I want to be great.

I want to be great.

Is that so wrong? To want to be great if greatness happens for great reasons? I want to great so I can write great blog posts that apply a loving dose of healing balm to the tender, irritated places of your heart. I want to be great so I can write great books that move you to do even greater things in the name of Christ. I want to write great sermons that inspire you to run straight into the open loving arms of Jesus. I want to be a great mom whose kids know that they are loved. I want to be a great mom who teaches her kids to care for others. I want to be a great mom who raises great kids who love Jesus. I want to be a great wife who is best friends with her hubby. I want to be a great homesteader who grows delectable meals and takes care of the environment. I want to be a great investor and do amazing things with the money I am allocated in this life. And I am so busy, so busy just trying to be great.

I want to be great.

And I work hard at so many things so that I can be great and so I can help you be great and so I can help my kids and my husband and my family and my homestead be great. And God knows how badly I want to be great and God knows how desperately I want to make a difference in this world and God knows how passionate I am to help others be nearer to Him even when they seem like they are kind of far away from Him. God knows I want to be great and that kind of sounds like great pride even if it is for great reasons.

But God has not called me to be great.

God has called me to Himself. And God says there is no point in being great, Amanda, if you aren’t close to Me. And God says, there is no point in writing great sermons if writing great sermons keeps you from spending precious time with Me. Stay close to Me and worry less about being great and doing great and looking great because greatness is emptiness in a prettied up package. And so I struggle with greatness because I want to be great and I know if I try so hard to be great I’ll be missing out on something and Someone even better than greatness. And so I struggle and strain to give up my idea of the great because that thing I want even more, that burning desire, is not for greatness itself but for the One who is greater than all. And my greatness is pride all prettied up and a knot in my stomach because I can’t even measure up and I ache to be great even though greatness is less than best.

I want to be great but what my heart needs greatest is Jesus.

And I’ll just let that simmer and work on my heart, on that tender irritated spot on my heart that needs the healing balm of Jesus to wipe away the pride and the need to be great and I’ll let Him speak in the quiet and work on that spot so that my need to be great is quenched by nothing less than His love.

His love is great, greater, and greatest. .

Time, It Just Fritters

10553352_10209254358936519_585900500698437605_nSunrise and sunset, the dawning and the drawing to a close. The beginning and the ending. The new and the old.

Sunrise, finds me wading through the garden mud, coffee cup in one hand, hose in the other, weeding, watering, picking, pruning. Planting and praying. Ready for the dawning of the fresh new day, full of possibility and potential. Ready for growth. Poised for hope. Pleading for His Grace, with mistakes looming on the horizon, not yet made. Awaiting my moment.

“Lord, walk with me. Like you walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. In the cool of the day.”

“Help me, Lord, keep in step with You.”

“Give me grace, today, Lord; I have many mistakes that I will make.”

“Have mercy on me” I breathe. “Thank You, Lord, for fresh new mercies. I need them. ”

Sunset finds me in much the same way. Playing hide and seek with zucchini and peppers and quickly pinking tomatoes for breakfast while hubby gathers up some eggs. There is comfort in the nightly rhythm, roosters and hens putting themselves to bed. The silent flight of the Great Horned Owl, perching overhead, and swooping away. The hush of night sweeping over the homestead, as children and animals softly drift to sleep. There is peace and there is Presence. Yes, He is present in our rhythms and routines, making sacred the chores and making holy, the dirty work.

“Forgive me, Lord, for not keeping pace with You. For running ahead, and lagging behind. For not wholly trusting in You.”

“Give me strength to finish this day well.”

“Help me, Lord, have a better day tomorrow.”

“Fill me, Lord. Fill me.”

The in-between is a flurry and a scurry of activities, appointments, cooking, and cleaning, working, writing, and frittering. Oh, the frittering of time. It escapes me, those precious seconds, worth more than diamonds and rubies and gold. They seem to get lost in the shuffle, wasted on Facebook and Craigslist and somehow, it seems, nothing at all. In a flash, they are gone and I am left wondering where did those precious fleeting frittering moments go?

“Forgive me, Lord, for wasting this precious gift.”13872841_10210409340250330_3303950512900869043_n

Time is a gift that we can never get back. Money comes in and goes, and things can be replaced and repaired, or even done without, and even health can be restored but time, time never returns. Once it has passed, it is behind and only the present exists. I hate that I let it get away. I despise my frittering of that which is so fleeting.

“Help me, Lord, to fully live in this moment. Perfectly in step with You. Resting in Your Love, working in Your Grace, expectant because of Your Hope, and fully alive and fully present. I want to live fully, in Your Presence. I want to live this moment.”

“Lord, thank You for this moment.”

This is my moment.  This is a gift.

When you don’t feel spiritual

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?

I am Plan B.

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.

 

The Master Gardener

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?

This world makes my head spin in crazy circles and it makes my breath catch and my stomach lurch when I think of all of the bad things that could and might and will happen in the lives of my precious little babies, these small people, IMG_1785so fresh on this earth, sprouting and growing and still rich in their innocence and wonder and joy and the peace of their unknowingness. So easily could I give in to the fear of the ‘what-ifs’ and and the regret of the ‘should-haves’ and ‘could-haves’ and ‘what if I hadn’ts.’ And so easily I could give over my heart to the hurts I see and the hatred I see and the pain and the fear and the trouble that I know lurks and leers in darkness and corners. And I worry that my precious little tots will never be able to navigate this life and I fear what might happen when I’m gone and I can no longer shield them from the hard, and the worrisome, and the things that might break their tiny little tot hearts, and the things that make the news, and the things that take our innocence away. Moms and dads and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, we are not different; we want the same things; to protect our beloved babies and let them grow up to be free in a world that is more frightening than free. And sometimes it’s easier to be the big mama bear who chases off the hard stuff and the scary stuff and the bad days and the things that we can’t understand. And we don’t like to be afraid so we fight hard, ferociously hard, to keep the scary and the dark and unknown away. And the fear and the fighting is for our babies so it must be a good cause but fear and fighting kind of look like hate and hurtfulness and I really, truly think that there’s a better way to change the world.

And how do we navigate this life when the opportunity to share God’s love is directly at odds with the convictions we have of what is right and wrong? And what if we cannot find the balance between standing up for what is right and standing against what the Bible says is wrong and offering mercy and grace to the people who disagree? And what if fighting for the safety of our precious babies is in direct opposition to the moms and dads that are fighting for their own precious little babies? How do we win the war where all sides stand on moral ground and how we do we win a fight that shouldn’t have become one in the first place? And how do we know the truth when that Christian over there says truth is different than what I believe the truth really is? And how do we stand for Christ and stand for love and stand for hope and still sit down and listen to what’s happening on the other side?

Don’t step up, SuperChristian. Step back. Retreat. No, no, not from the hard stuff and not from the people we don’t retreatunderstand and not from the half-truths and the broken and the pain and the wrong. Retreat to your knees and retreat to your closets and retreat to the place where you can run right to the waiting, loving, restful arms of Jesus. Because it is in quiet conversation that we learn God’s heart and we learn God’s voice and we learn God’s Word and we learn God’s ways and we learn what it really is that we are fighting for. And we want peace and we want freedom and we want safety for our little ones but what is that God wants for all of his children?

Retreat, SuperChristian. You don’t have to fight so hard against the world with words and weapons and wits. Our best defense, our smartest strategy, our toughest offense, our bravest moves are in the quietest moments of honest conversation between created and Creator. Surrender, Warrior Ones and Wise Ones and Weary Ones, Surrender, Cautious Ones and Confused Ones and Courageous Ones, surrender your passion, surrender your purpose, surrender your hopes, your dreams, your goals, and your moral ground, surrender your fight not to the other side, but to prayer.

 

 

Insta-gratifying Paleo Blueberry Mason Jar Muffins

Muffins and paleo don’t usually happen in the same sentence, unless that same sentence uses the word, “Don’t.” That is, until now! Since I was having a super-duper blueberry muffin craving, I used my cake in a mug recipe ideas to recreate a pretty awesome, pretty darn near paleo blueberry muffin. (There’s also a completely Paleo version if you prefer!) You’ll be eating in less than 5 minutes. Want it? You got it. Click below.

Insta-gratifying Paleo Blueberry Mason Jar Muffins  

instgratify

Little blessings, great big grace

IMG_0987It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? Easy to forget just how we have it so good. And it’s hard to remember all the things that we have, and it’s easier to overlook the blessings we didn’t take the time to count up. It’s easy to think about how hard this life is and harder to think about the good this life gives. Because this life is hard and this life is tiring and this life can make you so very very weary and the weight of the world gets heavier each day you and you think you carry it, just you, own your own. And don’t we we cry and complain when things aren’t going straight the way we want them to go, and its heavy and tired and just seems to get worse? And days upon days are ruined, we think, and where on this earth can we find some relief for this hurt and this heavy and this complaint in our hearts that won’t go away?

And then somewhere on our day, we forget how good it is to have fresh clean water every time we turn the handle of the faucet. Some people, some people have no water at all. Some people have water, but it isn’t safe to drink. But we, we have water. What did we do to deserve fresh clean water any time we want it? Nothing, really. We were just born here, where these is fresh clean water for just about anyone, just about anytime. All we have to do is turn it on.

But, we, or was it just me, who forgot to say thanks because I have water, all the water I need?

Sometime this morning, I turned on the light switch to see in my closet at the clothes that I own. I opened my chilly-IMG_0934cold fridge. And fried up a few delicious warm eggs. I turned on the water and let it get hot, and I washed my face and it felt so good to wash off the dirt of sleeping last night. And I must have forgot to be thankful for my lights and my cold fridge and my deliciously fried up eggs and the hot water I used to wash off my face. Until that little text this morning, from a friend a ways away.  “My power is out. And I need to call.” And we don’t realize how much we love our lights until we flip that little switch and those lights don’t go on. And what did we do to live in a place where there is power, so much power, that we only notice it when it’s gone?

Did we forget to say thank you, for lights? And thank you for chilly-cold fridges and thank you for warm, fried up eggs and the hot water to wash off our tired dirty face?

IMG_4025And right there, out that window, some bunnies scatter off into the weeds, and a fox yipping distantly, there – right there, a blue bird perched up high with lazy swings dangling below. And a couple of yellow finches, flitting and bobbing among the dandelion heads, and some too tall grass, and a few toys strewn about, and a robin or two listening hard for their plumpy worms, and that pesky wood pecker who loves all my trees. And right there, out that window, did I look and be thankful for those little blessings I count on so much?

And there, on my porch, some plants in their pots waiting to be snuggled down in the tilled up earth, where the worms get to play and the plants get to grow and give us vegetables, delicious, and filling, and so good for tiny tummies, but did I forget to be thankful for those little plants, just waiting in their pots? And there in the patchy sun, a wise old kitty who dozes away her days.

And I forget to count those tiny little blessings that every day should fill my heart with blessingsoverflowing thankfulness, like great big hugs from tiny tots, and kissing faces dripping with crumbs, and well-fed tummies, and chilly-cold milk, and chickens, so many chickens that give us their eggs, and lovely, loved people reading these words, and leftover pizza from friends that come play, and bananas and coffee, and a place to call home, with a pillow, and a bed, and a sofa, and a Bible to read, and a home that is cozy and plenty warm enough, that keeps out the rain and the snow and the cold, and a van that goes, and see? All these blessings that we just forgot. Real riches are found when our blessings are counted and maybe, just maybe, if I stopped just to count and say thanks for these gifts I’d know just how giving and good our God is.

And today, I will change my life, if just a little bit, and I will change my heart, if ever so slight, and I will give thanks and I will know that we our so blessed and our God is a good, good God.

Grace for the grind

IMG_6513We are creatures of habit, are we not? Easily falling into the routines and rhythms that make up out lives, yet as the wonder in the rhythmic repetition wears thin, we fill with disdain, or boredom, or scrolling smart phones, lost in the humdrum of the daily grind. I felt that way, that Saturday when I loaded 170 pounds of chicken feed into the back of the beatup minivan, with 2 kiddos chattering along beside. Just another chore, to feed the hens. But happy hens make tasty eggs, I think, so feed them well and feed them often.

We bantered our way up the drive, and the children dashed off to join the others in a rousing game of whatever it was they were playing in that moment. And I might have missed that moment, thinking about the humdrum of the day and the chores to be done, the cooking and the cleaning and the digging and the mowing, as I dragged and hoisted and fumbled with 50 pound feed bags. Moments are so easily missed amidst the rhythm of life.

But something caught my eye, and it made the moment sparkle, just a bit of gleaming in that sun. It seems the flock had their eyes on that van, and their eyes on that food, and they think with their tummies, and their little legs came running just as fast as tiny chicken legs can go. And suddenly, the sound of laughter coming from mIMG_6501yself as I watched the stampede of chickens coming down that hill at the very sight of a simple yellow bag of feed. Around the coop, and down the hill, and over the driveway and around the van, with a cockadoodledooing and squawking and bawking and with those little legs just scurrying as fast as can be. The flock knows my voice. Their little legs run and they come for the treats and they come for the feed. They’re just chickens, but they know what they want and they know what they need and they know they should run to good food and get fed and I laughed all the way from the deepest part of my guts as I watched all those chickens run and run fast.  And as I laughed with my chickens who run so intentionally straight, I woke up to the day and I smelled the sweet scent of the wild honeysuckle in the wind, and I felt the warm sun, and heard the laughter of kids. And this was a moment that I could so easily have missed. breathe

But there, right there, in that 50 pound bag was a grace from our God who made each moment for us to breathe in and breathe out and enjoy and not miss. But we stare at our phones and we stare at our screens and we stare at the things that are inside of our heads and we forget to look up, and we forget to look out, and we forget to breathe in the scents and breathe out. And we forget to watch for the giggling kids and the flitting of birds, and all those scurrying hens and we forget what the sound of our own laughter is like when we trade in the giggle and scurrying hens for the scrolling of stuff in the sweaty palms of our hands.

But what do we do? Can you picture the church, like a stampede of hens? RuIMG_6509nning straight, fast, and strong to the food of the Word and the arms of the Lord?  Can you take in this moment, with the fresh air and the squawks and the playing of children and just praise the Lord for the gifts that He gave and the moment He made and the Word and the love and the so many things? Things that we’ll miss in the humdrum of chores and the rhythm of life if we don’t look around and we don’t let ourselves laugh from the deepest part of guts. Breathe it in, breathe it out, and look for the gleam of this life, of this moment, God’s in it, God made it, you can’t get it back, don’t waste even a second.

You might have multiple toddlers if…

Your fish tank is decorated in little stickers that come off of bananas, oranges, imageand apples.

Your ability to hurdle baby gates has reached Olympic Gold Status.

You can’t find your refrigerator under all those handmade pictures.

You find unidentifiable science experiments growing under your sofa. You’re not sure, but one might be an old hotdog.

You are keenly aware that epic destruction can occur in less than a minute, about the time it takes to change the baby’s diaper or take your own bathroom break.

You live for naptime, bedtime, and gynecological appointments because you finally get a break from the screeching, screaming, and Barney songs.

You’re thinking about buying a coffee farm in Brazil. Because that much coffee is critical to your – and your toddlers’- survival.

imageYour backyard looks like a combination parking lot- playground- junk yard.

You can’t remember the last time their wasn’t a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Vesuvius with a stench like something you’ve never smelled before and hope to never smell again.

Your windows have a pretty, stained glass effect. At least that’s what you tell yourself when you don’t have time to wash off the ketchup, chocolate, and pudding smears that have been accumulating for weeks.

Your poor kitty is always running out of food and water because her bowls are easily accessible and most frequently used for dumping, pouring, and scattering.

Your essential oil diffuser lives on the kitchen counter to counteract that diaper smell.

You have as many sippy cups as coffee mugs.

You have a secret stash of chocolate.

You have a backup supply of coffee.IMG_1785

You keep a special, secret stash of wine for those days which are extra hard – you know, all of the ones that end with the letters d.a.y.

You buy baby wipes by the case.

You change clothes more frequently than a toddler because, well, there is ketchup. And spit-up. And fingerpainting. And, well, diapers. And that’s all before 9am.

You decide that keeping them in diapers a little longer is much easier and better for your sanity than attempting potty training. It’s ok, the kindergarten teacher can handle it.

Your mini-van has a special smell all its own.

You’re not sure if there is a floor under all those toys in the playroom.

Your bathroom only gets cleaned on bath night, and only with the shampoo and water that was supposed to stay in the tub.

image1 (2)Your idea of date night is to get in bed with a glass of wine and play dice on your cell phone while your other half watches ridiculously dumb Youtube videos but you don’t really care because you just want everyone to stop touching your body parts.

You can’t remember the last time you read a book with more than 35 words.

You daydream about what it’s like to go to the bathroom all by yourself.

You’re completely relieved when the tamper tantrum happening at the grocery store isn’t from one of yours.

You wouldn’t change it for the world.