Little Brothers and the Body of Christ .

The time I felt most loved by the body of Christ didn’t take place in a church, it took place in a funeral home.

Most of the mourners had cleared out. My husband and brothers were pall bearers , and I was an honorary pall bearer, and as such we were waiting to escort the body out.

As the funeral directors began to close the coffin, I looked at my husband , and said “ I don’t think I can do this.”

I have done many difficult things in my life, things that required true courage and bravery.

I’ve given birth four times, I nearly died from a stoke at 26, buried my beloved stepfather two weeks before my 8th birthday….

So looking back now, I find it odd that this was the thing that almost shattered me. I knew my grandpa, his soul, the essence that made him, him, was gone. I knew the part we were about to bury was simply a shell.

But in that moment I was feeling very attached to that particular shell and couldn’t bear the thought of it going into the ground.

My knees started to buckle of their own accord, and Zach swooped in and grabbed my hand and stood in my left, partially blocking my view.

And then in an instant my brothers surrounded me.

My brothers are all very different men. And I have played the role of Bossy Big Sister , to the hilt, for almost my entire life. But in that moment, I was completely helpless, and they carried me.

You don’t know my brothers, so in order to paint the picture for you, I decided to assign tv characters to them.

I would say the oldest is like Walker Texas Ranger. He’s kind, funny, and has an impressive mustache. He’s a man of firmly held convictions. Truth matters deeply to him, and he’s also a talented writer, and all around creative. He’s always marched to the beat of his own drum. When we were little, no one could make me laugh like him. As a fellow believer, I take great comfort in his faith, and solace in the fact that he’s raising my nephew in the church.

My next brother , is a bit like Superman. He is a foot and some change taller than me, muscled, with lovely deeply expressive eyes. He’s an Army veteran, married to his own lovely Lois Lane. If I had to pick out what defines him, it would be his relentless pursuit of standing up for the marginalized. This goes back to when he was in kindergarten at least. He stood up for the kids that got picked on, and then he just never stopped standing up for those who needed him. I’m 8 years older than him, and had a tendency to try and mother him whether he needed it or not.

My adorable baby brother. I love would like to tell you he’s a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Do, but I’m afraid you’ll get the wrong impression. While he is tall and thin, he’s far more handsome than Shaggy. He’s perennially laid back, and clearly the coolest one of “the gang”. He has an affinity for animals, but his Scooby is a cat named Kiko. He is kind, encouraging, and brings a sense of calm to whatever situation he’s in. He’s calmed me down in moments of deep agonizing pain, and I’m forever grateful. He’s also a wickedly talented artist. And his skateboard skills tend to defy gravity.

I’ve just described three very different men.

These three men, along with my husband, gathered around me, United in their common cause that day in February 2020. T

They couldn’t be more different if they had set out to be. But in that moment, they showed me the love of God, the care of what the Church should look like, in a very visceral way. In a way that I had not experienced before in my life.

Theses men were also grieving, as they too had experienced the loss of this great man. A man who had truly been dependable, a father figure to each one of us.

They could have chosen to focus on their own pain, what they were each individually going though. And frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed them. It would have been perfectly natural for them to stand there, trying to get a handle on their own thoughts and emotions.

But they didn’t. And that moment has become for me one of the defining moments in my life.

It has changed me, and deeply humbled me, and given me a benchmark to shoot for when I’m faced with other people’s pain.

There has been a lot of ink spilled and hands wrung on toxic manhood. But that day, Manhood was presented in all its glory, in its most noble form. The strong supporting the weak. That day I saw the gift that True, honest Manhood really is. Their combined strength in that moment made it a little easier for me to breath, to know that if I fell, they would hold me. if I broke, they would gather the pieces.

They gave me a picture of what the church is supposed to look like, literally carrying one another’s burdens. Lifting each other up, when we can’t find the strength to stand on our own.

I’m going to be candid, I pride myself on being a logical and rational human being who is allergic to public displays of emotion. Being the frail female in this situation was not a fun position for me to be in. If they had flaunted the (very real) help they had given me, I would not have the same positive memory . And yet…No one breathed a word of my near come-apart. It’s been almost two years, and no one has patted themselves on the back or even alluded to it. It’s possible , I suppose, that they have forgotten.

But I have not. And every time I read this passage, the day my husband and brothers stood in the gap for me. comes to mind.

“ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Romans 12:10-13 (NASB)

And that chapter goes on to say …

“ Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Romans 12:16 NASB

In that moment, I was the broken. I was the lowly, I had poverty of spirit. I was emotionally adrift at sea. My husband, my brothers, could have ignored that fact. But they didn’t.

This inspires me to do the hard work, to really climb into the muck and mire with the grieving, to be available to them emotionally.

I know now that sometimes it can make all the difference.

Small Beginnings, and Little By Little

Zechariah 4:10 talks about not despising small beginnings. Now , the context around this is the rebuilding of the Jewish temple after the deportation. These people had been exiled for 70 years, before returning to their homeland.

They laid the foundation. But it was small.

Now, they ceased work for 16 – 17 years ( see Haggai) , but we are going to hone in on the part of the story where the foundation has been laid, and they are overwhelmed by the work needed to rebuild.

“For who has shown contempt for the day of small things? But these seven will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—they are the eyes of the Lord roaming throughout the earth.”
Zechariah 4:10 – NASB

Because I fully believe that Scripture has one interpretation but many applications, I’m going to take some liberties and apply this concept to my own life. Which means that yes, I’m using it wildly out of context, but I believe the principle still applies.

I despise Small Beginnings .

I don’t want my days to be called Small Things. I want them to Matter.

I look forward to the Day of Completion.

I don’t like the term Little By Little.

And yet, right now, that is a major theme of my life.

I educate my children Little By Little, by faithfully teaching a little arithmetic, World History, and literature each day.

Little by little my husband are building our savings, and trying to make our finances match up with our priorities.

Little by little we are building relationships at our new church.

Little by little I’m getting my images accepted to shutterstock, and building a portfolio.

Little by little our family is becoming more self sufficient.

Little by little we are learning American Sign Language.

Maybe, I should not feel so antagonistic about the phrase little by little, especially as it describes accurately this current season of my life.

Perhaps, I should stop despising small beginnings. Maybe, just maybe, God is also rejoicing to see the work begun in my life as well.

What’s Bugging You?

Perhaps you will take comfort in this prayer by Henri Nowen, as I am currently .

“Listen, O Lord, to my prayers. Listen to my desire to be with you, to dwell in your house, and to let my whole being be filled with your presence. But none of this is possible without you. When you are not the one who fills me, I am soon filled with endless thoughts and concerns that divide me and tear me away from you. Even thoughts about you, good spiritual thoughts, can be little more than distractions when you are not their author.

Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence. No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.

But Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you will come and break through all the walls I have erected. 

Teach me, O Lord, to pray.

Amen.”

–From A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Raindrops on Roses

“Raindrops on Roses and whiskers in kittens…”

Raindrops on Roses certainly are a few of My personal favorite things, especially Roses that have made it this far into October.

( Whiskers on Kittens , I could take or leave)

What are some of your favorite things? All year round, or seasonally specific? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Butterflies, Bees, and Rest

Where did we, our culture at large, get the idea that there will be some sort of prize handed out for self sufficiency?

Is the Pull -Yourself -Up -By -Your- Own- Bootstraps -mentality handed out at our birth, along with birth certificates and social security numbers?

Why are we constantly aiming at Perfection, and who taught us to do so? Who told us that perfection was a worthy goal? Or that it was even attainable?

When did we learn the lesson that our value lies solely in our ability to produce, manage, and perform?

As a young mom, I ran around frantically , desperately trying to outperform, out-serve, out cook and clean and out pace the competition …. But who exactly did I think I was competing against?

I thought that if my husband came home to happy children , dinner on the table, and a clean house that I was fulfilling a mandate from God.

I want to take my twenty four year old self gently by the hand and say “ go take a nap.”

Because truly, that’s what I needed.

I needed to stop trying to create a Pottery Barn home on a Walmart budget.

I needed to learn that perfectionism leads to death. And, in time, I did. I began to aim to give my shot, and leave the results up to God.

And as I consider Nature, and her unhurried ways, I begin to emulate her wisdom. God , in all His wisdom and Splendor , rested on the seventh day of creation. Not because He was tired, but because He was satisfied in its completion.

The laundry and dishes will never be done. But we can still rest in the completion of a job well done.

I have never seen a bee or a butterfly fretting over all the nectar that they need to collect the next day.

They work hard, and then they rest.

Nostalgia and Piles of Pumpkins

There’s a certain Cartoony 90s Halloween aesthetic I miss when the calendar changes over to October.

In the 1990s , we had point and shoot , flags photography film-fed cameras.

Some people mastered this art form.

However, many did not.

I personally believe that DSLRs made photography an easier creative act to try out, to play around with, simply because digital is more affordable that film. You can alway erase the digital images, and this leads to people who are intimidated or frugal to feel free enough to experiment.

This is all well and good.

And I adore modern photography.

But come October, I love looking at those Too-Orange pumpkin Photos.

And frankly, cheaply made cheesy costumes look better under the hazy glare of a flash camera wielded by an over exuberant mom. Cheesy Halloween costumes do not stand up to the scrutiny of our modern high definition cameras.

(Don’t @ me)

Let’s Get cozy this Fall

I adore fall. I adore it being cold enough that long sleeves are necessary. I love the changing leaves, the crackle of the fire. I love mornings spent reading together with my children. I love fall flavors and fall scents. I love the slower , calmer pace. I love the schedules and routines.

There are many things I love about fall.

I also love how easy it is to participate in the season.

Take a nature walk. Make hot tea. Curl up with a good book. Light a candle. Pick Apples. Make a Pie. Pull on a sweater.

I’m not near finished talking about everything I adore about fall, but I am going to stop here so that I can leave you with this quote that made me laugh.

“From my observation, the older you get, the more you like the word cozy.
That’s why most of the elderly wear pants with elastic waistbands. If they wear pants at all. This may explain why grandparents are in love with buying grand kids pajamas and bathrobes.”

– Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by 7s

Isn’t that hilarious? And perhaps a bit too on the nose. But at least the first part is right. I don’t emended being particularly obsessed with Coziness in my twenties.

What about you? How do you feel about Autumn?

Firewood Stacked Haphazardly and Empty Souls

Firewood stacked is a Security.

Firewood stacked haphazardly is a Chaotic choice.

Am I prepared for winter?

Am I semi prepared?

Wouldn’t it be better to take the time and stack my firewood correctly, get my house in order?

This feels like a spiritual metaphor to me. But then again, most things do these days.

Not to get too Meta, but sometimes when I’m mentally healthy I put away good things for winter of the soul. Great Art, classical literature, Scripture, lovely music.

I put away soul – filling things that I can tap into later.

But sometimes it’s haphazard.

Sometimes I listen to Harry Potter Instrumentals and it fills me more than Bach.

And that ok.

Haphazard isn’t wrong. And haphazard is better than nothing.

Firewood stacked imperfectly is better than no firewood at all.

Because it’s my life and I get to decide.

The point here is to Notice.

What is filling my soul these days?

There are plenty of things making withdrawals.

If I’m not actively choosing to input good, I will end up with an emotionally overdrawn life.

I learn, forget and then remember again… to regularly put in Good Art, so that I can draw back on it in times of spiritual and emotional drought.

Good Coffee. A Renoir Painting that I take the time to really look at. Full Moons. Long hikes. Whispers in the dark. Lighting a candle.

Soul filling things.

I’ve said for weeks that I’m running on fumes, but life keeps pressing forward, so I do as well. Straining, looking ahead to that mythical time when all will be Calm, and all will be Well.

Is it on the horizon ?

I’m almost at the fully saturated point for bad news. In that, it almost doesn’t surprise or faze me anymore. Because so much of the news is bad. all the time. Relentless.

I feel numb.

Almost.

Life being urgent, needs always pressing, doesn’t excuse me from filling up. It isn’t an act of faith to keep pulling myself up by my boot straps , if I ultimately crumble. t

There are no prizes being awarded for self sufficiency.

No-one will come and ask to inspect my emotional firewood.

By relentlessly pursuing some form of productivity , the only soul that ultimately suffers is myself.

No one else notices if I don’t light a candle or play good music. They don’t notice until I’m unavailable to meet their needs . And that’s ok. I need to cultivate a life that brings me joy, that fills me , for me.

That’s not to say I don’t make sure my family had a lovey home atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I stop serving.

It just means that I now see pausing to reflect as an act of faith.

Instead of being drained and continuously moving forward, now I see that taking the time to get away, to input Good Things, is essentially saying that I have faith in the One who is over all.

Rest means I acknowledge that He has things in control, and me hustling without ever stopping is not going to affect the outcome.

I can tell myself that I keep pushing forward in service to others. But I’ve seen myself when I’m running on emotional fumes. I’m not serving them so much as gritting my teeth and making a point .

So today, I invite you to join me in Imperfection,

I invite you to put in Good Things, wherever you can.

Light the candle, take a deep breath, and hold on to that tiny act of faith.

Mirth and Laughter

William Shakespeare: “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.