Friday, August 27, 2010

Designed to Provide

This is the time of year for putting all that garden produce into the freezer or the canning cupboard. Every August our kitchen used to be redolent with the smells of applesauce, jams and relishes. I remember the first years of our marriage when I was doing all that for my own family for the first time. By the end of the summer I would have row after row of sealed mason jars on the shelves, their colorful contents advertizing the goodness within. I took such pleasure in staring at all that evidence of my labor that I hated to spoil the effect by using them up. I discovered how incredibly fulfilling it could be to put something on the table that you have grown in your own garden or made from scratch. These days I only do a fraction of what I did then. The temptation to do things the easy way is pretty compelling.

My husband grew up on a farm where very nearly everything they ate was produced right there. I grew up where much of what the freezer contained was put there as a result of fishing or hunting or harvesting what grew in the garden or even wild. Our parents definitely felt a close connection between the work of their hands and provision for their families. Earlier generations would have felt it even more. Now we go off to work at a job that will bring home a paycheck to purchase the things we need to provide for our families. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that paychecks are deposited directly into banks so we never actually hold the results of our day’s labor in our hands. There are many degrees of separation between our jobs and the food on our tables. Much of what we set out came from the store pre-mixed, pre-washed, pre-chopped or even pre-peeled. Just add water and in a few short minutes the pancakes are on the table and ready to eat. I do take advantage of the easy to prepare products available today but I believe something gets lost in the convenience of it all. It is much harder to make the connection between the work we do and the food we eat. Consequently we miss out on some of the fulfillment that God designed us to feel in providing for our families. At least that’s true for me. I can’t turn the clock back and I don’t really want to but I can make a conscious decision to get back to basics from time to time. I have beans to pick and berries to freeze and perhaps I’ll take a moment to look at the jars of pepper relish in my cupboard before I finish my day.

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value……She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls……” Proverbs 31:10, 11 and 15

Friday, August 20, 2010

Apricots in My Garden

Nine years ago my husband planted an apricot pit in our flower bed. No one was more surprised than him when it actually sprouted. When it grew to be nearly three feet tall he moved it to a spot right up against the brick wall on the southeast side of the house where it would get the morning sun. Apricot trees don’t normally grow in our part of the world. Our winters are often harsh and the summers can be short. Even so, it grew and last year it was covered in blossoms in the spring. We wondered if the fruit that was forming would actually ripen but by the end of July we were able to pick the apricots. We had enough fruit to eat and to make jam for the winter season. This environment is hostile to apricot trees but the brick wall makes all the difference. It shelters the tree from the elements and reflects the sun’s warmth to enable our tree to thrive and bear fruit even in harsh conditions.

Whenever I look at that tree I am reminded of my own life. We live in an environment that is often hostile to all that we believe as Christians. If I choose to stand apart and alone it becomes exponentially more difficult to live a fruitful life. People are important. There are times when, like the wall, I may need to offer someone shelter from the elements and if I can reflect the warmth that is God’s love for them, it may make all the difference in helping them to thrive. Of course, like the tree, I also need to let people get close enough to offer that kind of support to me.

I’m thankful for the people in my life. At times I may be the tree and at other times the wall but in every situation it is relationships that make the difference and allow me to grow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Keeping Disappointments in Perspective

I recently got some excellent advice in a workshop I attended. I was told that whatever I do, I should commit to doing with my whole heart and to the absolute best of my ability. That makes sense to me. The problem is that after I’ve done my best I am supposed to somehow detach myself emotionally from the results. Even though that also makes sense, it is turning out to be very nearly impossible to do.

My prayer is that God will direct my steps and give me the courage to follow where He leads. So, I take a chance and knock on the door that’s in front of me. It’s easy to say that I will plant and I will water and God can be in charge of the results. In spite of my best intentions though, I find I can’t help imagining what those results might look like. Whole scenarios get played out in my dreams and even though I might appear to be carrying on with life in an ordinary way, the edges of my vision are colored with bright expectations. I know His plans for me are good so my waiting is a bubble inside that buoys up my days.

When the results of my efforts don’t turn out at all as I imagined and I am faced with a closed door instead of the path strewn with flowers that I was hoping for and more than half expecting, my bubble deflates like a worn out balloon. I am left with questions that don’t really have answers and that is cold comfort. The measure of my disappointment lets me know that I am far from emotionally detached.

That’s when I have to follow David’s example in the Psalms and remember. I remember who God is and all that He has done for me and gradually disappointment is displaced by a welling up of thanksgiving. Faith grows out of the ashes and my perspective changes. I may not be able to figure out the ‘why’ of it all. I can’t see the end from the beginning or how everything will ultimately work together for my good but I know that’s what He promises. I am at peace again.

Romans 8:28 “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Loves and Hates

Love and Hate are strong words, maybe too strong to use for the things I normally think of in association with them.

I love walks in the woods, the music of nature, and the beauty of the earth God created….it feeds my soul.
I hate litterbugs.

I love a clever turn of phrase or a play on words that you sometimes stumble on unexpectedly when out for a drive. Things like “Hairway to Heaven” on a salon’s front door or “Brewed Awakenings” above the entrance to a local coffee shop.
I hate that I can never think of them myself.

I love being spontaneous…the reckless abandonment of schedules and timetables and normal routines can be so exhilarating. On the other hand, I also love schedules and timetables and normal routines….I might never get anything done without them.

I love the order and security that comes from a well thought out set of rules. I hate it when people just ignore the rules.

I love the satisfaction of a task completed well. I hate those tasks that are never possible to complete.

I hate being late for anything. Consequently, I am usually early which other people may very well hate, especially when I arrive before they are ready for me.

I love people in small doses, especially one on one. In all their endless variety, each one is unique in their personalities and perspectives, each with something valuable to offer simply in who they are.
I hate people in great numbers….crowds intimidate me and leave me stressed out and exhausted. The human race en masse can be a bit overwhelming.

That explains my love of quietness and solitude…no real surprise there. Silence lets my imagination soar and recharges my batteries. In fact, the older I get, the more often they need recharging.

I love a good story. If it is a good story I love it again and again and again.

I love both the bits of hard won wisdom and the confidence that have come with age. I hate the creaking joints and sometimes sleepless nights that have also come with age.

Of course there are loves that need strong words.

I love my family with all their many eccentricities. Words can’t express what I feel when I think of all that my husband has meant to me over the years. My heart bursts with love when I look into the sleeping face of my baby granddaughter. I will never cease to be amazed when I realize that that is how God feels when He looks at me. I cannot help but love Him in return.