second servings.

sweet tea

Shame sticks

to folks like sweat on a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day,

the condensation of cool, sweet hope as it

slams

up against thick and humid heat of pain.

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No one asks for shame

and the folks who dish it out don’t know any better. Better to assume they don’t, because the alternative would be that they shove the blame of their pain onto someone else on purpose, the recipient simply collateral damage of a load,

indeed a pall,

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no one was meant to bear.

Do you feel shame,

your shoulders aching from the weight of it, your frame bent and caddywampus from the way it makes you lumber through the days?

A sack of salt blistering your tender palms?

Because as much as we want to give up the shame we carry, most of us want to own it. If we’re honest, flat out honest, the shame feels good, and we appreciate the applause of those who notice the hunch of our tired backs, who inadvertently encourage us to hang on to the heavy instead of releasing it like the only One in history

His-

-story

who was able to say–and mean it

forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.

Here, Abba, take the shame. Because the double portion isn’t only for the shamed, but also for the one who’s dished it out, the one who piled the double portion of sorrow on the plates of others and for whom grace

oh, elusive grace

grace says the shame-throwers deserve a double portion, too. The ones who roll the dice at our feet and fight over the shredded aftermath of our soul killings, they’re captives, too, after all. They just don’t know they are.

Which is worse

Than letting go.

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Drop it, then.

A double portion waits for you and waits to overflow, runneth over, pour into the brokenness of the shame-throwers’ empty hearts.

Feels like lassoing stars, this business of dropping our beloved shame bags and sharing double portions but somehow the Gospel can handle this sort of greed and apparently joy and freedom are two of the few feasts where even in our gluttony we’re never filled.

We can’t receive even a single portion when we’re clinging to the thing we can’t give up.

But when we do, we

you

even me

even they

will be

radiant.

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Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance. (Isaiah 61:7-8)

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Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him… (Psalm 34:5-6)

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The Harlan family struggles with emerging from generations of shame in the novel How Sweet the Sound. For a limited time, you can order the e-book version of the novel for only $2.99 (or even less at some retailers). Click here to choose from your favorite e-book retailer today.

And see why folks like Rachel McMillan at BreakPoint are saying How Sweet the Sound is not your grandmother’s Christian fiction (click here to read her gracious article).

 

On the great rescue and an unlikely hero.

Rescued.

That’s the word that keeps going round and round in my mind when I think of my friend Peter.

I fell in love with the boy in 2009 when I heard about him through World Next Door (please click here to read all about him there).

I met him in January, 2013.

And we said good-bye to him this week.

Peter was like many boys, happy, funny, tender-hearted, kind. He loved cars and he liked to sing.

Peter was different, too.

Abandoned by his mother, he was alone and filthy and beaten in an orphanage. He was losing hope and growing weaker by the day from the muscular dystrophy which would eventually claim his precious life.

But God had other plans for Peter.

Peter was rescued.

He was adopted by Yuri and Ira Levchenko. He shared a room with a new big brother, Taras. He was surrounded by a brood of other brothers and sisters who adored and cared for him. He was deeply treasured and loved until he passed away July 1.

Peter was rescued.

Again.

Now he can breathe.

He can run.

He can climb trees and swim and sing without getting breathless.

Peter is free.

I’m not sure Peter quite knew how he changed hearts around the world, that he was, in fact, a hero to many. When I met him in January, 2013, he was simply happy to sing Christmas songs and show us the fish in his new fish tank and the matchbox cars he lined up on his bedside table and tell us how much he loved Jesus.

But that’s the best sort of hero, isn’t it?

The one who is least likely to be one.

The one who has no clue he is one.

But the one who is a hero, just the same.

A hero because he was rescued.

And because of Peter’s miracle of a rescue and his response of grace, we who knew him are all a little more confident that we are rescued, too.

In the midst of our own filth, our own weakness, our own flaws and sins and loneliness and pain and breathless searching for peace and a home,

we are each of us–praise God–rescued, still.

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He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19

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peter

 

 

Stop the world! My middle-aged body wants to get off!

Yesterday I stood in between an eight foot tall display of fruit and a giant freezer full of cheese at Costco and lamented the state of my (barely) over 40 body to one of my dear friends.

I’m just not shaped the way I used to be shaped.

I remember the first time I realized my body would never be the way it was in college, when I never worried a bit about how I looked. (Okay, maybe I did worry then, but not like I worry now.) A handful of weeks postpartum and pushing my roly-poly first son through the aisles of my favorite store at the time, The Limited (don’t judge), I grabbed pants or a dress or something in my size.

Or what had once been my size.

The garment fit, but it was definitely not covering me appropriately anymore.

My hips had widened.

And shifted…lower? Higher?

And my BOOBs.

What once had been compared to Kansas had risen.

I just knew I couldn’t shop there anymore.

And here’s the problem I have to this day:

My brain is approximately 25 years behind my body.

(No pun intended.)

I still want to wear clothes from teenager stores–or at least those which cater to young adults. To make things worse, it seems the whole. entire. world. is completely obsessed with diets and flat abs and fast fixes and videos and trainers and cross-fit and pilates and yoga and barre and gluten free and fat free and sugar free and smoothies and high protein and low carb and

AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!!!

Okay, maybe you have time for that.

But I sure don’t.

I’m a nurse and a writer and a wife and a mom carting three teenagers around so I’m in the car up to four hours (sometimes longer) a day going back and forth to practices and doctors and orthodontists and the grocery–always the grocery because according to said teenagers we have NOTHING to eat EVER–and did I mention the orthodontist and twelve-hour nursing shifts where I walk eight miles between patient rooms and bench press 300-pound sick people and it takes all the coffee in the world just to get me through these days of middle age.

So can the world just stop

and give me a break about flat abs and a perky butt and the fact that I wear my hair in a messy knot 95% of the time because I only have time to wash it a couple of times a week because I think I shower less now than I did when my teenagers were toddlers, and speaking of toddlers and babies, if the gap in my abdominal muscles caused by three pregnancies hasn’t closed and tightened up YET after 13 YEARS, it

AIN’T EVER GONNA

But maybe, just maybe, it’s not the world that needs to stop.

It’s me who needs to stop.

Stop lamenting the soft tummy that held and incubated and loved three of the most incredible humans ever into the world. Stop lamenting that yoga pants don’t cover and hold in every part of me I wish they would. Stop comparing myself to the moms who aren’t in the car four hours a day and who do have the time to run and diet and realize that not all of them work and not all of them are necessarily happier and not all of them try to write books “on the side” (because writing books is SUCH a low pressure, relaxing hobby sort of thing that takes just 30 minutes in the morning in the pristine silence before the rest of the house wakes up–WHATEVs!). Stop fighting the inevitable sag and lag of a (barely) 40 and climbing physique and

OWN IT SISTER.

Because each of us this age have EARNED these years. We’ve earned these stretch marks. We’ve earned the gray hair we slather with dye in a box every three weeks. We’ve earned the right to cover our arms with cardigans and our thighs with longer shorts and the softening and rounding of our edges and besides

THERE’s ENOUGH HARD EDGES IN THE WORLD

without feeling like we need to sharpen what the good Lord has worked so hard to grind away over the decades.

More than that, our my

fixation with the way I’m made is a distraction from fixation on Him.

I stumbled across Psalm 65 today and re-realized the wonder of all God has made, the diversity, the beauty, the mountains, the seas, the mornings, the evenings, the grasslands, the hills, the meadows, the valleys, and the hummingbird that flitted around my garden sucking the marrow out of the life I’ve grown weary with.

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You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.[d]
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops. (Psa 65:9-10)

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Thank you, Lord, for caring for the soil of our hearts, for watering our parched souls. Help us as moms and as women in the prime of life to fill ourselves with You and Your Word and your Truth. Drench our furrows and level our ridges. Soften us towards our softened flesh, shower us with grace to tell ourselves–and to tell each other–that we are, each of us, beautiful. Not because of how we’re shaped. But because You made us.

And we praise You for remaking us every day.

Amen.

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Is there a friend who needs to hear you say you think she’s beautiful today?

Share this post with her.

And tell her.

Today.

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Further reading: This is a topic that’s been on my heart for a while now. Others, too, it seems, and I don’t think anyone has written more eloquently about this than Ann Voskamp in her recent post,
Dear Women and Daughters: When You’re Tired of Media Voices Telling You What Beauty and Love Is. If my words resonated with you today, please be sure to visit her page, too. You’ll be so glad you did.