how to really live a life

My Mama, when she crossed that milestone birthday, that one that surprised her in the mirror with wrinkles and white when she was still feeling all the smoothness of a girl on the under side, she looked back over her shoulder at me and she told me she just wanted to celebrate all the decades with praise.

I knew what her words weren’t saying. She was born in the 12th month, on the 12th, twelve minutes to twelve, and my mama’s lived her whole life in the tattered edge beyond the 11th hour. When you’re born in the month of December, you can find at least one or two places to sing the hard hallelujah and stand. Mama, she stands.

So I walked right behind her on the eve of her birthday, walked behind her when she carried it straight into the theater, her own tattered copy held close to her heart, held under her arm, His name, the One Who’s held her tender the whole way and made her stand tall.


When an usher offers us a program before we take our seats, Mama, she just smiles, and she doesn’t need anyone to hand her what she’s already clinging to and Caleb sits on one side of her and I sit on the other, and my brother on the other side of me.

We wait while they tune. I watch her while she talks.

She looks so beautiful tonight, white tendril falling out of the black.

I remember when her hair was dark and her dabbing Chanel #5 on her wrists before she went out into the night.

He’s let the years make her the fragrance.

A few notes are rising. We turn toward the incense.



And  it comes over us like a host of wings over shepherds, like heaven over earth, like light in the night, Scripture erupting in a choir of song, the voices and violins, and the conductor raises his hand but I think it may be Mama who ascends.

“For unto us a child is born…. unto us a Son is given…” The notes climb. Punctuate.  Wonderful! Counsellor! Mighty God! Crescendo! Every string on the stage quivers joy, the dome of stars over the planet trembling awe. Mama’s nodding in time with all that has breath, her tendrils dancing. She knows that her redeemer liveth and in the last day He will stand upon the earth, the One  who keeps her standing, the one she’s seen in the flesh and who’s given eyes to her spirit.

She’s bowed over everything strung taut and this is how you become the refrain.

Every line of lyrics, I watch her run her hand along the lines of Scripture, following Him, decoding a life. Her index finger of her left hand lingers over the painting of a shepherd carrying a lamb. It’s the finger truncated by a tractor and a jerking brake and after it’s amputation she wore that hand wrapped in dressings for weeks — yet what can sever from the God come swaddled to loose the binding grave clothes and restore all that’s been bloodied and maimed?

“She really loves this, doesn’t she?” my brother leans over, whispers it thick in my ear. Yes, she really loves Him. He’s smiling, eyes on Mama with eyes closed in reverie, her body swaying.  There’s no roof to this place and the adoration for Him is pulsing wondrous through the veins and who can sit still in this ampitheater of glory?




When we stand for the Hallelujah chorus, the bass and the soprano and the uncontained worship lifting all the souls straight up, our pregnant hearts deliver the full-bodied joy and I raise my hands. Mama turns away from the stage, circles round to see the rows behind us, the balcony, the booths along the sides, the whole of the place on their feet singing it clear “King of Kings! And Lord of Lords!” She’s radiating.

She mouths it to me, the light in her liquid with wonder, “Someday! The Whole World!

Her smile’s split her right open and I see her spirit bare and beautiful.

Eternally young.




On the way home under the afterglow of heaven, Caleb’s talking about his years ahead, what he’ll do with the decades before him before he looks back over his shoulder.

“What could I make or do that will last three hundred years from now?”  Yes, Handel’s creation is nearly all that. “What’s an invention that will still be changing lives three centuries from now?” Cale’s leaning towards me, earnest; he really wants to know.

I turn at our corner, by Knapp’s snow-blanketed hayfield.

The moon has the trees falling in blue shadows.

What can withstand time? …. I don’t know…. Maybe it’s not our products that really outlast our lives — only what we do with praise.

Caleb looks out his window at the snow laid out waiting for tracks and I can see Mama’s hands raised, the way she stood tonight, smiling grateful before forever.




longing to make this life into eternal praise… #2132 -#2140 of the Thousand, Endless Gifts

~ a night of worship and seeing her transported

~ the hard hallelujahs that stand and sing loud

~ my brother smiling over my mother

~ all these years and the healing

~ passing the torch to those coming behind

~ the smile of the Farmer and his boys carrying in hours of donations to the sharing depot, praise with muscle

~ charades before the fire and the raucous of laughter

~ Handel’s Messiah on repeat all day

~ the way a life can be made all praise


updated button code here

{a giveaway for this community making life all praise!}

Zondervan unexpectedly sent me jackets of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are … What better to do with a stack of jackets than to share them? I’d love to sign and send them out — if any wants one? — maybe making it to a few of you in time for Christmas? Maybe an early jacket for your copy of One Thousand Gifts coming the first of the New Year? Or maybe just for a page in your own gratitude journal?


So… I’ve only done this less than a handful of times in the last 5 years, but today comments are open. (Just scroll down to the bottom of the post — and if you’d like to leave the gift of your thoughts, just a leave comment, sharing with us: How has counting His love gifts changed your life?

And we’ll select fifteen names from the comments (maybe that will be all the commenters!) and sign and send out fifteen of these book jackets to some wondrous folks making their life all about praise to Him. Thank you for sharing your praise of Him with me!

And today, if you’d like to share your 1000 Gifts of thanks — (please, jump in!) — just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other by sharing the community’s graphic within your post