Green the Grass

We watered our lawn too much. My husband told me this after consulting other lawn experts, otherwise known as neighbors. He talks about lawns like I talk about cooking.

If we water our lawn too much the roots don’t learn to grow deep and seek out water on their own. Who knew? Well, other people is the short answer.  Seeking roots are important when it gets hot and dry. It’s Texas. It gets hot and dry.

So, we backed down on our watering, but not before we felt the pain of our utility bill. Yikes! The first year of home ownership is a year for learning. What that really means is a year of doing lots of weird things because you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Now its summer again and I find I like my lawn to be green and its starting to get a tad light green in patches. I really want to ramp up the watering so it gets dark green again. I’m scared the grass won’t find the water.

What if it dies?

My own life, my kids lives, the lives of students I work with on campus. I see the same truth play out. Surface green looks so good and there’s really nothing wrong with seeing outward growth and health.

The big question is what kind of roots are being trained? Are they seeking roots trained to strain towards sustenance? Am I? Or weak shallow roots that don’t know what to do when drought comes?

When dry threatens, I want to ramp up the watering schedule. It looks good and works fast. And its appropriate at times, too. The lawn gets green pretty quick when I water it more. More attention pays off in the present tense.

But hot and dry always come at some point and not just in Texas.

How have I trained the lawn? How am I training my spiritual life? My children? Am I trying to help so much that I train shallow and weak people who don’t know what to do when hot and dry come in life? Am I afraid that answers won’t be supplied from the depths so I feel I need to supply from the surface?

Watching my kids struggle to stretch roots down to the foundation of things is difficult. Feeling the pain of it myself is confusing.

Searching for depth is just that…a search.

It is a lack of knowing exactly where the sustenance is but sending out feelers, shoots to investigate. It looks like absorbing long passages of God’s word, the Bible, gleaning and sifting for who God is in new ways. Sometimes searching is finding nothing that feels helpful but absorbing more truth. Later it makes more sense. Or, seeking is trying new things to discover where I fit in the body of Christ.  Learning new skills necessary for a new circumstance in life is a form of stretching to new depths.

The assurance I have is that I will find sustenance, and others will too, if we search for that which truly sustains. It may not always seem enough or produce a green enough lawn to look pretty to everyone, but God will keep me growing spiritually when I am connected to Him, the Giver of life.

My lawn may not look as green as everyone else’s. That’s a challenging reality at times. I am learning again to trust that the exterior appearance of life doesn’t always correlate directly to spiritual health.

Next time I will write about the tree that looked dead for months. Spoiler alert. It’s not dead!

Deep roots, searching roots, trained to send out feelers into the depths during the hot and dry times is health more than shallow and green during ideal conditions.

Not all brown things are dead.

 

A Day for Remembering

I lay on the couch in the morning sun flipping through my photo feed. Memories wash through with each swipe. Sunshine to snowfall. Normal to hectic. One life then another. Change after change after change.

Some photos remind me of things forgotten in the crash of my father’s sickness. The dark chocolate bar the writers gave me upon the publication of my first piece. A monumental event, an event eclipsed by news delivered 2 days later.

Two swipes later clouds and snow from the seat of a flight booked last minute. Then, my parents on face time with family figuring out how to process a terminal diagnosis. Hospital photos, prayer meetings, more clouds from more flights all mixed in with children at school events, moving trucks, beach sunrises and meals at favorite restaurants, hospital room views.img_1404-1

All jumbled together in an impossible array of the unbelievable.
I wonder how we made it, and I remember how we made it. It was life in the moment of what had to be done, constantly shoving aside what must wait until later. Daily listening to my gut when it said weird things like go shopping, buy a nice outfit for each kid for the funeral. Or listening to my friends, buy the tickets, don’t worry about the money.

Coming to accept more deeply that life isn’t as neat and clean as we want, and we can’t make things as neat and clean as we want no matter how hard we try.

Somehow we made it. Somehow we cherished the moments given to us and came through. Scarred, yes. Hurting, definitely. Intact, physically, yes.

And missing.

Always missing what was taken from us in this world. Hopeful and waiting for the day of reckoning. The day of returning what we are promised in Jesus Christ. Life, joy, peace, and fellowship with the ones we love.

A day without tears and without missing.

A sunrise from on high.

 

Walking the Shadows

Time is ticking and I want to make plans. I want to write on my calendar what happens what days and every time I lift my pencil, I think of what I do not and cannot know. I do not know the path of my father’s growing brain tumor. I do not know when he will die. I am not in control.

I long for certainty. Certain of attending a graduation event with my daughter. Certain of attending a dinner with my small group. Certain of chaperoning my son’s field trip. Certain of something.

The only thing I feel certain of is death.

My hand stalls in midair but I press through and fill blank space on the calendar knowing death may interrupt every thing I write.

I do not know the times God plans for my father and his brain tumor. I cannot know the measure of days for him, for myself, for my husband and children, for anyone. So much uncertainty and I want to know, to make a plan I feel certain I can fulfill.

But I cannot. God forces me to open my clenched fists and receive what He gives for today. To sacrifice plans I make if necessary to accept the ones God hands down for today. He forces me to release so much so that I can take hold of what He gives.IMG_1410

I do not like what He wants to give me. I do not want to release my plans, because I think they are better than grief and mourning. They certainly feel more comfortable.

Years of practice and many difficult farewells overseas and I know a shadow of grief. I know it’s pain and  I’d rather not. I’d just rather not write grief, mourning, sadness on my calendar in ink for the next few years. But, that is God’s plan for me.

He’s walked me through the shadows before. Can I trust Him to walk me through the reality of a more final farewell with my father?

 

Wilderness Nurtures the Soul

We woke up in succession, five of us in one hotel room. Everyone slept on a real mattress for once. Motels in the US seem to understand families with more than one child.

Our motel perched on the edge of the Everglades and the Keys in South Florida. I was ready to go see, my kids wanted to watch Discovery channel. They grumped and groused as we forced them out of the hotel and stuffed them in the car. We meandered down to Everglades National Park and took in the strange beauty of the marshes. With so many signs pointing out the various wildlife in the area, I stumbled across this one./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/330/30512586/files/2015/01/img_0835.jpg

Wilderness nurtures the human soul. It was listed as one of the reasons to preserve wildlife. My heart and soul resonates with this statement. Wilderness nurtures my soul. Wilderness is quiet and I hear rustling and chirping that normally fades into the background of hustle and bustle. Wilderness leads me to contemplate my size. I am small yet unique and significant. Wilderness opens my eyes to new creatures and the wonder of the expansive creativity of a creative God. Made in His image, I also long to create. Wilderness feeds my soul.

I noticed it fed my children’s’ souls too. Discovering animals and plants delighted them. Alligators hiding in marshes. Birds floating in from far away. Manatees bubbling up to the surface with their speckled skin and mysterious shape. Fish rushing after food. Birds dipping down deep for a meal. Delighted they took it all in to their soul.IMG_0812

We are still searching for our way in America. At times it feels like a wilderness. At times it feels like a familiar home. We are always learning, always adjusting.

This was our first solo family foray into vacations in America. We’re learning that too. I think we learned we are a national park kind of family.

We won some, we lost some on this vacation. It wasn’t all smooth but I’m thankful for the reminder that wilderness nurtures my soul.

restoration

Flea Market Flip ran last week on HGTV while I exercised. Teams picked out old junky furniture and restored it in a nicely equipped workshop. Then, they resold it to people who found out they paid way too much when they watched the show a few months later. That show cracked open a door in my mind.

Can I be a Flea Market Flipper too?

I browsed Goodwill hoping to find a bike for my son a few days later. I found a bike for my son. I also found a table for me. Do I need a table? Why, no, I do not. But, the table needed me, so I took it home. Now it sits in my garage waiting for me to restore it.  IMG_0372

Which brings up a curious point of drama in this story because I don’t actually know how to do that. So, I pinterested.

I discovered a few options for this kind of project. One involved a few cans of superior grade spray paint. After that, there’s the small step up. I can buy a can of some kind of primer, sealer, base type paint and slather it all over before painting the table some daring color.

I’m not a particularly daring person so picking the color intimidates me. I’d leave that to my friend, Lori.

Then there’s classic restoration. It’s time intensive and complicated. It takes elbow grease and new tools. Sanding, staining, putty, glue, varnish, oils. The result is a beautiful, classical table in the style first envisioned by the maker.

I’m not sure I’m up for that. And, do I want another dark wood table? Not really.

Of course, all of this connects on a deeper level for me. If you haven’t gotten there yet. I am the table. A little loose and damaged needing quite a bit of sanding and staining to bring out what’s underneath all the crud. I’ve always needed restoration. I’ll always need restoration.  Until the end of days I will need restoration.

So, what kind of restoration am I opting for? It depends on the day or the hour or the minute. Mostly, I want the fast spray paint type of restoration. Just get me looking a little better. Cover over the worst of the transgressions. Blot out the huge blemish on the surface.

But, there are days when I understand that spray paint fails to do the job. It’s fast, easy, and noticeable on pieces that got a lot of problems. I got a lot of problems. I don’t really ask often because who wants to know the truth about themselves?  But we all kind of know, don’t we?

It takes creativity and time but in some areas I take a step further and really try to cover up the problems. It’s takes years to manufacture the hard shell that covers the really big stuff, those huge gaping wounds and gashes. Add a daring coat of paint to distract. Voila. I’m repurposed.

I’m longing more these days for more restoration in my life. I know its painful to feel sanded, stripped, and scrubbed but I want it. I can see a glimpse of what can be and I want more.

I’m in a good workshop now. Lots of skilled restorers of lives, lots of tools, lots of space, and gentle spirits that walk with the Lord. It’s a good time to restore. I’m realizing I need to keep a workshop in my life in years to come too. A place and people who restore. A place where I can be involved in the restoration of others too.

One person mentioned a few weeks ago that when we’re tired…bone tired…we need to work backwards from the physical through the mental and relational back to the spiritual. I ponder that these days and I wonder if the table is God’s answer to my prayers. I prayed that I’d connect with Him in a new way soon, that I’d see His hand.

Did He give me this flea market find to engage me in the ongoing work He’s doing in my life? Why, yes! I think that’s exactly what He did.

So, now back to the real table that is not me. I want to go buy that good primer, sealer, coater all-in-one paint today.

The allegory only goes so far, folks. I’m going to paint that table in my garage.

 

 

 

Entering the Rest

20140121-101129.jpgThese days I spend my days with family enjoying the warmth and sunshine of Thailand.

Mornings I read and journal on a balcony to the sounds of rustling palm trees.  Afterwards, we all suit up and head to the pool to swim and play.  The hotel room offers cool shade for the afternoon rest.  We walk on the beach at sunset catching hermit crabs and finding shells.  We sink our toes in the sand underneath our dinner table by the beach.  Idyllic, right?

But my heart grows restless in the midst of all this wonder.  Instead of an increasing relaxation I find an uneasiness rise up.  It’s hard to enjoy and enter the rest.

The world says we are entitled to this time.  Our Human Resources handbook says we accrued the weeks.  Our bosses approved our timing.  We saved to afford our accomodations.  Beyond that is the self-justification.  We never take all our allotted vacation time.

But my heart knows something deeper.  It knows I don’t deserve it and I didn’t earn it and I can’t pay it back.  It is a gift, a grace, a display of God’s generosity that I can never repay.  And I want to pay.  I really want to pay!  I feel that in repaying it I can more fully enjoy it.  But there is no way to repay it…no way.  I’m caught.

So God leaves me with a choice to accept the gift with thankfulness or do what I do now…struggle to find a way to pay and in doing so, rebel.  Because in wanting to deserve, to earn, to pay I strive to be equal with God Himself!  And I startle at the realization.  I want to be equal to God, always have and, this side of heaven, always will to some extent.

So I miss out on the rest…or I was missing out.

In the coming days I hope to enter the rest He provides.  Enter it boldly.  Not the vacation rest but the real rest my heart seeks…the rest from thinking I can earn, deserve, repay, prove.  To receive the gift of His Son who paid all on my behalf.  I need no longer strive.

I need only accept the gift with a smile, that gift that is so priceless I cease from all rebellious endeavors to repay it.  I bind myself to the Gift-giver heart and soul.  Even that is a gift for my wayward, wandering, rebellious soul.

To be anchored by His undeserved favor, the true rest for my weary soul.

Death by Paper Cut

One of the most difficult things about life anywhere, and life lived across cultures for sure, is that often it’s no one big thing that slays me…at least not yet.  It’s all the small things that add up and threaten to take me down.  Taken alone, each cut seems relatively minor and superficial, like a paper cut, but they sting.  Each and every cut stings and there’s no time to put on a Band-Aid before the next cut comes.

Talking about what hurts seems silly sometimes.  It’s just a paper cut, why am I so upset about a paper cut?  I minimize and compare.  I don’t suffer like that other person who really stood up for their faith in a stressful situation of direct confrontation.  No one really hurt me, right?  I’m still alive, aren’t I?  I discount the cut and fail to treat it.

Again and again the cuts come.   Forgetting my passport.  The person who cut me off again just this morning.  The man who makes me re-park my car so that the nose faces out warning me that I am breaking the law if I don’t.  He doesn’t understand that at least 5 people on the road endangered my very life and parking my car in a “cultured” way is the least important thing to worry about now.  The lady at the store who will not even try my credit card even though I know it works.  I did not bring cash.  Smog.

Here in Asia it’s called “eating bitterness” these paper cuts.  It’s an old saying about life and just taking it.  It results in kick the dog syndrome, though.  People just lose it for no clear or sufficient reason.  But I know why they lose it because I lose it too.

Unseen cuts cover us all and then someone pours salt on the wound.  The salt without the wound is nothing but with the cuts…it brings sudden pain and I react.  Kick the dog syndrome spreads like a contagion.  A woman picks up a brick on the street to throw at a man.  I’ve seen that.  A family fights in the apartment above us and furniture shakes and screams keep me awake.  I’ve heard that.

I wish for a formula to combat the paper cut plague but it doesn’t exist.  I know more now to look at the cut and say it hurts…to cry even if it seems silly to cry over a paper cut.  I know that real life seems more death by paper cut than death by some brave act of martyrdom though those stories also move me to tears.  DSC_0064

Death by paper cut is not as futile as it seems when I count the Lord’s view of suffering.  He calls me to die to myself as He died for me…even in the smallest things.  He calls me to persevere and endure and even do it joyfully because He gives me resources I just cannot muster myself.

As I contemplate more on this concept and acknowledge the cuts, I do find more joy because I find grace and mercy.  I still kick dogs some days…not real dogs but proverbial dogs.  I do a lot of apologizing.  It is coming easier to apologize because I get a lot of practice.

But His grace and mercy, this is the salve that allows my soul to lay down and rest.