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Garden Work

garden

Each summer I volunteer some of my time at a local farm, pulling weeds, harvesting vegetables, mulching, filling CSA bags with goodies, whatever needs to be done. And if you’ve spent any time on a farm, you know that there is ALWAYS work to do.

My daughter had heard about this non-profit farm and years ago we visited it to see how we could help, over the years I keep returning. It requires a beautiful drive in the country to get there, and while I’m enjoying the scenery, I usually pray that God will use me at the garden, placing me with someone who needs a listening ear or encouragement, and He never fails to answer. I’ve had some wonderful conversations while working alongside interns, other volunteers and the farm family over the years.

Last week I drove out to the farm on a beautiful day, praying en route that I could be used to minister to whomever needed it most that day. I arrived and heard voices in a remote area of the farm, I followed the voices to find one intern (there are usually several) weeding a large area with a group of mentally challenged adults and a man who led the group. I quickly jumped in and began cleaning out the area alongside, making conversation as we worked. I was delighted to meet this group of young people who were willing to do hard work, and the intern kept complimenting and encouraging them. Before long, the group announced they were leaving the farm as their time was up, and the Intern said she had plenty to do elsewhere, would I be willing to continue weeding the area I had been working? Of course.

I started the lone task and before long became bored and hot. I kept looking around for someone to come and join me but there was no one to be found. This is unheard of, usually there are people all over, looking for ways to help each other. I found myself talking out loud to God: Lord, I feel like I’m missing something, I come here to help and I asked you to provide someone who needed ministering and I’m out here  alon…….oh. Suddenly I realized I was out in His creation, with no phone or distractions, open and available to hear from Him about how best to help someone. I was the one who needed it most that day.

For the next hour, I opened my heart to hear about the places that God wanted to work in me, about the sins I needed to confess and the weak areas that needed to be strengthened. I have often said that I feel closest to God when my hands are in the dirt, and this day was a gift just for me, as I pulled the weeds and dead layers from around leeks, onions and chard, God was doing the same in me. After all that was removed, it looked like not much was left, but what remained was strong and healthy, much like my own heart. I walked away from the area when my work was complete, never seeing another person at the farm that day.

As I was  driving home, I thought about my part in this; I was open and available, without distractions, doing work and asking God to show up. These are all things I should be doing regularly, because God is always willing to do His part. What seemed wrong and out of the norm was exactly what I needed that day. God has surprised me so many times in my life by allowing me to be used by Him in ministering to others in creative ways, and He did all over again. Just for me.

If you’re interested in a local non-profit farm or looking for a place to volunteer, I can certainly vouch for this this one: http://www.keipos.org/

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Take Care

firstaid

It was a typical weeknight, I was cooking dinner and in a hurry to get it to the table. As I pulled the main dish out of the oven my left hand brushed up against the top coil that was currently 400 degrees, I could hear my skin sizzle immediately. There was a significant burn on my hand in that spot between my thumb and first finger. I didn’t think much of it, I usually heal very quickly.

But this time I didn’t. After several days I noticed it was getting worse, not better; it got swollen and inflamed and was very sensitive to the touch. I work in an industry where people see my hands a lot, and this was not something they want to see.

After a couple of weeks of this, I finally stopped and looked at my hand and thought about why it was still suffering. I realized that every time I picked up my purse, the length of the strap would slide through my fingers as I placed it on my shoulder, rubbing across that burn many times a day. There was no way it could heal because it wasn’t protected. I stopped the way that I picked up my purse and it began to heal immediately.

It occurred to me there are a lot of ways my life looks just like this. When I am distracted I can get myself into trouble, and if I don’t pay attention to my habits, that trouble can turn into something bigger like an infection. All I need to do is intentionally think about where I am and how I am, and I can protect myself, putting life back into balance.

For me this can be finding a daily devotional and reading time, or choosing to talk to someone who loves me enough to say the hard things, or taking everything, even the very small things to God in prayer.

The burn on my hand is now a rough spot that should completely go away very soon, but I would be fine with a scar remaining, to remind me of the lesson I learned. Obviously it would be best to guard myself against the burn in the first place, but when they happen, I need to be intentional in my response.

Handle With Care

bubble wrap

Feeling a need for bubble wrap today. I want to take a huge roll of the stuff and start it at my core and spin around multiple times, I’ll need a helper with some strong tape to secure it tight after I’m snug in there. Maybe some headphones first, alternating between smooth jazz and the sound of waves crashing, then bubble wrap. Can you see through several layers of it? Sunglasses too, just in case.

That’s how fragile I feel, like nerve endings are standing off of my skin. Our son moved into college over the weekend and our oldest daughter is moving across the country to start her schooling later this week. The baby of the family? Yep, just left for her first day of senior year in high school. I have been working myself out of a job for years, knowing full well that this day would come, and yet I am completely unprepared. I don’t recognize the landscape anymore.

I actually woke up mad at Jesus Saturday morning, reminding him that I thought we had an agreement that He would come before I had to endure all of this! Fortunately, He can handle my anger. And my ache.

A friend of a friend reminded me of something over the weekend: lament is an appropriate form of worship. In fact, more than one third of the book of Psalms are laments, cries of fear and suffering and unjust. God wants us to bring our joy and anguish to Him, He wants every bit of it. So these days I am handing him my puffy eyes, deep sighs and crying jags that sometimes come out of nowhere. I’m going to try to go easy on myself and feel all the feelings that go with this parenting deal, so if you see me staring into space or trying hard not cry, feel free to pretend not to notice, and maybe check to make sure my bubble wrap is staying in place, will you?

 

 

 

Look For God

nest

I was running in my neighborhood and talking to God, feeling very alone. I told Him all about it and was gently reminded that I was wrong, that He is very aware of where I am and why I am here. I looked up in a tree and there was a nest full of baby birds, chirping like crazy as the Mama bird provided their food. He reminded me that He was aware of their time and place, as well. That nest is a temporary home, it probably took longer to build it than it will be useful, but it has its reason for being here. Just like me.

God doesn’t play games. There’s no Hide and Seek going on. Look for Him every day. Look for Him in the everyday.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. Proverbs 8:17

Maybe You Need to Move

stillWe were in Minnesota for almost ten years, many years longer than I’ve lived anyplace my entire life. The state was a difficult one for us because we are Southern through and through and Minnesota is not. The first three years were spent with us freezing from the cold as well as the frosty reception we seemed to be receiving. It took a long time for people to trust us, but once they let us in, we were in an inner circle unlike anything ever experienced. Leaving was every bit as difficult as going there had been.

At the point that we moved away, our children were in high school and middle school; tough times to pick up and make a change. My guy was very successful in his work and had gotten an offer out of nowhere to work with a previous colleague, so his current co-workers were shocked when he announced. I was in my last few classes of graduate school, highly involved in ministry, working for a friend with her business, and starting a working relationship with another that had great potential. And the real estate market had tanked in our area. On paper it made no sense to move, we would actually be losing money (in the short term) to go. And yet, it felt like God told us it was time.

Here we are now, five years later and I am seeing how things have changed since we left. Our children did just fine with the transition, in fact, they have thrived through it. We still have deep roots in our old community and cherish them, but we are seeing evidence of  new life in this new place, as well. The areas of ministry that we were involved in are humming along just fine without us, and my friend whose business I helped get off the ground? Turns out without me she was able to really focus on the work and move the company into a real success! I had known from previous moves that when you leave, it allows others to step in and take your place, but with this move I realized that sometimes you need to get out of the way so that things can be done better. I still can’t explain leaving in the midst of some of the details, but I am confident that God had a purpose in it all, not just most of it.

I am wondering if there is something that you need to change in your life? Do you need to get out of the way so God can work through others to make the situation even better?

Uptown Funk

hiphopI have mentioned before that I attend a dance class at my local gym a couple of times a week. What started out as an exercise in humility turned into a real workout where I have the opportunity to move in a way I rarely do in life. The instructor is my age but she’s that woman you know who is always the right color of tan, and looks great in ridiculous workout clothes and a huge scarf on her head and she’s sunny and enthusiastic, always happy. Probably because she gets paid to dance.

Anyway, we were dancing recently, she faces our group of 30 or more women and performs hip hop, salsa, the mambo and other dances I cannot name. Our only job is to mimic her. It took me weeks to get out of my head enough to even enjoy the class, and then I was able to look around and see the others. We are a ragtag crew; some women obviously took dance for years when they were younger and slip easily from one move to the next, anticipating the next step as it is being called out over the pumping music. But then there is that group of us who always vie for the back row, clumsy and a beat behind with the wrong leg moving. From time to time the instructor will leave her perch and shimmy right up next to us, encouraging us to make up our own moves. My freeform signature move is to freeze as she gets near me because I have forgotten everything I’ve learned. Every time.

What I like most about this class is that the leader of this group is so beautiful and talented, and she treats us as if we are too. She encourages us and laughs with us, and calls us to keep going, even places a belief in us that we can move like that. The parallel is so obvious in my walk with Christ; I am a sad representative, a faint echo of my Savior who is ahead of me, encouraging me to keep moving and to keep growing. God could laugh at my attempts or make it clear a hundred different ways that I’m just not cut out for this, but instead He is always there, cheering me on and instilling a belief in me that I can be more, that if I show up and mimic Him, I can get outside of my own head and maybe even find a signature move in this world.

 

Porch Talk

porch

One night we were sitting out on the porch and a friend shared with me that she and her guy had been trying to get pregnant again. This is nothing new, I spend time one-on-one with a lot of women and am often privy to such information. But this situation was different; my friend is in her forties and has already raised her children. I was completely floored, because I can’t think of anything I would less like to be today than pregnant, except maybe the mother of toddlers. I asked if she was excited at the prospect and she sighed and said two words: not really. What??

You see, her guy loves having kiddos around the house. And over the last few months he kept hinting that he would like to have more. They finally sat down and seriously talked about it and he confessed that he felt that they were supposed to have more children. He said he had prayed about it, hoping the feeling would dissipate but it came on stronger, would she consider it? This friend of mine is a fantastic Mom, she is all in on the parenting gig right up until they fly the nest, and is so close to having it be just the two of them. And yet…..she said she would pray about it.

My friend asked God about having more children and did not feel what her guy did, she basically got no answer, and yet she agreed to try to conceive for a few months. She said she never prayed against having another baby, and even got excited at the thought here and there, and yet in her heart, really did not want to start over again. At the time that we talked about it, there was no baby news and as a couple they agreed that the time had come to stop trying. She was sad that her guy did not get what he wanted and believed was right, but she was also so relieved. Bittersweet.

I sat with my mouth hanging open as she shared her story; what would I have done in her place? Can I honestly say that I would be open to such a departure from my plan, just to appease my guy? In my opinion this is an extreme act of service and sacrificial love. And trust, in her guy and in her God. Over time I have watched many friends being taken on adventures that they never could have imagined, because they were open to God’s calling, even when it seemed inconvenient or even reckless. What crazy idea is stirring in your heart these days, or in the hints of your spouse? How are you going to respond?

 

 

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