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.

Photo credit: fishkillfarms.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Pink-Lady-1024×576.jpg

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.

Photo credit: https://static.pexels.com/photos/27324/pexels-photo-27324.jpg

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!

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.

Photo credit: http://res.freestockphotos.biz/pictures/2/2302-a-burning-candle-pv.jpg

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

I have Mother’s Day all planned out. First I’m running a Mother’s Day 5K. (They give you a rose!) Then I’m going to my favorite coffee shop (alone!) to write my annual I Love You So Much letter to each of the kids. Then after church on Sunday, hubby and kids will take a hike with me. Even if some of the offspring aren’t exactly into hiking. It’s my day, doggone it.

Hubby points out that a lot of my Mother’s Day choices seem to involve me being alone.

Whatever. I seriously don’t feel guilty about that.

I revel in the joy of being a mom! No guilt at all as I celebrate Mother’s Day by replenishing my soul to love for the long haul.

The other 364 days of the year however, I carry pervasive, low-grade mom guilt.

Heavy, heavy weight.

At the core: “Am I doing enough? Am I providing enough: opportunity for growth and responsibility and discernment of their callings?”

My true breath of freedom and hope comes when I take time away. To fill myself up on a regular basis. The irony is that sometimes the best way to serve my family is to step away.

So I sit quietly with Him. Just on the edge of my bed, a blanket wrapped around me because I’m usually cold in Colorado.

I look out the window and marvel at the towering, graceful tree across the street. I drink in the serene blue of the sky. The distant, snowy point of Pike’s Peak.

I open His Book, and His true Words pour into my heart.

“I love you. I love you differently than I love other people. Not because I change. But because you are unique. I love you out of the overflow of Who I Am. I Am Love.”

So He fills me up. He quenches the thirsty, wistful parts.

And in little ways I can parent without guilt. I am loved deeply. His overflow helps me to love them deeply. Each one uniquely.

Who knows how my beautiful children will turn out? I don’t.

He gives me patience to keep sowing. To keep loving. To keep disciplining. To keep doing laundry and making meals. To keep having kid dates at McDonalds. To keep reading stories and listening and laughing.

There really doesn’t seem to be much to show for all this little humble work.

But it seems like when Jesus died and rose again and returned to heaven, there wasn’t a lot of showy produce among His followers.

And yet His sacrifice had watered and fertilized the scattered seed of His children. And they grew- slowly, steadily, awkwardly- into the global Body of Christ.

I will trust Him again (for today, anyway) to produce beautiful fruit in the lives of these beautiful, human children.

Walking by faith.

No guilt.

Photo credit: http://www.uncalke.com/i/spring-flowers-wallpaper-background.jpg

Sacred Sink

Sacred Sink

If you’re looking for me, try the kitchen. I spend about 98.3% of my waking hours there. (I should verify that number, but it sounds right.)

As a new wife I almost killed my young husband with rich, nightly feasts of beef stroganoff and creamy casseroles.

Then the babies started coming! And the food allergies.

And the kitchen became my laboratory. A little intense like high school science lab. But I was able to nourish my family! Which felt fulfilling. And exhausting.

The whole three meals and two snacks a day thing took a little of the bounce out of my culinary enthusiasm.

And I’m still in the kitchen! Years of feeding these growing kids who are now beginning to tower over me. And my kind husband who eats everything with gratitude.

The day is coming when my kitchen time will ease up. But it’s not right now.

Sometimes I resent this little room. So many tedious hours of hard work. It’s quite a long process to make a batch of pancakes for dinner. (They are definitely too much work for me to consider pancakes a breakfast food.) And then they’re gone. In a blink.

A weird combination of fulfilling and flattening.

That felt like a lot of work to see no tangible results.

Except dirty dishes.

Ah, the dirty dishes!

My bane and blessing.

More kitchen time. More ordinary, tedious work. That will be undone again at the next meal.

And yet – what blessing! We have dishes! And, thank You, God, they’re dirty! Which means that our family had food to eat.

daffodil sink

And so this ordinary little sink becomes a sacred workplace.  It holds a vital rhythm of life to go slow. Which is not my reflexive pace.

To feel hot water and carefully, thoroughly wash each plate. Each spoon.  Each pan.

Fresh smelling suds.

And quiet.

And maybe half way through the rhythm of washing and rinsing, washing and rinsing, the thought occurs to me that You are here, too, Lord.

Thank You for being here.

Thank You for grace.

You forgive me all. the. time.

And I love You.

Whatever You want, Lord. Anything. I’m Your girl.

I’ll go to the dark, remote corners of the globe.

I’ll speak on stages.

I’ll learn new languages.

I’ll translate the Bible.

I’ll be kind to my husband.

I’ll read stories to my children.

I’ll make pancakes for dinner.

I’ll wash dirty dishes at this sink for 5, 10, 50 years.

I’m Your girl.

So I find contentment.

Because the mystery of my mundane kitchen is that God is here. Always.

Photo credits: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4c/48/be/4c48be63173557d89afc8ebf73fea729.jpg and https://toolkit.climate.gov/sites/default/files/Spring-fed%20stream%20on%20a%20Sky%20Island.JPG

What’s Better Than Blessings?

What’s Better Than Blessings?

It’s all about Him, really.

Which is a relief.

Our souls ache to worship. So it’s funny that when I stumble onto the immovable truth that it’s all about Him, I’m often surprised.

I remember reading Psalm 66:8 which says, “Bless our God, O peoples.” Except that I literally glanced at the words and thought they said, “Bless our people, O God.” I’m so used to asking for God’s blessing, and I don’t think of blessing Him.

Sometimes I ache for words to be a part of my being. I wish I could swallow them and they would radiate from my inner being into every fiber.

Ephesians 3:20-21 is like that for me.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

I have learned to pray bold prayers with this verse. Tiny glimpses of “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” shoot into my brain, and I’m overwhelmed. Actually, when I get a hint of these tiny glimpses, the prayer request itself pales dramatically in comparison to the One I’m praying to.

The ability of God to do abundantly more than I can imagine seems like an aside. It’s sandwiched in the main point. “Now to him.”

The main point is God.

Even my hope to conquer my own pervasive sinfulness and live out of His righteousness isn’t about me.

“Your people shall all be righteous… that I might be glorified.” Isaiah 60:21

We have friends who served the Kurds in Iraq for many years. Well-meaning Americans would sympathize with them about the brutal summer temperatures. Our friends bluntly told them, “We’re not here for the weather.”

“Now to him.”

2 Timothy 2:4 has soaked into the fiber of these friends: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”

My life is full of “civilian pursuits.” Shopping and cooking and laundry and cleaning. Such good stuff. But may I not be entangled in these pursuits. May they not be an end of themselves.

I long to get all messy in the daily stuff of life with my precious people as I live with and for Him. To summon my energy and heart that I may give my best as I cook breakfast and drive kids to karate and talk to my neighbor.

And I continue to pray for blessing!! He delights in blessing His children! But the true blessing that I long for is Jesus. Empty and pointless are blessings without the beautiful Blesser Himself.

As C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We were made for more than obtaining blessings! He has made our souls to be caught up in His grand, Kingdom purposes! That we would be part of the blessing. And ultimately that He would be lifted up.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.”
Psalm 67:1-2

Photo credit: Youwall.com