Independence Days

This week’s Thankful Thursday is brought to you from somewhere amidst the thankfulrubble of burnt out sparklers and spent Roman candles, from the last echoes of the thunder claps of exploding fireworks, and from the shadows of the painted reds, whites, and blues showering the sky. Today I am thankful for freedom!

I spent the week preceding Independence Day strolling IMG_5322the streets of one of the nation’s oldest, most historical cities. I toured forts where both Revolutionary and Civil War battles had been fought. I admired authentic flags, relics, and bits of history that were hundreds of years old. It was beautiful.

It was informative. It was encouraging, humbling, and inspirational. Walking the cobblestone streets, touching the fortified walls, and hearing the historical struggles and facts caused me to reflect on war and peace, life and death, freedom and slavery. It made me thankful for battles fought, wars won, lives offered, and freedoms obtained.

We also experienced a more personal “Independence Day” at our home this week. My daughter officially moved out into her own apartment. How did twenty years go by so fast? She has found independence…a taste of well-earned, nobly obtained freedom. IMG_5312I’m not rejoicing in my half-empty nest or my newly found freedom…but hers. I am thankful for the reward that years of sowing and building and praying and teaching have brought.  I am thankful that we have been gifted and chosen to watch her stand, then walk, then fly on her own…into a new stage of life, freedom, and independence.

Freedom presents itself in many forms. Last night I sat high on the bleachers in a stuffy old gym, watching a group of teenagers swim. Specifically..my teenager. Two thoughts were evident in my mind:  “Wow, he sure has gotten good” and “wow, he looks so graceful and free.”  Like so many other teenagers, he has had his struggles with peer pressure, bullying, and fitting in, but in the pool… He is free. Smoothly and purposefully, he seems to defy physics and gravity and the weight of the world seems to roll off him like the drops of water he emerges from.

His form is fluent, artistic, poetic… and absolutely free. I especially like to watch his backstroke and his butterfly. He has found his path to shut out the voices and pressures and walk, or swim, his own trail. It has brought me such joy and thankfulness to watch his transformation, his battles being fought and won, and him raising his personal flag of freedom against the embittered war that rages around him daily. He is free.

IMG_5320So many freedoms, opportunities, and blessings. Free country: I have freedom to speak and eat and read and go and do most anything I feel led to. Free will: I have the capacity and the gift to choose whom to be with, to love, and to serve. Free to _______ and free from _________. You fill in the blanks. I am thankful for the freedom to be, the freedom to do, the freedom to want and work and gain. I am also thankful to be free from condemnation, guilt, shame, and sin. No longer a prisoner. Be thankful for another Independence Day.

Poles, Piers, Porches, and Pools

This addition of Thankful Thursday brought to you from peaceful shores thankfuljust outside the beautiful, historic city of Charleston, South Carolina. Today I’m thankful for vacation!

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Charleston, my heart is still grieved, but also stirred, as many flags in the area are still flying at half staff, remembering and honoring those who lost their lives. Like soldiers’ salutes or the FullSizeRender (6)collective bowing of heads in respect, the sentries of flag poles have held their charges low, draped like humble coverings over the dead and wounded. In the midst of pain, peace and remembrance soar in the colors of red, white, and blue draped across those flag poles.

And other poles… The sounds of clicks, swishes, and splashes echo like the ripples in the waters where we have cast, reeled, and waited: fishing poles. Cast, watch, wait, repeat. Relax, talk, wiggle toes in the water, feel the warmth of the sun, repeat. Ride the boat, walk the shore, squish the sand, pad the pier… A sturdy Adirondack chair adirondack-001sits confidently at the end of the pier and faces west. The sun sinks, the poles rise, the pier sways, and we are thankful. The pier stretches like a faithful friend who has been with us every step of the way, encouraging us out to the deep, to walk in faith, to explore and live. We walk the piers over the marshes, the river, the harbor, the ocean. They creak, they sway, they are imperfect, uneven, and splintered but they take us to places beyond the shore and open our eyes to sites otherwise unseen. They support us and let us rest for awhile.

I sit, I type, I start the morning with a welcoming  cup of coffee and an invigorating breeze. It’s vacation. 🙂 The downstairs porch is screened and looks out over the marina as the boats sway sleepily in the rocking water. The upstairs porch is open but the coffee and the view are the same. The sound is the same.FullSizeRender (7) It is both silent and deafening. The water repeatedly whispers to the shore and the seagulls and pelicans screech and swoop and shout out early morning conversations. The thoughts are loudest when the world is quiet and the schedule is undemanding and forgiving. Porches are sanctuaries, meeting places, and welcoming friends who encourage you to sit, still, reflect, and be thankful.

What vacation is complete without a little dip in the blue waters? restThe pool is nestled between palm trees, a gurgling fountain, and footprints of excited children. It is blue and warm and inviting. Splash bombs, back flips, and swim races transform my almost-adults into laughing, carefree children. It makes me smile. 🙂 It makes me think. It makes me thankful. Palm trees sway, the wind blows, the water splashes, the flagcrosslaughter and lightness lift my head and lift my spirit. The sky is blue, the wind is warm, and next to the pool another flag is waiting and waving and bowing. I am thankful.


A Bridge Over Troubled Water

bridge

[brij]

noun

1. a structure spanning and providing passage over a river, chasm, road, or the like. 

2. a connecting, transitional, or intermediate route or phase between two adjacent elements, activities, conditions, or the like

verb (used with object)                                                      thankful

1. to make a bridge or passage over; span
2. to join by or as if by a bridge
3. to make (a way) by a bridge

What a strange thought to come to mind on this Thankful Thursday: I’m thankful for bridges. The prompt? This headline:

Thousands form ‘Bridge to Peace’ Unity Chain to honor church shooting victims

The Ravenel bridge  is one of many sites that has been on our vacation “to see” list since we initially considered a Summer trip to Charleston. We’ve contemplated and planned and anticipated the trip for months, excited to study the wonderful architecture, stroll the historic streets, visit the beautiful gardens, bask on the warm beaches, and tour the many historic homes, churches, and Civil War sites. When news of the tragic church shooting exploded all over the media, there were so many analytical and emotional responses expressed nationwide: hurt, disbelief, anger, sadness, blame, hatred. It was difficult to fathom how widespread the ripple effect of the pain caused by this tragic loss of life would be. It was a senseless loss of brothers and sisters who had been walking in faith, worshiping, and praying…believers who had been welcoming and vulnerable in the face of hatred and evil. Sadly and selfishly however, somewhere beneath my initial expressions of grief and outrage simmered shallow, lurking questions: What will this mean for our visit? Will there be protests in the streets? Will we be looked upon with suspicion or resentment? Will there be danger?charlestonbridge

Then thousands of hands, hearts, and voices stood together, walked the Ravenel bridge, and stood in unity, in grief, in hope. What the enemy had intended for hate, hurt, and death transformed into love, hope, forgiveness, and life.

handbridgeThe betrayed and wounded painted a picture of grace and forgiveness. The hurt became the healers. In walking the bridge, they built a bridge.

In the literal sense, it would be impossible to travel our great nation without the many bridges spanning the mountains, valleys, and rivers. What a great idea: build a way across chasms, gorges, bridgeniterivers, and roadways! Pretty amazing really: architectural marvels and works of art at the same time! Someone dreamed, someone crafted, and they became reality.

Sometimes bridges can seem a little scary and uncertain… reaching, stretching across the unknown. What’s on the other side? Will it hold up under the weight? What would it be like to stay in one place, routine, sedentary and not go beyond the usual, the known, the comfortable…
Maybe that’s a stretch…  What about the metaphorical bridges: Spanning the gaps? Narrowing the differences? Meeting on the other side? Connecting? Making a way? What about this:
bridgecross
John 10:10
 Deep water, troubled water, raging water, murky and uncertain water…A secure bridge crosses over and provides safe passage and deliverance.
So, yes, I am thankful for bridges: bridges that connect, bridges that create unity and passage, bridges that traverse the gaps that divide, destroy, or swallow life and hope and love and unity. I am thankful for people who stretch and link and hold firm to connect and bond and strengthen and unite. I am thankful that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Stood in the gap. Became a bridge: bridgewoodthe way,
     the truth, the life. bridgewooden
bridge5**Special thanks to April Knight, worship artist, for the beautiful sketch “Charleston Strong.”   Check out her talent at http://www.scripturedoodle.com and order the print.  🙂

Thankful For The Written Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   2 Tim 3:16-17


We have lots of i’s in our home: iPods, iPads, iPhones. All of our i’s have apps: games, learning, productivity, photo editing, reading… We have iBooks, Kindle, Nook, and school and regional library reading apps. FullSizeRender (1)It’s amazing really…all the devices combined can hold thousands of books, probably more than I could read in a life time. I also have several digital bibles and can switch back and forth between versions faster than I could ever flip the old fashion chapter index tabs. But…newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. While I appreciate the convenience and portability of these devices,  they definitely change the landscape of the reading experience. Swiping the electronic screen Processed with Moldivto the next page doesn’t have the same aesthetic sound and feel as the repetitive swish of a finger seeking the next page. Bookmarking feels incomplete. Electronic highlighting doesn’t feel like the old familiar act of blazing a trail through the sentences, drawing the most important words to the forefront of vision and memory.

While it’s convenient to download a book at home with the mere touch of a button, I still love to stroll the crowded aisles of bookstores, inspect the wares, flip the pages. I like displays that attract and please the eyes. I like books that entice with classy, well-designed covers. I’m always drawn to the bible display: bibles of every size and color and translation. I like leather bibles..the smell, the crisp pages, the words of Jesus emboldened red. Heavy. Weighted with truth, glory, and promise. I write personal notes, reminders, and whispers or shouts of encouragement in the margins and flip back through in remembrance during times of need and wondering. A finger here, a bookmark there, a scrap of paper, a church bulletin, an old picture…Searching for truth, for just the right word.

Not everyone is as fortunate. Some are forced to hide their word. They steal hidden, forbidden glances…then they hide it in their hearts. They risk all for the written word, the living Word. I am thankful that, at this moment in time,thankful I can write the word, speak the work, possess the word with no immediate fear. I can share the word, sing the word, frame it on my wall, write it on my doorpost, or even tattoo on my skin if I choose. There is power and remembrance in both the spoken word and the written word.

I’m also thankful for the teachers, scholars, and students of the word who have researched, learned, listened, and then taught the word..sometimes forging the written word into expanded narratives, challenging lessons, and thoughtful ponderings.

These are the written words I’ve been exploring during the last few weeks. giftsI am thankful that I don’t have to hide them, thankful they are readily available, and thankful for the weight I feel in my hand as I hold them and the lightness in my heart when I read them. bethmoorebook

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”       Psalm 119:105

Thankful For Color: The Artist’s Palette

For years, the only TV I owned was a small 12 inch black and white. I’m not complaining. I have a large flat screen now and I rarely turn it on. In fact, I disconnected the cable after football season and my husband didn’t even notice until the “Final Four.” 🙂  It’s simply to say that for many years CellpixSeptOct2014 191I stayed tucked inside, introverted, and my window to the world was very much like that 12 inch black and white screen.

Thankfully, I now have eyes that see. Eyes that search. Eyes that drink in colors and flashes and scenes filled with the vibrant beauty of reds and blues and greens and golds and purples. Like a camera, my ever-scanning lenses search and record vivid hues and splashes of a thousand colors throughout life and nature, masterfully stroked by the hand of the Grand Artist. I gaze in wonder at every intentional, well-placed sprinkle and smudge from the Artist’s palette.

IMG_4061

Red is bright, lively, and exciting. Hot. Happy…maybe a little loud, wild, and carefree. It lives and laughs and loves with full joy and bold expression.

Orange is…well, I am from Tennessee 😉  balloon-001It’s college football and blinding sunsets and big bouncy circus balls and sweet, sweet citrus. It’s fun and delicious.

Yellow is happy, playful, bright. It beams and tumbles like sunshine…warming my skin, warming my soul. It’s a bright round smiley face, cheerful and encouraging. 🙂

IMG_4049-001Green is full of life…moving, growing, enriching, nourishing. Grass, trees, leaves, frogs. Green breathes and refreshes and sustains. Like softly spoken words, it spreads and gives life.

Blue is soothing. It calms, it invites, it welcomes. It surrounds, covers, and envelops like a soft warm blanket. haiti2015pierIt is a bold broad sky, a deep ocean, big baby eyes, a crooning saxophone.

Indigo and violet…I’m not sure I can tell the difference but I love every shade of blue and purple  They’re dramatic, intense, regal. FullSizeRender (5)Beautiful mature women, stately kings, garden flowers…they all wear purple, all unique, royal, experienced, and proud.

Thankful that the world is painted not only with varied shades of black, white, and gray, but with vibrant colors bursting forth like a thousand hallelujahs. Thankful for eyes that see and colors that warm and cheer and inspire. Thankful for the eye, the heart, the love, the creativity, and the steady hand of the Artist.

rainbowthankful

“..not even Solomon in all his splendor…” 


The Pitter Patter of Little Feet

Every good and perfect gift is from above…  James 1:17


It’s Thursday…time to take a moment to be thankful.  thankful

Today I am thankful for the pitter patter of little feet. Well…maybe they aren’t so little anymore. 🙂

I am blessed to be a mom twice. Two children. Four feet. Four hands. Two hearts. Endless possibilities. feet-002Long gone are the sounds of pittering and pattering down the hallways and the stairs. Maybe now the toddling and pitter pattering are more like stomping, shuffling, and rushing, but it still warms my heart and falls like bittersweet music on my tuned-in mommy ears. From early unsteady footfalls on the worn but welcoming floors of home, to the steady thunder throughout the cold halls of high school, the welcoming hills of a college campus, and the rushed, demanding workplace, their footprints are forging their own trails and leaving their own imprints now.

As I write these words, my son is walking on the hard soil of a Haiti mission field, hopefully leaving footprints, handprints, and a presence that will make a difference in others’ lives. My daughter walked that same path the previous four years, but today she is walking up and down the halls of a senior assisted living facility giving smiles, love, and assistance to people in need. Feet that go, do, serve, and leave their prints…I am thankful.

print out 9haitiryan

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!  Rom 10:15

haitigirl14

SpringBreak2012 181-001

All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.         Isaiah 54:13

I love baby feet and baby fingers and baby smells and smiles and all the wonders represented in the tiny little miracles. Chubby cheeks, wondering eyes, wiggling fingers, ticklish toes, contagious laughter..littles are so much fun! They’re rough and tumble and adventurous and wide-eyed and ready to be and do and live and learn. They grow, they change, they challenge, they leave. We laugh, we cry, we embrace, we love, we pray, we remember..

We look at photos and first locks of hair and handprints on construction paper and tiny clothes packed away in containers. The cries and the laughter and the first words echo in our memories like the distant chimes blown around by the wind. They sometimes fade and seem lost but eventually, unexpectedly rush in like the winds of a fierce, violent storm. And we soak in them and find comfort. The footprints, the images, the sounds, the smells, and the pitter patter resonate anew. And we are thankful.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.   Prov 22:6

feet2-001And as my children grow and walk and mature and serve, I am thankful for faithful friends and new lives and the sound of new little pitter patters.

Cats and Dogs and Fish, Oh My!

It’s thankful Thursday again! Check out http://www.marshasmusings.com for a good word, blessings, and encouragement. It’s a great place to link up and share thoughts on thankfulness. 🙂thankful

Today I am thankful for the joy and the privilege of being a pet owner.

Dogs, cats, a rabbit, some hermit crabs, a hamster, several fish… My house has been home to many of God’s creatures as they scooted, splashed, hopped, climbed, padded, thundered, explored, and lived life.

Not always the smartest, the cutest, pedigreed, or of significant worldly value, they have loved us unconditionally, encouraged us with their presence, provided comfort and company during lonely times, offered entertainment and laughter during fun times, and have been a quiet, trusted presence during still times. They have softenedFullSizeRender (7) my heart and taught me the value of all life. More importantly, they have taught my children faithfulness, gentleness, responsibility, and duty. They have been cute, cuddly, messy, boisterous instruments that have helped them learn how to love and do and respect life and, sadly, how to lose.. to cry and hurt and mourn with depth and grace in the midst of losing that which they love and value.

Pets and children reveal unique parts of us:

I’ve found, adopted, rescued, been given, and bought pets. I’ve cleaned fish bowls, crab tanks, hamster cages, litter FullSizeRender (3)boxes, hallway rugs, and back yards. I’ve found myself unexpectedly cheering on hermit crabs in bathtub races..snapping photos of a dwarf hamster riding in a remote controlled car..training a rabbit to use a litter box..speaking eulogies over fish through tears and prayers..cradling beloved pets as they breathed their last breaths..making hard decisions at the end of their lives..

A time to love, a time to grieve.. Now we have a mini pet cemetery in the backyard as the final resting place of pets who have left their paw prints in our lives and on our hearts: a 19 year old beloved cat-baby, a 16 year old devoted dog-friend, a hamster, a kitten, multiple fish, several hermit crabs, and two Eastern bluebirds.. A reminder of the fleeting speed of life and of blessings loved and lost.

We’re down to the final five: two dogs, a cat, FullSizeRender (1)and two Betta fish..almost an empty nest.

Not everyone shares or understands our love and devotion to our pets. They may at times be expensive, messy, noisy, or inconvenient; but I’m thankful for the privilege of owning pets and making them little parts of our family…enlarging our home and enlarging our hearts. ❤


FullSizeRender (8)
IMG_3917“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”