Small Things.

“Small things”; this is the phrase that God has been giving to me lately.  It first came up at church a few weeks ago during class.  And then, a week later.  After that, nearly every day for the past three weeks.  I’m seeing it in the world around me, scripture, and in conversation.  Small things.

So often, we tend to think life is made up of “big things”.  (And in many ways, it is.) When we run into a friend who we haven’t seen for a while, or go to a family reunion, we want to hear all the “big things”.  The big career shift, the babies born, loved ones who have left this earth, leaving a big gap in our life. And we tend to look for the big things, the big thunder clouds in the sky for rain, the big oak trees for shelter, perhaps a bigger car or house?  It’s so easy to get caught up, and desire to know about or have the big things.

IMG_4330I believe God’s economy is a little different.  It’s the small things. In reality, that’s where all the big things begin.  Dreams are created with the smallest of thoughts.  Addictions are broken, one day or one moment at a time.  Forgiveness is fostered with the slightest change of heart. Majestic oak trees begin to grow out the small beginnings of an acorn.  That huge thunder cloud, pouring out rain, began somewhere with the slightest wisp of moisture.  Our berry farm (Danamay Farm, shameless plug) relies on the smallest of blooms to bring in an estimated harvest of 1 ton of blackberries this year.  It all starts with one little flower bud.

It’s the small moments of being present, or snuggling up to watch my kids’ favorite show and talk about it.  Yesterday afternoon, we had egg hunts around the house…it all started with one little plastic egg from Sunday.  That little act of fun between us, spilled over to today, and probably tomorrow too.

It’s the small things, that make up the big things.  One tiny moment, attached to another tiny moment, to create memories which last a lifetime.

We had the opportunity to celebrate something huge this weekend, the Resurrection of Jesus.  That, is huge.  But it started small – with a little baby.  That little baby, small in Mary’s arms, grew in small ways just like you and me. But that small baby, would knit together small acts of love and forgiveness in such a way that He, Jesus, would save the whole world in a very big way.  (Alright, some acts were pretty big…but you get the idea.)

There’s a story in the gospel of John about a boy’s lunch, his mom has packed up five barley loaves and a two fish. (I think he must have been a teen or pre-teen to eat that much food!  I have an almost 11 year old boy.) But with that seemingly small lunch, John 6:1-15 tells us that Jesus fed over five thousand people.  That’s young man’s lunch, probably big to him, seemed small and inadequate to the disciples. They were looking for something huge.

It’s the small moments of choice throughout our day, that bring change.  The smallest “hello” to the cashier in the gas station.  The slightest smile as you pass someone on the street.  The small gestures that let our family know that they are loved and wanted, cherished and desired.  It’s washing my daughter’s baseball cap, that lets her know I care about her.  Small time away from the world, with the Lord, brings us into unity with our Creator.

I don’t know about you, but it’s almost like a treasure hunt now.  A hunt to find, do, and enjoy the small things.  What’s one small thing you can do, enjoy or acknowledge today?

The Vinedresser

My husband and I started a berry farm in 2012.  Actually, it began long before that—first as a dream, then a canvas planted in wheat and finally, bare earth formed into rows by the toil of our endeavors. A berry farm wasn’t something we envisioned for years upon years, but the dream manifested in the five years leading up to our first fruits.

Recently, I read the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 9:6-9. Sometimes I read parables in the Bible and shake my head in confusion, but that day I read the scripture with clarity and application, particularly the vinedresser’s response to the owner of the fig tree.

“And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.” (Luke 13:8, ESV)

It made me think of our dear little farm.  Like the man in the parable, we waited for three years without yielding fruit. It seemed like the years of hard work might never pay off. There were numerous time I wanted to rip some blueberry varieties out of the ground and start over. It seemed my time and finances were being wasted , not growing one inch.  But my patient husband, much like the vinedresser in Luke 9, encouraged us both to wait. Just one more year, and see what happens.  He labored over those three rows, weeding and caring for them just like the others.  One more year, turned again into, “Just one more year.”  Four years later, they bare some of the sweetest fruit in the entire field.

Isn’t that what the Lord does with us?  His grace of “one more year” can show up with a second chance at any moment, and with His new mercy each morning.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

How many times do we share our hearts and desires with God, and wait for years to see the fruit (answers) of those prayers?  It may not come in the form we desire, but we can trust God and know that He hears us. (1 John 5:14)  Are you willing to be patient along with Him?  Trusting His timing?  Trusting in His steadfast love that never ceases, for you?

Waiting those three long years, in some ways, seemed like three (or more!) long months of winter.  Barren, cold and unfruitful.  Much like the vinedresser in Luke 13:8, we pruned and dug the earth, fertilized with manure and provided nutrients.  Eventually, with faithful work and patience, came the fruit.  Sweet abundance. Miracles in the faithful waiting and abiding in the Lord, the working and patience.

Winter months can seem to last forever, but we can always trust that spring will arrive and bring forth fruit.  Spring also can bring the pruning of life, it can be painful.  There have been seasons of my life where the pruning seemed to be more than I could take.  How about you?  In John 15, Jesus reminds us to abide, rest and tarry with Him.  He is the vine, we are the branches, our Father is the vinedresser.

For me, some of the richest “fruit” has sprouted from the “manure” of a winter-like season, filled with harsh pruning and an aching heart.  How about you?

This spring, let’s choose an attitude of gratefulness towards the pruning as we abide in Him.  What would happen if we embraced and gave Him permission to dig around us, pruning the hinderances or diseased parts from our life?  Nourishing our minds with the richness of His word?  Maybe we would flourish in the Son of spring, and warmth of His steadfast love.  What fruit would come if we chose to abide in Him, the Gardener of our soul?

 

Growth in the Wilderness

I’ve been writing and studying on the Israelites in the book of Joshua over the past year, how they came out of the wilderness and into claiming their Promised Land.  But the other day, as I read the story surrounding John the baptizer’s birth and childhood, his growth in the wilderness captivated me.

“And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” (Luke 1:80, ESV)

Both the children of Israel and John spent time in the wilderness, but I get the sense there were two completely different experiences.  The Israelites complained a good bit; they complained about not enough food or water.  Understandably so, those are two essential elements to our human existence.  In Egypt as slaves, their creature comforts were met but their spirits were crushed.  And in the wilderness where they could be free, it was not comfortable (Exodus 12-15).  They were so distraught, slavery seemed to be a better option.

I realize that in many ways, the two stories (the Israelite wilderness & John the Baptizer’s wilderness) are not comparable.  But both experienced growth.  The Israelites grew, they grew in number!  Some of them, like Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:16-12), grew in spirit and trust in the Lord.  John the baptizer grew in both stature, from a child into a man, and in the spirit of the Lord.

As Luke 1 tells the story about John’s birth and childhood, it also sheds light on another response to the wilderness.  I believe this shows us that we have a choice in how we encounter the wilderness.  We tend to talk about it so often, those hard seasons of life where we feel parched or alone.  I’m sure you can think of a “wilderness” time in your life, I can.

I have wandered through dry and desolate places.  At one point in my life, the dry parched land seemed to stretch on for miles.  Choosing to be thankful, with a heart of gratitude, led me to the streams in the desert.  Choosing to use that time as a rich classroom, presented an entirely different experience of that parched land.

SONY DSCThose wilderness experiences can be our greatest classroom and opportunities for growth.  I have a choice as to how I will respond in that classroom; I can choose to wallow and grow weary with ‘woe is me’; or I can choose to play in the sand, with gratitude, and grow in the spirit.  There are rivers and springs available through Jesus; steeped in His Word, through praises to Him, within our brothers and sisters, and amongst all of creation!  I want to challenge you to choose gratitude in your wilderness encounters; stepping into each rich classroom provided, growing in spirit and stature.

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, ESV)

 

Made in His Image

My husband recently had a birthday.  I’m not the best gift-giver.  While I greatly appreciate and enjoy material things, it’s not my primary love language.  In fact, it’s almost on the bottom of the list.  So when it’s time for birthdays, especially adults, I’m lost on presents. Unless it’s something that I get excited and connect with.  Like my man’s birthday present this year. 

There’s this photo of his great-great grandfather (Mr. Craighead) hanging in his brother’s house.  He’s always wanted a copy.  So, this year that was the mission.  I didn’t get it completed in time for an official unveiling, but it has turned into this adventure for both of us!  We’ve spent time together and enjoyed making the decisions about the next step towards getting this project completed.  We’re currently looking for an old, oval frame; it’s like a treasure hunt.

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Great-Great Grandfather Craighead

All that said, we’ve enjoyed having this ancestor’s face around the house.  We’ve enjoyed getting curious about what he was like and stories he would be able to tell.  It’s been fun!  The other night we found Mr. Craighead tucked into our bed.  (Kids!)  He’s a handsome fella, kind of like my husband. 

Genetics are fascinating.  My family breeds cattle and we’ve had many talks about genetics and how we take after our parents and grand parents.  The genetics on my dad’s side are very strong.  Our ears, blue eyes, long arms, facial structure, noses, hair lines and cowlicks are some of the most identifying features.  It’s fun to see how much my son reminds me of my dad and brothers, especially with his mannerisms.  It makes us do a double-take at times. 

Out of all of my husband’s family, I think my man resembles Mr. Craighead the most.  Sometimes, we don’t seem to look anything like our biological parents.  Other times, it’s undeniable.  But this old photo has captivated my thinking about genetics. 

We are created to take after the physical image of our parents, it’s the way for God’s pattern of us being created in His image, to continue.  Ultimately we are created to take after the image of our Father in heaven.  Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (ESV) 

Our Creator set the pattern for each of us to take after himself; and we are each a unique expression of what that looks like.  I believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, complete with the capacity to love and be loved.  To forgive and extend grace.  We are made with eyes to see, a heart to feel, a mind to create and explore, and hands to hold what is broken and also treasured.

No matter what our past is with your earthly father, or how much you “take after him” in looks, ultimately it is your Heavenly Creator Father that you are patterned after.  You are a loved and treasured possession.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), in His image!

Our Crooked Path

It’s hard to believe that LIT was two weeks ago, but the richness is still soaking in.  One of the things that came out of this amazing day was to not question or feel guilty for taking my time with Jesus each day.  I had started to feel guilty, allowing the “should” excuses to creep in.  I ‘should’ be studying Joshua right now.  I ‘should’ be working outside in the berries.  I ‘should’ be cleaning house.  I ‘should’…. the list goes on.

So lately I haven’t felt one bit guilty for spending an hour or more for my quiet time each day.  It doesn’t happen in the early morning, our house and my early risers don’t easily allow for that in this season.  But once the kids are at school, the deck is cleared and it’s an open notebook and my bible with no sense of guilt.  What a gift!

One of the limitations I’ve argued for myself over the past year is that I have never read the entire bible.  So if I’ve never read the entire bible, how in the world can I possibly write a bible study?  Part of my desire for a long quiet time stems from a desire to take in long pieces of scripture in one sitting, so that I can take things in context of the whole.  It’s been awesome. 

During LIT, Beth Moore mentioned Ecclesiastes 7:16.  I jotted it down in my notes, making plans to look it up later.  Turns out that it is an interesting verse, with ample warning.  And I completely get it in context of what she was speaking to in that moment, to a room full of young women.  I had never read the whole of Ecclesiastes, until now. 

Ecclesiastes 7:13 totally captivated me the other day.                                                        “Consider the work of God : who can make straight what he has made crooked?”   (ESV)

This verse speaks so much truth.  So much time and energy can be spent trying to see what is coming, making sure that the path is straight enough to see ahead.  Young ladies spend time planning out their weddings, husbands, homes, families, careers and retirements.  Like it’s going to be a straight shot from point A, B and C.  And like a jolting curve in the road, a baby is lost, a job doesn’t come through, nest eggs are lost, life on earth happens.  All of a sudden, our straight and narrow path isn’t so straight and narrow. 

I was never really one to dream about my wedding, or my husband.  I just prayed and desired that it would be filled with love and last so that we would all be spared the heartache of divorce.  But when I got married, the plans began.  The jobs, the house, the straight and narrow path was imagined and planned.

Then the path got crooked.  We couldn’t find the house in our timeline, the job was difficult, the baby took longer than expected.  And just when the path starts to straighten out an election, dream, job, and direction are lost, the economy tanks, and the plans go out the window. 

Our life is full of twists and turns.  Who can possibly make the path God has made crooked, straight?  No one.  What can be done though, is to enjoy each moment in the present.  We can be grateful for the twists and turns.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-10-41-46-amIt kind of reminds me of a summer vacation we took to the Smoky Mountains a few years ago.  We didn’t have much of a plan, but looking at our atlas thought we would take this road to get from point A to point B.  It looked like a scenic route and would save us from driving all the way back from where we had been.  Come to find out, it was called Tail of the Dragon (Highway 129) and well known for those who seek a thrilling and scenic drive.  The twists and turns in our life that day were unexpected.  I’m grateful, it was beautiful.  It’s also one experience I hope to never have again, at least not pregnant with an already queasy belly.

What part of your crooked path are you most grateful for?  Can you hold a stance of gratitude for the twists and turns yet to be seen? 

I would never in a million years have tried to plan out what my life looks like right now.  In fact, I would be scared to death.  But it’s all the twists and turns in the path which have led up to this moment and season for our family.  I wouldn’t trade all those curves for anything.  It’s those curves which help to mold us and hold opportunities to teach the biggest lessons.  We can choose to trust the curves, slowing down when necessary, and take the scenic route.  We can choose to spend so much energy on planning out a straight path, or we can choose to enjoy and accept the crooked one presently placed before us. For me, this crooked path has been one wild ride.  I’ll take His crooked path over my straight path any day. 

“Consider the work of God : who can make straight what he has made crooked?”   (Ecclesiastes 7:13, ESV)

#LPMLIT

What do you do with an experience so holy and unduplicatable?  You lose your voice; so that all you can do is sit and listen to God with open ears and an open heart, soak in His presence, and begin to digest all that has taken place.  Or at least that’s what I’m doing right now.

img_3852This past Saturday, I had the joy and privilege of being a part of Living Proof Ministry’s LIT.  One solid day devoted to and designed for women in their 20’s and 30’s who are being called to writing, teaching and speaking the Gospel.  I was blown away by the women who could have been speaking, teaching or ministering any where on the globe, but chose to spend it pouring into us.  And they did so in a powerful and loving way, not forsaking honesty and truth.  The intimacy level between each other and the Lord was palpable.

I don’t know where to begin unfolding my experience at LIT.  So many answers to prayer and confirmation.  But for every answer and confirmation, came five more prayers and questions.  So I’m grateful for the forced silence and rest which provide time to unpack questions and praises, and place it all before Him.  I desired to know the next step(s) on this journey He has me on, it was given.  Now, with faith I’m asking for the wisdom and discernment in knowing when to take them. 

I’m not even going to begin expelling everything that took place.  It was amazing.  I was in awe of the generosity and wisdom from all those involved, so that we all might prosper on the ground created for us to claim.  We worshiped, laughed, cried, stirred our brains and hearts, got real, and were trusted with so much.  Wow.

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One thing I can easily share, is the gratitude I have towards two women who shared it with me.  I’m so grateful for their willingness to road-trip with me, pray, laugh, encourage, teach, speak truth, and bear witness (especially divine appointments!).  Pam & Mary, you are precious to me.  And I’m certain part of my voice loss is all because we laughed so much!  Thank you.

There were so many quotable statements I could share in attempt to sum it up, but I realize they are worthless unless the commitment to put them into practice, or take them to heart, is there. There is a stirring in my soul, and within so many others, that I can not help but be excited!  A desired goal of Ms. Beth’s (Beth Moore) for LIT was for the 750 young women attending to “Get LIT” with the gospel and the gifting and be unleashed on this globe.   Ms. Beth, I am LIT!  I am LIT and praying a fresh commitment to keep it fanned into a flame, with the help of Holy Spirit.

38 and Psalm 33

The past few days, there is a verse in Psalm 33 which continues to play in my thoughts.  I think it’s fitting, considering the year that is behind me and they new year that is stretched out ahead.  A blank slate, both planned out and waiting to be created.  It’s a present that I get to unwrap each day.  New mercies, new hardships to learn in, brave new steps to take in the dance of life, new friends, and the newness of knowing my dear ones even better with a deeper love.

The past year has been full of the new and unknown.  This space of my life is one where I am simultaneously really excited and really scared, and it’s a really good place to be.  So, the verse…Psalm 33:3 “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (ESV)

Sing to the Lord a new song!  Each day is the opportunity to sing a new song!  Each day!  It can have the same congruent values, but I can choose to get up and do something new.  The year has been full of “something new” for me.  As I round the corner, coming into the straightaway of 37, I’m excited about 38!  I’m excited for the newness, I only get one shot at 38 and I want to make the most of it. 

Playing the same song each year, I will get the same results.  Please don’t misunderstand or jump to the conclusion that the results I’ve gotten thus far are less than, or bad, in any way.  My life has been wonderful.  But I’m ready for the next thing!  I’m ready for more.  I’m ready to live life not holding back, and I’m ready to learn how to do that.

The part of Psalm 33:3 that really strikes me, is the “play skillfully”.  The only way to play skillfully, is to practice.  So many times I’ve held back because I figured in order to “play” my instrument, I needed to do so perfectly.  That doesn’t work.  Portions of the definition for the Hebrew word ‘skillfully’ include, “earnestly, be (make) better, make cheerful, and diligent”. 

Play skillfully.  It has nothing to do with perfection, and everything to do with pressing on and doing the thing.  It’s being the fullest expression of God’s love and creativity, for that day.  Using the tools provided.  Taking steps out and making movement forward.  My playing skillfully today will look differently time next year, all the while experiencing and accepting grace along the way.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do some personal work.  It’s a long and beautiful story, but the end result was a statement that goes like this…”I am a complete and powerful woman, being a guiding rock with compassion and creativity.”  At the time, that end part felt both a little strange and completely fitting.  This statement continues to guide, encourage and stretch me.  It continues to be a tool in the “play skillfully” process. 

The other part of Psalm 33:3 that challenges me, in a good way, is “with loud shouts”.  If you know me, I’m not too loud.  In fact, my entire life has been filled with echoes of “speak up!”  It used to really bother me, because I felt like I was already shouting at people!  (This was always in reference to volume.)  But the truth is, I’ve held much of it in for my whole life.  Not speaking up when I needed to, or wanted to.  Holding back  for fear that I would be judged or misunderstood.  Moving forward, it won’t always come out in shouts, or in the way it is intended…but that’s roll of practice, right? 

So!  I’m challenging myself (and you) to keep singing (and dancing), to a new song each day. Skillfully playing the strings gifted, with loud shouts of gratitude and praise.  I’m excited about 38!  With all the richness, challenges and growth awaiting.  Party time!