Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thought-filled Thursdays...

Last night, I told my husband that I really had no idea what I was going to share in today's post.  I really didn't.  Of course, I've had lots of ideas rolling about in my brain ~ but nothing that I felt "Aha!  That's it!"  Until this morning...

Learn and Grow + Letting Go.

They are simple words.  Seemingly harmless.  Nothing in these words indicates any sort of major upheaval in one's life, nothing out of the ordinary, not even a hint that one should really be on guard because these little words are going to wash over your life like a tidal wave.  Too late.  The current has swept me off my feet and I'm trying to stay afloat...  

I didn't know that on January 3rd, I would be saying goodbye to a very dear and precious neighbor.  At a family Christmas Eve gathering, a family member unknowingly spread a virus to everyone there.  Within 24 hours, Bernie became ill.  He struggled with the illness for more than a week and on January 4th, he called one of his daughters and told her he was in trouble.  Several hours later, he suffered the first of several strokes.  And, on January 21st, he passed from this world to a better one.

Bernie was 88 years old and had lived in the neighborhood for 65 years.  He did have a lung problem and often labored with his breathing, but truly nothing seemed to stop him from doing everything he wanted to do.  He was joy and sunshine in my life; living in this neighborhood.  A neighborhood I would NOT have chosen to live in.  For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of living out in the country on a few acres ~ you know ~ living off the land!  Ask our children.  Ask my husband.  They've heard about it their whole lives.  

5 years ago, God plopped (I mean "planted") us in a working class neighborhood, in a city that doesn't have the best reputation in our region, in a  post-war quick build area, just off a busy boulevard, with a higher rate of crime than some areas around us, surrounded by a people group that I, honestly, would rather not live near, we purchased at the top of the market and are now "under" in our house and to top it off ~ we're on the liberal side of Washington state.  REALLY? 

Now, you're thinking, "Well, here she goes again...  whining to commence."  No whining, just observations and sharing from my heart.  Hopefully, you'll keep reading.

There are challenges to living in this neighborhood.  But, don't most neighborhoods have some kind of challenge to deal with that you'd rather not?  Yes, we thought it "ideal" to live just across from a small city park, but we've discovered reality is something quite different.  Many people who visit the park don't care anything about anyone else nor cleaning up after themselves.  And, there are neighbors who think only of themselves and don't care if their actions bother you or not.  Others have themselves completely cut off from everyone else ~ "if I don't know you, you won't bother me."  We are in close proximity to SeaTac airport and there are days (and sometimes many days) where the airplane noise and rumble are utterly irritating (it wasn't like this when we moved here).  And yet, I could be describing any neighborhood...

That said, our neighborhood is also a lovely place filled with many lovely people.  Some have lived here for many, many years (50 or more), some live in the "family" house (you know ~ grandma and grandpa's house), some are newer to the neighborhood (like us) and some are renters.  It's the connection to people that fills me with joy and keeps me going when I really want to flee to a different place.  Because I walk Coco and work in our garden often, I've met a lot of people walking through the neighborhood or walking their own dog.  In addition, delivering goodies to our neighborhood on St. Nicholas' Day each year has also enabled us to meet neighbors that don't walk by.  The older people in our neighborhood are my favorites!  They love to visit, are happy to see you, share stories and are pleasant people to live by.  But, the reality is that they are getting older and, eventually, they will all pass away.  The people I see regularly will not always be here.  Bernie was an extra-special neighbor and we visited often.  We were quite fond of each other.  Truth-be-told, we loved each other dearly.  And now, he's gone.  Healed and settling into his eternal home while I remain here.  In this neighborhood.  And, I am crying out to God (louder than usual) to PLEASE get us out of here soon and very soon!  

We have a challenging relationship with our next-door neighbors and the neighbors behind us.  And, we are "different".  Back in the day, we would have fit in with everyone else ~ but in today's culture in this working class neighborhood, we are different.  We're building an urban farm.  We're putting chickens in our backyard.  We're tearing out all the grass on our property and raising a lot of fruits and vegetables.   Common occurrence in many neighborhoods, but not in ours.  Not yet anyway.  So, we are different.  I find it very easy to connect to our "older" neighbors and they gladly share about their large gardens, canning, chickens... of "yesterday" and live a little through our current efforts, which we love sharing with them too.  We share a common bond.  They encourage me and keep me going when things are challenging all around me. 

2012 is my year to Learn and Grow and to Let Go.  I just didn't realize it would be happening as quickly as it is nor to the degree it has already occurred.  Tears come quickly today and my heart is grieving the loss of a precious man in my life, but I also know that God is at work all around me and He's asked me to step into His story.  What if He won't answer the CRY of my heart ~ to escape city living and settle into the countryside?  When, Lord?  When?

And today, came a reply.  Not a 2x4 kind of answer, but a gentle bullseye to my heart...  Yes, I was reading my morning devotional:

Praying with Tears

"During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence."  Hebrews 5:7

The life of Jesus provides the model for our prayer lives.  God is seeking to mold us into the image of His Son (Col. 1:27-28).  If we are to act like Christ, our prayer lives must be conformed to His.  Many Christians are unwilling to pay the price that Jesus paid when it comes to interceding with God.  Jesus' prayers came with vehement cries and tears and, "because of His godly fear," He was heard by the Father. 

Why, then, did the Father refuse His request?  It was not due to any sin in Jesus' life, nor was it because the Father did not love His Son.  The Father said no, despite the unfathomable love He has for His Son, because He knew He could not spare His Son and save a world.  Likewise, the Lord cannot always spare you and your family and complete His redemptive work in those around you.

Are you willing for God to deny your pleadings?  Will you intercede with the Father so deeply and intimately that evening the midst of your tears you are able to say, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done?"  The Father will always relate to you out of the context of His love for a lost world.  Has God said no to one of your requests recently?  Accept His answer.  Have you been learning obedience through what you have been suffering (Hebrews 5:8)?  If you have, God may choose to make you a source of salvation to others even as He did with His Son.

I have cried out to God countless times for others, for situations, for freedom from city living and His provision to finally realize my lifelong dream.  Today, He once again puts before me a choice ~ willingness to be obedient and follow Him or go my own way.  Once again, I reply...  "Nevertheless, not my will by thine be done."  Yes, here.  In THIS neighborhood.

I have given my life over to Him and even though I struggle in humanness ~ in the end, I choose His path.  In Learning and Growing and Letting Go, He is already revealing that this year will not look anything like what I could have thought or imagined.  Unexpected things are occurring in the first 26 days of this New Year.  We shall see where His path leads as His will is done in and through my life!  Won't you consider allowing Him to do the same in yours?

May abundant blessings fill your days.  May you see God at work in and through your life.  I look forward to sharing next Thursday whatever God lays on my heart as I pause to ponder and reflect in a busy world...      

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thought-filled Thursdays

Well, another Thursday has arrived and I have been "chewing" on the subject God brought to my attention for this week's post.  In fact, I came across today's focus last Thursday after I had posted.  I sat down at the kitchen table to eat breakfast, opened my devotional and began reading...  Bam!  Hit with another 2x4!

The Key to God's Redemptive Mission
  "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.  May they also be One in Us, so the world may believe You and Me."  John 17:21

God often speaks of human relationships as a part of His mission to redeem a lost world (John 13:20; Matt 25:40).  One reason He gives for a husband and wife to live in unity is so they can produce a "godly seed,"  that is, children who love and obey God, who can be used in God's mission to bring redemption to a lost world (Malachi 2:14-15).  Similarly, the church is the body of Christ.  A church cannot be on mission with the Father in our world if its members are waging war with one another (I Corinthians 12:12).  There is a crucial connection between our relationships with others and the salvation of those around us.

We might assume that during Jesus' prayer before His crucifixion, He would have prayed that His disciples would have courage, or would remain faithful, or would remember what they had been taught.  Yet He asked that His followers would remain united in their love for one anotherJesus understood that it is spiritually impossible to love God but not love others. 

A test of your love for God is to examine your love for others.  Our tendency is to say, "Heavenly Father, the problem is not between You and me.  I love You with all my heart.  I just don't love my brother."  And God says, "That is an impossibility.  You cannot love Me without loving the ones for whom My Son died"  (John 13:34-35).  Your life will not convince those around you of the reality of Jesus if you cannot live in unity with your fellow Christians.

What?  Wait.  But...  Relationships.  Ugh.  sigh.

How many times have I walked this out in my own life?  How often have I said (basically) those words?  

So, was this a BAM moment for you too?  Perhaps not, but it certainly is an area where I need to Learn and Grow and Let go.  

What do you mean I can't love God if I don't "love" my brother or sister?  There are some people in our lives that we just don't click with, that our ideals or philosophies don't mesh with each other and there is nothing but friction between us, or maybe we just plain don't like each other (much less love one another).  

I have said many times, "I love you, Lord. I just can't deal with this person anymore or that person is so opposite of me that I can't relate to them.  It's better that I just walk away."  Ouch.

Honestly, I do find it easier to "love" non-believers and I get really tired of church "politics"...  And, sometimes I feel non-believers or non-church people care about others more than those who do attend church regularly.  In fact, this happened to our family a couple of years ago.  Blaine and I have not attended church since that time.  But, that still doesn't justify my choices, my attitudes, my non-loving attitude toward some believers...

Humans.  We are so fickle.  (Well, not all of us.  I do know some wonderful followers of Jesus that don't have the issues I do.)  But, in my case, I have had alot of issues over the years.

If I truly love the Lord, I shall take this lesson and learn from it.  I have repented of my sinfulness and asked God to help me Learn and Grow.  While it will always be difficult dealing with other people, it's my attitude that needs to be adjusted.  I need to be second and put God in FIRST PLACE!  My personal judgements and criticism of what others do (or don't do) affects my ability to love others ~ when it's really about who God is and what He is at work doing in this life and NOT about me and how I feel about things.  I need to be in search of God in all things, not focusing on connecting with other people or "making friends" or what I can do for God ~ but determining what His business plans are for me and everything else will fall into place.

And, the more I focus on God (putting Him first), the more intentional I shall be in loving others and truly loving God.  It's what He wants.  It's who I want to be.

Check out this new movement:  I AM SECOND

I'd love you for you to share your thoughts too.  Abundant blessings on your week and I look forward to being back next Thursday to share whatever God places on my heart. 

Snow and Ice...

 It doesn't snow often in the Seattle area, but occasionally the high and low pressures work together and bring us a "snow event" as it did yesterday and today...

 5 inches blanketed the garden.
This snow was powdery and didn't build up on the berry vines.

 While the blueberries had alot of snow around them, it didn't weigh down their branches which made me very glad!

 My garden flip flops were buried by our latest snow fall.

 And then we awoke this morning to a surprise:  ICE!
Once the snow stopped yesterday, freezing rain settled in and it continued throughout the night laying down a layer of ice over everything...

The Maple tree on my back deck encased in ice.

 My vanilla strawberry hydrangea is ice coated and I'm hoping it doesn't snap under the weight of the ice...

 Iced Rosemary!

My sunshine blueberries look quite different when compared to yesterday.  
I am so hoping they don't sustain any damage.

 Huckleberry icicles!

Spanish Lavender

 Asparagus Fern

1/2 inch of ice on everything.  
While the garden plants look so interesting with a coating of ice, I am hoping there is no long-term damage to anything.

My PCC Farmland Trust and Seattle Tilth "bumper stickers" look awesome through ice!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter settles in...

Our winters are cold, wet (very rainy) and windy ~ but, it does occasionally SNOW in Seattle and the whole region comes to a screeching halt.  Living in a city that is at sea level and rises quickly above it, means HILLS everywhere and the region just isn't set up to handle any amount of snowy and icy conditions.

While we are snuggled in at home, we can look out at the garden which is beautiful when snow blankets it...   I took some photos from the house, but I did venture out to capture the winter season.

 Snow covered raspberry trellis

 Maple tree and bird bath on the back deck. 

 Berry vines...

 Blueberry bushes


The garden looks enchanting covered in snowy white, don't you agree?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thought-filled Thursdays...

At the end of each year, I ask the Lord what WORD He has for me for the coming year.  One might describe it as a "theme" or "focus".  For me, it's a word that helps guide me in the coming year as I live each day.

This year, as I pondered and prayed and sought the Lord for a word, I kept hearing, "Learn and Grow".  Okay, learn and grow is pretty straight forward.  Then, one day I heard, "Letting Go".  Was it one or the other?  Which one was it?  As I sought an answer, I understood it to be BOTH!  So, for 2012 it's LEARN and GROW + LETTING GO!

And, as I've learned over the years the word or words don't necessarily mean the first definition that comes to mind.  No, it is often that plus a whole lot more than I could imagine it would be...

Last Fall, I picked up the devotional, Experiencing God Day by Day.  The devotionals have been timely and a blessing to me.  On January 6th, the devotional for the day really hit me.

God Looks for Clay

"House of Israel, can I not treat you as the potter treats this clay?" - this is the LORD's declaration.  "Just like clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hands, house of Israel."  Jeremiah 18:6

God knows how to bring salvation to your family, your friends, your community, and your world.  Accordingly, He looks for those who will allow Him to shape them into the instruments He requires to do His divine work.  Clay has no plan of its own, no aspirations for service, nor reluctance to perform its given task.  It is just clay.  Moldable, pliable, totally submissive to its master.

At times we excitedly announce to God:  "I've discovered my strengths and gifts, and now I know how I can best serve You!"  At others times, we inform Him, "I am aware of what my weaknesses are, so I know which tasks I'm not capable of doing for You."  Yet this is not characteristic of clay.  God is not limited to working with our strengths (2 Cor 12:9-10).  He can mold us into whatever kind of instrument He requires.  When God's assignment demands humility, He finds a servant willing to be humbled.  When His work requires zeal, He looks for someone He can fill with His Spirit.  God uses holy vessels, so He finds those who will allow Him to remove their impurities.  It is not a noble task, being clay.  There is no glamour to it, nothing boast-worthy, except that it is exactly what God is looking for.  Compliant, moldable, yielded clay.

If your tendency is to tell the Father what you can and cannot do for Him, submit to His agenda and allow Him to shape you into the person He wants you to be.  Like clay.

As I read this passage, I felt like I'd been hit between the eyes with a 2x4.  How often have I let the Lord know what I was doing for Him and what I could and couldn't do for Him.  There are days when I really wonder why He is so PATIENT with me and my ways.  Here, my gracious Father was sharing with me (now, today, right at that moment) what He really wanted me to allow Him to do.  I asked His forgiveness for not being who He wanted me to be and that He would help me become the child of God He truly desires me to be.  Now, I know that life gets challenging when you ask God to help you "become" something different from who you are today.  It's not going to be easy.  In fact, it's likely to be quite difficult to be like clay for Him; allowing Him to mold me, make me; yielding myself, my plans, my desires to His. 

This is just the beginning of 2012 and if this is how it's starting ~ God's getting right to the point ~ it's going to be a very interesting year.  LEARN and GROW + LETTING GO!  I don't think I can even imagine what is in store for this year, but if God's in control it is going to be an amazing adventure!

And, one more thing before I move on to a new thought...  Have you ever noticed how dirty and mucky a potter's hands become when they work with clay?  If God is willing to "get His hands dirty" as He works in my life, shouldn't I be willing to do the same for Him? 

After this revelation, I didn't really pursue things any further.  (I don't think I really wanted to fully embrace allowing my life to be "CLAY".)  But yesterday, I decided to take some time away from home and domestic duties and open myself up to hear from God what it is He is trying to say to me regarding these words He gave me for 2012.  One of my special places to go and allow my mind to be open is Alki Beach.  It was a gorgeous (albeit biting cold) day, so off I went.  I arrived, went for a VERY short walk, took a few pictures and hurried back to the car to get warm again.  I opened a notebook I'd taken along and jotted down a few thoughts and then turned to my Bible.  "Jeremiah 29:11"  Really?  It seems so cliche, Lord?  "Jeremiah 29:11"  Okay.  So I flipped to the passage.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  

Yes, Lord, I know this passage well.  I'm still waiting for You to bless us and set us free from city living.  You know it's been my desire to live in the country on acreage for many, many years.  Blaine and I had just attended a community meeting on Sunday afternoon and learned that the entire Puget Sound region has been polluted from the Asarco copper smelt plant that operated for a hundred years in the Tacoma area.  We didn't know the extent of arsenic and lead pollution to the area.  It was like, "okay, Lord ~ how much longer do we need to put our time in here before you're going to get us out of here to a safer, healthier place?  We've done much for You over the years."  

And then, the Lord directed me to the lifestyle study highlight on the previous page in my Bible...

Jeremiah 29:1-14 ~ God rules

Blessing Babylon

The Jews were having an awful time in pagan Babylon.  They thought that God would surely relent of His punishment and hustle them back to Jerusalem.  But through the prophet Jeremiah, God sent a surprisingly different instruction.  He instructed them to settle down, plant gardens, and raise families, to plan on staying seventy long years.  God also told them to get out into the city and bless the Babylonians, for as they did, He would bless them with peace and prosperity.

The Lord was saying, in effect, "Look, guys, I know what I'm doing.  I know you despise the Babylonians, but I intend to bless all nations through you.  So pray for them, help the city to prosper and make it your home while you're here."

How often we waste time longing for yesterday or wishing for tomorrow instead of living for today, complaining instead of blessing.  Difficult circumstances may go on longer than we thing they should, but God has purposes beyond what we can see.  And His plans for us are good!

CRAP!  Are you serious?  I should really start "ducking", as this was another direct hit with a 2x4 right between the eyes.  Why me?  Why us?  I knew as I began reading the passage that God was showing me that His plan was for us to stay where He has "planted us" for this season and while we have been blessing people to some measure, I've been withholding because I don't like this or that OR I need to focus on our plan to move to the country one day OR these people aren't worth my time OR well...... I think you can probably fill in many more statements for me.  Ugh. 

Forgive me, Lord, for I have again fallen short of Your desires for my life and our life in this place.  I know I'm going to make alot of mistakes as I continue to travel on this journey and in this season of our life.  I don't understand why we're here Lord.  Why did you choose this place?  It's noisy, and people are rude, and we don't have the money to do work on our house that's needed, and ...  Well, there's really no use in going on.  I have wasted a great amount of time.  I have complained ALOT!  We do have difficult circumstances to deal with from time-to-time.  BUT God's purposes are truly beyond what I can see.  He is at work.  We have some really incredible and friendly neighbors.  We are close to everything.  We have a large lot in which to create an "urban farm" and begin living "our dream" now.  He has enabled me to provide a monthly service to others through becoming an Azure drop (and bringing more wonderful people into my life).  My cousin lives near by and we love getting to spend time together.  He has truly blessed us to the measure we have allowed Him to work in and through our lives.  And today, I realized I have much LEARNING and GROWING to do and there is going to be much to LET GO of this year to enable God to use me more in this place.

It's time to truly...

Blessings upon your week...  Each Thursday I will be taking time to thoughtfully process what God is teaching me.  I pray each of us desires to Learn and Grow to become more like Him.  May His love flow through each of our lives to reach a world desperately in need of love.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

State of the Garden: January

 Today was a gorgeous (and very chilly) winter day in Seattle to take a picture of the garden.  There is much work ahead for us this season.  The little building behind (and below) the garage is an old shed that the previous owner built for his garden.  First project for the 2012 garden agenda is to tear it down, so we can begin preparing the area to build the new chicken coop. In addition, all the tarp covered areas are where the new raised beds are going to be installed this spring.  Maybe late spring to early summer, as it's a big project with pulling out an old stump and bringing in compost and soil to level out the whole area.  But, SO EXCITED for our new chickens and garden expansion for this growing season! 

 If you look at our raised beds, they are topped with green vegetation.  The cover crop I sowed quite late last fall began growing right about Christmas time.  I am thrilled that it actually sprouted and is growing well.  I purchased the Organic Soil Builder from Peaceful Valley, which contains vetch, oats, peas and beans ~ all of which will be turned into the soil a couple of weeks prior to planting in the spring.  *Note:  remember to purchase the inoculant recommended.  Many people are now including "green manure" (cover crops such as crimson clover) to increase the fertility of their soil.  I decided to go with a more complex version for our garden.  I've read good reviews about this seed combination and benefit to the soil. 

A closer look at these workhouse "high nitrogen" plants.

And, I discovered the rhubarb is just beginning to burst through the soil...

Cold winter weather on the horizon, so I'll be cutting branches from our Christmas tree to cover these young plants and keep them insulated.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Re-focus time!

We shared a lovely New Year's holiday time with all of our adult children home.  Now, they've returned to their homes in Indiana and Kansas and we're getting re-focused here and ready to get back into the swing of things...

I was abundantly blessed at Christmas.  Gifts included a new digital camera and an Excalibur food dehydrator!  Loved all the gifts I received...
We feasted on rib-eye, roasted beets, sweet potatoes and yams and cauliflower New Year's Eve! 

...followed by 3 Berry pie and champagne

At the Seattle Center to ring in the New Year together!

Our children plus son-in-law

The whole family on New Year's Eve!

Blaine and I as 2012 arrives!  

Thank you Lord for another year of life and for blessing our family abundantly.  
We give you praise!

From our family to you...  May 2012 be filled with great JOY, abundant blessings and may you grow and learn and love more than ever before!