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’

* * * * * * * *

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. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

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.

img_20160428_091134

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

~~~~~~~~~~~

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. Continue reading

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.
~~~~~~
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.

dcee9-pathinfogjan

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.
~~~~~

sharing with Lyli and the Thought Provoking Thursday link up

thought-provoking-thursday

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.

3bd6a-dsci0363
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?