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Friday, July 29, 2011

Five Minute Friday - Wild Stillness

Five Minute Friday - Join The Gypsy Mama at (in)courage today 
for just 5 minutes of writing without regard to perfection.  Today's topic:  "Still". 


With 11 kids that live in this house, give or take a few at any given time, I have very little time to be still.  Even while I sleep, my mind makes mental lists and I gather and fret and worry about all that tomorrow will hold.  My eyes roll into the darkness and head sinks down heavy on pillow-fluff and there’s the cry of a nightmare, the need of clean sheets from a nighttime accident, the allure of another glass of water.  I rarely get to be still.

In just a few minutes, I’ll head for the airport and after this flight and that, and a bit of a drive eastward, I’ll arrive in Destin, Florida for some much needed stillness with a good friend.  There is stillness found in laughter, sometimes, did you know that?  There are friends with whom your soul settles and you are made quiet, even amidst raucous amusement and loud, long-overdue catching up.

I am desperately in need of this, and so grateful for the chance to slip out for just a few short days.  Close your eyes and slip your mental toes down into the warm sand, lean back and breathe in saline air, and be still with me. 


Be back Monday or Tuesday, friends.  Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When You've Lost Your Muchness

“You’re not the same as you were before.  You were much more “muchier”.  You’ve lost your muchness.”

So says The Mad Hatter to Alice in Wonderland.

And it resonates because I too have lost my muchness.  I think sometimes it’s just slipped away…melted… when I lack inspiration and the energy just won’t come to create or tell stories or do the things I know I was created for.  But it didn’t melt.  I see now that like an avalanche my muchness has been buried, rubble-topped and stunted deep beneath… my muchness.

Stay with me here.

The valuable muchness that I have been given, and yours too – the vibrant soul full of life and words and gifts for the sharing collapses so often between the muchness of life – piles of stuff and lists and emails, things to clean and things to store and things to buy.  And the muchness of life is suffocating, sometimes – the life that pulses with the Spirit and love and all things magic and miracle gets buried beneath the keeping up of the life that no one ever designed us for.

Have you lost your muchness?

Are you, too, gasping for grace-swirled air beneath the rubble pile of the rat race?

The Lord is keeping me up at night with a laundry list of the things in my life I need to let go of in order to make room for the abundance waiting outside my door.  Things, obligations, expectations, and even ideas.

There is muchness within me, waiting to get out, kept prisoner by an entirely different kind of muchness.

And so, I begin a journey of release, of letting go of the muchness I hold in my hands to be full of a muchness that arouses my soul, awakens the life of abundance that we’re all designed to have.
Where in your life can you let go, today?  What can you surrender to make room for that which is so much more? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nothing. Something. Miracle.

I’d forgotten how much I love baking.

 Busy hands and a busy mind -- stress and anxiety and fretting about things to come – had kept me from it mostly since I’ve been here.  A birthday cake here and there, a batch of mix-box cupcakes, a quick glazed little number when company arrives… but that little white tin of baking powder sits mostly untouched these days, especially after my stand-mixer went on the fritz last November.

Tonight, there was quiet – if not in my home, then at least internally – and here I am reunited with this former flame, inspired again by granulated sugar and berry-stained lips and the magic that happens when the elements clash and the fiery heat is applied.

There is peace here, tonight.  It smells like warm blueberry cake and crème fraiche with fresh strawberries and tastes like enchantment, and rolling berry pulp around my tongue I can’t help but awe anew at the miracle of seeds and dirt and sun that collide into this – a strawberry!  A cantaloupe!  A tangerine! 

Miracle, I say, and nothing less.

And, too, it seems miraculous to me this chemical reaction we call baking happens at all, and perhaps that’s why I love it so.  It is creation, a very ode to our Maker, to toss in a bit of white powder with more white powder, and with a little help from the animal kingdom (or an improvisation thereof), throw in a splash of this and a crack of that, and whip it all up together in a glass dish, subject to extreme temperature, and there we have it… something beautiful and succulent is born.

So we feast with our eyes and our mouths and our tongues are transported and hearts are lifted and bellies are filled, and this, too, is miracle.  Before there was nothing, and now there’s something… and it’s miraculous.  And so goes all types of creativity, it seems. 

There isn’t, and then there is, and it is good. 

And it is the Creation Story again and again playing out in our breakfast and work days and knitting and speaking and singing and loving and painting and scratching out this chicken scratch for the world to see – Nothing. Something. Miracle.

It is Monday and another week I am blessed to count blessings, to slow and recognize all these miracles in all their forms:

- A whole house smelling of blueberry cake and strawberries.
- My husband, serving this week on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic.
- A fruitful answer to a long-ago desperate prayer.
- So much wonderful encouragement from fellow bloggers.
- The delicious anticipation of a girls’ getaway with a friend I haven’t seen in way too long.
- A sense of taste.
- A surprise greeting card arriving by mail today from a pretty amazing guy I know.  Return address?  “Left side of the bed”.  Guess who it was from? *wink*
- This week, less talking, more writing.
- Little Caleb, climbing up in bed with me in the wee hours for just a quiet closeness we both must have needed.
- Redefining home and the painful process that brings me so readily to my knees.
- Canteloupe and tangerines and all the delicious miracles that fill our kitchen.   

*Update:  After this post went up, I got a call from my amazing mother-in-law, letting me know that they were passing down my husband's great-grandmother's sorta-heirloom Kitchen Aid stand mixer down to me.  She hadn't read this post, but it was a timely gift, fitting for what I had just shared here hours before. Love when things like that happen, don't you?  Little ways that God wraps His arms around us with the grown-up equivalent of a surprise treat.  *smiles* 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The High Calling - and - WhimsySmitten now on Facebook/Twitter!

Friends, have you heard of The High Calling?

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

One of the greatest inspirations and encouragements to me each and every day is the support of online communities like (in)courage, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and, most recently, my discovery of The High Calling blog site.  I am blessed to be a new member of this community and excited about fellowship and growth opportunities through the many great writers that also find community here.

If you aren't already familiar with it, go check it out and come join in the conversation!


While you're at it, and without further ado, check out Whimsy Smitten's very own, brand-new Facebook page and Twitter feed.  Help a girl get her social-network sea legs and follow/"like" me, would ya?

Follow WhimsySmitten on Twitter

You're the best.  Now, tell me where to access a few more hours in my day for all this online networking awesomeness.  Thanks for tolerating the shameless plugs... now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get Empty... to Get Full

The Gypsy Mama asks us to join her this Five Minute Friday, where we just write for 5 minutes, without regard to whether it’s just right.  I do love a soul that embraces imperfection.  Join us, would you?

Today’s prompt:  Full.


My head is full.  Full of information and schedules and things I’m supposed to remember but are stuck somewhere between synapses, trapped in the gridlock that is my brain.  My heart is in similar condition – packed up with cares and causes, worries at the state of things, all my grand plans to save the world or at least one hurting person at a time.  I am full of their worries and my worries and joys and memories and the words of people that hurt me long ago. 

My home is full and mouth is full and memory and shopping cart and schedule and pantry and drawers and laundry baskets… all full.  Overflowing, even. 

And like an out-of-date computer, I sputter and try desperate to manage all of this, but numbers and signals get jammed up inside, bumper-to-bumper, and my eyes glaze over with a human error message:  Memory full.  Data input overload.”

God has been dealing with me, lately, in my fullness, showing me that it’s all the wrong kind of data taking up the limited space within.  I am so full of data that I am crowding out the fullness of love and peace and the Holy Spirit. 

Haven’t I any room for the fullness of grace? 

It is time to purge.

Purge from my body and mind, my spirit and home, my mouth and closet and calendar.  Get empty, to get full.

Turn left to go right.

Get empty, to get full.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Practice of Love

We look at each other and we know, wordless, that we have come to an end, toes edged right up against all that we can take in this moment.  There is a terrible reality hanging in the air, the kind of moment when all you can think is this can’t be happening.  But it is.  And we keep on breathing through it.

But there we stand, the mix of fear and worry and exhaustion painted plainly on our faces, suddenly aged beyond our years, silent before the Lord that only knows how the rest of this story will go.  And I am struck by the sight of us there and more than the weight of the horror is the weight of what stands out to me in this heightened moment – our togetherness.  Lovely though they were, the rings and vows and wedding guests dabbing at their tears that marriage-day seem so futile now, in this, in the face of real. ugly. painful. scary. life. 

This is commitment.  This is love.

Standing soul-bare, side-by-side and I have never been so empty.

And I have never been so full.

It occurs to me only here, only just now and in the hollow quiet of this barren moment that at the bottom of fear and loss and emptiness is only awareness of what remains when there is nothing else.

In this moment I see that the strong love is the quiet love.  The love that fears together and wonders together and laughs together and sits quietly together when there are no more words to be said.  Love is the practice of love’s presence.

This broken girl is two kinds of bride all at once and imperfectly running toward renewal at both altars -- altars of faith and of matrimony, covered over by the love that is action and the love that is left over in emptiness, running over in abundance.

Linking to:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not a Windowpecker

I’m sitting here in blogland, middle of the afternoon, feet up and pink toes splayed in relaxation, a few quiet moments left before the cacophony of the day continues.  I’m enjoying the rural view from my dining room window – giving thanks where I usually fail to – recognizing the beauties I so often let slide past me, especially those right there, right within my reach, just within my view.


A woodpecker flies sideways, then slides its claw-toes into the window screen of my dining room.  It cocks its head a bit, then steadies itself and begins pecking at the window.  A few taps, and he’s confused… this is not, after all, what he’s after.  This window is not porous enough to accommodate his beak and so with added might, he taps again, frantically this time, and I’m worried he’ll crack the glass.

Silly woodpecker.  Doesn’t he know this is all wrong – that his efforts are in vain?

But still he continues – dizzying himself, I imagine, with persistence, and the tapping continues on and on and his wings begin to flutter and ruffle and I sit, watching, for how little I obviously know about woodpeckers and their attempts to make due in unlikely conditions.  I wonder if he is lost, just a bit off-track of where he’s supposed to be, or if he’s deliberate.  Does he want in here?  Here, a world made for people and home goods and not, at all, for woodpeckers?  Or is he just confused – dazzled so completely by his own window-reflection that he’s lost sight of his purpose?  How long before he notices that the window is not a tree?  How long before he gives up and finds work more fitting for what he was created to be – a woodpecker, and not a windowpecker?

The tapping intensifies and I rise from my position for a closer look, knowing this misguided little guy contains the power to damage the window with his erroneous tapping.  I walk slowly but still he spots me and flies away, far off until I lose track of where he’s gone – in search of the very work he’s made to do.  It is in him, and he will find it, even if he stops at a few more windows along the way.

But as he flies, I see my own likeness in crimson feathers and rattled beak.  What an off-center bird we have here – exhausting himself at all the wrong efforts, and there I am too, right beside him, tapping hard at glass when I ought to be in search of trees – beating my face, my spirit, against a window into a world that was never meant for me. 

Silly girl.  Don’t I know that all this struggling is, too, in vain?

I am wearing myself thin with all the wrong efforts, feathers ruffled, standing sideways, dangling from the screen that separates me from the world I was made for, poking at my own reflection in the sunlight, startlingly and suddenly aware, like this bird, of what I am and what I’ve been made for.  And I’ve been here, tapping at glass for long enough to know, now, that it is time to fly away and find a tree.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Awesome Incarnate

I’m a born multitasker.  Truly, I was made to juggle.

photo: womens-health-magazine.biz

Except I don’t actually juggle, unless you count schedules and children and such. 

I do, obviously.  I mean, what use do I have for flaming torches or bowling pins?

 I digress.

But I’m the kind of girl that has been unable, in the whole of my life, to move from point A to point B to point C and so on.  I’m all zig-zag wonk-edy, and basically okay with that.  I fight with my own tendencies and try very hard to let the perfectionist within me maintain control over my inner scatterbrain, but most days I just give in and color outside the lines a little.  I would have been the poster child for ADD, if I’d have remembered to make the photo shoot. 

(That was a joke.)

I keep twenty tabs open on my Internet browser at any given time.  When I clean my house (which I sort of do all day every day, a little here and there), it looks something like this:  Clean the bathtub, empty the dishwasher, load the washing machine, wipe down the counters, vacuum the living room, wash the dishes, clean the bathroom floor, wash the windows, make my bed, clean the living room mirrors, and so on…all while listening to an audiobook and taking notes on the parts I like.  I have no rhyme.  I have no reason. 

I’m not quite sure how people put one foot in front of the other and take things in a straight line.  I am anything but linear.  And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that as much hassle as this arbitrary way of living can sometimes be, it probably has something to do with my creative nature, and I’ll gladly take whatever comes with that.

But it’s occurred to me lately how often I’ve tried to multitask my way through my spiritual life.  Listen to worship music or a downloaded sermon while I clean house, pray for my friends while I drive, squeeze church attendance in there between breakfast and grocery shopping.  There are days where Jesus lines up there in the daily mix somewhere between my next door neighbor and Dr. Phil.

(Okay, so I don’t actually watch Dr. Phil, but you get the idea).

So often I think of faith-building “tasks” as just more things to do, stuff I should get around to, and in the interest of efficiency I try and just get them there in the day somewhere.  Read Bible?  Check.  Prayed for husband?  Check.  Got my Sunday School materials ready for the weekend?  Check.

And it all falls away, meaningless…because, after all, it is. 

None of it, this whole faith business, is ultimately about anything that we can do or how we do it.  

In my exhaustion, I climb into bed in the middle of the day and just. breathe.  And the longer I breathe in the quiet, the more my very body cries out for just the presence of holiness.  My emptiness, my silent cry to be filled is the very catalyst for invoking the Holy Spirit.  And it is here, in this empty space, where time has stopped and it has ceased to be a question of whether to move from A to B or D to R or Q to E and instead, I am just here and full of Spirit and nothing else matters.

I think we all need more moments like that, do we not?  Moments when we cease to even acknowledge the many demands upon our time, and even life and family and ministry are secondary to lying face down before awesome incarnate, our thoughts and wants and needs utterly hushed.  To come before the Lord without agenda, without demand or request, or concern, but simply with invitation: Come in.  Fill me.  Be near.  Where we literally exhale the swirl of thoughts and worries and all the things that make us human and just, for a few breaths, inhale the Spirit of God and experience the purest form of peace, peace that becomes our very breath.

If we multitask our way through faith…if we squeeze Jesus into a syndicated time slot with commercial breaks, we will miss it.  We will slip right past peace, in flesh.  

I challenge you today to lay down the to-do list, put off the blog post and the phone call and the laundry basket and get on your face before God, not in petition but in awe.  Feel it, breathe it, and remain for as long as it takes to completely empty yourself… and fill up again.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Breathing out.  Breathing in.  Counting gifts.

n      Cotton white clouds, foreign looking in this hot southern sky.
n      Quotes from wise writers and thinkers that challenge me.
n      Getting something fearful off my chest.
n      A few quiet giggles.
n      An ambulance trip to the children’s hospital this week that wound up in a successful surgery and our boy’s arm, swollen and painful but intact again.
n      Prayers from neighbors and friends.
n      Freedom to speak honestly when I’m weighted down, heavy.
n      Whatever comes next.
n      The simple satisfaction of making a casserole and baking brownies.
n      Cherry-almond lotion.
n      “Little C”, my big comedian (and youngest son).
n      Time to read.  
n      Big C’s scooter fall with broken teeth and nothing worse.
n      Learning to listen for the quiet, and to breathe in the whisper of Spirit-God. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Self-Inflicted Autumn

Five Minute Friday – The Gypsy Mama invites us to just write, for five minutes, without regard to perfection, and share with one another.  Today’s topic:  Grateful.

Today, it seems, I am channeling fall.

Hot apple cider, fuzzy socks, and pumpkin bread.  If I could get away with it, I’d have worn my scarf and wool skirt.

My husband wonders if I’ve lost my mind, considering it’s the middle of July in the hottest part of the country, ninety-something today, and children all red-faced clomping in and out, swimming goggles plastered to foreheads and sweat matted hairdos, as they carry on their very standard summer business.  Swim.  Laugh.  Sweat.  Hydrate.  Eat.  Work.  Play.  Repeat.

In spring, I felt consumed by an internal winter.  Now here, in this sweltering, sticky heat, this reminiscent girl melts into a self-inflicted autumn.  My hair yellows and skin dries parched, and here I am, a brittle maple leaf drifting downward on an icy breeze, dreaming of yew wood chimney fires and fingerless gloves wrapped around coffee mugs.

Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon
Growing up in southern California, I never lived a weathered autumn until I moved north as an adult.  Now, it seems, my biological clock aims to make up for lost time, playing tricks with an internal seasonal shift all-wrong for the actual outdoor conditions – a symptom of the chronic homesickness that plagues me.  And I am growing pale and thin with wistfulness, withering under the weight of what ails me.

Oh, wouldn’t it be easier if my affliction was biological?  Perhaps a virus, a bug of some sort, a bone broken instead of a splintered heart.  But there is no pill for nostalgia.  No elixir that will alleviate homesickness.  And I cannot bottle up and swallow down a way through this hurting place.  There is no capsule that will bring me home, not even a dose of cold autumn rain.

Ashland, Oregon

But there is a cure.

I have a Healer and He has given me a prescription.  

It is expensive, and it is free.  

I drink it down and I open my eyes and I take it all in, every bit, and I utter quiet thankyou's and silent wonder for all the gifts around me that my sickness keeps me from seeing.  The cure is the noticing.  It is the breathing in of beauty, in all its forms.  It is loving these hard places, as much as the golden ones.  It is inhaling and exhaling with the knowledge that every single breath is gift.  

The only cure is gratitude.

Scribbled upon this thick and tear-stained prescription pad that is the very Word, He scrawls all over these pages with love’s mighty pen, the tonic to cover my heart with the balm of gratefulness, soothing to all wounds, the very medicine for David and Abraham and all the saints and sinners since:

*All photos but the last are courtesy of Phase4Photography, who does not endorse the opinions or ideas expressed here.* 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freedom in Fluid Form

Yesterday’s holiday didn’t feel like one, but that’s been standard operating procedure for this unusual life I’m living these days.  I’m trying to be the big girl, the one that smiles and says “chin up” and fails to notice that a 4th of July without extended family, or fireworks, or potato salad or late night laughter is hardly a holiday at all.  So I fought back tears over a phone call to my mom, sitting lakeside two-thousand-five-hundred miles away, us both hurting for one another, and made small strides in learning how to forgive the inanimate objects holding my holiday hostage like burn-bans and migraine headaches and hot dog shortages.  

I try to bury the thought that freedom is a totally fluid concept to me, at the moment, dripping between my fingers all the while, but I can appreciate its context patriotically and so I imagine fiery explosions over lake water, and conjure up the sticky taste of lemonade on chlorinated lips, and the hollow tin sound of an amplified radio belting out the sound of summer, singing…o’er the land of the free…and the home of the brave. And it occurs to me that we forgot to hang our flag yesterday, of all days, and it feels sickeningly symbolic for all else that was missing.

There are days I’m afraid I’ve left my heart behind, on the west coast, where we came from.  And this is one of those days.  But I find my knees and whisper upward thank you thank you thank you for a husband that is stronger, for a husband that does not flee when fleeing is the easiest way out.  And I pray again – not out, not back, but through.  Husband says words I’ve been waiting so long to hear, and it is only now I see how far through we’ve come already.  So I can breathe again and consider the beauty of all we celebrate on Independence Day -- freedom for our country, but more than this, freedom in all its forms and disguises.

Mostly, at this moment, I’m grateful for the freedom to walk through this earthy battleground in victory, not always upright and proud, but sometimes tattered and torn and shell-shocked from combat, worn from our “perilous fight”, and yet, still stand, and even stand still in celebration of freedom—patriotic, spiritual, physical, or from the bondage we put ourselves in.   

Friday, July 1, 2011

Five Minute Friday -- Welcome.

Just for fun -- Five Minute Friday, brought to you by the Gypsy Mama, all the way from South Africa.  If you have time, go share her beautiful homecoming journey.

Today's topic is welcome.  I tried something a little different today, just for fun.  And, I have to admit, was having way too much fun to stop at five minutes, so I think mine ended up being more like an Eight Minute Friday.  Sue me.

(Actually don't, all I own at the moment is some stale bread crust, a dried out Sharpie marker, and a broken Swatch from 1984.  Go ahead, try me.)


Come on in!  Welcome.

Get in here, out of that smoldering heat.  I don’t know how y’all can stand this humidity.  I’m fixin’ to pass out from this weather.  (Did ya like that?  The way I threw those southern niceties in there?  I’m trying.  This west coast girl is just plain out of place down here in south Texas, so I gotta try and fit in however I can).  So glad you came for dinner, though, really.  If you'll just wind your way through the train-track monstrosity that is my living room at the moment, you'll find the dining room. 

Find yourself a seat – whichever one you’d like.  Get a chair quick though – there are only ten spots at the table and, well, you make thirteen, so every meal is a game of musical chairs until we break out the folding chairs and rolling office chairs that have us all gathered together the way we like it, elbowing one another like sardines in a can.  Just go on and step over that stack of precariously balanced photos waiting to be scrapbooked.  Yes there are 700 of them, dating back to December.  Don’t judge.  And, umm, wait, before you sit there…I’m so sorry but that’s where little F sat at breakfast, and, well, didn’t make it to the restroom so the seat’s a little damp still.  And the one beside it is still drying from the vomit – J wasn’t feeling so well last night.  Just go ahead and wedge yourself in there anywhere else you can find a spot.  Don’t mind the belching – we’re working on that.  And don’t mind the desperation in my eyes as they silently plead with you to pleasefortheloveofallthatisholy, send help, or at the very least, get me out of here.  I always look like this, lately.  It’s nothing.  Really.

Why yes, this is a new hairstyle, thanks for asking!  I call it “the accidental dreadlock” look, since really it’s simply a result of neglectful grooming.  I sat up into the wee hours with homesick kiddos, and I’m afraid my hair (and sanity) has paid the price.  I sure hope you like leftovers – tonight’s special is soggy corndogs and frozen fish patties that taste suspiciously like Styrofoam.  I know, a real treat.  Truth be told, I don’t eat much at mealtime, but can usually be found on a desperate hunt for chocolate in the middle of the night.  We would have had chicken for dinner but it takes six whole chickens to feed this crew, and, well, if I can be frank with you, I just didn’t have it in me to wrestle with the guts of six chickens today – especially since I realized I forgot to defrost them, somewhere around the time I realized that I haven’t showered in maybe three days, maybe four.  I lost count.  (N, dear, would you kindly remove your muddy tennis shoe from the table?  Thanks.)  Don’t mind that, a little dirt won’t hurt, as they say.  Just look out for snake guts – and oh, ignore the massive tarantula making its way up the dining room screen.  The boys are just wild about our family mascot.

Corn dog?