Wandering vs. Wrestling

This morning I was out enjoying the sunshine and humidity (ha!) and the the thoughts coming to mind.  For the last week, or dare I say month, I’ve been in a questioning and doubt stricken place.  (Which is ironic based on where I’m at working through the Joshua study and melting hearts.  I’ve been living, ever to close for comfort sometimes, through this Joshua study.)  Anyways, the question posed in my mind this morning while in the berries was this….

Am I wandering in a wilderness or wrestling? 

When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, it was because of their lack of obedience to God, their questioning and doubt-filled melting hearts, and because they did not listen or incline themselves to the Creator.  Even in their wandering though, He continually provided and showed himself in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to show the way.  At times they lacked water, and at times I’m sure they were uncertain as to where to go or what to do.

I tried to remember what the circumstances were surrounding Jacob when he wrestled with God, and what came out of the wrestling.  So this afternoon, I re-read about the wrestling match in Exodus 32.  Jacob is preparing to see his brother Esau for the first time in years since fleeing for his life after receiving the blessing of his father, rather than Esau receiving it.  Tension was in the air and I’m sure that Jacob did not know how he and his family would be received by Esau.  And it was there, in the midst of uncertainty that Jacob wrestled. 

Jacob’s wrestling match with our Creator is epic and life changing.  Jacob sends his family across the stream in the place they are staying, and he is left alone until morning. In this wrestling match Jacob’s hip sockets is touched and put out of joint but he continues to hold on, refusing to let go of his partner.  “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob says.  And it is here that the Lord changes Jacob’s name to Israel and blesses him. 

My belief says it’s okay to wrestle with our Creator; wrestle out our questions, thoughts, emotions, fears, and circumstances.  It can be a place of closeness and intimacy, even if it gets uncomfortable and exhausting at times.  It’s a place to grow in trust of God’s goodness, love and plan for us.  Jacob was a changed man after the wrestling match, not only because of his physical limp but because he came to know his new name in the Lord, Israel. 

At this point in the human experience of life, I’m not walking through a wilderness (I’ve been there before), I’m wrestling. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a choice, to soften my heart and wrestle out my questions and doubts with God or allow them to melt my heart in fear, anxiety, and give up.  In the wrestling, I can ask our Creator for blessing and to see myself how He sees me.   

Asking this question has actually brought some peace to my mind and direction.  Perhaps if we’re going through a hard place, knowing if we’re wrestling or wandering can provide some comfort, support and direction.  Press in to the Lord through it all, knowing He can use all of our wandering and wrestling for good.

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Growing Up Fast

IMG_2923Today was the kids first day back to school.  It’s hard to believe that we have a 5th and 2nd grader for the 2016-2017 school year.  I feel that it should be harder to let my baby go, but honestly it’s harder to let my oldest go.  It seems that just yesterday I was dropping him off for the first day of kindergarten; bolting for the door, sun glasses down, so that I could go ball like a baby in the car.  My, how the days are long and the years short.  It’s a little surreal; I remember when I was in 4th grade, and thinking how cool the 5th graders were.  Now I have a 5th grader.

It’s a joy to watch them both growing up.  Somedays I stand in the kitchen and want to pull my hair out, but most of the time it’s love-filled amazement.  Two of the greatest honors of my life, being mom and wife; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

After dropping them off at school, I headed home to work in the berries.  I’ve waited a month for this, to work on the farm without the guilt of leaving them unattended for hours.  This first window was short, so I got to it and found myself drenched with sweat in no time.  It felt so good.  

Blackberries are interesting plants, they grow by canes.  A cane is like a long stem that grows up out of the ground, some varieties stand straight up and some varieties flop over.  Each year, blackberry plants produce new canes that will have fruit the following year and then die.  So it’s imperative to have healthy new canes each year.  With an acre of blackberries in production, the constant rotation of new growth canes and last years fruit producing canes keep us busy. 

It’s always so exciting to see the new canes coming up, and how quickly!  I should say, it’s exciting at first.  Then as the canes continue, it get’s a little overwhelming and scary.  The last couple of years, we’ve had an average of eight to twelve feet of growth in the space of 4 months.  To be honest, it can get out of control very quickly.  This July we had about 12” of rainfall, and August is just over halfway over with 8”+ of rainfall.  The rainfall we have experienced accentuates everything, including the weeds.  However, this abundant rainfall also causes the new blackberry canes to grow excessively!  They grow so fast, that the canes are weak and a good wind breaks them off at the ground.  Eight feet of new growth can be gone in an instant. 

We have a trellis system for each row of blackberries, the canes get tied up for support and to make picking next year easy.  There are over 600 plants, and each plant will have anywhere from 3-12 new canes to tie.  (It’s a lot.)  While the new canes get tied up, the fruiting canes which have died get cut out and burned. 

IMG_0026Growth, when it comes fast, can be so overwhelming.  Sometimes it seems impossible to deal with; however, one plant and then one row at a time, and one tarp full of pruned branches at a time is taken to the burn pile.

My kids seem to be growing so quickly; but not like the blackberries with fast growth that is brittle and breaks in the storms of life.  In reality, my kids are growing at a perfectly designed pace.  Watching each of them grow at just the right pace amazes me.  I have nothing to do with how fast they grow and mature.  My job is to grow them well, love them; provide food, shelter, attention, support and guidance, teach and enjoy them.  It’s not all easy, in fact it’s down right hard sometimes.  But to know that they are growing up well is a satisfying return.  (However, I do wonder how I’m messing them up; we’re not perfect.)   

I love how our Creator has created everything to grow at just the right pace.  Sometimes He grows us up really fast, and sometimes a little slower.  One thing I know for sure, we are never truly done growing and changing.  Through our growth at any rate, He is our source of Constant support, if we reach out and accept it.  He is our Shadow to hide in with the heat of the day threatens.  He is a Solid Rock to cling to when the waters come pouring down.  He Teaches us, and is our Guide when life’s classroom gets confusing. 

It’s fun to watch the blackberries canes grow so quickly.  And, it’s fun to watch the kids growing up….at just the right pace.  Could you imagine if our children grew as fast as blackberries?  This world would be in utter chaos!  And how often would they need new shoes?!   Groceries?! My mind (or wallet) can’t even go there. 

Lord, when life seems to be flying by, help me to rest in You, in the moment and in the presence of each day, and my Creator.  When it comes to my kiddos, I’ll take the “slow” and amazing growth over the fast and out of control growth any day.  

1 Peter 5 :: Resist

Don’t you just love it when you can’t get something out of your head?  That’s what happened when I started to study out “resist” for this study of 1 Peter 5.  I could hear her voice in my head, the woman in my pilates workout video as we do leg presses, “Resist. Resist. Resist.”  It was rather humorous at first, then the light bulb came on. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:6-9 (ESV)    

In the Greek manuscript, the word resist is anthistémi; which means to stand against, oppose, withstand, strongly resist and opponent.  It’s a classic Greek military term, and comes from two other words.  Anti, which is opposite, instead of.  And histémi, which is to stand, appoint, establish, set (up), steadfast.  The idea behind anthistémi, resist, is that we are in an upright and active position, we aren’t prostrate. 

How do we resist our adversary?  If we are going to resist our adversary, it’s going to take some practice and endurance.  It’s not something we can do laying down, but up and ready.  This is where the light bulb went off for me, as the “Resist. Resist. Resist.” looped on repeat in my head.  Resistance training. 

Resistance training is a form of exercise.  During a resistance workout, you utilize gravity, body weight, bands or weights as you move your limbs to improve muscular strength and endurance.  During one of my pilates workouts, in the comfort of my living room, gravity and my own body weight provides a gentle yet effective workout.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like much is happening, but with persistence and patience the work becomes evident. 

So in order to resist our adversary, I think some spiritual resistance training is necessary.  Personally, when I’m struggling and haven’t been doing spiritual resistance training, I can spiral down emotionally and it’s hard to get out of the pit.  As opposed to when I have been doing some “training”; I may spiral down, but getting up and back on track is so much easier and faster. 

One day last week, I had one of those days that I just needed to cry.  I couldn’t pin point exactly what was going on, perhaps a concoction of different things which had piled up and I felt a bit overwhelmed.  It’s been a full summer and maybe it was just a let down of emotion and release of passing some significant dates in our family.  Whatever it was, I just needed to be sad and cry, and I went down fast.  However, after being sad for a bit, talking, releasing some emotion and a good nights sleep I was rejuvenated and energized the next day.  Even though I was sad that day I went down, it felt good to write and release, and spend some time with the Lord.  Through the chaos of summer, I have not let my quiet time be optional each day (for the most part).  It’s time I’m not willing to let go of or compromise, it may be shorter some days but it happens.  Distractions abound, and sometimes its hard.  But for me, that time with Jesus is life giving, spiritual resistance training. 

1 Peter 5 gives us a lot of ideas for exercise in resistance training.  Humbling ourselves, casting our cares and anxieties, and being watchful.  Watchful of our words, actions, thoughts and judgmental attitudes, or areas the enemy is sneaking in.  Some other things we can practice to build our endurance and resist is to draw near to God (James 4:11), pray, and put on God’s armor.  Putting on God’s armor in Ephesians 6:10-20 is an endurance workout for sure, constantly ready for battle.

Thanksgiving is another great resistance training exercise.  Philippians 4:6 tells us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (ESV)  When my prayers are steeped in thanks, I am practicing my trust in the Creator and not just asking for things.  The prayer and supplication are a humble begging with a thankful heart, not a heart that is unsatisfied.  When life gets hard, choosing to be thankful each day builds up endurance and faith. 

Something else about resistance training is that with each workout, you tend to focus on one part of the body.  A long time ago, in a far away land, when I was in training as a long-distance runner, we would do weights a couple times a week.  Focusing on legs one day, arms the next and constantly working on core strength with each work out, doing sit-ups or similar exercises.  But, we could never do them all at the same time.  Could you imagine?!  Push-ups and sit-ups at the same time?  An athlete focuses and builds each weightspart of the body, knowing that it’s all interconnected, relying on each part.  If it feels overwhelming, or like I’m not in shape, I can pick one spiritual training exercise at a time.  The training room is always open, and there are lots of choices.  Read my bible, pray, or write a note of thanksgiving to name a few.  One thing, that’s all it takes to get moving into an upright and ready for action position.

Resist, resist, resist.  (I so wish you could hear her voice on the video!) Start with small increments, getting into and staying in shape for the challenges the enemy presents.  Time for a little resistance training?!

Change of Postion

One day last week, me and the kids packed up in the car and drove to Peoria to spend a few days with Yaya and Papa (Grandparents).  It was a spur of the moment, unscheduled fun.  We had a great time, but one of the things that has come to the forefront of my mind a few times since then was something my son said while driving. 

After a nearly two hour nap in the backseat, he sat gazing out the window. The day was cloudy and overcast, a few sprinkles every now and again.  We talked along the way, but as we got closer to Yaya and Papa’s house they began to get antsy.  We turned up the radio for some car-dancing and signing.  Jamie Grace’s song Beautiful Day came on as we exited the highway, we sang along.  But as we got to a line in the song, “Take me away, It’s a beautiful day yeah yeah yeah” we turned the corner; and from the back seat, “Mom, it IS a beautiful day!  Look, the sun just came out!”  “Yes!” I replied.

I loved it.  Had the sun just come out?  Not really, it had been shining for a while.  What really happened was a change of direction and view, he changed his position.  Isiah had been looking out the window at the dark clouds for hours, but when we turned the corner and changed direction he faced the sun and saw a beautiful blue sky. 

It was all about perspective and direction.  The window he had been facing gave him the perspective, or view point, of a cloudy dreary day.  We changed direction, and his perspective changed almost immediately.  And the timing of the song could not have been more perfect. 

How often is this true of ourselves.  We look at like through the same lens or window each and ever day.  Sometimes the window gets cloudy and its hard to see clearly.  Others, its nothing but sunshine and roses.  Or perhaps, we wake up to nothing but dark thunderstorms.  Maybe the sun is shining, but we have on dark and disparaging sun glasses.  It’s what we see through lenses of our past experiences and present attitude. 

We may not be able to change the situation around us at all or at least very quickly, but we can change our attitude and experience of the situation.  I can choose to take action or be weighed down by the clouds out my window.  I can choose to face the day with a positive attitude.  I can choose to embrace a few tears of release, give it to God, and then take an action step. 

Its choosing to dwell in gratitude and thankfulness for each piece of the day.

From the back seat that day, he immediately perked up and a smile beamed forth with this realization and change of position; and the thought that swimming would be possible.  I’ve thought of it several times since then.  Am I choosing to face the clouds or face the sun?    Whatever the answer, it’s always possible for me to change my position and view.    

1 Peter 5 :: Watchful

I’ve had some good opportunities to practice what the Spirit has been walking me through with 1 Peter 5 lately.  Sometimes it’s lessons I really need, but not so keen on learning (listening) or doing the hard work in order to practice it and grow.  It’s not easy!  But always worth it.

So, working through 1 Peter 5 and the action words that stand out to me; we’re ready to step into our next word, watchful.  Have you ever read something in the bible and it just doesn’t seem to fit with the surrounding passage?  Well, that’s what I felt about this portion of scripture.  It’s like the first part of casting your anxieties upon the Lord and being watchful for Satan didn’t have much to do with each other.  Perhaps they forgot to start a new paragraph?  Well, I’m learning and loving how each word is beautifully and purposefully linked together.  It’s making sense now, and His timing for teaching us is always good. 

Something I wonder about is the order of this scripture.  We are to humble our selves and cast our cares, and be watchful.  I don’t know about you, but spiritually speaking I wasn’t ready to be watchful two years ago, the humbling and casting came a little easier earlier in my walk. This isn’t to say it’s done well all the time.  I knew about being watchful in other areas of my life, and the importance.  However, to be watchful of satan would have been a little overwhelming and scary in some ways early in my walk.  But, I don’t want to be devoured!  So it’s time to be watchful, the next step.  Its amazing how the Spirit allows things to come into your life, opportunities to practice the lessons, when your ready and the time is right. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, and at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares of you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:6-8 (ESV)

Watchful.  Some translations say, “be sober, be vigilant” (KJV), “Be serious! Be alert! (HCSB), “Keep a cool head, stay alert.” (MSG).  And the watchful, or be alert, here means to keep awake, watch; be vigilant, (be) watch (ful).  It sounds simple, but often harder than we think. 

Another place this word is used is with Jesus and the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asks Peter, James and John to remain (abide) and watch.  As Jesus comes back from praying, he finds the disciples asleep and once again asks them to watch.  Jesus asks them to watch and pray that they would not enter into temptation.  (Mark 14:32-42) 

What do we need to be watchful of?  As the scripture in 1 Peter 5 continues, it lines out being watchful of satan.  But what exactly are we watching for?  I wonder if the disciples wondered what they were supposed to be watching for. 

So, what do we need to be watchful of?  Anger that creeps up and explodes, confusion, distractions, selfishness, the easy route that might not be the best, lies about yourself or others?  What do you need to be watchful for?  Satan comes in many forms and feeds us a lot of lines.    

Do you remember the portion of 1 Peter 5 about casting our anxiety?  The word anxiety comes from the thought of distraction.  Distraction is a hard one for me.  In today’s world, there are so many distractions I’m not even going to begin to name them, but many stem from electronics.  It’s an easy route to get sucked into the void of the web, and distracted. 

It says that satan is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Distractions can devour our time and relationships in the blink of an eye.  And it can happen when we least expect it.  A few days ago, I looked up a you-tube video of a roaring lion.  And the first video captured my attention.  A lion sat, roaring in a low repetitive growl for nearly five minutes.  It wasn’t an all encompassing, powerful roar we tend to think of.  The low, prowling roar of satan’s lies can confuse, distract, entice, and lead us astray.  And as a lion hunts, they devour the one separated from it’s community. 

Becoming aware of what we need to be watchful of is half the battle.  However, what do we do with “it” once we’ve identified something?  We can cast it off to God, pray, worship, read or quote scripture, talk to a friend.  Take action.  Today I had the opportunity to talk to a friend, being real and honest about something going on in my life.  We were able to pray together and lift it up to God.  It’s what community can do for each other.  Iron sharpens iron.  We can watch each other’s backs.  And, if we’re being aware and watchful, sharing with someone when we’re feeling divided and struggling, they can hold us accountable, surround us with prayer and serve. 

Humble yourself, cast the cares of this world to the Lord and be watchful.  Watchful for the enemy; and watchful for how our Creator is growing and drawing us nearer to him.  Next up, Resist and Suffer; so exciting, right?!  (It’s because we are called to His glory.)   I can’t wait to dive in and then share with you.  For now, I’m practicing the watchfulness of a diligent daughter who casts the cares to her Father.  How about you?

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This doesn’t’ have too much to do about 1 Peter 5 and being watchful, other than I’ve been watching and waiting for these lovely Hydrangeas to bloom.  Right outside the window at my desk, and wanted to share with you.  Cheers!