Taking a Short Break

Last week, I shared on Facebook that I would not be around those parts quite as often during the summer months, and the same is going to be true of this blog. I love writing here, but I need to take a few weeks off – maybe a couple months off – to gain some perspective, spend time in the great outdoors, and figure out where this blog needs to go next.

I will have articles popping up in other places around the Internet, and I’ll be sure to let you know about those. And, if something happens that I need to share with you – if we have a bumper crop of tomatoes or peas or sunflowers in our garden – I’ll pop back in here.

So, the best way to stay in touch with my erratic posting schedule for the summer is to subscribe. There’s a little box in the left hand column that will let you enter your email address, and the elves who work their magic behind the scenes will send you an email the next time I post something new.

Have a great summer!

You can also follow me on Instagram, especially if you are interested in the ongoing saga of our garden.

It All Starts With a Seed

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Baby zinnias!

We finally finished planting our garden this week, a few days later than we had hoped, but it is done. We leave the seeds in the soil, walk away thanking God for a day without rain, and pray for the harvest.

Life is much the same.

We try to instill in our children a sense of right and wrong. We teach them stories from the Bible, and pray that God will bring a harvest of righteousness from their lives.

We work hard at whatever tasks are at hand, and pray that God will bless them – our careers, our families, our hobbies.

But it all starts with that little seed – the small beginning of something, filled with possibilities. We plant it in faith, knowing that the Maker of the Universe controls the weather, the seasons, the growing conditions.

Whether it’s a garden or a life, God asks us to trust Him. He asks us to give sacrificially, to follow in obedience, to walk in His guidance. He asks for our trust and our faith, even when we cannot see the harvest. We step out in faith – we accept the responsibilities He gives us, however inadequate we may feel, however underprepared we are.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

What area is God asking you to trust Him with today? In what ways do you need to obey Him in faith?

 

The Unofficial Beginning of Summer

gardenAlthough the calendar says that summer begins on June 21, and school isn’t out here for a couple more weeks, summer unofficially began in our house today with the planting of our garden.

If you were reading here last year, you know that we worked together with several other families to grow what turned into a rather large garden {an understatement!} that we used to feed ourselves and to supply our church’s food pantry.

We had no idea what we were doing.

We plunged headlong into gardening, and with the help of Mr. Don who owns the land, and through God’s gracious providence, we actually grew things that people could eat. We were amazed.

This year, we know a little more about what we are doing. We have come to the season with a better game-plan for what to grow, how much to grow, and how to freeze and preserve our goodies to use throughout the year.

This is all part of my plan for our summer. Although we live in a subdivision with pavement and sidewalks, we need to have an outlet to get our hands dirty. We need to remember where our food comes from. Gardening takes time and care, and we need to remember the slow path of doing things. Cell phones barely work at our garden, and that’s not a bad thing. We are so connected all the time, I like having a few minutes of “disconnectedness.”

While I love the hustle and bustle of the city, and I am never happier than sipping coffee in a coffee shop while people-watching, I am learning that I need this. As we were leaving the garden this morning, my friend Jill called it “therapeutic.” And while my muscles may not agree in the morning, my soul certainly does.

Do you garden? Have you planned to spend some time this summer unplugged? How will you make it happen?

A Heart to Serve Others

prov 1125Last week, I shared that we are stopping the busyness, adding some margins to our life. I am asking God to speak in the open spaces and clearly show me how He wants to use me in His Kingdom. The last time I found myself waiting on God’s direction, He led me to more focused outreach in the community around my church. As I am waiting for Him now, I am drawn to this verse in Proverbs:

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

I believe that when I am in a season of needing fresh direction from God, the best way to get it is to give more of myself to others.

I want the margins I have created for the next few months to be opportunities to spend more time with the people God has placed in my life. Certainly, that starts with my family. But we can’t be responsible to the calling of God and stay hidden away in our own little retreat for the next three months. We have to extend ourselves to our church family, our neighbors, and others in the community.

We have to be generous with our time.

We have to step out of our comfort zones.

We have to lend a helping hand.

We have to give of ourselves.

Even when it is inconvenient, even when we are tired, even when we have something else to do, if God puts someone in our path, I hope that this will be the summer we learn to stop, change direction, and allow God to use us.

What about you? Have you found this truth to be true? How can you give refreshment to someone else today?

Life with Margins

Matt1128I am so tired this morning, and would like nothing better than just crawling back under my soft covers. But moms can’t often do that, so I continue on with the to-do list, slowly checking off each item, and hoping that the three-year-old has a good nap this afternoon so that I can catch a few minutes on the couch before we are off and running again.

Our calendar has been absolutely full for the past several months, forcing me to do that hard thing – saying no. We’re saying no to fun events, no to good opportunities, no to anything that is not essential.

As I get older, I see how hard it is to keep us this frantic pace that seemed so easy in my 20s. We have very little margin in our lives – very little time to do spontaneous things, time in the sun, time for hobbies, time for friends and neighbors, time for living. Too often our time is spent hurrying from one event to the next.

So, as summer approaches, I’m putting my foot down, drawing a line in the sand, stopping the bus. We are accepting no new commitments until August. I want to be able to spend time in the sun working our garden. I want to find days to borrow a friend’s swimming pool. I want to read books. I want to lay in the grass. I want to play at the park with my son. I want to get to know my neighbors again after the longest winter. I want to have lunch with friends. I want to rest.

So, that’s it. I’ve already had to say no to some things (mostly just to myself). But I already feel a freedom in that – the freedom to embrace the life that’s right in front of me and enjoy the moments.

Do you need to build margin in your life? How do you decide when to say no and when to say yes?

Share Your Story

Eph 4At a neighborhood block party last weekend, I sat and talked with a young woman who has been blind since she was 15. She was asking about my writing and my blog, and said she has thought of starting her own blog. Fear, procrastination, and busyness were holding her back – would anyone even want to read what she has to say?

Friend, let me tell you what I told her - the world needs your story.

Whatever your life is like, whatever you have faced in the past or are facing now, someone else out there needs to know that they are not alone. If you have felt it and lived it, someone else has too.

In recent days, I have meditated on the later half of Ephesians 4:29 - “…as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Your words, your art, your music, however you share your story, may come at just the right time to help someone else. If God is calling you to share, all He asks from you is obedience. He will provide the audience, whether that be one or one million.

Maybe you will share your story by mentoring or befriending someone who is lonely. Perhaps God has given you musical talents, and you deliver your message through song. Maybe you write, speak, scrapbook, garden, or do 1,000 other things that give glory to God. Whatever God is asking you to do, do it in such a way that gives grace to someone else.

What story is God writing in your life? How can you share that story with someone else?

 

Mentors Wanted

Titus 2In the first little church that Chris served while in seminary, a little red-brick church in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky, was a woman named Belinda. And for the seven and a half years that we lived and worked in that area, I stuck to her like glue. She taught me to cook, to lead, to teach, to serve … and all without any formal classes or meetings or seminars.

She just let me watch her live.

We went to conferences together, we served together on the women’s ministry leadership team, we worked in the nursery together. We ate Chinese food after church on Sundays, and we did Bible studies together.

I saw her mother her college-age daughters (who are just a few years younger than I am), saw her plan two weddings, and now watch as she is Mimi to their kids.

We need more Belindas in the world.

We need more men and women who will allow younger adults (and those younger in the faith) to come alongside their lives and just watch them live and serve. We need people who aren’t afraid to let someone outside their immediate family into their circle. None of us lead perfect lives, but that’s not the point. The point is, younger adults want and need those of us a few years further down the road to walk hand-in-hand with them through the ups and downs of life.

Yes, many of them have parents who are helping them, but not all do. And even those who do would like a different perspective – and maybe you are just the person to provide that.

Yes, it can be messy. Yes, it takes time. Yes, you might get hurt. But you might also gain a friend. You might also find joy in watching a younger adult learn about life. You might just find some joy and a new perspective yourself.

Mature Christian, the young adults around you need you. Would you be a Belinda to someone today?

When I Grow Up I Want to Write

10173389_10153954485735244_1004245266_n[1]When I was a little girl, I remember riding in the car with my daddy and him asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. You know, that question that adults love to ask kids and kids dread answering. There’s really no good answer to this question – if the child says something far-flung, the adult will most likely drag her back to reality. If she says something practical, her reply is usually met with something about not being afraid to dream.

But on that day, I was honest. I told him that I wanted to be a writer.

He didn’t make fun of that dream, or tell me to put it on the back-burner. He just said that if that’s what I wanted to do, I needed to study it and work at it.

But time passed, and when I went to college, I decided to take the practical path and study teaching secondary school English. Teaching is an extremely noble profession. I have many, many friends who are teachers, and what they do is no less than inspiring. But as I continued through my coursework, I began to realize that it might not be the best fit for me.

So, I did the sensible thing – I got an office job.

And, I was good at it. I enjoy organizing, managing, and directing, and eventually I landed in a job that used all of those talents. And, truthfully, I loved it.

But I loved books and words more.

So here I am, some thirty years or so after that conversation with my dad, and I’m just starting to see what it might look like for me to be a writer. I’ve been taking an online course with Jennifer Trafton for the past five weeks, and although some parts of it are far outside my comfort zone, I have loved it. It has made me work at writing in a way that I haven’t in years. It’s made me evaluate some areas where I need to work.

Am I a writer? Part of me still says that real writers have published books, which I have not. Blogger? Yes. Magazine writer? Yes. Writer? I’ll keep working on trying to say that, and maybe some day I’ll get there.

All Things … For Good

Rom828This has been an odd week, filled with kidney stones (not mine), very sick newborns (also not mine), and stress and worry (that would be mine).

On the positive side, I now know my way around our city’s new hospital. On the negative side, people I love have been sick and in pain.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Right now, in this minute, as I sit in a hospital room waiting for news, it’s hard to see how this promise is true. How can a kidney stone work for our good and God’s glory? How can a sick newborn, with her worried parents and grandparents, bring glory to God?

The thing is, even though I don’t know how, I cling to the truth in this promise. Even though we are still waiting for test results and outcomes, I believe that God is working out His purpose. I believe that our testimony through these trials may lead someone to know Him and believe in Christ. I believe that God is teaching us greater things, even now. I believe that He is drawing us to Himself.

I believe Lord, help me in my unbelief.

Living With Kingdom Purpose

1 Cor 10Do you realize how much influence you have for the Kingdom of God?

I don’t just mean the things you do at church, although I’m sure those are good, God-glorifying opportunities. I’m talking about the other six days of the week, the Monday through Saturday days of working, playing, homemaking, recreating.

Whatever we do, however we treat others, whatever attitudes we take, words we use, feelings we embrace, can either glorify the God who made us and point others to him, or they will turn others away from seeking Him.

We create a life with our actions, and people are watching. Sometimes, we make grand gestures when our hearts are moved – large donations of money, possessions, time. And certainly, if God is asking you to make a grand gesture, do it. He teaches us great lessons when we make large sacrifices.

But I think we invest more in the Kingdom and have greater influence in our day-to-day rounds than in the “grand gestures.” Anyone can make a big sacrifice when others are watching. While those big sacrifices certainly may cost something, we often get something in return – satisfaction, a pat on the back, and recognition. Rarely do we get any of those things when we conduct our minutes and days with steadfastness, integrity, and character.

But it is in our daily living where we really have an impact on God’s Kingdom.

  • Am I raising my children to be mighty warriors in God’s army, ready to do battle against the forces of evil?
  • Am I ethical in all my business dealings?
  • Do I treat all people, regardless of age, race, occupation, or any other dividing factors with the same kindness and compassion I show to people who are just like me?
  • Do I freely share with others what God is doing in my life right now?
  • Am I patient and forgiving with others?
  • Do I actively look for ways to show love and compassion to someone else?
  • Do I do things only for recognition, or am I content to work behind the scenes and let others receive the praise?

Whatever we are doing with our days, whether we stay at home with kids, work in an office, go to school, or collect the garbage, we are commanded to do everything for the glory of God. Nothing in our lives is wasted.

How are you impacting the Kingdom today?

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