Instead

The grass is growing again.

Last summer we were over our heads in a drowning restaurant, racing to get an addition built and trying to keep a homestead and family from falling prey to many weeds.

It broke us open.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

 Through our brokenness, God has prevailed and has not left us.  The past year has been one of immense growth and change.  We have found the “insteads”.  

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,

the oil of joy
instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3

 I walked outside on a warm summer night and noticed we nearly have a lawn again.  I looked at the overhang that is almost finished, the garden that, despite the weeds, is flourishing, the new herb patch that brings me joy and I can see that God brought us out of a spiritual desolation as well as a personal one.  Our life is flourishing again, and we are forever closer to the One who provided it all.

Instead of complaint, He has given me a spirit of thankfulness.  Instead of frustration, a spirit of patience.

Instead of fear, He has given me faith.

On the move

The morning dew wets my feet as I walk out to cut the feverfew from its stem.

I place the flowers in vases throughout the house.  I will just have to get rid of it in a few days when it is brown and rotten, but this act of bringing the outside in fills me with enough joy that the extra work is worth it.

Isn’t that the the crux of work?  The reward must be worth the effort expended.  For many, the reward of a paycheck feeds their motivation as the alarm clock drones every morning.  Others of us are moved by a spiritual world that is beyond our understanding yet we are aware of this perishing world and look forward to a new Jerusalem.  With this hope in our hearts, we do our jobs with love that comes from the desire for everyone to feel that same hope.

What do we know that is so special?  Only that Jesus allowed his body to be broken so that we could be free.  And until that message resonates deep in the heart of someone they will look at us as fools.  To those of us blessed to be disciples we know that, finally, for first time in our lives we no longer are foolish. 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

I return to writing after a few hours of life has passed.  The Lord prompted me to take a walk around our gardens and I reflect on how, for the first time in my life, weeding has felt accomplishable this year.  It may still not be enjoyable but I truly have felt a growing satisfaction from keeping my beds as weed free as I am able.  I observe my plants every day with the tenderness of a parent, excited to see buds forming and blossoms opening.

God tends us in this way, and when we are open to the pruning and to the weeding we are free to blossom and bud extravagantly into the true identity he has for us.  No longer will we have to be tossed around by the emotions of life here on this perishing earth, instead we have eternal life to look forward to.  An eternal life free of sadness, sighing and brokenness, filled with never-ending praise and worship of our one true King.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  John 15:1-2

Look deep into the headlines and you will see the Gospel message coming to life around us.  God always keeps his promises.

“All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit and growing”  Colossians 1:6

A few weeks ago, in that special place between wake and sleep, God gave me a vision.  I saw an amusement park and in the area near a row of carnival games there was a man who looked like a carnie, yet he was completely flat and one dimensional!  But, excitingly, he began to fill up like a balloon and came to life again.  God showed me that those that have felt dull and one dimensional are filling up with the love and Spirit of God to become some of the most wonderful, colorful and radiant human beings you’ve ever seen.

God is on the move.

 

A city redeemed

God is readying Zanesville for a season of transformation.  The old ways are leaving and new life is entering.

The Lord has been strategically drawing people here for decades.  I’ve lost count of how many people have told us they felt led to Zanesville by the Holy Spirit.  One person told me that saw our town as a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14)

Believers that have been crying, “Revival!”  and “Come, Holy Spirit” are beginning to see the fruit of their labor.  The sick are healed, the deaf can hear and the blind see.  The Lord’s presence is gaining strength and we GET to be part of it.

I urge you to cry out for His Kingdom to come in your homes, in your work, in your church, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8)

God has graciously given me a vision of a flock of birds dropping the Holy Spirit in a circle over our city, so let us “fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Tim. 1:6)

He is here, have faith!

Transformation

The other day I saw the first butterfly of the year fluttering outside the kitchen window.  I smiled with thankfulness for this season of renewal, joy filled me and I heard God say,

“Verily, verily I tell you, the Kingdom of God is like a butterfly: enter and be transformed!”

The fire ring

I walked out in the arctic air to dump the compost and stopped at the beauty of the setting sun on our fire ring.

I was reminded of the hot fall evening we spent with friends around that fire, roasting hot dogs and shooting cans with BB guns. Much has changed since that not long ago evening.

There have been new relationships formed as well as old ones broken, miracles and healing witnessed, death and tragedy lived through, hearts made whole, fears squashed. This, all of this together, is the holy work of living life together with others. There is absolutely nothing like it, surely evidence of His kingdom coming here on earth.

Twelve/Twelve

Sol is sprawled out sleeping at the top of the stairs like a dog. He’s going through a phase where he doesn’t want to lay down in his bed, or do anything I ask of him, so he pouts at the top of the stairs until he passes out. Sometimes he dumps laundry on the floor, uses the hamper as a step stool and covers himself in deodorant from atop my dresser. He’s quite the booger and is really good at pushing buttons, but his sweet grin and dimples wins me over every time.

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It’s the end of the year and I’ve been reflecting a bit on the fact that we’ve added two people to our household this year. We got rid of one restaurant. It’s quite a lot of change, but it’s good rebuilding change, and I am thankful for all the neat things God prompts us to do.

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Our house feels so small now that it’s winter. We may have added an entire addition, but the kids and I still generally spend all our time in the same room. I remember fondly the days that we lived in a 2,700 square foot house and wonder how it would feel to have extra room with these four kids + one grandma. Of course, this thought process is impossible because this IS what we have and it’s great to be squished together all the time (or so I tell myself).

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I was nursing Winnie to sleep tonight while watching the shadows of our paper snowflakes dancing on the ceiling. It is amazing how magical some cut paper can make a room look, and even more amazing that the boys are getting old enough to actually make some beautiful ones.

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God is truly a God of miracles, of healing, and of answered prayers. It NEVER looks like what I think nor do I think I could write up an accurate portrayal of the amazing work he has been doing in my life and in our community. His timing is perfect, it is good, and it so much more radical, yet normal, than I could ever have imagined.

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Brad and I are married so we have arguments. Often they’re stupid and about rabbits and other times they’re about big and important topics like our kids or what we’re doing with our lives. The days are so full taking care of others that when everyone is finally in bed (or passed out at the top of the stairs) the last thing I want to do is spend that time arguing. Sometimes we go to bed mad only to wake up with an anger hangover. Today my love brought home a huge bouquet of daisies, big enough to fill two quart jars, because of a difficult conversation (read: fight) last night. It’s so good to be loved and to love.

Black Friday

I wrote a couple of rants about Black Friday this morning and quickly deleted them all because I sounded like a jerk.

Finally I asked God what he wanted me to write about Black Friday and I heard “nothing.”

To those that choose to get up early and enjoy this time shopping with family, God blesses and loves you.

To those that choose to buy nothing today, God blesses and loves you.

That’s it. God loves us.

Photo dump

Yesterday and today were shitty days.

As the days wore on it felt like one rock after another was piled onto my back until I was slumped over and sad.

But! The story gets better, it gets better because I have friends who at the drop of my hat will pray for me and my shitty day. And not just say they will pray, but literally stop working and pray to God for my life, and then take the time to send me eight minute long voxes with words that the Spirit gave them through prayer.

I am so blessed.

Then I spent time looking through pictures from the last 3 months because I took nearly 2000 photos that needed edited.

To look through these moments, many already forgotten about, and to see a good life is pure joy. For that brief moment a shutter opens to capture light and darkness and shows it is good.

A prayer for despair.

Take your right hand and make a first. Now take your left hand and make a fist. Crash your knuckles into each other, opening your palms as your hands spread away from each other.

This is the spirit world. Every day, every minute, every second. Good and evil are clashing, brawling and fighting for territory on earth.

When bad things happen, it looks like evil is winning. Everyone talks about the evil, thinks about the evil and fears the evil.

“How can we fight the evil?” we ask. “What can we do to make this better?”

But dear friends, we alone are not capable of this fight. We will crumple in sadness and despair at the hopelessness of this fleeting world.

The boldest response to evil is prayer.

We don’t need more programs, rules or regulations. We need more shouts and cries to God for his Kingdom to come quicker to our world.

God save us. Save our world. Save our friends and our neighbors. Show us what to do next for your Kingdom.

Backs and Babies

I just started putting the baby on my back. I celebrate this milestone that allows me to bend over again.

A baby on the back reminds me of the first summer here in this spacious place, carting Sol around while we learned to tend animals.

It’s hard to believe we’ve cared for two babies in this place now, but not harder than believing I have four children. Others have shared a similar sentiment and the surprise over how my life has turned out is often written in the fine lines of a friend’s face. I don’t blame them, this wild, free, chaotic life is not something I could have imagined.

Today I saw a picture from when we only had one son. A time when we thought we would only have one son, that we were a one and done kind of people like my parents and grandparents before me. Generational only-childness.

I think back to some of my happiest childhood memories spent with my best friend and her siblings. I loved her house, it was loud and full of life. My house was quiet, dull, and often lonely.

I should have known this is the course I would subconsciously crave.

Naturally, as I’m talking about a loud life the baby woke up and as I went in to do my signature bounce/sway back to sleep I felt extremely privileged to hold this entire body in my hands and care for her with the depth of my love. I don’t often feel this way, especially about a waking child at night.

Lately I’ve been having these amazing experiences with God. There’s been these moments of clarity in which I’ve felt more in tuned with His will and Spirit than ever before and it’s incredible. Then the feelings go away for a couple of weeks and I worry I’ll never feel them again. It feels so good that I never want that communion to cease. I want to greedily hold onto it forever and ever, and then I remember that is what Heaven will be and I relax a little. I am so grateful that we get to touch His kingdom here on earth.

I have such a hard time ending these posts because I don’t have a point or a clear line of thought. It’s a rambling bunch of thoughts that come to me as I’m typing. I do pray that God lead me before every one of these posts and, while I don’t think every word is divinely inspired, I can feel his gentle presence with me as I write. I pray that others feel pushed outside of the “normal” realm of worship and prayer, and are inspired by how wide and deep God’s kingdom is. These writings are extremely cathartic to me and give me great joy.

What are the things that give you a feeling of great joy deep within your chest? Dive in.