Thursday, November 16, 2017

10 THINGS I'M THANKFUL FOR TODAY (11/16/17)

Periodically here at the blog, I post a list of things for which I am thankful. What you may not realize from way over there on the other side of your phone or computer screen is that often, I post these lists when I am at an emotional low point. When I feel discouraged or weary, stopping to say "Thank you" helps bump me out of the woe-is-me rut.

Today, I want to "Name Ten" again - name 10 things for which I am thankful - but today, my list is not a means to counter discouragement or weariness. Today, I need to alleviate a different kind of pressure:  my heart is simply so full - so full of gratitude for the many ways that God has shown me favor and kindness - that it feels like it is about to burst. Honestly, my heart feels like an over-inflated balloon inside my chest. Why?

10 Things I'm Thankful for Today

1. I am thankful that after I gave birth to my twins, I did not have my tubes tied. God knew there was someone else - someone very special - that He wanted to add to our family. That special someone has grown into a beautiful young woman who consistently encourages me in my faith and who challenges me to apply the gospel to every area of life. She is pure sunshine.

2. I am thankful that not everybody is good at math, and I am thankful for Algebra tutors. I am thankful that the struggling math student and the ridiculously-good-looking math tutor fell in love. I am thankful that their this-is-what-our-family-is-going-to-look-like didn't work out the way they originally planned...because God had a different wonderful plan for them. I am thankful God made this couple wait for children, until just the right time, for just the right children. If their Plan A had worked, my heart would not be so incredibly full today.

3. I am thankful my son Reuben bought that ticket for me to attend the Faculty Women's Club luncheon way back in 2012. The luncheon where, as Reuben put it, "Mrs. Lisa pulled a big Jesus on you [me]." I am thankful God brought a funny, loud, gregarious speaker (who is not very good at math) and a quiet, introverted, house-mouse mom (who is pretty good at math) together and began the work of knitting our hearts and lives together.

4. I am thankful for 4-H camp, where my didn't-get-my-tubes-tied #7 and the fell-in-love-over-math couple's precious #2 worked as junior counselors. I am thankful for the opportunity these young people had to work together and corral kids and talk about life, free from "relationship" pressure or any need to perform to impress the other. Each just being who they are, in the same space, living the stress and exhaustion of camp life together with a sweaty horde of rowdy elementary-school-aged campers.

5. I am thankful that God's timing is not our timing. I am thankful God gave these two camp counselors time - years - to be disinterested friends whose paths intersected only occasionally.

6.  I am thankful God doesn't always write our stories according to predictable plot lines. (Does He EVER?) I am thankful for failed romances and disappointed expectations, for lessons learned, and for the growth and maturity that come from having to step back, pause, regroup and ask, "Lord, what are you teaching me?"

7. I am thankful for romance that begins not with lightning and thunder, but with quiet respect and gentle appreciation. I am thankful that sometimes, God postpones the fizz and sparkle in the blood until the heart and the head have time to thoroughly engage first.

8. I am thankful for separation - for long lonely days, and for hand-written letters, and for the growing awareness of a void in the heart that is most keenly felt in absence.

9. I am thankful for delay. I am thankful that sometimes, God doesn't answer our prayers right away, because He is teaching us to rely more fully on him...and that takes time. I am thankful that sometimes, God doesn't answer our prayers right away because He knows that, in earnest, prolonged prayer for another, our hearts are knit more fully to the hearts of those for whom we pray.

10. And, yes, I am thankful for the lightning and thunder. The fireworks. The fizz and sparkle. The glow. The zing in the blood. The fruit of affection and desire that have grown all the sweeter for having matured slowly, over distance and time.

Mostly, I am just thankful. I am thankful for this young woman and this young man, for the intricate details God orchestrated to bring them together, for the work God has already done in each of them and for the story that God has only just begun to write in their lives.

He asked...
...and she said Yes!


Congratulations, Jonathan and Helen. I am so happy - and so thankful! - for you both.

Monday, November 13, 2017

TOO MUCH LASAGNA

Thirty years ago, if you'd walked into my house late one afternoon and told me, "You need to prepare dinner for 15 people tonight," I'd have freaked out. Feed fifteen people at the drop of a hat? You've got to be kidding!

But if you cook for two, then add a couple more, and then a couple more, building up your cooking muscles gradually over time, cooking for 15 becomes no big deal. Pretty easy peasy, actually.

When your family starts shrinking, when those chickadees grow up and fly away from the nest, that presents another set of challenges for a cook.

After years of preparing meals daily for seven or nine or fifteen or twenty people (Friends are always welcome!), I am having now to learn to cook for only two.

And it is freaking me out.

On tonight's menu: lasagna.


My recipe makes two 9" x 13" pans of lasagna. Used to, when everyone sat down to dinner, we ate both pans. But even one 9" x 13" pan of lasagna is too much lasagna for Helen and me.

Don't get me wrong: Helen and I like lasagna...we just don't like it THAT much. Not enough to eat it for lunch and dinner EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS WEEK.

Tonight, I divided my recipe into three smaller pans. Even after putting more than half of the lasagna in the freezer, and even after inviting company over to help eat the pan of lasagna that is now baking in the oven, there is still TOO MUCH LASAGNA. We will be eating leftovers for days.

So, here's a question for you sweet people:

What tips do you have for cooking for two?

Monday, November 6, 2017

YESTERDAY MORNING



Yesterday morning began with tears.

Life for me is generally a bit of a mess, but in one particular area, I am extraordinarily broken. And in that area, it seems that lately, day by day, I grow noticeably weaker, more vulnerable.

It's like God is removing my outer defenses. The last buffer. The remaining sea wall that holds back inundation.

Like He has issued the command: "All shields down."

The storm had been building for several days. Yesterday, the storm broke.

Before, I have felt utterly broken. Yesterday morning, I felt broken and exposed.

* * *

Yesterday morning began with tears. But tears or no, the need still stood before me to do the next thing, and the next. So I sat down yesterday morning to do the day's assignment for my Romans study group:

Read Romans 5:3-5.

I read...

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5

God could not have spoken with greater precision into the need of my heart.

After answering the homework questions about the Romans passage, I pulled out my daily Bible reading schedule. The schedule I'm not actually following. I don't even know if I'm behind or ahead - I gave up looking at the dates months ago.

Yesterday's New Testament reading: 1 John 2. Christ is my advocate. Abide. Abide. Abide. The word kept popping up over and over. I read the chapter a second time. Abide. Abide. Abide in him.

SUCH precision.

Then, I flipped over to the day's psalm, Psalm 138:

"I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart...for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul increased.

"For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly...

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my live...

"The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever."

Such sweet, life-giving precision.

* * *

Yesterday began with tears, but it did not end there.

I can rejoice in suffering, because God's love has been poured out on me.

The Lord WILL fulfill his purpose for me.

His steadfast love toward me endures forever.

And reminded of these truths, my strength of soul increased.

* * *

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes..." - Rvelation 21:4a

He has begun already.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

REST


As the sun slips closer to the western horizon and a soft gold filters across the hay field in front of the house

The busy chatter of songbirds drifts across the yard from the woods behind the house, weaving melody around the rustle-music of wind-tossed leaves

From somewhere behind me, a cow bellows; a crow replies

The gray kitten twists herself around and around my legs, passive petting, her purr outsizing her tiny body

And sitting here on the porch swing, it is almost possible for me to imagine that all is right in the world

I can almost imagine, for the briefest moment, that no one is hurting, no one is broken, no one is dying

Like suffering itself has been forced to pause, to inhale, to catch its breath

And in this small quiet moment

There is rest

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

YOU'VE GOT MAIL!

"I hope I get a letter today. Do you think there will be anything in the mail for me today?"

Less than a week ago, letters were the currency of highest value at our house. A small white envelope in the mailbox transformed the dreariest day into an occasion to celebrate. A certain return address, a particular handwriting...these things wielded more power than sunshine.

But letter value plummeted this past weekend. Monday and Tuesday, there were no anxious, eager rushes to the mailbox at my house. No text messages from campus: "Anything in the mail today?" No bright smile and eager stampede up the stairs, treasure in hand, when the answer was Yes. No sad sigh - "Well, maybe tomorrow..." - when the answer was No.

Why did letter currency depreciate in value so drastically, so suddenly? What happened?

I'll tell you what happened. The name above the return address...that young man came home.

The sparkling eyes and bright smiles are no longer reserved for words written on paper. They are lavished with joyful extravagance on the actual person, the real thing, standing right here in the flesh.

We all love getting letters in the mail, don't we? Real letters, written by hand, by a real person, addressed especially to us, with love and tender affection.

As I watched the value of written letters plummet on the stock market exchange of relationship this weekend, I thought...

This is how we live as believers, is it not?, as we come daily to God's written Word, eager to read what He has written, especially for us, in love.

At least, I think this is how we should feel about God's Word, this beautiful, intimate letter written especially for His beloved, for us, for me.

As I witnessed a sweet reunion this weekend, I thought...

If my countenance does not now brighten at a letter from my Beloved, how will I respond when I see Jesus face to face? If I do not now delight in His words, will I then delight in His person?

But if I DO delight in His written Word today, if I read each word with eager anticipation, how very sweet must be the moment when I at long last stand before my Savior and behold Him in the flesh - see Him, hear Him, touch Him! I sometimes think my heart cannot bear the magnitude of such joy. Oh, how I long for that day!

Well, from all appearances, today is not that day of sweet reunion. Today is not the day I get to see Jesus face to face. But, guess what...

Today, Yes!, I have a letter!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then, I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THE RECIPROCITY OF HOSPITALITY

Concerning hospitality, I am still processing...

In last Wednesday's post, I concluded that true hospitality requires both a generous heart and great courage, because true hospitality means inviting others into our world to commune with us not as visitors, but as intimates. (Read full post HERE.)

But hospitality is not a one-way transaction: hospitality is a dialogue. True hospitality entails bold, sacrificial action, and that action in turn necessitates a re-action. One person extends hospitality; another person receives that hospitality.

Post Japan, I have been trying to make sense of my experience of hospitality here at home in the hills of Tennessee. While I feel that many of us good ol' Southern folk have traded big, brave, genuine hospitality for its pale, timid, weaker little sister - Good Manners - I fear that many of us have also forgotten the art of reciprocity: we have forgotten how to truly receive. We have lost the gift of genuine "Thank you."

Like hospitality, the genuine "Thank you!" is a big, bold, courageous, sacrificial thing, too. It means laying aside my expectations and preferences, and actively choosing to be content with - no, to even delight in - that which I have been given. It means celebrating with my host, instead of just nodding and smiling politely from the sidelines. It means eating the octopus balls when what I really want is pork chops and gravy...and then realizing that the octopus balls are, yes, actually quite delicious.

Oh, how prone I am to "What I'd really prefer is..." - and - "Can I please have ---- instead?" - and - "Do you have anything else?" But true hospitality means meeting the light in my hostess's eyes as she offers me her holiday best with a reciprocal light in my own eyes that says, "Oh, how lovely!"

Alas! I find that I am prone to be DOUBLY inhospitable - how often I fail at hospitality in both directions!

Extending true hospitality requires a generous and courageous heart. Receiving hospitality requires a generous and courageous heart, too.

I want to be that big and that brave, after Japan.

Friday, October 20, 2017

NOW THAT FALL HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED...




Pumpkins. Pumpkins to eat, pumpkins to paint, pumpkins to carve...so many pumpkins!

Autumn in West Tennessee:  the weather alternates between summer-winter-summer-winter-summer-..., until it finally decides to let go of summer altogether and stay chilly for more than three days in succession. I am enjoying the cooler weather.

Other signs of fall in our neck of the woods include:

Hot spiced tea. My daughter says it smells like autumn in a cup.

Soup! Soups, chili, and stews are on the menu at least once a week, if not more. This week: "Hot Pot," made with smoked sausage, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and chicken stock. Mmmmm!

Pumpkin bread. My mom's recipe, made into sandwiches filled with pineapple-cream cheese spread.

Chex mix. I'm not sure why, but here at Kendallville, we only make this in the fall.

Our baking project for this weekend.

Real hot chocolate. Whole milk, cocoa, and sugar, simmered on the stove until steamy, then ladeled into mugs and topped with whipped cream. Yum!

Marshmallows. Toasted over a fire outside or inside in the fireplace. I don't stock marshmallows any other time of the year. Fall and on into winter, we sometimes go through a bag or more a week.

(Hmmmm, why do so many of our autumn traditions involve FOOD?)

Mums. My daughter just called to say she picked up several on clearance. We're having a planting party when she gets home from work this afternoon.

FIRE! Helen is planning our first conflagration of the season, hoping a special someone will be back home in Tennessee in time to enjoy a chilly October evening sitting around the fire with family and friends.

Fall weather means: time for a bonfire!

How does YOUR family celebrate the arrival of fall?