24 August 2011

morning song.

It happens every morning. The music is there.

Going to sleep is always challenging for me. Laying down the lists and the thoughts and the ideas and the cares is a slow thing. Some nights are better than others. 

The Lord knows that. And He shows His love in a most special way. He gives me a morning song.

When I wake up, it's there - playing in my head, filling my heart with a soundtrack. The music changes, but the selections are always beautiful. Songs about grace, mercy, forgiveness, joy...the playlist is a sweet gift.

Today's morning song is "I am Set Free" by All Sons & Daughters. Perhaps it can be your morning song too - your soundtrack for this day. 



16 August 2011

(musings) crazy people.

The brothers live with their very sick father. Mental illness runs deep in the family.

We were told not to invest much time talking to the man who answered the door - told he was "crazy."

He said God had spoken to him in a dream once. Looking at his eyes, I knew he was telling the truth.

God has spoken to me too. I guess I must be crazy. 
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. -Audrey Hepburn


Everyone deserves to be told about the beauty of grace and mercy. Everyone needs to be shown love. Even crazy people like you and me. We're all People of the Second Chance. 



07 August 2011

destination and the journey.

If I hunger for the destination, may I still enjoy the journey? There is such great beauty in both.
Today I was reminded of the value of gathering soul snapshots of the fleeting moments. The impression of the day may be just as precious the clarity of the instant.

French van. Personalized. We are His hands. 
Late summer bounty. Oh taste and see.
Romanian forest. His ways are life.
Today I was reminded of the value of savoring the breathtaking destination given me. The value of being still after the fleeting moments, of the beautiful collision of impression and clarity.

Sunset. Surduc, Romania.
Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses. He is God. ~All the Poor and Powerless (All Sons and Daughters)

01 August 2011

(musings) a delicate life.

This life itself is but a season, wrapped in seasons. It is a memory book filled with small moments. It is a breath, a fragrance, a song, an ever-so-delicate bloom.






It calls for divine gentleness. 


The Lord expands life to those who love Him. He makes the season abundant and full. He pours joy into the delicate moments and they drink it in. 


He allows the bloom to be brighter. He makes the fragrance sweeter. He makes the memories more vivid. He sings the song. 

30 July 2011

the perfect place to live.

Photo Courtesy of Outdoor Home


Wisdom is calling out to you, inviting you to live in her neighborhood. She'd love for you to sit with her, talk with her, dine with her. She stands outside waving, encouraging you to pull in the driveway, come inside the house. She lives with Prudence, and her friends Knowledge, Discretion, Integrity and Nobility are next-door neighbors. They are all inside her home- drinking sweet tea and living life to its fullest. She knows other neighborhoods might look more beautiful, might be more lush and enticing with their fine stone and fancy gates. But she knows you'll not be happy there. She knows her warm, home-spun street - with its simple, sunshine-filled homes and Dutch doors - is worth the investment. Conversations there are true and honest and kind - there's not one self-serving, snide "bless your heart" remark to be found. Advice is sincere and uplifting - and the words are words to live by. Days are full and sleep is sweet.


Wisdom has lived in the neighborhood for what seems like forever. She was there when the Builder and Architect designed it. She put hand to the plow when the gardens were being designed, and helped drill the deep wells of life-giving springs. She watched Him speak life into the community - watched him craft the homes and breathe color into the flowers. She smiled as He drew the roads in just the right way to encourage slow, thoughtful drives. He set the boundaries, filled the ponds, painted those Dutch doors with bright, inviting colors.Wisdom's neighborhood is rich in all the things that count. And the gardens there? Full and abundant, with enough for everyone. Every single person has all they need. Their aprons are filled with sun-kissed, sun-ripened delights. 

The sweet tea is ready. The Dutch door is open. 

(inspired by Proverbs 8)

27 July 2011

i am a cheater.

Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars. ~Henry Van Dyke
I'll admit it. I'm suffering from a bad case of "restless life syndrome" right now.  Though my days are full of perfectly lovely God-crafted moments, there are some rough patches that look a lot like our backyard - scratchy and prickly and uncomfortable. I'm praying for rain. I know it's coming - it always does. But right now, it's dry. And I'm dry.


19 July 2011

(musings) love and faithfulness.

Cling to steadfast love and faithfulness as you travel this life. Wear them like you wear the most elegant of jewels. People will be in awe of them. People will find them absolutely stunning.



And trust the Craftsman. If He created the jewels, how much more can He create beauty in you as you journey. Don't concern yourself with how the facets will be chiseled, or how each bead will be strung. The Craftsman's eye for detail will take even the most flawed of stones and transform them into perfection. His design will be breathtaking - and life-giving. And eternally beautiful.

Inspired by Proverbs 3

14 July 2011

(musings) where the lord lives.



Just trust in the Lord - move into His neighborhood. Settle in and make friends with His kind faithfulness. Sit on His porch swing, and have lingering conversations with Him about life and love and all things worthwhile and everything mundane. He'll knock on your door bearing beautifully fragrant, mouth-watering grace-filled gifts. He'll surprise and delight you daily.

Inspired by Psalm 37:3-4

13 July 2011

the communion of solitude - a confession.

This is a confession of sorts. Or maybe it's a prayer.



I am craving a day of just sitting on the balcony and listening - for hours on end. Then simply transcribing. I'm hungry for the quiet that reverberates through the heavens and into my heart. I'm thirsty for the communion that is found in solitude.

The present season is a good season, full of projects and writing and baking and hopes and dreams and friends and family. There are quiet moments early in the day and late at night - moments where I breathe in sacred words from my sweet God All-Mighty and breathe out thoughts and prayers. But there is a hole in my heart that is filled by the days of quiet listening.

So, if you read this and feel so inclined, hold me to the highest. Tell me it's OK to put the present season on hold for a day. Remind me of the communion of solitude. And listening. And simply transcribing.

I promise. I'll hold you, too.

08 July 2011

Who I am. Today.

Today, I have a date. There won't be flowers or wine or fancy food. The picnic basket will be filled with sodas, chips, water - and sweet potatoes and applesauce. A stray or two may come along.

The music won't be romantic, and I won't wear a flowing dress.

But the date will be perfect. Because it will remind me who I am - and whose I am.



I am wife, Scooby, June Bug, Sweet Pea.
I am mom, mommy, mother (said in a deep, affected voice with a smile).
I am Gigi.
I am loved. Without condition. Regardless of what I do.
I am chosen. A pearl of great price. A princess, really.

Today, I'll not listen to the whispers of "you need to be a somebody to count for something." Today, I'll not surrender to the pressure of needing to find my place or make my voice louder in this world. Today, I'll walk away from finding the perfect words or the perfect picture to capture the perfect moment.

Today, I'll simply rest in the beauty of being on a date with God and my family. Today, I'll rest in the beauty of being alive.

24 June 2011

(musings) painting.



Let's paint a picture of the Lord God All-Mighty that will hang on the walls for new generations to see. Let's paint one of new mercy and grace, of a tender Savior who greatly loves and sets prisoners free, of a strong Commander who is mighty in battle, of a holy Heavenly Father who is worthy of all praise. Let's paint it in vivid colors that won't fade over time. Let's paint with strokes bold and delicate, with texture and nuance. Let's paint a canvas large enough for all to see and small enough to stand ever-so-near. And let's paint a story worth reading, a scene worth entering, a landscape worth running in...

~inspired by Psalm 102

18 June 2011

Ebb. Flow. Change.

No crashing curls. No mist-filled air. Simply one rhythmic wave after another. 


Orange Beach, Alabama.  Early morning moments.
In moments so small they might be missed while in the moment, the landscape changes. 


I stand on the shore and feel the ground fall away below me with each ebb and flow. The waves paint a watercolor picture of feast and fallow and feast again. On the shore is inscribed, “Behold, I make all things new.” 




Let me not fight against the waves. Let this landscape change for the glory of God. 

17 June 2011

Lessons from a Tractor

I heard him before I saw him. The hum of the motor blended with the wash of the waves on the quiet beach.


Before the crowds, before the laughter, before the sand castles and volleyball tournaments, there was work to be done. The beachcomber's work was evident - beautiful designs formed along the driver’s journey. Slowly and without fanfare, he created the palette for the colorful day. It would be a rare soul who would gratefully recognize his gift later in the day, though they would enjoy its benefits.
But still he worked. Still he created the palette. As sleepy vacationers complained about the tractor’s noise, he worked. As impatient children growled their frustration at his slow progress, he worked. As the sand shifted and moved  and stirred, not wanting to yield to the design, he worked. He knew his purpose - and he honored it.


I wept as I watched the designs being formed, thankful for the picture of Colossians 3:23 in that beachcomber on the early-morning beach. I needed to be reminded of what my purpose is and Who it is I am working for - as I work and serve and simply live this life I’ve been given. I needed to be reminded that purposeful work often goes unnoticed by others but never by the Lord. I needed to be reminded to be the soul who gratefully recognizes purposeful work in others rather than complain or growl because it doesn’t meet my own self-serving expectations. I needed to be refocused - and the hum of the motor whispered "Simply. Serve. Jesus." 

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Note: Thanks to Patrick Lockerman for giving this landlocked gal a vocabulary lesson. Now I know what "beachcomber" really means.

07 June 2011

Today's Joy.

Last season's swimsuit. Yesterday's hairdo. Today's joy.
For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you're not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness. ~Andy Rooney

05 June 2011

(musings) sparkle.

In every mundane moment, there's something more to be found. Lord, help me to see with eyes that see beyond the seen.

discarded sugar dust. a mess to clean. 

sunshine + discarded sugar dust = beautiful sparkle. 

Ritual. Reminder.

The morning ritual. 

01 June 2011

(musings) Manna.

Today, I asked "Can manna be packed in a picnic basket?" 



And today came the answer.

...Even if you have only bread or water, with these you can still meet the dues of hospitality. Even if you do not have these, but simply make the stranger welcome and offer him a word of encouragement, you will not be failing in hospitality. Think of the widow mentioned in the Gospel by our Lord: with two mites she surpassed the generous gifts of the wealthy. 
~St. Theodoros, the Great Ascetic
Father, please help me to keep my basket full for others, even in seasons of simply manna.
 

28 May 2011

(musings) Symphony.


Christ grabbed His conductor's baton, stepped into the orchestra pit, and taught each of us the fine, delicate notes of His original score. He wasn't concerned with which musicians were professionals and which musicians had never played before. He heard the song in each of us - a song of hope.

When we live in harmony, we are a symphony.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. ~Colossians 3:15-17
(inspired by Romans 15) 

27 May 2011

(musings) He whispers

The Lord whispers definition...

Today, He whispers "quiet time is a moment - and a command." 



26 May 2011

Shine.

Today, I want to be a star. Today, I want to shine.


God is - with painstaking detail - crafting His story within you. And He is giving you the power to say "yes" to that story - and to Him. Watch Him work. Savor every moment. Let Him shine in you, so you can shine like stars in a world that desperately needs His light.






(inspired by Philippians 2)

God Weaves Beautiful Tapestry.


This is the story of rocks and paint and sugar and smiles. And how God weaves all things together into a tapestry – for His glory, for our joy, for the good of others.
When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.  John Ruskin


Making play places safer. Teaching girls sweet skills. Transforming bedrooms into places to dream. Brightening the “hello.” Celebrating 7 years of love and care for the discarded. Our time at Cerecaif was a true tapestry of joy, hope, and love.

23 May 2011

You Bring - Love.


This is the story of a little man and his sweet corazoncito – and the power of returning.
Once upon a time in the year 2008, a love story was born. In the corner of a sun-drenched courtyard at a little nursing home called Cabacitas de Algodon (Little House of CottonTops), a little man had set up his small “studio.” He carefully drew a house, his feeble hands holding well-worn colored pencils. This wasn’t any house, mind you. It was an elevation – the type of sketch used by homebuilders. Meticulous and mindful, he focused on his work, oblivious to the team of North Americans who had walked through the gates with guitars and new shoes. His art was his passion.
And it was someone else’s passion too.

21 May 2011

You Bring - Promise.


Today, I wept over French Toast.

Tostadas at Pollo Campero.
To be perfectly honest, my tears had nothing to do with breakfast. But when caught crying at Pollo Campero this morning, the quality of the French Toast seemed as good an excuse as any.

18 May 2011

You Bring - Family.


Sometimes, girls just want to be girls. They want to listen to music and dance. They want to giggle about boys. They want to bake cookies, make beautiful things with their hands, braid hair, and talk about what life will look like when they grow up.
Today, in a transition home tucked away on a quiet cobblestone street in Antigua, girls got to be girls.

17 May 2011

You Bring - Hope.


Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all.  ~Emily Dickinson
In October of 2010, a brave woman named Evita quietly shared her dream. “I want people of God to come and teach my girls. I want the girls to have job skills. I want the girls to know how to make good decisions. I want my little moms to know how to be the best moms.” Today, she admitted she didn’t think anyone would really want to take the time. “When I got the phone call that your team wanted to teach my girls, I knew God heard my prayer. I wanted to scream ‘yes!’ even before I was asked if it would be OK. I had hoped and hoped someone would come, and here you are.”

14 May 2011

Theme.


There’s a moment before every journey to care for the discarded where the sweet whisper of the Lord says “here’s your theme.” Last time for me, it was “Little is much.” For Courtney, it was “Jesus first.”
This time, for me, the whisper came in the words of a song:

12 May 2011

Whispers.


Tomorrow night, we’ll be there again. Guatemala. Tonight, my heart is filled with a million whispered prayers. I pray for each member of our precious team – Shea, Amy, Kylie, Kelly, Richard, Ashley, Emily, Tricia, Janice, Teresa, and my fellow Wordpainter, Courtney. I pray for our dear Orphan Outreach companion Gloria and the team of translators she has hand-picked. I pray for Josue, our guardian angel bus driver. I pray for the 272 young women awaiting our arrival at Hogar Solidario, the seven girls ready to learn to decorate cakes and bake bread at Evita’s House, and the 49 sweet children at Cerecaif who remind everyone they meet of the awesome redeeming love of a mighty God. I pray for hope to shine brightly. I pray for miracles, great and small. I pray for joy like rain and power like the gravity-defying flowers that spring forth from the cliffs in Xela. And I pray for communion as rich as the time spent holding the hand of an abuelita at Cabacitas de Algodon.
I pray for beauty to be found in the margins, each and every day. Lord, let me not miss a moment.

28 April 2011

(musings) i will

I will hope in the help of You - the One who crafted this world with Your words. 


I will trust in You, the One who is faithful with the faith You cradle in Your hands, who cares for those who are kicked aside by others, who feeds and nourishes those who are craving life and love. 


I will believe in You, the only One who offers freedom beyond freedom, who opens blind eyes like a precious present, who lifts the heads of those who simply can't look up anymore. 


I will follow You, the One who always leads and guides and directs and protects and shepherds and defends and delivers.


I will love You, God, who is always, without fail, in control - forever. 


I hunger to believe with belief that is deeper than the day. 

14 April 2011

(musings) beggar's purse



I am a grace-full remnant. A scrap, filled with the majesty and wonder of the Almighty.  My poverty is overwhelmed by His wealth. He gives me life. He makes me beautiful.

He takes this little beggar and makes her worthy.

11 April 2011

(musings) being broken

Today, I surrender anew to the beauty of brokenness. 

When a heart shatters, God picks up the shards and slivers and sets to work. 

He takes the mortar of grace and mercy, and ever-so-carefully binds the brokenness. And when the work is completed, the heart isn’t as it was before. It is bigger, stronger, and more beautiful. Each sliver and shard now radiates with the glow of His handiwork. His light shines through the broken places. His mercy and grace hold the heart in newfound strength. It beats with the power of His craftsmanship.


09 April 2011

Shiny Shoes

I've written about shiny shoes before.  Today, I've fallen in love with them even more. Today, I want to put on beautiful shiny shoes - and walk.


Those shoes were created by Christ, and He wears them daily. His love crafted the shoes that are fearless to walk in the darkest places, fearless to get dirty and worn, fearless to not be pretty anymore. Those shoes never wear out but grow more beautiful, more sturdy, more protective with every step. Those shoes of love are strong. Those shoes don't walk roads of "all-about-me." Those shoes can't be worn by those who want to carry their glory into God's glory, their kingdoms into God's kingdom. Those shoes are full of light and and light, and they expose darkness. Walk with those shoes on. They are strong and powerful, and they are highly reflective. They glow with goodness and truth. Let those shoes brighten up the darkness. Let those shoes pave the way. Let those shoes leave the imprint of their Maker...(paraphrase of Ephesians 5)

24 March 2011

(musings) every step counts

Every. Single. Step.

They all count, even the ones that are small - the ones that seem insignificant. Even the ones that seem to stumble backwards. All count, all are steps toward the prize of Christ for those who hunger for Him. All are steps toward the glory of God - even for those who deny Him.

There is no worthless day. There is no wasted journey. Every life tells a story. Even yours. Even mine.

22 March 2011

Little is Much - Eleana


I’m sitting on the balcony of our home in Austin, listening to the birds happily sing their symphony to sunshine and spring. The breeze is strong and the air almost sparkles with the freshness of the season. The music of Amy Courts is a perfect soundtrack for the day. I look down at the woven sisal rug that adorns our little outdoor living area, and my heart is whisked away to other birds and other breezes and other fragrances – and to a woman named Eleana.

Cerro de Oro, from Lake Atitlan

Little is Much - Victoria


I love little fighters. You know the ones – the kids that seem to defy the odds every day. The children that keep saying, “I will not let my circumstances define me.” There are so many of them here in Guatemala. I remember years ago meeting a bright-eyed teen named Cecilia. She had literally grown up in government orphanages. But she was a tenacious girl, and she saw a life bigger than her cinder block and razor wire walls. It was that spirit that allowed her to live in a transition home with several other young women. I asked her what she wanted to do with her life, and she was resolute in her answer. “I want to be an attorney. I want to make a change in my country.”

Little is Much - Irma


She’s a tiny little thing, with a shock of disheveled black hair and huge eyes that seem to drink in everything around her. She journeys to Eagle’s Nest every day at lunch with her aunt (only a few years older than she is), where she will be fed a hot meal. More often than not, you’ll see her take a portion of her food and put it in a plastic bag or a cap to take home to other family members. Her aunt will then let her eat any scraps left from her plate.
Irma and her aunt, eating lunch at the Manna program at Eagle's Nest.
Her name is Irma. And she makes my heart smile.

16 March 2011

Little is Much - Jose Pablo


Never underestimate the power of little.
We watched through the window as the nine 3 and 4-year olds and their caregivers, also known as “mamas,” marched around the building to our door. This was a rare treat for them – an opportunity to be little chefs. Most of the children live at Eagle’s Nest, an orphanage nestled high in the hills overlooking Lake Atitlan in western Guatemala. The children’s home currently has 22 little residents, ranging in age from newborn to 13. At Eagle’s Nest, they are are provided more than food and shelter – the kids are given a good education, lots of love, and a strong foundation of faith. The children are reminded of their worth and value daily.  It is evident in their eyes.

12 March 2011

(musings) a small canvas

My canvas is still too small. My colors are too limited. My point of view is still skewed.


Oh Lord, please help me to see the fulness of You. Let my palette hold every eternally beautiful vibrant and monotone hue. May I truly understand You as a God who is Lord of the day of goodness and Lord of the day of trouble.


Let each stroke in the story my life paints tell its own story - of fear and salvation, wrath and mercy, sorrow and joy. And let the painting grow richer in depth and texture as it reveals more and more of You.

08 March 2011

(musings) come and listen

God Himself crafted the story of salvation, and then, with wonderfully vivid and dark hues, Jesus hand-painted each illustration. He embossed the storybook with the cross, and His Holy Spirit personally reads it to each of us.

He didn't write the story for angels, didn't write the story for earth.  He wrote it for you. And me. And those we love - and hate - the most.

Come and listen.

07 March 2011

(musings) a clear view

Time is such a peculiar thing. It always seems to fly by or crawl, one tick of the second hand at a time. Simple and profound moments cause the shift from one extreme to another, crafting a beautifully blurred stop-motion movie of life. 

Somewhere between the fast-forward and the frame-by-frame, what's important comes into clear view.

Eternity. Community. Divinity.






01 March 2011

(musings) being somebody

I am so thankful for everyday, ordinary people. They trump pedigrees, resumes and fancy titles any day. 


In a world where everybody wants to be a somebody, I think being a nobody just might be the most profound thing ever.

27 February 2011

More than Labels.


Double-orphan.
Gary Schneider, founder of Every Orphan’s Hope, used the term at IdeaCamp: Orphan Care in talking about programs to care for kids with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Though I understand the term – it means the child has no mother or father – it lands hard on my heart. I fight back tears.
There are so many labels in this whole “orphan care” space.
Biological Orphan
Social Orphan
Single Orphan
Double Orphan
Special Needs
Adoptable
Unadoptable
With every label, there’s a statistic.
More than 165 million orphans in the world, over 18.5 million double orphans in the world, 500,000 adoptable orphans in the United States, less than 1% of all orphans adopted. 38,000 orphans age out every day, 20% will commit suicide in the first year.
Lomonosov Baby Home
In Lomonosov, Russia, there is a beautifully ornate three-story home sitting on a wooded acreage. I remember walking down an icy road to visit the children from the ages of birth to three who lived there.  I fell in love with my first orphan there – a sweet bundle of blondness named Ulla who looked a bit like my dad and a whole lot like love. While I played with her, my husband held a little baby boy in an area of the home designated for infants with HIV/AIDS. Lomonosov was the only orphanage in the region that would take in those infants to care for them. Some of the children at Lomonosov would be adopted, but the overwhelming majority would remain there until they “aged up” into a larger facility in a different city with more orphans who would live together until they “aged out.”
My sweet Ulla. She now lives with a forever family in Russia.
I returned to Russia, and asked about the babies living at Lomonosov. “Lomonosov doesn’t exist anymore,” a sweet friend who works in-country shared. “The government appraisal of the house and land was high, so the orphans were sent to other orphanages and hospitals in the country.” To the government, the building was far more valuable than the contents inside. The orphans living there were simply numbers – something easily divided, subtracted, added. 1 million orphans in Russia. Only 20% eligible for adoption. 90% will never leave the orphanage. Only 1% will have a viable life 5 years after aging out.
The labels and statistics are meant to stir charity in the hearts of all of us. Even I use words like “discarded” and “rejected” in describing the people who are the focus of my personal passion. But labels and stats tell an incomplete story. Because there is something deeper, something more profound in each child labeled “orphan.”
Each orphan, no matter their location or their circumstances, is known by God. Each child is made in His image and His likeness, made for His glory. Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls them beloved. He calls them blessed. He calls them family. He knows every hair on their head.
Every single one. He knows them all.
And He knows them by name. Each one. Without exception.
None are accidents. None are misfits. None are statistics. They are His.
And because they are His, they are mine. And they are yours.
“Every number is a child that God loves and we are called to love.” ~Jason Kovacs, ABBA Fund