Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shelly Story 101: Basic History

**This is an edited version of this entry, which posted originally on last Thursday. It is now Monday, and over the weekend I was in Omaha, where I got my hands on some fabulous photos to share. So, I have added them. They are so worth sharing. And perhaps I have added a sentence or two to the original version. Maybe. Just a few. Read on...

After much thought about what to type next on the blog, I have decided I will do a post on myself. Perhaps I'll take a break from espousing on what I am thinking, and switch to a description more specifically about my life. As this swims in my brain, I wonder it will be "self-serving", but it occurs to me that everything I type is fairy self-serving already; it serves the purpose of getting the burning thoughts and ideas out of my already-crowded head so that something new can take its place. So, I have decided that yes, I will fill you all in on me and my life. Perhaps knowing me better will lend more meaning to my other thoughts. I highly doubt that I can tell you about myself quickly and succinctly, but, with God's leading, I hope to tell you at least some of the important stuff. (Those of you that already know me can check this for accuracy, and chastise me later.)

I was born in Ohio and moved to Denver when I was three years old. Less than one year later my biological mother walked out. She was replaced by a much better model, although two years of mother-lack and the emotional fallout from feelings of abandonment at age four did their part to shape me. Once my Dad remarried, (the snap is the two of them looking fine back in the early 80's) I was happily raised as the oldest of five children in a blended family with my biological father, my stepmother who truly is my Mom, an adopted sister, an adopted brother, a full blood sister, and a half sister...and since we came together when we were just 6,5,4,3, and a mere twinkle in God's eye, it was completely natural. We are the Brady Bunch minus Alice, and those labels do not really exist in our family.

I absolutely loved Denver, and as the place that holds my first real memories, it was truly home in my heart. We had a straight-shot view of the Rockies out our front living room picture window, my school was large but that never scared me too much, and my Jr. high youth group rocked. We had dogs, bunnies, hamsters, fish, snow forts, a nearby roller rink, and (as you may recall from an earlier post) a wood burning stove. This doozie photo is one of the first Easters with my new family...I am the oh-so-adorable girlie in the bright yellow dress, knee socks, and sweet red shoes. I am proudly standing with my Grandma, my older cousin, and two of my sisters. We are stylin'.

When I was 15, my father took a transfer with his job, and we landed in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha. Nebraska. Seriously?? Doesn't everyone in Nebraska wear overalls and straw hats and sleep with a pig in their bed or something?? If you ever doubted that someone could experience culture shock from moving a mere ONE state away, I am living proof. I mean, there was a corn field across the street from our house, for goodness sake!! And my high school only had 2000 students, one building, one lunchroom, and two gymns! Weird.

But far and away the very worst part of moving was leaving my youth group. I praise God for that truth, and yet, for a very long time, I could not praise God, because He allowed me to be uprooted from youth group and the foundation it was laying in my life. I went from a mountain top to a valley (in a spiritual sense) pretty fast, and quite honestly, it took me years to recover. I want to make it clear, however, that no blame lies with my parents for moving me. The blame lies with me and how my pubescent 15-year-old self coped with that move, as well as with the enemy who has mastered the craft of preying on the young in faith. Regardless of how far I fell off that mountain, I am forever grateful for the influence that the leaders of my youth group at Grace had on my life. Foundations so well laid in our youth never truly crumble, and when we dig deep we find them still laying there. It was that very foundation laid in me in Jr. high that I was able to build on later, and I know that God was merely exacting His perfect plan in 1986, when my "perfect" life was uprooted and transplanted to Nebraska. He had His reasons for planting me in Corn-ville USA.

Despite the nearby cornfields, I never started wearing overalls, and we never got a pig.
I finished my last three years of high school in Omaha, discovering that I am indeed shy by nature, that I love running, and that, yes, one can lose their identity in their boyfriend. Here we all are, in age order, commemorating my graduation from Millard North HS. After graduation, I tottled off to Lincoln for college at the University of Nebraska (still clinging to my boyfriend), and after 5 1/2 years, I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Ed. It was during those years that God never left my side, even though I certainly left His. It was during those years that I attended--and screamed like a banshee at--Husker footballs games. Go Big Red! It was during those years that I detached myself from my high school boyfriend and tried to find my own identity. It was during those years that I discovered some of who Shelly Story is and what she wants. (Some.) It was during those years that I became imprisoned by sin. My cell mates were Binge Drinking and Miss Promiscuity. (Not good. Not good at all.)
It was during those years that I learned how to pay my own bills, including car loan payments, and get a tire fixed on my car, all without my Dad's help. It was during those years that I held as many as three jobs at one time to pay the bills. It was during those years that I lived with the person who single-handedly has made the greatest impact on my faith walk, and it was by no accident that we ended up as roommates. (That story would make a good blog post someday. Someone remind me later.)

It was during those years that God was continually watching out for me and working all things for my good, despite how far from Him I ran and how many poor choices I made.

He stuns me.

It was also during those years that I met and fell in love with my husband, Dan. You can read all about that here. Although undeserving of true love, although undeserving of being treated with such honor and respect and kindness, God put smack in my path the man of my dreams (not that I knew it at the time). The man who would complete me (not till I surrendered). The man who would give my life meaning (when I finally let him). The man who would one day receive a phone call asking him if he would like the opportunity to move to his family farm. I'm sorry, what was that?? Did you say FARM? Aren't there cornfields there? You want to be a farmer? You want me to go with you?? Do I have to sleep with a pig now??

Have I mentioned that God stuns me?? Case in point: Despite what I had always proclaimed would never happen, Dan and I were married less than two weeks after I graduated college, we took a honeymoon to none other than colorful Colorado to ski, and before I could say John Deere, I was a farmer's wife. In three weeks' time, I went from being a bartender and full-time college single, to being a farmer's wife in rural Northeast Nebraska. Talk about culture shock!

A word of advice: never tell the Lord that He has gotten you as far from your own normal as He could ever take you. Never tell Him where you will never live. Never, EVER do that.

As this post is getting long, the hour is late, and the man of my dreams is on the couch having just come home from work, I think I will stop here. Digest Shelly Story 101, and in a couple of days you will get Shelly Story 102: Current Events. There is where God really shows His sense of humor. It's stunning. (His sense of humor, not my life.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

You can never have to many oooos

My daughters and I were riding in the car late last week on our way to town. I was spacing off...going over lists in my head, or perhaps planning where to put my new bedding flowers, or daydreaming about a date with my hubby. Whatever it was, I am sure it was important. The girls were quietly looking out the window, allowing me to reflect on whateveritwas in silence, which is a nice gift sometimes, and suddenly, out of the clear blue, Emma, age 5, says,
"You know, Mom, you can never have too many oooos."
"Huh?" was my oh-so-thoughtful Mommy response.
She continues..."Yea, you know, like the ooo on the end of kangaroo. Or the oooh when you see something neat. You can never have too many of them."

Instantly, whatever gobbledy-gook had been in my head was gone, and I was caught deep in thought about what she had just said. I love it when the simplicity of a child's heart and mind captures the truth about life. God plants the basics in us as children, and we adults go and mess it all up. But she is right.

You can never have too many oooos.

"Oooh, I love that dress you are wearing!" "Oooh, you sure ran fast to second base!" "Oooh, you look handsome tonight!" You can never give too many compliments.

"Oooh, that looks heavy, let me carry it for you." "Oooh, the offering plate looks empty this month, I better give some extra." "Oooh, do you hear the life flight helicopter? We'd better pray for whomever is inside." You can never do too much good.

"Oooh, Lord, what a sunset that is!" "Oooh, Lord, You really saved my butt in this one." "Oooh, Lord, Your ways are so much higher than my ways." You can never praise Him enough.

"Oooh, Lord, I really need you to save my butt in this one." "Oooh, Lord, my friend is really hurting." "Oooh, Lord, this looks like nothing but a big mess to me." You can never pray enough.

Every single day goes by without enough oooh in my life. I am a gold medalist at complaining and comparing (usually only in my thoughts, but we all know that God still hears it) rather than freely giving others compliments. I am world champion at getting so wrapped up in the lists, plans, and daydreams in my own head that I often fail to notice the needs of others around me. I spend so much time caught up in what is "wrong" with my life that I frequently fail to give God the praise He so richly deserves. I can rush through prayer time with the best of them. Anyone else saying, "amen!" to any of that?? (Please say yes.)

The good news is that I serve a God who loves me in my weakness, forgives me in my brokenness, and cherishes me in my imperfection. He takes the tiny little bit of oooh that I offer Him, and magnifiies it 100-fold. He nurtures my children with it. He strenthens me with it. He answers my prayers, even on a day when the best one I may have crafted was "Lord, have you seen my cell phone?" as I rush out the door at 11am. He still loves me when I fail. And He says "oooh" when I desire to serve Him mightily, and He lets me though I don't deserve it.

You can never have too many oooos...
May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in His works--He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. Psalm 104:31-32

You can never have too many oooos...
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

You can never have too many oooos...
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind had conceived what God has pepared forthose who love Him. 1 Conrinthians 2:9

You can never have too many oooos. Thanks, Emma, I needed the reminder!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blind trust walks

Did you ever go to church camp when you were a kid? I only went once as an 8th grader, but then in high school I was given the opportunity to be a "counselor-in-training", and so began my long (but distinguished) involvement in Counseling and Directing at Camp. I counseled so many jr. high week-long church camps between the ages of 16 and 30 that I literally have lost count. One summer I was at camp three times, each time for a week, because taking that much time off of work and rearranging my life was actually easier to me than not going to camp. I absolutely love it . And while I could talk and talk on camp until you'd swear that you had been there with me, I won't (you can thank me later), but I am going to tell you about an element I have included in nearly every camp I have directed, "trust walks".

In a blindfolded trust walk session, all of the campers are put into pairs, preferably not with their best friends, and one member of the pair is blindfolded. The other then becomes their guide, taking their hand and calling out verbal instructions, while they walk around the camp and down the twisting, turning, up-and-down riverside trails for 15 minutes or so, until the blindfold is switched. It is an excellent teaching tool. At the minimum, the kids gain a greater appreciation for the blind, but they also learn how to put their total trust in another person and how to accept the responsibility of being a person on whom trust is placed.

The most fun part of it is being the guide. Definitely. As the guide, not only can you see what is coming and thereby walk normally, you get a front-row seat to the insecurities and infallibility of your blind peer. You get to see them stumble, you get to see them worry, and you get to watch them take big, giant, loping footsteps because they have learned the hard way that you don't always inform them of the tree root just ahead. Or the wall. You can see the insecurity that normally lies hidden when we have our eyes to help us. It's a tad comical to watch, certainly, and a much more secure position than being blind.

The least fun part, by far, is being blindfolded. Definitely. While you are blindfolded, you can hear the twigs snap and the river roar, but you still have no real clue as to exactly where you are. You can feel the breeze or the shade of trees, but that does not assist your understanding of which way to turn. You can feel the trail climbing higher and higher up a wicked hill, but you have no idea where the top is, and therefore you must press on. And as you are ackwardly stumbling along looking like a lost moose in overshoes, peals of laughter ring through the air. What is going on?? Giggles and snickers and snorts abound. Huh?? Did I just miss something?? As the person totally and completely at the mercy of someone as simple-minded, annoying, and silly as you, one tends to acquire a few fresh bruises, experience a few moments of fear and frustration, and quickly gain a deep appreciation for the gift of sight. Not so comical.

So, have you ever taken one? Have you ever strapped on a bandanna and, without cheating and tilting your head back so that you can look under the lower edge on the sly thereby giving the illusion that you are blind but really you aren't and all of the sudden others think you must have ESP or something...hee hee...have you ever, while blindfolded, allowed someone else to guide your every step on a twisting, changing, and at times, arduous walk around a church camp for 15 minutes? Have you ever been at the total mercy of someone who is as simple-minded, annoying, and silly as you?

It's not easy.

It's not easy to put your safety, well being, and confidence in another person. It is not easy to have no idea which way you are going or when it may end. It is not easy to have no true knowledge as to which way is the best way to turn. It is not easy to feel the hill without seeing the top. It is not easy to stumble, to worry, to suddenly feel a wall in your face before you have the chance to react. It is not fun to end up bruised and tattered while another person giggles. I think I'll pass, thankyouverymuch.

But, isn't that my life already? Aren't I on the world's longest trust walk? Am I not, in fact, already blind to what lies ahead, or which way to turn, or how high the hills are? Am I not already at the mercy of a guide? Am I not already completely helpless on my own, lost in the woods with no way to go but forward assisted by the guiding hand of another??

I'm gonna have to go with a YES on that one.

Blind trust walks not only gave me the appreciation for the blind, but also an appreciation for life. I am blind. In fact, all of us walking around on this earth are blindfolded. God designed it that way. Laced fully into our humanity is the inability to see the future. To know what is ahead. To have any real control. Oh, sure, I do have some control, but ultimately, where I go, what I walk over, and how many tree roots are in my path is totally and completely up to my Guide. Only He knows what lies ahead. Only He has the power to see the trail with all of its twists, turns, hills, and wide open spaces...and I am fully at His mercy to lead me over them all.

But praise Him that He has taken me by the hand and committed to be my Guide over the paths. Praise Him that He will lovingly tell me to "step higher" so I can avoid many of the roots on the ground. Praise Him for knowing that if He allows me to stumble sometimes when I arrogantly loosen my grip or stop listening, that I will hold tighter and listen closer to His instruction. Praise Him that when I cannot see the top of the hill, rather than discouraging me by telling me I'll never make it, my Guide encourages me to keep going in faith because there is, in fact, a top. Praise Him that sometimes he says "the way is clear", and gives me the freedom to run down a childproofed meadow on the backside of the hill. Praise Him that when I drop His hand, He does not leave me totally alone, but rather He waits for me to take it up again. Praise Him that He is not a sneering, jeering, twit who is as arrogant as I am, and that He never takes pleasure in all of my stumblings. And praise Him that I will, in fact, be successfully led out of the woods and off the trail to the moment my eyes are opened, when I can squint in the light and see His face, knowing that the walk is fully over.

I love my Guide. I think I'll take a hike with Him.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I can't believe I'm doing this!

I think I may have addressed this thought briefly in another post, but I just gotta say it again. I cannot believe I am actually doing this...I cannot believe I am a blogger! Whatsupwiththat?! I am not totally sure why I started it...well, I am...I started it because I could no longer contain the stuff swimming in my brain day in and day out, and I feared I would explode if I did not start writing it down. But now, when I say the word "blogger" out loud, I feel as if I must fit into a dime-a-dozen category. While to me, the concept is fresh and brand new and exciting, I suspect that to many others, this concept is already old and worn out. At any given time of any given day, there are people blogging about weather, people blogging about news, people blogging about diaper changes, people blogging about blogging...and on and on and on. What makes any blog any different than the rest? What makes any particular blog stand out as a shiny penny amidst a pile of dimes??

No idea.

I am realizing, however, that I do want my blog to stand out. I mean, why stay up extra late a few nights a week espousing on all my thoughts, if it were all to amount to nothing? I do, in fact, want a reader or two. Or ten! Yeah, twenty, I'll take twenty. Make that 50. No, 100. OK, I'll take....I'll take whomever God leads this way long enough to catch their attention.

And therein lies the crazy part. And the key. I want whatever and whomever God wants and chooses to use in and through this blog. Sound vague?? No, not really. It is God's blank check. And it has me a little freaked out. "OK, Lord, do whatever you want." Did I really just say that?? Am I giving Him free choice to do whatever He feels like with me?? Am I nuts?? Oh, wait, yes, I am a nut. (Says so in my title.) And a dork. (I have known that for years. I embrace it without fear.) So I might as well put myself out there for the world wide web, and leave the rest to God, right? Right.

I realize, however, that every time a dear friend tells her friends about the blog and to add me as Facebook friend...or when a senior lady friend actually quotes me in a mass e-mail to everyone she cares about...or when a respected elder at church asks me when I have time to blog, thereby giving proof to the fact that he actually reads it...or when a gentleman 15 years my senior quotes me back to myself, commenting that I am "so right".........I realize that no only am I loving this more than I had dared to hope, but that suddenly the pressure is on.


Lord, just use me. I want to be used by You. I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have prayed that prayer. Too many to count. So many times that I wonder if I even notice any more when He uses me in some "small" way, as if the only way He should use me is in some big way...
Lord, just use me. I want to be used by You. "Shelly, smile at that frazzled new Mom over there." {I smile. Too easy.}
Lord, just use me. I want to be used by You. "Shelly, hold your son and sway him in your embrace until he looks up and says, I love you Mommy." {I rock my child and enjoy his embrace. I get just as much out of it as he does.}
Lord, just use me. I want to be used by You. "Shelly, ignore the messy house and bake banana bread with all those old frozen bananas you have so that you can give it away." {I bake bread, give it away, and grumble about the toys all over the floor. Whine, complain. That is so like me.}

I have done all those things. Recently. In fact, they come naturally to me. They are so natural to me--as I am sure they are to all of you--that I frequently fail to notice that in and through simple acts of kindness, I am being used by God. And perhaps you feel the same way. You see, when you get used to being a nice person, a good Christian, and a kind soul, simple acts of kindness just trickle out of you like a leaky faucet, without a lot of effort or planning. Sure, God is guiding and directing, but it is so simple to be nice that the simplicity somehow removes the perception of Heavenly power. There is no "ah-ha" moment. No cheering crowd, no life changed, no awards bestowed, or even an afternoon nap as a reward. It's as if God is not really using you much at all, and you yearn for the big gushes of inspiration and usefulness. Or at least I do.

That last section sounded braggy, but I was not trying to. Not at all. It, in fact, is my own personal reminder to allow God to freely use me in the smallest of ways, knowing that there is not such thing as a "small" way in the Kingdom of God. And, I suspect that if you are actually taking the time in your day to read this blog, you, too, are a nice person who takes for granted that you are nice. Hats off to you! Here is your reminder that NO MATTER HOW SMALL, ANYTHING DONE IN LOVE FOR ANOTHER, IS YOU BEING USED BY GOD.

All that said, I do pray frequently that God will use this blog in whatever way He sees fit. To those of you forwarding it on, I am grateful. To those of you receiving encouragement, I am both humbled and honored. Give God the glory.

I had thought when I began tonight that I might tell you a bit about myself and the craziness that is my life, but God led me in a different direction. It's His blog, written by His Nut, so why shouldn't it swerve all over the place?? Instead, I will close with the lyrics of an Amy Grant song that years ago shaped part of who I am today.

When the weight of all my dreams
is resting heavy on my head,
and the thoughtful words of help and hope
have all been nicely said,
but I'm still hurting,
wondering if I'll ever be the one I think I am.
I think I am.
Then You gently re-remind me
that you've made me from the first,
and the more I try to be the best,
the more I get the worst.
And I realize the good in me
is only there because of who You are.
Who You are.
And all I ever have to be is what You made me.
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan.
As You daily re-create me help me always keep in mind,
That I only have to do what I can find.
And all I ever have to be...all I have to be...all I ever have to be...
is what You made in me.

Thanks for this honor. Good night, Lord. I love you so much.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

From rags to riches

I love this quote..."The pessimist says his cup is half empty, the optimist says his cup is half full, and the child of God says his cup runneth over." It makes me smile every time I hear it, to picture a beautiful cup just overflowing with the fullness of God, like one of those old mall fountains with the bubbler right in the center. Remember those? Today many folks have something similar on a much smaller scale in their homes to create the soothing sound of a babbling brook (or to make a lady who has had four c-sections need to pee. Not sure which.) Anyway, as a kid I used to love to stare at those big mall fountains, wondering where is all that water coming from?? I found them very magical until, one day, I was old enough to see the clear plastic tube in the center of the spout, and it was then that I realized that the unending magical flow of water was just an illusion. While I still found them neat to watch, the magic was gone. I was merely looking at man's creativity. Cool, but anticlimactic.

I'm a lot like that kid still today, however as a grown up, one thing I marvel at is wealth. I admire it from afar, wondering just how some people seem to have an unending, magical flow of luxury, accomplishment, privilege, and convenience. While I admit that I don't actually know anyone who fits that description, if I even turn on the TV or walk down a check-out lane, I am bombarded with wealth. I wouldn't say I am really envious of it, but I do marvel at it. Anyone else ever feel that way?? Or am I the only one who wonders what extreme wealth would be like? Like, is the flow really unending? Do they bathe in their money? When a bill gets old and soft, do they just let the servants shine the floors with it? Or is it all an illusion? Is it merely man's creativity; an anticlimactic facade behind which to hide? No matter the answer, it is intoxicating, alluring, and utterly amazing that some--an elite few, but nevertheless, some--people live like royalty.

I'll never live like royalty...or will I?

I was thinking about this very thing today in the shower. (Anyone else do some of their best thinking in the shower?) I was thinking about how a mere year ago we were drowning in debt until the Lord, and only the Lord, orchestrated a complete turn-around of our finances through two big--HUGE--completely unexpected and unearned blessings. Huge. Unearned. Undeserved. So totally from God. I was giving Him glory and praise, wondering what He would do next to surprise us, since He has already proven that He is in the business of surprises, and it occured to me:

I am already royalty.

I know I already knew that. I've read in Romans and other places that I am adopted by God as His daughter through my faith in Christ. I know that as a daughter I am also an heiress. I know it says in 1st Peter that we are a royal priesthood. I know. But, today in the shower, I knew. It hit me afresh like a ton of bricks. I am His. I am an heiress.

No matter what He does or does not do with me, my life, or our finances down here on this earth, I am royalty. My cup is overflowing! I am privileged and accomplished. Not by my own merit, since I don't want to boast, but by His merit. He has this huge banquet table already set, and my seat has a placecard bearing my name! My name. Me. The dork. Me!

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1st Peter 2:9-10

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'" Revelation 21:5-7

I knew there was a reason I always loved those mall fountains! I am royalty, bathing in my riches, drinking from the spring of the water of life. I may have said it before, but God stuns me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ramblings of a night owl

I should be in bed. Not only because the clock says so, but because this night owl is actually tired. I was nearly on the couch asleep an hour ago........wait--did I just type nearly on the couch?? Sheesh. Let me clarify..........I was on the couch nearly asleep an hour ago (aah, much better), but since Dan has to leave for work at 11pm, there is no actual dozing off for me before then. No way. None. When your man has to stand on a concrete floor all night long while you sleep in a soft warm bed all night long, if anyone gets the privilege of dozing in front of a TV in the evenings, I guarantee it is gonna be him. Which brings me back to my original point. I am sleepy tonight. I should go to bed. You'd think, by this stage in my life, I would have learned that fatigue should equal bed. But for me, notsomuch. For me, fatigue has come to mean "forge ahead". I'm not saying it is necessarily healthy. Just, quite often, necessary. So here I sit, at 11:39pm on a dark and rainy night, typing instead of sleeping. Truth be told, I have missed the blog these past few days, and even without a clear pre-planned thought to express, I feel like typing.

I thought I might share with you some random nothings from my life. After all, a pile of nothings still might add up to something! (I hope.)

.....I was hugging Emma (5 years) the other day when she says, "Mom, if you had some of that oil that takes away spots and bumps, your face would look better." Great. Now I have a fat belly and a bumpy face. I am going to duct tape both of my daughters' mouths shut. (And please don't look real close the next time you see me, just to see if she is right!)

.....I looked out the kitchen window last week to see my 6-year-old (Cole) standing in a, shall we say, strange position. When I asked him about it, he replied, "Oh, I was just peeing in a bottle." Of course he was. Why wouldn't he pee in a bottle when there are 5 acres of grass in every direction??

.....Speaking of kitchen windows, even though living where I live it seems to me like the wind never stops blowing, it is muddy way to often for my taste, and the flies exist just to make me crazy, the view out my front door when the flies are at their peak is exquisite. And so, on many an early morning in summer and fall, it is not uncommon to see me running barefoot to the lane in my jammies to try to capture the beauty of God's artistry. Enjoy just a sample...

No matter how many mornings I look, I am continually in awe of God's creation. The vastness of His sky. The colors of His palette. The quietness of the mist. The stillness of the morning. The gentleness of His sunrise. It is intoxicating! And yet all of it exists on this broken earth. This earth that will someday pass away. This earth that cannot for one second compare with the beauty of Heaven.

God stuns me.

I'm not sure if I amounted to anything tonight, but with the thought of sunrises on my mind, I am crawling into bed. Nitey-nite.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The smell of cut wood

Aaah, spring is here! The birds are singing, the grass is green, and the trees are in bloom. We've got calves dropping, a crop to prepare, fence to fix, and even a pregnant cat. Yep, spring is here! Praise. the. Lord.

Naturally, as is the season, it is time for yard work, and on Sunday, we did some as a family. I know, I of rest. The thing is, though, that on a farm with a guy who has two full-time careers, doing yard work is actually "restful". It is unnecessary to the health of the farm. It is frivolous, if you will. And for me, who holds down the fort around here by myself much (ahem, most) of the time, having adult companionship in the yard is a true treat. And so it is that we found ourselves outside in the yard as a family on Sunday to do some spring sprucing. It was a lovely day, complete with warm sunshine and nice breezes. Dan went over to the other farm place to retrieve the riding garden tiller, whilst the children and I began the mowing and tree trimming here. It was at this moment that I happened upon a bush that was crowding the garden spot, making it impossible to get the mower through, so, naturally, I wanted it trimmed. Proving itself much greater that the boy-powered "loppers" in the hands of my skinny 12-year-old, I went for the chainsaw. With flashbacks of woodcutting days in Colorado racing through my brain, I thought, "oh, yea, I can do this."

Um, notsomuch. I couldn't even start the dumb thing.

And so, how did I handle it? As any self-respecting woman married to a manly-man such as mine, I set the bright orange chainsaw down in the yard, right at the base of the offending bush, where Dan would be sure to notice it when he returned. (Subtle, eh?) Well, notice he did, and pretty soon the chainsaw was humming, the woodchips were flying, the smell of wood was thick in the air, and I was instantly 13 again and in the Colorado mountains. Growing up in Denver, we had a wood-burning stove in our fireplace, and it was my father's sheer delight to heat the house with it as much as he could. It would roar for much of the mild Denver winters, creating a home with the most welcoming and toasty family room around, and bedrooms of blankets to combat the cool, crisp upstairs air.

The best part of having a wood stove...the fire. The worst part...the wood cutting.

What seemed like every single Saturday of every single summer for years, was spent loading up into a pickup truck and winding our way up into the backroads of the front range for the "perfect" woodcutting area. Mind you, there were five of us kids in the family, and we used one topper pickup for the job. My youngest sister would have the privilege of sitting in the cab, while the other four of us would bounce around in the back of the pickup. Not being able to really see out of the tiny windows in the topper, one of us was usually carsick. The gravel (dirt) roads were washboard roads with sheer drop-offs a frequent occurance. I can still hear my Mom gasping for breath when she though Dad got too close to the edge, and I am surprised she never put her foot through the floorboard trying to use her brake. The pickup rides were, to say the least, an arduous affair.

Once we had arrived at the "perfect" woodcutting spot, greeted only by the whisper of pine trees in the breeze and the whine of a chainsaw in the distance, we commenced the cutting. Dad would man the chainsaw, us kids would yell "TIMBER!!", and tree after tree would fall. After Dad had removed all the branches and created logs out of what was once a pole, Mom would assemble us into a "chain gang". She would assign one of us to attend to my youngest sister while the other three of us hauled logs. And so it would go, log after log transported from Dad, to Stacy, to Greg, to me, to Mom, who would stack them in the truck. On the next tree, Stacy would babysit and Nikki would jump into the chain gang. And the next tree, and the next tree, and the next it went for an entire day, until the truck was filled to the brim leaving only enough room in the back for four little bodies.

Yep, that is right, we were slave labor who had to ride on the wood on the winding way home, back down the washboard gravel (dirt) roads, all the way to Denver, each of us exhausted and irritated with the other, as our butts fell fully and completely asleep. Torture. Sheer torture. My friends were at the pool, or reading Nancy Drew, or recording songs off the radio with a hand-held cassette recorder, while poor moi was cutting wood. I found it utterly disgusting at the time.

Praise the Lord, however, that hindsight is 20/20, and what was once the shame of my pubescent life, is now one of my sweetest memories.
Know what I love most about woodcutting?...
the smell of cut wood
the smell of a chainsaw
the roar of a chainsaw, especially from far away
the total silence of the mountain forests
the sound of a tree crashing to the ground
the kid-made "forts" at the base of a pine tree
the hole in the ground for a toilet
the cheers and chants kids make up when having a chain gang
the feel of a washboard road
the roar of a campfire

God has, in His infinitely amazing and wonderous grace, taken what I once deemed an arduous task, and weaved it into a beautiful memory. It is fully laced into who I am, and my favorite pasttime of all is to sit by a campfire. I absolutely adore the smell of cut wood and smoke. Crazy, huh? No, it's just God.

And what, I wonder, is He going to do with some of what I consider are today's most arduous tasks?...
doing the dishes for a family of eight twice a day
cleaning up after yet another potty accident
picking up the trail of cookie crumbs on the carpet
tripping over stuffed animals and toy trains
driving to practices and games
leading an elementary youth group
planning a VBS for 100 children
bottle-feeding an orphaned calf
house-training a puppy
training up a child in the way he should go
washing 13 loads a week
nursing hurts
bandaging cuts
combing out tangles
and on
and on
and on.

Arduous? yes. Exhausting? yes. Humbling? yes. Useful? yes. Wasted? not one second. So totally worth it? yes. A thousand times, yes. Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I can't wait for the next campfire.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

laundry for the soul

Ever thought you were doing pretty good in an area of your life? Ever thought others could even look to your example? Ever been proven totally wrong? Yep. Me again. The dork who thought she was doing good at something. Notsomuch.

Sometimes the Lord sharpens me through the example of others, and this happened to me in my not-so-distant past. I was participating in a group Bible study, and one of the women, a gal close to my age, came with her personal Bible, as we all were doing. My Bible was still relativley new, shiny, and engraved with my name. I kept it in a cover, so, you know, it would stay new, shiny, and nice. I was quite proud of it, in fact! Quite proud. For like 7.2 seconds. Then this other gal sets her Bible down on the table…and my eyes were instantly fixated on it. It was worn. It was tattered. It was literally swollen from hours of use and re-use. And this is a gal MY age! What I saw is that her Bible was alive and breathing, just like the Word inside it. That Bible was beautiful, and it made my pristine, protected, “pretty” Bible look perfectly pathetic!

I went home that night and took my perfectly pathetic Bible out if its case. I stared at it and wondered just why I had thought it needed to stay perfect. I opened it and I read it. (That is not the uncommon part.) And then I read some more the next day. (A little less common.) And the next. (Three days in a row--now we're talkin'!) I got my pen out and started underlining, marking, drawing exclamation points, and circling that which the Holy Spirit revealed to me. That day, I began the process of bringing my Bible to life, by giving the Word birth in me, and my highest aspiration is to wear it out!

And then I thought...Bible study is a lot like laundry. Bear with me here. For me, as the Mom of six kids and the wife of one farmer, I do a lot of laundry. Like 12 to 14 loads a week, not counting the sheets. (Anyone looking for a part-time job can call me later.) Needless to say, laundry takes a lot of my time. As any decent and self-respecting housewife, I mean Domestic Goddess, I have to commit to our laundry, and I must do it again and again. And again. And again. I have to make a plan. I have to sort, divide, wash, dry, fold, and put away every single piece of clothing. Every. single. piece. (makes me dizzy just thinking about it sometimes) And many weeks, I have to further challenge myself to do even more laundry by stripping the beds and freshening the place where my loved ones rest.

If I did none of these things, my house would be soon overrun by big, nasty piles of smelly, musty clothes. (Mmmmm...great mental image, huh?) My children would be unkempt and unclean. (OK, so that actually happens already. But not very often. Really.) My lack of planning and commitment would be obvious to myself and others within days.

Likewise, as a daughter of Christ, striving to serve Him and live a life worthy of Him, I must do a lot of Bible study. (However, this is a job that no one can do for me. Dang it!) I have to commit my time, and I have to do it again and again and again. I have to make a plan. My plan must be systematic in that a plan will even exist in the first place. Since I have dirt that needs washed out of my soul, I need that systematic plan to sort and divide my weaknesses, through the sharpening of the Word. My plan must be progressive in that I can measure where I am going by where I have been. Am I coming clean? Are the piles diminishing? Can others see me shine, or do I still stink a little bit in my unkempt soul? And lastly, my plan must be challenging in that I must continually add to the learning and dig deeper, adding some new element that challenges me spiritually and intellectually, and that will strip my layed-in grime and give my Savior a fresh place to rest.

Aaaah, Tide fresh!

Everyone reading this knows that I cannot do my laundry without water. I have to open the faucet and let its purity and cleansing power come in, or else my efforts would be futile. There is as much a reason that God made life-giving water for our physical lives, as there is a reason that He gave us the life-giving Holy Spirit for our spiritual lives. I've thought of just a few reasons, and for your reading pleasure, I'll kindly list them here:

The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the world through God’s eyes.

The Holy Spirit enables us to recognize when God is speaking.

The Holy Spirit helps us to change as we come to know ourselves better through the study of God’s word.

The Holy Spirit instructs us to become more like Christ.

The Holy Spirit works to reshape us, moving us to respond by saying “yes” to God’s love, and yes to loving others.

The Holy Spirit convicts us when our oh-so-very-human arrogance rears its ugly head. Not that that has ever happened to me.

Bottom line? The Holy Spirit must be invited to inform our Bible study. He’s as vital as turning on the faucet.

So, why a post on Bible study? I'm behind and the piles are getting kinda deep. I needed a good reminder. :)