“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anatomy of My Soul

Oh, my....we just began our Bible study we do every fall at our church.  We are studying the book of Psalms, particularly the Psalms of Ascent....a Beth Moore study called Stepping Up.  I think I am going to be stepping up into heaven as I absolutely LOVE the Psalms.  So often as I am reading, they are my heart's cry....David, Asaph and others seem to speak out of their hearts and they mirror my own.  So, bear with me, I will probably put a thought or two out there as I spend time @ the feet of my Master and the pen of a favorite...David.  (Of course, Beth, also is one of my all-time favorite teachers of the Word...my life has been changed by what God has taught me through her :)

I have to share one thing....from John Calvin in his writings "An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul"...his wording for titling the book of Psalms.  Is that just truth at it's best....what could better describe the Psalms as "all the emotions of our soul"?   He says "for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror (I love that!)...Or rather the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, (oh, yes!), in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated."  The Psalms mirror my soul.....my emotions, day by day, week by week, moment by moment of my little life!

The last question Beth Moore asks us to write about is "what five tones or words would you choose to describe the psalmist's as he approached God?"  Here is just a bit of what I found...

Forgotten   Psalm 10:1
Afraid        Psalm 16:1
Troubled    Psalm 40:12
Repentant  Psalm 51:1-2
Thankful    Psalm 103:1-5

My soul, like David's, is full of emotions - my inmost being, my soul's anatomy is full, complex and yet can be described and summed up in this book.  

Today, the verse that bursts from my soul is that of Psalm 103:1 "Praise the Lord, all my inmost being (the anatomy of my soul), 


The big GOD in heaven who created me with an anatomy of every part of my living being....understands what is in my soul.

Is there a Psalm today that expresses the anatomy of your soul?  Find it, sing it, cry it out if you are distressed.....HE is listening and HE cares.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Corn, Cabbage and Celebration

Well, autumn arrived last week bringing with it all the fruitfulness of the summer's labors.  I've said it before...I love this time of year.  The cool, crisp evenings, the smell of leaves in the air, cinnamon-clove scented candles and, of course, the comfort foods of the harvest.  Whether we find those in the local market, grocery store or in our own gardens, this time of year is especially fun for the cook!

I always marvel at what God reveals to us in the various seasons of our natural world.  I grew up on a "small farm".  We had (at different times) a small calf, geese, an obstinate turkey (I once put a plastic garbage can over his head to keep him from pecking me!), ducks and lots of chickens.  (The chickens remain in my memory vault as not being my best friends either-I had to get rid of my dog because one day while I was at school, he got into the chicken coop and proceeded to prey on the white meat....not a good thing).  And we did have a very large garden, issuing forth everything from carrots, tomatoes, squash, green beans, cabbages, potatoes...to kohlrabi (what a name and to me, not a nice taste...of course, those are childhood taste bud memories :)  

Our house was always busy on the autumn weekends - the pressure cooker going, water bath boiling and canning jars aplenty.  I remember many hours spent husking corn, cutting cabbages and pulling off ends of those wonderful green beans.  I didn't even know what green beans out of a can tasted like (yuck, by the way!) until I was in my 20's and away from home.  My mom canned the best green beans with bacon, dill pickles and bread and butter pickles - oh I miss those meals. 

About 3 years into our married life, we acquired a double-wide mobile home with a little plot (and I mean little) of land.  I planted a garden and became my mother!  My home was a buzz with canning tomatoes, pickles, applesauce and peaches.  I loved it!  When I began homeschooling our children, they participated in the canning and we made it a school "project", combining math and science, as well as studying the senses (taste was a big one!).  I have such incredible family memories from those years.

Harvesting is a time for celebration...but it also is a lot of work.  We reap what we have sown through the spring and summer months.  The condition of our fruit shows the work and effort we put into the sowing, planting and cultivating.  

Jesus tells us in Luke 10:2 "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest field."  There may be a lot of produce, but in order to enjoy it in the cold months of winter, we must work hard to bring it in and put it away.  Autumn colors and smells are relaxing, but these months are hard-working months for the harvester and farmer.  There is no rest until it is all out of the fields and into the pantry!  But even as we work, and I am speaking spiritually at this point, and labor among those lives God has called us to touch, there is a sense of joy, fulfillment and celebration at what He has put into our hands!  

The harvest is at hand.....the fields are ripe....and Jesus is giving us the fruit of our labors from months of planting and sowing.  As you enjoy these coming weeks and months, ask God to "open your eyes" to where you have sown seeds of prayer, serving, touching lives, Bible studies or small groups, reaching out to those who are the poor and needy that cross our paths.  Work diligently to bring in that harvest and do not grow weary - "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men."  Col 3:23

Pray for your children, for your families, for your unsaved friends and co-workers.....those prayers are the seeds that one day reap a harvest.  If you are not "seeing" fruit right now (in farming, every year can be different in the condition of the fruit....dependent on weather, water, irrigation, laborers, etc.), ask the Lord of the harvest, to give you glimpses of fruit that may still be growing and taking seed.  Ask Him for encouragement!  Trust me, His Spirit is always working as we pray for those we love!

We celebrate the harvest because it comes from GOD.  His faithfulness is to be celebrated.  We rejoice in the bounty He gives us in the natural, but we rejoice even more in the spiritual harvest.  Even out of our broken lives God brings forth fruit of his kingdom.  Out of the tree of your life, from your branches, hangs the sweet fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  

Lessons are learned in the sowing field, changes come about, relationships are healed.  Hope is being restored.  And it is all HIS DOING!

Celebrate this season (naturally and spiritually)...make the connection between the two as you savor the flavors, smells and sights of this unique time of year.  

For those who delight in visuals.....

And what is harvest without bread...

I made these incredible Rosemary Rolls for dinner...so easy and fun
in a cast iron skillet!

And what is autumn without keeping this jar full...

Home-made oatmeal cookies; I resisted buying the "oatmeal raisin cookie" candle @ Bath & Body Works....figured the real thing was far better :)

Celebrate the Season as you labor in the harvest!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dedication, Dreams and Daniel

I cannot wait to meet Daniel...and I don't mean the current "James Bond".  I want to sit next to a cozy fire, with a "cuppa" in my hand and listen to the stories of a man (whom at the time was merely a boy) who lived a life of visions, dreams and experienced God's power and wisdom first-hand. I have questions and my skin literally tingles when I think of his hands-on accounts and answers he would give. Recently, I came across an epitaph of this amazing boy/man "Daniel served more than seventy years with unblemished integrity in the corrupt corridors of power of both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires."  Wow!  Who wouldn't want that on their gravestone??

A few thoughts from the book that bears his name, located about two-thirds into the Old Testament...

Daniel was among the captives carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon by the conquering king Nebuchadnezzar.  This king chose young men from the royal family of the Israelites to be trained and serve him - young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king's palace (Chpt. 1 verse 4).  Hmmm..."we" are in a royal family....we are the "children of the king"...we have been purchased by His blood and redeemed....we are now co-heirs with Christ.  I think we are the ones who should be being chosen to serve in places that ask for men & women with those qualities.  The world is looking for answers and "we" should be the ones who have those answers.  And it needs to be said, I am not talking about the "physical" or even the "education"  that the world "sees", but the inward character that has the strength and integrity to live out those answers before the world. 

After Daniel and others are conscripted into this group, they were given the king's chosen food and drink and trained for three years before being presented to the king.  Daniel resolved (purposed and determined with his heart) not to defile himself in this way with the food. Now, my understanding is Daniel (and his friends) were mere teenagers when taken into captivity.  Boys.  And the whole reason the Israelites were allowed by God to be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar was because of their disobedience and rebellion. So I read this to say Daniel must have been a part of a family that still obeyed the laws of their God and followed with a diligent heart. (Kudos to his mom and dad!) He was primed to have that obedient heart to continue to follow God in this foreign and pagan land.  So for a mere BOY to be "chosen" for the king's program and know he would eventually be living in the palace....to set aside that pride and "excitement" as a young man being "chosen"...what possibilities for him  - to know his future was in this land and with this king and no way out, why not fit in and "be somebody" ....and he still chose to follow His God.....wow!...that is one steadfast-in-his-faith kind of boy!  That is integrity of the highest sort!

And if you read on further in the chapter, you will see how God rewarded his obedience by setting him (and his friends who joined him) apart from all the other lads.  Oh yes, obedience to our God brings rewards (maybe not always immediately, but He never forgets our obedience...it plays out at various points in our lives for sure!).  God gave Daniel and his friends knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.  And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.  Daniel obeyed and...God gave.....God gave....

Lastly, I want to mention something incredible in Daniel's character from Chapter two...when no one could interpret the king's dream or even the king's crazy request of asking someone to "tell him his dream" before even interpreting it.  The king ordered "all the wise men" to be executed because no one could comply. I think that was "a bit" reactionary and rather stupid...all the wise men??  Who would advise him then?? Not a really smart decision...  When the commander of the king's guard comes to get Daniel and his friends to execute them, Daniel speaks to the guard with "wisdom and tact".  He asks to be able to go the king to interpret.  In a nutshell, Daniel's friends intercede for mercy, Daniel praises God for His wisdom and power, and goes before the king.  Before going to the king, however, he tells the man who is to execute all the wise men, do not execute any of them.  Daniel isn't using the opportunity to plead for his life, or even the life of his friends.  He pleads for the life of "all the wise men".  When we are in a position of influence, do we use that influence for us, for our loved ones, or to influence ALL those around us. Daniel saw the bigger picture and not just out to save his own skin or to get ahead.  That is what being in a position of influence is all about when it comes to God's kingdom - serving Him and others.

And finally, when King Nebuchadnezzar asks Daniel if he can tell him what he saw in his dream and interpret it, Daniel answers with humility.  He says no wise man - not even the wisest - can do this.  But there is a GOD IN HEAVEN who can.  Daniel again, does not promote himself, he humbles himself and says "it is not me, BUT GOD".  I don't see anywhere in the life of this boy and later on the man, where he exalts himself.  His very life, character and words point back to the God he serves.  

Daniel is promoted to higher status within the Babylonian kingdom; he requests his friends to be overseers as well.  They remain in the royal court to influence for the KING they serve.....and read on further into the book of Daniel to see the power and faithfulness of God in the lives of Daniel and these young men who were obedient in circumstances we cannot even imagine being subjected to.

Will our lives be remembered with unblemished integrity serving year after year in this life wherever He puts us?  Oh, I hope and pray so!  

Oh yes, I want to sit with this man one day and hear his stories...and perhaps have a few of my own to share with him :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Birds, Backpacks and Bread

God has greatly encouraged me the past few days with loving words from dear friends (some of whom have been in my life a long time and others fairly recently) and I was inspired to be able to pass along this nugget from my walk today.  I was sensing in my heart as I praised God to pray out the "Lord's Prayer" from Luke 11...but I couldn't really get passed verse 3...."Give us this day our daily bread".  Give us "today" what we need "today"...not next week's bread or even tomorrow's.  But only today's.   Hhmmm...reminds me of the children of Israel and the manna (see Exodus 16 for that little adventure).  I reflected on the times when God told us in His Word not to worry about tomorrow- He would provide TODAY.

Jesus sent out John and his eleven friends in Luke 9 and told them to take nothing with them.....they would be provided for.  A short time later, Jesus appointed seventy-two others and again, told them not to take a purse, bag or sandals.  That's a lot of guests to come through your towns with no food or housing plans.  Yet I don't see them returning to Jesus saying "Okay, Lord, things went well, but we are really hungry and need a bed."  Throughout the entire New Testament you see evidence (even with Paul's travels) the followers of Jesus were sent out and told to depend on the Father.

Two thousand years later, we live in a world where we have insurance policies, savings accounts, nest eggs, CD's, government programs and retirement funds to secure our future days.  I am not saying those are not good things to have but I think we lose something in completely relying on those things to take care of us.  The wisest man who ever lived told us in Proverbs 6 "to consider the ant and be wise...store up your provisions in summer and gather your food at harvest".  God wants us to be good stewards of the blessings He pours into our lives.  But I believe more importantly He wants us to realize deep down in the depths of our being WHO is the One we should be trusting to be our Provider.

Several years ago when our family lived in Russia during the days immediately following the fall of communism, our "daily bread" was still a bit hard to come by.  When something became available, people bought it up to store for winter. So when a truck on the road near our apartment was selling potatoes, I asked my husband to go and buy up what he could. I had three small children to feed and wanted to be sure we were taken care of.  We filled two very large trunk-size containers with potatoes and stored them on our cold balcony.  It felt good to have that surplus!  However, when the first freeze came, unbeknownst to me, the potatoes froze and imagine my surprise when I went out to get a potato and they were all frozen solid and a disgusting black color!  Further imagine the soggy, slimy mess when they defrosted :(  

Now imagine the humbling of my heart and spirit when I felt the Lord say to me, "this was manna....I will provide for you DAILY....and you will be a testimony to the neighbors and friends around you that God wants to be their Father and take care of them daily. You must live as the people around you...trusting daily for provision."  What a freeing moment knowing my Father would take care of us - and being a mom of three small children this was a big deal!  My husband once stood in the freezing cold snow for 2-1/2 hours beside a truck selling milk... and when he was finally at the front of the line, the seller took a "break" to sit in the cab of his truck and said he would be back in 1/2 hour.  Food was something you paid a big price for and I'm not just talking money here...convenience stores didn't exist in those days.  Yet my Father in Heaven wanted to "give us this day our daily bread."

Matthew 6 tells us "not to worry.....look at the birds of the air....your heavenly Father feeds them".  Further along in chapter 10 and again in the book of Luke, chapters 2 and 12, Jesus is talking to his disciples before sending them out on that trip where they aren't allowed to take anything..."Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?"   I recently heard told that in the marketplace of Jerusalem, the favorite and cheapest, least bird of value was the sparrow.  They were the easiest to come by.  And they were sold 2 for a penny (the smallest coin of least value at that time).  They were sold in even numbers. Often four for two cents.... sometimes the seller would throw in a 5th for good measure (the leftover one).  So the 5th sparrow was the one with no value....came free.  Do you feel sometimes like the 5th sparrow...no value...least deserving....does God really know how I feel?....will He really provide for me in this very scary economy...when I have no job....my husband has been out of work for months....I have children....no savings, no retirement fund?????  Do you feel like this at times?  Friends, Jesus' very words ring out to us today....

"Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  He is your Father and will give you your daily bread!

Matthew tells us (have you noticed this book is chock-a-block full of great stuff:) in Chapter 11:30 Jesus again tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden light...in today's (and my) words.......His backpack you are meant to carry is light....if that backpack of worry you are lugging around is causing you to stoop nearly to the ground...take it off!  Let go of the worry, hard as that may be, and  allow Him to carry it.  (maybe even physically fill a backpack with books too heavy for you....carry it for some steps...and then physically take if off your back and tell Your Father to carry it for you :)  I love visuals and symbolism.

Okay, I went on far too long today....my heartbeat was if you are finding yourself jobless, the resources are slim and you feel like that 5th sparrow...let HIM provide your DAILY BREAD...don't worry about tomorrow - it will come soon enough and we get to trust again. You know, even when the jobs and resources are there....we still have need to trust in Him!  And I think we can all agree we are living in days when we need Someone bigger than our circumstances, economy and government to trust in.   A side nugget...when the resource is there...be the ant, collect and store the harvest....the blessing really comes when we collect the harvest, use what we need and give some away....generosity is always blessed by the Father!! And you can NEVER outgive the FATHER!  

Let that backpack go...
You are of more value than the birds...
And He will give you your daily bread.... 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Day to Honor Labor

Labor Day.....first observed in 1882 here in America, but signed in as a national holiday in 1894 honoring workers (actually it was brought about 6 days after laborers were killed in a strike and President Cleveland wanting to bring about reconciliation with the labor movement).  History fascinates me and often our modern holidays don't reflect a lot of the original holidays' intents.  So...if you are interested, you can go to Wikipedia and learn more :)  Originally a day of parades & festivals to honor workers and their families; a day designed for rest and parties and in high society the last day of the year women could wear white.  Uh oh, ladies....get out those white shorts, skirts and shirts and enjoy one last day!! (excuse me....do we really wear white in the summer...all I see is dirt and lots of careful washing with bleach :)

This weekend it marks the end of summer, celebrated with lots of camping, bbq's, picnics, fireworks, water sports, and fun with family and friends.  And traditionally the beginning of football season here in the States!

Enjoy the weekend...and Monday....and a thought accompany the weekend as  originally set forth to honor workers....be thankful to the Lord for the jobs you have, the arms & legs to work with, the health which enables you to work, the family & friends who are there for you when work is scarce, and honor those who work to make sure you have a life (hmmm...that includes law enforcement, fire fighters, health care workers....I think there are more workers in our lives than we imagine!). Thank God for those personally in your life who labor so we are taken care of...thank you my dear husband for being probably the hardest worker I know!  And thank you for working to take care of our family.  I am forever grateful to you!  Ladies,  thank God for the life we have - all good things come from Him and even in the hard times...He is still worthy to be thanked! 

And as God the Father as our example....He labored six days and rested the seventh....rest this weekend, at least one day...and enjoy His goodness and creation!

Be blessed today and thank the One who blesses and watches over your life daily....and eat some amazing summer food!

Oooh, makings for fajitas "camping style"

Do I hear "cobbler" in the making?

Sorry, I get carried away with food blogs (of which I don't write), but I love photos of good colorful food....if this made you hungry, go bbq and invite some friends over :)

Have a great Labor Day!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ciao Summer....Hello September!

Good morning, September!  Welcome once again!  Am I the only one...or did September come knocking on my door way too early this year?  With August being the only summer month thus far, I feel like I missed a season. Oh well....when September shows up, she slows down for no one :)   However, I will take a moment to remember my summer....

Coming into June,  I never would have imagined this summer.... Sunny warm days aside (and they definitely were on the side this year ), there were days filled with those special to us. Weekends of repairing a roof in the rain, visiting with Mom and a brother we seldom get to see who lives in Michigan...enjoying his incredible cooking. 

I also had the incredible privilege of walking in a fundraiser to help combat human trafficking.  A subject too few know about and rampant worldwide.  A ministry we have been involved with for years sponsored this and we raised over $25,000. Praise God!  

A few trips to the lake holding my breath as my sons once again flipped, flopped and showed their mom they were meant to be boys in every sense of the word...

Our first trip out on the lake (partially due to bad weather in June/July) was August 13th....way too late to be starting summer :)

Days of family visiting from Canada....bbq's, another trip to lake, coastal fun in the sand dunes.  These family trips mean so much because we don't have family living anywhere near us.  The family from Canada are cousins; my husband's nearest immediate family all live in Australia.  And I am trying to get my mother to come live here with us. Summer is all the more memorable when family is involved :)

Days of quiet....first summer in 25 years where I am not a taxi-driver....no one in the household without a drivers' license :)  and hours of reading book(s) that you cannot put down...Jim was once again in Russia for 3 weeks (unexpected trip, but so right in its timing!) and I use that time for a lot of reading (keeps my mind off missing him :)  That stack of books beside my bed is getting smaller :) By the way....

Just saw the movie...can't wait to read this!

A must read and movie to see!

And as life throws the unexpected at us...days of heartache, as in the space of six weeks, our cat disappeared (difficult in that we still don't know what happened to him), and our dog died tragically.  Cuddles (left) was with us for 13 years and Misha (right) for 14 memorable years as well.  The kids grew up with these family members and it is taking a lot of adjusting to these two not being there day after day.

Days of camping with great friends and a weekend @ a beach house with "family" God has given us added to our memories of many summers together :)

Weddings....bbq's.....so many blessings and a rich season to be remembered :)

As summer fades away with great memories and a few sad ones...I am reminded that life is meant to be celebrated...even in seasonal changes.  And one of my favorite seasons is the autumn....I absolutely love these months!  

The chilly, crisp evenings when I can begin to build a fire in the fireplace; pumpkin scented candles, wood-smoked air on walks, the leaves bursting into vibrant color, apple pie, pumpkins (I literally try every recipe I can find using pumpkin...bread, pie, bundt cakes, risotto, soups), colorful yellow and orange mums replacing the purples, reds and yellows of summer.  The smells, sights, sounds, and especially the foods of Fall once again move my heart to come alive this season!  I had to hold myself back in the grocery line the other day as the autumn magazines shouted out at me to buy them.  I think I am trying to hold onto summer just a wee bit longer!

The forecast for our Labor Day weekend is 85 - 90 degrees...and a friend told me last night that she heard we were in for a 90 degree September. I heard "no indian summer" for us...early cold and wet.  I am going to believe my friend as according to the calendar, we still have 3 more weeks to officially call this summer :)

But as we head into the fading weeks of summer, Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.....so I am welcoming September with open arms and ready to embrace pumpkins, candles and baking; oh, and did I mention FOOTBALL!!