Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burning Leaves and Thoughts

Yes, I, Aaron, understand that it is January 26th and the rest of the northern hemisphere usually burn leaves in the fall. I have procrastinated and also fell behind all the falling leaves that I burned once and then reappeared on our yard.

They were wet and hard to start. Just took some patience and a revelation. We've been talking about with my small group of guys how God displays His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature through what is made (Romans 1:20). We have realized how much we miss when we don't stop and look. It's not that it's not there. It's that we're not seeing it. Not looking for Him. So today, as I struggle to get the soggy mess of brownness and managed only smoke, a gentle breeze moved in from the west.

In Greek, the word for wind is the same as spirit (phonetically sounds like pnooma with a silent p), the same word for the Holy Spirit. Now I'm not saying that God started the fire, not saying He didn't. But He definitely reminded me that while I may be "doing" something for Him, it usually just results in smoke. But the necessary things you need for a fire are fuel, heat, and oxygen - "pnooma." We need His Spirit to live, to breath, to do His work. And as all we have to do is ask: "If you (people) then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
---
While we've had snow in recent days, today was out of the ordinary it seemed. Honestly, it felt like spring was arriving. The birds humming an old tune that once was so familiar but now almost forgot. Warmth beamed onto my face as the sun squinted my eyes for the first time in a while.

It was refreshing. Rejuvenating (I had to use spell check to get this word right. Lara and Mrs. Russell my junior english teacher would be ashamed). I had visions of long bike rides, especially thanks to talking with Dr. Harris about those rides, it being light time 6:30pm and just being outside. The excitement of using my new Eno hammock.

And then it dawned on me, it's still January. "Beware the Ides of March" Caesar was once warned before he was stabbed to death (at least according to Shakespeare); but it's not even February yet. Winter will come once again. The spring blooms will stay dormant and dead for a while longer.

And this we hope for. Early buds quickly wither by winter's Battle of the Bulge. Even Jesus warns us about that quick sprout (even though He isn't talking about the frost) that comes up quickly with the word in joy but has no bearings, no roots.

We must wait. Enjoy this glimpse of new life but continue to bear into God when all seems dead and cold. It's only a season. It will be spring. But right now, I'll enjoy this time.



Who doesn't like pictures of the niece and nephew (if you say you don't, I'll come hunt you down. Ok, just kidding... but really)


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When it all pans out

Fires and floods. Hyperbolically speaking, the fabric of our week has been spun from such supply.

It started yesterday morning when a trickle and a gurgle tickled my ear and I, washing the dishes of a bread-making morning, stood at the sink, cataloguing the new sound. The rush of moving water, where is that coming from? Dishwasher, no, outside, no, drain, maybe, and then there was water sloshing out from the cabinet onto my feet. A door jerked open fast, and a new card was filed in the mental catalogue: the sound of a busted pipe.

Dishes halted. Piled up instead in disarray all day and night, and we've already talked about the size of the kitchen, haven't we? Aren't many places to pile here. A mish-mash of lunch and dinner and wassail items flung catawampus on any available surface and the undercabinet supplies fan-bathed on the tile floor.

Aaron worked his magic, handyman style,


and I did not work mine, housekeeping style. A full day of subbing, and I was beat. Tread a mile clear of the kitchen today. The mess stayed, and I stayed out. Until a hot cup of tea called my name, and I somehow met a burning mess of vitamins instead. Oh the shame.

Again, an unfamiliar noise was the bloodhound pointing the way. And again, I waited until the situation grew unmistakably problematic. Crackling gave way to popping, and when I saw the orange tint from the kitchen doorway, I thought the teakettle was on fire. How in heaven's name would a teakettle catch on fire? But there was the teakettle, cold and stout, and there was the wrong burner, a bright orange branding iron under the wicker basket of vitamins.

Tonight, we mourn the loss of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Women's Multi, and Lysine.


I was tempted to feel sorry about the whole firecracker of a week. But then I thought better. How many women in the world would dive at the chance to cook in the kitchen I consider small? How many women would tackle the chance to give their babies clean water, not for a second wondering if the clear stream, welcomed with a flick of the wrist, held parasites and disease?

It would be unholy to look around at this life and not find a thousand and one thankfuls. I could not imagine my lot to be hard or my burden heavy, because it is not. One small pipe broken and one small basket burned, and our house stands not a seam worse for the wear. We are blessed beyond measure, and it is overwhelming when I truly stop to take stock. He doesn't have to give it to us, you know; none of this is ours and yet He gives and we are breathless in the seasons of bounty.

______

For ending levity, how is this? I was two blocks away from our house on my run today before I realized how funny my running get-ups are in the winter. I dress for running absentmindedly, thinking about the day or what is yet to be done, and I layer on like crazy. The result is only for the refined fashion eye.

Monday, January 17, 2011

the promise kept


Genesis 15:1
"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, and your reward shall be very great."

Abram, you will not yet see--but do not be afraid.

A namesake and a nation, so hard to conceive--but do not be afraid.

It will be six more long chapters before the beginning of the promise will arrive. It will be the conniving of your wife; it will be a new name for you; it will be Yahweh Himself visiting your tent at Mamre; it will be Sodom and Gomorrah burning to ash; it will be another lie of yours to another king,

but the promise will be kept.

Circumstances will not endorse the promise; you will begin to think He has forgotten the promise.

Yet, Abram, of you by your new name it will someday be written:

"By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old--and Sarah herself was barren--because he considered Him faithful who had promised." Hebrews 11:11

So do not fear, Abram.

Do not fear though you will not see the promise completed in your years on earth.

Others will see.

From the seat of 2011 A.D., history unravels behind, and we know the name of Isaac, and we call those grains of sand a nation named Israel and Gentiles grafted in by one Good Friday.

How could he see such a thing?

How can we see the things promised to us? Perhaps God will give us our Genesis 21, a red-faced, writhing baby to hold, but perhaps He will not.

The promise does not end in our lifetimes.

We want to see before our bones return to dust, yet there will be other eyes that look back on us, from the same third person omniscience with which we survey Abraham, and the points will connect. The years unfurl the whole story, the promise kept.

Another man, another generation, wrote his last letter at the end of a wild life,

"But I am not ashamed, for I know the One in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to Him." (2 Tim 1:12)

The One whom Abraham found faithful,
The One in whom Paul put His trust,
He is our God.

He is authoring something with this all--the tragedy, the victory, the dull, the bright, the word given that seems never to come true.

Though we only "welcome the things promised from a distance" (Heb 11:13), the story does not end with what we see. And the word sent to Abraham--do not fear--comes to us too, and builds strong, solid beams around the small, precious stone of our belief.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

TGIF

Every Friday morning at 9:00, the munchkins come to visit. My sister and her family live a mile away from our house. Last year, knowing this proximity would not be long lasting, we set up a weekly time for our niece and nephew to come over.


Thus Friday morning time was born. I wish we had a cool name for it, but we don't. Let's see. We could call it "Aunts and Uncles are the Best" time. (Too narcissistic.) Or "How Does My Sister Do This Every Day?" time. (Doesn't convey how fun it really is.) Or "I Haven't Used My Imagination This Much Since Last Friday" time. (Way too long.) Scrap the title. They come, and we love it. We take the kids for 4-7 hours, depending on the week. My sister gets some Mommy down time to do whatever her heart pleases, and Aaron and I get to play with the two sweetest munchkins we know.


With a charmer like this on the premises, it's not a wonder we give in to spoiling galore.


That smile brings out the chocolate every time. Smart cookie.

But it's not all chocolate and games around here. No sirree. With lunch comes the inevitable--the dreaded vegetable. Celery was the foe this week.

She ponders. "I have to eat this green stick with stwings before I get down?"

"Uh, maybe I could use that smile Drew uses."

"Okay! Chew fast, chew fast, think about that Curious George TV show I love, chew fast!"

"Do you think she'll notice the piece I'm sitting on?"


Often, we offer some mind-stimulating games for the young prodigies.


"With this game, I heard we can take over the world!"


No Friday would be complete without a camp-out under the table.

At this point, we must have been running out of food during a long, harsh winter.

We might not have food, but we have books! Food is for the birds, anyway.

Here, she is telling Aaron is a soft, secret whisper, "I'm starting to feel in my heart that there are some berries over there." You follow that heart, girl.

Pillow fights? Why not? We firmly campaign with the slogan, "Get 'em hyper; send 'em home."

"Hey, wait a minute. I'm not going home until someone can tell me why this Christmas tree is still up."


That's where the fun ended, but not the Christmas tree. Just kidding. About the fun ending part. You know us and the Christmas tree; we're not quitting. Not yet.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kicks are for kids

We get on kicks around here. I am especially prone to this. For example. My favorite color was blue. Then it was red. Now it is blue. How inconvenient that I decorated my kitchen during the red stage. Or, I ate oatmeal every breakfast for a month, and now all I can think every time I consider making it is glob. I've sorta been liking leftovers for breakfast lately, but don't think I'm one of those people that eat pizza for breakfast. Because I totally am.

In the first few months of marriage, Aaron and I played a round of Boggle with breakfast. That was when I wrangled him into waking up to eat with me. I have since seen the truth and the light-- that it is better for everyone if he sleeps a little later, and Boggle will have to wait. When breakfast bonding got the ax, Boggle didn't find another slot. It got lost. But now: MASTERMIND. You must say it in all caps to sound like you're taking over the world.

We bought it for .97 cents at the Council for the Blind thrift store. Best .97 cents we ever did spend.

My friend Kristen bought me this Starbucks water cup after I made fun of hers. Lo and behold, it is magic, and I take back all the mean things I thought about it pre-ownership. I think it must be the straw that compels me to drink copious quantities of water. How did I live 26 years and not realize the magic of the straw?


I cannot promise anything regarding the long life-span of this next kick. Disclaimer accounted for, I would like my mom and dental hygienists everywhere to know that I am flossing! Every night! I thought I lost my floss, and one might think that would end the kick, but no. I bought a new package! Oh the dedication! I didn't actually lose the first, as you can see.


We are sooooo on a kick to leave our Christmas tree up. We already mentioned that? Oh.


This sunset was our five o'clock gift today. I'd like to start a kick of these.

Anything y'all have been on a kick for lately? I did just say "y'all". My sweet southern Laura-friend taught me how to say it, and it fits like a glove. Try it. "Y'all" could be your new kick...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

first plant of day

Photo by Paul Casey

On a morning like this, the ritual serves up like a dry, stale piece of bread.

How can meeting with God Almighty be such a thing?

There is no excitement, no epiphany, no word, certainly not found written on the wall and maybe not found among the words of the Word already here, the Word that has always been.

I open the Book and let the pages fall. I don't know where to begin.

I confess every sin I can think of; perhaps my own unrighteousness is the veil I see dimly through.

Is this sluggishness born out of begrudging?

Sketched deep down, in my hidden heart, crouches this: that I would rather be doing something else.

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Paul wrote of money to the Corinthians, but today, the gift means not money but time. I give it reluctantly. The discipline of meeting the Lord first has become just another thing to do. In the silent vault of day-beginning, I'm too eager to blog-hop or wash yesterday's dishes.

And yet.

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."

I remember that prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. Anna. Of her it was written, "She never left the temple, but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying."

She sowed generously. How she reaped.

84 years, and then, the Messiah, the face of God, right before her crinkled eyes.

Would it be so crazy to spill the whole seed bag in one spot of soil?

Would it be so crazy to come to You in the dimness of the day and spill my whole heart, my whole cage of competing desires, my small, small agenda?

Would it be so crazy to whisper,

curved over coffee mug and wooden table,

"Oh Great God,

come, please, I beg of you, even when I do not sow well, when my seed is scattered, my mind scattered, my heart divided.

Come, for I am nothing if you are not here, and I ache to reap what Anna did, God, crazy old Anna, who planted herself in one single spot, and

she

saw

You."

Monday, January 10, 2011

About Our Christmas Tree Still Being Up and Other Tales

Yup. It is still up in all its Christmas glory. The branches don't even look droopy yet. When we walk in the house after being gone all day, it smells more like winter and pine than it did when we bought it. And today it snowed! For the first time this winter!

Are those not reasons aplenty to have O Tannebaum still around?

The last month, life has been a speedy revolving door of leaving and going, people coming and staying. That's the real reason the whole shebang is yet twinkling from the corner. Some ornaments have fallen off (in the back) and the needles are migrating to the floor (all over). I think I heard it say last night that it's just happy to not be lying out by the woodpile, smooshed and wet.

Now, the many faces behind my tardy tree taking-down...

The week before Christmas, we helped our friends Nick and Brittany move to Topeka. We ate great Thai, unpacked the Uhaul truck into a storage unit in the dark, moseyed through brown and gray hills on empty trails, and drank lots of chai. I didn't get a single picture. We will miss and have already missed them many times. It is bittersweet to watch dear friends move on to what God has planned when it means they will be not near anymore.

We spent Christmas Eve with my family at Mom and Dad's house. There was hide and go seek,


warm fuzzy Christmas Eve pajamas,

a sweet girl who, after ripping through hers, helped everyone else open their presents,

stockings,

and the joy of spending one last Christmas with these guys before they move across the Big Pond.
Then there was Christmas with Aaron's family. Grandma Dixie always buys 10 lotto tickets for every family member; we hunt for them after presents are exchanged. Isn't that fun? It's hit and miss. Usually as gambling goes, more miss. I won $17 this year, and Aaron won zip.

The obligatory in-front-of-the-tree pose with Aaron's mom, dad, and brother. I am waiting for a sister-in-law; the latest reports indicate Ryan is making progress in that direction, and I am trying to be patient. Another girl would add some nice balance to the classic tree picture, don't you think?

We got home from Christmas traveling, and the next day, my college friends started arriving. Since graduation, it's been a steady tradition to spend New Year's weekend together. It is harder and harder to gather every year as people keep spreading and life circumstances keep changing. Still, it is a precious, precious time, and I wouldn't trade it for any other New Year's party. These people are the ones that sharpened me and steered me toward Christ during a special season of life!

Cooking with Emily, who has domestic abilities to which I can only aspire.

A pizza which Aaron and I fondly dub First Anniversary Pizza. Good on non-anniversary occasions too. Layer olive oil, blue cheese, asiago cheese, figs, and prosciutto on a pizza crust. 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Skepticism is okay, but trust me, it is a winner. Don't overdo the blue cheese as it can take over all the other tastes.

We lingered long around the table.


The friends left, and then it was on to Branson for the annual K-Life Staff Conference. Aaron tried out a hurricane simulator. Weird, I know.

At the end of the conference, K-Life throws a fancy banquet. We are in front of a giant Christmas tree, but really, how awesome is it that my placement lends me the look of a giant red hair bow?

I put the suitcase back in the basement this morning. We don't have plans to travel for the next month at least. We're gonna stay put and drink lots of cocoa, tea, and coffee. We'll have kids over to play games, and the farthest we'll venture is three miles across town to cheer at the high school basketball game.

And we'll do it all under the happy glow of our Christmas tree.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sweet times

That flurried week before Christmas, Aaron was clutch. For those who don't work with teenagers, that means he came through. In a big way. I was stayin' up late and gettin' up early, burning that candle on both ends and in the middle. I was grumpy and stressed and knew that I had bought too much stock in the company of overachievement, but I was in too deep to pull out.

One of the many errands I send him on that week was to Woods' Grocery. "Three things, babe," I cried, in that tiny, whiny voice I slip into when I'm tired. "Flour. Honey. Powdered Sugar."

When he returned, my grocery-shopping knight, bearing gray plastic bags and his "I remembered everything and did it fast" grin, I dug out the honey, the flour, and oh my goodness, I-have-never-seen-this-much-powered-sugar-in-my-life. It was amazing. Overwhelming. A little terrifying.


Four pounds. Four pounds--sixty-four ounces--of white, powdery sugar. If you don't bake, this might not mean much. Let me help you visualize:

Powdered sugar comes in 1 lb. boxes.


Or in 2 lb. bags. Which is usually what I buy, because that's how Aldi sells it, and it's cheapest at Aldi. 2 pounds lasts aaaaaaawhile.


But a four pound bag! It's enough to cover our back yard in fake snow! Maybe not, but then again, maybe!


"You got the FOUR POUND bag?" I crowed. I am such a gracious, thankful wife. If anyone would like lessons, Facebook me or something.

"Was this all they had?"

And this, this is what my husband replied.

"Well, I don't know. There were so many white things on that aisle."

Priceless. I already love having the four pound bag of powdered sugar, I can tell you that. It's a life-changer. For one, if there is a huge blizzard and we get stuck in the house, we will not starve. For two, if the blizzard never comes, we can have frosting whenever we want. Let me repeat that. Whenever. We. Want.

Yeah, you want the four pound bag now, too, don't you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

crazy dreams

Here's a spin on the traditional New Year's resolution list.

I call it my Crazy Dreams list.
  • Study literature at Oxford
  • Start an orphanage in Nepal
  • World Tour with Aaron (Places to hit up include but are not limited to: Turkey, Nepal, India, Thailand, Italy, France, Germany, and England)
  • Run a marathon
  • Study interior design
  • Open a used bookstore/bakery/coffee shop
  • Hike the entire Appalachian Trail
  • Write a book
  • Get dreadlocks
Obviously, these won't all happen in 2011. We are saving and scheming to make the third one a possibility in 2012. Precluding a surprise pregnancy or other life-turns we can't yet foresee.

As I thought about the new year this morning, I jotted this list down in my journal. I struggle, and have for the last 10 years, with voicing dreams and ambitions, ever since I made a sincere decision to follow Jesus anywhere and everywhere He led. If Jesus is Lord and Master of my life, then my "right" to call the shots is non-existent. Yet, I also believe that He has given each of us specific callings. He has a plan.

The struggle is to discern His calling from my ambition.

So I come with my Crazy Dream list and cast it at His feet. It's not a year's wages of costly perfume. It's just some wild stirrings that pulse in my heart.

This, from Elizabeth Elliot, sidled up next to my list during my morning tryst on the couch. Put perspective on the whole lot of seedling desires that were sprouting out from a deep place in me.

"In the forests of Ecuador I soon learned that there were journeys I could not make if I wanted to carry baggage. Traveling narrow, muddy, and often steep trails on foot was impossible if I was heavily loaded.

So it is with the spiritual journey. We cannot make it if we insist on taking along everything we think indispensable. A rich young man was attracted to Jesus and contemplated joining His company, but Jesus spoke plainly of the necessary condition: Sell all you have first.

If he had not had much, perhaps he would have laid it down readily. But he was too rich to follow Jesus. He turned away, sorrowful.

We may be willing to part with almost everything God is asking us to relinquish, but perhaps we are clutching one thing tightly- "all but this, Lord." "Lay it down," Jesus says. "Let it go." If we refuse, too rich to follow Him, we have chosen a greater poverty in the end.

2011 is just a babe, swaddled in the wrap of potential and possibility. I lay the newborn bundle down. Nothing is out of the reach of the altar.
Not the Crazy Dream list, not anything. Let me not be too rich, either in the currency of possessions or dreams, to follow Him.