Misty Garrison » Gathered Fragments

Lou’s current fascination is with all things My Little Pony. So that’s how we partied for her 5th birthday a few weeks ago. Naturally, she wanted to decorate her own cake. With her very own pony collection (daddy helped with the name installation). Fine by me. And while her daddy didn’t spring for a real live pony, everyone did contribute to something she could ride….

Giddy up, little girl. Giddy up and ride ; ).

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We had a guest speaker on Sunday. Mr. Shannon O’Dell. Pretty incredible story. You can look him up if you want. Nevermind. I did it for you. Just click here. He spoke in his sermon about the kingdom principle that if you move, God moves with you. His point was grounded in the story found in Mark 6 right after the feeding of the five thousand. You know that minor detail of him walking on water. But Shannon focused on a little phrase that might easily be overlooked. “He was about to pass them by.” Gulp.

And wouldn’t you know, that is one of my biggest fears. That through the struggle of perfectionism, fear itself, or just plain selfishness & disobedience I will be paralyzed and miss the call of God to move. That I will live a life of insignificance for his kingdom. And in that I will not love him or others well. And because of my inaction, he will pass me by. Please, Lord, please don’t pass me by. As Jennie Allen says in Anything, “I am crazy screwed up. And my only hope is my Jesus.”

Now the rest of his sermon was really good. And evidently Steven left feeling pretty beat up. In the best way possible. Challenged to move in some areas he had been neglecting. And I was so happy for the insight he was given and the action he planned to take. Not out of guilt or an attempt to earn God’s love, but out of allegiance to his Savior. But it wasn’t until we got to community group later that evening, that I really wanted the ground to open up and swallow me (kinda how he felt during church).

We were having pretty good discussion with quite a bit of participation from different members. Up until the moment when the leader posed this question, “Would someone be willing to share a time when you moved and God moved with you?” Silence. All eyes on the carpet in front of them. Including me. Oh, wait. I take that back. One woman shared a wonderful God story of a simple act of obedience that God used to accomplish amazing things in the lives of her neighbor, some friends of her neighbor, and of course herself. It was beautiful. And full of the glory of God. Then the silence came. And the crickets. And their chirping was an indictment on our faith. Or lack thereof.

And how does that happen? How does a living room full of professing Christians not fall over each other trying to tell of the impossible feats being accomplished for the kingdom through their imperfect lives? How do we not enter our time together speaking the praises of the One who is high and lifted up, seated on the throne and telling stories of his greatness? Testifying to the truth that when we move, he moves. Like a mighty rushing wind so fierce that it cannot be contained. Nor would we want to because it is the very life in our breath. How?

Perhaps it is because we do not really know the God in whom we profess to believe. Oh, we know plenty about him. We’ve read all the stories, right? But do we truly know him?

As Tozer states, the church’s “conception of God is unworthy of Him. Our religion is little because our god is little. Our religion is weak because our god is weak. Our religion is ignoble because the god we serve is ignoble. We do not see God as He is… A local church will only be as great as its conception of God. An individual Christian will be a success or a failure depending upon what he or she thinks of God. It is critically important that we have a knowledge of the Holy One, that we know what God is like.”

And then, as Jennie says, “…to live based on what we believe” (p. 47).

And I can’t help but wonder what has taken the place of our knowledge of the Holy One? And our devotion to him? What does my life say that I believe?

Jennie goes on, “…I feel myself caring much more about what stroller to buy than about heaven. Religion, church and Bible study were all in place – but truly surrendered lives, the kind God could use anywhere and in any way he chose, had quickly turned into planned and calculated lives that focused on things like saving for a Suburban or minivan. Couldn’t I have both? More of God and the life I wanted?” (p. 42-43).

Chasing the American dream has replaced our worship & pursuit of God.

Jennie again, “I was on my way to the dream, but I felt the numb God-distance creeping in like a cancer” (p. 43).

And she borrowed the desires right out of my heart when she shared this story:

“As my friend Aimee and I pushed our strollers outside my safe comfy house, she was feeling discontent with a life spent pining for the perfect school and cute house in a safe neighborhood. She wanted more. She wanted to tell God she would give it all up for him, for any life he had for her, rather than fighting for the normal one she’d wanted. At the time she had no picture of what it would be…just a prayer asking God to be God and her promise she would follow…

What if heaven and God and forever became our normal?” (p. 49).

What if we served a King and not a cause?

What if we moved closer to God, so he would move closer to us?

What if we moved in obedience (no matter how big or small), so he could move in his awesome power?

Now. Not back in college. Not last year. Not yesterday. Not when the kids start school. Not when they finally graduate. Not when we retire. Not next week, but now.

As Brennan Manning writes in The Ragamuffin Gospel, “Whatever we have done in the past, be it good or evil, great or small, is irrelevant to our stance before God today. It is only now that are in the presence of God” (p. 54).

May we move into His presence and through His power. Today. And everyday. Until the end.

Will I? Will you?

(I think I might start with not yelling at my children. Told you it could be small. Or in my case that might be big).

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I shared here how Haiti messed me up, but I have never really told you all about my experiences there. Oh, I have sat down to write many times. But, where to start? How about the beginning? Perhaps. But I think that I may need to ease into it. Slowly. Like a hot bath after a grueling day. Or maybe training for a long run. Not always best just to jump in. Sounds. A simple list. That should do the trick. Get the memories flowing like the Mississippi, or more likely Niagara Falls. I just hope I don’t drown…

The sound of Haiti:

~ dogs barking

~ roosters crowing (blasted roosters crowing!)

~ generator buzzing

~ the swish of a broom on leaves & concrete

~ moto engines

~ the blaring of horns

~ the deafening music

~ the bump of a bus over rocks & holes in the road

~ the sing/song lilt of “bonjou” & “bonswa”

~ lam hitting a tin roof (heart attack city)

~ a call to eat; the clanging of a metal pan

~ the bounce of a ball on concrete or rocks & dirt

~ the crunch of gravel underfoot

~ babies crying; children laughing

~ the fall of steady rain in the afternoon

~ songs of praise lifted to heaven in English & Creole, together

~ the soft surf hitting the shore line

~ blanc!

~ loud music at a soccer game & cries of “Go get’em Eddie!”
(and whatever that word was the announcer kept saying over & over; I think it was bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat – clap in Creole)

~ the chorus of Haitian voices practicing English as it floats out the upstairs window & showers us working below

~ chatter over dishes

~ the squish of hands & clothes in soapy water

~ water whooshing down the “drain”

~ children singing (loudly); banging on tables

~ cold water hitting hot skin

~ the top popping off an ice cold coke, “psssh”

~ Mama Blanc’s smooth, “smoker” voice yelling “Ti Baker, where are your clothes?”

~ the laughter & sobbing of new friends sharing about their day

~ hearts changing (yes, you can hear it)

~ horrible Russian accents

~ “teach me how to dougie”

God help me, I miss Haiti… God help me, I miss my friends…

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*Disclaimer: This is NOT an everyday activity. Nor every week. So please do not put that kind of pressure on yourself or get the wrong impression on what kind of mother I am. This was brought on by desperation & divine providence. Read on to find out more…

Thursday all my laziness as a mother came crashing down on me. For months I had let myself get lax on Lou’s behavior. Or more accurately, I spent more time barking orders at her & berating her when she messed up than I did teaching & training her in the way she should go. And then Thursday afternoon happened. She was crying. I was crying. I called in the calvary to come home & rescue us (Daddy, our hero). After more tears were shed, we decided on a plan of action. Or non-action on Lou’s part. We instituted complete lock down. She kept her books, crayons and puzzles. Everything else was packed away in a closet. And no more playing with the neighbors for a while (this relationship was part of the terrible episode). Operation simplify and build up what has been torn down was in full force.

It just so happens that earlier in the day (before the incident), I had texted an all-call for any mama friends interested in meeting for coffee at Starbucks that evening. Only one was available. The exact one I needed that night. Even though she is a fairly new friend, I risked it all & was very real with her. And it just so happens that she has walked a similar road with one of her girls as well. What a blessing to laugh & cry & celebrate the amazing beings that we have been charged in raising. She knew. She really knew. And I was no longer alone.

Then Saturday arrives along with a baby shower for another sweet friend. What a beautiful experience as we sat around the living room praying our blessings over this precious little girl on the way & her mama. Perspective is a wonderful gift. Although me being the social pariah that I am, when someone asks me how I am doing I struggle at the pretending part. So I was honest about my week. And wouldn’t ya know, there were others mamas there that have difficult children too.

And I was reminded once again of the danger of falling prey to the lies of social media. How easy it is to convince yourself that you are the only one whose child acts like a depraved lunatic on occasion. Who might have the verses about doing all things without complaining or disputing & obeying their parents in all things memorized in their heads, but have yet to allow it to penetrate their hearts & direct their actions. And how isolating that is. And dangerous for the child’s sake. Because operating in that lie makes you more prone to unrealistic expectations for both yourself & your children. After all, they are effected by the fall too. And they are people. And they are little. Yes, little people on a journey. With us as their guides. But we are not alone.

And don’t even get me started on church that Sunday. Have to save that for another day. But, I am also in the midst of taking a photography class online called, wait for it, The Inspired Home. And the past week’s lesson was focused on being present, documenting life and being a creative parent. And the class is full of amazingly talented and creative mamas, including the wonderfully sweet & wise instructor. While I do not aspire to be these women (my talents & gifts are in a different capacity), but I am blessed to learn from them and to see how I might incorporate creativity into my parenting & lifestyle and use it to balance my own God-given strengths.

Although I do not think that children need to always be entertained by the adults in their life, it has been amazing to see how a little bit of mama(or daddy)-led adventure & wonder and less “stuff” has opened the door for Lou to attempt more creative things on her own. And the contentment & peace it has brought to our home.

So the idea to build a fort with twinkle lights on mama’s bed so we could cuddle & watch a movie was inspired by some of the mamas in my class, but it was needed because of the week we had just walked together and the lessons we are learning. This was day 4 of the lock down, and Lou had just earned back a few toys. The funny thing is she didn’t play with those toys until the next morning. Instead, when she has had a moment to herself with nothing to do, I find her in the playroom coloring or working on hidden pictures. And, I am so honored when she asks me to join her there. And thank God, I am not alone. I have her.

“The mother (or father) who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days” ~ Charlotte Mason.

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  • Anna - HOW BEAUTIFUL!! You write in such a lovely way, along with your gorgeous pictures. I’m going to enjoy browsing your blog and getting to know you a bit outside of our class :) blessings…ReplyCancel

  • Sasha Holloway - Love everything about this post. EVERYTHINGReplyCancel

  • Monica Calderin - Thank you so much for sharing this. Some times motherhood is just plain HARD. You are right, we are not alone. Thank you for being real.ReplyCancel

Harsh words from the front room of the house. You know the one with all the glorious light shining through the window. The sound of a scuffle. Little one cries out her protest.

Peace is shattered. But that is not all. I feel a shift in my soul. The anguish causes my knees to buckle as if I am suffering actual physical pain. I desperately cling to the kitchen counter to prevent a fall. And I count in my head. Because I know what is coming next.

1… 2… 3… Deep breaths still holding on. And then stomping up the hallway, “Mo-om, Eliza is being mean & grumpy to me!”

The counting stops. The deep breaths are put on hold. The switch is flipped. Going from injured soul to mama in charge of quarreling littles. Will it be me? Or Him?

The words come softly this time. Full of compassion, understanding & wisdom. I gently remind her that people are always more important than things. That there is nothing worth breaking fellowship with her little sister. She has heard this before. We continue our familiar, awkward dance. Me barely holding it together. Her resisting. The pride in her heart wanting so desperately to blame someone else. Wanting to believe that little is responsible for the ugliness she herself displayed. How to make her see? Understand, even.

And then, an epiphany. Releasing my grip on the counter, I hold tightly to her instead. And the words pour forth like I am a broken vessel. And I am.

I begin to explain that her little sister is a mirror. Her emotions, actions, and words are merely a reflection of what she sees. What she sees in Lou. If Lou is kind & sharing, then little reflects that and is kind & sharing herself. If Lou is grumpy & selfish, then little reflects that instead and is grumpy & selfish. All the while, as little is reflecting she is also learning how to be.

I am barely able to finish my explanation as I choke on my own words the conviction is so overwhelming. My mind rushes back to earlier that day when I reached out & pinched Lou’s heart with my harsh words. Doubt pommels. Striking at the weak spots. Including the fresh wound from moments ago. I find my balance with the help of the kitchen table. But Fear still murmurs…

What if I can’t do this?
What if I fail them?
What if I get in the way of them believing in & loving Him?
What if they can’t see Him reflected in me?
What if they turn out like me?

My little mirrors. In them all my flaws are magnified.

Then these words from Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson

“Although we long to be faithful parents, we also rest in the truth that our faithfulness is not what will save our children… Our children will be saved only through the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, who works at the direction of our faithful heavenly Father. He’s the faithful, powerful, soul-transforming One. Yes, he may use us as a means to accomplish his purpose, but salvation is entirely of the Lord (Jonah 2:9)” (p. 22).

“Freedom to love and enjoy our children flows out of the knowledge that God saves them in spite of our best efforts, not because of them. Salvation is of the Lord” (p. 53).

“Do you want to do the work of God? Okay, then believe. Believe that God is strong enough to save your children, no matter how you fail. Believe that he is loving enough to bring them all the way into relationship with himself… Everything is already done. Can you believe that? Will you?” (p. 63).

Fear is silenced. Questions become visions of Lou comforting little on her own without any prompting from me. Little running across the the room to Lou saying, “I want hug. I want hug.” And then hugging her with all her little might. Lou always picking out things that she thinks other people would like when we go treasure hunting. Lou loving people deeply with everything she is. Lou asking me if she can write a thank you note to Miss Marcy for teaching her the butterfly song. Will I let her cover the note with butterfly stickers?

It is Him. It was always Him…

Suddenly I am aware of waves tickling my toes. With each new remembrance the waves become more powerful until I am struggling yet again to remain upright. But this time it is not my brokenness threatening to consume me, but His grace. I am drowning. I panic. Fight against it. Struggling to save myself. But then I realize that I have let myself get out too far. The undertow of His love & mercy is too strong. I stop fighting and find peace & rest in the depths of His presence & grace.

The next thing I know I am flying with the sea gulls. Daring to go as high as the eagles. Floating on the wings of a butterfly. And again, I am reminded of the song a preschool teacher taught a little girl. And a thank you note. I am undone.

{to the tune of twinkle, twinkle, little star}

Flitter, flutter, butterfly,
Flying in the big blue sky.
Flutter high and flutter low.
Flutter fast and flutter slow.
Flitter, flutter, butterfly,
Flying in the big blue sky.

It is Him. It was always Him…

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

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“Rather than dying to my need for approval, I died to the clear callings God had put in my soul and the clear gifts and equipping he had given me. I just wished it all away…it was costing too much. It was costing me my people, everyone’s approval the thing I loved most. So I sat on it. The little portion of his work that God gave me to do for a few years before I see him again, I sat on, praying it would go away. I was no different than Jonah running from God’s clear call to share him with Nineveh. I was not going. I’m thankful he didn’t have me eaten by a whale.” {Anything, page 39}.

As unto the Lord. Four simple words. Why, oh why, is that still so hard for me?

For His glory. Three simple words. Why, oh why, is this still so hard for me?

I was born to write. Took me 38 years to figure it out, but it is true. Not saying I am pulitzer or published book material {I can barely blog on a regular basis what makes you think I could finish a book?}, but just that it is my God-given gift & desire. My soul feels most alive when I am putting words to “paper.” Or more accurately, when I have finished putting words to paper. But writing takes discipline. Of which I lack tremendously. Experts say to improve your craft you must commit to writing so many words or for so many minutes each day. But they also say that writers will do anything to avoid writing. Indeed. Because it is a painful, lonely exercise.

As Anne Lamott states in Bird by Bird, “Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong” {page 19}.

Ah, yes. To be heard. To belong. Imagine for a moment that you meet a beloved friend for coffee. Over the course of the evening you take a risk and share some extremely vulnerable information about yourself. An intense struggle. Or perhaps a deep hurt. All the while, this friend sits contentedly sipping away at his/her warm cup of love. Offering you none. Love, that is. No affirmations. No “thank you for sharing.” No “that must be really hard for you.” Silence. And more sipping.

Oh, the agony. You put yourself out there. And nothing.

That is where I find myself on a daily basis. And so, more often than not, I allow the silence to silence me. I quench the Spirit and the gift He has given me because I am more wrapped up in gaining “man’s” approval than “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.” I would rather know that I am heard & belong than allow him to transform me that my life & writing might be a mirror for others.

So I quit. Or at the very least I feel sorry for myself and my isolation. Then I beg him to give me another assignment. For surely if he would let me write about rainbows and unicorns then people would like me. Because that is the point, right? Surely he wants people to like me? Kind of like the people liked Jesus. Oops. Bad example. That one always hits too close to home.

Oh, but I forgot. People do like me. At least people who have never met me, like me. That was a big joke at our community group Christmas party a few weeks back. I made the statement to a bunch of the men that lots of people who have never met me want to be my friend, and they are the ones who usually comment on my blog. Oh yeah, we laughed until we cried after that one. And then I just cried a little.

And it makes me so darn mad that I let this matter. That I let it steal my joy and silence my gift. As unto the Lord! For his glory!

But apparently I am an insecure, approval seeking schmuck. I am a harlot pursuing another lover. Apparently, well done thy good & faithful servant isn’t enough for me. He is not enough for me. And I die inside a little bit knowing that. And I wait for the whale.

But then he reminds me of the true desire he placed in my heart when he placed the pen in my hand. The one that is actually bigger than my need for the occasional atta girl. I want you to know that you belong and are deeply loved by the Creator. Just as this head case is. I want you to know that you are not alone even though the enemy would have you (and me) believe that.

As C.S Lewis says, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

So as I write about my struggles. As I confess my sins and shortcomings. As I share the beauty in the midst of the mundane. I am saying to you, “Me too, my friend. Me too.”

“Toni Morrison said, ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else,’ and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else” {Bird by Bird, page 193}.

A few more thoughts from Anne Lamott about writing which describes my heart, or what I desire to be my heart:

“So I sit for a moment and then say a small prayer – please help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written” {p. 117}.

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.

“You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward” {p. 203}.

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.

“Your three-year old and your work in progress teach you to give. They teach you to get out of yourself and become a person for someone else. This is probably the secret to happiness…

Two things put me in the spirit to give. One is that I have come to think of almost everyone with whom I come into contact as a patient in the emergency room. I see a lot of gaping wounds and dazed expressions. Or, as Marianne Moore put it, ‘The world’s an orphan’s home.’ And this feels more true than anything else I know. But so many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, ‘Yes!’ And I want to give people that feeling, too, of connection, of communion” {p. 204}.

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.

“And who knows? Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse” (p. 235).

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul…

It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship” {p. 237}.

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.

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  • gma - If only I had a small portion of your talent. You make your mamma proud.ReplyCancel

  • The Pea - I hear the song in your heart. Write it down, every note. Your post inspired me today as I struggle to prepare a submission for a very important contest. I look forward to your work (and believe me, it will be work) Let the symphony begin!! Yours in Christ, D.ReplyCancel