A new thing

About a month ago as I was laying down for bed, an image of a fire burning came into my mind.  I closed my eyes to see what God had for me.

I found myself a couple of stories up in an old building downtown.  As I looked out there appeared to be a beautiful sunset, glowing orange and red, but as I moved closer to the window, I could see that buildings were on fire.  However, instead of it being detrimental, I had the sense of this being peaceful and good.

I was moved outside on the street and noticed the fire was burning certain buildings, but instead of destroying them it was making them new again.  This was downtown revitalization, one building block at a time for the Kingdom.

Suddenly, I was back in the room where I began, and there was a line of people around the perimeter of the room (it was large and open) reaching their hands out and praying.  I looked out the window and saw people praying and walking away from the building to bring Jesus to the community.

God is raising this up.  I am certain he is placing dreams in Kingdom minded people’s heads right now of businesses they want to start and ways they can make this community better.  I don’t know if it’s a coffee shop or a guitar store, but I do know for certain that when God is in charge of these dreams He has a big plan for us and for our community.

The School of Kingdom Writers is going to draw 24 people who will live and work in Zanesville, who will wield the power of the Kingdom of God to restore brokenness and bind the brokenhearted.  They will support and encourage a thriving community, while learning about how to claim writing and media spaces for God.

I am so looking forward to what Zanesville will look like in 10, 20, 30 years.  It will be a different place, a place where God manifest presence is known.  We pray and believe that addiction will flee, sickness will be healed and hopelessness with be replaced with Jesus, our everlasting spring of Life.

 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43: 19

Business, not as usual.

Not many know this, but the first business Brad and I ever started was an online hookah retailer.  Yes, you heard me right, we sold hookahs in college.

I can’t stop laughing while writing this out because it seems so long ago and so foreign, but once upon a time this young married couple at Ohio University went into business with a friend because they thought they could get a corner on the hookah business in Athens.  Plus, we enjoyed smoking the fun fruity tobaccos.  They were somehow “better” for you because they tasted good, right?

This isn’t something you lead with when introducing yourself, or even when sharing your life, but it’s an important part of our story because it was one of the first times we decided to do life differently.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t go well and we weren’t able to quit our jobs and lived as the hookah kings of Athens, but we began to learn lessons about what it means to own a business.

A few years later after doing the “normal” job thing we both quit to travel and pursue God in greater measure.  We developed our own businesses because we knew deep down there had to be more for us than working 40 hours a week to make a corporation rich.

We built our businesses, I took pictures and Brad designed websites, and we made them work mostly on our own.  We prayed about them and when things were hard we asked God to bless them and help make ends meet.   The beautiful thing is he always did; we always had enough.  We built our businesses and God was our sidekick.

A few years passed and after many late night front porch sessions it was decided that Brad would build a new company that helped people self-publish their writing.  We were older and more in tune with the Lord.   Through prayer this direction felt right, but it was still us doing the building and the grunt work.  Again, we would come to the Lord with prayer requests when money was tight or when there was a tough situation, but this was still a business that WE made and that WE were in control of.    Despite that, He has blessed this business beyond measure and we have learned to hand over more of our lives, little by little, to the God and creator of our Universe.

God began calling Brad and I to full time ministry this past year.  We explored and prayed for what that would be, and slowly the vision came into focus.

We are to start a School for Kingdom Writers here in Zanesville.  Students will live here for two years, immersed in both a writing and Kingdom living program.

For the first time in our lives, this is all God.  There is no way this school would come to fruition by our own accord.  It’s too mighty and massive and we are not skilled in all the parts necessary for it to thrive.  Oh, not to mention the large cost it will incur, and we are a people that live committed to doing everything with zero debt.

But God has relayed to us in many prayer sessions and prophetic words via our brothers and sisters that HE is going to do this in His power, not ours.  We are merely vessels, but he has assured us to dream the big dreams that he is laying on our hearts because they will certainly come to pass.

This doesn’t mean we sit back as passive spectators in our life, but it does mean that we can choose to not participate in the worry and stress that comes with starting a non-profit.  We get the chance to trust our creator fully and without waver, knowing that even as we’ve held onto parts of our lives for our own, HE STILL PROVIDED FOR US.

This is a defining moment in our lives as we take the leap of faith from in control to His control.  We are all in, ready to look like fools for the sake of the advancement of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His wave of great mercy and love is coming in and it will wash over everything in this land, in this community and The School of Kingdom Writers is going to be one part of how He chooses to spread His message.  To God be all the glory.

Fall leaves

When we moved here my heart filled with gratitude knowing that we had a beautiful sugar maple right outside our dining room window.   It was a deep desire of my heart to have beautiful fall leaves in our yard, and God fulfilled that unspoken dream.  I watched the leaves begin to yellow, turn to light orange and then to a robust rust before letting go and burying our yard in 3 inches of mulch.

Last year, instead of their beautiful show, the leaves simply dried up and fell off.  No colors, no excitement, just bare.

We guessed it was due to all of the construction and digging that happened around it, but it cut through my heart knowing that what that tree showed was exactly how I felt in my heart.  I was dried up, tired, ready to be done and dull.  The fact that a tree could be such an accurate reflection of our life was astounding.  I’m sure I’ll always remember the year that the tree lost its color because it was the ending of one of the hardest years of my life.

This year, our colorful tree has returned and I watch the hues change with awe and wonder.  Our bedroom glows yellow when the sun shines on it.  I can’t stop staring out the window while we eat dinner, knowing how fleeting this orange is.  I want to soak up every last moment before the cold, dull winter sets in.

The tree is turning it’s beautiful colors once again, and I think of how I too have been renewed inside.  Beauty for ashes, I know there’s a gift in there.

 

 

Creative boost

Last week I delivered a short message to our church on creativity.

This week I’ve realized how uncreative I’ve been for months.

God truly has a sense of humor, and I am thankful he can use me despite the fact that I am not qualified nor do I even feel qualified.

There have been times in my life of free flowing, ample creativity.  Everything seems like a new idea, something to start, something to try.  It’s exciting and pleasing and my brain goes a hundred miles a minute thinking about all that I want to make.  It can also be disruptive and frustrating when I don’t have all the time to create all the things I would like.

But, there have also been many times, like now, where I am a dry well.  There is nothing bubbling up inside of me, no desire to make new, no ideas rolling around in my brain all day long.  It’s a struggle to even sit and make myself write.  I haven’t picked up my camera because I don’t see anything worth taking a photo of.

I’ve been waiting this dry spell out for a long time, and it’s hit me that maybe this time I can’t just expect to feel a fresh wave of creativity without giving something of myself.  Perhaps I need to water my well.  I need to drag a hose out, huff and puff my way over and water that dusty hole until it fills again.

So, I’m writing.  I’m going to force myself to edit the 6+ month backlog of photos that are sitting on my hard drive.  I’m going to schedule walks to woods into our days and enjoy this land that we’ve been given, even if the grass needs mowed and the weeds need pulled.

Creativity is more than inspiration, it’s a lot of hard work.

It is one of the most important ways that I feel connected my Creator, which might explain the often disconnected prayer life I’ve been leading for a couple of months.  I trust the Holy Spirit to show me out of this funk, and I’m excited to see the new life that is formed.

If I want creativity I must be willing to give up something else.  My brain does not have the capacity for it all, which means that I just found my toddler walking around with an empty-ish maple syrup container.   Today, I’m giving up non-sticky floors, knowing this feeling of connection and creativity will give me the boost I need to get through the everyday cleaning that has to happen in a house of 8.

This isn’t my best writing, my house is a mess and my hair isn’t brushed, but I wrote.  I’m creating something new and that’s exciting.

Seasons

This will be the third September in a row that we enter into a huge life transition.  Two years ago we took over as owners of a restaurant and one year ago we closed that restaurant.

This September the Lord is leading us to a project bigger than ourselves, bigger than we could ever accomplish or set out to do on our own.  In three weeks, we will no longer have a steady income provided by the work of our hands, but we trust that God always pays for what He orders.  This is exciting, wonderful, terrifying and beautiful.  The Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and He wants us all to play a role in this movement.

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When we allow ourselves to live seasonally, not just in the physical seasons, but also with the seasons of life, we begin to appreciate what each one has taught us and how it changes our perspective to look forward to what is next as well as appreciate where we came from.

Sometimes we come from a long, hard and dull winter and we’re left tired and restless.  We can appreciate the newness that is springing forth in our hearts because we’ve been through the wilderness.  Other times we’re worn out and tired from a nonstop summer season and are ready to cozy into a quiet autumn rest.

Seasonal living is a recognition that if we’re walking with the Lord, ALL the experiences we live through are significant.  The negative experiences grow and shift us, and the joyful ones encourage and build us up.

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The year we owned a restaurant was one of the most tumultuous and turbulent years we’ve ever experienced.  There was much joy to be found, but it was coupled with a heavy dose of exhaustion, frustration and feeling a little like God has led us to a place that makes no sense.

When we closed there was a rehabilitation period that we went through as a family.  We were disjointed and quite short with each other while living from a place of stress and exhaustion.  It took time and energy to apply with our children and ourselves to relearn what our priorities are and how to love first.

Just today I realized that I am still readjusting.  I’m learning to get back into routine tasks like walking to the woods on hard days, or good days, just any days.  Getting outside as a family is good for all of us but was one of the first things I dropped during that hard season.

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I parked myself near a patch of butterfly weed this morning and to watch the monarchs, the swallowtails, the cabbage moths and the bumblebees share this glorious plant.  It was incredible and wonderful and reminded me of how much beauty God graced this world with.

We are created in His image and when we appreciate the beautiful butterflies, the stunning flowers of the field and the smells of a late summer walk we are communing with who God is.  He is the most outrageous lover of beauty that ever has or will exist.

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A few years ago during a hard parenting season, God spoke the phrase “steer the ships” to show me what raising many kids would look like.

I got an image of a fleet of old fashioned sailing ships in my mind, some are far ahead, some are a little behind, another might be off to the left or the right but they’re all headed in the same direction.

Sometimes one of us drifts off track, but God reminded me that my job as a parent isn’t to make them exactly like all the other ships but instead to make sure they keep traveling in the same direction as the rest of us.

God has made us wonderfully unique, but he has also formed us into a purposeful family.  We are made to leave a legacy to our children and our grandchildren, and I think the best way to do that is to make sure we are all headed ever closer to the One who matters most.

Seek & Find

I made sauerkraut yesterday and had a bowl of leftover cabbage pieces for the rabbits.  This morning I gave first pick to the bunnies that are growing out, but still had a little left.  As I looked back and forth between the other 10 cages I noticed one of our beloved does, J-bunny, eagerly jumping up and down in a way that just screamed “pick me, pick me.”

I opened her cage and poured the rest of the bowl in; she began chomping the cabbage with vigor and God spoke to me that he gives his gifts to those that eagerly seek Him.

Many expect Jesus to just appear to them out of thin air just because they believe he exists.  Certainly, in his sovereignty he can do that, but I know that the more we seek him, the more we spend time praying, reading his Word, thinking about Him, the greater His desire to fill us with His goodness.

If you believe that Jesus exists, I pray that the desire to pursue him with everything you are floods your heart.  It will overwhelm and invade your life with all the goodness and gifts that a loving Father lavishes upon us.

Past pain.

I woke up with piercing pain in my right thumb. It’s not a new pain and has visited often the past couple of years, making it difficult to do nearly everything from opening toothpaste tubes to writing.

I have received prayer for it and for a time it was healed. I’ll go for weeks not thinking about it but then out of nowhere it begins to hurt again.

I retrace my steps over the previous days. Did I eat too much sugar? Have my phone in my right hand for too long? Perhaps I have a gluten intolerance that is causing inflammation?

I went through all these motions this morning and I even googled arthritis.

Googling, of course, is never a good option and I shut that down quickly. I reached out to a couple of friends for prayer and reminded myself that I am strong and pain is mostly a mental game. If I do things a certain way without bending my thumb it doesn’t hurt, so I rely on my other 9 digits.

Something made me remember, the divine interruption of the Lord I suppose, that this was the finger that I severed as a child, crashing my bike on a steep hill.

Gosh, is that it? Is this an old injury coming back to haunt me?

God told me, “I want to heal you of your past wounds.”

This is a message for me, but I also believe it’s for others dealing with emotional scars. Past wounds can look healed, but are often underlying triggers for pain, hurt and anger.

We think back and wonder if it’s because we didn’t get enough sleep, watched the scary movie, or should have taken a bubble bath instead of mowing the lawn. We feel guilt because we thought we had finally overcome the negativity that was holding us back.

Even when we look healed on the outside, we can be bleeding on the inside.

God’s desire is for us to be free of all pain and to be healed of all wounds. In fact, he already died on the cross for that freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV

The enemy wants to hold us in a place where we think we are OK, but we just can’t place our finger on the rage that wells up, the sadness that grips, or the worry that gnaws. That is NOT the goodness that our God has promised us and it’s time we rise up and take back territory that the enemy thinks he has “claimed”. Good news, the enemy was ALREADY defeated when Jesus died on that cross.

We wait patiently for the day that we get to live in the new heaven and new earth that God has promised us, a place where there will be no more sadness, suffering or pain.  But we’re not there yet and now must contend and fight for our freedom and joy.

He canceled out every legal violation we had on our record and the old arrest warrant that stood to indict us. He erased it all—our sins, our stained soul—he deleted it all and they cannot be retrieved! Everything we once were in Adam has been placed onto his cross and nailed permanently there as a public display of cancellation.

Then Jesus made a public spectacle of all the powers and principalities of darkness, stripping away from them every weapon and all their spiritual authority and power to accuse us. And by the power of the cross, Jesus led them around as prisoners in a procession of triumph. He was not their prisoner; they were his! Colossians 2:14-15 TPT

There is abundant freedom that comes from stepping into the identity that God gives us.  The powers of darkness can no longer accuse us there, the grips of evil can no longer hold us down.  Life with Christ is evermore stepping into the power and authority that he gave us when he died.  There is still evil in the world and bad things are still prevalent, but God in His abundant mercy has made a way for us to move through and around the powers of darkness by recognizing that Christ bore it all!

*If this resonates with you, please reach out to me or someone you trust for prayer. I believe God has healing for you.*

Raspberries

This morning I took the kids to our favorite secluded park to pick black raspberries.  I was certain I would hit paydirt, but instead most of the spots had already been picked over.  We had a great time wading the creek and walking around, but my measly one quart of berries was less than I had hoped for.

I drove away slowly craning my neck for just a few more, and then I spotted it, the mother load of berries!  I gleaned more in a couple of minutes wading through that brush than I had in an hour tromping through the park.

Life with God is so similar.  Just as we’ve shifted our expectations to accepting something is over, lost or gone, He shows up in big and amazing ways.


Black raspberries are a fruit of neglect.  The less you do to your property, the more likely you are to grow berries.  This is truly the perfect kind of harvesting for people like us who strive do the least amount of work possible and don’t care too much (but a little) about how overgrown their place looks.

Our neglect is the earth’s abundance.

Of all your harvests, those
Are pleasantest that come
Freest: blackberries from
Wild fencerows; strawberries
You happen on in crossing
The grassy slopes in June;
Wild cherries and wild grapes,
Sour at first taste, Then sweet;
Persimmons and blackhaws
That you pick up to eat
On days you walk among
The red and yellow leaves;
And walnuts, hickory nuts
Gathered beneath the trees
In your wild foragings
The earth feeds you the way
She feeds the beasts and birds.

An exceprt from Wendell Berry’s poem “The Farm”


The first summer we lived here we went on a trip to Disney World.  I ran down over the hill early the morning we set out on the journey to Orlando and found a patch of wild berries.  I had never eaten a wild raspberry before, despite having grown up in the country, but I plucked one and popped it in my mouth.  We drove off and I spent the next couple of hours worrying that I had in fact ingested a poisonous berry masquerading itself as a harmless raspberry.  Spoiler alert: I survived.

My confidence has grown quite a bit since then, in many ways, and I now find myself plucking weeds out of the ground to dry for salves and counting down the days until our blackberries finally ripen.

God wants to take care of us in the same sort of way if we allow Him.  We don’t have to work hard pruning and cutting and mowing because He will do all of that for us.  He is a good and gracious God that provides us with way more than we could ever imagine.


Picking berries is a poky business.  I suit up in my tall boots and long pants, but still get pricked and poked trying to reach that clump of beautiful berries just a little too far into the bramble.  The scratches are worth it, though every time I think of the first person to successfully receive penicillin because a scratch from his rose bushes turned into a life threatening infection.  Apparently, scratches can be deadly.

Oh, but one bite of those juicy, complexly flavored morsels is worth the bug bites, the scratches, the tromps through the high and itchy grass.  The greater the risk we take the higher the reward, and earth doesn’t give much greater rewards than a ripe black raspberry.

June Nineteenth

This morning I tore leaves from the stems of basil and oregano to ready them for preservation.  I dried and froze the flavors, knowing that even though work that doesn’t seem worth it now, it will fill me with joy when I am cooking this winter.  This is the fourth summer we’ve spent on our homestead and I’m learning that the extra work now is worth it come the winter months.  Food is cheap at the store but there is nothing better than tearing into some homegrown goodness while the snow is flying.

Our purpose on earth is similar, we are readying and preserving our best selves for a life lived in eternity with our King.  I know some of my harvest is still rotten, brittle and brown, but the Lord is teaching me to find my true identity and to grow my green and prolific parts.

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I woke with a head cold and although Winnie slept better last night than she has in weeks, I am still exhausted.  I pulled out the morning glory that was choking the strawberries, knowing it will return tomorrow, and now my neck is tight.  Our air conditioner is on the fritz and until we get it fixed the drone of the floor fan rages on.

I sit at our dining room table admiring how beautiful it all is outside.  Despite the hardness of life, the joy of the Lord fills me.  The Lord spoke to me as we were planting this year and promised me that things would grow well this year.  I had a hard time believing him because the soil we were planting in was poor, but gosh, of course he was right!  It’s a beautiful garden this year and just the right size for us to manage.

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I have a goal to not kill my hanging baskets this year.  So far so good, but we’ll see how I do in the July heat.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a hanging basket make it until frost, but perhaps with the right attitude and effort this will be my year.

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Grief can cloud your mind at a moment’s notice.

Grief can look like unforgiveness of the person who is gone for leaving you with a now messy life.

Grief can be loud and obnoxious, or dull and persistent.  It can come and go, and when it comes it nearly always demands your attention.

Grief can come in the form of death, or loss of something beloved, or change that was unwanted.  Grief knows no bounds, and no person does it leave unscathed.

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I love asking my kids about God.  They always have interesting and insightful comments and the questions they think to ask blow me away.  I long to give them a full view of the Kingdom and God’s grace that covers them.

The other day I asked Ira who Jesus is.

“God.  I think that’s his middle name.”