I wish we lived in a world where children didn’t have to go to school with empty rumbling tummies, expected to learn and keep up without having enough calories to energize their little bodies and their growing brains. I wish we lived in a world where senior citizens didn’t have to wait around for a government agency to send them dinner, and then fret whether or not there would be enough boxed up meals to go around. I wish we lived in a world where drug addicts could get real help, where they had the support and love and treatment to overcome the situations leading them down the broken path to addiction. I wish we lived in a world where food stamps weren’t needed, and refugees had homes and veterans weren’t out on the streets because they don’t have access to funds or houses or simply basic needs. And I wish we lived in a world where children weren’t lost in the shuffle of broken homes and broken families and broken lives with no choices other than growing up to be broken adults. And I wish single pregnant moms didn’t have to depend on controversial agencies because they already had somebody helping them, loving them, caring for them, championing them. And I wish we didn’t have to fight for equal rights because everyone was already valued, loved, and important enough to already have them. I wish we lived in a world where someone, somewhere, would heal the hurts, feed the sick, help the poor, rescue the lost. And I wish we didn’t have to fight with each other over politics to make these things happen because these needs would have already been met. I wish the government didn’t have to be anything more than just the backup plan when it comes to caring for the underprivileged, underemployed, and underfed. And I really wish we didn’t have to hate each other to help each other make it through this mixed up world.

I wish.

I suppose we all wish for those things, or we wouldn’t be fighting over rights and budgets and health care and meal plans. I suppose we all know the importance of those things or our texts and posts would not burn with passion and fervor and vitriol while we try to find some palatable solution. I suppose we need to find a way to live with ourselves, our choices, and our fervor, and especially, our own agendas and those of both parties of the government attempting to serve us. And I suppose we need to figure out how to live with each other when we fight so hard over all of these important things.

But isn’t it ironic that God has already given us a plan to take care of all these things and none of it involves fighting, and none of it involves hatred for those on the opposite end of the political spectrum and none of it, none of it involves leaving anyone cold, hungry, tired, sick, lost, or alone. Because God has already made a plan to take care of these people and these things and God’s plan is the church.

From almost the beginning of time, God commanded His people to show hospitality to the poor, to care for the sick, to heal the hurts and to feed the hungry. God told His people that there would not be any poor among them because they were to use the blessings He gave to each of them to make sure everyone had everything they needed to live. And when the people faltered, and when the people’s greed and the people’s selfishness overtook the call to care, God wouldn’t hear their worship until they had made a course correction. Because God’s plan for the poor is His people. And when Jesus came and walked on this earth He told His people to sell what they had so that they could cover all of these important needs. And Jesus said that when you give to the least of these even a cup of cold water, you are giving it to Him because caring for the least of these is a special kind of worship that is sweet to the ears of God.

You see, Church, God’s plan to care for the poor wasn’t the government institutions, although government institutions and government agencies make a really great plan B. You see church, God’s plan to care for the poor and the hungry and the weak and the cold is His church. It is you and it is me. We are God’s Plan A for all of these because being a Christian nation doesn’t start with a Christian government. It starts with a people willing to step up for the sake of Christ, a people willing to give from their own budgets to pay the medical bills of the sick. A people willing to share the very food on their very own table when someone else is hungry. A people willing to invite the homeless under the shingles of their very own roof, to support the single mom, to make meals and drive them to the sick and the shut-in. If we have been blessed by God. if we have been loved by God. If we have been saved by God then it is our job, dear church to do all of these things. Oh, sure, we can let the government offer programs and give support and that’s ok but that is simply second best whether you are a democrat, a republican, an independent, or none of these. Because we have been given a holy calling to care for the least of these and why on this side of heaven would we want anyone else, even our good but imperfect government, to take that holy calling away from us? Why would we want to give over our freedom when we can give so freely? Why do we expect our government to act as if we are a Christian nation when we do not even act as if we are the Christians we profess to be?

Dear Church, we can wish and we can fight but if we want to worship in a way that is sweet to the ears of Jesus we will feed, and we will shelter, and we will share what we have and we will show love until there are no more thirsty or hungry or sick or poor or homeless or lonely people left for our good but imperfect government to help on our behalf. And then, dear Church, we will truly be a Christian nation whose God is the Lord and whose worship is very, very sweet.

Grab your coffee and find out what’s happening on the homestead.

With daylight stretching longer and longer, and the sun beginning to warm the soil, I cannot wait for spring planting. My fingers itch to get in the dirt and I am already craving fresh summer squash and tomatoes still warm on the vines. I keep reminding myself it’s not really safe to plant for another 6 weeks! But it is time to be working on spring preparations, starting seeds, and getting organized.

Captain Jack II, Blue Andalusian

As our homestead grows, we are working on implementing some permaculture models. The

idea with permaculture is that you work with nature, not against her. Rather than spending hours tilling up so for our new pumpkin patch and in the garden, we put our chickens to work. Operation chicken tractor is in full swing! Ok, we don’t have real chicken tractors, just small coops that we got for a great deal at our local Tractor Supply. We plunked one small farmhouse coop in our garden, which we’ve mulched with old straw bedding from the goat shed. And it’s new residents are the offering of my original 6 Tractor Supply silkie mixes. These white fluffies are having a blast digging up bits of kale and carrot that overwintered and digging for grubs. When it’s time to plant, they will have turned the soil, fertilized, and debugged the garden. It’s a win-win!

Betty the Barred Rock

Up on the hill, we placed our other farmhouse coop with the first 5 chickens I hatched from my Brinsea Octagon Eco Incubator. They hatched from a mix of eggs from Meyer Hatchery: a blue andalusian cockerel, a Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Buff Brahma, and and a slightly peckish barred rock hen. They’re still on the young side, but they should have our pumpkin patch free of weeds and bugs in a month or two. Hubby carries out food and water every morning! Of course, we still have our main coop with a mix of hens – silver laced Wyandottes, EE’s, RIRs, astralorps, and a beautiful splash Ameraucauna rooster. Egg production is picking up, and I’m hoping for a broody mama hen or two! We have one more coop of chickens – they’re extra special. I have a tiny coop in my home office with 9 various silkies – beautiful month old babies that I hatched from eggs from Wright Fancy Feet Farm. I love watching them feather out and they are getting so fluffy and beautiful!
We’ve had a problem with hawks, which is a sad reality of free ranging. A good rooster is a great help to the flock, of course, but we also have some surprising new guard dogs. A couple of crows have taken up residence in our trees. I thought they were just a creepy nuisance until I heard them, angrily chasing off a hawk circling our chicken yard. Somebody give those crows a great big hug!

We’re also looking at new greenhouse plastic for our hoophouse, an additional hoop house, an looking for perennials to add to our garden. I can’t wait to plant sunchokes, heirloom beans, and all kinds of squash. We’re hoping to add a Nigerian Dwarf doe to our herd and look into breeding our sweet Maisy as soon as she is old enough. Maisy and Jasper are enjoying the sun and love frisking and frolicking! We are searching for a good goat fence to give them room to forage and to pasture our chickens, and I can’t wait to sell our extra produce this summer. We love our fresh, chemical free veggies!

Since I couldn’t wait any longer to get my fingers in the dirt, I had to bring

Elvis, the silkie roo

some dirt into my kitchen. I planted some 21 day radishes, a pot full of lettuce, started some sweet potatoes for slips, and sprouted a handful of soup beans. It amazes me every time that a tiny seed can become a plant that provides food for my family. Only God’s creative nature could have come up with that plan! Every time a seed sprouts, I see God’s hand at work. If God can bring about delicious fruit from a meager seed, how much more can He do in our lives when we just open up to Him. I can’t wait to see what He and our garden will be up to this spring!

What are you doing new (or old) in your garden this year?

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

John 10:14-14, NLT.

Perhaps I’m a bit paranoid, perhaps a little too loving, perhaps I’m just carrying over that mom instict a bit too far. But my fluffy white chickens were just learning to free-range after being moved into their brand new coop and I couldn’t help but hover. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing even one. For the first couple of days, they stayed close to the house, close to the coop, and close to my watchful eye. Yeah, I’m a little protective of my sweet little chickens like that. I kept checking on them throughout the day, peeking out the back door whenever the opporunity arose. Maybe it’s just that they are fun to watch, exploring the grass, chasing bugs, and jumping up to catch a blackberry here and there. Maybe it’s the threat of hawks. Maybe I enjoy my little flock a little bit too much. The heat of the summer air was heavy, and a storm front quickly approached, the winds whipping and the leaves blowing and the cold darkness quickly approaching. My 6 little chickens were nowhere to be found. Not in the coop, not by the back door, not on the deck. I started to worry when my other flock made a beeline for the bigger coop, but the silkies were all just gone.

Where could those little chickens be? They haven’t gone that far before. Not knowing what else to do, I began to call them by name. “Daisy, Turnip, Lily, Rose, Iris, and Dhalia, where are you? Here, chickens, come on home.” I called and called, until I heard Turnip crowing aways off in the distance. I called some more, and finally, when the thunder was rattling and it seemed like the sky was about to break open, Turnip led his crew, one by one, out from under the catalpa tree with it’s giant leaves blowing wildly. He made sure those chickens followed the sound of my voice, right back to the house and into the safety of their little coop. Those little chickens knew who they were, they knew whose they were, and they knew the sound of my voice.

  Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd; He called His people His sheep. I can’t possibly love my little chickens as much as Jesus loves His sheep. He gave everything for those Sheep, even His very life. Those sheep may have a bad reputation for not being very smart, but those Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice. At the threat of danger, my chickens heard my voice and came back to the safety of my watchful eye and their protective coop. But do we even hear God’s voice? When we’re off following our own way, chasing tempting morsels that delight us, are we listening for God’s protective voice? Do we listen when He calls us away from trouble? Would we hear His voice in the storm? Do even know what His voice sounds like at all? We need to listen to the Good Shepherd’s call.

Everyday is a new day to learn who I am, and whose I am, and how to listen to the sound of His voice. If even the sheep and the chickens can know their shepherd’s voice,  why can’t I know mine?

Dear God,

Please teach me to know the sound of Your Voice, to listen when You call, and trust in Your Goodness, Mercy, and Love. Amen

I was ready. Ready to get my hands and feet in the soft warm dirt. Ready to get my spade, and my worm castings, and my birthday garden gloves, and sprinkle all those tiny, delicate seeds across the soil in my crop garden. I was ready to dig and double dig, ready to plan and prep my new kitchen garden off the back porch. And I was ready to put the young pullets out in the chicken tractor, so they could fertilize and dig up a space for the pumpkin patch. I was so ready. It was only February, but the unusually warm sunny days meant we were hitting the playground in a T-shirt and basking in the sun. It was still winter, but the sun’s rays were already starting to tan my pale dry skin. The sun was good for my mood and the play time was good for my little ones, but I knew in my heart,  I was just rushing spring.

Just as swiftly as the warmth enveloped our homestead, it left again, making the chilly feel chillier and the wind whipping right down to our very bones. Good thing I handn’t started my sweet little seeds or dug a new bed for the sunchokes. I wanted spring badly, but I had to wait it out. You can’t rush spring. Who would have thought that after the sunny reprieve we would see a massive snowstorm at the cusp of spring. Thankfully not the crippling blizzard that was predicted, but just enough to disrupt work and school and business and to give us all a chance to rest and play and drink hot cocoa while we dried our sopping wet mittens.

Isn’t that just like God?

With all of our technology, and our brilliant minds, and years of record keeping of snowfalls and weather patterns, God never fails to surprise. Perhaps he chuckles at us, dancing and twirling in the warm of the sun in the middle of winter, and gets giddy when we are calmed and stilled by a heavy blanket of snow. Isn’t that just like God?

The One who knows we need a reprieve from the bitter cold and the cloudy skies and brings warmth.

The One who knows we need a few days to just stand still and to spend with our little ones because they are growing up way too fast in a world that never slows down.

The One who reminds us that He is God and He is not bound by our brilliant minds and our brilliant works and our brilliant technologies.

Isn’t it just like God, to be the One whose inherent brilliance outshines our greatest everythings?

And isn’t it just like God to remind us to love the season we’re in. To live fully in the now, not lost in the past or pining for the next thing. To tease out all the good and take in all the beauty and reflect on all that He has done for us in this season He has given us.  Isn’t like God to remind me that I won’t enjoy my winter if I’m already rushing spring?

Praise to the One who rules the spring and the winter and warmth and the snow and Who speaks life and love into each and every one of our days.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made.
    Let us rejoice and be glad today!

Psalm 118:24, NCV

Parent pickup. Two of the most dreaded words in the parenting vocabulary. The angst multiples with each additional child in the vehicle. So do the number of earned timeouts, the level of odiferousness, and the depth of the scum in the bottom of the van. We won’t discuss the backpacks, water bottles, and dirty shoes. Oh the dirty shoes.

It’s not my fault; I happen to have a fairly large family with 6 children. All under the age of 10. In order to accommodate the massive number of car seats and boosters as required by law, and as necessitated by my insanely-high level of passion for the safety and security of my gaggle of mini-me’s, I’ve had to give up all hope of driving a remotely cool car. Scratch that. I can’t even drive a cool mini-van. Nope. Not even a Honda Odyssey can accommodate this level of crazy large fam. I practically drive a bus.

It’s hard enough to maneuver my bumbling 12 passenger van through the serpentine of school safeties, orange cones, and actual school busses without running over dropped backpacks and forgotten hockey equipment. But my sense of repose is instantly repressed by those parents that presume my oversized family wagon is a dusty work van awaiting its occupant. It isn’t that dirty, is it? They zip by me in their pretty little Mustangs and Blue-tooth connected Honda Accords, and yeah, even that cool mom with the Odyssey manages to whip her way around my bus-like self as she rushes in to swoop up her singleton. Singleton. One. One child. I can barely even remember what that was like. Seems like a relaxed and easy life-time ago, as I sit exhausted from convincing 3 strong-willed toddlers to get in the van for parent pickup.

The three screaming banshees – I mean, the bored and rather vocal toddlers in their rear facing car seats complete with cups and snacks have already pushed my patience beyond it’s limitless nature when another precious parent swoops around for their duo. Clearly, there is no rush to get in position as school is not out for another 15 or 20 minutes. Clearly, my giant van is invisible. Hello…. I am parent pickup here. Don’t you see me? As I cautiously maneuver into position behind the Odysseys and the Mustangs, a pungent shoe whizzes by my head, courtesy of the adorable cutie-pie who dropped their sippy and ran out of granola bar snack. I cower from the angry shrieks and wait for the other shoe to fly.

Wincing, I wait for it….. andddddd there it is. At least that one is predictable. Finally, there is a lull in the triple threat toddler storm as I begin to ponder….. what is that smell? No, I don’t mean the diaper odor coming from the second row. The other smell. That smell that’s like rotten bananas that have been coated in sauerkraut and sautéed in pork livers. It’s hard to tell where it’s coming from, considering the left-behind, dirty clothes, extra sweatshirts, and at least 20 socks coating the floor amidst lollipop sticks and stale Chik-fil-a waffle fries that have been there since, oh at least last week. It was last week that we took the epic trip to Chik-fil-a, right?

I begin to pray. I close my eyes, head in my hands, dear God please don’t let anyone look in this disgusting filthy bio-hazard of a van. I think I’m having a vision, some kind of thundering, pounding in the cloudy sky. I must have fallen asleep and I am clearly and awkwardly confused as I realize the thundering is really the principal knocking on the window. I secretly wipe away the drool, hoping I didn’t smear my mascara while I was deep in ‘prayer.’

I roll down the passenger window, and as the well-dressed principal leans in I die a little bit on the inside. Maybe a lot a bit. He is, of course, dressed to the nines, complete with suit jacket and bow tie. I panic, wondering if I missed parent-teacher conferences, again. I secretly pray he has the worst cold of his life so he cannot smell that UFO – that unidentified freakish odor. “Your son was in my office today,” he states flatly, leaning in further. I die a little more, hoping he forgot his contacts, too, so he can’t see the filth on the carpet. “We had to discuss his behavior in gym.” Did I mention I have a phobia about school authorities? The quesadilla I had for lunch threatens to join the UFO and the plethora of trash that I hope is hidden on the floor. Swallowing hard, I eke out a faint “Oh?” “We worked it out. He went back to class.”

The quesadilla breathes a sigh of relief as he starts to turn away. The banshees start to yell again and I think I am out of the woods and off of the administrator’s radar. Until he spies my 3 trying to escape their teachers watchful eyes. Their ninja skills have reached expert level, I think proudly. Everyone needs to have a skill, right? Always the gentleman, Mr. Principal opens the passenger door and beckons for the little ninjas to come ahead. Quesadilla rising. Anxiety escaping. UFO intensifying. I am mortified as some of our rubbish spills out and into the car line. Inwardly, I beg Jesus to return. The rapture would really help me out right now, God. The three climb in the van and instantly fight with toddlers over snacks and seats and spilled sippies. Mr. Principal calmly shuts the door, closing the kids – and the smell – inside. I can feel the stares of the parents stuck behind me in the car line as I wrangle kids into car seats, kicking rogue sippies out from under me as I go. A shiny blue sedan zips around, and a perfectly coiffed little girl gingerly steps inside and buckles herself in her unbelievably clean seat while I give a few hairy eyeballs to my crew, muttering about the smell, and desperately trying to fade into the upholstery of my bus-van. Hiding is pointless, no one else here drives this bus. After what feels like an eternity of warding off stinky kicking feet, admiring sticky art projects and passing out wipes for smudgy faces, we are buckled and ready to drive the grand 4 minutes home.

 

I never realized that relief is spelled “driveway” and “home” cools the raging heartburn of principal-induced anxiety. The kids begin to shout “MOM! What’s wrong?” When they hear my giant sigh of relief. Perhaps I am a little too happy to be home.

But wait. 47 minutes of torturous parent pickup is not quite complete. I still have to unload….

Feeling dried up, worn out, deadened? We have hope.
“Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Ezekiel 37:12-14, NIV

 

IMG_0107

The Rose of Jericho, the Resurrection Fern, has an amazing capacity for survival. In times of drought, it dries out and shrivels up, looking dead, but hides a surprising secret. When given a long slow drink, that dead-looking fern resurrects and becomes lush and green and full of life again. If you’re a special needs parent, I bet you’ve got that same capacity for survival. We go through periods that are so hard, so exhausting, physically and emotionally taxing, that we feel pretty dead and dried up inside. I have days when I feel that way, don’t you? Worn out until there really isn’t much left. Just like that fern can live again, there is hope for you, and there is hope for me, too!

There is a pretty special prophet named Ezekiel who we read about in the Old Testament. I love the story of Ezekiel because he never intended to become a prophet. Ezekiel trained his entire life to be a priest. A priest had social standing, was respected, and admired. It was an honor to be a priest! But just as he was about to step into his role as priest and fulfill his duties, God called him to something entirely different – to be a prophet. Nobody really likes a prophet. They were looked down upon, disliked, and viewed with suspicion. But God used prophets to bring his stubborn people back to Him, so a prophet’s job was just as important as a priest’s. Few people desire to be a special needs parent, it’s something that often is thrust upon us, and leaves us feeling kind of isolated and at odds with the world, but it’s just as important and rewarding, isn’t it?

Well, God’s people seemed a lot like that dried up old fern – they were hurting, feeling alone, abandoned because they had rejected God. Have you ever felt alone and hurting? Isolated? It was Ezekiel’s job to bring them back to God. And God gave him an incredible vision, the Valley of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

In the passage, God takes Ezekiel to this valley of bones, old, dead bones. Because that’s how Israel felt, like wasted old bones. And Ezekiel was probably pretty horrified by those bones – because a priest would never touch a dead body! But God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones, and he obeyed. And the bones grew flesh, and became bodies. And God told Ezekiel to speak to those bones again, and he obeyed. And those bones were given the breath of life and became a vast army of living breathing people. This vision sounds more like something from the Walking Dead rather than a Bible story, so what does that mean for us?

It means that God sees us and hears us when we feel like we are dried up, wasting away, cut off, and abandoned. And it means that God wants to breathe new life in us! He wants to restore our weary souls, energize our lifeless bodies, and help us stand to our feet, ready to face another day. Just like that Resurrection Fern comes back to life with just a bit of water, God wants to breathe new life into our hurting, dead places.

Maybe you never planned on being a special needs parent, but now, somehow, you are. And it’s hard, and it can be isolating. It’s exhausting. And just as you are breathing life and love into your special needs child or children, God wants to breathe life and love into you. Breathe in, my friend, breathe in God’s Spirit and let God give you new life.

Dear God,

We cry out to You with our hurts, our loneliness, our isolation.
We cry out to You in our deadness, our dryness, our weariness.

We give you the dry places,
the hidden places,
the hurting places
so You can resurrect them.

Fill us, Lord, with Your Breath,
fill us with Your Spirit,
and give us strength to stand,
strength to fight, and
strength to thrive.

Give us Your infinite love
so we have love to give to those around us.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

-Amanda Furbeck

This post originally published at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos on August 4, 2016.