The Daily Push Back

The Daily Push Back

I still marvel at it… the way that dreams can take twists and turns and dump you right out in a spot you never knew you wanted.  That is how I feel about my little Rancho among the tumbleweeds and sandstorms of west Texas.  Yesterday, as I pulled up to the gate, the old Dixie Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” came on the radio and I began to cry.  I have loved that song since college (now I’m dating myself!!), but back then I didn’t even recognize the longing it was speaking to inside of me.  But yesterday I knew.  I saw it with my own teary eyes.  My very own wide open spaces, with my childhood cowboy, a herd of cow dogs, a flock of silly hens, and a bunch of free-ranging kids (and tumbleweeds and sandstorms).  The Ranchito really is my “unexpected promise land,” the one that little southern co-ed in the Dixie Chicks hat could have never imagined.

But do you want to know a secret?  My very favorite spot on these seven acres is not a wide open space at all.  It’s not the garden sprouting in the Spring, or the sunset porch showing off every evening.  It’s not the swimming pool filled to the brim with friends all summer, or the pasture where we pull the hayride every Fall Festival.  In fact, most visitors will never see this enchanting nook at all.  It’s a little patio enclosed by vine covered brick walls located between our bedroom and our daughters’.  We call it the “Bunny Courtyard” because in it our 3 pet rabbits run (hop?) free.  It also happens to be home to 2 turtles named “Cooper” and “David,” an accidental rooster named “Chickaletta” (long story for another day), quite a large family of not-so-shy mice, some free-loading dove, and unfortunately, the occasional slithering visitor.  (One day I am going to write a children’s book entitled “The Adventures of the Bunny Courtyard” because they are many- but for today, there are your introductions.) And in the warm Summer months, when the rush of school mornings are a memory, and postponed bed-times mean sleeping children, you can find me in the Bunny Courtyard as well… Bible, journal, countless books in hand… a mason jar of pretty pens, a cup of coffee, and. a sunrise.  Yes, and Amen!  So Jesus and I join the menagerie every morning, seated at the old garden table.  And sometimes He sends a hummingbird too, just to let me know He sees me… it’s kind of our thing.

bunny courtyard bible studySounds dreamy, right?

It is.  I feel like Cinderella many mornings out there holding a bunny in my lap while the turtles chomp a fresh leaf and the mice scurry behind the veil of vines, writing in my journal and reading my Bible.  The flowers bloom, the rooster crows, the bees buzz gently.  It is dreamy.

It is also a heck of a lot of work.

You see, those adorable little bunnies and I go round and round..  Literally.  They go around the edge to the dirt perimeter of the courtyard and they dig.  They dig and dig and dig.  And I go around behind them and I fill in the holes.  And I fill and fill and fill.  And that rooster, well, he poops.  He poops and poops and poops- usually on my pretty little table.  And I clean and clean and clean.  And the turtles are messy eaters leaving a trail behind of leftover tomatoes and old lettuce.  They munch and munch and munch.  And I sweep and sweep and sweep.

bunnies in the courtyard

Every day.  Every single morning.

Seriously.  And I have to do it all before I can sit and enjoy Jesus and the coffee and the dreamy and the hummingbirds.  Please get the very real picture in your mind of me at sunup, either in PJ’s, or sweaty workout clothes, slippered feet and a shovel, filling in holes, an old towel cleaning off poop, the push broom sweeping up the mess. Cinderella for sure.   The dreamy Bunny Courtyard mornings are very real.  The bunny petting and praying, the Bible studying and hummingbird watching – it is alive and well.  And so it the daily push back of dirt and poop and mess.

One could never be enjoyed without the the other being endured.  Every day.

I guess I don’t know any part of life that gets all cleaned up, all accomplished, all checked off and then it is finished.  I don’t know any aspect that stays beautiful and dreamy without the shoveling and sweeping.  Marriage?  Try shelving communication for a season – even a dreamy season- and see if you don’t have a mess to clean up.  Friendships?  Try just participating in the pretty and not the dirty and tell me how deep those relationships go.  Jesus?  Just show up in your Sunday best and ignore Him during the mid-week muck and mire and tell me if victory seems far off.   .

Here’s the thing: Rabbits were created with digging in their hearts.  If I am shocked every morning when I join them on their courtyard, that they have once again dug a makeshift den, then shame on me.  Chickens poop.  It’s what they do.  I know this and am prepared- why waste the energy on getting exasperated?  And the enemy of your soul, then enemy of all that is good and peaceful and dreamy in your life?  Well, he steals, kills, and destroys.  It’s what he does, it’s what he has always done.  It says so right there in John 10:10 so please don’t be surprised when he attempts to do just that- steal your joy, kill your relationships, destroy your dreams and peace and testimony.   The question is not if he will try to make a mess of things, the question is if you will push back.  Every day.

The truth is, we can get comfortable with the dirt and poop.  We can get so used to it, we forget there is something better, something beautiful underneath.  If I take a few days off from the Bunny Courtyard push back, do you know what happens?  The area shrinks.  That dirt takes over more and more space and I forget where the pretty patio is supposed to start.  I can’t find the boundaries, the part that belongs to me, belongs to beauty.  A part of my promise land is lost.  The work increases when it’s not done daily.  It’s harder that way.

We can get hopeless with the prospect that we will have to fill the same holes tomorrow… fight the same fights, take back the same territory, invest in the same broken people.   Romans 5:3-5 speaks to this very thing. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.(NLT)”

You see, we are not hopeful that the dirt and poop will not be there tomorrow.  We do not put our hope in a task finished, a situation conquered, a burden released. a win.  We put or hope in the one who gives us the strength daily for the push back.  And this hope “will not disappoint.”  This life takes endurance, the kind of endurance that builds strength of character.  The kind of endurance that picks the shovel up again tomorrow and takes back truth, hope, and the beauty underneath the mess.  Every time I pick that shovel up, PJ’s and all, I get stronger.  Every time you push back the darkness from your promise land, you get stronger too.

Galatians 6:9 encourages, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  We will reap a harvest.  That harvest just may be some spiritual muscle and strength of character rather than a tidy bow on the situation.  The Bunny Courtyard can be beautiful but it will never be tidy.  James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  He will reward our perseverance in this life or the next… that’s the win.

I wish we could see what God sees.  I wish, instead of seeing the young mom hanging on by a thread, we saw the spiritual strength it takes to do it all again tomorrow.  I wish instead of seeing the unhappy wife, we saw the mighty prayer warrior she is, fighting in the heavenliness for her marriage.  I wish, instead of seeing a burnt out man, we saw the solider he is as he stands guard for his home and his family, daily taking back any territory lost. I  wish instead of seeing an aging generation weakened by time, we saw the ferocious band of grandparents handing over the legacy of strength of character and perseverance.  That is real.  And that is only attained in the daily push back.

I don’t know where you have been called to daily push back… fighting for hope as you believe the best for your marriage, pushing back the lies that you are less than in your singleness, filling in the holes the enemy is trying to dig into your identity and security in Christ, cleaning up the mess of other’s expectations as you parent that special needs child, taking back the territory of a dream, that promise you know was from God, finding your purpose under all that dirt.  But I do know the hard work, the daily work, is worth it.  When God looks at you He sees the muscle you are building by doing the work today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  There is no short cut to perseverance, to endurance, to strength of character, to the crown of life.  It takes the daily push back.  It takes getting your hands dirty.  It takes hope placed in the things that will not disappoint.

So, do it again.  Love him again.  Forgive her again.  Get in the Word again.  Pray again.  Speak truth again.  Get up again.  Be vulnerable again.  Believe again.  Wade though the poop again.  Shovel the dirt again.  Take back your territory again.  The daily push back matters.  He sees you too.  He may even send a hummingbird to tell you so.

Now I have a few rabbit holes to fill in…

 

My Before Screen Time Checklist

Kids and Screen Time

Kids and Screen Time

After 10:00am in order for my kids to have screen time, they must do the following:

  1. Make your bed
  2. Have your personal prayer, Bible journaling, or worship time
  3. Straighten your room (Mom must check it)
  4. Feed your animals (Skyler-Rabbits, Canyon-Chickens, Brooke-Cats, Hillman-Dogs)
  5. Do one chore (Ask Mom)
  6. Read for 30 minutes (ReadLive and Nessy count too!)
  7. Do one math fact sheet
  8. Play outside for 1 hour

Chicken Scratch

Chicken Scratch Quote

My funny flock of chickens that free range the “Ranchito” have gotten braver and braver lately.  In search of the first greens of Spring, they have wandered far from the confines of the coop.  In the front yard they are loving the morning showers that the sprinklers bring, and in the back they have found the dog food bowls and get caught stealing it red-beaked everyday. Ranchito ChickensFriends and guests, whether kids or grown-ups are always taken aback when one of my friendly hens come puffing her way right up onto the front porch.  I think they add a bit of charm and character to the place, others may say a bit of crazy.  Either way, here they are.Willow with Ranchito ChickenAbout this time of year you better believe that I put those girls to work!  Their free-loading days of winter are over!  I lure them into my soon-to-be planted garden with scraps from the kitchen and a bag of mealworms, and let them get busy on that fallow ground.  You see, chickens scratch.  That’s what they do.  They are constantly clawing and pecking at the ground looking for bugs, worms, and weeds to consume.  And while they are essentially tilling the earth, they are (ah-hem) fertilizing it as well.  It’s a win-win for us all.  They get the tasty treats right below the surface, and I get soft, fertilized, de-bugged soil.

But planting day is quickly approaching!  As soon as those tiny vegetable plants go gingerly into the ground, as soon as those seeds begin to sprout, the garden will become a “no chicken zone.”  The gate will be locked and those same beaks and feet that served me well in the past will be banned until next year.  You see, my silly hens don’t know the difference between a weed and a tomato plant, a dandelion and a zucchini.  Left to roam and scratch in the wrong season they would pull up every bit of fruit (or veggies) I am trying to grow.

What was helpful in one season is destructive in another.

I have been in a scratching season myself lately.  Maybe it’s the whole turning 40 thing.  Maybe it’s the door closing on more babies and the familiarity of that role, as my children shoot up like the weeds on my lawn.  Maybe it’s the powerful and scary pull into new ventures.  Where am I fearful, where am I holding back, where am I wounded?  What am I good at?  Where am I weak?  I have honestly been praying for insight and revelation into why I am the way I am about some things.  I have asked the Lord to show me how I got into some places of the heart and spirit I might not want to stay.  “What is the root of this insecurity?  Where is the worm of pride or anxiety buried deep?  What happened in the past that I need to dig up and fertilize with the Truth of God’s word?”  Scratch, scratch, scratch.  And it has been good, and hard, and healing, and painful all at once.  It has led to much confession and repentance.  It has brought down walls of long-employed defenses.  It has started much needed conversations. My scratching season has allowed Jesus to get at some deep places where the ground of my heart has been too hard in the past.

But, at some point the scratching has to cease to let the growth begin. 

Of course we never move out of a confessing season. When we close the gate on repentance we wade into dangerous waters indeed.  But the tilling up of the past must give way to the sowing of new seeds, the tending of new ways, and the eventual harvesting of God glorifying fruit in our lives.  After all, Jesus says in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  The fruit cannot grow in ground that is always being scratched up.  Not in my garden and not in my life.  What was helpful in one season can be destructive, growth-stunting, and maybe even self-indulgent in another.

Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?   I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  My fear is that we indeed do not perceive it.  If we are constantly looking down to scratch at old ground, if we are continuing to look back at old hurts, if we are always looking inside at our old selves, we may miss Spring.

So Friends, let’s certainly do the work of tilling up the hard ground of our hearts when they are overgrown with the weeds of past offenses, old sins, destructive thought patterns, and just general fruitlessness.  There is a season for scratching.  There is a time for relinquishing it all to our Father and letting His Spirit reveal, forgive, heal, and then fertilize those fallow places with His Word.  But then there is a season for newness!  It’s Spring!  A season to focus on, and protect the seed He is growing in our lives.   2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

For now my scratching season is over.  I don’t want to stay too long digging up the old that I hinder the new.  I am hopeful that the work my chickens are doing this Spring will produce a fruitful garden this summer.  And I am confident the work the Holy Spirit and I did will produce a harvest in due time. (Galatians 6:9)

On the Other Side of Middle

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  

E.E. Cummings.

Yesterday I turned 40.  It really happened.  No amount of stomping my feet, and covering my ears while yelling, “Nahnahnahnah,” stopped the calendar.  I even asked my mom what time I was born, thinking I had a full day left of my 30’s… nope.  3:30 am.  So before I even opened my eyes, the deal was done.  40.  When I opened my Bible I found myself in II Corinthians 4:16 which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Nice.  Listen Paul, I know that was meant as an encouragement, but to a girl on her 40th birthday it felt a bit harsh (and found me reaching for all the skin care products I could find). I remember my parents turning 40.  It was all “Over the Hill” and black balloons and buzzards.  Nobody better be coming at me with that!  I have celebrated with good friends, with a surprise visit from my precious family, with PadThai and Vanilla Coke, and am still looking forward to a romantic weekend getaway with the hubs.  It has been much more sweet than bitter.

It is interesting having a January birthday because each new year literally ushers in a new age for me.  Most years this happens under the rush of putting away Christmas and getting back in the groove of “real life” after the holidays, but this year holds more weight, I suppose.

40.  It’s a weird age.

I feel as though I am straddling some invisible line, trying to find secure footing on one side or the other.  Middle aged? The middle of what?  Because right now I am in the middle of raising these four children.  I am in the middle of laundry days and American History and endless ballet rehearsals and tween emotions and YMCA basketball.  I have a kindergartner for goodness sakes!  But, man do I feel my age when I go into his classroom.  Every other mom is fresh-faced and excited to be there with a toddler in the stroller and a baby strapped to her chest.  And I can barely muster up the energy to buy the cupcakes… because I have been to approximately 4,327 school parties/feast/programs at this point and I’m over it.  Because, you know, I’m 40.

The footprint is well-worn on that side of the line, deeply embedded in the rich, comfortable ground of what I know.

Like any responsible 40 year old woman, I asked for a puppy for my birthday.  You see, we lost one of our old girls over Christmas, (you may remember her from Well-Worn Words), and my count is off.  We have always had 4 kids and 4 dogs.  That is the deal.  So now all of a sudden, when we have 4 kids and 3 dogs, my headcount is off.  (I may lose count of chickens, cats, and rabbits around the Ranchito but I know how many kids and dogs I have!) Obviously I need a puppy to fix it!  I have texted my husband countless pictures of red-merle, blue-eyed, fluffy Aussie babies.  He has texted back all the angry faces.  I have even named her in my heart! And it’s my birthday!!

But in the name of true transparency, I admit, maybe it goes a bit deeper.  Do you know what I know?  How to take care of all the people, all the animals, and all the things.   I got it.  I have passed that test and it is part of my sure footing on the old side of the line.  Give me something to care for, a baby anything, and I know my role.  It’s simple, right?   I just spent the weekend with my precious sister-in law and even more precious angel niece.  My sis-in-love is just finding her footing on that side of the line, getting a vision for her days, learning to be present in the diapers and and schedules and first words (and she is rocking it, I must say)!  She hasn’t even been to a single class-party yet.  Bless her heart.  Easy it may not be but simple, it is. (Trust me young moms!) Just keep them alive!  Then maybe you teach them what the cow says, how to sign for more yogurt bites, that they need to say “please,” that the “A” says “Ah.”  Right?  Here is how to wash your hair, how to tie your shoes, how to ride a 2-wheeler, how to multiply by 7.   My good friend (and fellow 40ish mom of 4) said it’s like looking at your life through a toilet paper roll (that apparently only you are capable of changing out).  The view is focused, honed-in, simple.

And then, a day like yesterday happens, and life snatches the homemade telescope, and you find yourself blinded by the panoramic scene.  My eyes are blurred, searching for the focal point, trying to adjust to the light.

It’s slippery on the other side.  This fresh ground is unsure and uncharted.  I don’t know which rocks will hold me and which ones won’t.  I don’t know where the dangers lie and I can’t see very far ahead.  But there is something a bit ill-fitting about the old footprint on the other side, something a bit suffocating and crusty.  And I think I might be up for the challenge of discovering new paths.

There just may be room to run.

I am working through Lara Casey’s PowerSheets this year, defining the things I want to let go of, naming my fears, and charting my goals.  I have also been praying through my “word of the year.”  Initially I wanted it to be something like “present” or “intentional” or “cultivate.”  Those felt deep and sounded good.   Do you know what I landed on?  PERMISSION.

My Word of the Year: Permission

I cringe a bit even as I type it.  It feels selfish and shallow and not at all what I am usually about.   But as I faced the fear that maybe 40 is too late for new callings, I began to write things like, “I will give myself permission for creativity, permission to ask for help, permission for space and margin, permission to refuel, permission not to live in the Red Zone, permission to GO FOR IT!”  Lots of permission.

On the old side of the invisible line that I suppose is marking “middle age” in my life, everyone is having a big ‘ole pep-rally for “Simplifying.”  And I get it.  Splash in the mud-puddles, take a nap, say yes to messy, clean out the junk drawer,  ignore the Cheerios on the floor.   But, I’ve sort of been there, done that.  Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  Do you know what most of my days consist of…

Clean Countertops

wiping the countertops clean.  All day.  Every day.  Clean the countertops.  So, in the end my life will amount to clean countertops?  Vacuumed floors?  Empty laundry baskets?  Or, can I transition with grace, over to the other side where the ground is pliable and unpredictable?  Do I have the courage to let my eyes adjust to the light of the unknown?

Suz and LesleyIn his second letter to Timothy, Paul says “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  II Timothy 1:6-7.   My mother is a stunning example of this for me.  There are few women more simple than she.  She is extraordinarily easy to please. Picky is not even in her vocabulary.  She is emotionally sure and stable, never one to rise and fall on a whim.  Her world is pretty small and she likes it like that.  Her countertops are spotless.  But every Wednesday morning for as long as I can remember she has taught in-depth, Precept Bible Study for 75-100 women.  And she brings it like a boss.   She gets up there, with her handwritten notes, her overhead projector, and her unparalleled knowledge of the Word and she straight up fans into flame the gift of God without an ounce of timidity!  When my eyes adjust, that’s what I see over on the other side.  I want to be just like her.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love” she has a chapter entitled “On Turning Forty” that I revisited this week.  She says, “I know what I am good at now and I do it.  I’m not apologetic and uncertain and aw-shucks about running my race.  I no longer tiptoe through my own life, doubting my gifts and my place, too scared to go for it, seize it, pray for it, dream it. When you are forty, you no longer wait for permission to live.”  Exactly.

So I am giving myself permission to put down all the “mommy books” and blogs and anthems that pull on me to default to the simplicity and safety of what I know, that make me melancholy, that make me feel like I am closer to the end than the beginning.  Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   I trust that my calling is in front of me, on the other side of middle, not behind me.  And I trust that it is bigger than clean countertops.  And I’m giving myself permission to go for it over the next 40 years!  And I have no idea exactly what that will look like but I also trust C.S. Lewis when he says, “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”

So here is to the other side of middle, to new paths, to fanning the flame, to permission and to 40!  Join me on the journey?

But, Babe, if you’re reading this, I STILL WANT THE PUPPY!  Red Merle puppy

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Over The River and Through The Woods

Happy December!  I know it’s been a little quiet around here lately and I just wanted to let you know where I have been… Over the River and Through the Woods a bit.  I have been honored to be featured on a couple of different sites as a guest blogger for three different articles.  I would love for you to check them out and read along about a few more of my adventures.

over-the-river

Laundry Day: Although it falls under my job description here at the Ranchito to do the laundry for the family, a girl has her limits.  Recently I realized that my husband is not the only “laundry stuffer” around here and there are times I don’t bring my grimy attitudes, my smelly pride, or my dirty thoughts to my willing Jesus.  Anyone else?  You can find that article here.

The One Up Christmas:  Jump on in to last year’s crazy Christmas morning at the Ranchito and hear about my family’s favorite Christmas tradition!  My sweet Nannie left us with the desire to One Up each other at Christmas in all the best ways.  How can you outdo one another in showing honor this Christmas and give the gifts that will last?  You can read more about The One Up Christmas and several other lovely holiday articles at Scribes with Scrolls’ Christmas issue here.

Are We Refusing Refuge? Did you know that Jesus said that He wants to gather us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but we were unwilling?  His Father heart breaks for the refuge He knows he could provide while many times we stand out in the cold refusing it.  I would love to have you come sit with me and marvel at the weight of His offer as we ask ourselves the hard question, are we refusing refuge?  Read along here:

Thank you Dear Readers for following along with my crazy little life, for listening in on some of the lessons Jesus is teaching me, and for allowing me the privilege of possibly encouraging you on your journey as well. You are precious to me.

Blessings,
Lesley

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A Long Growing Season

This little gem is the very first fig from my fig tree.  It is actually the one and only  piece of fruit I’ve gotten this year from my new, baby trees that were a gift from my hubby for Valentine’s Day (Who needs roses when you can have fruit trees)!

chris-fruit-trees

We planted 2 apple and 2 pear (for cross-pollination, obviously), and a precious little fig tree in the Spring.  To my delight a tiny pear appeared in early May and I watched it everyday.  I visited it and checked on its progress.  We would hang out.  I would touched it and squeezed it.  It just generally left me happy like all growing things do.  Then one day, my sweet-green-almost-ripe pear was gone.  Not on the tree, not on the ground, GONE!  I felt like I lost a friend.  My guess is that a dog or a child bumped it off and it fell to the ground where any number of Ranchito critters feasted on it.  So sad.  I then turned my attention to the budding little fig tree.  I resumed my visitations and anticipated its ripening with a more cautious eye.  Do you know that it took this one fig weeks to grow and ripen?  Weeks.  And once I finally picked it, it took me approximately one and half minutes to wash it, cut it, and eat it.  Now, if I had been feeling fancy and wanted to put it on a cracker with some goat cheese and honey, it might have been more like a 5 minute snack but none the less, my little fig was gone quickly.

Currently, I have 5 baby chicks residing in my bathroom.

skye-chicky

I know that this is a totally normal situation so we will not belabor the obvious point that the floors are heated and they need a constant temperature of 95 degrees the first weeks of life so they HAVE to live in the bathroom (I’m talking to you, Babe.  It DOES NOT sound like we are sleeping in a zoo- much).   Do you know that it takes about 24-26 weeks for a chick to start laying eggs?  That is about 6 months of protecting, feeding, and nurturing before they produce their first egg.  Before they “bring anything to the table,” so to speak.  And do you know that once a hen starts to lay, it takes her body about 24-36 hours to naturally lay each egg?  Isn’t that amazing?  A few mornings ago I had a couple of extra children around the breakfast table and we went through a dozen eggs before 8:30am.  In one sitting.  Just like that.  That was either about 2 weeks worth of hard laying for one girl, or 12 chickens’ full day’s work.

None of this is revolutionary, I know,  but it has certainly, humbly taught me a couple of lessons lately.  First of all, maybe we take the Lord’s amazing, ingenious provisions for granted.  I know I do.  In a culture and time when most everything is accessible to the masses by a simple trip to the grocery store, we are so far removed from the starting places of what we consume.  A tiny seed, that finally becomes a tree, that finally buds a tiny fruit, that takes weeks to mature and ripen.  Just one.  And we throw 5 or 10 in a plastic bag without thought.  Meat that started as an embryo.  Eggs that took sweet hens at least 6 months and 24 hours to gift to you.  I don’t know what to say except maybe we give a little extra thanks tonight as we sit in front of a meal that our creative God provided through endless steps and journeys.

Also this eloquent point:

Stuff takes a long time.

It does.  Relationships take a long time.  Building community takes a long time.  Creating a home takes a long time.  Raising kids well takes a long time.  Righting ships that have gone astray takes a long time.  A faithful walk with Christ takes a long time.  Authentic, mature, intimate marriage takes a long time- Like, maybe it takes a lifetime.

When I am plotting my garden, I always have to look at the zone I live in to see what the growing season is for a particular fruit or vegetable.  There are places with longer and shorter growing seasons.  There are certain plants that have a longer or shorter growing season.  What I am realizing is that life, humans, relationships all have very long growing seasons.   We are eternal beings, so I suppose we have eternal growing seasons.  Stuff takes a long time.  It’s obvious in nature.  We can see it, plot it, watch it.  My tiny fig tree will not produce what my friend’s giant tree will with its roots deep and decades of growth behind it.  There is nothing I can feed to my 1 week old chicks to get them to lay a single egg before their little bodies are ready.  But maybe we aren’t so apt to see it when it comes to the things of the Spirit, of relationships, of life.  Growth is certainly organic.  It happens when it happens naturally.  Sometimes all we can do is fertilize and persevere.  You know, like patience, long-suffering, endurance… Lessons we don’t like much when we are talking about things bigger than figs and eggs.

As I studied the book of Acts this summer with the online community She Reads Truth,  I was struck at how many times a small verse would read, “for a whole year Saul met with the church,” “and they stayed a long time with the disciples,” “some time later,” “they remained,” “he stayed and worked with them,” “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time,”  “this [preaching] went on for two years,”  “when two years had passed,”  “for two whole years Paul stayed there.”  These were all different records of time.  That is a lot of staying, and remaining.  In one verse years are gone, over and over.  This is so humbling to me as I get discouraged in places of remaining myself, when I think something should take less time to produce the outcome, the results, the fruit in my life.

fig-tree

In Malachi 3:11 God says, “the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe.”  What fruit is God growing in this season in your life?  Do you ever look around and feel like it must have dropped like my little pear friend did?  Is it a ministry you thought would be budding by now?  Did you think your finances would be producing a harvest this year?  Did you hope your marriage would be rooted deep today, and instead you are searching for signs of life?  Have you been pouring into someone and feel your fruit has not only been dropped, but shoved back in your face?    Have you been believing for bounty in a child’s life but the storehouse appears empty?  Me too y’all.  Oh my goodness, me too!  But what has our God promised us?

By your patience, possess your souls.  Luke 21:19

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12

God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end so that what you hope for may be fully realized.  Hebrews 6:10-11

You see, it’s a long growing season for us.  Someone needs to know that today.  I need to remember that today.  There is no invisible time limit on the things of the Spirit, on relationships, on giftings.   We are eternal.  Your harvest may be right around the corner, and honestly, it may be decades down the road.  We can’t know how deep the roots go for someone else that seems to be reaping what you have been sowing.  Some of us have had scorching seasons.  For others it has been the storms.  You may be amid battering winds right now.  It may be a drought you are facing.   But if you are alive, you are growing.  It is organic.  But you can fertilize that thing with the Word of God, with prayer, and most of all with remaining.

Unfortunately, we can’t just run to the store and grab an intimate marriage and throw it in the bag.  We can’t pick up a little lasting community, or faithful friendships at the drop of a hat.  A deep relationship with the Lord is paved with hours, and days, and decades.  Restoration takes time.  Forgiveness takes time.  A successful business, the legacy of family, a powerful ministry, they all take time.  Stuff takes a long time. Don’t cast that fruit before it is ripe!  Don’t throw it away before the victory!  Don’t walk away before the harvest!  Can we be like Paul and stay?  Can we remain and patiently wait, even among a culture that would say to toss it and move on?   Can we do the work again and again, knowing our God is faithful to His word?   Anticipate the harvest but settle in for a long growing season.  Be encouraged to stay at it.  (Baby chicks in your bathroom make it a little more fun!  Just saying!).

 

Dear Mr. McGregor, I’m Sorry…

Do you remember Mr. McGregor from the Peter Rabbit stories?  He was the crotchety old gardener who continued to chase all the adorable bunnies out of his cabbage.  When they got caught in his shed, they feared for their lives because he was not kidding around about his garden.  He was the “bad guy.”  In the end, the poor bunnies were saved and made off with Old McGregor’s veggies.  As a child, I was obviously in the palm of Beatrix Potter’s hand and rooted for the hungry rabbits wearing precious English coats.  As an adult, I’m so annoyed at those little thieves.  So, let me take this opportunity to express my sincere apologies to the fictional gardener Mr. McGregor.  I feel ya Man.  My little garden is not doing too well this year and I’m in the worst mood about it.  I have bought and planted so many squash, zucchini and pepper plants this season that I have spent more than I EVER would at the store on actual squash, zucchini, and peppers.  I mean, there isn’t a male in my family that will even touch anything from the squash family.  But week after week I head back to the nursery to buy another fresh, healthy plant just to have it devoured less than 24 hours after it is in the ground.

tomatoes

Stupid, stinking, thieving rodents.  (Around the Ranchito I think mice and rats are the problem more than bunnies in coats.  Destructive none the less.)

I have tried everything.  I have used the “Repel” spray and the stuff you shake around the perimeter of the garden.  I have bought netting and cages for the plants.  I have read every article about cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  There have even been late night stake outs and BB Guns (It’s Texas y’all.).  I have even researched the possibility of setting up owl roosts because they are supposed to be rats’ greatest predator.   Unfortunately we don’t have any trees tall enough (It’s WEST Texas y’all).  Nothing is working.  No matter how many rodents we kill, there are always 10 more waiting to munch my little veggie plants.  It’s not only the tender stems and leaves they are destroying… It is all of my hard work and toil. It is the possibility of the fruit (or vegetable).  Gone.  In a bite.  The thing that really kills me is that there are 7 acres worth of plants to eat.  There is a pasture full of lovely long grass.  There are wild flowers in huge bunches all over this place.

flowers

In fact, I’m so mad about the garden right now that there are plenty of weeds lining the rows of half devoured plants.  That’s not what these little thieves go for.  It’s not what they want.

So God is showing me something in all of this which is good I guess.  I mean if I can’t have zucchini bread I might as well have a little wisdom.  The first lesson I am learning as I watch my garden being destroyed is about the “little foxes.” (I know, it’s rats not foxes.  Stay with me).  Remember the little foxes from Song of Solomon?  In chapter 2:15 it says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”  The reference to the vineyards here is probably made in regards to the relationship between King Solomon and the Shulamite woman.  He is giving her a warning that they need to be aware of the “little foxes” that can destroy their love.  So rats are even smaller than foxes, right?  And yet they can ruin my entire garden in one night.  It makes me think about all of those little things, little distractions, little sins, little places of rebellion that I am letting destroy the fruit of what God is wanting to do in my life.  Is the distraction of busyness eating up my peace?  Is the sin of comparison destroying my joy?  Is there a root of bitterness that is devouring my contentment?  Are my words, my witness, my ministry being nibbled to nothingness because I have allowed a little fox of pride to reside too long in my heart?  To catch them I have to be aware of them.  After all, John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  If I am not bearing the fruit, showing myself to be a disciple, then I better get to fox hunting.  They won’t go away on their own.  There will have to be a plan, and equipment, and maybe I’ll need some help.  Focus, the Word of God, a community around that is always calling me to be a better version of me, who can see the fruit God intends.  We’re coming for you, you stupid little foxes.

Next, it strikes me as, ummmm, let’s say interesting (infuriating, exasperating) that the weeds are thriving next to the failing vegetables.  No one went out to buy the weeds, no one loaded them in their car, no one prepared the soil for them, dug a hole, and gingerly placed them in the ground.  No one has fertilized them or watered them.  And yet, there they are; tall, strong, healthy.   Weeds are the default.  If nothing is done, it is the weeds that will grow, not the nutritious, beneficial fruits and vegetables we desire.  I have to think, “what is my default?”  What is yours?  What will grow in us if left to our natural state?  What attitudes will flourish?  What words will be produced?  What sin will thrive?  What will come out in a crisis, when my feelings are hurt, when I am stressed or worried or tired?    Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  So, that’s our soil to start with.  That is our human flesh, our natural selves.   It reminds me of the good ‘ole Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-23:

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

The works of the flesh, the default, the weeds… they are easy to spot, they grow without effort, they are easily rampant.  The fruits of the spirit, well they are a bit more time consuming to cultivate.  I always think about Daniel and his buddies after they had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians.  When they were given the opportunity to partake in the king’s richest of fares it says, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…. (Daniel 1:8)”  He had resolved to stay faithful before the temptation had come, therefore purity was his default in the face of defilement.   Pulling weeds is boring and tedious and really, a never ending task.  But to give what we have resolved in our hearts room to flourish, to make the fruit of the Spirit our default we have to get rid of them.

Healthy, yielding gardens don’t just happen.  There may be seasons of rodents and weeds.    My prayer of late in several difficult situations in my life has been, “Lord, find me faithful.”  When I cannot control my circumstances, when I cannot make wise decisions for others, when my heart is broken or anxious or confused… find me faithful.  Find me faithful in prayer.  Find me faithful in the Word.  Let the words of my mouth reflect the Truth of God rather than my own deceitful, weedy heart. Find me faithful to take every opportunity I am given to point people to Jesus, rather than to myself.  Let it be my default rather than the weeds of this world.  Show me the little foxes, the rats, the distractions, sins, or places of apathy and find me faithful in the hunt.  God intends an abundant harvest in my life, in yours.   But if we ignore the rodents and the weeds the crop will be meager.  Let my life, my witness, my marriage, my motherhood, my friendships be more productive than my little vegetable garden is this year.

So, poor, dear Mr. McGregor, I am truly sorry for my childhood ignorance.  I know now that you are not the “bad guy” but a faithful gardener.  I envy that lush patch of earth you cultivated.  Well done, Sir.

And now, I have to go put another zucchini plant in the ground.  Lord, find me faithful and persistent!

yellow-plant

 

 

It’s Always a Sprinkler Project

Spring is upon us at the Ranchito and it is my favorite! The pasture is popping with wildflowers, the hens are laying a dozen eggs a day (still in the same box, you know), the vegetable garden is planted (crooked rows and all).  We have even added fruit trees this year!  I am planting pots of flowers, replacing herbs that didn’t make it through the winter, and watching to see if my lantana and hydrangea come back.  The tiny Mexican Hat plants of last year are bushes full of bright blooms this year and the roses promise to be stellar! I love all the things.  Obviously, all projects are focused outside as the constant West Texas wind blows in the warmer weather.  A light bulb is out in your closet?  We’ll get to that in October.  The puppy ate the blinds again?  It’ll be fine until Fall! Your potty doesn’t flush?  Ummm….. ok, but spring is here!

Here is how most conversations go around here on a springtime Saturday morning:

Hubs: “What are you thinking you want to get accomplished this weekend?  What are you going to work on?”

Me: “Well, I need to hoe the garden, buy the veggies, and get them in the ground.  We need to get the fig tree planted next to the others.  I want the kids to clean the pool and scoop the poop.  I’ll clean out the coop.  I’m going to get some flowers for the hanging baskets and transplant some into the wheelbarrow.  I want to get the sweet potato vine going in the courtyard too so it’ll be awesome and everywhere sooner!  What about you?”

Hubs: “I need to go to Lowes and get stuff to fix the sprinklers.”

It is always a sprinkler project.  There always seem to be one or two zones acting up.  With four kids and four dogs running around, there is always at least one sprinkler head that is broken.  And all of my pretty flower beds, my veggie garden, my apple and pear trees would die very quickly without a working sprinkler system.  I know.  But no matter what I need done around here, it must get in line behind the sprinklers.  It’s like GO on the Monopoly board.  You have to pass it to get anywhere else.  Sitting here at my computer on a quiet Tuesday morning I’m not mad about it…. But sometimes on a Saturday afternoon?  Yeah.

We have a few “sprinkler projects” in our marriage too. Do you know what I mean?  There are a few areas that I know will always need attending to.  There are a few zones that may never work perfectly.  There are a few heads that seem to get knocked loose often and easily.  I can see it coming from a mile away.  I know the conversations that will do it.  I know the subjects that will cause the gusher.  I know the places that we have never seen eye to eye on.  I know the things that we have always stood at opposite corners on.  Maybe it is because of the families we grew up in, maybe it’s the Florida/Texas culture chasm, maybe it’s a Mars and Venus thing , maybe it’s our unique personalities, maybe it’s just our own sin and junk,  It’s probably all of those things.

My hubby always says, “We’ll never have an immaculate 7 acres.”  We concentrate on the front and back yards.  We tend to the flower beds.  We water and weed the garden.  But, he is right.  Way out here in the high desert we will never have all 7 acres landscaped and groomed.  It will never look like an English countryside (my secret dream.) It will also never look like my parents’ lush land on a lake in Florida where it rains every afternoon at 3pm sharp.  If you were to come to the Ranchito today you would be greeted by blooming white geraniums by the sidewalk and a cute little bench with a pillow that reads “home” on it.  There is a wreath straight from Magnolia Market on the front door.  If you were a tribe-member you would know that the front door is locked and no one has come in or out of it in a week and you would come through the courtyard to the sunset porch and in the kitchen door.  There you would see the herb garden, hanging baskets, tiny hydrangea making their spring debut, and friendly blue rockers.

ranchito-spring

I blow the leaves off of that porch every single day.  I keep it pretty.  If the wind died down enough and we decided to have a meal outside I would lead you to the backyard, past the rose bushes, to a long white table under a pool-side pergola.  If you left at night you would drive out of the gate with trees full of year-round lights in your rear-view mirror.  Here’s the deal, I wouldn’t invite you to sit and have a glass of wine with me behind the shop where we haul dead branches and debris. We’re not chatting it up in the school-room closet next to the litter box and papers strewn everywhere.  I’m not asking your kids to play way out in the pasture where there are stickers and cactus and possibly rattlesnakes.  But, just because those are real places doesn’t mean that all I just described isn’t beautiful.  We will never have an immaculate 7 acres.

Our marriage is the same.  Maybe there are some zones we should just leave alone.  There may be some areas that are never going to be blooming and beautiful.  After 16 years and a lot of redemption and work I can tell you that those areas are less and less, but there are still a few. But, we don’t have to live in the stickery, snake-filled pasture.  We have cultivated so many lovely areas that bring life and joy.  Just because there is a pile of debris out there doesn’t mean that there can’t be beauty right here.  We are two sinners, living together everyday, raising 4 little sinners, all under one loud, chaotic roof.  I once heard Beth Moore talk about her marriage and she said something like,  “Does it really always have to be great? Can’t it just be good?”  At the time this offended my 20 something, romantic sensibilities as I was sitting in a hot mess of a marriage.  Now, 16 years later, sliding into 40, I say, “Yes, Bethy (that’s my pet-name for her.  I’m sure she loves it)!  Yes, it can be good.  It can be really good.  Please don’t hear me say you should not work on things.  By all means, read a book, go to a retreat, get away together, don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations, pray. But at the end of the day know that no one has an immaculate 7 acres.  The areas in your marriage that have a perpetually busted sprinkler head may look perfect in someone else’ but they have their pile of dead branches too.   Does your hubby have a temper? Do y’all go round and round about budget?  Are in-laws a source of constant strife?  OK…. but is he a good provider, a hard worker, a hands-on dad that is doing the best he can? Maybe he is a huge help around the house but is terrible at community. Or maybe he has jumped head-first into your tribe but he never pursues you spiritually.  I get it.  But does it all have to be great?  Can we let it still be good?

chris-les-kiss

We had a big “sprinkler project” issue this week.  We tip-toed around the leaky head for awhile.  We knew it had potential to be a mess.  We could have headed on over to a pretty, manicured spot in our relationship…. We didn’t.  I finally just reared back and kicked the thing as hard as I could.  It was a gusher.  My husband came to me a little while later and wisely said, “this is just one of those areas where we will have to agree to disagree.  We’ve come so far, let’s not do this.”  I wish I could tell you that I was gracious and mature in that moment.  Confesh… in the gushing emotions I wasn’t.  But he was right.  We will never have an immaculate 7 acres but we have so many beautiful spots in our marriage.  That is real.  That is good.

Marriage isn’t the only place we can apply the “sprinkle project principle” (so scientific, don’t you think?).  Do you do it with your kids?   Guess what your kids will never be good at?  EVERYTHING.  They will be really good at lots of things.  If you are a wise parent you will find their giftings and give them ample opportunity to soar.  But every single thing they try?  Everything that is ever asked of them?  Nope.  There will be some stickery patches and places that will never look neat and tidy.  Do you have a child that is super smart and goes through school with flying colors but will never get picked first for the baseball team?  What about a super talented artist who can’t seem to pass a math test?  Maybe you have a star athlete that has a hard time with relationships. Maybe you just have some normal kids that are ok in a lot of areas and less ok in others. No one’s child is perfect.  No one has an immaculate 7 acres.

What about yourself?  Do you do it to you?  Are you a great housekeeper and cook but you are a less “fun” wife and mom?  Are you the always willing “room mom” but can’t seem to get the laundry put away?  Do you and your husband have great communication and intimacy but you can’t stop looking at all your imperfections in the mirror?  Can you throw a Pinterest-worthy party but have a hard time engaging other women in real community?  Are you a leader in some areas and a failure in others.  We all have busted sprinkler heads, but look how beautiful that sunny patch is right there.

I think there is some peace and freedom in recognizing all of this.  I’m certainly not trying to hide our rough spots, or hide from them.  I just acknowledge they are there, work on them when we can, and focus on the areas that are life-giving.  That is really what it is about, isn’t it?  Focus?  If we are always looking at the weeds, at the debris, at the problems, we will never notice the wildflowers.   So, why don’t we all take a deep breath…. let’s grab a glass (I have plenty, you know), and go sit in the rocker on the courtyard instead of stomping around in the same ‘ole stickers.  Yes, there is a sprinkler head that is broken but it is lovely over here by the roses.  We will never have an immaculate 7 acres.  You will never have a perfect marriage, a perfect husband, a perfect child.  Guess what?  They will never have a perfect wife or mom either.  There is always a sprinkler project… But it can be so very good.

Country Strong

Sometimes I send romantic little texts to my husband throughout the day like, “Hey, where is the chainsaw?” or “I need the BIG ladder.” At times I may get a “What are you doing?” response but most of the time it is merely the red-faced mad emoji or the more popular complete silence.  Like most married couples I suppose, we sometimes differ in the priority of projects we feel need to be attended to around the Ranchito.  To be fair, there are a lot….. My husband’s favorite projects tend to be the kind in which he can put headphones in and work on alone… sprinklers, spraying weeds, driving the tractor,  something for a million hours out in the shop.

country-strong-tractor

And to be fair, he is at the office most of the week while I am here… starting at the dead limb until it is LITERALLY MAKING ME CRAZY.  I want to be able to till the garden, get the truckload of mulch, build onto the chicken coop, cut down the branch for the love of Pete.  The truth is, I have a hard time with the 50 pound bag of dog food.  And it makes me so mad.

Let me paint a little picture of myself for you…. I am 5’4″ (and 1/2???).  I was a cheerleader in high school AND COLLEGE (go ahead, I know)!! And although 4 kids in 6 years added a couple of dress sizes on, I am in no way a large, brawny girl.  My idea of a good workout is a little candlelight and yoga or maybe a hip hop step class (cheerleader!!).  Now, I did birth a 10lb 11oz baby boy all natural so I don’t care how much you can lift… I win.  But, my physical limitations, even in my strong, healthy, relatively young body are frustrating so much of the time.  I will probably never be as strong as my husband.  I will never be as tall as my 6ft.tall  sister-in-law who is super handy to have around by the way!!  I have yet to be loading chicken feed or potting soil into the back of my SUV where a nice gentleman doesn’t notice the obvious struggle and offer to help.

These limitations mean that I have to ask for help.  A LOT.  I am a hard worker and will put in the sweat and long hours but nothing I do is going to transform me into someone who can accomplish all that I wish I could.  My husband jokes around with me often and says, “You’re country strong Babe! You can do it.”  But here is the thing…. there are times I really can’t.  It makes me so frustrated… and as I have thought more about it I am so frustrated that I am frustrated.  Is there anything we value in our American culture more than independence?  It sounds so strong and right and good.  But then I look to the Word of God and He says something very different, doesn’t He?  In John 15:5 Jesus says, “apart from me you can do NOTHING.”  Ouch.  In light of an omnipotent Savior are we anything BUT limited?

It’s weakness, isn’t it.  Weakness is what we are talking about.  We hate being weak.  I hate being weak.  It seems everything in our culture revolves around being strong….Workout and eat right to be strong of body.  Put your kids in the best schools and bombard them with learning so they will be strong of intellect.  Work hard at your job and climb the ladder to be of strong power, wealth, and influence.  Post only the very best of yourself to be strong of admiration and popularity.  Strength.  We love it.  Paul says something shocking to our “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” sensibilities in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “I will BOAST all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake I will DELIGHT in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”    Boast in weakness, not hide them?  Delight in weakness, not try to overcome them?  Not be frustrated in them?  Not see my weakness as weakness but strength?   Man, Jesus likes to flip things upside down, doesn’t He?

One aspect of my walk with Jesus that I simply love is that He invites us to be co-laborers with Him here on the earth.  1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers,” or, “co-workers.”   In 2 Corinthians 6:1 Paul says, “As God’s fellow workers (or partners) we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”  Just like there is always work to be done around my Ranchito, there is Kingdom work to be done here on earth.  We are called to share the gospel, love one another, pray for one another, to care for the widows and orphans, to resist the devil, to fight the good fight.  In Luke 10:2 Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  In Isaiah 6:8  Isaiah tells us, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!”    You see, the moment you make Jesus Lord of your life you do not just sit back and wait in line to get into the pearly gates.  N0! In fact, you receive marching orders, really, divine assignments here on earth.  We are to be hard workers. Did you know that God instituted work in the garden before the fall.  I’m all in for a little hard work, some dirt on our hands, some spiritual sweat on our brow, a little eternal muscle being built.

But, just like I have to depend on my much stronger and more able husband to do certain things around here, we will ALWAYS have to depend on our Rock of a Savior to come along side of any and all of our efforts for His glory. He is like the kind gentleman at Tractor Supply who can lift effortlessly what I cannot with all my might.  The things that I worry and fret I will never be able to do on my own are but a whisper of His mighty will.  All I need to do is ask for His help.  All we need to do is boast in our weakness, delight even.  And our work will become rest at His side.  After all, he tells us in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We don’t have to be country strong.  We have a Savior who can command the wind and the waves, who beat death, who can’t wait to lend you a hand.  Rest in this and be encouraged Sisters, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Cor. 12:9) Thank goodness for that!

God in the Compost Pile

In my new little adventure of “wannabe homesteader” I have discovered a magical thing called compost.  Do you know it?  You cannot read an article about gardening without reading all about compost.  It’s everywhere you look if growing something is on your radar.  Compost.  I am certainly no expert but I have put on my muckiest boots, held my nose and waded into the world of compost.  First and foremost, I had to get a container to hold said magical compost So…

Look at this adorable little compost bucket…  It is so cute and clean on the outside with its neat lettering and sealed lid.  It even sits out on the counter in my kitchen, in plain view, because it is so presh.

compost

By the looks of it you would never know what is inside.  So what is inside, you might ask. What is compost?  Compost is all the stuff I used to throw away in the kitchen.  Now, I place it in my cute little bucket.  Cut the tops off the strawberries for the kids’ lunch?  Throw it in.  Coffee grounds from yesterday’s life-giving pot?  Toss it in.  Egg shells from the pancake batter on Sunday?  Yep. In.  Potato skins, banana peels, the salad that got gross before you could use it all, the apple core, the smushy pear no one will eat, the ends of the carrots…. All in.  And once a day or so, I take my cute little bucket out to a hole by the garden and toss it in.. You know what else?  Pull some weeds …Add them to the pile.  Clean out the chicken coop…. Throw it in.  Sweep up the bunny courtyard…. gather it up because it goes in the compost pile too.  Have some hay that got moldy and wet?  Perfect!  Compost.  Now, I know there is a science to all of this that I am not completely aware of.  There are PH balances and acid levels and such that I know nothing about.  I know that I don’t know exactly.  What I do know is that you can throw all of this smelly, stinky waste into a hole in the yard and you end up with magic…  Slimy, gross, rank  USEFUL magic.

All of this composting got me thinking about a couple of things in my own life.  First of all, aren’t I like that cute little green bucket sometimes?  I can be all put together on the outside, clean and shiny, fit for any countertop.  I can have a lid so securely fitted on that no one can catch a wiff of what is rotting on the inside.  Maybe it is sin that no one sees.  My words and my smile might be covering up the stink of my attitude.  My thoughts may be far from lovely but my outside is picture-perfect Sunday school ready.  Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:27-28 when he said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  Maybe the lid is not covering our sin, but it is covering our hurt, our insecurities, our confusion, our pain.  We can tidy it all up for the outside world, but we know that inside we are a miry mess.  But, I have learned that the shiny bucket can just hold so much waste before the lid will no longer neatly fit on and the smell is evident to all who come near.

So what do we do with our mess?  What is the point of all of this compost?  Where is the magic in the mire?   Well, compost is indeed the magic ingredient in growing good things.  After all of this waste has been piled up, a good gardener knows how to work it.   He knows to add green waste on food waste and to keep it moist.  He knows how to turn it over and over until it is ready to use.  When it has all broken down and decomposed from it’s orginal form of apple core or egg shell, those nutrients are added to the soil around it and trash has truly become gardening treasure.  A scoop of this compound can feed plants for months  Who need pricey nursery fertilizer when I have all of these kids and animal producing all this waste?

God is called many things in the Bible.  He is our Heavenly Father, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Great I Am, and so many others.  But, I think one of my favorite roles that God plays in the Bible is that of Farmer.  Psalm 65:9-11 paints this beautiful picture: “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile.  The rivers of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.  You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges.  You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”  In Matthew 13 we find the parable of the sower where Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed onto different soil with different results.  We know that the Farmer is God the Father and the seed is His Word.  In John 15 we read about Jesus being the true Vine and we are the branches that must abide in Him to produce any fruit in our lives.  God is a Farmer, the original gardener, grower of good things, author of life.

What would happen if we were brave enough to give all of our mess and junk to this good Farmer?  What if we opened up the lid on our sin and let Him use it?  I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  He will not only forgive, but he will grow something new from it.           2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!”   What if we gave Him the shame and dirtiness of our pasts?  Handed Him those bad decisions from high school?  Gave Him our regrets over that girl we were in college.  What if we were to toss Him those years of marriage where we were a hot mess?  What about the days we couldn’t get it together and we yelled at small children who in no way deserved it?  What about those places where our needs have never been met, our insecurities paralyze us, our ugliness is rotten?  It can all go in the compost pile.  We can trust God the Farmer to know how to work our mess so that it can be turned into a life-giving sustenance.  What if He feeds an entire generation with the seeds grown in our compost?  He will produce a harvest and He can use our muck and mire to grow something beautiful.   You see, we can try to keep a lid on all of it and make sure nothing leaks out of the sides.  We can clean it up for awhile. In the bucket it is just a smelly heap of waste.  But in the hands of the great gardener it can produce life for ourselves and others for the glory of God.  Be of good courage, tell your story, fess up to your mess, look for seedlings to fertilize in the Kingdom.  Trust Him with your smushy pears and rotten lettuce…. and watch the beautiful harvest that is coming.