Monday, July 24, 2017

"This is the day"

I woke up today with a song in my head. Not an unusual thing. I'm sure most people have songs in their head from time to time. Sometimes it's a song you hate and you don't know why its there and why you can't get rid of it. Sometimes its a great song, but you can only remember the one line. Sometimes its a song so inappropriate for the day, and other times it fits like a glove.

Today's song was one of my childhood songs. "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Seriously? I love that song, but it didn't fit today. Why would I sing a song who's lyrics I didn't agree with for today. What if this is a day I wish the Lord had NOT made? How do I rejoice in a day like today? I pondered it for awhile and decided that I was probably supposed to write about this one. Needing to get a grip on my wandering thoughts, or maybe just an attempt to let them wander a little farther, I decided to "Go to my garden alone....while the dew or rain drops are still on my tomato plants / weeds or Roses as the song says. I would talk with God about this in my wanderings, arguing that I don't like this day. This is a day I wish He didn't make. This is a day I hold my breath through.

As I sifted through my tomato plants, I came to other side of my garden. The side I didn't keep up with. The side that the crops all seemed to fail this spring. They didn't grow right, so I gave up. I let the weeds grow. I had weeded just a week ago, but the weeds came back. I looked at those weeds and realized that I could either look at them and shake my head with disgust and defeat, or I could bend over and get to work. After all, the rain last night was good for something. It was good for softening the dirt. Good for pulling those weeds. And that is what I did. For hours. Rain makes things grow, but it also loosens the soil around the weeds that need to come out so the good plants can grow. It takes work, but why not do the dirty work of pulling weeds on a day I don't like so much anyway.

I moved on to my potato plants. Three rows of mounded dirt with dead plants and weeds atop. Those crummy potato plants that grew beautifully until the potato bugs took over. They got away from me. I usually pick them off one by one. This year, they multiplied faster than I could work. I had given up. The plants got eaten. I assumed my harvest would be slim this year, along with the carrots, onions and beets that I planted this spring. I began to dig. Why not? I was filthy anyway. Maybe if I dug up those potatoes next, I could till this half of the garden and begin a late summer planting of this mess. I filled one bucket after another of those potatoes that I thought had failed.

"Sometimes the blessings come through raindrops (or drops of sweat from my forehead)" Sometimes the healing comes through tears (or exhaustion of digging potatoes in a soggy garden)" God began to show me how I could rejoice in today. In this day. That He made. He gave me a song. He gave me a garden. He gave me rain, and soft soil. He gave me work, hard work. He gave me time with my wandering thoughts. He gave me miracles under the ground. An underground harvest far greater than the plants revealed above the ground. I gave my little girls my childhood memories as they gathered the big and little potato surprises. He gave me exhaustion. The desperate need for refreshing water to drink. He gave me a swimming pool tainted with algae from the hot summer sun to jump in anyway because I needed to be refreshed and any water would do. He gave me words to share. He gave me the ability to know that regardless of my work, He works. His treasures are beyond my ability to see. They are often hidden in the mud. They come through sweat and tears, and exhaustion.

This morning I read that we are not left to ourselves in the fight of faith. "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Philippians 2;13 Even as my efforts failed and the bugs got to the plants before me.....the roots grew deep and the harvest depended on the Lord. Yesterday in church, we learned of the importance of living in such a way that the end is in sight. That we should consider ALL loss if not for Christ. One of children wondered why if those things (meaning our work and accomplishments in each day, and our families, and loves) are good things. I believe if we keep ourselves rooted in the final day...the rest is what God has given to us to equip up along the way.

I suppose I'm not done learning why I should rejoice in today. I still don't like this day. I never will. But I am thankful for the tools that God has given me to make it thus far.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Do You REALLY love me?

I sat in our brand new attic. It is a part of the new house, but it attaches to the old house. Sounds complicated, but its not. In the attempt to finish the remnants of unpacking I dug into a few more boxes hoping to consolidate and put away. The boxes were filled with tangible memories of days gone by. Yet those days return in an instant at times and have a way of placing me directly in them once again. I wonder why it is that I can not do this with the moments I wish to relive. The ones where I walked down the aisle, or held a new born baby in my arms. But no, they are the ones where I walked down the aisle behind a casket, the scent of flowers over the grave, the boxes of cards I wish i never had to receive, the guest list in attendance at my daughters funeral. Her Funeral. Why? I still could not wrap my mind around this reality even 5 years later. I looked up to notice the corner of the attic designated to hold her belongings. Her life, in rubber made bins, in the attic. It is too much. A reality that I live every day, yet can not grasp one moment of. I asked God aloud "Why?" and "Do you really love me?"

Ashley caring for the first baby "Mae"
His response came simply. My friend had been pouring over my face book photos of my daughter. She happened to comment on one in particular, one in which Ashley was gently caring for a new born kid from her favorite goat. Her comment drew my attention as well as other friends online to this photo. We all admired the beauty. I remember that day. The day my children got to experience one of the many gifts of farm living....the gift of new life. I enjoyed this moment in time as I looked again and again at this photo.

the new baby "Ruthie"
It was the next morning. My son went to the barn to care for our animals before school. He came running to the door on this very cold morning with a smile on his face. "MOM....there is a new baby in the barn!" It was from Ashley's goat, the same one that had delivered the baby in that photo. She had not had babies since that first time 5 years ago. I went to the barn to find a little miracle. A precious baby dressed in black silky fur with soft white floppy ears and a little tip of white on her nose. We tenderly enjoyed this baby as we carefully outfitted her stall with hay and a heat lamp.

Ashley holding "Mae" 2009
The miracle in it all was simple. God Said He Loves Me still. Five years later, a new baby. A new identical to the one my daughter once held. Her name is "Ruthie" after my friend who once lived next door. The name means "Companion, friend, and vision of beauty." This baby, I believe was given to me as another visible reminder that God Cares about even the little things in this life. He cares about me even more. He LOVES me deeply. Deeply enough to give me a gift. A gift as simple and gentle as baby goat in the barn. God's son came to us in a barn as well. A Simple and beautiful gift. Jesus, also my companion and my friend, who will sit beside me and love me as open those boxes and visit the places I despise. His Mercies are new every morning! He is faithful!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shattered Dreams

My little girls watched in admiration and wild dreaming as the bride made her way through the sandy beach to the little aisle way between the white chairs filled with expectant guests. The glow on the little girl faces that were more than privileged to spectate such a dreamy event almost rivaled the glow on the wedding party themselves. I looked around the beach surrounding that little party and noticed the onlooking gaze of "little girls" of ALL ages. Following the ceremony, I heard of dreams. Of desires to be like the bride. To wear their hair that way, or to don a dress so pretty as that one. This is not the beginning of such dreaming. The little girls that fill my every day with life and imagination, have been soaking in all that surrounds them as they begin to dream up their life long desires and wishes for marriage, and children, and homes, and being hostess.....
They desire to tell mommy how to do it differently, and they get in return, "when you are the mommy, you can do it your way." 

My girls are a reflection of myself as a little girl. I dreamed as I played. I dreamed as a teen awaiting for the next big thing. I dreamed as I awaited a shiny new ring, as I donned that wedding gown I had been dreaming of, as I sat on the floor of the nursery folding and refolding those tiny little outfits awaiting the arrival of a little someone....I did this four times. Four babies. I held those babies and dreamed of little feet running bare in the grass, of flowers picked too short clenched in tiny fists, of their "firsts" to come.....I dreamed of them doing all the wonderful things of childhood that I so fondly remembered. Dreams of the freedoms that come with growing older..being old enough to stay up late, to have a sleep over, to walk the mall alone with a friend, to watch grown up movies, to turn 16! To drive a car, to go on a first date, to kiss a boy, to ...... 

This morning as I sit here and write about dreams, I realize they don't always turn out the way we "dream" them to be. Tears run down my sleepy face as I picture an empty driver's seat today. I will not be planning a sweet 16 party for my 11 year old little girl today. There will be no first kiss. I will never know who she would date, or even marry. I will never hold her baby in my arms. No. Reality stings like whip to the soul. My dreams for her were shattered that day, eight days after her birthday, five years ago. I did not dream of this. 

The things we dream of are most often the gifts of joy in life that God has given to us to fill this life and to teach us about himself through living it. I am often reminding my little girls to enjoy today. Don't worry about planning out your life for the future. I tell that only God knows those things,, but it is okay to dream. It's okay to desire the good things life has to offer, they too are gifts from Him.  I will not tell them that their dreams may be shattered, that disappointment lurks behind the shadows of our deepest desires. I remind them to live today. To enjoy the place where God has put them now. I remind them that God tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. But live for today. God takes care of the rest. 

God has given us so much more than life itself. He has given us things to dream of beyond the joys in this earthly life. His riches in Heaven that will never ever disappoint. The dreams of heaven, of walking with Jesus, of running through pastures, and standing among the flowers. He will give us a new and perfect earth. No relationship will ever be broken. We will enjoy all He has to offer. We will be with Him and Like him. Nothing will be shattered. We must dream of such things beyond, and cling to the promises of Heaven. 

If only I could be a little girl again. And dream in such innocence. This is the way God wants me to dream of heaven. One day, my girls will stand among their broken dreams. They will see that Mom did too. I pray that as they stand among the things that break, they too will will look up and see what lies beyond this earth will never be shattered, and they too will dream of such things. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

About a Cabbage Plant

Last week one of my daughters, Emma,  brought home a small cabbage plant. It is a contest for kids to see who can grow the biggest cabbage from these tiny plants. Now if anyone could grow a plant, She could. She has every resource there is considering that her daddy grows plants for a living! Determined to win, she suggested that we plant the cabbage in our greenhouse where the conditions for growth are perfect. That would grow a nice, big plant....but I advised her that planting it outside would be best.

After many years in the greenhouse industry, I have learned by watching that our strongest and most hardy plants are often grown outside. I told Emma that if she plants it outside, the elements around it will help to make it a very strong plant. It needs the rain and wind and sun and cold above the soil to cause it's roots to grow deep, and it's stem to become strong. The elements, plus nourishment from water, sun, and fertilizer...cause the plant to grow strong. My words came out as information to my daughter about growing her cabbage plant, but they sank into my heart as I realized that the elements of my life and my children's lives are producing in them deep roots and strong stems. The deeper they seek, the stronger they become, the better they can withstand the storms and challenges of this life.

Later that day, my words returned in a visual image of my friend. She opened the door for me slowly and spoke in labored tired words. She was happy to see me, yet couldn't show it the way she used to. We rested on the sofa, a place that had become too familiar to her. She is laden with the return of cancer and treatments that consume the strength within her. She uses everything she has to accomplish the minimum requirements for each day. I saw the way the elements had beaten her, but I saw more. I saw a cabbage plant pushing it's roots deep into the soil in search of nourishment from the richest soil. I saw a core, that was growing thicker, preparing to support a bountiful fruit.

As a small child, I love the song "I shall not be, I shall not be moved.....just like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved." I often admire the large, tall, thick, and gnarly old trees in the area. They are the ones that seem to make it through the worst of storms! That doesn't mean that they haven't been broken by storms in the past...their scars reflect the days gone by. Those trees are impressive! They have tremendous shade in the summer heat, and are a refuge for many creatures.

Back to the cabbage plant. Back to person God wants me to become. Back to the streams of water that run deep below the surface. Back to the storms that batter what lies above the ground. Back to the stem which responds to the elements around it by reaching deeper and growing thicker and stronger. The cabbage grows it's foliage first, it strengthens it's core, and pushes the expanse of roots deep for the end result of fruit. The stronger the plant, the greater the result of it's labor!

I have an image of my friend. I see her roots growing deep, her core growing stronger....the foliage is week and beaten down, yet it will be restored, and fruit is growing and will will be bountiful! Others will reap the bounty of her strength. They will seek comfort in the shade! She will be a source of strength and encouragement for others as they begin to grow and to recover from their storms. I feel myself. I have been beaten, yet the roots are growing deeper, my stem is growing taller and thicker, and there is new growth around the broken pieces. It is gnarled and doesn't look the same as before. My scars draw attention to others, and they take refuge in the bits of shade that I am beginning to provide. My roots grow deep. Deep into streams of healing water. Streams of Christ's unfailing love. He is the nourishment from deep within. And, I sing again....I will not be...I will NOT be moved. Just like a tree standing by the water, I will not be moved!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox

Four words jumped off the page this week as I read Ezekiel Chapter 1: Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox. These were the four faces of the creatures that Ezekiel saw guarding the glory of God in a vision that he had. They were powered by and moved with the spirit. While this passage holds so much more than this, I have wondered why these four words sunk so deep for me. I immediately imagined that the characteristics of these creatures are those that God has chosen for me as an ambassador for Him. I began to research these faces today and stand amazed and convinced that this is what God desires of me.

Oxen. They are used for hard labor. They are typically used in pairs. They are trained to respond to their master's verbal and even gesture commands. Although they are not as fast as horses, they are stronger, move slower, and their pulling style is steadier. Hard working oxen wear their feet down, so they need to be properly shooed. The training process begins at a young age, and as they grow older, their yolk gets bigger and the load they pull becomes heavier. They have been and are the preferred choice for agricultural work, especially tilling and planting the ground and for harvesting.

Lions. They are social and live in groups. They hunt their prey and have strong jaws and teeth to devour their food. They have powerful legs and are known for running fast! They are BOLD. They are fierce and their roar commands respect, submission, and authority. "They shall go after the Lord, he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west." - Hosea 11:10.

Eagles. My favorite of all. They are amazing birds! Six character traits of eagles stand out. 1. They have fine sight. They can see another eagle flying from 50 miles away. Their eyes are designed for long distant vision and for clarity. 2. They are fearless. They will never surrender to the strength of their prey. 3. They are tenacious. While other birds seek shelter in the storm, an eagle takes advantage of it as it uses the wind to soar high above the storm. 4. They are high fliers. (this amazes me!) They can fly up to 10,000 feet in the air. I have sky dived from this altitude and it took us at least 20 min to reach this height by plane. No other bird can fly this high. 5. They nurture their young. Although they are known to be aggressive, ferocious birds, they are proven to be the most gentle and attentive of all birds to their young. 6. They possess vitality. (this one amazed me more than anything!) They become frail around 30 years old. Rather than succumbing to their lack of strength, they retreat to a mountaintop to rejuvenate. Over a period of about 5 months, they knock off parts of their body ... their beak, their talons, etc. and in time grow new parts, regrowth, which in turn allows the bird another 30+ years to live. AMAZING!

Man. Men and Women. They are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Because we are created in the image of God we possess his traits. We are loving, caring, become angry, we are social, personal, spiritual, intellectual, hard working....and so forth.

 The creatures had each of these faces, yet appeared to Ezekiel as men. I believe that God wants us to be as each of these creatures. He has clothed us with these qualities. He has created in us the ability to hear and obey his commands. He asks us to prepare the soil, plant the seeds of his salvation, and to gather the harvest. This is not easy work, and the older we get, the harder the work. We need to be slow and steady workers for him, capable of carrying heavy loads.
He wants us to be quick, bold, and strong as a lion. He wants us to hear his roar and to come to him when he calls. He has given us a "pride" to dwell in.....his people, chosen to work together for his good purpose of testifying to the gospel.
He wants us to "hope in the Lord, renew our strength, and soar on wings as eagles, running and not growing weary, walking without being faint." (Isaiah 40:31) We are to be fearless, never quitting, keeping a clear vision of what lies ahead. We are to nurture our children and gently teach them to fly. We are not made to fear the storms, but rather to rise above the challenges of life and use them to soar higher! We are to fly high and free. We are to climb the mountains and allow him to restore us unto him to gain strength to carry on!
As men and women, created by God and for God, we are to claim our foundation in Him. He wants us to live in such a way of being children of the King! Not orphans, but Children with a Father!! Secured in His love each day. Romans 8:15 "for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry 'Abba, Father."
I am challenged to claim these attributes. Knowing that this insight is such a small thread in the  tapestry He is creating!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Being a sign of God's Faithfulness

Last Sunday's sermon at my home church in Pennsylvania couldn't have come at a better time for me. It was short and simple but held a powerful message about life. There were two main points, the first one of living our lives in search of the signs of God's faithfulness, and the second of being the sign of God's faithfulness. He quoted several different people on the identification of a "Christian" being found through the answers of the poor. Who would the poor say served Christ?

I have pondered this through the week to follow as I also had conversations regarding serving the poor and caring for the orphan. I wondered how I have served the poor? How have I been a sign of God's faithfulness? What if I am not able to be or do things that I admire about other's faithfulness? I admire the ones who have taken the orphan into their home, the ones who feed the homeless, and shelter the needy. I have come to realize that not everyone is able to do each thing. Although I may wish I had the ability to do one thing, God may want me to do something else.

Who are the poor? Are they limited to the absence of physical possessions? Are they hungry, homeless, parent less? Yes, but are they more? Are they the poor of spirit as well? They may have riches beyond compare, yet lack the riches found in Christ. Maybe they have also the riches in Christ, but have found themselves in the darkest valleys, the driest deserts...the places that seem so far from God. As I ponder the concept of "poor", I realize that my mission field just got so much bigger. God has given each person a different talent or maybe several talents. He wants us to use them to minister to the different kinds of poor.

A talent. Now there is another word I have come to think about. I have always read the parable of the talents believing that the talents referred to wealth. The land owner gave each of the three servants different amounts. To one, he gave 10, another 5, and the other 1. When the ruler returned the servants with 10 and 5 had doubled theirs, the one with only 1 talent had hidden the talent out of fear. The first two were rewarded for making the most of what they were given, but the servant with one talent lost even the talent he had and it was given to the first. These talents, I am learning through my own life, are not just those of wealth. They are also talents of pain and suffering. I have been given this talent. It is up to me to either bury it, or to use it to benefit others. Maybe God is calling me to reach the poor of spirit.

It is so hard to believe that a year has passed.  A year ago, I was asked to speak at a women's retreat in the Pocono mountains. I accepted the invitation knowing that God would provide for me as he always has. That retreat is now two weeks away, and God continues to impress the women who attend into my heart. I have been praying for them as I have trusted God to provide the words that he wants them to hear. I know that He will be faithful. I know this because of the many signs of His faithfulness that he has given to me. It is my prayer that God will now use me as a sign of his faithfulness to someone else.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stained Tears

I let the boy get his things and go. He doesn't need me to walk him in on the first day anymore. He is in seventh grade this year. He is twelve. One year and one month older
than his sister was the way she left.
He is taller than she, now. His muscles are stronger, shoulders broader.
He is brave, like his sister. And, handsome as well.
He is a boy. A button pusher. A fun giver.
His heart is loving, it is broken...and tender.
He's too big to kiss in public now, but lets me steal kisses at home.
He serves his maker.
He is my son.
The bigger of the littles, she is strength wrapped in a tiny package.
Holding her fears captive, she went to school today.
She is a third grade girl this year. She is eight.
Next year is forth grade. The last one her sister completed before heaven.
I wonder what strength a big sister at her side would be?
she looks like her sister. both sisters, really.
she looks like heaven to me. or maybe just a taste of it.
She has energy and drive. she will obtain her goals.
she knows what she wants 
She has strength and inner beauty. She is so much older than she aught to be.
she knows truths that other little girls wonder about.
she is courage.
she is mine.
The smallest one. She went to kindergarten today. All day.
She is five now.
She speaks her mind of truths and of love.
She is kind, and loving. She is Grace.
God's Grace. His riches at Christ's expense. I can not deny this about God!
Every day that is spent with this child.
She is a busy one, filled with ideas and pours out her kisses and love.
my kitchen countertops will miss her through the day when I cook!
her heart resembles her biggest sister.
She is my baby. my joy. my last kindergartner.
she is Grace
She is the crown of my motherhood.
She is the joy of my heart.
Hers was my first day of kindergarten, and of third, but not of seventh grade.
Her last was of fourth.
I would have dropped her off today. She would have walked in with her brother,
her friend.
They always were quite the pair!
It would be our first year of high school. Ninth grade. Fifteen.
I can not imagine now.
Her skin would be dark from the sun of the summer. Her hair would be long and medium brown. Or maybe she would have chosen it short. Her legs long and lanky, I can just see them now.
We would have shopped for her shoes and her stuff that she needed to start.
I'm left to wonder what she would have picked.
She was beauty. She was strength, but also tender as little girls are.
She loved her Jesus. She loves him now.
She is radiant. Kind. loving. perfect in every way.
she is still mine.
My tears are stained as I walk away.
Each child is seated in the chairs and ready for the new year.
and, yet I feel so incomplete.
They are not all there. I'm missing one. As I always am.
it is a feeling I rarely can get used to.
Mommies are always counting. I always come up short.
I hold my tears in till I get to the car when they come flowing down my cheeks. It has been four years. And, so another school year marks the beginning of the fifth.
she is still eleven and eight days old.  She never began fifth grade.
I am the mommy who left school today, and went to the grave.
It is a once foreign place, that I have come to know.
a quiet place. a horrid place. an empty place.
it is not mine.
Ashley, is mine. Heaven is mine. The pain, the tears....they are mine.
The new joy of life, the blessings in each day.....
The broken in my heart.
They are all mine.
I will soon pick them up. I will hear of their day. I am their mommy.
I am not the woman I used to be.
At times I miss her dearly. 
I ask God to dress me with strength for this year.
He will.
Because He is mine.