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.”

 

 

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.

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!

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.

A miracle

The first undeniable, instantaneous miracle I saw was in June 2015.

I had met a guy named Wade a few months earlier when we moved to Zanesville. He claimed to be seeing miracles regularly while praying for people on the streets of Zanesville, and he invited me to come out with him.

That first day I went with Wade to pray for people, we met a woman named Michelle down at the thrift store. She was shopping, and Wade believed that God told him this random woman had one leg which was shorter than the other.

When Wade approached her, this stranger, and asked her if this was true, she nodded. Surprised that he would know this, she sat down in a chair, and held her legs up. Her right leg was about 3/8” shorter than her left leg, the heels of her shoes just didn’t match up. She explained that she was an Iraq war veteran, and had been in an accident which shattered her right leg. When the army surgeons pieced her back together, her reassembled leg was just a little bit shorter than it used to be, it was part of her diagnosis.

Michelle allowed us to pray. So we prayed for her in the name of Jesus, who is our rescuer and the one and only son of the real God. 30 seconds later Michelle’s legs were the same length. She said that she couldn’t describe the feeling, but that it was amazing and she could tell it was all better. And her legs, which were visibly different lengths before, were now perfectly identical. The heels of her outstretched legs matched up perfectly.

When Michelle experienced God in this way and saw His power, she cried. She opened up about so many ways that she had been hurt and abandoned by different people, and had walked away from her faith in God. And we prayed more for her, and God healed her emotionally in some big ways, but also started what I’m certain is a long and arduous battle for her trust.

In 2008, my wife Melissa and I set out to find God. The God we read out about in the Bible just didn’t seem to match up with the Christian culture we saw around us. So we threw it all out. We quit our professional corporate jobs, we sold everything we owned, we left our home and moved into a van.
Over the past ten years, God has showed up. He has rebuilt our lives based on what is true—he has restored some of the old things we threw out, left lots of it in the trash, and taught us so much more. Through all of our own mistakes and arrogance and humanness, God has been faithful to honor our earnest seeking.

And since that day in 2015, we have witnessed hundreds of miracles, and performed dozens. Some big, some small, but all obviously God and unexplainable without Him.
God is real. And we have found him. I just have to tell you. I’m sorry for not telling you sooner.

I don’t have it all figured out. Most of your questions about the hows and whys of where and when God works miraculously I can’t answer. But we can invite Jesus to show you his power and to fill you with His peace, and we can celebrate as all of those aching, burning questions which have answers beyond our human understanding melt away.

This is an invitation to give Jesus a chance. Maybe you already have a relationship with God, but you’ve never seen Him move in this way. Maybe you’ve been hurt by “Christians,” or in times that God didn’t show up. Maybe you’ve been hurt by me. Maybe this is all new, and you didn’t know that anyone actually saw and believed things like this. Get in touch with me, I don’t have any convincing arguments, but I’d love to pray with you, and to ask God to reveal himself to you, if He’s real.

Jesus is my friend. He’s really real, and it’s the most amazing thing. You have to meet him.

Dreaming.

I wanted to eat at The Bridge for lunch today.

A wave of heavy grief rolled in. Sadness that it’s over, relief that it’s over.

Over the past year I’ve slowly shed parts of my former life. I told myself that homesteading wasn’t important, that vacations weren’t for us, that sewing and the creative life aren’t necessary.  We had to be able to do The Bridge with all our hearts.

But, I am beginning to realize some of these things are important, and are us. The values of tending the land and of creating new things are integral for our family and community.

It has left me picking up the pieces of a shattered former life and trying to figure out what sticks. I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am stronger.

Dreaming. It’s exciting.

Cleanliness.

A couple of summers ago I sat outdoors, nursing a baby at The Wilds, while my family puttered around the gift shop.

A middle-aged woman at the table next to me engaged in discussion with a younger couple, probably her children, about how another woman kept house.

“She doesn’t even keep her stove clean.  I clean my stove every time I use it, I deep clean each burner every week, you know, that’s what you’ve gotta do to keep it clean.  I just don’t know what to do with her.”  On and on this lady described the shortcomings of another’s housekeeping and how angry that made her.

How, with an amazing view of God’s glorious and beautiful land right in front of her, could she be spewing such hate?  Did she even notice the rolling hills and blue skies?

I wondered if this is how everyone else feels, because I certainly do not wipe my stove every time I use it and do I ever really scrub those burners?

Today a friend was telling me how dirty her house was.  I could see the look of despair in her eyes, of realization that she can never get it as clean as she would like.  She’s a new mother, an amazing one, and she reminds me of the early days of motherhood when suddenly I cared about keeping the house clean but no longer had the time or energy to do so.

“Sometimes I look at the big beautiful houses around the park, and instead of admiring their architecture or gardens, I think about how clean they probably are inside,” she told me.

Your house says a lot about you, but it doesn’t say everything about you.

My favorite houses are those that let me in, no matter what lies behind the door.  They don’t clean up for me, cover the holes in the walls or the dishes in the sink.  They say, “Come on, come in, we’re so happy to see you.”

One of my best friends is an inviter, quick to have me over even though her house is just as chaotic as mine; full of noise, kids, animals and toys spewed about.

What I see is exactly that, fullness.  She has a life full of love, friendship, andfamily and she spends her days giving herself to others instead of worrying her house will get dirty.

Brad told me that he likes when I visit her because I come home relaxed.  She’s not a poor housekeeper, in fact she has white couches and small kids (crazy, right?!), but she’s doesn’t try to hide the fact that messes are made and things get broken.  Her honesty and openness encourages me to present a more humble and honest view of myself to others, knowing that my warts can help others to feel more comfortable with their own difficulties.

A few years ago, we were watching fireworks in a church parking lot.  We met a family with two little boys that took a liking to Theo and while we chatted with their parents they ended up playing in our van.

One of the boys, about four, boldly told me my van was a mess and I should clean it. Annoyed and defensive (I’m an adult, I don’t have to clean it) I stammered something about knowing that it was a mess and we should clean it.

Did a four year old just call me out?  Did it make me feel bad?  His observation bothered me for a while until it occurred to me there was probably a lot of pressure placed on cleanliness in his household.  I thought, I would rather have old french fries in the crevices of my van than children that point out other’s dirt.

A clean house can probably be fun, but I know for sure that a messy one is.

Twelve years of adventure.

When we met at a party in his dorm room he made a big deal out of getting me a beer, obnoxiously and dramatically pushing people out of the way so he could get to the mini fridge.  I didn’t think much of him at first with his long blond hair and jokes until the one night everyone left and we sat on a crappy futon talking for hours.

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It was fall and we were at a backyard soiree near our sophomore dorm.  He pulled a promise ring out of his pocket and we knew that forever was on the horizon.

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We secretly looked at apartments together, knowing in Athens you need to sign a lease a year in advance.  We walked into the biggest dump with wood paneling and saw a place of freedom and beginning.

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Christmas day I drove to Grove City after the most incredible ice storm.  He ran out to intercept me in the driveway and took me on a walk through the woods where pink roses lined the path.  He got down in his knee in a clearing by the creek and asked me to marry him.

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I stepped into the heat of the evening, took a deep breath and walked arm in arm with my dad toward the big old tree across the bridge.  My skin started to break out in hives and I found him standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me.

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A year later we drove up to an apartment on a little street on the outskirts of German Village.  It was half a house with big windows, beautiful brick and dreams.  College life was traded for city life.

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At the neighborhood Roosters, in the corner booth near the window we toasted our Bud Selects to buying a shabby pink campervan off Ebay. The adventures that awaited us were unknown, but because we were together with God, they would be good.  We left jobs, our families and the beautiful little brick house to search for the Truth.

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Years of dirt crunched under our feet as flashlights shone into the dark corners.  My heart pounded in a real estate office as we handed over $10,000 and they handed us the keys to a broken house.  Daffodils pushed through the barren ground as we visited our first home.

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I walked our newborn son, freshly born, into the living room and cried on our pink plaid couch.  He took a picture of me, seeing new life amongst the old.

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The summer our second son was a baby he dug an anniversary fire pit for me.  The broken house started to feel like home with gardens lining the front and a family swinging on the porch.

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Driving home from Zanesville when the leaves turned golden, our third newborn son in the backseat, we talked about moving into my grandparents’ house.  He didn’t think much of the idea at first but I persisted in discussion.

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On a rainy spring day our friends showed up to pack the moving vans.  Kids were throwing up and our power was out.  For the last time, we pulled out of our driveway and drove to Zanesville through tears.  Our new living room felt foreign, yet so familiar.

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We threw a big party for our 10th anniversary.  I had been dreaming of a anniversary party in the backyard and was enthusiastic to have this new space for it.  Our favorite people surrounded us, ate with us and talked about how they couldn’t believe it had already been 10 years.

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On a lake in Michigan we jumped off a raft into murky warm water like kids.  Little did I know I carried our first daughter in my womb.

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It was mid afternoon when we collapsed onto our bed and slept, snuggling our newborn daughter.  The exhaustion of the previous 31 hours was behind us and we spent two blissful hours enjoying the newness of life.

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Life is better because of him.

Love, self-awareness & Craigslist.

The other night while lying next to Brad I remembered one of my first moments of self-awareness.  I recall playing in the field near our crick (hello, I’m Appalachian and a crick is a small creek) thinking about how I could have been born anything, a frog or a butterfly perhaps, but I was born a human.  Not only that but I was born a specific human to a specific family with a specific set of emotions, feelings and interests.

This is a little mind blowing as a kid, but also interesting to think about the possibilities.  What if I had been born a frog?  What if I had been born someone else?  What would that look like?

I became aware that this inner dialogue is all mine, and that it’s only mine.

I imagine Theo is getting close to this age and it excites me.  I look forward to my children aging and learning and experiencing the stages of life.  Even though it tugs at my heart to see them growing so big I certainly don’t want them to stay little forever.  The world is ripe for exploring.

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On Instagram the other day (yea, so much for my social media fast) I noticed how many comments on famous pages would say something like “I LOVE your page, great content!”  or “I love your purse, hat, shirt, etc.”.  It occurred to me how adulterated the word love has become and how I am absolutely part of the problem.  Every time I use the word love in a context other than the intense affection God has for me or I for someone else I essentially deem it meaningless.

I’m trying my best to reserve love for something more than a handbag or a shirt.

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I got to use a machete yesterday and it was way better than a weedeater.  I highly recommend it.  Wielding a giant knife seems dangerous but it was in fact quite satisfying and quickly destroyed the pokeberries that are everywhere (things that worry me: stray toddlers ingesting poisonous berries).

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A few weeks ago, Sunday service was held in the front room of our church where floor to ceiling windows look out over the river toward downtown.  It was such a great experience not only to sing in a smaller, more intimate setting but also to be actively praying for our community as we watched cars go by.

It was a windy day and every time it gusted I imagined the Spirit of the Lord moving in this town, blowing out evil and making space for his Kingdom to grow.

To God be the glory.

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After reading my post the other day Brad told me that I’m a good writer.

I responded with a stupid “What do you mean?”

He retorted, “you can accept it or not, but you know what I mean.”  Well, that meant a lot coming from my publisher husband.

After that I felt joyful and happy and I’ve probably let it go to my head.  Everything I know about writing I’ve learned from Brad.

The main lesson: less is more.

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A couple of years ago my grandma gave me a pack of fly tape as a gift.  There’s no better way to make someone feel like crap than to hand them some fly tape for their kitchen.  I can see the flies, I know they’re there and if I wanted I could certainly buy some fly tape of my own.

Naturally, I threw it in a drawer and scoffed at the idea of dead flies hanging around.

This summer when I had finally had enough of these pesky flies I dug through drawers until I found the fly tape.  It turns out this stuff is magical, especially with three boys, chickens, and screen door that doesn’t shut all the way.

I put a new roll up this morning and 3 hours later it had caught 10-15 insects.  It works and it’s chemical free.  Thanks Grandma.

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Brad went on a craigslist run this afternoon so he texted me the address on his way.  I knew the house was out there but after an hour and a half with no response I was officially freaking out.

I couldn’t stop wondering, at what point do I call the police?

So, I did the worst thing you can do in this situation: I googled “Craigslist murders”.

Turns out, Brad spent an hour and a half at this guy’s house, prayed for him, chatted with him and then DIDN’T buy the damn window because it wasn’t the size it was supposed to be.  He also taught him how to properly measure windows.  Oh, and all of this was outside of cell range.

I’m glad he’s OK, but he should definitely never do that again.