All posts by Jan

Everyday French Toast Moments

Ever had a day when the hurt of the world feels so big it makes you wonder if your little life, your small everyday moments, really matter–when your to-do list feels like a cop-out and your heart screams at you to stand up and make a difference in some grand, visible way?August 2015 027

Intellectually, I know what God has called me to, but today it feels like piffle. At the same time I find myself staring at the vase of black-eyed Susans, dahlias and hydrangeas on the kitchen table because it’s the only tidy place in the whole room.

How can my chores compare to the battles of firefighters?

The moon rose red Saturday from all the smoke, rose above the firs over the coffee pavilion where we listenedAugust 2015 065 to Steve McDonald play Celtic music while forest fires burned out of control on both sides of the Cascade range.

Thirteen firefighters lost their lives so that other people’s families, homes, lands, and forest might survive and flourish. One man with decades of safe firefighting lost his firefighting son last week and wishes it was himself.

We haven’t seen the neighbors for weeks. Both are rangers and firefighters. Lord, have mercy on them. Please protect them. Please, send rain.

While our daughter, son-in-law, and four kids played in the sprinkler and pool with us, banged croquet balls across dry grass, or waded in theAugust 2015 094 low creek, other people buried their sons and daughters who died fighting fires.

I can’t get my heart around that pain. Lord, please comfort those families who have lost loved ones. I don’t want them to think we’re playing at our little mountain cabin heedless of their sacrifices.

I don’t want them to think we take our green-treed butte for granted. Every good thing is a gift every day. Even coughing from the ash reminds that clean air is precious and not guaranteed, that men and women fight to preserve it for us.

Our eldest granddaughter called me on the mountain to say she’d entered Chocolate-Chip Cookies in the County Fair. This meant, since she spends most days with me, I’d have two hours when I got home to bake an entry also, so I’d have a pass to take her to the Fair.

I whisked my Cinnamon-Raisin bars out of thAugust 2015 038e oven with 45 minutes to cool, frost, and deliver. I set up a complicated cooling arrangement in the car using frozen gel packs on a rack over the cookie bars in front of air conditioning vents turned on HIGH. I started the engine.

The cup of confectioner’s glaze dumped over in the car. I saved enough for four bars–the required entry. The hot bars collapsed into indistinct lumps when I cut them.

I know what bothered me. I didn’t merely want to enter. I wanted to WIN. All the way to the Fairgrounds I prayed–Please get me there on time. I thought about whether or not this was a worthy prayer. Was it for my glory or God’s?

August 2015 032Then I remembered all the love funneled into this moment. I remembered teaching my granddaughter how to crack eggs when she was ten months old, how she graduated to French toast and surprised us with breakfast one morning.

Love is what He’s about. Love is what matters. The firefighter who lost his son isn’t crying because his son can’t fight fires anymore, but because they will never again share the small, everyday French toast moments of love that make life worth getting up for.

They’ve sacrificed those for you and for me.

I hope my granddaughter wins a blue ribbon. As for me, by God’s grace, I entered the Fair with four minutes to spare. Then I went home, hosed confectioner’s glaze off the car rug, did the laundry, washed dishes, went grocery-shopping and made dinner–honorable work, holy ground–building blocks for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I’ll take the girls to see farm animals, carnival rides, and Chocolate-Chip Cookie awards. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll share countless, small, everyday moments purchaJan 2014-Aug 2015 173sed with sacrifices and love I can’t begin to fathom, both Divine and human.

Please pray for firefighters and the families of those
who are lost. Write a note of gratitude to a firefighter or policeman. Then give thanks for all those small moments of love that aren’t so small, after all—
the ones so valuable that, at this very moment, people who don’t know us believe they’re worth risking their lives and even dying for.

How to Make a Luscious Crayon Resist

“And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:7

I’ve been a potter, fine artist, and crafter for many years, but no matter how many times I do crayon resist, color and light spring off the page in ways I don’t expect. Then I feel a little bit of the joy God must have felt when He spoke the world into being in all its parts.

And crayon resist certainly proved to be a hit for all the cousins when they visited. Not only do we have happy memories, but some beautiful artwork, as well.August 2015 327

This is an easy project that yields exciting results with the right materials. Whether you’re creating an illustration, objects for a mobile, or a drawing for the refrigerator, a crayon resist will delight and surprise.July 2015 001 (2)

The best part of this technique is the moment you paint over your drawing and see the crayon colors pop. White, as in the flower above, and very light colors, as in the frog, are especially effective, as is a balance of both rough crayon to resist the watercolor and bare smooth paper to absorb it.

How it works: Regular crayons have enough wax in them to make a water-proof tJuly 2015 009extured line to resist watercolor paint applied lightly and only once. (Repeated washing of crayon surfaces with a wet brush will lift the crayon and destroy its resist properties).

You may want to plan the balance of light and dark values in your composition, as well as positive and negative space, or you may just want to plunge in to scribbling and painting. Either way, this is an exciting technique to experiment with. But it has its limits.July-Aug 2015 014

The coarse nature of crayons does not lend itself to tiny details. Too many small shapes will get lost in a cacophony of lines. Too many colors lessen the impact.

For a mobile, make your designs very simple: flowers, frogs, leaves, butterflies, and the like. More complex illustrations, such as this one I did for a picture book, require careful planning and a light pencil sketch.August 2015 008 (3)

Supplies: Regular crayons (not washable), card stock, watercolor paper, or a copy paper with a high cotton rag content such as Wausau 100% cotton stationery (at Target and other stores), watercolor paint box, paper towel, water cup, and thick, soft brush.August 2015 007 (2)

  1. Draw and color a simplified design on your chosen paper. (Elements of a mobile require heavy card stock). Light crayon delivers extra zing when you add the watercolors. Color hard. Leave some paper blank to absorb the paint.
  2. Load a soft brush with water and watercolor of any dilution.  Experiment with both opaque and transparent color, bright colors, deep colors, and black. The important thing is to commit to whatever you choose, so you don’t scrub off the crayon by changing your mind too many times.July-Aug 2015 012
  3. If your resists are for a mobile, you’ll want to cut out your elements after they dry, flip them over, and repeat steps 1 and 2  on the other side.
  4. You may want to spray your finished crayon resists with a fixative from a craft store or heavy-hold hair spray from the dollar store.
  5. When your mobile elements are completely dry, punch a small hole in the top with a hole punch, ice pick, or thick needle and hang with thread or light string. Turn on a fan and watch your dazzling display dance.August 2015 399

When the Leaf Comes Out of the Table

The table is tidy with a turquoise windowpane tablecloth, a bouquet of flowers from Farmer Larry up the road, and chickadee salt-and-peppers perched on the edge of a vintage red-and-white quilt square. Overhead swings the Celebration Branch.August 2015 422 (2)

This one is simply a bare fir branch (no needles) wrapped with burlap and ribbon and currently decorated for summer with crayon resist flowers, frogs, and butterflies, mostly made by the grandkids. It’s all very pretty, but I ache over what’s missing.

What’s missing is the leaf in our kitchen table. What’s missing are our daughter, son-in-law, and four children, who left this morning for their home and ministry to the Ojibwa in Ontario’s far north. Our family table has shrunk. The house echoes.  My heart echoes.

What do I do with the sadness?

For two splendid weeks our home has been abuzz with six grandchildren, sprinklers, water squirters, arms outspread in soaked clothing, giggles, foil packets of campfire stew around the bonfire, tea with sugar cubes, Kung-Fu Panda, backgammon, and popcorn.August 2015 131

For two wondrous weeks I’ve listened to my earnest daughter instruct her children with the teachings of kindness on her tongue, my patient son-in-law lead bedtime prayer and songs, and the kids jockey to pick and eat garden blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans.

For two humbling weeks I’ve been enfolded in the holy ground of hubbub--gooey fingers, cranky naps, and bright mornings. I’ve slowed down, sped up, whirled dizzily, and sat in a heap to soak it all in, confess my selfishness, hear God’s voice, and see His face in the faces of others.

I’ve slowly unclenched the fists of my normal two-grandchild daycare routine and settled into the rolling back seat of a speeding satellite sent to unlock the secrets of love and forgiveness in the eyes of six tumbling, grubby, priceless children. My heart is full.

Which was why today, carefully orchestrated as it was, was hard. Very hard.

August 2015 008The adults decided to sweeten the bitterness with a trip to the bakery this morning. It didn’t fool the kids.  All the children in my car said they didn’t want to go to the bakery (and that’s a first) because they knew the goodbyes would follow.

Goodbye for a year–maybe longer. I’m with them.

My heart aches at going back to ceramic plates instead of paper–paper having been faster to clean up so all of us could squeeze in rides on the Green Machines, wading in the creek, and making crayon resists on the kitchen table.

I know goodbyes are necessary. My children have a God-breathed calling and so do I. For them, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing family and friends as well as running a Christian school, church, and Bible study in a remote town to which there are no roads–only twin-engine planes or trucks when the lake freezes.

For me, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing home, family, friends, daAugust 2015 212ycare, school activities, church activities, critique group, art, and writing.

All holy ground. So what to do with the weight of good-bye?

I remember the happy faces, shared activities, and time spent wrestling with and resting in, God. With each memory,  I feel the restoration of the visit, the touch of my daughter’s skin, the sound of her hymnal voice, the strum of her donated guitar. I remember.

Family visits are like that–for helloes and I love yous and renewal and strengthening of bonds, for making memories last until the next time God grants us leave to see each other again.

How about you? How do you make memories? How do you make them last?

In the next few weeks, I’ll share fun activities that made this family visit so wonderful. WAugust 2015 409atch for these upcoming posts: How to Make Custom Packets of Campfire Stew the Kids Will Love, How to Make a Celebration Branch, and How to Do Crayon Resist.

For now, I sit at the kitchen table and gaze at the Celebration Branch. I watch the crayon-resist flowers, butterflies, and frogs twirl in the breeze. I’m so happy for the time we spent making them. I guess that’s why, amidst the tears,

I have a big smile on my face.

Calisthenics 2–In the Locker Room

Feb-Mar 2015 018 (2)I’m still wrestling with the whole idea of spiritual exercise. I guess I’m expecting some sort of radiance–you know–like the glow of healthy skin during physical exercise.

So far it’s not radiance but dog poop on one child’s feet, another tattling, two melting down, and me trying to create a quick meal everyone will like when we’re out of cheese, non-grainy bread, and juice.  Which makes me wonder if I’m on the wrong track?

Why does my life seem so small, so tunnel-visionly, so mundane, so “Martha?”July-Aug 2015 059

After I wrote Calisthenics 1, I looked for glorious ways to exercise my faith (the Holy Olympics? The Heavenly Oscars?) Instead, I found myself in what feels like the locker room of life–in the sweat and athlete’s foot and mopping after other people’s showers.

As if that’s somehow less…

I faced a grinning baby with a stinky diaper and his solemn older brother who also had a loaded one. To my shame, I told my daughter about her kids with the diaper needs–my girl who’s a missionary and currently battling an excruciating carpal tunnel.

But when I looked in her face, I saw her pain and exhaustion and longing. That’s when I saw You, too, Lord, hanging on the cross for me and for her. That’s when I thought about “…whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I argued with You, I’m sorry to say. I argued I had dishes to do, and toy pick-up, and a child crying, and I wanted to ice my sore foot. I had a schedule to keep and isn’t orderliness Your way, too? What about margin and balance? July-Aug 2015 060 And You said,

Was it “margin” to go to the Cross?   

When I saw Your pain in my daughter’s eyes, I saw the connection between body and spirit. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Body+living sacrifice=spiritual act of worship.

I saw Your cross planted like a fence post in holy ground, with the failures of all Your loved ones nailing Your body to it, soaked in Your sweat and blood, people weeping around You, some fighting over your clothes, and You thirsty, with only vinegar to drink.

Your words cut through the layers to pierce my flabby heart. “I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3). Ouch.

When living sacrifices change stinky diapers they worship on holy ground before the One who made children and daughters and bodily functions and weakness and strength.

I realize again it is always and ever about You–about seeing You in the face of my precious daughter, in the grin of her stinky one-year-old,  and in the slightly worried look of her equally stinky and larger three-year-old.July-Aug 2015 001 (2)

It is seeing You in the beautiful mundane, in the calling to which You’ve called me today (and who has any day but today)? It is seeing that when I offer my body as a living sacrifice (not a complaining or half-hearted one) I’m standing on holy ground.

Holy Ground.

It’s not mist, or a pillar of fire, or a golden glow emanating from my path. It’s sweat, tears, and praying in the kitchen. It’s stifling the impatient answer to my husband and speaking kindly. It’s being mindful of the connection between bodily action and spiritual worship.

So today when I delayed a chore to push a fussy baby on a trike, when clock-watching furrowed my brow and planted a plastic smile on my face, I remembered Holy Ground. And I looked around and thought, This–this is it.

Then I whispered Holy Ground to the little guy and he looked at me with his big eyes and quick smile, like Baby Jesus in my arms saying, “There you go. You’re getting it now.”1526329_10152095290999214_2084605039_n

He giggled at the ride and suddenly I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling of Your Presence–like my chest could explode right there on the back deck. And the radiance I was looking for?

The radiance is You.

 

One,Two–Calisthenics for the Soul

Dear One,

Have you ever been in an exercise class? Or chased kids around the yard? Or tried for five minutes to copy every move a baby makes during tummy time? If you’re like me, it only takes a few minutes of strenuous exercise to let you know what kind of shape you’re in.

The gift of faith, like the gift of muscles, needs exercise, too. 2 Peter 1:5 says to “…employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue…” I’ve been thinking about what that means.July 2015 067

To exercise muscles means to put them to use–to stretch them, to test their limits, to work up a sweat, to get the heart pumping,  and to burn calories. In other words, this is not merely to go through the motions, but to develop physical and even spiritual virtues.

“…but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1Cor. 9:27)

One motivator for me to exercise is to lose weight so I’m lighter and faster on my feet, with improved stamina, health, strength, and appearance. But one look in the mirror or a few minutes of soccer with the kids shows me I’m not very disciplined in this area.

And so I’m wondering–am I similarly pudgy in the spiritual realm?July 2015 062

Exercising faith must look something like exercising the body. If I exercise faith, I stretch it, test its limits, work up a spiritual sweat, and a faster heartbeat. I burn the fat in my soul so I’m quicker to answer God’s call to obey, love, risk, and lay down my life for others.

If I exercise my faith, I want to improve my spiritual stamina, endurance, and health to withstand the attacks of the Enemy and “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) as God continues to make me beautiful.

I’m shakin’ in my tennies as I write this . But I remind myself “…we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)July 2015 068 (2)

Like any rigorous program of physical exercise, the spiritual exercise of faith will have at least two results:

1. Sore muscles–physical muscles tear a little in strenuous exercise. That’s why they hurt. There’s a cost to spiritual exercise, too–a decision to tear away lesser practices for greater ones.

2. Stronger faith–in the healing process, muscles grow larger and stronger–if we persevere in the training.

Every spiritual training program will be as individual as each person’s weaknesses and areas of spiritual cellulite.  Just as distractions derail physical exercise programs, spiritual exercise is bound to meet with obstacles, too.

In fact, every time I determine again to begin a program of either physical or spiritual discipline, I find myself in a ferocious battle with God’s enemy and ours, the devil–a battle from which I often limp away–bruised, bleeding, and discouraged.July 2015 013 (2)

That battle is the test of my spiritual six-pack. How long does the Enemy fool me? How long before I remember he has no claim on me? That I’m not alone? That God has not and never will let go of me? How well do I know the character and promises of God?

How soon do I return to His path, and my discipline?

Do I know how to put on the full, protective armor of God, to thrust and parry with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God–so that the Word Himself, this Jesus, fights for me? Do I have His Word hidden in my heart, thrust into my belt, my hand always on the hilt?July 2015 007

Lord–crummy as I am at sticking to a program of physical exercise and caloric restraint, I know I need Your help to exercise my faith to build my spiritual muscles and trim away the useless things I gorge on instead of You. 

I praise You for Your promise to us that “He who began a good work in you will complete it,” (Phil. 1:6) so we know that, while the choice to obey You in exercising faith is ours, You’ll transform our pitiful offerings and attempts into wholeness, beauty, and strength. Thank You, Lord. I love You.

 

 

Apple of His Eye

I c11034920_10153188937269214_2723384077591697003_nolor cardboard tulips on the kitchen table, sunlight streaming through lace curtains, illuminating dirty windows. I make a mental note to clean them tonight. Too much daylight makes glass streak.

I color yellow on the tulip edges so they’ll gleam under the black watercolor as though lit from behind, like my friend Wendy’s fat lambs in the late sun, glowing with halos through their fleeces.

I feel joyfully alive as I color, though my hands cramp and I must rest them frequently. Even the pain reminds me of the splendor of this mortality, that God made nerves to signal pain and pleasure, hot and cold, rough and smooth.

I brush waxy crumbs away and listen to birdsong. As a child I loved the songs of the Bible–the Psalms. Their truth and hope cut through all my pretend–joy, anguish, outcry, acquiescence, and rest–He is God of the real.

A favorite line became a life raft during the worst of the teen years–“Keep me as the apple of Your eye.” (Psalm 17:8)

I didn’t understand the imagery then. But despite feeling worthless and hated by others, I felt special to God–the apple of His eye. I saw myself as a literal polished apple–beautiJune 2015 019fully mottled, shiny, pleasing to hold.

Only later did I read the little footnote that said “apple” meant “pupil.”

The pupil is a hole into the eye.The iris surrounding it is triggered by light striking the optic nerve, and expands or contracts to regulate light as needed.

So if we ask God to keep us as the pupil of His eye, we ask Him to guard our spirits, to regulate His holy light of love and truth that we might always be able to see His path, whether in brightness or darkness. This is an amazing prayer.

The iris widens in darkness, to gather light into the pupil for illumination. Lord, when my soul is dark, open the iris of my heart to gather in Your light. You know how much I need it.

I need Your light when pickle juice spills on clean dishes, when I lock keys, towels, life jackets, and picnic in the car just as we arrive at the lake. I need it for my sore foot at day’s end when the little one wants me to stand and hold her for Rock-A-Bye-Baby.

I need it when I throw out burned eggs because there were FIVE emergencies while I tried to cook them, and everyone is crying because they’re hungry. I need it when the little ones I love wear body braces and face serious surgeries.July 2015 014

I paint black watercolor on my tulips and the waxy color springs to life in relief.

In addition to gathering light, the iris also limits light to protect  the pupil. But some protection is up to us. If we look directly at the sun, its brightness can burn the rods and cones at the back of the eye to destroy our vision forever.

Some people wish for more light, for the light of all knowledge, like Adam and Eve. They want foreknowledge of their futures–poverty, riches, and the day of their deaths. But I don’t want to know. I don’t trust myself with that much light.

I fear I’d turn every thought inward towards how to serve and preserve myself, how to keep instead of how to lay down my life, and thereby miss the joy and pain and real of the present. I want to live all the way here.

I want to watch my granddaughter’s face as she tells me about her new song, her dance steps, how she made a fairy dust necklace for her baby sister who cried because it couldn’t really make her fly.July 2015 048 (2)

The sun shifts. I hang my painted tulips on the tree branch above the kitchen table with frogs, butterflies, burlap, and grosgrain ribbon. The kitchen lies in shadow. I marvel how my eyes adjust. The light has fallen to the other side of the house–perfect time to clean the kitchen window.

Father, clean the glass of my heart. Help me see clearly. Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

 

Four Reasons People are like Peaches

Sheep are individuals. A shepherd knows his or her sheep. Jesus knows my name and yours.

Are you there, Lord? I don’t know what to do. Am I trying to make a decision You have not called me to?

I count my old records–forty ewes, ten rams, 400 lambs in nineteen years–all different, nearly all with names. Peaches was a quiet Dorset/Finn cross, nothing like the Targhee, Amelia. Amelia ran if I came anywhere near her.OldCompBackup 2979

Am I running from what You have called me to? Help me stay.

Tammy let me get closer before she spooked. Apple would do anything for food. Peaches came readily to me, calm and trusting. I ran my hands through her fleece and latched her newborn lambs to nurse. Help me come to You in trust. Help me wait.

Sheep are social animals. They remember faces. They form cliques.

Bruisers like Lightning and Blackberry stuck together. They charged the feeder like bouncers, bashing others in their way. Sometimes they’d overeat and get bellyaches in all their four stomachs. Help me not covet what You have not given.OldCompBackup 435

Apple and Peaches, who were more neighborly sheep, stuck together, too. They shoved for food, but in a companionable way. They ate and chewed cud contentedly.

Cause me to be satisfied and nourished by the abundance You give.

Timid Dolly and Tammy found only tough stems left when the bruisers finished. I fed these ewes by hand in secret–the most tender leaves to make up for loss. Help me not fear. Feed me in secret. Forgive my want of lesser things.

Sheep have no natural defenses beyond flocking or fleeing.

Bruisers, neighbors, and timids hung out in different parts of the pasture. But when threatened, all the groups flocked together facing out–rams on the edges, lambs in the middle. Predators divide and scatter flocks to seek the loners.July 2015 014

Help me seek community for prayer and counsel.

Sheep prefer to be led, not driven. 

Effective leadership is based on trust. I moved slowly among my sheep, speaking softly so they could learn my voice. When I called, they came running for grain, hay, water, apples, and new pastures.

Sometimes they didn’t like what I gave them–shots, shearing, or worm medicine. But it was all for their good. Sometimes the neighbor’s sheep came to the fence. I didn’t feed my neighbor’s sheep, or treat their ailments. My voice was of no use to them.

Help me hear Your voice in this decision, Lord, and not mistake it for any other. Help me trust in Your goodness.July 2015 010

One day, when Peaches was huge with twins, she lay down, rolled into a hollow, and got stuck on her back with her legs in the air and her twin-filled belly pinned to the ground on either side, like saddlebags on a horse. This might sound funny, but it isn’t.

With her big lambs inside her and all her four stomachs pressing on her lungs, Peaches couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t make the tiniest cry for help. Her eyes rolled back in her head. But the Great Good Shepherd knew she was in trouble. Somehow, He helped me know.

I looked out the upstairs window and saw Peaches. I pulled my boots on and leapt down the stairs. I ran across the pasture. I tugged Peaches’ legs and rolled the heavy ewe onto her feet. She opened her eyes. They were brown and soft and scared. But she was safe.

Her two lambs and four stomachs hung away from her lungs. She huffed the fresh air in and out; all the wind scented with clover and plum blossoms. Her heart thudded. I rubbed her chest and spoke softly. Her eyes lost their terror. Her breathing slowed.OldCompBackup 2260

She waddled away happily to graze with the flock. A week later, her lambs came, strong and healthy. I knew God could bring His plans to fruition in my life, too. And in yours.

Thank You, Lord, for the story of Peaches. Help me remember her when I’m senseless with worry, when I’m confused and fall in holes. Please set me on my feet. Help me to follow only Your voice. Lead me on Your path, only on Your path, that I might accomplish what You made me for.

 

Even Caterpillars Speak

Tim has gone to work and Lara is still sleeping. I take the dogs out and tell myself today–today!–I will sit down with God to bow my head in His beauty and kindness and love. It has been too long. Even a day away from Him–how can I know I’m going the right way?

Sometimes I think for God to have a relationship with me is like me trying to have a relationship with caterpillars. I’m so big they can’t really see me. They certainly can’t understand me.

They bumble along and I watch over them, trying to put them in the path of food andJune 2015 026 (2) water and trees to climb, keeping birds and mice from devouring them, or the red-headed ants from turning them into larval snack bars. I divert them from crossing asphalt to oblivion.

Sometimes they head towards the clearing–bare dirt–where bulldozers move stumps and branches into piles for burning. Perhaps the caterpillars don’t know the cut green is already dead, that the parched soil holds no sustenance and no future for them.

The caterpillars stubbornly go their own way, not realizing they must stay in the living green where morning dew, rye grass, and maples rise. They don’t know they must climb higher to weave a temporary tomb and sleep in order to become butterflies.June 2015 010

So I put obstacles in their way to turn them from destruction they cannot imagine. I move them to where they think they don’t want to go. They are terrified of me, though I have only good planned for them. They writhe and twist in my hand, trying to get away.

That is me in the Lord’s hands sometimes–writhing–frightened and senseless as a worm, forgetting He has only good for me and for you.

When I had to give up my farm I was disconsolate. I fell into deep mourning. And my husband, who had been the catalyst for the move, came to agree with me it had been the wrong choice.

But, as our eyes gradually opened to the dew and green around us, to the new heights we could climb, we also agreed that in everything we had never left God’s hands. 

We came to see that, beautiful and healing as the farm had been for me, the move was necessary because of our stubborn hearts. The move kept us from a greater devastation–the destruction of our marriage.June 2015 036

Had we, in humility and reverence, addressed long-term marital issues while living at the farm, the move might have been averted. But the farm was big enough we could bury the truth and go our own self-serving ways, to the death of our vows.

So God took us to a smaller place where we could no longer escape the grave of lies. He is a God of truth, not a God of hiding. Like Adam and Eve, He searched out our runaway hearts and sent us from the Garden.

He led us into a relational wilderness where we had to speak truth to each other to forge a new life; to remove deep thorns we’d pretended didn’t exist, to learn how to listen, to hammer forgiveness and love into a strong shelter.

When the truth has been buried so long, exposing it releases a stench.For us, it stank of loud voices and deadly silence, slammed doors, bitter tears, despairing prayer.

And then, the little kindnesses began–times of red tulips and hauling trash cans, times of stumbling to learn how to nourish each other, to touch our deepest needs, to climb higher and join with God in His butterfly work of everlasting transformation.June 2015 022

And now, beginning to shed our caterpillar skins, we face new challenges and new opportunities for trust.

This time, there is a unity of shared joy as we go hand-in-hand writing the next chapter in the story of our lives, as we speak truth to one another about differences and needs, as we rest in God’s hands and seek His direction–as we prepare to stretch the trustworthy wings of the future He has graciously given us.

How do you see your relationship with God? What has He done in your life to give you new wings?

 

 

 

In a Manner Worthy

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” (Eph. 4:1).

I tenderly stacked the soft clay “blessing bowls” the morning campers had made in the crafts room at foster kid camp. I loaded them in the car, then  headed home to let the dogs out, unpack the kiln, load more pots, and return to camp by afternoon craft time. On the way, I stopped for a burger.June 2015 067

That’s when I saw her.

A young woman sat on a rock, weeping. Her boyfriend hadn’t arrived to take her to her second job. She said she lived only 5-10 minutes away. Here was a soul crying out in front of me–there was my responsibility to campers. I prayed for God’s calling: Whatsoever you do for the least of these... Whatsoever.

She climbed into my car.

Her parents loved her but had kicked her out of the house because of her boyfriend. She said, “I wanted to be a grown-up, and now I have to work.”

In the 25-minute ride, we covered a lot of ground.

I drove and drove. She apologized. I said, “God runs my day and He chose to place you in it.”

I told her she is important to the One who created her. She sounded uncertain about her recent decisions. I encouraged her to “…speak the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15)–first to herself and then to others.

I was happy God allowed me to be a Good Samaritan, but worried about being late for camp. Mentally, I revved my to-do list to breakneck speed, despite the fact I stink at hurryJune 2015 057

Hurry  can turn my love on its ear like the flick of a lamp. Off.

“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…”  (Eph. 4:2).

If only I’d applied God runs my day to the next precious person whom He gave me to serve.

At home, my husband was boiling a plastic tub of bean dip in a pan on the stove. He’d hoped it was homemade chili. Frustrated at this new delay, I marched to the garage and yanked chili from the freezer.

I had trusted God when He’d dropped a crying stranger in my path. But now, I grumbled about my husband coming for lunch–to his home, to his castle.

I slammed chili into a casserole dish to thaw, dirtying three pans to find the right size. I heard God calling, but I stormed past Him. I forgot to see Him in my husband’s face. I checked the tJune 2015 064ime–there wasn’t enough to prepare the chili before Tim returned to work.

I shoved it back in the freezer.

Flinging the pantry door open I gave him (or was it Him?) canned chili to cook for himself (Himself). I darted around–fussing, annoyed, and anxious.

But, back at camp–an hour late–no one had missed me. 

The other two helpers chatted. The campers swam in the lake (as it turned out) another hour-and-a-half. I heard His soft voice, “See, daughter? Do you understand now?”

My heart ached over my sin. I had to speak truth to myself–I hadn’t trusted God’s timing for camp or for Tim. I had failed the real test. I hadn’t walked in a manner worthy of the calling. I hadn’t been humble, gentle, patient, forbearing in love, or anything near a Good Samaritan.June 2015 054

I had been a robber.

I confessed it all to God. When I got home, my sweet husband apologized for “messing everything up,” which stabbed me to the core. I asked his forgiveness.

I dusted off my spiritual knees to try again.

How about you? Is it easier to walk “worthy” with strangers, friends, or family?

For me, family relationships are the most humbling litmus test of who I really am and a continual reminder of why I need a Savior.

In Ephesians, Paul called himself “a prisoner of the Lord” and determined to “walk in a manner worthy” of that calling.

I want that perspective with every one of my callings. I know I’ll fail again and again unJune 2015 048til heaven. I know I’ll need the Holy Spirit for every step of worthy walking. But whether wiping noses, pulling a lamb into this world, making a handmade card or even–as God calls– being a prisoner for His sake, I want to be intentional about what it looks like to walk in a manner worthy.

What are your callings? How do you remember to be intentional about walking worthy when the day zooms in and out of different callings?

 

 

Healing Spaces

Tall grasses lacy with seed tickle my fingers–beautiful if I weren’t a child again, hiding from my mother in fields and swamps. That was a long time ago, I remind myself. Then the field daisies fling me back to our wedding, and the priest who said we hadn’t a chance.

Why tell myself only the bad stories? Is this part of the grief process?

Down at the creek, I search for the water ouzel–God’s little joke–a bird that flies underwater. I often see her hop on stones, study the chattering stream, brave the current. She folds her wings to dive–sleek, black, and small. But the creek is empty today and terribly low.

The world’s splendor whirls and chirps about me but I shut my eyes.

In the house I unload tomato soup, apples, and milk, forgetting to give thanks. I set the last roll of paper towel on the laundry shelf. In that motion God brings a shaft of light into my darkness. But I don’t see it that way at the time.

At the time I see the shelf support break, the board tilt, the contents slide. I see paper towels, bathroom cleaner, and laundry spray bounce on the washer and hit the floor.

I don’t need this, I say, resentfully. Of course, I’m wrong. God knows exactly what I need. None of the bottles have spilled, I think, so I leave the mess for later.

In the laundry room, a slick puddle pools on linoleum. When my Cookie takes off his boots for dinner, he remarks on the stench that crept in so slowly, I hadn’t noticed.

Do not dwell on the past. Behold–I am doing a new thing (Is. 43:18-19).

I discover a leaking bottle of pine cleaner behind the dryer. In a room too small to move the appliance, I wonder how in the world I will clean under it.

Water.

I pour glasses of it on the slanted floor. It dilutes the pungent oil streaming down. I pour and sop with the paper towels I just bought. I listen to the soft voice of God Who sent His Son to pay for my mistakes, to sop away the stench when it creeps into my soul.

Water is the universal solvent. Given long enough, it can dissolve stone.

In Me, you are already clean. You need only to wash your feet (John 13:10).

I dip the feet of my heart in God’s today forgiveness through Jesus. I bow in thanks for …whatever is true, whatever is good, whatever is lovely…(Philippians 4:8) to God who redeemed both my relationship with Mom and our marriage–by fire first, then by water.

True, good, lovely…OldCompBackup 3501

My mom walked the long grasses of our sheep pastures with her grandchildren, happy, her hands brushing the lacy tops going to seed for the next generation, for new life. She said she loved me.

True, good, lovely…

My non-farmer husband wrestled sheep, llamas, pigs, along with tons of hay, and fenced the healing spaces of pasture on the farm he bought for me.

True, good, lovely…

He prayed beside me as I slid the loose skin of my dad’s hand back and forth over the too-large knuckles, over the bones of his departing soul. After, on a healing expanse of beach, Tim watched me sieve sand through my fingers again and again, loving me in the wait.April 2015 093

I nod to myself and resolve to walk the field with new eyes and a washed heart, to smile at my husband putting a window in a shed.

I brush the grasses and daisies with my hands and breathe in sunshine. I realize the fields and creeks have always drawn me, not from fear, but because here I see God’s hand and feel His presence. I find hope in the breezes, the quiet, and the splendor of His creation.

He makes healing spaces even in the mess.

Where are your healing spaces? Where do you find hope? Where do you wash your feet?

The living creek rushes over rocks, melting the roughest edges first. Nothing can stand against it. The water ouzel dives deep, seeking caddis fly larvae or minnows. She stays under a long time, rises, and dives anew.

June 2015 007Do you see her? Do you hear God’s quiet voice in your mess?

I fold my wings and wash in the healing spaces of His grace; I dive fearlessly in the wide expanse of His love. Like the water ouzel, I rise full.

Step in with me, dear one. It’s a big creek.