Five-Minute Friday {hold}

The instructions are simple, write for an unedited 5 minutes on the word provided by our host, Kate Motaung. Then stop by other word-loving FMF bloggers to leave encouragement on their post. I confess. Sometimes I go a teeny bit over the 5 minutes and yeah, I might edit a word or two. But no skipping sharing encouragement to other brave writers. Ready?

GO

We’re in a busy place or crossing a street and we reach for their hand to hold, keeping safe our children, sometimes our parents.

Our hands hold things to give or cling for safety. They share with another, raise a cup of joy. I’m fascinated with the gifts hands hold, an outward expression of our hearts.

family christmas  family christmas

cheers

kk gloves

 

3 generations

Mamas hands black and white

Somethings I’ve held too long: fear, anxiety, resentments. The challenge is for an open heart to let go knowing not everything held close is good.

let go

There comes a time we let go of their hands. We let go of the physical touch but the heart still holds. We let go of our fears and hold to the faith we claim that while our physical touch is absent, God’s touch is the only one that can really protect, provide. His are the only hands that can hold it all and never let go.

 


Yesterday and Today

You’d think I’d know by now, know that there’s little you can really plan. Oh, you can make plans but life doesn’t always listen or the hotel says, no, we don’t have a reservation for you. So you ask if they have a room and she says yes and while you’re hurriedly changing clothes to get to the gathering at the funeral home she calls and tells you you’re actually booked at another hotel. Plans.

No one plans to bury their child, no matter how old that child is. You don’t plan to be calling in family and friends or to be flying across the country to her and then flying to a cancer hospital in another state only to take her home one last time. There is no preparation for this but it happens and someone has to lead. For awhile it was the cancer leading, dictating their travel their schedules, their lives. Cancer lead the way into uncharted territory, into the shadow of the valley of death but when it seemed like death had won, their spirit took the lead. For her, for their daughter who named her interior design business Immortal Peace. Their peace, shaky as it was, lead them through this shadow of death.

Takin' it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets

the Last Adam (it was the 80's)

the Last Adam (it was the 80’s)

Front Line house

Scan 3

I remember their arrival to lead our church in 1981. She refers to it as their “Camelot”. It was the perfect fit of young couples waiting for someone to take the lead, someone we could not only follow but learn to lead with them. So they did. And we did. They dreamed big dreams and infused some of the old traditions with new life. They had a vision for ministry and brought us into it wherever we fit.

We were going into jails to visit and sharing the Good News on the streets to prostitutes. We were standing at the Greyhound Bus Station with our horns in full uniform, inhaling all that exhaust and exhaling a message of hope. Few people were ever there but we were.

We had a band before everyone had a band and they were good and they shared Good News. We started a newsletter called The Front Line and shared stories of redemption and grace.

We had cookouts in our backyards and she drove to our house to plant a sign in our front yard announcing to the neighborhood I was turning 30. We shared life together then and today they lead and we shared the way.

seed packets

wildflower seeds

 

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memorial service

 

family & guests table

 

Team Crabson

They were in the funeral home with their two other children, a small gathering of family and friends mingling about. We hugged and she teared up and I teared up and we decided we’d cry together when we needed to. I stood next to her as others came in to offer words of sympathy. I saw her attention immediately turn to the older women on walkers. Women from the small church they attend. In their retirement years they choose to serve and it was evident as she welcomes them. “She never goes out” she says to me before she leans down to share a hug. These women come first because the least are first in God’s kingdom and she’s sharing that kingdom even in her grief.

We’ve been given assignments for the service. This one is leading the service, another leading two songs, he’s reading selected verses and I’m reading Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer, “in a modern version so their ears will hear it fresh”, he directs. We all will share our memories and connections to their family. Follow the leader.

“Well team”, he says, “you did it.” We are sitting at tables in the small fellowship room of this tiny church. It’s as if we’re in the church where we first met, with him leading as we eagerly follow.

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You follow people who bring you into their vision, their dream. You follow people who have a plan, who can give direction. You follow someone who is following the One. It’s hard to explain but when you’re in their presence you know because the spirit of grace, mercy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, and all those things you want in your life, all of those they share as they lead. Yesterday and today.

Linking up with SheLoves Magazine on their monthly topic: lead.


When ministry isn’t inside church walls

To my friends laboring in churches that feel stagnant and wonder if they’re touching souls.

You know what the good news is? The good news is that the ministry that seems to take place the most isn’t inside the church anyway. I’m going to guess some folks don’t even know they’re ministering but God knows. That’s really what we’re about. The Salvation Army. Not Sunday morning church. That’s a club too often. But in our Adult Rehabilitation Centers and shelters and after school care and day camps and the things least likely, that’s where God’s love is being shown. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s even shown in fall festivals put on by a bunch of alcoholics and addicts, some dressing up as women any chance they get, but doing this because they want to do it for someone else. They want to see the kids laugh and squeal and try to get all the candy they can get.

Then there are Sundays like this one where a guy who is bringing the morning message starts by giving a list of what he was doing three years ago. Of stealing from his family, having black outs and shooting up at his job. He talks about the tracks on his arm that are now tracks on his heart because he let Jesus walk there and He’s left his mark.

Terrance stands in the aisle holding suitcases with labels stuck to them that say “gossip”, “lust”, “stealing”, “laziness”, and so on. He stands there as the music begins to play and he takes his baggage to the altar and he dances to Take Me to the King because Jesus dances in his heart.

Alumni Sunday

Alumni Sunday

Alumni Sunday

Alumni Sunday

Do you need to hear more? More of how ministry really looks?

It looks like Carlos standing behind the pulpit and telling us “Good doesn’t lead to God, God leads us to good.” He talks about change and discipline determining direction and that it’s not how fast you go but how strong you grow and he’s still working on it.

Jeff always gets me. He’s the one with the almost silly smile on his face, the smile that won’t go away because he remembers living under that bridge 4 years ago. FOUR YEARS AGO! He talks about how God “attracted” him to this old building and through the counselors who don’t go to our church but believe in a mighty God, how they showed him a new way to live but not before we filled his belly and gave him clean clothes. That opened his ears to listen to this new way to live and he is grateful. First to God because he’s not under the bridge anymore but under God’s grace that covers him and gives him that smile.

And you know Eric can sing. I’ve told you about his voice but today, oh, today it was something else the way he sang those words that speak of the scary, but strong, faith. That song that surrenders all to Jesus. And John learned to play it on ukulele because they both met Phil a year ago and there was something about the meeting that God used to touch all of our hearts.

Carlos M

Carlos M

Jeff M

Jeff M

former program graduates join us for worship

former program graduates join us for worship

John T

John T

I didn’t even mention John, the one who’s deaf but read the scripture this morning with his voice and hands because God speaks to us in many ways and he speaks to me through John who never lets his deafness be an excuse for not hearing the call to a sober life.

Ministry seldom looks organized. You know, in that scheduled sort of way. Sunday is when we celebrate the ministry that has happened all week. It will happen again this week and who knows how or where God’s spirit will move and be seen. Maybe He’ll move through us (if we allow him to move in us) or maybe our part is unseen and on our knees. But it’s happening. Don’t ever forget that.


Five-Minute Friday {ready}

The early morning sun was illuminating the side of the house. I could just see a wedge from my vantage point with more being revealed as I walked from across the street. I saw a bit of water behind the house and thought what a view they must have: the water with first light coming above.

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Another death. A woman diagnosed 7 months ago. A woman we knew as a teenager with her wild hair framing her sweet smile, her frame slender like her dad’s, her laugh gracious like her moms. Their middle child, baby girl, gone from this earth. They weren’t ready for this. No one is.

These days we count more funerals than weddings and more deaths than births. The view is through the mist of grief, the view of mourning and sorrow. Even in our faith, a faith that believes in eternity and a life far better for those who believe, we grieve. For our loss. The absence of the hair swirling around her face, absence of her laugh that sang her part. They are missing a piece of their heart and even the promise of eternal life where sickness and pain is no more, even with that we hurt and weep and our hearts break because we are broken people and will be until we see eternity. Even while we celebrate a life lived with promise and hope and beauty, even still we grieve.
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The houses have little more than 8 feet between. My view was limited but I kept my head turned trying for that glimpse of what they must see the full view. Through a sliver I saw what the houses hid: a parking lot for the apartments with cars crowded together and just to the left, the golden ball of sun.

Not a full view. Not a pretty view. Not in totality. Only in part. Only if your focus is the sun. Only if you can train your mind to block out the distractions below.

We choose our view. To see our life distracted by the view of loss and mourning. It is a view I have chosen for a moment in time. But it is only a partial view. Temporary. For “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” 1 Corinthians 13:12 the Message

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a host of Friday-loving, word-loving bloggers to just write.


Throwback Thursday {in flight}

She was dressed to fly. The way people of her age dressed to fly, smart winter-white pant suit, earrings, hair and make-up for an airport arrival by 8 AM.

It was in stark contrast to the shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops of other travelers. This woman nearing 80 I’d guess, if not already there. She was on her cell phone in first class as we walked by, me in my jeans and sandals. Comfort clothes for half a day on and off planes.

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My first plane ride was in a private plane flying over the Ozark mountains in northwest Arkansas. I think the owner/pilot was a business friend of dads and took us up for a bird’s eye view. I was 12.

Air travel was reserved for executives and the wealthy, or so it seemed to me. People didn’t travel as far, families weren’t spread out across the country, the world. “See the USA in a Chevrolet” was the motto of family vacationers.

IMG_3548

IMG_6698

 

from the plane

Our flight was full, like most are these days. We fly back the next day, a turn around business trip, something we’d not have been able to do in years past. Too costly or not the urgency provided by today’s conveniences.

South Florida has a casual dress code. There’s few places you can’t go in shorts and flip-flops. Maybe it’s like that everywhere.

I’m not ready to trade my comfy jeans for dressier options to fly but I did enjoy seeing my fellow traveler and the tradition she still follows. There’s something about it that pulls me into her world and reminds me of a different time when we had play clothes, school clothes and church clothes. When we all looked alike in our Keds and Mary Janes.

A nod to simpler times. Thank you ma’am.


A quiet moment to ponder

The house is quiet this morning, just the patter of rain before dawn. Rain that is keeping me from being on the sidewalks getting some movement into these bones that would rather enjoy the comfort of sleep.

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I’ve read a brave piece from a woman who stood silenced to her core with embarrassment at having her baby stillborn. Embarrassment? It baffles me that would be her feeling but who am I to question what I’ve not known. And not knowing her my heart still breaks a little at her pain in accepting and pain in telling.

empty tea cup

I’ve put the kettle on for tea on this rainy day and gave a mental glimpse at the day ahead. It will be full at times and there will be gaps to be filled with the unknown. A typical day for me. Potential. Possibility.

My eyes land on the empty canvases propped against the wall. One is oval. I’ve never used oval nor am I a fan of that shape for any artistic endeavor but I said I’d try it. I thought I’d paint something for my aunt on that canvas. She’d like that, I think. It’s taken me near a lifetime to realize art doesn’t always have to be made for someone else but that’s the real joy in it for me.

Ah, now the birds are chirping in the post rain shower. The clouds aren’t moving to let the first glimpse of daylight in. It’s still the rainy season here and it’s been that on steroids this summer.

paints tag
A big spiral art tablet has been the medium to teach me art can be kept and art can be healing and it can be just for me and it really, really, doesn’t have to be very good at all. Maybe it’s like singing. You know how people say when our voices reach heaven God hears an angelic choir, perfect harmony, everyone hitting their pitch and it is like a symphony of voices? Or something like that. Maybe that’s what doodles are to Him to? Our scribblings with smudges and blunders that become a masterpiece to him. When the art is offered from our heart.

I scanned Pinterest for ideas of what to paint for my aunt. I’m thinking something wintry like a Cardinal in a tree. That would fit an oval nicely, I think. I pin a few things and a moment that rarely comes to me. That moment when I realize I’m brave. Too often I am not or don’t see it and they are the same, I think. But I realize here’s something I’ve never done before that I’m considering has real possibility and I’m not filled with fear. Honestly, I’m a bit astonished.

Maybe I’m learning a few things in life. Maybe I’m learning that art is a language, as my sweet friend told me. It’s one of God’s languages and is how he speaks to me to calm my soul. How he makes me brave and reveals his beauty to me one clumsy brush stroke at a time.


Yo-yo Faith

She stopped smoking. Eight or nine times. Stopped, started, stopped, started…..back and forth like a yo-yo.

He lost 75 pounds and gained 80. Then lost 50 and gained 40….back and forth, up and down like a yo-yo.

It was the first hymn this morning in the chapel. An old hymn that Michael told me he learned watching Little House on the Prairie.

“Simply trusting everyday…..trusting through a stormy way…..”

Before we entered full-time ministry I would think about planning the church service. Choosing the songs, the scripture passage to fit with the message, something that would compliment and affirm the words the preacher would bring. Creating a time to bring us closer to God or somehow sense His presence in our lives.

Our congregation is filled with men who haven’t always been in church and don’t always know the songs in the hymnal. We don’t have a band to play Praise and Worship but we include what we can with our singer and lone guitar. Sometimes we use the videos to sing with but the hymns have truths to tell, theology to teach and we need them too so we keep singing them. Singing them right into our hearts.

“Even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus that is all.”

Here I am staring at the words to this very old hymn, the one I chose for this day to remind us our faith is not in us or our title or position or government, or job or organization but in Jesus. Everyday. “In the stormy way” and the words caught in my throat because today my faith feels small. My yo-yo faith that goes up and down and up and down. Faith I’ve put in feeling safe and secure when faith is anything but.

It has been a tough week. Things taken to heart that should be given, completely, to God. But the yo-yo snaps up and down again and again throughout my life and I can’t seem to roll my worries with the string around this yo-yo, flip it down and leave them. There is no “simple” trust for me.

“Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by, trusting Him what’er befall, trusting Jesus that is all.”

Unlike losing weight or quitting a habit, faith doesn’t come by stopping something but by letting go. By trusting Jesus, that is all.

trust God Psalm 62


Five-Minute Friday {whisper}

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a host of word-loving bloggers for 5-minutes of unedited (mostly) free writing on the word prompt she provides. The only steadfast rule is to visit our FMF neighbor to share words of encouragement. Ready?

GO

It’s not his fault. He didn’t know he was marrying into the loud announcing family. We didn’t know it either. Not until he revealed this truth after 30 years of marriage into this always loud, sometimes obnoxious, family. As we say in the south, “Bless his heart.”

He didn’t know his mother-in-law and brother-in-law turned friend were physically incapable of the, seemingly easy, ability to whisper. They just can’t. Not in a movie theater. Not in church. Nope. My husband lucked out with me.

But when we’re together, when the whole mess of us are gathered in one place, the volume rises as we all vie to be heard over the other. It’s not unusual for us to notice he’s quietly slipped out in need of quiet.

silly family photo

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His coping skills have greatly improved :)

His coping skills have greatly improved :)

You can dress us up but we're still going to be loud

You can dress us up but we’re still going to be loud

He’s my peace. The calm to the storms I wrestle with getting louder with each pull and push.

He walks in the door and the words spill out of me in a tumble, volume going up in excited utterance, as he listens, patiently, quietly. Lord knows I needed this man. Need him to bring that whisper of calm, of peace, of love to my life.

His quiet gets my attention and it’s a reflection of God’s peace because that is what makes this flesh-man the man of God he is. God has whispered into his life and he hears his voice. He hears and answers and he lives the words of our Father.

It’s a merging of loud and quiet that brings more than a whisper of beauty to our lives.


We can’t keep count

His parents gave consent to turn off the machines. Test were conclusive: no brain activity. Their 25-year-old son another victim of heroin. A bad batch someone said until another told him there were no good batches.

Truth is I can’t even place his face. He wasn’t with us long but long enough to give his parents memories of a clean son to hold. Maybe this will get them through those hard times. The uncomfortable times when life bares down and it’s more than we can bear.

Seems when one passes it brings others to mind. One of the men will say, “Remember ____?” And then you start to count until you’ve passed 3 in under a minute and your mind says stop. Yet something makes me want to say but it’s been seven years and there’ve only been _____ but I can’t fill in that blank because I refuse to count.

No. 2

I know the names that come quickly to mind and that’s more than enough. More than enough to make a heart want to shut down and shut out and denial knocks heavy in the face of tragic loss.

Let me be clear – loss is too gentle a word. Addiction took their life. Gone. Overdose. Hit by a car crossing a road at 1AM. Alcohol? What do you think? Organ failure? Yeah, his liver was obliterated from years of alcoholism.

There are no nice ways addiction takes a life. None.

And maybe counting the days, months and years of sobriety are denying the fatalities but we do what we do to make it count. To make the work, the struggle, the prayers, the counseling, the teaching, the desperately wanting, to make it all count because it does.

I can’t forget holding her hand as she lay on life support and I can’t forget reading the newspaper account of his ingesting the overdose of drugs while police were standing outside his truck. Or the email from another to inform us of another loss of life. But I don’t want to keep count, not of that.

I will count the successes and I will count the days, one at a time because each day is a success. I will count the second chances and the third and fourths. I will count the lives changed and the new smiles worn like their Sunday best.

I will count the knees that bend and heads that bow. I will count the hugs given to the man returning from the madness. I will count it all as gifts. Each one, a grace given from God.


What We Learned {August}

Linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky with her What We Learned link-up. To join in with your lessons learned or to read others, click here.

August is gone already? How did that happen?! Here’s my chance to look over the month at things I’ve learned and to take more opportunities to be intentional about learning. In no particular order:

1. I learned to create a Facebook page. Okay, it wasn’t that hard but I did it and maybe the best thing I learned from it is that my self-worth isn’t dependent on how many likes I get. Or don’t get. It was still a brave move for me. Click here to find it.

2. I learned that walking around a big lake with my 13-year-old niece will teach me more about her than any social media app we may use to stay “connected”.

around Lake Junaluska

3. I learned how beautiful love is when shared and expressed through intentional celebration as our son-in-law planned a beautiful 10th Anniversary celebration and vow renewal for he and our daughter. And how honored I was to be asked to officiate the intimate ceremony.

Heather Tim

4. I learned that with a house full and overflowing with family and friends can bring tension and hurt feelings but we’re closer for it as we love each other through it. (I wrote a little about it here)

5. I learned healing can come at the most unexpected moments, sometimes when you thought it never would, so keep loving.

6. I learned about two free apps that show much promise if I’ll just use them. Duolingo can help you learn a new language with its short daily lessons. It will even send you reminders. Wunderlist is an app you can use to organize projects and to-do’s including assigning tasks to others when they sign up and join your list. This helps me communicate work projects with staff that have different schedules.

7. I learned how to freshen my wavy hair (I’ve been trying to live without the blow dryer and go natural) since natural means the back is really good but the sides droop like week old cut flowers. My stylist gave me a few tips that I’ll try today. So maybe I’ll need a few more lessons on this one.

8. If you like flavored fizzy water, and who doesn’t (other than my oldest niece), I learned the best brand is Clear and Super Target doesn’t carry it but Super Wal-Mart does. Try Pineapple Coconut flavor. It was surprisingly wonderful!

That was pretty good for a month that signals the end of summer. September looks promising too. How about you?


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