Shining star…{or when a little girl grown is a bride-to-be}

California girl strides onto the red carpet.

I changed her diapers.

Flowing golden locks cascade as she gives hugs and holds tight.

I cradled her in my arms, resting her on my belly, big with my own first born sleeping inside.

First niece, sparkling like a Hollywood star, soon to be a bride.

I remember praying with her in my mother’s kitchen one summer morning long ago when she asked if Jesus could live in her heart.

We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard—God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts.
2 Peter 1:19 The Message

Her Mister ready to ship out two years ago when they married quietly.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24

Marine serving as a bright star in a desert far away.

Bride waiting at home. Then him home safe, praise God!

And now time for rejoicing and celebration.

The season of singing has come…
Song of Solomon 2:12

Lord God in Heaven, thank you for your mercy and your love. Please grant this Mr. and Mrs. a long, healthy, happy union with hearts entwined in Yours.

The Lord bless you, Eric and Allie, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

~sheila
Perhaps you have some newlywed advice to share? Something old or something new that helped you with a particular aspect of marriage? Perhaps what you, like me, learned from your mistakes? Please consider leaving a comment…

Summer stroll is for listening and following…

Setting out for a stroll on a summer’s afternoon, feet {in flipflops!} follow stream past glistening rocks and sandy bank.

Into the woods where quiet reigns and sun holds hands with shadows.

Entering their world which is our world which is all His world.

Visitors in a realm that looks like no one’s home until we still long enough to let creatures parade for Majesty’s pleasure.

Beetles climb, dragonflies dance and butterflies breeze by.

And I am caught in the magic of the moment.

So much grace all around. Sufficient and abundant. Always.

Making my heart burst with gratitude for the gift of five senses. For His gift of everything…

We walk and He speaks in living color pictures. Lessons in the moments…

Words to a minimum, we watch, sometimes waiting.

Under cover of leaves, stream rushes by. We listen. And we keep following.

Listen and follow, He reminds.  It’s what we are supposed to do. Reasonable service with outstanding benefits…

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
John 10: 27-30

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 15:10

And when the path forks, and there are choices to be made, when the following becomes harder than ever, that is when I see just how much I love and trust the Lord.  Will I press into Him, closing the gap, or will I travel on in my on way?

Sorry to say, there have been a time too many that I went down the wrong road. Only to be sorry. Only to come back to Him, head hanging low, seeking forgiveness.  Finding mercy and grace overflowing. Feeling all the worse knowing that I had hurt Him and He still loved me.

Will always love me. No. Matter. What.

Father’s loving patience holding steady, while pain and loss had their way teaching lessons that could only be learned the hard way. Across the years, slowly I learned, step by step growing wiser.

Love replacing pain, such a better teacher. Listening and obeying the first time. Trusting and praying before rushing on keeps me steady on His path.

And when I stay the course He has marked for me, how much sweeter is the journey.  With the sweet rest of abiding hope.

And sometimes sweet surprises like last summer’s  marriage to a wonderful man whose heart burns for Jesus.

Or a bright red flash fluttering out of nowhere across our path in the woods today, with less bright feathers following hard.

Cardinal and his mate.

They settle in the brush and we settle where we are, eager to catch another glimpse.

Witness to the gift as cardinal kisses mate with the offer of a bug, and she flies off perhaps to a nest with little ones.

And I see Jesus, Husband of the widow, Father of us all, providing.

My Jesus, who held me and my three sons through many trials during long years, lean and dark, when mettle was tested and faith muscles grew.

And Dearest Husband, who provides and cares for me in so many ways. Dearest is how He loves me in Christ, and tenderly models the Lord day after day. Leading me to be more like Him. Covering me with so much love.

Loving God providing and caring for us both, loving God holding this old world all messed up in His hands.  Longing for us all to listen and follow…

Cardinal lights on a branch, head tilting, soaking in the sun. Me, resting in this precious moment, soaking in the Son.

Trusting that He will always be there, meeting me wherever I may wander…

~sheila

Washing days…{or how to scrub a heart clean again}

Sometimes we all need a good soaking.

To get rid of the sweaty grime and teary stains from our journey.

We need to stand beneath a crisp, cool mountain waterfall and let the cascading flow rinse it all away, head to toe clean.

Water flowing over rocks. Us standing on the Rock.

Needing a good washing with the water of the Word of God.

Deep heart cleaning, sin expelling. Repentance.

And how wonderful when bathed by the love of good friends, him strumming guitar and us singing praise songs.  Holding our hands and holding up our arms, friends surround us with a waterfall of love. A place of solace and tender heart safety.

Bearing witness to truth that scrubs us squeaky clean again. Friends pouring cold, clear water that removes debris while melting our hearts.

Church…

The way it was always meant to be. Authentic, accepting, unashamed.

Love and healing hold us close.

Yet most of all we need that Friend that sticks closer than a brother, washing our feet…

Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean…though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  From John 13

Once clean, hearts washed again so they sparkle, pouring out goodness. And out of the good treasures of our hearts will come shining good words abundant in love and lighting the Way for others…

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:43-45

May our hearts overflow with Love.

Flooding our minds anew.

Love.

Our life preserver. His love for us preserving us for all time, reigning over sadness…

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You…

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His faithful love in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,

A prayer to the God of my life. 
Psalm 42:5-8

God of my life…

God of your life…

Our lives hidden with Christ in God. His Word hidden in our hearts that we might not sin against Him…

And the song we will sing when our hearts are full of love will be ever so sweet, fragrant like the many beautiful wild flowers growing free and strong on His hillsides. Roots gone deep, holding tight no matter how hard the wind may blow.

Son shining, watered by the Word…

~sheila

Daddy’s little girl…

There aren’t too many photos of me and him.

There weren’t too many times spent together.

At least not in a way that made sweet memories.

Since Father’s Day always falls on Sunday, he was always sober, never drinking that one day of the week. Sitting quietly in a Lucky Strike haze, watching television all day, he was physically present, emotionally miles away.

But this post is not about how awful life was with an alcoholic father.  And it was the stuff of which nightmares were made.

Rather, it’s a Father’s Day story of Father God’s unending grace and goodness. Of the Father’s gift of life and love…

Daddy — who I love with all my heart and by the grace of God forgave after a tussle with my own angry bitterness — was the youngest boy in a family of 11 with an immigrant alcoholic dad who beat his mom, even once when she was pregnant.

My dad grew up having no memory of being loved, held or cared for by either of his parents. And when he was 14, his beloved and closest brother, Georgie, 16, drowned during a fishing trip along with five other young friends from the neighborhood.

The searing pain in his heart, the deep woundedness, the untold loss, went untreated.

Black hole growing inside him, eclipsing hope to such an extent that he could not bear his life another moment. He sought comfort and forgetfulness in alcohol, women and motorcycles.

Until he met a lovely little lady who touched his heart in a way no other ever had and he fell in love, keeping his dark side under wraps until three months into their new marriage.

It would be 13 long years before that last fight when he nearly strangled my mom. Divorce followed.

While it was a welcome release from the chaos and drama in our home, I cried for the daddy I never had. His addiction and absence leaving a legacy of anger, pain and loss that negatively impacted me for decades.

For one brief, shining moment long before the divorce papers were filed — someone who loved my dad – an older brother – held out a light full of hope.

A gift that could have changed his life, saved his marriage and helped his daughters.

A second chance. A do-over. The opportunity of a lifetime…

But, he was too wounded, stubborn or proud to humbly accept that he could not get better and change his life on his own.

He said no.

And he continued in his repetitive cycles for the rest of his days.

Same old, same old – allowing his broken childhood heart to keep churning up the past. Drowning those memories in too much beer, snuffing out his future with too many cigarettes.

Until one day when his belly distended and he received the diagnosis: cirrhosis.

A light turned on and he stopped drinking and smoking and became a much better grandfather to half a dozen little ones who loved him like crazy.

And we all rejoiced.

My sister and I were glad he could show love to our children and spend quality time with us, too. And was he ever helpful to me, a single mom — visiting, providing, fixing my home, doing fun things with me and the boys.

He even became reconciled to my mom and proved to be a fine and honorable friend for the remaining years of his life. Saying always, “I’ll love your mother till the day I die.”  And I believe he did.

All of this, the grace of God, a gift from the Father who loved my dad and longed to heal him.

But, still the darkness haunted him and there was never true peace.

Hurt, unforgiveness, feelings of worthlessness and not being loved were still in a heart long since sealed off.

And then on day he had just one drink.

One became two and two became many.

Until he noticed an odd little bump on his tongue and in fear ignored it.

Another diagnosis:  advanced throat cancer.

And then he died at 67. Suffering in a way that not even a dog should die.

My dad’s story began in a home filled with bitterness and rage. And it ended in loss, brokenness and misery.

And the saddest part of his story is the road not taken.

His brother offered him the gift of grace in Jesus Christ.

He walked away from a truly loving Father, father of us all, the One that would have set him free and changed his life for the better.

Dear reader, no matter who your earthly father was or how he treated you, please know that Jesus loves you no matter what. And He longs to heal your broken heart.

So that you can forgive.

And be forgiven.

And be free…

He longs to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the sons and daughters to their daddies…

So that Father’s Day may be celebrated any day of the year…

~sheila

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Is anything sweeter?

Sunday last, sun shining warm, we attend church without walls. Worship in an open air sanctuary quickens the beating of my heart.

Backs bent low to the task. Chorus of birds and bees singing overhead. Beaks and buzz breaking reverential quiet, row upon row.

His artistry stretches across the distant horizon, so unlike the icons I grew up with. Rounded green hills kiss bright blue sky.  Patchwork of brown and green quilts the ground below. Sky and earth and crops. Good seed planted in good soil.

All of Creation a cathedral…

And then the trees, with baby buds. Apple, pear and peach. Peaches that will be juice-dripping-down your chin good later this summer.

Angel room behind us, up a gently sloping path, filled with baby lambs bleating praise to their Maker as wooly ewe’s nuzzle.

And squeals of delight out of the mouths of babes, then grandmother’s caring admonition and direction. Shutter clicks, moment captured.

Finding myself lost in the moment as time seems to sit a spell, enjoying a good long exhale on a lovely summer-like morning.

So much love in the strawberry patch.

His love.

Our love.

Their love.

All of us together, yet distinctly separate. Each in his own berry-focused world for a while. Foreign and native tongues miss translation, yet the tone is one.

Hushed.

Awed.

Happy.

Loved.

Bright red, juicy little globes of sun-filled goodness drop carefully into baskets soon to brim. Or pop quickly into mouths, big and small. I smile at Dearest Husband, this his very first venture to the farm for berries growing sweet.

And he’s a youth again, berry picking with his grandmother in the meadows behind her home. Followed by boiling it all down with sugar for jam, and melt-in-your-mouth, made from scratch shortcake.

I’ve lost count of the countless trips to local strawberry patches during the growing up years.  Picking always signaled the end of school and the start of summer fun! It was one of the highlights topping our annual summer to-do poster list.

The first time I took my sons on my own, my youngest was chubby-kneed and just two. Concerned less with filling his basket, he wore a red beard that day. Older boys wandered off together, laughing, picking, eating. Grandma ever watchful of little ones, ever helpful to her big one trying to keep it all together.

And as I watched my little boys, I wondered how all the brokenness would affect their lives.

They hadn’t picked to be part of our family now asunder. Would their lives turn out sweet?

As I worried, I prayed, like any good mama would. So many prayers answered.

But as I prayed I also listened. And listening, a stubborn heart started to open to let in Light. And that Light, blindingly full of Love, started to heal and change and grow me, uniting my heart to fear {respect} His name.

Jesus.

Blood red stains dripping from His hands and feet and sides. A fount to cleanse even me. Washing away my sins. Purifying my heart. Helping me grow sweeter the longer I spend time in the Son.

Helping me still to find my way everyday. And my boys, now men. And Dearest Husband and you, too.

Helping all of us because He loves and cares for all of us. So much that He gave His life away that we might live.

Is anything sweeter?

Baskets piled high we leave the patch and wander quiet through the farm.

Home again, we pick up where we left off on household chores as we prepare to sell and move.  Someplace sweet, according to His good will. Our Longings End in His hands…

Sliced strawberries mix with a touch of maple syrup.

Heavy cream whipped into sweet swirls.

Shortcakes warm from the over {gluten free, made with coconut oil and plain kefir} turn out to be the best Dearest Husband has ever had.  And I am sweetly surprised, not trying to compete with Grandma, not thinking I could.

Strawberry hearts made with love and sprinkled with sugar, sweet way to a good man’s heart. His heart and mine held in the sweetest embrace by Sweet Jesus.

And we taste and see that the Lord is good…

~sheila