Nouns-Some Thoughts on People, Places & Things

“…you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink

but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone

but on tablets of human hearts.”     II Corinthians 3:3

Last week I traveled to Southern California, the land where I grew up and lived until I married.  Five days of returning and rejuvenating was definitely good for my soul. Although I often visit there each summer to see my sisters—usually in August–this was my first trip in the month of May. (There are some definite perks to being a retired teacher). I knew the area had seen more rain than ever this year so I was looking forward to green hillsides, rich tropical flowers and blooms of the jacaranda trees.

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I was especially looking forward to eating fresh California strawberries.

As soon as I hopped into my rental car I headed down the freeway to one of the last remaining strawberry farms in the So Cal beach area. The bright colors of fresh produce were a balm to my eyes, if there is such a thing, and the aroma of fresh strawberries jogged a place deep in my memory.20170501_121438

After selecting three baskets of ruby red fruit, one of the farm’s owners and I chatted about changes we’ve seen in the last twenty-five years. The near disappearance of strawberry fields which dotted varying plots of land throughout Orange County, including several acres across the street from Disneyland. Also gone were hundreds of acres of orange orchards; the fragrant smell of orange blossoms on the evening breeze a thing of the past. No more open spaces, just tracts and tracts of homes on the hillsides, crowded beaches and ten-lane (!!) freeways. Yes, the land of my birth had changed drastically.

I was surprised to see signs between the airport and the ocean announcing “Tourist Information Ahead.” The place where our humble (poor) family lived all my growing up years was now a tourist destination. I wondered if there were maps for the movies stars’ houses (or maybe mine?)

Anticipating sunshine, warm temperatures and blue skies, I happily settled in after arriving at my sister’s house. My brother and sister-in-law also joined us for the week ahead. One great joy I had during the week was going out two different mornings to watch my brother the surfing pastor paddle out and ride the waves. (He caught two!) There may not have been any orange blossom fragrance wafting on the breeze, but with my back to the crowds and my eyes on the sea, I was at home; the sand at my feet and ocean view the same as I remembered.

Water and waves still form and crest as they always had. Shorebirds chased back and forth, rocks rolled towards my feet in the drenched sand. The water, waves, birds and shore were unchanged.

~*~*~*

The culmination of our visit was a ‘goodbye house’ party, thrown by my sister on the occasion of her upcoming move. My siblings and I, along with our spouses and children, have twenty nine years of memories in that house–hours in the pool, movie nights together, backyard barbecues. Baby showers, weddings, birthdays–years of special gatherings. Because my siblings are all close in age and went to the same schools, we also shared many of the same friends, some of whom were invited that night.

Life is weird in high school, to say the least. But it’s funny when you’re older how cliques and cool cars and the right clothes pale in comparison to true friendship. My sister had stayed close to a small of circle of classmates whom my brother and I also knew; most of us had been friends for (cough) fifty years. My heart overflowed with gratefulness as folks sat around the living room, desperately trying to follow varying conversations. The decibel level rose and fell, people were sharing photos on phones, telling old stories, laughing at “rememberwhens?”

As I stopped to listen, I realized most of the people in the room–all of the people in the room–had been there for my sister during devastating, difficult times, including a cancer diagnosis and the loss of a child. These were true friends, a rare treasure.

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~*~*~*~*

I thought about how orange trees form and grow only to be torn down, strawberry fields are ripped out, paved over open land becomes freeways….but what remains? Is there anything we can recognize, count on, remember by?

I’m mixing images here—waves and water and friends that anchor us—but I couldn’t help thinking about the Israelites setting up stone markers as monuments to God’s faithfulness over the years. Every time there was a deliverance or God intervened, the people were told to gather stones and pile them in place to remember.  Decades would pass, places would change and grow, populations would impact the landscape but one thing that remained were the markers of the goodness of God.

Sometimes people are those markers. When the land you’re born in is unrecognizable or you feel adrift, friendships that last through thick and thin, good times and bad are like the waves and water—constant, true, powerful when you need them.

No matter where I live or what it looks like, the friends who’ve stayed in place remind me of not only who God is, but who I am and where I am in the world.

Those friends are letters written not in stone, but etched deep in my heart.

 

On Prayer, Potatoes and Pulling Weeds

I have two garden beds in my back yard—one a perennial bed of flowers, the other a 12×6 rectangle of mostly weeds. The flower bed is behaving as expected this time of year–peony shoots with their magenta spikes heading skyward, the clematis tendrils beginning to twirl up and around the bird gazebo. A ‘Sombrero’ Echinacea (bright orange) is just beginning to sneak back through the dirt and the columbine leaves are unfurling.

The other space is a mostly weed bed formerly known as a vegetable garden. I have absolutely no illusions about actually planting a real garden this year, although I gave it a try. I recently impressed my friend Natalie by telling her about all the lettuce and green pea seeds I planted a few weeks back. She can’t see the weed-infested dirt around those sprouts so she doesn’t know how far from Martha Stewart-y my urban spot of green actually is.  Half of the peas were dug up and gnawed on by squirrels and about 10 of the sprouts have survived.

The lettuce has yet to be seen.

We had some nice-ish weather the other day here in Seattle so I went outside to pull weeds in the, ahem, vegetable garden. I had no grandiose ideas about making any kind of dent in all the volunteer greenery out there, I actually just wanted the therapy. Pulling weeds and praying is one of my favorite things to do. I pray out loud or sing while wielding my handy digging tool. I love it.

Imagine my surprise when I found next to the Mint that Would Not Die four potato plants sprouting through the dark earth. I thought I’d dug them all up last year, but there they were next to the stray sweet pea vines and self-sowing sunflower seeds. Like an invisible surprise, they’d been growing all this time. They’re Yukon Golds—yum.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It made me think about how often when we are despairing that God will ever answer our prayers because we don’t see anything happening. But underneath the surface of our lives, often in the dark, His power is growing and moving on our behalf. There is life about to happen and we just don’t know it.

Flower and vegetable seeds have a necessary process for producing a new plant—they must shed a dead layer, a shell, then push roots down into the earth then force their brand new leaves up through the soil. It takes time and patience and a lot of energy. God has all the time, certainly all the power, but sometimes we are short on the patience part. Or the faith part. “God, why is this so hard right now???”

We have to hold on for the right season and trust God’s timing. When you have a new opportunity to see growth or change in your life or a need for provision, close your eyes and imagine what God might be doing behind the scenes. Maybe there are some weeds to pull, some things that need to go before you’ll be able to see what God is doing. If you feel weary of waiting for an answer, take your eyes off the soil and look up.  When we least expect it, God is often working invisibly on our behalf, waiting to bring surprises our way.

And they might look like gold (potatoes).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

God occasionally answers prayers you never actually pray, but gives you what you need because He knows anyway. My son and his family were without a car for 2 months last summer (they have 5 children) and God did an amazing miracle that left them speechless.  Click here to see just what God did through the folks at Flash Love Vancouver (WA).

A Letter to My Son & His Wife Re: The Grandkids

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,  Who finds great delight in his commands.

His children will be mighty in the land;  The generation of the upright will be blessed.” Ps. 112:1,2

Dear Aaron and Courtney,

After several days looking forward to seeing you and your family this weekend, it seems like I blinked and our Easter visit was over. Next thing I knew, your Dad and I were comparing notes on the three hour drive home, like reporters who’d been at the same baseball game only on opposite sides of the field. I’ll go with the baseball metaphor here; although the nine of us were in and out of each others’ dugouts, most of the weekend we were there I hardly had a chance to talk with you. Dad was filling you in on all the particulars of his old pick up truck that we were giving you or you were tending to one of your brood.

It was clear we’d each missed some significant plays on the field, what with all the player movement and such. (Argh with metaphor. Blame it on the pre-season Mariners game you and Dad were listening to.) Of course with four grown ups and five children aged 14 years to 5, there are a lot of moving parts to our visit; it was impossible to be everywhere all at once, privy to every conversation.

Somewhere on the I-5 between the capital in Olympia and the main gate at Ft. Lewis Army base, I told him about my interactions with each of the kids and Dad shared the various conversations he’d taken part in.

We thought you’d like us to fill in some of what you missed and may not know about your wonderful kids. Your investment in their lives is pouring out in God-honoring ways.

  • Friday night while Dad was going to pick up Aaron from work I waited for the kids and Courtney to arrive and join me at the hotel. They anticipated a pizza dinner and a swim at the pool. That hotel apartment with the full kitchen was a godsend, especially since we needed a place to cook two pizzas! After cutting and serving various portions of combo or pepperoni, we finally sat down at the table together. Although some of the kids were several bites in, when I said, “let’s stop and pray”, everybody stopped to link hands. Peter and Abi each announced, “I’ll pray! I’ll pray!”

Peter was first and poured out a grateful heart, thanking God for “not being homeless” and “having Grandpa and Grandma give us a truck.” He also told God he was happy about the pizza. The ease of his words and his ready attitude showed me he was used to talking to God about just about anything, which will do him well in his almost 11-year-old life.

  • As we were driving along, I remarked to your dad about the pizza dinner prayers. “Well, you should have heard Abigail later on,” he said. “I was talking about my ear recent surgery to help me hear and she offered to lay hands on me and pray for me.”

“Oh, Grandpa, I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble with your ears,” she said. “God thank you for making a way for Grandpa to hear better.” She didn’t hesitate a bit; it was clear that a conversation with Jesus was a very natural thing to have.

You and Courtney have done a great job modeling for your children how to pray.

  • While you and Dad were finally catching up on pizza in the hotel apartment we all took to the pool to swim. I was amazed at 7 year old Paul and the way he took to showing me all he could do in the water. “Get your phone, take a video, Nana!” And he proceeded to jump off the edge of the pool, cannonballing into the water and waving his arms Olympic style when he rose up to the surface. He was so proud of himself; I remember on our many past visits over the years that he was often the one sitting on the pool steps, too timid to even get wet.

Good job investing in all those YMCA swim lessons for your kids—it’s made Paul a confident young man.

  • I remarked to Dad also about the way your oldest, Hanan, hung out with him and enjoyed all the car talk. He loved being with both of you guys, taking part in all the particulars of tires and engines and carburetors. Clearly the male bonding over speed and fast cars is a real thing. You may not have noticed, but we did. That 14 year old likes being around you. That is no small miracle.
  • Sunday morning after church we offered to go pick up all the kids from Sunday School so you and Court could visit with friends. Luke, the 5 year old, showed me his cross picture he’d made. “That’s Jesus there on the cross, Nana. I drew Him.”  “And this here” (scribbled orange color) “is the Holy Spirit,” and this (scribbled green color) “is God,” “and this” (scribbled brown color) “is the devil.” “Jesus beat the devil and He won.” “That’s why we have Easter.”

Feeding and clothing your family and getting yourselves to church each week is no small feat. Courtney and you do an amazing job making it a priority—the truths your kids are learning are sinking in and making a difference in your childrens’ lives.

~~~~~

Most people have photographs of their family on Easter morning, but this weekend I have memories instead.  We packed a lot into twenty four hours–pizza night, swimming time, church together, Easter brunch, and Dad’s crash course about the pick up we were gifting you. It’s impossible to recall when we were all actually still long enough for a photo, so I’ll have to close my eyes instead and remember.

Sunday morning, Grandpa in his ponytail and cool shoes, you with your new spiffy hat, Paul’s bowtie, Hanan’s towering frame or us girls in all our Easter finery. Peter snuggling that afternoon with his mom for a nap, favorite stuffed toy next to him.

Photos can gather what’s seeable but they’ll never catch what’s invisible—the respect, love and care families have for God and one another.

Those are just as real as any picture on my frig or in my phone. Your dad and I rejoice and applaud you for the way you and Courtney have kept the first things first.

Those are the memories we take with us; I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I love you both,

Mom

God Can’t Make You But You Can Let Him

Just when you think there’s going to be a breather between some professional sports championship or another, a new season starts. Remember the Sweet Sixteen in basketball? Done. Now we have baseball to think about. Our Seattle Mariners have already played several games—they’re about even for wins and losses—but I still can’t get used to it.  In my mind baseball is a summer sport, but the April weather in the Pacific Northwest says anything but summer. No matter; our M’s are used to the rain and sunshine so they travel here and there, swinging at pitches, throwing, catching and striking out. It’s practice, practice, practice.

*******

Little League baseball wasn’t around when I was little, we just had our neighborhood match-ups, usually boys against the girls. I’ll never forget that fateful day when my head collided with a bat. I was playing catcher; my friend Colleen was up to bat and when she swung through her pitch, I ended up getting knocked ‘thwap!’ in the head. I fell down unconscious and the next thing I remember was sitting in the front seat of our station wagon, a rag held to my pounding head, my mom frantically driving to the hospital. We made it to the emergency room where I received a multitude of stitches. I still have the suggestion of a mild lump right above my left eye and a very, very faint scar. That’s a fun story to tell but there is nothing fun about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

* * * * *

   God’s not using a bat these days but he is budging me ever closer to playing my own position in the correct game in the season where He’s called me to practice. Because, boy, can I get in the wrong place. The field of Christian bloggers is a big one, the voices out there are many and the messages come thick and fast. I fall prey time and time again to wondering what all the other players are doing.  I don’t want to just be outstanding in my field, I want to be outstanding in everyone else’s field—looking at the uniforms, admiring the bright colors, noticing the cheer of the crowd when a star player is up to bat.

Then I hear the voice of The Coach hollering at me from the dugout, “Keep your eye on the ball!”

“No, your own ball, not that one!”

I am prone to want to be everywhere else instead of exactly where God has called me to be.

I want to sound and look like the homerun hitters, the crowd pleasers. I imagine the cheers and attention of onlookers applauding my brilliant plays. Wouldn’t it be grand to have all those followers?

And there He is again, an aside this time, just He and I standing at the edge of the grass as the sun goes down.  A whisper, “You weren’t made for the big crowds, the nameless faces. You want a personal touch when you swing your words out into the world, connecting with people one at a time. That’s who you are.”

The reminder rings true deep down.

I wasn’t called to be playing the field out under the lights, waving to the fans in the stadium. I’m more of a snack bar conversation kinda gal, chatting one-on-one with the folks in front of me in line waiting for their hot dog and coke. You know, where we can talk about the weather and our kids and our week.

I come alive when I’m sharing in an intimate group around a living room or kitchen table, talking in a small chapel or chatting with friends on a front porch. I feel the pleasure of God and the most like myself when what I have to say is welcomed bit by bit, little by little, one friendship and one connection at a time.

* * * * *

When a principle or phrase is being drilled down into our spirits, don’t we often say God is really “driving it home?” Maybe it’s because He knows how many times we have to run the bases to come around again and again to what we know is true. And I’ve been running the bases a lot.

I know my propensity for distraction, the mixed-up desires I have to be like everybody else, but I’m turning again in the direction of the dugout early and more often. When I consider the corner of the world where I’ve been given a chance to bring light to others, when a bat goes swinging and a ball comes my way, I’m learning to stand my ground and yell, “not mine! Not mine!” and let another player catch it.

If I start complaining about my position on the field, or glance at the scoreboard to see who’s ahead, I remind myself to stay tuned to the Coach. My prayers are changing from, “God please help me hear you,” to, “God, I give you permission to speak. As many times as you need to, remind me this patch of grass, right here at short stop, glove in hand is where I need to stay.”

“And if you need to, yell like all good coaches do.”

I’m keeping my eyes on the ball, and if it connects with the bat and gets knocked out of the park, I’ll let God decide who sees it. I’m just going to keep on swinging.

Christian Bookstore, Holy Week

Jesus and I are on an outing the week before Easter.  We pull up to the strip mall; He unbuckles his seatbelt as I turn off the ignition.  As we climb out of the car and walk towards an open door He remarks, “Oh, a Christian bookstore; let’s see what they’re selling.”

We step inside and nearly run into a banner displaying ‘Resurrection Eggs.” The table holds cardboard cartons with plastic egg-shaped containers inside.  A sample shows Scripture verses are tucked inside.

“How are these used?” He ponders, puzzling as he holds one in His hand.
“They’re eggs. Are they for farm children?  And why are they called ‘Resurrection Eggs’?  I wasn’t hatched on Easter morning.”

He has a point. I hesitate.
“Well, Lord, they’re witnessing tools. Kind of a combination of the pagan traditions around Springtime mixed with Biblical truths.”

“Oh…I wonder why they had to mix things up like that.  The truth can stand on its own.  Why did they have to put it in such a fancy package?”

I have no answer.

He picks up several items on the table–a Resurrection banner, a “He is Risen” coffee mug.
“I see they’re made in China. Actually, everything’s made in China–are there that many Christians in China, to make all this?” He sweeps his arm through the air, surveying the store.

“Well, Lord, the labor’s cheaper there so it’s a wise use of money, I guess.”
“Cheap labor?  That sounds like exploiting people and taking advantage of their station in life.

“I didn’t die for that.”

We peruse the shelves and I mention the names of Christian friends who have new books out.  We look for their titles in the front of the store but have to wander a few aisles before we get to the Christian Living section.

“Why are there sections?” Jesus asks.  “Isn’t it all Christian Living?”

The book titles are interesting and some are a bit of a surprise.
He pulls down a volume titled, “Wounded by God’s People.”

“Oh, it’s by Anne Graham Lotz.  I know her father, Billy.  I gave him many, many messages to share with the world and he always went wherever I asked him to.  He has always told people how I loved them so.”
A sad look comes over his face as he fingers the title.  ‘Wounded by God’s People.’

“I didn’t die for that.”

We look around for my friend’s book.  I mention her name–Jennifer.  “She’s a reporter from Iowa,” I tell Him.

“Oh, I remember giving her that book to write.  She decided to call it ‘Love Idol’.  Let’s go see if they have it.

We turn to the Women’s Section, thinking the little yellow book should be there.
“Again with the sections,” he laments. “Why all these divisions? I died for everyone.”

We ask a clerk about the title I’m looking for; Christ’s eyes widen at the response.
“We couldn’t stock the book, I’m sorry.  It had the word ‘idol’ in the title.”

“But this is a Christian bookstore, right?  Where you want to shine a light on sin and tell the truth, right? That’s what her book is about–setting people free.”

The puzzled clerk simply repeats, “I’m sorry, sir, we can’t carry it.”

I can tell the Lord has had enough.
“Maybe we should go,” I suggest.
Jesus agrees and decides He won’t purchase anything, having paid for it all already.

As we walk out the door and look towards the lightening sky over the cars He mentions the days ahead, Easter on the horizon.

“Perhaps we can find some people tomorrow who are truly Christians living.
After all, that’s what I died for.”
~~~~~~~~~
The seeds for this post began when I went to look for a book by Jennifer Dukes Lee at a Christian bookstore during the week before Easter. I hadn’t set foot in one for some time as I had been overwhelmed on my previous visit with a kind of sick feeling at all the commercialism and not-like-Jesus displays.
I couldn’t help wondering what Jesus would have thought of the kinds of marketplaces Christian bookstores have become.
Shouldn’t they be different than a secular bookstore, maybe sharing truth and shining the light–ALL OF THE LIGHT that Jesus brought into the world?
~~~~~
this is a slightly edited version of a post which first appeared in April 2014

Why Rear View Mirrors are Better Than Windshields

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

Shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Proverbs 4:18

When I began this year, God gave me a word–“adjust.” Last year I spent time ‘abiding’, year before that it was ‘dwell’ (very similar) and the year before that, my word was ‘fit’–how does what I’m doing in my walk with Jesus fit with what He says?

When I heard the Holy Spirit say “adjust,” I had the sense that I’d be moving in a particular direction–writing a book this year–but as I was moving God would have to make some course corrections.

About the same time, our pastor’s New Year’s message was from the book of Nehemiah about the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. The rebuilding task was overwhelming, but Nehemiah was undeterred. As a result of that word, “start small, start now” became my mantra. I couldn’t make overnight changes in any of the areas I wanted to see growth or movement–my health, my writing, my spiritual walk–none of it. But I could see change over time.

At the end of each day, I document what little steps have been taken in those areas on my “foursquare.” Some days I write one or two things down, some days it’s blank. The areas of growth have changed over time as well, now one of the square says “heart & soul”, one says “body”, one says, “writing” and one says, “spirit.” It’s not a journal so much as it’s a recorder.

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Little by little, there’s progress.

~*~*~*~*

I’ve also been documenting the progress of the perennial flowerbed out in our yard—one photo a month since January, on the 20th day of the month.

I had the idea because, come June, no one would ever believe that the explosion of greenery and color that is my flowerbed was once an empty spot of soggy, blank dirt. I would like to encourage myself along the way that one, something beautiful WILL grow out of that unsightly rectangle and two, it will take some time.

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This first photo makes it glaringly clear just what a ‘winter view’ is in my Seattle suburb—with no foliage on shrubs and trees, you can see miles away. Of course, the shades of gray, brown and silver bark in front of me leave me with an impatient ache. They’re hard on the eyes; I long for them to bloom.

But I need to wait a good six months.

The next month, February, I chose a different angle, illustrating the size of the bed, and giving one the impression with my rake propped against the bird feeder, that I was actually working out in the mud. Smile. There are a few suggestions of greenery against the dirt, but they are only suggestions, an ounce of earth being displaced by life.

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You’ll notice the Yellowtwig Dogwood shows up nicely against the monochrome background of the greenbelt. There is hope in the color of those bare branches, a bit of golden against the sky when we’re desperate for something to keep us going.

A few days ago I took Month Number Three’s photo—March.

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Can you see the gradual growth, the mini fireworks sprouting from the dirt? When I stand back and look from this perspective I can see a difference from last month’s photo-something is happening! Look at all the yellow–forsythia! And, if you were able to get up close, you’d see new leaves curling out in the asters and clematis at the base of that dried up piece of driftwood by the gazebo bird feeder.

You have to look closely, though.

*~*~*~*

I am always learning lessons from my garden—long, slow lessons about life.

Right now I’m preoccupied with writing a book. I told you about that last week and God’s gentle (not) way of getting my attention in the process so I could readjust my expectations.

I am reminded again that anything difficult, beautiful or creative requires three things—work, attention and time.

I cannot expect to be finished with the process unless I put in the time and attend to God’s words to me along the way. And I need to remember that although I am bounded by the constraints of the rising and setting of the sun each day, God is not. He sees the end from the beginning all at once. He knows where we’ll be….maybe we need to pay attention to the getting there rather than the being there.

Maybe you’re working through something like that now—a challenge or promise or project that is taking a frustratingly much longer amount of time to bring any progress.

May I encourage you? Rather than looking at the emptiness outside your window every day (figuratively speaking) check once a week or once a month or once a quarter and ask God, “How are things going now? How about now?” Or, “God, please give me patience for this process.”

You may find when you look back at the end that whatever was preoccupying your thoughts or worrying you went more quickly than expected. And some day you’ll look out your kitchen window at the vines and shoots and branches spilling all over the back patch of dirt and wonder, “Wow, how did those flowers come up?”

A lot of work, paying attention, and giving things time. God’s time.

~*~*~*~

For what are you waiting on God? Share in the comments.

 

Why Slow Starts are Best (or, Typing as Therapy)

“For who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to Plough,
To guide our Mind and Pens for his Design?
And he makes base things usher in Divine.”
John Bunyan, the Author’s Apology for His Book, Pilgrim’s Progress

I wrote at the beginning of this year about starting small, starting now when leaning into God’s promises, those urgings from his Spirit that draw us closer to His purpose and plans for our lives. It is easy to become intimidated when we consider those God thoughts, wonder if the change He’s spoken of will ever come to pass. Perhaps it is a ministry gifting you’re pondering. Perhaps it is a story to write, a book that’s inside you, a change you want to see in your personal life. How do we help those come to pass? Or is it more of a partnership?

‘Starting small, starting now’ came from a message at church of the story of Nehemiah and his people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, one brick at a time. Our pastor’s encouragement was to move slowly and faithfully in the direction God has called us, trusting God while our dreams are fulfilled.

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I just returned from a five day trip to Texas for a writer’s festival at a small Baptist college in a small Texas town. It was a delight for my soul to soak up some sunshine after the chill of the mornings, bask in the fun of making music and connecting with folks who are dear to my heart. There were opportunities to grow in my writing as well and be inspired by the words of other gifted folks.

When I returned home to the much wetter, cooler Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t wait to get outside to check the growth in the garden. My world is anchored by the seasons; I recently decided I like winter best. Why? Because all that gray, blank space gives my mind room to ponder. Because I enjoy watching the sometimes infinitesimal growth of the garlic as it spikes bright green towards the sky. The clematis begins to sport buds on the dead looking vine, the asters begin to poke magenta gray sprouts into the soaking soil.

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It’s easier to see growth in empty spaces, to appreciate the subtle and slow of sweetpeas returning or the forsythia threatening to pop, a tulip’s leaves curl through the dirt.

I snapped this photo and realized–God’s promises to grow us in our gifts and in His graces depend not on our efforts but on His creation. The life of a bulb or flower or shrub is inside, invisible. Under the ground, in the bare stalks of the tree or sleeping before bursting into tulips or crocus.  How that happens is a miracle every single Spring.

So, too, are the promises of God. When He speaks a word about changing you inside or gifting you with His creation to share with others–in a song, a story, a poem or a painting–the birth of it always lies in His power to give life.  The challenge we face is in the making room (clearing the soil), letting go (lifting our pruning shears or pens to the sky) and resting (while the seed grows). Continue reading