How We Write Our Story

How We Write Our Story

IMG_4091I wonder if my Papaw ever dreamed his chair would one day be filled with Minnie and Lambie and Baby Ariel. I wonder if he knew a feisty girl with wild, blonde curls and mischievous, blue eyes would one day use his chair as a bed for all her stuffed critters. I wonder if he imagined a great-granddaughter with the middle name Anne after his beloved wife, her beloved great-grandmother, Annie Frances.

That’s the beauty of legacy–we write a chapter in a story without ever knowing the ending. We cling to a heavenly promise but can’t imagine how will it all be fleshed out one day. We are writing a story right now–this day–whether we want to or not. Honestly, some days I feel like the paragraph I penned is one word long–Survival. But if a bunch of those get written together the page starts to take a monotonous tone like having a PB&J sandwich for the 89th day in a row. Sometimes PB&J is our saving grace, but sometimes it’s just an excuse to stay in the box you’ve been living because it’s known and comfortable and easy.

My oldest loves to declare any day “the best day ever” so naturally holidays are her jam. Today, she woke up and said, “Mom, Easter was so much fun. I wish it could be Easter every day. But today is just a regular day, isn’t it?” She wanted a reason for today to be something special. But I told her today can be as special as she wants to make it. And the same is true for me. It’s a Monday, and it’s been rainy and overcast. I had five loads of laundry to catch up on from taking a break over the weekend. It’s easy to think, “It’s just another day. Let’s get through it and survive.” But I don’t want my chapters to be about survival. I want them to be about life and life abundant.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready, I kept saying to myself, “He’s alive.” And every time tears welled in my eyes. I’m alive because He lives in me. Not just alive, like I’m exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, but alive like I can see the beauty in what others call mundane. Alive like I can trust in the middle of a dark Saturday because I know the promise of Sunday. Alive like I can see purpose in piles of pink laundry and smushed up Goldfish crackers.

Alive and spilling every drop of precious ink onto the pages of my story because He spilled out His sacred blood for me.

This is how we write our story. It isn’t through a highlight reel. It’s through the daily pouring out of ourselves into the lives He has entrusted us with.

This is my story. This is my song. 

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Roots and the Hard Work of Winter

Roots and the Hard Work of Winter

IMG_3769Evergreens are nice when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, but when it comes to my yard I want flowers–lots and lots of flowers. This means in the summer everything looks lush and verdant, colorful blooms dotting the front yard. (Thanks to two ten-year-old dogs who are free to go to a good home, the back yard is pretty much just grass and a few rose bushes that have only survived because they have thorns.) But in the winter it looks bleak, all brown and twiggy. Except my irises. Highs barely above freezing, and the leaves of these irises are already the color of spring grass.

I’ve had Ephesians 3 close to my heart for the last several months–praying it, studying it, soaking it in. First, my mom told me she was praying it over us, and then my friend Jessica. Then I kept seeing it pop up–in an art print online, on someone’s IG picture. And a few weeks ago I overheard Charlotte in the kitchen saying, “How high, how wide is the love of Christ. 3:18.” She might have missed a few words, but the smile on her face matched the one on my heart. God was clearly trying to speak to me through this passage. Today, I was reading and praying through it once more, and I looked up the Greek word for “rooted” in verse 17. I was interested in this particular word because it reminds me of the Isaiah verse I pray over our girls and our Ethiopian child every day, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” I pray that these 7,000 days we get to train them will give them deep roots so they might brilliantly display the splendor of their Creator.

The Greek word for “rooted” in Ephesians 3:17 is “rhizoo,” a funny little word and one that reminded me of something from gardening with my grandmothers. I remember them talking about rhizomes and roots and bulbs. A quick Wikipedia search confirmed that our word rhizome comes from that same Greek word rhizoo. And it turns out those optimistic irises that are already displaying their promise of new life even in the gray of winter–yep, those are rhizomes.

I got those irises from a friend’s mom. She was thinning her beds to make space one summer a few years ago, and she told me to take some home. This same friend is in winter right now, the sobbing, heavy, dark kind of winter. The kind where tears are just a moment away, and the calendar seems like it will never turn over. I thought of her as I read that when a rhizome is separated into pieces, each piece has the capacity to give rise to a new plant, like how God can take a broken heart and give rise to new beginnings.

I keep coming back to those verses, those verses I’m clinging to for myself and for others. For our next dwelling and for the next chapter of our family’s story. For healing and new beginnings for my hurting friend. For a precious baby girl whose healthy brain in the ultrasound was the answer to a thousand prayers for a mom on my prayer list. For all of us who think once or a hundred times a day, “God, I’m not sure I can do this.” Let these words settle deep in the soil of your heart, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I love how The Message captures verse 20, “God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Just like a gardener watering and fertilizing the soil so those roots can soak it all in and one day bloom splendid floral confections, He is working within us too–dwelling, healing, growing. And one day the green leaves that braved the harsh winter will sit under the splendor of an iris, creamy white and Wedgwood blue.

Confessions of a Control-Freak

Confessions of a Control-Freak

photo (33)Y’all, those are frozen eyelashes. I got this picture on my TimeHop Saturday, and clearly I had gone crazy. I’m starting to think someone must have put something in my Gatorade last year because I still can’t believe I went running in temps cold enough to freeze eyelashes. Talk about a slap in the face. Leave the warm confines of your down comforter at zero dark thirty to go running in single digits, and you’ll feel your cheeks prickle like someone just hit you hard across the face. I got another slap in the face the other day. Reading through my One Year Bible, I stopped suddenly at Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Ouch. Heart prickling.

Paul is writing to the Galatians when he says this, but I can clearly feel God saying it to me. I’m a recovering control-freak which means the following scenario happens a lot. God will show me something He wants me to do. It might be through His Word or the encouragement of a friend or even a dream He has placed on my heart. I start out faith strong. He can do anything. With God nothing is impossible. The same God who split open a sea and took down a wall with trumpets is at work today. I’m relaxed (as relaxed as a recovering control-freak can be) and trusting God to do that which is far beyond my ability.

But then comes the wait. The days that turn into months that turn into years. The prayers that seem unheard. The God who seems to not be listening. The discouragement. The hopeless feeling. The doubt. Maybe I didn’t hear Him correctly. Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe this isn’t worth it. Maybe I should just give up.

There’s a recurring story line snagged throughout my story. I begin with faith and surrender, but when the timeline gets too lengthy or things aren’t going the way that seems to make sense, I wrap my fingers around the situation and give it a good tug. I’m okay believing as long as things are moving at the pace I like and things are headed the way I want them to go. Which is to say that isn’t believing at all. Or it’s believing in me–in my control. I feel like my story has been stuck here for weeks, months even, like a scratched record that just keeps repeating the same few words. I want to throw out spreadsheets and numbers, timelines and possible solutions, and God asks me for surrender. My flesh has answers, but I know from past experience how that will end.

In the verses following Galatians 3:3 Paul reminds us of Abraham and his faith, “He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” The verse that Paul refers to is lifted straight from the pages of Genesis, “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6)

One chapter over we see Sarah’s take on everything. If ever we recovering control-freaks had a Biblical companion, it would be Sarah. Sarah is faced with the prospect of no heirs, and her first response is to solve the problem herself, giving her maidservant Hagar to Abraham so she can build a family through Hagar. That one decision cast waves that still leave their wake today. Then, she gets frustrated when the brilliant scheme backfires and takes out her frustration on the relationships around her. And then when she overhears the Lord tell Abraham he’ll have a son the following year, she laughs. This doesn’t sound like a giggle to me. It sounds like the laugh of a control-freak. A laugh of doubt and skepticism. A laugh that listens to her biological clock instead of the voice of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. And then God asks that piercing question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

And that’s where I’m at today, taking a big gulp and wrestling with that question. This recovering control freak is learning how to replace control with surrender. I look like a toddler learning to walk. I’m falling down and scraping my knees and banging my head and struggling through it all. Am I trying to complete in the flesh what began in the Spirit?

I can stare with clenched teeth at the circumstances that surround me. Or I can surround myself with Scripture and stare at God’s promises. I might not understand His timing or His plan or His direction, but I always have His Word. And His Word tells me time and time again that He is in control. That nothing is impossible with God. That nothing is too hard for Him. That He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. More than I can imagine. I can hold tight to a fistful of peel-and-stick, glow-in-the-dark stars or I can open my hand and let God show me the Milky Way.

“Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.” Galatians 3:3 from The Message

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Below are some verses I pray often, especially when I’m struggling with control. These verses really come to life when you understand the context in which they were written, and there is much to learn from the chapters surrounding each one.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, ESV

He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:3, ESV

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37, ESV

New Year, New Word

New Year, New Word

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLast Saturday was a dreary day–wet and rainy–as we made our way back home. The younger girls were asleep and Lydia was listening to the story of The Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia. I was thinking about my word for this year. I had one in mind, but it didn’t seem quite right. As I was listening to the story and staring out at gray interstate, I heard it.

“‘Child,’ said the Voice, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.'” ~Aslan in The Horse and His Boy

And that was my word–Story. The word has much meaning to me because I love to write. I have a sweatshirt that has the words “Be True” on it, and that’s my greatest goal with writing–to be true. But when I heard that quote from The Horse and His Boy I was reminded how much I struggle comparing myself, trying to prove my worth by stacking myself against others. And how often I feel like I fall short. This year I want to enjoy the story God is telling me with all its plot twists and story lines. I want to cherish the characters in my story, those unique people who make up my village. I want to face my fears and take risks because every great story needs a protagonist who puts it all out there. And I want to live a story that compels my girls to want to know their Author. A life that beckons them into its pages and gives ink to their own stories.

“He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'” Isaiah 49:2-3

Cheers to a new year and the story it holds!