Wednesday, August 24, 2016

a speed bump for the journey

I haven't quite finished Shauna Niequist's book Present Over Perfect yet, but I sure can recommend it. And it's not even that I totally relate to Shauna's journey, her being a very driven extrovert who has to pry her fingers off of perfect.  That's not me.  I love being alone and I love silence and I tell people all the time I don't do perfect and don't they know it.  That's not to say I've arrived, of course.  My journey is riddled with its own landmines.  I should probably be reading books entitled, What If You Tried To Do Your Best More Often? or Call That Person Back: Human Interactions Won't Kill You or Diligence is a Virtue. Even so, I can definitely relate to the themes of this new book- valuing deep and true connection over superficial charm, vulnerability, slowing down, giving up on things that don't matter, and pushing back on the culture that has us going, going, going all the live long day and tuning into the Spirit.  "Hustle is the opposite of heart," says Shauna, and I do agree indeed.  It's a good book, a long exhale in a world full of huffing and puffing or a speed bump for life when you're going 90 to nothing.  Go get you a copy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

sorrow-and-grace kind of rain

baby Amelia at her grandfather's memorial service
 It was only a bit overcast at the graveside service that morning, but it started raining again the afternoon of the funeral.  I keep marveling about how strange the rains are- coming right on cue to the sorrow I see and feel.  Of course, it's not all sorrow- it may be a sorrow-and-grace kind of rain.  As soon as the preacher started reading the passage, I was sure of it again - that great cloud of witnesses are alive and well, ready to celebrate with us as we pass to eternity.   I had stared again at my father's headstone as the flag over my uncle's casket was lifted and folded and how could I not think of my dad and my uncle and my grandmother and my grandfather and even my little baby all gathering and witnessing and celebrating?

It wasn't as hot as it could have been for East Texas in August, either.  I can't understand how hot my brother must have been in his dress coat and tie, but even as he blasted the a/c when we got in the car, I marveled at the temp.  Seventy nine degrees is unheard of for this time of year even if it is a little steamy.  It was a break.  Just like the songs that kept popping up before during and after this season of all this tragedy.  Or the way my uncle kept putting his arm around me like a daddy.  Or the friend who did my laundry while I was away.  Or the beautiful dreams I dreamt on Friday night.

Hopefully this funeral season is over for a while.  The sun is out today- finally- and maybe my spirits will lift. I think about my cousin's baby Amelia- a new life, bright eyed and beautiful.  And my kids, so full of energy and hilarity.  I heard this song, "Another Story" by The Head and The Heart on a run the other day:

"I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change much
The sun still rises
Even with the pain

I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change love
The sun still rises
Even through the rain."

So does the sun rise.

And we go on as best we can, grieving but with great hope.

ah, my sweet brother

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

back at it again with the white shirts!

Zeke wants to be an engineer, Anna Grace an actress, and Asher a worship leader. 
 Who was it that said we don't get to keep these moments, we only get to witness them?  It's true.  Here I am, watching these kids grow up and the moments fly by.  Our girl is off to middle school.  Middle school!  My head spins and eyes leak tears of joy and grief of these moments not kept but treasured all the same.

Here's to a great year, friends!

Friday, August 12, 2016

many waters

I usually reserve my last morning at the beach for a sunrise walk so that I can play with all the light drama of twilight and dawn.  But this vacation was bookended by storms and so I was confined to my balcony that last morning.  It was a red flag day and the beach was dark and empty except for one silhouette of a person I could just barely make out.  He was running and then the rain came down even harder and so he ran to the little water sport station and waited.  The whole big ocean was before me, infinite horizon and a storm, but all I could do was watch this little person waiting, sheltering.  I hoped he would be okay.  After a while, the rain let up and he ran on but I knew that it was another wait-out-the-storm message in a bottle that God kept sending my way.  There was a storm on the front end of this trip and there were rains on the way back but this vacation was a little bit of shelter, a prone positioned, catch your breath kind of wait.

so thankful for all of my people

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it."  Song of Solomon 8:7

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

us broken and partial prisms

free and inverted lens photo, my first try at such things

"To hear colors and to see sounds is an experience not vouchsafed to most of us.  Yet we all do something of the same kind that is quite as remarkable, we ascribe colors to ethical qualities.  Universally do men call goodness white and wickedness black.  Angels and devils, wherever they appear upon the surface of the earth, are clothed in these colors with an appropriateness that seems to be instinctive and inevitable.  White may be the color of mourning as it is in China.  Black may be the garb of respectibility as it often is with us.  These are matters of custom.  But when it comes to ethics all men see alike and never confuse black and white.  To turn from the power of Satan unto God is to turn from darkness unto light.  

Wherefore this certainty about what no man can prove?  Who has seen goodness that he can tell us whether it be black or white?  If we are endowed with an ethical sense, which some dispute, the eyeball is at any rate not the organ of it.  What reason is there for ascribing whiteness to goodness?  None whatever.  But when we reverse the question, and ask is there any reason for ascribing goodness to whiteness, we see at once there is.  

For black is the most selfish of colors and white the most unselfish.  They correspond then exactly with our conceptions of vice and virtue and the association of ideas is inevitable, since our highest ideal of goodness is perfect unselfishness, absolute altruism.  'Freely ye have received, freely give' is the injunction of the Master... All the light rays [white] receives, whatever their kind, whatever their source, these it returns in full measure, undiminished, unimpaired, equally, and in all directions.  But the black object does just the opposite.  What comes to it, it keeps.  Blue rays, red rays, or any rays in between, all the colors of the rainbow, all that give beauty to the world, when they come to a black surface are absorbed and seen no more.  Never again will they flash about to gladden the sight and enlighten the mind.  Their doom is forever sealed.... It is the Spirit That Denies.  It is that which retains, destroys, annihilates...
'How far that little candle throws his beams!  So shines a good deed in a naughty world,' mused sentimental Portia... A trite thought, because a true one, that virtue is always to be distinguished by its activity in radiation, by the brightness and penetration of its beams, by its effects upon its environment... A bad deed cannot radiate.  At most it is a stain, a blot which only becomes visible by contrast... Its influence is local, for the reason that it is essentially ungenerous...
There is, strictly speaking, neither black nor white in this world of ours.  There are merely things darker and lighter and variously colored.  We all specialize in the virtues, devoting our attention to such as suit our purposes.  Some of us favor the lower end of the moral spectrum and display the red badge of courage.  Others cultivate the more delicate vibrations of the blue end, purity, constancy, and truth.  Most of us are prismatic and changeable, flashing forth sometimes one color and sometimes another; perhaps in the course of a lifetime displaying them all, but never all at once and equally in all directions.  For the best of us reflect brokenly and partially what comes to us from the source of all goodness, the Sun of Righteousness."

Edwin E Slosson, from his book Sermons of a Chemist, copyright 1925

I had a stack of books to read at the beach but on the way out the door I grabbed a book in which my great grandfather had written his name in 1927.  I thought it may not translate well to 2016, but I can't put it down.  Fascinating.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

storms and shelter

                 from today's funeral 

We were having the last gathering of a 7 week study at my house on Tuesday when one of our girls got some crazy bad life changing kind of news.  We gathered around her, held her, kept her kids, made each other tea and cried.  As I was trying to go to sleep that night I just kept thinking about Isaiah 9:2- the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.  I saw light that night in the faces of my sisters in Christ who were gathered to share.  Weathering storms, sharing, and loving one another well is light.  And it's there- even in the dark.  

"When someone we love suffers, we suffer with that person, and we would not have it otherwise, because the suffering and the love are one, just as it is with God's love for us."  F. Buechner

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

our resounding yes

"You can hear God in everything, and miss him in anything."  Ken Hesler

Today, a mama and a daddy walked through the doors of a courthouse to finalize the adoption of their three children and I was almost undone at the privilege of capturing those moments.  This mama who had labored for years with paperwork and prayer.  These little hands held, their hearts full. The extended family present, dressed up and beaming.  It was all so beautiful but what really got me was the part when the lawyer was done speaking and the judge looked squarely at the parents and had one more question.  Did they understand that these children are heirs with all lawful rights to inheritance equal to that of a biological child- that there was no difference?  

The mama and the daddy nodded a proud and happy, unreserved and resounding yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

Is there anything else they wanted more?

Just the night before, my girls and I watched Priscilla Shirer's session 6 of her Armor of God bible study on my television screen as she unpacked what it meant to put on the helmet of salvation.  Our salvation is our identity in Christ- it is our liberation, she explained.  And we are adopted daughters of God and our Father is blessed ("our Daddy is fat (phat?), y'all- BLESSED- and you are his daughter and you are blessed too!" - she is an amazing preacher for sure- makes me smile big).

And I had just walked among the great big sky at midnight wayyyyyyy out in the country with little Asher a few nights before- us so small and stars so big - and I told him the story about Abraham and how Abraham just looked up and just believed and that was enough for God.  Abraham was in.  And when we believe, we're in too.

And so when the judge asked those happy parents that question about the inheritance, it just went WHOOSH over my heart.  Our Heavenly Father adopts us and lavishes his love on us and we are heirs as his children.  It is an unreserved and resounding YES for us, too.

Is there anything else He's ever wanted more?

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan." Ephesians 1:3-11 (NLT)


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

a photographic time machine

Things tend to surface during moves and clean-out efforts.  So between my move and my mother's, I recently ended up spending a lot of time holding tiny slides to the light, teleporting me back to the early 80's.  Turns out, some things haven't changed so much.  Like moms being behind the camera more than dads, chalkboard documentation, puppies, potty training and pizza- not to mention the love of a family and a sustaining presence of God in all that beauty.

It was a great trip.
me on the left, my sister Jennifer on the right

my parents on their first anniversary

Monday, July 11, 2016

a little list

1.  I'm still hoping for a Chaney record deal someday.  Asher's current obsession:  his grandmother's ukelele.

2.  Speaking of obsession, Anna Grace has gotten us pretty attached to a super sweet stray cat that she has named Pocahontas.  I guess we have a cat now.  Never saw that one coming.  

3.  On July 3rd it was like our church grew big ole slip and slide arms to grab hold of its neighbors for a big wet, firecracky hug.  I love this imperfect but grace and truth-filled place.

4.  Want a good idea for a dinner party?  Here's one.  Before it starts, ask your guest to send you their answers to questions like:

 -What song makes you think of your childhood?
-What song makes you think of your spouse?
- What song makes you want to dance?
-Name a song from your first CD.
-What song do you hate?

Play the songs, guess the answers.  Simple and super fun.  Also, dance party.

5.  Speaking of dance parties, heaven must be a lot like Sky Ranch Camp closing ceremonies.  What a place.

Friday, July 1, 2016

on how much beauty a medicine cabinet can hold

at our last family dinner on Stephenson

Tomorrow (I guess it's later today- I can't sleep), we're moving out of the house that has held us for 10 years.  When we moved in, Anna Grace was on my hip and I wasn't but half a second pregnant with Zeke.  For me, trying to grab memories is like grabbing for handfuls of a cloud- it's all hazy and elusive.  But of all things, my kid's medicine cabinet had me all nostalgic today (yesterday).

How a bottle of sticky expired cough syrup did it I don't know, but it brought me back to holding my babies- babies!- all those long-short years.  The diaper cream with the funny name (Boudreaux's butt paste is what we use in these parts)- how could I not think of roly poly babies with thigh rolls and heart-melting smiles?  Wobbly little legs taking their first steps down the hall and footie pajama snuggles. The heavy duty prescription strength soap was for impetigo a few summers ago- they all three had it, but for Anna Grace I had to rush across the Texas border to get my little girl from camp with an ear infection and staph on her skin.  We went to the little country doctor and laughed in the aisles of the grocery store that day, she and I. The bottles of liquid Tylenol and Ibuprofen was feverish babies and so many sleepless nights here but sleepless in the best way: sleepless with a baby held close to my beating heart.  The squished bottles of toothpaste and old toothbrushes- it's like us being squished in this house together for all these years, close and messy and not quite perfect. Somehow the medicine cabinet held a whole lot more than just rubbing alcohol and band-aids.

As I was boxing it up I thought: what a mess.  What a beautiful, beautiful mess.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Have you ever considered the miracle that is Vacation Bible School?

A few weeks ago several people approached me at the park to offer bottled water and a flyer for their church's VBS when it dawned on me that VBS is just plain miraculous.

Congregations everywhere- so many VOLUNTEERS- give hours and hours and hours of their time to plan, prepare, and execute creative and engaging programming for kids of all ages all because they love Jesus.  And Jesus LOVES kids.  So churches do this thing in the summer to SUBMERGE the kids of their communities in this truth. It's incredible, right?

Asher is in week 2 of VBS (FBC, then Summer Grove, St Marks next week!) and it is marinating his sweet little heart in the truth of God's word.

"Mom, I want to go tell people about Jesus in China."

Man, am I grateful.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

nothing short of epic

You can have the best of everything in the world, but if you don't have devoted and inspiring friends that make you stronger and better, the best of everything in the world falls short. 

Our friendship with the Harrigans- it's nothing short of epic.  I'm leaving Fayetteville with a full and grateful heart. 

Prayers are appreciated for these amazing friends who are leaving for the Middle East in August.  Let me know if you want to help support these incredible people who love God in such clear and obvious ways- they are a light on a hill!

Shine on, Harrigans!  We are behind you all the way.