Scatter those seeds

Sometimes the pain of it all feels like a heavy weight. Like cotton in your brain. Like you can’t see or hear. Or breathe.

Sorrows weigh us down; they make us limp. When I was nine, I twisted my ankle after doing a roundoff of a balance beam in gymnastics class. I had to wrap it, ice it, keep it elevated. Rest.

But oftentimes it feels harder to give ourselves the emotional grace, when sorrows and hardship leave us wounded, like we have a twisted ankle, or worse. Some days my heart feels so bruised I wonder if it’s actually internal bleeding.

So today, here is your permission to not do it all. You don’t have to be productive. The to-do list can fall by the way side. The dishes can stack up in the sink. The laundry can fluff for the fourth day in a row and you can have sandwiches for lunch and dinner both.

It’s okay. It’s really okay.

Today the sun shines brilliant in the sky, but the hearts of many I love are grieving deeply. There is no bandaid to fix any of it. There seems to be only the endless ocean of pain. How do we handle it when our prayers aren’t answered the way we hope they will be? When the 11th hour rescue doesn’t come…how do you hold on to hope?

Maybe this is where we’ve been led of course all this time. Maybe it was wrong to think of hope as this pitiful small thing; this waning attempt at positivity. The truth is that hope is a battle; and today, yes today, you must fight.

Fight hard. Because if you are in Christ, then this too shall pass. And it is well with your soul. And even death cannot separate forever. We have more to live for and more to hope for than this earthly place; these lives we live in the shadowlands. We have eternity stretching out before us; and as one of my wonderful pastors said while we studied through the book of Job two years ago; “heaven is not a consolation prize.”

Heaven is not a consolation prize. I repeated it to myself just this morning. It’s not a dumb trinket you get at the bottom of a happy meal; heaven is the all. It is everything we are longing for.

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our GOD; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'”

(Isaiah 25:6-9)

Someday—someday soon—we will be dancing and singing and eating with our Savior King who himself went through unimaginable suffering on our behalf.

Thank you Jesus, this is not how our stories end. This is anything but the end. Dearest Reader, if you find yourself today in a place of deep grief or sorrow, I pray that these words comfort you. And that they remind you that it’s okay to know in your heart what God has done, what He is doing, and then just rest. It’s okay to just be. On days that begin with terrible grief, it’s more thank okay to just sit and be still, and let God hold you.

He is making all things new; even when it looks like everything around you is falling to pieces. I know it. I’ve seen it. I hope today, you can dare with me, to believe that it’s true.

That’s why, after too many months of hype, God knew that today was finally the day for Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering to be released into the world. If you need someone to kneel in the dirt of your present circumstances with you, I’d be honored to be that person. Just click here to sign up and get you’ll get the link to download my free ebook delivered directly to your inbox. It’s in a PDF format so you can either read it on your phone, your computer or print it off at home.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering.

Today, on a day that felt abysmally dreary, I left the dishes and the laundry and the floor unswept; and I went out and planted seeds. Because the Bible teaches that what is sown in dishonor will be raised in new life; and though planting seeds is my least favorite part of the gardening process for just this reason, that I struggle to believe, God knows. And today this is exactly what I need.

[Photo by Constellate on Unsplash]

Spring is coming

I had a dream last night that my daughter was making paper mache at church. Her hands and face were covered with the sticky white glue/water/flour mixture. For a Mom of a child with severe gluten sensitivity, this was an actual nightmare.

It’s been seven weeks since her last flare up. It’s been a long hard season, but it feels like maybe we are getting towards the end of it…? I’m always afraid to say that. Like maybe I’ll be jinxing it somehow. Maybe I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

But part of me is almost ready to dare to hope. To hope that maybe this season of intense hardship is ending. Maybe we have done a better job keeping her safe. Maybe we are finally figuring some things out. Maybe there isn’t another shoe hanging above our heads, but just the same shoe at our feet: that she has severe issues with gluten. And maybe it’s celiac and maybe it’s not.

We were told by the pediatric gastroenterologist that we will not be able to get a celiac diagnosis, even if we did a scope, because she has been on the gluten free diet for so long already. 

“Even though she’s still been having flare ups?” I said.

“You could make a case for it,” she said, “but I don’t think it would show up definitively, no.”

She said the only way to get a celiac diagnosis would be to feed her gluten for six weeks straight and then do a scope. 

You can probably guess what my answer to that was. 

Heck NO.

I am not so obsessed with answers that I will purposely hurt my child to get them. 

I am not so obsessed with control that I will break the well earned trust that she has built into me, that what I cook for her, to the best of my knowledge and ability, will not make her sick.

I do not need answers that badly. 

It helps that she’s doing better. Right now, that feels like answer enough. 

She still has tummy aches from time to time, a few every week. I try to keep on top of her enzyme as best I can. I make sure to follow rigorous hand washing when we go anywhere and I wipe down a table before she sits there.

I don’t take her down the aisles with bulk bins and I warn her not to touch the open baskets of bread at the grocery store. I don’t take her to Willy’s hockey games anymore; that was the tragic scene that we are fairly certain caused her last flare up. Gold fish cracker crumbs littered the bleachers, and who knows what other specks that could not be seen. It was probably just a few too many small exposures in one day.

No matter how we covered her hands with her sleeves, I laid out a blanket for her to sit on, she washed hands repeatedly during and after our time there as well as changed her clothes the moment we got home. I thought I had thought of everything. But then next day when she woke up sick, I remembered the dog licking her face. I hadn’t accounted for that. Most dog food contains gluten of course, and I would never let a person who just ate a slice of bread lick her face.

So we try to be careful of that now too. 

It could be easy to start feeling sorry for myself, but when I think back to that season of intense suffering that has only appeared to end a few weeks ago, I remember to give thanks for the little girl with the strength to be sassy to me about how “unfair” it is that she can’t eat/touch/do XYZ. 

It’s understandable she’s upset. But the fact that she calls it unfair and doesn’t automatically shy from that thing in fear, just goes to show how the Lord is healing and protecting her little psyche as well as her body. She is forgetting how bad it all is, and I am okay with that.

Maybe that’s what this in-between season is all about. Learning to be okay. Learning to live with the unresolved. The lack of answers. The lack of certainty about whether or not what we are doing is working, or if it’s something else all together. Time may reveal some of these. But either way; God is with us in the middle places just as he was with us in the darkest nights.

My youngest child has always been a good sleeper, but these past few weeks he’s taken to waking multiple times at night again like he did when he was a newborn. I could bemoan this fact, or I could thank God that he’s doing this now and not while I was dealing with a daughter in flare up in the middle of the night.

A friend has needed temporary childcare help with her sweet 2 year old daughter, and though adding a fourth kid, five and under, does make some things (like a trip to the grocery store) a little more interesting, it’s also just so amazing to me that God has orchestrated this timing. If this had happened a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help.

Another friend’s daughter has been in the hospital for the past four weeks; they just finally moved her out of the ICU. And the thought in my mind and heart is that I’m so glad I can offer my help in some small way. Watching your daughter suffer is no easy task, I know it in new ways now that I hope help me to be a compassionate companion.

And you Dear Reader, I am working hard for you; like I’ve never worked before. If you would like to be one of the first to receive my (almost finished) FREE DOWNLOAD: Scattered: A seven day journey to planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering, just click here to sign up, and as soon as it’s finished I’ll deliver it to your inbox.

In Colorado we are transitioning—from winter to spring. And it comes slowly here, where we often still get snow even through the month of May. But the crocuses are opening in the morning light. The tulips and the daffodils are emerging from the front beds that I neglected to clear of leaves last fall. The chorus of birdsong now greets me and my morning cup of coffee. And the clearest sign; the delicious light that lingers over me as I prepare supper in the evenings.

Though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of winter’s chill, this time does feel like a change in the air. Like the spring that we hoped for might be just around the corner, after all.

It’s almost time to plant some seeds.

Let the Daily be Deliberate

Sometimes as a stay-at-home Mama, it feels like I’m drowning in the daily. Like the little tasks I do again, and again and again may smother me inside their static ordinariness. The littleness of the days can threaten to swallow you in insignificance. If you’re staring into the washer this morning, wondering whether the clothes are clean or dirty, if like me you’ve been fluffing the same load in the dryer for three consecutive days,  then you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you feel stuck in a lifeless career that doesn’t exactly make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Maybe some days you feel like little more than a button pusher, doing the same mindless task over and over again. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe you work really hard to achieve and come up with creative solutions in your work, but no one ever seems to notice. That’s when the temptation to quit speaks up the loudest; “quit and then they’ll notice you! They’ll notice all the work you have done just by the fact that it’s all NOT getting done right now!”

Whichever deadening dailiness you may find yourself in, can I let you in on a little secret? Every moment of your life matters.

Just think about that for one hot second. Every moment of your life matters. That means every mundane chore, every thought that you have while walking down the hall at work, every casual word or casual glance, every little, seemingly insignificant, choice that you make matters.

And because we are creatures of habit, even if we don’t think we are, so many of these choices are in some way “pre-made”. Sometimes the pre-making of the decision happens by default, as in, we decide we can’t decide and so we do nothing. Others of them are made with intention. And still there are others that probably fall somewhere in between. When you boil it all down to this it may feel overwhelming. But I’m not asking you to think about and analyze every choice and non-choice  you make right now; I’m just asking you to be aware of the fact that you have made/are making these choices.

So what’s the big deal? Well, since our lives are built of these moments, these choices, these habits; that means that if we want to Cultivate a Fruitful Life we need to start by cultivating the building blocks of a fruitful life. The good and the bad news is that we need to start small, by cultivating fruitful habits. By letting the daily, be deliberate. 

Realizing that the choices we make and don’t make every day are not only meaningful, but important and crucially significant, may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it. This is our opportunity. We get to cultivate a little more fruitfulness in our lives every day, and sometimes all it takes is breaking or making one small habit. (If you haven’t read it yet don’t miss my last post “Break this Habit First.“)

Don’t be afraid to start small. As my garden teaches me; seeds hold in them the unimaginable potential for amazing fruit. Jesus isn’t intimidated by our small beginnings. 

Letting the daily be deliberate can feel like putting a whole lot of pressure on a situation, but don’t let it. Look around you today. What choices are you making in habit? What choices do you wish it was easier to change? What do you wish you had more time for? What do you want to do less of? How does your attitude change and shift throughout the day? Are there ways that you need to change your perspective in order to cultivate a more fruitful outlook?

We’re going to get into all this friends; because I care about you. Because God has taught me so much about the power of habits of work, and habits of rest. Because I no longer believe that fruitfulness is about what I can manufacture, but about what God does in and through me as I obey his commands to be faithful with what I have been given. I can’t wait to share with you.

If you are interested, I’d love to hear from you about the daily habits you currently have and whether or not you feel like they are leading to fruit in your life. Where do you find yourself struggling most in the daily? Where do you think you are succeeding by God’s grace? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, thank you for reading and thank you for sharing.

Praying for you, that God would use my words here in this space to help you cultivate a little more fruitfulness, by God’s grace and for His glory.

Miraculous Asparagus

I discovered what the mystery plant was. In my garden, right next to the Northern fence, stood a small little patch of something that at first I thought looked like dill. It was in a raised bed, and I could tell that it had been planted there, but day after day I looked at this strange plant that kept growing taller, with thin, fern like leaves, then red berries in the fall…and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked a few friends, a few people more skilled in gardening than myself. But they couldn’t tell me what it was either.

But I knew it must be something. So I watered and I watched. I staked it to the fence when it got so tall that it fell over. And when fall came, and still I had no clue, like any self-respecting gardener, I decided I’d wait till spring to either 1) figure out what the heck it was or 2) to pull it up and plant cucumbers there instead.

It was with no small degree of shock, elation and unreasonable joy then this spring when I looked over towards that northern garden bed to see this growing where my then still un-pruned, mystery plant had been.

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I never would have guessed. Not in a thousand years. My mystery plant, was actually asparagus. I LOVE asparagus. (Photo taken after I gleefully cleaned out that northern garden bed.)

See that little fern-y, dilly looking plant right behind that gorgeous asparagus? Apparently, that’s what asparagus look like the first year they come up. They go through an awkward “ferned out” phase, during which the plant gather all the nutrients it needs for the next year’s asparagus. And each year they multiply and they grow and the “asparagus” portion of the plant’s life, gets longer and longer.

Maybe you already know all this. But being the complete nubie gardener that I am, I found it all so miraculous and amazing. And there I was, two weeks after I found that patch of asparagus that had always been there, that once again I was reaping what I hadn’t sown.

And I was eating it for breakfast. (With scrambled eggs and chèvre goat cheese, delicious!)

And it reminds me of the Gospel, how through what Jesus did for us on the cross, we get to reap exactly what we HAVEN’T sown, and what a grace it is. What JOY in reaping the exact opposite of what we have sown. His righteousness, the fruit of His life, accredited to us in the place of the destruction of our sin.

And the other thing: maybe this blog is in an awkward ‘ferned out’ phase. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t really  know what it is yet. And it’s getting propped against the northern fence. And it’s still getting watered when I think of it, and maybe before very long, like a brilliant AHA! moment, it will be there.

And I’ll be like, ‘YES! So that’s what it was all along!’ And you’ll nod along amiably that I finally figured it out, and together we’ll be nurtured and nourished by what we haven’t sown, by what we haven’t understood, because together we gave it the time it needed to become.

So Dear Reader, if you are still here, if you are still listening… Thank you. I’ve been on Sabbatical for three months, and still you read something in your inbox that came from that weird lady who keeps trying to force herself to commit to writing about something consistently, but she can’t quite seem to figure out what.

Some days we cultivate. Others, we harvest the fruit. And always, there’s the waiting in between.

I’ve re-dubbed this blog “Cultivating a Fruitful Life”, because that’s what I want to do. And that’s what I want to help you do to. By God’s grace, for His glory. We were made to bear fruit. And because I haven’t known just what this blog wants to be yet, consider this your fair warning that it might not always be what you’ve come to expect anymore. I want to share spiritual truths, I want to encourage you to live boldly into the individual calling that God has placed on your life. I also want to encourage you as you pursue fruitfulness in some of the more physical ways that I have found the Lord uses to shepherd my heart in my own life. Things like gardening, making jam, brewing kombucha, milking a goat, cooking a delicious meal for your crew. (Most of that will probably happen on my newly titled Instagram account @gracieishomesteady if you are interested.)

So consider this your fair warning; this blog may be entering a highly experimental phase. It’s ferned out. It doesn’t even know what it is yet, and that’s okay.

Is your life feeling like a ferned out asparagus? Not sure what it wants to be yet? Or maybe you know, but you’re just in a season of long waiting. I’d love to hear from you. As well as if you have topic praises/critiques/requests. Just leave a comment below.

Praying for you, dear reader. That something here will help you to cultivate a fruitful life, that you and those around you may reap that harvest, by God’s grace and for His glory.

Weeding

I wonder what Adam thought when he saw the first weed. You know, in Genesis, after he and his wife destroyed the perfection of their garden home with sin.

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He’d been used to tending plants in a pre-fall kind of way; what I imagine was mainly watering and pruning and picking fruit to eat. But here now, all of a sudden, he is thrust into a life of agriculture, and what is sprouting up in the rows he’s planted?

Not the seeds he has sown, but other plants. Aggressive plants. Plants that look like the plants you want at first, but show themselves to be traitors.

Maybe he did what I did two weeks ago in the cilantro bed. I put little stakes by every plant I thought might be a cilantro, since this was my first time growing it and I didn’t want to pull up my seedlings by mistake. I let those plants grow a little, and watched and waited to see which ones would prove to be the good plant that I actually planted.

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Weeds have taught me a lot about sin this summer. How is grows the second you turn your back. How you must be always watchful and vigilant to pull each one, and get all of it by the root. How sometimes the ground is just too hard and dry to weed very well, and you might have to wait for a little rain to soften the earth.

I think God delights to speak to us in these every day mundane ways. Even just today I was out there in the cilantro bed, pulling up the stakes by most of the plants that I had previously thought were cilantro, but are in fact weeds. (I know now what a tiny cilantro plant looks like, because finally, after weeks of waiting and almost entirely giving up, they emerged. And the shape and fragrance of the leaves, even in the tiniest seedlings, could not be mistaken for anything else.)

So I’m out there today in my garden, in the quiet heat of a summertime afternoon, and I realize this: Without diligent cultivation, all we would have in our garden is weeds. Even with consistent cultivation it stills feels like an uphill battle sometimes. If I get busy, and it takes me longer than my regular every-other-day to get out to my garden to weed, it can feel overwhelming at times, and it’s staggering how fast those weeds grow; so much faster than the things we actually plant.

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I think our lives are like this too. Maybe you are in a season of busyness, and you feel like you don’t have “time” to cultivate good in your life. This could be something as simple as reading your Bible for a few minutes, using your commute to look to God in prayer, or sharing what you have been going through with a godly friend. Maybe you keep thinking to yourself that while you aren’t moving forward, you’re just staying still; still at the place you always were with God and others.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think God does anything by accident or coincidence. So I think he might want us to take a cue from the garden today. Without diligent cultivation all we would have in our garden is weeds.

I say this as a gentle rebuke, for myself and anyone reading. If you think that you can just take it easy and take a break from diligently cultivating a walk with Jesus, you might find yourself becoming overwhelmed with weeds. We are in a constant battle with the enemy, who wants nothing more than to choke out our fruitfulness with the cares of this life; but that is not what God has for us. He wants us to flourish.

This is not a push towards religiosity. This is not a post to make you feel guilty. This is a post from a woman who spent the weekend choosing to forget why it was she had been waking up early to spend time in the Word, so instead she chose to sleep in because she had stayed up too late watching TV. And then Sunday morning rolled around and the whole sermon I was battling distraction like it was my job, and Satan was trying to wedge his foot in the door of my heart with little lie after little lie, until finally I begged God for help. He showed up of course, as he always does, and the second half of my day was filled with his presence.

We’ll never do it perfectly; but if we want to live lives of abundance out of the wealth of God’s presence, we need to spend time there. And everybody has the time to shoot up a silent prayer while doing the dishes, or to sing worship music on the commute, or to just choose to be honest about where you are at with someone who cares, even if it’s just a simple text that says,

“SOS! I AM BATTLING__________RIGHT NOW! PLEASE PRAY FOR ME.

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So if it’s been a few too many days since you’ve been out in the garden, get going! You won’t regret it. Even if you see a lot of weeds, there will always be those few brave cilantro plants that dared to raise their heads. And you know it by now don’t you, that God is there in the garden with you, and he’s the one who makes those good plants grow.


Things to help you grow:

Has anyone else been as amazingly inspired by Wonder Woman as I have been? Mary Carver seems to be! Check out her post and get a free printable if you subscribe.

http://www.marycarver.com/2017/08/real-reason-youre-strong-wonder-woman-free-print/

And this book which I haven’t read, looks amazing and might have to be next in my Amazon cart. GraceLaced by Ruth Chou Simons. This beautiful book releases today.

http://www.joyliveshere.com/gracelaced-by-ruth-chou-simons/?fref=gc&dti=410736072469071