Holy Ground

Last week was spent with family. My dad in law passed away and we spent an entire day waiting with Mom for Dad’s homegoing.

My sister texted me as we sat in that nursing home and told me that I was on “holy ground”. Indeed…..it was holy ground. That sacred space between this world and the next. Waiting for Dad to make his way into the arms of the waiting Father.

Last week was an honor and a privilege. It was a celebration and a heart ache. Those days, where time narrowed and focused on the life of one man….my dad in law. Time stood still….the world and it’s big issues were ignored and love and family time consumed us.

Memories were shared. Many heavy sighs were breathed. Tears and laughter mingled at the same time…. Hearts ached for those of us left behind and rejoiced for Dad who journeyed on ahead.

Memories of a man who loved to sing and play harmonica. Memories of a man who tilled the soil and milked cows…a man who was incredibly proud of his military service and a man who loved a good bag of jelly beans. We remembered a man who loved his wife and his family well.

Dad wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for our family and for the life he lived. He left many memories for Mom, his children, grandchildren, family and friends and those memories will be passed along to his great grandchildren.

Looking back on that week brings the realization of what really is important. Living honestly, loving well, building relationships with family and friends and understanding that this life is not about us.

We stood in that cemetery on a beautiful morning. We listened to the pastor remind us that our hope is not in this temporary dwelling place…we saw my mom in law receive the American flag ….we heard the shots echo and the lonely sound of taps played in the distance.

We did not say good-bye as we stood on holy ground. We knew this was instead “till we meet again”. We got to see what a legacy really looks like ….faith….family….and how your life is lived in the time you are given.

Thank you Dad for the lessons you taught…not only in how to live life but how to leave this life for the next. You will be missed…till we meet again.

“You live to die….
you die to live.”
Ruth Fondse

What We Stand In Need Of

I was outside the other evening locking the girls (my chickens) in for the night. It was quiet, the moon was big and the barn was just a silhouette against the sky.

It was a good time to just stand out there and think about what is happening all around me. To be honest, I avoid the news as I don’t really like thinking about all the crazy that is going on right now in this country.

I got to thinking about my dad and how he prays. Somewhere in his prayers he always asks for “what we stand in need of”. Those words are really a huge leap of faith.

Saying those words gives over control of our lives to our Creator and that can be scary because you never really know what He will use to work for our good.

Sometimes the way is easy and we, at least me, are positive that we are indeed blessed because it is easy. Sometimes, like the world now, the journey seems bleak, dark and so twisted that we will never find our way through. It does not always feel like a blessing on that journey.

I stood outside in the dark, listening to the night sounds…the rustling of little critters in the grass…the soft cackle of a hen from the chicken coop and the distant sound of a combine still in the field. My mind wondered if this twisted journey is “what we stand in need of”.

Perhaps all the “stuff” going on right now…from covid to unrest to crazy debates is what is needed to make us sit up and listen. Maybe it is the refining we need; so when we make it through to the other side we will end up where we are supposed to be.

Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t so much about what is happening around us, but what is happening inside of us. And Maybe it isn’t so much about where we are right now, but where we will be down the road.

May we use this somewhat weird time to grow, to learn, to listen and to follow the One who never changes. May we be given “what we stand in need of”.

“We must be able
to let go of the life we have planned
in order to live the life
that is waiting for us.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you
and 90% how you react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll

Keep Your Eye on the Bird

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This morning was a beautiful morning to sit outside and enjoy the cooler weather. I was having my morning cup of tea when I heard a cardinal singing in the tree. I saw it fly from one place to another branch and tried to keep my eye on it.

As I was trying to watch and listen, our cat decided to join me. To be honest she distracted me and I lost track of that flash of red that was the cardinal. I searched and searched but failed to find it back.

I sat for a bit pondering how easily I was distracted from the task I had set for myself. It wasn’t a task of much importance, but I came to realize that there are many large tasks that I also get distracted from.

A thought came to my mind that there are many times I should be keeping my eyes on God and what He would have me do….but I get distracted by crazy things that send my thought in other directions.

I kind of wondered if that is happening in our world today….are we distracted by media news stories that showcase issues and problems that seem to big for us to solve? Are we distracted by social media full of hashtags and trendy sayings that really fix nothing but sound like we are caring? Do we get sidetracked from keeping our eye on the One that has ALL the answers?

The problems are many and they are huge. They seem overwhelming when looked at through the lens of the world. Perhaps we/I should be looking at them through the God’s lens?

As I sat there, sipping on my tea this quiet morning I heard the cardinal sing again. I peered to my left and there the cardinal sat…..a brilliant flash of red, serenading me with a concert that was only enjoyed by the cat and me.

It seemed like a promise…..that even though I might be distracted by the world around me….God is still faithful. He puts me back on track.  I realized that I cannot change the world and fix all the injustices and hurts…..but I can do the task I am given in this small piece of world that is home.

I realized I am only one person….but I can live in such a way that influences those around me. I can be faithful….I can fix my eyes on Him and share His love and the hope that is promised.

May this weekend find you sharing that promise. May this weekend find you doing the task that is yours to do and may you keep your eyes fixed firmly on the  bird.

“The main thing
is to keep the main thing
a main thing.”
Stephen R. Covey

If you chase two rabbits…
both will escape.
verybestquotes.com

Small Beginnings

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Last fall we planted a quaking aspen tree in the back yard. I wanted an aspen tree because I love the sound of those leaves dancing in the wind in the summertime. My nephew found a tree for me that was less than perfect so it was a bargain.

We did not care about perfection when it came to a tree as I think there is a lot of beauty in imperfect things. For me that tree was perfect!  When we planted the tree, we saw there were a lot of little shoots coming from the root ball. Lots of “baby” quaking aspens.

I carefully untangled a couple of those tiny trees from the main root ball and planted them also. I put flags by them so I would not lose them come this spring.

Once the snow had melted and the regular sized quaking aspen started budding out I carefully started to monitor those very tiny twigs. At first I was sure those sticks were dead and had not made it through the winter. (It was a good thing there were flags by them or I would never have found them back!)

Then came the day that they both had very small shoots coming out of them. I still wasn’t sure if these were actually the twigs I had planted….so I watched and waited some more.

Finally there were the tiniest little leaves and I made my husband come take a look. He assured me they were aspens….it was a good day!

Waiting for those little twigs to show signs of life took patience. They were not going to be hurried just to satisfy me and my curiosity. It was a good reminder that all things happen in their appointed time.

I wondered if that is how God feels about me. Does He keep peering at me and marvel that it takes me so long to show any growth? I have a feeling that His patience far exceeds mine when it comes to waiting for results.

It is perhaps a good reminder to show grace and patience to ourselves and to those around us. It is good to remember that we are not all at the same place in our growth and we are all growing at the rate He has planned for us.

We are not perfect but, like my tree, there can be a beauty in that imperfection. We just need the grace to realize we are not the same….and don’t need to be.

May your weekend be filled with grace. May you find contentment in the small things like leaves that rustle and dance in the breeze. And I hope we give ourselves time to bloom when we are supposed to.

 

“Patience
is the calm acceptance
that things can happen
in a different order
than the one you have in your mind.”
David G. Allen

 

 

Projects and Ponderings

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The “after” photo of the desk

The last weeks have seemed to be the time to catch up on projects that have been waiting a long time. I am wondering how many craft rooms are being slowly emptied of the stored up paper, fabric, paint etc.

I know that I am slowly….really slowly….getting a few of those things done. I have had a desk sitting in my back hallway for a long time. It came from my in-laws and was set in place with intentions to paint it. Somehow those intentions did not transform into doing…..until now.

The paint had been purchased months ago for this project and with the warmer weather I encouraged my husband to help me haul it into the garage so I could start working on it. I also discovered I had some TSP hanging out in my storage closet to use to dull the finish so I could paint without to much sanding.

This was not the first refinishing project I have ever done, but I did learn some new things along the way. I learned to read the paint can when it says “do not paint in the sun on a warm day”. The paint on my drawers is not as nice and smooth as I would have liked it to be…..next time I will read before painting!

As I worked on the desk I had time to think. Working on the desk took some time but I knew that the effort would be worth it. The prep work was not as fun as the painting and I think that might be true of a lot of things.

Prep work is rather tedious and dirty. Sanding is not my favorite thing but then again being “sanded” in life by my Maker is not my favorite thing either!  It is good to remind myself, when being “prepped and sanded”, that the end result will be worth it.

When I envisioned, as I sanded, what my desk would end up looking like It was good to remember that He has a picture in His mind of what He wants my life to look like!

I also wondered if the last few weeks have been some prepping and sanding for all of us? I kind of hope so….I hope that when this virus settles down we will come out better people than when it all started.

May you be blessed in this season of change.  May you have time to think some deep thoughts, be kind to those around you, share a smile with someone (even if it is from 6 ft. away). And may we all end up much better for having been “sanded”.

And once the storm is over,
you won’t remember how you made it through,
how you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure,
whether the storm is really over.
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm,
you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm’s all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions Without Answers

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Years ago, many years ago, we had a Bible teacher named Mr. Feenstra. He would ask us questions for which there were no answers. At the time we thought they were really dumb questions because there wasn’t an easy answer.

I am finding during these last weeks that there are a lot of questions without answers. I am also finding that the older I get…the more questions I seem to have. I find that my world gets grayer right along with my hair!

I have been reading a lot of posts on social media these last days. Probably because I seem to have time to do that. I also am curious what people are thinking and what my friends and family are doing.

Many of these posts raise more questions for me, about this time in our world. I read posts about how, staying home is what a “good Christian” would do. I read posts saying that saving a life is the top priority. I read posts about how people are suffering during this time and how they are overcoming.

Some of the questions I get to thinking about in the wee hours of the morning: Am I a better Christian staying home and staying safe and keeping others physically safe or am I a better Christian going to the home of a person who lives alone and desperately needs someone to physically give them a hug? Is the need for physical safety higher than the need for emotional and mental well-being?

I wonder if the need for physical safety trumps the need for spiritual well-being and worshipping with community. I wonder if physical safety is better than financial safety and at what point does financial insecurity become physically unsafe?

Where is the tipping point where self-isolation becomes harmful in more ways than physical? At what point do I sacrifice my well-being to tend the very real needs of someone who needs me to be physically there?

I read stories of those who are hurt by the lack of physical contact that comes with hugging someone you care about, but does not live in your home. They are hurt by the glares they receive if they come within 5 feet of someone in the grocery store instead of maintaining the standard 6 feet. Is one persons need of physical safety higher than another’s need of emotional, mental, financial and spiritual safety?

I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am struggling with them as I watch the farmers in our area grow more and more concerned about how they will make it. I watch small business people worry about the employees they had to lay off and furlough and wonder if they will have a business to go back to. I see teachers aching for their students.

I see pastors struggling with the fact they have to do their job long distance. I see stories of domestic abuse on the rise due to being stuck at home where it is not safe. There are stories of families going hungry because their parents do not work at an “essential business”. At what point do these issues become as important as staying healthy? At what point does staying isolated become selfish instead of selfless?

I wonder if following all the rules, while neglecting all my questions makes me a “good Christian” or a “good Pharisee”? Does posting judgmental comments on social media against those who are not reacting the same as me, make me socially responsible or a social bully? At what point am I just surviving instead of living? So many questions……very few answers.

I do know that history will judge us. It is always easier to judge after the fact. I wonder how we will look through the lens of time. Will we look like people who cowered in fear? Will we look like people who sacrificed for the needs of others? Will we look like people who were discerning and had wisdom? Will this just be a blip in the timeline of our world or will this so change our world that we no longer recognize it? Will we be judged on our lack of ability to listen, really listen to someone who had a different opinion than us?

What I DO know is this…now is the time to encourage and lift each other up. Now is not the time to beat each other over the head with our presumptions of how others should live or react. Now is the time to listen, to hear each other….to talk with each other and connect.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5a,b. I also know I must not fall into the trap of thinking that this verse is perfect for so and so because they are, or are not social distancing…..because that is not really love at all.

You may wonder why I posted a photo of rocks. For me rocks are solid. They are not easily chipped. They are not tossed about by random winds of change. They become smooth and shiny and beautiful with the pounding of storms. They stand firm.

Soooo…..a big thank you to Mr. Feenstra….the teacher who taught us to think beyond what we see. He taught us discernment and we never even realized that is what he was teaching. He taught us to plant our feet on solid ground…something that will never shift. He taught us that when firmly planted; we can truly listen, hear, see and be love to those around us. He taught us to be rocks…….and maybe that is our answer to all those questions…….

“Lord,
give me firmness without hardness,
steadfastness without dogmatism,
love without weakness.”

― Jim Elliot

 

The Waiting Time

 

To be honest….there isn’t much in my life that has changed too much with all the confusion in this world. As farmers we kind of roll with the seasons anyway; and this has always been a time of waiting.

We wait for the winter storms to be done. We wait for the earth to dry up enough to till the fields that have been resting since they were harvested last fall. We wait for the warmth of those Spring days…when the sun shines and warms the earth enough for the asparagus shoots to peek through the earth. We wait.

In a way it is a blessing for us that we are used to this waiting season. It makes the staying home a bit easier to do.( It does not make it any easier to think of the hugs I am missing from my kids and grandkids!)

My heart goes out to those whose waiting is very unusual….to those who are laid off or furloughed at this time. To those waiting for a loved one to get over the virus….to those who wonder if they have caught it. The anxiety of wondering how long this will last can be incredibly hard. The not knowing can be the worst.

This past week my sister did a video with Pastor John (the pastor of her church). He has been doing this with various members of his congregation to keep everyone in touch and to make sure they are all doing well.

After I watched this video I was extremely proud of my sister. She is a private person and this was a step of faith that she took, because she realized it might help others during this time. She gave me her permission to share the link for this video.

I hope it inspires you during this waiting time. I hope it eases your mind and calms your soul. I pray it makes you realize you are not alone in any of this. There are others waiting and wondering. There are others with fear.

I pray her testimony blesses you as much as it blessed me….and yes I may be biased (okay I AM biased). May this find you seeing the blessings in the small things like flowers, birds and a good jigsaw puzzle.

May this post find you looking for the good in this time of waiting and finding the treasure hidden in it…the treasure of time to be still. May you know the comfort that this season will pass and may you come to treasure this time of waiting.

The sun is always shining,
you just can’t always see it.
John S.
(my dad)

 

 

 

Easter Blessings

Easter Blessings to all of you!  During this time of staying put and not seeing to many people I have been blessed by a lot of talented people.

There have been the blessings of humor in the memes people have posted on various social media. These have totally brightened my days!

I have been blessed by pastors who share their Biblical wisdom on live streamed church services. I have been blessed by pictures of pastors who stood in the snowstorm this Easter Sunday (yes we are having a snowstorm!) and preached to a parking lot of people sitting in their cars.

I also relearned, from Pastor Brian, that “the empty tomb isn’t to just keep us from dying–it is to show us how to live.”  Abundant life in Christ, changes everything.

During these day I have also been blessed by a gal named Janene. She is a talented piano player and has been sharing those talents on Facebook. She takes requests for old hymns, new hymns and uplifting songs.

Today I wanted to share with you; her song for Easter Sunday…..Low In The Grave He Lay. I hope it blesses you as much as it has blessed me. (And I do hope the link works for you!)

Low in the grave He lay Jesus my Savior
Waiting the coming day Jesus my Lord
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose He arose
Hallelujah Christ arose
Vainly they watch His bed Jesus my Savior
Vainly they seal the dead Jesus my Lord
Death cannot keep his prey Jesus my Savior
He tore the bars away Jesus my Lord
Christ the Lord is risen today alleluia
Sons of men and angels say alleluia
Raise your joys and triumphs high alleluia
Sing ye heavens and earth reply alleluia
Lives again our glorious King alleluia
Where O death is now thy sting alleluia
Once he died our souls to save alleluia
Where’s thy victory boasting grave alleluia
Love’s redeeming work is done alleluia
Fought the fight the battle won alleluia
Death in vain forbids Him rise alleluia
Christ hath opened paradise alleluia
Soar we now where Christ has led alleluia
Following our exalted Head alleluia
Made like Him like Him we rise alleluia
Ours the cross the grave the skies alleluia

I have included the lyrics so you may also sing along!  Have a blessed Easter Sunday and live life fully.

He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

 

 

Good Friday 2020

Artwork by Joseph Kroese

 

Today is Good Friday. A key part of Holy Week for Christians around the world. This year hardly feels like a normal Holy Week probably because it is not normal. There is no Maundy Thursday service, no somber Good Friday service, no gathering on Easter Sunday to celebrate our risen Savior. No sharing of communion with a body of believers.

This doesn’t mean there is no Holy Week. It just means that it looks a bit different than we are used to. Services are watched online or on tv. Communion is taking place in our very own living rooms. And we will be celebrating that empty tomb on Easter Sunday!

I went back….waaaay back, to a post I had written in 2016. It still rings true today. I tried to reblog it to my blog  but my wordpress buttons don’t seem to be cooperating so I have copied and pasted instead.

REFLECTIONS ON GOOD FRIDAY

Even as a kid I wondered why they called this day Good Friday. In looking at the cross it never seemed like a good thing. Reflecting on good things makes me realize that many things in life do not, on the surface or while in the midst of them, seem like good things.

I am pretty sure everyone can look at their life and the hard, dark places that come with living and wonder where that good part is hiding. Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to find even a slight glimmer of the good. This is true, especially when you are in the middle of a hard place. There are some hard things that you may not see that shimmer of light for several years and some maybe never while on this earth. I am guessing that is where faith comes in and the hope of things unseen. (my slightly garbled version of Hebrews 11:1)

Do you ever wonder about Good Friday? Do you ever wonder if the disciples felt like their entire world was crashing down and dying on the cross with their Lord and friend? I wonder how they found the courage to take that next breath and wake up the next morning. Did they find themselves sighing deeply, hunching their shoulders to ward off the next psychological blow, swallowing back the tears and looking for anything to relieve the incredible pain? Did they spend those next three days asking “What if” or saying “If only”? Did they for an instant see the glimmer of the good that would come from this violent, brutal killing of the one they loved? Or was the darkness just to deep and the hurt so bottomless that there was no comfort and there were no words?

As a mom I cannot imagine how Mary survived those days. The memories of Jesus as an infant, the images in her mind of him taking his first steps, saying his first word. Did she remember if she was angry that he had stayed back in the temple, as a child, rather than leaving with his family on that trip home from Jerusalem? Did she ponder all these things and remember the words and promises that her son had told her? After having that horrible image of her son hanging on a cross stamped indelibly in her mind was there a small flicker of hope that he would rise from the dead or was it just to much to even think at all? There is no way I can begin to comprehend the despair that she, as a mom, felt at that point.

If you are going through a hard time that seems so dark that no light can penetrate; remember the promise of this day….this Good Friday. Yes, it is a good day. The promise of this day makes the living through the tough times less difficult. Not necessarily easier, just less difficult. This good day has brought grace. It has brought forgiveness. It has brought redemption. It has restored us to our place as God’s dearly loved children. That is a gift that is beyond imagining and I am ever so grateful. This day does not protect us from what life brings but it gives us hope for an amazing future. It is a promise.

So look for that glimmer of good, that glimmer of hope, that little sliver of light in the circumstance you are in. Hang on to the promise of this day. Hang on to the One who loved you enough to die for you and more than that, who was raised to life and is even now at the right hand of God and is interceding for us (Rom. 8:34)

May you be blessed wherever you are on this Good Friday and remember Sunday’s coming!!

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness
Jeremiah 31:3

The cross at the top of this post was drawn by my youngest son when he was in high school. I love the way how this drawing reminds me how much Jesus loves me and each of us. I love being reminded that I am free, really free because of what happened on that one day…..that Good Friday so long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures of Grace

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This is a weird time in our world’s history. People are social distancing,wearing gloves and masks to do their shopping and hunkering down for who knows how long. For some this is hard. For those who love being home….not so hard.

I am finding that amid all the “new normal” there are so many reasons to be grateful. There are so many pictures of grace. I am also finding that sometimes those pictures of grace don’t look quite what we are used to!20200327_1758171273395612.jpg

Today, after helping a brother in law who is home-bound, we stopped by our mailbox to pick up the mail. Stuffed in the mailbox was a bag that said the sender was “The Chicken Coop”. I was stumped as to who sent it and what it was. Before I had ever made it to the house I was guessing. (It felt a bit like Christmas!)

The artwork on the back side of the package had me grinning before I even opened it. When I opened it and discovered the t-shirt, pictured above, my grin became even wider.
I was still mystified by who could have sent it; till I opened the card included in the package.

What I read amazed me.  It was from a gal that I know (Glenda V.) who said she reads my Facebook posts and is blessed by them and the photos. What she doesn’t know, is how much she had just blessed me. I have the shirt hanging in my living room at this time and it does my heart good!

Yes, pictures of grace don’t always look like you think they would. Sometimes they look like a t-shirt with a chicken on them and truth written across it. Sometimes they look like my friend (Merilyce) who stopped by with an Easter bag “just because”. (She was also an answer to prayer as my sewing machine was not cooperating and she is a sewing wizard.)20200327_190745797105749.jpg

Yes….I am social distancing. But I am continuing to live life…just living it more carefully. I think the card that came with my shirt says it all….. “Be messy+complicated+afraid and then show up anyways.”

Let’s not just survive this time of uncertainty. Let’s live it to the full. Let’s live it fully…just differently than what we are used to. Let’s call people to make sure they are doing okay and to ease the loneliness of staying home. We can be apart and safe and yet stay close and grow those relationships.

Let’s send a card. (this card came from Rosie’s Boutique which is an amazing testimony on it’s own!) Let’s help when it’s messy+complicated+afraid…..let’s show up anyway….even if showing up is a phone call, text or message or snail mail. Let’s meet people where they are….even if where they are is messy and complicated.

May the weekend find you being blessed by those around you and may it also find you blessing someone else by showing grace…..however that grace might look.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace –
only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us.