Practicing gratitude

image from Pinterest

image from Pinterest

Please and thank you come as easily smiling for me. They were taught and modeled in front of me and no one ever gets mad at you for saying thank you.

“It seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works—it’s not alive.” The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

She says practice. Gratitude is not an attitude but a practice. And I need practice.

home decor

I closed myself up yesterday, pulling the gray from outside around me like a scratchy blanket. My heart dipping in sorrow thinking about mama’s advancing dementia, thinking about my loss, my sisters burden. There wasn’t much thanks being said, no gratitude practiced. I allowed it.

I flipped through family pictures of last year’s Thanksgiving. Smiling at our granddaughters laughter as a puppy licked her right in the mouth but again, sorrow pricked seeing my mother-in-law who will be absent our table this year. She’s gone to a grander celebration and left us to miss her.

The men are offering their thanks on our bulletin board.

The men are offering their thanks on our bulletin board.



I plan Sunday chapel service. I always do whether we’re here or out-of-town. It’s a control thing. Last week when my heart was singing a happier song I planned our time spent in community worship to focus on giving thanks. Our songs would be praises, we would give prayers and speak words of praise and thanks and gratefulness. And we did. They did. And five days ago God knew I needed this more than anyone in that chapel.

When they were invited to give their prayers of thanks their voices were eager to share. I strained to hear them, speaking at that quieter prayer voice I guess, and I missed to many. We sang and they were invited to share their thanks. Again, eager but I could hear them as they stood and I smiled and fought back tears because they were my sermon of love.

This tall one stood, giving thanks, still surprised he is accepted and loved. And the one they call Papa Bear, he stood and said he came for hope but got so much more. Another and another and they kept standing thanking God for “one more minute”, for life, for another chance. They practiced gratitude and it made their faith alive.

Please and thank you are nice but not enough. Not enough to produce gratitude. That takes practice.


5-Minute Friday {truth}

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for 5-Minute Friday. Today’s word prompt is Truth. Y’all, this was a hard one. Truth is, I did some editing this time, as in this is a second draft. I beg your grace.


I am searching to live this truth I believe.

I have measured myself by the world and there is no truth in that. It has left me lacking and smaller than. Left me with feelings that are lies and standards that are false. I don’t like the numbers I see on the scale so I don’t get on it but what does the scale measure? It doesn’t measure truth. Not the truth that I am loved, I am valued and I am enough. Not because of how I look or what I do but because I am beloved by God.

Truth is, I don’t always feel lovable.

Truth is, I have some stuff I still need to let go.

Truth is, despite of my less than feelings, my imperfections, my comparisons and numbers on a scale, I am enough.

It’s God’s love for me that gives me value, that gives me worth. That makes me precious beyond measure.

Some days I can’t believe this. But it is still truth.




To join in the 5-Minute Friday blogger flash mob, click here.


Nine years {and counting}

It has been nine years since we began in this ministry of recovery. Nine years since my office was inside a building that housed men whose lives had become so unmanageable that living at The Salvation Army was their best option.

We were transferred from our more traditional roles of pastors/directors of a local congregation to this. Uprooted from our Florida where our roots had grown deep to a new state and new ministry. I was stunned and lost. But God knew, as he always does, and he led me one day at a time.

I’m not longer surprised to hear a man thank God for being 6 feet above instead of 6 feet under. It’s not unusual when one says he was “tore up from the floor up”. It is almost daily we hear someone thank God for his very breath and hearing those words never get old.

Awards night  sobriety awards




Mike O and me

They have changed my life and, I pray, will continue to change me because they have this depth of understanding grace that I want. They know mercy and they know surrender.

Henry is away and I had to stand in his place Sunday morning and it is not a comfortable place for me. Let me stand on the floor, let me move about casually but, please, I’d rather not stand behind that podium that seems to mark a sacred place. It is not my space so I gave it to God.

We are focusing on gratitude and I’d invited the men to share and frame their words around thanks. The first one stood and it wasn’t thanks he gave, at first, but he bared his soul and I don’t know how they do that. He talked about how badly he wanted a drink and how he was standing at the bus stop looking across the street at the convenience store and you know his mouth was watering with the thought. But he didn’t. He saw another guy and he stopped. But he was hurting when he stood in that chapel and everyone was quiet as he stood and laid bare his need and my face smiled as my heart bowed thanking God for his care. For this strength I don’t understand but I don’t have to, to praise God for his miracles.

Others stood and gave thanks for being here, in this place so many think of as a homeless shelter but is so much more. Still another stood, I saw his chin make the slightest quiver and the faintest of crack to his voice before he caught it. He’d felt defeated this week not getting the job, rejected by his daughter and former boss. Three strikes and he felt out but God. But God was called on and God answered and we all praised Him and gave thanks for this life.

This is thanksgiving. When it’s life or death and life is the choice made. This is praise. This is grace.



Five-Minute Friday {grace}

image from Pinterest

image from Pinterest

Do you want fair? Or do you want grace?

Fair wants the good to be rewarded and the wrongs to be called out.

Fair says not you but Me, Me, Me.

Fair says you have to say it this way, raise your hands this way and only go here and not there.

Fair says you do the crime you do the time.

Fair is what we want when our team is offended and we scream “that’s not fair!

Our mama’s told us to play fair. Don’t cheat. Take your turn.

And grace disrupts and says who cares about the what because I care about you.

Grace doesn’t play fair.

Grace says everyone is welcome no matter how we look, how we sound, where we go or what we say.

Grace welcomes the less than, the forgotten and grace welcomes them first. Before the fair-play folks.

You can play fair. You can keep the rules and keep score but me? I want grace. Give me grace, always, grace.

He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner. – Matthew 5:45

Linking up today with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. To join in or read other posts click here.


5-Minute Friday: ordinary

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on the word:::



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Some days, all I want is ordinary. An ordinary life with an ordinary church and ordinary dress and ordinary words. The kind of life I imagine is easier and requires less explanation. A life where we only move when we decide and, as I think about it, seems to become more about us than anything else. Isn’t that ordinary? Typical? The American way?

Life hasn’t been ordinary for me. From the first time I told my school friends my church was the Salvation Army and they asked if I went to church in a thrift store and did I get my clothes there too? When moving again because my parents were pastors in that extra-ordinary church, the school secretary told my mother (as she was enrolling me) that NO, it was NOT a church and my mother had to assure her it WAS, no that didn’t seem ordinary. Forget explaining my mother was an ordained minister!

SA captain


In concert with Phil LaegerSA pins

I liked my church. I just wanted it to be like the others. I wanted ordinary. I didn’t want to be seen in the uniforms we wore on Sundays or the military titles and terms we use. Please, God, just let us be a church!

Ordinary doesn’t seem to follow me. These last few weeks have been anything but with too much travel and representing our rehabilitation program to those “ordinary” church leaders and saying our earthly farewell to the most EXTRA-ordinary woman in our lives. My body knows it, feels it as I struggle to sleep past 4AM and spend days on the road.

Today I’m pretending ordinary. I’m going to the dentist, grocery shopping and doing laundry. The uniform will hang in the closet until Sunday and the ordinary will be my respite, my refuge today. Just the external ordinary. Internally, my heart burns with this calling from God to the extra ordinary life we live. I still wrestle with God about it, too often. He calls us to his extra-ordinary where we show His grace and mercy and we tell of His love. He is anything but ordinary and I hope never to forget that.

Liking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for FMF. Click here for directions to join.


Your will be done


Your will be done.

Those words flow though my mind in a darkened room waiting for the first glimmer of daylight. Not happy at being awake so early. Needlessly early. And those words whirl about to the cadence of the early commuters I can hear in this otherwise quiet room.

Your will be done.

Words I first remember from the Lord’s Prayer only the language was Thy will be done and that sounded less personal to me. Ancient, to a distant someone and not my life and his will.

sunrise 4909


I think it was John (from Jersey John, not the bible John) who said it in a way that made it real to me. When he said it it was personal. It was a surrender from his plans, his will accepting God’s will. It was how he was getting through the days, one day at a time, accepting God’s will as a pathway to peace and not as he would have it but God. Your will be done.

Those words I try to say and I do say them but most often, most often they are empty words batted down with the first actions of my day. They are words I want to wrap flesh around but time after time I fail. They sound good. I say them in my mind. I fail to live them in my life.

A meeting, a conflict, a disagreement, an obligation, and it’s my will be done all over again. I counsel others, encourage them to follow God and in that moment fool myself that it’s as easy as saying it and probably fool them too that I’m doing it. Every day. I find it hard. Even when I am fully convinced His way is better, His knowing complete, His plan for my best, even then I fail. I plead His mercy. I need His grace.


It’s what they say in AA. Thy will be done. It’s who I’ve learned the real meaning from. These men leaning on God’s will to get through one day without picking up a drug or drink. The words of our Father’s prayer lived in flesh and living an example to me. It was words I memorized as a child. Good words but I missed the action part. The breathing life into those words that make the ancient alive and His word is alive. But only when I live it. More times I seem to bury it.

Your will be done. I surrender. I’ll mess things up. Again.

Your will, God. Be done. Today.


The mama heart

You can’t stop a mama’s heart from wanting, longing, fearing and praying.

You can’t stop a mama’s heart from loving more when it hurts most. You can’t stop a mama’s heart when they think they don’t need mothering anymore.

Birth gave us two children. We talked about having three but when the second came 19 months after the first we said that’s it. When the second didn’t need the naps his big sister did, when he didn’t slow down much at all and two were in diapers, yes, this is good.

We never thought we’d have this group of grown men in front of us, charged to our care, that would become like sons in so many ways.

Some don’t stay long enough to learn their names and others break your heart because you know their leaving might be the last they ever leave anywhere. The mama’s heart comes back and you fear and pray God will protect and in the end, you have to let go of the fear and let God’s fathers heart love them because His is perfect love.

When they walked through the doors of this Rehabilitation Center, they didn’t know they’d be met by me. By this mama’s heart that wants so much for them. Some didn’t know they’d be met by God and that is the best meeting when we see that friendship start to form and when it goes from friends to family.

Awards night  sobriety awards


Awards night


Awards night



In the evening we leave, leave them for their groups and meetings, leave to come away because, really, I think it’s the only way I can do this again. The only way to dare peek at the night log to make sure all returned home. The only way to walk in with hope is to go away with His peace.

They are teetering on the edge of adolescence these men. Some don’t believe it but I do. I believe the emotional maturity stopped, or the least was stunted, when the addiction began. So this 34-year-old is fragile and this 50-year-old doesn’t know how to have a relationship not built on lies. And this whole group of men, chronological men, are our boys. And just like Granny, I call Sean two other names before I finally look at him, knowing full well his name, and laugh.

I will not know all 99 of them. Many don’t want to be known. Not by me and definitely not by God. They can hide from me. But God, he knows their name, their need, their story and His story is bigger. He loves. He is love. Today. Always. Everyone.


Happy birthday, my friend

We’ve been blessed, you and I. We grew deeper in our spiritual walk here, sitting in the same church, sitting next to each other in the songsters. But that wasn’t what grew our faith.

LaVerne called it Camelot and it was for them and more than we ever realized. Those were special days as we saw a new wave of faith expression and we grew together with our families.

When I found out I was pregnant, again, and Heather had just turned one and no one was happy for me, you were. You were the one with joy in your voice when I told you and I needed that.

Heather and just a bit of Rachel at swim lessons.

Heather and just a bit of Rachel at swim lessons.

Jonathan considering the waves

Jonathan considering the waves

Remember the outdoor services Maj. Crabson liked to have?

Remember the outdoor services Maj. Crabson liked to have?

Our oldest

Our first borns

Remember our weekly picnics at the beach with our littles? One week you’d pay the $3 for parking and the next I’d pay. We packed our lunches and got a table under the pine trees at that stretch of beach. The first time Jonathan looked at those waves he had second thoughts but it wasn’t long before he caught on to the joy of letting the water chase him up on the shore.

You with our first borns.

You with our first borns.

Our boy and your oldest graduating together.

Our boy and your oldest graduating together. They’ve grown up so well.

We took quilting classes together and sewed for our babies and tried to plant a garden that failed miserably. We wanted to be country mama’s living in the heart of this big city. Right here, where we landed again. Only you have moved when we were sent back and I’ve missed you.

That group from way back, all of you were my group, those friends we thought we’d go through life with and then it all changed. People started moving but we stayed, you and Dale, Bud and Barb and me and Henry. It had always been us and was again and then we moved. It was hard. And Barbara died and it was even harder. The roots were deep by then and all of it, that’s what grew our faith.

We have grandbabies now and you have your country home in, as Henry calls it, the middle of nowhere. You are not only happy but you are free. Our lives have moved in different directions and I never saw it coming. Not bad, just different. I am happy for you. I am thankful for your friendship and I miss you. I am celebrating you today, dear friend. Celebrating your life and thanking God for the history we have. You’re the only one left really and some days I’m clinging to it a little tighter. I need someone to have known me from before the babies and before my name was followed by “and Henry” and who shared secrets while those babies were napping and we were working on a puzzle while we puzzled life.

It’s been a long time from those days of me seeking shelter in your little place, healing from a broken heart. Distance may quiet us now but only temporarily and birthdays are not meant to be quiet. I pray it’s filled with joyous noise that rocks your day reminding you of whose you are. I thank God you are His and because of Him you are free. Happy birthday Donna. I love you friend!

5-Minute Friday {mercy}


It’s a word seldom used, even though we are in ministry, even though we walk among people everyday that God has showered his mercy on, on the just and the unjust and we are not a just people, Lord.

Mercy is something I’d have heard more from Granny as it was said in an exclamation rather than a gift: Mercy! Or the Buckinghams singing when rock and roll was really rock and roll “cause you knock me off my feet, have mercy on me!

No, today we talk about grace, God’s grace and how it is always enough but we forget the mercy that ushers in that grace. I forget. Forget it’s a gift, from the spirit, a gift nestled between the more sought after gifts of teaching, preaching, hospitality, administration, giving and there is mercy. A gift to be given, poured out in abundance.

In that Psalm I memorized as a child I remember the words, “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” What gift is better than forgiveness over punishment, mercy over judgment?  I remember the words, but have forgotten the gift.

But no more, Lord, no more let me forget. Mercy is not only what you give but what you require. Do good. Love Mercy. Walk humbly with my God. (Micah 6:8)

Linking up again for 5-Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker. To read how to participate or other blogs on this topic click here.


Everyone needs a witness

Ask me, I’ll be your witness. I’ll shout it out when you try to get out of your way and let God in. I’ll testify that you’re a new person. I’ll let it be known that yes, you, are not the same old person. Just ask me.

Men of the year 2012


Mike O and me




Eric Lee M



If it’s true, if I know it, I’ll be your witness because we all need one some days. Those days when your strength is gone and you’re not sure you’ve got an ounce of faith left, I’ll remind you. I’ll tell you, you aren’t the same person who walked through those doors. I’ll tell you I remember the day you came in, hollow in face and soul and I saw you sitting in the day room with that vacant look. I remember. But then, then, you got some rest. The good kind that comes after a shower, the proper kind from a newly tiled bathroom and the shower streams long and hot to wash all that you’ll let slip down the drain. Then you sleep on a bed for you with clean sheets. You eat and your belly is full and the dope sickness begins to pass and your hands stop shaking and, miraculously, you feel more human than you remembered in a long time.

It’s taken a while. I saw it when you got anxious and thought you were going to leave again. Like you have before. When you felt human and thought you could do it this time, all by yourself. But you stayed. You listened to someone, maybe God speaking through the big book or through a counselor or, maybe even from the sacred word you hear each morning. Yes, God was talking to you, I saw that too. I’m your witness. You listened.

Everyone needs a witness and I’ll be yours because your life is a witness to a God who works miracles. We are his witness. All of us who’ve let him in to reshape us, we’re witnesses to His restorative power, to His grace.

Everyone needs a witness. I’ll be yours