Monday, October 31, 2011

An Autumn Prayer - Gilded by Heaven

The Norwegian maple in our side yard has gone gold. The limbs stretch wide, covered with thick foliage. When the sunlight sinks in deep, the yard is rich with an autumn glow. Even the light that streams through our windows seems warmer and richer, like it’s been gilded by heaven.

The light is welcome. It pours in, sweet and gold and strong.

As I stand in the kitchen, hands poised above the potatoes I’ll peel for dinner, a prayer forms on my lips. I’m calling out for God.

Oh Spirit,

Flow into this household. Pour in like the sun.

Bring your life to the places that are cold.

Reach in, Light of the World, to the deepest corners.

If there are shadows, dispel darkness with Your light.

Penetrate our home.

Soak into the hearts of those who live here.

Reign fresh within these walls.

Touch our spirits in the most tender place.

Leave us changed,

Renewed by Your love.

I stand in the kitchen and feel as though rays of gold have touched my soul.

The Holy Spirit of God is welcome.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pressing On

“Mom, where’s the end? I’m hungry,” Zay said, head hung low, feet trudging well-packed earth.
“Almost there,” I said. “Then we’ll have lunch. C’mon Little Man, press on.”
We were over-our-heads lost in a sorghum maze. Sweet October sunshine spliced the field. Tall stalks, heavy with deep-colored grain, bent and beckoned us to pick through, move forward, carry on. The boys had bolted into the maze, fresh with energy and excitement and little-boy zest. But as we walked and picked and poked our way across an acre, their excitement waned.
Each time the path brushed against the exit, it whispered back, deep and quiet, into the thick.
We’d get so close, only to be led away.

To get out of that field, we needed to press ahead. Didn’t matter if little legs were tired. Or if tummies were grumbling for the peanut butter sandwiches that were in the car. Or if the fun had been lost around the last bend.
We needed to keep moving. 
Toward the exit.
Toward the goal.

One son had a blister from the rub of his new fall shoes.

Another twisted a tissue around an injured finger.

And as I watched the boys plod forward, I wondered what long-walk circumstances their lives would bring. I wondered about the times when they’d be tired, needing, hungry for something, but in an against-the-wall and nowhere- to- go- but- forward place.
What would their struggles be?
Would they have strength to press on?
It’s a prayer what I want to lift for my children. That they would be men who will persevere. Through tough times.  Hard circumstances. Men who won’t abandon ship, take the easy road, or stop in their tracks because moving ahead means pushing harder with sweat and sacrifice.
It is my prayer that they will be men who will trust in God to lead them, provide for them, take them through the tangles, and deliver them to wide open fields.
Will they trust enough? Persevere in His promises?
I want to claim it for my sons.
Speak it out loud.
Eventually that twisting, twining maze-path opened to a bright autumn day. And as we left the sorghum, I whispered the words.
In the grace of God and the strong name of Jesus, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah will persevere.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catch and Release Parenting

“He’ll be here in a minute,” Logan says, sliding his phone into his pocket. His computer bag hangs over his shoulder, and he shifts under the weight. At his feet are stacks of belongings. Winter coat. Basket piled high with books. A bag stuffed with jeans and long sleeved shirts.

We’re waiting for Logan’s friend, his ride back to school.

The weekend has gone too fast.

I smile at my man-boy, unsure of whether to hug him again or not. These times are hard. For him. For me. I bite my lip as my chest tightens to that mama-clench again.
It will soon be time to let him go.
Catch and release parenting -that’s where I’m at these days, with my firstborn, the child who seems to have been carved straight from my own soul.
Gone are the times of daily, hands-on care. Gone is the boy with the wispy white hair and little hand that was custom made to fit mine. With me stands a man, tall and strong and broad.
And we caught him for a weekend. Wrapped our arms around him. Encouraged him. Shared laughter and sweet time. Two days of “I love you, Son. I’m glad you’re here.”
Now it’s time for the release.
It’s so quiet I can hear the ticking of the old Gilbert clock, the one Logan and my dad just fixed, measuring the last moments of a family complete.
The car moves into the drive.
I pull my son close and then let him go.
Be with him, God, this son I love. Keep him safe. Keep him strong.
I release him to your care, Lord, as he leaves our home.
But of course, I know,
he’s been Yours all along…..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Butter Bowl

The week had been full. Six-soccer-game full. Five-seven-hour-days-of-books-and-flashcards full.

And the cupboards were bare.

When a friend offered to take my boys so I could make a grocery haul, my heart filled with praise. Thank you, God, for this friend. Thank you for her sensitivity.

The more I gave thanks, the faster the thanksgiving came. Thank you that I can buy what we need. Thank you that I don’t have to shimmy the store between school and soccer tomorrow.

For a mama who usually shops with a multitude of helpers, bolting out alone was good. Shiny- gold- good.

Until I began to herd the crew.

“We need to get into the van. Mrs. Altensey is waiting,” I said.

But Zay had lost a shoe. And Samuel’s sweatshirt wasn’t on the hook by the door. No one had socks.

Agitation scaled my backbone. My friend had been kind. I didn’t want her waiting for a hundred years. I breathed deep and went to hunt for footwear.

But then there was a potty need.

And Samuel wanted to wear shorts.

And frustration formed a wall inside me. It grew taller and thicker and darker until Gabe did the unthinkable and sent that anger- wall crashing.

He asked for a butter bowl.

“A butter bowl? Why do you need a butter bowl?” I asked, my voice a near-howl.

“For a habitat,” he said. “For caterpillars. There are caterpillars in the woods by Mrs. Altensey’s.” His eyes were wide. Wanting.

And I went off the edge.

“We don’t have time for butter bowls. Or caterpillars. Or habitats. I don’t have time for any of this crazy bunisess. Now. Get. Your. Biscuits. In. The. Van,” I lashed.

Gabe’s eyes went wet. His cheeks burned. He turned and ran out the door.

I’d scraped his heart with the sharp edge of anger.

Over a throw-away butter bowl?

How could I, one minute, offer a stream of joyful praise, and the next, succumb to a full-fledge rant over a margarine tub? How could my heart spin a song of thanksgiving then shift, in a heartbeat, to a scream and scorn?

How I need His grace.

But how could He? How could Jesus bleed and die for that? The craziness and helplessness and can’t-hold-it-togetherness of my life. The shift-on-a-dime to ugly? It’s so much easier to ask His grace, His goodness, His sacrifice to cover the big stuff.

I was ashamed to ask Him to pour his mercy gift into that bowl.
My grace is sufficient.

There it was. His Word in my heart. A promise. Assurance. Big sin or moment-to-moment sin. Any of it, one little breath, is enough to keep us from holy God.

But Jesus covered it all.

Even the small stuff that snags me every day.


I pulled the back door open and let the autumn sun fall fresh on my face. Then I went, apology on lips, to find my boy.

I’ll accept the gift I cannot understand.

Because it’s sufficient.

It’s for me.

And He’s already filled my bowl.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I may boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hangin' with the Team

Every fall Lonny takes our boys to Champaign for an Illinois football game. I usually stay behind with a little one. We pick apples. Take walks. And by evening, I can hunker down in a hushed house, sleeping child curled on my lap, and delve into a good book.

This year the boys pressed me to go along.

“C’mon, Mom,” Samuel said. “It’ll be fun. And Logan will be home. You have to come, too.”

I weighed the options. Logan hadn’t been home for a long time. And we had tickets for everyone. Zay was old enough. But then there was the quiet house. Focused time with one child, if Zay and I stayed behind. And the promise of a simple evening.

But Sam’s smile won me over.

“Sold,” I said. “Let’s find the blue and orange sweatshirts.”

So yesterday we piled into our van, windows plastered with homemade posters, Illinois flag suctioned to the windshield. As we left the drive, I peered out the window at the stillness of our house and hoped I’d made the right decision.

A few hours later, we arrived in Champaign and joined the blue-orange stream that flowed to the stadium. The boys walked fast and chatted faster, their smiles wide with anticipation and joy. We settled in our seats just as the game began.

And I had an amazing day.

The autumn sun rested on our shoulders. The boys cheered. Hollered. Shared popcorn. Danced a little. Enjoyed brotherhood a lot. And late in the game, our little one curled up on my lap.

I looked down my line-up of men, a great bench of boyhood, their daddy on the end, arm over the shoulder of one little son, and I was blessed.

There is a sweetness to these times. Family together. Hours shared. Memories carved and pressed deep in our hearts.

Thank you, God, for this afternoon. For the simple goodness of family.

I’m so glad I chose to hang with the team.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blog Break This Week

Hello Dear Friends,

Thank you for checking in. You are a sweet, sweet blessing...

I want to let you know that I'll be on blog break this week, taking some extra care with our home and the tender-hearts in it. I hope to enjoy some long, lazy walks with the wagon and the boys, pick a few apples, bake a few pies, and take up a paint brush to help dear Lonny who is endlessly scraping and painting our porch (Keep it goin', Guy - lookin' great).

I hope you have a wonderful week, rich with God's blessing.

Until next time (see you Oct. 17)...

In His Love,


Thursday, October 6, 2011


There’s a park, with an overlook, near our home. The boys and I have hiked the trail, to the top, a hundred times. Sometimes we take a basket of books and a blanket and spend the afternoon, river winding beneath us and the valley dense with trees.
The path to the overlook was just a way to get to there.
Last week we took a hike with a friend. Same place. Same trail. But our friend had a different appreciation. She looked at things with different eyes. She took the time to stop, look at, and listen to what was around her.
She didn’t want to miss the beautiful.
“Look closely,” Carrie said. “The ground is soft. You might see a track. The print of a deer or raccoon.”
Five boys hunkered over, hers and mine, and examined the path for prints. Small hands tenderly roved grass and dirt, combed over a bed of leaves. Feet were still. Voices were low.
“I found one,” Samuel said. He stood. Waved us over. Spoke in hush. “I think it’s from a small deer.”
Pressed into the soft earth was the print of a hoof. A tangible tell-tale that something lovely had been there.
The boys were thrilled. And encouraged. Encouraged to pursue harder. Encouraged to look for more.
We spent the morning on that trail. Carrie showed us how to look for markings on the trees where the deer had been trying to rub velvet from their antlers. The boys looked high. They looked low. They’d found adventure and life and beauty on the trail.
They found joy in the search.
And their eager, earnest, intentional pursuit encouraged my spiritual heart.
I want to look for the Lord that way. 
I want to walk through my days, with eyes wide open, ears perked, carefully looking, searching, experiencing, drawing great satisfaction and joy from where He’s been.
Where He is.
I want to see His glory in ordinary places,on the faces of those around me, in the tenderness of whispered words and in the goodness of a giving heart. I want to see Him when my little boy’s hand folds into mine or small heads tip in prayer and when a boy makes a bed for his brother because that goodness, that servanthood, that giving-grace is Him.
I want to walk more slowly, with intention, not racing toward the top, but appreciating, drinking, filling with His presence.
I want to walk with more heightened senses.
To experience the prints of God.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


“Shawnelle, do you have the keys?” Lonny called, from my van, which was to-the-hilt full with boyhood.

I heard him through the open window and poked my head out the back door. “Sure,” I hollered. “Gimme a minute.”

Then I raced to the bedroom and rooted through pockets. Soft brown corduroy jacket? No. Sweatshirt I'd worn to soccer? Nope. Jeans I’d tossed over the back of cozy chocolate wing chair when I’d grabbed my workout pants? No go.


Black purse?  Basket overflowing books? Craggy pickle crock on the porch? Uh-uh.

The. Keys. Were. Lost.
I put on my best smile and meandered to the van. Lonny and I have been married a long time.
He knows to keep a spare.
A few minutes later, saved by Spare’s Security, Lonny and the boys set off for town. I returned to the house, the first of Mama-Time to be spent hounding down those keys. Why was I always losing things? Library books. The skeleton key to the front door. My glasses. My camera.
Lost was not good.
As searched the school room, peering under Saxon math, stacking Zay’s alphabet binder with Gabe’s tattered readers, my mind wandered…lost meant Sam disappearing at the mall, as a toddler, still stuffed in the down jacket he was trying on for size. Lost meant the basketball game when we’d cheered our voices faint and Grant missed a free throw. Lost meant Gabe’s slow, sad tears when his allowance, twisted tight in cellophane bag, went missing at the fair.
But is it possible, that lost could be a good thing? The question stirred my spirit.
What about lost in My Word?
I thought about those times, pulling through His Word, when a new truth or promise had been revealed. My spiritual lungs wound fill with fresh air and my heart would pump fast and I knew that the Spirit was speaking (thank you Jesus) to me, just me, with life-giving grace.
Lost in prayer?
Times of fellowship so sweet that I could almost feel Him near my skin. Times when holiness comes so close and I want to be drawn closer, closer until I’m complete.
Lost in My grace? Lost in My love?
Grace and love twined together so tightly, and although it’s wrapped around me, it’s too deep and strong and wide for me to comprehend. But oh, the times when I catch a glimpse, on the face of my child, in the hands of my husband, in the goodness of a friend or an evening hushed and still. In forgiveness, in freedom, in forever, because of His love.
Maybe lost is not a bad thing. Maybe it’s the best of all.
I was still pondering when I slipped my hand under the loveseat and my fingers met the cold, hard ridge of my keys.
I was grateful.
Yet I knew, in being lost, I’d discover much, much more…