I’ll bet you thought by the title of this blog that I’m going to talk about marriage. Sorry to disappoint. Or maybe you’re glad. Either way, keep reading because you are in for a sweet treat!!
God knew when he created the cow that the cow would produce milk that the milk would separate into something drinkable on the bottom and a cream on top that could then be whisked into submission to bring us delicious butter. And according to Julia Child, With enough butter, anything is good.
God also knew what he was doing when he created cane (the plant not the person) from whence we get sugar. Not to mention a bean, by way of a tree, called Cacao (not to be confused with the Chinese warlord Cao Cao who rose to great power in his final years.) The Cacao bean is a dynasty unto itself and has smoothed many a conflict and soothed many cravings with its flavor.
I cannot keep writing without the mention of my beloved chickens that produce eggs and are still wondering why her buddy crossed the road. Was it really just to get to the other side?
It’s a little bit of heaven on earth when you can join:
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix the above together then add ¼ cup milk and stir.
Put 8 tablespoons cocoa in a measuring cup then fill the rest of the cup with flour add to the above ingredients.
Add 1 more cup flour.
Mix all together then add 1 cup of nuts if desired (I use pecans).
Pour into a 13×9 pan sprayed with a non-stick spray.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
When Granny’s (well used) recipe made with simple ingredients that I always have in the cupboard are joined together in sacred harmony, my taste buds will sing forever.
What God has joined together let no man put asunder. Can I get a hardy yes and amen?
I’ve done a lot of gathering this summer. Though it’s been a lot of work, it’s also been fun to plant some experiments like these luffa sponges. It can’t always be about green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes! I’ll need something to scrub off the dirt as I soak in my bubble bath with rose petals, wine and candles!
I’ve gathered and canned. I’ve gathered and frozen. I’ve gathered and dried. I’ve gathered in preparation for the winter. I gathered with the future in mind. I gathered what was given on any one day.
Gathering is nothing new.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. (Exodus 16:4 CSB)
Did they trust God to provide for them? A few verses later Moses tells us:
Some gathered a lot, some a little. When they measured it by quarts, the person who gathered a lot had no surplus and the person who gathered a little had no shortage. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat. Moses said to them, “No one is to let any of it remain until morning.” But they didn’t listen to Moses; some people left part of it until morning and it bred worms and stank. (Exodus 16:17-20 CSB)
No they didn’t trust God to provide for their daily needs. They tried to gather more than they needed just in case God didn’t come through for them. Or maybe He slept in or something.
This act of gathering was about so much more than food.
I wake up everyday with a choice to trust God.
Will I worry about tomorrow’s concern today, trying to manipulate things to make sure tomorrow’s need is met? Will I let thoughts of fear and anxiety about the future of my spouse, kids and grandkids, friends, the world, a diagnosis, political discourse etc accumulate and breed worms…ruining my peace and stinking up the joy that was given for today?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34 CSB)
Jesus tells us, peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. (John 14:27 CSB)
Will I wonder if I’ll gather enough strength to meet the emotional and physical needs I’m facing today? Or do I cry out:
Lord be gracious to me! I wait for you. Be my strength every morning and my salvation in times of trouble. (Isaiah 33:2 CSB)
It’s the night before I leave and I have been prayed up and prayed for by so many people! I’m excited to see what You will do not only in the hearts and minds of the people in Zimbabwe but also in my own heart and mind.
Boy did He answer. I had never been out of the country so this was a big step for me. Having grown up in a small Midwest town surrounded by cornfields and cattle, I had never been exposed to much culture or color before.
Journal entry August 26, 2014:
I am surrounded by beautiful skin tones and hair wraps and baby wraps of color. I listened to a lady across the aisle praying for our flight—in Jesus name—it was beautifully said in her native tongue.
Same flight but the next day, journal entry August 27, 2014
What a flight! Kids are everywhere. Babies crying. I met a little girl, Divine, she’s 7, in the 3rd grade and likes science. Her tooth was loose and she sat wiggling it, worried about coming our on the plane. We (people) are so alike in many ways…no matter the culture.
Another woman…same one from across the aisle had brought her baby girl to college in the US. I asked her how she was handling it. “It’s a long way from home but it’s such a good opportunity for her. I only want what is best for my daughter.”
That’s when I began to understand that God was showing me early in the trip that: We Mommas aren’t much different even though 8000+ miles separate us. (From the same journal entry above)
He would weave this message for me all throughout those 10 days. There were differences of course. The landscape, homes and culture were different. The food, animals and language were different. But some things you didn’t need to speak the same in order to understand.
Like the way the women were getting aggravated with a young Mom when her baby wouldn’t stop crying during one of the trainings.
It was interesting to note the eyes (looks) and body language is a universal thing. One little guy kept crying and his Mom wouldn’t take him out right away. You could see the women start to fidget then look back like take him out of here! A shaking of the head and a tsk tsk is the same in any language.
The sounds of grief are universal. We were able to attend the funeral of an 18-year-old young man who lost his fight with lymphoma. The witch doctors had done all they could do. The grandparents who were raising him refused to allow modern medicine to intervene.
Their beliefs and ours were different but when we pulled up to the house where the wake was going on, we could hear the wailing from inside the home. We made our way into the tiny house where the women were all sitting on the floor side by side all the way around the room. There was not one piece of furniture anywhere. One woman was weeping and wailing uncontrollably. I’ve not experienced anything like it before. Once we got all the way around Denford very quietly started to sing and as others joined in the wailing stopped and weeping died down. Soon the entire house was singing this local church hymn.
You didn’t have to speak their language to understand the depth of their sorrow and the comfort of praising the One true God.
When you look at this picture there are obvious differences: Our eye color. Our hair color, texture and curl.Our skin tones. Our ages.
But what I learned is all the things that are the same. We have the…
Same love for our children. Just like the woman across the aisle from me. These beautiful women wanted the best for their kids and would move a mountain to get them what they needed.
Same love for gardening and chickens! Their gardens were gorgeous! And I got to meet a fellow chicken lady by the name of Fortunate.
Same love for candy! Janet became the pied piper of Twizzlers for both young and old!
Same need for community. We got to stay at GoGo (Grandma) Sarah’s compound. She cried when we left because she missed her own family who moved south to better themselves.
Same desire to keep a clean home, put dinner on the table, and keep their family safe from harm.
One woman told us, “Brown and white make a whole loaf.” I’m not completely sure what she meant by that but perhaps if we would start seeing each other by what we have in common, how we are the same, this world would be a much better place.
When I started out on this trip I was nervous because of the differences in culture and language. What I came home with is how much we’re the same. Because of that trip and those people, I never will be.
I want to be a noticer. Someone who sees things others don’t see. Who hears things that others don’t hear. Jesus was a noticer.
He noticed the woman at the well, the odd time of day she was there and that she came alone. He met her where she was and with what she needed. (John 4) I want to be a noticer of the lonely, the outcast and underdog.
He noticed the widow woman who gave two coins out of her poverty. (Luke 21:1-4)My study notes say, since the temple treasury boxes were located in the court of the women, the widow could have entered without being noticed. Yet Jesus saw her and immediately knew of her sacrificial gift. I want to be a “yet Jesus” and see. I want to be a noticer of the sacrifices people make, the small ways they contribute big.
He noticed a woman sitting in the synagogue that had been crippled for 18 years and healed her. (Luke 13:10-16) I want to be a noticer of those who are crippled around me, not just physically but crippled with fear, crippled from their past, crippled with emotional pain.
He noticed the woman who touched his robe. Though the crowds were crushing him and he was on his way to another appointment, he noticed her touch and stopped to spend a few minutes with her. (Luke 8:43-48) I want to be a noticer of those in need of a simple touch of kindness and compassion even when my schedule is crowded and those around me are pressing in for more.
Jesus asks us to be noticers….of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. He asks us to feed them, give them a drink, clothe them, take care of them and visit them. (Matthew 25:31-46) How can we do these things if we don’t notice them?
I want to be a noticer. I can start by putting away my phone and looking out instead of down…at the coffee shop, in a restaurant, with my family, with my friends, in a meeting, at church, at the grocery store.
I want to be a noticer. I can start by making (taking) time to be aware of those around me. To not just look but truly see. To not just hear but truly listen. To watch for moments when someone needs a touch, some time, some tenderness.
I want to be a noticer. I want to make a difference which means I need to be different. I need to trust the “interruptions” are divine appointments. I need to slow down and not be frustrated when things (people?) get in the way.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we would simply notice?
As I was scouring through the concordance looking up verses that had today’s word prompt other, I began to notice two words that popped up quite often. Those were each other. There’s a lot we can do for each other and to each other…
Open a door, smile at a worn out Mom, be kind to your waitress, show compassion to someone who’s slow, listen to a friend who is hurting, buy someone’s coffee. It doesn’t take much for people to feel loved.
Hold each other accountable.
Therefore confess your sins toeach other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16 NIV)
This one is a BOGO for each other to confess to and pray for.
Forgive each other.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
This trifecta of kindness, compassion and forgiveness goes a long way to showing the world Jesus.
Carry each other.
Carry each other’s burdens and in this way your will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)
In a world with so much noise and so many opinions we’ve lost the art of listening. We are people who want to be heard instead of humans who want to hear.
With that said, here are nine reminders for helping us listen better:
1.Listen with your whole self.
Make eye contact with the person. No looking at your phone or the people around you like they have something better to say than the person sitting in front of you. Watch your body language. Are you closing yourself off or open to hearing what is being said?
2. Listen without interruption.
Let the person have the floor when they are speaking. To master the art of listening we need to put on hold the thoughts that come to mind until the person is done talking. Often times people don’t want to be fixed, they want to feel heard.
3. Listen “actively”.
Sometimes, in order to understand what you’re hearing you do need to interrupt, not to interject your opinion but to make sure you’re on the same page. For example you can ask questions like: “Are you saying that _____?” “What I heard you say is _____.” “Help me to understand this part better. Did you mean to _____?”
4. Listen with understanding.
As the person is speaking you can show them you understand by nodding your head or saying things like yes, ahhhh, mhmmm, okay. It sounds like so trivial but it’s important to let the person know you’re not a zombie or have fallen asleep or wandered off in your mind.
5. Listen without thinking.
This sounds dangerous doesn’t it? What I mean is try not to start formulating a response before you hear all of what they have to say. We cannot wholehearted listen if we are preparing our rebuttal/rebuke/recommendation. Don’t’ miss important parts and pieces because you think you know the answer.
The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him. (Proverbs 18:13 CSB)
6. Listen without judgment.
Nothing shuts a conversation down faster than feeling judged. How can someone listen to your counsel and receive instruction so they can be wise later in life (based on Proverbs 19:20 CSB) if you can’t hear them without judging them.
7. Listen mindful of non-verbal communication.
About 60-75% of communication is non-verbal. A lot can be said with no word ever being spoken. Watch the body language of the person you are speaking to: are they shutting down, closing off, not making eye contact, looking uncomfortable. Watch your own as well: are your arms crossed, are you looking everywhere but at your person, are appearing open to listening?
8. Listen in a good environment.
It can be really difficult to listen to another person with too many distractions around. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, find a quiet place to talk. By removing all the things that make it hard to listen you are relaying the message that you care and you want to really listen.
9. Listen by looking.
People watching can teach us a lot about the art of listening. Observe how they interact with each other. Watch their body language as they talk. Do they look at each other? Are their phones distracting? Keep a list of do’s and don’ts that you notice. If you’re brave you can ask someone you trust what your strengths and weaknesses are when you’re having a conversation.
What if we all took to heart the wise words of James when he asks us to understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… (James 1:19 CSB)
There’s nothing quite like growing your own food. It brings such solace to one’s soul, such peace and purpose to drop a seed or two in the earth, covering it up with confidence knowing that soon a harvest would happen.
Every single day I would visit. Sometimes twice (thrice?). Watching. Waiting. Hopeful. Obsessive. Posessive.
I started taking my basket with the belief that any day my personal little farm-to-table would burst forth with a bounty of goodness. I wanted to be ready.
The routine continued…weed, water, watch. Weed, water, watch. Day after day. Flowers were blooming that would soon produce gorgeous green beans, radiant red tomatoes, cukes for pickling, pumpkins for carving, zinnias for sheer enjoyment…
Until one day I noticed something was going on with the squash and zucchini. They looked, I don’t know, like I hadn’t watered them enough. Or was it too much? After a bit of research I found out the enemy was not my lack of watering but a squash bug that burrows itself in the stem of the plant rendering it helpless to absorb the water necessary for growth.
Soon after, I discovered my once lush and green tomato plants looked like skeletons of spindly stems. Horned tomato worms were the culprits. The corn wasn’t growing. The pumpkins had big orange flowers with no fruit.
I came to the garden armed with hydrogen peroxide spray for the squash bugs, NEEM for the tomato worms and a calcium spray for the blossom rot. What I no longer carried to the garden? My basket.
Hope for a harvest was quickly fading in the fight. Gardening is wonderful but hard work. So many enemies. So much effort. I was beginning to wonder if it was even worth it.
There were some tiny green beans busting out but I was so busy battling the bugs that I hadn’t paid attention. Just like that I had four boxes of beans ready to pick! But where was my basket?
Oh yeah. Empty of hope, I had left it inside.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalms 5:3 NIV)
God reminded me that day in the garden that I had not only left my veggie basket inside but my spiritual one too. Just like I continued to visit the garden every day, I prayed and did my study every morning. What changed was my expectation.
When I went out to the garden I went not wondering what was growing but what else the dang bugs had destroyed, who was I going to have to fight and with no hope of a harvest.
I prayed every morning, laying my requests before him but wondered not with the expectancy of how God would answer but how long Wormwood would be allowed to worm his way in and destroy those that I love.
I was tired of the bugs. I was tired of the battle.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a situation is nothing. You see, I believe there are battles we are to fight like squash bugs and tomato worms. But then there are times when we need to leave it in the hands of God and watch Him work.
I did nothing but water the green beans. Otherwise they were left to their own accord. And do you know what? While I was fighting over here, they were going gangbusters over there. With nary a spray jug raised by me.
God taught me that day, to fight the good fight of faith sometimes means being in the battle, getting bloody and squishing bugs and sometimes it means being still and watching Him work.
One thing is required for both battle fields: I need to bring a basket filled with hope.
Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20 CSB)
My mother-in-law was the most grace filled woman you could ever imagine. Always kind. Never a harsh word. She was one who would make extra at dinner and fix plates for the couple two doors down because he had had a heart attack and she didn’t get around very well. And not just one time but until they were back on their feet a bit…weeks later.
So imagine our surprise when she opened her gift one Christmas morning with such a look of disappointment and disdain. With Nat King Cole’s timeless pipes crooning about roasting chestnuts over open fires, my precious mother-in-law asked my father-in-law if he had the receipt because he needed to return it. Tomorrow. First thing. She didn’t want it. She would never use IT.
“It” was an Epilady. A description from their website says: Epilady revolutionized hair removal by inventing the epilator in 1986 and has been a leader in technology and innovation. Switch to epilation and never shave again.
I like Wikipedia’s definition better. It allows the reader to feel the essence of experience: an epilator is an electrical device used to remove hair by mechanically grasping hairs simultaneously and PULLING THEM OUT! The way in which epilators pull out hair is similar to waxing, although unlike waxing, they do not remove cells from the epithelium of the epidermis. (So there’s that…) (Caps and commentary are mine.)
Guess who found the receipt and went shopping early the next day? I do believe he found some gorgeous salt-water pearls….
I wish I could tell you the apple didn’t fall far from the tree but my man stepped right in his father’s footsteps when he hand made me a ping pong table….that he and his Air Force buddies spent hours playing on. It’s amazing what you can do with a piece of plywood, a little paint, some netting and sawhorses.
Bless them both for trying.
Some gifts are so unexpected that you don’t even realize what a gift it was until after some time has passed.
Take pain, for example. I’m not talking about the pull-out-your-hair-Epilady self-inflicted pain. But the kind you don’t control. The past few months I’ve had a pain in my hip that radiated down my outer thigh to my knee. I tried the chiropractor. I got deep muscle massages. Essential Oils. Rolling it out. Nothing was helping. In fact I looked like a 95-year-old woman walking around.
I finally went to see an orthopedic guy whose diagnosis was Greater Trochanter Bursitis and a tight IT band. The fix was a painful cortisone shot in my hip. You’ll be cussing me over the weekend but by Monday, you’ll love me.
My pain would be worse before it got better. And boy was he right!
So how is pain an unexpected gift?
~ Pain let’s you know something is off. Whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, when you feel pain, you know you need to address it.
~ Pain makes you even more grateful when the it’s gone. I’m so thankful for pain free stair climbing, being able to put my sock on without being creative and walking/exercising….things I took for granted before.
~ Pain will make you seek out someone for help. In my case it was the orthopedic doctor but it could be a counselor or someone who has walked the road you’re on now.
~ Pain will often draw us closer to God as we know He is the ultimate Comforter, Healer and sufficient Grace.
Sometimes it takes looking at things from a different angle to see their benefits. My hip pain was a gift. The homemade Ping-Pong table gave us hours of fun. The Epilady…well two out three aint bad. (Guys, keep those receipts.)
Why? It’s a question often asked in various ways: Why me? Why not me? Why now? Why not now? Why did this happen? Why didn’t this happen? Why do bad things happen? Why does God allow it?
There have been a handful of things happen in my half century of living that have made me wonder why. Why is this a part of my story? You don’t have to know what those things are to relate to the wonder of why. I’m sure you’ve had a handful too.
God has been gracious and used different chapters of my story book to help others, to connect with people and offer hope in their own journey. What about the other chapters? The ones not complete. The wonder of why-is-this-part-of-my-story. Can I trust Him with the rest of the book?
The Israelites had many of the same questions after fleeing the harsh treatment of Pharaoh. As God as their guide they found themselves in a no win situation with the Red sea in front of them and the Egyptian army breathing down their backs, gaining ground every second.
Their situation seemed impossible and they wondered why God would do this. Why would he free them only to lead them into a trap with no way out?
God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.” So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. (Exodus 13:17-18CSB)
God knew they were weak from years of mistreatment. He knew they could not battle this army and win. So why doesn’t God just wipe out the Egyptian army. Stories had passed down from generation to generation about the mighty hand of God working through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He wiped out the city of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned a woman into a pillar of salt. He wiped out the earth with a flood. He made the barren bear children.
Where was He now?
I think he wanted to show them a new thing as they began their journey into freedom because sometimes the best lessons are learned on the road of wilderness.
Most will know the rest of the story. The Red Sea parted and millions of Israelites walked across on dry ground, escaping the wrath of Pharaoh’s army. Speaking of which, God destroyed that army but in such a way the Israelites had never seen or heard tell of.
God does some of his finest work in the world of impossibilities, when the odds are stacked against his people. He loves for us to be still and watch him show us his glory.
Can I trust Him with the why when I’m facing the Red Sea? When the enemy is slithering with whispers of doubt and gaining ground on my faltering faith? Yes. Yes I can.
He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. He is the same God that guides us on the road to the wilderness not only because it’s the best way but also to show us things we’ve never seen before.
We need only be still and watch him work in our story.
Can I trust Him? Yes. My faith has to be founded in the character of God Himself and not in the why of my story. What can look like a contradiction, I have to leave in God’s hands. I may not like the why. I may not understand the why. But I have a choice: either He is God or He is not. Either He is the same God that can part the Red Sea of impossibility or He is not.
I’m choosing to believe. (Lord, help my unbelief! Mark 9:24)
Can I trust Him? Yes. I’m placing my why in His hands so He can do a new thing, something I’ve not seen before. You can too.
Welcome to the table of contents for a challenge I’m participating in called:
There really is no pomp and circumstance just me sharing the Prompts and Circumstance surrounding my thoughts on that day’s word. It could be spiritual, funny, challenging, personal or all of the above. If you are signed up to get my emails then you will receive each days post in your inbox. If you are not but would like to be, I would LOVE that!! (there is a “subscribe to” on the sidebar)
Here are the 31 days of prompts with a link to each day as it is written, making it easy peasy for you to find all the words with the links attached: