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."
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.
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.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
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
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.”
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
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.
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.
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.
There’s no possible way that I’ll accomplish this.
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.
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!