Friday, June 7, 2013

Green Thumb? Not me....


When Luke was in kindergarten, he had the most wonderful teacher's assistant. She told Luke her favorite flower was Lupine, and he wanted to try to plant some. We mentioned it to our neighbor across the street, who had some lupine growing, and that Fall, he gave us some seeds from that plant. We held on to them until the next Spring, and then planted them in a big pot, so that we could nurture the seedling, watch its progress, and not lose track of it in our big bed of mostly weeds. The plan was to eventually transfer the plant, once it grew strong enough, into the larger bed. It never got strong or big. We had saved some of the seeds, so the next year, we did the same thing, and had about the same experience, though I did go ahead and transfer the tiny thing, thinking maybe the pot just wasn't a happy place. Alas, we never got any lupine, and I added it to my list of many plant failures. That was 5 or 6 years ago. Luke just finished 8th grade.

So years later, lupine experiments long forgotten, look at what happened this Spring. Do you see that picture? That is LUPINE! It's growing up in our weedy bed, it's big, and flowering, which means it'll be making seeds for more lupine next year. It did this with no help or nurturing from us.


I blog for a few reasons:
⋄I want to record sightings of God's activity in my life, and share these with others.
⋄When I'm looking for God's activity, I'm more likely to see it, and so around and round we go.
⋄It gives me a bit of discipline in my writing ways.

I see God's activity in this lupine. It's amazing. I'm sharing it on this blog, and you can "make of it what you will."

I'm going back to James, who wrote, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4 The Message) I am in a difficult season, there are tests and challenges, and my first instinct is not to see it as a gift. But the growth IS happening. Our surprise lupine is proof! Of course, we always get weeds that grow mightily without our care, we know all plants don't need attention to grow. But I want to be growing the good stuff in my heart. Here is something in the plant world that I started long ago, but gave up and forgot all about. So is there something like that in me? God can do the nurturing and tending, and bring up something beautiful and fruitful. That is the gift.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sneaky Weeds


A gardening wizard, I am not. I do however, seem to be a master at cultivating thistles. I was out attacking them yesterday, and noticed something interesting. Weeds are very sneaky things. They are chameleon-like. They hide themselves among the wanted plants, and even though they were all thistles, they seemed to be able to make themselves blend in with their neighbors. If they've snuck in with the short little flowery things (no idea what they are), they stay low with broad stems and spread-out leaves. If they're in among the tall, wispy anemones (ok, I know one thing), they grow up with a skinny stem, and flimsy leaves. Regardless of the look they happen to be sporting, they all have prickly, poky thorns that make getting rid of them a painful job. I was amazed by this. I thought a patch would be completely thistle-free, and then, upon closer inspection, find a couple more trying to pass themselves off as something I want.

Jesus told a few parables about seeds and weeds. My thistles reminded me of the farmer throwing seed on the different kinds of soil. Jesus said the seeds that fell in among the thorns eventually were choked out, and the weeds took over. As He later explained the parable to His disciples, He said, "The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced." (Matthew 13:22 NLT) I've been aware of the crowding and noisiness of the weeds in my life. What struck me yesterday is how the weeds can be deceiving, and can make themselves look (or hear, as Jesus explains) like something acceptable. Closer inspection--viewer discretion advised!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Evidence


Last night, Lily and I dug up all of my old journals. She's dying to read them. There's 21 of them, and I have no idea what all is in there. May not be, probably definitely not, age appropriate. So I told her she can read them when she's the same age I was when I wrote them.

Kind of funny just glancing through them. I have the ones where I was experimenting with colored pencils and drawing... I have always loved a good stationery store, and fine pens. You can see that in the old journals, the phases of loving to write in green ink, the ink cartridge and calligraphy-tipped pen, the super-fine pink felt-tip pen.

In keeping with looking for joy in struggles--looking for joy in growth that comes from struggles--I do believe there has been growth over the years. There is evidence in my journals. I am not where I was in 1986, 1993, or even 2012. Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Show Me the Way

The computer desk is dusty. Papers from months ago are stacked and there are cobwebs hanging around the bookshelf above. I haven't sat down here in ages. I'm waiting for inspiration, for God to give me something to write. But I've not been waiting well. I believe there is such a thing as waiting well. Opening your heart, listening, looking for direction, these are actions that go with good waiting. That hasn't been my MO lately. Don't misunderstand, I haven't been running around. I've been here, but I have filled my head (and so my heart) with noise. I've busied my fingers with my phone and ipad, filled my ears with television and radio.

In a way, I've been daring God to show me how He wants to use me in this chapter of my life. I go through an ugly cycle of not wanting to hear, afraid He might want too much of me; feeling guilty about that; then wanting to hear; pleading; getting frustrated that answers don't come instantly, that there isn't a giant arrow pointing me the way; and even getting angry; and so, not wanting to hear. Back to the beginning.

Today, I don't know what is next. I feel a bit stuck, still wrestling with my dad's death. The sadness is hanging over me, and I know there is more sadness to come. Then I remember that verse in James 1, "when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." Ugh. How?! I can get hung up on the joy thing in verse 2, thinking I must somehow manufacture joy, be happy that I'm in a struggle. The key is in the next verse. It saves me. Verse 3 says, "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow." Rather than focusing on making joy, I want to try to pay attention to growth. Growth brings joy.

Here we are, Spring is springing everywhere today in the Chicago area as we enjoy our third or fourth day of sunshine and temperatures above 60. It's glorious, and things that have been growing are actually blooming. I don't know that I'm quite blooming, but a lot of growth happened with my daffodils before they opened up this weekend. And there's more growth (and blooming!) still to come with the late Spring flowers. So perhaps I am growing, coming up out of the dirt, still fighting to get through the old leaves from last year.

In the past when I've asked God to show me what He wants me to do, or where He wants me to go, I've asked Him to open doors for me, show me the way. And He did, I remember His clear answers when I was trying to figure out where to go to college, when I was searching for jobs post-college, and when we were looking for a church family to join. The other day, I had a thought that while I'm waiting I should go ahead and take some small steps forward, in one direction or another, and ask God to close doors that are not where He wants to use me. This is not the same as sitting and waiting for Him to just lay a path before me. Maybe this is waiting well? I am actively moving now, asking for redirection, rather than expecting a wide open, well-marked, full-of-signage path. As it says in Proverbs: "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."

I think I'll start by tidying up this desk.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bend a Little

"Do we have any sour cream?" Scott asks as he opens the fridge.
"Yes," I say. He stands there waiting for it to step forward, I guess, or do a little dance for him so that he can see it. But I just buy the regular kind, not the dancing kind. He can't see it.
"It's on the bottom shelf, in the back." No response. I know it's there. I just saw it yesterday, while looking for something else. I remember years ago, talking to a friend about how the folks in this family just can't find anything. They're bad lookers, I say. She told me what her mom always used to say when she was growing up, "Sometimes you have to bend!" And I have adopted that phrase as my own. It's kind of an abbreviated version of saying I know it's there, I just saw it. It means, please don't make me stop what I'm doing to come and find whatever you're looking for. You can do it. It's there. And I use this phrase with everyone in the family. It just so happens I most recently used it on Scott. I throw it out to him, still waiting for the sour cream to appear. He bends, and sure enough!
"Ah yes, here it is!" Success.

We're studying James in my Bible Study group, and that bending idea came up in the latest lesson. James 1:22-25 says, "But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.(NLT) We learned that the original Greek word for the phrase at the end to "look carefully" or "look intently" means "to stoop down, or looking by bending over." Wow!

In these last months, I have known that I need to be in the Word, need to be going to God as I struggle with grief. And how many times have I sat with my Bible and asked the Lord, "Do you have anything for me?" I've been hoping that it will step forward, and do a dance, so I can see it. But I haven't really tried bending. Time for me to really dig in.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hoping...

It's been almost 7 months since my dad passed away. I want so much to be on the other side of the grieving. I am still so tender, so sad. The Holidays are coming and sadness comes over me in waves like nausea. It feels like it's always simmering just under the surface and I keep breathing and try to hold it in. Or I succumb, and cry out.

I want to be able to share the things I've learned, the ways I've grown, the ways God has provided for our family, and how God has used this terribly sad thing to draw me closer to Him. But that just isn't where I am yet. I have faith, though. Thank God! It says in Hebrews, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1 NLT)

I'm holding onto that hope, unable to see all the good in this sadness just yet, but believing that it will happen. It takes time, I've been told a million times. I've never been good at waiting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

At the Milwaukee airport, once you've made it through security you are greeted by a big sign that reads, "Recombobulation Area". There are benches so you can sit down and put your shoes back on, and put your self back together after spilling everything out into the gray bins. Every airport has one of these areas after security, but sweet Milwaukee airport is kind enough to give it signage. Something about that sign makes one feel like they acknowledge that they've just disorganized you and torn all of your belongings apart; it almost feels like an apology.

My father passed away almost a month ago now, after 69 days of intensive care in a hospital three hours away from my home. In the grand scheme of things, that wasn't such a long time to fight illness. Many have battled for years. But for me, those days were difficult because there was urgency each day, and it felt like 69 days of crisis. I was running back and forth between there and home. It's hard to sustain that life-or-death kind of intensity over two and a half months, while also trying to keep things as normal as possible at home. I learned first hand what it means to be able to do things through Christ, who gave me strength. And I learned what a failure I could be when I tried to manage things without His help. He provided for me and my family throughout those days.

And now I feel like I need a sign hanging over our home, and maybe a traveling one to hang over my head wherever I go... "Recombobulation Area!" I'm trying to put things back together, one day at a time. I am sad, I miss my Dad, and I don't understand everything perfectly. I know I need to just sit with that a while, and while I do, I'm slowly trying to put the pieces back together.

Still learning about doing things through Christ, rather than relying on my own flimsy tool box. But here's what I know. God has a plan. That sounds like a nice platitude, but it is so much more. He does have a plan, and He told us what it is; He wants to draw everyone to Him. He wants all to come to know Him. Here's how Paul said it in one of my favorite verses (in the Message translation here) "Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near." So He will use my Dad's death, and my coming apart and recombobulating to bring me and others closer to Him. Thank You, LORD, and help me to cooperate with Your plan.