Lest we feel like less of a God-follower. Lest we feel unspiritual. Lest we feel like we aren’t spiritual enough, good enough, holy enough to have visions and dreams and holy moments that are unmistakably from God. Lest we compare our walk with God to the walk of the ancients, the mystics, the monks. Lest we feel less, God loves our efforts made in faith, our moments crafted in hope, our days tagged by belief.

Yet, I love reading about the early Christians and their mystical exIMG_6765periences with God. I find their stories to be amazing and beautiful expressions of the unfathomable mysteries of our God. Some of them seem far-fetched, yet the authors of the stories – Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairveaux, Francis of Assisi – believed in their personal experiences of God.  Visions, dreams, and other special experiences of God are beautiful gifts, sparkling gems in the dark of night! These are gifts to be cherished, yes. Special blessings, yes. Daily occurrences? Not necessarily.

I IMG_6501love my quiet times with Jesus. I need them. I crave them. I miss them when I don’t have one. They are like a healing balm for the chapped places of my soul, a convicting presence in the wayward moments of my thoughts, and an unceasing hope for my weakness and weariness. But not every quiet moment with Jesus is a shining gem of mystery, not every verse is a defining moment for my soul. Some prayers are rife with my own distracting thoughts, some interrupted by the presence of others, some verses lost to the busy of my day. Every day touched by the supernatural God, miraculously blessed, but not every day is rife with visions or dotted with mystical experiences of our Maker.

We don’t have to have the ‘feeling’ of God’s presence to know and trust that He is near.

We don’t have to have the ‘feeling’ of God’s ear to know that He hears the cry of our hearts and the cry of our voices.

IMG_7380We don’t have to see visions or dream dreams to know that God is speaking through His Word and speaking through His world and speaking through His people.

Perhaps we forget that God is in the mundane as much as He is in the mysterious.

Perhaps we forget that God speaks into the daily rhythms of life even as He speaks in the miraculous.

Perhaps we forget that God is always with us and often, it is we who are not present with Him.

Perhaps the spiritual life is not an endless defining moment of overpowering IMG_7443Presence, but a daily cultivating of the knowledge and awareness of His presence. Perhaps the spiritual life is a pressing on, a pressing forward, a growing up into the heart of Christ, the knowledge of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, in spite of the challenges that threaten to hold us back. An intentional effort of belief against all odds, a faith that never gives in despite the world’s pressing in. Perhaps the greatest rewards will come when we believe what God has spoken no matter what we feel. No matter what we’re doing. No matter when.

God is near.

God hears.

God loves.

Do you believe it?

They are my Plan A.

I always wanted them. Never for a second did I have to hesitate, to wonder if they were the wrong ones for me.

In that moment, I chose to give them my love and never ever take it back. When I received that call from the social worker requesting a placement, I chose yes. I chose them. In that moment, I had the privilege of choice and I am so glad I could choose to make them my Plan A. In that moment, I would do it all over again.

In that moment, they were never given that choice. They didn’t get to choose the house they live in. They didn’t get to choose who would fill that role as mom and dad. In that moment, they didn’t get to choose what their future would be like. And in that moment, they would never have chosen me. I was their Plan B. And I’m ok with that because they didn’t have the chance to chose, didn’t have the wisdom to choose, didn’t have the years to know if they even needed to choose. They didn’t get to choose at all.

They didn’t get to choose to leave the only home they ever knew.  They didn’t get to choose to leave the only people they ever though of as Mom and Dad. They didn’t get to choose to stay with sights and sounds and smells that were familiar. They didn’t get to keep their bed or their sofa or their favorite chair. They weren’t given choice at all. But they wouldn’t have chosen me, a stranger, unfamiliar, different. They didn’t choose Plan B. They would have chosen their Plan A, but they didn’t get to choose.

And so they grieve. In that moment, their grief is strong and hard and they do not have the words to tell it. They grieve the things they cannot understand, they grieve for missing lovies, and lost dollies, and left-behind toys and they grieve the world they left behind. They grieve for familiarity and family and foods and friends; they grieve their pets and their people, they grieve for things that maybe weren’t so good for them but they were the only things they may have had. Their grief is real and there really is no way to get around it. You cannot placate grief with lollipops or lessen pain with popsicles. You cannot make it ever go away, as each new stage and each new age brings new understanding of loss and gain and grief. And so they grieve on and on, in different ways on different days.

But time goes on, and we practice sharing the light and love and grace of Jesus and we practice giving hope and help and most of all we practice Love. And unfamiliarity gives way to comfortable and comfortable unfolds gently, softly, sweetly, into love. And Plan A and Plan B come together, somehow, someway, sometime, and make something so new and beautiful and shared and I am so grateful for it all. And every bit of laughter, every lasting hug, or late night talk; every meal and moment shared, every booboo kissed and every homework assignment completed together, and every holiday and every bit of help and hope lead to healing and healing leads to joy that is immeasurable. And the heavy weight of grief begins to lighten as we learn how to carry that load, together.

 

IMG_0171I love my garden. It is my oasis, my grocery store, my space to be quiet and think, my sanctuary to meditate, an emblem of hope for the fruit and vegetables that are to come. Growth is slow, it is not instant. My little plot is far from finished. I have lots more seeds to plant. Some of them are waiting because I haven’t had time to construct their trellis. Some are waiting because I like to plant in succession, so that I have lettuces and kales all summer long.

Their are spots of ground still waiting to be tilled, spots to be planted, spots to be weeded, and spots to be harvested. The gardener needs to get in there and get to work.

Isn’t that just like life? We have places in life that are bearing good fruit, parts of lives that need to be weeded, parts that aren’t yet ready to grow fruits, and seeds that have yet to be put in the ground. But we cannot get to know the Master Gardener, Jesus Christ, and expect Him not to work the soil of our lives, till the unbroken ground of our hearts, or plant the seeds of new dreams. He will gently, lovingly, kindly transform us into the beautiful, fruit bearing garden He has planned for us to be.

IMG_4212John was a disciple of Jesus, and in his writings, we know him for his thoughts on loving God and loving each other. But John wasn’t always that way – not until he left the Master Gardener in. When John became a disciple of Christ, he wasn’t known for his love. He was known for his rash and impulsive behavior, he was known as a smelly fisherman, a Son of Thunder. But Jesus didn’t kick John out of the disciple club. But somehow, Jesus got into the soil of his heart and began to transform him from the inside out. And then we came to know John as someone we trust, who shows us how to love God and each other. (Think 1 John 4:7-19). The brash, rash, impetuous young man became transformed by the loving, pruning, harvesting hand of Jesus.

What areas of your life are ready to harvest delicious nutritious fruit? What areas haven’t even been tilled? What needs pruned? Planted? Have you turned the whole garden over to the Gardener? Or are you hiding some spots away?