Ambien and go to sleep…He suffered and struggled and was separated from His Father and descended into hell.  He was beaten and bloodied and bruised.  And my face was in His heart as He did this.  So was yours.

So…all this rushing around…all this stressing and worrying and panicking…all of this must go.

“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”   Ephesians 5:1-2

Real Love

The Sacrifice of Praise

I think we know in our heads and even in some places of our hearts that God knows best.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell Him what to do.  I often get His plan “figured out” and then I try to make it happen.  Yes, you read right.   I try to make it happen.

This is, of course, fruitless.

I think of Abraham and Sarah and how they tried to make God’s promises come to pass.

It began with this- a Holy visitation and a word from the Lord.  “I will make you a father of many nations.  I will give you and Sarah a son.”

And the two of them wanted that son a lot…Sarah grew impatient and decided they would need a surrogate.  She supplied her servant Hagar to her husband in order to get this son.  But it wasn’t a good thing…and it wasn’t really what Sarah wanted because this is not what God had in mind.

Genesis 21:12 says, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
The New Living translation says, “…This happened just at the time God said it would.”

God’s timing.  He sets the times and none of our striving can change that.  It’ll happen at the time God said it would.

Last night, I made oven baked chicken with a ritz cracker crust.  It was really good but man, it was spicy.  I couldn’t figure out what was making it so spicy.  Paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, onion powder.  Why were we all on fire?

John suggested, “Maybe you mixed up the paprika and the cayenne?”  And sure enough I had.  We all agreed that it was better this way and it made me think about God.

Sometimes we think we’ve figured out His plan. Sometimes we think we know best but the truth is…

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And only He knows when and how and all of that.  And it’s like the chicken.  Sometimes the unexpected is the most flavorful.  Sometimes we can’t imagine what His best really is, we can only see our best.  And how can we even know what the best is?  God can see the end of the story and we can’t.

I’m in a season of surrender.  I’m in a season of placing all that I try to control and manage and worry about on the altar.  To make my life a sacrifice of praise.  It’s a choice I must go back to day in and day out.  Laying down my plans for my family, my plans for my future, my dreams (this one hurts) for all of us on the altar and giving all to Him.

I want my heart to beat with His.  I want my steps to be in sync with His.  I want to walk the paths He has for me.  It’s scary to lay it all down and surrender my own will.  It’s hard.  But I don’t want to miss His best for me.  Thirty nine years in this life has taught me one thing- I am nothing without Him.  And His best is what I want.  There is joy in the laying it down.  There’s something about emptying ourselves out and letting Him fill us back up.  There’s something powerful in surrender.

He never holds His best back from us.  He gives it with no strings attached and with open hands.  But we have to be willing to release control and take it.

 

Sons and Daughters

I watch Claire climb up on the toy chest by the window to read her book.  She is an unstoppable force, always moving, always doing, always into something.  She is determined.  Her daddy says she gets this from me.

But she is just like him.

She looks like him, her hands and feet are just like his.  She is his mini me.

I watch her, not quite seventeen months old, sitting in the sun from the window, thumbing through her book over and over again.  Books are the only thing that really hold her interest.  It’s the only time she is ever still.  So funny that a love for books could be genetic but it must be so.  My niece Addy will tell you about “Uncle John’s room” which is our living room/office and is filled with around one thousand books.  Books belonging to Claire’s daddy.

I think about Lila and how her smile reminds me so much of her cousins on her dad’s side, how her hands are her paternal grandmother’s hands.

I think of Aubrey.  From me she has inherited a love for children and a love for theatre but I hear in her speech patterns and see in her expressions her Aunt Ashley.

Julia.  Now that she is an adult, people marvel at how like me she is.  But it’s not in appearance…we just share some inner traits that people seem to recognize.  Mannerisms, ways of speaking, love of song and prayer.

Oh, and Chase.  He is his father all over again in appearance, but I see some of the Blantons in the set of his eyes.  I see my dad in those eyes and I like to think he gets his sense of humor from me. I know he gets his short temper from me.

They are all five uniquely themselves.  People always look for sameness in their children…this one looks like that one, this one acts like that one…but the truth is, they are all uniquely themselves.  They are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

My favorite phase of child development is the two to five phase.  This is when they become themselves and they are uninhibited enough to just be themselves.  They have all these weird little kid quirks that they don’t know to be embarrassed about.  Julia sucked her thumb and had her “pwo”…an ancient purple pillow that had been mine.  Aubrey came home from preschool every day and changed into her nightgown.  Once that was done, she just had to watch Pocahontas 2.  Every. Day.  Chase carried a handful of change in his fist all day, every day.  I had to pry it from his hands after he fell asleep.  He also toted a basketball and would only wear “basketball shirts” (tank tops).  Lila is obsessed with plastic animals.  We find them in unlikely places- in shoes, on the back of the toilet, perched on top of candles and picture frames.  Yesterday, I found one in the refrigerator.  Claire is not quite in this phase yet, but I see it coming.  She has her own self-ness too.

I love the authenticity of little kids.  I love their unapologetic, this-is-who-I-am ways.  I love that they’re okay with it being weird to dip their rice in ketchup, that they don’t mind that no one else in the house can stand to watch that particular episode of Barney again, that they think getting a sticker is the best thing that ever happened.  They live life full on, no holding back.

When do we lose that?

When do we become afraid?  When do we begin to doubt who we are?  When do our quirks become something to hide and not something to celebrate?

Ephesians 2:1 tells us:  “For we are God’s workmanship...”
Isaiah 43 tells us: “…we are created for His glory…”
Genesis 1, the very beginning says: “Let us make man in our own image…”
Psalm 139, so powerful to me: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

God only makes good things.  You are a good thing.  am a good thing.  Our children are a good thing.  Our spouses are a good thing.  We are all created by His hands and we all deserve to give and receive honor, to live our best selves, to love well…We are all God’s favorites, chosen to be loved and known by Him.

Not too long ago, I posted this:  No One is Youer than You.  At the end, I asked people to list five things that make them special.  Several people contacted me and said this was so hard for them.  Some couldn’t do it at all.  If you are one who struggles with embracing your you-ness, I just need you to know a few things:

There is NO ONE LIKE YOU.
You are beloved.
You have a purpose, you are not an accident.

Right now, Pandora is on tv and Darrel Evan’s “I’m Trading My Sorrows” is on. Lila is belting out, “Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord!” and she and Claire are dancing wild all around the living room. Abandoned, joyful, happy dancing. They are not ashamed of who they are, they just are who they are.

This is life.  This is living full.  This is a celebration of who we are.  Ones who are image bearers of the king, ones who are beloved and special and purposed.  Sons and daughters.

No One is Youer than YOU!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 4:4-6”

I stand at the sink, washing dishes and thinking about things.

I have a lot to think about…my Paw, my kids, my husband, my friends, my family…Caroline begging for attention from the laundry room, laundry begging for attention too.

But I am thinking about my blog and how much I love words and how much I love that God is using my love for words to refine me and to be near to me.  I’m in such a season of refining.

I say to Him, “I’ve always beat myself up because I’m not really a student- I read the Bible but don’t get far studying it…I love to read fiction, not books for learning more about You.  I suck at carving out a quiet time.”  Instead, my day is comprised of thirty second quiet times as I go along.  A prayer here, a thanks there, a tear here, songs sung here.  I want to be like my husband who loves to study and read the word. Or like my old friend Joseph who gets up at 5:00am just so that he’ll have two hours of time with the Lord…every morning.

“That’s how I get through the day.  I can’t be a good person without that time.”  he once told me.

But that’s not me.  I am scatterbrained and easily distracted and I learn by seeing and feeling more than by reading and studying.

“Thank you,” I say, “For drawing near to me in writing and singing.”

And He says, “It’s how I made you.”

I could stand to develop more discipline in the area of study…but God is also okay with me being me.  He made me this way…relational and creative and a little bit flaky.  He is using what I have to change me and to make me more like Him.

Yesterday, I had some of the kids at the dentist’s office and the hygienist was asking me questions about the kids and their teeth and when this one’s teeth came in and about cross bites and cavities…and I didn’t always know the answer.  I couldn’t remember those small details.  I have five…and I’ve had one of them for nineteen years and a lot has happened in nineteen years.  I can’t always remember when teeth came in or how this one’s teeth looked at five or that one’s teeth looked at five.

But God remembers each little thing about us.  He remembers my little idiosyncrasies and giftings and talents and He plans out my life so that they can be used, that they can be placed on a lamp stand to serve the body.

My husband is a teacher and, in his heart, a preacher.  I am sad that he’s not able to exercise the gift of preaching right now but his answer is always this, “God made me this, He won’t forget I need to use it.”  And he doesn’t fret over it…He is confident that God will use his gifts and talents.

God is a Good Father.

Today, get out a piece of paper or open a sticky note on your computer or ask Siri to start a list for you.  Please list five good things about you.  Five good things that make you You.  There is only one you.  Fearfully and wonderfully made and the apple of Your Father’s eye.  And when you’re done making that list, would you share it here?  It would be beautiful to see the gifts of my readers!