Planting, Pruning & Other Acts of Faith

“The seed catalogues are a further promise of warm days to come. I class them as fiction and love to read them. Oh, the beautiful roses and tall spikes of delphinium and the flowering bushes-not to mention the carrots as big as telephone poles and the peas that practically shell themselves… We get some pretty fine vegetables and some nice flowers, but they definitely do not resemble the champion parade in the catalogues.”           Gladys Taber, ‘Stillmeadow Seasons’

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I am a Southern California girl, born and raised, transplanted 25 years ago to the Pacific Northwest near Seattle.  The weather is starkly different than my old Orange County clime. There are no, ahem, seasons in Southern California, only a variation on the words ‘sunny’, ‘partially sunny’, ‘mostly sunny’, ‘warm’ and ‘cool’.  Flowers bloom year ’round, vegetables can be picked at any time and trees never drop their leaves.

I’ve grown to love the weather changes here in this Northwest corner of the world where there are definitely seasons –fulsome Springs, rich, green Summers, colorful Autumns and the bare bones gray of Winter.

Of course, this particular location on the globe precludes a lot of extra care in gardening and upkeep. My husband and I spent a few hours outside the other day in unseasonably warm February weather to tackle the pruning of our trees. There are no buds yet on the empty, gray branches of our maples and magnolia, so the timing is right for this necessary husbandry. In the backyard, buds are just surfacing on the lilacs and the forsythia are threatening to burst into yellow like an invisible promise. We need to hurry–blooming is in their botanical blood and the flowers will come whether we prune or not.

Inside where it was warm I pondered the view to my back yard and the bare spot of my vegetable garden. I’m in more of a pondering stage about that space right now–do I REALLY want to invest in the time it takes to get that spinach in this year? If I do, should I add carrots and beets like last time? The lettuce worked well, the potatoes took off, there’s even leftover garlic and the Mint that Will Not Die.

The thing about seeds is, given soil, scattering, sunshine and water they’ll pretty much grow without looking. That’s always a startling miracle to me—that I would plant a zucchini or lemon cucumber seed and 2 weeks later, up comes that lime green curl, sprouts pushing through the dirt and why, look at that! Overnight it’s a vine.

(And then of course, you have more zucchini and cucumbers than you know what to do with, which is how you meet your neighbors. But that’s another post….)

I was thinking about my life and growth in Jesus being like that.  When He plants the bare shell of a seed with an idea or a dream, I really have to trust He will do what he says. There is life in the seed.

Regardless of the weather, regardless of the bleak, bare soil, there is hope.  There is life. Besides the hope, there is power for growth in the seeds; I can’t do anything about making them grow.  Nothing.  Just rest and trust it will happen.  In God’s time, by His power.

Likewise, when God plants something in our lives, a dream, a desire, a gift, He intends for it to grow. I have despaired often that the changes and growth I want to see in my life often bring me back to repetitive prayers and the question of whether what God has said will ever come to pass. But its clear, his promises come in their own time. We really can’t force them, we can only make room, let God water the seed, and live in the light of His Son while God brings the miracle.

What gift or promise has God planted in your life? What dreams are you living into right now? If it is God, it will grow.  

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“It is all very well to keep other men’s vineyards, but we must not neglect our own spiritual growth and ripening.  Why should it always be winter time in our hearts?  We must have our seed time, it true, but O for a spring time–yea, a summer season, which shall give promise of an early harvest.  If we would ripen in grace, we must live near to Jesus –in his presence-ripened by the sunshine of his smiles.”

CH Spurgeon, Morning by Morning

 

How to Read a Book with a Shovel

I think I suffer from Shovel-itis. Maybe you’ve experienced it. A passage in a devotional or Christian living book or especially the Bible just jumps out and grabs you. Well, for about 30 seconds. And instead of sitting with the words, maybe asking the Holy Spirit what it is God is saying to YOU, out comes the shovel and you dig up the catch to toss to a friend.

That is not the way to read an inspiring book. Ask God to show YOU how to digest it, don’t be looking for food to give away to someone else.  Like those thoughts that cross your mind to call a friend in need and say, “I think I read something that God has for you.”

Don’t do that.  

Another thing (preaching to myself) even if you have to snack and don’t have time for a full meal, get your spiritual food DAILY. Fresh food is best, old stuff just rots and brings no life. And you have to get your own food (see above). You can’t take someone else’s word–i.e. live your walk with Jesus on someone else’s nourishment. 

Maybe you do that, too. A friend at church tells you what the Holy Spirit showed them, how they were moved by a passage in the Bible or a message from a dynamic speaker. That’s not your food that’s their’s. You can’t get nourishment by osmosis.

Gathering food will cost you something. The Children of Israel had to go out early every morning for their ‘manna’ (Heb. ‘what is it?’).   

It will take some time and effort, just like getting physical food–you spend your time, your gas and your hard earned money to get to the grocery store for what will feed you.

Spiritual food  is the same, it will cost you something. Maybe not in the getting, but in the eating. For taking in the Word of God will change us if we let it.

BUT friend, it is the ONLY food that satisfies. 

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?”  Isaiah 55:1,2

Have you eaten today?

Happiness Happens {Guest Post}

I first met Kel Rohlf five years ago when we both began blogging. We are each word collectors–she wrote a little book about hers called “Defining Moments”–and she is a crazy-gifted art journaler. Her blog is called soulPantry–“a place to feed on words, ideas and prompts.”

One week after I read a prompt she posted, I made a collage with a Groucho Marx cut out in the middle of it….no kidding. After that experience, I began making art collages as a way to express myself in a more creative way with pictures, words, design and so on. When my friend Kimberlee and I led our two Writer’s Retreats, the highlight of the experience was the craft and fellowship time at the end. There is something therapeutic and joy-giving about working with your hands.

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If you are a writer but think you’re “not creative”, Kel is here to change your mind. 

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I have found that to take the risk of making something, whether planned or impromptu, takes courage and strength. Even as I am writing this guest post today for Three Way Light, for you, for Jody and even for myself, I feel a bit frightened. What if I don’t meet the expectations? What if I don’t make sense? What if people think maintaining a visual/art/creative journal practice is unnecessary?

I allow the questions to surface, and I wrestle with them. Then I think about all the times writing has helped me process such questions. And how when I don’t know what I want or even what to write, images and words from a magazine widen my perspective or reveal something I hadn’t even known I wanted to express yet.

In the collage below, I was playing with color and layers. I picked up images from a pile of leftover magazine pages from another project. Random images arranged on the page made me happy. I didn’t fret over their significance or composition, I just glued them in a pleasant array.

Often after I make a collage, I might notice a theme or an encouraging thought. But this time, I just felt happy. So I picked up a Sharpie marker and wrote: “Happiness Happens.”

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When I first started practicing this type of random art making in my journal, I didn’t always have much confidence about how it was going to work out. Almost every book I’ve bought or checked out of the library on the topic addresses the issue of the fears that keep a person from creatively expressing themselves.

In Art Journal Freedom by Dina Wakley, she cheers the timid creator to face her fears, “By facing and acknowledging your fears, you can garner the courage to press on despite them. Practice and devotion will help you conquer those fears and create with courage…” Courage and practice. Those two companions have led me into a wonderful world of creative expression.

When I think about what attracts me to this practice, I notice how choosing images and words, then arranging and gluing them on the page slows me down. It gives me a focal point, when there are so many ideas swirling around in my head. The collage work gives my mind a place to rest, not a mindless activity, but a place where my mind is at ease.

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The images and the words invite me to play and disengage the analytical part of my mind, but not really. The analysis is still happening, but it happens along an intuitive path. In my everyday living, intuition is making associations and storing them. When I engage with the seemingly random images and words that I’ve collected from a magazine, then intuition pieces the associations together granting me clarity in a moment of creative “play.”

You might read this and be thinking, “But I’m not an artist. I don’t want to go buy a bunch of supplies that will gather dust in my basement.” Take courage, if this practice interests you at all, here’s what you need to get started: a magazine, a glue stick and a blank piece of paper. If you really like doing this, then buy a composition or spiral notebook for your work. (Scissors are optional because you can use your hands to tear images and words down to size.) If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, I may have figured out why with my own experience.

I used to get stuck because I pressured myself to achieve a certain, perfected outcome. When I gave up these unrealistic expectations, I had more creative freedom.

  • Keep it simple.
  • Enjoy the process.
  • Yield to God.

Yielding to God, trusting that Creator God uses these simple exercises of cutting, arranging and pasting paper to page to open my heart and mind to His love and purposes has enhanced my devotional life.

One autumn on my blog I contemplated the writings of Brother Lawrence along with creating a daily collage, and it was one of the richest memories of my relationship with God. Just as Brother Lawrence offered his mundane tasks to God as devotion, I offered my little collages to him as a visual type of prayer.

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This practice can become devotional or it can be recreational, either way you can tap into a part of who you are and find a fun avenue to express yourself. I hope you will try collage making to see what happens.

Maybe at first, it seems too daunting to find a message through this creative practice. Instead, just have fun putting images in a notebook to look at, or possibly use as a writing prompt. Maybe a quote will catch your attention and you could make a simple collage like this one.

I dare you to try something creative in your life this week! Have fun! Kel

P.S. If you are interested in creative expression prompts, check out this series at my blog: 27 Weeks of Being YOU! To see my daily collages, find me on Instagram: kelrohlf.

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If you tried your hand at this creative process during the week, please let us know! Maybe with a photo? Thanks~Kel and Jody

Why Gray is Better than Black and White

“It is possible to enjoy Me and glorify Me in the midst of adverse circumstances. My light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark.”   Sarah Young, ‘Jesus Calling.’

I grew up in Southern California, the land of pavement, palm trees and perpetual sunshine., All that blue and bright color became a backdrop for the clearly delineated cultural, political and religious landscape of the ’50’s and ’60’s.

But times have changed. Oh, they have changed.
Lines have blurred, been redrawn, moved again.
We have no longer a common vocabulary, no shared reference point for the weight of a thing–cultural, political or religious.

The word “President” has been reduced to caricature. When I say “church” it calls forth a non-committal body without bearings, bereft of power, often innocuous in its offerings. (Not the church particular, but the church as a whole.)
When I mention “truth” the connotations are a free-for-all. The center has moved, knocked from its pedestal.
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Glancing at the January gray outside my window I can see much better than on those golden, blue-sky mornings of Summer or Spring. When the beauty cracks open, color and light stealing the stage.
All the bright green things–it’s very distracting.

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Maybe in these gray days we can see lies better, black against the sky.

We must keep our eyes focused on the horizon, the goal of what matters beyond politics, religion or culture. See the truth as an incandescent bulb, a lighthouse before us as we make madly for the shore, rowing in the dark.
We have to contend for the Light, my friends. We have to keep rowing.
There is only one beacon breaking through the clouds.

It is the God things that matter. The God things.
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sharing with Lyli and the Thought Provoking Thursday link up

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When Your Words Match Your Life

The origin of the word ‘journal’ is from Old French–“jornel” meaning ‘daily.’ In Latin the word is ‘diurnalis’, prompting our English word ‘diary.’ A journal is “a record of daily events, a day book, a ship’s log.” People, myself included, used to ‘keep’ a journal, a place to collect important events, timely thoughts, the occasional prayer, challenges and triumphs. The word, like so many once-nouns, has turned into a verb; now people talk about ‘journaling.’ This action word, a practice of daily writing, is a tool that helps us find out what we think when we put pen or pencil to paper.

When I began journaling about 20 years ago I noticed each year there was a theme to my work. In the last 5-8 years God has dropped a word into my spirit in the last days of the year as a frame for the year ahead. Not an audible voice of course, but sort of a whisper, “this will be the word that centers you.”

I didn’t know people chose a word for the year until I began blogging. Then I thought, “So that’s what God’s been up to.”  I noticed the sticky notes adorning the inside leaf of each one. I’d written words like, “fit” and “anchor”, “abide” or “dwell”. Those were the easy words. Then there was “surrender” (for two years), then “stretch” (which seems a lot like ‘surrender’ by the way).

The last week of 2016 I heard “adjust” one Sunday morning in church. Just like that. Again, not an audible voice, but inside in my knower. “Adjust.” After two years of ‘surrender’, this felt a little more gentle.

When I thought the word over, I sensed God saying, “I’m leading you in a particular direction with your work and your words and your reach, but stay close to me, because I’m going to help you adjust as you go.”

In that same message our pastor reminded us, “God only steers cars that are moving.” In other words, if you’re not sure about a direction or an idea or a plan, just start going. If you need a course-correction, God will gently help you adjust.

I looked up the word when I got home. “Adjust”–from the Latin, ‘ad’ to and ‘juxta’ near. Keeping moving more near where you’re supposed to be going. In other words, “As you’re heading in the right direction, I’ll help you get closer to what you’re called to be, to who I’ve made you.” God is a gentle speaker and for that I am grateful.

This is undoubtedly a year of adjustment. Fresh on the heals of the recent inauguration, I have some huge adjustments to make. On a large, national scale I have to move closer to a new way of looking at the office of the President, at the person of the President, at the performance of the President. I’m praying that things work out for all of us, but only time will tell.

Much closer to home I have to adjust to a no less earth-shattering adjustment–my oldest grandson will be 14 years old on January 24th. That seems impossible because, of course, he was just born the other day. You know what I mean.

I have a poem in my journal from the day Hanan was born, about the unfolding of his life from a neat little package. His life as a child was just beginning, my new identity as a Nana had also just begun.

Five years ago this week my blog was ‘born’; Hanan turned nine the same week. In the summer months preceding that we’d gone on a hike up to Multnomah Falls outside Portland, OR. It was grueling, long climb up one switchback after another in the hot July sun. I wanted to give up our walk many times and muttered my misgivings.

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Small footbridge on hike up to Multnomah Falls

The 8 1/2 year old Hanan said, “But Nana, if you want to see something awesome, you have to never give up.” I’m reminded of that often when I think about my daily ‘hikes’ through this thing we call life.

So we end where we began. The word “journey” is closely related to “journal”. Middle English, “journeia day’s travel, Latin “diurnus”, of a day, i.e. to travel from one place to another in the span of a day. Where I go each day always ends up on the pages of my journals as I’ve journeyed through this life, adjusting as I go. Always welcoming my Heavenly Father’s course-correction. (Well maybe not always.) 

Nevertheless, I want to keep moving like the water in that rushing stream, directed by God-dug channels, held in by banks of God’s choosing along the way.

Psalm 45:1 says in The Message Bible,

My heart bursts its banks,
    spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
    shaping the river into words:

As I journey through this life, adjusted by my Father, my journals will continue to be a place to pour out my poems to the king, “shaping the river into words.”

What about you?