I read an article last night about yet another prominent Christian woman ending her marriage after 25 years. This woman has a world renown ministry. She writes books and speaks about marriage, family and home. And yes, there was infidelity in their marriage. No judgment toward her is intended at all — it’s just that the news is not only shocking, it is really sad. So as I sit here and look at this picture of Jon and me on our wedding day, and try to remember those two young people, I am overwhelmed with emotion. We were so young! We had no idea what love or life was about. I had just turned 18, and Jon 20. What were we thinking? And what were our parents thinking? My mom and dad certainly knew me well enough to know I wasn’t prepared to “adult” and run a household. Jon had always been an “old soul” — mature beyond his years. And I know that was what I saw in him (and was banking on). I remember a sense of panic when I heard the music start to play in the sanctuary, and my bridesmaids began their trek down the aisle. Seriously? Isn’t anyone going to stop me from doing this? But then I looked down that aisle and saw tears running down the cheeks of the man soon to be mine, and my heart calmed (we’ve taken some heat about that over the years…. yep, he was already crying on his wedding day). But here we are 43 years later. How does that even happen? And how do two kids hold it together for that long? To be honest, I’m not sure. Like everyone else, we’ve had our ups and downs. Seasons of great love and seasons of, well, tolerance). There is a famous quote, ‘never fall out of love at that same time’. So much truth in that. We rode out the seasons of “lukewarm” until they sizzled again. There were times I loved Jon greatly, and times I would look at him, and think ‘who are you? and what are you doing in my house?’. Years ago, I read the book, “The Myth of the Greener Grass”. Also truth. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It is the same grass with the same crabgrass. We’ve stayed on our side of the fence, tending to our weeds, and nurturing our blooms. We were determined to get through any muck. So here we are, over 40 years later… a bit muddy, but still in love, and on our side of the fence. Neither of us has ever mentioned the D word. Divorce was never an option. A friend recently said, ‘we’ve hit a rough patch, but we keep soldiering on, right?’ Yes. That’s right. You keep your guard up and soldier on. But not in a bad, trudging way. Yes, you are in a war — with the world and our culture. Yes! Fight! But the fight isn’t WITH your spouse — it is FOR your spouse. Fight for your marriage! Keep your guard up! Watch over your shoulder! Don’t let anyone or anything come between you. Always always always depend on your faith and trust in God — He’s on your side. He’s fighting with you. Love your wife. Respect your husband. Jon wants the best for me. I want the best for him. And that’s why we’re still pulling weeds and planting flowers, tending to our garden on THIS side of the fence.
Always about this time every year, I begin to get nervous about our upcoming FMSC MobilePack. It’s kind of like planning a wedding — so many details! And if everyone just remembers his role, the “wedding” will be a big success. We have a steering committee, yes, and those people plan, work and delegate. However, there is only so much we can do when we are talking about inspiring 3000 volunteers and collecting over $140,000 needed to complete the task.
We can’t do it.
And that is where nerves and faith have a head-on collision.
The task is big. I woke up several times last night with the Pack on my mind.
Today’s topic in our church service was about FEAR. “When we face our fears with FAITH, God gives us strength and courage. And that strength and courage lend to REST”. Rest. Is waking up at 1 a.m. and again at 3 a.m., thinking about the MobilePack, rest?
I’m not talking about blind faith. Absolutely not. I have history to fall back on. This is our 7th pack with Feed My Starving Children, and has God shown up? Has He been faithful? Did He answer our prayers?
Thousands of volunteers have come to help pack meals in our community for the past six years. We used over 2200 volunteers from our community just last year alone. 2200! Where did they come from? I have no idea. They just kept coming through the door.
And over half a million dollars has been raised by our Meals From Michiana event in the past six years. Wait. What? How is that possible in this little farming community? The only answer is God opened the hearts of His people to give.
God HAS been faithful. The Pack is not about us — and what we can accomplish.
We can’t do it.
But God can!
God has done it! God can do it.
And I am trusting God will do it.
Fear breeds anxiety and unbelief.
I have no reason to fear. It is God’s will to feed the hungry. We can walk boldly forward, and rely on HIM to work in His people. He can urge them to volunteer. He can burden them to give. He has. And He will. Praise the Lord.
Tonight, if I wake up at 3 a.m., I will not worry or fret. I will praise Him for what He is doing and what He will accomplish in September during our FMSC Mobile Pack. I will lift my eyes to the heaven, and give Him thanks.
How about you? What are you afraid of? What fear is waking you up at night? Trust God to work it out. He has been faithful in the past.
He can be trusted for what is to come.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
He will give you REST as you turn your FEAR into FAITH.
I’ve been meeting with a group of women from my church over the past several months as part of a Women’s Leadership Team. What does the woman of 2016 want? What does she need? What are we leading women to? What are we leading women in? Those are the questions we have been pondering.
And can we, this small group of seven women, have any impact in their lives? Can we block out some of the worldly noise competing for their attention?
Can we be women of influence?
In the Bible, the book of Titus teaches us that the “older” women are to teach the younger women. Does older only refer to age? Who is the older woman?
Marriage. Motherhood. Death. Grief. Divorce.
All those circumstances lend to a more experienced woman (and the gal we tend to think of as older and wiser). But what about…
College. Career. Depression. Singleness. Abuse.
All those life situations (and countless more) lend to more experience as well. And if a woman has walked down one of those roads, turned to God, and gained wisdom, isn’t she an “older” one?
After a few weeks of discussion, our little group doesn’t think women want (or need) another church program. They don’t need someone to teach them how to knit a pair of socks or make an apple pie. They want someone to give them a peek at what might be around the next corner. And maybe offer a few words of encouragement or instruction.
She wants to tell her story.
She wants someone to listen, to hear. She wants to know she matters.
Women seek love and acceptance. I pray to God they find both in our midst. They also need guidance and godly wisdom from women who have gone before them.
“How are you? I’m fine” just doesn’t cut it anymore. I am not fine. You are not fine. We are NOT fine. We have worries and problems. Big problems. And we need help. Just some basic, fundamental help.
As this group of women’s leadership meets weekly, it is causing me to look around and “see” other women. I mean really see them. Do I know her name? Is she married? Does she have any children? Does she work outside her home? If so, where?
And those questions just barely scratch the surface of this woman created by God.
She is part of my church family. The Bible says we are part of the same body. Shouldn’t I know if she is concerned about her cancer returning? Or worried about her prodigal child? Abused? Lonely? Afraid of losing her job — or her husband?
Shouldn’t she know she matters — to me? to us? To God?
Who’s going to tell her, if we don’t? We’ve been in her shoes. We know. We know. Shame on us if we don’t help carry her baggage.
Most of us, in the church, are the older woman. We can look around and see someone walking the same road on which we just left footprints. Let’s reach out and give her our hand.
“How are you?”
“No, really, I’ve got some time, tell me about your week…”
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25
We are now in the early stages of planning our 7th local Feed My Starving Children MobilePack, Meals From Michiana. I became the coordinator for this event in our Northern Indiana community 2 years ago. The MobilePack manual provided by FMSC has been my constant companion as I organize and plan. Everything that needs to be done for a successful Manna Pack is explained in this notebook. The first instructions are to appoint leaders to 7 different committees: Leadership, Prayer, Promotion, Fundraising, Logistics, Volunteers, and Hospitality. Administration comes easy when FMSC has already created the “big picture”. Once I saw the overall plan, it wasn’t hard to get leaders for the various committees.
However, that first year, no one stepped up to take the role of Prayer Leader. After asking several people personally, and still getting no volunteer, I created prayer cards for all the other committee leaders. We tried to pray individually, and of course, corporately whenever we had meetings. That worked okay, but I felt it was still lacking.
Were we praying enough?
The second year, all committee leadership positions filled quickly, but again, no one chose the Prayer Committee. I tried to think of a way to get everyone involved in praying for our MobilePack. I was inspired by a conversation I had with a local businessman. He had been walking the sidewalks of our community, praying for the small businesses. He said he was “claiming them for God”. He then talked of his surprise at how the walks were transforming him, making him love this community and its people more and more.
Our MobilePack was 7 weeks away, and with new resolve, I contacted our core volunteers. I told them I would be at the event center at 7:30 a.m. for the next 6 Saturdays. I asked them to join me to walk around the facility and pray for our Pack. When Saturday arrived, it was wet and chilly, but as I waited in my car, more vehicles pulled into the parking lot. Fortunately, there are few schedule conflicts that early on Saturdays — and people came to pray!
Our event center is a sprawling, odd-shaped building. There is pavement along two sides of the building, and nothing but tall grass and dirt on the other two sides.
We started off a bit awkward, walking, dodging puddles, and praying out loud. We must have been a curious sight to people on the nearby freeway. Heads lowered, hot coffee in hand, walking, and talking.
We prayed for the MobilePack and the starving children; we prayed for the building and for the volunteers; we asked God for safety; we prayed for the FMSC staff. We asked for our community to be transformed by this event.
And we claimed the event for God.
And by the time we completed the circle, we all felt excitement in the air. No one hurried to his car. People stood around talking about God, the Pack, and the kids who would receive the meals.
And that’s when I knew this would work.
Walking and praying together refocused us. We were no longer worried about the volunteers, or the money, or the logistics of the Pack.
He would take care of the details. God had lifted the burden.
And the next Saturday, they all came back. In fact, every Saturday leading up to our FMSC MobilePack, we prayed around the perimeter of that building, staking our claim. God honored those prayers, and our MobilePack ran smoothly, volunteers were in abundance, and we packed over and above our goal.
As we move forward, planning for our 2016 MobilePack, all the committee leaders are in place. This year, I’m not seeking a Prayer Leader. I’m planning a Prayer Walk. We will walk and pray. I’m not worried about participation.
They will come.
It was that powerful.
Am I going to Grumble? Or Trust?
When I go back and count, I only posted 13 days out of the 31! Looks like I just got my numbers turned around.
We were asked to write a recap post. Did I learn anything as I wrote? Will it reshape me in any way?
And thankfully, they invited everyone to recap, even if we did not complete 31 days.
So, did I learn anything? Well, yes, I did.
On writing, I learned that if I focus and bring ALL that I know, and ALL that I want to write about, down into something very specific, like grumbling or trusting, writing comes easier. There were days in September when I wanted to write, and I had all kinds of things dancing in my head, but nothing specific. Therefore, no words ever made it to paper: I wrote nothing during the month of September versus 13 posts in October.
Focus is key.
I also learned that even with a challenge before me to write 31 days, sometimes life gets in the way. And life, living it, still trumps writing about it. There were a few days when I clicked that “publish” button at 11:59 pm, but typically on those kind of days, life won out as did sleep. And I’m ok with that.
Living trumps writing.
I don’t write if I don’t take the time. There will always be 24 hours in any day. No more. No less. I am a task-oriented person. I work from a to-do list. Writing can no longer just be an add-on — if I have time. There will never be any left-over hours. If I want to write, then “write” must be on the to-do list. It gets done if it’s on the list. Because that’s how I roll.
Take the time to write. Steal it. It’s ok.
So those were the easy lessons.
I chose 31 Days of JOY — will I grumble or will I trust? Life lessons that require attitude and perspective shifts are harder to learn. And can I just say, they hurt more.
On grumbling, I learned that murmuring and complaining are often my default settings. Ouch. (No one wants to know that about themselves.) But knowledge is power, and several times last month when I wanted to complain, grumble, or gossip about something, I stopped myself.
Often that’s as far as I went; I just reined in my thoughts. I didn’t grumble. Done.
It’s one step to not complain, but it’s a giant leap to praise God and trust Him for whatever comes your way.
Whatever comes your way.
Was I going to just not grumble? Or was I going to trust?
On trusting, I learned that I could not savor trust and grumble in the same mouthful. My trust required remembering God’s faithfulness to me in the past. My trust reminded me that God works ALL things out for my good.
ALL things. Even “this”? Even “that”?
Yes, ALL things.
Then, and only then, could my trust bring praise to my lips. “Thank you, Lord, for what you are doing in this situation. I trust you.”
Trust doesn’t grumble, trust praises God.
I will focus and take time to write. I will try not to grumble (too often). I will trust God by remembering His faithfulness and praising Him for what He is doing in my life.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
It was a good challenge, and I’m glad I participated. Did I do it perfectly? No, I did not. But it’s like any kind of exercise — practice makes perfect.
“The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.”
Just keep typing… just keep typing…
I watch my grandchildren 2 days a week while their Mama works. I love knowing her sweet babies in such an intimate way, and I enjoy keeping them. By allowing me to care for her kiddos, I know my daughter has given me a gift.
We are entering into the season when we think more about gifts. Autumn is in full-swing, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We slow down just long enough on Turkey Day to count our blessings, and then we rush out the next day to grab all the deals we can find for more gifts. Instead of looking forward to the holidays with joy, we often complain and dread their arrival.
But the gifts I value the most cannot be bought at any store. There are no deals on Black Friday to purchase the items I treasure.
Daughters. Husband. Grandchildren. Moms. Extended Family. Friends. Community.
Not one thing on my list. Am I thankful for my house, my car, my things? Of course, but if they were all lost, and I only had my people, I would be a grateful, satisfied, and blessed woman. Thankful for the gifts in my life.
There is one other person on my list. The most important gift I possess.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Jesus Christ. Eternal life.
God’s gift to us.
The best gifts don’t come with a barcode.
“You cannot do this. You have nothing to say.” Those are the words she heard over and over again in her head. They were loud voices, even harsh at times. “What are you doing here?”
Why had she come to this conference, this writer’s conference? Doubts and fears overwhelmed her because she wasn’t sure she did have anything worthy to say.
As she looked around the lobby, she saw men and women huddled together, talking about their latest projects. She saw one lady, animated about her fiction novel, the one she has been researching for years, and is now ready to put on paper. Another spoke excitedly about a Bible study she has just written. There were stories, no pun intended, everywhere.
She wasn’t comparing herself to accomplished authors. These writers had put in their “10,000 hours”, and deserved to be published. No, it really wasn’t that at all. Besides, there were some writers here who had never written a single word. Longing and curiosity had brought them to this place.
What then? What was causing her anxiety?
She was doubting her calling. Had she heard God right? Did He want her to write? Did she have anything worthwhile to say?
Did she have a voice?
Does that ever happen to you? You think you know what God has asked you to do. You step out in faith, but something happens that shakes you up a bit. You hear a condemning voice, “You cannot do that. You are not called to ________.” And then you doubt. You question. You fear. You may even grumble and complain. Whine, if you will.
I know I have. I know I do.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Fear is not from God. When God calls us to do something, He gives us power, and passion and peace. He does not whisper (or yell) condemnations into our ear. No where in God’s Word do we see him saying things like, “you are stupid. you are no good. you cannot do this.” If God wants us to change course, He will guide us, but He won’t belittle us in the process.
It took her a day or two after she arrived home to clear her head of the criticism. To shake off the lies. The truth was God had given her this passion, a desire to put her heart on paper. She’s still not sure what direction her writing will go. Does she have a fictional book inside of her? Does she have a gift for devotionals? It’s not clear just yet. But that’s okay.
She is standing just at the gate. She almost turned and ran the other way, but with new purpose and resolve, she stepped through and began to slowly walk. And in time, as she thinks, ponders, writes and writes, God will help her find her voice.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
I’m going to take a hiatus tonight from my theme of 31 Days of JOY. And as I am heading into a busy weekend, and may not post again until Monday, my 31 Days is quickly morphing into a 25 Days of JOY. That’s ok: Structure not legalistic rules.
I’m attending Breathe Writer’s Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and due to the late hour, I’m going to keep this post short. My brain is full of all that I’ve taken in today at this writer’s conference, and if I’m honest, I’m a little overwhelmed by the content and the company. I’m feeling a little out of my league. Authors and accomplished writers are here, meeting with publishing companies, making pitches to get their work published.
My little blog posts seem lame in comparison. I’m green. Late to the party.
Wait! Wasn’t my last blog post was about comparisons? Ugh. It’s such a natural human reaction to compare ourselves with others.
I’m going to have to do some praying and soul-searching to figure out exactly what I’m suppose to be doing. There are days when I feel called to write, and I’m passionate about putting thoughts and words on paper. Then there are moments when I don’t know why in the heck I’m not cleaning my house instead of wasting my time at this keyboard.
Just keeping it real and transparent.
I don’t want to compare myself to “authors”. It doesn’t really matter what they write or how many works they have in print. What I want to do is find out what God wants me to do. How best can I fulfill His purpose in my life.
This may be too much to ask out of the Breathe Conference, but I’m hoping for some clarity tomorrow. I’m hoping God uses these speakers and workshops to define more of who I am — who He wants me to be.
I’ve been writing recently about grumbling, and the idea that trust and grumbling are opposites.
We can’t trust God and then grumble about what He has laid before us, or the “work” He’s given us to do. Grumbling, murmuring, and disputing testify to unbelief. If I truly believe that God is in control, and that He has my best, my very best interest at heart (and He always does), then how can I argue or grumble?
I spoke briefly with a friend yesterday, and this young woman is walking a road none of us would ask to travel. She has just given birth to her 3rd child, a precious little girl. This sweet little babe has some chromosome abnormalities that present a grave prognosis. Her life here on earth will most likely be short-lived, maybe a month, possibly a year.
As we chatted, this young mom thanked me for my recent posts, ‘They’ve been good for me because I’ve been tempted to grumble a bit…I’m asking why a lot.’ Oh, Sweet Friend, mourning and grieving, even asking why, are not the same thing as grumbling. Expressing heartache over dashed expectations or grieving a loss are natural human reactions. God has given us those emotions, and understands our need to express them.
The Merriam Webster dictionary says the word mourn is to feel or show great sadness because someone has died; to feel or show great sadness or unhappiness about (something).
And this about grieve: to cause (someone) to feel sad or unhappy; to feel or show grief or sadness.
That same resource says to grumble is complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way.
Mourning and grumbling are totally different reactions, feelings and emotions. God will comfort us during the first, but rebuke us for the latter.
I was given permission to share this young mother’s words. I was even told I could post a picture, but the timing doesn’t feel quite right. I may share more in another post on another day or someone else may get that honor as their story must be told. This baby’s life will be honored and people will be blessed from the testimony of this family.
I know some reading this blog are going through some really heavy stuff, and these posts are not meant to make light of those trials. God hears your cries. I hope you find comfort as you read the verses below…. just a few things God has to say about mourning…
My next stop during this month of no grumbling took me to the book of Numbers in the Bible. I am not going to go into all the details of chapter 16 as I really only want to use a portion of my 500 words (that is the maximum number of words in any article before your eyes glaze over and you lose all interest in the point of the post ).
Chapter 16 is filled with jealousy and comparisons, and the awful price a disgruntled people paid for not listening to God.
It all started when a few people got jealous of their leaders, of God’s anointed leaders; they gathered a few more into their fold with their complaining and comparisons. Then others became unhappy with this and that. It was an opposition against Moses and Aaron.
Really? No, Moses and his brother were anointed by God so the uprising was actually rebellion against Him.
Jealousy is a poison. Comparisons can be deadly. When we look at others and long for their talents, and their gifts, we become discontent with our own. In God’s Word, we’re told that we all have gifts.
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…” Romans 12:6. “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” Ephesians 4:7.
Yet we neglect to nurture our own if we keep looking around us at others.
Not only do comparisons cause us to grumble, but our complaining is often contagious. God dealt gravely with those who rebelled in that book of Numbers, but let’s read the last sentence in that very same chapter, “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron…”. (Numbers 16:41)
But , “The very next day...”? The very same chapter, the very next day. How can that happen? How can memories be so short? Unfortunately, as a fallen people, they didn’t always learn the lessons God put in their lives. We don’t either.
“I want to speak like her”
“I would love to write like him”
“Why can’t I teach like her”
Comparisons. Grumbles. Discontentment.
We sometimes see the error in our way, and ask God to forgive us. And we are happy with our own talents and gifts…. for about 2 days. Then we do it all over again.
We are those people. At least I am those people.
Friend, stop looking around. Look up and then look within. What is your talent? What are you good at? Where are your passions? Find those things and nurture those things. When you are doing what God created you to do, you will find satisfaction and contentment.
And God will be glorified in you.
Oops, I used all 500 words; I hope you stayed with me!
A friend of mine is struggling as one of her adult children is going through something right now that is breaking her heart. We sat over a cup of coffee and talked about life, marriage, children, parents, and God …. yeh, that kind of friend. After we moved to this area, God answered my prayer, and put this kindred spirit into my life. I have only known her for about four years, but it feels like I’ve known her my whole life.
I have four children of my own — all girls, all grown. They are beautiful, strong, and independent women. Each daughter has faced her own challenges; and if I’m honest, some are still trying to figure a few things out. But then, aren’t we all?
Parenting is hard. And whichever stage of parenting you’re in — babies, toddlers, tweens or teens — that stage seems to be the hardest. Because every season is hard and takes it’s toll on us as moms and dads. I always thought when my kids were raised, I could take a deep breath and relax.
No one ever tells you that whether your child is 5 or 35, you hold them in your heart and think about them, their decisions, and their well-being every single day… forever.
No breathing. No relaxing.
I know that is not exactly true, and full-time parenting minors is certainly different than “parenting” adult children. A wise woman once told me, ‘when your children are little, talk to them about God. When your children are adults, talk to God about them’.
Which brings me to my point (finally)… I’ve been reading the book of Philippians recently. There’s a really simple verse in chapter 2 that we often teach our children. It’s a Sunday School favorite for memorization: “Do all things without grumbling and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). As young parents, we arm ourselves and quote that verse as we separate squabbling children. At other times, we make them repeat it as they march off to clean their rooms.
But THAT verse recently jumped off the page at me during a quiet time of reading and reflection. I had actually been having a conversation with God — about my children. I was arguing about a situation in which one of my girls finds herself. What, Lord? Even that? I can’t grumble about that?
And I heard, “No, trust Me” (not audibly, but loud, just the same).
“I do trust You, Lord.”
“Then why do you grumble?”
“Isn’t it my right to grumble when things are not going well for my kids? I want the best for my kids. Can’t I complain when things stink?”
“Do you trust Me?”
And there it is again.
Grumble or trust?
As a parent, the hardest thing for me to do is let go, and let God take care of my kids. I want control. I want to make things right. I want to fix things. I want to grumble. I want to complain. I want…
But it’s not about me.
And I think that is what God is trying to teach me. My kids are His. He is in control. He will make things right. He will fix things.
… in His own time
… and in His own way.
And He will get the glory.
And my children will be stronger and better when God works in their life (not Mom).
Do I trust God with my kids? Yes, yes, I do. So it’s about time I acted like it.
“Thank you, God, for what You are doing in their lives. Thank you for loving them… even MORE than I do. I praise You.”
My job is to pray and praise.
It’s hard to grumble and praise in the same breath.
God’s got this! God’s got them!
Breathe in, breathe out, relax.
When I began this challenge, it wasn’t my intention to go through the Bible, looking for every mention of grumble, however, it has become a fascinating word study. I’ve gotten very intrigued, and humbled, by the texts.
God takes grumbling very seriously.
All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:2-4)
The people were afraid because Moses had sent men into Canaan to “spy out the land”. The people received a bad report from 10 of the 12 men. Ten men came back and stirred up fear. Two men came back and said, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey.”
Yes, the people living in the land of Canaan were strong; the cities were large and fortified. The men were gigantic! Both the location, all the people, and their neighbors were formidable. It did look hopeless, but God had said He was giving the land to the Hebrew people. God said it was theirs already. Surely they would trust Him.
As I read that familiar story, I thought, why did Moses send men into Canaan to spy out the land? Hadn’t God already promised the land to them? Why did Moses need to scout it out? So I went back to the beginning, and look what I found…
Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.” (Numbers 13:1-2)
It wasn’t Moses’ idea to send spies. He was being obedient to God. God sent the spies into Canaan. Why? God didn’t need spies; He knew what was in the land of Canaan.
Well, well, well…. That puts a whole new perspective on this story.
God was testing the faith of the people. He wanted to see if they would trust Him.
What did they do? They grumbled.
And there it is again.
Grumble or trust?
Aren’t we a bit like those people wandering in the desert? We may be sure God is leading us in a certain direction, but when something happens that upsets the plans, we often retreat, doubting that we heard Him correctly. We don’t see it as a test of faith, a time to speak up and remember God’s faithfulness to us. We see it as defeat. We run back to “Egypt”, our own state of slavery. It may not be a bad place; it might be a comfortable place, but is it THE place God wants us to be? Trials and tests don’t scream “retreat”; they often beg for, “I serve a faithful God. Let’s go!”
I don’t want to grumble and miss the blessing of my promised land. I want to remember that God HAS been faithful. God WILL go before me. God has ALREADY defeated my enemies.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)
The Hebrew’s exodus out of Egypt is a very well-known Bible story. It makes for a great cast of characters in children’s Sunday School class or any drama presentation: A powerful Pharaoh, an adopted son-turned-enemy, and an enslaved people… all lend to an amazing narrative.
But those of us familiar with the history know that those very same freed people were not such great travelers. It’s not a surprise that the first mention of grumbling in the Bible appears in the book of Exodus (even though I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve did their share of complaining after their little snack in the garden, nothing is recorded about their discontent).
“But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left”. (Exodus 14:29) Can God get any more REAL? The Hebrew people had seen wonders, they had seen God.
They saw God when Moses rescued them from 400 years of slavery. (Exodus 3:10-12)
They saw God as He guided the Hebrews around in that unfamiliar territory with a cloud by day and a fire by night. (Exodus 13:21)
They saw God dry up the Red Sea and allow for their miraculous crossing. The Pharaoh and his army weren’t so lucky. (Exodus 14:27-29)
And as the people stepped onto dry ground, they were ecstatic and they danced and sang songs to the Lord. They recognized God’s control and gave Him praise. (Exodus 15:1-21)
However…. almost before the water was dry between their toes, there was some grumbling. It most likely began with one or two, spread to a few, and before he knew what happened, the whole crowd was yelling at Moses, “We need water to drink; this water is bitter! We need food to eat! Did you bring us out here to kill us? We should have just died in Egypt!” (Exodus 16:1-7)
We read that story, and we are shocked: ‘Seriously? How can those people be so spoiled. So forgetful. So disrespectful. So ungrateful.’
They had been given so much. God was taking care of them. Yes, they needed food and water, but surely they knew God wouldn’t bring them this far only to let them die. He would provide.
Trust? Faith? Nope, grumble, grumble, grumble.
Wait. What? Am I any different? I have a house, food, water, clothes, and so much more. I am blessed. God has been faithful. Yet I grumble because I have to load a dishwasher, yet those very dishes are proof that I have food. I complain about the laundry, yet those are the clothes that keep me warm. I don’t like dusting my sturdy, lovely furniture. I whine because I have appointments conflicting on my calendar — I have to choose between two good friends!
No, I am no different.
I am that people.
I am so spoiled. So forgetful. So disrespectful. So ungrateful.
“…your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16: 8)
When I protest to my husband, my children, or my friend, it is a complaint that God hears loud and clear, and takes personally. I am talking directly to Him — the Giver of all that I have. Whew. That’s pretty heavy stuff.
I’m so glad I’m living under God’s grace, and that He is always willing to forgive. I’m thankful He’s given us His word, and placed stories within those pages that speak to us and teach us His ways. We fail sometimes, yes, but we have His Spirit available to us, to help us be gracious and thankful.
The idea that grumbling is the opposite of trust has just started to resonate with me. And I’ve bitten my tongue more than once today, and then offered up a prayer, ” I know You’ve got this. Thank you for what You are doing in this situation.”
I don’t want to be a grumbler.
But I am.
As a woman who looks for Divine intervention in her life, I read my Bible, study my Bible and journal from my Bible. And lately the word, grumble, has come up way too often for me to ignore any longer. Once, I hardly even saw it. Twice, I read back over the phrase. But after I saw it (and heard it) 4 or 5 times, I knew God was trying to get my attention.
When I grumble, I allow my circumstances to steal my joy. And my trust.
Psalm 106: 24-25 “Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.”
When I complain and whine about anything (and everything) in my life, I am not listening to the voice of the Lord.
They are not Fruits of the Spirit.
They hamper the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
I want to be a woman who trusts God when life is merry, and when life is tough. I don’t want my circumstances to define who I am.
I am a woman of God. I trust God. I believe God.
Hmm… does my grumbling attest to my trust?
Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
31 days! I’m taking the challenge!
Seems daunting — both for writing, and for…. well, trusting.
Here we go…. hope you join me!
Are you going to grumble? Or are you going to trust?
Did you know over two million children die every single year from starvation? 2,000,000! That’s a really big number. I’m not even sure I can “see” that number, can you? What does 2,000,000 look like? We could fill the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis every 11 days with children — who are doomed to die because they do not have enough food.
6200. children. every. single. day.
But that number is still hard to visualize. Can we even see that many children? Well, how about one? … one child?
Can you see this one? This is Moses, and he was found in an outdoor toilet in Haiti. A man passing by heard his cry, and lowered himself down into that filth to save this sewage-covered baby. The baby was taken to Love A Child Orphanage, where he was named, Moses, because it means, ‘drawn out of the water’. (I, myself, think that was a very generous name.)
But even still, Moses is on the other side of the world. Does he touch my life? Can I really “see” him? Are you a parent? A grandparent? What if, for just a moment, you imagine the face of your child or your grandchild on that photo.
You can see him now, can’t you?! I know I can. Seeing my grandchild’s face on that little body makes it personal; makes it hurt.
It is only by the grace of God that it is NOT my child…or yours.
Love A Child Orphanage is a recipient of Feed My Starving Children MannaPack food. This orphanage was able to divert some funds and give Moses a special formula. Four months later, the picture of him shows a remarkable difference.Look at that baby now! Contented, satisfied — even chubby cheeks.
And after the formula, Moses received FMSC MannaPack food. In the picture below, he looks like a typical 3 or 4 year old. Look at that smile and sparkle in his eyes!
What would the world look like if starving children all over the world had enough food? If they could stop thinking about food ALL THE TIME, and think about… well, school, for instance. Or play. Or friends. Or any thought other than ‘is there any food?’
What would happen if we could change these kids…
Into these kids…
We have the power to prevent thousands of children from dying every single month. Feed My Starving Children sent over 229 million meals to malnourished children last year. My community helped pack over 700,000 of those meals. Yours can too!
James 1:27 says, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Proverbs 22:9 says, The generous will themselves be blessed for they share their food with the poor.
Nothing is more important than children having enough food to…. just survive.
You may not be able to go to Haiti or Honduras or any other foreign country, but your mission field can be right here, close to your community — at any FMSC MobilePack. Click the link to find a Mobilepack close to you.
If you help pack the food, someone’s child gets to live.
If you’re just joining me, I hope you take the time to read the previous post where I expressed my struggle to find joy in my Christian walk. I think I left you with something like, “Being a Christian isn’t joyful, it’s hard work”.
You can read it here.
God did indeed have my attention. He knows that trials are often the engine that drive us to our knees. In my loneliness and frustration, I prayed. I’m sure it wasn’t anything eloquent or pretty. It probably went something like, “God, help me find you! I don’t want to do this anymore.”
There was no bolt of lightening or great big sign in the sky. And God didn’t take all my problems away, but He did answer that prayer…
I joined a Bible study at a large church close to our home. Those ladies will never know the life-line they threw to me, and how it literally saved my “spiritual” life. It was my first introduction to a Beth Moore Bible study. We would be studying the Old Testament tabernacle in her book, A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place. I had never heard of Beth Moore, but I had always been intrigued by the tabernacle, and I just thought it would be an interesting study.
But God had something else in mind … after all, I had prayed for Him to show himself to me. Why would he not answer THAT prayer?
As I began to study those lessons, I can remember waking up at 5 a.m. many days, and almost hearing God whisper in my ear, “Come, I have something to show you”. 5 a.m.!! Seriously? But God had NEVER woke me up before, and it was exciting. I was loving this study. I was loving God’s Word. Something was happening. It didn’t happen overnight, but I was changing.
Slowly I was finding my joy, my peace….my God. How? In ancient text about the Old Testament tabernacle, of all places? But I discovered in those pages that God’s Word was alive and active and relevant. Words written thousands of years ago were helping me cope with distraught daughters. Those words were helping me encourage my husband. Those words were helping me get through my days with a new contentment. The weariness had lifted.
I found joy not by my doing, acting, or working, but by seeking Him; studying His word, praying and keeping my focus on Him. Were my girls still unhappy? Oh yeah. Was I still sick and tired and sometimes stressed-out in our new situation? Absolutely. Did Jon’s job go “south”? Well, yes, it did. But still, I had this inner joy that circumstances couldn’t take away.
Throughout that study and the next one, I continued to wake up early and run down the stairs! Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” …wait upon the Lord.My focus needs to be on God.
My perspective had always been wrong.
I still go to church every Sunday. In fact, I still DO many of things I did when I was that young, frustrated woman. But my motivation has changed.
And my perspective has changed.
I’m looking UP these days — not out and about.
Do you have a joy that can’t be shaken by your circumstances? Are you looking out into the world to find a contentment that can only be found in God?
“God, help me find you!”
Listen, can you hear it? He’s whispering…
“Come, I have something to show you…”
Hey there! Do you ever just feel kind of bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life? Just trying to make it through the day? Even as you’re checking things off on your to-do list, does it still feel like drudgery instead of accomplishment.
Is there any joy in all that doing?
I’ve been thinking a lot about joy this week as I am preparing to teach a Bible study this fall in my church. The study will be on the book of Philippians, a book about joy.
Joy. It’s kind of illusive at times, isn’t it?
Years ago, we were attending a rather legalistic church. The Bible was taught in this church, and as a young Christian, I was devouring the sermons and teaching. However, looking back, I see that the sermons stressed action, doing, and works, but rarely talked about feelings, love and motives.
As a young mother of 4 young girls, I was DOING; I was ACTING; I was WORKING. I was attending every church service — Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and you better believe if there was a Missionary Week, we were there EVERY single night. I attended a women’s meeting every Tuesday morning. Even if the girls were exhausted, even if I was stressed, even if other things were left undone. We were there.
Or we weren’t “good Christians”.
I was saved by grace, but living under the umbrella of works.
I remember feeling the weariness; I remember doing all the “right” things; checking off boxes on that list. One day, feeling stressed out and blue, I asked to meet with the wife of our traveling evangelist (they were home on sabbatical). This family was held in high regard in our church, and I admired this woman from afar many times. She was the mother of 5 children and taught Bible studies all over the country. She had it altogether, and I wanted her secret!
We arranged to meet in her small, humble kitchen over coffee. Uncomfortable at first, I finally explained to her that I was frustrated, weary and tired. I was doing everything that was expected of me and I felt worn out, used and — anything but joyful.
“I have no joy. Being a Christian is not joyful; it’s work!”
I don’t remember much more about the conversation. I only know when I left her house that day, I was overwhelmed with sadness. This woman had no idea what to tell me. She, too, was doing, acting, working.
And she had no joy.
Sometimes God has to MOVE us to enable us to see things differently. Nothing like a new perspective from a new perspective! A few years after that wife-to-wife encounter, our family relocated to Denver, Colorado. We left behind two “just-grown” daughters; we took two very unhappy daughters with us, a 7 year old and a 15 year old.
My life was a hot mess: I had unhappy children, trying to adjust to a new school, feeling lonely and betrayed. I think both girls cried themselves to sleep for the first 6 months. I had developed undiagnosed bronchial pneumonia and was sick for weeks. My husband was trying to adjust to a new job situation, and things were not going as planned in the office. I had no support system, but I was doing everything in my power to make this place home. I was scared. I was tired. And I was lonely.
And God had my attention.
The time in Colorado was challenging, but it was a life-changing experience, and I often refer to it as “the best year of my life, and the worst year of my life” (why we stayed only one year is for another post at a later time).
Tomorrow, and I’ll share how God took that lonely time in my life to change me forever. Join me here for, Finding My Joy, Part 2.
That is how my Pastor greeted me on Sunday morning — after Speak Up Conference. I thought it was a fitting choice of words, using a tongue-tied character to describe me. Moses!
I attended my very first women’s conference when I was 18 years old. I had been a Christian for 2 years by that time, was newly married, and my sister-in-law asked me to attend Win-Some Women in Northern Indiana.
I was blown away by God that weekend, and it was a life-changing experience. I came away thinking, THAT is how I want to talk about Jesus. THAT is how I want my life to look. I want everyone to know THAT Jesus.
I assumed everyone went home feeling THAT way. “I want to speak and tell…”
That retreat long ago was amazing, and I know many lives were changed. But now, looking back, most of those women probably did not go home with this burning desire to speak and to tell. I think most of us went home inspired, refreshed, and equipped to follow and live for Jesus, but God whispered different messages to each of us. A personal calling, a purpose, if you will. I wish I had understood that then.
I was young. I didn’t have a college education. Those women were in their 40’s — I couldn’t be like them; I couldn’t do what they do. My words often got twisted and came out funny. I panicked in front of a crowd. They were gifted. I was not.
I didn’t recognize it as a call from God; I just felt desire in my heart. Didn’t everyone else feel it too? I have felt that tug, that same desire, for a long time. That retreat was 40 years ago. 40 years! Again, my Pastor’s choice of Moses makes me smile.
How could I not recognize that stirring at Win-Some Women as a call from God? Surely the devil would not give me a desire to talk about Jesus! No, he would not, but he was giving me advice: ‘You don’t have an education, you get tongue-tied, and you panic. They are gifted. You are not.’ I allowed that voice to be loudest — God was speaking softly in my heart, but Satan was screaming in my head.
Insecurities. Comparisons. Fear.
A friend asked me to attend Speak Up with her, and since I have passionately been pursuing writing lately, I eagerly said, yes. My church graciously paid for the conference because I am teaching a Bible study this fall. I am NOT writing the study; I am teaching the study. Therefore, I felt compelled to choose the Speakers Track at Speak Up to honor the church’s investment. As I sadly checked that box on the registration form, I envied all the writers on the Writers Track. Thankfully, we were allowed to “cross over” to attend some Writers Breakout sessions even if on the Speakers Track.
Funny how God works things out…
When our first small group met, I was crazy-scared-let-me-go-throw-up nervous about my 3 minute speaking presentation. On the one hand, 3 minutes feels like a lifetime to stand and talk in front of strangers, but seriously, to say something meaningful, 3 minutes is a nanosecond. But as the weekend progressed, I received good feedback on my “speaking” presentations.
I found myself changing my schedule from Writers Breakout sessions to Speakers and devouring everything I could on that Track.
Those who know me intimately know I have been questioning my role and seeking God fiercely in recent months. I don’t know what “speaking” will look like or how my role will unfold. It may be a Bible study on Tuesday evenings with 5 ladies — and that’s okay. If I can impact the lives of 5 women with the message of Jesus and how He changes lives, then I’m walking forward and not turning back.
The devil is NOT going to win! I heard the call loud and clear this time. 40 years…
No more desert for me!
No Insecurities. No Comparisons. No Fear.
Driving home from Speak Up on Saturday evening, I thanked God for this “retreat” and I asked Him for confirmation. “Please give me a sign if my heart is speaking truth to me”. I love confirmations, don’t you? God can be very creative when we ask for a sign. For instance…
After sharing just a bit of why I was “radiant like Moses”, my Pastor then said, “Connie, would you be willing to go up front today and share with the congregation what God is doing in your life”?
Up front? Ummm…
I think He has a sense of humor too.
How about you? Are you called to teach? to write? to speak? When did you first feel that stirring in your heart? Did God whisper in your heart? Or did He announce it loud and clear? I would LOVE to hear your story…
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Hebrews 10:35
The photo below is not from my first retreat, but look what I found 🙂
Yes! That is our Carol Kent. How fun is that!
As I look out over my backyard on this dreary, rainy spring day, I see several gardens that need attention. I wish it was 20 degrees warmer and sunny today. This is the only time of the year that I get an “itch” to work in the garden. I love the cooler spring days and the uncluttered dirt patch. Once the temperature rises above 80 degrees or the weeds get out of control, I lose all passion for gardening. I am a fair-weather gardener, at best.
It is a few days before Easter, and as I stand on my back porch, watching the rain soak the bare dirt, my mind wanders to a couple of other gardens, Eden and Gethsemane. Scripture teaches that Eden’s garden was full of life and joy, and peace. Perfect peace until Eve, and then Adam, made a life-altering choice. That very choice is why the other garden, Gethsemane, became renown many years later.
The Bible tells us that man failed miserably in that first garden. Life “ended” for all man-kind. Death won. Man was defeated and separated from God. Eden had been a beautiful place to walk and meet with God, now it was a place guarded by angels, keeping man out. The scene is startling. Shocking, actually, as we are only a few pages into the first book of the Bible at this point!
I am thankful that the story didn’t end there. You see, there’s that other garden…
Grief, pain, and agonizing prayer are what come to mind at the mention of that garden. Gethsemane, where Christ was “sorrowful and overwhelmed”.
Gethsemane, where Christ prayed,
“…that this cup might be taken from me”.
Gethsemane, where Christ submits and willingly accepts God’s plan,
“…not my will, but Yours be done”.
And yet, Gethsemane, and its path to the cross are NOT why the story goes on.
Christ’s death on the cross and his burial cry defeat.
His beloved followers felt doom and gloom at the foot of the cross. The next day was most likely a day of sorrow and quiet reflection. I’m sure they thought it was the end.
Eden needs Gethsemane, but not because its path led Christ to the cross (historically, many men have died on a cross).
Eden needs Gethsemane because it eventually leads us to the empty tomb.
The empty tomb is why the story continues…
I hope you know this Christ, this divine man who didn’t stay in the grave, but rose up and defeated death once and for all. In that garden long ago, he prayed for me and he prayed for you!
He willingly went to the cross, not to end his life, but to give us eternal life.
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
My little 11 month old grandson is a beautiful baby, no bias on my part (smile). He is a mild-mannered, easy-going child. The kind of baby you can love on, and rocky-bye, and snuggle with, and then just toss into bed — and he goes to sleep. That kind of baby. The modern, child-rearing books call him an “angel” baby. I agree.
I have the joy of keeping him two days a week while his Mama works. He has been easy to care for, in part, because he has been such a “sleeper”. He gets up to eat, get changed, see his new world, for about 30 minutes, and then decides to go back to bed.
Don’t we wish we could do that sometimes? Eat, look around a bit, and then go back to our slumber. There are many days when I do not want to see the world we live in. I don’t want to turn on the news. I don’t want to watch any TV dramas. I just want to turn off the television, stay home, and hide.
The world seems to be falling apart around us. It’s hard to listen to the news; to hear all the hatred and destruction. People, everywhere, are searching for answers. There is no hope. There is no peace.
Peace can’t be found in people, places, or things. Hope does not come from material possessions. The world cannot give peace because the world does not possess peace — it is not hers to give. Hope and peace are gifts from God. Perfect, satisfying peace is given through the Spirit of God. He is peace. It is His to give.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Yesterday my grandson was crawling across my living room floor, and he saw my reflection in the glass on the fireplace. I was actually sitting behind him, holding up his bottle, but he raced anxiously towards that reflection. He was hungry, and he knew Gramma had the bottle. When he reached the fireplace, he stood up and pounded on the glass. He saw what he thought he wanted, but it was only an illusion. He began to cry, finding no comfort in that reflection of his Gramma.
Are we chasing illusions? Are we looking for peace in all the wrong places? Are we seeking hope in things of this world that only promise, but don’t deliver?
Jesus is right beside us. Look to Him for the peace you seek. He is not an illusion.
He is peace.
He is hope.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
Not only are the windows overlooking my backyard covered with fingerprints, there are numerous nose prints here and there on the glass as well …which makes me smile. Grass clippings and dirt stick to my bare feet and I kick a toy tractor out of my way as I go for my first cup of coffee. The house is quiet. I thought I would relish the peace this morning, but the lack of noise is almost too loud.
Grandchildren have kept me hopping for the last four days. The busyness has been constant. An old croquet set and a couple of jump ropes were discovered along with sidewalk chalk, frisbees and several other forgotten toys . Little boys talked me into setting up the tent so they could have a “headquarters” for an afternoon of detective work. We unboxed Barbies and Polly Pockets for one child and created bean fields out of blankets so the other two could harvest with their toy combines. Little hands got sticky with glue as paper plate scarecrows took shape. And Batman asked several times, “did I scare you, Gramma?”. We took an afternoon to meet up with Papa, riding in the combine and soaking up knowledge about corn and beans. Those inquisitive minds asking so many questions about farming. They love the red combine and wait anxiously all year for it to “wake up”.
And between all that activity, those small bodies were crawling up on the bar stools again and again, waiting to be fed… like little birdies. Seriously? You’re hungry again? My kitchen is now devoid of any cookies, donuts or fruit. I might also be out of bread and cheese. I’m not ready to take inventory and commit to a grocery run. I want another cup of coffee first.
I’m feeling a little blue as I savor my last few sips of Pumpkin Spice Blend. I once had four little ones of my own. I lived the chaos. But I have gotten soft and lazy… and self-focused. Caring for little ones doesn’t leave much time for reflection. Life is crazy. Life is about them. There is barely time for a shower! Survival is the goal on many days. It is easy to forget the mayhem of the day-in and day-out of mothering. I commit to pray more for my daughter.
As they covered me with hugs and kisses last night as they said their good-byes, I breathed a sigh of relief. However, at the same moment, bittersweet emotions brought a lump to my throat. So glad to see them… so glad to send them home. Am I allowed to say that? I guess, as Gramma, I am.
So, yes, the windows and floors are dirty; my cupboards are bare. And a few toys yet need to find their shelf. My bones are a bit weary. I need a break today. And quietly, as I go for my final cup of brew, I grab my calendar and mark off the days until those little kiddos are running through my house again… because I sure do miss them today.
A little seed, in a packet, content to be with other seeds. It is a comfortable, safe and happy place. Once plucked by the farmer, it is planted in a muddy, dirty place. And as it is watered, it begins to fall apart! That is a story told by author and speaker, Lysa Terkeurst. I love this analogy. I thought, as I’m sure did many others, I am that seed.
23. A while back, my husband made a sudden, unforeseen career change due to the unexpected death of his older brother. After being a CPA for 35 years, he is farming now. Yep, that’s right, he’s a farmer — the tractor, the combine, even the suspenders! The ground he farms is an hour from our home and he commutes now so that our youngest daughter can finish her high school years with her friends, school, and youth group, but eventually it’ll mean a move for us….. back to our roots… back to the place I grew up… back to my hometown. Not sure how I feel about that. Some days I think it’ll be okay, and some days it scares me to death. But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon. I’m trusting God: If it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me.
“Number 23” is an excerpt from a list of random things about me — a fun little list that circulated around facebook several years ago. When I wrote that list, I had just been plucked from the “seed packet”. Even at that point, knowing change was going to take place, I had no idea of what lie ahead….. the ground was about to get mucky.
When the summer of our transition to the farm arrived, I was already dizzy from a high school graduation and open house party. Our second daughter was also graduating from nursing school and moving 1000 miles away. Daughter number three was moving across the country to follow her dream. And finally, our oldest daughter and her family were moving into a new home as well — thankfully that was a local move. I was preparing our house for market and had realtors with clients in and out of my house several times during the week. So much change. It had become the summer of moves. The activity had been constant for months.
So on that September day, there had been no time to prepare for the quiet that enveloped me, but the minute the car door slammed and we pulled away from that college dorm, leaving our youngest, daughter number four, on the campus, I felt it. It covered me.
I thought I knew what was coming. I thought I was prepared. But now that the rush of activity was over, I had no home, no children, no community, no job, no church and no friends (it was quite the pity party). I spent the week on the couch. The self-pity actually took me by surprise. Long story short, we had moved into a rental house far away from “the seed packet”.
I didn’t think all those empty nest stories would apply to me. After all, we had spaced our girls out; there had been children in our home for 32 years! Wasn’t it time for “us”? A time we had looked forward to — not dreaded. However, pulling out of that university drive felt like a creaky door, slowing closing on my past and all that I knew. There was nothing waiting for me at the end of this road to “home”.
” But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon. I’m trusting God: If it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me. “
It has now been 2 years since that long drive home. It has been muddy. And there were moments when I felt like I was falling apart. Once or twice, I regretfully remember, walking through the house screaming, “I WANT MY LIFE BACK”. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know my purpose. I kept asking God, “what now?”
I am slowly finding my way as a farmer’s wife, learning to be content when my husband works 16 hour days six days a week. I am making new friends that challenge my thinking. I have become involved in some work that is teaching and stretching me as a leader and mentor. I am not sure what God has planned, but I hope to blossom into something lovely — not turn into a bitter old weed. I want to thrive — even if it means getting muddy along the way. “He is “making this right for me”.
The farmer has a plan for that little seed. He knows the seed must come out of the packet, get planted in the dirt and fall apart in order to grow. God has a plan for me… and for you. He has planted me here in this little Amish community. It is my choice whether I wallow in the mud and whither… or blossom. Where are you planted? Are you stuck in the mud? Don’t give up, take heart and choose to keep growing…a lovely flower may be about to bloom.
— dedicated in memory of my dear friend, Susi, who found her joy, and taught me to see my blessings.
My farmer husband is testing the waters today. Are the beans ready? Will they process through the combine without problems? Or should he wait a few more days. Harvest has begun, and with it, a hopefulness is in the air. What will the crops yield? Will the corn be dry enough? Will the beans be a “bumper” this year? Throughout the summer, I have heard, “the corn is doing well” and “the beans are suffering“. My Farmer talks about his fields like they are dear friends. He has planted, watered, nurtured, and prayed.
Now that harvest is here, what blessings lie around the corner?
That word has been rattling around in my brain for weeks, months even. And it has come up in countless books, devotions, lessons and videos. I even made a “blessing jar” at the beginning of the year. I prepared little blank cards to record any new blessings. The cards are dropped into my jar, with hopes of filling it up throughout the year.
I look for blessings every day. Don’t you?
I want to be blessed.
Once when I was talking on the phone with a friend, we were just chit-chatting about the small things. I began to complain about the mountain of laundry and the dirty floors. I grumbled about having to sweep and mop… again. My sweet friend replied, ‘Oh, I so wish I could sweep your floors for you’. Immediately, I was humbled… and ashamed. You see, when she was just a young mother, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and her disease was severe. Most days, she was in bed, not able to do the laundry or cook meals for her family. These everyday chores I dreaded, she counted as blessings.
Even the mundane tasks are evidence of God’s favor. I wash the dishes because God has given us food. I do SO much laundry because we have an abundance of clothes. I sweep the floor because I have the health and strength to do so. I make the beds because I have a home, a beautiful shelter, more than I need. Am I in want of yet more blessings?
I AM blessed.
I am completely, totally, abundantly blessed.
Even when we pray, almost every prayer — from everyone — begins with “God, please bless us”. What? There are well over 350 verses in the Bible with some form of the word bless, and most of them have to do with God blessing us! Our Bible is completely laced with God’s blessings on his people. We are exceedingly blessed. In Matthew, those counted as blessed are the poor, the mourners, the gentle, those who are thirsting for God as well as those who are pure in God, the merciful, those who keep the peace and those who are persecuted. I’m on that list. How about you?
I have gotten way too comfortable with my blessings. They have become my normal; my expectation. I am living in a paradise compared to 90% of the population. I am enjoying the “favor”, but often not remembering The Blesser. He has already given me much — over and over again.
I could spend the rest of today and tomorrow filling out cards for my blessing jar. Shame on me! It should be overflowing with cards! I should need another jar, and then another.
‘Let us bless you, God’ should be our prayer.
My phone chirps, after one morning of field work, I receive a text from my husband: ‘problems’ (he has always been a man of few words). I lean over and tell my “anxious-to-ride-the-combine” three-year-old grandson, ‘Papa is having trouble with the beans today’. This little man who has been listening to farmer-speak replies, ‘thats cuz the beans are p’bly not brown enough’. His wisdom makes me smile. And he is right, the beans are not dry enough, and our harvest will have to wait a day or two.
But whether the corn and the beans yield an abundance or not, we are blessed.
Yes, we are.
Dear Lord, may we bless you in whatever we do this day.
Lately I’ve watched a few people … those who maybe haven’t seen my husband since he changed careers. They aren’t good at disguising their surprise at the change. There is usually a little snicker or a “well there’s farmer Jon”. This man I married almost 40 years ago has always worn dress clothes to work, ranging from casual slacks and polos to full dress suits and ties, depending on the employer. But now, when he walks through our back door at the end of a very long day, he wears jeans, work boots, and suspenders — the really wide heavy duty kind of suspenders, designed to do a job — not to look cool or fashionable. And he is dirty. Very dirty. Because now instead of pushing a pencil, he pushes, pulls, tugs, crawls, bends — whatever it takes to get the job done — on the farm. He works hard. So hard. He is tired at the end of the day. And he is happy. And that is what makes the change okay — and not just okay — but worth it. He loves what he is doing. He knows it is good work. He knows he is making a difference. Farming is honorable work; work of which to be proud. He knows he is providing well for me. I know that gives him security and great satisfaction.
Do I miss the shorter work days and the well-dressed man? Absolutely! There are days when I am rather grumpy about it. But there are more and more days when I am just so proud of him and this decision he has made to follow in his dad’s and granddad’s footsteps. I have reached the point where I flinch a little at the “farmer Jon” comment. It should be said with respect. Farmer Jon — with a capital “F”. He is not only providing a good life for me, but like every farmer, is helping to feed the world. Yes he is. And that makes me proud — and completely okay with the ugly suspenders.
Does every empty-nest mother have this hollow feeling as she crawls into bed each night? Does she mentally think of each daughter or son? Names them one by one as she lifts them up to God, wondering what they are doing at that very moment? Are they safe? Are they well? Are they happy?
I know I know I know. I am still a “mom”. But I am not mothering. And for over 32 years, until NOW, I have been daily, actively mothering.