Archive | counting blessings

a month since meggie

EP phoebe and meggie in my bed

It’s been a month since Meggie left, a month since I penned a teary letter to her. The adoption process is hardly moving. It reminds me of a spider, dragging it’s prey up a wall. If you’ve ever witnessed these efforts, you know what I mean. If not, I’ll just tell you it involves a lot of struggle, a lot of falling to the ground and starting over, a lot of patience on the part of the spider as well as the paralyzed victim.

To tell you we miss her would be redundant, but life goes on. As a matter of fact, amidst the absence of our baby sister and the wintry weather and the constant stress of trying to build a house with our bare hands while still keeping our “real” jobs, things have been quite joyful. I spoke briefly with a good friend on Sunday with whom I’d really like to catch up, and I found myself wanting to grab lunch with her just so I could reassure that I am quite happy and content in this season.

I appear to be getting singler and singler, which is apparently the most prevalent cause of discontentment in young women today, but I am also becoming wiser and wiser, stronger and stronger, less and less susceptible to every passing wind and therefore, in generally better spirits. As much as I loved being very young, it’s kind of a relief to just be “young” now. Growing up is hard work.

To conclude the personal update, I love writing more than ever and I am rekindling my love of visual art. The desire to create visual art is perhaps just as strong as the desire to write, but the craft is much more difficult for me. I’ve been writing in my journal and preparing this and that for various blogs and sketching and piddling with watercolors. I think I need to share more of my illustrations, but it still makes me uncomfortable. It’s taken me long enough to become confident as a writer. Sharing a sketch is like starting all over again in first grade.

What I will do with these thoughts and words and lines and dots, I am not sure. I am praying diligently and practicing, and I think that’s obedience for this season.

Another thing that has kept me busy and happy is The Serve Team. This team was started by the college ministry I’m involved in last semester. The idea is that a group of students gathers each week and goes and meets the physical needs of those in our church community, primarily senior adults. I really look forward to this throughout the week. We do anything they need help with: pull weeds, wash windows, vacuum, make repairs, trim trees, organize, move furniture, etc. The best part is getting to know the older generation, hearing their stories and gaining wisdom from them. They’re also typically sweet and appreciate, so we all leave on a high.

I woke up a couple of weeks ago with an idea in my head and the leaders in our church were kind enough to bring it to life. On Sunday, about seventy widows received a Valentine’s rose after church. It was a memorable time for me.

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My older sister and her husband have now been living with us for almost eight months. Everyone has been a trooper, squeezing in and making due with the little room and privacy we have to offer. The men in the family are literally building the house by hand, so it isn’t any wonder it’s taking a…while. They all toil at it in their minimum spare time, and it slowly makes progress. It does look like a house now…just not a very warm, safe or comfy house.

I leave you with an recent excerpt from my journal and a promise to come back again soon to write more:

“My world is swirling with robins. The extremely low temperatures have graced us with a massive migration of birds. Jays, sparrows, juncos, doves, cardinals, wrens, titmice, crows, chickadees and more, soar and dive across every window’s view. This seemingly long Winter will soon melt away and Spring will be here in full force. I am looking very much forward to sunshine and wildflowers and cheerful, uncomplicated clothes. However, I also have appreciated this frosty, feathery season.”

everly

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on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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how to truly end waste

spanish moss

This post is part of a series. Part One, Part Two.

I am hesitant to sign up to host an angel, because I’m not always a perfect hostess. What if I’m in a bad mood and fail to make conversation or I burn the casserole and forget to buy butter? And yet, when scripture says some of us will “entertain angels unawares” we are being warned not to neglect showing hospitality to strangers. Do we not think that human strangers also report to God? That He is not watching them just as closely as He watches His angels? We are to be hospitable to everyone (never knowing if they are an angel or “merely” a child of God.)

I think we tend to keep our planet and it’s animals, eco-system and human life very separate from the spiritual realm. Stories of miracles and angels interacting with mortality are like quick visions of meteors streaming across our view of the milky way. If you believe in them at all, you think they happen once in a blue moon and never guess that you yourself might be looking up when such a thing occurs.

That is probably why it has taken me so long to write this series. I had a lot of thoughts on waste, but they all seemed disconnected. There was the truth that kept sinking deeper into my mind that God wastes nothing in our lives, not even pain or loss. And then there was the ordinary type of waste. Actual trash we put in our dumpsters and time we spend worrying about our crooked mouth and un-plucked (or as I like to call them, “free range”) eyebrows.

I do believe in meteors and I believe that sometimes they crash into planets or other things in space before they burn out, like a miraculous meeting of two kindred spirits (only a little more explosive.) That’s the way this series was born. Suddenly I realized that my thoughts were connected. All waste is the same. Everything comes from God. God wastes nothing. We waste everything.

Material waste is a huge, huge issue in our world. Not only is it greatly hurting the planet itself, it is hurting people directly. I recently read that 1.3 billion tons of food produced world wide is wasted or lost each year. (That’s 1/3 of the annual production.) While some of this food is lost or wasted in production, most of it is wasted by consumers, particularly in the United States. In 2010, an estimated 33 million tons of food waste went into U.S. landfills and incinerators.

How is this hurting people? A billion people are malnourished today.

While I was whining about what was on my plate and wishing I could throw my stir-fry to the dog, my baby brother was being born in Port-Au-Prince and growing a huge, bloated belly. Waste hurts people because they need what we are throwing away.

Do you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you know why God had to burn the whole county down with fire from heaven?

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49, emphasis mine.)

And that’s when I realized how to truly end waste. Waste has a natural enemy, and it’s not recycling. The natural enemy of waste is gratitude.

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You never, ever throw away something you are truly grateful for. I was not grateful for the ice left in my cup after drinking a glass of water, but the children at the orphanage would clobber for the sink to grab it from the drain, grateful (if not also a little greedy.) We throw away food and clothing and time and relationships because we simply don’t appreciate them. We do not bow our faces to the floor and thank God for the things we scrape off of our plates.

When you cultivate a heart of gratitude, you cease to waste. And when you see the gift and the beauty and grace in everything that comes your way, you never think of throwing it out. You keep it, you use it, you share it, but you don’t waste it.

If the people of Sodom had taken their excess of food and used it to aid the poor and needy, we would’ve know they were not proud. They would’ve been a grateful, humble people, probably honored in scripture rather than held up as an example of despicableness. That’s the irony of the holiday season. We want more, grab more, covet more and waste more during this season than any other. Why can’t we see that we have more to be grateful for than we have to complain about? Why don’t we see that we are filthy, filthy, filthy rich?

In her wonderful book, Discipline: The Glad SurrenderElisabeth Elliot writes:

“The goodness and love of God choose the gifts, and we say thank you, acknowledging the Thought Behind as well as the thing itself. Covetousness involves suspicion about the goodness and love of God, and even His justice. He has not given me what He gave somebody else. He doesn’t notice my need. He doesn’t love me as much as He loves him. He isn’t fair.

Faith looks up with open hands. “You are giving me this, Lord? Thank you. It is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pg. 108

So back up a bit, look at the big picture. The sky is full of meteors and you’ve been given eyes to see.

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table talk and a new series

fall colors

The meal was a simple one of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes but the preparation had been almost strenuous. My dad had fried the bacon on a skillet on our grill, my mother had fried the chunks of red potatoes one little batch at a time at the stove and I had scrambled eighteen eggs (which barely landed a pile on each plate.) The meal had been gobbled, glasses of milk and pomegranate juice guzzled and coffee sipped. My mom leaned her face on her palm.

“Does anyone have any ideas for Thanksgiving this year? I know we’re all thinking about Christmas already, but we need to remember to be thankful first.”

We glanced at each other over sticky forks. Jubilee started off on a rabbit trail about what she wants to get everyone for Christmas. “You did say something about Christmas, didn’t you?”

Eventually we circled back around and began to open up. Jubilee ran and grabbed a few leaves off of our thanksgiving tree and we read the verses aloud. My dad begins to speak and soon we were all sharing things we are thankful for: warm clothes, warm water. A homeschool football team. Unusual fall colors (thanks to our Autumnal rainfall!) The benefits of living in a large college town. It’s amazing how a good conversation is sometimes just a question, or a paper leaf, away.

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Soon the talk turned to those “less fortunate” and how we might help them by sharing what we’ve been given. Earlier my dad had to told us about the little girl he’d seen in the ER the night before. She suffered a head injury and may never wake from her coma. He tells us her mother is beside herself. We talk about aging out of foster care, about homelessness and abuse. We mention human trafficking, abortion, hunger and jiggers. We talk about slave children on cocoa farms and how every single purchase really does make a difference to somebody.

I begin to share about the lady I’d met just that morning who doesn’t have a sink in her bathroom, and how she told me she was going to spend Thanksgiving at a place where they serve meals to the needy and I how I thought she was going there for a meal, but she is going there to serve. My voice snags at the thought and I stop talking and just wipe away the tears. We are so blessed.

The children ask questions and we travel from Haiti to Latvia to Bryan, Texas in our conversation and we are trying to hammer it into them that, around the corner, down the road, Jesus’ feet need to be walking and His hands need to be healing and that’s us. I tell them about Ann’s talk at Allume and the part where she told us that we’re all Queen Esther-s inside of the palace walls. We’re the only people that can help those begging at the gate.

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The dishes cease to clank and our stomaches are heavy with (too much) good food. We collect the plates but there are no “fragments to gather” because we’ve licked the platter clean. We cheerfully help each other rinse the grease off under purified water and load the glasses into the shiny dishwasher and pour Mommy’s homemade detergent into the door.

I make my way upstairs in a hurry and open my lap top. There’s this series I’ve been dying to write here but I’ve just been floating down the river of thought gathering things from this bank and that but now I’m tipping over the waterfall and I have to write.

(Would you join me in a short and likely scattered blog series on the idea of “gathering up the fragments”? Thoughts on gratitude and giving? Reflections on Emmanuel and why He came to us?)

Last night as I breathed under my covers, I looked out the big window I’ve stubbornly kept uncovered and marvel at the audacity of the Christmas story. I wonder how many folks going to Christmas parties this year with their cross necklaces and cheery nativity sets and chocolate Advent calendars actually believe the story. Have you thought about it lately?

I mean, God the creator, ruler of the universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, chose to be conceived in the womb of a poor virgin girl, born among livestock and manure in a stable room, raised by a carpenter, rejected, betrayed, tortured and finally butchered naked on a cross at the age of thirty-three.

He who knew no sin knew our sin intimately at that moment. Every evil act, every creepy motive, every cruel word. Every moment of hatred and bloodshed. Every desecration and rebellion. He bore that sin and became it and then gave up His spirit. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and then returned to His dead body after three days to clarify things for us one more time before ascending into Heaven and promising to return for us.

This is not Frosty the Snowman singing, “I’ll be back again someday.” This is The King of Kings promising to return for us. We who refused Him room at the inn. We who started an infanticide in hopes of ending His life. We who called Him crazy. We who betrayed and denied Him. We who pulled out His beard and spit in His face. We who doubted, and doubt still…

The moon has gone behind a cloud and I can hear raindrops plinking on my balcony furniture. I roll over. There’s nothing to see out in the dark and my mind is back at that stable. I’m somewhere between the piglets and the llama, kneeling in the grimy hay. I’m staring at a seemingly ordinary baby and my jaw is dropping in utter confusion. “Why, Jesus? Why would you come for us?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

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this is the day

beauty berry: this is the day

I’ve often heard it said that we should live like we’re dying.

Really? Like we’re dying? That sounds kind of panicked if not macabre. What about living like there’s something worth living for, whether you have a thousands of days left on this earth or just one?

I’m in a pseudo college student season. Most of my friends are in class all day, watching their grades, applying for internships and grad schools. They all seem to have a few questions in common, “What should I do after I graduate?” being number one.

Though my lifestyle is very different, our questions sound the same. I’m living at home, writing blog posts instead of papers. I spend 90% of my time with my family, most of that at Eyrie Park. I cook, clean, run errands and goof off with my ten-year old sister almost every day. It’s not the life of a college student.

But I have the same fears. What if I’m wasting my life?

crooked: this is the day

What if I never marry? What if I never become independent? What if I get stuck and nothing comes of any of this effort?

It’s a season of questions and waiting. There is a feeling of rushing down a river toward a waterfall, unsure of what fate might lie at the bottom. Every day bustles by, every iphone has a full calendar app. Plans must be made and made now or you’ll miss the boat! And everyone knows what happens to people who go over the waterfall without a boat…

sisters: this is the day

Sometimes my house is suffocating, but I’m always thankful that I live here rather than in a dorm with a couple of people my own age. I sometimes slip out of the house and walk around in the pasture (less now that we’re building a house there!) and think about what’s changed and what’s remained. I know that some changes come like spirits through all the walls and locked doors we may put up. They appear when we least expect them, but their presence is impossible to ignore. Jubilee is getting tall and losing her baby teeth. She reads chapter books in a day and bravely goes to overnight events at the church. You can’t mistake the fact that she’ll soon be a young lady.

But I think I forget to remember this one thing: today is today. And today is the day. The day that the Lord has given me at this ordained time. I will never wake up and say, “Hooray! It’s finally “tomorrow”! Now I can be the person I always wanted to be!” The future won’t feel like the future. It will feel like today.

photo ala photo: this is the day

And that’s the secret to living life like life’s worth living. That’s the secret to enjoying your life! Enjoy today. And then enjoy today. And then enjoy today.

I’m not waiting for anything. Sometimes I get giddy thinking of what God might have in store for me, but I don’t know what that might be. One way or another, it is beyond my imagination. But I don’t have to “wait” for that. He’s given me something today. Life. Breath. People to love. Things to do.

My rushing about doesn’t change how soon God’s best will come. It’s a daily thing. New mercies every morning. The rising of the sun. The postal service. :)

rainboots: this is the day

I’m done wasting my life while waiting for it to begin. There is so much given to me daily and so little faith in all my plans. God planned this day for me. It would be a sad thing indeed to waste it waiting for tomorrow.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day..” Hebrews 3:13 

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