Monday, March 30, 2015


Brian has been doing the hard work of getting the garden ready for spring planting. He tilled this weekend.The tiller turns the dirt...makes our hard, Oklahoma clay a little more cooperative -- at least for a few days.  We've tried to take advantage of that and pull out the weeds and grass that we were fighting, not so victoriously, at the end of last season.

I commented yesterday, as we were working at this, that it felt like spitting into the ocean and expecting the water level to rise. It is hard and it never ends and it feels like a waste of time. If we have that garden ten years from now, we'll still be fighting with weeds and grass. As the season progresses, it gets hotter and more difficult, but the weeds are still there. It feels very defeating at times... it's easy to give up and just let the weeds and grass have it -- choke out the fruit we've worked so hard on. By late July, I often don't care anymore - it's not worth it to me. "Have it," I say..."I don't care anymore." 

But then we rest, the ground rests, we rejuvinate a bit and remember the fruit - remember why...and so we start again.

But here's the truth I'm seeing as we work on this a little more each year: The older parts of the garden, where we've fought this battle longer -- they still have some weeds and grass - and likely always will, but nothing like the newer parts of the garden. We are making progress. It often doesn't feel like it, but over the long haul, I can see it. 

Each year, we pull a few more weeds and grass out, we work in a little more mulch and compost - add some of the necessary nutrients. And each year, the older parts get a little darker, a little softer, a little less grass and weeds encroaching on the fruit of our labor. Each year, the new parts look a little more like the older - and then we'll add another new section, as we did this year. More weeds to fight - but also more fruit to grow. :)


I needed that lesson this week.

I am so incredibly impatient with the hard work of rooting out the yucky my own life, and in others' lives as well. I see it, just as I see the grass and weeds in our garden. I know it shouldn't be there. I know it is gradually destroying what is good in the midst of it. I want it gone. 


Yesterday, even.

I'm incredibly hard on myself. Critical by nature - it is a battle I will fight to my grave, I'm certain. I was, and still am at times, so hard on my kids. My poor daughter, especially - being the first born, is the one we made ALL the mistakes with. I expected/still expect so much, so soon, of my children. I often failed at being thankful in the progress made, and instead, focused all my attention on what still needed to be done. I'm still prone to that.

Thankfully, God began to show me that in myself - allowed me to start tilling it up and rooting it out. It's still a battle. I can see spaces where it's better. I can see spaces I still need to keep working. 

It is easy to get tired. It is hard to look at the ugly parts. It is painful to till it up. It was/is painful to keep at it with my kids. I lose perspective. I stop looking back at the older parts. I fail to see that things have improved - that maybe where I'm tilling is a brand new spot and that's why it's so hard right now. I forget to look back at what I've been working on for months, years even, and be thankful that I'm not, we're not, where we once were.  I get angry and discouraged and overwhelmed. I'm tempted to say, "Have it - I don't care anymore." Sometimes I give up. And sometimes? Sometimes, I really do just need to stop. For a season. Rest. Rejuvinate.

And then get back out there and start pulling weeds. Remember why we started. Tilling up dirt and old, red clay - even though it exposes even more yuck that I couldn't see until I started digging. Once it is stirred up, it is easier to get it out. (Or maybe it's just less hard to get it out.)

God is in the turning. He is in the pulling, bending, back-breaking work of making it better. I want to be thankful for the turning - for the softer ground it yields - for the opportunity to keep working at getting out the bad parts, and to more easily work in the good stuff.

At the same time... at the same time, I want to look back - look back and be thankful for progress already made - fruit being born.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When It's Hard to Give Thanks

This year, I've committed to work through the discipline of thankfulness. I am going through Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare, challenging me to find three unique gifts in each day.

This has been more encouraging and insightful than I would have ever imagined. I did not quite realize how thoughtlessly I barreled through days, not pausing to reflect on the people around me, the God in the midst of us, the beauty all around. This practice, of meditating each day on Joy and Thankfulness, is proving to be somewhat transforming for me. Something as simple as "three things green" will turn my thoughts toward the goodness of God in the mundane of life. And finding goodness in the mundane is transforming.

There are three ladies that have joined me in this, along with a smattering of others that jump in on occasion, and their input, their perspectives on Joy and Thankfulness, have been equally encouraging.

Today's challenge? Today's is truly a challenge.

Three gifts hard to give thanks for.

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20

This is much harder said than done -- Giving thanks for things I am not thankful for. To be honest, I'm not sure even what that looks like. In my wonderings, this is about all I've come to:  to learn to give thanks for the God Who is present in all things.

Having said that, here are three gifts that are hard to be thankful for:

1. The pain we have experienced in the community of the Church. We have experienced both the best and worst of relationships in this broken-but-becoming-whole community. And it took a long time, but I am thankful, even in the pain, because it has forged the stuff of life in me. Some chose to leave. Some just gave up, weary. Some felt they must leave. And I get that. If I weren't a pastor's wife, honestly, I probably would have as well. But I couldn't leave...and now I am grateful. It has taught me that life and relationship are most often found in slogging through the hard and painful parts together.

2. My children sometimes choosing paths that I do not know or understand or even agree with. It is hard to watch the ones you love the most make choices you fear (read "know") will bring them pain. But I have found a faithful God in this place. Faithful to my children, right where they are. Faithful to walk through each stage of this journey with us - redeeming our failures and never wasting an experience - even the wrong or painful ones. And sometimes? Sometimes, in God's twisted sense of humor, I get to learn that what I was sure was a horrible mistake is exactly what they should have done.

3. The "unfair" pain... Dylan's battle with depression, the pain of Thomas's past - the day-to-day struggles these unfair circumstances cause.  We all have versions of this kind of pain. We don't deserve it. It's not fair. It's not right. It would be easy to blame God for allowing such things. He is, after all, sovereign, and yet these things did happen. It would be easy to become cynical, bitter, angry.

Here's what I learned in this place: The God I used to know - the one that owed me good things because I'd lived obedient and faithful - that God had to go. But the God I found in the pain? He is faithful. He is present. He is a constant presence in these struggles.

He knew depression. He knew abuse. He knew rejection and loneliness. He knew injustice. He knew hunger. He knew pain. And He knows our pain. He lives through each of those painful, sometimes horrific experiences, with us. With my children. 

He is God With Us.

So I'll be thankful. This year. This moment.  Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a sheer act of obedience and faith.

Moment by moment.