Thursday, February 25, 2016

Power Outage

It was fun at first.

We had good reason to believe it would happen, too.

Dire warnings brought our attention to the impending storm, and the clouds did not disappoint.
Thick, wet, heavy, and unrelenting, the snow has been pouring down and weighing everything full.
Trees droop, shrubs bend low, and dried summer stalks bend to the earth.

In an instant, right between a goodnight kiss and a pat on the bottom to send our youngest farm chick off to bed, we were plunged into darkness.

Although we did not know the moment the darkness would come, we were not unprepared.
Just days earlier Weekend Farmer Husband had received a brand new flashlight and batteries are fresh.
Fueled and ready, our generator stood in place, waiting to serve.
The box of emergency candles and matches is easily accessible.
And, which of us hasn't used the flashlight function on our iPhones a million times before?
There was no shortage of light and life giving power.

But, we were without the total comforts and the crutches to which we have become accustomed.
Not all the lights could be used, the television, iHomes, wireless connection, and the many luxuries of our first world life were temporarily halted.

How long was it an adventure? A fun, candle-light, temporary, forced withholding?
Not long, I'm afraid.
I think it was maybe 15 minutes before my older children in particular were looking for movies on their laptop hard drives.
The adventure and the adrenaline quickly faded, and the mild complaining and self soothing behaviors set in.

This morning, the snow still weighs heavy, but power was restored in the night.
We're back to normal and all systems are literally humming away.

It got me thinking.
I knew when I entered into the observance of Lent that there would be times like this.  Times of testing and quiet and even darkness.  I prepared as much as I could by surrounding myself with friends, accountability partners, good books, good sleep, good times of prayer and scripture reading.
But when the lights went out and stayed out for awhile I was soon more vulnerable than I'd like.

Depression and lethargy demanded attention and quite certainly slowed me.
Frustration and lack of patience made an appearance.
Fuzzy thinking, lack of purpose, you name it- it all came calling.

And all the accountability, good books, good sleep, and good prayer "haven't helped".
I am not walking in darkness, but I am walking in repentance.
Sometimes God's kindness helps us walk longer in places than we are accustomed, and without all our comforts, so that when the morning comes, restoration is all that more powerful and complete.

So, I wait.
I'm not in the dark literally or spiritually.
I know this is a light and temporary suffering, and it's of my own choosing!

And, even though I was "prepared", I'm certainly not in any position to help myself.

Today's Lenten reading was in part from the Psalms.
On the fragile page, marked by years of reading and marking, the 28th Psalm reminded me to turn to the Lord for mercy, help, and refuge.

The storm will pass.
Snow which has been threatening is lovely.
And I will not be in the dark for long.

"Blessed be the Lord!
for he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever."

Psalm 28:6-9

Friday, February 19, 2016


You don’t have to read between the lines to understand that comfort for my soul has been spare, and that the hard battle of repentance and walking the path of Lent has been like constantly having pebbles (maybe broken glass?), in my shoes.

Blessed be the Lord, there is soup.

Glorious, rich, fragrant soup that tantalizes the senses and fills not just our bellies, but somehow our home with all that is good. Because of soup, one of the great healers this side of heaven, not all my days or blog posts are continuously angst-y.

Warm bowls with steaming offerings gather us together, slow us, and help us enter into a place where our needs are met, our desires are fulfilled, and we experience contentment.

Go therefore and make this soup.
You shall be changed.

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup (makes 3-4 servings)
1 14.5oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1  6 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup heavy cream
½ tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (Go get some. Now.)
Himalayan pink salt to taste
White pepper to taste

Puree fire roasted tomatoes in blender or food processor. Place puree in medium size saucepan (I suppose you could warm the ingredients up first and then use an immersion blender.  If you have one.)

Add broth, tomato paste, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place on low flame/heat and stir often.
Bring temperature to approx. 195 degrees (not quite boiling) and slowly add in heavy cream.

Serve immediately.

Garnish with your choice of: Sour cream, green onion, Parmesan cheese, croutons, Greek yogurt, honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil…

Not all, but a combination of a select few of the above suggested garnishes with a side of grilled cheese or panini sandwiches make for a delectable meal.
Can be doubled, tripled, or multiplied to suit your crowd.

You're welcome.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Words as Doves

Each word pressed into being today is unplanned.

I came to this place with a different story to tell, and it was a good, God glorifying, purposefully humble story that would point to Him.  And, then before beginning, I did what I should always do.  I entered into the Holy Word of God and was again transformed.

I thought I knew what I needed to say. But instead, the Holy Spirit directed me to what I needed to see and hear. His word uncovered my covert hypocrisy.

Because the details of the day will still corroborate my original story. Today won’t be easy and my unbelief will deeply tempt me to turn to my own self justified positions. Predictably, I’ll want to formulate my own strategies and execute my self-interested plans. And, don’t get me wrong.  These plans of mine are actually good plans to keep appropriate boundaries, parent well, educate diligently, do the hard work of restoring relationship, and with sincerity fulfill my calling. But, somewhere and sometime along the way, I’ll fall into the habits of frustration, fatalism, and my deeply flawed self.

Today has its work cut out for me.  I already know early in the day the trenches of living and loving will be deep and hard. Appointments loom. Mounds of laundry, heaps of homework, and piles of service only grow deeper and wider.  And, if I’m careful to tell myself the truth, I was already girding up my secret sanctimonious self to accompany the day.

But God, and His priceless word found me out, loved me, covered me yet again with His matchless grace, and gave me a better story to tell.

I needed to see and hear that this day, this family, this struggle, this joy, this floundering, this marriage, these children, and this very breath has been appointed unto me for God’s good plan and for my eternal delight.

So as my fingers continue to fly across keys and make impressions, they act as tellers of a better tale. I entered this day with doubt, fear, and hopeless plans to just endure, and maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky, get my own way with self-serving results; another day of unbelief.

It makes me wonder.

Centuries ago, a simple man built a huge boat.  For decades he labored, faithfully carrying out his calling, and following the Lord’s instructions.  Day after day he laid the beams and built the decks and crafted a monstrous impossibility; impossible because the earth had never yet seen rain.

I wonder if there were times that the arid day’s calling was hopeless, filled with lack of belief, and the futility of the task tempted Noah to lay down his tools and just walk away.

But the flood came.  And days turned decades of belief saved Noah, and frankly us too, from the crushing waters of unbelief.

I cannot see how God will save me from the deeply discouraging days that I currently live out.
But, still I write and bring to mind:
He loves me.

The God of Noah, the God of creation, the God of destruction before restoration is my personal, perfect, and great God.

And so, I come to this keyboard, and instead of laying down words as self-serving tools, I purpose to send out my dove.  Each stroke a waiting breath for the waters to subside and a bow in the sky.

His story is always better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Belief that Changes Every Day


My family and I are sharply sarcastic.  The mental acuity and social attentiveness required to appropriately time delivery, melded with reference appeals to and amuses us.

 (I know. This is a dangerous habit and the responsibility to accurately “read” the situations we’re in is ours.  And, sometimes we’re brilliant.  Other times, we wound.  All for another post…perhaps.)
So when we say, “I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die from that surprise!” the sarcasm meter is redlining, and we mean just the opposite.

That phrase played over and over and over in my thinking yesterday, and even though I prayed it wouldn’t have cause to, it was expected. 

Because yesterday I went against my nature.  I purposed to do battle with my flesh.  And there’s nothing my flesh likes more than to rise up and demand its perceived needs be met or its discomforts assuaged.

My broken, weary, downcast, discouraged, and self-righteous heart purposed to make its faltering but repentant journey towards resurrection.  Each Lenten step was to be an exercise in yielding my unbelief to the hope that God will produce belief.

To be clear, I’m not referencing that kind of belief that wrestles with assurance. I am His.  Undoubtedly.  Assuredly.  Completely.  All my days are secure in the completed work of Christ, helped by the Holy Spirit, and held together by God.

It's belief that changes my every day, that changes how I love my neighbor, how I serve my family, and particularly how I help my beloved. This is what rises up to challenge the day. 

Yesterday’s practices were pure hearted, born of sincerity and held up by the promises of Scripture, the discipline of prayer, and gritty obedience.  The battle raged.  Flesh cried loud and required much.
Are you surprised?  I wasn’t.  Back to the sarcastic comment.  No heart attacks here. 

Change a few words. 

My heart was under attack.

I’ve got my armor on today.  Early morning scriptures and prayer have set my course and like the psalmist, I will:

“Put my hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 46:5b

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mug Shot

Black and white, silent, empty. Elements like these alone might not so quickly capture my attention if I were not so quick to look for them.  Like the ketchup bottle still on the counter, the open cupboard door, the myriad of stocking caps flung far and wide throughout our home that aren’t routinely placed back in their bin, or any one of the signs of disorderly and reduced life, this vessel with its dirty rim frays the slim nerve that remains.

Clenched jaw, balled fists, and a resigned sigh indicates my posture.  Physically perfect invitations for the tormenting mental and emotional loop to begin.  The frustrated, negative, martyred track begins its play and a quest for “responses” or “strategies” resumes.

I realize it’s just one item; a small thing really, requiring almost no real estate and in a way, it’s symmetrical high contrast pattern adds to the collected lived in charm of the room.  But, in my spirit it’s just one of an infinite number of items and actions that have worn me down.

Irritated and put out, my emotions and self-talk pick up steam and my thoughts are righteous, justified, and condemning. Because not only has it been decades of this careless behavior of one thing adding to the sum of a myriad of things, it's grown markedly worse in recent months.

Significant trauma with its unanticipated and uninvited habit crashed into our lives and it targeted my beloved, sought to crush him, reduced him to unrecognizable lows, and left him (us) barely alive with a fragment of a marriage, devastated finances, and chronic symptoms that make costly and regular withdrawals from “for better or worse”.

 So this small inanimate ceramic token, benignly left in an irregular spot before the dawn broke, served as a weary marker of all the “strategies” the day will need to include.  I know it’s just a cup.  But, I also know that it’s a contextual foreshadowing of the fractured days we now live.

But God.

In my mind, these words appearing multiple times in the Holy Scriptures, are my only hope for today; for every day.  So, I repent.

Today I begin a 40-day journey of repentance and emptying of self. 

God doesn’t need my observance of Lent to work Easter in my life, but I need it to take me from my “buts”; all the things that should be different, the patterns that need change, the grim hardness of my heart that all too frequently marks my days and harms my neighbor and my own soul.

But God.

Forty days of practice, feeble attempts, and frail resolve to rotate my inward looking eyeballs (which the world and my pride tell me are perfectly reasonable given the hand I’ve been given), and instead look to Jesus, who makes all things new.

But God.

There’s no possible way that I’ll accomplish this.

But God.

Broken easily, beset with failures, a long history of guilty mug shots, and deeply wounded I cannot fathom that my resolve to, instead of flaring with irritation for every violation of our agreed upon roles, strategies, and commitments, give myself over to prayer will hold.

But God.

I confess, the irritation preceded the praying.  My flesh had the first say on the day.

But God, my Father, in His deep love for me, intervened.  Holy Spirit counsel drew my attention, pricked my heart, and enabled me to pray.

But God, instead of giving me over to my natural self, gave me a greater portion of Himself. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t a hyper spiritual event filled with sudden transformative cinema worthy change. But it was the quiet and proper outcome of my scripture reading earlier.

“Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15b

Father, I repent.  Hardheartedness, despair, weariness, lack of belief.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Is it any wonder that I struggled with the technical details of getting this post up?  Goodness- it's been better than 2 years!  

These two years have been filled with hardship, illness, derailing life events, and all the difficulties of unimaginable circumstances.  Wave after wave crashing on the shoreline of our lives.

If you're reading here, thank you.  You are so welcome.

These posts, for however long they last, are part of my Lenten journey.  I'm joining my online friend Edie who wrote a rich devotional series for this season, and rather than giving something up, I'm trying to discipline myself to practice the things that most consistently draw me to Christ.  

Scripture, intentional study, and writing do just this.

I'm so lucky to have a "real life friend" to keep me accountable and check in on  me.

Would you like a friend too? If you'd like, feel free to comment here, come back and read again, and we can check in on each other while we journey to the cross, and then, the miracle of the eternal risen Christ!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do We Meet Here?

I hardly recognize the woman who sat down to write this out.  At least not until about two thirds through...then I start to see myself.  But, just like this post took some time to write, it's taking me some time to see it. Furthermore, daring to tap the "publish" command has me a little in knots.  As my proof reader puts it, "This sure is a lot about you." (Thank you firstborn farmgirl for your caution and insight). She's right on.  I dare to post knowing that although I'm talking about me, perhaps what I have to offer meets you where you are, and we see into each other in humility and love.

For perhaps ALL of my growing up years, and maybe most of my adult years I've been one to see and seize opportunities.  Search out possibilities.  Look for chances. I usually wake most mornings with fresh hope, optimism, and am ready to take on the day.  (After some deep dark cups of coffee and quiet time that is...)

My training, and in many ways my early experiences, was the opposite.  My parents come to life aware of boundaries, respectful of limits, and cautious.
Furthermore, we seriously depart in the coffee department.  They're more of the tea type. I digress.
Regardless of what's in my (or their) morning mug, my view of my origins is shaped by what I remember as tight close fences around life, growth, and opportunity.

Can you imagine the differences of perspective, disagreements, conflicts, and issues presented by my teen years?  Oh. My.

I was always stretching for the next thing.
Eager and waiting for the another door to open, ready to walk through.
A rejector of self imposed limits, I chafed at the many things I was told I couldn't do.

I haven't changed that much.

Until recently.

I'm hard up against needing to respect limits.
Only a little fuel remains with still many miles to travel.
Often putting one foot in front of the other, with (literally), just enough oxygen for the next step.
In circumstances that I cannot influence that have profound influence on me.

Much of this influence is very good, wildly, wonderful parts of life.
-Adult sons living at home getting ready to make their own way.
-A house full of teens.
-Youngsters still underfoot.
-Barns and pastures full.
-Renovations of this old farm slowly, and in fits and spurts, progressing.
-Gardens STILL burgeoning.
-An excellent beginning to our homeschool year and many confirmations that our affiliation with Classical Conversations is timely and perfect for us.
-Tutoring in Classical Conversations has awakened my brain and I'm enjoying teaching again.
-The ups and downs of necessary restoration (and sometimes backsliding) of key relationships requires time and commitment, but we are hanging on for our very lives and praying for a good yield.

You see?
It is the good things that have created limits.
And, I still chafe.
Conflict arrives.

Mostly it visits me.
(Sometimes others when I'm selfish and careless.)

This time, and maybe I'm lucky, is the first time that I've not had wiggle room to do anything - I can't change it up.  I'm powerless to extend boundaries or make more space. Whether the causes are negative or positive, I'm left with no choice, except to yield.

I'm having to say "no".
To extra activity.
To selfish pursuits.
To the unnecessary.
To the self gratifying things I love to fill up on.
And, this is the one that has me in a dither, "no" to worthwhile good things too.

And "no", although plenty uncomfortable all by itself, has opened the path for other more pointed discomforts.

Like the realization that I continue to crave (idolize?) recognition and so can all too easily get busy with things that build me up, and even though sincere love and service is involved, there's always a little slice of that pie just for me.

Or, the smack dab pressed up understanding that I'm creeping daily up on a substantial milestone birthday.  It's not 30.  It's not 40. Been there, done both of those.  It'll be a couple of years yet, and although I'm as fit and as strong as I've ever been, I need more sleep, take more time to weigh decisions, move more slowly. Giving myself over to slower means I've got to wrangle with my paradigms and our culture's penalties for aging.  I can no longer meet my "normal" production marks, which puts my comfortable habit of measuring myself by performance goals in a stranglehold.

Without performance, shockingly, I find myself insecure about appearance.  Yes, there's liberty, attractiveness, and even relief in embracing a kind of beauty that can't be bought, that comes from the gift of years. But, when the gray hairs make the curls a crown, I find myself wondering.  When the pretty has faded all away, when what I look like is less and less of an issue, will what I am be enough?

Identity as a writer, mother, wife, farmer, friend, teacher, Christ follower - every role- has felt the bright glare of introspection.  The light has revealed many pure and good things.  Excellent and praiseworthy pursuits populate the chapters of my life.  Contrarily, so has bitterness, lack of courage, failure to love and forgive - common to all, but personal to me, the population of these behaviors and characteristics has come to light and I can't just breeze right past them.

Gulp. I could go on and on.
And, in fact, in the daily-ness of life I have.
It can produce at first, a frightening kind of insanity, as going round and round with oneself only leads one to, ahem, the same old same old staring back from the looking glass.
Then, the fright shifts, because whereas the above cycle used to spur me on, it's the new normal.

I wrestle with it all.

When I'm spent, I come to this:

Does there come a season when all the effort, stretching, reaching, leaping through open doors shifts to cultivating, maintaining, and then harvesting what for so many years has been planted as new growth?

I'm beginning to think so.
Little quiet parts of my memory speak into this space.
I'm reminded that so many times before I've been ushered into something or someplace new and although I knew it was coming, once I was "there", initially I was ill equipped to understand and respond to the newness of the experience.
Even if I'd prepared.

Like laboring and delivering a baby.
I'd read books, watched (back then) videos, talked to doctors and nurses, and consulted my mom.
But, until I pushed head, shoulders, body, feet, delivered life through that burning portal I understood not what was my due.
And, each time I learned, lost, and gained something new.
Something that whether I perceived it or not made me ready for the season I was (am) in and what I was (am) to do and be.

So all this good is good enough.
And the faults are not too many.
And the "no" along with its limits brings more courage, humility, peace, and love.
Beautifully, limits produce less fear, stress, self seeking, and harm.

Not because I say it is so.
No, my own insight, strength, experience is not nearly enough to reach into and equip for the contrast of what is life right now- the fullness and its limits.

What then, to return to the earlier metaphor in my question, cultivates, maintains, and brings the harvest?

Gratitude and grace.
Far better than "good enough", these companions, concurrently cultivated and given as unmerited gifts, shine into this time with greater brilliance than introspection.
Their purpose and redeeming power overcomes not only the true cost of the mistakes that have been revealed in the hours of self absorption, but the weight of guilt is lifted.

By grace I can be grateful.
Through gratitude I learn to receive and give grace.
Grateful for grace I don't deserve, I cultivate deeper gratitude and receive richer grace.
All gifts.
All grace.

More than enough.


Edited to add:
Oh, how deeply I have struggled with failure to write regularly.  I had "told" myself that I would get it together enough to participate in The Nester's 31 Days series this year, and if I did only one thing well as a writer in 2013, that would be "it". 
Well, you know the outcome of that.  And I've participated in self loathing and condemnation.  

Thank goodness, (see- a tiny bit of gratitude) for good friends, Holy Spirit counsel, God's beautiful word The Bible, and wild grace.  They've had a greater grip on me than any unprofitable thinking.

So, settling into limits, I've not been writing.  But I have been reading. And I wonder if you'll be as blessed, challenged, changed, and loved as I've been when you click over to Edie's and Ruth's blogs and join in their journey during October's 31 Days blogosphere event?

Come back and tell me won't you, how you're being changed and restored by weighing more and less in your life, and daring to balance the scales?

And this- a little breath of thanks for reading this far.  So many words.  I have so many and so few opportunities to release them.  How you gift me to read to this very last mark. 

(Thanks to @jbkcyclist for sharing iPhone instagram photos for use on Liberty Farm Chronicles)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Did It Again, And He Will Too

Every year it comes around, but somehow as the years accumulate, it gets sneakier.
I was never good at remembering, and with the increased complexity and demands of all that I've been given in this life, I'm only getting worse.

Seems like it should help me that it's the same day, the same month, every time, without fail.

Bam! There it is.  A huge red ring might have been drawn around the date, but the calendar square is accusingly empty.

First, I struggle with remorse.  The "shoulds" try to move in.
I should have programmed it on my phone, monthly, weekly, hourly reminders.
I should have shopped ahead, bought a card, signed, addressed, stamped, and then put a card in an accordion file near the door to make it easy to drop a perfect sentiment in the mailbox, flag up.
I should be a better - oh, whatever, go ahead and fill in the blank.

Then, the fussy neighbor "shouldn't" tries to move in too.
I shouldn't be so forgetful.
I shouldn't be so distractible.
I shouldn't waste so much time.
I shouldn't - well, the endings are endless.

The ongoing struggle for mental and emotional real estate doesn't seem to affect the outcome.
It snuck up again, and I'm unprepared.

The ache of wishing I'd been something I've not is heightened because my circle on the calendar follows his at the stroke of midnight.  On the inhale it's his day, on the exhale it's mine. It's hypocritical, because when the big red circle on the calendar should be for me, I wrestle with feeling unloved if it gets forgotten, or necessarily pushed lower on the priority ladder.  I secretly hope for my day to be made much of, and by extension, me too. I love parties, and presents, and feasts, and gifts of words...The very things I wish I could (or is it would?) extend to the one(s) I love.

He's never made a big deal of it.  In fact, my mom, who always made a big deal of us, makes very little of him when it's his turn.  She would probably like to, but he would probably prefer her to not.  The day and its honoree is not ignored, it's just kept pretty quiet. A nearby sister will likely generously open her home, or bring a little something to him, and grandkids will be a blessing.  He won't be entirely left alone.

When I call and confess that I missed another Hallmark moment, he won't waver in reassuring that it doesn't trouble him in the least that there's not going to be a commemorative piece of cardstock in his mailbox. But, still I feel it, some sense of having failed.

So, why this discomfort?
Truthfully, I don't know.
I wonder if it's because our close days threaten me a little - if it's so easy to forget him, is it easy to forget me? Consumed with thoughts of myself I don't recognize him? This only partially fits, but selfishness often plays a principle role in my shortcomings.
Maybe all it is can be summed up as false guilt, and I'm a little bit prone to being its victim, so the familiar cloud looms closer.
And, although those are likely both true, I think it might be something else.

I think it's the messy grace of it.

We're broken, imperfect, lacking people and we disappoint ourselves and one another.
And we fail.  Really big.  Many times I've done greater harm than being tardy with a card.  I've judged harshly.  Elevated knowledge above love.  Demanded with selfish gain in view, not caring what it cost.  I've required much grace.

And in spite of the mess I am, or the mess I create, he just, in his imperfect but proven way, gives me grace and loves me.

And the angst comes because I don't deserve it. Grace or love.
I know, because I've lived it myself, parents don't require children to do anything to be loved.
Parent love is profoundly powerful.
But, still, the longer I parent, the more I know we, (my children, I, any of us), do not deserve to be loved.

We make deep unlovable grooves in our track record of relationship.

And still, he loves the undeserving.

I don't imagine that writing this is better than a cake, a present, or a thoughtfully chosen and timely sent card.
But, it is my offering on this day.
My discomfort brings me up against my mess.
I profess it publically with words and images.

And he meets my mess with love and grace. Again.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Thanks for fathering well, and for helping me know in your way, the abundance of grace and love that is ours in Christ Jesus, who has saved us from both from the undeserving heap of mess that is you and me, and has redeemed us through His deep love.