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Happy Valentine’s Day

first kissI found a picture of my husband “stealing a kiss” during our wedding party (the reception after the reception). This is the 17th Valentine’s Day since we first met. Seventeen February 14ths for me and the boy with the silver Firebird. Clearly, I recall the afternoon he pulled into my apartment complex with his sports car for an impromptu ‘date’ in Broadripple. OK, I shouldn’t lie. I called it a date. He called it “stop by for dinner at Arby’s on the way to a concert at the Vogue.” But….whatever it was, I’m sure I did not come down from the high of a roast beef & curly fry supper for several days.

“Bummer Valentine’s Day” 1997 we did not go out. He was having a hard time realizing that we were in love and getting married. I knew…He did not.
“Ecstatic Valentine’s Day” 1998 we went to dinner and a Tap Dogs concert. He was starting to understand our future together!
“Apprehensive Valentine’s Day” 1999 we made an Italian dinner for our parents to let them know I was leaving for a year-long contract with Royal Caribbean. We had so many questions about how our relationship would fare! This, by the way, prompted our engagement!
“Optimistic Valentine’s Day” 2000 we were deep into wedding plans.

Every Valentine’s Day since falling in love with one, A. Casey Stanley, marks another year on a journey with the man I love, respect, and adore.

But not all days along the way have been “happy.”   Nope. Some days have been hard, sad, disappointing, and less like the perfect smiling couples that model for Hallmark cards. Others days have been fulfilling, blessed, crazy, and hectic. So, “Happy Valentine’s Day” just doesn’t seem to sum up a day devoted to my soul-mate, counterpart, co-parent, love, and best friend.

Today, I’m wishing you a “Grateful Valentine’s Day” because its important to stop and give thanks for the ups, downs, spins, and curves of our relationships. To be grateful for what has survived through all kinds of days. With God’s grace, we can celebrate messy, difficult, beautiful, possible LOVE.

This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son… 1 John 4.10

The Ashes: Reconsidering Lent

Ash WednesdayAsh Wednesday…beautiful dust.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Its the day after Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, and drink all the beer in the fridge after work day. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season we know as Lent. Lent means “spring”, with its root in the German, Lenz, or Dutch, Lente.

It is interesting to me, when I hear from non-catholic friends “Lent is for Catholics”. What?! That is like saying “Advent is for Methodists” or “Weddings are for Presbyterians.” Can you imagine not decorating for Christmas, hearing Christmas carols, shopping for gifts, getting together with friends, and anticipating the birth of Jesus until December 25th? What would happen if there were no thought or preparations for a wedding until the day set on the calendar? Of course, there are some who prefer to do Christmas and weddings in this way, but for me, the anticipation is what makes the event so special!

There is no Biblical command regarding how we observe the 40 days prior to Easter. And, while the Catholic church does a great job emphasizing the importance of Lent and regulating some all church practices, it is not just for Catholics. Just like ignoring the days leading up to Dec 25t would diminish my Christmas joy, to ignore Lent would lessen the impact of Easter on my heart.

So what do we do? And more importantly, why do we do it?!

A good place to start is reading a very short passage in scripture, Matthew 4:1-11 (also in Mark 1, & Luke 4). Here we read of Jesus, shortly after his baptism being led by Holy Spirit into the desert. During those 40 days, He ate nothing. At the end of the fasting, the Bible says Jesus was ‘hungry’…ummm…hello understatement?! I’m guessing its there in case someone tries to speculate that a 40 day fast was easy since Jesus is the son of God. I think it should have said, ‘Jesus was fully human, fueled by calories, tempted by carbs, underweight, dehydrated, and hungry!’ At the end of the fast, Satan comes to tempt him with food, validation, and power. But, Jesus stands firm, clings to God and scripture, and Satan leaves. This is how Jesus began his formal ministry. Before He started calling fisherman and tax collectors to be disciples, He fasted for 40 days.

Fasting

I was having fun reading Facebook posts about what people are ‘giving up’ for Lent. Common fasts are alcohol, chocolate, baked goods, fast food, swearing, TV, and Facebook. These are great! But I wonder (because this has definitely been true in my life) if the choosing of what to ‘give up’ was done with the desert, and Jesus, and Springtime in mind? Giving up sweets and alcohol is a healthy choice, but is it a diet or a path to true fulfillment? Spending less time with TV or FB is efficient and smart. We will waste less time, be less tempted toward jealousy, and get more done. But is it a discipline or an opportunity for discipleship?

Diets and disciplines are good and yield good results. Weight loss, beating sugar or caffeine addition, more productive work time, and more focused attention on people rather than screens are things many of us want! Lent is a time to go even deeper.

The Ashes

On Ash Wednesday, those who routinely observe the start of Lent will go to corporate worship and receive a cross of ashes on their head. For centuries, the dust of the ashes has represented our need to die to self. Where I live, in Indiana, its easy to look around and remember that all things die. The trees are bare, the grass is crispy, anything that once had a bloom is slumped over or hiding in the frosty ground. This is Lent. A time to die to ourselves so that way down deep, in the spaces only God sees, life can be brought forth again. New life requires death. Spring require winter. Resurrection requires crucifixion.

Reconsidering Lent

If you read this on February 13, a week later, or right before Easter Sunday, I’m inviting you to join me in reconsidering Lent. It’s not about 40+ days, so don’t let that stop you. Lent is about spring, about finding life after death. It is about knowing that in the deep, dark, dying places, God is preparing new beginnings and life.

3 Questions

1. How does what I’ve chosen to fast from during Lent cause me to die to myself and make room for Christ?

1b.  What should I chose to fast from during Lent to cause me to die to myself and make room for Christ?

2. In the most vulnerable time of His fast, Jesus faced tremendously difficult temptation. If, at the end of Lent, my toughest temptation or circumstance is put before me, will my inclination to cling to God and scripture be stronger than it is today?

3. Jesus began his formal ministry after 40 day of fasting, prayer, and temptation.  Does God have a ‘new beginnings’ or another step forward in His plan for my life?  (He does!) How can I best listen to His voice during my fast?

Thank you for sharing your Lenten experience with me.  My prayer for us all is that we go deeper and hear His voice.

Ash Wednesday…beautiful dust.

The long list of “I won’t”

Over my lifetime, I have compiled a long list of “I won’t”.
To name just a few:
I won’t move back to Muncie.
I won’t gain the weight back.
I won’t get a dog over 50 pounds.
I won’t get a dog that sheds.
I won’t have a 100% commissioned paycheck career.
I won’t EVER wear skinny jeans. Or flat-soled shoes.
I won’t EVER EVER EVER eat sushi.
and of course, you saw this one coming,
I won’t blog.

So what happened?! Well, I married a Muncie guy, moved back, had two kids, gained the weight back, and got a big hairy golden retriever! I took a commissioned sales job with a fashion company which eventually convinced me to give skinny jeans and ballet flats a whirl. I still haven’t eaten sushi though.

Of course I had very good reasons for all of these “I won’t” declarations…and maybe we can talk about those later. But the vow to not blog is really weird…even to me. I love to read other people’s blogs. I love to write. It’s therapeutic and my learning style of choice. I have always known that if I want to process an experience or learn something in a deep way, I have to write about it. So why the fear? Why the vow to stay clear?

Sometimes the very things we work to keep at a distance are exactly what we are supposed to embrace.   God has a very consistent way of doing this in my life.   Just about the time I’ve conquered an “I won’t” He brings it home on Christmas eve with a bow on its collar.

Merlin on Christmas

I’ve kept a long list of reasons why I can’t blog for the past two years.  (I’m too busy.   No one will read it.  Who really cares?  I should clean my bathtub instead.  blah blah blah…)  The point here isn’t explaining why and how I got past all that.  What I’ve learned (again) is that if GOD has planted a seed inside a person, He will see it to fruition.  In His time.  He may not tell us why we are supposed to drop the excuses and do it, but He will always provide the way.

Are there seeds planted deep inside you that you’ve vowed to ignore a while longer?  A seed to create? or explore? or learn? or help? or change the world?  Take a look at what you’ve declared a ‘NO’ to see if it is time to be a ‘NOW’.

I would love to know what has been on your “I won’t” list that you feel God may be asking you to turn into an “I will”.  Leave a comment with your thoughts.  It’s more fun that way.

I’m sure my own list of “I won’t” will continue to surprise me.

Except the part about sushi!

Why this blog is called “Beautiful Dust”

Hi and welcome to Beautiful Dust, a blog that celebrates the dusty truth of life.

Several years ago, I was having one of those days. A bad hair day, a fat jeans day, a bad mom day, a frustrating work day, a day of feeling completely incapable and ugly at every turn. As I hit the bed exhausted and unsure if I could get up and repeat the whole process again, I came across a book of poetry that provided just the comfort I needed. One sentence jumped off the page.

“He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”

The poetry is written by David in Psalm 103 in the Bible. What grabbed me was the word “dust”. I felt like dust at that moment. Small. Incapable. Weak. Dusty. I turned the pages back, all the way back, to Genesis.

God’s hands mixing earth and dust, love and freedom. God’s fingers molding, coaxing, creating. God’s heart desire taking form in his hands. God’s breath drawing in…..and then Life. Companionship. Beauty. When God breathed into the heart of humanity the dust became me, and you. (Genesis 2:7 NIV)

I laid there thinking: If God remembers that I am dust, than why am I working so hard to forget? My daily fight to be the picture perfect parent, spouse, ministry leader, and Christian woman was suffocating me! With every failure, more air left my self-inflated sense of self worth.

I suddenly felt better. Relief. I am dust. I am DUST! I don’t have to figure out how to be amazing in all my roles as a woman. My job is to let God breathe Himself into every part of my life. When a dusty life takes in the breath of God, it is poised for extraordinary purpose. That’s where I want to be.

I get really tired when I try to take on the world without the breath of God. I wonder if you do too? If so, I would love for you to join me for some dusty commentary on finding beauty and purpose in life.

Welcome to Beautiful Dust!