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Got homeschool?

Click & peruse my new formed blog, Not A Cog In A Machine, if you too are one of “those type” .

 “children are not a cog in machine” ~charlotte mason

Vague

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I keep getting robbed.

No bandit, weapon, or police report necessary.

It is a sneaky ugly thief that lies seemingly dormant in my mind, like some swamp monster from a grainy old B-movie:

it’s ridiculous, you see it coming from a mile away, and yet you get sucked into its trap of murky water of vague assaults on my character, my perception of others could-be perceptions

I told you it was vague.

**************************************************************************************************************

It started on a rainy Saturday morning.

The romantic, kid-free, you have your day wide open, kind of rainy Saturday morning.

And then it was robbed.

Spirited away by that swamp monster in my mind.

It made its first blow in the backyard:

Mud, hundreds of walnut shards littered and staining everything I don’t want to be stained, our summer-long pool project not quite finished {lumber, tools, extension cords, paint rollers bleeding out its crusty paint in a dirty pool in the grass}. This despite we have sweated nearly every weekend this summer trying to finish it. And then of course there was the poop and hay and bloated rabbit pellets; a bag-full destroyed and spilling out caused by hard rain and errant squirrels.

Filling water bottles for seven rabbits I can’t stop looking around at my surroundings.

My eye can’t rest in all this saturated brown.

Gulping, I feel it.

The beast growls and stretches its long claws lazy, just waiting, I eventually sink down to him quite well without him having to do anything but wait.

My breathing actually gets shallow, the muscles in my face tighten, I am aware of this, where it leads, but proceed further down nonetheless.

The first thought, an arrow shot out of the bushes, finds its mark:

“we look so poor”

and continues,

“this is what F#$&ING trailer parks look like!”

Then the scale gets tipped.

All those understandable irritations of:

destroyed wasted rabbit food,

the ugliness of mud and walnut shells covering everything,

and the frustrations of projects that always cost more and takes longer than expected

morphs, pivots in my mind, just enough for the shift to happen:

the swamp monster has me

“what are we doing wrong in our lives”

“I would be so embarrassed if someone could see this backyard right now”

“its just stupid to try to have hobbies, life is work and I am married to this house and clearly I can’t keep my shit together”

This conversation spills into the kitchen where an unsuspecting husband last saw his wife seven minutes ago completely happy, and now is in a furious, negative mood.

Thankfully, I have a husband who will continue to talk and poke and challenge.

Thankfully, God is faithful to those who diligently seek Him and I have learned over years and years of repeat sinkings to force myself to think true thoughts.

We talk in the kitchen, quiet in that strange childless way about many things.

One subject that comes up is how possessions which we pursue to increase the quality and enjoyment of our lives, in actuality seem to create more stress and lack of enjoyment that comes from REST, because whatever you strive to get, it must be maintained. Maintained just a notch above what it currently is, and out of your means and/or ability.

New bathroom?

Why didn’t you upgrade your ancient shower too? {i think it was installed in the 70s!}

Beautiful wrap around deck?

Wouldn’t that new line of deck furniture at Lowes look so much better than the used mis-matched stuff your mom gave you?

Your garden is finally filling in?

Don’t you think just a few more mature perennials and some edging would make it really stand out?

Your daughter has a real talent?

Why aren’t you signing her up for additional lessons? After all in a decade it could mean a scholarship.

Then the train of comparisons, usually of people you really don’t spend all that much time in their homes to really know what their lives actually look like, begins.

It’s out and out sabotage.

Rainy Saturdays mornings.

Homes we love.

Pastimes we enjoy.

People we like.

Children we tolerate {that was a joke}.

Their simple enjoyments are lost, and if the attack is prolonged long enough, without counter attack, loses its blessing.

And that is tragic.

Suddenly the minimalist approach of Buddhism was a lot of merit in my mind.

If I was not convinced that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and alive, and they changed their stance on not drinking I would probably convert { i already have the yoga mat}.

But I don’t convert.

I talk it out.

I pray those same prayers again to that risen Lord who is never surprised and nearer than we think.

I admit that yesterday was a really stressful day and stress has a way showing up the next day, I have not got good sleep lately, have been eating too much crap this week, and getting my period soon, and that it is okay.

I make a spinach fruit smoothie instead a handful of Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips and more coffee.

I buy new boots and cute socks on sale.

I write it here.

Because I know I am not alone in my battle against the swamp monster and everyone knows monsters can’t stand the hard light of truth.

Cheers.

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CHANGE_five minute friday

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It’s just too big.

cumbersome with grief

heavy with despair,

edges razor-sharp, cutting efficiently into tender tissue.

The state of our world:

even this blind culture, with its shallow callous tide of nonsense that fades as fast as the early grass, is taking note, striking a somber tune.

And The Church?

What has her response been?

I am no authority, nor have I done exhaustive research, but in the pinprick of space I take up, and interact with, and the feeling I sense in prayer is this:

The Bride of Christ getting ready:

Praying and fasting.

Such hope.

Because nothing changes really.

The ancient enemy is thrashing and destroying as from the beginning, he is just revealing his hand instead of quiet tearing in the over-looked shadows.

God is in His heaven, His invisible throne and hand stretched out, as it has been from the beginning.

Christ is still over Jerusalem crying out for us the come, so He can cover us like a hen covers her chicks when the killing of innocents has become the standard.

And the Spirit that goes to and fro is searching, searching to gather up the prayers of the saints, drawing them up like the thirsty gather water when it finally rains, to pour them into heaven.  He fills up the bowls in the Holy of Holies to then pour them back down on a broken, bleeding out, and yes dying of thirst, world.

It has been like that since the advent of the Church.

I cannot fathom the why?

Not really, though I can spout off the theologically correct answer.

We Westerners have had the luxury of philosophical ruminations and discussions and arguing long enough:

the rest of our brethren has had to actually live out the faith, not just talk about it, because their lives depend on it.

What is the variable in all this heaven and hell clashing together?

Us.

We change.

We are going forward or going backward.

Never still, never at a content platitude, not really.

Forward motion always needs the banner of Christ; like the emblazoned red cross in the first crusades.

We can change our stance as this terrible, ancient battle, that all of a sudden seems too real, too overwhelming, too numbing, to do anything.

Take up your armor O Church and pray and weep and fast and see what Your God will do.

Satan has shown his hand, O Father God won’t You reveal Your outstretched hand that is from everlasting to everlasting because You change not,

The world is watching.

Linking up with Kate from her Heading Home blog for Five Minute Friday who has done an amazing job taking over Lisa Jo Baker’s job of corralling all us crazy, weepy, bloggers together each week.  we click out on laptops {sometimes in bed at 5am because you can’t sleep, like me right now} on PCs while the kids run around and destroy the kitchen like animals, or on smart phones in a few stolen moments at work. Where ever, or however this space is littered with women {and I think sometimes a few dudes} who have a heart for their Savior and the written word.

Cheers.

 

The Fade of Summer {in shadows}

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Yesterday was August 15th.

What is it about August 15th?

That smack in the middle red-flagged pin marking the last month of Summer.

It’s a bold salutation of:

“Hello. Are you ready for Fall?”

The weather is not improving matters for those of us who prefer to stay in a state of denial about the summer of 2014 closing its door.

Cool mornings with lingering fog well into 9am

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Days that only see a high of 68, even when the sun is out all day.

I have been putting on sweatpants and fuzzy socks at night.

Yesterday I had the inexplicable urge to:

put some stew in the crock pot

buy some Sam Adams Oktoberfeast beer

and watch football.

Ordering home school curriculum on the British Middle Ages and buying #2 pencils, Crayola twistable crayons and Clorox wipes in large quantities all but sealed the deal.

Another summer has come,

unleashed itself in a furry of:

a pool free from craigslist

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scores of baby bunnies,

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books of course!

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celebrating the un-real milestone of being married now for 14 years

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and just to shake things up for everyone,

my going back to work part-time.

It all adds up to a summer that slipped away in a whirlwind.

No matter how we try to hold on

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With such busyness posting has been few and far between.

However,

I need, need to constantly have creative soft pockets in my day.

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Otherwise, I am a wind-up machine of monotonous tasks day after day.

There have been pictures.

I could write so many posts on all my pictures, but don’t have the time, gumption.

Shadow Shot Sunday 2 offers a quick easily assessable platform  {click to link yourself or just look}

to share just snap shots of those soft creative pockets here on bloglandia, and for me that is nice…

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Cheers

 

When it rains in August

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Living in the Northeast, sandwiched between the Great Lakes to the west, and the Atlantic to the east, we see our fair share of gloomy, gray, dank, days.

And I love to be outside so normally I complain, often.

But today is was gray and the rain that broke open in gushing buckets from the black sky last night, continues to saturate my parched garden, fill our new pool to the brim, is turning my front lawn that needs to be mowed greener and taller.

It also forced us inside.

Mama decreed suddenly and without warning {the way I love to do} that this week would be “screen free” for the girls.

Last week I went back to work part time in the evening to everyone’s favorite Retail Therapy Mecca: Target.

{i now own more red shirt than ever I have ever had before}

Leisure and relax has left my vocabulary, completely.

My life, quite suddenly, much like the those weary newborn days, operates in shifts, but with more sleep and cleaner shifts.

So there we were:

just four daughters and one Mama trapped in the house without cell phone instagram updates, Minecraft, the wii, of netflix to distract and keep us comfortably apart, because if any one of you can still recall high school…

five females will NEVER get along for more than FIVE minutes.

And yet.

First thing this morning, after the rain woke me, I sat up to see the long limbered silhouette of my two oldest make their way down the hallway-

they stopped in my room, plunked down on my bed to talk to me!

Soon after…

stumbling downstairs for starbucks and half & half, I hear the sounds of only mild arguing over a game of UNO-

all four girls sitting around the kitchen table playing together!

I threw cherries and yogurt containers at them and told them to evenly distribute the last swigs of O.J. left in the carton.

We went to Panera at lunchtime, for our breakfast.

Shopped at Aldies for a week of groceries.

My youngest dropped and split right down the middle in a jagged crack an entire watermelon.

My second youngest dropped an entire glass jar of salsa, the sound of breaking glass rang throughout a whole store like a warning siren going off.

The oldest?

Running around the store like Aldies is a some kind of retail daycare.

Did I yell at them through tight lips hissing:

“COME HEAR! YOU ARE ACTING LIKE IDIOTS! AND I AM EMBARRASSED!”

yep.

Did I punish them by returning the carton of our one per week Moosetracks ice cream?

yep.

And then later, when I pulled into the driveway, rain still falling leaving everything in puddles and the air sticky, did I remind them several times to:

“Help.Me.Bring.The.Groceries.In. Please”

Did my oldest ignore and saunter in declaring she was hungry again?

{you already know the answer}

Did I yell again, this time quite openly and colorfully, since I was no longer hindered by being in public that,

“You need to get out of your daydream world that revolves around you and just start helping me out without being yelled at, honestly stop being so self-consumed!”

{you already know the answer}

And now, as I type this, I glance at that taunting little clock in the corner of the screen, telling me I really should start getting ready for work instead of writing, and I think about this rainy day in August and I am glad that today it rained buckets. Still glad despite the destruction of produce and Mexican condiments, that I took the girls grocery shopping instead of leaving them home as usual. Still happy for my decision of decreeing “screen free” because it forced us to be all corralled

together;

which can sometimes feel like a colorful celebration in the midst of the mundane.

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********************************************************************************************************************************************

part deux

10:20 pm

Home from work and the word “together” would not be the most apt word to describe my husband and I this week.

And yet.

This whole “wow mom gotta job” thing, still new, has made me appreciate him more than ever.

The meals prepared and dishes done.

The laundry flipped and the chapter books read.

Without complaint or sulk or comment.

Because we are in this:

together.

And sometimes the old saying is too true:

Absence Makes The Heart Fonder.

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Funny Book. Cuter Husband.

And this is what I found upon my bed when I came home tonight.

Looking forward to together soon.

Cheers.

 

Linking up after a long absence with Emily for some Imperfect Prose.

Midweek blogging does not groove with my normal writing schedule, but I am doing what lots of busy women have confessed to doing:

starting a few days ahead to finish up one post!

Click to link up yourself or read and be inspired by imperfect people writing imperfect words the best we know how.

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BEGIN_five minute friday

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LOOK UP & SEE HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW

Last night I kept having a repeated nightmare:

the scariest kind that there is…

I am making a fool of myself

It  was of the same flavor that I consistently had the night before going back to school when I was a kid and teenager

Because, you see

Yesterday I spent five-mind-numbing-hours watching a training/orientation DVD in a small florescent lit room with four other people {all much, much, younger than me…like they were not even born yet when I was in high school, young}.

We all had on spiffy new red T-shirts and appropriate khaki bottoms

That’s right:

I just got hired at Target

The place I shop the most, is now going to be where I will spend another  additional 15-20 hours a week.

Only now I will be accruing money, not having it fly out of my wallet

an improvement

I have not worked, worked…as in get presentable, drive in my car, punch in, and interact with adults work, for nearly 13 years.

Most definitely a new Beginning.

While I have been ” just staying home” or “just a mom” or a SAHM, whatever you or the culture currently coin it, these 13 years have been a series of new beginnings.

Each new daughter that came tearing into our home beautiful and exhausting

Each season of newborn, toddler, the “school choice” crisis that consumes all and every parent, then the school battles, then the pre-teen battles of social networking, “you are not wearing that” and “I don’t care what every other parent does. most parents are dumb” {yep that’s a true quote…and I use it often}

And Tim and I had to Begin again too.

Over and over again we need that refresher course of why we fell in love and got married at age 20 and decided to procreate…often

I had to being again at working at LIKING my husband, and my daughters, often.

Because we fragile, chipped, cracked, clay pots of humanness are pretty much the same:

selfish

short-sighted

hard of hearing

easily distracted by the shiny bright glint of this world

giving ear to the pursuant whispering lies of Satan

Which is why:

In all this tumultuous change, this hard, hard, upward climb I, by God’s grace, realize I need The New

The New Covenant

The New Way

The New Nature

The New Hope

Found in the powerful stillness of seeking Christ as each day Begins

as every day, season, job description, marriage stress, child stress, financial stress bares down hard

He Begins Again So We Can Begin Again

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DAWN OR DUSK?

Stop.

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker for another exciting installment of Five Minute Friday!

Happy Friday

Happy August

and

Happy 33-days-till-the-kids-are-back-in-school {for NewYorkers}

Everyone!

Cheers

BLOOM_five minute friday

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gardening is a creative trial and error pursuit

it did not come naturally to me at all

for years i had a wide long thatch of dirt with a few perennials that bloomed and then quickly faded, flanked by persistent weeds

decorating however, always came natural for some reason

probably because i can manipulate the real objects in my hands

then i can just “see it” in my mind’s eye how it will look best

i could handle the antique candle holder, the vintage runner, the shabby chic frames

pull this and that till it looked right

when it grew tired-looking i’d move it or pack away- and just like that i have a clean canvas to do just as i fancy

not so with gardening

it took me years and years to understand that the flashy sanguine daffodils of yellow that birth life into the brown dead world of my garden will fade away by mid April, and that is when those strategically place tulips, delicate and pink, come up, to mask the plain green stalks of the daffodils

daffodils that you cannot hack off with those steal sharp clippers, no matter how tempting, or else you will deprive the deep buried bulb of the chlorophyll it needs to come up next year through snow and freezing nights

it took me so many summers to finally get that i need more late blooming perennials or come august:

my front yard is a mass of tired crispy lawn, spent flowers, and weeds

i discovered, so surprisingly & joyfully, that the deep purple spikes of my two butterfly bushes that look like dead sticks in spring, and a boring wonky shaped bush in June and July, is a dazzling eye catching centerpiece in August; complete with a flurry of monarchs that love to feast of them.

i have lots of weeds, because i don’t spray

i have lots of ” wild cottage-y flowers” that fall technically in the category of weeds

but because they are free and fill in the spaces of those $15.00 perennials that never came back

i like them

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no, gardening will not provide instant decorating satisfaction the way a boring, flat, blank, wall turns “accent wall” with a few new over-sized frames and sticker art you pick up at target for 60 bucks will do the trick

my garden has been a long, arduous ordeal

my mind’s eye has never then pushed its way out of the soil…ever

early on i would get so jealous of others:

neat curved edging

those huge hanging baskets placed symmetrically every 3ft around the porch

and of course:

no weeds

but I don’t think that way anymore

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i see those perfectly spaced containers and those razor sharp curved edges

and know that look, more than likely, was not achieved by a woman or man’s own hands from a creative eye and passion

it was hired very expensively to maintain the right image

after 13 years of getting my hands dirty, my knees and back sore, lots of disappointments, lots of happy surprises, and lots satisfaction my weedy, un-edged, pesticide-free, garden has finally got to the point where it is in continual full BLOOM of something i enjoy march to october

then i enjoy the dormant rest

now that i think about it:

my pursuit of gardening perfection and what i have learned, ideas and ideals i have rejected, the hard work i have enjoyed, and the beautiful benefits i reap,

all to enjoy the process of seeing a BLOOM

is a lot like parenting

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stop.

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker this Friday that is perfect for being outside and the garden.

Cheers.

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EXHALE_five minute friday

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the sun is an organge-y impression through the thick green boughs that surround our deck

it is going to be another hot humid july day and i am glad for the force field of maple, walnut, and oak leaves that surround me; 360 degrees

the only sound:

humming of a/cs keeping daughters in bed much later

keeping our electric bill much scarier

it is summer vacation-

really it adds up to eight weeks,

eight weekends

where each hours does not have to be calculated, tweaked, accomplished

i finish not one mug of starbucks, but two-

not even having to stick it in the microwave once for a warm up because i set it down, got busy, and forgot where i left it

the birds chatter

the squirrels chase

the cats stalk

the bunnies twitch in their pens

it’s going to be a good day

and

i

exhale

grateful

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Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker of five minute Friday of course! on this, America’s Birthday, the 4th of July, with a long weekend, a long summer, opening up- lazy, but full of projects and plans all the same- it is what summers are for.

Cheers

 

LOST_five minute friday

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on the fringes

wandering what is going on and how did I get here

have i LOST it?

that is how my head, my heart, my spirit

have felt this passed month

my mind-

brimming over, hovering on the lip of the cup,

“one more drop Lord, and it’s gonna spill over and make a mess”

But the cup holds a good, good thing

and I wonder?

is it me-

just pouring too much too quickly like starbucks in my mug before the daughters are up, and I just want to have it all, yet enjoy it slow, and how exactly does that work?

my heart-

the eyes of it take so much in

my pre-teens and their sass, and cell phone obsession, and they better start deciding exactly Who they want to really follow

my little ones and their needs and innocence and their trying to be so grown up and my saying: oh no you don’t! stay small!

my volunteer work with at risk children, trying to coax something good and simple and worthwhile like getting them to love to read-while in God’s house while others pray for them, so this perpetuating cycle of low expectations and hopelessness some two, three, generations deep might start ascending up; though everyone knows the bad stuff naturally just sinks lower and lower

my spirit-

its torn

jeckle & hyde like

comfort and confidence, encouragement and joy

to suddenly without warning rip away revealing

panic and painful insecurities, despair and exhaustion

And I am feeling LOST

close to being swallowed up some days i fear

and these on-the-fringe-days, those near-broke-days:

my only fall back emergency plan?

the 69th Psalm:

save me o God for the waters are come in onto my soul

i sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; i have come into deep waters where the floods overflow me

but as for me my prayer is unto thee, o Lord in an acceptable time; o God in the multiples of your mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation

let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me

hear me o Lord; for the thy lovingkindess is good: turn onto me according to the multitude of they tender mercies

Feeling like THIS TIME i am going under and be LOST for good this time

peering at myself at the edge of myself, my abilities, my logic, my strength

I LOSE myself enough to being caught by The Father’s Hand.

And in  LOSING we gain the essence of Christ.

Stop.

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So the bulk of the text of this post didn’t go over 5 minutes by too much

The verses of course took time, but they don’t count because they are not my words, I’m just quoting!

It is good to be back to writing and photography again after taking about a month absence of anything creative.

I realized that leaves me feeling too flat:

 Too much like a wind-up toy just getting work done everyday till I wind down and collapse over.

I also got desperate to read some well written fiction, and have found some

{peruse my goodreads review above}

So happy creative Friday to all.

Read in or join in at Lisa Jo Bakers place.

Cheers.

CLOSE_five minute friday

 

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US BEING NERDS, BUT GENUINELY TRYING TO BE COOL, AT CAPE MAY, NJ EARLIER THIS WEEK

We don’t exactly finish each others sentences

but…

we think of the same punch lines at the same time in social situations

we chime in with

“that’s what she said” in the same under your breath grin

we recall lines from favorite british sitcoms and say them with the identical bad british accents:

“well you are incredibly old”

“they are fairly regular, the beatings, yes”              http://www.clickypix.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-IT-Crowd-Quotes-Images-1003.jpg

 

we often will text each other random texts, after hours and hours of silence, at the same time

we think 99% of music made after the year 2000 sucks

but music from the ’90s is timeless

we can tell by a slight purse of the lips, narrowing of the eyes, what the other is thinking

we know the precise moment when it is time RIGHT NOW for the kids to traipse upstairs to bed

to leave the restaurant

say good bye and make for the door at friends and families

we know when the other needs a swift kick in the butt to “get over it”

or space

or a long kiss

we have this invisible thread, binding us in shared jokes, unspoken needs, and mirrored tastes

because over the last decade and a half we have fought to stay

CLOSE.

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BURROW DOWN IN COMMON SAND TO NOT GET PRIED APART

Linking up, this start to the long memorial weekend { i love memorial weekend…the unofficial start to summer}

with the ever poetic, spiritual, and wise Lisa Jo Baker.

click on the link to join in or be inspired at what 5 minutes {or so} a computer screen, and a common platform, can produce.

Cheers.

So, what is up with the Monk thing?_{a post in which I write a lot about books}

doing our thing

The last several years have found me gulping down books that called for consciousness in The Church. Challenged me to find The Real in a church atmosphere that felt more and more non-genuine

Books like:

http://store.brooklyntabernacle.org/product_images/x/323/FWFF-SCBK__95202.jpg

FRESH WIND, FRESH FIRE BY JIM CYMBALA

Fresh Fire, Fresh Wind  that called the church to take intercessory prayer serious. His story,  or rather testimony of the transformation of a crack corner in the Bronx that two old ladies starting praying over, to the now world famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Church and worship group, is the backdrop to this book.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS2s8qWgjV9Xzj_ahStlgeKEIRlAHyFx_ATIK9aI7FzInL19Pvnuw

Radical  by David Platt that asked the question why does the 21st Century Western Church look and act nothing like the first-century church? Do we not confess the same Lord, and have the same power of the Holy Spirit in us? Then why are our actions and values so different?

http://www.disciplelife.co.uk/images/threads-interrupted-jen-hatmaker-member-book.jpg

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  A part memoir, part call of consciousness for modern Evangelicals to start being serving disciples rather than preaching, unhappy, “blessing the already blessed” conservatives. Funny and beautiful. One of the few books I have read twice. Flipped through it just last night to re-read under-lined passages.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/411iCboiwsL.jpg

Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  He asks the question where oh where is the Holy Spirit? Total up all our slick Christian merchandise, multimillion dollar church campuses, professional music bands, and over qualified pastors- when put together on the scales of walking in power in terms of personal transformation and conversion of the lost we are not moving the needle much over the zero mark. The Bible makes it plain that without the empowerment of The Holy Spirit we cannot carry out the will of The Father. Chan writes with clarity and clear perspective of why The Holy Spirit is not present in many churches and how to allow Him to draw close to us again.

I loved these books.

They served as a catapult that tentatively launched me into a more mature faith, as I found myself nearing and crossing over into my thirties.   A time where I no longer was on repeat and reload on the pregnancy machine.  {Four children, less than seven years…I would not change a thing about our decision with having our children , but I never want to go through another day of pregnancy again!}. When I turned thirty especially, with The Babe nearing wiping her own butt, high chairs and cribs tossed to the curb with a big ole FREE sign, I got lulled into the wavy tantalizing mirage of seeing “time for me” loom in the horizon of my future.  All these books mentioned above were, for me, a call to action:

“Hey things kinda suck if you haven’t noticed! Are you going to be part of the solution and do something, or NOT”

That is what it seemed to say to me anyway.

That is after all, the way I think; the way I do things.

The only problem:

I was still the same me; just with more head knowledge.

My four girls, even though they wiped their own butts, slept through the night and did not need their wet, sticky, warm body to be attached to my own every waking hour, still needed me. I did not feel like bothering with all that.  I wanted to do big things.

For God of course.

My reading of awesome books that spoke such inspiring truth, did nothing, in truth, to change my sin nature that still gnawed at me every single day.

Like I said:

I was the same me.

Maybe I had a clearer vision of what needed to change in the larger scope of The Church in America, but there were more glaring, more pressing needs that needed to change in my heart- in my home. What these books did do, that I did not realize at the time, is whet my appetite for a real connection with a real God. That is precisely what those books were talking about in the first place.

Which is why…

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Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts found its mark right where all good books are supposed to aim for and sink into:

my heart.

One Thousand Gifts got close and personal, down and dirty.

Which leads me to the Monk Thing.

If you were on my goodreads “friends” list you would note that currently I am reading

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The Jesuit Guide to {Almost} Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin.

and Tales of Saint Francis: Ancient Stories for Contemporary Living by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.

I am not converting to Catholicism.

I am being drawn, almost accidentally, which is another way to say not looking for it but led by The Spirit of God, to the life and practices and record of words of those called the Mystics of Christianity.

I don’t really know what a “mystic” is- so I looked it up:

mys·tic

a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining,
insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge,
as by direct communication with the divine
or immediate intuition in a state of spiritual ecstasy

Ignatius of Loyola.
Francis of  Assisi.
Christian men who lived during the Middle Ages.
What could that  possibly have to do with a thirty-four year old women living in America in the 21st-century?
Well, a lot.
After all the human heart is pretty much the same, regardless of time, sex, or culture.
God is unchanging.
Humankind’s search for Him because we were made to have a close, shameless, relationship with Him, remains a constant as well.
What these men wrote, their simply lives, revealed to me the same nail hit right on the head by Ann Voskamp:
the problem in society is not this group or that group, it is ME.
Letting go of ME, going lower and lower as my own selfishness, hard heart, prideful sin, began to loom larger than my own demands for fair. I repeatedly felt myself being put into that tedious. awkward position. So Christ Himself  could raise me up.
Remember what all those be the change! books inspired in me:
Do something already, right?
Well that doing something had nothing to do with outward achieving action, but inward receding humility.

GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

Things got so messed up in my life, in my head, that I had to go to counseling last summer.
I found myself on the outs with my family.
No church.
No ministry.
The school system my children were enrolled in went to hell in one year.
We tried to move twice, found a dream house, to lose it because our finances were so terrible.
I felt let down by God big time.
After all, I read the books.
I understand the problem.
I had the solutions.
I was not like all those other lukewarm Christians.
And so He owed me right?
Turns out NO.
But God keeps showing up with open arms like the most patient and lovely mother on earth with each and everyone of my tantrums and incessant questions.
Seeking, continually, God’s presence, daily, minute by minute, is the path to upper mobility in the new Kingdom that Christ ushered in.
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GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

I had to do it initially when everything seemed to go to crap.
It has been a cultivated practice in my life because without His presence I feel like crap.
It’s too hard without constant replenishing and refreshing.
Even on the days I don’t feel like it, or feel nothing particularly spiritual after I slow down and seek God in prayer, reading the Word, or worship.
What sounds like just more religiously motivated guilt turns out to be a God motivated way for you to receive grace by being like His Son.
It is what those Medieval saints learned with their bare feet and their Latin chants.
It is what Ann Voskamp learned with her written lists and her Eucharisteo lifestyle.
It was what I was forced to do when every single plan of action and change of lifestyle turned into a big fat NO!
We stayed in our house in the ‘burbs with neighbors much too close, that is not zoned for chickens or goats.
We had a painful leave in our little “Radical” church, after stepping out in faith to leave a church that we loved. But that year saw me grow more in dramatic and supernatural ways as a Christian, despite our leaving, than any book could.
God led me to another church in one day.  I didn’t recall the Pastor’s name and did not know the church’s name or denomination, but I knew it was where we had to be.
My relationship with my extended family improved slowly.
I started homeschooling my older two girls.  The emotions that followed being a homeschooling Mom were as followed:
terrified
panicked
regretful
discouraged
depressed
acceptance
joy
thankfulness.
Sometimes we have fun.
Sometimes I threaten to hit them with a ruler like the nuns used to do, cuz those sisters got results.
And then, only six months after being in our new, new church-
six months of enjoying just being with a group of believers, worshiping and rejoicing and praying and being taught, God dropped a burden in my heart.
A stone that sunk down deep, rippling waters into bigger and bigger circles till I had to act.
I could not believe I was doing this again.
I thought I was over proving myself.
I liked the new me of contentment and simplicity.
I wake up early and make my own bread, people!
Feeling stupid I went to my Pastor.
Feeling terrified I went to the elementary school that shares its parking lot with our church, and also happens to be the school my youngest girls attend.
Feeling completely out of my element, completely like I do not have the time, or even the desire, I am currently heading up a program called: Keep It Up! {facebook page coming soon!}
It is all about literacy for the at risk children in our church and school neighborhood.
It is about The Church being relevant in the community by providing a need and serving, not just inviting them to church stuff.
Jen Hatmaker of the books Interrupted and 7 calls this “Missional Church stuff”.
It is about serving the teachers at the public school to provide books, and story times, opening the door to the magic of books, the power of literacy during the summer months when the ten months they put into those children immediately start to erode away. It dwindles because more than likely no one else is reading Lady Bug Girl four times in a row, or helping them with the tedious process of sounding out words to form sentences, even when they start to cry fat tears and say “I am just too stupid!” No one is encouraging older elementary students to turn off the TV, youtube, x-box, and get into a chapter book with funny, or inspiring characters we can talk about later.
It is not really a typical church-y thing.
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But starting when I sounded out my first book {the Color Kittens, when I was five} books have been very important to me.
A source of escape when I was young.
A source of knowledge when I became an adult.
Ask any missionary working in impoverished countries right now and the best way to stop the cycle of poverty and powerlessness in a society is to give their children education.
We have education in America.
But unless an at-risk child really grasps and learns to love literacy the probability of them not staying in the same cycle of low expectations, taking the easy yet hopeless route everyone else around them does, is low.
Books just have always been my thing.
We are at our best serving, doing what is our thing.
doing our thing
Just ask my kids who wail every time I say its “quiet time” and they have read. {In the Summer there are book reports too!}
Just ask the local librarians {I think the total money I paid out in late fees last year paid for the new carpet installed in the story time corner!}
And yet.
Every step of planning and going out of my comfort zone has found me in tears, feeling like a fool, confounded at my own decision to start this thing I am not sure anybody else really gives a crap about.
“I can’t do this”
“I don’t want to do this”
“What does it matter really? Reading some books and sounding out Cat In The Hat to a handful of ratty kids whose parents just send them traipsing over to the church for the free babysitting and free food”?
Every panic attack.
Every seizure of self-doubt, self-hate.
The still small voice:
“This low position is best possible stance for you to take to let Me take over completely and raise you up with Me”.
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GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

My way.
My timing.
My methods.
My power.
It’s the same lessons the saints experienced.
I recently read a quote by some French guy named Leon Bloy:
“There is only one tragedy- not to be a saint”
Echoed were the words of the author Murray Bodo.
“Lord let me be small, but let me be Holy”
We just get bogged down in the semantics:
“saint” “mystic” “spirituality” “radical” “evangelical”.
A Saint acts like Jesus, because they got over themselves long enough to admit they need Jesus.
Period
The opening preface to Sarah Young’s devotional:
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Jesus Calling, that my friend just happen to drop off saying that she felt I needed to read it, was a near verbatim confession of what The Spirit spoke to me in my panic and fear these last two months.
And so I am continuing with this Read-To-Kids-Thing.
I even mentioned it to a few people!
I feel good. I feel I am right where I am supposed to be.
Empty and tired and having no clue what is next, but with joy and peace because it is not about me.
Being a book obsessed introvert, into monks, having all your plans thrown out the window, and feeling stupid apparently is not as lame and horrible as it sounds.
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If you made it to the end, congratulations! This post ended up being over 2,300 words long and most people don’t stay on one web page for over 25 seconds.
Now we can both feel good about ourselves!
Leaving for our annual “marriage time out” to Cape May, NJ tomorrow.
Four days, three nights.  Longest ever.
Then it is tying up the last of the homeschool year, and starting up this ministry: Keep It Up!
I always go “screen free” in July and usually just post photos with a line a two in August as part of The August Break flickr group.
So the Summer posts may be few and far between.
I may not visit that many other bloggers, though I shall try, they are always so good.
Those of you kindred-spirit bloggers who have read and “walked” along me these past years or months keep me in your prayers this summer and I will keep you in mine.
Cheers.