Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lent journey: POWERS

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  
Romans 15:13

Personal reflections:   Participating in rethinkchurch's project this Lent season has been a really sweet blessing thus far...  Today, I thought I knew the direction I was going to share, but the Holy Spirit had other plans for me...  I, initially, posted a different picture, but the words didn't come.  So, I asked myself again, "What should I share?  I feel a bit stuck." And then, I remembered what Steve said to me today.....nature.  Now, I was ready to share.  Thanks Steve. was a different day at Small Blessings Farm, as Jim's brother, Steve, and sister, Kathy, came for a visit.  Upon arriving, they came down to the blueberry field and I was introduced to them.  I didn't expect to interact with them again while they were there.  As Jim and Brenda visited with them, I was alone finishing the blueberry weeding.  Such a beautiful day to be outside and I rejoiced and praised God for the work ahead of me; knowing that today the weeding would be complete.

As I neared the end of the final row, Jim's brother, Steve, walked down toward me and we had a really lovely chat together.  The content wasn't important, but it blessed us both and it was an unexpected gift to my day.  Jim joined us a little later and he and I celebrated completing the weeding with a high-five and I did a little happy dance.  Joy overflowed!  

I headed up to their house to use their bathroom before heading out to the barn to see the sheep and Brenda invited me to come sit and visit with she and Kathy.  Another unexpected gift to my day!  Soon Brenda, Jim, Kathy, Steve and I were all visiting together.....  The blessings just went on and on and my joy grew!

I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes God shows up in our lives with His mighty powers and other times His power is like a little breeze; gentle, but present.  I felt like I was amongst friends that I had known for many years; not an outsider or newcomer, but one who belonged in that place and fellowship was easy.  And, it was a reminder again that wherever God takes me in this life's journey, joy and peace will fill me up as He provides for my every need.  His power will be strong when needed and gentle too.  There will always be hope as I continually trust in Him.  

Weeding a blueberry patch on the final day of February; a beautiful sunny Saturday.  Who knew?! 

Small Blessings Farm in Enumclaw and their u-pick blueberry field.  

It's a special place and I can already see families coming out for their yearly visit and making memories together; measuring the years in pictures as the blueberry plants, children and grandchildren grow alike... I can hear children's laughter, see blue stains on little fingers and big fingers too, hear the birds singing, and there's Brenda welcoming another carload of people arriving at the farm.  

Today, as I finished helping Jim weed the final section of their blueberry patch, I felt great joy bubble up inside me and God's peace wash over me while I worked, as I have been so wonderfully blessed to pull weeds, have my hands in the soil, engaged in meaningful conversations with Jim, hearing the frogs and birds singing as well as the baaaaaaaaaaaas from ewes and little lambs, discovering different kinds of beetles, watching new life prepare to burst from the blueberry plants and knowing that God had worked in and through my life once again to bless others....  

I experienced anew the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life and I am "overflowing with hope" as I stand amazed that "weeding" could affect me so wonderfully indeed.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lent journey: WAIT

"Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord."
Psalm 27:14

Personal reflections:  How many people do you know that like to wait?  When you wait, are you watching the clock?  Do you begin to fidget? Do you begin to get irritated if you've been waiting too long (at least according to your own definition)?  I DO NOT like to WAIT!  I have often said, "Patience is not one of my virtues."  Maybe that is one of the reasons God continually teaches me this lesson over and over again.  The above scripture seems fairly "harmless," right?  But, what if He has you wait a very, very, very long time for provision or an answer or .................. whatever you are waiting on Him for?

In the year 2000, God repeatedly drew me to Psalm 27 and highlighted a few specific verses, especially this one. When I saw the word for the day, I instantly knew which verse....then I wondered what I would take a photograph of.  It didn't take long to figure it out - one of my most precious possessions (made by a friend whom I've lost contact with; worked at Eagle Hardware and Garden in Tukwila in the early 1990s - her husband was a woodworker and they custom made me this clock).  

In 2000, I was very ill and was leaning on/trusting God for healing.  This verse encouraged me greatly.  I believed that as I waited on the Lord, He would bring healing to my body.  But I've been waiting a very long time for my greatest passion to be realized.................... our farm.  And, I have been searching for land all my adult years.  Ask my husband and our children.  They'll tell you it's true.  But, I am still waiting.

Since I was a child, I wanted to live on a farm after the first one I visited.  Since high school, I have wanted to "run away and live off the land;"  be a farmer or farmer's wife/homesteader.  I am a wife, but I'm also the farmer....  There have been many times, over the years, that I determined, "it's just not going to happen."  I would try to put it out of my mind; go in a different direction.  It never lasted long.  This verse continued to resurface in my faith journey - keep believing, wait for the Lord, He will provide.  In 2012, Joy Bell Farm was born on our urban farm in Burien, even though our garden had been expanding and growing for 5 years already.  It was the year I got my chickens.  I was overjoyed, ecstatic to finally be living my farm dream at some level - and I was connected with the urban farm community in Seattle.  But, things happen in life and we had to leave our urban farm behind in September 2013.  I re-homed my chickens, sold the chicken coop Blaine and I built together (but thankfully God used it to bless a neighbor), and also gave away all the plants and garden materials - even had people come haul away the beautiful, fertile soil...  Pain, heartache; feeling absolutely lost, but praising God and giving thanks in the midst of it all.

Several months later, a farm property came to our attention.  From several sources, God seemed to be guiding us to a particular property in Enumclaw. We contacted the land owner, explained our situation and sought a lease agreement (we need a 3 year lease option to establish our farm business and then flip it over to a purchase), but the answer was no - 3 times it was no...  God provided for us though and we were blessed with a wonderful rental house located on a 25 acre hay property with good landlords, who understand our situation and are willing to keep our rental agreement as a month-to-month, so if we find "our dream farm" we are free to go.  And, that property we felt God led us to is across the back pasture.  Daily, I prayed blessing upon the land owner and her farm business and that the property would sell (because she definitely wanted it to sell and be done with it).  It did finally sell in November, 2014...  Now, I pray blessings upon the new owners and the former owner.  It's what God wants me to do as we continue to wait.  

WAIT - a verb.  We are ACTIVELY WAITING on the Lord. Still waiting for God's provision.  Still waiting for God to make His plans for our life known to us.  But, we are not sitting idle; wasting away.  I am continuing my farm education, I am getting to know other farmers in this community, I am learning more about the main two types of soils in the area, I am lending a helping hand on other farms as God leads me.

We don't know the hour or the day or the year or even if God will fulfill our hearts' desires for Joy Bell Farm to be a real place (again) and enable us to farm in the way that He has revealed to me, but I'm still believing; still waiting....

What are you waiting for?  Are you remaining strong?  Are you remaining passionate and keeping your heart engaged?  Will you wait for the Lord and His timing?  I hope so.

Today, I attended the Pierce County Farm Forum to learn more about agritourism in our region.  At first, I winced seeing my name tag  (as I felt like an imposter), but then I saw it as hope.  One day, I believe I will be able to say, 
"Hi, Welcome to Joy Bell Farm.  I'm Joanie, the Farmer!"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lent journey: PLACE

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23

Personal reflections: I have always thought and told others that the place where I find quiet and restoration for my soul was near water.... Kayak Point Park, Alki Beach, the ocean, a creek, river, Green Lake in Seattle, but in contemplating the word PLACE for today and the Lord laying Psalm 23 on my heart, I realized my experience is as it is written.....  green pastures; quiet waters - both places bring spiritual restoration to me.

I loved working and dwelling in the main garden area of our urban farm in Burien; with Blaine, with Coco, with our chickens; amongst the plants...  It was a sanctuary.  I have experienced similar feelings over the past two weeks assisting Jim in weeding several of the rows in his u-pick blueberry patch.  And, being amongst the pregnant ewes "waiting" inside and outside of the barn at Small Blessings Farm. I look forward to clearing a garden space behind our rental house (soon and very soon) and hold onto hope of getting chickens, once again, maybe even later this year.  I'm thankful for opportunities to participate in bee-centric beekeeping classes this year with Jacqueline Freeman of Spirit Bee.

My faith journey has always been connected to Creation.  Lately, I cannot separate my faith from farming/being a steward of the soil, plants and animals and the people connected to those places,as well.  It IS my life, my passion.

And yet, at the same time, I am reminded that while I am living here on earth, my eternal home is "in the house of the Lord forever."  I am so blessed by the beauty of this life, but my focus must remain on the glorious beauty of eternity with Christ. 

While Psalm 23 is a very familiar psalm (likely the most well known of all the psalms for many people), today I realized what an amazing declaration it is!  Life now, life forever.  God's faithfulness to and always.

Praying for you, dear reader - that you may know and experience the incredible blessings and exciting adventure that God has for each one of us!  May you know those "green pastures and quiet waters" in your life and restoration for your soul.  You are loved.

One day, if God desires, I will work with a musician and actually record this little worship song the Lord laid on my heart a couple of years ago....

I stand amazed
I stand amazed
This life, Your love
It abounds

I stand amazed
I stand amazed
The beauty, The sights
The sounds

I stand amazed
O, I stand amazed
This creation, for us
so profound

I stand amazed
I stand amazed 
This creation......
For us.......
So profound......

I stand amazed
I stand amazed
I stand amazed
         I stand amazed........    

Lent journey: REMEMBER

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.  
Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced."
1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Personal reflections:  I remember this early spring day and the first time the chickens were out in the yard.  I was a very nervous first time chicken owner and I didn't want anything to happen to my younguns.  Coco loved those chickens and was fascinated by them from the first day I brought them home.  She protected and watched over them every day. These chickens were a great JOY for me.  I loved caring for them, cleaning the coop, feeding and interacting with them...  They are a precious memory for me. 

God blessed me with these chickens.  He gave me my hearts desire.  I won these chickens at the Seattle Tilth Harvest Festival the previous September.  I bought 3 tickets and WON - a brooder, the whole setup, 3 baby chicks (bought one more in case one died) and even a chicken coop! I wasn't going to stay for the drawing, but as I was leaving the festival the Holy Spirit encouraged me to stay.  I did.  I texted Blaine and he prayed for me.  He knew I would be the 3 ticket drawn (the 2 before me weren't the winner, as those tickets wanted the raised bed garden prize).  Even today, I am still overwhelmed with how amazing it was to receive such a special gift - one that spoke to my heart's desire!

This isn't the only time I/we have experienced God's wonders and His miracles...
  • We've had 3 cars given to us over the years
  • Every time warn notices/layoff notices were forthcoming at Blaine's job, he was either passed over or moved to another more secure work group.
  • God's protection when I tumbled down the stairs the first day of Lent 2014 - no serious injuries
  • God's protection of Blaine when he was in a car accident years ago - Blaine felt a "cocoon" wrap around him just prior to impact - no serious injuries
  • Our current rental house in Enumclaw - we've discovered how "nearly impossible" it is to find a place on acreage...
  • Receiving a $1000 gift from church friends when we bought our first home.
  • Countless "teachers" that have come into our lives/crossed our path to teach us skills, at just the time we needed them
  • The blessing of a neighbor who did the construction work on the first home we purchased - replacing a garage door by building a wall and adding a new exterior door, building a closet, mudding, building the deck, taught and assisted Blaine in tiling our kitchen/dining room floors, and painted the exterior of the house - all for little to no cost to us
  • A church friend with an electrical business that sent one of his workers to do electrical work at no charge.
We've experienced God's judgments and discipline in our lives. While it is very difficult to go through, we remember His great faithfulness to us!

And, even as I remember during the Lent season, I am reminded that God is still able to perform wonders and miracles.  I could even happen today!

What we are believing God is able to provide, if it is His will for us:
  • permanent home for Joy Bell Farm
  • a farm pick-up truck
  • no debt
And, as I journeyed about my day yesterday - God showed up and reminded me of this promise (flashed on a church's electric billboard sign as I drove by):

"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."  Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent journey: PATH

"This is what the Lord says:

Stand at the crossroads and look; 
ask for the ancient paths,
 ask where the good way is, 
and walk in it, 
and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16

Personal reflections:  Yesterday, I shared with my friend, Brenda, about the word/photographic journey for the 2015 Lenten season that I was participating in.  We talked about how I look forward to a new word each day and what God will share/reveal/teach me for that day.  I said tomorrow's word is PATH.  She shared what came to her mind and it fits for what is happening in her life right now.  I wondered what the Lord would share with me.  I had some "ideas" of my own, but told myself to keep my mind, heart and spirit open to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me.  I have been helping Brenda's husband, Jim, weed a portion of their u-pick blueberry field for the past week or so and as I drove home, music to a song I knew I loved began to be bubble up inside of me.  I could hear the music, but couldn't pinpoint the song.  The words - "ancient paths.  lead us along eternal highways" kept repeating over and over in my mind, as if struggling to resurface once again.  I began to hum the one line.  This is so familiar....  I could hear the singer's voice (I know that voice) and then sang the one line. Where do I know this song from?

It was difficult to fall asleep last night, as the words and the tune were haunting me.  I must figure this out.  Lord, help me to know.  When I awoke, I knew: it is the African worship album; one of the most powerful, anointed and influential worship albums that fueled and inspired my faith journey for many years.  I listened to that cassette tape over and over and over and it must be here somewhere......  How will I ever find it to share on my Lenten post for today?  I typed in the words that had come to mind and it led me to a YouTube video and then a link to iTunes (where I purchased the album).   Tom Inglis' We Are One album recorded in 1993 in Africa.   I listened to the song again, after so many years, and the same powerful anointing washed over me and I immediately began to sing out and worship our amazing Lord.  

Thank You, Lord, for drawing me afresh into Your presence and opening my heart, mind and spirit to woo me back into that place of passion that I had for You.  May You fan the flames of my heart that my love for You would grow and grow; blessing me to bless others and enabling me to be a light in this world; drawing others to You through my life.  Amen and amen.

I often feel I know the path to walk on and remind myself that God's path is through the narrow gate onto His path, but what I've realized is how easily I can lose my way.  The path before me seems good and when I get off on a side path, it's not difficult to find my way back to the main path.  All good, right?  As God gently revealed this morning, sometimes we think we're on the right path and then we discover a path that is hidden; overgrown.  It will take work and effort to uncover and restore that path, but in the end it is the one path that will lead me to great reward. I am overwhelmed with God's amazing grace and love showered upon me this morning.  He is waiting to do the same for you.  What path are you on today?

I've included a link to that song below (if you'd like to hear it):  Show us the Ancient Paths (lyrics and Youtube below)

Blessings on your day!  May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you.  And know....You are LOVED!  

Lord we confess that we have wandered 
far from Your purpose and plan
and willingly walked in the wrong direction, 
we've disobeyed Your commands.
Father forgive us, Spirit come lead us, 
back to the way, back to the truth, 
back to the foot of the cross.

Show us the ancient paths.
Lead us along eternal highways.
We want to walk in the ways of Jesus.
We want to enter Your rest.
Show us the ancient path.
Lead us along eternal highways.
We want to follow the footsteps of Jesus.
We want to enter Your rest.

Lord it's Your mercy and good intentions
that constantly calls us to You.
Your infinite patience and kind correction,
Your coming in Love come in truth.
You are our Hope and our salvation.
You promised joy, You gave us grace
and courage to carry the cross.


We want to leave a clear set of footprints 
for those who will follow behind.
Signpost in our lives that point to Jesus; 
A pathway they'll easily find.
We want to fill up the sufferings of Jesus, 
as we obey, our lives display
the glorious way of the cross.


Lent journey: JOY and CELEBRATE

I missed posting Saturday and Sundays' Lent words, so I'm posting them now.  I cannot even express in words the incredible gift of being included in lambing season with Bless Ewe Sheep Company and Small Blessings Farm.  I am learning far beyond "lambing experience," as God is teaching me deep life lessons....

"You care for the land and water it; You enrich it abundantly.  The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so You have ordained it.  You drench its furrows and level its ridges; You soften it with showers and bless its crops.  You crown the year with Your bounty, and Your carts overflow with abundance.  The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.  The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for JOY and sing."  Psalm 65:9-13

Ewe lamb Cornelia ~ filled with JOY

New life ~ Winnie with her firstborn ewe lamb

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent journey: COVENANT

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is My body."  Then, He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."  Matthew 26:26-28

What does covenant mean?  

A covenant is a contract or agreement between two or more parties.  

Covenant is how God has chosen to communicate to us, to redeem us, and to guarantee us eternal life in Jesus.  These truths, revealed in the Bible, are the basis of Christianity.  The Bible is a covenant document.  The Old and New Testaments are really Old and New Covenants.  The word "testament" is Latin for Covenant.

Personal reflections:  At breakfast, I was thinking about the "word of the day" - covenant - and wondered how I would connect the word to a photograph in a regular life kind of way today.....  I was in the index of my Bible looking at the word covenant and the scriptural references.  I read some, but nothing was really clicking for me.  Then, I read Matthew 26 above.  I had heard that passage countless times - so familiar to me.  How was this particular passage going to enable me to take a photo of something and share during Lent right now?  

And then.... I looked down at my breakfast plate and juice and "gasped."  There it was.  Right in front of me.  And I discovered, anew, that God does show up in our ordinary, regular, routine lives and breaks through to reveal His active and living presence in our lives!  This revelation actually shocked me this morning.  I know that God is PRESENT with us, I know His Word is living and active - but there are times when something occurs (like this morning) that makes the hair stand up on your skin, you shiver all over, because you know - REALLY KNOW - that the Holy Spirit was PRESENT in that very moment sharing God's Truth with you.  Whoa.  He was there FOR ME this morning.  In the simplest acts - eating breakfast - God's Truth was revealed in a new way for me!  I am overwhelmed by His amazing love for me; His grace; His Truth; His desire to be actively working in and through my life.  His amazing gift - forgiveness of sins......

This morning ~ my mind is blown a bit and I will be meditating more upon this today....  The discovery that the word "testament" is Latin for Covenant.  The Bible is actually the Old and New Covenants.  For me, that gives all new meaning to reading my Bible and wanting to know more. 

One final thought to share - God doesn't just want to bless me with special moments like these, but He also wants to share them with you too!  He asks that we believe Jesus Christ is His son and accept Him as Savior.  He asks that we are open to Him; taking time to be still in our busy lives and open our hearts to receive that which He desires to give to each of us.  *Even this morning, I have wrestled with sleeping extra (as working outside and being involved with lambing with farmer friends left me a bit worn out this morning) and knowing that I should have already been showered and dressed to head over to do more blueberry weeding at a friend's u-pick blueberry patch.  Instead of rushing out the door, I made a decision to trust God, sit with Him and hear what He desired to share and believe that He will enable me to still accomplish what this day holds for me to do and will bless Jim and his blueberry patch with health and abundance.  It's not about what I can accomplish humanly, but knowing that WITH GOD, so much more is available for each of us (for He is able to do more than I could ever do on my own)!  God is good.  All the time.

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing revelation for me this morning.  I continually stand in awe of all You are and what you continue to reveal to me throughout my journey in this life. Please help me to know You more and make You known in and through my life.  May I be a vessel of Your amazing love and grace and be a light in this world.  Thank you for this new day, for life, for You.  In Jesus' precious and awesome name, Joanie 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent journey: ALONE

"Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10

Personal reflections:  Being alone.  One of my biggest struggles.  In general, it seems people are drawn to be part of a community ~ our lives are one big social connection; even more so today with social networks, twitter, instagram, snapchat, and on and on.... We're too busy to really be alone, and yet, God desires for us to come away and be alone with Him.  He has so much to share with me, to teach me, to give ~ and yet, why do I find it so "nearly impossible" to turn away from all the "social" connections and be with Him?

God designed us for community.  He desires that we gather together and praise and worship Him; to pray together - to be His Church.  And yet, it seems, that some have fallen into religion (not a judgment, but an observation) - checking off their weekly "God time" and then it's off to the next activity ~ Seahawks football, children's soccer, coffee dates or wine tastings, checking Facebook updates, and so on....  These are not bad things, as long as they don't keep us away from spending quality alone time with God.  

If my attitude is:
  • daily Bible reading (5 minutes)
  • pray with hubby before he heads off to work
  • attend Sunday morning service at a local church or do I really need that?
Will I wake up and realize that I am in a rut?  Will I choose to be still or will I be distracted and look out the window to see what everyone else is doing? Am I really in relationship with God?  Am I willing to say NO to religion and YES to relationship with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit (once again)?  

If this is my desire, then.....being ALONE with God is required.  I must BE STILL.  I must choose to sit at His feet, talk with Him, listen to Him, spend time in His Word (not setting a timer to say, "Time's up.  Got to run."), be available for Him to interrupt my day/my plans.  It is so easy to get into a rut in our faith journey.  I am thankful that God is stirring me up, getting my attention; seeking me through a photo Lenten project to gently, lovingly call me back to my relationship with Him...  To be ALONE with Him and discover again how very much HE loves me ~ and you!

Will you choose to be ALONE with God today?

Lenten journey.....

A friend posted this Lenten photography project and it was just what I was seeking!  Each day has a word associated with it and one takes a picture of something that they associate with that word.  You can post just the photo or share however you feel led to.  Each Sunday has the word celebrate.  Looking forward to seeing what God reveals to me.
God is so good.  All the time.


"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways.
You will eat the fruit of your labor.  Blessings and prosperity will be yours."  
Psalm 128:1-2

Personal reflections:  What is my focus, my priority in each day; for my life's journey?
Do I make time for God's Word or do I squeeze Him in amidst the busyness of my life?

While my desire is to make God my focus each day and for my life, I do find myself struggling to balance "this life" and "my faith journey with God."  Why is this so difficult for me when God's Word shows us the incredible promises and blessings He gives to those who keep Him first and focus their lives - heart, soul and mind - on Him?  
I continue to wrestle with the question....

Day 2:  LOOK

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  
Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 
1 Samuel 16:7b

Personal reflection:  How often do I find myself doing this very thing?  Am I quick to judge someone or their situation?  Do I know their story?  Am I focused on what others think of me and my life choices?  My family?  Who do I desire to be - one who dwells in this world or one who keeps her focus on our amazing Lord and loves and He loves us?

So thankful this verse came across my path.  It is a good reminder that I do get caught up in a worldly focus of others.   God's gentle and loving reminder encouraged me to seek forgiveness from Him for standing in judgment of others and allowing Him to work in and through me, once again, seeing others through His eyes instead of my own.  I am also reminded that none of us know the "whole story" of any other person in this world - nor will we - and His desire is for me to LOVE OTHERS.

2015 Season of Lent

Word for the season:  PROVISION

Theme for the season:  God is my/our PROVIDER