Phoning It In

First, let’s dispense with the necessaries:

Happy Halloween!

I Made It!

Last Day of the Write 31 Days challenge!

Happy Halloween!

(I already said that, didn’t I?)

You know that moment where you’re driving along a highway and you are so zoned out that you miss your exit? Or turn? Or, state line?

I kind of feel that way about what just happened here, over these last 31 days. I assumed that there would be a few bumps in the road, as I sought inspiration each day. While I did, indeed, plan a few of the posts out ahead of time, most of them were written only a day in advance, if not the actual day of. Missing at least one day of writing, if not many, was what I believed would happen.

But, Grace pushed me through. It gave me the extra hour that I needed, encouragement in the form of your comments, and even a gentle nudge to check why my post still hadn’t “published” by 9:30 at night! (TIP: It helps to specify A.M. as opposed to, you know, P.M.)

Even the passage of time was a grace to me throughout this challenge. I feel like I must have zoned out for a while, because MY LANDS, how did the end of October sneak up on us this way?

You see, on the very first day, I mentioned that Commitment and I don’t get along too well.

Apparently, we are now friendly. Oh, yes we are!

Thank you Write 31 Days challenge, for that.

So, today, I’m phoning it in! With this picture of my Halloween Costume from 1981. If you can figure out what I was, comment. You’ll be entered to win a copy of The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful by Myquillin Smith (The Nester). I think it’s fitting, since she hosted us during this challenge. Yes?

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P.S. HINT: I wasn’t actually all that hot, was I?

P.P.S. I’ll close comments on Monday, November 3rd at midnight EST.

(What comes after P.P.S.?  This is day 31, OH YES IT IS, of the Write 31 Days challenge. Click my button below to be transported to a list of each of my 31 Days of Grace posts.)

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Hooked on a Feeling

A study was published, about a decade ago, that intrigued me. It claimed that hugging your partner for 20 seconds significantly lowers your blood pressure and promotes a better stress response.

I’ll speak for myself, here – I. Need. That.

Boatloads.

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I know that I’ve mentioned the whole “hugging thing” before. I guess it’s no secret that I’m a Hugger.  There’s a flip side to that, in my marriage, though. When I’m hurt, angry, or disappointed, I withhold the hugs.

And, it hurts both of us.

I need my oxytocin!

Our marriage needs The Oxytocin!

Before you go worrying that I’ve gone down a bad path, oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that lowers stress. It’s also commonly referred to as a “bonding hormone”. It doesn’t take a rocket researcher to figure out that a marriage can use all the bonding support it can get.

Indeed.

Knowing that a little extra hugging does a marriage good, is helpful. It also means that when I withhold the hugs, it’s a double-whammy.

Not to mention the fact that Sweetman and I desperately need the grace that those extra seconds of hugging bring to our feelings. Because, I don’t know about you, but for me?  Feelings don’t always cooperate with monogamy, commitment, or love-as-an-action-word.

And, For The Love, I wish they would!

But grace courses through our veins when we hug it out. We are given the opportunity to press pause on the marital discord. Fueled by proximity and a whole lot of blood pressure lowering oxytocin, our bond is strengthened.

A cord of three strands is not easily broken. But, when it is, an extra long hug will reattach those strands, and firm up the tenuous ones.

Go on, now… give it a try!

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Today is day 30 in the Write 31 Days challenge over here.

One More Day! Wait till you see how hot it gets tomorrow…

Filling the Void Within

Rick Warren said, “Your sins don’t define you. What you worship does.”

I’ve been chewing on this for about a month.

Because I’m into clutching the hem of Grace’s robe, I think I finally understand why this was such a hard thing for me to read and accept.

Grace finds you out. It looks you dead in the eye with unwavering compassion and almost dares you to look away. That’s one of the things that I most admire about Him.

Saying that my sins don’t define me almost feels as if I’m shirking away from Grace and saying, “I don’t need  you!”

But, of course, that wasn’t Mr. Warren’s point, was it? He wanted us to zero in on what, exactly, we worship, and maybe, who.

Perhaps that is what really rubbed me wrong.

The dark truth in this heart of mine is that I don’t want to have to acknowledge the times I chose Other over Him.

The times I still choose Other to fill my void.

My heart has only begun to grasp the truth of what C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote that, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” That yearning that we feel was put within us by the Creator of every living thing.

Craving something that defies explanation isn’t new to the human condition. We’ve been warned against trusting the ‘sweetest frame’ for a sweet forever. Chasing the satisfaction I think those frames and things and people will provide never ends well for me. I’m only left with a more intense hungering.

And, oh, how I want my God to be the one I seek to fill the emptiness! Because, the longer I walk this earth, the more obvious it is that I will, indeed, worship whatever it is that is filling me. My depraved humanity sometimes denies my very Creator entrance into my heart. I begin to see all of the Other Things, and people, that I have allowed to fill in the void as more worthy of my worship than the one who fashioned me as He did.

Most of those on the outside, looking in, wouldn’t necessarily see my sin, and therefore define me by it. Sometimes they might, of course. But, what those watching will always see, is whatever or whoever it is that I’m worshiping.

Allowing God to pour into the empty pockets in my heart provides me with the opportunity to renew my love for Him. My desire to worship Him and Him alone!

It reminds me of my profound need for the Solid Rock on which I stand. Because, truly, all other ground surely is sinking sand.

When does Grace enter in? I can’t answer that for anyone other than myself. But, He most assuredly does come, filling the void within in ways that are often unexpected: a comforting word accomplishing what was sought through physical touch, the desire for meaningful connection achieved with a brief encounter, or the sudden longing for old friends being met in the introduction of new ones.

Each one provides for a deep soul-hungry need.

And, as I am filled, I am defined.

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This post is day 29 of the Write 31 Days challenge. Click my 31 Days of Grace button above to see the other posts I’ve written.

Grace Blazes a Trail

I think God likes fireworks.

My marriage can be considered exhibit A.

He knew that putting my Explosive with his Implosive would make for lots of Lively. But, I’ve figured out that what that also means, is that things need to get worked out in a timely manner, or there are going to be some major fireworks up in this house. Or car. Or, wherever it is that we happen to be having a “growth opportunity”, as Lysa TerKeurst calls them.

The noise can be deafening.

But, God also provides the venue for fireworks with my Sweetgirl and Sweetboy. They each have personality traits that work in direct conflict with my bliss. All the live long day, some days. What feels like flat-out warfare on my parenting soul, sometimes comes in the form of my children saying “red” just because I said “blue”.

BOOM!

But wait, there’s more! God also provided me with The Nana and Ahab. I can’t even tell you. Let me try. The Nana thinks she knows what’s best for me. (In her defense, she is often right.) Until I get there, though, I will fight tooth and nail to get my point across. (I also have to remind her, repeatedly, that I’m an adult.) (This doesn’t seem to matter.) (I’m beginning to think it never will with parents.) Ahab and I get into some political discussions that will clear a room. Clear. A. Room! There is a clash of worldview and those opinions blow sky-high.

KABOOM!

And it doesn’t even have to be the fourth of July!

Inevitably, though, Grace whispers “do your best to live at peace with everyone”.

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Do your best.

Dang.

It stings when I am confronted with the fact that sometimes it’s me who lays that trail of gunpowder, or fires one across the bow, or lights that match.

That I’m most certainly not doing my best.

But grace blazes a trail of peace as it blows away contentiousness, anger, and indignation. It leaves calm in its wake, with harmony as the goal.

I could take a lesson. Or seventy-seven.

I still believe that God likes fireworks. (Who else would bring James Carville and Mary Matalin together in marriage? I ask you!) But, I also believe that Grace comes quietly and gives us a more beautiful show than any fireworks ever could.

Oh, yes indeedy.

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This post is day 28 of the Write 31 Days challenge. I think I can! I think I can! I think I can…

A Laugh a Minute

Remember how I said a few days ago that sometimes grace equals time?

A truth that has borne itself out, here.

I had the pleasure of attending a special event last week that featured a “Keynote Speaker”.  The speaker introduced himself and shared that infamous line that kills the ears of audiences everywhere, “…and I hope I can make you laugh.”

Uh-oh.

I’ve learned that anytime someone tells you that they are going to be funny, they aren’t going to be funny.

There are times when I want to add a side of funny to whatever I’m writing. But, most times, the humor comes out in writing of the situation. Despite my best attempts to be All Serious.

Besides, jokes can take a while.

To come up with.

To find the right audience to share them with.

And then, there are the misfires.

Oh, so many misfires.

I took a goofy online quiz the other day that came up with the one word that people most use to describe you. (Goofy clue number one – website is called Brainfall.)

Hilarious.

I didn’t find that funny.

Because, the pressure!

Knowing that humor can be cultivated, I read a lot of it. For me, inspiration most often comes from some of my favorite Word Artists – Dave Barry, Jon Acuff, Anita Renfroe, Jean Kerr, Melanie Shankle & Sophie Hudson (because, they totally go together, right?!?) and Erma Bombeck. Just to name a few.

Read an autobiography, biography, or interview on any of these folks and you learn that their craft took time and mistakes. Even the most established of speakers and writers still slog their way through what does and doesn’t work. Both for the crafting of their message and for the audience that receives it. Many of them admit to making mistakes they wish would go the way of Y2K.

So, as I continue to refine what I write, I want to thank you for putting up with my “mistakes”. And for giving me feedback. And for encouraging me – some of you with your own writing! I’m feeling thankful for the grace YOU have given me in these few short years since I began writing here. It’s such a joy to write about the mishaps a’plenty and grace galore!

Just wanted you to know.

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This post is day 27 of the Write 31 Days challenge.

“I’m gonna make it after all.”

Pain Has a Purpose

We can all identify with the experience of pain. Physically, it’s our bodies telling us something is rotten in Denmark. Mentally, I see pain as our spirit crying out. Whether it’s the chronic illness that will not respond to medical interventions or the chronic pain that a Sandpaper Person in your life provides, we all share that knowing.

Pain always has a purpose, though. I believe that with everything within me. And, God promises that our pain will not be forever. The same God who knit me together in my mother’s womb, who formed me before my mama ever knew she wanted to be with my daddy – He will turn my pain into something.

Something good.

Because even when All The Things are working against me, in every or any way imaginable, He is still able to work all those things together. For the good of those that love Him.

And I do love Him.

In fact I’m counting on Him to work some things together.

Can I get an ‘Amen’?

While I wait, though, it seems like a good idea to remember the very many “things” He has already worked together for my good.

Providing distance for relationships to heal.

Sending encouragement at the times I need it most.

Bestowing grace upon grace upon grace.

Supplying for needs I didn’t even know I had.

Illuminating the dark areas of my heart that I was unable to see.

Reminding me of His presence when I didn’t think to look for Him.

Knowing that my pain, whether physical or mental, has a purpose is comforting to me. Being able to look back and see places that Grace lovingly entered in and diluted the pain of a situation, is also a gift. It’s one that I keep unwrapping, years later, in some cases.

What a blessed reassurance that I matter. That whatever I find myself walking through, whether the valley of the shadow of death, taunts from those who don’t love me, or the very rotting of my bones, He will not leave.

I don’t know what pain you find yourself walking through, my friend. And, some of your pain I can’t comprehend. But, I know that some of you feel as if you are literally walking across hot coals. Surely, one of you are reading this post and you desperately need to hear this truth for the first time, or be reminded of it:

You matter. Your pain matters to God. He loves you.

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Rest in that, friend. And know that you are being prayed for.

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This post is day 26 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

Whispered Things

Looking at my post for today, I just wasn’t feeling it. Does that ever happen to anyone else? Knowing how crazy the day was going to be – soccer, an impromptu visit from my sweet mother and father-in-love, pumpkin carving, playdate hang-out – I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to writing until much later.

And, by then, I was feeling pretty wiped out.

Sweetman, in an effort to help me decompress after the day, put some mood lighting on and talked me into taking a deep breath and getting quiet.

Forsake The Twitter and The Facebook and The Instagram. Power down the phone and the plans and the list.

Just. Get. Quiet.

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I was reminded, again, how often time is given to me, as a grace.

In between the chewing of the candy corn, to be completely honest, Here’s what I heard in the still of the quiet:

Pray more.

Be present.

Listen intently

Hug harder.

Eyes on Me.

I’m going to get tactical about weaving these whispered things into my days.

Into my People.

Into my heart.

His grace floods my busy, once more. And, again, I’m so grateful.

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This post is day 25 in the Write 31 Days challenge.