Today Was A Fairy Tale

IMG_0226This week my family and I are licking up the last sweet drops of summer like a quickly melting cone. We’re swimming, grilling, and garage sailing to our hearts content. I”ll be back next week with a fresh post and an exciting GIVEAWAY you won’t want to miss. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this post from my archives…

Once upon a time there was a caterpillar…

Towards the end of summer my daughter and I found a caterpillar crawling on a long stem of Queen-Ann’s-Lace.

Fascinated, we took him inside, found an empty glass jar, filled it with leaves, and made a new home for our friend.

My daughter has been a long time fan of the Eric Carle classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I was hopeful that she would be able to watch the process of the worm to butterfly transformation unfold before her eyes.

Within a few days we were excited to watch our caterpillar friend weave himself into a delicate cocoon. We placed him in the windowsill by our kitchen sink and waited to see what would happen next.

As we watched and waited I was struck by the ways this caterpillar symbolized the truth of God. While snuggled away in his cocoon, this caterpillar looked absolutely dead. I mean it, no signs of life anywhere. Yet on the inside a miracle was happening; our caterpillar was being transformed into something alive and beautiful.

Who but God can do this? Who but God can take something dead and transform it into life and beauty?

In Isaiah 61, God tells us that His mission is to make captives free. To make beauty from ashes. To turn mourning into joyous blessing, and despair into festive praise.

No matter whom you are or what you’re facing this day, no matter what seems dead, destroyed, or hopeless in your life, take heart! God is at work in your life and in you, because our God is a God who transforms, our God is a God of miracles, our God is a God of beauty and life. The fullest life. For you.

In the end, I’m sad to say our caterpillar never hatched, but even still, I do not doubt God’s miracles. Butterfly or not, this caterpillar and his cocoon brought beauty and life to my heart by reminding me of God and His truth.

In his book, Walking With God, John Eldredge writes:

“Now, if Christ takes it upon himself to lead, then our part is to follow. And you’ll find that it helps a great deal in your following if you know what God is up to. True, we may not know exactly what God is up to in this or that event in our lives. “Why didn’t I get the job?” “How come she won’t return my calls?” “Why haven’t my prayers healed this cancer?” I don’t know. Sometimes we can get clarity, and sometimes we can’t.

But whatever else is going on, we can know this: God is always up to our transformation.

God has something in mind. He is deeply and personally committed to restoring humanity. Restoring you.” (Walking With God, pg. 19)

Sweet friends, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in the ways He transforms, in the ways He works miracles, in the ways He makes butterflies from caterpillars and beauty from ashes.

~ From the Archives 

For When It All Starts Coming Undone

Running ShoesA few weeks ago while shopping I heard Lady Antebellum’s country hit Run To You played throughout the store. I found myself singing along to this song I’ve always liked but never really thought about.

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you” (Run To You chorus)

These words, this song, they made me think of Jesus. I love when a song does that.

I recently wrote a post about my struggle with anxiety and my compulsion for sugary treats and online shopping. After writing this post I realized it’s in times of stress and fatigue that these struggles become real to me.

Isn’t it always true? That you can turn up the heat and find out who and what you turn to.

I run to sugar and shopping.

I run to my husband.

I run to my friends.

But God? Jesus? I’m sad to say He’s not the first place go. In desperate moments of loss, hurt, or strife I cry to Him, of course I do. I beg Him for help, comfort, and rescue.

But in the day to day, in the worrisome hiccups and squabbles, it seems so much easier, so much more gratifying to pick up the phone and text my best friend. To eat a handful of M&Ms or buy those cute shoes.

But God wants more than my frantic pleas. He wants all of me, my whole heart. He wants me to run to Him when my kids are driving me crazy. When my husband and I can’t stop fighting. When I’m tired, discouraged, and stressed.

When this world spins fast and disaster strikes He wants to be my One, my Only.

So often in times of trouble we turn to the people and the things that can do nothing. All the while resisting the only One who can do anything and everything.

So what does running to Him look like? For me it looks like worship, and solace, and thanksgiving.

It’s a playlist of songs that take me right to the heart of His comfort, His favor, His love. It’s listening to this playlist while getting dressed or cooking dinner instead of other voices, other noise.

It’s prayers whispered in the heat of the moment. In those times I don’t feel like praying. It’s grabbing my prayer journal or taking a walk, a quiet moment just me and God.

It’s filling my heart with the good things He gives me. Scribbling down words of thanks, writing time, a cup of coffee with a good and godly friend. It’s treasure troves of scripture pinned throughout the house. A breath of fresh air from a book that inspires, a sticky-note glimpse of His truth.

And isn’t it also true? That any of these things can become idols, and any of our idols can become conduits of His love.

The difference is who and what we’re running too. 

When the heat turns up, turn to Him.

 Run to Him.

 Only Him.

 Just run.

A Love Story

Wedding DayOnce upon a time there was a young man from Maryland who met a young lady from Mississippi while she was visiting her family for one golden summer.

It was as close to love-at-first-sight as love-at-first-sight can be because when the young man laid eyes on the pretty young girl his gaze never really left.

The young girl, she fell hard and fast with a love that lasted the summer and all the seasons to follow. And sure, well meaning family and friends and older sisters would say, “Well what about him? Or him? Or him?” They’d say, “You’re too young, too naive, too optimistic to give your heart away.”

Martie SavageSappy LoveWendellBut the young girl didn’t care or mind because her cares and mind were fixed. This young man would be her first, her last, her only love.

It was an old-fashioned love from the start. Fashioned after the oldest love that fashioned the dawn of time.

The boy and the girl grew up together and loved one another with miles and states in between. They counted the days between visits that became more treasured than gold. They wrote letters so hot and juicy those letters had to be burned. They waited and plotted and planned for the day when they would be together at school.

College DaysThe boy went to college and the girl soon followed and at the end of four years they had dreams, degrees, and rings on their fingers. They gained jobs, and friends, and furniture. They moved here and there and hoped and prayed for God to give them a family.

Good times came.

Heartache came.

Together they laughed and cried.

They lost jobs and friends. They lost beloved old ones and precious new ones.

At times they lost their like for each other but they never lost their love. They never lost their faith or their commitment to God and each other.

In times of poured out tears, of heartache, hurt, and loss, they looked to the verse stitched into cloth that hung by a thread on the wall:

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

And they remembered the One who hung by nails and poured out love for them.

It was here at the cross and the crossroads that they found love, and hope, and graceful grit that kept them right on going. Right on living with broken but still beating hearts.

And God, He didn’t leave them hanging. He came to the broken but still beating hearts and filled them with His glory.

He filled empty pockets, empty chairs, empty rooms. He filled their empty, aching arms with one baby girl, then two. Laughter, hope, and dreams were born pink, and fresh, and new.

Baby MelBaby MeDad's FavoriteThis boy from Maryland is now 72, and his Mississippi bride is an exquisite 70. And they’ve been wearing those rings on their fingers for 50 golden years.

Those two baby girls, who filled their arms, now fill their hearts, and days, and home with two sons acquired by law and six of the grandest children.

GrandbabiesAnd the girls and the grandkids and the son-in-laws, too, wish they could give this Maryland boy and this Mississippi girl the greatest gift in all the world to celebrate their golden day.

A journey to Europe! A pair of gold watches! A fabulous piece of art!

But the daughters, the grands, and the sons-in-law know the truth. The golden truth that seems unfair: The gift has already been given, not to the honored couple, but to them.

IMG_2760The gift of parents and grandparents who journeyed and struggled and fought through life but chose to stay together, to stay in love, to stay in the grip of His grace.

The golden legacy of vows made and vows kept.

The portrait of a marriage.

The gift of a mom and dad that would rather sleep in a bed too small than not sleep together at all.

The gift of parents who still kiss and touch and whisper secrets, who still laugh and hug and exchange I love you’s each and every day.

The gift of seeing Psalm 48:14 as more than a fancy cross-stitch on the wall but as truth, and testimony, and family tradition.

This is the gift and it is theirs and all they can really give in return are ten beating hearts full of thanks.

They can take the journey, the golden legacy, the portrait painted before them and fashion their own love stories after this love story, after the love story. After their parents, their grandparents, their God.

One love story molded from and by all the loves that went before, for all generations to follow.

Mom and Dad SappyRingsMom and Dad GoldenBecause this kind of love lasts forever. Rooted not in the soil of earth but the streets of golden eternity. Centered not on the love of man and wife but the love of a Savior and His beloved.

This is the gift of fifty years.

Forged in the Refiners fire, the gift more precious than gold.

~ Happy 50th Mom and Dad (Nannie and Papa)!

With Love From, Melanie, Jennifer, Landon, Chris, Conner, Madeline, Garrett, Aletheia, Tenley, and Cabellea ~

How to Stop the Tiresome Striving (with a little lesson from Max)

Still HotI looked at the bottom line: $ 1,800.00 to homeschool my girls this fall, IF we do all the things I’d like to do. The video tools, the new curriculums, the local classical group.

But how in the world? I wondered. How will we ever come up with the money and still make ends meet. 

The answer is simple: we won’t. According to my husband, and President of Allen Party of Five, we won’t go into debt or jeopardize the rest of our expenses just to do the latest and greatest in the homeschooling world.

Part of me wholeheartedly agrees. I can easily and effectively homeschool my girls using materials I already have for far less, and I know in the end we’ll be fine.

But there’s this other part of me. There’s this voice that says it won’t be enough. Without the latest and greatest my girls will miss out. I’ll miss out on important resources and opportunities.

MaxAnd there’s these other things going on with me:

There’s this compulsion to eat. To gobble up anything and everything that has sugar as a main ingredient. There’s this impulse to spend money. To buy this or order that. Something doesn’t feel right, I think as I scarf down a cupcake. I know better, this isn’t me, I muse as my curser hovers over the Confirm Order button.

And there’s also this complacency that’s perhaps the most troubling of all. This lack of a desire to write. To be still and commune with God. To resist the things that bring real, true life.

After three weeks of this behavior I stopped to listen to the voice that kept saying, this isn’t me. I stopped and asked God to show me, on the level of my heart, what this homeschool anxiety, sugar addiction, and compulsion to buy was really about.

In the stillness and the quiet He whispered three words:

Validation

Satisfaction

Joy

That’s what’s at play here. In my heart this is what I’m longing for. Striving for. To feel validated as a homeschooling mom. To feel satisfied and full. To feel real, true, joy.

The tiresome spirit of striving, the urge to make things happen, worms into my heart and mind in seemingly harmless ways, and before I know it I find myself caught in a wormhole of vices, addictions and counterfeit Gods. 

God has spread a banquet before me. His banner over me is love, and all I want is to eat at McDonalds. I want fast food when I need the bread of life. I want a quick fix when I need to slow and taste and see that He alone is good.

What other validation matters? What other satisfaction lasts? What other joy could be so complete? Where can I find any of these things except in Him?

Wild RumpusWhen I saw the striving for what it was, I asked God to come and rescue me, to disarm the meddlesome force. I asked Him to forgive me for all the ways I’d tried to fill the void in my heart with sugar and shine and things that weren’t Him.

I returned to my Savior and His banquet for me. To His soaring banner of love.

It sort of reminds me of Max, the little boy in the famous book, Where the Wild Things Are. How Max goes off to live and roam and romp with the wild things thinking this is what he wanted, thinking this would satisfy the ache in his soul. But in the end he found the wild things weren’t what he wanted or needed at all so he left the wild things and sailed for home.

When the wild things call, when they come with striving, compulsions, and things that make you think, this isn’t me…

Remember the banquet. Remember the feast and the banner over your head. Remember who you belong to, the source of all you want, the giver of all you need.

And sail for home. 

Be like Max who returned to “the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him

and it was still hot.”*

*(From Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)