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The Road

March 6, 2014 

We were going to take him home. 

At Sunday school there was a scene involving not wanting to participate in a game. Foam tiles were thrown. There was loud yelling. Apologies did not happen. At least not until he was buckled in and informed we would not be going to our small group, home of fellow pre-schooler with awesome toys. Tears, pleading, and apologies and finally we agreed. More for us than him - because we knew we were expected and there were big things to discuss regarding our church's future. 

The children played outside on an unseasonably warm Sunday. Snow was forecast for the morning and no one wanted to miss it. The adults talked on the screened porch. Caught up in discussions going nowhere and leaving us frustrated near the end we suddenly noticed our son running near the front street. I stood up and headed for the door. What was he thinking? All those tearful promises to be good and follow the rules if we let him go after that disastrous morning. And now this? And this.... then I saw.... our host's one year old. Toddling on the grass beside the road. Our son blocking him from going off the grass. A car approaching. Full disclosure: I may have been over-zealous in explaining the possible peril of running in parking lots or streets without holding someone's hand and he is simply terrified of cars. And there he was standing alone beside a road with a car approaching. Unmoving because if he moved that baby might step out in front of that car. And when the baby was grabbed up and squeezed tearfully and tight. When we all ran toward him yelling he ran in fear thinking he was in trouble because he had failed us. He had gone near the road, broken a rule and there were consequences. Eventually as we hugged him and explained how proud we were his fear turned to quiet pride. By the time we told the waitress about his heroics over his celebratory brownie sundae he had begun demurring, "I just saved a baby."  Just. 

When the tale of your life is told, son. I hope I will have and retold this story so much it is simply part of your being. You were only four. Terrified of cars. Told to stay out of the road or you'd be in trouble. But you saw what no one else saw. And you stepped into that road and saved that baby. We didn't notice him. We noticed you. Your loud yelling. Your presence. The cars noticed you, too, I'm sure. Tall as a six year old. Wild golden curls. A voice that carries. But would they have noticed what you did...... would we have seen.... would.... But we never need to ask, what if? Because you were there. You. In all your line-crossing. You who could spot a crying baby or sad animal across a mall as a toddler. You see what we miss and I miss what you are as I grit my teeth and wish you ordinary. Within the lines. Back in the yard with the other kids where you were supposed to be. Following the rules of the game. God whispered to me as I drove home tonight. Don't you think I know how I made your son. He will see what others miss, stand in unlikely places and raise his voice for those who can't.

And I thought of all we adults, talking and afraid of decisions and loss and change and uncertainty. If my four year old can face his fears perhaps i should too. If my child can see the baby in the road is worth breaking rules and risking everything for - why can't I? How can I look into those eyes and tell him I saw something that wasn't right and let fear keep me on the side of the road, paralyzed. If I'm going to live worthy of my calling to raise this child, my little knight, I must. I simply must. Because when the tale of my life is told, the moments of silent acquiescence will be forgotten or regretted and the times I was terrified, and stepped out anyway - those will be altars. 

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Locked Out

September 28, 2013

Locked Out Blog

River Road's two lanes gently wind past gated mansions and gilded-age estates, rolling in  landscaped acres to the banks of the James. One of my absolute favorite drives in Richmond. I was out, alone, driving and life was good. An event had caught my eye as it rolled through my Facebook feed earlier in the week. My Pastor and our worship leader were in leading a prayer gathering at a lovely retreat center. I thought: l used to love that drive, and I used to love these kind of events....and then there was the matter of a small prayer group I was starting at church that Sunday which was making me nervous. Why not? The family got grilled cheese, I tossed on a different shirt (one not coated in sand from the playground and something from breakfast), dashed out the door and the minivan and I headed west.  So driving, squinting at mailbox numbers in the falling dusk to see if I'm getting close. And then, yes! Success! A huge sign with the name and address. And a locked gate. I drove up a few more streets thinking there would be another entrance. Didn't see anything. Wondered if I was just late. Or just lost. Then ....worried I shouldnt have left my preschooler right before bed when he'd been so clingy all afternoon. Worried my one year old would be fussy. Noticed a storm was rolling in anyway. Headed home. Contemplative prayer was happening somewhere just beyond that gate in a perfectly prepared room, with ancient prayers, candles spread on a table, and an amazing view (I did see the view on Face Book. Amazing). I was headed back to recite my own mantras -  Harry the Dog three times and Brown Bear twice. Gifted musicians were leading worship, and I was off to sing "Jesus Loves You" as I have every night for four years.


Later, I learned if I had driven just one block more I'd have seen the wide open entrance gate and an even bigger sign. 
But that pit in my stomach as I looked at the locked gate and just gave up a little too soon had less to do with vague directions, and everything with my spirit. As much as I love River Road, I hate it too. I hate the feeling that comes whispering that as amazing as all those homes are, you can look but the gates are locked and you know, deep within you will never be a person who could live in a place like that. What was I even thinking going to this fancy retreat center, and what was I thinking leading a prayer group? My life is a constant battle just to keep a dozen plates spinning in the air and more days than not my prayer life is my moments alone in the car. Locked out? Yes. That was exactly how I felt. Longing to be at the table of fellowship with God and simply lost, stressed and giving up right before the gate he has wide open beckoning me to come and eat.  

Looking tonight around my cluttered living room, covered in toys and sleeping dogs and a man who loves me on the couch, smiling, waiting for me to finish writing. This is indeed a place I would once have seen only from the outside, locked out, almost completely given up hope to ever be here. But I trusted God enough to stay on the path to healing. I kept walking. Secretly despairing for unattainable mansions, mercy let me arrive at a very real.... home.

And my banquet is prepared...

In the mushy kiss of my child reminding me in a rush how we prayed for years to have these children and did not know what we prayed for would undo and recreate our entire world.

In the moments the sun breaks through the clouds in spectacular beams and God's presence breaks through a quiet moment and the car is a cathedral and I remember I am an artist and I called to see the miraculous in the mundane. That mud is God's chosen medium. That prayer is not for the perfect, but for those who know how desperately dependent on grace we all really are. 

In the way provision comes mysteriously and perfectly, keeping us on our knees, waiting for the next open doors through this most perfect, imperfect season.

Keep walking. 

Keep driving.

Keep crawling if you have to.

The gate is just ahead..... and it is wide open....

 
 
 
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Baby Cora

June 9, 2013

While the big boys went to their first ball game, I took some sweet pictures of precious baby Cora at just three weeks

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Seeds 

September 8, 2013

It wasn't planned. There was a service Sunday at church. A day where instead of church as usual we would be a church without walls and go out to serve our neighbors through building, gardening, painting and a prayer walk, which is what I volunteered for. Except as we stood up to leave one member said God had told him to go door to door and talk to our neighbors, pray with them and literally seek the lost sheep. This was not in his comfort zone. Our calling starts where our own strength ends so of course I said I would go too. Armed with shiny postcards with scribbled service times on the back and certain if there was one thing Christ told us to do it was to go - we went. 

Sunday morning is not ideal for door to door outreach. People go out Saturday nights and sleep in Sunday. Those who are awake are often in pjs and not to in the mood to discuss spiritual matters. But people began to open a few doors. Some neighbors thought because the building was huge the church must be and had felt uncomfortable just showing up. Some had other spiritual paths but seemed intrigued by a church that was open to community without a rigid agenda and ideology. Many had their own churches. 

Would you like us to pray?  

A minute or two into a conversation with a neighbor in the drizzling rain we would try to ask if there was anything we could lift up in prayer. The answer was often yes. Prayers for an ailing mother. Family finances. Direction. And from us, as we walked away, silent prayers that we had made some connection, that this small offering mattered somehow.

And then, in the midst of the rain, barking dogs and more often than not, unanswered knocking, In the middle of  conversations struggling to find connection - somehow we began to find them. Seeds. Seeds that the church planted years ago. Long before I even came to this city. A teen who had been part of an outreach. A man who remembered being given work on the grounds when he was out of work. And finally, a woman who remembered that someone from that big old church at the end of the street had once helped her friend displaced by fire move to another state. She wondered how that friend was doing. It was half prayer, half rhetorical question. But my fellow member surprised us both. "She's fine, I was the one who drove her and after that we kept in touch."  

The woman was a young mother then, but now has teens that need a mentor, perhaps she will bring them to meet our youth Pastor. We pray with her. We smile and linger in the light of a glimpse of the divine breaking through. We started off so concerned with what would we say? Would our words be enough? But a legacy of kindness - of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God had gone before us, had spilled through the streets of this community like tiny streams of living waters softening the ground for generations. Love speaks loudest without words but we have to be willing use our hands, our feet and sometimes our voices. As we walked back past house after house with dark shades drawn the rain fell harder. I imagined all those other seeds scattered in these streets. Perhaps the spirit was already stirring them back to life and we had simply to look into our neighbor's face, step out of our comfort and walk the muddy paths into the inconvenience of others' lives. Meet God where he has already been working.

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New Clay

March 4, 2013

Beuautiful things new clayCould all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

"Beautiful Things" by Gungor

My three year old has a child in his class who bit him. He began saying this child was "bad." Captain Hook bad. For many days I gently suggested that perhaps other children weren’t exactly "bad" when they did something to hurt him, perhaps they were just not listening. That perhaps they did not know yet, how to be a good friend, and maybe he could show them. Finally, my words seem to be breaking through and he let me know last night that his classmate wasn’t bad, just didn’t listen to the teacher and he knows they can be friends. The little lump of clay that is his heart is gently shaped a little more like Jesus. How pliable and soft it is, how quick to love and trust and forgive. To believe Jesus loves him. Mommy sings it each night, and right now, my love and his daddy's love make His so. His heart feels safe in God’s hands, because he knows he is safe in our love. He is even willing to pass it on.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8 (NRSV)

I have always loved the imagery of the potter and the clay. The idea that when we place ourselves in God’s hands he can create art of the muddy mess we make of our lives on our own. I like to imagine myself as pliable in God’s hands, but the truth is I know I resist the process and argue over logistics when faced with any change, even good or obviously needed. Only when all other routes seem cut off do I reluctantly surrender. Clay is just fine dust and water. If solid pieces are left it will not survive the fire that will harden in into a vessel fit for service. In this I envy my son as he finds his shape and form in God’s gentle hands. He does not yet know what it is to be sifted, formed, fired and finally, finally useful only to realize the entire process must begin again when it is clear the now accustomed vessel no longer holds what God is pouring out today. He does not yet know how carelessly the world may one-day treat the most precious things of his heart.

The very finest clay is made with the dust of bones as well as earth. Also quartz and other semi-precious stones might be ground and added to the mix. Because of these ingredients the detail, strength and beauty of this dust, "bone china" is very different than clay pottery. It is also the pottery that was fit for a king's service. Yes, it feels like there is more in my life now than I can possibly hold together or handle. The new vessel God is forming has to hold something other than what I was and it will never reach any degree of completion without surrender. Resistance just causes the process to just go on and on because a tireless Creator cannot help but desire the best for His creation. There are details and complications and revelations that were not part of my journey before. The broken bones of loss and precious stones of lessons learned; things that meant so much at one time must be surrendered to the Potter. It is not just common dust anymore. A refined clay that will survive furnaces that would swiftly eviscerate the soft, sweet clay of my child's heart. In fact, it is because I am now entrusted with that heart that I must be remade.

What is ground down was once useful in its season and the process that made it was difficult. Even so, letting it go is not abandoning the value of what God has done, it is longing for the revelation of what God is going to do so much that the former things fade away. Fade to dust to be used again. All that matters is what God is doing now. “…old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Children don't resist because they can only look forward. To become is all they know, and perhaps this is why we are to become like them to enter the kingdom.

To become more pliable and soft, even though the places we learned to make hard were valued as strength. To become quick to love even though relationships may only be for a season. To become trusting, even though the answers we think we require may never be seen. To become forgiving, even if letting the hurt go feels like letting evil win. He is the potter. I am the clay. Complex, amazing, miraculous clay. It is enough that Jesus loves me and that I am safe in my Father’s hands.

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 I'm a designer, wife and mother of two.  I post my work and on the places where creativity and life’s clutter intersect. Looking for inspiration and finding balance.  Join me on the journey.

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TwitterRachel4My name is Rachel. Good to meet you. I like caramel coffee, the way patterns of light or color or ideas fit together, and mornings at the ocean. Dislikes include: political ads, conspicuous wealth and mornings in general. Together, my husband Buddy and I are daily challenged and blessed as we raise two children and run one business: By His Designs.

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