That’s Refreshing

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I love to water my plants.  It’s like therapy.  In the middle of a loud, long, busy day I love to go outside, take a deep breath, turn on the hose and water those plants.  Back and forth, back and forth on the sweet potato vine spilling over in the Sunset Porch… back and forth, back and forth over herb garden by the kitchen …. mist the mint in the window box, water the pots of geraniums in the front, the wheelbarrow of ivy by the door,  and the basket hanging from the shepherd’s hook out by the gate.  If you are stressed, peace may be as close as the nearest water hose.  Seriously, go try it and then come back to read the rest of this post…

Good, right?

One day recently, the constant drone of late summer “Mom,! Mom! Mom!” forced me outside for my daily watering wind-down.  I slipped out the front door undetected, slipped on my gardening clogs waiting there faithfully, and took several deep breaths as I went over to the closest hose and spigot.  As I reached down to turn the handle, I realized it had been left twisted in the on position.   When I squeezed the nozzle at the other end, sure enough the water rushed out with the appropriate force of “shower, jet, or mist” – whatever I chose.

And God blew my mind a little.

If it had been left on all night, where was the water?  Why was the ground dry?  Where was it stored?  The hose?  The wall?  The pipes? . How could it be on, but stopped?  Would the pressure not eventually blow my nozzle?

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I was so excited and curious I called my husband. About a water hose.  In the middle of a work day.  “Babe, when the water is on at the spigot but the nozzle isn’t being squeezed, you know, where is that water?  Is it in the hose?  Is it in the pipe?  Does it not come out until the nozzle is being used even though it is on?”

“Which hose is it?”

“No, it doesn’t matter which hose.  Any hose in the world.  How does that work?”

“Is the nozzle stuck?  There is probably a wrench in the garage you can use to …”

“No, there is nothing wrong.  I just want to understand how it works.”

“Ummm, like the physics?”

“Yes, I guess.  The physics.”

[Insert slightly exasperated sigh] “So there is a ball valve……”  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  OK, NEVER MIND.  THANKS AND BUH-BYE.

It turns out that I didn’t need to understand the physics to understand that was me.  The nozzle.  I’m a nozzle.  You are too.

Jesus refers to Himself and the Holy Spirit as water, living water, often in Scripture.  I’m a water person so this metaphor resonates deeply in my spirit.  Sometimes in this desert town,  I can feel a longing for the Atlantic Ocean of my home from skin to soul. And sometimes, in a desert season, I can feel a longing for the living water even more.  I get water.  Let these words wash over you:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:37-38

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants.”  Isaiah 44:3

Isn’t that as refreshing as a Vanilla Coke in the middle of August?

So if Jesus is the living water, and His Holy Spirit is given to us at the moment of our salvation- if it is turned on- where is all the water?  In the hose?  In the pipe?  What are the physics?

The problem is the nozzle.

Though the water my plants need is ready, and on, and life giving, until the nozzle is put to use, it does them no good.  They can wither and die right there next to the hose, next to the spigot, next to the unused nozzle.

Though the living water is available to each of us as believers, though streams of living water are promised to flow out of every area of our lives, we can wither and die too if we don’t do our part.

You see, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He is powerful, and life changing, but He is still and gentle as well (I Kings 19:12).  Just like I can choose how strongly the water will come out of my nozzle, I can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to flow, or be quenched in my life (I Thessalonians 5:19).  Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins; They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 Sisters, how are your cisterns?

Are you clawing at rock hard ground, trying to dig a dry cistern, all the while the spigot of the Holy Spirit is perpetually on and available?  Are you trying to refresh yourself with dust, next to a spring of living water?   Our lives, our culture, perhaps even our churches are littered with the broken, shattered pieces of cisterns that can never hold the water we need.  We know it instinctually, when we are pulling the bucket up from the dry cistern… of comparison, of wine, of beauty products, of social standing, of “likes,” of Netflix.  Don’t forsake the deep wells.

Use the nozzle.

Refreshing is what I need at the end of these long, loud, hot summer months.  I feel myself wilting beneath the grind of these days but already withering a bit under the heat of the expectations the next season holds.  Anyone else?  Here is how we get to the water we need::

“The law of the Lord is perfect, REFRESHING the soul.”  Psalms 19:7

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He REFRESHES my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”   Psalm 23:2-3

“[You] will REFRESH the weary and satisfy the faint.”  Jeremiah 31:25

“Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of REFRESHING may come from the Lord.”  Acts 3:19

AND MY NEW MOST FAVORITE VERSE:

“A generous person will prosper; whoever REFRESHES others will be REFRESHED.”  Proverbs 11:25 (Do you loooooovvvveeee it?) 

There is a big bucket of living water for you. There are the ways we squeeze the nozzle.  Here are the physics: the law of the Lord, quiet soul-refreshing time with Jesus, coming to Him when we are weary and faint, repentance, and generosity. We are refreshed in the act of refreshing of others.  So, who can you refresh today with a kind word, with a extra moment, with a smile or a hug or a listening ear?  With a Vanilla Coke?    If you look around and see some areas of your life drying up and withering like an English rose in West Texas, try one of these settings on the nozzle.  The spigot is on.

Let’s turn this thing to “jet” and claim what is ours!  Living water- deep wells of it, streams and springs and rivers of it… Now that’s refreshing!

 

Hospital Blanket

Hillman with his Hospital Blanket

Last month I had one of the worst weekends of my life.

I say that cautiously, knowing that in comparison to what so many have walked through, it was a stroll in the park.  In the end, everything turned out fine and none of us are the worse for wear.  But in the middle of it, perspective seems far off and struggles in the mirror feel larger than they appear.

Part of the heartbreak was how very different the expectations for that long awaited weekend were from the complete mess of reality that unfolded.  You see, the adorable “Save the Date” card had been on the refrigerator for months… and the date was indeed saved!  The wedding was going to be out of town, and beautiful, and the perfect combination of time with friends, and time alone with the hubby.  The in-laws had been informed months ahead that the grandkids would be dropped off for the weekend, and their “Fun Aunt” was even coming to town to ensure, well, lots of fun!  Hubby’s suit to the cleaners, my new dress in the hanging bag, appropriate “alone in a hotel for two nights” sleepwear packed… CHECK!  Everything was taken care of and everyone was happy about it.

And then the blasted West Texas spring wind started to blow.  I mean REALLY BLOW.  In Florida we call those “hurricane force winds.”  In West Texas, evidently, we call that Thursday.  My youngest started having what he calls “rubby eyes,” then the next day it was a stuffy nose, and on the morning we were packing the car, it was a wheezy cough.  I followed all of my “seasonal allergy” protocols and we hit the road.  And he coughed.  And coughed.  And wheezed.  And cried.  And coughed the whole 5 hours to his grandparents’ house.  When we arrived, I sent my husband to the pharmacy to get some vapor rub and I put the little guy in a steamy shower.  Everyone went to dinner and I stayed behind to make sure he was going to be okay before we left for that glorious hotel room alone.  He wasn’t.

When the family got home we threw him in the car and took him to an Urgent Care for a breathing treatment… And then the nightmare spun out of control.  After a couple of breathing treatments, the doctors at the Urgent Care didn’t feel like they could get his O2 levels up enough to send us to the ER in our car SO THEY CALLED AN AMBULANCE.  All of a sudden, I found myself riding the the back of an ambulance with my (rather excited) son, instead of sipping wine in a fluffy hotel robe.  When we got to the ER they said he looked better but they would keep him for a 6 hour observation.

WE WALKED OUT OF THAT HOSPITAL 2 DAYS LATER.

No wedding.  No new dress.  No romantic hotel.  No fancy food.  No friends.

Instead it was a million hours on a hospital cot letting my 6 year old watch The Force Awakens at 2am for the 475th time.  It was the same t-shirt and jeans I had put on to travel in because, remember what I had packed?  It was trying to navigate pharmacies and doctors 5 hours from home.  It was being alone a lot because my husband was with the other kids and my entire support system was far away.  In the end, all that mattered was that my son was ok.  I am so very thankful for the care we received and would have cozied up to Kylo Ren on that cot for another decade if I needed to to make sure that my baby was well.

In the middle of it, though, everything felt out of my control… and my emotions followed.  Out of control.

When we made the quick decision to go to the Urgent Care that night, we didn’t change our little guy out of his PJ’s.  We didn’t even grab his shoes.  The only thing we threw in the car with us was his beloved blankie that his Belle (my mom) had crocheted for him before he was born.  He has never slept a night without it.  Even at 6 years old, I still catch him a few times a day holding it close to his face for a bit of a recharge.  It is tattered and worn.  There is even a hole big enough for him to put over his head so he can wear it like a cape.  When he was about one and I saw this blankie dependency growing, I asked Mom to make another one, in a little more portable size, just in case anything ever happened to the original (you know, like it had to go in the wash)!  Same pattern, same yarn, same colors, same hands making it… and he would have none of it!  He knew a fake, even as a baby.

So, in those first few hours in the hospital when he was scared and struggling, his blankie was there comforting him.  And for the days after that, when he was pretending to be a robot hooked up to the machines, and asking me to send his best friend videos of him making the bed go up and down (and up and down, and up and down), it was there too… like it always is, close at hand, by his side.

He had his blankie, I had my Bible.

Just like my son never leaves home without his blankie, I never leave home without my Bible. I know the app on my phone has the same words and is lighter in the suitcase, but I need to feel the weight of that leather bound book. I need to hear pages turning.  And though this particular Bible is just a year old, because you may remember last summer The Dog Ate My Bible, it is getting worn in all the good ways, marked, highlighted, falling open to the right places.  Just like my son, I feel a little panicked when I can’t get my hands on it, when it is too far out of reach and I need a recharge.  I can wear it like a cape too, like armor.  In the fog of those sleepless hospital nights and days that surely lasted more than 24 hours, I honestly cannot tell you what verses I read, but it was there, lending me comfort.

Over the last several years, I have cultivated the habit of writing the Word daily.  I have always loved to copy beautiful words.  The physical act of applying pen to paper helps solidify the spiritual act of applying truth to my heart.  Recently I have loved using Lara Casey’s Write the Word journals for this practice, but I write Scripture on notecards, on chalkboards, on mirrors, in the margins of books as well.  For me, it is grounding-first thing in the morning most of the time- to look up a Scripture, read it, write it out, re-read it, pray it, and then leave that sacred space with it on my lips.

I know Jesus is more than words on the page.  He Himself said in John       5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  Jesus is life.  Jesus is alive.  He is dynamic, moving, loving, beckoning.  He is a person to have a relationship with, not just read about. And that relationship can be fostered and grown through spiritual disciplines and practices of all kinds… prayer, worship, fasting, service.  But the Word of God is foundational.  I know Him because I know it.  I spend time investing in this, the principle relationship of my life, when I spend time in those pages.

And that discipline, that resolve to dive deeply into the Scripture, that desire to be completely familiar with and transformed by those words… it comes before.

The commitment comes before the ambulance ride, before the diagnosis, before the pink slip, before the marriage is falling apart.  The life preserver is much easier to find in the sea of chaos and confusion when you have had it hanging on your boat for years…. when you recognize it for what it is- your life saver.  I think of Daniel, when he and the other captives were taken into Babylon.   I think of his resolve and I am inspired and convicted by it.  Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel  resolved (purposed in his heart [NKJ]) not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  I am sure it was much easier to make that commitment before the rich fare was placed in front of him.  His resolve strengthened him in his hunger and temptation.

My resolve to physically open my bible and apply pen to paper daily strengthened me in that hospital room.

It did not change my circumstances.  It did not magically transport me to the wedding I was missing or stabilize my son’s breathing sooner.  But it was my comfort.  It ushered in the familiar presence of Jesus to that cold hospital room.  Not only the words but the act of searching for them, the process of writing them. It was my hospital blanket.  My Bible.

Where do you go for your comfort?  Your phone?  Netflix?  Amazon?  Another person?  Pizza?  Wine?  Everyone of us will need a hospital blanket at some point, when our emotions are frazzled and our brain is foggy…  when life throws us a curve ball and we are crushed by disappointment.  What will ground you on those days?  What will pull you back?  What will be the most natural thing to reach for?

We must purpose in our hearts to be women of the Word before.  Every day.  In the mundane as well as in the crisis.  It is not about checking boxes or legalism, it is about resolve and strength and transformation. It is about getting to know Jesus and recognizing His face and His arm around us in the darkest of days.  You will find Him in His Word.  Touch it, read it, speak it, write it, feast on it, wear it, keep it as close as my son keeps his blankie.  It won’t let you down because He won’t let you down.  Resolve before. Resolve today.

 

Immeasurably More

Immeasureably more

I was honored to share a very personal story over on the TBarM Camp blog last week… a place we dearly love. Whether you are a “camp mom” or not, know that God hears your prayers…

Has God ever just knocked your socks off?  Has He ever come through in a way so personal and unexpected, you just had to laugh? We know we have a faithful Father, but sometimes He is just immeasurably more. 

I am a praying momma. I boldly approach the throne of God daily on behalf of the 4 children we have been entrusted with (Hebrews 4:16), not because I am spiritually strong, but because I am full of weakness. Prayer is my biggest parenting tool, without a doubt, because I find myself lacking wisdom (James 1:5) with each new stage and season. Anyone else? 

So, a couple of years ago I found myself pleading with God for specific requests for my 2 “big kids” over and over during their school year. My 10 year old daughter was going through a “less than kind” stage here at home. Everyday, with every interaction, every time she left the house I would ask the Lord, “Please, please make her kind.” Her 9 year old brother seemed to be having a few issues with self-control, as 9 year old boys tend to have. Every night we would pray together for the Lord to help him have self-control with his siblings, with his reactions, and in his classroom. By the time summer rolled around, and the schedules and demands of life melted in the Texas heat, I relented a bit in pounding on the throne room room. The stakes don’t seem as high in the lazy days of June for some reason. And then we dropped those big kids off at Sports Camp Session 7…Hope on over to the TBarM’s blog to read the rest.Ryden Kids at TBARM