Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pruning

Gardening is one of my favorite things to write about and think about. I love beautiful flowers, fruits and veggies, and well manicured beds.

I know, you are waiting on pins and needles for photos of my beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, there are none. It's not that there aren't any pictures, there sadly aren't any beautiful gardens. I dream about them and dream about them and dream about them and then I venture out to make it happen and realize that it takes a lot of work to make it happen. Too much work and too much time for me. Which unfortunately is a bummer since we live on 10 acres.

We purchased this house because of the amazing property that came with it. We could envision the kids running and playing and building and digging. (Yay! They do all this!) The previous owner had taken meticulous care of the yard and its gardens. I was thrilled but sorely underestimated how much time and energy it would take to manage it all.

Every time I head out into the great outdoors, I am in awe at God's creation. I am thankful for His beauty and His handiwork. I take in the smells, the sounds, the colors and I am full of gratitude. God wrote a lot about gardening in His word. I spent last week in John 15 and was encouraged by these verses. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful....Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:1-2,4
My geraniums in need of tender care.

I have learned over the years to try and take on only what I can handle. I have picked a hanging basket or a pot or two that I can manage. I still long to have the rest of the yard look fabulous but I manage what I can (barely). This year, I decided to plant geraniums in a little bird bath that I have sitting next to the house. I love the color red and it always makes me so happy to come up to the house and see the beautiful red geraniums. Keeping plants alive is a ton of work, even the little ones in a little space. And sometimes they look like this, in desperate need of some TLC.

The flowers are more abundant and vibrant after pruning.
When they look like this, even I know that pruning is in order. I headed out back to do some work and was reminded of the verses in John. God revealed to me as I was pruning, that His work in me, the pruning, the refining, is intimate. Just as I was hands on with my geranium, God is hands on with me. He is up close and personal. Lifting every leaf, looking for the dead, the decaying, the parts that will continue to suck everything from me if He allows it to stay. I am so thankful that He doesn't hack from a distance. He doesn't blindly pluck what He cannot see. He gently draws near to me and carefully prunes.



I know and trust that God cares about the process and the end product and He really cares about the fruit I bear. He wants me to be the most fruitful that I can be. We have several hydrangeas around the property. I love them! Joel and I had hydrangeas at our wedding. They lined the front of the church in pots. We gave them to our moms after the ceremony and took a couple to plant for ourselves. Unfortunately we all have moved since then and there are no more wedding hydrangeas. I am grateful that the Lord had these hydrangeas waiting for me at our new house. One hydrangea is very happy and fully thriving in its location. The other was a little sad and  kind of scraggly. Joel took his pruning sheers to the scraggly one at the end of last summer and cut it way back. I had a few tears thinking that it might stay like that forever. But this summer it is so much happier. It is fuller and has more blooms. And that pruning took place by a gardener with comparatively little skill and knowledge. The Master Gardener, though, has great skill and perfect knowledge of who I am and how to prune me for his and my best fruit. Sometimes the pruning brings me to tears, lots of tears, because I feel like I have been cut down to the nubbins and that I might stay that way forever. But I rejoice in knowing that God knows the growth and the beauty that will be brought forth.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where's your joy?

So, I've probably said it before, but I'm convinced that we have kids so God can get through to us.

My oldest daughter picked up a new sport (flat water kayak racing) last year, and we have quickly become advocates of this relatively unknown sport in our country as well as the outstanding program that is being run out of our small town.

Rylee paddling her very own racing kayak for the first time
There really isn't much not to love.  Hanging out around the water to watch your child compete in a sport she can literally do for her entire life, being part of a nationally recognized program (national champions for two years running), having the opportunity for your child to compete in an Olympic sport... It's pretty ideal, but it isn't easy.  These aren't the kayaks most people are used to seeing.  They are not designed to stay upright without work.  They are designed for straight-line speed.  I've been in a TK (Training Kayak - like water skiing on two skis before learning slalom) three times now for about a total of 2 hours and I've flipped in seven times just paddling around the dock.  It's humbling, but I'm getting better.

Beyond the fun that I'm having though, one of the most valuable things about it so far has been the conversations kayaking has allowed between me and my daughter.  I have loved trying to help her process through the frustrations of learning a brand new sport while overcoming the fear of failure, a fear made even more pronounced by the added apprehension of being dumped into the 50 degree water of the Puget Sound should you make a mistake in form or concentration.  This has been a rewarding and challenging experience for my daughter.  Especially since she is accustomed to excelling in her chosen activities.

But the most valuable piece has been for me personally.  In speaking with my daughter about trials and perseverance, God has been speaking to me about the same things.  As I am helping my daughter walk through this kayaking experience, God has been reminding me of James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." and Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Okay, confession time: I have never liked these verses in James.  I know we aren't supposed to admit that. I know they represent wisdom and maturity, but really!?  "When you are going through crap, don't forget to have good time!  Enjoy it.  Be Happy."  I just have never understood this one.  Pain is not something to be happy about.  Pain can be mastered.  It can be tolerated and persevered through, but where is the joy in that?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Anniversary

I am figuring I better jump back into this thing called blogging and sit down for a post. I have a few drafts in the line up, one on fear and failure, which is maybe why I haven't been able to publish anything. Joel has had a few posts lately and I am thinking if I don't chime back in, we may have to change the blog name and remove my picture from the "about" page. And since we just celebrated our 19th anniversary, it only makes sense that I would contribute this post.

Last week, for our anniversary, we stole away for a few short hours for dinner at JW's. Their claim is creative comfort food. We agree. We don't get their often but when we do, we enjoy sipping fine wine, tasting delicious food and talking. We even have a tendency to complete full sentences. We laugh, and sometimes cry, but my favorite part about these dinners is the dreaming. Once we have a chance to relax and clink glasses, we enjoy talking about the future. Future travel, anniversaries, our kids, our home, our lives. Sharing ideas plants seeds and some take root and grow and others are gone with the wind, but in that moment, it is fun to share, plan and dream.

Our food was scrumptious. We started with seared blackened Ahi in a mango sauce, then moved to a delicious mushroom soup (I am still dreaming about this soup) and a wedge salad. For entrees, Joel had the duck breast (I knew he would) and I had the pork chop. It was smokey and covered with a savory Arbiatta sauce. Yum. We always take a look at the dessert menu but usually pass. Not this night. Our fantastic waitress went through the list, tempting us with each item, but we remained strong. Until she got to the last item on the menu.... The Crumble. We are both suckers for crumbles but waited to hear the flavor before making our final decision. Waiting with bated breath, me hoping for Rhubarb, she finally revealed that tonight's crumble was PEACH. Joel's face lit up. He was sold. About half way through the dessert, he announced that the peach was the perfect fruit. Period.

I love how Joel is patiently waiting for me to take the photo :)


It was a delightful evening. I am so thankful for Joel. He is a wonderful, devoted, loving husband and father. We reflected over the last 19 years last night as we talked. We've both grown and changed so much since those early years. But we rejoiced in knowing that we've done it together. It has not been easy and there have definitely been times when I have wondered if it all was worth it. But I can honestly say, "yes." Through all the tears, the fights, the battles, the wars, the forgiveness, the make ups, the laughter, the mountain tops. Yes, it has been worth it. And we are praying for many, many, many more anniversaries.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What does your home look like?

Over the past several months, I've been sort of wrestling with God.  Not violently or combatively, just kind of a struggle.

It seems like God is really trying to bring me along.  Sometimes it is understanding a concept and sometimes it is just moving deeper into something he has already been working on me about.  Frankly though, I haven't been able to put all the pieces together.  It's like a puzzle.  I've fit together a nugget of wisdom here or a personal breakthrough there or a conviction at another turn.  I have possession of several small pictures with jagged edges which have been helpful and praiseworthy, but I think there's more.

I don't think that all these lessons or pictures are independent of each other.  I haven't connected them, but there is a sense that they all fit together.

Anyway, during this time, I've started writing or pondered writing about several topics for this blog, but every time I sit down to write, something interferes.  So I have multiple unfinished thoughts written or just rattling around in my brain and while I usually like to wait and post after I have already processed through an idea, I'm struck that this time, maybe I should post in order to process through them.  My hope is that if I write them out, the pieces will start to fit together.

The most recent picture is on parenting.  This one is earth shattering... Ready?  And here it is:

Parenthood is important.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Back to Reality

So, its been a really long time since I posted anything.  Of course, I went on a vacation to Maui shortly after my last post, and I can claim that I had a hard time shaking the vacation state of mind.

It was awesome! It was truly the mixture of relaxation and activity and rest that I needed to reboot. Hawaii is a little slower paced without being lethargic. It's active without being frantic. It's expensive without being... no, there is no balance for that one. Hawaii is just ridiculously expensive.

So, I could claim "Aloha residue" for my lack of blog content, but frankly it's not true. I left the tropics firmly behind the moment I got home and was welcomed back by work and sick kids and activity schedules and sleep deprivation (also known as normal life). Honestly, we've been home for four weeks now, and I think I need a vacation.

As to blogging, I actually came home looking for a topic to write on, and about a week after I got home, my wife sent me this link. She knew that I was, and still am, struggling with God, asking for a calling that lines up with the way he made me; to do something that makes me tick, and this post was really well timed for what I was thinking about at the time.

I was all set to write about my struggles and journey in this area, and I still might someday, but before I could write anything, my wife, who counts keeping me up to date on the Twittersphere as one of her marital responsibilities, let me know about World Vision's decision to change their hiring practice going forward to include candidates that are "gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages". World Vision reversed this decision two days later, but honestly, I just couldn't stomach wading back into the electronic media world after the events that surrounded those couple days.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vanilla Price - Life Bringer

Last night, my wife and I took our two oldest daughters and a friend of theirs to the Toby Mac concert in Seattle.  The tickets were a very welcome Christmas present to our second daughter who obviously likes Toby Mac, but she also loves the star-studded cast of contemporary Christian artists/singers that were performing with him: Brandon Heath, Matthew West, Mandisa, and Matt Maher.

For those of you who have never been to a Toby Mac concert, it isn't what many picture as Christian music.  Other than the absence of pot and sexually explicit dance moves, it isn't that different in sound and performance quality from a typical concert.  It's loud.  It's energetic.  It leans toward what I would call hip-hop (though I'm not exactly and expert in that area).  It's everything that a preteen girl would want wrapped up in a parent friendly package.

Unless of course, you're me.  You see I really don't like crowds, and I pretty much hate noise.

I avoid the mall like the plague.  Places where other people actually pay money to go have fun make me want to pull what little hair I have left out of my head, one tiny strand at a time.  Fairs, amusement parks, sporting events, they all antagonize me at a primal level.

It's chaos of these places that gets to me.  I like order, and orderly and courteous behavior is almost impossible to find in a crowd.  I'm actually ok when I'm finally on the ride or in the game or maybe even in the store (probably stretching it with the store).  Once you're there, some semblance of order seeps in, but the walking around or getting to and from these types of places brings me as close to violent insanity as I get.  Just writing about this sets me on edge.  Heck, I don't even like making my way through the foyer at church. (Notice how I didn't say "Hell" when talking about church there?  Chalk me up a point for self control!)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Not All About Me

I know, I know, I can hear the audible gasp as you read this blog post title. "What?" you are thinking. "Where is she getting this crazy notion?" Or maybe you're chuckling to yourself thinking, "Well, duh. Of course it is not all about you." Whatever your reaction, I am always amazed when I have to be reminded that it is not all about me. Why is this a lesson so hard to learn and so easy to forget?

A few weeks back, I took the girls to piano lessons. They take lessons from a dear friend. She is a wonderful piano teacher but even more than that she is a mentor to the girls. They always get through their lessons and somehow manage to find time to make cookies, create homemade cards, read American Girl magazines and chit chat. I feel so blessed that my girls have someone like her in their life. My friend has a passion for leading and small groups. Not only young girls, but also teens and  women. She leads a group for women once a month that is open to anyone. It is a mid-week, mid-month refresher that is meant to encourage women regardless of the season they are in. A vision given to my friend almost 18 years ago and finally fulfilled 2 years ago. Such an inspiration to me!

But a few weeks ago, as I picked up the girls, my friend asked if I'd be willing to do a short "anchor" moment at their next meeting. My first reaction was "No!" I had a lot more words (totally inappropriate ones) run through my head but was respectful with my "no thanks, not now." Just the thought of it sent terror through my body. The next day, as I was having my quiet time with the Lord, I was struck with the realization that someone had asked me to share a brief snippet of something the Lord was doing in my life and I said no. In an essence I was saying, "No thanks, I'll keep this one just for me." A strong feeling of conviction surged through me. I felt like the Lord was saying, "Yes, I do want to bless you but I also want to bless others through you. Sometimes the gifts I give you, are meant to be shared." How do you say no when God asks you to share something?

As I continued in my quiet time, I was reminded of a post by Ann Voskamp about a "No Fear New Year." This has been my mantra each time I am faced with a situation where my initial reaction is anxiety or fear. I want this year to be different. NO FEAR. Well fear was definitely what was controlling my decision about not wanting to share at my friend's gathering. I have a hard enough time talking myself off the ledge before a Norwex party, I can only imagine the anxiety I will feel before I share with this group. But, there are definitely things that I have been learning over the last few months that I could share with these women and potentially bless them and because of fear, I wanted to keep it all to myself.  So, I texted my friend and told her I'd do it. Believe me, it will only be with Jesus at my side. Can't fathom doing it without it. But I know He will be there because it's not all about me. It is about all of those other women who are aching to be touched by God and He doesn't miss an opportunity!