Monday, September 30, 2013

An Introduction to Lessons from the Desert

Welcome to Three Bees in a Blue Bonnet and my 31 Days project. If this is your first time here, I’d like to welcome you and invite you to curl up with your favorite warm drink (or favorite comforting beverage – you may be reading in warmer climes and want something refreshing. Me, I’m writing in the PNW in the midst of a rainstorm that would make Noah proud). If you’ve been here before, I’m so thrilled that you’re back to go on this journey with me.

This is my first time to participate in the 31 Days project as inspired by the Nester, and it both terrified and excited me. But this has been on my mind and heart for a while, and I have a promise to keep.

The desert that I’ll be writing about was an-about-three-year period between 2010 and 2013 when I left a job that was killing me one day at a time (not a metaphor); I was unemployed; my husband was unemployed; we teetered on the edge of financial disaster; our marriage took some hits; my understanding of what parenting was chipped away; my idea of who I was and what I was supposed to be doing with my life dissolved like paper under acid. Calling it a rough time would be a dramatic understatement.

But it was also a time of incredible growth, spiritual deepening – awakening even, of my husband and I growing together in our understanding of who we are in this marriage with Christ at the center, and so much more. There is a brief synopsis here that I wrote from an inspiration on a recent Five Minute Friday.

There were so many times I asked God why the desert journey had to take such a long time. If you’ve ever been in the midst of a dark place or a hard time, you know that time takes on a new disposition. It’s longer and feels like it’s never actually passing. By the time it was done, it was just over three years. And I know that it all happened in God’s timing.

More than anything, I understand that the three years was necessary for me to learn the lessons He had, it was necessary for me to have the rest and recovery I required, and it was necessary so that it would be plainly, ridiculously obvious that our success and survival in that time was entirely due to Him and Him alone.

Imagine if I had been out of work for three weeks. I’m not sure anyone would have noticed. If anything, they might have envied me the little break and then not even noticed as I jumped right back into the next thing. Three months? Sure, things would have been tight, but people can get by for a few months, right? Friends and family will pitch in and you find ways to trim the luxuries and make it until things right size themselves.

But what about three years? There’s no easy explaining that away. No “oh, you were just lucky.” Or “well, you just caught some breaks and made your own way.” No. Let me just tell you straight up that there was no luck and very few breaks involved here. Just a lot of grace and miracles from a God whose resources are fathomless and who works in ways both mysterious and blatantly obvious as He chooses.  Oftentimes using others to be His hands and feet, sometimes just being a mysterious miracle, but always working, always providing. Through the three years, we kept our house, paid our bills, kept the refrigerator full (enough), kept the car running, had medical care (there will be posts on this, but some of those miracles involved medicine that is necessary for my life and awfully expensive), and so much more. All of this happened so that my story – our story – could become a signpost pointing to God and His glory and show His love for us and allow us to become part of the larger tapestry that is the love story for His people.

Towards the end of the journey early in 2013, when I could finally see the end of the desert, I was talking with my sister and said, “You know, if this turns out to be a three year thing, I should totally write a book about it or something. My promise to God.” We had spoken often about how the Lord had used the grouping of threes as a metaphor in teaching me lessons in the desert. When the timing was spot on, that casual conversation turned into a slightly panicked, “well, dang, now I’m going to have to write a book about this or something.” And while this is just my blog and not a book, it is the beginning of my fulfillment of that promise to the Lord: that I would take the lessons that He taught me during those dry times and put them out there to help others who were walking in their own deserts.

So welcome. I hope you’ll come back to hear more. I pray that this series will minister to you and bless you where you are.

Tomorrow: He Is With You

Posts will be listed here on the main page on a daily basis, but will also be available on the new 31 Days tab I've added that will have an introduction to this introduction and the chronology and links to all the posts.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtag #desertjourney if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Five Mintute Friday - True

Five Minute FridayWe're telling true stories tonight on the FMF. This night of the week where a bunch of brave writers gather close to spend 5 collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: True


Why yes, it’s true. I am in a panicked whirl. I am sitting frantic, yet still beneath the fluorescent lights in my office. It is quiet – except for the squeak of the chair as my husband patiently waits, and the scratch of the pencil as my daughter plows through her homework. And underneath the bright lights and low hum of homely conversation that is only slightly out of context here, my mind whirls and I think about what she asked – tell me a true story. I need your true story. And as I think about the desert road that I’m about to write deep and long about on the 31 day journey come October, this is the Truth that comes to mind.

Just over three years ago, at the far edge of December,
I lost my mind and most of my health to a job that wasn’t worth the money they paid me for it.
Too many hours and too many expectations
and the me inside that wouldn’t back down and wouldn’t say no
and didn’t know how to find a boundary or a compromise to save my life.
Didn’t know how to save my life

So I went right over the edge
To the place where you just don’t get up anymore
Don’t get out of bed
Don’t answer the phone
Don’t raise your head for your sweet little girl to give you kisses.
Just lie there in the dark black
That has become the consuming all
And think darker thoughts and the idea
That you’re never ever going to come out of this again.

Pass through a week
That feels like a decade
And pull yourself out into some semblance of decency
And write the letter you’ve been wanting to write for eighteen long hard months
And say goodbye.
Good riddance (but not saying that part out loud).
Never again.

Breaking through the ice-driven waters of the next thing
And realizing that it’s not cold,
But a long desert road ahead.
No end in sight.
No water.
No oasis.
No shade.
No shelter.
Good God the cries from your throat
Are nearly as desperate
As the ones when you were down in
Your pit of despair.

And then right before the desert swallows you whole,
The light breaks
And the One who walked long and hard
And days of His own in the desert
Shines through again
(like He always does)
And one small step in front of the other
You begin the slow walk
Through the desert.

Not immediately transported out -
Because there is so much to learn.
Because so much needs to go by the wayside.
And all these things that you’ve been hanging on to
For decades
and decades (yes, you’re old enough to say that now)
Come peeling off like sloughed skin

Like Eustace in Narnia
The Lion strips you clean.
and while there is that stinging burn
Of the things that were before,

The brilliant shinning clean
And what you can see now
Compared to what you didn’t see before
(which is only a shadow of what you will see)
Is amazing beyond belief and understanding.

And then standing at the far side of the desert
You know the truth of the matter.
And why you had to walk the path.
And why you can never go back.

And why it’s so important to tell the story
Of the Lessons in the Desert.


How to Join
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

He Has Chosen Not to Heal Me but to Hold Me

In pondering last night’s post and the beautiful, graceful responses I received from friends and readers, I created the image below from a picture by photographer Manic Morff (such fun names on the morguefile website) with a quote from the inspirational Joni Eareckson Tada. I remember reading her biography in the early 80s and being impacted in such a huge way by the struggle and triumph she discovered through her disability and the Lord’s way of working through her.

While I have nowhere near that kind of struggle, I do have my hard days, and her words are a breath and prayer of encouragement in those times.

This is one of the things I'll occasionally post on the Three Bees Facebook page and would love to have you join me there or on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet to stay connected even more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


There is nothing like the soaring, freeing feeling of getting better to make feeling worse, feel, well, worse. Three weeks into a combination of new medication that was promised to make a difference and I was actually feeling and seeing a difference.

The redness and swelling in my fingers was down. The swelling in my feet and ankles – while not altogether gone – was reduced enough to see that I actually still had ankles. I was able to put my shoes on – all by myself (as opposed to the contortionist circus act that my husband and I had almost perfected). I was walking without the dreaded cane. And when a friend stopped by over the weekend, I stood in the driveway chatting with her for at least twenty minutes. You have no idea how nearly impossible that would have been just a month ago.

Photo by Manic Morff
It started with just the touch of a cold. Kids go back to school and immediately everyone gets sick. Colds come home, and no matter how much hand washing goes on, families who love, cuddle, and get their snuggle on are going to trade germs. Which is fine. Until you’re taking meds that help, but in helping, give your immune system the strength of an off-brand paper towel in the Brawny commercial.

All I wanted today was to wear a different pair of pants and shoes that weren’t trainers. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve managed to get some cute ones: leopard print and black with sequins – but there are days when I am just so over flat shoes. I need to get over being over that. Though there isn’t much walking on my job, there were enough steps today that walking in heels made an impact. Not a good one. I could feel it from my hips down to my toes and realized that this pair of pants probably wasn’t worth it.

Then at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was go to the library. I haven’t been to this favorite spot in months. They’ve renovating, and I just had to see it. I gave in and took my cane – and told myself we’d only be there for a few moments. We were, but moments were all that it took. The pain had been mounting all day and somewhere between Gluten Free Girl and Eric Ripert my body threw in the towel and said “enough.”

Sheer stubbornness and fury held me upright as I took one tiny knife-edged step after another towards the center of the library that seemed five miles away to where my husband sat. “Time to go,” was all I could manage.

Throughout the past year I have been reading amazing writers and absorbing talk about joy in all circumstances; giving thanks in all things; and learning to be content with the process. Most of the time, I am able to live this out and utter sincere gratitude even in the hardest areas of my life.

Friends, I have to confess that it wasn’t gratitude, praise, or joy that passed my lips tonight. When I fall, I go down hard, and it was so much anger, frustrated cursing, and ill-compressed rage that was ground out through my teeth tonight. There are times I don’t understand the plan here. I can’t comprehend what God has for me to learn amidst this weakness and this pain. I wonder what the point of it all is.

And then I think about what I’ve learned of suffering that I didn’t know before. I think of how I view others in similar or, Lord forgive me, even more difficult circumstances than I’m in. I used to be so proud of my strength, that I didn’t understand what it meant to be weak. But having strength stripped away and replaced with the humility of pain and the necessity of leaning on others has helped me develop more compassion for those in need.

My heart has softened, along with my iron hard expectations, and I find myself able to look with kindness and patience where I used to be dismissive and demanding. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got a long way to go. Read enough of my Facebook posts about the sometime exasperations of my job and you’ll know just what I mean.

But I hope that I am listening and learning; that I am leaning in close and being quiet in spirit – even in the hard times – so that the Holy Spirit can whisper the lessons that I need to hear. I pray that my heart will continue to soften towards those who struggle and that I will be able to feel their pain in my own.  I pray that as I continue to be broken and healed as God moves in me – both physically and spiritually – that this brokenness will point its way to redemption and the One who was broken for us all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Preparing for the 31 Days Project

As a writer, I’m always looking for new challenges and ways to grow. From finding online writing groups, to discovering new authors, to trying out new writing styles and genres – I like a challenge. One coming up on the horizon that I’m looking at with excited, nervous, scared, anticipation is the 31 Days Project.

This is the fifth year for the project – hosted by author and blogger, The Nester – and last year it had over 1200 participants. The idea is to commit to write on a topic – any topic – every day for 31 days. You can learn more about it here. Wow. That’s a huge commitment for someone whose top posting month clocked in at a whopping 16 (we’ll see … September is also looking quite promising).

But I’m encouraged and excited because the Lord has been nudging me to write about something for a while. The same thing that got me back into my writing and serious about blogging at the end of last year.

The desert time that I’ve spoken of from time to time here – those three years between 2010 and 2012 when I didn’t have a real job (or at times any job at all), and my husband wasn’t working, and things were falling apart in all kinds of ways – those were lean, hard, difficult years. But they were also a time of tremendous spiritual growth and awakening. A time when the Lord brought me closer to His heart; when He brought my husband closer to Himself; and where He opened my eyes and my spirit to lessons I hadn’t been ready to learn before.

The more I write this down; the more I share it with other friends and writers, the more I say this out loud, the less fearful I become of the project. I’m taking a breath and leaning into this desire to share what I’ve learned and to open up about what God has put on my heart.

I hope that you’ll look forward to October with me
 and come back to visit for 
31 Days of Lessons From the Desert

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday - She

Five Minute FridayOn Fridays a bunch of brave writers gather here to all spend 5 collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: She


I ride home tonight under the glow of the streetlights feeling sated and full. Another night at 208 Garfield and I am satisfied. I didn’t eat much, but in the company of these women, I am filled. An hour or two of in-real-life company, and I am refreshed.

The night air is comfortably crisp and cold – autumn has arrived – and lights from the neighborhood wink by as I roll on to the sound of Sara Bareilles singing Satellite Call over, and over, and over again. This back road home? I know it by heart. It’s also the well-worn path between our houses (I wave at her road as I pass by) and I’m thinking about her on this short drive home.

It was a colder night than this when we met for the first time. Another familiar crowd of friends and I was saying hello for the first time. As we talked between other swirling conversations, I had the most curious feeling that I had met her before, and the confidence that I would surely know her better in the future.

Connection. It’s just something that happens when someone makes an impression that doesn’t go away. When you find a friend who speaks to your heart – even if you’ve never known them before. Chronology is wonderful, but it matters less when your lives can simply weave into one anothers, and you speak and think with a rhythm that is as easy as breath.

She is more lovely than she will ever give herself credit for – and not just on the outside. Hers is a graceful spirit that bends and flows to encompass those in her life – giving and sharing and wrapping them into the warmth of a hug.

She is gifted in spirit and speaks truth when she writes, when she teaches, and when she shares her thoughts. She prepares relentlessly, but is sometimes the last one to see the how her words touch lives and gives hope and encouragement to those who need comfort or direction.

She is forgiving and spirited – all in one. Letting me curse ferociously when my temper flares – she does this without judgment – but is my constant in reminding me where my eyes should be turned and what path I should be seeking.

She is one on the short list of friends I will let into my home when I have not cleaned it. She is one with whom I can sit quietly without words and not be uncomfortable. She is one for whom I will take down the masks and let the real me out – even the hard, and the pain, and the tired, and the ugly.

She is a gift I am most grateful for, and who I hope I will never take for granted. She is a blessing. She is my friend.

Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like family
Proverbs 18:24 MSG


How to Join
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Behind the Scenes - Ready to Change the World (Again)

I will never forget this trip – the trip to Washington D.C. my senior year in high school. I can’t remember what class sponsored it or even who perked my interest, but it was for high school students interested in politics, interested in world change, interested in making a difference in their community. Yes. I’m sure you picked all of that up from this photo.

To be honest, the photo is fairly tame. You can’t really see my purple hair with lavender streaks. You can’t see the fact that I’m running around Washington D.C. in April with no shoes on, and you can’t see all the chains, chunky jewelry, and other metallic embellishments I usually had in abundance because I had to take it all off to go on the White House tour (ask me how many times they made me go through the check point). Funny things, those metal detectors, they just keep going off, and going off, and …

Back then, I had this idea that I wanted to change the world. I didn’t know what I wanted to change it into, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to change it, but I knew I wanted to make a difference, I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew I wanted to make my life count for something.

Back then, I thought that meant getting into politics (or becoming radically political), going somewhere into the heart of government and striking out with messaging, passing legislation, and lobbying for action.

Somewhere between Washington D.C and back home; somewhere between senior year and sometime later, that desire for change and making a difference broke on the rocks of real life; community college; and paying bills. It would be a long time before I heard the call for change deep in my heart again.

But I have heard it. In the last several years, things have been moving and changing in my life. Things have been stirring. I have been on a desert journey and come out the other side with a clearer path and a keener vision. I haven’t given up on the dream that I can change the world. I haven’t given up on my desire to make a difference. I’m finding ways to nurture that dream, one small spark at a time through small steps – nothing grand – but through understanding that change doesn’t have to be sweeping. It just has to happen.

Awake. When I first saw it, I thought it was a snapshot of someone’s morning coffee. Yes. It was an early morning. Then I saw that cup of coffee, ahem, book cover popping up on other Facebook walls, Twitter feeds, and Instagram streams and thought – something must be going on here. I was intrigued. This book – about absolute poverty and its associated tragedies like malnutrition, human trafficking, and other global issues – is written by a Noel Yeatts, Vice President of World Help, a faith-based humanitarian organization that serves the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world.

I read the reviews of her book on several blogs, have a copy on the way, and have made the commitment to join the six-week study of the book. This fits so perfectly with so much of what I desire in my life: an opening up, a pouring out, a giving up. I want to do all of that while wide awake. I hope this study will be another step in that direction. I invite you to join. Read the book. Join the study. You can learn more about it here. I think this one’s going to be a game changer. I'm linking up with Crystal Stine and company again today; joining the Behind the Scenes link up. A place to make a connection beyond the Pinterest perfect ideals; to look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it; to say hi, this is me in all my messy real-ness. Sounds like a good time to me.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chasing History: The Women of Exodus - Working Together for God's Glory

ChasingHistoryLinkUp What is it about the Chasing History link up that keeps pulling me back? I adore the link up post host – Kaitlyn, the college girl in Birmingham. I love her story and what I’ve learned about her giving heart and generous spirit. I love that she’s designed this, not necessarily as a Bible study, but as a place to share what we’re learning in the Word – stories for His glory as we’re reading them and diving in. I admire that she’s still keeping it going even though she’s back to school and with a more-than-full plate of studies, internships, projects, and more. It’s just good stuff and it keeps me digging in.

Today, I’m going back to Exodus again. The same storyline of Miriam and Shiprah and Puah, just a little further down the road.

The Israelites have made it out of Egypt. They’re out of bondage and across the Red Sea. They’ve made it far under the keeping of God’s hand. All the way to Mount Sinai.  There was some trouble there – these impatient people (we know what that’s like, right?) waited for Moses to come down from the mountain top with God. And waited. And waited. Then decided he just wasn’t coming and needed to make their own way. We know what that’s like, right?

God’s judgment fell, followed by His mercy. Then Moses came down with the commandments again, and this time, the people were ready to listen. As Moses spoke of the new Tabernacle that was to be built – the house of God – he let the people know that they had been invited to participate in the making.

Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats' hair or tanned rams' skins or goatskins brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s contribution.
Exodus 35: 20-24

“Everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought…”

This was not demanded of them in the way that it was with foreign idols. This was an invitation that they responded to. And not only in goods, but in the working as well. All of this was done as a freewill offering to the God of their salvation who had brought the out of Egypt and through the desert.

And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats' hair.
Exodus 35: 25-26

photo by Seeman
The women came together; joining their resources and talents to spin, and weave, and create the beautiful coverings and tapestries that would make up the exterior and interior coverings of the house of God. Can you imagine the excitement as they worked together over these beautiful materials? Can you imagine the joy as they saw their work spring to life under their hands and then multiply as they worked together with their sisters?

More hearts were stirred and more materials were brought to the point that Moses had to call a halt to the giving. It says, “for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.” (Ex 35:7)

Something miraculous happens when we work together in God’s name and for His purpose. He is able to take our willing hearts and the gifts He has placed in us and multiply the outcome to accomplish His will. When working with other’s towards a goal that God has in mind, watch how you’ll discover something you didn’t you could do blossom and flourish. You may find that you’ve been preparing for this work your entire life and you didn’t even realize you were being prepared. You may discover joy in something you never thought you’d want to do – all because you’re doing it for God’s purpose and with His people.

Want to see what this looks like in real life now? Check out the (in)mercy project - a collaboration between the (in)courage community and Mercy House Kenya. Click on the (in)mercy link in the sidebar and learn more.

My prayer for you is that you will find the area that God is calling you to and that you will be able to use your gifts and talents to the glory of His name and to help further His purposes on this earth. You will be blessed.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

To My Daughter - As She Writes

Dear Faith,

Weekly writing assignments.

I know this is new territory for you. I know at this point organized writing, pre-selected topics, and the length of three paragraphs feels like an eternity compared to free writing in a journal where you could doodle pictures and write about whatever you wanted.

But oh, baby girl, this door that is swinging wide for you – I am so excited about this for you. I think you heard a little of this excitement in my voice this morning as we finished the throw down about homework (it will be done before anything else happens), or at least you heard the fierce passion in my voice about writing. I know it feels like so much in this moment. But oh, baby girl …

You come from a legacy of words. You come from a wealth of letters. Yours is a birthright of narrative and storytelling. Language and phrase and the ability to describe a jaw-dropping sunset or the aching longing for what you want most were woven into the molecules of your DNA as surely as were your green eyes, honey-brown hair, and boundless smile.

You see your Mama writing all the time – not just here on the screen – but in my notebooks that fill my bags and every corner of my desk, on scraps of paper, on the backs of checks, on paper tablecloths in restaurants. This is what happens when your very existence is crafted on words and expression. Life bleeds out of your fingertips and you learn to never halt the flow of phrase when the muse hits.

But here’s the trick my little girl: like any gift or talent, it begins and is cultivated with practice. Always writing. Always capturing the moment. Always being willing to take the time to write it down. Even when there is no muse. Even when there are no words. This is the gift that comes with doing it over and over and over again and schooling yourself in the drawing out – on discovering the magic that happens when you come once again to the sacred space of putting pen to paper and letting go.

And it is magic. I can no more explain the mystery of how I write (how we write) than I can explain how I cook or how I design or how the music happens when I get near a keyboard. Yes, I can explain the technicalities of these things. I can tell you the proper way they should be done and the order of the business. But I can’t explain the magic. That discovery will be yours alone as you begin to write your own words down. As you begin your journey of letters and ink.

You will follow me, as I followed Nana and Papa, as they followed their writers before them. You will find your inspirations until your shelves are covered with the ones you can’t live without; the ones you turn to – the way I turn to Madeleine L’Engle and Ann Voskamp. You will find the music that drives you when you write. And you will find your space where the mystery becomes complete and you give birth to your art.

There will be times when you feel as dry as parched earth; when there are no ideas; when there is no inspiration. These are the times when you go back to the backbone of the craft – where you go back to the beginning. This is why these early exercises are so important. This is where you will learn to keep on pushing ahead and writing it down – even when it seems like you’re not saying anything at all. Because as you push through those dry spaces; as you write though your deserts; as you wrestle with words that will not come, you will suddenly find yourself in the midst of a breakthrough or an oasis and then you’ll barely be able to stop.

Do not be afraid. Be bold in your words. Be brave. Let them spill out over page and table and onto the floor beneath you. Write into the teeth of what frightens you most and never look back. Be fierce as you discover your voice – know that it will be an evolving thing – and be willing to move and change with it. It is as organic as you are, and if you honor your voice and practice your art, you will never be afraid of what you write.

I’ve seen glimpses of the writer in you already. I’ve been a bit awed to think that some of these ideas can come from someone so small. And yet I can’t be all that surprised, given where we come from. Keep going sweet girl. Writing is in your veins, and it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

I pray that as you do, you remember where your gifts come from – that you will turn your eyes inward and heavenward and use those gifts for His glory as you craft out your creations. Everything comes from His hands.

Any excuse to put up a link to the amazing Sara Bareilles - especially this song.
Love it - and it says so much of what I want to say here. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Mercy

Five Minute FridayWriting again this week with Lisa Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday Crew. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: Mercy


I feel like I have been fighting with weakness all my life. You’ve heard me say that before – how this is hard for me. How I hate the weaknesses that I see in myself. How I have struggled to accept imperfections and see flaws as fatal features. Even when I know it’s okay, I do not easily open up or let down my guard. All the time, I must be held together, put together, in one precise piece. It’s like a terrifying balancing act that I both embrace and ignore. It worked for a while. I was the oldest. I was organized. After a brief stint of not having it together, I turned it around and had it freakishly together in school. Everything was rolling along. And beneath the cover of togetherness was a roiling fury of terror at being discovered that it was not all actually together.

My cover broke in a hard way – as trust was smashed to pieces and everything I thought was strong was shattered and my faith in God and His church was rocked to the core. Everything spilled through the torn places and I entered the first dark place in my life.

In this dark place, I hid away from God. I disavowed the fellowship of His people. I saw no one.

photo by Karpati Gabor
All I could see was emptiness and brokenness and weakness, and I did not know what to do with it or how to handle it. God had always been a God of light and praise. A God of the good times and gentle places. A God of strength and might. The God I knew did not go into darkness. The God I knew did not deal in weakness.

Curious that when I began to long for God, I found my way back to Him through the most structured, formal church I could find. I thought that if I hid behind solemn liturgy (the opposite of where I’d been before) I might find a fraction of what I’d lost. I had no expectations.

And had no idea that it would be the chanted acclamation of Kyrie eleison that would pierce through the shell of my soul that morning. How the echo of Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy would resound in my heart and become the awakening of my spirit to an understanding that it was the weakness I despised that allowed Him to move in me and through me.

It was not my togetherness that God wanted. It was not my organization, or my strength, or my determination. Or any of those other things that I had carried and cultivated for so long and with such careful precision. It was my weakness, my brokenness, and my surrendered spirit. Given in trust into His loving hands. For His healing. For His kingdom.

kyrie eleison
christe eleison

His mercy made me whole.
It still does.


How to Join:
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

The (in)mercy Project Launches!

Today, I’m proud and honored to be part of a project that launches here – that will have repercussions around the world. (in)courage – you’ll be familiar with them by now – has partnered with Mercy House Kenya to take journey together "(in)Mercy" to raise funds to provide essentials for the safety and sustainability of Mercy House and its 12 moms and 12 babies. There are five very specific ways that will enable Mercy House Kenya to move confidentiality forward in its mission of serving women and children – all before Christmas! Each phase will be represented by a group of bloggers from the (in)courage community who has felt a special affinity for that particular phase.

Now, I won’t be writing until November (so you’ll have to check back and see what part of the project drew my heart), but I have some amazing friends that I’ve met through the (in)courage community who are writing in Phase One that you just need to meet. Each has her reasons for writing, each has her own special voice, each has been blessed by God with a way with words and a crafting of language. I hope you’ll take a moment and visit these friends of mine and learn more about the (in)mercy project.

Karrilee at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace
She was one of the first that I met. Once of the first Five Minute Friday writers to say hello over Twitter; to welcome me in; to make me feel at home. Since then, this friendship has grown as we’ve discovered one thing after another in common – so many things to make us kindred spirits – and so many ways to pray and support each other. I’m looking forward to November, when I finally get to say hello in person and welcome her into my home.

Alia Joy at Narrow Paths to Higher Places
I adore this architect of words and am so grateful for her coming into my life. Another FMF friend who shares the West Coast time with me, Alia’s words are a beautiful balm and inspiration whenever I land on her page. She is also the giver of much wise advice – that I turn to time and again as I grow on my journey as a writer.

Vanessa at Hearts on Guard
Photo by Bess Brownlee
I have to say, I’ve never met anyone who encourages quite as much as Vanessa does. She’s fairly new to blogging, but you’d never know that with all the talent, skill, and passion she employs. In addition to a beautiful voice that she writes her story with, she lifts up, exhorts, and brings light to other writers who need a long distance hug, a tweet to bring them a smile, or an email to let them know that they are not alone.

Kris Camely at
Her book on the Lenten Season, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, has completely moved me. And I can’t even write to her about it yet because I keep going back and reading pieces over and over and over again. It’s another online friendship that has been nourished by (in)courage, and one where I’m a little tentative in the light of her gifts, and yet always overwhelmed by her generous spirit.

There are more writers … twenty-four in all in Phase One. And I hope that you’ll enjoy the writings of the ones that I’ve shared here. Maybe you’ll see more. If you’re interested, you can donate through the widget on my page or theirs. Learn more about Mercy House. Learn how God is moving. Learn how taking situations that could be so terrible and turning them for His good. Let’s help bless them for Christmas.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wisdom From a Life In Bloom: Part 4

Over the summer, I started a series called Wisdom from a Life in Bloom – taking the quotes from a little book I got several years ago from Coldwater Creek and seeing where they lead. Of course, this became that and life intervened and that category is still relatively small in my lineup of things I write about. But the beauty of something like this, this writing, blogging adventure, is that you can always go back and jump right into the midst of where you were before.

So where was I …

Learning to be alive while we’re alive
It seems to me that we can never give up longing or wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good and we must hunger for them.

George Eliot

Don’t you know that the image for this quote is a glorious Japanese maple (like the image here by Gary Liddell) exploding in fall colors? How perfectly perfect for a reentry into this most colorful of seasons.

What captures me the most as I stare at this picture and absorb these words is how autumn is a metaphor for both of these things: this longing and wishing for beauty and goodness and other intangibles that do not reveal themselves until a waning season in our life. Not the waning season – I’m not trying to be morbid – but there are seasons that come and go as we age and mature, and it seems to me in my experience, that it is when we are in the letting go phase, that we suddenly see how beautiful something has been. Or perhaps not even beautiful, but just the value that it has had in our lives. And then we cherish it even more for what we know now.

Photo Credit: Gary Liddell
But what if we could see that now? What if we could set aside the minutia that swirls around us like a blinding sandstorm; the daily grind that throws up distractions and disillusions – calling for our attention here and our signature there? What if we could learn purity of focus – a strengthening of our lens – so that we saw the beautiful and the good at the forefront of every day? What would that look like?

Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8 ESV

Then, seeing these things and hungering for these things, what would we do? How would we act? How would the rendering of our lens change the actions of our everyday lives?

Would we be more ready with a smile? Would we be willing to extend and arm – or more if called upon? Would we be willing to ask a friend or acquaintance “how are you?” and really wait for their answer? Would we look past the presumed “fine” to see if everything really was fine, or if, perhaps, there was a hurting heart in need of comfort and grace that could held in our hand and brought back into the light of living?

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 ESV

I believe that if we are longing and hungering for the good and the beautiful then we will often be called out of our comfort zone – seemingly opposite of what we’re looking for – we will be called into the dark and the ugly to be the bringers of light; the carriers of peace; and the bestowers of love to the edges of our world (our personal world that leads to our global world) to spark a change that we can only make when we have the Light of Life within our hearts.

And by opening ourselves up to this hunger for what God calls us to; by allowing our hearts to awaken to His desires for our lives; by relinquishing ourselves to whatever service He has for us; by being alive while we're alive, we will find our other hungers satisfied like never before.

They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.

Isaiah 49:9b-10 ESV

Where are you being called?
To whom and to where will you bring beauty in your world?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Beginning My Journey as an Exodus Road Blogger

It had been on the periphery of what I knew for a long time. It was out there in numbers, images, themes from movies and television shows. Human trafficking isn’t something you can miss. In the fall of 2011, a friend invited me to attend a Forum on Human Trafficking presented by the Justice and Mercy Foundation that deeply touched a chord inside me. It gave me great information, good resources, and so much inspiration, but didn't necessarily provide the "what next" that I was looking for.

My History
Nearly ten months later, I answered an ad for a volunteer position with a small non-profit called Light the Dark. Two young women who had been through the Social Leadership Academy at Movement121 were working to create a campaign against Human Trafficking by uniting some of the world's most significant organizations fighting human trafficking into one voice. In an unprecedented effort, thirty three organizations from six continents pledged to unite resources, people, and voices. For better or for worse, at the same time they were building, so was another organization. One month before we were scheduled to launch, our team received an email that over the course of recent meetings, our executive team discovered that the End It movement team had also been collaborating on a similar project and they were launching in February 2012. Light the Dark graciously stepped down to put their support fully behind the End It movement, while also moving ahead with another phase of their plan, Phoster Candles. It was a great experience and I had received a taste of what could be done, but I didn’t see a specific path in front of me to pursue this calling.

And then that fall I discovered the (in)courage site. I have to laugh as I write this, simply because I say that so very much. But in all honesty, discovering (in)courage, Allume, and all the connected sites – that was a serious game-changer and life-changer for me. It brought me into a community of like-minded, spirit-led, Nutella-loving, pray-hard-and-love-you-harder writers whose voices and friendships mean so much to me. Even though I’ve yet to meet any of them face to face. It introduced me to the larger world of intentional blogging, where using the talents that God has blessed you with has a purpose. And it brought me into the sphere of The Exodus Road. 

Their History
The Exodus Road is just over two years old, and as a coalition, has directly supported the rescue of 189 victims of human trafficking since July 2012. As a network of surveillance teams and individuals, committed to fight trafficking, one legal court case at a time, their first goal is rescue. To see more specifics about what they've been able to do, you can read Laura Parker’s post: What Has Your Money Accomplished? Their second goal is increasing awareness and raising funds to support the investigative and rescue teams.

Photo Credit: Exodus Road
This is where the blogging team comes in. The Exodus Road has been assembling a team of quality bloggers who are choosing to use their online voices to consistently put the issues of modern day slavery in front of their respective audiences. They believe that everyone has a valid voice in this fight to free the oppressed, and they are building a coalition of engaged writers who believe it, too. Exodus Road bloggers are given stories and inside information from the field of counter-trafficking monthly via newsletter. Using those tools, they then tell their readers powerful stories, based on true accounts from the front lines.

Where We're Going Together
This is where I come in. Several weeks ago, I applied to be an Exodus Road blogger and have been accepted onto the team. I’m looking forward to a chance to share the stories of the incredibly brave investigative teams in the field, and of the women and children whose lives are being changed because of what they’re doing. I hope you’ll take a moment to connect with them on their website, on their Facebook page, or on Twitter. Each small investment can lead to something larger.

There are 27 million slaves in our modern world today.
That number is huge.
That number is terrifying.
That number is daunting.

But the only way to make it less frightening is to begin. And the Exodus Road has begun. They are rescuing. They are changing lives and making a difference – one person at a time.

Please take a moment and watch this video here,
from the founder of The Exodus Road

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Red

Five Minute FridayWriting again this week with Lisa Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday Crew. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: Red


It would be a long time before I could embrace anything but black. Certainly, in the years before, when I had little to do or say with what went into the clothing of me, certainly there was color.

But when I was old enough to call the shots, old enough to make the decisions, and certainly old enough to lay down the crisp or crumpled bills for the goods, it was a sea of darkness that swam before me on the changing room floor. I often said it made dressing in the early morning hours easier. Said it made matching things easier (but really, have you ever tried matching shades of black – take my word – they’re not created equal). Said it allowed for mystery and magic and the phase of goth that extended far past high school.

And while there might have been bits of truth embedded in there, let’s face it. The real magic of black is that is can make you disappear. Make you blend into the background. Let you drift into the shadows. And when you lack confidence and every other step you take, blending, disappearing, drifting away into the shadows is exactly what you want to do.

When I started to let go of the black and the need to blend and disappear – I can’t tell you exactly. It wasn’t an overnight event. I didn’t wake one morning full of joy and confidence; singing like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. It was a slow, quiet awakening. A growing awareness that there was something worth having a look at inside. An understanding that God had planted a seed and a woman of worth was growing up from underneath all the silt of struggle and trial. And somewhere right about that time, my new favorite color became red.

Red purse, red boots, Chanel red on my lips and toes. Red tinted Ralph Lauren sunglasses. Red rubies in my ears. It’s amazing how a change on the outside can bolster the wavering heart. I’m now a firm believer in wearing something nice to pick up your mood, bump up your courage for a job interview, help rock your world around you when it feels like it’s going to come crashing down around your ears.

Truly, external trappings are not all. There is so much more that has grown in me than suddenly putting on a red sweater and feeling so much better about myself. And in truth, I’m just as likely to wear black as red these days anyway. But that moment of awakening was real, and it was a start. And once I took those steps into understanding my self-worth; understanding who I was in Christ; understanding who I could become through Him and in Him. Well, there’s no going back now.


How to Join
Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coming Soon ...

There are a couple of projects that I’ve gotten involved with recently that I’m just so excited and honored to be a part of. It’s the kind of thing that will take you off your couch and out of your home to make a difference – even if you can’t actually leave. Stay tuned. Follow #inmercy

More news is on the way …

These are the things my heart longs to do.
This is what my heart cries out for.
Here is how I will take the gifts He’s given me and change my world.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Behind the Scenes - Back to School

My Faith Hunter as she prepared for Kindergarten
Tomorrow is back to school. And for the first time, in a really long time, I am dreading it. Even as I sit to write this post, the final decision about where my daughter will wind up spending the next year, maybe two, of her educational experience is up for debate. As a parent that is one of the hardest things in the world to wait on. As a parent with control issues, it’s excruciating.

When I look at the montage I have pinned here and think back to five years ago to the first day of Kindergarten, we were so excited. My husband and I both loved school, and I had continued to celebrate the fall milestone each year, even before she was born, with the trek down the paper and pen aisles for more notebooks and a new rainbow of writing instruments – maybe some new paperclips (oh, and why not some new stickers, book bands, colored tape) – all those adorable accoutrements that a student just can’t live without.

Launching her into her academic career was an exciting venture. We carefully considered the options available to us and did our best to coordinate getting her into the right classroom with a friend. I had way too much fun at Land’s End (finally – after years of waiting), and then it was time. Time to hand over our one precious gift to the school system and trust that they would continue what we had begun.

I wish I could say that there’s been an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

There hasn’t.

The first year was great. Her teacher was the ideal blend of toughness and heart. She had a reputation for being strict, but you never doubted for one second that she loved each and every one of those kids and had their best interests at heart. Unfortunately, the school ran into troubles with their administrator that bled into conflicts for the teachers. Her teachers struggled with their own difficulties and one; then the other left the school. I wrestled with my anger as one difficult situation sparked another, and after trying to be patient and toughing it out for three years, we decided to make a change and move to our neighborhood school with the traditional style of more structured education.

Except we can’t.

Now we’re facing more administrative red tape and rules that say we have to put her back into a school where the style of teaching has failed her, where she has not felt emotionally safe, and where night after night, she cries herself to sleep and doesn’t want to go back.

This is one of those hard times when the reality of your faith becomes the rubber on the road.
This is not genocide.
My sweet girl - this summer. All grown up.
This is not poverty.
This is not death.
I know this. There are far worse things.
But this is my child. (this is my heart)
This is her education.
This is her future.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

This is one of the first verses I learned with my father, and I am praying this hard as we work through the next fort-eight hours to resolve this situation. Whatever the outcome, I know that God has His hand on this situation. It may be that He will resolve it and allow her to go to the school that we have chosen for her. It may be that He will ask us to stay where we are and rely on Him even more on a daily basis to get through a tough situation. I need to remember that so much more than this defines her. I need to recall the happiness she's had this summer, and hold onto the promise of what's to come.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Either way, I expect and know that God’s hand will be seen and His purpose will be made known and He will be glorified for what He has done.

Will you pray through this with me?

crystalstine.meI'm linking up with Crystal Stine and company again today; joining the Behind the Scenes link up. A place to make a connection beyond the Pinterest perfect ideals; to look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it; to say hi, this is me in all my messy real-ness. Sounds like a good time to me.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chasing History: Shiphrah and Puah - Obedience to God Above All Others

ChasingHistoryLinkUpChasing History is back after a few weeks off, and I’m excited to be writing with Kaitlyn over at Just One Girl and the ones who are writing about women in the Bible. Come on over and share with us. We're a community coming together to talk about the stories He has written!

In the beginning of Exodus, we see a recounting of the sons of Jacob – the tribes of Israel – who came from Canaan into Goshen and settled in the land of Egypt. They followed God’s hand that brought Joseph there, through the turning of an evil act into something beautiful: the redemption of a family and of a nation.

They were certainly smaller at that time – when they first arrived, the Bible says they numbered seventy – not counting Joseph and his family who were already there. But they were a fruitful and prosperous nation and grew to fill the country around them. So much so that when the new pharaoh came into power – one who did not know of Joseph and all he had done for the people of Egypt – he was threatened by their numbers and so put them into slavery and oppressed labor.

In the midst of the hardship and oppression, the Israelites continued to grow and multiply as a nation. This gave no comfort to pharaoh who turned to something more insidious to curb the population growth and minimize what he saw as a threat to his rule. He designed to have the newborn male infants killed.

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” Exodus 1:15-16

Imagine the position that this put the midwives in. The pharaoh was asking them to do the impossible, but it is probable that their lives may have hung in the balance here. They were in no position to argue. In addition, these were probably not women on means within the Hebrew culture. They did not have children of their own. They were not of the intellectual or spiritual elite. And they were already part of a persecuted people. But what they did have in abundance was a tremendous faith in God and a belief in His power.

But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Exodus 1:17-19

Where did they find this courage and will to defy the pharaoh? They simply realized that pharaoh had not only pitted himself ageist the people of Israel, but against the Lord almighty, and they knew where the real power was held. Notice too, that they didn’t try to argue with pharaoh; they didn’t scream about the injustice to him, they didn’t try to beg, or plead, or dissuade. They simply used those first, intimate moments with a mother and child to let that child draw their breath and live – no matter if it was a boy or a girl.

Whether or not pharaoh believed their stories about why they seemed to be missing all the births of the male children didn’t matter. The Lord had his hand on Shiphrah and Puah and blessed them for their obedience.

photo by hotblack
So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Exodus 1:20-21

The Bible tells us very clearly that we are to follow the laws of the land that govern us.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Romans 13:1

But there may come a time in our lives when we will be asked to choose between those laws and the laws of God. That will never be a choice to take lightly. But if God is at the center of that choice, if it comes by His asking and His design, you can know without a doubt that His hand will be on you.

You might be wondering how to know if God is asking you to take a step like the one that Shiprah and Puah did. Or maybe you just want to know how to understand God better and know His will for your life.

Spending time with Him on a daily basis is a great place to start. Having a relationship with God is just like having a relationship with anyone else. You have to talk to Him (prayer) and spend time listening (reading the Word) if you want the relationship to grow. There are some great groups like Hello Mornings that provide study materials and accountability for going through the Word. Your church probably has some great resources too. Bible Gateway is another online resource for devotions, reading plans, and different translations of the Bible.

My prayer for you is that wherever you are with your walk with the Lord, you will find a way to get closer, draw nearer, and find just a little more time to spend in His company. You will be blessed.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!