When You End Up in the Ditch

The Cup Plant known to collect rain water in her “cups” that can be used for drinking water in emergencies. She can be found in ditches along roadsides, offering us a cool drink perhaps?

I had been asking Mom for gas money for several days. While I had been watching the needle move towards E, it didn’t really dawn on me that I would run out of gas…oh to be 16 again…until my car sputtered to a halt on my way to school one morning. My sister and I were able to push it off the country road enough to not get hit.

Fortunately for my siblings and me, my then boyfriend, now husband (awww…insert heart emoji’s here) took the same route to school, saw us stranded and pulled over to pick us up. There’s nothing quite like piling in to a ’67 VW with rusted floorboards. But at least his tank was full.

Later that day, I got scolded pretty good by my stepfather for parking in the ditch at the wrong angle. Wait. What? I guess gas couldn’t get to the carburetor because of the angle of the car….or something like that. (To this day I have no knowledge of any of this…I couldn’t even spell carburetor just now!)

I wish I could tell you this was the last time I ended up in a ditch. But, well, life happens, tanks run out, and there you are, parked at a wonky angle in the ditch. I’ve learned a few things through the years….

When you’re running towards E you have to go to a resource that can help you. The logical place to go for gas money was my Mom. This is usually true. What I didn’t know is she couldn’t give me what she herself didn’t have…money for gas. I kept waiting. She kept putting it off. I ended up in the ditch.

Sometimes the actions (or inaction) of others are what put you in the ditch. Had I realized there was no money for gas, I could have caught a ride to school with said hunk of a boy mentioned above.

How many times have I gone to someone who simply did not have the know- how or wherewithal to give me what I needed to prevent me from ending up in the ditch.

I just kept driving.

When you’re running towards E you have to pay attention to the signs. It was naïve (foolish?) of me to think I could just keep going and going and never run out of gas. There were red flags…like the needle that kept creeping closer to empty. My truck today has a signal that lets me know when I’m 50 miles or less to empty. (And believe me, I head to the nearest gas station because that beep makes me panic a little!)

How many times have I ignored signs and red flags and beeps and just kept going? Oh, hello, Mr. Ditch. We must stop meeting like this. I had no clue we’d be together again so soon. Oh wait. Yes I did. I chose to ignore them!

 I just kept driving.

When you’re running on E you don’t get to choose where you park, you just land where you run out of gas. It’s almost always not in a convenient spot…

Sometimes it’s in the hospital because you’ve ignored your body’s symptoms. Sometimes it’s with a counselor because you’ve ignored your feelings and thoughts. Sometimes it’s in divorce court because you’ve ignored warning signs in your marriage. Sometimes it’s because of someone else’s actions or lack thereof. Sometimes it’s in the middle of a store and you start crying for not any one thing but a million.  And you can’t stop.

We just keep driving.

The Bull Thistle…completely dried up…just like us when we “bull” our way through and keep driving.

No matter the reason, no matter the how, no matter the why, we have a Rescuer. He doesn’t look at us and think You idiot. (Though he may shake his head on occasion…) He looks at his children with compassion. He doesn’t ignore our cries from the ditch…no matter how we ran out of gas, no matter what angle we “parked” the car…he hears us…

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

 Oh. My. Soul!

Chicory coming up THROUGH a crack in the road. 

He is the Resource that never runs out. He is the One with all the answers. He is the Fuel that fills my tank. He is the Nemesis to my enemy. He is the Light that shows the way. He is Breath when I cannot breathe. He is.

He is the Lifter of my head when I’m weary. He is the Hearer of my heart. He is the collector of my tears. He is the Helper in times of trouble. He is Firmness under my feet. He is the Rock on which I stand. He is.

He Rescues. Redeems. Restores. Amen.





A Bounty in the Broken

When you walked into the small side room of my grandparent’s basement you were witness to a beautiful bounty. There stood before you row after row, on metal shelf after metal shelf the goodness of hard work that would last us all winter long. We would dine like queens and kings while the wind howled, temperatures dropped and snow drifted.

Tomatoes pureed, juiced, whole, or ketchupped. Peaches and peas. Corn and green beans. Carrots and beets. Grape juice and limas. Jams and jellies of all varieties. The colors were vibrant. Bellies would be full. It was a time of celebration and thanksgiving for such sustenance.


Thanks to Tammy Linden for this picture that reminded me so much of my Granny’s basement.

This past year has been difficult. You too? We are (finally) experiencing the reaping of some harvest but it wasn’t without being broken along the way. As I have been contemplating and reminiscing I discovered I’ve learned a few things along the way:

Before the bounty of the harvest, much brokenness occurs.

Our neighbor back the lane, Greg, would bring us a big pile of horse manure every fall after the harvest. He would simply spread the manure over the entire garden, let it sit for a few days then plow it under so the soil could absorb the rich nutrients and be ready for a spring planting.

Until the ground was broken the manure simply lay on top, not doing a whole lot of good. It was after the breaking that the manure could do its job of making the soil rich and ready to reap a harvest.

There was plenty of manure spread this past year. Hard stuff. Difficulties. Tests. Trials. It was when I became completely broken that the richness of those struggles could seep down in and begin to reap a harvest. When I allowed God to plow the hardness of my own heart and begin to break it for those things that break his, then I could begin to see the promise of the harvest.

In the spring Greg would give the garden one final plow with his big tractor and then my Grandfather would go through with the rototiller and break the ground even further. The breaking of the ground the second time made it more pliable for row making.

After some time during this past year my prayer stopped being to change her or fix them but instead became what is it You’re trying to teach me that I still haven’t learned. I needed to be broken down further in order to be more pliable.

My Grandfather would then take a hand row maker and by following a string to help make the rows straight, he would once again break the ground. This breaking was not so harsh or deep. More mindful and with a specific purpose…preparation for seeds.

There is ALWAYS purpose in brokenness. Always. Areas that need to be prepared for growth. James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever [we] face trials of many kinds because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete. (James 1:2-4)

You don’t reap a harvest with immature plants.

My Grandfather would then lay the seeds in the newly dug row. Our job as kids was to follow behind him and cover the seeds with soil. In the darkness of the earth, change to that seed occurred. There in the silence the seed pod gets broken open, then has to fight its way through the darkness to break through the soil. Out of the darkness comes new growth and a seed changed into what it was meant to be all along…a maturing plant, one that will nourish and feed.

Not one moment of brokenness is wasted.

Sometimes dark places, silent places can be scary. We live in a do something kind of world. We live in a shout it out kind of society. To be still is foreign. To be quiet is alien. To sit in the dark is unnerving. We don’t like when we cannot see. But isn’t that what faith is all about? Of being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

There were many moments when I felt covered by darkness. Smothered. Times when I couldn’t see. Did I trust God to make the changes needed to be made ~ in me, in my situation ~ even though I couldn’t see what was going on underground, in the dark? Would I trust Him in the process necessary to produce a rich, ripe, bountiful harvest? A maturation that would nourish and feed others?

We would then watch and wait. Water and weed. You could almost see the plants grow from one day to the next. Corn stalks that grew well over my little girl head would soon grow tiny ears of corn that would mature to full ears quickly. Every day you would see my grandparents walking the garden, checking for maturity and ripeness. Then you would hear them exclaim that in two days we would pick the corn to be put away.

More brokenness was necessary in order for the garden to be of any use to us.

We would break the ears off the stalks (or beans off the plants or peas from their pods), rip the husks off, silk it with a little brush then cut the corn off the cob to be blanched and put in the freezer. Again a process with a purpose.

My Granny would never have been able to serve us the delicious meals she did if there hadn’t been brokenness. Instead we ate and enjoyed the bountiful harvest from all our hard work. And yes, the brokenness along the way.

There is a bounty in the broken.

Jesus understands brokenness. He gave thanks and broke the bread that would feed over 5000 people. Feeding the broken with broken.

He gave thanks and broke bread with a small, more intimate group…his disciples. Serving the broken with broken.

He willingly gave his body, broken so we could live. Hope for the broken with broken.

There is a beautiful bounty, a harvest beyond our imagination in our brokenness.


Under the Poplar Tree

As a little girl, I never thought it odd that my older brother and I lived with our paternal grandparents. The kids at school never questioned it nor did the teachers blink twice over it. My grandparents never complained about raising us and we just knew this was home from the time I was 18 months old.

My Grandparents “got fancy” and had their 50 year anniversary pic made. The insert is of them as newlyweds.

We moved to the country very soon after officially moving in with them. It was a two acre plot of land with a 3 bedroom little white house trimmed with red shutters and detached garage.

Simple and lovely.

One of my very favorite spots was found in the backyard between the house and half acre garden, under the tulip poplar tree. So much life happened in the shade of that tree. Her branches would beckon and her fragrance a fresh reminder of summer.

Under the poplar tree I/we would:

~ play freeze tag or hide and seek for hours. She would act as base, the neutral zone until someone shouted, Olly, Olly all is free. Then we would gather under that tree with the two neighbor boys (our only playmates) and eat freeze pops or homemade cookies.

~ catch lightning bugs and put them in Mason jars with grass in the bottom and holes punched in the lids. The neighbor boys would know it was time to go home by a distinct whistle from their mom.

~ lay upside down on a hill close to the tree, watch the clouds roll by and creatively imagine them being a dinosaur, elephant or any manner of object.

~ on that same hill and under that same tree we would gaze up into the night sky and be mesmerized by the twinkling lights. A reminder that when the night is the darkest the stars shine the brightest.

Under the poplar tree wasn’t just for play either. We would spend hours out there sitting in metal framed, nylon stripped lawn chairs snapping green beans, shelling peas or shucking corn. Everyone helped and we each had a job to do.

Under the poplar tree wasn’t just for play or work. Many times, especially Sundays or when my Grand pappy had a short change over from working the burn off at Anchor Hocking, we would take naps out in the shade of the poplar tree. It was often cooler out there then in the house with “raised window” air conditioning. Naps got really fancy when we graduated to a hammock he’d gotten one year for Father’s Day.

Here is Grand pappy sitting in one of those metal lawn chairs, in his typical gardening attire, listening to AM radio and taking a break under the poplar tree. You can see part of the garden in the background.

When I got older we would sip iced tea or lemonade and catch up with family and friends. Grand pappy was always up for a cup of steaming hot instant coffee no matter the temperature outside. Fight fire with fire was his motto.

It was a gathering place to share hopes and dreams; laughter and tears. Many times throughout my years living there I would see my Granny sitting in one of those metal lawn chairs with her eyes closed and lips silently moving.

When I was little, I thought it was a weird thing to do. What I didn’t realize, she was probably praying that the Lord would keep her from snatching my brother and me bald headed! When I got a little older I asked what she was doing. She said…

“Sometimes when life gets to be too much it’s good to just set a spell and pray. It quiets the mind and settles the soul.”

My Granny wasn’t a loud woman of faith. She simply made it her ambition to lead a quiet life, mind her own business and work with her hands. (1Thessalonians 4:11) In doing so she afforded me a safe place to grow, learn and come into being my own person.

Granny dressed in her Sunday best. She would take us kids to church every single week even though Grand pappy wouldn’t go. If the preacher came by Grand pappy got a stern talking to…no raunchy talk or dirty jokes! The picture of Jesus in the background hung there for as long as I can remember because He was family too.

We all need a poplar tree place. A place where you can set a spell and pray. A place where you can quiet the mind and settle your soul. In fact we need more poplar tree everything…kids playing outside, looking at the stars, catching lightning bugs and making shapes out of the clouds. This world needs more poplar tree moments of families gathering to share life, good times, sad times and even hard times. Friends stopping by to share a glass of lemonade and checking in on each other.

Simpler times. Lovely times.

You can find me on any given day, at any given time at my poplar tree place. It’s not under an actual tree but on the farms front porch. Sometimes I set a spell by myself. Sometimes I share a glass of tea (or wine) with friends and we talk about things…serious things or just shoot-the-bull kinds of things. Sometimes we simply sit and listen to the birds sing, the frogs ribbet, breathing in the moment.

What’s your poplar tree place? Where do you go to set a spell, quiet your mind and settle your soul? You’re welcome to join me on the farms front porch!!

Fiercely for you!