Category Archives: Thoughts

Lessons From The Blueberry Patch

imageSummer finds me bent low often, stooped in search of something sweet. Tiny treasures hidden in foliage green. Gathering bites of blue has become a welcomed habit, gleaning far more than berries in a bowl. The yield of lessons has surprised me.

My mom, or Maima as my children call her, is an avid gardener. Since childhood, she has nurtured life and beauty all around her, creating lovely homes and providing for those within. Lining her backyard is a delicious hedge of blueberry bushes, three gleaning berries through June and three bearing fruit through the end of July. What a scrumptious sight! Her estimate of thousands of berries adorning the branches was no overstatement. Nearly a gallon-sized basket fills every few days with plump blues. Every year since their planting, these bushes have produced exponentially more berries than the year prior. Their first harvest was sparse, the berries somewhat sour. But rains came, Maima pruned and nurtured, God brought the growth.blueberry

While gathering today’s harvest, I sensed the Lord near. He who breathed life into creation, who began all things within a garden, dealt truth to me through my simple task: picking ripe blueberries. His voice came inaudibly, more as a stirring within, nudging my heart by truth reflected consistent in Scripture.

“You see,” I sensed Him say, “these bushes did not stop growing nor producing fruit based on comparison. They did not grow discouraged when their first berries weren’t just right. They simply kept doing what I created them to do: be fruitful. They’ve grown sweeter with time, more plentiful each passing year. Had they ceased to bear fruit, they would have been pruned, cut off, disposed of. But they bore down – against winds, through rain, enduring snow, standing against heat. They simply persevered.”

Another handful of dark delectable dropped into the bucket. I wedged through the densely fruitful branches, not wanting to miss a berry. Again He nudged.

“Do you see these? Shriveled and hard? They once were ripe, sweet and plump. But they were never harvested so their sweetness was wasted. Some remain stuck in place while others fall to the ground, slowly rotting away. Had the gardener come in time, they too could have been enjoyed.”

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A still breeze blew through the air and my soul, quieting all around.

“My child, you are this blueberry patch. I have planted you with intention, creating you with purpose. Your job is not to pull back based on a less-than-perfect outcome nor grow discouraged with early sparse harvests. Your job is to keep on, to grow deep roots, to do what I’ve created you for and trust the outcome to Me. Maturing comes with time. Be fruitful with what you’ve got now. It will grow sweeter, more plentiful as you endure.”

“My child, you are the gardener. Realizing the berries at their ripe potential keeps the bushes strong, feeds your family and provides enjoyment to those you share your harvest with. But when you neglect to gather what I have brought forth – your talents, your gifts, the opportunities I bring – then they shrivel like these hardened berries, once plump with potential now dropped to the ground. Don’t miss what I have for you nor neglect the harvest for fear of failure, of imperfection. If you never picked a berry from worrying that it may not be the sweetest, you’d miss out terribly and the bush would go to ruin.”

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“But oh my child, how great is My grace! Even those berries fallen to the ground can nourish the soil. Be not discouraged. Learn. Grow. Reap the harvest I have planted and TRUST ME with the outcome. I am the Great Gardener.”

Today I came to the blueberry patch to gather fruit but left with so much more. Oh how sweet the harvest!

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Well Worn

ImageThey fray quickly now.  Within weeks deep denim hues begin to fade towards white.  This quick progression from new to used marks every pair of jeans I own, a pattern which began four years ago when I found myself knees-to-floor daily.

In a world of lofty ambition and heads held high, nothing has brought me low like motherhood.

Diapers.  Tummy time.  Playtime.  Wiping away spills.  Diapers.  Desperately looking for that other shoe.  Cleaning up toys.  Bath time.  Diapers.  Cleaning yet another mess.  Diapers!  I’ve spent much of the past four years on my knees and have the holey jeans to prove it.  Truth be told, this has frustrated me far more than it ought.  Couldn’t just one pair of jeans not look nearly spent?!  Vain, I know.

This simmering continued until last week.  As I put on a relatively new pair of jeans, I noticed the knee wear was much less than normal and smiled in delight.  But then an unexpected sadness set in.  I’m not on my knees as often.  The floorbound days are quickly fading with my children’s growth.  Less crawling on the floor.  Fewer spills to clean.  Nearly diaper-free with everyone now playing upright.  Our home will soon be baby-free forever.  How did this happen so quickly?!  The unending days of toddlerhood seem like a wisp now as I’m beginning to feel a mother’s pangs at her child’s increasing independence.

My grieved gaze looked upon the dark denim covering my knees.  Suddenly all the fraying jeans of the past four years no longer brought frustration.  Rather than carrying the marks of a weary mother, they bore weight like an honor badge, bestowed by grace and held in high esteem.  Oh the privilege of faded knees from hours spent earthbound with the most precious gifts given this side of heaven.  Forgive me, Lord, for not seeing their significance sooner.  Please open my eyes, soften my heart to delight always the wear and tears of this life You’ve entrusted to me.  Thank You for making my knees well worn.

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Withered

I’m currently going through You Belong To The Bridegroom (seriously cannot recommend this study highly enough!  Get it!!).  This week finds me in Mark 3:1-6, a passage familiar which packed a new-found punch.  In college, I traveled to India for two weeks and while there, one of my travel companions, Cara Powers George, shared an impactful message on this passage.  Today’s time in these six verses brought her words to memory as the Lord spoke fresh revelations to my heart.

The passage tells of a man with a withered hand who has a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  We know not why the man’s hand was withered.  Was it a birth defect?  A horrible accident?  The result of intentional harm?  No matter the source of his impairment, this man carried a physical reminder of weakness, inability and shame.  Every.  Day.  But rather than hiding in life’s shadows, we find him in the synagogue, the place of worship and teaching of Scriptures.  He had come to the place of religion but that day, he met the Source of Salvation.

Jesus called the man to Himself.  “Get up and come forward!”  One of disability, I wonder if the man blushed at the attention, slowly rising from the back of the room and walked timidly to the center of the synagogue.  Did he hide his hand beneath his cloak?  How often we too hide in our shame, embarrassed of the marks we carry of life’s afflictions and poor decisions.  Even in churches, we come knowing we ought be there or hoping answers will be found, yet put on a happy face, hiding the disfigurements we all carry behind smiles and cliches.

As he reached the Savior, this man heard the words, “Stretch out your hand.”  Expose your withered hand, your inability, your source of pain.  The very hand that had defined and limited the man was precisely what Jesus desired.  Bring it out from hiding into the light.  What struck me most in this passage was not just the Lord’s desire for the disfigured, but how He chose to heal him.  Verse 5 tells us that the man stretch out his hand (comma) and it was restored.  Notice the order!  The hand was restored after he exposed it to Jesus.  The man’s willingness to stretch out his hand, to trust Jesus with his greatest shame, brought forth His healing.  The Lord honored the man’s trust and obedience in restoring his hand.  How often He calls me to bring my withered parts to Him with healing in mind, yet I remain impaired by my own pride to keep it hidden.

I love how Jesus called the broken to Himself.  He was surrounded by Pharisees in this moment.  Men of discipline, knowledge and religious perfection.  Yet it was the man of withered hand, standing in the back shadows, that drew the Lord’s attention and affection.  Jesus did not ask the cause of this man’s brokenness.  In fact, He already knew it all.  But the cause was not of concern to the Lord.  Only that he would come forward and trust the messy result into His keeping.

We all have withered places: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  We all carry scarred results of past decisions and harmful afflictions.  But try as we might, we cannot mend ourselves.  Jesus calls us all to get up out of our shame and hiding, to come forward into His presence and to stretch out our disfigurements to Him.  Jesus loves us.  He longs for us.  And it is in our vulnerable trusting that His healing takes place.

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Caught Between

Life seems to be a journey caught between two realities: the facts of our circumstances and the Truth of God’s character.  With every situation, we are faced with the choice of which reality we will choose to cling to.  The facts surrounding our existence may not all ways be easy nor quickly change for the better, but our perspective within those seasons will determine how we walk the path ahead.  It is a lesson I continue to learn over and over and over again.  Praise be to God who never tires in loving instruction, who’s faithfulness knows no bounds.

When caught between the facts and the Truth, we must always cling to the hope of Jesus and the Truth of His Word.  Here are a few examples:

If it seems impossible to choose the correct perspective: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days…”  Deuteronomy 31.19-20a

A child is sick or disabled, whether in utero or after birth:  “For You formed my inward parts; You womb me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139.13-17

Someone is maligning you for doing the right thing or you’re gripped by fear of the journey ahead: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  The Lord is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Plans go awry and hope seems lost: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”  Jeremiah 29.11

You can’t make sense of what God is doing: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”  Isaiah 55.8-9

You’re under attack and everything in you wants to fight back: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12.19-21

You’ve messed up so bad that you don’t know how you’ll make it right:  “…All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…But God demonstrates His own love towards us, tin that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3.23; 5.8; 8.1

We all get caught between the facts and the Truth.  Choose the Truth for it will surely set you free.  (John 8.31-32)

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Pinning Inspiration

I find when there is a lesson, quality, memory verse, mindset or habit I’m trying to gain, I need to be reminded of my goal.  Often.  Very often.

Enter Pinterest.  This has become my go-to tool for visual reminders.   I’ve been gathering artistically displayed verses and quotes on a board titled “Points To Ponder”.  I’ll select a pin fitting my current circumstance and display the image as many places as possible.  Seeing these reminders throughout the day has really helped my growth in desired areas, memorizing verses more quickly and often restoring my mindset on frazzled days.

One great place to display such prompts is on your phone or desktop.  For example, recently I was struggling with feeling overwhelmed.  I grabbed a pin from my Pinterest board, copied the image to my phone’s wallpaper and voila!  My mind was directed towards the Lord EVERY time I used my phone.  Every call, every text brought this verse to mind.

Its a little trick that I’ve found greatly helpful.  Hopefully it will encourage you too.  Get pinning!

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The Snare Of Comparison

Comparison.  A tug and a trap.  The older I get, the more I realize how dangerous comparison to other people can be.  Amidst the craziness of life, I find myself easily tempted to hold up my experiences and surroundings with others.  And as my pastor, Jimmy Carroll, wisely says, we often compare up.  When my kids are misbehaving, my thoughts quickly go to the many friends I have whose kids seemed well-behaved.  When my house is disheveled, I remember their orderly homes.  When my walk with the Lord feels dry, I’m quickly reminded of those who seem to be intimate with Him always.  When I see someone’s strength, it often makes me ponder my weaknesses.  Compare becomes despair.

In those moments, what I fail to remember is their kids also have meltdown days.  No child is perfectly behaved all the time.  When I’m frustrated by a weakness, I neglect to recall my strengths.  When I become consumed with the gifting of another, I’m wasting opportunities to use and strengthen the giftings He has given me.  When their clean home comes to mind, I don’t remember that it was clean because company was coming over or the other times when my own has been orderly.  When I feel discouraged that my walk isn’t at the level of so-and-so’s walk, I’m not considering the dry seasons they too have experienced nor the trials that grew their walk with the Lord.

Comparison can be a shoddy lens.  While it is wise to observe characteristics and habits in those we admire to better strengthen ourselves, we must remember that we are ALL uniquely made by a loving Creator.  He gives us all a beautiful life inheritance, giftings and a future.  (Psalm 16.6, Jeremiah 29.11).  When consumed with what we lack or struggle in, we are restrained from living fully the life He has perfectly crafted for us individually and end up being poor stewards of what has already been entrusted to us.  I have wasted years resenting the successes of others in areas I desired for myself.  How kind the Lord has been to show me this error.  It was His loving design to lead me down the path I’m on.  He has given me gifts and talents for good were I to actually develop them rather than waste my energies coveting the giftings of others.  (1 Corinthians 12.7-26, 1 Timothy 1.6-7)  As I was recently reminded in Radically Obedient, “We miss the joy and freedom of radical obedience, of becoming all that God has designed us to be, when we try to be like someone else.”  The LORD defines His plans us.

So if you find yourself scoping the circumstances of others and coming up short, take heart.  Be mindful of what you are comparing yourself to and the incomplete picture it may be.  Remember that we are ALL a work in progress.  We ALL have been entrusted with amazing gifts, talents, and blessings.  Focus on what He has given you and celebrate His gifts to others.  With a heart of gratitude and humility, we can avoid the snares of comparison and live out fuller lives.  All to the glory of God.

 

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Bloom

Its tempting.  That persistent pull during stressful moments and amidst the chaos of motherhood.  When it seems you’re treading water just to make it through the day, yearning for bedtime to finally come for a brief respite from life’s ever-rushing flow.  It whispers in the mundane as I fold yet another load of laundry and look at the messy room that was clean just moments before.

“I can’t wait for this season to be over.”

I have found myself wrestling with this tug to look more towards tomorrow than enjoy whatever is held in today.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely ADORE my children!  I’m beyond grateful that I’m able to stay home to raise them in these small years.  What a blessing to have a home to keep and a full fridge of food to prepare.  All gifts.  All luxuries.  All able to wear me out more than I’d like to admit.  Motherhood has proven thus far the most refining role I’ve held yet.  Sacrifice.  Selflessness.  Patience.  So much patience.  ‘Tis not a glamorous job but oh so worthwhile.

As I’ve wrestled with this pull during today’s struggles to be more eager for tomorrow’s elusive ease, the Lord continues to bring this passage to mind.  Oh how I need it!

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3.23-24)

Whatever you do.  Whatever.  Whether folding laundry for the millionth time or cleaning another dirty diaper or putting down the book that you’d really like the chance to read to give your child a needed hug, do it ALL for the glory of God.  When tomorrow’s dreams feel like they lay on the back burner in order to accomplish the needs of today, work at today’s tasks as unto the Lord.  Rather than hoping this season will quickly pass because of my own shortcomings and impatience, I ought embrace the gift of today that He has given me.  After all, the whole of life is a sum of todays.  If I spend it all looking towards the tomorrows rather than embracing the now, I will have squandered it all.

Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  In other words, bloom where you are planted.  That is my hope, my prayer, the lesson I continue to struggle in learning.  When the tugging comes to wish away the present struggles for tomorrow, may I remember that it is the Lord Jesus whom I serve.  May I work at all before me as working unto Him, knowing if this is the season He has for me, then it is for a good purpose and I can trust Him in it.  After all, today is but a wisp, here for a moment and then gone forever.  May I be found faithful in His sight.  May I bloom where I’ve been planted.

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