five minute Friday

Five-Minute Friday: Middle.

I’d never choose to be in the middle of anything
preferring a window for the scenery and a place to rest my head
or even the aisle, for making a quick escape with a restless child or a restless heart.

The middle is confining-
claustrophobia sets in.
I can’t easily go forward or back
and I feel stuck.

I’d much rather just have started
                in love with a new yarn!
                loving this story so much!
                delighted with a new training plan!
or be nearly done
                only three more rows to knit!
                just a page and a half to go!
                finish line in sight!
               
But life is teaching me that the middle has its advantages.
Hugs and snuggles from both sides,
a better view of the pictures in the storybook,
plenty of popcorn still in the bowl when it passes by,
sofa cushions perfectly broken in but with years of life left.

So I’m sitting in the middle more often these days,
cultivating an appreciation of the here and now
noticing what’s right in front of me
resisting the temptation to hurry ahead or linger, looking backward.

Sometimes the middle is messy, tear-stained, sticky, or covered in fingerprints,
  but it’s where we are right now.
If we can’t go over it, under it, or around it,
if we have to go through it anyway,
we might as well try to appreciate it.

For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Heading Home.
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five minute Friday

Five-Minute Friday: Five.

I’m linking up with Five-Minute Friday today, where we write for five minutes without filtering or overediting because we crave the feeling of words tumbling from our heads, out of our fingers, and onto the screen. Everyone that participates has a reason for writing this way. Mine is that I need to be more forgiving of myself and to embrace the thoughts that show up in this five minutes, even if they aren’t perfectly phrased. God is always working, even right in in the middle of the mess.

Five.

Five minutes is sometimes all I can grab.

Sometimes, even that tiny sliver of time is impossible to find.

What is it about those pre-dawn moments in the quiet that refuels my soul? Five minutes alone in silence, without anyone calling my name, with a coffee pot gurgling in the background and an empty page in front of me can make a difference between a day that’s filled with purpose and a day that careens wildly off balance from start to finish.

I used to think it was the solitude that made the difference…that what I needed was a break to be by myself, free for a few moments from the demands of caring for small children and running a home.

In truth, it’s not the solitude that matters.

It’s the noticing.

In only five minutes, I can notice what is true all the time.

The love of God fills every cracked place in my life.

It fills the five minutes.

It fills the other 1,335 minutes in every day.

God’s love overflows, refusing to be confined by the moments I allow myself to see it, overrunning every cup I set out to contain it. It streams over everything in the sink, no matter how dirty. When the sink is full, it flows over the sides and onto the floor. It fills the spaces I allow and the ones I don’t, splashing over the sides and rushing in to wash over everything, even the places I try to wall off to keep it out.

Especially those places.

God wants to fill us up.

If five minutes is what we have to start with, then He will use those five minutes to reshape the riverbeds of our lives and to make the rough places plain. Five minutes is the beginning of wholeness in the fullness of time. 

For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Heading Home. 
five minute Friday, grief, writing

Five-Minute Friday: Heal.

The girls got shots this week.

Their band-aids were pink camouflage and yellow crayon, but that didn’t make them easier to remove. Lucy, who is curious about blood and bodies, peeled hers gradually, imperceptibly, during library story time and when she was supposed to be setting the table, over the course of days, and finally peeled them all the way off.

Nora, though, has a strong memory for pain. Her legs hurt already. She knew it was going to hurt more, and she refused to let anyone touch the band-aids. “They’ll come off when they’re ready,” she declared, and her fierce eyes dared anyone to disagree. Even when one band-aid end caught on her skirt and pulled away, she defied anyone to help her pull it off and left the loose end flapping as she went about her life.

I know how she feels.

Last weekend, I had the chance to sit with other women who tell the truth and take some time to reflect on writing. Over tea and talk, I processed some of why I haven’t written much here over the last year. Next month will be a year since we lost my Gramp, closely followed by Gram, and then Grandmother in the summer. The tangled feelings seemed too complicated to write, but I couldn’t write anything else, either.

Being a writer who isn’t writing is like stuffing socks into a drawer that’s already overstuffed. I keep cramming them in there, even though it’s full to bursting, even though it won’t open all the way, even though I know that more socks will make the problem harder to fix later. I can’t afford the time or the patience or the fortitude it takes to open the drawer and set it right, so I shove a few more into the front and slam it shut until later.

“Later” is not some magical moment when we suddenly have what we need.
“Later” is just when we decide to act with what we have and rely on God for the rest.

Later, for me, is now.

It won’t be easy to write my way through what feels like a mountain of unprocessed grief, but I can’t afford to wait any longer. I’m pulling off the band-aid. I need to heal.

For more five minute reflections on healing, check out Heading Home.
five minute Friday, surviving

Five-Minute Friday: Morning.

I’m confused at first, not quite sure where or when I am, limbs heavy and mind foggy in the gray pre-dawn. It’s one of those mornings when the night has bled over, spilling its burdens into the next day. Some nights, no matter how long they are, seem insufficient to contain the things that happen…the rush of feelings, the raised voices, the teething baby, the wakeful child’s nightmare, toys thrown at a wall in fury, the limp, helpless aftermath of rage.

Gripping my mug and waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I remember. This day is new. I may have just arrived, but Jesus is already here. God is still God, over the night that has passed and over the day to come. I haven’t made any mistakes yet, and although I surely will before the sun gets too much higher in the sky, God’s mercies are new every morning.

The morning always comes.
No matter how long the night, there is eventually morning again.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.

I sip my coffee and it tastes like mercy.

#HolyLens, five minute Friday

Five-Minute Friday: FOCUS.

Even the toughest days have beautiful moments.

I collect them, carefully preserving each one the way I did with my Lisa Frank stickers in elementary school: Sam, blowing out his birthday candles on an R2-D2 cake, Felix, swinging in our backyard with a gleeful grin, Lucy and Nora, giggly and soapy with bubble-covered hair in our bathtub; the way the sun slants through the kitchen window in the late afternoons when the day first starts becoming the evening.

They’re tiny moments when things look brighter, somehow…minutes when I realize how good things really are…places where the veil is thin and I notice that God is constantly leaving His fingerprints all over my life. In these moments, the lens of a camera is the most clarifying thing I know.

When things are hard, like they are right now, I scroll through these images in my mind or look at them on my phone, and I can almost see the thread of grace that runs through them. My life is blessed- not because it’s easy, but because no matter how hard it is, I am never alone.

I can’t preserve these moments forever or freeze time when everyone is smiling…but looking at those photos helps me focus on the grace. Focusing on grace leads to gratitude. And practicing gratitude, even in hard times, is how we keep going.

This Lent, I’m offering the HolyLens Lent-stagram project again- daily photo prompts as a spiritual practice of seeing the holy in the midst of the everyday. Each week, I will post prompts on my blog drawn from the scripture readings for the day. Take a photo and share it with the hashtag #HolyLens, and we can all support each other in looking for those holy moments in our lives (and focusing on ways God is present in them) as we prepare for Easter. You can find out more about the project here or follow our page on Facebook. I hope you will join us!

For more Five-Minute Friday, head over to Kate’s blog, Heading Home.
Felix, five minute Friday, parenting

Five-Minute Friday: TIME.

Warning: self-indulgent blogging ahead.

There is a direct correlation between the number of children I have and my ability to enjoy each one. It’s a funny thing- I would have expected the total overwhelm that comes with having four small people depending on me to block out large chunks of the shining rays of joy that are supposed to accompany them. Four spilled bowls of cereal and milk does not a happy, relaxed mama make, and there’s not much joy in cleaning them up.

The surprise is that it’s just the opposite.

Felix does this thing now during diaper changes where he shoves his feet up into my face, arching his back to get them as close to my nose as possible, and shrieks, “Stinkyu! Stinkyu feet!” He begs me to smell his toes, wrinkle my nose, and declare them stinky. I do it, of course, because I do almost everything he asks me to do. Cackling with laughter, he demands it again: “More! More Stinkyu Feet!”

I cannot overstate how much fun this is.

Every parent has these games with each child, I’m sure. I know I have had them with each of mine, but I can’t recall ever being willing before to sit for an unlimited amount of time and play one, over and over and over and over until I’ve lost count of the minutes and the repetitions. I’d rather be late for library story time than refuse to play Stinkyu Feet one more time. I can’t bottle this moment or freeze it in time. I can take every chance to extend it, to allow it to expand to fill the seconds allotted to it until it passes naturally, lived as fully as possible, and takes its place in a long chain of memories that are indelibly imprinted in my mind (like a series of perfectly square photos I can scroll through when I need to remember how good things are).

This is fullness of time…not at the end of everything, but in tiny passing moments filled to bursting.

This is Felix’s gift to me.

31 days, five minute Friday, joy

Five-Minute Friday: Joy (day 23/31)

I’m seven years old, and I’ve got joy like a fountain.

At least, I’m supposed to…it’s supposed to bubble up, making me light and bright and filled with giddy thoughts about how much Jesus loves me.

I should skip and feel the rays of sunshine on my face, and I should smile all the time and be filled with All.The.Joy! of my life in Christ, because that is how Christians are supposed to be.

The trouble is, I’m not like that. I try to be- I try so hard!- but when I ask my mother, “Am I lighthearted and lively, Mom?” she kind of puts her lips together in a funny way that might mean she’s trying not to laugh at me and says, “Well, I think if you want to be lighthearted and lively, you could try to work on that.”

It’s bad when even your mom knows you don’t have joy like a fountain, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s the early loss of my dad.
Maybe it’s growing up in a family of funeral directors.
Maybe it’s just that melancholic temperament of mine.

Whatever it is, I have accepted it.

I’m thirty-six, and I’ve got joy like a fountain.

I might not ever bubble over with the joy of my salvation, y’all. My joy might not ever spill over and splash passers-by. It might not ever light up my face and brighten the dark corners of my closets. I’m probably not going to open my kitchen window and burst into song and have bluebirds come light on my arms, either.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have joy like a fountain.

Maybe my fountain is just a way down deep one, one that sits at the very core of who I am, running quietly below the surface. Maybe my joy is in the dark, hidden places inside me that run on calmly when the world up here is falling apart. Maybe my joy is the silent assurance that no matter how bad things look today, there is hope that they’re going to get better.

Maybe.

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For more Five-Minute Friday, head over to visit Kate at Heading Home.