Dipping the Toe

Thoughts on life and faith and faith in life

Page 2 of 20

The Broken Prayer

Father?  You’re still there…..yes?  I sit a little tired, a little worn, the restless angry fight spent.  I’m so broken, God; so messy, so petty and petulant.  Sometimes I’m weak and make choices that spin out tentacles like a crazy light show out of control and they spark and snap.  Sometimes I’m strong and good and walk worthy.  Often I’m wrong, times I am right; then times I am right and wrong.

 

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Truth is, God, I march myself into the courtroom, all puffy and peacock like, and justify myself with spittle flying out the sides of my mouth, my eyebrows raised for effect.  I. Am. Me.  I proclaim.  Here is my evidence.  I scramble for collected grievances; life’s documentation that it is hard and it is confusing and it is long…..no matter how short it is;  Proof that it hurts and I need the purchase order to buy myself the win.

Oh but then?  After my own echo dies down and I lie listless?  My heart hears a hopeful wind breathe gentle.  You’re here.  I can feel You.  Be my lantern, my compass.  I’ve somehow lost my way.

 

Angels Leave Post It Notes

“Silence is your only claim to wisdom” – Job 13, The Message

 

Sometimes I have days, chunks of them, when the words in my mind go quiet, almost by command; outside of my own will.  I sit on my lily pad like a wide mouthed frog and occasionally feel a welled up thought rise in my throat and I burp it out, lick my lips and settle myself, shifting to and fro, back onto my lily seat and look around quietly at the world.  And then?  And then there are times when the words have formed a league and bang insistently on the door to be written out.  I can always hear their footsteps before they knock.  I began this piece at 11:15 this morning, sitting in my car in a graveyard.  I felt Him urging me to write, I could feel the “message” forming like an egg that’s being fried in a pan, the white morphing from the clear goo when it’s first cracked.  I shoved my hand blindly in my purse and fished for what felt like pen and paper and wrote out this paragraph on the back of a church bulletin.  And then I got here.  And stopped.  “Wait.  Be silent.”  How odd that I would pulse out words, glad to have my “voice” back and then……come to the end of a sentence and have no idea where to go next.  So.  I got out of my car and walked towards this bench and took up it’s offer and sat.  “Be silent.”

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A few days ago, I was worried about my yard.  It’s growing time and with my one boy gone far to South Africa, my other scaling Montana’s mountains and my one here working full time, I felt that creepy uppy thing that gets me most in the middle of the night start in.  I couldn’t sleep because my grass was waving like a prairie, my lawnmower doesn’t work, I have no extra cash to pay for it and no idea what to do about any of it.  Those little things that make a woman alone feel most definitely alone and eat at my peace like little mice.  So, I told God my dilemma.  Two days later I came home to a tiny yellow post it on my door.  “If you need help with your yard or getting your mower started, I can help.”  There was a phone number and a mans’ name.  “Ok.  But God.  Remember?  I don’t have money for this.  And besides.  Who is this man??”  So I ignored it.

Last  night I fell asleep early on my couch.  My girl sat quiet watching a movie when the post it note man showed up.  “Tell your mom I used to cut the grass for the man who lived here for years.  She doesn’t have to worry about paying me.  I just thought she might need help.”  So I called him tonight and told him my story.  Told him that I’d taken it right to my Father, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and asked Him to show me what to do.  “I’m a Christian,” says post it note man.  “I was driving by your house and noticing your grass growing and kept feeling like I was supposed to stop and offer to help.  My pastors’ kids go to your school.  I’ll be there tonight and get your grass taken care of.”

I’ve learned to keep company with being quiet.  Here lately I lean into the silence to listen.  It’s then I am learning wisdom.  It’s then I know better what to say when I speak.  I’ve come to tell you this.  He doesn’t have to show up?  But He always does.  If you’re watching for Him.  Sometimes He leaves His words on post it notes.

 

 

 

Grabbing the Microphone

I picture social media as people sitting at a banquet, a friends’ banquet…..and there’s a microphone being passed around.  It’s my turn…..testing…1, 2, 3….what to post as my status, what to snap with my camera for instagram…..what footprint to leave.  “Hello?  Is this thing on?  Yes?  It is?  Ok, the guys in the sound booth tell me the mic is hot.”  I stand up silent before the crowd and let my eyes rest on the crowd, and then on individuals; for longer than feels comfortable to me.  But I want to weigh in; to see and consider.  I do this in my head, of course, because my kitchen is too small for the 500 + list.  I scan through the names, the stories I know, the people I’d probably have never heard from again, save this platform.  It sits strong on my shoulders, the responsibility to speak real, to resist the urge to appear bigger than life, never faltering, teeth always white, breath always fresh, I’ve -got- this presenting.  Like so many prancing peacocks.

My mind asks itself……..so I’ve got the mic……what would I say if it was the last thing or the only thing I would have the chance to hear reverberate in the air?  Because the reality is, I don’t know if it will be or not.   I start to tap dance all wonky like before the crowd because I heard tell once in a song…”If I can make you laugh, I can make you like me.”  I do so want you to.  I like to make friends and keep them if I can.  I hate goodbyes and distance and endings and misunderstandings hollow in the heart.  I wince seeing people try to high five and miss and walk away bewildered, wondering what went wrong.   So I dance silly to make you smile while I figure out what to say.

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This is a dog I used to know.  His eyes always captivated me when he’d come sit silent beside me in the grass while I watched the sun start to burn out for the evening..   Like he knew something.  Like he’d lost something he was wondering about and looking on the horizon for.  Waiting.  Watching.  It always reminded me of us.  We live longing.  Because whether we know it or not, we’re just passing through this place.  We can’t stay.  And the journey rolls like waves of sweet, scratchy, terrifying, placid.  There are the gift moments when everyone we think we’ll ever need is right beside us; a Christmas card snapshot.  There are times when no matter how loud the sound in the room, it’s a deafening silent scream of lonely.  When all is right in our world, there’s a nagging knowledge that it won’t last forever and it scares us a little; the anticipation of change.  But when it’s bad, there’s an unrelenting thread that sews itself into a hope fragment.

I’m suddenly aware that the crowd I’ve been speaking to sits motionless while I hold up my show and tell dog picture and patter on for awhile.  I stop and chew my lip and peer out steady.  I’ve gained my nerve and I don’t feel awkward.  Because I see the same hunger in them that I feel in me.  I stare at the mic in my hand and put it up to my mouth.  “I’ve come to say this.”  Silence.  Echo.  “We’re all bruised and broken.  Go easy on each other, if you can.  If you think you can’t,  if you feel like you want to throw stones, step aside to collect yourself and let your neighbor help you put the rock down.  Because the truth is we all need each other to remind each other to never give up.  And one more thing?  I know this will make some of you want to stop listening?  But the thing is, you are loved with an everlasting love and underneath you are the everlasting arms.  His name is God.  And He’s the reason to never give up. ”

I hear a squawk tinny and shrill.   In my uneasiness, my fear of saying the wrong thing, I thought if I put my mouth up real close to the mic I could hide behind it while I spoke.  That maybe you wouldn’t notice that I’m the biggest hypocrite around, telling you these things.  That I’ve thrown rocks, I’ve wrinkled my dress all up in my fists with unforgiveness welling up in me.  That sometimes I’m not kind and don’t feel kind and don’t wanna be kind.  A few times I’ve felt “better than” and cringed at my arrogance.  Sometimes I’ve actually gotten it right and then toasted myself at how great I’d acted.  Only to drop the glass in my lap.  Worse, though, is that I’m afraid you won’t believe me.

I clear my throat and look down at the mic in my hand.  “I’m gonna ask God to replace the haughty in my eyes with grace light.  To remind me the bill He paid for me, so that I can have the courage to cancel what I think you owe me.  I’m gonna rip the bloody bandage off of old wounds so they can breathe healing; loosen my hand on what I have hold of too tightly to stay my balance.  I’m going to show you my raggamuffin self, in the brightest of light, and tell you sure…….until you lay down for good?  Never give up.”

I pass the microphone on and start to sit down again.  But before I do?  I dance all wonky like…..just to be sure you’re smiling.

 

Tiny Lighthouse on My Head

If I were a blade of grass on a spring morning, just right before Easter, I’d be this one.  I looked out my window early today and recognized myself and grabbed my beat up, cracked screen phone to go capture it.

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I snapped several angles, all bent down in the wet grass and shivered cold in my jammies,  sweater over them quick so I wouldn’t miss the sun ray.  Hurry, I said to myself.  I have to go clean a house today.  No, I answered back to me.  I get to.  I told myself to be quiet, to stop tricking my mind into positive thinking, when I didn’t always feel so positive.  Be real.  Be real, I silently yelled at myself.   All the while, I’m snapping pictures of a single blade of grass, because, for some reason, I care about it.

I closed the door behind me, and went back into my kitchen and rewarmed my coffee for the too many timeth, and sat down to edit the picture.  As I did, I clicked on Instagram and there it was.  A picture.  Better than mine.  Much better.  Because I’m no photographer and I don’t have a real camera and who do I think I am posting anything at all?  For some reason, though, the blade of grass begged my attention and I pulled it up on my screen and stared at it hard.  It was the drop of dew that got to me.  It was the smile of God.  It was the mark His fingerprint had left on it; on me.  I decided to string words together and hang them up around the picture.  To decorate it with what He’d whispered to me.  Months have come and gone in my life; months of learning that to be not chosen by someone or for something?  Is to be hurt.  To be hurt?  Is to be alive.  To be alive?  Means purpose.  And I, in this sea of grass world, still have a dew drop on my head that He’s put there and His light has chosen me, to bounce off of me,  His reflection.  It’s not at the expense of others.  But for them, with them.  It’s a tiny lighthouse, giving me just enough light, the light I need for the moment to trust Him for the light I’ll need for the next moment.  And in the process, it creates a circle of light for the grass around me.

Today I will go to someone’s house and kneel to clean around their toilet because their legs don’t work so well anymore and they can’t.  I will shop for their groceries because I am able to do so without a walker.  I do it for pay so I am not a saint.  But I recognize His provision for me, His provision for them by layering our lives over one another.   I will come home and shower in clean water and put on something pretty and sit beside a young man and his family from school that have sown into me and my girl.  They invited us to come sing with them; to celebrate what’s been done for us.  To be reminded.  Afterwards, I will go to my school and dust off where invisible dirt has landed, vacuum up little moons of white paper that have fallen out of hold punchers all week.  I’ll take a walk with my girl in the park nearby.  Probably take another picture or two with my silly little phone.  Because He put that joy in me that notices His world.

And through it all, I will need to be reminded, to constantly be prodded, to not give up or give in.  Because I am so prone to wilt, to bruise, to gasp tired.  That’s why.  That is why this picture captured me.  Because sometimes that dew  is tears cried private and those rays warm my feet to take the next step.  That…it’s not all bad to be a single blade of grass at the base of a toilet.  It may be that’s exactly where He’s shining on me.

The Backs of People at Soccer Games

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks in our lives here in our small Kentucky town.  The girl has been in a school play; her first since we left homeschool land and came into private school world.  Lots of long days and longer nights practicing and perfecting.  The Music Man songs still rattle around in our brains.

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Not only was my girl in the play?  But my dear friend in charge of directing decided to put me in charge of helping one of the  main characters with costume changes;  a young lady I’d only met briefly. I absolutely adored her! To say the least, when you’re standing just offstage, in the dark, with necklaces wrapped around your neck, hats on your head and billows of skirts and blouses to yank off and put back on in a minute’s time…….you get to know someone better….or at the least, you find yourself laughing over upside down skirts and you gesture wildly and whisper frantically in british accents to each other for no reason until you’re fairly sure your actor is appropriately dressed and you send her back onstage.  And when you have down time?  You get into a bit of mischief yourself.

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I was worn pastey thin by the last of the five performances.  I sat and stared into space during the down time because I’d run clean out of personality.   I always notice, at times when you go behind the curtain, that you see the backside of life, the frayed threads.  There’s something sanitary about staying in the bleachers.  You don’t get germs that way and everyone is nicey nice.  When you actually venture close enough to finally pay attention to the man behind the curtain….that’s when things get dicey.  Turns out we get on each other’s nerves, we don’t all fold the towels the same way, we get tired and cranky and whispery behind backsies.  We rush by someone going slower.  We generally show ourselves fallible.  We love.  We just do it messy and outside the lines.  Sometimes we hurt without meaning to.  Sometimes we very much mean to.

So I crawled into bed at the end of that last night of the play, all full of theater analogies, tired beyond tired, rehearsing the day.  Tired makes the world bigger and I cried for no discernible reason; at least ones I couldn’t slap a label on;  except that I was tired and thinking about how fast life sneaks things in on you when you were busy clapping politely in the bleachers.   After the last of the costumes had been hung up and the doors slammed hollow with people leaving; the ending of something making me wince, I’d walked to my car, remembering what most of these young actors weren’t old enough to forget.  That things change irreversibly, sometimes when you don’t notice, until one day you look back and realize you’d done something for the last time and hadn’t known it would be.

I’d made a promise earlier that week to young boys at school that I’d come and watch them kick and tumble and score all the way down the field and back that night after the play.   It was their last indoor game, a rite of passage in their 12 year old soccer world for this season.  I walked toward the bleachers, the second set I’d seen that day,  and there I saw the back of someone I used to know, whose table I’d shared meals on,  whose couch I’d sat on and listened as tears fell.  The thing is, the last time?  I hadn’t known it would be; until time came in and went out tide like and one day I’d realized.  I found my place on the bleachers and didn’t speak.  Or look back.  Just forward, eyes locked on the field.  Jagged endings make the air feel strange and dissonant and you stay behind the curtain, not remembering your lines.  So you don’t say anything.

It lay on my heart heavy like a cold greasy egg this morning when I woke up.  I spit out bits and pieces to my friend; this script we’re sometimes handed in a language we can’t hardly read, the stage blocking making me resentful and edgy. I wanted things to be hard for this person whose back I’d stared at the night before.  I wanted plays to begin and not come to an ending that would change things forever.  I struggled to be all in the day and scrolled aimlessly through internet stories to distract myself.  Then I read this from a man who’d just lost his wife two weeks past.  He recalls the last few days.

“Joey gathered her family together around her and she said goodbye to each of them… to her mother and father and her three sisters.  There were lots of tears as she explained to each one how much she loved them and that she was going to be going home soon.  That her time here was done and she was going to go to sleep soon.  And then she asked me to bring our baby in.  And so… I set our little Indy on Joey’s lap and we all cried with my wife as she told her how much her mama loved her and, “…you be a big girl for your papa… and that mama will be watching over you”.  And then she pulled Indiana up and she kissed her.

One last kiss.”

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I needed to forgive endings that come; forgive jagged edges and unapproved scripts.  I had to come to terms with backstage behavior and frayed life threads; to learn  how to shake hands with the man behind the curtain.  I needed to decide not to settle on bleacher seats just to stay comfortable when the play got messy.   I had to figure out a way to stop at backs turned and extend the far reach of grace.  The time is coming when it will be the last time unaware.  I don’t want to cringe.

 

Blurry Intentions

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See that tree there?  All blurry and leaning to one side rained on soggy and heavy?  That’d be me after today.  All joy living that I blogged about this morning?  Drained out of my flat this afternoon.  I was plum tired physically.  That made the filter for interactions sticky and muddy and they got caught and pulled at my head and my heart till they were both frayed.  I found myself disappointed in the actions of some, frustrated with others, sluggish in my spirit and flustered at the wind.  I just wanted to go home and sleep, mainly.

My friend and I, we talked cartoon animated early this morning before it all began.  We were eager to live this joy, to find out what it looked like on us, how our Creator meant for us to wear it and walk it out.  We listened and understood each other, barely using words and then walked into the ring to duke out life.  That’s where I found myself picking up the weights and flexing my pitiful muscles; the “love keeps no record of wrongs, does not take offense easily, sees the best in others, bears up, fadeless under all circumstances….”; those muscles.  Truth be told, they strained stringy and stretched out.  “You look like you’re not in a very good mood,” came the young voice of one in the school store.  It rubbed like a carpet burn.   “Yeah.  No.  No, I guess not.  I’m just tired.”  But I saw the distance it created written on their face.  They’d gotten used to my smile and the bin was empty today.

I sat parked in my car and looked out the windshield at this water color tree and snapped a picture quick.  How quickly expectations,  small irritations, being human can gouge at our beginning of the day blank slate.  I hum to myself words that resonate with me:

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This chasm of need, this vulnerable weakness that binds us to each other and reminds us we’re just us, dependent on our God for breath and grace with each other and rest that makes it possible to smile when I feel like a wet tree.

Joy Train…..Where Honey Meets Sunshine

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Last night, just before I pulled the chain on the antique lamp just above my head my friend pushed a question through the airwaves at me.  It wandered through the catacombs of my brain while I slept and nudged me awake early, still perched.  “How is one to focus on being truly joyful in life when others say that ones life is to be localized? To be completely focused on “the mission” God has given all of us?”  I answered quick off my head and then fell asleep.  When I woke up and looked around the dark room, I found the question looking at me.  And then I asked myself, “What does localized mean?”  But first, coffee.

“Limit, restrict, confine, contain, concentrate, circumscribe.”  That sounded heavy, harsh, burdensome.  No playing in puddles in the rain.  I needed more coffee.  Circumscribe?  I came back to my computer, steaming coffee rising in my face.  “To draw a figure around another, touching it at points, but not cutting it.”  Ah, there it was.  There came the answer flooding into my mind.   If we are “localized”….we need to determine what we are localized for.

could it be…that we are to confine ourselves to joyful living?
that the only limit on that joy would be that which would blaspheme the work the Spirit has done in you?
that joy alone, as your springboard for living, draws people to you and thus to Him?
that true joyfullness, which is born out of awareness of brokenness and then rescue is indeed “localized living”?
I want three things from you, I told my friend, three things that spawn circles of joy in you.  Mine are when sunshine hits honey; when a total stranger smiles back at me when I’ve started the process; the fact that my body produces a really good poop, without a colostomy bag.  
This “circumscribe” word.  This captivates me.  To reach out with our joy circles, to touch one another, but not cut, ah…..there it is.  There is that holy, localized, make a difference living that my Rescuer of my soul “confines” me to, frees me to.   May your joy circles ripple out unceasing today.

Colors In My Paintbox

As my mind goes, I have helicopter thoughts, one trail swirling into another and before you know it,  I’m in a forest of fabulous pontificating.  My phone dinged around midnight, reminding me to silence it, rather like being woken up in a hospital to take your sleeping pill,  but by then?  I was awake and flying in my helicopter.  I wrapped myself up in warm fluffy purple and padded into my kitchen, quiet and content, not fighting against the wakefulness.  These times?  They’ve become a gift to me; uncluttered, settling.

I briefly turned on public television and watched A Year in Space with astronaut Scott Kelly, which made me wonder how his brother’s wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was doing, after being shot in the head 4 years back, which sent me to google.  She has made huge strides, it turns out, and the question was asked.  Do you find yourself still pushing to get back the ‘old Gabby’?  There was a pause.  “The new Gabby,” and it cut to a video clip of her walking with a cane, her right side much weaker than her left.  But her humor, her push forward perspective on point.  And naturally (??) , from there I found an interview with singer Linda Ronstadt talking about her life after parkinson’s disease and how it has silenced her career.  “I just don’t have the colors in my paintbox anymore.”  And there she had me.  What captivating words.

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The world is full of color.  So are people.  So are you.  The thing is, a paintbox has just so much color in it.  The palette is limited.  And so is your time.  There will be the day when the colors can’t quite be found anymore like before, when your hand can’t hold the brush steady.   Seize hold now, while the rainbow is available, even those mixed with the dark rain.  Paint it true and honest, paint it noble and blend it willing with others.   But paint.

I pass out candy to kids at school.  All colors.  It is a small token, full of sugar.  I get that.  But yesterday, one boy came back to me.  “Some kid told me you give me things because you feel bad for me.”  The sun went down in the room for a minute.  No.  I do it because I love you.  Because I want to encourage you to paint your canvas while you can.  Because I don’t want you to put your brush down too soon.  I give you things because that’s me…..painting my own picture and hoping you’ll paint yours back.

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and its ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses.”–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Coloris Corripiunt!  Seize the color!

 

 

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How Can I Bless You? Journeying Away From Terra Familiar

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I’m reading about cedar trees this morning.  This isn’t one but it’s a picture gift snapped quick unexpected through the car windshield in front of me when I took notice and gasped delighted.  I love trees.  They stand guard quiet and silent.  They “personify” His presence to me, if a tree can be a person, which to me they rather are.  And the sun shining through just at the right moment like that?  “Peace.  Be Still.  I am.”

Yesterday at church I struggled to hear.  Scrambled to feel “belonged to.”  I have been sorting through my life scrap box and taking note how distraction can take my fixed eyes off the Rail Himself.  And when the distraction gets bored with you and gets distracted itself, it’s work in your head sufficiently accomplished, it’s difficult to quell the echo.  So I sat in that hard pew, hard because my place felt hard,  and listened…..distracted.  Did I hear the word “pray”?  It grabbed me and I looked down at my bracelet given to me by an anchor friend.

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Had I talked to God about this?  Like …on purpose?  I’d been batting thoughts like pesky flies but…….this God, this God I’m reading about this morning…..Whose very voice breaks the cedars, thunders His glory, is upon the waters, splits and flashes lightning, makes the wilderness tremble……had He been talking to me?  Could I have actually missed this Voice??  The speaker’s words continued on in the background as I wandered around in my head.  I recall seeing this verse…..I was so distracted I don’t actually remember what I saw it on but the reference was as familiar as my name.  And yet, I found myself feeling like my name had been called out in class.  “Christ has liberated us to be free.  Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”   It sounded very “admonitiony” and I sat up straighter.  OH.  I had forgotten to stand.  I had submitted.  Again.   I’d found myself on all too terra familiar.  And somehow, I seemed to hear my Father say…..”and now that you hear My voice,  let’s make this particular yoke be the last time.  Yes?”

So right there, in the middle of a sermon that I admit I was paying little attention to, save the “pray” word, I started….praying.  I mean, I had precious little time to waste.  Renew my mind, God.  Let me hear You.  Let me recognize it.

I made my way to a dinner being held after the sermon and mingled on purpose; desperate to see Him in the eyes of His people.  “God.  I will not let go, until I start to hear Your voice above the swell in my ears.  I’m just flat out sick of not.”  I turned to see a woman I’d long wanted to get to know better but….well, the distraction had made me distant….. and spun her around to hug her and look her in the face.  She had a story.  “Sit down,” she said to me and so I sat, ready to hear.  At that moment, right at the moment He’d planned all along, someone “interrupted” our conversation to say hello to my friend.  “Oh!  I know your wife!  I haven’t seen her in s o   l o n g.  Please tell her Tamara said hello!”  And just like that, the recognition set in on his face.  He remembered me.  He’d heard parts of my story.  How was I, he wanted to know.  Good.  I’m good.  Not an easy good?  But a knowing good.  Knowing Whose I am good, knowing the end of the story no matter what good.  “I can tell,” he said.  “You wouldn’t have had to say a thing.  I can see it on your face.”   He sat down and we caught up on all things life.  And then this.  He looked me straight in the eye.  “How can I bless you?”

My eyes filled with tears.  I was caught off guard.  Not that I was  guarded?  But I couldn’t ever remember being asked that so directly by someone, and I swayed a little at it, like a wind blown through quick.  And then I “heard” the whisper in my spirit.  “This is Me.  That is My question.  I stand ready to bless you.  I have all along.”

I woke up this morning.  My hair was a m e s s.  I ate the same green smoothie I always do.  I packed up what to take with me same as any other day.  But something was different.  I had heard His voice.  And I would step over, step on if I had to, the distractions to get to terra firma.  I was ready to break this yoke for good.  I’d seen it slap itself around my heart for the last time.  He had heard my voice and responded with His own.

The voice of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, the voice of the Lord………Hear, oh hear…..the voice of the Lord.

 

 

 

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