(The fine print…)

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I harvested a basket of sunshine on this cloudy day.

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Rest on Every Side

Since we seem to be living in Old Testament times, I’ve decided to use my devotional time to see how the Israelites handled the many obstacles they faced. I read 2Chronicles 20 yesterday. It had such a profound effect on me, I had to read it again today.

At the time, Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah in Jerusalem. “A vast army” of the Moabites and Ammonites came to wage war on them. Knowing they were powerless to defeat the army, King Jehoshaphat stood before “the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord” and called out to God for guidance. What humility we see in the king here. He doesn’t stand before his people attempting to instill confidence in himself. He doesn’t make promises he knows he can’t keep. He calls out to his God for help.

God answers him through the words of the prophet, Jabaziel:

“…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. go out to face them tomorrow, and and tLord will be with you.” (v. 15-17)

Here we see God answering the king’s plea immediately. There is no delay. The men are most likely scared and feeling this impending war will be futile, but God tells them twice not to be afraid or discouraged. When God repeats Himself, He really wants us to get His point. Then he gives them marching orders. Despite the fact that they are afraid, he directs them to show up for the fight. “March down against them.” “Take up your positions.” They don’t have to fight, but they do have to show up for the battle.

Sometimes that’s the hardest part: showing up for the battle. I don’t really want to go to that doctor’s appointment. I might get scary news. I’m not sure I want to go back to work. What if I get sick? I don’t want to talk to my spouse/kid/friend about that thing that’s bugging me. What if it causes an argument? I’m not even sure I want to go to the grocery store right now. But what if we took these ancient words to heart as if they were God’s love letter to us?

“You will not have to fight this battle.”

Hmm. . .that changes things a little. All I have to do is show up? God will do the work? Wait. Let me look at that again. What’s my part?

“Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”

Stand firm. How do I stand firm? That verse harkens back to putting on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, beginning at verse 10. In that letter, Paul encourages us to suit up with spiritual armor, describing each piece and its function. And after we have done everything, to stand. Like a strong, brave, confident soldier, to stand firm. Just as God called the people of Judah and Jerusalem in the passage above. If they remained scared and discouraged, they could not stand firm. But God was with them. This passage also reminds me of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

God does indeed show up for King Jehoshaphat and his people. He not only sets up an ambush against the Ammonites and Moabites, but Judah’s enemies actually fight amongst themselves. The result? All of Judah and Jerusalem’s enemies were defeated. Can you imagine this scene and the awe and wonder instilled in the victorious people that day?

How does the story end?

“And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” (v. 30)

Ahh. Yes, Lord. I want rest. On every side. I’m taking a lesson from these brave folks today. These battles in front of me are not mine to fight.

God’s got me.

He’s got you, too.

Seek Him. Find peace.

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How Are You Doing?

August 1st marked the midpoint of the year.

I found myself reflecting back on my one-word goal for the year: FOCUS. January 1st, I vowed to focus on the things in my life that were most important to me. Here we are halfway through, how am I doing so far?

I think I’m on track.

The pandemic actually helped me sharpen my focus. Like a spiritual retreat, the time spent away from my typical routine provided space for me to reflect on my priorities. Where I was usually leaving the house early everyday, working, and then, most days, running to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and coming home to rush around accomplishing as much as possible before it was time to go to bed only to do it all over again the next, suddenly, during the lockdown, I had no place to go and a very different, slower routine.

I started paying more attention to my husband and my children, trying to support them in any way I could. I was more intentional about cleaning the house and more appreciative of my yard while working outdoors. Work around the house and the yard wasn’t really work at all. It was a joy.

If life could be that meaningful when I didn’t have the choice to leave home, could it still be that meaningful if I did have the choice? Similar to Anne Morrow Lindberg’s question in Gift of the Sea, will I be able to take the lessons I learned during this quarantine and continue to live into them once the quarantine is lifted? I hope so.

How about you? Did you choose a focus word for 2020? How are you doing?

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Bring a Bigger Basket

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”~Ephesians 3:20

I thought today’s daily bread from the garden would only be beans. This is what I harvested instead.

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? Exceeding our expectations at every turn.

But just as I had to bend and twist around the climbing vines with all their outstretched tendrils to gather the cucumbers, sometimes it takes a little effort on our part to scoop up the blessings God has in store for us each day. Especially when all we can see at first glance are the spiky rebuttals and buzzing cynics.

Look for the blessings today. I know I’ll be bringing out a bigger basket tomorrow.

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Taking Notice

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”~John Lennon

While weeding out a garden, I looked up to find these

wild geraniums going to seed and

the interesting arrow-like shape they made

as the pistils curled to release their seeds.

Glad I caught it.

It was too important to miss.

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We’re getting Weird. . .and it’s Ok

Cleaning out the pantry closet, I found the Whirly Pop. It’s in good condition. It still works. We just prefer to use the old fashioned method of making popcorn on the stovetop in a big stock pot. What to do with the popper now that it has been rendered useless to us and cannot return to the closet from whence it came? (It’s a rule I enforce.)

“Maybe we can sell it on FaceBook tag sale,” was my husband’s suggestion.

So he took a photo and listed it.

“How much should we ask?” His brow furrowed. We don’t do this much.

“Find out how much it’s going for and cut that in half,” was my suggestion. And considering this is Corona time, ya gotta be flexible even with that. I thought it, didn’t say it. We are all in this thing. If a person is online looking for a Whirly Pop to make a healthy snack and can’t swing for retail, not a big deal.

He listed it for $10.

He got a response. The woman wanted to know if the price was negotiable.

It reminded me of a classified ad we had seen years ago in a small town paper while on vacation in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont:

Used Dust Buster, $15. Needs work.

I’m sure the author of the ad did not know how frequently the words he penned would be quoted, but they’ve entertained us for years. Desperate times, desperate measures? it’s all a matter of perspective. Besides not making mountains out of mole hills, a sense of humor is paramount in life in general. Especially in times of crisis.

My response to my husband’s text? “Absolutely! Tell her $5 and you’ll throw in a piano and satellite dish!”

Our goal is not to make money on our old stuff. Our goal is to clean out our house. If we can bless someone else in the process, it’s a beautiful thing.

He sold the Whirly Pop for $6. I made him wash it before he drove the nine miles to meet the buyer.

Anyone looking for a sweet old baby grand? Price is right. . .

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The Gentle Gardener

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

~1 Samuel 16:7b

Every spring, I come out to trim the clematis.

Taking a quick, cursory glance and assuming it was completely dead, in years past, I                                                                        would cut it all down.

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Then one year, studying the vines more closely, I realized that what I thought were dead                                                         stems actually held new buds.

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If I was careful, I could trim off the dead parts and save the new ones, ensuring the plant would have a head start on the season.

This is slow, ginger work, however. The stems are very thin and fragile. They snap easily. Although they may have life in them, they require care. It takes time to sort what’s living from what is not. It is tedious work. But it is well worth it in the end.

~~~

We would do well to consider people with the eye of a gentle gardener. On the outside, they may appear frail and full of despair. But if we look upon these souls as the Lord would, we discover all is not lost. We find a glimmer of hope. With care, we can nurture that life and encourage it to grow. Even in unfortunate circumstances.

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The Work of our Hands

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”~Genesis 1:31

There is something deeply satisfying about making something with your hands.

Since we’ve been a little more intentional about rationing consumables, we’ve been utilizing cloth napkins. I’m pleased about this switch because not only are they gentler on the planet, they’re also softer on the skin and, if you pay attention, you’ll notice they are quieter. But we have five people living in the house and we only owned two cloth napkins. This was an issue I could easily remedy.

One of my projects last week was cleaning out the kitchen drawers. In so doing, I realized I had a surplus of dish towels. How does this happen? Do they multiply in the drawer? It’s more likely that over the 26 years my husband and I have been married, my dear mother-in-law has gifted me more pretty things than I can count. I am thankful, and today a couple of those gifts were repurposed. So I am doubly grateful.

I took two of those dish towels, which, truth be told, although they were attractive, did not do a very good job of wicking water off wet dishes. I cut the towels into quarters. Then I sewed the two sides I had cut so they wouldn’t fray. Of course, even this small sewing job required some ironing and holding my breath hoping the sewing machine would cooperate. (We have an understanding. If she’s in a bad mood and decides to bunch up the thread underfoot or break a needle, I put her in time out and don’t ask her to help me with anything else. Sometimes our separation lasts for months.) Today was a good day with the machine.

I completed the task at hand, and was quite happy about it. In fact, when it was all done, I stood back with arms akimbo and declared, “It is good.” It felt so good to do something creative and constructive with my hands. Now, I realize these are only cloth napkins and not guinea pigs or rain forests I created, but I believe that even when we put our hands to simple tasks to make improvements on the world–no matter how small we might think they are–we tap into the creative character of God.

There is a creative pulse that runs through us. Whether we are painting or sewing; cooking or cabinet-making; team-building or creating lesson plans (That computer monitor in the background? That’s my teacher-husband’s makeshift classroom), we all have it in us to create. Whether we realize it or not. Some of us design gardens. Some arrange words on a page (See that notebook in the back? It wasn’t there when I set out to sew those napkins, but after the first few stitches, this essay idea trickled into my brain.)

My happiest moments are those that I pay attention to that inner creator and see where it leads me. It could be a making a new recipe for dinner, braiding my daughter’s hair, or just composing a day that looks a slightly different from the one before. It keeps things interesting. In a time like this when we may be getting cabin fever–especially if it’s a cold and rainy April day–it’s a welcome change.

I also find that when I’m creative, it helps me know God a little better, too. And, to me, that’s always a good thing.

Have fun!

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