Family, Grace, Hope, Joy, Uncategorized

Why We Need to Grab at What is Good!

Genesis lay open. Thin, delicate pages spread gently across my desk. The fruit of goodness cannot be studied without studying the very things that God calls ‘good’. I sit back and force my mind to stop it’s global spinning. This is not complicated. As I read through chapter 1, I see how simple it really is. God made it. And He saw that it was good.

My family and I recently got back from a vacation to Alaska. A ‘bucket list’ achievement we really never trusted would be possible. But after a heartbreaking loss of a loved one last Thanksgiving, my husband and I sat our weary souls into the living room furniture after the kids were in bed and decided we needed to try. Maybe we could make this happen? Maybe if we looked outside the box and prayed for a place for our family to recover a bit, we could make a dream vacation possible? It took months of working, planning, and saving, but we did it. We pulled the oldest kids out of school two and a half days before the end of the year, and we raced away, headed northwest.

Alaska did not disappoint. Every photograph, painting, and book I had read about Alaska came to life! The almost 3 hour drive from Anchorage down to a friends place was filled to bursting with scenes of genuine beauty. The mountains peaked in snow. Water glistened both gray and turquoise. Pines, Hemlocks, Spruce, and Birch trees grew from jagged rock. Wildlife everywhere we looked throughout our whole trip. Eagles, arctic terns, the Blue Goose, Horned Puffins, more birds of the air than I could identify. Moose, caribou, a chilled out black bear munching on spring grass, and one porcupine shimmying up a tree. From the sway of a boat we saw Orca’s, a Humpback Whale and a couple of Finn Whales. Fur seals and a couple sea otter got added to our list and my husband caught one big ol’ Halibut that nearly yanked the fishing vessel into a spin. The kids collected countless rocks across the oceans endless edges and the salty wind filled our senses with all that God created, saw, and called good.

Genesis was the beginning of all that we saw in Alaska, and although nothing is perfect, the way it was originally intended to be, there is still so much goodness in what surrounds us every day. Standing back, staring up, nature seems perfect in color, shape, and form. But there’s more. Always more. In Genesis 1:26 it says, “Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all the life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”

Here’s where that goodness goes wild because maybe we were chosen to be “masters” because we were Trinity’s masterpiece at the end of the week? Made in THIER image. Friend, YOU are the good that God gazes on. St. Augustine wrote; “You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you.”

God planted the fruits of the Spirit in you so that you could grow and, like the trees growing seed-bearing fruit, produce the kind of good people from which you came. And, don’t miss it, you.came.from.GOD! Because He also is the same God who says in chapter 2 that it is NOT good that man should be alone. God, in His infinite wisdom, had the ability to look at and see and know what was not good. If you were anything else but good, He would not have considered you in His formative masterpiece. But you are an original, and you are a gift, new life from Him! Rise up to that!

I hear your doubting voice. You with the regretful past, with the unbelieving up-bringing, with your inability to commit. Commit to this, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV). You see, God not only created you, He saw you. He. Sees. You. And Genesis also tells us that He blessed them and told them to multiply, and they multiplied into YOU‼ Beautiful, irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, in all your goodness…..YOU!

Alaska was amazing! Some of my heart still lies there. Nature surrounds and I could see how God did not hold back. His creative abilities to design, form, and shape what He loves drew a broader perspective for me, and that’s when I saw too. Saw that I was part of that first beginning. I was made as a good and perfect gift, multiplied down from Eve.

Have courage, friend. Paul finishes out 1 Thessalonians with a few words of advice, and he makes six words accordion out into a heart stopping command. “Hold on to what is good.” And I know, I’ve been there, barely holding on. But the good he’s talking about is you, because the Hebrew word is kalos, and it means beautiful, excellent, precious! God does nothing except what is good, right, and true. Excellence is the only standard that exists in His infinite galaxy, and YOU are formed there. What you have to hold on to is that you are created, you are loved, and you are redeemed, and your savior is God’s good son, Jesus Christ! Write that down!

“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.” (Genesis 1:31a)

In pure goodness,

~kathy b

Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo) “The Confessions”. Clark, 1876.

Christmas, Family, Grace, Hope, Uncategorized

2017: A Year In Review

It always takes a bit of mental sorting to write a Christmas letter. To rewind the memories of the mind. To retrace steps of a year gone by. Especially when that year held moments that fragmented the heart. However, no matter the suffering, it is always a healing balm to be able to see the flesh of a baby in a manger. The light of love come down. The warmth of hope wrapped in swaddling clothes. Christmas throws a rope of rescue to those of us needing something to cling too. And although stores fill their shelves to overflowing this time of year, nothing behind those glass doors holds the miracle of strength, of renewing. The stuff of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays will never be able to give an understanding of journeys. Journeys of exhausting proportions. Journeys of diseases fought, marriages glued back together, depression trampled, or death knocking on or knocking over those we love. If there is anything Ben and I have learned it’s that there is a whole separate journey in witnessing the walk of a Godly King through a year of hard. See how His footsteps match yours print for print. How His hand opens doors of healing, spreads hope like a warm robe, and carries grace right through your front door!

In years past, I have enjoyed breaking down the family by individuals and bragging about their growth and development. I feel like I get to introduce them to you all over again, because each year comes with a view of someone new emerging. But this year, we couldn’t separate. This year, we printed out a proclamation from writer, Ann Voskamp, stuck it on the wall and memorized it, “Family is a VERB. It’s not just what we ARE, it’s something we actively KEEP ON MAKING!” Because, without experience, I had no other way of knowing how to get through what I knew would be hard.

The first 2 months of 2017 were spent consulting with doctors in Grand Rapids and here in Petoskey, and on March 1 I was officially diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Like my mother, my little sister, my grandma, two uncles, and several cousins ahead of me, I learned what infusions centers looked like, I learned how to give blood on a weekly basis for months, I learned how PET, CT, MRI, and MUGA all precede the word SCAN and what that means to a mortal body. I learned how to wear blue bandana’s so that people would say how pretty my eyes looked instead of how bald my head was. I learned how a husband can fall in love with a young bride in her prime, and 20 years later, still see her scarred body as beautiful. I learned how a 12 year old girl could instinctively care for a 3 year old baby brother, put lunch on the table, and clean a bathroom, and still make straight A’s, while her mama slept away the effects of chemotherapy. I learned what it meant to a 9 year old boy to have his mama at his baseball games, even if she was the one wrapped in three blankets and wearing a winter hat in the spring. I learned how a church pulls together and offers comfort, meals, care, all while their hands are raised in prayer, and how that feels like warriors going to battle for you. I learned how friends show up to stuff your kids in their cars and take them on play dates, take them to lunch, take them to get their hair cut, while you waste away a little. I learned how ‘family’ was something we HAD to actively keep up, so that cancer wouldn’t destroy us. And even when your bones ached and your skin tingled you still pulled those kids close and read them stories and said their bedtime prayers together, because you knew the ache of losing them would hurt so much worse.

This was also the year Ben altered the course of the business a little. It wasn’t meant to all happen at the same time, but for several months last year, he had been preparing to focus more on the custom cabinet business. And for the first time in 15 years here in northern Michigan, his company did not build a single home in 2017. Instead, he poured time, money, and resources into building a team, a family, at Stillwater Custom Cabinetry. It was necessary to slow down the growth to build the foundation. We pulled the purse strings tight at home and he spent a great deal of time developing a software program to help run a smoother cabinet shop. He and his team are preparing for larger manufacturing orders, as he has done the research to know that the need is out there and not being met. He’s part of a board of advisors to a software development company on the west coast. They all want to change the way computers, equipment and carpenters can communicate and produce products at a high level of quality in the most efficient amount of time. It’s been the cutting edge challenge he needed and desired. The customers are calling and the list is growing and we haven’t even advertised yet. It will be another sort of journey to see where Stillwater goes in the year 2018.

Maddy, Brett, & Judah. Only a parent can know the slow breath of relief that this was a year of healthy kids. We got to watch them snow ski, ride bikes, play in the sand, smash baseballs across diamonds, and build forts in the woods. We let a lot of things go this year, we didn’t plant a garden, never made it to Farmer’s Market even once, and only used the boat twice. But we did read through stacks of books, finished up our fifth year of homeschooling, built an entire fort village in the woods at the edge of the property, and just basked in the company that flowed in and out of our driveway as they came to offer the support and care that they could. We felt especially grateful when the doctors stopped my chemo at the end of June and put me on Prednisone so we could make the trip on the ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, WI to witness dear friends say their vows. Then drive up and through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and across the Mackinac Bridge. One week later we packed up the camper and spent a week at Camp Au Sable for family camp, cherishing every moment with family and friends, every worship service at the lakes edge, every class taught, every song sung. And when it was time to plan for the next school year, we did what we’ve done through everything, we bowed before the Good Shepherd of our journey, and asked what we should do?

Camp Au Sable not only helped us create memories this summer and gave us a break from medical requirements, but they have now become the place for Maddy and Brett to get their education. The doors were flung open and both kids have flourished in their new environment. The teachers, the students, and the woods have all helped keep the Creator of all life front and center. So when Isaiah 42:16 says, “I will make the darkness bright before them and smooth out the road ahead of them”, Ben and I could see what that meant. Nothing has eased our minds more than putting our kids in a school that offers such light, and, though the road to get there each day is long, it is the smooth road.

If I could end this letter there, I would be ok with that, but sadly, I cannot. The year was not without its deep pain. In August Ben’s step-mom, Treasure, was diagnosed with Metastatic Cervical Cancer. For a moment, I thought that swapping hats and wigs back and forth would be something we would laugh about someday. But her battle was fierce, consuming, deadly passionate about destroying her. And on November 24, her tiny little body could fight no more. We kissed her, and held her hand and said our final good-byes and wished with all our hearts that this was a big bad dream. Losing Treasure has left a huge hole in our family. She was something special and unique to each of us. Her contagious laugh, mouth-watering meals, and blithe sense of humor will be massively missed. We are sad, but not without hope. Hope in seeing her again someday minus her wheelchair. She and Brett have a standing appointment for a foot race first thing when they get to heaven. I’ll be at the finish line hollerin’ loud and hugging both of them something fierce.

With all the hard this year, there has been so much good‼ We’ve been able to see how people really do show up. How they have heard the gospel and understand what it means to reach out and serve. We’ve been reminded of how to live not climbing ladders, but instead, pressing our knees into the floor. So with Christmas here, it’s no wonder we find ourselves pressing ever closer to a crude manger holding a baby-King.

And if you are receiving this letter, its because you have been a part of our journey. You’ve bowed low and prayed loud and helped absorb our storm and we are SO grateful for you.

The Brower Family

Ben, Kathy, Maddy, Brett, & Judah

Hope, Uncategorized

A Lament For A Lonely Heart

Dear Father God,

When the soul feels so empty, do I dare come before your throne? When my head knowledge says we’re still connected but my heart feels that somehow there’s been a breach in our relationship, do I dare still ask you for renewing? You have always been my rock, my rescuer, my confidant, but why then do I feel this hollow empty place? Why do I find myself flipping through catalogs and store windows to buy? Why do I somehow think that all that pretty stuff will fill the void? If I’m being honest, God, I feel sad. I feel…..abandoned. When you asked me to walk through the fire, did you know how lonely the hot spot feels? You promised to never leave me or forsake me, but I’m afraid to lean right now. Why? After all these years, why does your strength make me feel weak? You and I, we were going to tell this story together. We were going to show people that you aren’t afraid to create a storm to show your majesty, your power. And I was willing. But I am a broken mortal. My body bares scars. And now my heart feels heavy.

But….this heart, the one in the wrecked body of me, it still belongs to you. I won’t ever deny that. And this body, it will eventually be nothing but dust. But, Lord, in this life, I am nothing without you. So have you pulled back your hand from me? Have you placed a shadow of gloom between us? And if so, why? Is it my doubt that disturbs you? Is it my emptiness that pains you? Are you just too busy with all the destruction happening in the world that you have forgotten our story? I understand that there are guns firing loud, blood running in streams down church aisles and truck beds and, Lord, people, their cries and tears are calling loud. I hear them. But if you are omnipotent, can you not hear me too?

Lord, forgive me. I don’t mean to lose perspective. I see storms in all shapes and sizes and I wonder why any of them should exist at all? Job said it, he pleaded with you. He predicted this future time, “It is a land as dark as midnight, a land of utter gloom where confusion reigns and the light is as dark as midnight.” Humanity is frail. I am no different. Please do not meet me with silence. Please do not leave me out of your presence. I need the hope of a kingdom not shaken with self-serving agendas, dark secrets, and stolen weapons. I need to know your kingdom holds room for me. Please, Lord, light even a small window that I might see it and know that you’re in my corner, too.

Father God, Almighty, please forgive me. Forgive my self-doubt. Forgive a girl who battles depression. Forgive a girl who needs evidence of your existence. I ask that you stir my heart. Make the blood in my veins ripple with a wave of your courage. The wicked have no hope. Forgive my wickedness. Gift me with hope. Give me rest in my soul. Strike me with a match of your light, that all will see we really are in this together. That the disease defecting my body is simply part of the mapping out of your redemption story. Make me a pillar. A pillar made to withstand the agnosticism of the crowd. Heal my roots. Roots buried deep in the truth of your existence. Turn my eyes to you first, before any shop, any craft, any event that might try to pull at my meager resources.

King David lamented that he had lost joy, I know that breaking. Immanuel, break these chains of darkness instead. Begin the repairing of my overwhelmed heart. Once I was young, and felt the satisfaction of the world. I spent my time with what looked like beauty carved to adorn worldly spaces. How fleeting that was. How small. God, you see a grand galaxy that spins in perfect harmony, and I feel small. You are master of miracles, let me not forget. Draw me close to you. To what really matters. Direct my heart back to your Sovereignty. Help me make peace with your decision of order.

Jesus. In one name you can silence loud spaces. I ask that you silence the breaking of my heart. Please help me raise my open hands once more. Turn my moaning into prayers cloaked in incense. An offering of my life, instead of a lamenting of an uninspired breath. Remind me that I am not a savior, but a servant. Amaze me once again with your greatness. Forgive me for forgetting what mercy looks like. For you could have stripped my life from this earth long ago, but instead you have blessed me over and over again. How quickly I am to forget all that.

God and King, I can hold no space except the space where I kneel at your throne. You hold grace and love for me. You are so kind. My tears flow, but only with the awe and humility at the realization of who you are. Because you brought me life. You formed me in my mother’s womb and planned my life to glorify you. You have blessed me with a husband. Strong and giving. You have blessed me with children. A daughter, quiet and quaint. Sons, flourishing and boisterous. You have blessed me by covering me with your grace and loving all of my flaws.

O God, you have never changed. You are everything you said you would be. You have freed me from this disease. Let the wounds, like your own, be displayed to show how a little dust of a human can be an arrow pointing up. When my cries come, as they most likely will, wrap me in your arms of grace. Rescue me from those who would question your knowledge. You know every space and you know time and history more than anyone, and you know what the future holds. I give you praise for allowing me to see how you hold us in the hard times. When I slip into the darkness, Lord, please come after me. Please run. Don’t let me lose hope. Keep the darkness of the night back. Take me to your mountain. To the strong place where my enemies cannot reach. Bring me to your flock. Hold my pain, and, God? Hold my heart, it is yours, after all.

Purely yours,

~kathy b

Hope, Uncategorized

When Hope Is All You’ve Got

I’m going to start today being completely honest. I have struggled hard knowing what to write about this month. Inside, I’ve been my own complete mess, and I came to the realization that some of you might be feeling the same way. I pawed through to the bottom of what the real issue[s] were and one word became bold. H.O.P.E.

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Because, really? Isn’t that the pinnacle between success and defeat? Aren’t we all holding some fragmented thread of hope?

Hoping to lose weight?

Hoping for an easier schedule?

Hoping to come through surgery ok?

Hoping for a new baby, a proposal, a new job?

Hoping to hire the right person, to clean out the basement, to make a little more money?

Hoping to not let them down, not lose your temper, not disappoint?

Anxiety weighs in and we toss in our sleep. All this hoping….makes one feel hope-less at times. Doesn’t it?

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But if God is a God of love, then hope is real. Hopelessness is a form of worry, and when was the last time we abandoned worry because we felt deep confidence in what God was planning for us? See, I was reading King David’s Psalms again, and he wrote this,

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praise.” Psalm 57:7

Kind David is singing! My worry has not left me singing! Snarling…yes. Teeth clenching…for sure. Distracted…positively! So how can a song well up in a God-breathed soul when worry keeps beating on your chest?

Is that it then? Worry has taken over hope? We worry we won’t get the desired results and the loss of hope reigns a near blow to our value? Because we want to be valuable? We want to mean something to someone? We want to be noticed, admired, cherished, loved unconditionally?

God is love though. Isn’t He? And love encourages and fosters hope to grow. And wouldn’t a Father who formed you so beautifully, love you so deeply? So then, isn’t He the master of hope? Paul felt that He was. After all, he wrote in 1 Corinthians the love chapter. Chapter 13, which ended with three things. Faith, hope, and love. These three form a braided rope absolutely unbreakable by any worry the devils hissed in your ear.

I have to get you to look a little further back in that chapter, though. Because after worry has been pretty vigilant in forming her new home in my ever beating heart, God is working to alter the blueprint. Verse 7 threads it’s way into my soul amnesia, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I’m letting out one big ol’ shaky breath.

God is love. He put himself in some unbelievably difficult circumstances, because His whole hope is based on the thought of you loving Him back. He’s hoping you’ll choose relationship with Him over stuff in stores and stuff in bottles and stuffy people. He’s hoping you’ll grab on to that one braided rope and know the strength of a tied up cord.

Oh, and did I tell you that other part? The part about the origin of words? Words like ‘hope’? Turns out, the Hebrew word for hope is tiqvah (tik-vaw’) and it literally means “a cord, as an attachment”. Zechariah 9:12 uses it poetically, “Turn you to the strong hold, you prisoners of hope…”. Friend, there have been a few times where circumstances have been very prison-like, but how could my hope possibly run out if I was imprisoned to, well…hope?

If any of you are mothers out there, do you remember that deep down maternal instinct kick in when that baby was forming inside you? Do you remember the constant worry of whether you were doing any of this whole ‘creating’ thing right? Do you also remember when you realized just HOW connected you were? There was that life line between you and baby called an umbilical cord. Tried and true cords that have been feeding and growing babies clear back from the beginning of baby-making time. That’s a pretty irreversible commitment.

What if hope, love, faith, looked like that? What if I told you, steeped in Christ, it does?

Attached. So.very.attached. Love.Faith.Hope. Always. Tried and true.

Turns out, hope isn’t all I’ve got. And it’s not really as fragmented as I thought, either.

~kathy b

Grace, Hope, Uncategorized

Revival On A Corner

We got a deer-in-the-headlights look from the banker who was in charge of the estate where the old farmhouse stood. We had caught her off guard, and she didn’t have a quick response, and the confusion was obvious. We wanted to do what?! My carpenter/businessman of a husband is famous for thinking outside the box and he had figured out a way to buy that tired looking two-story white farmhouse his wife had fallen in love with. One clear problem was the cracked foundation. Who would want to buy something broken? Something so noticeably weakened and crumbly and dismal. Had we missed it? Well, no, we hadn’t. He had shrugged those shoulders that so often hold me up. He knew how to fix it. Fairly simply, too. That banker, she shook her head and helped us jump through some paperwork, trying not to look too excited to be rid of the burden.

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Once all the legalities were done, we got the young twenty something that Ben employed to help us tear out old carpet, a drop ceiling, and some half-hazard closets. The carpenter and his dad rebuilt stairs and kitchen shelves and a bathroom vanity. We painted her a soft gray on her insides and insulated the attic to make a new room for the kids. And that first Christmas that carpenter and the kids bought this old-fashioned mama a chandelier to hang above the kitchen table made out of glass bottles. That old farmhouse was slowly being revived back into a home.
This past summer we finally got around to hiring an excavator who pulled bucketfuls of dirt back away from the foundation so we could fix that old crack. Once the cement was patched and sealed new with waterproofing, they pushed all that earth back into place, and no one, save the neighbors, would have known.
This old farmhouse, it still carries tired parts, it’s definitely not perfect, but it’s been recently reinforced with sound substance at its core. The base of its life. The cornerstone of its holdings.

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There’s something else a bit broken and cracked. Me. Especially lately and, friend, it’s a real danger to those around me if I don’t get patched. I’ll never be perfect. In fact, the older I get, the scratchier I get. But, there’s this perfect carpenter who has the perfect fix. He’s shrugged His shoulders and held up a cross and held out grace and stamped His name right across my crumbling parts. He’s working His tools to build up the life of this old girl and I would be a fool to write these public words and not lift His name up.
From the road, this old farmhouse cried “dreadful”, and maybe you’ve felt a bit like that too? Words you’ve said. Choices you’ve made. Idols you’ve erected. Grudges that have strangled. Dirt.
I don’t have to live this way. I can fall in the dark and grip God’s hand of grace. Sometimes you need your own revival. Sometimes the cornerstone of your life needs a renewing. A spiritual patch. A new covenant.
Doesn’t Isaiah tell us that we have an everlasting Redeemer? Doesn’t Isaiah remind us of a renewal of strength? Did I forget that God never grows old and weary, nor does He grow faint. “He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak.” (Isaiah 40:29 NLT). And those of us with a broken and brittle cornerstone? Yeah, we’re the ones desperately needing an encounter with a carpenter.
I invite you, this weekend, to search scripture and know your Carpenter.  Come open. Come knowing “….the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.” (Isaiah 40: 28b NLT). Come for a revival, a repatching, a remaking of your broken foundation.

“Everyone will see this miracle and understand that it is the Lord, the Holy One of Isreal, who did it.” Isaiah 41:40 NLT.

Love, the one who needs revival,

~kathy b

Hope, Thankfullness

How To Know The Sky Like A Songbird

The eve of Thanksgiving and the temperatures ride waves in the high 40’s. The sky woke with a movie like sunrise and the colors of the dawn married the veiled clouds of the night and I hardly noticed the frost on the windshield. It’s unusual to hear the songbirds in November, but the tip top of the maples and hemlocks held this high fluted chorus. Wikipedia calls it their “vocal organ”. Their diverse and elaborate song. I hear them, and it’s no wonder to me. I don’t know calls well enough to know who was singing, but I heard their joy sung out loud and all I could do was look up and breath in. They spatter dark against the gray sky, wings spread and then folded in again as they dance tree to tree and limb to limb. They’re there, all gathered as family and singing and it’s a delight I want to know.   
   
 I love the words of Job, crippled with pain, yet speaking tall, “Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you….For the life of every living thing is in his (The Lord’s) hand, and the breath of every human being.” Job 12:7 & 10. Breath. Ah. The Hebrew people have but one word, ruwach (roo’-akh). It includes wind, breath, mind, spirit. And those birds in the sky are up there singing with the wind, pushing breath out with intentional song. Their minds on the course of gladness and their spirits, preserved, created by God! And it’s clear to me what they’re doing at this late season, crowding up close to the clouded sky, they’re singing their Thanksgiving to the Designer of all things now living.  

 It seems so fitting to me. This month long giving-thanks theme that the kids and I have routinely set our thoughts on. But those birds, they seem to take it one step further. One flight closer. And although our Thanks – giving tree dangles with the long list of gratitude, I realize my breathing is maybe a bit shallow. Maybe a bit too short. Twenty-six days of hanging paper leaves on a couple of broken branches hardly seems like a full breath. A full ruwach.  

 It’s been nice. The fall season has been mild and, maybe, so is my life. No big trauma, no insurmountables, no impossible knots to unravel. And if there’s all these no’s, did I forget to focus on the ‘yes’?  The yes of flight and soaring and even song singing? Yeah, singing. Because when you’re singing, isn’t that one of the few times in life we actually breath the deepest? When our diaphragms demand we pull air more deeply into the body until we feel grounded right in the belly. When you expand until you can’t expand anymore and you suck air in through your nose so your vocal cords don’t dry out and you find yourself choking on nothing at all?  

   
  Ah. It’s sinking in. The singing that the songbird knows and eagerly participates in involves this deep breathing. This deep ruwach. Deep wind. Deep breath. Deep mind. Deep spirit. And she takes that singing straight to the sky! She finds the thinner air to be the finer line, unbroken, uninhibited from being closer to her Maker. She’s risen above the world of turkey and stuffing, of black Fridays and black highways and she’s there finding joy in the simpler things. Simply breathing the space between her and God and it all comes tumbling out in song. Yeah, I need some of that!

 God says, “I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.” Psalms 50:11 NLT. He also said, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” Matthew 6:26 NLT. So, friend, if the birds, so watched over and cared for, are up there, throats outstretched, throwing their vibrato into sound waves of Thanksgiving, shouldn’t we be doing the same? 

   
   
 So we tape it to the wall over here and we’re branding it to memory, “Sing out your thanks to the Lord; sing praises to our God with a harp. He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalms 147:7-11 NLT. Friend, we can breath the song of thanksgiving because He offers hope and love beyond whatever feels normal or deserved. So, go on, point your face to the sky and sing out your love song. And breath. Ruwach.
And in everything, give thanks.

~in pure song,

kathy b

Grace, Hope

Lest I Fall

 I didn’t need the old Farmers Almanac this year to feel the fall sweep in. I didn’t need the latest fashion magazine to flash this seasons new sweaters stuffed in my mailbox. And I definitely groaned inward at the splay of Halloween mess spilling all over my errand rounds. 

   

  

   

  The moon and the sun, they play this game of banter back and forth across the fragmented farmhouse and across the freshly harvested fields. I watch them equal out their appearance this time of year. And it’s this amazing rise of faith, this willingness to meet eye to eye, and I can almost hear a symphony composed in the background. This sound of the heavens celebrating another successful rotation of seasons, and this, their meeting in the dusk, in the dawn, is their faith-fueled offering to their Creator.  

 Occasionally, the clouds cluster and cover up the skies and occasionally, so does my ego. Occasionally, my fears and my hurry and my equations of how everything should be going and growing, all gather together and my life offering is so swampy I want to lock the doors and pull the calendar pages back and try again. My ego has these perfect intentions, “Look Lord, that’s not what I meant to show you, that’s not what I meant to show them.” I hear the hiss of the lie and feel my own edges dying.  

  
 All this sky, it’s this amazing blue. It’s void of any storms, and I realize this fall, this mark of autumnal change, can, actually, be really good. In this equaling out of the sun and moon, we’ve had an eclipse, and although during the brightest part of the day the sun easily could have veiled the moon, instead, in the dark of the night, it changed the moon. That old rotating rock up there, on a normal night, reflects light, but only parts of himself. And then, about once a month, it wakes from it’s drowsy cycle and boldly looks back at the sun, full faced, and I watch in awe. It’s a single note pulled by some invisible bow across a lone string and it offers all it’s light. I wonder at it, if it’s straight at the Creator that it stares. And this season, not only did it face straight-on, but it was changed. Completely changed by the light, in. this. season.
 I sweep the first falling leaves off the drive and notice the sweep of light dancing through branches. I sigh large and pray deep and beg for that full faced look of my Redeemer. And I too am looking for change. Maybe if I rotated my thoughts. But how? I feel the connection, sometimes, and the Lord is right there and all is clear and I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever felt before, but, as they say, beauty is fleeting, and as soon as the husband works to many late evenings and the girl skips the corners of the bathroom again, the baby grows fussy and dumps his whole plate straight to the sandy floor, what about those times? Suddenly I find my edges crinkle straight in and I’m nothing but a slight sliver of someone who, once, maybe, looked like the image of her Savior?  

 There is no symphony playing. No song calling my name. Nothing but a dark night with no stars and no moon. My reflection is completely jejune. And then it hits me. My life is dull and has completely lost it’s beauty because I have failed to draw. every. breath. with. the. word. of. God. My ego led the way through scripture reading and through bathroom cleaning and, quite frankly, right through parenting!

Scripture says, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” James 3:16 NLT. My ego leads my selfish ambition!

 This is a lot to swallow. I want to rest beautifully in the light of the Lord, but my perfection doesn’t seem to be the same as HIS perfection, and so my “beauty” looks like nothing other than chaos and disorder.

 The moon cannot change himself but he must come full circle and face the sun before he can be changed. Before his composer can write his song. Before his beauty can be seen for what it really is. And do you know what that is? It’s the perfect reflection of the SON. “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21 NLT.

 That, friend, is beauty worth seeing, worth wearing, worth rotating towards. Seek His face and you will see His plan and you will know His purpose and ALL will be beautiful!

   
 
In pure pivoting waltz,

~kathy b

Grace, Hope, Uncategorized

Mingling Amongst The Personal

It was a birthday party. People mingled and when the birthday girl smiled you could see the sunshine that was the party theme shining in her eyes. Her surprise was genuine and she glowed with sheer delight and I hugged her tight. But the crowd called her attentions away and I moved on. And people mingled.  
   
   
 Familiar faces shuffled in and out of seats and floor space and I was catching stories, journeys, and then I saw them. Saw Mrs. J and her daughter and her toddling granddaughter and they came bringing their own well wishes, but after a few strings of sentences she stumbled over his name and I watched the widow in her pool. I watched her shoulders slump lower like the holy cross lay directly on her. And I watched her sway a little and heard her sorrow and wondered what it felt like to be alone after almost 40 years of marriage. And people mingled.

 And before her was the Mama who squeezed next to me on a couch spilling with chatter, and I leaned in close as she forced the swallow muscles to hold back tears.  She tried filling me in on her first born who was not yet 5 but who doctors were concluding that his brain was too large for his skull and yeah, they may have to shave his hair off and cut part of his skull away and she’s just trying to hold him and all of this panic together and I could feel the room spin. Spin among these people mingling.

   
  And the five AM phone call from the childhood friend who homeschools her 4 kids under the age of 10. The one who talks fears out of my insecurities and shortfalls and adores her husband a thousand times more than the day she married him. The one who tried to resuscitate her brother after he’d shot a hole straight through his beautiful mind, who merged all her days and nights together because the trauma brought nightmares, she’s the one with the cancer diagnosis now, and I can’t stop my voice from cracking over all three timezones.  

  
 I’m hearing them. Watching them. Watching these crowds of people mingling like life has only one layer, it’s a casual well wishing of circumstantial surroundings. And I’m watching them pick away at the pain like fuzz balls on a sweater. Hoping less fuzz less pain. ‘Cause sometimes we feel safer, better maybe, not sharing. We worry and watch eyes glaze over and we’ve been taught the modern mantra that says, ‘Grow up and toughen up.’

 Mrs. J’s daughter knew about that. So when her own Mama begged my pardon for tears over a lost husband, she took her eyes off an escaping toddler for a split second to bust out, “Life Sucks!” And something in me boiled over and I blurted way out of my comfort zone that that’s not true.

 I began to tell her that, yes, it’s hard and it hurts and it’s painful, but it’s also beautiful and exciting and amazing and who would we be without all the ups and downs of this life? We are meant to be constantly, continually created. It doesn’t just happen in Genesis or in the womb, but the creation of a breathing soul is forever a puzzle pieced together with delicate precision. We were not meant to be just pink or just blue but this beautiful intricately created being that God holds and shapes and molds. And it’s my opinion that those who have felt and lived all of these parts and stories are the truly dazzling that walk this earth. And the small mingling group stilled before I could shut my mouth.

 Friend, are there really any of you out there that haven’t been written into a drama of some genre? There’s pain. Life hurts. And we can rail against our story line, but what if it didn’t have all these parts? What if you never knew how to cry even when it’s a cry to God? What if you never had to fall to your knees in complete hopelessness? Would you truly, intimately, know your Redeemer and how He loves the brokenhearted? And then I would ask, if you never felt despair, could you have the ability to authentically sit with and pray with those who are hurting? Please know, these are questions and thoughts I have had to wrestle out for myself. Death, grief, depression, loss of control, financial inadequacies, mental battles with self-esteem, these are a small list of my “hard”. And, no, they don’t just go away, but there are the magnificent parts of this life too and all combined, they make me. They make you.

 Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8,9.  

 Begging. We’ve all been there. In silence, with no one mingling about. But friend, wear your weakness. Place a hand gently, but firmly over the thorn that feels like it’s sliced itself right into your heart, because that’s also where you’ll feel the power of a cross hung Savior. 

Life is hard, but it. is. beautiful.  And maybe it’s not about insurmountable odds, but instead evenely laying our lives out before a good God.  Ask this Mama whose born 3 babies all hooked up to life-saving machines. Even she has found gracious favor.

  
In pure, sweet grace,

~kathy b

Friendship, Hope, Listen

When Chamomile Isn’t Just For Tea

The boy and I, we snuggle on the couch and read. We read about a garden, tended and growing. We read about the rows of flowers. Colors, striped and assorted and fragrant with summers perfume. We read about vegetables grown to sustain a body. The body bent and pulling and sweating summers heat. We read about the fence surrounding that garden. The fence putting borders around the harvest, a safe place to grow what’s been tended. And in one corner of that garden a thin, spiny shoot pushes it’s way through earth, feeling encouraged to try, especially when it can see the results of all the others, and I’m mildly curious.

  
         But the story, it begins to break, and after the media reels, and the blogs moan, and the early morning phone calls cry, I begin to know it’s brokenness.

See, that stalk that barely is, is Chamomile. And although the tips eventually flower into daisy like faces, the story reads about its trampling first. So that perfect summer flower doesn’t start with a silver spoon in her mouth and my guess is, neither have you. My guess is silver, for you, is just another crayon in a cardboard box.

The story threads the beginning of this Chamomile reaching up towards a life. But pain, the destructive kind, nearly takes the very breath of an herb meant to soothe. And the truth is, we’ve all felt the naive gardner’s knee press down on our dreams, nearly breaking the progress of what and where we thought God intended us to journey. The truth is, we’ve all been landed on by an out-of-control dog, jumping over our neat little fences. Those fences protecting our neatly processed faith. Those fences put up intentionally to keep out stray dogs, stray golf balls, and stray words. Words that break us down at the stem. The point where we are weakest. The spot where, when trampled on, there just isn’t much left of us. The point where pain points us straight down and the dark of the earth is our view and maybe that looks more appealing right now?

But I want to let you in on a remarkable truth. A real thing. God designed the Chamomile with this amazing resistance. Every time it’s trampled and broken, it’s reaction? It spreads. It doesn’t hole up and pull the covers over it’s head, it holds on. And it just keeps growing. It spreads to the point of overtaking that corner of the garden. And for a woman with a field of acreage, I can tell you it can take over all of it. All. Of. It! All of this life. Do you hear the truth in this herb? It’s prayer is never, Why Me, God? It’s instead silent. Waiting to hear God give direction. Cause God can take pain and spread relief.

Oswald Chambers says it like this: “Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to our prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer.”

And so the Chamomile teaches me to look not at how to grow the garden, but how to turn my bruised and beaten heart towards it’s Creator and keep my focus. ‘Cause the Master Gardner knows each seed, each life, each plant. He also knows each pain, each loss, each journey, and He knows the remedy. And He intends to grow you beautifully. He intends to turn you into this amazing flower who, because of your experience, can now bring a soothing tea to sit next to those who also have felt the heel trample.

Keep your focus, friend.  We’re intended to lift each other. Soothe each other with prayer. We’re intended to look not at the donkey and the parade and the palm branches waving, but on the face of the Redeemer.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

You. Are. More. Than.
Purely relieved,

~kathy