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

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. 

**********

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)

**********

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

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 

Top 10 Things I Would Tell Momma’s of All Ages and Stages

My motley crew from a couple years ago. Yes. We are Buckeye fans!

#1. Grace and Mercy need to be your very best friends the moment a + appears on the stick because I’m positive you’ll need them. Parenting is not for the faint of heart or the weak willed. Your kiddos will mess up. So will you. 

Apparently practice makes perfect because parenting gives you lots of it. Just when you think you’ve survived one stage, you wake up to find them in the next one. And the learning curve starts all over again. It’s okay. Grace and Mercy with a little forgiveness thrown in makes for great parenting skills. 

Grace and mercy are equally needed for the toddler who won’t let you pee by yourself as well as for the pimply-faced teenager who doesn’t acknowledge ever having had parents. 

#2. Do what works for your family. Stay-at-home? Work from home? Work outside the home? Breast or bottle? Homeschool or public school?  How will we discipline? So many decisions to make and everyone has an opinion about what you should do.

I’ve worked outside the home because I needed to financially but also because I wanted to at times. We homeschooled for a couple of years but mostly it’s been public school for our kids. While it’s good to seek advice from people who are ahead of you in this parenting thing, at the end of the day these are your people you’ve been given to protect, nurture and love. Trust that God gave them to you knowing you will do your best to do what’s best for them. 

#3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Period. It’s the sucker of joy and maker of exhaustion. We are all uniquely designed with different personalities and quirks, needs and wants, capabilities and limits, talents and gifts, and energy levels depending on the season we’re in. 

I know you may think organic is best but you can trust the Gorton fisherman every now and again and still be a good Mom. It’s okay if the last thing you want to do is crafts with your toddler. It’s okay if it’s the thing you love to do most. 

It’s okay if dragging three littles to a play date is like nails on a chalkboard. And it’s perfectly fine if that’s what works for you. If you think your teenager should work or if you think their job is to concentrate on school then great! Do what works for you and your family. 

#4. Disconnect from Social Media every once in a while. Please. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest…oh my word…so many opportunities for us to see just how very badly we’re failing. Often times I catch myself scrolling through everyone else’s perfect lives during a season of hard or lonely. Maybe you do too. I also find that during those times, I need to put my phone down and walk away for a bit.

Allowing yourself to disconnect from everyone else’s virtual reality let’s you live in the moment of your own. You can enjoy your family without comparing them to someone else’s. (re-read #3 above) A digital rest resets the wiring in your brain bringing with it gratitude, contentment and peace. 

#5. Have a support system in place. This can be a big group like MOPS or my church does a Mom’s group every Wednesday where the Mom’s of younger kiddos get together and learn from each other and a mentor Mom. They have play dates with the kids and nights where they get together without them. 

Maybe a bigger group isn’t your thing. I have a small group of women that I adore. We get together to laugh, cry, catch-up and check in on how the other is doing. It’s pretty laid back and just what I need for support. 

We were designed for connection. We need to know we’re not alone. So whatever that looks like for you, reach out and find your people. 

#6. Connect with nature. Go outside, soak up some sun, walk in the grass barefoot, look up at the stars, notice the moon, watch a sunrise or sunset, breathe in deeply, take a hike in the woods, dig in the dirt, rake leaves, look for wildflowers, skip rocks in a pond…do something outside. 

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

I think Robert was on to something. Connecting with creation connects us with the Creator. Connecting with the Creator refreshes, renews and rejuvenates. Try it.

#7. Connect with God. This doesn’t have to be set in stone. My time with the Lord looks way different in my 50’s with one teenage kid at home then it did in my 20’s and 30’s when I had five at home and was working. Our time with Him is more than a checklist, a study or specific amount of time.

Our prayer life can be anytime, anywhere. And yes, please Lord, don’t let me snatch them baldheaded today is considered prayer. As is dear God, help me! It’s not always on your knees, in reverence. Sometimes it’s in your car, in the thick of it. 

Connecting with God can simply be being aware of Him, watching for Him, feeling His presence, thanking Him throughout your day, having a still moment of peace because of Him, see #6 above, reading a verse in the morning and pondering it the rest of the day. 

#8. Find a rhythm for rest. God created the entire universe in six days, the seventh day He rested, not because He needed it but because we do. It’s His gift to us. What’s your rhythm?

Is it taking a nap? Do it! No guilt. No shame. Those dishes and dust bunnies will be there when you wake up or next week or when your kids are grown and gone. Take the time to take a siesta. 

Maybe napping isn’t your thing. What if you allowed yourself time when the kiddos are napping or after bedtime to indulge a little? Take bath with candles lit and your favorite book. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and look through a magazine. Curl up on the couch with your favorite blanket and book. Sit outside in the sun and do absolutely nothing! Eat chocolate or ice cream all by yourself…no sharing with anyone and completely out in the open. No closet dessert for you! (Gasp!!) 

Find a rhythm that works for you, and then do it. 

#9. Know you are not forgotten. I wrote a post a while ago to encourage you who are doing the mundane, the everyday, the simple acts that nobody sees or seems to care about. It’s to cheer for those who wonder if what they do day to day really matters. You’ve wiped noses and butts and feel stuck in a rut. Picked up toys and are tired of noise. You can’t answer another why or hear another cry. You show up to work all grown up covered in boogers and throw up. 

God sees you. 

God used a lunch packed with love, an ordinary, everyday task to feed hungry souls for His kingdom work. The same God that made a miracle from the meager will use you too! 

In the middle of messy.

In the middle of mundane.

He makes miracles happen.

You are not forgotten. (Click here for the full post.)

#10. Your efforts are not in vain! The first time my oldest came home from college he gave me a big bear hug and proceeded to thank me through out the whole weekend. Everything I made to eat was the best he’d ever tasted. His sheets smelled wonderful. The house looked extra clean. Thank you for doing my laundry. Thank you for giving me an extra $20. It didn’t stop. 

Kid number four is now in her junior year of college, first year in an apartment. She sent me this text just a few days ago: 

What you’re doing today is important work. I know it’s hard when you walk in to a Picasso of poop on the wall. Or when your surly teenager won’t leave his room and has the vocabulary limitation of fine. Keep going. It matters. You’ve got this! 

kw

3 Things You Can Do When Life Keeps Happening

Let us not grow tired of doing good…(Galatians 6:9CSB)

But what if I do? What if I am? 

Life doesn’t always happen tsunami style. You know, one big catastrophic event that knocks the feet right out from under you. With tsunami’s, people expect you to take some time to recover. To take a moment to breathe. Seek rest, wisdom and solace. 

Sometimes life sends wave after wave, not all of them bad but even good things can leave you a bit off balanced. For example we finished our basement, a wonderful, exciting thing but having someone in your house hammering away for nine weeks can be a bit unnerving. 

Add to that some health things with my kids, starting a bigger-than-we’ve-ever-grown garden, my middle daughter and her family moved in for a few weeks as they transitioned to Wright Patt, one kid started his sophomore year of high school and one moved home for the summer then moved into her first college apartment. 

Did I mention our hot water heater began leaking (in our newly finished basement) and needed replaced? Oh and all the cars had something happen to them that needed fixing beyond what my man was able to do….cha-ching!

All the while, “normal” life goes on…my man still travels all the time, and there’s groceries, cooking, baking, cleaning, mowing, weeding and laundry because we need to eat and not go out in public naked. 

Wave after wave….keeps you struggling for balance, trying to catch your breath, nothing catastrophic but the salt in the wound still stings. 

Maybe you’ve had seasons like that too? Maybe you’re in one. What can you do? Here are three things I did (and do) to keep my head above the waves so I could breathe: 

1.) Get rid of the guilt. 

I have a handful of friends who are reeling from recent tsunamis. Devastating cancer diagnosis. Death of a child. A divorce from the blindside. All horrific things. So every time another wave would come, I would feel guilty for being tired, stressed and overwhelmed because none of my waves measured up to what they were going through. 

It is true that there is always someone going through more than you. That doesn’t negate what you are experiencing. Nor the need for self-care. It’s okay to ask for help, take something off your plate for a season, say no, rest, realize you can’t keep going when you can’t see for the salt water in your eyes. You need to…

2.) Recognize Your Limits

Tired writers write tired. And I was. I love to write. It’s a way I process things. But I was putting undue pressure on myself to perform. I have no real deadlines (for now 🙂 except for those I create to keep me on track. I was talking to my English professor daughter about struggling to be creative and that I felt like I sounded grumpy…not the message I want to convey. She reminded me of all that I had going on and how that can affect creativity. That’s her quote above.  I needed to take that off my plate for a short while so I could catch my breath.

If you’re in a wave-after-wave season, what can you let go of? It won’t be for forever…just long enough for the waves to settle and balance to return. Recognize your limits, stop telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do this or that, offer yourself grace. Period.

3.) A Rhythm of Routine 

There are some things that were non-negotiable for me during this particular wave-after-wave season (or ever really). 

Bible study, prayer and being still.Every morning I spent a bit of time to work through a Bible study (No Other Gods by Kelly Minter), pray and simply be still. It’s where my help and strength comes from. I can’t explain it. I just know it soothes a searching soul. 

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:7-8 NIV)

Gratitude. I wrote down three things in my journal that I was grateful for every day. Lest I sound super spiritual or whatever…some days were a stretch, some days I had to ask the Lord to show me because I sure couldn’t think of anything. And He did. 

It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful. (Ann Voskamp)

Sing praise songs. This is, in part, how I fight my battle. King Jehoshaphat was preparing for this huge battle that was on the horizon. He did three things: Sought the Lord for wisdom (2Chronicles 20:3), prayed a prayer of gratitude for who God was and what he could do (2Chronicles 20:6-12) and he sent the singers out ahead of the soldiers…wait….what? 

Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of his holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever. (2Chronicles 20:21CSB bold is mine)

And guess what happened to that vast army that came against the Israelites. 

they were defeated. (2Chronicles 20:22)  

There’s something to be said about singing praises to the Lord in the presence of one’s enemy. 

It’s not easy when life keeps knocking you down. But we can rest easy in this: when the wounds still sting from the salt water of wave after wave we can be assured of the balm of grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

Hallelujah and amen. 

You can do this. Keep seeking His face, stay thankful and belt out those hymns of praise like you’ve won the battle. Because we have! 

kw

Read Monday’s Grace: A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed here.

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw