Monthly Archives: February 2011

from trash to treasure

from trash to treasure

I watched her out of the corner of my eye. Tears were forming in hers. We’d just settled into our evening watch of American Idol when I noticed her sadness. The “boys” present in the room shrugged it off as insignificant. Boys are like that sometimes, not seeing past the tears to the deeper issue at work. But this momma… the girl in me… recognized her tears. I cried some similar ones in my younger years. Tears that now, in hindsight, seem frivolous and unwarranted, yet tears at the time of their initial release important in keeping with the moment.
A letting go kind of moment.
Let me explain.
My eight-year-old daughter is attached to her stuff. Whether it be her well-worn blanket (a.k.a. burp cloth from her infant days), her stuffed animals (enough to allow her only an eighth of an inch of her mattress for sleeping purposes), her hidden stash of Kit-Kats from Halloween, or her Sponge Bob Crocs from two years ago, my Amelia isn’t keen on letting go of her belongings. She’s a keeper of things, believing in their significance even if they’ve outlived their practical usefulness. She’ll fight hard for their survival, and last night would prove the same.
Occasionally, my daughter drinks from a sippy cup; she wouldn’t do so in mixed company, but in the safety of home, she prefers the cups from her toddler days. Over the years we’ve thrown several out, but two remain… until last evening. Alas, one of the screw-on tops to the cups did a dance with the dishwasher and came out mangled. My husband made the tragic mistake of announcing its demise and, subsequently, threw it in the trash can. My daughter was stunned by the revelation but kept her emotions in check. For a few minutes. Until the familiar intro to Idol began. And that is when I noticed her tears.
Amelia, what’s wrong?
Silence. More tears. (*Note to self… asking the question usually opens the floodgates to further tears.)
Amelia, are you upset about something?
Silence. Tears now freely flowing down her cheeks; body beginning to shake.
Amelia, are you crying about your cup?
Hesitantly she spoke, carefully camouflaging her angst so as not to attract the attention of the boys in the room…
Mommy, I need that lid.
I thought that might be the case, daughter. Would you like to keep it in your room?
Then go get it.
Tears stopped, eyes were wiped, and a bee-line was made to the trash can and then to her room. Moments later, she settled herself back onto the couch and all was well with her heart. And I got to thinking.
About attachments. About the heart of a child that is willing to hold onto “things”… needs to hold onto things even though others deem them unnecessary, unimportant, limited in their usefulness. About what makes a “thing” more than a “thing.” About when a “thing” becomes something valuable and about why, as adults, we sometimes think it necessary to make that something lesser in its status.
As adults, we’re well-informed and well-trained with our “letting gos.” We don’t get too far into our maturing without experiencing a few painful ones. The capacity to “let go” and do so with some measure of grace is often the mark of maturity. We preach it, teach it, write about it, and live it. My life history is replete with such benchmark moments. I hope they’ve aided in my maturation at every level, but just last night I started thinking about it all. Wondering if maybe it’s OK to keep some attachments to certain things. To store them away and keep them hidden because they became a something to me in a previous season.
That maybe, sometimes we rush the “letting go.” That we are quick to throw away the “things” that have become something to us just because they’ve gotten a bit mangled and torn by the daily wear and tear of our handling therein. That, perhaps, by keeping a few of them, we’ll have a better chance of remembrance in years to come when recall becomes paramount to our moving forward.
Indeed, we need to “get on with the gettin’” on as it pertains to our growing up on the inside, but what if our growing up is, at least in part, related to our holding onto a few things? What well-worn things have we prematurely let go of in favor of shiny, new ones just for the sake of usefulness? I have no illusions that the lid to my daughter’s sippy cup will ever serve as a functioning lid again. But to her it is useful, at least for a little while longer. Why?
Because it’s part of her history.
She and that lid have some longevity. They’ve shared some years together, been as close to one another as a temporal thing can get to an eternal beating soul. When she was a toddler, she carried it with her everywhere she went. At eight, she limits her carrying to times of thirst. And I imagine in another year or so, she’ll outgrow her need for its companionship. But for now, it’s still something to her. And I find that beautiful and poignant and a message of grace meant for my own soul this day.
She needs her lid, and I need a childlike heart that is willing fight hard for a few things worth preserving. Things that are worth holding onto because they’re part of my history. Things that are meant for the treasure box and not the trash can. Things that are more valuable because of their wear and tear over the years and because of my handling therein. Things that, in the eyes of others may not seem like much, but things that are precious to me because they have “touched” my lips and made their way into my heart as a forever keeping.
I’m not into hoarding or collecting stuff for collection’s sake. And if you’re a regular reader of my words then you know I’m all about the “letting go” process. But I will tell you this… I’m a proponent of holding onto a few things that have become somethings to us. If we don’t have a few somethings, then our lives run the risk of floating aimlessly through our earthly tenures.
We all need an anchor in this season. A tried and true, reliable “holding onto” that will see us through to tomorrow. I don’t know what yours is—the one thing that you are willing to dig out of the trashcan and hide away as a treasure in the deep recesses of your heart—but I do know what mine is. And in many ways, it resembles a well-worn, well-chewed upon, overly used, and mangled sippy-cup lid.
A holding faith.
And I will fight to the death for that one, friends. Cry some tears over it and make sure that everyone in the room, including the boys, understand the fact that my faith isn’t made for the trashcan. That instead, I’ll store it away where my daughter has chosen to store her lid.
In my treasure chest… my heart (I had to search hard to find it in her room this morning). There’s a history we share, my faith and me, that’s worth holding onto. May it be the same for each one of us. Let us not be quick to discard an old faith as unnecessary, unreliable, limited in its usefulness. Let us, instead, be quick to hide it as newly discovered wealth to serve as a continual anchor in the seasons to come. May your faith be your something… the one thing… you’re willing to fight for today.
Keep to it, my good companions on the journey. Keep to the road of faith. As always…
Peace for the journey,

PS: I’ll be MIA most of next week as I’m scheduled for surgery on Monday at 8:00 AM. I would appreciate your continuing prayers. Shalom.

winter’s work and the wind’s breath

winter’s work and the wind’s breath

Today’s walk outside has been a beautiful gift to me. Today, I left the iPod behind, and for the first time in a long time, I could hear my thoughts think. Thoughts about…
winter’s work and the wind’s breath.
Winter’s work. I saw evidence of it while making my trek around the neighborhood. Brittle, brown leaves lined the gutters, skittering along behind me, in front of me and all around me at the whim of the wind. A lovely sound… a gentle tapping of the pavement reminding me of winter’s work on their previous vitality. And even though their green has faded, their moisture gone, and their lush diminished to dryness, their occupancy on the street remains despite the beginning buds of their replacements. And they are still lovely. Still shapely. Still intricate in their design.
A memorial to an earlier season.
Wind’s breath. A carrier of brittle things. Lighter things. Things that have allowed winter its work within them. The wind cannot carry things heavily tethered to earth. Whether a leaf, a blossom, a bird, or a heart, when life stays attached to worldliness, life will never know the uplift of the wind—the soaring, gentle, gracious rise of heaven’s breath.
A memorial to an eternal truth. One that says there comes…
a going down before a going up.
a drying up before a flying high.
a letting go before a being held.
a tender fall before a gracious lift.
a sacred burial before a sacred resurrection.
a winter’s work before a spring’s revival.
Indeed, my thoughts could think again today, if only in brief. Just enough of a reminder to me that all has not been lost in my winter. That with the brittle and brown and drying of this season, I have retained my occupancy upon this earth. Still intricate in my design; still retaining the veins and shape of an earlier season. Still here amidst the promise of spring, yet lighter because of the stripping of winter.
Today, like my leafy friends, I’m better able to rise with the wind’s breath because of winter’s work within me—a going down, drying up, letting go, tender falling, sacred burial kind of work. A vigorous work in my flesh and in regards to my faith. Winter seasons are like that. Rigid and unrelenting at times, forcing their agenda, begging no apologies.
As with the seasons on earth, so it is with our hearts. We cannot forego winter, in favor of spring, summer, or fall. We simply must receive it as it cycles around, believing that “to every thing there is a season and time to every purpose under heaven.” Winter holds a wealth all its own, and today I briefly caught a glimpse of its worthiness. I heard it as well.
Skittering leaves pushed along and lifted up by the wind.
Winter’s work and heaven’s breath.
Even so, carry me Lord Jesus, and let the chorus of my winter be your spring’s reminder to someone who’s yet to take hold of a sacred letting go. Lift us all to that higher place.
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the road-walking Jesus

“So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him.” {Mark 5:24}
I think about both of them today—two needy souls approaching Jesus from different angles some 2000 years ago. I imagine that day was in keeping with most of the days of Christ’s earthly tenure. Days of…
forward movement;
Days of doing what Jesus did best—unearthing the treasures of heaven, revealing the heart and hands of the Divine. Those who knew him and loved him followed him closely, kept his words within earshot and his flesh within arm’s reach. Others—those who knew him less—followed closely as well… their motives in keeping with their needs. Some physical; some spiritual; some just trying to make sense of the rumors that preceded his arrival. Regardless of their reasons for following after Jesus, wherever he went he drew a crowd.
That day would be no different. Fresh off a detour to Gerasa and a showdown with demons, Christ stepped ashore to find a crowd awaiting his arrival. A synagogue ruler named Jarius approached Jesus with a frontal advance, fell at Christ’s feet and earnestly pleaded with him for the life of his young daughter. An unidentified woman approached Jesus from behind, earnestly hoping that a stretch of her arm through tangled robes might grant her a temporary grasping of his hem and, therefore, a permanent healing of her flesh.
Both of them candidates for healing. Both of them operating with a measure of faith. Both of them knowing that proximity to Christ’s presence was the optimum course of action to procure a sought after victory. There would be no sideline watching that day… no curiosity mingling on the outskirts of a moving grace. Instead, they would urgently press into that grace… into Jesus from different angles, believing that with him would come the answer to their need—their pain and their suffering.
I am moved by their simple, yet resolute understanding of who Jesus was; not an understanding birthed from years of scholarly tutorial or religious instruction or thousands of years of hindsight, but rather understanding birthed from personal experience. From hearing and seeing firsthand the generous dispensation of his miraculous grace and then, further, believing that such charity was intended for them at a personal level. They didn’t underestimate Christ’s sacred intentions; instead, they had enough faith to believe that they were, each one, his intention—the reason behind his walking along their road that day. And so, they approached his majesty and his mystery amidst the chaotic pageantry and secured the longed for victory that would forever change the trajectory of their lives.
Proximity to Christ’s presence is the precursor to change, friends. Whether it be a healing of the heart, the mind, or the flesh, taking hold of Jesus in your midst will secure for you his undivided attention and active willingness to undertake you cause. To place upon himself the burdens of your heart and then to mediate his grace and mercy into every angle, nook and cranny, twist and turn of your plight. When it comes to a personal need for healing, a sideline faith laced with tentative curiosity and rumored possibility holds no curative power; instead, it keeps hope and expectation lingering at the edge of what Christ came to do… comes to do…
to free us from that which entraps us—body, soul, and spirit.
We don’t get to choose the blueprint or course of action for how that freeing will occur, but we do get to choose our participation in the matter. When we approach Jesus Christ with our needs, whether it be from the front, back, or from a side-to-side angle, he never fails to get involved. God isn’t reluctant in offering his grace and tender mercy into our situations. He won’t ever force his grace upon us… make us choose him, prefer him, rely on him when our wills are tethered otherwise. But when we do ask Christ for a moment or two of his consideration—his divine intervention into our need—we can be certain of his willingness to act on our behalf.
We are what he came to do—the reason behind his walking his daily grace some 2000 years ago. The reason he left us his personal diary of sorts… a forever record of remembrance so that we might find ourselves somewhere within the story. So that we might live and record our own stories of faith, so that they might serve as a lasting memorial to the transformational power and generosity of our road-walking Jesus.
Today, if you have a need, then you have a Jesus who’s headed your way. Word is… he’s in town. Word is… the crowds are pressing in. Word is… he’s got room for one more. Won’t you join me on the road to behold the Lamb of God and then to take hold of all of that for which he has taken hold of each one of us? I’ve got just enough faith to take me there. Just enough faith to keep me there until I’ve seen his face, felt the transfer of his power, and heard his voice speaking over me…
Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering. {Mark 5:34}
Indeed, blessed peace for the moment. Blessed peace for my journey. Even so, dear Jesus, I come needy to your feet this day. May your peace be my portion and your healing my freedom song. Amen. So be it.
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My hair. Beginning seeds have begun their sprouting, and I can’t decide if I’m going to be completely gray at forty-four or will continue with a patchy mix of various shades. While barely visible to others, I feel my hair there… soft and tender and just enough of a reminder to me that life is springing forth from a recent hollowed-out landscape. A beautiful gift of unraveling grace in this season of rebirth. A visible reminder to me that spring follows winter, that blooms follow a planting, and that with time, a full garden of full growth will be evident for all the world to witness.
With full growth comes closer tending. In days to come, I will seek out a new stylist for the job. I haven’t needed one since moving here last June. A bald head doesn’t require much attention. Whereas other women are spending lots of time and money on their tresses each day, I simply pull out the box beneath my bed and pick out a turban/scarf that matches the clothes I’m wearing. I have Darlene to thank for them. I suppose, in a different sort of way, she’s been my stylist in this season—a woman committed to meeting the “hair” needs of cancer patients.
She owns two shops within an hour’s drive of my home, each of them filled with enough wigs, scarves, hats, and ribbon wear to stylishly outfit a naked head. Even more so, Darlene stocks a heart filled with compassion and understanding for the patrons of her wares. Her customer service doesn’t stop at the cash register. Her ministry extends beyond dollars and cents to include follow-up phone calls and conversations, assuring the patron that she is not alone in her fight against cancer. It may seem a simple thing to some, but to me Darlene is a living, breathing extension of God’s grace and love. She’s doing her part to add vibrancy and color to the canvas named cancer, and I feel so honored to be a recipient of her careful concern.
Darlene is the reason I loaded a few books into my ten-year-old mini-van last evening and traveled to her shop to speak to a group of cancer survivors. She’s been asking me for a while now… to come a give a word or two about my story and about my Peace for the journey. I wasn’t sure what I could offer them in the way of encouragement; after all, most of them have been on this cancer road longer than me and could offer a few pointers as it pertains to living this cancer through to victory. Still and yet, I remembered my bracelet and my word for the year, and I went… entrusted by God with the truth.
And so it unfolded—an evening of fellowship, food, and truth-telling amidst the sacred circle of survivors. I was honored to sit amongst them… to hear their laughter, to receive their acceptance, and to see the resiliency in their eyes as they spoke a bit of their stories to me. In turn, I spoke a bit of my story to them; I don’t remember much of what I said, but I do know that the name of Jesus was spoken, and once he took the stage, I quickly came to realize that his name resonated with them as well. One by one, they offered their take on faith, and without exception all acknowledged their deep dependency on God as they battled through their cancer.
Indeed, I was in good company last evening. A garden of spring blooms. Sweet sisters in Christ, valiant and strong and a lovely reminder of all that can go right with cancer… all the splendor that can spring forth in abundance after a long, wintering season of silence. Now, as a cancer survivor myself, my flower gets added to the bouquet… one stem mingled amongst many to serve as a living reminder that God, Creator Universal, delights in painting blossoms into the bleakest of seasons.
Not long ago, I wrote these words…
Cancer will not be my undoing; rather cancer will be the threshold of my emerging. After last evening’s fellowship with survivors and because of the now sprouting tendrils that blanket my scalp, I’m closer to believing that statement more fully. Sometimes it takes a season’s worth of struggle to anchor firm belief. I’m six months into that struggle, friends, and my faith roots grow deeper every day. I don’t know how the subsequent pages of my story will read; I wouldn’t dare take a peek. But this I do know…
The faith-building that I’m doing today will better prepare me for the chapters that remain. I cannot control tomorrow’s unfolding, but I can, this day, better prepare my heart for its arrival. Accordingly, I tend to the garden of my heart, caring for the seeds already sown and watering them with the truth of God’s timely and gentle Word. The once hollowed-out landscape is ripe with the reminders of spring.
Resurrection blooms… headed my way and on display for all the world to see. Thanks be to God for the marvelous gift of his sustaining grace. As always…
Peace for the journey
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three years of Peace…

I wanted to wait and write when I had something profound to say; I decided against it because…
1. You might be waiting a long time to hear from me, and
2. Today marks my three year blogging anniversary.
My heart longs to mark this occasion with eloquent prose and promises for another year to come. Alas, prose and promises aren’t mine to give to you this day… only a few miscellaneous thoughts rambling through my brain.
I’ve written this post a least a dozen times in my mind… rehearsed it in the dark of night, searching for the right words to use, longing for the strength to write them. Still and yet, each time I entreat this blank screen, words fail me. They disappear as dawn approaches, and I grow increasingly frustrated by this new reality. Accordingly, I tried to make a video to express my thoughts; eight minutes into it, I gave up… just looked at the camera and said, “This isn’t working.”
And it isn’t… this working out of words through me, whether written or verbal. For this woman who’s had so very much to say over the past forty-four years, I have little to offer these days. At least it seems that way. I’m not a fan of my new, diminished capacity. It’s cruel torture for a soul that longs for exposure… for corporate connection with others. Words are often the catalyst to lead me there. When they are absent, isolation creeps in all around me, leaving me to work out this new irritation. Like a small piece of gravel trapped in a runner’s shoe, so is this bankruptcy of words. It prevents my stride, my focus, and my determination as it pertains to my running and living my race in a public venue.
I’ve thought about quitting at least a hundred times over the past few weeks… thought about shutting down the blog and turning in my writing pen. It seems an easy thing to do… to quit. Instinctively I know that should I choose that route, a week later I’d have something else to say with no place to say it, and that wouldn’t be easy for me. That would be a very hard thing for me, because deep down, I can’t help but be a collector of words. I can’t help my desire to write them, speak them, and give them to you as quickly as they are given to me. But therein lies the rub; the words aren’t coming as quickly these days. And while I’m well connected to my thoughts and ponderings, I’m less connected to the process of getting them all down on paper.
This pains me greatly, friends. Hurts me badly and taunts me viciously. Calls me less than and mocks the previous ruminations of my heart. The barren inkwell dares me to surrender the pen in search of a filler that will fill me like words have always filled me. And I am tempted to go there, to give in, and to call it a win. To mark my previously written words as enough… completed… the end of this chapter in my story.
But they tell me it’s just a season, and mostly, I believe them—those experts who’ve paved the road with previous understanding. This is, indeed, a time in my life like no other. I am fragile and worn, tired from a year’s worth of transitioning. Most of you have walked that transition with me—a ministry move, getting settled into a new community only to soon discover that cancer would claim my days and nights and every stop in between.
And now I’m here. Stuck. Hoping for more; most days settling for less, and my prayers are endless. At least with them, my words remain. My prayers have yet to disappear. Prayer has been my lifeline, my tethering to the Divine. To let them go is to lose hope altogether, and that is one place where I refuse my participation; my hand will remain on his hem, because with that grasping I know I’ll make it safely home.
I know this is heavy stuff, maybe even depressing to some of you. To that I would say, heavy has been my portion in recent days. But God has been my portion as well. He understands about heavy. His heart weighs with understanding, and he reminds me this day of our kinship—that, in fact, I am related to the Word. That he’s made his dwelling within me, and accordingly, there dwells his truth, his many words… his infinite history of bold revelation given generously to me because of my sacred bloodlines.
So while it doesn’t seem that I have much to say in this moment (even as I have tried to say over these past three years and some four hundred posts), I imagine that in days to come, I’ll have a few extra words to add to our ponderings. Why? Because the Word living in me cannot be chained or constrained by my inability to articulate him adequately. He’s just that big. He’s just that bold. He’s just that willing to use me, most days in spite of me. And because of who he IS… my heart is humbled, grateful for the gift of his abiding presence who promises to remain, despite the fading elements that surround my days.
Thank you for joining me on the road, friends. You are why I’m still here after three years, even when my written offerings are sparse in coming. I pray, as I have always prayed, that my writing focus remains consistent and on track with the purpose of knowing God more through his Word via my corresponding words. It’s not always easy to write about the things of God, but it certainly is always worth the digging.
How I pray for myself, even as I pray for you, a holy unearthing of the Divine in the year to come! As always…
Peace for the journey,
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