I was a bit more than fidgety when I was a child. You have no idea how much it pains me to admit this. If I admit it here, then I have to fess up that my darling daughter's inability to sit still might be something she comes by honestly. I could not sit still while watching TV. I climbed up and flipped over the arms of the couch. I lay on my back and tucked my arms under my hips, hefting my legs up high in to the air, stretching my toes to the ceiling. I squirmed and squealed as my mom tried in vain to tame my hair. I sang along to cassettes in my bedroom, danced across the bed, jumped off the edge and rocked out. I wasn't still. Not usually. I was wild.

My inability to be still should make it no surprise that I dreamed big. I didn't want to be ordinary. I didn't want to do something just anyone could do. I wanted to soar in the sky in a fighter plane, blowing bad guys from the sky (btw, I am scared of flying). I wanted to be a spy, but a classy one. The kind that wears pencil skirts and tailored blazers with a blonde peek-a-boo hair style coined by Veronica Lake (as if). I wanted to be a famous artist; an archeologist that climbs into the depths of caves and burial chambers even at the risk of being killed by ancient curses. I wanted to be a missionary that sat in a circle with head hunters wearing necklaces of teeth and bone...wondering how in the world I was going to communicate with them even while worrying about snakes and spiders...and the bowl of mystery food awaiting me to eat.

But I never did sit still. I never waited for God to speak what He wanted me to do. I was always looking for the possibilities, the great big, unattainable adventures that, should I ever actually fall into, would more than likely make me pee my pants.

This is the thing: God does have a great big adventure awaiting me. I know He does. Because over the last decade, I have felt the steady press of His hand on my back, bringing me down out of the clouds, pushing me deep in the dirt and keeping me from making much of any progress in this life. I am stuck. I'm not moving. But even under the press of His hand, I am still fighting, clenched teeth and nails digging desperately at the earth...begging to be released so I can run and catch up with where I wanted to be by the time I was 29. But God doesn't care. He sees something more important, because He is making no move to let me go.

Last week, I read a passage out of Malachi where the people of Judah have been essentially crushed. They try to put a brave face on and tell God, "We've been knocked down, but we will get up, good as new. God gives what would be a snort and answers back, "Just try it and see how far you get. When I knock you down, you stay down." He goes on to tell them that from that viewpoint, and only that viewpoint, will the be able to take a look at how much He loves them and HAS been loving on them all along. It is only when they are able to realize this that they will say, "May God be greater, beyond the borders of Israel!"

God doesn't keep us 'stuck' without good reason. He loves us enough to press us down and keep us from running off, trying to figure out this life on our own; keep us from doing our own thing. He isn't punishing us when He knocks us down and keeps us down. Even though it sometimes hurts. Even though we see others succeeding and doing great things when we can't even seem to make it up to our knees. Even when we can barely breathe around the mud and dirt shoved in our throats...we can still praise the Lord that it is HIS hand pressing us down. If it is HIS hand, then it is out of love, because something beautiful is on the horizon.

Jeremiah 1:18 (MSG) says:

"Stand at attention (or stand still, and in MY case, LAY still) while I prepare you for your work. I'm making you as impregnable as a castle, immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall. You're a one-man defense system against this culture..."

If you find yourself going nowhere and feeling as if you are not achieving anything, then just stand still a little longer. Let the cool earth that you are being gently pressed in to, rise up over you. Breathe deep and feel the palm of His hand against your back. Open your eyes, and like the people of Judah, see the beauty...the vision...of the work that's shining for you on the horizon. Be encouraged. Rest in Him. BE STILL! Let Him work on you. Let Him prepare you. Grow strong and capable. Find the joy to sing out, "May God be greater!"


When I Fail, He Doesn't Seem To Care

Both the children and I are not dressed for the day.

Yesterday, I noticed cobwebs in the chandelier and dust bunnies up the wall above the kid's heating vent in their room.

I have a laundry basket full of clean clothes that have not been put away, but might be emptied from the kids wearing the clothes inside before I get the chance to even put them away.

Every single day, I worry a great deal about if I am a good enough mother, if I spend enough one-on-one time with them. I'm sure I don't...but I am pinching every minute of everyday...and trying so hard.

I don't always keep a level tone.

I have been known to yell.

I have a hot temper that is almost impossible to keep in check.

I'm sure my neighbor's think I am crazy...and my house, too.

There is food in the refrigerator that should have been thrown out weeks ago.

I do not clean the toilet every single week. I'm lucky to clean it once a month. Nasty, I know. I used to, though. Does that account for anything?

Do not look in my closets.

I'm a writer that hasn't had the chance to write at all this New Year.

I have several full time jobs that I took on, all on my own, and they don't pay anything. Except photography. That does pay.

But happily, I don't really know when I cried last. That's something. Right?

But here's the thing. I can feel God's eyes on me. As long as they are on me, I know that I am doing something decent. Not right. I know I am not completely doing anything right. Not even close. But decent? I'll take decent as I try to figure things out--including figuring myself out. Because God is patient. God is kind. God is slow to anger. His eyes are on me. That's what matters. He sees something worth keeping His attention. He knows there is hope beyond this terrible mess I am making. He has grace for my children when I fail them. He has patience to spare for my husband when I am acting insane. He has love for me when I have none at all for myself.

That's enough.

It's more than enough.

So...I will close my eyes to the things that I am failing to do, or not doing well enough. Because there are things, I think, that I am doing that couldn't make my Father prouder.


Teach My Hands

Reading/painting music:

Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be able to paint. I could draw and charcoal and sketch to my hearts content, and most usually, my pieces turned out with stunning quality. But hand me some paint and brushes and I couldn't even manage to imitate a poorly done Picaso. I have just never been able to paint....

And it made me mad.

I believe it was shortly before Christmas that I decided I was going to paint. I wish I had sat down and written why I decided I was going to do it. I can't remember now. But one night, I drug in a tabletop easel to the living room floor, plugged in the headphones and dug into acrylics. That first piece gripped at people's hearts. People have asked to purchase it for a great deal of money. I've sold studio prints. I was shocked, to say the least.

Where in the world had that come from?

I think it happened because the Lord was teaching me things as I painted. I had a reference picture to look at, but He just started changing everything...making it ours.

The Girl In The Storm...

I'm that girl in the storm. He even told me to put a little line in my chin...paint my long nose...arched brows. This girl...her world is tragic...but only momentarily. The waters rage, the winds howl, the rain is beating down on her. But God is there. His glory are all the warm colors, washing over her, transforming her. In that moment, she casts down her eyes, breathes deep...and rests in Him.

As the brushes moved through the paint on the canvas, God was clearly telling me that He might not rescue me when life seems dire--life and death--but He WOULD always be there. His glory, His peace and mercy would be there to breathe in and rest in. He was changing me. These storms...they are my salvation in disguise. They are my training grounds for a great and grand purpose.

Since that painting, the Lord has singled out people that share that story with me. God directed me to make The Girl In The Storm a series. I've tried, making up my own versions, but I wasn't getting it right. Finally, the Lord stopped me and told me to paint people, young women, that He had brought into my life. He plucked girls out of the fray, out of their storm, He allowed me to partner with Him to love on them, and He was screaming, "Just paint THEM. Let Me show them something through the painting..."

And here is my first, TRUE Girl In The Storm...

I was scared to try to paint this. The first stormy was kind of abstract. I do not know how to paint a realistic portrait. Charcoal and graphite, yes, I can handle it. But painting the hues of flesh and the sparkle in eyes...

But as I painted, God just took my hands. We listened to music together, and at one point, when the face was done and I began to start on the hair, I just felt his breath. I stopped, leaned back, TRULY looked at what I had done already...and wept. In that moment, I could FEEL only a small fraction of His love for this young woman. But that small fraction, nearly crushed me.

He has told me to do something--something that seemed impossible to me at the time. He has been faithful to take hold of my hands and direct them. And when it is nearly finished, when it is still just oil and canvas, He gently moves me to the side and breathes upon it...

So I'm going to keep painting. I am going to keep elbow deep in charcoal, because my FATHER is showing me how He can use art to transform lives and hearts. That's pretty bossome if you ask me.