My Life as a Farmer

My Life as a Farmer

My roots dig deeply into Indiana soil.

South Bend isn’t exactly rural, but my calling to bear fruit resonates deeply.

“I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16

And so I plant seeds.

Parenting is planting.

Planting tiny dried up bits of seeds. They seem so insignificant.

Countless ordinary moments.

I teach math and manners.

Self-control and serving.

I encourage quietness and forgiveness.

Prayer and perseverance.

And in the hidden soil of their hearts mystery lurks. I have no idea what’s happening in there.

Is the Master Gardener nurturing a soft, quiet servant heart? Is He watering and weeding a bold leader? Will the branches stretch overseas to a people that thirst for good news? Will the leaves grow thick and shelter hurt ones close to home?

We plant, and we water.

But God gives the growth.

Master Gardener, we pray for the mysterious miracle of growth.

Only the warm breath of God can coax life out of a tiny bit of hardness.

Only His life can shoot growth into wisps of roots that grow deeper and stronger.

Only His love can lure tender, green stems to reach up for warmth. And slowly, slowly absorb the nutrients of His word to grow a faithful trunk and strong branches.

Until one day they bear the miracle of fruit themselves.

And the legacy continues.

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Remembering to Float

Remembering to Float

So, Lord, I have these problems.

And in some ways I’m thankful.

Without hard stuff I tend to glide through life with a friendly nod in Your direction.

But when the problems come, I catch my breath and lean into You.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

So this hard stuff is my opportunity to trust You. To please You by believing that You will make a way out.

It helps that my feet can’t touch the bottom. It’s almost hard to not trust You.

But, while I’m here treading water, waiting for Your intervention, I can think of some ways that You can solve this.

May I let go. Release my solutions and timetable. Float on the water of Your unfathomable goodness.

My ears submerged, muffling the chaos. Enveloped in the other-worldly peace of Your presence.

May I be like that astonishing Roman centurion who prompted singular praise from You. (Matthew 8)

He knew that You could do a miracle without human scaffolding.

He didn’t need a plan.

You were sufficient.

You are Sufficient.

So I remember Your power and goodness. And my heart inflates with hope.

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10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

“We’re going to show the world how marriage is supposed to be done!”

We actually said this before we got married. Of course it was before we got married. Marriage itself has a way of humbling people.

And now we’re celebrating 20 years! Our slogan now might sound more like, “We know how marriage is not supposed to be done!”

Here are my top ten things that I have learned in 20 years of marriage.

  1. Be humble. In some ways I am a model American – proud and independent. My whole frame of reference from birth has been myself. Being married forced me to consider his point of view. So unnatural and uncomfortable! Impossible to imagine that there is another perspective on how to celebrate Christmas or what to do on a Friday night. Or, that our disagreement might be more easily resolved if I try to see it through his eyes.
  2. Slow down. This is an outflow and discipline of humility. My personality leans toward fast thinking, fast speaking, fast acting. It’s been awkward, but so helpful, to slow down those fast reactions. It’s hard to retract words that spew from reflexive anger. I even try to have a little speech prepared that will give me time to reflect before I speak. “I feel too angry right now to talk about this. Let’s talk about it later.” The challenge is to actually talk about it later!
  3. Journal. Everyone has a different way of processing muddled thoughts and feelings. Writing in an old notebook gives me a safe place to write out my feelings and thoughts. I start by spilling all the feelings on paper, and then I’m able to get a little deeper and unravel the source of my frustration – which is usually fear of some kind. It deflates my defensive anger, and I’m more able to engage in discussion with him.
  4. Sit on the couch. We are not always in this habit. But, it is a great discipline to sit and relax and connect for 15 minutes at the end of the day. Little things that happened during the day come up. Even though we’re usually exhausted it is good to connect. Our lives are usually so constrained by daily obligations that couch time doesn’t come naturally. But, it’s a good way to nurture the friendship of marriage.

  5. Date night. Of course! You can’t have a top ten marriage list without date night! Over the years, our date night currently looks more like date afternoon. And we have found that grabbing a cherry limeade and sitting and talking at Sonic is a nice break from a house full of kids. We also realize that hiking together is a great, budget-friendly way to do dates. Actually, it was a surprise to realize that we both like to hike! We are certainly thankful for colorful Colorado! Afternoon dates are a good way also to compromise the energy levels for a night owl and an early bird.
  6. Pass the pencil. I have become a conflict avoider over the years. It’s taken me awhile to realize that just blowing off conflict doesn’t make it go away. But, oh how I dread those hard conversations that can be a door to reconciliation! A great tool for us is passing the pencil. We each get a turn to “tell our side.” When it’s his turn to talk, he holds the pencil. I am not allowed to speak until he hands me the pencil. And then, during his turn, when he hands me the pencil, I am only allowed to paraphrase what he has just said. The goal is that he can express his “side” and that I can show that I understand. So much of conflict is simply feeling “not understood.” Then, when it’s turn for “my side,” we switch the pencil. It’s a great tool, but I find that I still need a time limit as we do this. Even if we don’t get to actual steps of resolution, just feeling heard is huge.
  7. Celebrate! My romantic husband insists that we set aside time to intentionally celebrate our anniversary each year. This year, the big 20, he actually asked me to take a day off of work for it! Not easy for me, but what a great way to prioritize celebrating our marriage! We even re-enact our first date every December 1st. He brings me a poinsettia like he did on our first date and we do our best to copy what we did on that first date.
  8. Keep learning. Before we were married we felt pretty confident that we knew how to do marriage, but since our first heated argument on our honey moon in Hawaii, we’ve been undeceived! We’ve read marriage books and blogs, attended retreats and workshops, and done some counseling over the years. No silver bullets. But a lifestyle of growing and learning. (Couples that have been married for 40 and 50 years tell us that this never changes!)
  9. Kids take a backseat. This is counter-intuitive for me as a mom. From the moment the kids arrived on the scene I was consumed with caring for them. I’ve sometimes thought, “I’ll prioritize our marriage when they leave the house.” But in the same thought I realize that it would be too late. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is parents that worked on having a healthy marriage.

  10. Hang with Jesus. The greatest gift I can give our marriage is a heart that is close to Jesus. My times of quietness with Him re-calibrate how I approach our relationship. Where my instincts are self-focused, He tends to whisper wisdom. When I start to forge ahead in emotion, He tends to slow me down. He gives me courage and peace and deep, true satisfaction no matter the ups and downs. Marriage is from Him and through Him and for Him. A mystery indeed!

Here is a little list of resources that have been very helpful to me in the marriage area:

  • Family Life marriage conferences
  • For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (I’m sure that For Men Only by the same author is great for husbands also!)
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  • The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I also gain so much wisdom by talking to other people about their marriages. Everyone has a unique experience and perspective. It really encourages and enriches me to hear from others.

SO, I would love to hear your nuggets of marriage wisdom or favorite marriage resources. Please comment below so we can all be encouraged!

The Foolishness of Wise Men

The Foolishness of Wise Men

A silent, brilliant beacon of hope pulses in the sky.

A King has come.

And His star draws wise men.

They simply can’t sit in their Persian palaces. They must get up and go. Gather their servants and horses and travel 1,000 miles.

It looks reckless. Extreme. Foolish.

Paul said, “We are fools for Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:10

But the worship of the wise men was deliberate and planned.

They studied the prophecy , and they studied the star.

They chose their response.

They planned. They packed.

They traveled days. Maybe months.

They stuck to their plan.

Their worship was costly.

Such a journey required extravagant time and money.

But the human heart is made to love Him.

When we land on Jesus, our hearts thrill. “Finally. This is It. This is Who I’m made for.”

And we long to worship.

Not just superficially. Deeply. Calling up the best and most valuable.

In the tradition of King David who wanted to build an altar of worship on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah wanted to give his threshing floor for the altar.

But David wouldn’t budge.

“I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing.”

Oh to be a fool for Christ! The exhilarating freedom of living for an audience of One.

1,000 long, costly miles.

They worshiped Him.

Face to face.

Their knees and hearts bending in awe.

And they turned around and went home.

No regrets.

Photo credit: http://image.pstune.com/photos/epzuwtzmt8c/nuazh0sxvd8_middle.jpg

It Is Well

It Is Well

Though the money runs out before the paycheck comes in…. It is well with my soul.

Though political and social upheaval unsettle my world and even my mind…. It is well with my soul.

Though just the right job that suits my passions and my strengths eludes me…. It is well with my soul.

Though the corn dog casserole flips upside down onto the kitchen floor just in time for dinner…. It is well with my soul.

Though my unconscious, unrelenting commitment to self over others brings relational brokenness …. It is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

On the deepest level.

God fills the emptiness.

He imbues with deep, eternal purpose that which seems meaningless and futile.

He Himself pulses peace in the heartbreak of grief.

He radiates brilliant beauty in drab, dirty, darkness.

He supplies unnatural hope when it seems there is no way out.

He inundates abundance over the mean and meager.

When there is nothing left in me He blasts His mighty strength through my feeble weakness.

When anger wells up and threatens to lay waste, His arrows of humility and wisdom level my pride.

When daily living seems like endless drudgery, I light a candle. The single, brilliant white flame reminds me that He is right here. I can hardly avert my gaze. Relief and deep comfort.

May I continue to serve faithfully and gladly by the power of Your presence.

And so.

It is well with my soul.

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Worship

Worship

I pause my dishwashing and savor the old song.

“My son, my son, why are you striving?
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you.”

Classic Keith Green.

Brings me back 30 years!

Vivid memories of newfound life in Jesus wash over me.

Looking back to the days when I was alive– for the first time in my life. Reveling in awkward beginnings and church life and Jesus.

These lyrics pack fresh power for me tonight. Even now that I am a middle-aged mama with a husband and kids, a minivan and a dog. It’s good to remember my first love.

Why the subconscious, ceaseless striving?

I can’t add one single thing to the sacrifice of Jesus. Impossible that there is anything at all that would negate the need for His holy blood.

I know this. Of course, I know.

“But when I hear the praises start, my child…”

Ah, relief. My gaze shifts from me to Him.

A breath of fresh air as my yearning heart gives Him praise. The striving and the stress begin to roll away.

The striving ebbs, but the yearning flows stronger. Oh, how my heart is made for Him alone.

“My precious  bride
The day is nearing
When I’ll take you in my arms and hold you…”

We are the Bride of Christ. Yearning for our Bridegroom. To be held by Him– intimate and eternal.

The Lord inhabits the praise of His people.

No wonder the tears come, and I can’t squeak out even words of praise anymore.

He is here. Up close. And my heart brims with His nearness.

A few minutes of worship. I feel filled up, and a little sad. Bittersweet taste of Heaven.

Back to my work I go. Deeply glad to experience again that I am His.

 Photo credit: http://www.fabuloussavers.com/new_wallpaper/Colors_Of_Fall_freecomputerdesktopwallpaper_1280.jpg

It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Wise Yoda! The little, green guy himself was a big example that what’s inside is more important than what’s outside.

My heart matters.

And I discover that it matters to nurture the core of my being.

But, it’s a struggle. It’s more gratifying to tick off the to do list. All the tangible stuff. It feels good to see the before and after of cleaning the house, doing laundry, and buying groceries.

Taking care of my heart doesn’t show. At least not for awhile.

What’s weird is the invisible, spiritual part of me is the part that lasts – right into eternity. That checklist stuff, although it does have value, is fleeting.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

It seems like a waste of time to cultivate my heart. But it’s not.

My outside world may be in shambles, but my heart can be strong.

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

When I come to Him in private quietness … my heart changes. I open His Word – alive and active- and He opens His mouth. He breathes on Me. He speaks to Me. Tender and beautiful. Heart-strong.

Spiritual disciplines feed my soul and bind my heart to His. Common sense says they are a waste of time.

Honestly, they feel counterproductive. I could get so much more done if I didn’t take the time to pray, read Scripture, fast, and go to church! It’s so against the grain to slow and soak in these things when my tangible, immediate, urgent world screams for attention.

And once again it boils down to faith.

I step off the solid cliff of self-sufficiency and fall into His strong arms of supernatural power. And I realize that what my little world needed all along was what only God can do.

God forbid that I doom my world and my own heart to only what I can understand and accomplish. May I take time for His strong, fierce beauty to indwell and change me. I long for the beauty that doesn’t come from haircuts and clothes and makeup and cute shoes.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self….” 1 Peter 3:3-4

It’s not a waste of time to nurture the hidden person of my heart. In fact, it seems easier to cultivate vibrant, luminous soul beauty when physical beauty is lacking. Thank you for that reminder, Yoda.

 

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