God at Work

On the afternoon of Tuesday, January  28 a fire began in the attic of our home.  By the time the fire trucks left at 8 p.m. our home was unlivable and our lives were turned upside down.  But in the midst of all of this, my crazy, control-freak, doesn’t-like-to-be-overstimulated heart remains calm.  When friends ask how we’re doing, all I want to do is tell them about all that God has been doing.  Our house burned.  We are so blessed.  These two statements should be incompatible but they are not.  Praise God, they are not.

 

Praising God for His Protection….

Nathan’s classes were cancelled for the day.  Since he was home, I asked him to help me rearrange the furniture in Emma’s room.  Because we were working upstairs, we were able to detect the fire much earlier in the middle of the afternoon.  The epicenter of the fire was right above Anna’s closet.  If the fire had gone undetected or had broken out at night, we might have lost one or both of our daughters.  We are all safe.  Everything else is just stuff.

 

Praising God for His Provision…

Before the fire trucks left our yard, my friend Lisa was texting me with an offer to stay in a house they had not yet sold while our home was being rebuilt.  She could only do this because months earlier, the Lord had laid it on her husband’s heart not to pursue selling the house because someone may have need of it.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  I believe and teach that God is omniscient—He knows everything and that God is eternal—to Him all moments are “now”.  But I have to admit, every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat to know that God was at work providing for my needs long before the first spark.

My brothers Justin and Jason were on the scene the next day to begin the process of clean up and demolition.  They are both highly competent men of integrity and God has gifted each of them with unique abilities that work well together.  It has been so comforting to me to have them at my side, not just because they are my brothers, but also because they are good at what they do and I know it will be done well.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Health…

While we wait to move into the rental house, we are staying with my parents, their dog Molly, and their five cats.  I am highly allergic to cats.  To be fair, four of them live in the basement waiting to be relocated in the spring; but as we learned the year we hatched baby chicks and kept rabbits in our basement, basements count when it comes to breathing.  I am very thankful for a warm place to stay while we are waiting, but by all rights my health should be a wreck.  To the contrary, I can count on one hand the number of times I have needed to take an OTC medicine.  I can only attribute this to God’s sustaining grace.

 

Praising God for The Body…

John and I have been overwhelmed by the love of God as expressed through His people toward us.  Our church, my mom’s church, our homeschool group, our community, saints near and far, we are a part of the Body of Christ and every meal, every card, every collection, every prayer, every hug, everyone who stops to ask “how are you?” is God saying “I love you…I love you…I love you…I love you,” and we have been so loved!   I think this is how the Body is supposed to work.  They have wept as we wept, they have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  They have held us up in prayer, cared for our needs, and done good unto us.  We live in a time when the Church is ridiculed as being hypocritical and dysfunctional.  From my perspective there has been a sacredness in being part of the Church functioning exactly as it was designed to and to quote Eric Liddell, “I can feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Praising God for His work in our Lives…

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Ro. 5:3-5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28)

“Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

“God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always working all things together for my ultimate and eternal good.  God’s grace abounds to me even through trials.  Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me.” (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, p.63)

I have to confess it is not my natural inclination to exult in this trial but I can exult in my God.  I do not know what God is doing in our lives, but I know that He is at work and that it is good.  I am confident of this because I know that He is faithful and His Word cannot fail.

I’m not sure where this quote came from. Maybe when we move back in our house, I can unpack my box of Bible studies and give the author proper credit; but in the margin of my Bible above James 1 are written these words, “When we endure trials by faith, with joy, it brings glory to God.”  That much I can do.  I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that He is at work to bring about my good and bring Himself glory.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Himself…

When we came back to my parents’ house the night of the fire, my youngest daughter asked me, “Why did this happen to us?”  That is a totally normal question and we talked about Job and how he never lost his love for God or his hope in God and how God restored all that Job had lost.  But for me, the question “Why me?” is very unsatisfying because the inevitable answer is “Why not me?”  As I have been reading the books Be Still, My Soul by Nancy Guthrie and Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian  (I highly recommend both of them), I have discovered a better question is “Who?”

“Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is not an exhortation from above to ‘hang on at all costs or ‘grin and bear it’ in the midst of hardship.  No the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over every pain and loss….(God) loves you; his chief concern is to be himself for you….we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.”  (Glorious Ruin, p. 10-11)

This is a great and glorious gift and it is the one theme which keeps coming back to me over the past several years—that God is my Enough and my Enough is more than enough.

 

 

Morning Gratitude

Is there any symphony as stirring as the one God plays for me each morning outside my window?  If I visited the great museums of the world, would I be surrounded with any more beauty than I am outside my door?  Could I visit any spa or take any vacation which would bring more peace than dwelling in the shadow of His wing?  Truly I am blessed beyond all measure and I sing with King David:

 “Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? …How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you.”  2 Samuel 7:18,22

 

Psalm 40:1-3

Getting up and ready for church this morning, I happened to notice the computer was turned off.  That usually means one thing, that there had been a power outage of some sort in the night and considering the freezing rain and sleet outside, it seemed likely.  Even though John had just cleaned up, he knew what he must do.  Power outages on our farm are serious business.  When the power goes out, the first thing we are all trained to do (myself included) is to open the doors to the pig buildings to let the fresh air in.  Power outages mean no fans in the pig buildings and no fans for an extended period of time leads to suffocation for the pigs on a large scale.

Praise the Lord there were no problems from whatever power outage there was in the night, but when John got out there he discovered that someone had left a gate open yesterday and that there were several nursery pigs that had fallen into the pit and needed rescuing.  It is a difficult, unpleasant job and no matter how many times he washes, it will be difficult to get the odor out of his skin.  We probably won’t make it to worship service this morning.  Hopefully, he will be done in time for us to make it to Sunday School.  It has put me in mind of the following verses:

I waited patiently1 for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.2 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,3 out of the mud4 and mire;5 he set my feet6 on a rock7 and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song8 in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3) 

For any who may read this who are not familiar with agriculture, pig buildings are built with slotted floors, so that the waste falls through into a deep pit below the building.  This waste is periodically pumped out and disposed of through a precise waste management plan so that the fumes do not overwhelm the pigs or the people who care for them.  Pig poo is serious business.

And so this morning, I have a new appreciation for this picture from the psalms.  I was trapped in the pit of my self-sufficiency.  It was cold and slimy and most definately smelled bad.  I had no power to save myself.  Only the loving Shepherd (and aren’t shepherds a type of farmer?) could rescue me, taking on my slime so that I could put on His righteousness.  And were this not enough, he lovingly gave me a firm place to stand and gave me a song of praise to sing. 

Thank you Jesus, I love You and sing my praises to You this morning.

My joy, My hope, My goal, My reward

In the midst of all this uncertainty, John and I have found great comfort and hope in God’s Word.  There is a list of verses that I keep in my Bible and add to them as more are sent to us by friends or from our very great Friend. 

Psalm 121:  1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Job 1:21  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;  blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 2:10b  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 19:25-27  25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Job 23:10 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

Is 43:1-3a  1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

Jer. 29:11 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jer 32:17,27   ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you…”Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Jer 33:3   Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Matt 6:25-34  25 “Therefore I tell you,  do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But  seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble

Psalm 20:1,5-7  May the LORDanswer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Ecc. 7:14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

James 1:2-4, 12  2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that  the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing… 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,  which God has promised to those who love him.

John 6:68-69  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have  the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that  you are  the Holy One of God.”

My first goal in writing here has always been to make a record of things I want to remember; a record my children can read someday when I am gone.  I thought for awhile this morning about making these past two posts private, but it is my hope that if there is someone who reads this who is facing their own time of uncertainty that they would find hope in the One who holds our past, present, and future in His hands.

Celebrating Our Freedom

Among other ways to observe the Independence Day holiday, July 4th is traditionally the time of year when the wild black raspberries down by our creek are ready to pick; so this morning John and I packed everyone into the truck and embarked upon our berry picking adventure.

These are John’s observations while we were picking black raspberries this morning:

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  (Genesis 3:17-19)

“Picking black raspberries is an example of God’s provision for us.  The food is free for our taking and we will enjoy the raspberry jam this winter, but it is also an excellent example of the curse because in order to pick the raspberries, we have to fight the heat and the thorns.  When I draw my hand back from the berry bush, it is scratched and covered in blood and reminds me that blood is required to atone for sin and the curse.” (And if I may add, it reminds me of another bloodied hand which DID atone for sin and the curse.)

I guess it is appropriate that as we celebrate our country’s freedom, we also celebrate the One who has truly set us free.

The Gospel in my Garden

I haven’t written anything here for a long time.  I guess it’s because I haven’t had anything I wanted to say or remember.  I hope that changes.  As our family is going through the process of sorting through my in-laws’ things, I kind of like the idea that somewhere there is a record of things that I have written that someday my children could read.

We’ve planted a fairly large garden this year and little by little we are getting better at maintaining it so that it isn’t so weedy.  We’ve planted tomatoes and beans, peppers and different kinds of cukes and squash all with an eye toward freezing or canning for this winter.  We’ve also planted carrots and beets.  Now I’ve got to be honest and admit that I didn’t want to plant carrots or beets.  They’re kind of a pain and carrots are relatively inexpensive at Aldi’s  and we’re not huge beet eaters, so why bother with the hassle?   But John really wanted to plant carrots and beets, so being the *obedient* wife that I am, we planted carrots and beets.  (Now at this point, my friends may want to check to make sure the surge protector on their computer is working in case lightning might strike and my really good friends will want to pick themselves off of the floor from laughing so hard.)

I will freely admit that not all of the plants in my garden started out life on equal footing.  The tomatoes, for example were lovingly planted in individual pots in my basement and carefully watered, spending weeks under the grow light.  When they were planted they were immediately surrounded by tiles and cages to keep the birds from eating the little plants and to give them support as they grow.  The beans are relatively easy to grow.  They are large seeds, not to tricky to sprout, they grow into easily recognizable plants.  We put up a supportive fence for the pole beans and they automatically seek it out, growing right up it without any training from me (which John and I find absolutely amazing, by the way…isn’t God so creative?)  Then there’s the carrots.  You know there’s a reason I wasn’t too wild about planting them.  The seeds are so tiny.  I cheated.  I bought the seed tape.  They take forever to come up and I can’t really weed until they do because I might pull them up.  That’s what brings us to where we are today.  I decided it was time to weed the carrots.  Now carrots really do take forever to come up, but you know what doesn’t?  Weeds.  The weeds in my carrot row came up quite nicely, in fact they were strong and thriving.  The carrots on the other hand, were very tiny and fragile.  That meant that weeding the carrots was going to be a very long and painstaking process, so that I wouldn’t accidentally pull up the carrots when I pulled the weeds.

First I had to seek them out…I mean really seek them out on my hands and knees because they were difficult to find among the thriving weeds.  When I did find them, I would carefully pull the weeds that were competing for sun, soil, and water.  The weeds weren’t crazy about being pulled, they were very comfortable right where they were.  There was an audible ripping sound as I pulled them from the earth.  Sometimes this would disturb the soil so much that it would dislodge the carrots, so I would have to carefully hold the tender carrot in one hand while pulling the weed with the other so it didn’t get hurt.  The carrots had really grown accustomed to the weeds being there.  They were using them for support, and when the weeds were gone, they kind of flopped over and wilted, so I made sure to give them a drink of restorative water.  It is not my plan for the carrots to use the weeds for support.  I have a better plan for them, one where they get all the water and soil and sunshine and grow deep roots and are productive for me.  You see that is my plan for all the vegetables in my garden…that they bear fruit (or in this case vegetables) and are productive for my use.

When I got done weeding the carrot patch, there weren’t that many that had come up.  There were long, blank patches in the row.  With sadness I recognized that the weeds had choked many of them out before they could ever come to be.  I don’t expect that there will be boxes of carrots down in the pit for us to use over the winter, but I do expect that the carrots I rescued this morning will grow and be enough for maybe a meal for my family’s enjoyment.  I expect more from the tomatoes and beans.  I expect them to produce many tomatoes and beans that I will can so I can feed my family this winter.

I am glad that God is the Master Gardener.  I long to be in His Garden again.  Honestly, I am tired of the weeds.  In the meantime, I hope to grow and produce much fruit and be productive for His purposes.

(See also Matthew chapter 13 and 25.)

Works for Me!

Wow!  Has it really been this long since I have had a thought worth writing in my online journal?  Scary.

I have found a wonderful new (to me) blog called Raising Olives that I have been enjoying immensely. It is here that I found the instructions on how to make darling little seeded bobby pins for my daughters (mine are pretty plain~not nearly as fancy as the ones she pictures~ but still pretty darn cute and a closer match to my personal style anyway.) It is also here where I found out how to turn your entire wall (or anything else) into a chalkboard We considered painting our prospective chalkboard the same color as the rest of the kitchen, but then decided that plain black would offer more contrast for colorful sidewalk chalk on rainy days and during the long, cold, northern IL winters for budding artists and bored preschoolers.

One of the features at Raising Olives is “Works for Me Wednesday” I’m not sure that my tip qualifies for WFMW, but hey, it works for me. :o) I discovered this one completely by accident. We have a darling little red wagon~the kind with the hydraulic tires that you have to order through a farm supply catalog~ that I bought when my bigs were littles and I was parenting by peers (more on that later). It has served us well over the years. The wooden frame got pretty well beaten up and Nathan lovingly rebuilt it as a 4-H project the summer Emma was born. (He also learned to use the power saw and electric drill that summer and I have the gray hairs to prove it, but I’m getting distracted.) The said wagon happened to be left near the clothesline the other day when I was hanging out laundry, so I set the basket of wet, heavy clothes in it. Wow! The basket sat much higher off the ground so I didn’t have to stoop down as far and rolling the clothes down the line instead of constantly picking up the basket to move it both were much easier on my back and saved me a lot of time. Here is a picture of our wagon with the clothes by the line. I briefly considered placing a clothes basket in the wagon for artistic reasons, but honestly, it was already in the house being used for other purposes by that time and it seemed a little silly; but please feel free to use your imagination.
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