Who Set the Wild Donkey Free?

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Donkeys pulling a loaded cart in Zimbabwe, Africa

It’s no coincidence that this is July 4th and I just started studying Galatians 5 which starts out saying It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. An oxymoron for many who think being a person of faith shackles you, not sets you free.

Paul writes to the people of Galatia because there were some folks in the church who were distorting the gospel, the good news of Jesus. They, the agitators, were telling the church that if they truly wanted to be a Christ follower they would have to be circumcised and eat certain foods, just like the Jews had done for centuries.

Paul was explicit in his reply that this was not the case and these people were trying to confuse the true gospel message: Jesus rescued us from the law because the law had gotten out of hand, added to by the Pharisees and was completely unattainable. God recognized this and sent his One and Only to die for us. That’s called grace.

We aren’t much different today are we? Oh, it may not be that our men must be circumcised or that we must eat certain foods but we have our list of things that we think we have to check off to be considered good enough to be good Jesus chicks. Having a daily quiet time. Praying for 15 or 30 minutes every day. No cussing. No smoking. Be kind. Do this but don’t do that. It’s an endless list really. And is upside down grace.

Jesus died not because of anything good I did (or now do.) He died because I can never do enough to be good enough. He died because he saw the shackles of shame, sin and the severity of a law that I could never live by…no matter how hard I try. That’s the Grace of salvation.

There is such freedom in grace. Freedom from legalism. Freedom from having to try hard to be good enough. Freedom from trying to be something I’m not. Freedom to let you be you and me be me. Freedom from being a slave to sin. Freedom from the agitators who are still trying to distort the gospel message today.

I can stand firm in that freedom and not let myself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I am called to be free. But to not use my freedom to indulge in a sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)

For some reason I was reading in the book of Job the other day. I mean, who does that? It’s quite depressing in many ways: Job is a great and godly guy who loses everything, including his family, except for his wife who, along with three of Job’s friends, are vying for the prestigious how-can-we-make-Job-feel-worse-about-himself award.

Job’s buddies were having a back and forth with him about why this was happening and what he had done to provoke God when in chapter 38 it says, Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.

 Oh man. ‘Cause you know it’s coming.

God proceeds to ask Job a very long series of questions (four long chapters worth!) that can ONLY be answered in the most humble way, You did LORD.

 This one question made me smile and resonated with my wild and free heart:

Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied his ropes? I gave him the wasteland as his home, the salt flats as his habitat. He laughs at the commotion in the town; he does not hear a driver’s shout. He ranges the hills for his pasture and searches for any green thing. (Job 39:5-8)

 God saw the donkey harnessed to a cart, pulling a load he did not want to pull and set him free.

You did, Lord.

God saw this wild donkey of a woman harnessed to sin and shame, carrying a load she wasn’t meant to carry, full of legalism and distortion and he set her free.

You did that, LORD!

I am forever thankful and forever free. I can laugh at Satan, the driver of my former cart because I don’t have to listen to his shouts any more!

Happy Independence Day my wild and free donkey friends!!

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

Simple Splendor

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Luke 12:27)

 Lilies to the left of me, lilies to the right. Lilies in front of me and in the far corner of the fence. Lilies in the front and as you pull in the driveway. I hadn’t realized the variations of lilies I had tucked in various places on my little farm.

 They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, with different leaves and different bloom times. All unique, all beautiful, with wide varieties and yet the same genus or family…liliaceae.

 Do consider how the lilies grow…

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 They do not labor or spin…

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My Cala Lilies are gorgeous this year. I do NOTHING with them!

 

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Yet no one is dressed like these…

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 Some are in full bloom…

 

 

 

 

 Some not quite yet…

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 Some have to lean for the sun in order to stay blooming…

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Bea the Bull Mastiff is like Ferdinand the Bull…she loves flowers!

 

 Then it dawned on me…we are like these lilies, only much, much more! We too come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. We are all unique and beautiful, blooming at different times. There is a wide variety of us and yet we are all the same genus/family…imago Dei. 

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From my trip to Zimbabwe
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My daughter (on the right) during her trip to the Dominican Republic

When we look at each other we should celebrate the beauty of our uniqueness because we are all made in the image of God. We shouldn’t look at each other and be envious or hateful. We shouldn’t look down on one group or wish we were another.

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A homeless man my man offered to buy breakfast for in LA

The lilies don’t look at one another and try to be like each other. They simply enjoy the splendor of their individuality by dancing in the breeze and soaking up the sun. They don’t have to do. They just be. 

 We need to stop trying to be like everybody else and embrace who the Creator has created us to be. Luke goes on to say, If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  (Luke 12:28 MSG)

 You don’t even have to try to be showy to be seen because he already sees you! No matter what!

 What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. (Luke 12:29-30 MSG)

 I love that Luke included these words of Jesus! Stop trying so hard to be something you are not, somebody else you weren’t designed to be…it’s exhausting work…and the only thing you’ll get is tired! Respond to the gift of being uniquely you. The quirks he gave you. The nose, eye color, build, gifts, personality, voice, lips, hair (or no hair)…all of the things that make you you and me me.

 Let’s stop looking at each other and thinking, If only I could be like…

 You were meant to be here exactly like YOU!

 Luke continues the words of Jesus, Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

 When the world and others are shouting be like me! Lean your lily toward the Son! You’ll soon not be worried about being like someone else and receive the gift of enjoying YOU! We won’t be afraid of missing out because Jesus is our dearest friend.

 So go now my sweet friends, relax in the splendor of simply being YOU!

 Fiercely for you!

kim

The Struggle is Real & Necessary

 

19024385_10208920304795512_1728583724_oWe have a duck family living here on the pond, a Momma, Dad and three little ones. We’ve certainly enjoyed watching the babies grow and interact with their parents. It’s funny what one can learn from the simplicity of a duck’s life. Or maybe I’m just that simpleminded but upon my front porch observations I noticed a couple things…

Momma lets her babies struggle to figure things out.

We have some dead cattails lying sideways in the water near the bank of the pond. I noticed one of the ducklings was in between the bank and the cattail while the rest of her family was on the other side. She desperately wanted to get to her family but would bump into the cattail on every attempt to swim out to them. Climbing over was to no avail too because of her small size. She cheeped the most pitiful little cheeps that made me want to go rescue her.

Momma was watching but made no attempt to help her little one. After several minutes of bumping and swimming and trying to climb over, the duckling finally made it to the end of the roadblock and was able to swim out to her family. She figured it out all on her own and could be proud (if there is such a thing in the duck world) of her accomplishment.

The next time there was an obstacle in the way she would have more confidence to maneuver her way around. Momma was there for this trial run just in case things went awry but she let her baby struggle a bit in the figuring of things out.

Momma knows someday this duckling will be on her own and if she comes to an immediate rescue every time, this little one will never learn how to face challenges when they come. And they will indeed come.

I hear this often…

I don’t want my kids to struggle like I did growing up.

And so we over-cater, over-do and over-rescue. We don’t let them struggle. At all. Never. And then scratch our heads when they don’t move out and become independent thinkers and doers. We aren’t doing them any favors by never allowing them to figure out how to get around the cattail.

I get it. We all want better for our kids. But we have to realize that it’s in the struggle where we grow. It’s in the struggle where we mature. It’s in the struggle where we gain confidence. It’s why Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4…

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.

If we allow them to struggle while under our roof and watchful eye, they will be better equipped for the world. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. There is nothing harder to watch your kid struggle and yet nothing better to see than when they grow into confident young adults who make the world a better place.

Looking back on the past 50 years I realize it was/is in those valley times of struggling where I grew the most. Did it suck to have to go through some of them? Yep. Would I change them? Nope. They have helped me gain confidence and grow in ways I never would have if God (my Father) would have over-catered, over-done and over-rescued.

He knows just what we need. He wants to see us learn and grow and become confident believers. Confident, not in our struggle but in the One who allows it.

Just like that Momma Duck, we can rest assure that the Lord is right there, watching out for us while we grow in the struggle. Watching in case something should go awry. On the ready, to be our Rescuer, if need be.

Duck parents chase their littles so they can gain speed to out swim the real enemy.

I don’t know if this is really real but let’s just go with it. Mom and Dad have been leaving the babies for longer periods of time as of late. All three were sleeping at the edge of the pond when suddenly the parents fly in, fuss at them and chase them onto the pond, swimming directly behind them and nipping at their little behinds now and again.

This zigzag chasing and nipping has gone on for several evenings in a row and at first I thought it was incredibly mean. But if you think like a duck it makes total sense. There is an enemy lurking about in those waters. Something that means to kill anything that gets in its path. Who knew snapping turtles are ferocious duck killing creatures?

They lurk just below the surface, camouflaged quite nicely underwater and as those cute little webbed feet swim by they reach up, grab one and pull them under then proceed to “gator roll” them. Ducks need to learn to swim crazy and fast to get away from the snapping jaws of their nemesis. So they practice to prepare for the real deal.

We have an enemy. In fact Jesus warns us that our enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy us. (John 10:10) We need to practice and prepare ourselves in the off times, the resting times, the non-war times so we are prepared for the real deal.

How do we prepare? It’s simple really. But sometimes simple is overlooked. We want something more fun (?), complicated (?), easier (?), less boring (?), less time consuming (?). Perhaps. I can tell you that those baby ducks will appreciate all the monotonous exercises their parents put them through night after night when Mr. Turtle comes snapping.

So what DO we do?

  1. We must remain in constant contact with our Commander. Both talking and listening. Prayer is a crucial part of the war strategy.
  2. We have a battle plan. It’s in the Bible. It helps strengthen our weak places, gives us direction and encourages us. Don’t just read it; study it…A LOT.
  3. Gather with other soldiers who are also preparing. Surround yourself with people who will make you a better warrior. Those who will challenge you to grow stronger in your faith. Who will “chase and nip” at you to strengthen you. Do not surround yourself with yes people who are afraid to call you out if you are not acting like you should.
  4. Know your weaknesses. We all have them. Know yours. Combat them by staying away from known temptations and by having an accountability person preferably of the same sex (because the enemy uses this tactic of slippery slope sin far too often I’m afraid.)
  5. Know Truth so when a lie comes to the surface it won’t pull you under and gator roll you. Don’t be deceived as Eve was so long ago in the garden. You know the enemy’s strategy hasn’t changed since then. He’s still the master manipulator of words. He simply twists God’s just a pinch enough to trick us. Don’t let him.

So much to be learned on my little golden pond! Struggling is real and unfortunately necessary to help us mature and grow. The battle is real and we must be prepared to fight. Until next time…

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

Wild Onion Love

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There are some weeks when your calendar is overflowing with things that must be done. You know, the normal stuff…work, meetings, Bible study, grocery shopping, banking, final preparations for a speaking event that weekend. In the middle of busy comes two text messages four minutes apart on a Tuesday. One from my husband who had just left to go out of town: my youngest daughter had been in an accident. She is fine but did require a quick (?) trip to the E.R. just to make sure. The other was from my sister: Mom was actively dying. This was expected…but is it really ever? She had hours to live and passed away peacefully the next morning. Her funeral would be that Saturday.

Life can be like that sometimes can’t it? You get hit from every angle. That was last week…accidents, deaths, retreats, funerals. I needed some soul stilling, heart mending, peace and quiet. Is there anything better than spending a couple (or five) days digging in the dirt? Pulling weeds, raking, mulching, and planting = lots of opportunity for heavenly conversations and lots of opportunity for the Creator to speak through his creation.

As I was rounding the corner to the back of the house a soon-to-be Momma Redbird caught me off guard and flew out from her nest tucked away in a trumpet vine. I peeked in to see several eggs.

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Later on, as I was cleaning out a front flower bed, I spotted half a Robin’s egg lying on the ground, broken, busted wide open. But guess what? Out of that brokenness new life began. If those Redbird eggs stay whole there will be no baby birds.

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As I really began to look around me and think about it, the ground must break in order for new plants to come up. A bud must break in order for a flower to bloom. Water must break for a child to be born. A heart must break for God to do a new thing in it.

Jesus gets broken. He broke the bread of a boy’s lunch and fed over 5000 people (Mark 14:13-21). I (you) have a choice. We can hold on to our brokenness and become bitter or we can put it in the hands of a master miracle maker and watch him work all things for the good (Romans 8:28). When we bring our brokenness to God, he can use it to nourish and help others.

Then there’s the night Jesus had with his disciples, the last supper, where he broke the bread saying, This is my body. He knew what was coming. He knew his death on a cross was necessary for us to have new life. His broken body was laid in a tomb and sealed with a stone. Three days later that stone was rolled away, the seal had been broken and new life began. Abundant life. Eternal life.

Brokenness must occur in order for new life to begin.

About the same time I was having this aha moment (again…does anybody else need to learn a lesson more than once??) I ran across this…

snake on a rock

I know, I know, it’s just a snake skin but jeez Louise, it gets me every time. Somewhere in those weeds is the guy (or gal) all dolled up and looking fresh. But I will not be fooled. You shouldn’t either. No matter the new outfit, no matter how pretty this serpent dresses up the outside, he’s still a snake in the grass.

Scripture tells us that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2Corinthians 11:14) His tale’s as old as time. He tricked Eve in the garden by enticing her with something that was pleasing to the eye. (Genesis 3:6) Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it? We get duped by the outside beauty and charisma and forget to look at the heart. No more.

snake in the grass

No matter how pretty you dress it up, a snake in the grass is still a snake in the grass.

As I was raking out some weeds I had previously sprayed, I noticed one that wasn’t affected by the weed killer, the wild onions. They weren’t wilted or yellowed. They remained firmly rooted and when I pulled them up their aroma was still strong.

I was already in a posture for prayer on my knees to pull weeds so I began to listen to what God was trying to tell me (and maybe you?)…

My love is like that wild onion. The world will spew all kinds of poison at it but it will not be killed. It won’t even wither or yellow or wilt. It will remain strong in its root and aroma.

In fact, my love is so strong that I sent my One and Only to earth so that you could see. The world spit venom on him, trying to poison him to death. He was broken just for you. That snake in the grass thought he had won. But My love is stronger than anything and my Son was raised to new life….just for you.

You too can be a wild onion, not wilting under the world’s poison. You too can keep loving those who try to break you, who spit meanness on you, who trick you. You too can grow strong, aromatic roots by remaining close to me.

Don’t be fooled by that snake in the grass. I can take your brokenness, hurt, and grief and create a new thing. Something that will allow you to nourish and feed others.

Will you trust this wild onion love?

And so I sat there, on my knees, with a pile of wild onions by my side, their aroma strong and lingering, knowing that no matter what the world throws at me, no matter what kind of week (weak?) I am having, he is there, loving me with a wild onion love.

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

 

 

 

 

Wheelbarrows and Woes

felled-treeAre we even getting anywhere at all? This was my thought out loud as I wheeled what felt like the 100th wheelbarrow full of sticks, brush and small logs across our 3 acre lot, down a hill and into a fiery brush pile. Only to go back up the hill, back across the 3 acre lot for more cleaning up of the massive downed ash tree. (Dang bore beetles!)

My man assured me we were indeed getting somewhere as he continued to chainsaw and load wood into his trailer. It sure didn’t feel like it as I looked around at the mess still left.

On my last slower-than-when-she-started trip up the hill I had a couple thoughts come to mind:

~ Sometimes you need to look back to see how far you’ve come. ~

When I got back to where the felled tree was, I looked at the distance between where I had started raking and picking up sticks and small logs to where I now stood. I really WAS making progress. I simply needed to look back to realize just how far I’d come.

The past couple of years have been insane for our family. Good stuff, bad stuff, hard stuff, confusing stuff. You name it; we had it. Like that giant ash tree that landed hard and shot limbs far out and deep in the ground, we had some stuff to clean up. On the days when I feel like I’m not making progress, it’s healthy to look back at where we were to see just how far we’ve come. We ARE making progress! I’m not where I once was.

~ Slow and steady is better than not at all. ~

Man did I ever slow down toward the end of the day of wheelbarrowing! I kept thinking, Just one more load. You can do this!

And I did. Turtle pace is still a pace. Slow progress is still progress.

Remember that when the clean-up is slow. Remember that when you’re tired and don’t want to keep cleaning up. Remember that on the days when you are simply putting one foot in front of the other hoping to keep going inch by inch.

~ Rest in between the loads. ~

Every now and again my man and I stopped to have a rest. We sat down to catch our breath (and let our heart rate get back to normal!) On occasion we wondered if we were going to be able to get back up. But, sure enough we did. There was plenty more mess to clean up.

The past couple of years have been exhausting. Not so much physically, I suppose but definitely emotionally. I’m learning to rest in between the loads. The verse in Matthew 11 came to mind during one of those rest periods…

Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (v28)

I’ve read this verse many times but one thing struck me differently this time. Jesus says He will give those who are tired and heavy burdened rest but He doesn’t necessarily say that He will take the load away.

In fact He tells us that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33)

Thanks for the encouragement Lord, right? Hang with me here. He doesn’t ask us to bear our burdens alone which brings me to my next thought…

~ The bigger stuff took some extra help ~

There were some logs that were simply too big for me to carry in my wheelbarrow. There were some logs that, when they came down, stuck straight into the ground and could not be pulled out by hand.

Enter stage right, my man and his tractor. He heaved and hoed some of those I couldn’t get (he is a wee bit stronger than me) and the ones he couldn’t get we worked on together.

Jesus went on to say in Matthew 11:29-30, 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.

This is a beautiful picture of grace. No, He doesn’t necessarily take the burden away. He wants to join us in helping lift the heavy load. He desires to walk beside us, yoked together, sharing the burden. He gives our weary souls a reprieve.

So I’m learning. Learning to stay yoked to the One who is my Heavy Lifter. Learning to not only see what still needs to be done but celebrating how far I’ve come. Learning that turtles do get where they need to go….slow and steady is good sometimes and I hear it wins races. Learning that though the world is full of troubles, I am a friend to the One who has overcome the world.

All this from a day outside, in the sunshine and with my trusty wheelbarrow. God knows I need simple lessons to some complex problems. And He delivered.

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

 

A Watched Flower Never Blooms

I’ve learned a couple things since last November when I wrote the blog post about flowers blooming in the desert. You see, I had read an article about this phenomenon in a Chilean desert. Here is what it said, “The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change.”

A huge storm had happened which brought very rich, fertile soil to the desert sand and with that storm and soil came beautiful flowers…something the desert does not see often. Flowers blooming after the storm, it’s a beautiful parallel isn’t it?

I had shared that our family was weathering a storm at the time and I couldn’t wait to see some flowers blooming. In fact, I ended the post saying this: While the monsoon has let up some and I have had the chance to catch my breath, the flowers have not quite bloomed. But you know what? I have no doubt they will!! Because #mydadsbigger!!

Here is what the Lord has taught me the past few weeks:

You cannot make a flower bloom before its time. Recently my daughter Macey, grandson Cohen and I planted several types of seeds in an indoor seed starting kit. We followed the directions, placing the seeds just so, putting water in the watering tray beneath the seeds and placing the lid on top for warmth and humidity; creating the perfect environment for the seeds to change into buds which will grow into Sunflowers, Gourds and Larkspur. And then have left them to do what they will naturally do. I’m happy to announce we have lots of seeds sprouting!

Here’s the deal: I didn’t sit in the rocker for hours beside the seeds and watch for a sprout to pop through. I didn’t “will” the seed up through the soil. I couldn’t make it happen any faster if I closed my eyes and wished it so. I couldn’t shout it out. It would sprout and it will bloom in its God given time.

You all, I became obsessed with wanting to see one particular flower bloom from the remnants of this storm we went through. It was all I thought about. I rocked beside it for hours. I willed. I wished. And yes, shouted a few times. And nothin’.

Just like the seeds above, I will create an environment of growth by soaking this particular seed in love, watering it with grace AND truth, and covering it in prayer every single day. And then I will leave this seed in the hands of my Father to do what He does best…help her sprout into the beautiful flower she was meant to be.

Until then…

I will continue to serve the Lord. There were a few days (maybe even weeks) that I wanted to cry Uncle! The enemy was breathing his rancid breath down my neck so bad and putting such doubts in my head that I almost quit. Oh, I don’t mean quit believing in God but stop serving Him. I was so tired and wanted to do whatever it took get a respite. I started to believe that if I just stopped serving, stopped writing, stopped praying, stopped anything that had to do with the Lord, it would get better. He even had me convinced that if my Dad truly loved me He wouldn’t be putting me through this. Yep, that snake in the grass pulled the Dad card! But the devil is a big, fat liar. And his lies drove me right back INTO the arms of my great big Daddy who can squish that slithering serpents whispering lies with one sweep of His mighty arm.

So not only is the sparkle in my eye back, but I’m fully armored up with mighty warrior girlfriends and guy friends who know how to fight the good fight and win!!

My obsession with one flower was causing me to miss literal fields of flowers blooming in this desert of mine. The Lord has been so gracious to me over the past 6 months; I just needed to look up from watching the dirt for this particular sprout to see them. There have been countless prayers, texts, calls, lunches, tears, hugs, laughter, silliness, scolding (in a good way), wine (and whine), wisdom, advice, love, and caring from so many…whether you know exactly what is going on or not! All individual flowers that have made absolutely gorgeous bouquets.

I would get a text from a friend that said, “Not sure what’s going on but know that I prayed for you today.”  or “Thinking about you today” or “Let’s do lunch soon!”

So many flowers blooming.

Then there was this one: I was having lunch with a friend who is walking through a similar situation as mine. As we were talking I said how I felt bad because we were having to walk this messy path. And how it was great to have someone there with me but that neither could pull the other out because we were both in the same dang pit. And how it would be great if we had someone who was a little farther along in a similar journey. No prayer mind you; just a thought out loud. She agreed and we finished lunch. This was on a Wednesday. On that Friday we were working together on something at the church and just “happened” to meet someone who is 11 years ahead of us walking the same path. She spoke truth and encouragement and joy and love and grace into both of us. All we could do is sit with tears streaming down our cheeks knowing we had just witnessed the goodness and grace of a God and Father who loves us dearly.

Talk about a bouquet of the sweetest smelling flowers ever!

Thank you if you’re still reading. I know I’ve exceeded my 500 words. Maybe I missed writing more than I thought! J I HAVE to share this last one with you.

February 14th, 2016. We are sitting in church getting ready to take communion. We did it a little different and got up to take it instead of taking it while seated. My oldest daughter Macey and her hubby Tyler stepped out for a second and as I was coming back to my seat when she grabs my hand and says, “Momma, I want to go to the prayer room. I want to be baptized.”

Oh. My. Soul.

I had been praying for this sweet daughter of mine ever since she came home at Christmas her freshman year of college and announced that she no longer believed in “your God” and was deciding if she was agnostic or atheist. Six years of wondering and wandering and giving her a safe place to ask questions and questioning our own parenting and praying and praying some more. My baby girl came home. I tear up every time I think about it.

This was an entire field of the most gorgeous purple lavender one can image.

God is so very gracious.

And so, that flower that I’m waiting on to bloom? It will. In God’s time. And while I wait, I will nurture the seed with grace and truth, love and prayer. I will serve the Lord and I will look around at all the other flowers blooming while in this desert. And I will be grateful for you.

Writing while fighting from the trenches!

kw

Cream Puffs, Poop and Spiritual Growth

My man’s family has been friends with a husband and wife team who grow pumpkins. They enter their pumpkins in the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio every year. In 2007 they broke the national record with a pumpkin named Cream Puff. Cream Puff weighed in at a whopping 1,524.5 pounds! Can you imagine? My father-in-law was telling us this story when he asked if we wanted to know the secret. Of course we said yes!

Rhino poop. Are you kidding me? Nope. Rhino poop is the secret.

How in the world does this have anything to do with your spiritual growth? I’m glad you asked! We all have to have a little manure in our lives in order to grow. You know what I mean, the trials, tribulations and sufferings we go through. That’s the kind of poop I’m talking about.  But there is purpose:

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.”  (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

 What are you to do in your sufferings? Why?

What are the things that suffering produces in you?

Think about it: If we never suffered, would there be a need for us to hope in anything bigger than ourselves? Where would God be in your life if you never suffered…after all, would you really need Him?

In the Bible we find real people who wrestled, suffered and struggled. We find real people who learned and grew and matured.

You can read in Genesis 32:22-32 the account of Jacob wrestling God. Here are some things we can take away from that encounter:

~You need to grab a hold of God while you are wrestling (v26).

~You may find you have a “limp” as a reminder of your wrestling match (v25).

~Your struggling (wrestling) allows you to see God face to face, up close and personal (you can’t wrestle someone from a distance!) (v30)!

You can read in Mark 5:21-34 about the woman who was subject to bleeding for 12 years!

~Sometimes you have to be willing to fight the crowd to get to the help you need (v24).

~You have a Resource when all earthly resources have been exhausted (v26).

~Your sufferings can cause you to look to something bigger than yourself and your situations (v27).

Now read James 1:2-4 and answer the questions that follow:

“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.”

 What kinds of trials will we face?

What does the testing of our faith develop?

Why must perseverance finish its work?

If it weren’t for trials and sufferings we would never mature or be complete!

We shouldn’t be surprised when troubles come our way. Jesus told us it would happen in John 16:33 when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 Let the following verses sooth you in your suffering:

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm9:9)

“This poor man called and the Lord heart him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Does it help you to know there is purpose behind the trials, sufferings and manure of life? I sure hope so.

How will you look at the trials of life differently with what you learned today?

You will never become a spiritual “Cream Puff,” a giant in your faith, if you don’t have a little rhino poop tossed on you from time to time! So when you go through your next trial, just think to yourself, “God wants me to be a Cream Puff!”

Love you something fierce!

kw