Empty Handed

Empty Handed

Encouragement Inspiration

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
~Isaiah 61:3

IMG_20160821_122753I went camping this weekend with two very dear friends. I know I am blessed when it comes to friends. So very, very blessed. I wrote about it in a post way back when, but I was reminded of it again this weekend. To be with people who love you just as you are is a priceless and unmatchable gift. To be with people who are willing to sing and dance with you when you reach the highest part of your hike*… well, that’s just icing on the cake.

These girls love me, and oh do they love God. So it is always great to get their ideas and feedback on life. To have their added wisdom and insight.

This weekend I was able to talk about an old issue that had recently popped back up in my life. Someone had hurt me, and it seemed like I still hadn’t fully forgiven them. Here I am, years later, and I was still upset. Still hurt. Still mad. And one of my lovely ladies asked me what would God give me, if I chose to forgive. And I had a mental stumbling block. Mostly I just don’t want people to think that they can negotiate with God. As in “If I do this good thing, then I can negotiate something worldly from God” kind of thinking. (I hope that makes sense, but I don’t want to camp out on this thought, so that’s all I will say.)

IMG_20160820_201921I was thinking about what she said, and what unforgiveness looks like. And in my mind I saw myself with my fists tightly clenched and pulled in close to my body. I realized that at times we might choose to cling tightly to fear, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. When we do this, our hands are full. We can’t grab on to things like peace, when we are holding so tightly to these other things. But when we start to say “I forgive” and “I trust You, Lord,” then we start to release fear, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. As we slowly unclench our hands, and we find our hands suddenly open and empty- when we stand empty handed before God, that is when He can start to put His Gifts into our hands, and we can start to receive the things He has planned for us.

I’m not saying forgiveness is easy, not by a long shot. Neither can you always do it the first time around (case in point: me). Sometimes it is an active process of letting go, an active process of returning our grievances to God a second, third, fourth (or more) time. An active process of choosing not to desire what might seem right or fair. It’s hard. Really hard. And it might even leave you feeling empty handed at times. But being empty handed before the one who spoke you into being- that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes that can be the beginning of everything.

May the Lord bless you to realize your own areas of unforgiveness. May the Lord help you to release the old feelings that you have clung to, and give you the strength and support you need to press on. May the Lord God bring healing and restoration to your hearts as you open up to Him about your struggles. May the Lord place into your open and empty hands His peace that surpasses all understanding. And may God bless you with friends who love you right where you are, who can speak life and truth into you life. In Jesus strong and mighty name, Amen.

~Lindsay

*Totally serious. I hang out with ladies who sing praise music on mountaintops. (Well, at least the biggest hill we can find in the vicinity)**

**We also play on jungle gyms and debate when middle age starts…? Is this the part where I hashtag a number in the 20-somethings and say 4eva?

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Carrots!

Carrots!

Inspiration

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” ~Matthew 13:23

A long time ago, I saw a cute quote and wrote it in the cover of my bible.  I didn’t really think too much about it beyond that it was cute… I’ve grown a lot since then. And I’ve grown a lot of vegetables since then*.

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I recently headed out to our garden (which could more accurately be called a glorified weed patch) and picked a carrot! Yes, you read that right: I grew a carrot!! You can’t even begin to understand my shock, joy, and childlike glee at picking a carrot! We have tried growing carrots for years. Our carrot success rate was… well, nothing edible. Carrots are apparently hard to grow. I could have done research, I suppose. But that stubborn gene in me, just kept insisting that I could put that tiny little seed in the ground and out would pop a carrot. This is not a highly successful gardening method. Well, new home, new soil, same seeds… and TA-DA! A Carrot!

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And I just held that carrot and stared at it (seriously, our neighbors are probably very concerned about me). Because FINALLY a carrot grew! And that Browning quote popped back into my mind. And then the idea of good soil, and Matthew 13 popped into mind. I remembered that tiny little seed, and looked at that fat carrot and was astounded. The glory of God really does fill the earth, it’s just we’re so busy we miss it! Daily we miss it! We go to the grocery store and pick up a bag of already washed and cut carrots, not knowing that they were tiny seeds at one point. Not seeing how they grow underground, hidden from view. This quote, or this idea, would probably mean nothing to me- except that I did grow the carrot. I did have failures, and I did try and try again. And then when it finally worked- it was ridiculous how exciting it was. It really was laughable how excited I was. But God is not calling us to be excited about just the really really big stuff, but to rejoice in the small, the everyday, the mundane.

The full quote is actually:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And of course the bigger connection here is the seeds we sew with our words and deeds. We were commissioned to go to the ends of the earth and tell the Good News. That is NOT an easy job, not by a long shot. And just like the parable of the sower**** in Matthew 13, some people are not ready for the Good News. But some people are so thirsty for Jesus, that it is worth the risk (I’m talking mostly to myself here).

And the excitement is contagious. So contagious that as I was rejoicing over my carrot, a little someone came behind me and started plucking carrots and beets- regardless of size- but even more excited than his mother. Because we want to be a part of that excitement, we want to share in the glory and awe, we want to see it and touch it. So I thought I would share my carrot enthusiasm with everyone and took some pictures of the little stubby carrots my kids** enthusiastically picked while I wasn’t looking- all in the hopes that it might encourage someone today.

Lord, you are truly awesome. Your creation is full of the truth about who you are. Help us to see you in our daily lives, to rejoice in who you are, and to share that excitement with others. I pray that you would prepare the hearts around us to receive you truth and love, and that you would embolden us to speak your truth and love. And thank you for carrots! Amen!

~Lindsay

*And I’ve grown even more weeds.

**And FYI- how do you type a blog with 2 children who want to spend time with you? You let them do your hair, of course. I think I have about 50+ bows on my head right now. Also, I got my hair brushed. Pretty sure I might be bald now. So no, you aren’t getting any pictures of that. Sorry. Use your imagination.***

***and as I typed that I heard a little snip. Yep. The little one found a pair of scissors. So this is really the end now.

****I had to come back and edit the post, because my hubby was kind enough to tell me I’d written “the parable of the sewer” instead of the “sower.” Feeling all kinds of embarrassment here.

cabbage is so monstrously big, and somehow beautiful! (Even when the tomato plants fall over on it)
cabbage is so monstrously big, and somehow beautiful! (Even when the tomato plants fall over on it)
The Journey

The Journey

Children Encouragement From the Authors

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story ~Psalm 107:2

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Mostly in my own head. I mean, I could share my ideas with those around me… but they’re all under the age of 10. They don’t get my jokes, let alone my contemplative thoughts.

Well, that’s probably selling them short. So maybe I should share more with them… but that’s a blog post for another day.

In my last post, I mentioned that our youngest had started having seizures. So life’s been a little wild and chaotic for a bit. A little scary. A week or two before his first seizure, I actually said to my husband, “We got it really good.” And he nodded, we were driving somewhere and he was distracted. “No, really,” I continued. “We got it reaaaaally good. I don’t like those sermons where people warn you that hard times come to us all. And I don’t want to predict that over us, but I feel like we aren’t appreciating the everyday mundane. We don’t know how good we really have it, because it’s been so good for so long.”

And then yeah, stuff happened, and we were just thankful that we were still a family of five. The first seizure was awful. I had the thought that I might lose a child right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

So check out this little guy:

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You know where I found him? Right here:

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This is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. That little guy had been just hanging out in Lake Itasca- all in all a pretty calm lake. Life must have been a little mundane, but good. Then he somehow got through those rocks there. You can see them in the picture. Not a big deal for my kids who were climbing over them and getting soaked, heedless of their mother’s entreaties to keep their clothes dry. But for a little guy who fits in the palm of a child’s hand, those rocks must have been shocking compared to his life in Lake Itasca. And then I thought about what was ahead of him. He was going to keep floating down this river, towards the Gulf of Mexico. The realist in me thought he’d never make it. And another part of me wondered if I shouldn’t try and take him back to the lake and find a safe place for him, where he wouldn’t end up in the river again.

But as I sat and stared at that little guy, I began to think we had a little bit in common. I’d recently survived some rapids. Things have calmed down again for me, but I really don’t know what my future holds. I can’t even begin to imagine all that will happen. Sure I have plans for the future, but God has shown me time and again that my plans are small potatoes compared to his.

And then I remembered, again, the one thing that always calms me down. God is the same as he was yesterday, and as he will be tomorrow. He is good. His plans are good. He is merciful. And He does not give us more than we can handle.

So I put that little guy back in the river. Well, more accurately, I made a little boy put him back in the river. We were at the point where I foresaw that little guy coming home in someone’s pocket. So I did the mom thing where you use their middle name, and then I watched that little snail-thing lazily float away. And instead of sharing all my inner musings with my children, who probably would have been astounded, I laughed quietly at myself and returned to the age old tradition of mothers everywhere- nagging. Because who wants to drive home with a wet bum?

But all this to say, the journey is not always smooth or easy. But we are held in hands far stronger and wiser than that little boy’s. Wherever you are in the journey, you can trust in that.

Lord thank you that you see me, and you know me. You know right where I am at, and you know where I am going. You do not forsake us, but come after us time and again. Thank you for being so much better than I could ever imagine. Thank you that you are still in charge, even when it doesn’t seem possible. And I praise you for your wonderful creation- that mighty river that starts out so small and peaceful, that little snail I held in my hand, those wonderful babies you have given me. Thank you for all of that, and so much more. Everyday, more and more, help me to look around and to see your hand at work. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*I see that there are run-on sentences in this blog post. Don’t worry, I see it. But writing how I talk is really hard grammatically. I’m a math major. With a lot to say. Writing is hard. The end.