anything

Been reading an excellent book by Jennie Allen, titled Anything. Read this book. Really. It will change your life and your faith. It will give you perspective. Just read it.

It’s a radical thing, to surrender every aspect of your life to God’s will and purposes. As Allen points out, we want to live a normal, comfortable, average American life and still live (and exhibit) a real faith in God.

But truly, if we follow Jesus, life on this earth is very frequently anything BUT normal, comfortable, average. It is messy. It is chaotic. It is harder than anything we can imagine at times. Yet it is perfectly planned by the God who loves us and calls us for His purpose. And it is the only way to live a life that is truly satisfied and fulfilled while here on earth.

Nowadays we allow our perspective to be wholly shaped by our culture, by what the mass media says it should be, by what even our fellow Christians say it should be. And thus we easily fall prey to doubts and fears that have nothing to do with what God really wants for us or the relationship He desires with each of us. Those doubts and fears keep us from even seeing His purpose, let alone walking it out.

My life in the last year has certainly been messy. Beyond messy, actually. Abrupt job change. Serious business and financial uncertainties. Serious relationship upheavals. I have sought God, but I have frequently not believed or trusted Him. I have let my circumstances dictate my perspective of His love and goodness, instead of interpreting my circumstances in the light of what I know to be true of His love.

I recently prayed :  “Our God and Father, You desire to do good to and for us. You desire our fellowship and surrender. But I have lived in unbelief and denial and shame in many places, essentially throwing Your gift back in Your face.”

God’s response to me rose as smoothly and clearly as anything I’ve ever heard from Him: “My child, your sins are forgiven as soon as asked. My call on your life is so you may be as close to Me as possible at all times. Together we will tell the Good News that will set everyone free if only they will accept it. I love you. I made you. I have a plan for you. I accept you because of your faith and not because of your works (although I do love your works too). I planned your jobs, both the beginnings and the endings. I planned your businesses for you. It’s all a journey, and you are never alone. I will always be with you, no matter where you go. I know your doubts and your fears, and I grieve that you suffer with them when you don’t need to. Your doubts and fears accomplish nothing – cast them off and trust Me for the journey!”

This journey. This life.

Anything, Lord. Anything.

cherries

cherries

Those of you who know me also know that for many summers I would be out of town for work for five weeks. I am now semi-retired and no longer hold that job, and this is the first summer in 19(!) years that I am at home.

Amazing what you can find out when your life changes that drastically.

I found out that our little farm is a total joy now that I have regained the strength and stamina to work outside.

I found out that I like running errands with my husband instead of the ‘divide and conquer’ approach that our busy lives used to require.

I found out that chickens love strawberries.

I found out that we have two pie cherry trees in our yard.

Now, how did we live in this house for five years and NOT know that we have two (two!) cherry trees? Because we were away during cherry season every year — we would leave town before there was any fruit on the trees and return long after it was gone. We thought those two trees were some kind of ornamental shade trees that bloomed for a few days in the Spring.

Imagine our delight in finding fruit this year and then further discovering that these are pie cherries.

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Yesterday my husband and I spent about an hour together harvesting the ripe cherries, and there are still many more to go! Canning commences soon, and I’m planning this winter’s cherry cobblers already!

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To me, these cherries, these newly uncovered treasures, are a symbol of a life that has become more intentional. I’m no longer working full time, chasing a ‘career.’ I’m not out of town on a business trip every month or so. I don’t accumulate frequent flyer points anymore.

I’m home.

Home to enjoy slow evenings in our bucolic backyard, meals on the patio, Bible Study in the shade. Home to harvest strawberries and make strawberry jam. Home to gather the herbs before they bolt, drying them for freshest flavor through the winter months. Home to laugh at the antics of our chickens and dogs and horses, to enjoy the births of two foals and to get to know them as they grow. Home to watch the rest of the garden growing at a prodigious rate, anticipating the harvest of potatoes, corn, beans, squashes, and tomatoes that is to come.

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Charley cooling off in the underbrush. Because fur coat.

I didn’t know how terribly stressed and rushed I was until it all came to an abrupt end. And when the dust cleared, I realized that I now have the privilege of living my dream. For me, home is the place that I belong (and I don’t say that to imply that every woman belongs at home – I’m saying that for me, and me only). It turns out that canning and freezing, providing good and nourishing food grown in our own garden, are passions of mine. Good health and helping people recover theirs is a passion. Learning as much as I can about our amazing bodies and how they respond to nutrition and environment is a passion.

It turns out that my former job was not a passion.  Even though there were many aspects of it that I  enjoyed and many people involved whom I really liked, in the end it was a j.o.b.

God is faithful. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things (ALL) work together for good in the lives of His followers. I was forced to make a very drastic change, but God turned a seemingly negative situation into what is arguably one of the most positive changes of my entire life.

That was brought home to me in vivid and glorious color yesterday when we discovered the cherries.

Where’s your place? What’s your dream? Discovered any cherry trees lately?

 

 

 

spring

Blubbering.

That’s what I’m doing on this beautiful Spring day. I’m blubbering.

My car stereo is playing “The Butterfly Waltz” as performed by Brian Crain. Such pretty, springlike music — I just love it!

And today it made me cry.

Or rather, the combination of a warm, sunny day and the lilting violin strains made me think about how much my mother loved this time of year.

And that’s when I started blubbering.

I know we don’t “get over” loved ones — we just learn to live without them. I’d say I’ve learned to do a good job of living without my mother. And it still surprises me when grief comes out for another bite.

My mother adored Spring. Lilacs and daffodils were her absolute favorites. Watching the mountains and fields green up was lifeblood to her after the long winters of central Pennsylvania.

During my single years I frequently took a long weekend in April to head out to Mom’s place and share the Spring weather with her. I’d arrive, work-weary, and she’d ask me what I want to do. Inevitably I’d say “nothing at all.” And she’d answer, “Then nothing is what we’ll do.” Her house was so quiet you could hear the clock ticking. Together we sat on her porch, talking or just staying quiet, just being.  Together we’d cook dinner and do the dishes.

It’s a respite I cherished and still miss when Spring comes out to play.

Happy Spring, Mom. The daffodils are out. Miss you always.

dissolution

I was listening to Amy Grant’s “Better Not to Know” on the way home from church this morning, and it struck me how much more that song means right now than when I first heard it a few years ago. Right now I’m watching Satan have a field day in the lives of people I love, and I’m hating every moment of it. And as Amy sings, it was better not to know that any of this was coming. 

Marriage is hard. Being married every day is hard. I know. We’re married to flawed human beings — and we ourselves are flawed human beings. It’s a messy combination, this flawed+flawed. The sum can’t be anything other than….. flawed.

But God ordained marriage for the human race. He meant for each marriage to represent His perfect relationship with His Church. He intended earthly marriage to be more than the combination of two flawed human beings, and only He can make it so through grace, mercy, and forgiveness: three things that we receive in abundance from God and thus should be extending to our spouses over and over again.

 

At our peril do we forget that God is first and foremost at the head of the marriage. Because if we forget it, we’re stuck depending on just our flawed selves and our flawed spouses. And that’s not enough to get through. Life is too painful, and pain comes from all sides, not just from our spouses. Friends cause pain, co-workers cause pain, parents cause pain, children cause pain, complete strangers cause pain. Worst of all, we cause ourselves pain. Because we’re flawed.

 

Only by keeping God first are we enabled to look past our flawed spouses and past our flawed selves, because we’re looking at our perfect Lord and Savior instead. The flaws recede into the distance when Christ is the Head. The pain that strikes at us over and over again is mitigated and relegated to a proper perspective when we’re focused on what God would have of us in each and every painful circumstance.

 

Am I saying that you have to stay married? I’m saying only this: that the only Person on whose advice you should rely is Jesus Himself. Don’t rely on your hurt feelings. Don’t rely on your well-meaning friends. Don’t even rely on your pastor or your counselor. Don’t rely on the technicalities of the legal system. Don’t rely on just a cursory review of Scripture, either. Seek God and His purpose for your life, delving deep into His Word and making prayer the first consideration all day long. He has a purpose for your life and the only way to find joy in the midst of everything else that’s going on is to seek that purpose and His grace. Because then you will also have found the answer.

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“These tiny stems became these trees,

With dirt and storms and sun and air to breathe…..

Like you and me.

And some fell down and some grew tall,

And those surviving twenty winter thaws

Have the sweetest fruit of all.”  (c) Amy Grant