A Parable of the Peony

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)

If this German born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the world’s most famous equation of E=mccan understand everything better by looking at nature, then this simple girl can surely learn from her as well, right? 

There is Someone else who used nature to help us understand everything better using stories. 

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Jesus told many parables, short allegorical stories designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson and often used simple things like sowing seeds, sheep herding, coins, fish, harvesting as subjects to some of life’s greatest instructions. 

Consider the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. His stories could be taken at surface level, I mean… 

What farmer doesn’t know the soil you plant your seed in matters? You could walk away with a simple garden lesson and go plant some literal seeds, hoping for a better harvest because of the agricultural lessons you learned: Stay away from rocky pathways, keep the weeds to a minimum, amend the soil for the best harvest. We’re gonna eat like kings and queens come harvest time, baby!! Thanks Jesus! 

Then there are those who wondered…is He talking about actual seeds and soil or is there a deeper meaning here? Who is the sower? Does that even matter? Do the rocks mean something? And what about those pesky weeds?  They walked away pondering profound truths that would give them a lifetime of learning.  

He still uses nature to teach, as long as we have ears to hear and eyes to notice. Because beyond the surface of the simple is a sacred something to see. 

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Enter the peony. Their spring season is short so every day I walk out to check their progress. They go from this: 

To this: 

In a matter of only a couple of days.

Small buds that bust a move with blooms as big as my entire hand. Gorgeous colors. Petals so soft you can barely feel them. Each one intricate, unique. Layer upon layer of lovely. 

As my daughter and I were inspecting the peony progress I said to her, it’s hard to believe that just a couple days ago this tightly wound bud went from this (pointing to a bud), to this (pointing to one half open), to this gorgeousness! (pointing to full bloom) Who would’ve thought there was so much beauty inside such a small bud?  

With arms loaded, we brought some of them inside to enjoy. Later that night that still small voice whispered, there’s also beauty in you that’s dying to bloom big blooms. You have no idea the possibilities that are waiting to bust out. What keeps you from doing so?  

Yeah. What does?

I came up with some possibilities. Maybe you can relate?

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I’m going to start out here with the FACT that we all, Every. Single. One. Of. Us have God given gifts and talents. Don’t say you don’t, or we will have to have a group intervention for your clarification! Nobody wants that. Just ask my kids. 

So, what keeps us from bringing out the beauty and blooming big? 

We Compare. 

It’s the thief of joy, according to President Theodore Roosevelt. And this quote from Brene’ Brown: The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity, it’s be just like everyone else, but better. – from The Gifts of Imperfections 

What would happen if we stopped trying to be just like everyone else and started bringing our own uniqueness to the table? Can you imagine the beauty that bouquet would bring? 

You are wanted. You. Not you being like your best friend. You. 

We Downplay. 

How many times have I started the answer to the question: What do you do? with, Oh, I’m just a… or I’m only a…

It didn’t matter if I was talking about being a stay-at-home Mom or when I was working a job for a paycheck. It didn’t matter if I got paid to write an article or was simply writing to share on my blog with you, I downplay myself. I’m just a writer…not like an important writer…not famous or anything…just, you know, someone who likes to write…sometimes…

Do you do that too? Can I hear you saying, YES! OH MY GOSH! YES!!

Why? Just why, do we do this to ourselves? 

We have to stop the insanity and be proud of the gifts and talents we have and the jobs we do! We need to encourage each other to bring the full bloomed flower to the group! Can you imagine how different our culture would be, our homes would be, our workplaces would be, our churches would be, if we stopped devaluing and underestimating the importance of our God given gifts and talents? 

You are needed. You. Not the just a… or only a… But-full-booming-bloom-here’s-what-I-bring-to-the-table-in-all-your-lovely-YOU.

The Dreadful Iffy’s.

Oh, how these can dance in my head! Maybe you’ve had this same conversation with the what if’s as well. I’ll throw out a handful with the antithetical answer in the parenthesis: 

What if I can’t? (But what if you can?)

What if I fail? (But what if you succeed?)

What if they don’t like me? (But what if they do?)

What if I’m too much/not enough? (But what if you’re just right?)

What if it’s not worth the risk? (But what if it is?) 

What if I fall? (But what if you fly?) 

Anybody else have this conversation in their own head? Dreadful iffy’s be damned! Let’s, each one of us, live in the Oh but what if and not be afraid try. Let’s be courageous enough to take hold of our thoughts, be the boss of our internal voice and walk into our calling. 

You are brave. You. Even with knees knocking. You. 

We’re Blind to Ourselves

What you see as ordinary, I may see as extraordinary. What you consider to be just who I am, may be the exact thing that is much needed at your job, in your home, your church, your ministry. We don’t often see ourselves as others see us. As activist and educator, Marion Wright Edelman said, you can’t be what you can’t see. 

Often, when I’m leading a Bible study, we’ll have opportunities to point out a quality or gift or something one likes about another and it is such a JOY to watch as the one who is getting the compliment actually receives it as such! We have no idea how our “normal selves” can be used for God’s glory.  

We need to compliment and encourage each other so we CAN see what we CAN be! 

We were having an after-dinner conversation a couple weeks ago about “inspired versus inspirational.” Are we one or the other? Should we be both? I made the comment about how we should be inspired by others so we can in turn be inspirational. To which my man asked if I thought I was inspirational. To which I replied, no not really. I’m just a stay-at-home Mom. (Take my own advice much?!) 

My teenage son was surprised. Are you serious?  Then proceeded to list every reason why I inspired him and others. I had no idea he noticed such things. Who was truly surprised then? 

If we were having coffee, I would sit across from you and make a list of the blooming qualities that you can’t see. Those gifts and talents that you downplay would become the aroma others enjoy long after you’ve left the shop. 

You matter. You. You have something to give. You. 

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I may not have a Nobel prize for my contribution to quantum physics like Albert but we do have something in common, we both love to look at nature for a deeper understanding. 

The parable of the peonies sure made me think beyond how gorgeous they are. Maybe the story helped you too? Don’t be afraid to bloom to full capacity. This world needs the beauty and fragrance of YOU! 

kw

Normal is a Setting on My Dryer

Normal: There’s no such thing, dear. Says Helen Hunts movie Mom in one of our favorites, As Good As It Gets.

My “normal” as a young one was spent being raised by my grandparents, which, as I found out once I started school was not normal at all back then. So, my normal wasn’t really normal at all. (Depending on who you ask, of course.) 

My “normal” routine years ago when I had three kids in three different schools playing three different sports, one in a stroller and one in the oven looks waaaaay different than my routine does today. We are down to that one in the oven being almost done proving and baking, ready for college and a career. 

My “normal” now affords me more time to read, garden, golf, spend time with girlfriends, volunteer, write etc.  There are days when I grieve the old days of chaos and running around, pick-ups and drop-offs, potty training, sports watching, the please can I spend the night days. Most days, however, I love my quieter, new normal. 

Then life happens and here you are looking down the mouth of a new normal…like it or not. 

Here’s where I get in trouble: when I hold to tightly to normal. Normal is a shifting sand, subject to change at any given moment. Life is normal. Until it’s not.

Think about it….

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Moses was leading a chill life, hanging out in the pasture with a few of his best sheep friends when God called him to go free his people whose “normal” had gone from…

  • A group of people living prosperous and free in Egypt because of Joseph’s leadership and relationship with the Pharaoh. Being in a foreign land had become very normal for them. Business as usual, blending in, bustling about with the day to days. 

Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died…and a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6,8 NIV) 

Their normal was about to be turned upside down. This king didn’t like the people of Israel and in fact thought they would take over his kingdom if something wasn’t done about them. So, their new normal went from prosperous and free to…

  • A group of people living in bondage with slave masters oppressing them with forced labor. They were used and abused ruthlessly making bricks from straw and working in the fields. So wicked was this king that he had every boy born during this time killed so as to cut down the future population that threatened him…if only in his own mind. 

This was this generations normal. They knew of no other way of life. So much so that when Moses left the pastures to save his people, they fussed in their new found freedom and wanted to go back to the way things had once been. Back to bondage. Back to the familiar. This new, unknown normal felt very abnormal and was a scary place. 

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Jesus standing in the temple courts watching as men sold cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14 NIV)

This was a new(er) normal for them. This selling of sacrifices at the temple. It hadn’t always been this way but no one thought anything about it. It just sort of slipped right in. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover so the town had all manner of people, visitors from out of town, shops and restaurant owners open for business, trying to make a living so maybe it made sense to offer these wearied travelers the ease of buying their sacrifices at the temple gate instead of searching for themselves….the way it used to be…the “old normal.” But…

What started out as a ministry of convenience quickly became an established, lucrative business for the priests. (Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the NT p. 234)

Until Jesus uprooted their normal by turning over some tables and using his whip like a radical Indiana Jones. The business was shattered, people, sheep and coins scattered, doves flew and no one knew…what would happen to their normal? 

And I wonder…

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What if we are living in a modern-day table turning? Sometimes it takes normal being turned upside down for us to realize today’s normal wasn’t normal yesterday but has somehow slipped in unnoticed.

What if we were living as people in bondage to things that we had no clue we were so attached to until it was taken away or at the very least changed dramatically?

What if in our quest for getting back to “normal” we completely miss the lesson? 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to hug my people and not just look at them through the lens of a Zoom call. I miss connecting with real people, doing real things. I want people to see my teeth when I smile not the flowers on my mask or me trying to “smile” with my eyes. I miss walking down the aisle of a store and not feeling like I need to shout “unclean”, so people clear out of the way or worse yet, people avoid the aisle altogether because they see me coming. 

But…

What if we so long for normal that our contentment, joy, peace and comfort depend on the shifting sand of normal instead of our Rock and place of Refuge, the One who is the Giver of all things good? 

What if this is a time to wake up, look up and evaluate our “normal” time, schedules, routines, budgets, brand preference, wastefulness, dinners together, quiet times, conversations, kindness, busyness, game nights, mindfulness…the list could go on and on couldn’t it? 

What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly. Be careful chasing after “normal” or you’ll find yourself in the world’s web. 

kw 

In the Footsteps of a Queen

Yep. That’s me. In the middle. That blond-haired bouffant won me the spot of Little Miss Pumpkin Show, circa 1971. Granny made my dress, a navy blue, crushed velvet, floor length beauty with a rick rack trim of daisies wrapped around an empire waist that tied in the back with a bow whose tail length also flowed to the floor. Black patent leathers on my feet and white gloves donned my hands as my six-year-old self perfected the parade wave. 

Our weekends were booked solid for a year. We rode on a float in parade after parade, small town after small town, daytime, nighttime, anytime. Sometimes it was hot as blue blazes and other times we had blankets that blended in with our dresses. We smiled and waved no matter the circumstance. Frozen toes, no one would know with a smile and wave. The drip, drip, dripping of sweat down your back, would be a fact but no would know with a smile and wave. 

We were queens after all! Chosen from a sea of contestants. Handpicked by judges who scrutinized our looks, watched our actions and reactions and cast their votes on who would best represent the great Circleville Pumpkin Show. It was an honor to be chosen. There were duties to done. 

As a young Little Miss, I had no idea what all the committee had to figure out. There was float designing and making as well as figuring out who would pull it. Which parades would we participate in? What time did we have to be there? Where were we in the line-up? And then there’s the waiting. We would show up hours before, find the float, sit on said float while it was in line then ride through a 2-3-hour parade. Smile and wave. 

I do remember falling asleep in the backseat on the car ride home more often than not. I’m quite sure my crown was crooked by the time I was carried to bed. It was exhausting. 

But this Little Miss had a lot to learn about endurance and sacrifice.

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There’s another queen from long, long ago who also won a beauty show. Little did she know, she was chosen for such a time as this…

Maybe you’re familiar with the story of an orphaned Jewish girl by the name of Esther. She was handpicked long before me, not by a judge but by a king to become his queen; the Queen of Persia. 

During her reign there developed a strain between her Uncle Mordecai and a man called Haman, right hand to the king, enemy of Mordecai and hater of all Jewish people to whom Mordecai and Esther belonged. With his voice whispering in the king’s ear, Haman thought he had developed a shrewd, sure fire way to annihilate the people he grew up to hate. 

It was a bit of a sticky situation as Esther’s uncle begged her to use her position of power as queen to help her people. Esther, knowing the king had not a clue that she was Jewish, was rightfully afraid of what the king would say. Afterall, she’d not been summoned by him for quite some time. Would he side with his right-hand man or lean towards listening to his teenage beauty queen? 

Spoiler alert! Haman’s evil intentions to annihilate the Jewish people was found out because of a plan put together by the queen. Haman angered the king so much that he was hanged on the gallows he had built for his nemesis Mordecai. Speaking of Mordecai, struggling with insomnia the king ordered the book of chronicles (yawn…that should help!) where he discovered that Mordecai had thwarted an assassination attempt on his life and was never rewarded for it, so the king has him paraded on horseback by none other than hateful Haman (prior to the hanging, of course) who also had to proclaim, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” (Esther 6:11NIV

What a turn of events! 

But how does she do it? 

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This is me as the Junior Miss Soybean Queen. (Before jealousy rears its ugly head in you, I rode in parades like the Bologna Festival. Cue: My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R. My bologna has a second name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R. Oh, I love to eat it every day and if you ask me why I’ll say…I’ll let those of you who know it, finish this little ditty. For those of you who have no clue, here is the commercial link. And yes, dear readers, this was another dress my Granny made for the Prairie Days parade. Put your jelly away. All is well.)

This Junior Miss and Esther are around the same age that she became the Queen of Persia. While I was worried about periods and pimples, she was perplexed about how to save her people…and prevail. Can you imagine relying on a junior-high kid (zits and all) to save you and your people? 

What can this little miss queen of pumpkins and junior miss queen of soybeans learn from a long-ago teenage queen of Persia? 

Plenty!  

And it’s just not for queens! This lesson plan is for any of us facing the unknown, unsure what to do or how to make the next move. For those who are staring straight into the eyes of doubt about who you are and why you’re here. It’s for those of us who know we should/could do something but have no idea what that truly looks like. We have the means, but we wonder, do we have the moxie? Anybody relate? 

Here’s what this teen queen did: 

1. Prayed. After her uncle Mordecai sent a note saying, do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this. (Esther 4:13-14 NIV) Esther sent word back asking if Mordecai would join her in fasting and prayer. 

She prayed about what purpose her position privied her to so she could plan what to do. When you don’t know what to do, what’s expected of you or what your part in the purpose is, start with prayer.

2. Petitioned. Esther used her position to petition the king about her plan to carry out her purpose in saving her people. This took some hootzpah on her part. It was against the law to simply pop in and have a little chat with the king, husband or not. She hadn’t been summoned by him so in going to him without an invitation there was danger. It could mean she was thrown in jail or even killed. It was a risk she was willing to take as she told her uncle, if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16 NIV) 

We, too, can use our position to petition the King. Fear need not play a part in our path to the power we have available to us. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers when he says, so let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) No fear. Your Father is near!  

3. Persevered. Esther patiently let the petitioned plan play out. She didn’t jump ahead but instead planned out not one but two dinner parties with her man the king and Haman the hater. Her timing was spot on. Her follow through of what she needed to do was perfection. Her perseverance paid off. Haman hanged himself by harassing the queen and thus was hanged from the gallows he built for Mordecai. Had she spoken up too soon, the king may not have believed her. Had she not spoken up at all, she and her people would have perished. 

It’s so easy to get ahead of the plan, to trust your own way instead of the Father’s whom you petitioned for the plan in the first place. 

I’ve moved on. I’m no longer the Little Miss Pumpkin Show or Junior Miss Soybean Queen. I’ve traded my crowns for carpools, floats for a toilet brush, prairie day parades for aprons with stains. I have a big family that is loud with laughter and love. We’ve had our share of problems both big and small, sadness and sorrows, unspeakable joy and heartbreak. Some days I wonder and doubt. Some days I think I have it figured out. In the midst of it all, this Queen of Everything knows Queen Esther’s formula still works: Pray, Petition, Persevere with patience. Then through it all smile and wave knowing you were chosen for such a time as this!  

kw

When Something Rotten Becomes Something Good

You can tell a good recipe by the stains its card bears. Whenever I pull mine out for banana bread, I have to laugh because it is covered with…I’m not even sure what anymore…age perhaps? 

I noticed the bananas getting past their prime eating time a couple days ago and told my man that I didn’t want them to go to waste, especially when the grocery store shelves are emptying out faster than the stockers can fill them back up. Besides that, you all have read about how frugal my Granny was and while she is no longer physically with me, her words about wasting food still echo and I still listen! 

Oh, I could have peeled and frozen them for future smoothies. But there’s something soothing about doing something familiar in unfamiliar times such as these. 

So, I got out my bowls, measured out the ingredients, gave them a good stir, popped the bread pans in the oven and voila’

…from something rotten comes something good! I like to think Granny’s hanging with the great cloud of witnesses and nodding in approval as the aroma of her banana bread reaches the heavens. 

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

These are the words of Paul. A man who has done some pretty rotten things. He was zealous against the Church and all Jesus followers before becoming one himself on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with Christ and ended up with scales for eyes. (Acts 9

These are the words of a man who has had some pretty rotten things done to him as well. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, chained and put under house arrest. Many of the books he wrote in the New Testament, he did so under dire circumstances, filthy circumstances, rotten circumstances. 

And yet, his ancient assurance rings just as true for us today. This pandemic brings about some rotten stuff…loss, quarantines, uncertainty, fear, death, hysteria…and yet the same God who worked all things for the good in Paul’s day is the same God who will work all this out as well. 

Warren Wiersbe encourages us with these words concerning Romans 8:25-30: God is concerned with the trials of His people. The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trial because he knows that God is at work in the world (v28) and that He has a perfect plan (v29). God has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory. Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ! Best of all, God’s plan is going to succeed!  (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary New Testament p431)

We can trust that God’s recipe for taking something rotten and making something good is stained with what makes our hope ring eternal…the blood of Jesus, His One and Only. 

It’s why Paul could say, If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31, 35, 37 NIV)

Because of Christ. 

It’s why Paul could write about contentment, peace and joy while standing in the middle of the city’s sewer system. It’s why he could face the things he faced knowing that he served a God who can take something rotten and make something good. 

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We’ve seen it in my local community and I’m sure you have to…people sharing, caring, giving with big hearts, open hands and a strong determination to be a people who takes the stained recipe of the cross and bring the sweetest balm to those around them. 

The church being the Church. Not hoarding but helping. Not bucking but obeying. Not being fearful but faithful. Not without hope but hope full. 

We can trust that the same God to whom Paul referred, is the same God we serve today. And that cloud of witnesses that I’m sure my Granny’s hanging with these days? They are cheering us on as we fix our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 11:1-3) May the aroma of our kindness in crisis be to them as sweet as my banana bread has been to us. 

I pray we can close our eyes and smell the aroma of the sweet. I pray we can open our eyes and see the good works of the One whose works are good. To Him be the glory.

kw

25 Bible Verses to Abide in During Anxious Times

A vineyard in the Ohio Amish country. “I am the Vine…abide in me.”

The world can be a chaotic place and we can sure get caught up in it. These are some of my go to verses to stay connected to the Vine…the One who is truly in control when things seem out of control. I pray they help you as much as they me. Memorize them. Write them out. Have them close by. Put them on repeat.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:17-19)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) 

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge. (Psalm 61:3) 

When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me. (Psalm 94:19)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25) 

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. (Isaiah 35:4) 

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34) 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1) 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) 

So, we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Hebrews 13:6) 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) 

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

What are some of your favorite go to’s when you’re feeling anxious? 

kw

Handling the Manic of Panic

I caught myself doing it the other day. Allowing my mind to wander to a place it shouldn’t. That place where fear freezes any part of the brain that is logical. I told my man, I feel vulnerable. You see, I’m healing from not one but two recent surgeries, first to repair a tendon tear from which I still can’t put full weight on my right leg or move certain ways. The second was for some surgical sites that weren’t healing. That one stitched up the open wounds but made my vocal cords mad from being intubated again, so they are refusing to work above a whisper. 

As we were talking through my I feel vulnerable statement, I recognized where fear moved straight into the frontal lobe of my mind (where logic lacks sometimes) without so much as a knock on the door. He pitched his tent and set up camp like he owned the place. 

You’ll never be able to outrun this thing. And you can’t even scream for help. 

This “thing” being the coronavirus. Have you heard of it? 

This thought was a flash. A momentary blip blinking in my brain. 

Ridiculous right? 

How does one outrun something they cannot see? Even with both legs working, this was the stuff and nonsense that was making me feel defenseless. 

Now I had a choice: let it spiral me into a manic of panic or let faith be bigger than my fear. 

The writer of Hebrews says it this way: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1 The MSG)

Faith is my firm foundation. My handle on what I cannot see. 

Will I have faith? Will I fear what I cannot see? Or will I trust the One who sees what I cannot? The One who knows the number of my days (Psalm 139:16)

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What if you have let that flash of fear in your frontal lobe lob a rocket of irrational thinking with no return ticket to sanity? Let’s use the word calm as an acronym. (I know, I know. The last thing you want is for someone to tell you to calm down but it’s better than throwing a cup of cold water in your face and is what’s needed in this madness we’re experiencing.) 

Common sense. Use it. There are mandates and restrictions in place for a reason. You may not agree with all of them, but this isn’t just about you. You may be fine, but others are more vulnerable…like the elderly and immunosuppressed. 

For the love, stop hoarding like it’s the zombie apocalypse! Some folks can wipe their rears for the next century! They will be long gone and the only inheritance their children will get will be the 24 packs of Charmin divided 4 ways that will still be stored in their basement.

Be smart. Stock up but don’t hoard. 

In God’s economy, what good is prosperity if it isn’t shared? Divine vitality breeds hospitality, and hoarding is appallingly unholy. To love self without loving neighbor is to know nothing at all of the love of God. (From Chasing Vines by Beth Moore pg 221)

My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (From Saint Paul, Philippians 4:19NIV) 

Abide. In Him. Before you turn on CNN, CNBC or Fox News maybe try reading the Good News. 

It’s no coincidence that I have been reading through a Devotional Psalter each day for my morning devotion. I say each day, but I got “behind” a couple days. There is no such thing as behind in God’s timing. I read through a couple in one sitting. Hear the words of King David in Psalm 31: 

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame….be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress…But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are my God.” My times are in your hand. (vv 1-3, 14-15) 

Or how about this commentary on Psalm 33 from the author of the same book: 

The resounding note of Psalm 33 is the endless rule of God in heaven over all that happens on earth. Over all the madness and chaos of this world, all the political conflicts and military endeavors and voting booths and family dysfunctions and physical illnesses and financial meltdowns—God reigns. His sovereign supervision directs all that unfolds here in this life. 

Was I behind in my reading? I think not. I think my behind was right where it needed to be…in His word and His timing was perfect. 

Never mind the fact that I am studying Ezra for an upcoming Bible study where this same God moved the heart of King Cyrus to allow the people to be freed from exile so they could go back to their city and rebuild the temple, the walls and their worship. All at the expense of the king’s treasury…they didn’t have to pay for any of it. 

Are you listening fear? That’s the same sovereign God, my God, that rules today! Not one single thing happening in the world today is a surprise to Him. Not one. 

Light. Be it. Shine it so the darkness does not win. Let the Church rise above the pandemonium and BE the church. Love the least of these. Check in on your neighbor. Share. Care. Be there. (If you are healthy and able.)

It’s times like these that we have the opportunity to show Jesus to others and I sure don’t want others to think Jesus is a jerk because of the way I treat others during a time of crisis. You know, like, grabbing 25 cans of tuna and the last 6 packs of TP on the shelf. Or running like your life depended on it to the meat counter at Costco. 

Maybe we need to take Jesus literally when He tells Peter to feed His sheep. Maybe we need to stop talking about Jesus and show people Jesus instead. Maybe Jesus comes in the form of a jar of Jiffy.  

Lots of churches are joining together to collect food for the kids who rely on school breakfasts and lunches now that all schools in Ohio are closed for 3 weeks. This is my church being the church.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and our clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40 NIV) 

Mind. Manage it. There’s much we can’t control so we need to control those things we can. Watch what you take in. Be informed but limit your exposure to the mayhem. It’s so easy to get caught up in the media’s magic of mind control. 

Read a book. Learn a new language. Put a puzzle together. Listen to your favorite music. Memorize scripture. Go outside. Get some sun on your face. Put your hands in the dirt. Meditate. Go to coffee with a friend and talk about anything BUT scary things. Pray. Do something kind for someone. Smile. Start a gratitude journal. Light a candle. Play a board game with your family. Exercise. Clean. Laugh. Love. 

I have a daily choice. I can let fear win. Or I can let my faith be greater. I will leave you with this: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Here is a link to 25 verses to help ease your anxiety. I pray it helps you like it helps me. 

kw

Let Nothing Be Wasted

My Granny was a frugal woman. We would recycle our Cocoa Cola bottles, carefully placing them back in the carton for their return trip to the store. Once there, we would put them in the big basket to the left as you walked in and let the cashier know as she rang up our purchases how many cartons we brought back. We got a little credit towards our grocery bill. Granny recycled out of necessity, not to be green but because we needed the green. 

She would do things like rinse out our sandwich bags and reuse them in our lunches. She sewed most of my clothes, saving the scraps to make what was called “rag rugs.” She grew a huge garden and canned most of our food, so we were always “clean-platers” because she worked hard for what was on the table. 

She would keep the slivers of soap and put them all together so at some point you had a “new” bar of soap to use. That made for an interesting bath time. There would be a bouquet of feeling Zestfully clean with an underlying hint of Irish Spring, the real beauty that Dove promised with an occasional grit of exfoliation from a sliver of Lava that surfaced to the top. 

We lived on my Gramps’ one income, a blue-collar factory working man with an eighth-grade education who didn’t really bring in a lot of dough. But Granny could take that dough and make some really good stuff out of it! Nothing was wasted when I was a little girl. 

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I was listening to a talk by Jo Saxton from the 2019 IF conference recently. Her message was on a story as familiar as “the quiet old lady who was whispering hush” in the book Good Night Moon. 

We find ourselves on a mountainside with 5000 or so of our closest friends, hiking our hardest after an acclaimed Miracle Maker, wanting to see what the hubbub is all about. We aren’t disappointed as lunch is served, bellies are filled and not one person goes hungry all because one boy’s Momma remembers to pack his lunch box with some fish and bread. 

And Jesus gives thanks for what He has.  

There’s no discounting the freakish amount of folks fed with such frugal findings nor the fact that the twelve disciples gathered twelve baskets so they, too, could have full bellies. It’s this line that Jesus says that’s got me thinking: 

Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. (John 6:12NIV)

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Gather the pieces…

The pieces, that which is broken, gathered was the bread, something the Jewish culture considered to be a gift from God. It was required that scraps that fell on the ground during a meal be picked up. Think about their time in the dessert when manna, bread like wafers, fell from heaven as a provision when food was a luxury. I can imagine every morsel melting in their mouths, not in the mud.

Broken pieces. On the ground. Squandered away? No.

They were gathered up, put into baskets, enough to feed others. 

The leftovers. The left behinds. The last of the least. 

Gathered up and used to feed. 

What if God can take our broken pieces and use them? What if He can take those parts that feel torn off like the crust that no one wants, the cast down, thrown away, torn apart, and useless and use them to feed those around us? What if we could have the courage to see those things that God breaks in us and around us as gifts from Him? Trusting Him, that He will, like He did so long ago, gather the pieces, and feed those that need fed from the basket of our own stories.

Let nothing be wasted. 

Wasted, in the original language, is to be lost to the owner, anything that perishes. 

What if we trusted that Jesus means what He says? He will let nothing be wasted. Not one single thing. 

Not one tear shed.

Not one pain felt. 

Not one loss grieved. 

Not one diagnosis given.

Not one dream dashed.

Not one (more) diaper changed. 

Not one career move made.

Not one failure flop.

Not one guilt trip taken. 

Not one misery met.

Not one stormy season. 

Not one prodigal person.

Not one dry dessert.

Not one single thing is lost to the Owner of us who claim Christ as our Savior. 

He will gather up our pieces, just like He did on that mountainside so many years ago and feed the people from our baskets of broken if we’re brave enough to let Him. If we’ll trust Him with the story we’re walking right now. If we’re still enough to be allow Him to work through us and use us as only He can do. 

He sees us. You and me. Waiting to be gathered. Feeling like the crust no one wants. Waiting to see how He’ll use this season we’re in. Will you trust Him to do what He says He will do? 

That one line: Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. 

May it be so. 

I am undone.  

kw

In a Little Country Church (Day 30 Memory)

The church I grew up in.

I first heard of Jesus here, in this little country church, tucked away in small town Tarleton, Ohio. My Granny would drive us, my older brother and me, every Sunday come hell or highwater, snowstorm or sleet. There were a handful of times I thought for sure we would meet Jesus face to face as Granny white knuckled her way through, wipers on high, barely able to see and thankful it was a straight shot down highway 159. 

The familiar smell of musty wooden pews and old people welcomed you as you walked into the vestibule, that space where you could hang your coat and ring the bell. We always entered the sanctuary by the left door and sat in the third pew from the front on the right side. Esther Miller sat directly behind us and was the volunteer janitor. Virginia (Ginny) Green sat at the far end of our row and ran the VBS every summer which hosted an average of 15 kids. Her husband Pearl was my bus driver when I was in high school. 

I found this list of “inactive members” and handwritten note tucked inside Granny’s Bible.

There would be announcements of bake sales and fundraisers and if it was your birthday you got to go up front, put a penny in the bucket, get a pencil that said Happy Birthday and the congregation would sing to you. Those pencils had the best erasers. 

We would open our hymnals and sing the first and last verse of a couple familiar songs. Unless we were feeling extra festive then we would sing all four verses though the middle two were sung with less spirit as people weren’t as familiar with the words. Diane Miller (Esther’s daughter) played the piano and never missed a beat when a key was stuck or out of tune. 

The preacher would make his way from the front row to the pulpit. Since we were a small country church, we would get the retirees who weren’t quite ready to give up sharing the good news. My favorite was an older gentleman with soft grey/white fluffy hair, kind eyes and a gentle voice. He would talk about Jesus as if he were his best friend and he invited us to make him our friend too. 

This small band of believers made sure the sick was visited, the hungry were fed and if there was a need and someone could meet it then it was met. This community wasn’t rich by any means but had huge hearts and willing spirits.

It was the first place I met Jesus. Right there. In Nowhere, Ohio. But then again, he often meets us in the strangest of places. 

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In John 4 we see Jesus waiting for a woman, not in a sanctuary, but beside a well. He knew her need and met her where she would be.

In Luke 10 we see Jesus meeting in the home of a couple of sisters by the name of Mary and Martha. He gives Mary her first taste of theology by allowing her to sit at his feet and soak up his teaching. 

In Luke 8 Jesus meets a demoniac by the name of Legion, not in a church service but on the shore of the sea of Galilee. 

In Luke 13 we find Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and notices a crippled woman. She gets to go forward and meet Jesus who then met her need…even on a Sabbath day of rest! 

He meets Mary Magdalene in a garden outside of his very own tomb. He meets her in her grief and shares the good news of His Good News and tells her to tell the others.  

He met with people on mountainsides and muddy pig sties. Offshore in a boat and places remote. He saw people no one else sees….the blind, the wounded and the least of these. 

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There is no place that Jesus doesn’t see us or want to meet with us. Sometimes I think we make it too hard. Like we have to live loud and be mega for Jesus to notice. 

He meets you. Right where you are. 

Whether it’s in a pew or a fancy chair. Whether your congregation is 10 or 10,000. Whether you’re a big city church or a country congregation. 

He meets you and will use you. Right where you are. 

I first met Jesus in that little country church. I got to see him in action long after I moved away when Esther and Ginny visited my Granny in the nursing home every Sunday until she passed. I can just hear them say “I will” when the old man with white/grey hair asked who could visit Alice in the nursing home. 

Jesus met with my Granny all the way to the end through two friends.

Where has Jesus met you?

kw

Dear Jane,

What started as a letter to a man named John has now taken somewhat of a turn. I had all this stuff I wanted to say to him as if he has any idea who I am. There are many things that have already been shared. Thoughts on a drum that’s already been beaten. I sat down twice to write it and deleted it each time.

I went outside for some fresh air and sunshine. There’s something therapeutic about working in the garden. It’s mostly been put to sleep, as it is now the end of October. I had saved the Christmas lima beans for last for they have taken over the fence nearby, climbing up and through the nooks and crannies. They weren’t big producers of fruit but sure had a lot of fluff. 

Lady Lima got out of control! 🙂

That’s when it hit me. This box of beans got so out of hand that it was hard to get in the garden gate but once you did there was a ton of goodness on the other side. The limas got a lot of attention simply because they stood out loud and proud. 

You see, Jane, while I don’t agree with his tone or the manner to which he told Beth Moore to “go home” amidst the cackles and snickering of his compadres, nor do I wish to “hock jewelry” or be devalued by his buddies. I really don’t want to give him more attention. His type of argument and arrogance will be around long after I am not. 

By giving him an ounce more consideration, I only perpetuate the fanning of his fame. No. That’s not what I want to do at all. 

As I was tearing down that loud lima, our Dad reminded me that dear John is not the keeper of the gate and we don’t get our value and worth from the words and commands of a patriarchal group of grouchy men. But rather from a Book He wrote long ago as a reminder of who we are and Whose we are. 

Our gifts are determined by Him, a Father who loves us dearly. How we use them (or not) is determined by us. With that said, dear sister, as Paul did for Timothy, I want to use mine to fan into flame, yours! 

Where do we begin? What’s the best way to fight back? It’s not by flinging insult for insult. I’d like us to walk through scripture together one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time. I can’t explain it but our Dad’s words give encouragement and hope, courage and grace, instruction and discipline. The more the world roars, the more we need the whisper of His word. 

There is something sacred about keeping it simple. With an expectant heart and mind and ears leaned into listen, pen and paper at the ready, won’t you join me as we walk through the Bible together. 

Let me know if you want to join the private Facebook group I started called, Take a Walk With Me. It’s imperative we read a little bit of scripture each and every day. It won’t be hard but it will be beneficial. The invitation is always open! The start date is November 1st but you can join us at any time!

Stay faithful! To His word and your calling!

kw 

Reach for the Stars with Your Feet on the Ground (Day 13 Reach)

I grew up with grandparents who gardened. They would can and freeze enough food to last most of the winter. Once I got married and had a couple of kids of my own, I wanted to do the same thing. I’ve always wanted a garden that looks like this: 

We tried a handful of times through the years but failed pretty miserably most of the time. Why? We had big dreams but didn’t realize that while we could reach for the stars our feet needed to stay on the ground. 

It takes the following to reach big dreams: 

Time: the times we started a garden big enough to give us food through the winter, were also some of the busiest times for our kids. We have five kids and everyone has been in sports, on top of school stuff. The reality of being able to put the time in the garden needed AND wanting to attend all of our kids activities simply wasn’t a reality at all. 

Energy: it takes a lot of energy for big dreams to happen and well, we’re all human and have a finite amount to go around. Maybe some things had to come off our plates before we could make this dream garden happen. 

Effort: we had to ask ourselves if we were willing to put in the effort, the work it takes to make a big garden happen. There are days when it is hot and the weeds seem to be winning the war. Other days there was stuff ready to harvest and can or freeze so I had to change plans to do the work that needed done that day. 

Education: were we willing to learn, to read, to attend classes that taught us about soil, seeds, crop rotation, planting, harvesting, how to can, freeze and dry? Were we willing to change what needed changed once we learned more about what we were doing right and wrong? 

Experiment: I’ve had some fun with this one. Every year I try to plant something new in the garden. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s a bust but you don’t know which is which until you try. I have a garden journal and map that I make notes on what was planted where and what succeeded and failed. 

Big dreams start with small things. 

Instead of a huge garden that we simply didn’t have the time or energy to put in the effort with, I opted for a few containers on the back patio for a while. I grew some tomatoes and a handful of herbs as well as a few pepper plants. 

My dream of having a big garden didn’t die, I simply turned my waiting room into a classroom. I began to learn more about gardening and not just the parts and pieces I remember as a kid. I YouTube all kinds of things and follow several homesteaders who are doing the thing I love/want to do. 

This year I canned 54 quarts of green beans, 20 pints of different pickles, pizza sauce and jalapeños. I froze basil and chives. I dehydrated tomatoes, sage, oregano, patchouli, calendula, lavender and chocolate mint for tea. And my experiment this year was luffah sponges! So fun!!

Is it enough to eat on all winter? Nah. But we are ever closer to reaching the stars with our feet on the ground because we learned that we cannot grow corn if our lives depended on it so next year we will buy from a local farmer. We also learned a lot about squash bugs and blossom rot and what to do to prevent both. I’m adding a medicinal garden along the back of the house because I tried some things in pots and it was fabulous.

This is my actual garden. It’s getting there! In the meantime, I’m having a blast learning. (And feeding live tomato worms to the chickens…ahhh…sweet revenge. 🙂

That dream of mine? It’s doable because I’ve allowed my waiting room to be my class room. What’s your big dream? Keep reaching for the stars with your feet on the ground!!

kw