An Imperfect Offering


DHSunflowersandBookMy heart lurched and thudded at my feet. It was hard to breathe. I started to sweat.

There were mistakes. More mistakes. Seven mistakes and I hadn’t even read it all the way through yet. How was that even possible? I’d read and read and reread. I’d laid a ruler along the margins. I’d painstakingly sorted through code – character-by-mind-numbing character. So. Many. Times. I’d read front to back and back to front. Every single word. Slowly. Out loud. More than once. Dozens of times. I wanted to cry. I had worked so hard and still there were mistakes. Not a few.

Seven!

There were seven mistakes in my beautiful book. I was holding proof copy number two in my hands and there were mistakes marring the pages. Seven things I’d missed.

Seriously, Lord! How are there still so many mistakes? I used to be a copy editor…

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Seasoned



SplinteredPaddle02aWe met full sail as summer swelled

and  we ran free

beneath borealis skies,

sun-kissed.

 

September’s sweet caress

coaxed us to sway in the starlight

as summer’s leaves shed

their emerald hue

 

splattering crimson

across our craft

brittle and thin as our words:

How’s work? How’s your mom? Did you feed the dogs?

 

Frost snaked aft and fore

across line and deck,

fine-webbed, rudder

shuddering in the thickening bay,

 

as we rolled, crested, creaked,

rolled, listed, lashed –

All hands on deck!

crashing through the icy bay,

 

boatswain lost in the fray.

Listing, righting, drifting,

two battered mates

keening for shore,

 

knot frayed, straining,

each with a splintered oar,

as spring’s tender kiss

dripped through the cabin door.

 

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A Different Way


CJTogetherPost

Yesterday, I shared Celebrating Even in the Struggle: Five Things I’m Learning about Marriage with Chronic Illness. Today, my husband Tony and I want to share a  radio interview we did a few weeks ago with Our American Network for their Marriage on the Mind radio show with host Deb Wolniak, Executive Director at Great Marriages for Sheboygan County.

Click here to listen.


Cindee_HeadshotCindee Snider Re is wife of nearly 25 years to the man she loves most in this world, mama of five world-shaking creatives (15-23), writer, photographer, craver of quiet, and lover of cotton, denim, Jesus and tea. Cindee and four of her five kids have Ehlers-Danlos, dysautonomia, and myriad co-existing conditions.

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Celebrating Even in the Struggle


CJMarriage5ThingsPost2Five Things I’m Learning about Marriage with Chronic Illness

  1. Marriage can be hard.

Marriage can be hard. Our marriage is a redemption story. We weren’t unfaithful. We didn’t stray physically or emotionally. But we did lose our way, slowly releasing hands and hearts across the years — my husband to his job, me to our kids. We forgot to hold on. Forgot to reach for one another first when the winds first began to blow and the waves began to roll. Forgot to stand together. Lean in. Hold on. We drifted apart. Wondered aloud if we’d made a mistake in marrying, if we’d chosen wrong.

We stopped dreaming, couldn’t communicate and survived as a couple only because we were each committed. We didn’t feel love. Some days we didn’t even like each other, but we were committed.

We continued to push through, continued to try to communicate, and…

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A Partnership of Community


CJGodsWholePurposeToday, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Samantha Juneau, known to her friends as Sam. We’ve met just a few times, but there’s something remarkable about spending time with her. Sam’s smile lights up a room and she exudes warmth, kindness and joy.

Last week when we met, I talked almost non-stop as I have a habit of doing. Sam smiled and quietly held my hand. During our conversation, I noticed her necklace. It was beautiful. I told her how much I liked it and reached for it to get a better view. As I released the beads, time stopped. My hand was right beside her ventilator.

Sam is a medical miracle, a petite young woman born with Spina Bifida and a poor prognosis. As an infant, she was released from the hospital under the county’s long-term foster care program. She spent the first twenty years of her…

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Story Matters


Writing the Story of Your Illness

WritersRetreatFountainPens11Stories are vital to community, how we connect and learn about who we are, why we’re here, and how we belong. Story preserves history and elicits laughter. It plunges us to the depths of ourselves and sets us soaring to the skies.

Story is the tale of our lives. And it matters.

Yet writing our story can be challenging, perhaps not worth the time and effort. Add an unwanted illness, and wrestling our thoughts to the page can seem almost impossible.

Where do I start? What do I write? Will anyone care? Does it even matter?

I’ve asked these questions. Often. And I’ve discovered that our stories are where we begin, a connecting point, opening doors and shortening the valleys of loneliness and isolation, and sometimes our stories offer a glimmer of hope to someone standing at the edge of hopelessness who recognizes with sudden surprise, “Oh, you…

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Be Strong and Courageous


CJBeStrongAndCourageousWhat encouragement can you offer someone walking through chronic illness?

Joshua must have been weak and afraid. Throughout the first chapter of Joshua he is reminded over and over to be strong and courageous. Without the sustaining presence of God, I too am weak and afraid. Afraid to step. Afraid not to step. Afraid I’ve over-stepped. How did Joshua continue to march?

Often I just want to sit in the between and hold my breath and wonder about what’s next.

Between flares, between normal and the next new normal, between medical appointments, between foods I can eat and then can’t, between leaning on God and avoiding God, between finding how and where to fit in and how and when to step away. Perhaps, like the Israelites who were between enslavement in Egypt and the hope of the Promised Land, we too march. One step at a time. At times feeling…

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Love Bends Low


Do you have a friend who bends low and waits long to hear the story of your heart? We’d love to honor him or her with a little give-away. In 20 words or less, tell us a little bit about your friend, and on Sunday, we’ll choose one sweet friend to honor with a little gift from Chronic […]

via Love Bends Low — Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc.

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Expectancy


CJHopeExpectancy

Praying you will catch glimpses of hope in unexpected places today, color rising from winter’s drab debris, moments to breathe deeply, be still, and simply know that He is God.

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When God Says, “Go!”


CJOnEaglesWingsIt was a moment when time stood still, a moment I could feel in the marrow of my bones.

Purposed.

Each piece. Every place. The accident. The illness. The loneliness and isolation. The places I’ve worked. The positions I’ve held. The reasons I write and the reasons I don’t. My photography.

Each piece. Purposed.

It was a word that clotted in my throat for eight long years, hard-edged and jagged.

Allowed was a gentler word, softer, a word that could hover and sway at the edge of my days, a word I could scoop in my hand and look in the eye.

But purposed?

No.Purposed was not allowed the light of day.

Till my phone rang on January 1st.

“Happy New Year!” I greeted my friend.

She paused, then without even hello, quietly spoke six words, and time stood still.

“We’re supposed to start…

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Introducing a New Ministry


Today, I want to introduce you to something close to my heart, something you’ve been reading in bite-sized pieces since 2008, a story simultaneously just beginning and one that’s been decades in the making. A story only God could be writing. Today, I introduce you to my friend, Pamela Piquette, and the brand new ministry we’ve co-founded.

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“But you look fine.”

It’s something we hear often. We do look fine. But we’re not.

We are two of a staggering statistic – two of approximately 162.5 million people in the United States alone who live with one or more chronic illnesses.

Two of half the world’s population living with chronic illness. We are not alone.

Yet, often we are an invisible population striving to live well in the brokenness.

Many of us are desperately hurting, lonely, exhausted, and in pain. We struggle with anxiety and depression, and sometimes with significant limitations.

Illness affects our marriages, our families, finances, friendships, education, hobbies, and work. In short, illness affects every thread and fiber of our lives.

Chronic Joy Ministry is our voice, raising awareness of this hurting population, offering resources, and helping churches and organizations begin the conversation about what a chronic illness ministry in their organizations might look like.

If you have 9 minutes, we have an incredible story for you. Watch video.

Then join the conversation at Chronic Joy Ministry and let us know what you think. We’d love to open the conversation with What if?

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Back to School


September ushers in change in routine, in seasons, in the order and rhythm of our days, and it marks our 18th year of homeschooling.

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Two sons and a daughter have already graduated from high school leaving me with just two for the first time in many years — a freshman and a senior. Our senior is home for just this final semester before graduating early to pursue her dreams. New rhythms.

BackToSchoolSarah

September inaugurates our most recent high school graduate into college. Our first to commute. Rhythms of change.

BackToSchoolKyle

September also finds our firstborn, a recent college graduate, home simultaneously looking for employment, leading worship, and building his own photography and graphic design business, the tools of his trade sprawled throughout the family room. New rhythms.

BackToSchoolSam

This September whispers fresh creative wind to our second son as well via 3-D design, life-size costume armor and weaponry, game development and design, and brand-new built-ins he designed and created with his Dad. Rhythms of hope.

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September brings with it a return to Children’s Hospital and familiar routines. This week our daughter had surgery to place a permanent port. What grace that her best friend, who’s been with her through every hospital stay over the past three years could be with her this week too, one last time before he flies across the ocean to experience brand new rhythms of his own. Rhythms of grace.

BackToSchoolMegan

September sunshine beckons us outside for as long as possible. Winter is coming. We’ll relish the days and welcome the familiar rhythms of time to steep in great literature and feast on fine poetry.

BackToSchoolFluShots

September in our house means flu shots for everyone, and the chance to bless another too, and offers opportunities to learn something new, like volleyball. A brand new rhythm and pace for our days.

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September — days of order and grace, routine and change, Back to School in myriad, diverse and creative ways. Rhythms of faith and grace.

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*Joining a wonderful group of photographers and writers this month in the Circle of Faith in Words and Image blog circle as we explore the topic,
Back to School. Find all the links here:
Pollywog Creek
Captured Bits of Beauty
What Marty Sees
Spy Journal
Live, Love, Laugh, Hope

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Where I Live


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I live in a small midwestern town on an acre and an eighth of gently rolling hills in a sprawling older subdivision filled with towering pines. On Hamilton Court. Just off Hamilton Drive.

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We’ve lived in this elongated ranch for nearly twenty years, raising five kids in a town too small for a post office, a downtown or a grocery store, yet somehow exactly right for an authentic piece of the Twin Towers, which still strikes me as a little odd each time I drive down that quiet country road to our tiny town hall to renew my burn permit and see those steel beams nestled on a small green amongst the fields in the middle of no-where.

Home001

Five kids and countless friends have played, slept, cried, swung, climbed, and created here. And still they come, the teens and early 20s, to roast marshmallows over a campfire, to record music and play games, to try the zip lines, shoot hoops or practice volleyball. They gather at the table or out under the stars amid little white lights strung throughout the yard like so many fireflies. And they call me Mama, these kids I’d call my own. They’ve stretched my heart. And taught me grace.

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Here, in my little corner of the world, gaggles of wild turkeys are no longer rare, but commonplace. Here, we watch the waning and waxing of the moon, the changing of the seasons. Here, we celebrate birthdays and shovel snow, listen to cicadas and learn to drive. Here, we gather for graduations and funerals and holidays. Here, we love and grieve and learn to let go.

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Here, we are family. All who gather. One Body.

Here is where I live. In these hearts. These moments. This story. These days. Here, in these hands that have cradled infants and built tables, swung toddlers, “one more time, one more time,” and moved a thousand yards of mulch…

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Here, in these hands that have held mine in birth and loss, and spoken the love of a man to a woman…

Here, in these hands that encircle mine in prayer is where I live.

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*Joining a wonderful group of photographers and writers this month in the Circle of Faith in Words and Image blog circle as we explore the topic, Where I Live. Find all the links here:
Pollywog Creek
Spy Journal
Live, Love, Laugh, Hope
Captured Bits of Beauty
What Marty Sees

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The Gift of Tithing


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One afternoon, just after I turned 30, I decided it was time to finally read the Bible – the whole Bible – cover-to-cover, Genesis straight through Revelation, no matter how long it took. Excited and often challenged by what I was learning, I eagerly shared my new found knowledge with my husband, who wasn’t nearly as interested in listening as I was in speaking, but who patiently endured until I broached the subject of tithing.

“Is that 10% of gross or net?” he asked, slightly annoyed.

“Gross,” I replied. “I’m pretty sure God comes before taxes.”

“Do you have any idea how much money that is?”

Well, no, actually I didn’t. The conversation quickly ended with, “You can give as much to church each week as we spend on entertainment.” It wasn’t a tithe, but it was a start.

Months later, Tony walked in from work in the middle of the afternoon with a large cardboard box in his arms. “I lost my job today,” he said. “It’s time we started tithing.”

“You lost your job and you want to tithe now?”

“Yes, now. Off my severance check.”

I could barely speak. I think I stopped breathing. I definitely couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We had no income, no insurance, two young sons, and a baby daughter on the way.

What a time to test God.

Yet that’s exactly what my husband was doing. Like Gideon in the Old Testament, Tony needed assurance – tangible, unmistakable proof that God is as good as His Word – and for him there was no better time to begin. So my husband threw out his fleece – ten percent of his severance check – and waited.

God’s response was immediate and abundant, if somewhat overwhelming. Unexpected refund and rebate checks began arriving in our mailbox, so many of them that we wondered what God would possibly do next. We continued to tithe off every dollar that came in, and it didn’t take us long to discover that we simply couldn’t out-give God. The more we gave, the more He poured into our laps, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Luke 6:38

We were hooked.

Over the years, we’ve learned that tithing wasn’t the ultimate object of that lesson, Biblical giving was. Second Corinthians 8:14 says, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.”

That’s why we give.

God gives to us so that we can give to others. We are blessed to be a blessing, conduits of God’s grace, mercy and abundant love to one another. Giving isn’t about a set percent, and it’s not about what we can do, but about what God can and will do through us when we’re willing.

“’Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Malachi 3:10

It’s been nearly twenty years since we started tithing. We’ve welcomed five children into this world, my husband has changed jobs several times, we’ve moved and moved again, we’ve entered the college years (our oldest will graduate this May), and our feet have walked the path of long-term illness with four of our five teens…and me. Through it all, God has remained faithful. As we have continued to tithe, God has stretched our capacity to give. Again and again. And again.

Tithing isn’t an obligation, but a gift. A lavish gift.

That my God, who needs nothing, would offer me the opportunity, the freedom, the privilege to give, to join with Him in providing for His people is remarkable.

That He would trust me that much is amazing.

And humbling. Deeply, perfectly, beautifully, only God, humbling.

For only God could extend such grace — a gift that blesses the giver perhaps even more than the receiver.

*Joining The High Calling this week as they explore the topic of tithing. Come see what others have to say!

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Asking for Help


My post is a little different today. Today I’m asking for your help.

My son Sam, as many of you know, is home from college on medical leave and likely unable to return. He’s whip smart, word clever, wildly creative, quick witted, deeply loyal…and losing hope.

You can read about his days in his own words here.

My son is longing for purpose.

He’s been writing, working on spoken word pieces, and game development (two of his games released in Apple’s App Store, one retired, one still for sale), and most recently creating original designs via 3D printer.

Yesterday, Sam launched his Etsy store, Phenix Emporium, the name chosen from Middle English, because that’s just how his mind works.

Creative. Clever. Always with meaning and purpose, because, in his words, “here is where the phoenix’s signature ability to be reborn from the ashes is fulfilled in a slightly different manner, from the ashes (the empty print board and the plastic from which objects will print)….where the creativity of the mind is allowed to be set free, to be born from the melting pot of plastic, to rise like a phoenix, creativity reborn from the mind into the physical planes of reality.”

Will you help, Friends? For under $10, you can purchase a unique, made-to-order (from 64 possible color combinations!) spinning top or an adorable Balancing Bunny, or even an entire Fluffle.

Yellow Top Being Spun

Black Top Front View

Yellow Top Side View

Balancing Bunny Stack

Balancing Bunny Pyramid

Together we can lift my son, flood him with orders, and allow hope to seep back into his soul.

Will you join me?

Thank you, Friends! You are far more appreciated than you will ever know.

To order, click here: Phenix Emporium.

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Bravely Capturing Words — A Series


I know many who are bravely capturing words this year, writing memoirs, poetry, fiction, devotionals, novels and novellas, medical odysseys, writing for magazines and newspapers, even writing for themselves, spilling the words of their hearts into notebooks and art journals. I am awed by their devotion, their dedication, their sacrifice.

For we need their words, their stories. Your stories. And mine.

So…I’ve decided to encourage writers this month in a series of images. You’ll find the first five here. Each week, I’ll post four or five more.

Enjoy. Share. Print.

Use the images in any way you choose to encourage yourself or another. Downloadable versions are available via my Flickr Photostream.

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“Always when we begin, we take a risk.” ~ Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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“Listen into the silences where the best words begin.” ~ Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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“There is, in all of us, a hunger for words that satisfy – “ ~ Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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“A story is an invitation, and a challenge, and a choice.” ~ Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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“…your story is the one that could set us all ablaze.” ~ Dan B. Allender, PhD,
To Be Told

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You Are…


I Am...2

I am honored to be partnering with the beautiful, grace-filled Lauren McLeod, the heart and soul behind this project, to launch #IAmHis today, the first in a series of images designed to remind each of us that we are precious, treasured, accepted, loved.

Today, we invite you to reach out and remind the weary, the lonely, the broken-hearted and hurting, the overwhelmed and over-looked, the loved one, neighbor, friend, or co-worker, of who they are and Whose they are:

accepted, loved,
treasured,
of infinite worth,
and eternal value.

Because we are precious and beloved —
every. single. one.

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Thirteen — A Story of Community


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A little more than two years ago, I packed my secondhand cheetah print suitcase, boarded a plane and headed for a remote Texas canyon cut by the Frio River. I was excited to be attending my first writers’ conference, and nervous. I wasn’t an author, wasn’t writing a book, had no plans to write a book, and wasn’t published, but I do love words, write a blog and a little poetry, and love photography.

The days in the canyon were good and hard, challenging and encouraging. I was rooming with a woman I’d never met (who turned out to be lovely), was missing my daughter’s first high school homecoming dance, and also desperately needed this time to heal and remember how to breathe.

Something happened in the still of the canyon. God spoke and invited me to trust Him again.

He spoke through twelve, fierce, funny, wise, compassionate, slightly irreverent, deeply encouraging, sword-wielding women. Warriors steeped in Jesus.

Community.

Twelve women who rallied around and prayed me through surgery two days after leaving the canyon and we’ve been praying together ever since. An unlikely band of thirteen and my heroines of the faith.

We are young and old, mothers and grandmothers through birth, marriage and adoption. Black and white. Big city and small town. Affluent and just getting by. We are teachers and lawyers, authors and social workers, singers and nurses, poets and cooks, crafters and pastor’s wives, editors and homeschoolers, businesswomen and photographers. We are young women and empty-nesters, coast-to-coast, north, south, east and west.

We are Louboutin pumps and flip-flops, cowboy boots and baseball caps, business suits and feather boas. We are spired churches and expansive auditoriums, and we are sports fans.

We are thirteen brave, strong, broken, grace-filled women sharing this journey through life – celebrating, weeping, laughing, beseeching, cheering, groaning, ever and always praying as we wield the shield of faith.

Microcosm of The Body. Lived out. Life-giving, life-changing community.

These are my incredible heroines of the faith – twelve, faith-filled, courageous women – gifts from the Father’s hand straight to my heart, and I am forever changed.

Next month, I’ll once again be packing my second-hand cheetah print suitcase and boarding a plane to a remote Texas canyon cut by the Frio. This time, I’m ready. And I can’t wait!

*This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here.

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Breathe


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October 11, 2014 · 11:22 pm

Richest Love


RichestLove

Beautiful Sunday blessings to you, Friends!

What grace that we are loved
beyond imagining

by the One who IS love,
whose love never changes, never fails,

never ends,

whose love is wholly undeserved,
and beyond all limits of time and space.

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