Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sixteen candles.

Rhiannon Skye celebrated her 16th birthday on October 26th. How can my brown eyed girl be sixteen???  It doesn't so much make me feel old as baffles my mind.  Since my words will never be adequate to describe her beauty grace intelligence faith self-respect talent wisdom...all that she is... here are some snapshots of her during the weeks leading up to her birthday, and her special day.  May they do what my words can't.  Enjoy.

Onnie's make-up creation for Frankenstein at EagleCrest High School
State Drama Winner for Thespian Conference 2013!

Onnie working hard as Opinions Editor for The Eagle Eye,
Eaglecrest High School Newspaper

Onnie, Homecoming Dance 2013

Night before her birthday, rocking out to her favorite song.

Sweet Sixteen
She had a breakfast party of biscuits, bacon, Boo Berry cereal, and Cherry Pie.

Her favorite song, as witnessed in the rocking out picture above...acoustic style.
Anna Sun, by Walk the Moon

I love you, my amazing girl.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday morning music...

Snow on the ground and it's freezing outside.  The house is warm and still quiet...the dog and I are the only ones awake.  There's coffee and a leftover toll house chocolate chip cookie next to me.  I've been sick since yesterday morning.  Really sick.  It hit me suddenly and stuck.  But I got some good sleep last night and I'm a little better.

Quiet and coffee and snow.  And a little bit of good music.  Simple contentment.  I hope wherever you are and whatever you might be doing this Saturday morning that you can stop and take a moment to breathe in the beauty around you and still your heart.  If there isn't any beauty to be found around you...if life is misery and bewildering bitterness and lost hope right now...well, I might not know you personally, but I am thinking of you and lifting your heart up to the heavens right now.  Asking for a peaceful moment in the midst of the chaos and pain surrounding you, for strong hands to come help and comfort, and for the Maker of the Stars to hold you.

A song, classic re-made.  Quiet and simple, with what all the best songs have...longing to get to the place we haven't quite reached yet, pushing through our past into an unknown but ached for future.  This longing is inside all of us, yes?

Here is my quiet offering on a Saturday morning.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Audacity of Brokeness.

 "This is my broken heart
this is my bleeding start
this is the way I've come to know you."
-Mat Kearney

Photo by Mathias-Erhart, Creative Commons

I keep somehow thinking if I can just survive this year I will become invincible.  Invincible by Christmas.  That would make a great movie title.  If only only I was a screenwriter.  I'm just me though.  I know what I will be instead by Christmas.  

More broken than today.   More more broken.  It's a refrain which keeps playing sorely in my soul, clashing against simple Autumn joys of pumpkins and peace, resonating with weeping and insomnia and screaming at the heavens in helplessness.  I long for normal, whatever that is.  I think I glimpse it on friends' Facebook postings, hear it laughing outside our windows as strangers pass by crunching barely fallen leaves.  I envy, I long, I ache.  I feel my brokeness sharp against my insides, unrelenting.  

One of our daughters struggles with emotional, mental, developmental problems. I search for a nicer word than problem, but what would that be?  Problem is kind when considering the havoc those words above wreak on my beautiful and brilliant girl's heart, mind, soul.  Life.  She fights bravely to live in normal, trying to understand herself and those around her.  But she lands in broken too.  Her broken doesn't look like mine...where mine is sharp, hers is chiseling and scraping away at her confidence and the hope inside of her.  Hers is utterly terrifying to behold when it engulfs her. 

I study normal.  Its elusiveness is intriguing. I reason though, if I can figure it out, plan and coddle it, and perhaps wrestle it to the ground then we can call it our own.  Our family can have normal too.


What a lie that is.  Honest truth is our family has broken and I better start studying that one, searching out any beauty that might be had in it.  I observe.

Normal has structure balance preparation.  It is solid for the most part, solid ground which has been carefully planned, cultivated and re-enforced. Broken is the anti-thesis of all that.  It is unruly, wild, unprepared, sudden.  Frightening.  

It is open.  Laid bare.  It literally means having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order.  Yes, all of that is us, our family, our lives.

But. But.

There are things which pop up in the middle of broken which are breath-taking.  Rather, life-giving.  Clear sight of things most important.  Lavishly poured-out grace and fiercely protective love.  Deep and abiding thankfulness that WE STILL ARE, A FAMILY TOGETHER.   Ambulances and hospital stays can still our hearts, rob our joy and sleep and separate us physically...but they can not make us an ARE NOT. We are ours, each other holding and hoping and enduring together, even when apart.  

Last night, as I was staring blindly at my computer screen, numb and exhausted from it all, my husband walked in the room, right up to me.  He took my face in his hands, leaned close, spoke quietly staring straight into my eyes.

"You do such a great job loving and taking care of our girls. I love you."

Grace.  When despair and fears press suffocating and I feel I have done absolutely everything wrong, normal has fled and I beret myself for not being able to capture it and hold it for my family, and exhaustion and confusion are as constant as the sun's rising, when broken is sharp reality...

there's grace and love.  

Those are God's most precious gifts to us.  He brings them to those who are broken, in the brokenness.  The clarity of the important we develop in brokenness allows us to feel and cherish grace and love in ways we never can in peaceful times, in happiness...

in normal.  

Truth- I still long for normal.  Who doesn't?  But.


If broken is to be mine for now, or even for longer than now, then I will be thankful.  Not for it, but for its non-elusive gifts.  If normal does happen to come along at some point in time, I pray I do not hold it too tightly, fearing its possible flying away...or that normal lulls me into thinking and feeling it is best.  Because I have found that grace and love shine brilliant in brokenness. It is enough.   


Thursday, July 18, 2013


I've been doing a lot of private writing lately.  Journaling.  That's not even a recognized word in my desktop dictionary.  It's similar to the new word "pinning"...not meaning what one does when hemming a pair of pants, but the process by which we keep our Pinterest boards full.  Journaling is a much more important word than should be a real word, yes? 

I digress.

I've been doing a lot of heart work lately too.  Prying my controlling tendencies out of my clenched fists and learning to forgive.  Learning to forgive myself.  I've read before that if Jesus forgives us and we can't forgive ourselves then we are saying we have a higher God and standard than Jesus- ourselves.  Pretty strong statement- BOOM.

But it just honestly makes me want to say hmm.  (I'm about to break out into 90s hip hop here.)

While I don't necessary disagree with the truth in the hammer blow statement above, it sounds very judgmental to me.  Can we extend the grace necessary to forgive ourselves through the process of judging ourselves about NOT forgiving the way Jesus did?  Messed up.

Forgiveness is strong as steel, yet gentle.  Graceful and glorious.  Freeing.  It is a process.

Here is my start. 

I am posting two songs which are resonating in my heart this morning.  Music speaks to me and moves says things my heart wants to express, with passion and a realness I can't always yet communicate in my writing. As I've stated before Here, I can find grace and redemption in many places, especially in songs which will most likely never ever be played in church.  (I like to think of my little grace-finding song hobby as a constant, small exercise in keeping me legalistic-free...I grew up in legalism and it was a messy, ugly non-grace filled, incorrect view of Jesus which still sometimes tries to wrap its tentacles around my heart.  Legalism always makes me cranky, on-edge and very, very judgy of others.)

The first song is an acoustic version of Florence and the Machine's Shake it Out.  She has such an amazing, soaring voice.  It has some off-color language in it, although not as much as Mumford's famous Little Lion Man.  (For a very cool Christ follower perspective on that song and Mumford and Sons in general, read THIS by a man I seriously admire.)  If you feel the language will offend you, don't listen to the first song. But I love almost every word of is where I am today. 

The second song is by Mumford and Sons...imagine that.  I know, you are wearing your,

"Wow, this is Val's blog and she posted a MUMFORD SONG??"

face, aren't you?  Smile.  It's good stuff.  We build walls of stone...or glass...around our hearts and grace forgiveness gentleness kindness freedom press their noses right up against the walls to tear them down, no matter how bloody and messy.  Thank God, yes?  Yes. 

Be free today, friends. I am starting too.


"I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart."

 Babel, Mumford and Sons
"Cause I'll know my weakness, know my voice
And I'll believe in grace and choice."

Monday, June 3, 2013

In which I remember and post a favorite

Friday made twelve years.

How can so many years have passed already?  

On May 31, 2001 my dear friend Frank Pendergrass passed away at Athens Regional in Georgia, after a long battle with a brain tumor.  Actually, he was my best friend.

For a time.

Who was Frank?  He was twenty seven at the time of his death.. a student, son, brother, nephew, beloved grandson and friend.  I know this because I met most of those people in his life, his family and friends. 

But who was he really?

Frank was 

serious studious goofy loyal kind wise

full of faith grace vision hope humility 


wounds from his broken past still visible

And yet

always focusing on

God's sweeping redemption shattering the darkness in his soul.

He was patient.

*From Frank's Facebook Remembrance Page, The High School Years.

I met Frank the second day of my freshman year of college, at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA.  A town so forgettable it boasted only one stoplight, an entire police force of two officers...and a college so conservative shorts were only allowed to be worn after 4pm, and never ever ever to classes. 

Frank was a local boy who grew up about a half hour from the college.  He sat behind me in remedial math class first semester.  Yes, remedial math...let's not go there.  Frank had a crush on a girl who sat three rows over from us, a local also.  I encouraged him to ask her out but he never did.  We attended prayer meetings together...almost everyone at Emmanuel did...we hung out on the quad and stared at clouds, finding shapes in them.  I saw dinosaurs, he saw armies.  We drove the backroads of North Georgia.  He was the first person to tell me I am stronger than I think I am.  

I have five hundred memories of Frank...I could fill ten pages of blogging with them.  We lost touch twice...both times due to my pride over silly issues.  I was so immature at times.  I regret the wasted years, never realizing how fleeting they would be.

The morning I found out about his death

before I found out about his death

I heard God's voice in my mind telling me I would

see Frank in heaven.

That message annoyed me at the time, because I didn't understand it.  It seemed something tactless spoken at funerals, when one didn't know what to say.

I didn't get it at all.

Three hours later when I spoke to Frank's mom on the phone, I understood.  I realized God was preparing my heart for the news I would hear.  It was a small comfort in the grief.   

It was also comforting because Frank always talked about heaven.  Endlessly.  What it would be like, what he would do there...he even signed my yearbook at the end of our Freshman year with a drawing of how he imagined to be surfing the Sea of Galilee in heaven one day.    

When Melissa and I took our road trip in 2010 we visited Frank's grave. Or rather, we tried.  Frank's family was unable to afford a headstone at his death, so we visited the cemetery, but searched in vain for his place of interment.  We were still there though, crunching the red Georgia dirt under our feet.  As we drove away, Melissa rolled down the windows and yelled

"We love you Frank!"

I will remember that moment forever.  

To Frank...
You are in my heart.  I will see you in heaven.

My best friends from Emmanuel- that is me in the front being strangled by Melissa while she stuck her tongue out...I have no idea why.  Frank is standing in the back. 

I would like to share a blog post which resonated deeply with me today, by one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey.  It is beauty and truth.  




Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday night music...

Just a song tonight.   My favorite from this band, and one of my all time favorites, period.

Classic and




Wednesday, February 13, 2013



If only.

A little while ago...perhaps a month ago...

The girls and I were driving back from somewhere South, maybe IKEA.  (You all know how much we love IKEA.)  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and we were flipping through radio stations, when the song Titanium came on.  Youtube it if you are unfamiliar with it and wish to listen.  If you've heard it, you know it has catchy beats and a repetitive, soaring chorus line:

"You shoot me down, but I won't fall...

The girls were singing this song very dramatically...imagine that.  When it got to the chorus, they sang at the top of their lungs, shouting almost, with fists in the air.  (You are all picturing Onnie doing this right now, if you know her, right? )  It was loud, hilarious, and full of you best not try to mess with me...


I had a very poignant moment, almost exactly one week ago today, remembering that memory...the sunshine joy laughter...invincibility...of us Lumsden girls.

All that beautiful strength being recalled

right as our family's hearts were getting gutted.   


I will not share details, as they are private.  But the past seven days have probably been the worst of my entire life...and that's quite a horrid achievement.

During those 5,040 minutes, lots of pithy sayings came to my mind...well, song lyrics, anyway:

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Only the strong survive.
Strength doesn't lie in numbers, strength doesn't lie in wealth...
(5 million points to the person who recognizes that last one without looking it up...)



So much cultural encouragement to be strong invincible bulletproof unassailable untouchable... 

I listened to those voices of cultural sway.  After all, my name actually means strength.  I honestly tried.  But in the end, I realized

I think it's all a bunch of crap.  

I do not posses the strength inside of me

just because I exist

to handle life-shattering events all on my own.  It is only arrogance and posturing which would make me even try in the first place.  

Truth...we need others.  We need listening ears, hugs, prayers, words of comfort and strength...someone to just be when life is tragic beyond words.  Sometimes we need space, too.


We need to mourn.

Donny Pauling shared this important truth with me years ago, and reminded me of it again last week.  Mourn, cry...feel what you are feeling.  Don't stuff your feelings or ignore them.  Feel them.

I know the last point seems very common sense, right?  But how many of us actually think it is okay to feel ugly scary bewildering crushing feelings?   For more than twelve seconds, anyway?

I think we all try to be strong, appear strong, believing it is the best and right thing to do.  But it is all backwards and doesn't accomplish what we hope.  Do we gather strength in the acting out of appearing to be so?  I don't think we do. 

I believe we also need strength from the One who holds time and space in His very capable hands... the Creator of the heavens. He gives comfort to our hearts beyond our understanding or fathoming.  Joy for mourning.

After the mourning.  Yes? 


I learned a lot this past week.  Some lessons and truths I honestly didn't want to learn...deep things I am still processing through...things that must change in the future.  

Above all,

 I learned I am not


I am okay with that.  More than okay, actually...

Instead, I will be real and pliable with grief, honesty, and clarity.  I will not be steel gray, but colored beautiful with brilliant hope.

Yes, please.


*My deepest THANK YOU to all of you who have been my strength and help this past all know who you are.  You have my humble gratitude and love.  


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013. The year of the Wait.

I usually write a New Years' type blog post.  I haven't written much in past few months...been very busy with work, family, health issues and just living.  Good busyness.  But my soul still yearns to express itself to you through the written word.  So, a few days late, but here's my thoughts on 2013...

It's gonna be a year of preparation for...

I honestly have no idea what for.  But I know it is. 

I've got work to do this year.  I've become undisciplined in some areas of my life.  Lazy in my thinking, words and doing.  No one likes admitting failures and weaknesses, but I've got some.  I feel compelled to work on those this year. 

Something is coming in 2014...for me...for Ron...for our family.  I feel deep within my soul 2013 is the year to prepare for it.  I feel there are several areas to focus on, but I won't bore you with them now.  

However, preparation isn't always active.  It also means being still and silent.  Listening.  To your soul.  To those deep and quiet things inside of you...put there for a reason and a purpose.

For your purpose. 

Listening to God, the Creator and Lover of your Soul.

I am preparing.  But more importantly

I am waiting. 

This song sums it up well. It is my Song of 2013.  I hope you aren't sick of all my Mumford song postings, but I love these guys...their writing, playing.  Their passion.  This song speaks to me.  Red Rocks...about 4 months ago...