Here’s the Church…Now Where’s the Steeple

Church on a hillThere was a rhyme my friends and I used to say in elementary school. I’m not sure where it came from or if children still clasp their hands together with interlaced fingers, making up the people. It went like this…

“Here’s the church (Hands with fingers intertwined, pointing down)
Here’s the steeple (Pointer fingers together and up)
Open the door (Thumbs come apart)
See all the people.” (Turn hands up and wiggle fingers still intertwined)

When we were a little bit older, we changed the verses to say,
“Here’s the church
Here’s the steeple
Open the door
Where are the people?
Across the street
in the bar
Open the door
There they are!”

We would all laugh, not realizing that one day we would be the very people, across the street, referring to the bar as our sanctuary.

Any time someone new visits my current church, they always say the same thing. “This doesn’t look like a church! Where’s the steeple?!”

“It doesn’t have one.” I reply. “I like it that way.”

The church I grew up in was what one imagines a southern church to look like. Beautiful. Big. Stained glass windows. Wooden pews. A tall pulpit where the preacher stands, adorned in a long black robe and satin collar. The organ plays while the choir prepares to sing hymn number 400 and something. The brass pipes stretch way into the ceiling releasing sounds both beautiful and intrusive. Not long into the service, my creative mind was far into a daydream of… singing on stage or writing my next bestseller from the back porch of my California home, looking out over the pacific ocean.

Things have changed a bit. I wear jeans and red lippy and when the band starts to play, sometimes I even close my eyes, embracing the goosebumps rising on my skin. The God I’ve been chasing my entire life is right here, so tangible I feel as if I could touch him. Praise pours from my lips more like a prayer than a monotonous canticle of which I had grown so accustomed.

When I least expect it, tears well up in my eyes, spilling over and down my cheeks. I cling to the promises spoken in the lyrics written by those who love Jesus and aren’t afraid to admit they struggle. People like me. Now when I’m in the service, I’m engrossed in the message. Sure, I tweet a quote or two, but for the most part I’m all in. I’m hearing stories that I’ve heard all my life, only now I get it. I’m there. I’m in Jerusalem when Jesus walked the road. I’m at the well when the woman unknowingly serves water to the Savior. I’m in line, waiting to be baptized by “John the Baptizer.” I’m in the crowd crying out in confusion as they nail the hope of the world to a cross.

I don’t think a church has to have a steeple to make it legit. Jesus didn’t wear a name tag that read, “Hello, my name is The Messiah.” And yet, people found him. They believed him. They followed him.

If anything, I’ve learned that sometimes the things with the most beautiful shell are rotten on the inside. Sometimes the things one might pass by at first glance are filled with life giving promise. Promise that we are all longing for.

So, I have a new rhyme. It goes like this…

buckhead-church“Here is my church
There is no steeple
You’re welcome inside
We’re all imperfect people.”

5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.

 

5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com

Right Before My Eyes

RiOne day he fit snug in my arms.
The next, the baby in his cheeks began to fade.

Seemingly overnight his legs grew tall, his arms long and he found a voice for his opinion.

His dreams went from lullabies to dragon slayer.

He put on the fire chief’s hat and looked at me with those piercing blue eyes and deep dimples.

He didn’t have to say, “Look at me, mom!” He knew I was already fixed on him, dressed as the hero, morphing from tiny boy into man right before my eyes.

________________________________________

I call him baby though he is far from it. Caden

He matures daily. His smile, his expressions, his voice, all changing and so much like his daddy.

This little one, once sleeping on my lap, stretching no further than the length from my hip to knee.

I can barely lift him as he fills out and up, though reaching for me as if still a babe.

He doesn’t just smile with his mouth, but also with his deep, soulful brown eyes.

This kid…no matter how much he grows,
will always be my baby.

Traveling with Boys

JCP-2-2As the boys grow older I am more intrigued with the differences between them and me. It’s incredible how they are created with an innate sense of wildness. They need adventure every day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant adventure, it can be nature. Every time my boys are loose in nature, it’s an adventure.JCP-49

We recently took a trip to the North Carolina mountains. We spent the days hiking, wading through streams, throwing rocks in creeks and using our “outside voices”…a lot.

I am constantly learning and growing from the way they experience life.

While on the trip some things were made very clear to me about “how to” travel (successfully) with boys.
photoThey need to;
Wander off the path
Throw leaves in the river (at the same time so they can watch them race and see who wins)
Skip rocks at the waterfall.
Walk through spider webs and feel the sticky strings tug the little hairs on their face as they pull it free from their skin.
Take their shirts off and flex their adventurer muscles
Scream
at the top of their lungs and make funny animal sounds.

They crave excitement and uncertainty.
They want to see how big God is,
how powerful nature can be and
how beautiful wild flowers/weeds grow.

They need to pee on trees and hock a loogie from the bridge.
They need to hear their voice echo through a canyon and laugh at the mystery of how it sounds.
They need to touch every insect they see and hold a salamander.
Stop and look at the trail they’ve left behind.
Plunge their hands into the mud and get dirt under their nails.
Taste the raindrops and feel the sun kiss the tops of their cheeks, leaving behind its warmth and color.
They need to test the limits of “No Trespassing” signs and jump from the highest point they can find.


They need to wade through lakes with sharp rock beds
See how raindrops form on petals and recognize how delicate beauty can be.


They need to balance on railing, no matter how far off the ground.

They need to play checkers on stamped cement by hopping to their next move.
They need to see all the colors infused into life.
They need to stand atop the largest rock they can find and say in their loudest voice, I’M KING OF THE ROCKS!!!

They need to believe they can be whomever they want to be. A hero, a ranger, a rock star, a professional salamander finder.

They need to know we support their adventures, endeavors and conquers.JCP-30
They need to know we believe in their dreams, no matter how grandiose.

They need to know, because one day when they face decisions about their future and we are not standing beside them, our voice will echo in their mind just like theirs did in the canyon years before. What they hear is crucial to the men they are becoming.

So, moms of boys, the next time he hands you a rock that looks like the last 23 rocks he’s said he “has to take home”, put it in your pocket to add to the collection.

JCP-47When he picks those weeds that look so much like flowers and brings you a handful with a big grin on his face, I beg you, take them, exclaiming in your most excited voice how incredibly beautiful they are and how thoughtful he is for choosing you to give them to.

Take a picture of his finds in his little hand realizing that one day his hands will be big and he will no longer be interested in showing you the petals of the flower he found on the ground.JCP-59So, do you “Have boys will travel?” Where do you like to go? What are you most looking forward to experiencing with them this Summer? Or maybe you want to add to the list about traveling with boys. Go for it, the comment section is yours.

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Fear vs. Faith

I’ve heard it said that where there is fear, faith cannot exist. I don’t believe that to be true. The further into recovery I go, I find that the only real test of my faith is when fear is present.

Andy Stanley just finished the second week of the new series Starting Over. I cannot take photo 2notes fast enough to absorb everything he is saying, which is why I watch his talks multiple times.

He highlighted several incredible affirmations in this last message. One that really got me thinking and led to this post was, “You only make peace with your past by owning your piece of the past.” Isn’t that profound and yet simple. Owning my piece of the past.

We all want peace in our lives. There is no better peace than that of reconciling the past. I never thought those two words (peace and past) could be used in the same sentence. BB

When I first stepped into recovery the thought of facing some of the unthinkable things I had done in my past was too much and almost kept me from ever getting sober. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. And I had every excuse known to man not to complete this task… “What if someone finds this notebook with these things in writing and uses it against me?”
“What if I die before I can go through this process with my sponsor and this is how people remember me?”
“What if my fiancé finds this and realizes I’m ‘damaged goods’?”

Fear. Fear had kept me bound for too long. Fear had kept me sick and spiritually paralyzed for years. Fear was keeping me addicted, drunk and compromised.

Faith showed up. Not in the absence of fear, rather in the midst of it. Six months after starting cleanup on the wreckage of my past, I sat down with Lia, my sponsor and 5 hours later we set those pages on fire and watched them turn to ashes. That was on a Fall California day in 2002.

I remember feeling the ash between my fingers. I couldn’t see what was next. I couldn’t see myself functioning as a productive member of society. I couldn’t see the plans that had already been laid out for me. Then God

He sent Lia into my life to save me from self inflicted doom. I could have missed the many ways he was protecting and guiding me. She knew what I didn’t know at the time, that everything really was going to be alright. I wonder if she knew just how much better than alright they would be? Andy says, “When you own it, you dethrone it.” He’s right, ya know.

So now, today, in this moment, I ask God to replace my fear with faith. I ask him to direct my thinking and use my story for his glory. I ask him to continue to make beauty from those ashes that I rubbed between my fingers all those years ago.

Don’t underestimate the Creator of the Universe. He has a plan and it’s always better, bigger, and brighter than mine.

What do you think? Can faith and fear coexist or is the one who is fearful lacking faith?

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I turned around and he was gone

JCP-8406We had just enjoyed a delicious dinner on the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen.

Realizing we needed a few things at the store, Chris said that he would go and I could take the boys to the car. I gladly accepted as the grocery store triggers my OCD like nothing else.

One minute both boys were with me and the next, I turned around and didn’t see my oldest son anywhere.

He loves to hide and scare me when I walk by so thinking that’s what he was doing, I handed everything to my sister-in-law and walked a few steps down the sidewalk expecting to see him behind the big column.

Saying his name as I turned the corner, I braced myself for the “BOO!” I was in for, but he wasn’t there. I said his name again, only this time with more emotion. I looked down the alley to the right and in front of me. I scanned the parking lot for creepy vans with no windows and scary looking people.

My heart was pounding as I headed towards the grocery store entrance, it was crowded and I pushed my way through mumbling, “I’m looking for my son. Please…excuse me…I can’t find my son. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Get out of my way!

The thoughts flooded my mind. You know, the horrible thoughts that no mother ever wants to think could happen to her child. The ones that make your stomach twist into knots and send the acid up into your throat until you taste it on the back of your tongue.

Just then I looked to my right and saw Chris standing in the check out line. As I moved a step closer, there he was. He turned and met my eyes and I was furious and scared. I leaned down, holding onto his shoulder and in a not so loving way I said, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! You scared me! You. scared. me! Don’t you see what a nervous wreck I am?!” (At this point, now that I knew he was safe, it became all about me.) Then came the tears…for both of us.

Chris knew not to say I was overreacting. Instead he was consoling our son saying, “It’s okay. Mommy was scared. She didn’t know where you were.” I responded with, “He should cry! He scared me!”

The adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t calming down anytime soon. The lady in front of us was now looking at our son with concern in her eyes. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business. She didn’t understand the torment endured over the course of the last 3 minutes.

The three of us walked out of the store together and climbed into the car.

I was relieved and angry, sad and grateful all at the same time.

The car ride home was quiet. When we got back to the house, unloaded the car and walked to the front door, my little boy turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry I scared you mom. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t darling. I’m sorry I made you cry.”

And that was that. I think I will have calmed down by tomorrow. Sheesh.

Talk to me. Tell me you would overreact if this happened to you. Or has it happened to you? How did you handle it? Did you use your meanest mommy voice like I did?

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The Monster in my Mouth

This is how my day started…Breakfastbecause there were blueberries in the bread.

Really?!” was my response. I began mumbling under my breath about all the children, right here in our city, who would love to have bread with blueberries in it…

I always told myself that I would never guilt my children into eating with the phrase, “There are starving children in… (you fill in the blank)” (Did you happen to catch the two key words in the sentence before last? Always and Never) These two words will make a liar out of you quicker than anything else.

I have and I do tell my children about the child who doesn’t eat dinner before bed and only has breakfast when he’s able to eat in the cafeteria before school. I think it’s important that they know right outside our door is a world of struggle unparalleled by anything their minds can conceive.

However, maybe breakfast after dragging said child out of the warm bed he was, only moments ago, fast asleep in, isn’t the time to lecture him. Maybe if I considered that this is my child whom;
A. Likes to sleep in. (he’s like waking a hibernating bear)
B. Avoids change at all cost. (the never before served blueberry bread)
and
C. Has no problem skipping breakfast all together if he doesn’t feel like eating. (why put an empty stomach in front of taking a stand?)
I would have been wiser in my approach.

In the same way that I don’t want to nag my husband, I don’t want to nag my children. I want to respect and appreciate their different temperaments without catering to their outbursts.

Jud Wilhite said something in a recent message that struck me right in the heart. So much so that I made it into a pretty little instagram saying.
patienceMy lack of patience has always been a glaring character defect and I know better than to pray for patience! But when I view it as the difference between my grace and my wrath it takes on a whole new meaning.

More times than I want to admit, my children are met by the monster in my mouth. My words are harsh and my temper short. I can say with all truth, 99% of the time it’s not the boys who provoked the monster, it’s my lack of time management or lack of sleep or lack of coffee.

It’s an area where I am lacking (and I know it) rising to the surface and lashing out at the nearest target. Even so, I am learning because of all the grace that has been shown me, that “a bad moment does not a bad mama make.” I cannot press this upon your heart enough. Children are quick to forgive. We must be quick to admit fault.

I’m not justifying rants or misdirected anger. I’m saying that when I unleash my untamed words on my children, there is always room for an, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

The days when I am able to catch and reel in my spoken thoughts before they are released for others to hear are evidence of my progress. Some days I fail and in those moments I will recognize them for what they are, moments.

So…there it is…just one shade of my ugly. It’s all about progress (attainable), not perfection (unattainable).

How important to you are the times right after waking and right before sleeping?

 

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