Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Blog...New Book

This has been one AMAZING weekend…. a new book and a new look for my blog! I’m thrilled with my blog! Kelly at ‘fabulous k creative’ is amazingly talented and wonderful to work with!

Talk about dream fulfillment, I can’t wait to share it with you! Yesterday I held a copy of the book in my hands for the first time. I was giddy…can you tell? I wish I had a picture of Keri with the book too since this is our book, dream, and journey… but, she refused and blamed it on her “bad hair.” I was too excited to boss her around…this time. Just so you know, this was a "bad hair" day for me too. Wink, wink.

I’ll let you know when the book is available to order online!

Much love,


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cage and The Songbird

I'm not sure why exactly, but growing up I would hear these words with a gentle pat, “Be sweet.” Most of the time it meant that I said something snarky or sarcastic, probably something terribly funny and honest with a bite. Either way, a gentle reminder was needed to “be sweet”. I think you naturally see certain traits in your children, I get that now I as soak in the gifts God has placed inside of my daughters. Mom loved that I was sweet spirited…most of the time. That was my natural bend. So when I was acting outside of a trait that suited me, I needed a reminder. But, just for a few seconds...maybe minutes, would it just be okay for me to be a little sour? I would think.

Weeks ago I needed a reminder to be sweet. But, I didn't want to feel that gentle pat when all I felt was soured disappointment. The sting of the battle wounds lingered for a few days until my tears dried up and my grieving was over. I'm not a fan of covering up things or hiding behind a mask in the hopes that people will think that I'm perfect. So, I'm honest with my emotions, even when it's ugly. I hold it in my hands asking God, "What do you want me to do with this?"

He reminded me of picture of an ornate birdcage, lovely to look at. The iron bars weaved a beautiful home for a songbird to sit and perch, singing a song for its master. The master loved the songs and the beautiful bird. Yet everyday looked the same for the songbird. The master would come to her gently placing the fresh water and food inside. No rain would ever ruffle her feathers. She was safe in her confinement, lacking nothing except for her freedom.

In this picture, the symbolism almost knocked me over. With multiple images to be drawn to, why did this one speak the most to me? It would take a few weeks for it to really sink in.

This cage, safe and contained, steel bars that trap, yet give the illusion of protection limiting the perspective of all that waits outside the locked door. Everything handed to you easily without the need of a song that sounds more like a cry. The nourishment measured out in proportions, today you will need this and today you will have it. And over time, the songbird's music doesn't sound as sweet. The caged bird can't sing a song of freedom; she's forgotten how and what freedom looks like. What once was a sweet song is now a cry. Soon, it will utter no sound. No song. No cry. Just something pretty to look at, but broken and muffled on the inside.

The image before me was this: the door was left open, the sweet songbird found her way out, and began to sing a different song. She sang the song of freedom, and it was sweet and lovely. It made you want to listen again, lean into as you soak in the softness of a moment when the song of freedom is remembered as it echoes in your heart...this is what freedom sounds like.

What is your cage? Is it other people’s expectations? Is it your fear of failure, but even worse, your fear of success? Is it the unknown and the trappings of familiarity that encase you, yet isolated you? Is it your past, your yesterday, your if-only?

All I know is a few weeks ago; I was a songbird with a broken wing because I just needed to spread my wings inside of a cage that couldn't contain me. The door was opened long ago, but from time to time I would fly back inside and perch for a while and take in my measured out proportion. But, God didn't call me to live a comfortable, contained, safe yet dull life. He called me to a life of freedom, so He nurses me back to health. He mends my broken wings and whispers the words of the song of freedom telling me to sing again. And it is sweet to Him because it is for Him. It is because of Him. He is the song I want to sing, the melody that I want to pen my life to. He is not afraid of my not-so-sweet moments. When I sing a song of the sour moments of life He erases those bitter, out of tune notes creating a symphony that feels like the sweetest embrace.

What does the song of freedom sound like?

It sounds like surrender.

It sounds like holding up your paper dreams in your hand and shredding them one by one until your hands are empty.

It sounds like the steady rhythm of the ready writer who has given the pen to God saying, “Here, why don't you re-write my story.”

He takes the pen, perhaps His eyes light up when He pens the words to your life's story. For He already knows the beginning and your ending. Even though the lines of heartache are never erased because we live in a broken world, He still writes a chart topping song that is worthy of singing.

He writes a silver screen story for you, His leading lady.

Take it from someone who has been there and lost her song. You cannot sing a song of freedom...until you first sing the song of surrender.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1)

Let God take you there and mend your broken wings.

Much love to you all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Letter to My Younger Self

Last night I met a young lady and saw a glimpse of my younger self, wide-eyed and hopeful, ready to take on hell with a water pistol. A woman marked by the call of God, waiting to blossom into all the things God the Father has created her to be.

This young lady, just barely twenty-three, is connected to a family in our church whom I simply adore. I immediately had to make my way to her, there is just something about her that makes you stop in amazement. She's just beautiful, but it goes so much deeper than her outer beauty. It reaches into the depths of who she was created to be, a woman called by God- a gift her Father longs to use.

I hugged her; I couldn’t help myself. She beamed as her happiness spilled out...

“I'm engaged.” She said with the brightest smile as she flashed her engagement ring. Her happiness was as stunning as her ring, the symbol of his love.

“I'm marrying a pastor.”

My husband chimed in, “Well, Jennifer could tell you all the things you might need to know about that.”

I felt his heaviness from that statement, like he was just waiting for me to say, “Run like the wind, girl. Make sure you are marrying just a man and not an entire congregation.”

She searched my face and I smiled as she said, “Oh...don't worry, I went to Bible College...I'm prepared.”

I thought, how adorable.

I patted my husband’s hand, and then I released his hand to squeeze hers and said, “Just look at you. You are beautiful and so happy!”

Flashbacks over the past twelve years of my life and the past few weeks entered my mind. Truth be told, I could have been one of “those” wives. The ones who are dried up and bitter, and yet not an ounce of that surfaced inside of my heart. I can assure you that I am flawed with moments of ugliness that sting, times when I feel rejected, cast aside, times when I feel like I'm not a gift. If bitterness would have surfaced, it would have been right then when my hurt was fresh. But, only God could do such a thing so beautiful in me.

Spilling out from within was this, “It's wonderful when that is what God has called you to do, you will be great at it. And you just call me if your Bible college experience left anything out.”

We chatted for a little while and then I found my place next to my husband and held on tight.

I forgot to tell her one thing...

Sweet thing, you are a gift.

You have unique gifts; I can see them all over your face. You will enhance that man that God has called you to, not distract or take away from the things God has called him to do. Don't ever forget, when the critics misunderstand your youthful zeal, that God alone is your seal of approval, marking you for greatness.

Your journey will not be easy, but you are soft and sweet. Don't let the disappointments of life creep in and rob you of that. You will walk out this journey; you will be stronger, not harder.

You are a gift.

With aching in my heart, wanting you to get this, I say to are a gift.

As I penned these words, my thoughts have turned towards you and the ones who have taken the time to read this. Do you realize that you are a gift? Have the sorrows of this world caused you to forget the God-given worth and value within?

We offer ourselves to the world around us, we hold our hearts in our hands and say, “Take it if you want, it's yours.”

Carefully cupping our fragile state. We hold it; we release it, and after it's beaten down and trampled on, the thing that we now hold in our hands is bruised, swollen with disappointments from lessons learned. What once was the picture of health, beating freely with the hope of things unknown, is now a broken cadence, a murmur, a heart that skips a beat as you hold your breath because the pulsating hurt runs too deep.

And He whispers, “My child, I hold your heart in my hands. This is your safest place. You are my gift, can I take what was stolen from you; the things you carelessly gave away, and offer you something sweeter in return?”

Gifts are to be given, not taken. We give ourselves; we do not spend ourselves. We do not throw away our worth or our confidence, or believe the lies spoken over us that say we are worthless and have nothing to offer. The words that say we are not good enough, the words that say we are not a true gift, that we are merely wrapping paper, a waste meant for shredding, and cast aside.

No, we cast aside our pride by choice and with the help of our Maker.

We throw off the things that so easily entangle us.

And we run the race free without weights of this world, or our former brokenness. We dance the undignified dance of a king in training that delights in the God who knows the heart of the dancer. We sing the lonely songs of a Shepherd boy by fireside and it is sweet to Him. We embrace the spirit of David, running to the cave of comfort in Christ. We say to God, “Only you set us in the seat we belong in. My position in life is because you say so; I don't have to fight for it. You will open the door for me, so I don't have to kick it down with my three-inch heels.”

You are a gift, what you have to offer...God wants. The pain in your heart; God sees it and longs to bring back the softness and sweetness that comes from refusing to carry around baggage from your broken past any longer.

Sweet friends, you are a gift.

“…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29 NIV)

You are royalty wrapped in the finest garments God has to offer. You are not a mistake, nor are you misunderstood. He gets you. He delights in you, smiling down on you saying...

“That's my girl.”

“That one is mine, see my stamp of approval on her heart?”

“Just wait, till you see what she does next all of heaven applauds.”

You are a gift; don't ever forget that.

“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (Prov 18:16 NIV)

Much love,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Southern Charm

When I think of my mom’s side of the family, I think of one show…Designing Women. They are smart, they are beautiful, and they are Southern perfection, or at least the closest thing to it. But, imagine if you can, adding to the mix a huge helping of heartbreak, restoration, and finding God’s favor. And there you have a picture of my mother and her sisters.

Before I had my first run in with big hair and training bras, I faithfully watched Designing Women. Being a southern gal, naturally I adored the southern charm, big hair, and overdone makeup. I loved all the characters, but my absolute favorite was Julia Sugarbaker. I loved her confidence and her wit. But, what I loved the most was her gift for verbal sparring. Julia stood up for what she believed in, and heaven help the man or woman that stood in her way. She was a force to be reckoned with, and if provoked, she could give a verbal spanking and look good while doing it.

Of course, there were other sweeter, softer characters that I identified with as well, perhaps because it seemed proper and safe. But, I think the reason why I love Julia so much is because she reminds me of my mom. And when I am provoked or pushed, I sound much like that. I feel a strength inside that I didn’t know I had. There is no need to cry, or act that a three-year-old when you can use your words. Not to rip a person to shreds, but to stand up for something that you believe in so deeply.

I’m a passionate person, when I love something it runs deep. When I love someone, it’s till death. And when I’m wrong I can admit it, correct it, and grow from it. It’s the joy of becoming better and knowing that when I lay my head down at night, I am right with God. I am following His lead, and that is the only thing I hang my confidence on.

Today I got a call from someone that I adore, she had the rare treat of watching me deal with a difficult situation. To be perfectly candid with you, I was nervous that perhaps I was a little too feisty in front of this lady who is the picture of sugary sweetness. Needless to say, when words were hurled at me…I held my ground. I amazed myself; I kind of felt like Julia. It was delightfully shocking. My dear friend and I laughed about a not-so-funny moment and assured one another that we were not the train-wreck we were made to feel like. And then she offered me the sweetest of gift of telling me how proud she was of me as she quoted her favorite one-liners from our meeting, which I dare not repeat...

This big haired, Southern girl who used to pick up her skirt and run at the first sight of conflict just tackled something huge. It didn’t turn out how I had hoped, but I’m fairly confident that I walked away with something much better than getting my way. I walked away with a greater understanding that I have no right to lay claim to a title, position, or mark my territory like a yellow, yard dog. I’m clothed with dignity and strength, and you better believe that I can laugh at the days to come. Everyday is a gift that I offer up to God, even the bad ones. The days where you let go of a dream, to gain the understanding that the promise land is headed right for you. And it is way better than what you thought you had always wanted. So, you watch with wide-eyed wonder and never give up.

Tonight I would like to pay tribute to one of my favorites by quoting Miss Julia Sugarbaker.

“Yes, you can give him a message. You do take shorthand, don't you? Good, we take it in the South, too. Anyway, just tell him that I have been a Southerner all my life, and I can vouch for the fact the we do eat a lot of things down here ... and we've certainly all had our share of grits and biscuits and gravy, and I myself have probably eaten enough fried chicken to feed a Third World country -- not to mention barbecue, cornbread, watermelon, fried pies, okra, and, yes, if I were being perfectly candid, I would have to admit we have also eaten our share of crow. And for all I know, during the darkest, leanest years of the Civil War, some of us may have had a Yankee or two for breakfast. But ... speaking for myself and hundreds of thousands of my Southern ancestors who have evolved through many decades of poverty, strife and turmoil, I would like for Mr. Weaks to know that we have surely eaten many things in the past, and we will surely eat many things in the future, but -- God as my witness -- we have never, I repeat, never eaten dirt!”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Sisterhood and Hearts Like Magnets

In moments of quiet reflection today, I steal away time in the midst of chaos and having everything removed from its rightful place. I stop. I surrender. It matters not what I look like, with paint on my clothes from a project that has to be finished. I leave the wet paint to dry on shelves designed to bring order with everything in its place. A systematic design by a logical man trying to make this wife and mother happy, I roll the paint without direction or plan. And I know that I was never meant to fit a mold designed by man or worldly expectations.

The dishes are piled up, everywhere I look I am reminded that there is a long list to do, but only one thing matters. For just a few hours I need to runaway from home to my favorite place by the waters. The waterfall moves swiftly, much like my life right now. It crashes down over rocks worn smooth and polished from waters that carved its indention over time. Spilling over, making a rushing sound that commands silence, God speaks. These waters will not overtake you because you are not alone. So I walk away from the swift waters that polish and smooth out the blemishes and imperfections of jagged rocks and I know God is doing that in me. I find my way back to the lake that holds the still waters and I know He leads me there too. I'm still not alone.

On days where I feel misunderstood and unable to make rational decisions, I runaway from home with a blessing and blank stare from man who knows that this moment is reserved for the sisterhood. He knows that in a few hours I will return stronger. And just when I thought I needed to be alone, the phone rings and it's the sisterhood calling, texting, and checking in. And I don't have to fake a normal conversation or cover up my needy humanity. Or pretend that little Miss independent didn't pick up the phone to call her Mom and cry just hours prior. I surrender to my need for the sisterhood and it all makes perfect sense.

Beautifully captured in a moment between sisters, God illustrates the glory of His beloved through my daughters. For the past two nights they have gravitated towards one another, tiptoeing out of their rooms to find their way to one another. Like a magnet being pulled together out of the basic need for togetherness.

One is sick, one is the picture of health. I have kept them apart for as long as I could wanting to kept my little one healthy, but she knows. She knows her big sister is sick and doesn't like to be alone at night. So she goes to her, and she is wanted and welcome.

Just as peace settles in, the coughing begins. So I rush to her. I hover over her like mothers do, I kiss her forehead and check for fever. She wipes her eyes knowing that I'm there and gives me a smile and falls back to sleep. Her sister and shadow throws her leg over her and she whispers her name. She knows her sister is there with her too, snuggled up close just to let her know she's there. I wonder if they need to be separated, but instead scooping up her shadow and placing her in the bed that belongs to her I whisper, “Do you want me to move Sissy to her bed?”

And she answers softly, “No.”

Tonight she wants her sister. Tonight she wants her shadow to hover close by, to snuggle up close just so she will know that she is not alone. She embraces the sisterhood as I think about what God is calling His daughters to do.

To hold each others hands up when we grow weary from battle.

To whisper words of comfort and tell them that they can do all things through Christ.

To cheer the loudest when God is using them as they spread their wings to find their God-ordained calling.

To remind them that they are the gift, and the pearl of great price, echoing Gods words that they are of great worth and value.

They are the valuable coin and you are the woman who searches the house, sweeping up the dirt of this world and their past, brushing past the filth to find the goldmine clothed in flesh. And it is beautiful and it is not tainted by stains of sin or wounds from rebellion. You tell them Gods waters washed it all away, they will be smooth and polished. A sight to behold.

You gently nudge, sometimes push them, telling them all the reasons why they “can” instead of all the reasons they “can't.”

We need the sisterhood, to be unashamed to tell our hidden hurts so that we might find healing, to let the runny mascara flow and do the ugly cry even though they are watching. We need our sisters, those woven together with familiarity and bloodlines, the adopted sisters brought together by Gods leading. Those lifetime friendships you carry with you from carefree college days, to life with babies replacing a youthful figure for stretch marks and deeper character that comes from becoming comfortable in stretched out skin, laugh lines, and life that grows sweeter with age and the knowledge that we never really “arrive.” We simple press on towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. (Phil 3:14)

We press on with broken nails from learning to let go of the fear of rejection or the fear of needing too much. And we open our hearts to the beauty, releasing a lovely fragrance that God is love, and He is the perfect love that casts out all fear. (1 John 4: 18) And in that moment we relax into the realization that sometimes love comes so easily, but accepting that love in return and embracing the need for the sisterhood is nourishment for thirsty hearts with built in magnets that draw and knit us together with great purpose.