Sisterhood of Goodness

After a day of fellowship at church, I was thinking of how much I love the ladies I am blessed to know. There is a big variety, from wise older women who have raised families down to the little friends who tell me about their new baby brother.

Occasionally we have ladies’ meetings instead of midweek services, where we study issues directly related to our lives as women and split into small groups to pray for each other. It would feel nicer if all we had to share were triumphs, high points of victory, praises for how wonderful our jobs are. It would feel easier if we had plenty of money to spare, our children were always sweetly obedient, our marriages sailed along without stressors, and our faith stayed steady as a rock. It’s not that way. We all know it, and when we feel safe enough to be vulnerable, we pull our scary stories out from under the sofa cushions where we were hiding them. I headlined us and our prayer requests after I got home one night last year.

  • How Jesus Enlarges an Uptight Woman in a Small Space
  • Growing Jolly and Old in an Armchair: It’s no Picnic
  • A Nauseous Life in Pressure Hose
  • My Daughter Reminds Me of Myself
  • Stuck in the Middle of an Impossible Situation
  • Making Time for Relationships in a Crush of Bodies
  • Help! My Phone is Strangling Me

It’s all so different and all the same. Our need to be filled with the Spirit and to have our space beautified by God is universal.  How amazing that in each tailor-made circumstance where we look for Him, we find that He is there, waiting and ready with infinite kindness. I have seen Amazing Grace in many of my friends’ lives. The process involves years of patient courage and desperately hard work. Sometimes it is just getting out of bed and doing the next thing when it feels humanly impossible, as my widowed friend who raised ten children has told me.

Some of my friends have children in heaven or live with hearts sick with longing for a baby. There are a few  with chronic health issues and one who is currently fighting cancer. There are the crushing burdens of children who do not love Jesus and the equally heavy ones where children have challenges that bring out the mother bear fighting instinct.

Every one has a story and most of us have afflictions that we would never choose voluntarily. We are all united, no matter what our lifestyle or season, with a need to have something bigger, something much more powerful -SOMEONE- to infuse our individual lives and make them worthwhile. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be depressed, to despair at brokenness, to end marriages and to disown children. I know God is real when I see His help in the lives of His children so that they are living, supernatural examples of faith.

Sometimes, like today, it is good for me to simply notice the goodness of God in His ordinary people.

 

Monday in February

***I have some brisk words to share with you, words I wrote two years ago and have needed to hear again and again throughout my life. If you prefer soft, cuddly messages from God, you will hate this. Consider yourself warned.

I will start with a quote from Paul David Tripp.

“You live your life in the utterly mundane. And if God doesn’t rule your mundane, he doesn’t rule you, because that’s where you live.

“Live with a ‘God’s Story’ mentality. Redeeming love is not just big-moment love. It reaches into the private recesses of your every day life.

“When you wake up in the morning, ask first, ‘How could it be that God would love me so much?’ and you will be free from the bondage of self-love.”

Whew. That would be enough for us all to reflect on for a day or five, wouldn’t it? P.D.Tripp gave me another phrase that I have not forgotten: The claustrophobic kingdom of one, versus the big-sky purposes of God. This perspective has been so helpful in sorting through my naturally selfish wants and feelings. I think we all sense when we are being unlovely and entitled, but we often lack the strength to call it what it is: sin. I have two columns that help me categorize my responses and reactions in life.

His Will           ———–          My Will

Be conformed to His image                          Be personally fulfilled

Love without strings attached                     Feel valued and cherished by others

Use talents for others                                     Creativity for attention

Die daily                                                            Live a happy life

Become holy                                                     Become better

Be led by the Spirit                                          Forge my own destiny

Walk a narrow, difficult way                        Find the easy path

Freely give                                                        Somebody serve me

Endurance                                                         Ease

Eternal rewards                                               Payment now

 

The conflict is at the cross. If I want my mundane life, my Monday morning in February, to be infused with anything more than drudgery, it has to be lived for a much greater purpose than my own “claustrophobic kingdom of one”. The key is (cringe) death to myself and the way to unlock the whole enormous world of working as a co-laborer with God is not in the nobility of what I am doing, but in my dying to my own grandiose ideas of what life should be.

How I hate dying. Here is the thing. Jesus doesn’t kill me. I give up; I kill me. He doesn’t force me; I have free choice.

He lures me with His great love; I follow, fascinated, consumed, entranced by the wonder of living large in my small place. He takes every space I give Him and He glorifies it with His beauty.

Today I accept His conditions for expansion out of my narrow little valley kingdom that keeps dipping into poverty and grubbiness into His story that is for His glory.

 

***Shew! It was true on January 4, 2017, and it’s still true today. I wrote a list then of things that needed to be infused with glory.

  • my home
  • my classroom
  • my parenting
  • my marriage
  • my writing
  • my friendships
  • my attitudes
  • my kitchen 🙂

All, all of it.

Anybody with me?

Have a wonderful day!

 

 

 

 

The Annual List of Slightly Strange Things

For Which I am Thankful

  • I don’t remember when I have ever written so little, nor had the well of word-love run so low, but it is for a good reason. I have been learning to influence clay instead of wrestling with it. The absorption has been nearly complete some days. My sister-in-law thought I must have a lot of spare time these days and if you want to know the truth, it’s often the time between children’s bedtime and when my husband gets home at midnight that I am using for this pursuit. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t really, really badly want it. More than sleep. More than words and books for a while. I have a warm place to work, light-filled windows, a space outside the house. I am truly grateful.
  • Along with that, I am glad for an activity that keeps me humbled. “I am such small potatoes,” I kept muttering to myself when a rash of difficulties tempted me to quit trying and be normal again and sit down sometimes. I looked at my Instagram feed that ordinarily inspires me to try new things in the pottery realm and I saw all the beautiful perfection and my hardest work fell- not only short- but tipped over the edge into the trash can. It’s okay to feel small and inadequate, so here’s to the hard work of others that has brought them to excellence!
  • This has also been a summer, no, more like an entire year of more cloudy skies than sunny. Endless opportunities to rise above the feelings of apathy that threaten the spirit when there is so little that shines. This is a metaphor, of course. When I get bogged down I think of those words that it is my highest aspiration to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.” There is no tunnel too long or hill too steep for that joy to break through in the end. I am grateful for how Light always triumphs over darkness in the end.
  • We have just come through a round of minor health issues, mostly colds and allergies. My son’s healthcare is paying for immunotherapy and my daughter’s inhaler gave her respite from the rasping wheeziness that was making her life miserable. Our sore throats were cured with hourly gargling with grapefruit seed extract (available here, free shipping today, you’re welcome) and our headaches soothed with peppermint oil. In the middle of the night when the croup cough barks out, I am glad I can plug in the nebulizer instead of boiling onion poultices. Our minor ailments remind me to be grateful every day for wellness and excellent healthcare.
  • The children and I made a startling discovery about living in our age versus when the settlers first came to America. We concluded that probably none of us would be alive anymore, with the possible exception of the first-born if he had made it through his earliest hours without oxygen and never suffered infections from cuts that required stitches, etc. My second son would definitely have died without an emergency C-section and his mother likely would have died at that time too. That would eliminate the girls’ chances to ever even be born, but if mother had lived, the first girl would not have made it past her adrenal crisis. That leaves us with father, whose life is fairly normal through careful treatment of an autoimmune disease that would have likely killed him 7 years ago when it flared really badly and required a bowel resection. Yes, we will all die someday; our times are in God’s hands. And we are grateful that we get to live! Maybe you think that a weird sort of gratefulness exercise, but you should try it.
  • I am glad these days for grammar rules and commas and language that makes sense. My children kick against the instruction, but I am adamant and they get no choice. We usually start and end our days with stories, with heroes and conquests and visions for higher things. They lap it up and then I tell them what they don’t like to hear: this pleasure of written words is why we have grammar, my children. The bulk of my reading in the last half year has been juvenile fiction. It is my favorite genre and I am over-the-top grateful to have a crew of little people who love it too. When I get too busy to read, they haul me back short with no exceptions. “But WE HAVE TO have story time!”
  • There is a craze of coloring going on around here. The small girl who never stops wiggling holds still to color. She spent her money on a set of fine-tipped sharpies and this is what she does during quiet time nearly every day while she listens to Henry Huggins or the Boxcar Children. I don’t know what this is doing in her brain, but it is a good and settling thing.
  • We have too many eggs again, every day 2 dozen of them to sell and to eat. It’s pretty nice not to ever have to haul them home from the grocery store. There is a barn full of chores for the teen son who needs things to do that take him outside pestering his sisters and moaning about grammar lessons. Aside from the tax break we receive from small scale farming, we do not come out ahead financially. We see our barn full of hungry critters as training in a skill set that may actually help our children survive some day, as well as teaching them responsibility. I remind myself to be grateful when I am going to the farm supply store for chicken feed, and it doesn’t take too much effort to feel it. Of course, there are exceptions like Sunday afternoons when we are chasing pigs instead of napping, but even those make great stories.
  • We have abundantly enough and I am thankful to report that I do not have any needs that require me to be out jostling through stores today for things I can’t afford otherwise. I may search for an online sale of really excellent sheets, but other than that, I don’t need anything. I can’t quite fathom the richness of that statement.
  • This is such an interesting season, which is what I say when it isn’t my favorite. We have stretches of days for light jackets and rubber boots, occasional flip-flop weather respites, and blitzing cold days when the children drag every warm thing they own out of totes in the attic and here we go again. But we have the gear, or we go buy it, and we stay warm. My ornamental cabbages still bloom, tenaciously happy in all weathers, and that is what I aspire to be.
  • My sons are into forging hooks out of scrap metal. For all those coats and snowpants, we now have an endless supply of hooks to hang them up. We hang towels on hooks in the bathroom. We put purses on hooks and mugs on hooks, and even our scissors have hooks where they are supposed to live when they are not under the sofa cushions. Here’s to the lowly inventions that enable us to stumble less.

That’s my slightly strange list. I compiled it hurriedly with care for your amusement and now it’s time to pack up for family thanksgiving a day late. My husband had to work yesterday, so we celebrate with turkey and all manner of good food today. Parents, siblings, fellowship, connections, support… they truly are the top of the list.

Happy thanksgiving!

How to Cope With More Than You Can Handle

6:17 AM. Seven years ago, right at this time, I was on the way to the hospital in the last stage of labor. The fibroid tumor alongside my chubby baby’s head was giving us problems with her position, so even though the baby wasn’t stressed, we headed to our back-up plan. (Insert my opinion here, because I know this: Home birth is amazing, but never try it without doctor backup and make sure you are close to a hospital.) It’s 20 minutes of my life I don’t ever want to do again, and I remember moaning about just wanting to die while my husband was driving. “Well, honey, that’s not an option,” he told me cheerfully. He had just finished the first semester of nursing school and as always, he was an amazingly supportive birth coach, keeping me focused on the moment. So, dying was out. I would just have to do this. Seventeen minutes after we were escorted to OB  by an orderly who talked too much in the elevator, Addy came flying into the world. It was so sudden I laughed my relief out loud in the delivery room.

A few hours later, my parents brought the rest of the children to see their baby sister, proof for the chatty orderly that no, this was not our first baby. My oldest son was 8, the next one was 6, and the girls were 3 and 2. I look back at these photos and think that they were all babies.

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My burning question was simple. How? How am I going to do this? When we bring this baby home from the hospital and my husband goes back to work/school, how will I cope? I was reminded of these feelings recently when a friend with 5 small children asked me what one thing I would say to a mom in the daily, hourly, minutely role of raising small children. “I am living the life I used to fear,” she told me, and I knew exactly what she meant. The answer that came was simple.

You do this one day at a time, faithfully doing the next thing. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for successful mothering, because our lives are all different, but this is a formula that will grow and change you in your own heart toward your children. It will give you backbone and strength when you are so tired you are cross-eyed in a tunnel lined with milky sippy cups and poo-stained onesies. Are you ready for this?

This is the time when it is okay to die. This is the time to slay the whiny, “BUT what about ME?” and just pour it out for others. You know you won’t actually die, but selfishness and grandiose ambitions and pride of accomplishments will. Just chuck them out and allow yourself to settle into a very small, hardly noticed place of service. Nobody says, “Wow, did you see how neatly she wiped up those squished peas under the highchair? Isn’t she accomplished? And just look at how amazing she was with that baby wipe.” And yet in that moment with a rag on the floor you gave your life for another. You’ll get it back someday and the more freely you give it up now, the happier you will be.

Don’t be afraid of the narrowness. I think of it like water flowing through a hose. You aren’t a river, satiating the thirst of an entire county. You are responsible for that hopping, squirming row right there in front of you clamoring for a drink. Keep them hydrated. Just concentrate on that. This is not the season to crusade for world peace. Your contribution to the world is nurtured children and it is a huge contribution even while it kills you repeatedly, day after day.

I can’t say you will always feel your “high and holy calling.” It is intense and hot and sticky and there are all these clingers-on every time you do venture away from home territory. You will fight the urge to run to a place where nobody calls you “Mama.” There will be times you feel like you simply cannot get off the couch to deal with the children who are scrapping madly in their bedroom.

But you will be all in, freely investing your talents in this hidden place. You will be lavishly working to make life happy, saying “yes” when you dread the mess your consent will create, reading the same storybook 3 times a day, listening to endless rewinds of an alleged dream, thinking endlessly about what to feed the people. You will be teaching your children how to say sorry, how to wash their hands and their dishes and their clothes, how to make life sweeter for others. Your books will languish, unread, and your prayers will be profound phrases like, “Help me, Jesus.”

You will repent and apologize when you fall, and then you will get up for another round, knowing that Grace is holding you and you are in a good place. You will find Joy in this spot, like looking through a cardboard tube at your life and when you block out all the peripherals you zero in on the loveliest vignettes in the middle of the chaos.

It is simple, but I didn’t say it is easy. “I’ll do hard things for love of you, Jesus,” I promised in my youth. Hear me. It was impossible for this impatient, goal-oriented, ambitious girl to settle into that narrow life and flourish. I wasn’t a nurturer by nature. I wanted to do big things, broad strokes that would change the world. Something had to give and it was me. I just didn’t know how hard it would be to live small, contained, in one little place, with just these same little people every day. I needed to learn the glory of small things, a little leaven, a grain of mustard seed. The dying was excruciating and it continues on. How can one person have so much selfishness?

I am currently in a season where I am able to zoom out, pick up dreams to pursue, walk in a wider place. My baby just cooked her own breakfast while I hovered anxiously in case the eggs spilled onto the stove. Wow, that happened fast, I think.

 

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If you feel stifled, smothered by neediness, afraid to let go of who you are, take it from me. Things become richer when you condense them, even souls.

Currently, a Long Time Ago, with a Look at the Future

I just spent a few post-supper hours in my pottery shed. I shut the door, turned on the fan, briefly mourned the smashed pitcher that a well-meaning child dropped before it was fired, and got down to business with a fresh box of clay. That was especially nice, since I have been only working with reclaimed clay from pieces that seemed good at one time, but lost their appeal as I got slightly more advanced in my skills. Yesterday I made a really nice serving bowl, only to fish a piece of plastic bag out of it when I was doing the final trimming. Bummer.

Tonight I cut my fresh clay into equal 200 g portions to try my hand at making small matching bowls. I wanted snack bowls, the sort of thing you put your child’s apple slices into. I had only three successes and at least six squashes. Apparently it was the night to make every rookie mistake and I may have invented a few extra ones.

We are sitting on the deck with the Tiki torches lit to fend off the mosquitoes on this perfect summer evening. Addy practiced “reading” a story that she has pretty much memorized while Rita played with her miniscule Sculpey clay figures. She made a squirrel family for her fairy garden, and one mischievous fox that slinks around. The people turned out the same size as the squirrels, and their couches would work for either the humans or animals.

We had humid sunshine this week. Every time I check the gardens, the cucumbers and tomatoes have leaped higher. I am so pleased that finally I have cucumber plants growing up a trellis. They never cooperated in other years, but these are flourishing. I keep an eye on developments, but every time I need a cuke for a salad, a small Peight girl has already had it for snack. I have six plants; surely they won’t be able to keep up! Sadly, my seed potatoes and a lot of my dahlias rotted in the weeks of unrelenting wet after I planted.

The lawn is leaping too! Our grass isn’t thick, so we can get by with only once a week mowing, which is good because I run out of dollars for the mower-children. Most of their jobs are unpaid except by thanks and hopefully a good feeling at being a useful part of society. Lawn mowing, weed-eating, window-washing, and car cleaning are paid work. I have wondered what the children of the future will do to earn spending money once all the tasks are taken by robots.

I am deeply suspicious of robots. Every time we go anywhere local, we drive past a neighbor with a robotic lawnmower. It drives me nuts. The children say, “Mom. Mom… don’t look.” But of course I have to look. It is always out, questing around for a stray blade of grass, leaving the worst zig-zag tracks you ever saw! When we had a snow shower in late April, it was out tracking in the snow. That was when it clicked for me. Ever since I read “There Will Come Soft Rains” in Literature class in school with its mechanical cleaning mice that darted out of the walls to clean up crumbs and dirt, I have felt that robots are creepy. (You can listen to Ray Bradbury’s short story here.  (disclaimer: It’s very sad when the dog dies.) )

I do not intend ever to have an Amazon Echo in my house. Nope, nopety-nope. It’s too much like August 5, 2026. And a goat would be a huge improvement on that ridiculous mower!

And just because a post is more interesting with a picture, here’s the view from my deck on a gorgeous morning last week.

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The children and I are doing a summer Bible reading challenge, during which we are reading the New Testament. This past week we read Revelation. It is breathtaking and terrifying- all those apocalyptic descriptions where John seems to be grasping at words wholly inadequate for what he saw. The scene that touches me the most is the one where all nations, kindreds, and tongues fall before the throne of the Lamb. All our temptations toward me-centeredness will be gone for good! The popular theology that makes God and irresistible me besties that hang out together is a flippant view that makes me cringe every time I hear it. I know that I am loved with an Everlasting Love and that knowing is the sort of thing that prompts falling on my face before God in worship.

I have to include a bit of my personal drama, not because it is so important, but because I am living in a haze of gratefulness these days. About 10 days ago I was on my hands and knees, washing the kitchen floor. I twisted to the side to reach as far as I could when I felt my knee do the crazy strain/pain that I have had before. I broke out in a cold sweat, trying to push past the pain to straighten out my leg. Thankfully, Gabe was home so that he could help me up off the floor. I thought if I held really still, the pain might go away, but when the tears squeezed out of my eyes uninvited, and the children stared in horror, my husband said, “We’re going to get this checked out.” An Xray showed no bone damage. It was the weekend. I came home with an immobilizing splint and crutches. If I kept my leg completely straight and held perfectly still, I could deal with it. If I tried any funny business like ordinary life, I got extremely unhappy messages from my knee.

It was 5 days before I could get in to an orthopedic surgeon and I was told that I just have to take it easy, wait a week for an opening to get an MRI to assess the damage to my meniscus (hypothetically). I hobbled out to the Suburban, did my awkward stiff-legged climb in with the driver’s seat all the way back so I could get my foot past the e-brake, and I sat there in a parking lot and cried great salty tears of self-pity. I felt that my summer was shot. The doc had said there was always a chance that whatever was torn would unfold itself and give me relief. Meanwhile… pain meds and splints.

I had been begging God to fix me the entire week. As I sat there in the Suburban, mopping my face with a scratchy paper towel, I knew that this was a test. I say He is always good. So what if (worst case scenario) happens… Do I believe that He is good? Yes. Yes, I do. Am I so special that I should never have any hard things in my life? No. No, I am not. Is there grace for this problem, for this looming summer of inactivity? Yes, of course. God graciously poured His truth over me and I stowed my paper towel and drove home.

The next day I was stiffer than ever. I was scooting along the edge of the porch to try to pull some weeds that were growing there, but it wasn’t going very well. “Please, Lord, help me bend this knee,” I muttered under my breath. Impulsively I used my hands to haul on it, and tried for a 45 degree angle. There was no pain! I pulled on that knee until it was bent to the full normal range of motion. Hardly believing it, I walked to the mailbox. It was a creaky walk, but with every step I felt it getting more limber. I was too cautious to leap and dance, but I sure did praise God! For some reason He allowed that handicap to last for 6 days, and then He gave me relief.

It isn’t healed totally. My knee is gimpy, buckling without warning a few times a day. I didn’t cancel the MRI. But I am so thankful for the ability to go up and down steps to do laundry, for being able to sit at my wheel and throw pots, for the capacity to lie on my side in the bed, for the privilege to serve my family instead of them serving me.

Meanwhile I will be using a mop.

Going out with a Giveaway

I am so delighted at how fast this month flew by. I entered it with the dolorous viewpoint that I struggle with in wintertime, as you no doubt noticed. One of my coping mechanisms is to push myself to do something creative every day, whether I feel like it or not. Writing about a Day in the Life makes me notice the little things that are not dismal. Publishing posts about what I believe about God helps me to be accountable. Am I living like I believe what I said I believe? Or not? What would my children say about that, considering that my words and actions are statements of what I really believe, everyday…

Maybe you think it is almost fashionable to get depressed in wintertime. Let me assure you, nobody, not even a pessimist, would choose to walk through valleys of depression, whether it’s baby blues, hormonal upsets, or even the SADness resulting from lack of sunshine. It is not fun to feel like all happiness has fled, maybe forever, and howling wilderness is all that is left. It is even worse when your brain gets confused and cannot muster the strength to override the feelings like you have trained it to do. I told my husband one day, “I have a strong place in my mind, but I keep falling off it.”

I love the beautiful attitudes in Matthew 5. In my own words, these are the attitudes of the people Jesus gave assurance of his blessing.

  • I need help (poor in spirit).
  • I am incomplete; I am missing something; I am broken (those who mourn shall be comforted).
  • I cannot do what I am called to do; with His help I can (meek, inherit the earth).
  • I have empty places only He can satisfy; I am desperately parched (those who hunger and thirst).
  • I am here to be kind, whether others deserve it or not (merciful).
  • I cannot live separated from God, therefore I cannot excuse my sin (pure in heart shall see God).
  • I love harmony more than strife and being the top dog (peacemakers).
  • I am willing to die for love of the Righteous One (persecuted for righteousness’ sake).
  • I will not waver from the way of Christ, even though it goes against popular opinions and I am ridiculed (reviled falsely) for my loyalty.

 

The list itself doesn’t sound giddy with happiness and #blessedness, does it? Yet, the passage concludes with “Rejoice! Your reward is in heaven!” I think we seldom have a proper concept of being broken in a broken world. There is truth that Jesus makes us whole, but there is also the living that goes on in our imperfect situations, with our deceitful hearts that tend to stray away from wholeness. Jesus made it clear that we are in a good place, what the Amplified Bible calls “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous –with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions”, when we are bowed down in utter poverty, begging Him for what we need. It’s a paradox of the Kingdom that is hard to describe, but if you have been there, you know it.

The beautiful attitudes have given me courage. They are not feel-good attitudes. They are attitudes that line up with what cannot be shaken, and so they are blessed. There may be months of frozen wilderness, but I know that there is a Faithful One directing the affairs of the whole Earth, and one small person’s wasteland is so amply provided for by the resources of heaven. Maybe you, like I do at times, feel that the flowers must bloom again or you will die. (I speak metaphorically, of course.) They will. Believe it.

Jeremiah, the prophet who wept his entire career, wrote the one of the most beautiful verses in the middle of his Lamentations:

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You can hear him shoring up his soul on those verities. I, too, am staking it all on that!

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And now, for the giveaway, I have a different idea from the normal giveaway. You already won when you left your comment during this past month. Because I was cheered and blessed by your voice, telling me what you thought, how you are doing, etc, I have something to give you. Remember my dahlia row in the garden? I have some bulbs to share with every one of you lovely commenters. I just need your mailing address sent to my email: dorcasp8 at gmail and I will send you a wrinkled, ugly looking tuber that will give you great bouquets of glory this summer. It is an allegory, okay? 🙂 I cannot tell for sure which bulbs are the ones like the photo, and which are solid crimson, so it will have to be a surprise for you.

(Thanks for walking February with me. Please don’t forget to email me your address. I think there are 25 of you. )

 

Lover of My Soul

(This homily came to me in a sort of dream-picture. Generally I do not take my dreams very seriously, but this one I tried to write down before I forgot it. What it means to you may be different from what it means to me, but I hope it blesses you.)

He came to her when she was crouched weeping in her barren garden. She had come face to face with her failure to make anything grow. The world was starving, yet no essence of goodness was produced from her hands. The mess around her was enough to repel anyone. There were the shards of broken pride where she had fallen headlong and shattered the priceless vessel of independence she had been carrying so protectively. There was the stench of self-rule, the fertilizer she had been planning to apply, its black filth so artfully disguised in her vessel. It oozed around her feet, exposed. Worthless. The dejection of failure streaked down her cheeks. She couldn’t even grow a simple garden.

In that hopeless moment of shamed realization, he came. She smelled the fragrance first, clean and pure. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him there, a great bouquet of crimson lilies in his hands, face alight with, could it be? Forgiveness? Love? Confused, she looked around, but there were only the two of them, so she took the token of his acceptance and hope. She glanced around her garden plot, but there was nothing to offer in return. Returning to her weeping, she became aware of the wrinkled little lump that was her heart, shriveled as an old seed potato. Ashamed, nothing to lose, she held it out in her palm and she offered it to him. She held nothing back, no bits of dirt or sprouts of ambition.

His smile of joy transfigured the situation. The mess was no longer the focal point of her existence. He took the shriveled little potato-heart and did something curious. She watched as he knelt and dug a hole right there in the disarray and planted her offering, heaping the dirt gently around.

No one was more astonished than she was when the tiny green leaves pushed out of the dirt, and a plant grew sturdily, blooming white and full. He showed her how to water it, pull the weeds, keep the soil soft. One day they dug under it gently. In the roots they found abundant new potatoes, healthy and nourishing, sprung right out of that old shriveled heart.

“They grew so you can give them away,” he said. “They are for others.”

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Joyfully Doing the Work

“I have so much to do,” little Miss Drama wailed, “it just isn’t worth living anymore.” This, because of one basket of laundry to fold? I investigated; it did look like the older children had saved the biggest, most overwhelming basket for her to do, so I told her to do her best and I would come help her finish it up once I had supper underway. She kept on sighing about how I would never get done so I could help with her work. The most logical solution at the moment was to march her off to bed for some quiet time. Things quieted down very quickly and I saw that she had fallen asleep. After a nap and a hamburger, we tackled her laundry together and she cheerfully put it all away. Mama loves her; her folding skills are better than she thought they were; life was worth living after all.

I copied a verse from Isaiah recently. Then I taped it beside the kitchen window where I see it when I am washing dishes.

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” Is. 64:4

I am not unlike my little girl some days. Of course I wouldn’t holler and cry out loud about my impossible work assignments, but I might think they were just too much and not fair, and when is He going to show up to help me, and besides, couldn’t we spread the work around a bit more?

I have been thinking about how He does show up, always, when I am joyfully working righteousness. I look forward to those meetings. Who doesn’t like to be with a person who is eagerly waiting for them, interested in what is going on in their world? Making space for them to be right there, have conversation, work together?

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I don’t know of a worse waste of time than wallowing in how huge my basket of laundry is. Granted, sometimes I need a nap and some food, but it does help my attitude when I fully expect God to show up in this ordinary, humongous task that I am expected to do.

When we are engaged in anything worthy, it means we will be grappling with hard things. Being useful, fruitful, working righteousness… anything you want to call it… means getting tired. So how about we stop whining about no hammock and lemonade, just stop at the end of the day and let Him give His beloved sleep, then get up and go at it again the next day?

Every time I think I have learned this, a humdinger challenge comes along. This is why I do not  proclaim it too loudly, because the next grade is bound to be harder. You know how it goes. If you don’t flunk out of the times tables, you will most certainly be doing long division next.

Well, yay! for advancing! Onward and upward, friends.

Hebrews 11: a modern paraphrase.

 

By faith the Christians in the 21st century understand that the material world is only a screen from the real world, and they are not afraid to call it what it is.

By faith many of them endure the fiercest persecution, spending years in unjust conditions, without even the most basic human needs being met. By faith they will not deny Jesus, knowing that this could lead to cruel death at the hands of those who hate Him.

By faith they accept mistreatment and loss of position in the world, choosing rather to believe that the way of Christ is a humble way of not making any deals with the enemy.

By faith they use their gifts to further the Kingdom of heaven, striving to live uprightly in an evil age.

By faith they obey, raising their families in a counter-culture lifestyle, not accepting the status quo of ungodly poisons pumped into the young. By faith they teach their children to trust God in an era of rank unbelief, not caring how unpopular they may be in the world.

By faith they embrace sacrifice, refusing to live as though the only thing that matters is collecting more stuff and becoming more comfortable. By faith they freely share their goods with those less fortunate, trusting God to do their investment accounts in heaven.

By faith they tenaciously believe God in the midst of the inscrutable, staking everything on what is invisible. Knowing that it is impossible for Him to lie, they wait patiently for the better things He is preparing for them.

Asking For It

This came to me in response to my own shoulders shrugging off what I knew God wanted to do in my life. I felt like an adolescent who says, “Don’t touch me,” even though what I really needed was some discipline and direction.

 

Ps. 138:8

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

 

Ooh, I want your purpose. I want steadfast love. I want forever.

“Girl, you just asked for it, big time!”

Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father,

we are the clay, and you are our potter:

we are all the work of your hand.”

 

I love being the work of your hand. That is just an amazing thought!

Wait! What is this pounding and wedging, this dizzying spin on a wheel, the heat of the furnace?

This… is steadfast love?

Ow! I didn’t sign up for this!

Oh, yes.

I guess I did.

Stop resisting the Potter, girl.

“Do you want to fly off the wheel into the uselessness of the repurposing bucket?

“Of course you will get another chance, but it won’t be easier or feel better than this one did.”

And now they quote Romans 8: 28 for me.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

And that’s where they stop quoting, but what is this purpose really? I am not feeling it at all. Let me see what the next verse says.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers?”

Really? All those things that are supposed to work together for my good..?

It sounds like he is doing it on purpose to make me look and act like Jesus… like this was the plan from the beginning of the world.

Hmmm, apparently being in the family is more than a sweet thought in God’s mind, more personal than a name on a family tree. This sure feels personal anyway.

I am not getting the idea here that he says, “Oh, I just cannot resist your cuteness,” and then gives me everything I want. I have actually been kind of bratty and rebellious.

I guess God takes family resemblance pretty seriously. I guess love looks a little like training, just like he promised.

It’s not that I don’t want his hand on my life, it’s just that I like to complain when it’s uncomfortable and I don’t get my way.

“Girl,” he puts his hand on my shoulder again, “you have my steadfast love. You asked for it. I will not ever forsake the work.”

And look at this. Here’s the best part in verse 31:

“What then shall we say to these things?”

If God is for us, who can be against us?”

 

Wow. I guess I will quit whining now.