Yes, the Garden

Okay, yes, this post is about my garden. I assured my friend that I wouldn’t write any silly garden posts (this being my own self-imposed standard, not hers). Well, I should have known that my garden would make an appearance at some point. She (my friend, not my garden – haha) probably knew it would too. If I’m going to have a Favorite Little Things category, I just cannot ignore the miracle that exists right in my back yard. When I use the term miracle, I mean it! The fact that so much increase can come from a tiny little seed covered up in the dirt; add water and sunshine and healthy, sustaining food is born! Miraculous!

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For the last couple of summers it has seemed like my gardens have had a mind of their own, making little sense of all the little tricks I’ve learned by trial and error throughout the years. Finely ground eggshells that kept the bugs at bay last year seemed to bore the bugs this year. Tomato blossoms that typically promise a harvest of fruity deliciousness, this year selected their favored two out of three plants to produce, with no rhyme or reason as to why no fruit on the third (I’m sure there’s a reason, but I don’t know what it is). And the burlap that I would have written a book on last summer, claiming its magical garden powers, seems to look me in the eye this summer and giggle, yielding little of the same benefits.

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In spite of the unpredictable (and moody) personality of my gardens, there is always something redeeming about them. There will always be produce and beauty of some sort. Bringing in a harvest of any kind never ceases to thrill me. Gathering vegetables and taking them to the kitchen to wash and put up has a nostalgic feeling for me. Each vegetable has its own yummy recipe that inspires and nourishes. Seriously, is there anything more delicious and impossible to substitute than a bounty of fresh, vine-ripened, home-grown tomatoes? Sauces, salads, soups, pizza, sandwiches, tacos all taste their best with home-grown tomatoes. But I think I like them best just sliced with a little salt.

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Artichokes remind me a little of butterflies. Their transformation is nearly as drastic and surprisingly stunning. Like the butterfly, the artichoke starts out looking less than show-stopping. It has a prickly exterior and is a one-dimensional shade of green. Deep down in the center is the artichoke’s heart underneath the choke and surrounding petals. This center continues to grow after the artichoke has passed its prime, giving way to another one of its purposes; providing beauty. Soon the center grows out and surpasses the sharp tips of the leaves and bursts into the truest shade of purple that saturates the ever so soft-to-the-touch blossom. Right when it looks like it’s about to die, it becomes a vibrant sight to behold. I look forward to watching this unfold each year. One of my favorite garden perks!

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You Restore What Cannot Be Restored

How many times have we been certain of something being beyond repair; a totaled car, a dilapidated old shack, a favorite pair of old boots?  Usually, it is fairly obvious when we need to give up on that lost cause and move on.  It’s a different story, though, when we are talking about people, relationships, illness, broken hearts, wandering souls.  Maybe we have been in desperate situations or someone we love is in trouble somehow and we’ve thought things like:  How can this ever be fixed?   This dream that was once so full of promise is now dead.  There are no do-overs.

Several years ago I was sitting in my bedroom contemplating the burden I carried for a loved one and feeling overwhelmed that I could find no way to imagine a mended outcome for their situation.  I clearly heard the Lord speak to my heart that evening that He restores what cannot be restored.  I understood that God was meeting me in my anguish to show me that there was hope even in this impossible situation.  I picked up my guitar and started singing, “You restore what cannot be restored.”  I sang it over and over again, crying tears of worship in the presence of a God who can do anything.

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Sometimes we may look around and perceive all the beauty that once held promise, appear to merely be contained in a distant memory.  All we can see are the broken places that need healing and restoration.  I wrote this prayer some time ago when it seemed there were just too many battles to face.  I believe that God hears and that prayer is powerful.  Many times it is easier for me to have a prayer written down and to pray it out loud.  As I pray I can feel my heart gain courage and assurance, leaving my burdens in His care.  He is bigger than anything that scares us or threatens to destroy us or our loved ones.  He sees and knows all and He is Lord over everything.

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Prayer

O God, who raised Jesus from the dead, would you breathe life into our family?  Will You turn the ashes of brokenness into beauty?  Will You restore eternal things; dreams, hearts, futures, unto You?  Will You in all Your glory and mercy remind us once again who You are, and may not a single one of us miss it or choose another.  Let apathy be a place that none of us is willing to inhabit.  May we care about what You care about.  Will You remove the stronghold of fear from every one of our hearts?  May we not be bound by the past or by unbelief.  Will You set our hearts free to live in You and for You?  Lord, bind the enemy’s plans and expose his lies.  May we be free and joyful and passionate in You.  May ours be a family marked by Your love and the life You gave for us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…  Ephesians 2:4, 5

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You restore what cannot be restored

You restore what cannot be restored

You spoke to me and You said to my heart that

You restore what cannot be restored

 

I Needed That

My friends and I have discussed the valid need and desire to have women who are older than us pour their wisdom into our lives.  Maybe you’ve had someone or several in your life that have given you that extra breath when you were breathless or dose of coveted wisdom when confounded; words of lifting affirmation when you just couldn’t seem to take flight.  We recognize what a beautiful thing it is to receive from someone who has walked through our current stages of life and to glean from their perspectives.  I don’t believe this concept it is as valued in our day and age as it should be.

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My mom is beloved by many of all ages.  She has a way with people like few have.  She loves to hear their stories and isn’t afraid to face their wounds or brokenness; but longs to comfort them.  She doesn’t hesitate, worrying whether or not she has anything to offer.  She sees them and their pain and that is enough for her to take action.  I will say that for her, this is an area of natural gifting that God has continually used in her life.  Her empathy and compassion have earned her a special place in many hearts that will last into eternity.

My beautiful aunt has offered life-giving words to me during a couple of times of intense difficulty in my life; leaving a lasting impression on my heart.  Her insight and experience have helped to shape my beliefs when I felt lost; pointing me to what is true.  She has spoken to me words that have boosted me up to see from a hopeful perspective, tangibly reminding me of God’s love.

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So many people can name their favorite teacher or coach from when they were growing up.  Others will remember a pastor, pastor’s wife, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents.  The direct honesty and guidance that comes from these cherished ones can powerfully shape our lives.  These are the people who encourage us and challenge us to go further.  They recognize in us our gifts and our potential and help us to see how to dream for the future.  When we fall they are there to help us back up.

When my youngest son was a newborn I was just beginning to learn to play piano.  I had grown up singing special music in church, but my dream was to play piano and sing.  My childhood pastor’s wife had often encouraged me in my singing and ministries.  She gave me the piano I learned to play on and still play today.  It had been her piano for years and held special meaning in her life.  Her gift to me touched my heart deeply.  She must have seen that I would grow in that pursuit and she surely had a hand in it.  In fact, my middle son plays it beautifully as well.  Her gifts are still bearing fruit in our lives.

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I want to be an encourager to younger women who are navigating paths I’ve already walked.  I am NOT naturally gifted in reaching out, as my mom is.  I have often let fear and insecurity hold me back.  I also forget to be in that mindset and need to be reminded to look and listen for God’s direction and heart for those who need encouragement.  Whether it’s offering advice, speaking words of affirmation, recognizing and encouraging others to use their gifts and talents, or just offering a listening ear and being there,  let’s ask the Lord to lead us to someone who He wants to love through us.  Praying for them and with them WILL help and encourage them even if there’s nothing else we can do.  God hears and God answers.  There are some who will probably never ask for help or encouragement, but may we be willing to risk the unknowns and reach out to them, leaving the outcome to God.

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But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it.  And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  Exodus 17:12

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  Hebrews 10:24, 25

Thrift Stores, Dryers, and Swamp Coolers (Favorite Little Things)

Just for fun I am adding a category labeled Favorite Little Things where I will share some little thing(s) that just make me feel happy and thankful. We all have those little favorite items or everyday events that light up our days a bit.
We have a swamp cooler that keeps our house cool throughout the summer months. Yes, I am VERY thankful for that, but the location of the cooler is what makes this cool (no pun intended – ha ha) thing happen. Outside, right next to the window where our cooler sits throughout the summer months is our dryer vent. Every time I dry a load of laundry the fresh, cozy, clean smell of the clothes gets sucked right back the house through the blowing air from the cooler. No air freshener or scented candle needed! It’s a small thing, I know, but I love it!

IMG_3243I’ll share one more for today (not easy to cut it down to two things, but there will be plenty more in other posts, I’m sure). Years ago I started making hot apple cider for the fall and winter months. I make a special recipe that quickly became a favorite amongst friends and family and frequently requested. I had one of those big coffee makers that people use at potlucks and for large crowds. For the past 4 or 5 years I haven’t had one to make the cider in, instead making it on the stove top in a big pot. Whenever I need to take it somewhere I carefully pour the piping hot liquid into multiple thermoses. Yes, I could have bought a brand new one, but I never did. I prefer a unique find that is also a great deal. Well, look what I found at a garage sale with my sister two Saturdays ago!

DSCN5083 I paid $3.00 for it! As soon as I got home I cleaned it out and ran it through a water cycle. It works like it’s brand new and I am in love with the retro look. Fall is right around the corner and this gem will get more than its share of warm and cozy use!
Oh, (and I know this is technically three things, but since I got them at the same garage sale I think it’s allowed to sneak these into this post) and these amazing Jadeite plates, too!

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Feel free to share in the comments those things that you notice and love!

Stay, My Heart

There’s an old song that I used to love to hear and sing when I was a little girl.  “I woke up this mornin’ with my mind stayed on Jesus, hallelujah, hallelujah!”  Have you ever had this happen to you?  Where you wake up and feel His presence and everything else takes second place to the thought of Jesus?  A day that is promising new things from Him as you walk hand in hand with the Lover of your soul?  As I write this I can feel emotions welling up within my heart because there have been times that I have experienced this in my life.  I have known those times where fear isn’t front and center and I am full of hope and joy.

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Lately my fear-prone heart has been burdening me as I wake up in the mornings.  Although those sweet times of intimacy with God that I mentioned have never been an everyday experience for me, for the most part mornings have always been characterized as hopeful and new; without yesterday’s concerns showing up for coffee and devotions.  I miss the promise that mornings have held.  Even with worries and cares and stressful situations that ebb and flow throughout life, my mornings have largely been occupied with peace.  Why this heaviness, Lord?

God, where has my joy gone?  In His attentive provision He reminded me of the chapter in the Bible about abiding in Him.  As I turned to that passage in John 15, I was moved with the specific wording of three of the verses that I had not exactly recalled.  Jesus said, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  God led me to these verses and they specifically address joy!  He wants us to have joy and has prepared the way for it.  Obedience is a provision, a shelter for our hearts and minds and lives.

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There may be times when we just cannot get out of the shadows of darkness.  I have been there, and tried to understand why.  Sometimes the answers to our questions remain unknown to us for a while.  I’m trying to obey and seek Him, why can’t I find joy?  Maybe this is where we learn trust, to be okay with not understanding; believing that God is good and that He loves us with an everlasting love.  Contrary to how it may seem, He is at work in our lives and has never left us or forsaken us.

Unrest in our hearts often brings to the surface something that needs attention.  Without it we would never stop and push aside our distractions to see that something is wrong.  Comfort and uninterrupted routine can have us operating on auto, not realizing the changes that we desperately need in order to be healthy and, in some cases, save our lives.  God is merciful.  He is so faithful to care for His children and He will tend to all that we cannot fix or heal on our own.

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I told my youngest son when he was around nine years old that trusting God when you can’t see any light will build your faith muscles.  God will lead us to what will make us whole.  Only He knows all and sees every broken part of us, things we may not even realize need healing.  Jesus tells us to abide in His love, to keep His commandments that our joy may be full.  He is the source of our joy.  D. Miall Edwards wrote, “Christian joy is no mere gaiety that knows no gloom, but is the result of the triumph of faith over adverse and trying circumstances, which, instead of hindering, actually enhance it.”

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Lord, may we not let fear or confusion or pain separate our hearts from Yours.  May we trust in Your Word even when we cannot make sense of things.  May we not ever hold out to see the answers before we believe.  Help us in this, Lord.  This is so hard to do.  May we wake up with our minds stayed on You as we trust You to finish the work You’ve started in us.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.  Isaiah 26:3

 

Stay, My Heart

Stay, My Heart
Please, heart don’t leave, don’t wander away
You don’t even notice that you’ve already strayed

Stay, my heart
Stay by His heart
Bind yourself to Jesus

Give Him everything and worship at His feet
Just let go of all your fear

Stay, my heart
Stay by His heart
Bind yourself to Jesus

You are more than flesh and bone
This crazy world was never meant to be your home
Let His heart be your home

Stay, my heart
Stay by His heart
Bind yourself to Jesus
Bind yourself to Jesus

Please, heart don’t leave, don’t wander away

One Touch

A few years ago I realized how much of my life I had spent striving to do everything right, to impress with my image; truly believing that a good witness for Christ could not have glacier-sized weaknesses.  I was so tired.  My failures brought weariness to my soul, burying me in self-loathing and condemnation.  I relied only on what I could see in front of me.  My faults were haunting me and keeping me absorbed with myself.  The Lord spoke to me to stop trying to work in His name without Him.

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So many times we as Christians can get caught up in doing good works and we might be tempted to wear our efforts as a sort of badge of righteousness.  God has given us clear instructions in His word as to how to we are to live our lives, and we must walk in obedience.  But any good that flows from our lives needs to be a work of the Spirit of God in us.  We cannot expect to ever impress God with our own righteousness.  Jesus is our righteousness.  We are made righteous by His dying on the cross and paying the penalty for all our sin.  There is no other way to be clean and free from the stain of our sin.  No amount or quality of our good works will ever make us righteous.  If we continuously try to earn His love and favor then we are not really trusting in the cross of Christ.  He gave His life for me and I owe my life to Him.  Our goal in doing good should be to glorify Him, to love Him with obedience, all the while knowing we are only saved by the grace of God.  I love Him because He loved me first.  The score will never be even between what we have to offer and the righteousness that Jesus’ freely provided for us in His death on the cross.

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For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Being justified freely by His grace
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood,
Through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness,
Because in His forbearance
God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
To demonstrate at the present time His righteousness,
That He might be just and the justifier of the one
Who has faith in Jesus.
Where is boasting then?
It is excluded.
By what law? Of works?
No, but by the law of faith.

Romans 3:23-27

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It is common for those who haven’t yet made a decision to follow Jesus to possess the notion that they need to get their lives together before they can receive Christ.  Maybe they are watching some of us while we impress with our works, sometimes making it seem like that is where our salvation resides.  Maybe it’s so extravagant a gift, it is difficult to believe that such a gift could be free.  The Bible teaches us that no one can ever be good enough to earn their way to God.  I pray that we Christians will send a message to the world that we are being held together only by the loving grace and mercy of God.  What if the world saw our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and we took pride only in what Jesus has done for us.  What if the cross of Christ was what we were the most proud of, showing Him to the world and not our own accomplishments; proclaiming His love and forgiveness and restoration and healing and salvation.  I am a  sinner who has been redeemed, rescued, and changed by the grace and love and forgiveness of the One True God through Jesus’ death and resurrection, saved for all eternity – may that be my witness.

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One Touch From You And I’m Restored

Ashamed of all I’ve done in vain
Underneath my Jesus’ name
Weary, Lord, I come to You
Use me now only for You

I’ve tried and tried to do what’s right
I toil and strive in my own might
Here’s my will take it and lead
And in Your power I’m finally free

But by my Spirit says the Lord
Can miracles and wonders be
One touch from You and I’m restored
The lame man walks, the blind man sees

I need Your touch, Your healing hand
My pride, my way is sinking sand
Jesus I need more of You
My life for Yours I’m made brand new

But by my Spirit says the Lord
Can miracles and wonders be
One touch from You and I’m restored
The lame man walks, the blind man sees

I surrender once again
To Your sovereignty, Your hand
Your yoke is easy, Your burden light
Under Your wing will I reside

But by my Spirit says the Lord
Can miracles and wonders be
One touch from You and I’m restored
The lame man walks, the blind man sees