Category Archives: simple

small graces…

lollypops

it was supposed to be a quick errand run, positioned on the edge of lunch and nap-time. our little daughter-gift is pretty laid back, even when the boundaries are pushed. so off we went. post office. bank. grocery store.

the lady at the bank did not offer a lollipop. the lady at the other bank always does, so this was confusing to my back seat passenger. she was easily placated with the promise of a lollipop or piece of gum at home, a cookie at the grocery store, or a cookie later in the evening when I baked. only one. the lolly won out. gum has been such a favorite lately, that I was certain it would be the sweet of choice.

it had to be a record for one of our shortest runs to the grocery store. less than twenty minutes. we emptied the cart contents onto the conveyor. and then it happened. the checker-lady asked her if she wanted a lolly (after a covert question to mom) and which color she would like. she chose green.

happiness knew no bounds for my girlie! all the way to the car, she told me over and over how the nice lady gave her a treat. it was such a yummy treat. and I was a kind mommy for letting her eat it before lunch.

there she sat, in the grocery cart, jabbering away, as I opened the car, dropped my purse and keys on the seat, hit the button to unlock the other doors, and closed the driver’s door. I always open her door before closing mine. always. for some reason, not today.

her door was locked. my door was locked. I’d hit the lock side of the button instead of unlock. my keys, phone, and wallet were locked in the car. we were stuck outside with our groceries, in the driving wind and drizzle. and my husband was out of town for a meeting until after lunch.

and that little green lolly? it became a grace gift, distracting her off and on for the next hour as we waited for the man to come and “break our door” so we could get in and go home. her little mouth was busy and happy, ignorant of the fact lunch should have been consumed. the sugar shot kept her going when she was tired. not enough to make her difficult, but just enough to keep her awake and interacting with me.

there are people who say God does not care about the small details of our lives. I disagree. the kindness of many at the grocery were important. the candy made a frustrating situation so much easier. and the best part? as we wheeled back into the store to find help, the little face in front of me looked up and said, “Mommy, we need help. we really need help, don’t we?” yes, sweetie, we need help. sometimes it is hard to admit we need help. today there were no other options. easily spoken words.

and before we could even ask Him for it, there was provision. more than we could accept. a ride home from the delivery driver. a booster seat loan. a hot lunch in the deli. kind and generous. a mirror of His grace.

it ended up being a short wait for the tow truck man. less than a minute to open the car. and we were on our way. from start to finish, less than an hour. but minutes filled with grace and care. before we could even ask.

God cares about the details.

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to everything there is a season…

the weather grows cooler.

children begin a new school year.

leaves change.

crops are harvested.

it has been a year since we moved to this rural city in the northern tier of states. a year of drinking in each season, with all its glory and challenge.

winter, cold and harsh, lasted long into spring. deep snows made shoveling the driveway nearly impossible as the banks rose higher than a shovelful could be thrown. the joy of snow angels and igloo-building, of sledding and snowmen made the short days full of wonder for the littlest in our home. pristine white snow. hoar frost on the trees. peaceful, unparalleled beauty balances the icy grip of winter.

spring came slowly, in fits and starts. late frost, even snow, nearly to May. a short season, and so important for the farmers around us. wet fields. planting delayed. crisp breezes, yet warmer than the winter blast. the lengthening daylight brings hope and coaxes the tree buds into full leaf. although I have witnessed spring many times and anticipate it after the darkness of winter, the seemingly overnight explosion of color and foliage always surprises and delights me. the earth is reborn. and with it, hope and fresh dreams.

summer is a season of delight, relished on a deeper level when winter is remembered. the first fruits are celebrated. strawberries. tomatoes. the first farmer’s market days. lakes thaw and offer new temptations and thrills. swimming. fishing. canoeing. dogs and children alike jump into our many sky-blue waters with abandon, a chaos all its own, wet and noisy.

much like spring, autumn suddenly appears on the air. the crisp temperatures return, this time bringing cold. the harvest is ripe, ready for the vast machinery that will help bring it in. and while the earth prepares for a season of rest and closing the calendar, it is also a season of beginning as schools reopen. for our little family, it reminds us of an anniversary, of packing and moving, of leaving one chapter behind and opening another. endings and beginnings. fitting for the season!

after living in a relatively static and temperate climate for nearly a decade, changes of season have become an observance of God’s wildly creative artistry. all senses seem engaged in new ways, drinking in the variety of smell and sight, reveling in the vast texture and symphony of creation. maybe the absence of large-city distraction has heightened this awareness. regardless, I am grateful for it. and I am grateful to Him for dreaming big, for creating with abandon and order, for taking care of the details within creation. His glory shines with each turn of the weather. and a new celebration of His provision, love, mercy, and grace commence.

what is your favorite season? how does God speak to you especially in it?

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doxology…

our church, like many across America, blends tradition and modern styles in various ways. perhaps one of the most notable is in the choice of Sunday’s worship music.

we sang the Doxology in church the other day. and it was beautiful!

there was a defined rise in volume throughout the room.

we do not have an organ, although it would have added to the emotive volume.

as much as I love the theology and praise of the Doxology, I believe it was the familiar tune and well-known words that brought such response. much the same happens when a hymn begins. something changes in the room.

it was not always this way. there was a day, not that long ago, these hymns were the only music we sang. and they felt a bit dusty, a little worn.

contemporary music changed that. and it seemed the hymn went away overnight, replaced by the worship chorus.

it has been an interesting journey to watch over the years, and now, as the pendulum swings again, there is hopefully some middle ground being discovered and explored.

having grown up with debates about music in church happening around me, I now find my thoughts and concerns are more about what the message of the songs than the melody. is the song about God? or me? does it proclaim truth? or offer a repetitive stanza about what “I” want from a relationship with Him? is there true worship in the song, an awe of God, or are we, as His creation, the centerpiece of the tune? is it edifying or full of hype? is the theology solid and biblical?

music can be powerful. or empty. it can encourage, convict, bless, confront, distract. it can be in the background or foreground of worship and life. bring us into worship or pull away from it. the hymns I once thought dusty are instead gems of life-lessons, of Christian formation, and often, of truths about God, His character, and love, mercy, and grace toward us. what once felt worn is, in fact, familiar and comforting.

how does music affect your worship? do you have favorite, go-to songs that draw you to the Father? do some songs simply distract you? or do you prefer silence and leave the music for a different time and place?

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wise words…

remember those “thought a day” calendars? a kind friend gifted me with one that fits on many levels. the following quote from William Penn strikes me every year as it comes around on the little calendar. he said:

“I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.”

what an amazing lifestyle!

how Christ-like and gracious!

I love his acknowledgement that each day is its own. there is no assumption on tomorrow, no guarantees. today holds itself and will not be repeated. and in light of that, do good and do it today! do not hesitate or second-guess the path ahead. be kind. do good. be as Christ to another.

a no-regrets life. a heart after Christ. a truly worthy life goal.

it is not big and flashy, but quiet and discreet. as Jesus taught so often.

the state of your heart.

serving another

with joy and goodwill.

not begrudging the good deed,

but living as a servant, continually on the lookout for someone needing a grace-gift in their day.

ah, Lord, teach me to be your hands and feet in this way!

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paradigm shift

we all have “a-ha” moments in life. sometimes while reading, often simply in our daily living.

small paradigm shifts that bring clarity, and hopefully deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and God.

I love the “a-ha” moments that bring comfort and encouragement.

indulge me a few minutes to share one of mine:

studying the Bible is nothing new for me. I have studied formally and informally for years. in school. on my own. for a grade, a project. as part of my job and ministry, in writing curriculum, mentoring. for myself, to listen and learn.

through the years, I have read the entire text multiple times. sometimes front to back, slogging through Exodus and Numbers, wincing at the detail of Jael killing her enemy with a tent peg, rejoicing with Esther when her people are saved, sitting with the crowds and listening to Jesus. other times a chronological or book study.

so it surprises me (pleasantly so!) when I find a verse or story I’ve previously missed.

this is one of my favorites:

The Lord your God is in your midst,

   a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

   he will quiet you with his love;

he will exalt over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17)

in applying this to my own relationship with God, I am fully aware this verse is completely out of context. and while the prophet is addressing Jerusalem, the characteristics of God remain true for all His children.

the paradigm shift for me came in a new picture of God the Father. somewhere along the way, I subscribed to a picture of Him that is stern, judgmental, and basically cross. coming across this verse ripped that picture to shreds, leaving me to honestly look at who God the Father is and what our relationship might look like.

He stands in the middle of my life, ready to save.

He rejoices over me–with deep gladness.

He cares enough to help calm my internal world and immerse me in His love.

He sings with great joy over me.

the God of the universe. Creator God. Abba Father. the Mighty Warrior.

loves me.

tenderly

passionately

protectively

with abandon

just writing those words, I am again left speechless.

how do you experience God? has He encouraged you so deeply that you are left speechless?

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my chief weakness…

I applied for a ministry position this week.

Aside from the usual resume and cover letter, there was also an application to fill out and return. Not a difficult application. But I stumbled through one question, thinking about it for days before putting pen to paper.

What is your chief weakness?

My immediate response startled me and I rebelled against it strongly. And rightly so. It is not a weakness and can actually be a strength for many. It is not a mistake to be corrected or something to apologize for.

I am an introvert.

I like alone. Quiet soothes me. Sometimes I need to talk to process, but mostly I write and think. Retreat is one of the most comfortable disciplines.

Being an introvert in ministry can be difficult. People are not like a business project. They cannot be checked off a to do list. Their lives cannot be contained in regular office hours. There are few neat little boxes to put ministry into and say the “job” is complete. Ministry is relationships, and that means people.Tasks are involved, to be sure. But the heart of ministry is people and their relationship with Christ.

Balance. I struggle to balance the needs of my family, ministry, and self.

Being an introvert is not my weakness. Balance is.

I have been in that place, that lonely place, where the body and heart and soul are worn to nothing. Burnout. It is not alone-ness. It is loneliness on many levels. We often liken burnout to frostbite when describing it. Once the damage has been done, that place is more sensitive. It needs more specialized care. Like a rubber band stretched to the almost-breaking point, there is a fear of being stretched that thin again.There is a remembrance of the pain. A fear of irreparable damage if it happens again.

Balance.

It swings both ways. Run too hard for too long and risk burnout. Or become almost reclusive and miss the ministry, the rich relationships before me, the lessons God wants to teach me and using others to do it.

What helps you maintain balance?

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days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. Being  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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