Hope Springing Up

Just a few days before our last wintery blast of ice and snow I accidentally found a couple inches of hope buried under fall’s leaves. It was a milder day, a balmy 40°, so I decided to gather garbage which had collected during the last few cold months in my flower beds by the entry to the house. I knew my precious blossoms would be trying to appear in the coming weeks. I did not expect to see them yet. When I overturned about an inch of mulch on accident there they were: the pale green attempts at early spring tulips. NO! I hurriedly replaced their cover knowing what lie ahead for them before they can arrive safely.

February is like the Wednesday of the week here in southern Michigan. The first part is over; there’s still week to be had; but the weekend is on the horizon. Hump Day. We’re almost over the hump.

I hear sparrows chirping more loudly each day as more arrive back home from southern retreat. My husband swears he saw a robin a few weeks ago. I didn’t believe him at first, but others have reported the same. Geese are returning as well. Now, to feel it for myself. I await the manifestation of what I know is coming, but nature is already acting on.

Valentines Day wasn’t created in our Midwestern climates, though I’m truly thankful for the diversion it creates in the doldrums of recurring late winter storms. It was this ancient holiday of Valentines that brought us together in the warmth of our living room last night. For the 6th year in a row we celebrated by exchanging gifts and/or decorated boxes with a family member whose name we’d drawn a few weeks prior. Somehow we all drew the same names we drew last year. So my husband and the oldest son living in our home right now got off easy. They basically agreed to go to the store and buy each other the treats they liked best without any imagination whatsoever….because that’s how they like it. To each his own. It could have been worse: They could’ve handed each other five bucks at the exchange. Mark my words, next year it will be different.😂

Our daughter, youngest son, and myself used the last few weeks to concoct ideas that would make each other smile. She had drawn his name and proceeded to make a tri-plane in the style of the Red Baron, complete with a spinning propeller. She filled it with goodies and a stuffed dog.

He drew my name and made a dog house filled with a couple cute puppies (named Rose and Dot), a coffee mug, chocolate, and a lilac candle.

I drew my daughters name. I have to say a large “thank you” to all of the helpful Starbucks fans who’ve put their crafty ideas on Pinterest. With their ideas I managed to create a giant mock up of her favorite whip-topped cup of joe. Inside were a few goodies streamlined for her liking as well.

Another successful exchange. Now we march on. No pun intended. But I do hope March comes quickly without a lot of fanfare. Though the melting ice crystals scattered across the lawn are beautiful as they glisten in the sun….I’m ready to trade up.

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The Purge

The word ‘purge’ can be defined as getting rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; to be rid, clear, or free of. This is what the first three weeks of my year has been about. Maybe it’s winter boredom. Maybe I have too much time to look around at my indoor environment when its cold outside. In either case the overwhelming urge to purge has overtaken me.

Toward the end of last year the phrase “get your house in order” rang on repeat in my mind. Spiritually I began to do so by prayerfully asking what junk needed to be filtered from my life? With fasting I prepared my heart for the new year. I questioned what I needed to dispose of to make room for the new and the fresh of God? In what ways did I need to lighten the load ‘of the sin that so easily does beset’ (Hebrews 12:1)?

What began as a spiritual journey soon spilt over into the natural. Cupboards, drawers, desks, closets, have each been emptied and sorted before being refilled with only half of their previous contents. It has felt good to burn bag after bag of items I can mostly classify as trash. Who needs 50,000 broken crayons anyway? Receipts from 2011 for items we no longer own? The shocking question I face again and again is how this crap (I can use no other term) has piled up this long in the first place.

Not everything is so easily sorted. At times I have come across items with soul ties that have made me cry. A book given with handwritten notation inside from someone I no longer have relationship with: I thought I was good…until I read the note and fresh pain spilled out. It was another opportunity for my heart to heal at its core.

Another recent instance is when in my cleaning phase I took down my kitchen curtains to wash them and inadvertently destroyed them. Oops. The ten year old white cotton battenburg laced edge curtains had seen enough dust and age to no longer be white, or redeemed. The bleach, soap, and bluing agent did them in once and for all. I was okay with their loss. They had served me well. The problem surfaced when I was faced with their replacement. New curtains/valences for five windows wouldn’t be cheap. But I have a sewing machine and the ability to use it. I asked God what I could use for fabric- yes, I asked Him. Not too much later a matched pair of antique lace tablecloths I own came to mind…. But I really like them: on my table. Yet, they would suit the windows perfectly. In that moment I had to question where my value system lie. I could hold on to ‘things’ or I could make use of the old for a new purpose. Considering I have other tablecloths I could use for the table I could purge my full drawer of them ….if I could let go. The first cut with my sewing shears drew a tear. I won’t lie. As I continued to measure and cut I prayed. I thanked God for helping me use what I have for better purposes. I have to be able to do that. If I have trouble parting with tablecloths there is a deeper issue at play.

The more I stitched, the more I saw something new come to life, the lighter I felt. As it turns out I like them on the windows maybe even more than on the table. My linen drawer closes much easier now as well.

A Few “p’s” to Reflect On

If Purpose was the given word to my heart for 2018 then it is yoked to those of Persistence, Provision, and Promotion for 2019.

As I look back a year ago I sat at this kitchen table scribing my New Years post while the rest of my family sat in the woods for their final hunt of the season. Much has changed while even more stays the same.

Truthfully, I had hoped I’d see with my natural eyes more change in 365 days than I do currently, but back to that word-“purpose”. Many things have to be changed internally before any physical manifestation occurs. So that’s where we are. The purpose of this last year was a forward march of internal change through what has felt at times like a joyful garden dance balanced forcefully then by a slow walk through a deep darkened valley….two extremes for sure. Let me throw in another ‘p’ word= preparation. Every dance balanced with every valley step has been preparation for what comes next. Persistence.

Stepping over into a New Year for me is more than placing a current calendar on the side of the refrigerator. It feels like a line. The midnight hour brings a crossing over into something yet unseen. With Persistence I keep the rolling ball of lessons from past months growing into a force of change that cannot be denied. God tells us to be persistent. He desires our unrelenting attention. He desires our continual growth. He desires our growing obedience and rewards it all with provision for the footsteps He has prepared for us. A growing rolling ball gains momentum: force. Barriers are broken only when enough momentum is gained to burst through them. Have you hit any barriers this year?

Here’s where the promotion comes in. Bursting through the walls, barriers, ceilings- this opens up new territory. New heights, enlargement, growth. I think of settlers years ago who purposed in their heart to trade what they knew for everything uncertain. Over hills and mountains into gorges and valleys they persisted to the place where they felt their journey was to pause. Then, with more purpose and persistence they unlocked the provision necessary not to just survive, but the goal was to thrive. With diligence new ground was broken from land that may have never before been touched. The barriers of hardened soil, trees, and other countless obstacles blocked the pathway to everything resembling promotion. But it was theirs for the taking. If they wanted it. If they chased it. If they broke through all that stood against them.

The picture I paint looks bleak with human toil. But God. I am confident the paths I blazed in Spirit in 2018 are leading to sure and accelerated results in the coming year.

The other day I was praying, reflecting, and writing in my journal and I was reminded of another strong word from the fall season of this year: shift. Then another ‘p’ word came. Placement. For months I’ve been asking for alignment. In September a shift occurred- I heard it. I felt it. And as I let my pen flow these words filled my page: “….the channel is open. Now comes the movement where God provides the way, the means, and the guidance. It is a year to march forward in obedience. BOLD obedience. Without it momentum will be lost….”

As I tucked our youngest into bed after greeting the New Year this morning he said something that made the breath catch in my throat. He said, “mom, did you feel anything different?” I wasn’t sure what he meant so I gave him a questioning look. He continued. “While I was waiting for the new year the air felt heavy, but then when it came it felt light. Did you feel it too?” I could blow that off, but knowing in my heart how sensitive this child is to his surroundings I know without a shadow of a doubt that he actually felt a change in his atmosphere. When I take all I have been asking for, praying about, and writing down and then hear that innocent statement I have no choice but to continue to pursue with persistence all of the provision of God to the place of promotion where He desires me to be. Come 2019….bring it on.

A Decade

Christmas Day is just over a week away now and as I’ve been busy with little things all over the place in preparation a date on the calendar almost passed without my notice. If it hadn’t been for our daughter, who keeps track of things pretty well, it would’ve slipped right by.

Ten years ago, on December 13th, we moved into our home. People move all of the time. For us it was a first really. I had always lived on the family farm: even after getting married that’s where we settled for our first fifteen years. Three of our children had done quite a bit of growing up there. A move was a big deal for us. Not that it was far. Only 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic through town, from one location to the next, and yet it was momentous. It was ours.

This is how it looked when it was bought…overgrown and in need of some repairs.

Moving day was cold, but thank God it wasn’t snowing. We had quite a crew turn out to help which was such a blessing. Who moves when they’re pregnant and its not even two weeks before Christmas? In Michigan. Us. That would be us. I couldn’t lift anything too heavy of course so I felt a bit helpless, and self conscious. How could we ask so many to help when I couldn’t do my share. I didn’t hear a single complaint. There may have been some but apparently our crew must have been good at muffling them. I’m joking-seriously, no one complained. I just remember feeling completely overwhelmed, but taken completely care of at the same time. We had indoor organizers putting things away and guys outside doing all of the heavy lifting in the cold. Not to mention children of all sizes doing their part to help in every way they could. The day passed without a single incident. We celebrated all of the hard work with delicious food eaten by friends and family when the day darkened.

We had such big plans for a big brick house. We’ve marked a few things off of the list we placed on the side of the fridge. So much needed to be done. As it turns out, fixing someone else’s hundred+ year old house can be daunting…and expensive.

The added child in his beloved cow costume cleaning a bathroom that isn’t here anymore!

So in ten years we’ve added another child to the mix. Cattle and dogs. We’ve sold off some horses and thinned the chicken flock. A child has flown the coop as well. We’ve redone the bathrooms, bedrooms, and added our own touches. The landscaping bears my mark of eclectic vibrant groupings spring through fall. Our toys, tools, and leftovers litter the yard. It’s definitely ours.

Some of our garden produce in one of the old sills.

While we had so many changes and renovations planned, in hind sight the largest changes haven’t occurred within these walls at all. They’ve happened to us. In us. The pictures I look back at hold different faces than the ones I could take today. Some have passed on leaving their indelible mark, others have moved great distances, and still more decided to part ways. From one perspective it is painful to see what ten years has held…and yet from another, beautiful all at the same time. These walls still hold people we love. They’ve watched children continue to grow, and then prepare to leave this nest. There will always be an unfinished project, but as long as we are here we will be working on something…that’s guaranteed. There will continue to be change. Good and bad. And it will probably not be the changes we thought we’d see.

When we came here I thought for sure it was our forever home. Now I know life offers far more than we can imagine. So who knows. Who knows what a decade holds.

Christmas Giving

As the Thanksgiving turkeys sat on tables across the nation last week media began its all out assault on our minds and pocketbooks with commercials driving our fantasies toward buying not one, but two brand new red bow tied vehicles for a grand Christmas surprise. (Eye roll.) The diamond gift bearing man wearing his largest smile ever elilicits a smile from me too….because I just want to know where a realistic view of the upcoming holiday comes into play.

Yay for those who can do those things???? But most of us watch and begin to assume these are normal expected practices. The average American earns around $60,000 annually according to last years polls. I’m not average then I suppose. The average household spends around $1000 on Christmas as well. I’m not average on that count either….and those Christmas vehicles in the commercial would cost about an entire years salary each. Uh huh. Totally realistic.

I want to shut it all off. The specials. The hallmark movies. The commercials. The pasted smiles and overdone versions of everything classic and once somewhat pure.

I want real. What is from the heart? What brings true joy and peace that this world claims to seek at Christmas time? It can’t be bought on a car lot or at Wal-Mart that’s for sure.

When the unrealistic expectations of what I cannot possibly produce begin to wear me down I look up. What is real? That the One we are supposed to be celebrating came into this world with nothing but the intent to give us everything. Everything we really need. Without Jesus you can celebrate all you want…but you may as well just buy the truck. It’s all the temporary happiness you’ll ever find.

Its so simple. We make it so complex. Like apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:12: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” His secret? He knew the source. He knew who to go to in thick or thin. He knew whom to confess to and how to resolve his issues. He knew who gave it all so anything lasting could be attained.

Finally, when it comes to giving…giving is great. Realistic giving. We have a guide for that as well. Many look at a passage in 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15 as instruction for giving in church, but its a guide for us across the board. Here’s what it says: “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do. So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches. You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”

So what gifts can I give with an honest heart within the means I have at this moment? Most importantly, His love. Then I look for ways to bless people around me as He lays them on my heart. When He gives the direction, and I respond with eagerness, He makes the way even when there wasn’t a way before.

As the world rolls on around us remember to keep it real. Keep it right, and don’t get caught up in things that will only rust and fade away.

Home

Resting on my pillow early this morning I lie there thinking of what ‘home’ is. Common thought may be a place of security, shelter, comfort, peace, and hopefully rest. Add to that thought process coziness with pretty farmhouse decor and family! This typically would be a general definition in my book. BUT, it seems that for a few months now home has been merely a landing place for me. I wake up bustling to do whatever needs done before leaving for ‘x’ destination or activity. When returning at night it has been later, so basic cleanup and to bed I go. In and out day after day. Sounds exhausting right!

Understanding this is how most people function in the modern world I recognize I am not most people. I thrive on a bit of solitude. An uninterrupted week sounds glorious to the point where ongoing activity used to drag me down…for days. I imagine a flickering candle in a room I call my own as the setting of mindful peace. Not people. Not running. Not busyness.

In these recent months of flux I’ve noticed a subtle change. While still enjoying my house and its comforts, it is not ‘home’. Maybe by definition, but not in my heart.

If home is where security, comfort, and peace lie then home defined for me must be wherever I am..because God is with me.

Trying to fall back asleep names of predecessors came to mind. Ancient wanderers whose legacy wasn’t a place or its roots, but rather the way they lived their journey. Names like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and then the disciples and Paul with their stories defined by the tail end of Hebrews 11:13, …”They agreed they were foreigners and nomads here in earth.” They lived here belonging to a destiny, not a place. Their lives, families, and temporary homes products of Gods calling.

And so instead of tiredness and tension I’ve been able to see these months of activity from the viewpoint of overall contentment. Oh I’ve had my moments to be sure. They’ve been short lived without a downward spiral continuing for days. The realization has come that what I have to have for peace of mind and body is far less than I thought.

If suddenly I had no physical home. My belongings gone. No flickering candle. Would my ‘home’ be gone? or is it in the trust of a Savior who takes me where He desires?

Many of these Biblical men and women had homes and wealth, but all were willing to part with it all if called upon to do so. They knew this wasn’t their eternal destination anyway. Come what may they were held.

Mom Life

While enjoying my cup of pumpkin spice coffee complete with whip, (because it is that season), I am waiting for my son to do his schoolwork. So far this year has been more about time management and learning focus than anything else. Oh we do have the traditional subjects here on the table….but getting them done has been a struggle. Daily we have been muddling through, for hours. My patience has been lifted up as an offering before God and I ask for Him to multiply it…quickly.

Eyes wander the room. Random questions pop out of my students mouth during quiet reading time. (Apparently the section of History on Hong Kong isn’t very captivating.) My only response is “I will answer that when you finish reading”. Pasted smiles fade as I turn back to what I was working on. I cannot leave him alone in the room because then I KNOW the work will not get done. Helicopter parenting cannot be an option and yet……

I get it. I understand the concept of what will occur if I leave the room. So I do not. I stand back and quietly watch as he plays with the lead in his pencil, kicks the dog with his foot, draws a picture in the book, and so on. Finally, I can stand it no more. “You’ve just thrown away fifteen minutes.”

I hate the sag in his shoulders. The sad look in his eyes as he sees the frustration and disappointment in mine.

I’ve been here before. Three children have preceded him in this homeschooling venture. They all ‘hit a wall’ at different points. At least I can say I’m seeing growth in myself this time around. I breathe deeply. I ask for help. I am calm. I leave the room to cry occasionally instead of breaking down right in front of him. Because homeschooling isn’t easy. There is this constant pressure not only to educate them in the things the world needs them to know, but also in things of the heart and spirit. At the end of the day I’ve learned it’s even more important these kids see me respond correctly to them, to others, to situations that arise during the day. They learn far more from us than from a book. So I bite my tongue. A LOT. Then I say what will reinforce his young spirit instead.

Watching him causes me to silently ask myself what he sees. His mind is so busy and yet he misses little. I just quizzed him on his absent reading of Hong Kong. Sure enough, he answered every question correctly. We exchange a high five and I excuse him to go outside and run off some energy for a few minutes. I hear his happy shouts of glee through the door and know without looking there’s a smile on his face. Letting him enjoy these fleeting fall moments is important too. Plus, this boy has just got to run from time to time.

And so at the end of fifteen minutes we will delve in again. This time animal behavior is the topic. That should be fun…and way more up his alley.

Regroup. More coffee. Its going to be a good day-for both of us.

A Brief Moment of Fall Repose

As I sit on the front porch listening to piano music floating in the air, (my daughters hands grace the keys), I finally have some moments to ponder and write. The autumn sun hangs low casting its shadow across the haze of bean dust rising from neighboring fields. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Though the calender announced fall weeks ago it has only just begun to feel like it. I’m not sure what it has “felt” like…but it hasn’t been fall. The days have been hot, humid, and full of distractions. One of the downsides to having a whirlwind September is a getting back to routine October. Its been an uphill road for my homeschooler, myself, and even for my husband, (though he is not as quick to admit it). I can’t explain all of the reasons for the difficulty because there are several. Some of the most basic though make me smile.

For instance, is it even possible that I am not caught up with laundry yet? Its been almost a month since our big trip! We did throw in a last fling fall camping trip last weekend too, so there’s that. It was rainy….aka..more laundry. Plus now I have to wash and tidy everything in the trailer to put it away for the winter season. I will get to all of that sometime.

In my prep for our out of the ordinary excursion last month I forgot to keep up with everything end of season here. The garden still needs cleaned up and plowed under. My summer furniture sits out in the lawn getting bitten by frosty nights and heavy dew. The bedraggled 6 month old geraniums are perched beside the pumpkins on the front steps. It all looks and feels a bit haphazard. I’m just not on top of it yet. At least the “welcome spring” sign has been erased for the “hello fall”. I just accomplished that this last week😋

With change in the air I actually am ready to dig in to fall this coming week. I did pick the last of the tomatoes yesterday and use them for a final batch of salsa. Little by little I’m tackling all of the ‘lasts’ for the year.

There are less than three months left of it now. The year that is. Which in fairness is almost a full quarter, but maybe in my Midwest upbringing harvest signals the end. It is here you begin the plans for next year….not in January. The coming winter months seem to serve as mostly a hibernation period of waiting….for spring. It is a time of dreaming what will be and making strides toward it.

It’s interesting to me that the Hebrew calendar reflects this as well. The new year has begun. The thrust into what comes next has already started with a harvest that is dead knowing its seed will produce all of the life needed for coming months. There is a peaceful rest in seeing this years work being stored away. It is noteworthy that the month of Cheshvan has no festivals as well. It is the only time on the Jewish calendar without one. Like God knows we need a breath after months of labor…huh. Imagine that.

Now to actually take that breather! Unfortunately we live by the good ole Gregorian calendar which has a festival of some sort marked year round it seems. We have harvest festivals, hay rides, bon fires, apple butter making, and Thanksgiving to look forward to now: after fall soccer season and when I finally get caught up on that laundry that is. Oh I like a good fire with a cup of cider in hand. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll get there soon. It just hasn’t caught up to me yet.

For those already reveling in all things pumpkin spice I’m happy for you. I will meet you shortly. For now I’m enjoying dusk on my porch listening to the rumble of combines interwined with birds songs and cricket chirps, lulling the beat of my heart to quiet rest. Everything else can wait.

A Western Adventure

As I write I’m riding in the back of a truck cab headed eastbound. Over a week ago the six of us left our flat Michigan countryside for the hills of the South Dakota Badlands and beyond. Some goals take longer to achieve than others. Ours has been twenty-five years in the making.

In the end of September 1993 my new husband and I drove these 3000+ miles to begin our lives together. For me it was a breakthrough/ dividing line type of adventure where I left the past behind to dive into the future. He had seen the beauty of the land but I never had and I think he just wanted me to see it as well. I could fully appreciate the pull of so many to pursue westward dreams. I loved the landscape I saw back then. We vowed to return. I thought maybe in ten years. Enter children, inescapable jobs, schedules, financing, and animals. Two of the boys have been back with my husband and their papa for a hunting trip a few years ago but the desire to return has just kept growing in me all the while.

This was our year. We began discussing the possibility some time ago but for all of the previously mentioned reasons it still seemed like a long shot. I asked God. Repeatedly. I didn’t beg but I felt an urgency like never before to make this vacation happen-for all of us.

It was touch and go even up until a week before. We had planned to leave in August…the money and timing were just off. We postponed until September. We were supposed to leave earlier and go for two weeks making it to Yellowstone. Instead, we shortened to about 9 days and adjusted accordingly. Our sons leave was approved and he was able to escape LeJuene just five hours before mandatory call back of all personell due to hurricane Florence. Tell me God doesn’t have perfect timing. He arrived home safely just as Jacksonville, NC was pummeled. They are still underwater and he has been enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

My daughter has been praying for a new job for months. Just before we left she had interviewed for a position. She told them about this upcoming vacation unsure if it would make or break her chances for getting hired. They called, and they told her to start when she got back.

As a construction contactor there is never a good time to leave in good weather. Particularly when the summer months are tapering down and the push to accomplish much before winter is in full swing. For my husband to leave without paid vacation during this time of year is a sacrifice. He was working so hard for this to happen. My heart was burdened seeing all of his effort to make this dream a reality. An understanding client and a brief gap before the next big job allowed for yet one more piece to fall into place. Enter financial gifts for our anniversary and a willing young man to watch our animals and we were off.

There is no way I can express all of the beauty we returned to. It was nothing like I remembered..it was better. My family climbed the hills of the Badlands as I watched with a smile and drove to the bottom of a group of crevices to pick them up. We saw big horn sheep just camped out next to the road wondering what all the photo fuss was about. We drove this big rig through the eye of the Needles while onlookers cheered. A lone wild buffalo grazed at dusk while we drove the scenic bypass. We visited Mt. Rushmore on a cloudy morning and were given a peek of sunrise on their faces as a gift.

On the morning of my birthday we stood in Spearfish Canyon next to a mountain stream that had been stocked with trout about 100 years ago. (The Hatchery in Spearfish is neat stop to see its history btw.) Towering above was a giant eagles nest perched in a tree amongst spires of colored rock. As I stood back to take it all in I can explain it no other way than to say a wave came over me. The tears began to fall as I heard the word “shift” in my heart. I do not know the extent of what that means for me, for us, but I know it was from God because it was one of those moments in time that you mark down as unforgettable.

As I sat at the base of Devils Tower a day later while my family climbed the rocks I read. With such a tower above and a vast expanse of valley below its hard not to feel insignificant. Yet the passage I read made me to know I am right in Gods’ crosshairs. It spoke of patience in transition and a shifting from the slow first gear into second and so on during the process of acceleration. It suggested that during this necessary transition its a good time to get away and just enjoy the beauty of Gods creation. And so there I was doing just that a day after the word “shift” had been placed in my heart. No matter how we think we are in control planning things out for our timing and ability all the while a larger plan is at play. It was no accident we were all enjoying the grandeur of the west together at that exact moment.

Our final night in Wyoming we ventured to Keyhole State Park and camped next to the dam. I can envision no more of a perfect ending. The word magnificent doesn’t even do it justice. Peace. Total peace and tranquility.

We hated to leave but return to home we must. And so we travel on with about 8 hours or so yet to go. I remarked how it may be difficult to remain content knowing what we’ve just left behind. That’s the earmark of a perfect vacation: you don’t want it to end.

Sometimes “discontentment” is part of the shifting process. And so I wait to see what that means. I’m reminded of the bends and turns we just left: you never know what’s around the next one. It could be a breathtaking waterfall, another series of turns, or a cliff revealing miles and miles.

A Vessel Made of Clay

There has been much bottled up inside me. A growing ball of unspent purpose. Last week I was caught in my quiet time focusing on my lack: asking God how I can do the things I see without the proper resources. I spilled out all my issues and while the tears still fell I heard “Gideon”. Yes, I had been caught. Instantly I rehearsed Gideons story, what I thought I knew of it, and cleaned up my tears. Okay, so he used a few men to defeat a vast army. God can do much with little. I wasn’t intentionally blowing this ‘still small voice’ aside..but I didn’t take it seriously enough.

As I went through my day the desire to pout, complain, and focus on all the wrong things lingered. Each time I fought back with that reminder of Gideon.

Apparently, that was not enough. As I went about our nighttime routine of doing devotions with our youngest low and behold who was the devotion about? Uh hmm. Gideon. This time I actually read about him in the book of Judges. As I read I barely got through the devotion. It got me. I tucked a boy in and went back to reading it AGAIN, notebook in hand.

‘Okay God, you’ve gotten my attention now. I’m sorry it took all day’. The devotion was titled The Three Unwritten Rules of Plans. Life never goes as planned. Gideon was found hiding by the Angel of the Lord…the Midianites had everyone under deep oppression. Nothing was safe. He hid down in a winepress to thresh his grain so the raiders would not see the chaff in the wind and come to steal it. In his state of worrisome hiding the Angel greeted him with “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you”. I laughed when I read that imagining that if it had been me the Angel was talking to I would look around to see if I was the only one present. ‘who, me??? Um…I’m hiding’

I love, love, love the next few words. Gideons immediate response is so raw. So real. He flat out asks if God is with us then why is this happening?, Where are the miracles our ancestors told us about? He goes so far as to say that God had abandoned them. Wow. In my mind I can’t even imagine vocalizing that. Yet, don’t I? Didn’t I that very morning?

The tone changes here a bit. I notice that in the previous verses the Angel of the Lord is speaking. In the next, in the response to Gideons claim, it says that the Lord turned to him and said “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” Well if that doesn’t preach…oh the weaknesses I had been rehearsing all day long not listening to what God IS in my situations. Yet He says to use what He has given me. He is with me.

Still Gideon presses. He asks God how. He says his clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh. He reminds God that he is the least in his family. (Like God didn’t know who he was..) Clearly, he does not think he can handle this assignment. This mighty hero does not know his value, nor does he trust the God who is repeatedly reassuring him. He doesn’t even realize it is God whom he’s dealing with until many verses later. Keep reading through Judges chapter 6 and you will also discover his first act of obedience is done in the cover of darkness because he is afraid of his family. Yes, the mighty, brave man God sees is not who the man we see in this chapter.

Don’t give up on him yet. When the spirit of the Lord enters him he is a new man. (vs. 34) All of a sudden he picks up a rams horn and calls the men to arms. All of the warriors respond.

As I kept reading the familiar story spoke fresh things to me. As God eliminates these warriors from the Israelite army just as quickly as they’re gained Gideons past complaints of weakness disappear…and God uses what looks like human weakness to show His might. 300 soldiers are given torches covered with clay jars in one hand and a rams horn in the other. They face off against an army described as a swarm of locusts. Impossible odds. Once again God reassures him by giving Gideon the opportunity to hear the enemy chatter about a dream of certain defeat. That’s the confidence he needed. With the command to get up he sends three groups of 100 to blow their horns, shout “For the Lord and for Gideon!”, and break their jars exposing the lights inside. Chaos ensues bringing the defeat God had promised. The defeat Gideon had doubted. The defeat God used the weakest man from the weakest tribe to deliver.

Photo taken from cross-ref it.info

We are all taken down paths we do not expect. The day he hid in a winepress he never expected to encounter the Almighty who would change the course of his life. He never expected God to use weakness to show strength.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7 it says “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” As Paul penned this I’m certain he also was thinking of Gideon. The picture God had painted so long before: the foreshadow of what He still intends for us today. We are to be those clay vessels broken before Him exposing the light within. With that light we see the enemy flee. We are to use the vessels He gives trusting that He is more than able to fulfill every plan He has in store.