Welcome to the Crucible


“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” ~ Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letters A and U and also by the number 14 (carats, that is). Now think GOLD. The way that gold is refined, or purified is a process with many steps.

First of all, you obviously want to start with gold, if you want refined gold. You can’t start with dirt or tuna fish or koi ponds or strawberry Pop Tarts. Only gold can be used if you want refined gold. That’s Step 1. Step 2: Place in the crucible. The gold has to be in the right place, or environment, in order for the refining to take place. This involves location, materials and timing. Step 3: add heat………serious HEAT. First you will need to add some boric acid. Now heat, more acid, followed by more heat, and so on…Keep doing this until the gold is completely melted, however long that takes. Step 4: the gold will need to be handled very carefully as it is poured into the mold. It’s really hot. It can hurt anyone who gets too close. Step 5: the gold must cool completely before being taken from the mold so that it will hold its shape. (http://www.wikihow.com/Melt-Gold)

I think that in life, pain, like everything else, is all a matter of how you are willing to look at it, the perspective you choose, the lens you use when you consider things and situations and even people that come your way. Let me clarify, we all have a certain bent when it comes to the way we see things. I’m talking about pain, and you will need to use a little extra effort here.

First of all, for the purposes of our discussion, you and I are the gold. In order to be refined, we must first have some intrinsic value already. You can’t clean dirt, or rot. You just get rid of it. Refining is a process that takes time, attention, and care. The goal at the end is to have the thing of value be of even greater value. In order to be refined, there must already be value of some kind, there must be some redeemable qualities in order for something to be redeemed. Redemption comes when we are found, refining happens when we are perfected. It is always unpleasant. We feel unsure, unsteady, unclear why this is happening now, this way, for this length of time. We often feel misused, misunderstood, and we see no end in sight. Sometimes we break down under the strain of what is happening to us…like when we lose our tempers and yell at our kids, our spouses, say things we don’t mean, quit our jobs without notice, give up on the dream, drop out of school, tell someone off….like in traffic, using technicolor language that would make grandma yank our ears.

I often feel that parenting is a kind of crucible. Multiple times a day you are faced with the choice of acting selfishly….or even out of self-preservation, and you are given the choice, me or them, now or the future, pay now or pay later. Sometimes, either way you choose it feels like you lose. There are so many of these knuckle-baring, teeth-gritting moments along the way as we raise our kids it sometimes makes us very poor company for anyone else, like our co-workers, friends, church family, spouses, or basically anyone who doesn’t want to hear the run-down on Little Miss or Misters’s last bowel movement. (I love a good pun, and that sentence had to awful ones. 🙂 )

I have wondered many times over the years about the much debated and hotly refuted portions of the Bible that talk about women, some of them more than others, like the submission to your husband part and the part about childbearing as in the increased pain (thanks a lot Eve), and about how women will be saved through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15) HUH????? Are you kidding me? This on top of submission? God, you ask too much.

But, wanting to actually understand, I thought about it in the context of what the passage talks about, which was a situation in which families were fragmented and the child rearing was not being carried out by loving parents at home. Similar to today, women and men were sold out to the idea of “finding themselves” and such. As is the case today, as the parents “found themselves” the children got lost in the shuffle. This passage is calling Christian women to lay down their selfish desires and give themselves to their children, their tender little babies, who really needed them. Babies aren’t babies forever, of course. This is not an admonishment for Christian women to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and never learn to read. Kids need their parents. Period. That made sense to me. I do tend to get my back up a little when someone tells me to do something (which, at 37, my mom is still doing). Even when someone tells me to do something sensible or gives good advice, I tend to bristle a little bit. People with knowledge don’t like to be taught, and yet it is against reason as well as wisdom to be this way. So there is a little insight into a long-time struggle for me today. 🙂 Love you Mom. 🙂

Of course as I am now actually in the middle of parenting, another thought occurs to me: childbearing and rearing works out something else in us. I have long held the belief that no one, simply no one, can make me more red haze, can’t-speak-correctly, vein-I-didn’t-know-I-had-pulsing, calling-my-kids-everyone’s-name-but-theirs angry, NO ONE but kids. Thankfully, I love my kids, I mostly love kids in general, it’s just when I get out in specific situations with specific kids…again…that I find my “nice lady” seams tearing a bit. Childrearing holds your feet to the fire. It’s easy enough to say you love children when you have none of your own, and of course know better than all those sleep-deprived, cranky individuals who, unbeknownst to you, are telling their child “no” not for the 5th time as they ask for a treat, but the 56th, in less than 5 minutes, and you just let that comment about “controlling your children” slip only slightly loud enough as you passed their shopping cart containing a car seat, and the entire wardrobe of the child who has been screaming. ALL. THE. WAY. THOUGH. THE.  STORE. That poor soul is just trying to make it to the checkout with a couple of gallons of milk and some semblance of dignity and self-control and is being fought every step of the way. There are the times when the fun money you had set aside is used instead on shoes for Little Miss or Mister who you realized with a guilty pang was wearing shoes 3 sizes too small. No, you will not be buying new shoes for work or lunch with the gang this week. You can kiss that concert goodbye because you had to stay home with a kid (or kids) who all got head lice, so of course you are now a pariah anyway and now you couldn’t afford to go even if the darn little buggers didn’t keep showing up on head after head. (Calgon take me away!) *pause for psychosomatic head itching, sorry*

Another hard thing about parenting these sweet babies is that you have to tell them many many times to do something, or not too. I have had crayon on my walls for years, or pencil or pen, or (GASP) even marker. I have made rules and punished and explained and taken things away, and yelled and screamed and panicked, and yet, I still have crayon, etc. on my walls. Discipline is not a popular thing in our country currently. We do not like to tell ourselves no and we do not like to say it to our kids. It’s uncomfortable to wait or do without, so instead of earning good behavior or a well-deserved reward, we cave to the pressure of a tantrum or whining and find peace for a time…..until the next time, and the next, and the next. Discipline is hard work and you actually have to remember what the point was in the first place. I’m not really a fan of the strict cry it out philosophy of sleep training. However, I have never been a fan of being held hostage in my own bed by a baby, either. Nor am I a fan of Cruella DeVille in my house the next day screeching at my kids and husband. There has to be a balance in everything we do. (1 Peter 5:8)

So, as far as a crucible is concerned, there are times when I think I must be in the fire with the acid being added. Being a parent is an overwhelming undertaking, both for the good, sweet, tender, and joyous moments it brings as well as for all the pain and tears and frustration and heartache. I think, though, that as with anything else, God works in seasons in our lives. There are times when I have been put through life’s ringer whether it be a difficult relationship in my extended family, or drama at work, or health issues I worry about for my loved ones, or the tires that keep going flat on my minivan at the most aggravating and inconvenient times, naturally.

After really difficult seasons, I feel a little worn and tender. I’m a bit more sensitive and easily hurt. I need some time to process and heal. Those times are like the cooling process of gold. I want to come out of these times bearing the form of my Savior. I fail though at other times, and I know that it’s only so long before I am yet again being put through the crucible again.  BUT, as we are to find our balanced stances in life, so God has things well in hand. When we go through these sanctifying seasons, He knows when to ease things and we will never go through alone. 🙂

“PETER, AN apostle (a special messenger) of Jesus Christ, [writing] to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered (sowed) abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, [aka YOU] Who were chosen and foreknown by God the Father and consecrated (sanctified, made holy) by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and to be sprinkled with [His] blood: May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be realized in and through Christ, freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts]. Praised (honored, blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)! By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [Born anew] into an inheritance which is beyond the reach of change and decay [imperishable], unsullied and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time. [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed. Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not [even] now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy. [At the same time] you receive the result (outcome, consummation) of your faith, the salvation of your souls. The prophets, who prophesied of the grace (divine blessing) which was intended for you, searched and inquired earnestly about this salvation. They sought [to find out] to whom or when this was to come which the Spirit of Christ working within them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow [them]. It was then disclosed to them that the services they were rendering were not meant for themselves and their period of time, but for you. [It is these very] things which have now already been made known plainly to you by those who preached the good news (the Gospel) to you by the [same] Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Into these things [the very] angels long to look! So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed. [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44, 45.] And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short]. You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot. It is true that He was chosen and foreordained (destined and foreknown for it) before the foundation of the world, but He was brought out to public view (made manifest) in these last days (at the end of the times) for the sake of you. Through Him you believe in (adhere to, rely on) God, Who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him honor and glory, so that your faith and hope are [centered and rest] in God. Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy ] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart. You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God. For all flesh (mankind) is like grass, and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever. And this Word is the good news which was preached to you. [Isa. 40:6-9.]” 1Peter 1 Entire Chapter, Amplified

How to NOT Shine Your Light


“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Charles R. Swindoll

Attitude, attitude, attitude!! You guessed it. It’s ALL about attitude, yours and mine.

So lately I have been dealing (read that NOT dealing) with a terrible attitude myself. Mr. Wonderful now works nights. My mind wants to wait up for him. The 1 yr old has been teething and I am slowly, slooooowly trying to wean her. My school-aged kids wake up early and begin their morning clumping-through-the-house-like-circus-elephants routine. My 3 yr old is very mischievous and can-NOT be left alone. He finds things to nibble, and color with and on, and knock over, etc, etc. I also watch a little boy M-F and he arrives around 7:45 in the morning. I cannot usually sleep in. I cannot usually coordinate nap time so I can nap, although Heaven help me I am trying! Fact: I end up staying up too late to outlast my kids and the baby who needs a quiet room to actually stay asleep, and I have MUCHO interrupted sleep at all times of the night. Laying there fuming is not conducive to sleep as I try to get comfortable sans noise, and yep, when I DO finally start to fall asleep, that’s when the baby wakes up crying, Mr. Wonderful’s truck rumbles into the driveway, the kids get up for school, the 3yr old begins stomping up and down the hallway, there is a knock at the door, yadda-yadda. Fact: all of this adds up to make me a less-than-lovely, un-shiny, desperate, grumpy, snarky, impatient, schnickelfritz. Mr. T. a.k.a. B.A. Baracus. Yep, I AM that man……or woman. Anyway, moving right along. 

When I was looking up a passage on attitude for this post, I found a story about King Solomon. (You know, like the Mines? Kidding. Solomon, as in David and Bathsheba’s second son, Richie Rich in Biblical times, wise as…lots of wives, yeah, that one.) He and God had this agreement that basically went: Solomon honors God ONLY and puts a stop to worshiping other gods which were really leading the population into doing some bad things, like human sacrifice, etc. In return for Solomon’s exclusivity, God would bless him and his lineage and establish his kingdom, like He had promised David. Long story short…..Solomon flubbed it. He decided he was just going to go ahead and do his own thing (back to his insane, polygamous obsession for marrying, and marrying, and marrying…More on the company we keep and how it can ruin our character later.)

“Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’ ” 1 Kings 11:-13

A bad attitude can really ruin a good thing. Solomon should have known better, just like the rest of us when we decide to do it our way and reap the  less-than-lovely, un-shiny, desperate, grumpy, snarky, impatient, schnickelfritz consequences. You can bet your sweet Aunt Bippy that this kind of life is NOT what God intends for any of us, either. When we get an attitude, He wants to give us more of Him, so that the amazingness that is God, fills us up so much that there is no room for the junk that makes us (and everyone around us) so very unhappy. All that is left is Him, and we become the person He intended us to be all along:

“blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world.” Philippians 2:15 Amplified

Focusing my mind to actually think about my attitude and the effects of it on those around me, most notably the 3 tiny ones who can’t do anything to stop me and are at my mercy. When my attitude is horrible, they suffer. Then hubby wakes up and he suffers. My kids get home, the phone rings, I get a text from my mom, etc….a bad attitude will lead to consequences that just snowball. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS already! Here is what God says about our attitude:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 Amplified
“Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another. [Zech. 8:16.] When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.” Ephesians 4:21-29 Amplified
“A scoffer seeks Wisdom in vain [for his very attitude blinds and deafens him to it], but knowledge is easy to him who [being teachable] understands. Go from the presence of a foolish and self-confident man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. The Wisdom [godly Wisdom, which is comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of [self-confident] fools is to deceive. Fools make a mock of sin and sin mocks the fools [who are its victims; a sin offering made by them only mocks them, bringing them disappointment and disfavor], but among the upright there is the favor of God. [Prov. 10:23.]” Proverbs 4:6-9 Amplified

Keeping your eyes on the prize is essential. Do you want to just wake up one day and find that 50 years have gone by and you are still as lonely, impatient, selfish, touchy, unforgiving, gossipy, and unhappy as you always have been? To make the needful and difficult changes to be a more whole and sound and actually beneficial to others human being, you are going to have to dig in and work for it, and so will I.

If you have read only this post, or even if you are a follower, you will hopefully understand that this is not a “mommy blog”. There is a need and a place for those, definitely; but I hope to relate to you as a human being first. I am flawed and ridiculous and vain and selfish and small. I also know Jesus, who is none of those things, and I need him DESPERATELY to not only bring me out of a funk or make me pleasant to be around; but to help me to reach my ULTIMATE life goal, which is to be like Him and help others to know him. There are enormous obstacles in the way of that, but Jesus Christ is more than enough, for you and for me.

 “IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1.] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

It’s a Great Day to Be New!


“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell

Right now I have a packet of seeds, several packets in fact, sitting in front of me on my desk. Have you ever looked at a seed, to simply marvel at the size of it? Even a very large seed, like from an avocado, is small when you take the time to consider the possibility and potential that lies inside. A seed on its own doesn’t usually give much of an indication of the eventual fruit of the tree or plant it will become. The majority of seeds are dry, sometimes withered, unattractive, and easy to discount, easy to overlook. I have never once felt hungry when looking at the seed of a watermelon or tomato or orange. I have never looked at an acorn or maple seed and thought, “Now that is some lovely shade.” There is a lot of time and work required to get anything of value out of a seed of any kind. Time……Work…..Time and work…….Hmmmmmmm…….. Did I lose anyone? 🙂

A funny thing about these seed packets is that they all look the same. They’re all about the same size and color. Some are slightly heavier or thicker, but for the most part, they are all the same: packets of potential. On the paper is printed the seed names, instructions for best results, and a hand-drawn picture of the expected plants lying dormant inside each one of them. (I love botanical prints, but that doesn’t really come into this post much. 😉 )

Each one of us, living on this Earth, is like a seed packet. Some of us contain the seed for great works, or beauty, or development, or discovery. Some of us contain the seeds to nurture and care for those around us, or lead, or inspire, or protect. Each of us, no matter what out outsides may look like, where we may live, what we believe, or who we love, or fear, or mistrust, have inside of us the seeds of who we were meant to be. Not all of those seeds will grow. Many will be poisoned by life and sin and choices of our own and others until we stop believing that there was ever anything good or helpful or wholesome or even worthwhile inside of us. Some of us will grow weary with the strange and capricious weather of the world and opt to not plant our seeds. Why risk the heartache and the long years of work and waiting to see if one or two of our dreams may come to pass? It’s too much to hope for. It’s too hard. Its too…..I’m not….They don’t care anyway. Who needs ________________ really?

STOP. Just stop and listen to yourself! What would have happened if the greats had said this and taken no and wait for answers to their burning questions?? Our world is a hard place to live now. Think about how much harder it would have been without the brave souls who paid the price necessary to plant their seeds! Do you think there’s no cost when you plant a seed? You just dig a hole, put the seed in the hole, cover it up with soil, and walk away?

What about the seed, leaving a safe place for the dark unknown, where there is mess and regular dealings with garbage, manure (to put it nicely), and all manner of threat from above and below? AFTER a lot of watering and sheltering, this most fragile living thing finally emerges weak, twisted, and STILL not anything like it’s potential promises. One seedling looks pretty much like any other. They are all delicate, sensitive, and easily discouraged or even killed. This is the fate of embryonic dreams. When we finally have the courage to go ahead and plant them, very often they seem to disappear and we wait an interminable amount of time for them to finally show some signs of hey-I’m-not-crazy-after-all! Patience is hard. We want what we want and we want it NOW!! There was no waiting involved in your imagination when the dream first come to you. There was no hard work or try, try, trying again. What gives? Now in the sick and weary world our dreams are held up for scrutiny and ridicule even by those we most love and that hurts very much. There are even times when we may forget what we even planted. (Wait, is this row radishes or rutabagas? *Author’s note: I will NEVER, EVER plant rutabagas in my garden. Also why is it spelled rutabagas when you pronounce it root-a-beggas? Anyway, moving on.*)

Some people would tell you that labeling your rows is just plain old common sense. I expect most serious gardeners would. I often forget to mark my seeds, or the kids move them, or play with them, or for Heaven’s sake eat them (who knows?)! I find this to be true quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the garden. I find myself distracted by life and the turmoil that comes with raising a big family, let alone dealing with my own inner turmoil and fears and sense of inadequacy as a woman, mom, and wife? I mislay my dreams and hopes and goals. Sometimes I mislabel them, like when I was still a single mom waiting for Mr. Wonderful. I labeled my hopes “Mr. Right”. I should have labeled them “Mr. Right-for-ME”. Alongside that goal, I should have also placed a marker for “Healthier, Happier, Self”.  That crop had to mature a bit first. (Take note, lonely single people.)

Set goals for your dreams. Measure their growth in benchmarks. Keep track of your hopes and dreams. Never forget how far you’ve already come! You are a packet of potential! It’s up to you to show the world what you have inside!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified 

Fortune Favors the Prepared


You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.  Harriet Martineau

Remember the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It’s one of my favorites. The foolish grasshopper only wants to play and laughs at the ants as they “waste their time preparing for winter during the warm summer months. They don’t get to enjoy themselves. They don’t have any fun. Soon enough the snow falls and the ants are inside their well-stocked homes, warm and well fed, as the storms rage outside. The grasshopper, poor thing, soon enough comes to realize that his playing has sealed his fate, and sadly freezes to death.

I am always reminded of this fable whenever the weather starts to change in preparation for fall. It is almost time for the kids to return to school. It is almost time to dust off all the soups and stews and cold weather recipes. It is time to start the yearly battening down of the hatches. Time to take stock of our food and the condition of our homes and automobiles and wardrobes has come. We still have the last little bit of summer in some places. We still have a little more time. There is still something to be said for hard work and the payments we receive for our investment in it.

This was brought on, in part, by a certain smell in the air and feel of the wind…..not to mention the fact that there was wind at all. Fall is on it’s way, and change is in the air, again.  A friend and neighbor posted something about her apple trees and tomato plants and preparing for their harvests. We used to live in a house with more apples and pears in the fall than we knew what to do with them. We miss them dreadfully now, of course. It would be wonderful to enjoy the same kind of bounty again.  (Hey, I’m always up for sharing.)

As we think about being prepared, working toward it, planning for it, we must eventually realize that there is more to our lives than our homes and cars and wardrobes and pantries. In the same way, there is more to a person’s life than their day in day out sleeping, eating, working, playing cycle. We are more than we are on the outside, and our insides could do with a bit of preparing as well. This doesn’t have to be the mule at the flour mill daily trudge many of us picture. Our soul and spirit’s preparing can be a wondrous journey full of adventure, discovery, and yes, challenging ourselves to stretch, stretch, stretch! Think of it as the beautification of the inside of yourself, which will eventually be so radiant as to shine out through the windows and give light to those around you.

In your relationships, your personal feelings about yourself and your ultimate worth, your willingness to forgive and be forgiven, and your views of God and the universe around you, your investments of time and study and working things through for yourself (or lack thereof) will bring fruit of their own. You may not ever learn the exact answers or gain perfect understanding in this life, but you can make a good start. Don’t leave the preparation of your inner self on the back burner until it’s too late!

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself?Because whoever is ashamed of Me and of My teachings, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the [threefold] glory (the splendor and majesty) of Himself and of the Father and of the holy angels. ” Luke 9:23-26

 

The Head and Not the Tail…


“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Philosopher, internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest, 1869-1948)

There are times in life when we may need to change our situation for a time in order to fulfill our dreams; this is a common belief, that we need a big location for our big dreams. Some people think that when inspiration hits them, it is meant for them at another time and place. Other people think that they need to BE bigger, more important or more impressive in order for them to live out their big, important, impressive dreams. I used to think this too. Perhaps you do as well. Perhaps you have come to believe that small little you cannot ever see those dreams come true, those dreams that light your days with possibility like the sun and put a sparkle in your eyes.

Let me tell you right now that absolutely, unequivocally, and without a doubt, you are WRONG.

The dreams God plants inside us are, at first, seeds. There is some growing on our part that is necessary, but it is growing on the INSIDE that will actually get us ready for these dreams to come to light. Our outer limits (such as budget, reputation, economic resources, personal beauty, etc.) are much less limiting than we think they are. You see, if the Dream Giver plants a dream, He is well aware of what is needed for that dream to come true. God gives us dreams where we are for a reason. We may have to leave for a time, but we may eventually find ourselves walking familiar paths as we return to old stomping grounds and see the tiny green tips of our dream start to grow.

You are absolutely important enough right now for the dreams you carry in your heart. The reason is: Your dreams are not about you. Your dreams are not even FOR you. Your dreams are for everyone else in the world; and your dreams are all about God, the Dream Giver.

We are entrusted with dreams that require our care and time and patience. God has the resources and the wisdom to bring things to fruition in due time. Our job, then, is not to be billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist, or any such thing. God wants us, the very person with our very personality, experiences, and past, perfected to be the very best us for our very best dream. Nothing less than you will do. Everything else is beside the point.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading trough. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out. The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and in all that you undertake. And He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to Himself, as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. And all people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name [and in the presence of] the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity, through the fruit of your body, of your livestock, and of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord shall open to you His good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day and are watchful to do them. And you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28 : 1-14 (Amplified Bible)

And Now for Something Completely Different…


Two of my daughters recently had a culture fair at their school. There were booths with information on many different countries around the world, crafts, activities, and the chance to write letters to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. It was an interesting evening. Then, we made our way to the school cafeteria where there was a mixture of smells emanating. We each received a plate with tiny portions of various dishes, fruits, and treats from various cultures, and that was truly the most interesting part of the evening.

Thankfully, we have long been fans of the show Bizarre Foods, I have tried to instill an acceptance of different foods and variation in my children, and none of us is put off by strange textures. There were a couple different slippery Asian noodle dishes, a fruit like a berry with a husk that we had to peel, sour (pickled?) gooseberries, tubes of jelly, and tamales, among other things on our plates. Naturally, some of the foods were better received than others. The whole experience broadened our palates and our minds, and gave us some new tastes, textures, and experiences. The next time we are presented by something unfamiliar, I hope we rise to the challenge.

If only things worked that way so easily with life’s little sample plate. We are exposed to change more times than we are often  comfortable with as we move through the many courses and snacks of life. Some times, we’d love to be able to send our meal back to the kitchen. Sometimes, we are left with a taste of something we would gladly have consumed without end. Life, however, is full of strange dishes and we are given an opportunity to sample them all. It is to our benefit that we take in as many of these life experiences as possible in order to feel satisfied and enjoy a full existence. It is not uncommon for many people to be so stuck in their burger and fries ways that they miss out on something truly spectacular.

God, you see, has many menu items laid out for us in the Grand Buffet. Some things we will like more than others; however, the less than exciting oatmeal is just as good for us as the plate of fruit, or steak, or chocolate. We DO all need a little chocolate from time to time during the Feast of Life, after all. Don’t be afraid of new things. Every good and necessary change you are looking toward in your life will require some difference in the way you act and think, even the way you live, or where you live. As the French say, Vive le difference!”

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43: 18-19

Quirks, Raincoats, and the Smell of Fresh Papaya


I have a daughter who is bright, nerdy like her mother, and a budding photographer. On her way to school this morning, we had a chat about this unexpected gift that is developing in her. I, myself, had for a long time cherished the hope of somehow being a photographer; but it was somewhere further down the list of dream job priorities than “famous-singing-princess-astronaut”, so I have let that dream fall by the wayside. Beside the fact that, unlike my lovely daughter, I have no innate talent in this direction, photography is something I have learned to appreciate as a spectator, as I have many other things I have held up for inspection along the way to becoming an adult.

We all have our talents and quirks and knacks for things. All three of my sisters as well as my mother have an amazing talent for home decorating. They know how to put things together. They have the ability to tie pretty bows on things. I do not have either of these abilities, but I have many others. 🙂 I know many people who like to do the same things, but the levels of ability vary with the person. We are all unique. In fact, our individual talent sets, abilities, and tendencies are so distinctive that it could almost be compared to each of us having our own personal culture or language.

For example, I have this certain raincoat that I bought out of necessity when I was expecting my last child. It is long, belted, and bright turquoise. It’s also about 4 sizes too big for no-longer-pregnant me. Nevertheless, I LOVE this coat! For one thing, the size of it means I can wear bulky clothes underneath it without getting that “bunched up” feeling. I once wore it for Halloween with my huge rainbow umbrella, caked-on “Endora” eyeshadow,  a messy bun, and a plush cat toy sticking out of the pocket. Nothing says “crazy cat lady” like a get-up of that caliber, am I right? Still, to this day, I love to wear this enormous raincoat. It makes me happy sometimes, to simply go against the grain of what most people think of as desirable or normal. Who’s life is this anyway? Again, we have another example of unabashed uniqueness.

Let us consider a freshly-opened papaya for a moment. I have always thought of papaya the way I do other tropical (and to me exotic) fruits, like guava, cocoanut, pineapple, mango and dragon fruit. They are out of the ordinary treats from far-away lands. They are to be loved ad savored above such paltry and common-place things as apples and oranges, puh-leese! (Some of my childish ways have hung on a bit into adulthood, I’m afraid. I DO love apples and oranges, to be clear.) But one day I had the opportunity to visit one of our local markets that boasts a rather large ethnic section. So, there was the papaya, looking strangely other-worldly, foreign, and therefore desirable. 

“What a treat!” I thought to myself. “I will surprise my kids with this exotic delight!”

OK, so my exact wording may have been slightly different. My memory is somewhat fuzzy on that account. So I brought it home and told them of my wonderful idea. I told the about the exotic and rare treat I had in store for them. Their eyes lit up. After all, if Mom thinks it’s a wonderful thing, it must be, right?

I made a big production out of getting a cutting board and a big shiny knife. And as I expertly cut the football-sized fruit down the center, a dreadful smell filled the room. They were surprised alright. Maybe it was just the seeds, I thought. The kids wrinkled their noses. I tried not to wrinkle mine, and laughed off a nagging voice at the back of my head telling me that things you put in your mouth should NOT smell like week-old garbage. Nevertheless, I pressed on with the task of cutting large wedges of papaya for myself and my children. OK, I lied a little bit just there. After that smell, I was quite prepared to shamelessly use my children as guinea pigs and make them go first.

As anyone who has ever had fresh papaya will know, the smell did not diminish with the removal of the seeds. Now with the smell of fresh papaya filling the house, the kids took turns trying the papaya, and finally, so did I. Hastily apologizing to my children for making them eat something that tasted like rotting meat, we pitched the entire thing into the garbage, had a good laugh, and proceeded to eat, instead, the several ripe mangoes I had also purchased that day.

Curious to know more, I looked up “papaya stink”, or something to that effect, on the internet. As it turns out, the smell is completely normal for ripe papaya, as was the reaction of myself and my children. This is just more proof to what I’ve been saying all along; we are all unique, which is a really generous way to describe the first person who ever smelled a papaya and decided to go ahead and eat it anyway.

However the stories of our lives go, we are individual as snowflakes. We were each created to fill a special place. Though it may seem random and chaotic the way we are tossed out like jacks in the world, it is rather the serendipity of the Creator, who loves us as the distinctive, colorful, oddities that we are. He sees us as we really are, and His delight in us should be the end of the matter.

 Sixty queens there may be,
    and eighty concubines,
    and virgins beyond number;
 but my dove, my perfect one, is unique,
    the only daughter of her mother,
    the favorite of the one who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
    the queens and concubines praised her. Song of Songs 6: 8-9