Sunday, September 30, 2012

Morning Prayer

I have been hungry for your Word, Father. Hungry for your presence. The seams of me are stretched.

I have tasted your Word; I know that it is good. I know what your Word can do in a heart, in a spirit and in a mind that is given to you. I know what your Word has the power to do.

I know because your Word has transformed me too many times to count. The tally marks would look like a cross-hatched piece of artwork.

But you call me deeper. You do not allow me to remain on a plateau of revelation for too long. Your Spirit stirs in me and reminds me of learned, but forgotten truths. Your Spirit mines up, out of the deepest recesses of my heart, truths that have been hidden. Treasures in the dark.

And there are themes and patterns I recognize. You have infused me with a love of your Word—and the symbolism and the metaphor laced through the grommets of it.

This week you reminded me. This week your Spirit took me back to a place of teaching.

We don’t live in tents anymore, but I am a tent. My heart is the temporary and earthly dwelling of Your Spirit.

I am the skin-tent of God.

My poles have stretched my skin tightly and tethered me to this world for a little while. My pegs have been hammered into the physicality of this place.

And your Word through Amos and Job* have revealed to me that You will come and have fellowship with me in this tent. You will come and sit on the cushions of this flesh and spirit tent and converse with me. You will come and have an intimate conversation with me—you will sit beside me and both of us will lean forward and speak to the other.

My God, you will be a friend of my tent.*

This one word, Father, you gave to me. This word cowdh* reminded me of what you long to do. You long to have fellowship with your people, to be invited into the interior of their tents. You do not want to simply sit at the edge of the tent flaps or stand at the entrance as so many of your people did with Moses*. Because of the tent-dwelling time of Jesus, because he gave his tent over as a sacrifice for us, because he left us, returned to you, but did not leave us orphans*, he sent the Holy Spirit to now abide in these tents of ours. We no longer have to wait at the entrance. You will join us inside out tent if we just simply ask.

Because of Jesus. Because our brother came and did what we could not do for ourselves, because our brother came and moved obstacles from our paths, because our brother came and fulfilled your every expectation, Your Spirit will and can now reside within our tent.

You do not just visit.

I ask now, come join me in my tent. It’s messy. It’s cluttered. It’s dark. But come anyway, please?

Come anyway.

I welcome you into this skin-tent of mine. Please come and sit with me on my cushions and recline with me on my pillows. Let’s talk and reason together.* Come and have fellowship with me.

I welcome you.

Come this morning.


Amos 3:7

Job 29: 21-27

John 14:18

Exodus 33: 10

Isaiah 1:18

Cowdh—Hebrew for secret, intimate friendship

Friday, September 28, 2012


Our conversation was a serious one. We were discussing intense issues. She listens well and she converses with great wisdom for one so young, so when the words slid out of her mouth I almost did not catch them. Two sentences later I realized that my youngest daughter’s words had been spoken to me.


Her words pinched. She did not mean for them to do so. I had made a statement, commenting on another situation, and she applied them to me.

I hear some bitterness in that statement.

Those are the words she said to me.

They were couched in a half-joking tone. But they stopped me. My gut reaction was surely not? I kept thinking of her observation; I was appalled by the maybe-truth of it and pricked by her honest candor.

When I tried to pull her words from the ground soil of my heart—they resisted. There were roots of truth there I had to acknowledge. An undetected shoot sent into the deep places of my heart.

At first, I thought she can not be right. I have let go of bitterness; I dug those roots up long ago. And I know about roots. I know how deep they can descend and how much dirt, soil and earth can be disturbed, turned and moved when you pull the root up and out.

I know.

I have pulled up a lot of bitter roots. Some were shallow, only in the surface soil. Some had only one long tap root and slid straight out of the dirt. Several, however, were so deep I sat down on my backside with the pulling.

Sometimes even now when I am ready to plant something new—excavating a deep depression to accommodate a new variety —I will find a root left behind from the last digging. I can see where the root has been cleaved by a shovel in an attempt to remove it. But it remained.

Bitterness goes deep.

My daughter’s words were said as a simple observation, but the Spirit used them to prick me gently. Just enough for one drop of blood to blister to the surface—enough to remind me that a root of bitterness can grieve the heart of God.

Bitterness has no place in the heart of a Christ-follower. Bitterness impedes the working grace of the Spirit. Bitterness’ dormancy seems benign, but its root and tendrils must be exposed and removed because bitterness and grace will not co-exist.

The prick and the blister woke me.

The convex curve of that dark red drop caused me to examine the residual roots in the soil of myself. That dark red drop has become the curved back of the shovel I need to use.

At least it is raining today--the soil will be moist and soft. And my garden gloves are in the laundry room.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Think I Got This Now

In my twenties I was quite busy having babies. Four. Four daughters in seven years. Inevitably each time I announced I was pregnant someone would ask or question me: how are you going to love another? They asked this question as if every time I birthed a new baby that the love present in my and their father’s heart would have to be divided--as if we had a pie with only so many pieces.

The prevailing theory seemed to be that each time a child came the pieces of the mothering pie would have to be cut smaller. More narrow. Perhaps this is true of time, of resources, of material things.

But not of love. Love expands. Love enlarges. It grows.

Love multiplies.

On September 13, 2012 my love multiplied again. My second grandson, my second grandchild, came into this world on a Thursday at 6:05 p.m.

Judah Nathaniel Vaughan.

Judah, your name means a gift of praise. Indirectly Nathaniel is a family name: it would have been my name had I been a boy and it would have been your mama’s name had she been a boy. I’m very glad she wasn’t. Your mama was my first child and the very reason I wanted more. Because of her you have three aunts. Plain and simple.
I heard about you one night in a quiet, short conversation with your mama. The conversation was brief, but I felt its impact for days and days. My mind was too finite and too limited to wrap around your existence yet.

But your existence grew. And my imagination exploded.

Judah, I remember the day your mama called and told me that the black and white images on the screen revealed you were a boy. A little boy. Later your mama would have a 4-D ultrasound and the image of your little face impacted my reality. I studied your little face often.

At this point Aunt Babz nicknamed you little lion man.

Lions seemed to appear everywhere or I became acutely aware of them. Suddenly this nickname became something more. In many ways it seems to be a marking of who you are, of who you will be.

I watched your mama grow with you. Yours was a quiet growing. Unobtrusive.

And in direct proportion to her physical expansion she grew as a woman.
At the end the weight of you pulled on your mama. Pulled her forward. You were almost too large for her.

The night you were born, in the late hours of the next morning, I slept in a chair in your mama’s hospital room. During the night I woke, and I watched your mama. Several times she looked over at me and later she told me I looked miserable in the hard, want-to-be recliner.

In reality, I was trying not to cry. I was damming the walls around my over-productive tear ducts because I had tried very hard all day long not to cry. I wanted to be strong for you and your mama. I hadn’t wanted tears to interfere or get the best of me. Your Noni has a reputation for crying. And on your day I just wanted to be a rock for your mama. An unemotional one. But in the middle of the night I woke from my light slumber and peered through the half dark at you and your mama. And when she thought I was miserable? I was really just holding back the flood, the release and dam of tears, which had been held back all day long.

Judah, she was beautiful in the faint light. And you were splayed across her chest like the giant of a man you will be. And I was enthralled. I watched her wake as you grew fitful. Her voice soothed and quieted you. She whispered in your ear and you would go limp again. She sensed I was watching her. Perhaps, she thought I was assessing, but in reality I was admiring and accepting. Your mama had been a woman grown for a long time, but she stepped completely over the threshold with you.

This revelation came to me during her hours of labor with you. I watched her. Was near her. I’m not sure she really needed me. But someday, Judah, you will discover and run headlong into your mama. You need to know that she is a compressed package of stubbornness, strong will, strength and stoicism.

Even so when you were born, the whole great long length of you, I was astounded that her tiny little frame had held, carried and encompassed you for nine months.

She let me cut your cord. The cord that tethered you to her, that had fed and sustained you, I cut. And I was both ecstatic for the privilege, and awed by the enormity of the task. Others could have done this—the doctor or your mama. But your mama allowed me. And when I finished they laid you on your mama’s chest. I was speechless and stunned (this too is a rarity for your Noni).

God’s provision for birth and the miracle of it—the absurdity of it--can only be explained by his grace. The profoundness and the simplicity of it could only come from his hand. I felt like a little child getting to be privy to something much bigger and more wonderful than I could ever comprehend.

I, who had been present to see you arrive, felt like I had just arrived. I stood by the head of her bed and peered at you, and I was totally oblivious to anyone or anything else. I got to see your mama’s face when she saw yours. Just know, Judah, she loved you before. But in that moment she fell in love with you. Her heart broke wide open and she pulled you back into herself.

Then in the chaotic aftermath of delivery room your mama looked at me. There was such gentle sincerity and firmness in her face and voice and I will never, ever forget her words:

I think I got this now.

I think I got this, now. She said it for me, but in that moment she believed her own words, her own prophetic statement.

And it was time for me to go.

I left you and your mama alone. You, who had known each other for nine months, needed time to recognize each other’s faces.*

I left the room and went out to deliver all the news of you. And through the long walk from the delivery room to the waiting room love was multiplying exponentially.

During that walk I kept thinking of your mama’s statement:

I think I got this now.

She does, Judah.

*This is an allusion to a text that my youngest daughter sent Judah's mama (my oldest daughter):

He wants to know your face. He knows your voice and your heartbeat, now he needs to know your face.

Judah--about 1 1/2 hours after birth. His mother's tattoo? Greek word for grace.

Little Lion Man's roar.

Judah loves his fist.

Mama and her Judah.

What lips!

Noni and Judah

Judah Nathaniel Vaughan
September 13, 2012
6:05 p.m.
8 lbs and 5 ounces
21 1/2 inches long

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tilted Axis

You, Elijah David, were born at 5:47 p.m. on September 1, 2012. And your arrival tilted the axes of many, many worlds.

My axis began to shift back in January. Your mom and dad called and suggested an Ice Cream Sundae night on Friday. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. We get together a lot. But this invitation felt different. Somehow I knew. I knew what they were going to tell me. They came, they said, bearing a late Christmas gift. I laughed and messed up their surprise by blurting out that I knew they were going to have a baby. They didn’t seem to know how to handle my announcement. Somewhere deep inside me I understood that you had begun. The bib they brought me to announce this news is still in my room in plain sight.

My axis shifted many more times in the following months. When your mom called me and told me they heard your heartbeat for the first time I wept. When they brought the first ultrasound pictures and I saw your profile the axis within me shifted noticeably.

When your mama and daddy discovered you were a little boy they called and I couldn’t seem to breathe quite right. Oxygen didn’t get to the places it needed to be.

And when your mama’s belly began to round with your growth my heart began to swell in direct proportion. God makes sure that mamas’ bellies and grandmamas’ hearts have a great capacity and elasticity for great expansion. It’s a good thing.

The first time I saw your little foot and the sweep of your body make the terrain of your mama’s belly move there was a tremor in the landscape  of my own.

Your daddy predicted with absolute accuracy the day you would arrive. We sat in the midst of a family gathering and guessed when you would make your arrival. Earlier he had been the only one to know the measurement of your mama’s belly. I was second, but he was first. So, when we decided to try and predict your arrival your daddy spoke. He knew. He thought he was guessing, but he knew. (Your Grandpa Rector was very close, but he was guessing.)

During the last time someone looked at your face and little body through the wall of your mama’s womb, I was there. At first you were too big for me to see. I was looking for the whole of you, but the ultrasound couldn’t capture your entirety. The technician worked until she found your little face obscured by your placenta which tethered you to your mama. And you were sleeping. Your little face peeked through briefly and just a glimpse of you was caught on a shiny paper frame. It didn’t do you justice. It didn’t prepare me at all. My axis shifted five more degree.

I saw your mama three days later. She was buying tiny pants for you. And I knew, Elijah. I knew you were coming. I could see it in your mama’s beautiful face. I could sense it in the weight of you in her body. You had grown too great for her frame to contain.

My phone rang at 4:23 am. Your daddy’s name scrolled across the screen. I laughed out loud. They were going to the hospital. You were on your way. You were coming.

And my axis shifted.

And the waiting began.
I saw your mama briefly in her labor room. Her face seemed ethereal and otherworldly. Her body was shifting, contracting and giving over to the work it would take to bring you here. But she was lovely in the midst of it. Focused in the anticipation of you,  and in the pregnancy of the hour she truly labored to bring you here.

And your daddy. Elijah, your daddy was someone to behold. There was a deep measure of intensity in him. An intensity that had only briefly manifested before—usually in times of deep protectiveness and concern for your mama. His body and demeanor seemed relaxed on first glance, but as I watched I could see the readiness, the tension that he held. And he held it for you and your mama.

Periodically during the six hours of the afternoon he appeared several times to us. An anticipated messenger. He was calm and quiet. Without pomp he would just slide unobtrusively around the corner of the waiting room. Most often he only gave two sentences of information and then he would smile and shrug and turn to go back to his appointed place.

After a while he didn’t come. His absence was an explanation. I knew that you must be moving into this world. The waiting room was crowded and noisy. It was alive. I moved out into the hall where there was breathing space. The clock showed 5:35 p.m.

See, Elijah, your aunt had prayed twelve hours earlier; she had asked for you to please come meet us. And when I stood in the hall I prayed for you. I am sure that the nursing staff thought that this particular grandmother was a little crazy. I realize now that I was praying out loud and my mouth and lips were moving fast. I prayed for your mama to have the stamina and strength to bring you into this world. I prayed for your daddy to be her strong wall to lean on. I prayed for you to come knowing that you had a place in this world. I prayed that you would know your purpose early. I prayed for you to be whole. But these prayers, Elijah, were just a culmination of all the prayers that have been prayed for you since January. That hall was just an extension of my prayer closet.

I looked up to see your daddy come around the corner once again. And the axis shifted me off balance.

His face was something to behold. Elijah. He looked like he had just been given a glimpse into heaven. His face held an awe that I have rarely seen. He was stunned. In courtesy I had to look away. In respect I had to close my eyes and allow the glory on his face to settle before I could look at him again. He was astounded by the miracle of you and the strength and tenacity of your mama.

Later he would come and get your Grandma Rector and me and lead us into the dark, gentle room. There you were in your mama’s arms. My inner axis tilted at an angle I couldn’t quite navigate. You were the whole of our worlds compressed down into one tiny little being. You were your mama and daddy dovetailed into one. Our God had enabled these two incredibly beautiful people to create you. And I blessed Him. I blessed Him for you.

I held you in my arms. I, who have held countless babies, was tentative and hesitant. Overwhelmed. You were almost too much for me. And the complete shift happened. All the terrain within me slid too many degrees to measure.

My world had been shifted before—when your mama and aunts were born, but this was a different kind of shift. I had been warned; I had been told. But I hadn’t comprehended or understood what it would mean to hold the embodiment of the next generation in my arms. I understood what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” *

Later we would all wait at the nursery window to see you through the glass. The nurse wheeled your mama and you into the corridor. Your mama’s arms hovered in the air as your daddy reached for you to take you behind the glass and wash the labor of the day away. She looked bereft and a little lost without you. We watched as a very competent nurse instructed your daddy about the little body that was yours.

Elijah, I looked over at your mama, my daughter, and watched the swell of tears rise in her tired eyes. As she gazed at your daddy and you I saw her heart swell. I witnessed the expansion of her heart for her two boys. I looked at her and said, “There it is. Psalm 37:4. There’s the desire of your heart in front of you.” And the swell of tears spilled. My own vision blurred. Then nurse took her to her room.

We remained. All of our faces pressed against the glass. We moved and pivoted to gain a better view of you. Your dad was listening to the nurse’s instructions. Perhaps, she taught him something he didn’t know. But when you cried because you were cold and afraid and insecure, she didn’t teach him to put his hand on your chest and stroke your cheek with his finger. No, he knew how to do that on his own.

When we left the hospital that night. I was reluctant, but I knew it was time. As we walked through the hospital I told everyone in the hall, the elevator and the security gate that I had a brand new grandson. I told the tired employees at Chik-fil-A that we were celebrating because you had arrived, and they allowed us to stay after they locked the doors.

Elijah David, I went to sleep in the early hours of the morning thinking of you and seeing you on the back of my eyelids. I fell asleep praying for you. That’s not the first time, and it is certainly not the last.

I love you, Elijah David Rector.

My axis has tilted because of you.

Elijah, this is how you looked when I met you.

Part of your family at the nursery window.

Your amazing Dad!

Dad washing your thick head of hair!

Your favorite place to be--with Mama.

My shifting world.

Elijah David Rector
September 1, 2012
7.2 pounds, 19 1/4 inches

The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...