The countdown continues for a wedding at our place this week! You can read more about that here. Today, in true “traces of faith” style, I thought we’d take a look back at how this wedding happened to end up at our place. In the first place.
I read on Facebook that Sara and Ben wanted to get married in a rural setting. She inquired about any local places people knew of that weren’t too expensive.
All of the places friends mentioned seemed far away or pricey. As sort of a joke, I said,
“You could have the wedding at our place.”
And God winked down at Sara and Ben. And us.
Let me explain.
We have a family friend who doesn’t believe in coincidences. I mean yes, things seem to fall into place at times. But is that a coincidence? That is so much of what this blog offers. An answer to the question:
Is there such a thing as a coincidence?
Our friend would say “no!” Not with God in charge. He has a name for these moments when you see God at work.
Don’t you love that image of God? He sees a need you have, in this case a location for a country wedding, and He helps us put two and two together. All the while winking down on us.
We read a book for our summer Bible study a few years back. Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. This book takes an unconventional look at Jesus.
We know Him as holy.
We know He is sovereign.
We know Jesus to be just.
We know He loves us.
But this book (I know it’s a good one because us Bible study ladies, we still reference it) presents Jesus in some different lights.
Playful. Witty. Scandalously Free. Human.
So, Sara and I began private messaging one another. Because this conversation about a wedding had suddenly turned serious.
Sara: “If you are really offering up your place, we’d like to consider it!”
Me: “I think it’s a great idea.”
Sara: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Well, let me check with my husband.” **Note: It’s always a good idea to check with your husband.
I asked Sara what date they had in mind for the wedding. October 4.
Photo credit: Kari Stull Photography
One day before I have a milestone birthday. I turn 40 on October 5. My mom has always joked with me that I don’t have birth-days. I have birth-weeks. Sometimes birth-months.
That’s when I knew. God had found the perfect place for Ben and Sara to have their big, beautiful country wedding. And He fully planned to throw me a grand party for my birthday.
God: Wink wink. Nudge. Nudge.
We’ve had so much fun planning the wedding. They put a ton of thought and effort into every detail. We’ve worked on special projects around here to spruce the place up a bit. A handful of times, they’ve come out to Sunday lunch and our girls have played. They took their engagement photos here.
And if we’re not careful, if we don’t train our minds to think intentionally, we’ll miss God in all of this.
And God in all of this is the very best part.
Author John Eldredge shares a Scripture passage early on in Beautiful Outlaw. The story of the resurrected Christ appearing to His fisherman disciples. On a fishing trip. Because that’s what you do when you think Jesus has died and your greater purpose died with Him. You go back to everyday life. You get in a boat and go fishing.
You can read the whole story in John 21:1-12 but here is a portion:
“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,“ they answered. (verses 4-5)
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some...” (verse 6a)
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153....” (verses 10-11a)
After a night of catching no fish, Jesus appeared on the scene. And His friends didn’t just snag a handful of fish. John wants us to know, it was 153!!
Note also who dragged that net of 153 fish to shore. Simon Peter.
John Eldredge brings this story up again later in his book. And I quote:
“Think back to the story of Jesus and the boys fishing, post resurrection. Remember now - what did Peter do as Jesus was being tied and tortured? He renounced him. Not once, but three times. Then the rooster crowed and Jesus - face swollen, upper lip already burst open and bleeding - looked him right in the eye. Peter ran outside and wept. Can you imagine how torn apart he was inside? How full of shame and self-loathing? The doubt that Jesus would ever want to see him again? When the 153 large fish pop into the nets, and John figures out it’s Jesus, Peter hits the water swimming like a Labrador retriever. And there, on the beach, Jesus restores him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if He arranged that whole wonderful moment just for Peter.”
Readers, another gentle reminder. I want you to soak in the truth. God restores. Stay tuned. The wedding happens Saturday! We’ll be ready.
I got in the car for a drive. I wasn’t sure where I was going but I needed to distance myself from where I was.
In moments, I had my mom on the phone. Some things are just mom-sized issues, you know? Immediately, I started raging. So full of pent-up frustration, I spilled my guts amidst a sea of tears. I had hit an emotional wall.
She listened for a moment and then said,
“Are you driving? You’re so upset you probably need to pull over.”
Life has a way of lessening those hard times somehow. We don’t forget necessarily but we get all filled up with other things. Better things.
My current season of life has given me a word.
For my dear friends...
Who are suddenly widows. Torn apart by grief. Staring at all the pieces of their life and wondering how they fit together now.
Recovering from unwanted divorce. Grabbing their children fiercely by the hand and figuring out how they’ll live this new chapter together.
Waiting, with an imperfect patience, to move into their forever home. Wondering if such a thing even exists anymore.
So many times in life we have little to offer God but our weary hearts. Souls so tired. Open hands, on bended knee, willing to take any spiritual blessing handouts we can receive.
Oh, I’ve been there. But I’m not there now.
That’s the beauty of a redeemed daughter of the King. We live our lives much like everyone else. Trying to do good. Hoping good comes our way.
But then sometimes it doesn’t. Go good, I mean. It hurts. It sucks. We get bitter and angry and frustrated.
Because even redeemed ones are human this side of Heaven.
Here’s the beauty though. The secret of every believer.
God has this way about Him. A King Midas kind of thing. Everything He touches eventually turns glorious. All glory!
One of the most challenging times in my life occurred as we searched for our forever home. We moved in with my in-laws thinking it would be temporary until we sold our house and bought a new one. Six years and a new baby later, we settled in as a family of three. I wrote about it here.
Such challenging times. Not compared to many challenges. But they were the daily, real challenges handed to us.
Now, two years later, those hard times have faded. And this property we call home has restored us.
Further, we’ve been granted a gift. We have the opportunity to pay it forward.
A dear friend went through a divorce about three years ago. She wrote about it here.
Next week, in merely days, she’s getting re-married. Her life. Restored.
The wedding, that joyous event when man and woman join their lives together in front of God and loved ones. Friends, it will take place right here.
For both of us, restored means we went through the hard stuff. We clung to our faith in God. We see now, with eyes wide open, that God’s restored is better. Always better.
Rejoicing because He restores.
And given time, we can look back at the broken times of our lives. The struggles. And we can see how every time He lifts us up.
Now, understand, sometimes that restoration may happen at the feet of Jesus. Not meant to be restored in this life.
But when we trust Jesus through the restoring process, we can join hands with other believers and sing the chorus of the old African-American spiritual:
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Give me Jesus.
Dear readers, Stay tuned to the blog this week. We have a wedding coming!
I received a copy of “Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith,” written by Charles Swindoll, from netgalley.com for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
I sat down with an old friend this week. We did one of my all-time favorite things. Explored the Bible together.
Back in 1998, I began making my way through Charles Swindoll’s “Great Lives From God’s Word” series. Starting with the life of David. Esther. Joseph. A decade of books concluding with the life of Jesus.
I read most of them. And for me, it seemed like sitting in on my very own seminary class. These books take you on the biblical journey of each individual. Swindoll paints the reality of each life using Scripture, original language insigh, and known historical and regional context.
He did the same in his most recent book. Telling Abraham’s story from his days in Ur to his final days married to Keturah. All the while, teaching us how to apply the lessons from Scripture in our own lives.
I gain wisdom by learning how another person got through a difficult time. How a great man or woman responded to criticism. How an individual, while honored and celebrated, avoided the ego trap of arrogance or conceit.
Swindoll does an excellent job of showing how Abraham’s faith grew over time.
Like his relatives and neighbors, Abram worshiped idols and accepted mythology as truth (see Joshua 24:2).
At the age of 75, God asked Abram to leave this world behind. He and his wife had already been married about fifty years! And they somehow found the courage to obey. Not knowing where they would settle or what that journey would include.
We follow Abram on his whole life journey. His short-lived trip to Egypt. His unwavering loyalty to his nephew, Lot. His name change to Abraham. His decision to father a child with Hagar at Sara’s insistence. His relationship with Isaac, the son whom he loved. To his final days as parent and grandparent to multiple children. Laid to rest by two of his sons, Isaac and Ishmael.
True to the title, we follow Abraham’s journey of faith along the way. How much faith did it take to lay Isaac on that altar? Think about it. No one is born with that much faith.
Finally, at 175 year of age (!)...
“Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.”(Genesis 25:8) Satisfied translates from the Hebrew word sahbah, which literally means “to be full.”
I cannot emphasize enough how much knowledge Swindoll imparts in his books. You learn about the geography, the daily lifestyle, the various pagan gods. For much less than you’d pay for a seminary education. All the while, giving us rich application to better our own faith.
Great rewards await if you obey without knowing all the details. It’s a principle God wants each of His followers to experience. Learning to trust Him is like making a journey step after step. Faith builds upon faith.
I’m not her.
A friend of mine at church has a heart of gold. She grew up unchurched. One of those I’m-new-to-this-and-so-hungry-for-Jesus kind of gals. I love her.
She does a lot for our local church. We have that in common.
But we have our differences too.
Kathy oversees two ministries. One is a Bible club for kids at a nearby trailer park. On Monday nights, every week, she spends a few hours with these kids. Teaching them from the Bible, playing games, eating snacks and occasionally dinner.
She sees these kids around town throughout the week too. At the ice cream parlor. Football games. The grocery store.
We rarely, if ever, see these kids in our local churches. They too, like Kathy, are growing up unchurched.
For the most part, Kathy offers one of the few glimpses of Jesus they will see on a weekly basis.
Kathy also started a local chapter of a nationwide ministry called Embrace Grace.
We read this in the “About” section of their website:
We are looking for churches and resource centers to partner and join with us as we inspire the world to think differently about people you encounter and meet with crisis pregnancies. When you love these girls, babies are saved and generations are changed and we become real examples of how being pro-love can change the world.
On Monday nights, every week, after Kathy wraps up her time at the trailer park, she meets with young, unmarried pregnant ladies. Together, they go through a Bible study. They share stories, eat snacks and basically just support one another. After so many weeks of Bible study, the girls “graduate” from the program and they are given a baby shower. Our church provides gifts they need as they prepare to welcome their little miracle into the world.
Like I said, Kathy and I are different.
My weekly ministries include writing online and teaching a mid-week Bible study for our church. I minister, every week, to a big variety of women.
But if you want to create a stereotype of the women I teach, here it is:
Faithful, church-going women who love Jesus enough to take time out of their busy weeks and study His Word. Most are married. These women make up the backbone of our church; volunteering to teach Sunday School, help with youth group and greet on Sunday mornings.
Now, our enemy loves stereotypes. I chuckled as I wrote the above paragraph because these women seem to have it all together. On paper. And do you know what this enemy of our soul tries to tell me on a regular basis?
You aren’t doing anything important for the Kingdom. All you do is get together with your sweet church ladies and talk about the Bible. The blessed teaching the blessed. Big deal!
If I’m not careful, that can get me to overthinking. About women like Kathy. Those who minister to the unchurched. I have other friends who work in prison ministries. Taking God’s Word to people who desperately need it.
And before you know it, I’m comparing.
Next thing you know, I can start to wonder... “Am I doing any good for the Kingdom?” Just like Satan wanted. I begin painting Bible study in very broad strokes. This book club where perfect women sit around a table reading their Bibles and drinking lattes.
Maybe you’ve thought this way before too. Perhaps the enemy has tried to convince you that if you aren’t planning your next mission trip to Africa or giving homeless people rides to an area shelter where you cook the meals, you aren’t doing worthwhile Kingdom work.
It’s a lie, people.
An old trick the enemy has been using since, well, ask Eve about an unfortunate experience she had in the garden.
When I share these fleeting thoughts with my Bible study ladies, they offer such rich insight into why we must continue doing Bible study. Here are a few reasons I have heard:
The temptation is always there to fall away from our Christian walk. Bible study offers accountability and fellowship.
Even though I’ve gone to church my whole life, I don’t know much about my Bible.
I’m a new Christian and love that I’ve found a group where I can learn more about the Bible and have a safe place to ask questions.
I am a believer, but I don’t have a home church right now. You women keep me in God’s Word.
Those are just a few things they’ve shared with me over the years. Group Bible study fills a very real need for many women.
Let’s back up a bit too and consider our stereotypical Bible study attendee. The one who made me chuckle. Here are some of the women who actually attend our weekly groups:
Recent widows facing life without their husbands. Fragile and grieving, they are left to figure out finances, where they should live and work.
We recently did a lesson learning about God’s unconditional love for us. Considering God as our Creator, I asked the ladies to go around the room and share one thing God created in them that they liked. The discomfort in the room was palpable.
Many of our ladies have gone through couples therapy, trying to save their marriage. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Other times, a restored union emerges and they have a beautiful testimony to share with others.
Women who struggle with severe anxiety, depression, addictions, chronic illness.
New believers overwhelmed at the thought of picking up the BIble and understanding it.
A woman who writes me a note of thanks. She admits to living so much of her life in fear. And she needs the reminder that she belongs to God. He loves her and she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her.
I know Kathy pretty well. She is not perfect. I know myself very well. I’m not perfect either. But we both find ourselves living into the redeemed life Christ has set before us.
I’ll close with one of Kathy’s favorite verses. It applies to BOTH of us:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Our church wraps up a sermon series on Heaven and Hell in these next few weeks. Referencing dozens of Scripture passages, our pastor unwrapped what we can know about eternity. He has also told us from time to time, “I don’t know.” I am proud of him for being real and human from the pulpit.
On more than one occasion during these Sundays, I have gotten goosebumps as he has described Heaven. I am brave enough to say Amen. I have reached a point where I can raise my hands in praise. But what I really want to do is stand up, shout hallelujah, and jump up and down.
Because Heaven sounds, well, awesome.
Uninhibited worship awaits me, I am certain. If not in these earthly days, then in Heaven someday, face to face with the Almighty God in all His majestic glory.
Until that day, we as believers settle for glimpses of His glory. And music, the real purpose for today’s post, often gives us these moments of beautiful insight.
In particular, certain artists offer us glimpses. They usher us into the presence of Jesus. Because when they sing, their audience narrows right down to One.
Artists like Kari Jobe. If you’re familiar with any of her songs, I know you’ll agree with me. Songs such as:
This fall, you and I have the opportunity to experience some glimpses of glory in several cities. Brought to us by the talented Kari Jobe on her “Majestic Tour,” showcasing songs from her latest album by the same name. Visit this link to see if she’ll be performing near you.
I’m going to Kari’s concert. Fully expecting to worship. I’ll say Amen. I’ll raise my hands in praise. And who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough to stand up, shout hallelujah, and jump up and down.
I received a copy of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, written by Nish Weiseth, from netgalley.com for the purpose of generating a review. With the exception of the opening Zig Ziglar quote, italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -Zig Ziglar
A friend gave me a card with that quote on it many years ago. I had been a good listener when she needed it. Something about a boy. Long ago and long gone now.
But the quote stuck in my memory. We can’t just go around spouting off dos and don’ts. Even a Bible verse, though it may be just what an individual needs, can be ill-received when shoved down someone’s throat.
People need to know we care. And the best way I have found to show this is through story. Sharing ours. Listening to theirs. Walking side by side.
Author Nish Weiseth has also found this to be true. In her first book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change The World, and on her blog, nishweiseth.com, and on the collaborative blog she created, deeperstory.com, she encourages people to tell their story.
“... I took a leap of faith and created an online space called ‘A Deeper Story,’ inviting some talented story tellers to join me. Our aim was simple: we would use the art of story and personal narrative to address some of the most troublesome topics found on the collision course between Christianity and culture.”
She does this in her new book too. Actually, after sharing parts of her story, she includes excerpts from A Deeper Story. Stories told by other authors. Also comments shared by readers. All of whom have a story.
“The power of story becomes evident when, as we share, another’s eyes light up and they say, ‘You too? Me too!’”
I read articles from A Deeper Story often. In fact, I felt compelled to comment on one twitter feed that I always get something from the stories they share.
On my own blog, the most popular post to date, by far, came from a guest writer. "When Divorce Changes Everything." How humbling. But I realize, while the article was well written, the reason for its popularity comes from more than that. The author shared her story. Raw. The good and bad. Her story of redemption. Readers respond to that.
“To my delight, readers are beginning to understand that we interact over issues best when there’s a human connection.”
In closing, I’d like to share just one story Nish wrote about in her book. At the time, she was a college sophomore. In a small class, philosophy or religion perhaps. They discussed violence and war that day. Gun control. Everyone had their opinion. Based on their belief system. Highly unlikely that a debate using facts or Scripture would change anyone’s mind.
Until Janelle shared her story. About a time an intruder came to her house. And her brother saved her life. Using a gun. In Janelle's words:
“I think we all agree we shouldn’t stand on the side of violence. We should stand for peace. But when it comes to guns and gun control, I feel a little conflicted. It’s hard for me to not be in support of our right to bear arms. My brother’s right to carry and use his weapon was, I believe, the reason I’m still alive today...
It’s never as black-and-white as we want it to be... Especially when someone’s story gets injected into the conversation. All of a sudden, it gets messy. But it’s better if it’s messy, I think.”
According to Nish:
“Janelle’s deeply personal story moved us from finger-pointing to problem solving.”
That’s what the power of a story can do.
A handful of times in my life I have been in the presence of a highly anointed person. By this I mean someone who started out as average. One of us. Yet, God puts His hand on this person and they make an impact sure to last for generations.
One such time, Billy Graham came to St. Louis. I lived there at the time and had the opportunity to help with the event as a local church member. We went through training to counsel those people who would come forward to receive Christ as their personal Savior and/or would need prayer. I also had the privelege of singing in the community choir under the direction of George Beverly Shea.
I couldn’t tell you what Mr. Graham spoke about that weekend. I remember it being very evangelical. He painstakingly presented the gospel message each evening.
Something I remember more than his words. His presence. This happened around the year 2000 so Mr. Graham would have been much younger. Still, his voice shook. He couldn’t stand for a long period of time.
As the evening drew to a close, the community choir started singing one final song. The invitation call. Thousands flooded to the altar. Just a makeshift row between the elevated stage and the front row of seats.
Someone put a stool up to the podium for Mr. Graham to sit down. He did. And he bowed his head.
I’ll never forget the reverence he displayed when he simply bowed his head. Every person in the arena knew he was praying for every person in the arena. That not one soul would remain lost.
It was one awesome moment.
On the back of his autobiography, “Just As I Am,” you find the following quote from Mr. Graham:
“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, ‘Why me, Lord? Why did you choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?’ I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer.”
An average man. A sinner like you and me. Used mightily by God around the world.
Another time I found myself in the presence of one highly anointed was just recently. A group of ladies from our church made a two-hour trek to see Beth Moore in a Living Proof Live event.
She taught us. Beth always teaches us. We studied Scripture from Acts 16. Lydia. The lady Paul met after heeding the Macedonian call. Also the widow who lost a coin in Luke 15. We read in verse nine, upon finding the coin, she called her girlfriends. Of course!
Beth also entertained us. Her personal stories are worth the price of admission. At one point, she read a portion of Scripture and then admitted she’d briefly forgotten how the verses tied in with the message. “Aren’t you glad you’re not me right now,” she said.
Average. Probably often wonders why God used a small town girl from Arkansas so mightily.
And in the years to come, I’ll probably forget the words Beth used to teach us. The notes I took will get lost in the shuffle of paperwork that accumulates in a household.
But I won’t forget her presence. God has brought her so far. She breathes redemption. My favorite part of the event was worshiping with this great teacher.
She stood among the Living Proof praise band, under the leadership of Travis Cottrell. I’ve heard her often say she offers up a joyful noise to the Lord. Perhaps not one anyone else would appreciate. But God does.
At this event, she sang her heart out. She danced about on stage, clapping her hands and raising them in the air. At times, the music brought her to her knees in prayer.
Living. Proof. Indeed.
It’s high time we remembered God uses average folk. We don’t always know how or when He uses us specifically. But we know it to be good. These two people live sold out to Christ. If you’ll do the same, He will use you. Let Him.
Beth Moore shared an Identity Declaration at this event. I found it powerful. Very good. Her praise band set it to music. Watch for this on youtube. A great way to memorize these truths. Here it is:
I remember sitting in high school English class my junior year. Discussing “To Kill A Mockingbird.” And the book mentioned canning.
Our teacher, a prim and proper lady, had grown up in town. I had not. And she said,
“You probably don’t realize this but generations before us used to can their food and store it up for eating in the winter.”
I quickly raised my hand.
“Um, my mom still does that. We have a whole shelf in our basement with canned items.”
And we did. Grape juice, green beans, pickles and tomatoes of many varieties. My mom had a vegetable garden and preserved the food she grew. Just like generations had before her.
Now, at the time, I paid little attention to the canning she was doing in the kitchen. I had books to read. Play dates to plan. Or I waited for her to give me a ride into town.
At the time, I hoped to be a lot more like my citified English teacher. I planned to grow up and leave the simple country ways behind. Not because I didn’t like it. Because I had bigger, better things to do.
Then life happened. I met my husband and we moved to our place in the middle of nowhere. I’m so at home here. The first summer we lived here, I planted a smallish garden. As if in some divine rite of passage, I had some fresh vegetables I needed to preserve.
I bought some books, cozied up with google and learned about canning. I read about the very real threat of botulism, which basically leaves you dead on contact. Also about how pressure cookers can explode and burn everything within shooting, boiling water distance.
Then I called my mom. I told her I was very disappointed in her parenting skills. How could she have all this knowledge I knew she had about gardening and canning and not share it with me?
But being the responsible adult I try to play in real life, I faced my fear. I followed the directions. I took notes based on what I learned from doing it. And I kept calling my mom with questions.
My canning efforts met with some success. This year, our garden grew abundantly. I have learned more ways to preserve a cucumber than I ever thought possible (one such way is to give them away to your friends at church so they can make some pickles too). I have tripled the amount of jars I have put up for winter. And I am already looking forward to the jars of home-grown food we’ll keep pulling out all winter long.
All of that to say, here are some lessons I have learned from the whole canning experience.
You can never have enough jars or a big enough kitchen.
I had some jars. Remember I had done a little bit of canning last year. A lady from church had a neighbor who retired from canning and gave away her jars and lids. There’s a special place in Heaven for women such as her. Because if you do any amount of canning, you soon realize there’s never enough jars. I have bought more jars from the store four times this season.
And when you lay out everything you need to do your hot water bath. Along with your ingredients. You quickly run out of space in any sized kitchen as well.
Gardening and canning connect you with old timers.
We have wonderful neighbors. A blessed bunch. I drove past their driveway once this summer and was flagged down by the patriarch of the family. Standing in their garden. I pulled over and rolled down my window. He held up a single okra and asked if it should be that size.
Oh, I knew this one. I had asked my girlfriend, a fellow gardener and canner. When you take up this hobby, you start asking all kinds of questions to anyone you know to be wiser than you.
I assured him that particular okra would be too tough for good eating. Okra, I told him, should be picked when it is the size of your thumb.
We’ve since also discussed the best ways to preserve squash, swapped pickle recipes and discussed the best vegetables to freeze. It’s true what my English teacher said all those years ago, the generations before us knew a thing or two about canning.
Food is the common denominator.
I know we don’t all have time for canning. I often don’t have time for it either. But it still brings us all together. Some of my best summer memories come from grabbing a jar of salsa or pickles and offering it to my friends.
“Here. I made this!”
We’re all the better for gathering around a table of fresh food. I enjoy this new challenge of making a meal with the vegetables I have to get used up before they spoil. Grilled vegetables anyone?
You can make friends.
Can I tell you a secret about gardening? Every year, you’re going to expand it. Whether it’s to accommodate more vegetables or to give a set number of vegetables more space. We expanded ours so much this year that we have more than enough. Even after canning and freezing. More than enough.
So, make new friends. Or bribe old friends. I gave vegetables away to the local food pantry. I took them to my daughter’s theater camp. Bible study. Church. On the street corners. If you grow a garden, you’re going to have extra food. Giving away food helps you make (and keep) friends.
Canning is a lonely business.
The friends don’t come around for the hard work though. If they wanted to do the hard work, they’d have their own garden and can their own food. I like the idea of canning with someone. But for me, this rarely happens. I crank up the music or turn on a sermon podcast and go at it alone. Canning a batch of something can take from two to eight hours so be prepared.
Reading canning recipes from loved ones is priceless.
My mom had passed on her canning recipe book to me. In it, I have bread & butter pickles from Mabel (they are the bomb). Also hamburger dill slices from Aunt Juanita. Frozen corn from my grandma. Grape juice from my mom. Following these recipes means a trip down memory lane for me.
My mother-in-law has a recipe collection of her own. Years worth of swapping recipes with family and friends. She rarely copies the recipes she’s given onto a new card. She can tell you, for example, that the zucchini bread from her old neighbor is written in blue ink on the back of a business-sized envelope. Having these recipes is priceless.
Vacationing in August thru Labor Day is questionable.
I have tried to honestly portray this canning business. As with most things, it has pros and cons. For us in Michigan, we plant the garden Memorial Day weekend. It requires some attention off and on all summer long.
At the end of July and all of August, you’re harvesting the largest part of your produce. We scheduled a week-long vacation at the end of July. I canned pickles right up to the day we left and also had some cucumbers fermenting in crocks while we traveled. Upon my return, I have canned the better part of August. I see a bit of a break coming up mid-September. Until the fall squash ripens for picking. If you have big plans to go cross-country the whole month of August, I’m not sure what your vegetable garden will think about that.
All food tastes better homegrown.
This is at the heart of canning. We’re still fine tuning the very best recipes, but I make a spaghetti sauce that might cause a civil war in Italy. I have requests for salsa when we entertain. I’m learning how to make my pickles crispier. When to use fresh herbs and when dried work just fine.
We can’t eat these foods fresh all year long. But I’m finding that eating them canned or frozen is the very next best thing.
Every time I do some canning, I think of my sweet Grandma Lucy. She canned out of necessity.Not for fun. But then, if I really think on it, the more I read about the chemicals they put in our food, I might be doing it more out of necessity as well.
I got this FB post from my daughter’s Sunday School teacher recently:
Sunday School today...Me: "So do you think God already knows your future? What you will do, where you will live, what you will look like?" Allie: "God told me already, He said when I grow up I will look just like Elsa!"
God most certainly does know what our future holds but in large part He’s not telling.
I wondered a similar question a while back as well. I put a post on FB asking these questions:
What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing that now?
Now, besides my post asking about young ladies wearing bikinis, these questions received the most responses of any I have posted. Here are some answers:
Nurse, teacher, archeologist, museum curator, actress, journalist. Just about everything except a mother and most certainly not to two scrappy little boys. Life and its plot twists.
Well, I wanted to have 10 kids, be divorced and live with my mom! Thank you Jesus for realizing my dreams were a bit off. I got my awesome life of three kids and married to my best friend for 29 years. And my mom lives in Florida.
When I was involved in a car accident at the age of 12 I had nurses who took wonderful care of me. From then on I wanted to be a nurse, which I did. I have never regretted that and love taking care of people to this day. Now I'm a case manager which let's me take care of them emotionally. Love my job!!
I wanted to be amazingly awesome....so you know...check that off the list... (never wanted to be humble though).
Kelly Mintner didn’t quite know what her future held either.
I received an uncorrected proof of Wherever The River Runs, written by Kelly Mintner, for the purpose of generating a review. The italicized quotes below are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Kelly thought she’d play college basketball until her scholarship fell through. She turned to music, moving to Nashville and releasing a CD. In the midst of chasing this dream, Kelly met a book publisher. Through this encounter, she eventually met up with folks at LifeWay and started writing Bible studies.
But God wasn’t done. He moved her beyond authoring studies for ladies like me and my Wednesday night crew. God introduced her to the folks at Justice and Mercy International (JMI). They took her on not just one, but several trips to the Amazon jungle.
That part of her journey brought us this book. A reminder that “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
Here are some exerpts from the book about her trip out of her comfort zone:
I bowed my head not realizing at the time that I’d never prayed for God to provide someone with a house before.
What part of the Bible would I turn to if one of the women told me her child was sick and she didn’t have money for a doctor? If she told me her husband was drinking and abusive? Would I begin my devotional by talking about my life?
Reading Scripture without layers of entertainment makes you listen harder to what’s actually on the page. And in the absence of a band blaring through a speaker, I could actually hear the children’s voices, out of tune and out of time, and it was glory.
That small ministry in Brazil whose mission had been projected onto a screen a world away was about to captivate me, blow the lid off my tightly sealed Western-theology pot, and forever shape the way I spend money, value prayer, consider the poor, view modern-day miracles, and feel about acai berries.
God still works in Kelly’s life. This Amazon jungle gig with JMI is far from over. He still works in your life too, you know. And mine. This book, treasure that it was, encourages us to live full on in the life Jesus has for us. Wherever that might take us.
You can’t always tell where you’re going, but eventually you find Him to be what He has been all along; faithful.
A friend of mine let it all go once. For a whole day, she didn’t do all the things she always does around the house while her husband works. When he got home, his jaw dropped and he just stared.
Working part-time, full-time or stay-at-home, moms do a lot around the house.
I think about it sometimes. If I made an exit for a day or two, my husband doesn’t even know some of my daily tasks.
Look at the lunch menu. Hot lunch or cold lunch.
Check the day of the week. If it’s a gym day, don’t let Allie wear a dress.
Put a daily snack in the backpack.
Is it Thursday? Trash Day.
Not to mention groceries, item returns, laundry, housecleaning.
Just a sampling, right friends?
Then we read these words...
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
The only one of the ten commandments, among the many shall nots, when all God asks of us is to “remember.” Such a nice word.
The only commandment which God Himself honored as an example.
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)
The Sabbath is blessed. By God.
The only day God made holy and He expects us to keep it that way.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I’ve written about this before and we frequent the topic in our Wednesday night Bible study.
A group of ladies working hard for their families. Their jobs. Their church. The Kingdom. Busy.
But I’m convinced when God told us to remember the Sabbath, He meant it. Rest.
Ezekiel was written at a time when God’s people had made Him tired. And angry. And sad. He explained why He allowed the Babylonians to sweep in and haul them off into exile. Here’s one reason:
“Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that the Lord made them holy. Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees... and they utterly desecrated my sabbath.” (Ezekiel 20:12-13)
In the many conversations I’ve had about the Sabbath, it always seems to come down to one important factor:
Does your heart have a desire to seek a time with God in Sabbath rest? A heart issue.
Ask God what holy means.
Here’s the dictionary definition:
"Dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred."
Ask Him what a holy Sabbath means for your family. Your stage in life.
Pray about ways you can better make time for it. Dinner in a crockpot or a big pot of soup on Saturday to serve as leftovers on Sunday. A day when you ask the environment for forgiveness and you use paper plates and plastic silverware. Maybe you eat out. Or maybe He asks you not to eat out.
How can your Sabbath look different from every other day?
One friend of mine has three young children and she works full-time. They always attend church but it can be a little, ahem, hectic for them. These days a large part of her Sabbath is a 3-hour nap on Sunday afternoons. God bless her husband!
Another mom used to tag team with her husband as coach of their sons’ baseball team. When they would hit the road for games, it was a team rule that everyone had to attend church together when they were out of town on Sundays.
I saw yet another friend at Arby’s after church on a Sunday a few months back. They’d gone to one soccer game, attended church, and were grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading to the next soccer game. They made it a priority to attend the worship service. Sandwiched in between games.
For me, Sunday morning worship time can often feel like work even though I volunteer. I usually have several items to drop off or exchange with other folks. I do the announcements at our church so I am mentally keeping all of that straight. Some Sundays I (wo)man a table to promote our women’s ministry events. So my Sabbath often doesn’t seem to start until I get home. Or another day of the week.
These examples may not appear too holy to you. All are doing different things to remember the Sabbath. The time frame is different. The days might vary.
But make no mistake. They are sacred moments. And our kids need to see us remembering.
In our hearts, we proclaim to God:
Today, this is what I have. I want it to be about you.
I know I need to right my focus. I know I need corporate worship. I know I need time in Your Word. I know, by Your example, there are times we need to stop and rest.
I leave moments of Sabbath rest feeling better because I had some down time with my Savior. If you take the time and do the same, I know He will be pleased.