The Flower of My Youth

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I planted mint, I planted sage, 

I even planted rue,

But the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

Yes, the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

–Lithuanian folk song

I wish you could hear the tune, lilting and carefree. I heard it first in a compilation of children’s songs I played to amuse my children while I worked. Somewhere, slogging through a week’s worth of laundry with four children running circles around me, having just left my twenties behind, the song brought the wisdom of a Lithuanian granny into my life.

I could see her in my mind’s eye while I yanked up stubborn weeds. She ruminates while she sits outside the sun-bathed front of her ancient house, kerchiefed, shelling peas, a small garden of herbs by the front door. She remembers when her waist was tiny and her hair brown–when her husband brought her to this very house. They had nothing–only a few farm implements, some kitchen necessities and a few precious linens embroidered with love from her mama and aunties. He would leave every day to fight for their living and she tried to make what he earned last. And while the baby napped, though she ached with fatigue, she planted her garden. Everything she grew helped.

Her garden is still there. The babies have grown. The herbs still grow, a bower of blossoms. But she sees a plant unlike any other there too, waving its gentle limbs, full of leaves and heavy with flowers. It is invisible but everything else exists because she tenderly laid it in the soft earth of this place. The flower of her youth is here, roots stretching down for fifty years now. She devoted her best, strongest and most beautiful days to this a small, ignominious place. Yes, this flower is the fairest one of all.

She helped me. And she is right. I am fifteen years past the birth of my fourth and last child. My children are all taller than me, growing strong and brave and beautiful.

And I’m in the same little house. But it has changed over the years. Hands that were twenty planted and painted. The rose bush is stretching higher. Its blossoms did not really begin to grow two weeks ago. It is the work of years.

Dear sisters, years count. If your feeling tired, just remember that. Keep on in faithfulness to your calling or to your vows. Do not despise the day of small things (Zech 4:9)… because, in actuality, there are no small things.

All our decisions grow.

Elizabeth Hiett

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Love Confirmed…(see last post!)

Quote

From the Daily Office for Jan. 1st….

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62: 4-5

Love Divine

How like spouses we are, Lord! Today’s Scripture is Matthew 13:44-46. In the parable of the pearl, I was prompted to consider–who is the precious one? Is Christ the pearl, and are we the ones who sell all to have Him? Or are we the pearl, on whom God has set His love and gave His Son’s life to redeem us for His own?

The truth is clear is Scripture that we are both precious to each other. He gave all for us, and we give all for Him, though imperfectly.
Like a husband who woos and then works to provide and like a wife who casts all her hope upon him and joins her journey to his, so we are to each other. Love divine.

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Wrestling with God

thinking businessman Everyone wrestles with God. Even the atheist, though he may not know it. At some point in every life, we are desperate, and we ask the hard questions–the really good questions. Why? Why me? We may even shout, “No!” We find something in this life that is unbearable and for a time, be it a night, a week, or years, we fight with God. We grab hold of Him, whether we understand Him or not, and we wrestle. We are always overpowered by Him. At that point, we decide who He will be to us. Some reject this God they cannot understand or will not accept. The believer, equally exhausted, grabs hold like a child to a parent and cries, “Bless me!”

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, Let me go, for the day has broken. But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. 27 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. 28 Then he said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.  (Genesis 32)

(2+2) x God

Math Teaching Assisting StudentBy myself, I am a simple addition problem. Me, plus whatever I have done. My name, plus all my mistakes and all my talents. But God is a factor that changes the whole equation. As He hovered over the first waters of the earth, when we decide to respond to His call, He hovers over the sum total we have made of ourselves and makes us something that, by ourselves, we could never be.

We are no longer 2 + 2.

We are (2 + 2) x  GOD.

We are Us + forgiven.

Us + changing.

Us + hope of eternal life.

Us + a reason for this life.

Us + comfort.

Us + a million brothers and sisters in Christ.

And it goes on and on. When we are in Christ, we not only are changed but we see the entire world in a new way. Like a 3D movie, meaning jumps out of creation, out of our sufferings, and out of Scripture. It’s an exciting way to live- in this Christian dimension.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Running Into Ugly and Finding Beauty

20130204-102417.jpgI was not born pretty. Some people probably considered me ugly. At least one health professional suggested that my parents could “send me away”. In any case, the illusion that life is a safe, comfortable experience shattered that first day of my life when even the bottle failed me and I had to be fed with a dropper. My cleft lip and palate stamped the reality of the harshness of our world front and center on my face. It did one thing to me and one thing for me. To me– it launched me out of any delusional reality that life is easy or simple. For me– well, it landed me straight in the arms of God. Psalm 22:10 is a verse that resonated with me from the first day I heard it:

” 10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

IMG_0810So this little girl born with an amazing amount of black hair and with large, blue eyes had a big problem long after the surgeries were done and the medical files closed. Was life beautiful or was it ugly? As I grew I formed a sneaking suspicion that it was both. But, by gum, I would try to stay as close to the beautiful side as possible. And I feel like I have done that fairly well. I call it charm. You know, a small house can be renamed a “cottage”. And “slightly old” mixed with “inexpensive new” can become “shabby chic”. A crack in the wall is “old-world charm” along with rusty wheelbarrows remade into planters. Seeing the beauty and charm in things is a great skill to learn.

But what happens when you run into something truly ugly?

I don’t do well with that. It makes me very nervous. Like those inexorable rubik’s cubes (which I could never solve) some things in life cannot be twisted or turned into something “charming”. Until this last year, I have seen some of these ugly things–but from a distance–mostly as a nurse–poor people, lonely people, dead babies, twisted bodies, alcoholics bleeding out, addicts in cardiac arrest dying–the list goes on. But that kind of ugly I could walk away from. I always wondered as I drove home to my safe, small home with my wonderful husband and four healthy children, “What will I do when I can’t find the beautiful or charming side to a situation? When “ugly” comes to me? What will I do when I can’t find the “sunny-side’? And make no bones about it, I knew that Ugly came to everyone.

And then it came.

Last May, Ugly came. It came into my living room. It came into the lives of my children. It came into our pocketbook, into my health, into my “charming, little world”. It’s been almost a year and the journey is still on. And I am ok with it. It is Christ’s work, to help bear another’s burden. But my heart is breaking.

Oh, the grief! Dear Lord, where is the beauty? I can’t twist this anyway that makes it look better! If there were just some beauty here, I could bear it! I could bear it!

And then a still, small voice.

But maybe you are the beauty in this.

I am a grown adult and I have been twisting this rubik’s cube for a long time. I pause. I had never considered this option. Beauty can be brought by someone outside a situation, for the sole sake of the person in it and change the reality of their suffering. It is so simple. So elemental. So Christian. My friend, caught in the vortex of something ugly, gazes into a mirror and I on the other side, through Christ’s help, touch the opposite side of the looking glass. My compassion, no, Christ’s compassion, beautifies what she sees. And it is bearable. I still see ugly. She sees God working. I feel joy to know that she sees God. Later, I will see beauty. But I feel joy.

What a strange, sweet irony it is that a little girl born into trouble, and shying away from it all her life, should find out that, if she let God do the work, she could be the conduit to bring beauty to something very ugly.

“11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:11-12

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“Good Things Happen When Jesus Comes…”

imageThey sang it as they walked through the jungle. A tribe of people hatcheted their way through the vines to reach the neighboring village. Their words took on special meaning for me. Here are these people, without the common comforts I am so used to, joyful in the gifts they have received in knowing Christ. He didn’t solve all their problems. He didn’t take them out of a jungle or away from a church made of mud or to a place with running water and air conditioning. What exactly are they singing about, I wonder? What good things did Jesus bring?

I tried to place myself in their shoes, or more correctly, bare feet. What are all the good things that Christ brings to a culture previously untouched with a knowledge of His word? And conversely, what are the good things that I enjoy because I know Christ or others around me know Him.

Imagine the introduction of the Ten Commandments.
Imagine learning that you should love your neighbor.
Imagine learning that God loves you.
Imagine learning that we should all work to support ourselves and our families.
Imagine learning that you should respect your parents.
Imagine learning that God will one day chain the forces of evil forever and that He will make a new heaven and a new earth for those who love Him to enjoy with him.
Imagine learning that marriage should be honored by all.
Imagine learning that you are a sinner.
Imagine learning that Christ took your punishment on Himself.

Imagine the implications that the acceptance of these ideas have on a culture, even if only a few people hold to them. Consider how those beliefs have shaped the culture we have. Everything we have is touched in some way by a worldview largely influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. Without it, my world would be very different. With the introduction of it, these tribal people are finding
that good things have come.

Of course a knowledge of good necessarily leads us into a confrontation with evil, either within us or outside of ourselves. But that, in itself, is not a bad thing. It is the work that makes the world into a better place and us into better people. So whether we consider the blessings of knowing Christ, or the sacrifices of following Him, we are experiencing something inherently good–even if it is unpleasant.

This is Christmas Eve, the words of these people still echo in my mind as I read what the angels said the night Jesus was born:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

How true it really is!

Good things happen when Jesus comes!

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