Monster (Supermarket Zombie)

Monster

she saw him
between the baked goods
and cereal isles
towering tall, shoulders wide
lumbering forward
his thick fingers grazing
slipping over carnival-colored boxes
claiming them, one at a time…
Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles,
Count Chocula

Zombie in the supermarket
large and hulking
wearing flannel pajama bottoms
a jean jacket you could use for a sail
on any sized boat
his face a white moon
eyes glazed
plank-like feet shuffling
down isle nine

her hand slipped in mine
mother, she said,
do you think it’s possible
that zombies go shopping
and buy cereal
write out a check at the register?
Do you think that zombies
might look just like anyone else
but still be dead inside?

Of Course Not, I said
squeezed her little hand
delivered a six-point sermon on
the non-existence of monsters
reassured her through four more isles
shuffled to the register
wrote my check
tried to erase the vivid picture
of the living dead
spooning Fruity Pebbles
into gaping mouth
milk spilling over chin, into collar
pooling in the slow, empty smile
teeth flecked with bits of red and yellow cereal

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Healing Love

I have always envied those people who are naturally outgoing, the ones who never hesitate to strike up a conversation with any new person they meet, the people who feel comfortable walking into a social situation and do so with a confident smile.

That’s never been me.

In the past, I was known for being quiet. I wrapped myself in the quiet, it was a cocoon around me that encased me in silence and protected my timidity. I lacked the confidence to speak, the courage to hear my own voice. I felt, to the core of me, that nobody really wanted to hear what I had to say…and being around people made me anxious, uncomfortable.

From that shy child, I struggled into a timid adult. I was able to handle social situations, but they took so much out of me. It was exhausting.

And then Jesus got a hold on me.

There are many things I’ve lived with that I’ve wished would change, things I’ve taken for granted that I will always have to endure, to bear up under, that I’ve considered a thorn in my side that must be lived with. This quiet was one of them. It never occurred to me to pray for healing from it, to ask for release. This anxiety, this quiet, this feeling of never fitting in, this awkward silence…this was just the way I was, my nature.

But then, there is this verse: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.“1Timothy 1:7

If God hadn’t intended for me to be this hampered by social fear, if He hadn’t created me that way, then what caused this in me? Why was I like this? Was I somehow missing the mark, failing to become the person God meant me to be?

So I prayed about it.

And in the course of several months, I saw a difference. A real, deep, amazing difference. A healing that I never considered possible. From the folds of that quiet cocoon I begin to venture forth, and without effort or planning on my part something in me changed. Instead of avoiding eye contact at the supermarket, in fear that the checker might start a conversation with me…I sought it out. I looked right at her, smiled, and asked how her day was going…and I was eager to hear what she had to say! It was as natural as it could be, as easy as it looked when other people boldly entered into conversation. I started to really get to know people, to seek their company, to talk and listen and laugh with an ease I never thought possible.

It’s been a few years now, and although I certainly can’t claim to be what most people would consider an terribly outgoing person, the difference is profound. I love meeting people, getting to know them. I look forward to social situations, and I really do enjoy them now. I have been blessed with so many good friends, it makes me dizzy…my life is so full of joy and laughter and love that I can almost not remember the time when all this would have exhausted me, left me weak and empty. Life is so full now, full of joy and love.

I still have my difficult days, don’t get me wrong. I’m still quieter than most and large groups still overwhelm me. But I know that God has more for me, that He can use me better if I’m open to what He wants for me and obedient to His will. His will for me is not that I close in, that I continue to be shy and timid and to let my fears cripple me. His is a spirit of boldness, you see. A spirit of love. And it’s that Spirit in me that speaks where the old me would have been silent, that Spirit that makes eye contact and smiles where the old me would have prayed to avoid conversation.

Because the real difference, the one thing I can pinpoint that makes me able now to speak and laugh and smile and connect where I wasn’t before…the one difference is love! Where I once felt fear, I now feel an overwhelming sense of love. Even for the person behind the cash register that I’ve never seen before and may never see again…the love that is the Spirit in me floods through the fear, and its power is so much greater that I have to speak, to let it out.

And there’s the miracle of it, the miracle that can heal and change and transform whatever burden you might be carrying….God’s Love covers it all.

Thank you, Lord, for that!

scarlet cord


i am
Rahab’s scarlet cord
that torn and raveled
scrap of faith
twisting, blood red
exposed against
the cold gray
stone

I wrote this poem and then decided to write a whole post about the scarlet cord…but I love the idea that faith sometimes is this little, barely hanging-on type of feeling, a risk, hanging out there thin yet conspicuous. I’ve had a lot of fun with the image, both with words and pictures.

The Water

The sky rolls in this morning gray, a heavy pewter color waiting to drop and the air smells wet, thick with water. Out in the garden tulips wave, their faces shut tight. The colors of their nodding heads seem brighter, more intense with this graying storm-light, the greens of new leaves and the fern-lace of sweet pea’s first growth seem deeper, more somber under the darkened sky.

I stand in front of the picture-window, cup a mug of warm coffee between my hands and gaze. I hope to see the first dark dots of rain mark my front porch, to see the stippling of wet soak into thirsty ground and sink, deep, water this garden down to the roots.

My mind drifts back, long ago to my early teenage years. I remember my grandmother, the smell of the rain at her house in the deep South. I remember the way the drops hit the red clay earth, the way they pocked the dry dust and left dimples first…then swept away the surface of the long dirt driveway, ran flowing to the pond that was hidden at the deepest part of the property, behind rows and rows of towering pines. The water picked up golden pollen as it flowed, which shimmered on the tops of puddles and tiny streams that formed for an afternoon, flowed downward, left their ragged little scars to dry into the clay to be washed away with the next downpour. The power of water, just from one rain storm! It left its mark.

Later that visit my grandmother gave me a little book, one she had saved. Its green and blue cover had traces of white waves, and its title read simply “The Water.” She said it had come on a bouquet of flowers she’d received in the hospital, secured to the stems with a rubber band. The Water was a tract, a summery of the book of Luke. It described The Living Water, the story of Jesus. I read it all, filed it away in my mind.

I kept that little book for many years, it was a piece of her and soon after that visit a stroke took her ability to speak. We never got to talk about it. It would be years before I would really understand the words in that little book and more years before I would understand the courage it took for her to give it to me.

Now, as the water starts to fall on the garden, bending flower heads of yellow, orange, pink and red, I take a moment to feel the glory, the peace, the grace in Living Water. I let the thought of it flow over me, wash through me, refresh my heart. The Word lies open on my lap and I thumb the pages eagerly, I read the words again and again, and they are new each time. I think of how the Word of God first marked me, then swept away the surface and changed me. I think of the scars cut into me by the flow of words, the way those scars are cut and covered and filled again and again. I think of how this Water runs up, pools in a place I’ll one day be. Of how it never runs dry, how it waters down to the roots and makes everything clean and new again. And peace washed over me, flows thorough, and I am thankful for the Water to the very core of me.

John 4:13-14…..Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Fourteen.


This morning, hubby had a very early meeting. He snuck out, let me sleep in, and awoke at almost seven to the sound of my cell phone ringing in an odd place…I stumbled out of bed to find it here, just like this. Thank you, wonderful Husband, for the beautiful flowers and for 14 of the best years of my life!

Fourteen years ago today we stood…dressed in finest, surrounded by flowers, and wearing secret Converse sneakers, and we promised to love each other for the rest of our lives.

And now, here at this point I then thought so far in the distance… these years have brought us three children, have brought us change, have taken us places we never imagined going. These years have been scattered with hardship, with joy, with laughter, with tears, with much and little and health and sickness and riches and poverty and all the things that the vows we took that day promised they would bring.

If you had told me that day I would be more in love with him 14 years later, I would not have thought that possible…. and yet I know now that it is. Love surprises us with its ability to grow, with its flexibility, with its bearing the burden of many things and being richer with every passing day. Love bears all things, and when you love in Christ it takes all things and makes them new, makes them into something as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and stronger than tempered steel. I am blessed every moment by my husband’s love for me, by power of it.

And I know now a little about how the two can become one flesh, by the math that defies logic but proves itself again and again…that 1 + 1 + One = 1, and the closer we move to the One that gives us love the closer knit we become, the stronger the tie that bonds us. He is the shared electron that makes two atoms into one, a new thing unlike either element.

My love, happy anniversary! I do rejoice in our love, and after all these years you take may breath away just like you did that first summer. And every year gets better….

Gratitude Journal…a Mother’s Days

A mother’s days are water, poured from an earthen jar onto thirsty ground. The best of what we do is consumable, is soaked up as it pours out, is spent even as it falls. We fill the plate, wash the plate, put the plate away only to take it out again, a few hours later. Our days are a chain made of dozens of endless cycles…meals, dishes, laundry, morning, noon and night.

Some days, it seems like my entire day is spent cleaning up messes. Some days, I scrub the muddy footprints from the carpet and turn to see new ones being tracked. Some days, I pick up a trail of miscellaneous items and turn, arms full, to see a new trail being laid down.

Some days, this never-ending chain of cycles deflates my soul, seems devoid of purpose, threatens to swallow me in its vast and never-ending need.

When I feel the need start to open under me like a yawning chasm, when I feel like it is more than I can fill and my heart flags under the erroneous thought that everything I do is poured out like water, is absorbed deep into the darkness of earthy soil and lost from sight, when I feel like I’ve devoted my time to a muddy, slurry mess….


I remember that flowers bloom bright where water flows, and dry ground is waiting full with the seeds of future abundant living.

What seems dry and thirsty today becomes it own thriving new ecosystem, roots sent deep to tie future generations to solid ground.


What seems to take ages to grow today, what looks too small to matter now…will, in such a short time, reach high into the vast pale blue of a Spring morning and glorify God with its beauty.


What I pour out today will bloom and grow, will plant its roots deep and reach its branches high, will scatter seeds itself one day and with its own pouring lay down a blanket of new growth…a scattering of life I can’t even begin to imaging today.


What it takes to love those days, to laugh with joy at the pouring out, to smile at polishing the links in the chain….Gratitude that not a drop is wasted, not a moment is spent without being stitched by the Creator into the fabric of something beautiful.


What it takes is being thankful for each link, for every little thing…especially for every little thing.



Lord, thank you that these little things matter
more than I could ever understand. Thank you that You are taking each little moment and making it grow, that these seeds are taking root. Thank you for what they will become.


260. Thank you for the fact that I’m able to stay home with my kids.
261. Thank you that I can home school legally and with support.
262. Thank you that there is enough
263. Thank you for the Spring!
264. Thank you for sunlight illuminating and tracing the leaves
265. Thank you for flowers that open as the sun moves across the sky
266. Thank you for this unexpected and glorious magnolia tree…who know they could grow here?
267. Thank you for blossoms that will bear fruit
268. Thank you for sun-kissed noses
269. Thank you for that deep green color that came out overnight
270. Thank you that as of tomorrow we will celebrate 14 wonderful years of marriage!

Butterfly

A re-post from the archives…as Spring begins and I think of new beginnings….

The caterpillars were repulsive. Spiked and striped, they writhed on every tree trunk and squirmed on the west side of every building at the reception center. Around us, the wedding was in full swing….children in white dresses, beautiful flowers everywhere, music dancing through the warmth of an early summer evening. But my children were enthralled with the worms, at the same time attracted to and repulsed by their ugliness. They held their breaths and inched bravely closer to the squirming grubs, then ran away screaming and laughing with a mixture of fascination and horror.

With our youngest on my hip, I stooped to study a worm more closely. The older two children listened with interest as I explained that these fat, wriggly little grubs that looked so fearsome and disgusting with their soft, segmented bodies covered with ugly spikes would one day become butterflies. Butterflies? These ugly worms? This, the children wanted to see. We took a plastic cup from the punch bowl, scraped in several worms with a stick (nobody was volunteering to pick them up with their bare hands!) and covered the cup with a scrap of white netting from a nearby decoration.

At home, we put the grubs in a large glass jar. There wasn’t time to put in sticks, but I was sure that we would have plenty of time the next day to give the caterpillars something on which to spin their cocoons. To my surprise, when we woke the next morning the larva had already spun cocoons! With no stick to hang from, the worms were not able to spin their whole bodies into the cocoons. Instead, white silk encased the bottom three-fourths of each worm while the worm’s heads and a bit of their bodies were hanging out! These three strange little packages lay at the bottom of the jar, clearly still alive and yet unfinished. I didn’t see any way that these incomplete cocoons could hatch into a butterfly without the head of the worm inside…wouldn’t the butterfly have no head? Would they hatch at all? But the children wanted to see what would happen, so we carefully glued the spun-ends of each cocoon onto a stick and waited.

To my surprise, several weeks later the cocoons hatched! Inside the jar were the remains of the cocoons, and drops of a blackish substance had oozed down the glass and pooled under each cocoon. The head segments of each worm lay with the remains of the cocoons, as dead as the silk and dried to an empty shell. And yet, amazingly, three butterflies clung to the stick in the jar!

I was amazed that even without the entire worm, a butterfly could have emerged from those strange cocoons. But when I examined the butterflies carefully, my amazement grew! They were beautiful creatures, looking nothing at all like the ugly worms they had been. And yet, because the entire body of each worm had not been in the cocoons, the butterflies were incomplete. They had beautiful indigo wings edged with black. Their thin and graceful bodies had perfect heads with feathered, arching antennae, tiny black eyes and a curled proboscis. To our delight inside the black boarders of each wing ran a row of tiny white hearts.

But each butterfly was missing something. One had only four legs and its delicate black body was slightly shortened. Another had two holes in its wings, one in each canvas of vibrant blue. The third was missing one set of wings entirely, its right side a beautiful display of iridescent indigo, black and white…the left a crumbled stump that left the creature unbalanced and unable to fly.

What had happened? How had these butterflies developed at all, when part of the worm had not even been used in their development? How could a butterfly develop, complete with a perfect head, when the heads of the worms were still lying at the bottom of the jar? I knew that butterflies were an amazing example of metamorphosis, and a powerful analogy for how God can take something small, ugly and wretched and change it to something graceful and beautiful. What I didn’t know about butterflies changed my heart and taught me something I hope never to forget.

Inside the cocoon, the changes taking place are far more profound than I had imagined. The grub, wrapped in its silk shroud and hidden from view, is not slowly growing wings. The worm is not gradually developing the characteristics of a butterfly, adding new parts on and altering the old to take on a new look. Inside the cocoon, something far more profound is taking place.

The worm as we know it has died. There is no gradual development of new limbs and new features….the worm itself is gone! In its place is a black sludge, the sort of goo we associate with complete and utter decomposition. Floating in the goo somewhere are a few vital organs that have not completely broken down, but there is nothing recognizable as a caterpillar left. The cells are alive, but liquefied. It is from this black liquid, this complete and utter destruction of the original worm, that the butterfly is pieced together. It is truly a new creature! God has taken the cells, broken them beyond recognition, caused the old creature to exist no more, and built something completely new from the pieces.

And the missing parts? Oh, Christian! The missing parts speak so strongly to my heart. For God to make the whole and beautiful new creature He had planned, He needed all of the worm. The worm had to die, it had to become dead black sludge for God’s plan to work perfectly. When we fail to submit All of our heart to God’s will…even when God’s will is that the old must die, when we fail to give it all to him and truly die to self we find that we are incomplete. We emerge with broken wings and incomplete hearts, we limp along when we could be flying high. When we give it all to God, He works every part of it, yes every ugly detail…to His good. He takes the loathsome worm, and from dead black sludge he brings forth a jeweled and graceful butterfly! He asks for nothing less than total submission to His will…nothing less than the death of the old self. But we can trust completely that His plans for us are beautiful! We can trust that He will change us completely, make us a new creature, and give us wings to fly!

Lord, what more can I submit to you today? Thank you for the example of caterpillars and butterflies, for if you can daily work such miracles with them what amazing things will you do when we submit our human hearts to you!

Butterfly photo from Big Box of Art

Faith


What does having faith look like? What does it mean to have faith? What first comes to my mind when I think of faith is that having faith implies a sort of strength, that to be full of faith means you are standing firm with strength and confidence, ready to act on your convictions. But then, at times it isn’t that at all…at times, faith is a quiet thing, a pure and simple thing, a laying down of self and relying completely on God thing.

I’m finding some images of faith in the book of Joshua.

Sometimes faith is the conquering army, the massed strength of Israel defended by the army of God and moving into the Promised Land. Sometimes faith is moving forward with swords drawn, shields raised. Sometimes faith is the battle cry of readiness, the glint of light on armor, the sound of marching feet. Faith means moving forward into the unknown, with only the knowledge that without God’s intervention defeat is unavoidable, and with God’s blessing victory is certain.

And then, sometimes faith is the scarlet cord hanging from Rahab’s window. Faith is the raveled thread that beats itself against cold, gray stone and is twisted and torn in the wind, a thin and worn symbol of hope in a hopeless cause. Sometimes faith is a silent plea for rescue from the coming storm, a simple act of obedience on which all hopes are entrusted.

One image of faith is full of glory, the other full of humility. Yet, they save equally! Both types of faith result in deliverance.

What kind of faith are you experiencing today? I find it encouraging to know that in those times that I lack the strength for a conquering-army type of faith, I can rest in faith and trust in deliverance behind a window tied with a scarlet cord. The Lord commands the vast strength of the army, and He protects the family of the simple, fallen woman who just learned to place her trust in Him…the same faith covers them all.

Thank you, Lord, for that.

How He’s Loved Us…All Along


I found this over at Maintaining Joy….it really encouraged me and I wanted to share it here, too. How amazing it is, how He’s loved us all along!

Old Testament
Genesis—he is the Ram at Abraham’s altar
Exodus—he is our Passover Lamb
Leviticus—he is our High Priest
Numbers—he is the Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by Night
Deuteronomy—he is the City of our Refuge
Joshua—he is the scarlet thread hanging from Rahab’s window
Judges—he is the only faithful Judge
Ruth—he is my Kinsmen Redeemer
1&2 Samuel—he is our Trusted Prophet
Kings/Chronicles—he alone is the Reigning King
Ezra—he is my Faithful Scribe
Nehemiah—he is the Rebuilder of everything that is broken
Esther—he is Faithful Mordecai sitting outside the city gates
Job—he is my Redeemer who will always live
Psalms—he is my Shepherd and I shall not want
Proverbs—he is Divine Wisdom
Ecclesiastes—he is the Purpose and Meaning of life
Song of Solomon—he is the Beautiful Bride ready and waiting
Isaiah—he is Suffering Servant
Jeremiah/Lamentations—he is the Prophet Weeping for his people
Ezekiel—he is the Spirit bringing Life to the Dead
Daniel—he is the Fourth Man standing in the fiery furnace
Hosea—he is the Love that is Forever Faithful
Joel—he Baptizes me with His Spirit
Amos—he is my Burden Bearer
Obadiah—he is my Savior
Jonah—he is the Great Foreign Missionary taking the Gospel into the world
Micah—he is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet
Nahum—he is my Avenger
Habakkuk—he is Lord God Almighty Ready to Save
Zephaniah—he is the One who punishes sin and extends mercy
Haggai—he is the Restorer of my lost heritage
Zechariah—he is the Fountain of Life
Malachi—he is the Son of Righteousness with Healing held within His Wings

New Testament

Matthew—he is the Christ, Son of the Living God
Mark—he is the Miracle Worker
Luke –he is Jesus, Seeking and Saving the lost
John—he is the Door by which every man must enter for Salvation
Acts—he is the Shining Light to Saul on the road to Damascus
Romans—he is the Author of Salvation
1 Corinthians—he is my Resurrection
2 Corinthians—he is my Sin Bearer
Galatians—he is Redemption from the Law
Ephesians—he is my Unsearchable Riches
Philippians—he is the One who makes all things possible
Colossians—he is the fullness of Deity in Bodily Form
1&2 Thessalonians—he is our soon, coming King!
1 Timothy—he is the Mediator between God and man
2 Timothy—he is the Crown of Righteousness
Titus—he is our Blessed Hope
Philemon—he is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother
Hebrews—he is the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
James—he is the Lord able to heal and save
1&2 Peter—he is our Chief Shepherd
1/2/3 John—he is Jesus with tenderness and love
Jude—he is the Lord returning with 10,000 saints from on high
Revelation—Lift up your eyes church, your redemption is drawing near: he is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and he will soon return for His bride! Be encouraged and live!

From the archives….I found this from over a year ago, it brought me back to the warm light of Autumn and so I thought I’d post it again.

Graveside, in Autumn

voices rise
to vaulted azure heights
Amazing Grace floats soft
over bowed heads, gilded
with glowing Autumn-light

Amazing, grace…
that gives us peace here
in this bitter, sweet
and beautiful place
suffused with golden
waning light

she wanders quietly,
my rosy child
amid the gravestones solemnly
and slanting yellow God-light
makes blond curls
a gilt and living nimbus

she stoops, gathers
gold-dipped flowers, leaves of crimson
gifts and treasures
cradled like live birds
in soft black folds of velvet dress

quietly, warm child-hands
touch cold grey monuments
linger a moment
place offerings of beauty
atop long forgotten stone

they glow there
in the gold and fading Autumn sun
God-painted leaves
Lambent, brilliant, fragile
beautiful gifts
infused with dying Autumn light

I catch my breath
feel September’s fading beauty
the breeze that lifts
and makes gold fairy leaves dance
on crumbling stone

she dances on,
I touch the thought…

how quick the time
between green leaves
and gold