My mama tells the story that when I was a gangly four-year-old kid, they hauled my kid brother and sister and I, down to a panhandle town named Hereford, Texas, for a handful of months, and my dad sharecropped cotton with this farmer west of town.
And I played with Nancy Leigh Craig across the street who was two years younger and a whole head and a half shorter than I.
My mama remembers it and I will never forget, how every time I ventured next door to play with Nancy Leigh Craig, that little slip of a girl would pull out an empty glass mason jar, and Nancy Leigh Craig would fill it with heaps of dirt dug up from the dog run behind her house, and then she would fill that jar up with water, throw in a bunch of weed tops, and stir the whole mess up with any found stick.
And then, mama doesn’t have to tell me this part, because it’s the part I can still close my eyes and see: Every time that two-and-a-half-year-old Nancy Leigh Craig and I whipped up the murky concoction? She would hold it up and tell me in her most authoritative two-and-a-half year old voice:
“Drink the mud soup!”
And I was the lanky four year old girl who did exactly what two and a half year old Nancy Leigh Craig told me to do: I gulped down that mud soup like a lap dog who could only nod.
Then I’d up and walk across the street to our townhouse across from the tennis courts on 198th Avenue, and I’d whisper in my mama’s ear: “Mama? I’m afraid I’m going to die now.”
Mama, she would cup my face and say, “But my Ann-girl — why in the actual world would you drink that mud soup? — AGAIN?”
And there are days you don’t need your mama to say even a word of it to you, because you can feel it strike you like like a bolt of lightning from the the throne of God:
You can be 40 something years old— and still be swigging down mud soup.
I’d started to scratch it down in my journal and that scratching started decoding a bit of my life: You end up drinking mud soup whenever you see yourself as the passive victim in your story, instead of an active co-writer of your story, when you act like you don’t determine your responses to a situation — but your actions and responses are determined by somebody else.
You drink Mud Soup whenever you consume what isn’t life-giving good for your soul.
Having the courage to refuse to drink mud soup does not mean refusing discomfort, refusing suffering, refusing hard things and living given and living surrendered and living sacrificially can be life-giving good for your soul.
Sometimes the cup we drink from is suffering — ask Jesus. And you find the abundant life — wherever you turn toward the sign: Welcome to The Surrendered Life.
The only way to the abundant life is to accept discomfort in your life. The way to what we want — is often through what we don’t want.
Painfully hard things are part of the price of admission to a purposeful, holy life.
But that is very different than when a woman feels like she has no voice, like she has lost her voice in her own life. When a woman feels like she has no voice, she can grow soul-deaf to the voice of God in her own heart.
When a woman feels disempowered — she can doubt the power of God.
When a woman fears saying no to certain things — is there actually a fear saying yes to better things?
Is fear of saying no to other people — really a fear of saying yes to what God wants for you?
How did my aching soul, my broken heart, not know: You swallow garbage for your soul when you’re a fear follower instead of a Christ follower.
Is the Church made up of more fear followers than Christ followers?
I asked my mama these things and her life is my answer:
You always have a choice to make a choice.
And you can only be an agent for change in the world — when you believe there’s agency for change in your own life.
I don’t bother telling my Mama that there are days that I’m no victimized Mud Swallower, but I’m a flat-out villainous Mud Slinger who’s a brazen blamer, blaming my people, and this world, and that situation, and when anyone blames others for the state of the world, they abdicate their own responsibility for changing the world.
And this world is kinda full of the resigned Mud Swallowers and the rebuking Mud Slingers and if you anoint yourself a fault-finder, you find yourself at fault in the end.
When complaining and blaming is a way of life — we can’t complain that there’s no one else to blame when we can’t find the way to the abundant life.
But don’t go thinking for one hot New York minute that there aren’t days that I don’t morph from Mud Swallower into Mud Slinger — and then into a bit of a fake-hero Mud Runner.
Whenever anyone races in with a rescue of short-lived relief, they become the martyred Mud Runner. One becomes a savior-complex Mud Runner when one can’t stand the time involved for growth, when one can’t trust the faithful process of first the dying and then the rising, when one’s wildly afraid of broken things, so there’s no trusting that God’s redeeming things.
But the thing is: Too often when you are focused on short-lived relief — you can undermine real relief for the rest of your life.
Be patient with God’s patient work.
Don’t be afraid of broken things.The way of Abundance is always first the dying and then the rising. Be not afraid of practicing your faith everywhere — your God is practicing resurrection everywhere.
I have stood at the sink and confessed it to Mama: It’s a Messy Circus Cycle, passive Mud Swallowing, blaming Mud Slinging, martyred Mud Running, and the circus becomes my circus and the cycle becomes my own kinda painful crazy.
There’s an Abundance of Presence that beckons into an encircling ring of meaningfulness.
My Mama moves the candle in the Lenten wreath on Sunday morning and there’s a way to live in a sacred circle of Presence and I watch how she does this, lives a story that tells of the wanted life, tells of the abundant life.
Watching mama’s eyes, I’d dare say she’s made her whole life about taking that yearned for way of abundance.
Hasn’t she taken the way of the Response-able, the Reflectors, the Rememberers, the way of those who operate in the Circle of Abundance Presence — because this is the only way out of the Messy Circus Cycle and into the Abundant Life?
I don’t know when she showed me first:
You are as able to take another step toward the life you want — as you are able to live Response-able.
The Responsible are those who own how they are always Response-able — always able to have a response, determine their own response, and own that response.
You are able to feel as much joy as you are response-able — able to respond with the right response, at the right time. Able to respond with gratitude, able to respond with surrendered givenness, able to respond with kindness, because no amount of brokenness gets to break our kindness.You are able to embrace the abundant life — as much as you embrace being response-able.
These are hard and holy things for the the brave can rise to, but choosing to be Response-Able, is the only way to be able to live the life we long for.
I can bear witness, testify how Mama, she lives out of the Abundance of His Presence by being Response-able, and choosing not to deflect mud, sling mud, or blame others for the mud, but to reflect Christ, share Christ, and whisper how all are beloved in Christ.
Reflectors don’t blame others — but reflect Christ to others. Blaming Mud-slingers may look for who to nail, but Reflectors look for ways to be like Jesus who took the nail instead of blaming anyone. Blaming Mud-slingers may look everywhere for who and what is at fault, but it’s the Reflectors who look for ways to reflect the faultless Christ everywhere.
When you reflect Christ, you get to see the world like He does. This changes your world. This ushers you into the abundant life you long for.
I watch how the candle light flickers and reflects in Mama’s eyes.
And I remember.
I remember stories that we don’t tell, remembers words that we don’t speak but simply, bravely, live, remember how Mama shows me how to never stop remembering what literally re-members all that’s been broken and dismembered.
And I just quietly reach out for Mama’s hand…
How you choose to remember — determines how the broken dismembered things in your life will be remade and re-membered.
You have to choose to intentionally remember God’s goodness, if you want your brokenness to be re-membered into wholeness.
The Remembering People — remember they are Response-able and they are Reflectors and they are the Rememberers that remember abundance is found only in His presence.
The abundant life is found only in an abundance of God — and we can always have as much of God as we want. There are ways to enlarge our wanting and ways to expand our hearts and the way is possible — and who can afford to miss it?
When my mama opens up this new book of words, The Way of Abundance, and reads how all the pages are dedicated to her, I cup her face and I read to her the story that she’s written with her days, a story different from being a Mud Swallower or Mud Slinger or Mud Runner, a story of surrendered givenness that has let the Potter shape and transform her into the beauty of cruciform.
“Sometimes you just long to acknowledge where you’ve come from. Who has walked the way before you — shown you more of the abundant way with bits of their brave lives, brave heart,” I read the words to Mama slowly, reading the story of her abundant life back to her.
“Mama, you have been the bravest—and your brave has won ten thousand battles because it’s made us all braver countless times. We have all watched you boldly take the way of abundance — no matter how the road seemed to wind through broken valleys that turned into the valley of His cupped hands.
We have all watched you boldly take the way of abundance — no matter how the way twisted through wildernesses where He wooed, wildernesses where He never brings to abandon but only to bring us closer.
And we have all watched you boldly take the way of abundance — no matter how it seemed like it didn’t matter—because God makes meaning out of messes, because He is the God who can make all our brokenness into abundance, because, you and I say this back to each other over and over again: The Writer of the story has written Himself into the hardest places of yours and is softening the broken edges of everything with redeeming, abundant grace.”
And Mama kisses me gently and I whisper to her the best lines of the life story that could be ours, all of ours:
“So, like you always tell me, all is always, in every way.
What do you do when you wake up and feel like you’re not enough for your life? Or when you look out the kitchen window as dusk falls and wonder how do you live when life keeps breaking your heart?
In sixty vulnerably soulful stories, the highly anticipated The Way of Abundance moves from self-weary brokenness to Christ-focused givenness.
Christ Himself broke like bread, giving Himself to us so we might have a lifelong communion with Him. Could it be that our brokenness is also a gift to the world? These tender devotionals dare us to embrace any and all brokenness as a gift that moves us closer to the heart of God.
This gentle but exquisitely profound book does nothing less than take you on an intimate journey of the soul.
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