And the Cattle on a Thousand Hills

What I know is I’m not good at waiting. What I know is when the cookies are baking, or the inning retires, or the little one sleeps, or the beans soak, I’m looking up houses online.

What I know is I’ve developed a sudden interest in geography—in streets I’ve never been down, in areas I pass when I drop off or pick up for school. And for each possibility I sit on the street or pull into the driveway if no one’s home and I say, Lord, is this the one?Aug 2015 EOS 027

Lord, is this the house that represents our fourth move in eight years, and do You think we can stay here longer this time?

In my mind I walk inside and say, Is this where we’ll sit on the couch during another Madeline movie and eat popcorn, or cuddle in the morning when the kids first wake up and don’t want to talk—just be wrapped in the sheep blanket with little woolies running over the brown hills?

I imagine which room might display the puppet jars, and paper shelves, anIMG_2195d the  Quartermaster’s Cabinet from WWI with all the drawers. Lord, is this where we’ll sit with the cousins, crayons, and cotton rag paper for a day of coloring and paint spills and fruit snacks?

Will we play on this lawn, Father God, and have squirt-gun fights, pick raspberries, and make ice-cream from heaven? Will we put chicken, onions, peaches, and beans in foil and throw it in the coals for a night of campfire stew?

Is this where Tim will make wine again, running up and down the basement stairs or into the garage with his little notebook to record specific gravity or add water to the mix?

IMG_2367Is this where we’ll drink wine, watch the sunset, open the blinds to the moonlight, and touch our bare feet together under the sheets?

Father God, I would love to have room for enough couches for Care Group to meet—the trill of guitar hymns sounding through the house and out the windows near the table or island or counter where the cookies, coffee, and tea are laid out.

Lord, do you think I could have chickens again?

And out of all the clamor and questions and changes of my mind, comes God’s still, small voice. It’s so gentle and patient, like a brush of His hand on my cheek, a lifting of my chin, a whisper to me to look in His eyes.IMG_2146

He reminds me that He is enough, that He knows all my needs and wants, that wherever He is, is home, whether or not it has couches, cupboards, raspberry bushes, or longevity, that He has far better gifts for me than I can imagine, that His grace is sufficient for me, even for waiting.

He reminds me that the foxes have holes but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, and He didn’t spend a moment worrying about where to cuddle a little one to watch Madeline.

He reminds me that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, as well as the moonlight and AuOldCompBackup 3015rora Borealis that shine on them. He reminds me He owns all whom I love, and that He is mine and I am His, forever and ever and always.

Then I remember all He has promised me is also His desire for refugees fleeing homelands today with nothing but the clothes on their backs, waiting for boats or trains that never come, getting turned away from port after port, and having their children wash up dead on the waves.

And maybe my eyes need to see and my heart needs to grow.

He reminds me He is the One who gives His children peace that passes understanding, sleep without fear, and a future that is guaranteed.Sept. 2015 003

All we need to do is REST IN HIM.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28).

 

 

When You Need the Ear of God in the Fast Water

An elk bugled under a night sky spilled with stars like grains of sugar. My heart lifted. The next morning, I bowed my head under the firs by the creek to listen to the Lord, marveling at King David’s request in Psalm 31:

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me. Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge…” (verses 1,2).Sept. 2015 016

Did you see that? “Bow down Your ear to me.”

What gave David the courage to make so daring a request?

I searched the creek for empty caddis fly casings for a mosaic wall. These marvels of engineering—tubular accretions of sand—protect the nymph in its larval stage when it crawls the creek bottom like a snail in a shell.

Discarded tubes were hard to find. The drought-depleted creek runs so slowly this year a thick layer of scum covers most of the creek bed.

Lord, flood me with the water of Your grace and joy. Wash away the scum of worry. Help me trust You for what I cannot see. Sept. 2015 045

Under a rough stone seven large caddis fly casings clustered—cemented to their rock of refuge to await next spring. Safe from enemies, they bathe in life-giving water in the deepest part of the creek where no scum grows, to survive summer’s drought.

The fast water.

I wedged the rock down again. The winter creek will run several feet above it, crashing and deadly, but the caddis flies will be safe. I can see the perfect analogy. But I’m afraid of the fast water.

Maybe you are, too?

I once had a ewe named Dolly who was scared of the fast water. Every spring, wSept. 2015 035hen her water bag broke and her lambs squeezed towards the outside world, she came to the barn and fell in the straw, faint with terror.

The other ewes dug holes for nests, murmured sweetly to their unborn lambs, and lay down to push, their bellies inflated like balloons. They licked and talked to their newborns, nudging them towards life-giving udders.

Not Dolly. As the wracking tremors crossed her belly, she’d head straight  into shock, eyes closed, ears growing cold, silent except for the grinding of her teeth, setting mine on edge. Every year it was the same story.OldCompBackup 1291

Bow down your ear to me. Deliver me speedily.

Often I had to pull her lambs out quickly, rip suffocating sacs away, rub the lambs
down, and swing them to clear their lungs of fluid, while Dolly’s eyes slowly glazed over.

A Vitamin B shot changed all that. In seconds, Dolly would lift her head. She’d stare at her babies, wobbly on their legs, hungry. She’d lick them excitedly, head to tail. She’d bawl loudly, announcing her victory as though she’d won Olympic Gold in the Birthing Event.

But after several years of emergency lambings, I had to give up on Dolly. And that’s the biting edge of my fear when I struggle with the same things over and over–that God will give up on me. Do you ever worry that way?

But God says, “I wAugust 2015 206ill never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

My shepherding was limited by resources, genetics, and stamina. But Jesus is the omnipotent Good Shepherd Who cares for us forever. It was David’s intimate knowledge of the character of God that gave him the courage to ask Him to bow down His ear.

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust.”

Spending time with God in His word and prayer builds that same intimacy and knowledge. With it, we defeat the enemy of our souls who knows how to tweak truth just enough to turn it into a lie, keeping our focus on our limiting weakness instead of God’s limitless power.

O Lord Who made the Milky Way, the bugling elk, and caddis fly, bow down Your ear to us. Be our Rock of Refuge where the water runs deep and fast, our Vitamin B to stand firm in trials. Lift our heads that we might focus on Your sufficiency, instead of our weaknesses.Sept. 2015 041

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).

 

How to Make a Celebration Branch

Nehemiah had guts. As cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, he was the king’s last defense between a poisoned drink and death. Every day Nehemiah’s life was at stake.August 2015 163 (2)

Every day required supernatural courage to perform his duties. And Nehemiah knew where to find it.

So when he went to Jerusalem and finished rebuilding the wall with the returned captives, he could hardly wait to share the book of the Law of Moses with the people. But when they heard it, they wept.

Nehemiah said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

It’s tempting to focus on weaknesses and dangers. But that’s like focusing the beam of a lighthouse so narrowly on the shoals, we can’t see the safe harbor just ahead.

Nehemiah reminds us to open our eyes to enjoy God, to share His gifts with others, and to rejoice because He has accomplished all His purposes. Our joy is in His sufficiency, and in that joy is our strength.April 2015 049

In keeping with Nehemiah’s instruction, here are info and directions for the Celebration Branch, as promised. The idea of a branch comes from Leviticus.

Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches, and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:,40)

The people of Israel gathered branches to make shelters for the Feast of Booths,   a week-long Thanksgiving celebration after the harvest.

Our Celebration Branch is a little different. We hang a branch above our kitchen table, and decorate it to reflect times of thanksgiving and joy in our family year-around.August 2015 399

Examples:

To celebrate the arrival of a newborn, foster, or adopted child, hang photos, shoes, rattles, toys, words of welcome, etc. For an exchange student,  add welcomes in English and their native language, and brochures about places to share.

In Autumn, use artificial leaves, pencils, crayons, grades and photos of each school child and phrases about their hopes and dreams for the year.

At Thanksgiving, hang photos, drawings, or lists of things you’re grateful for, along with hand print or pine cone turkeys, strings of candy corn, etc.

The Celebration Branch is a perfect place for Jesse Tree,  Advent, or other traditional Christmas ornaments including candy canes, stars, evergreen sprigs, snowflakes, Nativity figures, or gold ribbon.Nov-Dec 2014 023 (2)

Small cards with Easter promises can dangle amongst fresh or artificial flowers such as forsythia and lilies, along with other symbols of new life such as eggs and chicks.

Birthday or baptism celebrations might include the photo of a child, interests, strengths, testimony, favorite things,  and other clues of how God has made them, such as small toys and books.

For summer vacation with the cousins, we hung crayon resist watercolors of flowers, frogs, and butterflies (See my post, “How to Make a Luscious Crayon Resist).

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Here’s how to make your Celebration Branch:

  1. Take a walk in the wSept 2015 026oods and look for an interesting branch with lots of smaller twigs. Mine is a fir branch about five feet long, but yours can be longer or shorter as you desire.
  2. Remove leaves or needles from the branch and trim the side twigs until your branch is a pleasing shape.
  3. Hang the branch from your ceiling with several large eye hooks and strong string, making certain you screw at least some of the hooks through drywall into wood at each end so the branch can’t fall and hurt someone.
  4. Jazz up your branch with ribbon, bias-cut fabric, vines, lights, or glitter glue before you decorate it.
  5. Poke tiny holes in your decorations and hang them from your branch with light string or thread.
  6. Finally, friends, when you look at the branch, remember to rejoice in the God who gives you courage for each day, as He gave Nehemiah.

“Rejoice in all you11147035_10153285429579214_4948497860104946008_nr doings in which the Lord Your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7, The Fifth Book of the Law of Moses)

Getting Out of Broken Places

I tried to cry it all out the first day, Lord—the big decision, the pain of it hitting me harder than it ought, confused with other losses, making me feel small and broken and alone. I sat on the stairs in my barn boots and flannel shirt in the early morning stillness before the thermostat started the furnace. I didn’t even wake the dogs.August 2015 081

In the mirror I looked so like and so unlike myself.

Child woman, shivering.

I asked You why there’s this stabbing longing in my heart, this feeling there’s a person inside me who cannot get out, a woman there’s no room for? And You said, “Now we see in a mirror dimly; but then face to face.”

I repeated this to myself as the household wakened and the girls arrived–someday I’ll know why.

I wish now I’d gone right back to the Source to see what You were really saying in the dim of the stairwell. But I didn’t. Not then.

Instead, I berated myself for self-indulgence when there’s so much need in the world—families who don’t have stairs or boots or mirrors—families who would be grateful for just one sandwich to split up amongst themselves. This self-beating seemed deserved, but it wasn’t from You.Aug 2015 EOS 006

The second day I forgot to look for Your words again. I put on my big girl panties to get back to work. But self-talk and grinding away alone, all the while telling myself someday I’ll know why couldn’t lift me out of my brokenness.

So that day rolled over and squashed me, too. This wasn’t You, either.

On the third day, the sky hung gloomy, dark, and NOTHING—no rain or sun or wind or bird calls—just the feeling of waiting  so heavy over me. By then, I’d forgot all about seeing dimly in a mirror and understanding someday. I cried like I was falling, falling, and never going to fly again.

But I desperately wanted to be lifted up. So I did something I rarely do. And this was from You.

Though I was raised in a “don’t need nobody” home, I emailed a few folks about how I felt. Then I took the girls for a last-day-of-summer outing to the Children’s Museum where, away from the worry, we played, laughed, and wondered at Your amazing world.

When I checked my Aug 2015 EOS 040email later, people had sent love, encouragement, sympathy, empathy, sweet offers of help, and “ginourmous hugs.” Thank you to all of you. Though I felt embarrassed at sharing, you made me feel better. And this was God’s doing, too.

Then I searched the Bible for the mirror reference. You know what? It’s in the Love Chapter. 

I Corinthians 13 is about world-changing face-to-face love—one truthful confidence, one selfless kindness, one generous offer, one “ginormous hug” at a time. It’s about growing up to discern what lasts. It’s about the inclusive we instead of the self-sufficient me. It’s about how “Love never fails” even when we’re embarrassed.

Did you hear that? Love NEVER fails. That’s a 100% success rate.

And the promise isn’t about someday we’ll know the why of things–it’s about someday knowing the Who—this God who IS love, fully.Aug 2015 EOS 016

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 

(I Corinthians 13:12 NIV)

God already knows you and me fully because He created us. And if He made us, He also has made room for us. It may be we just have to learn to ask for help.

Someday we’ll see God face to face—our faces together with His. We’ll see Him in all His beauty, glory, and essence without vaporizing to particles. Like Job, we’ll realize our questions are profound as the color of toilet paper, our sorrows fleeting as grass.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4,5)

Lord,  You know me. You made the squeezing pump of my hearAug 2015 EOS 062t and the function of my tiniest cells.  You know my secret longings and prayers. Help me with my brokenness. Forgive me when I try to overcome the hard things alone.